Can We Stop Pretending That We Don’t Care About Exposure?

As a blogger, there’s nothing worse than opening a PR email and thinking it all sounds pretty fab, only to find the classic excuse of having no budget but offering exposure on social media. We read it, we sigh, we tweet something about exposure not paying the bills and we either kindly (or not so kindly) decline the offer, or just ignore the email altogether.

Now I fully agree with this stance on exposure being considered a form of payment, especially when I think about the amount of time that goes into writing, editing and taking photos for a blog post, but I’ve been thinking a little bit about exposure, and how despite bloggers as a whole complaining about it when brands offer it, we also crave the exposure that brands can give us.

I mean, if you’ve put together a killer outfit, nailed your hairstyle and spent half a day trying to get that perfect Instagram shot, are you trying to tell me that you’re not gonna be tagging every single thing you’re wearing down to your setting spray? Sure, we do this a little to avoid the inevitable ‘ooh where’s this from?’ (even though at least half of the comments will still be asking that exact question), but I know that I for one would be lying if I wasn’t hoping that said photo will be spotted by at least one of the tagged brands. I also have no shame in saying that there’s a little part of me praying that I might get a regram, not only for the great feeling of knowing that they loved my post so much, but also because hey I might gain a bunch of followers from it.

So why do we pretend that we don’t care about social media sharing? We all need exposure – I mean, it literally means to be put in the light – but it seems to have become a dirty word in the blogging dictionary. Yes it’s an unacceptable form of payment for hours of work, but it does still offer a lot to a bunch of people who make their side hustle (or even full time hustle) from putting ourselves online to be seen..

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Staying Onsite as a Disney Vacation Club Member

After joining Disney Vacation Club back in November, our recent trip to Disney’s Aulani Resort in Hawaii was our first experience of staying in a Disney resort as members, and it would be an understatement to say that I was pretty excited for that.

DVC members get a slightly difference experience when staying on site to other guests, whether that’s in Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Aulani or Disney’s Vero Beach or Hilton Head Island resorts, and although there can be further variations in this treatment depending on where you are, there are some things that DVC guests do and don’t get.

Welcome Home

You know when you arrive in a Disney park and feel as though you’re finally back where you belong, as you technically own a teeny tiny part of the magic, DVC members are greeted by cast members by a signature ‘welcome home’. This might seem totally insignificant to many, but I think its a really nice way of acknowledging membership without too much fuss.

There are a few different ways that cast members can identify you as a DVC member: in Walt Disney World, when tapping your Magic Band against the scanner, after the initial green light, the scanner will flash with purple, and in Aulani guests are given a special shiny version of the daily pool wristband, and of course your room reservation will also show as DVC to cast members at the front desk.

Mousekeeping

So part of the deal with being a DVC member is that you sorta have to sacrifice some of the perks of staying in a hotel. That means no daily room clean, and in fact in some resorts your rubbish won’t even be collected, and no clean towels until the 4th day of your stay – only recently has this been updated to daily trash and towels in WDW resorts only. Personally, I didn’t really mind this, especially staying in Aulani where we were popping back to the room so often that I doubt there would have been time for anyone to clean it, but also if you’re staying in a 1 bedroom villa or larger, you’ve got a washer and dryer right there in your room if you do want to clean your towels/sheets more often, and even if you’re not, laundry facilities are in every Disney resort.

Oh, and say goodbye to calling mousekeeping for a bunch of extra free tiny Disney toiletries – you can do it, but they now come with a price tag if you request more!

Comforts of home

In any DVC room, whether its a studio or a 3 bedroom grand villa, you’ll have some sort of kitchen facilities. Studios have a sink, fridge, microwave, coffee maker and toaster, along with disposable plates and bowls, cutlery and glasses all as standard, and you also have the opportunity to request additional items such as a blender should you want one. In larger rooms, you’ve got a full kitchen with all of these things, plus fridge-freezer, rice cooker, oven and hob, and all the relevant cooking tools. This means that you can make one quick supermarket trip (or even get groceries delivered to the resort), stock up on as much – or little – food and drinks as you want and know that you can avoid steep park prices by doing a lot of the catering yourself.

Most rooms also come equipped with a DVD or Blu-ray player, and if they don’t you can request one, and you can even borrow films too, although we (and several DVC members I know) actually good our Amazon Fire TV stick which meant we could watch Netflix, Prime Video and everything else – not that on a Disney trip you spend too much time in front of the tv!

Parking

Disney’s decision to start charging resort guests for overnight parking was quite a controversial change, but DVC members are in the clear, not having to pay for parking at resorts or at the parks.

Pool access

Although pool-hopping can be done by most Disney resort guests, there are a few resorts, such as Beach and Yacht Club and Boardwalk, where the pools can only be accessed by guests of that particular resort.. oh and DVC members! We can hang out at any pool on site, unless said pool is already at capacity.

I’m really excited for our first DVC stay in WDW in January, we’ll be staying at the Polynesian, which is also our home resort!

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48 Hours in San Francisco

San Francisco is one of my favourite cities in the world, and has been since the first time I set eyes on it 8 years ago. Its the sort of city where even the graffiti is beautiful and despite swearing the whole time you trek up those super steep hills, you still can’t quite hate them because there’s always something pretty to see along the way.

On our trip to Hawaii, we had a two day stopover in San Francisco, and as it was Matthew’s first time in the Golden Gate City, I wanted to make sure he got to see and do everything that you should do when in San Fran, and although we didn’t quite manage everything we thought we would (thanks jet lag), I thought I’d share my sorta ‘ultimate guide’ for doing San Francisco in 48 hours!

Before you visit

There are a few things that you should definitely book in advance in order to not only make your trip smoother while you’re there, but also save yourself a bit of money. Firstly, you should book Alcatraz in advance, and I’d really recommend trying to get on the earliest sailing of the day to beat the crowds and get a jump start on the day. The other thing I would recommend purchasing in advance is the San Francisco Explorer Pass, which gives you access to a number of SF’s biggest tourist attractions. You can choose either a 3, 4 or 5 attraction pass, which of course you can decide on for yourself, but don’t worry, if you need to do more attractions than you have a pass for, the pass also gives you discounted entry to most of the attractions as well.

Be sure to wear some comfortable shoes, because this plan will keep you busy busy busy!

Day one

Utilise the inevitable jet lag and start the day off with your early morning trip to Alcatraz – trust me, the view is worth the early morning. There’s no set time limit that you have on the island, but if you follow the provided audioguide then you’ll probably spent a good 2 hours or thereabouts, and boats depart every 30 mins so you never have to wait too long for the next ride back. From Alcatraz Landing, walk along the Embarcadero to Pier 39 where you can visit the Aquarium of the Bay (an Explorer Pass option), explore the shops and pier activities and watch the sea-lions in the bay – they can keep you entertained for hours, trust me!

Continuing along the Embarcadero, walk down past Fisherman’s Wharf to the main Boudin Sourdough factory, where you can do a free factory tour (it only takes about 10 mins but there’s free bread so y’know) and then get lunch from the cafe downstairs, preferably something that comes in a bread bowl because that’s so San Francisco, but all of the food there is amazing. While you’re at the waterfront, you’ve got some other tourist attractions at your doorstep, including Madame Tussauds, the San Francisco Dungeons and Ripley’s Believe it or Not, which are also included on the SF Explorer Pass. If you’re into chocolate, I would definitely recommend you walk along to Ghirardelli Square, and then head back to the Powell/Mason Cable Car Turnaround for a true San Francisco experience.

The Powell/Mason car runs all the way to Union Square, and its $7 one way (you’ll need this in cash), or you can buy a day pass, but once you’ve only really gotta do it one time. You can ride this cable car all the way up to Union Square, putting you right in the hustle and bustle of the main shopping district. In the square you’ve got Macy’s and Saks Fifth Avenue, and the streets surrounding have everything from the high fashion of Chanel and Hermes, as well as Westfield Shopping Centre, Sephora, Disney Store and a whole tonne of other stores, so you can shop until you drop.

Call it cliche, but if you’re in Union Square around dinner time, you’ve got to have dinner at The Cheesecake Factory. Yes, there’s probably one of these in every city in America, but this one is located on the top floor of Macy’s, and there’s a roof terrace where you can sit out and eat dinner while watching the world go by in Union Square below! Psst! If you can make a reservation in advance, do it!

Day two

Save yourself one attraction on your Explorer Pass, and spend the day getting around the city and seeing the big sights on the hop on/hop off bus. Depending on where you’re staying, there are a whole bunch of stops you can start your journey, but some major places are Union Square and Fisherman’s Wharf.

The bus will take you around the whole city, with stops including Pier 39, Coit Tower, Chinatown and most importantly, it will take you over the Golden Gate Bridge to Vista Point, where you can get off and take as many photos of the incredible landmark as you like while you wait for the next bus, and believe me, the views are stunning. You can obviously get off wherever you like, but I highly recommend exploring Chinatown, and if you’re not too allergic to stairs, the views from Coit Tower are also amazing. There are also stops near the Asian Art Museum, California Academy of Sciences and the SF Museum of Modern Art, so this is the best way to get to all the attractions you might want to visit. The buses run all the way up until 5pm, so you can spend all day seeing the beauty of the city, and the live tour guides give you so much information and fun facts.

So obviously you don’t have to follow my advice one bit, but hopefully this has given you a little bit of inspiration, and if you do visit I hope you love the place as much as I do!

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My Beach Makeup and What Stayed Put

Its the classic dilemma for girls. Summer poses a whole new problem when it comes to makeup, because gone are the days of winter drying out everyone’s skin like there’s no tomorrow, and instead its the challenge of finding products that won’t melt off your face during the warmer summer days, but can also stand up to a bit of water, whether that’s from swimming in the sea on a beach day, or just the Great British summer showers (read: heavy rain that shows up right when we think its finally getting good).

This year, I was faced with this issue a little earlier as going to Hawaii in April meant I had a little less time to perfect my product choices, but it also meant that I could test run some products before the little summer that hits the UK – which seems to be happening right now – actually kicked in. Some of what I took with me were items that are regulars from my makeup stash, and others I took on recommendation from the Twittersphere, and they all went through a somewhat rigorous test in the 27C heat of Hawaii. But would they all make the cut for future wear?

Urban Decay All Nighter Setting Spray

I bought this on recommendation from a number of people – I actually bought the travel sized one, y’know in case it wasn’t any good and I didn’t get stuck with a big bottle that I’d spent a lot of money on, but actually the travel sized one is still pretty sizeable which made it seem like pretty good value for money! This product is an absolute trooper. I sprayed it over products that I know aren’t waterproof and knew would probably wash off within minutes and amazingly they held up so well, leaving me bronzed and highlighted even after a whole day on the beach.

NYX Proof It! Waterproof Eyeshadow Primer

I took this with me because I know how well it works. This is the eyeshadow primer that I use every day and I actually believe it to be a miracle product – it turns any eyeshadow waterproof and I’ve even tried running swatches under a tap before and saw absolutely no shadow movement with this badboy, plus at £6 a tube its a steal.

Makeup Forever Aqua XL Waterproof Eyeliner

Call me crazy, but blue eyeliner is my jam, and I’ve always been a Barry M girl but have never been able to find a suitable replacement for my now discontinued favourite shade of pencil, but I stumbled across this one in Sephora last year, and when it claimed to be waterproof as well it was like killing two birds with one stone. The pencil itself is surprisingly soft, so very little pressure is needed on application, and it also blends well which can be fab, but I worried seeing how soft it was that it wouldn’t survive in the water, but was thankfully proven very wrong – in fact, when I swatched it in Sephora before buying, it was several days before that blue line faded from the back of my hand even with daily showering and handwashing.

Too Faced Better Than Sex Waterproof Mascara

So this was another recommendation, and having never tried the cult favourite in its non-waterproof form either, I thought now was a great chance to see what all the fuss was about. Again, I bought this in the travel size tube to save a bit of money until I decided whether or not I liked it. The mascara itself surprised me as I’ve religiously stuck to Eyeko Black Magic for a number of years now and had never found another mascara that gave my lashes the same natural but wow look that Black Magic does for me, but despite being a very different shaped brush, I really liked how this product made my lashes look, so I was buzzed to test it out in the water. Unfortunately, that’s were it fell flat on its face. I felt like just looking at water had it running, and although I wasn’t crying black or anything like that, on more than one occasion I left the poolside looking a bit panda-ish. I’d probably buy the mascara again in its normal formula, but I felt a little let down by this one..

Benefit Gimme Brow

Gimme Brow is not my every day eyebrow product, but I do use it from time to time, and as I feared a little that my usual dipbrow wouldn’t hold up, I took this out with me as well. Now my Gimme Brow was pre product recall, so I don’t know how it differs from the new formula that was re-released recently, and I don’t think either claim any sort of waterproof capabilities, but I was pleasantly surprised by how well this did. I still used my regular dipbrow, but then went over it with this, and I still had decent looking eyebrows at the end of each day, even after being in the sea and the pool, and what more could I ask for?

Other shoutouts go to my current favourite foundation, The Ordinary Serum Foundation, for being SPF 15 so keeping my face a little more protected, and Benefit’s Dandelion Shy Beam and Sun Beam liquid highlighters for giving me a subtle shimmer and glow which held up well thanks to the UD setting spray!

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Flying Long Haul with Norwegian Airlines

Its no secret that I travel a lot, and one of the reasons that I’m able to do this is because I’m always looking for ways to cut the cost of my trips so that I can see the world without seeing negative figures in my bank account, so when we started to look at our flights to San Francisco for our recent visit, we were all about finding the bargain.

I’d been hearing a lot about Norwegian Airlines, so when they came out top on our searches in terms of the best price, they were the obvious choice for us, and both Matthew and I were pretty excited to fly with an airline neither of us had travelled with before. So what was it like?

Well, the reason that Norwegian can offer such amazing prices is because pretty much everything is an add-on if you go for the basic fare – checked baggage, inflight meals, choosing your seat in advance of check-in, even earphones or a blanket for the flight costs you a little bit more! Now if these options don’t really bother you all that much, this is a great way to save. I, for example, cannot stand plane food, and I never eat the hot meals that I’m given on long haul flights, so not paying for a hot meal during our flight was no issue at all for me, and saved the awkwardness of turning down the chicken or beef options and having to explain to the cabin crew that seriously I’m fine without any food.

That said, however, if you do not book a meal in advance, you have to be prepared for the fact that there is no trolley service on the flights. That’s right, even the drinks trolley is privy only to those receiving hot meals, and there’s none of those little bags of teeny tiny pretzels. What is on offer, however, is the Snack Bar. The Snack Bar is accessed through your in-flight entertainment screen, and you choose what you want, swipe your card through a little slot in the screen, and in a short amount of time, a member of the cabin crew appears with your purchases! Through this system, you can also order drinks, duty free and those earphones and blankets I mentioned earlier. Sure, this takes away face to face time with the staff, but like with everything else, if you’re not fussed with all the bells and whistles, its not particularly detrimental to your flight experience.

The in-flight entertainment didn’t have a huge number of options, but they did have a good selection of recent movies as well as those movies that you’re always happy to watch over and over, plus tv shows and kids options, so something for everyone.

Something Norwegian really has on its side is being the new kid on the block. According to my plane-geek father, the aircraft that we flew to San Francisco on had only been in service for a month, and you could really tell – it felt so much fresher than planes I’ve flown on with Virgin Atlantic or British Airways. Their long-haul fleet is made up of Boeing 787 aka Dreamliners, which are packed with fancy tech like windows that dim rather than having blinds, amongst many other things, but are also better for the environment.

Honestly, I had no real complaints at all about these flights, in fact, I found the concept refreshing; simple, efficient and cost effective. We paid £325 each for return flights to San Francisco which was a steal, and although we did pay on top of that for baggage, it still worked out so much cheaper than flying with anyone else. I would absolutely fly Norwegian again!

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My Aulani Haul

I swear the only things that I actually unpack when I get back from a Disney trip is the stuff that I bought, and I leave the rest as long as I possibly can before I finally tip it out of my suitcase.

Now I was pretty impressed with Aulani merchandise. I’d read somewhere while I was planning for this trip that about 90% of the merchandise sold there is Aulani exclusive, but I sorta didn’t believe that, thinking that as its still in the USA there would be a lot of the stuff that you see in most of the parks, but I was proven totally wrong. Aside from a tiny handful of products – classic Minnie ears, some keychains and a few kids things – the stores were stocked with totally unique stuff, or if the product itself wasn’t unique, it would have a little variation such as an Aulani print fabric.

Another great thing about Aulani is that quite a high percentage of guests are Japanese, so they’ve tailored their merch to be a little more in keeping with some of the wonderful things you can find in Tokyo Disneyland.

So what did I get?

Well, I couldn’t go all the way to Aulani and not get the spirit jersey to prove it, right? They had two styles of spirit jersey, this one and a green-y patterned design, but I liked the font on this one better and I’ve never suited green anyway!

My smaller purchases were the Aulani ear hat and exclusive tsum tsums, plus this adorable Shellie May pin and the most used buy of my trip, the amazing Gelatoni passholder which stayed firmly round my neck pretty much any time I wasn’t in water.

I also couldn’t resist this beautiful sundress, the fabric is so pretty and even though its got the Aulani logo all over it, the untrained eye would never spot it, or the hidden Mickeys for that matter!

The last purchase of the trip was the Shellie May backpack. I ummed and ahhed over it for the whole trip, and then on our last day I was filled with a serious feeling of merchandise FOMO and had to rearrange my whole suitcase to make it work, but I’m so glad I got it! This also has a unique Aulani fabric for the bow and the lining, and its so soft and I just love it!

One other purchase from my trip, although not from Aulani, was this cute little patch from the Walt Disney Family Museum. They didn’t have that much in the way of museum specific merchandise there, and as I’m not the biggest pin person I was about to leave empty handed until I spotted a couple of patches at the checkout so I treated myself to this one.

Not bad going for a non-Disney park trip, right?

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How A Beach Holiday Actually Boosted My Body Confidence

I’ve not kept it entirely secret that I’ve been struggling a lot this year with negative thoughts about my body, and while they lapsed in February/March time, when I broke my ankle at the start of April and was unable to walk without pain, let alone go to the gym or continue my marathon training, I started to gain weight and the negative feelings came back worse than ever, as the time when I really wanted to be ramping up my training before my trip to Aulani, was now time I had to spent with my foot elevated and iced.

The hardest part in all of this was that I’ve always been a firm believer in body confidence, and if anyone I knew was feeling the same way I felt, I’d be heartbroken, so part of the reason I’ve not talked all that much about it is because I didn’t want to seem like a fraud, or make it seem like I think gaining weight is an awful thing, because it isn’t. I just couldn’t listen to the reasonable voice in my head.

So there I was, with my dream beach holiday getting ever closer, swimsuits and outfits planned, becoming equally more excited and more upset every time I caught a glimpse of my stretch marks in the mirror, and I was starting to worry that this perfect holiday was going to turn into one big panic attack.

Well, I was wrong. The first day of our stay, I put on the bikini that I was most worried about wearing, and we headed to the beach. I was nervous to take off my cover-up, but it was so hot that we had to get into the sea asap, so I whipped it off and ran across the hot sand into the water. No one stared, no one whispered, hell, little old me was probably the last thing that all these people enjoying their holidays probably cared about.

The next day, I put on my favourite bikinis. I hadn’t wore it in about 8 months and I was nervous that I’d look like I’d been stuffed into sausage casing. Sure, it didn’t fit as well as it has done in the past, but I’ve also looked worse in it, and I was actually pretty happy with how I felt in it, and I held my head a little higher than the day before as I walked around the pool area.

Besides my own body bringing me a little more confidence, I also started feeling super empowered seeing other people out in their bathing suits. People of all shapes, sizes and colours out loving life on their holidays, who are too busy having the best time to stop and worry about whether they’ve got any wobbly bits. I took this energy and rolled with it.

And the confidence grew exponentially. Each day I felt the worry subside and the sass build, and by the end of the third full day of our stay, I posted a photo of myself in my swimsuit on Instagram, which is something that I’ve only ever done once before in my life. The response? Incredible. The nice comments from people made me feel amazing, but what made me feel even better was the people who were relating with the message, because unfortunately the way I feel is a way that a lot of women feel. My caption said that all women’s bodies are amazing, and the number of people who thanked me for telling them that made it all worth while, and to be honest, I just felt like a million bucks in that photo.

So all that worry about how I would look in a swimsuit? I guess you could say I’m over it.

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