Another Mid Year Review

And just like that, half of 2018 has been and gone.. What?

This has honestly been the craziest year of my life, the last few months especially, and I’ve definitely been swept up in all of the goings on which has probably caused the year to fly by so much, but I can quite confidently say that its been a great year so far.

How am I doing with my blog targets?

  • Bloglovin followers – 1500 – I must admit that I have been super rubbish with Bloglovin lately, so I definitely haven’t seen the same growth that I achieved last year, but I’m on 1179 right now, and I think if I kick myself back into gear for the next 6 months, this is still reachable!
  • Twitter followers – 3500 – I can’t remember what I was on at the start of the year, but I’m just over 3200 at the moment so I feel like this is going to be doable!
  • Instagram followers – 2500 – after a measly 2017 where I didn’t hit my target at all, I feel like I have really smashed Instagram this year, and now have over 3300 followers, having only hit 2000 sometime in January! I’m setting myself a new possible target of 4000 for before the year is out, but I’m not putting too much pressure on myself because we all know what it can be like!
  • Page views – 100,000 – well I’m just coming up to 85,000 now, so this is definitely in sight so long as I manage to keep up my content!

I’ve felt myself slip a lot with my blog this year, which I’ve hated but its been somewhat necessary with everything that’s gone on this year. I’ve been posting a lot less than I have done over previous years, but what is good is that I’ve learnt that this is totally ok.

There’s a lot more exciting things coming to the blog over the rest of the year, including lots more house related posts, my 1000th blog post will be coming in July, and in October my blog turns 5, so stay tuned!

Resolutions, goals and life

Looking back on my 2018 resolutions post, I feel quite happy in knowing that I’ve achieved a lot of these things. Despite occasional dips, I’ve been looking after myself a lot better and putting myself out there more, and I’ve surrounded myself with wonderful people who make me so happy. My love of photography has definitely come back, and my sewing has gone to new levels I couldn’t even have imagined back in January.

The only thing that’s really hit a major roadblock this year has been my marathon training, after breaking my ankle back in April, but I’m seeing definite improvements in physiotherapy, and I’ve even taken part in my first fun run since the accident recently, which makes me confident that I’ll be back out there very soon, and if you want to sponsor me for my marathon, you can do that here!

I’ve learned a lot in the last few months about so many things, but the rest of the year will be focusing on putting so many of these things into practice. My whole life is changing as of the end of the week when I officially become a Northerner, and I’m seeing this as an amazing opportunity to create and live my best life and become even happier.

I hope 2018 is treating everyone well, and the rest of it only gets better!

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Fitbit Flex 2 Review

So a couple of months ago I decided to expand my little Fitbit family by purchasing the Flex 2, in addition to the Charge 2 I’ve had for almost 18 months now. Yep, I’m that crazy, but I had my reasons.

I love my Charge 2, it does everything that I need it to, but the only occasional both is that its a little on the large side, and as it can only be worn on the wrist, its not always the most stylish option, even though I have multiple different coloured straps to colour co-ordinate it! This is where the Flex 2 comes in.

The Flex 2 is the smallest of all Fitbit’s trackers – its even smaller than the Zip, which is the cheapest tracker option, and the first device I owned. It comes with a wrist strap that you can just pop the device into, or alternatively you can get a clip for it (not official Fitbit merch but super cheap on Amazon), and if these options aren’t pretty enough for you, Fitbit also offer a bracelet and pendant that the device slots into, and no-one would be the wiser that you were wearing a fitness tracker! I bought the bracelet, although I bought an unofficial version from Amazon because the official ones will set you back £79..

But how does it stack up as a device?

Being one of Fitbit’s cheaper devices, it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles; I think had I not owned a Charge 2, I’d have been more impressed by it. Of course it counts your steps, and it does auto-track some activities quite well, and unlike any other charger (minus the new Iconic) the Flex 2 is swim-proof, so if you want to be able to track your swimming, this is the only device you can get, and this was another one of the reasons I chose it as recently I have been swimming a lot more. Other features of the device are sleep tracking, and you can set it up for reminders to move and also call and text notifications.

The main difference, however, between the Flex 2 and its family of devices is the display – its the only tracker that doesn’t have a proper digital display, instead just having a little row of LED lights that light up according the your goals; if you have your main goal as being steps, for every 2,500 steps you do, an LED lights up, so when you hit your 10,000 steps for the day, all the lights will be lit. This means that you can only keep track of one particular focus, and you can’t use your Flex to check the time, like I keep trying to do.. Now of course if you’re wearing it in a pendant or bracelet, or even clipped away somewhere, this isn’t going to bother you all that much, but for me I find this a little annoying.

The other features that the Flex 2 doesn’t include which my Charge 2 does is heart rate monitoring, stairs climbed and it doesn’t have any sort of GPS, so when it comes to running, my Flex stays in the gym bag.

Personally, I think its a good little device if you’re just wanting to keep an eye on your steps and activity, and it works great in the water if you’re a swimmer, but as I’ve mentioned previously, I think if I didn’t have a Charge 2, I would have been much more impressed by the Flex 2. I do use it, of course, but I tend to wear it on days where I want to make sure my steps are counted, but I’m not doing any other sort of workout, apart from swimming, obviously! I also sometimes interchange my trackers during the day, so I’ll get up and go to the gym in the morning with my Charge 2, and then switch it for the Flex to wear to work – and if you’re wondering, this all works fine in terms of syncing with the Fitbit app as it combines the data from the two trackers!

The RRP of the Flex 2 is £69.99, but you can find it as low as £40-50 if you shop around!

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What I’ve Watched Lately

Since going back to a 9-5 job, rather than the 8-8 shifts I was working before, I’ve definitely found that I’ve had more time to enjoy some of the simpler things in life, like just spending an evening watching TV, taking advantage of my Odeon Limitless card, or binge watching things over a weekend; its been great.

Over the last few weeks especially, I feel like I’ve watched a lot of pretty great things, and so I figured I’d share some of them with you!

TV

Hunted

I know it was the third season this year, but up until now I had never seen any of the Channel 4 programme. Well, my parents started watching it and were hooked, so Matthew and I decided to give it a spin too – although Matthew had seen some of a previous series. Well, we also ended up pretty obsessed too. Not only did we catch up to my parents in the current series, but I also went back and watched the entire first season in a few sittings, and am now getting started on season 2 – its just so more-ish! I really thought that I wouldn’t get sucked into it but wow..

Death in Paradise

I love a good murder mystery, and despite having watched Death in Paradise on BBC since the show first started, they’ve just released the earlier series on Netflix, so now I’m going back and rewatching it from the start as well as waiting for each new episode on Thursday evenings. Its so unrealistic in terms of the number of murders occurring on a small Caribbean island, but also just so entertaining, and what’s great about re-watching it is I can’t remember who did it from the first time round!

Movies

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

If I didn’t have Odeon Limitless, this would not have been a film that I would have bothered paying for as I wasn’t massively interested in it at first, but I actually thought it was brilliant! The storyline was always going to be just a little far-fetched, but the cast were amazing – I mean, The Rock, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, it was never not going to be funny. If you’re on the fence, just watch it, I did not expect to enjoy it as much as I did.

The Circle

This is a Netflix original movie, and one that I have scrolled past time and time again while looking for things to watch, but Matthew actually bothered to read its little synopsis and so we decided to try it out because let’s face it, Tom Hanks is great in everything, right? Well its another one that really surprised me. From the first 15 minutes or so it doesn’t feel like its going to be much, but from then onwards I was pretty glued to the screen. For a fairly low budget film, its got a cracking cast, an interesting story and I was actually pretty upset when it was finished because I wanted more.

Black Panther

This movie was all the reviews had it cracked up to be and then some. I’m not going to spoil anything for those who haven’t seen it yet but Marvel are gonna find it hard to beat. The casting, the costumes, the cinematography, the underlying message of the film, it was all completely spot on and I think it deserves every accolade coming its way.

Have you watched anything good lately?

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Kayla’s Bikini Body Motivation & Habits Guide

Now I’ve never believed in the term ‘bikini body’ or ‘bikini body ready’ – for me, a bikini body is any body in a bikini, simples. I’ve also never really trusted these fitness influencers or Instagrammers as I’m very wary of some of the products and diets that they endorse, so when it comes to Kayla Itsines I’ve generally not paid much attention.

However, I saw this book in the supermarket the other week; Matthew pointed it out as we’re trying to keep healthy and active in preparation for our trip to Hawaii in April, and at first I kinda scoffed, but then I had a little flick through and noticed that despite the title suggesting otherwise, at least half of the book is recipes, and I’m a sucker for a good recipe book, so it ended up in our basket.

Spoiler alert, I’m now treating this book like my bible.

The book is actually so insightful. The first part talks about habits and motivation, and some of the psychology that goes behind it, and how you can combat the set-backs and hurdles that many of us face day in day out. I must admit that I haven’t read all of this as I’ve got a lot of other books and journals that I use for habit tracking, so I didn’t feel this was particularly relevant to me, but after this bit, the book gets really good.

The next section of the book is all about nutrition and meal-planning. I went into this with a pinch of salt ready to read things suggesting certain foods are really bad for you, or you should cut down on this or that, but there wasn’t any of that and I did a little happy dance. Everything written is informative, well researched and completely balanced, and the nutrition part covers everything from your basic food groups to micronutrients to non-dairy, vegetarianism and veganism, so it covers a pretty good range of dietary needs, but what I love the most about this book is the meal planning.

Now the book itself has a 4 week food plan, including 3 meals and 2 snacks every day over the 28 day period, so if you like to follow something by the letter, this is absolutely great – it even includes your weekly shopping list! However, if like me you struggle to stick to an exact plan day in day out, Kayla also includes an example meal plan, that is a guide of how many portions of what food groups you should be eating each day, and how you can mix and match these to suit. Did I mention how much I love this?

Also included is a big glossary of example foods for every food groups, and portion sizes, so if for example your meal is going to be 2 grains, 2 veg, 1/2 dairy/alternative and 1 meat/alternative, you can simply flick to the back of the book, have a look at what these could includes and make up a meal from there. This makes everything so flexible and easy, and there’s absolutely no calorie counting, or cutting out certain foods – its all about getting the portions and proportions right. Its a meal plan, not a diet.

The recipes offer so many options, and not only have you got every recipe for the 28 day meal plan, there’s also extra recipes that you can substitute in if whatever’s on the menu doesn’t take your fancy! All the recipes are quick, easy, and based on a single portion, which is great because I hate having a recipe designed for 2 or 4 people and having to go through and scale all the ingredients down. Oh, and there’s also a section at the back for desserts!

I have been following the meal plan, in my own way, for two weeks now and I’m already noticing a difference (along side my regular gym workouts and running). Some meals I haven’t changed at all from what I was eating before, but I’ve just got a better balance in what I should be eating and the size portions I should be having. Its so easy to break down every meal into groups, so all I count is the number of portions of each group I’ve had – absolutely no stressing over calories or not eating this or that. Most importantly, I feel so good within myself because I’m eating well.

The final section of the book is workouts, and you get a little 28 day workout guide poster that you can follow along with your meal plan – again, given that I go to the gym 4-5 times a week as it is and know my stuff quite well, I wasn’t so bothered by this, but it is a good little plan.

So while the title of the book didn’t endear me to it in any way, I guess its just proof that you can’t judge a book by its cover!

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Fitbit Flyer Earphones Review

I have been a Fitbit girl for about 5 years now, give or take some time off in between killing my little Zip in a washing machine and replacing it with my current Charge 2. I have always loved their fitness trackers, so much so that I have never been tempted to try any other brand, and so when they announced last year that they were releasing their first pair of wireless headphones, I was pretty convinced that I was going to want them. Lo and behold, they came in a copper/rose gold kinda colour, and I knew that I wanted them.

I got the earphones for Christmas, and have been using them for running/working out at the gym ever since, although I tend to alternate a little bit with my Urbanista headphones when at the gym, but I guess its been about 6 weeks of using them at least once or twice a week.

The only real concern I had with these, or any wireless earphones for that matter, is whether or not they would stay in my ears. Typically in the past I’ve never bothered running with earphones because of the endless struggle of having to push them back into my ears every 30 seconds, and I really didn’t want to be doing the same with these. However, the great thing about the Flyer is that they have an interchangeable design, so each pair comes with a few different sizes of the ear buds, and then also two sizes of both ‘fins’ and ‘wings’, which are both different fittings to help the earphones stay in your ears. I’d watched some YouTube reviews before deciding whether or not to take the plunge with these, and more than one review said that the fins were not great, but that the wings were awesome, so I’ve always used the smaller of the two wing sizes.

The wings tuck underneath the little inner loop of your ear – when I googled it, I saw a lot of websites referring to it as the rook, but that was mainly in terms of piercings, but maybe you know what that means! Because they’re rubbery and flexible, this means that they bend to fit the space and then keep a pretty firm grip there, and as soon as I tried this type of fitting I knew this would be the best type for me. What I really like about this is that there’s nothing going around your ear, like many wireless earphones have, so you don’t feel any real weight or pressure on your ears.

There’s a little on button on one of the ear pieces, and whenever you turn them on a little voice tells you how much charge the headphones have, which is really handy, and if the battery is running low during your workout, it will also pop up to tell you, and also tells you roughly how much time you’ve got left, which is pretty neat. There’s a little control panel on the adjustable cable for volume, and you can also press and hold each of the volume + or – to skip tracks, so you can keep your phone tucked safe away.

I’ve not had a single problem with the Bluetooth connectivity, and can easily walk from one side of my gym to the other before experiencing any sort of skipping. Before getting these, I have on occasion used my boyfriend’s Beats wireless earphones, and found that they skipped a lot more than the Fitbit, even when in close range with my phone, so that’s something! Once set up to your phone, they instantly connect every time you turn them on, and I’ve never had to faff around with having to reconnect them if I’ve not used them in a few days.

Sound wise, I have absolutely zero complaints. The music is clear, there’s no distortion from the rubber buds and they even do a little bit of noise cancelling too. Apparently there are actually two different sound settings, but I’ve always been pretty happy with how mine have sounded so I’ve never looked into how you change settings or what the other setting gives you!

Overall, I’ve been pretty happy with these earphones, and I certainly haven’t experienced the annoyance of constant readjustment and pushing them back in every time I go for a run. The one thing I would say is that it does take a little bit of time getting used to how you want the fit in terms of the attachments and the strap, so there’s a bit of trial and error in the first week or so, but honestly I do think these are a great pair of fitness earphone, which is ultimately what Fitbit designed them to be. My colour is officially called Lunar Grey, but there’s nothing grey about them, and I think they’re a really good looking pair of earphones, and they do also come in Nightfall Blue if the copper thing isn’t really your style.

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Urbanista Seattle Wireless Headphones Review

I’ve always thought of myself as being a strictly earphones kinda gal, but d’you know I think these headphones might have changed that for good.

I can’t remember exactly how I came across Urbanista as a brand originally, but I discovered their website and had been eyeing up these headphones for a while now, but put off buying as I wasn’t sure whether to get the wired or wireless model. My lovely friend Hannah had bought the rose gold corded ones and said they were great, but as one of the main reasons I was starting to look for headphones rather than earphones was that I wanted something that wasn’t going to bug me while running, as cables tend to do. That said, the wireless pair does also come with a cable, should you prefer to be plugged in every now and then, or if the battery for the Bluetooth is dead, so I guess I got the best of both worlds!

So I decided on the wireless, and despite thinking that it would be the rose gold pair that I would get, I actually bought the white ‘Fluffy Cloud’ pair from a Dixons Travel at Manchester Airport because they were a crazy good price – only £65, rather than the RRP of £99, and given that the corded ones are £59, I thought this was a steal!

Now being totally honest, the first pair I got were unfortunately faulty, in that the Bluetooth would only connect while plugged into power, which isn’t ideal, so I exchanged them for a new pair, which work absolutely fine thankfully! This experience did teach me, however, to never buy this sort of tech from an airport, because the returns process was an total nightmare that has me all kinds of annoyed with Dixons and Currys/PC World, so I would recommend you buy them either direct from Urbanista, or they are also stocked on Amazon, ASOS and plenty of other online retailers.

But, as I said, the new pair are perfect. I love the style of them, and I’m actually really glad that I bought them in the white as I think they have a classic look to them. They’re adjustable and also foldable, and the headband has some cushioning in it too, making them super comfortable across the top of the head, as well as the ears being nicely cushioned by the pads. The inside of the ear pads are marked with left and right, if like me you struggle, and its the ears that have all the controls – not that you could tell from just looking at them!

So underneath the left ear you’ve got the hole for the headphone cable which I mentioned earlier. The included cable is a nice heavy cable, so it doesn’t tangle and it doesn’t flap around too much while you’re walking/running. Underneath the right ear is the switch that turns the Bluetooth on, as well as a little blue LED light that reflects whether its on or off, and also comes on as red when the headphones are charging, and you’ve also got the charging port on this ear too, which is a standard micro-USB.

What you don’t see, however, are the controls for the headphones themselves, and that’s because physically there aren’t any, but the right ear cup has built-in touch controls so you never have to get your phone out to change or control the music. Simply swipe your finger in an upwards or downwards direction over the cup to control the volume, forwards or backwards to change tracks, and tap the centre of the cup to pause and play, and what’s great is that this works even if you’re wearing gloves! The only thing I would say is that these controls have about a seconds delay, so at first I would find myself hitting pause, and then hitting it again straight away when it hadn’t stopped, only to start it right back up again, or skipping tracks by swiping twice thinking it hadn’t worked, but you get used to this pretty quickly.

Now onto the important stuff, do they work well? Put simply, yes. The sound quality is great – I’ve read a few other reviews that complain the bass isn’t great, but as I don’t like a heavy bass anyway that doesn’t bother me, not that I really noticed any problem with it – and the wireless connectivity is flawless – I’ve been able to leave my phone upstairs and walk downstairs with the headphones on, and only get an occasional skip, but I’ve never had a problem when my phone has been well within range, plus I love the fact that I can zip my phone into my bag and not need to get it out to change tracks or fiddle with the volume. The official play time of these is 12 hours, but I’ve been using this particular pair for over a month now and haven’t needed to charge them yet, and what’s handy is that the battery level is displayed on my phone when they’re connected anyway. Also, while they’re not sold as being ‘noise-cancelling’, I think they do a pretty good job of it anyway!

If I had to say something negative, it would just be that the little LED light flashes about every 5 seconds when connected, which seems a little unnecessary, but that said, when you’re wearing them you can’t actually tell unless its dark out, so I’m really not too bothered by it! They can also be quite warm on the ears after a while if being used during exercise, so I would probably only wear these while running in colder months, and switch to earphones in the summer.

What can I say? These have totally converted me to the wireless headphone world, and I would reach for these over earphones any day!

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My Disney Sequel Challenge: Part 1

So last month I introduced my Disney Sequel Challenge, where I decided it was time for me to work my way through the sequels to Disney’s animated classics. Long story short, I’ve watched the first five movies from my list, and here’s what I thought!

Bambi II

To be honest, this was the film I was least excited to watch, simply because I haven’t watched Bambi in a long time and I’ve always thought it to be a little sad, but I actually really liked this! Following the death of his mother, Bambi is now under the care of his father, who has to learn to be a good father while also taking care of the forest, and Bambi has to learn how to follow in his fathers footsteps, while getting over the loss of his mother. It’s a very sweet sorta coming of age type tale, and I enjoyed it quite a lot.

Cinderella II: Dreams Come True

I was pleasantly surprised by this movie! I had expected it to be set further in the future but it actually continues on from where the original film leaves off, and rather than jumping straight into the traditional ‘prince and princess have children’ thing, the story actually followed the tales of Cinderella adapting to palace life and finding her own way to be royal. I also love how the story was told by the mice and the fairy godmother and included parts of their stories too!

Cinderella III: A Twist In Time

Again, this movie was set just a year down the line from the original, but rather than a continuation of the story, this one twisted the original story into an almost not-so-happy ending for Cinderella. While the first sequel was quite good, I felt this was one too many, and was almost too predictable in terms of storyline. It did feature a lot more musical numbers that the second film, and I enjoyed that, but I’m in no rush to watch this one again.

Peter Pan: Return to Neverland

So this was a classic next generation sequel, featuring Wendy as a mother of two, and set during World War II. Its almost the reverse of the original tale; Wendy’s daughter Jane is too busy having to grow up, and doesn’t want to believe in Peter Pan anymore. Controversially, Peter Pan isn’t one of my top Disney films, so the sequel wasn’t that exciting for me, but I did like the historical setting and accuracy, plus the ending had me in tears..

Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp’s Adventures

Another classic next gen sequel – Lady and Tramp’s son feels out of place as a house dog and longs to be a street dog, despite having no knowledge of his father’s past. This was another one that was just a tad too predictable, but it had a lot of songs and cute pups – albeit animated – so it wasn’t all bad!

So that’s the first five down, and I’m enjoying being able to watch my favourite Disney characters without knowing exactly what’s going to happen! Next month I’ll be tackling the next five, so stay tuned!

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