Monday, 25 February 2019

Wagamama Blogger Event: An Evening Of Mindfulness (And Noodles)

Disclaimer: the meal was complimentary

A couple of weeks ago, the lovely people at Wagamama in Princesshay, Exeter invited me and a few other bloggers along for an evening of mindfulness - and a massive amount of food - to celebrate their latest charity partnership with Mind.

Mind are the leading mental health charity in the UK and they campaign to improve services, raise awareness around mental health, and promote understanding. As 1 in 4 of us will experience a mental health problem in our lives, their work is hugely important. And that is what makes this partnership so awesome - you can enjoy your steamed buns and wash it down with some delicious juice all whilst helping an amazing charity grow and reach more people that need them.

In 2019, Wagamama intend to help fund an additional 8000 infoline calls by donating 25p from every sale of their Super Green and Power juices. That is 8000 more people being helped by this partnership and, hopefully, 8000 people whose lives will be turned around by the work of Mind and the people who work for them.

Now on to the second most important thing - food chat! I had never actually been to Wagamama before but I knew that people are crazy for their katsu chicken curry. I didn't know much else about the food they served there though but, I can safely say, I do now. We were stuffed to the point of explosion with starters, sides, mains, deserts, and drinks of all varieties. Let's just say that I had a good taste of everything they serve. And my fave were their steamed buns - omg they were so doughy and soft with gorgeous brisket inside - and also their brisket ramen is amazing (and oh so instagrammable). Also their dessert menu has most of the classic desserts on their but with a bit of a twist. I went for the coffee ice cream that came with chocolate sauce and toasted sesame seeds on top. Absolutely divine!

They have also introduced to their restaurants little colouring sheets and pots of pencils to their tables to encourage people to put down their phones and occupy their minds in a bit of good, old fashioned colouring. Now I haven't done colouring in since I was at primary but it was a bit of a revelation to just completely switch off and focus on something like that. And I think it will do the world of good in our crazily fast-paced world to just remember to slow down for a minute and relax.

I am deffo late to the Wagamama fan group but, oh man, do I love that place.

You can read more about Wagamama and their partnership with Mind by clicking here


Thursday, 21 February 2019

Why It's OK To Have An Unproductive Day

I am a doer. I love doing stuff. Having a full schedule is something that fills me with joy and I pretty much always have a new idea or new project that has sprung up out of nowhere and taken over my whole life. I wasn't always like this though - ask my uni housemates who can vouch for the fact that they very rarely saw me unless I was skulking out of my room to answer the door to a takeaway delivery person because I spent so much time sleeping/watching reruns of trashy TV. But, over the last few years, I have caught the motivation bug in a big way. And that comes with a whole new world of guilt - and not the kind of guilt that you feel when you miss 3 days worth of lectures then get a message from a distant relative saying how proud they are of you. I am talking about the unproductive days guilt. The 6pm 'ah I wish I had gotten those pictures taken earlier rather than sitting around eating cake' kinda guilt. The guilt you get when you have only ticked off three things from your extensive two page to-do-list and now all you want is to go to bed. 

But I have recently come to terms with the fact that having the occasional unproductive day is totally ok - healthy, even. Sometimes when your brain just can't think of another blog idea or Instagram caption or exciting new concept for a blog series, it is because it is exhausted and is trying to tell you that it needs a break. And you probably need a break too. 

Our society always wants us to be on. We have to always be chasing the next big thing or working on something new and exciting. We often feel defined by what we are achieving so it is easy to get caught up in overworking ourselves and justifying it by calling it hustling. And, when we compare where we are with someone who is where we want to be, we allow that comparison to fuel our desire to work and work until we burn out. But it is only now that I have learnt that hustling is not the same as overworking. Hustling is knowing where you want to be, focusing on it, and working to achieve your goals. It is not forcing your brain to work harder than it can. And it is certainly not beating yourself up for having a day off to just relax and enjoy yourself - and enjoy the company of the people in your life. 

So, here I am, telling you to have a day off. Go to the Chinese buffet and eat as many prawn toasts are you can manage. Laugh with the people you love. And don't think about work. Your to-do-list will still be there tomorrow and your dreams will still be achievable even if you sign off from hustling for a day. 

Your future is as bright as the sun was in these pictures.

Outfit (*affiliate links):
Jacket: Primark (similar)
Trousers: Primark (similar)
Scarf: Primark (similar)
Bag: Primark (similar)
Shoes: Primark (similar)
Top: Topshop (similar)

Monday, 18 February 2019

Curly Girl Tries: Hello Curls Define & Reshape Curl Primer*

*product was gifted but all opinions are my own

When it comes to haircare, I feel like I have been winging it my whole life. As a teen, I would use whatever shampoo and conditioner my mum bought (usually Loreal) and then brush it a lot. I would occasionally spritz the ends with a little detangler when it was feeling dry (aka always) and let's not go into my straightening phase. It may have already become apparent to you but, yeah, I had no idea how to deal with curly hair and I was doing everything wrong. It was only when YouTube came around that I came across curly hair routine videos and actually got some idea of what I was supposed to be doing. I threw my paddle brush in the bin and invested in some different oils to try on my crispy ends.

Since then, I have experimented with all types of products. I have dabbled in the more specialist side of curly hair products but I found that most of those products are too heavy for my hair and just weight my curls down. I have also tried more mainstream products that people say are great for curly hair like Aussie but I found most of those a bit lacking in the moisture department. Basically, my hair is a whole drama queen.

So, when Noughty Haircare got in touch about their new curly hair product, I was excited to give it a go. I had previously tried their range for wavy hair and liked the formula but didn't find that it defined my curls quite as much as I would have liked so I wanted to see how this product would work as it is more catered to my hair type than the wavy range.

I have used this a few times over the last few weeks and I can safely say that it is a great product - especially for £8.99. It is vegan, cruelty free, and 97% natural which I love but also it does help define my curls. I would say that, as this is more of a water based kinda spray, it is great to rejuvenate your curls between washes and stop them from getting dry or from falling out. It has a gorgeous scent so I love that about it too but I would say that it probably isn't moisturising enough for me to use directly post-wash unless it was in conjunction with my usual oils and mousses.

Overall, this product would get an 8/10 from me because it does give my curls more volume and bounce between washes but it isn't enough of an all-rounder that I could retire all my other products and only use this one. It does enhance my current routine though and it makes my hair look better than it was looking before so I will definitely keep this product in my rotation and possibly repurchase it in the future too. And, I have to add, it is awesome to see more vegan-friendly product become available to us curly girls.

Shop other Noughty products here (affiliate link)

Friday, 15 February 2019

Berlin On A Budget: My Tips And Tricks*

I am going to let you guys in on a little secret. It is a bit cheeky and you have to promise not to tell my husband, ok? Here goes: I had a holiday romance and I think I may be in love...with Berlin! Gotcha! 

Yes, we went back to Berlin once again for another trip but, this time, we were on a slightly tighter budget than last time. But I think we made it work? We had such an amazing time and returning to Berlin outside of Christmastime let me see more of the city itself and experience what it has to offer year-round. And it was just so much more relaxed this time as we had covered most of the tourist stuff on our last trip so this one was just dedicated to doing what we want, wandering around, and eating as much doner kebab as we could fit into our bellies. 

This time, I felt like we budgeted a lot better and, as it was our second time in Berlin, we knew what was worth paying to see and what we would rather save our money on. 

(*gifted ad) When I was planning this trip, I contacted the Berlin tourist board about the possibility of a collaboration and they kindly replied saying they would gift me one of their Berlin Welcome Cards for the duration of my trip. The card I was gifted costed $34 (£26) and covered my transport in central Berlin (zones ABC) and Tegel Airport. It also gave me up to 50% off on selected activities, restaurants, and experiences. I used mine to get 25% off on my admission to Berlin Zoo. Having this booked in advance was such a lifesaver and, for the same cost as a transport card for these days anyway, it is worth looking into - especially if you intend to visit all the museums and attractions. Without having to pay hardly anything more than you would for just the transport ticket, you get all these reductions and, here's the best bit, it covers up to three kids as well. So, you are already saving money on the transport alone. If I visit Berlin again, I would buy one of these myself - especially as it makes it so easy knowing your transport is fully covered for your trip and that there are no surprise charges.

Choose a hotel with breakfast included
Last time, we chose a hotel that didn't include breakfast but ended up spending so much more money on snacks throughout the day as we were hungry. This time, we chose to stay at the Hampton by Hilton in Alexanderplatz that cost $220 (£190) for three nights and included a buffet breakfast. After filling up a lot at breakfast, we didn't end up buying so many snacks throughout the day and it gave us a chance to fill up Ava's bottles with milk, juice, and pick her up a yoghurt to eat later on. Chances are, if you make the most of breakfast, you might not even need to have much for lunch then it will only really be your evening meal that you have to fork out for (see what I did there). To find the best hotel, I find that using Trivago works best as it has a filter to only show hotels that include breakfast then sort them by 'recommended and price' to find a cheaper but still nice hotel.

Make use of public transport
The public transport system in Berlin is great - and runs almost 24 hours per day. There is an underground (U-Bahn), overground (S-Bahn), trams, and buses that all run really frequently. I would go as far as saying it is quite like the London transport system (apart from its less crowded and the lifts actually work at the stations). So, I would say that, if you want to save money but still explore the city, opt for public transport. You can get travel tickets for a day or a 3 day one for $34 across Zone ABC. It may be slightly more difficult to navigate at first but it is cheaper than those tour buses that set us back about $26 each for two days last time.

Pack and wear your thermals
This may sound like a bit of a weird one but pack your damn thermals. Germany is cold - and I thought I knew cold after living in the UK but I was wrong. And, when you are cold, you end up going into coffee shops every five minutes just to warm up. Or buying a hot drink to walk with. Or buying a scarf because you have basically turned into a walking ice pole (guilty). Strange as it may sound, little expenses add up and being cold makes you buy unnecessary things. So, for the love of God, wear enough clothes (I only wish I could go back in time and tell myself this when I packed mostly shirts and midi skirts for this trip).

Choose a hotel close to the things you want to see
On our first trip, we chose to stay in a lovely Movenpick hotel on Potsdamerplatz which was ten minutes walk from just about everything we wanted to see. This time, we knew we would be travelling around a bit more as we wanted to explore more than just the tourist attractions so we went for Alexanderplatz as it is such a central location - and that meant it had great transport links too. Doing a bit of research of where the things you want to see are and also how accessible different hotels are in terms of frequency of trains and buses and how far the hotel is from a train station saves on forking out extra money on travel once you get to your destination - and means you get to spend more time enjoying Berlin rather than walking down the street screaming bloody murder at Google Maps as it takes you walking in a loop for an hour when you just want to find the station (can you tell I am speaking from experience?).

Don't impulse buy souvenirs 
On our first trip, I panic bought a fair few bits and pieces that I didn't really want nor really need. Ofc I am not saying you shouldn't treat yourself to something but I am saying don't let that last day panic buying take control of you or your wallet. Buy stuff you actually like. For me, I like buying snacks and postcards and maybe a cute item of clothing or some makeup from a German brand. Don't deny yourself the little things you want to take back with you but maybe think a little before you buy it because you can't get a refund when you are a two hour's flight away.

Consider a stop-over
On our return flight with KLM, we had an hour stop-over in Amsterdam but I extended the stop-over to five hours free of charge when booking so we could have a few hours to explore the city. And it was such a great decision. Sure, you have to go back through security and everything but it gives you at least 2.5 hours of free time to explore a new place - totally for free! If you want to see more of Europe when going to Berlin, consider doing this (but be sure you have the correct visa to be able to leave the airport - Schengen will cover most of Europe).

Give street food a go
My final tip is to give street food a try as it is often much cheaper than having a sit down meal and, in my opinion, isn't half bad either. Last time, I did a whole post on my fave places to eat in Berlin but, this time, we definitely ate a lot more doner kebabs (they're big in Germany) and I am definitely not complaining. We also had things from an Indian food stall in a shopping centre and some currywurst and chips outside a train station. Although we did spend a little more trying the cheeseburgers from Burgermeister (absolutely insane!) and a sit down meal in Hofbrau on Alexanderplatz which was a traditional German experience and my introduction to what I intend to make a lifelong relationship with Mezzo Mix (AKA coke mixed with Fanta).

Have you ever visited Berlin?

Thursday, 7 February 2019

Why Mum Style Is Important To Me

A month after I gave birth to Ava, I went for a hair cut. I had been wearing it up for months - day and night - and I only really took it down to wash it. It was an inconvenience to me. It kept getting in the way when I was struggling with an underweight newborn who didn't want to breastfeed and washing and styling it took up a lot of precious spare time. I decided to get almost all of it cut off because a huge knot had formed at the back due to my slap-dash approach to haircare. At that time, I very rarely wore any makeup and I was still wearing maternity jeans and a jumper that my bump had stretched out. My style was practical and functional - but it wasn't me.

Around Christmastime, I remember going shopping for new clothes. I wasn't happy about having to buy clothes that were 5 sizes larger than my pre-pregnancy size but I felt a little better about myself - a little more like me - when I put on something that felt a bit more put together. As superficial as it seems, putting on a little bit of foundation and taking ten minutes to do nothing other than look in the mirror and style my hair or pluck my eyebrows made me feel good.

The thing is, as mums, we are almost always looking after someone else. Whether we are mums to newborns who are fully reliant on us for literally everything or older kids who need their packed lunches made and PE kits washed, there is always another job to do. Taking time out to focus on ourselves can feel a little selfish but, for me, it was so necessary.

That is why I set up the Instagram page Mum Style Files. When I see a mum who has taken time to put together a look and feels so good about themselves that she shares it online, I want to share that. I want everyone to celebrate with her - tell her how great she looks. As mums, we can be so hard on ourselves and, more upsettingly, on each other. But we should be encouraging each other. Supporting each other. Telling each other how incredible they are and how they are doing an amazing job. Becoming a mum is a massive change and we often act like we are coping much better than we actually are. We carry on because it is sink or swim but sometimes we want to know we have people by our sides that believe in us. And even if that is just by paying someone a small compliment when they make an effort, that is definitely better than nothing. 

What's the biggest compliment you have received since becoming a mum?

Outfit (affiliate links):
Sweater: Primark (similar)
Jeans: New Look (similar)
Shoes: Primark (similar)

Friday, 1 February 2019

How I Am Learning To Love The Clothes I Already Own

The clothes I buy have a pretty short life span. They start their lives hanging on a rail in Primark, have a few outings to fashion hot spots like the local soft play and Tesco, and then they retire to the back of wardrobe for a good 6-12 months before being shipped off to the charity shop. During that 6-12 month period, a whole lot of new clothes are inevitably purchased and endure the same fate. And I always thought that was ok. I mean, they end up in the charity shop, right? But it is only since light has been shone on the atrocities of fast fashion and the environmental impact of Western textile consumption (and the difficulty of actually recycling said textiles) that I paused for a minute and started to think of the impact of my actions. And it made me feel kinda shit.

There is no denying that I love buying clothes - I love the thrill of wearing something new - but that joy is so fleeting and I soon fall out of love with 90% of the things I buy. So, I have recently started being a bit more aware of my fashion choices and have tried to start making a few small changes where I can.

Build a versatile wardrobe
It was at uni that I was in the height of my spending. More money was coming into my account than ever before and, as it was my first time living in a city, I was able to access more shops than probably the whole of Devon could have ever offered me. But another big problem was that I wasn't being thoughtful in my purchases. I just bought whatever caught my eye - even if it went with absolutely nothing I owned. I had no basics or a main colour palette to work with so my wardrobe was complete chaos. So, that was the first thing I need I had to change if I wanted to shop less and rewear items I already owned time and again. I invested in more basics like plain roll necks in a few different colours and started to plan out what colours I wanted to be dominant in my wardrobe. At the moment, I would say that pinks, whites, and warm noted neutrals are king and they also work so well with pops of colour which means that I can invest in that slightly more out there piece without having to worry if it will go with anything I own.

Get inspired
When I buy something new, I usually have about two or three potential outfits in mind that would work with the item. One of those outfits usually makes it way into my weekly outfit rotation and, soon enough, I start getting bored. And then I start browsing ASOS. So, what I have started doing lately is scrolling through fashion hashtags to see how people are styling certain items. I love following instagrammers whose style is way more daring than mine as I get some of that second hand confidence and it has me looking at my wardrobe in a whole new light and coupling items I never would have thought to before. I only ever intended to pair this oversized pink shirt with jeans but now I am seeing so much more potential - tied up over dresses, open over tshirts, even underneath a fitted strappy dress. And I am having so much more fun playing around with what I already own.

Browse charity shops and online second hand shops
Yesterday, I was approached by a brand to work on a Valentines Day themed post and my mind naturally gravitated towards V-Day themed outfits. Before long, I was scouring through ASOS to find some heart shaped sunglasses. Then, as if an animated lightbulb illuminated above my head, I jumped ship and loaded up Depop - and found the most beautiful sunnies ever! And for much less than on ASOS.

Remember how that item once made you feel
We've all heard of Marie Kondo's 'spark joy' card but I want to raise you a 'remember joy' card. The feeling of joy that I get from items fades so fast but I have recently been trying to combat that by remembering why I loved a piece so much that I brought it home with me. Consumer culture wants us to constantly move onto the next big thing and constantly be chasing trends - and we need to try to fight against this a bit. I love looking at the clothes I have and remembering how I felt the first time I wore it out. And the memories I have made wearing that piece. And just how damn hot I felt in it. If I still can't summon any connection with the item, it is off to the charity shop/lucky ebay bidder.

I still have a long way to go with trying to make my wardrobe more ethical but I think that being aware of the impact of your choices really is the first step in the journey.

The links below are affiliate links

Outfit 1:
Shirt: Primark (similar)
Jeans: New Look (similar)
Scarf: Primark (similar)

Outfit 2:
Shirt: Primark (similar)
Dress: ASOS (similar)
[GIFTED] Necklace: Voice International (here)

Outfit 3:
Shirt: Primark (similar)
Blazer: Primark (similar)
Jeans: New Look (similar)

Friday, 25 January 2019

Can You Make It As A Blogger If You Suck At Instagram?

At the start of the year, I told myself that this would be my year. Despite my sudden dissipation of all ability to write literally anything (and consequential existential crisis), I set myself the task of noting down a few goals. Blogging goals. And one big one was to focus more on Instagram. And, let me tell you, in the two weeks that I have been focusing on Instagram, I have probably had more meltdowns than in my previous 22 years of life.

Almost everyday over the past two weeks, my husband got in from work faced with me looking rather bedraggled brandishing a phone filled with at least 8 edits of the same photo which I then go on to show him and explain each edit in finite detail before he even had the chance to take off his shoes. In these two weeks, Instagram has slowly become my world. Whether it is going out shooting pics with my tripod, editing said pics using multiple presets and filters to try to discover my theme (God help us, don't get me started on the damn themes), or painstakingly analysing insights to try to crack the insta code, I have been living and breathing Insta-nonsense for a solid two weeks.

And what I have discovered? I suck at Instagram. I really do. My mind doesn't work in a way where I can envision how to put components of a shot together to make it look incredible and effortless. My caption skills are hugely subpar. And I am just kinda fed up of trying to curate a feed that shows this perfect life where I wear skirts that flutter in the wind and I eat stacks of pancakes for every meal and I basically live in a hipster café in Shoreditch drinking pink coffee with rose petals sprinkled on it for literally no reason. Instagram is exhausting. Pretending is exhausting. And trying to grow your Instagram account is so exhausting is should be considered an Olympic sport.

Don't get me wrong, I love Instagram. I love the people that I follow there and insta-stories that make me snort with laughter when I'm on public transport and seeing people feel so good about themselves that they share their selfies and outfit shots online because they know they look cute. I love all that. But since I have started to focus on growing my account, it has all felt so much more convoluted. So much less like fun and so much more like trying to pretend I am always having fun.

And I do love creating content. I love shooting pics and I even enjoy editing but doing that for Instagram is a different story. In the last two weeks, I have gained followers faster than ever before. I went from being stuck at 1400 for literally months to speeding up to almost 1700. On average, I have gained about 15 new followers from each post (don't run the maths pls, I'm just an English grad) but you want to know the funny thing? Instagram is showing my content to literally no one. I went from gaining no new followers and averaging 180 likes per post to gaining followers but only getting like 80 likes per post. So it totally looks like I am just buying followers like some sneaky insta-snake.

There is just no formula to winning with Instagram. You can put in the effort and Instagram cuts your engagement by about 4x or you can chill and slowly lose all your followers.

And I know I am probably overthinking this but Instagram has become so entwined with blogging and it feels like our success as influencers is merely based on how quickly we are able to grow our account before the bubble bursts and everyone moves onto the hot new thing. And, yes, social media is meant to be fun but when your career goals are so connected with the rise or fall of that follower number, it kinda starts to mess with your head.

Instagram is great. No, really. There is so much scope for creative freedom and opportunities to build friendships with likeminded people (and look at pics of cute cats) but until our value as bloggers stops being pretty much defined by our follower count, we are all kinda stuck dancing to the algorithm's tune.

So, if you have made it this far, maybe go give me a follow over there. Help a girl out.

Jumper: Primark
Skirt: Primark
Shoes: New Look 
Jacket: Topshop 
Belt: ASOS 
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