Thursday, 15 November 2018

Our Stay At Hampton By Hilton In Edinburgh's West End

I love everything about staying in a hotel. From curling up in the huge, meringue-nest style bed with a cuppa in hand watching real crime dramas on an obscure TV channel to the all-you-can-eat buffet breakfasts that have you walking around the whole day looking 5 months pregnant, I am a massive fan. I love how you can make a phone call at any given time and then BAM a burger is hand-delivered to your room. Oh, and I love the fancy bathrooms - I swan around in them like some fifties film star with a towel wrap on my head feeling so suave. But the best thing about a hotel is that every night feels like fresh sheet night.

So, when we were planning our trip to Edinburgh, we knew we wanted to go somewhere a little bit luxurious. I'm not talking crazy, Ritz-level luxurious but somewhere that would feel a little bit special but still be within our price range. That is when we came across Hampton by Hilton in Edinburgh's West End. It had everything we needed - fairly close to the centre, free wifi, buffet breakfast, and nice rooms (and, yes, it made me feel suave). It was £79 for a night (much cheaper than the other hotels whose prices made my jaw drop to the 7th circle of hell) and, I must say, it was well worth it.

The room
On the first night, all that was left to book was a twin room (we left it pretty late tbf) so we went with that. In all honesty, our expectations weren't that high. I was imaging two tiny, single beds squeezed into a room that my husband would suggest we push together which would ultimately result in one of us falling into the gaping hole that always appears between the two mattresses. So, you can imagine we were pretty shocked to find a sizeable room with two double beds. There was so much space for Ava's travel cot and so much space for me to starfish the night away. Win.

We had originally only planned to stay for one night but soon extended our stay as Edinburgh was awesome and we weren't ready to wave our hotel room goodbye. The second night, we got a double room. It was pretty similar to the twin room but had a little more room (and, obvs, just one huge bed). It had a chair in the corner and a foot rest where you could recline back and watch people walk by down on the street below (or read a book, if you're not as nosey as me).

We then whizzed off for a few days in the Lake District before returning for a final night in Edinburgh. This time, we booked a double room but they kindly upgraded us to a family room. And it was awesome. The room was huge and had a whole sofa in there - which we made full use of when we rounded our trip off in a fashion so true to us - getting a Hawaiian pizza with chips and a battered black pudding and eating it on our hotel room sofa in our PJs. Even Ava was excited to be crawling around - a collection of chips and bits of pineapple in hand.

The breakfast

As the old saying goes, a hotel is only as good as its breakfast. And Hampton by Hilton didn't disappoint. It was so good that I didn't even have time to snap any pics - I was already one plate down before I even thought of getting my camera out. Even then, I lumped for my phone instead. Who has time to take pics when there are croissants to shove in your mouth?

This place had all the usual components of a hotel breakfast - cooked breakfast (with the addition of potato croquettes and, ofc, haggis), pastries, bread, fruit, and yoghurt. But my favourite thing was the make-your-own waffles section. You basically poured the batter out of a machine and put as much as you wanted into the waffle maker. Then, after a few minutes, you could add any sauce or fruit or anything. I opted for red berries and a bit of syrup and it was lush. I liked that you could choose how big your waffle was gonna be too because I don't have to most huge appetite when it comes to meals but I don't like seeing food go to waste.

The location

It has to be said, Isaac and I aren't the best planners. We're more dive in and hope for the best kinda people. So, we had no idea where this hotel was actually located when we booked it - but, once again, we were pleasantly surprised. It was a ten minute walk to Grassmarket (Edinburgh Old Town where you will find Diagon Alley-esque streets and a direct path to the castle - a very vertical path, may I add) and about twenty minute walk to the highstreet. And five minutes from a good chippy (I see you, chip fans).

Overall, our stay at Hampton by Hilton in Edinburgh's West End was pretty stellar. It is rare that a chain hotel has that extra little something that makes it memorable but everything from the helpfulness of the staff to the lush waffles really made our stay feel special.

What's your favourite thing about staying in a hotel?

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Monday, 12 November 2018

Why Midsize Representation Is Important

As you guys are probably well aware, the body positivity movement was borne out of plus size women feeling like their bodies weren't being represented anywhere and these women sought to change how society views plus size bodies. And the body positivity movement has exploded over the last few years. I see so many women online who are proud to be plus size and are so at peace with themselves after years of battling to get to that frame of mind. It is amazing to see.

But with the popularity of this movement has come a slight dilution of its meaning. People of all sizes are celebrating their body in the name of body positivity - not just plus size ladies. Which is great (everyone should love their bodies) but also kinda detracts from the original purpose of the whole movement. I mean, you can have body confidence issues as a size 8 woman but your body type is universally admired and celebrated so jumping on the body posi bandwagon kinda detracts from the women it is there to help the most. The ones whose body types aren't celebrated and admired. The ones that need to be told that they are amazing because society is so shit at telling them that.

That is why I love the midsize movement that has recently sprung up online. It creates a space for us women who don't have that 'perfect' body type but also aren't plus size. It is a space for us to talk about how we feel and celebrate how we look without taking over a movement that wasn't designed for us.

I wish these movements had been around when I was growing up.

As a teenager, I didn't have the best relationship with my body. I lived in clothes that I hated just because I felt my body was ugly - because I wasn't a size 10. I missed out on so much because of my rocky relationship with my appearance. I remember going swimming whilst on holiday and wearing a tshirt and knee-length shorts over a swimming costume because I was so afraid of people seeing my cellulite. Looking back, it makes me a little bit sad that I felt that way about myself.

The thing is, diet culture has always been drummed into us without any thought of how it would affect our confidence. I felt like I was viewed as a 'before' and like everyone around me was waiting for my 'after' to suddenly emerge. I felt like the ugly duckling and like I was fully expected to become a beautiful swan. I was swamped by the seemingly unending pressure placed on women to be perfect - it was the background music to most of my early life.

But the body positivity movement and, more recently, the midsize movement have helped me to move past that.

Now I am a size 12. I am happy with my body (most days). And I simply don't care as much anymore. I wear what I want and I eat when I am hungry. I don't count calories or buy into fad diets. I am comfortable with who I am - and this is something that I never thought I would be able to say.

Instagram accounts like Midsize Style Collective have shown me that women who look like me can look incredible and oh-so-fashionable. It has taught me that you can be midsize and not be a 'before' picture or just half-way through your 'weight loss journey'. You can be midsize and want to stay midsize. You can love your midsize body. You are allowed to love your body. These revelations were game-changing for me.

Midsize representation has helped me to feel like my body is good enough and that I don't have to punish myself for not being skinny.

And I see my privilege. I know that I am not judged for my size like plus size women are. I know that I can walk into a shop and find my size. And I know the battle for body positivity isn't over - we have a long way to go in accepting all body types. But change is happening and I am happy about that.

Who is your favourite midsize blogger? (Other than me, obvs lol)

Jumper: Primark (similar)
Hat: Primark (similar)
Skirt: Primark (similar)
Boots: New Look (here)

Thursday, 8 November 2018

Ava Is One!

In true mum form, I just can't believe that my little lady has hit a whole year! I mean, I was there for every day and night of it (and, man, did some of those nights feel long) but it feels surreal that she's not a newborn anymore - she's closer to a toddler than anything!

And it has been a wild year. A whole year of firsts and nerves and frustration and unparalleled joy. I have learnt so much about myself and what I am capable of (I mean, pushing a child out of my areas for one) and I have had so much fun getting to know this funny little human.

Ava's personality is so developed now. She is the friendliest soul you will ever meet. She is quick to smile and giggle around new people and absolutely adores attention (she learnt to fake cough whenever I was focused on anything other than her when she was only a few months old). She crawls around like a crazy thing that can't be stopped and she loves soft play. Seeing her play with other kids makes my soul smile (although she does have a tendency to pull their hair).

Seeing her grow from a very clingy baby that refused to breastfeed and would only sleep beside me to a lovely little lady who sleeps in her own room, feeds herself (and loves anything sweet!), and babbles 'mama' almost non-stop. She is like my little sidekick now. And I wouldn't change it for the world.

Throughout my pregnancy, I was worried. I didn't think that I would be able to manage being a mum all the time. I thought I was too young. - not experienced enough or financially secure enough. But, one year on, I can safely say that my worries were unfounded. Having Ava was the best decision I ever made. Being a parent isn't easy but when that little girl snuggles up to me, I know it was all worth it.

So, happy birthday, Ava. I hope you read this when you are older and know how loved you are by your whole family. And here's to many more years of celebration, snuggles, and cake!

Sunday, 4 November 2018

Fast Fashion And Me

As someone who has almost always been on a budget, I have shopped in high street stores for most of my life. And, I have to admit, I was never blind to the realities of fast fashion and the damage it is causing. Since my school days, I have been told horror stories about unsafe factories and child labour but I felt like I had few options available to me. 'Slow fashion' seemed inaccessible to me because those organic, fairtrade items were often a little (or a lot) more pricey and I just couldn't justify spending that much on an item of clothing. It sounds bad to admit that I willingly made the choice to support an industry which is harmful but, at the time, I felt like I had no other options. And, for some people out there who are living on the breadline, there really are few options available outside of buying clothes on the high street or in supermarkets.

But there is a difference between necessity and choice. I wear a size 12. This means that I can go into any charity shop and be confronted with an entire rail of clothing that would fit me. There are probably thousands of listings on eBay of clothing that fits my size. I am also able-bodied - this means there are few additional factors that I have to take into account when buying clothes. But we have to remember when we have these conversations about fast fashion that not everyone is in the same situation as yourself and that ethical fashion just isn't accessible to everyone for a range of reasons.

That being said, I have recently starting to have a look at my own shopping habits. I have recently started to notice that I am impulse buying a lot of items that I don't necessarily need - nor even really want. The thing is, I see YouTubers and other bloggers sharing hauls and different outfits everyday and I feel like I have to have certain items because they're 'in'. Even if it is something I wouldn't pick out in a shop myself - if I see my fave influencers wearing it, it is highly likely that I will want it too.

As a blogger (especially one who shares fashion content), I know I am just as much part of the problem as any other influencer - and I can't blame them for creating content that they enjoy to make and will almost guarantee them views and likes. I mean, I am ashamed to admit how many Primark hauls I have watched in my time. And, as I watch them, I never think about the actual impact of fast fashion. All I think is 'ooh, I want to go to Primark' then I do go to Primark and leave the shop with a bag full of clothes that I probably will wear once before putting them to the back of my wardrobe where they'll eventually make their final journey to the charity shop a year later.

So, why do I do this? Mostly, because I don't want to feel like I am missing out. I don't want be the only one not wearing the latest trends. And because I know that outfit pictures in that must-have skirt will generate more likes. Superficial as it seems, this is why I impulse buy - and haul culture encourages this. Haul culture tells me that I don't have enough. That there is always something more to buy. Another trend to follow. And I admire the women selling me these ideas so I listen to them.

Another factor in fast fashion is the easiness. Although I buy a lot of my daughter's clothes second hand, finding things I like for myself takes a little more effort. Trawling through charity shops takes time whereas high street stores present clothes in a way that make you want to buy them so you can go in and find exactly what you want immediately. High street shops have every item in a range of sizes - I can walk in and I know I will find a pair of black jeans in a size 12. It is just easy.

Because of these things, my wardrobe is made up of about 98% fast fashion pieces. And that's kinda the problem. My wardrobe isn't full of fast fashion pieces because I really can't afford ethical pieces - I could probably stretch to it, if I am honest - but because I make that choice. It is deliberate. And that's what I want to change.

Now I'm not saying I will never shop on the high street again - that would just be a blatant lie - but what I am saying is that I intend to make more of an effort to find alternatives. I want to only buy things that will work with the items I already own. I want to wear a piece to death and feature it on my Instagram all the time without feeling weird about repeating outfits. I want to challenge the notion that we always need something more by not getting so caught up in trends and treasuring the clothes I already own.

And I hope the fashion industry will start to change too because many people, myself included, simply aren't able to buy exclusively from ethical brands. But, for now, we just need to start small and try to challenge 'haul culture'.

And remember - individual, small changes have the potential to amount to something huge.

Jumper: Primark (similar)
Skirt: Primark (similar)
Belt: Primark (similar)
Boots: New Look (here)

Thursday, 1 November 2018

Reclaiming My Identity Post-Partum

Motherhood isn't easy. From the sleepless nights dosing your kid up on Calpol as they cut their first tooth to when they start to walk and you do a little cry because they are growing too fast and you worry they won't need you anymore, every stage brings a new challenge. Your whole life takes a massive shift and you barely even recognise the person you were before. Now everything revolves around the child - hell, you have probably called food 'nummy nummy' in front of other adults at some stage because you have your mum head permanently screwed on. You often wonder what you even used to do with all that time you had. You used to have big dreams of travelling the world and probably working for the UN on very important business lady stuff. Now your dreams revolve around a lie-in on a Sunday morning and going to the loo alone. Everything has changed.

And, let's be real here, it is not all sunshine and rainbows. If you're anything like me, you imagined this utopia where you'd be cooking pies, and the whole house would be spotless, and your child would nap a lot, and you'd go on cute little adventures together everyday which they would definitely love and not scream bloody murder throughout. That's not to say some days aren't like that (and that I don't love my girl so much that my heart could just explode even when she doesn't sleep and has tantrums in public) but some days really are hard work. Every parent has days like this. It is normal but it never makes it any less exhausting.

The thing is, this little bundle of joy is the most amazing thing I have ever seen. I am proud to be her mum and I love seeing her learn new things every day. But being a mum really is all-encompassing. You suddenly see everything through a baby-centred lens and it is so easy to lose yourself because any time you try to do anything unrelated to caring for the child, you get the mum guilt. You start to think 'omg how can I even care about anything other than my child? I am actually a monster' and your rational pre-pregnancy brain just shrugs its shoulders and lets your new mumzilla brain run wild.

But I think the secret to reclaiming a bit of who you used to be is tackling this mum guilt and knocking it straight out. Imagine how much us mums could achieve if we just stopped feeling guilty all the time. We should be more like dads. You never see dads burying their heads into the child's blanket and crying because you sent them to nursery for the afternoon. We need to hold onto our hobbies and ask for help when we need it. Not even help - we need to ask for a break. We need to stop trying to do everything and let other people help. Hand the child over and go and have a bubble bath. Phone up the baby sitter and go see a movie. We need to start putting ourselves first sometimes and understand that that is perfectly ok - and healthy.

For me, blogging is my outlet. It is something I have been doing since 2012 and has been one constant through the last 6 years of my life. But I thought I wouldn't have time for it once Ava arrived. And, in all honesty, I don't have time for it. There are dishes in the kitchen that need cleaning right now but I am choosing to sit down and type this out. The time I spend taking outfit pictures could probably be better spent meal prepping for the week or sterilising everything we own. But, the thing is, I need to carry on doing this because it is something that I have a passion for and I don't want to resentfully give up my passions and then kick myself in twenty years. Yes, trying to balance being a mum with anything is hard but, for me, it is completely necessary. Even if it is just for bashing out a rant in the drafts and never publishing it just to get it out of my system.

Reclaiming your identity isn't easy and it comes in lots of shapes and forms. I like to blog and put on nice clothes and do my makeup. 90% of the time, I am mum doing mum duties and running the house. But the 10%, I am going to events and putting together looks and shooting content. I love being a mum and it does fulfil me providing for Ava and seeing her happy but I also love the other things I have in my life. Being a mum is the main part of who I am and what I do right now (it always will be) but I am other things and I do other things. So, whether you love scrapbooking or going for runs or being part of a photography club, try to make time to do those things. Indulge your passions and know that it doesn't make you a bad mum. And, whilst you're at it, tell your mum-guilt-zilla brain to calm down and let you live.

What's your hobby?


Jacket: Topshop (similar)
Jeans: Primark (similar)
Scarf: Primark (similar)

Jacket: Primark (similar)
Trousers: Primark (similar)
Socks: Morrisons (similar)

Sunday, 28 October 2018

How I Practice Self-Care On Bad Mental Health Days

Life can often feel like a lot. What with work, relationships, kids, studying, and our constant battle with the Instagram algorithm, it is easy to become overwhelmed. And very, very tired. There are days that feel magical and would definitely have a whimsical backtrack and sepia filter in the movie of your life then there are the days that you wish you could just press fast-forward on.

The truth is, lately I have been having a few more bad days. Days that I wish I could just stay in bed and not have to deal with anything. I try to remind myself that 'there won't be flowers without rain' but sometimes life can get you down and it can be difficult to pull yourself back up.

On these days, I find that I need to really strip everything back and start from zero. I have to press pause and just breathe for a minute. I have to feel what I feel and not try to run from my sadness because sadness is a valid and healthy emotion.

Grace Victory talks a lot about finding your inner child and learning to treat yourself how you would want people to have treated your child self and I feel like this is very relevant to my self-care process. When I am having a dark day, I think of my inner child. I make myself a bowl of soup and let myself watch The Simpsons for half the day like when I was 6 and had a cold. I turn off social media and just relax without the constant buzz of notifications. I go to Tesco and pick whatever sweets I want without looking at calories or thinking about how I will have to 'make up for it later'. These days, I put on whatever is comfy and I don't even look at my makeup bag. Basically, I relax. I stop adhering to the rules - the rules that tell us we have to constantly be productive and pretty and healthy and so many other things. I just be.

The thing is, self-care isn't what you see on Instagram. Self-care isn't just bath bombs and Ben & Jerry's. Self-care is understanding why you feel a certain way and accepting that emotion. Self-care isn't always easy or insta-worthy. It can often be hard work. It can be breaking bad habits and crying on the bathroom floor at 2am.

Self-care, for me, is taking a step back. It is letting emails sit in my inbox and not constantly reaching for my phone. Life in general is messy and busy but, in the hard times, it can feel unbearable. Those are the times when we have to stop trying to carry on keeping it together. Those are the times when we need to reach out and let people know we are struggling. During our day-to-day lives, we need to make time for ourselves doing the things we enjoy. We need to sit back and read a book and think only of what we're reading. We need to lose ourselves for a bit and be totally selfish. And, in the dark days, we need to invest almost all our time into self-preservation and self-care. We need to be regularly checking in on where our heads are at and be aware of our mental health. We need to make sure we don't forget about taking care of ourselves in the whirlwind of taking care of everyone else.

And there is a small comfort in knowing everyone has days when they struggle. Everyone wants to just snuggle up in bed all day and forget about the world and all the responsibilities we have. No one is happy all the time. And that fact has always made it a little easier for me to speak out to other people on the bad days because I know that my feelings aren't an anomaly.

My main advice would be to listen to yourself. Do what you need to get through the day. If that means you just survive rather than be mega productive, that's fine. Your body knows what it needs and if that is a day in bed with a pizza then do that.

How do you practice self-care on bad mental health days?

Thursday, 25 October 2018

Top 5 Things To Do In Edinburgh

The last time we visited Edinburgh, we said we never wanted to return. It was a freezing January and everything felt a little bit miserable. We didn't research Edinburgh at all before we visited and just spent the time wandering around aimlessly waiting for something interesting to emerge. The only good things I remember from that trip were the Ibis hotel breakfast and eating affogato at Howies Restaurant

So, when Isaac suggested we return there for a second time, I was slightly shocked. I mean, we didn't 
like it there, right? Why bother to return? Saying that, it didn't take much convincing to get me to go. Some may say that I am super open-minded and willing to give anywhere a second chance but really I was just pretty desperate for a holiday (and very low on Instagram content).

This time, I decided to go in 100% and spent quite a lot of time trawling through Instagram, blog posts, and travel sites looking for things for us to do whilst we were there. And I soon discovered where we went wrong last time. First of all, we didn't have an itinerary (or even the slightest clue of where anything was) which meant we spent most of the trip around the centre in the same shops every British high street has or in random parts of the city where nothing was happening. And we went there by train (starting and ending a trip with an eight hour train journey is not the one). 

I can happily report back that this trip was amazing and I liked Edinburgh so much that I could have easily spent a whole week there without running out things to do and see.

Howies restaurant
Let's start this post off with arguably our favourite thing about Edinburgh: the lush food at Howies Restaurant. All in all, we have now had three meals at Howies and each came to around £30 or just under for two courses for two people. Despite the low price, this place is as close to 'fine dining' as I have ever gotten. The food is all locally sourced and really embraces its Scottish roots. But if you think it's all haggis all day, you'd be wrong. They have something for everyone. Isaac absolutely adored their cullen skink (like a fish soup/stew/thing) and I was pretty sold on their desserts (their brownie is insane - it comes with coffee ice cream and rum syrup). Oh, and their coffee was the kinda coffee that makes you go wow ok when you drink it. Basically, everything is delicious, well-made, locally sourced, and not too pricey. I wish they opened one on my street.

Victoria Street and Grassmarket
I am really into Instagram at the moment so if you say 'multi-coloured street of dreams' to me, I will probably be on the bus there - tripod in hand - before you even get to finish your sentence. So, Victoria Street was literally heaven for me. Everywhere you look, there are cute cafes and boutique shops selling everything from gifts and trinkets to handmade suits. And this continues out into the wider area of Grassmarket. This area has such variety and we loved wandering along these streets in the evening especially as all the restaurants were bustling with people. Hands down, my favourite part of Edinburgh.

Royal Mile
This is probably one of the busier parts of Edinburgh - but I totally get why. The Royal Mile is full of beautiful buildings. Everywhere you look there is a church or historic building to explore/have a selfie in front of. But probably the best thing about the Royal Mile is the shopping. There are so many little shops full of locally made tartan, kilts, and cashmere (which I really didn't know was such a big thing in Edinburgh).

National portrait gallery
Ok, let me admit a little something here, I am not usually someone who is that keen on things like museums and galleries. I much prefer wandering around the streets and learning about the history of life in a particular area and the history of the local, everyday people rather than looking at the artwork and other items made by rich people and owned by rich people. But I really liked the National Portrait Gallery. I liked seeing different genres of art that they displayed (especially the less traditional and more abstract pieces) but also some real classics like 'Monarch of the Glen'. And they had a bunch of things on for kids too. Definitely worth a visit - even if you don't really like galleries.

Edinburgh castle
This is a bit of an obvious one but it is something we didn't do last time (mostly because we're a bit tight) and actually really enjoyed this time. The views, first of all, were amazing (despite the wind) and I loved how different this castle is to other castles I have visited before. This castle is more a military base rather than a royal dwelling which completely went against my expectations. They have Prisoner of War cells that date back hundreds of years and the original graffiti still remains on the walls. They also have solitary confinement cells for disobedient soldiers - this was super interesting for me as I am a bit of a prison history geek (niche, I know). But the best thing about Edinburgh Castle was the tour guide (closely followed by the gift shop and whiskey tasters). I regret that I didn't remember her name but she was amazing - so fun and engaging but also very knowledgeable about the castle and the history. Definitely try to get a walking guide around the castle over paying for a headset.

What is your favourite thing about Edinburgh?

Sunday, 21 October 2018

Autumn Lookbook With Femme Luxe*

In case you guys didn't get the memo, I am a teensy bit autumn obsessed. Ok, maybe a bit more than obsessed. At this stage, my diet is basically just bonfire spiced hot chocolate, Halloween themed cakes, and literally anything that contains pumpkin. And the obsession doesn't end with my choice of snacks (read: all meals every day). It has taken over my wardrobe too.

As soon as September rolled in, I dived into a pile of knitwear and vowed not to emerge until it is at least 20 degrees again. Autumn fashion just encapsulates everything that I love. Jumpers, obviously, but also ankle boots and huge coats and hats that Cher herself would approve of. Also dark lipsticks (or is that just hot chocolate?) and the fact that you can wear a messy bun everyday and call it fashion. After months of it is so hot, what is the least amount of clothes I can wear without being arrested for public indecency? it is kinda nice to wake up in the morning and put some thought into my outfit.

The layered look

Yknow what has layers? Onions, ogres, and every outfit I wear in autumn. Cos ya girl gets cold very easily. Basically, if I ain't wearing a vest, I ain't fully dressed. Layering is the key to dressing like a chic fashionista that just stepped off the runway without freezing your bits off and it helps you to breathe a bit of life back into your summer pieces so it is cost-effective too. Win win, right?

So, when I saw this dress on Femme Luxe, I knew I needed to own it. It is a gorgeous autumnal colour and long enough that it covers your legs (for warmth and can hide the fact that you refuse to pick up a razor until at least April). And I really love it. I am not someone that usually loves bodycon anything but I will definitely be wearing this all season. And that means a lot because I really like jeans.

Dress: Femme Luxe
Jumper: Primark
Backpack: John Lewis
Boots: New Look

The summer trouser revival

Who said culottes are just for summer? I rock these babies year round! And with more emphasis being placed on slow fashion these days, taking a look into the Narnia-level depths of your wardrobe and seeing what you discover before hitting the shops is the way to go. And it leaves more money for the important things in life (like chips).

I love how this crop top looks with culottes. The top is quite fitted so the looseness of the trousers kinda balances everything out. And I just love swishing around singing Baggy Trousers whenever I put them on. But also feeling a bit chic in this 'Vogue' print crop top. Although, as I discovered, this outfit isn't very waterproof so bare that in mind.

Top: Femme Luxe
Trousers: New Look
Jacket: Topshop

I have gone a little accessories mad this season. I now own three different hats and enough scarfs to probably lasso the whole of Earth (if the occasion ever called for it). But I just love how the perfect accessory can take an outfit from meh to wow. And I feel like the scarf in this outfit kinda did that (at least, I hope cos a lot of people have seen me wearing this lol).

This Femme Luxe dress is gorgeous as it is. It is super thick and fits really nicely but I felt like it was calling out for an added bit of oomph. I love how the black goes so well with the bright pink - this dress really is the perfect base piece for any look. I mean, imagine it with a bright pink blazer. Or a check coat. The possibilities are endless (sorry, bank balance).

Dress: Femme Luxe
Scarf: Primark

You can find all these looks at Femme Luxe. They kindly sent me out these pieces (thanks, queens!) so be sure to check them out - your wardrobe will thank you.

Which trends are you loving this season?

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Spooky Activities To Add To Your October Bucket List

I have always loved Halloween. As a kid, I would plan my costume way in advance and experiment with red lipstick and fake blood to make sure my look was just right. We would usually go Trick Or Treating around the neighbourhood and then spend the rest of the evening handing out sweets to the Trick Or Treaters who came to our door and gorging on them hard-earned goodies ourselves. As I have gotten older, my love for Halloween hasn't died down. Last year, eight months pregnant me took a train from London to Devon just to spend Halloween with my family. And this year, I want to go all out. I have mother and daughter costumes planned for Ava and I (maybe Isaac too if I can talk him into it) and I want to make this day really fun for us. So, I have been trawling the internet to find the most fun and spooky activities that the UK has to offer and I really haven't been disappointed (although I think I'd need more than a month to fit all the activities in).

Black Cat Trail at Bodiam Castle
When building Bodiam Castle in Sussex, the builders went to great lengths to incorporate all manner of things into the castle and its grounds in order to ward off evil. The ruins of the castle sit in the middle of a large moat and give off an eerie feeling of times gone by. This October, they are running a black cat trail around the grounds which is great for kids but also great for anyone wanting to stop for a minute and really look at their surroundings.

Dolaucothi Gold Mines
Can you imagine anything spookier than being deep in an abandoned gold mine in the dark? No, me neither. Dolaucothi Gold Mines in Carmarthenshire are a great day out for all the family (although kids under 1M tall aren't allowed in the mines) and a real historical experience too. Definitely something near the top of my spooky bucket list.

Dunster Castle School of Magic
Dunster Castle in Somerset is somewhere I have been itching to visit for ages now and I am really running out of excuses. Dunster Castle is nestled on the top of a hill and has true Hogwarts vibes - something they are using to their advantage this Halloween with their School of Magic. This one is great for kids - you follow a trail, answer questions, and get admitted into the School of Magic if you get it all right. I mean, this is the closest thing to being accepted into Hogwarts as you can get so I am really here for it.

Wicklow's Gaol
Based in Ireland, this is a bit more of a spooky one for the adults. Wicklow Gaol is an abandoned prison turned tourist attraction and, after watching Orange Is The New Black, I am desperate to visit. They have original prisoner records and the guides will tell you what life was like living in this prison.

Jamaica Inn
This hotel and restaurant in Cornwall is probably best known for its paranormal activity. It featured in a Daphne Du Maurier novel about smugglers and that was just the start of the folklore that surrounds this place. Book a table and take in the slightly creepy atmosphere or, if you're feeling brave, book in for the night. If you do, you're really a braver person than I am.

Jack The Ripper Tour
Since we studied Jack The Ripper at school, I have been intrigued by the mystery surrounding this unknown serial killer. And taking a walk in his shoes through the streets of London is bound to get even the bravest person a little spooked. I have been on one of these tours myself and I can vouch for how they will have you looking over your shoulder as you hurry along the dark streets and through alleyways that Jack The Ripper himself once walked.

Wookey Hole
And finally, the place that I went last year and absolutely loved - Wookey Hole. Based in Somerset, Wookey Hole is a large network of caves that, according to folklore, once had a witch as resident. Murdered by the village priest, her ghost is said to still haunt these caves. Pretty spooky, right?

What are your spooky plans for this Halloween?


Thursday, 11 October 2018

My Top Tips For Building Your Confidence

As a teen, I was painfully shy. And, at the time, I never thought I would be able to overcome that. I thought I would be that shy my whole life. I used to panic about what career I would go into when I grew up because the thought of going to an office and talking to people everyday literally left me in cold sweats. Looking back, my shyness did really limit me. There are so many opportunities that I wish I had taken that I just didn't because I didn't have the confidence. The years I should have spent secretly drinking Tesco Value cider in the park and going to parties in outfit my parents definitely wouldn't approve of and kissing boys behind the bike shed were actually spent reading about other people doing those things. But it wasn't just the crazy, rebellious stage that I kinda wish I had embraced at the time. I wish I had made the most of other things too. Things like mountaineering trips abroad that my sixth form offered or just getting the train into London with my girls. I had so much freedom back then but I never really made the most of it as I was always so scared of mucking up and being laughed at. I remember feeling like the world was just waiting for me to do something embarrassing. So, I hid. And I regret it.

Flash forward a few years, and my life is completely different and I don't feel like that teenage girl anymore who was so scared of what everyone else might think of her. But getting to this stage wasn't easy. Growing your confidence isn't easy. And there are days when I still get those little pangs of panic again - that voice in my head that tells me that I can't manage to do something. But I have really come a long way.

Work on your self-esteem
For me, my confidence is really linked to my self-esteem. When I feel good about myself (be it how I look, what I'm wearing, or what I have achieved that day), I feel so much more confident. In the same way, days when I feel a bit down make me want to curl up in a ball under about 30 blankets with only my arm free to spoon ice cream into my mouth. So, if you are having more bad days than good then your confidence is likely to suffer. And there's no easy solution for that. Just try to remember that even the most confident, cool people who seem to be breezing through life also have bad days and blips in confidence.

Say yes more often
We have all heard of FOMO but I think, for shy people, we have the opposite fear. We love cancelling plans and our go-to response when invited anywhere is almost always no. But it was only in my second year of uni that I realised that I really had been missing out - and it sucked. I had just moved into a shared house with a group of people I didn't know. One evening, I got a text from one of the other girls inviting me out. I was already in bed watching TV and I was so tempted to say no but I pushed myself and said yes. And that was the start of an amazing friendship that lasted for the rest of my time at uni and is still going strong a year on. You don't know what great things are out there if you always say no so the best way to start building your confidence is to get out there more and experience different things.

I once read an article on how to gain confidence that recommended listening to people's conversations on public transport and imagining what your response would be to everything that say. I mean, this never really worked for me but it did give me amazing spy skills. One thing that did work for me though was working in people-facing jobs. As a teenager, I volunteered in nursing homes and charity shops and that started to bring my out of my shell. Since then, I have worked in many customer service roles and it really has helped. I mean, you have no choice but to talk to people when its your job. So, my bit of advice is to try to do something like that. Volunteer in a charity shop one afternoon a week. Join a language group. Do something where you have to meet different people and chat with them.

Celebrate little wins
Chances are, you won't read this post then suddenly transform into a social butterfly (I wish I had that kinda power, trust me) but you can start to make little changes. And, as you push yourself to try different things, you will have a few little wins. They can be as simple as asking what the waiter recommends in a restaurant or having a chat with the old lady next to you on the bus just because. Each little win is an achievement and a sign that you are moving in the right direction.

Stop searching for the answer
This last point kinda goes against the point of the post but, if you are anything like how I was, you have probably read about 100 different articles on confidence that haven't made a slight bit of difference to your life. That's because there is no magic cure unfortunately. It all comes from within you. That's the scary - but kinda amazing - thing. You are the one that can make this happen.

What are your top tips for building your confidence?

T-shirt: ASOS (here)
Jacket: Topshop (similar)
Scarf: Primark (similar)
Jeans: Primark (similar)

Friday, 5 October 2018

Places To Eat In Exeter: Sacred Grounds

On an average day, my insta feed probably contains at least 10 pictures of people sipping on colourful lattes and eating their weight in pancakes and waffles. And, in all honesty, pictures like these make me want to up sticks and move to South London asap so that I too can spend my days relaxing in a coffee shop with a book and rocking a fedora (without looking like I'm playing dress up in my dad's clothes). I mean, we never really had anywhere like that in Exeter. And lattes that were anything other than brown and from Starbucks seemed like a wild fantasy.

Until now.

I recently came across Sacred Grounds online and I would be lying if I said I didn't let out a bit of a squeal when I saw that 1) they were opening up in Exeter's McCoy's Arcade and 2) they do pink lattes and lush, plant-based food. Oh, and the whole place is mega instagrammable.

So, I made an excuse to head into Exeter with the baby and even timed her nap perfectly so that she slept all the way through my brunch. As it has only recently opened, the place was pretty busy but I gladly sat outside (not outside outside - just in the arcade). They had highchairs and little blocks for the kids to play with - I even saw other mums with babies which is a far cry from these kinda cafes I have been to before which were always more geared towards professionals rather than families. There was a great mixture of mums and business people in suits and a fair few students too.

The menu was short and simple. It had a few types of waffles and then some interesting Scandinavian items too. The drinks menu had all the classics but I was feeling adventurous (read: wanted that pic for the gram) so I went for the beetroot and orange latte. Admittedly, I really didn't have high expectations for the taste of this latte. I mean, it is made from beetroot. But it really wasn't that bad. It was smooth and really creamy (I think it was made with oat milk). It had a bit of an earthy taste but it wasn't horrible. A bit of an acquired taste maybe but nice for a drink made from beetroot.

Food-wise, I went for the sweet waffles. And they were so good. The waffles were topped with maple syrup, cinnamon roasted apple, whipped coconut, and frozen berries. I kinda wish I could eat this every morning - it was just that nice!

Overall, I think Sacred Grounds is the place that Exeter was crying out for. Plant-based goodies in a gorgeous café run by lovely, friendly people. And they appreciate pink coffees just as much as I do. What's not to love?


Sunday, 23 September 2018

Transitioning Into Autumn: What To Wear

It is no secret that I love autumn. The chilly weather is a great excuse to curl up on the sofa and binge-watch everything on Netflix (with a peppermint hot choc in hand, obvs) and the back-to-school vibes always make me feel nostalgic. It is a season of cosiness, candles, and a whole lot of chocolate. And, after a long, hot summer, it feels greatly needed.

However, my one qualm with autumn is the transition period and the whole what do I even put on my body today breakdowns that have taken over my mornings. The trouble I have is that I am a bit of magpie for anything knitted. Or mustard. Or just a coat in general tbh. So, I tend to dive straight in and layer up as soon as September rolls around. Which is great for the colder mornings but, by midday, I am cursing myself as I sweat like something from a cartoon. Literal puddles.

This year, I am trying to hold myself back a little bit. I am pushing myself to be slightly more sensible and utilise the items I have in my summer wardrobe but just give them a bit of an autumnal twist. So, I have put together a few hacks for turning your summer wardrobe into an autumn ready wardrobe.

Maxi dresses
In all honesty, I have always considered the maxi dress to be an exclusively summer piece but I have been playing around with the maxi dresses in my wardrobe lately and now I don't want to wear anything else all autumn. Maxi dresses are perfect because they cover you up but aren't too warm. I love pairing them with boots (I think knee high boots would look gorgeous with a maxi that has a slit in the side) and, my most recent revelation, putting a roll neck jumper underneath. This outfit was so warm and snug (albeit not very waterproof for the rainstorm that occurred half-way through snapping these pics) and I felt fierce in it.

Midi skirts
This is totally inspired by bloggers like Pint Sized Beauty and Hannah Gale who are the undisputed queens of the midi skirt trend. I love the look of a midi skirt paired with ankle boots and a slogan jumper. It just looks so cute and classic. And, I've found, having a little bit of leg out tends to balance out the unbearable heat of jumper-wearing.

In all honesty, I intended to buy a black baker boy hat to go with this look but I chickened out at the last minute because I thought I looked like a bus driver. But, yeah, accessories are the heroes of this season. A hat seems to instantly make a casual outfit 1000x more fashion, darling! in a matter of seconds. And let's not forget scarves. I love a good scarf (especially if it is big enough to double as a blanket/impromptu bib for baby) and recently picked up a bright pink one from Primarni which I intend to wear to death this season. Oh, and they keep you warm and stuff.

I'm gonna be open with you guys - I have ugly feet. I get them from my dad (sorry, dad!). So, summer isn't my friend. I despise sandals and how they make my little trotters look. So, autumn is always a bit of a relief after a long summer of having my feet on show. I absolutely love a heeled ankle boot and knee/thigh highs are the next thing I want to take on. Boots are an easy and effective way to change up your look for autumn without going all-out.

A vampy lip
On the days when I begrudgingly put on a dress or a tshirt and jeans because the weather is freakishly warm again, I cling on to a little bit of autumn with a dark lip. I love red and burgundy but I am venturing into browns (!) and slightly purple-ish colours. And, I have to say, it is majorly exciting to be able to put makeup on my face again without fearing it melting off.

Dress: Boohoo* (here)
Jumper: Primark (similar)
Boots: New Look (here)
Bag: F&F (similar)

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Our Weaning Journey

We first started Ava on 'real food' around 4 months. She had been exclusively formula fed since 3 months (after she out and out refused to latch on) and I wanted to test the waters. She would just have a spoonful or two of baby rice just to see if she liked it. She was kinda indifferent and most of it went down her chin anyway so I put the brakes on and said I will try again around 5 and a half months.

5 and a half months came and we gave her a little fruit puree from a jar. She was happily having one small meal a day (usually either fruit puree or baby rice) and I was feeling like Supermum. I thought I had cracked weaning (lol) and that is would all be plain sailing from there. Spoiler alert, it wasn't.

At that time, I started pureeing up some veg myself. Usually just things like sweet potato or carrots (one day I even used chickpeas like an absolute boss) and she still seemed quite keen on them. We started giving her a little more everyday and, by the time she hit 6 months, she was pretty much on 3 small meals a day.

But then something changed around 7 months. As we started to introduce lumps, she got more fussy. She started refusing the baby rice she usually had for breakfast. Almost everything I made her got thrown across the room in a tantrum. And all she would accept was either super smooth fruit puree from a jar or milk.

At 8 months, every meal felt like a battle. She would barely touch her breakfast and anything with lumps just gets spat straight back out. She fed herself things like strawberries and tomatoes but she just hated lumps. For some reason, she seemed desperate to continue being bottle fed and the tantrums subsided in seconds as soon as she saw a bottle moving her way.

This was really difficult because I didn't know where I was going wrong. I was trying to be inventive in the kitchen making things I thought she would like but she had just lost all interest in food. I continued giving her little bits and pieces to hold herself and chew on and this seemed to be the only way to get her to try anything.

Two months on and we're finally starting to get the change of feeding Ava. I have realised that she loves to feed herself and be independent. She does still eat smooth purees but she mainly likes to eat things like toast and chunks of fruit. I often give her a little taste of whatever I am eating just to see if she likes it which she really enjoys.

We also recently tried Babyled Spreads* and I really liked the concept of them. They send out jarred foods to put on toast or use as a dip. They provide great recipe and meal ideas which we have really gotten on well with. It is great to have some input of meals that suit Ava's needs and style of eating - it has really helped to liven up mealtime and explore different ideas.

I feel like a big part of weaning is just sussing it out as you go along. Some babies were just born to eat but others are a little pickier.

How have you found weaning?

Saturday, 15 September 2018

Learning To Switch Off As A Blogger

Back in 2013, I was just starting sixth form. I was set to study English Lit and Media Studies alongside German and Classics in the hope of progressing into fashion journalism. Around that time, I became interested in blogging because I had read in a magazine that it looks good on a CV if you are applying for a position at a magazine company. And Zoella was doing it so it must be cool, right? So, I opened up an account on Blogger, chose one of their templates, and got writing. My first post was a review of a bottle of Gucci Flora perfume I had been given for Christmas (you can read it here and lol at me). I was posting almost every day and I loved interacting with other bloggers. It was super informal. I'd snap outfit pics in my bedroom mirror and write up either a long, rambly post or just drop the links to the outfit below the pictures.

Fast forward to 2018 and things are very different. Long gone are the days of automated blog templates and blurry phone pics. Everything is so polished and some bloggers are even doing this as their full-time job. It is crazy to me that even my blog that I started on my parents' super slow PC sometimes makes a bit of money too. But, with that, comes a certain amount of pressure.

In all honesty, there are times when I feel a bit deflated about blogging. Don't get me wrong, I love this industry and most days I feel so pumped to get the camera out and snap away but occasionally, I can't seem to muster up that energy - but I kinda feel like I have to. Like the other day when I met up with my best friend from school. We went for lunch in a village restaurant and caught up on everything going on in our lives and then drove around looking at the views. It was so nice to have time away from a screen and part of me felt like I never wanted to use my phone again. But another part of me was reaching for the camera which is perpetually in my bag. Part of me felt like I couldn't eat a meal with snapping a pic or drive past a nice view without stopping to document it on insta stories.

The thing is with blogging these days is that it is so fast-moving. Trends come and go so quickly and the industry is super competitive. You feel like you have to be 'on' all the time and, when you're not emailing and editing and DMing and live tweeting, you are planning content in your mind. In order to grow your brand, you feel like you have to be constantly available and producing a large amount of high quality content. As much as I do love writing blog posts and reading what other people have written, I do sometimes want to throw my phone out of the window and just spend my days making jam and hiking in the hills.

I do want to succeed in this industry because this is what I love doing. But, at the same time, I struggle to be online as much as I feel like I have to be. I struggle to switch off and just relax like I used to. But I am trying to change that. I am making a conscious effort to take time away from it all. Some evenings, I will just put my phone in another room and unwind. I will actually watch TV without having one eye on my insta feed at the same time. And I will go for walks and keep my phone in my bag so I can have an uninterrupted conversation.

I keep putting so much pressure on myself to constantly create and improve that it is making me a little bit miserable. I started blogging as a passion and I think that I need to work on keeping that passion alive if I want to carry on doing this.

What do you think about the blogging industry today?

Jumper: New Look (similar)
Skirt: H&M (similar)
Boots: Primark (similar)
Bag: John Lewis (similar)
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