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HARRY POTTER: WARNER BROS STUDIO TOUR LONDON

As a Harry Potter fan, it's an absolute DREAM to be able to visit the Warner Bros Studio Tour in London. Having experienced this place over five years ago when it opened, I was really excited to head back and see the new sections that have been added.

Going at the end of November meant we were lucky enough to see 'Hogwarts in the Snow' - essentially the usual tour with a lot of impressive Christmas decorations and yes, it does snow! 

As they house everything from Harry's first pair of prop spectacles to the whole set of Diagon Alley, it's only right to take as many pictures here as possible. And that's exactly what I did!

Huge pendulum from Hogwarts

Christmas tree in the Great Hall at Harry Potter: Warner Bros Studio Tour London

Slytherin Christmas table settings at Hogwarts, in the Great Hall

Standing in front of the ice sculpture at the Yule Ball

The festive theme is incredible and they have gone all out making sure the place is decorated to the max. Starting the tour with the Great Hall, you wander past the dozens of huge Christmas trees and oversized baubles to die for. Then check out the house-specific Christmas crackers on the tables, alongside huge prop turkeys and flaming puddings, towards the Yule Ball centerpiece.

Throughout the whole tour the costumes from the characters are on display too, so you can get up close and personal with Dumbledore's robe or Hermione's Yule Ball dress, if that's something that floats your boat.

Every prop you can think of from all of the films can be found here, and even some that didn't get their chance to shine! Spoiler alert: the Philosopher's Stone actually is as rubbish as it looks on screen.

Although the Forbidden Forest is cool to walk through, I didn't find it anywhere near as scary as I expected it to be when it comes to Aragog and his minions. Not that I'm complaining, but it's worth noting this section isn't as big as would be imagined and the scare factor is absolutely suitable for all ages, despite the spiders.

Shot of the corner of the night bus and blue sky

Standing on the Hogwarts bridge

Godric's Hollow cottage

Danny standing next to huge chess pieces as seen in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

Mid-way through there's an outdoors section with the flying Ford, Hagrid's motorbike and the famous Night Bus. Get pictures on the Hogwarts bridge (you can't hang from the edge of it as per Neville in the Deathly Hallows, unfortunately) and outside Privet Drive.

As we walked out into this area it also began fake snowing and that really is magical.

Weasley's Wizard Wheezes product and brand designs

Walking through the set of Diagon Alley

Close up of Weasley's Wizard Wheezes shop set

Standing in Diagon Alley

Walking through Diagon Alley is incredible, especially as this for me is the most memorable part of seeing a Harry Potter film for the first time. You can't go into the shops, it's just a set after all, however the immaculate shop windows and everything within them is properly nostalgic. Even as a 26 year old, I'm happy to imagine I'm shopping casually for an owl and a cauldron.

I absolutely love seeing the designs for everything from spell books to Weasley's Wizard Wheezes products. As a graphic designer, it's fascinating to see the effort and tiny detail that goes in to things that may not even end up being featured in the film.

If you're interested in these as much as I am, there's also the Minalima display store in London where you can see and buy some of the prints (it's round the corner from the Palace Theatre where you can see Harry Potter and The Cursed Child!)

Standing in front of the Hogwarts Express, wearing a midi skirt and jumper

Hogwarts model building, showing the whole set at a scale of 1/24

Seeing the Hogwarts Express in reality was my favourite part of the tour. This section didn't exist the first time I visited and I'm so glad to have been able to see it. You can walk through the carriages, each one set up from each of the films, and take photos aplenty in front of the train and at Platform 9 and 3/4.

There's a huge model building of Hogwarts, which is how they managed to capture a lot of the overhead shots of the castle when filming - with the use of lots of green screens, of course. The amount of time it took - 74 years including everyone's man hours - to build and remake this piece throughout the whole film series is crazy. Naturally, it's a very impressive sight to behold.

There's a huge gift shop at the end for all your wizarding needs. It includes a range from chocolate frogs to entire sets of house robes, depending on how much of a fangirl you've become after the tour.



If you want to get tickets yourself (and you need to book them in advance!) then head over to the Warner Bros Studio Tour website.

Let me know if you are planning a visit! Find me on Instagram or Twitter for more picture spam...


leanne x

WHERE TO EAT IN CHICAGO //

Cover image for The Dress Diaries food blogger post

America is well known for it's fantastic food (and huge portions!) so naturally, the cuisine became a focal point of our visit to Chicago. From pancakes to pizza, I've pulled together some of my favourite locations to eat in the city.

If you want to see what else I got up to - other than eating my own weight in 3 Musketeers bars - then check out my 'Sightseeing in Chicago' post.


For a budget breakfast...

Chicago Waffles


A very cosy, simple brunch place with everything from chicken to waffles - or even go all out with a skillet if you're particularly peckish. This was one of the first suggestions I found when looking for a waffle house nearby, and as one of the cheapest independent places we visited, I'd definitely recommend for the traveller on a budget.

I opted for the special belgian chocolate waffles with banana, with lashings of maple syrup. As always in Chicago, expect a LOT of food and there's refillable coffee to keep you buzzing for the rest of the day.

If you want a true American experience...
Pizano's

This was actually an alternative restaurant we fell into (as our planned first option was full) and WOW, I'm so glad we did. Noted as the home of the fourth best deep dish pizza in America (and Oprah Winfrey's #1 favourite thin crust, I kid you not) we felt we were very lucky to have stumbled across this slice of heaven.

We opted for the veggie option of 'Mark's Special', featuring a chunky slab of cheese topped with tomatoes, basil and garlic. It's the absolute pinnacle of pizza pie and as greedy as this sounds, this was one of my favourite experiences of the city. Absolutely delish.

If you're wanting to experience a true Chicago deep dish, definitely head to a Pizano's.

Looking for a casual, cheap dinner...
Portillos

Courtesy of our lovely taxi driver from the airport, we had a tip to visit here to try out a true, cheap hot dog experience.

Portillo's is a budget food hall with a range of options including burgers, pasta, ice cream and of course, all kinds of hot dog. You can grab soft drinks or a beer and a selection of different snacks to share at a low price, making it perfect for large groups or families.

I went for a classic Chili Cheese Dog and it was tasty, albeit messy! This is far from a gourmet experience but I would recommend a visit with friends, and it would be fantastic for satisfying drunk food cravings.


If you want the breakfast of dreams...

Wildberry Pancakes and Cafe

This is the ultimate place to be for breakfast. It's actually the only place I stopped to take a picture before eating (terrible blogger, I know) so I'll just let the photo do the talking.

Pancakes covered in compote, strawberry cream and berries

This the Signature Berry Bliss Pancakes dish which, although resembling a Man Vs Food challenge, was incredibly delicious. We loved this place so much we actually went back the following day and I tried a savoury omelette too.

Recommendations are the pancakes (banana and choc chip also a winner!) and the meat skillets, as they also looked incredible.




If your mouth isn't watering by now then I haven't done these places justice, but do let me know on Twitter if you have any other recommendations in America. Now excuse me whilst I go and attempt to make some pancakes which are nowhere near as delicious...



leanne
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SIGHTSEEING IN CHICAGO //

I had the opportunity to visit America for the first time this year and I loved experiencing Chicago. From the people, to the food, to the architecture, this city felt very much like being back in London (with a few lot more big buildings) and I felt at ease straightaway.

There are plenty of attractions to visit and lots of sightseeing spots here, so I've pulled together my favourite parts of my experience if you're planning a venture to the city soon.

Me, standing in front of the city skyline and Lake Michigan

Willis Tower and Hancock Tower

Now, I'm not a huge fan of heights but seeing as we're in a city of skyscrapers it is only right to experience two of the biggest. The Willis Tower (formally Sears Tower) features a skydeck, where you can step out onto the glass 1353 feet above the ground.

We had to visit on our final day where it was unfortunately pretty cloudy, but even then, it's a pretty impressive view of the city. They take official pictures up here for you but the staff are also very happy to take some of cameras and phones, so you can keep a memory of your experience in the clouds.

Couple standing in a glass box in a tower, Chicago city in the background

The Hancock Tower is home to 'Tilt' where you are, well, tilted with the window 45 degrees towards the ground. I skipped this one to be honest, but I promise you it is just as much fun watching other people give it a go!

The views from either tower are pretty good but if you only have time to experience one on your trip? I'd choose the Willis Tower and Skydeck.

Two people holding on to the window, tilting at 45 degrees in a tower

The Field Museum

This is one of the largest natural history museums in the world and - having a boyfriend who enjoys history and dinosaurs in equal measure - this became a must-do on our Chicago trip.

It's definitely worth planning a good few hours to explore as the museum is HUGE. You're welcomed into the building by Maximo the Titanosaur, the largest dinosaur in the world and incidentally continue throughout the building meeting lots of other big mammals on the way. I don't mind a good museum but I would say once I've seen a few taxidermied animals, I feel I've seen them all.

A highlight would be the 'Underground Adventure' where you head into the soil and are surrounded by human-sized creepy crawlies. Although we're in our mid-twenties, I appreciate that the experience would go down well with families with young children. Essentially, it feels like you're in the garden scene from 'Honey, I shrunk the kids.'

Me standing next to a huge dinosaur skeleton, outside the museum


The Arts Institute of Chicago

Despite not being at the top of my list, it was a great surprise to visit the Arts Institute and see the vast amount of exhibitions they have on show. Some famous paintings such as Vincent Van Gogh's Self-Portrait and Grant Wood's American Gothic are housed here in the institute.

One of my personal favourite parts was the photography and film exhibition Never a Lovely So Real 1950 -1980 which showcases lots of work from artists who documented the city in these years, including the emergence of the Black Arts Movement.

Miniature Rooms: The Thorne Rooms is an amazing exhibition of tiny, perfectly constructed houses of American and European interior design influence. They were fascinating to look at, with every single feature intricately carved or painted to resemble real homes from the period.

Close up of a miniature room


Architectural Boat Trip

This was one of the best parts of the whole holiday.

If you're into architecture then this is an absolute must, and if you're not, it's an absolute must. There were some fascinating facts about the city itself and the architectural background of the most iconic buildings is super interesting (including why Trump Tower is so cleverly designed, before and despite the tacky name blazoned across it.)

We had the pleasure of experiencing the trip with Shoreline Sightseeing which meant great service, a humorous tour leader and plenty of opportunity to take pictures from a new perspective of the city.

Upwards view of an american flag in the wind


Cloud Gate (aka The Bean)

This famous public art piece features a lot in Chicago instagram pictures so naturally, we had to take a look. It was handily only a fifteen minute walk from our hotel and it does what it says on the tin. Sir Anish Kapoor created the reflective sculpture, in the shape of a huge bean which is big enough for visitors to walk underneath.

It was a cool piece to see but really, after seeing it for five minutes and taking some snaps you'll be heading off to your next adventure. This is also, surprisingly, ranked #3 on 'Things to Do in Chicago' on TripAdvisor - who would have guessed?

Person standing in front of a huge reflective sculpture in Millenium Park, Chicago


We were fortunate enough that David's parents purchased the Chicago Explorer Pass for us all, which saved a HUGE amount of money on each individual attraction.

You can select a 3, 4 or 5 attraction pass depending on the length of your trip and there are over 25 attractions to choose from (including The Field Museum, Arts Institute, Willis Tower, Hancock Tower and the Boat Trip as featured here!) so it's well worth a look.



Hopefully this helps if the Windy City is on your bucket list of places to visit, keep an eye out for a food and drink specific post (think pancakes and pizza) coming soon... 



BACK TO 'COOL' WITH PRETTYLITTLETHING // collab


Close up of striped red/white denim skirt, girl laying on bed

Alas, Summer is almost over.


Although that means the end of British heatwaves and that the ice cream man is embarking on a career change, it also means the majority of young people are heading back to school, college or university.

My student days are long since over but that doesn't mean I don't enjoy the 'fresh start' we can all make when September rolls around. A new wardrobe is one way of embracing the season, and a bit of retail shopping is always welcome come pay day. PrettyLittleThing have a whole section on their website dedicated to Student Style and I picked out some of my favourite bits for them to send me, perfect for that study (and student night) life.


Study books and girl sat on bed


First up, this tee and skirt combo. Slogan tees are all the rage but the simple heart tee caught my eye. I love a classic white tee because I wear a LOT of denim and it's a very easy thrown together outfit.

The skirt is my favourite item from this haul to be honest, because since I grabbed a high waisted version from a vintage fair earlier in the year, I have a new found love for them. This option has the stripe detailing, making it a much more modern version for my wardrobe and how nice does it go with the t-shirt?!


Close up of heart on a white t-shirt, girl holding a laptop

Close up of heart tee and denim skirt whilst laying on bed


Nothing shouts 'back to school' like the sudden weather change in Autumn.

This week is the first for a long time which has hit below 15 degrees and I'll be honest with you, it's probably only going to get cooler. Whether you're heading out to the pub on an evening or you just need a large coffee before your 9am lecture, this borg jacket has you covered.

It's a cropped style, making it perfect to pair with a pair of jeans or a statement skirt and it's really bloody cosy. I chose some amazing value black trainers to pair with the whole outfit, added a cheeky latte - caramel is the only option - and I am ready to get shit done.


Outdoors on a bridge wearing a cosy cropped black jacket

Full outfit shot on a bridge

Denim skirt and black trainer combo, girl sitting on side of a bridge


If this is your first year at university I want to wish you a huge GOOD LUCK. You'll be fine, you've got this. If you'd like to read about my own first year experience, check out this blog post here. And if you need some Fresher's tips? Read this one too.



Hopefully you have some school/college/uni inspiration for what to wear and PLT have plenty to choose from. It's all budget-friendly and they even offer 10% student discount, so even your bank account (complete with student loan) can't complain. Let me know over on Instagram if you grab any bargains, and remember to share with the hashtag #PrettyLittleThing !



leanne

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Disclaimer: This post includes items that were gifted, however, all opinions are my own and unbiased and all content is purely from me because I very much enjoy the outfit.


END OF THE YEAR - FITNESS GOALS //

I've really stepped up my game this year with a healthy lifestyle (alongside the odd boozy holiday, occasional doughnut breakfast and some tipsy club nights - of course!)

To keep things going in the right direction, I've written some personal fitness goals I want to aim for before the end of the year and I'm hopeful I can get there.

There's always something about committing resolutions to writing and posting it on the internet that makes it feel more important, don't you think?

An almost split in the air on an aerial hoop


Do a freestanding handstand

Honestly, this evades me. I've mastered it against a wall now with some confidence boosting tips from 'The Handstanding Yogi' book but still need serious help in doing it without support. Hopefully I can find a workshop or someone wonderfully stable to help me with this one.


Run another 10k

I did my first ever race this year at the Leeds 10K and although it was difficult, I really enjoyed the experience. It would be great to run the same distance but this time, in under an hour. Read some of my tips for a complete beginner and how to make running easier.


Run 100k before the end of the year

If I manage to keep consistently working on my running, this should be achievable. A few Parkruns and help from the Nike Run Club app should help me make it but I am a bit concerned about running in the Winter weather!


Complete a full 30 day yoga challenge

I absolutely love Yoga with Adriene on YouTube and her 30 day plans are really helpful. I've attempted some before but only ever managed around half of them before forgetting or giving up. I've got more motivation than ever right now, so I want to harness it into completing an entire month of yoga practices - finally!


Film a short aerial hoop routine

I love aerial and it's so nice to have gone back to hoop classes recently. It's a wonderfully supportive environment and a lot of fun being in the air, so it would be great to have a full routine to keep track of my progress at Leeds Aerial Arts over the past couple of years.

(If said routine could also include a russian mount then that would be an added bonus!)




leanne

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VISITING BARCELONA //

Casa Mila (aka La Pedrera) A building by Antoni Gaudi

Barcelona is a hugely popular European destination for tourists and this could be due to a number of things. It has a Mediterranean climate meaning the Summer's here are scorching; the people are welcoming; the food is delicious; the city itself is home to beautiful architecture, mostly known for Gaudi's impressive building works and 19th Century grandeur of the Gothic Quarter.

Having visited a couple of weeks ago for just a night, I was reminded of all the fantastic places I've had the chance to visit here previously. I've listed a few of the locations I've explored and what I adore about Barcelona.


La Sagrada Familia


Arguably, the most notable landmark in the city. This is Antoni Gaudi's biggest masterpiece and is still being built to this day - the suggested finish date will be in 2030 having started in 1882 (IKR?!)

To see the building from the outside is hugely impressive, however if you do get chance to go inside then DO IT. It has an incredible amount of stained glass windows, superbly detailed columns and lots of information about its history. Remember to book your tickets online here before your visit.


Tapas


Food is the best part of any new country, wouldn't you agree? Local delicacies, weirdly named things you should try and may never want to try again - that's a huge part of experiencing a new place in my opinion. We found a wonderful little place when we visited a couple of years ago and got lucky enough to stumble across it again this time.

Mirinda can be found down an alleyway just off the famous Las Rambla. Here, you'll find a fantastic tapas menu (including lots of veggie options!) great selection of drinks and lots of street entertainment throughout the evening. When it comes to Spanish tapas, you'd be hard pushed to not find something you like here.

We also stumbled across a beautiful bakery called Tiana Forneria near the Gothic Quarter, perfect for breakfast pastries and a chocolate croissant treat should you fancy it.


Park Güell



For the traveller on a budget, there's absolutely no excuse not to visit this place. Situated in a public park (at the top of a heck of a lot of street escalators, I might add) is Park Guell. Another reflection of Gaudì's work, you can wander around these beautiful gardens and if you do want to splash out, get a ticket to explore the Monumental Zone and see the close-up detail of the architecture.

We didn't get a ticket but the experience of visiting is enough by itself. You also get an incredible view of the whole city if you climb the lookout point at the top - I won't lie to you, it's steep!

At the bottom of the park area there are some lovely little shops selling handmade gifts, so keep your souvenir spending until you get here.




Gothic Quarter


We stayed in a great (budget friendly) guesthouse in this area called Guesthouse Barcelona Gotic - super location, especially if you want somewhere central. This place has a lot of choice when it comes to bars and restaurants.

One of our favourite finds was a rock bar called The Bollocks (yep, you read that right) which had a fantastic drinks selection and a burger menu named after guitars. All very cool and as someone who it quintessentially uncool, nevertheless, I felt very welcome here.

In the daytime, it's definitely a worthwhile place to explore for the amazing architecture. There are beautiful buildings around every corner and you're certain to get some superb Instagram shots around here.




Hopefully there's some Barcelona inspiration here if you're planning your next trip. Let me know on Twitter if you have any other notable places I should go to next time I'm in the city.




leanne

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TRAINING FOR A 10K RACE // RUNNING BEGINNER

Other than a warm up and cool down on the treadmill at the gym, I wasn't a runner. It's something that I always wanted to be good at because as a non-runner, I'd sometimes think 'Wow, how wonderful it must be to enjoy nature by running through the woods' and 'If only I could run for the train without almost collapsing on the platform afterwards' etc.

After a few attempts at running around the block as fast as I could possibly go, my chest hurting a lot and my teeth getting cold (what's that about?!) I walked home, made myself a cup of tea and was determined that it wasn't the sport for me.

HOWEVER

Here is where I tell you how I eventually ended up running a 10k fairly comfortably, and, dare I say it? I even ENJOYED it.

It turns out there's a lot more to running than how fast you can go (although that becomes a fun challenge) and I've compiled a few tips that helped me get into it, hopefully, for good.

Mirror selfie, with focus on no makeup, sports bra and headphones

Not Running


This is not a drill. It turns out you can get good at running by actually not running at all.

The first few times I attempted a 'run' outside I was quite unfit. Over the past eight months or so I've been attending an intense HIIT class regularly. As well as some treadmill work, the class also includes a lot of free weight, cardio and bodyweight exercises which strengthen the core and legs (ideal for y'know, running) and it made a huge difference to my overall fitness levels.

This time when I ventured into the great outdoors, I found a simple 1KM much better, my heart rate and breathing became a lot easier and I surprisingly didn't hate it as much.


Nike Run Club app


A friend introduced me to this app and it is so blooming useful. I'm currently using it to prep for a 10 mile race that I've not committed to yet, but even just giving yourself a goal makes a difference to a running routine.

You can use it as a running prompt and listen to specific workouts (some by famous athletes or professionals who can give great advice) or just keep it as a handy log and distance update throughout your workout. The main thing it helps you get out there in the first place, regardless of how far or how fast you go.



Get outside


Sounds obvious, but running outside is very different to the treadmill. I am totally guilty of being stuck on a machine for the past few years and now I've found great routes outside, I don't fancy the idea of going back. Not only is it much more visually appealing than looking at a blank white wall or BBC news on a tiny TV screen but running in the elements is quite refreshing.

Although I will admit, I've timed my running well and started this Spring/Summer but I will definitely need tips myself to keep motivated and warm throughout the colder seasons.


Get the Gear


It makes a big difference running in something that makes the workout easier.

At the beginning of my training I ventured into Asics for the first time and invested in some running trainers that are great for me. They do a full run analysis (so be prepared to do a short run on the treadmill in-store) and let you know how you run, and which products will help your technique and ensure you are comfortable. My purchase ended up being the Gel-Cumulus 19.

A lot of my gym wardrobe also really helps keep me interested, so treat yourself to a new outfit if you sign up for an event as extra motivation. These Challenge Run Shorts from Sweaty Betty are my absolute staple over Summer.



Distract yourself


One of the most difficult things I still find when running is breathing, and not thinking too much about my breathing. I've found listening to a podcast is one of the best ways to distract me whilst on a run as it takes my mind elsewhere. One of my favourite podcast episodes is Sadiq Khan's interview on Table Manners (hosted by Jessie & Lennie Ware) which kept me company on my first ever solo 6K!

Music, of course, is another great method of keeping you distracted. Take some time to create your perfect playlist of motivational tracks. Try to pick songs you know get you wanting to dance and sing to, so you can harness that enthusiasm when you're on your route.

I purchased the Urbanears Wireless Headphones and I absolutely love them - the tap system (to play/pause/turn volume up etc.) takes some getting used to but sound quality is great when out and about.



Do you have any tips for a first-timer? Leave a comment over on my fitness instagram @leannemariefitness or check it out for some inspiration!

leanne

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BENICASSIM FESTIVAL // 2018

With a lineup of The Killers, Liam Gallagher and the Pet Shop Boys it was always going to be a hard festival to beat. Having visited Benicassim a couple of years ago, I was fully prepared for the nocturnal, festival life and had fingers crossed for beautiful weather again.

Aside from a rogue storm on Sunday morning (which incidentally almost killed us in our tents - I'm only slightly exaggerating) we were lucky to get 32 degrees sunshine and made the most of glitter in the warm evenings.

My personal highlights of the festival include seeing Jessie Ware live for the first time, singing 'Wonderwall' with a roaring British crowd, the confetti-throwing group of people with a light up umbrella spreading joy and my friends and I dancing to Chase & Status like our lives depended on it.

Genuinely so happy I got to experience this holiday with 5 fantastic pals who appreciate music and €1 sangria just as much as I do, and I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. I've put together a short photo diary of our antics for you to peruse, should you wish to see lots of HUJI filters and basic palm tree pictures. You're welcome.

Looking out to sea in a bikini on Benicassim beach

Group arriving into the festival wearing lots of colour, glitter and a sparkly catsuit


Group of girls walking through graffiti tunnel in Benicasim

Benicassim beach with blue skies

FiberFib stage at Benicassim Festival with blue skies in the background

Panoramic shot of the sea and Benicassim beach

Group selfie by the sea

Beautiful blue sky and palm tree silhouette

Retro filter on group shot by the sea

If you're intrigued, check out my older post 'Why You Should Go to Benicassim Festival' and let me know on Twitter if you have any questions about this year's trip.

leanne

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THE REALITIES OF QUITTING YOUR JOB //

I left my design career last year and following that, left a job in project management entirely. For almost an entire year I found myself hating getting up every morning and feeling like I wasn't achieving very much in return. Ultimately, I made the decision to change my life altogether and get out of the rut I found myself in. Working full time meant it was difficult to have interviews during work hours and if I'm completely honest, I wasn't even sure what job I wanted anymore.

After a final couple of months of misery and an incline into what I actually wanted to do - despite it not being a solid plan - I made the decision to leave my job and start afresh, with no other job to go into for the foreseeable. I've always been taught to ensure you are never 'unemployed' if you can, or ensure you have a Plan B when Plan A doesn't turn out so well, but the level of unhappiness I felt had made such a negative impact on my life, I knew I needed to bite the bullet.

Here are some of the things to consider if you are contemplating taking the leap and the things you may not have planned for.



The lack of money


An obvious one.

So you've upped and left a steady and stable salary, or set number of hours, and now you'll be waiting between pay day to pay day and varying wage slips. Whether you've decided to freelance or like me, just change your career direction, it can be daunting to have to budget every penny.

I would advise saving up for at least three month's responsibilities - rent, bills, things you know you already have planned like holidays and days out. Being able to budget for months with scarce work becomes such an important skill, but with the right organisation and being a little thriftier in every day life, you can make it easier.


Marching to your own beat

Now bearing all this in mind, I'm under no illusions that I'm in a very privileged position to do this. I'm lucky enough to have somewhere to live, cheap rent as I share with my other half and a great circle of friends and family to get me through it and share their support. Most people I know have been wonderful about my decisions and finally, I feel like I'm on the right track - albeit a pretty skint one right now - and will get to where I want to be.

However, I have saved some money and have actively rooted out jobs and opportunities that I really wanted. Unless you are prepared to work hard and constantly be in search for jobs or, put your all into an ultimate end goal, you will struggle. It's vital that you know this is your own responsibility, and although I do have a fantastic support network and it's absolutely okay to ask for help, I try to make decisions without taking this into account and remain independent.


You are judged

This is something that I certainly hadn't factored in. Although I made the decision confidently after months of feeling lost and believed in myself to be able to make the change, not everybody will agree (and I'm not solely talking about those millenial-hating 'we did it in my day' generations on Twitter.)

Still now, there's an air of disappointment from certain people I know that I spent so much time studying at university, four years in a steady career, only to now be working part time in retail (what is this stigma of shop work? Retail has it's perks!) and in their eyes, back to square one. Even some of my family were subtly judgemental at first but now they can understand I'm much happier, they completely get it.

As long as your decisions result in your own personal happiness, you can ensure you can keep up with certain responsibilities (e.g. mortgage payments, family) or help on your way to your final goal, then that's all that matters. It doesn't matter what strangers in real life, or on the internet, or indeed the people close to you, think about your choices. If it's in your best interest, be proud of your decisions.


Elements of doubt

Leaving a job without any forward plan is certainly NOT the first option you should have. Although it may not be easy, if you are unhappy, there is no excuse not to change something about your situation. Is there another job in your company you'd prefer? Would making a change to your hobbies or spending your spare time differently make your work life better?

There are lots of things that could be lending themselves to your miserable days at the moment, so please look at every avenue before making a snap decision. My own experience came after a long time of not feeling comfortable where I was and it certainly wasn't a decision I made lightly.

When I did finally leave, in the following few weeks I'd flit between feelings of 'Wow, I feel so free' to 'Shit, what have I done?'

In retrospect, I know now the change was absolutely the right one but I wouldn't judge you for at times thinking you might have been wrong. The sudden change in income, routine and general lifestyle is a lot to take in and naturally, big changes may make us want to retreat into our beds and never come out and acknowledge them.



I am no expert in this, or can pretend to be the perfect life coach, however I do know that I am much, much happier in my life than I was at this time last year.

If you have these niggly feelings or are unhappy in your job right now, I hope this has given you food for thought. If you're making a leap, I'm also wishing you the best of opportunities, support, and hoping all positivity comes your way.

leanne

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CLIMBING THE YORKSHIRE THREE PEAKS //

You might have heard of the three NATIONAL peaks but that's a bit of stretch in my opinion for a first time hiking challenge. Instead, we opted for some marginally smaller hills to climb on one (luckily) warm, cloudy day this year.

This adventure spans almost 40km across three mountains in Yorkshire and is definitely something I've wanted to tick off my bucket list. I'm writing this three days after the trek and I'm not going to lie to you, my legs and feet are still a little delicate. 



The trail includes a round trip from your starting point across Pen-Y-Ghent (694m), Whernside (736m) and Ingleborough (723m) - with some long stretches of path and climbing in between.

I took a look at this website here for inspiration on what the walk would entail, what to take with me and what I should expect. I'd highly recommend doing some research on where you want to start and if you have a time limit you'd like to complete the route in, before heading out on the day.

Here's an insight into my own preparation and how I found each leg of the journey. If you have any specific questions about the route that I don't cover here, feel free to give me a shout on Twitter or Instagram!


The Prep


What to wear

Having checked the weather forecast only the day before (would not recommend in case you're not as lucky as we were!) I was content in taking only a few layers and a very thin 'pac-a-mac' style raincoat.

I've linked the individual layers below but they are bits I already had in my gym wear and general wardrobe. I did need to borrow some walking boots however, so would advise if you are seriously going to get into walking on a regular basis get some good quality boots of your own.

Specific items: Power Union Jack Leggings, Athlete Vest (both Sweaty Betty) Coral Ladies Fleece (Regatta) Black Classic Hoodie - similar (Adidas) Walking Boots - similar (Quechua)


What to take with you

I took a pretty hefty rucksack full of 'just in case' things but as we were lucky with the weather, a lot of these bits (raincoat, spare clothes etc.) weren't needed. However I would say it's necessary to prep for both sunshine and rain as the weather can differ greatly in the entire day you will be out walking.

We packed a fair amount of food for each stop, including a huge box of pasta for lunch and a whole lot of snacks (e.g. Quorn Picnic Eggs, homemade flapjack, chocolate, biscuits and Goodness Knows cereal bars, bananas)

It's also vital you take plenty of water. Myself and David took approx. 2.5 litres each for the day but if it happens to be reach very warm temperatures you may need a lot more. I took lots of smaller bottles which I found much easier than a huge bottle so I could drink on the go.

This website has a great checklist of essentials (and optional items) that could come in handy.


What else you might need

One thing I would highly recommend: going with great company (and coincidentally someone already who knows where to go/how to use a map and compass!)


First leg: Car park to Pen-Y-Ghent

We decided the easiest way to start the trek was to drive to Horton-in-Ribblesdale (the preferred starting point for those doing the challenge) and set off to the first mountain; Pen-y-ghent. After arriving at approx. 7.15am we walked through the village towards the bottom of the mountain.

I've actually climbed Pen-y-ghent before on a much more casual walk, and it is by far my favourite of the three (not only because it is the smallest!) The walk up this is steady and straight, until a few scrambling spots towards the top.

The view from the trig point is incredible here and we had a quick stop for breakfast. Enjoy the landscape, snap a quick selfie and then head back down the other side.



Second leg: Pen-Y-Ghent to Whernside

The decline on the other side of the mountain is definitely the easiest in my opinion. It's a steady, sloping decline to the bottom, however, a long path follows towards the Ribblehead Viaduct.

This part felt like much, much longer than it looked on the map. There are lots of twisting lanes, some walking on the roads and when the Viaduct comes into sight it was a wonderful, glorious moment as it meant we could stop for lunch (yaaas, pasta). This is where you'll come across a refreshments van and it seems to be the general rest point for lots of other walkers.

What I will say is that this spot is the perfect instagram spot.


The climb to the top of Whernside was not easy and you feel like you're actually walking in the opposite direction to where you want to end up - which you are. Not only is this infuriating but at around 20km, it doesn't feel particularly motivational. Keep going!

I found using assistance of walking poles hugely beneficial here on the long trek to the top. When you do get there, you can look across from the trig point and see just how far you've come from the first mountain which is incredible. You can also see exactly how far you still have to go...



Third leg: Whernside to Ingleborough


I hated the decline of Whernside; absolutely despised it. It's a pretty steep and very rocky descent so this, again, is where the walking poles came in handy - particularly if your knees aren't feeling great at this point.

The walk continues across roads and fields towards the third and final mountain, by which point you'll be very relieved to be there. We reached here at around 3pm and all had our fair share of whinging and each took in turns to hit our mental wall. I can't explain how much of a difference it makes to have a positive mindset and to keep spirits up.

I guess this goes for everything in life, not just a day long trek in Yorkshire...
...having emergency Jelly Babies on hand also helped massively.

The trek to the top of Ingleborough was very tricky, there are an awful lot of steps and it's very steep on the way up. If you plan on walking just Ingleborough on a venture one day, there's actually a much easier ascent on the other side of the mountain so bear this in mind unless you fancy challenging yourself.

When we got to the top, we walked right across to the opposite site to the trig point and cue that momentous 'WE DID IT' feeling. Safe to say, we were all VERY relieved to be there. We sat down for our third snack break of the day, had a few arguments with some territorial sheep and prepped ourselves for the final descent.


Final leg: Ingleborough back to car park

This for me was the most difficult part. It isn't particularly hard to walk and there's little elevation change but it FEELS LIKE FOREVER. You've completed all three mountains and just want to get home, and there's 5 miles until you return back to the village.

However, on the plus side, this is the home straight.

You'll come back out beside the train station so if you're doing the challenge by train, your journey is complete. We walked a further fifteen minutes or so back to the car park and boy, were we pleased to sit down and take those walking boots off.


Overall, I'm really glad I had the chance to do this and it feels like a huge achievement

- even if my legs haven't stopped aching since!


If you like to be active and fancy doing something different in Yorkshire then I would definitely recommend getting a small group together and tackling the challenge. This time round, having done no training for it and not knowing what to expect we took our time and the ultimate goal was the finish the route. I would 100% do this again but hopefully complete it in one of the official 12 hour time limits.


If you're thinking about doing this hike or even the challenge to complete it in 8/10/12 hours - check out Think Adventure which goes into the route in much more detail. There are pictures of every part of the journey which could come in very useful if you get lost along the way!


leanne

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PODCASTS TO LISTEN TO IF YOU... //

Headphones and iPhone showing podcast cover


I know, I'm late on the podcast bandwagon.


However I've found myself absolutely loving listening to an episode on my way to work for the last couple of months; those I've listened to are usually around 30-40 minutes long which is an ideal time to commute. From music to mental health, I've discovered so many fantastic interviews on this medium and would love to share them in case they're up your street, too.

The following are chatty and informal interview-style series' which really delve into the lives of people you may already have heard of (and some you probably haven't.) There's definitely a podcast here for everyone if you love a good gossip about a variety of topics.

Here are the podcasts to listen to...


If you want to talk about mental health...

Happy Place

Fearne Cotton

I've always been a Fearne Cotton fan and having listened to her voice on the radio growing up, it makes sense she's now got herself a fab, new podcast. The first episode I listened to was an interview with Dawn French (another female hero) and it's really interesting finding out more about these celebrities personal lives, trials and tribulations and stories I certainly haven't heard elsewhere. She has big name celebrity episodes and a nice chat over a cup of tea at their house (coincidently, their happy place - get it?) is a lovely listen.

Notable episode: Zephyr Wildman


If you're a music fan...

George Ezra & Friends

George Ezra

Despite the constant advertisement for his album throughout (although Staying at Tamara's is indeed, a bloody brilliant one) this has been a favourite over the past couple of weeks. With guests like Rag N Bone man, Elton John and Jessie Ware, it's been great to hear about the other side of touring, women in the music industry and what they get up to when it comes to writing new songs. George is super at ease in interviewing which I was pleasantly surprised at, so this series gets pretty interesting.

Notable episode: Elton John


If you're a parent or love family talk...

Happy Mum, Happy Baby

Giovanna Fletcher

I'm not sure whether it's getting to the ripe old age of 26 or because of this podcast, but recently I have found myself getting ridiculously broody. Giovanna is someone I could listen to talk forever and her guests are always incredibly insightful into their own experiences of motherhood. Even though I'm not a mother myself, I find it fascinating to hear their trials and tribulations (and all the good stuff, of course!) of being a parent. I'm definitely hoping there's another season soon.

Notable episode: Izzy Judd


If you love food...

Table Manners

Jessie Ware

This podcast features some brilliant guests at Jessie (or her Mum's) very own dinner table, chatting about everything from their favourite food to their current life goals. Again like the previous series' I've mentioned, there are plenty of big name stars featured on this podcast and they're not all related musically to Jessie Ware, which makes for nice variation. Despite this being a brilliant podcast, be warned it will make you feel hungry every time you listen.

Notable episode: Joe Dempsie & Daniel Kaluuya


If you enjoy fashion...

Get it on

Dawn O'Porter

This is a fairly new addition to my playlist and this features the shortest episodes of any series I've listened to so far (20-30 minutes - perfect for a short, Summer run). If you're interested in fashion, or why certain celebrities wear what they wear and their terrible fashion choices in the past, then this is a nice listen. Although not the greatest audio quality or smoothest interviews, I've been intrigued to listen to quite a few of these now.

Notable episode: Chris O'Dowd

Do you have any MUST-LISTEN podcasts I should know about? Follow me on Twitter or Instagram and please let me know! 


leanne



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