Top Social

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


x


BOOK REVIEW // DAYS OF WONDER - KEITH STUART

Cover image of 'Days of Wonder' book with father and daughter image on stage


Following his bestseller 'A Boy Made of Blocks', Keith Stuart has cracked it all over again, this time with a novel exploring the connection between single parent and child and the struggles of coping with a life-limiting illness in the family.

It's everything I expected; some laugh out loud moments, some heart-wrenching words and certainly many a teary-eyed chapter reading. The dynamic pair of Tom and Hannah are wonderful to follow, particularly as they have come to be so open with each other due to their small family unit. Although their relationship seems particularly easy, we do see the stereotypical, teenage girl and father interactions in response first boyfriends, general overprotectiveness and turbulent arguments.

The overarching struggle in their bond is coping with Hannah's heart arrythmia, which was diagnosed when she was a child and naturally has haunted the two characters throughout their years together. The way Stuart explores the ups and downs of their time together, and the future that is to come, has a way of making you feel very close to their story and despite the darkness of this plot, there is a magical undertone in the way theatre, art and friends come into their lives.


Sound like your cup of tea? Read the blurb and find out more...

'Tom, single father to Hannah, is the manager of a tiny local theatre. On the same day each year, he and its colourful cast of part-time actors have staged a fantastical production just for his little girl, a moment of magic to make her childhood unforgettable. 

But there is another reason behind these annual shows: the very first production followed Hannah's diagnosis with a heart condition that both of them know will end her life early. And now, with Hannah a funny, tough girl of fifteen on the brink of adulthood, that time is coming.

With the theatre under threat of closure, Hannah and Tom have more than one fight on their hands to stop the stories ending.'



From fairies to comic books, it shows the positive impact of having a creative outlet and how the pair can share their worlds with each other. Stuart himself mentions this is about how love, laughter and imagination can get families through difficult times and is certainly what the novel depicts. 

A beautiful story; if you're a fan of YA fiction and particularly if liked 'Everything, Everything' then I think you'll enjoy this.

If you grab a copy, let me know your thoughts over on Goodreads!

leanne

x





WHY YOU SHOULD GO TO BENICASSIM FESTIVAL //

Benicassim beach and sea with blue skies

My entire Summer plans are currently revolving around the return to Benicassim Festival this year.
I'm so excited to revisit after my first trip in 2016, with an even larger group of pals and all absolutely ready for sun, sea and sangria. It's quite the change from a UK festival in the mud and hopefully, the weather will be accommodating for us again.

I've been reflecting on my last experience and thought I'd jot down some reasons I'm returning and why I think you should put it on your travel list!

Sleep all day, party all night


With the headline acts performing at around 2am, this event is the best way to appreciate overnight partying. When you finally get tired you can head down to the beach, have a hungover fry up then sleep all day in the sunshine (don't forget your suncream...) and do it all over again.

You get the best of both worlds, appreciating the sunshine and beaches in the daytime followed by all the best music at night. When you arrive home this does mean you've become entirely nocturnal - though it's absolutely worth it!

The weather


As much as I enjoy a UK festival, safe to say the weather can often be a let down. In Benicassim it's much more likely that the temperature will be above 20 degrees and therefore not only can you have a fantastic festival experience but you get a Summer holiday, too.

Leave the wellies and ponchos at home, friends.

Great music


In 2016 I was lucky enough to see so many incredible bands perform, even if the headline acts weren't really my cup of tea. This year brings the wonder that are The Killers, who are back from what feels like the longest hiatus ever.

Liam Gallagher, Travis Scott and Pet Shop Boys are also featured headline acts as well as so many fantastic other artists. This year's lineup is very indie-heavy (with exceptions of course) which I am beyond excited for. Take a look at the current lineup here.

Make it a city break

As you can't fly directly to Benicassim, I would highly recommend using the trip as an opportunity to explore another of Spain's incredible cities. The nearest airports are Castellón, Barcelona, Alicante and Valencia and this year, we've chosen to head back to Barcelona again for amazing tapas and culture.

Last time we managed to squeeze in La Sagrada Familia, Las Ramblas, a couple of nights out in Barcelona's finest rock bars as well as an entire music festival. All in the space of a week.


leanne

x


URBAN SKINCARE WITH NIVEA //

The onset of Easter chocolate treats has really messed with my skin recently, so I jumped at the chance to introduce something new (and hopefully effective!) to my skincare routine.

Nivea's latest range is a collection with the aim of counteracting the effects of urban life. With specifically formulated masks and moisturisers, I'm hoping that this range will help me #FaceThe City and purify my skin as I go about working, commuting and living an active lifestyle in a busy city centre. As part of the campaign, I received some free samples which I've been using (and handing out to friends) so we can see for ourselves.

Read more about the benefits of their new range on their website.

A selection of Nivea Urban Skin Detox products in a flat lay


Nivea Daily Essentials Urban Skin Defence Day Cream


I'm such a huge fan of their affordable moisturisers already so this day cream was definitely something I was excited about. It sinks into the skin quickly, doesn't leave my face feeling sticky and has an SPF of 20 which - in my opinion - makes it a must-have as the weather gets warmer.

It's definitely going to be a staple for this year's holiday toiletries as it comes in a handy travel size of 50ml.

Nivea Daily Essentials Urban Skin Detox Night Gel Cream


Similar to the previous item, don't be alarmed by the fact it is actually bright green in colour.  The gel consistency of this product is much thicker than the day cream, which makes it feel amazingly moisturising and my skin definitely feels the benefit.

It also has bio green tea extract, anti-oxidant and hyaluronic acid (yep, you've heard the one!) which all help make your skin feel amazing when you wake up.

Nivea 1 Minute Urban Detox (exfoliating) Mask


Neither of masks were particularly effective for me, however I loved the scent of this one. The consistency is really nice and it definitely works as more of an active exfoliator rather than a mask to leave on and rinse off.

My skin is naturally quite oily/combination so I struggle to find masks that work for me - so this white clay extract product may work for you.

Nivea 1 Minute Urban Detox (pore refining) Mask

Although again, it smells lovely, this mask didn't seem to do very much for my skin and it certainly didn't have the effects I'd hoped for.

There was no noticeable difference in my pores after a few uses, and the self-heating element wasn't as effective as many other similar products that I've used in the past. Not my favourite item but I'm going to continue using it as it doesn't make my skin oilier (as some other masks tend to) and to see if there are any longer term benefits.



Overall, I'm impressed with the first two products of the range and Urban Skin Detox concept. Additionally, I'm happy Nivea continue to produce fantastic quality, super affordable moisturisers.

Thanks to BzzAgent for the campaign samples - get in touch if you fancy reviewing some new products yourselves!


leanne

x

Disclaimer: This post includes free samples or discounted items but all opinions are honest and my own.

TRAVEL MEMORIES WITH PRINTIKI //

As Spring brings us some brighter weather, I've been reminiscing on last year's travel adventures and planning some more for Summer 2018. 

I used to keep a scrapbook including tickets, notes, wristbands and photos of great memories I've made but it's been a while since I've updated it. Printiki are a photo printing service who got in touch regarding a collaboration and it seemed like the perfect chance to start a new book of recent memories, with the help of some retro prints.

A personalised scrapbook with retro photo prints

I take a ridiculous large amount of photographs when I travel to new countries, cities or festivals because I know these are going to be times I want to have a visual memory of. It's so nice to be able to look back at pictures with friends and family in these places and be reminded, particularly when you're suffering from the post-holiday blues!

In the past twelve months I've been lucky enough to venture to places including Stockholm, Glastonbury, Leeds Festival, Lanzarote and Austria. On every one of these adventures I've got some great snaps that I wanted to print and keep as a physical memory.

Printiki offer a huge range of photo prints and styles, from small polaroid-style snaps (like those I chose!) to huge poster size images. It was so easy to upload my photographs and there's also an option to edit your photos, add a filter, customise the frame colour or add a message if you would like to.

The prints I chose are 'Retro Style M' which means they are a 10 x 10cm square frame - perfect for popping into a scrapbook page! The gorgeous book I'm using is personalised by & So They Made and was actually a gift I received last year - isn't it incredible?

A scrapbook with festival photo prints and wristbands

Overall, I'm super impressed with the quality of these and love the vintage look of them when making my new scrapbook pages. The photos also arrived within the week so with speedy delivery, it could also be a great gift for a loved one's last minute present.

Looking back on a fabulous 2017 has gotten me excited for what this Summer has to bring and I'll be sure to catch plenty of photo memories this time round, too!

Huge thanks to Printiki for helping me to make use of my photos and get them into my scrapbook.
Follow them on Instagram too for some more photo display inspiration and let me know if you keep any sort of memory book or photo albums.

leanne

x

Disclaimer: This post contains gifted or subsided items or services, however, all opinions are honest and my own.

MARCH RESOLUTIONS // 2018

Snowdrops in the grass

Film my ETM class


I'm finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel with my online learning course and now I'm ready to plan my practical session. Hopefully by the end of the month I will be able to film a rough version of the final class before the big assessment date (eek!)

Spring clean the flat


I'm so ready to blitz every room in prep for (hopefully) Spring weather and start afresh. The first days off this month were spent clearing our bedroom and I'm happy to report that there really is a floor under all the clothes.

Save money


This has been an ongoing resolution and to say I'm now on two part time incomes instead of a salary, I think I'm doing okay. I have a couple of holidays booked in later in the year, so to get a head start of saving for them would be a huge help. I'm doing a lot of the money earning tips in this blog post to help with this goal.


Hope everyone has a wonderful - and very much a Spring weather filled - month of March. Let me know what your goals are for this month over on Twitter and Instagram.


leanne

x

WHY WOMEN SHOULD BE SEEN AND HEARD //

It's easy to brush certain days under the carpet if it doesn't concern you, but International Women's Day should definitely concern us all. It's a wonderful time to celebrate the achievements of women (of which there are many) and those powerful females we love around us. It is also a fantastic time to continue to talk about the things that still make gender a sticky subject across the globe.

There are so many issues around the world that affect women, purely down to the fact they were born as a female. Whether this is a pay gap difference, workplace harassment or even being unable to get an education in your childhood because you are not deemed as worthy as a boy. Some awful, terrible things occur to women in patriarchal societies, and although we have made a difference in some countries in more recent years, there is so much yet to achieve.

A pink t-shirt with slogan 'Girls to the Front'

International Women's Day is a chance for us to celebrate women all over the world, those who continue to push boundaries, challenge stereotypes, keep fighting the patriarchy and those who educate and empower others. Feminism isn't a dirty word - it means we want EQUALITY for all women of any age, race or background. There is no conspiracy to take over the world or 'put men in their place' we literally just want to be taken seriously as a human, and be given the same rights as those who were born as a male.

Although tomorrow is a definitive day of the year to talk about women (and why we are just as great!) these conversations are going to be had over and over again, until we are all heard and understood.

I thought it would be nice to share some wonderful things happening, or that have happened, for women which are worth celebrating, both tomorrow and onwards. I hope you all have a fantastic day appreciating all the females in your lives!

It's the centenary of women getting the vote...

100 years ago, the Representation of the People Act was introduced which meant some women were finally allowed to vote. This was a huge stride for gender equality and one absolutely worth celebrating. However, let's remember that there were a lot of terms and conditions and not all women were enfranchised and this happened at a far later date.

Across the world, women still don't have the freedom that many of us in the UK do have, in regards to politics, money, education and opportunities. Number 5 on the Global Goals website is to aim for gender equality, have a read and see how you can help make a difference in supporting their aims.


We get beer, and it's pink?!

A little more of a light-hearted event, but still a powerful cause; BrewDog have introduced a new PINK (not punk, geddit?) IPA in order to make their customers aware of the gender pay gap which - surprise, surprise to some - still exists.

Not only is it pink (because y'know, women love that shit) 20% of the profits are going to go to different women's charities. This is causing some controversy online (because y'know, Twitter loves that shit) but I think it's a brilliant idea.

Why?

Because it's going to piss off a lot of people and get them talking about it. They have actively stated they don't agree with the usual 'only men drink beer' lark, particularly when it comes to advertising and all is clearly done in satire. Also, anyone who identifies as female can get this beer 20% cheaper than the usual over the next few weeks - see you at the bar, gals.


Girls Who Lift (and want to Eat)

Online influencers in particular are inspiring a whole new generation of women to feel comfortable in the weights space of a gym, which has usually been a male dominated environment until recently. There's now so many options for female workout classes and clubs in this country and beyond, where you can feel safe, welcome and inspired.

Despite the normal media bias, online we can be encouraged to do things like work out, eat less, eat more, sleep more, for our own health and happiness, rather than because we are told we need to meet certain beauty standards. All body shapes and sizes are being discussed and we are more open to talking about eating disorders, mental health issues and insecurities.

Here's to becoming more educated on these issues for all women (and men) in the future.
A few sites to check out include: Girl Gains, This Girl Can, BodyPosiPanda and Women's Health.


#MeToo and #TimesUp

It's not okay for anybody to be taken advantage of, or bullied, or undermined, or assaulted in their lives or career. It's certainly not okay for these things to occur because of their gender.

These two huge campaigns have been talked about globally very recently (read more about them both here - MeToo and TimesUp) and it has opened up a whole new era for women to know it's okay to speak up about abuse. There used to be, and unfortunately still is, a stigma of shame regarding those who have been abused or assaulted. No matter what happens and who is involved, it is always okay to ask for help and shame should play no part.

If you are going through a tough time, regardless of your gender, please know there is a place to speak out. Get in touch with someone - whether it be family, friends or one of the following helplines - to get some advice:




leanne

x

SMALL STEPS TO ACHIEVING THAT FITNESS RESOLUTION //

Did you make some fitness orientated New Year's resolutions a couple of months back? Many of us did and unsurprisingly, a lot of us have already given up. 

Let's not forget that lifestyle changes can be made any time, any day of the year - so don't be disheartened if 2018 so far hasn't yet been what you planned it to be. Here are some simple, small steps you can apply from now onwards, if you had a fitness resolution in mind to achieve this year.  Sometimes just making these small changes to a daily routine can make a huge difference if you have a bigger goal ahead.

Hand on hip shot of half the body, with black crop top and black leggings with orange detail

Stretch daily


Don't always have the time to exercise after you roll out of bed? Take five minutes on a morning to properly stretch your muscles when you wake up. Not only will this keep you a little more nimble but it helps energise you for the day ahead.

You might even find after a small warm-up session you're a little more motivated to get to the gym, or that class, or outside for a run.


Stay hydrated


Invest in a water canteen or BPA-free plastic bottle you can take everywhere with you. Place it next to your bed on a night and have a few sips as soon as you wake up. Keeping your water intake up is vital not only to keep you from dehydrating but it's also great for your skin, mood and helps put off those pretend pangs of hunger during the day.

It's important to increase your water intake during warmer weather but a lot of people forget to drink plenty of water in the colder months. Although you might not feel thirsty, when we wrap up cosy inside with heaters blazing, our bodies still feel the heat and need that water boost in order to keep healthy and hydrated.

Work out YOUR way


Hiring a Personal Trainer won't be everyone's cup of tea green juice and that's okay. If you find exercising difficult or a chore, go to classes that make it fun. You might enjoy classes more if there is a social aspect, so join a bootcamp class or local Yoga group where you can meet new people or join up with your mates.

From aqua aerobics and Zumba, to aerial hoop or golf - there will be something out there for you to take part in. Check out some local (and sometimes free!) clubs and classes on the This Girl Can website.

Walk part of the way


Do you normally drive to work? Park a little bit further away and do an extra 100 steps towards the office, or get off the bus a stop early. Increasing your daily steps gradually is simple. Soon you'll be hitting 10,000 with ease.

If you need an extra push to move more throughout your day, check out my tips on how to use a FitBit (or similar fitness tracking gadget, for that matter!) There are lots of fitness trackers available if living a more active lifestyle is one of your 2018 goals.

Eat the right stuff


Get those fruit and veg in! In a crazy working week, we sometimes grab the quickest snack but it's not always the healthiest. I'm not saying you need to spend your Sundays meal prepping but if you find some time to - at least - plan and shop for the meals you'd like to eat for the rest of the week, it takes out a whole load of hassle. Don't be tempted to fill your basket with chocolate and crisps. If they're not in the cupboard, you won't feel the need to grab one because you're bored at home.

There's a fab recipe here (which can be subbed with Quorn for meat-free!) as well as a link to the British Military Fitness' recipe book for more inspiration.


leanne

x

EXPLORING YORKSHIRE'S BOLTON ABBEY //

Sometimes you just need to take yourself away from the stresses of work and home life and have a bit of an adventure. This is certainly what we encountered when we set off to explore Bolton Abbey for the first time.

The main arch inside of Bolton Abbey

This outing is less than an hour away from Leeds making it the perfect short road trip and day out. 

Heading straight for the Abbey itself on entry, it's definitely impressive on first sight. We wandered through the ruins and although it is vast and beautiful to look at, there's not a lot to explore other than the inside of the Priory. The stained glass windows inside the old monastery are incredible and some of the architectural features are fascinating (no pictures taken in here out of respect for the Church and those inside!) but it's definitely worth a venture.

I had thought that this would be the peak of the day out however, the absolute highlights of the excursion came far later on in our walk...

A view of the Bolton Priory and Ruins with blue skies in Spring

A wooden door on the outside of the Bolton Priory

Using the stepping stones to get across the river at Bolton Abbey

Ahead of the rest of the walk is a bridge from the Abbey to the woodland, or if you're the more adventurous type, there are 57 stepping stones you can hop between to get to the other side. Of course being children at heart, we opted for the stones and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't scared of falling in! 

Some of the stones are submerged so definitely make sure you have some waterproof walking shoes to tackle them. We managed it - some shakey hands and a pair of wet Converse later - and followed the directions to Waterfall Cottage.

Close up of boots and a running water stream at Bolton Abbey

Handmade climbing routes on a tree in Yorkshire, with a bell at the top

A close up of old coins pushed into fallen trees

We came across plenty of pretty streams, lots of secluded woodland and even some climbing routes up trees that have been made by some avid, local climbers. I'm pretty sure if David knew how to harness himself up, he would have attempted to climb and ring the bell installed at the top!

One of the most interesting bits of this route section include some fallen trees. Three of them are peppered with old and new coins, all aptly named 'the money tree'. There is no explanation as to why it was decided that coins would be hammered or pushed into the wood by visitors, but the trees were originally pushed to the side of the walkway and left from the 1980's, in order to provide home for insects despite no longer standing.

A sign pointing towards the Valley of Desolation

A beautiful waterfall in secluded woodland at Bolton Abbey

A couple selfie of the waterfall

The Valley of Desolation certainly sounds desolate, but it's actually an area of the site which has been recovering completely naturally after a huge storm destroyed it in the 1800s.

The final treat on our venture was finding the waterfall in a secluded area of the woodland.
We took an unsigned route (partly because we're useless at directions, and partly because we're more kickass and daring than Dora the Explorer) after the Valley of Desolation down, down and even further down until we found the beautiful, isolated waterfall.

If you want to follow a similar but probably less risky route, check out this map from the Bolton Abbey website.

Walking over a bridge on a Yorkshire walk route

Take a look at the rest of their website for some more information, maps and suggestions on other walks to embark upon when you arrive. Hopefully you've enjoyed following our adventure and are inspired to head there soon!


leanne

x

WHAT I'VE BEEN LOVING ON TV // in collaboration with Panasonic

In Winter, I really struggle with the early, dark nights but I find it gives us all a good excuse to snuggle up with a good TV series on an evening, until the days get longer. There's something great about making a brew, getting tucked up in bed with your laptop and binge-watching something that has you hooked. 

In collaboration with Panasonic Oled Televisions, I've pulled together a list of my current favourite things to watch on the small screen.

Blogger with a TV guide on front of face


The Winter Olympics


I went skiing for the first time this year (read more about my trip here) and have absolutely a new found awe for winter sports. Figure skating always fascinated me in previous Olympics but this time I've been obsessed with the snowboarding (particularly the women's) and skiing events too. It's well known that Great Britain don't have a huge aptitude for doing massively well at the Winter Olympics but hey, we can still all appreciate how impressive the rest of the world is doing.

Everything is available on BBC iPlayer to catch up with the latest happening in South Korea, so definitely check out some of your favourite sports if you get the chance.

Friends


IT'S ON NETFLIX.

As I'm sure you're aware by now - if not, what have you been doing - all ten seasons of the popular American sitcom is now available to watch. Having been a solid Friends fan since watching it before and after school on E4 (absolutely the best channel to have existed, ever) I've been introducing it to my boyfriend. He's never seen it properly and only had a vague idea of which one played 'Joey' thanks to Matt Le Blanc's Top Gear stint.

The verdict so far is that he loves it and I, of course, am not in the least bit surprised. We've gasped together at The One with Ross' Wedding and cried together at The One with The Triplets and he is now well and truly invested.

Game of Thrones


Now, I admit I jumped onto the GoT bandwagon much later than everybody else. After reading the first instalment by George R.R. Martin on holiday last year, I got hooked and have since spent most evenings bingeing the TV series. I'm currently whizzing through the final season (so far) and I am  #TeamDaenerys all the way.

Will she defeat them with her dragons? Will Jon Snow survive (again)? Will the White Walkers kill everybody and we'll end up with a 'Lost' type series finale? Who knows, but roll on season 8.


America's Next Top Model


Season by season, the contestants on this programme become more absurd. I absolutely love the whole show, with the makeover week being an absolute highlight. This year's favourites include mother Erin, the 42 year old who looks like one of the youngest girls in the competition and curvy, Siberia-born Khrystyana who just oozes cute.

Tyra Banks is an absolute queen and this is one of my few trash TV shows that I love watching, when I have the odd afternoon or evening to myself. What's not to love about watching a wannabe model cry when they ask her to change her hair? Absolutely nothing.

What have you been watching recently?

leanne

x


Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Panasonic and all opinions are my own.

ALBUMS I'VE LISTENED TO RECENTLY //


I'm trying to listen to more, new albums - new to me not in terms of release date, as will become obvious throughout the post - in order to expand my music horizons. There are lots of artists I've never listened to, or have only heard very little of that I want the opportunity to hear properly.

Hopefully, 2018 will introduce me to some new firm favourites in my record collection and I will stop listening to HAIM on repeat (just kidding, that'll never happen.)

Paramore - After Laughter

⭐⭐

It's no new information to the people who know me that I am not a fan of Paramore. There's something about Hayley Williams as a character that I find off-putting (not helped by the haircut and eyebrows of Leeds Festival 2012) and ultimately, the songs are a bit whiney.
That being said, some friends encouraged me to listen to their latest album because it's apparently very different to their old stuff.

Verdict: I thought some songs were very average but okay, and overall I was just hugely disappointed this wasn't a pivotal moment for me and Hayley.

Biffy Clyro - Vertigo of Bliss

⭐⭐⭐

I am a fan of Biffy's newer music for sure. Their last three albums are, in my opinion, their best and certainly some of my favourites albums EVER. Although I've listened to all of their albums previously, I wanted to give Vertigo of Bliss another listen properly

Verdict: Great, but not my favourite. Diary of Always is a stand out track purely on the basis it is so different from anything else they'd done previously. To be honest, I appreciate anything sang in that raspy Scottish voice.

Rag'n'Bone - Human (Deluxe)

⭐⭐⭐⭐

His voice is mesmerising but I've not had chance to listen to this album until now, despite the rave reviews. I could absolutely listen to his music on repeat.

Verdict: A must-listen album, in my opinion.
Definitely a songwriter/artist album in the same vein as Adele, there's so much more than just his hit singles that have been domineering the radio (although those, too, are great.)

The Greatest Showman

⭐⭐⭐

I saw the film a couple of weeks ago and absolutely loved it, I'm definitely a big fan of movie musicals already so add Hugh Jackman and Zac Efron and it's bound to be a favourite. So catchy and so upbeat - the soundtrack is one of the happiest musical soundtracks ever. Written and composed by the duo who wrote the music for 'Dear Evan Hansen', obviously it was going to be incredible.

Verdict: A musical I will listen to on repeat. This Is Me and The Greatest Show are of course, the most powerful and uplifting numbers but 'From Now On' is one of my favourites too.


What have you been listening to lately?


leanne

x

IT PAYS TO STAY IN SHAPE AT THE #GIFFGAFFMONEYFIT EVENT //



I was kindly invited to a GiffGaff Gameplan event which involved an elusive 'fitness challenge' and the chance to earn some money by working out. Intrigued?


A group of fitness bloggers warming up in a squat


Running on a treadmill, reflection in the gym mirror


The challenge took place at the impressive Firehouse Fitness gym in Leeds, where we chatted about GiffGaff Money's useful website and an upcoming new app that can help you manage your money. They offer free credit ratings (which is SO easy to use!), comparisons for credit cards and insurance providers and have a forum full of helpful tips and tricks all about getting your finances into shape.

After an introduction - and of course, a warm up - we were asked to run for 20 minutes in an attempt to burn as many calories as we possibly could. For every calorie burnt, we would receive 20p - up to the total value of £40.

I don't mind cardio, so it's safe to say I was pleased with the challenge and at a leisurely jog of 18 minutes long (phew!), I had managed to clock 200 calories resulting in my own sense of achievement, a lovely catch up with other bloggers and some money to put towards my savings. 

Afterwards, we were even treated to a smoothie (I chose aaaall the frozen berries) from the guys at Mr Flavour and a goody bag of absolute treats. If I was always paid to work out then quite frankly, I would go to the gym more often!


A group of bloggers after a fitness challenge receiving a Giff Gaff Money goody bag


Having access to your credit score with only a couple of forms to fill out is super useful. I've always understood that it's important to have a good credit rating in order to get a mortgage or a loan if ever I needed to in the future, but had no idea how to check what my score was or how to improve it without getting loads of credit cards.

After reading through the GiffGaff Gameplan web forum and entering some details, I was shown my credit score clearly and some tips on how to keep it high. It even tells you how many searches have been made on your credit rating, all the accounts you've had before and if there are any issues that have gone against your credit rating in the past.

If you struggle with keeping track of your finances or even just want a place that has some great money saving advice, head over to their website. Staying money fit is definitely something to focus on for me in 2018 as I save for lots of festivals and trips!


Thanks to GiffGaff for the brilliant event. All photography in this post is credited to Matt Chappell and Search Laboratory.

How do you manage your money?


leanne

x


Disclaimer: I was invited to take part in this event, all opinions are my own and unbiased.

A BEGINNER'S SKI HOLIDAY EXPERIENCE //

Standing at the top of the mountain in Austria

Trying something new can be scary and little did I realise that scariest of all might be chucking myself down a mountain. Last year my two friends and I decided to book a ski holiday to Austria and at the beginning of 2018 we headed out to the tiny village of Söll.

Here are some of the things I learnt on my first skiing holiday, which may come in handy if you're thinking of booking a Winter trip too.


Skiing down a mountain in Austria

Ski Lessons


Before I left, I'd only had three beginner ski lessons (at Xscape, Castleford and Chill Factore, Manchester) therefore heading to the top of a real mountain was quite the leap. I'm very glad I'd had some previous lessons but even those didn't fully prepare me for the reality of a week of solid ski activity.

I'd absolutely recommend reaching at least Level 5 beginner's ski lessons before heading on your holiday, or spending some time at a Ski School where you are visiting on your first couple of days.

Absolutely no amount of squats can prepare you for the intensity of skiing for a full six days but I would recommend you at least be regularly active and try to do as many leg days as you can in the run up - it will definitely make a difference for your calves, glutes and quads!


Selfie at the top of a mountain, wearing goggles and skiwear accessories


What to pack


We were hugely lucky with the weather on our trip; the snow was thick, the sun was shining and on average the temperature never went below -3 degrees. Wherever you are heading, make sure you take plenty of layers.

Borrow


Ski wear can be very expensive so chat to friends or family who already ski and see if they can help you out with an outfit or any accessories. This will save you having to buy everything brand new - if it turns out that you don't want to go skiing again after this holiday, you'll be stuck with a lot of expensive and useless gear!

I managed to borrow goggles, ski socks and neck-warmers from others which was a huge, huge help.

Buy staples


Certain things I wanted to treat myself to that were brand new, such as thermal base layers and some sturdy mid-layers I will be able to use in Winter anyway, not necessarily when skiing. I also got some sunglasses and a neck-warmer given to me for Christmas which came in super handy and I'll have them for my next trip. A couple of my favourite purchases were:

- this thermal layer from Sweaty Betty I found to be a dream (and there's 20% off everything Ski at the moment!)

- this bargain fleece (£8.99 at the time of purchase) from Regatta on Amazon; it definitely saved me from the chilliest days.

Buy second hand

Keep your eye on eBay and Depop for ski wear throughout the year (usually lots of bargains after March every year - once the ski season has ended)

Luckily, I managed to find an incredible Parallel jacket and salopettes combo for £17.50 on eBay (which is by far one of my greatest bargains to date!) If you are buying second hand however, please do your best to make sure the seller is knowledgable about the condition of the clothes.

A lot of vintage shops/online stores in particular sell some ski suits that are actually no longer waterproof - which no matter how great they look, will be no good to you after you're soaked to the bone on a mountain. Double check what you're buying where possible. On second hand sites I always made sure to bid on items that had been worn recently, or those with pictures of the owners actually wearing them on the slopes.


A chalet in Söll in Austria

Where to go for a first ski trip


Ultimately I had no idea where to start when it came to where to go, so we left the planning to my friend Hannah, who has boarded and skied pretty much since she could walk. There are plenty of ski resorts around the world that may suit you but for a budget friendly and memorable experience, this was perfect for us.

Austria


Söll in Austria is a small village at the bottom of SkiWelt (Austria's largest interconnected ski area) with plenty of places to eat out on an evening and maybe more importantly, lots of bars for apres ski fun. We arrived at night so after our first sleep in our lovely B&B (Haus Pirchmoos) we woke up to an incredible view of the mountains which is something I will always remember.

A Winter holiday is such a different experience and I would absolutely recommend going to Austria - whether skiing or not - at least once in your lifetime.

Söll in particular made my first visit memorable - there's a more detailed post about the fantastic places to eat and drink in the area if you're heading here this season.

Surrounding areas


Söll is actually not one of the recommended places for ski beginners when we researched it, but I, as a beginner, personally really enjoyed it. However, we did take one day out to venture somewhere with some gentler slopes, after having a slightly traumatic intermediate run experience the day before (spoiler alert, I'm not an intermediate.) 

Scheffau is a mere 15 minute taxi drive away and has some beautifully scenic bars.
This resort also has much wider, blue beginner slopes that makes it much easier to practice turning and improving your ski technique. There are lots of families and children here specifically but in January, both resorts we visited were relatively quiet which made our holiday a breeze.

There are lots of other village resorts around Söll - most within a 30 minute drive - that made it easy to vary things to do and parts of the mountain to explore, which made it a great option for us.


Skiing down a beginner slope in Austria

Things to remember when skiing


You've packed, you've done some lessons and now you're finally on holiday - so far, so good.

It's time to actually get on the skis on a real mountain for the first time - these are a couple of things that I wish I knew about skiing/snowboarding before I arrived!

Take it slow.


If you are brand new to skiing then it's easy to get carried away, hurtle down slopes and end up battered and bruised and with a sense of 'I can't do this'.

On the second day of my holiday, I was determined that Winter holidays weren't for me; it was too scary, too difficult and I was generally questioning why on earth I had agreed to this. However, after some more confidence building beginner slopes and getting the hang of it, it was much more enjoyable. If you're ever in doubt, remember that nobody else really cares how slow you ski or how many times you fall over- ultimately, it's all about progress.

By the end of the week, those slopes that had me tumbling down every day I had finally managed to conquer and I could complete an entire blue run with no falls and almost no fear. It's such a great sense of achievement. When you're feeling nervous, work towards your next goal which could be anything from being able to get your skis back on quickly after a fall, to getting to the bottom of a steep slope successfully.

Eat often and plenty


It's pretty exhausting work skiing all day, so make sure you stop for meals when you need to. We got carried away on the first day and didn't stop for lunch, which meant we were absolutely ravenous by the end of the day!

Have a hearty breakfast and take snacks with you for throughout the day. There are so many restaurants on the slopes, so it's easy to find somewhere for a break (and all the carbs.) I took a thermos flask with me for hot chocolate, pre-empting I would be freezing but surprisingly, I found myself reaching for a cold drink more often as skiing is hot and thirsty work!

As mentioned, the weather in Soll was pretty mild so it may be different circumstances and that hot drink may be your saviour. Regardless, make sure you have a bottle of water handy every day too.

Chair lifts DO get better


Sure, having to slide down a mountain on two pieces of material is scary but nothing is quite as dramatic as your first experience getting on a chair lift.

In the most elegant of ways, my first attempt ended in me crashing into some pleasant European men and shouting 'sorry', sitting in between seats rather than in a designated chair lift seat, then panicking that my skis would fall off whilst 15ft in the air.

After this disaster I got used to using the gates as a barrier, using my poles to stop myself before getting on the chair and realised that I could rest my skis on the seat barrier. If you've done some lessons on a dry slope or indoor ski centre, you may be used to button lifts. Fortunately, these aren't too common on the slopes so we only had to tackle it once and mine went without a hitch.

Feel the fear and do it anyway


Although as I've mentioned it's important to take things at your own pace, it's also important to embrace your fear. If I had let how nervous I was overcome everything else, then I would have had a pretty boring trip.

Sometimes it feels like the scariest venture ever but once you get to the bottom of a steep slope, completely unharmed and with a rush of adrenaline, it feels amazing. Falling over isn't the worst thing in the world. In fact, the more you fall over, the less scared you become as you realise you can simply get back up and try it again.


Overall, my first ski trip to Soll has completely changed my perception on Winter holidays and I can't wait to get back out there. It wasn't ever something I thought I'd be able to do but it definitely ticked off a bucket list item for me.

Let me know if you have any ski holiday recommendations or anything you're nervous about when it comes to skiing!


leanne

x

FEBRUARY RESOLUTIONS // 2018

Multiple picture frames on a white wall

Cook more

I've made a conscious effort to eat less meat since the start of the year and actually, it's been much easier than I'd expected. I actively try not to order a meat dish when I'm out or buy any meat when I meal prep at home, but have still had the occasional dinner when other people are cooking or it is more convenient.

I want to continue with going meat-free this month and hopefully, try more vegetarian cooking and introduce some new flavours. It's so easy to replace standard meat meals with something that is veggie friendly but I don't want to fall into a rut of making the same meal over and over (I'm looking at you quinoa chilli - no matter how tasty you are!)

Be present


This month I've a lot of friend visits planned and I'm super excited about it. There'll be lots of laughs to have and catching up to do and I really, really want to do my best to be thankful for everything as it's happening and make the most of spending this time with the people I love.

I'm actually quite good at this, but I know there's often a need to document everything that happens nowadays which can detract from actually having a great time. I want to be present and enjoy the moment. That doesn't mean I won't be instagram-ing away (of course!) but I don't need to see everything as a 'photographic' or 'blog-worthy' experience.

Hustle harder

I've now got two jobs so there's no excuse to be unorganised. I'm trying to become a bit more of a morning person, so my goal this month is to use my spare time wisely. Before I start a shift, I absolutely have time for a workout and breakfast if I get up when my alarm goes off (the first time, not multiples snoozes later!)

There's a lot I want to get done this month and make big steps towards my end goals - wish me luck!

Get rid of it all

I've done a good job in the past couple of months of selling old clothes and shoes on eBay (useful money-saving tips here if you're still feeling the Christmas money crush) but I want to go even further. At the moment, my spare room is FULL of bags of clothes that is a ridiculous amount for a single person to own.

I'm going to take a couple of trips to the charity shop and get even more on Depop or eBay this month, in order to declutter before Spring.

leanne

x