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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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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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