I’m sure if anyof us knew how 2020 would pan out we’d have planned things differently, done things differently, moved to South Korea/Vietnam/New Zealand/ Any other suitable country where they *actually* take care of their citizens.
I for one; would have taken a last minute trip somewhere warm, sunny and with an endless flow of fruity cocktails.
Whilst I know I’m blessed to be able to spend my time in lockdown in the comfort of my own home, surrounded by my family (and my dog), with my things, more films and tv shows on Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney + than you can shake a stick at.
I’m healthy and so are my friends, family and all my loved ones.
But I’m still going stir crazy.
I live in a small village and cabin fever set in early on. I miss people, civilisation, small talk, hairdresser appointments , going out to eat, going out for drinks, coffee dates, brunch with the gang, going to the library, browsing the shops, charity shop shopping, takeaways, cinema trips, ordering online and not feeling guilty for thepickers, packers and delivery staff.
Most of all I really miss the ability of being able to travel somewhere new. It’s got me thinking recently, whether that’s something I took for granted for far too long, being able to drive somewhere for a day trip, a long weekend on a whim and cheap flights that beg to be taken advantage of.
Suddenly as we’re in a position where the furthest place we can travel to is the supermarket; naturally all I have is mounting feelings of wanderlust and want to plan an epic adventure. To fill this void, I’ve compiled a list of films to sink your teeth into to cover that travel bug feeling (for now!).
You are thedancing queen, young and sweet stuck in quarantine. If you watch these films and don’t find yourself wanting to move to a Greek Island, wear floaty dresses or dungarees and live your best life theeeeeen rewatch ’til you get what I mean.
I love this film. It’s an old classic about a Liverpudlian housewife, bored of being a Liverpudlian housewife so goes on a gorgeous Greek holiday with her pal . It’s cheesy but gives me holiday blues.
Letters to Juliet
Letters to Juliet is about a writer, Sophie, who travels to Verona and works alongside the secretaries of Juliet in replying to love letters stuffed in Verona’s ancient walls. WhilstI don’t personally find the plot of this film particularly enthralling it does make me want to travel to Italy, hirean old car and make my way from north to south of the country whilst sampling every bit of pasta, pizza and gelato on my way.
A Bigger Splash
The fabulous Sicilian vacation of a famous rockstar and her boyfriend is interrupted by the unexpected arrival of an old friend and his daughter. This film features a banging soundtrack and paired with wonderful imagery of this holiday to remember.
Boy On A Dolphin
Phaedra (Sophia Loren) is a poor, Greek sponge diver on the island of Hydra. One on of her dives she spots an ancient statue of a boy riding a dolphin on the bottom of the Aegean Sea. She sets out to sell it to the highest bidder and is torn between Dr James Calder, a dashing, kind archeologist, and Victor Parmalee an unscrupulous, dodgy dealer.
The Talented Mr Ripley
The 1999 adaptationstars Jude Law; need I say more?
Eat, Pray, Love
The cinematic version of Elizabeth Gilbert’s travel memoirs across Italy, India and Indonesia.
The Hustle, starring Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson, is a female centred remake of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. Set in the South of France with its idyllic scenery and Anne Hathaway’s killer wardrobe this makes me want to be sat in a hotel bar overlooking the sunset going down over the harbour, eating fancy small plates and swilling expensive cocktails.
This old, classic filmstarring Katharine Hepburn is truly lovely. Middle aged, plain Jane (our Kath) is working as a secretary in Ohio and has never found love. Before she resigns herself to spending the rest of her days a l o n e she decidesto spend her savings on a trip to Venice. Once there she meets the manof her dreamsbut soon learns that Mr fancyman is leading a double life.
Watch this film if you want to live your dreams of being part of British aristocracyholidaying in Paris and the South of France. Leighton Meester aka Blair Waldorf aka Queen B stars in this and has a fabulous wardrobe. Major envyacross the board!
Call Me By Your Name
During the summer of 1983, 17 year old Elio Perlman spends the days with his family at theirvilla in Lombardy, Italy. He soon meets Oliver, a handsome doctoral student who’s interning for Elio’s dad. A beautiful summer romance film.
a single woman in her thirties lets loose on a business trip to Barcelona leading to a fun, flirty encounter with a world famous DJ.
Also stars Richard Madden. 👀
Lost In Translation
I’ve only watched this film relatively recently. It follows the stories of two Americansstaying in the same hotel in Tokyo. They strike up a friendship and share intimate details about their lives with one another and grow closein the few days they share together. The stunning urban backdrop of Tokyo makes me want to book a flight ASAP.
I wonder how many travel/gap year adventures this film made people go on. Starring Leo Dicaprioas a young American seeking fun and adventure in Bangkok. He comes into possessionof a map leading him to a beautiful, uninhabited private beach and lagoon so sets off on his journey to find it.
The Lizzie McGuire Movie
Hey now, hey now this is what high school tripdreams are made of! Such a feel good teen movie even if it did give me unrealistic expectations of school trips to Rome as a teenager.
As if I could do this list without mentioning this BRILLIANT film. It’s set during WWII, focusing on an American expat, Rick Blaine, who owns an upscale nightclub. His club has become a haven for refugees searching for help to escape to America. Unbeknownst to Rick, he is approached by the infamous rebel Victor and his wife Ilsa; who was Rick’s true love but deserted him when the Nazi’s invaded Paris. Upon seeing Rick again her feelings come flooding back.
The Grand Budapest Hotel
This comedy drama film focuses on the Grand Budapest Hotel, in 1932, where the hotel concierge is wrongfully accused and arrested of the murder of a hotel guest. Beautifully shot and gorgeous imagery.
Unless you’ve been in the desert with Jared Leto and you also didn’t have any idea about Coronavirus/Covid-19 sweeping it’s way across the globe.
People all around the world are being told to engage in social distancing not only for their own health and wellbeing but also to help stop the spread of this deadly virus reaching those with underlying health conditions, those with weakened immunity, the young and the elderly.
Beforehand, social distancing sounds like a term that Gwyneth Paltrow would use to excuse herself from an event she just didn’t fancy going to.
Social distancing is supposed to work by helping to stop the spread of this virus is by keeping more people out of social environments, public areas and anywhere that isn’t essential really, thus decreasing the amount of people that could potentially come into contact with someone who’s already got covid-19 and stop it spreading further. Oh and it’ll also help lessen the strain on the health services. Win win really!
As an introvert, you didn’t need to ask me twice to stay away from busy areas, stay indoors and read as many books as I possibly could. It hasn’t quite sunk in for me how long social distancing may continue and what I’ll do once I’ve reached peak levels of cabin fever and how I’ll cope being mentally and emotionally. But I do feel quite lucky that I live in a little village, I have a garden so I could go and exercise or get some fresh air on my own.
For those of you out there that are struggling with knowing what you can to do with your time I’ve compiled a list of things you could consider to do with all your extra free time.
Now is the perfect time to finally start making a way through your ever growing To Be Read pile that is sitting pretty on your bookshelf. Download audiobooks, E-books and start ticking off some of those classics you’ve always wanted to read but never got round to, or read some non fiction greats and educate yourselves on a brand new topic.
Hive is a brilliant place to look for new reads as they support family, community and independent book sellers.
Similarly, most libraries have either an online service or an App you can borrow an e-book from.
If I hear one more time that William Shakespeare wrote King Lear whilst he was in quarantine from the plague I swear I’ll be splitting my possessions between the loved ones that profess the most amount of love to me and running onto the moors screaming and wailing like a banshee.
There’s a weird, little undercurrent of pressure now you’ve got all this spare time to be doing something useful and productive with your time rather than just eating malteasers and watching telly. If you’re a creative and have always dreamed of following this path then why not sit down and spend a couple hours jotting down any ideas you’ve got and seeing where you could take them.
I swear you can’t be a struggling artist/writer without a struggle and tbh I think being quarantined in your own home not really sure what’s going to happen next or whether you’re going to have to eat toilet roll sandwiches for tea is a pretty solid one.
(On a real side note though…What are all these people doing with all their panic bought loo rolls?)
Take up a hobby.
I for one have always wanted to be better at making my own things. I’d love to be able to knit or cross stitch, because, not only will I be able to make my own cosy knitwear (hypothetically speaking of course…as of right now I can barely even thread a needle) but also it looks so therapeutic. I’d love to be able to gift my wares to friends and family and they can wear my crafted, scraggly scarves with joy knowing I made it just for them.
Depending where you live and what the rules are at the moment, I know that a lot of places say that you should only leave the house for work, to buy food, go to the pharmacy or an emergency. But if you have access to charity shops, they sell so much wool, knitting needles and patterns. Not only that but a lot of charity shops could do with more support than ever right now even better if you can access them online.
Similarly, I’ve always wanted to be able to properly play a musical instrument or learn to cook and bake better. Now with all this extra time on my hands I’d love to be able to browse the interweb for recipe ideas that might take a bit longer than normal and spend a little extra time and effort curating a lovely evening meal for my whole family to enjoy (hopefully).
Use sites like Pinterest to get ideas or Etsy to buy arts and crafts from independent sellers.
There’s so many fun games you can whittle away the hours with. Whether it’s online games like The Sims (they are currently heavily discounted on Origin if you wanna be tempted even further to buy a game when it’s cheap) Xbox, Playstation or even board games are a great way from switching off from the ‘real world’ and immersing yourself in another for a couple hours.
Whether you want to stick to the classics like Monopoly, Cluedo or a humble pack of cards or trying something a little different and fun I’d definitely recommend having a look online or through Big Potato Games. I know I’ve mentioned them a few times but I love the creativity and imagination they’ve put into all of their games. You’d never be bored if you’re in isolation with your family or roommates with one of their products to hand!
Jigsaw puzzles are a great way to relax and switch off too.
Do you remember when Kylie Jenner said that 2016 was the year of learning stuff? WELL turns out she had no blimmin’ clue what was coming up in 2020 did she? How is it that these past three months have felt longer and more problematic than so many previous years combined! We’ve had the threat of war between the US and Iran, the Australian wildfires were still burning and now a deadly pandemic. At this rate, would anyone be shocked if there was an alien invasion in April??
All jokes aside, if you are currently self isolating/social distancing/ in lockdown/ bored and don’t really know what to do with yourself than this might be of interest to you. The internet is a fountain of knowledge when you know where to find it all and my lovely friend Tanya, author of Glam Glitz Gloss and The Live Review, has shared this brilliant idea with us all. The Centre of Excellence (an online learning centre) are currently offering courses for as little as £15. So if you’ve got the spare time on your hands and have always fancied learning something new or polishing up on some skills you’ve already got, this would be a fantastic way to go about it!
Money saving sites like Groupon, Wowcher and Livingsocial are also great places to look out for some good deals and they quite often also do heavily discounted online courses as well.
Use Youtube to your advantage and spend the time watching some TED Talks videos, or learn how to do some banging makeup looks from the plethora of beauty gurus on there.
Do you know how many different types of subscription boxes there are out there?? This is a rhetorical I have no idea and I can’t imagine anyone will know the exact figure either but there must be THOUSANDS. The possibilities are actually endless. Whether you’re simply obsessed with skincare, after the hottest makeup and beauty trends, obsessed with pale ales and craft beers, perhaps you’re a fan of Japanese candy and Japanese candy only or you want to do some art with the children there will be a cool subscription parcel making its way in the post to you.
As much as I feel like I’ve seen so many examples of the worst displays of humanity lately, from people fist fighting over the last packet of toilet roll, a group of stupid teens spitting and coughing at an elderly couple or that people have been setting fire to or slashing the tyres of ambulances. I cannot simply comprehend as to why someone would do these things??? Especially at a time like this where simple decency and kindness goes such a long way.
To counteract all of this I’ve seen so many nice, random acts of kindness. I’ve witnessed so many genuinely good people wanting to help others and to all get through this and come out on the other side together. From local butchers and bakers offering home delivery services to their local customers, teachers running online classes for those missing out on learning, museums and art galleries are running online virtual tours. If you want to use this rare, once in a lifetime moment and take some good from it why not see if there’s anything available for you to do in your local community. See if there are any voluntary roles available, check in with your neighbours especially vulnerable people or the elderly. If there’s not anything in place why don’t you offer to do a paper round, pick up essential groceries or walk dogs for those who can’t get out. Lots of supermarkets are crying out for help at the moment so if you’re really feeling the pressure of a lockdown and want to do something productive with your time why don’t you sling your CV that way and you’ll come out on the other side of this with a purse full of dolla.
Obvs it goes without saying I don’t want you to put yourselves at any extra unnecessary risk but it’s definitely something worth considering.
I am always the person in my friendship group that is behind the times. I haven’t seen a good majority of the cult classic tv series that is often met with gasps when I tell my friends I’ve never seen Lord of The Rings/Game of Thrones/Peaky Blinders/Breaking Bad/Orange is The New Black/Eastenders (Delete where necessary). Take advantage of that streaming service you fork out for every month and watch some of those shows or films you always want to but haven’t got round to yet. Disney+ has just landed in the UK sooooo I don’t want to tell you what to do with your free time but The Emperor’s New Groove is one of the greatest films of all time and if you want to solely watch that on repeat for the foreseeable future I totes wouldn’t judge you.
Try to make the best of it
I know it’s easy for me to say as I write this from the comfort of my own bed and as someone who still lives at home and gets along well with my family. But if we are all, globally, facing a health crisis where the government and hospital workers are urging us to stay indoors unless for work, to buy food or an emergency. Staying indoors and feeling a bit bored will be the least of your concern compared to the potential grisly alternative. If you’re blessed with good health and feel like this virus isn’t something that’ll necessarily affect you then I urge you to please share a thought for those that this will affect and have consequences for. Spare a thought for your elderly relatives, your friends relatives, your friends, your colleagues, your neighbours, people on low income, homeless people, I could go on but I hope you get the gist. At times like this, kindness and compassion is key; after all we are going to go through this together.
If you’re still feeling a bit uninspired feel free to browse this incredibly silly list beneath of alternative options; but please don’t hold me accountable if you dye your hair yellow.
Watch a film or tv show and ring a friend at the same time and it’ll be like you’re watching it together. ❤ Like the cliche moments in all the chick flicks I watched as a youth. Paul Rudd not included sorry.
Declutter your wardrobe
Do the cooking one evening
Take it in turns for your household to cook…Like come dine with me but if you rate your mam a 2 you’ll have to put up with the consequences a lot longer aaaaaaaand I don’t think you’ll get a cash prize.
Learn a language.
Give up learning a language cos it’s actually very hard
Watch Eastenders/Coronation Street/Emmerdale/Any other soap opera from the very beginning and try to catch up to present day
Give yourself a makeover
Get someone else to give you a makeover
Cry when you’ve given yourself a terrible makeover
Cry harder when someone else has given you an even worse makeover
Give yourself a fringe (DON’T! SERIOUSLY! Honestly unless you have Rihanna’s bone structure pls don’t come for me when this all goes wrong)
Watch every Youtube video in existence
Ring your nan
Send a letter
Find a pen pal
Learn a dance
Post the dance on IG/TikTok
Realise no one actually cares for your dance
Read all the books you’ve been hoarding
Eat lots of chocolate biscuits
See how many biscuits you’ll have to eat before you get asked to become the official face of McVities
Check in with your friends
Get the drinks in and facetime your friends and it’ll be like your having a right royal knees up
Learn all the words to any good song so when lockdown is over and we’re allowed to go out to play again you’ll kill it at Karaoke night
Wonder why you ever got rid of your PS2 cos The Simpsons Hit n Run was the best game ever to play.
Do a puzzle
CHECK IN WITH ALL YOUR LOVED ONES
Have a pamper night
Try to disengage with the news if you’re finding yourself getting anxious and stressed more often
Make a playlist of happy songs
Start a podcast
Make stopmotion videos
Get some outside time if you can
Do a buzzfeed quiz
Take up yoga
Appreciate how quiet the world is without all the traffic and noise
Go for a walk early in the morning and see what the world looks like at 5am
Listen to the birds
Do something for charity
Start a lockdown diary
Check in with people
Write positive reviews for all your fav pubs,bars and restaurants so when they reopen they’ll see all the nice things people have said about them.
On a real note though. I hope everyone is okay and is staying safe and well. I’m sending you all so much love and light at these difficult times and hoping we can all get through this together. I hope that if we can take anything from these darker times of life is that we cannot take anything or anyone for granted.
It’s me again. It’s dawned on me recently, after nearly eight years (on and off) of blogging, I still haven’t got this whole ‘regular scheduling and posting’ malarkey down to a T. Turns out I’m really just not very good at this organisation thing? As much as I’d love to say I am a Type A person and have a plan, list and solution for every eventuality but soz lads that really ain’t me.
Well..whew. So far 2020 hasn’t really gone the way any of us had planned has it? When I said new year new me I wasn’t thinking this new me was going to be even more of an anxious wreck than last year but c’est la vie!
I’ve been umming and ahhing about what words to use and what to say in this post. I’m trying to be extra careful with the language I use as I’m usually an upbeat, positive person, to the point where I might seem like I’m burying my head in the sand as I just really don’t want to talk about the bad things. Simply because it stresses me out, gives me anxiety and I don’t want to create a space that might stress someone else out too. I know that a lot of people might think that’s a bad stance to take and it’s not real life. I know and you know that bad things happen. No one’s life is as perfect as their instagram feed may lead you to believe. So the sole reason I do this is because it’s better for my mental health to have a space where these bad things don’t exist. Even if it’s just talking about skincare, joking about the latest tv series I’m watching or sharing all the details about the latest book I’m reading.
It seems a bit redundant in this current climate to not even mention coronavirus or Covid-19 if you’re on first name terms with the little rotter. This virus has swept it’s way around the globe, gripping the nations in a state of panic as it goes on it’s travels and I, for one, am trying (failing) to do my best to keep my head up and stay treading water amongst the madness.
I’m not going to lie. But I’m a bit scared about the future and what it holds not just for me, my family and my friends but for everyone else around the world. I’m scared for the older generations, the retail workers, the health workers, the business owners, the sick, the poorly, the homeless, freelancers, self employed, part time staff, temp staff, the low income households and everyone else in between. I don’t think I’ve got enough worry to go around to be quite honest. I’m worried about the impact that this will have globally on everyone, physically, mentally and financially.
In some lighter news, as a ray of sunshine in and amongst the dark skies right now, I’e seen so many wonderful news stories and pictures from around the world of how the environment and natural life has truly flourished since the vast decrease in pollution of late. Pictures have circulated of the water in the canals of Venice running clear for the first time in decades!
I hope when this dark time becomes lighter, things become a bit easier that we all as a human race can learn from this. The utter depravity witnessed in supermarkets of people clearing the shelves of absolutely everything is completely ludicrous and near on apocalyptic. No wonder everyone is panicking when your local supermarket resembles 28 Days Later and you fist fight Barb your neighbour for the last packet of loo roll.
Please remember in these times to support your local independent shops, show kindness as often as you can and stay safe.
If there’s any advice I can offer to those who are also suffering with anxiety and stress related to this stressful situation please go easy on yourself. I’ve deleted social media apps off of my phone that were feeding my worries and giving me stress. I couldn’t cope with the endless updates and news concerning what was happening. I avoided watching or reading the news as it was starting to consume me and really trouble me. I know it’s really ignorant of me to completely switch off from it but it was one of the few ways I could regain control of what I was reading and what was playing on my mind.
I spent my spare time devouring new tv shows, films and books spending my precious spare time with things that genuinely helped me switch off. I’ve finally started getting through my ever growing ‘To Be Read’ pile of books and have only just got around to watching Derry Girls…I’m sorry I slept on this show for so long because I now ADORE it.
In the words of Daniel Bedingfield…we gotta get thru this. Can you believe when William Shakespeare was quarantined from the plague he wrote King Lear and I’ve just finished off this post with a lyric from a Daniel Bedingfield song. Alas.
Hello reader, as you’re reading this it’ll be the 27th of January and that is my big fat birthday. So I am now 25. Twenty five. toooooooooooweeeeeeenttttyyyyyyyyy fiiiiive. Quarter of a century. Twen tee five. I’m lowkey freaking out about this as you might be able to tell as that is an actual, proper age. It sounds older than 23 or 24 did and I feel like I’m not mentally prepared for the responsibility of being a grown up. Not now or ever to be honest.
Society says I should have my life together by now. Hollywood films say I should be living in a cute apartment with an exposed brick wall with all my besties by now, or about to meet the love of my life in some sort of random meet cute scenario but none of that actually happened sooooooo HOORAY for me! Turns out life isn’t exactly word for word like the fairytale teen blockbuster with the pop-punk soundtrack and that’s okay. Life isn’t all sunshine, rainbows and fighting dragons to get to the princess who’s actually a part time ogre and that’s also okay. I feel like in your twenties there’s a lot of pressure to succeed and exceed and I’m not here for it. I just want to be happy. SO happy in fact it makes others a little bit nausous. I want to be so happy being me that other people look at me like ffs can’t she just give someone else a chance?!
So I’m writing this very cliche list of 25 things I’ve learnt on this awesome planet to remind myself and you lovely readers on some wonderful things I’ve learnt, adapted to and am trying to live by.
It’s okay not to be okay.
Everyone has great days, everyone has good days and everyone also has bad days too. Sometimes those bad days happen more and more and all of a sudden it’s become a bad week, bad month or become a bad year but please try to not let it define you. It’s taken me a long time to learn to accept that sometimes not everything goes the way I want it to but you’ve got to try and make the best out of every situation. I’m definitely the type of person that could very easily wallow in my own little pity puddle and it can be incredibly hard to lift yourself out of that frame of mine. Just know that however you’re feeling, whatever you’re going through; you’re loved and you’re never alone. ❤
It’s more than okay to be on your own.
Do you have any idea how freeing it is to be alone. Not lonely but alone. Go on a solo movie trip, grab a bite to eat on your own, travel solo? It’s honestly one of the most liberating feelings and I wish I had the confidence to adopt this mentality sooner.
I’ve tried so hard to push myself out of my comfort zone and say yes or do things I wouldn’t normally just to see or just to try it once. I’ve become so much more confident in myself and my abilities and every single time I’ve had a blast and have been so pleased I said that little Y word.
Don’t believe all you see online.
What you see on social media is not real life. It is simply the highlight reel, no one is going to be posting about their boring dead end job, the fact they spent 2 hours deep cleaning their oven to no avail and the fact that age 23 they found their first grey hair. I found that the way I perceived my own life compared to the lives I saw on Instagram was really affecting me last year and I came off of it for a few months. I came back again later on in the year and changed my focus. I unfollowed a lot of accounts and changed the way I used the platform, sharing my love of photography instead, and I love it again!
I honestly find this so difficult when someone says something nice to me to not go bright red, flash a dorky smile and bash their kind compliment down with a generous helping of self depreciation. Next time someone says something nice, believe them and say thank you. Manners cost nothing y’know!
Have faith in the universe.
I’ve had a rocky couple of years and it’s affected the way I outwardly look at things. I’m lucky I’ve got a wonderful fam that support me through thick and thin but I don’t think I could have coped either if it wasn’t for my kooky sense of trusting the powers of the universe (pls don’t click off I promise I’m not crazy). I know that everything will work out okay in the end because it just HAS to.
Trust your gut.
I’m not just talking about those gurgly feels I get after I eat brioche…do you know how linked your stomach and your brain are? When something feels off, trust that vibe and run with it.
Have a cheat day and/or a treat day.
Life is far too short to not eat the cake. I am a huge advocate of any form of therapy whether it’s seeking professional help, self care, journalling, retail therapy whatever you do to make yourself feel better. I’m a big believer in self care and self love and I wish more people were head over heels in love with themselves as much as they love other people. Treat yourself to that item you’ve been lusting after for ages, take yourself to the cinema or to a spa on a date day. Do whatever you need to do to make yourself feel like the centre of your own universe.
You don’t need to wash your hair everyday.
Honestly….I don’t know how I have been conditioned (soz for the pun) to believe that was normal. My hair feels so much better and shinier since I stopped with this madness.
Some relationships don’t last forever and that’s just the way it was meant to be.
I am strong believer in full time people and part time people. I think everyone who comes into your life is there for a reason, sometimes good, sometimes bad (sometimes ugly too) but the important thing is to remember to cherish those who you love and tell them as often as you can. Learn from those who treat you how you don’t wish to be treated and don’t give them a second more of your time. Life is a journey but most importantly it’s your journey; who you want to bring along with you is down to you.
Dairy Milk Caramel tastes infinitely better after it’s been in the freezer.
I don’t have anything else to add to that statement. Just try it and let me know your thoughts alright.
Pursue what makes you happy
Life is the longest thing we’ll ever do so you might as well do something you love.
You’re responsible for your own happiness.
Genuinely i’m starting to sound like a motivational canvas you’d see on pinterest and I’m not sure I’m alright with that. But this is something that flickers through my mind everytime I’m having a whinge about how sucky something in my life is. The only person that can change it is me.
Find your cheerleaders.
Find the people that’ll be constantly in your corner, boosting you up and treating you like the gift you are. No one wants a negative nancy.
A job isn’t the be all and end all.
I cannot stress this enough. It reeks of privilege but I’ve been in a position where I had my mental health wrecked because of a terrible employer and it’s one of my biggest regrets that I stuck it out for so long. I wish I quit sooner, I wish I had a cool quitting story, where I told my boss to stick it in a boardroom meeting and made history as I high fived with every other scorned worker but alas that was not the case. Working as an early morning cleaner has taught me more about my character than any other role has.
Try to save where you can.
I’m obsessed with getting a good bargain, who isn’t though, amirite?! Financially challenged is the legit story of my life but one day I’d quite like to move out of my parents house and live in my own little home and I’ve been saving the pennies where I can. I’m not being too hard on myself and if I want a treat or to go out socially I do but it’s surprising how a few coins here and there in another bank account soon adds up.
Be more present.
I am the absolute worst for being on my phone all the time. Whether I’m chatting with friends, surfing the socials or taking happy snaps of what I’m doing, embarassingly, I find it difficult to not put my phone away and live in the moment. My thought is that if I take a picture or a video of that moment then it’s saved in time and I can come back and look at it again and again. Unless it’s for a special occasion (or just pretty food…) I try to leave my phone in my bag when I’m out with family and friends and spend the most time enjoying their company.
Try new things.
Oooooh look at me, my name’s Abbie and I tried an olive the other day and didn’t gag so I think I know everything about trying new stuff. But srsly try everything once (except bad, super illegal stuff, like don’t be stupid) and if you don’t like it at least you gave it your best shot.
Don’t save things for best/a rainy day.
I’ve been thinking about death a lot recently. Morbid start to any sentence I know. But that might be a potential late night blog post I touch on soon…Not to bring down the mood or anything but when you die, everything that’s important to you or special to you probably isn’t going to be that special to anyone else so you might as well wear that bouji outfit that cost you a tonne of money whilst you still can; you never know what’s around the corner.
Get to know yourself and your body.
Get to know who you are, everything about you, your mind, your soul, your spirit and your body. It sounds silly but you’re more likely to notice little changes once you know what’s normal for you and what’s not.
Never underestimate having a good hairdresser.
A good hairdresser is one to be cherished. Finding one that is good, reliable and not too expenny is like finding the bermuda triangle.
Find a hobby.
Even though blogging and reading are my hobbies I sometimes find them a bit on the stressful side if I put pressure on myself through it. If I’ve set myself a goal of how many books i’d like to read in a year I feel guilty if I don’t get anywhere close or if I haven’t written online in awhile I feel guilty that I’m not applying myself enough to write more. In my spare time I actually really enjoy photography, crossword puzzles and antiques. I know it makes me sound like an 80 year old off on another bus trip but I loooove it.
Never stop being curious, asking questions, learning more about different people, places and cultures. Travel to new places far and wide and come up with your own narrative on something rather than adopting something you’ve heard from an unreliable source.
Develop your own skincare routine.
Doing me face is the technical term of applying all of my lotions and potions, creams and oils on to my facial region when I arise from my slumber and just before I go to bed. It’s fast become one of my favourite things to do because I feel quite at peace when I’m doing it, it’s relaxing and I feel like I’m doing something quite positive to my life.
Celebrate the good things and the bad things and even the really boring, mundane things. Life is as good as you make it and I for one would like to be remembered as someone who loved hard, laughed a lot and was a pretty terrible dancer even Theresa May would grimace.
Hello, hello! It’s been a little while since I properly shared a book review on here, I posted all the books I read in 2019 in a long old blog post (here) but it wasn’t hugely in depth on each read, so I thought I’d share with you a little write up on the book; Reader, I Married Me! that I read at the very end of 2019. I’m not sure how to best go about reviewing this as I’m cautious I’m going to just end up giving every little detail along the way. So I’m hoping I’ll say enough to entice you to pick it up but leave enough mystery and surprise to leave you all happily hooked on what happens!
I was kindly sent this by Sophie, the author and my new second sister! We got chatting and emailing back and forth and soon realised that we actually have SO much in common. Not only do we share similar outlooks on life BUT also happen to share the same surname and her Mum lives not too far from where I live too! I’m not sure I believe in fate and all things like that but what a weird coincidence all of this has turned out to be?! Between our natterings, Soph, told me all about how the idea of this book came about. It’s ever so slightly based around her own true life events, she decided to pen this book after going through a particularly bad break up. As many people can sympathise with, it genuinely can feel like the worst thing in the world had just happened. But looking back and reflecting on it she discovered it was one of the best things to have ever happened to her! She chose to stop chasing the ‘happily ever after’ and start living for herself and for the ‘happily ever now!’. What a babe!
Sophie discovered she really didn’t need someone else to ‘complete’ her or for someone to be her ‘better half’ so decided to take vows of self-commitment and married herself in sunny Brighton in 2015.
Some people reading this might now be thinking that sounds a liiiiiiiiiittle bit mad! But Sophie wanted to be able to use this and her platform to be able to start conversations about self love and why on earth shouldn’t you see yourself as just as important (if not more) than a significant other or why self love isn’t deemed as important as romantic love?
From an early age we are taught about, and raised on, the different types of love we will feel. From the love you have for your family members, to the love you have for friends, the love you have for food and the wonderful/sometimes less than wonderful romantic love you’ll share with someone special.
But for some reason, self love, is still seen as a bit controversial or like a taboo subject. As if it’s a bit weird that someone actually likes themselves and wants to celebrate who they are as a person! Shouldn’t that be the love that we focus on and encourage from a young age, to inspire generations to have confidence in themselves and to be able to stand strong on their own no matter what life may throw at them? It’s certainly something to think about isn’t it.
Her novel, Reader, I Married Me, is very loosely based on Sophie’s own life experiences and her experience of sologamy (aka marrying yourself!). We follow the story of Chloe Usher, the loveable 35 year old lady, who’s happily sailing her way through life when she finds out the heart shattering news that her longterm boyf has cheated on her. She battles her way through modern day dating and using different dating apps. Then after one particularly bad date she heads straight over to her best friends house, trying to forget all about her rubbish evening with alcohol and karaoke! Booze fuelled she half jokingly suggests that she’s just going to marry herself and drunkenly shares her news with her loyal followers on her blog. Waking up the next morning with a fuzzy hangover head she’s greeted with the news that her and her solo wedding has become an overnight sensation; getting both positive and negative feedback from all around the globe.
We join Chloe on her fabulous journey as she plans her solo wedding, juggling her own emotions as well as from the people nearest and dearest to her as they try and get their heads around her upcoming nuptials as a single woman. It’s not just Chloe we witness going on a personal journey either, she realised that we society might have conditioned us to be wishing our lives away waiting for the fairytale happy ending or waiting for ‘the one’ when, in fact, YOU are the one you should be soul searching for all along.
This romcom (without the typical rom) is a perfect read if you’re looking for something a little bit different or want to challenge ways in which we come to think about ourselves and the labels we put on ourselves and on love.
So…you want to know my thoughts on it?
I read this within the space of about three days so if that doesn’t tell you something I don’t know what will! I really enjoyed this book actually, it’s a little bit different to the usual chick lit novel I’d normally read or you might normally see on the shelf which I actually really liked. Most of them have the usual element of ‘aaaaaaaaand the woman fell in love with the man, the man fell in love with the woman and they all lived happily ever after theeeeeeee end’ which is nice but those fairy tale stories never really happen in real life do they?
This felt a lot more relatable. As nice as it is to read lovey-dovey romcoms with princesses, princes and prince charming riding in on a white stallion at the end and saving the day they’re not as thought provoking because to me, that isn’t normal or reality. With this, I felt like I really empathised with Chloe and I felt like I understood her character as someone I could relate with or someone I could imagine myself being friends with. I liked that this book really has stuck with me and has made me think about the different ways I view myself and the outlook I can have on love and relationships.
It struck a chord especially as quite often, self love, self worth and loving yourself can be placed further down the pecking order, or you can be seen as big headed or with an ego the size of the moon if you actually really quite like yourself. Which is quite bizarre when you think about it really? In the UK, at least, if you aren’t self depreciating there must be something wrong with you!
It’s made me want to challenge myself and how I view doing things on my own. I think being content in your own company is one of the most liberating things a person can do. From small things like going for a coffee, a lunch or to the cinema on your own to a holiday or living by yourself. Once you’re at that stage over no longer caring about whether people are looking at that poor love sitting and eating on their own or being financially independent enough to be able live on your means and not have to argue over what to watch on telly it’s like the next shift change in your life begins.
This is something I’ve been trying to get better at and a solo cinema date really is on my agenda for 2020.
This book, will definitely be the type that I’ll recommend to a lot of my friends and readers on here to read. It’s something that has really challenged the way I think and view things, which is really the type of books I long to read anyway! It’s not written in a preachy sense it’s still got the elements of the rom com without the typical ‘rom’ bit!
Life is one of the longest things we’ll ever do but it’s also one of the shortest, try to spend that time being kind to yourself, kind and loving to others and being able to stand tall amongst the crowd, adjust your own fabulous crown and fall truly, madly, deeply in love with yourself; as beautifully, strongly and eternally as you’d love someone else too.
Long time readers of this site may recall the first post I did of this nature. It was in November on a Saturday and I was in the mood to write but I wasn’t sure what, so I thought, how about I just start by writing a list of things that make me happy and I’ll see where I go from there. See what inspiration I get. Turns out it just made me happy to write and write and write even if it was totally pointless, nonsensical things it made me quite happy to read it back to myself again. A lot of the things I’ve scribbled on here lately have been quite lengthy and quite wordy and that was the first thing I’ve written in a long time that I posted immediately without thinking about it, without second guessing myself or without thinking whether anyone will actually care. So here comes round two! I don’t know if this’ll be a regular feature but we’ll see.
The first bite of something delicious.
Thank you letters.
Crumpets that are so thickly laden with butter it oozes out the bottom.
Long train journeys with pretty views.
Hot chocolates that are capped with a snowy mountain of whipped cream, marshmallows and other toppings.
That feeling you get when you’ve been out in the cold and then come back inside and run your hands under cold water and everything feels hot.
The smell of blown out candles.
The smell of hot weather.
Big, exuberant pieces of costume jewellery.
Licking the cake mix bowl.
Going out for coffee or brunch.
Dipping buttery bread into hot soup.
Mr Whippy ice creams.
Those two pence arcade machines at the seaside.
Photo booth pictures with friends.
Coffee shops with steamy windows.
The smell after the rain.
Little villages where everyone says hello to one another.
Big cities where no one knows your name.
The colour magenta.
The word magenta.
Chasing the sun.
Dogs in little coats.
Fresh herbs and spices.
Turning the radio on and your favourite song comes on.
Long hugs between old friends.
When someone remembers a small detail about you.
Kind, chatty taxi drivers.
Exploring somewhere new.
Childhood teddy bears.
Old pubs with roaring fires.
Old pubs with roaring fires and a pub dog too.
Long, hot baths.
Quick, cold showers.
Getting something for a cheaper price than you anticipated.
The smell of fresh fruit.
Rocking chairs. Unless they rock on their own then they can get far, far away from me.
When the fresh heat hits you in the face when you get off of an airplane.
Tales from someone’s youth.
Mint chocolate chip ice cream.
Snow days off of school.
Singing loudly in the car.
Writing on the first page of new stationary.
Kindness between two strangers.
Seeing people who actually enjoy their jobs.
Actually any cocktails really.
People with natural style.
Having that Friday feelin’.
Jennifer Aniston’s agelessness.
The weird yet wonderful names of different paint shades.
Wandering around supermarkets late at night.
The stillness after a storm.
British seaside towns.
Piers. (As in the long promenade stretching out to sea…not the egotistical Morgan kind that presents breakfast telly).
Nicely filed and polished nails.
People with gumption.
The word gumption.
Scratching an itch that’s been bothering you all day.
Reaching the top of a steep climb. Both metaphorically and literally. Well done you.
I’m desperate to visit more places around the United Kingdom when I think about it I’ts mad that I’ve never set foot in some places not *reaaaaally* that far away, yet people travel from all over the world to visit. My sister’s friend is from Canada and he would think nothing of driving several hours to the closest city to his hometown, yet there’s so many places in this country that I’ve still never been to. Seeing as I’m lucky enough to live in a comfortable driving distance to Bath, with it being about 30 miles from my front door, I can share with you all of the best places to visit, the must see areas and the places you will definitely want to grab a few drinks in.
Bath is often featured on a lot of people’s bucket list places to visit in the UK. The historic city in Somerset is steeped in history and culture dating back to the Roman times, with plenty of modern shopping districts, spa hotels and an eclectic food and drink scene is it any wonder that people are flocking far and wide to get to know the in’s and out’s of this fabulous place.
The network links into Bath are great. Whether you’re coming from outside of England the nearest airport would be in Bristol which is about 45 minutes away. With a bustling train and bus station in the centre of the city with frequent trains from London Paddington, Cardiff and Penzance, getting to Bath Spa station shouldn’t be a problem. If you’re driving to Bath there are plenty of car parks dotted around the city, but like any busy city it can be a nightmare scrambling for a space all day long and then remortgaging your home just to pay for parking. There are a few different Park and Ride systems throughout Bath as well if you wanted to save a few pennies.
What to see.
You can’t visit Bath and not find yourself gazing over the Pulteney Bridge and the sweeping horseshoe weir. Completed in 1774 it is one of the few bridges that have shops on both sides of it. Definitely a great photo op stop first thing in the morning with a view of the sunrise. Any Musical theatre buffs might also recognise this from Les Miserables.
Prior Park a Landscape Garden surrounding the Prior Park estate, located to the south of Bath itself. It’s now owned by the National Trust and is a perfect place for a peaceful walk or take the perfect candid on the Palladian Bridge like you’re supposed to be in Pride and Prejudice.
I just can’t help but find all of Bath’s buildings and architecture just so beautiful. This is The Circus a few moment’s walk away from the Royal Crescent. The houses are picture perfect, I feel like literally nothing can go wrong in your life when you own a home this pretty. I mean I might be wrong but I’d be bursting out of my curtains singing to my neighbours every morning ’til they put an asbo on me if I lived here.
The Crescent is a short walk away from The Circus and I would definitely recommend seeing it in all its grandeur. If you’ve got the time and want to learn more about the history of this lovely place then pay a visit to the museum at No.1 Royal Crescent. The rooms are decorated just like they would have been in the late 1700s and it’s so fascinating to see and learn what life was like in the Georgian City.
If you’re a keen runner or cyclist you can follow the Bristol to Bath cyclepath or even along the Kennet and Avon canal path for some stunning views. Equally paddleboarding or punting on the River Avon are also becoming more and more popular and a more interesting way to see aspects of the City.
Depending when you’re visiting and whether Bath Rugby are playing at home you can either soak up the atmosphere in one of the many fab pubs and watch the game with a pint of wine. Or similarly try and nab yourselves some tickets. Surely you don’t need me to tell you that bit though?
Other great ways to take in the local sights is by climbing onboard one of the many Sightseeing Tour Buses you’ll see all around Bath. You can hop on and off at as many of the stop as you please as well as taking full advantage of the in depth audio commentary included.
Bath Abbey’s gothic architecture is just as stunning at nighttime as it it during the daytime and I’d definitely say it’s one of the things you must see whilst you’re here just because it’s so iconic to Bath. During the day, you can pay to enter inside the Abbey and the tour lasts roughly about 45 minutes. Or just take in the craftsmanship from the outside; and enjoy all the street performers that gather between the Abbey and The Roman Baths here too.
The Roman Baths are probably the most famous part of this beautiful city. It costs £20 for an adult ticket but it’s definitely well worth it to learn about the rich history, culture and the incredible Roman Empire. It can get incredibly busy and the queues can get quite heavy so book early on would be my advice plus you might be able to make a saving on a special offer. Pay a special visit to The Pump Room restaurant for one of their lavish afternoon teas for an extra memorable treat.
If you’re visiting Bath during the Summer months or up until October the Roman Baths stay open until 10pm at night; so if you’re into photography you could get some fantastic shots. I’m in it for the ‘gram.
Take a dip and bathe in Britain’s only naturally warm, mineral-rich waters just like the Celts and Romans did over 2,000 years ago in the award winning Thermae Spa right in the centre of Bath. One of my favourite sights is the real juxtaposition of the modern spa against the old golden bath stone buildings in the background. You get a two hour time slot to use the rooftop pool, the indoor Minerva bath or to spoil yourself with some of the 40+ spa treatments they have on offer.
Similarly, if you’re looking for the ultimate pamper weekend and want to look into the other spas you could try out a treatment in the Lush Spa,The Royal Crescent Hotel and Spa also have a wonderful spa with timeless treatments. The Gainsborough Hotel have a Spa Village which looks so tranquil and perfect for soaking away all your worries and troubles. Last but not least is Spa 15 at No 15 Great Pulteney. It’s wonderfully different and chic interior gives it a unique edge over everything else seen on this list. Beneath the well trodden street harbours this spa as Bath’s best kept secret.
Bath city centre is full to the brim of fabulous shops, whether you’re looking to shop ’til you drop in the usual high street stores or potter around the unique, independent ones. The Southgate shopping district is directly opposite the train station and is relatively new to Bath and has lots of the high street faves and plenty of restaurants to choose from as well. Amble through the side streets and you’ll stumble on gold wherever you tread. Some of my favourite independent stores are Pug and Puffin, a wonderful homewares store that have lots of gorgeous pieces for your pooch too. Vinegar Hill has some gorgeous pieces; I could spend a fortune in there. And then there’s Heavens Bazaar a wonderful emporium of high end, vintage fashions.
Take a peek around the Guildhall Market a couple minutes walk from the Abbey. My favourite stall is the Costume jewellery one. I think my spirit animal might actually be Pat Butcher.
For all you culture vultures out there, if you fancy immersing yourself in some of the Arts scene head towards Kingsmead Square where you’ll be opposite to Komedia if you want to catch some live music or comedy gigs. Or go to The Theatre Royal, a grade II listed building which is just as spectacular on the inside as it is on the outside. It’s home to amazing theatre, comedy, opera, dance and pantomime productions.
Where to eat.
There are a plenty of generic, high street chains I could tell you that are in Bath or the surrounding area but we all know that’s not where I’d want to go myself if I was visiting somewhere new for the first time. As we (we being me, myself and my jeans inner thigh material) are very aware I’m a massive foodie. So I’m going to break down the best bit for you into sections, where’s best to go for a pitstop coffee, for breakfast or brunch, dinner and even throw in some fab vegetarian and vegan options too.
Wild Cafe uses only fresh, locally sourced ingredients and everything is cooked to order and cooked to absolute perfection as well. They’re nestled away in one of Bath’s many hidden streets but once you find it you’ll be glad to settle in with one of their famous pancake stacks or treat yourself to gorgeous plate of Eggs Benedict.
Steph and the team have certainly struck gold with this place. The Good Day Cafe is like an actual Instagram haven with millennial pink, marble and succulents throughout and let’s not forget about the food and drink they serve. I’d recommend the toasted banana bread. Delish!
This lovely little cafe is situated right opposite the train station so is the perfect first pitstop. So whether you’re looking for a quick coffee before a day of shopping, a leisurely brunch whilst you decide where you’re going to head first (I’d recommend any of their pancake stacks) Or even if you just need to drop off your luggage (£3 per item) they cater for every need.
I first went here a few years ago and had their small plates whilst lunching with a friend and completely fell in love with their food. Nowadays I think they only do the small plates and tapas with their evening service but still it’s a great lunch shout for one of their sandwiches and opt for a bowl of chunky chips on the side too.
A brilliant take out place to head to if you’re a burger lover. With a great big menu covering everything from beefburgers, to chicken burgers, veggie burgers or chickless ones. Get yourself one of their lush thick milkshakes whilst you’re there; thank me later.
Juno is VERY cool and as it’s just on the cusp of the Southgate Shopping complex it’s a great place to get some munch before you hit the shops again. They do great pizzas, play awesome music and also make great cocktails…need I go on?
I had to put this somewhere on the list I just really didn’t know where! There’s a reason why The Scallop Shell have finished in the Top 6 of the National Fish and Chip Awards 2019, they serve up fresh (sustainably caught, may I add) fish and chips everyday and it’s not just your usual cod and chip establishment. Whether you want shellfish, straight outta the sea fish, chicken or the spicy chickpea fritters they’ve got something for all. I will admit I’m not sure if the chickpea fritters are vegan but they’re a dead friendly bunch; there’s no harm in asking.
Bath’s answer to Peggy Porschen’s/Elan Cafe. They do breakfast and lunches as well but I think it’s a lovely place to have a slice of cake, a cup of tea and a few happy snaps against this GORG flower wall. Plus there’s a swing?!
This fudge shop is a few steps away from the Abbey and the Roman Baths and if you’re not drawn in by the rich, sweet aroma, then watching the theatrics of them making the fudge in front of you definitely will. I’m a sucker for my favourite flavours like the OG sea salted caramel and cherry bakewell. They’ve also got a few vegan options too!
There’s always a queue and that to me is always a good sign. There’s a Ben’s Cookies in a quite a few places around the world but it’s a great place to stop by and grab a snack. The ginger and dark chocolate is my absolute ride or die.
The Oven pizza’s are some of the best I’ve had. I love the flavours they use in their toppings as well as the taste that using the wood fired oven gives each pizza crust. Plus this was the first place I ever tried a dessert pizza topped with nutella, hazelnuts and mascarpone nibs and it was SO good.
A fine dining Indian Restaurant a short distance from Bath City Centre. Everyone that I’ve spoken to that’s visited here speaks so highly of the food and the service. It’s definitely got the wow factor and is totally different to the norm when it comes to eating out at Indian restaurants.
If you’re a real foodie and enjoy good food then I’d wholly recommend The Chequers. This charming gastro pub is home to a locally sourced menu and a wonderful team of staff who you can tell who are enthusiastic and actually like their job. I’d urge you to go on a Sunday for their roast.
My sister raves about Dough and it’s probably her and her boyfriend’s go-to restaurant in Bath. I love that you can see the chefs tossing the pizza dough and making your dinner right in front of you. The menu has lots of choices and I really like that you can choose from a variety of different bases as well. Whether you want to stick to regular sourdough or try something a bit different like turmeric, hemp, seaweed and a few more speciality ones too. They also offer a gluten free dough too.
A chain of cool Thai tapas restaurants dotted around the South West of England. They always have loads of great offers on and a cracking cocktail menu to boot. I can’t get enough of their cashew stir fry and the Blushing Lotus cocktail is to die for.
Fab Veggie/Vegan spots:
Most places these days offer something for vegetarian/vegan diets but sometimes it’s quite nice to be able to go somewhere wholly suitable for the vegheads out there.
What I love about the menu at Acorn is that it just goes to show that plant based food is anything but boring. For vegans, vegetarians and those who want to try some remarkable dishes I would 100% recommend going here.
The best plant based lasagne (walnut, red pepper and cashew lasagne with garlic bread and salad on the side and an extra helping of YUM on the side of that.)
There’s loads of great places to visit if you want a tipple (or five) in the city centre. Whether you’re a fan of clubs, bars, or an old man pub you’ll find something to suit you. Obvs you’ve got the usual ones you’d get in most towns or cities, like ‘Spoons, All Bar One, Be At One, Revolutions and Slug and Lettuce but if you’re after a bar crawl with a difference; try some of these out for size.
My favourite pub to visit in the whole city. You’re spoilt for choice with four different bars, three different dining areas and a huge list of different craft beers and cask ales enough to sink a ship. It’s got a great big list of bar snack style tapas plus it’s got the biggest beer garden overlooking the river and the Pulteney Bridge I guarantee a good night out here.
Not only do they stock great food and good drinks but I’d recommend visiting here just for the views from their gorgeous roof terrace. Plus the sweeping, spiral staircases throughout make for the perfect backdrop for a pose, especially when they light up at night time. Like I say…I’m in it for the ‘gram.
As an absolute gin lover this place is always top of my list of recommendations. Yep, you guessed it, gin is the speciality here and they have over 200 gins on offer and have an extensive ‘Gin’ Austen cocktail menu as well.
I love the atmosphere and style in this cosy bar. It’s cool, edgy and has a speciality for rums but they do offer a few other spirits as well. The bar staff are excellent and make incredible cocktails.
If you’re not already sold on the utterly gorgeous decor then let me take you by your hand and sweep you off your feet with their delicious menus. It’s great for brunch, afternoon tea or dinner but I’m sliding this one in here as a great place to go for pre drinks as well. The bar area is beautiful and the Ivy Sling is mouthwatering, you’ll look like you’ve been sent from a cool 1920s New York bar perching on one of these barstools.
Where to stay.
There’s a whole host of places to stay in and around Bath depending on your budget. With plenty of purse friendly hotels and hostels in and around the city centre, gorgeous townhouse Airbnb’s you can fall in love with and the most instagrammable serviced apartments to stay at as well.
Well… We are now over 3500 words and I thiiiink…I think that brings us neatly to the end of our Bath tour, don’t you? I’d like to think I touched on all possible subjects and bases. But if you have any q’s I can kindly try to give you my a’s!
These sweet snacks used to be my absolute favourite treat when I was younger. After talking to my sister about them recently we discovered you cannot find them ANYWHERE. I looked all over and searched high and low in pretty much every supermarket and online (that’s how desperate I became for my sugary fix) and started to feel like this is the hidden conspiracy item or I was a victim of the Mandela effect; did they even exist? Did I make them up and had been living in a cookie induced lucid dream for years?!
Also, side note, if someone finds these being sold somewhere real soon I’m going to sound like such a weirdo conspiracy theorist aren’t I! If I get a comment from someone saying they bought these in Tescos just a few days ago I’m going to actually go mad. But anyway!
So I made some of my own that I think taste pretty similar to the real deal and how they used to taste but given the fact that it’s been the best part of about 10 years since I remember having one they might not be bang on but they still tasted pretty good so if you fancy making some of your own give this recipe beneath a go.
150g softened butter
150g soft light brown sugar
75g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 large Egg
250g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
A pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg. (optional)
smarties (other sugar shelled chocolates are also available)
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and if you wanna be super organised (unlike me basically) line a baking tray as well.
Firstly, combine the softened butter and sugars in a large bowl. The more I’ve gotten into baking over the last few years, I think you actually really notice the difference when using cold butter, room temperature butter or softened in your bakes. By using room temp or softened butter it enables the sugar and butter to mix together a lot quicker and a lot easier. Plus it means you don’t have to have a mini bicep workout in the kitchen. In this recipe I used both white caster sugar and light brown sugar. The addition of the brown sugar gives the bake a darker golden colour and a slightly more fudgy taste.
Combine the egg and the vanilla extract together then pour into the sugar and butter mixture and stir until fully blended. Even though there’s a lot of sugar in these super sweet cookies by adding the vanilla extract gives the cookies an extra, deeper flavour throughout. Most supermarkets stock extracts or essences in the home baking aisle and if you want to make this recipe your own you could try using different flavourings like almond, coffee, caramel or even a salted caramel essence instead of vanilla.
Once all the wet ingredients are fully combined sift in the dry ingredients until it’s formed a dough like consistency. I added in the spices in at this point it’s completely optional I only used a small amount as I didn’t want it to overpower the whole thing but I felt that it just added a little something extra.
Place the dough in the fridge for about 30-40 minutes to let the flavours develop and the dough to harden up.
I sliced the cookie dough into 1 inch thick circles, rolled it into a ball between my hands and placed on a tray. I then pressed in a handful of smarties into the cookie and then baked for between 10-12 minutes until golden.
Perf with a cup of tea or glass of milk or eating every single one after the other when no is looking…
The blogging community is a powerful force, one that seems to be growing in vast numbers on an almost daily basis. I’ve been been in and out of the blogging biz since 2012; way back when I was only just 17 years old and used my blog as somewhere to share my rambling thoughts, post grainy shots of what I had bought in Primark or what Barry M nail polish I was using that week. Not quite thought-provoking content with me ever eh?! I started a blog simply as a bit of fun and somewhere to fine tune my writing skills, never really thinking about it in the long term, as an actual viable source of income.
Over the years I’ve been incredibly fortunate and lucky enough to receive items gifted to me by brands for the purpose of me placing on my blog, talking about them and sharing my thoughts and opinions on them with you all. Blogging, in my opinion is fast becoming a lucrative market in which a brand can essentially get a writer, editor, publicist, marketing team, photographer and social media team all rolled into one with a blogger or content writer. Without running the risk of sounding incredibly biased, but now I’m aware of bloggers, vloggers and influencers I would trust their opinions on a gifted item much more than I’d trust that of someone who was on Love Island or Geordie Shore. For the amount of money a company would have had to have forked out to advertise in a magazine or get a celebrity to promote they could tap into the Blogosphere and get a handful of bloggers to support them instead for either just the mere price of the product or a fraction of the cost of using a celebrity to endorse it; it’s a no brainer really.
Attracting the attention of a brand or a PR is something I’ve always been fairly curious about if I’m honest. I know it sounds dead cliche, but it isn’t the sole purpose to a blog and if that’s the way you get into it to attract as many freebies as possible you’ll probably become bitterly disappointed. I’m sure you may even agree with me that it is is an incredibly touching thing when someone, anyone, reaches out to you and comments, or likes, or reposts what you’ve said. So when a brand says ‘Ello there! we like you a lot fancy working together?’ (I do not know why Dick Van Dyke is clearly writing them all) It is a such a genuinely nice feeling knowing that your hobby, your cheeky bit on the side, the blog you’d like to turn into a career (potentially, I don’t know maybe you do who knows??) is being noticed by actual proper non blogging folk people.
Having said all of that I’m also fully aware some people are lucky to be able to use their blog as a source of income relying on gifting opportunities, ads and other such forms of revenue to make a living and I really can’t be any more supportive and really, genuinely happy for them! When I see people posting sponsored content or gifted reviews I’m just as thrilled to read that as I am a regular post from them.
With being a blogger and practically living your life constantly online; your life is your brand and your brand is your life almost. Towing the line between accepting each and every gifted offer and remaining authentic to yourself can become a bit of a grey area for some. For instance, this one is a bit of an extreme example but I’m a vegetarian and for the last 6 months I have received several emails about posting about Wild Game pate’s on here and as much as I’m sure they are delicious it would be completely wrong of me to have accepted as it would be blatantly obvious I hadn’t tasted it and wouldn’t have been my honest opinions.
Similarly I mean that’s not to say if you have a niche you can only speak about one thing and one thing only. You may have started a beauty blog 6 years ago and have just moved house and want to share your renovating story with your readers. You get my drift.
So what I’m trying to say, whilst simultaneously interrupting myself about one thousand times over, what is the secret to all of this. Perhaps you too might be one of those people that see the phrase #Prfriendly being used and it always making you wonder what that really means or even who realistically is going to be PR unfriendly? Maybe you’ve seen someone who has a smaller following than you, posts on their blog less than you but still somehow seems to be getting ALL of the PR samples under the sun and you want to be super happy for your internet friends but at the same time it kinda makes you wonder why them and not you? Do those that work in PR really sift through Bloglovin’ and Instagram searches in order to find the best people for their campaign? to what extent do brands look into the people that they ask to work with them? and do those ever popular ‘Comment your blog link, DA score and email address to be added to my PR list’ really work?
I’ve spent the last month or so, trying to get down to the nitty gritty of it all and have the points of view from a real life PR Guru, a full time freelance writer and also from a brand who works within the blogging community too, to see what they’ve all got to say on it. I really hope this post may interest you, help you or at least pique your interest and possibly create conversation about the ins and outs of Blogger outreach.
Firstly to start off with we have the incredibly helpful and totally fab Jessica Pardoe also known as a PR aficionado and an all round absolute gem. She’s been a complete angel in helping me out with this. Jessica specialises in PR and blogger outreach so was the perfect person for me to quiz about everything and anything to be quite honest! I couldn’t have done this all without her help and support and if you aren’t sold on Jess enough by now please do have a browse over on her blog here at Thoughts Of Jessica. Or send a funny gif on Twitter here.
what do PRs/brands look for when reaching out to bloggers?
The top thing is a blogger that fits what I’m looking for I.E. if I’m looking for someone to review a hotel, or talk about travel then I’ll only go for a travel blogger or for a blogger who’s written these kinds of posts before. It really irks me when I put out a request for bloggers and ask for something like, someone to write a recipe, and then you can tell the blogger hasn’t even properly read the request and their blog is nothing about food and they’ve never posted a recipe before. Do you get me? It just kind wastes both of our time. In terms of what I specifically look for, I like giving opportunities to bloggers who are genuine and don’t just blog for the paid posts. Cause I can’t imagine those blogs get many reads. If I head to a blog and it’s just sponsored post after sponsored post (and if the posts don’t all fit a theme) then I’ll probably blacklist it. If a blogger is genuine, and if the opportunity fits their brand then I’ll be looking to contact them. At work, we look at something called DA which is short for domain authority and it basically ranks how well established your site is. Bloggers can work on their DA in ways, but more often than not it builds itself naturally as you blog normally. I do look at social followers too, but this isn’t always relevant. It depends on the campaign and the type of sponsored opportunity.
Do they take into account the numbers/stats/media kits or do they base it off their blog content?
It’s normally blog content for me. Sometimes clients will have specific details as to how many followers they want the bloggers to have, so then it does come down to numbers, but most of the time I like to make sure the blogger is genuine, that their content suits the opportunity and above all – that they blog for their readers, and that their site isn’t just cluttered with sponsored posts that aren’t valuable. I’ll also check a sponsored post and see what the blogger’s attitude is towards them. I’ve seen bloggers before having a 100 word or less sponsored post, which is literally just a few words on a page that has no story behind it or anything. The best kind of sponsored posts are done by bloggers who make it their own, and who you can tell genuinely have an interest in the brand they’re promoting. Those are the kind of bloggers I aim to work with.
What is the best way for a blogger to reach out them and what to say?
Personally, I get a lot of pitching emails and a lot of them are so impersonal that they go straight to the trash bin. I had one the other day that read something like ‘Hi, Any posts this month?’ I had to follow up and ask what she meant, and she proceeded to say she meant sponsored posts. But I’d never worked with this blogger before. It all felt quite impersonal… Spending a few extra seconds to make your pitch relate to the PR can go a long way, we can tell when it’s a generic email. I’d say, if you have a genuine interest to work with a brand, it’s good to send an email saying why, and maybe even exampling similar work. It might take a little longer, but those extra touches go a long way and could make the difference between securing a collab and not. I also do tend to work with bloggers that I have a relationship with. If I’ve worked with them before, and they’ve got the post back to me on time and it’s been good quality, then I’ll normally contact them with new campaigns that are relevant to their blog and see if they’d like to take part before I outreach to the wider blogging community. So it pays to build those relationships.
Is there anything that would put them off like swearing in posts etc?
Not really. I think if someones f-ing and blinding on every post then I’m like, my client wouldn’t want to work with this blogger. But most of the time, this isn’t a major red flag for me. I still wouldn’t recommend it though. The biggest thing that puts me off is what I mentioned above… When you can tell a blogger is accepting every collab for the sake of things, and their blog begins to look like an advertising ground. I come across a lot of blogs where their site is 100% sponsored content, and I can’t find a genuine post they’ve written because they wanted to, or for the interest of their readers. I stay away from those bloggers because it all feels really fake. I like to work with those who have a genuine passion for blogging, and who’ll really engage with the brand.
It’s murky waters in the blogger biz at the moment but do they check for fake engagement/bots usage before reaching out?
Yessss 10000000%. I wish every PR did. At the moment there are still tools that are being developed that’ll make our lives easier in spotting fake engagement. But for now, I do always check a bloggers followers if I’m looking to work with them on a social campaign. I check their followers and their likes on Instagram normally. I can spot bots from a mile off, and I won’t work with a blogger if I do. It’s not fair on bloggers who genuinely work to get a great following. Plus, fake engagement would be of no benefit for my client, so it’s a massive no-go for me!
From the point of view of a freelancer / blogger we’ve got the HILARIOUS lady behind @ActualAr. She’s a hoot and a half and if you don’t already stalk her Instagram stories or Twitter feed like I do (I have literally no shame…but find her tweetin’ here) check out her blog here as well. I love her honest, relaxed and down to earth approach. I don’t actually even know her name it’s like it’s kept as a Government secret I can only assume the Ar is short for Aristotle cos I actually adore everything she writes. She could rewrite my local chinese takeaway menu and it would somehow come across as the most hilarious, witty and compelling thing.
Is there anything you’d suggest before contacting a brand or PR?
If you haven’t already done so, it’s worth putting a media kit together. You can create your own using a design app like Canva, but it’s a lot easier to use something called Webfluential (You can find the link for that here) which basically helps you put one together and collates a lot of your stats for you based on your social media profiles. It’s free too, which helps! Other things that you should try and get to grips with are your details from analytics. Brands often like to know your demographics, so who is actually reading your blog? How old are they? What are they interested in? Remember it’s important to cater to your readers when you’re looking to work with brands and PRs – it’s not going to sit well if you suddenly start reviewing washing machines if you’re a sports blogger, for example!
If someone wanted to start earning from their blog but didn’t have the foggiest clue on how much to charge how would you suggest they go about figuring that out?
Work out what you will charge, and stick to it. It’s so easy to undervalue your work when you’re hoping to get a collaboration with a brand, but remember the time and effort that you’ll put into the post, so pitch your fee structure accordingly. Don’t let them take the piss, because if you do it once, you’ll do it again, and then you’ll never really gain traction with paid jobs.Make sure you have a terms and conditions/disclosure for work with brands and check the internet advertising guidelines carefully so you don’t end up with a nasty fine either!(Side note- I really had NO clue about this at all but here is the disclosure form from Actual Ar’s site which is so clear and concise)However tempting as it may be, don’t lift someone else’s work and use it for your own. Your blog is unique to you, and you need to make sure you set your terms and disclosures accordingly, or you will end up in murky waters. Be clear on what you will and won’t write about – it’s tempting to write any old shite for the sake of the money, but really it’s not a good strategy in the long term!
Lastly, and no means not least I have quizzed the lovely Claire from Indigo Herbs, a Health and Wellbeing company from Somerset, England who often work with bloggers and post campaigns through Bloggers Required.
What do you look for when reaching out to work alongside a blogger?
From my perspective I’m looking for high value relevant links from the bloggers website to our product pages. For the purposes of referral and SEO. So I’m looking for a good Domain Authority; as defined by moz https://moz.com/home. (Moz measures the SEO power of website as defined by google ) so a good domain authority means the site is well indexed and visible. Social media mentions are also great as this is like personal recommendation. Anything like a giveaway of products on social media can help raise engagement of a social media post.If a blogger was to reach out to you and pitch an idea of a post what type of things would you like to see?When you are pitching you do want to share your statistics of your blog, Domain authority, monthly page visits and preferably a bit about the demographic of your audience so the brand can work out if its a good fit.
Thank you so, so much for making it to the final few words of this post. I just wanted to say a massive thank you to Jessica, Actual Ar and Claire for being so lovely and so helpful in terms of putting this all together. I’d really love to know what your thoughts are on this topic too! Have you ever reached out to a PR or a brand before? Has this post been at all helpful to you? Is there anything you agree with or possibly even disagree with?!
The weather has been absolutely glorious in England this weekend and it looks like the sunshine will be staying put for a little while yet which makes me and I’m sure the rest of the UK want to stand up and rejoice!! I was lucky enough to have been invited by Rewired PR to an event at Bowood House in Wiltshire at the weekend called The Handmade Fair. The event was over three days from the Friday to the Sunday and was blessed with the most fantastic, sunny weather. As soon as I heard about this I really liked the idea of this fair. Created by Kirstie Allsopp as a great way to get more people into arts and crafts as well as uniting art, craft and handmade lovers far and wide which I really like. This is the ultimate creative day out whether you want to brush up on your skills from experts or if you want to dabble at something new and uncover a hidden crocheting talent there really is something for everyone. There’s plenty of things going on at The Handmade Fair whether, like me, you’re happy ambling round The Shopping Villages. They’re all bursting at the seams with handmade products and full of people are full to the brim with handmade products of the highest quality by the talented makers and creators. If that doesn’t tickle your pickle you can always head over to The Super Theatre, Skills Workshops and Grand Makes marquee’s where you can learn a new skill or two hosted by the UK’s most renowned experts. Oh and did I mention they had some magnificent street food vans dotted around too? I could have gone around twice collecting my £200 for passing GO everytime. I really loved how inclusive this event was. Since going vegetarian back in November it has been somewhat tricky for me to find foods when out and about that I really like and get excited by. But there was so much choice here from homemade ravioli, to a specific vegetarian/vegan food truck called Eats Shoots and Leaves (I LOVE a good pun, especially a panda related one).
Nestled in the heart of the Wiltshire countryside, not too far from Chippenham, sits a Grade I listed Georgian country house also known as Bowood House and Gardens. The Fair was held in the Gardens and you have to give The Handmade Fair team their credit for picking some of the most stunning locations. From Ragley Hall in Warwickshire in May to their later dates of being in Hampton Court Palace in September. Such an ideal way to make a weekend of it by visiting the Fair and spending another day having a nose around the house and gardens!
My sister and I set off on the Saturday morning just before 10. It was a gorgeously sunny and only took about an hour from my house despite getting a tiny bit lost as I thought I knew better than the directions on my phone. Apple 1 – Abbie 0. As soon as we parked up and got our wristbands from the desk we practically bounced on inside. The staff on the gates and checking tickets were all so friendly, happy and welcoming, asking us if we needed any help or wanted to know where to start and gladly pointed me in the direction of the RewiredPR tent so I could say a quick hello to the lovely team that made this possible. This was my first ever blog related event and I was feeling a bit anxious/nervous about it all. My sister helped me put my mind at ease and so did the PR team. They were so lovely and I found it really nice to meet the people or the person behind the emails and put a face to a name. So with that I went to go for a wander around the site armed with my phone and my camera as I was worried all my storage would be gone in a matter of five photos and a boomerang.
My sister and I are both big foodies so were naturally drawn to the Artisan Marketplace marquee. It was like someone knew I was coming as it was filled with delectable sweet treats, cakes and several different gins. Naturally I had to sample them all and I was actually surprisingly taken with a coffee infused dark rum from Cornwall.
As a lover of gin I can safely say how happy I am that it appears to be really having a ‘moment’ and is the ‘in’ spirit of choice. I know a few people who don’t really like it or find the scent of it quite woody or ‘piney’ in their words. But I think with so many different tonics available, flavoured gins and even flavour pairings you could add different herbs and spices, fruits or even a slither or cucumber to give it a rounded, cleaner taste if the taste of juniper isn’t for you!
From the same stand my sister and I purchased some savoury biscuits which were so incredible. We bought three boxes and they didn’t even last as long as 24 hours from unboxing as soon as we got them home. They were from the same company as seen above called Popti and they may be the most delicious biscuits I’ve tried. I love the packaging it’s so simple yet the choice of bold colours makes them really stand out on a shelf. They have a good variety of different flavours which you could snack on, on their own or even as an accompaniment to cheeses. If you ever come across this brand I urge you to try them they were so moreish and buttery. They honestly tasted like a savoury shortbread or something. INCRED. Also the lady we spoke to was so kind and lovely!!
I even tried a small sample of moonshine. I did read the leaflet and the gentleman selling these did explain what moonshine *actually* is but other than a delicious and smooth alcohol they made in the prohibition era I still can’t quite remember. I tried one that tasted just like ameretto and could have easily drunk that neat all day long.
A variety of different cheeses were also on offer and I tried a charcoal cheese which was mild, creamy albeit being rich and black in colour. If you had your eyes closes and weren’t any the wiser you wouldn’t have had any idea I don’t think as it didn’t have that overpowering smokiness sometimes charcoal can give. This type of thing would look great on a cheeseboard. BTW this chap is totally caught off guard but I’m living for the pose I might make that my go to pose in photos…White gloves optional.
These marshmallows were incredible from a company called Grown Up Marshmallows. I’ve loved marshallows since I was a child and I love seeing the different flavours or the gourmet ones you can get now. I tried the dark chocolate and raspberry one and it was amazing, it was soft and gooey but still had some chewiness to it. To me it tasted just like a normal, regular marshmallow if it wasn’t for the fact the sign and the lady talking to me said it didn’t contain any gluten, fats or egg I wouldn’t have been any the wiser.
I’ve never in my life seen so many different ways with garlic as I did on this stall. Garlic butters, different types of garlic mayo, whole garlic bulbs, pureed garlic, garlic oil even to garlic beer?! All freshly grown from their Isle of Wight farms.
I love these Mighty Fine nuggets of joy so much. My sister got me a peanut butter flavoured pouch for my birthday but my one true love is dark chocolate and it goes so nicely with their honeycomb I had to get this one especially as it was a £1 cheaper than usual shop price. Mighty fine you really are mighty fine.
Around midday we decided to take a bit of respite and get something to eat. You’re spoilt for choice for things to eat whether you want fish and chips, sheeps milk ice cream, gourmet cheese on toast to vegan nachos. You could easily spend all day trying some of each food stall until you burst. Eventually my sister and I decided on a food truck called RaviOllie. I love a good pun me. RaviOllie was born when the chef, Ollie, had spent many years working in top restaurants in London learning every inch of the kitchen including perfecting the art of making fresh and incredible pasta. Taking this love of food and pasta he decided on putting his own stamp on things, specifically ravioli. And I’m blimmin’ glad he did. We had spinach and ricotta filled ravioli topped with Parmesan, cracked black pepper and a choice of different oils. The pasta was like nothing I’ve ever tried before. It was absolutely sensational. The pasta itself was gorgeous and nothing at all like ones I’ve had in restaurants or shop bought. You could just tell the ingredients were fresh and of good, high quality as it looked and smelt so fresh and vibrant. The filling was so creamy but not too rich, it was cheesy and delicious and I wish I could have an endless supply for the rest of my life because it is legit the most perfect comfort food.
Feeling a bit peckish we found somewhere selling a pot of strawberries and cream. But this pot was like a Nigella Lawson style levelled up treat. Like Wimbledon hasn’t got a patch on this. Sweet strawbs topped with a lavender cream, vanilla mini meringues, a homemade gin and tonic jelly and mint leaves. HEAVEN. It was the perfect summery snack on a hot afternoon.
After a leisurely bite to eat and soaking up some of the rays we headed into the Shopping Village tent filled to the brim of everything and anything you can think of when it comes to the world of arts and crafts.
The first stand right by the door took my fancy. You could buy little wooden shapes and paint and decorate them onto to things to make them look so much more decorative and ornate like this little wooden wreath as seen above. This would lovely if you wanted to design a little photoframe for someone as a gift or put a nice picture or even leave it how it is as a wall hanging. These types of things are so versatile if you wanted to make a scrapbook for someone you could make their name out of letter shapes or if you wanted to make a memory box you could decorate it with their products too. The possibilities are endless.
I love, love, LOVE these quills that were on offer on one stand. You could learn the basics of calligraphy too as their was a workshop on that too! These would make me feel so fancy and like I was in Harry Potter.
If fabric working or upcycling is much more up your alley there were several different stands selling beautiful prints and fabrics. I’m a magpie for pretty things, bold colours and prints and this whole section really stood out to me. As someone who would love to be able to make their own clothing I looked on at this like a kid in a candy shop. There was another stand that was teaching people to make their own pom poms which I thought was really cute. They would make such good keyrings or decorative pieces.
This gentleman was showing an older method of weaving wool and attracted quite a crowd. It was really nice to be involved in a day and an event where people with different crafts, hobbies and skill levels came together to celebrate all things homemade. There is something special in having something that you can say I madethis. Or I took the time and actually completed this and look how fab it looks!
Other than blogging I’ve never really had a long term hobby that I’ve actually loved, enjoyed and stuck with (maybe playing the recorder at primary school but didn’t everyone do that?!) So I was hoping when I went along to this I would find something that would take my eye and I would develop a new hobby, skill or love away from technology for a little bit of time per day or week.
I stumbled across this stand selling cross stitch kits and naturally the gin related one jumped right out at me. Seeing as I got this on Saturday and today is now Wednesday and I’ve already taken it out of the box to have a go I think that’s a good start compared to other things I’ve bought with good intentions of doing and never quite getting round to doing.
If you’re a literal magpie for all things shiny and pretty just like me there were these gorgeous rings on display that look so glamorous and elegant. I love the sea themes in the first picture, in particular the rose gold seashell earrings.
There was so much going on at The Handmade Fair it would be an enjoyable day out for people of all ages. You can book tickets in advance for places in their workshops and talks from the experts and having just had a look on their website for the Hampton Court Palace timetable (here) they have got some amazing workshops lined up from learning to do brushwork lettering to making your own beading hoop earrings. Whether you’ve always had a dream to make your own funky willow bird feeder, sew your own kimono or learn to make butterly origami, along with the help of The Handmade Fair’s exceptional team of experts it could make these dreams possible. If you get the opportunity I would definitely recommend going to their next Fair. I really enjoyed my time here and I’m sure you would do too!!
I’d like to say a big thank you to everyone at RewiredPR for asking me along to this event I’m really appreciative of it and I really enjoyed my day. Thank you so much to all the kind people working at The Handmade Fair whether that be all the staff I met, the staff behind the scenes who made this event come together so well or all the kind creators, makers and bakers I met too. I know I’m not the only one who would say I had such a lovely time! I hope this event gets better and better upon each year with even more people going along to their next one!
*What I wrote in this post is all 100% genuine from me and my thoughts on it all. I don’t want to mislead readers into thinking I only wrote positive things as I had been invited to attend. 🙂