Sunday, 21 August 2016

#LivHelps Blog Event

livhelps blog event hair care products
pizza dough bar liverpool blog event

The blogging community has been a bit of a negative ninny lately, am I right? I have no idea how or why it started but everyone just seemed to be feeling all kinds of down and out about blogging. Bearing this in mind, I was beyond excited for the #LivHelps event. It was about time we had something to remind us why we blog and why the blogging community is so fucking fab.

So, thanks to Sammy for hosting a wonderful event filled with laughter, thanks to the girls who attended for reminding me why I adore this community and thanks to Dough for supplying drool-worthy pizza and keeping the drinks flowing.

Sammy is basically the queen of blog events. She always smashes it every single time. Despite a couple of brand and event drop-outs, she pulled through and hosted a wonderful event, as always. I admire her skills sooo much.

At the start of the event, Sammy handed everyone an envelope at random. Upon opening our envelopes, we'd either have a note telling us we'd won a prize and to post a selfie on Twitter in order to gain our prize or a forfeit telling us to post a silly selfie and share a fact about ourselves to be in with a chance of still winning something. I was lucky enough to win a hair care kit from Aquishair and OGX Beauty. And even luckier knowing I didn't have to pull a silly face to get it, phew.

arcade games dough bar liverpool
dough bar liverpool pizza art

Dough bar was the perfect location. It's laidback aesthetics created a relaxed atmosphere. Everyone knows that blog events can sometimes be a little bit daunting. That moment when you first walk in the room to a sea of faces thinking, 'Shit, I've definitely met her before, what is her name?!' or 'Hm, she looks like such-a-body from twitter, but is it her?' and so on. If you've ever attended a blog event then you'll know the score. We all just end up having to say our blog name or twitter handle to spark those lightbulb moments of 'Ohhhh, I know who you are!'. 

Anyway, back to the point...Dough was a fab little place. It was filled with old arcade machines and consoles, which I soooo wanted to have a play on. The menu was unbelievable as well. I've never seen so many pizza or loaded fries options. I was beyond impressed. In fact, was so impressed by the menu that Lily and I ended up ordering two pizzas to share because we just could not decide!

blog event raffle prizes

Moving on to the raffle, we managed to sell all 500 of the raffle tickets, with all proceeds going to charity. The raffle was filled with amazing gifts. There were a few items that I was definitely eyeing up, The Happiness Planner, Rude Health granola or a Tropic Skincare set, anyone?! I wasn't a winner but I loved seeing the other girls collect their prizes!

peg board raffle prizespink envelopes blog event

The goody bag was also something pretty special. I loved that this goody bag was different from any others that I've received at past blog events. Usually, the goody bag is filled with beauty products and as someone with no inclination of beauty talent, these products are often sadly wasted on me. With that said, I do get excited and love playing with new beauty products. Maybe one day, I'll learn how to apply make-up! Until that day comes, it was refreshing to receive a goody bag filled with a wide variety of exciting new products to test out.

flat lay gift bag products

Here's a sneak peek into some of the little (and not so little) gifts we received: Alpha H liquid gold skin renewal wash, The Diva Cup, Beauticology shower crème and fragrance mist, Franklin & Sons soft drinks, Makeup Geek eye shadows, Portlebay popcorn, Bramley hair products, Foreo cleanser, A Pony Called Steve soap bar, Peridot sunglasses, Love With Food deluxe snack box and a few other sweet pieces!

I had a lovely time at #LivHelps and it's definitely painted a smile on my face. Big love to the blogging girls who went for making me laugh and smile until my cheeks ached.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Mini USA haul

When I say this is a mini USA haul, I really do mean mini. During my time in America, I didn't go overboard with my spending. I'm always super cautious with my money and that increases ten-fold when I'm on holiday. I can't be the only person who panics that they'll run out of money whilst holidaying? Despite my vacation money worries, I still treated myself to a few small pieces.

The first thing I treated myself to whilst in America was the Kat Von D Tattoo Liner in Trooper. This was more of a unscheduled purchase. During the journey from Heathrow to Los Angeles my cosmetics case ended up bursting open. As a result, the lid came loose on my liner causing it to dry out. I wasn't too upset because it gave me a good excuse to find a replacement eyeliner in Sephora! The Tattoo Liner is incredible. I wish I filmed my expression when I first tried it. I was literally in awe at how great it was. The brush-tip just glides effortlessly and once it's on, it's on. It's both water and transfer resistant and just all round fab really. 

The Tattoo Liner is the only make-up purchase that I made. There was sooo much in Sephora that I wanted but I resisted the urge. If you read my latest post, I've been trying to be savvy with my pennies and that rule still applied whilst on holiday.

Bath and Body Works is one shop that I was ridiculously excited to visit. One of my friends sent me with a list of things that she wanted picking up so I happily obliged, filling my basket with gifts. Naturally, I also picked up a few things for myself. Bath and Body Works is the dream store for hand sanitizer. If you're anything like me, you'll always like to keep sanitizer in your handbag. You can pick up 5 for $6 which is a total steal. The scents are amazing as well. As we visited during summer, the scents were mainly fruity and beachy. Some of the scents that I picked up were vanilla ice cream, milk and cookies, berries, pink lemonade, cupcake and coconut scented santizers. I actaully picked up a couple more than what's shown but I seem to have misplaced them, oops! 

I also got some cute little cases. I wish I'd snapped the ones I bought for my friend and my Mum because they were equally as cute. For myself, I chose a shark holder and a sparkly purple one- perfect for clipping inside my handbag/backpack.

When we were in the Las Vegas Bath and Bodyworks (I loved the shop that much, I went to both the Vegas one and another in Boise to buy two bags filled with stuff) we noticed they were holding a crazy 75% off sale! I picked up a couple of body sprays from the sale section. I'm crap at maths and remembering things but I'm pretty sure these worked out at being less than $3 each. One is a light summer scent and Be Joyful, from their 2015 Christmas collection, is a delicate sweet, candy-like scent.

In this mini USA haul, I've saved the best til last. When we were in Vegas, we had a girls shopping day at the Outlet Mall. I went with the intention of buying some new trainers or Nike leggings but was colossally let down. My total disappointment at Nike was swiftly rectified when I fell in love in the Kate Spade store.

I could have easily spent a fortune in the Kate Spade store. I couldn't resist buying this flamingo print purse. It just brightens up my day, I'm not even joking. The print is the sweetest thing. Whilst in the store, I was also eyeing up a pair of rose gold flamingo earrings but I spent so long umming and aahing that I decided to walk out of the shop without them. Looking at the above photo, it's pretty obvious what's going to come next. Spoiler alert: I went back 30 minutes later and bought the earrings, along with a rose gold bow cuff bracelet. I don't really see myself as much of a girly-girl. I'm too low-maintenance and I'm more of a comfort over style kind of girl. But, I've been trying to be more girly. Turns out, I actually feel kinda bad-ass when I make more of an effort and stop being a tomboy in my scruffy trainers and laidback look. 

I also bought a new Pandora ring whilst at JFK airport. I went camping whilst in Idaho and stupidly put my ring down whilst going for a splash in the hot springs pool. It wasn't until we left the mountains and returned back at the apartment that I realised what I'd done. As soon as I noticed, I immediately felt naked without my ring. So, when we hit JFK airport on our way home, I popped into Pandora and re-bought my missing ring. Top tip: don't bother buying in Pandora abroad. Turns out, it actually cost me more than it would have done if I had just been patient and waited until I landed back in the UK to buy my ring. Oops.

Oh and not pictured is all of the food and sweets that I bought! They didn't last long enough to be photographed. But surely it's a given that if you go to America, you're going to buy a sugar tonne of sweeties, right? 

Friday, 29 July 2016

Financial fitness tips

Now that my American adventure is over, I'm focusing on getting fit. I've got back into the gym 3+ times a week, I'm doing a 3km charity beach run tomorrow and next week I start training to climb the 3 peaks. But that isn't the only way I plan on keeping fit. I'm also focusing on getting financially fit.

kate spade purse money saving financially fit tips

With pay day just around the corner, here are my top tips for getting financially fit:

SHOP AROUND - I cannot stress this enough. My friend and I have this thing where we'll both go shopping but we won't actually buy anything. Instead, we find ourselves sat in the nearest coffee shop looking online at the things we almost bought in store.  It sounds pretty sad...we just like to think of ourselves as savvy shoppers, okay?! More often than not you're going to find some kind of online offer like an awesome little discount code, which is alwaaays appreciated. Similarly, if I spot something that I adore but it's a little too pricey to justify, I'll shop around to find a cheaper, just as cute, alternative.  If you can be patient enough to wait a few more days, shop online or shop around.

EAT OUT LESS - yelp, it actually kind of pained me to write that. I'm pretty aware that most of my money goes on food. So, starting this pay day, I'm making more of a conscious effort to eat out less. That doesn't mean always saying 'no' to food dates with mates. It simply means I won't do it as often and when I do go out, I'll be more careful in my choices. To try and prevent mid-week spending on food, I'm going to get back on track with meal planning. By preparing my work lunch ahead of time, I'll be 100x less tempted to run over to Tesco to buy food simply because I was too lazy to cook the night before.

FUN FREE THINGS - I'm one of those people who would rather spend my money on adventures than materialistic things. But I think it's also important to remember that you don't have to spend money in order to have fun. You can go for a walk in the park, go for a picnic, see live music, be a tourist in your home town, keep an eye out for free events in the local newspapers, visit your local musuem or art gallery, stay home and build a fort, use your imagination, etc. Honestly, there will be so many free things to do in your local area, you just need to open your eyes and open your mind. If you want to tighten the purse strings, make a list of fun things that you could do for free this weekend instead of spending lots of money going out. You'll be surprised at how much you can do without spending a lot (or any!) money.

BUDGET - This one's a no brainer and pretty important. You can't be financially fit if you aren't willing to budget. You need to have a good idea of your current income and expenditure before you plan to save. Before I first started saving I made a detailed list of my income and all the different outgoings I have including: rent, bills, food, driving lessons, gym membership, monthly subscriptions, meals out, clothes shopping, days out, etc. As you can see my list of outgoings ranged from the necessities like food and rent to the 'luxuries' like eating out and shopping. From there, I looked at how I could cut my expenditures down. I started with the luxuries, cutting down my budget and promising to stick within those parameters. Then I turned to the necessities and looked at ways to reduce some of those costs. I also re-opened my credit card for emergency moments, but I haven't had to use it yet! It's just nice to have that security to fall back on if and only if it's ever needed. Once you budget, you'll have an idea of how much you are realistically able to save and you can get a plan into place.

TREAT YOURSELF - My budgeting point leads nicely onto this next one. Whilst it's important to budget, I'm a firm believer in the importance of treating yourself.  Now, I'm not saying max out that credit card. I'm simply saying don't budget so much that you don't allow yourself to have fun.You'll most likely end up feeling miserable and will inevitably compensate for that by winding up spending even more than you would have done if you just budgeted for treats in the first place. I've witnessed this happen to people I know first-hand and in the extreme cases, things got nasty. They didn't allow themselves any luxuries in their budget and when they simply couldn't afford to do anything to reward or treat themselves, they wound up feeling stressed and down. To perk themselves up they tended to think 'fuck it' towards the budget and splurged out on treating themselves...which always ended up biting them on the ass when they later realised they overspent, couldn't pay bills and would end up financially worse. Moral of the story? Make sure you include personal treats, rewards and money for luxuries in your budget and you won't end up overspending.

What are your top tips for staying financially fit?

N.B. This post was created in collaboration with Credit Card Insider. However all words, thoughts and photographs remain that of my own. If you have any questions, please let me know :)

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Four days in Los Angeles | Travel

4 nights in Los Angeles was nowhere near long enough. Although it was my first time in LA, and my first time in America in general, coming to Santa Monica felt like coming home.

After almost 12 hours of travelling, we touched down at LAX at about 2pm. We jumped in a taxi and headed straight to our Air BnB. As soon as we arrived at the apartment, we threw down our bags, quickly freshened up and headed out to explore, not wanting to waste a single second.

Naturally, we headed straight for the oceanfront. Our Air BnB was in an amazing location, just 4 blocks from the beach. We could step outside our apartment and see the horizon. Major perk seeing as the apartment was less than £350 for 4 nights.

LA just oozes good vibes. It just seems to have perfected the balance between a healthy, active lifestyle with a chilled, laidback atmosphere. It exuded positivity. As we strolled along the boardwalk, people jogged, ran, skated and cycled by. I could seriously envision myself living that lifestyle. Sadly, running along Blackpool promenade in the wind, rain and cold just doesn't appeal to me in the same way.

I was most giddy about visiting the original Muscle Beach. Unable to contain my excitement, I made sure it was the first place I visited. I stared in amazement as others would work out, climbing the ropes and tackling the gymnastics rings. Just past the gymnastics equipment people would be doing yoga or morning tai chi or acrobatics. The original Muscle Beach can be summed up as a giant jungle gym for fitness lovers (and anyone else for the matter!). It was without a doubt my favourite spot in Santa Monica. We also visited the new Muscle Beach in Venice Beach on our second day here. Standing in the spot where so many great athletes have stood before was inspiring, even if there was nothing going on whist we were there. If you're a bit of fitness junkie like me, hopefully you'll understand my excitement about visiting both the original and new Muscle Beach!

In the evening, we wandered around Downtown Santa Monica. Exhausted from our long travel day, we grabbed a greasy burger and strawberry lemonade from Johnny Rockets to fill our tummies before heading back to the apartment to crash out at 10pm.

On our second day in Santa Monica, we hired cruiser bicycles for a full day of exploring. We had a vague plan in mind and just hit the boardwalk, taking in the sights along the way. I couldn't even guess how many miles we cycled that day but we pretty much flat out cycled from 8am til after 5pm.

It was early morning when we hit the Ocean Front Walk so I ignored the 'cyclist dismount' signs and cycled along the street anyway. This greatly pleased the homeless community camping out at the side of the boardwalk, cheering me on for 'sticking it to the man'...turns out it's illegal to cycle on the sidewalk. I could have used the adjacent cycle path, but that would mean missing out on the creative arts and street performances of Venice Beach Boardwalk. I'd totally recommend checking out the Boardwalk, it's thriving with performers and is greatly entertaining and lively.

After seeing their amazing menu online, we decided to check out 26 beach for brunch. The french toast was amazingly tasty. I'll admit the service could have been better but hey, I won't hold it against them. When I next visit Los Angeles, I'll be sure to spend some more time exploring Venice Beach. If I had more time I would have loved to have visited Abbot Kinney Blvd, it sounds like it was filled with amazing food places, stores and good vibes in general!

We also cycled around Marina Del Rey because I'd seen that you could do SUP there. I'm a huge fan of paddle boarding so thought it'd be a fun break from cycling. Sadly, despite searching for a good 90 minutes and constantly checking the maps on my phone I just could not for the life of me see anywhere to do paddle boarding. Next time, I think I'll just stick to the beach!

I'm not a fan of night clubs or loud, busy bars so in the evening we had a quick online search for a bar with open-mic night or live music. We stumbled across The Victorian, which couldn't have been more perfect. With it's late 19th century decor and delicate fairy lights, the Victorian was an exquisitely beautiful bar. Down in the cellar laid the speakeasy Basement Tavern which has live music every night. It was such a lovely bar. We got chatting to a few of the locals who were all so friendly, including a couple of guys in a band called Tropical Nasty, who played a great little set. This was my kind of bar and reminded me of being back in the Northern Quarter in Manchester for a low key night of cocktails, good music and sweet people.

Another day, another early morning start. For our third day, we planned to check out Hollywood. After all, it would have been unspeakable for us to visit Los Angeles and not go to tinsel town. I would have loved to have made time for Beverly Hills or to hike up to the Hollywood sign, but we just couldn't fit them in our trip. There's always next time so I'm not too disheartened. It just gives me more reason to come back again!

Now, back to Hollywood. I'm just going to be blunt here. I didn't like it. It's as simple as that. I just did not like it. It was underwhelming and left me thinking 'Is this it?'. I'm not really big on celebrity culture, so maybe that's why I didn't enjoy it. I just found it so anti-climatic. I don't know what I was expecting, but I was just expecting more than the spend my day walking round staring at the ground as I battled past other tourists and walked past tacky gift stores.

Unimpressed with Hollywood, we didn't stay for long. After a visit to Amoeba Records we decided to switch up our day and spend it walking along Melrose Avenue appreciating the wall art instead. It was an easy-going day filled with sunshine and laughter with my sister. We stopped at Blu Jam Cafe for pancakes. We had earlier stopped at a greasy diner where I ate the worst burger I've ever had in my life. I can't even remember the name of the diner but yeah, it was gross. Because of the burger incident, I wasn't that hungry when we got to Blu Jam. We shared a giant portion of blueberry pancakes and I kept refreshed with a matcha iced latte. The food did not disappoint. It was incredible. Brunch is 100% my favourite meal of the day and good brunch places is something that my home town seriously lacks.

In the evening, we ate out at The Cheesecake Factory. And oh my god, it was amazing. I had the impression that Cheesecake Factory would be a mediocre chain offering processed, unhealthy meals. Boy was I wrong. The food was incredible. There was so much variety, massive portions and most importantly, the food was fresh, delicious and pretty healthy. The service was brilliant too. Basically, it turned out to be my favourite food chain and now I'm wishing we had one back here in the UK. Obviously, I picked up a cheesecake to take back home to devour after our night out!

Whilst on Melrose Ave., we noticed the Comedy Store and decided it'd be so much fun to go to a comedy club for the night. After another quick search online, I found the Townhouse in Venice Beach does a free comedy club night on Wednesdays, which seeing as it was Wednesday couldn't have been more perfect! Whilst at the Victorian the previous night, one of the people we met had already mentioned the Townhouse to me, telling me all about it's history as a former speakeasy - so cool! Asking locals for recommendations really does help out. It meant we got to frequent the hidden gems that the LA locals enjoyed. The comedy club was hilarious. It was an intimate gig filled with regulars. We were the only English-folk in there and it was honestly so refreshing to be at a local event and experience something off the beaten track. I was so scared that we'd get called out and heckled at but luckily we must have blended in well because we got to enjoy the show without being the butt of any anti-England/tourist jokes!

Our last full day in LA! My sister really wanted to go to Universal Studios, so the night before I booked tickets online. Universal Studios was pretty sweet. There were virtually no queues, which is a bonus! At the theme parks back home queue time for rides are alwaaays at least an hour long. Thankfully, the max time we had to wait at Universal Studios was 25 minutes. Obviously, I was most excited about the Wizarding World of Harry Potter! It was as magical as I expected. There were so many little kids wandering around in their wizarding robes too, it was super adorable. Whilst in Hogsmede, I picked up a chocolate frog and some Bertie Botts Beans!

After exploring Hogsmede, we checked out the rest of the Universal Studios. Although the place was pretty big, there wasn't an awful lot to do. The Jurassic Park and Revenge of the Mummy rides were both really fun with nice, short queues! We went on the studio tour, which if you're big on your movies, is pretty interesting. To wrap up our day at Universal Studios we watched a special effects show. The show was brilliant. I already knew how a lot of the special effects worked but it was still so entertaining to watch them perform and debunk some of the special effects in front of us on stage!

For our last night in LA, we wanted to make sure we were feeling refreshed for travelling to Las Vegas the next day. We got back to the apartment at about 530pm and both agreed a chilled night in was the perfect plan. Our chilled night in started with a mini earthquake tremor. It was around 2.9 on the richter scale and jolted the building. We both genuinely thought a car had gone into the side of the apartment block at first! Once we discovered it was an earthquake, I was so sister on the other hand was terrified. She ran straight to the fridge grabbed the vodka and wine then hid under the duvet whimpering. Naturally, I acted as any loving sister would and laughed.

Chilled night in meant laying in bed eating left over Cheesecake Factory cheesecake. Seriously, can we please start a petition to get one in the UK?!

Time to say bye-bye to LA. I had a total blast and got to do so many lovely things in the short time I was there. There's so much more that I would have loved to do, which simply means I could go back again and have a totally different experience. However, it was time for the next-leg of our trip and to see what Las Vegas has to offer.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Los Angeles Photo Diary

Four days in LA was nowhere near long enough for me. Cruising around LA as we explored Santa Monica, Venice Beach and Marina Del Rey was one of my favourite days. Underwhelmed by the Walk of Fame we spent our day in Hollywood strolling along the grafitti-covered Melrose Avenue. Our final evening was spent at a low-key locals comedy club and during our entire time in Los Angeles we didn't spend anywhere near as much time on the beach as I would have liked to have done.

I plan to write up a travel post on LA, detailing everything we got up to in the short and sweet four days we were there. In the meantime, I hope these photographs give you an insight into life in California.