Tuesday, 29 May 2018

A Bank Holiday Round Up + Why It Was The Best One Yet

A Bank Holiday Round Up + Why It Was The Best One Yet
For me, bank holidays usually consist of lazing around. Why? Because no matter how much I try, the thought of having basically two Sundays and being able to drink prosecco on a school night is way better than tackling the DIY furniture I've been meaning to put together for 12 months. That coupled with the fact my partner and I thinking we're too old to to brand ourselves as having a 'Sunday Funday' means that our bank holidays are usually spent drinking tea and watching movies. For once, this weekend was different - We had an absolute blast so much so that I had to share it. 

This bank holiday saw the return of Slam Dunk and it's without a doubt our favourite music event of the year. Since we love Leeds so much, we always like to make a weekend of it so I booked a half day in work on Friday so we could hit the road early. Inevitably we got stuck in traffic and the journey, that should have taken us an hour and a half, actually took us four hours. Annoyingly this meant pushing back e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g we'd planned to do that evening but we still managed to make the most of it. 

We decided to exchange our wristbands on Friday evening so after a lovely walk through the city to the uni, we headed to Byron for dinner. We planned on finding somewhere new but since it was getting on, it made sense to stick with what we know, plus, it's bloody delightful. 

A couple of greasy burgers later, our friend Chris came down from York and we headed to Headrow House following Joe's recommendation. I LOVED this place. It had everything from delicious food and a beer hall, to a cocktail bar and two terraces. We opted for Redondo Beach and sat out on the terrace since the rain held off - It had such a cool vibe and I honestly could have sat up there all night, laughing and catching up. We ended the night watching some TV with a brew back at the hotel in true rock and roll style.

Next morning we headed to Ox Club at Headrow House for brunch. The food was absolutely delicious and it was so unbelievably chill. I was dying to try their Steak and Eggs but couldn't resist the Ox Club Breakfast - For once, I decided against a mimosa in a bid to pace myself for the rest of the day. Sensible adult decision? Tick. 

The next nine hours were bloody fantastic. The sun shone down on Millennium Square and bands were on FIRE. We caught the end of Dream State before reliving our youth watching The Audition - For me, it felt like 2009 but with lager and without an MP3 player. We strolled around to a few other stages before returning to the main stage for Twin Atlantic. I was so excited to see them and they didn't disappoint - They'll definitely be one to watch when they're out on tour. Later in the day since it was so warm out, we headed back to the hotel between sets for a quick outfit change and to drop off the cameras I didn't even use - I had all intentions of getting some great shots but I was having so much fun that I didn't think about it. 

We had a cheeky Archers and lemonade before heading back to the festival for Taking Back Sunday. My god, it was BRILLIANT. The crowd were unreal and much like The Audition, it took me right back to my early teens. I've never heard so many people sing to Cute Without The E and truthfully, it felt like a real moment. Jimmy Eat World closed the show and wow, it was emotional. They played some absolute gems along with the best from Bleed American. We swayed, we chanted and we sang at the top of our lungs. It was an incredible end to an incredible day. 

We stopped off for a cocktail at The Liquorist on the way back and accidentally ended up in Greek Street Social - Hats of to two women on the dancefloor who knew every SINGLE song and danced to their hearts content as everyone cheered them on. Saturday night at it's finest. 

The drive home on Sunday didn't take half as long as Fridays and we spent the afternoon relaxing in the garden before watching Coco - It was so emotional and I definitely didn't see it coming. It's an absolute must watch but bring the tissues. 

Yesterday we cleaned the house and caught up with my parents over a coffee. It felt like the perfect end to an amazing weekend and it made a change for us to actually make the most of it. Slam Dunk was brilliant as always and I already can't wait for next year!

What did you get up to this bank holiday?


Friday, 25 May 2018

6 To-Do's When You're In London

6 Picks From My London Bucket List
I've been thinking about travel lists for the longest time. I already have mainland Europe and USA notes scribbled in my notebook but before I talk about them - despite them being incredibly exciting - I want to start closer to home. 

It's been about four years since I've been to London. I've actually only visited three times but each trip was so different. My first was full of classics including The London Eye, Tower of London and a boat trip down the Thames and my latest was about living more local, exploring boroughs and taking in the surroundings. 

It's never occurred to me before that London can be quite overwhelming. It's an amazing city with so much to see and do and there's no doubt that my next trip will be different again so, in case you're planning a trip sometime soon, I wanted to share six picks from my London bucket list. 

Have A Royal Experience I'm not suggesting you jump into bed with the Queen but of course, with London housing our Royal family, there's a whole host of Royal fun to be had. Heading to Buckingham Palace to watch the changing of the guard is seriously underrated - Though it's not the most interesting thing you can do, it's cool to see what actually happens. Windsor Castle is a must for me and not just because of the royal wedding - It's set in the charming town of Windsor and the grounds are stunning and definitely worth the visit. If you're strolling around Big Ben, it's also worth taking a stroll to Westminster Abbey - It's not only an incredibly impressive structure but also where Kate and Wills got married. If you're not into chasing the royals around London, you could always settle for a royal nights sleep; https://www.londonservicedapartments.co.uk/locations/west-london/south-kensington/

See A Show Of course seeing a show isn't absolutely necessary but with so many out there, why wouldn't you? I've been lucky enough to see Billy Elliot and Wicked in London and though shows aren't always my cup of tea, I was blown away by both of them. It can be hard to know what shows are the best to see so here's a little guide; https://www.visitlondon.com/things-to-do/whats-on/theatre/top-ten-musicals

Eat Great Food Like with most cities, London is FULL of amazing places to eat. Everything from fine dining to street food is right on your doorstep and it's worth taking full advantage while you're there. A few years ago while staying in the Hub hotel, we stumbled upon Pepe, an amazing Italian street food cafe near Covent Garden. They offer take out pizza by the slice which was perfect to nibble on while walking to the tube. We stumbled upon it completely by chance so it's worth keeping your eyes peeled when you're out and about.

Portobello Market Not only is Notting Hill one of my favourite films but it's also one of my favourite areas of London and on my last trip, I couldn't resist a stroll around Portobello Market. There's everything from artisans latest creations to amazing food and drink - Not to mention the buildings which are absolutely beautiful. A very Instagrammable location if I do say so myself. 

Seek Adventure Not only is London an amazing place to sight-see and eat scones, it actually has some pretty adventurous activities to offer including speedboats on the Thames and my personal favourite, riding horses through Hyde Park. After having a cheeky read of Time Out, I've also found out that you can bungee jump off The O2 but since I chickened out of jumping off the Stratosphere in Las Vegas, I don't think I'll be signing myself up anytime soon; https://www.timeout.com/london/things-to-do/14-adventurous-activities-in-london-to-get-your-adrenaline-pumping

Have a Picnic I'm not entirely sure why but I've always loved the idea of having a picnic in a London park. I've no idea where to start as there a literally so many but Hyde Park and Green Park spring to mind and if it was a clear and sunny day, I'd also check out Primrose Hill. I also love those little communal gardens in the middle of houses but I'm 99% sure I couldn't just stroll into one of them. 

Of course, there are a million and one things you can do in England's fine capital but I thought I'd pick these six from my London bucket list to share with you today. 

I'd love to know your favourite things to do London or what would be on your London bucket list if you've never been!

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Who I'll Be Watching At Slam Dunk 2018

Who I'll Be Watching At Slam Dunk 2018
I can't believe it's almost time for Slam Dunk 2018. It doesn't seem like five minutes ago I was dancing the night away, beer in hand and doing my best to sing to the likes of Deaf Havana, Don Broco and Enter Shikari. With bank holiday weekend right around the corner, it seems the right time to sift through the clashes and decide who I'll be watching at #SDF18.

Last years line up was absolutely brilliant, I had the best day and I managed to catch some of my favourite bands but undoubtedly, this years line up is one of the best yet. I spent so long on the app last night, carefully putting together my schedule and hoping to make the most of my day so without further ado, here are the bands I'll definitely be catching this year but no doubt there will be some other greats that fall between. 

Jimmy Eat World With two great headliners to choose from, the decision was tough. Though I'm a fan of Good Charlotte and think they're such a great band, I absolutely love Jimmy Eat World and out of the two, they're the band I'm less likely to see again. 

PVRIS Man, I am such a PVRIS fan that I might squeal a little when they come Lynn Gunn is the most epic front woman and each album they've released has been on top form. I'm so , so excited and you bet I'll be there singing at the top of my lungs. 

Lower Than Atlantis I wasn't too sure about LTA. I've seen them support a few bands in the past and almost forgot how great their music was until they cropped up in a playlist a few weeks ago. They're playing the Monster Energy Stage so I'll be enjoying it from the back, with a beer in hand.

Twin Atlantic Man I have so much love for Twin Atlantic. I planned on catching them at TRNSMT in Glasgow last year but unfortunately I didn't make it. 'Heart and Soul' and 'Free' are some of their absolute gems and I can't bloody wait to sway in the sunshine.

Dream State Dream State are a band relatively new to me but what I've heard, I love. For me, discovering new bands is one of the great things about festivals.

The Audition The comeback of all comebacks? I think so. When The Audition appeared on the line up, my other half and I were basically sold. It's going to take everyone back to the good ol' days and I'm sure I'll spot a few tears among the fist pumps. 

I'm ridiculously excited for Saturday and literally can't wait to hear all kinds of great music! There are so many great bands playing, these six are just the tip of the iceberg.

Are you heading to Slam Dunk this year? Who are you most excited for?


Sunday, 20 May 2018

The Product Working Wonders For My Skin

The Product Working Wonders For My Skin
I've been on a journey with my skincare for over a year now. Don't get me wrong, I've always washed and moisturised my face but it was only in March 2017, after a Saturday trip to Boots, that I picked up some skincare products that changed the game. Not all of the products ended up being part of my routine but I was fascinated with what they did for my skin.  

Since then, I've been on a mission to find products that work best for me. I explored different cleansers and found favourites in Elizabeth Arden's Visible Difference and Liz Earle's Cleanse and Polish. My micellar water of choice has remained L'Oreal and though I'm still deciding whether the L'Oreal Extraordinary Oil moisturizer is for me, toner soon became the last thing to check off. I'd been using the L'Oreal Fine Flowers toner since that first skincare haul and whilst I still love it and think it's a great product, I felt like my skin needed something more. 

Now with writing and reading beauty content, I come across new products on a daily basis. Products claiming to work wonders or be the next best thing are not unusual but most of the time they don't stick around - Apart from one, Pixi Glow Tonic. The Pixi Glow Tonic is mentioned time and time again as being a 'hero product' when it comes to toner. I've seen amazing before and afters and read more positive than negative reviews by a mile. 

What makes it so special? For starters, it's an exfoliating toner formulated with 5% glycolic acid - If like me, you're not acid savvy, Caroline Hirons wrote a great cheat sheet over on her blog. The Glow Tonic claims to firm and tighten the skin, reduce dullness and remove dead skin cells. It's also said to be great for blemishes since it exfoliates and purifies.

How did I get on? Honestly, at first, I was nervous about using it. I'd just got my skincare routine down to a T and though I was in search of a toner,  I didn't want anything that was going to cause me to break out or cause irritations.  However after using it for a month, I can confirm it's been a great experience.  

I have combination skin and use it every evening after cleansing. Over the past month, I've visibly noticed less breakouts and reduced scarring from previous blemishes. I've also noticed less and less dry skin on my face and for the first time in 10 years, I no longer need to use a heavier moisturiser after cleansing - Something I never thought would happen. During the first few days, I did experience some stinging when applying but it seems it was down to where my skin was most sensitive and it disappeared after a few seconds. My skin looks more radiant each morning and my need to wear make up is slowly decreasing as my complexion has evened out dramatically. 

Overall, I can't believe how much this product is working wonders for my skin. I really didn't expect to be as impressed with it as I am but it really is a great product and it's definitely worth trying out if you can - You can sometimes find travel sized ones in M&S. 

Have you ever tried the Pixi Glow Tonic? What are your thoughts or hero products?

* This post contains affiliate links. 



Friday, 18 May 2018

Four Months At The Gym + Why I'm Still Enjoying It

Four Months At The Gym + Why I'm Still Enjoying It
You may or may not know that in January I joined the gym. It was a mixture of 'new year new me' and just generally wanting to be fitter. Now I can assure you, I was the last person that thought I'd still have my membership more than two months later but surprisingly, I've actually come to enjoy it. Not only can I physically see how my body is changing and how my health is improving but oddly, it's actually become part of my lifestyle. Truth be told, most of my motivation stems from my bestie who basically lives and breaths fitness but there's actually a few other things that have helped me along the way so I thought they might help you too. 

Finding something you enjoy When I first set foot in the gym back in January, I took one look at it and thought 'Wow, this is going to be terrible'. It had been a long time since I'd been in this kind of setting and the fact I didn't know how to use any of the equipment terrified me - Thankfully, each time I went to the gym, I became more and more familiar. Since then, I've found that I really enjoy the incline programs on the treadmill for my cardio and upper body weight machines - I've not branched out to legs yet. I also considered taking up cycling after enjoying so much when I was younger and finding companies like Velosure that offer bike insurance. 

Create a routine I never thought I'd be the kind of person that knew exactly when they were going to the gym but surprisingly, I've really got myself into the swing of things. I go at least three times a week thought the actual days and times depend on what time I'm working. It's nice to be able to tick it of my list of things to do that week and since I wear a Fitbit, it's also great to see the results on there. If I can see one day that I burnt a little under my calorie goal, I'll add another workout in for good measure. I also decided that if I have one too many proseccos on a Friday then I have to gym on Saturday - Not only to make up for it but also, to help the hangover. Surprisingly it works! It's not about being strict, it's finding what works - I'm more of a goal setter so I like to have something to work towards.

Find a gym buddy It's such a good idea to work out with other people. The times my bestie and I worked out together were the toughest workouts I'd managed but it was so motivating. You almost don't realise you're doing it when you can gossip whilst on the treadmill. Whilst it's not imperative and I enjoy working out alone, sometimes it's nice to have someone there. If working out with a friend isn't your thing, you could always opt for a personal trainer. They can be as present as you want them to be and could really be the answer if you're lacking motivation too. 

Really, there isn't a secret to enjoying working out, I've found it's just something that comes with time. Finding what you like and creating a routine have really been the key points for me and whilst there are some weeks - hello time of the month - where I'm not so motivated, the thought that I'm paying for a membership that I'm not using helps get me through. 

What motivates you to work out?


Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Low Light Photos I Won't Post On Instagram

A month or so back, I decided to change my edits. I wanted to up my photography game by getting to know my camera better and explore the best ways to showcase what I'd captured. I've been having so much fun since then and I'm more in love with my blog and Instagram than ever before but of course, there are some photos that I haven't shared - Some aren't as good quality as I'd like and some are too dark for my aesthetic but I do, however, want to show them the light of day and give you a bit of an insight so here it goes. 

Low Light Photos I Won't Post On Instagram - ItsHollieAnn
Bala Lake, Wales I actually took this photo on a day drive out to Bala a couple of years back and completely forgot about it until I installed Lightroom. I enhanced the light flare from the sun to add a little something to an otherwise quite boring photo and I love how it turned out. Bala is honestly one of my favourite drives out in the summer. The views around the lake are stunning and the town is adorable.

Low Light Photos I Won't Post On Instagram - ItsHollieAnn
Las Vegas, USA This shot of Planet Hollywood and the strip is a classic example of Instagram vs Reality. Whilst this photo is quite composed, it was actually taken on a walk down to the Bellagio the night my bestie had arrived in Vegas. She'd been there a total of about 5 hours yet we'd consumed an obscene amount of cocktails and decided to go on the LONGEST walk. I don't even know how we made it - So, so drunk.

Low Light Photos I Won't Post On Instagram - ItsHollieAnn
Las Vegas, USA Oddly enough, this was taken the same night as the above photo. We got a yard drink from Beer Park and stood at the back of the fountains watching them in amazement. I didn't realise how well you could see Paris until I played around with this photo in Lightroom but again, considering we were walking around without a care in the world, it turned out to be a great shot. 

Low Light Photos I Won't Post On Instagram - ItsHollieAnn
Dublin, Ireland This classic Irish setting is actually inside The Auld Dubliner. We arrived in Dublin really early that day and around 10.30am, walked around Temple Bar deciding what pub would be our first of the day. The Auld Dubliner was quiet and charming when we arrived but as we made our way through many-a-Guinness, the live music started and the crowds came. It became so full of life and it was so great to see so many people having such a great time. 

Low Light Photos I Won't Post On Instagram - ItsHollieAnn
Manchester, UK I'm not usually one for having my camera out at gigs but I like to capture at least a couple of photos just to document my time there - and of course for a cheeky Instagram story. This was over a year ago now when we saw Deaf Havana in Manchester Ritz - Not only one of our favourite bands but also one of our favourite venues. They'd just released the incredible album, All These Countless Nights and it was their first gig in three or four years. As always, they were brilliant.

Low Light Photos I Won't Post On Instagram - ItsHollieAnn
Las Vegas, USA You know, I really wish this photo was better quality - It doesn't do this view justice at all. Whilst it may look like we were doing a bit of night time sight-seeing, this photo was actually taken from Voodoo Lounge, a club on top of the Rio that I mentioned in my Las Vegas post. We we're so hyped up after seeing Penn and Teller and jumped at the chance of free entry.  We spent the night dancing on the outdoor dance-floor and drinking a few too many oversized tequilas - It was such a great night and one that we still laugh about now. The Rio is set back from the strip so out front you can see it from top to bottom and from the side like here, you can just about see Luxor and Mandalay Bay as well as the surrounding areas. 

Well there we go, the low light photos I won't post on Instagram all out in the open. As I mentioned above, it's not that I don't like these photos. I just can't find a way to make them work. I really hope you liked seeing them and hearing more about each one since my Instagram captions seem to be more chatty than descriptive. 

Do you limit yourself to what you post on Instagram or do you share whatever you feel like?


Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Speaking Of Road Safety

Speaking Of Road Safety..
*This post was written in collaboration with Iverson Tyres Ltd . All words are my own.

Road safety is important for everyone. From the second you get behind the wheel, you are taking responsibility for yourselves, others in the car and everyone else on the road. 

For me, road safety is very close to home. Not only am I a relatively new driver and still ridiculously conscious of my driving behaviour but also both my Dad and partner have been involved in serious car accidents in the last 10 years, both with different causes. 

After seeing first hand how unsafe driving has impacted the lives of not only my Dad and partner but the families, friends and other individuals involved, with the help of Iverson Tyres Ltd, today I have four things to address.

Using Mobile Phones Why do people use their phone while driving? Surely the fact that it's illegal to do so is enough to tell you, you shouldn't be doing it. I can see how it's tempting to answer a quick call or change a song but the latest trend of Snapchatting while driving really gets under my skin. There's absolutely no way that while texting your other half, best mate or taking mindless videos, that you're concentrating on the road. It only takes a second for things to change. 

Speed Limits Speed limits are for everyone. I will always remember driving to Nottingham with a guy I was dating. We got to a stretch of bypass and there was a bunch of cars driving in the left lane all quite close. He pulled out to get around them and soon enough was easily 20mph over the speed limit. I pleaded him to slow down in case someone else pulled out - He didn't but they did and within seconds we were screeching to a halt with everyone behind having to do the same. I got him to pull over and got out of the car. Not only was I incredibly frustrated that he'd been so stupid, I was mortified that he'd done it with me in the car especially after asking him to slow down - For me, it was a deal breaker. 

Tyres I will be the first person to hold my hands up and say I don't check my tyres enough. I don't look at the tread at all and have no idea what the tyre pressure should be though I am trying to do my bit to learn - Mostly by keeping everything written on a sticky note in my glove box. It's so important to keep them well maintained to prevent hydroplaning and blow outs so it's handy to know that garages like Iverson Tyres Ltd will actually send the tyres directly to your door. So, when the time comes to get new tyres which I have a feeling will be towards the end of the summer, it's definitely something I'm going to look into. Not only is it super convenient but it also takes the pressure off having to go to a garage with no idea what I'm talking about - Online I can just pop in my reg number and go. No excuses. 

Bulbs I can absolutely never fathom why people drive around without lights on or knowing they have bulbs out. I can completely appreciate that it's not always easy to tell but surely every month or so, just give your car a once over to check. There are have been a scary number of occasions recently where cars haven't had bright bulbs in the dark or when people haven't had indicators on and I've had to slam on the brakes. It's not okay.  Lucky for me, despite my car being quite old, it has a handy and also very annoying warning light on my dashboard which flashes orange whenever there's a bulb out. If you watch my Instagram Stories, you'll no doubt be aware of the indicator bulb situation a few weeks ago but still, as much as that was a pain and a total waste of an hour of my life, I'm happy knowing it's sorted. 

I hope you enjoyed this post. Driving isn't something I often talk about online but it is something that I do everyday and after almost a year of being on the road, I'm starting to notice the irritations that come along with it. Remember, always better to be safe than sorry.


Thursday, 10 May 2018

3 Ways To Take The Next Step With Your Blog

3 Ways To Take The Next Step With Your Blog
Sometimes I think back to why I started blogging - As cliche as it sounds, I started my blog because I had so much I wanted to say and quite frankly, I think my bestie was tired of hearing me go on about the same lipstick 10 times over. Honestly at first, I didn't think much of it. I'd snap badly composed flatlays on my kitchen floor and over expose every photo I posted on Instagram. Whilst that's absolutely okay, I wanted something more. I wanted my blog to look more professional and be something my readers could take seriously. Since back in 2016, I'd like to think I've successfully taken my blog to the next level. It only took a couple very small changes but they've made a huge difference and now I not only post content I'm proud of but I've been lucky enough to collaborate with some amazing brands. 

Of course, there's no right or wrong way to blog. Everyone's journey is different and that's the beauty of having your own space online today however, I did want to touch on a few small points in case you were thinking of ways to start taking an extra step with your blog. 

Work On Your SEO You don't need to be an SEO whiz to run a successful blog but it helps to have a few points in place to make sure your posts are optimized. Including relevant keywords within your post and repeating the title are tiny things that will send you well on your way but you can also add 'Alt Text' on your photos, name them on your desktop with the same title of your post and include your keywords in the meta data or search description. I don't want to get too technical because I'm really not an SEO expert but I read a few helpful posts and articles that helped me get started. 

Think About Money I'm not talking pouring thousands into your blog overnight with the hopes of it being successful, I'm talking about small amounts of money that you can invest in your blog to take it up a notch. About a year ago, I invested in a new camera to make my photos better. I knew it wasn't 100% necessary but as I mentioned above, I wanted my blog to be something more and to look that little bit more professional. Around the same time, I also invested in a theme. At the time, it was £50 that I really wanted to put towards an ASOS order but I knew that it would pay off in the long run. If you are thinking about putting a bit more money into your blog, you could read up on instant business line of credit. Of course, thinking of any kind of external funding takes a lot of consideration and as always, there are risks involved but it's good to read up and see what's out there. 

Publish Useful Content I mentioned above that blogs are everyone's own journey but in order for your blog to have the maximum impact, I think it's important that your reader takes something away with them. Whilst I enjoy reading personal posts from people I follow, I don't necessarily post personal stories myself - I incorporate them into posts but it's not the sole focus. I like being more personal on Twitter and Instagram but when it comes to my blog, I often find myself saying 'Hollie it's unlikely that people will want to read about your day' - I draw inspiration from my life but I don't use my blog like a diary. Of course, if that's your thing then brilliant but for me I like a slightly more editorial feel. 

In the Blogosphere, everyone has a different take on what will take their blog to the next level. There's no right or wrong way to do things but these are just some of the things I did when it came to my own blog. I'd love to hear your thoughts!
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