Friday, 30 June 2017

My 2017 Blogging & Personal Goals - How Are They Going So Far?

At the beginning of the year I gave myself 10 goals to try and achieve by the end of 2017. 5 blog goals, and 5 personal goals. I also told myself that I'd write a progress post for how they're all going at the mid point of the year - and I remembered that!

Unfortunately, I, uh, mostly forgot about my goals during the year itself.


I mean, come on, it's been a busy year! I started a completely different career, bought a flat... Well, either way, it's time to put up a progress post as to how I'm doing so far. And I can pretty much already guess that I have probably failed to accomplish any of them, but let's take a look - and hopefully prompt myself to actually remember them for the rest of the year!

Blogging Goals
001. My first goal was to reach 2,500 followers on twitter. This hasn't happened, not even close, but I'm at around 1700 now which I'm happy with. And to be honest, I suppose I'm no longer all that fussed either - I've had some great new followers over the last few months including quite a few that I still have little chats with every now and then. And that's what I really wanted from this goal!

002. To reach 1,200 followers on Bloglovin' was the next. Clearly when I made this goal I was not expecting the big Bloglovin' backlash that happened a few months ago, when a lot of bloggers and readers deleted their accounts. Oops. I'm on just under 1000 now so this goal may actually be obtainable - although I have always found it very hard to grow followers on there, so perhaps not.

003. To reach 1,000 followers on Instagram. Grumble grumble. More grumbles. I keep gaining a lot of followers. I also keep losing a lot of followers. I like Instagram, but I suppose I just don't get it as a medium. I don't understand the algorithm, I don't understand any of it!

004. To continue to build connections through twitter. Hoorah! I've succeeded at this one, as already explained in point one. Yay!

005. To find a new method of planning that actually works for me. Um. No. Well, to be fair, I did, and then I started a new job with a new shift pattern and it all went out the window. I'm much more settled now however, so hopefully we're going to see this one improve. Eventually.

Personal Goals
001. To cook something healthy at least twice a month. Oh, gosh. This hasn't happened at all. Sometimes I eat cereal and consider it a meal. Ultimately, I really just haven't had the time to do this one but I don't feel too bad about it. I've started being one of those people that buys their work meals pretty much every single day, and I've got much better at buying healthy options rather than just endless portions of Wasabi, so I'm going to say I consider this one a success even if I've not even slightly done it.

002. To enjoy my work. Well, no. But I also don't not enjoy my work, and that's much better than where I was when I first set up these goals.

003. To make more effort to see certain friends more often. This one is a yes and a no. I'm doing much better at seeing friends more consistently, though this is largely helped by the fact that my shift pattern is much better now. There's some friends I'm still not seeing as often as I would like but this is more of a mutual thing. I'm busy, they've got babies. We try, it's difficult. Hopefully we keep trying!

004. To read more often again. Well, not really. At least, not in the sense that I expected. The intention is clearly there as I keep adding more and more books to my Amazon wishlist, but then I read the free preview on my Kindle and most of the time I'm just not feeling it. However I have a few more magazines that I am now consistently reading (including actual magazines rather than just my occasional copy of OK!)  and I consider this a win as it's much more than I was managing at the start of the year.

005. To  go exploring and keep up my London walks again. I'm actually doing this one! But not in a way that I expected when I proposed this goal. My salary is higher now, so exploring is definitely happening more frequently than I expected it to be. My London walks are also happening - just not in the way that I thought they would. I planned on continuing to do the Capital Ring and the London Loop and I've completely failed at those, however random walks to random places have become a frequent part of my life, so I definitely count this one as a success.

How are you doing on your annual goals so far?

Monday, 26 June 2017

A Trip to Copenhagen - Part 1

Nyhavn, Copenhagen
It's been a few weeks since I visited Copenhagen now, and as such I figure it's really about time I wrote up a little post all about my trip there. 

I chose Copenhagen largely due to the fact that it was basically the must-visit destination of my friends last year, combined with the fact that I managed to find flights for really cheap. (Although, in retrospect I should have done a bit more research into this - I was excited and booked the cheap flights for a longer stay, later discovering that hotels in Copenhagen were actually extortionate. Oh well) I was advised by all of them that Copenhagen was a lovely place to visit, but not to stay there for too many days as there wasn't quite enough there to make it a trip for more than a weekend or so. So off we went!

Friday, 23 June 2017

Some Blog Stats & Research - The Year So Far!

As we're pretty much half way through the year right now, I decided it might be interesting to do some looking around in my google analytics and have a look at what people have been interested in on the blog in the last six months. So, I took a look at allllll the data from 1st January through to now to have a look at what the most viewed pages are, as well as how people tend to find me.

The results were quite a surprise! The posts that people have engaged with the most and that I still get comments on were not all that high - whilst certain product reviews that I thought people wouldn't be all that interested in have remained consistently in my top 10.

I'll mention right now though that some of these statistics are definitely a little off. I've tinkered with my layout twice this year already and cleverly managed to delete the tracking code both of those times. Hey, at least I remembered to go back to it faster this time! I also get a fair bit of readership through Bloglovin, so I'm not sure to the extent that info from there is tracked.

First of all, the bit that's not massively surprising. My demographics - 41% of people that read this blog are 25-34 which really doesn't surprise me as that's my age bracket too. 82% of readers are female, and 68% of readers are from the UK - again, both of which make sense.

My Most Read Posts
I will start by saying that google likes to include both a desktop link and a mobile link. For ease, I've used these numbers individually as trying to merge everything would take way too long - however, if there's any repeat (and there quite often is!) I've removed the second one so that this doesn't end up being the same post over and over again.

001. My most read post in the last six months has been this review of Hotel Chocolat's Mother's Day collection.Which I am quite happy with and I suppose not too surprised about - it included a giveaway, and I include reviews of Hotel Chocolat products quite a lot here so it doesn't surprise me that other readers are fans of their goodies as well!
002. My review of Simply Cook food boxes has been very well received and has scored highly in both desktop and mobile viewing. What's particularly surprising to me about this one is that this post is from 2014 - which is three houses ago now! Coincidentally, Chris has recently bought a box so maybe I need to make a follow up review soon!
003. My review of Ginger & Mint, a juice bar and health food store is next. I have no regrets with this, they do sell very delicious juices and I only wish I could have them more often!
004. My review of the Body Shop's fresh nude foundation. I am surprised by the appearance of this one, as for starters it's a post from 2015. I also found that on the whole the foundation wasn't that popular a product, and my reviews of their fresh face masks are still quite consistently linked to on twitter etc so I was expecting a Body Shop review to appear here - but probably not this one!
005. My review of the Happiness Planner. I'm actually not too surprised by this one - I know that this is a very popular brand, particularly among bloggers. It was quite hard to find any reviews for this particular product, so it would make sense that mine was one that would pop up. And another big contributor to this is that the Happiness Planner twitter feed does retweet my reviews every now and then, so this is the one out of the top five that I most expected to see.

Most Frequent Searches
Next up, I took a look at what people had been searching for in order to find my posts. I hoped for something funny, but alas, generally the things used to find me are quite straight forward.

001. "Simply Cook review" and "Simply Cook cost" are both very high scorers. I suppose this isn't really a surprise, being that the aforementioned review still receives a surprising amount of views!
002. "Amazonian Acai" is next, which refers to the Body Shop's fresh face mask review that I expected to see featured in the most read posts, but wasn't.
003. "Body shop foundation" and "body shop fresh nude foundation porcelain," were next. Again, unexpected - but makes sense now with the amount of views that this post still gets.
004. "Bomb cosmetics review," is next which is a very big surprise to me as I can't actually remember the last time I bought a product from Bomb Cosmetics, let alone the last time I actually wrote a post about them! Perhaps this is a sign that I need to start buying more?!
005. "Caesar buffet," is next, which refers to a buffet that I reviewed in Caesar's Palace in Vegas.

From this, I can take it that readers like reviews a lot, and also like chocolate (and food in general!) and the body shop. These things I knew! What I am a little disappointed about however, is that a lot of my travel posts haven't popped up particularly highly at all. This surprises me as those posts do get a lot of engagement, and it's a bit of a disappointment to me as they also take absolutely ages to write and edit so I'd really like it if they did do a bit higher. I think one way I can use to try and boost these in the future is to perhaps make them more specific, however that's not really me. I could write a post about the best coffee shops in Copenhagen and it would probably do better than a more generic one - however, I like writing the more generic ones and I also really like reading them on the blogs of others, so I'm probably quite likely to keep just making myself happy and doing things my way even if that is the wrong thing to do!

I've got a few ideas from this, and I'll be posting another update at the end of the year with this as well as stats from the whole year. (Well, for the most part - I've got a few ideas of things to add next time, and obviously I haven't been tracking that yet so I can't fully include it!)

Take a look through your own stats - what surprises you the most?


Monday, 19 June 2017

An Unlimited Brunch, at Aubaine

I recently headed to Aubaine in Liverpool Street to give their unlimited brunch menu a go, and figured it was very much something worth telling all of you about!

I love a good brunch. It's probably my favourite meal, as it includes basically the best of everything I could ever want food wise. I don't do unlimited brunches too often as they tend to cost at least £50+ and obviously there's just not the space in my bank account for that - but as Aubaine's unlimited offering was only £15, it seemed rude not to!

 This is the menu. As you can see, to add unlimited drinks on top was an extra £15. Something you may also notice is that the menu really is a bit egg heavy, which most of us stated that we found a bit of a problem as we all felt a bit egged out by the end of it. I've been suspecting for a little while that I have some kind of intolerance and I definitely felt it after eating some of the courses!

As well as what you can order off the menu, there was some bread and some pastries available for you to go and serve yourself. The selection was quite small and the bread looked delicious - however, none of us actually ate any of it as it looked a bit threatening! It was just sort of there in giant lumps and was probably really good, however none of us quite felt like it would be a good idea for us to go and start carving into it as we all felt we'd probably make a big embarassing mess of it. I didn't see anyone try any of the bread so we'll never know if it was actually any good - but the pastries were very nice!

 My first choice was obvious to me - I wanted the avacado on toast. I will always order anything with avocado on it, and this had to be my first choice so that I could enjoy it to the maximum. And it really was a very good meal! It was surprisingly filling, the avocado tasted really fresh, and there was a good combination of flavours. If I was to repeat a dish, I would have got a second serving of this one.

Next up for me was the eggs benedict. I mostly went for this one as I saw a lot of people get it in the first serving and thought it looked really good, however in all honesty I was really disappointed with this one. There wasn't much flavour to it and something just tasted a little off although I can't quite place my finger on what it was. I wouldn't repeat this one.

 Next I went for the granola with fruit and yogurt - and the above was NOT what I was expecting, however it was absolutely delicious and I'm very glad I ordered it. Some of the others complained it was a little tricky to eat but once you've got started it really wasn't a problem, and the flavours all went together very nicely.

For my final course, I went for the fruit salad. There was a good mix in here and anything that includes raspberries is always going to get a positive vote from me!

Overall, I really enjoyed brunch here and I really would recommend it. The plates are small and you can only order one at a time - however, you do have two hours so you can make the most of it. At first we were really hungry between courses, but it soon caught up with us and we didn't mind having to wait - plus the majority of the time it was speedy service and we weren't left waiting for too long. I think it's a good price for what you get as you are able to try lots of different foods, and you do leave feeling very full! Unsurprisingly, the one thing I would change is to include a few non egg based options on the menu - all of us left feeling like we had eaten far too many eggs, but it had a very positive reception overall so I would still return.

If you're interested in booking an unlimited brunch for yourself, check out Aubaine's website, here!

Friday, 16 June 2017

June's Blog Spotlight Post

For the last few months I've been a bit worried when making these posts as I've found the number of posts I'm saving has really dropped down recently. However, I'm happy to say that I think this will be changing very soon as for the first time in a while I've found lots of fantastic new blogs to read - I'm really glad that my reading list has had a little bit of a refresh! This month, there's 9 blog post recommendations for you to go and take a look at - and yes, before you ask, it does pain me that it doesn't quite reach 10!

001. Amber's been posting lots of photos of all the changes she's made to her home lately, but my favourite so far is this before and after of her kitchen. It's so pretty, and as we're completely redoing our flat it's great timing to get some inspiration! The above photo is taken from Amber's post.

002. Martha posted an Instagram guide to Copenhagen - which was perfect timing, as I read it just before I went over there myself! Lots of pretty pictures and a great resource if it's somewhere you're thinking of going. I need to hurry up and get my update done myself!

003. Kayleigh posted all about the 13 blogger habits that it's okay not to do!

004. I'm slow in posting this as she's already changed the colour again - but look at how cool Jemma's rainbow hair is!

005. Katy took a solo trip to Aberdeen - a place I'd never really considered visiting before, but looks lovely!

006. Jess posted an open letter to PR professionals.

007. Another from Martha - this time about cheats on Instagram, and how to get around it.

008. Paige got engaged - congratulations! Take a look at her beautiful engagement photos.

009. Joseph posted all about how Instagram is giving him trust issues.


Monday, 12 June 2017

Exploring Euston's Lost Tunnels with Hidden London

 Last month, we were given the very last minute offer by a friend to take up his place on a Hidden London tour. He'd booked the tour many many months in advance and then forgotten all about it - until the day before when he was packing to go on holiday and suddenly remembered. Which worked out well for us, as it meant we ended up with his tickets!

 Hidden London is operated by the London Transport Museum, and offer tours of disused underground stations and areas. The most well known tour that they offer is the rather famous Aldwych, with Churchill's secret station of Down Street fast approaching in second place. Me and Chris both work in the transport industry and as such have both been quite interested on taking one of these tours as we already know quite a bit about some of the locations -helped along by a conveniently timed trip to the museum itself a couple of days before we knew we'd ended up with tickets!

The tour we went on was that of Euston's lost tunnels. It begins with a presentation about the history of Euston - most of this we knew already from our visit to the museum, but we did see some interesting pictures of how Euston used to look. Who knew that one of the most dull stations once had such beautiful entrances to it! The talk lasted quite a while, and then took us in to look at the current ventilation system of Euston. This was a bit confusing to everyone on the tour as by this point it had already taken a fair chunk of time and we hadn't really seen anything we actually wanted to!

 After a while, we were finally into the tunnels themselves. Unsurprisingly, this is where it all got more interesting! First of all, it's always nice to pull aside a door that you'd never quite noticed before on an in-use platform and then suddenly find yourself exploring areas that you had absolutely no idea were there.

  As you can probably tell from most of the pictures I've included here, what interested me most was all the old posters. I love looking at bits of history like this and the tunnels were absolutely layered with posters and advertisements, with lighting strategically placed around ones that we were most likely to be interested in.

We also enjoyed looking at an old ticket window, and looking upwards to see just how high the tunnels reached. We both enjoy walking around and exploring dark places, and it was interesting to see how the tunnels slot into the currently used ones.

 Overall though, the tour isn't something that either of us would do it again. I got a little bit bored during the first half, and Chris enjoyed it but stated that he didn't really think it was worth how much we paid.

  However, we do have to be fair with this review and there are some reasons why we may not have enjoyed it quite as much as we expected to. As already mentioned, we had very recently gone to the LTM and as such a lot of the opening presentation was very recent knowledge to us already. We're both also track safety trained and have been for a few years, which means the novelty of being within the underground itself isn't quite so high for us as we've both done track walks etc. And finally, if we were to purchase a tour ourselves, Euston wouldn't have been the main choice for either of us anyway. If you are interested in this sort of thing and don't have the backgrounds that we do, you'll probably get a lot more out of it than we did.

 I am not entirely sure whether or not we would do another tour with Hidden London. I am very tempted by the thought of Down Street - but it's also £77 each and I don't honestly see myself paying that any time soon.

If you'd like to book a tour for yourself, keep checking the Hidden London page here as they do book out very in advance and you'll need to be quite forward thinking with it. Prices vary, but the price for the Euston tour shown here was £36.50 each. You also get free or half price admission to the museum itself depending on which ticket you buy!

Monday, 5 June 2017

Why Work Doesn't Have to be a Passion

  I feel that for most of my life, the general work-based motto thrown at me from any sort of TV show, magazine or teacher has always been that the job you choose should be a passion. You should choose something that you're going to enjoy every single day, and if it's a choice between the job that gives you more of an easy life or the job that's based more around your interests that you should choose the latter every time.

  Work in an area that you're passionate about, and it'll never feel like work. Or at least, that's what the nice sounding slogans like to advertise.

  And honestly? I think that sort of message can actually be very damaging. A lot of people don't necessarily know what their passion is. And we can't all be singers, actresses, YouTubers or whatever else - and nor would we all want to be.

  My first real work roles all included childcare and education. My degree is in early childhood studies, my master's degree is more specifically in early childhood education. Both topics that I found very interesting (and regret entirely, but that's a story for another day) and based around something that I was and still am very much passionate about. I find children fascinating, I enjoy learning about the theories behind various childhood development topics, and I really love being around younger children and caring for them, alongside helping them develop, learn, and play. So, as you may expect, my earlier roles were all childcare based. I've been a room leader for several different age groups. I've been the leader of different afterschool programs. I've been a teacher.

  And honestly? I hate it.

  The first role I took, I hated it immediately. I stuck it out for a year and it made me miserable, but I thought it was just the setting I was in. So I tried somewhere else. Hated it. Didn't even last a month. So I tried a third place - still hated it, but really liked the people I was working with there so I held it out for as long as I could. Childcare was my passion, but I absolutely hated the work. I didn't like the pressures, I didn't like the environment. I didn't like the fact that having Early Years Professional Status for some reason meant that I could take on extra children in my ratio. I didn't like that I didn't have time to do anything, and I didn't like going home exhausted every single day. I really didn't like being constantly observed and inspected. You'd think I'd have got the point there, but I still went on to work at another setting for two years. I really liked the majority of the people I worked with there, but unsurprisingly I was still miserable. Because of that, I started to feel like I wasn't even enjoying the actual childcare part of it anymore. There was nothing left there for me, and what had been a passion felt like it was now ruined - it took years before I had any interest in anything related again.

  My next role was with the police. I'd done two years volunteering as a special constable (basically, unpaid police officer with a minimum number of hours per month) and being a police officer was something I'd always wanted to do when I was younger as I loved the idea of helping people. I'd never been able to when I was younger as I can't drive manual cars so I'd sort of forgotten about it - however the London forces do not have this same requirement. After leaving education I worked full time as a police officer for two years and again - hated it. At first I enjoyed it as I did enjoy the variety and I enjoy the investigation side of things. What I didn't enjoy was constantly finishing work late, having absolutely nothing going on for ages and then getting in trouble for having not really done very much that month (ignoring of course that that's because you'd done a good job at deterring things from happening in that area and sorting out what had already been occurring there...!) absolutely hours and hours of waiting for solicitors and translators to turn up and of course not being able to leave until the whole process had been completed and having my days off cancelled with sometimes very limited warning. I remember having ten days straight where I didn't go a single day without having a day off cancelled, a shift time changed (always to something completely inconvenient - so a 3pm finish allowing me to finally go out and see some friends after work would turn to an 11pm one) or finishing at least four hours late. I didn't enjoy it anymore, and I didn't have a life outside of work to enjoy either.

  My current role? Somewhere in the transport industry. This was a controversial choice for some of my friends, as I was torn between this role and a role within the civil service. The civil service role would have been much more stimulating and pressured and held a lot of responsibility. The interview day consistently banged on about how much responsibility I'd be taking on and how exciting it would be to be the cause of all that change that I wanted to see. And I didn't enjoy it all. I was stressed all day. Every bit of the selection was stressful and pressured, and I at no point felt like the pay matched the role. I didn't want to be stressed all day. And knowing me, end up taking it all home with me.

  I chose the role that for the most part isn't particularly interesting, because I didn't want to be tired all day anymore. I chose the role where the hours are still shifts but are for the most part much shorter, as I wanted to have a life outside of work again. I chose a role with lots of annual leave, because in all honesty, holidays and travel are one of the most important things to me. And I chose the role with the higher pay, even though I felt a little like I'd sold out for having that be one of the significant reasons.

  I don't care that my work isn't very interesting. I care about the fact that it gives me the time to go home and go out, and to fulfil my hobbies and to have time to fit in fun activities outside of work. I can be asked to do overtime, and I can also answer with a simple "No," and no one tries to pressure me into anything further. I have a job role to fulfill, and I don't get hassled to do anything other than what my contract tells me I'm supposed to be doing. And when it comes to my annual leave, I feel comfortable knowing that I don't have to think about work at all while I'm away - and that no one's going to be there trying to phone me to get me to come back early. I had a few friends who'd known my previous careers ask if I'd be embarassed telling people about my new role, but why should I?

  I don't think work has to be a passion. If you are one of those people that thrives with a lot of pressure and enjoys a working lifestyle that allows you the chance to be constantly on-the-go, then that's great for you. But I'm fed up with seeing people criticise those that are in a 'simpler' role, be it admin, a receptionist, retail, office work, or pretty much anything else. Not everyone is in those roles because they have no choice. Not everyone wants to be in a fast paced job. And not everyone can be in something that they love, and nor should it matter.
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