Sunday, 14 October 2018

Who am I blogging for?

It came to my attention the other day that the blogosphere seems to be fizzling out. I sign onto Bloglovin' to read the latest posts on my blog roll and people seem to be posting less and less frequently. Long gone are the days where Follow Fridays and Sunday night #lblogger Twitter chats are a thing. Now, we're all halfheartedly battling with Instagram and that god awful algorithm, and it made me question. Why, after five and a half years, do I continue to write and share on this platform, do people still read my waffle, and in all honesty, do they even care about what I have to say?
I started blogging in 2013 when blogs were a relatively new thing. When I first started writing I kept it to myself. It was something just for me, an escape from the monotony of uni life and a way to deal with homesickness, boredom and loneliness during a time where I was at my lowest. People didn't even know what a blog was, and I was worried about what friends would think when they realised that I spent my spare time writing beauty reviews and speaking to people I'd never met on the internet.

Fast forward to 2018 and blogging has absolutely boomed. It's an industry in itself, although no one needs me to tell them that. You can see its influence wherever you go. In adverts on the TV, all over social media, in magazines, products in stores on the high street. It's become bigger than anyone ever imagined, and the power of the influencer remains. But with that, the "smaller" bloggers, those who did it primarily for enjoyment and fun, kind of got left by the wayside, myself included. I didn't pursue the blogging industry when my blog could have become more of a career for me, not that I believe it ever would have generated enough of an income to be a full time job, nor that I ever wanted it to. And now, like many others it seems, I feel like I've been left behind... 

I had a chat with a colleague about this a few weeks ago. We talked about the more narcissistic side of blogging, and how, for me, blogging has changed over the years. It made me think about why I keep on writing and photographing and sharing on this space? Do people even care about what I have to say on here? Does anyone really give a shit about what bloggers do/see/eat/think?

And the truth is, I feel like this space has gone back to how it used to be when I first started blogging. I no longer care about numbers or statistics. What I care about is the content I create, and the memories I make through doing it. I may have moved away from fashion and beauty, but I care about sharing the little aspects of my life and using this space as a way to be creative, to get things off my chest, to think outside of the box, and as a place to look back on my triumphs and troubles, like an online diary.

Back in 2013 I was a lonely, unhappy student, battling with homesickness and generally feeling like a shell of the person I was. Fast-forward five and a half years, and I've completed my studies, secured myself a job I love, I've bought a flat, I've travelled, I've learned about myself, friendships and relationships. I tried living the London life, and realised that the career path I wanted wasn't the one I originally strived for. I've settled in a city I thought I hated whilst living in university. I've faced rejection, yet now, at 24 years old, I am feeling completely accomplished and ready for the next chapter of my life. And this blog has been with me every step of the way.

So the answer? I blog for myself. I simply do it because I enjoy it, and there's nothing more to it. And if people still want to come along for the ride, despite the changes in the blogosphere, I'm pretty cool with that.

Lots of love. xoxo

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

13 things for 13 miles: I ran the Cardiff Half Marathon 2018.

I still can't believe I ran 13 bloody miles at the Cardiff Half Marathon on Sunday, even though my achy knees, tendonitis-ridden foot and sore EVERYTHING would tell me otherwise. It's been my goal for two years or so to run a half marathon but I'd never committed to the training, despite being an avid gym goer and lover of exercise.
Then, last year, I woke up feeling like sh*t after a few too many drinks on a Sunday morning, the morning of Cardiff Half Marathon 2017, and decided that next year would be the year. I was in a pretty low place in myself. Actually I was pretty disappointed in the way I was handling certain situations and how my life was starting to revolve around going out socialising on the weekend with no substance in between. I wasn't blogging or being creative much anymore, I wasn't working as hard in the gym, I wasn't making any time for myself and I was doing what others wanted me to do, instead of what I wanted to do myself. I vowed to change things in 2018, and running the Half Marathon was a goal I was determined to fulfil.

I signed up in January with a view on overhauling my life. I wanted a challenge, something to focus on, and I wanted to complete the whole 13 mile course (did I mention that a half marathon is THIRTEEN MILES?) without walking; a small feat to some, but considering I could just about manage 5km without a walking break in the middle at the start of January it was a pretty big task to be taking on.
But I DID IT. Ten months later, after building my distance up from 5km, to 10km, to 10 miles; after training (almost) every week without fail; after forgoing nights out in favour of waking up early for my Sunday morning ritual run; after falling in love with the sport, the calmness you feel and the sense of clarity achieved after a long run; and with an injured foot that sprung itself upon me just a week before, I crossed the finish line having run the whole way in 2 hours and 15 minutes. And I feel pretty proud.

It's weird, because when I thought I'd have to pull out after hurting my foot, I was understandably gutted because of all the training I'd put in, but more so because I felt like this race was a way for me to wave goodbye to a bit of a sh*tty time. "There'll be other races," people said. But it was more than that to me. It was a way of reaffirming to myself that this year I've made positive changes and that I've grown as a person, and the feeling on completing the race and crossing the finish line was so worth all of the training, pain and everything else that came along with it.
So, what have I learned in those ten months that I trained for?

1. I actually love running. I never thought I'd be that person, but I can honestly say that by the end of my training regime I really looked forward to my weekly runs, especially as I found a 10km route around Cardiff Bay and it was so pretty and peaceful. I'm by no means the fastest, and I plod along at my own pace, but I found the whole training experience really enjoyable.

2. I want to join a running club. While I quite like the solitary training and chance to refocus that runnning gives, I'd quite like to socialise while doing it.

3. You can do anything that you put your mind to. It may be a massive cliche but you definitely can do pretty cool things if you're willing to put in the hard work and if you've got a little self-belief.

4. That being said, I've also learned that you don't get anywhere without hard work. And believe me when I say that you definitely need to train for a half marathon, it's a serious toll on your body.

5. You should love your body because it can do incredible things. I have a love/hate relationship with my body sometimes, especially how I look and feel, but the fact that these little legs got me around in good time made me feel pretty proud of what I've accomplished and what it can do.

6. Nights out are overrated. Don't get me wrong, I love getting dressed up for cocktails with the gals as much as the next basic bitch, but I definitely valued the early nights and fresh Sundays more than I would a strawberry daiquiri, or three.

7. While I'm already thinking of signing up for another half marathon, I don't think I could ever run a full marathon. Reaching mile 12 and thinking, I wouldn't even be half way right now if I was doing the London Marathon just killed whatever fizzle of an idea I had instantly.

8. Sign up first, train later. If you're thinking of doing a half marathon, I'd definitely recommend nipping it in the bud and signing yourself up for one in good time and then getting on with the training. Having that goal in mind, and a set date to complete it by, really motivated me.

9. The decisions I've made this year have been the right ones. I've written about how I've become more of a "no person", how I've put myself first, and just how much things have changed since January, but I definitely feel like I've made the right choices and changes, even if it's taken a long time to realise that.

10. I want to keep training and keep focused. My next goal now is to continue looking after myself and to work on strengthening these legs again ready for the next challenge.

11. Carb loading is a fantastic aspect of training. OMG, this was one part of half marathon prep I particularly enjoyed. Any excuse to eat pizza, pasta, bread, rice, potatoes... am I right?

12. The whole atmosphere surrounding the Cardiff Half was fantastic, and people can be so kind. Thousands of people lined the streets, cheering us runners on with banners, flags and tupperware filled with fizzy sweets. It was really quite emotional to see everyone in the city coming together in support of those running and raising money for such fantastic causes.

13. I'm already looking forward to next year, and with a goal to eventually get to under 2 hours, I've got a feeling training will start up again very soon. But first, it's time to chill... 

Friday, 5 October 2018

Home sweet home | A tour of my new flat!

I am so bloody excited to share this post. It's now been almost two months since I picked up the keys to my lovely little flat in Cardiff Bay and after countless IKEA trips, a weekend of ripping up carpets, too many flatpack fails to mention, and having to pester my new neighbours to help me figure out how to turn on the hot water, the flat's decor is finally (pretty much) complete. 

When it came to buying my own place, despite it being a seriously stressful process, there was one thing that kept that excitement bubbling and that was the thought of decorating my new home and making it my own. I love home interiors, I always have, and I think being a blogger and being kind of obsessed with aesthetic, Instagram and all things white and minimalist has made me love it even more. So here's a little look around my new place... 

LIVING ROOM

Throughout the flat I wanted it to have a very white, clean cut and minimalist feel, so I opted to getting white wooden flooring from Floors 4 You in the living room, bedroom and hallway. Despite people being dubious about the white flooring, I am so happy I did that and made the decision to rip up the brand new dark grey, almost blueish, carpets that the previous landlord had put down in a bid to sell (don't worry, we've recycled them in my parents' house so they haven't gone to waste!). It makes the rooms feel so light and airy and much bigger. I love also how when you enter the hallway you can see right through to the other rooms as the flooring leads the way. I think once you find your own place you need to make it completely your own, and no amount of convincing would work when it came to accepting the grey carpets.
Keeping in with the neutral theme, I opted for white and wooden furniture and paired it with a grey and yellow theme to add subtle pops of colour. I am absolutely overjoyed with how it all turned out. My sofas are from Davies and Davies, a local furniture retailer, as is the coffee table and TV stand, and I picked up the cushions from Next. My grey rug and curtains were purchased from IKEA and the majority of the bits and pieces dotted around are from Next (including my tripod lamp which I am obsessed with), Dunelm, Matalan and The Range. I had a lot of ornament style items from my old flat so in terms of purchases here it was just the new sofa, which matched the smaller one from my old flat and was very kindly gifted to me by my mum.

As the room is quite big I decided to pull one of the sofas forward to create a sort of "living area", and then I purchased this super cute table and chair set, which I feel has a very Scandi-chic sort of vibe, from Furniture 123. I always like having somewhere to actually sit and eat my tea, especially when I have people around, and these fitted perfectly with the room.

The last aspect of the room to be completed was buying myself a big ass lamp to create a subtle glow in the living room, of which is the Alpine Tripod Lamp from Next, and to get this gorgeous mirrored dresser attached to the wall. Getting things attached to walls was the only time I ever felt I needed a man to sort things out for me. The majority was all done by my mum and I - all the lugging and carting things around - talk about girl power!
The living room is my absolute favourite place to relax. I love how cosy it is, especially now as we're heading into the autumn months and it's starting to get pretty dark in the evenings. I love sitting and watching TV or blogging with candles burning, fairy lights glowing and watching the sky get darker and deeper with each evening that goes by. 

BEDROOM 

The bedroom was something I was also really excited to decorate, and again I decided to keep it very simple and minimalist, opting for all white furniture. Again, people were unsure when I said I was going for all white, especially as I have a white floor, but I stuck to my guns and am so thrilled with the final look. Now that everything is minimal and clean it will be so easy to mix up the bedding, rug and ornaments should I want to opt for different colours, patterns or designs in the future.

The bed is from Leekes and I love the headboard on it. I didn't have a headboard on my bed at my parents house and it was something I definitely wanted in my own home. I just feel like the bed is such a statement - it's basically the reason why you go in the room - and I bloody love my bed. It's so big and it really makes the room I think.

The furniture was purchased from IKEA and I'm so pleased with the design I went for. The two bedside tables I actually found in the "Bargain Corner" and each were priced at £20 cheaper than they originally would have sold for as they were ex-display, and I got the dressing table at £40 off because I signed up to the IKEA Family Scheme. The lamps were also priced at £25 off each and they came from Leekes. I had always wanted to have two bedside tables on either side of the bed to give a bit of a hotel feel and it's so cosy for reading in bed.

My dressing table is my favourite part of the room for sure. I have never had a dressing table before and had always had to sit on the floor to do my hair and makeup, so having this space that is all mine is simply perfect. I picked up faux flowers from Marks and Spencer and Matalan and the little jars came from George at Asda. I added some roses which I picked up at Covent Garden years ago, and then a few candles and voila, we have my girly station complete.

In terms of bedding and ornaments, I had been thinking of going for a slightly French theme in terms of decor and at the same time my mum was redecorating her front living room. She gifted me her green ornaments and this gorgeous Laura Ashley rug, so I teamed them with my pink ornaments from my old rented flat living room, and the look was complete.

I really love the bedroom and the final outcome. It's the perfect place to relax and to get ready.

KITCHEN

One of the main reasons why I decided to put an offer in on this flat was the lack of work needed. Apart from the flooring, the flat was completely ready to move in. I didn't even need to paint it as it had already been refurbished, and the kitchen and bathroom being complete, new and clean really made the final decision for me. I really love my kitchen. The units are all like new and it came with a dishwasher, washer/dryer and a huge American style fridge, which was an absolute godsend after coping with just one fridge shelf and one freezer door while at university.

I haven't bought any new products for the kitchen, although I'd eventually like to get a cream kettle, toaster and bits and bobs, and there are some sight cracks in the tiles which I would like to have fixed when I have some money saved up. I do quite like the pops of blue for now and as these items were all readily available from my old flat I'm really happy with how they fitted in.

BATHROOM

Finally, the bathroom. It's lovely and big, the bath is new and clean and I love the tiled features. I decided to opt for burnt orange accessories and am really glad I did so. I wasn't sure at first but they have really grown on me, and I love the different feel the bathroom has to the rest of the flat.

BALCONY

When I moved to university I had visions of myself living in a flat overlooking the city. I was excited to stay up late watching the city skyline light up, alas I was given a ground floor flat in halls and things went steadily downhill from there. But I finally have my city view. Watching the sky change each evening, and being able to see the world go by from my little quiet haven on the balcony is my favourite thing. I'm already looking forward to being able to do this again next springtime!

I feel incredibly lucky to have a place that I could call my own, but it didn't come without a lot of hard work, being super thrifty and without the help of my family, especially with moving things across. But now I have somewhere that I can see myself living in and loving for years to come, and nothing makes me happier than walking through the front door and seeing my little flat laid out before me.

Lots of love. xoxo

Friday, 21 September 2018

TRAVEL | 10 days spent road tripping through Alberta, Canada.

Here's a fun fact to start off this blog post: my dad is Canadian. He was born there to my Welsh grandparents, and even though he was raised in my hometown in Wales, he now works and lives in Calgary, Alberta. So when he asked if we wanted to head out and visit for our summer holiday this year, I immediately said yes and got to following every single travel blogger who had ever visited Canada on the planet!
I'd been to Canada before, when I was a young sixteen-year-old who would rather be at home surrounded by her friends and spending time with her (now ex) boyfriend. And I kick myself every time I think of how amazing an opportunity it was and how much I took it for granted. So this year I was determined to do my research, to take every opportunity I could, to see and experience as much as I could, and in 10 days I did just that.

CALGARY

The first part of our trip was spent in the city of Calgary. The city is about 80km east from the start of the Canadian Rockies (I'll get onto this later!), and we flew in from Gatwick and stayed in my dad's condo. I have to say that on arrival I was suprised by how flat Alberta was. Having stayed in Vancouver before, where there are beautiful mountains and which is right by the coast, it was a stark contrast, but very pretty nonetheless.
The weather when we arrived was lovely and warm; the sun was shining and we strolled from my dad's place to Inglewood to grab some supper before crashing out before 8pm due to jet lag. However, the next day was spent exploring Downtown Calgary, climbing (okay, taking the elevator) up to the Calgary Tower to take in all the glorious views, and grabbing brunch, obv.

If you're ever in Calgary, you should definitely climb the Calgary Tower. It was built to honour Canada's centennial, and for 18 Canadian dollars you can visit its Observation Deck, which has a 360-degree view of the city where you can see the Canadian Rockies, the prairies and even the bobsled where they filmed Cool Runnings (my dad proudly told me that!). It wasn't the clearest day when we visited, but it was still pretty awesome. Give me a good city view and I'm happy!
I found Calgary itself quite quiet. It may be because we visited Downtown on the weekend, but it didn't have the hustle and bustle of other large cities I've visited. However, the food was great, the people were lovely and friendly, and there's a great shopping mall in the city centre, as well as Chinooks just outside, if you fancy a mooch around.

BANFF & LAKE MINNEWANKA

The most-part of our trip was spent roadtripping through the Canadian Rockies around Alberta and into the national parks of British Columbia, and I can honestly say it was the most amazing trip I've ever been on.

We started our trip by visitng the tourist ski town of Banff, which sits inside Banff National Park. I was so excited to visit Banff. In the lead up to our trip I'd seen endless pictures and two of my closest friends from primary school have also been living there for the past few months so it meant I'd be able to see them too, which was seriously lovely. The national park itself is absolutely stunning; you are surrounded by towering mountains, bright blue lakes, and lush forests; I spotted a moose! (sadly what I thought was a baby bear was actually a big black dog); and I was completely in awe of how beautiful it was. Everywhere you look the snow-topped Canadian Rockies can be seen peaking above the fluffy, white clouds.

Sadly both times we visited Banff town (both there and on the way back) the weather was abysmal. We had fog and torrential rain on the first day, and on the way back we had snow, but the town itself was gorgeous. There is a very touristy feel, and there are lots of lovely shops, coffee houses, and the smell of pastries fill the street. We only spent an hour or so at Banff each way as it was a stop-off point for our next destinations, but had we had longer and the weather was better I would have loved to go on the gondolas and do some hiking.

We did, however, stop off at Lake Minnewanka on the way home for a quick look around. It was snowing, but still absolutely beautiful, and it's a must-visit if you're ever in Banff or Canmore. It's a glacial lake that's just 5km from Banff town, and in the summer months there are power boat trips and plenty of hiking opportunities. I also read that if the conditions are right you can see the Northern Lights sometimes during the winter. I mean, how incredible would that be?!

KOOTENAY NATIONAL PARK, YOHO NATIONAL PARK & WAPTA FALLS

For three nights/four days we stayed at a gorgeous little resort called Panorama, but to get there after visiting Banff we drove through Kootenay and Yoho National Parks to the province of British Columbia. The journey there was absolutely stunning. We drove through mountain passages, bright blue rivers bubble alongside the road (and yes, they really are that blue!), emerald green lakes randomly pop up out of nowhere, and your surrounded by trees and nature.
Genuinely, a lot of the time I had to pinch myself to confirm that everything I saw in Canada was real, and being dwarfed by the amazing sights around you put a lot of things into perspective.

My favourite stop along our way to Panorama, however, had to be at Wapta Falls. To reach the falls, located in Yoho National Park, BC, you had to walk about 2km from the car through the forest. We passed lots of friendly hikers along the way and the path itself wasn't very difficult, and the view when you reached the falls was absolutely incredible. I mean, I don't think I've seen anything so amazing, like ever.

PANORAMA & RADIUM HOT SPRINGS

We stayed in the cutest little ski resort of Panorama, which is a 30 minute drive from Lake Windermere and the town of Invermere. Our chalet was smack bang in the middle of the mountains, with a creek winding right through the middle and beautiful animals all around. It was a really sweet place and was super quiet and peaceful, seeing as we were visiting in the off season.

I can imagine it's a seriously fun place to be in the mid-winter though when everyone is skiing and having a good time! I loved going to sleep whilst listening to the rain, or being cosied inside reading a book with a view of the mountains when I looked out of the window. It was seriously relaxing and just what I needed after a crazy few months.

We also spent one morning relaxing at Radium Hot Springs, which is a village based at the edge of Kootenay National Park and is a 45 minute or so drive from Panorama. We visited the world famous Radium Hot Springs Mineral Pools, which are made up of a series of super warm swimming pools carved into the natural rock face. It was so lovely to relax in the hot water while breathing in the fresh mountain air. It even rained while we were there which only added to the appeal.

LAKE LOUISE

And last, but certainly not least, no trip to Banff would be complete without a visit to Lake Louise. It's the iconic image of Canada. You see it on tourism guides, in magazines, it's all over merchandise, and it is truly insane. It's a glacial, deep bluey-green, almost turquoise lake situated in Banff National Park, where the water is incredibly still, there are beautiful mountains all around and it's overlooked by a luxury chateau. I've honestly never seen anything so breathtaking, ever.
It's beautiful colour comes from rock flour that is carried into the lake by melt water from the glaciers, and there is the opportunity to rent canoes to boat along the lake and there are plenty of hikes nearby too. We almost didn't get to visit the lake as we'd missed the last shuttle bus up from the hamlet that you first arrive at when you get to Lake Louise, which has a tourist information centre and several shops and restaurants. The carpark to drive there yourself was also full, but we hung around and as it got a little later and the carpark cleared out a bit, we were able to drive up there ourselves to experience this amazing sight of natural beauty. You simply must visit if you're ever in Banff.

My trip to Canada was honestly the most amazing, inspiring and wonderful trip I have been on in some time, possibly ever. I'm incredibly grateful to my parents for all they did for me, and to my dad especially for organising the trip and for getting us out to Canada in the first place. It reiterated to me that I really must make more time for travel, which is something I have been wanting to do for some time now, and now that I'm settled in work and in my flat, I'm going to do just that. There's a big wide out there, and I want to see it all.

Lots of love. xoxo
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