Your New McDonalds*


What springs to mind when you think about eating at McDonalds? Greasy, unhealthy food? Ingredients of dubious quality? Poor service from a spotty, grumpy employee? Well - think again! I was invited along to the new-look McDonalds in Didcot, just outside of Oxford, to challenge these stereotypes and show just how McDonalds has evolved with the times. Our group of bloggers, including my lovely blogging friend Hayley, descended on the Didcot branch of McDonalds for a guided tour of the new facilities, and a behind-the-scenes sneak peek at the kitchen. We even had the chance to have a go at cooking the most famous of all McDonalds staples - a Big Mac! Keep scrolling to find out how we got on!


The highlight of the visit for me was definitely donning a McDonalds apron (with my own personalised name badge!) and hopping into the kitchen to cook up a Big Mac! We were taken through the exact same process that the McDonalds chefs go through when preparing every single burger, which are made to order. First comes toasting the bun (to make sure that the all-important sauce doesn't seep through), followed by piling on the salad and sauce, then adding the cooked burgers. It was a really slick operation in the McDonalds kitchen, with food being cooked quickly, kept hot throughout the entire process on the specially warmed countertops, and presented to the customer within minutes.

 
 

Another key part of our trip was a tour through the McDonalds store rooms, where all the ingredients are kept. What horrors would await us?! You might be pleasantly surprised to learn that all of the ingredients we found in the stores, and in fact all ingredients that go into McDonalds food, are fresh and responsibly sourced. I was very pleased to see that the staff and managers showing us around the restaurant had absolutely nothing to hide. We had dropped in on a regular working day for them and no special effort had been made to sugar-coat things for us. The restaurant's franchisee was also there to answer any questions that we had, and he was very open when I questioned him on the source of McDonalds' meat. McDonalds only use whole cuts of British and Irish beef in their burgers, and they can trace every single burger back to the farmer who produced it. None of the rumoured "pink slime" in sight! McDonalds keep such good controls on the meat that goes into their food that they were one of the few fast food franchises that were not caught up in the horse meat scandal, so there is absolutely nothing unexpected heading into their meals. In addition, at every ordering platform, the number of calories in every meal is clearly displayed, allowing you to make informed choices about what to order. I really admired McDonalds' transparency.

   
    
Heading into the restaurant, it was clear that it had undergone a major makeover. But this wasn't just in terms of new seating and a fresh lick of paint, the entire McDonalds experience has evolved! Instead of queuing for ages to get to a till for placing your order, now you can order in moments using the new kiosks. We were guided through the intuitive ordering proces, where you can select your desired items from the screen, customise your burger with many different options, pay at the kiosk, then simply collect your order from the service point. It couldn't be simpler! If you're in even more of a hurry, you can even have your order prepared before you enter the restaurant! Using the McDonalds app, select the food you'd like, then just touch the QR code from your phone to the kiosk when you enter and the kitchen will receive your order instantaneously. Perfect if you're with a large group of friends who don't want to crowd around inside!

 

Something that you may not expect from a visit to McDonalds is table service. However, this is another area in which you might be surprised! Now, when placing your order, you can choose for your food to be brought over to you in one of the designated seating zones. That means that you can sit back, relax, and have your food come to you! Home delivery is another thing that McDonalds are currently trialling, so lazy gals, your prayers have been answered!! But if you do choose to pop into a new-look store, you can keep any younger members of your party entertained, or just surf the web and check your emails using the new tablets built in to some of the tables.

 

Our visit culminated with a chance to try the brand new Signature Collection burgers. Made from the same high quality beef as the Big Macs, these burgers simply have a thicker patty which makes for a juicy and delicious bite. The BBQ Signature burger, which I tried out, was formed of a tasty brioche bun, and packed with fresh salad. What's more, it actually looked like the picture of the burger from the ad! A burger such as this wouldn't have looked out of place at a Wetherspoons or another burger joint, so I was very impressed.

When did you last go to McDonalds? Have you tried the signature collection? Has this post dispelled any McDonalds myths for you? Let me know in the comments below!

Until next time,

A x

*This is a collaborative post with McDonalds

My Make Up Free Month


πŸ’„ Embracing my FaceπŸ’„

When I was in my teens, I would have never ever dared to put an image like the one below on the internet. I hated so many aspects of my face, from my silly bum-chin and my chubby nose to the creases that appear under my eyes every time I smile. I used to spend ages agonising over any new Facebook profile picture, and I un-tagged every candid photo that captured me at an unflattering angle. Nowadays, I embrace my face to a much higher degree. I had a moment of realisation:

This is what my face looks like. 
Aside from embarking upon a fairly drastic procedure of cosmetic surgery, there's nothing I can do to change it.
And that's ok!

I decided to stop worrying about something that I couldn't change. I decided that my face is good enough exactly the way it is. I decided to obsess less and just accept myself. The next step in embracing my face was naturally to give up makeup. If you've been reading my blog for a little while now, you'll know that over the Easter holidays, I went meat free for a month, and that I enjoyed it a great deal! So, when I went up to visit my BFF in Leicester and accidentally left all of my makeup at his house, I decided that I might try another month-long challenge: going completely makeup free!

 
No makeup VS. fully made up - can you tell the difference?

πŸ’„ Why do I normally wear makeup? πŸ’„

As you can tell from the above comparison photos, my makeup isn't usually very dramatic or noticable. Most people (including anyone who gets up close to my face with any regularity *nudge nudge wink wink*) can often not tell whether I'm wearing any or not. I usually just wear a touch of concealer under my eyes in an attempt to disguise the fact that my eye bags are as black as my soul, a little liquid eyeliner, and some blush. Maybe I'll add in some lipstick if I'm feeling particularly fancy, but considering I only own two shades, that's a fairly rare occurrence.

I don't use foundation because I don't like how it feels on my skin.
I don't wear winged liner because I can't get that shit to look even. 
I don't do ANYTHING to my eyebrows because I'm lazy. 
You get the picture. 

However, putting just a little concealer under my eyes and a little blush on my cheeks gives me a bit of confidence. While I know that nobody around me notices whether I'm made up or not, it makes ME feel good to know that I have something on my face.

πŸ’„ How did I feel without it? πŸ’„

I'm going to be totally honest with you and say that initially, I felt self-consicious without makeup. In normal everyday life, I felt ok, just a little more aware of the fact that my eye bags were prominent, but when it came to attending events such as smart dinners, I was pretty nervous. When entering a room of girls dressed up to the nines with immaculately applied makeup, I felt like a bit of an ugly duckling who stuck out like a sore thumb. However, once I got over these intial tremors and started to enjoy my evening, I didn't give it a second thought! Seeing photos from the events afterwards also boosted my confidence - I didn't look any different to normal and I certainly didn't stand out! As the month progressed, I attended blogger events and had my photos taken without makeup, and even took a series of photos for an OOTD post with nothing on my face! I didn't miss makeup in the slightest!

πŸ’„ How did it impact upon my skin? πŸ’„

Cutting out makeup entirely didn't impact upon my skin as greatly as it may have done for someone who wears full coverage makeup on the regular. However, I certainly noticed that my skin felt softer and fresher and that if I had any spots or blemishes, they disappeared way faster than they usually would if I applied makeup over the top. I began to really appreciate my skin's natural glow!

Excuse the mess of my room - I'm not a professional.

 πŸ’„ Would I recommend this challenge?πŸ’„

Embracing what you look like is an important part of self-acceptance and self-love. For me, embracing my face meant going completely natural and makeup free, but if that's not for you, there are many other ways to promote those same feelings of self worth. Everyone's individual journey of self-love is different, there are no right or wrong ways to do it!

However, if you are thinking about cutting down your makeup routine, this challenge might be for you! You don't have to go completely cold turkey like I did, perhaps you could just try cutting out one or two different types of product for a little while and see if your confidence grows without them. I was surprised at how little I missed putting makeup on! Although applying makeup usually takes me less than 10 minutes on the average morning anyway, every extra second that I can gain to spend in bed is a good thing in my book! I do have the contents of my makeup bag back now (thanks, Ryan!) and a whole host of new products to try thanks to a wonderful gift from my lovely pal Sarah, but I will certainly be having many more makeup-free days in the future to celebrate the skin I'm in!

How often do you wear makeup? Do you think you'd be able to give it up easily? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Until next time,

A x

The Do-Follow Link Debate: Where do you Stand?


Not all links are created equal. The battle of do-follow vs. no-follow has plagued bloggers since the dawn of the universe. (Well, maybe that's an exaggeration but you get the picture). Even identifying the differences between them and what each type of link means for your blog can be a messy and confusing task. So, before we get started on the debate, here's all the essential information you need to tackle the subject:

What is a do-follow link?

A do-follow link is one that Google pays attention to when ranking sites. A do-follow link to a site increases its visibility on search engines, eg. a site with a lot of do-follow links directing to it will appear higher up on Google searches than a site with fewer do-follow links. Therefore, do-follow links are valuable for anyone wanting to increase the profile of their website.

What is a no-follow link? ✨

A no-follow link is one that Google does not pay attention to when ranking sites. It doesn't impact upon Google search results.

Why is the difference important?

Google's guidelines recommend that no-follow links are used for paid and promotional content. Using a do-follow link in a post where you have been sent a free product or paid to feature a link is problematic because this is NOT an authentic link (as in, that link wouldn't be appearing on your blog if you hadn't been sent a free product or been paid for the post). A do-follow link that has been paid for fraudulently increases the site's Google search ranking.

Can I use do-follow links at all? ✨

Yes! It's good to have a mix of do-follow and no-follow links on your blog. Do-follow links can be used for any blog post which does not contain promotional or paid-for content. Holly uses a great example in this handy guide: If I were to buy a palette from Sleek MakeUP and write a review about it, I could use a do-follow link because the post has no input or payment from the brand. But if Sleek MakeUP sent me the palette for free and/or paid me to feature it on my blog, I should use a no-follow link because this is promotional content. This little table summarises what I'm talking about.


 Here come the problems...

Because of their search-engine boosting capabilities, do-follow links are understandably valuable for brands. Some companies will ask bloggers to produce posts using do-follow links. It technically isn't illegal to accept such collaborative opportunities, but bloggers can be penalised by Google if they're caught exchanging do-follow links for payment. This could mean that your blog doesn't show up in search engines, and that your DA suffers. Yet some people even believe that accepting payment for do-follow links is a-ok because Google can't actually detect who is doing them! So, the subject of do-follow vs. no-follow still divides the blogging community. Some bloggers will happily accept such content, whilst others flat out refuse.

What should you do?

To help you make up your own mind about accepting do-follow links, I ran a poll on Twitter asking my followers where they stand on the issue, and these were the results:
Do the results of the poll surprise you? I also asked some of the respondants to the poll to get in touch to elaborate on their answers, which produced a real mix of thoughts!

🌷 "I get paid so well for do-follow posts" - Anonymous

"I accept do-follow links because brands are generally willing to pay way more for these. I've been paid upwards of £150 for a post with a do-follow link. My blog isn't full of do-follow posts, I only accept them occasionally because I don't want to damage my blog but I will do them once in a while. It makes me decent money and I haven't been in trouble yet, so I will probably continue."

🌷 "I might consider a do-follow link" - Megan // www.lazythoughts.co.uk

"Whether you accept do-follow links depends how you view your blog, really. If you're all about making money and don't really care about showing up in Google etc. then I don't really see the problem as long as you still disclose the links correctly (as in labelling sponsored content as such). I personally only accept no-follow links, but have done do-follow in the past; mainly before I knew there was a difference. If the money was right and the link was to a brand I genuinely used and respected then I might consider a do-follow, but other than that it's a no from me."

🌷 "Honesty and integrity are very important to me" - Jenny // www.luxestyleuk.co.uk

"I always refuse to use do-follow links for sponsored content because I personally don't think it's worth it. I've heard that Google sees it as a negative and can penalise you if they catch you doing it and so I wouldn't want to risk it. Honesty and integrity are very important to me and so I would only want to do the right thing."

🌷 "If you want to earn £, you have to accept do-follow links" - Anonymous

"Brands pay bloggers to improve their site's ranking and send customers to them. Yes, some bigger brands are now happy with no-follow links but I suspect that this is only where the blogger is "big" enough to have a decent following which might get the link some exposure. People disagree about this ALL the time but in my experience at least, if you want to earn money from blogging you often (but not always) have to accept a do-follow link. It drives me crazy that people attack others for their personal choice to use do-follow links."

🌷 "Now I refuse do-follow links"- Tina // www.teaisfortina.co.uk

"In the beginning I did some do-follow link posts, but didn't realise they'd harm the blog. It's great that people talk about them more now and it's clearer, so now I refuse to use them. I'd rather look after the blog as it's a longer term investment. I don't think it harmed my blog as only did a couple before I realised."

 πŸŒ· "It didn't change anything on my blog" - Shelley // www.shelleymorecroft.co.uk

"I used a do-follow link once but they did offer me a higher price for it, it didn't change anything on my blog which is good! However when I started out I didn't have a clue about it and always used follow links. I don't know if I'd do it again, it depends on the assignment/brand and money, I think."

What are your thoughts on this thorny issue? Would you accept do-follow links on your blog? Share in the comments below, I can't wait to hear your opinions!

Until next time,

A x 

Charity Shop Haul


As I mentioned in my recent summer goals post, next month I'm jetting off on a solo holiday! I'm heading to Portugal for a relaxing yoga retreat, and I'm really looking forward to it! Now, I think I speak for most of us ladies out there when I say that shopping for new holiday clothes is something that really cranks up the excitement for an approaching vacation! I didn't want to spend a bomb on my summer wardrobe this year, so I decided to hit the charity shops of Oxford in search of a few bargains. Happily, that's exactly what I found! Keep scrolling to find out what I purchased on my charity shop mission!

Soundtrack to the Summer*


Music has a powerful way of bringing back memories - sometimes even those you thought you'd forgotten! A specific beat can take you back to a lazy summer afternoon spent lounging in the park with your friends, or to the crystal blue swimming pool abroad where you first heard the tune being belted out over the loudspeakers. Today I've teamed up with Destination2 Holidays, who challenged me to craft my ideal summer playlist, packed with my own holiday memories! My lovely friend Abbie has also decided to compile a summer playlist of her own, as part of our regular Ab Fab Collab series, so make sure you go and check out her choice of tunes too! Let's get cracking!

One of the first songs I selected for my playlist was Waves by Mr Probs. This absolutely had to feature on my summer soundtrack as it was one of the major anthems I remember listening to on My Big Fat Greek Road Trip in the summer of 2016. We had this song blaring with the windows wound down in our little old car as we drove across Greece, taking in some breathtaking landscapes. This song brings back goosebumps for me even now!

This little number, Metro Station's Shake It, takes me back even further, to my Girl Guiding days! I was a member of the Girl Guides from age 6 onwards, becoming a Young Leader volunteer at age 16. When a group of leaders, myself included, took a group of younger Guides away for summer camp, one of the older leaders made a montage video of all the action-packed activities that we got up to, including abseiling and a huge zip-line! The video was set to this song, hence my fond memories!

Of course, I had to include a little of my favourite band on my playlist! I get quite a lot of stick from my friends for my love of Coldplay but I don't give a toss! Their more recent albums have a fantastic upbeat vibe, and this collaboration with The Chainsmokers is no exception. This song always makes me want to get up and dance, which is definitely a desirable quality for a BBQ tune! If this small flavour of my playlist has whet your appetite, you can scroll through my entire playlist below!



Of course, when I ran out of ideas for summer anthems, I turned to my trusty Twitter followers to help me complete the playlist! Here are just some of the fab suggestions that I received - never underestimate the helpfulness of lovely people on social media!

What is your favourite song at the moment? Do you have any essential music on your summer 2017 playlist? Share in the comments below. Abbie's post will also have some great ideas for you, so don't forget to head over to her blog! Make sure you check out Destination2.co.uk for their 2017 holiday deals as well!

Until next time,

A x

*This was a collaborative post with Desination2 Holidays
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