Crafting the Perfect Care Package


Thanks to the Internet, it is now possible and even common for a person to have friends dotted all over the globe. I'm very grateful that blogging has connected me with some amazing people from the UK and beyond, but it is sad that I don't get to see some of my blogging pals as much as I'd like. Having long-distance friendships can also be hard when one of your close mates is going through a rough patch and because you're so far away, there's not much you can do to help. However, today I'm here to show you just what you can do for you faraway friends! The wonderful Kate and I have clubbed together to craft the perfect care package for our good friend Hels, who is currently juggling a full time job, caring for her son Dougie, running a successful blog, AND arranging a wedding! Phew! Kate and I are seriously in awe of Hels's neverending energy, kindness, and commitment. We thought she deserved a treat, so keep scrolling to find out what we sent to her!

๐Ÿ“š Tea & a Book ☕️


Regular readers of my blog will know that I featured Sarah Knight's The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving A Fuck in a recent post where I detailed My Blogging Fuck Budget, and because I found this book so inspiring and thought provoking, I knew I had to send it to Hels! One of the quotes from the book that most stood out to me was "You're part of your family too, so your happiness also matters!" I thought that Hels could also benefit from these pearls of wisdom because she never fails to put everyone else above herself and is one of the most selfless people I know. I really believe that she deserves to take her own happiness into account way more, and I hope that reading this book will inspire her to do so.

To accompany the book, I included a selection of teas for Hels to enjoy as she is reading! Twinings' Salted Caramel Green Tea sounds like heaven in a cup to me, and I'm sure that Hels will find something here that she likes! Now I just need to find a way to send her the time she'll need to actually sit down and enjoy a cuppa, which may prove slightly trickier...

✨ Cosiness & Cuteness ๐Ÿ’ฉ


Next up come a couple of fun things from my lovely friend Ellis Wooley's newly revamped online shop - Pastel Elixir! I know that Hels is a huge fan of Ellis's gorgeous design work, so I just had to include some goodies from her shop in this care package. Both of the items that I picked out were badges: one has the adorable Poonicorn design (get it?) and the other is an equally cute Elephant! If you're reading this post to gain inspiration for creating a care package of your own, supporting a small online business is a great thing to do when deciding which items to include. Not only will you be guaranteeing a unique gift for the recipient of your package, but you'll also be making a huge difference to a small seller!

A blackhead remover might be thought of as a bit of a rude gift for a friend, right? Well, I'm hoping that Hels will forgive me! A little while ago, Hels, Kate, and I collaborated on our first blog post together, all about busting beauty fads! We all talked about trying a blackhead mask but none of us never actually got round to doing it, so I picked up this little beauty for Hels to try out - I'm eager to hear her thoughts on it! I think that little gifts like this which reference things you and your friend have talked about or done together are a really lovely touch!

Last but by no means least, a comfy prezzie in the form of a pair of fuzzy socks will always be appreciated! I actually have a pair of fluffy socks exactly the same as these ones (shout out to my friend Beth for gifting them to me!) so when I saw them in Primark, I just had to pick up a pair for Hels too! Twinningggg!

 ๐Ÿ’ฆ Pamper Time ๐Ÿ›€

 

The crowning glory of any care package has to be some new skincare products! There's nothing like a new range of smellies to tempt you into having a self-care evening! The lovely people at Palmer's provided me with some goodies to try out myself, and a couple to send to Hels as well. I trialled the 24-Hour Moisture body lotion which promised to pamper and smooth your skin, and it certainly delivered! The coconut oil formula meant that the lotion smelled DIVINE and left a lasting, but not overpowering scent on your skin. My skin felt touchably soft and silky, and the product sunk in quickly, leaving no annoying, sticky residue. As for the body cream, the texture of this truly was thick and luxurious, perfect if you're feeling a little bit decadent! I'm also confident that Hels will love the hydrating and rejuvenating body oil - the ideal addition to any skincare routine. Palmer's is also a company with an ethos I can really get behind: as well as being 100% cruelty free, the coconut oil from all of their products is ethically and sustainably sourced. So, if you're looking to put together a care package for one of your pals, I highly recommend picking up a few of Palmer's gorgeous products!


And there you have it - my top tips for crafting a gorgeous care package that anybody would love! My friend Kate who also contributed to Hels' care package has also written a post about the products she included, so look out for her post over on Finding Kate!

Over to you: What would you include in your perfect care package? Who in your life most deserves a treat? Share in the comments below!

Until next time,

A x

*This post contains affiliate links. The Palmer's products were sent to me for free in exchange for a review.

Pizza Masterclass at Franco Manca


Thursday is officially the new Friday! Well, it definitely was for me last week as I was invited to attend a press event, celebrating the opening of Oxford's very own branch of Franco Manca - home of the sourdough pizza specialists! Anyone who frequents Oxford city centre will know that if George Street is short of anything, it sure isn't Italian restaurants. You can snag a pizza at Bella Italia, Zizzis, Ask Italian, or Pizza Hut, to name but a few. Therefore, a new pizza joint in this area has to do something pretty special in order to stand out. Thankfully, that's exactly what Franco Manca has to offer! Keep reading to find out exactly why I'll be recommending this scrumptious stop-off!


Our evening started on a very good note - a warm welcome from Franco Manca staff was followed by an Aperol spritz cocktail, a delicious concoction of prosecco, soda water, and Aperol apรฉritif. Cocktail in hand, I seized the opportunity to whizz around the pizzeria to take a few snaps before the other journos and bloggers arrived! The pared-back decor which is common to all Franco Manca pizzerias gives the Oxford branch a stylish, contemporary, yet authentic feel. The wood cladding used for the walls, the caged lightbulbs hanging down, and the exposed metalwork on the ceiling produces a really unique and modern look, yet the place is still very welcoming.


My favourite aspect of the pizzeria was the fact that the kitchen was located in an open corner of the restaurant, including the wood-burning pizza oven, brightly decorated with a mosaic of patterned tiles. You could watch the team of chefs at work, freshly preparing your pizza, which I really loved! Having the chefs and serving team working away right before your eyes created a really bustling vibe in the whole dining area. The pizzeria was packed during our visit, with queues lining up outside the door, ready for a Franco Manca feast, and this lively atmosphere made the evening even more enjoyable!

 

Now, on to what you've really been dying to hear about - the food! Once seated, we were served up a wide selection of treats from the Franco Manca menu to sample. For the carnivorous members of our group, there was a sharer platter of cured meat, including wild pig fennel salami! My friend Ben, who came along as my +1, assured me that the meat was of high quality and tasted divine, leaving me to try the vegetarian starter, Burrata Pugliese, which the serving team ruslted up especially for me! This dish comprised a sphere of deliciously soft mozzerella, filled with rich, milky cream. Slicing into this tempting ball of goodness and mopping up the velvety cream with the sourdough slice and accompanying fresh tomatoes and peppery rocket leaves was a truly mouthwatering experience! A must-have for any fellow cheese-lovers!


For the main event, Franco Manca's unique sourdough pizza took centre stage! I tucked in to item No.3 from their menu, a delicious thin-based pizza, topped with courgette, basil, mozzerella, and buffalo ricotta. Again, the meat-eaters among us shared a tomato, mozzerella, and cured organic chorizo pizza. Both smelled absolutely amazing and the taste didn't disappoint! The crusts were crunchy on the outside yet soft and fluffy on the inside, the perfect combination. No garlic dip was needed to liven up these crusty bites! Just enough topping was placed on the pizza to give fantastic flavours without overloading it. On viewing Franco Manca's menu, you may think that there are relatively few options, compared to your standard Italian restaurant menu, and while this may be true, the chefs here do what they do incredibly well. There are daily specials to supplement the regular menu, and there was definitely enough choice to satisfy vegetarians and omnivores alike.

 

After our meal, the treats didn't stop there! Each of the attendees was lucky enough to be given the chance to craft their very own Franco Manca pizza, courtesy of the fantastic kitchen team! We started by being given a masterclass on how the dough is made. The sourdough used for the base is a special slow-rising variety, which is left to rise for a minimum of 20 hours before cooking! The same careful attention goes into all of Franco Manca's ingredients, including specially selecting their cheeses, the majority of which come from UK producers. I was taken through the process of stretching out the dough, spreading on the tomato base, adding toppings of my choice, and even firing the pizza! The sourdough pizzas are placed in the wood-fired oven for just 45 seconds, being adjusted by the masterchef with the paddle to ensure a uniform firing across the surface. I was so impressed by the quick and smooth process in the kitchen!


Another highlight of the evening was getting the opportunity to sample the wines from Franco Manca's extensive selection. The pizzeria's wine expert was on hand to explain the intricacies of the wine list and give us an overview of the organic Italian vineyards from which the grapes are sourced. I'm a big red wine lover, so I was delighted to have the chance to try the Lambrusco Emilia from the Grasparossa di Castelvetro region, a sparkling red with full-bodied taste. I was also pleasantly surprised by the Sicilian white wine offered - I'm not normally a fan of white wines as I find them too dry, but this was delicious! You can imagine my delight when we were presented with our goodie bags to take home at the end of the event, and I found not one but TWO bottles of my favourite sparkling red inside, as well as some Italian hard cheese, pates, and cured meats! I'm excited to start cooking with them all!

So, would I recommend a visit to Franco Manca next time you're in Oxford? Absolutely! I had a wonderful evening and I'll definitely be back. Previously, Zizzi had been my go-to for delicious pizza but now, I'll be at Franco Manca every time! A huge thank you goes out to the fantastic team at Franco Manca for making us all feel so welcome and for providing a real insight into the ethos behind the pizzeria. 

Where is your favourite Italian eatery? Please share in the comments below!

Until next time,

A x

*I was invited along to the Franco Manca press event free of charge

On Being Unfashionable


Hi, my name is Abbey and I am unfashionable. You heard me. Carrie Bradshaw would look aghast at my outfit combinations. Miranda Priestly would throw me out of her office in precisely 5 seconds flat. And as for Blair Waldorf, we'll not even go there. I've never been that keyed up with what's "on trend", nor have my adult years brought about any desire to follow fashion. Nevertheless, I'm here today with an outfit post with my middle finger firmly (yet metaphorically) raised towards the fashion world and to show you that you needn't give a single fuck either. Let's get started!


I love reading fashion blogs. Amy and Sophie are just two of my favourites. These gals always seem to be abreast of the latest trends, incorporating them with ease into their effortlessly gorgeous wardrobes. I really admire both of these flawless women, as well as everyone else who can maintain a fashion-focused blog, but I feel like if I were buying into what's "trendy", I wouldn't be staying true to myself. I'd just be purchasing items for the sake of a blog post, rather than because I actually like them. For example:

They look amazing on some people, but fishnets and jeans aren't really me!
I like embroidery but not enough to actually make a purchase.
And as for fluffy sliders? Ick. 

I just don't see the point in investing in all of these fashionable pieces when just a few months down the line, something new will be "in" and every one of us will have forgotten about what was big for SS17. Honestly, I'd rather just wait for the things I actually like to come into style again. I've always loved off-shoulder tops, I have a couple from Boohoo that I bought about 3 years ago that I wear on the regular because I think they're really flattering on me, so the fact that they were stylish this summer is great because shops are actually stocking something I like! However, the fact that they'll be "out" again in no time at all won't stop me wearing the things I love.

 
Dress: Eucalyptus (similar)
Blazer: Jack Wills (similar)
Shoes: Irregular Choice (similar)




Instead, I would describe my style as classic. I'd like to think of myself as a timeless dresser; I favour tea dresses, like the gorgeous polka-dot number I was wearing on my jaunt around Norwich's Chapelfield Gardens. It's dainty, classy, and feels very ME. Paired with a smart blazer and these funky Irregular Choice shoes, I couldn't feel more confident in this outfit! I didn't feel at all awkward or self conscious when I was having these photos taken. So yeah, while I probably am quite unfashionable by 2017 standards, I'm happy with how I look. And I think that's pretty important, don't you?


A massive shoutout and THANK YOU goes to the wonderful Tony, who shot these images for me in Norwich's Chapelfield Gardens. As well as running his own blog, Tony is a committee member for the University of East Anglia's Blog Society, and a student journalist. Tony interviewed me for a couple of features, which will be going live very soon! I'm very grateful to him for inviting me to come and chat to him, for taking these lovely shots, and for generally being an absolute gem.

Do you class yourself as "fashionable"? Why / why not? Is following fashion something that matters to you? Leave a comment down below and let me know!

Until next time,

A x

*This post contains affiliate links

A Girly Getaway: Cambridge

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I have a confession to make. I admit it, I'm guilty. I've cheated on my long-time lover with their bitter rival. And guess what? I don't feel the slightest bit bad about it. That's right - despite being an Oxford University student for the past four years, I've crossed over to the dark side, changed my Boat Race affiliation, and visited Cambridge. *gasp* My sister and I booked a mini-break to the historic East Anglian city at the start of September for some well deserved pampering and relaxation before heading back to our respective universities. Our base for a couple of nights was the Quy Mill Hotel & Spa, a characterful establishment located just 5 miles from the city centre. After being impressed by the gorgeous historic setting and comfortable appearance of the guest rooms on the Quy Mill's website, we were confident that the hotel would provide a luxurious experience - keep reading to find out about our stay!

 ๐Ÿก The Hotel ๐Ÿก

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The Quy Mill Hotel was a delightful mix of historic and modern. The charming main house, where the reception, restaurant, bar, and meeting rooms are located, dates back to the 1830's. The waterwheel which gives the hotel its name can still be seen if you take a few steps down toward the riverbank. It was originally used for milling flour, and was still functioning until the 1940's. The majority of the hotel's bedrooms, as well as the spa and gym, were to be found in the courtyard at the back of the house in several converted barn buildings. This meant that although the hotel was very busy when we arrived (we even had to park in the overflow carpark!), it still had a tranquil feel because the guests were so spread out. As we were looking for a peaceful and relaxing break, this was something that we really appreciated! The hotel also had lots of little nooks and crannies to explore - we especially enjoyed wandering around the waterwheel where we met some beautiful swans caring for their cygnets!

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 ๐ŸŒ… Accommodation ๐ŸŒƒ

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Just seconds away from the main house, we located our Superior Twin room in one of the converted barns and we were overjoyed to discover that our room came complete with a private patio, a lounge area, and (most importantly!) a heavenly jacuzzi spa bath! The room was clean, comfortable and well equipped with all of the expected amenities: a hairdryer, a safe, and free wifi. There was also a generous selection of luxury teas, coffees, and biscuits. We were pleased to find that fruit teas were provided, which was a bonus for me and my sister as neither of us are big fans of milky tea! The room was spacious and attractively decorated with a yellow and purple colour scheme running throughout. Rustic features such as the original ceiling beams were sympathetically incorporated into the room without losing the chic, modern feel.

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๐Ÿน Food ๐Ÿด

No hotel stay is complete without sampling the restaurant menu! On our first night, we were tired out from our drive down to Cambridge, so we opted for room service. We both ordered a Veggie Burger: chickpea and vegetable burger topped with halloumi, served in a semi-broiche bun with hand-cut chips, crispy onion rings, and Quy Mill's own tomato ketchup. Our meal arrived within 15 minutes of us picking up the phone to place the order, which was very impressive! The portion size was ENORMOUS and my sister and I both struggled to clear our plates. At £16.50 each plus a tray charge of £5, the burger was pricey but we certainly didn't need to order dessert! 

Breakfast also provided us with an opportunity to see what the Quy Mill's kitchen had to offer. On both mornings of our stay, we found a plentiful selection on the continental buffet, ranging from home-baked bread, pain au chocolat and muffins to cereals, cheeses, local yoghurts and fresh fruit. Hot breakfast options also came in abundance, all of which were cooked to order, which is fantastic as your food can be tailored to your exact requirements and is guaranteed to be piping hot! We opted for scrambled eggs on wholemeal toast for our breakfasts. The eggs were very tasty and the perfect texture. We didn't have a lot of luck with our toast - on the first day it was badly burned and on the second day it was cold but we could easily make more ourselves, so this wasn't too much trouble! The breakfast staff were friendly and gracefully accommodated our requests to be served soy milk with our hot drinks.

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quy-mill-hotel-spa-cambridge-review-food  quy-mill-hotel-spa-cambridge-review-restaurant 
quy-mill-hotel-spa-cambridge-review-menu

๐Ÿ’†๐Ÿป Spa Facilities๐Ÿ’ง

Finally, a trip to the Quy Mill's Imagine Spa, just footsteps from our room, was definitely in order! The 12m swimming pool provided plenty of space to do a few laps before jumping into the hot tub to relax! Entry to the spa, gym, sauna, and steam room was included with our room rate, although additional treatments could also be purchased. I really enjoyed the steam room as it provided the perfect opportunity to sweat everything out! All of the facilities, including the changing rooms, were pristine, as was the sunny conservatory located just off the poolside, which was a lovely place to recline and read a book in the sunshine between hot tub sessions. The gym, which we just had to try out after stuffing our faces at breakfast, also had a large variety of equipment. Each of the treadmills, crosstrainers, and bicycles had its own individual TV screen, so you could plug in your headphones and try to forget that you're exercising, which is always advantageous! 

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quy-mill-hotel-spa-cambridge-review-pool-sauna  quy-mill-hotel-spa-cambridge-review-hot-tub-jacuzzi

In the interests of providing a balanced review, I do have to mention a couple of little niggles that we experienced during our stay. When we arrived, the plughole in our bath was clogged up with quite a lot of hair, which meant that the shower was very slow to drain. This would be easily fixed with a bit of attention from the housekeeping team, however! Also, on our second day, we decided we wanted to sample the hotel's afternoon tea selection so phoned the reception to enquire about what time service ended. We were told that we could come down at any point before 5.30pm for afternoon tea. However, when we attempted to order afternoon tea in the restaurant at 5.10pm, we were told that service stopped at 5.00pm. Despite asking whether the chef could make us something anyway, on account of us being given the wrong information by reception, we were turned away. We chose to order a pizza delivery instead, but we were a little disappointed about the mix up. Nevertheless, my sister and I had a fantastic stay at the Quy Mill and wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to anyone looking for a Cambridge getaway! The hotel was perfectly located for exploring the city, as the Newmarket Park and Ride station was only a mile down the road.

It truly was a pleasure to have a couple of days away with my sister. I've mentioned on my blog previously that my sister and I haven't always been as close as I'd like, and this little break together has gone a long way to changing that. We had a lot of really interesting conversations, laughed a lot, and reminisced over a few childhood memories. Our short time in Cambridge together will be something I'll be able to look back on and smile. Here's hoping we'll be able to go on another trip in the near future!

Have you ever been to Cambridge? If so, are there any sights you'd recommend that I see on my next visit to the city? Please let me know in the comments!

Until next time,

A x

*We were provided with a complimentary upgrade to a Superior room and free breakfast in exchange for an honest review

Four-Legged Family*


Whether you're doolally for dogs, crazy for cats, or fanatical about fish, if you live in England like me, you're part of a nation of animal lovers! In 2016, it was estimated that 40% of UK households include a pet, meaning that in Britain alone, we have approximately 57 million companion animals. My animal loving credentials have been well established on my blog, through my fundraising efforts for an animal charity on my birthday, and my animal ownership advice post during National Pet Month. As someone who feels more maternal towards her dogs than she does toward any human baby, I can certainly attest to the fact that pets are part of the family!

When your pet is happy, their joy is infectious!
When they're lively and playful, it really lifts your energy.
When they're at the door to greet you, you feel welcomed and loved!
When a pet passes away, you grieve for them as you would for any family member.

Pets are not only fantastic companions but they do so much for us as well: mind, body, and soul! I see this for myself every time my Dad and I take my Nana's terrier, Suzie, to see her in her care home. Due to an unfortunate bout of ill health which occurred three years ago, my Nana is now partially paralysed, is unable to walk, and her cognitive capacity is hindered, meaning that she requires 24 hour care in a nursing home. Although she spends a lot of her time in pain, nothing brings a bigger smile to her face than when Suzie leaps through her door and into her chair, ready to smother her in sloppy kisses! My Nana will happily sit and talk to Suzie for hours, and she loves seeing videos of Suzie playing with the other dogs in the garden at home. Visits from Suzie really are therapy for my Nana and that one little dog brings more happiness than she can ever know!


I'm by no means the only person to have experienced the incredible gifts that animals can give us. To prove my point, I asked my trusty Twitter followers to share their thoughts on how their pets have touched their lives. I was completely overwhelmed by the huge number of touching responses that I received! To name but a few, Debra shared with me how her rescue kitten Bear helps her fight off loneliness when her boyfriend is away serving in the Navy. Izzy told me about how her cat is a real stress reliever, helping her to fight the symptoms of anxiety. Kat says that her dogs have helped her mental and physical health, encouraging her to confront her chronic pain head on and take them out for the five mile walks they love!

Here are just a few of the other amazing stories of the power that our pets have to make our lives better:

Now, since it's clear that our animals do so much for us without even realising it, it's only right that we take care of them as best we can: giving them plenty of love, exercise, entertainment and (of course) food. However, how much thought do you put into what you feed your pet? I had a really shocking moment a few months ago when reading an article about dog chews. I always used to purchase rawhide dog chews as a treat for my puppers because I believed them to be a healthy option. Imagine my horror when I discovered that many rawhide dog chews actually contain GLUE!! I couldn't believe it - you wouldn't give Fido a Pritt Stick for dinner, would you? Without realising it, I'd been doing the equivalent.


I've learned the hard way that checking labels on the products you feed your pets is absolutely essential. Yet even the labels themselves can be misleading. Research by Data Label has revealed that ingredients that are not necessarily made with fresh or ethically sourced ingredients can sound as if they are, through a bit of creative marketing on the part of the manufacturers. The term "Meat Meal", for example, which seems inoffensive enough and regularly appears on food labels, actually refers to mushed up fatty tissues, entrails, and bones of animals which are not fit for human consumption. Yuck. Not exactly the high quality ingredient that you might hope to be serving up to Rover. Data Label are now calling for clearer labels on pet food so that owners really know what they're feeding their pet and can make informed choices in the supermarket. This is something that I fully support. Pets really are part of the family and we should put just as much consideration into their diets as we would our own.

Do you have a pet? Please tell me all about the effect they've had on your life in the comments below, stories of animal companionship really warm my heart!

Until next time,

A x

*This is a collaborative post

Every Body Has Rolls

instagram models belly rolls body confidence

What is your favourite type of roll? A bread roll, cinnamon roll, or maybe those delicious cheesy pizza rolls you can get in Tesco? Mmmm. Whatever your preference, I can guarantee one thing. If you're a living, breathing human being, you've got stomach rolls. You've got rolls, I've got rolls, even Instagram models have rolls! As part of my summer goals, I have pledged to increase my body confidence and positivity, so here I am today, embracing myself exactly as I am and showing you that a few rolls are absolutely nothing to be ashamed of!

body confidence stomach rolls 

If you'd asked me this time last year to write a blog post like this, showing exactly what I look like (with minimal editing) on a public blog and social media, I'd have told you to piss right off. When I was away working in Greece last summer, I didn't have the confidence to wear crop-tops or anything midrif-baring because I was simply terrified of anyone seeing that my stomach creases up when I sit down. I wasn't even confident enough to sit down whilst wearing anything that showed my tum around my then-boyfriend. I know in my logical brain that your weight does not determine your attractiveness or beauty, but still, I wasn't comfortable in my own skin.

My subconsious internalisation of social norms meant that I was too self-conscious to fully embrace my body. You can tell yourself all you like that "the perfect bikini body" lauded in advertising doesn't exist, but when you're bombarded with images of Victoria's Secret models with stick-thin figures and giant boobs, and told that THIS is the one and only ideal, it does impact upon you, no matter how hard you tell your insecurities to shut up.

body confidence journey stomach rolls instagram model

So, in the name of body positivity and loving your damn self, today I thought I'd share my figure in all its glory to show that everyone, no matter their shape and weight, has rolls. At 5ft 7" tall and a UK size 8/10, I am a healthy weight. But compare how I look in the first photo, when I'm standing straight, to how I look in the two photos below, when I'm sitting in an entirely normal seated posture. There's a noticable difference, right? Yet that is the exact same body in both shots.

As the photos show, it's all about the angles. 

Anyone who is photographed standing up or lying down flat on their backs is going to look more svelte and elongated. Anyone who is photographed sitting or curled up, especially if they're in a relaxed posture, is going to have rolls. If even Instagram models, famed for their "perfect" physiques, have rolls when they sit down, it is entirely natural for you to have them too! You've got a lot of organs to fit inside your body, and those are essential for keeping you alive - you've gotta have room for them all!

stomach rolls body confidence love my body 
confidence body instagram models stomach rolls belly

It breaks my heart when I see beautiful girls on social media talking about how they hate their bodies and how they're desperate to shed pounds. But comparing yourself to people who have had their photos professionally taken at uber-flattering angles is completely unfair to you. Chances are, you're not a model who has all day to follow a rigorous exercise regimen, with professional dieticians on hand to prescribe exactly what they should be eating and when - so why compare yourself? Every single body has rolls, so you needn't feel bad about yours. Your weight does not affect your beauty and it does not change the person you are inside. You're a real person with a real body and that's just FAB.

What are your thoughts on body positivity? Is there a part of your body that you need to learn to love a bit more? Please share in the comments!

Until next time,

A x

Blogger Book Nook #1: It's All New!

 


Reading has been one of my favourite hobbies ever since I was a little girl. Before I could even talk, I'd force my Mum to read me Flower Fairy storybooks over and over again, tapping my finger on the page if she took too long to turn to the next one! (Yes I was a nightmare child, sorry Mumma!) I always enjoy reading and sharing book reviews, so when my friend Tabitha asked me whether I'd like to be involved in setting up a blogger's book club with her, naturally I said YES! Now, the Blogger Book Nook has been born, and we are both incredibly excited to share it with you! Shall we get started?


What is the Blogger Book Nook?

As I mentioned above, the Blogger Book Nook is the brainchild of the lovely Tabitha, who blogs over at What Tabitha Loves. The idea is to create a friendly community of enthusiastic bloggers who all love to read! We'll be having regular discussions, recommending authors, and sharing books - encouraging all members of the group to keep up their reading motivation! We've set up a Facebook group especially for this, so if you'd like to join, please send a request as everybody is welcome!

Alongside the Facebook group, every month there will be a reading prompt and a Q&A too! Each month will have a specific theme. This month's theme is NEWNESS, to celebrate the official launch of the group! September's reading prompt is to pick up a book by an author who is completely new to you, and if you like, you can review it on your blog. As part of your review, you can also answer the Q&A questions below, which all relate to the theme of newness. The theme is deliberately very open so that you can read anything that takes your fancy!

A huge thanks goes out to Claire for designing our logo!

Q1) Do you like trying new authors or do you stick to old favourites? Why?

Personally, I love reading new authors! Nothing excites me more than discovering a new writing style, new genres, and new characters. It's actually quite rare that I read multiple novels by the same author - notable exceptions to this include Philippa Gregory, whose Tudor history themed series I ADORED as a teenager, and Virginia Woolf, because her stream-of-consciousness writing style is music to my ears!

Q2) How do you usually find out about new authors? Reading blog reviews? Advertisements? Recommendations from friends?

I buy a lot of my books in charity shops, so I will often just pick up a book at random (especially if they're on sale for 50p!) and give it a try. I have also participated in quite a few book swaps with other bloggers, which has been a fantastic way to try out authors I hadn't even heard of before! We are thinking of setting up some book swaps through the Blogger Book Nook, so if this is something that would interest you, let us know!

Q3) Which new authors are on your TBR list at the moment?

Brooklyn by Colm M. Toibin has been on my TBR list for yonks! I usually wait until I've read the book before I see any movie adaptations, but I broke my own rule and saw the 2015 film of Brooklyn before I read the novel (naughty naughty!) I was so drawn in and captivated by the film that I really must make time to read the book! Toibin is an author that I haven't read before, so this month's Blogger Book Nook theme is definitely motivating me to pick up his novel!

Q4) Have you come across a new author recently that you really didn't enjoy reading? Which book was it and why didn't it appeal to you?

One of my good friends is a huge Martin Amis fan and as I'd never read any of his work before, I decided to pick up Success, which I reviewed in my last Bookshelf Update, and The Rachel Papers. Amis was a new author to me and unfortunately, I just didn't like his style. I found his characters quite unlikeable, and although the books were very witty and humorous in places, I just couldn't really get into the story as the characters left me feeling so apathetic. Ah well, you win some, you lose some!

Q5) Which of your all-time favourite author's books would you give to a friend who had never read their work before? 

The book that made me fall in love with Virginia Woolf's writing was Orlando, I thought it was absolutely incredible and it took my breath away in places. I felt such an affinity with the lead character and felt every emotion with them as the action progressed. Mrs Dalloway is another book of Woolf's that I adore; how the mental state of the characters was shown to impact their every thought and action was just incredible, and the ending really brought the seemingly disparate elements of the story together in an amazing climax. I couldn't recommend these two books highly enough!


My Mini Review

Since this month's theme is new authors, I decided to pick up a book Jeanette Winterson's Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit. I have never read anything by Winterson before, but I have heard incredible things about this novel, so I was excited to get started! The book is a semi-autobiographical story, based on the author's own upbringing in rural Lancashire. The story follows Jeanette, a young girl adopted into a staunchly evangelical Christian family. Her mother, a religious fanatic, has her sights set on Jeanette becoming a missionary, a path which the young girl herself begins to follow. However, in her early teens, Jeanette's path changes forever when she first begins to develop romantic feelings - for another woman. Jeanette and her young lover are subjected to exorcisms, and are eventually cast out of their community. The witnessing through words of a young girl being expelled from her family was truly heartbreaking, and although eventually, after a long period of time, Jeanette and her mother are somewhat reconciled (although they do not discuss her lifestyle) it gave me greatly happy that Jeanette had remained true to herself and did not renounce her sexual orientation at any point. This was an incredibly immersive and moving read, and I would encourage anyone who has not read anything by Winterson before to pick up a copy of this book!

Since I found trying a new author so fulfilling this month, why don't you do the same? Write a mini review like I have here, answer the Q&A, and share your post on social media, using the hashtag #BBookNook so that we can share it! Don't forget to join our Facebook group for lots of discussion as well! You can head over to Tabitha's blog to discover which new authors she's been delving into as well.

What are you reading at the moment? Who are your favourite authors? Leave your answers in the comments below, I'm looking to expand my TBR list!

Until next time,

A x
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