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October: A Month of Firsts

If you've been reading my blog for any length of time, chances are you'll have noticed that I'm not usually one for writing favourites posts, monthly roundups, and the like. However, I am a big fan of "favourites" style posts such as those written by Hels and Steph, who share not just the products they've been loving in any given month, but their favourite days out, moments, and life events too! Since October for me has been a big month, jam-packed with many "firsts" and new experiences, I thought that these would be worth commemorating in a dedicated post, which (surprise surprise!) is what you're reading right now! There's something for everyone in this post, from party dresses to historic days out! Let's dive right in to my month of firsts!

First Explorations

At the start of October, I began my PhD programme at the University of Leicester, which has meant relocating to a new city, sorting out my new student digs, and finding my feet in an unfamilar place. I've been spending time at the weekends scoping out what Leicester has to offer and I've really enjoyed it! A particular highlight was visiting the Richard III Visitor Centre, where you can actually visit the spot where king's body was excavated back in 2012, in the middle of a car park! The museum also showcases how the archaeologists identified Richard's body, how his face has been reconstructed, and why his skeleton is missing its feet! My favourite room of the whole exhibition vividly recreates the Battle of Bosworth where King Richard was killed, using immersive projections of the cavalry across the darkened walls - it's a must-see and well worth the £8 student entry fee!

A Beauty First

Now I'm sure that most people who know me would say that I'm a fairly low-maintenance gal on the beauty front: I barely wear foundation, a curling iron is entirely foreign to me, and as for doing anything to my eyebrows - forget about it! However, that changed this month when I was invited along to the opening of Leicester's newest waxing salon - nkd. The Leicester branch is the second owned by nkd's founder, Rebecca Dowell, complementing her existing store in Nottingham. During a cocktail and nacho fuelled evening at the salon, several prizes were handed out to the excited attendees, and I was lucky enough to be a winner! I was treated to my first EVER eyebrow wax, courtesy of the lovely Jade. I approached the treatment chair with a bit of trepidation, expecting it to really hurt, but I was pleasantly surprised not to experience any pain! Jade was very reassuring and knowledgable, sticking to my natural brow shape and giving me a great tidy up. Based on this experience, I'll definitely be returning to nkd. All of the staff were very friendly, and the treatment rooms are welcoming and stylishly decorated. This was my first visit but it certainly won't be my last!


First Time (in a while...) 

When I was younger, I used to be a bit of a water baby! I adored swimming lessons and racked up as many achievement badges as my Mum could sew onto my dinky pink costume. I used to swim twice a week as a teenager, competing in the occasional gala and even once completing the Swimathon. However, in recent years, I've been a lot lazier and I've barely been in the water besides the odd dip on  holiday. But with a swimming pool just around the corner from my new flat in Leicester, I decided not to make any more excuses and to dive straight in again (teehee). To help give me the push I needed, I was also sent some fab new goggles by the lovely people at SwimFreak. I was gifted the SilverSlick triathlon goggles* in white, which I was really impressed with. Completely leak-proof as well as comfortable, sleek and stylish, these googles are easily adjustable and come with interchangable bridges in order to fit them perfectly to your face. The free nose clip that was also included was a nice touch too! My only comment about the design would be that having two bands around your head instead of just one would make them even more secure, but really I had very few quibbles and would recommend SwimFreak's range.

First Class Friends

September was a fantastic month for meeting up with my blogger friends, as I made last minute plans to travel down to Leeds for the #BloggersBlogAwards, which was a brilliant weekend! October continued along the same vein, as I was lucky enough to meet up with Hayley for the first time. Hayley and I have been friends for what seems like forever, so to meet her in person was such a thrill! In addition, I also got the chance to hang out with two of my other blogger besties this month: Hels and Kate! We spent a wonderful crafty weekend in Hels' lovely London flat preparing all of the Pinterest inspired DIYs for Hels' upcoming wedding reception, with plenty of pizza and wine to boot! These two mean such a lot to me and I wouldn't change them for the world. Towards the end of the month, I also went along to PrezzyBox's Christmas #JingleMingle event with my garlic bread loving gals Debra and Chloe, who are both such good fun and absolute sweethearts, and I finally met the wonder that is Laura, who I've known since the start of my blogging career, too! I think I'm doing quite well on the socialising front...

First Signs of Christmas

Oh yes, the dreaded C-word! I know some very industrious folks who have already started buying wrapping their Christmas prezzies already and while I'm not quite on that level yet, what I have been thinking about is Christmas party season! There's nothing better than getting dolled up for the office do, and I've already got my outfit sorted! Quiz clothing gifted me this gorgeous Red Frill Detail Jumpsuit* from the recently launched Gabby Allen Edit, which I'm really looking forward to wearing more this festive season. I dressed mine down slightly (well, as much as you can dress down a fire-engine-red jumpsuit...) with a jacket and flats, but you could easily ramp up the glam with simple heels and a faux fur coverup too! Huge thanks to the lovely Kate for taking these photos for me!

Jumpsuit: Quiz Clothing*
Jacket: Next (similar)
Shoes: H&M
Necklace: H. Samuel (similar)

There we have it - my month of firsts! Has October been kind to you? What have you got planned for November? Comment down below and let me know!

Until next time,

A x

*This is a collaborative post containing affiliate links: I received the items marked with an asterisk free of charge in exchange for a feature on my blog.

Bistrot Pierre Leicester Review

Grab your baguette, beret, and Brie because you're in for a flight of French fancy with this post! But don't worry, there isn't a snail in sight! Last week, I was lucky enough to be invited to review one of Leicester's highest rated restaurants, Bistrot Pierre. The Bistrot, centrally located on Millstone Lane, has recently undergone a makeover, and I took my lovely blogger friend Hayley along to check it out! The venue was originally constructed by a Victorian wine merchant, and has served as a restaurant dedicated to fine French cuisine since 2003. As a relative newbie to the Leicester food scene, I had never visited Bistrot Pierre before, but after a scroll through the glowing reviews on their Trip Advisor page, I knew that we were in for a treat!

The new-look restaurant is packed with charm, combining all of the expected modern features with vintage twists. The dark blue walls, dotted with classic French posters and signs, were illuminated by the atmospheric low lighting. The spotlights perfectly positioned above each table provide ample light for enjoying your food whilst retaining an intimate feel. The jazz playing in the background also contributed to the classy air. The restaurant is split into four main areas, each decorated with its own individual and eye-catching quirks. Hayley and I particularly liked the gorgeous crystal orbs hanging over the main part of the restaurant, giving the place the aura of a 1920's ballroom. All of the decor comes together with lively and welcoming charm.

Another advantage of the restaurant being segmented into four areas is that even during busy times, the restaurant is unlikely to seem too swamped. The tables are positioned quite close together but this was not a problem for me and Hayley on our visit as we dined on a fairly quiet Thursday evening. At a similar off-peak time, Bistrot Pierre would be the perfect venue for a romantic dinner for two to celebrate a special occasion. The Bistrot offers a couple of different Prix Fixe menu options for lunch and early evening which present very good value for money - any two courses will set you back just £13.95 on the early evening menu, an excellent deal which I'll certainly be taking advantage of in future.

Now, let's move on to what you REALLY want to hear about - our meal! Hayley and I are both vegetarians, and we were delighted to find enough options on the menu for us to order completely different dishes. From the A La Carte menu, I opted for one of the Bistrot's new additions, the Crottin de chevre, baked goat's cheese with toasted walnuts, marinated beetroot, chicory, watercress and grain mustard dressing. The goat's cheese was of high quality; rich, creamy, and melt-in-the-mouth. Beetroot is an accompaniment that I don't often enjoy, but it formed a tasty component of the salad in this dish. My only reservations were that the starter was served with iceberg lettuce which seemed a bit of a shame. The delicious goat's cheese would have been complemented far better by some baby leaf salad. I didn't find the walnuts or watercress promised by the menu on my plate. Hayley tucked into the Brioche et champignons, toasted brioche with a fricasse of mushrooms, served without the bacon. Hayley had no complains about her starter and found it very filling.

Moving on to main course, we both selected options from the lighter dishes section on the menu, and I am glad that we did because the portions again were very generous! Hayley tried the Tarte a l'oignon, a warm tartlet of caramelised onions and Le Saint Mont des Alpes cheese, served with roast garlic aioli. This was an attractively presented dish which Hayley thoroughly enjoyed. I was tempted by another new dish on the Bistrot's menu, the Gratin Mediterraneen. This comprised ricotta and spinach "veggie balls", served with lashings of rich tomato and creamy bechamel sauce. My dish was well cooked and perfectly seasoned with basil - spinach and ricotta is indeed an unbeatable combination! I would say that it perhaps could have done with some variation in terms of texture; everything in the dish was the same texture which made it a little difficult to finish despite it tasting delicious. Between us, we were served potatoes and seasonal veggies, which went down very well. The vegetables were well cooked; firm (because nobody wants soggy, limp broccoli), flavorful and well seasoned.

And finally, it wouldn't been rude not to sample the desserts! It took us a very long time to decide, but eventually Hayley and I ordered a Tarte au citron and a Delice au chocolat between us. The lemon tart took the prize of best dish of the night for me! It was crunchy and caramelized on top, velvety smooth below, complemented well by the fruity tang of the raspberry sorbet with which it was served. The brownie, coated with thick chocolate sauce, was absolutely delicious but very rich. The salted caramel ice cream helped to mellow the taste, and there was a nice mix of textures with the crunchy bits on top too. Our meal was washed down with a bottle of Cuvee 94 rosΓ© which was light, refreshing and did not overpower any of the delicious flavours of the food.

A note has to be made of the delightful service that we received on the night, courtesy of Mihai. Mihai is a real asset to Bistrot Pierre - he is welcoming, friendly and very knowledgable about the restaurant and all of the dishes on the menu. He provided top quality service from the get-go. Sadly our first experience of the restaurant's serving team wasn't the most positive, as upon our arrival, I was snapped at by one of the waitresses for taking photos, despite me explaining that I was there to write a review. To her credit, she did apologise to us at the end of our night, but it didn't contribute to a very pleasant first impression. Nevertheless, Hayley and I had a wonderful time at Bistrot Pierre and the gorgeous food is more than enough to tempt me to return!

Are you a fan of French food? Which of Bistrot Pierre's dishes would you most like to try? Leave a comment below and let me know!

Until next time, 

A x

*This meal was provided free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

Instagram Hashtags I Swear By

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Now, I don't know if you've noticed, but recently, I've been trying to up my Instagram game. But instead of doing this with the aim of gaining followers (because LET'S FACE IT, with the current algorithm, that ain't gonna happen), I've been putting that little bit of extra effort in because I genuinely enjoy doing so. Having an aesthetically pleasing Insta feed gives me a little perk up every time I open the app, which is so much nicer than stressing about the follow/unfollow game or whether you'll make it to 156 followers by next Christmas. However, sometimes it is nice for a photo you've worked hard on to get a bit of recognition, and not just in the form of bots commenting "great shot omg (follow me back?)". To enable you to rake in those likes, I've created a list of all the hashtags that I've found actually work, organised by theme. Don't say I'm not good to you.

✨ Lifestyle / Blogging ✨

instagram lifestyle hashtags blogger followers
The wonderful Victoria runs a lifestyle feed to be proud of!
#petitejoys #pursuepretty #thatsdarling #darlingmoment #darlingmovement #darlingweekend #thehappynow #flashesofdelight #livecolourfully #livethelittlethings #liveauthentic #livecreatively #myunicornlife #makemoments #morningscenes #appreciatewhatyouhave #visualsoflife #thevisualscollective #visualsgang #authenticonly #agameoftones #dailymotivation #keepmovingforward #makeitcount #doitnow #believeinyourself #abmhappylife #abmlifeiscolorful #picoftheday #ignation #postitfortheaesthetic #positivevibes #instajoys #inspiremyinstagram #throughthelens #seekthesimplicity #chooselovely #nothingisordinary #vscocam #blogger #bloggerlife #theblogissue #ukblogger #bloggervibes #flatlaystyle #instablog #bloggerpicks #blogsociety  #thebloggerscircle #thegirlgang #bloggerstyle #bloggerdiaries #lifestyleblogger #lifestylephotography

✈️ Travel ✈️

blogger instagram growth hastags best travel
Jess and James from Food & Baker are my pick for top travel Instagrammers!
#mytravelgram #createexplore #exploretocreate #igtravel #instatravelling #instapassport #bestvacations #travelphoto #justgoshoot #createexploretakeover #getoutdoors #explorer #exploringtheglobe #tripstagram #wanderlust #travelblogger #travelbug #vacaymode #lovenature #followme #travelwriter #ilovetravel #travelblog #travelinspo #postcardsfromtheworld #instapassport #travelpics #igtravel #writetotravel #travelgram #instago #travelpics #girlswhotravel #passionpassport #doyoueventravel #worldcaptures #worldplaces #beautifuldestinations #tblogger #tourism #wanderlust #lonetraveller #theglobewanderer #roamtheplanet #wandermore #awakethesoul #dreamholiday #dreamworld #exploreeverything #followmeto #lifewelltravelled #prettycitylondon #weekenders

 πŸ‘— Fashion πŸ‘—

hashtags insta growth following blogger lifestyle fashion
If you're looking for a flawless fashion 'gram, check out Sophie's feed!
#ootdshare #ootdfashion #styleblogger #fashionbloggers #todayiwear #lookbook #fashionista #fashionaddict #design #streetstyle #lookoftheday #fashiongram #fashionweek #fashionlook #styleguide #shoeoftheday #highendfashion #streetweardaily #styleiswhat #madewell #ootn #trendsetters #outfitdetails #fashiondiaries #outfitgoals #songofstyle #vacaystyle #fashiongram #styleoftheday #outfitpost #outfitsociety #justaddsole #simplefits #styleicon #dailylook #trendalert #bagoftheday #baglover #trendsettah #stylesp #stylestalker #styledbyroyalty #whatiwore #girlswithstyle #makeyousmilestyle #outfitinspiration #fbloggersuk #thisnewlook #wearitloveit #chictopia #todayiamwearing #wiwt

🍰 Food 🍰

best hashtags instagram food likes
Curiously Emily is the girl to make your feed mouthwatering!
#foodie #foodvsco #foodporn #foodcoma #foodblog #instafood #yummytime #foodgasm #foodstagram #lovefood #foodlovers #goodfood #mouthwatering #crumbshot #eatsandtreats #onmytable #ourkitchenstories #feedfeed #topcitybites #onthetableproject #londonfoodie #foodgram #foodmatters #hautecuisines #foodandwine #eattherainbow #wholesome #cleanfood #realfood #youarewhatyoueat #balancethebody #letfoodbethymedicine #foodshot #foodoftheday #eatinghealthy #intuitiveeating #foodpics #hungry #foodjournal #mealideas #mealprepping #coffeeculture #livetoeat #foodforthought #bonapetit #foodboss #foodstyling #getinmybellynow #eeeeats #mylunch #lunchscenes #smallplates #eatingout #sotasty #dessertporn #sweettooth #junkfood

πŸ’‹ Beauty πŸ’‹

beauty hashtags guide instagram likes
If you're a beauty addict, you need Sarah's Insta in your life!
#instamakeup #beautycommunity #instamakeup #makeuplove #makeupcollection #makeupcollector #makeuplook #makeupguru #makeupobsessed #makeupblogger #makeupaddict #makeupaddiction #contourandhighlight #promakeup #makeuptransformation #makeupoftheday #dailymakeup #wakeupandmakeup #blendthatshit #makeuptips #makeupjunkie #brushcollection #makeupblog #allmodernmakeup #liveglam #motd #muabloggers #glowedup #makeupartistsworldwide #dressyourface #beautyaddict #cosmetics #beautygram #nailswag #nailsonfleek #beautylover #nailsofinstagram #fotd #makeuptutorial

🍼 Parenting 🍼

parenting baby blogger hashtags likes instagram
My lovely friend Hels posts gorgeous photos of her little boy Dougie!
#babyphotographer #capturethoseearlydays #familysnuggles #babylove #parents #parenting #parenthood #parentlife #parentslove #vscobaby #mamasgirl #mamasboy #familyfriday #familylife #lifewithkids #familyfirst #familyfun #familyvaycay #familylook #familytime #familytrip #momlife #momblog #instamom #kidslife #mummysprincess #mummydaughtertime #mumswithcameras #mumsofinstagram #mumswithhustle #mumfashion #mumandbaby #familyisforever #familyphotography #famtime #thismamaloves #developinglife #mummyblogger #pblogger #parentblogger #mumblogger #firsttimemum #mumtobe

🐢 Pets 🐱

pets petstagram hashtags instagram growth
Adorable kitties Albie and Cecil have their very own Insta page and you'd be mad not to follow them!
#petlovingclub #petagram #petsofinstagram #instapet #weeklyfluff #instapet #animalkingdom #animallover #pawstruck #cutepetclub #instafluff #puppiesofinstagram #puppylove #instapuppy #instadog #ilovemydog #dogmom #dogsdaily #dogscorner #bestwoof #aplacetolovedogs #lovedogs #dogwalking #dogloversofinstagram #dogsonadventures #puppykisses #puppyface #puppytales #pupdorable #dogdaysofsummer #dogsarethebest #dogstagram #puppiesmakemehappy #puppylover #catoftheday #caturday #ilovecats #crazycatlady #catsofinstagram #catstagram #bestmeow #ilovemycat #catsofig #catsofworld #catbloggers #blackcatlife #catoftheday #kittycat #kittenlove #kittenlife #kittenplay #kittensofig #kittengram #kittenspace #meowvswoof #meowdel

πŸ“š Bookstagram  πŸ“–

hashtags instagram books bookstagram blogger likes
My bookish pal Charlotte shares all of her latest reads on Instagram!
#bookstagram #bookstagrammer #bookstagramfeature #bookishfeatures #bookshelfie #shelfie #bibliophile #bookish #booknerd #instaread #currentlyreading #bookworm #booklover #booksworthreading #booksareagirlsbestfriend #readinglist #bookporn #igbooks #readersofinstagram #alwaysreading #vscoreads #someofmybestbooks #girlswhoread #badassbookbabes #bookblog #betterwithbooks #booksbooksbooks #readmore #booksandcoffee #bookphotography #vscobooks #readUP #booksonbooksonbooks #totalbooknerd #reviewbook #mybooks #becauseofreading #totalbooknerd #booknerdigans #booktastic #booksactually #amreading #bookshelf #GoodReads #LitFict #greatreads #womensfiction #IReadEverywhere #readingforfun #readingbuddy #readingglasses #booklion

I hope that this Insta-guide will be helpful to a good many of you, but just remember that you can only use 30 hashtags per photo, or your well-crafted caption will disappear, so watch out.

How are you feeling about Instagram at the moment? Sad, pissed off, or simply apathetic? Let me know in the comments below, and leave your Insta handle too so that I can follow you! My feed can be found here.

Until next time,

A x

I Too Lack Confidence

lacking confidence boost tips advice

"Abbey, you're so confident!" This is a comment that I've received on numerous blog posts and honestly, it still surprises me every time it pops up. In some ways, yes, I suppose I do come across as quite self-assured. I'm confident enough to share bikini photos on a blog where they can viewed by several thousand people. I'm confident enough to bare my tummy rolls to the world. I'm confident enough to talk openly about sex. But is this really the full picture? I, for one, sure don't think so. Anyone who regularly reads my blog might be a bit shocked if I were to list all of the things I'm shit scared of doing (excuse my French). So today, in the name of openness and honesty, that's exactly what I'm going to do!

The point of this post is not just to embarrass myself.
It's to show you that even the people who seem the most confident are a little bit insecure too.
Insecurities are human, and there's no shame in having them. 

Without further ado, let's get into the list, shall we? Here are some of the things I just don't have the confidence to do:

confidence confident how to feel more
confidence confident advice tips
Jumper: H&M (similar)  |  Skirt: H&M (similar)  | Boots: Ego Shoes

    • Play my choice of music on speakers: What if someone hears what I'm listening to and laughs at me? I enjoy bad noughties pop and whatever chart music captures my attention, but I'm so terrified of being judged that if anyone asks me to plug in my phone to a loudspeaker, I'll make up pretty much any excuse to avoid it. 
    • Admit to what I'm reading: Sometimes, I like to read classic literature: Woolf, Tolstoy, Hemingway, the list goes on. Other times, I like to read chick-lit trash. Why? Because it's fun, light-hearted and sometimes you just don't wanna think about a plot too much - y'know? I wholeheartedly agree with Rachel's post that no choice of TV show / book / movie should be sneered at and considered "inferior" but I still can't shake this insecurity.
    • Sing in front of anybody: My Dad once made a joke that I sound like a strangled cat when I sing, and although he probably wasn't being serious, now I can't sing in front of anybody for fear of making a fool of myself.
    • Leave a message on an answering machine: I HATE the sound of my own voice. I shudder every time I hear myself on recording, so I try not to put anyone else through that horror.
    • Admit to being proud of myself: Honestly, I think I have done a few things in my life that I deserve to be openly proud of. However, my insecurities tell me that I'll be known as the big-headed, stuck-up bitch if I say "yes I am proud of what I've achieved". I think this is something that I definitely need to work on.
    • Take the lead in conversations: Even with people I've been friends with a long time, people who I'm pretty sure like me (or just tolerate me really well), I hate taking the lead in a conversation. I'd always prefer to talk about topics that they're interested in than risk boring them with what I have to say. I don't have the confidence to introduce my own topic of conversation. 

    how to feel confident confidence self love
    confident confidence help tips advice lack

      However, I'm not going to sit here today and be a total Negative Nancy! Although you may not have realised it so far, this post also showcases one of my newest confidence wins! When I first started blogging, I would never have had the balls to take a shot for Instagram out in public, even if it was just of a pretty flower display, or a flatlay of my food in a restaurant. Even not so long ago, I shot the majority of my holiday OOTD photos by the pool early in the morning so that I was unlikely to be caught in the act. But recently, I plunged myself in at the deep end and asked my friend Hayley to shoot with me in a public park and a cafe, and I'm not ashamed to admit that I LOVE the results (mainly due to Hayley's amazing photography - she gets full credit for the snaps in this post!).

      confidence confident advice help tips

      So, to round off this post on a high note, I thought I would end with sharing my three top tips for feeling confident that I'm trying to incorporate more into my life. You ready?
      • Feel put together. Whether you need to gain confidence for an important meeting at work, or if you want to head outside and grab those perfect autumnal shots, putting on an outfit or even just a makeup look that makes you feel great really does help you take on the world! Even your phone case can be incorporated into a flawless outfit, as I've hopefully shown here with my new case from GoCustomized*! The wooden case has my choice of design and wording actually engraved into it, creating a gorgeous textured effect. The creation process on the GoCustomized website was simple and intuitive, and the case was very reasonably priced too. At just £19.99, I was incredibly impressed at the quality! The wood of the case is perfectly autumnal and works well with the mustard colours that are oh-so fashionable this season.
      • Don't be afraid to laugh at yourself. Trying not to take yourself too seriously really helps. When Hayley and I were shooting at the 6 Degrees Coffee House in Leicester, Hayley took some snaps of me from outside the shop, looking through the window. An old man walking past gave us *SUCH* a funny look (he's obviously never heard of bloggers, his loss!). Instead of letting him make us feel self-conscious, Hayley and I carried on and got those perfect shots, although we did have to take a quick break as we were laughing too hard! Finding the funny side of potentially awkward moments really does help them breeze over, allowing you to retain that confident feeling.
      • Just go for it. I don't know about you, but putting a task off makes me want to do that thing about a million percent less. Seize the day - you're capable of so much more than you think!

      confidence help lacking confident more

      A huge thank you goes out to the wonderful Hayley for shooting these photos with me, and of course to the lovely people at GoCustomized for allowing me to try out their design services. As well as the wooden cases like mine, they offer from wallet cases, cork cases, silicone covers and hard covers, whatever your preference. You can personalise them with your own photos, text, and graphic designs too - the options are endless! You simply must check GoCustomized out!

      Have you had any confidence wins lately? What gives you a confidence boost? Please share in the comments below!

      Until next time,

      A x

      *This is a collaborative post with GoCustomized. The phone case included in this post was sent to me for free.

      How to Deal with a PR Nightmare


      I've been lucky enough to work with a fantastic selection of PR execs and brands in my time, from McDonalds and Nicholsons Pubs to Ladbrokes and Panasonic, and I have even more collaborative content in the pipeline! I'm a passionate believer that bloggers should be paid for their hard work. However, recently I've been bombarded with a whole load of nonsense emails from brands, PRs, and SEO specialists who have some quite unreasonable requirements for the bloggers that they work with. Take a peek at the email below that I received from a PR. I've highlighted just three of the issues with this email: a do-follow link, non-disclosure, and poor payment, and now, I'm going to show you how to respond (in a classy and professional manner!) to all three of these nightmarish requests. Shall we get started?

      how to respond to bad blogger PR emails


      Why is a paid do-follow link a problem?

      I covered this thorny issue not long ago in a specially dedicated post. Rather than rehash the whole debate here, I recommend you head over to that post if you're unsure about the issues involved. Read it here: The Do-Follow Link Debate: Where do you Stand?

      If asked to write a post with a do-follow link, how should you respond?

      I receive these kinds of requests frequently! Very often, I've found that the PRs who ask for do-follow links are just trying their luck and will still want to pay you to write a post with a no-follow link if you show that you're aware of the rules. This is my standard response, which you're welcome to take inspiration from:

      "Thank you for getting in touch about this interesting opportunity. I'd definitely like to feature your products on my blog, but I do not accept do-follow links. The reason for this is that using such links in a promotional post is against Google's guidelines. If my blog is found using do-follow links for this type of content, my blog can be penalised, meaning that its domain authority and position in Google's search results will suffer. Understandably, this is not something that I am willing to risk. If you would be happy for me to use a no-follow link, in accordance with Google's guidelines, I would be delighted to work with you."

      Include this link to Google's guidelines to show that you've done your research!

      Why is non-disclosure a problem?

      As well as being completely unethical, not disclosing your sponsored content is a breach of the 2008 Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Act. In addition, the UK Code of Advertising, accessible on the Advertising Standards Authority (or ASA) website, states that:

      "Marketers and publishers must make clear that their advertorials are marketing communications, for example by heading them 'advertisement feature'."
      This means that you, the blogger, are obliged to disclose content on your blog that you have been paid to write, or products that have been sent to you for free in exchange for a review. If you're found breaking these rules, you blog can be sanctioned quite harshly. It is possible that your name, and that of your blog, and details of how you have broken advertising rules will be featured on a dedicated section of the ASA website. You can view this list of advertising sinners for yourself. Your appearance on this list will show up in the Google results when somebody searches for your blog. This could be a major turn-off for other companies researching your blog and deciding whether to work with you, as well as for your readers.

      If asked not to disclose promotional content, how should you respond? 

      Here's how I have responded to requests for non disclosure in the past:

      "Many thanks indeed for your email. I certainly could create a blog post to fit with your campaign, the issue that I have is regarding the non disclosure. It is a very serious offence for a blogger not to disclose collaborative or sponsored content. It is against ASA regulations and the 2008 Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Act. My blog can be quite severely sanctioned if I breach these rules. Non disclosure is also unethical, meaning that I would be lying to my loyal readers by producing the kind of post that you are requesting, which is something that I am not prepared to do.  If you are able to reconsider your non-disclosure policy, I would be happy to work with you."

      You can also send this link to the ASA Guidelines to strengthen your argument.

      Why is poor payment a problem? 

      Well, duh! You're getting a bum deal if you use your valuable time to craft a post especially for a brand, only to be compensated with a measly £30. These days, I refuse any opportunities which don't compensate me fairly, and I hold out for the PRs and brands who are willing to pay me well for my work, which is what I deserve. Creatives deserve to get paid, so don't accept a paltry sum for your hard graft!

      If offered poor payment, how should you respond?

      If you're offered something as silly as $10 (which I have been offered for an entire sponsored post recently LOL), the brand in question is obviously never going to agree to a reasonable sum, so I just don't bother replying to these kind of emails. They are condemned to my deleted box without a second thought. However, if you usually accept £75 for a sponsored post and you're offered £60, it's worth trying to negotiate. Here's how I'd do it:

      "Thanks for your email and for your offer of £X. My usual minimum requirement for a sponsored post is £X. Is there any room in your budget for an increase? I would be grateful if you could let me know."

      Even if the PR gets back to you and says no, you haven't lost anything by trying! It's then up to you to decide whether the slightly lower fee is worth it, or if you should turn down the offer. The ball is in your court!


      I'd like to close this post by stressing that there are a good number of fantastic PRs that I've come across in my time, including the lovely Alice who I interviewed about her working relationships with bloggers. By showing you exactly how to deal with the few bad eggs who do exist, I hope to increase your confidence and enable you to get the fair and favourable blogging opportunities that you truly deserve!

      Do you have any advice to add to this? Do you bother responding to nightmarish PR emails? If you have any sassy responses that you like to use, please share them in the comments below so that we can all have a giggle!

      Until next time,

      A x

      The £1k Upgrade*

      Unless you've been living under a rock for the past few weeks, you'll know that Apple are launching the new iPhone X on November 3rd, and when the new handset was announced, everyone on social media was weighing in with their opinions (not to mention creating new memes about it, OBVIOUSLY). The iPhone X has a whole range of new features, including using facial ID to unlock the phone, wireless charging, animated emojis for iMessage, and an edge-to-edge 5.8 inch retina display. Faaaaancy. All of this comes will set you back a few bob, however. One thousand pounds to be precise! This of course begs the question of whether the upgrade is really worth it! Personally, I can think of a fair few things that I'd rather spend £1,000 on, but what I have done is to come up with a few additional features that just might make the iPhone X worth this colossal price tag. Are you listening, Apple? Well, let's get started.

      Abbey Bakes: Vegan Chocolate Cake

      vegan chocolate cake recipe dairy free

      Pretty much everyone has seen the Buzzfeed Tasty videos on Facebook, which showcase truly mouthwatering recipe ideas to millions! From churro ice cream bowls to green mac and cheese, there seems to be nothing that the Tasty chefs can't pull off. So, when my Mum and I came across a vegan chocolate cake tutorial, we jumped at the chance to try it out! If you hear the words "vegan food", the following will probably spring to mind: Bland, unappetizing meals. A constant struggling to find anything suitable. The same combination of lentils and tomato sauce every day. *GROAN*. Well, today I'm here to prove these assumptions wrong, wrong, and wrong again! Here's how to create a completely cruelty free (and delicious) vegan chocolate cake, based on the original Tasty recipe, with a few tweaks of our own!

       You will need...

      how to make vegan chocolate cake
      3 cups plain flour
      2 cups sugar
      ½ cup cocoa powder
      1 tablespoon baking powder
      ½ cup coconut oil
      ½ cup Agave nectar (instead of maple syrup - it's healthier)
      1 ½ cups coconut milk (you can use any milk substitute that you like!)

      For the Cake...

      1. Preheat your oven to 180˚C.

      2. Thoroughly mix the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, and baking powder together in a mixing bowl.

      3. Create a small well in the middle of the dry ingredients and add in the coconut oil, Agave nectar, and milk substitute. Whisk together to form a thick and lumpy batter.

      4. Grease the inside of two circular cake tins. The Tasty recipe recommends that you use coconut oil, but a vegan butter or soya spread works just as well.

      5. Pour the batter into the cake tins and bake. The original recipe suggests baking for 25-30 minutes, but we found that 35-40 minutes was necessary. You can test whether your cake is cooked by pushing a cocktail stick into the centre of the cake - if it comes out clean, your cake is ready!

      6. Remove the cakes from the oven and place them on a cooking rack.

      vegan chocolate cake recipe delicious baking

      For the Icing...

      1. Mix 1 cup vegan butter, 2 cups icing sugar, 1 cup cocoa powder, ¼ cup coconut milk, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Using an electric whisk will produce the best results. The icing should look smooth and glossy!

      2. Slice the peak off the top of one of your cakes to create a flat base for your icing. Spread a layer of icing across the top of the cake and position the other layer on top.

      3. The original recipe recommends that you keep the cake in the fridge for half an hour before eating. If you don't eat your cake in one sitting, I'd suggest storing it in the fridge too as the icing can go a bit runny if it's left at room temperature!

      vegan chocolate cake baking

      This chocolate cake truly was divine, if I do say so myself! Even my hard-to-please Dad and brother, who usually steer clear of anything with the "vegan" label, thought this was absolutely delish. The texture was light and fluffy, the icing was tempting without being too rich and sickly, and the cake rose up beautifully, unlike a lot of vegan cakes we've tried before. Whether you're a hardcore vegan or just someone who is curious about what cruelty free food has to offer, I would highly recommend this recipe - I know I'll be recreating it again soon!

      Have you ever tried a vegan cake? Let me know in the comments!

      Until next time,

      A x

      Make Your Honeymoon The One*

      There’s no other way to break it to you. I, Abbey, have the bug. It’s taken over me. It’s breaking me down. You heard it here first, I have the travel bug! Although I’m not entirely sure that marriage is for me, I am definitely sold on the idea of a honeymoon.  As a PhD student, I am more often than not confined to the library these days, and as much as I love studying (#nerdlife), travelling to new and unique destinations with the love of your life sounds perfect. But with so many beautiful and exotic destinations around the world, it can be difficult to narrow down your honeymoon options. My friend Beth recently went off on a European road trip for her (very belated) honeymoon, and the lovely Hels will soon be jetting to Mexico for hers! Jealous much? One of the best ways to shorten your list is to decide what you want from your trip. From there, you can plan a honeymoon that's perfect for you (oh, and your partner too, I suppose). Here are just a few ideas...

      Blogger Book Nook #2: Spooktacular!

      It's always a little daunting to launch a new initative in the blogging community: What happens if nobody joins in? What if everyone hates it? What if it's a massive flop?! Eeek. However, Tabitha and I needn't have worried when we launched the Blogger Book Nook last month! From the word go, we have had a tremendous amount of support and we've both been really touched with how many people have been getting involved, whether that's joining in a discussion of how much we all LOVED Jacqueline Wilson in our Facebook group, or writing posts based on our monthly reading prompt. A huge thank you goes out to our wonderful little bookish community! But as it's now October, that means a whole new reading challenge - the title of this post does the game away slightly, but keep scrolling to find out more about the October prompt!

      Shoutout to: Llinos, Abbey, Fleur and Hannah for writing some truly fabulous #BBookNook posts in September!

      Meet my October Advertisers

      2017 is slowly ticking down into its final months and I've been seeing mince pies in the supermarkets already! Groan! Thankfully, we have loads to look forward to in October before Christmas rears its snow-covered head, including pumpkin spiced lattes, crisp autumnal mornings, and (of course) Halloween! I also have lots of exciting content lined up for you this month, including a delectable vegan recipe, a post all about confidence, and an OOTD as well! It's also my pleasure to introduce this month's crop of new advertisers, who cover everything from mental health to gaming to history on their blogs, a real diverse mix! Let's get started!