A Night at the Spa with Boohoo X Village Hotels | #WEARESS17*

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HEALTH. STRENGTH. POSITIVITY.

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*This is a gifted/ commissioned based post - read my disclaimer here
*Some of the images in this post were taken by the beautiful Sarah

Basically: I'm a sucker for a spa day. If you follow me on instagram, or have me on facebook, then you will know that me and my boyfriend Anthony often like to treat each other to spa days or spa breaks. Both of us live incredibly busy and hectic lifestyles, and our increasingly different work schedules coupled with my blog requiring me to almost constantly be on social media, means we rarely manage to spend any real down time together, so it makes sense that on the rare occasion that we both have a full day off (and trust me, when I say rare this happens maybe once a month?!), we sometimes like to spend that time treating ourselves to some serious relaxation. When you are into fitness as much as we both are, your body can be in a constant achey and tired state, and spa facilities such as jacuzzis and saunas really do go a long way to relieving tired and aching muscles. So when I was invited down to the Village Hotel in Warrington last Thursday to enjoy some spa facilities in brand new Boohoo swimwear, eat some yummy food and partake in an ESPA skin care workshop, I didn't need much persuading!

It was so lovely to meet some other fantastic Manchester based bloggers, and see some old friendly faces that I've met at previous events... Sometimes, when attending an event like this alone I can feel quite anxious beforehand, but I can honestly say this whole group of girls were so lovely and welcoming... within about 5 minutes of our arrival we were gossiping, laughing and sipping on bucks fizz like old friends, before all 8 of us piled into the jacuzzi  (unintentionally scaring off the poor man who was trying to have a quiet relax) and spent some time enjoying the facilities, comparing our Boohoo swimwear choices and chatting all things 'blog'. Exactly one of the reasons I love events like this... sometimes it is so nice to be surrounded with people who share the same passion as you, people who understand exactly how much hard work goes into blogging day in day out! So be sure to check out all their blogs, I will leave links at the bottom of the post!

Next it was time for food, and as the other girls tucked into mini burgers, smoked salmon blinis and other canapés, the Village were quick to supply me with a gorgeous gluten free bowl of roasted veg, sweet potato and cashews which really was delicious! Shortly after, our ESPA skincare workshop began, the part of the event that I was really looking forward to the most. I like to pride myself on the fact that I have always taken good care of my skin. I don't wear make up everyday, as I think it's so important to let my skin breathe, and I always use cleanser and moisturiser before bed. However, the harsh Manchester wind coupled with my love of swimming has left my skin quite chapped and dry recently, so a little TLC was definitely needed.

The ESPA specialist and spa therapist talked us through the use of 5 skin care products, teaching us how to use each one to give ourselves a facial at home, before gifting us with miniature travel versions to take away. My skin felt absolutely divine afterwards, and I would definitely recommend booking in for an ESPA facial if, like me, your skin is taking a hit in the cold weather.

Finally, a blog event would not be complete without an amazing goodybag! This one was filled with ESPA products, a Jessica nails kit, our Boohoo swimwear, some St. Tropez tan and these amazing unicorn (!!!) make up brushes!

Click below for all links to other bloggers and Boohoo/ Village Hotel facilities, and don't forget you can use code BOOHOO10 for 10% off treatments / food and drink at Village Hotels, and BOOHOOXVILLAGESPA20 for 20% off everything at Boohoo!

BOOHOO SWIMWEAR | VILLAGE SPA | FOOD FROM THE VILLAGE | VILLAGE GYM AND POOL FACILITIES

Claire | Sarah | Sabina | Chelsea | Lily | Anna | Irena

Overcoming my Fears: Rock Over Climbing*

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HEALTH. STRENGTH. POSITIVITY.

When was the last time you can truly say you tried something new fitness related? And I don't just mean a new class at the gym, or started following a new workout guide. I mean when did you actually go and do something that you've never done before. Something that you've never even thought of doing before, or something that you never regarded as 'fitness'? That's exactly what I did a few weeks ago when I tried Rock Climbing - and you better believe it was one of the best shoulder and core workouts I've ever had.

Let me start with a story: I have always been terrified of open heights. I don't really know why, it's a completely irrational fear as at no point in my life have I ever been in a life threatening situation as a result of being somewhere high and/or open. But there we go... maybe it's just one of those things. I remember, when I was 11 and had just started high school, we went on a 'bonding' weekend away to a place called Bewerly Park. It was essentially three days of team building activities intended to help us all settle into school and make friends. But for me and my anxiety it was a complete and utter nightmare. Firstly, I used to hate being away from home (even staying at a friends house for a night would cause me to feel so anxious that I often ended up being sick), and the activities involved in the trip didn't make the experience any better - three days of sports, rock climbing, bouldering, cave walking and other height-related activities that I was petrified to take part in. I remember shaking like a leaf in an attempt to climb a totem pole, and having to be guided back down a gorge walk when my fear of heights got too much. This fear was something that I just accepted I would have to live with: I could comfortably go through my life without ever needing to address it, so I shoved the feeling to the back of my mind and forgot about it. It wasn't until me, Ant and a group of bloggers were invited down to Rock Over Climbing in Manchester by Skoti from Wearefera that the thought of conquering this fear ever entered my mind again, and as I stood at the bottom of the first rock climbing wall I was going to attempt, all of those horrible irrational anxious feelings I had as an 11 year old girl on that school trip flooded back into my head. I was petrified. Physically shaking, and on the verge of tears, I turned to Ant and said 'I can't do this'. He looked straight at me and said 'Amy, you can'. And I did. And guess what? Once I'd done it once I loved it. I felt so empowered that I had finally defeated something that attempted to hold me back. 

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I rocked up to the venue the classic image of all the gear and no idea. Kitted out in my snazzy gymshark leggings and fly knit trainers (little did I know these would soon be substituted for the most toe-crushing uncomfortable shoes ever known to man), but hey, if you haven't got a clue what you're doing, you've got to at least look remotely like you do right?! But the team at Rock Over Climbing, and Skoti, were all immensely helpful and has us all feeling like pros in no time. During the two hour rock climbing session got to try numerous different activities from bouldering to climbing on an incline, and attempting to climb without using our hands at all!

After the climbing, we then enjoyed an hour long movement session with Skoti, (read more about his training here), a class that really does humble you and take you back to the basics of human and animal movement... One of the reasons I enjoy the Fera classes so much is that they promote something that very few gyms offer: function.

The whole day was finished off with vegan chilli and gluten free brownies (basically taking the event from a 10/10 to a clear 11/10, because as you know, anything involving gluten free, sugar free treats is a winner in my eyes!)... and as I drove myself and Anthony home, munching away on our brownies, we spent the whole 40 minute journey talking about what a fantastic day we had both had. I was unbelievably proud of myself for combatting something I never thought I would, and that is just one of the many reasons I absolutely love my blog, as without the invite, I would probably never have conquered that fear. I learnt many things that Saturday, but if there's one thing I want you all to take away from this post it's to try something new. Push yourself outside your comfort zone, and truly test both your mental and physical strength. You won't regret it, I promise.

The venue is located just outside of central Manchester, a short walk from Victoria Station, or is super easy to find by car, with a cheap car park available directly opposite. Prices start from £35 for a 6 week course, so it really is fantastic value for money if it's a skill you wish to learn,  and their 'Climb Fit' class with Skoti is just £7 a session!

Happy Third Birthday To Amy Elizabeth!

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HEALTH. STRENGTH. POSITIVITY.

I think it's safe to say that I have had a pretty incredible three years of blogging, and I am so grateful to every person who has been a part of the journey. If someone would have told me three years ago that Amy Elizabeth would have grown to what it currently is I would have never believed it. Nearly 15,500 of you are now reading or following Amy Elizabeth in some way- but impressive as they are, those stats are not what's important to me. My blog is my passion. I have spent hours over these past three years writing, photographing and perfecting Amy Elizabeth- it really is a labour of love and has grown to become such an integral part of my daily routine that I can't imagine ever not doing it. I will continue to blog for as long as I can reach out and make a difference to even one single person.

Below, I have complied a short list of the biggest highlights and most important things I have learnt so far:

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1. Award shortlists - How could I even begin to compile a list of highlights without mentioning the FIVE national awards which my blog has been shortlisted for. To be shortlisted from 47,000 entries to one of nine in my category for 'Best New Beauty Blog' by Cosmopolitan magazine after only four months of blogging is still incomprehensible, and to win Highly Commended at the 2016 UK Blog Awards for 'Best Lifestyle Blog' is without a doubt my greatest achievement to date - a true reflection that hard work really does pay off. The award ceremony last year was one of the proudest moments of my life, and believe me it is not often I will admit I am proud of myself. To even make it onto one national shortlist means someone out there considered my words to be influential, and to be recognised for that FIVE TIMES OVER is so humbling. 

2. Acceptance - Anyone who has seen 'The Devil Wears Prada' will have a pretty strong opinion as to how they imagine the world of fashion, beauty and blogging to be. It's a scary thing publishing yourself so openly and honestly on the internet. You are opening yourself up to attack from potentially millions of people who have the opportunity to voice their opinions from the safety of hiding behind their laptop. For a few months I told no one about my blog, terrified of the backlash that I could potentially receive. It only takes a minute of scrolling through twitter to learn that the internet is not always a friendly place. However, my inital reservations could not have been more wrong. The community of the blogging world is incredible and the support between bloggers is so genuine. Hand on heart, the bloggers I have had the absolute pleasure of meeting and attending events with are some of the kindest, most genuine people I have ever met and I am proud to say they are my friends. 

3. Blog like no one is reading - The turning point for Amy Elizabeth came when I stopped worrying about what every reader was thinking about my content. I stopped writing for the sake of publishing posts, and started writing for myself. The enjoyment I get now when I publish something personal, lifestyle or advice based and receive an overwhelming amount of positive responses is exponential. The idea that even one person is taking the time to not only read what I have to say, or comment on how it has helped or inspired them in some way is enough to make me want to continue blogging for as long as anyone is willing to read it.

4. Blog for yourself - Remember that we are all different, we are all confined to our own subjective mind and it is a physical impossibility to be liked by everyone. Blog because you want to, because writing is a form of therapy for you, because you absolutely love doing it and couldn't imagine not. Who cares if no one reads it, or people don't agree with what you have to say. You will never please everyone, but trying to please yourself is a pretty good place to start.

Thank you so much once again, I can't wait to see what the next twelve months have in store and I am so excited to take you along for the ride... I am more determined than ever to take this blog to the next level so keep your eyes peeled for my recipe e-book coming soon (the first in a series), and if you don't already, please give me a follow over on instagram (@amyelizabeth_blog) because I am planning the mother of all giveaways when I reach 10k!

Coeliac Disease: A Beginner's Guide

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HEALTH. STRENGTH. POSITIVITY.

Before I delve straight in to this post I just want to make something clear: gluten is not a poison. The majority of people can consume gluten containing foods without any negative symptoms or health risks, so please do not fall into the trap of thinking that it is healthy to follow a gluten free diet if you are not intolerant or allergic - unnecessarily cutting out gluten could actually induce an intolerance, or result in you missing out on many important vitamins, minerals and nutrients that gluten containing foods can provide. I have spent time with nutritional experts to find ways to manage my diet safely and healthily whilst omitting the foods that cause my gut to react as shown above. This blog post is intended to inform people of the symptoms and help to provide steps in management, but ultimately, if you think you may be coeliac, gluten intolerant or allergic to wheat please arrange an allergy test or book a colonoscopy with your GP or a fully qualified nutrition specialist - I am neither of these, but I am someone who suffers and want to use this platform to help raise awareness and provide support.

Last week, I had an allergic reaction to wheat, something that now happens incredibly rarely to me as I am so careful in ensuring that I know exactly what I put into my body and avoid all foods that cause a negative reaction in my gut. However, I let something slip through, and the resultant effects can be seen above. The photo on the left is how I 'normally' look in the morning (i.e. if I've been following my gluten free diet), and the photo on the right shows me thirty minutes after consuming a minuscule amount of wheat. To put this into perspective, my 24 inch waist (left), measured 26.5 inches after eating one small chocolate containing wheat (right). This is the result of an inflammation in my gut, and is incredibly different to feeling bloated from overeating. I originally took the above picture to show my boyfriend the reaction I had incurred, but then I thought back to my previous blog post about how I promised to always be honest with you on social media, and decided to post it on instagram (something that was incredibly hard for me to do - I doubt any one would want to post a photo of their pregnant-looking inflamed gut to 6700 instagram users), but the response I got was amazing. Not only were people incredibly supportive, but I got so many comments from people who suffer from the same, requests for a blog post, and even encouraged other people to post their own photos of adverse reactions! So in swallowing my pride, I really achieved something great. So now nearly 7000 people have seen it on my instagram, I may as well share it with the rest of you in the hope of helping out a few more people.

So why does this happen?

Usually, an adverse reaction to gluten is from one of three reasons:
001. Coeliac disease
002. Gluten Intolerance
003. An allergy to the proteins found in wheat

In short, Coeliac is an autoimmune disease where your body's immune system attacks itself when gluten is consumed, causing damage to gut lining. Gluten intolerance presents similar symptoms to Coeliac disease, but there is no resultant lasting damage to the gut. Finally, wheat protein allergies tend to occur immediately after consuming the wheat, and cause similar affects, but suffers may be able to eat other gluten containing products as long as they are wheat free.

What are the symptoms?

It is actually incredibly common to be completely unaware of an allergy or intolerance to types of gluten such as wheat, and it is estimated that a shocking 76% of suffers go undiagnosed!  Symptoms vary for a variety of reasons, spanning from the amount of gluten consumed, the severity of your intolerance and the general health of the person. The most well known symptoms include painful IBS (resulting in diarrhoea and/or constipation), nausea, stomach cramps, bloating and tiredness, but Coeliac can also lead to anaemia, B12 deficiency, hair loss and liver abnormalities, so the disease is not something to be taken lightly.

Help - I think I may be Coeliac

If any of the symptoms described above sound familiar to you, then the first thing I would suggest is to seek advice of your doctor. The first step in diagnosis usually involves a diagnosis of IBS, and it is advisable to have a routine blood test to check your iron and vitamin levels. At this stage, I'd advise keeping a food diary, and noting down the exact points that you experience symptoms and what foods may have triggered this, and eliminate these foods from your diet one at a time. If this does not work, your doctor will be able to refer you for an allergy test, however, it is vital that you are still consuming gluten at this point otherwise the disease may not show up in the test! Alternatively, you can go directly to a dietician or registered gut specialist who will be able to carry out these tests for you for a fee.

What next?

Being New to Gluten Free living can be a huge and scary lifestyle change. I spent about five hours food shopping during the week following my diagnosis. I went everywhere that was in easy driving distance of my house: Tesco, Morrisons, Co-op, a Sainsbury's Local, an M&S food. I searched high and low for the 'Free From' products and spent a small fortune trying out a number of different brands and products. Although this was a huge pain at the beginning (and definitely wasn't student food shopping budget friendly), I very quickly got to grips with which brands I preferred and it wasn't long until I was able to complete my food shop just as easily as usual. My main tip for you: 'naturally gluten free' is always better... I quickly learnt that there really are so many healthy foods that are naturally gluten free, meaning you can avoid some of the questionable supermarket alternatives. I quickly replaced starchy gluten filled carbs with not only naturally gluten free alternatives, but much healthier alternatives too. I discovered sweet potato, quinoa and beans and realised that gluten free doesn't actually have to mean tasteless and boring food! 

Stay Positive

When I was diagnosed I went home and cried. All I could think about was everything that I used to enjoy and now could no longer ever taste again. I would sit in restaurants and wish that I could order anything off the menu instead of narrowing it down to things I could actually safely eat and then picking from a small and less than appetising selection. Food can become a chore, social situations become awkward as you don't want to be the one to cause a scene in a restaurant by rearranging the whole menu to find something suitable. But it really does help to try and ignore all these negatives and focus on the positives too. Remember how much healthier you now feel, remember that there are still so many nutritious and healthy foods available to you and most importantly remember not to feel awkward because your diagnosis isn't your fault!

An Honest Post About Recovery

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HEALTH. STRENGTH. POSITIVITY.

I love my blog. I love the fact that I once published a really honest post on my experiences of anxiety, and it received over 80 comments of love, support or reassurance that my words had helped other people. I love that I can post a photograph on instagram that leads to comments and DM's from people telling me how I've inspired them in some way, and I love that I can say I am part of a community of people that really respect and care for each other... I am yet to meet a blogger who has been anything other than lovely, and some of my closest friends are people I've met through my blog. But despite how much I truly love this community, and am honestly so amazed and grateful for every single one of my followers, sometimes the "other side" of blogging plays on my mind. The side that shows everything to be so perfect, the side of sitting on an ever growing platform of 14,600 followers that makes you think you can't always say exactly how you feel for fear of letting these people down; people that continually tell you that your journey is an inspiration to them. When your primary aim is to present a healthy, balanced and happy lifestyle, you sometimes feel an overwhelming pressure to always ensure that this is what you portray, even on the days when it is not the case. Sometimes, sitting on this pedestal of positivity that I have created for myself really isn't all it's cracked up to be... everyone has bad days, but very few people would want to publicly admit to nearly fifteen thousand people that they're struggling... sometimes it's easier to stick the ludwig filter on a bowl of porridge and carry on with your day like nothing is wrong. But everything about that ultimately is what is wrong. Sticking a filter on life. Hiding from the truth, for fear that people may actually see that you too, are human, you too have bad days. 

I publish a lot of food posts on instagram, but what I don't publish are the times where I panic about this very food. I don't share the days where I don't track my food, binge on Nakd bars and eat peanut butter straight out the jar, and I don't share the days where I eat less than 1000 calories to counteract the previous. Why? Because I don't want all of these lovely people who say I am an inspiration to know that I am not perfect and that sometimes, I still find food a challenge. My problem is, and always has been my irrational fear of being seen as a failure. It sounds unbelievably cliche but for as long as I can remember, there has never been a time where I have not been completely terrified of letting people, teachers, my parents, friends or myself down. I am incredibly lucky to come from a family who have always supported every decision I have made, they have never pressured me to work harder or pushed me to pursue a particular career path (partially because they know I am probably putting enough pressure on myself already), yet there is some inherent part of me which works myself to the bone to achieve better things than the time before and never let people see the internal struggle that may be happening. 

But this is something that I am determined to change in 2017. I don't want my followers to read my blog or look at my instagram and see recovery as simply black and white, I want them to know that it is (and maybe always will be) an ongoing battle. I am happy to say that the majority of my days are what you see: me eating a healthy and balanced diet, nourishing my body and training hard in the gym... but I also want you to be aware that failures happen, relapses happen, days where you sit in bed feeling sorry for yourself happen... but that's ok.

One of the hardest things about recovery is learning what is a normal relationship with food. For a long time, I assumed everyone who didn't struggle with food ate the same amount everyday, didn't get cravings, only ate when they're hungry and stopped when they're full... but in reality it couldn't be further from the truth. Health and recovery aren't just about smoothie bowls and tracking macros and photographs of eggs and avocados, they're also about balance and mental happiness, and having another spoonful of peanut butter if that's what you want. You are allowed to have days where you eat too much, you're allowed to have days where you don't eat enough - that is normal and everyone does it.

And then I got thinking... if I truly was 100% happy with the way my body looked, would my lifestyle be any different? Would I indulge a bit more and relax my diet, or would I eat more healthily to nourish the body that I loved? Or is there even such thing as ever being 100% happy? I make no secret of the fact that I want to be strong, fit and athletic, but in 2017 I also want to focus on something that I let slip by the wayside in 2016: balance. Something I've recently realised is that it is far easier to reach your goals if you aren't stuck in a constant battle with yourself... how are you ever supposed to feel strong and athletic if you're still restricting your calorie intake some days?

And so, at the end of this post there is only one thing left to say: I'm sorry for not always being completely honest with you, but I promise from now my platforms will speak nothing but the truth: good day or bad day. 

I hope you all had an amazing Christmas, and have a fantastic New Years Eve... lots of love,

My 2017 Fitness, Health, Work and Life Goals

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HEALTH. STRENGTH. POSITIVITY.

I've always found the concept of New Years Resolutions an odd one. If there's something you want to achieve, and you want to reach that goal enough, why wait to start? Start the moment you even have that thought because the longer you put something off the harder it is to face... I know that I myself am the sort of person that has to be ready to make a change, and once I decide to make it, I have to start there and then... I've never been one for fresh starts on Mondays, or 'I'll try again next month', in my opinion, the best way to kick a bad habit or get over a bad day is to immediately put plans into action to change those negative influences in your life.

Something however, that I am a fan of, is goal setting. More often than not, people's New Years Resolutions have some sort of negative connotation; 'This year I will lose weight' (read: I will restrict myself and ultimately feel just as crap about my body), or tend to be extremely unrealistic 'This year I will join and gym and go every single day'... goals however, turn those huge daunting changes into manageable tasks that you are far more likely to stick to! So as 2016 draws to a close, I decided to compile a list of my own goals for 2017... some to be achieved on a daily basis, some more long term, but all little milestones that I hope to reach over the next 12 months and I believe will bring me ever closer to my goal of health and happiness.

FITNESS GOALS:
001. Deadlift 200% bodyweight
002. Master the clean
003. Pullups (!!)
004. Ensure health, balance and functionality remain and the forefront of my training plans

HEALTH GOALS:
001. 'If it needs a food label, it's not food'
002. Where possible, meal prep in advance
003. Drink at least 2.5 litres of water every day
004. Sleep and rest days are a priority!

WORK GOALS:
001. Try to remember that you can do nothing more than try your best
002. Continue to schedule work/ revision times, but also schedule relaxation time

BLOG GOALS:
001. To resume far more frequent posting and aim to publish posts at least twice a week
002. To grow my collective following from 14,000 to 20,000 (ambitious I know!)
003. To meet and connect with as many other likeminded bloggers as possible

LIFE GOALS: 
001. To continue to use my 'One Line a Day' book, and remember to be grateful for something every single day
002. Spend more time with family and friends
003. To actively look for a house to buy, and hopefully have bought one by next Christmas (!!)
004. To go on another amazing adventure with Ant
005. Remember how truly lucky I am to have so many amazing people in my life

2016: A Year in Review

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HEALTH. STRENGTH. POSITIVITY.

2016 is definitely up there as a contender for the best year of my life; It has marked some pretty amazing events and achievements, cemented some of the best friendships, and marked some amazing experiences. That being said, it wasn't without it's imperfections: there were bad days, bereavements, and lots of upsetting or stressful days, but part of what I have learnt this year is that bad things are going to happen, no matter how much you try and stop them or wish they didn't, and the only thing you can do is pick yourself back up and carry on... But enough about the negatives, this post is here to celebrate the positives of 2016.

Looking back to this time even just two years ago I find it hard to believe how much my life has changed, and looking at this time four years ago is practically like looking back at the life of a completely different and unrelated person. I have gone from studying at Art school, hoping to pursue a career in animation, thinking I would live and work in London for the rest of my life, to moving back up North, meeting some of the best friends I have ever had, studying towards a degree in something that I love, reinstating my health, and actually being happy. Some of the choices I have had to make over the past few years were not easy, but now I can confidently sit here and say that it was these struggles, revelations and changes that have come to play a part in making me the person I am today.

1. January - The start of a year is always a difficult one for me, as there is a general consensus that our successes and failures within this month determine the outlook that you approach the rest of the year with... for ten years running, January has been a month riddled with deadlines and exams, but one to view with positivity knowing how many amazing experiences I had lined up for the rest of the year.

2. February - A month of celebration: for pretty much every weekend in February I was partaking in one romantic activity or another with Ant - he treated me to a 'fake valentines' spa day on the 7th, surprised me with 21 (our lucky number) perfect red roses on Valentines, and then celebrated his birthday with a spa day from me.

3. March - The month I turned 22. It was a weird birthday for me... it felt strangely 'grown up', no more teenage years or 'big celebration' birthdays now until I hit 30... However, it was definitely one of my best birthdays to date. In the past, I've experienced a few birthdays that bring back nothing but awful memories, but this year it was amazing to once again be reminded that there are lots of people who truly care about me and made it a very special day.

4. April - The UK Blog Award Finals - I am still in absolute disbelief that my blog was awarded Highly Commended - to me it is still surreal that these posts that I write on my macbook, more often than not whilst sat on my bed, are actually being read and appreciated by so many people out there! The night was, and probably always will be one of the best of my life.

5. May - I took a girly trip away to Majorca with my mum. We did yoga outside and had the most amazing spa day while we were there. This was my first month of 'freedom' after completing my university placement, so it felt really special to finally be able to relax and enjoy some me time.

6. June - This month involved another Majorca trip, and lots more relaxation and me time. It was in June that I finally learnt to relax again, and felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. This was probably the first month where I realised that worrying and stressing will not change what is meant to happen. 

7. July - July marked another trip to Majorca, this time with my whole family and Anthony. We had such an amazing time on our first holiday together, enjoyed yoga classes, spa days, amazing food and lots of sunbathing. This month was special to me, as I was so happy to see both me and Ant fully relaxed for what felt like the first time in months and months.

8. August - You guessed it... another holiday... but this time a girly trip with my mum, her best friend and her daughter. We had another incredible spa day to celebrate Hayley's 21st birthday, had lots of late night girly chats and made so many memories to treasure. Hayley has been part of my life for as long as I can remember, so it was so lovely to be able to celebrate her birthday in such a special way.

9. September - The Maldives. WOW. There isn't much more I can say about how truly amazing this holiday was. Me and Ant made so many memories, enjoyed so many incredible activities and just felt like we were surviving in an absolute paradise. From paddle boarding to snorkelling to dolphin trips to shark feeding to the most amazing sweet potato fries and smoothies you've ever tasted - absolutely everything was perfect.

10. October - Back to reality and well into the swing of things with my final year of university. These months were a bit of a struggle... I found it surprisingly hard to readjust to being back at university after a year working on placement, and found the long commutes incredibly draining. Luckily for me I had the most supportive boyfriend, family (and lots of peanut butter) to help me through.

11. November - In November I got to meet the newest addition to the family - Poppy Florence Smith, and spent a lot of time with family. The beginning of November was quite a difficult time for my family, but it just makes you appreciate even more how important they truly are. (Oh, and I bagged myself my dream graduate job for next year!)

12. December - Breaking up from uni for Christmas, attending lots of Christmas meals and events with great friends and family members put the cherry on the top of another amazing year. As I sit and write this on Christmas Eve (an ominous pile of books and revision looming on the desk behind me), I remember the importance of time off. Christmas only comes round once a year, and it's so very important to spend these days with the people who mean the most to you.

MAGNAxFERA - Trying Something New*

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HEALTH. STRENGTH. POSITIVITY.

A few weekends back, me and my boyfriend (@admfitness1 on instagram - go give him a follow, he's new and needs the love), were invited down to Kettlebell Kitchen in Manchester by the lovely team at Magna, as part of their 'NEWVEMBER' campaign... an effort to get people to try something new in the fitness world. The event involved a 45 minute body weight strength and conditioning style workout with Fera (@wearefera), followed by an amazing breakfast (see below for absolute food porn). As well as being a fitness class right up both mine and Ant's street, it was so lovely to meet so many other likeminded fitness bloggers, and when free breakfast is involved it's definitely not an event you're going to decline an invite to!

So incase you are unaware, Magna are a fab new company that provide an online platform you can sign up to, allowing you to access numerous fitness classes. From rock climbing, to yoga, to strength and conditioning, to swimming, the huge plethora of classes on their timetable in various Greater Manchester locations ensures that there will always be a class suited to your needs, at a time most convenient for you! So if you don't want to commit to a gym membership, but still want the option of participating in group exercise classes you can sign up by clicking HERE.

The class itself was absolutely fantastic, and a perfect taster for anyone interested in movement, callisthenics, or more fluid yoga-type exercise, and provided a real chance to get your body moving in ways that you never usually utilise. My boyfriend being a firm believer in movement based training himself, along with teaching it to a large number of his clients, meant him and Fera got on like a house on fire, and the whole event was something throughly enjoyed by both of us (I highly recommend checking Fera's classes out if it's something you may be interested in!) 

After the class came breakfast, an absolute health feast laid on by Kettlebell Kitchen, consisting of primary gluten free and wholly healthy food, providing us with some much needed fuel following our morning workout. Following the breakfast, Ant was still peckish (as per), so treated himself to a huge box full of KBK's healthy fuel - salmon, sweet potato mash, pesto, halloumi and greens, and both of us treated ourselves to a healthy, paleo brownie (I sampled the chocolate orange flavour and my GOD was it wonderful!). Tummies full and muscles sufficiently tired, we headed home, discussing how amazing the whole event had been for the whole 24 mile journey. 

Thank you so much again to the guys at Magna, Kettlebell Kitchen, and Fera for what really was a fantastic event!

P.S. I am up for two UK blog awards and would really appreciate it if you would follow THIS LINK and vote for my blog (please select the first option for food and drink + lifestyle) THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU