• Joining the National Trust – Joint membership and why we chose to join

    Living in the heart of Derbyshire we have a huge choice of National Trust options and although we have been to some of the grounds we have never taken the plunge and looked in to membership. Until today!

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    We are off to the Cotswolds soon with Rupert (our dog) to spend some time relaxing and just generally taking some time away together.  Near the village we’re staying in is a number of National Trust parks so we might end up going to one with the pup. We will take a picnic and just meander round enjoying the outdoors.

    Obviously, with Claire’s health issues we have to go slow but I am hoping that by joining the National Trust it will encourage us to visit more places and will help us with our weight loss and health in general.

    I love the countryside, it’s one of the reason I love Britain as a whole.

    For a small Island we have some outstanding places to visit and we would be fulfilling one of my lifetime goals, to visit as many places in the UK as possible.  It’s not that I don’t like travelling outside of the UK but when I do I yearn for our green landscapes and picturesque views.  There is something so spectacular about seeing 100 shades of green by standing in one point and looking round.

    I also love the heritage that goes alongside this wonderful country. The landscape is littered with historical events and the National Trust has been keeping those alive.

    Our decision to join the National Trust was based on all the above.

    A few places near us I would love to visit

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    Once we have done these we would look further afield so we could choose some areas to spend weekends away.

    Do you have a National Trust membership?

    What are your favourite National Trust places to visit?

    Update: The past 12 months – Where have I been?

    If you’re reading this, thank you. I don’t know if I need to explain but I feel like I have to.

    I’ve not been around for around 12 months, away from the blog, YouTube, Social media and I feel quite liberated having given myself a break.

    I have had Leah XL as a blog (in various guises) since 2010 and have enjoyed the process of either reviewing something and giving my opinion or sharing how I feel to people who enjoy what I have to say.

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    You may have noticed that I have been on hiatus and I wanted to update you on what’s been happening.

    October 2017

    • I started a new job. A job that I have done before but in a different sector and an hour away from home. The job is high pressured (which I really enjoy) and is deadline driven. I needed to focus my energy in this job to get to know the business and get settled in.
    • Claire, my wife, had a serious change in her health. One morning she woke up and fell to the floor. She was signed off for two months and the final diagnosis was prolapsed discs in her back, one of which is pushing on to the sciatic nerve causing not only pain but debilitating numbness.
    • Rupert (our dog) diagnosed with early stage kidney failure (don’t worry – it’s controlled very well by diet and he will live forever)

    December 2018

    • A very busy time at work, many late nights and time away from home

    March 2018

    • Due to the health issues Claire changes jobs from an industry she has been in since leaving university. An easier job but with less money

    April 2018

    • Claire and I start an online retail business to help subsidise the gap in earnings.

    May 2018

    • My mum, who is on dialysis because of Kidney failure, has been taken off the donor list due to some other issues. Lots of worry and stress

    July 2018

    • Mum given diagnosis that heart isn’t working well and will need an operation

    August 2018

    • No operation date yet, many delays in the pre-op prepping and procedures.
    • Claire and I decide to join Weight Watchers to help with taking the pressure off her back.

    And here we are in September.

    These aren’t excuses but I am in a good place (although there is still stuff happening with mum) but I needed the break. Not only from my blog but also from social media and YouTube.

    I thought I could maybe turn my blog in to a full time business but I actually think there is warrant in me doing this as a release, as a hobby, as a place for me to take to when I need to. Mainly as I already work in a high pressured environment, why make my blog somewhere high pressure too?

    I also fell out of love with Makeup. I have sold so much and decluttered it out of my life (don’t get me wrong there is still so much) but I needed to reevaluate the balance of buying makeup that wasn’t being used for review purposes and saving money as a family. Of course my family comes first.

    So what’s next?

    LeahXL Blog:

    I am coming back. I am coming back with a blog that is more personal. Less review focused and is thoughtful and eclectic.

    I want to talk about married life, owning a gorgeous pup, making lifestyle changes, health in general, family, work and all the things inbetween.

    Leah XL Youtube:

    This is being shut down. I know, I know. It’s got a good following but it’s no longer who I am. Fear not though – I still do some live videos on a new channel to do with Ebay (not massively regular but some times) so if you want to find it and learn more about our business then please check it out here.

    Social Media:

    • Instagram – I have changed this back to a personal account. I don’t need it to be business and I am just not great at a stylised, perfectly lit feed. I can’t do it. It’s not natural to me. Instead it will be filled with fun things and life.
    • Twitter – Used for interactions but not as frequently as I used to and not promoting every single post constantly. I want it to be organic not mechanic.
    • Facebook – I know it seems outdated but I still use facebook and I will continue to post my posts to there. It’s a great place that people still use so I will carry on.
    • Snapchat – Not happening – It just drains my battery. I just can’t. (ANYONE ELSE?)
    • Others – Any others that have surpassed my 37 year old brain will just fall in to the metaphoric Social Media bin.

    I see this post as a new start. A turning point in my life and there will definitely be some changes happening (good and bad) during the course of my time writing.

    If you have any questions please comment below. If you want to know more and want me to do future posts about general life updates then again, comment below.

    My email, twitter inbox and facebook messenger is always open so please get in touch if you want to chat.

    Leah

     

    #BlogAtTheBeach Event with IceLolly – Round up

    It’s not often that events happen up north so when the lovely Hayley at IceLolly sent a tweet out asking if anyone was free to go to an event in Leeds I jumped at the chance.

    As you know I am a Hobby Blogger, I do this outside of my current permanent job so I don’t get to go to many events so having opportunities like this is rare and I was intrigued to learn more from a brand and other bloggers who aren’t too far from me.

    IceLolly 1

    IceLolly.com are a price comparison site for holidays. A post will be coming up soon on them in more detail and the event #BlogAtTheBeach has been running for five years.  They invite bloggers to network with other bloggers as well as listen to guest bloggers present on different blogging know how.

    When I arrived I was really chuffed to see that some of my favourite blogger pals were there and it was lovely to get to see them in real life. Since being part of the We Are Thirty Plus blogging movement I have made some lovely online blogging friends who I finally bumped in to including:

    I didn’t know they were going so it was such a lovely surprise and they were just as nice in real life as online.

    The day was split in to 3 parts and a speaker in each. These included:

    All 3 were able to offer advice from their success which, for me personally,  makes it really credible as they can evidence and back up what they’re presenting. They all did incredibly well and were all wonderfully lovely when I managed to catch up with them in the breaks.

    I thought I would summarise the useful tips I got from each of the talks.

    Pitching to brands

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    • Do your research – show your passion for their brand
    • Keep a spreadsheet of brands you are contacting
    • Don’t use a template email
    • Create and update your Media Kit
    • Tell them your ideas and show them evidence on how you have done it before
    • Think of 3 things your blog can offer (you don’t have to have a large following

    Taking your blog to the next level

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    • Use your skills from your 9-5 job to influence your blog
    • Re-invest in your blog – sponsorship or paid opportunities, use the money for something new, web host, domain, logo, camera, photo editing. Just keep it refreshed and updated.
    • Find your style, you have your own voice and style so highlight that difference rather than trying to do the same
    • Create community blogging hubs so you can take photo’s of each other on lunch breaks or weekends in your area

    Photography

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    • Try and find the photo from a different perspective
    • Use manual settings on a camera, YouTube has how to’s on the basics
    • Try and find someone who can take photo’s with you, especially when you’re travelling
    • If you are a lone traveller and want photos of yourself invest in a tripod
    • You don’t have to have an amazing camera but recommend one with basic manual settings

    (trying to utilise some of the tips below!)

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    IceLolly 7

    IceLolly 8

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    We were also given feedback on each presentation from IceLolly representatives about how, as a brand, they would want a blogger to pitch and what they expect from someones blog. This really cemented what the speakers were already saying.

    All in all I felt that the event was really well planned and the speakers really delivered insightful and well needed advice.

    I 100% intend to put myself forward to the event for next year, if it is still in the North!

    Did you go to the event? What did you enjoy?

    If you didn’t go and you would like to go what would you like to see?

    Do you ever pitch to brands? Are you looking to take your blog to the next level? Have you wondered about how to improve your photography skills?

    Have you thought about working with Brands like IceLolly.com?

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    The Small YouTuber Craze – 10k or less

    I have seen so many people complaining that the bigger YouTubers are out of touch and difficult to relate to these days (see post from Blogger Caity Lou) and just too polished.

    Therefore, as a small YouTuber myself, I wanted to give you a list of all my favourite YouTubers, AND keep this list updated, so please, if you have any YouTubers you love than comment on this post!

    I have put them in alphabetical order for you to make it easier.

    All things Kerri

    A cruelty free beauty youtuber almost at the 500 subby mark.

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    Behind the scent

    I have been following her blog for ages but seeing Kirsties channel is awesome. Especially if you love perfume and beauty!

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    Blonde Elle

    A vlogger with just over 8k subscribers. Check her out for every day vlogs, vegan food and random Careoke!

    small youtuber 2

    Diary of a 40 something

    I have recently come across this awesome beauty youtuber, unboxer extraordinairre.

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    Gracie Saunderson

    With just over 5.4k subscribers Gracie is a natural in front of the camera and is primarily beauty focussed.

    small youtuber 3

    Haley Louise

    If you like variety you have to go check out Haley Louise’s channel, currently under 1k subbies.

    small youtuber 4

    Hollife

    Beauty YouTuber and Blogger just cracked the 1.5k mark. Great videos with a sense of humour!

    small youtuber 5

    Idle Girl

    Absolutely cracking personality – so infectious – you can’t help but smile! Beauty blogger, loves bringing you the more purse friendly deals.

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    Leah XL

    ME! Just over 2.7k so far. All things beauty and some chatty vids too.

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    Leah XO

    Don’t get confused – we didn’t choose to have similar names but it just happened. Just over 5k subbies, weekly beauty videos.

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    Melody Collis

    Beauty and lifestyle youtuber just over 4k subbies. A complete Lush addict!

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    MercedesWhittyy

    If you want beauty unboxings check out this gem of a youtuber, 2.3k subbies and growing quickly!

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    Nadia Kour

    An amazing beauty youtuber who has just cracked 3k subscribers.

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    Samantha Jaelle

    If you want beauty reviews on budget brands you got it. Flying past 4k recently and growing quickly!

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    The Clare Necessities

    One of my original inspirations and one of the lovely beauty youtubers who I have known the longest. A collection to be envious of. Just over 1.2k subscribers.

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    Veronika Shares

    Veronika was originally a subscriber of mine and wanted to start a channel – so she did and is nearly at 500 subbies.

    small youtuber 12

    Victoria Jay

    Another good YouTuber friend who primarily did beauty but recently has new additions which she has blogged about. Nearly at 1k subscribers.

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    VictoriaLaurenxox

    A cruelty free beauty addict with under 5k subbies.

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    Well Hello Rachel

    A relatively new YouTuber who has just cracked the 100 subbies mark! Beauty and favourites are her thing. She’s also pretty awesome in real life!

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    Have you checked any of these out? What do you prefer smaller youtubers or the more professional?

    Beauty Blog Collective – Something New

    Well I have some exciting news to share with you all. Recently, a few of us who were writers for Really Ree, decided to create a new blog, a collective.

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    Welcome to the Beauty Blog Collective! 

    This is a place where we will be talking all things beauty, what’s new, what do we love, what do we recommend and all from individual, diverse backgrounds.

    You might be wondering why? how? Well in a nutshell, Ree wanted to take a new direction with her blog and contributors were not part of the equation.

    I had the best time writing for Ree and made some truly lovely friends. So this is how it started.

    A few of us chatted and thought that with all our know how we could just start something new, something different. Just something that would collectively have a beauty only focus.

    Overall we have been very lucky as it’s already proving to be quite popular because we all have different followings, so I hope that you (dear reader) will join us.

    So, what will you find over on the collective blog?

    Beauty – this will include reviews of makeup, new makeup, classic favourites, indie brands, every day brands and luxury.

    Skincare – from the sublime to the divine – there will be something for all skin types and budgets in our skincare posts. We will try and bring you a variety of brands from high street to lesser known brands.

    Haircare – We have a plethora of hair types and will be able to provide a guide to each of our hair journeys and products we love (or don’t love so much).

    Whatever your beauty requirement we will have something for you so if you are interested in finding out more, please do go and check out the beauty blog collective and let us know what you think!

    Like my page!