Friday, 15 February 2019

50 blog photo props you can buy right now

I once made a blog post about the photo props that I use, and it was quite popular (you can read that here) so I thought I'd make a post with a specific list of 50 blog photo props you can buy right now, with links and everything, so you can really up your flatlay game for 2019. Enjoy!

Plastic gems - mine were from the wedding section in Poundland, similar here
Confetti - I have some iridescent confetti from Home Bargains, similar here
Fake plants - click here
Real plants - your local garden is probably best but in case you can't get there, click here
Glasses - click here
The other kind of glasses - click here
Costume jewellery - click here
Washi tape - you can sometimes get this in Poundland, but if not click here
Paperclips - (and pins etc etc etc) click here
Trinket dish - I have soooo many from all sorts of places but ASOS have loads, click here

Trays - click here
Slippers - Primark ones are spot on but for something a bit more wow, click here
Candles - click here
Fake flowers - don't be fooled into paying loads for these, you can get them cheap: click here
Cutlery - click here
Bunting - click here
Paint swatch cards - okay I can't really link to these but you can get them free in B&Q
Headphones - click here
Pens - click here
Mugs - the cuter the better, really (click here) or classy, I suppose, whatever your vibe is (click here)

Camera - click here
Tweezers - click here
Perfume - click here
Postcards - from places you've been or just cute ones! click here
Paper straws - click here
Badges/pins - click here (I have a bee & a llama from this store) also click here and also here
Fairy lights - obv available everywhere but click here
Polaroids - I get mine from the wonderful people at LALALAB; use code PGW6BQ4F for £5 off
Chocolates - click here for my fave ever chocolates in case you wanted to know
Shells/stones - from the beach if there's one nearby? click here if not

Cotton buds - click here (also Poundland though)
Ornaments - click here
Make up brushes - click here
Hair clips - click here (what a throwback)
Ribbon - click here
Coasters - available cheap as chips but if you want boujie, click here
Books - click here
Beads - click here
Sweets - in the above picture I've used bon bons, just for reference (click here)
Magazines - old (click here) or new, from your newsagents or whatever

Nail varnish - click here
Eyelash curlers - click here
Placemats - click here
Greetings cards - I stock up in Tiger whenever I'm there but also click here
Jingle bells - click here
Sunglasses - click here
Purse - click here
Scrunchies - Primark always have amazing ones but also click here
Tiny pegs - click here
Biscuits - click here

Whew, there you go. I've linked to everything I can for your convenience but a lot of things can be bought in cheap shops and supermarkets so it's worth checking them out if you're blogging on a budget! I also keep a lot of my smaller blog props handy in my blog kit bag from Lyd's Etsy store for bloggers and it's a god-send honestly.

Check out my favourite blogging resources HERE

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Travelling to Poland: the lowdown

I've been on 7 trips to Poland over the years, and I always get asked loads of questions about travelling to Poland - so I thought I'd do a post that covers my experience(s) and hopefully answers those questions!

Buildings in Lublin Old Town
Lublin old town
Basically, I go to Poland so often because I love it and it's bloody cheap. Most of the time I can get a return flight to somewhere in Poland for less than £30, and as I'm happy to explore anywhere in Poland it's even easier to get a cheap flight. I find SkyScanner the easiest for finding cheap flights, as it gives you option to search for flights to anywhere in one country rather than having to look city by city.

I've always been able to find cheap accommodation in Poland too - the first three times I visited, I stayed in hotels (the first time was with college, so that wasn't my choice) and the next two times were before I realised how easy and convenient Airbnb is. The hotels were cheap enough and well located, but with Airbnb it's much easier to find a hidden gem for a really low cost. For example, in Poznan I stayed in a studio apartment - double sofa bed, kitchen with oven/fridge-freezer/dining area, well equipped bathroom - for £19 a night between two people. It wasn't in the city centre, but it was within walking distance of a supermarket, a bakery, a couple of restaurants and the bus stops; I think it took about 20 minutes on the bus to get into the main area of the city, which was absolutely fine and so worth it for how cheap the apartment itself was. If you're new to Airbnb, sign up through my link HERE to get £25 off your first stay - not just in Poland but anywhere!

My Airbnb top tips

In terms of when to go to Poland, I can only speak from my experience of visiting in winter: it's bloody cold. I'm yet to go to Poland in the summer, though I really want to, but the winter for me just feels really special. It often snows, and they celebrate Christmas for a lot longer than we do, and even though it's freezing if you wear your thermals you'll be absolutely fine. I think I will visit in the summer, maybe even this year, but if you do want a bargain city break then November-March is probably the best time of year to go to Poland.

Snow on the ground in Lublin, Poland
SNOW (Lublin)
So, where should you go? Like I said, SkyScanner gives you the option of just picking wherever is cheapest in Poland but if there's not much in it you might want to know a bit more about each city that pops up. Well, I've been to Kraków, Poznan, Lublin and Warsaw so I can offer you some wisdom on those 4 cities...

Kraków - probably the most popular city to visit in Poland at the minute, Kraków is definitely somewhere that holds a massive piece of my heart. Flight prices are creeping up as it becomes a more in-demand destination, but it's easy to see why so many people want to go. It was my first Polish city, and the one I've visited the most (4 times) - with such a rich history and access to places like Auschwitz, it's somewhere you can take a real learning trip. But it's also somewhere full of bars, escape rooms, malls, museums, restaurants and loads more. It is a bit of a tourist haven these days, but I'd go back in a heartbeat.

Wawel Castle in Krakow, Poland
Wawel Castle, Krakow
Kraków top 5: Schindler Museum, the shisha bar at Grodzka 41, Wawel dragon statue, Buddha Bar, Nova Krova.

Poznan - this is definitely one of the lesser-visited cities in Poland, but it's one you shouldn't overlook if you're planning a trip. It's the fifth largest city in Poland and has a massive student population, and a really chilled out vibe. There's a huge man-made lake called Lake Malta, which has an artificial ski slope, a zoo, an ice-rink and a narrow gauge railway as well as being a rowing venue and host to a theatre festival. I do think Poznan would be best visited in the summer, given the amount of outdoor activities on offer, but I went in March as it was just heading into spring and it was still wonderful.

Pink monastery in Poznan, Poland
Poznan top 5: mechanical goats, Park Cytadela, the palm house, croissant museum (we couldn't get in but I've heard great things), the zoo.

Lublin - another city that's kind of under the tourist radar, Lublin is perfect for a relaxed couple of days because there isn't loads to cram in. However there's history there if you look for it, and honestly Lublin has some of the best restaurants I've ever been to (more on that here) so if you're a foodie, I'd highly recommend. Coach travel within Poland is really good, and Lublin is only a couple of hours away from Poland's capital, Warsaw, so I was able to take a day trip there for about a fiver.

Me at Lublin Castle, Poland, at sunset
Lublin Castle at sunset
Lublin top 5: G20 resto-bar, Majdanek, Czarcia Lapa, the open air museum, Lublin castle.

Warsaw - it's Poland's capital, but don't be fooled into thinking it's a bustling and expensive city like other capital cities are/can be. I've just posted a travel diary series about Warsaw if you want to know more about my most recent trip (find the first instalment here) but we were able to visit Warsaw for 4 nights for just over £100 each including the flights and a city centre apartment. There's so much to do and see, and as a city it feels really safe.

Buildings in Warsaw old town
Warsaw old town
Warsaw top 5: the neon museum, Rock Friends, the Gestapo HQ/museum, Mamma Mia Never Closed, the 30th floor view point at the Palace of Science & Culture.

If you want to find out about Wroclaw, my pal Kirsty has been: click HERE
I found a blog post from Kami about Katowice: click HERE
Brenna has been to Gdansk and has a blog post about it: click HERE

As I've just mentioned, I felt really safe in Warsaw and I'd like to point out that I've never felt unsafe anywhere I've visited in Poland - everyone is so friendly and I've never had or seen any trouble. Taxis and public transport in Poland are really efficient and easy to use - I have the iTaxi app downloaded on my phone which works right across the country (you can pay by cash or card) and each city tends to have an app or online information regarding bus and train times.

My favourite Polish snacks (from the supermarkets/corner shops) are pizza monster munch by Lorenz, the Wedel Karmellove! Czekotubkas which are basically the consistency of Nutella in the flavour of Caramac in a little squeezy tube, 7 Days Bake Rolls in pizza and tomato-olive flavours, and also Tymbark orange juice which technically isn't a "snack" but is utterly amazing.

Crisps from Poland

I also LOVE the different beauty brands you can pick up in Poland, especially Ziaja for their incredible range of skincare but also Green Pharmacy, Bielenda, and L'Biotica (their hair masks are amazing).

So, I hope that's covered everything that people have asked me about - Poland is a beautiful country with so much culture and history. It's my top choice for cheap city breaks and I'd recommend it to everyone; if you do have any specific questions feel free to get in touch, but otherwise I hope this post has been a helpful one! Sorry it's so long...

Monday, 11 February 2019

Five recent reads

I'm aiming to read 50 books in 2019 which is ambitious at best, but fingers crossed - I've started a thread on Twitter to briefly share the books I've read, but I also wanted to continue my 'recent reads' blog posts because they're fun to write and I can say a bit more. So without further ado, here's my five most recent reads.

While My Eyes Were Closed by Linda Green is one I actually read at the end of 2018, another psychological thriller that I really enjoyed. It's about a little girl that goes missing and switches between the family/the search, and the person who's taken her. It's a fascinating read and while there's  no massive twist, it was a really enjoyable book. click here to buy

My first book of 2019 was What Alice Knew by T. A. Cottrell which is beautifully written, almost poetic in places, and has such a clever storyline that really makes you think - I enjoyed this a lot and I think it's the kind of book that will stick with you for a bit if you read it. Would definitely recommend! click here to buy

Next up was She's Not There by Joy Fielding which I didn't love - it's about a kid going missing from holiday resort while the parents are having dinner with their mates (familiar, right?) and the parallels with the actual McCann case felt really jarring, as if this was just a fictional version of that but set in Mexico. It's been years since the little girl in this book went missing, and someone comes forward saying she thinks she's the missing girl - but is she? click here to buy

Book number 3 of 2019 was Lisa Jewell's The Girls which, predictably, I loved - she's one of my favourite authors at the moment and this one didn't disappoint. It's not the best of all of her books, in my opinion, but it's still brilliant. It's set in London, at this communal garden that is surrounded by houses and flats filled with families of all different kinds; Clare and her two daughters have recently moved in, and through them we learn about all the goings-on of the garden including the Big Plot Point of the book... click here to buy

My fourth read of this year so far and the last for this blog post was The Light Between Us by Katie Khan - I featured her book Hold Back The Stars in a previous recent reads post and I was so eager to read this one. It's about time travel and science and stuff like that, but also about love and friendship and how the line between the two can so easily be blurred - it's a beautiful book and if you want a love story that's very different from your average, this is the book for you. click here to buy

As always please leave book recommendations below or tweet me - @katygilroyblog

Saturday, 9 February 2019

Are airport lounges worth the money?

As a budget traveller, airport lounges aren't something I use often - but with that being said, I have done so before. The first time was when I was much younger, going on a cruise with my aunty and uncle, and I drank about 6 cans of Red Bull just because it was complimentary. Ouch. Anyway, I briefly mentioned this in day one of my Warsaw travel diary series, but the lovely people at Manchester Airport invited me to check out the 1903 Lounge in Terminal 3 and I thought I'd do a whole post about whether it's worth it or not.

are airport lounges worth it?

The 1903 Lounge at Manchester Airport is labelled as 'the perfect adults only retreat from the crowds' and that's the best way to describe it. It costs £35 when booked in advance, which is really easy to do online, and you can spend two hours in there before your flight. All food and drink is complimentary, and wow... we were there quite early in the morning, so it was breakfast time, and there was loads of choice when it came to food. I had sausages and tiny hash browns, and a croissant and some bread & butter, but there was other pastries to choose from and bacon, beans, mushrooms etc as well as tea, coffee and juice. There was also a fully stocked bar, so I opted for a Magners cider - there was wine, beer and loads of spirits on offer too as well as water and soft drinks. With so much choice and the ability to go back as many times as you want, it's absolutely spot on.

1903 lounge at manchester airport

You're also guaranteed somewhere comfortable to sit down and relax, whereas the public areas of the airport are so full of people that it can be a nightmare just trying to find somewhere to park your bum. The 1903 Lounge has free wifi as well as printing facilities and charging ports, and you also get free fast-track security which means you get through quicker. I honestly think for £35, you're getting a lot of bang for your buck.

1903 airport lounge manchester

The 1903 Lounge has such a relaxed atmosphere, there's sweets and magazines and it's warm, with lovely staff and big floor to ceiling windows. I'd definitely recommend it, especially for special occasion holidays or even if you just fancy a treat and you've not spent loads on flights in the first place. So, are airport lounges worth the money? I reckon they bloody well are, and I can't recommend the 1903 Lounge enough. Click here to book.

Thursday, 7 February 2019

Buy Something Random

Subscription services and mystery boxes were a big deal in 2018, and Buy Something Random are a company who combine the two concepts. You can buy one off themed boxes, or monthly boxes at different prices which will contain more or less items depending on the price. Just before Christmas (can you tell I've been busy) they sent me one of their one off bundles to share with you - so let's take a look inside.

The box I received was the Construction Bundle, filled with all sorts of DIY fun. There was a grow your own Christmas tree, which I'm saving for next year, and then loads of non-Christmas themed items such as DIY straws (a little nod to the eco-friendly alternatives on the market), 'grow a poo', desktop golf and a Meccano helicopter. As well as these, there was a book of amusing signs and also a remote controlled poo emoji.

buy something random mystery box kids

To me, this box is a perfect for a rainy day - especially if you've got kids, or you're looking for something a bit different than binging on the latest Netflix series. I'm really looking forward to putting the Meccano helicopter together (I love a project) and I know my nephew will love the little 'grow a poo' and it's something we can really easily do together.

The box is possibly a little more typically boy-orientated, but girls love this kind of stuff too so really I'd say it's something anyone can enjoy, and it's pretty much suitable for any age. It's £50 which seems like a big outlay, but you get a fair bit in there and it might be stuff you wouldn't think of buying, but that can make a really fun project or brighten up a dull afternoon. Things like the DIY straws can be used over and over again, and I imagine the remote controlled poo emoji will bring hours of fun - I plan on chasing my dog with it...

What's your favourite subscription box service?