Thursday, February 23

IKEA HAUL | Spridd Collection & New Desk


It is no secret that I absolutely adore IKEA. I love interior design, style and shopping for homeware pieces. Ever since I was a little girl, I've always been inspired by the IKEA showroom in stores, and taking a solid hour or two to walk around, pick out new bits and bobs, and stop for the meatballs and chips in the restaurant too!

On the weekend I moved into my own flat last year, I took a trip to IKEA on a Saturday morning after getting my keys, and had the majority of it all delivered the following day. The furniture was all built, up and ready by the Sunday night, and now I'm a very loyal shopper and love making my flat feel like a girly home.


So you can imagine my excitement when IKEA said "hey Brogan, have you seen our new SPRIDD collection? We think you'll like it!". As I was in need of a trip for a few essentials for my new desk (see below!), I took a trip to my nearest store in Southampton to check it out, and fell in love with how fun and creative it was. Inspired by loosely interpreted music styles, acclaimed fashion designer Kit Neale and IKEA have created four expressions that are still part of one and the same print-it-out-loud collection.

The SPRIDD collection is inspired by youth culture and by what it means to be young. It features a variety of products, including travel mugs, tents, bedding, storage boxes and more which follow one of four print patterns.


The desk I currently own I actually found in the garden section of IKEA, it's meant for outside use and has two benches, but served me well as the perfect size to fit the small narrow space I have in the corner of the room. As I now work from home, I've added a computer, chair, lamp and little orchid to make it more practical to work from as a desk, rather than a dining table.

Discover which pieces I picked from the SPRIDD collection, along with the things for my new desk, in my new haul video below!



The full Limited Edition SPRIDD Collection can we viewed online here and is available to buy in stores for the next few weeks only! Be sure to follow @ikeaUK on Instagram, and let me know which piece you like the most!

*This post is in collaboration and kindly sponsored by IKEA.
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Thursday, February 9

Billy Elliot The Musical | Mayflower Theatre, Southampton

Last night, I was kindly invited to see Billy Elliot at the Mayflower Theatre in Southampton with my fellow Southampton Bloggers. I'm a huge musical lover and Billy was on my list as a 'must-see', after hearing so many glowing reviews. I can now confidently confirm that I understand why it has been seen by nearly 11 million people across five continents, and is the recipient of over 80 awards internationally, including ten Tony Awards and five Olivier Awards! It was absolutely incredible! I was blown away. I cried, laughed and wanted to watch it all over again the minute it finished.


Set in a northern mining town, against the background of the 1984/’85 miners’ strike, Billy’s journey takes him out of the boxing ring and into a ballet class where he discovers a passion for dance that inspires his family and whole community and changes his life forever.

The show is quite long and does contain some swearing, but you'll find you laugh more than you imagine. The dancing was absolutely breathtaking (especially the young ballet girls!), and I really fell in love with the storyline. There is something special about believing in yourself and your dreams and following them. It covers topics such a family, death, British history, loyalty, homosexuality and friendships. At the end, the whole theatre gave a standing ovation, and I honestly haven't clapped in joy so much at the end of a show!

In total worldwide, 90 boys have now played the iconic role of Billy Elliot on stage. I saw Billy played by Emile Gooding, an incredibly talented young boy. In May last year, Billy Elliot the Musical celebrated its 10th birthday at the West End’s Victoria Palace Theatre, where it played its final performance in April 2016 after 4,600 performances when the theatre closes for refurbishment. It's now on an extensive UK tour, staying in Southampton until Saturday 4th March!

Billy Elliot the Musical is brought to life by the multiple award-winning creative team behind the film including writer Lee Hall, director Stephen Daldry, and choreographer, Peter Darling, joined by Elton John who composed the show’s score. The show is presented by Universal Stage Productions, Working Title Films and Old Vic Productions.

Tickets for Billy Elliot the Musical (until Saturday 4 March 2017) are on sale now from Mayflower Theatre Box Office or online at mayflower.org.uk. You do not want to miss it, absolutely amazing!
*Complimentary tickets & photography from Mayflower Theatre.
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Monday, January 30

21 Days To Form A Habit | Virgin Active Gym Experience


I've just completed my first consultation with a Personal Trainer and I'm here to share my journey with you over the next month. So, *deep breath* here's to being one of those people joining a gym first week of January! Not going to lie, I'm nervous and excited all rolled into one...

Before I begin, I've never really been a committed gym-goer. For various reasons, I've always just quit out of boredom, laziness or lack of results. I'm not a quitter normally, and I know I enjoy fitness (otherwise I wouldn't join to begin with!), but have really lacked the right place to suit me and right time in my life too. I've also had a bad back and injured it end of last year, so I put fitness on hold until my chiropractor said so.

I've recently become in a position that I work from home/freelance and I don't move much! I'd like to lose a little bit of weight, strengthen my back, and generally feel fitter, with higher energy levels to get me up and out. Plus, I'd like to have the gym as part of my lifestyle and routine. Especially now I'm alone more and working from home.


Just before Christmas, Virgin Active got in touch and asked if I'd like to try their gym in 2017. They have kindly provided me with a complimentary membership and six PT sessions in return for sharing my experience in this post. They say it takes 21 days to turn a goal into a habit, and have challenged me to form a long lasting one which makes me feel good. I have a simple goal: to visit twice a week. My personal trainer and I felt twice is a good goal, with the aim to increase to three if I can.

This is a completely honest and open experience I'm sharing, from a very unfit 22 year old girl looking to change her fitness and more importantly, lifestyle! I don't want the gym to feel like a chore, I really want to enjoy it. I want to learn how to use the equipment correctly, see (and feel) results, and visit regularly. It would have been silly of me not to accept this opportunity and experience. So...LET'S DO THIS!

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WEEK ONE

Wednesday 4th Jan
I'd never been to a Virgin Active before but was very kindly greeted by the staff and shown around. With a great sized gym, an indoor and outdoor pool, sauna, steam room, jacuzzi, tennis/squash courts and a restaurant (with free wifi!), I'm already totally in love with the place.

I met with James, my new Personal Trainer, to discuss my goals. He gave me three things to work on including cooking a couple of meals from scratch, aiming to visit the gym twice a week, increase my water intake and decrease my caffeine. James has recommend Green Tea, and dusting off my Lean In 15 book to help encourage me to cook.

Our first session starts next Monday, so as I was there and dressed in my gym gear, I went for a power walk for half an hour on the treadmill. I would have gone longer but it's been a while since I've worn my gym trainers and they started to give me blisters. Ha. What a novice. After a brief session, I sat and worked from the restaurant and got a good feel for the atmosphere. So far, I feel pretty content and excited to get started. Until then, I might squeeze another session in later this week.


Thursday 5th Jan
The next day. I'm back already. I didn't take much convincing did I? I had a real urge to get out the house and decided to spontaneously go late afternoon. I did 1 hour on the running machine and cross trainer. I did it. And I enjoyed it. Win.

Sunday 8th Jan
I couldn't resist any longer and went for swim. It's a Sunday evening, so the pool was nice and quiet and I had the 'slow lane' all to myself for lengths up and down. I went at my own pace, before enjoying the sauna after. The changing rooms have beautiful power showers (with a really nice body wash!), and a mini tumble dryer for you swimwear! I sat and dried my hair with the GHD Hair Dryer and Straighteners, whilst I tweeted that I think I'm going to spend more time showering and getting ready here than at home it's so nice. I felt pretty fab coming home and ready for a good nights sleep.

TOTAL VISITS: 3

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WEEK TWO

Monday 9th Jan
MY LEGS. Oh myyy. I casually said goodbye to James but my legs felt like jelly as I walked down the stairs. I actually had to hold the handrail. Ha! He didn't push me too hard, but hard enough to obviously feel the burn. More importantly, I really enjoyed it. We took my measurements and we'll do them again in 3 weeks time. The 1 hour session consisted of a range of exercises James had me trying including the Woodway Curve, a self powered treadmill, using no motors or buttons. We also did lunges using a ViPR, TRX ropes/suspension trainer, a few machines, a Stability Ball to bring over my head and lower to the ground into a squat on each side, and finally some stretches using the Power Plate. I worked from the restaurant again and ordered Fajitas for dinner. Their food menu is amazing, super tasty, so many great choices and really good value for money too.


Tuesday 10th Jan
James encouraged me to keep my body moving so my muscles don't seize up. Despite feeling pretty tired after yesterday, I accepted the challenge and went for a power walk on the treadmill and the Curve. My legs were too sore to run but I walked fast enough and inclined the machine to get my heart rate up. Headphones on with my new motivational playlist on Spotify. 

I also bought new gym clothes today. There's nothing quite like a new outfit to keep you motivated, right? Plus, I've found I'm naturally living in my gym bottoms and sports bras now, they're the first pieces of clothing I put on in the morning. I'm a changed woman and it's only been a week.

Thursday 12th Jan
What a great day! I told James my quads have been killing, so we started the session using a Foam Roller to massage them and release the knots. It really helped and I was then ready to start our session. We took to the battle ropes and despite how hardcore they were, I really enjoy them! We did frog squats and crawling back and forth on all fours across the grid, used the TRX ropes again for some side lunges, before my first time trying dumbbells! James was right behind me to adjust my grip, reposition my wrists and most importantly, keep pushing me with support and encouragement. We finished up with some stretches. I wasn't quite ready to leave today though, so I did 25 lengths of the pool in about half an hour. I even dipped into the outside pool which was really refreshing, as the air was cold but the pool was warm. 

I was so pumped that I spent two hours working from the restaurant again. What a surprise. Notice a routine yet? I managed to get my account and Virgin app all set up today too, so booked a Body Balance class for Saturday. I've never tried it before, but was sold on the description about being a mix of Yoga, Pilates and Tai Chi, which relaxes your mind as you control your body and breathing. I'm really looking forward to giving it a go.


Saturday 14th Jan
My first class and I loved it! It was face paced, lots of stretching and the instructor Gabby was really nice. I got chatting to some ladies next to me who made me feel at ease. It really tested my balance and I felt really good after. Can't wait to go again next week!

Sunday 15th Jan
I went to bed at 2.30am last night after several glasses of rosé, but still managed an hour session today! My legs were jelly by the time I finished my last lengths of the pool. I practised my backstroke and front stroke too and absolutely loved it. This is my 5th session this week, bearing in mind my goal is twice a week, I don't think I'm doing too badly.

TOTAL VISITS: 5



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WEEK THREE


Tuesday 17th Jan
I woke up and didn't feel 100% today, but was determined to make my PT session. Power through and all. James and I did circuits and I have to admit, it's the first time I've felt absolutely EXHAUSTED. We alternated between lunges with the ViPR, squatting with a weighted ball and battle ropes. We completed a round, had a quick breath, then started over. It’s fast, challenging and perfect if you want to mix up training or switch it up a gear. I felt unbelievably tired, and James recommend trying the Smoked Salmon, Cream Cheese and Avocado bagel for lunch, with a peppermint green tea.

Thursday 19th Jan
I was booked for a PT session this morning but James was poorly. As I was up, dressed and already eaten a banana at 6.30am, I went anyway and absolutely loved the feeling of getting up and out so early. I was heading to London later that day, and it was really nice to start my morning with a workout and swim. I took to the outside pool again too, following the jacuzzi and sauna.

Friday 20th Jan
I ate really badly whilst in London (cocktails, pizza at 1am and a McMuffin breakfast...sorry James.) I felt the guilt so came home, worked until 5pm, and honestly couldn't wait to go to the gym. I've never looked forward to something so much.

Sunday 22nd Jan
Body Balance again! I loved the class so much and saw the same ladies from last week. I did cardio and a swim after, and tried the berry protein smoothie. SO good. I was pretty much in the gym for most of the day and when I got home, Virgin had kindly sent a week's worth of food from Soulmatefood. I can't wait to have so many delicious dishes during my final week of PT sessions!

TOTAL VISITS: 4


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WEEK FOUR

Tuesday 24th Jan
Another hour session with James today. We did lots of similar things but he mixed it up and taught me deadlifting. My back was a bit sore, so we worked on my glutes and used a barbell for hip thrusts whilst leaning my shoulder against a block. In comparison to my first couple of sessions, I didn't feel too burnt out today. Received a nice encouraging 'well done for today' text from James too.

Thursday 26th Jan
The best session so far. James repeated some circuits we did last week and to both of our surprise, my stamina was much much better. I found I wasn't as tired, so we pushed through and got way more done in the hour! I played an hour of Tennis with my brother after, before finishing up with a competitive swim in the outside pool. We stayed for lunch and I left feeling so good.

Friday 27th Jan
Today is my last personal training session with James. I'm honestly a bit gutted, as I've really enjoyed training with him. I doubt this will be our last one though! We took my measurements and had a great session lifting kettlebells, using the leg press and cable triceps. James asked I removed my shoes during leg presses, as my right foot was turning in. We noticed that bare feet was better for me, and I had much more control. I then did Body Balance again and felt ready for the weekend!

Sunday 29th Jan
All on my own now! I did an hour in the gym with the knowledge I'd picked up from James, then hit the pool for 20 lengths, before feeling very ready to take a nap. It was so refreshing to spend my morning at Virgin, I even had lunch with a new friend I've made since joining, who's encouraged me to join her for workouts and classes. We're going to battle the weights area together, and we've even booked a day to London for next week to get to know each other outside of the gym too. Who knew I'd meet new friends?

TOTAL VISITS: 4
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Results
It was important to me to track my success and measure my goals when I've worked so hard! James and I always agreed it was better to track by measuring my arms, legs, waist and hips in centimeters, but I did weigh myself too. Virgin have Boditrax machines which allow you to see your body fat percentage and BMI, with an app to login from anywhere too. I absolutely adore it. I've lost 6 pounds since starting, half a stone! We also saw 12cm overall off my body, with 5cm off my hips. I still have a long way to go, but I'm really pleased with the results.



Personal Training
I wasn't sure how I'd feel about the gym in general, and was relieved to know I had someone to show me what to do. As I have a bad back, it's really important my workouts are tailored so I don't injury myself again, something James was always very aware and good at acknowledging.

His style of personal training made me appreciate that fitness and exercise doesn't have to be painful or a chore necessarily. You can really go at your own pace, with your own style, and still get results. I really needed James to show me how enjoyable the gym can be, and push me to limits I didn't even know I had.

I also didn't realise how much I'd appreciate the little things during our sessions, including the way he'd time/count for me, encourage me to keep going or tell me when I only had 10 seconds left etc. I need this style of motivation, because I'm so rubbish at motivating myself to stop and start a rep or set. He also appreciated when I might need water/a rest as after all, I am mega unfit! Rome wasn't built in a day, as they say. He understood I'm not superwoman, but he pushed me just enough that I could feel the burn and enjoy it at the same time.

I also wanted to add that I wasn't injured once during the whole month, and have James to thank for keeping a watch on my wrists, turned toes and a bent back. We used foam rollers and gentle stretches to keep my muscles and body happy, with rest days to recover too.

James, if you're reading this, thank you so much. You're ace.



MONTHLY VISIT GOAL: 8

TOTAL MONTHLY VISITS: 16


Socialising
As I mentioned, I made a new friend during my first month here (thank you Olga!) and I'm really looking forward to continuing my fitness journey with her motivation and support. It can be really daunting when you're still new, and it's nice to form new friendships. I liked seeing the same ladies in my Body Balance class each week too, and even started to recognise some of the other PT's and Fitness Coaches, who kindly asked how I was getting on (shoutout and cheers to Dean for the extra encouragement!).

Support
I have to say a HUGE thank you to all my friends, family, manager, subscribers and fellow Virgin Bloggers for your support and encouragement. (Special thank you to Charlotte, Charlie, John & Ed, you guys well and truly smashed it!) There is something really special about having people say "well done" or "you've inspired me to exercise!", so thank you if you've left a nice message to me on any of my videos or social media, it hasn't gone unnoticed.

Diet & Food
I've naturally wanted to eat better and 'make better choices' due to working out. I've loved Bounce Protein Bars (I bought a bulk load...24 to be exact), Green Tea, Satsumas for snacking, Peanut Butter & Apples and using my Rogue One Star Wars cup for upping my water intake. It might sound crazy, but it's a solid colour bottle, and I can't see how much water is left, meaning I drink loads through the straw all day. Having meals from HelloFresh & SoulmateFood was amazing, it kept me on track and encouraged me to cook from scratch. I'm now really concious of what I eat, as I don't want to ruin all my hard work. My wine, chocolate and sugar intake has dramatically decreased, and I'm now exploring the world of protein shakes and meal prepping. I know, it's mad. But also really great.

Clothing
I have LOVED shopping for new gym gear this month. It's almost getting a bit silly how much I now own. I've found my favourite brands are Pink Soda (JD Sport), ASDA, Sports Direct and H&M. You don't have to spend a lot to look and feel good. Tip: if you're buying new leggings, trying squatting in them in the changing rooms first. Trust me! I also picked up a new swimming costume from Primark, and I'm saving for a nicer pair of Nikes moving forward. I got a mega cheap yoga mat and water bottle from TK Maxx, and other purchases included Kayla Itsines 28 Day Healthy Eating Lifestyle Guide, Joe Wicks Workout DVD, a skipping rope, several fitness apps and a mini microfibre towel. I was also kindly gifted Bath Salts from Westlab to help with my muscles.

Forming A Habit
I think it's fair to say I smashed my 'twice a week' goal, going double what I imagined. I learnt over the month that it's not just about the fitness for me, the gym really has helped battle my loneliness, and gives me a place of purpose to get out the house. I now enjoy working, eating, relaxing, swimming, socialising, learning, meditating, escaping, laughing, sweating and most importantly, smiling when I'm there. Virgin is such a great all-round club, it honestly feels like my second home. I can't wait to work on my fitness, build my stamina, continue seeing results and making the gym a place I WANT to go to. In all honestly, I feel like I've only just begun.


Huge thank you to Virgin Active for quite literally, changing my life. I honestly don't know what I'd do without the gym now, and will continue to be a huge advocate and stick to my new habit! Plus, if you're thinking of joining the gym or getting into fitness just remember, if I can do it, so can you. Don't let anyone tell you differently. "Believe you can and you are halfway there."

*This post is kindly sponsored by Virgin Active, who have gifted me a yearly membership.
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Sunday, January 29

A Better Night's Sleep | This Works Deep Sleep Pillow Spray


My sleeping pattern has been all over the place recently. I started as a freelancer this month and therefore work really random hours, often avoid setting an alarm, and have struggled to switch off. This doesn't help that I'm clearly lacking routine and not leaving my work behind at 5pm anymore, but I joined a gym and have been working out a lot, so I thought that might make me absolutely exhausted when it came to falling asleep at night. I read, I put my phone away, I drink lots of water, but I've still struggled. A few weeks ago, I grabbed my favourite product for solving my sleeping, and it hasn't left my bedside table since. The Deep Sleep Pillow Spray* by This Works.

We all know how important it is to have a good night's sleep. It's crucial for our mind, body, routine, general well being, and even our skin. This period of physical and mental rest is when our skin moves into repair mode. It creates new cells, replaces aged cells, removes harmful toxins and renews the skin. If sleep is disturbed, this whole process is thrown off. Hence the reason behind the creation of the Deep Sleep Pillow Spray.

Since This Works launched this genius product in 2011, it has become a global bestseller, with its impact felt in many countries including the US, Australia, Germany and France. But the question is, does it actually work?


This Works initiated its second large independent user trial with over 200 people with sleep issues in July 2014, with the following clinically proven study results:

99% slept better than normal**
89% fell asleep faster**
98% felt more refreshed in the morning**
100% would recommend to a friend with a sleep issue**

The product is infused with 100% natural essential oils of Lavender, Vetivert and Wild Camomile, and smells exactly as relaxing as how you imagine. It's not a synthetic scented lavender, but one you'd expect in a spa or hotel. Really luxurious.

You simply spray onto your pillow or bed cover before you go to sleep, and use to promote rest and relaxation. The spray bottle has a really good nozzle too (if that doesn't sound too mad!), you only need a few spritz and it distributes the product nice and evenly. For me, it instantly helped calm my body and mind, and prepared me for a much better night’s sleep than I've been having. I've been waking up feeling so fresh and full of energy the next morning, that leaving the house at 6am for a 7am gym session is proving much easier!

I can't rave about this product enough. It really is a bedside table essential, and I've recommended it to my mum, who has gone and purchased it for friends too. So if you're struggling to sleep at the moment, this one's for you.


EXCLUSIVE TO QVC. LAUNCHES FEBRUARY 1ST 2017.

*This post is kindly sponsored by This Works however, I have been using this product for months and genuinely adore it.
**In a study of 217 men and women versus a placebo.

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Monday, January 23

HelloFresh | Classic Box Review


I admit, I'm not much of a cook. I live alone and often struggle with inspiration, motivation and ultimately, the fundamental practice of producing a meal from scratch. I'm on a health kick/fitness journey right now, where I'm going to the gym several times a week. I'm MEGA HUNGRY all the time (much more than normal) and my personal trainer is trying to drill a better diet into me.

So when HelloFresh got in touch and asked if I'd like to try a box, I quickly said "YES PLEASE!". I was up for the challenge! It arrived in a large brown biodegradable box, with great, recognisable branding.

How does it work?
Every week, Head Chef Patrick and his team create new recipes with photos of every step for you to cook quick, delicious, nutritious meals at home. You don't have to worry about the planning or creation, just the easy home cooking and eating bit. (Which is what I do best).

HelloFresh help you to scrap the supermarket shop. They source all the ingredients for your recipes from some legendary suppliers, and pack the exact quantities you need. There’s no waste and they hunt down speciality produce that you won’t find in the supermarkets.

Then it's delivered! You pick either a Sunday, Monday, Tuesday or Thursday and it's free. No added delivery costs. Woo!

Finally, it's time to cook. Using the step-by-step recipe cards, it makes the whole process really damn easy.


The fridge food and meats came in a bag with a 100% wool liner, so you can put them on your compost heap. However, if you don't have one like me, and you want to recycle these beautiful liners, you can send them back for free. They also use ice packs which are completely non-toxic, filled with water and nothing else. Once again, recyclable!

On first impressions, all the meat looks really fresh and great quality, so I didn't even hesitate to pop it all in my fridge and look forward to cooking.


I went for the Classic box with three meals, and was really impressed with how you can see what recipes are available for that week, and the week ahead. You can even download the recipes for free from their website!

Everything looked really colourful, tasty and I LOVED how it was individually bagged according to each meal. Talk about making your life really easy.


Ta da! I MADE A MEAL. From scratch. Admittedly I didn't have a rolling pin or flour, and the clingfilm and wine bottle trick didn't quite hack it, so my pizza was pretty thick! Nonetheless, I DID IT. It was really easy, took around half an hour and most importantly, tasted really good too. There was enough for two people, so I saved the rest for lunch the next day.

It's £39 for a box however, if you use my code 'HelloBrogan', you can get £25 off your first one! Making it an absolute bargain to give it a go. So, what are you waiting for? Getting cooking with me and order yourself a HelloFresh box! You won't regret it.




*This post is kindly sponsored by HelloFresh.
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