Sunday, 13 August 2017

Dealing with a crisis of confidence

Confidence. Seems like you either have it, or you don't, right? We all have those friends who ooze the stuff. They're totally self-assured, would take on any challenge in a heartbeat and would never be heard putting themselves down. 

But what if you're not the confident one? Or maybe you used to be, but somewhere along the way, you lost it? 

I've been spending some time recently trying to connect with my younger, more confident self after a series of events found my self-belief and sense of worth sitting at rock bottom. For almost the whole year I've been on a downward spiral when it comes to confidence.

The voice in my head has steadily eaten away at my sense of self, uttering constant criticisms ranging from "You look 10 feet wide in these jeans, you've really let yourself go," to "It's not even worth handing this piece of work in. It's so bad it'll get shot down immediately," and "Don't arrange that get together - nobody wants to hang out with you anyway."

Hearing that 50 times a day is enough to bring anyone down, right? To make you feel even worse. Eventually you retreat into yourself because it's easier. You let those voices win. I know I'm not the only one.

But you can't go on like that forever. There comes a point where the only way is up. For me, that moment of epiphany was when, within the space of a couple of days, three of the people closest to me pointed out that I had lost that ballsy spark they used to associate with me. That they could here in my voice and tell by my body language that I was in a bad place.

I was going through a hard time, and in many ways I still am, but how can you tackle what comes your way if you're already telling yourself you're not good enough to tackle it?

Talk to anyone in your life who you'd describe as 'confident' and the first thing they'll tell you is that they don't have it together all the time. They don't always feel great about themselves and they definitely have worries and hang ups just like everybody else.

So what makes them different? They don't give those negative voices the time of day. They focus more on their past achievements and future goals than they do their failures and faults, and that shines through in their mannerisms and behaviour.

At the risk of sounding like a dodgy Nike advert, sometimes you just have to do the things that scare you, ignore that voice that tells you "you can't do this" and fight back with "hell yes I can!"

Look in the mirror and focus on something you like about yourself instead of stressing about your frizzy hair or puffy eyes.

Take action and plough on with a task instead of letting procrastination take hold just because it feels safer. Worry about what might go wrong after you've done it.

Focus on the things that make you who you are, not on the things someone else can do better than you.

Hell, I've even created a sickeningly upbeat girl power playlist for mornings when I feel like I just can't take on the day. And it works. Because confidence is infectious.

It takes a lot to pull yourself out of a hole and put this stuff into practice, but distracting myself from my own negativity by moving swiftly onto doing or thinking something else is slowly starting to have an effect on me.

I have good days and bad, but I can feel a little bit of the old, confident me returning. I can feel a hint of a zest for life, a hunger for a bit more than just plodding along, coming back to me. And I've really missed it.

Have you ever felt like you're lacking confidence? How did you build yours back up? Let me know in the comments below.

Outfit details

Top: River Island | Jeans: F and F Clothing | Bag | & Other Stories (Old) | Watch: Olivia Burton | Ring: Regal Rose | Bracelet: Primark

Thanks to the lovely Pippa from Clashing Time for the photos

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

When will the blogosphere implode?

I've had a blog for over four years now, and for me it's always been a place of self expression. I feel like it's that way for a lot of people! Until recently I'd always found the blogging community a pleasant one. I never seemed to follow or associate with bloggers or YouTubers that caused 'Twitter drama' or engaged in cyber-bullying or subtweeting (whatever that even is). But that seems to have changed now, and to be frank it's bloody spoiling it for everyone.

I'm not dumb enough to think that what's grown to be a huge online space full of bloggers with aspirations to grow and possibly even make a career out of what they're doing is always going to be a nice, fluffy lovely place to be. Putting half our damn lives on the internet there's always going to be realness, negativity and disagreements.

But lately it seems like some bloggers can't move without being criticised. Can't try to make a living without enormous backlash. Considering that many of us dream of being paid to collaborate on our blogs, Instagrams and YouTube channels, would we want to be treated that way by our followers? This 'industry' - and I'm not even sure I could call it that anymore - is propped up by people aspiring to do the very things they berate others for.

Everything anyone says is wrong - it's not inclusive enough or doesn't present every viewpoint or isn't 'relatable' (whatever that really means). How can anyone win? The more I see of it, the more I want to log off and disengage. The more I see of it, the more I want to ditch my Twitter account and go back to the real world.

Sooner or later something has to give. The backlash against the backlash is just as strong. I see people taking long breaks from blogging and social media for the sake of their own sanity. I see people picking fights on my timeline just for a bit of validation. It's not OK. Having an opinion is fine. Forcing it upon others is not. And for me it's all getting a bit boring.

I've seen multiple posts this week on Twitter/blogger hate and why it's OK to unfollow people. Of course it flipping is. You should unfollow people. I unfollow people daily at the moment because for some reason there's some kind of poisonous virus spreading where everyone forgets their manners and just leaps right whatever 'drama' of the moment is without really thinking about it.

You don't have to support someone who doesn't echo your values or produce content that you love, but you don't have to lurk around ripping them to shreds either. This whole thing is INSANELY draining.

I have NO idea where this post is going, but I had to get it off my chest. Maybe that's part of the problem. I don't know. We're all aching to be heard and feel validated in a sphere that's so overcrowded that recognition is hard to come by. But we will never achieve anything by going at each other's throats day in day out.

You didn't ask for my advice, but God damnit I'm gonna give it to ya cos recently I seem to have grown a pair. Step away from the laptop, put your damn phone down and go get some fresh air. We all need a nice, healthy dose of perspective. Blogging in its current capacity won't be here forever if we carry on like this.

I'm exhausted after trying to formulate this rant into something that makes any sense at all, so I'm off to make myself a cuppa. Night guys.

Sunday, 30 July 2017

A holiday essentials haul

I'm not sure if I'm alone on this one, but I quite enjoy a bit of pre-holiday planning. It usually involves a spot of shopping, putting a few outfits together and thinking about itineraries. I recently hit the shops for a little splurge after realising I was missing a few essential getaway bits and bobs for our trip to Crete , so I thought I'd share them with you!

First on my list was storage. I picked up a set of travel bottles from Tiger for a couple of pounds so I can save on weight and ditch massive bottles of shampoo and shower gel. Then I spotted a triple set of toiletry bags in Primark in shiny copper and couldn't resist. Who doesn't love to be matching? Plus they were just £8!

When it comes to summer holidays, it doesn't get more essential than SPF! This year I've gone for Nivea's Protect & Sensitive range, to help prevent the prickly heat rash that seems to plague me when faced with a week of sunshine and swimming pools.

I picked up some nail polish remover pads too - they do the job without weighing down your suitcase like a bottle would. And of course, no sight-seeing trip is complete without aching feet, so some heel cushions are also coming along for the ride.

Makeup-wise I've also purchased my first ever CC Cream from Bourjois. I've been meaning to try one for a while and although it's a little heavier on the skin than I was expecting it's still lighter than foundation and I love the way it looks. There's an SPF of 15 in there alongside three different colour correcting pigments so I'll definitely be taking it with me! I picked up a mini palette from Collection too, that contains a highlight, blush and bronze in one. There's just no way I would take my gigantic Kat Von D one all the way to Greece with me.

Last year I picked up a mini argan oil from Schwarzkopf at the airport on the way to Turkey and despite using it ever since there's still half left. It tames my hair despite the humidity, meaning I can leave other styling products and fancy masks at home for the week and let my mane drip dry instead.

Now, I know that facewipes are something of a taboo in the beauty world, but when I'm away I just find them so convenient. No annoying bottles of cleanser or muslin cloths required, just wipe makeup away and hit the hay! These oil balancing wipes from Simple really agree with my skin, helping to refresh it after hot and humid evenings.

And lastly, I always pick up a pack of anti-bac wipes - great on the go (again, no pesky liquids) for messy hands and yucky seat-back trays on the plane.


Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Why I still (kind of) blog

Everyone's a blogger these days. So much so that people no longer act like it's an unusual hobby when they find out. Little girls are growing up dreaming of starting their own websites and YouTube channels and Instagrams. While there's nothing wrong with that, the world of blogging has definitely become a much busier place. It's a legitimate profession now. And that's totally OK!

But one thing I've noticed more and more with the phenomenal rise of vlogs and YouTube, and continuing popularity of other social media, is that I read blogs less and less. I used to pour over the newest posts from my favourites, but now I see their content on my Instagram feed and Twitter timeline along with so many others, and I'm much less likely to click through and engage with it. That doesn't mean I wouldn't enjoy the post, but when scrolling through any app is an assault of 'check out my latest content', it's impossible to take the time to look at everything without feeling overloaded.

I struggle to find inspiration to provide my readers (who I'm very glad are still here after all these years!) with something unique, or at least a perspective they haven't seen somewhere else that very same week. It sometimes seems like it's almost impossible to grow, too. My followers on social media have been stagnant for months - why would anyone follow yet another small-time blogger with little to say?

I've struggled in my private life so much lately, with anxiety rearing its ugly head not for the first time, and in taking the time to try and deal with that and prevent it from taking over my life, I really neglected this space. And not keeping your blog and social up to date is sinful these days. My pageviews have plummeted, my Instagram followers and engagement have dropped dramatically (I wish I could blame that stupid algorithm entirely). Any attempt to blog in the last few months has only come from a random spurt of inspiration, that vanishes almost as quickly as it appears before I lose enthusiasm once more.

I wrote a while back about how sometimes this whole blogging thing seems too superficial. I'm not sure I feel exactly the same right now, but I do know that something is stirring in me to create something a little more meaningful out of the turmoil I've been going through offline. I guess that whatever comes out of this will only be a good thing. Because after considering packing this all in I've decided that's not an option.

Thinking about it, blogging at all in my current mindset is still an achievement. I've managed to keep up a blog in some shape or from since 2013, and it was only in April that I found myself dwindling from my usual 2-3 posts a week. This blog as always given me something to work at, something to try with, something to distract myself with for a little while.

It's also given me some wonderful new blogger friends. I wish I saw more of them, but hopefully as I get to building up my confidence and motivation again I'll be able to get more involved in the local scene and maybe even arrange something myself.

A blog gives me a chance to develop a whole host of skills, too. Since moving into social media marketing a few months ago with a new job, I'm struggling to remember the last time I wrote more than 160 characters. It's time to learn how to pour my heart out again. It's time to pick up the camera again and actually remind myself how to switch off the auto setting. It's time to put on a sassy outfit and take an image that makes me feel more 'girl boss' than empty shell.

There are so many reasons not to keep this blog running, to pack it all in and find something else to do... but the truth is I don't know if I'll ever be ready to give it up altogether. There are so many more reasons to continue. So, yes - I'm still here! In an impossibly tricky online space, I still want to succeed in growing and learning and bringing even more of you on board for the ride.

Sunday, 2 July 2017

The 'self care' advice worth taking

You can't scroll through Twitter these days without encountering a thread of 'self care' tips. They're all over blogs, vlogs and even magazine pages. The recommendations made in self care content range from the perfectly sensible (e.g. eat something), to the downright ridiculous (purchase some organic lavender oil spray and spritz your new fairtrade cotton bed sheets to your heart's content while adding even more unnecessary steps to your to do list). 

If you're not doing so well mentally, for whatever reason, the simplest daily task can feel like another mountain to climb. That's why however trendy it seems, self care is important. If you struggle to completely look after yourself sometimes then having key actions to focus on can help you get into a routine and take your mind off of your troubles. 

Self care is not, however, an endless tick list of treats and luxuries. It's not an aspirational lifestyle choice. It's not a 'trend'. The internet seems to have forgotten that part. For many people, myself included during a few periods of my life, getting out of bed at all feels like an achievement. There's no need to then add the weight of a bunch of unobtainable goals. It's all about taking things one step at a time

It's not healthy to set unrealistic expectations for yourself. Instead focus on 2-3 simple things you can do each day, and try to make these a habit. If you have to put a written list somewhere to remind yourself then do it, but don't beat yourself up if you don't succeed, just start again.

Some realistic things you can do to look after yourself

Get out of bed

Even if you just move to the sofa, getting out of bed will make you feel more awake. If you have trouble falling asleep then separating day and night locations could also help. By the time you've gotten out of bed, you may even start to feel like getting dressed, having breakfast etc. Even if you don't, you've succeeded at motivating yourself just a little.

Wash your face, comb your hair and brush your teeth

I find brushing my teeth such a chore when I feel down, but once I've done it I feel weirdly cleansed. The same goes for washing your face. Self-care isn't about looking perfect, it's about being clean and feeling a tiny, tiny bit better for it.

Take your medication

Whether you're on prescribed tablets or are taking the supplement route to deal with whatever you've got going on, skipping doses is going to make them less effective and help you less in the long run. If it helps, you could get one of those weekly pill boxes to keep track. Keep it somewhere prominent e.g. by your kettle or on the bedside table. If you're not taking anything at all, it could be worth looking into if things are bad - there's no shame in asking your doctor.

Talk to someone

Even though I'm rarely truly by myself, in episodes of anxiety or depression I manage to convince myself I'm completely alone. Of course, that's never true, but I need to be reminded of this. Finding someone to talk to, whether through a helpline, a partner, parent, other relative or a friend, could make you feel a lot lighter. I can't tell you the amount of times I've gone quite literally crying to my parents as a grown adult because I've struggled to cope. They're always ready to listen and help me get my thoughts in order. Asking for help or advice doesn't make you weak, annoying or needy, and social interaction is important. A problem shared is a problem halved.

Go outside

You don't have to take up an extreme sport or buy hiking boots, but moving around a bit and getting some fresh air and sunlight is so important for your health. Vitamin D is a natural mood booster and a lot of us don't have enough of it. Even if you just step into the garden, it's a change of scenery.

Drink something. Eat something.

It's easy to forget to look after your body's basic requirements in the midst of a panic attack or when you feel like you're in the pits of despair. I have to admit that when my anxiety is simmering away in the background I'm more of an emotional eater (Krispy Kreme's for breakfast, anyone?). However when it really takes hold I can go the whole day without feeling hungry or thirsty. It's like that part of my brain has been disconnected. A slice of toast and a glass of water isn't much, but can keep you going when you're not interested in putting together a gourmet quinoa and avocado salad.

As far as I'm concerned, anything else is a bonus on those days where everything seems to take ten times the energy and effort it usually might. And who knows, once you've conquered the basics then maybe you'll be ready to start adding in new steps and getting back on your feet.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Everyday Summer Makeup Staples

Hi guys.... long time no blog! I took a long break from posting (it's an even longer story!) but I'm happy to be back in the swing of things again. I'm writing this on the hottest day of the year so far, so I thought it'd be the perfect chance to chat about my summer makeup routine. These products are what I use virtually every single day in the warmer months and have seen me through some pretty sweaty situations!

The Base

Now, I'd love to be confident enough about my skin to forgo foundation altogether on a hot day, but the only places you'll ever see me totally makeup free are the gym and the beach! I have very oily skin and some acne scarring so I tend to opt for a light layer of something medium coverage and mattifying - the last thing you need on a hot day is an oil slick going on.

Last year I discovered Maybelline's Fit Me Matte & Poreless foundation and I've been using it on and off ever since, for when I'm worried about my skin getting its shine on. It keeps the dreaded sheen at bay for longer than my other products and doesn't feel heavy on the skin or cling to any dry patches.

The Concealer

I've yet to find a girl that doesn't own a Collection Lasting Perfection Concealer, and for good reason. It does the job and it stays put all day! I use the no. 1 shade, which is probably a touch too light for me, but no. 2 is a little orange on my skin. A bit of blending hides that completely though and I feel a lot more confident with scarring and spots covered.

The Contour

When Kat Von D Beauty hit Debenhams last year I was so bloody happy. One of my first purchases was the Shade and Light Contour Palette and I think I must have used it every day since. You can tell by the photos in this post that my favourite shade is the lighter cool tone for daytime wear, but I do head to the darker shades and highlighters in the evenings. I use these as a contour and as a bronzer too to add a bit more of a glow,

The Blush

I've spoken before about how much I love the Soap and Glory blushes. They're pigmented but blendable and 'Rosy Chic' is a beautifully natural looking colour. Admittedly if it's a day as hot as today I'm already so beetroot that blush isn't needed, but most days I'll splash this across my cheeks with a Real Techniques brush to look that bit more awake and alive!

The Brows

I don't wear any eye makeup, so brows are my go-to area when it comes to giving a bit more oomph to my look and looking 'done'. I'm currently crazy about Soap and Glory's brow pencils - you can either get them with a brush at the opposite end or a liquid tint, which is handy! The pencil is fine so that you can add lots of small strokes and get beautifully filled-in brows in no time.

As my eyebrows are quite long and bushy (SO glad that's become trendy by the way!) they can get messed up easily. I go over the shape with Maybelline Brow Drama mascara just to fix the shape in place. I use the Medium Brown shade despite having dark hair because I find the end result is far less harsh.

The Lips

If winter is for matte berry lips, then summer is about muted glosses and going natural. I received an Arrow Boost lip balm in a Birchbox a while back now and I use it all the time. The stick of balm is totally clear but when applied the PH of your lips causes the product to change colour and provide a flush of pink along with some serious moisture. It means that no two users of the product end up with the exact same shade!

What products to you always reach for when it comes to summer makeup? Let me know in the comments below!

Monday, 1 May 2017

Rejecting perfection: Why I couldn't care less about having my 'shit' together

I'm someone who has always put a lot of pressure on myself: to have a spotless home, an organised handbag, an endless selection of (largely unused) notebooks and makeup organised meticulously into shiny acrylic display holders. But lately I've become more and more aware of something that was probably inevitable but is still pretty disturbing. Having your shit together has become ridiculously commercialised, and I've really fallen victim to it.

Think about some of your favourite bloggers, YouTubers or famous faces. From lifestyle bloggers to healthy chefs, Instagram yogis and more - all we really see in their social media are images of pure perfection. They make appearing organised, well put together and successful look easy. And their followers, myself included, find this aspirational. We want what they have, and to project a similar image, because it's cool to have your shit together.

From bullet journalling to self help books, influencers have spawned an entire industry dedicated to being organised. Expensive Pinterest-worthy homes paraded on social media have also contributed to this. What 20-something woman doesn't have a set of cute miniature cacti on her bookshelf, or a motivational print hanging above her desk? (I certainly do) A craze for ladylike brunches of avocado on toast has also taken off even though most of us probably find the stuff gross. Working in scandi-chic cafes on marble encased MacBook Pros is all the rage.

But it's made to look so attractive that everyone is doing it. Perfection is the new black. 

Lately I've noticed several hugely well-known influencers complaining that it's not all glamorous outfit photos and exclusive brand dinners, but I find it very hard to be sympathetic towards this. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate that most of these figures have worked incredibly hard to get to where they are, and just like every job I'm sure there are downsides. I'm sure they have all kinds of personal struggles behind the scenes just like you and I. But herein lies the crux of the problem. 

The parts of their lives that we are shown are a glorified highlight reel. It's very rare (with the exception of a few big names that regularly engage in #realtalk) that we see anything about these people's lives that humanises them. I'm sure that they, just like me, have been so tired and overworked that they drop a 4 pinter of milk on the kitchen floor and just burst into tears. I'm sure they have relationship problems, health scares, messy bedrooms and career worries the same as anybody else. But they just don't show it. 

And I really wish they did. It would mean so much to so many young women who are struggling with everything from mental health to financial problems, who feel like they could never achieve what these influencers have, to be reminded that really we're all the same and all get lost in the chaos of life sometimes. When all we're confronted with are edited versions of others, we start to believe we're inferior with our messy lives and rented magnolia bedrooms.

Perfectionism is the devil. Obligation and guilt are demons we can all live without

I don't blame big influencers for wanting to seem perfect - the picture of health, style and positivity. It's what makes them so attractive to brands. It's how they make their money. But ultimately, it's just not real. 

Many of these people have agents, managers, accountants, videographers, editors and everything in between helping them take their success to the next level. Product placements and PR events have evolved into huge brand campaigns, book deals and makeup lines. But where is the substance? Where is the realness? The lines are so blurred that audiences just doesn't know anymore.

And I'm not suggesting that influencers should have to share every nitty gritty detail of their lives with us - privacy is a basic human right, and most us are grown-up enough to know that what we see is very much censored. But I do feel is that there is an element of responsibility here, to inject a touch of balance into the squeaky clean videos and images girls as young as 11 or 12 are consuming on Instagram and YouTube daily. 

All I know is this

For too long I've been feeling like I have to be just like these people. To spend every penny on the latest stuff, to spend so long taking photos of my coffee it's gone cold when I finally take a sip, to carefully design a weekly schedule in my bullet journal and never tick any of it off anyway. Comparing my acne-scarred face to a photoshopped version of someone who's used face creams costing hundreds of pounds that I don't have. And I've finally realised that none of it matters.

It's not healthy to put pressure on yourself to always be hyper-organised perfectly dressed and fully in control of your life. Nobody actually has their shit together. It's a disturbing projected image that reminds me a little too much of that 1950s-style Stepford Wives aspirational lifestyle. Be practically perfect in every way or be rejected by society. 

Why are we so afraid of being publicly honest about the struggles of everyday life? Why do we allow advertising and social media to set such high standards, and get disappointed when we don't live up to them? We are we so worried about being our own weird selves and straying from a spotless bleached white and pastel colour palette? Where did our personalities go?

Do what you want

One evening a while back I'd been scrolling Instagram for what seemed like hours (to the point that my hands hurt) and it hit me just how much I'd been sucked into all of this. Many of us preach that comparison is the thief of joy, but we allow other people to shove their supposedly perfect lives under our noses for hours and hours of the day. 

After this moment I stepped back from all things blogging for a few weeks. I turned off push notifications and abandoned Instagram pods, I missed Twitter chats, ignored my YouTube subs and abandoned the blog post schedule I was struggling to keep up with alongside changing jobs. And it did wonders for my mental state.

It felt so bloody good to remember what it was like not to obsess over Instagram themes, monthly pageviews and how many retweets I was getting. I went for dinner and didn't take photos of my food. I didn't feel desperately compelled to place an order for a bunch of 'useful' stationery I'd never use. I posted dark, low quality photos of little moments on the go that made me smile. Who cares if my hair's a mess or my nails are chipped or I didn't use a selfie light to show of my highlight?

Is my engagement worse as a result of it? Yes. Of course it is, because we're all so obsessed with perfection that anything less gets ignored (or worse, unfollowed). But did I enjoy it? Hell yeah. It was liberating. And should I continue to blog and keep up my social media from now on, you can expect less of the stuff I think you'll love and more of what interests me.

Be more real, don't change yourself or buy things just because that's what somebody else has done. Don't agonise over 'having it all'. Just do what makes you happy.


Sunday, 23 April 2017

The Olympus Pen E-PL8 - worth the upgrade?

I've been the proud owner of an Olympus Pen E-PL7 for about 18 months now. I absolutely love it, but like many I found myself wondering if it was worth an upgrade when the shiny new E-PL8 was unveiled. A couple of weeks ago I got the chance to try out the new model at Campkins Cameras in Cambridge. Here's how I got on.

I headed to the Campkins store along with a few other bloggers from the #CambMeetUp Facebook group. They're ladies I've gotten to know at events over the last year or so and a really lovely bunch! A special shout out is in order for the lovely Alice who organised the event. After a couple of minutes spent setting up the cameras with our memory cards and connecting them to the Olympus sharing app, we set out on a photo walk around the city.

It was a beautiful Spring day and despite stopping every hundred metres or so to take a snap, we covered a lot of ground around some of Cambridge's prettiest streets. David, an Olympus specialist, lead the walk and was on hand with his reflector and insider know-how to help us get the most out of the E-PL8. He gave me a tip on how to get the gorgeous starburst effect below in the afternoon light.

In terms of the user interface and software features, there's virtually no difference in capability between the E-PL7 and E-PL8. What I love the most about the Pen series of cameras is that there are functions for all abilities, styles and interests. If you don't know how to go fully manual or you're finding it tricky to get a particular effect, the auto mode has an extensive menu of sliders that allows you to tinker with things like exposure, warmth and background blur to get professional looking images.

The other thing that impresses me so much about these cameras is the clarity. I moved to the E-PL7 from an outdated Fujifilm bridge camera that struggled to focus and ran on 4x AA batteries, and the results are just dreamy. On this particular day we just used the kit lens, but I also own a zoom lens that produces amazing results.

My favourite feature of the Pen range is the Wi-Fi sharing. The app creates its own connection, so you can be in the middle of nowhere with no signal and still be able to quickly import photos from your camera to your phone. You can also use your phone as a remote, with an in-app viewfinder. It's helped me take a few outfit photos in the past when no one's been around to take them!

The E-PL8 hardware is very similar in design to the E-PL7, just slightly sleeker in terms of the hand grip being less bulky. It's such a pretty piece of kit that I strategically and quite deliberately place mine on the bookcase to look at in-between shoots.

There are a couple of possible negatives to consider if you're thinking about investing in either of the Pen cameras. Firstly the weight - being a compact D-SLR the Olympus Pen is much lighter than your usual large Canon or Nikon camera and is perfectly portable in a small handbag. However, don't expect to be vlogging on it for more than a few minutes before your arm goes dead. Luckily, YouTube isn't my bag so that's not an issue for me.

Again, if YouTube and selfies are your bag, you might get a little frustrated with the flip out screen, as on both models the primary direction of the screen flip is down, not out to the side. This has never bothered me and you can also pull the screen up and out so you can get some weird flatlay angles without having to contort your body to see the screen.

And finally, there's the price. I was lucky enough at the time I purchased my E-PL7 to find a 25% discount code online, but these are few and far between. Olympus Pen cameras are gorgeous, good quality and well worth  the investment in my opinion, but be prepared to part with several hundred pounds for the standard kit and an extra lens.

All in all, although the Olympus Pen E-PL8 performed fantastically, it isn't quite different enough from its predecessor for me to make the upgrade just yet. I'd highly recommend getting your hands on either if you're after a camera that's easy to use but allows you to learn more and use high-tech features as you go. As for me...I'll be waiting to see what the E-PL9 has in store!

Sunday, 26 March 2017

How to launch a career in marketing when you don't have a marketing degree

Since entering the blogging world I've noticed that some of us have something in common - an awful lot of bloggers I follow are working in or hoping to work in marketing. I only settled on marketing as my chosen field during my final year of university, and have managed to carve out a career for myself armed with an English Literature degree and buckets of enthusiasm. But when so many employers are on the hunt for candidates with pure marketing degrees and absurdly expensive certifications (I'm looking at you Certified Institute of Marketing), how can you make yourself stand out?

Know what you don't know

The hardest thing to do is sell yourself - I can confidently produce marketing material for just about anything, but when it comes to talking all things 'me' it gets difficult. That's why it's important to find the gaps and weaknesses in your CV before somebody else does and invest some time in filling those holes, adding as much value as you can to your experience and qualifications so far. Whatever you do, don't claim you have extensive knowledge of something if you don't. Marketing is a very broad field and most interviewers will expect you to have specialisms and areas you may not have as much experience of.

Apply your skills

Some of the qualifications best suited to marketing aren't even taught in the business faculty. My degree in English Lit gave me heaps of transferable skills, from the obvious ones like a high standard of written communication and the ability to hit multiple deadlines, to less obvious ones like working in groups and conducting in-depth research. I've met marketers with communications degrees, multimedia degrees, graphic design qualifications, and no higher education at all - the point is they've all learned a range of skills that fit into marketing really well, and are able to make those connections.

Use free resources to learn more

There are organisations out there that will charge you thousands for an additional marketing qualification, but with the internet now a huge 'how to' resource they're actually becoming less common. There are a large number of free courses and articles out there that you can use to help educate yourself further on different aspects of marketing, from social media to SEO, Google Analytics and more. I've completed a few of them myself over the years, and some are more widely known and highly regarded than others. A good set of short online courses to start with could include:

Get a related hobby

If you've got yourself a blog or are always on your own social media accounts, then you've already got some real-life experience of some aspects of marketing. Growing a blog takes a lot of work and its success ultimately relies on how you market it, so treat it like you would a business and you're bound to have learned more than you think. 

You can also volunteer yourself as a marketer for community events, for example I had my first experience of creating and executing a marketing strategy for a charity day at my university, and also got the chance to help market a Winter Fair in my city. Employers are generally quite impressed if you're enthusiastic enough about the field to do something similar in your own free time - your passion will shine through. Just don't be surprised if after you mention it they go and have a little snoop!

So there you have it - you're ready to take your first steps into the world of marketing, hopefully feeling super prepared and raring to go!

This post is something a little different to my normal subject matter, but I'm working hard to make this space both more personal and above all useful to you lovely readers! If you've found my story and suggestions helpful, or have some other tips you'd like to give, please let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

4 reasons to embrace the digital detox

If you're anything like me, when you're finally conscious enough to to turn off the snooze on your morning alarm, you'll spy a little red notification symbol on one of your apps and fall down a social media black hole. You scroll through reams of tweets and Instagram photos, and before you know it it's twenty minutes later and you're gonna be late for work. It's a struggle not to check the likes and on your latest posts as you go about your day, and come evening you fall into a comatose state on the sofa watching cat videos and makeup tutorials on YouTube. If this is the story for you most days, it might be time for a digital detox.

The term itself sounds a bit faddy, and it's a trend that seems to have been created by the very influencers who depend on our technology addiction to make a living, so I have to admit I was a sceptic at first. But I've been paying more and more attention to just how much time I spend consuming digital media, and it's worrying. I've tried to keep count of how many times I check my phone throughout the day and I can't. I have to put my phone and iPad in another room or zip them away in my handbag in order to resist the compulsion to use them. And that just doesn't seem healthy.

So for me, a digital detox is all about breaking these habits and curbing my phone/social media addiction. The anxiety I feel after a day of not checking on the Snapchat stories of those I follow closely just seems wrong. Like many, I use my devices as a form of escapism. Tired? Have a scroll. Bored? Watch a video. Stressed? Read a Buzzfeed article or two. It helps me avoid dealing with the day-to-day crap I'd rather not deal with, but it sucks the life out of me too.

The more I use social media the more addicted I become, but it also makes me jealous of others, negative about my own life not living up to the glamour of others, and sucks up a hell of a lot of my time. That's why I'm ready to embrace the digital detox. The idea is pretty much what it says on the tin. You switch of your notifications (or just turn your devices off altogether), abandon your emails and take a set period of time away from all the online crap in your life.

It's pretty sad that so many of us feel the need to do this, but I'm all for a bit of a change in the digital department having grown a bit too attached to my tech over the last couple of years. How many of us have found it hard to put our phones away for a family meal or seen people walking into things because they can't put their phones down?

Here's why I think the digital detox is a great concept.

You can be alone with your thoughts

Quiet time is good for us, yet we've grown so uncomfortable with it! When my brain isn't being bombarded with white noise and pinging sounds, I can actually get an accurate gauge of what's going on inside my head and be in the moment a little bit more.

You can read actual paper

Given that I've got a literature degree you'd think I'd always have my nose in a book, but since graduating my reading material is more 140 characters than 50 chapters. It's a huge shame that so many of us are in this habit, so if I'm taking time away from electronic screens I'll definitely be indulging in a spot of reading, whether it's with a new book or an actual magazine *gasps*. It's better for your sleep too!

Less time scrolling, more time doing

It goes without saying that if you added up the time you spend each day on your phone over the course of a year the result would be shocking, but think of all the things you can do instead! You could read, learn a crafty skill like calligraphy or jewellery making, play board games with family or head to the pub with friends. And you'll probably enjoy the experience a whole lot more if you're fully present rather than thinking about checking Facebook.

Focus on real interactions

That leads nicely on to my final point. I can't tell you the amount of times I've been in a social situation and suddenly realised absolutely everyone is on their phones. Wouldn't it have been cheaper to just sit at home doing this? What was the point in spending time together? I also regularly get told off for scrolling by the boyfriend when I'm supposed to be watching a film or chilling out with him. If we all made more of an effort to put our devices away we'd remember that real human interaction is far better than commenting on someones Instagram or posting a Snap.

Have you thought about doing a digital detox? Do you think they're necessary?


Sunday, 19 March 2017

Current favourites 19.03.17

I feel like it's been months since I shared a favourites post on my blog, so what better way to spend my Sunday than telling you about the stuff that I'm loving at the moment. It's worth noting before I get into this post that not everything here is new! I've dialled back my spending a lot lately and am only investing in items I really love (read more about my savings mission here). That means finding new ways to enjoy/wear the stuff I already own and I'm actually loving it!

First up are a pair of gym leggings that I find myself struggling to want to take off for the shower. They're from FandF Clothing at Tesco, and I've found the fit to be far superior to my other workout leggings from brands like Nike and USA Pro. The material is so incredibly soft, the waist is high and flattering and doesn't slip down during exercise, and the mesh panels make them a little bit trendier than plain old black. They're so comfortable I'm considering going back for an identical pair to wear at home on lazy days. Not bad for £14.00!

While we're on the subject of Tesco, I picked up a gorgeous succulent plant while doing my weekly shop today. I love the copper and grey pot and am getting a bit addicted to adding greenery to our home. I also snapped up a beautiful Sea Salt and Lavender reed diffuser for a few quid in Primark last week - the scent is sooo relaxing.

I've also been having a love affair with a couple of jewellery pieces I got back at Christmas. My grey Olivia Burton watch is on my wrist every single day with its ornate midi-dial, as well as this beautiful silver ring from Regal Rose.

Makeup-wise I've been keeping it pretty simple lately (I blame early mornings!), but I've been bringing my MAC Retro lipstick into the mix to try and make myself look a bit more 'done' and put together.

Is there anything you've been loving lately? 


Saturday, 11 March 2017

Happy things 11.03.17

I've been feeling pretty chipper lately despite some ups and downs. Here's a few things that have given me a boost this week.


It's almost here! It's not dark when I leave for work anymore, it's so much warmer today and the flat is full of tulips. Just a taste of better weather has already lifted my mood. I'm dreading the hayfever but it's a small price to pay for the feeling of sun on my skin!


I hate dark winter mornings and really struggle to get out of bed, but the summer approaching means waking up naturally with the sun and having a little extra time to have a cuppa and just 'be' instead of rushing around like a headless chicken. It also makes it that little bit easier to get to the gym or get on my yoga mat before work instead of after.

French Toast

That leads me on nicely to breakfast. I'd never made french toast at home before until I realised just how easy it is. I've been using this recipe which takes no time at all and is perfect every time! You can eat yours with fruit or bacon if you like, but I prefer to keep it simple with a dusting of icing sugar.

Bullet journals 

I debated getting one for a while but I've finally jumped on the bullet journal bandwagon and I'm now a big fan. All it takes is an afternoon spent laying it out and indexing the pages and you're good to go. It's creative and can be tailored to include exactly what I need instead of me buying an expensive pre-laid out diary and not using all the sections. Plus there are loads of YouTube videos dedicated to journalling if you need a little inspiration. I loved Lily Pebbles' video about hers.

What's been making you happy lately?


Monday, 27 February 2017

The natural brand that's changed my mind about soap

Bars of soap get a really bad rap in the beauty world. Traditional soap can be drying, and no one likes that weird residue that gets left behind when you rinse off the lather. But when natural soap company Sabai Soaps got in touch and asked me to review their bars* - made using cruelty free, vegan, organic ingredients - I took a chance and gave it a go.

The first thing that struck me when I unwrapped the (beautifully wrapped) package was the amazing citrus smell. The main essential oil in the bar I was kindly sent to review is from the mangosteen fruit. It sounded so exotic that I had to Google it, but it turns out this stuff is great for calming the skin, especially if you suffer from inflammation or a condition like eczema. The soap also contains Rice Bran Oil to hydrate and protect against ageing and olive oil for additional moisture.

I was pleased to find out that Sabai is both an affordable brand and an ethical one - the bar I was sent retails at £5.95 and given how often I've used it so far is going to last me a good 6-8 weeks at least. With no harsh chemicals the soap is as kind on the skin as it is on the environment, and with my sensitive skin and allergies that's very good news! Inspired by Thai soaps and the small family businesses that make them, the word 'Sabai' literally translates from Thai as 'happy'. The company also support a range of charities across the world, so bring happiness not just to your skin, but to disadvantaged families and children too.

I've been using the soap for almost two weeks now as I wanted to give you guys a thorough, honest review and I can safely say I've never loved a soap this much! As I said before, the scent is amazing, but the real benefit for me is how clean and fresh and soft my skin feels after washing. A little goes a long way, as the natural oils give the lather a moisturising feel. After continuous use I'd say my skin is not only much softer but brighter, and my foundation seems to sit better on my skin. I've noticed a reduction in redness around my spottier areas like my cheeks too.

If you've been put off soap in the past then I'd definitely suggest indulging in one of Sabai's bars as a natural and non-drying alternative to gel cleansers - they'd also be lovely as a gift and can be purchased in sets. I can't wait to try some more.

*Items in this post were kindly sent to me for review purposes, but all opinions are honest and completely my own. I will only share products on my blog that I would purchase for myself.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Is the blogging industry immoral?

Grab a cuppa and strap in guys, because this is a long one...

I'm a smallish blogger who's never really been interested in making a career of it, just sharing some of my life and flexing my writing muscles for those who want to have a read. I came onto the scene in 2014, about two years too late to have hitched a ride on the wave that took a select group of YouTubers and bloggers to relative fame and allowed them to carve a pretty substantial living out of what started for them as a similar hobby. But much of the money in being online is made through product placement, sponsorship and advertising.

A couple of weeks ago I read this article by Katie from Scarphelia, a blogger I had amired over the years who has decided to hang up the keyboard so to speak. She speaks from first hand experience about her discomfort with this side of blogging, and how the creative industry is being taken advantage of and reshaped by huge corporations that want access to its loyal following. 

The green-eyed monster

I don't begrudge any content creator for earning a living this way whatsover - I'm an avid consumer of their content, ravenous for the next Instagram story, lookbook video or editorial to be posted. Like a lot of people, I like the pseudo-friendliness of it all. I feel like the person talking to the camera could be my real life mate and is talking just to me, allowing me to live vicariously through their glam lifestyle. I often wish it could be me pouting into my Canon G7 x over brunch in Shoreditch, but alas, that's not quite me.

That's the real clincher. As influencers hit the big time and their personal pay packet grows, their lifestyle changes at an accelerated pace. Jetting off to the Maldives, showing off skincare hauls that cost more than my monthly paycheck, shopping exclusively at designer stores in swanky areas of London rather than the Primarni and H&M of their career's infancy. Meanwhile most of us are still stuck here in the same place, still watching, and starting to feel a touch of the green-eyed monster within.

To say I lust over the lifestyles of these people is an understatement. I often compare my less-than-chic flat filled with second hand furnishings and budget beauty cabinet to those of the people I used to identify with. It doesn't feel great - in fact it feels like for some reason I'm just not good enough - and yet I can't stop watching. I feel like I've gotten to know these people over time, so I don't want to let that go. But I also feel like true authenticity has left the building, at least in some cases.

To #ad or not to #ad?

The advent of sponsored content (or more, the need to disclose it), has really pushed these feelings of unease to the forefront of late. Without even considering the amount of placements that may not be being disclosed, my feeds are rife with '#ad' and '#sponsored', usually accompanied by influencers gushing about a brand or product that they don't usually mention in their day-to-day organic content. In black and white terms, they're capitalising on you being a tiny bit jealous of them, on wanting what they have and to look they way they look. This kind of content has turned user generated material into a cash cow for brands whose traditional methods of advertising are beginning to fail them.

If I'm honest, I don't like feeling as though I'm being sold too, like I'm playing into a brand's hand if I click through and buy into these blatant advertisements. I worry that those not too clued up on blogging and vlogging and how sponsorship works may not even notice the disclosure in the post/video title. I miss the old days of only seeing online personalities sharing stuff they really love and recommend as opposed to showing me the stuff they've been paid thousands to feature. The excitement in their eyes when they've found a new product they want to share, as opposed to some overpriced skincare they're not really that crazy about. 

That's not to say that these influencers are deliberately deceiving us or sitting at home laughing as they through piles of cash around, watching the clicks roll in - far from it. No doubt if you follow some of the bigger online personalities on social media you've seen them fretting about how best to disclose their paid brand collabs to us, sometimes even apologising for them. Even affiliate links, whereby the influencer receives a cut of the sale if you click through and buy something, are disclosed prominently these days.

The thing is, I get it. Most of us get it. These guys are only able to produce top-notch organic content for us to consume and enjoy because of the sponsorships, advertising deals, merch stores and brand ambassador contracts that pay for them to do so. And good on them for taking the opportunity to fund a career they love. I would do the same in their position.

The rise of the 'micro influencer' 

One thing I've found as this stuff becomes even more common is the not so subtle shade that gets thrown at influencers for doing these things - unfollowed, called out as being immoral or dishonest, left with a slew of bitchy comments on their post or video. How dare these people try and make money in order to sustain their lifestyles while they create the content their audience hungrily demand? They can't win.

And then there's the hypocrisy of it all. As someone with a blog of my own I get a rush of endorphins when I spy an email from a brand in my inbox. And I'm not the only one. I've been approached by everyone from big brands like Thornton's to small Etsy sellers, and on the surface it provides a decent ego massage. It doesn't always feel right, and I always think twice before agreeing to review or feature something. I will even go back to someone having tried their product if I didn't get on with it, and I will never post content written by somebody else, because I could never, ever lie and convince you guys to purchase something that I myself thought was shit, no matter who the brand is.

Look deeper though and it reveals a seismic shift in the way retailers are placing influencer content. Big bloggers that do big sponsorships on the regular are holding less and less traction with consumers. The trust that grew their followings to begin with is withering. Sponsored posts and ad placements typically get far less engagement from an audience and I'd even go as far as to say certain endorsements have put me off of those that I follow before. Like I said, nobody likes knowing they're being sold to. So brands are looking to smaller bloggers (so-called 'micro influencers') more and more.

Why? The answer is simple. Smaller bloggers typically get higher rates of engagement from their followers, and with their sponsored content less frequent and less tightly controlled, tends to feel more organic and generate more trust. Small bloggers rarely feel ballsy enough to demand a fee and often agree to committing SEO faux-pas like using follow links for fear of losing out on the collaboration to somebody else who's willing. It's an easy win for the budding PRs of the world.

Where do I stand?

So, after that painful dissection of a medium that has grown from an organic, underground creative movement into a fully-fledged industrial advertising machine, where do I actually stand? I really don't know. Will I stop posting about PR samples or placed products completely? Absolutely not. But I will always ensure I present them to you in the most honest way I possibly can. I urge other creators to do the same. Will I stop engaging with influencers who post '#ad' posts? Of course not. At least they're open about it rather than actively pulling the wool over my eyes. The organic content that I love is still out there being produced, so if a sponsorship or two has to happen for that to be paid for, then that's something I can live with, and even support.

I've been wanting to write this post for a while, if only to throw the topic out into the open and see what my readers and blogging peers, in my little internet bubble, think. Let me know your views in the comments below.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

5 simple (and easy) ways you can save more money

I don't know about you, but these days it feels like I bleed money! Rent, bills, petrol, council tax, food shopping - it all adds up, and that's before we even get to the fun stuff. We're currently trying to save for a house, and although we're now the bulk of the way there, I'm getting real tired of seeing my bank balance trickle down each month as standing orders an direct debits fly out at an alarming rate.

I've recently taken a different approach to managing my money though, and it's already paying off. Before I'd spend the weeks leading up to pay day ignoring my dwindling funds and praying I wouldn't hit the dreaded overdraft, dreading the bill if I used the credit card on something without thinking. Now I'm keeping a much closer eye on things, and while it's definitely a case of spending some time forming better habits, I thought I'd share my top tips so far.


Now, I'm not the type to spend hundreds of pounds each month on clothes and makeup, just the odd budget purchase here and there, so that's not much of an issue. If you do want to make a big but non-essential purchase I'd suggest keeping a little money back each pay day for a couple of months rather than blowing your credit card limit. Then you'll be sure you really want it, too. You don't have to scrimp and deprive yourself of everything to save money, you just have to think your purchases through a bit more.

Our household has some unavoidable expenses (rent where we live is expensive and I have a long commute to work in the car), but we also spend wisely in other areas. We've got a Netflix subscription rather than an expensive TV package, buy second-hand PS4 games and don't mind heading to the local Wetherspoon now and again over a swanky wine bar. If you feel like you're spending a lot, have a look and see where you can make compromises. Even changing where you do your food shop could make a big difference. Take it from Waitrose to Aldi and you could save a pretty penny.

Use loyalty cards and reward bank accounts

I have so many loyalty cards and points cards that I always manage to forget to use. I had a look back over them and reorganised my purse, and put the ones I use the most in easy to reach card slots. These days there are loyalty cards and points programmes for everything from supermarkets and coffee shops to swimming pools and sandwich vans so it's worth asking when you shop somewhere new for the first time. 

My Tesco Clubcard and Boots Advantage card are the two that probably pay off the most Some programmes allow you to trade in reward points for boosted vouchers for the cinema, restaurants, attractions and more. These days even bank accounts provide cashback on your direct debits and certain transactions, so don't forget to look at those too.

Hoard your change

I definitely don't use cash as much as I used too, but when I do I regularly swipe the change from my purse and throw anything smaller than 50p into a jar. You can quickly build up 20 quid or more and take it to the bank to change up. Have a good rummage in old purses, under the bed, drawers and pockets too - we found £15 in our flat just while tidying up, and plan to spend it on a treat since we didn't expect to find it!

Use things up completely before rebuying them

I've become more guilty of this since I got into beauty blogging a bit more, but having multiple cleansers, perfumes, shower gels etc just for the sake of it is a bit unecessary. I'm instead trying to teach myself to resist the urge to try the latest new thing I saw on Instagram and use up the products I've actually got before splashing out on new ones. A quick look through your drawers and cabinets could reveal some bad habits. I've put spares and unopened alternatives into a box in the spare room, and I'll shop the stash I've created before buying anything else.

Monitor your habits

Although I've tried to make a note of what I'm buying and hold on to receipts, there are always things you forget to write down or pay for with coins and have no record of. I recently discovered a super helpful app called On Trees that gives you a combined view across all your accounts (including credit cards and ISAs) and allows you to categorise and set budgets on everything going in and out.

I was a little concerned about logging into all of my accounts via an app, but it's secured with a passcode and directly integrated with most major online banking providers, so it's definitely the best option out there. It means I can keep an eye on how many times I've been to Costa, as well as how much I've managed to save. I used to avoid logging into my bank accounts because I couldn't be bothered to download and set up multiple apps, but this was a doddle. I use it every day and couldn't recommend it more!

Do you have any top tips for saving extra money?

Saturday, 4 February 2017

My (spoiler free) review of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - #Keepthesecrets

The weekend before last I FINALLY went to see the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child! It feels like I was waiting forever to actually go since buying the tickets, and that's probably because it was. I'm pretty sure it was over a year between getting them and actually going, but once it came round I began to get properly excited.

I managed to go the entire time between the play's premiere and seeing it myself without seeing a single spoiler. I knew who the cast was of course, as it was announced to the world, but I didn't buy the script, and luckily most fans that had the privilege of seeing it before me kept their lips sealed.

I'll be doing the same thing, too. If you're a fanatic about any book, film or TV series you'll probably know how it feels to have a juicy twist spoiled for you, but I've got to hand it to J.K. Rowling and co for bringing in their #KeeptheSecrets hashtag. At the interval they even handed out badges with it written on, to encourage people not to go out into the world and spoil the play for others. I do however want to talk about how much I loved it, and how it's totally worth going to see it even if you have to wait.

The Theatre

Our seats weren't very expensive, so we were very high up, and I found myself leaning over just a little at times to make sure I had a full view of what was going on, but we weren't so far up we couldn't see things, and I hardly noticed it really. We paid £15 per person per performance, and saw both 'parts' of the play on the one Sunday. I think you do have the option of splitting it across evenings but as we're not from London I didn't fancy two trips.

That meant that this was an event of stamina! The two parts are an hour and a half EACH including a 15 minute interval per part. There was a 2 hour gap in the middle where we were able to go out and get some dinner (The Palace Theatre is close to Leicester Square), returning at 6.30pm to the same seats for the second part. The boys struggled with 5 hours in theatre seating as the leg room is limited, and towards the end I did lose feeling in my toes. BUT.... it was worth it!

The Story

I'm not going to give away ANY plot lines here as I don't want to ruin it for anyone still waiting to see it, but the play picks up where that cheesy '20 Years Later' scene at the end of Deathly Hallows leaves us. There's a lot of focus around Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny's kids, but don't worry - there's plenty of stage time for our original favourites.

The story itself is every bit as magical as in the novels. I'm so glad that Rowling herself was involved in writing it, with every word uttered on stage oozing with her style. It gets pretty dark too, with a strong moral thread throughout, as well as some comic relief. 

The Cast

I had no expectations of what the acting would be like, although I was struggling beforehand to get my head around the fact that the golden trio were all grown up and I wouldn't be staring at Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint. I have to say though that the actors chosen to portray them as older did an amazing job of bringing through the characters from their teens. Even down to small gestures and tone of voice, I really did see Harry, Ron and Hermione in them.

There were a lot of young actors involved too, who were all fabulous. I want to give a particular shout out to Anthony Boyle who plays Scorpius Malfoy - He had the audience in creases of laughter one minute and put tears in my eyes the next.

The Set and Special Effects

I wasn't sure if seeing a Harry Potter production in a theatre setting would be a bit 'meh' in the visual department after experiencing years of digital magic in the films, but there was some real trickery afoot that I can't even mention without giving away a few too many details. Basically I have no idea how they did half of the stuff, it blew my mind. The set designs also had just the right Harry Potter feel and there was some very clever use of props. As a lifelong fan the attention to detail was a delight to behold.

All in all I found the play well worth the wait, and if we were ever treated to a follow-up, I'd be there like a shot!


Wednesday, 25 January 2017

4 things I've learned as a small-time blogger

I've been blogging in this little corner of the internet for 3 years now, and it's safe to say I've learned a thing or two along the way. This hobby of mine is something that I really enjoy, but I've never quite found enough time alongside my full-time job to really grow my following. There are plenty of you, don't get me wrong, but I couldn't exactly monetise the site and go full time.

Although it's not really much of a surprise that the industry has taken off the way it has, it definitely feels strange to still be doing my thing while other amazing new bloggers out there are making the serious big time. But being small-time isn't all that bad. Here are a few nuggets of wisdom I've picked up along the way.

The blogging community is amazing

I love to join in Twitter chats, leave and reply to comments, post on Facebook groups etc and generally just get in on the massive buzz around blogging. I don't get to do this as much as I used to thanks to a longer commute (most chats are over by the time I've driven home and warmed up my dinner!) but I know that influencers big and small are there in our little community offering support. I've made a bunch of brilliant new friends through blogging that I have so much in common with and I feel like that's an added benefit that most hobbies don't come with.

There is of course a negative side to this huge community, in so far as there are select cliques that can get bitchy, but I try to unfollow and mute people that spread toxic unkindness out of jealousy. It's not nice, and it can put smaller, newer bloggers off of speaking up and finding their voice even though 95% of the community is amazing.

Beauty and lifestyle blogging is an investment

When you have a tiddly little blog, it's not always easy to attract PRs and land those dreamy sponsored posts. When you're not making enough money from your blog to cover expenses like props, outfits, new products, camera equipment, custom domains and more have to come out of your own pocket. Blogging is one of the only hobbies I've ever really kept up, so I don't mind investing my own cash in improving it, but there is a part of me that wishes I was either from a wealthy background or was suddenly more popular with big brands. Luckily though I'm not consumed by the green-eyed monster. It just makes me want to get even better at this and work even harder at producing quality content.

Getting out there is good for you

I'm talking emailing brands directly ("I want to work with you because X"), going to PR events, handing out business cards to people, the lot. Blogging once had a reputation for being a hermit's hobby - an introvert's dream - but it's actually pushed me the other way. Getting invited to events and meet ups meant that I had to introduce myself to strangers on the reg, and it's put me more at ease with meeting new people and being in social situations with strangers. Again, that common ground of being a blogger or YouTuber is so important.

Quality is key, not quantity

Over the last few years I've experimented with the topics, length and frequency of my posts, and I think I've finally figured out what works best for me (and what makes you guys want to click onto the site and have a read!). I've churned out several ill-considered posts per week before and wondered why my views were down, but spending time planning, photographing and writing one or two posts per week and also putting the effort into promoting them has been much more effective. The more time I spend on each post the more relevant the subject matter and the more detailed and high quality my work becomes. I feel like this is what makes a single blog post stand out in what is a very noisy, crowded industry. 

If you're interested in making your blog stand out more, check out my top tips in this post.

Friday, 20 January 2017

The things you should never (ever) apologise for

Hey guys, remember me? It's been a couple of weeks. I guess things just got busy in real life, and the January blues hit me pretty hard despite all my attempts to absolutely girl-boss it! But you know what? As usual I didn't feel an ounce of guilt for taking things slow, vegging out in the evenings and chowing down on a doughnut or two to ease the glumness. I've had a lot going on.

It got me thinking about how our culture these days is all about the hustle - working out for the perfect body, busying ourselves at work to get the perfect job, nailing your social life, and then some. There are influencers out there that make having it all look effortless, but behind closed doors I doubt that's the case. The guilt (and sometimes jealousy) that comes from having a lousy couple of weeks, not really being the picture of full health, and pretty much just not 'feeling it' really can't be good for us.

But why do we always feel like a blip or a rough patch in life is something to apologise for? It's really just part of being human. Like I said, social media has really helped to set the bar high. We all want to succeed in life, but you're not a failure for encountering a setback. Here are some of the things you'll never find me feeling guilty about or saying sorry for.

Eating 'naughty' food

What is it that has us feeling so bad about the stuff that tastes good? Screw clean eating, seriously. If your diet is balanced enough most of the time and you don't have any health problems that prevent you from indulging in sweet treats and the occasional (read: bi-weekly) pizza, then go for it. And don't you dare spend a second feeling guilty or calling yourself a hippo. Loving your body shouldn't be about depriving it, but giving it a little of everything it needs.

Not wearing any makeup

What I wouldn't give for it to be more commonplace for young women to go makeup free on a daily basis. I've struggled with my skin a lot the last couple of years (adult acne after spot-free teen years was a shock), and it made me realise the extent to which our spots, fine lines, redness and dark circles are met with shame and embarrassment. It's sad that so many of us feel the need to announce "sorry I look like shit, I skipped the foundation this morning", when we go without our staple products. Even though I enjoy using makeup and skincare to enhance the way I look, I really don't want to feel like I rely on it to be 'up to standard' in the eyes of society. I think we're on the cusp of a movement in this respect, but only time (and bravery) will tell.

Going home on time

Like I said in the intro to this post, we live in an age where people seem to wear their 'hustle' like  a badge of honour. Well let me tell you something: You do not have to work hours and hours extra each week to succeed. You do not have to justify heading off at 3 minutes past 5. You do not have to skip lunch breaks every day to get ahead. I've worked in jobs before where the workload was way beyond manageable and the impact that it had on me was profound. Even when I arrived early, worked like a machine and left late, it barely made a dent. And was I any happier for doing so? No.

I now work in an office where the work itself is a healthy challenge but the workload is almost spot on - most people go home on time most days, but always bring their A-game while there. If I stay late it's because I really want to do some extra work on something. If you feel guilty for heading off home before your snowed under colleagues for once, don't apologise on the way out. Instead, seriously evaluate whether you should ask for help, or consider a change of employer.

Being late

When it comes to social occasions I'm chronically guilty of not getting ready early enough. I often feel tired and lack motivation thanks to some minor health issues, so it takes a serious push to get me off the sofa, into something presentable and off to where I'm going. I read something on social media a few weeks ago about someone who had stopped apologising for being late, and instead thanks the person for waiting. It's a much more positive way of dealing with the minor inconvenience, and rewards the person you're meeting for their understanding. People are late for all kinds of reasons, and life is stressful at times, so actively trying to be more easy going is important to me. Granted you probably shouldn't stroll into work or a doctors appointment 15 minutes behind schedule, but trying to rush yourself will only put you into an irritable mood and could ruin the rest of your day.

What do you wish people would stop apologising for?
© kelly anne rist

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