Sunday, 22 October 2017

Investing time in myself | The Trove Autumnal Workshop

When was the last time you went out and spent time doing something that was completely and utterly for you? If you're anything like me, you probably can't remember. I'm often so busy getting caught up in the things that 'must' be done (menial life admin, tidying, food shopping, working, etc, etc) that I don't set aside dedicated time to actually invest in myself.

Yesterday I decided to do just that. I had ummed and aahed about going on some kind of course or workshop for some time, and an event in Cambridge popped up at the right time. The lovely Stephanie, who runs Cambridge Creatives website, The Trove, held a gorgeous craft workshop that I just couldn't resist. The bonus was that this event was put on as a fundraising event for Cambridge Food Cycle (a fab initiative so deffo check them out!), alongside a craft and clothing sale arranged by Charlotte for her #CBGTown Indoor Market. AND there was cake!

I have to say, I was worried that since I'm not very 'arty' I might end up bringing home a pile of poo and committing it to a dusty cupboard once home, but thanks to some helpful tutoring my painting, flower arranging and (the best bit) glue gunning really paid off. My gorgeous golden ampersand is now proudly hung on our bedroom wall.

The other thing that struck me was how relaxing it was. If I'd have attempted this myself at home there would have been a lot of fiddling and mumbling 'oh shit' under my breath. But this was far less frustrating than those overly intricate adult colouring books and crazy craft kits. Knowing someone could help me if it went wrong and getting lost in some therapeutic painting left me feeling very chilled.

The social element of a workshop like this is also a massive plus. I'm notoriously antisocial most of the time, but being able to sit and do something a little bit different with some of my fellow blogger pals and put the world to rights with a natter was a welcome way to spend the afternoon. In fact, I'd thoroughly recommend it. I felt proud of my little creation and I'd actively invested some time in myself!

If you're interested in getting to grips with some kind of craft workshop, Facebook or Instagram are amazing places to do some research and find out what's available in your area, from floristry and jewellery making to pottery, and more, there's probably something you'd really enjoy right on your doorstep.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Crete Photo Diary | September 2017


September took a long time to roll around this year, but once it did, I was grateful to be off on my way to a week spent in Crete with my family. It was a relaxed holiday, with a few trips out and about and many hours spent absorbing the last of the summer heat (and desperately trying to tan). 

There's something about the Greek islands that always leaves me wanting to come back. Beautiful landscapes, the food, some serious sun, nice people, and... did I mention the food? Who doesn't love feta and olives on tap?

I took my Olympus Pen along for the ride of course, and going through the photos I felt like they looked somehow nicer in black and white. They just seem more calming that way. The sense of tranquility that I had finally found by the time we were leaving Koutouloufari village took me almost the entirety of this year to find - I kind of want to hold onto it when I look back at these images.

One of the best things we did on the holiday was go out on a day-long jeep safari across the middle of the island. Crete has some seriously impressive landscapes and, away from the more built-up touristy areas, some beautiful bays. We were treated to hours of stunning vistas during the safari, but this is my favourite. We were pretty high up in the hills when I snapped this, and I was instantly smitten with how it turned out. Ansel Adams eat your heart out? (Maybe not...)

Oh, and did I mention that I actually drove the jeep on this safari? I was going to shy away from taking the wheel since I was a little nervous about getting in the drivers seat of our dusty little 4x4 on what can only be described as the top of a mountain, but I ended up really enjoying it. My first task was to get us over this narrow old stone bridge (one car at a time as it couldn't take the weight, which wasn't disconcerting at all). Needless to say, I smashed it and felt like a total badass. Until I then took a wrong turn and a convoy of 6 cars had to stop and wait for me. Oops.

We also stopped at a village with a population of about 12 people and an average age of 70-odd! They grow so much of their own produce, with grape vines and olive trees everywhere. At one point, when someone's car broke down, we even ended up in someone's back yard. He offered us grapes and let us play with his dog while we all waited for the mechanic! The Greeks are an incredibly hospitable bunch.

No visit to Crete is complete without a visit to Knossos. It's a huge site that was inhabited as far back as 7000 BC, but the vast palace that is the main attraction dates back to around 1900 BC. I love a bit of history and mythology, so we braved midday heat and a small crowd to wander in and out of the many rooms and columns that still stand today. It's a must-see if you've ever heard the legend of Theseus and the Minotaur, since the story originated here with Minos, the son of Zeus and the 'first king of Crete'.

The village of Koutouloufari was quite and traditional, with tavernas aplenty and a sense of slowness that you just don't find in an everyday British town. It's a stones throw away from a larger town, but up in the hills this place had a chilled vibe of its very own.

I took a lot of photos of the beautiful buildings in Crete as well as the landscapes. The white walls and heat-cracked exteriors make for an interesting texture. The strategically parked scooters and bicycles seemed cute and quaint, but were mostly there because the winding streets were too narrow for big cars. I lost count of the amount of times mum told me to "mind out!" and hug the side of the pavement as a taxi came flying past!

I don't know if Greek buildings seem so much prettier to me because we just don't have this style back at home, or because I associate them with holiday vibes. Either way, coming back to my boring brown brick block of flats the week after seemed depressing.

It was sort of fitting that we spent our final full evening on the island on a beautiful sunset cruise. The boat owner barbecued up some of the best pork and chicken I've ever tasted while we went for a dip in the sea, and we set sail again just in time to watch the sun disappear over yet more Cretan hills. I'd recommend a sunset cruise to anyone on holiday in this part of the world. We also took one in Turkey last year and there's something about them that brings me a nice injection of inner peace.

Congratulations if you made it to the end of this post. It was a little long, and probably a bit different to what you guys are used to, but I wanted to share! I hope you enjoyed a little peak into my snaps of Crete, and are maybe even thinking of going there yourself!

Wednesday, 4 October 2017


The Beginning

I've been thinking about when I started my very first blog around the time I finished uni. I used to post creative poetry and prose out into the ether on a rubbish Wordpress site with an awful header and a hard to read font. I started with zero followers, zero pageviews per day and tonnes of motivation to express who I really was. 

Not all my content was good, but some of it was pretty OK. Eventually people started to engage with my posts - the likes and comment built up and it gave me the boost to keep up the hobby. I would read tonnes and tonnes of blog posts on my lunch breaks and commutes, jot down new ideas for new posts in a little notepad. Some of them made the cut.

I took inspiration from everyday life and personal experiences but I never divulged the deep workings of my mind. Instead I took these thoughts and feelings and turned them into sweeping metaphors, sometimes corny, sometimes striking. The emotions still came through. I knew it resonated because people would engage with the content and respond to it. They appreciated what I had taken the time to do.

While I was busy blogging and dreaming about making it big as a writer (spoiler - I fell into a marketing career instead because this girl needs to eat/clothe herself), I began to notice another kind of blog emerging. A whole other world of beauty reviews and outfits of the day was gaining popularity across the internet. And what's more, a small group of people were even being paid to do it. 

I tried my hand at a few reviews and the response was OK, but my following on that blog was largely a creative writing and literature one and the strange new mix of content was a little jarring to them. Those first few posts died a death, but I began to care less about being creative and more about doing what was popular. And that's where was born. 

The Middle

I kept the content up for a few years, blogging mostly about makeup, occasionally about books or travel or everyday life. I got a few unpaid opportunities from brands, shops and restaurants but that was about it. I kept going regardless. I attended events, networked, posted three times a week without fail. I was waiting for that big break to come. It didn't.

Why? Nothing I created during that time was any different to what anyone else was doing. The quality was OK since I'm a decent writer and I'm not too bad with a camera, but there was no real passion in my words. I didn't love it, so most of my readers didn't either. I left myself behind on a now defunct Wordpress blog and sold out to the masses. 

I didn't like my content, I didn't like the space between the real me (a turbulent and sensitive twenty-something going through the motions) and the perfect image I felt I had to project. Over the last six months or so things have been going on behind the scenes that pulled me away from online life and have pushed me to admit that the standards I set for myself were outlandish. 

The last few months forced me to reflect on my blog as I watch pageviews dwindle and try to find the time and motivation to pick the pieces up and get it going again. I asked my self why it wasn't fun anymore. I realise that at one point I was so caught up in trying to curate the ideal online profile for myself that I forgot how much I used to enjoy consuming the content of others - how much it inspired me. And how much I miss getting creative with words. 

We're obsessed with being the biggest, working with this brand, and that brand, posting PR requests, emailing marketing departments. We also seem to spend more time blogging about blogging than we do creating content that carries any great meaning to ourselves or our readers. This post is no exception. We keep our websites and profiles updated regularly out of habit rather than passion, scared to see that follower number sink back below a certain arbitrary number. We're churning out shallow content by the bucketload for more likes, more comments, more validation. 

The End?

I feel like many of us have stopped consuming blogs ourselves. I used to scroll my Bloglovin app for hours but these days I maybe at most read a blog post a day, and that's if I get to the end of it. Instagram and Twitter give us such hard and fast access to the here and now that a blog post written two weeks ago and scheduled to go out at the same time on a Sunday evening as everyone else's just doesn't cut the mustard anymore. Most of the comments I receive on my blog these days are from people who just want an excuse to leave their own links there. 

Have you ever tried to have a conversation with someone who is both desperate to be heard, but doesn't want to listen? It doesn't go anywhere.

There have been a spate of posts recently, on blogs and across social media, from some of my favourite bloggers/Youtubers/content creators (whatever you're supposed call them) that carry a theme of change. This online world isn't what it used to be and anyone who's been here for three years or more can feel it. It's faster moving, more competitive, and a pure numbers game no matter how you spin it. If you can't keep up, you'll drown in a sea of scheduled Tweets, click-bait titles and Instagram hashtags.

It's no surprise that after trying to keep up the act for so long many of us are now in a crisis. How do we stand out? How do we inject life back into our content? How do we reach the right audience? How do we turn this back into something we love?

After all this rambling I think the answer is simple - don't feel pressured to follow the crowd. If you're going to put a huge amount of effort into something, make sure it's something you would find interesting yourself. Make content you're passionate about and forget about conforming to what's hot in that moment. 

Life isn't a squeaky clean set of flatlays. It's messy and it's hard and it's OK to show that.

Whatever you blog about, be yourself. Not somebody else.

The Future

When it comes to my own blog, I'm focusing less on trying to cut through the noise and make it big. I'm focusing more on the quality of the content and the topics I discuss. 

It's going to be less materialistic, out of personal choice - I still love fashion and beauty content and enjoy makeup and clothes, I just don't want to write about it all the time. There are so many good #fbloggers and #bbloggers out there that do it wonderfully, you don't need me chiming in!

It's going to be less personal - I'm a professional working adult with my own shit to deal with, and that doesn't have to be done online. I will absolutely share a part of myself with you, my readers, but the form that this takes is going to be less about the nitty gritty details and more about how these life experiences make me feel and how I'm navigating them.

It's going to be more creative - Since changing my blog I've been hesitant to write in creative styles. God forbid I ever post a short poem or train of thought! I want to change this though and am going to start working harder on the actual quality of my writing.

So, if you made it to the end of this higgledy piggledy post and you're still interested in seeing where this takes me, stay tuned...
© kelly anne rist

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