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[Opinion] Top Blogging Tips: Everyone's (Apparently) an Expert

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I can't help but notice that there's an awful lot of people out there offering blogging advice. I'm not talking about cold-callers and spam emails, I'm referring to actual bloggers all giving their two cents on how to make it big in the blogging world. As we all know, blogging can indeed be a lucrative business, but let's make it clear, that's very much for the minority. The posts that keep appearing in my Bloglovin' feed can be incredibly helpful and very insightful, particularly when they come from bloggers who have made a lifestyle out of their hobby, but why are these posts being written by seemingly everyone? When does someone have the 'authority' to give this information? In most cases it's not the high ranking of the blogger, instead I think the answer lies in SEO. It certainly makes great search engine collateral for the writer as it's clearly a much talked about topic. However, I believe these posts, as much as they may intend to help, are increasingly making bloggers focused on the science of optimisation and encouraging unhealthy competition between fledgling sites. Why aren't we all just satisfied with reading and writing great content?

Readers. Subscribers. Unique views. Followers. Blogging is increasingly becoming about numbers, but where is the value in that? Ask yourself: why do you want the numbers? Is it so you can be seen by brands, or meet new people, or beat your friends? Is it because you don't feel like a real blogger if you have less than 100 people subscribed to you?

I've started to realise that the people who regularly visit this blog comment on posts, chat to me on Twitter and Like my updates on Facebook. They're not one time visitors; they return because they like what I'm writing about and that is so, so important to me. I changed the name of this blog recently because I rarely write about fashion and I wanted to have the freedom to say whatever the hell I wanted, whenever it suited me. I had fallen into the trap a while back of writing what I thought people wanted to read, but my heart wasn't in it. Yes, it may have drawn in a crowd, but they were just observers.

I work in social media and regularly work with bloggers on behalf of my clients. I love working with these influencers because they have integrity and honesty. We all read their sites because we trust what they say, more so than a magazine in a lot of cases, and believe me, if they don't think a brand is right for them and their site they will turn it down. I respect and appreciate that a huge amount. From a professional and personal point of view, what I crave most from a blogger is originality; whether that's a unique sense of style, a cheeky tone of voice or a new perspective on an old subject. Not only do I want to read that elsewhere but that's what I strive to write here too. 

Of course I'm not trying to dampen your dreams of being the next big blogging star or telling you not to strive for the best. Knowing someone is interacting with your hard work feels amazing, and I'll promote myself as much as the next person. After all the internet is a big place and I am one tiny voice trying to be heard. But think about what you're trying to achieve; remember that truth trumps numbers every time. And next time you ask somebody for a follow back or for some help to reach your next follower goal, ask yourself if you'd prefer true engagement with a dedicated, likeminded reader or another number that is using you for their own statistics. 

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[Fashion] Russell and Bromley Black Patent Loafers



When Winter kicks in, all brands talk about are boots. I get this; they're cosy and warm and waterproof, but sometimes I just want a pair of flats. The thing is, it rains a lot in London and the puddles are plenty. My favourite pair of studded Jeffrey Campbell flats are starting to come to the end of their life, as I found out on the way to a job interview and turned up feeling like I'd just waded through the Thames to get there.


I spent half an hour in Russell & Bromley trying on just two pairs of shoes. I could not make up my mind between the black patent loafers and the oxblood chelsea boots. I can't help but be drawn to anything in oxblood, maroon, burgundy or anything along that part of the colour spectrum - it's my Autumn/Winter shade that goes perfectly with my grey and black staples. But NO! I WAS NOT ALLOWED TO BUY BOOTS! This was not the plan and I must stick to the plan! I wanted flats so I was buying flats.

So I bought flats.




Russell and Bromley Keeler Tassel Loafers £165
Shiny, shiny patent leather with the cutest secretarial style tassels on the front. Simple, elegant and a shoe that literally will go with anything. So far I've worn them with jeans, skirts and dresses; with tights and without, with sparkly socks and nay. They have an androgynous feel that leans towards prim and proper office-wear, but when I wear them they feel so luxurious. 


[Opinion] Tatler's Guide to Being a Slut


After a nice Monday evening of casual household rivalry watching University Challenge, my boyfriend insisted on watching 'Posh People: Inside Tatler' on BBC2. Having read the magazine a number of times in hairdressers and train stations (not their target distribution hubs, I'm sure), I am fully aware of the honking great line that they happily carve between 'them' and 'us'. A stand-out piece for me, I remember reading an article outlining various things that you are allowed to complain about. In case you're worried, rest assured that you ARE allowed to complain about warm champagne, however you are NOT allowed to complain about sciatica pain. 

I feel that gives a pretty good overview of their priorities.

Anyway, I can deal with photos of over-privileged rich kids getting their arses out and snapshots of professional party-goers wearing risque fancy dress to the opening of a gold-plated envelope. I'm not offended by their interests in blood sports and choice of ridiculously priced chinos; we all have our hobbies, and they're all tailored to upbringing and environment. What I AM offended by though, is Tatler's blatant gender stereotyping and in particular, their use of the word 'slut'.

On the front of July's edition of Tatler (the one with your own cut-out-and-keep Kate Middleton doll *squeeeeeeeeeeeee!*), the focus of Monday's episode of Posh People, there sat the headline, 'Are you a slut? 10 surefire signs.' 
HOLD UP. 
What? 
A supposedly respectable British institution, Tatler was shamelessly using a word that is now synonymous with branding sexually active women as immoral, wrong and unequal. ON IT'S FRONT COVER. The wonderful new online magazine AFT wrote a brilliant piece asking 'When is it OK to call a woman a slut?'. This line from the article sums up the word's usage perfectly: "It’s just using sexually promiscuous as a lazy short hand for a girl who you don’t like, and it’s time to start being more accurate and realistic with your descriptions."

I couldn't find the Tatler article online (although I found plenty of angry tweets from when it was first published), but searching for the word 'slut' on the Tatler site showed some brilliantly insightful results. Here's a couple of snippets: 

- The tiara wearing slut
"Long ago, at a university May Ball, I bumped into an old friend who was wearing a tiara. Because of this - the tiara - all my new friends thought she was a bitch. Go figure.
Actually, if you're a woman, this possibly doesn't perplex you at all. 'The 1990s?' you're probably thinking. 'A student? In a tiara? Slut!' Or something like that."

- The cotton bud using slut
"Because what if you're the kind of slut that cleans your ears with a cotton bud and leaves it lying on your dressing table, before using the VERY SAME cotton bud to artfully smudge your eye make-up?"

- The Made in Chelsea slut (in fact, when searching for 'slut' on Tatler's site, the majority of the articles actually refer to Made in Chelsea, and one character in particular)
"Settling their differences over that slut Lucy. Whoopsie I didn't mean that. For legal reasons, she's probably not one. And anyway Spencer said it first."

"More Lucy drama, and she gets all upset at being called a 'slut.' Burn the witch, I say."

Can you imagine the uproar if The Sun had this word emblazoned across their front page? What if Cosmo separated this year's must-have Christmas party dresses into 'slutty' and 'not-slutty'? To casually throw this word out into the public domain is just as ill-thought out and offensive as calling somebody a chav or a gypsy - it implies that you know the intimate details of somebody's life and then ignorantly assumes that you actually have the right to comment on it. It tells the world that it's OK to judge women who are sexually promiscuous, or in Tatler's case, that it's OK to judge any woman about anything that is remotely against 'proper' etiquette.

Tatler may show how the other half live, but I really hope it doesn't represent how the other half think.

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[Life] What Would I Say to My Younger Self ?

I recently read an awesome post over on Absolutely Lucy about the advice that she would give herself at various stages of her life. It got me thinking about what I would say to myself and I was instantly jealous that I hadn't thought of this topic myself. So I tweeted Lucy and asked if she'd consider making it a tag so that more bloggers could write a post in the same style without directly ripping of her idea, and she said yes!

I've written slightly different age groups as I'm a few years older than Lucy and although her post stopped at 22, the four years following that for me were probably the most challenging and exciting in my life so far. So here it goes.


Advice to Charlie aged 5 - 11



1. Don't wish you had an Easy-Bake Oven. Get in the kitchen and watch Mum do her magic; you'll be a baking fiend in the future!
2. Step-brother Saturdays may be annoying but they'll create some wonderful family memories.
3. Don't get annoyed with a little sister following you everywhere; she's one of the most amazing people you know.
4. Keep writing. Just don't stop.


Advice to Charlie aged 11 - 16



1. Pay more attention in French class - it's an adult cliche but you'll regret not being fluent in a second language.
2. Ditch those toxic friends sooner. Friends don't make you feel bad about yourself.
3. Your hair is awesome. Honest. You just need to learn how to tame it and get a good hairdresser!
4. No point arguing with Mum - within 10 years you will have pretty much turned into her.


Advice to Charlie aged 16 - 18



1. EAT ALL THE CAKE. It won't start sticking until you're about 24.
2. Trust your instincts. They'll stop you from getting hurt in the future.
3. Stop panicking about exams. Knuckle down and you'll be fine.
4. Smoking's not cool. It's expensive.


Advice to Charlie 18 - 21



1. Stop putting off things in the fear of being hurt again. Not everyone is the same.
2. You don't have to like everyone at uni.
3. Having a job at university is one of the best decisions you'll make.
4. Get relevant work experience, it'll help you so much in the future.


Advice to Charlie 21 - 26



1. Pay your dues and it'll all work out just fine.
2. Start saving your money please.
3. Friends move away and it sucks. Don't mope about it, just go and visit them!
4. Your career is important, but make time for yourself. No-one wants to burn out before 30!

Now it's my turn to tag some bloggers that I love, so I pick:

- AJ at Writer's Block and Broken Lenses (who happens to make a lovely appearance in my aged 16-18 pic!)
- Winnie at Diamond Canopy
- Lily at Lily Lipstick
- Dee at Prompts By Dee

Let me know if you do one of these posts yourself!

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[Food] What I've Been Cooking #2

This round of What I've Been Cooking includes a few new recipes, plus some experimental and safe baking. You'll see from this that my savoury cooking generally tries to go down a much more healthy route, unlike the sweet stuff! I live with two 27 year old men, and their idea of a hearty meal generally means meat and carbs, so I treat myself to better-for-me meals when they're not around and try to make the meals we do share as full of veggies as possible! I've recently given up a lot of carbs (which I'll be writing about soon) and I'm on a bit of a health kick so I'll be updating you all on that soon. Until then, let's have a little looksy at some proper food!

Strawberry and Mascarpone Swiss Roll

unrolled swiss roll

blogger baking swiss roll

I've never made a swiss roll before as it's a pretty daunting task. I assumed it would basically just fall apart on my first go because that's what happens to amateurs who get ideas above their station. BUT somehow, miraculously, it stayed together! The sponge was probably a bit too spongy as it tore a little as it came off the baking paper, and I definitely played it too safe with the filling (a Swiss Roll demands the filling to spill over, really). Ultimately though, it held together, there's a decent roll within it and it tasted good, so all is well!!


Banoffee Pie


When I lived with AJ this was a staple favourite of ours, but I have to admit that she was always the one that made it and I just happily stuffed my face. It really is the simplest of desserts so if you're planning a dinner party and you want something quick and easy to whip up for afters, this can't fail. You can of course go the long way around and make the caramel, but I just buy the Carnation tinned variety which in my opinion tastes just as good as takes a tiny portion of the time to prepare. 


Shakshouka



Shakshouka is a Turkish dish made up of a thick tomato sauce and topped with eggs. I had it for breakfast at a little cafe in Hackney a few months ago and have been searching for a good recipe for it every since (not knowing the correct name for it made this a bit of a challenge!). The recipe I found said to poach the eggs within the sauce, but I didn't pay attention and started cooking it in a saucepan instead of a frying pan, meaning I didn't have the surface area for this. Instead I poached my egg separately, plonked it on the top and ate it with some toasted carrot and coriander bread from Cranks. A perfect brunch recipe!

I followed this Shakshouka recipe from the blog White On Rice Couple.

Moroccan Meatball Tagine


This was a bloody good find. Tucked within a little recipe book I have called 100 Healthy Meals, it was super simple to make and really delicious. There was a nice mix of veggies in there including courgettes and peas, plus meatballs made by own fair hands - basically it's shop bought mince mixed with onions, garlic and a little flour, then fried off and added to the tagine. Once the lid was on the dish it bubbled away nicely for a while and I then served it up on a some cous cous I'd made with vegetable stock and a shaking of turmeric and cumin to flavour it up a bit. This is fast becoming a flat favourite.


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[Home Decor] Sheridan Australia SS15 Preview


It's been three months since I took the plunge and moved in with my boyfriend. We're still renting as it's completely impossible for us to buy somewhere in London, which means my Pinterest boards full of beautiful wallpaper and amazing sofas are still merely a pipe dream. But there are small things I can do to make the flat a bit more palatable and it very much involves one of my favourite thing: soft furnishings.

Sheridan is an Australian interiors brand now available in the UK, focusing on quality fabrics with a decorative twist; basics that look plain but feel beautiful, and bolder prints for those of us who fancy a bit more of a statement in our bedrooms. Floral was the dominant theme in the patterned fabrics, relying on pale blues and pinks - the pastel hues reminiscent of all the coats available in stores right now, just proving that trends aren't only a thing for your wardrobe. The piece I loved the most was actually in the kid's section: a brightly coloured chevron blanket. I'd definitely have that thrown over a rocking chair in a bay window in my dream house. The nautical feel for the 'safe' bedding included some great quilted pillowcases and cylindrical cushions that I could fall asleep quite happily on.








Sheridan is going beyond furnishings now and has introduced loungewear and bathroom basics. The jumpers are slubby and comfy, perfect for lazing around the house but I know I'd wear them with skinny jeans and trainers on a blustery London morning commute. The robe could make you feel exactly as though you're in a five-star hotel and about to hit the spa, I don't think I'd ever take it off it I owned it.





What do you think of my little Sheridan bird pillow* as a new addition to my bed? Perfectly suited, don't you think?


Cushion covers: Dunelm Mill
Bird cushion: Sheridan*
Bed sheets: Ikea
(I was invited to the Sheridan press day and kindly given the pink bird pillow in a gift bag. I was not paid to write this post and all opinions and my own and completely honest!)


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A Day Trip to Morecambe Bay


I had every intention of visiting my little sister in Lancaster and writing a nice post about my trip to the city and taking pictures of quaint buildings and shops, but this didn't work out for two reasons:
1) My sister hasn't lived there long enough to know where all the good stuff is;
2) The city is tiny and needs some expert knowledge to hunt out the gems
The only photos are took were of a fireworks display and a menu in a cafe where a full English breakfast was advertised for only £2.95 (for those of you who don't live in London, this is OBSCENELY cheap). Only 15 minutes drive from Lancaster though is Morecambe, a small seaside town best known for its most famous son, Eric Morecambe (whose stage name gave a salute to his home).

My family and I are no strangers to English seaside resorts, with the majority of my childhood holidays being in a caravan on some coast somewhere. MargateBognorBournemouthBridlingtonPoole - we've seen them all, and never struggled to find something to do or felt bored (travel Scrabble always helps with the latter anyway). But Morecambe defeated us. Expecting quaint tea shops, a promenade with fish and chips or at the very least somewhere to sit and look at the sea, we were pretty disappointed. Morecambe is a very strange place with not very much to see, save for a giant tube of Polos that has no explanation to it that I can find online! It lacks the charm of a stereotypical British seaside and instead feels incredibly industrial and bleak. I don't mind being cold at the seaside, but when there's nothing else to do there isn't much to take your mind off of being FREEZING.





The one thing that drew us to Morecambe was the opportunity to see the statue of Eric Morecambe, however when we arrived we found out it had been vandalised and removed for repair. Cue more disappointment. Luckily, the statue (or where it should stand) is surrounded by famous quotes from Morecambe himself, and lists of the famous people that appeared on Morecambe and Wise over the years. We were very excited to find my family's favourite quote; it's from a sketch where Eric looks out of the bedroom window and sees an ambulance drive past. Quick as a flash he says, "He'll never sell any ice creams going at that speed!" As the statue itself was missing, we did our own recreation, and hopefully we'll be able to see it once it is reinstated. The steps up to the statue have the lyrics from 'Bring Me Sunshine' engraved on them too which obviously led to an impromptu singing performance!







The views looking to the Lake District are stunning and the town's comedic history is strong enough to pull me there, but Morecambe really is dull. It might be much more appealing in the sunshine when you can sit on the beach, but I'll be trying to get to know Lancaster better next time I'm in the area instead! For your enjoyment (and education if you've never seen it), here is the quote I mentioned above. I think that even after all these decades, it's still absolutely hilarious!



[Fashion] Ash Footwear SS15 Preview


It's rare that I attend a press day and want everything I see. Ash are best known for their footwear, especially they're wedged trainers, but are releasing their first ready-to-wear collection in January and I am in love. Made up of a palette of grey, black and blue, with hints of white and pink, the pieces are best summed up as basics with a twist. No crazy patterns, but interesting shapes and reliable colours; pieces that you can dress up or down and are perfect for layering while it's still a bit nippy outside. Simple items are made into statement pieces through the use of mesh, quilting and zips - calling for plain accessories and lots of silver hardware in terms of jewellery. I genuinely think Ash have created the perfect capsule wardrobe here, with my particular favourites being the striped t-shirt dress and the textured black leggings.

  






Of course, Ash didn't let me down in the shoes and accessories department too. This stuff is their bread and butter, so I was expecting a lot and definitely found a few gems I'll be needing in Spring/Summer. An update of the wedged trainer from suede to leather looked perfect, and the selection of sandals and shoes for warmer temperatures had a Camilla Skovgaard feel to them which I adored. It all summed up the playful nature of Ash, especially the colourful trainers and studded rucksacks all prepped and ready for festival season (who needs MCM?!).







What do you think of the Ash SS15 collection? Will you be adding bits to your wish list fo January?
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As of 20th November 2014, any products marked with an asterisk (*) have been provided as a sample for unbiased review