Personal: Radio Silence

So, I’ve been a little absent lately. It’s the first unplanned blog break I’ve had in a while and if I’m honest I’ve not been remotely happy about it. I feel gutted that I just wasn’t able to balance everything last month and blogging was the thing that got the cut.

And that’s the reality of blogging, particularly with a demanding full-time career as well.

 photo 2016-12-27 16.21.14_zpslp8ekdep.jpgIt’s not all free “blogger mail” and cocktail-making press trips. It’s not receiving meal vouchers and theatre tickets. Of course, those things do happen (though not as often as soon might think!) but the vast majority of blogging is just bloody hard work.

Right now I have 34 emails in my inbox I have to reply to, after deleting another 27 that are spammy, generic or just don’t warrant a response. I have a list of 89 posts I want to pen up at some point. I have 10 posts I want to go live this month, all of which have photographs that need editing (because I luckily have a backlog of photos taken, otherwise I’d have to do that too). I have God knows how many old posts I need to go back and edit. And that’s before I even think about social media.

But this post isn’t meant to be a ‘woe is me’ pity grabber. My point is that blogging isn’t a walk in the park. And realistically, my career (my day job and the study that comes with it) have to come first. When I found out I passed the exam I took in April, despite that fact I was overjoyed, it also meant I wouldn’t be resitting in September. So I’ve had to pick up another exam instead – and with tutorials timed virtually straight away I had to throw myself into the deep end. Oh, and we moved flats too. And went on holiday (we picked up the keys to the new place about 10 hours after landing back at Gatwick!).

 photo 2016-12-27 17.01.57_zpssee0leme.jpgBasically it’s been busy. I stopped blogging. And I’m sorry. Fingers crossed I’ll carve out a bit of time over the next few weeks to get back into it.

There’s also some changes I want to make to this space. A bit of a rebrand, a bit of a redesign. I had planned to get that all done and THEN come back and start blogging. But I missed typing away and my to-do list just wasn’t getting any smaller. So keep an eye out for these changes, all will be revealed soon…

How have you been the past few weeks?

Blogging: Turning Rubbish Photos into Insta-Worthy Snaps (Editing Tips & Tools)

This is a post I’ve been meaning to write for months. I’ve become known for having a knack of taking terrible, terrible photos and turning them into Instagram-worthy shots.

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A flower stall snapped from the top desk of a moving bus? A bit of cropping and editing and it fits into my feed quite nicely! A picture of a house at a really dodgy angle? A few taps on VSCO and we have #housegoals. Unappetizing food? Upping the contrast and playing around with the saturation generally gets as close to food porn as my evening meals are gonna get. I can quickly take a snap and be pretty confident I’ll have something to post. I also wanted to buck the trend and write a post about Instagram that doesn’t involve moaning about their ridiculous algorithm… so here’s how I take and edit my snaps and plan out my grid…

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Getting the Angles Right (VSCO)

If you follow me over on Instagram, you’ll know I love pictures of pretty houses and architecture in general (along with food!) – but the key thing with these photos is to get the angles right. I hated most of the photos I took until Katy posted about this little trick (her post gives a step-by-step guide so check it out!). It was a serious game-changer!

The Vertical Tilt feature alters the perspective of the shot. Photos of houses can often have (frankly) dodgy angles because you’re generally not tall enough to take a centered photo – this tool fixes that issue. In a nutshell, you can tilt the top of the building towards you. It pleases my love of straight lines and can fix even the wonkiest of photos. With the exception of the York Shambles. That street was a straight-line-lovers nightmare…

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Cropping & Editing (Instagram)

I generally do all my editing in the Instagram app itself. The main reason is that I’m lazy. The other is I actually find it works quite well with my style of photos and it’s easy to keep things consistent. Too many steps means I’d probably forget something and it just wouldn’t look quite right.

The first thing I do is get it all nicely cropped. The one thing that annoys me about my phone is that I can’t force it to take square photos – and so I quite often end up having photos that simply don’t work in Instagram. Sure, I know you *can* use non-square photos but I’m not a huge fan.

Cropping can also be a lifesaver when you’ve got an ugly element on the photo. The snap above, for instance, was a shopfront near Portobello Market. As I took the photo, a pretty ugly transit van drove by – so instead I cropped out the shop front and ‘grammed the flats above.

Then I go in with a filter. I tend to use Clarendon on all my photos, bar ones that are on a really white background. However I will only use it at a maximum of 30% strength – double tab on each filter in the app to alter how strong it is.

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The main editing is then done ‘manually.’ Usually I do some or all of the following:

  • Up the contrast
  • Up the structure (by a max of 20 points as otherwise it can develop noise)
  • Up highlights and shadows
  • I’ll then go and adjust the warmth and saturation if needed, sometimes the highlight/shadow edit can wash these out slightly
  • Finally I’ll sharpen, usually by around 50%

I try to avoid upping the brightness as I find this was distort the natural shadows in the picture and the finished shot will look slightly flat. Occasionally I’ll also add a bit of Vignette, particular on a flat lay. I find it adds a little more depth.

Then I take a screenshot and crop it to show just the photo. Saving this then gives me a bank of Instagram shots, editing and ready to go. I can import these into my grid-planning tool, upload them to my laptop to use in blog posts and work out how long I’ve got being I need to go and visit a new pretty cafe to stock up on more snaps.

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Planning (Planoly)

Now, I wouldn’t say I have a theme as such. A lot of accounts I follow have a very clearly defined ‘look’ to all their photos, and it’s something I wish I could achieve. Frankly for me, though, it’s not practical. The every-changing weather means sometimes my skies are blue, sometimes grey and moody. I flit between countryside and the city. I spend more time working and studying that I do in pretty cafes. I like to document my food. So what I try and do is keep photos generally quite consistent in terms of style and colours. I’ll bring in a new ‘key’ colour to tie things together – at time of writing I’ve got a lot of green on my feed, a few months ago there was a lot of pink.

I use the app Planoly to plan my feed – it’s probably not the best out there, but it does the job and works well on my phone. I’d love something that can work offline (this one tends to drain my data if I use it away from the flat), and there is a monthly upload limit but it’s working fine for now. Any other Android recommendations out there?

Yes, sure, I’d love to take the perfect photo first time, but I’m finding that this works well for me. My phone also doesn’t have the ability to take ‘square’ photographs, so knowing I’ve got to crop them and play about anyway means doing this doesn’t create any extra work – and it means I have more chance of having a bank of ‘grams ready to post.

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And Finally…Some Instagram Accounts I Love

This is so hard to write – there’s so many accounts I love and my preferences change depending on my food. Generally though my favourite accounts are – rhymeandribbons, farewellmayblog, flatlaybreakfast, fridayfaye, londonfoodboy, jetlagontheroadnatbeesfashion and poppyloveslondon. And obviously so, so many more. If I listed all the ones I loved we’d be here for days…

Are you a fan of Instagram? Send me your account link!

Personal: A Hello From Me

Long time, no blog!

It’s been far too long since I since down at my laptop and tapped out a blog post. I’ve hardly picked up my camera in weeks. I’ve even been logged out of Twitter on my phone due to ‘inactivity.’ All in all, not quite the productive start to the year I was hoping for.

 photo 2016-12-02 12.08.03_zps2chmqmpb.jpg photo 2016-12-02 11.50.30_zpsqtlnvbip.jpgI probably made it clear in my last post just how tired i was, how run down I felt. At the time I was balancing work, study, blogging, a rammed social calendar and wedding planning, on top of personal circumstances that were far from pleasant. I had an email inbox that was rapidly expanding, a to-do list that was getting to be taller than I was (no mean feat, even with me being vertically challenged!). My skin was betraying just how exhausted I was, and my immune system gave way to a nasty virus in the week before Christmas.

I spent Christmas trying to solider on through, alcohol making me want to throw up, falling asleep at every opportunity and not even feeling like enjoying my food. Typically the 27th dawned and I felt an awful lot better – and luckily made a good dent in the leftovers. Using pigs in blankets as dipping implements for a boiled egg was the best idea I’d had throughout all of 2016…

 photo 2016-12-27 11.59.52_zpsyinsztih.jpg photo 2016-11-12 13.59.15_zpsqwcb2t3i.jpgA few cold countryside walks, a couple of Terry’s Chocolate Oranges (because vitamins…?!) and things were looking up. I managed to get a decent chunk of studying done. Planned out the first few months of blog posts for 2017. And then the aforementioned personal circumstances came back and hit hard. Just a few short minutes into the year, my beloved Granddad peacefully passed away. It’s not something I’ve really mentioned on here, but he’d been suffering from severe Alzheimer’s for many, many years and whilst his passing is sad, I’m relieved he’s finally free – I’m sure he’s having a pint and chuckle at us all right now!

Feeling under the weather and dealing with grief – not to mention the fact that W then went to South America for the month – meant I just needed to continue to take a break. Despite myself promising I’d never put pressure on myself to blog, that’s exactly what I was doing for much of 2016. I hate not fulfilling my posting schedule, I hate being chased to reply to an email.

 photo 2016-12-27 17.01.57_zpsbhea1wxt.jpg photo 2016-12-27 16.59.28_zpsquqpo0fy.jpg photo 2016-12-27 16.21.14_zpsldgejd2c.jpg photo 2016-12-27 16.19.27_zpsyoegimcb.jpgThis year I’m going to try and take some of the pressure off. I’ve shifted around my posting schedule to reduce the number of posts each month. I’ve set an auto-reply to give PRs a warning that I may not reply immediately. I’m going to try and meet new bloggers, make coffee dates with those I’ve been meaning to catch up with for months. I’m going to head out for meals and not photograph them (well, maybe). I’ll bake for the enjoyment and not for the Instagram likes. I’ll make time for me, make plans for me and not ‘for the blog.’ I love blogging, I’m sticking around for a while. But I also like living, and my blog doesn’t entirely define my life. Here’s to 2017 being the year I live for me.

How has the start of the year been for you?

Blogging: Ones to Follow

Whilst putting together my #FF tweets a few weeks back I really struggled. There were far too many bloggers I wanted to show appreciation for, lots of posts I wanted to share…

 photo Blog Love 1_zpszddajvzs.jpgSo I turned it into a blog post instead!

This is just some of my favourite bloggers, some of my favourite posts from the last few weeks. I follow a lot of blogs, I have many favourites and my tastes change constantly so it’s by no means a definitive list. I’ll probably have new favourites by this time next week!
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For The Best Photography

A blog I’ve followed for a long, long time, but right now I’m completely in awe and utterly envious of the images on The Lovecats Inc.They are exactly where I’d love my photography to be, the styling and quality of them is just spot on to me. I love the variety of posts too – I mean, chocolate and makeup, it just can’t get any better!
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For All The LOLs

Potentially a slightly predictable one as I’m sure I’ve waxed lyrical about Katy’s blog a few times. BUT it is definitely one of my favourites, I love her chatty style (she’s as lovely in real-life too!). In fact I got so over-excited over her publishing a Happy Monday post a few weeks back that I split a huge mug of tea all over me…
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For The Post That Made Me Cry

I’m not usually one for sharing what really touched my emotions, but this post by Corinne really resonated with me. I didn’t have the easiest life at secondary school (being a maths geek at an all girls school was never going to be easy!), and her experience with ‘Sophie’ is definitely similar to the dramas I remember.
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For Giving Me Makeup Drawer Envy

Seriously, I’m so jealous of Jasmine’s makeup bag! Virtually everything she has causes some kind of lust in me, though I’m particularly lusting after her MAC quad right now. Her beauty reviews are some of the best I’ve read, her photography is gorgeous and I might have to stop reading her blog for the sake of my bank balance…
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For Amazing Achievements

Two joint winners here! I’m so impressed that Jennifer is managing to keep up blogging regularly during final year of medical school AND train for a half-marathon for one of my most special charities (a donation is on it’s way my lovely!). I struggle enough with blogging and final year so hats off to this girl! On a related note, Miss Pond is now Dr Pond having successfully completed a PhD – well done you!

 photo Blog Love 2_zps4t2rdd7w.jpgSo there’s just some of my favourite blogs over the last few weeks. From now on (well, when I remember) I’m going to try to dedicate a couple of tweets each Friday to some of the best blogs I’ve read over the week, trying to link to a specific post in my attempt to give a bit back. You’ll be able to see my favourite posts from the last week or find out why I love a certain blogger. After receiving so much positivity from the blogging world it’s time to add some myself!

Do you have a favourite blog post from the last few weeks? Feel free to share it!

Lifestyle: Pushing my Boundaries & FILMING with Aldi

I’m not a vlogger. I don’t watch Youtube, I rarely even watch TV, and I certainly don’t film myself. Don’t get me wrong, I’m full of respect for those that do – it sounds horribly technical and I’ve seen evidence of comment-bitchiness that’s put me off it for life. It’s just not for me. I’m happy with my little blog and I can’t see that changing anytime soon.

 photo 2015-09-10 12.11.37_zpsk8fjasbx.jpg photo 2015-09-10 12.11.29_zps9gy4poue.jpgAnd realistically, my life is super boring right now. I’m sure no-one wants to watch blogs of drink tea, study, lectures, apply for jobs, eat, sleep, repeat. Anyone?! Thought not…

I’m also hugely self-conscious. It’s only recently I’ve really started sharing photos of me, including selfies on Instagram. In all honesty I really struggle to not hate how I look, let alone like it. When I hear it back my accent bugs me, I can pick up faults about myself absolutely no one else will have noticed. And that’s probably one of the biggest contributors to not vlogging. So when Aldi got in touch and asked me up to Manchester for a day of filming with them, my first reaction was “No!” and my second was to run and hide. Then I found myself on a Virgin train up North, wandering down a very dark country lane, and feeling really rather sick…

 photo 2015-09-10 12.09.51_zpscz3sx2w8.jpg photo 2015-09-10 12.10.48_zpske0sugkv.jpg photo 2015-09-09 22.46.27_zpsuwlwnevr.jpgI’m still not entirely sure why I agreed to go. I’ve spent the last year pushing myself to try new things, to improve my confidence and make the most of my life. So I did it. And the buzz I got afterwards was amazing.

It didn’t get off to the smoothest of starts. I nearly ended up with my suitcase full of clothes locked in the Natural History museum in London. I missed the off-peak trains so had to wait for a late one. I missed my connection at Stockport, couldn’t get hold of any cash and ended up having to walk down what seemed to be a country lane (with no street lights) in the pitch black to get to my hotel (room pictures above!) in the lovely Prestbury. I plonked myself into bed and lay there until finally falling asleep at 4am…

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7am saw me in a taxi on my way to the studio. Set in a gorgeous loft conversion, camera equipment work more than my annual salary and a hugely lust-worthy kitchen, plus the most lovely crew. The creative assistant and makeup artist put me at ease (even bringing me tea – major loves right there). I ended up with the most stunning makeup I think I’ve ever had. Up close you could see the layers of foundation necessary for filming, but I LOVED the brows and lip shade. If only I could remember the name of the MAC lipliner…

 photo 2015-09-10 12.10.03_zpsu9ggcabp.jpg photo 2015-09-10 12.11.42_zpstkle60ws.jpgI haven’t got any photos of the actual studio to show you, just the surrounding countryside and the gorgeous village I stayed in. But I do have this to show off…

Eeek, how scary!

No idea what’s with my sharp ‘hi’ at the start, but other than that it’s not actually too bad. I look exhausted (hello two hours sleep max!), my hair literally doesn’t move (yep, a whole can of hairspray!), but I feel so super proud of myself!

Blogging has opened up SO many opportunities for me, I’m constantly amazed at it. Yes there’s the ‘freebies’ and I’m so very grateful for that. But it’s also introduced me to some lovely, lovely friends, it’s allowed me to try new foods, it’s pushed me to do this filming with Aldi, it’s a huge bonus on my CV.

What opportunities has blogging given you? Have you ever pushed yourself to do something terrifying?

Lifestyle: Why I Blog & A Few Changes

I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently. It’s not that I’ve become disillusioned with my blog, far from it. I have so many ideas, so many plans, and really it’s just finding time to sit down and get started.

 photo 2015-09-23 09.23.39_zpsy7sagils.jpgThere’s many posts in my drafts, ten times more ideas in my notebook. But there’s a lack of time.

I originally started this blog as a little hobby to keep my mind occupied, to stop me dreaming solely of mathematical formulae and Excel spreadsheets (true story). It’s definitely kept me busy, to the point of being exhausted over my summer ‘break’ – though we’ll blame the Lyme Disease on that one. I wanted to help people through university, and from the comments I’ve received lately I think I’ve done that.

More than anything, I wanted this blog to be a little diary of my life. There’s very little I edit out on here. Sure, I might move my mess to the other corner of the room whilst taking photos, but other than that you get the real me. You get the soppy posts, the tongue-in-cheek posts (trust me, I’m definitely not this sarcastic in real life…), the ‘damn I spent too much’ posts.

 photo 2015-09-06 09.27.09_zpsw14mwfw5.jpgWith my return to university I’m very much aware I’m going to be short on time. Without realising it I’ve actually been posting every day for a few weeks (thanks to my Monday guest posters for making this possible – and if you are interested in writing me a post then do drop me an email or tweet!). Before that I was posting six times a week, and realistically I know I can’t continue to do that. Yes, I’m concentrating on my studies, but I’m also throwing myself into grad applications. That 1st and dream job will be mine! Joking aside, I’m still planning on a good three or four posts a week. Quality over quantity, a variety of topics, still plenty of chat.

There’ll be more personal posts, more about the real me, and probably less of the reviews (because student budget). But I’ll still be here, you aren’t getting rid of me that easily!

 photo 2015-09-23 09.22_zpsrha75ezg.jpgI’ve got more than I ever imagined out of blogging. There’s been some fab collaborations with some amazing brands. I’ve met the most lovely people (with shoutouts going to Leanne, Jas and Katy). I’ve ever pushed myself to my absolute limit (shaking with nerves and can’t-sleep limit) and filmed an interview with Aldi. I’ve taken part in events, found out about launches in advance, been able to support charities. It’s all thanks to this blog but, more importantly, it’s all thanks to you. My lovely readers.

Now over to you; what do you want to see here?

Blogging: Hints & Tips from the Big Blogger Conference

You might have seen me babble on about the #BigBloggerConference, but now I finally have time to sit down and write about it. That scorchingly hot day now feels so long ago, luckily I took plenty of notes and more than a few photographs to help me recap the day! As it’s been so long since the actual event my post is aimed more at what I learnt as opposed to what I did…a quick flick through #bigbloggerconference on Twitter will get you LOADS of posts though. I’ll scatter all the photos I took throughout too!
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Image from Expllora

Pinterest

My first talk of the morning was by the lovely Elizabeth of Rosalilium – a Pinterest Ambassador who reminded me just how much there is to learn about the site. I wasn’t aware that Pinterest was not set up as a social media network, but rather it should serve as a visual discovery tool. It’s not meant to be used to promote your content, but rather inspire new ideas – though I think it does both rather well simultaneously.

The main points I learnt about Pinterest;

  • 80% of users view pins on a mobile – so longer, vertical images are more likely to draw attention.
  • Content is not time sensitive, and won’t ‘expire.’ Instead it will be revived on an ongoing basis, for instance Christmas pins becoming popular each year.
  • Pins tend to ‘trend’ about two months before an event. At the end of August, Halloween was featuring regularly on homepages!
  • Hashtags are a big no-no.
  • Rich pins are great for bloggers, especially those posting recipes (this is really something I need to look into)
  • Embedding other people’s pins via the widget is a way to share them on your blog without causing any legal issues…

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Image from Jasmin Charlotte

SEO

The second, and my favourite, session was by the lovely Jasmin of JasminCharlotte. One of my favourite bloggers and a technical minefield of information, Jasmin gave one of the best explanations of SEO and strategy I’ve experienced. Let’s face it, it can be a horrendously boring topic but it was made light-hearted. This talk really fired me up and SEO is something I’ve been really working on lately…

I found this points really useful and have started implementing a few of them since the conference;

  • Successful link building can be achieved by creating internal links, doing guest posts and commenting.
  • Create a simple SEO checklist for yourself to use on every post. I currently have a Post-It stuck to my laptop screen, I plan to make a pretty version soon!
  • Optimise social media too – Twitter and Instagram in particular. Now I have a new phone I’ve been able to ‘gram more and I’m loving seeing my followers slowly increase…
  • ‘Good Content’ in Google terms is a lot different to what I would have expected – using more paragraphs, using more bullet points and keep words simple. And keeping posts between 300 and 500 words. This one pretty much fails then!
  • Jasmin also cleared up the follow-no follow links issue on the day, though I’ve managed to since get myself all confused about it again. However hard I try this will NOT stick…

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Image from Becky Bedbug

Monetising Your Blog

I have to say, I was really sceptical about my final talk – from Sarah of The Prosecco Diaries. Monetising your blog does happen, I occasionally get a few sponsored posts and I do review products here and there. What doesn’t sit completely right with me is putting yourself out there for collaborations, but again that’s just me. I have a degree to be doing, I’ve been working full-time, and I’m unlikely to ever make blogging my career. I can totally see why those who rely on it would go seeking opportunities and I honestly don’t blame them for it!

Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised by this. I felt it was perhaps branded wrongly, it was more a ‘how to get noticed’ talk in a way. I found it useful as Sarah talked a lot about what PRs look for. Perhaps not a talk I would have chosen to go to, but a good one all the same, with best tips being;

  • PR’s aren’t always about followers – they want great content, professional layouts, decent photo quality, and a high standard of writing.
  • Always have your contact details and social media easily displayed. PRs don’t have half an hour per blog to search for it.
  • Email back. Stay in contact. Don’t disappear from the face of the earth…
  • And regardless of how popular your blog is, if you aren’t professional, polite and generally nice, don’t count on the PR coming back to you.

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Brand Interaction

The afternoon was reserved for meeting the brands, networking and generally getting stuck into things. As I mentioned about, I find self-promotion quite difficult so I did struggle at first. However I thoroughly enjoyed it and, whilst I’m not too sure whether it will bring any collabs, it’s definitely increased my confidence!

If you are feeling a bit apprehensive about approaching brands in person then have a read of these;

  • SMILE.
  • Ask questions about the brand. It doesn’t seem pushy, and you can easily ascertain if any of their campaigns are likely to be relevant to your blog.
  • Social media is key to brand interaction. Quite a lot of the brands were running little comps throughout the day – I even ended up winning a pair of Shopaholic’s boots via my #Shoefie.
  • Business cards are vital. I genuinely thought these weren’t really a ‘thing’ anymore but SO many bloggers had them. I’m now working on getting W to design some for me!

As you can probably tell, it was an absolutely packed day. I learnt far more than I was expecting to, but more than that I had a fab time. Lauren definitely did a fab job in putting all of this together! Now it’s time to put what I learnt into action…

 photo Big Blogger Conference6_zpsbeabgoay.jpgHave you ever attended an event like this? What’s your best blogging tip?

 

 

The London Diaries: A New Series & A Little Life Update

I’ve harped on enough about it, but I’m super duper excited to be living in London for the summer. Having spent the last year in Surrey, with a train into London taking less than 30 minutes, I’ve fallen head over heels in love with our capital city. With W interning in Battersea and my contract being extended in said Surrey town we decided to go for it – and grabbed a short-term let in Wandsworth.

 photo 2015-03-13 17.45.16_zpsthto9dyh.jpgLiving in London means lots of more restaurants at our disposal (though we’re on a budget – damn you expensive rent!), a lot more things to see, and a lot more potential blog posts. Hopefully more blogging events for me too! Having looked at my list I realised I could get posts scheduled up until October without any spontaneous ones, without any London ones, so I’ve decided to introduce a mini series whilst we’re in London. It will be full of things I’ve done, where we’ve been etc. Hopefully useful to those visiting London, or those who want to find things off the beaten track. And typically the first post next Friday is of a chain restaurant found in other cities… #sorrynotsorry

 photo 2015-03-07 14.43.48_zpsotja8obk.jpgSo yep, now I’m posting six days a week, working full time and adding a commute into the mix. Oh, and at some point I need to glance over my second year notes as a year on placement has sent contingent annuity calculations straight out of my head…

Are you a fan of London? Any recommendations of hidden gems to explore? 

Blogging: Posts I’ve Loved

My blogging taste changes so dramatically over time I struggle to keep up. I follow a huge number of blogs on Bloglovin, to the point I’ve had emails accusing me of doing so only to gain followers. It can be difficult getting through unread posts – to the point I’m half dreading Italy as the thought of coming up to unreads in the thousands scares me.

I thought I’d write a quick list of some posts I’ve loved recently. All pics have been taken from the posts of being discussed – so jealous of these girls’ photography skills!

Food

Knowing that I’ll soon be living in Wandsworth (with Clapham not far away) I’ve become pretty obsessed with finding places to visit. Whilst I’m not sure whether it will be a little out of budget, I loved Claire’s review of Jimmy’s Secret Garden. The food looks so fresh and imaginative! In a similar vein Lauren’s date night has got me really excited. This is definitely a place that should come in on budget and looks amazing!

Onto recipes now! I’ve been a big fan of this blog since I first heard about it through W, and this Cheesy Bacon bread has been on my ‘to-make’ list since Lottie posted it. It looks fabulous for a brunch! Continuing on the carby-cheesy theme and Cathryn’s Ciabatta sandwiches are making me hungry! So nice to see a sandwich like this not containing tomato…

Beauty

Trying to save money whilst being an avid reader of beauty blogs can be a bit difficult. I do love lusting over high-end bits, mainly because the shopping experience is SO much easier. Having a post like Georgie’s mini reviews of new releases from the drugstore is a godsend – it makes it far easier to see what is actually worth looking at.

More high-end (though still with a reasonable price tag), Kat’s reviews make her a serious enabler. I’m trying desperately to ignore this nude eyeshadow palette.

Lifestyle

I’ve developed a thing for interiors recently (I can’t wait until me and W have our own place for more than a few months – I’ve had to resist the urge to buy things for our summer flat!). One person who is definitely NOT helping me save my pennies is Kate. She’s lived in her place for a year now and renovated it beautifully. Her style matches mine almost exactly and I LOVE it. Jealous!

Something completely different, but I’ve been loving reading this ‘mummy’ blog. From the blogger of A Model Recommends it has to be one of the most honest and amusing accounts of pregnancy I’ve come across. As I type this she is still pregnant, but due any day now. I’ve bookmarked most posts for the distant future!

I came across Josie’s blog when I saw a link to her post about Sinus Surgery. She’s had a similar operation to me (though this amazing girlie has CF so was more high-risk) and she recovered amazingly well. I found the surgery and recovery extremely difficult and painful so hats off to her. I had to say she looked far more attractive than I did following the operation too!

Fashion

I’ve gotten a lot more into fashion recently, and I’ve fallen in love with Alix’s style – I’d love to have the confidence to pull off this outfit! Katie’s absolutely gorgeous dress has made me want to attempt midi lengths again, doesn’t it suit her down to the ground?!

Blogging

I’m not typically a huge fan of blogging advice posts – I prefer ones that talk about how a person blogs, rather than ‘what to do.’ Having said that I LOVE reading photography tips and Rebecca’s equipment post was a great read. I really need to get myself a remote and tripod when I move back to university in September! Corrie’s post was brilliant for some much needed motivation recently, so much so that it’s bookmarked on Chrome. And Jenny’s post (though I miss her beauty reviews – she had almost the exact same skin tone as me so I could rely on her recommendations!) on stock photography has been invaluable.

Who are your favourite bloggers? What kind of posts would you like to see more of on here?

Lifestyle: Healthy Asian Food with #LVLoveLife

I finally attended my first blogger event, and I’m a lucky girl because it was a fabulous night!

 photo fc9eedfc-4f83-48ca-b32f-9a7c805584ad_zpsdzgbhckl.jpg photo eaa15bed-9aa1-4203-bad4-d70fadaf953a_zpsoxp5jnnm.jpgBased at the Smart School of Cookery in St Katharine’s Docks (now one of my favourite spots in London), we were shown how to make a feast which was as good for us as it was tantalising on our tastebuds.

 photo 54d6c4ff-8d58-418c-b210-4cda51cfa9a7_zpsznmo3exw.jpg photo db27c1e7-5a90-4c36-9658-c63fbd84c007_zpsk38v9tus.jpgMy favourite course of the night was the first, but it was so spectacular nothing could have topped it. A light salad of rocket and courgette ribbons, dressed with lime, topped with spicy, sweet prawns (courgette for the veggies!) – this was a revelation. I will definitely be recreating this in the next few weeks, so keep an eye out for the recipe! So simple, but bloody delicious!

 photo d4c34cca-342a-4689-9cc2-4436d27db682_zpsdnxt7zhd.jpg photo ec726f08-98f7-4709-9679-6ce3f9b562af_zpsgc3lct8c.jpg photo e72a4421-1977-46ee-b75a-e3b3f49ddb66_zpsxygtjbbt.jpg photo 2d12d8e8-73fd-4862-8e8f-3ab24d5610d3_zpslocozbn9.jpgThe veggie-noodle broth which followed was still delicious, but I can’t say I fell in love with it. I felt that although it was bulked out with courgette and carrot, it needed some other vegetable to give it a bit of life. The crouton was pretty delicious though, and not just because I made those!

 photo 3653fce0-3400-43f9-9988-9cb5961cd6fa_zpsatxdlc3b.jpg photo IMG_9733_zpsq9mfcxym.jpgCheck out my croutons! Plus you get to see the red lip I spoke out this week in action, albeit vamped up with a red lip liner!

 photo 4e6728c5-612b-4809-959c-2ff3cee4e4d2_zpsmkyeqwea.jpg photo b8c07a53-547c-4c4e-9538-14a54d4978a0_zpswq0rgqbb.jpgThe final course was nearly as delicious as the first, a chicken curry made with very little oil, the chicken was ridiculously tender, the sauce sweet, coconutty and a little spicy. A kick from the garlic, ginger and coriander were the main flavours, offset with zingy-ness from the lime. I felt it would have taken a bit more chilli though! The sticky rice was also a revelation. I’ve never thought to bake rice, but it worked so well. Slightly crunchy it matched the creamy curry perfectly. Now I just need a pan suitable to go in the oven…

I definitely came away with some fabulous cooking hints too. Never cook with olive oil (I’ve always avoided it anyway!), and grate ginger and chilli straight from the freezer. I’ve been freezing my chillies for a while now but have always defrosted them to end up with soggy, sweet things. Now I know where I am going wrong there will be no stopping me!

 photo 6e1a31fc-0a4e-486e-912a-bfedf4213830_zpsgytqzxy1.jpgWe were all invited to the event by LV as part of their #LVLoveLife campaign. I’m very grateful, not only for the yummy food, but also the chance to meet some of my favourite bloggers – check out Immy May, Jasmine Charlotte, Not Quite Enough and Champagne & Chutney.

Have you took part in a cookery class before? What are your top cooking tips?