Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Instagram Changed My Life

Before I start, I have to admit that I have done my fair share of complaining about Instagram. The whole perfectionism and the infamous algorithm have annoyed me more than they should have done. But, in all honesty, Instagram has really changed how I view things and I am thankful for that.

I first joined Insta back in January 2017. Yes, I was pretty late to the party but I found keeping up with my blog and Twitter account was enough for me. But curiosity got the better of me and I signed up. I originally created a fitness themed account (laughable, I know) as I was making the transition out of dangerously obsessive calorie controlling into eating what was good for me. I felt like keeping tracks of my food and being inspired by insta fitness gurus would help me to patch up my own relationship with food.

After a little while, I was kinda back on track. I wasn't obsessing over calories and I had even deleted the fitness app which I had previously used to track everything religiously. Then I got pregnant and that is when I really fell in love with Instagram. I had so much spare time and I loved how I could channel my creativity into my posts. I loved being able to document this new chapter of my life and have something to look back on. It really got my butt in gear in terms of blogging too. Seeing other bloggers creating amazing content inspired me and made me more dedicated than ever to growing my own blog.

It has been over a year since I have joined Instagram and the main difference I see now is that I appreciate the little things. Yes, most of the time I am scouting for pink walls and hipster coffee shops but I love that something I would have walked past without even giving a second thought is now a source of inspiration. It has made me fall in love with my town - the town that some people call 'rough' - as my want to always find the next shot has got me noticing small pockets of beauty wherever I go.

Yes, we all like to complain about Instagram. Sometimes it is a bit staged and it is annoying when your feed is full of posts from 4 days ago but I love how Instagram has provided me with a creative outlet and an appreciation for the little things that make our lives great.

If you'd like to follow my Insta, just click here or check the tab in my sidebar.

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Creating More Worthwhile Content

When I first started blogging, I have to admit that the goodies that other bloggers were being sent was a big incentive but my main purpose for starting a blog was to have a creative outlet and develop my writing style. I loved writing and I hoped blogging would be something good to have my CV when I applied for editorial work with magazine companies (basically, I'd watched The Devil Wears Prada and got ideas). Blogging wasn't a big thing back in 2012. People did tags and Primark hauls and photo an hour challenges. We shared our favourite Mac lipsticks and bought Ikea plant pots. Yes, people were sharing stuff they had bought but it was mostly small, inexpensive items. The kinda thing that we'd buy with the little extra we'd saved from our waitressing jobs. Photos were taken on phones or a basic digital camera you borrowed off your parents. Everything was casual.

Flash forward and the blogging game has changed a lot. Bloggers are producing incredible content. We pay professional photographers for our outfit pictures (no more phone pics in a dusty mirror for us) and a fair few of us own Chloe bags and Gucci belts. Blogging has become associated with a certain kind of lifestyle - and that lifestyle is a luxurious one. Be it our picture perfect morning coffees or even the shots of us giggling in our satin PJs as we frolic in a meringue nest of a bed, everything seems so picture perfect. The magazine industry are struggling to compete and a big blogger's opinion of a product or brand can sometimes be make or break. What once was a way to get into the magazine industry has now become an industry in its own right. One that prides itself on community, transparency, and creative freedom. But there is, of course, a certain recognised aesthetic to the whole thing.

I feel this perfection that I see a lot in this industry has started to affect me and the kind of content I want to produce. I get offered a lot of products to review and I find myself saying yes a lot more than I should. I know that most people aren't that interested in a new brand of ketchup but I still say yes. Every time I put up a post that I don't find that interesting, I kick myself. I feel like a sell out. I love writing and having a platform to share my opinions without being censored but I see that I am being drawn in by the consumerist aspect of blogging. And I don't like it.

From here on in, I have decided that I want to change my content. I don't want to promote anything unless it seems like a great fit for my blog. I want to go back to my blogging roots of writing about day trips and holidays. Doing little hauls and just writing about anything I have an opinion on. I want this blog to document my life rather than become a catalogue of things that you could buy.

What kind of posts do you like to read?

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Veggie BBQ Hacks

There is nothing like a BBQ on a hot summer's evening. I love catching up with friends and family over some delicious burgers and maybe a little cheeky punch too. BBQs were always something that I have loved but, back when I was vegetarian as a teen, I struggled to find BBQ foods that were delicious and meat free. Thankfully, times have changed and there is a whole host of delicious veggie products on the market. So, I am here today to share my veggie BBQ hacks.

The English Provender Co Chutneys and Pickles*
This classic British company make a whole host of pickles and I find that they are great with veggie burgers and sausages. Their chutneys and pickles are vegan and they have so many different flavour combinations. I love their Moroccan Spiced Chutney as it brings a whole different set of flavours to a burger (especially if you've opted for a chickpea patty). The English Provender Co also have some recipes on their website and I found this cous cous recipe using the Moroccan Spiced Chutney and it looks incredible - the perfect accompaniment to any salad.

Veggie Sausages
I am a big fan of veggie sausages - I think I even prefer them to meat sausages. They have more flavour and are often better for you. My absolute favourite veggie sausages are by Cauldron (they also make amazing falafel) and they don't have the high salt content that many veggie sausages do.

Grilled Caramel Banana
This is something that my auntie made us when we had a BBQ as a kid and I still remember it. Basically you get a banana and cover it in caramel sauce (you can also opt for honey or chocolate sauce). Then you wrap it in kitchen foil and put it on the BBQ. It ends up having that delicious grilled taste and the caramel seeps into the banana - yum!

All the salad
As a kid, I always thought that salad was just filler that people always made for BBQs but no one really liked. Boy, have I changed my tune! I love a good salad now. Salad is so versatile and has so much potential for deliciousness. My favourite salad as a fattoush salad (it has little squares of fried pitta bread on it mixed with pomegranate seeds, mint, and sumac) but a salad with cubes of watermelon is perfect for the summer too.

Is it even summer without a big bowl of punch? I love Pimms in the summer especially with strawberries and cucumber in it. But also mixing some Malibu with a load of fruit juices works just as well. And for those who aren't so into alcohol, mix some lemonade with juices and pop in a variety of fruits for the same affect minus the headache the next morning.

What makes a great BBQ for you?

Friday, 30 March 2018

An Alternative Easter Gift

When it comes to chocolate, I don't discriminate. I love chocolate in every form and every variety - milk, dark, and white. I have been known to even eat that 20p value chocolate you get in the supermarkets. So, inevitably, Easter is a very good time of year for me. Maybe not for my bank balance or waist band but definitely for my stomach. I am a big fan of Easter eggs but having a few of my family members being diagnosed with a range of allergies this year, it has opened my eyes up to the fact that not everyone can gorge on chocolate to the extent that I do (I go true Bruce Bogtrotter style). That's why I wanted to share with you a product that is delicious but can also be eaten by my dairy and gluten free friends.

And that is cake. Yes, hear me out. Bakerdays are a company that make cakes and send them straight to your door - what more could a girl want, right? You just have to have a look through their extensive range of cakes on their website (they really have one for every occasion). Then you select the type of sponge you'd like - be in chocolate, lemon drizzle, dairy free, or gluten free. You can even personalise it.

For my cake, I chose a lovely Easter design chocolate cake and personalised it to say 'Happy Easter from Lauren, Isaac, and Ava' (mostly for the gram, to be fair). My cake arrived very promptly in a lovely little tin with a couple of mini chocolate eggs and it was eaten by the end of the day - mostly by me, oops! The chocolate sponge was delicious and the chocolate icing that attached the ready roll style icing to the cake. I am not a huge fan of icing so that is my only complaint but the cake itself was amazing. They also do cupcakes so don't be surprised if you see a massive cupcake haul coming up soon.

If you're thinking of buying yourself a massive cake to eat by yourself - I mean, you could share but what's the fun in that? - then use this code to get a 15% discount: EMERALDDOVE15.

Have you ever tried a Bakerdays cake?

Thursday, 29 March 2018

What To Buy The Man Who Has Everything

At the start of March, it was my husband's birthday. And my husband is notoriously difficult to buy for. His main interests include football (but not one specific team), business/stock trading, Ugandan music, and personal grooming. There's not much that fit those categories on the high street aside from the exhausted options of beard trimmers, shower gels, and moisturisers. I was desperate to give him something different. Something a bit unusual - and memorable.

I ended up buying him a range of things that I found in Tesco. I bought him honeycomb, whole nut chocolate, a portable phone charger, and a new moisturiser. But then Vanacci got in touch offering to send me one of their products to review and I was excited - maybe this was the long-awaited gift that my husband would cherish. I looked on the website and it was full of necklaces and bracelets for men and women that really looked expensive and well made - but were actually reasonably priced. They had solar themed bracelets but what really caught my attention was the lockstone collection. Basically, some of their bracelets, necklaces, and cufflinks come with lockstone (aka terraforce)attached to it. So, you spray the stone with perfume, let the stone absorb it for 4 minutes, then it slowly diffuses the scent throughout the day.

I can confirm that my husband absolutely loved the gift. It came in a box and looked really sophisticated. I loved the shiny black pearls and the engravement of the company name on a silver bead. Also it holds the scent really nicely.

This is definitely a lovely present for the man in your life. In all honesty, I like this product so much that I may have to steal it back from my husband.

Lockstone One Range Black Pearl Bracelet* - £24.99

Have you tried any products by Vanacci?

Saturday, 24 March 2018

Tips For Teething Stage Survival

It has begun - the dreaded teething stage. My relaxed, peaceful baby has gone and has been replaced by a whiney, drooly, teething monster. Ok, maybe I am exaggerating a little but when she won't settle for her nap and is putting everything she can lay her hands on in her mouth, that's how I feel. The worst part? I can't even see the teeth yet. The health visitor said they are probably just moving about in the gums causing her discomfort. But how long will this last? Will she ever get a tooth and return to the chill kid that I know and love? It has been a month of teeth moving around the gums and I feel like she may be 18 before the tooth makes an appearance. I am despairing. But, in this anguish, I have managed to find some solutions - well, things to stop her howling quite as much anyway - and that is what I am sharing with you today.

Teething Toys
The lovely people at Bespoke Baby London recently sent me out a wooden teething ring for Ava and it is an absolute godsend. It has a ring of little rubber balls that Ava loves to chew on and it is just the right size to fit in her hands. I have tried other teething rings (the type you put in the fridge) but they're all too big for her to hold and she didn't like the bobbly plastic texture of them. So, this toy is the perfect solution. Also it is a great size to pop into your bag when you go out.

Teething Gel
Being a first time mum, I wasn't really aware that teething gel even existed until my mum bought me some for Ava. I kinda smirked at her saying that Ava won't be teething for a long time yet. A couple of weeks later, she started drooling like a trooper and I realised that the teething gel was actually very necessary. For the first two weeks of teething, it was the only thing that would pacify Ava - especially in the night when she woke up screaming. I tried it on my own gums just for fun (I like an exciting life) and it was really tingly and numbing so I can say this is definitely a tried and tested product. In terms of brand, I just get whichever is cheapest.

Putting A Dummy In The Fridge
After Ava out and out refused the cold teething toys, I got a bit inventive. I knew the coldness would be soothing on her gums so I tried putting a dummy in the fridge and she loved it. She took it straight away then had a long nap. It was perfect.

Plastic Bibs
I swear by those bibs that are normal at the front but having a plastic back. I pick them up in Primark and they are amazing. I found that normal bibs just let the milk (or, in this case, baby slime) seep through and then her sleepsuits keep getting soaked. But these bibs hold a lot more liquid so I would highly recommend them. My only tip is if you are someone who likes to hand wash clothes (I know it's the 21st century but we didn't used to have a washing machine) then these aren't that easy to wash. But pop them in the washing machine and there's no issue.

Relaxing The Rules
Let the baby co-sleep with you if they are really unhappy. Give them hugs and let them forgo tummy time if they don't feel like it. Routine is good for babies but sometimes all they want is their mum.

Bespoke Baby London Small Teething Toy - £5*

What are your teething hacks?

Monday, 19 March 2018

7 Things To Do In And Around Exeter

 When it comes to days out, I am a big fan of exploring your local area because there is always so much more to discover than just the H&M in the city centre (although I do love a good rummage around in H&M). There's definitely a strong argument for staying local too: it saves money, you are paying into your own local economy, you can support local small business owners, and you just don't have to travel as far. That's not to say that I don't love travelling but with a little bubba in tow, the less time we are sat in one place (for example, on a train) the better.

Exeter is my local city and I have been going there for shopping trips since I was about 13 years old but there are still new things that I am learning about the city and different restaurants and places that I am yet to experience. Today I want to share with you the gems I have uncovered in the city and surrounding areas so far.

Have lunch on Cathedral Green beside the cathedral
Cathedral Green is such a lovely place to sit down with some friends, order a pesto, tomato, and goats cheese panini, crack open the elderflower cordial, and soak up the historical surroundings. The cathedral was founded in 1050 and completed by 1400. There are lots of old buildings surrounding the cathedral as well and some traditional cobblestones to give you that old-worldy vibe (and to break your ankle if you attempt to wear you heeled boots). I would recommend Tea on the Green for delicious food and outdoors seating (perfect for pretending you are a glamorous Italian woman laughing over her salad on the sunny Continent). Also Cakeadoodledoo is a must-visit location just down the road from the cathedral.

Travel underground through the tunnels
Although I grew up around here (and had many a school trip to the city), I only recently found out that there are underground tunnels beneath Exeter. And they are open to the public! So, I went with my family and the tour was really interesting - apparently people lived in these tunnels during the war! I mean, it is every kid's dream to find that there are secret tunnels under your feet so definitely one for the family. But then my dad kept bumping his head on the roof of the tunnel so maybe for the shorter family members. Also it is only £18 for a family ticket.

Visit the Royal Albert Memorial Museum
As you know, I am basically an old woman. I go on coach trips. I love markets and fetes. And I am a big fan of anything historical. I mean, this blog might as well be sponsored by the National Trust the amount I talk about them. But one other thing that I absolutely adore is a good museum. One with interesting items - especially those that are a bit wacky and out there.

A La Ronde
I write about A La Ronde on this blog all the way back in 2015 and I recently revisited it with my family. It is such an interesting building - definitely would be a hit with the architects that live amongst us - as it is hexagonal and built so the light follows you around the house. It is definitely worth a visit.

Drinks at the quay
The quay in Exeter is somewhere that I don't go very often but I know that many people go there in the summer to sip cocktails overlooking the water. This is definitely something I want to do this summer too. But the quay also offers things like canoeing and bike riding which sounds slightly more exciting to me. In fact, I have been canoeing on the quay before - back when I was in my teens - and we managed not to capsize and I am still proud of that years later.

Hike on Exmoor
I haven't been on Exmoor since the years of primary school enforced hiking but it is somewhere that I want to visit again. Exmoor is a national park - which means it is a protected part of the country - and it is inhabited by the Exmoor ponies which are ponies that are native to this part of the country but are also endangered. It is lovely to see animals free in their natural habitat - and this is a rarity in the UK where most of our animals are either in captivity or are domesticated.

Exmouth is another place to I have written about before. I have been going to Exmouth since I was a teenager and I love it. It has everything a coastal town should - a sandy beach, multiple ice cream parlours and fish and chip shops, and a lovely, quaint town. And a KFC. Gotta love a KFC.

Have you ever been to Devon?
© The Emerald Dove. All rights reserved.
Blogger Designs by pipdig