Friday, 25 January 2019

Can You Make It As A Blogger If You Suck At Instagram?

At the start of the year, I told myself that this would be my year. Despite my sudden dissipation of all ability to write literally anything (and consequential existential crisis), I set myself the task of noting down a few goals. Blogging goals. And one big one was to focus more on Instagram. And, let me tell you, in the two weeks that I have been focusing on Instagram, I have probably had more meltdowns than in my previous 22 years of life.

Almost everyday over the past two weeks, my husband got in from work faced with me looking rather bedraggled brandishing a phone filled with at least 8 edits of the same photo which I then go on to show him and explain each edit in finite detail before he even had the chance to take off his shoes. In these two weeks, Instagram has slowly become my world. Whether it is going out shooting pics with my tripod, editing said pics using multiple presets and filters to try to discover my theme (God help us, don't get me started on the damn themes), or painstakingly analysing insights to try to crack the insta code, I have been living and breathing Insta-nonsense for a solid two weeks.

And what I have discovered? I suck at Instagram. I really do. My mind doesn't work in a way where I can envision how to put components of a shot together to make it look incredible and effortless. My caption skills are hugely subpar. And I am just kinda fed up of trying to curate a feed that shows this perfect life where I wear skirts that flutter in the wind and I eat stacks of pancakes for every meal and I basically live in a hipster café in Shoreditch drinking pink coffee with rose petals sprinkled on it for literally no reason. Instagram is exhausting. Pretending is exhausting. And trying to grow your Instagram account is so exhausting is should be considered an Olympic sport.

Don't get me wrong, I love Instagram. I love the people that I follow there and insta-stories that make me snort with laughter when I'm on public transport and seeing people feel so good about themselves that they share their selfies and outfit shots online because they know they look cute. I love all that. But since I have started to focus on growing my account, it has all felt so much more convoluted. So much less like fun and so much more like trying to pretend I am always having fun.

And I do love creating content. I love shooting pics and I even enjoy editing but doing that for Instagram is a different story. In the last two weeks, I have gained followers faster than ever before. I went from being stuck at 1400 for literally months to speeding up to almost 1700. On average, I have gained about 15 new followers from each post (don't run the maths pls, I'm just an English grad) but you want to know the funny thing? Instagram is showing my content to literally no one. I went from gaining no new followers and averaging 180 likes per post to gaining followers but only getting like 80 likes per post. So it totally looks like I am just buying followers like some sneaky insta-snake.

There is just no formula to winning with Instagram. You can put in the effort and Instagram cuts your engagement by about 4x or you can chill and slowly lose all your followers.

And I know I am probably overthinking this but Instagram has become so entwined with blogging and it feels like our success as influencers is merely based on how quickly we are able to grow our account before the bubble bursts and everyone moves onto the hot new thing. And, yes, social media is meant to be fun but when your career goals are so connected with the rise or fall of that follower number, it kinda starts to mess with your head.

Instagram is great. No, really. There is so much scope for creative freedom and opportunities to build friendships with likeminded people (and look at pics of cute cats) but until our value as bloggers stops being pretty much defined by our follower count, we are all kinda stuck dancing to the algorithm's tune.

So, if you have made it this far, maybe go give me a follow over there. Help a girl out.

Jumper: Primark
Skirt: Primark
Shoes: New Look 
Jacket: Topshop 
Belt: ASOS 

Monday, 14 January 2019

Taking Ownership Of Your Online Space

As the new year rolled around, I started mentally preparing myself for January. Because January is a lot. It is a month of newness - a fresh start to set goals and reflect on what has passed over the last year. But it is also the month that diet culture really goes full force and, unfortunately, it is the month that leaves me feeling a bit rubbish about myself and my body. So, I was preparing myself for an influx of salad pics on Instagram and quotes on Twitter about how 'summer bodies are made in winter' and what actually happened shocked me. I didn't see one mention of dieting. There were no lettuce leaves in sight as I scrolled through Insta (only Body Posi Panda dancing around like the absolute babe that she is) and Twitter was much more concerned with Chrissy Teigen getting walloped in the face with a brolly to even notice that a new year had rolled in. 

Then I started to wonder what was going on. Had diet culture finally died? Had detox teas been banned? Had we all finally got to the stage where the size of our bodies isn't that big a deal anymore? Perhaps - I still haven't seen any January diet posts online - but the more likely explanation is that I have been having a bit of a detox of my own.

Instead of wasting money on repackaged laxative powders and horrible green juice, I have spent the past year or so detoxing my social media platforms. I unfollowed, muted, and blocked to my heart's content in order to remove any negative energy from my online spheres. Anyone who made me feel in the least bit bad about my body was automatically gone. Even people who I constantly seemed to compare myself with were removed. Any account that didn't help me on my journey to being ok with just being me had to go. I replaced fitness gurus and clean-eating influencers with body positive role models - and I am finally feeling the benefits of that.

The thing is, by following someone on social media, we are almost inviting them into our headspace. Their content is what we see whenever we log onto our favourite sites and, much like if someone was a guest in your home, you need to feel comfortable with them. If their content upsets you or makes you feel like you're not good enough then you have every right to ask them to leave. You own that space. You wouldn't let a dinner guest make you feel bad about yourself and then invite them back to do it again every day so why should it be any different online.

Taking ownership of my social media sites was probably one of the best things that I did in 2018. And I would advise everyone else to do the same. 

Jumper: Primark (similar)
Body: Miss Selfridge (similar)
Jacket: Topshop (similar)
Trousers: H&M (similar
Necklace: Voice International (here)*

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

Shooting With A Tripod: My Top Tips

Since this blog was born back in 2013, I have used many methods to take my outfit pictures. Everything from mirror selfies to getting my dad to shoot my pics in the garden back in 2015 (you can actually see them here lol) and, more recently, coercing my husband into using all his free time taking a whole lot of photos of yours truly. Well, that is until he got busy with work and I worked out how to extend the legs on my tripod that I had owned for about a year at that point (I'm not much of a logical thinker ok). Since then, I have been taking Ava out in the pushchair with the tripod and camera stuffed underneath and shooting my shots wherever I can - sometimes even in the rain because I am one dedicated woman (who may have a slight Instagram addiction). Ava just sits there laughing at me as I twirl around in front of the camera then self-consciously pretend to scroll through my phone as people walk past but, I have to say, I have kinda got the hang of this whole tripod thing and can usually get a few good shots in under ten minutes. So, I thought I would share a few pointers.

Remember why you are doing it 
Something I have been hearing a lot lately is people talking about their 'why' and about keeping it at the front of your mind and I think that is kinda true of shooting with a tripod too - you have to remember why you're there and what you want to achieve. Personally, I am mega shy and awkward so anything where I could make myself look silly in public is a no-go area but shooting by yourself can kinda set you up for this. You almost have to embrace that you look a bit weird and just remember the reason you're doing it. Be it to improve your blog or delve into fashion more, build a model portfolio, or just get some pics for the gram - just keep it in your mind because it is so easy to let one odd look off a stranger knock your confidence and make you pack up and head home.

Know your location
Researching the location you want to shoot at is fairly important as you will probably be there alone so you need to know the place you're at and if there are any rules or restrictions in terms of photography and filming. I know places like government buildings or royal buildings sometimes have restrictions so be sure to check before you head out to shoot. And, if you are shooting in a residential area, be a bit wary of the fact that some people don't like you taking pictures outside their house/sat on their doorstep. Also knowing whether a place has a lot of people passing by and which times are more quiet can help you not get interrupted too much - and not have too many people to edit out of the background later on.

Have fun with it
Over the last four or five months that I have been shooting with a tripod, I have built up way more confidence than I thought possible. And I do enjoy taking pictures this way. I love that I have absolute creative direction over the shots and that gives me so much more opportunity to try new things. I have recently been experimenting with movement and it is still totally a work in progress but I love being able to explore new things and retake a shot twenty times over if I choose to.

Have an excuse
One tip I came across online when I first started was that you should tell people that you are doing a photography course and that really helped me to overcome my nerves. The fact that I had something to say that I felt was really legit if anyone asked me what I was doing gave me a bit of confidence. And no one ever questioned it.

Experiment with different angles
Shooting with a tripod is totally different to having your photo taken by someone else because the tripod can't move around and find the right angle for you - you have to do all the hard work yourself. But it also means you can experiment too. Instead of just taking head-on shots, try shots from above and below. Try out different things and keeping looking at the pictures as you take them. See what is working well and what you can do differently.

Have you ever tried shooting with a tripod?

Skirt: Topshop (here)
Jumper: Primark (similar)
Necklace: Voice International (here)*
Coat: New Look (similar)

Monday, 7 January 2019

Everything We Ate In Berlin

Yknow how most people draw up travel itineraries for a trip? Well, I do that but for food. I love searching the location feature on Instagram for the best snacks, prettiest restaurants, and most unusual local delicacies and then casually dropping them into conversation when my husband asks where we should eat like I haven't already planned my exact order in my head.

For Berlin, I only had a couple of things in mind. I knew I wanted to get a vegan donut of dreams from Brammibal's Donuts and I was also interested to try kartoffelpuffer after years of making it myself at home. Things like German sausages and pretzels were also pretty up there - oh, and I really had my heart set on getting a hot chocolate from a market in one of those mugs you can pay to keep.

Although I have done a little section on what to eat in Berlin in my travel guide, I decided I would do an entire post dedicated to all the delicious goodies we feasted on whilst away.

Brammibal's Donuts
So, I want to start with potentially one of the best things I ate in Germany - this donut. It is vegan, it is has hibiscus flavoured icing, it is huge, and the donut itself was so doughy and lush. They do so many different varieties of donuts and they change seasonally too. I kinda wish I had tried a few more flavours and at about 2-3 euros, you really can afford to.

Doner kebab
When you think of Germany, you probably think of sausages. Or sauerkraut. Or sauerkraut over sausages. But the real favourite food of the German seems to actual be the good, old doner kebab. I mean, I am already pretty partial to a kebab (even when I am stone cold sober) so I wanted to see what the fuss was about. But it was just a kebab. A pitta bread filled with long shreds of meat and salad and covered in whichever sauce you choose (aka garlic mayo unless you are actually mad). It was no different to the kebabs we have here - was still nice tho.

The currywurst and chips mountain
At the Potsdamer Platz Christmas market near our hotel, they had a stall selling these fried bread nests and you could fill them up with whatever you wanted. They had wedges, chips, or these fried potato slices and a choice of toppings ranging from pork casserole to garlic mushrooms. For 8 euros, we decided to share one and Isaac was pretty persistent about wanting currywurst (slices of sausage in a tomato sauce) as his topping. So, we had that. And it wasn't half bad. Granted, I am not a huge currywurst fan but I liked the fried potato slices.

Pretzels and other famous faces from the bread family
One thing that Germans do well is baking. Especially savoury baking. I loved the giant pretzel that I bought from the market that was seasoned with salt and pepper and tasted like a really crusty bit of tiger bread (yknow the French bread one). We also got some other bread that was similar to this at the Hauptbahnhof (main train station) at one of the bakery kiosks. I can't say I know the name of it now - or even at the time - but it was lush and had that same salt and pepper flavour.

These were little donut balls which were sold at almost all of the markets and were so nice (and so moreish that I almost ate the entire cone of them before Isaac even got a look in). They are coated with icing sugar and have an almost frangipane taste. Deffo the best snack.

Meatballs at Stadtklause
I wrote about this restaurant in my travel guide but it felt right to mention it here too (since it is food and this is about, yknow, food). So, one of the evenings we were there, we wanted to try out a restaurant and Isaac was adamant that it should be German cuisine - despite my hankering for a biryani. So, we asked one of the lovely ladies at the hotel reception and they directed us to this little German restaurant about five minutes walk from the hotel. It was a really traditional tavern/pub kinda place run by people who didn't speak a huge amount of English (and also couldn't seem to comprehend any of my admittedly rusty German either - awks) but it was an authentic German experience. I ordered some meatballs with bread, pickled gherkin, sauerkraut, and mustard and Isaac had the pork schnitzel. It was an interesting meal and oh so German. I loved the bread they gave me and gherkins are my fave. But I am not a huge meat eater so one meatball was more than enough for me. Isaac loved it though!

Just a whole lot of sausage
This may not seem like enough food to fill 4 days - and you're right. Most of our other meals were sausage in various forms. Currywurst, Krakauer, Bratwurst - basically all of the sausages. But when in Rome!


Do you love trying local food when visiting a new country? Or are you someone who knows what they like?

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

New Year, Same Me

A few days ago, I had a bit of a revelation. This is the first year since I was a pre-teen that my new years resolution isn't just a goal weight. In fact, my appearance hasn't even made the list (and it is a pretty long list). And realising that fact just felt so liberating. I guess, I always saw a new year as a chance to reinvent myself. Whether it was back in the days of sitting in my almost entirely Bang On The Door themed bedroom noting down tips and tricks from the Angus, Thongs etc etc series on snogging, boys, and push up bras to scrolling through Instagram as a uni student thinking how I can change up my work out routine to get a bigger butt or firmer thighs or get rid of that one last roll at the bottom of my belly that just won't budge, self-reinvention has dominated every new year's resolution I ever made. And the truth is, none of my resolutions really changed me much. I still have rolls on my belly (a few more post-Christmas than I would care to admit tbh) and I never did get any of secondary school crushes to go out with me (not from lack of trying, I will tell you that much). 

This year, I am not trying to change myself. Instead I wrote out a list of things I would love to do rather than a list of things I would love to be. And I am pretty excited about them. 

So much so that I want to share a few of them here. Mostly so I can look back in a year and see how many I actually managed to achieve. 

Travel to a new country
In 2018, we travelled to Edinburgh, the Lake District, Cardiff, London, and Berlin but, in 2019, I want to do more international travel. I would love to explore more of Europe - especially places like Krakow, Vienna, Budapest, Amsterdam, and more of Germany too. Maybe even New York! Here's hoping we win the lottery, eh?

Invest more time into my blog
Over the last six or so months, I have really gotten back into blogging. I have started to enjoy the whole process again - everything from brainstorming post ideas, writing posts, going out with my tripod and shooting pics, and just engaging with all you lovely people who read and comment on my blog and social media sites. I have even started to enjoy the emails too! This year, I want to have more fun with my content and take more risks. And buy a lot more outfits to shoot.

Have more adventures with Ava
As Ava has gotten older, I have loved being able to do more stuff with her. Don't get me wrong, I loved having a newborn but a little toddler is just more fun (although she runs me ragged). In 2018, we did a few fun things together like going to the Britax Roemer blogger breakfast in the summer and going camping with my parents and I am excited to do even more in 2019. I already have the aquarium on the cards and a whole lot of soft play too. Maybe even weekly swimming??

Try to live a more environmentally-friendly life
Since getting my anaemia diagnosis, I have kinda been using it as a get out of jail free card for all the meat and dairy products I could ever wish to consume. But not anymore. In 2019, I want to try to run a more environmentally friendly home and that means eating a little less meat, using a little less plastic, and just being a little more aware of how my actions affect the planet. Goodbye, pigs in blankets, you may be my last.

Have more fun with fashion
Way back in September, I wrote a post about how I wanted to take more fashion risks and, over the last few months, I feel like I have kinda achieved that. I am wearing more of what I want and less 'safe' options and I am just enjoying clothes more. In 2019, I want to carry that on and continue to have fun with fashion. I am already looking forward to spring and having a bit of fun with dresses and skirts.

Get back into baking
Back in the early days of married life, I used to bake all the time. I would make bread each week and scones and biscuits almost everyday but, since Ava came along, I have slowly stopped bothering and I let Mr Kipling take the reins for a bit. But, this year, I want to get back at it. I have a book of Jewish bakes that I want to try and I am pretty excited about it all tbh (and excited to eat it all too).

Start thinking about my career
As you guys may know, I got pregnant just before I graduated uni. I did manage to get my degree (BA (Hons) English Lit don'tcha know) but then I couldn't really use it as offices seemed weirdly adverse to hiring the lady who is definitely 6 months pregnant wobbling up for an interview in heels. Can't think why? Lol. But Ava is one now and I am still at my part-time chippy job and I have that itch to start doing something again. It is a bit of a tricky one since childcare is so expensive but I would love to feel like I were using my degree for something - whether I am working from home or elsewhere for a few hours a week.

What are your goals for 2019?

Jumper: New Look (similar)
Necklace: Voice International (here)*
Trousers: Nasty Gal (similar)
Shoes: New Look (similar)
Coat: New Look (similar)
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