Creating My Home Cinema aka Making the Most of a Scary Movie!

SPONSORED FEATURE IN PARTNERSHIP WITH PANASONIC

If you read my blog regularly you’ll know I’m a massive film buff. You might have seen I’ve already started to share some of my old horror movie posts, ahead of some new ones coming up, all in the name of October and Halloween. So when I was asked if I’d like to talk about the new Panasonic 4k TV range, I of course said yes!

The first TV in my bedroom was about 4 inches square, had an aerial you had to move around. If you watched it at the wrong angle everyone looked like they were in negative. I then upgraded to a little tube tv which also had an aerial so when Channel 5 came in, I had to get up and re-tune it every time I wanted to watch Sunset Beach.

I have a vivid memory of going to a friend’s house to watch a show I’d watched many, many times, and they had a widescreen TV (which we didn’t have in our home), but they’d not tweaked the settings so everything was set to widescreen – even full screen shows – so my favourite characters were stretched and looked so odd. I supposed they’d gotten used to it, but I was baffled by the idea that people would happily watch things in a way that was, let’s face it, just plain wrong!

Times have changed immensely since then. Not only are televisions so much lighter to carry and sleeker in design, but they’re also incredibly intuitive and even customisable. Not to mention with the addition of apps, YouTube has simply become just another TV station to me.

But when it comes to my film viewing experience, I’m a bit of a geek. If I’m going to watch a scary movie, it needs to be perfect – how can you expect to get the required scares if there’s glare on the screen, the sound isn’t perfect or there’s actually ghosting on your ghosts?

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When me and G-Man decided to upgrade our old Panasonic TV from 42″ to 50″ a few years ago, we did our research, and ended up sticking with the same brand. I say we, but to be honest Gary’s such an AV geek that he did most of it, and then said to me “we’re getting this one”. Which I was fine with!

One of the things I love about our TV is that the blacks are REALLY black. Meaning, and especially for horror films, that you’re seeing things as dark as they were intended when they were filmed. So if films like Paranormal Activity are your thing, you’re going to see the dark shapes and changes exactly as you would in the cinema, with no additional shading or shadowing that could possibly spoil your experience.

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Another majorly geeky thing we did with our TV as soon as we got it, was to set up our own personal picture settings profile. There are loads of suggested setting changes on places like AV Forums and YouTube, specific to your make and model of TV. These people have done all the hard work for you, so you can simply make the settings changes to the darkness, red, green and blues etc (and make sure you take off the default IFC setting which alters the frame rate you view things at and smooths the movement) and then apply this custom profile to each HDMI slot you use (so Sky, DVD player, console etc…) I know, after doing this, that I’m watching everything the way it was intended to be watched! It’s so important to me.

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It might seem like a lot of effort (and it is a little effort) but you’ll be so much happier with your viewing experience.  And wow, this is all without even beginning to mention the clarity of a 4k display and how bright and beautiful the colours are. I can’t wait for the new BBC Blue Planet series to begin, because the trailer looked breathtaking on our TV.

When buying a new TV it can be so overwhelming. There are so many brands, all offering special things and so many different prices. But when it’s all said and done, and you’re in your living room it’s just you and the TV – and you want the best viewing experience possible.

We’re made up with our TV and the little cinema we’ve created in our set up. We just need to get around to getting some kind of surround sound system set, and my horror film binge sessions will be that much more enthralling!

 

DISCLAIMER: Though this post is sponsored by Panasonic, this TV was paid for by me and my opinions and choices are honest and my own.

 

 

 

Adulting & Growing Old: What Adults Never Told You When You Were Young

I’m coming up to 34 years old next month, and I have to be honest, I still feel 19 in my head. I think I always will.

I’ve been blessed with a young-looking face, and people always think I’m about 6 years younger than I actually am. I used to hate this but now I like it, and I hope it doesn’t change.

Me and my husband used to look at photos of when we had first met and compare them with current ones, then comment on how we hadn’t changed. But now we look at those same pictures and notice a massive difference. I’m getting old! Not really, but I’m definitely looking older.

Last week I found my first white hair – not grey, white – and I was so happy. I love the idea of getting older, and I feel like I’ve hit another milestone. I’ve been looking for greys for a while now, but since I dye my hair (and have done since I was 16) I rarely see my natural colour. For some reason this time around, my mousey-roots making an appearance hasn’t bothered me so I’m holding out dying my hair until I snap back into hating it again. My plan is that if my hair goes white I won’t have to dye or highlight it any more. I’m aware that won’t work, but let me dream for a while.

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When I was a kid, I knew that as soon as I hit 18 I’d be an adult and have it all sussed out. But along with no one telling you how much aftercare having a tattoo takes and what REALLY goes on when you give birth, it’s one of those things that people don’t tell you when you’re a kid and leave you to work out yourself;

You’ll never really feel like an adult. (Shh don’t tell the kids).

I often see a term banded around on twitter – ‘Adulting’, and I think it’s perfect. For example “I had pizza for breakfast #adulting” or “Spent the afternoon doing my accounts, and now I’m off to a wine bar #adulting” It’s used perfectly to illustrate the psyche of an ‘adult’ who has the brain of a teenager doing things they feel that can or should do but not quite feeling like an adult.

I’ve always said that I never want to feel like an adult. If I start feeling that way, things will be dull and boring and I will have lost the fun. I also say you’re never truly old until you hit about 80, so I’ve got some time to go.

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You spend your young life learning how to be when you’re thrust out into the big wild world, but you never really stop learning. You can continue to educate yourself both academically and by learning from experience and the experience of others. Everyone you meet teaches you something about people and about yourself. You never stop making mistakes, learning from them and choosing which path to take.

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I find growing older to be the biggest adventure. It’s exciting. I want to be a sponge taking it all in, adapting myself to it and moving on to the next thing. I know a lot of people who went through a funk when they hit 30, but I was the most excited. This year I turn 34 and whilst I’m not so keen with my skin changing, my ability to go out in the evening on a ‘school night’ diminishing and my life responsibilities going up, I still know there’s so much ahead of me. There’s time to learn, change, experience and move forward. There are people I haven’t met, places I haven’t seen and so many things I need to learn about myself.

Who wouldn’t want to move forward and experience all of that?

Why I…. Love Disney!

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This time around in my Why I series, I’m going to talk about why I love Disney!

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As a child one of my favourite films was The Little Mermaid. In fact, I was devastated when our VCR chewed up my tape of the movie and we had to wait until the 10 year anniversary of its release before I could re buy it (Disney videos were only on short release back then!) In the period between this though, I wasn’t really a massive fan. I didn’t go crazy for Mickey and I could take or leave The Lion King and Aladdin.

There are many Disney films that came out around my early teens that I still haven’t seen, and would never reach for.

But after meeting Gary and having the chance to visit Disneyland Paris, my love for Disney just grew and grew.

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There’s something about the parks that’s just…. magical! There, I said it.

I’ve always had a thing for Tinkerbell and had so much merchandise with her on it, so the fact that Disneyland Paris really focusses on her as a character, was something special.

If you’ve never been to a park, I’ll explain. They are so immersive. So much thought has gone into them and every detail is considered. And I don’t feel like it’s full of American over the top cheesiness that people might think it is. It’s full of happiness and joy. I adore the place.

If you’re not a regular reader of Musings of a So-Called Shutterbug, you might not know that I was able to visit Disney World last year to celebrate my 10 yr wedding anniversary. It was an incredible two weeks and really blew Disneyland Paris out of the water. Don’t get me wrong, Paris Disney is amazing and there are some elements that I prefer over Florida Disney (the Paris Castle is the prettiest in my opinion) but there is so much of it, with 4 parks, each of which bigger than you could even imagine, there’s so much to see and so much Disney magic to go around.

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You can go back and read my old post on my trip to Disney World if you would like. I’d been to Disneyland Paris twice before, which had cemented my love of Disney, but Disney World turned it into an obsession.

There’s so much detail involved in just the planning of a WDW holiday, and then once you’re there, you are (and I don’t mean this to sounds obvious) IN a world of Disney. I know that sounds stupid, but as I mentioned it’s completely immersive. It’s most definitely my happy place! You can be a kid again and all there is to do is have fun!

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There’s me looking pale as, at the Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. I think I could happily live at the Magic Kingdom.

As part of preparing to visit WDW we watched a load of Disney and Pixar films. I love a lot of the Pixar movies and have found a love for some of the older Disney ones. Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland are firm favourites. Tangled and Frozen are up there too. But my favourite Disney film has to be Enchanted. It’s fairly new and not everyone has seen it, but I really love it every time I see it. I think my favourite Pixar film is Wall E. It’s so beautiful and the music is amazing. Considering the majority of the movie has no speaking in it, I think it’s probably more of a film suited to adults, but I could watch it every day. It’s so relaxing!

I don’t think my love for Disney will ever end. I would really like a Disney related tattoo at some point, and I have an idea of a couple I’d like. Later this year we’re visiting Orlando again, and there’s possibility we might visit Disney for one day. But if not, I’ll still revel in the Disney-ness at Disney Springs.

They say Disney Parks are the happiest places on Earth, and to me, they absolutely are!

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8 Reasons I Love Blogging: It’s Our 8th Blogiversary!

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This is just a quick post to say “Yay” for Musings of a So-Called Shutterbug – it’s our 8th birthday today!

This is the longest I’ve ever consistently written a blog, since starting blogging in around 1998.

To celebrate I thought I’d share 8 reasons why I love blogging!

  1. It’s my own little corner of the internet. I write blog posts for me, and I’ll only put out things I’m proud of, so I love it when people relate to what I write.
  2. I love writing. I’m fairly creative but most of the things I’ve tried, I suck at! But I can write, and I’m glad I have somewhere to do it. And I think I’m not so bad at it. It’s my favourite hobby!
  3. The community is awesome – I’ve only discovered the blogging community in the last year or so, and I’m so pleased I did. As a fairly anti social person, I love that I can stretch my social legs and chat to kindred spirits via social media.
  4. It pushes me to be better at both writing and photography. I think about things in a more creative light.
  5. I love to hear other people’s perspective on things, and blogging allows this debate (as long as you’re not mean!) It’s more than once shown me perspectives I wouldn’t have otherwise considered.
  6. It’s shown me how awesome it is to praise others, and myself on achievements. It was once seen as vain to big yourself up, or take photos of yourself, but I think if you feel good about yourself you should show it. And it’s a great feeling to support other people if you think what they’re doing is great!
  7. Being in the blog community allows me to see what’s going on in the world, discover trends up front and early on and sometimes have the opportunity to work alongside brands. I love that I’m part of a big group of people that brands trust to share their products.
  8. The blogosphere has evolved a LOT since I started all those years ago, and I love how it’s evolved and is still evolving. But we all have the creative freedom to alter how we blog as the season changes. It’s never dull!

So here’s to another fabulous year of blogging!

Do you write a blog? Send me your links in the comments below, and hit me up on twitter @Shutterbug_Blog

I’ll see you there!

Anxiety: What It Took Me A Long Time To Learn

I’ve suffered with GAD for as long as I can remember. I remember realising I had something odd going on with my mind when I was in about year 5 or 6. I was having OCD tendencies, which I knew I wanted to stop and made a mental note to do the opposite of what my mind was telling me to do.

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Members of my family suffer from OCD so I knew it was something I’d been exposed to, but it still surprises me to this day that as a child I knew this was an issue and something that needed stopping.

It wasn’t until many many years later I was diagnosed with GAD and found out that this was something another member of my family suffered with. And it wasn’t until a few years after that, that I read a blog post online that really helped to change the way I dealt with anxiety.

I honestly don’t remember where I read the article. I was doing research for a blog post in my job and happened across the post, with relation to something else. But the post struck a chord with me.

Simply put, the author noted that she’d been trying to suppress her anxious feelings. They’d been weighing her down to the point where she was saying no to meetings, new business and opportunities. She’d been allowing her anxiety to define her and it was preventing her from moving forward in a business sense. Until one day she had a breakthrough. She decided she would greet her anxiety – acknowledge it. She moved forward knowing that she would have this reaction and instead of causing herself more stress trying to fight it, she described herself moving forward with the anxiety walking alongside her.

She soon found that it wasn’t there as much. Because she’d decided not to pay attention to it so much, not use up her energy analysing it or fighting it, that it wasn’t getting the attention it wanted and so it didn’t seem as important as it once had.

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This idea was really powerful to me. I hope it is to you, too.

Anxiety is a big snowball of horrid. You have it, you analyse it, you feel guilty for it, and then you have more of it. It’s a cycle that seems so unnecessary and is very tiring. It can debilitate, numb, paralyse. It’s in no way fun.

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It’s different for everyone, but I hope, if you suffer, that by reading this you might find some sense of relief. It won’t work every time, it doesn’t cure, but it might offer a little respite on occasion.

 

Why I: Got Married Young

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I’ve had a few people ask in the last few months, how I met my husband. So I thought that the next post in my Why I series, could be about why I got married young.

I look younger than my actual age, and when people hear that I’ve been married for almost 11 years, they instantly ask my age.

I’m turning 34 this year and I married when I was 23. People always say that’s really young to get married, but I say if you know you want to marry someone it doesn’t really matter how old or young you are!

I met G-Man when I was 19, through a friend’s boyfriend. Our official story is that we met at Glastonbury music festival. The truth is we had met a couple of months before that, and had even had a conversation at a party but the evening wasn’t about meeting boys and so our encounter was brief.

So, when we met up at Glastonbury we were able to have proper conversations, relax and watch music together. And he stayed with me and my friend the whole time he was at the festival.

There was definite sparkage between us, and I knew I liked him. We saw each other pretty much every day from that point on. After about a month I knew this was something serious and the rest, as they say, is history!

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This was the first photo of us together, in my bright orange bedroom!

We look a little different now!

We got married in the garden of a little private manor house in Hatfield, under the roof of a mini garden pavilion, whilst our friends and families sat theatre style outside on the lawn. I walked up the aisle of lavender and it was the shortest but most-perfect ceremony. A beautiful September day, small wedding and fantastic start to our married life together.

Over the years, I’ve had friends ask me things like ‘how do you know when you’re ready to get married?’, ‘how do you know you want to marry someone?’ – and I almost always answer the clichéd ‘you just know’. And that’s because you do – you just know. As certain as you know you’re alive, you just know. And if you’re questioning it, then that’s between you and your partner to work out.

I love my marriage. We get on like a house on fire, we’re best friends and though we used to argue, we know how to argue productively now. I wouldn’t say we even do argue any more. He’s the best thing in my life, and I’m happy every single day because of him.

I don’t want this to sound soppy, but everything I’ve said is true. He’s a proper gentleman and I can’t wait to spend the rest of my days with him!

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How Running Changed the Way I Feel About My Body, For the Better!

I was never an athletic child, I hated doing PE, never went in for sports and in fact the idea of going outside even filled me with dread.

Then we hosted the 2012 Olympics and all of a sudden I became interested – to the point in which I started running. Let’s be honest, I wanted the shiny medals, but I also wanted to see how far I could push my body and what I could get it to achieve.

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My affair with running ended abruptly after a series of running injuries that I managed to stretch and yoga out and ultimately ignore until I couldn’t ignore them any more. But this isn’t about that (and if you’ve been reading this blog for a while you’ll already know the back story). This is about how I now realise how much impact running and fitness had on the way I perceive my body and how I still feel about it.

I’ll start with how it affected my relationship with food. Before I started running I had never really considered food as fuel. Of course I knew it was, but I didn’t ever look at it in a clinical way. I feel like I began to see how different foods would benefit me in different ways, partially in how it would enable me to endure whichever activity I was participating in that day, but also how it could help me recover from those activities too. Once I started thinking this way, I was able to adapt this into creating healthy and useful meals so that it wasn’t all boring ‘healthy’ foods, but also things I looked forward to eating.

I posted in a recent article about how wearing sports bras affected how I felt about my small chest size, but wearing sports clothing also affected how I felt about my body all over. I had never liked the way my stomach looked when I sat down – blobby and rolly and much better if I was standing – and sure, eating well and working out makes a difference to that, but in turn because I knew I was working hard to be healthy and fit my opinion of how my body looked changed. All of a sudden I was proud of each part of my body for enduring what I was putting it through. Because my muscles, for the most part, were keeping up with the demand I was asking of it, I didn’t see my body in a negative light any more – my bum wasn’t shaped any better, my legs weren’t more shapely, my stomach wasn’t more toned – BUT I knew everything was doing its job. I was happy.

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Even though I have stopped being active in the same ways I was back then, due to injury, I still have most of that mentality. Yes I get a bit fed up if I start to feel bloated, but I know weight is relative, I know my body is strong and relatively healthy – and I know it’s working for me.

 

I’d never felt this way about my body until I started being regularly active, and I really enjoyed the way it made me feel about myself. This isn’t something I’ve forgotten since I’ve become more sedentary, either. I remember how I felt and I don’t lament over it. I’m so pleased I went through this phase, and who knows, it might rear its head again – but until then I’m delighted with the mindset it brought with it.

Here’s to feeling fit, healthy and happy with myself.

20 Ways at 20 Years; Buffy The Vampire Slayer Changed My Life

Something you might not know about me is that when I was a teenager I was obsessed with Buffy the Vampire Slayer (or BtVS). And you might know that Buffy celebrated 20 years since it first aired, last month, so I thought I might share with you the many ways it improved my life.

Back when Buffy was first being shown, I was probably the targeted viewing age. A group of friends and I would watch the show religiously – those were the days when it was considered majorly geeky to show an interest in a tv show, binge watch or even just buy merchandise.

My first experience with the show was when a friend who had a Blockbuster membership found that you could rent Buffy on double episode VHS tapes. Buffy hadn’t started being shown in the UK at that point, so we rented the videos – I think they were Welcome to The Hellmouth, Surprise and Innocent and Becoming pts 1 & 2. They were obviously out of context but it didn’t seem to bother us. Then when Sky started showing it, I was able to borrow tapes of the show from friends (I didn’t have cable or satellite TV) and then eventually we found you could pay people to tape the episodes and post them over on VHS from America – and eventually onto disc via ripping from the internet.

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There are so many positive attributes to Buffy and if you’re a fan you’ll know all about them, but I thought I’d share how the show changed my life personally!

  1. Buffy gave me a shared interest which drew me to a fantastic bunch of friends. Since I was going through a massively hard time with anxiety and depression during my time at school, having a group of people to spend time with was so important. Without this shared interest I don’t know whether I would have survived school!
  2. I discovered some great alternative music – granted a lot of it isn’t that wonderful now but the style and feel of the music certainly gave me focus and was the catalyst to a lot of the music I listen to today. I still can’t hear Full of Grace by Sarah McLachlan without wanting to sob!
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  3. The fashion in the show isn’t always a hit, but I definitely emulated a lot of the looks from the show in my day-to-day wardrobe. Nowhere else would jack ups look cool – but they seemed to work on Buffy!
  4. My internet social life started with a love of The X-Files but I met a wonderful group of people on a BtVS message board, who I still speak to and sometimes see, today. I also made friends with some people across the pond and I still stay in touch with them now.
  5. BtVS could be the reason I started blogging. I had a fansite, made graphics, socialised with other webmasters and shared articles about the show. It was my first outing into making a mark on the internet and I loved it! I wish I had some screenshots of my site, but here’s one of the banners I made for the site. (My skills were awesome, right…… :D)
  6. gateWatching a tv show with strong female lead, and a bunch of other awesome females definitely wasn’t lost on me. It also didn’t hurt that Angel was a honey….
  7. And on that note, the vocab in the show was new, exciting and totally awesome. No one heard anyone speak California slang in Milton Keynes…. well at least until they met me!
  8. Even though Buffy was set in a world where Vampires were real, it also covered some really important subjects  – unrequited love, first sexual encounters, bullying, homosexuality, school shootings, rape, death of a family member, cheating, the complexities of friendship, fitting in, not fitting in….. I could go on….
  9. I mentioned music earlier, but I’ll mention it again, this time in the guise of score. The original BtVS score, composed by Christophe Beck, was the first time I really paid attention to incidental music in TV. I’d been a fan of The X-Files and knew about Mark Snow’s score (which isn’t to my taste) but in Buffy I discovered for the first time, the idea of theming. The concept that the same phrase of music could be used time and time again in multiple episodes of the show when a particular character or characters are on screen, was wonderful. The Buffy and Angel theme still gives me chills.
  10. Watching Becoming pt 2 was the first time I ever saw something on screen that made me feel deeply sad – and it was fiction. I didn’t get it – it was both beautiful and sad and I didn’t know what to do with the emotions I was feeling. Being a teenager is HARD!tumblr_n7q5z15MH71qiizz2o3_250
  11. Something that even the people I used to watch the show with, don’t know, was that until I began watching the show I was deeply terrified of Vampires and the idea of vampires. But watching BtVS cured me of that – thanks Joss!
  12. Also, to this day WWJD doesn’t stand for What Would Jesus Do, but instead stands for What Would Joss Do. And also Thank Joss It’s Friday, is something that often pops into my head. Joss is a genius…. Nuff said.
  13. I more often than once took this photo to the hair dressers (and sometimes I would come out with something similar….)Willow-Smith-550x440
  14. When I met Gary, Buffy was still being shown on TV – he knew how important the show was to me that he borrowed my dvd sets (it must have been love!) and binge watched them to catch up so we could watch the new episodes together!
  15. I wrote a letter to Joss Whedon and got a (print) signed cast photo back all the way from LA! I was so excited at the idea that it had come from America.
  16. My obsession with Buffy was apparently so strong, that one day my Mum took me aside and said to me ‘You do know you’re not Buffy don’t you?’…. And obviously I knew…. if anyone I would have been Willow, of course!
  17. Quotable Buffy changed my life, because not only did I find I was able to come up with a quote for every situation, but I found I was able to start coming up with quick quips of my own for every situation. You know those conversations where you think of something witty to say hours after the fact? Not me, I seem to have honed the skill of coming out with it at the right time. I have BtVS’ fast dialogue to thank for that!
  18. BtVS taught me that if the boy you like suddenly starts wearing leather trousers, he’s probably turned evil so it might be worth staying away.
  19. BtVS taught me the importance of friendship both via the show, and also the community that surrounded it.
  20. Out of all of the above, I have to say the most important thing BtVS taught me is that it’s okay to be you. Be you and be kind. Whether you’re the geek, the outcast, gay, straight, feel detached from the world, estranged from friends or family, feel uncomfortable in your own skin or even if you have a big secret you feel no one would understand – be you. And be kind – because no matter how hard you feel your life is, the stranger next to you is feeling the same. We’re all trying to muddle through this world – some of us are panicking about school, others are dealing with trouble at home, and who knows the girl next to you on the train might be dealing with coming to terms with being a Vampire Slayer.

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We Went To Disney World – the movie!

 

Okay, well it’s not a movie so much as the YouTube video I’ve been promising is now up!

It’s taken me a little while to get all the footage together, and in a way that got as much as I wanted in but without boring everyone!

And if you want to read about our trip, then you can read my blog ALL about it!

I hope you like it. If you do, don’t forget to give it a thumbs up and subscribe if you want to see more!

2016: My Year in Blogging

I think this year has to have been one of my most consistent blogging years, the last one being during my year of half marathon training.

And I know exactly what changed it; the blogging community on social media and actually being actively social.

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Blogging has changed a huge amount since I started. I’ve been writing a blog for around 15 years and this particular blog for 7 and a half now. I’m so proud that Musings of a So-Called Shutterbug is the way that it is and that people seem to like it!

I started the year with around 300 email subscribers and ended it with over 600. After having started dabbling with makeup I started to see my reader stats increasing and people seemed to be interested in that kind of content. I’m not going to lie, as much as my blog posts are written for me, no one will deny the draw to being popular. Especially in such a competitive environment. And it’s SO competitive.

When I started blogging it wasn’t popular. It was something emo kids and poets did. For the record, and though there’s nothing wrong with being either of those things, I’m neither. I was just putting thoughts to ‘paper’ and then releasing them into the great ocean of the internet. I think that’s why I get on with twitter so much. You have a thought, you release it, and then it’s gone (for the most part!).

When I began putting in that extra 10% effort this year, I could see it made all the difference. But I also saw that the world of blogging, this expansive Blogosphere, was totally different from how it was when I started. EVERYONE has a blog. The content is rarely original, but when it is, it’s so good. And people can really make money from blogging. People are jacking in their 9-5 jobs to work for themselves and become influencers full-time.

And not only that, the popularity contest is so fierce that people actually pay for followers. Things I didn’t know even existed were brought to the forefront – people spend hours scheduling tweets to go out on a weekly basis. They will plan posts months ahead, spending hours perfecting their Media Kit and profile pages to be PR friendly. I have, for the time being, decided that a media kit and PR related type stuff is not for me. The other day someone had to explain to me what an Insta Pod was – I’m still not 100% sure…

A few years ago I dabbled, and worked with companies reviewing their stuff. I worked with Vita Coco, Chobani and a few tea companies. I had chocolate and yogurt coming out of my ears and finding the time to review everything was hard. I found my content was becoming watered down this ad content and I decided to let it go.

I also found it’s so hard to get noticed in the seas of ‘young’ ‘hip’ bloggers who understand social media and branding way more than I can at my mid 30’s. It’s frustrating to think that the 40th review someone has read about the latest Zoella perfume can get so much more engagement than a post I write about travel or a favourite charity….. But still.

So since I considered myself pretty good at twitter I set up a second twitter account dedicated to Musings and let it loose on the world. I got a few followers but they were mainly people who I already knew. And nothing seemed to happen….. Then I realised that I was being totally dumb and in order for people to engage with me I needed to engage with them. It’s been to the detriment of my personal twitter account, I must admit, but even so, I have really enjoyed it.

Things really started to fly when I discovered The Bloggers Hub (or I think they might have found me!), a network of like-minded bloggers who chat, help each other and are really fun. The guys who run the network are great, welcoming, and really help to boost your exposure all at the same time. They seem like the kind of people I’d really get on with IRL and there’s zero bitchiness from anyone, which is the one thing that had put me off being involved in any other twitter blogger network. Their twitter chat was also the first one I ever participated in (and since I’ve never felt the urge to join in with any others, if I’m honest). Through them I’ve found some amazing, friendly and really down to earth bloggers. I’ve also had my eyes opened to some of the pitfalls of blogging, some of the drama and plenty of the scams.

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Through twitter I got the balls to start my YouTube channel too, which is still very much in its infant stage. But it’s great to know there’s an outlet I can push my videos through, when I really want people to know what I’ve been creating.

Something I’ve always had an issue getting over, so not just this year, is the fear of putting what I really think onto the screen. And by that I mean, I sometimes have the strong urge to write a response to something that might be going on in the press or something in my life, but I’m afraid of the responses I might get. Sometimes it’s a social or political issue that I don’t feel like I know everything about but I still have a strong opinion on. I might know enough to write a post about it, but someone who knows more about it than me might comment and I won’t be able to stand my ground. This is something I hope, in time, I’ll get over. But the more exposure my blog gets, the higher the chance that someone might respond negatively to what I’ve written. I mean let’s face it, beauty bloggers get flack for using too much product in their swatches so what hope do I have if I start to comment on politics?

I also had the chance, towards the end of the year, to attend a couple of Blogger events. One was too far from home, but one was right where I live, and I chickened out. Apart from it being too much money for what you got, I didn’t feel ready to take that scary leap and be social with people I’d never met. The fear was too great. But maybe this year I’ll take the leap. There’s one blogger I’ve been friendly with for the past year, who I would consider a friend even though we’ve never met. Maybe meeting her this year will be the first step to conquering this fear. I think I need my hand held!

So what does 2017 and blogging hold for me? This year I upgraded my Peanuts Moleskine notebook, where I usually write in long hand, a full blog, if I have the idea in my head and I need to get it out. I bought a Dot Creates Blogger Planner. Inside it’s got loads of space for planning upcoming blogs. Up until now I’d either use my Peanuts Moleskine or more often just open a new page on my iPhone Notes app. This can be a little clumsy and when it comes to things like this, I appreciate putting pencil to paper more. This blog planner will also be great for planning YouTube video ideas and it makes my brain feel a little more organised!

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So planning will be important in 2017, though I don’t feel like I’ll ever be the kind of person who can sit, plan and write out posts months in advance. I’m far too much of a spur of the moment, type out whatever’s in my brain right now, kind of blogger.

I know I’ll continue with twitter because it’s been so much fun, socialising with everyone and learning too. I considered dabbling with scheduling tweets, but I enjoy actually engaging in real-time too much. Even scheduling blog posts too far ahead of time makes me feel distant from my content, so for the time being I won’t be scheduling tweets.

I’m going to work on my brand, but I want to keep it real. I don’t want to find myself moving back to where I was when I was doing PR and collaborations. That’s not me – if I talk about a product it’s because I love it and I’m just doing the same as if I told my friends about something amazing that I’d tried. And I want my readers to know that too. If I’m telling you about it, it’s because it’s worth talking about!

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I can honestly say that 2016 was my most enjoyable year in blogging, and I hope 2017 follows suit. I now know that putting that little bit of extra effort in, finding your tribe and being social makes a whole heap of difference. There’s a reason it’s called social media but for someone who isn’t incredibly outgoing or social I was just a little slow on the uptake.

But it’s okay now, because I got there eventually. And I love it!