This Week I Have Been Mostly….

this week i have been mostly

This week I have been mostly hiding from the cold! It’s been in minus degrees quite a lot this week. I’ve had to scrape ice off the car more times than I’d care to think about, and my black car starts to look white before I’ve even finished work.

I spent the week catching up on TV in the evenings, I got rid of my mousey blonde roots and added highlights. I had a lovely pamper session on Friday evening (this was after my dinner of a Big Mac meal and 6 nuggets on the side…. Yum!)

I decided that I wanted to try my hand at general day vlogging this weekend, so that’s what I did on Saturday. We had some errands to run and then headed off to the Aylesbury Waterside Theatre to see Gaslight. Originally a play, I have see both iterations of the story in film but really wanted to see what the play was like.

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I really enjoyed it, and Gary (who didn’t know anything about the story at all) was really impressed with it too. We were both enthralled until the end.

If you saw my last post, you’ll know I recently picked up some new beauty bits, and this week I’ve been trying out my Renaissance Palette. I’ve really enjoyed how versatile it is, all the colours blend so nicely together and last a really long time on the lids. I can see me using it a lot this year!

Now we’re a few weeks into January, I have to say I’m kind of missing taking a photo each day to upload to Instagram. If you aren’t aware, last year I completed a 365 project where I took a photo a day for the entire year. I’ve completed this project 3 times now, and I think last year’s was the easiest. It made a huge difference that I was uploading to Instagram instead of Flickr, and what with having the camera on my phone instead of an actual camera, it was so much easier to upload and edit the photos in super quick time. But now I don’t have to take a picture every day, and as I say – I’m missing it! Maybe I need a new photo project. Does anyone know of any good ones?

On Saturday I also filmed my Q&A video, which has now gone live on my YouTube channel. I really enjoyed filming this one, so I might do it again at some point, depending on how well it’s received. Have a look if you fancy it!

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!

Fun Times at Winter Wonderland!

Last weekend we headed to Hyde Park in London for the annual Christmas fair, Winter Wonderland.

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The intention had been to go the previous day but despite it being mild weather it rained hard all day. I’m so glad we waited because the weather was lovely the following day and even though it was colder, the sun shone brightly!

When we arrived at Hyde Park the line to get into Winter Wonderland was huge, but we walked a little further down the path to a different gate, and walked right in (pro tip!)

We headed to the Bavarian Village section first, because that’s where the best food is, and I was hungry! Every year I get the same thing. German sausage, potato dumpling with gravy and hot spiced red cabbage. It took a little while to find it this time around as they’d extended the Bavarian Village section massively, but I followed my nose and found the correct stall.

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The food was yummy as always, and after eating we had a little further look around the area. I was pleased to see the inside tent still there, with live singers on stage performing Christmas hits.

I got some mulled wine too 🙂

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The village wasn’t too busy at this point but it was getting more and more packed by the minute! For some reason they felt it important to correctly sign post EVERYTHING!

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The fairground rides this year were awesome. There was a fantastic looking rollercoaster, big wheel and haunted house.

Gary grabbed some sweetcorn to munch on which looked amazing.

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We had a little look around some of the craft stalls and then headed out of Hyde Park.

We wanted to see the Christmas lights on Oxford Street and I had to nip into some of the shops. If I hadn’t already been in London I wouldn’t have dreamt of going to Oxford Street at Christmas time. It was PACKED. But I’m really glad we did. We headed to Liberty and just as we walked in a choir started singing ‘Carol of the Bells’ which is one of my favourite carols. I’m so pleased we went in when we did!

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Heading home, shattered, but happy, the sunset was awesome and it was a lovely end to a perfectly festive day!

I also vlogged this trip so make sure you check out the video, even if it’s just to see the sunset at the end!

Anniversary Weekend in London!

Last weekend we headed off to London for a weekend away to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary. It wasn’t a surprise that day, however G Man had surprised me a few months before with the news that we were going.

The weather was really poor when we woke, incredibly humid and heavily raining, but we knew it wouldn’t spoil our weekend.

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We hopped on the train with our overnight bags and hot footed it to The Savoy to drop our bags as this was where we’d be staying overnight. I’d not been to The Savoy before, so when we got in we were surprised to see no check-in desk. Instead a woman took us to an individual desk in a side room, where we were seated and our details for our booking taken. Our bags were taken too, and we were told we would get a phone call when the room was ready and our bags would be waiting for us.

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By this point we were pretty hungry so we headed to Boxpark, Shoreditch, for the best pizza ever at Voodoo Ray’s. I had a Vegan Queen which, as the name suggests, is dairy-free. Perfect for me! And it was so tasty, you don’t even miss the cheese!

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We hung around for a bit there, since the rain was coming down heavily, and then headed to Wardour Street, Soho, and to Yorica where they serve allergy free ice creams. I got caramel and matcha soft serve. I asked for brownie pieces and sprinkles. The guy serving me looked a little confused and instead of explaining that the free sprinkles were behind me at a station once we’d paid, he put chocolate crumbles on top. It was all very good, but I thought it would have been nice to tell me where the sprinkles were. Other than that, it was tasty and nice to have a rest whilst we ate.

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We did a little shopping after that, and then headed back to the hotel. The same woman who checked us in earlier took us to our room and showed us around it, and then about 20 minutes later there was a knock at the door, and they had arranged a slice of cake as an anniversary surprise!

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I had been planning on being dairy free until my dinner, however since Gary doesn’t eat mousse and this cake had a layer of it, I thought what the hell, let’s not let it go to waste. It was very tasty!

We rested a little, had showers, and then got ready to go out.

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Dinner was at The Ivy Market Grill in Covent Garden, only a couple of minute’s walk from the hotel.

It’s a lovely set up in the restaurant and it really reminded me of New York.

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The food was lovely. I got Chicken Milanese and some broccoli and then dairy free panna cotta for pudding. Though with this and the chocolate cake I’d eaten before, I was really rather stuffed and couldn’t eat another bite!

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The next morning the sun was shining and warm and we had brunch reservations at Balthazar, also in Covent Garden.

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Gary had booked this table two months in advance, as it books out really fast. Again, it reminded me of being in New York, which is hardly a surprise as the only other one of these is in Manhattan. The waitress as very attentive and friendly, and as Gary had mentioned when booking that I have lactose intolerance, she told me what parts of my order had dairy and checked that it was okay. Top marks!

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The food was awesome, as were the coffee and orange juice.

From here we hopped the tube to Kensington Gardens as I really wanted to see the Peter Pan statue there. I’d seen in once as a child, but really wanted to see it again. Because the sun was shining the gardens were packed with people enjoying the weather and running through. I really enjoyed the walk, however after we’d visited the statue we decided to head home so we could relax for the rest of the day.

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It had been an awesome weekend. I really enjoy staying in London, even though I visit a lot, when you’re staying overnight, the city feels different! Thanks London for another enjoyable weekend!

I also vlogged this trip for my brand new YouTube channel, so if you’d like to see the moving version of this trip, then head on over, or click and watch below!