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Monday, 11 January 2016

A day in Covent Garden

Jess and I had a day free, so we decided to head to one of our favourite areas of London. No matter how many times you've been to Covent Garden there's always something new to see. We explored a few new streets and had the best time. I can't wait to do it again soon!

I was obsessed with this little fella in Kate Spade. Unfortunately he was way out of my price range (£178 in the sale) which made me sad. I wish I'd have been able to justify a reason to buy him! I also ended up with Mary Poppins songs stuck in my head all day, which was fine for the first few hours but then the amusement wore off haha.

We made a quick visit to Bloch to prepare Jess for her first adult ballet class. I can't help but appreciate the beauty of pointe shoes. So delicate and feminine, but also representative of a whole lot of hard work and determination!

We have officially reached middle age at the grand old age of 22. Decided to stop in Patisserie Valerie for afternoon tea. We had to be moved to a bigger table because they couldn't fit all of our food on it. Worth it!

We stumbled across a curious shop called Magma which sold everything I never knew I needed. This park scene was available in two-dimensional form. I couldn't resist, but I think I may have overestimated my ability to convert tiny pieces of card into anything resembling this. I'm just hoping I don't sneeze halfway through an attempt!

We noticed a shop called kikki.K which we'd not seen before, so decided to have a glance at what they sell. BIG MISTAKE. Turns out that they sell a lot of beautiful things, and unless you have more restraint than me your wallet will be a lot lighter when you leave. I'm going to do a haul post soon because I picked up a few amazing things :)

As always there were some incredible street performers. It's not obvious from this photo, but these two were on unicycles approximately six feet and ten feet high, whilst juggling six batons.

We couldn't leave without a quick trip to the Covent Garden Disney Store, which usually has a few exclusives. Jess is obsessed with the candyfloss scented Bing Bongs, and managed to draw a few odd looks from people who had no idea he was scented.

Yoda, I am.

Rudolph stood proudly as the last of the festive decorations. Next year I'm determined to get there earlier to experience it in all its sparkling glory!

I hope you all had a great weekend! Did you do any exploring? Until next time :)

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Thursday, 31 December 2015

My year in photos

One of the best experiences of my life. Watching the sunset at the tip of Borneo.

On reflection, this year has been one of the best of my life: I hadn't even realised how much I'd done until now. I've made new friends, started a new job, found new hobbies and gone on an adventure. I'm so lucky to have experienced so many new things, and I can't wait to see what next year brings! 

Warning: photo-heavy post! Here are the best moments of my year :)

January - the family looking smart at a cousin's wedding :)

March - My amazing french exchange partner Adélaïde came to stay for a few days. Tu me manques!

April - one of my favourite photos I've taken this year. Cherry blossoms in the back garden :)

April - at Camp Sharkie (for more information about 'Sharkies' see my previous post here). I spent 4 days at Center Parcs with the best bunch of people. Lodge 150 had a go at decoupage :)

Camp Sharkie - the best community. Ever.

May - another night with some beautiful people. A wonderful member of the Black Milk community organised a birthday party for a number of us whose birthday fell on the same week (mine is the 11th!)

May - HARRY POTTER STUDIO TOUR! I had already been, but I was eager to go again so I went with my sister to celebrate our birthday. It was just as good the second time :)

May - the cutest alpacas ever at the Royal Bath and West show.

July - the start of my flexibility journey. Yeah, I couldn't touch my toes.

14th of July - the best day all year. My mum was declared officially free of cancer.

July - completing the Shaun the Sheep trail in Bristol on a beautiful day.

August - got a brilliant view of the Bristol Balloon Fiesta from our window.

August - watching the sunset from above the clouds in El Teide National Park, Tenerife.

Tenerife - a close encounter with short fin pilot whales and bottlenose dolphins. It was incredible to see them in their natural habitat!

September - yay for progress!

October - I went to visit a wonderful friend in Canterbury for her birthday. We took a day trip to Whitstable, and I fell in love with how quaint it was.

October - matching with Issy. The most beautiful person inside and out <3

November - Borneo. Witnessing a herd of Pygmy elephants in a palm oil plantation. One of the most surreal moments of my life.

Borneo - the cutest baby Orangutans playing together at a rehabilitation centre.

Borneo - I loved my first experience of snorkelling. Not a bad view either.

December - at the Black Milk UK Christmas party. Every single person there was fantastic <3

The Christmas party - I <3 them!

I hope you've all had a great 2015! Either way, I hope 2016 is even better :)

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Tuesday, 29 December 2015

My Resolutions for 2016

This year has been a bit of a rollercoaster for me, but I'm pleased to be able to say that I'm now the happiest I've been in a long time. There's always room for improvement though, so here are the things I'm going to try to focus my efforts on next year.

1. Be in the moment more often
Recently it's really dawned on me how much time I waste burying myself away from reality, whether that's on my phone, my laptop, behind a camera or in a book. Time slips by, and before you know it you've missed what's right in front of you. There's so much to be seen, if only we make the effort to look for it. Next year I'm going to make a conscious effort to spend time in my surroundings with no distractions.

2. Appreciate those around me
This year involved quite a few hospital visits for my family. Luckily everyone has made it through relatively unscathed, but it did remind me that people won't be here forever. I'm so lucky to have been born into a family that supports me, and to have met some of the best people who I can now call friends. Next year I'm going to spend as much time as possible with them and let them know that they're loved.

3. Make more time for things that I enjoy
This is partly related to number one. I spend so much time doing nothing of substance, that I run out of time to actually *do* things. This year I've been lucky enough to find a few new hobbies, and I'd love to dedicate more time to them. If I really put my mind to it I'm sure I'll make progress that I'm proud of.

4. Carry on with my fitness journey
Related to number 3! I've been lucky enough to find exercise classes that don't feel like a chore. It's an amazing thing to feel yourself getting stronger and fitter when all you've done is enjoy yourself. A particular goal for this is to be able to hold a handstand for a minute - I'd love to be able to hand balance, and have recently started handstand classes to help me achieve my goal.

5. Be more spontaneous
I've always been a "sensible" person, and my anxiety has meant that I find it hard to push myself outside of my comfort zone. I think my recent trip to Borneo was the first semi-spontaneous (booked a few months in advance) thing I've ever done, and that was incredible. So next year, if I want to go to visit a friend halfway across the country, I'm going to do it. If I want to see a film but have no-one to go with, I'll go by myself. Time is precious, and I need to start using it more efficiently instead of wasting time waiting.

6. Blog more!
Quite a few of my posts this year have started with a variation of 'Sorry I've been away for a while. I'm back now and I'm intending to blog more'. That's something I'm not proud of as I started this blog as a way of being creative and pursuing my passions for writing and photography. I feel like once I get back into the process I'll be okay. Creativity breeds, so I'm hoping that if I manage to keep it up for a little while my blogging funk will be back :)

For the past few years I've not been in the right mindset to be able to plan ahead. Now I'm feeling better, and I've decided that 2016 will be the year to live, not just be alive. I hope you're all as excited about a fresh start as I am! What are your resolutions for next year? :)

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Saturday, 26 September 2015

Ten things that I live for

In the 21st century people put a lot of weight on the happiness derived materialistically. Some people even measure their happiness by how many pairs of shoes they own, or how nice their car is. I'd like to say that this doesn't apply to me, but it's so ingrained within society that I don't believe anyone is immune to it. However, the past few weeks have been amazing for one particular reason - my friends. I realised that there are more fundamental reasons for our happiness, and we all need to become more aware of these. Once we're aware we can embrace them, and increase our happiness without hurting our bank account! Here are ten things that make me happier than anything else.

1. Finding beauty in unexpected places.
2. Realising that I have more in common with someone than I first thought.
3. Making other people happy.
4. Being around people that radiate joy.
5. Being able to support those that need me most.
6. Achieving my goals.
7. Finding someone that I connect with instantly.
8. Doing something outside of my comfort zone.
9. Moments when I realise that there's nowhere else in the World I'd rather be.
10. Being happy with who I am.

I found writing this list really therapeutic, so why not give it a go? It confirmed to me that the best things in life really are free.

What do you live for?

Monday, 24 August 2015

A blogger's guide to Canva

Have you heard of Canva before? It's a blogger's dream. For a long time Photoshop was the dedicated blogger's go-to tool for improving the appearance of their work, but now there's a new kid in town. I've only been using Canva for a few weeks, but it's completely blown me away. It allows me to create images that look as though I have way more artistic talent than I actually possess. And this really pleases the artist within me - I can finally start pushing myself to create the images I picture in my head.
Here's the low-down if you're interested in finding out more.
So, what is Canva?
Canva, simply put, is a website found here. But more than that, it's a tool. It offers free and paid picture elements, and guides you through graphic design to allow you to create more exciting images than you ever have before.

What can I do on Canva?
Pretty much anything you'd ever want to do to edit an image. There's the standard options that everyone is familiar with - crop, sharpen, change the contrast, add a filter (I actually really love Canva's filters, and often use those instead of Instagram's now). What makes Canva different are the premade layouts - these are complete designs that include an edited image, picture elements and text. These serve as an easy starting point if you're lacking inspiration for an image, as any single element of these can be edited as you choose. Quite often I will browse the layouts for a font or filter I like the look of and then apply these to my own images. What's even better is that Canva provides these layouts for images with different dimensions - there are some for Social Media (square), posters, blog headers etc. Canva's picture elements allow you to add another dimension to your designs. It really is a great stepping stone into graphic design, and a brilliant tool for even the most experienced designers.
Are there any restrictions?
Yes. Canva has its own Terms of Use (found here), which explain the legal side of things. To summarise, once you create an image on Canva with one of their paid-for elements (made obvious by the watermark displayed on them until you pay for them when downloading the image), you have 24 hours to edit the design. Otherwise you have to buy the elements again. This is called the One Time Use Licence Agreement, and it's how Canva can offer these elements for only $1 a time. The contributors are guaranteed a dollar every time their design is used, as opposed to just $1 per user. I don't know about you, but this strikes me as entirely reasonable. Once you've paid for your design you're permitted to use this just about anywhere - on social media, promotional material, even book covers. Prohibited uses are mainly the common sense type things, such as distributing the stock media, saving the stock media for later use in a different design or using the media in defamatory materials.
But I don't have an artistic bone in my body - is Canva for me?
Yes, absolutely! It's free to create an account, so please give it a go and be amazed at what you can create :)

Have you discovered Canva yet?

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

5 simple photography tips for beginners

So, a small disclaimer to begin. I certainly don't consider myself to be an expert (I've only been using a DSLR in any capacity for less than a year), but these are the techniques that I've found have most improved my photography so far. I hope that they can help a few of you!

Rule of thirds
This is a composition technique used to help make a photograph more interesting (also a useful guideline when you can't decide how to take a picture!). In a nutshell, the idea is to place the subject of the photo (what you want the viewer to be focussing on) at the intersection between a third of the way across the horizontal, and a third of the way down the vertical. So, in your mind, split the photo into three across and three down (alternatively most cameras have a setting to add these grid lines to your screen). Wherever any of these lines cross (four different positions) is where you should aim to place your subject. Obviously this won't apply for things shots like portraits where you don't particularly want someone's head stuck in a corner!

Think about colour
Using contrasting colours or similar colours can lead to two very different images stylistically. Obviously this isn't something you can always control, but for photos where you can determine the composition this is definitely something to consider. Do you want the viewers' eyes to be drawn instantly to a particular subject? Maybe consider using contrasting colours in this case. If you'd rather the focus was the entire composition then colours that harmonise might work best.

Consider lighting 
If you want to take photos of things on the floor (or looking down onto any other horizontal surface) then it's probably best to take these when the sun is highest in the sky, otherwise you'll get elongated shadows, which will detract from the subjects. It's tempting to take shots of things on your window sill as that's where most of the light is. But that can often lead to problems due to the sheer amount of light coming through the window behind. The subject will appear dark, and maybe out of focus due to the contrast. Take photos close to a window, but on a surface where you can photograph it at right angles to the window (as equally you don't want to be between the window and the subject or you'll block all the light!)

Use manual focus to be more precise
If you're struggling to focus at the correct depth using your DSLR on auto focus then switch to manual focus. You can then fine tune the focus to precisely where you want it. It took me ages to move away from auto settings, but manual really isn't that scary once you get used to it! I also love using manual focus to take out of focus photos, particularly with string lights! They create a cool bokeh effect :)

Take practice shots
A pretty obvious one, but the advantage of most modern cameras is that you don't have to worry about the cost of film or how long it'll take to develop. I often take anywhere up to 50 photos for each blog post to test out angles, lighting and composition (I figure my family have just accepted the fact that it sounds like I'm conducting a full-blown photo shoot in my room). Don't be afraid to keep snapping, moving and rearranging until you take something you're 100% happy with.

Do you have any other tips that you picked up on when you were just starting out? :)

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Review: Fashion Icon by Barry M

(had to up the contrast a little bit, just so you could see how awesome this actually looks IRL)

There aren't many nail varnishes that I fall head over heels for (demonstrated by my way-too-large varnish collection), but this is one of them. I can't say I'm a major fan of glitter nail varnishes - they can be a bit too dramatic for me. But this varnish is more like a shimmer: very fine glitter that isn't super obvious until the sun hits it just right. Then you'll be transfixed. The colours in this are amazing. The shimmer is amazing. The formula is great and really long lasting. And it looks just like a galaxy. What more could you want from a nail varnish?

Fashion Icon is part of the Glitterati collection from Barry M and is available at Boots and Superdrug for £3.99.

Have you fallen in love with a nail varnish recently? :)

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