Follow me:
Browsing Category

Blogging

  • Holly at Center Parcs Woburn Forest

    How and Why I work with Brands

    I may be more in tune to the discussions about online influencers (for want of a better word – for what it’s worth, I think content creator is a far better description of what us bloggers/instagrammers do) because it’s part of the industry I work in, but every time I see an article (like this recent ‘Most shoppers mistrust influencers’ BBC News piece) that slates the reputation of this relatively new field, I feel a pressing sense of sadness. It paints what I think is an untrue picture.

    I thought it was wise, important and somewhat overdue that I make sure it’s clear to all my readers (whether you’re a long time follower, relatively new or just nipped in because you found a blog post of mine on Google) exactly why and how I work with the brands I do – and impress how often I don’t. read more

    Blogging
    / December 29, 2018
  • Oasis Clothes Fashion Rail at BrumBloggers event

    The #BrumBloggers Oasis Fashion Event

    This is a sponsored post.

    We are so lucky in Birmingham! We have such a wonderful community of bloggers in our area, and I absolutely love when I get chance to hang out with my blogging colleagues. Earlier this month, I was invited to a fun fashion-filled evening at Oasis in the Bullring, to check out their new collections and take some much needed advice from their stylists Danni and Anty.

    If you’re a Mother reading this, I don’t need to tell you what a struggle it is to get your head around ‘fashion’ after you’ve had a baby. The whole ball game changes. Your body proportions change, so even if you’re lucky enough to fit back into your pre-pregnancy clothes, they just don’t look the same. Add to that the challenge of ensuring every outfit is ‘breastfeeding-friendly’ (a term I hate, by the way), and looking into the wardrobe every morning can be a bit of a frustrating experience. Or maybe it’s just me?

    For a long time, it felt like a wasted effort to even bother. I had more important things to worry about – like keeping a tiny human alive – and hey, even if I did wear something nice, it invariably ended up covered in spit-up, poo or milk. Seriously, what was the point? But now, I’ve realised the transformative power of a good outfit. I know how much of a difference it makes to my day, and to Pickle’s day, when I feel confident and empowered. I know it’s worth spending the time, and money, on.

    Oasis clothes have been a staple of my wardrobe for a long time. They just suit me, so being able to spend a couple of hours, child free, to browse the store was my idea of heaven. It was a treat. And I couldn’t believe how many pieces I fell in love with (that stripey skirt above is my absolute FAV). Anty, one of the stylists at the Bullring store, was brilliant – she just got me! I think we have very similar tastes in style so she was able to point me in the direction of the things she’d think I like, as well as steer me in some new directions I’d have previously cast aside as ‘not for me’. I still can’t quite make up my mind whether I like the hot pink jumpsuit. As a pastels-loving girl, I think I still need some extra confidence to wear such a bright colour… but the more I look at it, the more it grows on me.

    I’ve been constantly checking the Oasis website ever since. Waiting for payday to roll around so I can treat myself to a few new pieces to jazz up my wardrobe and my ‘Mum-style’. We’ve got a few summer weddings around the corner too, and Oasis seems to be the place for wedding guest outfits – I spotted so many Oasis outfits at the wedding we were at last night! Is that a bit sad that I’ve been looking at the website and in store so much that I could recognise them? I’m going to be booking in a proper styling session with the Oasis girls so they can get me sorted. Anyone else feel more of a pressure to not look drab and dowdy when you know you’re going to be with lots of your non-Mum friends? Especially as we’ll be heading to a couple of these weddings toddler-free, I just want to live the dream of sitting elegantly in some kind of beautiful orangery or conservatory, basking in the sunlight surrounded by lots of plants, sipping on cocktails with a sparkle in my eye and a little bit of sass in my walk.

    I didn’t know whether to share this either… wondering whether it sounded a bit silly or vain… but I cannot tell you how amazed I was during this event to realise I’d dropped a dress size too. I’ve been doing Slimming World for about a month now and I’ve been loving it. You can read a bit more about why I’m trying to live a healthier lifestyle, and even though I don’t necessarily buy into a number on the sales or hanger determining your beauty or worth, it felt like one step closer to regaining some of my old pre-baby identity back. That said, I couldn’t help but enjoy some of the delicious food treats during the event laid on for us by Bill’s Restaurant at the Bullring – where I’d had breakfast not long before with some of my Johnson’s Baby Ambassador pals.

    It was such a treat to see some of the #BrumBloggers lot again – the lovely Sarah Cale and Domanique who I’d met before, and I LOVE seeing Emily’s outfits on her Instagram, so really pleased to have had a chance to say hello – in a gorgeous Joanie Clothing dress, no less! I’m very much hoping to go along to another #BrumBloggers meet up this coming week – Ting does a great job at organising these and I love a good natter, even if it’s sometimes a bit nerve-wracking at first.

    Have you had a nose at the Natural History Collection at Oasis yet? What do you make of it?

    Disclaimer: this is a sponsored post, but I was not paid by Oasis or BrumBloggers for this coverage or for my attendance of the fashion event at the Bullring in Birmingham. All opinions and views remain my own, and as always, is 100% honest.

    Blogging, Fashion, Lifestyle
    / June 17, 2018
  • Muddy Puddle splashing

    How to Photograph your Toddler

    Without a doubt, the best skill I’ve acquired through blogging has been my improved photography. It’s been a long learning curve, and it’s a journey I hope to continue: constantly improving, trying new things and finding new ways to capture my family but the huge photograph collection I’ve been building of Pickle is worth so much to me and I know it’s something I’ll be incredibly grateful for in years to come. Learning how to use my DSLR has taken me some time, but whether you’re shooting on the latest DSLR model or your trusty camera-phone, here are some tips from me to you to help you take better photographs of your toddler.

    1. Use whatever camera you have on you

    Someone once told me, the ‘best camera’ is the one you have at the time. You can have the fanciest, highest spec model, but if it’s not with you when you want to capture a moment – it’s no good at all. I’m a little obsessive with my camera, so it’s rare these days for me to leave the house without it but wherever I am, I know I’ll always have my phone with me as a back up option.

    Both of these photos were taken on my phone and although they might not compare artistically to some of the fancier photos I took on my DSLR camera that day, the one of Pickle with his nose scrunched up is one of my absolute favourites!

    2. Is your toddler is safe?

    We all know how adventurous toddlers are! That’s what makes them such hard work, but also it’s these moments of mischief and exploring that are sometimes the most fun to capture. I’ve found I’m so much more relaxed and able to take better photos if I know Pickle can’t get into too much trouble – it’s mainly why I have so many photos of him in the swing!

    Playgrounds are good places for photos as they tend to be contained whilst providing lots of opportunity for adventure, with lots of lovely natural light. I could probably do a whole blog post just on photos I’ve taken in various different parks!

    3. Make the most of the light

    This one is a tricky one to explain as I feel like everything I’ve learned about light and what kind of conditions I look for has come from trial and error. No matter how much I read and try to learn the theory behind the ‘best’ kinds of light, it definitely takes practice. Now, knowing how to use the light to my advantage has become a little more instinctual, and a lot depends on the style of photo I’d like to go for, or what camera I’m using.

    I find my camera phone is better in brighter light, but my DSLR is much better in dappled light (either with a bit of cloud cover or in the mottled shadow of a tree). A bit of experimentation with light can produce some beautiful effects – like this unique light captured coming through a hedge. I hadn’t quite got the shutter speed right here (you can see some blurring on his wellingtons, but it’s an interesting photo none the less.

    I’m a big fan of a backlit photo (which isn’t something generally recommended for portraiture photography), but I love the light halo it creates, and I think it’s particularly magical for children.

    Not all the photographs you want to take will be outside. Photographing indoors is something I find harder as our house is naturally quite dark. If possible, try to use light from a single source (e.g. through a window) rather than having a ceiling light and a lamp on as well, and adjust your white balance settings accordingly.

    4. Use a fast shutter speed

    If you’ve managed to find a way to keep your toddler still for a photo, I’d love to know your trick! Instead, I have to use the fastest shutter speed I can to make sure I still get a fairly crisp image despite the constant movement. I’ve heard that at least 1/200 is a good place to start but I often end up using a speed much higher than this (especially when I’m shooting with my 50mm lens).

    That said, sometimes a little bit of movement works wonders. We had great fun capturing these photos of Pickle playing in the leaves, and I love the mixture of sharpness and movement.

    5. Be opportunistic

    Sometimes, the best photos aren’t planned in advance. In fact, with toddlers (certainly with my toddler!) it’s a fruitless exercise to try and orchestrate a particular photo. For me, it’s all about letting him do his own thing, and being opportunistic with the camera and capturing what I can.

    Sometimes, being opportunistic also means trying out unique angles. I often try and make sure I’m on the same level as Pickle when taking photos (I’m always crouching, most of the time!) but sometimes capturing him from below or above can create some interesting, dynamic photos.

    6. Don’t forget to enjoy yourself

    For me, photos are only as good as the memories attached to them. If you’ve spent a whole trip out worrying about getting the perfect photo, you won’t have had time to enjoy the day, and it’s really likely you’ll forget about the photos you took anyway. When I look back at photographs, it’s because I have good memories surrounding them. And it’s because of those memories that a smile creeps onto my face, not because of a perfect composition or good use of light.

    7. Embrace the outtakes!

    Sometimes, photos don’t turn out the way you expect. And that’s okay! Whether it’s a facial expression you’d rather not be caught on film (which happens to me all the time) or you accidentally chose the wrong settings, these photos we sometimes might initially dismiss can end up being some of the most memorable!

    Don’t think that all your photos need to be happy smiles either. Toddlers tantrum. We all know this. And in years to come, I think I’ll be glad to have some photos taken during the tough times as well as the easier ones. I don’t know why, but I really like the following photo of Pickle lying down on the floor when we visited Berkeley Castle.

    8. Be in the photo

    As much as I love taking photos of Pickle, it’s often the times I relinquish the camera to someone else and let myself be in the photo that I treasure the most. And I know in years to come, it’s the photos of us together that will take pride of place on the mantel piece.

    If whoever you are with isn’t comfortable using your camera, you can take a test shot beforehand to check all your settings and then it’s just a case of letting a friend, your partner or whoever else point and shoot. I’m forever trying to encourage LPD (Little Pickle’s Dad) to get more interested in photography, but at the moment, I definitely need to be adjusting the settings for him.

    9. Editing photos

    Don’t fall into the trap of overly editing your photos. Whilst it’s true that a little bit of tinkering can help bring out the colours, or help compensate for any under or over exposure… I’m not a fan of the overly edited look. I want my photos to look like us.

    Here’s an example of an unedited photo compared to an edited photo (I almost used this photo in the outtakes section as this wasn’t a moment I was hoping to capture… Pickle’s concentration here is his classic ‘doing-a-poo’ face!).

    Unedited:

    Edited:

    As you can see, I’ve not made any massive changes: I’ve warmed up the colours a little, toned down the highlights, pulled up the shadows and added a little contrast. For my editing, I now use Lightroom but I’ve only recently begun to use that. If you’re new to editing, there are some great free online tools that you can use. I used to be quite the fan of Pixlr Express – although, I always worried that it overly reduced the quality of my photo. Lightroom is much quicker and offers far more editing options.

    10. Print them

    What’s the good of a photo that lives eternally on your computer’s hard drive? If you’ve taken a photo that you love of your little one, print it out, pop it in a frame and display it proudly. I have to confess that this is something I don’t do half as much as I’d like. I’d love our house to be littered with photography, but I’m a little wary of hanging things on the wall in our rented property at the moment.

    I do have a few photo albums that I’m remembering to fill up, but I’d love to have more photos up on display. Photographs are windows to our memories, and I want to be surrounded by all of mine.

    Photographing Pickle as he grows has been the most incredible privilege. I hope when he’s old enough to go through the photos himself, he’ll be grateful that I’ve spent so much time documenting his early years, and I’ll keep my fingers crossed that he’ll happily continue to be photographed as the years go on.

    Go forth and photograph

    If reading this has inspired you to be a bit more adventurous with your family photography, I’d love to hear from you and see some of your results. But whether your photographs stay private for your family or not, enjoy capturing them, have fun and take in as much as you can of your little one and remember: a photo doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to remind you of the moments you don’t want to forget.

    Blogging, Parenting
    / April 30, 2018
  • A 2017 Blogging Year in Review

    At a time where I really ought to be looking forward to the year ahead, I want to indulge in just a little bit of analysis of the year that’s just gone by. For lots of reasons, 2017 will be a memorable year, and mainly for all the wrong reasons. It’s been a year of great sadness and grief for too many of my friends and family, and although I know the start of a new year is an ‘arbitrary’ new beginning, I hope it does signal a change in fortune.

    Over the past year, I’m really proud of what my little blog has grown to become. I’m hardly taking the internet by storm, but I can see such improvement in all aspects of my online presence and it’s amazing to look back and realise how much I’ve learned. We’ve benefited from some incredible opportunities this blog has brought about, and I’m forever grateful for the family memories we’ve made as a result.

    Photography

    There’s barely a day that’s gone by this year where I’ve not had my camera in hand. Capturing the precious moments of Pickle’s babyhood, and now toddlerhood, is absolutely invaluable to me. I remember starting the year saying that about 1 in 50 photos I took turned out ‘alright’, and now, that average is much better! I’m by no means a professional photographer, but I’m always learning more about light and composition and I’m excited to see how much more I can improve this year.

    I’ve picked a few images from throughout the year that I particularly like – I can’t believe how much Pickle has grown! I’ve split them into two groups. The start of the year, and the end of the year so there are two big chunks of photographs to peruse with some reflection on goals in the middle!

    January – June in Photos

    Geeking out on Stats

    I love sifting through my Google Analytics. I’m fascinated by the statistics, and finding out as much as I can about what you all like to read, where and how you come across my content and what you do once you’re here. I’m always surprised by what I find out. Having a look through what were my most read blog posts was a real eye-opener. Fancy a gander? Here they are:

    Top 10 Most-Read Posts (excl. Giveaways)

    1. My First Bullet Journal
    2. Splashing in Muddy Puddles with Lottie Doll (technically, this was a giveaway too!)
    3. Pregnancy Skincare: The Holy Trinity of Bobbi Brown Products
    4. Baby Breakfast Ideas from other Bloggers
    5. Our Kiddy Evoluna i-Size Car Seat
    6. A Year of Breastfeeding
    7. Motherhood: How am I doing? Where do I rank?
    8. Are these my Bad Parenting Habits?
    9. Purchase: Mothercare Orb Pram
    10. Theatre Review: Sponge – Turned on its Head

    I feel quite conflicted about this list. On the one hand, I’m not surprised that my random one off Bullet Journal post is up there – the Google traffic for that is immense, but looking over the list as a whole, I don’t feel like it represents what I’d like my most popular posts to be. As a family, we’re always heading out for little adventures outdoors, and you’d have no idea about that from the list above – although, I’m glad at least one theatre review made it into the top 10!

    So what would I like my list to look like?

    The 5 Posts I’m Most Proud of:

    1. Children’s Culture Highlights for October Half Term
    2. Our Family Camps – New Quay in Scrapbook Style
    3. Top Tips for attending a Wedding with a Toddler
    4. An Adventure to Sutton Park and Back
    5. Our Beco Gemini Babywearing Adventures

    What about my 2017 goals?

    At the start of 2017, I made myself some fairly concrete goals I was hoping to achieve, and wrote about them in this Blogging Goals post. I didn’t quite achieve everything I wanted to, but looking back – I was perhaps a little bit ambitious! And besides, a lot of algorithms have changed since which makes what was perhaps a bit easier at the start of the year, a bit more difficult as time has gone on.

    2017 Goals Results

    Post 100 Blog Posts: SUCCESS! I published just over 100 posts for the year – 113 to be exact. I’d still like to be producing more content, but at the same time, I’d always value higher quality content that takes longer to produce over lots of quick posts. Although you may look at my blog posts and think I probably bash them out relatively quickly – it takes me a long time to write these things. I constantly write, and re-write. Edit and streamline, move paragraphs around and I always read my writing out loud to make sure they flow in the way I want them to. It takes time. And as we all know as parents, time isn’t something we have in abundance!

    Domain Authority of 30: I was SO close to achieving this. After beginning the year with a DA of 19, I finished on a DA of 29. I’m pretty pleased with that, and gives me a great springboard for 2018. I expect growth to be a bit slower in the next year – but can’t wait to see where I end up this time next year.

    10,000 Page Views a month: I didn’t achieve this. In fact, at best, I achieved just over half. 5,000 is a good month for me, and although I’d love that to be higher – I need to change my approach to writing for that to happen, I think. I might try and mix things up a little more in 2018, write a little more influenced on search traffic, as well as writing about the things I care most about. One day, I hope those two things align really nicely, but at the moment – there’s a bit of a gap in the middle!

    Social Media Following of 20,000: Pahahahahaha, what an ambitious target that was. I’m WAY off. Like, embarrassingly off. I think I’m sitting around a combined following of 7,000-ish. But that’s okay. Slowly, slowly, catchy monkey.

    I’m still to set my 2018 goals. I’d like them to be a little more realistic this year, and I need to stay motivated throughout the year, not just in the first three months. This year is likely to be quite different to the last, and I’m going to have to be really focused if I want to achieve what I have in mind. No rest for the wicked, eh?

    July – December in Photos:

    So there we have it. My 2017. I want to take the bull by the horns over the next fortnight: spend some time getting the house spruced up, start really taking care of myself so that I can feel a bit more confident in my own skin and make some really concrete goals, aims and plans so that I make this year one that I can be equally as proud of. Let’s do this.

    Blogging, Parenting
    / January 2, 2018
  • Selling My Photography with the Gallerist App #ad

    This is a sponsored post.

    Over the past year, I’ve been making a concerted effort to improve my photography. I’ve fallen in love with it! I love carting my camera everywhere I go, eagerly on the look out for any interesting colours, angles or viewpoints to capture along with any super cute moments of Pickle. Learning how to use my camera has not only given me a creative outlet, but also ensured we have some beautiful photos of Pickle at this precious age that I know we’ll treasure for years and years to come. I’m definitely still an amateur, but when I found out about the Gallerist app and the potential to earn a little bit of money from my photography, I was really intrigued.

    Blogging
    / September 12, 2017
  • BlogOn Conference sweets

    A Crisis of Confidence at #BlogOnMSI

    It’s really rare for me to have a day away from Pickle. I don’t often even have a couple of hours away from him, and he still spends most of the night sleeping snuggled up next to me. We’re a little team. A unit. We come as a pair. So I think it threw me a little bit to be at the Blog On conference on my own yesterday. I really wasn’t myself and despite having looked forward to it ever since coming home from my last one in September, I left feeling disappointed in myself.

    Blogging
    / May 22, 2017