Saturday, November 11, 2017

John Lewis Blogger Secret Santa

The only Secret Santa I have been exposed to before is the work one where everyone buys each other boxes of cereal because we think it's cool, and fun, FACT: it's not. I pride myself on the fact that I think I'm pretty good at getting presents for people, and I'm not talking about a box of Rice Krispies from Lidl.

Regardless to say, when John Lewis invited me to be part of their blogger secret Santa this year, I said yes. If anyone can find someone faster on social media and get onto their brothers, girlfriends, dogs Instagram by the end of the night, it's me. CIA agent or not, I was up for the challenge of getting to know A Glass of Ice online well enough to pick out some gifts that she would love.

After scouring through her social accounts and blog, I almost went back to the beginning of time in search of hints and finding out what she likes. The first step was obviously the John Lewis Secret Santa section, packed full of cute and novelty gifts, well within my price range. It's perfect for work secret Santa's where your budget may be £5-£10. With something for everyone, I'd quickly stumbled upon a gorgeous Wild & Wolf Pen, flashback to the post I read on her bog about national stationery week, I was holding onto anything I could here.

Confident with my secret Santa gift, I then navigated to the gifts section where I selected a favourite box of her chocolates and a Charlotte Tilbury palette, UHH dreamy or what? 

The response when she unpackaged her gifts on her Insta stories was a huge relief! Phew. It's great to receive gifts, but thoughtfully choosing something which is then loved really is the best feeling for me at Christmas. Mission achieved. 

I was then so excited to see what she had chosen for me. Let's take a peek inside shall we?
2018 Family Diary*
Copper Magazine Rack*
 GIRL DID GOOD! As I tore back the wrapping paper and saw the first glint of copper, I knew. I mean, it's not like I own anything copper in my home, right? ;) 

As an absolute candle fiend, I was over the moon to receive the dreamiest 2 wick candle from Rathbornes, it's going to keep my home warm and cosy on so many winter evenings. Perfect for a gal that hits the sofa as soon as she gets home, eh?

To finish off my little loot, I also received a 2018 diary, perfect for all those New Years resolutions I'll never achieve and planning my year ahead. I'm such a diary, to do list person, and even if you don't achieve it all, so what? I intend on scoffing these bonbons whilst I'm at it, because a) I love pink and b) I like sweet stuff. 

Gabrielle did a stellar job for my Secret Santa goodies, so a huge thank you to her and John Lewis for making it happen!

Christmas for me is all about giving, and John Lewis make that easy. No matter what you're looking for, what gifting conundrum you think you're facing, and whatever budget or hobby, it's catered for on John Lewis. Do something special this Christmas and watch their face light up as they unwrap that gift, there's no better feeling like it.

I hope you're feeling a little bit festive after reading this post, as I certainly am after consuming 15437 marshmallows whilst writing this post. The countdown begins...
What do you think of my gifts? Do you like doing Secret Santa?

*Products marked with an asterix (*) have been sent to me for review. However, all opinions in this post are 100% my own
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Thursday, November 9, 2017

5 Ways To Up Your Instagram Story Content

Pretty sure we all abandoned Snapchat and ran for the hills a few months back when Instagram unveiled their Insta Stories function. Like I don't actually have to be jumping back in and out of one app and another anymore. Not gonna lie, it was exhausting. 

Most people find that their Insta Stories (as a blogger/influencer) reach a LOT more people than snapchat. I'm talking 100's more people for me rather than my mere 30 followers on Snapchat who care more about what kebab they're picking off the floor on Saturday night than what bits you've been hauling at your local Boots store. 

The best bit about Insta stories is you can mute stories too, without that said person knowing. So if some of your followers don't appreciate them, that's fine. You have a more targeted audience for it.

I *think* I've really upped my Insta story game recently, like OMG I've actually spoken in them and no, YOU watch yourself back 100 times after posting it. Anyway, if you're wanting to make yourself known more on your Insta Stories and reach out to your followers on a different level, here's 5 ways to up your Insta story content.

1. Get Haulin'

There's no surprise that people love a haul, I've been in the game too long now on my blog to know that it's one of people's favourite type of post. However, even I prefer in it video format now, so taking it to your Insta stories is a smart move.

You don't have to talk if you don't want to, I try to take different pictures/boomerangs/videos of each of the items. I get a lot of engagement from it and messages afterwards asking me various questions about what I've shown so it's definitely helping build the relationship that I have with my followers.

Always tag the brands in your hauls, as everyone loves a shout out and it might even help them notice your Instagram/blog that could potentially lead to exciting opportunities. 

2. Polls

I love a good poll, I loved them even more when I found out you could actually see who had specifically voted Yes and No....Or maybe that's not such a good thing. Either way, I'm loving this interactive element to stories, they're so knocking Twitter out of the ball park with them.

I'm still seeing a low ratio of voters to viewers, whether this is because people don't want to answer them/it's too fast or they haven't quite got their head around the polls yet, I'm not sure. However, it's here to stay and I'm finding it so helpful for answering questions to help improve my content and appearance on Instagram. I really do value my followers thoughts and want to be providing really good content/stories I'm proud of, and that my followers will like too.

I've sussed out whether my followers want to see more talking/haul vidoes and whether they like Fashion or Lifestyle content more. It's such a quick way to get an insight into your followers thoughts and motives, it also switches your content up when you might not otherwise have much to share.

3. Text & Emojis

Still images just aren't enough for me on stories, I want to know what the meaning behind the picture is too. I always add text, layer the text for a bold effect and of course add in emojis. 

Change the text colour too, it took me 6 months to work out you could swipe for more colour options and also press down on a particular colour to colour pick your own unique colour. Magic.

Any image can benefit from an emoji, or even lots of them. The little love heart Instagram like is my go to boo. It's cute, simple and says that I'm just really loving something. I add in 10 for extra effect. 

I find it also works well adding various amounts of text, but getting the viewer to click through/wait until the next image to see further snippets of text. I love watching continuous stories like this as it keeps me engaged, and stops me from swiping away.

4. Switch It Up

I'm not even lying to you when I say I was almost sick with dizziness after once watching someone post 3 boomerangs in one go. It does not make for easy viewing, one bit. It's also a bit boring.

There's so many functions and different ways to show your content these days, that you don't need to keep it the same. Post still pictures, boomerangs, videos, talking videos, get drawing on your photos, add emojis in. Just make each one different.

I find the drop off rate of viewing stories is less when it's not 10 clips straight of just you talking. Like when I post any Instagram picture, I always think would I like watching this? If the answer is no, move on and post something different. 

5. Share Your Day (Even The Boring Bits)

But most of the time, we just like seeing what you're doing - on a day to day basis. I feel like I'm part of my favourite bloggers brunch run, and living my life through them at times, but I like it. You feel connected on a distant level and I love the interaction you get with bloggers that you think will never reply. Like OMG Hannah Gale actually replied to me once in response to her story. Highlight of my blogging career, and what?

I have started to do this a bit more, and I really do think it helps people relate with you on a personal level. Instagram photos may look perfect, but Insta stories allow you to reveal that personal element (if you want to) to show your viewers you're normal too. You have a normal life, and not every day is a good day. 

Whether you fancy jumping on on the walk to work, just fancy having a chat or you're taking your viewers on holiday with you. Share anything and everything, there's no rules with insta stories - but we're all nosy. We love seeing the bits we have never seen before, and I think it sets the precedence of what's to come in 2018. 
Jumper - Missguided
Bag* - Boohoo
Jeans - Topshop

Do you like Instagram stories? What are your favourite things to watch as a viewer?

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Monday, November 6, 2017

7 Ways To Get More Hygge Into Your Life

Remember Hygge? That 2016 buzz word that was forced into the spotlight last year, the word on everyones lips that was making us buy more candles, create more dens and sit in the window and watch the rain falling, because Hygge. 

Okay, so the Danish feeling has since been somewhat butchered by the Brits, we just love jumping onto a new fad more than anything, and so what if we have? It's meant making the most of being in the moment and enjoying the cosy times, rather than stressing over the fact that OMG it's November. The year has gone, and I've still got 2567 untouched New Years resolutions.  But alas, Hygge is always there to cocoon you and tell you everything is gonna be just quite alright.

As the dark nights are here to stay HELLO waking up and coming home in pitch black every day, there's no doubt about it that it's prime Hygge season. Here's 7 lil ways to incorporate it into your life this winter...
1. ALL The Cosy Throws/Blankets/Duvets/Cosy Stuff

I'm talking ALL the cosy, cosiness there is. Hygge is ALL about being warm, safe and comfortable, with whatever you can find. My current obsession and hygge pal is this Arm Knitted Merino Wool Throw* from The Moody Otter Etsy store. The obsession is real. It reminds me of winter in Finland, pulling on thick, hand knitted socks and snuggling beneath a cosy throw. 

It's honestly the thickest, warmest blanket come throw I've ever laid my hands on and it goes without saying that it looks the part in my bedroom, and for flat lays too. 

I love the Scandic feel to it, and I can already imagine snuggling down with it on my sofa, watching Home Alone and wrapping Christmas presents in the gentle glow of my fairy lights come December. If that's not Hygge, I don't know what is? So grab your blankets and cosy duvets and Hygge will arrive in no time.

2. Candles

Oh, these huns <3 That gentle flickering of a flame can bring so much calm into your life, without having to do very much. I'm such a fan of tea lights, lanterns and gently scented candles for filling a home with smells that bring back those comforting memories.

This Moody Otter Christmas Spice Winter Soy Candle* is basically Christmas. Gently spiced, it reminds me of childhood Christmas memories, mulled wine and everything magical. It's such a big candle that it has plenty of burning time. I'm planning on lighting it every day in the lead up to Christmas to help set the scene. The thought brings me so much happiness, and I just cannot wait. Did I mention I can't wait for Christmas?

3.Fairy Lights

If you don't have a wood burning fire, fairy lights are the closest alternative and I love nothing more than switching them on as the nights start to close in. Basically fill the whole house with them and spend your monthly electricity bill on batteries instead. Eco friendly and cosy.

I always buy mine from Primark as they last forever. I switch them on as soon as I get home from work and it instantly feels cosier. Hygge is all about light, and the darkness we experience in winter should be embraced!

4.A Good Book

There's nothing better than snuggling down with a good book and getting absorbed into the story. This is why I love summer holidays so much as I find it's the only time I give to read a book, and it's always the time that I feel the most relaxed.

It doesn't have to be a 16748 page literature book either. I'm currently on such a hype of buying self help, feel good books for the coffee table that are not only great for Insta, but also for picking at and reading a few pages for a bit of down time. Nothing can help transport you to that cosy, safe feeling more than opening the pages of a good book.

5.Plan With The Weather

Weather and nature is central to Hygge, and those rainy winter days are something I absolutely long for. HELLO getting to stay in all weekend and not having to justify your reasons for it! 

Rain means getting to make dens, sit watching Netflix all day, having hot chocolates and watching the rain gently fall against the windows. Heaven. Either by yourself or with others is an absolute dream. 

But if it's a cold winters morning with the most perfect sun, it's all about those cold crisp walks soaking up the sun. Nothing feels as refreshing and as good for the soul as making the most of those tiny cracks os sunlight during the darkest weeks of the year. 

6.Social Media Free Evenings

What are these I hear you say? I must admit they're super rare in my house, but something I need to actively start doing. It really is as simple as putting your phone in a drawer for the evening and just enjoying being in the moment. Actually being able to pay attention to a TV programme, and eat your dinner without checking your Insta likes.

I don't need to tell you how much happier life can be without social media in your life, and my week without it taught me all that and more. I guess 2018 should be the year of doing this at least once a month at least. How hard can it be?

7.Creating A Cosy Home

When I leave the office on a weekday, that's it. When I close the doors of my home behind me, I've escaped and my thoughts and worries of that day are left behind that closed door. That is so important to me. But it's not possible without creating a cosy little haven that you love stumbling into after a long day.

There's nothing better than getting in, dropping your bag and sinking into the sofa. You're home then. The day is done. Creating that cosy place you like to call home is the quickest way to get hyggelig times every day.

No way you style your home is right or wrong, or what you see on Pinterest. It's what you like, what you find homely. Where minimalism might be someones dream, a cluttered home is someone elses. But candles, blankets and fairy lights really will help with that!

Fancy turning your home into a Hygge haven? Don't forget to check out The Moody Otter Easy store for their luxurious throws, beautiful prints, candles and more! You can also get 10% off your first purchase from their store with the code NICOLE10 - thank me later!
*Products marked with an asterix (*) have been sent to me for review. However, all opinions in this post are 100% my own.
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Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The Importance of Being Content In Your Own Company

I think you either sit in two camps as a person. 1) You thrive off company and don't like being alone or 2) You love being alone. I mean there might be some middle ground between the two, but it's also kinda like you either don't drink alcohol or you only drink to get smashed. See what I mean?

The best thing about being a human is you can do what you like, be with who you want to be, but also be alone a lot of the time, and that's fine too. I have always liked my own company, but equally loved being with friends and always doing something and rushing to somewhere. We're millenials, we like to always look busy, even if we're not. 

When I lived in Finland for a year and was forced into a spiralling dark hole of loneliness, homesickness and culture shock, I suddenly couldn't cope. I didn't know how to be by myself. I hated my own company, I wanted something, anything to be dragged away from my thoughts, and 'jail like' room which I admittedly didn't leave very much. I totally didn't help myself. The darkness didn't help, neither did the -30 degree temperatures. But it was hard, and also a learning curve I will never forget. In learning how to be at one with yourself, and be happy with that.

So much emphasis is always put on going out, doing things, being WITH people and making more friends. Those things are great, but there's so much importance to being content in your own company first. If you can nail and enjoy that, then social gatherings, and going out should be a breeze. But you'll equally look forward to those times when it's just you too.

The thought of moving into my own home in March by myself scared me just a little. I was worried it would be like uni all over again, and it wasn't just the fact that I could only cook beans on toast that scared me. 

I was also surprised by the amount of people who asked whether I would be scared or lonely living by myself. FACT, TIME WAITS FOR NOBODY. Why can a girl not buy a property and live in it by herself, without it being questioned? It's honestly to me the most normal, and sensible thing to do. 

And THIS is the misconception, that if you're by yourself or live by yourself you're lonely and sad. Not an independent young person who's ready to take on the world and don't need nobody, and someone who really really loves every inch of themselves. It's taken me time to realise, but it speaks more about the people that ask these questions than about yourself.

Because a lot of people feel uncomfortable in being alone. Admittedly, it once was for me. I now cherish those moments of quiet when I get home, I'm so busy *cleaning*, making my lunch for the next day that those thoughts from the day don't even get a look in. I'm happy in having a Lush bath and jumping on the sofa in the peace. Bashing out a blog post and sinking into a double bed by myself at 10pm. Living. The. Dream. 

Your own company doesn't necessarily mean having to sit on the sofa by yourself every evening. It's going for a walk by yourself, sitting in a cafe and doing some work and not caring or wondering if people are thinking why you're by yourself. 

It's travelling the world by yourself and not knowing what adventures or people you'll meet along the way will be. It's about having the time of your life and creating your own memories, without the need for someone to help or tell you where your journey should take you.

Life is too short to live up to peoples expectations that aren't your own. Wanting to do something, but not having anyone to do it with, so you don't. Not making that plunge to move out because you're waiting for Mr Perfect to come along.

Only you can make yourself happy and that starts from within. Being content by yourself is the elusive start of that path to self love, and something that has really fallen into place for me this year.

Go chase your dreams, do things for yourself, stop thinking you need to please others and just be content. Grab every opportunity by the hand that comes along, even if that means doing something by yourself, for yourself. Happiness starts with you.
T-shirt - Zara
Cardigan - River Island
Jeans - Topshop
Bag - Zara
Converse - Asos

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