Sunday, December 17, 2017

Why I'm Going To Be Signing Out of Social Media On Christmas Day

I started the year off with one whole week off social media. The endless engagements, new babies, gift announcements and #boydidgood posts were enough to turn me green with envy after Christmas dinner lunch. Feeling deflated and well, just a bit shit about myself.

Scrolling through social media is very much a filler of my time. I do it when I'm bored, lonely and when ya know, want to have a stalk. The worst times you can. It's those types of moments when the Instagram feed eats you up inside. You become the big green monster. It's the posts you keep thinking about hours later. Tbh, it ruined the festivities and new year for me last year. It just made me feel really rubbish about myself.

The digital free time I had at the start of the year was probably the best start I could give to any year. I felt so motivated, refreshed and I suddenly had all of this free time to DO stuff. 

My Christmas Day is usually just spent with my mum, dad and sister. But I'll still find myself reaching for my phone during the day. I'll be looking at what other people get, trying to post something just as good, refreshing my phone until I've had 11 likes. Moaning about not getting enough likes, then thinking I'm the only one looking at social media on Christmas Day of all days. Like OK I get it, I need a life.

I have an unhealthy obsession with it over Christmas which is why I will be signing out of all my accounts for 24 hours over Christmas.

There aren't going to be any PRs looking for people on Christmas Day. You aren't going to get a brand regram. Albeit nice, you probably *won't* gain 1,000 followers either. You'll always be lucky if you get more than 20 likes too. So what's the point?

It's all going to still be there come Boxing Day.  

Christmas Day needs to be that day that I am good to myself. My brain needs a complete shut down, apart from worrying about not getting enough pigs in blankets and whether I'll be out of my pjs by 11. Both inevitably gonna happen. Soz not soz.

The point is, do we ever really get any time off when we're constantly wired through social media? A week was bloody hard for me, self confessed Insta addict. But 24 hours, I'm in.

I want to be in the moment this year. A head that isn't clouded with feelings of low worth. A day where I don't know what anyone got gifted, or who got engaged (let's face it, there's usually about 5). A day of feeling good, doing good and having quality, uninterrupted time with my family. Plus, at least I'll be able to give the Corrie Christmas special my undivided attention this year.

I'll see you all on Boxing Day. 

Are you planning on having any digital free time over Christmas?

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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

A Festive Afternoon Tea At Boringdon Hall

I was about to say about how bloomin' wonderful and festive the weekend has been, but HELLO Wednesday, how did that one happen. Only another 8 working days to get through now until Christmas. We can do this.

So yeah, last weekend was great. I got a real Christmas tree, decorated it, went to London and even had a snow day. I also had the most wonderful afternoon off having a rather festive little afternoon tea at Boringdon Hall Plymouth. I mean, I like cake and tea anyway, so what's not to love? 

My colleagues joke about it, but I really don't drive further outside of Plymouth. Not even into Plympton which is, LOL Plymouth still. So I'd never even been to Boringdon Hall before which I'm not gonna lie about I'm mad about. It's situated in the most hidden yet stunning location, it's easy to find and the grounds are from something of a fairytale. I knew I was gonna like it there.

It's the type of place I always dream I'll book myself into for a few days of R&R, fascinating company and country walks. Yet to happen, but maybe for Christmas hey?

Boringdon Hall are renown for their amazing afternoon teas, a home away from home. They even did a Beauty and the Beast themed afternoon tea earlier in the year which was an obvious hit. The grounds themselves are breathtaking, but the actual dining rooms are something else. Think Hogwarts, but for muggles.

We were led into a huge, high ceiling hall which felt more like a cosy country lodge than a dining room. There's me imagining there being tables and seats like the school canteen. It was home to cosy sofas, roaring fires, and Christmas decorations to top all Christmas decorations. You can promise to get all the festive feels by the time you leave.

Once we were seated it was time to get ready for the festive offering. Do wear soft pants, because that top button of your jeans won't be staying done up for long.

This special edition afternoon tea has been individually designed to melt our hearts and warm our bellies during Christmas time. The afternoon tea had a real mixture of your classic Christmas favourites, with an alternative twist.

Working from the bottom tier up, the savoury selection included the cutest finger sandwiches, a classic ham sandwich which easily pleased the fussy eater within me, a salmon blini, coronation chicken sandwich and a cucumber sandwich. What more could you want? Let's face it, for me the afternoon tea is all about the sweet treats. 

The next layer is a total classic, but favourite in my eyes, a plain and fruit scone with plenty of jam and cream. There's nothing to see here, apart from the debate that inevitably will unveil, jam or cream first?

Saving the best for last. A slice of traditional Christmas cake, which is honestly one of my favourite things about Christmas food, after the mince pies and tubs of cheeselets. Marzipan, icing and all.  I loved the twist on the traditional Yule log, which posed as Santa's belly, fat and chocolatey, just how I like my Yule logs.

Without a doubt the real star of the show after the 'figgy pudding' was the Snowman macaroon. Ugh, can we just take a moment to appreciate this little guy. It's something that I wouldn't have even thought of adding to an afternoon tea. But it bloody works.

With our tummy's full of festive food, we could have sat there for hours on end with our mulled wine and tea (there's at least 61748 different teas to choose from, well, almost). 

The member of staff was so attentive during our time at Boringdon and the atmosphere was amazing. The time felt so precious there, I would never have thought I was 5 minutes away from the dual carriageway in Plymouth. It was peaceful, beautiful and just everything you need from a relaxing afternoon. It was a mini escape from daily life that I didn't think was possible at 2pm on a Thursday afternoon.

The festive afternoon tea at Boringdon Hall is only here until the 31st December. It's £30 per person and includes the full feast, with a glass of mulled wine and tea. However, they do a different themed afternoon tea every month, as they understand that we take afternoon tea just as seriously as they do!

Let the festivities commence! 

Have you been to Boringdon Hall before? Do you like going for Afternoon tea?

*I was invited to Boringdon Hall for afternoon tea, however, all opinions in this post are 100% my own
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Friday, December 8, 2017

30 Things To Do This Christmas

Yesterday was wonderful. I booked a day off to buy and decorate my first ever real Christmas tree. I did step in dog poo, smash a glass bauble and bought netted light curtains instead of tree lights, but whatcha gonna do? I mean I don't know about you, but I really think I'm bossing adult life right now. Just me doing adult things and making my first Christmas in my new home one I'll remember forever. 

When we work, exercise, blog, socialise and just try to be the best person we can, before we know it Christmas has been and gone and that lull between Christmas and New Years has just been left to decay and sit there, along with the tub of cheeselets and boxes of partially opened Christmas biscuits. Let's face it, there's always at least 5 on the go.

I want to make this Christmas the best yet, Squeeze every ounce of time out of my days off and just ya know, make it the best one yet. 

Just a gal hooking you up with 30 lil things to keep you occupied this Christmas so you can tell your colleagues on the 2nd Jan you've done more than eat. Well, maybe.

1. Go to a Christmas carol service, with mince pies, mulled wine and good people. Most churches host these sorts of events. There is one in Plymouth on the 19th and I am ridiculously excited. It's something I've never been to before, but it's sure to give me all the festive feels.

2. A day devoted to Christmas films, wrapping, and doing nothing. Okay, so we've probably already all done this. But there is nothing better than keeping cosy, not moving for the whole day and just generally loving life.

3.A Boxing Day walk. Nothing gets me ready for more food quite like a Boxing Day morning walk. It always feels so fresh and quiet on this day, and I love the anticipation of more food and films with the family.

4.A board games evening. With hot chocolates and snacks. 'Cos Christmas. It's the perfect reason to ditch your phone for the evening and enjoy the company you're with.

5.Do a random act of kindness. Buy a homeless person a drink, donate some clothes to charity or a local refuge centre. Take part in the shoebox appeal. Christmas is a time for giving and family, but it's also important to think of those less fortunate.

6. Bake mince pies and Christmas gingerbread cookies, eat them in one sitting. 

7.Go for an evening walk and admire all the Christmas lights on the houses. It's my favourite thing to do. I try to do the same when I drive home from work, but there's only so many times I can get away without hitting something.

8. Christmas jumpers all day errr day. It doesn't have to be Christmas jumper day to wear those ugly, but oh so beautiful things. 

9. Build a gingerbread house. This has legit been on my Christmas bucket list for 16373 years. Basically since before time. I can't think of anything more fun than building one by yourself or with a sibling or partner, if ya fancy a row.

10.Wrapping. Get the Pinterest boards out, the ribbons, masses of wrapping paper and even some foliage. I like to go ALL out when it comes to wrapping. I love getting crafty and making it look nice. Is it okay to ask for the ribbon back after tho? Asking for a friend.

11.Sales shopping. Whether you're a get up at 5am kinda gal on Boxing Day morning or like doing it from the comfort of your Christmas pit, there's always sales to be had. A great filler of time when the family have gone home and your only company is a tub of cheeselets.

12. Plan your new year. Once the festivities are out of the way, that lull until New year is the perfect time to sit down and think about your goals for the new year. There's never a time I feel like I have my shit together as much as when I have that written list of resolutions in front of me.

13. Go to the pantomine. If the 'he's behind you' jokes still get you, then the panto is an absolute must. Who said it's just for the kids?

14. Buy everything festive shaped. Christmas tree crumpets, tick. Mini mince pies, tick. ALL the festive food needs to be bought, consumed and posted on Instagram during the 12 days of Christmas. It will guarantee you at least 20 likes.

15.Head to your local Christmas market or go away somewhere for the weekend. Sample all the food stalls, hot chocolates, churros, mulled wine EVEN Yorkshire pudding wraps in Plymouth, say what. Eat your way around each stall until you can't walk anymore.

16. Buy a real Christmas tree, and decorate it. It's 100% more effort than a fake tree, BUT the smell and the fun of trying to make it look straight. It's worth every bloomin' second.

17.Turn on Christmas FM. Cut the fuss. Make the switch and revel in the Last Christmas' and All I want For Christmas for at least, hmm, all 4 weeks of December. 

18. Buy all the Christmas lush bath bombs. Use Luxury Christmas Pud bath bomb on Christmas Eve, bathe in it, enjoy the sweet scent of Twilight. No Christmas Eve bath time will ever be the same again without this one.

19.Crack out the new Christmas PJS. Head to Primark for a new set, hit up the ASOS next day delivery for a pair on the 23rd if you forget. There's nothing better than putting on a clean, fresh pair when you're waiting for Santa.

20. Ice skating. Whether you hit the ice, or just sit from the sidelines and pretend you went, ice skating is so magical at Christmas. It might not be the Rockefeller ice rink, but STILL.

21. Cracking the tub of Roses open at 10am. Ain't no time like the present. (DOES ANYONE EVEN LIKE ROSES THO?)

22. Treat yourself to a hot chocolate, cream and marshmallows. Swap that daily cuppa for a little cup of loveliness. Nothing says Christmas like a warm cup of cocoa.

23. Invite everyone over. Being a host and getting to buy all the festive napkins, plates, cups, balloons, festive food is just the best. £100? No problem. It's Christmas! Making your guests have the nicest time is just the best feeling. Not up to hosting? just order a dominos for everyone. It's a win, win!

24. Light all the candles, turn all the fairy lights on. I always hit up the Primark home aisle for a set of fairy lights, or 56.

25. Have digital free time. I'm actually *thinking* about not using or looking at social media once on Christmas Day. There's only so many engagements and #boydidgood posts a gal can see, and quite frankly I want to be in the moment this year and grateful for what I have around me. 

26. Crack out a Christmas buffet. I might go as far as saying I actually sometimes prefer a buffet to the actual Christmas roast. Well, probably not, but I do love a bloody good spread. The cheese, the crisps, the chocolate, the nibbles, I like it all. 

27. Leftover turkey sandwiches and chips. The leftover turkey is here to stay, there's plenty of it, if you're not a bubble and squeak sort of person, sandwiches are the next best thing. 

28. Make a Christmas cake from scratch, Ok, so you probably needed to do this one a couple of months in advance. We usually buy a pre-made fruit cake and then decorate it with marzipan, chocolate, basically the whole works. It's still just as fun and tastes pretty good too.

29.Christmas is a whirlwind, but it's also a time to take time out and rest. Christmas is for you to refresh and look after yourself. Make time for self care, general rest and time alone. It's so important to realise you don't have to be constantly pleasing people over the Christmas period. You do you.

30. Hang a Christmas wreath on your door. Go round the local neighbourhood and take a picture of every single door you spot with a wreath on it. I make this a yearly tradition now and I love that I can actually take part this year too. Perfect Insta content for the whole holidays. #ihavethisthingwithdoors

What are you most excited about this Christmas?

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Wednesday, December 6, 2017

5 Easy Ways To Grow Your Pinterest Following

Mysterious and unknown. Pinterest had always been that one platform that I had no idea how to grow.

I'd had my account for over 2 years and only had 20 followers. Basically if you're posting less than once a week, don't bother. It was impossible. It was the impossible platform to crack.

So last year I set myself a challenge to really focus on getting some growth, experimenting and seeing what delivered the results. Within 3 months I was over 1,000 followers up and my blog content was starting to get repinned.

For an example, one of my pictures has been repinned 15,000 times. Can I get a hell yeah?

Without blowing my own trumpet, I thought I'd let you in on these easy ways to grow your following. Pinterest is not just a case of following 1,000 boards and hoping for the best though, you'll need to set a bit of time aside to start reaping the results.

1. Pin, Pin, Pin - Consistency Is Key

Consistency is the key to success on Pinterest. Without it, none of the below will help. This was trial and error for me. But I found that I had to pin around 3-4 times per day spread out over the day, pinning at least 10 pins at once.

There was a lot of early advice about Pinterest that pinning too much at once is bad. Well that really is a load of BS. If you're pinning high quality content, on a range of different boards I actually find that this helps me more.

Set aside little time slots each day, even 5 minutes 4 times a day, and you'll quickly start to notice a difference within a week.

2. Tidy Up Your Boards

I had a proper sit down and evaluated my boards before starting to grow them. I deleted old boards with not many pins, and deleted pins I didn't like anymore. I renamed the boards to help with search (this has been proven to help) and wrote short descriptions for each of the boards. Again, just picking out a few keywords and making it a bit more descriptive.

If I want to make any new boards, I now keep these private so I can only see them and then set them to public when they have 10+ pins in them. It again shows your followers or potential followers that you are active. Having boards that are full of pins looks far more aesthetically pleasing too.

3. Focus On One Key Board

When you're pinning you may have noticed the 'suggested boards' that come up amidst all of the pins. Well the key is getting into that. A bit like the google algorithm, no one really knows how it works and what the algorithm is to trigger getting yourself into that box. 

However, I found that by focusing all of my efforts on one key board this is how I grew my following in such a short, but intense period of time. It doesn't even matter if you're not posting across your other boards, or so I think anyway. 

The more you pin on an exclusive board, the more times your pins will be seen and the more active you are, the higher chance you'll appear as a suggested board to follow when others are looking for similar content.

It also has to be a board that a lot of people are searching for similar pins, but not something that has a high level of competition like 'Dream Home', 'Bathroom Interior'. I setup a Flatlay's board and I guess I should owe all my thanks to that. Plus my many hours spent pinning between work, exercise and life.

4.Take Clean, White, Pinnable Photos - Unique Content

It's great to keep pinning what comes up on your feed, but there's only so long you can do this without ending up pinning the same photo three times without realising. Unique content is what I believe is one of the top ways to grow your following. It goes without saying that for them to be pinnable they need to be the following;

-Clean images
-Not blurry
-White photos/or other clear backdrops
-Something you would repin
-Larger sized images (not small landscape or square)
-Keyword based or descriptive captions (helps with visibility and search)
-Link them to a really good blog post (top way to drive more traffic to your blog)

Having a following from implementing the above will also mean that when you do share some original content, there is more chance of it being pinned and pinned again. Ultimately, driving more traffic to your blog which is definitely the end goal conversion for me.

I do mostly pin stuff that is already on my feed, but mixing it up with original content too will help you to stay relative and get people clicking the follow button.

5. Collaborative Boards

This is a really good way to reach out to an existing base of followers with your content and ensure that that particular board is consistently updated.

I'm part of a Beauty, Fashion and Lifestyle bloggers board with about 25 other bloggers. Not only is it a great way to see what other people have been posting about and give yourself inspiration, it also allows you to pin your own content and have a better chance of it being seen by more people.

You can always invite yourself to join other peoples boards or start them from scratch with a few friends. I wouldn't recommend having a lot on these boards on your feed, but at least one can really help with your growth in terms of reach, traffic and hopefully followers too.

Now for me to practice what I preach and get back into the Pinterest game. After all, remembering to post a few pins every week is the same as posting one image on Instagram everyday and hoping for the best, right? It's hopeless.

What have you found to help grow your Pinterest following?

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