Wednesday, 30 September 2009

How to Start a Student Blog, Part Two

blogging in bed
Image thanks to Sergio Alvaré Peláez

In the first section of this two part article (within this four part series... I know, I’ve confused myself too) we looked at what is required to make it as a successful blogger and how to get started on a platform. In this part we will focus on how to start building on what you’ve got in order to expand your blog.

Where Next? Thinking of the Future


Decide early on if blogging will be a long-term thing for you, and plan accordingly. Of course you can never be 100% prepared, and changing your mind on some things is inevitable but, as far as you can, try to settle as many things as possible right from the beginning. A consistent and clear message will not only save you time re-jigging plans, but help your readers to invest in you and therefore help your blog grow.

Making Your Mark in a Niche


In my first year of blogging, being part of a niche was central almost entirely to my small success. It focused me, it helped readers and other bloggers to understand where I was coming from, it helped me attract attention, get links and guest post spots on other blogs within that niche, and it did all that without limiting me. I think a lot of new bloggers get put off of assigning themselves within a niche because they’re not sure that they’ll be able to stick to it. But, in my opinion, you need this to guide your journey; like a north star, you don’t always have to look at it but when you need to it’s there. I found it useful that Charade encompasses two great niches: student and fashion, which opened my writing scope right up.

Building Relationships & Guest Posting


As an estimate, I’d say around 75% of my readership to date have resulted from guest posting on other sites. Think about how you found Charade, was it from finding my writing on College Fashion, IFB, Wish Wish Wish, or Painfully Hip? I consider guest posting crucial to success, particularly at the beginning of a blog, but even as you grow (massive bloggers like Leo Babauta of Zen Habits who has well over 100,000 subscribers, still take the time to guest post elsewhere.) As for building relationships with other bloggers, it is as much for your blog as it is for your own sanity! Aim to make friends you can turn to in a crisis, not just gain a link in their blogroll.

Making Money


Okay, the topic everyone always wants to talk about when it comes to blogging! There are many, many ways to make money through your blog, and I won’t even come close to mentioning them all, but I will say this: you won’t make serious money from your blog unless you invest serious time and dedication into blogging, you honestly won’t, so think hard if you’re willing to spend 2 years of regular blogging before even making a hint of income.

Adsense. Most of your readers won’t click a Google ad; now that many people have sussed out them out, clicks are becoming rarer and rarer. Therefore, you need mass traffic to make money because it’s always such a tiny percentage that will click. Also, you need to be strategic about where you place these ads, and different strategies will work on different sites, so try out different things. Some sites you’ll barely notice them, and on some they stick out like a sore thumb, but both of these methods can potentially attract clicks.

Project Wonderful.
I seriously dig Project Wonderful, not because I’ve made a lot of money I might add, but because they have an honest system where everyone’s a winner. Reputable companies which you get to filter 100% can advertise on your site for a price that they think is fair. You’ll probably get contacted by an ad ‘network’ fairly early on in blogging, and long-term Charade readers will remember my old banner ads which were sourced this way, but the amount of money you make is the same and the ads are generally less relevant and harder to filter.

Commission Junction. I’ve yet to make a penny here, but if you dedicate yourself to just one or two companies and make the effort to sell, sell, sell, I’ve no doubt you could earn a crust.

Amazon Associates.
There is serious money to be made here, but again, serious money takes serious dedication, not just placing one or two random links on your site and waiting for the money to pour in.

Private and ‘Featured’ Advertisers. This is where the real money is when it comes to advertising on your blog and where you’re in total control. Think about what your site honestly has to offer an advertiser and contact a few early on, and then raise your price as your readership grows. Consider offering a ‘featured’ service for free initially, or for a gift from the advertiser’s site, just to get people to take notice of you and perhaps pay later if they receive valuable clicks and sales from your readers.

Sponsored Posts. These are tricky to go after and will most likely just find their way to you eventually. It helps to have a strong and clear niche to attract sponsored posts, otherwise companies will be unsure of who they’re targeting. Fix a price you’ll accept and stick to it, because sponsored posts can annoy your readers and it’s not worth losing even one of them for $20.

Podcasts, ebooks, merchandise... This will all come when you’re truly established and will mark you as a ‘serious’ blogger. Your aim should be to target the loyal follower rather than the passing traffic, and this is where you can make serious money and really turn your blog into a business. The sky is the limit, but don’t do any of it half-heartedly because, if people are disappointed by something they’ve paid for, the backlash will be a lot worse than any disappointed comment on a post that was free.

Developing a Brand


Branding is so very vital to a blog, as is being consistent with that brand. Even if you change small things like a new topic your interested in writing about, or a design element of your site, keep a strong message like ‘a fabulous lifestyle on a student budget’ to stop you from straying too far. Whenever and wherever you guest post or even just leave a comment, remember what you’re trying to say with your brand, stick to it and respect it.

Free Stuff and Competitions


Early on, with even just 100 subscribers or so, you’ll start to be contacted by small companies offering you products to review and giveaway or receive for free yourself. This is great, but don’t get over excited, no one wants to see your blog turn into a sales catalogue, and a lot of what you’ll receive just won’t be worth selling out for. Your reader should be your top priority at all times; if they’re not, they’ll know it, and they won’t hang around long. Suss out any company before linking your brand with theirs, run seriously good competitions and remember your reader and what they want to see on your blog.

Resources


I’ve learnt pretty much all I’ve needed to know so far from these two resources: Problogger and Blogger Buster (as Blogger is my platform) so I’d suggest subscribing now and reading up on the archives. Tomorrow I will post 50 of the best links for a new blogger for further reading on each of the subheadings I’ve used, as I realise I’ve been quite brief (I’ll leave the serious guidance to the real experts!)

As the result of a negative comment, I’d also like to apologise to those not interested in this series and wondering why it’s here. I just want to have somewhere to direct people when blogging questions come up (which they have done from several readers) and Charade most definitely will not be turning into a technological/blogging tutorial site from now on!

Monday, 28 September 2009

How to Start a Student Blog, Part One


Image thanks clockwise from left 1,2,3,4

Why do I blog?


There are several reasons, the main one being that I love, love, love writing, but there is something I love almost as much, and that’s getting honest, constructive feedback on my writing, and blogging makes that too easy. I also love the prospects that come beautifully bundled with blogging; I like to believe that it just takes one bigwig to stumble on Charade and take a keen shine to my writing, and its all gravy from there. What reality there is in that, I don’t know, but it keeps me coming back, that’s for damn sure.

Initially, I’ll admit I had big money making plans for the blog, and I wouldn’t say they’ve since been dashed, but they’ve certainly diminished, and although I’ve made a few pennies here and there, for more than a year’s worth of work, it ain’t much. So I’ll say right now: if money is your only or main aim, try stocks and shares, not the humble world of the common blogger.

What to Think About: Why Start a Blog?


I’ve already covered the main points in my Benefits of Blogging as a Student post, so I won’t repeat myself, all I’ll say is: start a blog because the subject gets you goose-pimpled with excitement; because you’re a dreamer; because you have aspirations higher than the 9-5; because you could write on a topic with enough zeal to inspire millions (even if the subject is yourself... hey, there’s no shame!) If you’re not sure, try it on for size, like I’ve said before, blogging is what you make it, so it can be as simple or as complex as you choose.

Three key traits which I personally think blogging requires are:

Initiative. You can’t have a sudden brainwave, email your favourite blogger to ask for help, and then sit on it because they never reply. Although collaborations are rife in the blogosphere, ultimately your blogging experience comes down to you and you alone, and you need to be prepared to take charge of your own experience. The internet gives you the opportunity to learn about anything and everything connected with blogging, so go out there and learn it, it may be as simple as a Google search.

A Thirst for Knowledge. You have to want to learn all that there is to know about blogging, it shouldn’t feel like a chore. Of course there are some things that will be tedious and tiresome, but the outcome should be in your sight enough to soldier on nonetheless. HTML code isn’t and never will be my favourite subject, but I’ve had to become familiar with it in order to realise certain aims with Charade. Being a blogger does not have to mean being a technological whiz kid. Being a blogger does have to mean you are willing to learn.

Self-belief. All that I’m saying should not be putting you off, you should be thinking ‘sure thing! I can do this!’ or else you may be set up for failure. Blogging takes guts and passion, it will throw things at you that you didn’t see coming, you’ll often feel unworthy and defeatist unless you truly believe beyond doubt that you’re set for success.

Making Time


In my opinion, there really is little reason to start a blog if you’re not waiting to cram every last minute of your free time planning, writing and improving it – this may not be realistic, but it should be how you feel at the start or else when the 6 month slump hits, you’ll have little mental ammunition to break through it.

It works in different ways for different bloggers, depending on your character; you may thrive on a tightly strict schedule, or blossom when you go with the muse, but either way, you should be aware of the kind of time that can and should go into making your blog live up to your vision.

First Steps


What do we have so far?

• A subject that excites and inspires us and that we could natter on about endlessly.
• Initiative, a thirst for knowledge and self-belief.
• Time which we are more than willing to devote.

Now it’s time to get practical. What do we need?


1. A Place to build your blog

There are numerous platforms upon which your seedling blog can grow, but there are three main and obvious choices: Blogger, Wordpress or Tumblr. All are free and easy to use even for a beginner, and all have scope to develop. If you want ultimate control there is the option of self-hosting, and although it requires money and a little expertise, if you think that's where you're headed, start that way from the beginning and save yourself the headache later.

I am no authority whatsoever on Wordpress, but I’ve heard great things. As a general rule, it seems to me that Wordpress accommodates the more serious of bloggers, whilst Blogger is a home for the artier types. This is not exclusive of course, and Blogger has so many ‘hacks’ and is constantly improving, that I couldn’t really be happier with it (and I consider myself semi-serious!) I like the look of Tumblr blogs, but have zero knowledge on it as a platform. Do your research as to which is best for you, because it’s a pain in the neck to change your mind later.

2. Custom Domain Name

A custom domain is:

www.yourblogsname.com

rather than

www.yourblogsname.platform.com


If you want to be taken seriously and make any sort of business impact with your blog, it is recommended to do this from day one. I was given this advice early on, and ignored it, and now although I own a custom domain, I’ve been putting off making the swap because I know I’ll lose traffic. Take my advice and get it sorted NOW.

3. A Workable Design that Lets You Focus on What’s Important

Widgets & design tweaks & colour schemes etc. are not what count in blogging. As much as a well-designed site looks nice for the reader, it’s not their top priority, they want content they can care about. If you’re not a web designer, find a clear, crisp, easy to navigate layout with some pretty touches that you can be proud of, and stick with it.

4. Goals

If you want your blog to develop and grow, you must have goals. From the start of Charade I’ve had a big notebook in which I’ve recorded my aspirations and tracked my progress, and that simple support of pen and paper has proved truly invaluable.

5. Content!

Now you have the basics covered, it’s time to forget about everything else except great quality content for the next few months. After all, it’s all your blog amounts to, it’s the lifeblood, and it’s what people will come back for. I like to think of 'pillar articles' that really sum up and support your blog's message, once you get to about 20 or so of these, you can start to branch out and develop what you have.

Hopefully these tips will help you take your first leaps into the Blogosphere. Tomorrow I will continue with Part Two of How to Start a Student Blog where I'll discuss Making Your Mark in a Niche, Building Relationships & Guest Posting, Making Money, Developing a Brand and Free Stuff and Competitions. On Thursday I will provide 50 Helpful Links for Starting Any Blog which will help you to find folllow up reading on all the points I'm raising.

Words to Live By #58

Images thanks to glitter feet and yuliya libkina

"Luck is believing you're lucky."
Tennessee Williams

Thursday, 24 September 2009

The Benefits of Blogging as a Student

Pink Student LaptopImage thanks to D Sharon Pruitt

Recently, I’ve had a few emails asking for advice about starting/improving a blog, seeing as I’m an ‘expert.’ To this I respond precisely: ‘Pah!’ I am no expert, you see, and consider few to truly be experts in blogging; I think blogging is just what you make it. Nevertheless, what I do have is a little experience, and that I’m more than happy to share! This is the first in a four-part series on starting a student blog.

It’s been just over a year since I started Charade, and although I’ve built a small band of loyal followers (that’s you!) within a niche that has plenty of scope for development, by no means has it been an overnight success. It’s clear that it will probably take another year at least before I’ll see any real 'mass' traffic or monetization but, right now, I’m happy as is. Why? Because I’ve only just finished my first year of university.

Yes, at 20 years old, I’m somewhat of a baby in the blogosphere, I’ve not so much as dipped my toe into the world of work and, at this stage, I’ve got all the time in the world (at least it feels that way). I’m here to tell you the many benefits of blogging as a student.

Why should you start a student blog?

Commitment

Until perhaps your retirement, never again are you likely to have as much free time as you will as a student. There will come a point where living off borrowed money just won’t cut it for you anymore, and work of some description will become necessary. Even if you are of the entrepreneurial breed (which I imagine you are, if blogging has taken your fancy) your commitments will only build and build.

Not only do you have more time to commit than you’re ever likely to again as a student, but blogging is also one of the fastest ways for you to learn the real meaning of commitment; independently producing and running a blog teaches you a level of dedication you may well have never experienced before. It’s one thing committing to a college course, or part-time job – they’re both ultimately a commitment to somebody else’s agenda, not your own. Successfully running your own blog shows you how to commit to you.

Networking and Enhanced CV

It’s no secret that the web is a great place to network; most of us have tried our hand on Myspace, Facebook, Twitter and all the others in between, but your own blog takes this principle of a web presence to the next level. Look upon your blog as an interactive CV; a place to communicate your skills and ambitions to the world. Since starting my blog, I have forged many hundreds of links, big and small, with those within my niche, and although this was never really a main objective of mine, it can only benefit me in the future. If you make the time for networking, it will pay dividends, and who knows, you may land your dream job before you even graduate. With everyone and his best friend now making the most of Twitter (@Voila Megan) what are you waiting for?

As for your CV, even if blogging doesn’t turn out to be for you in the long-term, how does ‘I built a community of several hundred readers and subscribers around my own expertise’ sound against ‘I managed a team of four at my local burger joint’? Quite.

Improved Writing and Editing Skills

The ability to communicate well via the written word is a skill that no potential success-story should be without. Writing is applicable to all areas of our lives and careers: your CV, query letters, covering letters, complaint letters, personal statements, job application forms, email correspondence, essays, lectures, written presentations... you get the idea. The ability to articulate oneself well is priceless, and blogging is a practice in that if nothing else. If I look back at some of my early articles, I’m astonished at how far I’ve come in terms of my writing and editing skills, and I know I’m only set to improve further.

Potential Income

This is one I was hesitant to include because, if it’s the only dream you’re chasing as a student blogger, you’ll find the day to day of blogging practices highly mundane and probably just find yourself getting frustrated, but it’s a point worth including. After only five or six months of regular blogging, I was offered $150 to post a sponsored article aimed at students. Even if I never make another penny from my blogging activity, the joy of earning that amount completely by my own means was immeasurable and, as a student, every little helps! If you manage to develop a substantial flow of traffic, there’s every chance you can make a little cash on the side, and if you’re really committed, by the end of a three year degree, who knows what kind of income you could be generating! More on the nitty-gritty of making money from your blog later in the series.

Narrow Your Dreams and Crystallize a Career

Blogging truly is a path to self-discovery. You’ll identify both your strengths and weaknesses, learn constantly, and change your mind a dozen times a day. Regularly communicating your own uncensored ideas to the world, as blogging allows you to do, is an excellent way to find out what you really want to achieve after college. You may start on the topic of chemistry and end up a juggling extraordinaire, or begin a life hack blog only to discover you’d make an excellent style guru - but that’s all part of the fun! The blogosphere is one of the few spaces, as a student, where you can really explore and develop your own opinions, ideas, ambitions, likes and dislikes openly and constructively.

If all else Fails...Use it as an Outlet

Being a student can be tough; you’re at a point of total self-discovery and self-development and it can sometimes be hard to find people who really ‘get’ you - that’s if you even ‘get’ yourself yet. The internet is a wide and wonderful playground for your wildest dreams and your most rampant aspirations; a place where you can write under a pseudonym and make all the mistakes you like; where a business can start and fail within days and you’re none the worse off for it; a place where you can start on the path to a whole new social circle, career and lifestyle, if you so choose. Using blogging as a platform upon which to share and develop your own fascinating personality sums up all that make ‘student’ and ‘blogger’ such complimentary terms.

Are you a student blogger? What has your experience been of balancing the two vocations? If you’re no longer a student, do you wish you had started blogging when you were?

Hopefully this has whetted your appetite when it comes to starting your own blog. Next week I will look at just why I started blogging and, more importantly, give my tips on How to Start a Student Blog. See you then!

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Five Ways to Wear: One Shirt Dress


So, we tackled how to wear the little black dress, what about the remainder of our wardrobe? A casual shirt dress is practically indispensable to a modern girl's wardrobe, and with so many varied ways to wear it, I didn't know where to start...

(Note: A few of these items are now unavailable to buy, if this is the case the link will take you to the store's site but not the item listing, apologies!)

Can you say Serena Van Der Woodsen? Pair your shirt with a slinky crop top, over the knee boots, tights, a chunky necklace and a carry-all handbag for a day to night look with buckets of sex appeal.

Take your favourite staple out for cocktails with the simple addition of shorts, notice-me shoes, cute clutch and a shrug. A statement necklace like the one shown will draw all the attention and jazz up any plain shirt.


Rolled up boyfriend jeans and flat brogues contrasted with a waist belt and girly floral necklace, all tied together by your simple shirt makes for a very trendy way to face the day.


It's easy to put a vintage twist on any old shirt dress; just add a loose, high waist skirt, leather satchel, and feminine accessories like this bow head band and charm necklace. For that authentic vintage look, these plaited strap court shoes do the trick.

For a cool college look, layer your shirt dress over lace leggings and a relaxed fit tank, then simply wear with comfy-but-cute shoes, stylish day bag and optional coordinated stationary!

What ways do you choose to wear a simple shirt dress? Have your eyes been opened to more potential possibilities?

Monday, 21 September 2009

Words to Live By #57

Image thanks to ohsoabnormal

"The main thing in life is not to be afraid to be human."
Pablo Casals

Saturday, 19 September 2009

The Saturday Salute 19.09.09

Image thanks to Darwin Bell

Oh boy, oh boy, have I got some rockin' reads for you this weekend:

A guide to Stockholm Shopping from Coco & Kelly.

Why not design a life with intention?

If you're in the market for yet another 'can I have your life, please?' blog, you could do a lot worse than Blushing Ambition...

... and for fashion-inspiration-a-mundo, I know that I'd like the world to let me feel like a doll.

On the bloggy side of things, here are thirteen steps to write and publish a free ebook from Problogger.

Toodle-oo!

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Ultimate Milan on a Budget, Part Two


(Make sure you read Part One first!)

Where to Eat

Milan has a not-so-secret source of as much great food as you can eat on a purse-perfect budget: their ‘Aperitivo’ or Happy Hour. If you’ve swung into Milan on a shoestring there’s no smarter way to eat. I only ate at one bar and can’t remember its name, but from the impression I got you don’t have to go far to find a good one. Typically, it’s between 5-8 Euros for a cocktail, beer or soft drink, and then you’re free to eat as much as you want! Sometimes, there is a ticket system, but often there’s not and you can even start munching before you’ve ordered your drink. To discover more and hear about some of the top options read this.

Top tip: Be prepared for the food to be very salty – the Italians like their salt as it is, not least when they’re trying to encourage you to drink more!

Of course, this is just dinner. Although, as long as you’re not loitering around the main tourist sites and are prepared to venture the side streets, a coffee and pastry (the typically light Italian breakfast) can be as little as 2 Euros, and lunch can be a bakery-fresh slice of focaccia and a gelato, meaning you could realistically get by on 10-15 Euro a day on eating out. Bargain.

Where to Play

Milan, like a lot of the great European cities, is a place where just heading out of your hotel in the morning armed with your camera and a cute outfit and walking and walking and walking until you can’t walk anymore, is the best way to discover it’s delights. And that’s always totally free.

 


Things to see: The Duomo, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, Leonardo da Vinci Museum of Science and Technology, Lake Como (reached by train.)

It’s also possible to take the train to Verona from Milan for just 8 Euros each way if you travel at certain times of day, and I’d truly recommend it for an equal dose of architectural awe and shopping. It’s even possible to get to Venice for the day, but that’s more like 25 Euros each way and is about a 3 hour journey so we decided to save that for another time. Check out train times and prices here.

If you fancy some beach time, the nearest spot is Varazze and makes for a wonderful day out if you can cope with the very busy (and largely privatised) beach. Reach it by train.

My one slice of Milano nightlife was 'Zoo Latino' which is truly a find if you’re at all into salsa dancing and is as entertaining to sit and watch as it is to take part. It’s free to enter before 11pm; although you’re given a card which means you’re obliged to buy at least one drink (they are expensive so stick to one, which is okay, because it isn't Italian culture to get drunk). Check out their Facebook page here, although it’s all in Italian unfortunately. The club isn’t central meaning you’ll have to reach it by taxi.

What to Take

♥ Comfy shoes. As always on a city break, these are essential for trekking your way around town.

♥ Insect repellent. Just because you’re in the original city of too-cool-for-school, don’t think that the sultry weather doesn’t attract the dreaded mozzies. I was victim to a bunch of truly eye-watering bites on my trip – not a good look.

Some Italian phrases. Italian is one of the most romantic and fun languages to speak, so shake off those apprehensions and get nattering. You might feel silly at times, but they’ll appreciate it. I had the grumpiest waiter in the world at one coffee bar who I managed to soften with an authentic request for a cappuccino, even if it was only because it was spoken like a true novice!

Style. There’s a lot of it going around in Milan, and if you don’t want to feel like a scruffy tourist and fit in with the best of them, make an effort.

More, more, more...

Check out A Cheap and Chic Weekend in Milan where the budget was £200 all in.

And that was my trip to Milan! Hopefully, I'll get to go back in the not to distant future and can update this guide accordingly.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Ultimate Milan on a Budget, Part One



Have a trip to Milan planned? Want to get the most out of your trip on limited funds? Look no further; here's the Charade cheap and chic guide to Milan on a budget.

Before You Go


♥ As always, I’d recommend checking out everything on Trip Advisor for some first-hand advice. They also currently have a PDF all about Milan including budget options that you can download for free (follow this link and it's in the right hand column.)

♥ Google maps and now Google street maps can also give you a great idea of what to expect before you get there.

♥ Milan is most definitely the kind of trip you shouldn’t shop for but should shop during. If you’ve a little bit to spend on some new outfits, don’t buy in advance and instead take the bare minimum in your suitcase, leaving room for a first day shopping frenzy!

How to Travel

If you can book a little way in advance (which most of you probably will), then Ryanair is absolutely the flying option to go for (we found plenty of flights this September for just £5 each way between Bristol and Orio al Serio, Milan). Of course, there’s always a catch, and in this case it comes in the form of hidden charges, but if you’re clever and flexible, these can be avoided.

Carry on allowance for Ryanair right now is 10kg with a measurement of 55cm x 40cm x 20cm – plenty for a city break, and will avoid the charge of checking a bag. Also, try and be flexible with when you can fly as prices can change drastically from day to day. If you find a great price on a date that suits you then snap it up a.s.a.p. as within just 24 hours we found prices sky-rocketed.

A bus from Orio al Serio airport was 9 euros per person when we travelled, but because there were 3 of us we made a saving to 7 euros, so if you’re alone or in a couple, team up with others at the bus stop to save – they’ll like you for it! The bus will take you to the central train station - a good point from which to find your way. Don’t even consider a taxi from the airport as I was told they could be as much as 80 euro (gasp!)

Once you're central, getting around Milan is a doddle as there’s an efficient and cheap metro system. A day ticket costs just 3 euros, and most of the ticket machines have an English language option to make life easier.


Where to Stay

Okay, from my experience in this area, all I can really say is 'make an Italian friend in advance!' as that’s what I did, but that’s not the most helpful of advice... So, on your behalf, I’ve done a little snooping to find some great budget options:

♥ The Hotel 22 Marzo looks to be a nice little slice of budget style with rooms from just 40 euros pppn including free WiFi and a buffet breakfast – the positive reviews suggest it’s definitely not too good to be true, making it somewhere I’d opt for.

Aramis Studios also looks good for those on a super-tight hostel budget, particularly if you want to travel in a large group. Prices start from a mere 15 euros pppn.

Hotel Nettuno is another budget hotel that is very central and comes well recommended with single rooms going at £39 pppn.

For a wider range of options check out this Wikitravel guide to sleeping in Milan.

Stop on by this Thursday for part two, when I'll discuss Where to Eat, Where to Play and What to Take and, of course, if you've been to Milan, add your own tips in the comments!

Words to Live By #56

Image thanks to Julianne Hide

"Winners have simply formed the habit of doing things losers don't like to do."
Albert Gray

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Eclectic Aesthetic 12.09.09

(Don't you just love my 'Alice down the rabbit hole' shadow?!)

I wore this little number yesterday to a friend's birthday party. The leggings weren't totally necessary, apart from the fact that there was a bouncy castle... so I thought I'd play it safe and I'm glad I did!

I'm quite delighted with this walled backdrop; it makes a change to be outside for outfit shots and the location just in front of my house means I can run in at the likely event of being detected by the general public (pathetic, I know, but I'll get over it one day, I promise.)


Top and Clutch ♥ Charity Shop (less than a tenner for both! Can you say score?)
Skirt and Leggings ♥ H&M
Shoes ♥ Joy

As you can see, the side-fringe has also made a triumphant return (has this blog turned into The Chronicles of Megan's Haircut yet?)

Saturday, 12 September 2009

The Saturday Salute 12.09.09

I'm back from Milan! I had a truly wonderful time with loads to share... but more of that in the coming week. For now, check out these babies:

Go ahead and love Keep Calm Gallery (as pictured above). You can thank me later.

Custom Keds? Yes please!

Connect with Your Creative Writer with the help of Think Simple Now.

The Killers make a grand job of Dire Straits' Romeo and Juliet (I went to Verona whilst in Italy and, since then, the fatally attracted duo have been popping up everywhere for me. Strange.)

The World Needs You to do What You Love.
Amen to that.

And now let's each of us celebrate our weekend with grins and giggles and cute outfits. Kiss kiss.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Jewelry Storage Tips


Image from PB Teen

This is another article from Article Alley which is full of useful tips on jewelry organisation and storage. I loved it!

Do you have trouble trying to store jewelry without it getting all tangled, earrings separated from each other, tipping out your whole jewelry box just to find one particular piece? Well, here are some jewelry storage tips that will keep your pieces safe, in a neat and decorative fashion.

♥ Store earrings with fish-hook ear wires by hanging them around the rim of a wine glass for an instant neat and decorative look.

♥ Drape a long string of pearls across the top of your mirror and hang your earrings in the gaps.

♥ Buy a small storage box from the hardware shop, such as the ones that have little compartments for nails, etc. They have 16 drawers, so you know exactly where everything is.

♥ Store earrings on a long piece of ribbon and tack the ends onto the back of a dresser/wardrobe.

♥ Use a corkboard with pins on it, and hang the earrings and necklaces off the pins. Or, if you are feeling crafty, you can decorate the frame of your corkboard - remove the actual cork inside the frame, then paint the frame and add some little decorations like sequins, beads, lace, ribbon, etc. Staple a piece of mesh (tulle fabric or mesh from your hardware store) to the frame to hold lots of earrings.

♥ This idea also works with old picture frames as well. To hold necklaces and bracelets, simply screw in some little hooks (you can get these from hardware shops) around the frame.

♥ Find large, clear, round, stacking bead containers that screw together with the bottom of one container serving as the top of the one below it. These are fantastic for rings, beaded bracelets, etc., as you can see exactly what you want - and if you don't wear something for a while it doesn't get dusty. Nothing gets tangled either!

♥ Recycle a damaged roll of film by placing the film horizontally across your shelf and hooking your earrings on those little square holes along the film's edge.

♥ Try an ornate candelabra to dangle earrings, necklaces and bracelets from; you can sometimes pick these up cheaply at op shops (thrift shops).

♥ Take a decorative glass light fitting and hang jewelry around the edge of it, just like you would on a drinking glass. Find a cheap old light fitting at markets, garage sales, etc. and then dismantle it.

♥ Mug/cup holders from homewares shops are great for draping your jewelry on.

♥ A great idea for studs and brooches is to get a pretty piece of thick ribbon or lace and then attach the jewelry through the material. Hang it or pin it cross-ways near the rest of your jewelry.

Article written by Emma Starkey.

Do you have any handy hints for organising and storing jewelry?

Monday, 7 September 2009

Words to Live By #55


Image thanks to Nicholas Kennedy

"In order to succeed, your desire for success should be greater than your fear of failure."
Bill Cosby

Saturday, 5 September 2009

The Saturday Salute 05.09.09


Image thanks to db*photography

Martin at The University Blog released a free ebook for freshers this week: Fresher Success, and he even linked to little ol'me at the back, great stuff!

How about Starting Your Own Business in a Recession?

'... during a recession entrepreneurs tend to focus on business basics and don’t waste money on the kind of schemes they might throw cash at during the boom times... you may be as surprised as I was to discover that some large corporations, such as Microsoft, Apple and Tesco, began their lofty careers as recession start-ups.'

Own a blog or website? Read these Twitter Tips and Tricks To Drive Traffic To Your Sites. I bookmarked this one.

Read The Secrets Behind the 10 Happiest Jobs from Divine Caroline.

Loving Style on a Budget (of course!) from Already Pretty.

Have a ridiculously wonderful weekend.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Boosting Self Confidence: 5 Top Tips


Image thanks to Marina Mandarina

Because I'm naughty and didn't manage to organise enough posts to cover my butt whilst I'm off the Charade scene, I thought I'd post some of the great articles I've been finding at Article Alley, this is the first of them and you can find it's original here. I think this is top advice, so happy reading!

You need to understand that you are the sum of your memories and experiences to date. It is certainly true that we might all be much happier and positive, if we could erase our bad memories, which are usually also causing our discomfort in the present and also our fears about the future. However, all our experiences are about learning and therefore will be developmental and of some value for us at some level. So how can you move on, taking your learning from the past and turning your future into a much more positive experience.

1. First and foremost you have to like yourself, because how can other people like you and respond to you if you are constantly sending out negative vibes to them and the universe? You need to be your own best friend and give yourself an honest, dispassionate assessment of yourself. Stand out of yourself and view from a distance, and make a list of positives (and trust me, there will be many), and negatives also as you see them. If you have a trusted friend to help you, great , enlist their help. Do not stop until you have at least 30 positives. Read them over and over to yourself, praise yourself and let them sink in. Repeated positive affirmation will get through to your subconscious and change you belief system. Forgive yourself for indiscretions and mistakes-you are human, it is all learning, make amends where you can, forgive yourself and move on.

2. Listen to your mind and body and treat them with respect. Care for your body, do not abuse it in any way. Give it good food and exercise, and take the advice yourself that you would give a best friend that you love and care for. Feed your mind positive thoughts about yourself and your situation. Relax and meditate if you can. Your perception and attitude is crucial. Happiness is often a decision to be happy, and just a different perception of the same circumstance. Your current thoughts, feelings and attitudes are shaping your future as we speak, so monitor them and do not nurture negative thoughts.

3. Detach from regularly negative people, they will bring you down with them. You soak up enough negativity from the news, and you should detach from this also at least for a period if it is bringing you down.

4. Organize and declutter your wardrobe, your living space and your mind. Unnecessary accumulation of material things and disorganization causes stress, so look to simplify your life, and appreciate the natural beauty around you. Determine to be honest and true to yourself and those around you- this will give you greater self respect and the respect of others.

5. Do something that you fear each day, perhaps just smile and talk to a new person and step out of your comfort zone a little. Every little challenge that you meet and master will boost your confidence disproportionately. If you do struggle in social situations as many of us do, consider trying Conversational Hypnosis which will quickly give you the skills to put people and yourself at ease, and build rapport quickly and easily. Each positive interaction with people will boost your confidence tremendously.

You must be persistent, keep working on things, monitor your thoughts, and always remember the words in Desiderata which I love - "you are a beautiful and unique child of the Universe, and no less than the moon and the stars you have the right to be here!"

Article written by Jonathan Roach.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

How to Pack for a Warm City & Beach Break


Image thanks to von schnauzer


As you are reading this, I'm lucky enough to be jetting off to Milan, so I figured the least I could do was share a few packing tips, right? The problem is, not only will I be scouting around the city, I'll also be spending time at the beach in another area of Italy called Bari, meaning I have had to pack suitable wear for both! To add an extra twist, I'm limited to a carry-on case only. Here is how I'm packing for a warm city and beach break:

Clothes. When it comes to what clothes you’re packing, it’s a good idea to include a mix of plain, versatile basics, keeping to an easy-to-wear colour scheme with the odd eccentricity to add that dash of personality. I’d recommend: 2-3 plain tank tops (or a mix of tanks, t shirts and halters), 1-2 pretty tops or blouses, 1 evening top, a light cardigan, 1 pair of shorts and/or a playsuit or romper, 1 skirt, a pair of long trousers (I prefer white linen as they are good for both day and night and easy to match with a variety of tops) and/or 1 pair of jeans, 1-2 day dresses and 1 evening Dress.


Top Tip: I always like to carefully consider what I wear onto the plane, as this can potentially be a staple outfit for your week. If the country you’re leaving is cold and wintery, don’t accidentally wear two jumpers and big boots which you won’t need whilst away. Layer up your warmer-weather essentials instead and brave a slightly chilly trip to the airport to save yourself the sweaty trip on the other side. I’d recommend a fairly light pair of jeans, a tank and a cardigan or light jacket, with a Pashmina if necessary, and a coat only if you must. Jeans will be useful on holiday in the cooler evenings and for a comfortable journey to and from your destination.

Shoes. You want to keep shoes really minimal as they are probably the bulkiest thing you’ll pack; I’d say three pairs at the most for a city break no longer than a week or so. As much as style may be paramount to you on a city break, don’t substitute at least one pair of comfortable shoes as you’re likely to be getting around by foot a lot. I’d recommend a pair of Keds trainers as they’re small, light and comfortable, but also sturdy, and can be mixed with pretty items as well as more casual outfits.

For those romantic evenings or short strolls, a pair of ballet flats is an elegant and versatile option, plus their size makes them small-suitcase friendly! If you can exclude heels from your packing, then do, they take up too much room and you’re unlikely to wear them enough to justify it.

Finally, a pair of flip-flops for the beach or better quality sandals for more demanding day trips. I was once told by a chiropractor that flip-flops are the worst kind of shoe for your back (as comfortable as they can feel) as they offer literally no support, so walking long distances in them is not advised (nor particularly stylish).



♥ Clockwise from top left: 1.Tanks all from Topshop 2. Bag from Yes Style 3. Flip-flops from Piperlime 4. Bikini from Debenhams 5. Earrings Juicy Couture 6. Towel from Land's End 7. Necklace from Fantasy Jewellery Box 8. Cardigan from Oli 9. Keds from Piperlime 10. Shorts from Forever 21 11. Ballet pumps from Topshop 12. Linen Trousers Miss Selfridge 13. Floral blouse from Wetseal 14. Cream collar blouse Miss Selfridge 15. Dress Ruche

Jewellery & Accessories.
I find that one or two statement pieces of jewellery is always enough; jewellery is something I tend to take less seriously whilst on holiday as I find it too fussy for scorching days and balmy nights. Just one or two easy to wear necklaces, a pair of day earrings and an evening pair, and any signature ring, watch or bracelet you wear, all preferably waterproof to avoid any beach fiascos. One pair of sunglasses is also an essential, but if you’re the type to lose them then an extra, cheap pair might be good back-up.

One or two bikinis or swimsuits are obviously vital if you plan to go to the beach or you’re hotel has a pool, but be realistic, you’ll never need more than two pairs, so even if you own a rainbow collection, don’t clutter your suitcase.

If you’re really trying to pack light, then one big tote bag should be enough to see you through a city break – spacey but not too big – but if you’re planning a few glam evenings then a smaller handbag or clutch will be of use.

Not only should you be scant with your clothes, all those extra ‘essentials’ can add up to a lot of space in your suitcase:

Toiletries. Although it’s a pain that on most airlines you can now only take liquids in 100ml amounts on as carry-on, this is actually a blessing in disguise as it encourages you to pack light in an area where it’s easy to go overboard. In your toiletries bag, I would recommend a face wash or cleanser, light moisturiser, sun cream, deodorant, lip balm, tooth paste and toothbrush and only your essential make-up items like a good bronzer and waterproof mascara.


Top Tip: An optional, handy item is a pack of face wipes to keep in your handbag; if you have the facility then keep them in the fridge overnight so that they can be a cool indulgence whilst you’re out and about in the heat.


1. Pink Samsung Digital Camera 2. Journal and Pen 3. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Miscellaneous. You’re not going to want to forget some other important items like: a towel, your camera, a good book, a journal and pen (also useful for postcards), a couple of hair ties and/or clips, a body spray or perfume, plus any ‘emergency’ items you might need like tampons, plasters, dehydration tablets or paracetamol.

Top Tip: As you pack, you’ll undoubtedly throw in few items ‘just because’ but be sure not to stuff your suitcase on a city break as shopping is bound to occur and you want to have room to bring extra items back!

And that's pretty much it! If there’s anything you think I’ve left out then please add it in the comments.

More, more, more...

♥ Check out The 10 Commandments of Travel Fashion at HiFashion.

♥ Also, take a look at How to Pack a Suitcase from Miss G Darling.