Blog. Job. Life - Balancing Blogging With Work and Living

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This post came to me as an idea when I was sitting at my desk on a normal afternoon in my old day job. I sort of forgot I'd written it, until the topic was brought up on Twitter a bit recently, so I thought it might be a helpful post for some. Although there are bloggers out there who actually do this for a living, most of us are doing it alongside work, college or Uni (or more than one of the above). I definitely know how it feels to struggle fitting in blogging with other commitments - I have two jobs, do my music writing and still manage to have a social life too, somehow. I'm sort of lucky that I've always been decent-ish at time management (boast, boast) - but my blog is something I love working on, and finding the time to create content isn't a chore for me.

Use your life as inspiration
If you feel like you're too busy to create new content, why not incorporate your social life into your blog? Going out for a meal? Take some snaps and review the restaurant! Talk about your hobbies, your job (if you can!), your goals. You don't have to spend an hour a day setting up and taking fancy photos of your outfit - get a friend to take a snap or two when you're out and about.

I've got to the point where I always have my phone at the ready to grab a few pics of anything I might be able to write about. Although I'm not the type to spend a whole evening snapping away, my friends and boyfriend (sort of) understand my blogging, and no longer look baffled when I'm taking pictures of bar signs from weird angles or meticulously arranging the table for each course of a meal.

Drafting and scheduling is your friend
Sometimes, when I've got a busy week coming up, I'll spend a Sunday afternoon writing up multiple posts to put up throughout the week. I'll schedule them in on Blogger (I usually try to alternate 10am, 2pm and 6pm postings!). Sometimes, I come up with a great spontaneous post and move things around a bit, but it's nice to know I have content scheduled and backup posts saved as drafts if I get overwhelmed with other stuff.

I'll also use TweetDeck to schedule in Tweets at points throughout the week - usually some 'retro post' ones and reminders of recent content, then new posts will get Tweeted in real time during breaks from work (to prevent any spontaneous post based reshuffling!).


Take photos in bulk
When it comes to photography, and especially as I usually get home after darkness falls in the winter, I have less opportunity to get well-lit product photographs. I try and  plan ahead, and use a weekend day to get images shot in bulk. That way, I have plenty of material to write posts for if I have an evening free during the week.

Plan a little - but don't stress over slipping
Sometimes, life gets in the way. It can't be helped. Usually, I like to vaguely plan out some blog post ideas and have a 'to write' and 'to photograph' list that I add to, but as I mentioned above, I also love the spontaneous ones.

In the end, the best thing to do is work out the best ways to organise your blogging time for you - whether it's getting up an hour earlier to do bloggy bits, being a night owl or saving it for the weekend. Finding what works for you and keeping your blogging as something you enjoy is vital to making sure your blog continues to be a labour of love and not something you feel you 'have' to keep up to date with.

How do you organise your blog around your commitments? What are your tips for a good work/life balance?
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Weekend Wishlist 18.04.15 - Holiday Time!

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In case you haven't seen my SUPER EXCITEMENT on Twitter, in three weeks' time I'm off on holiday! Myself and Conor are off to Barcelona for three days, then spending five days being all beachy (and riding rollercoasters at Port Aventura of course) in the sun. This will actually be my first real 'grown up' holiday, so I'm really excited. I also need to do a bit of shopping to make my wardrobe more 'holiday friendly'.

If you'd asked me a year ago, I'd have laughed at the thought of myself wearing a bikini in public - I didn't have the body confidence to wear anything more than a plain swimsuit. But now, I'm finding myself eyeing up cute two pieces, like this New Look Floral Print Halterneck Bikini (1). I love the fun pattern and coral/pink/blue colour scheme. I'll definitely have to try it on first, but it could just be my first ever two-piece swimwear purchase!

Obviously I won't be walking around Barcelona in swimwear, so I'm looking to pick up some cute playsuits and dresses, and this Topshop Rose Print playsuit (4) would be perfect for exploring the city in. All my bits and pieces would fit handily into the Tan Stitch Trim Backpack (5), leaving my hands free to munch on Spanish street food. I seem to be leaning towards tan for accessories, as I also like the Tan Leather Twist Caged Sandals (7). Finding a pair of sandals I liked was actually quite a mission for me, as they're not my normal footwear choice AT ALL, but these ones are nice and simple and I like the shade a lot.

I also want to get some sunny day essentials - a black fedora has been on my wishlist for some time now, but I think for holidays I'd opt for River Island's Beige Oversize Floppy Fedora (3), which is a tad more summery! A pair of sunnies is obviously a necessity (it's gonna bloody rain all week now isn't it?), and River Island do some great quality ones, like the Black Chunky Cat Eye Sunglasses (2) for a tenner. Taking care of your skin with an SPF product is super important, and my love for La Roche-Posay has drawn me towards their Anthelios XL Face Ultra-Light Fluid (8) - a product that'll protect my face as well as offer skincare benefits. Finally, a big chunky necklace is a great evening accessory - and I love this Gold Gem Filigree Bib Necklace (6) from New Look.

Are you off on holiday this summer? What will you be packing?
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Springtime Leather & Tartan

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It's not the clocks going forward or men inappropriately removing their shirts that alert me that Spring has sprung. Nope, it's when my coat goes into hiding (until it inevitably starts raining) and I embrace what Emma perfectly described on Twitter as 'leather weather'. My H&M leather jacket is years old, but as soon as the sun starts to shine, I'll throw it on faster than you can say "Pimms and lemonade".

Because it's quite short, it isn't a heavy winter jacket, and I love wearing it undone. It adds a tough edge to the prettiest of dresses, and the outfit I'm posting today is probably one of my favourite ways to wear it. As you'll probably know, I'm very into my rock and alternative music, but the way I dress doesn't always reflect that (which is fine by me - I'll happily throw myself into a moshpit in white lace, deal with it). Sometimes I do like to wear slightly 'rockier' outfits though, and this tartan dress is one of my faves. Wanna know a secret? It's actually from the New Look kids' section! Being short definitely has its uses!

Jacket - H&M, similar here // Dress - New Look, similar here // Bag - DKNY @ House of Fraser* // Boots - FOP by Hundson Shoes, Rubbersole
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General Election 2015: Considering not voting?

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As you're probably very aware, there's a little old General Election happening next month. Nothing major, really, only the decision of who runs the entire country. I'm going to be voting in it, and I think you should consider doing the same. I rarely talk about politics openly, unless you catch me in a particularly vocal mood on Twitter - but I'm actually incredibly excited for the election. But not everyone's in the same boat, and this post is for those who may be on the fence about deciding whether to cast their vote come May. From reading around social networks, I've found some of the most common reasons people aren't considering voting, and I've tried to 'answer' them with my own thoughts on the subject...

Is it really relevant to me though?
Yep. It really is. Even if it doesn't feel like it now, it will be. When I hit voting age, I really didn't think politics affected me much. I lived with my parents, went to college, and generally didn't think about it much. I was too busy browsing Primark and faffing over BOYS (squealing and sobbing in mostly equal measures) to really think about anything more than whether I had enough petrol to go into the city for a shopping trip. But as I've gone through University (pre-tuition fee rise) and into the working world - renting a house, paying bills and council tax - I've realised that those things they waffle about in Parliament do actually make a big difference to the way I live my life. It contributes to how much I'm paid, how much I pay for things, the healthcare I have access to, the ethics of the things I buy into, the education and opportunities my potential future children will have...it really does matter a lot. I've learnt that 'politics' isn't just about Parliament - it's very personal and affects us all as it trickles down to local and hyper-local levels, even if we're not in a position to fully understand how yet.

I don't know enough about politics!
This is one of the most common reasons behind people being unsure if they should vote, and I can understand it as politics is bloody complicated and daunting for those who are new to it. Blinded by political jargon and old men shouting at each other, I can sympathise completely and have been there myself. However, you still have plenty of time to educate yourself on at least the basics before you make your choice, and there are tools out there aimed at helping new and/or confused voters gain a greater knowledge of what they'll be voting for. The main thing it's good to know is the key policies of each party, and you can take a survey at Vote For Policies as a starting point to work out which party's policies your views best align with.

My one vote won't be enough to change anything though, surely?
The total turnout in the 2010 General Election saw 65.11% of eligible UK residents voting. The Conservative party took 36.15% of the vote, and Labour took 29%. Obviously, neither of those parties may be your cuppa tea - but the percentage difference is a lot lower than the percentage who didn't vote. Among that 34.89% that didn't vote, I'd wager there were a large amount of people who thought their vote wouldn't make a difference. But if everyone who thinks their vote won't count actually turns out and makes a choice this year, those collective votes could make all the difference.

I don't agree with any of the parties so I'm going to make a statement by not voting!
I really don't like this attitude - there are people out there with strong political views who advocate it for their own reasons, but more often than not I've heard it from people who haven't really educated themselves on politics, really don't care or can't be bothered to make a trip to the polling station because there's something good on telly. Realistically, people not voting isn't going to make as much difference as we'd like to hope for. Sure, there might be a message that people don't agree with the system of democracy in the UK - but it's also very likely it'll be put down to laziness and apathy rather than a strong political statement. The same big parties will continue to do what they do, and your 'statement' probably won't make a lot of difference. Sorry. If you really feel like you have no options to make a choice, then spoil your ballot. It's not something I'd personally advocate or advise, but for me it makes a stronger impression than just not voting at all.

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In the end - do what you want, I'm not going to come round your house, throw your dinner on the floor and drag you to your local polling station. As much as the suffragettes fought for votes for women, I'm not going to say that's a reason you HAVE to vote either. We live in a democracy where people do have the right to vote, however they also have the equal right to not vote - but I just can't see why you wouldn't want to! Why you wouldn't want the chance to actually have an input, no matter how small it may feel, into the way your country is run. Y'know, the country you have to live in, work in, one day maybe bring children into.

If nothing else, my one vote makes me feel empowered - no matter how miniscule my part in the election will be, the feeling of the entire nation having that opportunity is something very powerful to me - and I hope others who are on the fence about voting will make an informed decision and be able to feel that same way.
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Maybelline Color Drama Intense Velvet Lip Pencils

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Yep, still milking the birthday Boots haul for blog posts. As well as the budget base products I tried out, I also picked up the Maybelline Color Drama Lip Pencils (£4.99 each) in the shades Light It Up and Keep It Classy. And I'm letting them get away with the American spelling of colour, because these lip pencils are absolutely brilliant.

I haven't really dabbled all that much in lip pencils/crayons, but these have an absolutely spot-on formula and have been compared to the much pricier NARS Lip Pencils. When applied, they're very velvety and creamy, but still have fantastic staying power. I'd always thought lip pencils would be pretty chalky and drying - when it comes to these at least, I couldn't have been more wrong. I do still apply lip balm first, but they're on a par with some of my favourite lipsticks for longevity, yet still manage to not feel drying on the lips even after hours of wear.

The shades are also absolutely gorgeous,with brilliant pigmentation. Light It Up is a classic red, offering high glamour and a bright pop of colour for a daring daytime look or effortless fabulousness on a night out. Keep It Classy, a dusky pink shade, has been my absolute go-to for daytime wear since I picked these up, perfect for making a statement without being too OTT for the office or a casual lunch date.

On a shallow note, the packaging for these definitely wooed me. Thinner than a normal lipstick bullet, I found these super easy to apply even on the tube, and the pointed ends makes it easy to get a definied outline around the edges of the lips. The quality you get with these for a price point under a fiver is very impressive, and I definitely want to pick up some more shades. I've got my eye on Berry Much (as the name suggests, a medium-dark berry shade) and Minimalist (a lighter pink)!

Have you tried the Color Drama Lip Pencils?
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South of the River: Union Theatre Cafe & Borough Market

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A couple of weekends ago I met up with a friend for a catchup as he's moving to London to start a new job. I don't normally venture south of the river very often, so it was a good opportunity to check out somewhere new to me and also visit one of London's most iconic foodie hotspots - more on that in a second! We met up in Southwark and nipped down the road to The Union Theatre Cafe. I was completely bowled over by how cute it is - it's basically in a 'lean to' type area between two buildings, and has a real independent feel. There are only a few tables, but that just emphasises the cosy and intimate feel of the place, and theatrical posters adorn the entrance to the theatre itself.

The prices are really reasonable too - much less than you'd pay for a Starbucks or Costa and with the added bonus of the lovely environment. We both opted for the hot chocolates (large, obv) which were really tasty. And although I didn't sample the food, I'm definitely popping back to try one of their Brick Lane beigels (bagels, basically!). After having a drink, I decided to take a little solo trip down to the infamous Borough Market, near London Bridge station.

Ghost Chillis
UK Lifestyle Blog // London's Union Theatre Cafe & Borough Market

If you've never been to or heard of Borough Market - it's basically one of London's ultimate foodie paradises. It opened wayyyy back in 1851, and has tons of stalls selling everything from jams, chutneys and salts, to street food, chocolate and ice cream. Visiting on a Saturday meant the whole place was predictably rammed with locals and tourists alike - but I still managed to try plenty of the free samples on offer.


I ended up treating myself to a couple of things too - I tried the White Chocolate and Passionfruit and Elderflower chocolate truffles (both lovely!). Borough Market also has plenty of more exotic meats to try out - I had a little sample of some Ostrich steak and it was really tasty. For my lunch, I ended up grabbing a kangaroo burger out of curiosity, which ended up being lovely - juicy, tasty and filling. At £4.50, it was actually one of the cheaper street food items available, and definitely worth the price to try something new. Plus, they topped the burger with crisp, fresh salad and wholegrain mustard, which made for a perfect combo.

Borough Market has such a vibrant, London character to it - with an amazing variety of food and drink.  Whether you're visiting London or just a local who hasn't stopped by yet, I'd most certainly recommend a trip down the market!
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Green Smokey Eye Tutorial with Yves Rocher

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Yves Rocher are pretty well known for their body care products, with a focus on using botanical products that make women feel good about themselves - but did you know they have an extensive range of cosmetics on offer too? I have to admit, I didn't realise for a while that they also did makeup, so I was quite excited to give some of the range a go, particularly when I was offered the chance to trial some eye products. Eye makeup is one of the most exciting parts of creating a look for me, as there's so much you can do and you can create incredibly individual looks every day. I love a good smoky eye, but I also enjoy experimenting with fun colours - and to complement my currently red-tinted hair I decided to try out a green-based smokey eye using Yves Rocher products. Here's how...

To start off, I applied the Fixing Eyelid Primer* (£12.50 - currently £7.50) all over my lids and just underneath my eyes. I usually opt for Urban Decay as a lid primer, but I'll be using this one a lot more as I loved the easily blendable consistency, and the soft and flawless base it created on my lids.

For all the shadows, I use the Quad Eyeshadow Sumptuous Colour Palette* (£25 - currently £12.50) in Brilliant Green, starting with the lightest green shade as a base colour over my entire lids and into the crease. I found the two lighter green shades to be very similar, so only used one, but either would make  for a perfect green eye, be it on their own or layered with other shadows. Although the compact comes with two sponge applicators, I generally prefer to use brushes, so I've used my Real Techniques and USpicy Brushes in this tutorial.

I then used the darkest shade in the crease and corners of my eyes, blending with the base colour and a little further to my browbone. It doesn't matter if this goes a bit messily to begin with, as the next step will sort out any mistakes. I was really impressed with the pigmentation of the shades, they have a subtle shimmer that makes the makeup pop without being OMG GLITTERY. The shadows can be used dry as I've done here, or wet, where the shimmery shades will turn metallic for a more intense look. I'm yet to try using them in this way. but when I do I'll keep you up to date!

After using the darkest shade, I moved over to the lightest, a grey/silver shade. Using a fluffy USpicy blending brush, I worked some of it over the top of my browbone, blending down to create a more natural line where the darker shadow finished. The shade is actually a lot less pigmented than the others, which is actually helpful when blending as you don't end up using too much and ruining the smoky effect.

I'm very much a liquid/pen liner girl at heart, but I was quite taken by the Intense Kajal 100% Liner* (£15.90 - currently £9.95). The unusual shape definitely grabbed my attention, and consistency-wise I'd probably say it was a 'crayon liner' softer than pencil, but nowhere near a liquid still. It was super easy to apply, especially with the chunky base and thin end. I also found it great for creating a less defined look than an angular pencil or thin brush creates. Afterwards, I used the Real Techniques brow brush (I love multipurpose brushes!) dipped in the darkest shade under my eyes, smudging it in quite messily for a rock'n'roll, lived-in look.

Finally - mascara! The Mascara Volume Vertige* (£22, currently £11.50) is, as you might be able to guess, all about creating volume for lashes. As someone blessed with naturally quite long and curly lashes anyway (bragbrag), volume is one of the big things I look for in mascara - my lashes may be long, but they're pretty sparse. Volume Vertige has a patented Resevoir Brush which gives you plenty of product from the first coat. I could happily have stuck with one coat, although I did add a second to really maximise my lashes. The shape of the brush was a little awkward for my lower lashes, but for upper lashes it did a great job in fully coating them.

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And done! I really enjoyed experimenting with the Yves Rocher Makeup range, and have been really impressed by the quality of the products - particularly the pigmentation and easy blending of the shadows, and the innovative and easy to use Intense Kajal.

Do you experiment with colour or keep to basics when creating a smokey eye?

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