Wednesday, 28 January 2015

The Four 'P's' of Blog Organisation

How to organise your blog

We all know what it's like. You sit down to do some serious blogging, get into the blogger state of mind and then BAM. Suddenly you three episodes into American Horror Story, and have no idea how you got there. Before you know it the teeny tiny window of decent light has passed and it's nearly time to get get ready for that evenings blogger chat on Twitter. Somehow your day has ended and you have no blog posts to show for it. But fear not my fellow procrastinators, I have found the secret to keeping you blog in tip-top condition and it begins with the letter 'P'.

Yes I said it. The dirty word of the moment, planning seems to be dividing the blogging community in two firm camps with no middle ground. I understand that some people like to retain an element of spontaneity about their content, but I for one just cant do that and blog consistently. Even if you only plan a day in advance, planning gives you a little bit of time to think about structuring and what you actually want to say, rather than rambling on with no clear message. I tend to provisionally plan posts a month in advance and schedule them in pencil in my Personal Planner (*). A week or two before I will then review what I have planned and swap posts around or replace them as my mood dictates.  I will point out now that this "planning" literally only takes me about 15 minutes for the entire month, with the reviews being about 5 minutes, nothing time consuming.

It's not just your posts though that you should think about in advance. It might take less than a second to snap a photo, but some serious thought goes on before you can get trigger happy. From the location, to even the time of day for the best lighting, Of course, let's not forget you need to consider what you going to take pictures of! If your firmly in the spontaneous camp and still reading, I am seriously impressed. You can still plan and be spontaneous with your pictures. Simply making a scribbled list on the back of a receipt of what you want to photograph or what posts you need photographs for before you start clicking will help focus your mind and stop any unwanted distractions. If your more of a long term planner like me, you could even make a list of photos you know you will eventually need, and start working your way down. This is especially useful for FOTD and tutorials, letting you take advance of the good skin week before a planet forms on your chin. 

You've planned your posts but now it's time to prepare them. I do appreciate that this must be those anti-organisations worst nightmare, but stick with me, it's not half as bad as it seems. If you know what you're going to write about, you've already done half the work. Now you've got to go one step further. To prepare you simply need to collate all your thoughts into one place. I find the easiest way to bullet point key ideas in my blogging notebook as I try out products. It may be that you just list the products your going to include in the post, but at least you know whats going into the content of the post before you begin to tap it out.

Preparing for photos is obvious. You need to get all your items together. Remember the list I suggested above? Go down it and see which ones you are able to take during the same "session". I also find it helpful to put all the products or items I want to photograph in to a box all together. It saves so much time as everything together and I'm not running around trying to find things at the last minute.

It's at this point that I will hold my hands up and say I don't always follow my own advice. Sometimes I don't take the photos as planned and miss the good lighting. You know how it is, things just crop up. Most people give up and take the pictures another time, but don't! Carry on as normal, take your photos in the dull cloudy light. Once you've done, head over to PicMonkey and upload your chosen picture for editing. You can then play around with the exposure to make your picture brighter, as well as the saturation among other things. By editing your photos, you can make them even better than if you had snapped them in the good light! 

The second point I would say about photography is to consider taking some stock photographs when you have a spare 5 minutes. Stock photographs are those random pictures you see on many a blog that don't focus on any one particular item, such as the one at the top of this post. I like to keep a variety of stock photos ready and waiting to be used if, for any reason, I haven't been able to get a picture ready for a post, If you run your blog to a schedule, they can save your neck. If your more spontaneous, they can help you out when you suddenly get the urge to write, but can't think of or get a suitable picture.

Last but certainly not least is polishing. This is something I'm slowly getting to grips with myself, but I will happily admit struggle with. Like most pieces of work, it's important to polish it up once it's all done. Make sure you have a look at a preview of your post as this is what your readers will see. Does the structure allow for easy reading? Does it portray a message or just ramble on about nothing? Have you got your theirs and there's confused? Now is the time to edit these. Ideally, this should all be done before it's published, but if not, just edit it following the post being published. 

Now you've done all the hard work, you need to show it off. For me, social media brings the highest traffic to The Crown Wings so I've really been putting in extra effort to improve my online marketing. Since the New Year I've been using Hootsuite to help schedule posts throughout the day, improving my online presence. This does take some time, especially if you do it in weekly blocks like myself, but its definitely worth it if you find yourself busy during the day.  

What are you best blog organisation tips?

Monday, 26 January 2015

Boxing Day Sales Haul

You'd be correct in thinking I was on a spending ban. I am, and believe it or not, still going strong. This rather large bounty was bought in the Boxing Day sales and for some reason, I've waited to now to show you. 

After shouting more expletives than I'd care to admit at my iPad, I finally manged to add two Lush gift set's into my basket and checkout. I don't know what it is with the Lush website, but it does seem to be an annual tradition that I simply crashes every Boxing Day. Surely you'd think they would have learned by now? Aside from that I had to have a look at Space NK. I have a love hate relationship with Space NK. I love the store and hate what it does to my bank balance. I feel that I was actually quite restrained this year. I stocked up on my favorite Laura Mercier bath goodies, a REN skincare set and finally got my hands on some NUDE products.

I'd already started shopping for fashion bargains on Christmas Eve. My mum actually told me about this Lulu Guinness bag, which was half price at House of Fraser, when I came home from work at lunch time. I've been after a Lulu Guinness bag for quite a while now and loved this one as soon as I saw it. It's a small structured bag with a long gold chain strap which could be worn on the shoulder or cross body. How cute is the little lipstick charm?! I also picked up an over-sized blue clutch and black jelly shoes from ASOS. I was desperate to get some jelly shoes for my holiday to Crete before the shops bump the prices up. I was umming and ahhing about getting a pair of neon pink ones, but the practical, boring side of me won, and I opted for simple black. I then nipped onto Zara. I needed a new work back as my current one from Primark, is 5 years old and slowly falling apart. I managed to find this beautiful navy city bag which is the perfect size, as well as this necklace. It's so heavy, but I cant stop staring at it. It's like lots of wine gums stuck together! Obviously on a bit of a spending spree, I then had a look at New Look and managed to persuade myself I needed another pair of black heels. Oh and this tribal necklace just happened to fall into my basket. Online. Oops. 

Did you pick up any bargains?

Friday, 23 January 2015

Sleek & Illamasqua Metallic Cream Eyeshadow Comparison

Sleek Illamasqua Metalic Cream Eyeshadow Comparison

Sleek Illamasqua Metalic Cream Eyeshadow Comparison

Sleek Illamasqua Metalic Cream Eyeshadow Comparison
Top - Illamasqua Liquid Metal Cream in Electrum - £17.50
Middle & Bottom - Sleek Molten Metal in Gold Leaf & Pewter - £7
Looking through my stash this weekend, I noticed I have a fair few products which are exceptionally similar. Some of these products are around the same price and just coincidence, some blatant copies, and some, accidental dupes. This happens to be one of my favorite.

I make no secret of the fact I am a magpie. If it's shiny, or has a sparkle, I want it. Of course that's the same for my make-up. I do have some glitter pigments, but I have to be in a very patient mood to use them so as not to look like a human glitter ball. A safe option which still let's me indulge in my glitter obsession is Ilamasqua's Liquid Metal Cream. I have quite of few of these in my collection and I have to admit they are amazing. Super creamy, incredibly long wearing and beautifully pigmented. You couldn't want anything more from your eye shadow. Well, except it to a tad cheaper. At £17.50 a pop, their not the cheapest. Thankfully I've found a great alternative for £10 less! Despite the obvious similarity, Sleek's Molten Metal contains two metallic creams opposed to Illamsaqua's one. The creams aren't as pigmented or as buttery as Illamasqua's offering, however do wear very well. Gold Leaf is the one most similar to Illamsqua's Electrum, although it doesn't seem to be as vibrant. All that being said, they are incredibly similar. I'd recommend Sleek for looks you want to experiment with, but stick to Illamasqua when quality matters.

Note: Illamasqua seem to have discontinued Electrum, but Solstice is very similar

Have you tried any of these products?

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

5 books in 5 words #2

Book Review

I can't believe my first 5 books was way back in May. I never intended to leave such a massive gap between posts, but life got in the way as usual and I just didn't have time to read. However, recently I've got by life balance back to how it should be, and made more time for the things I love. If you're not sure how these posts work, which will most like be the majority of you seeing as its 8 months since I last did one, I simply review 5 books in 5 words. I find book reviews quite hard to do without giving away key bits of plot, and like to let people discover twists for themselves. By only using 5 words you get the main jist. Simples? 

Star Island by Carl Hiaasen
Celeb-focused, fun, easy reading chic-lit.

From Notting Hill With Love... Actually by Ali McNamara
A movie obsessed Bridget Jones. 

Starter For Ten by David Nicholls
Cooler version of University Challenge.

Rebels: City of Indra by Kendall & Kylie Jenner
Post-apocalyptic Sci-fi that misses something.

The Captain's Daughter by Leah Fleming
Titanic aftermath of one family.

Have you read any of these books? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Friday, 16 January 2015

ESPA Essential Protective Serum

ESPA Essential Protective Serum Review
Serum (*) - £25

You can wear a hat to protect your head from the weather, sunglasses to protect your eyes from the sun and gloves to keep your hand warm, but what about your skin? Apart from the usual answer of SPF, one of the best ways you can build a barrier against the elements is through effective skincare. Unfortunately, I find finding the perfect winter serum to be a bit of challenge. Anything too rich and my skin just feels overloaded.

Lucky for me, and you, I found this skincare superstar! ESPA's Essential Protective Serum is an rich hydrating serum which protects against the elements. Rich in antioxidants, it will prevent damage from environmental aggressors whilst giving you a much needed moisture boost. Suitable for all skin types, it's perfect for stepping out into harsh winter winds, and back inside to central heating. I apply a pea size amount in the morning following cleansing and before mositurising and feel like it creates a barrier between my skin and the elements. Although very rich, the serum is incredibly lightweight and sinks into your skin fast without leaving it greasy. I really struggle with dry patches, particularly on my nose, but this serum helps massively. I've found that I've not got battled with my skin as much when the central heating's been turned on, and it is nowhere near as temperamental or sensitive as it usual is this time of year. I've finally found the missing link and my new winter weather must-have!

What's your winter beauty must-have?

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

January Blues

Blue Nail Polish Reviewed

Put your hand up if you're starting to feel a bit down. I for one have been hit by a very nasty case of the January Blues. I go to work in the dark, only to come home in the dark with no twinkling fairy lights to guide my way. Decorations have all been taken down, the festive food has been eaten and all that's left is a skeleton Christmas tree waiting for collection. And on top of that, pay day seems as far away as next Christmas. Well it's time to snap out of it. We can't all spend an entire month down when we have an entire year to look forward to! 

In a bid to try and cheer myself up, I've decided to think about some nicer, altogether more cheerful blue; nail varnish shades. I've selected 5 of my favorite shades for us all to admire. Fingers crossed it'll make the blues a little happier.
  1. O.P.I - I Vant To Be A-lone Star - £11
    A beautiful silvery blue.
  2. Headline Colors - Poolside Party
    Bright blue.
  3. Missguided - Misstique
  4. MeMeMe Cosmetics - Carefree
    Royal Blue
  5. Barry M - Blackberry - £3.99
    Deep & dark blue
How are you surviving the January Blues?

Monday, 12 January 2015

Colouring My Stress Away

Those of you who have read my blog for a while may remember back in August a series called Anxiety August (click here if you missed it). When I shared my story with you, I mentioned that I had attended Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to help me manage my anxiety better and that it was working really well. Whilst at therapy I learnt how to practice mindfulness and how it's important to learn to stop thinking and just notice things when you feel your most vulnerable. I'm happy to say it has worked wonders. I have had a few panic attacks but going from multiple times a day to maybe once a month is a big leap. I've now completed my CBT sessions and practice the techniques I learnt religiously. Even so, I think it's good to always look for new techniques or methods that I can use to help me. 

Something I've only recently started doing is colouring. Not just for children, I picked up Colour Yourself Calm, Colour Yourself Happy and Colour Me Calm, which combine CBT techniques with art therapy. Taking 10 minutes out of my hectic routine to spend and practice mindfulness through colouring in is helping to bring clarity and stop me worrying so much. See that's the thing with mindfullness, if you don't practice it you struggle to rely on it when you really need it so anything that helps me practice is great. No artistic ability is needed and you are free to do whatever you want with the templates, each simply promotes you to be mindful of whats around you. The idea is that once you can create a sense of clarity from mindfulness, next time you feel anxious, you simply think of the same things and your clarity will eventually return. It takes practice to achieve, but it works. I'd strongly recommend these for anyone suffering from anxiety or stress, there perfect for encouraging you to practice CBT techniques.

Do you practice mindfulness?

Friday, 9 January 2015

Sephora + Pantone Universe: Pure Marsala Matte Lip Creme

Sephora Pantone Universe Marsala LipSephora Pantone Universe Marsala Lip

Sephora Pantone Universe Marsala Lip

Sephora Pantone Universe Marsala Lip
Lipstick - $18

If you're into art, you may already know that this years Pantone colour is Pure Marsala (number 18-1438 if you happen to be interested). As always, Sephora release a limited edition collection in that particular shade and as luck would have it I was placing an order on Sephora at the same time the first lot of the Matte Lipstick was released. 

I am very easily swayed by packaging, and I must say I do love the ombre effect this range always has. This year the lipstick seems to hover in mid-air as it's suspend within clear film. Whilst the ombre packaging has not been transferred onto the actual lipstick (as last years did), the gold compliments this years shade perfectly and gives it glamorous touch, Described as "confidently understated and beguilingly simple", Pure Marsala is a warm toned vintage nude. It's contains more pink than terracotta but is deeper than a "Kylie Jenner" lip. I want to say it's almost a berry nude if such a thing existed. It certainly looks like a berry in the bullet, however once swatched it does take on a more neutral tone. The formula is matte, but its not an absolute and there is some natural shine form light reflecting. As it's not a true matte, it doesn't have any of the associated issues with drying your lips and the wear time is average at 4-5 hours. 

I am so happy I managed to pick this up as it's truly a unique shade. I think it's so versatile and is a nice half-way product for those of you a bit apprehensive of berry lips.

What do you think about this years colour of the year?

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

The Busy Girls Guide to Pampering

New Year New Start. That same old phrase pops up all over the place this time of year. As cliched as it is, there is something about the new year that makes me want to start afresh, and that feeling stretches right through to my beauty regime. This year I've promised myself I'm going to relax more often, and nothing shouts "relaxed" more to me than a pamper session. However, as most of you are probably all too aware of, pampering takes more time and effort than you think Luckily I've found 5 products that, when combined, help you relax as quick as possible.

  1. The first thing to do is use Good Things 5 Minute Facial Mask while running a nice hot shower. As the name suggests this mask is perfect for giving your skin a detox when your pressed for time. With a lovely berry scent the mask will dry in 5 minutes and help to remove impurities from your skin.
  2. I'm a massive fan of bath products such as bombs and melts, but they take time to enjoy. Whenever I haven't got the luxury of time, I use Aromatherapy Associates Deep Relax Bath & Shower Oil. For use both in the bath and shower, if you're in a rush simply smooth it all over your body before getting into the shower to enjoy it's relaxing fragrance. This particular one has notes of camomile, vetivert and sandlewood, guaranteeing a spa-like experience.
  3. You've cleansed you skin, but don't forget your hair! Whilst you might not have time for a separate hair mask, Bumble & Bumble Sunday Shampoo will clarify your hair, removing any product build-up, in one simple step. It's been said that this helps you to only wash your hair once a week, but I simply use it once a month to keep my hair free from lingering products.
  4. Another product that does the job of two is Soap & Glory Clean On Me. Rather than use both a shower gel and a body lotion, this sweet smelling product combines both to save time and space in your bathroom. Your skin will be moisturised to perfection without having to wait for any lotion to sink in.
  5. Lastly, pop the Origins Drink-Up Intensive Overnight Mask on before you finally go to sleep. With this mask, you will literally get your beauty sleep, as it gives you skin some much needed hydration overnight. Once you've woken up, simply wash your face and you'll be ready to face the day.

Have you got any quick pampering tips?

Monday, 5 January 2015

What I got for Christmas

Oh yes. It's finally my time to share with you all the lovely things I was fortunate enough to be gifted during the festive period. I was amazingly lucky enough to receive an iPad Air from my parents along with a keyboard case (which actually has icing sugar on it in the photo from Christmas baking ... oops).  I've been looking at the, forever but never got round to picking one up. In the end, my parents surprised me and said I could now stay in touch with the real world whilst off on my adventures next year. It definitely came in handy for looking at the sales, but that is for a different post ;)

Aside from my iPad my parents picked up a couple of extremely thoughtful gifts. They got some fairy lights, a fake light up candle and a mirrored bird cage for my room when it's eventually decorated this year. They also managed to find the book of my all-time favorite cartoon Mimi, which where they found I have no idea as I didn't even know they did a book! On top of this the girls at work got my some lovely beauty products, stocking my already-over flowing supply.

What did you get this Christmas?

Thursday, 1 January 2015


Well it's a brand new year and a time when most people reflect on last year and make resolutions for the next. Last year I talked about if there was any point in making New Year's resolutions (click here if you missed it) and this year I don't really think I'm making any at all, well, except to live.

I think sometimes I put myself under so much pressure that I forget just to have fun and experience things for what they are. This year I'm going to just live and enjoy opportunities as they arise rather than finalise every second or tiny detail. I'm going to try and be more spontaneous, but of course I couldn't resist planning things; I'm such an organiser. By the looks of this lovely list, this year is going to be a busy year:

  1. Family holiday to Crete
  2. My 23rd Birthday
  3. Decorating the entire house
  4. Attending the hockey EuroChampionship Women's Final 2015 in London
  5. Travelling around California, Nevada and Colorado with Trek America

Have you made any plans for this year already?
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