Saturday, 30 April 2011

Travel Series: Hong Kong

I was bowled over by the Royal Wedding yesterday. Were you? I never thought the whole sense of occasion would touch me, but it did. As I found it really quite inspirational (on many different levels) I've considered writing about it here but don't know where to start. I think I'll revisit it in a few days and get my thoughts out, but for now I'll continue on with my weekly travel series. This week, it's Hong Kong. I loved Hong Kong - a bustling, energetic city that somehow seems calm, safe and peaceful at the same time. Amazing food and welcoming people. I hope I get to spend more time there and explore the city further. I could even live there (I particularly liked Stanley) if it wasn't for the polluted smog that fills the sky.

Have you ever been to the Far East? What did you think? Do you have any recommendations for things to do should I find myself back in Hong Kong?

Thursday, 28 April 2011

My Hollywood Smile

I'm not a particularly materialistic girl, believe it or not. I'm all too aware of the negative effects of consumerism on society. Having said that, I am certain of this much: life can be difficult and full of challenges. During times of trouble or strife it is the little purchases, the fun finds, that make your day a touch brighter. A new blouse for a night out. A pair of sweet espadrilles in which to welcome Spring. A silver ring found on sale. Some of these 'things' can and do lift your spirits and make life easier.

Something that's made my life a little easier; a little brighter?

This week I ticked off one of my 30 Before 30 and discovered a bright lipstick that afforded me the blissful experience of feeling poised and confident. 17 Mirror Shine Lipstick in 'Hollywood' - a sumptuous but somewhat sheer red. A vivacious pop of colour, falling somewhere between a traditional opaque lipstick and a gloss. This is quite literally the perfect red for those who generally shy away from the spotlight but still crave glamour. It was love at first sight.

Thank you Milly, for nudging me in the right direction.
17 is available at Shipping is free if you opt to collect in store.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

The Notebook Doodles

I love it when I come across a distinctive blog. As I remarked within my recent post, Blogging 101, it's really quite hard to be unique in an endless sea of blogs, so when you discover something strikingly different you know that it's special. The last time I came across a site like that it was THXTHXTHX A Thank You Note a Day. It's been a while since a site made me "Ooo" and "Ahh" but today it did. Lovely readers, let me introduce you to The Notebook Doodles.

A visually stunning blog with an emphasis on posting inspirational quotes that the blogger handwrites/illustrates herself. I love anything which oozes creativity so this blog really hooked me in. Here's a little sample:

Cute doodles, right?

Have you discovered any online treats of late? Share the link in the comments section!

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

A Dream Home

Usually when I view interior photographs online there will be elements I love but aspects that I couldn't live with. When I spotted the following images of this amazing home I wanted it all. All of it. I love that, although it's incredibly stylish, it's not ostentatious. It's light and airy and modern, but not overly modern. Each room seems to tell a story. It's interesting and full of character.

Images courtesy of micasa via song of style

What would your dream home look like?

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Sunday, 24 April 2011

Happy Easter!

I hope you're all having a cracking Easter weekend, filled with family and friends, sunshine and chocolate. Mine has been perfect. We took a walk around Alderley Edge on Friday morning then basked in the heat nestled on the picnic benches at the front of The Wizard Inn. Last night we went to a birthday party at a friend's house. It was a big, beautiful house in the countryside with a marquee, banners and balloons, a bath full of alcohol on ice, homemade curry and naan and a cupcake tower. A snapshot of my weekend:

1. Ham & mustard sandwich at The Wizard Inn, Alderley Edge.
2. Vodka and tonic.
3. My latest love: denim gilet by Miss Selfridge (petites section).
4. Roman wedge sandals by Zara.
5. The best Easter egg ever for the best boyfriend ever. Thanks Gem!
6. Hot cross buns and raspberry jam.
7. Bought some more NYC nail varnishes.
8. Cadbury Creme Egg.

I hope your weekend has been equally joyful!


Thursday, 21 April 2011

Things I Love Thursday

1. Kids Bearded Beanie Hat: Isn't this just brilliant? I'm in awe of it! Sheer genius. All I need now is a small child and some cold weather. Buy yours here.

2. Fiat 500 by Gucci. My friend has the plain red Fiat 500 and I think it's cute. I'm not sure I'd ever actually purchase a car this dinky but I sure do like the look of the white 500 by Gucci. It would certainly make parking a little easier around the city.
3. Sunshine in Manchester. Today was the hottest day of the year so far. 24 degrees in England? In April? Yes please; I'll take it. I totally whipped out the maxi dress, gladiator sandals and factor 30 for after work drinks. Long may it continue!

4. High Five Note. This is such a neat idea. Wouldn't the world be a better place if we could hand out high five notes to strangers and friends alike whenever the urge took us. I'd give each and every one of my awesome readers a high five note. And the box that I'd tick? ROCK! Because YOU: ROCK!
5. Magnet make-up board. This really made me smile. A completely unique and sort of crazy idea that actually makes sense. Wouldn't you just love this hanging on the wall of your make-up area? It would be a conversation starter that's for sure.

And a few more honourable mentions: ♥ Maxi dresses. ♥ Car crash TV - I can't wrap my head around TOWIE (am I missing something?) but still addicted to Katie Price. ♥ Hot cross buns and Mini Eggs. ♥ The weather. Oh, sorry, did I already mention the weather? It's hot. ♥ Coachella fashion inspiration. ♥ Calvin Klein bras for £5.99 at TK Maxx - just stocked up! ♥

Hope you all enjoy the long Easter weekend. I have tons planned so I'm not sure if blogging will feature at all! Be back with a photo roundup soon as I can. Happy Easter!

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Coachella 2011

I feel like the last couple of weeks my inspiration has been wholly derived from fashion and clothes. Must be the change in seasons. I've been browsing the style photographs from Coachella and couldn't pass up the opportunity to post my favourites here. Coachella may be the coolest gathering on earth. These women aren't real are they? Really? Too damn beautiful...

Monday, 18 April 2011

Blogging 101: My Top 10 Blogging Tips!

I often get emails asking for advice on how to build a following when you start out blogging. Obviously, not everyone has this agenda, but this post is for those that do. If you're the blogger who blogs primarily for yourself and dislikes the concept of presenting your ideas with the motive of increasing subscribers then this post will probably irritate you. Don't hate - take a look at these extraordinarily cute pictures instead.

{ Not being arrogant (!) just love this image! *credit* }

I'm clearly no expert but I figure why not share my views - hopefully some little snippet of this post will prove useful. Now, get a cup of tea and make yourself comfortable because this is long...

1. Be committed. Blogging is a little like weight loss. You have to put the effort in for a while before you see real results. That's a strange window to be in; after all as humans we only want to partake in activities that heed positive results quickly. And that's why most people give up blogging before they 'succeed'.

2. Even after a long period of commitment, still perservere. It took 6 months before I had 100,000 hits to my blog. Then in the 7th month I had 100,000 hits in one month. It took a long time before my traffic grew. Nothing in life worth having ever comes easily. And blogging is no different.

3. Believe. Like anything in life it'll only happen if you believe. I believed in Sofia's Journal from the outset and that's what kept me going, even when it felt like my blog was completely insignificant. I believed the blog was worthwhile (to me!) whether people read or not.

4. Do not compare your blog to anyone else's because it'll drive you mad. There will always be bigger and better blogs. Just focus on yourself and make improvements where you see fit. And don't ever let the perfect get in the way of the good. Sometimes I get frustrated because I wish I had basic graphic design skills to make things look a little funkier around here (and maybe I'll learn some of that in the future) but I don't let it get in the way of continuing on with a hobby I love. Your readers don't expect 'perfection' - they expect 'good'!

{ Really? *credit* }

5. Be chatty. Leave meaningful comments on blogs that fall within the same niche as your own. Readers will notice your comment and if you sound interesting or your picture hooks them in then they're likely to click your link and visit your blog. Case in point - the majority of bloggers I've featured in The Sunday Click List were discovered because they left comments on my blog. Likewise, join twitter and learn how to use it. Then really use it. It's a powerful promotional tool. Talk to people. Befriend other bloggers. Become part of the community.

6. Take note of what you love about your favourite blogs. Write it all down. And there you have it - a list of what makes a good blog. Now keep those things in mind when you write your own. But don't copy - that's just lame.

7. Advertise. If you're serious about gaining a larger audience then consider advertising on a blog with a bigger following than your own. It's generally really cheap (or free if you swap buttons with a blogger friend!) and can work well. Just be sure to have a pretty looking advert (so people feel compelled to click!) and make sure your blog is sticky enough (sticky: see point 8) that you convert hits to new followers.

8. Make your blog 'sticky' - and by 'sticky' I mean this: If you're lucky enough to have someone new click through to your blog it has to stand out to make them stick around (i.e. subscribe). It might be a beautiful blog header and all round cool site design that will hook them in for a moment but they need more than that. I kept new visitors in mind in a few different ways but primarily, I made navigation as easy as possible - a Popular Posts tab beneath the header, a list of product reviews and a selection of regular features reside in the sidebar. This sends a message to the reader that if they stick around there's a whole lot more good stuff other than what they see on the first page. Another way to do this is by installing the LinkWithin widget beneath your posts.

9. Don't blog for money or for free swag. There's absolutely nothing wrong in gaining financially from your blog or in receiving products for review. Nothing. But if that's your number one priority when you sign up to Blogger you'll most likely be deeply disappointed. Instead you need to be passionate about writing. And be in love with your subject matter. They're the only things that will truly fuel your motivation.

10. Image is everything. Your blog must be aesthetically pleasing!
♥ Make your photos large. Nobody wants to screw up their eyes in order to see the images that compliment your writing. If you don't know how to make your photographs the entire width of your post then Google it. All the information you need is out there.

♥ Make your images prettier. Learn how to use photo editing tools to full effect. I particularly like Picasa, Picnik, Fotoflexer and Gimp - all free and all pretty awesome.

♥ For cute photographs to accompany your awesome writing, search: We Heart It, Pinterest, Google Image Search and Flickr: Creative Commons.

♥ Seriously consider making your background white. I don't regularly read a single blog that doesn't have a white background to the primary text. My eyes don't like it any other way.

♥ Try to include a great photograph of yourself in the sidebar. Studies have shown that a web site or advert gains far more interest if the reader sees a human face right away!

♥ Taking photographs of products? Be aware of how the background looks. An interesting fabric, wallpaper or wrapping paper underneath always looks cute. For info of what camera I use check out my FAQ page.

♥ Other elements I deem important: a search box function, interesting 'about' page (yes, I really need to work on mine!), contact and social media icons that are clearly displayed and membership of bloglovin'!

And finally, a word or two about being unique.

I appreciate that, in an endless sea of blogs, it's really quite hard to be unique. Every angle has already been covered. A million times over. But it is still possible to give your readers something they can't find elsewhere. Include your own personal photography as much as possible and develop a writing style, charm and sense of humour that is individual to you. The only thing you have that is truly unique is yourself. So be yourself and express your opinions freely. If you have new and creative ideas your blog will stand out.

Now, over to you... I need your input! Tell me what you like, love, dislike, hate about my blog - what would you like to see more of? And less of? What do you think makes a great blog! If you have any questions about aspects I failed to cover here then leave a comment and I'll compile a follow up post or get back to each of you individually.

Happy Blogging!

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Travel Series: Australia Part 2

Hey lovely readers! I am so loving the weather in England right now. I've spent the whole weekend outside lapping it up - it's far too nice to be inside. Here is the next installment of my Travel Series. Tomorrow, I'll be posting my blogging tips so please do check back for that; and if you haven't already then you can enter my latest giveaway here.

1. Manly 2. East coast sea 3. Wedding chapel at Hunter Valley 4. Graffiti at Bondi Beach 5. Road sign, Perth 6. Palm Beach (Home & Away!) 7. Perth city 8. Aborigine at The Blue Mountains 9. One of many amazing modern homes on the West Coast 10. Contemplation at the Bali memorial in King's Park, Perth.

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