Thursday, 27 July 2017

Resolution update

2017 resolution update


We’re well over half way through the year now which is crazy, and I thought I’d write an update on the resolutions I shared back in January. I know it’s cliché to say (and even more of a cliché to say it’s cliché!) but seriously, I don’t know where this year is going! 2017 is flying by but it’s been good to me so far.

I always think it’s a good idea to take stock and look at what’s happened, where things are going and amend anything that’s changed priority. It’s not a bad thing if some resolutions haven’t been achieved yet - sometimes it’s a case of reminding yourself of your goals or remembering why you set them in the first place.
When you write resolution posts you have great intentions to keep up with it all, but I’ll be honest here and say they’ve not really been in the forefront of my mind. I’ve certainly not been thinking ‘I need to focus on this, this month’, or even consciously looked back at my goals at any point until now. Though I think it’s a good idea (especially as someone who is so forgetful) to write them down in your diary or planner each month, I think deciding goals at the start of the year has subconsciously been with me anyway.

I use a one word concept for my resolutions, and this year I chose 'Focus'. Focus is quite broad, but it works in so many different aspects. It’s one of the reasons why I like the concept of having one word for a year, because it applies to so many things but doesn’t feel like I’ve got a never-ending goal list to tick off.




FOCUS
on ME

I wanted to focus on ‘me’, Though in recent months I’ve fallen back into the habit of taking on too many things and feeling a little burnt out trying to please everyone and do everything, I am feeling so much better than I was in 2016. This time last year I was extremely stressed, anxious and depressed. I’ve changed jobs, which was a huge factor, did CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) and worked my way out of it. Writing it out like that makes it seem trivial and quick but, of course, it wasn’t. Though the first few months were rough, I’m feeling so much better and a lot more positive. It certainly feels like I’ve made a momentous turning point, anyway.

I’ve focused on a goal that I’ve had for years and years, and that was to open my online shop. You can read more about that in this post, but I love creating and I am really enjoying the feedback I get from everyone who orders. The idea that my art will be displayed in someone else’s home just makes me so happy and gives me even more motivation to continue doing this and growing my product range. More on this in the goal below.




FOCUS
On my body

Focusing on my body and exercising has had its peaks and troughs! There were a good few weeks where I cycled every day – doing hill reps and seeing progress. Annoyingly, I didn’t keep this up and to be honest, I don’t have the motivation to start again either. One element of fitness that I have kept up are my weekly Pilates classes. Though it’s not cardio and isn’t helping me to lose weight, it’s excellent for correcting my posture and stretching my muscles. I adore Pilates and recommend it to anyone – it’s actually a surprising workout considering how slow and small the movements are but, done correctly, can make a big difference. One thing I’d like to improve on is doing it more at home – ideally every evening, as the progress and improvement would be a lot greater if I did it more than once a week!




FOCUS
on my illustration

I wanted to focus on my illustration and I’m really happy that this one is probably the best of the lot! Like I said above, I opened my online shop in June and it really pushed me to create more. I’m still illustrating and sharing bits and pieces on Instagram as well, which is another area I’ve spoken about on the blog, in this post here. Each month, I’m challenging myself to launch new products in my store, whether that’s a whole new product or a new card design. On top of everything else (I’m also taking on more commissions as well being creative in my day job as a graphic designer) I’m quite pleased with how things are going. Of course I’m always needing more time, and I do wish I could stay at home and create full time, but for now, I think I’m doing well. Becoming freelance will be a goal for next year!!




FOCUS
on my online presence

This is an extra goal I’d like to add in for the rest of 2017. After attending Blogtacular in June (a prize for designing their notebooks – you can see the other fantastic entries here), it’s made me realise how much more I want to do. I wrote a lot of notes and came away with a lot of ideas, but due to the lack of time I mentioned before, I’ve been plodding along doing the bare minimum. I’d really like to push myself more and utilise as much time as I can to create useful content for my audience. A lot of the time I can feel overwhelmend by all the things I expect myself to do, but I really do think that this push will pay off in the long run. I just need to use my spare time better and make time for these things (instead of wasting the hour before bed where I just scroll through social media!)




How are your resolutions going? Let me know in the comments and hopefully this will give us a boost to achieve everything we hoped for back in January!



Thursday, 15 June 2017

Terry's Chocolate Orange Recipes

terrys chocolate orange chocolate orange recipes


Father’s Day is quite literally around the corner and, if you need a last minute gift or some delicious treats for the day, these recipes are the perfect solution. Terry’s chocolate oranges have always been a big hit though I do admit to thinking it was more of a Christmas affair. Obviously not so, as I found plenty stocked in Tesco and I’m very happy to say we can eat them all year round.

I’m sharing two recipes today that can be made with Terry’s Chocolate Orange - both simple and perfect for a special occasion. The first is the great Rocky Road, and the second, an easy Millionaire's Shortbread.

I made these a couple of weeks ago as a ‘test run’ and can confirm they are both easy to make and absolutely delicious. They look really impressive too, and after taking them into work they were completely devoured within a couple of hours. If that’s not a thumbs up, I don’t know what is!

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Rocky road is one of my staple bakes - every family occasion must include my rocky road for desert - otherwise I’m in trouble! This is my usual recipe (adapted from Nigella) with the addition of the chocolate orange - which just makes it all the more decadent. The method is simple and involves a lot of chocolate. Melt the chocolate with the golden syrup and butter. It’s important to let this cool once it’s all combined, otherwise the chocolate pieces in the next step will just melt into it.

Crush up the digestive biscuits and add to the mix, along with raisins and mini marshmallows. Chop up the white and dark chocolate into small pieces (or you use chocolate chips), along with the Terrys Chocolate orange. I chopped up about 3/4 of a whole ball. This recipe is so adaptable so you can add anything you like here - including cherries, mixed fruit, nuts, or even more chocolate orange - whatever is your dad’s favourite!

Finally, pop it in the fridge to set. When you’re ready to serve (or present!), dust it with icing sugar and chop into bars.

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I was a little nervous for the shortbread recipe - I usually stick to my tried and tested baking repertoire, but this sounded so delicious I had to try it. I was so surprised by how easy it was - making shortbread and a ‘cheats’ caramel was not difficult at all and easy for the most in-experienced baker.

Start by making the shortbread. Preheat the oven to 180c (160c fan) and combine the butter and flour together. The recipe calls for a food processor, but I just used my stand mixer. Once it looks like breadcrumbs, add in the orange zest and then mix again. Take the dough out and work it with your hands to form a ball.

Flatten the dough into a disk, and then place into a lined square tin - you'll want one with relatively high sides so I just used a brownie tin. Use your fingers and push the dough all the way to the edges - it's very malleable so you can push and squish from other areas until it's all even.

Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown. Set it aside and leave it in the tin. While that's cooling, it's time to make the cheats caramel. It's not as fiddly as proper caramel, with no thermometers in sight, but it will need your attention as it needs to be stirred constantly. In a saucepan, combine the tin of condensed milk with the golden syrup, butter and sugar. Once it comes to a boil, turn down the heat so it's a simmer. Keep stirring so it doesn't burn, until it becomes a golden brown colour, which will take about ten minutes. Take it off the heat and transfer it to a heatproof bowl to cool and thicken slightly.

By now, your shortbread will have cooled so pour the caramel on top. It's an easy recipe but does require cooling time, as you'll now need to wait for the caramel to set slightly. I put mine in the fridge which worked well, and then started with the third and final layer.

Break apart and melt two and a half of the chocolate oranges. You can do this in a bain-marie but I just used the microwave for ease. After about ten minutes of the shortbread and caramel cooling in the fridge, you'll be able to pour the melted chocolate on top. Use the remaining chocolate segments to decorate the top and then pop it back in the fridge.

Once set, it’s ready to cut up into slices and eat! When presenting homemade edible gifts, I like to present them in a tin, with either tissue paper or just greaseproof paper on the bottom. It also means they’re air tight so will last a good few days. If you make these recipes, I’d love to see a photo! I’d also be interested to know which is your favourite, and which one went down the best with your Dad :) Send me a tweet on Twitter or pop a comment down below. Happy baking!


easy millionaires shortbread
uk blog recipe
rocky road recipe


Rocky Road:
125g soft
300g chocolate
3 tbsp golden syrup
150g digestive biscuits
100g mini marshmallows
Raisins
100g white chocolate
100g dark chocolate
1 Terry’s chocolate orange
Icing sugar for dusting

Shortbread:
135g butter
175g plain flour
55g sugar
1 orange, zested

Topping:
379g can Condensed Milk
75ml golden syrup
150g butter
100g sugar
3 Terry’s Chocolate Oranges

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Friday, 2 June 2017

SHOP LAUNCH

Instagram and blogging


I've opened an Etsy shop!
yippee!

I haven’t shared much about this on my blog, but if you follow me on Twitter or Instagram you probably know about it... I've opened an online shop selling prints and cards of my illustrations! You can visit it by clicking here.

I actually mentioned this plan back in January when I posted my New Year resolutions. I had an initial deadline as March, then April… It wasn’t until recently that I had to put my butt into gear and get going. I set myself a date and it’s been full steam ahead ever since!

I’ve wanted to launch an online shop for years (I used to have one quite a few years ago, though only a few prints and it was a very soft launch). With my plans of self employment and ideas to create a career for myself as a creative business owner, a shop was very much in the pipeline. The problem was, I always convinced myself that I wasn’t ready. ‘I don’t have enough work’, ‘I don’t have enough products’. It was always pushed to the next month, when I had ‘more time’. Inevitably, I never did, so in the end (and I’ll share more about this soon) I set a date and that was it.

It really has been a labour of love – a lot more work than I first anticipated but I’m so proud of the result. Of course, this isn’t just it – I plan on expanding my range of products, though for now it’s prints and cards. I’m always creating so I’ll be adding new designs and updating stock and products as we go on – and I’ll share my adventure here on the blog, too. I’ve also set up a newsletter, so if you’d like to hear more in-depth about the behind-the-scenes and what I’ve been up to, you can sign up here. If you’d like special discounts and to know of any sales or special offers, that’s where they’ll be so I’d definitely recommend signing up to hear about it all – and I promise no spam!

I hope you like what you see, and I’d absolutely be overjoyed if you like something enough to buy it! The thought of having my art in people’s homes is just incredible. Pop me a comment down below if you have a particular favourite product!


uk blogger instagram chat

(Look how cute my little helper was!)

Monday, 15 May 2017

TEN props to use in instagram photos

photo styling props for instagram



One of the main reasons I love instagram, is that it allows me to practice styling. You see it quite often in magazines and blog editorials – stylists aren’t just limited to clothes.

I absolutely love adding props and creating little dioramas, collecting props and displaying them in a pretty way. A lot of photos you’ll see are staged and I guess some people may feel a little cheated at this. But just like makeup can enhance a face, adding extra bits to a scene can make that photo go from a good, to a great. I know a lot of artists have ‘prop boxes’. For me though, I just use what I have dotted around the house, but charity shops and car boot sales are a great place to look for ornaments and props that don’t break the bank. Here are ten ideas for how to style your photos.




1. Plants

Adding greenery is a great way to add extra colour and freshness into your photo. It adds an element of life and growth, as well as being pretty! Vases of fresh flowers or even just cacti and succulents, they add height and vibrance to a plain photo.




instagram prop ideas




2. Drinks

I love adding a mug of tea or coffee to a shot, and it’s a great excuse for drinking an extra cuppa! This adds in a human element too – it reminds the viewer that there’s a person behind this photo and solidifies your brand as being personal. You don’t have to be limited to hot drinks either (though a hot chocolate with cream and marshmallows definitely looks comforting!) Tall cups, beakers or glasses also look nice in the background of a shot – especially for that ‘lived in’ look.




instagram photo styling ideas




3. Snacks

I feel like the inevitable comes after drink – food! Cake is always a beautiful thing, and when added to a photo it just makes the whole shot even more scrumptious! Obviously not all food looks appetising, but things like cookies, fruit and sweets add colour to your shot and won’t melt while you’re playing photographer!




insta blog photo ideas




4. Ornaments

This one is definitely one of my favourites! This is quite a broad category but a great way to add some of your personal style into your photos. Things such as book ends, photo frames, ceramics, patterned boxes, vases and candles look lovely in the background of a photo. I usually use these to dress an image that just needs something else – usually to enhance the main focus of what I’m trying to shoot, but have that soft focus interest in the background.




how to style instagram




5. Your hands!

Just like the drinks, this definitely adds a human element to your photos. I like to do this now and then, because it shows I’m the creator behind the profile – and as someone who is a little camera shy, this is enough to show viewers I am there! I was in a twitter chat the other month and a couple of creators said that photos with hands showing results in more likes – so it’s definitely one to try if you haven’t already!




social media prop ideas




6. Notebooks and books

I really like this one to add some height into the background of an image. It’s good to have things on multiple levels, and books in the background add interest, colour and depth. I try to choose books that don’t have distracting covers, and often line them up with spines showing, or have them lying down in a stack. I also use plain covered notebooks behind a piece of paper, or have it lying open to show some of my scribbles and notes.




uk art lifestyle blog




7. Stationery

Ahh, another fave! I’m sure we all have plenty of stationery lying around that can be added to a shot. I like to add this when shooting a desk scene, showing works in progress or behind the scenes. I often like to use media that have been used when creating the artwork, such as coloured pencils or tubes of paint places strategically to the edge. Pots of pens and pencils add colour, as do the many rolls of washi tape we all hoard. Mini binder clips and paperclips also add interest. You can also draw the viewer’s eye to your point of interest if you place it around the edge of the focal point.




photo styling props




8. Wallpaper samples

A bloggers secret staple – using wallpaper for backdrops! Don’t worry if you don’t have any pretty work surfaces – any grubby old table can be hidden using these. You can get lots of different wallpaper styles from DIY shops and many look like wood, brickwork or even lining paper if you’re after something plain. I like to use clean white surfaces for styling products, so I bought a white table top from Ikea that I grab whenever I need it and it can easily be placed by a window for good lighting. Plus, I don’t have to rearrange and clear my messy desk every time I want a photo!




instagram ideas




9. Seasonal items

When Christmas comes around, I love adding in candy canes and baubles to style up my photos. You can also use love heart sweets (and heart shapes in general, of course) around Valentine’s day, seashells in the summer and crisp coloured leaves in the autumn.




how to style photos




10. Lighting

Not a prop but an essential element when photographing, is lighting. Just like a prop can add interest and emotion, so can lighting. A dark, moody photo can dramatically change the look of an image than a brightly lit one – even if the subject is the same. Harsh shadows can be used to your advantage if you’re after a sultry, mysterious photo. Though I tend to go for light and airy, instagrammers such as Sara from Me & Orla and Marte Marie Forsberg do this wonderfully.




It’s totally up to you and your personal choice as to how many props you want to add when styling photos. You can pair it back if you’d like your focal point to really stand out, or add lots of items if you’re showing a specific scene.

Is there anything I’ve missed off the list? I’m always in awe of the variety of photos you see on social media and how intuitive people can be when showing something off!