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19 August 2014

Honest to blog: A blogging promise

We used to have a weird phrase or analogy where I used to work, that when things got really frantic and hectic, we called it shooting elephants.  The idea is that instead of being able to be proactive and tackle your priorities at a manageable pace, you're being overrun by elephants and you have to keep shooting them or you get trampled. I'm not sure that even makes sense looking back on it, but I kind of know what I mean - it's that moment when you lose control and everything is reactive rather than proactive, with things coming at you from all angles.  I would never shoot an elephant by the way, I'm an animal lover and I think elephants are pretty cool.

I love the fact that more people are openly talking about the fact that blogging can be a bit stressful now and then, with both Media Marmalade (in this post) and Zoe Newlove (in this post) writing about how challenging it can be managing a blog and a full-time job.  Lately, I've definitely felt like I'm shooting elephants with my to-do list - no sooner do I get one thing ticked off, than another three or four things pop up that demand my attention. If I ever mention that I'm finding it challenging managing blogging commitments on Twitter I get a few similar responses - first of all that a blog should be a hobby, not a chore  (and I agree) and secondly that people should be grateful for the amazing opportunities that blogging brings - anything on my to do list relating to blogging is usually a review, or event, or a collaboration, and I'm lucky to receive those opportunities (I also agree with this).

Filofax

Though my blog clearly started as, and still is, a hobby, it clearly has grown from its inception in both scope and popularity (and I am blessed to have people who want to read what to write!) which has meant that people now want to work with me to have their product/event/website featured or reviewed on my blog. The reason they are getting in contact with me in the first place is because they think my readers will be interested (otherwise they'd be wasting their time and mine) and so I do consider most requests for collaborations as long as they are relevant, interesting and something I would write about or buy myself.  And as a blog reader, I think that's okay - I certainly am not put off by collaborations on other blogs and it's through these kind of partnerships that my pennies end up disappearing out of my bank account through me buying products I've seen in reviews or clothes I've seen in outfit posts or wishlists.  So, everybody's happy - the blogger, the client, the reader, okay, maybe not my bank manager - but still.

When bloggers taking on collaborations becomes a problem it's usually for one of two reasons:

1. They take on collaborations that are not relevant for their blog because the temptation of £££ is too much (and I get that - let's face it, it's sometimes hard to balance integrity against looking in your cupboards and seeing you'll be eating beans on toast for the rest of the month if you don't say yes).

2. They take on too many collaborations, meaning that the balance becomes out of kilter.  All of a sudden those posts you loved about their DIY crafting/life updates/happy lists fall by the wayside in favour of guest posts, wishlists and product reviews.  You lose the personality and the personal-ness of the blog - and that's when people start to walk away and find other blogs where you can really get to know the person, rather than it being an endless copy and paste of press releases and product launches.

I'm not pointing the finger here without looking in the mirror myself (I'm mixing metaphors like the Pope in the woods) and I'll be honest, I've done both of these myself.  Last Christmas I didn't have as much money as I wanted to buy people Christmas presents, and I said yes to more things than I should have, and on occasion I took things on that perhaps weren't right for me and my blog.  I'm not going to lie, it's hard.  Blog integrity doesn't pay for Christmas presents, or weddings, or holidays, and so the temptation to take on a collaboration in exchange for cold, hard, cash, when you're gut is telling you not to is hard, but necessary if you want to retain the passion behind blogging and that allure that makes people keep coming back.

The second point is what really concerns me though.  When I chat to people about their favourite of the types of posts I regularly do, they are kind enough to say that they love the real lifestyle posts - the days out, the barbecues, the walks along the beach and even the Honest To Blogs like this one where I just, sort of purge thoughts, concerns, fears and so on.  I guess that's because no-one else can write about what Rosie did, or what Bodhi got up to, or how I'm feeling, but me.  Whereas most other bloggers do wishlist posts, or product reviews or PR collaborations.  I think that people like the stuff that's personal, the stuff that they can connect with, the stuff that makes them nod until their neck hurts.  It's sad but lately there are photos I've taken of fun things that I've done that I've never been able to write about because I've had too many other blog commitments, or emails to answer.  Sidelining what this blog was started for in favour of what has almost become the demands of 'a second job' is frankly not cool.  I want to write about books I've read, and runs I've been on, and beautiful front doors I've spotted, and poems I've loved, and things I've made and people I've met, and funny things that Bodhi has done.  That is this blog's raison d'ĂȘtre.  The other stuff is fun too - and finding creative ways to tell you about brands I think you'll love is great, but the ratio needs to be right.  They should just be add ons here and there, not the main bulk of my blog.  I think that's slipped a little lately, and for that I apologise.  On top of that, it's become unmanageable. Looking in your diary and seeing that you have six blog posts to write that week and only one evening free, is just not possible.  And those emails chasing me to find out where the blog post is after a few days of receiving a product make me feel really stressed and under pressure.  Stress is not something I need in my life when it's brought on by something that's supposed to be a hobby - blogging is supposed to be my escape, my fun, my passion, not another source of angst.  And I have been feeling pretty stressed - setting alarms in the mornings to blog before work and turning down social occasions because I have deadlines.  Not what I ever wanted from blogging.

Filofax

My promise to you is that in future, all of that stuff that I love writing about and you (thankyou) seem to love reading about, will be what you will find here.  I promise to you that I will trust my gut as to what you will want to read, and I will increasingly say no to things I think you might not.  I want my blog to be full of salty air and goofy smiles again, and I pledge that I will make that happen.  It doesn't mean that there won't be collaborations on here, but it does mean that I will be careful with what I choose to do, and I will try and do them in a way that you will still really enjoy reading.

"Do it cos' you love it, or don't do it", as they say.  (And they, are pretty wise).

Big love,

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18 August 2014

Birthday gifts, timepieces and the Mulberry

I have a few little birthday posts in my drafts folder - I can't wait to share photos of the camping weekend that Tom surprised me with, or the day itself; but first, I thought I'd share a few special little presents I received.

What was really special about this birthday was that every single gift was so thoughtful and carefully chosen - it really warmed my heart to receive such wonderful presents, and it made me so grateful to have such amazing friends in my life.  Obviously friendships are not all about presents! But what I mean is that the presents I received were so thoughtful that it made me thankful for the effort and care that people took when buying me gifts! Several items too are things that I will cherish for the next 30 years, which makes it even more special.

The lovely Sally unexpectedly sent me some beautiful flowers, which was so kind and thoughtful.
I've not used Bloom & Wild before but the flowers are stunning and they are still going strong 10 days later!

Bloom and Wild
Bloom and Wild

Tom's main present was that he treated me to four days away staying a Bell Tent on a beautiful campsite, but he also bought this lovely rope candle holder and a bottle of champagne - you have to have bubbles to celebrate your 30th!

Champage

I bought my friend Kate a clutch for her birthday and we've taken to calling it Mrs Clutch and addressing it as if it were a person (e.g. is Mrs Clutch coming out tonight? - and so on).  Kate bought me a beautiful clutch too, and had it engraved with Mrs Clutch! So now we both have Mrs Clutches!

Mrs Clutch Mrs Clutch

Perfect for a camping weekend, my friend Nicole treated me to a hamper full of local ciders, apple juices and a mulling kit, as well as the beautiful rose gold bracelet I featured in this post.

Hamper of ciders

My brother's girlfriend Elly bought me this fab fox satchel - could you get a more Rosie present?

Fox satchel

The lovely Katy bought me this gorgeous wooden clock which is waiting to be hung in our bedroom. It was such a lovely surprise on my birthday as she organised for it to be sent to my work and for Tom to collect it.  It's going to look so perfect on our wall.

clock

I was also kindly sent a stunning Olivia Burton watch by Twisted Time.  It arrived a couple of days before my birthday, so I'm calling it a birthday present anyway!  I absolutely love the hummingbird design - it's sure to pop up in lots of outfit posts as it's so classic and goes with everything.

Olivia Burton watch Olivia Burton watch
// olivia burton mink hummingbird watch, £75*

Of course the present that I've barely let out of my sight since I received it is the beautiful Mulberry Oversized Alexa bag that I was given by my parents.

Mulberry Alexa oversized

My Mum and I went to Bicester Village and chose it together.  Photos really don't do it justice - the soft leather and classic Mulberry styling and details are simply stunning.

I went to see Sarah in London last Friday (and that's a whole other blog post!) and she surprised me with a dress she made herself especially for me! I had commented on how beautiful the fabric was when she bought it and she got my measurements off my Mum (who also recently made me a dress - lucky Rosie!) and whipped me up this utterly stunning dress.  I was almost speechless when I opened it and I haven't wanted to take it off since, it is just perfect.  Here is a quick snap from when I snuck into a changing room whilst we were in London to try it on - proper outfit photos to follow!


I really am so touched by all the wonderful gifts I received, and there were a few more lovely things I haven't mentioned as I don't want to totally bomb you with present photos!  Big love to everyone who took the time to send me a happy birthday message on Twitter/Facebook or in blog comments, it really was a wonderful birthday.

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17 August 2014

A blogger's review of the LG G3 smartphone

Over the last few weeks I have been road-testing the new LG G3 smartphone so that I can get to grips with all of the features that are perfect for bloggers and photography lovers like me - think high resolution display, 13MP camera and a rather sleek, lightweight metallic design.  But first, a bit of background to my previous phone choices, and why I was excited to try something new...

The iPhone default

My repurchasing of the latest iPhone model for the last seven or eight years feels comparable to my daily green tea consumption.  I just do it, without really questioning whether I want it, or indeed even like it.  It feels 'default'.  And yet I could probably find more things I dislike about iPhones than like - they are buggy and crashy (sounds like a new Disney Cars movie), not always particularly intuitive, and frankly, for someone who likes big watches, big TVs, big computer screens - big, clear, everything... I find the screen a little small.  I think we all know friends who are evangelists of other phones - constantly telling us to step away from Apple and embrace their current make and model, and often, they have pretty convincing arguments.  So when I was offered to review the new LG G3 smartphone, I was very intrigued and excited to see what it had to offer.

Unboxing

I was very pleasantly surprised when I first unboxed the LG G3.  The phone is slim, extremely lightweight and has a 'brushed metal effect' that makes it look very smart and sleek.  The first thing you immediately notice is that 5.5" Quad HD Display screen.  The techie description is that it's four times the resolution of HD and almost two times higher resolution than a full HD display.  The Rosie description is that it was a total 'wow' moment turning it on and seeing just how clear and impressive the screen was.  I think at this point my iPhone started to feel a bit vulnerable about its position as my current phone!  Even though it's a larger phone than I'm used to, it still fits comfortably in my hand due to its beveled, arced design.  I was already mentally awarding the phone some mega cool points and looking forward to properly taking it for a spin.

LG G3 display

Features


Camera

One of the features I was most excited about testing was the G3's camera.  At any one time you can often find me carrying my iPhone, compact Canon digital camera and my Canon SLR, so I've longed for a phone with a camera so powerful and reliable that I could leave my compact camera at home. The G3 boasts a 13MP camera, with laser autofocus (making it the fastest focusing smartphone on the market) and OIS (Optical Image Stabiliser Plus) technology.  I was really impressed with the camera - it delivered sharp, clear images in a variety of different lights, and I found it particularly good at close-up shots; not compromising on detail or clarity when zooming in or getting up close and personal (with a caterpillar, as in my example shots below!)

These were all taken with the LG G3 camera.

LG G3

The camera has a very simple interface - you just touch the screen and it focusses on that area and takes the picture.  It also has a front-facing 2.1 MP camera that you can use for 'selfies' - one clever feature is that by making a fist at the camera it starts the camera self-timer, so you can get all your mates in the photo and then gesture to start it counting down (no fat thumbs in your group shots like there often are in mine!)  There's lots of neat little features like this that show that LG have really put thought into the ergonomics and usage of the phone to make it simple and comfortable to use.

I found the colour representation from the camera excellent - here is another snap from the phone's camera - you can really see the quality and clarity of the images it delivers.

LG G3 Photo Sample

Smart Notice

The Smart Notice feature is another fun feature of the LG G3 - it's a little widget that sits on your home screen, observes your usage and gives you advice that might be helpful to you throughout the day - telling you about weather forecasts, reminding you of missed calls, birthdays and notable dates, or finding files and updates to improve your phone usage.  If you're anything like me and you see a missed call and then completely forget to call the person back later, or are pretty good at forgetting birthdays, you'll find this feature useful.

LG G3 home screen

Smart Keyboard


Definitely a function for bloggers or those who like to write lengthy texts and emails (that'll be me then!), the Smart Keyboard function also learns from the way you use the keyboard and makes useful adjustments - you can even tweak the height and colour of the keyboard and it's easy to use when typing fast.

Display

The display really is incredible - it's perfect for surfing the web and watching YouTube videos and movies.  I love that it bridges the gap between a phone and a tablet - I could definitely comfortably sit on a plane or train watching movies on this phone and not feel like I was having to squint or missing out on some of the details.  It is visually, just... stunning.

LG G3 watching movies

Battery and performance

You might be thinking - with that mega display, fast focussing camera and all of its impressive features - how long is the battery going to last? One of the things I love about the LG G3 is that the battery is removable, so unlike the iPhone, if there were ever any problems with the battery, or you wanted to get a spare, it's very easy to interchange.  I didn't have a sim card for the phone so I was just using its non-cellular functions like watching movies, surfing the web and using social media - I found that it comfortably lasted a couple of days if I didn't go overboard with usage.  I've read other reviews that have said with heavy usage it will still last a full day.  The short battery life is my main frustration with the iPhone (anyone else find themselves having to recharge around 4pm?) so it's brilliant to see that such a stunning display doesn't greatly compromise the battery life.

Conclusion

Overall, I am completely bowled over by the LG G3.  For me, the 13MP camera with quick focussing and excellent white balance performance, plus the stunning quad HD 5.5" screen make it the perfect phone for an avid YouTube watcher and blog reader like me.  I frequently find myself swapping between my iPad Mini and iPhone at home, whereas I think this would satisfy my visual desires (oo-er) without needing to grab my tablet.  The interface is easy to use, the Smart Notice feature is fun and helpful and the phone itself is sleek, lightweight and comfortable to hold.  What's not to like?

I bought my iPhone 5s a couple of months ago so I'm reluctant to immediately put it to the back of the drawer, but I must admit that I'm extremely tempted.  I think I'd need to organise a different sim card (the iPhone takes a Nano Sim and the LG G3 takes a Micro Sim) but apart from that I'm sure it would be very easy to make the switch!

Are you an iPhone lover or would you move over to a different smart-phone? Have you used any of the LG smartphones in the past?

The LG G3 is available on O2 Refresh tariff for £38 per month, on Three for £35 per month and at Carphone Warehouse on a variety of contracts.  Sim free LG G3 handsets retail for around £475-495.

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{ handset was provided for review - all opinions are my own }

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