27 March 2017

New car


Last month I decided it was finally time to get a new car. My purple Ford Ka had been on the go for 10 years, so I was ready for a change. I had a look at all the small cars on the market and finally decided on a Kia Picanto.

It was strange at first driving my new car, as I've only driven Ford Kas for the past 17 years. But I quickly got used to it.

It's got lots of features that I really love. My phone is connected by bluetooth so I can play music from my phone, or make and answer calls (not that I've tried that yet) and there are controls on the steering wheel for the stereo.

White is the basic colour that the Kias come in, and I liked it best of the colours available. It's a lot less easy to spot in a car park than a purple Ka, though, so I have to make a mental note of exactly where I have parked!

A couple of the features that I really love are the automatic headlights, and the reversing sensor. I also like that it shows you how many miles you can go before having to get more petrol. The only things I miss about my old car are the heated windscreen and the intermittent back wiper (the new one is either on or off), but there is a good demisting system that helps clear the windscreen, and the front wipers have a variable speed.

I haven't found the best spot for Bagpuss yet, though - he keeps taking a nose-dive into the passenger seat!

26 March 2017

10 years of emuse: How to celebrate a bloggiversary

I haven’t really marked my blog’s anniversaries much in the past, but I wanted to make its 10th really special!

Fresh from my success at coming up with lots of ideas for the anniversary celebrations of the school where I work, and having had my Leap Day celebration last year, I began to brainstorm ideas of how I could celebrate my blog’s 10th anniversary. At first I found it difficult, as the only ideas I found online were giveaways and photoshoots, but eventually I came up with lots of other ideas, in fact more than I could actually use, so it really became a month-long celebration!

I thought these ideas could come in handy for anyone else who is celebrating a milestone on their blog.
Posts looking back:
Crafts around the blog’s theme or name:

Blog branding etc:
Activities:

24 March 2017

Veg box

For many years I’ve loved the idea of getting a veg box, but they always seemed too expensive for a single person, and had to be ordered on a regular basis. I just couldn’t justify paying £10 to £15 on a weekly or fortnightly basis, for an amount of veg that would be far too much for me anyway!
That’s why I was so excited when I saw that Greener Kirkcaldy were doing a veg box for just £5.50, and you can order it when you feel like it. Since Kirkcaldy is nearby, I go there quite often (in fact I’m going to college there once a week at the moment), so it’s easy to get there to pay for or collect or return the box. But next time I think I will take a carrier bag so I don’t have to return the box!

I was really excited to discover that the veg was coming from Pittormie Farm, which is where we used to go to pick fruit when I was wee!
I’ve only got the box once so far, but there was enough veg in it to do me for about 3 weeks! In the box were a leek, two onions, five dirty carrots, a large turnip, four parsnips, a bag of kale, and eight potatoes.
I made lots of interesting dishes, but I think the best one I did was roasted root vegetable fajitas. I roasted the veg with some oil and spices including paprika and cumin, and served this with wraps and some homemade guacamole, sliced red onions, lime slices, some mashed beans, coriander leaves, chimichurri sauce, and hot sauce.

22 March 2017

10 years of emuse: Bloggiversary day out

My blog's 10th anniversary fell on a weekend, so I thought I would go out for a day to celebrate (then stay in with a few glasses of Buck's Fizz the next day!). I decided to go to one of my favourite places on earth, Edinburgh. I go there all the time, since it's close at hand, but I still remember the excitement of my first trip there as a child, and this trip gave me the same buzz.

After a quick stop at the East India Company to pick up some nice bars of chocolate, I escaped from the rain in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. Since self-portrait photos are something I do often on my blog, I thought this would be a good place to visit on my bloggiversary weekend. They were having an exhibition of modern portraits, which really appealed to me. I love paintings in a very realist style, but in more modern colours than the browns of centuries past, and there were a lot of the portraits that I really loved.

I then took advantage of a little booth where you could draw your own self-portrait. I didn't do a great job of getting a good likeness, so I added some of my bright pink lipstick to the picture!
Once I left the gallery the rain had luckily gone off, because I was heading off down Leith Walk on foot. Along the way I stopped into lots of interesting shops - the magnificent Italian food shop Valvona and Crolla (where I got more chocolate!), gift shop The Cat's Miaou, a lovely wee vintage and antique shop, the St Columba's Hospice charity shop, and the Hing Sing Chinese Supermarket just round the corner from my old lodgings.
Once of my reasons for exploring this area is that it's where I stayed when I started university. So I had a very literal walk along memory lane by having a wander along Cambridge Gardens where I stayed, and couldn't even remember which house it was that I stayed in! I had a look at Storrie's bakery, where I used to buy 6p sausage rolls, 4p rolls, and 10p cakes. Sometimes I would get custard slices to take home to my parents at weekends. It hasn't changed a bit. I sometimes used to wait for the bus outside this bakers. And I saw my very bus! I used to get either the 25 or 45 bus.
By chance I saw a sign for a flea market, so I followed this and ended up at the Out of the Blue Drill Hall where I had a good look round but only bought a postcard!
Then I headed up Pilrig Street. I passed a big park just behind my old lodgings, that I hadn't realised was there, with a lovely old house in it!
I went to the Edinburgh Indoor Food and Craft Market which is held at the Biscuit Factory. This was great fun to look round, with so many interesting foods. I had my lunch there, a chana masala from Tuk Tuk. I also bought some Snooze Balm from Coven Scrubs and Balms, which I thought would be lovely for afternoon naps, and I couldn't resist the marshmallows from The Real Hot Chocolate Company, which are the best I've ever tasted (I'm trying to shop and eat vegan at the moment, but these are the one exception I'm allowing myself!).

I headed back to the city centre, hitting my 10,000 step target, and getting some selfies at a turquoise police box which matches well with my blog colour scheme!

Then I went to the Fruitmarket Gallery where an artists' book market was being held. I was pleased to meet Marie-Alice Harel whose work I have admired on Instagram, and who I have just realised is a scientist as well as an artist! I bought some of her lovely postcards, and also The Cats That Stared by local illustrator Claire Hubbard.



And I will leave you with this. The day would have been worth it for this moment alone - the juxtaposition of prickly cactus and a man in a kilt made my day. It's a pity I didn't get the photo quicker, when she was even closer to his behind!

Improving my Instagram strategy

I’ve loved Instagram since I started using it about three years ago, but earlier this year I started to feel that I could do a bit better – my photos were a bit of a hodge-podge, and I didn’t have many followers.

I think part of the problem was that I participated in challenges like #veganuary without thinking about how the photos would fit into my overall feed (poorly lit food doesn’t ever look good), so I didn’t really have an overall look to my photos.

I started off by having a look at my bio, and adding a bit more to it. It was really basic, but now I have added my blog’s name and a little tag line that describes what my Instagram is all about, “Join me in finding little moments of beauty and creativity in everyday life”.

Next I had a look at the photos I was posting. In the past, I had posted just about anything I took a photo of, if I thought someone else on my Instagram might be interested in seeing it. Now I am much more careful about what I post – it really has to fit in with my brand. I also now only take part in challenges that work well with my brand – like #marchmeetthemaker.
The before!

And after!

I also considered the look of the photos, and I think that improving this was the most important thing that I’ve done. I’ve tried to keep a really light, bright look to the photos, with lots of simple backgrounds, and a heavy use of teal and turquoise. I use A Color Story by A Beautiful Mess to edit the photos to make them look clean and bright.
I’ve started using hashtags a lot more. I think I had hashtag fear – I was afraid I was going to hijack a hashtag that someone was using for another purpose! Now I’m a lot more hashtag happy, and have found some great hashtags like #craftsposure, that have helped me find lots of interesting people.

I've also added calls to action - explaining to those looking at my Instagram posts that they will find more on the topic over on my blog. It's hard to find ways to do this without sounding like you just care about hits on your blog!

Consistency of posting is also important, but this is something I can struggle with when life is busy. I try to take photos when I can, and edit them so they are ready to post to Instagram when I need them, but sometimes life is just too hectic! This is the sort of situation where challenges can either be a help or a hindrance, they can give you ideas, but sometimes you just can’t think of anything to fit the theme!

I’ve also started using Instagram stories a bit. This is a great way of using the photos that don’t make the cut for my Instagram feed, but that I still think might be interesting to my Instagram followers. I found it a bit fiddly and non-intuitive to create Instagram stories, but I’m getting the hang of it now.
video

I have been interacting more with others on Instagram, by commenting on and liking their photos, and have started following some new people too.

My follower count has increased a bit, but the effect on my blog stats was actually quite amazing. They doubled more or less straight away, and this has continued over the month. It’s impossible to see in Blogger’s stats page the traffic that has actually come from Instagram, but I can see no other reason for this improvement.

So it’s been a really worthwhile process, and I hope I can keep it up!

If you'd like to have a look at my Instagram, it's here!

20 March 2017

Instagram Authority course

Last month I decided I wanted to improve my Instagram strategy, so I had a look online and found the free Instagram Authority course by Alex Tooby.

I was really impressed with the course, which gave me lots of ideas of how I could improve my Instagram presence. It really got me thinking a lot more strategically about my use of Instagram.

I like the fact that the emails arrive over the course of a week, so it spreads the work out and doesn’t give you the chance to try to do everything at once! And there’s a FaceBook group so you can interact with others who are doing the course.

It’s a course I’d really recommend, and the best thing is that it’s free!

In a few days' time I will tell you more about how I’ve improved my Instagram strategy, and what effect it has had.

Or if you want to check out my Instagram straight away, it's here!

17 March 2017

Photo boards

I decided to re-paint one of the boards I use as a photo backdrop. One side was a streaky turquoise, which I quite liked but was a bit too dark, and the other side was a dark murky olive green that I didn't ever use. So I wanted to lighten up the turquoise a bit, and paint the other side a colour that I would find more useful.
On the turquoise side I just gave it a quick coat of duck egg blue. On the olive side, I covered it with cream first, then painted it pink. The pink was a bit too bright, so I gave it another coat of pink mixed with white. It can look pink or peach in photographs depending on the light.

Finally I painted a piece of foam board with stone-effect paint.


13 March 2017

Recently thrifted

I've had some great finds recently at charity shops, a flea market, and a little vintage/antiques shop!

When I was in Edinburgh recently, I popped into a great charity shop - the St Columba's Hospice shop on Leith Walk. I love a good old-fashioned charity shop where you can have a good rummage, and this one is perfect. It also has a great section up at the back with fabric and buttons.

This is where I found the monogram initials, which are made of wood and have already been painted with a splodgy paint effect that looks quite good. I spotted the E first, and had to have it. But then, when I had another rummage on the shelf before leaving, I also found the R! When you find both your initials, it really feels like fate!

Just off Leith Walk I went to a flea market at the Out of the Blue Drill Hall. All I got there was a postcard, but I really like it. It's of Shibuya in Tokyo, with a sea of umbrellas. This reminded me a lot of my first trip to Japan when there were a couple of rainy days! I don't often see postcards of Japan, so I was pleased to get this one, although it was actually produced in Amsterdam.
The little Chinese or Japanese box is from a tiny vintage/antiques shop also on Leith Walk. It was also a place for a good rummage, and the prices were quite reasonable - the little box only cost £2. It has a picture of blossom on one side, and some calligraphy characters on the other.
Finally, the box of rubber stamps was a lunchtime find at one of the charity shops in Kirkcaldy. I'm doing a course at Fife College on Wednesdays, so it's a good chance to get a look at the charity shops. The wooden box contains two whole alphabets of rubber stamps - an uppercase and a lowercase, as well as a stamp pad with four colours. I'm glad that, for once, I looked in the children's toys section! I sanded the wooden box a little where it had been marked by ink.
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