5 Things I like this week – Spring time fun times!

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I cannot believe it is April already. The year is going so so fast! So many plans and ideas… so little time! I’ve been working on Christmas illustrations already (yes, in March) and trying to do more exercise (which means embarrassing myself at dance classes) along with being pretty busy at work. I bought a new camera though and am sooo excited. I hate lugging my DSLR around and I’m lazy with it, so hopefully this will be easier for documenting fun things and posting on here!

Here are 5 things I like right now…

1. Topshop Moto Denim dress – When people talk about wearing ‘basics’ only, I’d consider denim dresses one of my favourite basics. I think I could live in them all year. They go with everything! This is my favourite one I’ve seen recently while browsing them online.

2. Korres Lip Butter stick – I love love loveeee Korres, everything smells so good and is amazing. There is barely ever any in stock in Liberty’s (in London) so I find it best to order their stuff online (try FeelUnique). The lip butter sticks are my favorite product of theirs, I use the tinted ones and think the red one is awesome. It’s like wearing a really thin coat of lipstick but super nourishing. Best discovery ever. I recently got the plain one too for all day every day wear.

3. Fujifilm X-M1 Camera in silver – The new camera! After a lot of research on photography and camera websites, 1000 reviews read later, I decided on the X-M1 with an additional lens (27mm pancake lens) even smaller to carry round. Lets hope it’s good.

4. ASOS Leather biker boots – These seem to keep going down in price?! Anyway, love them, want them, definitely do not need them. But they’re a good looking pair of boots.

5.  Rose gold quartz crystal necklace from Crystal Cactus. – I think all the necklaces on this site are lovely. It is ran by mega internet babe Audrey Kitching. However, a quick search on eBay you can deffo buy those crystals for super super cheap if you can be bothered to make one yourself! I might have a go..

5 blogs I love and my thoughts on link building / sponsored content.

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So I tweeted the other day about how I am sick of seeing sponsored content spreading across my bloglovin’ feed like a rash. This is something that I have been thinking about a lot recently, as it has certainly started happening more and more the bigger personal blogging gets.

In case you’re not familiar with ‘sponsored content’; in a nutshell, it is when a brand offers money or freebies to a blogger, who in return writes about their product or service. Most of the time this will include a link back to the company – which would usually be considered the most important and valuable part of the post for a brand. For further reading and a better explanation this article sums it up pretty nicely.

The more I think about it, the more it bemuses me how this is ‘OK’ when it’s not OK to directly accept money in return for links according to Google’s webmaster guidelines. When numerous blog posts consist of the same title, very similar written content and ad-like photographs of the product, I don’t know how this is even considered ‘original content’. Surely Google must clamp down on this blatant link building exercise at some point soon? I honestly see barely any difference between paying for links, and this type of sponsored content.

I have written and read blogs online for over 10 years (Xanga, Livejournal, Blogger etc.) and this sort of thing has become way more prevalent in the past 2 years. It’s everywhere. I guess this is what happens when an individual with a prominent voice via any sort of media has more power. Brands want a slice of the pie. It makes me sad. I do understand bloggers wanting to make some money from their blog, or to pay for costs etc. But when it’s almost every single post that’s sponsored it makes me swiftly want to unfollow. How can I (or others) take someone’s personal voice and opinion seriously anymore when they’re just constantly posting about brands who have sponsored them for a link? Personally I feel that when posts on a blog I enjoy become more and more obviously sponsored, I barely consider it a personal blog any longer: it’s basically a stream of adverts, and I don’t take much of it with a pinch of salt.

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On the other side of the coin, by day I work at a UK website, and from working alongside the marketing team for the past 2 years, I do understand why we try and get coverage on blogs. It is a good brand awareness exercise and we can get some decent links to help with page authority.

However, in the company I work for, links from lifestyle blogs are not something that we often chase after, nor would a guest post or a sponsored post containing a link back be something that we spend a lot of time trying to get. The website is not e-commerce, or a product as such so it is a little different, but our market is the UK homeowner (and there is a lot of scope to reach that audience via blogs be it interiors, DIY etc.). Our aim is to have interesting original stories or facts that we can share to press or writers, but under no circumstances would we pay/send any freebies for links. We want organic, honest and informative editorial content written about us, not a blogger selling our service because we paid them to.

I do understand that with products it is a little different, but the main problem I have is that once an individual starts including sponsored content, it is attempting to influence others into buying something that the brand is pushing; something that the blogger may not necessarily feel strongly about.

People generally trust bloggers because they provide informative posts about things they genuinely like or feel strongly about. When that blogger begins promoting sponsored content, I completely lose trust; how are you to know if they genuinely think such-and-such product is actually a great product if it is being celebrated artificially? It won’t receive any fair judgement and that is really negative for the open nature of the internet!

There are also many other reasons that it is truly bad – it continues to line the pockets of large companies, there are less honest opinions out there on the bigger well-read blogs, reviews become very ‘one-sided’, Google pushes the companies higher in search because they have more ‘authority’ from their numerous links, and so on. It is just not good for the blogging community for this to continue happening.

Anyway, despite a lot of blogs/individuals constantly doing this, there are still a lot of bloody good blogs out there posting rich and interesting original content so I’d like to share some of them with you!

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1. Niotillfem – I have been reading Sandra’s blog for many years and even though Google translate doesn’t do the best job of turning her Swedish into English I still love it.  From her posts on working in advertising in New York, to feminism, recipes, relationships, her style and inspiration posts – I find everything about her blog spot on. I really enjoy her writing style, I think it is the right amount of personal without being too much of a real time commentary. She is the cutest and has great style, but is also clearly really smart and aware of the world. Best kind of girl!

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2. Print & Pattern – Totally love this blog, it’s always been a good source for new illustrated and designed collections, be it the latest independant textile prints, or the new range of products at Habitat. My favourite posts are probably the store snaps, where she features the latest collections from the British high street. It’s great and in fact three books have come out of this blog cause it’s that awesome! A nice place for a little inspiration!

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3. Love London Council Housing – I am obsessed with council estates and well, council housing in general I guess. I grew up living in one up North and have lived in three since being in London. London certainly has some of the best and most impressive estates, with lots of stories behind why they were built, ideals and ideas for the way the modern person should live inside them. A lot of the time, the reality of people living in a lot of estates didn’t turn out how the architects wished for it to, but people still live in them today and it’s interesting to see which ones age well and which ones are practically derelict. This blog covers a lot of estates in London and Andrea has even got sneaky peaks inside flats on some of the estates which is really cool.

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4. Josie’s JournalJosie’s blog is a mixture between her style, living with cystic fibrosis and a bit of lifestyle thrown into the mix. The way that Josie writes is what I find endearing about her blog, she’s honest and funny and she has awesome style. I love blogs where you feel like you get to know the person behind it quite well and they don’t mind writing life how it is, which I think she does well. This is also why I miss Livejournal at times, it really did feel like you could get to know people well on there. Maybe because you could have ‘friends only’ posts, it meant people didn’t mind writing what they really thought!

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5. Audrey Jeanne Audrey is an illustrator from France. I have followed her work for a few years, she has a very bold and minimal style which I love. Her photos and styling are always amazing too. And she has an incredible looking cat and I don’t even like cats that much!

All images courtesy of respective blogs, and top image illustrated by me.

Dubai pt. 3 – Sunsets and giant malls

dubhhsburjThe top photo was the only grey day in Dubai and it looked amazing, the desert looks very moody when it’s cloudy! The sunsets in Dubai are also amazing… I’ve never seen the sun so big. We went to watch the sun go down next to Burj Al Arab which was so nice.

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Sunset is also when everyone appears to go hang out at the mall. You can go at 11pm and families are there eating fast food with their kids, toddlers and all. They must have the best lie ins every day. The malls in Dubai are insane, they literally have every shop EVER and huge ones at that. We went to the world’s biggest mall a couple of times (The Dubai Mall) which is where the Burj Khalifa (the world’s biggest building) sits too, and it is crazy big. There is also a comical fountain that dances (srsly check out this youtube to see what I mean) and everyone is so happy, it played the most ridiculous music too. Note: the Burj Khalifa is impossible to take a photo of, it’s genuinely too big! It really was incredible though, despite being bloody ridiculous.burjkal
Inside the mall…
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Mall food and casual mall aquarium with sharks in, why not?mallfish mall
Walking back to Henry’s sisters flat…
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5 Things I like this week – The ‘I’ve got fucking dry socket’ edition

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Gotta say, I’ve had the worst few days ever, including the worst pain I’ve had in my life (and I’ve had pneumonia really bad before), I present to you my friends: wisdom tooth extraction, followed by the dreaded ‘dry socket’ (sexy I know). My jaw bone is on show to the world right now, and it fucking hurts.

Anyway I bought myself these glorious ASOS boots earlier when I got back from hospital to cheer myself up…  nothing like a bit of retail therapy when you damn well cannot afford it.

1. Topshop ‘MOM’ jeans in black – these are high waisted and thanks to Josie I may now need to go down to Oxford St to try these on, I hate wearing trousers because I have an internal monologue that tells me they make me look too short and chubs. I know, I know, such a girl. Anyway these look like a really good fit, and high waisted is a winner cause it makes short people look tall! Please note: it was only last week I said at work I wouldn’t be seen dead in ‘mom’ jeans.

2. Topshop Sasha cat eye sunglasses – Why do they sell these shades in the middle of winter? They are too good, if I don’t buy them now I fear they won’t exist come summer! But helloooo, it was hail stoning today and I ain’t Mary-Kate or Ashley : / and I’m not in DUBAI anymore.

3. The ASOS boots as mentioned above! I thought these were a good cheaper (not leather mind you, kind of a pet hate in boots..) version of The White Pepper Walker boot, but for like only £35 instead of £90. I hope they are nice IRL or I will cry while stuffing my face full of paracetamol, ibuprofen and clove oil.

4. Marc Jacobs Baker leather watch – Omg I did buy this. I was obsessed with it for weeks and had to get it…. it’s so beautiful in real life and I’ll wear it every day forever and ever! January is a terrible month isn’t it?

5. Silver hoop earrings from Claires – Don’t think I’ve been there since I was about 13 but hey, I just remembered I had my ears pierced after watching some shitty Channel 4 documentary about people who regret body mods and kind of got the urge to wear some small hoops?

P.S I totally have loads more Dubai pictures to come, but have been way too dead to even think about it.