Saturday, July 15, 2017

It's been a week since I flew home...a week?! It feels like forever; did I even leave? It is really surprising how little changed in a year. I've had a pretty full on week and it's been non-stop. Lots has already happened this week which is probably why it's flown by and I am a day behind everyone else. I keep thinking it's the day before (so today would be Friday for me when it's actually Saturday, annoying right?)
Another thing that has really hit me is how little time I have to connect with everyone on social media. It was actually a lot easier when I was 8 hours ahead, I'll hopefully have more time when I finish work this July; even scheduling tweets is hard to remember.
I am just beginning to get over jet lag and adjusting back into my sleeping pattern, although I still struggle to make it past 10pm.

Family&friends Reunion
The same day I landed was the day of my Nan's birthday so we spent the afternoon at her house with half the family. Having had 4 hours sleep in the past 48 hours it is fair to say I was half dead by mid-afternoon. It was lovely to see them after so long, especially that soon after only landing that morning. Time just flew by that day.
That same day, in the evening, it was my friends 21st. I knew I wouldn't last long just because of how tired I was but I am so happy I made it. It was soooo lovely to see them all again and have a big catch up. You know you have friends for life when nothing changes between one another after such a long time.

Lauren's Graduation (few days in Hull)
One full day at home and the next day we were travelling up North to Hull ready for my sister to graduate on the Tuesday. It was the smoothest of journeys as I was very anxious and quite ill but I made it up in one piece, that's the main thing. Lauren and I stayed at her house in Hull and my parents stayed in a hotel in the town centre. We spent the day just clearing the last few things up for Lauren to take back home (it was great as Katie (Lauren's flatmates sister) and I got lots of freebies to take up to our university flats). Whilst some of them went to the cinema, Lauren and I stayed at the house to relax a little, finish packing and have a surprising nap (that was only me though). That nap turned into a deep sleep and Lauren was unable to wake me up for dinner. After 2 hours, she finally woke me up after tickling and trying to drag me out of bed so I was up in time for dinner, although I was barely awake in the restaurant.
The following day was graduation day and we were a little unlucky because it ended up raining all day, but that wasn't going to stop us having lots of photos outside. It was a great day and I'm so proud of my sister for achieving a few single awards as well as a great result for her degree. Was it a little stressful? Yes. It's graduation so everyone wants a perfect photo for keeps and it raining meant there were lots of umbrellas banging together and bumping into everyone.

After a celebratory day, we headed home late afternoon which managed to take us 5 hours due to the horrible weather we had going down the motorway.

Back to work
Yesterday was my first day back at work after all this time and nothings changed at all. Apart from a few new staff, it's all the same but I am happy to be back. Having said that, I am happy to finish end of July just because it's been 3 years now and I want to move on to better things now. Because it's summer school at the college at the moment, lots of things are going on everywhere. I went to the marquee in my break and passed a massive snake being passed around people's necks and children holding the biggest parrot I've seen, how bizarre. Michael McIntyre also made an appearance at the college but sadly I was back in the pool by that time so I didn't manage to see him (I'll be keeping a look out next week though).
I am applying for a causal job in August just to get a little money for the rest of the summer and my best friend has also got a job there, that's just an accident waiting to happen because we're both so clumsy. I guess we'll see how it plans out.

What's your week been like? 

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Friday, July 07, 2017

I am so excited to show and tell you about these products. They are pretty incredible and can do wonders to your skin, not only leaving it almost flawless but also sooooo smooth. I don't know about you but I love having smooth skin, especially my face. You're probably going to be wanting some of these products after you hear about how AMAZING they are. Sadly (and you have no idea how sad I am to say this) they are not in the UK. As you probably know, we don't have Sephora in England, and Tony Moly and Innis Free are both Korean brands so aren't around in the UK (though I'm not 100% sure about Innis Free). So if you ever find yourself in a country with any of these brands, I suggest you grab a few bits whilst you're there as 1. they are so cheap for the quality, 2. they're SO worth it, and 3. why not just test them out? You'll regret it otherwise. New brand, new findings!

Because it is my last few days in Shanghai, I did want to top up on any last products that I have fallen in love with. It's so annoying we don't have any of these incredible brands back home but I'm lucky that I've had them on my doorstep for the past year. The UK doesn't know what it's missing! 

TONY MOLY Double Needs Pang Pang Mascara
My favourite mascara has always been the Maybelline Lash Sensational but ever since buying this (thanks to my sister for introducing me to the brand) I am IN LOVE. It's unbeatable and gives you beautifully long eye lashes with incredible volume. I've found that if I start with a base using my Sephora Outrageous Volume mascara and topping it with this mascara, it leaves my eye lashes with a bold and lengthy look. One only con is that when I apply the mascara to my right side my eye lashes clump together sometimes which I hate but it depends on how careful I am with applying it. Also, my left side has always held mascara a lot better than my right side (maybe there's something wrong with my right eye lashes).

SEPHORA Cleansing Milk 
SEPHORA Instant Refreshing Toner
I don't really have to talk about these products much more as I've reviewed them on a separate post which you can read here. I did buy more of the smaller products to take home with me so they will last the summer. However, the UK offers thousands of great skincare products (many which can't be found here in China) so I'm not too fussed on missing out on these in the future. Having said that, I will miss having Sephora's around the city in general. PLEASE COME TO THE UK!!!

SEPHORA Invisilk Face and Eye Sheet Masks  
I'm pretty sure you've heard about these already but why not read about them again? It's actually my first time buying them even though I've known about them for agessss. I wanted to see what the whole hype was over them so I got one in every flavour so my sister and I could try them out. I got one face mask and four eye masks. I definitely prefer the eye masks just because I'm not a fan of the sheet masks. I definitely prefer the face masks where you apply the liquid onto your face and then wash it off after a while. I can't properly say if the eye masks work or not just because I don't use them regularly. One con was that they slid down my face a little instead of staying put, a little annoying. I am yet to use the sheet mask but I'm saving it for the plane journey home to keep my face feeling fresh and awake, especially as it's a 14 hour flight. I know a few people that use these for long-haul flights so I'm hoping it will work the same for me. 

INNIS FREE Jeju Volcanic Nose Pack
Being my favourite product out of all of these, I couldn't recommend it enough! Essentially, they are nose masks which apply to your face and suck up all the dirt within that area. Having lived in a polluted, slightly dirty and humid city for a year, this product is perfect for me. I will use this product every other day and find lots of excess dirt coming off, and it also leaves your skin feeling extra smooth. Although it does say 'nose pack', you can also use it on your forehead and cheeks which I have tried and agree that it does work. The only con is the smell (but I don't really mind it), and as it sits on your nose the smell is quite strong, but this is manageable for 15 minutes. I have only been using this product for the past week but I'm going to have to go back before I leave to top up and take them back home. 

INNIS FREE Bija Special Kit 
Bija Anti-Trouble Skin
Bija Anti-Trouble Lotion
These products came as a freebie with my order and I am very happy with them. I am yet to try the  anti-trouble skin, but I have been using the anti-trouble lotion a few nights already and I love how light and smooth the application is. They are only small packets but you don't need much to cover your whole face. Each time I've used the lotion before bed, I have woken up with beautifully fresh and smooth skin, I just love that smooth-skin feeling. Both products are made with torreya seed oil and green complex which create a slight minty and appealing smell.

Have you heard of any of these brands or even bought these products previously?

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Tuesday, July 04, 2017

You never really hear much about the greenery or parks across Shanghai and they're all very underrated. As you probably know by now I am a country girl as I've grown up in the country and lived in the country for most of my childhood. Therefore, city life isn't all my cup of tea. I have been living in a city since I've been at university and I can't say I've enjoyed every minute of it but it's really convenient to have everything nearby rather than having to drive everywhere to get to the closest supermarket etc. 

So, Shanghai...does it offer a little bit of that countryside feel? In general it has lots of parks to enjoy long walks and have a picnic (only in the summer of course), but for me it never feels quite like the countryside back home and it never will do just because of the difference in temperature, the pollution (which really ruins it all if it's bad at times), and obviously the locals as they stare at your 24/7. 
Saying all of the above, I discovered this park on the internet a few months ago and thought it would be lovely to walk around sometime in the summer. As my sister was here, we decided to pack up my camera, get a taxi and drive to the park (as it was conveniently a 20 minute drive from my dorms). The park is called Gongqing National Forest and has so much to offer. As you scroll through the photos below you'll see some of the entertainment that's available. 

Instead of rambling on even more (because I've already done enough of that), just enjoy the photos. I've been wanting to start photo diaries on my blog for a while now but I've never really focused on a destination and took lots of photos on one day so it's a mini goal of mine to keep that up and create posts like this in the future. 

Without reading the beginning, would you have thought this forest was amongst one of the biggest cities in the world? Me neither. It's crazy how you can go from being in the middle of people, cars and shops to absolute tranquility in a few minutes. Shanghai continues to amaze me.

What has everyone been up to lately?

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Monday, July 03, 2017

Looking back at my post on why it is important to set yourself goals to reach, I thought I would start sharing my goals that I occasionally set myself. I'm going to try (it may not last) to set myself goals each month to either improve on, not necessarily achieve, or hit the target, maybe even past it. I have set myself goals in the past but not the proper way. I would say to myself "I'm going to save money for this specific thing" and then I end up spending that money on something utterly irrelevant to what I intended on buying. So this is it. I'm going to motivate myself to achieve these positive things and hopefully get a good response from them. Here's my July goals.

1. Finish my year abroad on a positive 
I leave Shanghai in the next week which means my year abroad would have officially ended, woah. That's gone fast hasn't it. I want to leave Shanghai knowing I've made the most out of the year with no regrets.

2. Create a healthier diet back home
When I get back home, this is when I will properly start implementing my Lactose Free diet, and mannnn it's going to be hard at first, but I'm avid I can do it! It's for my health so I kinda have to do it, but I know that my mind really wants to be positive about it all. Let's see what happens.

3. Stick to my blogging schedule 
My biggest worry when I'm back home that I will fade away from the blogging scene for a bit but I'm going to try and not let that happen. I'm sure the first few days I will be a little distant from it as I'll be very jet lag, catching up with friends and family, and just taking in the sense of being home again after a long time. I'm hopefully going to write some posts next month for the week I'm planning on taking a break in July so I'm still getting some content out there.

4. Quit my job on a high
Similar to the first goal, I will be quitting my job come the end of July. I've been a qualified lifeguard for 4 years now, working at a private pool for 3 and I think I'm ready to move on to a different job, which is more of my cup of tea. Don't get me wrong, I have loved working here; I've met so many nice people, made life-long friends, learnt so many new skills and experiences different atmospheres, but it's time for a change. Also, my lifeguard qualification runs out (you have to renew them every 2 years), so it's the ideal time to quit.

5. Keep to studying Chinese 
Knowing me, I will let the hype of summer distract me and forget about the degree I'm trying to get. I haven't been great at studying over summer because who really wants to be stuck inside revising when you could be outside enjoying the sunshine? Not me. However, I'm going into my fourth and final year and I've been told by many how hard it will be so I want to try and keep on top of things so I don't end up having a breakdown the first week I go back, which may happen anyway after finding out what the year entails.

6. Appreciate the English countryside
A little cheesy but I've been away from this beautiful setting for a year so I want to get out there and embrace it as much as possible before I'm back to city life in September. I will always be a country girl deep down, I don't want that to go away. I'm sure you understand what I mean if you also live in the countryside.

And there you have it, my first proper goals post and I've really enjoyed writing this post. After each month I'll reflect back to these posts and see how well I've done. Let's hope it's all positive results ey?
I've tried to minimise the list as much as possible as you don't want to overdo it for yourself do you? I'm positive about all of them apart from the fifth one (which may possibly be the most important one...oh well, we'll see).

What are your July goals? Share posts in the comments so I can have a read!

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Thursday, June 29, 2017

Maybe this will be a regular post, but for now I want to reflect back on this month and mention what things I've had time to appreciate and be grateful for.

The relationship I have with my sister 
My sister and I have passed that stage where we fight everyday and annoy each other, thankfully. Since both turning 18, we've become so much closer, like best friends. She's been staying with me in Shanghai for the past week and we're flying back home together in July. We wouldn't have thes moments/experiences together if it wasn't for our tight relationship. We do occasionally have a little bicker to one another, but that will always happen with siblings. I don't know where I'd be without my sister's support this past year, and I couldn't be ending this year with a better person by my side.

Amount of love and support from my parents
It's not until you move out, spend time away, go on holiday without them and reunite with your parents when you realise how much love you have for each other and how lucky you are to have these incredible people beside you and supporting you in life. I am very close to my family so this year away has been very challenging but has made the relationship with my parents stronger. It has also made me realise that I can live without them but not without some sort of contact. If it wasn't for technology like FaceTime or Skype, I would really struggle. We really need to be grateful for what technology allows us to do these days and how it keeps us connected to loved ones far away. Only a few weeks left until I finally get to see them and be back home.

Having the opportunity living in Shanghai 
This year has abled me to grab opportunities I wouldn't have thought of before, given me experiences to see/do amazing places and things, meet some lovely people and make incredible friends for life. It has really topped my expectation I first had on the flight over here last August. I will miss living in this lively city, perhaps not the university dorms, but I cannot wait to return home and be reunited with my family and spend lots of time with them and my friends.

How lucky I am 
It's only now and then when I have a little think about how lucky I am to have the life I live everyday. I have my ups and downs and I'm slowly working towards improving them.

What are you grateful for lately?

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Saturday, June 24, 2017

I bet you're thinking; it's easy, just choose a photo, whack a filter on and share it. Ha. Unfortunately it's no longer that simple (and if that works for you then you're a natural). If I'm wanting to build my followers and keep them attracted to my feed, there's much more to consider. And this is where I'm going to help you, by giving a mini guide on the stages to creating a beautiful Instagram feed.
Now, I know I'm no expert by faaaar and I'm not insta famous or have a large following, and I'm not aiming for either of those (obviously it's a nice feeling to think people are enjoying your feed and want to see more). I do all this faffing around just to share beautiful photos, my travelling photography and also (often) use it as a way to drive traffic to my blog.

I started regularly using and uploading on this account at the end of March this year, so only a few months which has boosted my follower stats by 300+ (but as I said, I'm not too bothered about that aspect). I do have another personal account but I have almost completely neglected that one. I put all my focus and energy into this one and try to post daily (although I'm currently going through a dry patch, uploading a few times a week).

There are 3 main factors to consider when thinking of posting a photo, which will ultimately affect the popularity of the post:
1. Photo quality
2. Caption and hashtags
3. Time of posting

Photo Quality 
To build your followers and attract people towards your photos over others you need to maintain good quality photos. People generally tend to show more attention towards better quality photos, regardless of what they were taken on. Even if this means editing the hell out of them, you can change a bad looking photo into a work of art. I always use my Nikon to take my photos on, but, having said that, I know so many people who rely on their phones and create beautiful photos of just as great quality. Sadly, it's either my phones age (iPhone 6) or just my lack of creativity with it, but I cannot get any good photos out of my phone, it just never works out the way I want it, how do people do it?!
For editing I use Snapseed which has everything I really need for my Instagram photos. Amongst Snapseed, VSCO, Facetune, Afterlight and Photo Editor by Aviary are all great alternatives to the Instagram filters and allow you to go PRO with your photo skills.

Caption and Hashtags 
Even though I am terrible with captions at the moment (I will get better hopefully), here are a few options on how to write a catch caption:
 - Tell your followers what you've been up to that day, end it with a question to get a conversation going
 - Mention a story behind the photo, get people's attention more
 - What products are you using in the photo?
 - Make a pun (I love a good pun), whether it's cheesy or not
 - Say it how it is (where the photo was taken, what the photo is of, how you took the photo)
 - Add in a quote relating to the photo (who doesn't love a good quote?)
Obviously don't think too much into this as it's just a caption but there are some captions which get more noticed than others, for example just telling us what you've been up to lately, or a funny story.
Hashtags are also vital if you want your photo to go beyond just your followers. Ever since upping my hashtag quantity, I've been getting so many more people out there finding my Instagram just from one simple hashtag. Now it is more difficult these days after the silly hashtag banning (I've been banned from many already) but there's lots out there to use and you can just change it around (for example, I used #traveltheworld and then changed it to #worldtravel). A little tip to save you rewriting hashtags all the time: make a note of different hashtags in certain categories such as Lifestyle, Travel, Beauty etc.

Time of Posting 
This can be a real game changer to how many people see your photo, who see's your photo, and how popular it becomes. Posting at midnight isn't exactly going to do too well but then you can consider different time zones too. Morning and early evening times seem to suit people best because most people will check Instagrams before the day starts and they head to work, and early evening is perfect as people are starting to finish work, get back home and relax a little. If you are unsure what times to post, there are a few apps out there which post your photos automatically on a time they think is the most popular on that day which is very handy and it means you don't have to worry about forgetting to post the photo.

So what is my routine to posting a photo on Instagram?
1. Firstly I choose what photo I want. At the moment my Instagram is mainly travel related and I will start to posting some Lifestyle photos in there in a few weeks time. I get these photos from all my travels in the past year, from America to my South East Asia travels. I do mix it up so there won't be two photos from the same place posted one after the other.
2. I edit the photo in Snapseed using the same filter I always do (find my Instagram editing step-y-step guide here).
3. Opening up Instagram, I upload the photo onto the app and add the ludwig filter, and occasionally adjust some of the settings beyond that depending on the lighting, contrast, saturation and sharpness.
4. I save the photo into my drafts just incase I lose it or the app decides to suddenly shut down on me, as it likes to do that once in a while. One thing which helps me out if I ever want to upload but don't have a recent one to post, I keep at least 20 images in my drafts all edited and ready to post there and then (it seriously helps having them there).
5. Once I'm happy with what photo I want to post, I go to edit the caption, think of a caption (which could take a good while), add appropriate hashtags to the caption and once I'm happy I share it.
Sometimes I do have to delete the post and post it again if a hashtag ban happens, annoying right? So make sure this doesn't happen to you if you've used the same hashtag a few times before. 

Tips that help me out a lot: 
- The app Preview. If you're all about the look of your Instagram, you shouldn't think twice about getting this app. It allows you to upload all the pictures you're wanting to post to Instagram in the future and re-arrange them in a way which looks best. It is a copy of your Instagram profile, just not public. It's free and extremely useful, what are you waiting for?
- Editing images and saving into my Instagram drafts is extremely useful. If I find myself not having posted in a few days or a week, I will always have a photo saved in there to post at that moment in time.
- Saving grouped hashtags in your notes for certain categories for future posts. This is a time saver and also just saves effort from writing them all down again, just copy and paste them.
- Occasionally tagging related pages for more views or possible re-posts.
- I always share my posts to my Twitter.

Things I want to improve on: 
- Creating a variety of posts instead of just travel related.
- Making more effort with my captions. I love reading captions which tell viewers about their day and include the audience into the conversation by asking questions etc.
- Interacting with my followers more. Something I always struggle to find time to do, I think being in a different time zone really affects that (I promise I'll get better when I get back to the UK!)
- Bringing my blog into my posts more and allowing people to find my blog from a different platform other than just Twitter.

What are your tips to creating a nice Instagram feed?

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