Friday 25 September 2020

7 ways how to have a productive writing day

This post contains a gifted item

Whether you blog, are writing the next big thing, or work in editorial, some days the words come less easily than others. One day you find you can easily knock out 1,000 words of a morning, the next you find yourself staring at your screen, willing the words to come to you. Writing is a craft that requires a lot of discipline, but sometimes that motivation can be hard to come by. So what can you do to help keep the words flowing?

Start the day right

If you wake up all groggy and half asleep and start writing straight away, the words won't come to you naturally. Make sure you find the time to put some fuel in the tank with a nutritious breakfast, a cup of tea or coffee, and a big glass of water. 

Light exercise can work wonders

By no means tire yourself out or your writing could fall lacklustre. Do some light exercise like a quick morning jog or bike ride, or my favourite, morning yoga. I find this eases me into the day but at the same time gets my heart racing and blood pumping around the body (great for the brain).

Identify how you write best

For me personally, my best ideas come when I physically write in a notebook. I don't know if it's something about looping those letters in joined up writing to bring a sense continunity to the words which help them to keep on coming. It just works. I find myself getting lost in a story a lot more when I write by hand. But each to their own. Your stream of consciouness may be better aligned with typing on a keyboard. Also have a think about which time of the day you write best. The mornings work best for me so I make sure I am up good and and early and get the bulk of any writing done then, leaving the afternoons for editing and reviewing (and image sourcing if for a blog post).

Invest in a shiny new notebook

Nothing motivates me more than a brand new notebook, especially an aesthetically pleasing one with a witty or inspirational quote. A new notebook to me symbolises a fresh start. A new story. A new beginning. 

My brain has too many tabs open
Old English Company too many tabs open

Get the room temperature right

If you feel too hot or too cold, you could be prone to fidget and have bouts of restlessness. Much like the importance of getting your bedroom temperature right for a good night's sleep, make sure your working envirionment is equally comfortable. On stifling hot days, invest in a fan or sit outside and be at one with nature. 

Find a workspace free from distractions

Much like the previous point, carve out a comfortable work zone but one that is also free from distractions. Don't work in front of the TV or around anything that could cause distraction. If you work from home, do you have a good work-life balance? If not, consider leaving the house to achieve that balance so at the end of the day, you can come back home and switch off. If you have a summer house or garden studio you can use, this would be a great writer's haven with guaranteed privacy. Libraries offer hushed tones and are another peaceful sanctuary. Otherwise if you are comfortable around other people and aren't easily distracted, consider a co-working space.

Don't push yourself too hard

Know your limits. If the words aren't flowing and you've tried making subtle changes to your routine and these aren't working, don't force it. Give yourself a break and have some time away from your desk or screen. I usually find that I get a whole new wave of inspiration once I step away from the problem and mull it over in my mind for a little while. Giving yourself this time is important for the development of new and existing ideas. 


* This post features this lovely notebook from Old English Company and like all their other notebooks, comes in pink, grey, white or black. They also stock homeware, stationary, greeting cards and much more! This notebook was sent to me in exchange for a review and all views are my own. 

For 15% off your next purchase at Old English Company, use the code OESPECBR15 here

Old English Company notebook

Friday 11 September 2020

9 things to be mindful of on travel deals sites

You know the drill. An email pings into your inbox from one of the many travel deals sites you are signed up to with a thumbnail of a paradise island with palm trees and crystal clear waters. Said email seductively trying to entice you into a trip to the Maldives because it's 50% off. But is this 'deal' all it's cracked up to be?

Disclaimer: I have nothing agaist travel deals sites like these (I myself are signed up to Secret Escapes, Voyage Prive and Groupon), but rather than immediately losing your head because you've always wanted to go to [insert country here] and it's super cheap and you'd be stupid not to, exercise caution. Why? I'm about to tell you why.

Maldives hanging chair

Remember 50% off is still 50% on

It's an inherent fact of life: We love a bargain. Why buy something full priced when you can get the same thing for less? But you have to remember that whilst 50% off sounds like a great deal, if in the greater scheme of things it's a more expensive holiday, you could actually be spending more overall. Take discounts with a pinch of salt. Is it a destination or hotel that you would consider going to ordinarily if it wasn't on offer? And remember, 50% off is still 50% on.

Is that 'deal' as much of a deal as you think?

Deals sites like these are generally able to offer promotions due to the power of buying in bulk. As long as they get enough people interested in the deal and meet demand and sell it, they aren't out of pocket and can still make their money. My advice? Research. Look around. If you find a hotel you like the look of, go to the actual hotel website and check how expensive the hotel is normally. I remember clicking on a holiday offer where I was told it was 40-something % off however when I consulted the hotel's website and checked their usual rate, the travel deal was in fact only offering 17% off their normal rate. So yes, still a saving, but not as big as they were claiming. One that doesn't justify me getting all riled up and hitting that book button like it's going out of style. If you find a hotel you like, don't take that price as a final offer. Do your research and use travel and hotel comparison sites to find the best price out there.

The room pictured may not be the room you get

You've been there. You've been drawn in by an image of an over water villa. In reality these may just be example thumbnails to lure you to the holiday listing. Scroll down the page and study the rooms offered in the deal. For deals on holiday destinations like the Maldives, they usually offer you the cheaper and lowest grade room. Likely on land, not water (sorry). If it sounds too good to be too true, it probably is.

Maldives over water bungalow

Read the small print

You find an incredible deal for a sunshine holiday and it's 400-and-something in your given currency for 7 days and your cursor is hovering over that book button. STOP RIGHT THERE. Scroll down and read the small print first. Check the board basis. Countless times have I been caught out by something that sounds incredible but in reality is bed only or bed and breakfast. For a trip to Europe that's not a deal breaker as such, but if you're looking further afield at caribbean destinations where your hotel is the only one for miles (or the only hotel full stop), then some sort of food is a must. Some hotels will offer upgrade options where you can pay slightly more for a nicer room or better board, but not always. This depends on the hotel. Do some digging and double check if the offer includes food, flights and transfers and what seasons / months / days of the week are valid. Out of season is generally cheaper, but can have terrible weather, so that could be how the price is so low.

Beware of hidden costs

It's worth double checking about any hidden extra costs. A holiday deal may claim it includes dinner, but in the small print it may say that dinner is only provided for one night. So you'd have to be mindful that you'd need to pay for dinner for the majority of your stay. Some destinations have city tax. And some holidays may throw in a free diving trip, but said diving trip may require you to pay for the equipment hire. You'd be surprised how many hidden extras there are. 

You book a holiday but it's no longer there

Booking through sites like Groupon, Wowcher and the like, they act as the middleman, so this is more like a voucher or credit towards a holiday and isn't an actual booking. Then it's up to us the consumer to contact the hotel / travel site we are using and quote the unique voucher code we received. 

I've read several case studies where people have booked a trip on sites like these, contacted the travel provider, and said travel provider have told them the trip to x at the advertised price has now sold out. Some are palmed off with a lower spec hotel or travel package. Others are given something more expensive so end up having to shell out more. You may not be happy and want your money back. Which is when you are told that your voucher is non refundable and non transferable.

Sites like these have some lovely sunshine breaks abroad, but it's definitely worth bearing the above in mind. I'd personally be more inclined to book up a domestic trip with them as in the event of a booking changing or no longer being available, I'd be a little more confident finding an alternative in a country I am more familar with. But that's completely up to you. Just ensure that you are ATOL or ABTA protected.

Maldives holidays

Watch out for scam travel sites

There are lots of travel deals sites. Take your pick. But beware. There are scammers out there who create fake websites, fake listings and fake social media accounts drawing people to holiday deals and competitions. Scam sites like these can promote accomodation and holiday packages that don't exist, or sell fake airline tickets. Before booking, always check out the website in question. Google it for reviews and stories of other people who have booked through them. Make sure they are ATOL and / or ABTA approved. Avoid paying through bank transfer or cash. Always try to pay by credit card where transactions can be easier to cancel or block. And remember, if in doubt or if the deal looks too good to be true, don't proceed.

Don't be pressured by the countdown timer

You know the one. The countdown that is sat in the sidebar, counting the number of days, hours, minutes and seconds until this once-in-a-lifetime deal expires. I remember frantically getting wound up by it when I found a holiday that was about to expire and I was hurriedly trying to suss out the deal and if it was something I wanted to persue. Anything with a countdown is stressful. Don't let it consume you. When deciding whether you want to book or not, think about how you'd feel if you logged on too late one day and the deal had gone. Would you feel sad and like you'd royally missed out?

Some deals are repeat offenders

Other than the pressure from the countdown timer, another stress point is being told that this is a one time deal and this is your last chance. Not true. I use sites like Secret Escapes and I've seen the same destination pop up several times before. Just because it's expiring in 2 hours time, doesn't mean it won't be back again at some later date. It's always better to wait, do the research, and be better prepared, so if it comes back around again, you can have more confidence booking (or not booking!).

All images are my own. Please credit me and link back to this article if used.

Friday 4 September 2020

7 ways how to get your home Halloween ready

Create a welcoming entrance hall

Autumn being the season of warm colours like burnt oranges, rusts and reds will help any entrance hall or hallway come alive. Many us decorate our homes with Christmas wreaths, so why not consider an autumn wreath for your front door? The colours of this autumnal wreath are so warming and pleasing to the eye. In similar fashion, string up garlands of autumnal leaves to run up your staircase or over your fireplace, and welcome your visitors with the ever popular Hello Pumpkin door mat, guaranteed to be a frequent sight on your Instagram feed again this year.

Bring the taste of the season into your home

One of the most wonderful things about this season are the magic words: Pumpkin Spice. For a warming taste of autumn, stock up on autumnal themed limited editions like pumpkin spice gin, pumpkin spice chocolate liquor (I've tried the standard Mozart chocolate liquor and can confirm it is divine) and pumpkin spice syrup to give your coffees and hot chocolates an added je ne sais quoi. 

Come up with a table setting 

Laying the table for Halloween doesn't have to mean spider webs and plastic spiders. It really depends on you as a household. If you have young children, you may want to inject some fun and decorate the space together. Otherwise you could always focus on more of an autumnal theme with a pumpkin centrepiece. Decorate with cutesy, miniature, real pumpkins or go artifical for longevity so you can use your pumpkins again year after year. These white pumpkins would suit monochrome, farmhouse or country style decor, or if you fancy something a little glitzier, how about these rose gold light up pumpkins? You can still make a nod to the season by simply changing the colours of your candles to something like these black candlesticks which have great impact. And for pumpkin soup season, why not invest in some cute pumpkin bowls? Whilst many come in traditional 'pumpkin orange', if you fancy something a little more muted, how about this white ceramic pumpkin bowl with lid?

Update your soft furnishings

Soft furnishings are one of the easiest ways to help transform a space. It's always good to have an excuse to buy more cushions! Alternatively you can seek out cushion covers that will enable you to keep your same cushions, but give them a seasonal refresh. Once autumn is over, cushion covers are easy to fold and put away as they don't require much in the way of storage space. If you're feeling crafty and are good with a needle and thread, why not source some autumnal fabric and make your own cushion covers? I just love this pumpkin spice latte fabric

Give your bedding a refresh

Alas the Matalan pumpkin duvet cover of dreams has sold out, but there are plenty of other good ones out there. This set is just as lovely as the Matalan one. Alternatively if you and your family prefer the monochrome look, how about a black and white design like this one? If soft pastels are more your thing, these are a little harder to find as everything is so orange at this time of the year, however I located two examples (above). Isn't this pumpkin spice and everything nice set adorable? 

Create a cosy atmosphere

When the temperatures start to plummet and the leaves begin their metamorphosis, it's the perfect time to watch Halloween movie favourites (Hocus Pocus anyone?) with a cosy throw, hot chocolate in an autumn ready mug and a soft lighting scheme. For ultimate cosy vibes, you can't go wrong with fairy lights and a pumpkin spice candle

Just have fun with it!

If cobwebs and spiders aren't your thing, there are plenty of alternatives out there that you can hang on your walls. If you have a bar cart or a designated drinks area, this Drink Up Witches banner may be up your street. Or if you want to play more towards an autumn theme rather than Halloween, opt for a farmhouse style sign with a wooden frame like this one. Wall art like this can easily be propped against a wall and doesn't necessarily need fixing to the wall (perfect for if you are renting!). Same story with this crow print which doesn't just have to be for Halloween, and would be perfect all year round on any gallery wall. If birds don't freak you out, these ravens can easily be dotted around your home. At the top of the stairs. On the fireplace. In the bookshelves. Above a wardrobe or kitchen cupboard. The possibilities are endless! If you have children, they can help you place them, otherwise why not have a family game of find the ravens? 

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