Saturday Morning Serenity: Becoming Your Own Best Friend

I loved this post from Cher last weekend! Something to think about!

The Chicago Files

sunrise-lake-michigan-september-16-2016

It’s Saturday morning once again, and as per my usual weekend routine, I have my massive mug of coffee within arm’s reach.  This past week was a mixture of calm, upheaval, stress, quiet, humor, bewilderment, and compassion.

I have posted numerous photos this past week of some gorgeous sunrises that I have been fortunate enough to capture in the morning’s early light!  Today, however, the sky is grey, Lake Michigan has been virtually zapped of all its color, leaving a myriad of grey tones in its wake.  Opposites indeed.  This lead my thoughts to this past week of ‘extremes’.   Likened to the differences between the inspiring, watercolor clouds I bore witness to this past week, compared with today’s grey hues from sky to water, I realize that my experiences last week were also, at times, hovering on the spectrum at each end.

When I was dealing with the downright unpleasant…

View original post 369 more words

Working 9 to 5

image

Well, 8.30am until 3.00pm in my case, but that would have been a less effective title.

I’ve had an absolutely amazing summer, possibly the most enjoyable ever. But, as is life, all good things must come to an end, or at least a temporary end in my case. And so it was, at 7.00am a week last Friday found myself sitting in a classroom, logging into my computer and checking my class lists for the day.

It was a shock to the system, but it wasn’t as bad as I expected. It’s been two months since I did any supply or freelance work but I’m now going to be in every day for the rest of September to cover an English timetable for a teacher who can’t start until October.

I’ve been very lucky – I normally do only a few days a week of supply if it is available, but this number of days in one go will ensure financial security until December, which will give me the opportunity to then focus more on building up the blog without having to worry about bills being paid. I’m in a great department, I have my own classroom for the first time in eleven years, and because I’m just covering the classes I am not required to plan or mark any of the work.

Awesome.

I’ve had some nice lessons with nice kids that have almost made me question my decision to leave and I’ve experienced that buzz that many teachers get when a class clicks with the information or a task that they have been given. And then, there’s been one or two that have reminded me that I absolutely made the right decision. It’s amazing how the old feelings of panic and anxiety return in these instances, even with minimal pressure. I’ve had interrupted sleep, bad dreams and I’ve gone home with stress headaches on a few days… and it’s been just over a week.

I think I need to get over myself.

In the online world, I’m finding it a little difficult to create ideas recently. I suppose that with having no niche, the idea of writing about anything and everything has resulted in an overload of possibilities, so I’m going to be spending some time attempting to get a plan together. It’s unusual for me – I like to be spontaneous in what I write – but I think a bit of structure might help. I’ve been building up my social media accounts and had fun watching a whole bunch of views come in from Pinterest on my recent decluttering post, so this has spurred me on to revisit some of my older posts and create more suitable images.

I do know, however, that I’m going to host a blog party. I’ve not done one since Valentine’s Day, and they’re always a brilliant way to meet new people and be introduced to brand new blogs. I haven’t decided on the date yet, but I’ll be certain to let everybody know when I do!

Is it wrong to be thinking about Christmas already?

What about you guys? What have you been up to?

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog, and don’t forget to check out my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/suzie81speaks, my Pinterest page http://www.pinterest.com/suzie81speaks and my Instagram page http://www.instagram.com/suzie81speaks.

How To Instantly Get More Traffic To Your Blog

A simple way of instantly boosting traffic from Hugh here… Really useful, and he was kind enough to give me a mention!

Hugh's Views & News

Here’s a little trick that will instantly get more traffic to your blog if, like me, you prefer to get notification emails whenever a blog you follow publishes a new post.

  • Go to your blog’s dashboard
  • Click on ‘Settings’
  • Click on ‘Reading’
  • Next to ‘For each article in a feed, show’ click the ‘Summary’ box.

Screen Shot 2016-09-05 at 15.34.33

  • Click on ‘Save Changes’ at the bottom of the page

Now, whenever you publish a new post, instead of the whole post being visible on the email (which followers can read without visiting your blog), they will need to click on the link in the email to be able to view and read the whole post on your blog. This will register as a new view in your blog stats.

Here’s an example of an email I get from WordPress when Suzie, at Suzie Speaks, publishes a new blog post. She already uses the above method.

View original post 51 more words

How BoardBooster Helped Me Triple My Pinterest Traffic and an Amazing Course Offer!

Board Booster

One of my biggest blogging regrets is that I didn’t set up an effective Pinterest account as soon as I started Suzie Speaks in 2013. In fact, it took me two-and-a-half years to discover just how fantastic it is for promoting my posts and boosting my traffic, and even then I spent weeks aimlessly pinning things that I thought were pretty, which had no impact on my blog whatsoever.

It was only when a blogging friend, Elena from Blog Share Learn (among many things), took me through various hints and tips of how to use Pinterest successfully that I started to see an increase in my referrals, particularly when she told me about BoardBooster, and she was kind enough to take me through it on a step-by-step level.

BoardBooster is a pin scheduling tool that allows you to set up scheduled pins at times that work best for you, and even I (despite the fact that I possess minimal knowledge and technical understanding of all things IT), have been able to set up an account that has tripled my monthly Pinterest traffic (and my overall Pinterest following) in just a few months with very little effort, because it pins things for me when I am busy doing something else – I was able to schedule pins to happen at times when I was at work, or after I had gone to bed, which meant that they would potentially be seen by the American and Canadian audience, who are approximately 5 hours behind the UK.

I worked out the pins I wanted to share and put them on a secret board, set up my campaigns by selecting the group boards I wanted to pin to, and then watched as my stats almost immediately increased. However, I have discovered lots of different functions to use that has increased it even further, such as looping and accelerated campaigns.

I set up my BoardBooster account at the end of May. These were my analytics at the time:

may-2016

may-2016-impressions

And these were my analytics for August and the first week of September:

august-2016

sept-2016-impressions

 

I still have a long way to go, but I’m learning as I go along…

And here is where I’m particularly excited – Elena has done an incredibly detailed and useful course (of which I am an affiliate) on how to use BoardBooster, with videos that are easy to follow, and she is offering it to my readers at an exclusive 50% discount.

As part of the course, you can have information on

  • How to sign up and set up an account
  • How to set up regular, topic, accelerated and looping campaigns
  • How to automate curated content
  • Maintenance
  • Reports

For just $99.50 (USD), you can have access to her full course.

To do this, click on the link here, and then onto the ‘How To Master BoardBooster‘ course, create a quick account (you won’t get spam, I promise)and then in the ‘Redeem Coupon’ section, type in SUZIESPEAKS (all in capitals). This will give you the discount, bringing the price down to $99.50.

You aren’t going to find this level of detailed support at such an amazing price, and the offer is available until September 13th! Hop on over!

If you would like to boost your traffic further, you can also join my group board, entitled Share Your Blog! Comment on one of my pins on my Pinterest account http://www.pinterest.com/suzie81speaks to be added!

50 Things to Remove from Your Home and Your Life

Decluttering

I’m a hoarder. It’s one of the first things I talked about when I started blogging all those years ago – I like to keep everything for so many reasons: future crafty projects like scrapbooks, saving memories and often as a ‘just in case.’ After moving house several times in the last four years, it became evident that I had amassed more than I ever wanted or needed, so I have embarked on a self-styled project in recent months to rid my house (and my life) of unnecessary items that took up much needed space.

Home

Before I started, I gave myself a one year rule: anything that I hadn’t read, listen to, worn or looked at had to go. I then decided on three categories for the physical items: rubbish and recycling, charity and sale-worthy. Continue reading

More Cocktails, a Pirate and He-Man

I had my final full week off of the summer, and I absolutely made sure that I didn’t waste any of it!

I met up with some of my girly teacher friends. We used to work together at the same school and over the years we’ve all moved onwards and upwards with our lives, but have still managed to keep in touch. We decided to meet for a burger and cocktail, and even though I was feeling a bit rough I knew that I’d have a brilliant time. It’s nice to sit around a table with them and catch up with what they’ve been up to – one is starting a new job, one lives and works in Spain so had come back to the UK for a visit, another has just bought a house and moved in with her partner, one is pregnant with her second child, one has spent the summer doing really awesome travel stuff and I have got engaged – so we had a LOT to talk about. They’re just nice people to be around – there’s no mean girl issues or competition – we just sit, laugh, drink and talk, and because there are so many of us there are never any awkward silences.

The Bloke and I decided to spend yesterday morning at the Toy Collectors convention at the NEC – I had no idea what to expect as it was a spontaneous decision, but I ended up having an absolute blast (and spending far more money than I intended!). It turned out to be an enormous nostalgic trip back to my youth – I spent a large amount of the time looking at the toys from the 80’s and feeling rather depressed that I didn’t have them anymore, mainly because a lot of them are now worth a fortune! There were so many things – He-Man figurines, My Little Pony dolls, Barbie sets, Cabbage Pail cards – I had them all. I miss He-Man – my mum once told me that when I was little she would walk past my bedroom to find me playing with my He-Man and She Ra dolls, often uttering “and Skeletor had an idea.” And, unlike the BRICK Lego convention where everything cost a fortune, I found a bunch of Lego figurines that I had been looking for to make something for The Bloke as a wedding present (don’t ask…) for next-to-nothing. I also got my brother-in-law a vintage Star Wars thing, which I now need to find a small display case for.

And then, I’ve had a number of reviews, meals and events (it’s a tough life, but someone has to do it!) that have been amazing – an Asian High Tea, tapas, pizza and a rather unusual bar that masquerades as a laundrette while serving cocktails. I had the pleasure of meeting Steve, the mixologist, who eloquently described himself as ‘an enigma, wrapped in a pirate.’ It suited him perfectly – he certainly had an essence of pirate about his style, and he was one of the funniest people I’ve met in a while… I’m going to write them all up individually, so brace yourself!

Oh, and Juliet Landau (Druscilla from Buffy) followed me on Twitter!!

So, after a truly incredible summer, I now have just a few days left before I start to develop a routine for this academic year. I can’t believe it’s gone so quickly, but what a wonderful two months it has been!

What about you guys? What are you plans for the next few weeks?

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog and you can also find me on my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/suzie81speaks, my Pinterest page http://www.pinterest.com/suzie81speaks and my instagram page http://www.instagram.com/suzie81speaks

No Day But Today

No Day But TodayA little while ago I was invited to see a production of RENT at The Old Rep in Birmingham. I’ve always been a fan of the music, having performed a number of the songs as part of a choir when I was at college, but had never seen the musical itself.

Since then, it has become a minor obsession. We watched (and enjoyed) the musical live on the Tuesday, then rented the film on the Wednesday, watched it again on the Thursday and then I went out and bought the DVD on the Saturday, and we promptly watched it again. I’ve owned the soundtrack with the original Broadway cast for years, so we have listened to it in the car, and there hasn’t been a morning over the last few weeks where I haven’t woken up with part of at least one of the songs going around my head in a loop. Despite the fact that I can’t relate personally to many of the themes in the show, there’s just that something about it that both The Bloke and I have connected with. It has become our thing, even though it finished on Broadway years ago.

There’s one particular song that hit me: No Day But Today. It isn’t a complete song in itself, being mixed with lots of others throughout the show, but I’ve watched a number of videos where Idina Menzel (who I can’t help but think of as Adele Dazeem since the Oscars), an original cast member, performs it as part of her live concerts, and it’s beautiful.

There’s only us
There’s only this
Forget regret, or life is yours to miss.
No other road
No other way
No day but today

It pretty much stands for everything I have been trying to accomplish over the last year, and I love every part of the message. So much so, that after years of talking about it, I’m going to get the title tattooed onto my wrist at some point this week. I’ve seen a number of these types of tattoos on Pinterest, and all I need to do now is pluck up the courage to actually go and get it done!
Couple of slight issues: I’m a tattoo virgin and not a fan of needles or pain, but it’s small and hopefully shouldn’t take too long!
What about you guys? Have you got any tattoos?
You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog and you can also find me on my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/suzie81speaks, my Pinterest page http://www.pinterest.com/suzie81speaks and my instagram page http://www.instagram.com/suzie81speaks

Cocktails, Alexander McQueen and Cheesecake

I started last week with the intention of blogging every day in an attempt to catch up with the online community. However, life sort of got in the way – it has a habit of doing that recently, and while I’m grateful for the opportunities and experiences, I have fallen behind yet again with everything I had planned…

It’s been a great week of yet more cocktails, reviews, shopping and cooking. I met up with my friend who moved to Spain a few years ago, and we spent hours catching up over a cocktail and lunch overlooking the canal. The Bloke has been a bit stressed, so I spent hours making a dinner of Mini Prawn Tostadas, Mexican Rice Casserole and that well-known Mexican dessert: No-Bake Nutella Cheesecake (yes, I will put up the recipes). I tested out the new menu at the Rose Villa Tavern in the Jewellery Quarter in Birmingham, which was yummy (and a nice opportunity to catch up with some lovely foodie bloggers), and then went for a monster shopping session with a friend who is recovering from a long and debilitating illness. It’s been a joy to watch her get stronger every time I see her, and she completely out-shopped me! Ooh, and I won an Alexander McQueen wrap bracelet from Harvey Nichols too! Best raffle prize ever!

Yesterday, The Bloke went up north to spend the day with his family, so I had the house to myself. In the glorious sunshine the day before I had done loads of laundry, and still had more decluttering tasks to do, so I used my day productively… by sleeping all afternoon on the couch with the cats while Columbo was on the television.

Best way to spend a Saturday!!

How about you guys? What have you been up to?

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog and you can also find me on my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/suzie81speaks, my Pinterest page http://www.pinterest.com/suzie81speaks and my instagram page http://www.instagram.com/suzie81speaks

15 Things That Don’t Require Qualifications or Talent

imageWith the impending GCSE results due out tomorrow, the topic was already trending in the early hours of this morning on Twitter with thousands of teenagers anxiously waiting to see how they had fared, many of them already dismayed at the fact that grade boundaries for certain subjects had been raised… again.

At school, I was a high achiever who enjoyed the process of learning. I worked hard with the belief that qualifications were the be all and end all to everything that would make my life successful and happy in the future, and even after doing my A levels and a degree, my GCSE exams still remain as one of the scariest and most stressful experiences I’ve ever had.

And yet, eighteen years of life after leaving school (and spending ten years working as a teacher) has made me realise that, while qualifications on paper are important, there is more to success than just being able to understand what the value of X is, or have a working knowledge of a meander, or knowing how many wives Henry VIII had.

Here are fifteen things that require no qualifications or talent:

1. Manners. There’s never an excuse not to use a basic ‘please’ and ‘thank you,’ or wait until someone has finished speaking before you as a question. I’m still gobsmacked at the amount of adults who haven’t grasped this.

2. Being punctual. It’s not difficult to arrive somewhere on time.

3. A smile. Smile at someone and they’re more likely to smile back at you. A smile makes you appear more approachable and automatically creates a nicer atmosphere in a room.

4. Presenting yourself in a professional way. Keep yourself and your clothes clean, don’t be too garish with your make-up (yes, I’m including the boys in that too) and don’t litter your vocabulary with profanities.

5. A willingness to learn new things, even if you deem them unimportant or find it difficult. If I were given just a pound for every time I’ve had to battle with a student who has decided that they don’t want to learn something because they found it unnecessary for their future dream job I could have retired a long time ago. You never know where new information could lead you.

6. Self-respect. You’re the only person that you will spend the rest of your life with. Treat yourself with the respect you deserve – don’t put yourself down and proclaim that you are stupid if you don’t understand something first time round.

7. Self-motivation. It isn’t somebody else’s job to keep pushing you forward on a daily basis. If something needs doing then do it without being reminded or nagged.

8. An appreciation that the world does not exist just in your own little bubble. Empathy, sympathy and consideration for those around you will go a long way.

9. Doing your best. Nobody can ask more from you than that.

10. Accepting and learning from failure. I’ve failed many times. We all have, and every highly successful person can give a hundred examples of ways in which they’ve failed disastrously in their journey. Pick yourself back up, stop complaining and try again.

11. Being trustworthy. Say what you mean, mean what you say. Avoid gossip. Keep other people’s confidence.

12. Having a passion, even if it’s for a hobby. I write because I love it. Truly, it’s the one thing that I never get bored of doing. And because I love it, I’ve made a small success of it, which spurs me on to write even more. Being passionate about something will inspire you to learn more about it.

13. Working hard and putting in the hours. I have more traditional qualifications than both of my sisters, and both earn more money than I do, because they’ve put in the time and effort to deserve their salaries.

14. Being able to let go and move on. It took me thirty years to learn this, and I wish I had done it sooner – it would have saved me countless hours of anger and bitterness.

15. Understanding that money isn’t everything. Yes, lots of money makes life easier, but success is not defined by the size of your house or the name tags on your clothes. I’m happy to live on virtually nothing if I need to. For me, success is being surrounded by people who care for you and your well being. Success is being able to look at yourself in the mirror at the end of each day and know that you’re a good person. Success is a million memories of good times. Success is being truly happy.

 

What about you guys? Any ideas for being successful without needing qualifications?

Follow me on any of my social media pages: you can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog and don’t forget to check out my Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/suzie81speaks, my Pinterest page http://www.pinterest.com/suzie81speaks and my Instagram page http://www.instagram.com/suzie81speaks

I’ve been particularly inspired by a graphic that I’ve seen floating around the Internet on a number of occasions titled ’10 Things That Require Zero Talent’ for this post, but I’d also like to thank Sacha for her input…

A Week of Colour!

It’s been another wonderful week in what is proving to be a truly fantastic summer!

I’ve been lazing around and watching the Olympics (I’m SO proud of all our athletes), meeting friends for lunch, getting items together for a car boot sale and doing some crafty things for the wedding. I also volunteered as a nail model for a local beauty school, and was treated to a manicure, paraffin treatment and hand massage by a student who is studying for her qualifications. Some of you will know how satisfying it is to dip your finger in hot candle wax and peel the hardened wax off afterwards – now just imagine having that on your whole hand, which is then wrapped in plastic and left to dry. Amazing. My nails were then beautifully painted in a colour that I would never normally go for, but I loved it! Continue reading