How to Create Flat Lay Images Using Basic Props

When I first started using Pinterest one of the things that I had to learn how to do were pinnable images. It took me a while, developing my own style over a period of time using either my own pictures or ones that were available for free on stock image sites. However, one thing that I always had difficulty in finding were what I now know as Flat Lay images – pictures taken from above of beautifully arranged objects within a specific theme.

In particular, Flat Lays are hugely popular on Instagram and are a fantastic way to tell a story. I’ve seen absolutely stunning examples of everything from travel, blogging and stationery, to clothing, make-up and food.

I’ve wanted to create my own for some time. However, I’m not a photographer. I use my iPhone and my Canon compact camera to take pictures, but my knowledge doesn’t extend past point, shoot and edit via Instagram or Canva. So, I set out to spend a minimal amount of money on some props and use basic trial and error to see what the end results would be.

And thankfully, they turned out far better than I ever could have expected! Continue reading

How to Stop Sabotaging Yourself

imageSelf-sabotage happens for a number of reasons: a lack of self belief and/or self worth, a fear of failure, feeling like the outsider, a consistent focus on perceived negative aspects of yourself. It usually appears in the form of what I refer to as ‘my demons’ – those pesky internal thoughts that creep in whenever a challenge, a plan or a deadline is presented:

You’re not good enough.

They don’t like you.

They’re not going to take you seriously.

That’s too difficult.

I’ll do it tomorrow – I’ll feel better about it then.

I’ve lost count of the amount of times I left something to the last minute, or avoided putting myself forward because of a constant fear of rejection or failure. My daily routine involved berating myself for not getting something done the day before, or wasting my money on something that I didn’t actually want or need, only to struggle to pay for something important later on. I hated the fact that I had put on a large amount of weight, and yet consistently gorged on junk food every night until I felt sick. Continue reading

What I’ve Learned About Blogging

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I’ve been spending some time revisiting, editing and deleting old blog posts and I discovered a number of articles that have been lost in the hundreds (about 750 at this present moment) that I have generated over the last three-and-a-half years.

I created this one about blogging regrets based on what I have learned and suggested ‘Do’s’ and ‘Don’ts’ to consider after the first year and much of what I wrote then still remains the same. I’ve decided that it is worth sharing again, so I’ve updated it and added further information and links to useful posts.

What I would do differently

1. I would decide on a name that I was happy with at the very beginning. In my excitement about the prospect of starting the blog, I hastily chose the name ‘Suzie81’ – my name and the year that I was born. After a while I became really dissatisfied with my choice – it had no real reference to any of the content in the blog – but by this point my readers knew me by this name. When I later purchased my domain name, there were very few options that I could use and I ended up changing it to ‘Suzie Speaks’ to avoid as little confusion as possible. Continue reading

50 Easy Steps to Make Life Better

Easy steps and life hacks

This was a list of physical, psychological, financial and emotional things that I created a couple of months ago to make life that little bit easier… and it really works. Of course, it’s impossible to do all of these in a day, but I have broken it down into smaller chunks – I’ve found that incorporating things into a daily routine, while occasionally adding in a few extra tasks makes day-to-day life easier and good for the soul.

1. Find a mantra. I have one that I refer to regularly during difficult times: Create a life that you don’t need to take a vacation from. This is what drives me in almost everything that I do.

2. Learn the power of no, and recognise what you do and don’t owe others.

3. Declutter. Be ruthless. Anything that you haven’t read, worn or listened to in a year serves no purpose and is simply taking up space. Sell, give away and/or upcycle. For that extra feel-good factor, take your unwanted items to a clothing bank or charity shop.

4. Create a meal plan and, where possible, prepare food in advance. To make it more exciting, research cheap and easy recipes that you have never tried before. Pinterest is a brilliant place to find these.

5. Exercise. Go for a walk. Swim. Cycle. Run. Anything to get those endorphins going. Continue reading

25 Mix-and-Match Date Ideas

Date ideasI love the idea of dating, even when a relationship is established. The Bloke and I have been together for six years, but we still enjoy planning and going on date nights – mainly because it gives us purposeful time to spend together and something special to look forward to.

The following list is a set of ideas that can be mixed and matched together to suit you and your own tastes, and don’t involve Netflix (or chill). They don’t have to involve spending a lot of money, or be done during the evenings – many are perfect for during the day too!

1. Find the recipes for your favourite foods and create a formal, three course meal from scratch (with advanced planning, ingredients can be obtained from low-cost supermarkets and farmers markets). Put on some nice music, light some candles and turn off your phones.

2. Build a (safe) fire in the back yard, snuggle up under some blankets and roast some marshmallows.

3. Go for an unplanned drive until you find something interesting (but take your sat nav or a map just in case!)

4. Create a homemade spa, complete with a bubble bath, face masks, pedicures and nice-smelling oils for massages. Treat each other. Continue reading

12 Guilty Pleasures

 

It’s the little things in life that often provide me with the most amount of happiness. We all have our guilty pleasures, and I try to indulge in them as often as I possibly can… Here are some of my favourites!

1. Listening to boy bands. I’m generally an 80’s rock chick – give me a band with massive hair, leather trousers and power chords and I have to resist the urge not to do some air guitar – but I can often find myself listening to my favourite boy bands of the 90’s. I’ve seen Bon Jovi five times in concert, but it’s not often that I’ll admit that I’ve also seen Westlife, Take That and New Kids on the Block too. If the opportunity to go and scream along to Backstreet Boys songs ever presents itself in the future, I’ll be there… Continue reading

Acts That Would Be a Better Entry for Eurovision 2016

I love Eurovision. It’s one of the highlights of my year, behind Christmas and the start of the summer holidays, and The Bloke and I make a big deal of getting in the snacky treats and alcohol and generally having a laugh at the nonsense that is spewed out each year.

Tonight we watched the #EurovisionYouDecide, the contest in which the UK votes for their favourite to represent us in the competition. The winners were ‘Joe and Jake,’ former contestants from vocal talent show ‘The Voice,’ who, while they seemed like nice people, the song wasn’t offensive (and nothing could be more offensive that the god-awful sh*t show we put forward last year) and they could sing in tune, they were lacking in what my mother refers to as ‘oomph’ – that power and presence that makes people want to stand up and yell YEEEEAAAAH when the song has finished. It was vanilla ice-cream, without the vanilla. And they were the best of a ‘meh’ bunch.

For me, Eurovision has not been a rewarding experience over the last nineteen years. We’ve tried everything, including the boyband (Blue), the world famous crooner (Englebert Humperdink), we’ve even shoved Bonnie Tyler on stage in a desperate attempt to get back into Europe’s favour. Continue reading

Three Things Thursday

imageThis was an idea I originally saw on Jenny in Neverland last year, and then a similar thing appeared on Facebook a few weeks ago. I thought it would be a fun idea to try it myself…

Three names I go by:
(Of the printable, non-offensive ones…)
1. Sue (which is odd for me, as until I’d moved to Birmingham nobody ever called me that)
2. Suzie
3. Madam (the school that I often work at insists that female staff are referred to as ‘Madam,’ instead of ‘Miss.’ Even after 4 years I still find it odd.)

Three things I blog about:
1. My daily life – almost in the form of an online journal.
2. Things that amuse me.
3. Restaurants I visit.

Three places I have visited:
1. New York
2. Pompeii
3. Barcelona

Three places I would like to visit:
1. Tokyo
2. Sydney
3. Las Vegas

Three places I have worked:
1. A well-known fast food restaurant. (I was there for eighteen months and can categorically state that if any other stores are like the one I worked in, the horror stories you have heard are most likely to be true).
2. Supervisor at a nightclub (best job ever – like getting paid for a night out).
3. Secondary school.

Three favourite drinks:
1. Volvic Lemon and Lime water, straight from the fridge so it’s ice cold.
2. Raspberry mojito.
3. Amaretto sours, with the egg white.

Three favourite things to eat:
1. Garlic and rosemary roast potatoes.
2. Yorkshire pudding.
3. Chocolate fondant.

Three memories I cherish:
1. Sitting on a balcony in Malia at 2pm on a blisteringly hot day, with a beautiful view of the ocean, sipping a drink and smoking a cigarette whilst listening to Eva Cassidy’s ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow.’
2. Last Boxing Day with my whole family – our partners were all with us and we sat, played games and laughed lots. Can’t get better than that.
3. Watching a cellist perform Bach’s ‘Air’ outside the Sacre Coeur in Paris.

Three things I am looking forward to:
1. Going on holiday with the whole family – we’ve never done this before and I’m sure it will be a laugh…
2. A few days to myself. When that will be, I don’t know, but I like to have a few days alone every so often just to recharge my batteries.
3. The surprise I have planned for The Bloke next month.

Three words I love to use:
1. Cherub – I call my students this every day and I love the confused look they always get on their faces.
2. Nonsense.
3. Shrubbery, usually with a Monty Python style accent.

Three dreams I regularly have:
1. That I can fly (those of you who know who Keith Harris and Orville were will know the song I currently have in my head).
2. My teeth fall out.
3. I’m in a school I don’t know, I can’t find my timetable and every time I try and ring my mum (?) to help me I keep pressing the wrong numbers. That’s always a fun one…

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 Create Blog Posts That Remain Relevant Over Time

imageOf my Top Ten most viewed posts in 2015, six of them were posted in the eighteen months before.

This could mean that a large amount of what I created last year was rubbish. Or, (as I like to put a positive slant on things), it could be because these six particular posts remain relevant to an audience regardless of time.

Suzie Speaks has never had a niche – I write about what I feel like, whenever the urge takes hold, and over the last two-and-a-half years I have amassed hundreds of posts that range from my daily experiences, reviews and thoughts, to listicles, ‘How To’s’ and photography.

It is generally the listicles – a list of things on one particular topic – personal stories and How To’s that have proven to be the most popular as time has progressed, and I regularly see posts on Pinterest (my new favourite place on social media) that have been published several years ago that are still being repinned because of their continuing relevance.

For example:

23 Things You Should Do Before You’re 23 was written in 2014 in response to an infuriating article that went viral. At the time of publishing I received a good response, but over several months I noticed that, while the number of views were lower than they were initially, the post would frequently appear in my daily stats without any promotion. Sometimes there would is a spike, where someone has obviously recently read it and shared it on their social media, but as you can see from the stats table it generally remains at a constant of ten to twenty views a day. Continue reading

How to Beat the January Blues

January bluesAfter a few weeks of excitement, joy, celebrations and consuming my entire body weight in chocolatey goodness on numerous occasions, I’ve hit the January blues. The decorations have been taken down and my house looks dull and bare, I feel sick and lethargic after eating so much and work starts again today for many of us.

Instead of sticking to my usual cycle of wallowing, I have decided to change my outlook this year and create a plan to help me through the next few weeks. These aren’t resolutions – I have just one goal to work towards (that I will discuss at a later date) – but they are small lifestyle changes and ideas that I am slowly going to incorporate into each day in an attempt to beat the blues.

1. Create a list of things to look forward to. I love planning things that make me happy, and I have spent some time this morning writing down all the things that I can look forward to over the next year. I have stuck it on my fridge and whenever I am feeling down it will serve as a reminder that there are lots of positive experiences waiting for me in the future.

2. Be more positive where possible. I have definitely become a ‘glass is half empty’ person over recent years and I intend to make an effort to find at least one positive thing for the day, even when things seem dull and depressing.

3. Do at least the minimum. I often get extremely excited about an idea, throw myself into it wholeheartedly, quickly burn out and lose motivation, so instead of looking at the big picture, I have given myself a set of small tasks and have put them into a weekly timetable. Each task is small and easily achievable, based upon the fact that they take no time and effort at all. I’m adopting the idea that if I can at least do the minimum, the sense of achievement will encourage me to build it up slowly over a period of time rather than overwhelming myself.

4. Smile. I am not particularly good at hiding my true feelings and when this is combined with the fact that I have a naturally resting b*tch face it has been commented upon that I often look miserable. I am determined to plaster a smile on my face, even when I don’t feel like it. I’m hoping that a seemingly positive outlook will encourage a positive response from others – essentially faking it till I make it.

5. Do something good for someone else. Whether it is making a donation to my local charity shop, contributing to a shelter, sending someone a card or inviting a friend round for lunch, I am determined to make this month, and indeed the rest of the year nicer for those around me.

6. Surround yourself with reminders of some of your favourite memories. I bought myself some new photo frames at the end of 2015, so I’m going to enjoy editing pictures from last year’s trip to Barcelona and working out where to put them in the house. I also love the idea of memory boxes, which I saw on Helen’s blog today, so I’m going to create one of my own.

7. Create a set of playlists. Music has always been the driving force behind my life, and indeed, my career, and there isn’t a single day that goes by in which I don’t listen to my favourite tracks. Some carefully crafted playlists to reflect different moods will certainly cheer me up when things are tough.

8. Allow yourself time each day just for you, even if it’s just half-an-hour. Whether it is simply reading a book or taking a hot bubble bath, I am going to try and reward myself a small amount of time to relax and recover from the day.

9. Sleep. Of course, those who have young children will rarely have a choice in the amount of shut-eye they will get, but it’s a well-known fact that a restful sleep will lighten the mood. Go to bed half-an-hour earlier than usual. Don’t get sidetracked by checking your phone or tablet – read a few pages of a book or just concentrate on relaxing the muscles and breathing deeply.

10. Do things that will make each day a little less stressful – prepare meals in bulk in and freeze them so they can be reheated later, pack lunches the night before, make a note of friends and family who have birthdays over the month, write, address and stamp cards in advance… It’s the little things that will allow more time for yourself in the long run.

11. Make small changes to your diet. A balanced diet will result in more energy, and this is something that I am working on at the minute. It’s more of a case of moderation than cutting things out completely.

12. Spend time with your favourite people. I’m meeting some of my friends tomorrow night for our half-termly catch-up, and I’m very much looking forward to it!

What about you guys? Are you experiencing the January blues? What are you doing to get yourself out of it?

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.