A Little Clarification About My Blog:

1. I don’t get free lipstick and I am not PR friendly (I don’t work with any  brands).

2. I have never published a paid post on my blog.

3. I write about whatever the damn hell I please.  My remit is joy and understanding, these are the purpose of my blog; sometimes other stuff for variety.

4. When that meshes with talking about a product I bought that actually worked to solve a problem I had, I drop an Amazon link so I can get a commission for matching people’s problems with solutions.  It doesn’t affect the price you pay and comes from their profit.  I am a member of Amazon Associates USA, as I have stated in both my “about me” and “contact me” pages, and referred to in a number of posts.  I have been using Amazon Associates for 21 days so far, since about 11pm (my time) on New Year’s Eve, and so far it’s netted me about $10 which is about £6.  At the end of February I will re-evaluate whether I feel this has been a successful venture or whether I’m keeping my association with Amazon.

5. I currently ONLY have links to Amazon Associates USA on my four most popular blog posts.  All other links to Amazon (e.g. pictures of rabbit hutches) are just normal links and I don’t earn money from them.  I felt this was ethical.  I never link to a product I haven’t paid for and found useful.  If it doesn’t meet both of these criteria, I don’t link to it.

6. Amazon and Amazon Associates have literally no control over my creative content (I’m not sure they’ve ever seen it) and I do not now, nor have I ever, written posts with the sole purpose of making money from affiliate links.  All the articles that currently have links in them are articles that I wrote many months ago, I wrote them to help people, and they have been here on my site for all that time with NO AFFILIATE LINKS.  Then one day I decided to run an experiment to see how well Amazon Associates USA worked with my current traffic compared to how well it had worked over a sample time period about six months ago (when there were zero clickthroughs i.e. I made absolutely no money) when I had significantly less traffic.

7. I will write an article with my recommendations/otherwise about Amazon Associates USA when I have had enough time to fully evaluate it.  I have no British affiliate links or links for any other country because 97% of my traffic comes from America, from search engine queries (I did some math today).

8. I am planning on charging people to post their links or infographics on my site as of next month, because quite frankly I don’t want to post 99% of the links and infographics people email me about, and I thought this would make people think about whether their link was really appropriate to my blog before contacting me.  I have made this clear on my contact me page.  All links currently on my blog are ones I found myself and I will make it clear if/when I accept payment for any link or infographic.  I will also still be just as selective.

9. I also make money whenever anyone buys a copy of any of my books, although I do not use Amazon Associates affiliate links to promote these as I feel that would be a conflict of interest.  I make money from book sales via royalties paid by my publishers.  As far as I am aware, none of my blog readers have bought copies of any of my books and it doesn’t bother me one bit.

The whole point of yesterday’s article was to try to tell new bloggers, particularly those wanting to start a beauty blog, that there’s another way to blog.  That they don’t have to copy what everyone else does, they don’t have to accept free products in exchange for their integrity.

I want the internet to shift it’s balance in favour of talented and thoughtful content creators instead of people writing any old crap to make a quick buck or get a free lipstick, and I was trying to say that, if you’re creative, you can find other ways to monetize your site, and you can find other definitions of success beyond how much money/how many followers/how much free stuff you get.  The success of helping people or explaining something they didn’t know, or bringing joy to someone else’s life, were specific examples I can think of.

I have since yesterday been contacted by several individuals asking me how I work with PR people, do they tell me what to say etc etc.  I will reiterate:

I have never worked with a PR company or written a post about a product in exchange for either a free product or any sort of payment or discounted product.  I do not let PR companies draw my attention to products either.  I wrote before about why I don’t do this and how I feel it biases the sample (of products being reviewed online) unfairly in favour of companies with the biggest promotional budget.

I hope that clears things up so we can get back to normal because I got a new bunny last night and he is awesome and I wanted to post bunny pictures today but felt I needed to clear this up first.

I would like to also assert that I do not get paid by my rabbits to talk about them.

New bunny timmy1

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A Day In The Life Of A Blogger

I saw this bizarre title on someone else’s blog, and I was a little bemused about how the day of a blogger would be any different to the day of a non-blogger.  So I thought I’d be a bit imaginative.

6:00am:  I leap out of bed, like a LEAPING LION and stretch and yawn and hop into the shower to clean all my sleep away.

6:20am: Wrapped in a soft fluffy dressing gown, I skip down the stairs like SKIPPY THE FREAKIN KANGAROO and investigate how to turn on the mysterious drinks making gadget that the drinks company sent me in exchange for a good review.  This week, it’s coffee, but last week it was smoothies, and the week before it was a juicer.  Imma dedicated follower of fashion.

6:30am:  Once I’ve figured out how to make the drinks making gadget work, and set it going, I go out into the garden – well, my fifty acre smallholding – and fetch some eggs from the henhouse, then I bring them indoors and make up a BRAND NEW RECIPE that I just KNOW the whole world needs to hear, I make a mental note to write about it on my blog after I’ve finished breakfast.

6:40am: I start making my BRAND NEW RECIPE and am pleased to see that the drinks making gadget is pouring coffee into a cup for me.  How exciting.  I take a couple of photos of it with my camera.  I am Martha Stewart.

6:50am:  My food is on a plate and I sit at my dining table with my breakfast, trying to think of a name for this recipe.  Something that comes up high in the Search Engine results but is still super-unique and catchy.  No, brain, Eggs Bunnydict is a terrible name for anything ever.  Something more like “fluffy cloud eggs.”  That’ll be good because it sounds light, like healthy, and fun, like it’s going to be delicious.  Like me. Haha.

7:10am:  Armed with my second cup of coffee I relocate to my study, which is really a corner of my bedroom or living room, and I turn on my laptop.  My laptop is top of the range and never needs restarting because I got it free in exchange for a good review.  I check all my social media accounts, I reply to everyone’s messages (or at least a representative sample), and I check out what is trending, so I can be relevant.

7:30am:  I write up my eggs recipe and add the photos.  They looked a bit crap so before I hit “publish” I head on over to Photoshop and do some photowizardry on them.  In a few minutes, they look like Rainbow Eggs that were laid by freaking UNICORNS who live in the crescent moon.  Of course.  Because they were made by ME.

8:30am:  Now I need to go to the store and get some groceries before it’s delivery time.  I get into my Porsche 911 and ZOOM to the store like a TURBO WILDCAT and maybe annoy a few people with my slightly reckless and inconsiderate driving (unless I’m vlogging, in which case I will drive to the letter of the law).  I park in the special “reserved for bloggers” bay at the car park and I get a trolley.  My personal grocery shopper is there to greet me, and she shows me around the store, picking out foods I will like, and when we get to the checkout, the store manager has a word with the cashier before I reach her.  The cashier tells me this food is all free because I’m such a special and amazing and wonderful famous blogger and they are only too thrilled that I could visit their store today.  Then they serenade me out with a choir of disadvantaged children who I throw some dollar bills at as I leave.

9:00am: DELIVERY TIME!!! WHAT FREE PRESENTS WILL I GET TODAY???  For the next three hours, I mess around on the internet and watching cats on Youtube while my doorbell rings constantly from the crowd of delivery guys bringing me presents.  Companies just send me stuff for free because they love me so much.  I write reviews for them, on my blog and on sites like Amazon and Makeup Alley so that customers think well of the brand.  I turn down many things, such as reviewing horse meat jerky or laxatives, because I want to protect my image.  That way, I can legitimately say on my about me page, “believe me, I turn down more things than I review, because I am committed to my readers.”  I open the boxes in an excited frenzy.  Every day is like Christmas when you are a blogger.

12:00pm: I get in my Porsche 911 and drive to an expensive restaurant.  I hand the keys to the valet and go inside.  I didn’t book, but I’m so famous, I don’t need to.  The Maitre d’ sees me coming, and runs to bring out the secret extra table that all quality restaurants have stashed in case Julia Roberts, Taylor Swift, or ME turn up unannounced.  He sets the table in seconds with mad skills, and I sit down and browse a menu.  I get a text from this boy who is a fairly well known Vlogger; we chat occasionally.  He’s just got out of bed.  Boys are so uncomplicated.  I order a cruelty-free salmon salad with magic fountain of youth lemon vinaigrette dressing and extra-healthy weird fruit from South America.  Everything from South America is extra-healthy.

1:00pm: I collect my Porsche 911 and drive back to my house.  Did I tell you about my house?  It’s an amazing four bedroom condo with glass walls overlooking my garden and smallholding.  I park the car in the double garage then ascend the spiral staircase to the kitchen.  It’s time to feed the animals and water the plants.  I press a button near the back door and this automatic watering system kicks in, watering every plant exactly the right amount of the right temperature of water.  When it’s done, I pop out and scatter some grain for the chickens, then I go and pick some fruit from my orchard and bring it inside.  I am going to write an article about all the different uses for fruit, I just need to think of a catchy title that will come up top in all the search results.  I’m thinking “17 things to do with Autumn’s fruit harvest” or possibly 11.  I can never decide which prime number is best for these articles.  I’m glad people are starting to see numbered lists as clickbaity titles, it means the new trend for article naming will be something with less math.

2:30pm:  I phone my accountant and find out how much money I made today, then I phone my agent and find out how many brand placements are begging me to mention them on my videos, then I phone that Vlogger boy and it’s super awkward because I don’t know what to say, so I get off the phone fairly quickly.  He’s going to guest blog on my blog.  Oh God I hope he isn’t illiterate.

3:00pm:  I have an afternoon tea party with all my friends and we put make-up on each other in silly ways (like seriously silly, like, matt foundation and finishing powder together kinda silly, we are so cray cray) and then we have dance around the lounge to MTV, in our underwear.  We have a pillowfight as well.  Throughout the whole thing, a photographer, who just so happened to be passing through the neighbourhood, is shooting pics in the corner so I will have plenty of pictures to write about this on my blog.  It’s not staged in the slightest, honest.

6:00pm:  I get rid of my girlfriends and they drive off in their expensive sports cars.  I go outside and have a swim in my pool.  The pool was mailed to me for free from this company which makes pools.  It even has a waterslide.  I spend the next hour or so splashing around in the pool, working off the calories from lunch because I see my personal trainer tomorrow.

7:00pm:  I change out of my bikini, shower off the chlorine, then get ready to go out for dinner to the most expensive restaurant in town.  It does get a bit boring only eating at the one restaurant all the time, but my agent says I have to create a buzz and make people think I’m a superstar until I get the Chanel contract.  I get a text that says I’ve been nominated for beauty blogger of the year award, which comes with a $50,000,000 prize.  That might buy me, like, THREE new Tom Ford lipsticks.  Squee.

9:00pm:  I go home, text my mum and dad to tell them I’m fine and ask them if they’re fine, they say they’re fine.  Everything is good.  I snap a quick selfie of myself and upload to Instagram, caption: “getting my beauty sleep like a GODDAMN PRINCESS.”  What am I like???  I make myself laugh sometimes.  I take off my make-up, being sure to use the latest cleanser that I got sent today.  I go to bed alone and fall asleep dreaming of hair and make-up and cookie recipes, because this is the perfect life that everyone gets automatically as soon as they sign up for a WordPress blog or Youtube channel.  Life is perfect, and I am certainly not out clubbing until 2am and getting very, very drunk in the company of some people I barely know, because that would damage my image as a squeaky clean upstanding member of the blogging community.

I take a quick selfie for instagram.
I take a quick selfie for Instagram with a humorous caption.

After Word:
Just in case anyone is even REMOTELY wondering, this was totally made up.  I just thought it was an interesting flight of fancy to explore some of the stereotypes and assumptions surrounding bloggers and vloggers.  And I don’t accept products, payment or other sponsorship in exchange for writing reviews.  And there’s no such thing as “cruelty free salmon.”  Or Fluffy Cloud Eggs laid by unicorns.  Or “the secret table” at restaurants.  OR IS THERE??? DUN DUN DUNNNN….

Meat Free Monday: Sneaky Ingredients

I just wanted to talk today briefly about the ingredients in food.  I know most vegans check their food religiously, but recipes change and vegetarians often don’t actually check ingredients (I’ve only ever met one who did, and he doesn’t bother any more).  That’s not a criticism it’s an observation.  We tend to rely on Good Faith, you know, you like to think, “how could fizzy orange juice POSSIBLY contain dead fish?” And they lull you into a false sense of security because you are a reasonable person and don’t want to be paranoid about whether there’s cow in your cake or what not.

So here’s some foods you need to be aware of as a VEGETARIAN (vegans, some of these foods are not for you):

1. Cheese:  A lot of cheese (especially in the US) these days is made using vegetarian rennet.  Some cheese (most traditional stuff) is still made using parts of sheep stomachs.  If it doesn’t say “vegetarian rennet” or “suitable for vegetarians” it almost certainly is not.

2. Marshmallows:  Made with gelatine.  Vegi mallows exist, but they tend to be super-expensive and all the recipes I’ve seen don’t yield the right results (although I’ve had to stop questing for this one in the past couple of months – I’ve cut sugar out to improve my mood stability).

3. Beer and lager:  When I was on a tour of Black Sheep Brewery in Yorkshire, I asked the tour guide, “is it vegetarian?” She said “the fish guts aren’t still in the beer when you drink it, so yes, we would say it is vegetarian.”  Obviously this is a crock of crap, and the fact of the matter is, fish died to make their beer whether they care to accept that this is the case or not.  Many other brands do the same.  Fanta did, too, for a while, but I’m not sure if they still do, as, last time I checked (2011), there were specific types of Fanta that definitely did (post mix syrup) and specific types that probably didn’t (cans).

4. Jelly sweets: Again it’s the gelatine.  Quelle surprise.

5. Anything fortified with “omega 3 and 6”: For example food marketed at children.  Heinz spaghetti shapes used to do it but they have stopped now and it’s 100% vegan again.  omega 3 and 6 can come from veg*an sources but the companies do generally get it from fish, this will always be stated in the ingredients.

6. Thai green curry, Thai red curry, ready made sauces:  Every single brand of Thai curry sauce that’s available in the supermarket in the UK makes it with either shrimp or anchovy paste which means they’re not vegetarian or vegan.  Some of them also contain milk.  They didn’t all used to have fish in them, but standards have clearly gone downhill in the past few years.  If you love Thai curry, get some coconut cream and the Thai curry paste, and make your own, it’s dead easy (I’ll go through it very soon).

7. “Freefrom” rocky road: This contains gelatine in the marshmallows, even though (annoyingly) it’s usually otherwise vegan and always gluten free.  Watch out for this one if someone buys it for you.

8. Refined sugar:  In the United States this is often refined with bone meal.  In the UK I have never come across this.  Tate and Lyle and Silver Spoon both don’t use bone meal, it’s just sugar, so theirs is vegetarian and vegan.  As far as I am aware, all other sugar in the UK is also fine.  I wanted to bring it up though in case you go to the US (or, if you come over here, feel free to stock up on British grown, animal free sugar, I don’t think customs limits export on it so bring a suitcase).

9. Walkers “meaty” crisps (potato chips):  In the past two years, walkers have made a move backwards towards the dark ages (I guess it upset them that they finally made their cheese and onion crisps vegetarian a few years ago).  Obviously they’re not happy if they’re not killing animals for seasonings, so their Smokey Bacon contains pork, their Roast Chicken contains chicken, and the Prawn Cocktail is still completely vegan, as are the Worcester Sauce, Salt and Vinegar (yes they stopped filling them with lactose a couple of years ago) and of course Ready Salted.  I’m not sure about their less “standard” flavours but do check before putting them in your mouth.

Those are the sneakiest ones I’ve found and which I feel don’t really need animals in them to make them tasty or edible or even chemically stable.  It’s just gratuitous.  But now you know.  And the more you know… (add your own to the comments, as long as it’s the most recent ingredients as they change unexpectedly)…

Note: This is prescheduled, I’ll reply to comments when I get back.

Wedding Wednesday: The Entertainment

This week I want to tell you about the entertainment.  This post contains affiliate links for those people who don’t know about certain games I’m referring to.

Minimalists are often portrayed as serious, quiet, dull (dare I say brooding), innovative if a little bland, so it’s no wonder that keeping guests entertained is often cited as the biggest worry for brides who want a minimalist wedding.  The Swedish Design Collective Sven from How I Met Your Mother are minimalists. If you don’t know who they are, here’s a clip (sorry it’s the only one I could find on YouTube): Sven.

Of course, anyone who really understands what minimalism is all about would laugh at the idea that a minimalist wedding has to be boring.  Our wedding was a far cry from the dull, short, grown-up affair that everyone was expecting when they heard our budget was £500.  Here’s what we did:

1. We had bubbles for people to blow instead of confetti.  A multipack of small tubs of bubbles costs surprisingly little, and keeps adults entertained through all those boring photo times after the actual legal bit.  Anyone who’s ever got married in the UK in a registry office (I guess US courthouse weddings are the same), you know what I’m talking about.  I was unbelievably bored with all the photography and it was my wedding!

2. We had our picnic at a public park.  While we weren’t near the apparatus, it was only a short walk away should anyone have wished to play on the swings.  Nobody did, which was a little disappointing but hey, apparently grown ups can be entertained without impersonating a pendulum.

3. We had an outdoor game called Kubb, which is a Viking game where you throw bits of wood at other bits of wood (as far as I could make out).  This kept guests entertained.  In addition, there was a re-enactment of the wedding ceremony for those people who could not come to our actual legal bit due to distance.  This was originally going to be for us to get all slushy and say our real vows etc but when we tried to write some we ended up with something resembling the wedding at the end of Spaceballs.  So we did that instead.

4. After the outdoor bit was done, we invited everyone back to our house, and loaded up Mario Kart 8 on the Wii U.  After a couple of hours of this, after my husband’s family had left, we moved onto Wii Spin The Bottle (ambiguously titled “Bumpy’s Party” for some reason, and doesn’t resemble the teenage house party game and no kissing or other ickyness is involved; I don’t know if this is available in the US), which is also highly entertaining for participants and observers.

And that is how we sorted out entertainment using things that we already had.  Total expenditure: £0.00.

You obviously won’t have the same games and console as us, but if you’re looking for ideas, here’s some other games and things that could provide entertainment, you may even have these already:

Indoors:

Twister Who doesn’t love Twister? This game is fun for children and adults, your gran might just amaze you (she also might refuse to participate, I don’t know, I’ve never met her).

Ticket To Ride Okay, so Ticket To Ride is a board game, but it’s really easy to understand.

Playing cards There are loads of possibilities with playing cards. There are loads of card games you can play with guests, the best idea is to get a few packs of cards because one pack won’t go very far even with the smallest wedding (unless it’s just you two and the witnesses).  Games you can play include any that you know the rules for, or are able to explain to someone else.  Beware: Don’t try to play a game that needs more explaining than it takes to play, because as soon as someone is bored of hearing the rules, they’re going to tune out and be bored of the actual game.

 

Outdoors:

Lawn bowls, Aka Bocce in the US. An outdoor game that you can often find at a reduced price at Aldi or Lidl type supermarkets, you roll a ball at some other balls a bit like a giant sized game of marbles.

Volleyball, all you really need for this is a big Inflatable Beach Ball (or an actual volleyball) and possibly a net such as a volleyball net or a badminton net, if you have one, but plenty of people play without a net if you’re not playing super-competitively.

Hide and seek (especially if you’ve got a big outdoor space to play with),

Sardines (variation on hide and seek – where the seeker who finds the one person who hides shares their hiding place),

Guitar/musical singing times (we considered an open mic but decided against it as we couldn’t find a park with a pavilion).

Treasure hunt (if you have exclusive use of the outdoor space, you could hide some items around the grounds, give people a list of them and even a map of the area, and get them to find the items.  A prize for the winner??)

Scavenger hunt (if you don’t have exclusive use of the outdoor space, you could make a random list of things for people to find, then they need to go around the area and find items to satisfy the list, a list for this would include things such as “a leaf” “an empty coke can” “take a photo of a person with blue hair” and if everyone gets the items, you could give out points based on how closely the items resemble the things on the list, so for example, for the empty coke can, if someone got a red and white empty Coca Cola can, they would get more points than someone who got a Diet Coke can, and the person with the Diet Coke can would get more points than someone who brought a Fanta can.

 

One thing worth remembering is that your guests don’t need to be entertained at all times.  They’re not at a holiday camp, they’re (for the most part) independent adults who like to have time to talk and wander off and check their phones.  There is a danger in over-entertaining your wedding guests because entertainment can get in the way of social interaction.  That said, nobody likes to be bored.  And there is often a limit on the number of players of indoor games, meaning people could feel left out or people could take the opportunity to talk to each other.  It’s entirely up to you where you strike the balance between the two, as you know your guests better than someone who has never met them, who writes wedding articles (I hope).  You don’t need to spend a huge amount of money on entertainment or hire an expensive local band or get someone to release 1000 doves to have a great time on your wedding day.