30 April 2014

One Day. My Top 10 Blogging Tips

Pearls is now approaching its 2nd birthday and I can tell you it certainly has been a whirlwind of a time. Back in 2012, in my final year of my journalism degree, I thought it was time to start self-publishing my own work and so I dove into the world of blogging. Looking back I was such a rookie, aside from my love of writing, there were so many things I didn't know about blogging. I really had thrown myself in the deep end. But I certainly feel I have far more knowledge about this fickle world of blogging now and a great many more lovely readers to go with it!

I thought I'd share with you my top 10 tips for creating and maintaining a successful blog. Some are simple and some more complex but they are all helpful hints that I have learnt along the way and wish someone had told me on Day 1. Enjoy.

1. Have a strong, identifiable voice. Pick your niche and stick to it. Readers like to know what to expect when they come to your blog, if you provide them with great focused content you will come to have loyal readers.

2. Have a post schedule and stick to it. Again this is all about reliability. I post 3 times a week; on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. My readers know to expect new content on those days and thus my visits always spike [forgive last week's indiscretion of Tuesday & Thursday; Easter threw me out of whack!]. Having a post schedule also assists with search rankings, it will help sites like Google to trawl your site more efficiently and thus get you a better place in search rankings.

3. I'm not so sure the saying "build it and they will come" applies to blogging, I'd say it's more like "build it and promote it like crazy and if they like it they will come". So get your blog out there. Search other blogs you love and comment, comment, comment with your blog name in the signature. The more links you have out there, the more likely people will click on them and visit. You can't beat extensive exposure. Note: make sure you aren't just spamming other people's blogs as that definitely won't work in your favour, make sure you're making a valuable contribution to the blogging community with thoughtful comments. It's all about a positive image.

4. Build your social media networks. You need to have Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter pages for your blog. The power of these technological tools can't be underestimated, they will be your most helpful ally in the world of blogging. Find like-minded bloggers and check out who is in their audience and follow some of their followers, if they like your stuff, which I'm sure they will, they will follow you in return.

5. Use Google Analytics to monitor your blog's statistics. Don't go off the built-in statistics in blogger or wordpress because unfortunately they are never correct and will give you a false idea of success. They actually count all the search engine computers trawling sites as part of your visits and this number can often be double the real accurate one. Google Analytics provides great statistics so you can see your visits, what posts your audience is liking, where your audience is based in the world and how they reached your site. This information is really valuable and can help you optimise your blog content to make it bigger and better.

6. Ensure any images you have in your posts are named well. For instance if your post is about your trip along the great ocean road, make sure your images are renamed when you upload them to reflect the topic. Don't just leave them as "IMG_726" give them a name like "great_ocean_road_travel1" etc. It takes a little more time but you'll be amazed how much traffic comes from Google image searches. It all results in more readers!

7. Set goals and work towards them. How many visits do you want by when? Do you want to aim for sponsors or product endorsement? Do you want to earn money from advertising? Map out a timeline for key goals and it will inspire you to work towards them.

8. Try and aim for an even breakdown of traffic; you'll find there are three main sources: direct (those who reach your site by typing in the web address), organic (those who reach your site through search engine links) and referral (those who reach your site through links you have embedded around the web, whether it's from social media, your comments on other blogs or press links to your site). If you can nail this as a 33% split you will have the optimal audience.

9. Host a giveaway! This is probably not the best thing to do in the first 6 months, but after that, once you've gained a little traction, hosting a giveaway is a great way to expand your ever-growing audience. Get a prize pack together either by creating it yourself or approaching sponsors and seeing if they'd like to donate product in exchange for exposure. Then you can use Rafflecopter (which is a nifty, free application that you can embed in your blog to host the raffle) to obtain your entries. Ask your audience to like your social pages, comment or follow your blog as their way of obtaining entries. Then announce your winner!

10. Finally, give it time. There are very few success stories that happen overnight. Most blogs grow organically with lots of hard work and persistence. Recognition takes time. You really need to love blogging and your primary goal should be doing it for yourself, if that's your true motivation then the rest will fall into place.

Photos via Pinterest.

28 April 2014

One Day. Confession Time: The Proust Questionnaire

The Proust Questionnaire, also known as the confession album, was developed in the 1800's and contains questions that are said to give a true insight into a person's personality. More recently, it most popularly appears on Vanity Fair's back cover with all manner of celebrities having disclosed their answers over the years. So I thought it was my turn...
Favourite virtue:

My chief characteristics:
Kind, inquisitive, loyal, independent and ambitious.

My main fault:
Impatience and nervousness

What do you appreciate most in your friends?
Kindness, shared memories and good advice.

Your favourite occupation:
Actress (it was always my dream), but otherwise a writer of course!

Your idea of happiness:
Travelling the world with family and friends, experiencing the best scenery, culture, fashion and food that each country has to offer.

Your idea of misery:
Being completely alone.

If not yourself, who would you be?
As much as I often get jealous of other people's lives, I don't think I'd want to be anyone else.

Where would you like to live?
New York City

Your favourite colour and flower?
Pink and peonies

My favourite authors:
You can't beat my childhood authors; Roald Dahl and Enid Blyton - they gave me a wonderful imagination and very fond memories.

Favourite painters:
Monet; I love his soft palettes and fields of flowers.

Favourite composers/music:
Gosh I could go on for days with this one... I love instrumental pieces particularly with a solo piano; I often find myself loving movie soundtracks, my favourite of late is the music in The Intouchables. I love a bit of Matt Corby, Coldplay and Adele for quiet days and Beyonce and Lady Gaga for dancing.

Characters in history I most dislike:

What I hate the most:
Rude, inconsiderate people

Favourite food and drink:
Seafood and a dirty vodka martini

The natural talent I’d like to be gifted with:
An incredible singing voice; like in the Christina Aguilera calibre. Oh and super flexibility.

How I wish to die:
Holding the hand of someone I love having lived a full and wonderful life with no regrets.

What is your present state of mind?
Restless, but looking forward to future life adventures.

Your favourite motto:
Hold on tightly, let go lightly.

Photo via Vanity Fair.

24 April 2014

Suitcase. The Great Ocean Road

I just returned from an amazing weekend roadtripping along the Great Ocean Road. This truly is a picturesque part of the world that had me wondering at the history of our beautiful country. Along this stretch of road, awe-inspiring cliffs loom over rocky beaches and all the while the Great Ocean Road winds delicately around the coastline. Every now and then the road winds into deep forest before you pop out again with the ocean in sight. It's an amazing experience.

We began our trip in Melbourne early Friday morning where we headed over the West Gate Bridge and on towards Anglesea where we first hit the Great Ocean Road. Following along this part of the coast, the road is set high above the water and there are plenty of places to stop for pictures with this great vantage point. Drive along the coast an hour or so and you'll hit Lorne. We stopped here for lunch and had a wander around town. What was once a sleepy fishing village is now well and truly a holiday hotspot. I found Lorne to be quite like the Noosa of Victoria, beachy shops, seaside restaurants and a lovely calm beach with rolling waves.

On the road again and we continued our drive towards Apollo Bay. This stretch of road remains winding around the rocky coastline and there are some great spots for photos. We reached Apollo Bay Friday night and this was to be our pitstop for the weekend. It's a sleepy little seaside town and whilst there isn't all that much to see and do in Apollo Bay itself, it does provide a great location base for exploring around.

Saturday morning we were up and about. We visited the markets on the sea front which were, as expected, very small but still a bit of fun. Then it was onto Cape Otway which is about 20 minutes drive west from Apollo Bay. We didn't visit the lighthouse itself but we walked along the tracks nearby for a view of the lighthouse and the old cemetary which is the resting place for several sailors and their families from the 1800's. This area of the coast proved treacherous for many ships and there are several wreck sites to be seen as you travel along the road. Along the road to Cape Otway you can stop at Bimbi Tourist Park which provides the start of the walking track down to Station Beach which has to be fiercest sea I've ever seen. The waves pound the coast here and standing down on the beach I was a little afraid that I could be simply washed away; it was the kind of water that once it takes you I doubt you'd ever return.

On the way back to Apollo Bay we drove through Beech Forest which provided some beautiful rainforest scenery. Be warned; this road isn't an easy drive, it's full of blind corners and tight turns with steep drop-offs but if you're a confident driver it's well worth it. Halfway up this road you'll find a beautiful plantation of Californian Redwood trees. It's a magical place. These great trees loom up towards the sky and in amongst them their canopy is so dense that very little light comes through and when it does, it is in a "peeking" fashion. There are also some spectacularly large bright red mushrooms to be found. I can't explain the feeling I got as I explored this forest other than I felt like I could have been in Enid Blyton's Faraway Tree forest. This is definitely a place to stop and explore.

A little further along the Beech Forest Road you'll find the Hopetoun Falls. There is a lovely rainforest walk to reach them that takes around 30minutes return depending on how quickly you take the stairs (there are 203!). It was such a tranquil part of the forest, if I was an artist I would have loved to plonk myself down with some watercolours. That night we ventured up Beacon Point (a mountain overlooking Apollo Bay) for dinner at Chris's. The restaurant is somewhat like a big tree house on the edge of the mountain with a spectacular view. It was an incredible meal and I'll put the review up very soon.

We stayed in Apollo Bay again Saturday night before continuing on our way towards Warnambool. Once you leave Apollo Bay on your journey west, a great deal of this road is tucked away in the forest and there is not as much ocean to be spotted as there is on the Anglesea - Apollo Bay stretch. But it's still a beautiful trip. We stopped for lunch at the only little cafe in Lavers Hill and had a lovely snack. This place is wooden and so authentic as are the country folk who work there. On we continued towards Port Campbell where we saw the 12 Apostles (I think there might now be only 8 left standing). When these incredible structures first appear out of the ocean as you round the coastline it's an amazing view and there are plenty of great spots for photos along the boardwalk.

A little past the Apostles you'll reach Port Campbell which is a lovely seaside town with a beautiful beach that I would love to go for a dip in in the summer months. Just out of town you'll reach London Bridge, another incredible structure in the sea left behind by the history of the land. The Apostles and London Bridge are the big names along the stretch but a little further on, the Bay of Martyrs is not to be missed. It's not so touristy and has an incredible view of a bay which features structures similar to the Apostles.

Past here and we were onto our last stretch to Warnambool where we spent our last night and explored town. I happened to go to the Sprint Car Races that night which was certainly an experience not be missed.

I'm so glad I took 4 days to do the trip, I think it was the perfect amount of time to explore this area and all it has to offer. Visiting in April was a little chilly and the weather was mixed but even when cloudy the southern coast of Victoria has a magical feeling that can't be ignored.

Photos by Krissie.

22 April 2014

Must Have. Birthday Wishlist

Well it's that time of year again... I have but a month left of being 23. I honestly don't know where the time goes. I barely get used to knowing my new age before I turn the year older again! 23 has certainly been a tumultuous year for me so I really hope 24 brings bigger and better things. Here is my birthday wishlist for 2014, so many lovely things, so hard to decide...

 photo carpe_diem_bracelet_zps026f8298.jpg

So in love with this little bracelet from Bahagia. Sometimes we all need a little reminder to "seize the day" and what better way to have it than by looking down at your wrist and seeing this beautiful piece of jewellery. Perfect.

I've been struggling with my $20 straightener for too long. My hair barely holds a curl on the best of days so I think it's time I ought to upgrade my equipment.

Those who know me know that I'm in love with anything to do with New York. To have this print hanging on the wall in my room would be utter big-city-dreaming bliss.

So in love with Celine's branded tees; they are effortlessly chic. The real macoy seems to have sold out now but you can pick up these copy versions on Etsy. Don't worry, I won't tell.

You've gotta love that perfect dewy-skinned make-up finish. I've got a tester of this stuff and it gives you exactly that. I think I now need to invest in the whole bottle.

Love the retro-vintage look of this music dock. I'm such a music lover; I like every genre (except that awful screamo stuff) so I'd be very content to hook up my iPhone and listen to my tunes from this little baby.

Photos courtesy of Bahagia, GHD, Society 6, Etsy, Clinique & JB Hifi.

18 April 2014

One Day. Happy Easter

Hope you all have a wonderful Easter weekend and have some fun things planned with family and friends. I've just arrived at the Great Ocean Road so I'll be back with plenty of pictures to share with you next week. In the meantime here's some inspiration for a chocolate filled weekend. I apologise in advance if any of you are on a diet as the following might just send you off the rails. Much love xx


Happy Easter
Photos via Pinterest.

16 April 2014

Style It. Scarf Kimono

The 90s was all about crop tops and choker necklaces, the 00's trend was mini dresses in rainbow colours and if I had to pick what the hit style for the 10s is so far I'd have to say kimonos and kaftans. These styles are all the rage whether you throw them on over your swimmers, jeans and tee or favourite party dress. There have been some gorgeous kimonos in stores recently from Spell and Sportsgirl so I felt inspired and decided to give my own version a go... and [bonus!] all you need is a scarf.

Take a large, silky, square scarf and fold it in half. The bigger the scarf is the longer your kimono will be; to give you an idea, my scarf is around 1m x 1m and it comes down to my knees.

Tie each of the two corners together in a neat knot; you have now created your sleeves. Slip it on like you would a cardigan and voila; one kimono for the fashionable girl. How easy was that? You can thank me later.

Photos by Krissie.

14 April 2014

Plate Up. Dukkah

I'm always looking for quick and easy ways to inject plenty of flavour into the meals I cook. When you work full time it's sometimes difficult to think of delicious meals that won't take forever to make. Enter the humble dukkah; this nifty spice mixture is your answer to everything. Use it as a spice rub for a range of meats and fish, sprinkle over currys, stiryfrys, pastas and salads or simply have it with your avocado on toast. You can easily whip up your own batch at home and it stores really well in an airtight container.

What you'll need
2/3 cup hazelnuts (you can also use almonds, macadamias or pine nuts)
80g sesame seeds
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
2 tablespoons cumin seeds
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon flaked sea salt

What to do
Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Spread your nuts over a baking tray and cook in the preheated oven for 3-4 minutes or until nice and toasty. Rub the nuts between a clean tea towel to remove as much of the skin as you can. Place the toasted nuts in a food processor and blitz until coarsely chopped. If you don't have a processor you can do it the old fashioned-way: place your nuts in between a tea towel and give them a fair whack with a rolling pin [this is a great stress buster, just watch your fingers!]. Transfer to a large bowl.

Heat a medium frying pan over medium heat and add the sesame seeds. Shuffle them round in the pan until golden and add to the nuts. Now place the coriander and cumin seeds in the pan and warm until aromatic and the seeds begin to pop. Transfer to a mortar and pestle and pound until finely crushed. (If you are lacking these ingredients or appliances you can use the pre-ground versions from the supermarket, the flavour just won't be as intense.) Add the crushed spices, pepper and salt to the nut mixture and mix well. Serve with your preferred dish. Dukkah also makes a great nibble plate when you have guests; simply serve with some bread and olive oil.

Photo by Krissie

11 April 2014

Suitcase. Top 5 Roadtrips

"Are we there yet?" is one phrase that I guarantee will not be coming out of your mouth on these road trips. I have hand-picked the top 5 scenic roads around the world that will have you taking in some of the most breath-taking scenery. Read on for some holiday inspiration complete with roadtrip soundtracks and your mode of transportation. Simply pack your iPod, licence, and a sense of adventure.

Great Ocean Road, Australia

Distance: 253km
Time: 4 hours
Car: A Model Ford
Soundtrack: Forever Young

Head south-east of Melbourne and you'll come across some of the most beautiful coastline that Australia, and the world, has to offer. The Great Ocean Road is an iconic Australian landmark. Along this picturesque stretch of highway you'll find some truly breathtaking scenery, the famous twelve apostles (ocean rock formations) and some quaint little towns offering plenty of culture to boot. It really is a road-trip not to be missed.

Route 66, USA

Distance: 3,057km
Time: 27 hours
Car: 64 Mustang Convertible
Soundtrack: Rolling Stones

"You'll get your kicks on Route 66..." If this isn't the most iconic road trip around then I don't know what is...  Marking the way from LA to Chicago, Route 66 is quite possibly the most famous road in the world, and for many it marks a right of passage as a knowledgeable traveller; you haven't seen the world until you've driven Route 66.

Amalfi Coast, Italy

Distance: 56km
Time: 75 minutes
Car: Alfa Romeo Convertible
Soundtrack: Ricky Martin

You'll be zipping around tight corners at the edge of some awe-inspiring cliffs as you travel along the Amalfi coast. This route claims to be one of the prettiest you will ever encounter and the hairpin bends are sure to keep your blood pumping. The stretch between Positano and Praiano is especially beautiful and you'll also drive by Grotta dello Smeraldo which is the perfect spot for swimming.

Whangamata to Ohope via Rotorua, New Zealand

Distance: 225km
Time: 3 hours 10 minutes
Car: VW Kombi
Soundtrack: Beach Boys

New Zealand, the land of the long white cloud; this country has some truly beautiful scenery and some of the most amazing places can be seen along this stretch of road on the north island. This trip is perfect for those who love the surfing lifestyle offering the perfect combination of time spent by the sea and inland as well. Make sure you check out Donut Island off Whangamata for a "hidden ocean" experience, climb Mount Maunganui  for breath-taking views and enjoy the volcanic springs at Lake Rotorua.

Cabot Trail Nova Scotia, Canada

Distance: 300km
Time: 4 hours
Car: Willy's Jeep
Soundtrack: Flume

This roadtrip loops the northern tip of Cape Brenton providing killer views out towards the Atlantic Ocean and abundant opportunities to stop at some of the best hiking trails. Be sure to make a pit-stop for a seafood lunch along the way, this area has some of the freshest produce around. Nova Scotia is full of natural beauty and is sure to take your breath away.

Photos courtesy of Wikipedia Creative Commons.

9 April 2014

One Day. Wonderous ideas

In our day and age, technology and the internet are wonderous things. I can't even imagine what living would be like without Google, smart phones, GPS, free international calls and social media. These things have certainly come a long way in the last few years and I can't imagine how much further they can go, although I'm sure we will all be surprised when the latest ground-breaking ideas roll around; because there are sure to be plenty more.

The internet has provided us with such wonderful ways of communicating with others, we can share ideas, find information so easily and express ourselves to an audience of millions all from the comfort of lap[top]. I have come across countless things on the web that have prompted me to sprout my own ideas and given me inspiration for things that I would have otherwise never seen. So I thought I'd share with you some of the wonderous [it is the word of the day after all] pictures that I have found online. I hope they inspire you, bring a smile to your face and prompt you to do some research of your own...

Did you know if you set a dandelion alight it burns in brilliant colours?

The floor plan of the most perfect Manhattan Studio

 I've always been fascinated by Flamingos

If this isn't the most perfect rhubarb tart then I don't know what is...

Positano Cliffs, Italy

Who doesn't love basking in the sunshine

 I love this idea

The Fairy Pools on the Isle of Skye, Scotland

The perfect backyard pool

My most favourite majestic animal 

 A lovely idea for a piece of wall art

 Delectable lemon meringue

Chic bedside

The pink beach, Sardinia Italy

The perfect skylight

 Coconut icepops

 The best kind of cuddles

 Crayon art

Be sure to come follow me on Instagram and Pinterest. I love posting pictures like these that bring a smile to my face... and hopefully yours too.

Photos via Pinterest.