Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Finding Courage (not a how-to)



Sometimes you can be with someone for 7 years before you finally realise that they are never going to change.

...a brief hiatus whilst I deal with a personal issue.

(If you need help finding courage...http://www.ncdv.org.uk/)

Friday, 19 October 2012

5 Things I Learnt About Google+ This Week

Totally beginner information on Google+ is hard to come by. There's kind of this assumption that you'll just be able to use it and don't really need any help or explanations. I haven't been actively using it up until this week, but for my last post of the week I thought I would sum up some of the tips I have uncovered for getting started.



1. People go in circles. Circles are groups of people kind of a little like lists on Facebook. So you can sort people into catagories. Google provides you with a few suggestions and you can add your own too. I have: Fun & Interesting, Social Media, Crafty Bloggers and Typography so far, but I can see a real likelihood that I'll be adding a lot more. You can share the circles with everyone following you. This is really key to becoming a highly connected individual.

2. The main page might seem like a mishmash of irrelevant and repetitive posts. It's not! Some people are posting things directly to Google+ and therefore, some topics to post about are more popular than others. Exactly like twitter there is a list of trending topics, visible on the right hand side of the main feed. You can use hashtags here that you are probably used to using on twitter too. Click the trending topic to see the most recent posts relating to that topic.

3. So, you are looking at a trending topic feed. How do you engage? You can click the +1 button across the web on blog posts, pictures and articles. You can also click it directly from the main feed. Try it, just +1 some things you like the look of. The poster will get a red notification in the top right of their screen if they are using any Google service, such as analytics, Blogger or Google+ itself. You can also comment on topics and +1 individual comments. All of these will give the poster the red notification, bringing you to their attention.

4. Post stuff! You can post from Blogger straight onto your Google+ feed, instantly making your writing visible to anyone on there. There great thing is that since Google+ is so new, people are keen to engage with others on their and build their reach, so whilst it isn't overrun with spammers and people posting the same thing like twitter, it does mean that people will be more likely to interact with you than on other social networks.

5. Respond - When you are browsing using Google or Blogger, and that red number pops up, click it and see what's happening. This immediate notification when you are doing other things is a great pull for users to keep going back. Has someone made a comment you like on a blog post you put up? Show your appreciation with a +1. Really like their comment? Add them to a circle, you might find they add you back.

Why bother?

It might seem a little quiet or that most of the people that you like to interact with on a daily basis aren't posting on Google+ yet, but since it will play a very large part in Google's algorithm for Page Rank and search engine rankings (all the +1's you get add up in your favour and move you higher up the search engine pages and this is likely to become an even stronger factor over the next few months.) Don't underestimate how valuable this could be to your brand, blog or small business in the future. Now is a really good time to get going :-)

I'm very interested in your experiences and input on these very basic, beginner tips. Please get in touch!

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Unicorn Horn Nail Tutorial

Who doesn't want unicorn horn nails? I love these so much I've been wearing them for three days :-)


I hope you love this tutorial as much as I loved making it :-)



I used Barry M in creamy lilac to do a base coat - one of my favourite colours. I think this tutorial would work just as well with a pale blue or pink, or even navy or black. I've showed the second pic to show how shiny it is, it really looks nice on it's own, I'm already halfway through the bottle!


Matte topcoat is my new favourite thing ever. Look what it does to this shiny lilac! How awesome right? You'll need to use a matte topcoat twice in this tutorial, because you won't get the same effect if you use a regular topcoat over the whole thing and it won't last very long otherwise.


Use a thick, opaque white to draw on unicorn horn shapes. I guess you could use tape for this step, but I find it hard to get the horns centered that way. The simplest method is to get a little paint on the regular brush that it came with, start at the base and drag upwards, lifting the brush as you get the tip of the nail. Try to lift it right off at the end to make a point. You can see above where I have gone back with the lilac to tidy up my horn points.


Once the points are nice and pointy, paint over the whole nail with the matte topcoat again. This should ensure it lasts at least two or three days (unless you happen to be taking pictures of your nails and end up smudging one, booo!)



Cut a strip of cardboard just slightly thinner than the widest point of your horns. Splodge a bit of metallic (gold or silver would look cool!) polish on a plastic surface. Next, take your strip of cardboard and dunk it into the splodge. Make one 'stamp' of the the very end on a bit of tissue to get the excess off, and then use the very end of the cardboard to print tiny lines at an angle going up the horn. I found I only had to reload the card every few nails because I was pressing really lightly. As you get to the top of the horn, tilt the card so you are just using the very corner. Easy!





Done! Cute right? I'd love to know what you think and if you gave this one a bash - don't be afraid to send me a pic, I'll show any pics I get here on my blog with your link :-)

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Being Nice Online Helps & 5 Ways To Pay-It-Forward

Building a positive reputation online will draw people towards you, fact. If you are trying to increase your professional recognition, offering to help others is one of the very best ways to get people looking at your content, following you on social networking sites and engaging with you and your brand. A simple 'thanks!' can start a conversation and could lead to opportunities for your blog or small business that you wouldn't even have known about.



Here's an example that might make you believe me when I say that however happy-clappy it sounds, being nice online works.

How many people can you name that follow you on twitter who have never engaged with you? By engage I mean,  comment on one of your tweets, started a conversation or retweeted  one of your links?
 
How many people can you name who you've seen being snarky to either you or others? Can you remember their username? Their blog? What they do? Chances are, you've not bothered storing that information because they didn't strike you as the type of people you would like to work with or read articles from in the future.

And then, how many can you name that HAVE engaged with you in a positive way? I bet it's quite a few more.

What is pay-it-forward?

Getting something nice for free and then doing something nice for free for someone else. Simple. It's an easy premise to understand. Say you retweet a link for someone that you haven't spoken to in a while. You've done something to help someone out, right? They should pay-it-forward by doing an out of the blue retweet for someone else :-) The whole thing is a bit of an honesty-box excerise, because obviously, noone is checking up on you. Noone will know if you don't do it. But, you could be missing out on a great opportunity to increase your client or customer engagement.

Here are 5 ways you can pay-it-forward, and don't forget to keep a look out for anyone at all doing these things for you!

1. Mention someone's business or job-search on your blog. As long as it's relevant to your regular content, why not give someone whose handmade crafts or blog articles you like a mention on your blog? It doesn't cost anything, and you may even find that they return the favour. Don't be afraid to leave them a comment or drop an email if you do this, I don't know anyone who doesn't appreciate this kind of recognition.

2. Drop into one of your forums or LinkedIn groups, and answer a question from a newbie. I'm a member of so many forums that most of the time I forget about them until I have a question that needs answering. Every week, I try and swing by one group or forum and find an unanswered post with a question that I know the answer to. I then spend a few minutes typing out a detailed reply.

3. Retweet a link from someone you haven't spoken to in a while - since you last spoke, you've probably both gained (and lost!) followers. Why not help someone else out with a single click, exposing their link to all your followers? You'll usually get a thank you in response (but don't expect one) which could be the start of a new conversation as well as strengthen your online relationships.

4. Comment on & repin someone who follows you on Pinterest - hands down the best way to gain new Pinterest followers is to comment & repin rather than just repin. It shows that you aren't just collecting images but interested in engaging with fellow pinners.

5. Comment on a blog you read daily - I often comment on blogs that are new to me. But the ones I read daily, I kind of just presume they know that I am reading. Which obviously, they don't. Getting people to comment on your blog posts is one of the big blogging challenges, and I speak from experience when I say that every single comment, whether it's a one-liner or a longer one, is really, genuinely appreciated. You'll often find the blogger will come and have a nose round your own blog and maybe comment too. You may even gain a few new readers. You can also leave your own link the comment too.

Here s a simple challenge that is guarenteed to improve your online presence, reputation and 'brand' engagement. If one of these five things happens to you, i.e a question you asked gets an unexpectedly detailed response, you get a totally random retweet from someone you almost forgot about or you get even the tiniest mention in the smallest blog - chose something else from the list (or make up your own - how about +1'ing a post on Google+? Or instagramming a pic of a DIY you tried to the person who inspired you?) and do it for some other person.

I hope this post has inspired you to spread the love - I'd be very interested to know your thoughts (and I always pay-it-forward )

Sunday, 14 October 2012

How to make a perfect circle picture (no special software needed!)

Anyone can add a picture in the shape of a perfect circle, no special skills, software, packages or subscriptions are needed.

** A few comments on this post have asked how to remove the default white shadow border around your Blogger images. I've posted a super-easy tutorial to solve this problem which you can read by clicking here **


 A few weeks ago I wrote a blog article with this image within it:


 And I had a question on twitter asking me how I made it. So I thought I would share how easy it is, in case there were other people wondering.

I do all of my image edits in Picmonkey. I don't have any special editing software. I'd probably sell my dog for a copy of Photoshop Elements. But in the meantime, Picmonkey does everything I need, totally free. I love it and I recommend it to anyone who doesn't want to splash out on some fancy schmancy software. I made my blog banner with it and I also edit all of my photos - there is pretty much nothing you can't do. Obviously, it's not as sophisticated as Photoshop but it certainly fills a gap in my life :-)

I'm going to share some things I have learnt with it here over a number of posts. If you have any questions or would like to know if something is possible using Picmonkey, I'll give it a bash too, just comment or tweet me.

So, here are the very simple steps to making a perfect circle picture and using it in your blog post/layout.

  1. Go to http://www.picmonkey.com. There are two buttons. 'Create A Collage' and Edit An Image'. Click Edit an Image and select the picture you want to use. This technique works on either object or one-person photos best.

2. The first option in the menu on the left is 'Crop'. Click it and a drop-down box with appear. See where it says 'Square' on my screenshot above? When you first go into the menu, that will say 'No Fixed Proportions'. Just click that little box to see the options. This will force you to select a square area of your your photo. You can make the square area bigger or smaller. I made it as big as possible and centered my son's torso.


 3. Now you are ready to make it round. Go to the 'Frames' menu as shown above. You should be able to click any of these photos to make them bigger.


 4. The first option you are given is 'Rounded Corners'. Click it, then slide that slider right the way to the right. Revel in the roundness of your photo.


 5. You must make sure that 'Transparent corners' is checked.


6. Click save (at the top of the screen) and type a name for your file. Make sure you save as a .PNG file or your image won't have transparent corners. Click 'Save Photo' and you will be given the option to chose the file where you want to save the image. 

And you are done! You can now add the photo to your blog in the very same way that you normally add a photo.


 I hope you will enjoy using these types of image, there are lots of ways you can utilise them. Why not make a collage of all round pics? Use Picmonkey's 'Create a collage' option and just upload all round .PNG pictures. Or you could use a circle social media avatar - that would work best with a picture on a dark background, as most social media sites have white as their main colour anyway. I also think round pictures made excellent menu buttons - the possibilities are endless :-) Please let me know if this tutorial was helpful!
 

This week...

This week has been pretty weird. I set up my new Linkedin profile and will be pitching for freelance social media work. I also started on a whole lot of home DIY projects that really needed doing. Things that haven't been done in a while, like cleaning the fridge, putting up net curtains that got taken down to wash so long ago that the wire has fallen out of the wall, hanging new pictures, stripping the hallway and hanging a new door.

I have plans this week too. That hallway is going to get painted (once I figure out how to strip the 80's chipboard wallpaper on the outer wall) and there is a wall in my living room screaming for a makeover  to put to use the bunch of pound-shop (dollar store ;-)) photo frames I've been hoarding.

Here are some of my favourite Instagram photos of the week...you can follow me on Instagram, my username is @katyclouds.


Left to right, top to bottom: cheap blueprint copies of favourite smiley photos // sewing net curtain remnants together to make one big enough for my kitchen window // making bread because it's cheaper than buying it (turned out yucky though) // the DIY store for chain for my next halloween wreath DIY // washing stinky bedtime teddies // homework is getting harder // our new favourite game round here is Octonauts snap // stripping wallpaper // visiting horses

Thursday, 11 October 2012

5 Tips For Retweeting

This morning I deleted a large portion of the people that I follow on twitter. As I stated in this post, I am quite ruthless as a follower anyway, so that's not unusual. What IS unusual is what caused the sudden cull.

I noticed that the ENTIRE screen on my phone was filled with retweets. That's 14 retweets and not one bit of gossip, news or snark from any of the people I was actually interested in, and none of the retweets were of any interest to me at all. So I did a bit of research and I've discovered that boring retweeting is one of the top 10 reasons that people will unfollow you on twitter.

Here's how to avoid losing followers whilst still supporting your favourite brands/tweeters.


1. Don't retweet more than once in a row. Many users simply scroll over multiple retweets. Do you? If you are anything like me, you see someone retweeting something that doesn't interested you so you just scroll on down. 

 One careful retweet should be enough to engage your followers with another member. If it is, they can follow them if they want to and see all of their tweets. If it isn't, they probably don't want to read 5 more things from that individual. Fact.

2. Mix your retweets up with regular tweets. Of course, you might want to retweet more than one tweet from an indie business that you love, or have some other reason or wanting to retweet more than one link/advert/picture at one time. My prime advice in this situation would be to stick to my previously suggested formula:

1 personal tweet / 1 business tweet / 1 retweet

The only thing that you should consider doing more than once in a row is a personal tweet. There are lots of reasons why this is great advice, read more about mixing up your tweets here.

3. Don't retweet the same person mentioning you. Okay, we get it. Someone tweeted you. Maybe they are your friend in real life. Maybe they are a customer of your home business. Maybe they are a weird internet stalker. Who cares? Not your followers. I follow some brands (a particular Essex-based reality show's stars are notorious for this) that retweet every single mention they get.. Which is a lot. Well, they were unfollowed today because I don't want to see every gushing, grovelling, badly spelled message they get. Boring! My recommendation would be to retweet one tweet of this kind a day, and never from the same person (unless its hilarious!)

4. Celebrity retweets - you might love One Direction so much that every single thing that they say seems worthy of shouting from the rooftops. Face facts. Not everyone feels that way. If they did, they would be following them themselves, same as before, but it's even more true with celebrities. Everyone knows they exist. Everyone knows they are on twitter. If you have a number of followers with similiar interests, they have probably already seen the gem of a tweet you wanted to share anyway. Save your retweeting for indie brands/musicians who really need and want the exposure, and who your followers may not have heard of before.

5. Don't retweet personal responses. Bear in mind that most followers won't have seen the original tweet (unless they are following both you and the person you are addressing) and therefore retweeting a response is kind of like walking up to a buffet table, picking up a cake and throwing it in the face of someone you don't know. It might be fun and silly, but they will probably be highly confused. And need a wash.

Those are my tips :-) I compiled them from the internet and from my personal experience. You can read a little about why I am qualified to give Social Media advice (or why I *think* I am) here. You can read all of my posts on getting and keeping followers here.

What are your tips for keeping followers interested? I'd love to hear them.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Christmas Ornament DIY


I'm so excited to share this fun DIY! It's really easy and amazing looking - let me know if you try it!



You will need:

Styrofoam ball
Clear faceted beads
Small sparkle beads
Wire cutters
Head pins
Glue (not shown)


Start from the very top of your ball, it will have an indentation. Slide a small bead and a big bead onto a headpin, chop off the end to leave a length of at least 2cm. You don't want it TOO long, as when you start covering your ball you'll find they bump into each other, but they need to be long enough to give a good grip.



Dip the end in glue and poke right into the ball. I worked in a flower formation to keep the coverage even. It took about two hours, while watching a cheesy Christmas film, to cover the whole bauble. It's pretty impossible to count the beads now they are all the ball, but I would say around 50 of each size for a 5cm bauble.

When the entire ball is covered, glue a piece of ribbon or ricrak to the top and hang from your tree with pride!



I used PVA glue, but if you have little ones I would recommend a stronger craft glue to keep the beads in place.

Don't forget, last posting dates for the UK are looming, grab 15% of in my shop with the code 'KOALA' .

Facebook me if you have any questions about this DIY, or just want to say hi! HERE.

Have a beautiful day,

Katie x

Monday, 8 October 2012

Weekend Bike Ride

I took my little funny guy on a bike ride this Saturday and we went for miles :-)

I managed to actually get some decent pictures of his little adorable face














What a great guy! I can see lots more bike rides in our future :-)

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Spooky Spider Halloween Wreath DIY!

As promised on my twitter a few weeks ago, I'm going to be sharing *4* fun ideas for making your own halloween wreath this October.

I really hope you give one a go and follow along with my blog, which you can do on bloglovin or through your google reader or other RSS reader :-)

First up is:



You will need:

Wreath form (see below for how to make your own wreath form)
Pack of spooky halloween webbing 
Plastic spiders/other creepy bugs
5m strips of white material if your wreath form isn't white already
5m strips of netting or old net curtain
4+ small toys
Glue Gun


My spiders came with my webbing which cost 90p altogether. Your local pound shop should have something similar in stock, or you can make spiders from black pipe cleaners!


Remember those long floaty sticks at the pool? They are called 'pool noodles'. I found them 2 for a pound at the pound shop. Yes, I love the pound shop, I know. Cut one in half, and sellotape the ends together with a few layers of tape. You have just  made your own wreath form! Simple right? You could also buy one from the craft shop but this is much cheaper and gives you control over the size.


1. My pool noodle was yellow. I wrapped it in cut up strips of an old pillowcase to cover the brightness. Simply blob a bit of glue on the ring, press the end of the strip to it, wait a few seconds and then wrap until you reach the end. Seal with another blob of glue, pulling the fabric tightly. Pop another blob of glue on the top and start again with another strip until you get all the way around.


2. This step doesn't have to be neat, because this won't be seen. You can entirely skip this if you have used a craft-store bought polystyrene wreath, because it will be white anyway.


3. Using a glue gun, stick your small plastic toys evenly around the ring. I've used four, but you could use more. This will create a spooky bumpy effect for your wreath, making it look like the scary spiders have wrapped up lots of things in their webbing ready to eat later!


4. The bumpier the better for your toys, I picked these dinosaurs because of all their sticky outy bits.


5. Starting wrapped the wreath with strips of net. Pull tightly and seal each strip with a blob of hot glue, as before. At this point, it doesn't matter if the ends are at the front. When you get to the toys, wrap around the base and then two layers of netting over each one. You could spray paint them white and have bits poking out, but I wanted to make sure mine were totally covered.




6. When you have wrapped the whole ring, make the end of your last strip of netting into a loop and put a blob of glue in between the layers to secure it. Pull tightly on either side of your glue blob and the glue will seep through the netting. This will form a permanent loop to hang your wreath later on.
 

7. Start wrapping the wreath in the fake webbing. You'll need to pull it into strip shapes. It's pretty flimsy (as you would expect from 90p Halloween decor!) so this stage is fun and easy. I pulled of a large piece from the bundle, and spread it open with my fingers. Then I wrapped these thick strips of web round the wreath. Some pieces I left loose, and some I pulled very tightly, especially around the lumps and bumps :-)


8. Blobs of glue should be at the back at this stage, and be very careful not to burn your fingers on hot glue, as you press the webbing onto the spots you might feel it seep through.


9. Take a small piece of webbing and stretch it out across the back of the wreath. Secure in place by putting hot glue on the back of a few of your plastic spiders, and using the spider to stick the webbing to the inside-back part. Looking spooky already!


 10. Glue the rest of the spiders all over the wreath, inside and out, like they are creepily crawling all over it, waiting to devour what they have caught inside. (Okay, I know, I need to calm down. I just really like Halloween!)


My spiders had hollow backs, so I was able to pop the glue in there and then quickly press the little guy into his place on the wreath. Don't worry about getting messy with the glue gun - glue gun glue looks exactly like spider webs when it goes stringy.

 

11. Done! Hang your wreath on your front door to scare your postman.

note: yes, I banged a nail into my UPVC door. No, I don't recommend it as there is now a small split on the outside. Why not try this trick for hanging a wreath if you have a similar front door?

I hope you love this DIY, I have three more fab Halloween wreath tutorials coming these next few weeks :-)

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