May 2, 2013
¡Hola de Madrid! I’ve been in Spain for less than 24 hours and I already know that I’m going to love it here. Someone is going to have to pry me out of this country with a crowbar come two weeks from now because I am not leaving.
For someone who landed in the morning around 10:00 a.m. and is just now going to bed (as it’s well past midnight), my cousin (whom I shall abbreviate to M) and her husband (whom I shall abbreviate to P) wasted no time in getting me to cover quite a bit of Madrid in one day. As soon as we got out of the Metro from the airport, we went to eat. Now, it was about 10:45-ish in the morning, I hadn’t brushed my teeth for what seemed like days and I smelled like airplane. You would think that I’d want to go straight to their place and freshen up. Yeah…no. Ironically, the first thing I wanted to do was eat and drink and eat and drink we did.
Now I was told that these two like to eat all different types of foods and often. I’ve been trying to maintain a vegetarian diet and would never consider eating any type of meat except chicken, turkey and the occasional few seafood items (sometimes I eat bacon…I LOVE bacon…but like I said, this is sometimes). Let’s just say this went all out the door the moment I landed because I was not going to let my inner food-priss get in the way. I had decided that if I was going to be here, I was going to eat everything – no limits. An attitude I’m glad I adopted considering jamón (ham) is HUGE here. So popular that they sell it by the leg in store, the more expensive the better the ham is.
With that being said, we sat down that morning with a plate full of pintxos (pinchos) and sangria. Even without having brushed my teeth, that Sangria tasted pretty darn good and so did the food. After this quick bite we headed to the apartment to freshen up, change and then back out to explore the city. M had told me that today was a holiday (what day isn’t a holiday here?) so the city was dead. We first went to Sol (the center) which was a bit more hustlin’ and bustlin’ than their quaint little neighborhood. Turns out May 2nd is Fiesta de la Comunidad de Madrid (The Day of Autonomous Community), thus marking the uprising of Spain against French troops in 1808. Yeah, I picked a pretty darn good day to come to Spain (all coincidental, of course). We ended up seeing the remains of a parade that had taken place earlier and walked into a bakery. True to form, I ordered a waffle cone filled with whipped cream and topped with chocolate and nuts. Kind of like one of those Drumstick ice cream cones but WAY better.
While licking the whip cream out of this cone, M took me on her own mini-tour of Madrid and Sol, going through Plaza Mayor and a few calles (streets) next to it. Turns out that a majority of the street names have a little picture underneath it, just in case you have no idea what the word means. For example, Calle Gato (Cat Street) would have a picture of a little cat on it. Those Spainards, they know us dumb folk need that.
Before I continue, I have to give props to my cousin for her tour. I have never seen anyone who has only lived in Spain for a little over a year and half, who barely knew a word of Spanish before she left, give such an informed and awesome tour. I don’t think I could have received a better tour from the writers of Lonely Planet or Rick Steves himself. Every street, every building, every monument – she covered it. My exhausted brain took in a lot today! This girl needs to start her own small tour company especially for Americans. She’d bank off of it.
Then we got hungry. When you’re in Spain what do you do when you get hungry? Why, go on a Tapas Crawl of course. Tapas are pretty much made in every single way you can think of, I even saw little hamburger ones with french fries on top. The way this works is that you choose which tapas you want and put them on your plate. Each tapas has a pick in it that you remove, save and then take up to the cashier who charges you by the picks. Could it be any more simple? Why yes, it can. In case, you’re still hungry and are a bit bored with the tapas already there, they’ll ring a bill signifying a new one has been made and ready for you to consume. You don’t even have to ask. Can it get any easier than this? Yes, yes it can. You don’t even have to throw your napkins in the bin. You can just throw them on the floor.
Pick your tapas, take the pick out, eat them, drink your cerveza con limón (beer with lemon), throw your napkins on the floor, pay and walk out. Why can’t all places be like this?
After the tapas crawl we ended up at Plaza de Isabell (with a little portrait of Isabell on the street sign). This is where M pointed out her favorite old toothless couple, playing accordions. I don’t know if it was the fact that I was looking at two old people but all of sudden my exhaustion took over and all I wanted to do was fall asleep on the steps. As soon as I got back to the apartment, there was no taking off of the jacket, washing my face, lifting up the sheets or taking a bath – it was a big, fat flop right on the bed.
After a brief three-hour siesta, we got dressed and headed to the San Miguel Mercado. Which turned out to be an enclosed glass market with tons of tapas, paella, wine, sangria, chocolate, cheese, gelato, seafood – pretty much anything stand! Again, we ate and drank. I don’t think I’ve eaten or drank so much in my life in such a short period of time.
The market was adorable but unfortunately closing down pretty soon after we got there. However, since tapas is just what we call “appetizers” we still needed dinner. This took us to Wok to Walk. Oh yeah, spicy, fried Chinese food in a box. Since we just HAD to have dessert, we stopped at Casa Gines for chocolate con churros. I was told this yummy goodness is served into the wee hours of the night (and I thought Taco Cabana was a good late-night snack). M and I drank that rich, hot chocolate right out of the mug. Nothing about this was gross.
Yes, I’m about to go to bed very happy and very full.
I’d say my first day in Madrid has been a complete success.
For almost two weeks, I sat down every night, exhausted out of mind and wrote. I tend to forget things quickly and with each day being so jam-packed, I knew if I didn’t write it down, it would be lost forever into the black abyss that is my mind. I came a long way to get these moments and thanks to a trusty little tablet, my camera and two beautiful travel destinations, I’m able to share them with you. So sit back, relax, put your tray tables and chairs in their upright positions and enjoy. Or you can just skip the writing and look at pictures…whatever floats your boat. Here are my encounters and thoughts, transferred straight from my iPad to your screen—nothing is made up (though, I did edit for grammar and to make sure that in my original, delirious state of writing, that it makes sense).
May 1, 2013
Note: there are no pictures associated with this post. All of you know what the view looks like from a plane at 30,000 feet and there’s no need to see the Newark airport.
Well it has finally begun, the trip I’ve been talking about and waiting to take for over a year and a half now…Spain and Morocco. I’m currently on my way to Newark right now. My goal—to find the nearest bar and grab a drink. Not only do I need some cocktail therapy (as a friend likes to put it) but I also need something to calm my nerves for an 8 ½ hour flight. I have slight plane anxiety and I have a feeling that if I take any sort of meds, I’ll turn into Kristin Wiig’s character in Bridesmaids. Which, in some aspects, is not far off from how I am right now (but that is beside the point).
When I first got on the plane I found a little Indian man (is there any other kind?) fast asleep in a deep, deep slumber, in my seat. Did I let him stay there? No, I had to wake him up. One – I needed my window seat and two – by the looks of him, he was so tired that if one of the attendants had stuffed him into an overhead bin, he probably wouldn’t have even noticed.
I sat down, got out my music, headphones and was ready to prepare myself for the minutes before take-off. Which to me are the most terrifying yet thrilling at the same time. I love barreling down the run way at god knows how many miles per hour and then lifting off so I can see the city below. That lasts about a whole 5 seconds before I grab the arm handles and wait till the plane levels off. While I’m “prepping” myself, a nice Swedish woman sat down next to me. Well, I’m not quite sure if she’s Swedish (and I really hope that she’s not reading this). It’s not like we wear name tags that say “Hello! Me ethnicity is…” nor am I so amazing at determining dialects. I mean she could be Hungarian for all I knew. What I did know, was that her and her friend’s glances towards me were telling me that they wanted me to offer up my seat so that her friend could sit next to her.
Now, I just fought off a little Indian man for this seat (not really) and I’m not a mean person. I also hate to see family and friends separated (especially on a plane). I know the comfort of having a pal sit next to me, one that will hold my hand across the aisle during moments of rough turbulence. WAIT…what? That actually happened? Yeah…true story. I have great friends.
Anyways, back to what I was saying. I sat here for a couple of minutes trying to determine if my plane anxiety coupled with my need to sit next to the window to stay calm, overruled the fact that I wanted these two friends to sit together. Then I realized that this is MY vacation. I booked this seat next to the window and these two are grown woman, they can handle it. Now if a child was separated from his/her parents, I doubt I’d think twice about giving up my seat. I’m not that mean. So I just kept giving friendly, smiling glances back at the tall, blonde woman and her friend and they kept doing the same to me. With all this glancing back and forth, I couldn’t relax before take-off. Finally, when I thought I’d might just have to break down and give up my seat so that these two could talk up a storm, a group of young high school girls came bouncing through the aisles. Luckily, one of them kindly gave up her seat for the friend. Then I realized, that I had just been meaner than a “Mean Girl” from high school. How horrifying. Note to self: become a better person within two weeks.
Now, these two have been…talking…and talking…and talking. What can they possibly have to talk about at 30,000-something feet above ground for three hours now. Ok, I should probably stop hating on them as the one sitting next to me, kindly threw away my trash as I dozed in and out of sleep. Of course, I can’t understand a damn thing either one of them is saying but thankfully I have 13 songs on my iPod that I can listen to over and over again. Hopefully, this time I’ll actually memorize Nelly’s “Ride Wit Me” instead of my feeble attempt at doing it in the 12th grade. I can now see the Statue of Liberty and the NYC skyline…Newark airport, here I am.
To Be Continued…
All right then, so now it’s a few hours into my 8 ½ hour flight to Madrid. My belly is full of blue corn chips smothered in blue cheese, some “special” sauce, pico de gallo, bacon and of course Corona. I’m feeling pretty full so I haven’t touched this so-called airplane dinner considering the chips and beer aren’t sitting too well in my stomach (must be that “special” sauce).
The girls sitting next to me are fast asleep and I hate to wake them up to go to the restroom. I’m just going to take a nap and wait.
Ok, I waited a couple of hours. They got up, I’ve taken care of business. Unfortunately, I’m still not feeling that well. This is not how I want to land in Spain. For now, I think I’m just going to sign off and force myself to sleep while listening to Florence and the Machine. See you in Madrid!
I had intended to have the first segment of my travels up today but I’m still finalizing and editing images (my Photoshop software is about ready to kill me). I’ll definitely have one up on Thursday as I am really quite excited to share some of the images (not all 3000…I promise!) with you guys plus some travel stories. So instead of saying, I’ll be back, I thought I’d go ahead and kick off my May posts (three weeks late) with some travel style. Side note: I did not take very many outfit-centric pictures when I was away as that really wasn’t the intention of my trip. However, my cousin was kind enough to take a few on my second day in Madrid, right before we had to leave to catch a plane to Morocco.
I packed very lightly for this trip. So lightly, that all I had were two carry-on sized bags, that fit all my clothes and essentials for two weeks, plus my camera bag and purse. Go me! I’d have to say the biggest help I had were E-bags packing cubes. For $20 you get a set of three cubes in different sizes; they are awesome for packing clothes and undergarments in. If you roll/fold your pieces up properly, you can fit all three packing cubes, plus a make-up bag, toiletries bag and a few other things all nice and snugly into a carry-on. I learned how to pack from this blog, Seventeenth & Irving, and found the E-bags packing cubes here.
I wanted to make sure the pieces that I took were versatile enough to be worn a few times in different ways. I planned outfits a couple of weeks in advance, however I didn’t pack anything until the night before (the procrastinator in me). I ended up wearing most of my pieces at least 3-4 times before they got too dirty to wear again. Some of them got dirty/smelly in one day and I didn’t get a chance to wash them, so they only got one wear; but for the most part, I really did pack just enough. This black maxi dress definitely got out a few times.
There was still a slight chill in the air in Madrid so I attempted to do the whole “chic-black” look by adding a black leather jacket to the dress. It was a bit too boring for me, so I threw in the gold belt and red TOMS. The shoes don’t particularly match, but I chose comfort over style (besides they’re TOMS, they pretty much go with everything anyways). By the way, these are another essential travel purchase (a tip I got from a friend). They are so comfortable, almost as if you are walking on air plus your feet don’t hurt as much at the end of the day.
With that, we set out for Reitro Park in Madrid where we shot these pictures. I’m not going to get into too much detail about the park as that is part of my travel stories post but I will say that it was not easy climbing up this pillar-structure especially in a dress. However, I was in Spain and if I did flash anyone, I doubt they’d be phased by it. Also, it smells like cat pee between the pillars. So inviting.
Here’s the struggle…
Dress – Ross, Jacket & Glasses – F21, Scarf – H&M, Belt – Thrifted, Bag – Sam Moon, Shoes – TOMS
Photos taken by Menka in Madrid, Spain.
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I told you guys that I’d post an outfit before I leave (!) I know…I’m just as shocked as you are. I have a few more hours until my trek to Spain begins and these are the hours that I wish teleportation was already invented. I always have that fear that I’ve left something behind (though I’ve checked my What to Pack list at least 18 times), my nerves are on edge and I really just WANT to be at my destination. Unfortunately, there’s this teeny-tiny body of water (aka the Atlantic Ocean) standing in my way of flamenco dancers, tapas, wine and extreme amounts of awesome-ness.
However, if I were to say that the night leading up to this departure was uneventful, I’d be lying. Last week I took my car into the shop and spent close to $800 to fix it. Then I cursed the crap out of the dealership and at my car for making me spend so much money on something as frivolous as a reliable mode of transportation. Only to end up driving it a couple of days later with a drained battery (that was recently replaced!), flickering lights, a radio that would go in and out and ultimately it died on me after pulling up or should I say gliding into a gas pump.
After waiting 45 minutes for the tow truck to arrive, being followed by a trucker who was either pissed he had to drive so far away from town or maybe he just hates silver cars, finding a random guy parking cars in the dealership lot, more than hour after it was closed – I left my Cookie Monster all alone in the Service lane at the shop. My car and I have never been away for more than two days really, let alone 2 weeks. It’s kind of a big step for us so I guess putting me through all this hassle (and money) is it’s way of saying that it’ll miss me. I for one cannot wait to be free and walk around everywhere! Some relationships just need a break.
Of course, I had barely packed or done anything. So instead of a night filled with a friend’s birthday, packing, wine and Stephen Colbert – it turned into a night of birthday, towing, AAA and a tow trucker I’ll call Raymond, who was not amused every time I chased him in parking lots, which was more than one time.
That my friend’s is my big bon voyage.
I was also wearing these grape-colored pants, so at least I was doing all these awesome things in style. I wore it with a simple cream-colored peplum top with an orange sash and nude heels; but here, I have it dressed up in a business/work-wear style. Another prime example of how to incorporate color into your work wardrobe and if you can’t wear purple pants, then maybe the color combo (grape, navy, white and nude) is something you can try to put together with other pieces.
Well, my lovely readers I’m ready to cross that ocean so let me just grab my bikini and shark-repellant spray.
Catch you guys on the flipside!
I’m just going to say this – I’m a big WUSS when it comes to packing my bags and traveling somewhere (I mentioned this in my New Year’s Resolutions post and I’m pretty sure most of my friends would be in complete agreement). It’s not that I’m scared to travel (I do have a slight fear of flying) but mostly I do the whole “Eh, I’ll go later” bit or I just think too much about it. Then the opportunity passes me up and I continue to sit here—twiddling my thumbs, pinning cities and dreaming about places to visit. The very definition of “un-wanderlusting”. If that’s a word. Probably not.
Anyways, I decided to conduct an intervention…on myself. (Yes people. This is possible). If you are like me (and I hope that you are not), these steps may just help you:
1. Writing out SPAIN TICKETS in big, bold letters with a Sharpie (no other writing utensil would have been as effective) and taping it to the rear-view mirror of my car.
What normal, sane, totally awesome person has to do this when they want to travel somewhere? For VACATION, nonetheless? I DO. Me. Only me. I needed a constant, daily reminder that the country of Spain does exist, as does the word “tickets”, and I must get one so that I can go there (because a map and my dreams are just not enough). I’m sure you can only imagine the types of looks and questions I got when people sat in my car.
2. Sitting down and actually looking for plane tickets instead of pinning pictures of Spain on to my Take Me Here board on Pinterest. Honestly, the appropriate name for this board should probably be Taking Myself Here because let’s face it, ain’t no one going to take me anywhere.
At this point, my heart literally sank when I saw how expensive tickets were and I was going to give up. Yes, even AFTER I put the post-it up. The first step is always the hardest to overcome my friends.
3. NOT giving up. The next day I continued my search then the day after that and the day after that. Finally, after a week of soul-searching (aka ticket-searching), I found it! An affordable flight. I.am.SO.dramatic.
4. The FINAL step – overcoming my fear of booking an international trip one month out. I’m not going to lie, it took me awhile to gather my thoughts…think through this decision… come to terms with the fact that my bank account was going to decrease…OR MAYBE NOT. There was a bit of a hoopla between me, my credit card, the airlines, my bank and global call centers. It all ended in a three-way phone call and bit of resentment for call centers in India and a certain travel agent whom I shall call Savita.
5. I am booked.
When I told people, I actually think they thought I was lying. (Clearly, I had a problem). I received quite a few looks mixed with shock and excitement; along with the phrase, “Wow! I’m so happy for you! (I even got an “It’s about damn time”.) My cousin, whom I’ll be spending my trip with, kind of doesn’t believe that I’m actually coming. COME ON GUYS – do you not know me, if at all? It’s almost as if I had accomplished something amazing, like I was about to set off on a journey to climb Mt. Everest or if you are a 30-year old unmarried Indian girl—walking into a room full of Indian aunties and uncles and telling them that you found someone thus making THEIR lives complete. (Side note: I’m not even remotely close to doing either one of these things).
With that, in one week my trek from Madrid to Marrakesh to Barcelona (and a few cities in between) will begin. I am EXCITED and if anyone has any recommendations as to what type of meds to take that will lull my plane-anxiety or knock me out for an entire day of flying, please feel free to comment below (and of course, things to do).
Also, I realize that I have not posted a single fashion/style-related post all month. I promise to get one up before I leave next Wednesday so don’t shut me out for two straight weeks just yet!
Image sources: Flamenco dancer – dancemelody.com/ballet-pictures/Flamenco-Dancer/flamenco_02; Moroccan gate doors – alyibnawi.tumblr.com/; La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona – theberry.com/2012/02/27/mystery-misc-39-photos-2/so-much-character-33/.
Graphic design by Jyoti.
I know you guys have been patiently waiting for this…REEEEE-CAAAP!!! <insert techno music, fist pumps and awesome dance moves>
Here’s a video recap of my 30 Before 30. Don’t worry it’s not just me straight talking (that would be boring), there are props! It is a bit long (hence the reason there are 2 videos but also WordPress would not let me download the whole thing all at once) so maybe you can watch it in parts or just skip over scenes? (If you do this, I will not be hurt nor will I ever know). However, you will be happy to know that not once did I pull a “Mark Rubio” and reach for a bottle of water mid-speech. (Go me).
***If you are not able to view the video you may need to “Enable Cookies” within your internet browser. You can follow this link to help you with that process. If you’re still not able to, then maybe I’ve done something wrong so please let me know.***
Do not mind the stupid face I’m making or the penguin…it is explained.
In case you are wondering what I’m wearing and where it’s from: bright blue jeans – CR, the “perfect” white t-shirt – ZARA, headband – F21. (No, seriously. If you’ve been looking for the perfect white T – this one is it. I just recently bought it (two weeks ago) and it was $10…sold).
still eating ramen noodles at 30 for lunch. even better, finding ants in it – halfway through.
This is a tweet I wrote out yesterday afternoon. Just before tweeting it, I decided to check my Facebook.
That tweet now reads –
horrified by what happened in boston. can’t imagine what would possess someone to do this to others at a marathon. my thoughts are w/ them.
How quickly our perspectives change with only one instance…
I am still horrified and saddened about what happened at the Boston Marathon yesterday. Though, I’ve read about and watched so many of the tragic events that continue to happen not just in the U.S. but around the world, this one just hit so close to home. (Boston is where I was born and even though I’ve lived in Texas the majority of my life, that city will always hold a special place in my heart. I visit as often as I can and always love being there. So when this happened, I was completely shocked and my heart full of sadness for the victims and their families).
I don’t think I was able to keep my eyes dry since the afternoon/early evening nor tear myself away from the internet, TV or radio except for a few hours to run errands and of course to write this. (I’ve since tried to stop reading/watching too much as it only makes me more upset). My thoughts go out to each and every single one of those people who went to the marathon to do what they love – to run, to cheer, to be cheered for, offer support and leave feeling accomplished and fulfilled. Unfortunately, they were innocent victims to another completely selfish and unnecessary act.
Like thousands of other people, I will never understand what could possess someone to do something like this; to hurt innocent people and take away something they hold so sacred – their passion to do what makes them happy and to love life. This is another tragedy that has shaken us again and I cannot even begin to imagine what the families and friends of the victims are going through.
I have a heavy heart for everyone affected by such an incident both in Boston and around the world. I wish there was something more I can do but unfortunately I am hundreds of miles away and can only send my prayers. However, the resilience and bravery of all those individuals who selflessly stood up to take care of others cannot be forgotten. People running into the chaos to help victims, medical workers working around the clock to help the injured, others opening up their homes, offering assistance and support, running to hospitals to give blood, thousands of thoughts, prayers and love going out to those directly affected and to those who may have families who were affected. (Thank you to everyone who reached out to me, my family and friends are thankfully safe and okay).
We all know that tragedies like this happen every day in other countries and unfortunately not much is done nor can be done about it. It’s heart-wrenching to think that it takes events like this, the loss of lives – young and old to finally get people to open up their eyes and look beyond what is just in front of them. The truth is we live in a scary world and change is something that does not happen overnight. It is a process and one I hope is brought into the spotlight on a larger-scale so that something can be done.
Times like these define the bravery and capability of a single human being and I am forever grateful for these individuals. Their courage is the strong hope that one day something will change. Every woman, man and child who believes in the good of society, who seeks to help and educate others, and who pursues the means to bring a sense of security and comfort to others is a hero.
Stay strong Beantown.
Note: I debated whether or not I actually wanted to post this piece. There are so many times when I feel and think things, write it up but then at the end I don’t post it. I’d rather just keep it to myself and know that writing it out made me feel better. However, this time I felt completely different about it. I wanted people to know, because if there is one thing that being a blogger has taught me, is that I’m not the only one. If I’m thinking this – others are and if others are I want them to know that we’re on the same boat. This is our connection.
Image source: 500px.com.
Graphics on image were designed by me.
My blog turned two in February (!) and I’ve been looking back at some of my old posts just for kicks. All I can really think is Wow, this thing has come pretty far. Yes, it still has awhile to go but for someone who didn’t know a single thing about blogging, I do have to give myself a tiny little pat on the back for making it into what it is today.
Just within this past year, I’ve seen it evolve in so many different aspects—pictures, content, writing and design are just a few. All of this stems from gaining more knowledge and experience about blogging, learning to connect with readers and keeping up with a constantly changing environment. Blogs that I found to be inspirational when I first started have slowly disappeared of my reading list as I am constantly finding new ones that are more relatable to my lifestyle, creative endeavors and where I’d like to see my blog go. In addition to this, statistics mean a bit more to me now than they did last year. Therefore, utilizing and finding new channels to promote my site has been important. I’ve learned so much more about marketing, communications, statistical analysis, design, social media platforms, writing, photography, typography and so on just through having this blog.
I am inspired everyday and learning something new is now a daily need for me to grow and be successful, both on this blog and personally. I’ve found that I really do enjoy giving advice and hopefully someone out there can relate to what I’ve encountered, take my knowledge and apply it to their lives.
When my blog turned one, I posted 10 Things (+1) I Learned from My First Year of Blogging—a very real beginners guide to blogging. These points build upon the ones in that post to help take your blog one step further.
Now, I’m no blogging-connoisseur but the reason I am doing this is to give advice to any bloggers (or those thinking of starting a blog) who might feel they could use this information to vamp up their blogs or implement something they are not doing, to see if it helps. These tips are based on the experiences I’ve had in the past couple of years while launching the blog and I wanted to give a real insider’s perspective into what it takes to blog, what is expected and how to continuously make your site better.
1. Purchase Adobe Photoshop CS, Adobe Photoshop Elements or a comparable design and editing software.
If you’ve been a blogger for over a year, who uses pictures, images, graphics or text and you’re not using any type of design or photo editing software—it’s time. Photoshop CS is expensive; if you can afford it maybe through school or an employer, I suggest you buy it. Photoshop Elements is a lot cheaper. It doesn’t have half the features Photoshop CS does, but it is a lot easier to use and good for beginning graphic design or picture editing. I guarantee that my blog would not be what it is today without this software. I use it every day and am constantly learning something new on it to help me grow my creativity skills. If you really enjoy blogging or are serious about what you’re doing, you need to invest in an editing software. There are hundreds of classes, tutorials and websites dedicated to helping you learn how to use it so don’t worry about that. If you have to forego a pair of shoes you’ve had your eye on or a couple months of Starbucks to build your piggy bank for this software, please do it.
2. Purchase your domain.
After a year and half of www.whatjocraves.wordpress.com, it was time to discard the “wordpress.com part”. For $20 a year I have www.whatjocraves.com. It really is one of the first steps in branding your blog by making it yours. Just based on the way it looks when the URL is typed out, it gives your blog or website a more professional and legitimate look. It also gives people a sense that you are serious about your blog and that it’s current. Lastly, it is a lot easier to communicate the site name either by word of mouth or print.
3. Create or invest in a professional blog design or template.
I can’t even begin to stress how important this is. I have come across quite a few blogs that have completely turned me off from even perusing through the site because it is either filled with all sorts of “stuff” (for lack of a better word) or one that is unaesthetic looking. This makes the blog difficult to navigate through and it lacks uniformity. I promise, you’re content might be great but if your site is not easy on the eyes, doesn’t capture attention or is difficult to navigate through, people will pass it up. Everyone has their own opinion of what looks good and what fits their own personality. You might be creative and tech-savvy enough to build your own blog but if you need a bit of help, reach out to a designer. It’ll cost you but if you’re serious about your blog, it’ll be worth the investment.
I’ve taken a stab at designing my blog multiple times. After about two years, I’m happy with what I have right now—it’s clean, simple and easy to read. As someone who enjoys graphic design and building blogs, I’ll probably update mine when I feel like it could use a change.
I’m not going to delve too much into the concept of blog design right now because I have plans to create a more detailed and better post explaining this. However, here are some highlights:
All of this is to give your reader a sense of who you are, what you stand for and what you can offer to them. You want to keep them engaged with your site so they keep coming back and having a friendy user-interface that is easily navigated and aesthetically pleasing helps this.
*If you’re a fashion blogger, I highly recommend having an “Outfits” tab so readers can click on it and see all the outfits you’ve worn in one place. This gives them a sense of your style and they can click and choose which one they’d like to enlarge or know more about.
4. Learn to read and write basic HTML (Hyper-Text Markup Language) or CSS (Cascading Style Sheets).
Not only is this is extremely useful if you ever want to start self-hosting your site but you can also use it to design and personalize your site, display side bar images, photos, social media icons, Twitter or Instagram feed and so on. If you’re unfamiliar with HTML or CSS, take a class, look at tutorials or read about it. I started off by taking a few classes and then practicing it on my blog. It’s something I’ve been trying to incorporate more into my everyday skill set and will most likely take more classes soon. Once, I finally switch over to self-hosting, I’ll be able to get a lot more creative with the overall look of the blog and what I can do with it.
5. Get on the social media swing (and don’t get off).
This is a must in pretty much anything that you do these days. If you have not already adopted various social media channels, you need to get on it right away. This is the fastest form of communication and if you ever want to keep up with an ever changing environment and connect with individuals, you need social media. Here’s a list of some of the more common types of social media:
As a blogger, you need to utilize these platforms as much as you can. Even if you are not getting thousands and thousands of followers, keep using them. The more you are out there, the more people are aware that you exist and word will travel faster. You’ll eventually find that social media becomes a part of your everyday life and that you look forward to communicating with individuals through these platforms. As of right now, I’m a huge proponent of Facebook however, Twitter is slowly starting to warm up to me and I try to tweet as frequently as I can.
In addition to this, you want to connect your social media platforms. For example, if you tweet something, make sure it’s on your Facebook as well; connect your Pinterest or Instagram to your blog Facebook page (if you can) and make sure that these media icons are displayed on the front (Home) page of your blog; if you have Pinterest put your blog and twitter names in the “About” section at the top. These are just a few ways to inter-correlate them all but make sure you do it, it helps to build a stronger connection between these platforms and your website while at the same time building your brand. You also want to participate and comment on other blogs, forums and seek out new ones that interest you. Being an active promoter of your blog is a must, especially if you’ve put so much effort into making it look and sound great, you want others to see and get something out of it.
6. Keep outfit pictures (of yourself) to a minimum. For fashion or style bloggers.
In addition to an unappealing blog design, nothing turns me off more from a style blog then when I scroll through a post and see 10+ images of the same person, wearing the same outfit. I get it – the outfit is really cute and you’re really good at posing. If you do want to post more than 4 or 5 pictures – combine images (collages) or try to make the post layout more appealing by adding color or text. You can also take close up shots of various items you might be wearing or the scenery around you and incorporate that into the post. This will break up the images plus give the reader something different and more interactive to look at. Now, there are certain blogs that will require many images—photography, recipes, DIY, décor, etc.—putting more images on these types of blogs is absolutely fine (this point is really for fashion bloggers documenting their own style).
7. Write something in each post. Don’t just upload pictures.
I don’t know about you guys but when I come across a fashion blog where they only have images of themselves plus where they got their clothes from, with no engaging words or phrases – it’s a bit unsettling. (If this is what you want to do, I suggest starting a Tumblr page not a blog). I mean, there has to be something going on in your life or about the outfit that you could write about. Even if it’s like “Took these pictures on the way to the park. Love how the belt makes this dress more fitted and accentuates the waist.” or “Gosh, I love chocolate-covered marshmallow cups.” I don’t know. I’m sure you can think of something better but definitely write a little bit. It provides for more relatable, engaging content that people can connect to and won’t get bored of.
Say you tried a new body lotion or you traveled to someplace awesome – don’t just post the image and let the reader figure things out. Say a little something—Why is this lotion better than another one you tried? Where exactly did you travel to take this image? We all have thoughts, and the reason people come to your site is because they’d like to know what they are and provide their own. So give them something to work or think off of.
8. Edit your pictures.
My definition of “edit” is not photo shopping yourself or someone else to the point where they are completely misconstrued. By “edit” I mean brightening, cropping, adding text, changing color curves and so on. You want nice, clean, decipherable pictures when you post them. Of course, images taken by your phone or Instagram aren’t going to be clean and crisp but I’m mainly referring to the ones you take with your camera (digital or SLR).
Once simple way to do this is in Photoshop Elements:
Here again there are tons of tutorials out there to help you edit images. I tend to add a Photo Filter on mine since I like my images to have a bit of a tan-ish tint to them. (If you guys are interested in a step-by-step detailed tutorial on how to do this, just let me know).
9. BRAND yourself. Everywhere.
When you have a blog or website, your goal is to ensure that everything you put out there, people associate it with you. Here are few things you can do:
10. Try to maintain a regular schedule of posts and topics.
If you want to keep building your blog, increasing your readership and promoting it, you need to add a little something to it at least once a week or every week and a half. This way your readers have something to look forward to when they visit your site and it stays current. For example, if you have a travel blog – post pictures from a recent adventure one week, the next week – tips on traveling to this spot, the week after a piece on where you’d like to go next. If you have a fashion blog, try and post at least one outfit a week and the next you can talk about trends, the week after a collage on shoes. If you have a cooking blog, post a recipe once a week or review another recipe. If you have a lifestyle blog, there are so many different variations you can take to post something at least once a week.
The possibilities are endless, the point is that you want to stay consistent and up to date with your site. I saw my blog suffer when I stopped posting for a month, then started reposting, then stopped again for a couple weeks. When you do this, you lose readers as it shows your inconsistency and gives off the vibe that you no longer have an interest in your own blog. This is definitely something I’ve decided to avoid doing as it takes a really long time to get your readers to “trust” your posting schedule again. If you are planning on taking some time off, say so on your blog. Let your readers know that you are taking a break or maybe post a quick, simple piece. This way people know that you’ll be back and so will they. People like some kind of consistency and it helps to make for eager fans.
11. Good grammar is sexy.
I’ve never been one to have good grammar. In fact, English/Grammar was probably my most difficult subject and it really wasn’t even until graduate school that I actually became semi-decent at writing. For all you grammar-nerds out there, if you’re thinking “Why is she talking about this? Her grammar/punctuation skills are not that awesome.” I’m sorry, I do try but I still make mistakes. I have had a couple readers e-mail and tell me when something is misspelled—thank you, I really do appreciate it. I highly recommend spelling and grammar check before you post a piece. I understand that with blogs people write their thoughts, therefore not everything is going to be MLA style. However you want to use “your” and “you’re” properly and try and stay away from “wanna” , “kinda”, “tho” or “sorta” (these are just a few of the more common grammar errors that I’ve seen) as these are not real words, in any way. You want to make sure that what you’re writing is understandable and easily read. Mistakes are bound to happen but try to minimize them. You never know who is going to come across your work, therefore you want to make sure that it is always up to par. If you need someone else to proofread your writing, by all means get someone else to do it.
12. Utilize Pinterest.
If this isn’t one of the best social media platforms created, I don’t know what is. This channel is over-pouring with ideas, designs, color, recipes, tips, creativity, thoughts…everything. It is such a great source for inspiration regardless of what you are doing. I understand the idea of “pinning” images may sound ridiculous to some but as a blogger, writer, photographer, a person—this media channel is extremely useful as you’ll never know what you’re going to come across and be inspired by.
13. Your writing style and content should be original.
If you’re funny – be funny. If you don’t use big words – don’t use them. The point of a blog is to showcase you, your personality and your encounters. If you’re blogging for a company then of course it’s going to be more about the company and you will write from that point of view. However, every blog has its own style – don’t fit into the norm of how other blogs similar to yours are written. This will not help distinguish yours from the thousands of other ones out there. Yes, it’s absolutely okay to look to them for inspiration but it’s like what your Mom used to tell you when you were younger and in a candy store “You can look but don’t take.” Like I mentioned before, people read blogs to gain another person’s perspective on something or to learn from them, not to keep reading what they can find in tons of other sites on the web. Every person’s life is different, use that difference to make your site original and note-worthy.
In addition to learning all these things, I’ve come to realize that my passion isn’t just in fashion but I absolutely love design. Now, I’m no graphic designer but I’ve been slowly teaching myself a few skills and tricks to make my posts a bit more aesthetically pleasing. This past year, I’ve been working more with different colors, fonts, type, text, designs and so on. Since, this is something I really do enjoy, I decided to start Design Bash. Right now, it’s just a Tumblr page where I showcase a portfolio of my work. One day, I hope to turn it into something more but I have a long way to go and need to take more specialized classes. However, it’s a start that I would never have been inspired to do if I hadn’t felt the need to make my blog better.
Now, go on with your bad-selves and try and apply some of these tips to your blogs or sites.
If you have a question about anything that I briefly touched upon here or need advice on different tutorials, websites, design layout – please feel free to contact me. I’m also open to giving advice on blog designs so shoot me an e-mail if you need some help or would like me to take a look at your blog.
As most of you know, I turn 30 on Sunday. A couple of weeks ago, I posted a piece about how I came to terms with it and the fact that I really am excited (!) This week, I’m taking another approach on these past ten years. Here are just some of the highlights (as there is SO much more to where these come from). Also, because I normally wear pants, a black top and a fedora then pose in front of a brick walls, I thought I’d throw in these images. (Try and guess which one of the things in the above sentence is not true. You are right, I never wear pants). Click on any images (including the one below) to enlarge.
Top – F21, Jeans – I.N.C. sold at Macy’s, Fedora – Sam Moon
Art has been a part of me since I can remember. I preferred crayons and coloring books over dolls and pink houses (two things that still terrify me to this day), it’s what I “taught” when I played school, it has always been and will always be my favorite subject (sorry Dad, Calculus is just not in my genes). My parents have always wondered how I picked up an artistic flair, however they were not SO fascinated by my talent, when I told them I wanted to major in Art in undergrad. I opted for the next best thing…Economics. (I have Indian parents…dreams like “art”, do not exist). Though, they did not allow me to pursue it in school, they’ve always admired and supported it and I’ve always continued to make it a part of my life.
Everyone interprets art differently. To me, a red dot on a canvas is not art. However, to someone else that red dot could represent their deepest demons (I don’t know…I’m just making this up). My point is that, what I consider to be art or who I think is an artist may not be what another person thinks, but it is still art. Recently a friend pointed out that their favorite form of art is photography. As someone who has been around art all her life it seemed to finally occur to me that yes, that is art – someone has an eye for it and it’s a way to express oneself. If you’ve ever watched Love Actually, in the beginning Hugh Grant says “love actually is all around us.” Then you stop…think…and realize that yeah, that could be true. However, with art—it really IS all around us. From the architectural design of a building, to the bottle your water came in, the design of the table you are sitting it, to the look of a cell phone app, interior design, scrapbooking, floral arrangements, cooking, the clothes you wear…I mean I could go on and on. No wonder all of us are inspired everyday by something—we’re always around it.
I do not really consider myself an artist nor is my work incredibly original. There are far more talented and advanced artists out there that I doubt I will ever come remotely close to being a true artist. However, I’m absolutely lucky to be surrounded by talented people with a real knack for creativity; their talents and work help fuel my inspiration to continue doing something that I love.
As someone who mainly paints, I prefer pieces with bold colors, different patterns and intricate detailing. I take images and other pieces that I’ve see, recreate them in my own style and I don’t sell them. (As this is someone else’s work and I’m pretty sure it’s illegal to take credit for it). I’m a mixed media user; this means I create my art work using different types of mediums or textures. Most of my work is watercolor based. Depending on what I want to do with it, I’ll add acrylic or oil paints and other embellishments to bring out the image. There are times that I do stick to just one medium but as my art evolves, I do this less and less.
This post contains a few pieces that I’ve done within the last few years (in no particular order). Each one recreated or inspired from another picture but with my flair added to it. As you can tell, a lot of them are Indian-centric. I think it’s because everything about the Indian culture is so rich and vibrant with colors and textures – anything goes. When I say “anything goes” I mean it – the words “that is too much” rarely exist. I think that’s why I enjoy painting it so much – I can do so many different things, add as little or as much as I want to, use tons of different colors and each piece is always so different. (I’m also Indian…so that might have something to do with it).
I do apologize for the quality of the above image. I took it with my phone as it’s currently hanging at my best friend’s Mom’s house.
My artistic skills have definitely evolved just within the past few years. Here’s a piece I did exactly 10 years ago but recreated it a few weekends back. I’m definitely very happy with the new version as it seems to fit my style and it’s much more vibrant.
I wish my schedule allowed me to paint more but unfortunately it does not. When I do get a chance to sit down and do something, it’s always hard for me to stop. I get so engrossed in it, that I have to finish it as soon as I can. Thus, it can take up entire weekends depending on how large of a canvas I have or how detailed I want to get it. I do want to be able to draw and paint ever so often, so that my skill continues to develop and in addition to working on a blog, it helps my creative process.
Note: Most of these pieces have been designed or painted by other artists before me. I have merely taken them and recreated them in my own style. I have not earned a profit off on any of the pieces above, they are for my personal benefit only.