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The Big Christmas Tag

I always love getting tagged in my blogging friends posts, especially if it’s to answer fun festive questions. Recently, I have been tagged by five awesome bloggers – Sophie from Something So True, Lisa from Lisa’s Notebook, Lauren from Bournemouth Girl, Morgie from Morgie Reacts and Fernie from Life With Fernie. So I’ve decided to answer all the questions in one go, hence the title The Big Christmas Tag!

These questions are from Sophie at Something So True

What’s makes you, YOU. How do you stand out from everyone else?? *Self Love Moment*

I have short hair, wear Dr. Martens, own two cats and I’m not a lesbian.

If you could change anything by the power of blogging what would it be and why?

Abolish working 9-5 and allow people to have the freedom to work when and where ever they like.

*Bexa for Prime Minister*

What’s your favourite restaurant dish you’ve eaten this year?

Ooh good question – I had a pretty fantastic burger at Urban Beach in Boscombe (Photo evidence here)

What made you decide that blogging was for you?

Nobody ever listens to me so I decided to share my thoughts online instead, ha ha.

What’s your funniest holiday/ travelling story? Tell me your destination & tale.

Shaun & I made friends with George the Food and Beverage Manager in Cyprus after a particularly boozy night around the dart board and he waited on us hand and foot because the hotel was getting inspected that night by the big bosses. We even got given the special shiny darts and a couple of pints. Winner.

These questions are from Lisa At Lisa’s Notebook

Blogmas or not?

I admire those bloggers who upload a brand new Blogmas post everyday. I am happy with a few festive posts here and there. Blogmas sounds stressful.

Wish lists or surprises?

A bit of both really! Surprises are always exciting but if there is something you really really want (for example, a Canon camera, dad) then subtle hints are absolutely fine.

Shop bought or homemade presents?

Depends who is making them, ha ha! Homemade gifts are really sweet and thoughtful though.

Online shopping or brave the crowds?

I am proud to say I have done my entire Christmas shop online this year and haven’t gone anywhere near a crowded shopping centre. Yes!

Christmas Day with family or significant other?

I am lucky that I get to spend time with both my family and Shaun on the day.

These questions are form Lauren at Bournemouth Girl 

What is your favourite thing to write about on your blog?

I like sharing tips and advice and blogging about days out is always fun to do.

When did you start blogging?

October 18th 2017 to be precise.

What is your favourite Christmas memory?

My mum trying to play charades with us is always comical.

If you could travel to anywhere in the world where would you go and why?

I’m always up for new travel experiences. I want to see more of Asia some day so maybe Japan.

What is your favourite film?

Eat Pray Love was my favourite film for a long time. Now it is probably Legend for my Tom Hardy fix or One Day.

These questions are from Morgie at Morgie Reacts

What is your favourite thing to blog about?

Days out, how-to’s, blogging tips and advice.

How do you want to develop your blog in the future?

Keep learning and developing my skills, post regularly and say yes to new blogging opportunities.

What convinced you to start blogging?

I enjoyed reading lifestyle blogs and thought it would be cool to give it a go.

Is there anything you would do differently if you were to re-start a blog?

Go self-hosted from the start.

A weird one – do you have any weird combinations of food like marmite and chips? Tell us!

I like to put mayonnaise with everything. Is rice and mayo weird?

These questions are from Fernie from Life With Fernie

What is your favourite Christmas movie?

After my 20 Christmas Movie marathon which you can read here, I would say Jack Frost is my new favourite. It the saddest and loveliest Christmas film I have even seen. I actually had tears in my eyes. If a film can make you feel emotions then in my opinion that is a brilliant film.

Do you like to stay in Pajamas or Dress up for Christmas day?

I don’t wear my pj’s but also I don’t really dress up, so somewhere in between the two.

If you could only buy one person a present this year who would it be and why?

That’s hard! Can I just say my cats?

Do you open your present Christmas Eve or Christmas Morning?

We open them on Christmas morning. Do people really open them all the night before?

Have you ever built a ginger bread house?

Never. It would be quite fun to try though!

What are you most looking forward to this Christmas season?

Shaun and I have planned an Only Fools And Horses DVD session on Christmas afternoon. Yeah, we are cool.

Any Christmas wishes?

I dunno. Just everyone be nice to each other.

Favourite Christmas smell?

The smell of pigs in blankets cooking…

Favourite Christmas meal or treat?

Pigs in blanket sandwiches in the morning. A-maze-ing.

How do you traditionally spend your Christmas day?

At home with Shaun and the cats, my dad and sister spend the morning with us which is always lovely.

Do you open stockings first or presents?

I don’t have a stocking but now I want one.

When do you put up your tree?

First Saturday in December.

Least favourite part of Christmas?

When all the rubbish Roses chocolates are left in the tub.

Any unusual traditions during your Christmas?

We have started to get really fancy meat for our Christmas dinner. Last year it was partridges as Shaun’s grandma gave him M&S vouchers and now we don’t want to let our posh standards drop. What does guinea fowl taste like?

Favourite childhood Christmas memory?

My sister and I walking around Toys R Us when we were younger excitedly choosing our Christmas presents.

Feel free to pick any of these questions and make your own tag! It’s lots of fun! I tag everyone who wants to have a go. It is Christmas after all.

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Six Reasons Why You Should Go Self-Hosted

A couple of weeks ago I decided to go self-hosted. I originally set up my blog using www.wordpress.com, which in my opinion is the perfect place to start. It’s so user friendly and you can really get to grips with blogging before you decide to upgrade. After a while, I decided I wanted to go self-hosted. Why? Admittedly, my main incentive was so I could upload a pretty theme to my blog. Later on, however, I have discovered that there are so many more awesome features available to you once you go it alone!

It’s Easy-ish (Step By Step Guide)

My main concern was that it sounded difficult and stressful.  I read a few articles about bloggers losing content and their website going down for a few hours which did make me wary. However, I am pleased to report I did not experience any such problems. If you are considering it, here is my step by step guide:

Choose your host. There are so many different hosts there with various offers and plans so this can be quite a complex and tricky decision. I asked around on Twitter for recommendations and later made the decision to go with Site Ground. I opted for the 1 year StartUp Hosting and domain plan for £39.60. 

They do the technical stuff for you. The best thing about Site Ground is that they will do the entire migration for you for free. All you have to do is give them access to your blog and they will transfer the whole website onto their servers. There is 24/7 support, I spoke to a very nice lady via the chat box who talked me through the process. They suggest it takes 24 hours to complete and there is no downtime. Site Ground will be back in touch once migration is complete.

Preview Your Blog. Before you commit to switching to a new host, you have the option to see your website to check it’s still the same as you left it. To do this you need to edit a file on your computer located in Windows: PC c:/windows/system32/drivers/etc/hosts. You will be sent a unique IP address from Site Ground. You open the host file in Notepad and copy and paste your IP to end of the code. Make sure you restart your computer to update the changes. This will allow you to view your site as it will look before you redirect your domain name. This proved slightly tricky but it worked in the end. For some reason Google Chrome blocked the site as it was unsecured, however, I was able to view it in Mozilla Firefox. Once the change is complete I was able to see it in both browsers without any problems.

Switching Name Servers. Once you are happy with the migration, you are good to go. If you have a domain name through WordPress you can change the Domain Name Servers here: https://wordpress.com/domains/manage/  All you need to do is select the domain name, click on Name Servers and DNS and enter in the two server names included in the Site Ground e-mail.

Checking your DNS. To check your blog has successfully changed servers you can use http://dnscheck.pingdom.com to check that the Name Server is your new host. Hopefully by now your blog has successfully moved to it’s new host and you can start using some awesome features!

Accessing your new blog. If you are a WordPress user, your blog should be easily accessed by typing in: www.yourdomainname.com/wp-admin/

Web Hosting

Awesome Themes

Now we come onto the main reason why I went self-hosted – pretty themes! I had seen bloggers using pipdig which allows you to install awesome themes onto your WordPress or Blogger/Blogspot account.

There are so many gorgeous themes to choose from. Eventually, I decided to go for the Ghost Shell theme for a one off payment of £39. It’s so easy to install a new theme! Once you have paid, you can simply download your theme from the pipdig e-mail, In WordPress, go to Appearance > Themes > Add New and upload the file. It’s easy to customize and plenty of help and support available on the pipdig website if you are stuck. Your new pretty blog design is a few clicks away!

Jetpack

One of the first things I realized when I went self-hosted was where has my like button gone! Plus I had no idea if my original WordPress followers were still subscribed to my blog. I didn’t anticipate this issue so I turned to Twitter for some support and found the answer I was looking for. To migrate all your followers across you need to install the Jetpack Plugin.

Once the plugin is installed, go to Jetpack > Settings > Discussion and Migrate followers from another site

To get the Like button back go to Jetpack > Settings > Sharing > Like buttons

Jetpack also allows you to view your stats, back up your site, gives extra protection and monitors any downtime by sending you a handy e-mail.

Monetize Your Blog

So if you have a blog with www.wordpress.com you will know that you have to put up with their ads. And you don’t benefit in the slightest from their advertisements. When you go self-hosted you have more control over what you can place on your blog. I heard that Google AdSense is a good place to start gaining some income from your blog so I set up an account. Google will need to approve you first after you copy and paste a code onto your blog. The easiest way to do this I found was by downloading a plugin called Pluginception and following this step by step guide here: https://www.tipsandtricks-hq.com/how-to-add-adsense-to-wordpress-9023 One of the good things about Google AdSense is it tries to place ads which are relevant to your posts on your site and it seems you have quite a lot of control over it (once I know how to use it properly, I’ll get back to you!).

Security

I had no idea what an SSL certificate was before I went self-hosted. GlobalSign can probably explain it better than I can: SSL Certificates are small data files that digitally bind a cryptographic key to an organization’s details. When installed on a web server, it activates the padlock and the https protocol and allows secure connections from a web server to a browser. Typically, SSL is used to secure credit card transactions, data transfer and logins, and more recently is becoming the norm when securing browsing of social media sites.

You can activate your SSL certificate via Site Ground’s free extra service called Let’s Encrypt SSL. You can also download a plugin called Really Simple SSL which will allow your website to run over https.

Stats

I have just recently signed up to Google Analytics which you can connect to your WordPress site using the Google Analytics Dashboard for WP. From the outset it looks like a very handy tool which allows you to see your blog statistics in great detail. It shows your stats in real-time, gives you a breakdown of your audience (age, gender, location, interests), and user behavior such as the pages they view, for how long and whether they return again. It looks pretty cool if you are into that kinda stuff!

I hope my guide to going self-hosted has been helpful. If you have any questions I am always happy to help. Let me know your experiences of going self-hosted and any other awesome plugins you have discovered. I would love to hear from you!

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Bloggers Tribe Christmas Tag

Leading up to Christmas, the fantastic supportive community that is Bloggers Tribe are doing 24 Days Of Bloggers Blogmas. I was very excited when I got invited to take part. You can read my post on Bloggers Tribe here along with tons of other festive contributions from awesome bloggers!

Rules

  • Put on our Christmas Playlist on Spotify (link here) to listen to while answering!
  • Answer our 12 questions
  • Add 2 questions of your own
  • Have a Christmas drink and/or snack
  • Tag 4 more bloggers to take part
  • Take a picture in your favourite Christmas jumper and send it to us for our Round Up post! We want to see everyone who takes part! (Photo doesn’t have to include your face if you don’t want it to – just take a pic of your jumper )

Standard Questions:

  1. When do you start thinking about Christmas?
    I think being part of the blogging community on Twitter gets you feeling festive early on. In the first week of November, I was already feeling inspired to go buy cute little Christmas decorations for future blog post photos.
  2. What has been your most memorable Christmas present to date (good or bad!)?
    I once got brought a Roomba. That’s a robotic hoover which automatically does the cleaning for you. It was a pretty cool gift, but it took about four hours to clean the flat and the cats hated it.
  3. Do you have any Christmas traditions?
    Yes! Early Christmas (or “Fake Christmas”) with the family. It’s usually in the week leading up to Christmas Day where we have an evening of Christmassy related things such as a roast dinner, a game of charades and the exchanging of secret Santa gifts. We don’t all spend the Christmas Day together so our Early Christmas is the next best thing (and who can say no to two Christmas dinners in one week!).
  4. Which Christmas film is the greatest of them all?
    Home Alone is the greatest (I also like Love Actually, but Home Alone is just a classic).
  5. You have an empty seat at your table on Christmas Day – who do you invite and why? Can be absolutely anyone!
    Ooh this is a tough one. I would probably say something cheesy like Elton John so he can play some good old sing-alongs whilst we all got merry.
  6. Where in your house does your Christmas Tree go each year?
    In the corner of the lounge.
  7. Name the top 3 songs on your Christmas Party Playlist
    –  Snow is Fallin’… all around us – Shakin Stevens
    –  Fairytale of New York – The Pogues
    –  Step into Christmas – Elton John
  8. Who is the hardest person you’ve ever had to buy a Christmas present for?
    My dad is pretty tricky, each year we try to get creative but always resort back to the classic dad gifts like biscuits and pub quiz books.
  9. When do you eat your Christmas dinner, and what all is on your menu?
    Last year, it was just my boyfriend Shaun and myself, and we went super posh with M&S foods as it was just the two of us. We even had a partridge (ha ha!)… this year we are going to tone it down a bit and try goose. We normally eat in the early afternoon after we have spent the morning opening presents and eating way too much chocolate.
  10. What’s your favourite Christmas related quote?
    “…Merry Christmas ya filthy animal” (Home Alone quote)
  11. Are you a wrapping paper person, or boxes and bags? Or are you a mix?
    I like wrapping then no-one can take a sneaky peak before Christmas Day.
  12. What makes Christmas so special to you?
    Family, food and fun! I love the Christmas buzz that’s all around in the build up to the big day. I love the warm cosy feeling when you are sat watching a festive film eating Roses chocs, the Christmas tree lights are twinkling in the background and it’s all frosty and cold outside.

YOUR QUESTIONS:

If you could spend Christmas anywhere in the world, where would it be? You can take your family too, if you want!

I have always wanted to go to New York at Christmas, the photos and films make it look so magical.

Do you have any Christmas Eve traditions?

When my sister and I were younger, we were allowed to open one present on Christmas Eve – usually a board game or something to keep us entertained for        the evening. Now, it’s normally a last minute panic at the supermarket to get extra food then finally chilling out and watching some Christmas TV.

Take a break, you’ve earned it! Grab a gingerbread flavoured hot chocolate and a mince pie!

I WOULD LIKE TO TAG: 

The girls who are involved in the mental health #unthinkstigma project –

  1. Chloe– https://twitter.com/chloeluye
  2. Kerry– https://twitter.com/KTMummy
  3. Fern– https://twitter.com/LifeWithFernie
  4. Casey– https://twitter.com/casestreetx

And to finish off, here’s me in my favourite Christmas jumper!

My “All Things Christmas Jumper” from ASOS

Thank you to Bloggers Tribe for inviting me to take part, it was lots of fun! Don’t forget to check out all the other posts in 24 Days Of Bloggers Blogmas in the build up to Christmas. Also check out the festivities going on right now at the Bloggers Tribe twitter!

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How To Make Washi Tape Christmas Cards

I was really excited when Katie (Life With Ktkinnes) invited me to join her 2017 Christmas Card Swap. I had never done anything like this before so was keen to get involved. Last year, I was working at the Travelodge Hotel and sent about 3 cards to my colleagues, this year I was going to up my Christmas Card game, big stylee. Once I signed up to Katie’s swap, I then set about browsing Pinterest for inspiration. I finally decided upon Christmas Tree Washi Tape cards and here is how I turned my bedroom into a Christmas Card production line.

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