Often when works of fiction are discussed, word and/or page count comes up. When you see books on a shelf, one of the first things you’ll notice, apart from the author’s name and book title on the spine, is how thick or thin they are compared to each other. Some people like J. R. R. […]
What is Canva?
I must confess I am in love with Canva and been using it for a few months. I started off using it on my laptop and then I discovered there is an app. Now I can use it anywhere.
Canva helps you create visually effective images for a wide host of reasons. I used it a lot to create my blog titles and images for tweets and Instagram. I also have used it to create a party invitation for my son’s birthday party. I discovered the site via Wattpad when looking for software to create a novel cover.
Here are some examples of what I have created:
What is Create with Canva?
This company is currently offering a free beginners course for people that want to get better at using Canva. They also have a resources page with useful information and recommendations for blog host sites and other courses you can pay for like how to earn from you blog with affiliate marketing.
Free Beginners Course
I found the course via Twitter and enrolled. There are five lessons and each lesson is delivered daily to your inbox. The lessons are bitesize YouTube videos and just 5 minutes long. You can join their Facebook page to have access to the course in full right away. Here is what I think:
This is sent out with the ‘welcome’ email and is an introduction to Canva.
Lesson One: Working with templates, text and color
This covers the basis of using the templates on Canva. How to amend the template and colour theme. How to edit the text, add more text and resize. I thought I knew most of this simply from using the site but they did teach me a new trick – spacing! Everything in this class used the free features in Canva.
Lesson Two: Working with images in Canva and uploading your own images
This was about using the images in Canva and how to add your own. Again, I thought I had this sussed but they taught me some new tricks. I make use of the free images in Canva (there is a vast collection), however, I didn’t know that some of the free images are cropped and you can change the cropped area and use some of the hidden parts of the picture! There were other tricks they taught that I expect I’ll be making use of in the near future.
Lesson Three: Working with free photos, frames and grids
This lesson started by introducing collages – a feature I have never considered using (seriously missing out). They taught us how to use different photo layouts from scratch and for Instagram. Finished with how to use and edit backgrounds.
Lesson Four: Working with shapes, lines, illustrations and icons
This started off nice and simple with adding elements to your design. I haven’t really used this part of Canva and through watching the lesson I saw how useful they can be. Gillian also covered some useful time saving short cut keys and how to group objects.
Lesson Five: Getting organized in Canva, creating templates and batch producing designs
This was incredibly useful and I haven’t used any of the features covered. I learnt how to create a brand theme in Canva (rather than saving notes on my phone), how to sort my files in folders on Canva and how to make a batch of designs.
Would I recommend the course?
Yes. It starts of quite easy so it is suitable for absolute beginners. It also is likely to uncover a trick that you haven’t worked out on your own, enabling you to get even more out of Canva.
When I signed up, I was worried that it was going to be five lessons telling you why you need to buy the premium service but it didn’t. Every feature I was shown how to use was using the free features available to everyone.
I honestly don’t know how Canva do it. If you haven’t got an account on there you need to go create one.
Presenter – Gillian
The course is presented by a lady named Gillian who has a nice clear voice that is easy to understand and not irritating. You don’t see what she looks like as the video is showing what is happening on the screen.
Create with Canva: http://www.createwithcanva.com/
For my birthday (in November), my husband treated me to a lipstick and a lip crayon by organic beauty brand Axicology and I loved them. Working off his previous success, he bought me another lipstick for Christmas.
I thought it only fair that I share these with you so you too can discover this brilliant brand.
Axiology is a brand that makes natural organic lipsticks that are vegan friendly and cruelty free. Their packaging is from recycled paper and made by women in Bali giving them employment opportunities. Plus, they donate a portion of their profits to charities that support the welfare of animals like PETA and Orangutan Foundation (so it’s ginger friendly).
By buying their lipsticks you are helping reduce pollution and support women in Bali and raising funds to support animal friendly charities. Wearing lipstick has never felt so good.
Bliss is a lip crayon.
Bliss: Is a summery coral so I haven’t worn it much yet. I have found the crayon more drying than the lipsticks but I’ll probably wear it in the summer. It costs £23
Goodness and Fundamental are both lipsticks. It costs £24
Goodness: This is a nude colour and very natural. It has a hint of gold shimmer to it and is very hydrating. You could easily wear this colour everyday but if you wanted to make a statement the colour would be too subtle.
Fundamental: The first time I wore this colour to work, I got so many compliments. It was great. It is a darker and more daring shade than I’d usually wear but I’m so glad I braved it because it is now my favourite.
I have never been so impressed by a lipstick case. The outside has a brushed gold affect. You push the base and then it ‘pops’ and your lipstick unlocks, you slide the top off to reveal the beautiful polished gold lipstick inner tube. I made a little video on Instagram to show it off because I love it so much. Please check it out below to see what I’m talking about.
I discovered the brand via the online organic beauty store Glow Organic.
Happy Birthday to my blog
I can’t believe that today is my blogs first birthday. I feel that I’ve learnt so much and yet, I still have so much to learn.
Here are the three lessons I have learned – the hard way:
1. When three become one
I started with three blogs on Word Press. Three blogs! I did it to split up the content:
- Ethereal Vanilla – Organic Beauty reviews and advice, etc
- Ally Aldridge – blogging on writing and literary conventions, etc
- Alison Aldridge – re-blogging the above so all my content was in one place.
Plus, I was still posting to Blogger as a back up plan… just in case I didn’t take to Word Press.
I now can see what a mistake that was. It was a lot of work to keep all of them running and current. This year, I am planning to just post straight to ‘Alison Aldridge’.
2. Be personal
I was trying to keep my blog professional and leave my personal life out of it. I didn’t think people would be interested in hearing about me.
But, when my life is busy, it’s hard to write about the other stuff and it would be easier just to share with my readers what I’m up to. I can already see I’ve got an eventful year ahead so moving forward, you can expect to see a few more personal posts.
3. Be brave
I’ve found that if I want to review something I should contact the company because sometimes they will support you with it. Saal Digital posted on Instagram asking for bloggers and I applied. I thought I had no chance but was happily mistaken and now I am the proud owner of a beautiful photo book of my son.
Bouncing of my previous success, I’ve bravely approached a company whose service I’d like to use and asked if I could review them on my blog. They kindly awarded me ‘Gold Membership’. Stay tuned to see my review of this – I will reveal soon… (this is one for the writers).
There is loads more I’ve learnt but the above are the three lessons that stand out the most. I’ve also still a lot more to learn too.
I’d really like to get into vlogging too – I just cringe at the sound of my voice (and sight of my face – lol). Plus, I’ve no clue about editing a video. Please comment with links if you can help me or to your vlog so I can see what you do and learn.
What is it?
Dabble is an online writing platform for plotting, writing and editing. It works best in Google or by using their app but can be used in any browser.
- Dabble Account and cloud storage
- Plotting tool
- Export to Word/text file
- Word counts
- Novel series
- App (works on a PC)
During November, they offered a free trial to NaNoWriMo participants. We were able to use the site for free and they enabled a word count tracker – nifty!
Dabble Writer usually costs $9.99 but at the moment there is an introduction offer of $4.99 which if you subscribe will be at 50% forever.
Dabble Writer is an official sponsor of NaNoWriMo. If you took part, check the NaNoWriMo offers page to see if there are any exclusive additional offers for NaNoWriMoers.
I created two projects to test out the software. One was Daisy Chain (my NaNoWriMo project) and the other was Jewel of the Sea (aka Drift).
- Daisy Chain: This required regular updates so I needed to work on the story whenever I was able to. Switching between computers (and browsers) did cause a little technical issue but the support guys at Dabble were awesome. The site runs best in Google chrome and the app. There is also a little cloud that you can click to save your progress and ensure it has been backed up.
- Jewel of the sea: I uploaded this so I could experiment the downloading to word feature. I was really impressed. It puts it into the correct format for agents so all you need to worry about is the line spacing.
- Word Count total: There is a tracker that shows your overall word count for the novel (or project).
- NaNoWriMo Tracker: The word count tracker for NaNoWriMo was incredibly intuitive. It deducted words if I deleted any and updated my daily goal based on how many words I needed to reach to keep on target based on my total. They are currently developing a personal goal tracker so writers can set their own word count goal at anytime in the year.
This was one of the features I enjoyed using the most as I currently have nothing like it.
It looks a like pin board with post it notes stuck on it. You can create different boards for tracking different things.
On the board you create different headings (or timelines). I found it easiest to use it to track my characters developments within the story and plan I needed to happen and when. It was easy to move and edit these too so it didn’t feel like a digital hindrance.
The ‘post it note’ (tile) has a heading and brief description. You click on it to open up and a little note paper where you can go into more detail about the plot line.
This is a great planning aid and helped me to visualize the story.
This is another great feature. I’ve never shared my story notes *cringe*.
I split my notes into two categories (headings) ‘Characters’ and ‘World Building’. Within those sections I create a note on different things that are important.
It is really handy to have everything stored in the same place and organised instead of loads of files saved in different places or programs. I love having some where to stash my ideas and notes about the story.
Within a ‘project’ you can create multiple books. This enables you to track a whole series all in one place. Genius!
Customer Service: The team at Dabble are extremely responsive to their customers and I think this will take the company forward to a bright future. They were always on hand whenever I had a question about using the site. No problem was too big or too small. I wondered if they ever slept.
Development: They have developed the site a lot from Sept to Nov so I’ve no doubt that they’ll make true on their promise to continue improving and bringing out new features. They also ask their subscribers to suggest features and vote on features to help them prioritize what their users want the most. Here are some of the features coming soon that excite me the most:
- Goal tracking – set your own word count goal any time of the year (not just for NaNoWriMo)
- Images in story notes (save a picture of your world map or the engagement ring or a celebrity that looks like you character)
- Editing mark up (you can highlight a section you know you need to rework)
- Novel cover (upload an image for you novel cover)
- Character image (upload an image of how your character looks) and character tools
- Restore a previous version as a new file
- More ways to import and export including dragging a project to your desktop to save it
- Social – enable word count competitions and stats to be shared socially
Am I subscribing?
I am very tempted to subscribe but currently I have a lot going on that I don’t think I will have the time to really make the most of having a subscription.
However, Dabble Writer is something I would definitely consider in the future as I found it a very easy to use interface, fantastic customer service and the features were exactly what a writer needs.
Here is a little video of me opening my December Pip Box under the Christmas tree. It arrived on 18 December 2017.
I’ve now had the products two weeks and had a chance to try all but one of them them. Here is my review:
- Benecos – natural eyeshadow (rose gold): As always Pip are brilliant at picking colours – I don’t know how they do it! They sent me the shade Rose Gold which is a really pretty shade. This is a great eye shadow. It will become a staple in my make-up bag. I would recommend it and I would buy it again.
- This product was from from Pravera Direct. This is the first time I have seen Pip recommend a store (rather than the brand directly). I love discovering new ethical beauty shops so I’m really pleased.
- It costs only£4.95.
- Tisserand Aromatheraphy – bath soak (rose & geranium leaf): This is the second time Pip has sent me a Tisserand product (last time I got a hand cream). I prefer the smell of this product. It has an earthy rose smell to it. It alsogffelt really rich and moisturizing in the bath, almost like an oil. I really enjoyed this and I’m certain it will get all used up in no time.
- It costs £10.95.
- Bloomtown -100% Natural & Vegan Lip Balm (red & berried): This is a winter life saver. It had prevented cracked lips and kept them hydrated whilst in out in the cold. An added bonus is that it has a subtle red tint to it and smells delicious.
- It costs £4.80.
- Raven Chocolate – Mini Coconut Milk Bar: This is the first time I got something to eat in my Pip box and I generously offered to share it with my 4 year old. OMG, I wish I had recorded our reactions. We DID NOT like this! We are clearly not ready for vegan, dairy free, sugar free chocolate. YUCK! I’m glad we got to try it as it enabled me to learn this is not for me.
- A 25g bar costs £1.95
Still to try
- Freyaluna Skincare – nourishing face steam (fennel & rose): When opening my box I had a stuffy nose so I was most excited to use this product. I had dreams of resolving my nasal congestion and getting a facial at the same time. Sadly, I got sick and then was rushed by Christmas and visiting family and I’ve just not had any time – aghhh! I am still super keen to review this product properly soon.
- You can get a small 5g packet to try for £2.00 or buy a 30g jar for £11.00
The Pip Box Review
I love my Pip Box so much that I’ve decided to cancel my Birch Box subscription. I prefer the products I get and I end up using them all up (no waste). It’s great value and I’ve discovered some brilliant new products and brands to love. I highly recommend subscribing.
- Cruelty free beauty box – £14.99 (monthly), £40.50 (3 x months), +P&P
- Vegan friendly beauty box – £14.99 (monthly), £40.50 (3 x months), +P&P
- Follow them on Instagram to be the first to know about any special subscription offers.