a little bird told me

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Learning A New Skill

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I took this photo earlier in the week and I'm still ridiculously proud of it. As a freelance community manager, I find myself taking on the role of several people - copywriter, customer service representative, PR girl, statistics analyst, ad manager and, the one I'm currently enjoying most, photographer.

When working with small brands, budgets often don't stretch to professional photographers which means I've had to get handy with my camera a number of times. In 12 months, I've learnt so much about creating great shots and although they're by no means perfect (and I am by no means a professional), I'm really pleased with how far I've come with a camera.

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I recently invested in a new lens which has made a huge difference, but when it comes to promotional photography I think composition and styling is just as important as technical knowledge. The part of photography I enjoy most is sourcing props and setting up each shot. My car booting days come in handy here - I have a rather large collection of vintage bits and bobs that work perfectly for the brand I do most of my photography work with - Brit-Stitch.

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Brit-Stitch has a very pretty, girly aesthetic so shooting for them is a total joy. I'm always on the look-out for props to use - from printed blankets and fabrics to use as backgrounds to bottles, old cameras and even a disco ball. As well as car boot sales and charity shops, I find props in pound shops (honestly brilliant for cute, cheap pieces), TK Maxx (great for quirky dinnerware) and Primark (their cheap necklaces look fab in detail shots).

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Most of my 'photo shoots' are set up in my back garden, on my kitchen table or on the floor in the spare bedroom. I'm not very confident with using the flash on my camera, so I look for spots with great natural light and plenty of space.

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Developing my photography skills for my day job has really improved the photos I take for the blog. Although it takes me 10 times longer to get a post up than it did in the old 'point and shoot' days. Yes, my food is always cold by the time I'm ready to eat it and I can't buy flowers without thinking 'will they look good on camera?', but I'm so pleased with the results.

I've still got a long way to go before my technical skills rival any professional photographer's, and there are a few things I need to add to my 'kit' - a step ladder so I can really nail those overhead shots and a big piece of wood to get that 'rustic' background are first on my list. But for now, this post includes some of my favourite shots, taken over the last 12 months.

Happy Easter everyone!

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

A Day On The 5:2 Fasting Diet

I've been doing the 5:2 'Fasting' Diet on and off since May 2013 and have seen great results, losing a stone and a half in four months. Over Christmas and New Year (New Year lasts 'til March, right?) I let things slide and enjoyed all the food, but now I'm back on track and losing weight once again.

I often post my 5:2 meals to Instagram and there are always questions about how I find the diet and what I eat on my fasting days. So I thought I'd walk you through a typical day on the 5:2 Diet, looking at what I eat, when I eat and how I split those 500 calories.

It's worth noting here that I am not a nutritionist or expert of any kind - if you have any doubts about the suitability of the 5:2 Diet for your health or lifestyle you should speak with a doctor first. I am relatively sedentary so find my 500 calorie days easy to manage, but that isn't true for everyone and any reduced-calorie eating plan should be considered carefully.

If you're unsure what the 5:2 Fasting Diet is, have a little read of this post first. Go on, we'll wait. 


All done? Good. So now you know that each week I have two 500-cal days to stick to, usually called 'fast days'. I try to mix my fast days around a little bit - I find that makes them easier to manage, but also works well if I'm going out for a meal one night or will be more active during the day. But I'll always do Monday and Wednesday or Tuesday and Thursday - a normal day in between and the weekend off, because fun.

There are a few different ways to follow the 5:2 Diet, but I tend to stick to the original format - I eat very little during the day then have a filling dinner come evening. I find that eating early in the day makes me much more hungry later on, whereas I rarely feel ravenous if I don't eat until 3pm. 

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My fasting days always start with water. I have couple of glasses before I leave for my studio, usually brighten up with a slice of lemon. I don't drink tea or coffee (never have) so will have lots of water through the day. Sometimes I'll have a Diet Coke as an afternoon boost but water is my boo!

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My snacks vary from day to day - sometimes I'll be very good and have chopped raw carrots, celery, radishes, cucumber or anything else that takes 30 seconds to prepare on a morning. I have a tub of these on my desk that I'll munch on throughout the day. This handful of carrots is about 52 calories. On cold days I like toasted crumpets (98 calories) and when I'm being lazy, a packet of Quavers (88 calories).

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Because I don't eat much during the day, I'm usually able to have a pretty normal tea in the evening. This is really important for me - I hate faffing about with measurements and have no time for complicated 'fake' things like cauliflower pizza. I like to eat hearty meals that fill me up and as I usually have about 400 calories to play with, there's a lot of choice.

This dish was based on a recipe from my favourite 5:2 blogger, Lavender and Lovage. It's a cajun chicken kebab in a pitta bread, with grilled chicken, tomato, cucumber and mint yoghurt, a squeeze of lemon and a side salad. A really fresh, filling meal that came in at an astoundingly good 257 calories, so I had a second helping of the chicken and yoghurt.

With my total calorie count for the day at around 400, I finished off with some fat free vanilla yoghurt and a handful of berries to bring me up to 500.

It's very important to stress that following a 5:2 eating plan isn't about 'starving yourself' - it's about eating less. The beauty of this approach to eating is it doesn't take over your life. On my non-fast days I eat very normally - not counting the calories but not pigging out either. Of course, there are days when I eat like I'm preparing for a marathon and I would never order a salad in a restaurant, but that's one of the main reasons I do 5:2 - if I can avoid my tendency for chips and quash my love of mayo for two days a week, I can indulge without feeling guilty.

If you're giving the 5:2 Diet a go, I'd really recommend reading Lavender and Lovage for ideas - Karen eats three small meals on her fast days, which is a much better method if you're quite active during the day or can't fathom going without lunch. I'd also recommend downloading the My Fitness Pal app - it's a great way to work out how many calories are in the food you're eating, and keep track of your total on fast days.

What do you think of the 5:2 Diet?

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Growing Up Online

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This is me aged 23, in October 2009. It's from one of my early blog posts, back in the days I was working as a copywriter in a digital agency, living in a dingy flat and spending my limited funds in charity shops.

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This is me aged 28, in March 2014. I run my own business, I'm married, I live in a house not a flat and can now drink red wine without wincing. 

I've been writing this blog for almost 5 years, throughout my early twenties. Those years mark a period of huge change for most people - you're done with university, you have your first 'real' job, might meet your life partner, suffer through break-ups and redundancies and struggle to pay 100% council tax for the first time. When I started A Little Bird Told Me I was in a job I found very difficult, commuting long distances for not very much money, feeling generally under-valued and a bit lost. The blog was a way to channel my thoughts and escape from the insecurities that come with being 23 and only having one foot on the bottom rung of a very high career ladder.

In the early days, the focus of this blog was on thriftiness - I loved charity shops and car boot sales, Primark tea dresses and cheap shoes. I wore something different in every single post and although I was shopping cheaply, I was spending a hell of a lot of money on things that didn't last three wears. I had all the time in the world to browse the high street and shopping was a solace from an unfulfilling job. Despite having this online persona as a 'thrifty' blogger, I was very reckless with my money and every month would end with tears as I willed payday around.

In 2012 I left my agency job to go freelance, and have since built a successful business. Priorities changed. Free time became limited. Bank balances became healthier. These things, combined with becoming a happier, more confident person, changed me. Getting married changed me. Growing older changed me. Meeting new people changed me.

When you document your life online, people feel like they know you. As bloggers, we share so much of ourselves and develop friendships with those who read our blogs. But although our online personas are preserved forever in our archives, the people we are in real life can often be starkly different to those we started out as. I was 15 when I started writing about my life on Open Diary and the person I am now is worlds away from who I was then, or who I was at 23 when I started this blog. Which is how it should be - life is about growing and changing, learning from experiences and using them to move forward.

I don't write about second hand shopping any more. It's no longer relevant, just like The Spice Girls and bootcut jeans are no longer relevant. I'm not the person I was at 23, and thank God for that. That period of my life is captured forever through words and pictures, but that time has gone. I'm different now - still me, but older. A bit wiser. Definitely healthier. And much, much happier.

Have you grown up online?

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Designer Eyes with Dior and Pret a Voir

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Fellow four-eyes will know, there's no joy quite like getting a new pair of specs. The world is crisper and clearer, with no scratches or thumbprints to spoil the view. After receiving these beauties c/o Pret a Voir, I watched the new Game of Thrones in wide-eyed excitement - Westeros has never looked so sharp!

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Glasses, Dior c/o Pret a Voir

I've written about buying glasses online a few times - I'm not always entirely convinced it's the best way to shop for specs, and do generally prefer the safety of an actual opticians when choosing my glasses. But when Pret a Voir got in touch and I clocked the MASSIVE range of designer frames on their site, I was more than convinced.

I am a total snob when it comes to specs and much prefer the pricier designer frames. My theory is, they're basically my eyes and surely my eyes deserve Dior? Yep, I think so too.

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I chose this Dior pair - they're quite a lot bigger than the frames I usually go for but I wanted something a bit more dramatic. It's always a risk not being able to try them on first, but Pret a Voir offer free returns for 7 days after you've received your specs, so if they weren't right I'd be able to send them straight back. Plus, the prices on Pret a Voir are BRILLIANT - the frames are very reasonable (£163 for Dior!) and single vision lenses are free too. Much cheaper than your high street optician.

They've taken a bit of getting used to, but I'm delighted with my new 'eyes'. I didn't get chance to snap a pic of me in them, but here's a specs selfie (gonna coin that term right now) so you can see what they look like on. Love them!

Have you ever used Pret a Voir? These Miu Miu sunnies are next on my list...

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

How To: Wear Spring Pastels

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Last weekend I spent an enjoyable few hours packing away my heavy knits, thick skirts and thermal tops and replacing them with my spring/summer wardrobe. Joy!

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Jeans, Uniqlo | Jumper, Zara | Necklace, & Other Stories | Watch, Michael Kors (similar here) | Brogues, Shelly's c/o Sarenza | Sunglasses, Orla Kiely

My favourite part of unpacking my spring/summer wardrobe is discovering these jeans all over again. I bought them in Uniqlo on Oxford Street a few years ago - they're the ultimate relaxed skinny jean, with a slightly looser fit and nice cropped length. And they're perfectly pastel pink which is my favourite shade for this time of year.

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Trenchcoat, Whistles (similar here)

I love pastels for spring - after a winter of grey, brown and black it's so nice to prance about in pink for a few weeks. As I am a) blonde and b) not a size 6, I shied away from a head-to-toe pastel look and mixed in some neutrals instead. Gotta avoid that 'giant marshmallow' look!

I teamed my jeans with a light grey cropped jumper from Zara, beautiful beige brogues c/o Sarenza and my trusty Whistles trench. Mixing in more muted colours makes the jeans much more wearable without dampening the bright and airy look.

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As shallow as it sounds, this outfit has brought me much joy today. Paired with sunny skies and some fun work projects, Tuesday ain't so bad.

How do you wear your pastels?
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