Saturday, 25 January 2020

10 years of blogging, and what I've learned

Scroll to the bottom if you just want to see some strong looks from the old days of girlnextdoorfashion

On 22 December 2009, I was 19 years old.

I was in my second year of university, obsessed with Glamour magazine and writing for the fashion column of my student newspaper (when I wasn't trying to read 2 books a week for my course or at one of my five dance classes a week or at my part time job at the student bar).

And I decided to start a blog.

And girlnextdoorfashion was born.

And here I am, 10 years later, still writing this blog!

Bloody hell, has a lot changed!

Of course I have changed - I'm now about to turn 30, I'm married and live in a house I own with my husband. I've been working in marketing for 7 years and I no longer wear knee socks and mary jane shoes.

But blogging has changed more.

Bloggers are now influencers. They don't post their pictures on Chictopia now or dream of appearing on the front page. 

I used to think charging £30 for a link was wild - now people can charge thousands for an Instagram mention.

I used to think I could make it one day as a full-time blogger. Now I can't imagine that being something I would want to do.

But despite how much has changed, I'm still here. 

I've nearly quit hundreds of times over the years, but I've always found myself coming back to it.

I can't tell you what it is. I've quit loads of things over the past 10 years! Jobs, hobbies, relationships, ideas, plans, but I've never been quite ready to let this blog go.

It's not been a fashion blog for years - I don't think I've posted a picture of an outfit since 2016 - and to be honest, I'm not really sure at all what kind of blog it is. I think my most recurring reader is myself (seriously I'm always looking for old blog posts to help me remember which lipstick I like or which recipes are best from a particular book). I don't blog for anyone but myself any more, which makes it weirdly self indulgent but also quite freeing. 

It's funny because I rarely post on social media any more and don't have the apps on my phone. Instagram makes me feel rubbish even though I'm old enough and smart enough to know that what people show isn't the reality and I don't post on it because I don't like pretending everything is shiny and perfect. But I still blog, and isn't that the same thing?

Anyway, I'm not about to have some kind of existentialist crisis about whether I should be blogging or not, this is about celebrating!

Ten years! When I was 19 I had no idea I'd still be doing this at 29. 

I often wish I could blog more. I wish I had more time to blog, but the reality is I choose to do other things instead of blog. I have hundreds of ideas for topics which I know I'll never sit down to write. There are so many things I wish I'd blogged more about. There are so many things I wish I could change about my blog (I've had this same layout for at least 5 years) but I don't have the time or inclination to change them.

But I'm here! I'm still doing it! I might have only written 20 something blog posts in the last year year, compared to the 285 (?????????!!!!!!) I wrote in 2011. 

So, without further ado, here's what I've learnt from 10 years of blogging:

Just start

I remember dithering for months over whether to start a blog. I just didn't feel like a "blogger". Then I met a girl at uni who had a blog and realised, oh, she's just like me. And also, once you start a blog, you become a blogger. I think this is true of so many things in life - it's definitely been the case with me when I first started running 6 years ago. Just starting, in whatever capacity, is often the biggest step.

It doesn't have to be great

While I'm in no shape or form a perfectionist (my motto is "done is better than perfect"), I did struggle with the idea of starting because I wanted it to be good before I put it out in the world. Well I can tell you now, my early posts were definitely not good (and I'm not sure a lot are now!) but linking back to my first point, I did it and once I'd done it once, it was easier to do again and again and again and learn from it.

Be open and personal

I consider the period between 2010 and 2012 to be my blogging heyday and when I asked around at the time (I know, so self indulgent) why people enjoyed my blog (remember end of the year blog surveys?!) a lot of it came down to personality. Sometimes you just like reading what certain people write, and I tried to make sure I was an open and personal and showed as much of my personality as I could. But then there's also...

You don't have to overshare if you don't want to (though sometimes it helps)

I'm a lot more guarded than I used to be. Sometimes wish I could be more honest but that isn't me. I am very aware that this blog is out in the public. I'm not one to cause tension by speaking my mind too much and I hate confrontation. One of the reasons I started a newsletter was to give me more of an outlet for being more open and honest privately, but even that felt too much and too self-indulgent and navel-gazing at times.

I've also grown up a lot in the past 10 years. There are a lot of things I wouldn't share now that I did then, but a lot of that is just because I was in my early 20s and I didn't know any better!

It's okay to diversify

This is clearly no longer a fashion blog. In fact, as I wrote this I'm wearing faded Primark jeans, a Parks and Recreation tshirt, fluffy slippers and a hoodie. I haven't been interested in fashion for probably close to 8 years and I'm nowhere near as obsessed with personal style and shopping and outfits as I was 7 or 8 years ago. 

I worried a lot about this blog a lot when I realised I was losing interest in taking photos of my outfits and feeling the pressure to keep coming up with new outfits. I thought that I had to have a new outfit to post in order to be able to write my blog. But then I realised I had so many other things I wanted to write about that weren't clothes! I'm so glad I took the plunge and moved away from a topic that no longer interested me.

I wish I'd picked a better name!

Yep 10 years on and I'm still using the twitter handle gnd_fashion and girlnextdoorfashion as an Instagram handle. And I'm still debating changing it.

Integrity is important to me

For me, integrity is huge. I couldn't write sponsored posts that felt fake or insert irrelevant links to products I didn't care about, regardless of how much I was paid. I had a few years of sponsored links and content and it just wasn't for me. I felt like I was losing control of my blog and it didn't feel authentic to me any more. I had some amazing years of working with sponsors and partners and I'm so lucky to have received dozens of items to review over the years, but I also never felt comfortable reviewing items I didn't really love. I decided to stop taking sponsored content and items to review a few years ago which for me helped me to feel more authentic and that was really important to me.

It should be fun!

Another reasons I stopped taking sponsored content was because it stopped being fun! It started to feel like work. If I had X items to review and X photos to take and they needed to be done by X date, that's a job. And for me, that wasn't what I wanted this blog to be. There were times in my life when I loved doing that, but once I started working full time on top of everything else, I wanted my blog to be there for me when I wanted it, but only when I had the time. 

It doesn't need rules

Okay so I like rules, but even so, sometimes I've given myself way too many rules along the way (and I still have some in place when I'm trying to squeeze in a month in review at the end of a super busy month!) but I think rules can stop the fun. This is probably a lesson I still need to remember!

It doesn't have to be a side hustle!

Okay I've kind of said this now, but I hate the idea that anything you do as a hobby or for fun should be a commodity. Yes you make good cakes, but you don't need to start a cupcake stall! Yes you make nice scarves but you don't have to sell them on Etsy! You can enjoy a hobby without making money from it, because once you make money from it it can start feeling like work.

It's a great time capsule

Oh god is it a good time capsule. Want to read the post where I said "I've got a date tomorrow" they day before I met my husband? Do you want to remember details of a trip I went on in 2012? Do you want to see photos of my terrible hair from 2010? Do you want breakups? Of course you do - step up and see the last 10 years of my life in glorious technicolour!

This is both good and awfully terrible. Reading back over my old blog posts from 2010 is like reading my diary. Oh except it's on the internet. Oh yeah I know I could delete them, but I'm not that vain. It's funny, it's tragic, but it's a snapshot of who I was once.

And sometimes it's nice. I've gone back and read the post from when Phil proposed and posts from when I first started running and I go back all the time to my recipe book reviews to see which recipes I like best. And of course there's some questionable content and terrible outfits out there but I quite like that I can revisit myself from 10 years ago (and laugh at myself).

Can be what you want

As I said before, a blog is merely content on the internet. It can be what you want. Of course there's so much now about finding your niche, but I think more often than not it's about personality. Many of my blogger friends have gone from fashion blogging to lifestyle blogging to Mummy blogging and I still love reading their content, even if I have no interst in children myself! It can be full of tips and advice or just stories about your day, or both!

Both long and short content is great

I love love love longform content and that's what I've done a lot of on this blog over the last few years, but I really want to get back to short blog posts. I want to get back to a little idea and putting it out there without trying to think of how I can pad it out. I love long content but it can take me a few days and a few sessions of writing to get one live - I love a little short snappy post and I want to feel more comfortable that that "counts" as a post. edited to add: I started writing this post in November and it's taken me til now to get it finished and live!

It gives purpose

I love having a hobby after 10 years which, while not quite tangible, exists out in the world. I love having the responsibility of this blog after all these years. Even if nobody is reading, it does give me motivation and a sense of purpose to know this blog is still out there, still going after all this time.

It's pretty good going to be doing this after 10 years!

I don't think 19 year old me would think I'd still be doing this 10 years later, but instead of blogging about the latest double spread in Glamour, I'd be writing about running marathons and managing anxiety disorder and recipe books and reading. While I don't promote my blog at all outside of the odd tweet and Facebok post when I've got a new post live, I'm still really glad it's still going. Sure I still find it a bit embarrassing when someone finds it and I know it's still a bit self-indulgent but there are loads of blog posts on here I'm really proud of! I don't know if I'm still be doing this in another 10 years  - I definitely cannot think ahead to being 39 right now! - but it wouldn't surprise me if I'm still too stubborn to give it up over the next few years.

I nearly gave up back in 2015 when I was losing interest in fashion blogging, but then I had a resurgance and wrote some of my favourite ever posts, so who knows?

Thanks to all of you who have stuck around, especially those there from the start.

As a reward, here's some classic girlnextdoorfashion content just for you...
(ps. There are so many of these outfits that I genuinely loved! I absolutely loved the way I used to rewear clothes in different ways!)

 I got one hell of a lot of wear out of this little military jacket!
I was so proud of this outfit back in 2010! I spent a lot of time on my year abroad almost getting chillblains after taking photos outside in sub zero Minnesotan temperaures and running my freezing hands under the tap after

I remember wearing this outfit to uni and nearly absolutely decking it on the cobbles because there 4 inch heels were definitely not made for walking

One of my first "outfit posts". I'd made the ears myself for a joint Minne and Mickey costume

LOOK HOW MUCH I WORE THIS DRESS! I was obsessed with "remixing"my clothes and I love how creative I was with finding new ways to wear the same items

This is from my 21st Birthday in Duluth, Minnesota where I spent my year abroad. My dress was a Birthday present from Modcloth - I was obsessed with Modcloth!

I honestly believe this to be one of my greatest ever outfits. And I still have and love this blazer

A rare occasion I actually got someone to take my photos for me. This is Duluth town centre in the early days of my year abroad

I was super proud of this outfit in 2010. Those lace ankle socks!

I was really, really, really into knee high socks. And lace.

No shade, I still love this outfit (circa late 2011)

And this one

I really miss that wall.

I hope those of you who were blogging in the early 2010s enjoyed this post - I definitely enjoyed this trip down memory lane!

Charlotte x

Sunday, 5 January 2020

December Life Lately

It feels weird after writing loads of post looking back on 2019 to be looking back on what I did in December, especially now in the cold dark reality of January!

December is always one of my favourite months of the year and this year was no exception!

Here's my one second every day for December, and here's what I got up to last month...

What I did

I think everyone I work with at my new job thinks I'm obsessed with my house and/or thinks that we're new home owners! After two and a half years in our house we still have so much we want to do, and we're taking our time with things (especially having just got married and had a big honeymoon!).

But December brought one thing we'd been excited about for ages - new carpets! We stripped the wallpaper off our landing and stairs nearly two years ago (the day after we got engaged we were scraping wallpaper off the walls!) but while the walls were painted almost straight after, we'd never gotten around to new carpet. Just before Christmas we got all new carpet up the stairs and replaced the old (blue-paint-splattered!) carpet in the front room too, and I can't explain what a difference it has made! I now want new carpet in every room!

A post shared by Charlotte Cantillon (@girlnextdoorfashion) on
We also got this amazing fireplace from my parents for Christmas which really makes the front room! We tend to spend more time in the front room in the winter as that's where we have the Christmas tree, and it's really starting to get there too!

Every year I complain "I don't feel Christmassy!" all through December, so one of my ways to try to combat this this year was some Christmas baking. I made this Pret-inspired melted Melvins - mine definitely look very melted!

We had a lovely day out for a walk in Lyme Park, secret santa and an amazing pub lunch for our first, and now hopefully annual, Friendmas, on the Saturday before Christmas. It was so lovely to get out and about (I can't tell you how much I love out National Trust membership!) and have good food with good company!

This year was mine and Phil's seventh Christmas together. For the last 5 years we always had two Christmas dinners - one at Phil's parents' at around 12pm and then off to my parents' for a second around 6. I've been saying ever since we got the house we wanted to host, but this year, with it being our first Christmas married, I was determined we were going to do it! We got a new dining table and chairs last December, so we put our old chairs in the loft (and grabbed a few emergency chairs!) and I asked my Mum and Phil's Mum to help with some of the cooking. My Mum came on Christmas Eve to decorate the table, and on Christmas Eve I prepped the veg (with some help from Phil who peeled everything while I went for a run!), made a nut roast and got everything ready.

Phil and I started Christmas Day with presents to each other - he got me Hamilton tickets and I got him a weekend away in the Yorkshire Dales and then we headed off to our first Christmas Day parkrun!

I've wanted to do Christmas Day parkrun for years but because our Christmas Day is always so manic we've never managed to do it. Our local parkrun, Bramhall, doesn't do parkrun on Christmas Day, so we headed to our next favourite, Wilmslow. We went super early to make sure we got parked, and it was a good thing we did - they broke their attendance record with 520 of us running on Christmas Day! I absolutely loved getting to run on Christmas morning and I'm already excited about doing it next year!

After parkrun, we headed back for a quick change before went to my Auntie Bre's Christmas breakfast - a Crowley family tradition. Normally this is a quick affair for Phil and I before we have to rush back for our first Christmas dinner, but it was nice to get a bit more time with everyone before I had to start cooking.

Our oven isn't amazing and doesn't circulate heat well when it's full, so my potatoes ended up taking two hours, but my Mum brought the turkey, stuffing and gravy, and Phil's mum brought the pudding and in the end it all went pretty well, if exhausting! I was so proud of myself for managing to get everything done, and I'm already making plans for what I need to do differently next year!

After dinner, we did presents which was quite a nice way of spreading out gifts throughout the day - Phil and I did our presents for our families, and our families exchanged gifts too. After presents, we did dessert, then games, then cheese before Gavin and Stacey. It was absolutely brilliant and I'm so glad we could all spend the day together!

Where I went

Back in May, Phil's sister, Suzie, tagged me in a post on Facebook for a singalong Hairspray night in Manchester. Straight away, I said to her, I'm in and I'm not bluffing. I'll get it for you for Christmas. So in December, 7 months after booking, the day finally arrived.

It was so so so much fun! Everyone was absolutely going for it, which you definitely need with something like that. You got unlimited drinks with your tickets, and just turned on the tealight on your table whenever you wanted a drink. Everyone was singing and dancing along - it was such a good night!

Phil and I decided to finish work for Christmas on Friday 20th to give ourselves a really nice break over the Christmas period. On the first Monday we were off we headed to our final National Trust location of the year - Dunham Massey. They have a really lovely Christmas lights event on through December which was sold out, but we still had a lovely walk around the gardens and grounds, and I had the best Christmas ginger biscuit in the cafe!

What I read

6 books in December and one audiobook:

The New Me
The Female Persuasion
Olive Again
I still dream
Fleishman is in trouble
Spoilt Brats
The Secret Barrister

Olive, Again was one of my books of the year, and I knew it was going to be from the first page. Olive Kitteridge is one of my all-time favourite books and I love everything I've read by Elizabeth Strout. I read Spoilt Brats from cover-to-cover on Boxing Day (I've now read 3 books of Simon Rich's short stories and every time I've read the whole book in a day) and The Secret Barrister was absolutely fascinating and I highly recommend it on audio.

What I watched

Three trips to the cinema in December:

Star Wars
Little Women
Le Mans 66

I didn't expect to love Le Mans 66 as much as I did, but I definitely expected to love Little Women as much as I did!

At home we watched 4 films this month:

Die Hard
Marriage Story
The Irishman

We watch Die Hard and Gremlins every Christmas, and decided to use the Christmas break to catch up on the two Netflix films which everyone has been talking about. Marriage Story might be my film of 2019 (as much as I loved Rocketman!). It was sad and dark and hilarious and absolutely brilliant. I also really enjoyed The Irishman, despite it being so long we watched it in hour-long chunks throughout the day.

What I bought

Okay, I didn't buy it, but my Mum got me a Revolution Advent Calendar for Christmas and oh my god I've never been so excited to get up for an advent calendar! I got one full palette and a mini palette, lipsticks, brushes, eyeliner, eyebrow pencils, tonnes of highlighters (for me, too much highlighter!) and so many other things. I loved it so much that I ended up buying three Revolution Palettes in the sale after Christmas in a bid to try to wear more eyeshadow.

Boxing Day brought new books from some of my favourite cooks - Veganish, the new Jack Monroe book and the new Bosh book. I'm really excited to cook from these this year!

What I read online

This thread about leadership is so helpful to people like me who have just started managing people for the first time

Happy New Year to you all and I hope you're having a brilliant 2020 so far!

Charlotte x

Saturday, 4 January 2020

2019 Favourites

As well as a roundup of my year itself, I love writing a list in December of everything I enjoyed throughout the year. I did this in 2017 here, and in 2018 I did a list of my favourite books here. 

I won't be doing any big "best of the decade" roundups because honestly? They completely stress me out and 10 years is just such an overwhelmingly long stretch of time (I'm still working on a post of what I've learned in TEN YEARS of blogging and it's a lot!).

So here's what I loved in 2019...

Books I loved in 2019

I read 103 books in 2019 (a new record for me!). I read some absolutely amazing books, a lot of really great books, and a lot of not-so-great books. So here are the books I absolutely loved in 2019 (in reverse read order cause I got them all from my Goodreads...):
  • Olive Again by Elizabeth Strout
  • One True Thing by Anna Quindlen
  • Miller's Valley by Anna Quindlen
  • The Last Girlfriend on Earth by Simon Rich
  • Girl Woman Other by Bernadine Evanisto
  • The Confession by Jessie Burton
  • Becoming by Michelle Obama
  • The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer
  • The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
  • How not to be a Boy by Robert Webb
  • The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins-Reid
  • Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins-Reid
  • Pet Sematary by Stephen King
  • Invisible Women by Caroline Criado-Perez
  • The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor
  • Hydra - Matt Wesolowski
  • A Prayer for Owen Meany - John Irvine
  • An American Marriage - Tayari Jones
  • The Loyalties - Delphine de Vigan
  • My Sister the Serial Killer- Oyinkan Braithwaite
(I've also included books I listened to on audio on this list - I have a separate section for podcasts but I thing the notion that listening to a book isn't reading it is so elitist and ableist, so I included all books I "consumed" this year, regardless of media.)

It was really hard to cut this list down to get a top 20! There are so many books in 2019 I really loved, especially Daisy Jones and the Six, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, Pet Sematary, A Prayer for Owen Meany, Olive Again and Girl, Woman, Other being my top fiction picks.

I think my book of the year, though, was definitely Invisible Women. I've made everyone I know read it and I think I make references to it at least once a week. It's an absolutely fascinating read that I cannot recommend more. I'd definitely recommend reading this article for background first - the book is fascinating and shocking and depressing but incredibly eye-opening and important to men and women alike.

Films I loved in 2019 (cinema)

2019 has not been a strong year for me in terms of films at the cinema. Apart from my beloved Rocketman (my hands-down film of the year, which I saw twice at the cinema, have already watched again on DVD twice. Oh and all my Spotify top 10 most played songs were from the soundtrack) and Booksmart, which I loved, I haven't seen as many films which have completed blown me away this year. 

I went to the cinema 25 times in 2019 (thank you, Cineworld Unlimited card!). Here are my favourites:
  • Rocketman (duh)
  • The Favourite
  • Midsommar
  • John Wick 3
  • Us
  • Eighth Grade
  • Booksmart
  • Doctor Sleep 
  • Le Mans 66
  • Once upon a Time in Hollywood
  • Little Women

Films I loved in 2019 (at home)

Blame the wedding planning, or the wedding, or the honeymoon, or just having too many early nights, but I don't feel like we've watched as many films at home this year either - it's been a busy year!

Of what we did watch, here's what I loved most edit: I don't count rewatches here - only films I saw for the first time in 2019:
  • Call Me By Your Name
  • 12 Angry Men
  • Strangers on a Train
  • Big Hero 6
  • Wall-E
  • Cabin in the Woods
  • Paddington 1 and 2
  • Singin' in the Rain
  • Marriage Story
  • Free Solo
  • Muppet Christmas Carol
  • What we do in the Shadows
  • The Hours

TV I loved in 2019

This is barely even a category - we managed to watch 6 full TV seasons in 2019. We have such a huge list of TV shows we need to watch (we've managed 1.5 seasons of The Americans in 3 months) but we are terrible at watching TV shows. However, of the 6 things we did manage to watch, my favourites were:
  • Chernobyl
  • Big Little Lies season 2
  • Mindhunter season 2

Podcasts I loved in 2019

Too many podcasts, not enough time! I feel like there are always so many podcasts I want to listen to, but along with my Audible subscription and audiobooks from the library, I find I don't have as much time to listen to as many as I would like (I'm genuinely really excited to start half marathon training again in a few weeks so I can catch up!).

Along with my usual favourite of What Page are You On? I discovered some great new-to-me podcasts this year:
  • Films to be Buried With
  • The High Low
  • Chat 10 Looks 3
  • Dolly Parton's America
  • The Dream
  • Gladiator
  • Maddie

Recipe books I loved in 2019

So I don't like to add up how many recipe books I bought in 2019 (my justification is, well, if I got one or two good recipes out of them they're worth it and also one recipe books is the cost of like, a meal out for one person so shhhhh I'm not counting!) but there have been some absolute banging books this year. Most of these I have already reviewed, but the rest I hope to blog about in 2020:
  • The Quick Roasting Tin by Rukmimi Iyer (reviewed here)
  • Bish Bash Bosh by Henry Firth and Ian Theasby (reviewed here)
  • Green by Elly Pear
  • East by Meera Sodha (reviewed here)
  • Leon Fast Vegan
  • Carbs by Laura Goodman

Other things I loved in 2019

This is my miscellaneous category, like the section on The Sims with all the weird house stuff in, or the stuff Oprah puts on her end of year list. There are loads of other things I loved in 2019 I want to give a shout out to which don't fit neatly into the above categories, so these are the "other" things I loved in 2019:
  • Midi skirts
  • Cutting my hair
  • Trainers
  • Earrings
  • Depop
  • Phil's Nintendo switch, especially Overcooked
  • Getting my nails done regularly
  • National Trust membership
  • Football
  • Liverpool FC
  • Borrow my Doggy
  • My Audible Subscription
  • Libraries (always)
  • The Rocketman soundtrack
  • Lizzo
  • Making bread
  • Packing cubes
  • Second hand September
  • Revolution eyeshadow palettes
  • Luke Combs
  • Reusable cotton wool pads
  • Frank's Red Hot sauce
I have a huge reading list for 2020, a note in my phone of films to see at the cinema and I think my husband did a big eBay order of DVDs this week so I'm really excited for all the new things I'm going to read/watch/listen to in 2020!

Charlotte x