This is a set of 4 exercises to help avoid eye wrinkles.
I found these exercises in a book from 1972 called “Secrets of Natural Beauty” by Virginia Castleton Thomas. I think it’s a classic amongst my parents’ generation (my parents would have been 11 when this was published, so maybe a classic amongst people a bit older), because when I cleared their houses after their deaths last year, both my mother and my father had a copy of this book on their bookshelf. I have, however, re-written the description of these exercises so that this post is more readable as the phrasing was a bit old-fashioned.
1. To remove eye tension and strengthen the eye muscles: Sit upright and extend your right arm directly in front of you. Point forward with your index finger and focus on it with your eyes, then move the finger very slowly to the right, until your arm has moved so far that you can hardly focus on it any more, then bring the arm back to centre, slowly, still focusing on the finger. Repeat the exercise using your left arm, but this time, move the arm to the left instead of the right.
2. Keeping your head still, raise your arm upwards to the limit of your vision. Hold this position for a few seconds, then slowly drop your arm until it’s at the lower end of your vision range. Start by doing this once per day, but after you have done them for a few days, start building repetitions until you are doing a few reps each time.
3. Open your eyes wide and visualize a large-faced clock with the numbers painted just at the edge of your vision. Start at twelve o’clock and very slowly, without moving your head, move your eyes to one o’clock and on around in a clockwise direction, pausing briefly at each (visualized) number before moving onto the next one. After returning to twelve o’clock, repeat the exercise anticlockwise, moving the eyes from twelve to eleven, and so on.
4. Rolling the head without moving the shoulders is a good exercise for improved vision. This movement relaxes the eyes and reduces deepening wrinkles due to eye strain. Learning to do a loose head roll not only improves the vision by increasing circulation to the optic nerves, but can also relax the entire upper body. Personally I find the head roll very comforting and relaxing – it reminds me of yoga and gymnastics lessons at primary school. Do be aware that it’s best to avoid rolling your head backwards as this has been said to be dangerous (I’m not sure if this is a myth but I avoid it just in case, as I was told it during warm-ups by instructors of five or six different physical activities).
I tried these exercises out last night, and I don’t think I look any younger but the head roll was, as I predicted, very relaxing. The eye exercises made both my eyes ache slightly when I moved my eyes from 1 to 2 and from 11 to 10, so I think that might be an area of muscle weakness that I need to work on.
Virginia also writes:
“In addition to exercises for toning eye muscles, there are additional helps to control the marring of skin tissue by wrinkles, dark circles and frown lines. Learn to express your thought without grimacing. Many people are inclined to punctuate, describe or apologize for the contents of their speech by clown-like expressions.
The face should not be used to explain verbal expression. Well-chosen words will convey your meaning and be more appreciated without distracting facial expressions. Frowns, narrowing of the eyes and other manifestations of uncertainty do not present either a pretty or helpful picture. Use adequate speech and save your face.
That is not to say one should not have any expression at all. But these expressions should be relaxed, and show the more pleasant aspects of one’s personality. Laugh lines seldom seem to distress their owners as much as frown lines or wrinkles caused by squinting or habitually downturned lips. Laugh lines add animation to the face. However, the quick to laugh personality often pays for charm with crinkle lines around the lips.” (Secrets of Natural Beauty, 1972, page 133)
It sort of reads like she’s a slightly bossy teacher at a finishing-school trying to impress upon her charges the importance of understated expressions. I’m not sure I agree with the way she’s written it but the fact still remains that OTT expressions will age your face too soon, and apparently this has been known since at least the early 1970s. One thing I will point out is the women who were in their twenties in the 1960s and 1970s seem to have all stopped ageing around their late forties and early fifties, so they probably know what they’re talking about when it comes to beauty. While I couldn’t find any information on the internet about Virginia Castleton Thomas (and the book sadly appears to be out of print), it does say on the back cover that she was a beauty editor, and the introductory chapter shows that she has done a lot of research to find the beauty formulas she presents in this book, so I think she knows what she’s talking about. I will be writing more about this book, and the recipes for home-made cosmetics, as I try them out.
What do you think of these facial exercises? Would you do them? Let me know in the comments!
In direct contrast to Autumn, Spring as an emotion is a feeling of growth, of change, of refreshment, when I look on the whole world with new eyes. Everything is growing, and the detritus of the old world is consumed by rebirth:
From the Weekly Photo Challenge found here: Seasons I decided this picture best represented Spring as a reflection of the inner landscape.
Today’s video is a hair tutorial showing how to do three classic Lara Croft hairstyles from the video game and film franchise Tomb Raider.
In this video, I show you how I did the original video game bobble braid, how I did the pigtail bobble braids from the first level of Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation (and those Irish levels from Tomb Raider: Chronicles) and how I did the Angelina Jolie French Braid (with my short hair…) from the first film. Which one’s your favourite? I love the French braid in the middle best, and I think the pigtails didn’t suit my angular features at all!
Also after a lot of thought about my longer-term Youtube plan I have decided to drop back to one video a week rather than two, now that my backlog of finished videos have all made it onto Youtube. I had a period of time at the start of the year when I was very active at making videos and I wanted them to all get onto Youtube sooner, so I’ve been updating twice a week since the New Year, but now I’m back to my usual update schedule of one video a week.
I had so much fun doing this video and when I recorded the shower scene at the end I just couldn’t stop giggling, I had to re-take it about 12 times with the shower door open and my tripod half in the bath and my bathroom floor got soaked!! It was one of those “THIS is why I make Youtube videos” moments.
I’ve also changed my update day to Thursday because I think it’s going to work better with the rest of my schedule.
I’ve also stopped embedding my videos onto WordPress because I want to keep track of how many views they’re getting and I can’t tell if anyone’s clicking the play button or not on here; if no-one’s actually watching my videos when I link them on WordPress, there’s probably a better thing I could use a full day’s post for. It’s still one click to get it to play, and it’s still going to take pretty much the same time to load, it’s just now it takes you to Youtube when you click the link so you can do Youtubey things.
When I see other people link their videos in WordPress I always prefer to go to Youtube to watch the video so I can like the video over there and comment on it. Let me know if you preferred it when the videos were embedded in WordPress or whether you like the new system better!
I know I haven’t written a beauty post in a little while but don’t worry, I’ve got some doozys* coming up in the near future that I’m so excited to share with you!!
* What’s the plural here? Is it doozies or doozys? They both look wrong.
As promised, the 2016 edition of Which Easter Eggs Are Vegan (UK and USA): I went to all the supermarkets in my town to see which ones carried dairy-free vegan easter eggs, and which eggs were actually dairy free and vegan, then I checked out Amazon.com to help out my American Vegan and Dairy Free readers too, so there should be something here for most dairy-free people.
Sainsbury’s had an excellent selection of vegan Easter eggs for 2016:
The Moo Free Egg is 100% vegan and available in Sainsbury’s:
This interesting new addition to the range of dairy free vegan eggs is by a brand called Celtic (did they do Scheese??) and is also available in Sainsbury’s:
Longtime entry Caramel Choices Easter Egg by Choices is a very sweet, very tasty dairy free and vegan egg that’s a favourite with children. It tastes like Thornton’s Special Toffee Egg (but vegan) although the chocolate is a little softer. Available at Sainsbury’s. I have three of these ready for Easter, it’s my favourite!
The Choices dairy free vegan chocolate Easter bunny, at £1 each, comes in “milk” chocolate flavour or white chocolate flavour, but is still dairy free and vegan. Available at Sainsbury’s and Tesco:
Sainsbury’s have done their own dairy free and vegan eggs again this year. This one is fantastic (I had one last year) – it’s a vegan white chocolate egg that’s dairy and wheat and gluten free and vegan so it covers all bases. I love white chocolate eggs and there’s so few vegan ones on the market, so this is one of my favourites:
This is the larger of Sainsbury’s two dairy free, gluten free and vegan eggs on offer this year: This one is dark chocolate flavour and comes with little chocolate discs. If you’re a vegan dark chocolate fan this one’s for you.
Moving on to Tesco, who had a very good selection last year, we also have the following dairy free and vegan Easter eggs:
The Tesco Finest 74% Ecuadorian Egg (the one that looks exactly like this with the gold on it) is dairy free and vegan. This egg is quite luxurious and would make an excellent gift for a dairy free or vegan adult who likes dark chocolate, but a child would probably want something a little sweeter:
The Green and Black’s Dark 70% chocolate egg is vegan and dairy free in 2016. Green and Black’s can be very inconsistent with whether they put milk in their food or not. One minute their chocolate is reasonably vegan, then the next minute it’s full of horrible milk, as I’m sure we all know, so don’t rely on this for checking if they’re still vegan in 2017!
The Green and Black’s mint chocolate egg is also dairy free and vegan this year. All the Green and Black’s say “not suitable for milk allergy” but I have an allergy and my only problem is that their chocolate doesn’t taste very nice, it’s never made me ill though:
The Lindt DARK chocolate bunny with the brown ribbon is vegan 2 years in a row! I am most excited about this positive move by Lindt to enable those of us who are dairy free to enjoy their chocolate. Their chocolate is so nice!
The ingredients for the Lindt dark chocolate Easter gold bunny are here:
My local Tesco’s Free From section surprised me two holiday seasons in a row – they didn’t have dairy free and vegan chocolate Advent calendars before Christmas and now they don’t have any Free From dairy free chocolate Easter eggs to choose from, good thing they make up for it with all their vegan dark chocolate egg offerings, but the only vegan Easter chocolate that Tesco sell that children would enjoy is the Lindt gold bunny and the little Choices bunnies, so if you’re shopping for vegan children or children with a milk allergy, Sainsbury’s is far and away the best place to get some proper Free From eggs. Tesco’s selection is better for adults who like dark chocolate, so do check the preferences of your vegan or milk allergy sufferer before assuming they will like something just because it’s dairy free. I think the vegan Kinnerton dairy free egg has been withdrawn this year because nowhere has it on sale and it used to be the most popular one for shops to stock (I’m sort of glad, I’m sick to death of getting that flipping egg from everyone year after year). Morrisons were the most disappointing, for the fifth year in a row, they had absolutely nothing in the vegan or dairy free Easter egg department, not even the Green and Blacks or Lindt ones, and while they’ve expanded their dairy free area of the Free From section recently to move with the times and nearly catch up with… um… every other supermarket in Britain… they still have a long way to go before I can confidently get rid of my car and just use the local Morrisons for my dairy free and vegan shopping.
The Supermarket Shelf Hall Of Shame: NOT VEGAN OR DAIRY FREE:
To follow are a list of eggs that looked like they might be dairy free or vegan but definitely aren’t. Please don’t buy these for someone who doesn’t have milk or milk products:
Cadbury’s also have nothing vegan or dairy free again this year, but I don’t mind too much because I can’t stand their chocolate. The vegan After Eight mint chocolate bunnies we saw last year (that I bought about 5 of at £1 each) also seem to have disappeared this year which is a shame because they were fabulous. If you see them please let me know where in the comments!
Dairy Free And Vegan Eggs on Amazon:
For my American readers, I’ve taken a look through Amazon and come up with a list of the best dairy free vegan Easter eggs available in 2016. There are a couple I excluded because they were too expensive to be even vaguely reasonable for what they were. I was surprised that there wasn’t the vast selection I was expecting:
Moo Free Cheeky Orange Vegan Easter Egg This one is $17.00 (plus $5.99 shipping) so comes in a little on the expensive side but I included it because it’s the only orange flavoured one. This one is dairy free and suitable for vegans.
Cream Veggs Milk Free, Nut Free Vegan Easter Cream Filled Eggs These are $16.95 plus $6 shipping, but you do get 6 eggs so if you’re getting something for a family of vegans, dairy and nut allergy sufferers, or if you want all the kids to have the same as each other, this is a pretty good choice and since they’re cream-filled (I’m assuming dairy free cream, otherwise this is a really stupid item with misleading labelling), it’s something a little different to the usual hollow eggs.
Montezumas Chocolate Dark Choc Bunnies 90g This is a $17.82 (plus $5.99 shipping) 90g pack of 8 mini chocolate bunnies that are dairy free, organic and vegan. Interestingly the description says these are made in West Sussex (UK) but I’ve never heard of them so I don’t think they’re a very big company – perhaps one day these will find their way onto English supermarket shelves too!
If you’re new to veganism or recently been diagnosed with a milk allergy (or recently met someone you’re buying for) you should be aware that these eggs will sell out fast! I have already (time of writing is February 2016) got my Lindt dark chocolate bunny, and am getting my Sainsbury’s eggs this week so I don’t miss out, because Easter is a very special time of year for me and my bunnies, and I totally missed out on Christmas due to being critically ill so I’m looking forward to opening my tasty eggs on Easter day which means getting them early. Please store them in a cool, dry place so they don’t go bad or melt, dairy free chocolate is still chocolate and it will melt in warm temperatures/direct sunlight!
I am an Amazon associate. This article contains affiliate links, which means if you buy from Amazon I get some of their profits. This helps me have time to do the painstaking research that goes into producing this content.
While these eggs are suitable for lactose intolerance, A1 casein intolerance and milk allergy sufferers, as well as most people living a milk-free life, not all of these eggs are suitable for all people whose medical conditions mean they avoid milk, not because they contain milk (they absolutely are 100% vegan except the three clearly labelled in the hall of shame) – but some people also have to avoid all of a specific type of sugar as well e.g. with a disaccharide intolerance. If you want to know more about the seven different types of milk-related allergies and intolerances, see my article here.
This week’s photo challenge is to do with seasons; seasons as a reflection of your inner landscape. I am thinking I’d like to do one for each season, but today I feel Autumn.
Being born in November, I guess I’m more prone to feeling Autumn than most people – the feeling that summer is over and winter is coming, and all you can do is watch as the temperature goes down and the wildlife runs for cover from the blizzards. I think this picture sums it up, as the rabbit stares out at the dwindling stalks of grass:
Here’s where I found the weekly photo challenge: Seasons
My latest Youtube video is here and I also need some photography advice.
Petit bébé lapin “Timmy” joue avec le ballon.
Piccolo coniglietto “Timmy” gioca con la palla.
Whichever language you speak, it’s freaking adorable (also I feel so proud I translated the title and description into French and Italian for Youtube)! Enjoy cute bunny video (sorry about the wobble):
By the way (and this is why I tagged photography, sorry if that’s going to annoy people I promise I don’t usually do this), does anyone have any tips for photographing fast moving objects that startle if you move too close?? Any tips at all even if they seem obvious? I find it hard to get my focus etc sorted before the rabbit moves again and he’s so movable! And when he moves, the light levels change from where he was to where he is, and then I need to change all the settings on my camera by which time he’s moved again! What do other people do?
So, y’know, you could go and listen, or something? 🙂
It’s particularly pertinent today because I’m just getting started on my applications for master’s degrees for the September intake, and I’ve got Robert Gordon University (Aberdeen) and Edinburgh Napier University at the top of my shortlist.
I decided to write a review about the new service that I’m sure everyone with a Bloglovin’ Account has been contacted about recently: Activate By Bloglovin’. Please read this entire post and share it with everyone you know. I was offered the opportunity to participate in Activate by Bloglovin’ but as you will see, all opinions are very definitely my own.
Bloglovin’ is an RSS site where people can follow blogs they like, and it’s not a very good one when compared to others such as Feedly. They recently emailed me about a new venture called Activate by Bloglovin’.
This is used under Fair Use Law 107.
According to the email, Activate by Bloglovin’ is a way to “Monetize Your Influence!”
The whole concept of bloggers being influencers is ludicrous anyway, who exactly are we supposed to be influencing? It’s mostly used as a cover to hide the fact that we are the end consumers in the sales chain (like Avon, Ann Summers and all those other direct multi-level marketing type jobs), and whatever happens after us is immaterial as long as we have spent money on a product. When they ask you to pay postage or give you a “reviewer’s discount” or ask you to write a post for a free item of low value that you wouldn’t have bought for yourself, by the way, you have spent money, because you should have been paid properly for your time and work.
The email I received promised that I could be rewarded for all my hard work writing my blog, and claimed that I would get to write paid posts if I signed up to this new service. I have no interest in writing paid beauty or lifestyle posts, but I have been considering accepting paid travel posts, if such things exist (or starting a new travel blog website that does this), so I decided for the sake of curiosity that I wanted to see what sort of money paid posts paid out, and what sort of things people got paid to write about, and I thought if I’m already signed up with Bloglovin’ (the blog following website) it should be as easy as clicking a button to sign up, take a look at what cross section of the market they’re cornering, with the option to un-sign-up straight after, right? Oh how wrong I was!
I signed up using my Bloglovin’ login and was immediately bombarded with a bunch of forms to fill in which proved that Bloglovin’s new venture doesn’t give a shit about the safety of bloggers or protecting their privacy. No, you don’t need my town AND state AND country. State and country should be good enough for American bloggers, and country should be enough for non-American bloggers. If I’m from Kazakhstan, are you really telling me that any, rare paid post opportunity looking for a Kazakh blogger is going to care which Oblast I’m from?? I find it highly doubtful. This straight away made me wonder what any blogger was actually going to get out of this. You don’t need my full postal address to pay me via Paypal, and who are you giving this information to? Where are your data protection and privacy statement? Why demand this information upfront when 90% of the people using this will never get to write a paid post? It’s unnecessary.
I filled it in with trepidation. I don’t make a huge secret about where I live but at the same time I don’t want it plastered all over the internet. It’s another way of subtly controlling bloggers – if they have all your details, you’re less likely to write something truly controversial because of fear of backlash.
Been there, done that, pretty sure Activate By Bloglovin’s got *nothing* on the tabloids and TV channels that were all over me last June for my incredibly controversial topical article on another website.
So we came to the screen where it wanted to connect to my Twitter, Facebook, Instagram Google Plus and Pinterest accounts. What I didn’t like was the fact that the person who designed these apps made them unnecessarily intrusive, so the “connect your account” (which is actually an app, you’re just not the end user) wanted permission, for example to write posts on your wall/tweets on your timeline/etc. Why did Activate By Bloglovin’ want to take over my social media? Their stated reason was so they could see how many followers I had. As you can see, this whole signup process has “invasion of privacy” and “controlling” plastered all over it.
There is no legitimate, benign reason that an app needs to have that level of control over my social media accounts, and they only do it to hijack my social media and use my followers to broadcast their message. Usually, it’s a fairly inoccuous seeming messsage such as “InvokeDelight just updated her status on ThisApp” but it’s still an unwanted, spammy message that turns my followers off actually engaging with my self-written content. An app can very easily be designed to work properly for the purpose of telling a website your follower count without needing that level of control. The best part? Their Pinterest one can’t even GET your follower count, you have to put that in manually, but they still insist that you connect and give them permission to use your Pinterest account! WTF??
So against all judgement, for the sake of a good review, I connected my Twitter account (tentatively). I have 1140 Twitter followers at the time of writing. Activate By Bloglovin’ was given all the permissions it demanded from me so it could verify how many Twitter followers I have, and somehow it didn’t manage this. It returned that I had no followers. But I did get points for being on Twitter in the first place!
Did I say they score you on a points system?
It’s not based on SEO or number of unique views per day or bounce rate or number of people following your blog by email or anything else that is tangible and useful, that could actually help a brand find a suitable match to advertise their product, it’s based on how many people follow you on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest (of all things), Google Plus and Instagram. Because the bloggers with the most followers in these areas are clearly the ones who “exert the most influence.”
Never mind that people engaging with other people on Social Media do so as equals not as some sort of weird hierarchy where everyone who’s added you is clearly a “follower” and you’re a “leader.” It doesn’t work like that. Otherwise, with my 100% follow back policy, I am being led by my 1140 Twitter followers. Hardly.
Because Activate by Bloglovin’ failed to verify my 1140 Twitter followers (seriously, take a look at my Twitter), and because I decided I could not be bothered to connect other social media platforms that I would only have to disconnect an hour later when I deleted this whole thing (or so I thought), I got told I’d only completed 20% of the profile. That’s right, there isn’t an “I’m not on Facebook” or “I don’t have a Pinterest” button. If you don’t have these exact social media accounts then they penalize your “score.”
So let’s talk about this scoring system. Out of a possible total of 100 points, I scored 6. SIX points. People who can’t spell their own name but who have a Facebook page will come more highly recommended than I will for professional writing services.
How is this score calculated? This screenshot explains it all:
So they basically give you the most social media points from Facebook, the least from Google Plus, and they claim to also use sources such as Alexa and Google Analytics but I don’t genuinely believe that they had any means to do this with the information they had been given (to use Google Analytics, you have to paste code into your site. Alexa doesn’t even verify metrics on WordPress sites which is 60% of all blogs ever).
The bit I found most intriguing was their third measure: “Activate Infuence.” What they mean is, one of the ways they decide how influential you are as a blogger is based on how many Bloglovin’ followers you have. This is delightfully recursive because anyone who was on Bloglovin’ in its early days will have gajillions of followers because it ranks blogs to follow in order of popularity. Anyone who was on Bloglovin’ after the first 1000 bloggers signed up will have a moderate number of followers because they’ll still be visible to really determined readers. Anyone who signed up to Bloglovin’ in the last 12 months will have very few organic follows. If, like me, you’re on WordPress, you will either get WordPress followers or Bloglovin followers, but not both, because why would anyone sign up to get multiple updates for the same freaking blog? Add to that, if you’re on WordPress, you’re more likely to get WordPress followers because many people like the strong follow back culture and the ability to interact with posts quickly and easily on Reader. So Bloglovin’ only works for people who got their foot in the door early, OR who don’t have any other way that someone can get updates for their posts. So if you’re using Blogspot you’re probably sorted for Bloglovin; but then, you can also clutter your pages with Adsense on blogspot so it’s seen as a more commercial venture anyway (let’s not talk about WordPress vs Blogspot, I’m clearly Team WordPress because I run a WordPress site), perhaps this is the target bloggers they’re trying to attract.
So between my followers all using WordPress, Email and RSS to follow me instead of Bloglovin’ because it’s possibly the worst blog-following RSS site in the world (or at least the slowest loading with terrible visibility and functionality), and me not being on Facebook, I scored a measly six points out of 100. Apparently it’s “relative to other bloggers” so as more people sign up to Activate By Bloglovin’ my score will go down. This makes me laugh. A lot.
To break it down, I lost 26% from refusing to connect my other social media apps (BTW, I went to Twitter and deleted “Activate By Bloglovin” app – it’s still claiming it’s connected, I’ve had to report it to Twitter to get rid of it), I lost 32% from having something like 10 followers on Bloglovin’ and I lost the other 33% because their metrics don’t actually work on my site. That dropped me 91 points. The other 3 must be down to the relative weighting they talked about in the screenshot above.
To add insult to injury, they told me I needed to add an “Activate By Bloglovin'” Button to my site. You know, to go with the “Follow Me On Bloglovin'” Button that’s mandatory to “claim” your blog. Given that several weeks ago I deleted my Bloglovin’ button from my website to make it less cluttered (because the clickthrough rate is poor, because Bloglovin’ is clunky and slow), I don’t think the Bloglovin’ corporation likes me very much anyway. Well, the other reason I deleted it is because the Bloglovin’ website is a very flawed system anyway. You see, instead of showing you a random selection of blogs or occasionally showing you a new one that you didn’t see before, they always show them from most popular to least popular – so the popular ones get more popular and the newest ones languish in invisibility. For the stated aim of something like “makes it easier to manage and follow your favourite blogs” I find it isn’t fit for purpose, I use Feedly instead. But instead of fixing what was wrong with Bloglovin’ by speeding it up and adding something like a “stumble” button, they decided to use that very flawed system to make money out of PR companies.
So then I added five categories (which ranged from general such as travel to overly specific such as luxury travel, just to make it more ridiculous because I don’t trust brands to know what they’re looking for in a blogger anyway), and after all that hassle I finally got to the part where I could see what sort of campaigns they offered.
Aside from a campaign to spread the good word about Activate by Bloglovin’ (in which I am not participating, strangely), there was one campaign.
Just the one.
And before anyone says “maybe you didn’t qualify to see the others” this campaign was so woefully inappropriate to my blog that it was very clear it was actually the only campaign on offer. In their defense it was extremely well paid at $500.
It was a campaign requiring “Southern Bloggers” (yeah, the company was so clueless they didn’t seem to understand that every country in the world has a south not just America) and when you clicked on it, they actually wanted bloggers from a handful of specific states to invent recipes using their food. The food in question? Something that you put on pork. As someone with multiple allergies I had to conclude that this Activate By Bloglovin’ is not set up with any kind of respect to the bloggers, it’s designed to boost your ego only so they get more brands working with them. Because if you feel like an influencer, Activate by Bloglovin’ can sell the idea that you’re an influencer and get lots of money from brands paying Bloglovin’ to access their database of “influencers.” As a blogger, you’re just an entry on a list to make the popular bloggers look more popular than they really are. Which was the fatal flaw with Bloglovin’s original purpose. It’s basically a way to monetize Bloglovin’ which is effectively a social pyramid scheme.
Of course Bloglovin’ are the people making all the money out of this. I already knew that. We the bloggers are just the tins of beans on the shelf, the brands with their paid posts are the shoppers, and Activate by Bloglovin’ is trying to get them to spend as much money as possible. They don’t care if you never get a PR campaign. They don’t care if the brands are giving you dangerous products or are asking you to lie and say the advertisement they want you to post is actually a guest post. They don’t even care if the brand ends up spending a lot of money on a blog that no-one reads (but has a lot of likes on their Facebook page) and no-one buys more of their products as a result of the paid post. Activate By Bloglovin’ (and similar companies like Brandbacker, although this review is NOT about Brandbacker who by all accounts are competent) get money from the brands and PR companies to find them some bloggers and that’s it. Which would be fine if they were transparent about that instead of making out they have accurate analytics and only matched the most appropriate bloggers with campaigns which is clearly untrue. It’s like the marketers at Activate by Bloglovin’ read about the concept of a unique selling point and missed the part where they actually need to deliver results in order to get repeat business. With the model they’re using, they just can’t deliver those results to brands. If you’re wondering how to find someone to write a paid post for you, this really isn’t the best way to do it.
As a tin of beans, I demand to be treated with respect, and I dislike having a label all over me telling anyone walking past my full name, where I live, my email’s password (Google Plus, Gmail and Youtube use the same password, I would NEVER authorise a money driven app to get that password), my phone number…. These companies that want you to review their products are just direct marketers (those people who also put leaflets through your door and email you about casinos) with a new audience – you, the blogger. I spend most of my life trying to avoid spam, why would I invite it into my life by giving these people all of my contact details?
What it comes down to is trust. I don’t trust a site that was clunky and slow-loading and whose marketing spiel is packed with distortions aimed at getting brands to spend lots of money on incompetent bloggers. I don’t trust a site that demands my passwords and expects permission to follow, unfollow post and delete posts using my social media account. I don’t trust a site that has turned blogging into a popularity contest and is now trying to monetize that. I don’t trust a site that demands overly specific information about my blogging niche then lets me apply for any old crap. There is nothing in this process that makes monetizing your blog quick, easy or even certain. Not only that, but it’s really only aimed at beauty and lifestyle bloggers anyway, which they could have specified in their email and saved me a lot of time and effort with being predominantly a TRAVEL blogger and wanting to write about TRAVEL. Speaking of which, why is it that you’re allowed to add 5 categories in “Activate By Bloglovin” but in actual “Bloglovin'” where people follow you (oh, I’m sorry, I meant “endorse” you), you are stuck with one category even if you blog about more than one thing?!
The best part of the whole thing is that once you’ve signed up, you can’t un-sign up or delete your account, there literally isn’t an option for this. I’m sort of hoping they’ll read this and delete my Bloglovin’ and Activate by Bloglovin’ accounts so I never have to hear from them again, to be perfectly honest. PR and paid post aggregation companies don’t tend to like people who give genuinely honest reviews.
Which leads me to the conclusion that either Activate By Bloglovin’ is a harmless site that’s just woefully incompetent (like those inexperienced managers at job interviews who still believe that they can make a hiring decision based on whether you accept a drink from them or not), in which case I don’t want to throw my fortune in with them, or they’re collecting highly personal data from bloggers so they can sell it, in which case I REALLY don’t want any part of this. Either way, for me personally it’s an absolute waste of time.
I think I’ll stick with my affiliate links.
This review was written from an email invitation sent by Activate By Bloglovin’. All opinions on this service are, quite obviously, my own.
“To consult the rules of composition before making a picture is a little like consulting the law of gravitation before going for a walk.”
– Edward Weston
These is my easy method for setting up a shot with a DSLR camera, there’s no “rules” here about what should be in the photo itself, because rules are subjective when it comes to photography. I have been ill with man-flu for the past couple of days and am still burning through tissues at a fair rate of knots, so I’m going to keep this article very short and sweet. It’s aimed at people who have just bought their first DSLR and perhaps don’t know how to set up a shot so it comes out really well (without resorting to the automatic settings). Why bother? Because if you take a decent picture on the spot, then you don’t have to waste any time messing around with photo-editing software when you get home:
1. Identify what you want to take a picture of.
2. Find the landscape (if it’s a picture with a landscape). Usually but not always a horizontal line between land and sky. If you have a diagonal landscape e.g. in the Scottish Highlands, set your camera up using the upward lines from buildings. If you have a tripod you can just use its spirit level.
3. Identify light levels and do a test shot (snap a quick pic to check whether it all looks ok).
4. Fix ISO (you want it at the lowest number you can set it to without getting a black photo back).
5. Fix aperture (a low number brightens the picture if it’s too dark, and vice versa).
6. If picture is still too dark, slow down your shutter speed until you get a bright enough picture. 1/8 is the lowest number this should be unless you’re doing a “long exposure” shot. If you’ve got to take it below 1/8 to get a bright enough picture of a non-moving subject, or a landscape, then increase the ISO. If there’s anything moving in the picture, you probably don’t want to go beyond 1/80 shutter speed because the moving object will start to blur; in this case, increase the ISO to get a brighter picture instead.
7. If picture is too bright, increase your shutter speed to darken the picture.
8. Zoom (if your lens does this) if you need to. This might change the aperture as some lenses (my Sigma 18-250mm does this) make the picture noticeably darker as they zoom in on something.
9. Focus using the manual focus ring (or autofocus). On most cameras you need to flip the switch from “AF” to “MF” to manually focus. This switch is generally on the lens.
10. Take at least two pictures just in case one doesn’t come out right. Check the first one in the viewfinder to make sure you’re satisfied, if not, repeat steps 2-10 until you’re happy with the result.
11. If all your pictures are coming out too dark and you’ve tried everything else, increase the ISO as a last resort. I will talk about ISO in more detail in a future article because it’s important to know when NOT to change it.
There are exceptions to all of these rules, and after the first couple of thousand photos, you will start to develop the judgement to know instinctively what to do with your camera in specific situations.
By all accounts, Ludwig II was a mad king. Of course, madness is subjective, but most people agree that it’s a bit off the wall to build yourself a fantastic fairytale castle, then spend your kingdom’s vast fortune to build another one across the way, just so you have something nice to look at from your own, fabulous castle. It’s even more ridiculous to hear that Ludwig II married a girl, then moved her into the other castle. I’m sure that made for interesting sex, sending a messenger on the forty minute walk to ask: “Your castle or mine?” Only to receive a reply, eighty minutes later: “Oh, not tonight darling, I have a headache.” May as well save oneself the effort and grab a villager instead. Perhaps this explains why Hohenschwangau castle (often mistakenly called Hohenschwanstein castle) was quite near to the village of Schwangau and Neuschwanstein castle was way off in the distance. Old Mrs Ludwig II couldn’t exactly complain if she couldn’t see anything that her husband was doing. Perhaps if Henry VIII had adopted this two-castles-on-two-mountainsides approach, he could have saved himself all the nuisance of having to dispose of unwanted wives after the warranty period.
But he didn’t think of it.
In Britain, we never really consider Henry VIII a mad king, perhaps because he knew which end the crown was supposed to go on, and didn’t roam Buckingham Palace in his nightwear, and anyway, when he was compared to Charles I (who was so despotic, he caused the only English civil war) or George III (who figuratively wore his underpants on his head), he gets a free pass. I think it comes down to the fact that, historically, we have tended to respect the institution of marriage a little too much. Henry VIII was married to each of the six women who he wronged, but that’s fine because he married them. If, as a bachelor, he had treated just one of those women properly but not married her, that would have been a scandal. But beheading two wives? That was reasonable, because he was married to them at the time. I think the other reason we don’t remember any of our kings as properly, truly mad (rather than just bloody stupid), is because we’ve never had a proper despot on the throne. Add to that the fact that we still have a monarchy and the Germans don’t, and it’s perhaps easier to see why the Germans embrace the madness of their erstwhile monarchy and open it up for tourists to see at low low prices (Austria’s got the market pretty well cornered on this too, but I’ll come to that in another article).
Ludwig II is suggested to have schizotypal personality disorder for which there is evidence from his autopsy – he died in 1886 under highly mysterious circumstances the day after he was dethroned for extremely paranoid behavior. Fascinatingly, he was claimed to have drowned and it was recorded as a suicide, but he was known to be a good swimmer and there was no water in his lungs. Add to that the further mystery that his psychiatric doctor was with him at the time – and the doctor was found dead with head and neck wounds and markings concurrent with strangulation.
There are plenty of things in Germany which are spectacular, or ludicrous, or despotic, but nothing in Germany is quite as spectacularly, ludicrously, despotically fabulous as the twin castles of Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein. We were so taken by them that we actually went to see them twice.
The drive was painful in both directions due to bad traffic around Munich. We parked in Fussen for a breather and that was when we saw the first of the two castles. I’ve been told by quite a few people that Schloss Hohenschwangau is supposed to be the best one, but Schloss Neuschwanstein was the first one I saw and it captured my imagination far more. It was fit for a princess. It looked like a Disney castle. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a castle that was quite so… well… castley. If someone distilled pure essence of castle and made a castle out of it, Neuschwanstein would be the result. This castle belonged to every Disney Princess who ever lived.
We didn’t go inside either castle because (on the way to Salzburg) by the time we’d fought our way through traffic they were both closed for the day. The same thing happened when we drove here on the way back from Rome, so I’ve not seen first-hand what they look like inside, but when they look like this from the outside, I can’t wait until we actually get to go in. Photography is not allowed inside the castles.
The castles look even better in real life and I think they were well worth the effort of driving here even though we didn’t go inside – I don’t think there’s anything like them to be found side-by-side like this anywhere else in the world.
Make it Happen:
There’s two parts to this – getting to Schwangau and then getting to the actual castles. Once you’re in Schwangau the rest is pretty damn easy (as long as you DON’T mistakenly go to SCHWANAU which is 3 HOURS AWAY from where the fairytale castles are).
Drive straight to Schwangau from your home address – this is what I did, it took two full driving days and one overnight stay in a layby in central Germany to get here after 5pm from the North of England.
By public transport it’s really sketchy, which is why I never got here on my Interrail trip – basically Schwangau is a little bit remote and doesn’t have it’s own train station. There is a direct train from Munich to Fussen which takes 2 hours 6 minutes, then you’re on your own to get to Schwangau (Google says it’s a 45 minute walk or a 12 minute cycle – so if you’re reasonably fit and mobile you can probably walk it in under 30 minutes; it wasn’t far at all by car), but if you’re willing to get a taxi this is another option from Fussen. I can’t find bus info.
Getting to the Castles from Schwangau:
Hohenschwangau is a very easy stroll from the centre of Schwangau.
Neuschwanstein is slightly less accessible, you can take a 45 minute walk if you’re feeling sporty.
The more common option to get to Neuschwanstein is to take the tourist buses (run by private companies) which costs about E2.60 there and back again. I think there’s still some walking involved and the buses are unsuitable for disabled people due to the terrain between where the bus stops and getting into the castle.
The most awesome option by far to get to Neuschwanstein is to take a horse drawn carriage, at E6 there and E3 back again. There is a 15 minute uphill walk from where the carriage drops you off. If you’re feeling especially fancy, you can also ride in a carriage to Hohenschwangau castle for E4.50 there and E2 back again.
Entrance to the two castles on a twin ticket was 9am-6pm (summer) or 10am-4pm (winter) and cost E12 each or E23 for a combined ticket. For more information click here.
Disabled, Wheelchair and Pushchair Access:
You can’t drive to the entrances, the closest parking is in Schwangau village centre which costs about E5, or there’s free parking even further down the hill in two large lay-bys. Neuschwanstein appears to sadly be generally unsuitable for wheelchair users or people with mobility-related disabilities due to its design (although some people have had success getting around, I think this has to be taken as the exception; if you’re planning a trip for a busload of pensioners, you’ll have to give Neuschwanstein a miss, but if you push your own wheelchair and you’ve got someone to help out on the hilly bits, you will be able to get around enough to see some of Neuschwanstein). Pushchairs can get to Neuschwanstein but if you’re not reasonably fit you will be utterly shattered afterwards. If you have an invisible disability such as CFS or MS you may have extreme difficulty with Neuschwanstein because the bus queues are a lot of standing around waiting and the walk is hilly with no real breaks; if you’re having a low-energy day, I’d skip Neuschwanstein and go for Hohenschwangau instead. Hohenschwangau on the other hand appears to be reasonably accessible if you can make it up the much gentler hill to the entrance (but if in doubt, double check this when you buy tickets, because everyone’s level of ability is different) and pushchairs are no problem at Hohenschwangau. Everything I saw of both castles and Schwangau village was hills rather than steps.
For accommodation I strongly suggest you avoid the expensive hotels of Schwangau and instead stay in the beautiful large village of Fussen, as there is much more choice, it’s a bigger town and there’s lots of cheaper options and more amenities. If arriving by train, staying in Fussen will also break up the journey a bit. I found the absolute best selection of accommodation from Booking.com but do book early as it’s a popular but relatively undeveloped area, and when we were travelling to Schwangau/Fussen from Rome, I tried to book us a hotel for 2 days ahead but the cheapest options that were left started at 150 Euros which was out of my price range (this was September prices). By contrast, there are currently options for mid-August available starting at £43 for two people, which is obviously a significant saving. By comparison, for the same example date (12-13th August) hotels in Schwangau start at £93 per night for mid-August if you book now.
Has anyone else been to see these fabulous castles? Let me know what you thought in the comments.
This article contains affiliate links, it doesn’t affect the prices you pay for anything, and if you choose to book accommodation from links on this page it just means I can buy food and petrol and all that lovely stuff (which gives me more time to write articles like this one).