Demystifying Photoshop with Blogshop

Bri, me, and Angela at the end of the Blogshop weekend.

Two weekends ago, I trekked to Curtain Road Studios in Shoreditch with 25 other bloggers, or to-be bloggers, to learn Photoshop skills from the ladies at Blogshop. The weather outside was dreary and wet, but the atmosphere inside was warm and welcoming.

Blogshop is an instensive weekend workshop for bloggers and anyone else interested in learning Photoshop skills–fast. Graphic designer and blogger Bri Emery of Designlovefest and photographer Angela Kohler (Angela and Ithyle) were our fearless leaders for the weekend. These ladies wasted no time getting us started.

Before the workshop, I had very limited experience using Photoshop. I used it back in 2001 when I was an editor for my college newspaper, and did the layouts for each issue, but that was ages ago, and Photoshop has changed a lot since then. Also, I had no real experience producing visual media for the Internet. I always enjoyed working on the newspaper layout, and I thought Blogshop would be a great way to learn some new skills, and hopefully improve the visual components of California Love Letters.

All the skills I learned over the weekend will come in super handy in the future. By the end of the first day, we learned how to make templates for recurring features on our blogs (Instagram round-ups, perhaps?). That is some seriously handy stuff, and really was the kind of stuff I was hoping to learn so I can roll out some new features in the future. I had the ideas, but didn’t know how to implement them visually–but now I do! Thanks, ladies!

Not only did we learn how create templates, add text and handwriting to photos, but we also learned how to do some more complicated things like retouching photos. I don’t know how much retouching I’ll do on photos myself, but the fact that I can elminate some of the imperfections in my skin, and the scars from where my Hickman line was placed is quite cool.

Probably one of the handiest skills for bloggers that we learned was how to create our own mood boards. I’d long wondered how people managed to put these things together, and I was surprised to learn how easy it actually is to create these. Seriously. Cool. Stuff.

Interested in taking your blog visually to the next level? Have you wanted to learn Photoshop? Have a look at Blogshop’s website to see if there is a workshop near you! Trust me, you won’t be disappointed by all the awesome you will learn.

Ooh, and I almost forgot, we learned how to make animated gifs, too! Enjoy!


Mood board items: 1) Dress by Comptior des Cotonniers; 2) Sunglasses from Topshop; 3) Necklace from Accessorize; 4) Sandals from Office; 5) Belt from Forever 21.

Blogger Business Cards

My new business cards arrived today!

Now that my new blog is up and running, it was time for me to work on some additional collateral to support my new site. First up were business cards. One of the big takeaways from The Blogcademy was the importance of business cards because, “you never know who you might meet.” I’d been hemming and hawing over designs for the past few weeks before finally settling on a super-simple minicard design.

The cards I used at The Blogcademy.

I didn’t have any business cards prior to Blogcademy, but it was suggested everyone bring some along to the workshop. I panicked a bit because I didn’t have long before the workshop, and I knew I wouldn’t be using Becoming British much longer. So I decided to go the homemade route. My cards were a bit lack-luster. I did a bit of searching on the Internet to figure out what I should put on my cards, and came across this guide to blogger business cards on Mom Comm. After seeing some of the cards in her showcase, I was a bit shocked–how the hell am I going to create super-awesome business cards? As you can tell, mine weren’t super-awesome, but they did the job, and they were actually on-brand.

I originally thought about going with double-sided full-size cards, but was having trouble coming up with a design that I thought suited California Love Letters’ brand. I was poking round, and was intrigued by their minicards. I played around a bit using just my header logo on one side, and putting my details on the other. I thought it was better than other designs I’d thought of, but didn’t quite look complete for me. I saw the option for changing the background color of the detail side, and then it popped.

Moo is fantastic. The prices are reasonable, there is loads of choice in cards (sizes, paper type, gloss or no gloss, etc.), and they are super fast. I wanted my cards for the upcoming Blogshop workshop in London this weekend (which I’m super stoked about, by the way). Minicards start at £16.13 ($23.24 in the US) for standard printing and delivery (via Royal Mail or US Postal Service), but they have plenty of options of quick printing and delivery if you’re in a pinch. I’m really happy with how these turned out, and pretty excited that I will be fully prepared for the weekend; you never know who I might meet!


Five Reasons I’m Excited about March

A view of the Golden Gate Bridge from Twin Peaks in San Francisco.

Spring is just around the corner, and I am stoked. Here’s a short list of what’s getting me excited this month:

  1. Darren and I are going to California!

    This is just a visit to make sure that we are absolutely certain that moving is what we want to do. After a few disasters in our flat’s building this month, we can hardly think of a reason not to start running for California now, but you know, we don’t want to rush into things, and make rash decisions!

  2. Sigor Ros at the Brixton Academy

    OK, so this Icelandic band may not be your thing, but Darren and I went to one of their concerts at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley, CA in 2008, and it was amazing. Seriously, it was one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to in my life–and I’ve been to a number of great ones.

  3. Blogcademy meet-up in Cambridge

    I’ve taken pretty much every opportunity to surround myself with the sparkly Blogcademy graduates (chocolate meet-ups, dinners in Central London, etc.). Seeing my fellow Blogcadette’s blogs evolve, is inspiring, but hanging out with them is an entirely different matter. It’s a pity that Blogcademy came along so late in my stay in London–it’s been a fantastic opportunity to make new friends!

  4. Easter!

    Not only does this holiday come with a four-day weekend in Britain, but my trip to California is timed such that I will be able to pick up my most favorite Easter candy while I’m in America. Does anyone else think Easter has the best candy? Last year I stocked up on coconut Hersey’s Kisses, and had my parents bring me some Whopper Eggs when they came over last April (how I forgot these the when I was there in the US last March is beyond me). I am looking forward to that sugar high in a few weeks time!

  5. Daylight saving time begins

    Right, so losing an hour of sleep is most definitely not something to get excited about, but that extra hour of daylight gained is totally worth the excitement. If the weather hasn’t already improved by then, the fact that it will still be light at 7:30 p.m. will make things more bearable.

Are you excited about anything happening in March? Tell me in the comments!

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A Love Letter to California

Darren and I busy beavering away on my new site.

Welcome to California Love Letters! This is the new home for my blog, and will completely replace Becoming British, so please, please, please bookmark and/or update your RSS feed with this site!

After The Blogcademy, I’d been inspired to really rethink my blog–design, content, everything, really. I’d been churning ideas over in my head for a number of weeks, and inspiration finally struck this past Thursday: why not make my blog a love letter to my favorite place in the world (or at least my favorite place in America)?

Switching from Blogger to WordPress was a bit daunting at first, but once I’d decided upon a theme that served as a good skeleton, my husband, Darren, and I got stuck in to make it my own. In true nerd fashion, we both had [probably too much] fun trying to figure out how php and css work, and I am truly proud of what we’ve accomplished. Darren, I cannot thank you enough!!!

You’ll still be able to find the posts from my Blogger site here, and of course, I’ll be adding new bits as I go along.

Let me know what you think of the new design. I’d love to hear from you!

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Be Inspired: The Blogcademy in Review

Me with the headmistresses! Kat Williams, me, Shauna Haider and Gala Darling. Photo courtesy Lesley Burdett Taylor, Infinity Photographic.

I attended The Blogcademy just over a week ago, and my head has been swirling with inspiration ever since. The Blogcademy is a strategy-based workshop to help bloggers find inspiration, refine their online brand, learn how to make money through blogging, and network with other like-minded individuals who are passionate about blogging. As I said, the entire experience kind of blew my mind.

I’d always wanted to take my blog to the next level–increase readership, and perhaps make my blog a way of marketing “brand me” to the greater world so I could find a job I truly love. The Blogcademy gave me so many ways to achieve both these objectives and so much more.

The first day of the workshop focused on getting “blogcadettes,” as we’ve dubbed ourselves, inspired and thinking about regular features which could be posted to our blogs. There was a section on blog monetization, the importance of social media, and a discussion about how to do a brand-audit to make sure your online brand is conveyed consistently across the Internet. I think most of us left at the end of the day overwhelmed by all the amazing, new ideas we’d gotten in day one alone.

Day two was equally good. There were more in-depth discussions about diversifying a blog’s income sources, how to build a new brand, or go about rebranding an existing one, and a section on photography. I think the most interesting part of day two for me was learning how to build a brand from scratch. I’ve been thinking for a few months now about the direction I’d like to take my blog, and what kind of design I’d like my blog to have which will clearly convey my blogging brand. It’s still a work in progress, but I definitely learned a few things which will help me focus and hopefully relaunch my blog in the coming months.

There was a bit of technical talk throughout the two days–talk of which blogging platforms are best, etc.–but most of the information was really around strategy and how to turn a blog into a business of sorts.

Perhaps the best part of The Blogcademy, however, were all the chances we had over the two days to connect to fellow bloggers and the headmistresses (Gala Darling, Shauna Haider and Kat Williams). There is such great value in being able to bounce ideas off fellow bloggers, and discuss in detail plans for taking your blogging to the next level. And the headmistresses were available during all the breaks to ask questions, which was absolutely brilliant. The Blogcademy community for the London sessions was so enthusiastic that we’ve already tentatively planned a day out in Cambridge for April.

The venue was beautifully decorated, and totally on-brand.

These were the key takeaways I had from the two-day workshop:

  • I need to seek out and follow more blogs I find interesting. It’s a great way to get inspiration and learn more about what types of blogs/posts you like to read, and what types of blogs/posts you don’t like, and hence, will avoid in your own blog.
  • I need to make more of an effort to gather “inspiration items” to help develop my brand. One of the quotes we were given during The Blogcademy was from Jonas Peterson, “You will never find your style. Style will find you.” Maybe the same goes for branding, but I think the best way to formulate style is to gather inspiration and follow it.
  • I need think about my blog’s content and direction–where do I want to go/what do I want to achieve? This has not been a small task for me. I’ve been racking my brain for the past week thinking about where exactly I want this blog to go, and what I hope to achieve. It’s taken a bit of soul-searching, but I think I’m getting ever closer.
  • Social media is important. Social media can be what makes or breaks you brand, and for many bloggers, is what directs traffic to their blogs. Being active, sharing content that is not just your own, and conveying a consistent message across all social media outlets is super important. Not only that, but I think being true to yourself is important. If you put up a front, people will catch on, and your brand could be tarnished forever.

If you have a blog, and are interested in taking your blogging the next level, or even if you don’t have a blog and are looking for some inspiration to get started, check out The Blogcademy–the ever-amazing headmistresses could be in a city near you soon!

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The Blogcademy is Almost Here!

Tomorrow is the second of The Blogcademy workshops being held in London, and I am super excited to be part of it. I booked on a bit of a whim after accidentally (a happy accident!) coming across Gala Darling‘s blog via BitchBuzz (RIP), and thought it sounded like a fab way to give myself the kick up the arse I need to take my blog to the next level.

Blogcademy is a two-day workshop focusing on all things blog-tastic: strategy, branding (which I’m especially looking forward to), inspiration and more. I’ve also heard promises of sparkles, cupcakes, and excellent goodie bags in addition to all the great information that will be shared by headmistresses Gala Darling, Kat Williams (Rock n Roll Bride) and Shauna Haider (Nubby Twiglet).

I’ve got my business cards printed, my bag is mostly packed, and I am ready for tomorrow. Now I just hope I can get enough sleep tonight to keep me going!

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Five Reasons I’m Excited about 2013

One of many lovely vistas in San Francisco on a sunny day.
1. I’m moving back to California come Hell or high water, earthquakes or wildfires

This has been a long time coming. I’ve been unsettled in London for most of the time I’ve lived here, and have decided upon returning from my most recent trip to America that I do not need to deal with this anymore. Maybe it’s homesickness, or maybe my heart never left (the reason I like to believe). Often shrouded in fog, and surprisingly chilly in summer, San Francisco is my favorite city in America, if not the world. It’s absolutely gorgeous in the sunshine (if you find yourself there on a sunny day, admire the views from Twin Peaks or Buena Vista Park), is awesomely diverse, and has some of the best shopping and food the West Coast has to offer.

San Francisco isn’t my only draw back to the Bay Area. I loved driving in the hills surrounding the bay, going to the beaches (even if they were a bit foggy and cold sometimes!) driving along Highway 1, and drinking in all the amazing scenery (and wine) the area had to offer.

I’ve only been back once since I moved to London, but it’s the only place that’s felt like home in the past three years.

2. I am going to find a job/career about which I am truly passionate

I have been in a rut. While moving to London to work was an amazing opportunity, the mistake I ultimately made was making a completely lateral move that offered no significant opportunities to challenge myself and really push me out of my comfort zone. By which I mean, my job was almost the same, but working with a European team rather than an American team. Hence, I’ve been in a rut.

Over the past few months, I’ve been chatting with colleagues, and networking in attempts to find a new job here in London. That, in itself, has been challenging, but also a bit suffocating. Yes, the people I’ve talked to have been lovely, especially the colleagues who have suggested exercises to structure my job search, but as an expat on a Tier 2 visa, I’m limited to looking for jobs within my current company. Opportunities in Europe are few and far between, and those that do exist either don’t match my interests, or I don’t fit the qualifications. It’s quite unfortunate, really as I am truly excited about the tech industry and what it has to offer, and I really felt I could have picked up some excellent experience and skills more quickly if I stayed in London.

I know that there is still a long road ahead to achieving this, but I do hope that moving to back to America, reconnecting with former colleagues and friends, and getting back to Silicon Valley will help me find something that ticks all the boxes.

3. This blog is getting a makeover!

Before I went back to the US for Thanksgiving, I was surfing the Internet, and came across what I thought would be an amazing opportunity: to attend one of the Blogcademy workshops in London. In early November 2012, I attended a professional development workshop, the Women in Business Superconference, and found it really motivating and inspiring. It was a group of about 100 women networking, learning strategies to improve networking skills (I’m looking forward to trying my 60-Second pitch at the Blogcademy), finding new opportunities internally, and generally moves to boost one’s career.

I’m hoping Blogcademy will be equally inspiring, and will finally give me the tools and motivation I need to take my blog more seriously. Blogcademy was set up by Gala Darling, Kat Williams (Rock n Roll Bride) and Sauna Haider (Nubby Twiglet)–each truly talented in their respective fields–to inspire bloggers, increase readership and develop a blogging brand among other things. All are elements I’m interested in and excited to learn about in the next few weeks.

In excitement and anticipation, I’ve already set a goal to post at least once a week, and I’ve got ideas for a blog redesign and content overhaul in the coming months–writing about expat life after I’ve moved back to the US might be a bit silly. Hell, if this all goes swimmingly, I might achieve that dream of finding a job I love, or using new skills to find a job I love!

4. Europe is my oyster, and I plan on seeing more of it before I leave

While moving back to California doesn’t mean that I will no longer venture this side of the Atlantic, it does mean it will be a bit trickier to plan trips to other countries and cities here. Even though the year has just begun, I’m already heading to Dublin next weekend, hopefully to Edinburgh in February and Prague anytime between now and my move back to America.

The first year I was in London, I was incredibly cash-strapped. I had my suitcases packed to the brim, enough money in my US bank account to get me by for a month, and just enough money to cover my expenses after that. It was rough, and meant that I was limited in travel options. However, I did manage to visit my husband when he was working at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland, Amsterdam (I still don’t know what all the fuss is about) and Brussels, Belgium (for work, but ended up being good fun as I was there over a warm, sunny weekend). The second year here, I ended up falling terribly ill, and this past year felt I’d spent enough money on a wedding and had ventured to Australia for the honeymoon (not to mention this past summer was the one to be in London).

Excuses for previous years aside, I will see more of Europe before I move to America.

5. I’m going to become a “badass mother who don’t take no crap off of nobody”

The last few years, and the last year especially, have been a real chink in my armor. Before I moved to London, I saw myself as quite confident and self-assured. But over the last year, I’ve really felt my confidence wain. Maybe it’s because I’m not nearly as fashionable as the other girls walking down the high street, or maybe it’s because I’ve been looking for a job for months with no success, but I don’t feel I have the confidence I once had, and as a result, I’ve become less and less happy with my life.

So this year it ends. I think one massive change that will make a difference is getting back to California where I hope I can reconnect with friends and former colleagues. One thing that’s made London incredibly difficult for me is how difficult it is to make new friends here. The best chance most expats have at making new friends is befriending fellow expats, but as it’s an ever-changing community, one quickly finds all her friends are gone in the blink of an eye.

Another way I’m attacking confidence issues is to continue giving my wardrobe an overhaul. London is most definitely a fashion city, and I’ve felt pretty out of place for a long time. After being well and outgrowing must of my old clothes, I decided it was time to start dressing more like the woman I want to be, but still being true to myself. I’ve not gotten too far in this mission, and after spending many consecutive weekends on Oxford Street, Chelsea high street and in Westfield White City, I decided it was time for a break (not to mention that shopping areas are mad between mid-November to early February).

Really, this one is all about restoring my confidence and remembering, I AM a “badass mother who don’t take no crap off of nobody!”

If you’ve not seen Cool Runnings, you should–it’s totally badass.
So that’s it–five reasons why I’m excited for 2013. Anyone else excited for the year ahead?