Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Photo A Day #160 Virginia Part 3

Hot Springs, Virginia. This was supposed to be one of the special 'treats' of this trip. I booked this hotel whilst back in Australia after seeing it on a hotel 'deal' website and thought how cool it would be to stay in a hotel that was founded in 1766. That's older than the European colonization of Australia people! The hotel had some great facilities including a movie theatre, bowling alley and indoor pool fed from the natural hot springs from which the town gets it's name. This is a glimpse of the grounds:

Above is a part of the 'town' of Hot Springs. In all honesty, I'm not sure if I've seen a smaller town! If you removed the hotel and it's associated facilities, the town consisted of a fire station, a (great) diner, a convenience store... and that's about it. I loved the town. The hotel was my first experience of the ugly class system that I'd heard so much about in America, but had never witnessed first hand. Unfortunately we managed to stay in the hotel on the night of a Democratic Caucus event. If you believe the media, the democrats are left-wing hippies. What I witnessed was something different, and completely apart from political leanings. Walking into the hotel, I was having trouble finding reception (it is absolutely enormous) After walking for about 1/2 a mile, I decided to go inside the building to find a phone. I saw two men wearing lanyards, which to me, indicated that they were security clearance cards for staff. I politely asked them if they worked in the hotel and was greeted with the filthiest sneer I have ever encountered and a hissing "no!" as they stormed away. ohhh-kay. I found a phone and managed to get directions to the front desk (turns out the 'carpark' sign I followed was not for the real carpark, just the spare one - stupid me)

We checked in under the scrutinizing gaze of desk staff and guests alike (we found out afterwards that one was not to be inside the lobby unless they were in 'resort-wear' which unfortunately, we don't own and was not warned about beforehand. We were dressed well in collared shirts and suit jackets, apparently that was offensive) The man that checked us in was very friendly and eager to show us pictures of his musician cousin, but was told abruptly to wrap it up (we were the only people checking in) by his supervisor. As we left, another colleague asked him how much he just made. How crass.

By this time I was feeling a bit uncomfortable, but as we made our way back to our room, we smiled at people we passed and in general, people averted their eyes. C even threw out a few howdies and how are you's which were met with silence.

We got to our room and I studied the activities schedule. We wanted to go bowling, and since no bookings were allowed, we decided to mosey on over and try it out. We entered the half-full bowling alley and were immediately asked if we were with 'the caucus' I stupidly said that we weren't, and we were turned away. Apparently all activities were reserved exclusively for them. I was beginning to lose my shit right about then, and C decided we should head into town to try and get dinner, and forget the posh restaurant in the hotel. I am so glad we did. The diner had some really lovely ladies working there, and the decor was Elvis themed! There was glittery red diner booths and amateur paintings of Elvis doing his best come-hither pose scattered amongst memorabilia. And a great jukebox that we played whatever music we wanted (I chose Patsy Cline singing about losing her mind) It didn't matter that the only vegetables were deep-fried mushrooms. We chatted to the waitress about the folk up on the hill and she told us about her son who was off fighting in a war in Afghanistan, while the people engaged in the decision making that sent him there were up riding hay carts and learning the art of falconry. You could see the struggles of her life in the lines around her eyes and despite this, she was a kind and genuine woman, unlike the people we had just encountered up the hill.

Full of resolve, we returned to our room and I donned my Marching Band hat that I'd purchased in Richmond. We sat quietly in the grounds with our feet in the hot spring and watched the fireflies. We watched the children playing with the fireflies and wondered if they would become like their parents. I suppose my judgement sounds quite harsh from the few anecdotes I've written here, but honestly, I have never in my life witnessed nor experienced the level of superficial judgement that I did at this place. I was made to feel inferior and worthless in almost every interaction. Later that night, around midnight, there was a almighty thunderstorm. I LOVE thunderstorms. It was earth-shaking in it's intensity and I was enjoying the show, until with one ear-splitting crack, the entire town's power supply was cut.

Here we were, inside this Shining-esque vast hotel, which operated with electronic keys, a phone with a dead battery, and no torch. The only light source was a tiny red dot on the ceiling (the battery-operated smoke detector) and the irregular sharp flashes of lightning. I have to admit, I got scared. Scared of the lightning starting a forest fire. Scared of being trapped in our room. If you've ever been in complete darkness (no moon, stars or anything, I mean, underground darkness, the type where you cannot see your hand in front of your face) you'll know how oppressive it is. Everything closes in around you and you feel trapped. I am laying in the bed, contemplating my fear and claustrophobia for hours. I want to leave the room to make sure we are safe, but I'm scared I won't be able to find my way through the miles of hallways, and perhaps not be able to get into our room again (with the electric key) C, who is soundly asleep all this time, rolls over and says, "are you thinking about all those politicians out there in the hallway cannibalizing each other in a zombie apocalypse?" It's like he read my mind.

The next day, it was as though nothing happened. No explanation about the power loss. I decided that one way or another, I was going to take some advantage of the facilities. So I swam a few laps in the hot spring pool. It was not well looked after, but gosh-darnit, I had a good swim! I hadn't slept a wink, and was looking forward to our next night's sleep, which was around 5 hours drive away. Time to get moving! Little did we know, we were about to spend the night in a hotel that could have been right out of the imagination of Jim Henson!


Guest Post - Lindsay from The Lovely Things Are

Hi there Kitty and Buck readers, I could NOT be more thrilled to be guest posting here today! Thanks so much for sharing your little nook with me, Shell :)

So for those of you who dont know me, my name is Lindsay and I blog over at The Lovely Things Are! I'm Texas born and raised, but spend most of my year going to school for Strategic Communication (don't be fooled by this weird name, it's just a fancy word for advertising) and hope to be an art director at an ad agency in the future! Or a graphic designer... Or maybe an author... Or maybe I'll just marry rich? (Just kidding... I think.) Oh who knows, but I think I'll start with that whole ad agency idea. I only have a year left at school before I do the whole real world thing, which is awesome and scary at the same time.

I'm still pretty new to the blogging world and just trying to find my perfect little place on the internet. I've wanted a blog for ages and had plenty of failed attempts before I finally started TLTA. My biggest problem is I wasn't really sure what to blog about. I would blog without any aim or goal and never get anywhere or even have much fun doing it. Plenty of bloggers have posted about having this exact same problem, so today I wanted to share a little bit about what I'm doing differently with TLTA: Brand Positioning.

Sorry to go throwing out an advertising term, but it's one of the keys to success for any business, and therefore a blog as well. Brand Positioning is about declaring a brand for your blog and giving it a focus. You might look at it as a mission statement with a pre-set format. Your Brand Positioning Statement isn't necessarily a rule when it comes to your blog, but more like a guideline. Since it has a pre-set format, you are only making three decisions. To the highly indecisive this may sounds like a nightmare, but you'd be surprised how easy and obvious some decisions will be! So sit back with a notebook, pen, and nice cup of coffee so we can start branding your blog!

First, decide who is your target audience? Who are you writing to every time you start typing up your blog post? Some people make blogs with their friends and families in mind, and some people are trying to target the people that would buy from their business. Others are just blogging for the randoms, but even in the randoms we can narrow this down. For example The Lovely Things Are is a blog that targets women that are generally between the ages of 18 and 35 who enjoy pretty things and have a passion for life. This tells me what content I should include or not include and what language I should be using to speak to my wonderful readers. The better you know your readers, the better they will get to know you.

Next, it's time to decide what category or industry are you competing in? I know blogs aren't a competition, but if you don't know where you fit your readers won't either. For some people, picking a niche is a seriously easy choice. Blog about baking or cooking can just fit under the category of food blogs and a blog with mostly DIY is clearly a crafty blog. What about blogs like mine with a wide range of topics? These are challenging to decide but an umbrella category that I think would fit best with my blog would be lifestyle. This is a really important part of figuring out how to keep your blog focused and would suggest taking a bit of time to brainstorm what word you use to define your blog. If you look through your posts and can't find one to two words or a phrase that ties them together, it's time to decide what's most important to you in your blog. This doesn't mean you can't blog about unrelated things, but when you do you'll probably find yourself tying it back to your blogs theme or just throwing out that it's an exception.

Lastly, ask yourself what makes your blog different or special? Why do readers want to come back to your blog? Is it because your blog is genuine and authentic? Do you offer a lot of advice on your industry, give a behind the scenes looks of it, or are you an expert? What I try to do to make TLTA a little more special than just a lifestyle blog, is making sure that I stay focused on all the lovely things in this world that surround us and try to better myself through them.

Now, we can put it all together into one big mission statement:
To target audience, (Blog Name) is 
the category/industry that speciality/point of difference.

For a full example, The Lovely Things Are's brand positioning:
“To 18-35 year old women who enjoy pretty things and have a passion for life, The Lovely Things Are is a lifestyle blog that shares all the lovely things in this world that surround us and tries to better ourselves through them.”

Spend a little time making lists for these categories and see what your blog's mission turns out to be! I hope this little view into the mind of how an ad-woman thinks is helpful in giving your blogs a little direction in the future. 

Thanks again Shell for letting me share a little of what I've been learning with your readers!

Photo A Day #159 Draw Your Own Book Cover

I don't like to be negative here, but I do like to be honest. So... here goes. I had an awful day today. I won't go into details but lets just say it involved a tearful call to C from work. Nuff said. So when I got home, he had a little surprise for me. I'm not one to advocate presents for cheering up, but this was really thoughtful. Firstly, there was a nice dinner waiting for me once I got home from the gym (mushroom fritatta in case you're wondering) Secondly, I was presented with this book:

Apparently the cover wasn't so crash hot and it was the only edition they had available in store, so C covered it in brown paper, with some pretty details inside, and it's my job to draw my own cover!

So I'm going to read all about Tom Sawyer an Huck Finn (I have never read these!!) and consider our discussion today. Perhaps it is time to make a polka dot bindle and be good old-fashioned hobos (adventurers) on the road together ;)


Monday, July 30, 2012

Meet my July Sponsors

Wow, July has flown by. I've had a lovely group of sponsors for this month, and I'm really pleased to introduce you properly to them all. Oh and I asked a couple of questions to each sponsor as well, just so you can get to know them even a teensy bit better..

What's your favorite holiday destination and activity?

Are you an early bird or a night owl?

Grab a cup of tea, a cookie, a cushion and snuggle down, you've got some great sites to visit, right about now!

Miss Evil Kitty reworks vintage beads and modern beads into everyday ware for women of all ages, We love romantic and whimsical, noir, old Hollywood and nature. And most of the time I’m able to mix all of them into small series or are one of a kind jewellery and accessories.

 I would love to be in Mexico during dia de los muertos. Its a Holiday my family doesn't celebrate.

Am bit of both. I tend to stay up late and look for supplies for my jewellery and accessories.

web // shop // twitter
Jolly Good is run by me, Helen, from the corner of my bedroom in not so sunny Scotland. I make fun jewellery, accessories and illustrations and I especially love creating items that mix my love of jewellery with my passion for doodling. I also run the Jolly Good blog, where I show my work, share inspirations and generally witter own about things I get up to. Until the end of July, get 15% in the Jolly Good shop with the code KITTYANDBUCK

This is a tricky question, there are so many places I'd like to go and things I'd like to do that it's hard to pick just one. I'd love to go to Norway and stay in an Ice Hotel. I hate being cold but they just look so magical.

I am definitely more of a night owl. It's hard to get any sense out of me in the mornings, nevermind anything creative so later in the day is always more productive. Most of my Jolly Good creations are made in the evenings, once I finish my days job, or at the weekends.

Hello! My name is Chloe and I blog over on Lazy Explorers. There, I share with you my inspirations, outfits, crafts and DIY, and adventures. Stop by and say hello!

Dream destination: London! I would love to visit all the shops and ride a double-decker bus!

As of lately I have been a night owl, but as soon as the fall semester begins I will once again be an early bird!

hey! I'm Polly and i blog over at this enchanted pixie. I'm a full time crafty mama to three home-schooled girls, living in the hills and valleys of North Wales. I blog daily about our life, my crafts and a little inspiration. i also design and make bohemian jewellery which i sell in my shop of the same name!

My dream holiday destination would be to visit Morocco and explore all it has to offer!

Definitely a night owl.... thankfully my kiddos are the same!

Swonderful Boutique is a cute & sassy boutique store in Wellington, NZ- the coolest little capital in the world! Swonderful is owned by Mother / daughter duo Ginny & Frances. Ginny & Frances design & make about 60% of the stock in their cute shop under their label Papercup. Papercup specializes in vintage inspired frocks & skirts but the ladies also design printed tees and totes which are all made locally in Wellington. Swonderful Boutique aims to embrace local, independent & emerging designers but most of all they aim to have fun doing what they love!

(Ginny) My dream destination is the great American road trip (much like you have done Shell!) I would love to pack up my 16 month old daughter & boyfriend and travel coast to coast in a caravan sampling vegan treats and culture along the way...

(Ginny) I am a night owl! I really struggle with mornings, having a baby has not made this any easier- everyday is a battle. However I usually get a burst of creative energy at night & could happily stay up working. I am in the process of training myself out of these habits!

Hello!  I'm Jessie from My Mod Style.  My blog used to only focus on Interior Design, but I have branched out to so much more over the years.  I love sharing bits of my life with my readers and things that I am passionate about.  I love inspiring people and making them smile.  Some of my interests and blog topics are saving whales, animals, being vegan, the environment, thrifting, fashion, photography, decorating, my travels and just whatever else I feel like at the moment.  Isn't that what is great about blogging?  You get to be you!  I love connecting with people who have the same interests and passions as I do.  I believe in living life to the fullest and making the most out of everyday.  Please come by my blog and say hello.

The list grows longer and longer everyday.  I will say that going to Disney World is very fun!  I have gone twice, not counting when I was a small child.  My husband and I are going again this September!  If someone asked me today, what one place I would go in the world, it would probably be Antarctica.  Sound crazy?  I am a huge fan of the Sea Shepherds and watch the TV show Whale Wars.  I see the footage of Antarctica on television and it just looks breath taking.  Especially when a huge whale jumps out of the water!  Beautiful.  I would love to feel that connection with nature out there in the middle of the ocean.

I have become an early bird in my old age! HA!  I used to be able to stay up all night long.  Those days are long gone.  Since my husband is in the military he has to get up early everyday.  Which means I also get up early and have gotten used to it.  On the weekend we even get up around 5:00 am!  It's horrible.  I don't even know what sleeping in is anymore.  I will say though, I look forward to that first cup of coffee every morning!

Hi there Kitty and Buck readers! My name is Lindsay and I blog on The Lovely Things Are. The Lovely Things Are is a blog that shares my life as a college student just trying to figure out what I want from this life. I focus on what all the lovely things are in my life and how I can use them to better myself and stay motivated! Life is a wonderful thing that should not be wasted, so I hope you'll stop by and join me on my little bloggy's journey!

 Actually it is probably visiting Australia and New Zealand! I would love to spend time on the beaches there, but most of all I want to see kangaroos, cheesy I know. I'll actually finally get to fulfill this dream over my Christmas holiday :)

A night owl without a doubt. I am the crankiest morning person I know and somehow seem to get MUCH more done at 3:00 in the morning. I've been that way since I was an infant according to my parents!

blog // shop // twitter
Hello! I'm Anne and I am a dutch illustrator and catlady! My blog is about my day to day life, which is mostly my illustration work and the nature surrounding my house, but I might throw some taxidermy, films, cats, thriftfinds, crafts, recipes and handsewn clothing in there too!

 I'm really bad at traveling. I get homesick very easily and can not stand to be away from home for more than a few days. But there is one place in the world I really didn't want to leave when I visited; New York. I was in New York for 10 whole days and I could have stayed there a whole lot longer. I would just wander around the streets, buy cheap books, drink coffee in shabby diners and visit art galleries.

Early bird, for sure! I love waking up early, mostly because of the smell and sounds of being outside in the morning. But also because I have the most energy and get a lot of things done!

Uptights, limited edition quirkily elegant leggings and skirts, designed and individually handmade in Australia (with love) in my Sydney based studio. Ideal for yoga, office work, sun worship, theatre going, character flaunting and all things in between. Uptights focuses on designing uniquely inspiring prints which extend the realms of reality into kaleidoscope birds, pac-man grandpa pajamas and floating green eyed cats, to name just a few.

 Travelling to Crete (Greek Island) and swimming in the Mediterranean sea. Amazing part of the world! Wish I could be there right now.( Especially when I'm sitting here typing on my computer wearing a beanie and gloves:-( )

Both, I guess:-) Maybe better in the morning however with a good cup of earl grey tea and a bit of ABC radio national in the background:-) Yep, I'm a bit of a grandma.

Hello my name is Lauren & I blog over at Tastes Like Love about my daily adventures with my husband and friends, my custom portraits and illustrations, fancy folk and delightful things! I spend half my time working at my favourite cafe, drawing custom portraits and pictures of cute girls, scouting for new dresses and blogging. And the other half of my time with my husband going on dinner dates, picnics and having movie nights. I would love it if you stopped by to say hello!

 I'm currently dreaming of visiting New York. After my cousins wedding in Bali early next year, Luke & I will start saving for the Big Apple! And when we're there I want to buy a cheesy I love NY shirt and take cheesy touristy photos everywhere!

I am a night owl by nature and always feel most inspired and motivated to do things during the evenings. However, I start work most mornings at 7 am and try to stay in the routine on my days off.

Hi! I'm Kyla, a designer/illustrator residing in Providence, RI. My blog is my inspiration board; I blog about anything and everything that inspires me. This includes: fashion, design, illustration, what I wore, products I love, just to name a few.

 My dream vacation changes quite often, but right now I'm all about visiting Tokyo. I've been really interested in the Japanese culture, especially in a bustling city like Tokyo. I would love to have a Lost In Translation moment getting thrown into the culture. Plus, Tokyo street style is pretty amazing. I'd also love to visit London; it's been on my list for as long as I can remember.

I used to be such a night owl, but my day job as a designer requires me to be at work at 8, so I'm becoming more of an early bird as I get older. As long as there's coffee, I'll get up as early as I can ;)

Hi Friends, I'm Stephanie! Take-Hart is a personal blog devoted to my love of style, photography, bunnies, music, and last but not least: my husband, Nate! You'll find lots of photos of our daily life together, my outfits, our travels, and yes- our two sweet bunnies, Biscuit and Freckles. While Take-Hart is focused mainly on fashion and photography, I try my best to weave in honest pieces of my daily life. I love the idea that we as bloggers are a community and that this is a place to find strength, inspiration, and new friendships! I hope you'll stop by and say hello!

 My *dream* holiday destination right now is Hawaii. Nate and I went there on our honeymoon two years ago and I've been dreaming of our return since the day we left. I'm pretty easy to please in the activities department as I am completely satisfied to be a beach bum all day long! BUT if I had to choose a place that I've never been and am dying to visit - Paris!

 I have always, always been a night owl! I desperately want to be a morning person, and I've tried all sorts of tricks to make myself one! Unfortunately it would appear that I am just wired to be a cranky person in the AM. I'm hoping that once I have kids this will change a bit!

Hello, I'm Nat. I'm a blogger, graphic designer, font fanatic, dessert foodie and a bit of a daydreamer. I blog here at Modern Buttercup and enjoy writing about my daily doings, latest inspiration and whimsical things. I love pretty things and constantly inspired by the little things in life.
I live in beautiful California and proud owner of a little fishie named Bubbles. I enjoy finding cute vintage pieces to put on my shelf (my latest? A smiling pear) I love going on adventures and walking barefoot on the beach.

 I would love to go to Australia. The scenery is so pretty over there and it would be amazing to scuba dive and see the coral at the Great Barrier Reef!
Night owl for sure. I can not wake myself up early easily but can stay up pretty late! Plus, I prefer nighttime.

My name is Violet and I blog over at Blythe Ponytail Parades, a compilation blog featuring my photography and progress with the business, food and crafts! Come on over if you enjoy vintage inspired photography, tutorials and DIYs, new decadent recipes or a load of inspiration to brighten your day!

Pretty sure everyone that knows me knows how badly I want to see Loch Ness!

NIGHT OWL. For sure.

Hi there. It's a pleasure to meet you. I'm Kate Henley, a writer girl and life coach in training who spends the majority of her days sat in front of a tiny but delightfully decorate desk , typing away at good speed, sipping on iced coffee and listening to music from previous, much more imaginative decades that were not so inclined to sing songs about sex and clubbing (sorry Chingy).

I'm the lady behind Kate Henley e-courses and e-books, including Sass, Class and Badass. I'm also a feature writer for High Tea Cast , a wonderfully cheeky British blog, a regular blogger for the Better Blogger Network and a weekly writer for the Love You Project, where I talk positivity, empowerment, sassiness and inspiration for young women!

My Billie is a space where I aim to interact with interesting people and other creatives. I try not to put an emphasis on too much of any one thing, but you'll definitely find fashion DIYs, posts about my everyday life and words that are meant to be encouraging.