Willow Lane - Welcome to Willow Lane

Why I Started Blogging

I’ve been on my personal blogging journey for almost eighteen months and it’s been one of the most creatively fulfilling, interesting and fun times of my life. I never dreamt my blog would gain a good readership and grow like it has. To have been nominated for Best Lifestyle Blog in the Blog Awards Ireland is still unreal to me. As I prepare to hit the road next weekend with my best friend (and fellow finalist!) to attend the awards, I can’t wait to share in the excitement together and soak it all up.

And I think it’s a good time to reflect on why I started blogging in the first place. As more opportunities are opening up to me I’m conscious that I don’t want to be ‘the blogger who killed herself off‘! I don’t want to become a slave to PR companies and brands who want to send me freebies in exchange for blog posts. Of course I want to take advantage of amazing opportunities, support brands I admire and do fun collaborations, but not at the cost of Willow Lane becoming a second-rate ‘rent-a-blog’.

I’ll be the first to admit that having a PR company or brand get in touch with an opportunity is often a saving grace. There are weeks when I am feeling uninspired and it’s great to then be able to talk about a fab product or an amazing event I attended. It keeps the blog fresh and interesting as well as keeping me motivated.

But what motivated me to start blogging in the first place?

SHARING MY PASSIONS

This sounds a bit pretentious but I wanted to start a blog to share my passions in life with like-minded people. And I wanted a fun and creative product to work on. Starting a blog always seemed a far-off possibility. Since 2008 I’ve been reading blogs like Keiko Lynn, The Cherry Blossom Girl and What I Wore. These were written by amazingly inspiring women who I couldn’t imagine trying to emulate.

After a failed attempt at starting a blog in 2009 (I wrote one post and gave up) 2013 was the year Willow Lane was born and boy am I so glad I took the plunge! Now I get to write about fashion and personal style, homes and interiors, food and my travels. What I write about and how I write is on my terms and I truly love it. Finding my own voice was difficult however. After years of writing content for my 9-5 job I struggled to loosen up and write from the heart.

IMPROVING MY PHOTOGRAPHY

I’ve always loved image-heavy blogs and I knew I wouldn’t be happy unless my blog featured good quality photographs. I’ve been using a DSLR since 2010 but it wasn’t until I started Willow Lane that I knew I had to step up my game. I’m by no means a naturally gifted photographer and there is still a lot that my camera can do which I have no clue about but by-in-large I am pleased with my photographs.

Photography can often be a lot more time-consuming than writing content. There’s the actual taking of the photos, the editing of the photographs and then the uploading of them. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love visually representing the content I’m writing about.

GAINING NEW TECHNICAL SKILLS

Learning to use Photoshop comes hand in hand with photography a lot of the time. For years I had wanted to learn about Photoshop but it was so incredibly daunting. Now I can tweak my photographs and prepare the fun collage images that bloggers so often use! As with my DSLR, there is so much Photoshop is capable of that I have no idea about but I’m proud that I can at least do some stuff!

I’m fortunate that my other half is a graphic designer and I have him to thank for my blogs’ look and design but he’s taught me a lot about html. As much as blogging is a great creative outlet, you still need some technical prowess if you want your blog to look professional, well-organised and easy to navigate.

visual waste dr martens artwork

dr martens store launch belfast

rogues and brogues dr martens

My date to the Dr Martens Belfast store launch was the stylish Ian from Rogues and Brogues.  We’ve got to know each other really well in the year and half we’ve both been blogging and it was pretty funny to have many people mistake us for a couple. We were both really looking forward to the Dr Martens event, even more so when we were gifted a pair of Dr Martens shoes to wear to the event. I wore the Jessyca pair and Ian is the proud owner of the Jules shoes.

With grub supplied by Love and Death Inc, beer by Farmageddon and special guest and DJ Terri Hooley, the event was buzzing with activity. The Belfast store is looking absolutely brilliant, with an array of shoes and boots, as well as clothing and accessories for men and women. You’ll not fail to notice the impressive wall art by Northern Irish based Visual Waste, which creeps from the ground floor, up the stairs to the first floor.

As well as the traditional laced boots and shoes with the distinctive and iconic tough-wearing sole that Dr Martens is renowned for, you’ll also find a range of loafers and brogues in the new autumn/winter range. Dr Martens has been around since the 1960s with its roots firmly in punk. I love that the brand has stayed true to its roots and been able to retain a strong identity and popularity through the years.

Join in the Dr Martens #STANDFORSOMETHING campaign.  Take a pic of you in your DMs and let us know what you stand for. I stand for confidence, light-heartedness and fearlessness.

dr martens jules

Rogues & Brogues in his Jules shoes.

dr martens store belfast

Classic DMs

dr martens bowling bag

I have my eye firmly on this Dr Martens small bowling bag. It’s a gorgeous matt black leather and feels super sturdy and good quality.

dr martens belfast store launch

Spicy chicken and chips, and a whole lot more, were served by Belfast’s Love and Death Inc.

willow lane and forever scarlet

Standard blogger pose from Carolyn of Forever Scarlet and I.

dr martens belfast store launch

Carolyn with her boyfriend.

dr martens press event

Ian and I.

terri hooley drmartens

Punk legend Terri Hooley.

dr martens belfast

dr martens kids

dr martens womens brogues

My gorgeous tassled brogues which fit like a glove and feel so smooth and sturdy thanks to the Buttero material.

blog awards ireland finalist

I’m so happy to tell you that I’m a Finalist in the Blog Awards Ireland! After being shortlisted last month, it was a few days ago that I heard I was a finalist in the category of Best Lifestyle Blog. I’m absolutely over the moon! The awards ceremony is next month in Clane, Ireland and whilst I’d love to go I just have a bit too much on my plate at the moment what with kitchen renovations and an upcoming wedding (not mine!). I’M GOING! My best friend Carolyn is a finalist in the Best Beauty Blog category so we’ll be making the trip down to Clane together! Blogger roadtrip!!

I feel truly honoured to be named a finalist by Blog Awards Ireland and sponsors Parcel Motel. And a big thank you to you guys for reading my blog and nominating me in the first place.  It means a lot.

Last week I attended the House of Fraser autumn/winter press preview in Belfast.  I got a sneak peek at the upcoming clothing ranges from Mary Portas, BIBA, Ralph Lauren, Michael Kors, as well as House of Fraser’s own ranges Linea and Linea Weekend.  I now have a wishlist as long as my arm!  I was very pleased to see plenty of ochre green on display so I’ll be continuing to wear the colour whilst I can get my hands on it!  There was also some classy checked pieces and some beautiful bags and glam jewellery.

Here are my House of Fraser top picks for autumn/winter…

THE MARY PORTAS TRENCH COAT & SCARF

Mary Portas can do no wrong in my eyes and I think her HoF exclusive clothing range gets better each season.  I adore this draped trench coat, especially paired with the chartreuse scarf. These cover-ups are perfect for the cooler autumn months when you need to start layering up but aren’t ready for a full on chunky winter coat.

Mary Portas trenchcoat and scarf

THE BIBA JACQUARD DRESS & LINEA SATCHEL BAG

This is a beautiful statement dress that could easily take you from day activities to night-time fun.  Wear it with black tights and some high heels and you’ll be good to go.  I love the rose gold zip detailing at the back. And the Linea caramel and black satchel bag looks great against the monochrome dress.

BIBA dress

BIBA black and white dress

THE BIBA FRILL BLOUSE

I love the colour and style of this blouse.  Wear with ripped jeans for a fun smart/casual look, or pair with a sexy pencil skirt like it’s styled here and your ready for a busy day at work.

BIBA ochre blouse

BIBA blouse

THE THERAPY BLACK & WHITE BAG

I’m liking small bags more and more recently and I think this little monochrome bag would make a very stylish statement to any outfit. This cute fun bag has a definite 80s vibe about it.

Therapy black and white bag

THE LINEA CASHMINK CHECK SCARF

As well as ochre green I’ll be on the look-out for some checked items to add to my wardrobe this autumn/winter.  All the Linea scarves this season are bang on trend and I love this brown and cream checked cashmink scarf, which looks amazing against the cream sweater and glam necklace.

linea checked scarf

linea check scarf