I hope the Bard will pardon me for cannibalising his famous words. But this calls for something sombre to somehow describe the gravity of the situation.
Instagram, for those of you who have not heard of the social media app, is a photo-sharing site where people share their snaps “instantly”. I started on Instagram because it helped me practice taking photos for the blog. It kind of took over my life for a while because it became…very social for me. I made virtual friends from various parts of the globe, I got a chance to catch up on friends who lived in other countries, it allowed me to see places that I’d never seen before. It was like getting a travel pass to visit friends and places that I’d never been to. Then my virtual friends became friends in real life.
Instagram, like any social media site has been targeted by bots, trolls and all the mean nasties that social media has created…and for a while, I was quite pleased about how Instagram seemed to be proactive in dealing with the internet nasties. You could report the spammers, trolls, inappropriate posts, and online bullies, and Instagram would listen, they’d investigate and they’d take down the offending account.
I actually appreciated the algorithm…until the algorithm seemed to take on a life of its own! I once joked that the algorithm would run amok in the same way artificial intelligence did in all those sci-fi shows and movies. I’m not certain if it’s the algorithm that’s gone mad, or if it’s instagram tightening things so that they can slowly monetise the service. I’m not forecasting doom and instagram gloom. Just thinking out loud.
I think whilst I have this Instagram shadowban over me, I’ll post my photos and my thoughts on the blog instead!
I was a card carrying member of Del Monte Kitchenomics Club. Now declaring this might be revealing my age, but I did join it whilst I was still in 6th grade (which is now probably equivalent to middle school in the States and Year 7 here in the UK).
Most of what I call my specialties were learned from the back of those Del Monte canned food labels. My pineapple crumble was learned from a can of Del Monte pineapple chunks label, and this recipe started me on my baking and cooking journey.
I have a dish that I call skillet paella or arroz con chorizo which is a one-pot rice meal that is sort of like a short cut version of the popular Spanish rice dish. This was also a recipe I got off the back of a Del Monte label, this time a tomato sauce can. I’ve done and redone the dish and I probably can cook this by sight and still have it taste exactly how I want it. I think it’s because I’ve been cooking this for more than half my life.
I wrote about the dish in an earlier blog entry and called it Arroz con Chorizo, because it, to be honest, it sounded fancy!
It was this dish that did on Instagram stories last week. If you missed it, you can always look at the link above and try the recipe I’ve written down.
I’ll update this entry as soon as the tech cooperates with me and I can upload my photos properly!
I still have to resume the cookbook project that was put on hiatus because, well, life got really busy. But the moment I allowed life to get busy, I lost my balance. I think I need to get back to creating yummy things through baking! I need to regain the equilibrium.
As with everything, I am easily distracted. I completely forgot about improving the blog and allowed myself to be completely immersed and obsessed with Instagram. While it was a creative outlet, it wasn’t what I was good at. I did get quite a few likes on some of my photos though! The photo below was actually liked 1,224 times!
Now that is a revelation because I knew it had a lot of likes but I don’t have a lot of photos that go over 200 in the like category, so when something gets 500+ or 700+, it is a major achievement. It means my photo was interesting enough for people to look and click on that little heart icon. Thank you to every single person who has liked my photos and posted comments!
Instagram is a lovely distraction, but I’ve always thought my writing was more sound than my photography skills. So I searched for inspiration. I read books – lots of books about blogging, writing. food writing, making money from my blog…I’ve read so many articles and was this close to buying an expensive book that “guaranteed” they would get you blogging and making a huge success of yourself and your blog after you read their book. Nope, I didn’t buy the book – but I was tempted.
A friend of mine wanted to start a blog and helpful soul that I am, I said I’d help them set it up. But I felt an awful fraud offering to help someone start a blog when my blog was right there, languishing in the corner! I needed to brush up on inspiration basics, blog inspiration and tips!
Because Sara Tasker was my inspiration, I went back to her website. I wanted to find inspiration. I wanted to find social media tips. I discovered she had a podcast – HOW DID I NOT KNOW THIS?!? So I quickly made room for the podcasts and started listening to her a few days ago. The first 2 podcasts were mind-blowing. It was an inspiration fest. When I get excited I write – and one thing I’ve learned from working in an office is, if you want to remember things, WRITE IT DOWN. It’s something to do with your brain remembering things better when there is an action related to the act of remembering (I read that in a magazine in high school, it suggested studying for exams by walking!).
I’m still listening to Sara and the wonderful group of creatives who join her on the podcast episodes. I’m still writing down what I now call my Hashtag Authentic buzz words. Because that is what they are – they give you a buzz and inspire you to create!
When her website is back up, I’ll post a link to the podcast and the podcast notes (which I thought was a clever way of making you come back to her website!). You can also download the podcast on iTunes.
Be prepared though, because you will be inspired into action – action that focuses on authentic engagement.
I’ve always thought I was an extrovert. I always thought I was very social. But these days, I am finding that I like my own company (even with Alan constantly around, I do find that I cherish the moments when I am alone with just me, myself and I). I always say to people that I am a chatterbox (I always say that I know that Alan and I are so well-suited because he doesn’t talk as much and I pretty much talk enough for the both of us) and I find that I do like to have the occasional natter. I can be loud but I find that I can’t be loud for very long. I think Alan has rubbed off on me a lot. I find that I appreciate quiet as well. Companionable silence is also a good thing (and Alan and I have that a lot, which in itself is a comfort – I’ve read in an article that couples who appreciate their companionable silences and understand the wisdom of it are stronger…but that’s another blog entry probably).
Almost a month ago now, I went on my second Instagram meet with Alan. It was for the London Disclosure hub (@londondisclosure) and there was a walk around London photo spots planned. I was terribly excited about the meet because, as I wrote in my last blog entry I had arranged to meet the Filipinos that I followed on Instagram.
I was quite subdued when I wrote about our mini meet up. But it was quite momentous for me. I was slightly fangirling because I thought these people were very talented and I loved the photos they posted on Instagram. They all have considerably large followings on Instagram and I was just starting out on my photography journey. I was worried that reality wouldn’t be quite as nice as the online interaction. I kept telling myself to not build it up in my head and to try not to expect too much. The online world can be very different from real life interaction. I was also worried that Alan would feel very left out as he usually does when I meet with my family because the language of discussion is always mostly Filipino and he feels like the odd one out(which is probably why he doesn’t look forward to going out with my cousins – because everyone slips into Filipino).
With trepidation (and a heck of a lot of nervousness on my part) we walked into Somerset House so that we could meet the Filipinos before the actual meet up started. We’d all seen each other’s profile photos on Instagram so I felt that I would recognise them when they walked in. They also said they’d all be in black (I didn’t follow the uniform – but I did have a black cross-body bag and black sneakers!).
I saw them before they saw me (at least I think so), so I whispered to Alan that I’d seen them. Cheryl (who goes by the Instagram handle @chic.wanders.in), I think spotted me first because I saw her smile and wave. I waved back excitedly and then in a few minutes, we were inundated with a friendly wave of Filipino smiles. There was a flurry of introductions and they surprised me with a loot bag filled with Filipino sweets and snacks (it had Chocnut, a peanut-chocolate sweet, Yan-Yan, pretzel sticks that you dip in the accompanying chocolate spread, tamarind candy and Kopik0, which is a coffee flavoured candy) and a lovely Jose Rizal bust-shaped tag that Ellapot (my nickname for @barefootnomad who is a little firecracker of a creative person) made especially to mark the first ever Instagram meet for what would be what we all now call the #pinoylondongrammers group.
I had my mind blown about how small the world was when Jools (@jetaime.07) and I started talking about what our lives and jobs were in the Philippines. She worked with one of my friends from PSALM and before they worked together in a energy-related firm, we discovered that we had something in common because we both worked in the Philippine power sector. So I had my little six-degrees-of-separation moment, and it always makes me smile when I think that we weren’t actually separated by 6 degrees!
I hadn’t met Karla (@clickers.click) and Hazel (@hazel.parreno) before (and to be fair, I wasn’t following them on Instagram before we met) but it was really good to meet other Filipinos who shared my keen interest in photography. I had a cheeky look at Instagram after the meet and made sure I followed them (especially Karla because I think we all agreed to get her to a 100 followers and that if she did reach that number, she’d treat us all to a lechon – a whole roasted suckling pig! Yum!) immediately! I also missed meeting Vanessa (@lil_kim426) because she couldn’t stay for the LD meet but met the rest of the group at the lunch (we have yet to meet!).
I was quite starstruck when I met Teddy (who goes by @mutyyyaaa on Instagram and who I call Teddymeister) because I did love his photos on Instagram and he already had quite the following on Instagram already. I would always see his photos on the top lists of the London hubs that I followed.
It was a great meet up. Because everyone was as lovely as they seemed to be on Instagram. What I appreciated the most was that they tried to speak in English so that Alan would be included (they did say he was now an honorary Filipino). Of course we’d lapse into Filipino (hey, it’s instinctive!) but we’d all try to go back to English or I’d remember to translate so that Alan would understand what was going on. I am also glad that Alan liked them enough to verbalise that he thought they were a nice bunch of people. I put a lot of stock in Alan’s opinion because his opinion of the people I hang out with matters a lot.
My WhatsApp has never been more active and I’ve never had so many laugh out loud moments whilst reading my WhatsApp messages or my Instagram comments and chats. I actually feel like I’ve made friends. Friends who share my passion for photography and my love of London. Friends who I’d like to keep in touch with – not just acquaintances. It’s nice to know Filipinos who love being Filipino and are proud to be Filipino. I am so happy I’ve met a group of people who do not ascribe to the typical Filipino crab mentality that you see in a lot of groups of Filipinos who live overseas. I’m so happy that I’ve met a group of individuals who actually support each other and lift each other up. For the first time, in a very long time, I’ve actually met a group of people who I think I’d be willing to move for because I’d love to live closer to them so we can hang out properly. It doesn’t hurt that Alan enjoys my stories and takes interest in what we talk about in our WhatsApp group. He has now taken to asking me “what’s happening now?” He doesn’t ask me because he’s irritated about the amount of time I spend chatting to this lovely little group, he’s asking because (I think and hope!) that he is genuinely interested in what we’re all talking about.
I’m really happy we went on that London Disclosure meet. I know we would have probably met eventually. But that meet allowed me to meet kindred souls sooner rather than later. And because of that, I feel blessed.
One of my goals in 2016 was to take better pictures.
On Instagram, apparently, I posted 386 photos in 2016. Those 386 photos garnered an impressive 26,432 likes…apparently! I must be doing something right! And thanks to 2016bestnine.com I can present my 9 most liked snapshots of last year on Instagram.
I love it when a store has a photogenic feature. It makes for a great marketing opportunity! Heal’s on Tottenham Court Road has such a feature. Heal’s first opened its doors in 1810, at a different location. But as luck would have it, the Heal family produced an amazing architect, Cecil Brewer who designed their flagship store on Tottenham Court Road. The store is a large, open space filled with beautiful things. I am always tempted to take a bowl, or a mug or a plate or a set of place mats to the counter and take the beautiful thing home to my tiny flat! I haven’t succumbed to the urge yet, but I think it’s only a matter of time until I allow myself the indulgence.
Apart from being responsible for the architectural masterpiece that is the Heal’s flagship store, Cecil Brewer was responsible for creating the beautiful spiraling staircase that so many photo buffs have photographed. It’s a star feature on Instagram for people visiting London.
I visited Heal’s primarily to look for Duralex cups because I wanted to bring them back to the Philippines as it carries a line of clear glass cups and saucers that my dad loves. But apart from the Duralex cup hunt, I really did want to take a photo of the Cecil Brewer staircase. I took a photo before, but I wanted to take a better one. So after checking on the cups, I went to the back of the store and took my photo of the staircase from the foot of the spiral looking up at the beautiful light fixture.
I loved this latest photo. Mostly because it was very quiet at Heal’s on the day and I had the spiral staircase all to myself (for a while, anyway). After posting it on Instagram, a few days later, the picture got featured on Culture Trip London‘s (amazing) Instagram feed. To say that I was tickled pink is an understatement. The only word to describe how I felt was the Filipino word kilig. It’s nice to be recognised like that. Ha! I’m really pleased that I’m taking noteworthy photos because it’s so much fun learning how to use a camera, properly!