Looking back on 2012…

It’s already the 30th December and 2012 is nearly over.  We started our own family tradition of looking back on the years photos and video clips on the eve of New years eve, so as I get all the albums and files ready I have been reflecting back on 2012.

Here are some of the highlights  for me:

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Shan and I got married on 12.12.12, the day I turned 31 and spent the best day with our closest family and friends at Alo Alo restaurant.  We had amazing photos taken by Lesanne from Lesanne Photography, at the Quarry and a little animal park, and although it drizzled throughout the entire shoot, we couldn’t stop smiling and laughing.

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The food was outstanding, the drinks flowed and we danced a lot. We also didn’t stop when the restaurant closed, we all came back to our house and carried the party on, a two day celebration no doubt!

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Rocco turned one and Keira turned two this year and it still astounds me daily that they are both now small walking, talking people who make me laugh everyday.  The things they say and do!  Being a mom to these two is the most amazing part of my life, little cheeky mini-me’s that have the most tender and valuable hearts, they are definitely my biggest pride and joy.

This was them at the beginning of the year….and then this is them later on in the year in the car off to their first day at school.

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They started Playgroup / Nursery School at Elisfanya  Day Care and are benefiting from the Montessori programme and are making friends with the American children who also attend the school.  I started helping with swimming lessons there twice a week and have watched some of the kids go from afraid to eager.

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We moved into a beautiful new home early in the year, complete with swimming pool, tennis court, gym and staff quarters which meant finally our maid could live on the property and the kids have lots of space to play and run.  Despite no borehole and good old electricity cuts we love it here and were even originally planning on having the wedding here under a marquee.

The wedding was a highlight as I have already mentioned, but planning the wedding should also be noted as everything was arranged in 7 weeks.  No small feat but when we figured out what we really wanted, the rest miraculously fell into place.  We had considered everything from eloping, to having a ceremony only and no reception to a huge marquee in the garden to every possible venue in Harare.  Luckily we choose an unusual date, which fell on a Wednesday so nothing clashed with other people’s weddings on a Saturday in December and we could organise it at short notice.  My dress nearly didn’t arrive on time, we had issues with the suits, arrival of the flower girl dress and a guest list of nearly 200 to originally consider but like I say, it all fell into place beautifully because we got the most important thing right – each other!

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We got our cat, Diego, at three weeks old and we had to feed it out of an eye drop bottle when it was still a tiny kitten.  He quickly became a firm favourite toy of the babies and is a very loving and tolerant cat to date.

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Keira also started potty training and has made excellent progress with this.  She is still wearing nappies at night and when we go out but is fine wearing her little pants in the day.

 

 

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Rocco started talking and was speaking fluent sentences long before he turned 18 months.

I watched Shan get his first tattoo, done by Brad Conradie at Instinckt Tattoos and a visiting American artist added colour and detail to mine.

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We hosted a fun Mexican themed night complete with vast amounts of tequila, maracas, décor and amazing food. My sisters boyfriend, professional chef Darren Gall helped put on a delicious feast of tacos, burritos and chile con carne with all the trimmings.

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I organised and hosted a surprise baby shower for one of my close friends Tracey, that I have known since school and we watched her and Wayne walk down the aisle too.  Several months later little Luke was born.

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My two bridesmaids, Crystal and Leandra organised the best hen party ever for me and the three of us ended the night swimming at sunrise, after lots of cocktails, flaming zambuca’s, quizzes, games and Tezza, the most horrendous blow up doll complete with stubble.

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I started this crazycarlysworld blog to document some of the fun, crazy and demanding jobs I do and to try develop my writing skills again.  I enjoy the learning curve blogging sends me on too, I learn something new about myself and life often.

I enjoyed helping Shan realise his career potential in refrigeration again and felt proud watching him pursue this as it gave him a new found confidence and motivation.

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I launched a brand new business, Cosmetic Sculpt Studio, which is a non-surgical body sculpting and facial rejuvenation clinic.  I had no idea how intense starting a new business would be, but from securing a loan, to importing equipment, décor, marketing, company registration and a launch event I did it all myself and it was very rewarding.  I have personally carried out treatments to a number of clients and achieved some great results in inch loss and wrinkle removal.

I developed and managed my own social media campaigns for Wedding Wise, Cosmetic Sculpt Studio and Zimbabwe Plumbing & Maintenance, a combination of family owned businesses and personal ventures.  This lead to me falling into a new job within social media management and I now manage some large clients including Delta Beverages and Swift.

I started modelling again, after two years off and have been involved in runway shows (St Johns Fair and Clothing Indaba) modelling for a variety of designers including Intisaar Mukadam, Jo Burger Swimwear and Marija’s.  I did two magazine shoots for my favourite Zimbabwean magazine Out Of Africa, attended a breakfast launch for Cape Camisa juice, did fun promotions for Bulldog energy drink and Barcardi and I also attended a charity golf day for Car Guard.

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We visited some fun local destinations including Leopard Rock in the Vumba, Troutbeck in Nyanga and Pamuzinda Safari Lodge.  Day trips to Mbizi Game park, Darwendale Dam, Lake Chivero and the Lion and Cheetah park were also highly enjoyable.

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We bought a professional pool table and I learnt to play properly, despite much frustration in the beginning, the goal of becoming a hustler spurred me on.  I can now hit the ball, which is a bonus and have been known to sink a few one after the other on the odd occasion.

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We enjoyed visiting kids friendly restaurant St Elmo’s on a number of occasions and loved the fact the kids are not only entertained but also supervised.  So we can sit back and enjoy the rest of the wine and pizza knowing they are having a ball on the indoor jungle gym.

We have met some interesting, crazy and cool new people this year too, some that come to mind are: Chiyedza Chitepo, Jan and Kayla Grobler and their little boys, Mel Carruthers, Gareth and Vanessa Jones, Judith Williams, Jackie Mgido and all the models at Model Management, Soraya, Tash, Tari, Shaylee, Moanna, Tasha, Anton, Marshall, Kathryn and Bron.

So an interesting, fun and full on year behind us, we move forward into 2013 and I am looking forward to the challenges, celebrations and successes ahead.  Here’s to a great 2013!

The bigger wedding picture…

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Now that I am settling into married life, which in some ways is no different, yet in other ways is unmistakably more profound, I am trying to get back on track with life instead of being captive to mass wedding hysteria.  Most of which was self-inflicted thanks to the fact we planned it in about 7 weeks.

So I just wanted to share a few more things to think about, like you don’t have enough going on in your head already!

Either forget about it being “your day” or become completely stubborn, selfish and ruthless and really make it “your day”.  A lot of people are involved in your wedding day, your groom for a start so maybe thinking along the lines of “our day” is a good starting point when it comes to sacrificing certain things.  He probably doesn’t want to wear the pink tie that matches your bridesmaids dresses, but maybe he will be more receptive if you too show a willing attitude when it comes to inviting great aunts or doing a crazy first dance.  You are starting life together so you may as well start compromising right now.  When it comes to all the other influences, his family and yours, everyone will have a say and opinion so just be firm on the important things and try go with the flow on everything else. 

The guest list – if you haven’t argued about this, then I am guessing you eloped.  A constant source of contention for most couples about to wed – annoying friends, embarrassing family members, hardly know them Joes, there will probably be people you disagree on.  If you trying to keep it small because of finances, be fair and be prepared to compromise.  If not then the more the merrier right? Between you two, you will work it out and it won’t be the end of the world if one or two are there who you’d prefer not, just look at all the people who are on the list that you are going to love sharing the day with.

Don’t bore your groom with the details.  He is definitely happy about the wedding, he loves you and cannot wait to marry you.  But he can’t picture the little gift bags that are perched on driftwood wrapped in burnt taffeta silk ribbons.  Chances are he doesn’t know a daffodil from a dahlia and unless you are requesting an unusual colour scheme he will probably be happy with whatever you choose for the rest of the bridal party to wear. Whether the bridesmaid dresses are strapless, spaghetti straps or halter neck and anything else girly like this, should be saved for discussing with your bridesmaids.  Even if he seems enthusiastic about all of this, it does eventually get boring when the bride is still obsessing over and questioning every small detail for hours and hours on end.  Just because it is at the forefront of your mind doesn’t mean it needs to be discussed so 24/7.

These days it’s not so unheard of to have your own children at your wedding.  In our case, both are ours and both are still very small so it was quite straightforward.  In other cases one may have kids, the other becoming a step parent.  Decide how you want them to be involved and let them know you thoughts.  Hopefully they are open to your ideas but I can imagine that some flexibility and sensitivity is required.  Our little girl kept telling us it was her wedding, and she did virtually steal the show in the outstanding dress she wore from Pink Posie Couture.  With only 11 months between them, her younger but not so little brother also had the guests welling up as they each walked hand in hand with a bridesmaid.  If your children are young, its essential that you have someone else watching them throughout the course of the day / night as you will want to be enjoying it with your new husband and not be worrying if they need a nappy change or new source of entertainment.

Try do you own music.  Especially if you already love it and have a good idea of all different genres.  It’s not as hard as you think, and you can spend a lot of money on something else by eliminating the DJ.  Now don’t get me wrong, music was one of the important things in our budget, but both of us love music and can put a playlist together so we thought we’d try.  We searched online, listened to tracks, read peoples music wedding lists and got the ideas for the main songs – bridal entry, ceremony music, post ceremony music.  Each of those went into a playlist titled when it was to play – Playlist one – Play 15 mins before ceremony, Playlist two – Bridal entry, Playlist three – Whilst signing the register, and so forth.  Then for the dancing there were different playlists.  Everything from a playlist for dinner music, golden oldies, hip hop, top 40 hits, etc.  There was someone keeping track of the music but ultimately a lot of guests ended up choosing what they wanted to hear too, and it was easy for them to choose song titles from specific playlists.  If you think it’s something you can do yourself because you know music and what people like to hear then it is worth a try but if you can’t name songs easily or would struggle to think of things to play maybe it’s not for you.

And finally stop and breath.  Often.  When you think its all getting too much, stop and think about this person you are going to marry and what this wedding is all really about.  Make sure you don’t lose focus on the married part whilst planning the wedding part.  It’s just the celebration of what is to come and the future is full of promise so just look at the bigger picture. Stop, breathe and relax before the ceremony.  Take a moment to take it all in.  You are getting married today.  Take deep breaths on the drive there, take another one before you walk in.  You should feel relaxed and happy you are right here right now.  The occasion passes by in a flash so they all say, so just stop often and take the moment in, look at everyone smiling and happy for you, look at your handsome husband and treasure that moment right there.

And just when you think all is said and done, don’t forget about your suppliers the next day.  I’d suggest delegating someone to do all the returning of hired equipment, we didn’t think about that and extra costs when the wedding is over is annoying.  We decided to continue the party into the next day and ignored the fact the sound and lighting had to be returned; only to incur extra charges when we did take it back late.  Our only consolation was that at least we made use of it for the two days. 

Cheers on that! 

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Your social media strategy

Finding time for growing your business through social media may seem like a daunting task, but it need not be.  These days there are so many ways to put your message out there, so it’s essential that you are using your time wisely by not sitting there staring blankly at the screen as you generate zero ideas for content.

If like me, you manage several social media campaigns then you will understand the importance of time keeping and schedules.  It’s all too easy to get caught up on Facebook browsing at anything and everything from the strange girl who you used to go to school with to the inspirational quotes from Virgin mogul Richard Branson.

You need to have a plan of where you are going with your digital marketing before you launch into it.  In Zimbabwe the most commonly used social media mediums are Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn but Google + and Pinterest users are also on the rise.  Youtube is another great avenue to explore if you think you can manage the content creation.

I would suggest picking two or three mediums initially and build your social media strategy around that.  A lot of companies have chosen to run their social media campaigns themselves and for some this works well, until they lose the staff who were actually updating their Facebook pages and tweeting about their business, or worse yet, they simply run out of ideas for content.  When you are deciding your strategy, bear these two factors in mind, who will manage it responsibly for you and what are you going to put out there regularly.

Nobody likes being force fed and it’s their option whether they become a fan or follower or like your page so its your job to make sure that happens.  If you are constantly talking about your brand, they are going to lose interest quickly and see right through the sales pitch.  Remember, they want to be entertained, enticed, intrigued, so take your brand out the equation for a second and share your knowledge.  Share interesting things without promoting your product or service all the time.  The more useful and interesting the content, the more followers you will get.  Solve your audiences problems, make them laugh, get them commenting and socialising with you.

Then you have to socialise back.  I remember one tweet along the lines of “so bored of all the promo stuff on twitter, why aren’t we having real conversations anymore?”  Needless to say I replied and started a real conversation with this person.  Did I gain more followers after that conversation?  Probably, because someone in her network may have followed the conversation and then followed me, and someone in their network may have been intrigued by it all….and you can guess the rest.

So now that you have the ideas of how you are going to communicate your message and who is going to do it for you and what exactly you are going to share, now you have to make some time to do it all.  And still make those spare moments count.

I’d recommend starting with a spreadsheet, listing out all the mediums you are going to use.  One of the large clients I manage the social media for has decided that Facebook, Twitter and Youtube will work best for their message.  They are a large FMCG who don’t really need to get their name out there, so our aim is not to promote and sell their brand so much, but more about promoting the events they sponsor and gaining consumer loyalty.  We have to create appealing content, that transports us to a feeling, instead of giving the consumer factual information overload.  A company that manufacturers water pumps, for example, may want to give their audience a lot of interesting information about the specifications, uses, warranties’ etc, as opposed to a photographer who will want to share her passion through pictures.

On your spreadsheet, you will need to list out the social media options you will be conveying your message through and then you have to decide if you are managing content on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.  If you are inclined towards the “monthly” basis, then I’d probably suggest looking for a good social media consultant to help you, or steer clear of this altogether as it’s not going to achieve anything if you are only featuring yourself monthly.  Weekly is still pushing it, unless you are talking about a substantial amount of content generated one day in the week.  Ideally you want to be doing something daily, if not then at least two or three times a week.  You have to make your online presence count so decide how your business will benefit most.

Once you have your days set out, it’s a good idea to break it down even further and plan out if you want to share content in the morning, afternoon or evening, or all three and more.  Again it does also depend on your business, service, product, but a little thought here and you can hit it bang on target.  A local takeaway or restaurant may start posting pictures of yummy lunches at 11.30am just as everyone is starting to get hungry, or a business that has mainly female consumers over the age of 30 may think about posting info after 9pm, when their female audience has settled the kids in bed and are now enjoying a glass of wine whilst browsing photos on Facebook.

Now you can get a theme for you posts going.  Back to the local takeaway – on Mondays you post a special deal that changes weekly, on Wednesday you share favourite menu’s or cooking tips.  On Fridays you share pictures or videos of your staff and on Saturdays you post anything and everything to do with food,wine, fun, entertainment.

It’s easy to get caught up in sharing and posting anything and everything, but having consistency will get you greater results.  Know your audience, male or female, age ranges, where they live, what else they like and use that information to make sure you are delivering what they want to see to keep them interested and coming back for more.  Keep it compelling so that they share it with their network and recommend you to their friends, keep it fresh but most of all…..keep it structured, keep it focused.