Why I started blogging

In February 2012 I started a blog, Miss Claira-Bella, and at the time I didn't realize how much it would change my perception of people, life and myself. Here's the back story;

I was in my second year of Studying a Bcom Economics via correspondence through UNISA. In 2010 and 2011 I was working as a Receptionist and studying in the evenings which was difficult for my young adult mind so I stopped working mid 2011 to study full time at home. Not only did this prove to be a financial constraint on myself, boyfriend and family, it also left me living a lonely life where I stared at the same four walls 24/7. I didn't go out much because I simply did not have money for a social life and because of this, I started resenting my studies and my tertiary education.

This is where I learned something about myself. I am a peoples person (to some extent). I love seeing faces, being in crowds where I can hear conversation, judge peoples decisions and feel like I am being seen and acknowledged as a living person on this planet. I yearned to be noticed and not in a narcissistic way. I wanted to walk into a shopping center and shout "HELLO World! I am here. CAN YOU SEE ME?". The four walls in our 2 bedroom flat could not give me the acknowledgement I craved. So I started a blog. A place where people could go and acknowledged I existed. Even if it wasn't in person, the stats showed that people knew that that there was a person named Claire and she was alive, typing stuff (not very well may I add) on a blog.

If you are looking at staring a blog then the easiest niche to get into would be beauty blogging, a fact I learnt later on on my blog career, so this is what I did. You can read my first post here. Pick up any beauty item in your house and write what you think about it. My novice blog somehow got notice by brands and PR companies and I started receiving products to review and share with my blog followers. I think this contributed to my blog living longer that it would have if I had just been writing stuff about myself or I would have just run out of things to blog. This is where I learnt the second thing about myself, although this niche was really great and the ladies in the beauty blogging community are the nicest people you will ever meet, I was not passionate about cosmetics as others out there. There were things in this world that interested me more and I thought had more value in sharing with the world whether it was about myself, food, advice, animals or even events. (I am still trying to master that style of writing).

Here I am 3 years later with a new blog, I got married, moved cities, bought a house and started a family (with only fur-kids for now) and I couldn't be more appreciative of my blessings. In life, I feel that you venture into things at the right time for you and it will get you through whatever it is you need help with. Blogging was this "help" and I am so thankful for it. Even now, It brings me joy to share things on this platform on the internet and I can proudly call it mine. I am so excited for the future of this blog and the future of my content. I am way more serious about my blog than I ever have been before and this only means good things! I am so thankful for all you who visit my blog every day.

How did you get into blogging or if you aren't what are the reasons you would start blogging? Comment below!


Games for Ladies

I wasn't much of a gaming girl when I met my husband, actually I wasn't much of a tech girl either but six years of being exposed by your nerd-physicist-partner-man will change you. You start understanding things better and you start enjoying all things tech and gaming. With that being said, I still don't have a taste for most of the common "guy games" which made me think of doing a post on some games which my fellow ladies might enjoy.

Child of Light
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"Aurora, a young girl from 1895 Austria, awakens on the lost fairytale continent of Lemuria. To return home she must fight against the dark creatures of the Queen of the Night, who have stolen the sun, the moon and the stars. At stake is not only Lemuria, but Aurora’s true destiny." Source

The scenes, story line and narration throughout the entire game is simply magical. I find that the firefly character, Igniculus, adds humor and an extra aspect to controlling Aurora and using Iggy to blind enemies and help as much a little firefly can during battles. This game is perfect for those ladies looking for a fairytale experience. Available for PC, Xbox, Play station and Wii U.


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Lets be honest ladies, we like to control things in life and this game allows you to do just that. "In this city-building strategy game, you control a group of exiled travelers who decide to restart their lives in a new land. They have only the clothes on their backs and a cart filled with supplies from their homeland. The townspeople of Banished are your primary resource." Source

I had so much fun with this game. The game play is so smooth and you really have great controls over what you are looking at. Keeping all my people fed and housed was quite a challenge to get right and even once you do have everything going smoothly, one big batch of nomads can send things in a downward spiral. Definitely worth it if you are looking for a challenge but still have a fun gaming experience. Available for Microsoft Windows only.

The Floor is Jelly

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"The Floor is Jelly is a game by Ian Snyder with music by Disasterpeace that answers the question: what if everything you touched was made of jello?" Source

This game is just as fun as it sounds and all the comments out there on the gaming soundtrack is true, really amazing. I have not progressed in the game as much as I would have liked to because it is quite a challenge. I would not recommend playing this if you have a tired mind because you have to really concentrate and focus to wiggle your way through these wobbly scenes and levels. Available for Windows and Mac users.

Prison Architect
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Last but not least we have my current fave, Prison Architect, which is a private prison construction and management simulation game by the British game developer Introversion Software. This game has been in Alpha for the past three years which pretty much means that they have been developing this for a really really long time getting all the bugs fixed to give us the best playing experience. Good news; The wait is over! The full game (V1) will officially be released on the 6th of October 2015. Pre-order on Steam here.

You make the rules and the prisoners have to follow, but keep in mind that prisoners have needs and demands. If you are too cruel or needs are not met, you will start to have outbreaks of prison riots, gang members will overpower your guards and they will literally break the prison down. Even when you think your prison is under control, a fire can break out in your kitchen or even worse, your prisoners have dug a tunnel underground and have escaped. I highly recommend this game to everyone. Available for Windows and Mac users.

All of these games are available on Steam. I hope you get to play some of these games because I really have enjoyed my time with them and that is saying a lot as I am not a complete girl-nerd. Leave some comments below if there is a game that I should be playing and I will definitely check them out! I will also tweet these games and their developers' accounts so be sure to follow me on Twitter.


Starting a Vlog

I have been feeling adventurous lately and not in the literal sense of doing things like mountain climbing or bungee jumping, I mean adventurous as in going out of my comfort zone and do things I wouldn't normally do. Many things around me have been changing and I suspect even bigger changes will come about in the near future so why not jump into the current of this change and do something like vlog. I watch daily vlogs every day and I always wonder what it would be like to capture your life on camera and share it with the world.

That's exactly what I have done! This weekend I filmed a few snippets of our weekend and I shared it with you on YouTube. Check it out below!

I wont be posting the vlogs to my blog every week so please be sure to subscribe to my YouTube Channel and give me feedback so I know you are liking them!


Nail art

It was brought to my attention (thanks Pinterest) that I have over 4,000 pins on Pinterest, which is proof that I use this platform a lot when looking for creative inspiration. I went back to a few of my boards to scan through the ideas I thought were worthy enough to save (look at me on my high horse). There were some truly good nail art images from when I was obsessed with everything colourful and pretty on nails. This was one of them, a light indigo shade with a rose gold accent. How sweet! I decided to do my own version/copy-cat and I think it turned out fairly well.

Nails Inc Caviar base and top coat, Tip Top in Lady Lilla and Revlon's Copperglaze Platinum.
I enjoy the simple manicures nowadays as i just don't have the time anymore and this design mimics just that, simple and quick. Apply your base coat, two layers of you base colour, wait for that to dry completely. Snip up some pieces of sellotape, tape off a pattern (whichever you prefer) and pant over with the second shade of polish. This next step is most probably the most important; slowly peel off the tape downwards whilst the polish is still very wet. If you wait till the polish is dry before pulling off the tape, you wont get very clear lines on the design. Lastly, once that last coat of polish is completely dry, add your top coat.

I could have chosen a lighter base shade but overall I like it and I think it is a good copy-cat. There is a similar version over at Ordinary Misfit where Michelle does a reversed design with Hean polish.

If you like this design please Pin it, share it, and comment below on what you liked about it. If you try this, or similar designs, please tag #howselifeblog on social media so I can find it and share the love.


Crochet pencil/cosmetic bag

I haven't shared much on this subject on the blog in the past but crocheting has become a new hobby of mine in the past 6 months or so. Watching my grandmothers knit and crochet kind of makes it my heritage to learn the craft and whilst actually doing it, it makes me feel nostalgic. There are certainly no rules about only doing this when you are in your senior years and learning while you are still young has it's perks, like the fact that you may ask your elder relatives' advice on what you are and aren't doing right. It brings a smile to their faces to be able to bond over this simple thing.

Unfortunately I do not live near any grandparents (I only visit during the holidays) and I like to think that I am a nippy learner so after watching a few YouTube video's, I learnt how to crochet.  At first I made a small blanket and some beanies which was great practice but now that winter is over I'd like extend my knowledge to other crochet crafts, starting with a cute pencil/ cosmetic purse.

I want to clearly state that this is not my pattern (I am not on that level yet) and you can find it on Oombawka Design. This pattern is relatively easy to follow and can be adjusted to your needs. The colour of your yarn/wool is also completely up to you and I think that is the beauty of hand crafts, you can make it just the way you like. I am loving the Olive and Purple combo right now but didn't have yarn on hand in those shades. 

Follow the pattern and you will get something like this;

I really do suggest trying your hand at crocheting if it intrigues you. If you do crochet, what patterns do you suggest I try next? I'd love to see your creations so please Tweet and Instagram with the tag #howselifeblog so I can find you.

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Host a summer party

Collage images can be found here
I just cannot wait for Summer to hit me. Okay besides the blaring heat, this has quickly become my favourite season and the warm evenings are the perfect setting to entertain. This week I am sharing some Summer inspiration and general party ideas over on this Pinterest board.

Have a peek and let me know which are your favourite!


Basic Orchid Care

We've all seen those pretty orchids at Woolies and you may have been given one as a gift or even splurged and bought one for yourself, either way, you now have an Orchid and it would be reeeealy great if it didn't die. I have become knowledgeable on the topic of Orchids and none of mine have actually died which I am taking as a sign I might be doing something right. Sharing is caring so here are my top 5 tips for Orchid care.

1. Identification - The most common orchid and the ones you will most likely buy is called a Phalaenopsis orchid. The leaves are a dark green and are stiff (they cannot bend). It has a long flower spike/ stem and the flowers hang like a pretty pendant. Identification is important so that you may get to know it's needs and how to care for it. If your orchid is not like the one described above, please visit this website where they can assist with identification on their webpages.

2. It's in the roots - In Phalaenopsis orchids specifically, it is easier to "read" their roots. I have my orchids in clear posts so I can see what the root system is like but I will cover that in a different post if there is enough interest in the topic.

All you need to know to keep it alive is DO NOT pot this type of orchid in normal soil, they need aeration around the roots so bark is perfect. Thirsty orchids will have a silver-ish film over the roots making the roots appear to be a light green shade. After watering the silver film will go clear and the roots will be a dark green shade.

You also get aerial root which are the ones that grow out the pot in all different directions. I can also cover this in another post if you would like. (let me know in the comments)

Dry VS wet roots
3. Watering -  Wait till the roots are completely dry/light green because they like this. If your roots are constantly dark green, consider reducing your watering. Right now, early Spring, I am watering every 6-7 days. Mid Summer I will most likely water every 3-4 days but "read" your roots and water accordingly.

Please avoid getting water on the leaves and especially in the leaf joins (where the leaf is attached to the crown of the plant). One small drop of water in the crown will give you crown-rot and orchids seldom survive crown-rot. Watch this VERY helpful video on the proper and safe way to water your orchid.

4. Light is beautiful - Do not place your orchid in direct sunlight. Their leaves are very sensitive and you will start noticing burn marks on the leaves if your orchid gets direct sunlight. With that being said, light is still important for these orchids. They love morning sun and afternoon sun as this is quite bright but not harsh. Windows facing east and west are ideal for orchids so try place them like this in your home. If your windows are quite sunny then place sheer curtains/fine lace curtains between the window and orchid to break that direct sunlight.

Extra tidbit: Any unopened flower buds will turn towards a light source like a window so it is a good idea to keep buds facing the light until they have all opened. If you don't, you may have flowers face all different directions and you lose that pendant like droop.

5. Downtime - Do not throw your orchid away once it has finished flowering. Just because it has no flowers does not mean it is no longer useful. With proper care in late Summer to Autumn, your orchid will flower again in Winter/Spring the next year after a rest period.

I can cover a few more issues in another post so please let me know if the information above sparked some interest and it will let me know if I am good at this giving advice thing. Comment below with your own orchid stories (good or bad) and Tweet me your orchid pictures.


Santa Shoebox Project 2015

For the first time, I will be participating in the Santa Shoebox project this year, aimed at collecting 100,000 festive season gifts for children from vulnerable backgrounds. The idea is simple; take a shoe box and fill it with essential items as well as a few surprises for the little ones. There are guidelines of what must be in the boxes (toothpaste, soap etc.) and the rest is up to you.

After a few days of their website being down due to technical issues, I was finally able to pledge a box. For my first ever shoe box donation, I have selected a little girl named Rebecca who is 10 years old. The signing process was really simple. Once you create your profile you are given a list of children in your area. You can filter your search by gender and age which makes choosing a kiddy quite easy. You also get a bar code to stick on your box which makes collection more organized and productive. This initiative is very well organized and thought out.

I have also registered as a volunteer in my area which will be a new experience for me. I am looking forward to it. Now time to get packing, decorating and organizing. I will share my box with you closer to drop-off!

You can pledge you own box by visiting www.santashoebox.co.za. Tweet me if you have signed up and if you are excited to help make a child's Christmas special this year.

View Santa Shoebox on Pinterest for ideas on what to pack in your box and they have age specific ideas and suggestions which will help if you are at a loss for ideas.


A Fruity Flair

Mavala base and top coat, OPI, Essence and my little Fimo canes.
Many moons have passed since I last spoke about Fimo sticks. You can find these posts back at Miss Claira-Bella. Part 1 I explained what these funny things were and Part 2 I shared a few pictures of my collection (with the intention of doing a Part 3 but never got to it).

These little sticks are a mission to slice up which is why I haven't done more of these nail art posts in the past. Since being back form my blog break, I will use these Fimo canes more because I found a trick that makes it easier to cut, in my husbands tool box of all places. A stanley knife/box cutter, which is really really sharp. I wont get into much of the technical but you can find videos on YouTube if you are interested. Main point is they need to be cut as thin as possible to avoiding having ridges on your nails when stuck on. Here in SA, you will most likely get pre-cut slices in nail art wheels and packets which aren't as thin as I like but if they are all you can get your hands on then you can make it work.

My fruity creation.
From there it is pretty simple to design an array of nail art concepts. For this one I used a base coat, OPI's Pink Friday, Essence's Indian Summer, stuck the fimo slices on with a drop of base coat and once they were securely dried onto my nail, I finished with a top coat. Tada! A fruity flair for your nails which would go so well with a light summer dress, sandals and a hat.

I have not come across and local stockists of the bulk pack full length canes but you can purchase them online here however they are quite pricey due to import fees. If you are interested, I wouldn't mind sending a few selected readers some of my fimo slices. Pop me an email (msclairabella@gmail.com) with your details and we can chat about sending you some to experiment with.

Share your own nail creations (it doesn't have to be fruit related) with me on Twitter and Instagram with #Howselife.


Enchanted Forest - Johanna Basford

Front cover of Enchanted Forest, gold embellishments and all.
Could this possibly be my first book review or doesn't it count because it has very few words? Either way, this Inky Quest and Colouring Book has got me flabbergasted. Every detail is so intricately though out and hand drawn by Johanna Basford, a Scottish illustrator who is inspired by the beautiful surroundings she grew up in. Here is a quick interview with the talented lady herself in her studio.

I was more of an outdoors child when growing up and I cant remember many instances where I had a stack of colouring books and crayons. I probably learnt most of my creative skills at pre-school so it doesn't come as a big surprise that I have only completed 2 pages of this book even after having it for about 3 months. That's what I like about it. You can go at your own pace and skip days, weeks and months if you aren't feeling creative enough or simply don't have time. The images and stories wont ever age.

Pages from Enchanted Forest.
I mostly coulour in as a pass-time project. Watching series like Gilmore Girls or the Bachelorette doesn't need your full attention, you can mostly listen to the story line, so that is when I do most of my colouring in. Or at work when I am on the phone. No more mindless doodling in your diary when you have beautiful designs to personalize. I use regular Bic pencils but I am finding that they just aren't the best I could be using. I do not suggest using felt tip pens as they will bleed onto the back of the page. I am really looking into getting some Faber-Castell pencils and even the watercolour pencils as I have seen how beautifully the colours come out on the pages.

I must say that whilst this book was on the top of my wishlist, there are many more colouring books for adults out there which have equally striking ideas and imagery. I suggest jumping on Takealot.com and scan through the options they have (not sponsored). Bookstores don't have a lot of options on the shelves yet as adult colouring books are still a new concept in SA. Online shopping is the way to go.

Lost Ocean will be the third book by Johanna Basford and will be released in October 2015. Read more about this underwater adventure here and you can even get a free download for this new book to get you intrigued.

Have you got your own coloring book? I would love to know how often you use it and what pencils/ art materials you use.