Monday, October 27, 2014

5 online tools to make your life easier

Today is the day I pay tribute to those basic functional websites that I use on the daily which save me so much time and energy. Thank you for existing. Hope this helps you too!


Cloud Convert

Cloud Converts helps online convert all sorts of audio, video, image and text files into whatever format you could possibly need it in. This has proven very helpful for when you can only upload certain types of files onto certain websites and you also can tweak settings if you're looking to reduce file size.


Small PDF

Most company emails have a email attachment limit of possibly 1 or 2 MB and thus I always find myself trimming PDFs down. SmallPDF reduces the file size without losing quality of images or anything else in it. It also has options for converting various formats into PDFs and splitting and merging PDFs.


Savefrom

Savefrom allows you to download videos (or just audio from videos) which are on Youtube, Vimeo etc. This option works out great especially for presentations where you want to show some reference videos so you don't have to worry about buffering or connecting to the Internet.


Clipconverter

Another option is Clipconverter which allows to download just a certain section of the clip from Youtube, Vimeo etc. for your use. This really helps if you have a slow internet connection and just need a portion of a super long video.


PDFescape

I honestly detest the whole printing a form, writing the details, scanning the same form dance. So this website helps just typing straight into a PDF and also adding images (if you have your signature scanned already) or even freehand signatures (I've mastered these) onto the document. Saves me a bunch of time!

What are your top go-to websites to get work done? Let me know below in the comments or tweet me @MonaGir!

Mona xo

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Tips from a new blogger

I'm brand new to blogging and so far, it's been such a wonderful experience. (yes, all rainbows and unicorns)

I wrote my first post on April 4th 2014, deleted it and then spent the next five months basically grueling over every little detail. It was basically just lots and lots of productive procrastination.

It finally got to a point where I wanted to stop thinking about what font my commas need to be in and just get out there. And here we are! 

So, in honor of this being my 8th post, I wanted to share some tips from my experience as a new blogger.

Growing and learning

There's quite a learning curve to blogging and I'm still figuring all of this - what to blog about, how frequently, how to photograph products and so much more.

During this early stage, what has helped me is:

- Keeping notes on my phone of things I want to blog about - this has proved to be extremely helpful.

- Sharing my drafts with some friends and family to get a fresh perspective on it - sometimes, you miss some obvious mistakes or don't make sense at all (teehee)

- Reading many many blogs, understanding how they work and looking for inspiration here, there and everywhere. 

While this is all some serious stuff, remember to enjoy this process and don't be scared to put yourself out there. Don't worry about having it all together right off the bat and be open to learning at every stage. 

All in good time 

It's crucial to keep your mind in the game and concentrate on putting out genuine content, especially when starting off. In time, views, readers, sponsors etc will come to you. Until then, do it because you want to and not because you might get free things/fame/fortune out of it.

The same goes for getting discouraged when you don't see enough traffic for whatever reason - all in good time. I'm in the process of learning about blog networks and link parties which are a great way to get to know some new bloggers and also get traffic on your blog.

It also helps to be active on social media and interact with other bloggers out there. I also keep up with this one group on Facebook called Dubai Bloggers to discover local blogs and share my posts as well.

Last but not the least, talk about your blog - don't be shy to share it with friends, family and people you meet (I'm still getting there!)

Optimize, schmoptimize

SEO is my personal Everest. I managed to dodge this as long as I could because it confused me but now have found some great resources to start me out:

7 Basic SEO Tips
SEO Checklist
SEO for Wordpress (found this while I was still deciding on what platform)

To .com or not to .com

So, I started out with a .blogspot.com because I wasn't sure how this was all going to go down (and this is normal). And now, I switched to a .com! It's official - I've DTR-ed.

I'm glad I did it - one because I didn't want to lose this domain name and two, this is it! Teeny tiny footprint on the internet, how exciting! I registered my domain name with GoDaddy and it's all thanks to this wonderful blog post that everything is actually working.

Blogger vs. Wordpress

I played around with both platforms and I found Blogger much easier to use. Though I do feel like I'm most likely to shift to Wordpress in the long term, I'm happy with Blogger for right now. So that would be my advice for someone starting off: Blogger is much less overwhelming.  It's also simple enough for even a newbie like me to mess around the HTML.


Hope this helps you shake it off and do it already! Link me below if you're a new (or seasoned) blogger - would love to check it out. And of course, if you have any tips/tricks for me, please do share.

Mona xo

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

September '14 Favorites


It's been a month since I launched this blog and I've received such a great response so far. Thank you to everyone who has shared, read and commented on this blog. (I mean it)

It's October already! One thing I'm thankful for is that the weather is going to get so much better very soon, so +1 for that. I thought it might be fun to do a monthly favorites post and so I did - presenting my September favorites!


Duolingo
Duolingo makes it super simple to learn basics of languages such as English, Spanish, Danish, Irish, French, Dutch, German, Italian and Portuguese. The interface is almost like a game and while that's fun, it's also addictive. There, you've been warned. Try it out - it's free and available for iOS, Android and there is a web version as well. 




Red Shoe Trekkie
Movie reviews, recipes, travel
I came across this fairly new blog (based in the UAE) through Myla (Find Me A Break) and really like what I've read so far. He/she is only a few posts old but definitely go check it out.




Organix Tea Tree Mint Shampoo
This shampoo is the bomb (dot com). I have super greasy hair and this product really keeps my hair fresh and alive all day. It also leaves a nice minty tingly feeling on your scalp (which I'm clearly into)
Available at Life Pharmacy and Carrefour

Kiehl's Clearly Corrective Dark Spot Solution
So, I don't really face major acne problems but as and when I do, it's dark spot central (for many many weeks). I bought this product about 2 months ago and have been religiously applying this every night. I have seen a great change - visible reduction in dark spots and evened out skin tone. I have combination skin and this product has worked well for me. I have seen otherwise for those with dry skin.
Available at Kiehl's Dubai Mall 



Wasl Square, Al Safa, Dubai
Love: Cozy interiors, great staff, lots of peace and quiet 
Place for: Meetings, working, reading, coffee with friends 
Recommend: Eggs Benedict, Pomegranate Fizz



This is the Instagram account of Emirati artist, Hedaya Al Rahmah. She has great pictures of some really cool fashion and art pieces (some of which she designs) among other things, total eye candy on my Instagram timeline. 

Tweet me @MonaGir and let me know what some of your favorites are from last month! 

Mona xo

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Why road trips are the best

With Eid holidays just around the corner, I thought it was only fitting to do a post about road trips!
Here's why they are pretty freaking awesome.

Waka Waka

Music makes most things better and road trips are no exception. My family and I have done many road trips over the years and being road trip veterans, we know never to trust radio. We always had that one cassette/cd to sing our hearts and lungs out to. But on our last road trip in India, we ended up with only the Fifa World Cup 2010 album. Behold many many hours of 'Waka waka eh eh' and 'When I get older, I will be stronger..'. Ah, good times (and also features in my nightmares at times).

Below is a playlist with some of my top road trip tunes:



Hey, look - food!

While food is a featured favorite in our daily lives, it truly becomes a highlight during a road trip! So there come the numerous pit stops at petrol stations/cafeterias to reload on snacks, drinks and whatever else anyone can chow down. No rules, no diet when you are on a road trip. Lays Chips is our traditional warm-up snack followed by everything else from Burger King to our South Indian packed lunch staple, curd rice and pickle. Below are couple of my many checkins at random cafeterias during a road trip:




Hey, look - at everything!

Your vacation starts as soon as you are in the car - so, the same Sheikh Zayed Road that you truly detest and curse while driving to work magically transforms into a wonderful stretch of concrete when you're road tripping. You see the same old bits and pieces in a whole new light. 'Look at that tree', 'Look at those camels!', 'Look at that other tree!', 'Look how beautiful this patch of grass is' - sound familiar? All of us become mini-tourists and it's wonderful. No doubt that there are lots of blurry pictures of far away things to accompany this! Yay, camels!



Let's go to this random castle

There's always that one intriguing sign board that tempts you into a detour! Whenever we go down to Fujairah, we have always somehow ended up at some unknown fort or wadi because we spotted a sign. While sometimes it pays off - that's how we landed up with Wadi Wurrayah - sometimes it's just some fort of which the highlight is some broken pieces of pottery from 10 years ago or something. (fun, you know, if you're into that)



Countries & Antakshari

Car games are a no brainer for road trips. Countries is one game that we still play where someone starts off with a country name and then the next person names a country with the last alphabet of the previous one. The game I most definitely dread is Antakshari which is basically the song version of countries. We've also done our fair share of 20 questions and charades!


Remember the time when..

It gets quite challenging to find time for friends and family sometimes. Road trips present a  great opportunity to bring people together, share some jokes and make some memories. It is very little about where you are going really, everything that happens in between is what makes it so fun. So, make the most of it and enjoy the drive.





What's your favorite part of a road trip? Or do you hate them? Let me know below in the comments section or tweet me @MonaGir. Have a lovely Eid everyone! Avoid the mall stampede - go shop online :)

Mona xo

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

How to keep track of TV shows

It's TV season! Shows are making their way back for fall (still summer here unfortunately) and it looks like it's going to be a pretty entertaining season. So, goodbye productivity.

Being someone who watches one too many shows (there, I said it), it's a challenge to keep track of show schedules and before I know it, spoilers are EVERYWHERE.

So now, I use this website called Sidereel to keep track of my favorite TV shows. They have a little tracker on there to which you can add the shows that you follow and it'll generate a weekly calendar showing you which shows air when. You can also access this info through the Sidereel app (available for iPhone and Android) and you even get badges based on TV habits!

Apart from that, they have general TV updates, show developments, news on shows getting cancelled etc. They also give recommendations for new and upcoming shows that you might like which is a great way to discover new ones and make sure you really get no sleep at all. You're welcome!

My picks for this season

 

Grey's Anatomy [Drama - Medical]

Oldie but goodie! Now entering into their 11th season, it'll be without Cristina, one of the main characters that exited the show last season. We'll see how they are going to fare without having her on the show. Below is the preview for season 11:



The Mindy Project [Comedy]

The first episode of Season 3 was enough for me to keep watching for the rest of the season and that was because of this man. Enjoy.


 

Scandal [Drama - Political]

All time favorite - go watch! Below is the promo for Season 4:



The Amazing Race [Reality - Travel]

They've revealed the teams for Season 25 and it looks like stiff competition. Watch it below! Can't wait to see where they are headed this season.


 

Parks and Recreation [Comedy]

Bummer that they are heading into their final season with just 13 episodes but definitely looking forward to it! My favs on the show are these two:



Flash [Drama - Scifi/Fantasy]

Marvel comic book series that's debuting this fall - the story behind Flash! Really excited to catch the premiere - preview below!



That's it from me! How do you keep track of your shows and what are some of your favorites? Tweet me suggestions @MonaGir or leave a comment below!

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Mona xo

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

5 things that need to be in the UAE

With the news that Panda Express is launching in Dubai, it got me thinking about what I'd love to see here in the UAE. Here's my wishlist:

1. Chipotle Mexican Grill

For those who know me personally or even follow me on social media, you all know that Chipotle is the love of my life. Chipotle is a Mexican fast food chain based in the US and with branches in Canada and Europe.

They have something called a 'Burrito Bowl' which is basically paradise. They freshly add ingredients based on your preference - it's like Subway but for Mexican food. I cannot wait till Chipotle makes its way to Dubai. Until then, my semi-Chipotle fix is Taqado who have something similar called the 'Burrito Box'.


2. Netflix

Netflix is an on-demand internet streaming service for movies and TV which is especially perfect for marathon-ing/binge watching TV shows. While I know there are 'special' ways to be able to access Netflix here and that it's available also if you have Apple TV, I wish it would be legally available here.

No commercials, episodes play back to back.. what more is there to life?



3. Food Trucks

I absolutely adore food trucks. There's a great sense of community, you end up trying new things as there are always different ones coming to your area and it's a quick, cheap bite. Especially in Dubai, where one after another upscale restaurant is opening, I think this would be a great change of pace.

I know a few launched here in the UAE but it seemed to be more for parties than just regular life. I would love to see some of them funky looking trucks rolling around here!



4. Staples

Staples is basically stationery Disneyland. And who doesn't love stationery?! The smell of freshly sharpened pencils, smoothness of ink on paper.. ahem. I think I need help.

Dubai is really in need of a top notch stationery store and while I make do spending hours at Modern Stationery sniffing organizers,  I really hope Staples is looking for a giant warehouse right now to open here. Can't wait.



5. Primark

Love a good bargain? Enter Primark! Primark is a value clothing retailer based in Europe and is the place for cheap & cheerful fashion. The stores are chaotic and pretty much survival of the fittest when it comes to hunting down the good stuff.

Come to the UAE, please? I could use a break from all the luxury fashion brands opening here. (#FirstWorldPains)


Let me know what you wish would come to the UAE, we can share notes! Tweet me @MonaGir or leave a comment below!

Also, subscribe if you like what you've been reading so far (subscription box on the right) so I can keep you posted every time I do a new post!

Mona xo

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Twitter Comedy - #AppleLive

It was that time of the year when Apple launched something and it was EVERYWHERE. There was just absolutely no escape from this event. Don't get me wrong - I love me some Apple products but I really don't care to know every single detail of this live event through multiple channels.

In any case, instead of partaking in the mania that was the live stream, I took to Twitter to keep track of what was going on and came across some seriously hilarious tweets (see below!)

As for the event, I'm sure you already know this (REPEAT: NO ESCAPE). They launched iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus and the Apple Watch. See more info here: http://bit.ly/1wcoszQ












And of course, HTC came along and did this:

Real talk - I'm not really excited about any of the products announced. What about you? Can't wait to own one of them? Caught some more funny tweets? Let me know in the comments below or tweet me @MonaGir!

Mona xo

 
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