REVIEW: Octer.com and how I found the perfect piece

Thank you all so much for the sweet notes on the last post that featured my holiday party outfit this year! It was such a fun look to pull together, especially since I had never done separates before for a holiday look. Plus, this is only the second crop top I’ve ever owned (surprise, surprise)!

To find this crop top, I used the website Octer.com. I’m excited to partner with Octer today to share an honest review of what my user experience was. If you’re not familiar with Octer, Octer is an aggregated, one-stop shopping site that pulls products all across major retailers (e.g Nordstrom, Bloomingdales, Forever 21, etc).

Whenever I have a specific style of clothing in mind (e.g. crop top) and am open to specific details (e.g. colour, crop length, brand, etc), my usual online shopping patterns lead me to having 20+ browser tabs open with products from across multiple retailers. While this helps me to feel like I’ve done “extensive research”, it is also very time consuming and sometimes frustrating– especially when you see the same brand of item sold at different stores for different prices.

With Octer.com, I was able to see the aggregated search results of a single product type (crop tops) across all major retailer that I would regularly shop at. Below is the first round of results I ran into using the mobile version of the website:

octer.com review - aggregated shopping
As you can see, there was a pretty wide range of “cropped” items that showed up in the search. The results returned anything from crop tops to cropped jeans to sports bras. This was a little bit frustrating, as I wasn’t exactly ready to pair a sports bra with a satin skirt for the holidays, but I ended up finding a style of crop top with a twisted front in my initial search, which helped me to refine my second round of searching.

Instead of a generic term like “crop tops”, I searched “twist front crop top” to help refine the results. What I ended up with was exactly what I didn’t know I was looking for! The best part was being able to refine the search results by price, helping to make sure that I wasn’t going to break the piggy bank with this year’s holiday outfit.

octer.com review

Once I found the twist front crop top of my dreams (on the right, but in black), it was a simple interaction of clicking the “Buy Now” button, which directed me straight to Nordstrom’s website to make the final purchase. I loved how seamless the whole experience was.

You’re probably wondering why the phone screenshots include the header bar for my phone. What I really wanted to emphasize was how fast this whole shopping experience was. By aggregating all the items across retailers, it only took me 12 minutes from start to finish to find the item I was looking for! Isn’t that crazy? In my previous methods for having multiple browser tabs open, this process would take at least 30-45 minutes, depending on the number of stores I was shopping across.

If you missed the earlier posts this week, here’s what the final crop top I purchased looks like, styled for my first weekend of holiday parties:

holiday party outfit ideas - statement necklace

Just a quick recap of my shopping experience on Octer:

Pros

– Very easy to use interface, especially when shopping from a mobile device
– Great selection of retailers to aggregate results over
– Refine and sorting functionality provided a great way to hone in on results
– Buying process was seamlessly integrated to retailer’s website
– The whole end-to-end shopping process only took me 12 minutes!!

Cons

– Although the selection is wide across retailers, there were some retailers in there that I would personally not have purchased from, and it would have been nice to be able to filter these results out
– Since shipping methods and prices vary across retailers, it was sometimes hard to gauge what the final price of a piece would be, especially if I had never shopped from a retailer before and was not familiar with their shipping policies

Overall, I really enjoyed my experience with shopping on Octer. What I love so much about the concept of Octer is the marriage of tech and fashion coming together to make seamless user experiences. The site is free to use, so I would definitely recommend checking it out! The aggregation of products makes online shopping a lot faster and easier for cross-retailer style and price checking from a consumer standpoint!

Thank you again for the partnership to write this Octer.com review! I was compensated for this post, but all opinions and user experiences described above are 100% my own.

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REVIEW: Fujifilm Instax printer

fujifilm instax printer review

They say the best camera is the one you have on you. For me, this would be the camera on my phone. The days of carrying around a DSLR have been rare, as I stopped carrying a purse most days and there is not enough space in my jean pockets for anything more than keys, a wallet, and phone.

I do all of my photo editing on my phone during my commute to and from work. This means having piles of photos just sitting around in the digital space. As someone who loves tangible photos to thumb through, I started making an effort to print and sort my photos after every trip. Since many of the photos I take on my phone aren’t high enough resolution to make quality 4×6 prints, I bought myself a Fujifilm Instax printer (SP-1 edition).

Back when I bought this printer a year ago, it was the only one in the market. There is a newer version available now (SP-2), where most of the reviews online cite the main differences being print speed and a rechargeable battery through USB. With the SP-1‘s current price already starting at $145, I’m personally in the camp of being more than happy to wait a couple extra seconds for a photo instead of spending an extra $40 on the SP-2. That being said, the gold version of the SP-2 is quite pretty!

fujifilm instax mini

Why buy a printer instead of an Instax camera?

Before the printer was released, I bought an Instax camera (the original version of the Instax Wide). I personally picked the wide as my first Instax camera because of the fact that I love the landscape layout. Now with phones being the most common camera and portrait photos highly celebrated, the Instax Mini camera would seem like a better option.

Although cameras are fun and make for spontaneous photos, the biggest pro for using the Instax printer vs a camera is the fact that photos can be printed by anyone who has a smartphone with the Instax Share app installed. Gone are the days of having to carry around an extra camera just for Instax prints! Phones connect to the printer through wifi, which makes the printer awesome to have at parties where all friends can print their favourite photos from the night! Of course, you can lock the wifi connection down with a password in case you’re worried about random people in near proximity printing off your printer. ;)

What if I already own an Instax Mini camera? Should I still get a printer?

One great thing about the Instax printer is the fact that it uses the same film as the line of Instax Mini cameras. If you like having both the spontaneous and perfectly edited photos, the printer can be a great complimentary device to the camera.

As someone who has owned both an Instax camera and printer together for more than a year now, I can honestly say that I stopped using the camera as much as I used to once the SP-1 printer came into my life. I like them for different reasons, but if I could only have one to use for the rest of time, I would pick the printer over and over again.

If you’ve been on the fence for Instax cameras or a printer over the last little while, I’d highly recommend putting one on the wish list this holiday season. Maybe even adding to your shopping list in preparation for the upcoming Black Friday deals!

P.S. This post is not sponsored. I love my Fujifilm Instax printer so much that I will vouch for it time and time again.

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3 Podcasts for bloggers new and old

In light of the east coast snowstorm this weekend, I’m hoping that today’s post brings something fun for those who might be hanging out indoors to hibernate from the cold. I’m a huge fan of podcasts because they’re such an easy way to digest information, especially while commuting or to have playing in the background when doing chores.


Over the winter break, I went on a podcast listening binge and uncovered a handful of stand-out episodes of podcasts. These are the top 3 podcasts for bloggers that I thought were so fascinating to listen to and learn from.

#1: The Lively Show: Life after blogging (episode)
What this episode is about: Jess Lively, host of The Lively Show, is a blogger and former independent jewelry business owner. In this episode, she interviews John and Sherry of the popular home renovation blog, Young House Love. They discuss what it was like to run a popular design blog for 7 years, the skills learned from blogging, why they decided to leave the blogging world, and how to apply the skills they learned to future career opportunities.

Why you should listen: As someone who has been blogging for 5+ years, the question of “What’s Next?” pops into my mind from time-to-time. Hearing about YHL’s the transition from blog life to the next career opportunity was fascinating. There are so many skills that being a blogger and social media influencer requires and hearing about the ways others have transitioned their skill sets from one role to the next is inspiring! I won’t go into too many details before spoilers are revealed, but let’s just say this episode is really eye opening!

#2: Stuff mom never told you: The hidden lives of fashion bloggers (episode)
What this episode is about: This episode was actually recommended by Nicole of Writes Like a Girl, so I knew I had to add it to my queue. It explores the behind-the-scenes of how much work goes into blogging and the dilemmas related to the blurred line between “blog life” and “real life” that are sometimes crossed by those who are writing them. It’s fascinating to hear stories of bloggers who act a certain way during things like friend outings – or even their honeymoons – for the sake of blog content.

Why you should listen: This episode was absolutely fascinating! Sometimes it’s hard to get caught up in how “perfect” someones life appears based on how they decide to curate their life on social media. It’s easy to forget that not everything is perfect all the time and that bloggers brand themselves to essentially capture and curate a certain aesthetic and lifestyle appeal. This episode not only helped me to be more reflective about the importance of not “keeping up with the Joneses”, while also giving a whole new level of appreciation to the bloggers who have dedicate their lives to building their own brand.

#3: Start up (full podcast)
What this podcast is about: Based on the title, you guessed it! It’s about starting and running your own business (which many blogs are now turning into). While this isn’t specifically fashion or blogging related, the topics covered in each episode are really informative, as they chronicle the start of Gimlet Media, the company that is launching this very podcast (pretty meta stuff, eh?).

Why you should listen: Start Up not only shows the happy-go-lucky-sunshine moments of starting a business, but also pulls back the covers and reveals when things go wrong. Whenever we hear about start ups in the media, they’re always success stories that seem like ideas that “made it rich” overnight. In reality, many months – sometimes years – are put into a start up idea before anyone takes notice or an offer for acquisition is made. This podcast helped me better to extrapolate the steps it must have taken some of the top fashion bloggers to launch from being their own personal writer to growing a team to produce content.

What are some of your favourite podcasts or episodes? I’m so curious to know, outside of podcasts for bloggers, what you’re listening to!

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REVIEW: Camkix universal 3-in-1 cell phone camera lens kit

I’m pretty excited to geek out today over tech accessories! Just to be clear, this isn’t a sponsored review post. I bought this camera lens kit on my own and had a couple friends ask about the quality of the lenses, so I wanted to share my experiences snapping photos with them for the last few months. This review is for the 3-in-1 camera kit lens by Camkix, which is the budget version of the competitor brand, Olloclip (retails for $80 here).

clip-on lenses for iPhone camera

The prompt for investing in lenses for my phone started when I realized that my bus ride to work was basically a window of time I could spend editing photos on my phone and being productive. I had been shooting some product photos for a friend’s business (here, if you’re interested!) and wanted to see if I could do the whole end-to-end of photo taking to editing to posting, all via my phone. If it could work for this scoped project, I figure the same workstream/process could be applied to my own blogging process.

Originally, the Olloclip was my #1 choice because of the quality of the photos that I’ve seen on their Instagram account. My biggest hesitation with Olloclip is that I didn’t want to invest $80 in a set of lenses that were phone make/model specific. At the $80 price point, I would hope that I could easily interchange the lenses between phones since, with the way technology is being adopted and upgraded these days, I’ll be switching phones again in the next couple years and would have to invest in a new set of lenses. The downside of the interchangeability across phones is that the lenses do not play up to the strengths of each specific device, but this is a trade-off I’m willing to deal with.

universal cell phone camera lens kit

Each of the lenses screws onto a clip mount, which can be placed on either the back camera or the front-facing camera. This is awesome if you want to change the angle or field of depth for either cameras on your phones using the lenses. I’ll show you below a couple of test shots that I took with my lenses comparatively with just the naked iPhone camera.

Here’s what it looks like with the fisheye lens attached. A fisheye lens will give a “bubble” effect to your photos as it tries to capture a wider frame. I’m holding my phone at about the same arm’s length distance for both of the photos, and you can tell how much more of the background/scenery is captured with the fisheye lens than without. This is such a fun lens to play with, especially when you’re taking selfies with a larger group of friends and want to capture everyone in it. Only downside is that if you’re close to the edge of the frame, you will be distorted!

clip on fisheye lens for iphone

The second lens this kit comes with is the macro/wide angle lens. The macro lens is great for taking really close-up shots to show detailing (which I’ll show below), or extending the frame of your photos without the “bubble” effect like the fisheye. I purposely bought this kit specifically for the macro lens. As mentioned, shooting jewelry on a phone can be challenging, especially when trying to capture the details, so having this macro lens has been a huge help! I took a couple snaps of an air plant to show the difference that this lens makes. You’ll see clearly how the details pop out with the lens vs without:

trying to take macro photos with an iphone
trying to take macro photos with an iphone

As you can see above, even with the macro lens attached, the detailing is not 100% crisp, but it’s still significantly better than without the lens. I’ve been loving these little lenses and taking them with me in my pockets whenever heading out on the weekends. You never know when you’ll want to try to capture a moment on your phone and need some help with widening the frame!

The set that I purchased comes with everything you see below (one mounting clip, one macro/wide angle lens, one fisheye lens), as well as lens caps for both lenses, and a carrying pouch. The mini size of everything makes it super portable and easy to tote around. The quality of the photos are not going to be close to the quality of a DSLR, but they’re a set closer and only require having a cell phone to attach to!

universal clip-on lenses for iphone

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REVIEW: Snugg Surface wallet case

As an avid tech lover, I’m always on the hunt for cute, practical cases. It’s been pretty sad to see that there aren’t a lot of options for the Surface compared to the huge selection for iPads. The Snugg is one of the only companies who I’ve seen cater specifically to the Surface and also offers a modest range of colours to pick from.

I recently got a chance to review the distressed brown leather case and couldn’t be happier!

Snugg

I was a bit worried about having a touch cover with the tablet because I wasn’t sure it would fit in the main compartment of the case. I ended up detaching the cover and putting it in the back pocket, while the tablet itself sat snuggly within the main compartment.

SnuggCover_back
SnuggCover_front

My favourite part of the case, aside from the sleek design, is the dedicated space for business cards. My cards usually get crushed competing for space in my wallet, so it was nice to have a slot in this case. Since I usually take my tablet out on weekends when hanging out in a coffee shop, I’m excited to swap out the business cards for a credit card in lieu of having to lug around a full wallet. Everything I need fits perfectly into this case!

SnuggCover

Disclosure: Thank you again to The Snugg for providing the opportunity to review this great case! The opinions expressed in this post are 100% my own.
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