Thursday, 28 February 2013

Reasons to be Cheerful - week 9 (It's here!)

Ok you can't see me, I'm not really here. I am in fact completely invisible!

As you know Reasons to be Cheerful has gone on holiday over to Clare's at Seasider in the City but right now things have gone a bit tits up for Clare and she can't even get in her blog. I thought about there not being an #R2BC this week for all of about 30 seconds and then I just felt I couldn't let that happen and I did not have the energy to find someone to host so I have come out of hiding and I'm popping up a quick thankful post.

And I do have lots of be thankful for so it is not exactly a difficult write for me!

We have been having lots of fun as a family whilst I have not been blogging, we went away to Sussex together and the kids had an absolute ball swimming in a private pool, we got to go to the beach, I have started a cross-stitch project, dh and I got a couple of nights away on our own, we have been out for meals, the kids have been bike riding and scooting, I have started exercising (and yes my body can really feel it) and tonight the girls got invested as Rainbows and made their promise, very touching. I'll share a few photos and you can see for yourself -


And now it is your turn, what is making you cheerful and grateful this week?

Why don't you join up with Reasons to be Cheerful this week? It is such a fabulous opportunity to stop and reflect on your life and to see the good in it. Have a read about what I believe and why #R2BC started, it has literally changed my life to have this weekly focus on what is good (or God) in life.  How easy is it to allow things to become doom and gloom?.

So if you want to join in, go for it.  We are a no rules kind of linky - you link up what you fancy (well as long as it is not just a blatant advert), a recipe, the simple things in life, photos, a story - whatever! Add in the blog hop code so people can travel around and then visit others and share the comment love.  But if you are not sure how to add in code or anything else, don't worry - just go for it and leave a link to your post in the comments and I'll link you up.

Have a great week, Mich x #R2BC will be back with Clare at Seasider in the City as soon as her blog is all back to normal, hopefully super soon!

Friday, 22 February 2013

Giveaway: Pink Lining Wheelie Travel Case

WINNER:  big congratulations to Joanne Blunt (@joanneblunt) you are the lucky winner. Please DM or email me your postal address and which design of case you would like and I'll get Pink Lining on it for you.  Thanks, Mich x 

Have I got a goodie for you today!

Back in September last year I was sent a beautiful wheelie case from the designer label Pink Lining (you know of the gorgeous baby change bag fame). They wanted me to put their travel case through its paces and report back.  I happily did this and I can honestly say that I love my stylish case/ bag.

It has been to Ethiopia, Belarus, Wales (not quite as exciting) and loads of other UK destinations with me in the last six months and it still looks like new despite having been checked in the hold of a plane, carried on as hand luggage and being dragged around by my kids and I. You can read my full review of the case if you want lots more information and my honest opinion.

For now, I'll let you take a look at what I can offer you - One of these (how cute is that London black cab design?) -

or one of these - (I've got the bows one and everywhere I go people comment and can you imagine how easy it is to spot on the airport carousel?)

All you have to do to be in with the chance of winning one of these beautiful and versatile Pink Lining wheelie travel cases is tell me where you want to go on your next holiday.  I know where I'd like to go - the Maldives, sadly I don't think that will be happening any time soon!

How do I enter?
  • Mandatory - Leave a blog comment saying where you would like to go on holiday.
  • Optional additional entry - follow my blog by email, RSS feed or Google friends connect - all the widgets are in the right sidebar -->
  • Optional additional entry - Follow Pink Lining on Twitter
  • Optional additional entry - Like Pink Lining on Facebook
  • Optional additional entry - Tweet 'I'm in to #Win a gorgeous @PinkLiningUK travel wheelie case with @michelletwinmum's #giveaway http://bit.ly/ZniMQo'
  • (If you decide to take up any of the additional entries then you need to leave me a comment to say you have done so, one comment for all is fine, I don't want to make you jump hoops!)
Terms and Conditions
  • The giveaway will close at 12 noon on Thursday 7th March 2013
  • The winner will be chosen at random
  • The winner must have fulfilled the mandatory requirement and can have a maximum of 4 additional entries, all entries are valued the same
  • The winner will be announced on my blog and by twitter within 5 days of the giveaway close
  • The winner will have 7 days from announcement to email/ tweet me and provide their postal address. If they do not contact me I will re-draw
  • The prize is not transferable and there is no cash alternative
  • You will be sent the bag directly from Pink Lining, they are responsible for the fulfilment of this prize
  • Postage to the UK and Ireland only

Disclosure: I have not received anything to host this giveaway, I just love my wheelie case and want to share my good fortune with one of my super readers.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

TTFN Blog.......


Real Life Calls
Today is Shove Tuesday and for most people in the UK that means pancakes and I'll be honest it means pancakes for my family too. We will be having our pancakes at our pastors house with all the other kids from our church and I expect there to be madness and mayhem - the kids are looking forward to it already!

Shove Tuesday is a little more than pancake day for me thought ot be honest, it marks the last day before Lent and the 40 day period where Christians remember the sacrifice that Christ made for us on the cross. Many people choose to give something up for Lent and others choose to do something extra and take more time to reflect, repent, pray and remember the way Jesus suffered for us sins.

In preparation for Easter, as of tomorrow I'll be doing both of those things. I'll be abstaining from blogging, as right now that is the single thing that takes up the most time and I've committed to a personal bible study for half an hour every day in addition to my normal routine.

I know that I am very blessed but at the moment there are aspects of my life that I am not entirely happy with and I'm the only person who can make the necessary changes. So as I take the next 40 days to focus on Christ I'll also be having early nights, staying off the laptop more in general and being mindful in my eating and exercise.

This doesn't mean you won't see me for the next 6 weeks as I'm not on a computer ban, I'll still be dipping in and out of Facebook, Twitter and maybe even publishing the odd blog post (because after all Sundays are not part of the 40 days of Lent) I just won't be allowing blogging to dictate my life. I wrote a post late last year titled #RealLifeRocks and it still stands. For me 2013 is not the year of the blog..... not sure what it is the year of yet!

The MADS
Oh and while I mention blogging taking over my life, I'll just say thanks so much to those who have already nominated my blog in the MAD blog awards. I'm sorry to disappoint but I am not putting myself out there for the awards this year, I'll leave all that fun to the newer bloggers but I sure hope to see you at the awards if I can persuade Sally to let me come along in a helper capacity!

Reasons to be Cheerful (#R2BC)
Will still go live every Thursday morning over at Seasider in the City. For the whole time I'm away Clare will take lovely care of you and you please take care of her as well, as she is a fragile flower really, underneath that tough exterior (She'll thank me for that!).

So I'm off now, I wish you a wonderful Lenten period and I will still be dipping in reading blogs so I hope to catch up with you.

God bless, Mich x

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Top 15 practical tips for new bloggers



Happy Sunday, wishing you a pleasant and relaxing day.

We have come to the end of New Bloggers Fortnight and I hope you have really enjoyed it. As with the other years there has been great variety in the posts I have hosted. We have been advised to blog in our own voice by My Two Mums, write about the things we love by Helen and Luci even went as far as to tell us to leave our blog alone.

Emma warns us about the perils of over monetising our blog, Lucy has helped us to understand how to make the best of our photos for our blogs and Ruth encourages us to try out video blogging, whilst Rachel reminds us it is so important to maintain a focus on real life as it is too easy to allow blogging time to spiral out of control.

Rebecca has been blown away by the sense of community she has found in blogging and Suzanne guides us through how we can immerse ourself in that community. Then Leoarna even goes as far as to say that blogging is good for our mental health, I sure hope so as I spend enough time doing it!

I think this years guest posts summed up lots of the key advice for new bloggers like being true to yourself, using your original voice and not getting hung up on the popularity contest and therefore to finish off this years fortnight I'd love to share with you 15 practical tips for making your blog as readable as possible -

  1. Think about the way your blog looks. Dark font on a white background is best, at all costs avoid dark backgrounds under your text and any flashy images. There is nothing like that awful snow effect to drive readers away.
  2. Tell the reader about you. I love to know who I am reading about and chatting with, an 'about me' page is great but it could just be a short piece in your sidebar if you prefer.
  3. Then make sure you give an option of how I can contact you if I wish to, sometimes readers like to feedback to you without everyone else reading it or it might be that a company with to contact you to discuss working with you.
  4. Make sure you have the ways I can subscribe to your blog easily on show. How can I follow you? by RSS feed, on email, twitter, FaceBook, G+, Pinterest and a thousand other ways. Think about those which you use frequently and make sure they are available for all readers to see.
  5. Make your blog is easy to navigate - have you got a search box, archives on show, labels you are categorising posts by and perhaps using linked within to encourage the reader to more of your posts? You want them to stay with you as long as possible after all.
  6. Are you making it easy for your readers to share your posts? You want to reach as many people as possible so all the share buttons should be easy to see on every post. Take a look at Share this which has easy to create buttons for free and even a non-techie like me could do it.
  7. Make commenting easy for your readers, allow people to be able to comment without logging in to a system and definitely remove any kind of capture as that will scare people away double quick. Ensure you have a good spam filter and you will be fine without it. Bloggers built in one is good and there are plenty of plug-ins for Wordpress like Askimet.
  8. Do you want to encourage conversation and feedback?  Then pose a questions at the end of every blog post, short and sweet works best, ask for feedback but don't make it too gruelling. Then when you get that feedback respond, don't let comments sit there unanswered as the reader will wonder if it is worth visiting again.
  9. Link to your own blog posts, if you are mentioning things that you have already blogged about then link to that post and make it easy for the reader to move about the relevant content. Also, ensure you know how to make a word into a link rather than typing in a full URL - it looks so amateur and a quick google will tell you how to do it for blogger and wordpress.
  10. Make sure you credit everyone and everything.  If you share anything on your blog - someone else's photo, idea, blog post, whatever - make sure you put a credit in with a link so that people can follow that line of thought and see the original.  The world of blogging is all about linking out and spreading the net.
  11. Work on your writing skills, it is important that you take time with your grammar and spelling. Cross your i's and dot your t's, know the difference between your and you're and use the spell check, that is why it is there! You may have the best content in the world in your head but if it does not flow and articulate what you wish to say then no-one will read it. So read every blog post twice before you hit that publish button.
  12. Think about how your words look on your page. Break up large blocks of text, use bullets or subtitles or photos - anything that breaks it up and makes it easy on the eye. A large chunk of text will often feel terrifying to a reader and they might just click away.
  13. Think about your blog post titles, do they say what the article is about, do they catch attention and do they contain important keywords that people might put into a search engine looking for an article just like yours.
  14. Schedule posts, you do not have to press publish when you are sat by the computer. Experiment with the times of day that your posts go live and see what gets the best response. It must have taken me over a year to realise their is a schedule option in blogger, doh!
  15. Back up your blog regularly. You will spend a lot of time writing your blog so make sure you never lose it. It takes a few moments and is so easy!
I could probably share another 15 tips with you too but that might just be overkill.  I'm sure these ones will keep you going for now.

Remember building a great blog takes a lot of time and work and there is no need to rush it, work on improving one thing a week and stay consistent and in time it will all just click and you'll feel great about what you have lovingly created.

Happy blogging, Mich x

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Geek Mummy - How to get started with video blogging

I'm really pleased to welcome Ruth to New Bloggers Fortnight today. We can't really call Ruth a new blogger as she has been doing it in one form or another for a long time now but Ruth is one of those people who really know their stuff and aside from that she is super lovely, so it is always a pleasure to have her guest post. Over to Ruth -
Hi, I’m Ruth and I blog over at www.geekmummy.com. I’m delighted to be able to join in with New Bloggers Fortnight again this year. Last year I answered some of your geeky questions, and this year I’d like to talk to you about video blogging.
Yes, video blogging. It’s not for everyone, I’ll grant you, but if you’re interested in trying something new with your blog it’s a great way to go. Blogging gives each of us our own unique voice, and by video blogging you not only allow people to hear your words in your actual voice, but also to see your body language as well. Did you know that our communication is 93% body language and other non-verbal elements, and only 7% words? Video allows you to communicate your words, story or message more effectively than written blogging alone.
Also if you’re interested in publicising your blog, and being found through search engines like Google, video blogging is a great way to go. A video is about 50 times more likely to appear on the front page of Google’s search results than a written post, and YouTube is now the Internet’s second biggest search engine. It’s a great time to start producing video.
“But Ruth” I hear you cry “isn’t producing video really HARD?”
Well, no, it doesn’t have to be. It’s certainly harder than writing, but it’s not as hard as I think many people fear.
First of all, let’s talk about equipment. If you have a smartphone in your pocket it’s highly likely that you already have all the equipment you need to make a video blog. Yes, if your smartphone can film video, you’ll get good enough quality to publish. Alternatively you might have a little Flip camera or similar, or you might have a digital camera which will also shoot video. All of these devices work really well for video blogging.
I wouldn’t use a laptop or computer webcam for video blogging – they tend to not be good enough quality.
The single most important piece of advice I can give you about filming video with your smartphone – please make sure you turn the phone on its side, i.e. to landscape mode. Filming in portrait mode will give you unsightly black bars at each side of your video when you upload it to YouTube, and it’s pretty much impossible to remove these after filming.
So the technology shouldn’t be a barrier to you having a go at video blogging. Much more of a barrier is having the confidence to stand up in front of a camera and film yourself. How do you get over that? Well, sadly there is no “magic wand”, no easy way to become confident in front of the camera overnight. It comes with practice - lots and lots of practice. There are a few things I recommend to make it easier to get started:
1.       Try audio blogging first – I use Audioboo.fm to record audio versions of my blog posts
2.       Start off behind the camera, maybe have your kids talking instead, or just record your voice.
3.       Get someone (kids? Partner? Next door neighbour?) to stand behind the camera so that you can talk to them rather than directly to the camera.
4.       Remember you don’t have to publish anything you’re not happy with. Even the pros make mistakes J
The other thing people worry about with video blogging is what to do with the video once its been recorded. Well, whilst it might look better with a bit of editing, you don’t have to edit – if you have been able to record what you want to say without stopping you can simply upload your video to YouTube and be finished. If you do want to try editing there is some good free software available – Mac users get iMovie with their system, and Windows users can download Windows Live Movie Maker for free. Both these products allow you to edit your video before you upload it.
Video is a really powerful tool, and can bring a new dimension to your blog – why not give it a go?
Thank you Ruth, why not indeed!  I can honestly say dear readers that I am not skilled in these types of things and I have done a few vlogs in my time. If you fancy a laugh take a peek at my vlog review for the Vileda 1 2 spray mop.  It proved to be pretty popular on YouTube! lol

This is sadly the last of my guest posts, tomorrow it is back to me to finish up our New Bloggers Fortnight.  I hope you have been enjoying!  Mich x

Friday, 8 February 2013

Monetising - Your blog or your integrity?


I have to tell you I was never more surprised to receive one of my new bloggers guest posts than this one from Emma.  Ages back she asked to join in and I confirmed that I would love to feature her here but in the meantime Emma had some bad news and is having investigations for cancer. Somehow she managed to send me this post after just being discharged from hospital - I think she must be superwoman (well she is a twin mum and that is pretty close!) Over to Emma -
Emma, 26, married, mummy to a 5 year old daughter and 8 month old old twin daughters, stepmum to a 9 year old boy, graduate, pub manager and all round passionate-about-life person. I blog at www.crazywithtwins.com where I tell our family tales, laugh through the good times, try to make the best out of the bad and blog every step of my journey through the magic of parenthood.

If you’d asked me about “monetising my blog” back in March when I first started writing Crazy With Twins, my response would have been an incredulous, “WHAT???” I had NO IDEA that it was possible to make money from blogging. I also had no idea quite how many people would want to read my blog!
I started my blog as an online family record, but after a few months realised it can be used for so much more... like raising awareness of good causes, campaigning, inspiring, making people laugh. Once I had an audience, I didn’t change my content of censor what I wrote, but I became more aware of what kinds of writing people enjoyed reading. I want this blog to entertain my family and friends, as well as keep them in the loop. I want it to be enjoyable for me to read too.  The additional readers were a hugely flattering bonus.
It wasn’t until September that I discovered bloggers could review items on their blog and keep the items for free. I was amazed, but at the same time, made sure I only chose review items that were relevant to us. I discovered that writing reviews is time consuming, and therefore decided that I should only review items that were worth my time. Was an hour’s review writing worth a product I’d never use, that retails for a fiver? No. But a product I needed worth £30? Yes. Each blogger has their own price, but what I think is important when monetising, is maintaining your integrity.

I may have posted a few reviews and giveaways, of products my family have enjoyed using, but I have always stayed true to my own voice, my own themes and have never let a brand influence what I write. I always include a disclaimer telling my readers what I was given in exchange for writing the post, but at the same time, reinforcing that the words and opinions are all my own.

Monetising goes further than review posts. I recently took a contract for advertising. I considered the space available on my blog for ads. I didn’t really want my blog littered with ads unless I was going to get fair compensation for it. I was approached by a brand, which offered me a very fair price for a new blogger, and I accepted. I placed banner ads on my site for them. It was agreed that if I didn’t like any of the ads displayed, they would remove them. My blog is important to me, I worked hard to build it up and it’s full of very personal stories. Do I want those shrouded by an advert for the sake of a measly £10 a month? No. But some might. Would I consider selling ad space for a figure just shy of £40 a month? Yes okay! You need to consider what you are willing to accept before you make a deal of this kind. Ensure a full contract is in place, so you know what is expected of you and what you can expect in return. I also vetted the ads. I wouldn’t allow ads of a sensitive nature or adult content on my blog.

Reviews, banner ads... whatever next? Sponsored posts that’s what! I decided I would accept sponsored ads on my blog but only within strict terms...

1) The product or brand MUST be relative to my blog. I’m not about to promote a product for teenage boys, when my blog is about my baby girls. I have read other blogs where sponsored posts hit my inbox which have absolutely no relationship to the blogger promoting it. For me it took a portion of that bloggers integrity with it. They sold a portion of their blog for a fee, with no consideration as to where it took their readers. After several of these, I unsubscribed as I realised that blogger had lost their voice and was only blogging to make money. It was no longer interesting to read and the purpose of their blog – talking about their family, seemed to have waned.
2) Limitation. It’s not enough for sponsored posts to just be relevant to your blog, you need to decide how many you are prepared to sell. Whilst I would LOVE to make lots of money from my blog, my integrity and reputation as a writer is so very important to me. I don’t want my blog to be a platform for advertising. Again it’s purely down to bloggers preference and how much they are prepared to risk upsetting their audience or spoiling their blog. I have vowed never to do more than two posts per week which are sponsored or reviews, but I try to keep to only one a week. In a way this is also a bonus to the brands, as they are effectively being showcased, as opposed to being part of a long line of pointless ads.
At the end of the day, it’s all down to integrity. My blog is my voice, my integrity, which I value highly, and it is what governs all monetising I accept. If you look back on your blog in ten years time, do you want to read about airlines you’ve never flown with, products you’ve never used and finance packages for someone twice your age? Or do you want to read about your family memories, the products you tested and the brands you loved? Is your blog worth selling down the river to make a quick buck or would a little money often, and a good quality blog make for a happier trip down memory lane?
Obviously the price you put on your integrity, will depend on the type of blog you write and the passion within it. Nobody can tell you what is right or wrong to accept, but from a new bloggers perspective, the ones who seem to have lost their way, are those who monetised their integrity.
Thanks so much for your perspective Emma, I found this a real interesting read. It is important for us all to make our own decisions and set our own boundaries of what we will and won't do and of course transparency is of the utmost importance.
Join us again tomorrow for the penultimate post of the fortnight. The very knowledgeable Geek Mummy will be talking about vlogging or video blogging for newbies!

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Vaccinations make me cheerful! #GoodWork #R2BC


It is Thursday and that means just one thing for this blog - Reasons to be Cheerful! As we are in full swing with New Bloggers Fortnight normally I would be sharing all things bloggy that make me happy but today is a little different. It is still blogging linked but it is also bigger than that, far bigger!

Earlier this week my friends Penny, Tanya and Annie travelled to Ghana to see first hand how some of the money that Comic Relief has raised over the last 25 years has been spent and they are reporting back on all that they saw and heard there (their names are linked to their blogs, you can read loads about this great trip on those). 

Do you know what they saw in Ghana? #GoodWork that is what.  I know firsthand how that will have made their hearts leap; to see all that change and the powerful effect that funding can have to make a difference to everyday life is awe-inspiring. I'll never forget the people I met in Ethiopia and I'm sure they will never forget those they had the privilege to spend time with in Ghana.

My trip to Ethiopia in October last year was titled Living Proof and it was very much in the same vein as this #GoodWork campaign. Annie, Penny, Tanya and I all went and saw what a positive effect foreign funding has on everyday life for those living in poverty, one of the great things that this money does is help to pay for vaccination programs. The one that Tanya, Penny and Annie went to is funded by GAVI and will ensure that children live to become adults. That seems a really simple and obvious statement doesn't it? But nothing can be taken for granted when growing up in a developing country. A rotavirus vaccination makes the world of difference - it is literally life and death stuff!

Here in the UK parents make a choice to immunise their child or not but it is not a choice for those living in many parts of Africa. Diarrhoea kills in Africa as does TB, Tetanus and many other illnesses that these vaccinations can prevent. Take a look at the picture below and see how glad the mothers are to come together and have their children immunised. I'm not sure what the leaflets are that they are holding but my guess would be they are literature provided by GAVI to explain about the injections.


In Ethiopia once a child is fully immunised their family receive a certificate to confirm this fact. That certificate is then proudly displayed on the wall, in the same way your parent might mount your degree award. Children are only allowed to start school when they can prove they have been immunised, because they have to ensure they have the herd effect and the children will be safe from infection by others.

I watched Jonathan Ross on This Morning the other day broadcasting live from this very centre and he got it right when he said that no child likes having a jab but better five minutes of discomfort now, than real devastation later.  Hits it home doesn't it?

So this week my reasons to be cheerful are -
  • Bloggers making a difference
  • Comic Relief providing aid to developing countries for 25 years
  • Vaccinations saving lives
This is a digital postcard sent from #TeamHonk (www.mammasaurus.co.uk; www.aresidence.co.uk; www.mummybarrow.com) during their travels with Comic Relief in Ghana celebrating #goodwork.

For the past 25 years the money raised through Red Nose Day has been changing the lives of the poorest and most disadvantaged people in the UK and Africa. Let’s Keep Up the Good Work. Find out how at rednoseday.com.

For other digital postcards please do check out the linky on www.teamhonk.org


GoodWork

Time for you to join in now - your Reasons to be Cheerful (or #R2BC) can be anything you fancy.  Write a post and link up and hop round a visit a few great people who are joining in. Thanks to all those who joined in last week, sorry I did not get to visit you, my Nan has been very ill and sadly passed away on Monday night. Rest in Peace Nanny Mary.

Wishing you a great week, we are back to New Bloggers Fortnight tomorrow with a super post from Emma at Crazy with Twins on keeping your integrity when publishing sponsored content.

My Two Mums - Blog with your own unique voice

We are Kirsty and Clara from My Two Mums, we started blogging in Jan 2012 to document Clara's pregnancy and our adventures into parenthood. We've been married 2 years and live in the gorgeous countryside with our little boy, born in July 2012. We both bring different views to our blog. Kirsty loves photography, gadgets and playing Xbox whilst Clara loves Theatre, music and swimming. We adore being parents and can't wait to have more children.

We’ve been blogging over at My Two Mums for almost exactly a year, but feel we’ve learnt a lot in 12 months.

When starting out, neither of us read many blogs. We had a few that we read every so often but we didn’t realise how big the blogging community was. Our blog was born from an idea  to document our journey into parenthood and also as a place for families in the same situation as us, looking to start a family.

It can be daunting starting a blog, especially if you have ambitions for it to become a great read. Once you’ve written your first post and clicked publish, it can almost feel like you’re sat waiting for someone to read it and tell you it’s great. Realistically if you’ve not told anyone about your blog apart from those you know, the only person likely to read it is your Mother (that’s if your Mother is lucky enough to be told you have a blog). We found ourselves reading more and more blogs each week and commenting and building up relationships across social media. If you want your blog to be read, you have to put yourself out there. But just don’t fall in to the trap some new bloggers tend to do.

There will always be big blogs with big readership who are funny, take great pictures and tell fantastic stories. They have worked hard for their readership and I’m sure are appreciative of each and every reader. What they will not appreciate is a new blog attempting to replicate their blog in every way possible.

The best advice we can offer is to blog with your own unique voice and in a way you feel comfortable. People will want to hear your stories, told in your voice. If every blog looked and sounded the same, people would stop reading what you had to offer. Don’t feel like you have to be something you’re not to succeed. Even if just a handful of people read your blog every week your readership will start to grow through word of mouth or via social media sites. It can be difficult at first to truly find your voice, especially if you’re not a natural writer. Neither Clara nor I come from writing backgrounds yet I feel we are able to put across our adventures quite well. We feel this is entirely down to practice and enjoying writing about what we write.

You may find your writing style changes as you progress; our first blog posts are very different from our posts today. When we started out, we were writing the way we thought people would be most interested in. The posts ended up very bland and quite rigid as they lacked either mine or Clara’s personality. We fell in to the classic trap of trying to blog in a way that wasn’t our ‘voice’. As we grew more comfortable with sharing our adventures we began to write how we spoke. If you’re a regular reader of our blog you should start to recognise which of us wrote a post before we reference the author. When writing I like to imagine I’m speaking the words I write to someone present in the room, if I can’t hear myself saying something a certain way, then I won’t write it.

A few months in to blogging I feared I was starting to lose my ‘Voice’, after I published one of my favourite posts “The Journey has begun..” The post was published as part of an annual LGBT linky. I wanted to put together a post talking about our first attempt to get Clara pregnant without sharing too many graphic details. I told our story in a way I felt would be fun to read, but it still to this day feels very different to the rest of our posts. I feel this was due to the pressure of a linky. There was potential for our post to be read by a lot of bloggers I respected and I felt pressured to write something outstanding. Rather than concentrating on putting my voice into the post I wrote what I felt people would want to read. It proved to be a popular post, yet I remained unsatisfied with the way it was written. It was after writing this post that I realised I was much happier with posts we’d written with no concern over who read them.

Don’t be afraid to grow and change your voice as you progress, it can by worrying to want to change the way you write for fear of losing readers. But many readers will follow you on your journey as you establish your voice. Doesn’t be afraid of losing readers along the way, this can be a huge worry for many in truly finding their voice. But in the same way you don’t get on with everyone you meet in life, some people who read your blog will end up deciding it’s not for them. We’ve found at times when we’ve had mini rants on our blog they can prove to be controversial and at times have lost us followers on twitter. But just as in life we have rants and get frustrated we share this on our blog too, staying true to our ‘voice. As long as you stay true to yourself and blog from the heart you will enjoy blogging much more than trying to be someone else and please everyone.

Your blogging voice can always change and grow in direct reflection from your audience. This is why we encourage new bloggers to go read and comment on as many blogs as they can. It’s important to support other bloggers if you wish to be supported yourself. Just as you would tell a story to your family in perhaps a different tone to your friends, you may find yourself blogging in a different voice depending on who shares and comments on your posts.

All big blogs had to start somewhere and may have taken years to get to where they are now. Just enjoy sharing your stories and photos whilst reading and commenting on all your favourite blogs and remember to support the smaller blogs you come across as they can be fantastic hidden gems.

Thanks so much ladies, I cannot agree more that is is important to remain you when you are writing a blog.  People turn up and read because they like and get YOU!

Come back tomorrow and join in with Reasons to be Cheerful, where I share some blogging gems with you.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Mother.wife.me says Leave your blog alone!

Luci McQuitty Hindmarsh is a mother, wife and writer. She is based in London and started her career in journalism before accidentally languishing in PR for too many years. Motherhood allowed her to change track and get back to what she loves – writing. Luci has two blogs. Her personal blog, mother.wife.me, is about all things parenting, marriage and anything else that piques her interest. Her other blog, Ma Puce, is part of her Ma Puce website, an online resource to help parents teach their babies, toddlers and young children French as a second language.

Luci can regularly be found loitering with intent on Twitter as @motherwifeme and @mapucebilingual
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Take your hands away from the keyboard, disengage your brain from thinking in ‘Post Mode’ and step away from your blog. No really, you can do it. Now take a long, slow, deep breath in and exhale. Feeling better? I do hope so.

Blogging can be a wonderful thing, especially when you first get into your groove, your blog traffic starts going up and the comments are flowing. There may be times when you feel like you want to be blogging 24/7.

But at other times you might feel burnt out, pushed for time to spend on your blog or worse still… bored of blogging. The danger being that if you are bored of what you’re writing there’s a great chance that your blog visitors won’t be finding it enthralling either!

I’ve taken time away from my blog on a couple of occasions and it’s served to make me come back feeling clearer headed about what I want my blog to be and surer of how I go about it.

The longest time I had away from mother.wife.me was last summer, when I started working on my Ma Puce website. The fact it was so easy to let go of mother.wife.me for a while proved to me that I needed a break.

Running a blog, keeping up with post writing and all the associated sharing of your most recent posts is extremely time consuming. Especially if you set yourself an intensive schedule to establish your blog in the first few months.

Leaving your blog alone for a while gives you time to reflect on how far you and your blog have come, look at whether your blog is what you want it to be or whether you’ve gone off on a tangent. Maybe you like the tangent, maybe you’ll realise you want to get back to why you originally started blogging. All these things can be considered at leisure whilst you are on a break.

After my summer break from mother.wife.me my mojo returned quite suddenly one day, igniting a renewed passion for blogging. But instead of carrying on as I had before, I gave myself a loose blog posting schedule, something that was achievable and stress-free.

It’s great actually because the schedule acts as a natural filter; now I have given myself parameters there are some post ideas that a year ago would have gone flying onto the blog that simply don’t make the grade to be included, that’s got to be a plus for both me and my blog visitors!

Of course you may be reading this post in horror, wondering how you could possibly leave your blog unattended and run the risk of it falling out of the blogosphere as hard won rankings and visitors fade away.

In the first instance, you can make sure to tell everyone that you are planning a break. If you have an idea of a timeframe you can manage expectations about how long you are going to be gone and when you are coming back.

There are then several ways to handle your break from blogging. One would be to write extra posts and schedule them in advance of your break – a big ask if you have time constraints. Or you could just write the same amount of posts you normally would and then schedule them to go live further a part than normal.

Another option is to open your blog up to guest posts. Plan your break and put out a call for anyone who would like to guest on your blog. This is a great way for fellow bloggers to reach a new audience and for you to maintain blog traffic, everyone wins.

Of course leaving your blog alone doesn’t mean you need to vanish from Twitter altogether. I continued to tweet because tweeting is a way of life for me! But this also served to keep my blog in people’s minds.

That said, you could simply use the kamikaze method that I took and just shut off for a while. I have to admit it felt most liberating. Yes, my traffic did go down, but it didn’t completely fade away and when my blogging mojo returned so to did site visitors, in fact more so than ever before.

So, if you have begun to feel that you’ve reached a plateau in your blogging or that it doesn’t feel as joyful a pastime as it did when you first started, you may find that some time away from your blog could be the perfect tonic. It could replenish your creative juices, renew your passion for writing, allowing you to come back blogging better than ever.

I can safely say that I agree with Luci, I've had many breaks from writing Mummy from the Heart, even a full 6 week break for Lent in 2010 and I might just do it again this year, it is very good for your wellbeing!

Don't forget to stop in again tomorrow for another great post as part of New Bloggers Fortnight. My Two Mums will reveal why it is important to blog with your own unique voice.



Monday, 4 February 2013

Leoarna reveals the secret to good mental health

With a CV best described as eclectic, I have, in no particular order, managed numerous bookshops, completed a law degree, delivered smoking cessation courses to hundreds of people, qualified in psychotherapy, designed and run relationship enrichment programmes and inspected early years settings for the government.

All of this has been an aside to my long-held ambitions to 1) be a mum and 2) make a living from writing. And while endometriosis and premature menopause symptoms did their best to prevent my achieving the first of these, I am now extraordinarily grateful for my four year old daughter and one year old son. These days I produce content for parenting websites and have a real passion for my blog, Not Different But Interesting, where I write about the challenges of parenting small children in modern Britain; the juggle of work v money v ‘quality time’, the difficulty of making good choices for children, and my efforts to get things right for my own two little ones . 
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Parents - The secret to good mental health revealed! (Or, why blogging is good for your mummy-ego…)

Freud first told the world that we were all in possession of this cumbersome thing called ‘ego’ in 1911. While in Eastern religious traditions, the ego was something to eschew, diminish, abandon even, in the West we quickly became wedded to the concept. The net result of his ground-breaking psychological theorising was to land us with the task of ego-care, and thus the notion of maintaining ‘good mental health’ was born. In 1943, Maslow took the notion further and talked of our individual hierarchy of needs. These needs included feeling safe, loved, and a sense of belonging, with robust self-esteem and the opportunity to work for self-actualisation thrown in for good measure. Without these elements, it seemed, our ego would crumble and our life would be miserable. That’s quite a lot for one bunch of neurons to attempt to maintain on our behalf. Throw the role of parenting another equally complex being (or two) into this mix, and it is as if one has turned on the blender without putting the lid on. But hold on, there is a solution. Blogging, and being part of the blogging community, might just be the answer. I have found, just a couple of months in to my own blogging career, that blogging can really help with all those pesky needs that must be met, both within ourselves and for our kids. Blogging can truly contribute to the maintenance of a ‘happy’ ego.

Modern motherhood can be isolating. I’m not the first person to observe this. Many mothers enter the condition having enjoyed an enriching, ego-defining career and whizzo social life. Finding yourself home alone with a helpless, wholly-reliant soul who can’t discuss the content of Woman’s Hour with you can get a tad frustrating.  Some of us feel depressed by the knowledge that the world continues to turn while we, seemingly, stand still (You’re not actually standing still, you’re doing a Very Important Job. it’s just that it feels that like you are rocking back and forth on your heels, not achieving very much.) At this point I could launch into one of my post-feminist polemics about the downgraded status of the ‘mother with young child’ in our society, but… I’ll save that for another post.

Parent-land is not only isolating but also pretty confusing these days, too. Time was you just did for your child what your parents and older siblings did for you when you were a nipper. The map was uncluttered, the path clear. The wisdom behind childrearing was held in the stories of your grandmother, and the notion of reading a book to help you be a better mother was an utter anathema. Then came Dr Spock and his friendly but firm tone, and as the 70s, 80s and 90s rolled on, the snowball of parenting books became a snow-boulder of conflicting advice, that smashes all over you the moment you discover your baby doesn’t eat / sleep / poop / gurgle the same was as your friend’s baby does. Your left soaking wet, chilled to the core, and wondering what you have done to your life – or what you’re doing to theirs.

Let me lift the mood by reassuring you that blogging can do much to limit this peculiar kind of loneliness and confusion, and can bring a true sense of connection to others. And not just any old ‘others’. Real people who wrestle with the issues you do, feel the high and lows you feel. People who are willing to share their decisions, worries, hopes, dreams, and who do so knowing it might help you with your own. We are elephants, not cheetahs; we’re supposed to live connected to our fellow beings, not prowl our territory in solitary fashion. Blogging will give you the natural high of being meaningfully bound together with others who try to live as you do. There are blogging sub-communities for every kind of mum and dad; Stay At Home, Working, Home-Educator, those who raise children with particular needs, those who conceived through fertility treatment, or raise adopted children, and those who parent within the guidelines of a particular religion or philosophy. Advice is offered, but it is always underpinned with the clear acknowledgement that ‘you’re their mum (or dad), and you know your child best’. Less Gina Ford, more your modest, thoughtful ‘best mate’ who popped by for a coffee (and rescued you from a puree-splattered nervous breakdown) at just the right moment.

Blogging gives you a voice, and a community to belong to. It can broaden your view and leave you better informed. It can give you an identity away from the intensity of being someone’s mummy or daddy. The relative anonymity blogging brings can liberate you to share far more than you might with you nearest and dearest - and thus find solution and resolution to your parenting problems, and restore your ego’s equilibrium. Your blog can be your guide, resting on your shoulder and nudging you towards a more centred and kindly parenting path. And it can lead you to the service of others; to pass wisdom and empathy forward, knowing it will circumnavigate the virtual isles of Bloggingdom and be back with you when you need it - again. Freud and Maslow didn’t get to see the advent of blogging, but if they had, I’m guessing they would have been impressed.

Thank you Leoarna, come back again tomorrow for another great post, this time from mother.wife.me who says leave your blog alone!

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Suzanne tells us there is Beauty in Community

Today we welcome Suzanne to the blog and in a short time she has become one of my favourite bloggers, writing some excellent posts which really resonate with me. Probably my favourite so far is one titled Weeding. I'll let her give you a little lowdown on herself -
My name is Suzanne and I blog at 3 Children and It .  As the title suggests, I have 3 children and 1 ‘It’ (the dog, not the husband!).  I started my blog approximately 9 months ago, mainly to satisfy my desire to write but also to document our family life and hopefully impart some of my parental “wisdom” gained over the past 12 years….judge for yourself whether I achieve that or not!
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As any intelligent human being knows, it takes 9 months (give or take a few days!) for a baby to develop in the womb.  Interestingly, I have recently discovered that it takes approximately the same length of time to nurture and develop another kind of baby – 9 months ago I welcomed my blog into the world and what a 9 months it’s been!  I’ve had sleepless nights, teething troubles and regularly questioned my significance before this baby was born.  But as with any new baby, I wouldn’t change it for the world!
Since finally plucking up the courage to embark on the world of blogging (I think I had written at least 100 mental posts before convincing myself to have a go!), I have learnt so much.  One of the things I had never considered or even prepared myself for, was the amazing community that blogging creates.  Being a sociable person and one who thrives on communication with others 24/7, this was a pleasant surprise and one which I have embraced.
Maybe I am blinkered, but I can honestly say that I have not come across any hostility.  There is no evident rivalry amongst bloggers (perhaps I’m too ‘green’ to have noticed yet!) and anyone I have come into contact with has been nothing but helpful, welcoming and full of encouragement.  Even the rather daunting ‘big’ bloggers, the ones who seem to have 7 gazillion followers and 50,000 page views per day, have been so lovely and not at all worthy of the ‘scary’ label that I had given them – Mich being one of them!
Not long after I started blogging, tragedy struck the parent blogging community when a very popular and well-loved blogger, suffered a sudden and massive brain haemorrhage.  I watched from the side lines as the understandably stunned community came into its own - emotional and practical support were offered to her family and to one another, twitter prayer vigils were organised (which trended incidentally) and it was just beautiful to watch the virtual community dispel the myth it seems to have created.  This was not born out of ‘false friendships’, it was an instinctive reaction by people who cared.
I was equally amazed when many from that very same community rallied around another blogger who had sadly been forced into bringing up her family in a squalid council property.  Again, bloggers not only offered emotional support but practical help too, succeeding in transforming her run-down council property into something habitable and ultimately a home - truly inspiring.  
Who wouldn’t want to be a part of this?
If you’re new to blogging and now questioning how on earth you tap into this amazing community of bloggers, here are my top tips:
1.       Linkies (or Bloghops).  You will find many of these taking place during the week.  They are basically an opportunity to link up your post and take part in a ready-made community.  Some of the more prominent linkies are: Silent Sunday (Mocha Beanie Mummy), Saturday is Caption Day (Mammasaurus), R2BC (run by our very own Mich!), The Gallery (Sticky Fingers), Project 365 (The Boy and Me).  There seems to be a linky out there to meet everyone’s interest - don’t be shy, have a go!

2.       Commenting.  I can’t stress highly enough the need to visit and comment on other blogs. Look for those that inspire or interest you, people who you have things in common with.  Quickly they will become regular visitors to your blog and your very own little community will be born.  If someone leaves a comment at the bottom of your post, the blogging etiquette appears to be: comment under it and then visit their blog in return (it took a while for me to realise this!)

3.       Twitter. If you have a blog, you must join Twitter! I’m not too ‘up’ on all the other social networking sites but this one should be a priority. Share your posts, engage with other bloggers and retweet their posts.  The support is phenomenal - I’ve had my child’s homework questions answered, parenting advice given and tea and sympathy offered (virtually of course!)

4.       Forums. There are many different forums and networks designed especially for bloggers.  The best (and most welcoming!) ones I have found are Britmums, Netmums and Love All Blogs (there’s even a designated area on this website for newbies).  Sign up, introduce yourself and start linking up your blog posts.  You will soon find some friendly voices to interact with as well as gaining new readers.

5.       Blogroll. Set up an area on your own blog which features blogs that you enjoy reading.  Make these a priority to visit every time a new post appears. You will quickly find that the support is reciprocated and a small network of trusted bloggers will begin to develop.

6.       Blogging events.  There are many blogging events which take place throughout the year and I get the impression that they aren’t just about learning!  This year I am plucking up the courage to attend ‘Britmums Live!’ taking place in London in June.  If you asked me a year ago if I would even consider attending a conference not knowing a soul, you can imagine the answer - I just hope these bloggers live up to my expectations!

In a nutshell - don’t be a stranger.  Introduce yourself, start commenting and don’t be put off by seemingly ‘more popular’, ‘more professional’ and ‘more experienced’ bloggers. Everyone was a newbie once and most people will remember that.   Come and visit my blog, I’m always up for new ‘friends’ and will certainly make a return visit to yours J
Go on, visit Suzanne, she is a diamond you won't regret it!
Thank you Suzanne, tomorrow we have another great post for you as part of new bloggers fortnight. On a different slant new blogger Leoarna shares with us how blogging is good for your mental health.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Love in Words from All At Sea

Today we are welcoming Helen from All at Sea, she has a really distinctive blogging style and voice and it is my pleasure to have her here as part of New Bloggers Fortnight.

Helen Braid is 36 years old and lives on the Scottish West Coast with her husband, their children and an over-active imagination. She is a graphic designer who started blogging and has been unable to stop. Helen has grand designs on a stone built cottage by the sea. Watch this space...


For almost 6 months I’ve been writing a blog. I began the morning my little boy started school. Whilst my baby daughter slept I wrote about the emotions of the day, how unfamiliar - and important - it all felt.

A story to match the photograph. To remind me - once I have long forgotten - how it was to be a mother sending her grown-up baby boy to the classroom and the world.

And so I became hooked. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t started blogging sooner. How odd I didn’t realise years before how much I love to write. To weave our day into little stories which become capsules in time. An interactive diary - enjoyable to create, and a wonderful resource for future days.

Perfect then, to be given the chance to write a post for New Bloggers Fortnight. When I enjoy blogging so much, there must be a hundred suggestions or pointers I can put your way.

Yet ironically this post has been the most challenging thing I’ve written to date.

What on earth to say?

I cannot tell you how to blog. I know not your story or your approach. Or most importantly - what inspires you to write.

The best I can do is tell you mine.

Quite simply - love.

Everyday love. The little stuff - domestic affairs of the kitchen sink. In a busy world, full of busy lives - people and relationships remain our most important drive.

They are my focus. Those I love become that of which I write. And in vastly different circumstance we can all relate to matters of the heart.

I do not plan my blog. No routine in place to post every day or twice a week. If something happens to strike a chord  - I write about how it felt to me.

How liberating then - when I have never been one to talk of love. To assume instead, that family and friends know that I care. That they understand - without saying - the gaping hole they should leave if they suddenly weren’t there.

My blog has taught me to write it down. My comfort zone to getting it out.

So my message simply is -

This year write of love. In whatever its form. Find inspiration in the places and the people to whom you belong. Tell us of all that stops you in your tracks and lights up your day.

In routine life extraordinary beauty is often found - write it down. The best part of reading a blog for me, is not the when or where we’ve been. But who we were, what we said and how we felt.

We all search for that to which we can relate. Write honestly and from the heart. I guarantee you - that now or then, and here or there - we’ll all have felt the same... x

Thanks so much Helen, such great advice to remember to record all those little moments and to take joy in those we love.

Tomorrow as part of New Bloggers Fortnight we will welcome Suzanne from 3 Children and It, she will be talking about immersing yourself into the blogging community.