On blogging strategy…

blog-post-it-strategy

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the world’s greatest forward planner – momentous events often creep up on me like some kind of stealth bomber. I tend to have my brain constantly switched to the present moment, and I miss things – I forget birthdays/anniversaries/events and opportunities. Without tight and immovable deadlines I am sunk.

I know I need to work on this – I’m not sure if there is some kind of brain training programme to help people like me. I’ve read books on time management and improving organisational skills – I am wowed at the simplicity, I attempt to follow the guidelines but it’s like trying to re-set a clock which constantly loses time – before you know it you are once more six months from where you want to be.

This has implications for blogging too. It’s a bit like work when you don’t have a career, or your paid work doesn’t feel like your true calling in life. A successful career, or even a successful work project, takes forward planning and strategy. Right now my blog means a lot to me and, like many others, I’m constantly assessing and re-assessing what I’m doing, why I’m doing it and how I’m doing it. I read a lot of other blogs and I’ve started to make a note of ideas and features which appeal to me, which make good sense and improve on what is otherwise just the day to day ramblings of another mother. I’m also picking up tips on improving my online rankings because, despite the fact that I’m not too bothered about ‘playing the SEO game’ I can see that better rankings mean better visibility, better visibility means more readers, more readers means more chance of being talent spotted, paid a small fortune and moving to Barbados (ha ha ha ha ha ha bonk [laughed til her head fell off]).

But sometimes it is easy to get caught up in the moment when you have little children. They suck up that space in your head which used to be free for dreaming, planning and strategising. It’s less “where do I see myself in five years time” and more “where do I see myself in five minutes time if my car keys have disappeared from the bottom stair and the two year old is upstairs flushing the toilet?”.

Reading posts like this from the ever fab BrummyMummyof2 make me focus in on what’s important to me in blogging, and, well really, in life – where true success lies – having your writing acknowledged, rewarded, comment-worthy, thought provoking, syndicatable (is that a word??). So that’s it then – better get on and write something syndicatable!

 

All About You Link & Pin Party

North Norfolk with preschoolers – Part 2

(For part one of this mini-series – don’t miss out on chicken poxy shenanagins! – click here.)

On day two we were already suffering from that vague sensation you get when you go on a self-catering holiday entirely unprepared for mealtimes. After a bit of a verbal scuffle with the hubster I had to concede that eating out every day was not going to be an option. We decided on a trip into Norwich (“A Fine City”) which would allow us to treat the boys to a cheeky Happy Meal at the Golden Arches.

Norwich really is an interesting place, packed with history. Anyone who reads the brilliant Put Up With Rain blog will be in no doubt that Lucy’s pride in her home city is justified. Having said that, history is not something that really appeals to pre-schoolers and we had second thoughts about a trip round Norwich Castle with them, instead opting for Norwich Cathedral (which felt like less of a commitment money-wise). It was actually really fortuitous because our visit coincided with the filming of a major motion picture starring Judi Dench – Tulip Fever based on a great book by Deborah Moggach set in 17th Century Holland. The hubster and kids were decidedly underwhelmed by this (although the hubster did attempt to pimp EJ out to the film crew should they need a ‘child with the pox’ for any reason – they politely declined).

For me though, this was one of the highlights of the holiday (being on a movie set, not having my toddler pimped out)! I have been a lover of all things cinematic and film-related for as long as I can remember and used to be able to claim encyclopaedic knowledge of what was going on in the industry, devouring Empire magazine from cover to cover month in month out. Nowadays I don’t get much opportunity to take in a movie – even on the small screen, but I will be keeping an eye out for this one because I know there will be one little scene during which I was tucked away just behind the action desperately attempting to keep EJ from either yelping or charging headfirst into the limelight.

The hubster was much more taken with the twitchers camped out on the green outside – actually the Hawk and Owl Trust all set up to view and record the movements of the peregrine falcons which nest up in the turrets. They let us have a look through one of the viewfinders and they really are impressive birds.

A quick Costa latte fix, a trip to Langleys toyshop (where the boys got a coach and an ice cream van respectively – the latter of which went on to drive us to distraction with its annoying tune!) and our day was complete.

Day three we set off for JJ’s promised land – the North Norfolk Steam Railway! Honestly I don’t think I have ever experienced so many trips on steam railways since JJ was born – he absolutely loves them and it was perfect to have a little branch line in Sheringham – so close to where we were staying. We opted for a very short trip (you never know where you stand on enclosed spaces with a toddler in tow!) and journeyed to the first stop and back with a little time to spend looking around the lovely old-fashioned station at Weybourne. The friendly guard on the train told us to look out for the toilets in particular and he wasn’t kidding – genuine Crappers! The whole of the Ladies (not sure about the Gents!) was a museum piece in itself.

There was also a lovely café and toyshop on the station and a pretty little garden area with tables where I caught this butterfly shot (in between lunges at a wayward toddler who seemed to quite like the idea of diving off platform edges :-/ ).

When we arrived back at Sheringham we still had the day ahead of us so we took a stroll down the High Street with the intention of seeing the sea. I have to say that my initial impression was that, for the crowds, it could almost have been Camden or Covent Garden on Sea. However the average age was probably 70 and street entertainment was thin on the ground. You can see why this place appeals to the older generation though – it is like stepping back in time to a former decade – one in which out of town supermarkets did not exist and you would visit green grocers, butchers, bakers and ironmongers all individually. I am old enough to remember the very end of that era and it was a bit nostalgic in that respect!

We made it to the end of the road and on to the seafront but the weather wasn’t great and the munchkins were beginning to flag. A quick ice-cream (pistachio for me – delish!) a few photo shoots of the giant lobsters which seemed to abound (!) and we were en route home.

After a pit stop for an EJ nap and lunch we decided that a little afternoon trip was in order to keep the little people from mutiny. As we became members of the National Trust in April it was a no-brainer to seek out the best Norfolk had to offer (a free trip means no obligation to ‘make a day of it’ and we knew we could call it quits if tantrums or chicken poxiness got the better of any or all of us). We opted for Blickling Estate – such a stunning property – even though we didn’t go inside the building itself it was a pleasure to stroll in the lovely grounds. The boys didn’t take long to discover some little hills for rolling down. EJ became very attached to a rock on a gravelled path which he attempted to kick along like a ball (perhaps after all he was aware of World Cup fever…) and then we stumbled upon some giant lawn games (and who doesn’t love the idea of getting a pile of giant Jenga bricks collapsing on a sandaled foot?).

Coming up in Part three:

  • That doomed trip to The Pigs (a Fine pub)
  • Wroxham (who the f**k is Roy?)
  • Two boys, one buggy, in Sheringham Park
  • And finally – the sun comes out in Overstrand and we hit the beach!

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Love the Little Things week 7

READ

This week I finished Emily Barr’s The Sleeper after only starting it last week!! It must be a record or mean something significant. Whilst it wasn’t as good as Gone Girl (Gillian Flynn) it had the same sort of vibe and it was enjoyable enough for me to have sought out another book by Barr which I’ve now got all loaded up and ready to go on my Kindle. This one is called The Life You Want and tells the story of a mother of two who has a seemingly perfect life but feels like she’s cracking up and escapes to India to rediscover herself. I am really into summer reading mode now and I love the premise because who hasn’t felt like that at some time and wanted to escape alone to somewhere exotic?

The life you want by Emily Barr

WATCHED

This week I watched the final episode of Amber on BBC4 as recommended by the lovely Emma of Life at The Little Wood. Like everyone else I had a hole to fill after Happy Valley ended. I enjoyed this in the way you enjoy any suspense thriller – you kind of hang on in there to find out what did happen to that missing girl. I don’t want to give away spoilers if anyone intends to watch but it has the kind of ending you will either love or hate… I am also intending to watch a DVD I’ve had from LoveFilm for a while now, Saving Mr Banks – the Tom Hanks/Emma Thompson one all about Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers and her meeting with Walt Disney to discuss the adaptation of her story to the big screen. I loved the trailers back on cinematic release and I’m really looking forward to this!

WORE

Nothing particularly exciting this week, I was all about getting comfy after work and I’m loving these new jersey harem-style pants I got recently from Next:

Harem pants

HEARD

I heard this Avicii song Lay Me Down on the radio on my way to work the other day and I love it! I’m not sure if it’s a previous release, new release or what but I know its the kind of music that gets me up on my feet. I think Avicii would be amazing live – you can see from the atmosphere in the video that he creates that festival vibe – Wake Me Up has always seemed like the perfect festival song to me because of its anthemic chorus. I only just found out that the vocals on Wake Me Up were by Aloe Blacc!

 

MADE

I thought I was having a little lightbulb moment this week after trawling Pinterest for ideas for good stuff to make into ice lollies – I’m thinking alcopopsicles, smoothie and milkshake lollies and frozen yogurt. I noticed that some people had just literally stuck lolly sticks straight into yogurt pots and frozen them and I suddenly thought of Frubes and how perfect they would be as yogurt ice pops! I ordered some with the weekly shop only to discover that I am clearly one step behind the Frube marketing department:

Frozen Frube

This went down pretty well with the boys!

I did actually attempt some home made lollies too using a recipe which mixes frozen banana, peach (I used tinned), almond milk, cinnamon, vanilla essence and agave syrup. Its healthy and free from too.

Banana Peach lolly

I had used a very over ripe banana so it was particularly sweet! JJ wasn’t too keen but I liked the flavour. The problem is that most home freezers don’t freeze stuff fast enough to avoid that prickly icicle effect that you get when you make your own and these were no exception. The recipe I got this from made a good point in suggesting you freeze your banana in advance – I just didn’t get mine in the freezer fast enough because I had to run out and buy some moulds! I might experiment with freezing the peaches next time too – I believe that the colder it is to start with, the quicker it will freeze and the better the final texture…

With some of the leftover almond milk (I’ve never tried it before but its OK if you don’t drink it straight up) I quickly whizzed up this strawberry banana smoothie and added a little vanilla essence & sprinkled some cinnamon on top which was actually really nice:

Strawberry banana smoothie

AND LASTLY…

I had fun with mum and the boys at the big playground in Bushy Park, South West London and noticed that the deer are getting tamer and tamer – I even saw them eating out of peoples’ hands! Not sure if this is a good thing mind you…

Deer in Bushy Park

EJ has finally started getting his appetite back and being cute and happy again – hurrah! And JJ’s brain seems to have finally received the memo that says ‘turn off the waterworks at night’ – a whole week of dry bedding – hurrah times 2!!

I treated myself to one of these:

aerolatte

Some of this:

Tesco salted caramel sauce

and whipped myself up both an iced version and hot version of a caramel latte with lots of lovely froth! Delicious!

I’ve also (I think) re-negotiated a mini-break to Suffolk to see my bestie Sophie and get our kids together at the end of August which is going to be brilliant!

And I’ve wasted no time in bagging myself an earlybird ticket to the Mumsnet BlogFest in November – woohoo – November 8th, November 8th, November 8th (If I repeat enough times I might even remember this one 🙂 )

Happy Friday Little Loves!

 

butwhymummywhy

 

*Not* a BritMums Live round-up

Not BML 2014 logo

So I’m sure by now anyone who knows me and my blog knows that I didn’t make it to BML this year, despite having bought a ticket, months in advance. I know I’m not the only one to have missed out and regretted it (to some extent – I did have a lovely* family holiday instead to compensate!). I know this because during significant chunks of Friday and Saturday I was obsessively scanning the Twitter, searching for updates, descriptions, photos… I wasn’t disappointed, there was plenty going on – I got to salivate over pictures of free cake, drool over shots of free Lindemans, wonder at pretty outfits in toilet selfies, and rest assured that no one was left like a lemon sitting all alone in All Bar One!

Friendships made over t’internet were solidified, there was hugging, there was laughter, there were a lot of mums looking very much like low-security prisoners who had been released overnight for good behaviour (not that I’m comparing the mothering of small children to a prison sentence, but some days, you know? 😉 )

And now I’m sure there will be a lot of fellow bloggers who will be doing their round-up/dissection of where it all went right, what they have taken away and how it will help them to improve their SEO, improve their layout, write better blog posts and engage with the people who matter. And I’m sure a lot of tips and advice will be shared (because bloggers are like that – we like to spread the love) but unfortunately reading a list of tips online is never going to have the same impact as watching an inspirational speaker or being able to discuss the successes or the hard won lessons of others over a bucket of Pimms…

What is the upshot of all this? I will be going to BML next year – and maybe its for the best because at least my children will be that much older (although having said that there will still be a two year old involved!). I wait with baited breath for Mumsnet to release the dates of BlogFest and make their tickets available.

I congratulate all those who won BiB awards (for all those non-bloggers out there – anyone? Anyone? – that stands for Brilliance in Blogging, and has absolutely nothing to do with the correct use of pelican, neoprene or any other kind of laughable division between the food/drink/clothing interface on a small child).

And I will continue to write, engage and enjoy blogging as one of the most satisfying hobbies I’ve ever stumbled into.

*involving two full on little boys covered head to foot in the pox!

 

All About You Link & Pin Party

North Norfolk with preschoolers – Part 1

I can see the sea!

This weekend we returned from a wonderful family holiday to Overstrand near Cromer on the North Norfolk Coast. This will be our last chance to travel outside of school holidays as JJ starts big school in September.

We opted for Norfolk primarily due to the fact that one of my closest and oldest friends lives en route (near Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk) and it was deemed the perfect opportunity to get our little families together for the first time since ou children have been old enough to interact together.

Because of post-motherhood fuzz brain (I’m not going to openly admit to just being a bit s**t at planning and organisation :-/ ) I booked this holiday over the Britmums Live dates – for which I had already purchased my £98 ticket – read more about my thoughts on this shortly!

Other than bad planning which can be blamed on me, the universe decided to stick its oar in as well, as, lo and behold if I didn’t remove EJ’s pyjama top on the morning of Day 1 to discover a little constellation of chicken pox spreading itself out across his back. This, of course, put paid to our 2 planned visits to the lovely Sophie as, despite her eldest having previously suffered the chicken pox, she is also currently the proud owner of a bloomin’ gorgeous 6 month old baby and there was no way we were going to put him at risk.

Armed with an extended first aid kit including acqueous calamine, Calpol, Calprofen and enough bicarb of soda to automatically qualify me for the Great British Bake Off (you put it in the bath, right?), we put on a brave face and set off in the almost certain knowledge that JJ would soon join his brother in the pox.

Cut a long story short – he did, within two days, and suffering with it worse than his little brother inducing a Tourettes-a-thon (minus the swearing!) of hopping, twitching and itching which culminated in a ‘luxury’ hot chocolate being shot up into the air and all over the floor of a toy shop in the beautiful town of Holt which we will probably never be able to show our faces in again (for shame!).

All this said, we did not let this minor ( :-/ ) setback stop us from exploring all that North Norfolk had to offer the likes of us. The first, and highly touted, visit we made was to BeWilderwood near Wroxham – a kind of massive adventure playground, if you will, all set in atmospheric woodland and set up to mirror a fantastical world where small mythical creatures and the occasional witch (also a crocodile-like being named Mildred who, apparently, likes to dance around a sparkly handbag at the weekend) live out their days. Our children weren’t really bothered by all this mythologising and the best bits for them (JJ in particular) were the boat ride, wobbly high bridges and zipwires.

Norfolk Bewilderwood

I had the pleasure of closely shadowing EJ’s every move as he casually mistook himself for a child 8 years older and attempted to scale even the tallest structures. Unfortunately this meant the camera stayed firmly zipped up in my backpack for 90% of the time.

I also had to eventually concede to the hubster that, for better planning (here we go again!) we would not have been faced with the prospect of spending £3 on a plain cheese sandwich.

Still to come in the North Norfolk with Preschoolers series:

  • A surprise awaited us at Norwich Cathedral
  • JJ’s wish came true with a trip on the North Norfolk Railway
  • What happened when a trip to the most child-friendly pub ever (The Pigs in Edgefield) didn’t quite work out…
  • Fun and games (and attempted sweetie theft!) at Wroxham Barns and a brief foray into Wroxham town for a quick squizz at ‘The Broads’
  • Beach shenanagins back at Overstrand
  • And finally, two more National Trust properties to cross off the list – Blickling Estate and Sheringham Park.

Linking up to What’s the Story over at Podcast The Doves.


 photo 93142f35-6d39-479f-b3de-d94dbca68162_zps58499252.jpg

Love the little things Week #6

READ

(disclaimer: some of the things I will mention here may bear a resemblance to things I talked about last week, the difference being last week I was thinking about them, this week I’ve put them into practice!)

While I’ve The Sleeperbeen away I’ve been trying to make a bit more time for leisure reading – fiction. In the past choosing good summer reads was part of the fun of preparing for a holiday but nowadays the chance to find the time is rare. Nevertheless I have put down my more literary tome and picked up The Sleeper by Emily Barr. I’ve only managed to read about a fifth of the book, mostly before dropping off to sleep last thing at night. It’s a bit of a slow starter if it is to be a mystery thriller – so far there has just been a very small hint of more interesting things to come. She does however really get you inside the mind of her protagonist so you feel like you might be able to predict her later moves. I’ve read some books by this author before so I feel confident that the plot will pick up soon!

WATCHED

Well, despite promising myself that I would take a step back from blogging this week I have ended up still doing a lot of reading and commenting, but in the background has been a lot of international football (Spain’s out – shocker!), Chuggington, Topsy and Tim and Swashbuckle (I’ll be talking like a pirate for some time – ah-harr me hearties!)

WORE

I’ve been mostly sticking with the red, white and blue theme this week – unfortunately our holiday weather hasn’t been very warm and sunny so most of my new pretty lightweight outfits have just hung in the wardrobe of our holiday house. Hopefully I’ll be able to get some wear out of them when we go off to Devon in August… Here’s a pick of myself and the boys sporting a range of stripes:

Norfolk stripy tops

HEARD

Paulo Nutini. He’s one of those singers, like Aloe Blacc, who have the most amazing, god-given voices – eminently listenable, and some of his songs thrill me – I’m thinking Last Request and New Shoes. His latest release, Scream (Funk my Life Up) is pretty good, but I’m still not sold on some of the other songs from the album. In the old days I would just buy the album and then it would grow on me, but in this age of downloads and digital ‘tasters’ I am often left a bit undecided…

MADE

I’m on holiday so time in the kitchen has been reduced and I certainly haven’t cooked anything as such. I have the makings of a great holiday album though and I helped make a little family of Supermen by buying the hubster a T-Shirt for Father’s Day which matches those of the boys just for fun!

The Supermen shirts

AND LASTLY…

It’s been a week of highs and lows as holidays with small children are wont to be – the worst thing being that both children succumbed to chicken pox – EJ from Day 1!

Highs though, have included visiting Norwich Cathedral during the filming of Judi Dench’s new movie Tulip Fever – a book I loved by Deborah Moggach. I’m excited to know that when I watch the film I will be able to pinpoint the scene where we were tucked in to a side chapel just behind the action with our fingers crossed that EJ wouldn’t suddenly squeal at the top of his lungs! (He didn’t!).

Visiting the beautiful Blickling Estate one sunny afternoon and playing giant lawn games with the boys was awesome.

And a lovely little (short!) journey on the North Norfolk Railway culminating in me taking pictures of the toilet (a genuine Crapper!):

Norfolk Weybourn rail 'Crapper'

Capturing a fab butterfly shot outside whilst waiting for the train back:

Norfolk railway butterfly 1

And then a lovely stroll down Sheringham High Street which (whilst somewhat heaving with the older generation!) was like taking a step back in time with lots of green grocers’ stacked with beautiful looking and smelling fruit and veg outside, baker’s shops with tempting treats, ice cream parlours and adorable gift shops which made me sad that I wasn’t there with a girlfriend for the purposes of browsing through the scarves, homewares and intriguing little bits and pieces. There also seemed to be a bit of a lobster theme going on there:

So now I just need a holiday from my holiday and I’ll be a happy woman!

Happy Friday Little Loves! X

 

butwhymummywhy

When outings go wrong! : Wimbledon Windmill

My mum grew up in the Fulham/Putney/Wimbledon area of South West London and last Sunday she suggested that we take the boys to one of her old haunts – Wimbledon Windmill on Wimbledon Common. The journey there would take in a train ride and a bus ride – ideal for my public transport loving boys!

Our first mistake was to rule out taking with us the buggy. EJ is not one for being strapped down to anything and kicks up a helluva fuss if he feels like his freedom is being in any way curtailed. That, combined with the thought of lugging the thing on and off buses and trains was enough to make us decide to leave it at home.

Everything started off fine – the boys were excited on the train and then just as excited to get up to the front of the top floor of a double decker bus (EJ practically forcing the young man sitting there already off!).

Double Decker riders!

Then, we arrived at our destination bus stop and there was a five minute walk down alongside the common to get to the windmill. JJ began to whine. EJ was flinging himself off kerbstones with gay abandon. Eventually we made it at round about 11.20 and took a turn into the tea room/cafe there which was mighty popular at that time of day/week with a lot of runners appearing to use the spot as a gathering point for coffee post run. We decided that we might as well order the munchkins some food and milkshakes as we were all a bit hungry and thirsty. Only it turned out that EJ didn’t really like his strawberry milkshake and shortly after the following picture was taken he spilled it all over the table, narrowly avoiding soaking my mum in sweet, sticky pink milk!

Milkshakes - before the spill

We waited for the food order to be called out. And waited. And waited. My Mum went in twice to chase them up – it was only a couple of toasted sandwiches, sausage, chips and beans for the kids. The kids became bored and fractious. Eventually the food arrived, the kids had one sausage each and pretty much left the rest.

At this point we hadn’t even seen the windmill and we were well aware that we were deep in the heart of EJ’s usual nap time.

By the time we had finished our food the boys were a bit beyond any further walking so we decided to just call it a day and head home! I took a couple of shots of the windmill just to prove we had actually been there, and the boys had a bit of a climb on a big old cog structure which I presume had once belonged to part of the mill’s inner workings…


Eventually we found ourselves back on the train home which perked the boys up no end. Here they are trainspotting and creating a bit of chaos and giggly mayhem on a, thankfully, fairly empty train!

So there you have it – how not to plan a day out! Next time, picnics, buggies and sensible timings will be the order of the day! I am still intrigued by the wonderful memories my mum described of playing on and exploring the Common in her childhood as I am completely unfamiliar with that area so we’ll definitely return!