Posts tagged ‘blogging’

March 25, 2014

My blog is moving!

Hello everyone.

After far too much deliberation, this week I am starting the process of converting my blog to a self-hosted WordPress.org site.

The new site will still be Margot & Barbara and you’ll still be able to find it at http://www.margot-and-barbara.com but there will be a few changes.

A new logo, for one. After realising that getting professional help in logo design and website building was going to cost me a month’s salary, I’ve opted for a DIY approach, with MASSES of help from Stephen without whom none of this would be happening. So my site will be ace, my logo will be hand-watercoloured and therefore terribly imperfect and wonky, but it’ll be all mine. As someone told me on Instagram the other day ‘integrity is magnetic’ so I’m hoping that people will appreciate the home-made quality of it! I’ll admit, I’m finding the whole thing one giant learning curve and I’m pretty terrified that I’m going to be writing into the wind with no audience at all. But I want to see if I can make this blog everything it could be and that requires change and a big old pile of bravery, so I’m going for it. Stephen did ask me how I’d feel about losing three years’ worth of writing and that made me gulp a bit, so lets hope it all goes according to plan!

The all new Margot & Barbara will be a bit more focused. I’ll have to get used to not writing about every little thought that pops into my head! I’m not going to be writing any more restaurant reviews, or Leeds event reviews, unless they’re about something I’m especially interested in. I shall leave that to the many talented Leeds-based bloggers out there.  I’m also dropping my blog-every-day plan. Let’s face it, it was never going to last, was it? So, three or four times a week will do nicely.

I’m keeping Three Good Things book reviews, and the occasional personal challenge/scanner-type post (because they’ve got fab feedback, and I enjoy writing them) and I will be doing more writing on gardens, flowers, grow-your-own and all things plant and food based and also travel and adventure posts. This shift is because of the feedback I’ve got from readers in the survey but also it ties in nicely with my own personal plans for the future.

The overall ‘green’ feel of Margot & Barbara (with the occasional glittery post for balance!) will stay and I and will be experimenting soon with making natural beauty products so I’m sure they’ll find their way into a post or two as well.  If you’ve enjoyed reading this blog, you’ll find much of the same in its new home.

Later in the spring/summer will see the launch of the next phase of my changes and I’m SO excited to be getting things under way after a year of procrastination.

I really, really hope that you’ll come across and see me at my new site! Bye for now…

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March 3, 2014

A week away from blogging.

I’ve just accidentally had a week away from blogging and for the first time in ages, felt completely fine about it. No anxiety. No little voice inside my head telling me I must write a blog post. Perhaps it was because I was so busy learning new things and enjoying myself, or perhaps I needed a break.

What I have come to realise is that the busier and more excited I am about my ‘real’ life, the less anxious I am about blogging. And the less time I spend on social media, with the notable exception of Instagram. When I’m busily doing stuff (instead of just talking about doing stuff, a bad habit of mine), I have things to photograph even if I don’t have the time or inclination to write.

During the week off, I’ve concluded that my daily blogging is too much for me, at least until the day that blogging becomes my full-time job! I knew that I was probably setting myself up for problems when I started it but, to quote Edison, I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work…

The other thing I’ve started doing this week is analysing my survey results. These have been really helpful; thank you so much to everyone who has completed it. There’s still time if you’d like to get involved. I’d love to have more feedback and I promise it only takes two minutes. The link is at the bottom of the page.

Based on the survey results I shall be blogging on the subjects you’ve said you like the most, and reverting back to blogging several times a week. The other, bigger changes to the site are still under construction and I hope to unveil them in the next few months! I’m glad that I’ve got to a point where I’m more comfortable with combining my blog with the rest of my life and I’m really excited about what my future plans might bring, it feels like a good place to be.

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Margot and Barbara is changing! I’d really appreciate your feedback. Click HERE to take part. Thank you 🙂

February 17, 2014

How to make friends.

On my recent blogging course, during a discussion about networking, the discussion turned to making friends. In that context, we were talking about making friends with other bloggers —I’m going to write about that next week, but I’m also interested in making friends more generally.

But it’s hard to make friends as an adult, isn’t it?

As the school gate, I have two friends. Many of the other parents will nod a ‘hello’ but that’s as far as the relationships go. We attend the same meetings, parties and sports days but are merely acquaintances because of biology. Giving birth to a child at the same time does not automatically create friendships, I never found. I suspect much of this is because instead of going to antenatal class, I gave birth ten weeks’ early and so never had the chance to meet other prospective parents and make those early connections. Still, the two friends I do have, I made because we discovered that we have other things in common alongside children. A love of wine, for a start. And the same sense of humour. So although I’ve never made lots of friends through school, the ones I have are fab. Even though they keep bugging me to take up ceroc dancing…

My long term friends, from college and work, are scattered around the country— actually, the globe. We make plans to meet, but they’re often scuppered by poorly children, other responsibilities, work commitments. These are the friends I’ve had forever. You probably have some too. They’re the ones who know all about your first kiss, or who held your hair back when you were sick after one too many drinks at college. The ones you were with when you tried to tape the songs from the Top 40 without getting any of the DJ speaking on (showing my age, there) and pored over the latest issue of Smash Hits with.  The friends who you don’t need to see for months, but as soon as you catch up, it’s like you were never apart. Although those bonds are strong, the length of time between meetings leaves for huge gaps of time to be lonely in.

So, the answer has to be finding new friends. Not to replace those long term friendships but to add to them. More friends! These ones are the folk you can get the chance to grab a coffee with, or go to evening classes together, because they’re local. These friends are the ones who will stop you feeling lonely on a day-to-day basis. And possibly, one day, you’ll have known them forever too…

Here’s how I am finding friends:

1: Twitter. Leeds is a wonderful city in which to find people through Twitter. If you’re in Leeds, you should be following @peopleofLeeds, a rotation curation account. I’ve met some of my closest ‘tribe’ through Twitter; people who I consider to be some of the closest friends I’ll ever have the good fortune to have, plus a good number of other people who are less close, but lots of fun. I know that in many cases, we’ll never meet in real life, but they’re still true friendships. However, plucking up the courage to ask someone if they fancy meeting up for coffee has led to some genuine ‘real life’ friendships, so I’d tell you to go for it. Just make sure you arrange to meet somewhere public for the first time. 

2: Blogging. Through blogging, I’ve met some wonderful people, both locally and further afield. Getting invitations to events means I have to be brave and often turn up alone. A glass of wine or two later, I’m hopefully chatting to someone who may continue to be a friendly face. This year, I’m hoping to get to a blogging conference or two and meet some people that I’ve chatted to online for a while. I’m going to write more about blogging friendships next Monday.

3: Trying something new. By trying new things, even if they’re a challenge, I start to feel better about myself. Which, in turn, makes me happy. Happy people attract other people, I’m sure. And if all else fails, at least I’ve tried something different and so I’m living a fuller life.

4: Following my own interests, goals, desires and dreams. Sometimes, people come to you when you’re not actively looking for them. By following my own interests, I go to events, take courses, and join online and offline gatherings. Being in a place surrounded by people with the same passion as you, you’re very likely to be able to strike up a conversation, which sometimes leads to longer term friendships. Do what you love and the friends will come.

How do you make new friends? I’d love to chat about this with you all…

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Margot and Barbara is changing! I’d really appreciate your feedback. Click HERE to take part. Thank you 🙂

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February 2, 2014

Photo of my week #3

This week has been all about planning. I’ve made blogging plans, travel plans, business plans, life plans.

Here’s to a week of putting those plans into action…

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January 20, 2014

Editorial Calendars: do they work?

Trying to wrestle my blogging timetable into some kind of manageable shape has long been a battle of mine. I’m continually torn between wanting to create good quality content, which takes time, and trying to ensure that I write enough posts to maintain a regular readership.

Slow Blogging; the creation of content that is considered, as well written as I can make it and not created purely for page rank is important, but I’m currently enjoying the discipline of writing a post to a given theme each day. Having it all laid out in a spreadsheet helps me to see at a glance what subjects I’m covering each week and reduces the panic about want/must/should/need to write something. All of those feelings are obviously self-imposed, but they are real, and this is helping me to banish them.

By forward planning, even though I have to find the time to write a post to publish each day, knowing in advance what that post will be about means that I need less time to create each one. I’m also finding that it helps me to ensure that I’m not covering similar topics too closely  together. Spending some time thinking about the seasons, special days and events and determining what I can write about that will tie in with those subjects, whilst remaining true to the Margot and Barbara themes, has also resulted in lots of ideas!

My method of creating an editorial calendar is simply a spreadsheet, with the dates down the side and the days of the week across the top. I’ve added in special days (such as Mothering Sunday) so that I know what’s coming up, and then started to populate it.

One thing that I’ve realised is important (and was raised by Kay in the comments of my blogging schedule post) is retaining enough flexibility to move posts around if I get invited to an event, or a product to review. Having a combination of posts that are time-limited and those that are not, means I can move things around if necessary.

Elizabeth at Rosalilium gives great advice here about different tools you can use to create your own editorial calendar. But for the moment, my simple spreadsheet is working really well for me, helping me feel as though I can fit my blog around my work and life. I highly recommend you try using one for your blog too!

January 13, 2014

My Shiny New Blogging Timetable

New year, new blogging schedule! I know, we’ve been here before, but I’m spending the month of January doing the Rosalilium Big Blogging Bootcamp and it’s fired up my enthusiasm for Margot & Barbara and so I have huge, ambitious plans for the year. Expect more changes to come…

Yes, yes, undoubtedly it’ll all come crashing down around my ears some time around March, but let’s be optimists, shall we?

Part of what I’ve been working through is trying to get a better grasp on themes for Margot & Barbara. At the very core of my blog is my scanner-type nature which means I’m interested in pretty much everything and that has always resulted in a blog that’s all over the place. And I’ve always thought that was fair enough, because at least it’s genuinely me. BUT – I’ve realised that for my own sanity and so you know what to expect, a bit of a schedule might help. It would help me to stop feeling stressed about ‘I should/could/must blog’ and put me back in control, using (for the first time) an editorial calendar, because I can plan in advance what I’m going to write about so will spend less time in a last-minute panic!

So, here goes.

Monday: LEARNING:  Challenges, scanner and multipotentialite writing, things I’ve learnt about blogging, and lots of writing about happiness. Because that underpins everything else I write.

Tuesday: GREEN: It’s ‘Barbara’ day. Including cycling and recycling, natural, organic and ethical beauty, my allotment and other gardening topics and any other green-themed posts.

Wednesday: THREE GOOD THINGS: A weekly post about three good things in my life that I’m grateful for. As before, I’d love you to share in Three Good Things and write your own posts to link up.

Thursday: LUXE: It’s ‘Margot’ day on Margot and Barbara! Here I’ll write about travel, fashion and beauty, restaurant reviews and lovely hotels. Where I can, I’ll focus on the environmental aspects. I call this eco-luxe. ‘Light’ green, if you like. I’ll also write about the arts, and Leeds based events here; going out and having fun definitely belongs on ‘Margot’ day… And yes, I know that ‘green’ and ‘luxe’ are polar opposites and I make no apologies for that. It’s who I am. Read my About Me page, if you want to know more.

Friday: HOME-LIFE: Including books, films, cooking, family, my attempts at crafts and the birds I see out of my window; today is all about staying in and living slowly.

Saturday: THE WEEKEND PAGES: A weekly round-up of the best things I’ve found on the web. Articles, blogs, life-hacks, online stores, everything is open for inclusion here.

Sunday: PHOTO OF MY WEEK: One photo that sums up my week.

Ta-da! What do you think? Feedback is very welcome from you, my lovely readers. Only be kind, I know it’s ambitious, but that’s what January is for, isn’t it?  And do let me know what kind of posts you like the best. 

December 23, 2013

Happy Christmas!

Well, 2013 has been an interesting year, to say the least. I’ve gone through huge life changes, only some of which I’ve shared here. Life today is pretty good. I’m writing this in a fairy-lit sitting room, while my children sleep peacefully next door. I know that I’ve got some wonderful relationships and lots to look forward to. But I’m tired too. In need of a little break to re-charge my batteries a bit.

And so, I’m taking the advice of Luci at ‘Mother. Wife. Me‘ and having a blogging break until the New Year. A year that I have many plans for. Cycling, yoga, gardening, micro-adventures, maybe a bit of luxury, some volunteering and a lot of learning. I’m hoping to spend some time rebuilding old friendships and creating new ones. I’d like to see a bit of the world I’ve never been to before. I shall play games with my children and go on dates with my boyfriend. It will be a good year. I feel it in my bones.

I’m hoping that this blog will grow too. I have lots to improve and I’m going to state my intentions here and now to join the Big Blogging Bootcamp hosted by Elizabeth at Rosalilium. I know that it will be the kickstart that I’ve been looking for and I’m very much looking forward to it.

So, for now I wish those of you who are celebrating, a very Happy Christmas, and a wonderful 2014 to you all! I’ll catch you in a couple of weeks.

Love from Liz

Potted Christmas Tree

November 9, 2013

Blog Chat: BEDN #9

Today’s blog post is about the subject of blogging itself. I’ve had a day off from #BEDN because yesterday was a bit of a crazy day. If I’d done a post on the prompted subject, which was ‘A Day in the Life’ you’d probably just have needed a lie down after living vicariously through my dashing around.

Anyway, after a day off it was time to get back in the ‘Blog Every Day in November‘ zone, and I did that by reading one of my favourite blogs, Espresso Coco. On there, Dave had written his post using questions from Janet (who writes a blog that I’ve just discovered because of #BEDN) and so I was cheeky and asked if I could use them too. And because they’re clearly both fabulous, they said yes.

So, here we go…

How and when did you decide to start blogging? Um. I have utterly no idea why I started blogging, if I’m honest. Other than for some misguided feeling that the world needed to know what was going on in my head, perhaps? Seriously, I think it was more that I wanted to write, and couldn’t get my head around the idea of being a ‘writer’ (still can’t) and so I thought that starting a blog would be a good way to have a go at writing about things that I was interested in, in a safe and accessible way.

I wrote a blog called ‘Daisy, Daisy’ on Typepad for a really brief period of time, which has now been mothballed because I lost heart with it. Then, after a while, I decided that I wanted to try again, and started ‘Margot and Barbara’ in May 2011. If you asked me now why I blog, it’s basically because I have to. I often go round in circles, loving and hating my blog with equal force. I’m always on the verge of quitting and always on the verge of self-hosting to make it more than a hobby; two completely opposing views about my blogging future. For now though, you’ll find me here, writing because I don’t know how to stop.

What’s the story behind your blog’s name? For those of you of a certain age, Margot and Barbara will be synonymous with The Good Life, and indeed, that’s where my blog name comes from. You can find out more about why I chose the name over on my About Me page. Really, it’s an odd name and I accept that. People often think that there are two people writing it, and if I ever get unsolicited spam emails about ‘working with your blog’ they’re always, but always, addressed to Margot.

On the plus side, many of my Leeds-based Twitter friends now call me ‘Babs’ and I love them for it.  For the record, my name is Elizabeth. You can call me Liz, if we’ve met and you’ve bought me a beer…

What’s the best post you’ve ever written? Dunno. You tell me? In terms of the number of hits it has received since it was published, it’s this post about equestrian influences in fashion. I’m clearly not a ‘fashion’ blogger though, despite my love of clothes, so it’s an unusual post for me. I might write more fashion posts, as I do love the subject. But I’d write from the perspective of a 37 year old woman with a strong belief in sustainability, small wardrobes of clothing, long sleeves and looking good on a budget, so not sure I’d have much of an audience! What do you think? The other things I’d quite like to write a bit more about (at least at the present time) are cycling and beauty. I appreciate that makes this blog a bit odd, but at least it’s honestly who I am. My favourite posts are those that feel true to me. When I feel as though I’ve been open with people, and it’s got a good response, then that’s a good post.

What are your favourite and least favourite things about blogging? Hmm. The worst things are probably trying to fit it into my life. With a full time job, two small kids, one very important lovely boyfriend (with a blog of his own!) family and friends to spend time with, an allotment, loads of hobbies and a to-do list as long as my arm, it’s always a juggling act to find the time for it. It’s partly why I sometimes struggle with blogging and decide to quit, only to return after a few days off, with yet another plan, post or series that I want to write. It’s like a bloody drug… I’m also trying to make more time for finding, reading and commenting on other blogs. Being part of the blogging community is important, yet because I don’t fit into an easy niche, I do sometimes feel a bit lonely.

The best thing about blogging, without question, is the people I’ve met. That, and finding a place where I can be just me. A place that I can talk about the myriad of different things that interest me, and generally find at least one other person on the whole planet who is interested too! I don’t have any great advice for would-be bloggers other than this: if you want to blog, then do. Find the things that you care about, write about them as often as you’d like, as well as you can. And above all, enjoy it…

May 20, 2013

Slow Blogging

Hello there,

It has been over a month since my last post. Just realised that sounds a bit like I’m at a Bloggers Anonymous meeting, but nonetheless, it’s true.

Big changes in my personal life, the usual work/life pressures and a desire to spend more time on the Sage & Thrift project are the main reasons  but to be honest, I’m also struggling to write. This blog has been my hobby for two years now. In that time, it’s brought me so much joy. But for the past month, phrases like ‘I must blog, I haven’t written anything for ages, I need to catch up’ have been on an endless loop in my head.

And yet, when I look out of my window, there is a noticeable absence of people waiting to break down the door and demand that I write a blog post. All the pressure is self-imposed. Since being nominated in the Blog North Awards – the best feeling ever – I’ve wanted to build on that success. To create an upwards trajectory, write more, gain more readers. It seems that the gods didn’t agree with that plan!

Previously, my three times a week schedule worked for me, but it’s no longer practical. I’ve been re-reading ‘In Praise of Slow’ by Carl Honore, which is one of my favourite books, and now I’m wondering if there could be such a thing as ‘Slow Blogging’? Not sure if it’s a complete contradiction in terms, but I think that fewer, more considered posts would count as ‘Slow’ – do you?

I’ve been striving to live Slowly (capital S intended here) in the rest of my life; seasonally, locally, taking time to consider the things that are important in my life, stepping away from technology sometimes and spending time on face to face interactions, not entering into lots of consumerism, and so on. It’s not always successful, but being considered in my approach to these things has brought me lots of happiness and it’s a cornerstone of Sage & Thrift too. Now I think I want to try to do the same with my blog. To slow down, take a breath and reconsider what it is about it that has always brought me such happiness in the past.

I like the idea of just writing once a week, and taking my time over each post, rather than trying to churn out a lot of content, purely to meet a self created schedule. It would enable me to work on Sage & Thrift (which I have big plans for) and make sure that when I do post something, it’s genuinely because I want to, not because I feel that I should, must, have to. I want to regain the feeling of joy that this blog has always given me and step away from feeling panic-stricken because life has got in the way of my three-times-a-week blogging schedule.

So, that’s the plan. I’ll be writing once a week, about the usual jumble of things that I’ve always written about, but I’ll do my best to make sure that each post will be worth your time reading. And, yes, I realise that even once a week is a self-imposed schedule. Old habits die hard. However, this will give me a way of fitting the blog into my life in a way that makes it pleasurable, and not a stick to beat myself with. You never know, it might be only temporary. I might suddenly find a fit of energy and write every day!

I joked about ‘Bloggers Anonymous’ but this has felt a bit like a therapy session for me. Thanks for reading. Normal, albeit ‘Slower’ blogging will resume shortly …

September 21, 2012

Blog North Awards

I had a post already planned for today. Probably. I’m almost sure that I had one planned. But instead I’m going to write about the Blog North Awards. New in 2012, they aim to celebrate the best in independent writing in Northern England and earlier this year, people were kind enough to put my blog forward to be considered for the shortlist.

It’s seriously flattering when someone thinks that what you do is good enough to be even considered for anything like this and so I was massively grateful. Then, the nerves started to kick in. What if it was a horrible mistake? What if I was laughed out of the room? What have I done, by putting this blog out into the world and allowing it to be scrutinised? I’m not especially thick-skinned, and by writing these words and pressing the ‘publish’ button I’m essentially opening myself up to criticism from the whole world every day.

I spent a lot of time since the original nominations went in mulling this over and in the end decided that whatever the result, the important thing is that I like what I write and that at least one other person must like it well enough to put me forward for an award. And that’ll do. Anything else is a bonus. Actually, all the comments I get here on the blog and the majority elsewhere, like through Facebook or Twitter, are really positive, and even my spam is hilariously supportive enough for me to consider keeping it! So I’m happy with that.

Yesterday, purely by chance I realised that my blog had been commended in the Best Personal Blog category. Not quite on the shortlist, but singled out for a special mention. Not laughed out of the room after all. And that feels like winning. Really and truly, it does. I even sat on the bed and had a little weep about it. I’ve only been writing this blog since May 2011 and it’s purely a hobby that I try to squeeze in between work, school and everything else, so this is an amazing result.

To those of you who put me forward to be considered, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Damn it, I’m crying again now. See what you’ve done? I jest. This is the most brilliant thing to ever happen to the blog and I’m massively grateful. I would never have plucked up the courage to put myself forward for consideration in a million years, because I’m dreadful at saying ‘I’m actually quite good at this, you know?’ You did that for me and that’s a wonderful feeling.

Now, I urge you all to go to the Blog North Awards shortlist and get reading and voting! I know I will. As soon as I’ve dried my eyes and had a restorative cup of tea…