Posts tagged ‘challenge’

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…

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 19, 2014

Three Good Things: learning something new.

Hello and welcome to this week’s edition of Three Good Things!

Sweaty Betty

One.

I’ve wanted to try a yoga class for such a long time but never plucked up the courage to take myself to a class, until I discovered Yoga Kula, a yoga centre really close to home. They offer a free trial class, which seemed like too good an opportunity to miss. I joined a level one Hatha class and I loved it. I’ve since returned for a second class and I’m doing a workshop on Friday night. So it’s safe to say that I’m hooked on yoga. The lovely folk at Sweaty Betty were handing out goodies at my first class, which is where the products in the photo above comes from. I’m going to put the water bottle on my bike–the colour ensures it’ll be seen when I’m on the road!

Watercolour box

Two.

I’ve not done any watercolour painting since I was at school, but I really love the time I spend doing art and craft activities with the kids and I’ve had a real yearning to try some more myself. Thanks to my boyfriend for the watercolour set above, I now have the chance to try! I’ll try to pluck up the courage to share some of my work over on Instagram.

Flow International

Three.

I finally got my hands on Flow InternationalHurray! Although it’s described as a magazine for paper lovers—and indeed it is — I was really drawn to the strap line at the top: Simplify your life, Feel Connected, Life Mindfully, Spoil Yourself. That sounds like my kind of life…

What are the little things that have been making you smile this week? Do share your Three Good Things with me…

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

February 10, 2014

How to be an expert.

I’ve been mulling this subject over in my mind for a while now. On the cusp of changes at work, and possibly to my career, I’ve been trying to work out what, if anything, I’m expert in.

Being expert doesn’t come naturally to a scanner—we’re generalists. But naturally there are some subjects, through passion, experience or damn hard work, in which I’m more expert than others. Horses, through a degree course and years of practical experience, is one area I used to be confident about. I’ve not even sat on a horse in the past four years though, so does that mean I’m no longer expert? I’ve worked on a community and environmental grants scheme since 2007, so I think that’s something I’m quite good at. Eight years of being an allotment holder makes me relatively confident about growing vegetables and fruit—but not in horticulture generally, in which I am very novice. I don’t consider my three years of blogging to make me anything other than a novice blogger; I wonder how other bloggers feel?

In an age where anyone can declare themselves an expert merely by writing the word in their Twitter biography, how much value does it hold? (and how many Social Media Experts does one society need?) Who decides what makes that person an expert anyway? Where does the burden of proof lie?

When everyone has been given a voice, through blogs such as mine, or other online platforms, is opinion being mixed up with being expert? Just because I think something doesn’t make me an expert; in that case, my opinion should rightly be of less value than that of someone else who has had decades of practice or study in a subject area. During an evening spent with a friend recently, we discussed his passion for anthropology, and Native American culture in particular. Only after decades’ worth of study and travel is he finally feeling confident enough to write papers for publication.  He has the authority now to have opinions of his own, and not to parrot those of other people—and yet he still doesn’t consider himself to be an expert in the subject.

They say the path to career happiness lies in working out what you’re good at, what you enjoy and where the crossovers are. So I need to work out first what I’m good at. What I’m expert in. But how do I go about finding out and being sure? Is it all a matter of acquiring some more self belief? Or is everyone else just bluffing?

Do you know?

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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February 1, 2014

The Weekend Pages #3

Hello and welcome to The Weekend Pages; a post about great things I’ve found on the web this week.

We learnt this week that a mere 1,004 people in the UK completed the Rapha Festive 500 cycle challenge. Across the globe, the completion rate was only 23% of all the people who signed up to compete.  One of those was my boyfriend Stephen; I’m SO proud of him for that. We’re awaiting his woven roundel badge through the post to commemorate the achievement.

The three overall winners have just been announced and in third place was my favourite: eight year old Mini-pips and his Dad. What a brilliant father-son combination. The photos of them through their challenge are truly heartwarming, and it’s inspiring to see how such a young lad can ride so far, and with a big smile on his face too!

For me the best statistic from the Festive500 is the 118% increase in women riders from 2012. Hurrah for women’s cycling. Massive congratulations to everyone who completed and commiserations to anyone who had to drop out; I only realised through supporting Stephen how tough it would be!

The overall winners: Riding the Festive 500 in one big fat ride from Paris (FR) to Haarlem (NL) – #inonego from Rotgans & Rotgans on Vimeo.

In a complete change of topic, the other great thing I’ve discovered this week is Flow magazine from The Netherlands; about paper, mindfulness, simplicity and connection. How brilliant does that sound? They produce the English language version ‘Flow International’ biannually, so I’m eagerly trying to get my hands on a copy. In  the meantime, I’m downloading their free colouring-in pages for my daughter (and me!) to colour in.

 

Have you found some great stuff online this week? Do share…

January 21, 2014

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch

This weekend sees the annual RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch. The birds that live in your garden, and in the trees outside my flat, are a great indicator of the health of the natural environment. Although the decline in farmland birds continues to be a source of concern and a priority for biodiversity specialists, the number and diversity of birds in our back gardens is something we can all do something about, by feeding the birds over the winter, providing habitat – instead of cutting down trees and replacing green with tarmac or decking – and planting pollinator-attracting plants (which will in turn attract insect eating birds!)

The RSPB are asking that we join in with the Big Garden Birdwatch by spending an hour of the upcoming weekend recording the number and variety of birds we see in our gardens. I don’t even have to go outside to do this, so plan to spend a nice leisurely hour with a cup of tea and a notebook.

By joining in, not only will you be making a contribution to a vitally important study, when you register to take part you will also receive a £5 voucher to spend in the RSPB shop – I’ve got my eye on a new bird feeder to accompany the wildly successful first one we attached to our window last month.

Alongside the hour long study, the RSPB are running a series of Big Garden Birdwatch events, and have lots of ideas of how you can help care for the birds over the winter. I do hope you’ll get involved!

Blue Tit illustration

Blue Tit: Image from RSPB

January 18, 2014

The Weekend Pages #1

Welcome to the first ‘Weekend Pages’ post! Here you will find links to my favourite internet finds of the week.

On the Harvard Business Review Umair Haque’s post about having a year that really matters struck a chord with me, as 2014 is going to be a huge year of changes and I want to make it as good as it can possibly be.

In 2013, Team AWOL  (Recep Yesil of Turkey and Erik Nohlin of Sweden) cycled the Transcontinental Race from London to Istanbul. You can find more about their journey here. But what we have really loved is watching the four-part video. Part one is below. If you’re a fan of cycling, adventure and friendship I think you’d like it too.

 

Finally, this week I’ve signed up to the 100 Happy Days challenge, and will be adding a happy photo to my Instagram account each week with the #100happydays tag. Even the worst of days can have happy moments and I like to try to remember to be grateful for them. Let’s see how many happy moments I can capture!

What great things have you found online this week? Are you taking the 100 Happy Days Challenge? I’d love to know…

January 6, 2014

2014 Resolutions

Happy new year everyone! As we’re a week into 2014, I’m firmly closing the door on the Christmas and New Year festivities (which I’ve totally loved this year) and getting back into the swing of everyday life. The start of a new school term always brings about a return to routines and the end of Quality Street being an acceptable breakfast food, just as I’ve got used to the idea…

Traditionally the start of January is resolution time. Usually I like to write a giant list of resolutions for the year, some of which I manage to complete and some I don’t. I wrote recently about needing to be honest with myself about the things that I really wanted to do and forget the things that I think I should want to do. So, no marathon running goals for me, this year or ever. Although I think that if you want to make changes to your life, you should start them today, whenever today is, rather than waiting for January 1st, there is something tidy about making new starts in a new year, so I do find New Year’s Resolutions somewhat seductive.

2014 is going to be a year that contains many changes. My career, my home life, and the way I spend my time are all going to change, and not all of those changes are my decision. So, rather than trying to control everything, I’m going to try and go with the flow a little more. Which is terrifying to me! But, I think that trying to force things to happen is bound to end in failure. It is important for me to recognise what I can control and what I cannot.

Therefore my list is short, and perhaps a little vague. But here goes:

1 – Study for my RHS Level 2 exams.  I’ve written about this before, and it’s something that I’ve wanted to do for a while (and really wanted to do) but life has got in the way of my plans. I’m determined to make it happen this time though. And I’m hopeful it may lead to more opportunity and who knows, perhaps a career shift.

2 – Make time. For my family, my friends, my boyfriend. Much of 2013 was challenging, sometimes it was painful and introspective, and it was a year in which my friends all supported me, but I feel as though I gave back little in return. I want to redress the balance and make time to visit my beloved friends and family and support them in whatever they are doing. My boyfriend has a year of change ahead of him too, and I want to be a supportive partner to him as we embrace our future together. (As an aside, I feel far too old to be saying boyfriend, but what’s the alternative? Partner makes it sound like we’re in business together…hmm)

3 – Say ‘yes’ more. And say ‘no’ more. Contradictory as ever…but by which I mean that I want to be brave enough to say ‘yes’ to the right opportunities that come my way, and say ‘no’ to things that I don’t want, need or feel like the right ‘fit’. And I’m not talking specifically about possessions when I say ‘things’, it’s really just a goal about being authentic and true to myself.

4 – Keep cycling. This is a bit of a vague goal, I appreciate, but I have really been enjoying cycling and I want to carry on improving, at my own pace, and just enjoying the ride. I have no challenges, competitions, sportives in mind at all. It will just be me, my bike and my boyfriend by my side.  Though, if you’re in Leeds and fancy a snail’s pace bike ride with a cafe stop in the middle, I’m your ideal companion!

5 – Visit somewhere new. Doesn’t matter where, I just want to keep exploring and having micro-adventures. And I really, really, want to go to somewhere I’ve never been in Europe in 2014. Fitting adventure into everyday life instead of waiting for a big chunk of time is something I’ve enjoyed in 2013, and I want to do more of it.

6 – Move towards being a ‘zero waste’ home. This is a huge goal and one in which I am going to be moving at an evolutionary pace, not aiming for an overnight revolution! On the back of reducing our reliance on the supermarket, the next step is reducing the amount of waste we create – less packaging, which in turn means less recycling. More composting and home-grown food! Which takes me nicely onto number 7…

7 –  Try my hardest to grow as much of our food as possible. 2013 was a dire year on the allotment for many reasons. I paid it a visit over the Christmas period and made a promise to it that I’d try my hardest to make 2014 a great year. Yup, I talk to my allotment. I appreciate that’s odd.

8 – Try yoga. We have a wonderful looking yoga centre near us and I’d really like to have a go at yoga, to benefit my (still too high) blood pressure and improve my flexibility. This is the year in which I’m finally going to do it, instead of just talking about it!

So, there we have it. Only eight things on my list this year. In addition to this are my usual ‘eat well, read more, learn new things’ goals, but they’re so heavily ingrained into my personality that I don’t need to specifically list them. As long as I’m breathing, I’ll be reading…

What are your goals for 2014? And do you have any advice for me in achieving mine? I’d love to hear from you.

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