24 March 2015

8 posts on how to improve your blogging

I like blogging. It is a great hobby and a fun thing to do. I also like reading about blogging and trying to become better at my craft, little by little. There are so many great blogging related posts and so much blogging related wisdom in the parenting blogs of UK I figured it would be great to share some of these posts I have been reading. So read on and learn from bloggers that have been there and done it. 

The basics of blogging

Firstly, when starting a blog there are so many things to think about and to do. What to write about, where to go, how to name it, and eek, hosting, what on earth is that! Brummy mummy of two wrote a detailed guide to starting a blog explaining it all, a fabulous resource for any newbies itching to get out there.

Secondly, you want those elusive readers to your blog so they can enjoy your fabulous writing / photography. A great way to do that is joining linkies. Mum in a Nutshell designed a visual guide on how to join a linky, with all technical steps clearly explained. 

When blogging becomes difficult 

Thirdly, after the first initial rush of inspiration the endless fountain of ideas and blogging time might start to dry up. Blogging is time-consuming. Gemma the family girl wrote about things she uses to find the time to blog, giving invaluable tips how to balance life and blogging.

Fourthly, sometimes, just sometimes, it might become difficult to keep on blogging. You aren't too sure of yourself, and your confidence is waning. It feels like no one cares, and like you are, well, just shite. At that point read Mummy of boy girl twins great post about the 10 ways of increasing confidence in blogging

Fiftly, as it has become obvious by now, blogging isn't always easy. You might dream about your post going viral. Doesn't every blogger dream of that? Instant fame and riches, yes please! But, as Cardiff Mummy Says discovered it every silver lining has a dark cloud attached to it. When there are a lot if people reading your stuff, chances are not all of them are nice

Becoming a paid pro blogger

Once you have blogged for a while making money from blogging might cross your mind. There are different ways how to make money from parenting blogging, and I detailed a few of them on my post on how to make mummy blogging pay and what makes your blog attractive to advertisers.

Becoming a professional and starting to work with businesses is one of the best ways to start making a bit of extra and getting more opportunities for yourself. You Baby Me Mummy recently wrote an excellent introduction on how to work with brands and how to really work your blog like a professional.

So there you have it, eight excellent blog posts on how to improve your blogging, taking you from the very basics to professional. Hope you liked this carnival, and do drop us a link in the comments if you have any further words of wisdom on blogging! 

Did any of the posts listed help you improve your blogging?  Any blogging advice posts of your own?

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23 March 2015

KangaWrap Review - wearing a toddler

I've been wanting to try wraps and "wearing" my toddler for ages. I've used baby carriers before, and wanted to try the next step - wrapping. I've always though it looks so effortless and practical. KangaWrap kindly sent me a their organic cotton baby wrap sling to try, which I was really excited about testing with my toddler. 

kangawrap toddler

The wrap is very soft and very stretchy material. It felt quite light on me. It is early spring now, but it does feel like it would be pretty comfortable during the summer time as well. 

There is plenty of fabric - it was surprising how long the piece of fabric really was - and even if I am not slight in the slightest, there was plenty left over to knot the wrap around my waist. Because of the length of the wrap, it really works on anyone of any size. Not just for mummies, daddies can use this too. 

The first time I put my toddler in the KangaWrap she loved it - she thought it was very funny and was just smiling me. She wasn't always that cooperative, and sometimes you just have to forget about the whole thing. I can tell you, an uncooperative toddler is not a wrappable toddler.

But I digress. When she did cooperate and allow me to wear her in the wrap, it was surprisingly comfortable. Even if my toddler is quite big (she is now 21 months and about 12kg) the wrap felt quite comfy, as it is so soft. It is stretchy though, so you need to be quite careful and make sure it is tight enough, otherwise a larger and a heavier toddler can easily wriggle their way out of it. I often kept a hand on my little one's back to avoid her suddenly pushing off and falling off.

Because the wrap is so light and soft, I think it is perfect for small and young babies. The stretchy fabric would also cradle newborns and small babies gently and comfortably. I would have loved to have KangaWrap when my baby was a tiny baby - the thin and extremely soft and stretchy fabric would have been perfect for a newborn and a young baby. For now, I am quite into trying all kinds of different wrap styles and learning more about wearing my baby, with the hope I will be able to use these skills in a few years again.

One further lovely thing about the KangaWrap is that they are supplied by fair trade manufacturers, so wages paid to workers are decent, and all the profits are used to help maternity care in Delhi slums. And that is a lovely thought - when wearing your baby you are helping another baby somewhere far away.

As an added bonus - you can win a KangaWrap too (UK addresses only)! If you want you can enter daily via the free entry and tweet. Good luck!

Received KangaWrap as a gift to enable a review. 


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21 March 2015

My Second Mother's Day

The first Mother's Day I ever celebrated as a mother, was just last year. It was lovely, I got an orchid as a gift from Aili (OK, daddy may have helped her a little but apparently she pointed at it) and then went to spend the day with husbands mum and family. 

This year was my second Mother's Day. It was even lovelier as we spent it as a little family, just the three of us, relaxing and having fun. Again, I got a gift from Aili. She picked it all by herself, after daddy dangled her over some Body Shop gift bags, she grabbed at one, and that was my gift. 

What I really wanted was for us to go out, have breakfast and walk around and enjoy the fresh air and beautiful woods we have nearby us.

And that we did.

We have raised a real little princess, a proper city-girl. Once she jumped in mud a bit, she realised her pink Hunter wellies were covered in mud and proceeded to try to brush the mud off them, just to realise that she now had muddy hands too. Oh the look on her face!

Because our little monkey is such a fast monkey, we use these reins on her. Sometimes I feel like I am walking a dog out. She doesn't mind though, and it makes it a lot easier on us as we do not have to run after her too much.

While we didn't have anything to feed the ducks with, our little one did seem to want to have a bath with them. Oh how many times I had to pull has back from the edge, almost about to run (or rather wade) after the swimming ducks. Silly girl who is lucky she was in reins!

And we got muddy boots and muddy bottoms this time too... And then it was time to go home, which was the worst thing ever, as once you have fun, you want to stay there having fun, especially if you are a little girl who loves running around in the fields and the woods and jumping in muddy puddles too a little bit. After much coaxing, we got her to come back with us, hand in hand.

We've been here before as well in autumn time, walking in the muddy fields - there is a beautiful stately home converted into an eatery and gorgeous woods, where you can see horse riders and a duck pond. A lovely place to visit.

How was your Mother's Day?

14 March 2015

iPhone = cuddle time - the ordinary moments

We are a family of three - me, my husband and Speedy Gonzales our toddler girl. She does not stop for one moment, she is always on the go, running around, from one end of the room to the other. Cuddles and kisses to mummy and daddy are rare treats, and always gratefully accepted.

Giving mummy or daddy kisses or cuddles doesn't rank very high on her to do list. Pressing the phone buttons, trying to climb up the stairs, trying to explore the kitchen, jumping on the sofa and, sigh, playing with the iPhone seem to be much more fun things to do. 

So sometimes when I let her play with my iPhone I grab her and cuddle her. Scoop her in my arms and place her in my lap. She is somewhat oblivious to what is going on around her (or perhaps just benevolently returning the favour) and I get a nice long cuddle. A chance to hold my little girl, breathe in her smell and feel her heart beat.

We stayed like this for probably 15 minutes, which is a record time for mummy cuddles.Cuddling and snuzzling into her was lovely, even if it meant listening to Pat-a-Cake or Row Row Row Your Boat ten times in a row. Just one of these little moments I am sure I will miss when she gets older and less interested in being with mummy...

Now, just need to come up with a way to get more cuddles that doesn't involve bribing her with an access to high-tech toys... Any ideas?

13 March 2015

Sun and slides

The park. That's our destination most of the weekends. If there is nothing else to do, and even on the days when there are other things to do, we go to the park. As long as it is not raining, that's where we are. Because as far as my little girl is concerned, the park is the best thing in the world. 

toddler running in park

There are the swings, which she loved but now refuses to go in. There are the roundabouts, which she walks in, and as soon as you spin it, walks out again. There are the little scooters and bikes that belong to other kids, but are irresistible to a tiny little toddler monkey.

toddler on slide

toddler on slide

toddler on slide sliding down

Then there are the slides, that are just about the most wonderful thing our little girl could dream of. 

The slides - she could go on the slides again and again and again, for hours on end. Up and down. Up and down. Again and again. And the bigger the better. As a mummy I am always worried she might fall off, but she, she couldn't care less when she feels the wind in her hair and the sinking feeling in her tummy. She runs up to it, swings and tries to get some speed and off and down she goes, as fast as she can (and scaredy-cat mummy lets her). 

We had a lovely day in the park. The sun was shining, the air was fresh, the playground was filled with shrieks of joy and excitement, and our little girl was ecstatic. Running around, climbing up, sliding down, smiling. Can't get any better than that. 

toddler on slide with mummy

How was your weekend?


12 March 2015

My 2015: Well-being - Fallback February

Last month I wrote about my year of well-being and how I was planning to for habits and take theme each month. In January my theme was was forming habits. In February my theme was supposed to be de-cluttering but, well, life happened. Exciting life happened, and we found a house, we bid for the house, we negotiated on the price, and our offer was accepted and mortgage applications and scrambling together all manners of paperwork ensued. 
Now the whole process is in its final stages, and we are waiting for the final bits of paperwork and checks on the house to be completed before finally signing on the dotted line... SCARY!

Because February was a pretty busy month, my whole well-being theme nearly went out of the window. I promised to do de-cluttering, and instill some new habits but... It wasn't a disaster, but certainly not great either. Here's is my list of how I did in February.

mum and daughter on a park slide

1. Lunch time yoga. Yes, one of the few things I consistently did...
2. Gym. I schedule two gym session a week - Wednesday and Friday lunchtime.  In February I was so tired (see number 5) I hardly entered the gym. I did try to keep up with exercise and went for little walks to the park instead.
3. Eating better at work. When I get tired, I eat far too much rubbish. The communal snack jar at work was my arch-nemesis this month, but I did pack lots of fruit to take to work too.
4. Being more organised. (This was about making lunch in advance and packing my bag the night before) Was pretty bad on this front and ate out a bit too much. I did try to go for the healthy option, like fish and vegs or sushi when I did get lunch out. 
5. Getting to bed early. Far too many late nights, far too many things to do, and then far too knackered the next day to accomplish much. A vicious circle. 
6. Weekend mummy-daughter time. We did go out sometimes, but didn't make this into a habit unfortunately.
7. Lunch time experiences. (This was about going out and seeing museums or exhibitions and stuff during lunch). I didn't do any of this... But I did go for walks occasionally which I suppose is better than dining al desco every day.  
8. Being even more organised. (This was about getting my work outfits ready the night before)
9. Decluttering. Well, I did chuck some things away, but being honest, I did a pretty poor effort on this front too.

toddler girl sliding down a park slide

So rather than de-cluttering, my February theme ended up being fallback. But nevermind, I will pick up my well-being quest this month in March!  

For March I will concentrate on:
1. Going to the gym and doing my weekly yoga.
2. De-cluttering - a bag of clothes and a bag of paper (magazines, books etc.) minimum.
3. Being in bed by midnight the latest. 

Three goals - even if this month is busy (as it feels like it is turning out to be with us going skiing soon and sorting out the last house bits) these goals are doable and will get me back on track... So onwards from Fallback February and towards a happier, healthier March!

How are your New Year's Resolutions/Themes going?

11 March 2015

A difficult dress dilemma: toddler outfit

Sometimes there are those pieces of clothing you love. But no matter what you do with them they just never seem right. 

knitted bonpoint dress toddler

This little dress is a prime example. I think it is so cute - but I always struggle to accessorize it. It is quite plain, a knitted light brown dress with a hood and a hidden zip at the back. Plain, simple and comfortable. But it is a difficult dress, a difficult one to do anything with. 

I've been racking my brains with this one. Cute boots - nah. A ribbon around the waist - nah. Maybe a headband?  

toddler sitting on a slide

This time I teamed it with cute boots and a ribbon around the waist. We were laughing that she looked like a little Jedi master (like the Halloween baby Luke Skywalker outfit we had her in). Not that there isn't anything wrong with that, but it wasn't quite the look I was going for... 

todler wearing a knitted brown bonpoint dress
Bunny boots: Clarks / Dress: Bonpoint

What do you think of this dress and how would you dress it up?

6 March 2015

Should you go new or secondhand for kids clothes? Toddler OOTD

We buy a lot of clothes for our little one. And to be honest, we also get a lot of clothes as gifts. There are some items that she has probably never worn, and some items that have been worn once or twice, and then she's become too big for them. 

toddler standing next to a fireplace

We've gotten her clothes from a variety of places - but some of my favourite finds have been from eBay or flea markets. I haven't yet been to any of the "Nearly new" sales NCT and other organisations hold, but I bet they would be good hunting grounds for clothes too. Charity shops on the other hand - I never seem to find any good clothing from them, other than toys and books.

toddler looking at a fireplace

I quite like getting secondhand clothes. It is of course nice in a trifty way - they cost peanuts compared to brand new, shop bought ones. But also, they are unique in the sense that you won't come across another child dressed in the same skirt at a play group. Oh the horror! OK, I am obviously kidding, but still, you know... You get the same feeling like when you go to a party and someone else is wearing the same dress as you are. 

toddler feeding rabbits with dad
Feeding bunnies with daddy - lots of shrieks of delight!

With her outfit this time, everything is new. Except her woolen dress. From The White Company, which tends to retail at £25-£30. Off eBay - £5 including postage. Bargain! 

toddler wearing a woolen navy dress
 Stripey tights Polarn O Pyret / Bolero Mayoral / H&M boots / Wool dress The White Company

There are plenty of other trifty fleamarket and eBay finds in her closet too - for example her little peacoat here, or her jeans and boho shirt here. I am planning on doing some more eBay and secondhand shopping for the next size up - I just can't resist looking for cute and unique things for her to wear.

Do you ever get secondhand clothes for your children? What did you think of the outfit?

3 March 2015

Because I am a Girl - #endchildmarriage

Today I will tell you a story of two lives, of a woman and a girl, at the same stage in their lives, about to get married. One in London, UK, and one in Dhaka, Bangladesh. It will all make sense at the end of the post, if you read both stories till the end.

Leaving school



I was mid-way through my Masters degree when we decided to get married. We had gotten engaged years before and it felt like it was finally the right time. 

In May I was studying for my final exams, flipping through wedding magazines, looking for that perfect wedding dress, and deciding what menu options we would choose. There were theme colours to come up with and invitations to send. My dissertation was due at the end of the summer, I would graduate, I was going to get married, and go on a honeymoon. I could feel it - a wonderful summer was awaiting me.  

I enjoyed school, especially maths, which was my favorite subject. But in 8th grade, I was suddenly told by my parents that I had to quit. I had only two years left before I was due to finish – I did not want to leave school! I’d dreamed of becoming a teacher so that I could give others the opportunity to learn. 

It was terrible for me to have to sit inside and watch my friends going to school. But I did not complain and did what my parents told me. 

Getting married



It was all so exciting. My mother-in-law made the wedding dress for me based on the design I came up with. Me and my fiance set up a wedding gift list at John Lewis and started planning our honeymoon. We were going to get married in my home country, in my local church, and go and have a wedding reception at a nearby hotel. 

It was a busy time, and we were feeling stressed, but also looking forward to the amazing day we were about to experience. I was a little bit nervous of how it would all go, but also excited and happy to finally wed. 

I think it was four or five days after I left school that my grandmother told me what really was going on. I was shocked and completely devastated. Marry? Me? But I said nothing to her. 

I was very scared. I was nervous about what to expect – especially about my in-laws. How would I relate to them? What would they expect from me? 

I didn’t meet my husband before the wedding, but they said he was a good man. He had a job and was not one of those men who just hang around and do nothing all day. But knowing this about him did not really make it easier. All I thought about was the freedom that I would lose. Leading up to the wedding, I sat at home and did nothing but cry. 

My wedding day

In July we got married. During the ceremony the church choir sang, and we held candles in our hands. The church was beautiful, with golden decorations and paintings, and after the priest declared us man and woman we kissed in front of the altar. 

When I was officially a married woman, I couldn't contain my smile. It was the happiest day of my life. Everyone was happy and smiling and having fun. I was the centre of attention and the whole day I was smiling and my cheeks felt sore. My husband looked at me every once in a while with a smile on his face, almost as if to say this is so amazing.

After the party we went up to our honeymoon suite  the scenery was beautiful and the apartment luxurious. There were chocolates left for us, and we ate them. The champagne we had was drunk during the party, but it didn't matter - we had had plenty of bubbles the whole day

Six days later I was married. During the ceremony, I washed, dressed and had mint leaves placed in my mouth. The others danced but I just stood there. When I was officially a married woman, I cried. 

During the party, while the others ate, my husband and I were brought into the house for the official part of the wedding. This was the first time I saw him. I looked over at him and wondered if I would live up to his expectations. We said nothing to each other. The first time we were alone together was the wedding night. The first words he said to me were to tell me to stop crying.

The next night he had sex with me for the first time. I woke up in the morning and felt absolutely terrible. I took a long shower. I cried while I was thinking about what my life would be now. I mourned for my freedom that was gone and was sad to have lost the life I had lived until now.


Pregnancy and giving birth

After we had been  married for a year and a bit we decided it was time for a new addition in our family. We planned and considered, and calculated when the best time to have a baby would be. It wasn't long until I got pregnant, and was incredibly happy to grow another life inside me. 

My pregnancy was easy. I exercised as much as I could, went to work normally, even if I was getting quite tired. I felt well and enjoyed having a pregnancy belly. 

My pregnancy went on relatively uneventfully. There were two nights I stayed in the hospital, just in case, but they ended up being false alarms. Two weeks overdue I went in for an induction, and although the birth was difficult and we ended staying in the hospitals several days, we got through it. I felt happy to go back home with my new baby, to finally start our life as a family of three. 

I knew nothing at the time about how to become pregnant. And I knew nothing when a few months later I suddenly missed my period. I told my sister, who sat me down and told me about being pregnant and what that meant. I felt very sick; I was dizzy and threw up all the time. And I could not eat. 

I had a difficult pregnancy and was sick a lot with a lot of pain. The pain was absolutely terrible, and I spent a fortune on going to the doctor, although I was lucky to even be able to visit a doctor. 

Towards the end of the pregnancy the baby stopped moving. When I had not felt any signs of life in two days, my mother took me to the hospital. There, I got a bit of a shock. It turned out that there was no amniotic fluid left. I was told that if I give birth at home now, neither I nor the child would survive. This was scary for me to hear. The reality was brutal.

I told my husband that both the baby and I could die. He was very worried. He said he would not lose us, so he took me to the hospital. We were told that there was a danger that either just me, or only the child would survive. Thoughts raged in my head. There was no point for a child to live without his mother and there was no point for me to live without my baby. That's what I thought. I told the doctor it was best if God took both of us.
Habiba was born by caesarean section at the hospital that day, and thank God, we both survived.


The future

I am looking forward to my future. After my maternity leave I started work in a new place, and have now been looking for opportunities for a promotion. I am a mother, and I hope I can influence my daughter's life for the better. I want her to know she is capable and can achieve anything she puts her mind and effort in. Just like the way my parents did for me. 

I know she is privileged to be born in UK and I know the whole world will be her oyster. I want her to be the best she can be, and achieve what she considers the most important thing in her life. And I know her father feels the same way. 

I have become accustomed to my new life. I have my duties as a wife and mother. But I worry a lot. I worry about money, my husband, my child and my chores but most of all I worry that my own daughter will also one day be married off early.

As a mother, I hope that I can influence my daughter's life, so she should not have to experience what I had to go through. I want to spread the message that child marriage must be stopped and tell people about the consequences for young brides. I might have died on the day I gave birth. No one deserves to go through what I experienced. More fathers need to know this so they do not marry off their daughters early.

I dream that one day I can be a respected adult in local society. I hope we do not have to be poor anymore and that we can have a good life. But to complete school? That dream is long gone. 

My name is Sadia and I was a child bride. I’m now 16 years old.

I was married at 14. My husband, Sumon, is four years older. Together we have an 8-month-old daughter, Habiba. My husband is a farmer. I didn’t know him before we were married; I had never seen him before. 

My name is Sanna and I was free to choose who I marry. I'm now 31. I was married at 27. My husband is the same age as I am, and we have a 20-month old daughter together. We met in 2006, and we knew each other for five years before getting married. 

I am a Plan Digital Ambassador and chose to write this post to support the Plan UK campaign against child marriage. Child marriage is not simply just about early arranged marriage - girls often end up with no rights of their own, experience violence, lack education and have serious health implications from having children when they are still essentially children themselves. Every two seconds another girl is forced or coerced into marriage, and every year 70,000 girls die in labour because their bodies aren't ready for childbirth. Plan is campaigning against child marriage, and seeking support to end child marriage. Join if you can, even if it is to raise awareness, or you can donate too.

You can read Sadia's full story on Plan UK site and life stories from other girls as well.  

If you read mine and Sadia's story, what did you think when you got to the end of this post? Have you ever heard of the consequences of child marriage before?

2 March 2015

My Monthly Roundup - Instagram February 2015

It has been a busy busy month. Hence, I haven't actually been uploading many pictures on Instagram - the time has been just slipping away in house viewings, meeting mortgage advisors, checking mortgage offers, verifying our credit scores... Because oh yes, we are about to buy a house!

Our application is now at the mortgage underwriters, so hopefully everything will go OK, and we will move into our first house in April. Exciting! (Expect plenty of renovation /interior decoration posts in the future...). Sorting it all out has meant that I haven't had the chance to blog much either - in February I managed only seven posts. Hopefully March will be a bit better, although it is starting to look like March too will be a very busy month. But, anyway, on to the round-up. For the linky please scroll to the bottom.

1. We've been going out to play - we've dressed her up in some very practical rain gear so she can roll around in mud, like a little Peppa she is...
2. Working from home = PJs and your favourite tea mug. I've had a couple of luxurious days of working from home, I love it! I rarely work home, but due to a few dental, mortgage and doctor's appointments I've had a few this month. Not having to commute is great.
3. I do try to go for a walk during the lunch hour at work, and often walk around in St James's Park.
4. I also saw a black swan for the first time in my life! In St James's Park - I might go there again tomorrow to see if it is still hanging around there.

5. It was Valentine's this month. We had the Marks&Sparks Dine-in meal with some cava (it was tasty), and I got us matching onesies!
6. After our offer for the house was accepted I've been dreaming of all sorts of interior decorations - got some magazines for inspiration.
7. Many nights have been spent on the computer, a snack in hand, looking for mortgage deals, and other boring banking things in preparation for mortgage application.
8. After Valentine's we still had some spoils to cheer us up - a dozen of red roses and homemade chocolate dipped strawberries.
9. It was a busy month at work too, and I went to a conference which was held in an amazing palace in central London. Took so many pictures, and was pretty much constantly thinking "Wow".
10. The place reminded me of the Russian Palaces, like the Winter Palace in St Petersburg. I loved walking around in the rooms and wondering what it would have been like to live in a place like this. Pretty amazing!
Link up below!

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