Writing My Oscar’s Acceptance Speech

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Because you all know there’ll be as many selfies at The MADs (Mum and Dad Blogging Awards) than the Oscars.

On Sunday night I was pootling around on the internet – erm, I mean working hard – when I saw a tweet saying the finalists for the MAD Awards were out. I clicked over to have a look and see if any of my favourite bloggers had been included in the line-up.

I wasn’t really truly expecting to see myself there, though if I had made the cut I thought it would be in the ‘Best Blog Writer’ category (hi ego, nice to meet you), but I didn’t feel disappointed not to see my blog on the list.

Until. UNTIL!

I scrolled further down the page and realised I’d only gone and made the final 5 in the ‘Most Entertaining’ category!

I have been gobsmacked, I mean, totally gobsmacked, ever since I found out. Writing is my passion, it’s what I love to do, but to receive validation that people are finding my writing entertaining has just been the biggest pat on the back. Blogging can be a bit of a lonely game – your quarterly performance review is only ever carried out with yourself and let me tell you, I’m pretty hard on myself sometimes. So to have my readers and peers say they enjoy my writing, possibly as much as I enjoy it, is the best compliment I could ever have hoped for.

I’m wiping the tears away right now, Gwyneth Paltrow style.

But what happens next? It’s not just a one way street to the Oscars from here. I need to ask for your votes once more in picking me as the winner out of the five finalists in the ‘Most Entertaining’, so please hop on over here and select ‘More Than Toast’ (that’s me obvs) on the final drop-down menu. You can vote in as many or as few categories as you like, so don’t worry about leaving blank spaces. And if you drop me a line to let me know you’ve voted I’ll be sure to remember you in my Oscars speech. In between snotty sobs.

If your voting finger needs a bit more of a workout then I’d be delighted to receive your support in the BritMums Brilliant In Blogging Awards, too! By way of a thank-you please have this picture of puppies. Dressed in babygros. Hanging from a washing line. Don’t ever try to tell me I don’t know what my readers want…

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I feel like I should be saying ‘Mwah, darlings’ a lot more now. Don’t worry mum, I won’t let my new-found fame go to my head.

 

 

Are Blogs Too Perfect?

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When I was growing up we were told the internet was a scary place. I was always super aware that the fellow fifteen year old I was talking to on Yahoo! Chat could likely be a pervy sixty year old in Wigan wearing a sweat-stained string vest called Terry.

But now I’m a grown-up (HAH) and (I think) not so worried about hypothetical Terrys, I’ve realised there are other people on the Internet we should be wary of. And they are mothers just like me.

When I came out as having PND I was fairly shocked at the amount of people who emailed me saying “no! Not you! Not your perfect lovely life!”. And that made me feel a bit sad, like I’d been deceiving the people who read my blog. I was worried that I’d been portraying an image of perfection in my life that doesn’t actually exist.

Don’t get me wrong, my life is lovely. We live in a great place, have the means to put food on the table and heat in the radiators and I have two brilliant children. But it’s not all shiny happy perfection, not at all. I have a dusty dressing table and a baby’s high chair that has yesterday’s cement-like Weetabix stuck to it. Last week when both kids were sick I lost track of when the last shower I had was. I have the occasional screaming row with my husband and can rarely be bothered to hoover my stairs. When I’m having a bleak PND stretch I can go four days without leaving my house. On those days it gets to 3pm and sometimes I’m not sure if I’ve brushed my teeth or not. That’s gross, isn’t it? Definitely not shiney perfectiony rose-tinted awesomeness.

But nobody really wants to read about the bad stuff on a blog, or do they?

I don’t want to feel like I’m complaining about how tough my perfect lovely life is because I’m full aware that I should be very grateful, and I don’t want to bore people with my Middle Class moanings. But at the same time I don’t want to make others feel inadequate because I’m writing about a dream of motherhood that perhaps doesn’t quite exist: and I should know, I think I subconsciously strive for an ideal lifestyle that I read about daily but isn’t in my reach.

I’m an avid reader of blogs and there are some out there that make me sigh with longing. You know the ones? Perfect clothes, perfect hair. Perfect homes, perfect parties. Perfectly behaved cute kids. Perfect blogs. These are the women who definitely clean their teeth before 8am and always hoover their stairs. At least that’s what they make you think.

Behind the scenes maybe that isn’t the case. Maybe they have perfect homes because they pay their perfect cleaner to come twice a week? Maybe they have so much time to blog about their lives because their perfect husbands work 18 hours a day?

But still, people are always going to want to read their blogs because then they can believe this perfection is attainable in their own lives. Stepping into their lovely lives for 5 minutes a day is pure escapism.

What do you think? Would you rather your blogs came with a dose of reality, or do you like to read about the rose-tinted parts of people’s lives only?

Things I Did When I Had No Internet

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- Watched Celebrity Big Brother. Had arguments with my husband about watching Celebrity Big Brother.
- Washing up… Lots of washing up. Dishwasher due to arrive on Saturday (THANK GOD, all my plates are slightly dirty).
- Got to know my new crockpot. Boy do I love slow cooking.
- Moved house (duh).
- Took Elfie to the dentist for the very first time (our teeth rock, apparently).
- Continually played ‘dentist’ with Elfie. OPEN WIDE.
- Cleaned. A lot.
- Took Elfie sledging three times. Sledged myself once. Looked after husband with bad back due to sledging.
- Spent an obscene amount of money at the Co-Op, mostly on Haribo.
- Went 2.5 weeks sans booze.
- Started exercising. I hurt all over.
- Did a lot of jigsaws (age 3-5).
- Thought about my feelings and emotions. Lots.
- Got a bit bored of thinking about feelings and emotions.
- Had a couple of mini meltdowns. Perhaps thinking about feelings and emotions a bit much?
- Tried to find decent 3G signal in the new house (key areas: bath and next to fridge).
- Missed the Internet.

It’s good to be back!

Introducing MAMA

 

FACT: kids know that when you have something supremely important to do it is time for them to STOP SLEEPING. Like last night. I went to bed at 10pm with a cold and a head full of thoughts (a lethal combination) and just as I was dropping off to sleep at 1am Hux woke up for a feed. Fine, I got up and sorted him out, it’s always lovely to have a baby cuddle no matter how late it is.

But then Elfie woke up. First she wanted a drink: water, no MILK! no, water mummy. No, in my Peppa cup. Oh it’s on my pyjamas. DON’T LIKE THOSE PYJAMAS. Don’t like my pillow. I’m cold, brrrrrrrrr. Where are my slippers? Where’s my hat? The rain is too noisy! Is it morning?

And before I knew it we’d reached 3am with no sleep and I was ready to combust with the thought of the busy day I had ahead of me.

(you should never see 3am unless you’re in a bar with a cocktail)

Luckily I appear to have completely underestimated the power of Monmouth coffee and have powered through the day with the speed of something really really fast, launching my new project into the world only one hour later than anticipated. Take that, sleep deprivation. Take that, insomniac kids. Take that, 3am.

So here it is! The project I’ve slogged long and hard at over the last few weeks: MAMA, The Magazine For Modern Mums. I’d love for you to hop on over and take a look, maybe follow MAMA on Twitter or Facebook.

But for now I’m having a big glass of red and a long sleep.  See you on the other side.

How To Be A Blogger

Although I’ve been blogging for over a decade I would no way declare myself an expert: in my opinion there’s always more to learn and ways you can better yourself. But I have learnt a couple of things on my long journey that has taken me through the land of online diary writing.

I’ve been asked a few times for a bit of help when it comes to the practicalities of how to set up a blog, and as I’ve been an Online Consultant by trade for about five years now I thought it might be time to share, just don’t get better at it than me, OK? So this is for you, Mum, Emma and Amanda. I expect to be reading your blogs soon.

Think about your motivation behind blogging. I love to share my memories and experiences, not only creating a record of our lives but also helping people through the rough times (I wrote recently about why I like to blog). This is why I’m so frank about being pregnant and Elfie being poorly, and the times I receive emails from others in a similar position really make it all worthwhile. But I also genuinely love to write. First and foremost my enjoyment comes from putting fingers to keypad, adding photos and making something lovely, and I would still enjoy it if nobody even read. 

Set up your space. WordPress and Blogger are the two most popular blogging platforms and are both quick, easy and free ways to set up a blog. As far as I can tell, Blogger is the easier option but WordPress is prettier and has more customisable options. There’s an excellent article discussing the ins and outs of WordPress Vs Blogger here. Personally I’m a die-hard WordPress fan as I love the Dashboard interface and prefer to be able to customise to my heart’s desire. Because I like to have all the control over my blog I have my own webspace onto which I have installed WordPress (downloaded from here: wordpress.org): this is a little more technically challenging but gives you even further freedom. I’d recommend the blog novice go for the WordPress.com option, with which you are able to upgrade to your own .com/.co.uk domain for around $18.

Think about what you want to write about. At every blogging conference I’ve ever been to there’s always talk of ‘carving your niche’, as apparently this is how to make waves in the blogosphere. I’ve never really managed to do this and I dart from food to fashion to family to parenting to a little bit of beauty… maybe you could describe me as a ‘lifestyle’ blogger but I just think I’m too much of an oversharer! I rank my enjoyment of what I’m writing over the ‘carve your niche’ rule, though it’s a great idea to have an idea of the subject area you want to head towards.

Make your blog look pretty. Wordpress has a plethora of themes available to you: so much so that it’s easy to get bogged down in them all. I have spent hoooours looking for the perfect theme: it’s one of my favourite hobbies. Decide what’s important to you, whether you like the look of two or three columns and the colours you like, and go from there. These days most themes are quite advanced so you can choose the one you want and customise colours etc from there. Some of the more basic WordPress themes are great for beginners and allow you to add in your own headers without any technical knowledge.

Start writing. It takes a couple of months to find your groove and start gaining readers. Don’t feel disheartened that stacks of people aren’t reading straight away- it’ll happen. As long as you’re enjoying yourself and writing in an honest voice, you will find that people will come.

Join a network. There are so many networks out there depending on the subject matter of your blog. For parenting blogs there’s BritMums or the great Parent Bloggers Facebook group, for Fashion blogs there’s IFB. These places are brilliant when it comes to advice and information, and they’re worth reading even if they don’t fit your niche. For example, I find the advice on the Independent Fashion Blogger‘s network invaluable and interesting, and most of what they discuss can be applied to blogs on other subjects. In terms of blogs that give blogging advice I also enjoy Momcomm, Copyblogger and ProBlogger.

Get involved in Social Networking. There are fantastic supportive communities in each sector of blogging and I can truly say I’ve met some wonderful people through my blog (YO to Charlotte, Kaisa, Jenny and the Mother’s Meeting massive…). Twitter is a great way to connect with others, make friends and get your posts out there.  I also love Instagram but like I said, I’m a bit of an oversharer. I’ve just started getting into Pinterest (addictive) and I have a brand-spanking new Facebook page. Google+ is still a bit of an enigma but I plan on finding out how it ticks ASAP and will report back with details.

Find your heroes. There are some bloggers out there who I adore and read religiously. I don’t think it’s healthy to try and emulate other bloggers as it’s so important to be yourself, but these people keep me inspired. I love: A Cup Of Jo, Dooce, Nat The Fat RatYoung House Love and Little Green Notebook.

So that’s me: an introduction to blogging in 900 words or less. If you’re a blogger I’d love to hear your tips and tricks. Or if you have any questions, please ask away.

An Interlude for My Favourite Recent Blogs

This is what I currently look like. It is not a pretty sight; the state of my bikini line is beyond acceptable and my eyebrows are taking over my face. I can’t remember the last time I wore fake tan and I need to stop wearing clothes made out of jersey.

All my energy at the moment is being spent on getting through each day and staying up late enough to watch the X Factor. Anything else right now is a bonus… I am so mentally crushed that I can barely string an email together, let alone a blog post. This baby is leeching every bit of energy from me and I can’t wait for it to stop and for the fat, glowy part to begin.

So here is a brief interlude to tell you about my favourite blogs, in lieu of the witty observations and interesting banter you would usually find here. I hope.

Saidos Da Concha – a gorgeous interiors and DIY blog by a Portugese native living in the English countryside.

A Cup Of Jo – a NYC lifestyle blog that you probably all know about but I only just came across. Love it.

Mammasaurus – this woman has eight kids. EIGHT. She is a god.

Enjoying the Small Things – this beautiful family photography blog makes me want to move to Florida.

Mother’s Meeting – the hippest momma bloggers you will find on the internet!

Young House Love – these people have got me into DIY. This is a miracle.

Matt and Kara Adopt – one couple’s heartwarming and heartbreaking adoption journey.

DasBecca – I’ve been following the K’s family blog for about five years now. That’s a really long time.