Well, 2017 is done. It’s been a bit of a mixed bag on this here old blog. And it’s been a rollercoaster of a year for us as a family. We left our big house in Wales and headed lock, stock and barrel for sunnier climes in Portugal. And we have no regrets. It’s been a big change but for the better.
The blog has also changed somewhat with me taking a new new direction (more on that to come in my next post). The blog has grown slightly over 2016, and my followers on most social media platforms have increased too. And I like to take time to look back on what posts did well during the year. I don’t include giveaway posts as they always get a lot of attention as there is a prize on offer. But I do like to see which real posts do well, and there are a few surprises this year.
So without further ado, let’s see my Top 5 of 2017.
This post was written back in June 2016 and detailed my reasons why I am reluctant to have a second child. It was a very personal post and one I was unsure about posting. But I got some lovely comments and it received the most views this year, which was a big surprise.
This post comes from way back in 2015 when I wanted to share my love of Grobags with the world. It has been my most viewed post in the previous two years. I slightly tweaked this post this year for SEO and once again, it makes my top 5 viewed posts of the year, coming in second place. This review generally gets a few views a week which helps keep it in the top 5 spot for the last three years running. I really did love Grobags and hope that people find this review helpful in deciding whether they want to use them with their little ones or not.
Another review from 2015 that is doing well is my review about the Gro Egg, which we were using in BattleKid’s room until we moved to Portugal in May. It made clothing BattleKid for bed easy, whether the weather was warm or cold outside. It also proved to be a useful nightlight. I haven’t done anything with this post and yet it came in third place.
I wrote this post at the beginning of 2017 with a view to sharing things we did in New York with BattleKid in tow. I did feel apprehensive about bringing a toddler to New York as I wasn’t sure what there was to do with him that would be enjoyable for all of us. I need not have feared, we found plenty to do with him that all of us enjoyed. It was that fear and apprehension that led me to writing this post, to share with other families the sort of things you can do in New York with a toddler in tow. My aim was to prove there is something there for everyone to enjoy, even the little people in your family. And from this post has come a mini series on the blog in which I share 5 things to do in other cities and locations. And I plan for this little series to continue.
This year was a big anniversary for Disneyland Paris, and also for BattleDad. He was part of the opening crew of EuroDisney and we planned to visit with BattleKid for the first time to enjoy the 25th anniversary celebrations. We decided to visit in December to take in the festive season at Disneyland and we had a brilliant time. But once I’d booked our flights and accommodation during the summer, I wanted to get more planning done and so I turned to the blogging community for help. They came up trumps and my planning post was my fifth most viewed post of 2017. I’m hoping this post will help other families planning their visits to Disneyland Paris.
So there you have it, my top 5 viewed posts of 2017 (not including giveaway posts). I am surprised by one or two and delighted to see two of my more travel-related making it into the top 5. If you haven’t read any of these posts, just click the highlighted title to have a nosey.
I’d like to take this opportunity to say thank you to each and every one of you who have visited the blog, read a post, left a comment and supported us during the year. And thanks to everyone who follows me on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms. I really do appreciate your comments, visits, likes and shares and your support.
And if you are a blogger yourself, what were your top read posts of the year? Any surprises?
Aly from Bug Bird Bee recently tagged me in the Liebster Award. This was the very first Blogger-type award I was ever tagged in during my early days and it seems it is doing the rounds again. So although I’ve completed it before I thought I’d do this, answering Aly’s questions this time.
1. What was your favourite childhood book and why?
I cannot remember ever having one favourite. I enjoyed reading the Roald Dahl books and also the Nancy Drew stories. While spending two months in Saudi Arabia when I was 10, I’d devour one a day!
2. Could you live in a log cabin for a month with no wifi? How would you spend your time?
If I had to I would. I think I’d get used to no WiFi after a few days. I’d spend my time taking walks in the woods (let’s face it, a log cabin is usually set in woods) and I’d read.
3. When was the last time you had a takeaway? What did you order?
We had a take away a few weeks ago and ordered an Indian which we collected. The food was quite nice although we did our usual and ordered too much!
4. Who was your best friend growing up? Are you still in touch?
Best friends were hard to come by for me until I hit secondary school as we had returned to Ireland when I was 10 and didn’t really have a best friend until secondary school I had one there but we lost touch when I went to college and she started working.
5. What song would give you earworm for the rest of the day?
Probably a damn children’s song like Bare Necessities or Bippity-boppety boo. I play a Disney playlist in the car for BattleKid and if played on the way to nursery in the morning the songs invariably get stuck in my head! Tell me they aren’t in your head now!
6. If you were a type of dance what would you be?
At the moment a rave-type dance. Life is completed hectic and crazy at the moment as we get ready for a big move for our family and my head is constantly spinning at 90mph with everything that has to be done and sorted. I cannot wait to slow down once we’re done and dusted.
7. Snog, marry or avoid- Benedict Cumberbatch, Idris Elba and Tom Hardy.
Omg you couldn’t have given me three worse choices. I don’t like any of these! But in the spirit of the award I’ll answer the best I can.
Snog – Benedict.
Marry – Idris (only because I’ve no other choice)
Avoid – Tom. I just don’t get him. I don’t see the appeal. Every film he’s been in I cannot hear a word he says and it ticks me off.
8. Where is the furthest place you have travelled to?
I think I’d have to say South Africa. I lived there between the ages of 3 and 9.
9. What would be on your epitaph?
Had you asked this to me just before finishing my PhD it would have been “Are you still here?” as I spent 9 years in the same university and that phrase was always being thrown my way. I’m not sure what it would say now, maybe beloved wife, mother and blogger, haha!
10. If you were a political leader, what would be your manifesto?
I can categorically say this would never happen. I hate politics and would never enter into it. But if I had to it would be “let’s all just take a chill pill and calm the f down”.
11. What’s on your bedside table?
For once in my life it’s quite clean so just BattleKid’s monitor (yes we still have it) and my kindle. That is all.
11 random facts about me:
I have worn glasses since the age of 7.
I have three younger sisters.
I only learned to drive after I’d turned 30.
I have a PhD in Organic Chemistry.
I am an avid Madonna fan.
The first concert I ever went to was Take That in Dublin when I was 14 or 15.
I have only ever had two serious boyfriends (one of whom is my husband).
I completed my CBT (compulsory basic training) for motorbikes but never used it.
I hate the sea and ocean, despite being a good swimmer.
I used to do Ballroom and Latin American dancing, competitively, during my teen years.
It has been a while since I took part in a blogger interview tag, so when I saw Tessa of Grumpy Mum looking for other bloggers to take part in the Sunshine Blogger Award I jumped at the chance and was thrilled to find she had tagged me. These blogger awards are a lovely way to interact with other bloggers and also a great way to find out more about one another. So without further ado, here are the questions Grumpy Mum set and my answers to them. Did you make any New Year’s Resolutions and have you stuck to them?
I’ll be honest, no I didn’t make any New Year’s Resolutions. Personally I think they are a waste of time for me. Whenever I’ve made them I’ve never stuck with them so a few years ago I made the decision never to make them again. I do have ambitions at the start of the year and wishes that I’d like to do/make/keep and I think that by labelling them as just those, ambitions and wishes, I feel under less pressure if they don’t happen for whatever reason. Another advantage to not having resolutions is you can never feel guilty for not sticking to them.
If you could visit any time period, which would it be?
Oh this is a hard one. Part of me would like to go forward and see what is in store for BattleKid but that would take the fun, mystery and adventure out of his growing up I guess. There are lots of times in history I wouldn’t like to visit such as during the World Wars and the Middle Ages. I do like Roman history, all thanks to my hubby’s interest in it, so if I had to pick one period of time to visit I’d like to visit Rome at the time of Julius Caesar’s reign and see Rome in all its glory. We visited Rome almost 10 years ago and the history of the city is amazing. We saw Julius Caesar’s grave and the Forum was amazing.
You’re stuck on a desert island (think LOST), barring people, what would you miss the most?
I’ve had to think about this one for quite a while as I’d definitely miss my husband, son and close family the most. It also depends on whether there is anything there like shelter and electricity like in LOST. If not then it would be a roof over my head for when it rains and somewhere to shelter when the sun is at its strongest.
What book do you think everyone should read at some point in their life?
Last year I read a book about the history of Ireland (where I am originally from) which started from when the first people settled in Ireland in 4000BC all the way to the beginning of the Northern Ireland troubles in the 1960’s and beyond. Although it was a brief history I was so glad I read it as I’m ashamed to say I knew little of Ireland’s history. So I think everyone should read about the history of the country they are from. This might not be everyone’s cup of tea but I’m sure there are many people out there who know little of their country’s history beyond the 20th and 21st centuries.
Which word can you never spell correctly no matter how many times you spell check it?
I’m pretty good on spelling and grammar but I always have to think hard about the work recipe and niece. Even the rhyme “i before e, except after c” still doesn’t help me with niece! And with recipe, I always have it in my head that there is an extra e, “receipe”. Those two are the most common words that I have to think long and hard about when using them. There are some others but I can’t think of them off the top of my head.
Did you love pregnancy or hate it?
I loved it. Once I got over the tiredness of the first trimester I loved it. I ate healthier, my hair and skin looked great and I had a relatively easy pregnancy from there on in. Even when the tiredness returned in the third trimester I still enjoyed it as this was the time BattleKid was most active and we had our 4D scan.
If you could speak to yourself at the moment you first found out you were pregnant, what advice would you give?
Rest more. I worked up until two weeks before my due date and by the time I finished I was knackered. I am a scientist which meant I was on my feet most of the time when doing lab work. And that coupled with third trimester tiredness meant I was good for nothing in the evenings. So I’d say take every opportunity to rest!
What do you miss most about your pre-parenthood days?
The fact we can never do things on the spur of the moment as it’s just not that easy with a toddler in tow. You always have to plan days out, holidays, visits to friends with military precision. Before BattleKid came along we could go anywhere or go away with little more than a few clothes thrown into a bag and could do it as and when we wanted. Not so easy anymore, but we don’t let it stop us! We still travel but with more pre-planning.
What makes you cringe so much your eyes water?
People who speak before they think, particularly in tricky situations. I am pretty tactful and try to think before speaking, but I know a few people who simply talk and answer without a pause to consider what they are going to say, and in situations that call for tact and sometimes political correctness, they are invariably the ones who say the wrong thing!
If you had £1million to spend on yourself, what would you buy?
A house in the sun, a fabulous holiday in a far-flung place like Fiji or Bora-Bora, a new wardrobe, an Austin Martin and then investments for the future. Simple things, haha!
And now for my questions for Katie of Mummy’s Diary, Sharyn of Raising Ireland and Denise of This Irish Family. This is always the hardest section for me. It’s hard to think of 10 questions for others but here it goes:
1. What has been the hardest part of parenting for you so far?
2. If you could make one wish for your children’s future come true, what would it be and why?
3. What book have you read in the past that has had an effect on you and why?
4. What did you want to be when you were younger?
5. If you had to choose one song to represent you and your life, what would it be?
6. What is your most favourite place in the world?
7. If you were stuck on a desert island for a month, aside from people, what 3 things would you bring with you?
8. What is your all-time favourite kid’s film?
9. Mac or Windows?
10. Sun holiday, ski holiday, far-flung visit or city break, which would be your preference, either with your kids or not?
And now for the rules.
1. Thank the person who tagged you and link to their blog.
2. Answer the 10 questions you have been given.
3. Think up 10 new questions.
4. Tag at least 3 other bloggers.
Thanks for reading, Cath x
It’s been quiet on this here old blog and I’m going through a dry spell when it comes to writing. I’ve lots of ideas but I just don’t seem to have any motivation whatsoever to write them up. We’ve been on plenty of days out, I’ve got reviews to write (of products I’ve bought myself and used and want to share with my readers) and lots of other general catch up topics but my get-go is on a no-go at the moment.
I’ve been through slow periods before and have written about them too but this one seems different somehow. During previous ones I’ve managed to get through the week or two during which they’ve been really bad, and had a few backup posts which I got out to get over the writing slump, but this time I’ve no backup plan, no just-in-case posts and I simply cannot get my mojo to resurface.
I’ve been doing all the My Sunday Photo posts and I have managed to force my way through the brand work I’ve needed to get done but when it comes to writing posts for me and about our life I’ve stalled.
I know every blogger goes through these tough times and I am sure I’ll come through it but there is only a very faint light at the end of this tunnel. I think I need to get through this holiday period, enjoy myself at Bluestone on our forthcoming weekend and look forward to our holiday at Christmas.
There has also been a lot going on at home that I won’t go into here but suffice to say it has distracted me and diverted my attention away from writing for the blog. It can’t be helped but doesn’t make it easy either. It certainly hasn’t helped my motivation at all.
BattleDad has been away with work quite a lot too with trips to India and currently Singapore, alongside his regular trips to Paris. Without him here it means I am looking after BattleKid myself, the house and keeping on top of other household things. It does mean that once BattleKid is in bed and asleep, I’m ready to simply fall onto the sofa for an hour or two before I’m ready for sleep.
Another thing that is vying for my attention in what little spare time I have is my YouTube channel. I enjoy doing vlogs and videos of our days out but it takes a lot of time to edit them all, upload them and then interact with others on there too. Trying to fit that in along with the blog has been difficult and I can easily see why so many other bloggers work full-time on their blog and YouTube channels as it is easily a full-time job. How they blog and YouTube at the same time and remain sane is beyond me!
I almost feel as if it has to be one or the other and I don’t want to let one lapse or do a half-hearted job on either as I enjoy both. I wish I could give both the time and effort they deserve but I simply don’t have the time. There are some people who say you can make the time if you really want to but that would be at the expense of either sleep or time with BattleKid in the evenings or time with BattleDad after the boy is asleep and I’m sorry but my family time is not going to be sacrificed for writing or editing.
Don’t get me wrong, there are evenings when I do say to BattleDad “I’m blogging tonight” and he is happy to have a few hours to either edit his videos for his own YouTube channel or play his PS4 as he never gets near it when the boy is around. But there are nights when we want to catch up with The Walking Dead or The Missing. We actually watched a film together recently for the first time in months!
So for now you’ve had a ranting blog post. I did find that the last time I wrote about losing my mojo it was the one thing that actually went some way to get it back and soon after the flow of writing started again. Maybe this post will serve the same purpose but for now I’m going to stop giving myself a hard time. I am going to use this post as a reminder that we all go through times like these as bloggers and that I came through it the last time and will do so again this time!
As you know I attended my first ever Britmums a fortnight ago, or BML16 as it was rebranded, and today I’d like to share with you the highs and lows of BML16. It wasn’t my first ever blogging conference, having attended Traverse in April in Cardiff, but BML16 was a blogging conference on a whole different level.
I arrived in London just after lunchtime on Friday afternoon and had plans to meet Karen, who blogs at YankeeDoodlePaddy and who I’ve gotten to know via Snapchat. I’ll be writing about our Foodie Fieldtrip Friday but suffice to say it was the best afternoon I’ve had on my own in such a long time. I finished up with Karen around 8pm and headed back to my hotel with the intention of having an early night. I got a cuppa in the bar and put my feet up but my early night quickly got replaced by an exchange of messages with Sharon of Teentweentoddler, another Snapchat buddy, and a meet up was arranged.
We met and made our way to All Bar One where some other bloggers were having drinks and I got to meet a few of the Welsh bloggers including Sarah from The Herniman House, Kerry from Kerry Louise Norris, Leanne from A Slice of my Life Wales and also Laura from Side Street Style (but only briefly). I’d briefly met Leanne at Traverse and we’ve been following each other on Snapchat for a while so it was great to see a friendly face. There were other bloggers at the table but I didn’t get a chance to speak to any of them. Apologies. All the Welsh contingent were lovely, as was Sharon, and I’d love to meet them all again.
After a pint of lemonade, myself and Sharon said our goodnights and headed for our respective hotels. I had a quick shower, got my things ready for the next day and had an awful night’s sleep thanks to caffeinated tea and sugar!
I woke just after 7 and had breakfast before getting myself ready (and packed up) and headed to the Brewery, the venue for BML16, to meet Aly of Bug Bird Bee, who as you know kindly agreed to hold my nervous hand and introduce me to some people. Aly and I have been following each other on Snapchat for a while so it was like meeting up with an old friend. We went in, checked in our bags and found a table to sit at for the opening speeches.
After the BML16 opening speech by the founders of Britmums, we heard from Anne-Marie Cockburn who lost her daughter to an accidental ecstasy overdose in 2013. She recited an excerpt from her book 5742 Days, which I purchased on the day and can’t wait to read. You can buy it from Amazon. We then heard from Julie Creffield, before it was pass the parcel time.
Aly and I had been joined by Nikki from Stressy Mummy, and she won the game bagging herself a beautiful necklace from one of the sponsors Merci Maman. They have a great range of gift ideas that I’ll be going to for those all-important grandmother gifts!
After a coffee break, where Aly and I had a little fun in the Little Big Tent Festival room, it was time for the first breakout sessions and I opted for the Writing Workshop with Amanda Jennings. This was quite a useful session as it made us consider different ways of writing the same thing. Whether I change my style of writing or not is up in the air but it was good to see how writing in different ways can change how a piece can be read.
Next up was another breakout session and this was the lowlight of BML16 for me. I went to the “Up Your Game: Innovative Ways to Make Money”. The room was packed with bloggers who, most likely like me, wanted to know where to start and who were hoping to get some inspiration about how we could even begin to start making money from our blogs. I’d imagine many of us in the room were beginners or intermediate bloggers hoping to gain some vital knowledge from the speakers.
To be honest I got nothing out of this talk. It was hugely disappointing apart from the food for thought Richard gave me in the few minutes he was allowed to speak. I did go and register with Affilinet afterwards, but other than that it was a complete waste of time. I left 5 minutes before the end as I was getting nothing but frustrated at the way the questions posed to one particular speaker just did not get answered. The answers given felt weak and more like a way to showcase what they have and can achieve in working with brands.
It felt like they couldn’t come down from their upper levels of earning as a blogger to give the simple answers us novices craved. I came out no better off than I’d gone in, in terms of ways to make money from my blog, and I left dejected, wishing I’d gone to the YouTube talk instead. I mentioned this on my Snapchat two days after BML16 and a few bloggers got in touch to say they had left feeling the same way as I did. None of us got any value from this talk. I think someone like Aby from YouBabyMeMummy would have been better placed to speak at this talk. Maybe next year we can hear from her, especially as I admire her a lot. I know she is speaking at an up-and-coming Blog meeting in August and I can’t wait to attend her talk.
Next up was lunch and I had the chicken dish which was nice but I could have easily eaten two portions as I hadn’t had anything with my tea at the coffee break. Aly and I attended a second video workshop with Nigel Camp, which followed on from an earlier one he ran in the MAM lounge we attended and both were really good. The lunchtime one introduced affordable video equipment and has given me some things to add to my Amazon wish list.
After this I decided not to attend any talks in the third sessions, instead taking some time to go around the sponsor and brand stands of BML16. I got to meet and speak to Carol Smillie on the Diary Doll stand and I even bought knickers from her. And no I’m not kidding. I also got to speak to a lady called Patricia McDermott who was on the stand with Carol and she gave me some great tips for when we start toilet training with BattleKid. So all-in-all I enjoyed the time I took to chill out and wander the stands.
As the time for the start of the next session got closer I was torn between attending two. I decided to go to the “Grow your blog with a content strategy”, hosted by Jess Dante of Love and London. And this was by far the highlight talk of BML16 for me. There were 10 of us around the table including:
This was by far the most useful talk of the day, so useful in fact that each and everyone one of us gave up some coffee time to stay behind after the session had ended to finish off our round table session with Jess.
Jess was a lovely host, very engaging and took time to ask each of us about our blogs to help us narrow down our niches, especially for those of us who weren’t sure what it was. She got everyone around the table engaged in the session and it says something about your host when no-one is in a hurry to leave her table. It was a brilliant round table and was the highlight of the day for me.
There was very little time left of the coffee session once we vacated the round table room and I managed to catch up with Aly before we headed back to the main room for the Bloggers’ Keynotes. The talk by Cherry Healey was running over so once her talk finished I decided to say my goodbyes to Aly and thanked her for letting me tag along with her for the day. We are hoping to meet up again in person during the summer.
As some of the tubes were not running I left myself plenty of time to get to Paddington in time for my train back to Bristol where I picked up the car and headed over the Severn Bridge for home, extremely tired.
I have to admit I have mixed feelings about my first Britmums conference. There were highs and lows to BML16 as I’ve discussed. I got to meet quite a few bloggers, particularly those from Snapchat. In particular I am so glad and very grateful that I met Aly in person and cannot thank her enough for looking after me during the day. Without her I would probably have been on my own for the whole day as I get painfully shy at things like this and tend to hide in a corner. There were some bloggers I wanted to meet and others I said hello to but were afraid to talk to any further because of my shyness. Britmums is a daunting place for a first timer and unless you have someone to tag along with could be a very lonely place to be. It remains to be seen whether I’ll be returning.
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