When I hit the ‘publish’ button on my first blog post exactly three years ago today I had absolutely no idea what I was doing nor what a brilliant adventure I was embarking on.
I did virtually no research into the world of food blogging before I got going, and in a way I’m rather thankful I didn’t, as I probably wouldn’t have plucked up the courage to do it if I had. There are so many amazing food blogs out there, I’m constantly amazed that anyone ever bothers to read mine. Whenever someone likes a post, leaves a comment or better still makes a recipe and comes back with feedback, I am absolutely thrilled and surprised. Continue reading “Awards and anniversaries”→
Last week I attended a fantastic workshop in Bristol’s M Shed along with around 60 other bloggers from Foodies100 and Tots100.
In the space of six short hours I successfully managed to quadruple my blogging know-how, and at the same time got to meet a whole host of very lovely and down right inspirational food and family bloggers.
There’s no way I could share here all the tips, gems and nuggets I picked up, so instead I’m whittling them down to the top ten things I learned at the Bristol Blog Summit…
1. If you’re paid to promote a brand, use no-follow links
The whole question of whether links should be ‘follow’ or ‘no-follow’ has been one I’ve been meaning to get my head around for a while now. The main thing I took away from Tom Brennan’s talk was if you’re paid to promote a brand in any way on your blog, then the links you include to their website should be no-follow, otherwise your Google ranking could be affected.
Being paid by a brand refers obviously to financial payment but can also be interpreted to mean payment in kind, such as complimentary products provided for review purposes. So my next task once I’ve finished this post is to go back through all the review and giveaway posts I’ve featured to convert all the links to no-follow. Now while this is a bit of a grey area, I think I’d rather err on the side of caution.
If you’re a blogger but all of this sounds like gobbledygook to you, it’s probably a good idea you read this Tots 100 article on the subject or this post on WAHM-BAM Features.
2. Use tabs effectively on your Facebook page
I picked up so many great tips from Cathy James from Nurture Store on using Facebook and Pinterest to build audience and boost traffic to your blog. The first is to make sure you’re putting the tabs on your Facebook page to best use and use these to direct people to your blog and your Pinterest page. Woobox is a very helpful app that allows you to do this easily. Likewise are you promoting your Facebook page via your blog, Pinterest and Twitter?
3. Ask questions on Facebook
Questions are a wonderful way to engage with people on Facebook. For some reason Facebook gives high visibility to questions and they’re more likely to show in people’s news feeds. I tried this out recently on my page and was impressed by how much interaction it generated.
4. Schedule posts and pins
It’s easy to schedule Facebook posts. Simply click on the little clock in the bottom left-hand corner of the status update box. This is ideal if you want to share timely posts with US audiences – a good time to post is between 2am and 4am. And if you want to schedule pins, Cathy James recommends PinGraphy. I look forward to giving this a whirl!
5. Share photos from Facebook to Twitter
Use the neat IFTTT service to auto-share the photos you post to your Facebook page to your Twitter stream.
6. Pin to blog board first in Pinterest
In Pinterest, your first board should be your blog board. Whenever you pin images, pin to your blog board first and then repin later to your specialist boards. I can’t believe I didn’t even have a blog board on Pinterest, so I’ve got a bit of catching up to do here!
7. Optimise images specifically for Pinterest
Increase your chances of repinning by optimising your photographs and graphics so that they look good on Pinterest. Look at any board and you’ll see portrait images stand out most. Text also works really well and it’s useful to include a watermark with your blog name. Picmonkey is an easy and versatile way to create beautiful collages, while I like using Picasa to add text.
8. With charities, make it personal
Many bloggers are approached by charities to get involved in their latest campaign, be it to raise money or awareness. But if all bloggers end up including the same stuff on their blogs, readers are quickly going to turn off and it’s not going to do you or your charity any favours.
So if you do decide to support a charity through your blog, make it personal and creative. As Christine Mosler from Thinly Spread said, make sure there’s a tie-in with the issues you’re already writing about, retain your own voice. And in the words of Annie Spratt from Mammasaurus, you know your blog and you know how to create a buzz with your readers. If there’s a charity you really like, don’t wait for them to approach you. Take your ideas direct to them.
9. Use a halogen light when photographing food
It’s a common problem for food bloggers that by the time you’ve served up your delicious meal, there’s no natural light available for taking good photographs. The advice from the wonderful Becky and Tom Arber is to invest in a halogen light, which you can get from somewhere like B&Q for just £12. You then bounce light off a nearby wall onto your dish to create a natural lighting effect. Alternatively you can use a desk lamp or even a torch. Also you should experiment with the white balance setting on your camera or use a photo editing tool like Picasa or Snapseed.
10. Blogging events aren’t scary
I can’t believe I was actually feeling quite nervous on my way to the Bristol Blog Summit. Everyone I met was friendly, interesting, down-to-earth and at the same time really rather inspirational, and I enjoyed playing the game of matching people to their blogs and Twitter handles. This was my first proper bloggers’ networking event and I can’t wait for the next one.
There is so much I haven’t covered in this post. If you want to find out more, take a look at this very useful summary of the proceedings over on Tots100, which also includes a linky to the other posts bloggers have written about the event.
A huge thank you to the uber-talented Sally Whittle and all at Tots100 and Foodies100 for organising the workshop, as well as sponsors Actimel.
Take part in the Recipes for Life food bloggers challenge for your chance to see your recipe featured in a new charity cookbook!
With such a great response to the first Recipes for Life challenge, I really can’t wait to see what dishes come in this month.
Your mission for March – should you choose to accept it – is to show us what tasty and tempting dishes you can create using beetroot, carrot and cheese.
As you’ll recall from last month, this challenge is run in conjunction with a fantastic charity called SWALLOW, which supports adults with learning disabilities to lead more independent lives. SWALLOW is looking for new recipes for its members to make in their cookery lessons, and ultimately to include in its new cookbook coming out later this year. Therefore it’s important entries to Recipes for Life focus as much as possible on the three key ingredients and aren’t too complicated to make.
This month your dishes featuring beetroot, carrot and cheese can be either savoury or sweet, raw or cooked and you can use any kind of soft or hard cheese you like, just so long as it’s widely available.
Recipes for Life: how to enter
Display the Recipes for Life badge (shown above) on your recipe post, and link back to this challenge post.
You may enter as many recipe links as you like, so long as they are based on the three main ingredients selected for this month and accompanied only by basic store cupboard items.
When I first guest-hosted the Herbs on Saturday blog challenge for Karen at Lavender & Lovage back in July, I found the experience such good fun, particularly discovering so many talented bloggers and a whole heap of tasty new recipes to try. But I was rather surprised at just how many entries were submitted; 30 in total. Putting off writing the round-up to the last-minute was a bit of a silly move. I vowed if I were ever to host Herbs on Saturday again, I’d compile the round-up as I went along to save myself from a last-minute panic.
Hosting Herbs on Saturday second time round has been a real blast and I’ve loved the steady flow of emails arriving in my inbox offering a diverse array of tasty and tempting dishes. But guess what? Yes, you’re right. I failed to learn my lesson and so last night I had another last-minute panic on my hands. This month Herbs on Saturday attracted a whopping 43 entries – you lot are incredible! And each and every one is a wonderfully delicious celebration of cooking with herbs.
Since we’ve got a lot to get through, and I have a slight tendency to waffle on a bit, I’ve decided to be extremely strict and limit myself to just three words to describe each entry. So let’s get this show on the road…
Now how’s that for an impressive selection of recipes, providing a veritable wealth of culinary inspiration? I look forward to working my way through the list. I’m starting the 5:2 diet next week and will be trying out the Lemon Chicken with Cannellini Beans and Rosemary from Lavender and Lovage, and I’ve also got my eye on the Croustade de Canarde from Delicieux, as I have some duck breast in the freezer. Which dishes have caught your fancy?
“But who won the prize this month?” I hear you cry. Well, the lucky winner of Your Kitchen Garden: Month-by-Month,by the renowned gardening author Andi Clevely, is none other than Rachel from Marmaduke Scarlet for her fashionably green pesto made with English parsley, walnuts and Stilton. Karen’s mystery judge this month is a professional herb grower based in North Yorkshire, who we’ll call The Herb Lady.
The Herb Lady said: “It took me a long time to select the winner but I chose Marmaduke Scarlet’s pesto as it is so fresh and innovative and a good use of parsley, which is so often relegated to garnishes and sauces. Using walnuts instead of pine nuts makes this a thoroughly British pesto.”
Congratulations to Rachel and we hope you have lots of fun devising new ideas for your kitchen garden with inspiration from your new book!
Before I sign off, I’d just like to say a huge thank you to Karen at Lavender & Lovage for once again entrusting her Herbs on Saturday challenge to me. I’d love to host again some time – once I’ve fully recovered from compiling this round-up! And now I think I need a little lie down…
I’ve had the honour of being asked to write guest posts for a number of other food blogs recently. So I thought you might like to see what I’ve been up to and to take a look around their excellent blogs at the same time.
At the end of October, the insanely talented Thinly Spread featured my Thyme for Soup guest post. I shared a car with Chris from Thinly Spread to get to the MAD Blog Awards in September, and I used those hours to pick her poor brain raw on anything and everything about blogging. If there’s anything you want to know about blogging, Chris is your woman!
I love Thinly Spread. It’s a lovely collection of delicious vegetarian recipes the whole family will love, ingenious arts and craft activities, as well as gardening projects and advice, all of which Chris posts when she’s not got her hands full with her four gorgeous children.
The Good Stuff is written by two dads, Matt and Corpy, who like me live in the wonderful West Country. The blog charts their cooking adventures with their young kids, which they describe as a “swap shop for new parents with a passion for good, healthy food” – the blog that is, not their kids!
And finally, my Cooking with the Kids post was one of the first to feature on the new Appliances Onlineblog, which aims to build a community of people interested in all things interior, crafty, family orientated, foodie and fun. In this post I give some tips on how to involve your children in the kitchen so that you hopefully don’t lose your mind in the process, as cooking with children can sometimes be a rather stressful affair! Or is that just me and my kids?
So there you go. I’ll be back soon with a recipe on my own blog and in the meantime, if you’re on Facebook, perhaps you might want to head over to my new(ish) page for Bangers & Mash? See you soon!
This time last year I had absolutely no idea what I was about to launch myself head first into.
Yes, it’s a year ago to the very day that I summoned the courage to hit the Publish button for the first time and with it created Bangers & Mash, complete with hand drawn pictures and dubious photography. (I do cringe a little when I look back at those early food shots.)
So I would like to take this opportunity to wish Bangers & Mash a very happy first birthday! I hope you like my little cake in honour of the occasion.
In my first post, I attempted to justify why we need another food blog? If you’re interested, and I haven’t already bored you senseless on the subject, you’ll find this post lays out my ethos of cooking wholesome, family food using good quality, seasonal ingredients, without it costing you a fortune. I also talk at length, as I am prone to do in a verging on obsessive way about meal planning, particularly how it has helped dramatically reduce our shopping bills and food waste and encouraged us to eat a much more varied, healthy and adventurous diet.
The first recipe I posted on Bangers & Mash wasn’t actually one of mine. It was my husband’s fabulous carrot cake. But in a way, that’s very appropriate, as I hadn’t a clue about cooking until I moved in with my other half. It’s funny to think back to my early 20s when I had no idea how to cook anything really and no inclination to really bother. How things change!
While I would by no stretch of the imagination consider myself a fully fledged food blogger quite yet, I do believe I have come a long way over the last 12 months.
My recipes and photography are improving all the time. The main reason for that is the feedback and support I get from friends and family, but perhaps most importantly other bloggers. That’s what has surprised and impressed me most – the support network provided by the enormous blogging community out there, through both our blogs and Twitter (a platform I avoided like the plague for quite a long time).
When I started out, I pictured blogging as a rather solitary pastime, sitting alone at a PC and broadcasting thoughts and ideas to an invisible audience. But what I’ve discovered I enjoy most about blogging is the interaction and conversation. I didn’t realise just how much I would learn from others as a result of writing a blog.
But that’s enough of that. The children will be getting up soon – as usual, I’m writing this in the early hours of the morning when the house is still and quiet – and my day must start properly. I’ll be back soon with my latest concoction. And I look forward to hearing about yours!
I promise this is the last time I mention it, but you will have to excuse me for making the most of this. In case you hadn’t heard already last week I won an award. A MAD (Mum & Dad) Blog award. And yes, I am still grinning.
This time last week I was in a posh hotel in London with the many of the UK’s best parenting bloggers, dressed up to the nines, quaffing bubbly, and pondering how on earth I’d got here. And then, I was being invited up on stage to pick up the gong for best food blog. A huge thank you to everyone that voted for me. I owe you one. Big time.
The event was an amazing celebration of what I’m fast learning is a very unique and supportive community, and so this post is in praise of all the winners and finalists of the 2012 MAD Blog Awards. So sit back and listen to a little Fatboy while you look through a few snapshots…
Here are the winners of the MAD Blog Awards 2012 in all their glory. I praise you all! Please sit back with a cup of tea or a glass of wine and have a read. I guarantee you’ll be both laughing and crying before you’re done…
The finalists in this year’s MAD Blog Awards are a pretty creative bunch. Just take a look through the fabulous posts submitted for this latest MAD Blog Carnival and I defy you not to end up itching to try out some of these delicious dishes or crafty creations for yourself…
Finally I have a use for all those boxfuls of manky old broken bits of crayon thanks to the wonderful Actually Mummy. Aren’t these crayon hearts clever? But Actually Mummy doesn’t stop there; she has lots of great ideas on how to do Valentine’s when you’ve got kids.
My daughter Jessie is a budding artist and I can’t wait to try out this Klimt-inspired projectwith her from Red Ted Art. Maggie’s step-by-step guide is so useful, giving you lots of great ideas to develop with your kids without being overly prescriptive.
Hama beads are a firm favourite in our house and I know my two girls will love the ideas over at Little Sheep Learning for some new things to create, particularly those Angry Birds! And I can’t believe I’d never thought of using ice-cube trays before for sorting out the beads. My kids nick my muffin trays, which can be quite infuriating come baking day!
Every child I know is fascinated by shadows and how they are made, which is why this Shadow Puppets post from Science Sparks is going to be popular with kids everywhere. Create clever shadows and some pretty puppets to boot.
Dorky Mum has the perfect craft activity for anyone with too much time on their hands: the champagne cork chair. Come on, you know you want to make one. You do, you really do. And as there will undoubtedly be quite a few corks popping at the MAD Awards ceremony at the end of the month, it’s the perfect time for all the finalists to give it a go. Just remember to bring your little Lego man with you!
Papier mache is a very messy affair. And so of course for children everywhere that equates with great fun. I look forward to trying out these papier-mache animals from Susan K Mann; just so long as I’m in that go-with-the-flow kind of mood, rather than my usual don’t-you-dare-drop-any-glitter-on-the-floor kind of mood of course…
Ice cream making is a truly family affair in Geek Mummy’s house and this video recipe is sure to put a smile on your face. I love the appearance of the cat in the background towards the end. And it’s also lovely to know that other people’s kitchens are as messy as mine!
How about this for a quick and easy treat from Becky at Family Budgeting? With just three ingredients, this easy shortbread is definitely the kind of recipe that appeals to me!
When Emma over at A Bavarian Sojourn was little, her mum had to trick her into eating gooseberries. Can’t understand that myself as I’ve always loved them. But now she’s living in Bavaria she’s discovered a new-found taste for them and is making up for lost time. And so here she presents her very English recipe for gooseberry crumble – yum!
So there you have it. If there isn’t an idea or two here that gets your creative juices flowing, well I’ll eat my hat. A paper hat festooned with sequins and glitter and feathers and googly eyes and Moshi stickers, naturally.