Review of the year 2016: toddlers, babies, life and my top 5 blog posts


What a year! My second beautiful boy was born in June and we had a pretty tough few months with feeding/weight issues, a hospital visit at 8 weeks and general crankiness til he was 4 months old! When I wrote about parenting 2 boys I think I was in a bit of a negative place…. things do get easier and we’ve had a great few months now…

All the while his big brother W has developed such a character over the year. Full of chatter, very clever with words, numbers and his imagination… and potty trained to boot! Continue reading “Review of the year 2016: toddlers, babies, life and my top 5 blog posts”

Review of the year 2015: life and blogging

I’m glad to see the back of 2015, it’s been the hardest year of my life due to my dad dying in April… The grief and fall-out is something I still face on a daily basis. On top of that my mum recently had an op to remove a small bit of bowel cancer… (She should be fine!) and this sounds like nothing in comparison… But we had to put our oldest cat down as she had started to suffer from dementia… Sad and stressful!

Of course I have so much to be thankful for… I have my health, my home, a new job and of course my man and my boy 🙂 The best bits of this year have been watching W transition from a baby to a toddler… Taking his first steps, saying his first words. So many lovely memories of sunny days out and about… And holidays to Menorca, Bluestone and much-needed girly time in Lisbon.

I already have lots to look forward to in 2016 which I’ll blog about soon. I’m not one for resolutions but I would like to get fitter and eat a bit healthier! And this sounds so cliche but my dad dying makes me want to be a better, kinder person but that’s something that will take longer to perfect 😉

On to the blog, well with going back to work I’ve blogged less and been less active with other bloggers. However, my traffic has doubled this year as blogs I wrote last year do so well on Google… So it’s an effortless hobby really! As my traffic’s grown I’ve had more brands getting in touch and more invites to events but I’ve still not managed to attend one yet… Let’s hope I find the time next year!

So in reverse order, here were the top 5 posts on the blog this year…

5 – REVIEW: Avent breast shells. An oldie but a goodie, I don’t think anyone else has blogged about these (which is why I blogged about it in the first place!) so it ranks pretty well on Google

4 –  REVIEW: Clarins mum to be treatment. A blogging highlight had to be that even a friend of mine stumbled upon this post when she was looking for reviews!

3 – Bepanthen offer in Boots – so many people search for Bepanthen toys… They really should start selling them!

2 – 9 baby groups to attend in Cardiff (or anywhere really) – this went a bit viral locally when I published it in March… But since then it’s done well on Google for searches like ‘baby classes in Cardiff’ or ‘messy play tesco’

1 – Battle of the baby chairs… Bumbo vs Snug. It gives me great pleasure that every day hundreds of parents google about which baby chair to get and they find my post 🙂

As you can see, really all of these are reviews of products/services that I’ve paid for myself. It still baffles me that more bloggers don’t do the same and blog reviews of their favourite products, rather than just things sent to them by companies… Which are often unlikely to be searched for by anyone!

As 4 out of the top 5 were written in 2014, maybe I should think of retiring…. But I still have a few more things to blog about… So watch this space!

if you enjoyed this you might enjoy last year’s review and top 5 posts.

Share your 2015 - Belle du Brighton

My top 5 posts in 2014 and what I’ve learnt along the way

Happy new year to you all or blwyddyn newydd dda as we say in Wales!! 2014 must go down as my best year yet….  I gave birth to my gorgeous son in May… But also started blogging!! 😉

The two are closely related, I’ve found the community of parenting bloggers and tweeters to be a huge help and support with any parenting-related matters from baby constipation (!) to highchair recommendations! I’ve really enjoyed reading blogs… And have read far many more posts than I’ve written but… It’s been great to give something back, reviewing some of the best items we’ve bought, with many mums saying these have been useful… similarly to our updates about things like weaning.

It’s been great to use my brain a bit and find a new hobby. It’s been great working with some big brands like Medela and Cow & Gate but it’s also been great to turn down work with other big brands because blogging is just a hobby for me and I never want it to take up too much of my (or more specifically, baby W’s) time.

I’ve loved keeping my brain working by getting obsessed with stats, and seeing my posts rank through SEO. I’ve not cared too much about the design of my blog or the poor quality of images I use!

A nice moment was one of my posts getting mentioned in a Britmums round-up called ‘newbie Tuesdays’

So in 2015, I just plan to do more of the same. I always have a huge list of ideas to post, there’s so much I want to write and don’t have time for and time will be even more limited with me going back to work. Without thinking too much about the year ahead, here’s my top 5 most popular posts from 2014 and some tips I learnt along the way that might be useful for you 🙂

#5 – Baby clothes haul – NCT nearly new sale

From this post, I learnt:

– we’re all a bit nosy, so blog readers love haul posts!

– we all love a bargain, so people love reading about bargains!

Another tip I learnt with this one is to post relevant posts in Facebook groups that you’re already a member of (not just ones that you’re only in for blogging purposes). So for example I’m in a Facebook group for Cardiff parents, I would never dream of posting all my blog posts in there but this one is relevant to Cardiff (especially when I can tie it in with upcoming NCT sales)

Because this post did quite well because of those reasons, it now ranks on page 1 on Google for things like ‘NCT nearly new sale Cardiff’ which helps drive visits.

#4 – Bepanthen offer at Boots

This is a totally random post that I posted quickly without much thought, and I didn’t promote it much. So thanks to the power of SEO, most of the visits have come from searches like ‘Bepanthen toys’ where I now rank right under Bepanthen! They started sponsoring some TV programmes with these toys, which got a lot more people searching for them!

So not sure what the tip would be here other than never discount a post because you think it’s a bad idea – it could turn out to be very useful for new readers!

#3 – REVIEW – Bumbo vs Mamas and Papas Snug

I had a feeling this one would do well – before I’d bought either I’d done a bit of research and had a lot of twitter conversations about it so it did quite well my usual readers who might have babies of a similar age to mine.

Again it now does well on Google for searches like ‘shall I buy a bumbo or snug?’. My tip here is if you don’t find the answers you’re looking for when you’re a post about it yourself and Google might rank it!

The other thing to note here is most of my reviews have been based around products that I’ve bought, as opposed to being asked by brands to review them. Personally I think this is a great way to build up Google-friendly content that’s also useful to parents. You can then use them to contact brands to show them what you can do – this is what I did when I contacted Medela asking if I could review a breast pump.

#2 – My breastfeeding story

This was prompted by a Medela campaign which I was more than happy to support as I’d worked with them on a review. I published it during ‘breastfeeding week’ and most of the traffic seemed to come from someone (no idea who) posting it in Facebook (no idea where!).

More established bloggers wouldn’t support a PR campaign like this without getting paid for it, but my tip for newbie bloggers is that joining in with campaigns like this for free can help you grow your blog.

#1  – Exploring Cardiff – Rhiwbina

Another post that I wasn’t expecting to drive much traffic – but this one went a bit viral!  A website based in that suburb published it on their website, and retweeted it etc – even the local MP tweeted a link to it!

So again, writing about ordinary days from your life can help grow your blog traffic. And I guess this post proves that a bit of flattery can get you everywhere!

To my regular readers, thanks so much for your support in 2014 – look forward to seeing you in 2015!

Liebster award #2

You might have read my first liebster award for new bloggers – well my second nomination came from the lovely Mrs H – thank you sweetie! Please go and check her out – find out how she kissed John Barrowman!

Here’s the questions she asked of me..

1. What is your favourite book?

I love reading but very rarely get a chance to do it anymore! I love good thrillers, and a good chick lit but my favourite genre are any books based in faraway places like China, India etc… for that reason my fave ever book is ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’ – it got to all my senses like being able to see and smell blossom trees… still can’t believe it was written by a man!
2. If a film was made of your life which actress would you want cast as you? 

Either Renee Zellwegger or Clare Danes – only because I’ve been flatteringly-told I have slight resemblances to them (I wish!)
3. What is your favourite way to spend a summer evening?

Sitting in the garden with a glass (bottle) of Prosecco, lovely nibbles, a good magazine and my family 🙂

4. What is your happiest memory?

Has to be the moment that baby W was laid on my chest just after being born

5. If you could have any super power what would it be and why?

I would like to be able to sprinkle fairy dust wherever it’s needed – this stuff could fix wars, broken hearts etc 🙂

I also like Karl Pilkington’s ‘Bullsh*t man’ character – there are lots of people I’d like him to make a visit to!

6. Tea or coffee?

I like a good coffee now and again but it has to be tea – I get through about 10 cups a day!

7. What would you do if you were Prime Minister for the day?

Oooh good question! Essay coming up…

Sort out the housing crisis by repurposing lots of our old, unused buildings – turning them into housing and community buildings. Also on the same note, limit the amount of housing that can be sold to overseas buyers – it doesn’t affect me but it sounds like this is a nightmare in London. In Dubai overseas buyers are only allowed to buy in certain areas – I think this could work in London?

I know unemployment is improving and there are some good, hardworking people who are still unable to find work. However, for all the benefit scroungers out there I can’t understand why they aren’t asked to do some type of community service (e.g. volunteering/ maintenance/ community projects???) or join the army or anything else that’s useful for the rest of us that are paying for them?

I love the NHS but it could be improved – I’d bring in a business guru like Lord Sugar to try and streamline things… not to focus on targets on care but thinking back to my pregnancy, and also an eye condition I suffer from – I’ve spent SO MANY HOURS hanging about in our local hospital – things could be organised a lot better and that would save them money!

I could go on but that will do for now!

8. As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I went through phases… fashion designer, author and then for years I wanted to be an investigative journalist!

9. What makes you laugh?

Baby W laughing… being silly…. Fawlty Towers…. An idiot abroad….

10. What three words would your friends use to describe you?

Easy-going, laid-back, disorganised

11. Bags or shoes?

Shoes!

Now to nominate some new bloggers – here’s some new parenting/pregnancy bloggers I’ve come across over the last few weeks – Little O and me and Another Bun and a local (Cardiff) lifestyle/beauty blogger The little bones blog 

Ladies, please use the same questions as above – I know it’s cheating but I’m better at answering than thinking of questions!

Readers – please check out these new blogs and show them your support 🙂

the full rules…..

A Liebster is given to up and coming bloggers who may not be receiving the love that they deserve. It is a lovely way to introduce you, my readers, to some brilliant blogs. Plus, you get to learn more about me as I have 11 questions to answer.

The rules of the awards are nice and straightforward: 

  • Thank the blogger who nominated you.
  • Answer the questions given to you.
  • Nominate other bloggers with less than 500 followers whose blogs you love.
  • Post 11 questions for your nominees to answer

My Liebster Award #1

I was kindly nominated by Zena’s Suitcase for this award… For those not in the know, a Liebster Award is an award for bloggers to give to other bloggers.  It’s a way to say, “Hey, I like your blog!” It’s a bit like a chain letter, I answer 11 questions and then nominate more bloggers with less than 500 followers to answer my 11 questions.  So here’s my answers first off…

1) What’s the best thing about social media?

I love and hate it for a range of personal and professional reasons but the best thing about it has to be the ability to easily stay in touch and keep updated from friends and acquaintances around the world!

2) If your blog had a personality, how would you describe it?

  • Easy-going (by that I mean, this blog will only ever be a hobby so I don’t think I give it the same TLC as a lot of other bloggers – I publish awful photos etc :))
  • helpful (hopefully ;))
  • private (I don’t put baby photos on here)

3) Which of your children’s toys would you rather had never been invented?

My baby is too small to think of anything for this, although the music on his playgym does get annoying from time-to-time, there’s no way we could be without it!

4) What’s your best blog post title/headline?

Hmmm I can’t think of anything that really stands out here – probably ‘Co-sleeping – a common reality and guilty secret?’ as it was first ‘opinion piece’ which I published as it was hitting the news, so it got quite a bit of traffic

5) If you could only give one tip to another blogger what would it be?

Check how your blog looks on a smartphone e.g. iPhone. I read so many blogs that aren’t using the ‘mobile template’ and they hurt my eyes – so much zooming in etc! I think blogger and wordpress both have mobile settings which you can switch on 🙂

6) Would you pick the scenic route or the fastest route when going on holiday?

Ha – I would choose scenic but my other half would choose fastest and as he normally drives, he would win 🙂

7) What do you do with your blog when you go on holiday?

My blog takes a holiday too!

8) Where do you get your inspiration from for your posts?

Real-life! My regular updates are a bit of a diary for me, more than anyone else! My product reviews are all things I use that I want to tell other mums about, as I’ve found reviews so useful when I’ve been researching products. So I don’t just review things that brands ask me to review, I review stuff that we use or things I’ve bought.

9) If you were told you couldn’t no longer blog right now, what would you do?

Keep a better diary, maybe do some scrapbooks or something 🙂

10) When do you spend the most time on your blog?

I only blog when baby’s asleep in the daytime and as he only takes short naps now, that is quite a challenge!

11) If you could be reincarnated as any animal, what would you be and why?

A cat – I love cats – and look how much sleep they get!

Who am I nominating?

I’m not quite sure what the rules are about nominating (does 500 followers mean Twitter followers) and how many other bloggers I’m supposed to nominate but I’m just going to nominate 2 bloggers that I’ve just discovered over the last few weeks… both are relatively new…

Mousedogbaby – has just moved to Wales (not too far from me – we WILL meet!) and has not long had a baby

Clare at milkandsandcastles – is an ex-pat living in the glamorous Dubai with her new baby

So there you go – explore Wales and Dubai and follow these 2 bloggers! I love the questions I was given, so I’d love to see your answers to the same questions ladies 🙂

Blog your heart out

I’ve been tagged by EmilyandIndiana to fill in the Blog Your Heart Out meme – thank you Emily – it’s the first time I’ve been tagged to do one of these 🙂

Who/what encouraged you to start blogging?

I’ve enjoyed writing ever since I was a kid – I used to write stories for my little sister! By the time I was a teenager I wanted to be a journalist… that never happened, but over the last few years through travelling and my job in marketing I’ve enjoyed writing blogs for other sites (see my marketing blogs for eConsultancy, and my travel blogs for Hostelbookers: Costa Rica and lessons for travelling) so it seemed like a logical step to start blogging for myself… and when I found myself pregnant, it gave me the perfect reason (I’d always wondered what to blog about!).

How did you choose what to blog about?

See above – I thought pregnancy was a great place to start – I wanted to share my experiences with other people to help out as much as I could, as well as documenting my feelings and activities as a sort-of diary to look back on. There are a few pregnancy posts I didn’t get around to writing, but now baby W is here, obviously the focus will shift to writing about my experiences of parenting!

What is something most people don’t know about you?

Things that other bloggers won’t know about me… yet….

  • I’m born and bred in Wales and speak Welsh
  • When I’m not on maternity leave I’m a digital marketing manager for Confused.com in charge of a team of 15 people
  • Despite becoming a blogger, I’m quite a private person – I don’t plan to share baby W photos on the blog, or my deepest thoughts
  • I believe in fairies

What 3 words describe your style?

Does this mean my fashion style?! If so  – jeans, comfy, unfussy!! I live in bootcut jeans whether dressed up with heels or dressed-down with flip-flops… unfussy as I don’t wear much jewellery/many accessories and don’t bother much with make-up at the mo….

If this means my personality/blog style… ummmm…. most people would say I’m laid-back… my other half would say I’m disorganised… oh and most of us would agree I’m messy!

What do you love to do when you’re not blogging?

I’ve been a mum for 2 weeks and so most of my time goes on feeding, changing nappies, laundry and staring at baby W when he’s asleep 🙂

Me and my OH have always loved travel and holidays and we hope to carry on with this over the next few months and years with W, although nothing booked as yet.

I need to find some mummy/baby activities but before I became a mummy I used to enjoy girly evenings – meals, weekends away, spa days etc and hopefully I can carry on with this once I get into a bit of a routine!

Who’s next?

I’d like to tag the following ladies who had their babies within a few weeks of my baby W…

 

Birth stories round-up

Real birth stories from bloggers…

#1daytogo and I’ve spent the last week swotting up on labour, trying to be as mentally prepared as I can be – reading the books that relax me when I panic about it, and also birth stories online….. I wanted to share some of the really useful birth story blog posts I’ve read over the last weeks from the blogging community- hopefully there’s something for everyone in here for other mums-to-be…..

Key things I’ve learned for labour: stay relaxed as much as possible, and don’t worry too much about a plan – so many of these stories did not go to plan e.g. wanting an epidural but not having enough time…. but the most important thing is that all were delivered beautiful, healthy babies and that’s the most important thing ever right? It doesn’t matter how they arrived….

Thank you everyone below for sharing your stories and relaxing, educating and inspiring me – I can do this!

Hospital hypnobirth

This was one of my faves as similarly to Lucy, I am hoping for as natural birth as possible but due to high blood pressure (in my case) need to be consultant-led as opposed to midwife-led but Lucy showed it’s still possible to hypnobirth in a medical environment, following an induction and several laps of the hospital (I’ve read a lot that staying active in labour is good!)

http://www.bakedpotatomummy.co.uk/a-hospital-hypnobirth/

Avoiding fear

Another hypnobirthing-inspired post – the key point here is that ‘fear induces pain and relaxation is the key to a calm birthing experience’ so in the run-up to labour… avoid negative stories! (‘ve not done that  – I’m still doing the opposite and reading EVERYTHING so I feel prepared!)

http://zenas-suitcase.co.uk/2014/02/21/childbirth-the-first-one/

Natural birth

This one’s a great read – a natural birth story and very well-written, I love the bits of humour like exercising for 20 minutes in the early stages, having to nearly fight to get the lift/elevator up to the hospital ward and the ‘parting of the people’ as Valerie had a full on contraction entering the ward.

http://atlantamomofthree.net/2012/09/07/samuels-natural-childbirth/

Valerie was also kind enough to point me towards this site which has hundreds of birth stories but I haven’t had a chance to read these yet….

Hypnobirthing, gas and air, and pethidine

Another really interesting one – Jess used hypnobirthing techniques early on (and a couple of hospital trips!) but didn’t dilate quickly enough – pethidine got her from 1cm to 9cm very quickly, interesting that the baby’s heart rate dropped but she was oblivious as she was trying to focus – I’ve read this in a couple of birth stories  (e.g. in Lucy’s above they were getting ready to intervene too) and I think it’s nice to know that midwives and medical teams don’t panic mums-to-be with telling them too much about what’s going on! (although not so nice when they tell them that the ‘ring sting’ is just about to happen!)

http://lilypodandsweetpea.com/labour-story-main-event/

Induction – gas and air – diamorphine

I found this post really useful to read a lot more about what it’s like to be induced – and how long it takes, I was surprised by that so I’m not surprised diamorphine is offered as an option to get some rest-eye before getting baby out 🙂

http://chicgeekdiary.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/my-birth-story.html

Twin birth: C-section

Emily had a C-section for her twins, it was really useful to read about C-sections in case I end up needing one but I actually found this story most useful for 2 key reasons:

– I’m due at the same hospital Emily was due to go to, but she had to be transferred elsewhere (so worth bearing in mind that this can and does happen!)

-think carefully about who and how many people you want to visit you straight after birth as Emily found when she, her partner and twins learnt when they were having an emotionally stressful time

http://www.twinmummyanddaddy.com/2013/08/our-birth-story_19.html

C-section

Claire had a very straightforward C-section but a day or so after had a scary event with blood loss which I’d not heard much about so it was very handy to read about it in case the same thing happens to me.

http://www.clairebellaloves.blogspot.co.uk/

Induction – getting waters broken – lots of hanging around – epidural – C-section

A long read but worthwhile – Laura had a C-section after a very long couple of days including having an epidural… and lots of hanging around – it was really crazy for me to read how long all of this can take especially waiting for the theatre to be free!

http://lifelovelaura.com/eviction-day-my-labour-story/

Gas & air, epidural and ventouse

Emily got off to a slow start, when things got moving gas and air and epidural helped and in the end her baby was  helped out with ventouse after a pretty exhausting experience!

http://emilyandindiana.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/my-labour-and-delivery-story.html

Emergency C-section, 6 weeks early

Gemma had pre-eclampsia (which they’re worried about me getting) and so had a tough few days before (and after) an emergency C-section, 6 weeks before due date!

http://www.sunshineonacloudyday.co.uk/2014/02/my-pregnancy-birth-story.html?m=1

If you have a birth story you’d like to share please add them with a short description in the comments below, thank you!

Updatedhere’s my birth story – I was induced, gave birth with gas and air but then needed an epidural for stitches afterwards. I tried to use as many of the natural/relaxing techniques as I could….

Some lighter reading for mums-to-be from me:

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com