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Instagram Tips from the Instagram Queen (1)

Instagram Tips from the Instagram Queen (Toby and Roo @ #BlogOnmsi)

I chose the name “Instagram Queen” for the amazing Harriet from Toby and Roo, because it just fits her perfectly. With over 80 thousand followers on instagram, it is clear that she really is the bees knees. Her hilarious accounts of what it’s like to be a parent of young kids (the “I just wanted a bath” video being a classic example of this) have captured the hearts of so many. But as Harriet herself said, “if content is queen, then engagement is her king”.

I’ve been lucky enough to know Harriet for several years now, having first met her at another conference way back in 2014 (that’s a long time in the blogosphere, don’t you know!) And it has been a joy to watch her passion and skills lead to great success in her online work. So it was absolutely no surprise to me that her session at the Blog On Conference this past weekend was packed to brimming

Instagram Tips from the Instagram Queen Harriet from Toby and Roo
There was so much information given out during the short 45 minute session – it’s been a long time since I have needed to write as fast as I did to get it all down (I really must learn shorthand one day!) I kid you not, I have 4 pages worth of notes to share with you, and even with all of that Harriet was still gutted that she couldn’t fit more in. That’s why she’s the Instagram Queen, and that’s why I’m sharing my notes from her session with you all – because they are awesome.

THE BASICS

Instagram is keyword searchable – make sure that both your profile and your images take this into account.

600 Million people use instagram every month. It is estimated that 68% of those are female, and 90% of them are under 35.

Analytics will tell you when most of your followers are online – use them to help you connect with others more efficiently. You can access analytics if you have a business account. If you don’t have a business account, you can try third party apps like Squarelovin.

Post consistently – if you have under 10k followers, post 2-3 times per day; if you have more than 10k followers aim for 1-3 times per day.

If you post more frequently than this, your engagement will drop. Instagram no longer works like a timeline – it shows your posts to those you are most engaged with you, so if they see multiple posts from you it will come across as spammy and they will stop engaging.

Equally, if you don’t post consistently, you won’t give your followers a chance to engage with your content and they will become less likely to see it in future.

YOUR PROFILE

Put your niche before your name in your profile (e.g. Harriet’s says, “Parent Blogger. Harriet” not “Harriet. Parent Blogger”). This means that when people search for parent bloggers to follow, you will come up in a search easier than if your name was first.

Add an email address to your profile – make it easy for people to contact you.

Also make sure your website is in your profile – it is the only place on instagram where you can add a clickable link, so use it!

Your profile image should be on brand – that means either a photo of you or of your logo. People want to see who you are.

your style/niche

Have 3 things that you are known for and stick with them (Harriet used the example of two of hers, which are always using emojis, and swearing!)

Don’t try to copy others or worry about how successful they are – build your own style and success.

It is possible to be too niche – don’t worry about doing something slightly different from time to time, as long as you can make them relatable to your core niche. Brands will look at your feed, and it is if too narrow, it may result in you losing potential opportunities.

Harriet used the example of how she worked with a Nails Inc and created an image of how she found time to pamper herself as a busy mum, as that would speak more to her audience than a photo of her painted nails alone – see below.

 

Today is hella stressful people. Toby has been up half the night with a terrible cough and as a result he couldn’t go to his last EVER day at preschool this morning on top of that, Edith isn’t well and is being very demanding while I have alllllll the deadlines. You will never feel like a lesser mother than when you shout at poorly one and three year olds because “Mummy has to work” and they won’t leave you be. That in mind, now is the time to take 5 and step away for a mama pamper – the only one I ever get time for is painting my nails , but guess what, that’s JUST enough to make me feel a bit better☺️. This amazing set from @nailsinc is available on @qvcuk today for £28.98 down from £108.00 . The spray nail polish is officially the most INGENIOUS creation known to man. #sparklelikeyoumeanit #mamapickmeup #ad

A post shared by Parenting Blogger Harriet (@tobyandroo) on

HOW TO GROW YOUR INSTAGRAM Account

This is where Harriet’s brilliant phrase, “If content is queen, then engagement is her king” comes in…

Follow other Instagrammers within your niche.

Comment on other photos within your niche.

However much you comment, comment more! People will see these comments and come to your profile to find out about you – this can (and does) lead to new followers.

Like things, a lot. However, don’t do it all at once as you may get blocked by instagram. You will usually get a warning from instagram, followed by a “soft block”, which can last anywhere between 12 hours and a week. Finally, if you keep doing it, you could have your account deleted.

If you see the hashtag #ad, comment to support your fellow bloggers and instagrammers.

But remember that your niche is not other bloggers (support them, but remember your niche is not “blogger”).

Unfollow people if you’re not engaging with them – you aren’t helping them by being an unengaged follower.

 THE BIG NO-NOS

Never buy followers or likes – it is obvious when you have done so.

Avoid follow for follow opportunities – they’re aren’t supportive. Instagram is ratio sensitive and so they will know. You are actually capped at following a maximum of 7,500 accounts, and some brands will ask that you follow less than 2,000.

Don’t play the follow/unfollow game with your fellow bloggers – this is popular in the US and a lot of businesses do it on instagram, but whilst it works it really annoys a lot of bloggers.

Don’t use automated systems for commenting and liking – instagram is slowly shutting them down and they don’t help with engagement anyway (plus they annoy people and are often really obvious).

hashtags and keywords

People won’t find you unless you market yourself, so hashtags and keywords are vital.

Instagram allows you to use up to 30 hashtags on a post, so use them all! Think of them like flyers – you wouldn’t print out a load of flyers and only hand out a third of them, so why only use a third of the hashtags you’re allowed to use.

Always place hashtags in the first comment rather than the caption – this avoids making people scroll down incessantly.

Research relevant hashtags and keywords using the instagram search function, and aim to get into the top 9 results (i.e. those that show first on the search results screen).

The number below a hashtag or keyword on the results page shows you how many people are using it. You will have far more luck getting into the top 9 results if you use a less popular hashtag, rather than one which has 100k+ people using it.

The top placements in the search results are worked out based on the speed of engagement in ratio to the followers someone has, rather than the total number of likes per post. This means that smaller accounts have a better chance of showing up in results.

Have presaved lists of various hashtags and keywords you can use for different types of posts. This makes it much quicker and easier to use them when posting.

Be aware that instagram is moving away from using hashtags to keywords, so make sure you use carefully selected keywords in your caption to compensate for this.

This change in the use of keywords instead of relying on hashtags alone has led to various speculation over “shadow banning”. Shadow banning is not a thing – The Social Media Posse have done some research which shows this change towards using keywords for SEO functions, rather than hashtags.

HOW TO BOOST ENGAGEMENT

Instagram’s algorithm is based on speed – it’s all about how many people engage with your content within a certain time frame.

Reply to comments left, to keep engagement going.

Join a comment pod.

Join an Instagram Instant group on Facebook, such as Instagram Bloggers UK, Instagram Fabulous, and UK Instagram Support.

Engage on followers’ posts.

Join in with like for like threads (i.e. those where instagrammers share an image they would like engagement on in return for engagement on one of your own posts).

Use hashtags and then comment and/or like the top 9 results for each hashtag used straight after you post your image. They are likely to return the favour.

INSTAGRAM STORIES

You should be making use of this feature.

Aim for between 5 and 30 stories per day.

Do one just after you post, so followers know you are on the app.

They are ideal for supporting other things you have done, to direct people to a blog post or specific instagram share etc.

If they are sponsored, they must include the #ad hashtag.

MAKING MONEY FROM INSTAGRAM

Instagram is second only to YouTube in terms of monetary value.

The standard rate is 1-10% of the number of instagram followers, if you engagement is good (e.g. 10k followers = £100 per post).

Engagement rates for standard users is around 1% – to work with brands you want yours to be between 2-5%.  If it is higher than this, make sure you say so when talking with brands. However it’s important to note that some niches will always have a higher engagement rate than others.

Your overall theme is what matters – numbers aren’t enough if your feed isn’t well curated.

When pitching to a brand, show them examples of previous posts that had a good engagement, and make them relevant to your idea for the work you want to do with the brand. This helps them to see your vision and know that it will lead to good engagement.

PITCHING TO BRANDS

Brands will often contact you with information regarding current campaigns – if you want to be involved with a brand try contacting them and asking if they have a campaign you could collaborate with them on.

Look at what other bloggers are working on – which brands are actively seeking collaborations with bloggers and instagrammers.

Check the hashtags #ad, #spon#  #sponsored, #advert, and #collaborative to find current campaigns.

Use Twitter and LinkedIn to find the name of the person you should contact at the brand you wish to work with. Sending an email to the right person will make a big difference.

Utilise contacts from previous campaigns you’ve worked on.

OTHER THINGS TO CONSIDER

Check with your apps can do – some apps have access to your account and can like things for you. Not all of them do this, but some do, so it’s important to monitor your account.

 

Phew… can you believe Harriet managed to fit all that into 45 minutes? It has taken me longer than that to type it all up! I do hope that it has helped you feel more confident with growing your own instagram account – I know I have got a lot of action points to follow myself.

All that’s left for me to say is a massive thank you to Harriet, for being so awesome, and to invite you to connect with me on instagram if we aren’t already insta-buddies.

Instagram Tips from the Instagram Queen

 

Amanda Shortman from The Family Patch

I’m Going To BlogOn MSI 2017

If you’ve been following my blog for some time, you’ll know that I love nothing more than a blogging conference! I love the opportunity to get together with like-minded people, actually have a chat over a cuppa with people I usually only ever speak to online, and attend sessions from some of the most inspirational bloggers around. So it’s no surprise that I jumped at the chance to attend another conference this year.

My biggest concern this year is not nerves, but rather a hope that I will be well enough to enjoy the event as much as possible. Last year was the first year I didn’t attend a conference since 2012, and it really upset me. This year I’m determined to make it to at least one, so keep your fingers crossed for me that I’m having a “good day” on 21st May!

I’ve never been to BlogOn before (despite hearing amazing things about it), so it’s doubly exciting for me to be preparing to attend it. Which is why I decided to take part in the Linky, to try and “get to know” some people before I get there. Blogging conferences are always quite a blur of names and faces, and so it’s always handy to have a vague idea of who you might meet (to save you staring at another person’s chest, trying to make out their name and where they blog).

So, without further ado, here are my answers to the BlogOn Linky…

Share a recent picture of you:

Um, okay, most of my recent photos are selfies from my bed, so here you go… I promise I won’t be wearing PJs on the day!!

Amanda Shortman from The Family Patch

Describe yourself in three words

Determined, Passionate, Stubborn

How long have you been blogging and what made you start?

Over a decade now… I started in 2006 as I was coming to the end of my final year at uni. I was looking towards the future – what did I want to do, what were my dreams, how might that happen etc? Blogging just seemed like the most natural thing in the world to me, as a linguist and a writer…

What was the inspiration behind your blog name?

My very first blog was called “Dream of Living” (based on my above questions!). When I met my husband, I changed to “Me and You at 22” (we lived at number 22, it wasn’t a play on our age). Then in 2010 I left my full-time job to explore other options, as I knew I wouldn’t be well enough to start a family and work full-time.

At that point I upped my game a bit with blogging, posting 5 times a week (I still wasn’t big on using social media though) and changed the blog to “Amanda’s Patch”, so it became my patch of the internet, and was a play on the fact I wrote about gardening and crafts.

When Little Man was born in 2011 I realised I wanted the blog to reflect the changed nature of my life, and so I changed it to “The Family Patch”. I sometimes wonder if it still reflects what I write about, but I can’t imagine being anything else now.

What is the best thing to come from your blog so far?

Friendships. I have some blogging friends I made way back in my early years as a blogger, people I have never even met, and yet they are still people I truly care about and who genuinely care about me too. I’ve also made some amazing friendships with people I have met at conferences, which is even more exciting as they become IRL friends as well.

That, to me, is the greatest gift blogging gives anyone!

Your most remembered thing from your childhood

Oh gosh, I’m not sure I can choose just one thing. Can I share a few?

Holidays at the caravan with my Grandparents
Having free access to the sewing kit and being able to create whatever I wanted
Getting up before anyone else at the weekend and writing stories
Spending my pocket money at the Church Bazaar to buy Christmas presents
Reading books under the covers when I should have been asleep!

Something interesting you might not know about me is . . .

Oh this is a tough one – I am such an open book I’m pretty sure I’ve shared most things on here at some point or another…

I suffer terribly with Imposter Syndrome and low self-esteem, and am constantly expecting people to rumble me and find out I haven’t got a clue and have been winging it this whole time. I undervalue my skills, feel like the smallest fish in the very big pond that is blogging, feel completely blessed that people actually like me, and am more likely to think, “I can’t do that” than “I can”.

I think this may actually surprise quite a few people, because despite battling these feelings every single day, I’m very determined and refuse to let it beat me. Sometimes I think I’d quite like a quiet life where I don’t feel sick to my stomach with worry before doing something like trying to grow my blog, walking into a crowded room, taking part in an interview etc, but then I remember how good it feels to have come out the other side and I keep going. (And, actually, once I’m doing it I usually enjoy it, it’s the worrying beforehand that gets me).

So, if you see me and think I’m a confident social butterfly, know that I’m actually just too stubborn to let nerves and shyness beat me!

Which social media platform best describes your personality and why?

Instagram. I love the intimacy that comes from sharing snapshots of your life, and am inspired by the more staged shots too. I think my life and personality is very much reflected in the delicate balance between real-life and what we show to the world on a daily basis!

What is your happy song?

Oooh good question… at the moment I think it would have to be Cleveland by Jewel. I absolutely adore this part of the song:

From the air things look so ridiculous
Our fears so small, our fights so vain
I wanna pilot a plane with you
So all our problems look small, too
It’s only an inch from me to you
Depending on what map you use

What is your favourite alcoholic drink

I don’t really drink alcohol – even the smallest amount makes my head spin, my stomach churn, and my body feel all antsy.

That being said, I do quite like a sip of my husband’s whiskey, or coffee Baileys at Christmas!

 What is your favourite cake?

Chocolate… anything chocolatey will do fine, thank you very much! Preferably without icing/frosting… I find that too sweet for me.

I’m quite suspicious of takeaway food… My husband was sick after Chinese food at the beginning of my awful pregnancy, and the first time I had a gluten free pizza delivered I was sick all night too (although that was more likely due to working late and eating too fast and getting terrible heartburn, but still, we don’t have a good track record with takeaway food!)

Where is your dream holiday destination and why?

In the UK, it will always be Glastonbury. That feels like home to me.

Abroad it would probably be Sweden. My aunt comes from Sweden and whenever she describes it I think, “wow, I really want to go there and experience that!”

What would your superhero name be?

Mrs Wing-It

Haha, I’m serious… you remember I said I am always waiting for people to figure out I’m just winging it? Well, I’m actually pretty good at it… I once led a 2 hour seminar at uni on the railway motif in Dr Zhivago and I hadn’t even finished reading the book at that point!

If you had a magical power, what would you want to have and why?

The power to heal… because I know how truly awful it is to both suffer and see those you love suffer, and not be able to do anything about it.

What one weapon would help you survive a zombie apocalypse?

I would most likely die in a zombie apocalypse… partly because I get everything going, so if a virus turned half the world’s population into zombies I’d be one of the first to catch it, and partly because I haven’t watched enough zombie movies to educate myself on the best kind of defense!

If you could send something into space, what would it be?

A copy of all the space themed books, films, and tv series I could think of… wouldn’t it be funny for someone to come across our visions of space exploration from things as far ranging as Star Trek, Star Wars, Galaxy Quest, Babylon 5, Firefly, 2001: A Space Odyssey… (I could go on, but that would just be ridiculous!)

What would you have on your gravestone?

Other than my name? Probably that I lived my life as well as I could, brought more joy than despair to the world, and am heading off on a great adventure into the unknown.

You make headline news around the world in 2 years time… but for what reason?

I’d like it to be for some kind of social reason – e.g. I was part of an initiative to change something like housing, healthcare, justice, religious tolerance etc which is having a deep impact on the health and wellbeing of many.

If an EMP wiped out all mechanical forms of transport, how would you get to BlogOn?

I’d walk… I’m assuming social media still exists, right? So I’d blog and tweet and instagram my way there, asking for suggestions of campsites and places to eat as I went. I’m not sure how many days it would take (with the state of my health right now I’d probably have to leave in February haha) but I’d try to make an adventure out of it (plus it would be great blogging fodder, wouldn’t it?)

Well that was certainly an interesting series of questions… If you’re going to BlogOn too, why not check out the Linky and join in with it too?

How And Why I Decided To Go Freelance

I’m going to begin this post with a little disclaimer; I have been registered as self-employed since Spring 2010 and have, during the years since, done the odd bit of freelance work here and there. I’ll be even more honest with you, when I first registered as self-employed in 2010 I had every desire to go 100% freelance as soon as possible. However, back then I was far more naive about what it would take to succeed as a freelancer, and I had all but given up on the idea of earning more than an extra bit on the side by the time 2011 rolled around.

So when my sister-in-law approached me about redesigning her company’s website last year, I must admit I was slightly dubious about the idea of turning my side hustle into an actual business. After all, when your self-employed earnings are simply an added bonus on the side, it doesn’t really matter if it succeeds or not, you’ve still got your employed earnings to fall back on. And, being the “responsible” adult I always try to be, it seemed rather too risky to put all my eggs into one basket and simply go for it when I actually had a job which paid the rent and which I utlimately enjoyed.

However, following my sister-in-law’s advice and encouragement, I set up Shortman Media as a way of bringing all my online media and communications experience under one roof. It meant that I could invoice her for the work I did more professionally, and I had the basis from which to expand my services as and when I wanted to. At that point the idea was still to run the business as a side hustle, rather than my main income provider, taking on work as and when I had the time. But it seems that life had different plans for me after all…

How and Why I Decided to Go Freelance

What followed were several months of increasingly challenging health issues. At my worst, I could barely get out of bed, and I spent the vast majority of 2016 being tested for one thing after another. I was signed off work in July 2016 and never made it back, because my symptoms were simply too complicated and erratic to enable even a phased return to work. And throughout it all I began to see everything slip away – my health, my financial freedom, and my ability to do work which gave me a sense of both satisfaction and accomplishment.

Which brought me to the very end of last year, when I gained a certain amount of clarity regarding my future. Instead of seeing freelance work as the riskier option, I needed to look at it as the more flexible option, which would enable me to return to work far sooner. You see, the work I do is mostly based on the computer – I can do that in my office on good days or from my sick bed on bad days. Being freelance also means I can work at 7 o’clock in the evening if that is when I feel at my best, rather than being tied down to standard office hours.

And let’s not forget that freelance work pays me at least double, if not more than the hourly wage I had been bringing in through employed roles. Even taking on board the need to save up for NICs, tax, quiet periods with little work, and unpaid holidays, this difference in pay means I wouldn’t have to work as many hours to still make ends meet. That’s got to be a bonus for anybody, but especially somebody who is chronically ill.

Now I don’t want to paint a perfect picture here – the decision to go 100% freelance was not an easy one. I am well aware that most businesses fail within the first 5 years (often sooner), and that there is a huge risk in trying to start up at the best of times. I’m under no illusions that this is going to be easy and I’m not going to worry about where the work is going to come from.

But the fact remains that going freelance is still my best option right now – the alternative would be relying on my employer to keep my position open beyond the 6 months they already have (which I am incredibly grateful for!) and hoping to qualify for ESA as my SSP entitlement runs out. Out of those two options, I’d much prefer to take things into my own hands and try to make this freelance thing work, wouldn’t you?

So, it was with a heavy heart that I approached my employer about ending my contract due to ill health and made the leap of going 100% freelance last month. I shall remain connected with my employer on a voluntary basis, because I really did love the work itself, but the time had come when it was in all our best interests for me to leave. And as shocking as it may sound, I am actually starting my freelance journey with not one but three clients on my books.

If you’d told me this is how I would start 2017 I wouldn’t have believed you. But the truth is that when you put your mind to it you can make this happen, even when you’re feeling beaten to the core (I have spent the vast majority of December and January very sick and yet I’ve still managed to get this sorted). All it takes is courage to face the unknown, reach out for support, do your research, and then just go for it.

But what’s different now to where I was in 2010 when I first tried to go freelance? Why did it fail to kick off then but is doing so well now? Well, age and experience have a lot to do with it.

In 2010 I’d been blogging for 4 years, but blogging was still relatively unknown and social media still hadn’t taken off in the way it has done in recent years, so the idea of making money from online media as an unqualified (but experienced) blogger just didn’t seem doable to me back then. In the almost 7 years since, I have developed this blog, launched a second one, assisted employers with their social media, taken part in charity campaigns, co-authored a book, attended multiple conferences, spoken at a blogging conference, and become active in blogging groups. All of that combined is a huge amount of experience that I simply didn’t have in 2010.

I’ve also had the wonderful experience of being supported through one-to-one coaching sessions both personally with Pippa at Story of Mum and professionally with Michelle of Michelle Reeves Coaching. Between the sessions with these two wonderfully inspiring women, I came to realise the potential of what I had to offer and that I can do this, even when I am struggling healthwise. In fact, my health issues even make me more aware of my strengths and abilities, because I have had to learn to adapt and grow at every stage.

I’ve learnt about the importance of developing multiple income streams, so that the work I do with clients via Shortman Media isn’t my only source of income. Those quiet moments between clients need some kind of passive or alternative income stream, and so working on both this blog and Spirit Kid Network enables me to focus on ways to boost my income when needed. But because I have chosen to work with clients as my main income, I feel less stressed about making my blogs as profitable as possible, which is something that I know would cause me more stress than necessary.

And that’s the biggest lesson I have learned throughout my freelance journey so far – you have to do what you love, otherwise you simply won’t get up and do it. Because let’s be fair – it’s hard enough to motivate yourself to go to work when you’re being paid a salary, so forcing yourself to do something you really dislike to secure that next contract, really isn’t going to work, is it?

So that’s where I’m at – after years of being self-employed with the odd bit of work on the side, I have finally taken the biggest leap of my life and decided to go 100% freelance. I know it won’t be easy at times, and I know that what I do will change over time (already my services on my website don’t truly reflect the work I’ve ended up doing), but I have confidence that this time it really will work. Because it has to. And, because I know I have the support I need to make it work this time.


I’m going to be updating my freelance journey on here, if there is interest in hearing about it, so please do leave me a comment below and let me know what you think. I’d also love to hear from you if you do any freelance work – how did you choose to go down that path, and is it what you expected?

 

Handmade Christmas Gifts: #PHWinterWorkshop Charity Auction!

A few weeks ago, Parcel Hero contacted me to ask if I would be interested in taking part in a charity campaign they were running. They were asking craft bloggers to decorate a little wooden box and make a small handmade gift to go in it, which would then be auctioned on eBay to raise funds for Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital (GOSH). How could I say no to that?

Their charity campaign last year raised nearly £1,000 for Oxfam, and this year they are hoping to beat that and raise £1,500 for GOSH. That’s enough money to cover the cost of a portable heart monitor! How wonderful would it be to reach that target?

With that in mind, I set about creating something truly special for the auction. I wanted my box to appeal to eBayers looking for a treat for a loved one, and so I decided to create a wintry themed necklace. I pulled out my jewellery making bits and bobs (which haven’t been used in far too long!) and set to work creating something that reminded me of frosty mornings and nights dusted with just a little bit of snow.

Turquoise and seed bed two strand necklace #PHWinterWorkshop charity auction GOSH

The end result was this – a two strand necklace made with turquoise chips (of two different sizes) and seed beads in both clear and blue tones. I was so happy with how it turned out, especially as I’ve never made a two strand necklace before, and really hope that whoever wins it in the auction will treasure it for years to come.

I knew I wanted to combine a blue tone rather than going full-on white for my wintry theme, and the turquoise reminds me so much of the pale wintry skies we get during this time of year. And I’m so glad I managed to add a semi-precious stone in here too, because I love crystals and wearing them in a necklace is a great way to benefit from them.

Turquoise is a really great choice of crystal too, as it has so many healing properties. A quick look in my favourite crystal book told me that turquoise helps to balance the energy meridians in the body and so can support all of the chakras. However I have always associated it with the throat chakra, and its ability in assisting us to speak with truth and integrity. If you want to know more about the properties of turquoise, as well as its influence across the globe throughout history, then do check out this page.

Of course it wasn’t just the necklace that needed making, I had to find a way to decorate the little wooden box it would be placed in. I decided to go with decoupage in order to merge the different blue and white tones which reminded me so much of this time of year. This time, however, I went with a slightly darker theme than the necklace, to reflect the longer winter nights rather than the frosty mornings! I completed it with a royal blue painted inside and complementary gold trim, to add a bit of that Christmas sparkle – the light in the darkness.

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I am so pleased with how it all came together and I really, really hope that it helps Parcel Hero to reach their target of £1,500 this year. If you would like to bid on my box and necklace you can do so here. Bidding starts at just 99p and postage is completely free.

But don’t just stop there – why not check out the amazing range of hand decorated boxes complete with wonderful gifts inside. There really is something for everyone, and if there’s someone on your list you have yet to find the perfect gift for, you may just find the answer on eBay!

Some of my favourites include the:

  • “Live The Life You Love” Box, which has inspirational quotes, 3 healing crystals (I spot rose quartz, clear quartz, and a heart which may be moonstone, perhaps?), and a sweet Christmas decoration. It is a really lovely selection, and having realised it was made by the wonderful Becky of Baby Budgeting I am not surprised – Becky is so lovely! I may even have to drop a few hints about how much I love this box, to see if Santa may make a bid or two for me…
  • Crocheted Wrist Warmers in a Fashion Styled Box, because who doesn’t love a good pair of wrist warmers for the bitterly cold days ahead? They look both warm and snuggly and gorgeously detailed, and as a fellow crocheter I can appreciate the work that would have gone into them. They were made by Vicky of Blush Crafts, which is a blog that is immediately going on my bloglovin list!
  • Christmas Stars in a Christmas Box, which contains enough golden stars to really add a bit of sparkle to your Christmas tree. It was made by Natasha of Serenity You, another blog I am going to enjoy exploring! I love the fact that the box itself is so clearly made for Christmas – can you imagine bringing it out year after year, maybe filling it with small after dinner treats or little inspirational quotes to hand out at the end of the day, making the magic last that little bit longer?

There are so many more boxes than this in the auction, so please do pop along and have a look. You can find all of the listings by checking out the Parcel Hero eBay listings page, or you can see updates about each item on their blog.

321livechat

Top Moments from #321LiveChat 18th October

Have you tried Livestreaming yet? Do you even know what it is? Livestreaming is a big thing right now… it began a few years back with Google Hangouts and developed further with Periscope and now Facebook Live (my Crochet Chats are done using Facebook Live). Snapchat and Instagram Stories bring even more ways of connecting with your audience, and so it’s clear to see that “going live” is where it’s at right now.

Each of the different platforms mentioned above bring their own unique ways of connecting with others in real time, and choosing the right platform for you will depend on what you want to get out of it and where your “tribe” (those people you instantly connect with) are. It’s like any kind of social media, really, some will suit you better than others.

But it can be overwhelming when you first start out, with so many options to choose from, which is why it’s beneficial to connect with others to discuss what they’re doing, how they’re finding it, and why you should really give it a go! And that’s exactly what the Live Broadcasting Support Group on Facebook is all about, and why we’ve recently started holding a weekly Twitter Chat (#321LiveChat) in order to connect with others across multiple platforms.

I haven’t used Twitter very much this year at all, so getting involved with the Twitter Chat has brought me back to the platform I once loved and used so often. And today I discovered the new feature of Twitter Moments, which I am already starting to fall in love with! So, I decided to make the most of it and pull together my Top Moments from the #321LiveChat last night and embed them in a blog post here at The Patch. I’ve chosen tweets that provide a varied view of Livestreaming and I hope they prove interesting and helpful to you.

Why not give Livestreaming a go, or connect with us on the Facebook Group for daily chat and support. The group is a very friendly place where you can give Livestreaming a go without doing so publicly (a great way to build up confidence and get hints and tips from fellow Livestreamers). And don’t forget you can join in the Twitter Chat every Tuesday between 8:30 and 9:30pm. We’d love to see you there!

crochet-patterns-and-yarn

Introducing Crochet Chat – For All Your Crochet Needs!

Well hello there! I hope you’re having a wonderful day?

I wanted to pop on today to tell you about a new feature I’m starting over on Facebook, taking advantage of the Live Broadcast feature. It’s called Crochet Chat, and it’s a chance for me to share with you all the things I’ve learned (and am still learning) about crochet. I am completely self taught and rely massively on My Crochet Guru to help me out when things go awry or I simply want someone else’s input into something. And I want to offer you that same option of having someone to turn to with your burning questions… and so Crochet Chat was born.

Have a watch of the first replay (you don’t have to catch the live broadcast, although it’s easier for me to respond to your questions and feedback if you do). Let me know what you think, send me your questions or requests, and follow me on Facebook so you never miss a broadcast.

Let's Have Coffee

We’ve Had A Makeover!

Well hello there – welcome to our new look! What do you think? Do you like it? I certainly do. I’ve been wanting to redesign this blog for quite some time, but I kept putting it off and putting it off, and then suddenly this week I just decided to go for it. And oh how glad I am.

It feels great to have a crisp, clean look to the blog, and it is really inspiring me to get back on here and write, write, write. There wasn’t really anything wrong with the old look, it just didn’t inspire me anymore. It felt outdated, like it reflected who I was two years ago when I first migrated my blog over from Typepad to WordPress, and I’m just not the same person I was back then.

I felt trapped by the old design, and constrained by the themes that I had written about so heavily since having Little Man. It’s been a tough few years and whilst I have appreciated having a place to share all of that and raise awareness of certain things, I felt the need to step away from my past and focus on where I am right now – moving forward with hope and positivity. Life is still hard, believe me, but my mindset has changed completely over the past few months and I want to share more of that with you.

I thought long and hard about how to structure the new design, what categories to include, and even whether I should rename the blog itself! But in the end I realised that this blog will always be a place to talk about life, and that includes life as a family. I still felt it needed a better theme though, something that expressed what I hope to gain from continuing to blog here, and so I came up with the “like coffee with a good friend” tagline.

Let's Have Coffee

I’ve benefitted so much lately from chats with friends (either in person or over the internet) and love the support and encouragement that comes from being able to talk about everything from the big, life changing stuff right down to the most mundane of moments. And that’s what I want from this space, a chance to connect with you all and talk openly and honestly about everything, both big and small.

I also want this space to retain its friendly and encouraging style, sharing with you all the things that are helping me and my family get through some of the toughest times in our life with grace and gratitude. So you’ll see that I’ve added a new page to the site – Resources We Love – where I will be sharing some of my favourite people, places, and organisations that have had a positive impact on my life. I have more links to add, however I am awaiting permission to use logos for some of them, so please bear with me on this one!

I think that’s everything I need to share with you right now – I’m looking forward to connecting with you more over the coming days, weeks, and months. Let’s try and really embrace the “like coffee with a good friend” feel to The Family Patch and get to know each other some more. I’d love it if you could pop a comment below and let me know who you are (or if you’re a long time reader, let me know what you think to the new look!) and what you’d like to see here at The Patch so that I can be sure what I write really does encourage and support you.

And if you want to chat some more, you can also follow me on Facebook and Instagram if you’d like to connect off the blog – I’m just getting to grips with Facebook Live videos and absolutely love the community over on Instagram. Perhaps I’ll see you there?

win 1 of 5 cosmic kids yoga dvds

WIN: 1 of 5 Cosmic Kids Yoga DVDs – Perfect for the Summer Holidays (ends 1st August 2016)

It’s the middle of July, and if you have kids that means that you’re either already enjoying the long summer holidays or you’re about to start a 6 week break from school. And as exciting at that is, it also presents a lot of days when “I’m bored” could easily become the theme tune in your house!

Which is why I’m so excited to host a giveaway that I think you and your kids are going to love. Following on from our visit to London to meet Jaime from Cosmic Kids Yoga, I am now able to bring you an opportunity to enjoy Cosmic Kids wherever you are with this fantastic DVD.

win 1 of 5 cosmic kids yoga dvds

The DVD is entitled, “I Love Being Me!” and brings together 3 Yoga Adventures along with 1 Zen Den Mindfulness Meditation, giving you just over an hour of awesome fun. Each one of these is aimed at boosting confidence for kids aged 3+, which makes it perfect not just for keeping boredom at bay but also for helping younger children who are worried about starting Preschool or transitioning from Nursery to Reception. I seriously couldn’t think of a better time to start enjoying Cosmic Kids Yoga, can you?

So what are you waiting for? I have 5 copies of this DVD to be won and because I love Cosmic Kids so much and want as many of you to experience the joy of doing yoga with Jaime as possible, I’ve made it super easy for you to enter this giveaway.

All you have to do is pop over to the Cosmic Kids YouTube Channel, have a look through their videos, and then come back here and let me know which one you’re most excited to try, and why. I’ve made the link open in a new window, so that you can check it out and come back here with just a simple click or two.

And that’s it. No need to sign up with anything, no confusion over multiple optional entries, just one simple task – check out the awesome Cosmic Kids YouTube Channel and then scroll to the bottom of this page and leave your comment. Make sure you answer the question though, that way I know you have been over to Cosmic Kids and really want to win a copy of their DVD!

That question again is this: “which video on the Cosmic Kids YouTube Channel are you most excited to try, and why?”

In order to make sure that the giveaway is fair and legal, please check out the Terms and Conditions below.

1. There are 5 prizes available to win, with each prize consisting of a single copy of the Cosmic Kids Yoga DVD – I Love Being Me! The prize is non-transferable and no cash alternative is offered.

2. The prize draw is open to UK residents only, and excludes relatives of Shortman Media (the prize draw organiser).

3. The closing date for all entries is 11:59pm GMT on Monday 1st August 2016.

4. Entries can be made on either The Family Patch (www.thefamilypatch.com) or Spirit Kid Network (www.spiritkidnetwork.com), however entries are limited to one per person – if a participant enters on both sites, only one entry will count.

5. Entrants must visit the Cosmic Kids Yoga YouTube Channel and then leave a comment on the blog, answering the question “Which video on the Cosmic Kids Yoga YouTube Channel are you most excited to try, and why?”

6. The winners will be chosen at random from all valid entries.

7. The winners will be informed by email within 7 days of the closing date and will need to respond with a postal address within 14 days, or a new winner will be chosen.

8. The winners’ names will be available upon requests. All requests should be sent to admin@shortmanmedia.com

9. The prizes have been provided by Cosmic Kids Yoga, however the prize draw is being organised by Shortman Media (www.shortmanmedia.com) and promoted across its two sites The Family Patch and Spirit Kid Network. All queries should be sent to admin@shortmanmedia.com

10. Shortman Media is responsible for the prize fulfilment and prizes will be sent within 14 days of receiving the winner’s address.

11. Entry to this prize draw confirms that participants have read, understood, and agree to be bound by these Terms and Conditions.

Good Luck!

The Family Patch Meets Jaime at #cosmickidslive

Meeting Jaime at #cosmickidslive

A few weeks ago, I heard that Cosmic Kids Yoga were going to be holding a fan event called #cosmickidslive at the YouTube Space in London. I put mine and Little Man’s names forward, and was super excited to receive an email telling us we were invited to attend. I’m not sure who was more excited, me or Little Man!

If you’ve never heard of Cosmic Kids before, can I suggest that you go check them out over on YouTube? They create the most amazing yoga adventures, mindfulness videos, and disco beats that kids adore. We wrote a review about Cosmic Kids a year or so ago, and I have to say that as much as we loved them then, we love them even more now that Little Man is that bit older and more able to fully interact with what is going on.

So, as you can imagine, we were hugely excited as we headed on down to London yesterday. And as we were at YouTube, I found myself inspired to create a video about our adventure rather than simply writing about it. It’s not the most polished video ever, but I hope it gives you a good idea of just how amazing the event was (scroll down below video for further info).

Of course, we had so much more to share with you than I could edit into that video, so here are the extra photos I promised.

YouTube Space London #cosmickidslive
Arriving at the YouTube Space in London was super exciting – here we are, about to go in and meet Jaime!
Jaime at #cosmickidslive
Jaime welcomed every child individually and quickly got the party started!
High Fives at #cosmickidslive
All the kids wanted to speak to Jaime after the adventure – she was such a huge hit with them all!
Goody Bag from #cosmickidslive
All the kids got to bring home this amazing goody bag, filled with wonderful surprises.

As you can see, we had an amazing time at #cosmickidslive, and it was so wonderful to meet Jaime and Martin in person. Jaime is a real natural, full of energy and enthusiasm which the kids all love and respond to so well. We were already big Cosmic Kids fans, but after yesterday I am more excited than ever to see how they grow and develop new ways of inspiring kids all around the world!

I’ll be sharing more about our day yesterday both here on the blog and over at Spirit Kid Network over the coming days, so do keep checking back. In the meantime, let me know if you’re a Cosmic Kids fan too in the comments below, I’d love to hear which your favourite video is!

*Edited to add: I’ve now published our review of the book over on Spirit Kid Network – you can read it here.


I’m linking this post up with #sharethejoy, your weekly source of inspiration!
Share the Joy linky at TheJoyChaser.com