Where do you fit in? That’s the hugely personal question I am asking you to reflect on this week as part of the  Best Boot Forward campaign to improve your life positively.

Fit In

Have you ever done a jigsaw and believed that one piece did not fit anywhere at all? It is frustrating and we can sometimes feel like that ourselves in life perhaps particularly if we are introverts or experience social anxiety.

Have you ever tried to make a jigsaw piece fit even though you know deep down it is not a smooth fit so belongs somewhere else? Perhaps you have felt a bit like that jigsaw piece as you stay in a relationship, job or course that is not quite right.

It is thrilling when we get a piece of a jigsaw in its right place and all the more so if we have struggled to find that place. Are you struggling to find your place perhaps in a new location or in life generally?

So my questions this week should you wish to answer them quietly in your own head/heart, in a blog post or over on our Facebook community are …

  1. Do you feel you fit in and if so, where and who with?
  2. What prevents you fitting in? Should you accept this or change it?
  3. Are you forcing yourself to stick with something that is just not healthy or right for you? Who can support you to extricate yourself from that situation?
  4. If you could find your ideal place anywhere whether location or circumstances, where would that be and why?

I will be answering these questions myself and posting about them this week. I think there might be some deep insights to be had as I address them to myself and I hope they help you plan some positive baby steps to a better future too.

If you blog about how you are improving your life one baby step at a time, please link up with us.

BESTBOOTFORWARD LINKY RULES:

1. Add a backlink to this post using #bestbootforward and fear not, our badge is coming soon!

2. Please comment on this post and the one from Chloe at Indigo Wilderness and at least one other. Obviously the more you comment, the better and it is a super way to get to know other people and to interest them in your blog.

3. Link a maximum of 1 post per week.

4. The linky is open for a week so there is plenty of time to link up.

5. Tag myself @kateonthinice and Chloe at @IndigoChlo on Twitter for a Retweet with #Bestbootforward

How do you make the move from nervous to confident blogger. In my series of interviews with female bloggers, Cath from BattleMum describes her journey.

Confident Blogger

Why did you start to blog?

I began my blog as a sort of online diary when our son was 10 months old. I had kept paper diaries throughout my pregnancy but a long and slow recovery after his birth meant I never kept my writing up. Fast forward 10 months and I felt it was time to start documenting our lives together and BattleMum was born.

How did you feel when you started blogging?

I was nervous if I’m honest. I didn’t think anyone would read my blog and in the early days I felt like a fraud, like no one was interested in what I had to say. I had no idea what I wanted to get out of it and had no idea where it was going to go, or what the point of my writing was. To say I was completely unsure about what I was doing would be an understatement.

How do you feel about blogging today?

I feel a lot more confident and know, now I have found my niche, that I have useful things to say that will be helpful to people. I am happier now that I have a few years under my belt and am happy to help fellow bloggers where I can. I feel experienced enough to speak out when newer bloggers are running into problems and need help. I also know that the articles I am writing and publishing on my blog are of a much better quality than in those early days too.

What is your proudest achievement related to blogging?

My proudest achievement has to be that I’ve stuck with it for over three years. In the early days when I really didn’t know what I was doing, there came several times when I thought “what’s the point?”. However, I carried on and with time more people started reading my posts, commenting and sharing them and it boosted my morale. My blog is now over three years old, and while it hasn’t got the huge statistics other bloggers who have been at it for as long as me, I still get readers and their comments mean the world to me. I’m surprised I’ve lasted this long!

What is the most exciting event you have attended as a blogger?

I attended BlogON in September 2016 and I had a blast. I met some lovely bloggers there, made contact with brands I went onto work with and came away with a refreshed feel about my blog. BlogOn renewed my love for the blogging community and everything around it as a whole and I’d love to attend again.

Do you monetize your blog and if so, how?

This is something I’d love to do but haven’t had much luck with. Although I’ve managed to drill down and focus on one niche for the last six months, I haven’t had anything of real value in terms of money come my way. And to be honest, I can’t see it happening for me. Whether it is just too tough a niche to monetise, or whether my readers just aren’t interested in the links I have, I don’t know. But I’ll keep trying for now.

What do you find most challenging about blogging?

Fitting it all in. People looking in from the outside think blogging is simply writing some words, sticking a picture in and pressing publish. But there is so much more that goes on when it comes to blogging. A blog post needs nice graphics for both social sharing and Pinterest. The pictures have to fit the post and look good at the same time. And after you’ve hit the publish button it doesn’t end there. There’s the promotion of your blog posts, engaging with your readers and followers, and networking to build up your presence. So, the biggest challenge I find is fitting it all in around day-to-day family life.

What surprised you most about blogging?

There have been a few things that have surprised me about blogging. The first thing is the work involved to even get a blog post published, and looking good, as I’ve discussed. How I used to fit in blogging while working a full-time job I’ll never know. The second thing is the friends and contacts you can make. I’ve met some amazing people through blogging. Also, the opportunities that came come your way as a result of your hard work.
But there are also some not so nice things to blogging which surprised me. The jealousy that some people feel towards other bloggers who they think might be doing better than them, or are getting more brand opportunities than they are, is something that shocked me. I’ve seen this more evident in the Irish blogging community, possibly because it is smaller overall than the UK community (I’m Irish myself). There can be a lack of support for fellow bloggers and it often comes down to jealousy and it’s something that has both shocked and saddened me.

How do you balance blogging and family life?

I try to do as much as I can these days while my son is in kindergarten, but it doesn’t always work out that way. The guts of my blog work is done during the day but I will freely admit I can still be glued to my phone in the evenings catching up on blog threads on Facebook and responding to comments on Instagram. However, I don’t blog at the weekend and keep my social media to a minimum so that we can enjoy family time. I also take this stance while we are on holiday, possibly only posting a picture to Instagram now and then. But it’s a constant struggle.

What would lead to you giving up blogging?

If I lost my passion for it, or it became more of a trial to write than an enjoyment, then I’d give up. There is no point in continuing with something you no longer enjoy. It would become something to do for the sake of it and, I believe, it would become apparent in the posts being published.

What is your top tip for a new or inexperienced blogger?

If I could only give one tip, aside from going self-hosted as soon as possible, is to take your time, write good quality content at your own pace and try to get your head around SEO for posts you want to rank for on Google. I had no idea about this when I first started and am only now feeling like I know what I am doing for those types of posts which I want Google to rank me for. I am having to go back to old posts, particularly ones that give me organic Google traffic, to ensure they have better SEO. I think once you do it for a few posts it’s much easier to do for future posts going forward. It can be a scary term for someone starting out, but it really isn’t that bad.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

Blogging has been a great way to find a little piece of the Internet all for me. What started out as parenting blog has now transformed into a family travel and lifestyle blog and I’m so much happier writing in this space than I ever was before. Writing about travelling gets my fingers typing furiously on the keyboard and they are the posts that come much easier to me. I enjoy sharing our travels with others, and hope that I can inspire other families to get travelling wherever their budgets allow. I know many people fear travelling with their kids, especially while they are young, but I hope I can encourage them to take that leap of faith by showing them what we’ve managed to do with our son since he was a few months old.

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/battlemum
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheBattleMum

Huge thanks to BattleMum for sharing her story and if you would like to share your blogging journey with me, please do get in touch.

Are you a nervous or confident blogger?

Your child has decided to go to university. It’s exciting. It’s scary, and it can be heartbreaking but there are ways you can help your child, and you, deal with them setting off on their new life.

Help Them Plan

There are plenty of ways to assist when it comes to sending your child off to continue their studying. From budgeting advice to planning where they are going to stay. From helping them to organise their reading lists to looking at Urbanest student accommodation near to their University.  Parents can become so submerged though n the idea of their child going away it masks what happens when they actually leave, and that can come as a bit of a shock.

No Good at Goodbye

It’s here. The day you knew was coming, the day you have been planning for months, yet all too soon it’s on your doorstep, and you don’t know how to feel. Although it’s very common for parents to feel emotional, even parents who have been avoiding the subject can’t help but feel a little sad. This is unavoidable, this day marking the end of what was normal family life and is moving the family dynamic into a whole new era. Of course,e you will continue to be a guiding light for your child yet the time for you to be at the centre of everything they are doing has come and gone. It’s a vast and often overwhelming occurrence, but there are ways to help all of you deal with the adjustment.

Plan the departure day as much as you can. Many parents drop their child off, seeing them into their accommodation or dorm and then walking away after that lingering cup of coffee. If you do decide on this route, then be prepared for how wrenching this can be. Your child will also feel this, though of course, they may be less inclined to show it.

No matter how you are feeling, try to remain upbeat about how fantastic your child’s choice is. They have committed to continue their studying and to expand their knowledge, and you should be very proud of that. If you can manage it, try to save your tears until they are out of sight. This will ultimately make it easier on both of you in the long run.

Returning Home To The Nest

The sense of loss you may feel is genuine and shouldn’t be overlooked or undermined. It is merely a sign that you have invested yourself entirely and been a fantastic parent so pat yourself on the back for that. You may want to remind yourself that you have raised and encouraged an independent and responsible adult, one prepared to better themselves. Well done.

Saying that there is no way around the fact that it hurts. You grieve. And you must give yourself and your partner time to do this. You may also find they are dealing with it better than you think you are or they should be and this may cause some resentment. Be kind to each other and try to be as comforting as possible.

Always On The End Of The Phone

It will be necessary for both of you once you have settled into your new routine not to be overly in your face in contacting your child. Tough as it is, you have to accept your child is an adult and as such will get on with things on their own as much as they can.  Of course, you will still be there for them at the end of the phone, but they will no longer perhaps share all the details of their days and nights. Before they leave, agree on how often you will aim for contact and how via email or phone or texts and try your best to stick to it.

As tough as it is, this could now be an exciting time for you both to start a new phase and look forward to exciting new futures.

No Good At Goodbye

3 Little Buttons

Technology has made it easier and much more affordable to expand a business internationally these days. However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t without its challenges. In fact, there’s many ways your global venture could fail, or at the very least, damage your reliability.

If you’re looking to retain your reliability while expanding overseas, below you’ll discover 3 tips that can help.

  1. Ensure you have the right resources

While the internet has reduced the need to have an actual base in whichever country you’re choosing to expand to, that doesn’t mean you won’t need some additional resources. There’s still a lot of work required to start offering your products and services abroad. Therefore, you need to ensure you have adequate resources to not only expand, but to maintain your existing local business too.

Do you have the manpower, good suppliers and funds to ship goods to international customers? If not, you’re sure to lose your reliability.

  1. Choose a reliable courier

If you are shipping goods abroad, you’re going to need a really good courier you can trust. Shipping is always risky, even with the advanced tracking and features available today. Therefore, it’s imperative you choose a reliable courier such as TNT.

Speed, tracking and reliability are the key things to focus on when setting up international shipping. Even though they’re in a different country, your customers and clients will still expect fast delivery. If your parcels are delayed, or they arrive at their destination damaged, it’s going to really negatively impact your reputation.

  1. Make use of social media

In order to establish yourself as a reliable, international business, you need to ensure you provide excellent customer service. You can’t always prevent things from going wrong, but you can make sure you sort any problems out quickly, professionally and effectively. One way to do this, is to make use of social media such as Facebook and Twitter.

Both these sites are popular with businesses, and they enable you to respond to any customer queries and complaints quickly. As both sites are free to use, it’s also a more cost-effective way of providing great customer support.

There’s a lot to think about when you’re expanding your business abroad. The above are just three ways to ensure you don’t lose your reliability during the process. Always do as much research as you can prior to expanding. The more prepared you are, the more likely you’ll be to succeed.

 

Have you heard of broken-plan living?

A room that serves more than one purpose otherwise known as a multi-functional  or open-plan room has been popular for decades. It remains on the wish list of many people hoping to rent or buy a home.

Opening a room up can bring its own issues. For example, a busy mum might crave a room where she can get some quality alone time perhaps crafting, reading or planning a new business.

However, some  mums do like that idea of seeing all the family as they go about relaxing, cooking or dining. It can make the family unit feel closer and safer.

Together with Harvey Jones, fitters of bespoke fitted kitchens, we take a look at the new kitchen trend that allows open-plan living whilst tackling some of the issues outlined above.

Living in open-plan spaces

When leading a sociable lifestyle, entertaining guests can be difficult in a cramped space particularly at times like Christmas and birthdays when numbers are big. This is why open-plan spaces can seem like such a convenient solution. For multi-functional rooms that include a kitchen, the benefits are clear. It prevents the cook from feeling isolated for a start. No more retiring to the kitchen for half an hour or more on your own to prepare meals. A bespoke kitchen scheme that includes an island or peninsula that looks out onto the rest of the space means that cooking and preparing food need no longer be a solitary process. A busy mum can ask for help and memories are made together.

Often also given as a reason for going open plan is the need to keep an eye on children. From toddlers playing and falling over a lot to teens doing (or not doing!) their homework, for busy families a space that performs several functions allows the family to spend time together even when they’re performing many different tasks.   With so many worries about the things children can access online, an open-plan living space means you can keep an eye on things easily rather than worrying what they are accessing in their bedrooms.

House sizes are getting smaller year on year, and that’s why an open-plan kitchen/diner can seem like a good alternative to a separate dining room that may take up too much space. Formal dining is less common now anyway and too many dining rooms end up ignored or even becoming dumping grounds for clutter. However, a kitchen diner can be a good way of maximising space and design. However, you do have to be canny when planning a multi-functional room to ensure all zones work well together and recognize that this kind of layout will reduce privacy, particularly if you’re opening up the whole of your downstairs. Having nowhere quiet to play can become a problem and impact on your mental wellbeing. There are also the issues of noise from appliances such as washing machines and dishwashers. Housework always seems ever-present and never more so when you cannot file things in another room for a while. Fewer walls also mean less space to put furniture, which can lead to a room that’s crammed around the walls or jumbled in the centre.  I have to admit that I am not a fan of open-plan living even thought I look at property shows and it appeals to me. In reality, it does not suit our family dynamic.

How can design move on from open-plan living?

As a new trend for 2018, broken-plan living can set the new precedent in interior design trends, replacing open plan in the future. The idea is to retain all the things you love about open-plan – particularly the light and openness – while at the same time zoning the space to allow for more privacy should you need it. Rather than doing this with colours and textures as you would in a true open-plan arrangements, broken-plan employs structural elements such as half-walls, dividing shelves, changing levels, walls of glass and even mezzanines to delineate and formalise areas for different uses. As someone who does not like open plan but does want to keep an eye on my children, broken plan could be my perfect solution. I could definitely fancy a mezzanine!

How does this trend look?

By cordoning off certain areas to create new spaces, ‘walls’ can be created by using boxed shelving and other furniture to define spaces that weren’t previously there in the room. I have done this with screens in the past. Of course, you don’t want to regress back to small and dark rooms, so don’t cram the shelves full of books – instead, artfully arrange a few favourite pieces to signal the change between one room and another and leave some of the shelves open to allow light to freely cascade from one zone to another. If you’re just starting your project, consider just knocking down half a wall and leaving the top open, allowing sight-lines through but at the same time giving you more wall space to play with. Wall space also allows the addition of works of art to reflect your personality. While hatches perhaps should remain a distinctly 70s invention although I quite like them, a larger aperture in the wall between a kitchen and sitting room, for example, is a workable and modern substitute. I like how broken plan can mean more light as that is such an asset in a home and makes me feel better instantly,

Although you can use furniture to cordon off various parts of the room, this should be done sparingly and subtly. It can look really clumsy and obvious. Also, consider building in pocket doors that will slide out of sight into the walls when you want to join two rooms but can be closed quickly to create separation when needed. This is preferable to those clunky sliding doors of yesteryear.

As well as this trend, Crittall-style windows have also become a popular interior design trend. Metal framed windows and sometimes doors traditionally used in industrial spaces or as exterior walls onto gardens have celebrity fans such as TV presenter and architect George Clarke, who celebrates their ability to cleverly divide an internal space without shutting off one room totally from another.

Broken-plan spaces can accommodate changing floor and ceiling heights – helping to bring spaces together that usually wouldn’t work as an open plan space. With broken-plan living, the options are unlimited when it comes to your interior design space.

So are you a fan of clearly separated rooms, open-plan or might you give broken-plan a whirl?