Me & Mine Round Up for 2015, And A Time Out

It's the end of the year and time to say goodbye to the last twelve months and plan for the next. It's been a relatively steady year for us, generally on the low side as we still battle through me having chronic fatigue and try and adjust our lives to the change it has brought with it.

With that change has brought other changes and for the next month or so that will see me taking some time off from the blog and my Youtube channel. I've found I've become quite stale with my post, and it feels more of a chore than anything. In fact it's taken me the last two weeks to sit down and actually write this post. In the meantime Sian will be taking over full responsibility for the linky, so please do continue to join us with that, and I have hopefully found someone to continue the chat and group I have begun. If you are a vlogger, whether that be just starting out or more experienced, do join in the Your Youtube events as there is such much support out there.

I thought I would round off this year with a look back at the few Me & Mine posts I joined in with as well as sharing my top posts for 2015, as I have done previously.

January 2015

March 2015

April 2015

May 2015

December 2015

I think we have all changed quite a bit in the year, the children have obviously grown and I think Mr H and I have moulded to our environment, with a bit less hair on his part and a few more lines on mine!

Top Posts 2015:

5. The Cosatto Story - I adored this bed from the moment I saw it and loved writing this review, I think it's one of my all time favourite review posts, particularly the video.

4. Britmums Live Video Round-Up - I pulled together a list of al the videos from Britmums Live in 2015 and it was great to look through everyone's different angles of the conference.

3. Mark Warner In Corsica - My visit to San Lucianu in Corsica with Mark Warner was such a fantastic trip, I'm glad my write up was popular too.

2. From The Sofa - When I was struggling with Holly being ill, I put together some ideas for activities for your poorly children.

1. The Elusive Bedtime - This was a post I put together with some tips on cracking bedtime, which seemed to resonate with a lot of you and was a huge success on the blog.

So there you have it - the end of 2015. I hope you all have an amazing New Year and 2016 brings happiness and health to you all.

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Your Youtube #52

Here we are, at number 52 and a whole year since this linky started! I just want to say a huge thank you to everyone who has supported me and my journey to grow our youtube family community, your support has meant the world and helped spawn the group and chat. There will be more to come in the next 52 weeks so make sure you stick around!

This time, to celebrate a whole year of Your Youtube I've decided to pick a video of the year. It wasn't an easy decision as there has been so many amazing videos linked up, but I've chosen this Draw My Life video from Jules at The Girl Behind The Camera as not only is a DML difficult to film (which I know from experience) I think her story is a pretty incredible one and I love hearing it in this way.

So, for our last linky of 2015 hare your videos below! Please link up no more than two and make sure you comment on the host and at least one other. This linky will run until January and Sian and I will be taking a break over the festive period. Have a fantastic Christmas to you all and a Happy New Year!

Pro Blogger Interview: A Mummy Too

Continuing my series, interviewing some of the most successful bloggers of the moment, this week I am talking to Emily Leary from hugely successful blog A Mummy Too.

Originally a parenting blog, Emily found her niche in the food blog arena and quickly made herself known. Her blog this year won Best Food Blog award and Emily has been featured in magazines and run workshops and presentations at many prestigious events. On top of all this, her blog is in the top ten bloggers on Teads, Tots100, Foodies100 and Cision.

Can you tell me a little about your background before blogging? How did you get into it? 
I started out in PR and marketing while still at uni and soon found my specialism in the digital/social sphere. By the time I started my blog, A Mummy Too in 2011, I’d been in digital for about 10 years. The blog was just intended as a hobby while on maternity leave, but I kept it going where I could once I went back to work and really fell in love with it – the creativity and the community especially. After a couple of years, I knew that blogging was where my heart was, so I decided to leave my career behind to write about food and lifestyle full–time.

Having worked in the PR industry for a number of years you must know better than many of us how it is to work from the other side of things. Are there any insights you can share on what PR's are looking for? 
I think something that comes up time and time again is understanding why they want to work with you. Whether in-house or agency, PRs and marketers are ultimately working to meet their company/client’s business objectives and more specifically, that year or quarter’s marketing objectives. They’re not (or at least shouldn’t be!) simply doing blogger outreach for the sheer fun of it, rather it will be part of a plan for the year, so the better you can understand how you fit into those plans, the better equipped you are to deliver your part in the campaign to the highest standard. If a brief feels loose and you’re feeling a little unsure as to what activity to propose/deliver, it’s completely fine to say, for example, “Can you give me a little outline of what the campaign is aiming to achieve and any key messages you’re looking to convey?"

You are a well known full time blogger, has your previous experience helped with this at all?
Through my previous career I’ve had a lot of writing practice, understand social and have lots of experience working with brands, which is obviously all useful, but I don’t think a PR background makes it much easier to be a successful blogger. Being on this side of the fence is very different, and I’ve had to learn as I go, just like everybody else :)

What would your advice be for someone who is looking to turn blogging from a hobby into their career?
Start treating your blog as a business long before you begin to rely on it as your sole source of income. Be organised, keep records, plan, standardise your working processes, rates and terms and organise them along with your credentials into a media kit to share with brands, learn from your analytics, strive to continually improve on your own best.

You must pitch a lot to different companies, what seems to work best for you and what not so much?
I rarely, if ever, cold pitch – it’s much easier to propose an approach when you know what campaigns that brand/agency is working on at that time. I prefer to focus on warm/responsive pitches i.e. when a brand gets in touch to tell me about a campaign, if it’s something I feel is a good fit, then I’ll come back with some ideas about how we could work together.

Emily is a full time blogger at A Mummy Too and can be found on Facebook and twitter.

Crafty Kids Wishlist with The Works

Miss H has always loved anything creative. From the age of one she would sort all her toys by colour and size and as soon as she could hold a pencil she was in her element. Not a day goes by now that she doesn't ask to make something and I have amassed quite a craft selection for these moments, including the occasional toilet roll!

Your Youtube #50

Welcome back to Your Youtube, the video linky where we help each other and support each other in order to grow our community! unfortunately linky tools is currently not working so I have been unable to choose a video of the week, but as soon as it's back up and running I will get over to your videos! Because of this we're using Simply Linked this week for you to add your videos to.

As I mentioned previously I am the new Videos Round-Up Editor for Britmums, replacing the brilliant Nadine who has had a fantastic promotion. I will be considering all your videos for December's round ups so make sure to add them to the linky! As always, please link up no more than two videos. Ensure you watch and comment on the host video and the video before your own so that way we all get some likes and comments.

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How I Beat The Christmas Shopping Queues

Christmas is my favourite time of year - I have always loved sharing the magic with my family and with Miss H's birthday being just a week before, it really is a special time for us. One side I don't love, though, is the Christmas shopping. Don't get me wrong, giving presents is one of my favourite things about the season, especially now I have children, but I have never been a shopper and trying to battle my way through hoards of people is my worst nightmare. So I thought I'd put together a few things that I do to beat the Christmas queues and make present-buying a much more enjoyable experience.

The Battle To Get Dressed

Miss H has become particularly fussy when it comes to getting dressed of late. I guess I should be grateful that this stage has only arrived when she is nearly five, but it's driving me up the wall. She refuses to wear anything but dresses and has a total meltdown if I try to get her into one of the many pairs of trousers she has gathering dust in her wardrobe. On top of that she only wants to wear her sparkly pumps, despite it being freezing and chucking it down outside.

Getting ready for school became a nightmare and I've resorted to buying her more pinafores in order to relieve the tension it was causing before I'd even had my morning brew. Now we're working on her not having a meltdown when I don't do her hair in whatever fancy style she's seen so-and-so at school has. When we were offered some new pieces to try from Rockin' Baby and Clarks, I was thrilled to get my little drama queen into something a bit different, and hopefully have something in her wardrobe she didn't fight with me over.

Managing Chronic Illness With Diet

I have never been a great eater, food is just not my thing and I have been known to regularly skip meals or just eat a packet of crisps rather than be bothered to prepare something properly. When I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue, one of the items on the list of things to consider was diet, and I was told it is an important part to managing tiredness. I have to admit, though, that it wasn't top of my list to get on top of - trying to manage pacing and fit in relaxation was a challenge enough. However this summer proved a difficult one and I decided it was time to step things up and take charge of what I can. This meant taking a look at my diet.

managing chronic illness with diet

Vlogging: What I've Learnt

For the last few weeks I have been running a Your Youtube vlogging chat on Sunday evenings on twitter, where each week I set a topic, ask a few questions and a few of us get together and have a natter. It's a fun, friendly hour, some weeks are quieter than others, but there's a nice group of us who choose to learn from each other and support one another. So today I wanted to put together a bit of a round-up from the last few chats and what I've picked up from them so far.

Pro Blogger Interview: Katy Pullinger

Welcome back to my fortnightly blogger series, where I interview today's top bloggers and ask those burning questions you would love to know the answer to. Hopefully these bloggers can help unlock some insights that will help us all grow our blogs and develop to a place we would all love to be. 

Today I am interviewing the lovely Katy Pullinger - one half of the vlogging team, Hey Mummy. Katy is a presenter on QVC and also creates videos for the UK YouTube community site Channel Mum, one of which was recently streamed live from Dream Toys featuring the top toys for Christmas this year.

You have a background in TV presenting, how did that first come about?

It was really a natural progression, I had always done drama, acting, singing and also worked as an intern in TV Production and it just made sense as all my interests could kind of come together. I went and did a short course in presenting, one where you walked away with a ready to go show reel and I was ready to send it out to people. I had heard that the shopping channel Bid TV were auditioning and so I sent my reel to them. I auditioned and got the job, 3 hours of live TV a day 5 days a week, exhausting but an amazing training ground for any aspiring presenter.

Your Youtube #48

Welcome back to Your Youtube, the linky to share your latest videos! A little announcement from me - I am thrilled to have been asked to be the new Britmums videos editor and will be sharing all my favourite videos every month.

Thanks to everyone who joined in last week, this week's video of the week is from Nadine at Juggle Mum who shared footage from the Segway Tour her and her family undertook whilst in the Costa Brava - it looks like a great way to see please whilst abroad!

Huge thanks to everyone who joined in with the YY chat last Sunday. It's lovely to talk about vlogging and share hints and tips. The chat is 8pm every Sunday so be sure to follow the hashtag #YourYoutube to join us this week!

Over to the linky - please link up no more than two videos. Ensure you watch and comment on the host video and the video before your own so that way we all get some likes and comments.

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Preview of #HogwartsInTheSnow at the Harry Potter Studio Tour

I am so excited to write this post and I'm not going to beat about the bush - this place was fantastic! Probably one of the best trips of it's type I've been on in quite some time and well worth the three hour journey to get down there. It is of course the Harry Potter Studio Tour at Warner Brothers Studios in London.

When I first heard about this place at Britmums Live three years ago I really wanted to go - it sounded so great and whilst I wouldn't describe myself as a 'huge' Harry Potter fan, I've read all the books (first, of course) and seen all the films more than once. The story is such a classic, timeless tale and there is such magic about it all (no pun intended). Needless to say, when I visited for my first time last week I wasn't disappointed.

Top Toys For Christmas With Give As You Live

Yep, it's that time of year where we are officially allowed to say the C word - Christmas! Whilst I am definitely a summer girl, Christmas is my favourite time of year. I've always found it such a magical time, and I adore passing that magic onto my two. Not to mention Miss H's birthday is only a week before Christmas, making it that little bit more special to us.

I've recently discovered the Give As You Live site, which is quite special for a couple of reasons - it is an online price comparison site, helping you find the best price for your gifts, but it also donates 2.5% of your spendings to charity of your choice, or it's chosen charity of the month. So whilst you embrace in the Christmas spirit, others less fortunate can also benefit.

Recently all the 'top' toys for Christmas have been released and there's no doubt that they will be flying off the shelves already. So I've pulled together some things from the top list you can find from Give As You Live and give back whilst you shop.

So when you are shopping this Christmas, go through Give As You Live and make a difference whilst you shop.

*This post is brought to you in association with Give As You Live. Please support this fantastic store.

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Giveaway with My Little Pony

Miss H has been a fan of the new My Little Pony's for quite a while, ever since we received the first DVD. I was keen to introduce her to a show I grew up with and it's lovely to watch her with her ponies just like I did as a child. Since the updated series was released years ago, it has seen a whole new popularity and more series' have come about since then, as well as toys and merchandise.

The latest DVD is Friendship Games, where the ponies compete in a long-standing competition of exciting events but in which magic is forbidden. Who will triumph? I am excited to offer one lucky reader a copy of this latest DVD, so follow the Gleam below if you would like to be in with a chance of winning.

My Little Pony DVD
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Pro Blogger Interviews: Ghostwriter Mummy

Welcome back to my fortnightly blogger series, where I interview today's top bloggers and ask those burning questions you would love to know the answer to. Hopefully these bloggers can help unlock some insights that will help us all grow our blogs and develop to a place we would all love to be.

Today's interview is with with Susanne from Ghostwriter Mummy. Susanne has been writing her parenting blog for five years and in that time has shared her very personal stories of birth trauma, Hyperemesis Gravidarum and IUGR. Susanne also supports a number of charities including the Lullaby Trust and the Maternity Matters Academy and has raised thousands for these causes close to her heart. By sharing her story, Susanne has helped numerous others in their own journeys and was this year nominated for Outstanding Contribution in the Mum and Dad Blogger Awards.

Your blog really seems to have taken off in the last year or so, what do you attribute this to?

When I started writing about my pregnancy with Elsie, I realised that I hadn't been writing much of what really mattered to me. I found writing about the HG, IUGR and hopes for her birth so cathartic, and without realising it I was going back to basics. So I think the only thing I did was write from the heart (I know that sounds corny) and I stopped worrying about stats etc. I wrote for me and it was nice to remember what that felt like.

You run your own business as well as blogging, how do you find the time to fit it in?

Haha. I get up early, and I actually work a lot from my phone whilst feeding Elsie. I type onto the pages app on my phone which syncs to my Mac, then I edit it when I get chance and add photos etc. I always proof read and probably leave it a day before I publish as there's always something I can change at the last minute. I'm not as prolific as other bloggers, but I do take my time over each post. I have no set schedule so they go up when I have a window of time.

What is your best advice for managing your time as a blogger?

Close all the tabs while you're working. I close Facebook, Twitter and my emails so that I can concentrate on one thing at a time. I set a timer on my phone too - so if I decide to spend thirty minutes on my blog, I spend only thirty minutes. It can always wait.

You support lots of different charities, how do you choose who to support when your time is so precious?

I support charities that support me, and charities that are close to my heart. Namely The Lullaby Trust, the Birth Trauma Association and MAMA Academy. All charities who have helped myself and others over the years, and I feel an affinity to them all. You cannot support every charity, no matter how much you would like to.

If you were to give advice to bloggers who are wanting to work with charities themselves but not sure in what way they can help, what would you say?

Approach them and ask if they would consider working with you on their next campaign. Write about them and their work and tag them in tweets. Support them and be vocal about it. They will appreciate the support and they will probably bite your hand off to work with you!

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Your Youtube #46

I really cannot believe we're up to week 46 on the linky! That's so close to a year it's crazy. Thank you so much to everyone who has supported it and continues to do so, we love to watch your videos!

A little bit of a congratulations to my YY partner, Sian, who is now the videos editor over at Tots 100 - a fantastic achievement and we look forward to seeing how it all develops!

For this week's video of the week it had to be from Lucy at Dear Beautiful who has shared a little birth video with us. Such an incredible and special moment to capture on camera, it's a beautiful video.

Over to the linky - as always please link up no more than two videos and make sure you watch, like and comment on the host video and AT LEAST one other. And don't forget to join in our YY chat on Sunday at 8pm!

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Win With Ocean Florida

I'm really excited to be offering you a lovely giveaway from Ocean Florida, who are a fantastic company focusing on holidays to Florida in the USA. Not only do they cover Orlando and Disney, but various other cities in Florida including Miami, Fort Myers and the Gulf Coast.

To win simply watch the video below and follow the instructions. Good luck!

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Twelve Low Energy Play Ideas

12 low energy play idesas

In the last year I have posted quite a few play ideas on my blog for putting together fun things for your children that don't take all your time and energy. We all see perfect play set-ups, using the messiest of products and items that take up tons of storage space. However not all of us have the energy to either set up these ideas or clear them away at the end of it all. So here is a round up of some of the play ideas I've put together, as well as a few from my beloved Pinterest that have worked for me.

Simple Daily Habits To Ignite Your Passion For Blogging

I have been blogging for getting on for five years now, and in that time my frequency has been pretty hit and miss. From blogging daily around a year ago, I now blog two or three times a week. I have had periods of no blogging and there are often times I sit down to write and the words just do not come.

So today I thought I would put together a few ideas if you are in the same boat as me and not always feeling your blogging mojo. If nothing else I can refer back to these myself when I'm having an off day!

Print from Charm & Gumption

Being A Mum With Chronic Fatigue

When you say you have chronic fatigue a lot of people don't really understand what that means. Also referred to as M.E., chronic fatigue, or CFS, is a long-term condition that causes severe physical and mental tiredness, and often chronic pain, to a degree that it restricts everyday life. It affects around 250, 000 in the UK and 17 million worldwide.

Pro Blogger Interivews: Coombe Mill

Welcome back to my fortnightly blogger series, where I interview today's top bloggers and ask those burning questions you would love to know the answer to. Hopefully these bloggers can help unlock some insights that will help us all grow our blogs and develop to a place we would all love to be.

Today interview is with with Fiona from Coombe Mill. Fiona and her husband Farmer Nick run fantastic self catering farm holidays and alongside this Fiona runs their blog where she shares activities from the farm as well as the weekly linky, Country Kids. Fiona has won four awards for her blog as well as countless nominations and is widely recognised as both a fantastic blogger and brand.

How do you think your experience as blogging from a brand perspective differs from personal bloggers?

In many ways not very much and I think this is actually the secret of my success. I really like to know and understand and connect with bloggers as fellow parents and not just see them as potential customers. I chat just like any other parent on social media and try to remember significant events in others live. On the blog I am mindful not to alienate followers so my posts are not ranty, shouty or sweary and few posts are controversial. The odd post that has involved a little controversial debate created great interest but on balance I decided it was best to steer away from such subjects. Generally my posts cover the happy events on the farm, things in our personal lives which are well received though interestingly they are often nothing to with the business. I believe it is good to have a mix of posts, those which are designed to entice you for a visit and those that are purely an insight into our lives away from working. I am keen not to be a pushy brand but rather a friendly blogger. I join linkys, host my own and comment widely and am always striving to improve my blog.   

Do you get many requests from people looking for freebies? How do you feel about them?

I do receive a fair few requests for freebie holidays; they are generally nicely worded and opportunistic. I don’t mind at all, after all I think it is quite common with the bigger companies and ambassador programmes. However in reality we are only a small family business and apart from an occasional competition, like the one I’m running now on my blog to Win Christmas with us, I don’t offer freebies. Not that I wouldn’t like to, simply that I can’t afford to and for all the popular times we are fully booked anyway. I think I have been extremely lucky to have appealed to the parent blogging community and now have a full Pinterest board of holiday reviews for Coombe Mill from paid for visits.

If you could advise someone on the best way to pitch to brands, what would it be?

My advice on pitching to brands would be to be clear what you can offer them. They may not understand the blogging community and social media as well as you do as a blogger so spell out the obvious and don’t feel shy to shout about your commitment and achievements and what that will give them in social media presence, but be realistic and honest to them and yourself about the time you have and what they can expect to see from your efforts. Find out the person you need to speak to and address them by name then email, tweet or phone, sound confident and friendly, the worst they can say is no, this is why I never mind if someone approaches me. Despite being a brand I still pitch to brands myself, like my linky sponsorship of ‘Country Kids’ with Muddy Puddles and ‘Trash 2 Treasure’ with Duck Tape Colours.  

You obviously run your own business as well as your blog -  how you find time to fit it all in?

Do you schedule posts or is it more when you have time you write a load at once? Running a business, a blog and bringing up 6 children is a juggling act. I work late into the night 7 days a week and thrive on just 5 or 6 hours sleep every night. This said I will also take an hour out in the day to go for a run or a bike ride and my children are now growing up and do help with the business. I have days when I have my “writing head” on and will draft up 3 or 4 posts, coming back to them during the week to edit and add photos. I usually work a week ahead in draft as I hate being up against deadlines and always worry about the unexpected with the children or the business so I like to be prepared. 

What is your best advice on running a linky and how to make it successful?

My advice on running a linky is to choose a topic you are really interest in and know you can create a host post for easily. For me outdoor fun was a no brainer with the freedom of our 30 acre holiday farm. Make your theme wide enough to encompass a range of posts but with clear boundaries and try to be original, no one likes to be copied. Having done this, tell the world about it, make reference on your other posts and share on twitter but be careful not to spam people with it. Be a good host and comment and share all who link with you. Never take those who link up for granted, it takes time and effort to join in and it is important they know you appreciate this, but be warned, it takes me about 10 hours a week commenting and sharing and inviting back on Country Kids, so give it some serious thought before you jump in to run one. I think linkys work best run weekly or monthly, personally I find bi-weekly really annoying as I forget which week it is and I’m sure I’m not the only one; I run Country Kids weekly and Trash 2 Treasure monthly.

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Halloween Party & Giveaway with Nick Junior

Next Monday we are hosting a party to celebrate halloween on Nick Jr at 4.30pm and you are invited!

Join us from 5.00pm until 6.30pm to watch Halloween episodes of Nick Jr favourites including Paw Patrol, Peppa Pig and Wallykazam to be in with a chance of winning some Halloween themed goodies, and make sure you join us on Twitter using the hashtag #NickJrPumpkinParty, and set your Tv channel to Sky channel 615, Virgin 715 or TalkTalk channel 318.

And as if that's not enough, I have a Halloween bundle to giveaway to one lucky reader! Simply follow the Gleam below:

Win A Halloween Bundle with Nick Jr

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Low Energy Play: Learning Letters

Last year I wrote a series on low energy play - ideas for mums who don't have a lot of energy but still want to set up fun and educational play for their children. I still have trouble keeping my two entertained, although with Miss H being in school the pressure is off a little, but there are times when I know I need to be doing more. Little J is not one for sitting still much so colouring, writing and the like are pretty much out the window. I have been looking a lot for ideas on how to retain his interest but also teach him letters, particularly his name.

Your Youtube #44

Welcome back to another week of Your Youtube - the place to share your recent videos and find new channels and vloggers to watch! Thanks to everyone who joined us last week and a big thanks to all those who have joined in our #YourYoutube chat! If you want to join in it's at 8pm every Sunday, and we will covering a whole manner of subjects relating to vlogging.

 This week's video of the week is from A Moment With Franca who is sharing her favourite products from September and has some great suggestions.

Over to the linky - share up to two videos and please watch and comment on the host video and at least one before your own to ensure we all get some engagement. Ready....go!

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The School Run: Don't Be Late Again!

If you're anything like me, adapting to the new school routine has been a bit of a challenge and there has often been mornings where we are all rushing out of the door at the last minute, as I shout and the children run half dressed to the car. However with a bit of practice I feel we've got the routine down a little better so I thought I'd share how I made sure the morning routine ran a little more smoothly and we were all a bit less fraught.

Pro Blogger Interviews: Honest Mum

Today is the first in a fortnightly blogger series where I interview today's top bloggers and ask those burning questions you would love to know the answer to. Hopefully these bloggers can help unlock some insights that will help us all grow our blogs and develop to a place we would all love to be.

Today I'm kicking things off with Vicki from Honest Mum. Vicki is a full time professional blogger who works with some amazing brands. She has modelled, presented and been the face of several companies all the while blogging and being mum to her two boys.

You work with so many amazing brands and have fantastic opportunities, do you tend to pitch to brands or do they find you? 

They come to me 99% of the time but if I see a brand I like who are usually following me on twitter perhaps, I will send an email or dm and ask if they are seeking bloggers or have any upcoming campaigns. I'm for being proactive, and self-promotion. My background as a filmmaker helps with this hugely, I've had to pitch to producers and networks a lot in my past. Definitely bloggers should pitch and start relationships with brands. Don't limit yourself whether you've just started or are established, everyone has targeted, niche audiences that matter to brands. Also when I'm approached for campaigns, I pitch my own ideas or offer my own angle on campaigns. We are digital storytellers who know our blog and audience best, great brands respect and understand that and will let you make paid posts personal. Those are the most successful and most natural campaigns. Be yourself.

If you could give a blogger any advice on how to approach brands, what would it be? 

Ensure your blog is as a professional and slick as possible and that you have a media kit (without fees ideally - always negotiate based on brief) and a 'work with me' page too. Make it easy for others to discover and work with you. An clickable email at the top of your blog along with social media badges and an 'About' section. Always be polite and professional and work with brands which fit your ethos and style.

You come across as a fantastically confident person - is this something you've had to build on over time or does it come to you quite naturally? 

I think most outwardly confident people are not necessarily always confident inside (it's impossible to be all of the time), we're just used to fighting the fear and doing it anyway - and confidence is a muscle to be practised, the more you feign confidence the easier it becomes and the more opportunities you push yourself out of your comfort zone, the greater you grow. A bit cheesy but true.   I lost my confidence hugely after a traumatic birth with my first son Oliver - blogging, the support of my family and a councillor ultimately helped me regain it piece by piece after losing my identity after a tough time. Confidence is fluid for all, I think as long as we are aware of that, it's OK. No one really talks about feeling worried or nervous to save face so those who are struggling feel alone whereas in reality we are all struggling to varying degrees dependant on what day we've had and tasks await. It's natural for most creatives to struggle with confidence, we are laying ourselves bare whatever our medium and craft and it takes great courage to do so. It really is crucial to push through the self doubt though, to pursue our dreams and goals.

How do you manage to fit your busy work schedule around your family? 

It works, I have a small team here, a publicist who negotiates my contracts and help with business development, someone who deals with IT and keeps my blogs looking their best, and an assistant. My eldest goes to school, and my youngest is in nursery part-time and my parents help a lot too. My husband shoots for me when he's not working in IT and we're a team. I expanded the business as it grew and having the support means I can focus on what I love-the written word and moving image. I work a lot on business development too and have some exciting new areas I want to pursue. This job is wonderful because I am in control, in the driving seat. I am there for my kids, working on my terms and in my own time. I work full time hours but they are structured around my family so I don't get to miss out on dinner, bedtime, fun. I always have Fridays off for Xander and I, and weekends are dedicated to my family too. This year more than ever has made me feel more balanced and happier than before. I'm also in a position to say no to projects I don't love and focus on those that feed me creatively.

If someone was looking to become a professional blogger like yourself, what would your top tip on how to go about it? 

Trust your voice. The Internet can often feel like an overcrowded space but there is room for us all. The beauty of blogging is, with a touch of a button a like-minded audience can and will discover you instantly. Follow your passions, write from the heart and share what you love.

Vicki is a full time blogger, award winning filmmaker and Mum of two who writes and style blog

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Handling Hard Times With Chronic Fatigue

I have never been one to hide away on this blog and despite my problems often being very personal, for the most part I try to be open and honest about what is going on. Maybe one day someone may read it and realise they are not alone.

I've talked previously about my dad who two years ago he was diagnosed with stage IV Lymphoma - cancer of the lymph nodes. He has a very rare form which was difficult to diagnose and by the time it was it had already reached terminal diagnosis. Now he undergoes treatment to hopefully stop the cancer spreading and help him manage his symptoms so he can live as much of a life as he can. Last week we got the news that his cancer had spread and he needs to resume chemotherapy. 

It was a cruel blow for us all to hear. He has been pretty steady for a while and whilst we are all very aware of his illness, we were able to try and put it to the back of our minds and focus on life right now. Once you hear devastating news everything comes rushing to the front and knocks you for six.

That has certainly been the case with me. Chronic Fatigue comes with its own baggage - not just the tiredness, but anxiety and depression are common predisposals to the illness, and both of which I struggle with. When you mix all these together it is not a fun concoction, let me tell you. Feeling down about something, anxious over those feelings and tired to boot which only serves to exacerbate those moods, and you have someone who can barely function. Which has been me for the last few days. It's why my blog has gone deathly silent and why I have reached out to friends in a way I rarely do. It's affected my relationship with my husband as I have been snappy and impatient and there have been endless tears. It's crazy how one thing can set off a string of a whole host of other things and life can seem almost impossible. In fact just yesterday I told my husband I felt I was failing at life - as a mother, a wife and just a human being. For the past week I've barely lived, it feels.

So this post is a message to anyone out there who suffers and feels the same hopelessness I do -  you are not alone. Often I feel that way, that I am the only one who struggles with this and that nobody else understands. But that isn't the case really, in fact there are many of out there, handling our illness alone. And badly.

What gets me through these difficult times is talking about things, resting as much as I can and just taking each day at a time. If I can get through one day, maybe I can get through the next too. Often the days seem never-ending and completely overwhelming but there is nothing to do but get through it the best you can, and hope that the next day will be that bit brighter.

If you are struggling and need some support then please do contact me. You can leave a message on this blog or tweet me @hollybobbs on twitter. In the meantime, keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Today is World Mental Health Day, if you are struggling and need support you can visit the ME Association website.

Your Youtube #42

Welcome back to Your Youtube and this week sees an exciting announcement! But first, a big thank you to everyone who's joining in each week, Sian and I are loving watching all your videos and enjoying discovering new channels every week. This week's video of the week is from Victoria at VeViVo's who has linked up video of her reciting a beautiful poem dedicated to her daughter.

So, onto our announcement! After the success of the linky we have decided to host a twitter chat for our fellow linkers and anyone else who wants to join in. The chat will be about all things vlogging and we will cover many different topics each week. Hopefully it will be a fantastic way to connect with each other, learn something new and share our own knowledge. The chat will be at 8pm every Sunday so be sure to follow the hashtag #YourYoutube to join us!

Over to the linky, as always please link no more than two videos, make sure you like and comment on the host video and the video before your own so that way we all get some likes and comments.

Off you go!

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Home Decor: Updating Our Bedroom

For the last few years our bedroom has been a pretty bland box. Apart from a touch of purple in the Next bedding and curtains, the rest of it remained magnolia and cream. Not exactly exciting. Eventually we plan on having fitted wardrobes across one wall to try and make up for the lack of storage space, however in the meantime I wanted to add a few touches that would bring it to life whilst we save up for the full makeover.

The bland, and messy, before

Next bedding with some fun pillowcases

Starting School - Two Weeks In

We are now two weeks into Miss H starting Reception so I thought I'd share an update on how we are doing. And I say we, as starting school is such a big change and it definitely affects the whole household - new routines, mood swings and homework being just a few.

Ribby Hall Village Self Catering Cottages in Lancashire Part II

Here is the second part of our weekend away at Ribby Hall in Lancashire, for part one click here.

A Mess, A Fall-Out & A Broken TV

All an in-direct result of me having a night away in London.

A mess that is never-ending.

A fall out that is just one in a long line.

And a marble thrown at the TV, rendering it lifeless.

Life is not easy with chronic fatigue, Mr H and I are well, well aware of this. In the last two years since my diagnosis the tiredness, the rows and the frustration has all become a part of daily life. Being a wife with chronic fatigue is hard, being a parent with chronic fatigue is hard and being a husband supporting someone with chronic fatigue is almost impossible. And sometimes I feel like it's breaking us.

I am tired. He is tired. Yet there are two small children to look after, still a house to run and still work to be done and bills to pay. How do you carry on as normal with so much on your shoulders and no time for yourself? We tell ourselves over and over, in a few weeks, months, years, it will all be different. Better. Yet here we are and the end of this tunnel is nowhere in sight.

I want us to be a team, to bind together as a strong unit against this stupid illness. To show it that come what may, it cannot break us and we will battle through and come out the other side stronger. I feel for the most part we do. But on the inside, behind closed doors, those battles often rage between us and leave us a wreck.

Who did the most this week? Who had the least rest? Who managed to get out and have some form of a social life? Who deserves a lie in tomorrow? For most parents these are common battle, through in chronic fatigue and they become the crux of your life. Day after day, minute after minute, counting down until bedtime when it can be over and you can get that much needed sleep you crave. And then the day is gone. Wasted on wishing, not doing.

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Ribby Hall Village Self Catering Cottages in Lancashire Part I

This summer has been a busy one - trips away, days out and lots of activities planned. Last weekend saw the last of our trips for the time being, as we spent three days at Ribby Hall Village in Lancashire.

Your Youtube #40

Hello and welcome back to Your Youtube! I'm loving getting back into all your videos again, although I have to say I'm not quite into the habit of keeping up as quickly as I should! I'm also really enjoying co-hosting the linky with the lovely Sian. This week's video of the week is from My Petit Canard who has shared her second ever video - a gorgeous Boden clothing haul!

Over with the linky, you should all know what you're doing by now but if you're new to it all, we ask that you watch, like and comment on the host video and at least one other. Try and watch the video before your own that way everyone gets some comments, and we can share each other's hard work. Have fun!

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Autumn Crafts For The Home

I can't believe I'm saying this, but it seems autumn is upon us. After a non-show summer, it's time to dig out the jumper, boots and winter coats in preparation for rustling winds that billow our hair around our heads and have us battling the elements as soon as we stop out of the house. Last year I really enjoyed bringing the outdoors into the home and adding some fun and cosy elements to recognise the changing of the season. With falling leaves, conkering and the harvest festival to look forward to, not to mention the C-word just around the corner, why not enjoy the season from the comfort of your home?


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