Blogging Elma Family Kitty Pause for Thought Photography Pip

What does it mean to be a blogger?

10/02/2016

Space for the Butterflies - what does it mean to be a blogger

Writing my ten year anniversary post it struck me just how much has changed since I first started blogging.  I started out with just words, lots of them, and the occasional small photo, because if I tried to load more than three photos at once into Blogger the whole thing would crash and I’d have to start again.

Now technology has moved on and I can have as many pictures as I want, all the words you can read, and a pretty design that is completely and uniquely me.  But the revolution hasn’t just been in the blogging technology but in the whole social/self-publishing media.  Where once there was Blogger and comments, now we have blogs and Instagram and Twitter and YouTube and Facebook, and Periscope and Snapchat and a whole heap of other things that were a short lived craze for a couple of weeks, and probably something new that I haven’t even heard of yet.

And as most of us that blog, also have some or all over the above, it made me wonder, what exactly is it that makes up a blogger in 2016?

By quirk of timing I spent January uniquely placed to carry out a sort of statistical experiment into blogging.  Firstly, by blog stats, I had the best month ever here at Space for the Butterflies.  A couple of posts must have really resonated and for the first and probably last time ever, I had over 1,000 page views in a day.  That’s a really big deal in stats around here.

And the second thing was that I got really insanely busy at work.  So busy that I could only choose to do one thing in my tiny bit of remaining time, and I chose writing here, mostly for my sanity as much as anything else.  I didn’t have time to read many other blogs, or comment (I eventually just marked all as read when my Bloglovin unread posts went to 1200), I hadn’t taken any beautiful pictures for Instagram because all I’d seen was my desk, and I’d almost entirely absented myself from Twitter, either just in general conversation or taking part in Twitter chats.

So there was January, a blog hit and a social media miss.  The question was what would that do to my Tots100 ranking? The answer: I fell 52 places.

Which has made me a little cautious about writing this post lest it be misinterpreted as sour grapes, but it truly isn’t. I was writing this post before the latest stats came out, regardless of which way I went, and as I’ve said before, I love the Tots but I regard my ranking with benign curiosity.  My world does not turn on that little number in the sidebar.

But I digress. Back to statistics.  The obvious conclusion to my little experiment is that at least where the Tots are concerned, my social media rankings, interactions, and all the rest of it are at least as important as my blog itself.

And if that’s the case then does it mean that being a blogger is about more than just sitting down and writing? Bloggers often are influencers within the peer group, social media experts, skilled self promoters, and quite often wonderfully chatty and fun to catch up with, even when you live many many miles apart.  But is that just part of the definition of a modern blogger or an add on to the core essence of blogging?

The short answer is that of course there’s room for everyone; you are no less a blogger if you write one post a month without pictures and write entirely for yourself, only acquiring a reader by bizarre Google search results, than if you have hundreds of thousands of readers every day/month, are the friendliest chatty person on Twitter and take the Instagram pictures that make the rest of us wonder whether you have a little personal sun that you keep in your pocket and pull out to light your photos.

But what I’m curious about is the median, and I suppose the expectation of a peer group.  The circles that I mix in are parenting blogs, knitting blogs and quilting blogs, and quite often an overlap between all three.  Most of the people whose blogs I real regularly are also on Twitter and Instagram, and probably Facebook too (I’m not big on Facebook), and more than a handful have a pretty impressive YouTube channel too.

And I don’t think it’s born of external pressure to “keep up with the [insert pro blogger of your choice]”, I think it’s been a very organic expansion.  Instagram is first and foremost a lot of fun, as is Twitter. And the reason that it’s fun is because it dials into the very heart of blogging; the people.  Think about it: if you write a tweet, throw it out into the ether and no one answers you or every mentions it again, it’s not half so much fun as if you end up having a chat with someone about the best topping for pancakes.

The reason we all write and publish in a public space and don’t just scrawl things into a battered notebook stuffed into the end of the bookcase is because of the community and the interaction. We write to know we are not alone.

And maybe in another 10 years time all these platforms will seem terribly antiquated and we’ll all be onto something new and exciting that no one has even dreamed of yet all viewed on portable projection screens or something.  But being a blogger will I think mean just the same; sharing our stories, with whoever wants to read them and by whatever means we think is the most fun.

I’d love to know your thoughts – do you think social media is an intrinsic part of being a blogger now, and do you think it could ever take over entirely?

PS – because I know someone will be thinking it because I would be – yes, my inner maths geek is now terribly tempted to repeat the experiment in reverse and spend a month blogging less but being terribly chatty on social media just to see what impact that would have,  but I promise that if I’m writing less here it’s because I’ve been writing a lot at work and I want to knit instead and if I’m taking more Instagram pictures, it’s because the sun came back and I’ve missed it!

Blogging Crafty Ideas Elma Family Inspiration Kitty Pause for Thought Photography Pip

Five things for a Tuesday {February}

09/02/2016

One: I absolutely love this post by Sarah Ockwell-Smith looking at whether gentle parenting will always be at odds with mainstream schooling by interviewing an awesome teacher currently working in mainstream school. It’s a fantastic counterbalance to so much of what we see in the media about how our schools are full of teachers who were once inspired and in love with imparting knowledge but are now tied up in red tape to the point of quitting the profession, and a lovely view of how a school can be perfectly functional without having to resort to the “sit still in a line and memorise this” version of education.

Two: There’s usually a pretty fast turn around time between my writing these posts and them actually going live.  Sometime I’m publishing straight away, sometimes I might write in the morning and schedule for the next day, but there isn’t much of a gap.  It’s a huge contrast to work where my drafting will sometimes be reviewed and reviewed and reviewed again before it ever leaves the office.  This podcast talks about the editing process and it’s a wonderful reminder of how important that can be – and a fun listen too.  Space for the Butterflies

Three: I love doing wet on wet watercolour painting with the children; mainly because my drawing and painting of actual things skills needs quite a bit of work, and this sort of watercolour painting, where we usually just use a couple of colours and let them blend themselves, has all the peaceful bliss of laying down colour in swirls and none of the “what was it you were trying to make” problems.

Space for the Butterflies

(photo by H proving that he has not been oblivious to 10 years of my putting projects in the shrubbery for photographs!)

Even Pip is big enough to join in, and because he just gets one little pot of colour there’s less for him to throw around and a lot of it does end up on the paper.  It means we’re building up a fair stash of finished pictures so I’ve started to use them as backgrounds for the girls other drawings, and for this week’s crafting with the girls we painted with red, pink, orange and yellow and then I cut out a whole heap of hearts (the big ones traced from a biscuit cutter and the little ones freehand) to make a Valentine’s day garland for the lounge, and I love how it turned out.

Space for the Butterflies

Four: Becky’s post on the right to feel out of sorts when you feel out of sorts is a really thought provoking read and raises an interesting question about the reality of life versus what you put out on the internet.

Five: and finally, via Design Sponge, who has a very pretty illustrated version of it here, a quote from Joseph Chilton Pearce:

“To live a creative life, we must loose our fear of being wrong”

True indeed.

 

Family Photography Pip {the ordinary moments}

Pip and the Pigeons

07/02/2016

Kitty has always been a little timid around birds.  She liked feeding ducks as long as they stayed the other side of the park railings, and I still remember having to recloate to feed the swans and geese from the top of a bridge in Stratford because she was a bit worried that they could jump up out of the water.  Ducks at least have the cuteness factor going for them, especially with babies in tow but the pigeons that try to gather under the feet of a toddler making crumbs were definitely persona non grata, and when she was really little I used to have to maintain a sort of pigeon cordon around us or she’d get really worried.

Elma is more ambivalent but she follows where Kitty leads and more to the point I think she rather enjoys Kitty’s method of seeing off pigeons (running at them shouting “Raaaa!”.

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And then we have Pip.  Utterly fearless (like his father before him so I’m told) and a very carful observer of the big sisters, he will happily run at the pigeons all day long.

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But he doesn’t shout “Raaa!” as he waddles after them as fast as his little legs can carry him, he just chases, arms outstretched, gleeful smile all the way.  And as I watched him pottering around the park in the sunshine I could come to only one conclusion. 20160130-DSC_0128

I’m pretty sure that Pip is trying to catch one.

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Given that he gets faster every day and the pigeons at our park aren’t particularly afraid of people, I’m thinking it may only be a matter of time before he pounces.  Hopefully the pigeons haven’t eaten too much leftover bread and can still fly fast enough to escape from a toddler with friendly intentions.  Or Maybe we need to try to divert him on to squirrels; they can at least run faster!

Joining Katie at Mummy Daddy Me for The Ordinary Moments

Elma Family Kitty Living Arrows Photography Pip The 52 Project

6/52 {the 2016 portraits}

06/02/2016

Linking up with Jodi and Living Arrows with a portrait of each of my children once every week for 2016.

Space for the Butterflies - the 52 project

Kitty: My lovely eldest girl, all smiles for the group shot that isn’t exactly happening! I love those moments when all we have to do is look at each other to share the joke and the giggle at the crazy idea of your Mama wanting a picture of all three of her little ones!

(Nikon D80, 35mm 1.8 lens – 1/100, f/4.5, ISO 320)

Space for the Butterflies - the 52 project

Elma: Well they’re just possibly not quite your actual footprints sweetheart.  This week you told me that you weren’t a baby anymore,
“I’m sorry, poppet” I replied, “You’re my big grown up girl aren’t you?”
“No Mama!” you said, with all the indulgent amusement of someone who knows the answer is obvious, “I’m not growed up yet!”

It’s true, you’re my perfectly little, little girl. We had a family trip for shoe fitting this week and while you sister’s feet get ever longer and thinner, and your brother’s get longer and wonderfully chubby, you my sweet stayed exactly the same.  And for that I thank you. Also, your red shoes are very cute and I wouldn’t want you to be done with them just yet. One of these days your feet might match up to those footprints but I’m in no hurry to wish these days away.

(Nikon D80, 35mm 1.8 lens – 1/160, f/4.5, ISO 320)

Space for the Butterflies - the 52 project

Pip: Oh I think this might be one of my favourite photos of you at this age; you’re just tall enough to reach the xylophone in the sensory garden and you love hitting the chimes as hard as you possibly can – happiness personified.

(Nikon D80, 35mm 1.8 lens – 1/250, f/3.2, ISO 320)

A Year in Books Books Elma Family Kitty Photography Pip Reading

One for them and one for me: Books for February

04/02/2016

One for them: Captain Jack and the Pirates

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I almost don’t want to share with you my choice of children’s book for this month.  Not because I don’t think you’ll want to rush out immediately and buy/borrow it, or because there’s some sort of a national book shortage, or because I’ve already bought all the copies and I’m hoarding them, no, it’s simply because this is such a sweet and wonderful story that I don’t want to spoil it for you.

Captain Jack is the answer to the question, what happens when one of your favourite children’s writers (Peter Bently, he of the Cats Ahoy, Shark in the Dark, Magnificent Sheep in their Flying Machine and Meet the Parents fame – to name but a few!) teams up with one of your favourite illustrators (Helen Oxenbury, probably best known for We’re going on a Bear Hunt)? The result is an instant classic and a family favourite of ours from the first page.

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“Jack, Zak and Caspar, brave mariners three, were building a gallion down by the sea.”

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With a stick for a mast and a shirt for a sail it’s every inch the kind of sand boat I used to make when I was little.  And once built it’s imagination that takes our intrepid trio out to from shore to do battle with fierce pirates and sail the seven seas.  Well until their boat takes a broadside from the incoming tide and it’s every man to save himself as they land exhausted on a desert island.

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It’s full of wonderfully technical sailing words that I love, just for the excuse to build them into my children’s vocabulary despite their rather landlocked childhood!

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And I love the way that what’s happening in the boys’ imaginations is so beautifully overlaid with the real life day on the beach.  I suspect that as far as Elma is concerned it’s all “real”, I don’t think she’s quite old enough to see the two, but Kitty is, and does, and I can see how much of a giggle she gets out of the benign pirate parents who ‘capture’ our heroes, wash them, dress them, cuddle them up, and then share ice cream all round.

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it is the perfect story for cuddling up with all three of my little pirates in my arms and dreaming of sunny days at the seaside and making some plans for the summer.

One for Me: An Officer and a Spy

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Picking up a Robert Harris book is like pulling on warm fluffy socks, snuggling up under a quilt with something nice and warm and just wallowing in a good story.  I started with Enigma (the book that inspired the film) many years ago and I’ve yet to read a book of his that I could put down before I’d finished.  Harris’ modus operandi for a story is ‘one man with knowledge fights against the system that wants him to conceal it’, and he has an incredible skill for weaving genuine historical fact into a compelling tale.

An Officer and a Spy is the story of the Dreyfus spy scandal, which a whole heap of reviews described as “the best known spy scandal in history” and which I’d never actually heard of.  The historical background was that a Jewish office in the French army, Alfred Dreyfus, was convicted at military court martial of having been spying for the Germans, based on little more than supposition, and some nicely manufactured evidence which was neither shown to the defence team nor examined in open court.  Having been publicly shamed and his rank stripped from him he was sent to the French penal colony at Devil’s Island.  And that, give or take, is where our story starts, because just as Dreyfus lands at his god forsaken island, so our narrator, Georges Picquart, becomes head of the Statistical Section of the French army, the equivalent of MI5.

It is Picquart who realises that Dreyfus isn’t the spy and Picquart who risks and sacrifices his own position to assert his innocence.  He’s painted as a wonderfully complicated and flawed individual; he fights his cause not really for someone he admits that he doesn’t really like very much, but both against and to protect an institution that he truly loves as family, the French army.  And he does so in the name of honour and truth, because his conscience can’t let him leave it alone, and yet his personal morals are not free from reproach.

And the result, well if you wanted to know what happened to Dreyfus the key is that it became a scandal, so I don’t think I’m giving anything away if I say that justice is served. Eventually.

Being able to hazard a guess at the ending doesn’t spoil the story, just heighten the suspense for when the moment is going to come, and more than knowing that the volcano was going to erupt in Pompeii, and that’s the magic of a true storyteller.

Thank you so much to everyone who joined in in January for our inaugural month, I hope your reading lists grew ever longer (I’m half way through the audiobook of A Year of Living Danishly and both H and I are completely hooked – thanks Vickie!), and I’m so looking forward to seeing what you have to share this month.  So please do link up below and go and say hi to Claire and Katie my lovely co-hosts – happy reading!