A quick make

A quick post as I’ve been working in Manchester today so a good five hours travelling there and bac. A friend of mine had a baby girl last week and I wanted to make a card but didn’t have time to go out and buy materials so this was made from my existing stash, thrifty but it was nice to put together some materials that I’d forgotten I had, including some lesser used washi tapes.

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Research Skills for Bloggers

As you know in my work and studying a big part of what I do is social research. I find the relationship between research and blogging to be a close one; research helps my blogging and blogging helps my research. I find new topics, organise my thinking and plan using my research skills, and in my work I find blogging forces me to give my personal opinion, to work fast and be reactive to key issues that might increase my influence in the blogosphere.

Research skills relevant to blogging are about:

  • Systematising
  • Defining a question
  • Analysing data (anything can be data, we’re not just talking statistics here)
  • Unpacking complex issues
  • Observing and
  • Arriving at conclusions and understanding their limitations

Five research tips for bloggers

  • Make media alerts work for you

This is something I’ve always done for work but didn’t think about doing for my blog until recently. So my blog focus is a) parenting, but more specifically parental mental health, eco-parenting and child development. Once you can narrow the focus of your interest in this way and understand keywords in these areas you can bring new blog post ideas directly to your inbox by harnessing the power of alerts. I use google alerts but there are lots of tools out there. I have alerts set up for mothering and mental health and working parents. This week these alerts brought a story from the media directly to me, the headline that ‘Working Mother’s no longer Feel Guilty’ so within an hour I had a ‘hot topic’ at my fingertips and could blog in time to join in with the discussions across social media. Alerts help me to be reactive and drive interesting content relevant to my readership. If you’re interested in policy and commenting on institutional approaches to your blog interests you could set up alerts from relevant government departments. I like to get Department of Health alerts in the area of mental health for example. Getting the keywords right can involve a bit of trial and error but once you get it right you have live issues arriving straight to your inbox saving you research time and maximizing the effectiveness of your reading time.

  • Ask questions of data and stories

Ever see a media headline and just run with it? I am really interested in media literacy, asking the right questions of what we’re told rather than accept the journalist’s interpretation. This was highlighted really nicely this week.

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My quick view of this graph told me that gun crimes fell following the introduction of the ‘stand your ground’ law. But take a closer look, the Y axis has been flipped so what looked like a sharp fall actually represents a sharp rise.

Don’t forget to ask:

  1. Who created the message?
  2. What opinions or biases might they have?
  3. Why this headline? What is it trying to achieve?
  4. Might others understand this differently than me?
  5. Is there anything that is omitted from the article? Could I do some more reading around this to see what’s missing?
    • Find new sources in untapped areas

So you usually read fellow bloggers, mainstream news and online magazines. What are you missing? How about reading new sources to find ideas for new material, what about an online journal in your area of interest? It might be quite academic or heavy but have a message you could write in a way your readers might like. I am really interested in motherhood and there’s a great free academic resource called Mamsie an online journal with a lot to say about my area of interest, an untapped resource that I now love to browse for new ideas.

    • Define your question

This is all about critical thinking, so you want to write an engaging blog piece, how can you unpack your topic for your reader? Do you need to define the issue for them? Maybe you need to explain the history of the issue, what is the main idea you want to bring across? Are you wanting to open up a debate, start a conversation or convince someone of your argument? Do you have enough evidence to back up your argument, or a new idea that hasn’t been talked about yet? If you’re writing a piece you think you’re going to want to promote then defining your research question can be a useful starting point.

    • Draft and restructure

Though scientific in its approach I actually see research as a craft, refining and redefining, drafting and restructuring to help the flow of an argument I see a lot of potential for creativity. Mindmapping is my favoured way of looking at an issue, of drafting and then restructuring my points. This mindmap came out of my prep for my recent post on working parents, it didn’t take long but cut my drafting time as I knew what I was going to say before I started blogging:
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What about you, do you apply non-traditional blogging skills to your blogs?

Wooden Lolly Stick Washi Tape Plant Markers

Quick and easy why use plain sticks when you can add a flash of colour?

We’ve been daisy picking today and my mind wandered onto some of the new varieties of plants we bought this year, clearly the herbs are easier to identify but geranium ringo rose looked great so it’s worth remembering the name for next year and marking them up now.

Take a handful of lolly sticks, apply washi tape in a straight line top to bottom, cut and then trim any excess and round the corners, then take a perma-marker and write your plant names directly onto the tape.

Never to young for a rainy day craft box!

At school I loved a rainy playtime, stuff came out of the cupboard that you only got to see on a rainy day, the novelty factor was high!

I started a craft box for those days when Joss and I needed a distraction.

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It’s something new and different from the usual or for grouchy days where something she hasn’t seen for a while takes her interest and calms her. Teething days can be especially tough as she seemingly goes from one dangerous activity to another because she feels frustrated! On days like that I find it hard to concentrate so I have stuck a list in the box lid with ideas for messy play:

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It includes the ingredients for playdough and mentally prompts me to remember something I read a while back, that children are the opposite of gremlins and find water calming so if she starts to get a bit ‘gremliny’ there are some bath activities on there too!

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Anyway, what’s in the box?

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I buy the contents from charity shops, discount stores and supermarkets, if you’d like to stock your own here’s our rundown of the things we like:

Felt pens, pencils and crayons
Pipe cleaners
Pom poms
Tongs and small pots for picking up pom poms and sorting
Googly eyes
Nice pieces of scrap papers
Blank card
Glitter
Shredded paper
Sponges and paint rollers
Paint
Stickers

And what we currently have:
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We’ve been doing a lot of painting recently
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But we’ve also been exploring, mainly pom poms and pipe cleaners at the moment, pipecleaners pushed in the holes of a colander are a big favourite, as is picking up and sorting pom poms with tongs!

What’s in your rainy/grouchy day activity box?

A Day Out with Cbeebies and Friends

Real Life

This sticker from earlier in the week, worn ironically then, now speaks the truth!

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This week saw me take Thursday off to take Joss to the Cbeebies big band show, Katie, Andy, Mr Bloom, Mr Tumble, the Zingzillas and Rastamouse himself put on a brilliant show and Joss did me proud for the 100 minutes which I was nervous might be 30 minutes too long! The interesting thing about an Arena is that it’s so loud and noisy no-one can hear you scream! When Joss started to have a little bit of a tantrum she realised I couldn’t hear her and looked really shocked, then burst out into peals of laughter! Clearly we need to go on big days out more often as on the way home on my back in her sling she said ‘I had a nice day Mammy’ – gorgeous heart-warming stuff!

Blogging

My favourite posts from this week were crafty ones here and here, though these flapjacks got a good reception both at home and here on the blog.

I also had a guest post with The Mini Mes and Me and really enjoyed sharing my post with a different audience too!

Then this post got people talking over on Facebook and my blog, lets here it for all parents, do you agree the term Working Mother is redundant?  We’re all working parents!

I’m working on a new post at the moment, coming next week, sharing my experience doing the two week wardrobe challenge, more to come but it involved me putting all of my clothes shoes and bags into a binbag or two and living with a completely empty wardrobe for a bit!

More on that later, and for now, TTFN!

Mums' Days

- See more at: http://www.mumsdays.com/#sthash.vHhCSsdn.dpuf

Easter Egg Eyes Printable Game!

As part of my toddler play series we’ve been looking at new ideas for play at home, especially on a rainy day.

Joss and I have been drawing faces recently, as she knows most body and face parts now.  We’ve been playing with a set of googly eyes I picked up in a local craft shop for 50p this week and have progressed from these drawn pictures and I’ve been making printables for her to put the eyes on.

They started off all over, now she’s starting to put them in the right place!

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On my list of things I never thought I’d say – “put your eyes in the pot now Joss it’s tidy up time!”

I made an easter egg printable for her and thought others might like to use it either with googly eyes or just circles of paper with eyes drawn on!  For older ones try a ‘pin the eyes on’ style blindfolded version!

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Happy Easter Folks!

Ethans Escapades

Docrafts Creativity Magazine, a Gorjuss Review

This recent post I did about getting started with craft suggested that craft magazines could be a really good starting point for inspiration and free materials, they usually come with at least one freebie and ideas inside for makes, for under a fiver you get a good weeks worth of crafting and ideas to keep coming back to again and again.

I jumped at the chance to review the new Creativity magazine last month.  The theme was Gorjuss, by Santoro, whose whimsical slightly dark illustrations I love.

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The magazine

This is what arrived in the post, the March 2014 edition of Docrafts Creativity Magazine complete with three brilliant sets of materials and a set of vouchers for money off further materials:

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The Materials

Spoilt!

The March 2014 edition came with three freebies:

  • A Forever Friends DVDROM of printables
  • Gorjuss ribbon pack in lovely dusky colours
  • Bellissima A6 decoupage and paper pack, again in dusky pinks and blues, I really like that the decoupage pieces and tags are pre-cut to pop out for ease and speed

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Ideas

I love that  Docrafts Creativity magazine contains a great mix of card making as well as other crafts including ideas for makes for kids, cakes, scrapbooking and jewellery making.  There is something for everyone, from step by step beginners guides which hold your hand right the way through a project to more advanced projects like the Gorjuss box on the front cover.  I really enjoyed the article on using mixed media to create unique storage, like this bobbin box:

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The Make

I decided to put the Gorjuss ribbons and Bellissima pack together to make this little Birthday card for a friend, using some of the ideas from the mag for inspiration, and some bits from my own craft materials, I really liked the colours and the two freebies complement each other really well:

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Happy crafting folks!

Disclosure: I received the March issue of Creativity magazine for the purposes of reviewing and all opinions are my own

Crash and burn

Real Life

This blog is currently being quarantined, with a chronic ear infection for our poor girl and flu for Daddy and I this book seems appropriate:

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If I am being honest we are not doing very well, being poorly at the same time is less than ideal and it feels like we are surviving each day rather than living, consequently I will be taking a few days off blogging but hope to be back before long.  The time off work has given me some time to take stock, I think I’ve probably been overdoing it especially the last push to get my dissertation finished, so rest will probably recharge our batteries and do us all the world of good!

Blog life

Naturally a quiet week, although my washi tape post was popular, as was my post about our experience of visiting Paris two years ago

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Inspiration

This post by Oliver Smile has kept me going, the description of surviving illness with a child is hilarious!

Mums' Days

- See more at: http://www.mumsdays.com/#sthash.vHhCSsdn.dpuf

NatStatWeek 2014 – tools

National Stationery Week, who knew?

Here’s my round up of faves from my trusty pen roll, when you work with stats and code data you need colours in your life! I love these little pegs, very handy for crafting!

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These Stabilo fineliners are a must for coding data, lovely true colour ink, mine are short stubby ones and they’re in all my handbags in a rainbow of colours!

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I carry one or two highlighters everywhere again for coding or for Joss to scribble with!

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Obviously with a toddler these are now a must!

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And washi is a big thing at the moment too:

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Do you have tools of the trade that you can’t live without?

Wonderful Washi Tapes and their Uses

Once something has a Hey Girl meme devoted to it you know it’s reached cult status, ladies and gents I give you Exhibit A:

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Washi tape is something of an obsession of mine, it’s eco-friendly;, made from rice, wheat or hemp paper, and as it’s non-plasticky it’s totally repositionable, tearable and removable, so pretty adaptable too.  Washi translates from the Japanese to Wa (Japanese) Shi (tape) and comes in a massive range of widths and designs, I buy mine from Ebay, but supermarkets and stationers are starting to get in on the trend.

Here’s a small selection from my own collection:

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What can you do with it?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, i.e. not on Pinterest, you can’t fail to see Washi crop up in people’s pins if you look closely.

What do you suggest?

Here’s one I made earlier, I used my tapes to cover a lightswitch cover, if I decide to change it I just remove and reposition, cut bits out to add decoration, or, as it’s made from paper and biodegrades, I see no reason why I couldn’t pop it in with my paper recycling.

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Sound Pinteresting?

See more ideas on my board, here
My favourite idea of the moment is from Le Jardin de Juliette, post here
Her Car track idea is ingenious and older kids could reposition it too!
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(from http://lejardindejuliette.blogspot.be/2012/09/washi-tape-car-track.html)