The eeeeeend!

It’s here! September 30th! The last day of Septemblog! I can now proudly say that for the first time in around 15 years of blogging I have successfully completed a blog-a-day challenge.

I completely failed my supplementary challenge to leave 5 comments / follow someone new every day, and it’s probably best you don’t look at my ‘official’ septemblog page, but if I’d made that compulsory I’d have definitely failed weeks ago.

That said, if you’re trying to increase your comments, hits or overall engagement, setting yourself the X comments on blogs per day goal is a must. It shot my hits up, which just goes to show that when bloggers say “commenting is dead”, what they actually mean is “I can’t be arsed to comment any more”.

Engagement has also gone up on my blog Facebook page, with more likes and more posts reaching a greater number of people. I’m not sure if that’s Facebook being clever with some sort of frequency == relevancy algorithm, or whether it’s just the inevitable more posts == more likely to post something someone will want to read.

I did write another blog post today, one that is less ‘meta’ and less cheaty, but I’m keeping that to myself for the time being as I’m not sure my idea will take off yet. You’ll just have to wait and see for that one. In the mean time, yay septemblog!

Teach your children to cook

Would it be controversial of me to suggest that failing to teach your children to cook is neglecting a hugely important of parenting? That is, missing out a huge part of a range of life skills that should be imparted upon your kids.

homemade lasagne

As I lovingly prepared a homemade lasagne earlier (by which I mean threw it together to satisfy my own cravings) I caught myself yet again feeling utterly indebted to my mum and my nan (dad’s mum) for having given me both culinary skills and the encouragement to experiment, which is the root of most of my dishes.

Don’t get me wrong, my mum was no Michelin star chef. She can’t cook meat (anyone who eats beef and lamb well done might as well not bother, sorry mum), and turkey twizzlers were regularly served in our house growing up til that bastard Jamie took them away, but her spaghetti bolognese is rivalled only by my own (of course) and she makes a mean syrup sponge pud.

My nan was of the generation that hand made everything and grew a whole lot of what she cooked too. I have fond memories of my nan’s rhubarb crumble, with fresh fruit straight from the garden and proper custard made the way you’re supposed to.

While I’m not naive enough to believe everyone has the time to both grow and prepare their own food these days, I think relying on the freezer section in your local supermarket and introducing your kids to fresh stuff just once a week alongside your roast does everyone a disservice. It robs children of the opportunity to experience and help with meal prep and robs the whole family of tastes beyond miscellaneous processed yellow crap.

Cooking at home is cheaper and better for you than ready meals and takeaway, and a necessary skill as a self-sufficient adult. Teach your children to cook.

A what’s NOT in my bag post

After asking you beautiful people for blog post suggestions yesterday, you dutifully provided me with several of which I will no doubt make use of a couple over last few days of Septemblog.

Aisling‘s suggestion to do a “what’s in your bag” post would work well if I was like any of the other millions of lifestyle bloggers who do these things and actually have things IN their bag but “my purse” and “my phone” would probably be a short blog post. It got me inspired the other way though: I’ve raided a million “what’s in my bag” blog posts so that I can talk about what’s not in my bag. But first! Here is a terrible photo of my bag, nearly 8 years old, in all its glory:



What’s not in my bag: make-up
Actually, that’s not strictly true. I have a red lipstick in there I’d forgotten about, which was gifted to me by the aforementioned Aisling, but as it’s intention was use for strictly private reasons I don’t count it.

I don’t wear make-up. I don’t own make-up. I definitely don’t carry around make-up.

What’s not in my bag: hair accessories
It’s still not long enough. Next…

What’s not in my bag: notebooks or stationery
I really should carry around a notebook, and I used to, but it inevitably got handed over to the kids for scribbling in which kinda ruined the flow. Plus, my phone has a notes app, what more do I need? (Tbh as most of my inspiring thoughts are in the shower and that’s the one place I don’t take my phone either, I mostly just forget stuff.)

What’s not in my bag: anything children related
I am the worst parent in the world and always forget things like wipes, and how glad am I that Olly is potty trained now and doesn’t need nappies? Thankfully he took to it well, too, because I never remembered a change of clothes. I make them carry their own toys and generally empty my bag of child-related detritus on a daily basis.

What’s not in my bag: food or drink
I live in fear of things exploding all over my phone, which is quite important to me as a point of contact for clients (nobody else ever phones me…)

What’s not in my bag: books or magazines
I only have time to read on the loo, and I rarely take my bag to the loo. (And also not many books or magazines fit in my tiny little bag.)

What’s not in my bag: enough things to warrant carrying a bag
Yes, I sometimes wonder why I even bother carrying a bag at all. As there’s so little in it, I might as well not bother. Except it comes in handy on the occasions I’m not wearing something with pockets and need to juggle kids and phone/purse at the same time. I have considered simply putting my debit card in my phone case and then tada, one less thing to carry.

I somtimes wonder if — now that I’m a grown up ~lady~ who wears grown up dresses — I might one day have a grown up bag with grown up things in (like tissues and reading material and … stuff?)


4 days to go

Yep, four days left in September and I’m getting seriously meta up in here: blogging about blogging about blogging.

I don’t know whether it’s just the fact that I’ve been seriously rushed off my feet for the past week or so, what with travelling to and from Brighton for the SEO conference and then fitting all the work into another short week to get to the last (r)evolution conference on Friday but I’m starting to find it really difficult to blog.

I have a few in progress drafts but the words just aren’t flowing. I’m not even finding any inspiration in my own writing prompts, having used a few already. (And yes, I know that the Septemblog page is massively out of date because I completely FAILED to keep up with everyone else’s posts.)

In an attempt at not giving up at the last minute this is my plea to you guys… is there anything in particular you’d like me to write about? Are you after a follow up to any earlier posts? If you could ask me anything what would it be? Help a blogger out here…

3 things I wish I could tell 13 year old me

As I rapidly approach my 30th birthday I seem to spend more and more time thinking about things that have already happened. I don’t like to live in the past, and I’m not one for dwelling on regrets, but I think it’s important to recognise where we’ve come from and the things we’ve done, so that we can learn from our experiences. That said, life would be so much easier if our future self could get in touch and guide us with the benefit of experience. So what would I have told my 13 year old self if I could?

Never settle for making do
If you have any doubt, any nagging feeling that you’re making the wrong choices, if what you’re doing isn’t making (or going to make) you happy long term, sort it out.

You shouldn’t settle for bad relationships, bad jobs, bad clients or bad habits. Changing things is scary, yes. But fear should be a motivator – a catalyst for change – not a reason to accept the status quo.

You have a right to a voice
Speak up about everything that bothers you. From the mundane to the massive. The quicker you use your words, the faster you can make things happen – be that for you or for those who can’t speak for themselves for whatever reason.

Despite how it feels right now, things will get better
Hold on for the happiness, because you WILL discover it. Eventually.

Web Heroes

I’m currently stealing wifi from Gaz’s work in Shrewsbury having spent the day at the last Shropgeek (r)evolution conference.

As the last talk – by Andrew Clarke – came to an end I got thinking about my origins in web development.

In some ways it doesn’t seem like 5 minutes since I was publishing my poetry, fangirling over Zelda and other games, and telling the world about Neopets, all on Geocities. And yet technically I’ve come a long way: thanks to the likes of Andy Clarke, Jeffrey Zeldman, Jonathan Snook et al.

Shropgeek has introduced me to some of my ‘web heroes’ over the past few years, for which I’m grateful. They paved the way for the likes of me, stirred up passions that it’s easy to forget when you’re knee deep in bugs and trying to figure out how to get the maximum value out of a project to ensure you actually make a profit.

It’s so easy to forget why I started this web stuff, and I love that days like today remind me of the spark.

Mortgage Free in 5 years: half of every invoice goal

Having announced my intention to return to 100% freelance from October, it might therefore be surprising to hear that I’m also going to be attempting a pretty radical goal to try and drastically increase the amount saved to use against my mortgage balance: I am going to try and put away half of every paid invoice each month for the foreseeable future.

I don’t know if this is entirely sensible with the cost of hot desking to think about, my car insurance due in November and the dreaded bank-draining event that is Christmas just around the corner but I’m becoming increasingly aware that I’m not doing enough just bumbling along tucking away passive income. However, with something in the range of £1600+ worth of bills at the beginning of every month, after contributions from Gaz towards his half of the utilities and Karl towards childcare, I’m going to need to earn £1800 as a minimum (per month) to be able to cover the bills and put half away. That’s not including irregular and/or business expenses.

To get me off to a head start, last week I tucked away £500 into my ISA. It wasn’t quite half of the weeks income but with travel to and from Brighton and the inevitable cost of food etc while I was over there, I knew I’d need a bit more in my current account to get by. However, I did what I always do when I go somewhere “new” and I over-spent on stuff I didn’t need, so I need to start setting myself a budget for these occasions too. There has to be a happy medium between radical frugalism (is that a word) and free spending…

100% Freelance

I’ve mentioned a couple of times this month that I’ve been working with a client for a dedicated 8 hours a week to give me a little bit of fixed income and gets me out of the house twice a week. Despite needing to get out of the house, I’ve decided to change the arrangement: as of the end of September I am back to 100% freelance.

Over the next few weeks I have two big projects to finish, I’ve got multiple ongoing fixes and amends for other clients, few new jobs lined up, I need to do some degree of new-client-chasing so that I don’t run out of work after Christmas, and I need to fit in training for my half marathon. Oh and the small matter of raising two children, multiple pets and keeping house too.

In an attempt to prevent a complete mental breakdown I have enquired about some local hot desking this week, which I’ll be doing on a casual basis from next week. If I find that’s working well for me after I’m 100% freelancing again, I might make it a bit more permanent.

Exciting times!

I considered cam-girling to pay my mortgage

I’ve just been moaning on twitter about hitting a bit of a ‘blogging wall’ after 3 weeks of doing pretty well on my Septemblog challenge. In doing so, it occurred to me how lucky I am that — minor ‘every day’ life niggles aside — the only thing I can think of to moan about today is not having a topic to write about.

This time last year I was still trying to come to terms with the realities of lone parenting: mentally, physically and most overwhelmingly financially. Scraping together every spare penny to deal with having to pay all the bills myself, and a bunch of other crap that all seemed to hit at the same time, not least a tax fine/bill of over £950 because of a cock-up I’d made on a previous year’s tax return.

I was broken, financially and (nearly) mentally, and desperately trying to save every penny for massive impending solicitor and IFA bills to finalise the transfer of equity and re-mortgage my house. Bad times.

Anyway. At times — where I was not sure how to make my full time salary stretch any further, and I’d already worked my evenings away doing dev on the side — I would brainstorm ideas that would be low (mental) effort for high return and time and time again found myself pondering the realities of using the world’s (supposedly) oldest profession as a second sideline: I even googled story after story of past and present cam-girls and amateur porn stars to figure out the ins and outs of the industry.

I’m not particularly shy and I have zero issues with nudity. I am, shall we say “intimitely familiar with myself”, and not bothered who knows it. Most of all, thanks to years of other people helping themselves to my body, it isn’t that huge a step to give it away. Seemed therefore a logical jump to turn that into something that could earn me money with little outlay for tech or setup. I could potentially earn hundreds of pounds which would keep the little ones fed and a roof over our heads for a little bit longer.

But I didn’t do it. And while I have since joked about it with Gaz and indeed on twitter, I don’t think I could. If nothing else but because old wounds are healing, and I’m not sure having money in my back pocket is worth opening them up again.


I’ve just seen this tweet on twitter (obvious statement is obvious):

which got me thinking about spiders, as you do (and also wondering where that little guy’s other leg got to?) They’re a hot topic in our house at the moment as it’s that time of year where they seem to appear on every wall, window ledge and — quite frequently, in our house, and I don’t understand why — in the bath tub.

Now, I’ve always been pretty scared of spiders. Jump-out-of-my-skin scared. Throw-a-shit-fit-if-one-lands-on-me scared. And then I met Gaz, and through Gaz I met Rosie, his Chilean rose tarantula:


Turns it, it’s quite hard to remain frightened of tiny house spiders when you live with a tarantula. In fact, it suddenly becomes quite obvious how much of a MASSIVE BABY you are being when something several times the size and infinitely more scary looking is happily dwelling mere feet away from you.

Which is a good thing, because now I’m not jump-out-of-skin, throw-a-shit-fit scared. In fact, now I am chief spider remover, even going so far as to pick the little buggers up in my hands and move them to safer places (i.e. anywhere that is not in the bath). This is having a brilliant (positive) effect on the kids, with Olly even asking for a spider to be placed on his arm earlier. It was dead, but a positive step is a positive step.

The only problem, though, is that now I feel empathy for the weird little critters, and in a house with four cats … well, you can probably see why that would be an issue.

Great Highnam Court 10K (and other running news)

In my ongoing quest for a sub 1 hour 10km race time, I completed the inaugural Great Highnam Court run yesterday around the stunning Highnam Court grounds.

Pre-run photo courtesy of the Gloucester Citizen
Pre-run photo with Katy courtesy of the Gloucester Citizen

Unfortunately, I did not get my sub 1 hour time (again), although I am totally blaming this on the fact that I twisted my ankle in a hidden hole at around 3.5km so at one point I wasn’t even sure I was going to finish. I did, however, manage a time of 1:03:42 which amusingly (frustratingly?) is faster than my last 10km which I did not have a twisted ankle for.

Post-run kissy in the gardens of Highnam Court which I'm sharing because my arse looks FAB.
Post-run kissy in the gardens of Highnam Court which I’m sharing because my arse looks FAB.

Thankfully the ankle seems fine today, no swelling and no more than a twinge or two this morning. This is lucky because for some bizarre reason I’ve accepted @zimpenfish‘s offer of his place in the Enigma Fireworks Half on the 7th November. Is 7 weeks enough time to train for a half marathon? Only one way to find out…

(Also, why do I seem to injure myself every time I enter a half?!)


I have covered nearly 550 miles in three days. It wasn’t all intentional, though…

As you know, I drove from Broseley to Brighton on Thursday so that I could attend the #BrightonSEO conference on Friday. I managed to do this (the driving) without the aid of a sat nav, probably more by luck than judgement (and also circling Brighton several times to find the car park I was after).

Friday night, as soon as the conference finished, Aisling and I grabbed some food and hit the road for Gloucester so that we could run today with Katy. Because of roadworks causing an hours delay on the M25, it was decided we’d go a slightly different route along the bottom of the UK through/near Portsmouth and towards Southampton (or maybe the other way around, I forget). So, we did that, and wanker drivers aside we were doing well and making good time.

Eventually we came to a fork in the road and we had to choose. I think we’d already missed the best turn off by this point but I didn’t know this at the time. Anyway, 70mph road, cars up my arse, not a lot of time to make a decision. Left at the fork for some places I’d not heard of, or right for Oxford/THE MIDLANDS. I knew we didn’t want to be in Oxford but Gloucester is Midlands-ish, right?

Suffice it to say we ended up just outside of Oxford (which for those of you — like me, obviously — not familiar with UK geography, Oxford is just above London, maybe left a bit? Gloucester is the other side of the country. It took another hour for me and my roadtrip buddy Aisling to get to our actual location, by which point I had been driving for 4 hours and was a wee bit fed up of shit drivers. More on that another day, perhaps.

I feel deep in my heart that I’ve completed my 30 things before thirty goal to travel across the country without sat nav — in fact one might even say I covered more ground than was necessary! I never qualified it with *actually getting to my destination* after all ;)