April in the Sidebar

Eagle eyed readers will have spotted a few new “faces” in the sidebar this month.  Remember, nobody pays to be featured in the sidebar, I just choose great stuff that I’ve tried and loved. When I sat down to write this I noticed there’s a bit of a masculine  theme to this month’s selection.  Three great companies that I’m sure you’ll be hearing lots about.

 

Let’s start with 9 Meals from Anarchy. I love these guys! I first met Tom and Matt when I interviewed them for a feature on their new veg box scheme a couple of years ago. Back then they had just taken over a tiny small holding on the edge of my village. Today they’re settling in to a new, larger plot and producing this fabulous vegetable stock. There are a few (and growing) stockists, but you can also buy it mail order. I can confirm the postal service is great, your stock will arrive safely wrapped and ready to add to stocks and stews.  We need more Veg Men in the world right now.

Next up is Lakeland Muesli. We first tried this toasted artisan muesli at the Cockermouth Food Fair last year and loved it. Even more I love their story. Like many people born and raised in Cumbria they’ve been trying to find their way back home and starting Lakeland Mues has been part of that “grand plan”.  There are plenty of stockists around Cumbria now selling it (But not enough), so if you’re heading up to the Lakes this year look out for it. It’s fuelling Mr T’s Fred Whitton training and I’ve had no complaints so far! My favourite is the Artman Classic  – but guys, if you ever want to trial a coconut free variety – I’m your gal! You can also buy mail order, so no excuses. It’s far tastier than those faux artisan cereals you buy in fancy cardboard boxes in the supermarket!

Lastly Nom Nom Chocolate. Made in Wales I first discovered it in my local farm shop. I’ll admit I’m a sucker for packaging – but once I tasted it – wow! It’s delicious! We’re partial to the salted caramel, but there always seems to be something new to discover. Once again, check out the stockists lists or buy online.

You can click on the links to visit the websites or find all three on social media.

Have a delicious  weekend x

PS I just want to say a huge thank you to everyone who commented on my last post. I’ve been quite overwhelmed by how many of you have shared your stories on here, Facebook, Twitter and particularly Instagram. There will be a follow up post shortly, but I think it’s pretty clear that we’re all struggling one way or another and it doesn’t hurt to say so occasionally.

Can Your Blog Make You Money?

laptop.jpgA few years ago I was on a training course run by the NUJ for freelance writers. One of the subjects covered was how to make money from your blog, it was really popular among the freelancers, and for very good reasons. In this digital age it’s harder and harder to get work unless you have a great online showcase. So, the theory goes, if you’re spending all this time investing in your blog / website or social media it should earn its keep. So, how do you earn money from your blog? I stopped to think about the ways my blog makes me money and here’s just a few of the strategies I’ve tried, with varying degrees of success.

  1. Sponsored content.If a company sends you stuff for free and you write about it on your blog, that’s sponsored content. This is one of the most common ways  bloggers work for free. It’s not unusual for a craft blogger to be sent yarn, crochet hooks or books. They  might be asked to design a pattern and share it on their blog (or the company’s website) –  a great way to try out new yarns and tools – and great free endorsement for the company. Keep a note of the value of “free stuff” you’re sent, it might count as income when you complete your tax return. Ask yourself how much free work you’re prepared to undertake and look carefully at ways it might lead to a paid commission. Here’s a great post from Stephanie Lau, which shows how to credit those freebies and still create fabulous content. Most of the sponsored content on this blog is product reviews. Often I’ll approach a publisher directly and request a review copy of a new book I think my readers might like. Sometimes PR companies offer to send me stuff they think I might want to try. I’m happy with this arrangement and it works for me.
  2. Advertorial. You’ll be familiar with this if you ever read glossy magazines; when you think you’re reading a great article and suddenly realise it’s just a clever  advert. The best advertorial weaves a story  and makes you think this is a product (or products you can’t do without). If you are interested in how to write “killer” advertorial, this post is a great example of how it can be done well*. You are more likely to be paid for advertorial if you have a measurable following or can demonstrate the extent of your readership. It’s good practice to let readers know you’re being paid to write content, don’t try and pretend you just “went out and bought” that top of the range model or latest “must have” handbag, be honest and your readers will respect you more.
  3. Sidebar advertising. If there is an online shop or company you think your readers might like then a sidebar advert can be a great way to let them know about it. Decide how much you think space on your blog is worth and approach a short list of companies with your proposal. I also use the side bar to show case companies I work with as a thank you for their support. I currently have a few sidebar adverts and affiliate links (see below), I use analytics to measure how many readers click on them. I can use this to decide what kind of adverts and links are most relevant for readers of my blog and tailor content to suit.
  4. Affiliate links. There are plenty of online stores that run affiliate schemes and these can be a great way to earn extra income if you’re prepared to put in a little effort. Here’s another post by Stephanie Lau which shows just how to make affiliate links relevant to your content. Sidebar links and affiliate links can be an easy way to earn passive income (or money for doing nothing!) Once you’ve set up your links and adverts you’ll earn money every time a reader clicks through and buys. This only works successfully if you choose links and ads that are relevant to your readers. By analysing who clicks where on my website  I’ve discovered my readers are far more likely to click through to small independent shops than the “big boys” like Amazon or Love Knitting. This has helped me plan a marketing strategy for the year ahead which is more likely to bring me income.
  5. Paid Content. Unlike most  “guest blogging”, where you might be invited to write content for another  blog for free (or in return for “exposure bucks”**). Paid content actually rewards you for the work you do. There are lots of online journals and websites which pay writers. You can find lists online or get yourself a listing in online directories such as the NUJ Freelance Directory (for members only). If you are approached to write blog posts, contribute free patterns or tutorials think about how much time you spend creating that content and ask yourself how much you are prepared to give away for free.

There are literally hundreds more ways you can make money from your blog and there are lots of websites that can give you tips and ideas. You might want to head over to Kat Goldin’s blog and read this piece on passive income streams which was written with designers in mind. Also worth reading, this article from Standard Issue magazine talks about the role of “the influencer” and is well worth a read for anyone thinking of ways to make money from their online presence.

Will you lose readers if you start placing adverts, accepting sponsored content and using affiliate links? Not if you are honest about it and keep your readers entertained. Telling them about a great product and then giving them a link to where they can buy it is really helpful, and if it earns you a few pennies along the way then it’s a “win win”. Take a fresh look at your favourite blogs and podcasts, take note of how they use sponsored content, ads and affiliate links. Perhaps start with a product review or  include a recommendation in your newsletter. Try to avoid the “Yes, I’m being paid to tell you about this, but honestly,  I’d tell you anyway because I love it” trap. Instead tell your readers why you think they’d  like it and how it helped you.

Do you make money from your blog? I’d love to know what works (and what doesn’t) for you.

Photo credit: Dai KE for Unsplash

*I’ve no idea if this is a genuine post or if it’s sponsored / paid for content. But it’s  perfect example of how to weave product descriptions into your blog in an engaging way.

** Exposure bucks – a fantasy currency paid by big companies in return for your time, skills and effort. Sadly banks and supermarkets don’t accept this as legal tender so be careful how much work  you undertake for “free publicity”, links to your website or shout outs on  social media. 

 

A Time for Family

Family time. It’s the quiet lull between Christmas and New Year, a time for indulging in a little rest and recreation. We made a picnic. Turkey sandwiches naturally; Mr T’s with stuffing and sliced roast potatoes and the teen’s usual turkey and cranberry while my favourite is turkey, cucumber and lashings of salt. We filled flasks, strong black coffee and an old ice cream tub filled with cake. The car packed with coats and wellies, a new cd ready for the journey and an OS map “just in case” we should forget our way.

We’ve been visiting the same stretch of coastline in Anglesey for nearly 20 years, it’s traditional for me to fall asleep in the front seat  before we even pass Wrexham, to wake just as we reach the Britannia Bridge and for the teen to sit “sulking” in the back. We wrap up warm in coats, hats and gloves. This year it was raining hard as we headed for the sand dunes “Why do we do this” we ask ourselves. The beach is deserted, the wind blows the sand in tiny storms along the beach, gulls swoop down, hoping for scraps as we eat our picnic, sheltered by tall rocks.

Then, the sun comes out and we forget the cold, the damp gloves (soggy from rinsing shells to stuff our pockets) and the biting wind. We’re all seven years old again, wishing we’d remembered the kites, whooping with delight as we race a crazy dog along the shoreline, paddling in the freezing sea.

This is family time at it’s best. A tradition we didn’t even realise we had, the post boxing day trip to the seaside. We do it without even thinking about it, and yet, as I rinse  the sea shells and brush sand off my wellies I know I’m already looking forward to next year and every time I pass the dish of cockles and razor clams, mussels and slipper limpets I know I’ll be transported back to this windy day, filled with joy and laughter and know I am lucky.

Find pleasure in the simple things, and be happy.

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Home Baking: Chicken Plate Pie

When I showed my friend Michelle  The Simple Things magazine, I knew she wouldn’t be able to resist it.  So, when she texted so say she’d made the Chicken Pot Pie “…and it was delicious…”, I was determined to give it a go.

The only problem is,  if I served this to Mr T I was sure we’d have the “pie lie” discussion (a “pie lie” is  a perfectly acceptable thing – often served in pubs – it’s casserole with a disc of puff pastry on top . Often delicious but for an old fashioned Northerner like Mr T, there has to be a crisp pastry base or he feels cheated).

So, here’s my version. Just the same filling as The Simple Things version but served as a plate pie, with fluffy baked potatoes and fresh veg.

It was delicious and we’ll have it again.

Chicken Plate Pie

For the pastry

125g butter and 75 g lard

250g plain flour

pinch of salt

cold water to bind

Yes, I know lard isn’t fashionable, but it does make the best, crispest, tastiest pastry and it is worth the effort

For the filling

You’ll to dash out and buy the mag for that bit!

Method

Make the pastry, by hand or in a food processor. What do you mean you don’t know how to make pastry? It’s the easiest thing in the world. Find a video on youtube,  check out Delia, or better still get a friend to show you! Roll half the pastry out on a floured board and place on a floured plate. Place a dish on top and cut around the dish to form the pastry base. Top with the filling. Roll out the rest of the pastry, cut to size and top the pie. make a couple of slits to let out the steam and brush with beaten egg  to give a crisp, brown topping. bake in the oven.

I bake mine at gas mark 5 for 35 minutes, but every oven is different. It should be golden and crisp on the top.

Serve hot and enjoy.

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Seven Things About Me

Last week,  Anne over at Frayed at the Edge gave me a blog award. It was a lovely surprise and as it’s the seventh award I’ve been given by fellow bloggers, it seemed like the right time to pass on some “blog love”. It seems, that in “accepting” this one, I have to tell you seven things about me, so here goes:

1: I failed “O” level cookery (very badly)

2: I have stood on stage at the Royal Albert Hall with Maureen Lipman in front of a full house!

3: My favourite food is crisps (smoky bacon if you’re buying please)

4: My favourite exercise is swimming and it’s my ambition to live by the sea again so I can start each day with a dip in the sea rather than a pool full of chlorine!

5: My greatest achievement is raising a confident and caring child

6: I am very good at pretending to be organised, but in actual fact, my secret is lists, lots of them and texting myself reminders of things not to forget.

7: I keep my laptop in the kitchen and blog while tea is cooking, so the length of a post is often determined by what we’re having to eat!

There, well done if you read to the end! Now, I have to pass the award on to Seven bloggers, so here, in no particular order:

Random Wooliness

Knitsister

The Botanical Baker

Emma Varnam

OOps, this blog deleted from list because I’ve just read the nasty things she wrote about Great British Bake Off :(

Mirandabakes

Little Cotton Rabbits

So there you are, some blogs you may have come across before, some may be new to you, what they have in common is simple: Lovely ladies who love what they do.

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Please Vote for Me

I am rather astounded  and more than a little bit delighted to discover that Baking and Making has been nominated in the Dorset Cereals Little Blog Awards. If you could spare a few moments to click on the link and vote for me it would make my day! Click to Vote

Thank you

Tx

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  • I’m Tracey Todhunter. I’m a freelance writer. specialising in green / ethical living – with a “sideline” in craft!

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  • When you look up from the tv and realise outside is far more interesting! Happy Bank Holiday weekend everyone. I shall mostly be harvesting onions, drinking g&t and reminding myself how lucky we are to have this view.
#slowliving #thankful #girlgardener #mygardenrightnow #cheshirelife #thewayweliveinthecountry #permaculture Finished a new shawl. Far too hot to wear it, but luckily my shed is a great backdrop! Yarn is King Cole Riot. 
#crochet #crochetgirlgang #neverenoughshawls #sheshed #madenotmanufactured #crochetlove Free food! Next best thing to growing your own food is eating other people's homegrown. I'm looking after my neighhour's garden & boy does he have a lot of radishes just now! I have written a blog post about more of my favourite (almost) free foods. Link in profile, now I'm off to pickle these radishes.
#frugalfood #foraging #ediblegarden #growyourownfood #girlgardener #allotmenteering #eattheseasons #permaculture  #zerowaste #slowliving #gardentotable #organicgardening #forktofork I'll admit it, I grow this mostly for it's amazing colour - but the stems are delicious sauted with chorizo or streaky bacon!
#mygardenrightnow #girlgardener #girlsthatgarden #permaculture #growyourown #ediblegarden #bakingandmaking #slowliving #organicgardening I do love a formal garden. I walk through this one every Friday on my way to knit group.  Castle Park is a hidden gem.
#gardens #castlepark #parksandgardens Thanks @simplycrochetmag for featuring my crochet picnic basket :) The pattern is available  now in Simply Crochet celebrations edition. You'll need a cardboard box to upcycle & some chunky cotton yarn, I used DMC Natura XL & finished it off with leather buckles from Bag Clasps. 
#crochet #crochetgirlgang #upcycling #reloved #crochet #makersgonnamake #lovecrochet
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