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Thursday, 2 April 2020

2020 Challenges: March Update


2020 Challenges: March Update

2020 Challenges: March Update

WOW! March was not what I (or pretty much anyone else) expected. COV-19 changed our world this past month. 

Our schools here in Italy have been shut since 4th March which has meant I've been working my way around the distance learning systems since then. As this whole situation came out of nowhere the schools weren't prepared for it and as such the first few weeks was mainly spent trying out different platforms for doing, and sending school work. My kids schools don't use the same systems and so it was all doubled.

Then there's been the organising of being in lockdown. Trying to work out routines, making sure my husband has the updated form to take with him when he needs to go out for supplies, and organising simple stuff like food shopping which is no longer simple. Trying to keep the kids from freaking out, and helping them deal with not being able to leave the house. 

I've also not been well. I've had an annoying cough and high temperature. Still not sure for certain what caused it. It did result in our worry levels going up a notch or two though. I am doing better now though, and haven't left the house in weeks so no risk of me having spread it in any case. 

As the situation here in Italy continues to get worse I'm not sure when normal life will restart.  In the meantime we try to stay positive, follow the rules, and do our best with what we've got. 

Needless to say, my progress with my various challenges for March hasn't been great. The small amount of free time I've had I've either been too ill, or just not in the right mental state to do much.



You might also like: 2020 Challenges: January Update


The Blog Audit Challenge 2020

This is a challenge I created aimed at improving our blogs. You can find full details here in case you missed the introduction post. The goals for March were all related to trimmings. 

Website banner

I didn't get round to working on updating my website banner unfortunately. Hopefully I'll be able to catch up once everything settles down a bit here. 

The Sidebar

I already did a huge declutter of my sidebar when I did my last big website redesign so there wasn't really much to change. The one thing I did want to do was to add a link to my resources page to make it easier to find (especially given the work I did on it as part of the February challenges). 

The Footer

Again, I already did a make over of my footer and so I didn't have anything to change there. 


The Audiobook Challenge

This challenge is was created by Eline from Lovely Audiobooks. I'm doing it as a year long challenge. 

2020 Challenges: March Progress Report #AudiobookChallenge2020




Audiobooks listened to this month:
  • Unfortunately I didn't manage to add any new audiobooks to my list this month.  Hopefully April will be a better month. 

The A to Z Reading Challenge


Next up is the A to Z Reading Challenge. Slow progress here too this month. Just one title added to my list this month. 



Books read this month:

N- Nobody's Perfect by Douglas Clark

Armed with a Bingo

I didn't make much progress with the Armed with a Bingo challenge this month either. 


2020 Challenges: March Update Armed With A Bingo


Books read this month:
  • A book with a number in it's title: 1996 by Kristy McManus

2020 Challenges: March Update



Wednesday, 1 April 2020

Blog Audit Challenge 2020: April Challenges


Blog Audit Challenge 2020: April Challenges #BlogAuditChallenge2020

Blog Audit Challenge 2020


Welcome back for another month of challenges for the Blog Audit Challenge 2020!

I hope you did well with the March challenges, and linked up your progress reports in the March Link Up. 

Each month we'll concentrate on a different area of our blogs.

The Challenges:


January- Plan of action
April- Design
May- SEO
June- Links
July- Quality content
August- Content gaps
September- Developing readership
October- Get social
November- Press and collaborations
December- Know your stats

Monthly link ups

In order to keep us all on track, and give us a way to see each others progress, I'll be hosting link ups on the first Saturday of every month where participants can share their links and discuss their progress. 


#BlogAuditChallenge2020

April Challenges


Our focus for April is on design. 

The April challenges will reinforce branding, improve SEO, and mean we have plenty of images to be shared via social media when promoting our content. 

The April challenges:


1. Images

The right graphics can make a huge difference to a blog. Worried about not having any design skills? Think it'll take up too much of your time to create visual elements to go with your blog posts? Don't panic. There are plenty of tools available online, for free, that make it super easy and will only take you a minute to make. 

Canva is my go to tool for my blog graphics. I created templates for my blog graphics (blog post header, Pinterest, etc...) so that whenever I do a new post I just open the template, update the text, and insert a different background image. It only takes a minute and each image is perfectly sized, ready for posting. 

Make sure every blog post has at least one image.

2. Optimize your images

Make sure every image you post has alt tags. Use keywords to supercharge the SEO on your post. 

3. Readability

Design isn't just about graphics and other images. It's about the whole look and feel of your web page. A big block of text will have readers clicking away at light speed. It just seems like too much hard work. 

Make sure your post is formatted for easy readability. Break text up into smaller paragraphs, use lists (numbered or bullet points), and take into account the white space on the page. Also make sure your text is easy on the eyes. Generally speaking darker text on a lighter background is best. 


Free downloads: You can grab copies of all the extra materials for the Blog Audit Challenge 2020 for free here


Save the Date!

The May challenges will be posted on 1st May. The monthly link up post for sharing your April progress will be on 2nd May. 


Blog Audit Challenge 2020: April Challenges #BlogAuditChallenge2020


Monday, 23 March 2020

Book Review: Us, In Pieces by Tasha Cotter and Christopher Green


#BookReview: Us, In Pieces by Tasha Cotter and Christopher Green #NetGalley

My thoughts about Us, In Pieces by Tasha Cotter and Christopher Green

Disclosure: I got sent a free ARC of this book from the publisher via Net Galley


#BookReview: Us, In Pieces by Tasha Cotter and Christopher Green #NetGalley
Us, in Pieces is a fresh and witty love story that follows two old friends into the unforgiving and wild terrain of the heart.

In college, Lilly Jameson and Adin Driscoll were as close as friends could get, until Lilly leaves unexpectedly and without explanation at the end of their sophomore year. Nearly ten years pass without contact until a sudden invitation from her parents brings them back into each other s lives. Old, unspoken feelings resurface, and they take a gamble on their limited time together: they will be a couple for forty-eight-hours, and then go back to their own separate lives no strings attached.


But when Adin returns to his life in Columbus, Ohio, and Lilly to Denver, Colorado, they find themselves unable to move on. They soon discover that who the other person was and who they've each become is as unclear as the sort of life they could build together.


Are they really the ones they have been waiting for all their lives? Will they each risk the wildly different lives they have begun creating for themselves? Can they bridge a lost decade to rekindle a life-long love and share a future they've only dreamed of?

Told in sparkling prose in the alternating voices of Adin and Lilly, this beautifully crafted, tightly woven, debut novel is an exhilarating roller-coaster ride. Us, in Pieces is an enduring love story across generations.
 






Wednesday, 18 March 2020

Book Review: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald


#BookReview: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald #Spotify #Audiobook

My thoughts about the audiobook The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Narrated by Michael Shannon


#BookReview: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald #Spotify #Audiobook
The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s third book, stands as the supreme achievement of his career. First published in 1925, this quintessential novel of the Jazz Age has been acclaimed by generations of readers. The story of the mysteriously wealthy Jay Gatsby and his love for the beautiful Daisy Buchanan, of lavish parties on Long Island at a time when The New York Times noted “gin was the national drink and sex the national obsession,” it is an exquisitely crafted tale of America in the 1920s.






Friday, 13 March 2020

Book Review: Killing Me Softly by Bianca Sloane


Book Review: Killing Me Softly by Bianca Sloane

My thoughts about Killing Me Softly by Bianca Sloane



Book Review: Killing Me Softly by Bianca Sloane
On a bitterly cold January evening, Tracy Ellis went for a jog along Chicago’s snowy lakefront and disappeared. Her body was discovered days later, her beautiful face bashed in with a rock. Police determine her brutal death to be a mugging gone wrong and drop the matter into their cold case files.


Over a year later, Tracy’s sister, Sondra, still can’t come to grips with what happened. She throws herself into her work as a documentary filmmaker to try and forget the cruelty of her sister’s death. However, a chance encounter with a man from Tracy’s past rips the wound open and sends Sondra on a desperate search for answers about the secrets from her sister’s life that may have led to her death.



As Sondra struggles to uncover what happened to Tracy, she’s launched into a tangled web of deceit and danger that put her on a collision course with life and death…








Friday, 6 March 2020

Book Review: Agatha Christie: An Autobiography


#BookReview: Agatha Christie: An Autobiography #Audiobook

My thoughts about the audiobook Agatha Christie: An Autobiography

Narrated by Agatha Christie


#BookReview: Agatha Christie: An Autobiography #Audiobook
Back in print in an all-new edition is the engaging and illuminating chronicle of the life of the "Queen of Mystery". Fans of Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple and readers of John Curran's fascinating biographies Agatha Christie's Secret Notebooks and Murder in the Making will be spellbound by the compelling, authoritative account of one of the world's most influential and fascinating novelists, told in her own words and inimitable style - and here in her own voice. These audio excerpts were dictated by Agatha Christie herself. 
The New York Times Book Review called Christie's autobiography a "joyful adventure," saying, "she brings the sense of wonder... to her extraordinary career."
Please note: This is a historical recording, and the audio quality is reflective of the time in which it was recorded.








Wednesday, 4 March 2020

2020 Challenges: February Update

2020 Challenges: February Update

2020 Challenges: February Update

February just flew by, so it's time for an update on my progress for the various challenges I'm taking part in.

I had a slower month as we all came down with a nasty flu. Lots of time resting in bed away from my computer, and unfortunately with evil headaches that made reading difficult. Needless to say I didn't make the progress I'd hoped for. 



You might also like: 2020 Challenges: January Update


The Blog Audit Challenge 2020

This is a challenge I created aimed at improving our blogs. You can find full details here in case you missed the introduction post. The goals for February were all related to information. 

About page

I only made a few small changes to my about page, although I do want to update the photos on site in general as my hair has grown and so it feels right to do an update so what you see on site matches my current look. I'll probably do that when we work on the graphics part of the Blog Audit Challenge

Legal Disclaimers

This part took some research. I updated my legal disclaimers and policies not that long ago, but these things tend to change quite often and so it's important to stay up to date with the latest rules. 

Resources page

This is the task I dedicated most time to this month. My resources page left a lot to be desired so I'm super happy to have finally taken some time to work on it. 

I decided I wanted to use my resources page as a way of categorizing some of my blog posts as well as highlighting some of the affiliate programs I'm part of, and some of the tools I use on a regular basis. 

It's definitely more functional now than it was before. It's a work in progress that I'll be adding to as I move forward with my blog so hopefully it'll turn into a useful hub that readers can come back to time and time again. 

As I've worked on my resources page I've been thinking about additional resources I could add to make it more valuable to my readers. I've come up with a list of files I plan on creating and making available through the page in the near future. 

As a side note, I failed to post on all the days I'd decided on when I did my post schedule as part of the January tasks. I'm still planning on trying for 3 times a week, but may modify it to twice a week if I still struggle to post without illness as an excuse. 


The Audiobook Challenge

This challenge is was originally designed to be done just in January 2020. Well, that didn't happen. I checked with Eline from Lovely Audiobooks and she said that's totally fine for carry on and do it as a year long challenge.



2020 Challenges: February Update The Audiobook Challenge 2020


Audiobooks listened to this month:
  • Agatha Christie: An Autobiography, narrated by Agatha Christie
  • Les Liasiaons Dangereuses by Choderlos de Laclos, narrated by Adjoa Andoh, Janet McTeer, Elaine Cassidy, Morfydd Clark, Edward Holcroft, Dominic West, Una Stubbs.

The A to Z Reading Challenge


Next up is the A to Z Reading Challenge. I started off slowly this month but caught up toward the end of the month. I did finish Stone Cold Heart though with is 471 pages long. Note to self: choose shorter books if you want to make faster progress. 

2020 Challenges: February Update The A to Z Reading Challenge

Books read this month:

S - Stone Cold Heart by Caz Frear
K- Killing Me Softly by Bianca Sloane
U- Us, In Pieces by Tasha Cotter and Christopher Green

Armed with a bingo

Like I just mentioned above, I should make more calculated choices when picking books. Stone Cold Heart was a long book but fell short of the 500 pages that would have got me two boxes in the Armed with a Bingo challenge... which means I now need to read another longer book.


2020 Challenges: February Update Armed With A Bingo


Books read this month:
  • A book which was a gift/borrowed: Stone Cold Heart by Caz Frear (I won a copy of this in a giveaway and so I'm counting it as gifted)
  • A book about friendship/family: Killing Me Softly by Bianca Sloane (A thriller but both family and friendship are strong themes)
  • A book written in a format other than third person: Us, In Pieces by Tasha Cotter and Christopher Green (written mostly in emails, texts, and letters).

2020 Challenges: February Update


Monday, 2 March 2020

Blog Audit Challenge 2020: March Challenges


Blog Audit Challenge 2020: March Challenges #BlogAuditChallenge2020

Blog Audit Challenge 2020


Welcome back for another month of challenges for the Blog Audit Challenge 2020!

I hope you did well with the February challenges, and linked up your progress reports in the February Link Up

Each month we'll concentrate on a different area of our blogs.

The Challenges:


January- Plan of action
March- The trimmings
April- Design
May- SEO
June- Links
July- Quality content
August- Content gaps
September- Developing readership
October- Get social
November- Press and collaborations
December- Know your stats



Monthly link ups

In order to keep us all on track, and give us a way to see each others progress, I'll be hosting link ups on the first Saturday of every month where participants can share their links and discuss their progress. 


#BlogAuditChallenge2020

March Challenges


Our focus for March is on the trimmings AKA your header, side bar, footer, etc...

The March challenges will make sure our supporting content is just as polished as our main content. 

The March challenges:


1. The header

Your header is the first thing people see when they visit your blog and therefore needs to send a clear message about what your site (and you) are. It should set the tone for your blog in terms of style and personality too. It's your very first impression and needs to be a good one. 

I definitely need to improve my own header as it currently does nothing for my site both in terms of design, mood, or communicating what I do. I know it says what I do, but it doesn't show it. Remember that rule they used to teach you about showing not telling. Well, it doesn't just apply to writing. It's a major factor in branding and design too. 

Our first task for this month is therefore to work on improving our blog header. 

A few things to keep in mind:


  • Your style- Is your blog professional or is it more laid back and chill? Does your header set the mood for your blog?
  • Your mission- In the January challenges we worked on our mission statements for our blogs. Is your header conveying that mission? Is it clear what your site is about?
  • Your branding- Does your header match the rest of your branding? 
Not sure where to start? Check out this blog post by Venngage with 5 tips for creating beautiful blog headers.

2. The sidebar

Your sidebar is for that extra content you want readers to find easily. The important stuff you want them to see but can't add to every blog post. It's also an opportunity to strengthen your brand, increase clicks to other content on site, and get more attention to your target content through calls to action. 

In the past I over cluttered by sidebar and so in my last blog audit I did a major declutter. Too much is well, too much. It distracts as opposed to drawing focus. 

Is your sidebar serving a purpose? Is it over cluttered? Is it missing elements that could help drive traffic to your other posts/gain more attention for your services?

Need some ideas for what to include in your sidebar? Check out this post by Hubspot with 7 things your blog's sidebar can't live without.

3. The footer

The blog footer is often given little consideration but can be the perfect place for a strong call to action. 

Looking for ideas of what to put in your blog footer? Check out this post by Orbit Media Solutions with Website Footer Design Best Practices: 27 Things to Put at the Bottom.


Free downloads: You can grab copies of all the extra materials for the Blog Audit Challenge 2020 for free here


Save the Date!

The monthly link up post for sharing your March progress will be on 4th April. The April challenges will be posted on 1st April. 


Blog Audit Challenge 2020: March Challenges #BlogAuditChallenge2020


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