Review: Gousto Recipe Kit Boxes

This week we have been trying out the Gousto recipe kit boxes. We were sent a voucher code which got us a two meal box for two people to review. We have had and paid for Gousto boxes in the past, so we knew what to expect. 

When you order your Gousto box, you choose from the meals they have on offer that week. They have a broad range of recipes to choose from, all include nutritional information and have estimated cooking times. I’m a vegetarian and there were several interesting meal kits to choose from. I chose the Lentil Veggie Pie and the Egg Fried Vegetable Cashew Stir Fry. 

You can choose 2 or 4 portion options and they will box up virtually everything you need and deliver it to you. The ingredients they don’t include tend to be standard store cupboard things like salt, pepper and cooking oil. 

Review: Gousto Recipe Kit Boxes

My box arrived in great condition, it was packed with a cool pack and everything was fresh and vibrant. As I unpacked the box I checked everything off against the recipe card included. The recipe card for the stir fry had not been put in the box, so I tweeted Gousto and they sent me the link. Almost everything I needed for the lentil pie was there, save for the lettuce and the cheese. I’d not been able to check if everything for the stir fry was included. I discovered later that I was missing several key ingredients. 

The contents of the box, when stored correctly are good for up to six days. The day after the box arrived I decided to cook the lentil pie. I followed the instructions and put the pie together. I did end up adding some extra seasonings to boost the flavour – specifically mushroom ketchup and some chilli sauce. The box was also missing the cheese and I’d been sent 300g of potatoes and not the 400g specified in the recipe, so I had to use additional spuds. I was a little disappointed at this stage.

Review: Gousto Recipe Kit Boxes

Thankfully the lentil pie was an absolute triumph. It was utterly, utterly delicious. The portion size was more than ample for two people and even stretched to feed my six year old son who thoroughly enjoyed it too. We will be making this again!

 A few days later I wanted to throw a quick dinner together. I opted for the Egg Fried Vegetable Cashew Stir Fry. Using my iPad I looked at the recipe Gousto had sent me online and quickly realised I was missing both the rice and the honey. At this point I got a bit cross, but I had some basmati rice in the cupboard, but no honey which I had to substitute for agave syrup.

The recipe called for “fragrant basmati rice” and I wasn’t sure if the rice they should have sent would have included any flavourings or whatever, so I threw one of my own vegetable stock cubes into the rice as it cooked and hoped for the best. I followed the simple recipe online and produced a tasty stir fry. I very much enjoyed it but felt it needed more protein and next time I would have used two eggs instead of one. Or perhaps induced some tofu.

Review: Gousto Recipe Kit Boxes

It was a good stir fry and I enjoyed the crunchy cashews on the top. If I were to make it again I would change a few little things, more egg, some tofu, fractionally less chilli heat.

All in all I think I got a bit of a dud box. I was disappointed that so many key ingredients were missing. If I’d had the recipe card when I’d received the box I could have checked, but I’d trusted that everything I’d need, everything that was key to the recipe would be included and it wasn’t. I’d be pretty disappointed if I’d paid full price for the box and found so many things missing.

One other thing to note is that side dishes aren’t included. The lentil pie was just the pie. Any extra vegetables or accompaniments you might want on the side you will need to provide yourself. 

We have had Gousto boxes in the past. Last year my husband really wanted to cook some nice interesting meals for us. He tried a Gousto box for about six weeks and we really enjoyed trying new things and being a bit more creative with our meals at home. This is why this time I think I got a dud box, we’ve always been happy before.

Review: Gousto Recipe Kit Boxes

A Gousto box costs from £27.49 with free delivery. The cheapest box is for two meals for two people. It is not an inexpensive way to eat. But it is the kind of thing I would order if I was in a cooking rut and needed some inspiration, or if I were going on a self catering holiday and wanted some nice meals for a few days. It’s not something we can justify on a weekly basis, for us a Gousto box would be a treat.

Despite my disappointment with my last Gousto box, I would say that we almost certainly will order them again in the future. Like I said, falling into a cooking rut is a regular thing. I often cook the same family meals over and over until we are all bored stiff of them. A Gousto box is a great way to liven up your meal times. But you do really need to double check that they’ve sent everything they should have.

Grab a £20 discount on each of your 1st and 2nd Gousto orders, on any sized box, meaning the 1st & 2nd boxes could cost £7.49 each. The discount code to use is TORNADO. You can find out which meals are available this week on the Gousto website. Enjoy!

Disclaimer: I was sent a voucher code to purchase a Gousto box, all images and opinions are our own. We were not been compensated for this blog post.

A Mother’s love – how our broken bond was mended

From the first moment I held my newborn son in my arms, I was head over heels in love with him. No, scratch that. Since the moment I knew I was pregnant I loved him. I loved him fiercely and protectively, as a mother should, right from the very start.

He’s six and a half now and I can’t really remember what my life was like before he came along. He has completely changed my life. In the seven years he’s existed I’ve gone to hell and back with my health. I have tortured myself over his health (he’s fine, he’s absolutely perfect, but it wasn’t always so). I’ve lost my career and forged a new one. But most importantly, I’ve discovered what it is to love and be loved back unconditionally. 

A Mother's love - how our broken bond was mended

At various points in his six and a half years, I’ve stopped and looked at him in wonder and thought “right now, right at this very moment he could not get more perfect. This is the best age he has ever been, it can’t get better than this surely?”

I’ve made a point of keeping that moment in my head and storing it away, because it’s impossible for him to get any better than he is at that moment, but it does. I’ve had so many moments of “oh my god, this is the perfect age” that I’m pretty sure that every age is the perfect age.

Before you decide that I look at my son through rose-coloured spectacles, I do not. I am incredibly aware of his faults. I am the person who bears the brunt of his tantrums. I’m the person who has to pick up after this child who walks through the house leaving tornado like destruction in his wake. I am the person who tries to teach him to be a good human, full of care and compassion. My son is not perfect, he is flawed like the rest of us. He’s human, not super-human, but still lovely.

A few weeks ago, over the Easter school holidays we had a night away in Blackpool, just the two of us. We had the best time and it was so good just to chill out and do things together at our own pace. We missed his Dad of course, but it was only two days and he was busy working anyway. 

It’s been a tough 12 months for us. I lost my Dad and he lost his Grandad. It’s been a year of tears and sadness. There have been splashes of light and colour, it’s not all been widow’s weeds and lighting candles in remembrance. But our two days away reminded us both of the good things we have in each other and it has really brought us closer together.

I never thought I’d bond with my son the way I have. When he was two years old I had an accident, followed by two emergency surgeries. I was bed ridden and full of pain medication for 8 months. In that time I was a zombie who couldn’t care for myself, let alone anyone else.

My amazing husband stepped up and parented for the two of us, but in that time the mother-son bond was damaged and it’s taken a lot to get it back. We’ve always loved each other, always enjoyed being with each other, but his go-to parent has always been his Dad and I’ve often felt excluded.

A Mother's love - how our broken bond was mended

Last night my son sleepily presented himself at my bedroom door. He wanted a cuddle because he couldn’t sleep. So he got in with me, we cuddled and then he fell asleep in my arms. I looked at him in the orange glow from the street light outside and my heart swelled with love for him. He is as good as it gets and I am delighted with that.

Right now at this moment, this is the best he has ever been. This is peak Benjamin. He cannot possibly get any better than he is right now. He is funny, helpful, kind, caring, loving and very much his own person. Six and a half is the best age. He is the best, my best and I am blessed by his presence in my life and the bond we share.

A Mother's love - how our broken bond was mended

7 Days: All the nice things which have happened this week

A few weeks ago, after an especially horrid week I wrote a blog post listing the things I was thankful for. It felt good to think about all the good things and helped me focus a little less on the bad stuff.

In a similar vein, I’ve had a run of a good few days where I’ve done nice things with nice people. I thought it would be good to note them down for me to look back on when I’m not having a nice time.

On Tuesday I went to The Lowry Theatre in Salford Quays to watch Michael Morpurgo’s Running Wild. I had an interesting and thought provoking evening, but one thing puzzled me. Why was this seat the only one in the theatre with a plaque on it and why does it bear the name of comedian Stewart Lee? Answers on a postcard to the usual address please.

All the nice things which have happened this week

On Thursday I had a night out with my friend Lucy. We were invited to The Stokers Arms in Didsbury. It was their 3rd birthday and they were launching their new menu. I am a regular at Stokers, they’re incredibly dog friendly and we often pop in for a pint and some dog treats when we go for evening walkies. 

All the nice things which have happened this week

It was really good to sit down and have a proper catch up and natter with Lucy. I don’t go out with her as often as I’d like really. We had a couple of bottles of wine, sampled some beer from the Bluepoint Brewery and tried out some of their new menu.

We were hungry, so we tucked into this sharing board – known as the “Hipster”. It was piled high with good stuff. Halloumi and chorizo kebabs, chicken lollipops, breaded chicken with a delicious katsu dipping sauce and a pile of nachos. The board came with a huge portion of tobacco onions (finely cut and deep fried so the looked like rolling tobacco) which were spicy and hard to stop picking at.

All the nice things which have happened this week

The menu at The Stokers is excellent for soaking up beer and designed for sharing. We had such a good night out, we won’t leave it so long next time.

The weekend was a lovely sunny one. I was mindful that the fine weather wouldn’t last. So while I was at work on Saturday the boys got the paddling pool out. They had a splash and a water fight and made the most of the sunshine. I was a bit jealous when I got home, but I was glad they’d had fun together.

All the nice things which have happened this week

The road we live on is lined with trees. April is the very best time to walk up and down the road. The cherry trees are covered in blousy blossom. I wanted to take some pictures before the delicate blossoms disappeared. On Sunday, St George’s Day we went out in search of pink petals with my little knight of the realm. 

All the nice things which have happened this week

We were not disappointed. The pavement was awash with soft pink petals, it was quite a lovely sight and a lovely end to our week. 

I’ve had a lovely fun few days. It’s nice to feel the warm sun again, to spend time with friends, to laugh and do nice things. Nice things are underrated. Go on, go forth and do nice things.

Top Tips for Family Road Trips 

It’s just you, the car, your family and the open road – what could possibly go wrong? Very possibly, quite a lot, here are some top tips for successful family road trips.

Everyone has been there at some point. The long-awaited family holiday is finally here, the kids are more than just a little bit excited, dad is working out the best route (he doesn’t need to ask for directions, of course) and mum is playing the role of peacekeeper. Fairly standard stuff.

It is part and parcel of any family holiday. To be somewhere, you have first got to get somewhere. Thankfully, here are some tips that we are sure you will find more than helpful as you settle in for the ride.

Top Tips for Family Road Trips 

Consider Your Route

To allow for as smooth a journey as possible, try to map out a route that will have as little delay as possible. The shortest route is not necessarily the quickest, especially if that route involves going out onto busy congested roads that are prone to traffic jams. No one likes sitting in traffic for hours on end, not the driver and especially not the children.

Take into consideration what time you begin your journey, as this can also make a massive difference to your journey time. Obviously, if you are setting off during rush hour you can expect a far more congested road than if you started your journey at night or early in the morning.

Unsurprisingly, a lot of accidents occur during the morning and evening rush hours, however, noon is statistically the most dangerous time to be on the road.

Comfort

To get your family holiday off to the best start possible, it is essential that everyone is as comfortable as possible. This means checking that your vehicle’s interior is up to scratch, the air conditioning is working and any other essentials are included.

It might be worth looking into car hire for your family, especially if you are staying away for a prolonged period of time. If your holiday will involve a lot of travelling, taking the steps to ensure that everyone is as comfortable as possible will take away a lot of stress that can be caused.

Also be sure to factor in comfort breaks into your journey. Most children will not be able to last more than a couple of hours without needing to use the toilet, and it is also not advisable to drive for more than two hours without at least taking a small break.

Entertainment

Have you ever been on a long journey without any form of entertainment? No radio, no music whatsoever, and not even any mobile signal…boring! If you are unsure as to how you would cope, just imagine what it must be like for children. Little ones become bored very easily, and if they are bored they are going to let you know about, which is the last thing you need when driving for long periods.

Bring along some of the kids’ favourite toys, within reason, of course. Ensure that any electrical devices have spare batteries, or the ability to be charged while in the car because, if the power dies, you will hear about it.

It is always best for families to have fun together. While toys and gadgets are great for occupying children, they can easily be lost in their own world during a time which is meant for family bonding. Simple games such as I-spy, storytelling and 20 questions are fun and cost-free activities that everyone in the family can take part in to pass the time.

With these handy tips, you and your family will be guaranteed a pleasant and stress-free start to your holiday.

This is a guest post.

Days Out: Madame Tussauds Blackpool

Blackpool is the Vegas of the North. As a Manchester lass, Blackpool has always been my first port of call for days out, trips to the beach, or for a fun mini break. There is so much do see and do in Blackpool, it’s very easy to fill a couple of days. I recently took my son on a trip to Blackpool and amongst all the traditional bucket and spade fun, we visited Madame Tussauds Blackpool.

Days Out: Madame Tussauds Blackpool

The last time I visited Madame Tussauds Blackpool maybe 30 years ago and I don’t really remember much other than the Princess Diana waxwork. I know they keep their waxworks up to date, so I was interested to see what, or rather who would be there. 

We got our tickets and we were ushered through to see Simon Cowell. Lots of people were having pictures taken with him and we don’t watch talent shows so we just walked past him and to Paddy McGuinness, John Bishop, Gok Wan and Chris Tarrant. We didn’t linger as my son had no idea who these people were and I don’t watch their shows either. 

Through the doors and by the stairs stood John Thaw and Helen Mirren being good cop, bad cop. We paused for a photo with John Thaw, who grew up near where I live and my Grandma knew him when he was a boy. 

Up the escalator we found more reality TV stars (we don’t watch those kind of shows either). We managed to spy Ben Fogle and David Attenborough amongst the elaborate I’m A Celebrity areas, which we mostly skipped because it was busy. That said, we did enjoy looking at the frogs.

Days Out: Madame Tussauds Blackpool

Once you’ve escaped from the I’m A Celebrity area, you move on to the sports zone, which was a bit more like it. Even I recognised a few faces, Wayne Rooney, Joe Hart, Lewis Hamilton, Mo Farah, Gary Lineker etc. 

From the sports zone, your next stop is the Rovers Return, which is a working bar where you can get drinks and snacks. Bet Lynch is behind the bar looking fierce. It’s an ideal stopping point if you need a break. But my son has never seen Coronation Street and was keen to move on. So we did. 

I was pleased to find myself in the music zone. Where Freddie Mercury and Michael Jackson were the most notable stars. Again, talent show singers dominated, with Olly Murs, Susan Boyle and Leona Lewis featuring. 

Days Out: Madame Tussauds Blackpool

Moving on to “Best of British”. We met Hugh Bonneville as he was in the Paddington movie. Plus Morecambe and Wise, some of the Ab Fab gang and Her Majesty and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Ben was very pleased to be standing next to the Queen.

Days Out: Madame Tussauds Blackpool

I was hoping my son would enjoy the “Family Favourites” area a little more, which he did. He enjoyed seeing Spider-Man, Bob the Builder and Sooty and Sweep. I would have liked to have seen a bit more in this area, but it was good there were some things he recognised.

Days Out: Madame Tussauds Blackpool

One area my son really enjoyed was the mirror maze and funny bendy mirrors. It’s worth taking a few minutes to enjoy rather than rushing through. 

At the end of our tour of Madame Tussauds Blackpool was a room full of classic comedians. Ken Dodd, Tommy Cooper and The Two Ronnies were probably my highlight of our visit. 

Days Out: Madame Tussauds Blackpool

There was a small display about how they make the waxworks. I would have liked a bit more on the behind the scenes aspect really. It was also very loud in some areas. If you are troubled by loud noises, music and cheering then you might want to wear earplugs. My son who has sensitive hearing walked around with his hands over his ears for most of our time there.

The attraction is dominated with reality TV and talent show waxworks, so we whizzed by them quite quickly. We are probably very much in the minority of visitors to Madame Tussauds Blackpool, but if you watch those kind of TV shows, then you will enjoy Madame Tussauds. 

The staff were excellent, very helpful, friendly and smiley. They are a real credit to Madame Tussauds Blackpool. The waxworks were well done, some of them were quite eerily lifelike. I loved the comedians at the end of the tour and it was worth it just to see them (for me at least).

Tickets to Madame Tussauds Blackpool cost from £10.50, but entry is free with a Merlin Annual Pass. If you are visiting several Merlin Attractions in Blackpool you can get multi-attraction tickets which will save you money.

For more information on Madame Tussauds Blackpool, or to buy tickets, visit their website.

 

I’m a Merlin Annual Pass Blogger Ambassador. I have been given a Merlin Annual Pass to do this review with my family.  I wasn’t paid to write this post.

Five tips for heartbreak free school trips

One of the biggest childhood rites of passage is going on school trips and being away from home for the first time. School trips are a great way to encourage independence and for children to explore the world a little bit more. School trips to European cities are very much the norm. I was lucky enough to go on school trips to America and Holland. They both broadened my horizons, gave me a sense of independence and taught me some new things about life and friendships.

Most away from home school trips start when your children reach double digits. Often these are whole class trips away to cities such as Paris or Barcelona, other times they can be skiing holidays or trips to take part in school football tournaments.

Tips for heartbreak free school trips

Some children might also get the chance to go away for a night or two with Beavers, Brownies, Cubs or Scouts. Short Scout camps and the like are excellent for preparing younger children for slightly longer periods away from home with school.

It’s never easy to wave goodbye to your children, even if it’s just for a night or two. I’ve put together a list of things to can do to lessen your heartbreak and their separation anxiety.

Tips for heartbreak free school trips

Let go – trust that the group leader will take care of them and all will be well. They will have your emergency contact details if you are needed. Remember the group leaders will be well qualified and able to manage whatever situations crop up.

Be available – if your child is old enough for them to have their own phone, top up their credit and tell them to call you anytime they want, day or night. A quick chat with their family when they need one will be enough to keep them from getting too homesick.

Tears are normal – try not to cry too much in front of their friends, it’s so not cool. But if there are tears from you or from your child, then that’s normal too. It’s normal to feel anxious or worried, or to miss them terribly.

Leave little notes – whenever I am away from my boys I always leave them notes. They will find them hidden in their shoes, tucked under pillows, written in toothpaste on the mirror. Write little notes of joy and pack them in their bag. Hide them in shoes, tuck them in their toiletries bag. Secretly change the lock screen on their phone to one which will make them smile. It’s the little things not the grand gestures they will appreciate.

Enjoy the peace – enjoy a night or two in a quiet house. Go out as a couple if you can, stay up late and get up at noon. Or if you’re like us, take the opportunity to really tidy and declutter their room without them moaning about it all.

They’re going to leave home sooner or later, giving them little bursts of adventure and independence can help build their confidence and life experience. Saying goodbye, even for a for nights is hard, but it can be very worthwhile for everyone.

Tips for heartbreak free school trips

This is a collaborative post.

Stylish & Practical Flooring Trends for 2017

One of the key things you can do when you’re refurbishing or redecorating your home is invest in new flooring. Often the sensible but uninspiring option it to lay beige carpet everywhere, but going for something a bit bolder can really help to bring warmth and life to your home. We took a look at the key flooring trends for 2017.

Stylish & Practical Flooring Trends for 2017

Stylish & Practical Flooring Trends for 2017

Introduce some six-sided style into your home this season with hexagon flooring. Hexagons are everywhere at the moment. They are the flooring style of choice for contemporary homes and businesses alike. Hexagons make a bold but classic style statement. A hexagon floor would look great in kitchens, bathrooms and hallways. 

Floorboards continue to be a key trend. It’s bye-bye blonde tones, stripped back and stained in darker tones are now the order of the day.  It’s up to you if you prefer broad boards or skinny slats, but don’t feel you have to play it straight. Mix things up with a herringbone design, chevron, or a classic parquet style in contemporary colours.

Stylish & Practical Flooring Trends for 2017

Many people are choosing to rip up their carpets and replace them with vinyl flooring. It’s a practical and stylish option. It is easy to maintain and clean, it’s incredibly hard-wearing, ideal for high traffic areas in your home and can stand up to the rigours of family life.

Vinyl flooring has come on in leaps and bounds since the 1970’s orange and brown lino monstrosities we remember from our childhood. It is warm under foot, with a range finishes to choose from. Whatever your personal style, amtico vinyl flooring will have a design to match. 

Floors don’t need to be 50 shades of brown and beige either. Be bold and inject a splash of colour into your flooring. This is 2017, there’s no need to be pedestrian in your choices. The only limits are your imagination and your budget. There are literally thousands of ideas for bold flooring on Pinterest to inspire you.

Stylish & Practical Flooring Trends for 2017

This is a collaborative post.

Review: Michael Morpurgo’s Running Wild, The Lowry Theatre

The UK Tour of Michael Morpurgo’s Running Wild is currently in residence at The Lowry, Salford Quays. I went along on the first night of the run to watch the show and discover more about this extraordinary story. 

Loosely based on the true story of a girl’s survival of the 2004 Tsunami; Michael Morpurgo’s novel, Running Wild, is a wonderful and inspiring story, brought to life in this award-winning production. Like War Horse before it, Running Wild centres around spectacular life-size puppets and tells a moving story of love, loss and loyalty.

Review: Michael Morpurgo’s Running Wild, The Lowry Theatre

Running Wild tells the story of a girl called Lilly. Following the death of her father, she goes on holiday with her mother to Indonesia. Whilst taking a ride on Oona the elephant Lilly is caught up in the Boxing Day tsunami. Oona, sensing danger suddenly runs from the beach deep into the jungle with Lilly on her back, ultimately saving her life.

The story continues with Lilly’s struggles to find food and survive in the jungle; a confrontation with a beautiful tiger, bonding with a buffoonery (family) of orangutans and a devastating encounter with a group of hunters in the rainforest. 

This production of Running Wild is suitable for ages 6+. It’s not always an easy watch and there were times when a tear or two rolled down my cheek. The deaths of both of her parents and the traumatic effects of the tsunami were touched on but thankfully not dwelt upon. 

The portrayal of the hunters was unflinching and at times brutal. Running Wild does bang the drum of conservationism and the destruction of rainforests in the pursuit of the production of palm oil. It’s not always subtle, but it is a drum worth banging. If Running Wild helps to raise awareness of the devastation of the rainforests for palm oil, then so much the better. 

Review: Michael Morpurgo’s Running Wild, The Lowry Theatre

There were some funny and touching moments too. In particular Lilly playing with Frankie the orangutan and bonding with Oona the elephant. 

Lilly, confidently played by 13 year old Jemima Bennett is a talent. She is at the heart of the production and pulls off an accomplished and moving performance. Of course the real star of Running Wild is Oona the elephant, expertly handled by four puppeteers. Oona is incredibly life-like, you just want to reach out and stroke her trunk.

All of the puppet creatures; from the tiger, to the crocodile, the wriggling fish and the family of orangutans are beautifully done. The puppeteers are all fantastic, there but not there, so you focus on the creature and not the puppeteer. Amazing work.

Running Wild is a bold production. It’s not always an easy thing to watch, but ultimately the story is compelling and uplifting. Theatre like this makes you want to read about the subject, look at the products in your bathroom cabinet and do your bit for conservation. I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

The UK tour of Running Wild supports the Born Free Foundation’s global elephant conservation projects.

Running Wild has a running time of 90 minutes with a 20 minute interval. It also contains flashing lights and loud bangs.

Running Wild is on at The Lowry, Salford Quays 18 – 22 April 2017. To book tickets call the Box office on 0843 208 6000 or visit The Lowry website.

Further information about the full UK tour can be found here.

Blogging: Five ways to spring clean your blog

Being a blogger is a very public affair. I know I write about all aspects of my life and the things we do as a family. It’s all out there for all to see. But what people don’t see are the behind the scenes things a blogger has to do to keep things ship-shape. Is it time to spring clean your blog?

Blog admin and maintenance are rarely anyone’s favourite things to do and I’m often guilty of letting things pile up a bit before tackling them. I tend to keep a snag list of things to do and look at when I’ve got a bit of time. Once I’m in the zone I usually barrel through my list and wonder why I left things so long.

I have a five point checklist of general admin and maintenance I do every so often to try and keep on top of things. If I were sensible I would do this every month, but I’m not very sensible really. 

Blogging: Five ways to spring clean your blog

Five ways to spring clean your blog

Run a broken link checker
Broken links are bad news. Firstly, they can be annoying for anyone reading your blog and clicking through to a dead link. Having broken links on your blog can mean that Google ranks your blog lower than it would do otherwise. 

I use a free broken link checker about once a month (or when I can be bothered). It scans through my blog looking for dead links and lists them for me. They’re usually pretty easy to fix, the checker gives me both the broken url and allows me to click through to the blog post with the broken link.

Most of my broken links are from bloggers who aren’t blogging any more, or from companies no longer trading. For most of these I just delete the link but keep the content, but you could update the link with a new relevant one too. This is a good way of finding older content which you might want to refresh and update later, I add anything I want to look at again to a snag list.

Edit and SEO old posts / refresh old content

Looking through your stats page at what people are landing on, or finding a broken link in an old blog post can highlight some old content which is ready to be refreshed. I add these to my snag list and when I have some time I look back and see what I can do.

When I first started blogging nearly four years ago my posts were painfully short, had no SEO and the images were all over the place. I look back and cringe. It would be easy to just delete these old posts. But when I read them, for the most part the actual content is good, they just need a tidy up.

You should edit and tidy up your old blog posts so they meet your current standards. If you smarten up your SEO – so you get the green light from Yoast. When people land on your ancient blog post from a Google search (other search engines are available) they won’t be horrified and bounce straight off it. They will hopefully stick around and read more. That’s the goal right?

(Never, ever delete an old post by the way, redirect it instead if it’s not salvageable).

Tidy up side bars and buttons
Bloggers like a button and I’m as guilty as the next blogger about this. They are in some ways a necessary evil. Blogging networks like bloggers to host buttons and badges. If you’re an ambassador for a brand then they often provide one. It can be a quick way for you to show off your key brand relationships and achievements to your readers and to people who may want to work with you.

It’s worth casting your eye over your side bars and buttons every so often. Things might not be relevant anymore, or may need updating or moving around a bit. Sometimes just moving things about a bit can make your blog feel a bit fresher, if only to you.

If you host adverts on your blog, like Google Adsense, you might want to try moving these to a different position. This will help you test if you can get a better income from your advert if it’s positioned elsewhere.

Update your About Page
This is a fairly neglected page on my blog. Part of me tells me I’ve done it and don’t need to ever look at it again. But things change, I change, the things I blog about change, so it’s important to check your About Page every so often. Is it still relevant, has anything changed? Maybe update any photographs on there. Does it make you seem like an interesting and attractive proposition to your readers and for potential brand collaborations? 

Categories and tags
When I first started blogging I had no idea how categories and tags worked, what they were or how to use them. Nearly four years down the line I have a better idea of what I’m doing. I’ve looked back at my older blog posts and the categories and tags are all over the place. 

Last week I had an afternoon to myself and I made sure I wouldn’t be disturbed. I looked at my categories and decided that I was going to change a couple of them. This is fairly easy to do. BUT you do need to go back and redirect the old urls to your new ones. This is REALLY important, you don’t want to lose the links and link juice those old urls had already built up. You can read this blog post about how to redirect old urls to new ones if you need some help.

It’s well worth doing as it tidies up your blog and makes things easier to find for your readers. You will need  a quiet afternoon and some methodical working. You can do it!

Blogging: Five ways to spring clean your blog

There are lots of things you can do to spring clean your blog. But here are just five you could do to make a start and make a real difference to your SEO and the look of your blog. 

What are your suggestions to spring clean your blog?

Days Out: The Blackpool Tower Circus

Over the Easter break, the small boy and I headed off to Blackpool for a couple of days of seaside fun. We had a bit of a check list of things we wanted to see and do while we were there, but mainly we wanted to have fun and chill out a bit. First on our holiday agenda was a trip to the Blackpool Tower Circus.

I’d heard very good things about the Blackpool Tower Circus. Virtually everyone we told that we were planning a trip to Blackpool said that it was well worth seeing. I have very vague memories of going when I was a child, but that was about 800 years ago and things have probably changed since then.

Days Out: The Blackpool Tower Circus

We had been told be friends to visit the Blackpool Tower early and pre-book our tickets. You can pay an extra £5.99 on top of your ticket to sit on one of the front few rows if you like. If you do this you get drinks and snacks included and a chance that some of the performers will chat to you. Sadly these tickets were fully booked, so we got a pair of tickets in the stalls instead.

An adult ticket is £13 and a child is £10.50. We are Merlin Annual Pass holders, the ticket price is covered by our Merlin Passes, so we just showed our Merlin cards at the box office and we were issued our tickets.

You’re advised to arrive a good half an hour before the show starts. Tickets are unreserved so you have to find your own seats. We sat around 5 rows from the front and we had a great view. If you’re in a large group you might struggle to find seats together, so do go early.

Before the show and during the interval you can join the performers in the circus ring to buy lights and tricks, learn to spin plates or have your face painted like a clown (for a small additional cost). There is a bar at the back where you can buy drinks and snacks too.

The Blackpool Tower Circus has been in residence in the Tower since 1894. We visited the circus on 5th April which was only the 5th day of their 2017 season. We felt pretty honoured to be seeing it all so early in the season.

The approach down the winding corridors to the circus ring is filled with memorabilia and exhibits. We felt a bit pushed past it all by the crowds keen to get to their seats. This was a bit of a shame and I’d very much like to go another day and have the time to take it all in. 

Days Out: Blackpool Tower Circus

The circus ring itself is in the round, meaning wherever you’re sitting you should get a good view. The current circus design was completed in 1900 and it is remarkable. It’s beautiful and baroque with padded velvet seats. There is room for several hundred people to enjoy the show but you still feel you’re close to the performers.

Photography is not permitted once the show has started, so I wasn’t able to take any photos of the performance. However, the two hour long show, with additional interval was both breathtaking and hilarious.

Days Out: The Blackpool Tower Circus

The glue which holds the show together are the clowns Mooky and Mr Boo. Mooky the Clown is the hilarious and cheeky funny guy which everyone loves and Mr Boo is his straight man. They’re brilliant and they were very much the highlight for my six year old. Mooky the Clown is a Blackpool Tower Circus legend and has been clowning around in Blackpool since 1992.

The whole show was incredibly good. With acrobats, an amazing tightrope walker, trapeze artists, a fantastic live band and a troupe of beautiful dancers. There were several eye-watering acrobatic feats, my favourite being the neon clad trapeze artists and the Chinese tightrope walker. The circus is filled with amazing acts from all over the world and is genuinely incredible.

Days Out: The Blackpool Tower Circus

Blackpool Tower Circus – April 2017    Picture © Jason Lock Photography

The finale of the circus show is the dancing fountains. The circus ring is lowered and filled with water and beautiful acrobats twirl and swirl on a Roman themed carousel of sorts. It’s an awesome sight. The Blackpool Tower Circus is one of only four circus rings left in the world that can do this.

We felt it was excellent value for money, especially with our Merlin Annual Passes. We would definitely consider the £5.99 VIP seating upgrade next time though. The circus itself was awe inspiring. The show is two hours long with an interval and it’s packed with fantastic performers and performances. The small boy is still raving about the clowns and I’m keen to go back and watch it all again. Always a good sign.

For more information about The Blackpool Tower Circus and to book tickets visit the Blackpool Tower website.

Days Out: Blackpool Tower Circus

I’m a Merlin Annual Pass Blogger Ambassador. I have been given a Merlin Annual Pass to do this review with my family.  I wasn’t paid to write this post.