Shake That Ting Milkshake Shack

When my mate told me that Digbeth Dining Club was coming to Codsall, I knew I had to go. Digbeth Dining Club is popular in Birmingham for its amazing street food as well as music and entertainment. I have been into my street food festivals recently so couldn’t wait to see what it was about.

What food was there?

There was a small selection of vans ranging from waffles to milkshakes, Nepalese, burgers, indian, hot dogs, Caribbean. They have lots of different vendors go each time and this time they had: Shake That Ting, Bournville Waffle Company, Esmies, Baked in Brick, Manlia Munchies, The Middle Feast, Handmade Pizza Co and Frank.

Image of a BBQ cooking on a mini

Image of a Burrito

I decided to go for this chicken tikka burrito where the meat and the wrap was cooked in an old mini. I also went for the waffle at the waffle van, it was ok but I don’t think it was anything special for £4.50. Finally I had this amazing chocolate milkshake the from the Shake That Ting shack. Normally with chocolate milkshakes they have to be good enough to beat McDonalds. I usually find that with milkshakes they can be too watery as they bulk it out with a lot of ice. However that milkshake was thick with ice cream and cream and chocolate syrup – it was worth the money. All the vendors seemed really reasonable in price normally round the £4-£8 mark.

Frank the corndog stall

Chocolate Milkshake in hand

Would you recommend?

The Codsall version was lovely and it has made me want to visit the Digbeth one so yes I would recommend.

 

Image of a desk with a pennant and books

Welcome to Blog 101, session four is focusing on free or low cost photo editing and image creator apps.

I can and do regularly use Photoshop in my day job for quick tweaks to artwork (I am not a designer at all!) but I don’t have the application at home and neither the advance skills needed to make use of the program. Here are four tried and tested programs that are free that I use.

Canva

This is my favourite program for creating social media images for my posts. The templates are wide and varied from social media images to adverts to printed media or you can create your own custom dimensions. The templates make it very easy to upload your images and overlay them onto your template. Canva gives you great design ideas and tonnes of different fonts and you can get a precise colour by typing in the hexcodes.  If you are creating a poster using canva and wondering if it prints well, my previous manager has created a 60×40 inch poster before and it has printed fine.

Picmonkey

I often resize my photos using Picmonkey. Again this program is easy to use with its resize, text overlay and has templates like Canva. You can add more effects with the photographs itself such as light effects. Less tools seem to be available free unlike Canva.

Fotojet*

I was recently contacted by Fotojet to try out there online graphic design maker. It very much reminded me of Canva albeit a more stripped down version. Again there are lots of functions such as templates to create social media images, create your own custom templates and background. I will write a more comprehensive post about this program separately. It does what it says on the tin, you can edit and create images and the program is easy to use however I think if I had to choose either Canva or Fotojet I would choose Canva as there are more design options.

VSCO

VSCO is an mobile phone app where if you are a bit bored of the Instagram filters and want to move up in the world it is the equivalent of the cooler older brother or sister. I mainly use VSCO for the filters and to resize images normally to put straight on Insta or Twitter. Favourite filters include HB1 and HB2, X1 and A6. A while ago it underwent a massive redesign and it looks pants now and I feel made the app harder to navigate.

Which low cost image and design programs do you use and recommend? Let me know in the comments below!

 

Image of Rebecca Merchant at the Manchester 10k with her partner James Perkins both holding up medals

I ran the Manchester 10k yesterday which was organised by Great Run the organisers famous for the Great North Run. It was my first organised 10k and although I wasn’t building it up to be anything special, it was quite poignant since the the attack at the Manchester Arena on the Monday. On social media everyone was encouraged to wear yellow ribbons and plenty of people wore yellow and bees and wasn’t going to let a terrorist attack stop us.

The 10k they put people in waves white, blue, green, orange and pink. Waves were allocated by the how long you think it would take you to run the race. I was put in the pink ‘wave’ which was the last wave to go as I put down a time of 1hour 20 minutes.

Rebecca Merchant at the start line of the Manchester 10k

I hadn’t done as much training as I could have done, I do have a baseline of fitness however with the circuit training that I do and the Parkrun’s. I did however run a 10k twice before the event, I had never run one before and I did not want to go into it blind. My two practice runs didn’t put me off but it made me aware of the distance I was facing. If I hadn’t had run those before hand I would have still ran the 10k but would have had a bit of a shock!

It is important to make sure you have fuelled beforehand and keep yourself hydrated. There were two water stops on my way round the 10k and I made the most of them and drank it rather than throwing the water over me. The water is going to be better inside you then out! Another thing I learnt is that there warm-ups are pants! I had better warm-ups at the Race for Life events and they are only 5k. I wish I had warmed up properly beforehand as I really felt stiff the next day.

Rebecca Merchant at the start of the Manchester 10k

I asked on Twitter beforehand if we could bring headphones and we could which I was really glad about because music really keeps me going. Although it is worth pulling the headphones out right at the end to soak up the atmosphere. At every opportunity I waved and put my thumb up at the police and first aiders – many police officers came from different areas Nottingham, Derby, Wales and South Yorkshire were drafted in to protect us so thank you to them. At the end I loving it and was waving at the crowd and was encouraging the crowd to cheer for me.

Key points to take away:

  • Fuel and hydrate up before the event.
  • Keep some paracetamol on you incase you get a headache.
  • Find somewhere to warm up properly.
  • Take some protein straight away  after the event.
  • Practice beforehand at least go to the Parkrun’s or short runs but at least run a 10k beforehand so you get an idea of the distance.
  • Wear shorts not leggings – you will just get hot. I also wear vests rather than shirts.
  • Make sure your trainers are in good condition.
  • Finally enjoy it, make the crowd cheer for you. thank the people waving you and making the day possible!

 

How to grow and maintain a blog

Your blog is up and running, well done! Now you just need to maintain and grow your blog to help you achieve success. This is how you can do it:

Take part in Twitter chats

Being a massive twitter fan anyway, I love twitter chats. I have been part of some great conversations, spoken to some lovely people on Twitter and it has been a great way to push people to your profile, obtain followers, gain new ideas for posts and find some new bloggers yourself.

It can be daunting at first taking part in chats, especially if you are hosting one (read more about my tips on hosting a Twitter chat here). If you join chats based on your blog topic this will push more interest to your site then say your location as it is reaching those with the same interests.

Read more:

Creating a movement online – my recent twitter chat

How to #win at a Twitter chat

Using hashtags and pages that retweet your blog on twitter

By promoting your post using popular, relevant hashtags this can push your blog out to an audience that may not have come across your site otherwise. Sites such as hashtagify.me can help you easily see how popular the hashtag you want to use is and other relevant tags. By adding the handles of twitter pages that retweet your blog as well may mean a retweet out to a large audience. Bare in mind, however, to only add one twitter page handle per post. If you don’t then you are less likely to be retweeted as those pages are not going to retweet their competitors as well.

The Twitter pages that retweet your blog

Facebook Fan Page

Like what I said with the Twitter chats below, you could create your own Facebook page promoting your blog or you join ready made communities tailored to your blog topic, region or interest. I am part of several blogging groups in the West Midlands because I live in the region and like to see what local bloggers are writing about (I have some fab new restaurant places I want to try out!), and blogger opportunities are also posted on there too.

Instagram

If your blog is very aesthetically pleasing, then Instagram is the place to flog your posts. Engagement on Instagram is high because it people are more willing to double tap a image to give it some love. If your Instagram is themed then likes are more likely. Evidence as shown that those Instagram pages that have a theme are more likely to get likes than those that are not. Again using hashtags for people to find your images is key. I use tagblender for easy copy and pasting lots of hashtags. Just remember Instagram only allows a certain number of hashtags and if you go over then it will post without the tags and that can be frustrating.

Creating a blogging schedule and sticking to it

I firmly believe that to really maintain a blog you need to regularly post. If you consistently times a week you are more likely to have followers keep returning to your site for more.

How is your blog going? Leave me your links below as I am always on the look out for new blogs to read!

 

 

How to write a blog post

Hopefully you have read my first post ‘4 questions to ask yourself before you start a blog‘ and have decided to go ahead and create one yourself. Well done! Now is to set about writing your content.

There are many ways to write a blog post and I am not saying I am an expert in the slightest but writing a blog post is a craft and as they say content is king. The benefits of good content is clear, you will gain more in engagement and followers.

So what is needed to write a good blog post?

Strong topic

Your post needs to have a clear subject, if you are writing for the sake of writing people will see this and just click off.

Clear structure

Your English teacher was right, your writing needs an introduction, middle and end. The best way to do this is to plan what you are going to write before you write it. It really helps make sure your writing is heading in the right direction. For more information on planning a post read my post on ‘How to plan a successful blog posthere.

Ideal blog post length

The jury is out on this one! This does very much depend on the topic you are writing about, Yoast recommends your post length to at least be 300 words long. Yoast goes on to mention that longer posts are more likely to be ranked higher because there are more opportunities through text, images and links to include your keyword. Researching further, digitalmarketingpro.net recommends to Google blog posts of a similar type that you want to write and seeing how many words were written in the top five ranking posts.

Consistency

I should really practice what I preach on this point! All the headings should be the same size, font and style. I am still experimenting with mine, but as soon as I have a style nailed I will update everything else.

Images and all the little things that make a huge difference

Images are so important to add on a blog post. Think about how many blog posts that do not have an image or graphic of some kind. Not many! Images help reinforce and explain a point, help people make an emotional connection and even persuade them to make a purchase! People are more likely to share a post if it contains an awesome image.

It helps with Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) as when you save your image you should name the image properly and use the alt tag function and description. It also helps those with e-readers who cannot see the image know what the image is as the e-reader picks up the alt tag.

Comment

Unless it is something very sensitive your posts should contain a comment section and make sure to respond to people’s comments! They have taken the time to written, you should take the time to respond.

Make sure you add your relevant pages and social media links

After writing your blog post make sure your social media links are there so people can pin the image, tweet and Facebook it. The more chances you give them to be shared the better. Also if you have written relevant blog posts in the past, make sure you add those links in the text too as it pushes people to look at that content which means extra views to your posts.

I hope you enjoyed my Blog 101! Are you finding these tips useful?