We were so impressed that Gill who blogs at Tales of Pigling Bland ran the London marathon this year that we asked her to be our April blogger of the month. We caught up with her to chat about blogging, cakes and running.
Tell us a little about yourself, who you are and what you blog about?
My name is Gill, I’m 31, married to Steve, go to Euston Church and work in broadcast technology (I count backwards from 5 and press a big red button occasionally). I live in north west London in a house that we bought as an ongoing project. I blog mainly about baking but I am gradually branching out into other food and reviews as I become more confident with my style and with my cooking.
How long have you been blogging?
As it happens, April 25th will be my two year blog anniversary. I’m glad you asked as I hadn’t realised!
Why did you start blogging and where did your site name come from?
I’d started baking a lot when I lived on my own in Norwich and then in London for colleagues. I started reading I Heart Cupcakes and The Caked Crusader, went to a couple of Iron Cupcake meetups in London and was inspired to start my own blog to keep a record of my progress.
Also, when I got married I stumbled upon the Beatrix Potter book “The Tale of Pigling Bland” and thought that a food blog by someone with my surname was a slightly amusing idea. The title seemed like a free enough title to allow my the blog to develop organically as time goes on.
Which post on your site are you the most proud of?
I’ll be honest, I’m not proud of any of my writing. I’ve just had a flick back through my posts and it just makes me wish I was either more succinct or more creative in my writing. However, the bake that I am most proud of is my Winter Frasier cake. So much of what I make looks pristine and pretty when I plan it in my head but then looks tasty but “home made” in reality. This is as close as I have come to a professional finish.
What are your plans for your blog for the rest of the year?
Well, I’m not as organised as many bloggers (though I am trying to be better) so I don’t have any speicific posts or series planned for the year. My main aim is to carry on enjoying blogging, to broaden my repertoire and try new ingredients whilst not being so outlandish or “foodie” that the recipes are unrealistic for non-blogger readers. I would also like to try and write more of my own recipes as I start to understand the technical aspects of cooking and baking more.
What do you feel you gain from blogging?
What an interesting question. I’d never stopped to consider it before. I get an outlet for my ramblings and in the process I have made lots of new friends and tried new things that I would never have got around to doing.
Whilst I don’t blog for the PR/brand benefits, I am so grateful for the few masterclasses I have been lucky enough to attend. They have given me skills and knowledge that I can’t imagine I’d ever have got without them. I would never had attempted a Frasier had I not been challenged to by Eric Lanlard or known how to taste coffee, tried baking brioche or learned how to prep a squid.
It was also through a blog link that I won the training course that helped my marathon run, so I guess you could say I gained a Personal Best from blogging!
Do you work with brands & PRs? What are the good & bad points and what approaches would you like to get?
I currently write a monthly blog for Rangemaster which I love because it gives me a deadline to work to once a month and because they give me completely free rein in what I write.
Main upsides of PR/Brand work: I can blog more than I could afford to otherwise, it draws readers, it widens my horizons and forces me to try new things.
Main downside: It can alienate non-blogger readers, it can unbalance content, it’s hard to stay honest, it’s hard not to hurt other bloggers by being unaware of their rates and conditions.
I work with brands occasionally but I’m not big enough (or organised enough?) to be in with many of the big PR companies. I sort of wish I were purely for the training experiences it brings rather than the products but in all honestly there’s sometimes just a little bit of jealousy there too. In general I just wait and see what comes my way, unless I see a product that I’m really excited about.
Mainly I wish PR companies would be honest with me about what they want and what they are offering others. I don’t mind being offered less than someone with a better written or more established blog, but somehow it hurts a bit when you see someone else has got a chance to take part in something exciting and you’ve received a little sachet instead. If a PR firm said “our plan is to have X number of bloggers on this event and X number reviewing samples and this is what ideally we expect in return” then at least I could be realistic about what I can give them and whether it’s a fair swap. Also I could manage my time better.
Finally – we are so impressed you ran the marathon, how did you fit it all in alongside blogging, cake and a full time job? Any tips for those of us who are inspired to get off the sofa and start training?
Don’t be too impressed. It’s really more about being stubborn than anything else! I started running because my day job is very sedentary and also because I like the thinking time (I often think of recipes and listen to food podcasts). It’s true, it has been harder to fit everything in recently but I think that we spend so much time in front of computers that getting outside is really good both physically and mentally. Also, my husband is quite competitive and this is the only sporty thing I seem to be able to beat him in, so I wasn’t about to let that one go!
I tried to plan ahead each week when I was going to fit my runs in. However, my first piece of advice to anyone wanting to start running would be to have your running gear out and ready so that if you get even a flicker of wanting to run you can get straight out there before you lose motivation. If you are even vaguely thinking of starting to run – do! You don’t need special kit (I’ve run in my Pyjama bottoms before), old trainers are fine to start with and even after that you really don’t need expensive ones. Think of what you would like about the time to yourself when you are running – you could listen to some music you like or you could run to a shop you saw that you never got around to going back to. Maybe you could run along a canal – they are great for seeing interesting things as you run. Try and make it regular to start with and the more you do it the easier the motivation gets. All of a sudden, that 10min round the block becomes “ooh I wonder what happens if I go that way” and you’ve run for 20mins without realising it. Oh and finally, don’t be fooled by the term “running”. Lets face it, most of the time I’m jogging or speedily stumbling, but I get to say “I went for a run” and no-one’s going to argue with me 😉
PS. You don’t need a plan to start – you can just walk out of your flat, but if you are interested, my course was by www.upandrunningonline.org and I won it through www.skinnylattestrikesback.com. They do anything from 5k plans upwards.
Many thanks to Gill, and wishing you a very happy blog birthday!