Product Of The Week: Greetings Cards From Cheeky Zebra!

Can we all just take a moment to appreciate how cute this card is? And how darn adorable the packaging is?


I ordered this card for my brother after he passed his driving test. It’s nothing much, I just bought him a cute little card and keyring to say “no really, well done”. My intention was simple enough, acknowledge him and his achievements, show some humility (because I don’t drive) and then I don’t hope that I don’t have to hear about it for too much longer. Having been forced to offer up a time when I might consider risking my life for control of a vehicle, it was as much g about acknowledging his successes as it was about being able to move on. If I at least played nice, I hoped, then I could ease off the pressure on me. Call it tactical gift-giving.


There.. I said it.

When this orange envelope came through the door, I initially thought it was some sort of junk mail. You would! Anything bold and designed to draw your attention is usually junk, so I just sort of assumed it was. Until I saw the two cute little hearts either side of my name..

What the.. personalised junk mail?!

Obviously, I’m not going to give you my address (my mail cage can only handle so much fan mail 😉 ) but check out the artwork. This is a seller who is really proud of their business!

Inside was the cellophane-wrapped card and a little flyer explaining a little about Sasha, the founder of Cheeky Zebra. I’m totally digging the passion, the honesty and the humour. People of passion and kindness need to clump together to rub out all of the hatred in this world, and humour is a great antidote!

I also love that Sasha has committed herself to cards for the “not-so-shiny” times, because Sasha is absolutely right, Hallmark really doesn’t cut it! In fact, I know there was a time I was looking for a a sorrowful card in Hallmark and I know that nothing really felt “right”. Hallmark takes itself very seriously, and sometimes you need a little bit of cheering up – just a teeny little bit! A quick visit to Cheeky Zebra’s website and I noted that Sasha also has some cards dedicated to mental health, rather than just grief and loss. Kudos to that one! She’s stepped into a domain that few retailers are willing to go into.

The card range is a teeny bit on the small side, but that’s totally understandable, it’s a small business with huge potential that deserves all of the support and love it can get. The cards are a little cheaper than the biggest rivals and Cheeky Zebra has it’s own quirky, fun and simplistic style which a majority or the big names don’t have! The free postage is a bonus and the passion of the company is something that the big names miss out on!

So if you fancy picking yourself up a greetings card for less than £4, head on over to http://www.cheekyzebra.com and take a good look at their fun and exciting range!

Until next time, keep smiling!

Helen xx

We Tried 5 Apps For Couples (Reviews)

Photo by Marcelo Chagas on Pexels.com

Something that Matt and I always struggle with is coming up with new and exciting ideas for activities to do together. We communicate great, we rarely argue and we’re pretty affectionate to one another, but when it comes to getting ourselves out of a rut, we get a bit stuck.

During the winter, our list of things to do becomes more and more limited. Sure, there is the German market in December, but what about after that? Refusing to give in, we explored 5 different couples apps in the run up to winter, with varying results.

Carddecks

⭐⭐

Carddecks promises to aid communication by offering ideas or questions in a range of categories and for you to discuss together. Rather than requiring you to both install the application, you install it on one device, and then share.

The Pros: Carddecks contains different categories with different ideas, aimed at improving communication. Whether it be activities to try or questions to ask, the ideas help you to better understand your partner. Unlike Kindu, Carddecks doesn’t only focus on sex but on your relationship as a whole. For this reason, we agreed that it was great for couples who were really in a rocky place when it comes to effective communication.

The Cons: Unfortunately, the fact that the app requires you to discuss with one phone means that you need to be together to use it. Unlike some other applications, there was no way to check in and add anything or suggest an activity while you were apart. There are also no graphics, aside for colourful backgrounds. For that reason, it was more like a quick-dash mini eBook than an app, and only scored two stars from us.

Couple Game

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Couple Game presents 24 packs of questions for you both to answer in a Mr & Mrs style match off. in all kinds of topics including the home, ethics, family and sex. If you win the round, you can decide on a dare to send to your partner that they must fulfill! 😉

Pros: We had great fun challenging each other to the packs in these cards. We thought we knew each other well and then Couple Game reveals something we didn’t know. Even after more than a decade together, Couple Game demonstrates that there is always something more that you can learn.

Cons: The only con of Couple Game is that there are only 24 packs. It’s colourful and simple user interface and fun gameplay make it very hard to fault this app, overall. Four and a half stars from us!

Desire

⭐⭐⭐⭐

Desire in an app for couples which invites you to “dare” each other to complete a task for points. Your partner typically receives 7 days (which you can adjust) to complete a task, ranging from something quite fun and flirty to something sexy and silly.

The pros: Where to begin with the pros of Desire?! We really love the fact that when you dare your partner, it appears in their list of dares as a scratch card and they need to ‘scratch’ away the silver to reveal the dare, which creates a fun and novel twist. Desire also has a fun retro graphics theme, which I loved. Some of the dares are also mild but sweet or spicy, depending on your partner. I dared Wolfie to kiss me unexpectedly in public. Far from making it a sweet gesture, he definitely went all out on making it an oh la la moment! Desire also has built in to-do lists, shopping list, journal, messaging, badges and ‘eLove’ messages, which earns you more magic coins!

The cons: Unfortunately, we had to take a star from Desire because you can only have three active dares at a time. A lot of categories are also locked, and you need 100 magic coins to unlock them. You also need to rack up points with some seemingly silly dares to unlock better dares, making it quite hard to progress.

Kindu

⭐⭐⭐

Kindu works by giving you both daily “decks” of 12 cards with activities you can do. You can either decline an idea, select “maybe” if you’re agreeable to an idea (but not mad for it) or ‘heart’ it if you’re totally for it.

The pros: The nice thing about Kindu is that, if you decline an idea, your partner won’t know. It only shows ideas as either a match if you both select maybe, or a ‘strong match’ if you both ‘heart’ it.

The cons: At first, Kindu seemed to be full of sweet ideas. The cards suggested writing love letters, dancing together and taking time to cook dinner together, but then things turned really sexual. Before too long, Kindu was suggesting we installed suspension rigs in our bedroom and found ourselves a Hummer to have sex in!

Spicer

⭐⭐⭐

Similar to Kindu, Spicer displays cards with an activity that you can say yes to, maybe or decline. There is also the option to chat with your partner about the activity and to install OpenCouple, with the intention of finding other open couples with similar interests.

Pros: Although we don’t personally have any interest in it, Spicer wins points for OpenCouple. It’s simple to use and asks for your opinion on both you performing an activity, and your partner performing the activity. It doesn’t matter if you are male, female or any other gender, what matters to Spicer is whether you want to do it or want your partner to do it, nothing else.

Cons: Unfortunately, also much like Kindu, Spicer was all about sex. Forget candlelit dinners and romantic dates with this one, Spicer dives right into anal sex and BDSM – Oh la la!

And the winner is… by a margin, Couple Game! Desire comes in at a close second, but Couple Game won because it taught us something about each other at the same time. Wolfie and I still have lots of prizes to redeem, but they will get redeemed, including a bottle of Baileys, pizza to watch the game a dna day out at the aquarium!

What couples apps have you tried? Why not share your experiences in the comments?

Keep smiling, everyone!

Helen xx

Air Fryers: Added Clutter Or Kitchen Must-Have?

Hello lovelies,

Very recently, a dear friend of mine suggested that I invested in an air fryer as part of my bid to start eating healthier. I was intrigued and curious about these kitchen contraptions, but I promised that I’d by one and write an honest review of my experiences to share on my blog.

I decided to buy myself the Tower T17023 Compact Air Fryer, owing to the promises of it’s ‘compact’ size. It’s a classic case of buyer beware as ‘compact’ in this sense is misleading. It may be compact up to other air fryers, but standing taller and wider than the Russell Hobbs electric kettle, there is nothing compact about this beauty. I ordered a metal shelf unit to store some new ketchen gadgets on, but my air fryer and pressure cooker sit proudly on top shelf as they’re too tall to go anywhere else!

The fryer itself heats up to 200 degrees and boasts a generous 2.2L capacity. For larger families it may not be enough, but for 2-4 people who are trying to eat healthier but still want to enjoy fried food, then this air fryer is quite ideal.

So how did it fair?

The cooking challenges

I decided to cook 5 different dishes in my air fryer and give you a fair summary of each. All of these dishes are available in the freezer section at Tesco.com, unless otherwise stated. You also need to pre-heat your air fryer for 3 minutes prior to cooking, and the little green LED On top tells you when the appliance is hot enough. No additional oil is required, apart from for the roast potatoes!

Experiment 1: McCain’s Oven Chips

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Oven time: 25 minutes, as intructed

Air fryer time: 12 minutes, plus 3 minutes preheat, as instructed

I filled the container to the brim with frozen chips as I was concerned that portion sizes between three people would be scarce, but it actually turned out to be more than enough and produced three very generous portions, which was an overall pleasing result. The chips were hot, slightly crispy and fluffy in the middle, and everyone said they preferred them this way, compared to when they were cooked in the oven, where they turned out feeling greasy, still slightly hard, and like typical chip shop chips.

Time saved: 10 minutes

Experiment 2: Quorn Vegetarian Nuggets

⭐⭐⭐

Oven time: 15 minutes

Air fryer time: 6 Minutes, plus 3 minutes preheat

I had to guess with these because there is no instructions for vegetarian nuggets in the air fryer instruction manual, but the back of the packet mentions 15 minutes so I took a stab at 6 minutes. One thing that amazed me about these nuggets is that there is quite a bit of oil that comes out of them after cooking, but all of the unhealthy stuff is low on the packet and so I gathered that maybe it just makes them healthier, since the fat has kind of been cooked out of them.

I love my Quorn nuggets and, owing to the fact that I can sit down to eat in less than 10 minutes and the fact they are vegetarian and healthy, these delicious air-fried nuggets are now a stable part of my lunchtime repertoire.

Time saved: 6 minutes

Experiment 3: Egg & Bacon Omelette

Hob time: 7 minutes

Air fryer time: 15 minutes, plus three minutes preheat

Oh my dear readers.. the things I put my poor air fryer through for you. You’re supposed to be able to fry almost anything fryable in this air fryer, including bacon and egg, so I wondered how difficult an omelette would be. The answer? Very.

I dry-fried the bacon for approximately 3 minutes to make sure I wasn’t divulging myself into a nice unhealthy slice of raw pork. With that looking suitably cooked through, I poured the eggy mixture on top, slammed the container back into the appliance, and waited.

Oh readers, what did I just do?

I hoped that the hot air from the air fryer would make my omelette bubbly and light, but it did not. The egg took an eternity to cook and came out firm and rubbery. The result was so unappetising that I couldn’t even bring myself to photograph it for you.

Please, please, for the love of good food, please keep your bacon and eggs far, far away from your air fryer.

Time saved: – 11 minutes

Experiment 4: Tesco’s Frozen Churros

⭐⭐⭐⭐

Oven time: 20 Minutes

Air fryer time: 8 minutes, plus 3 minutes preheat

Okay okay, I know.. I’m trying to eat healthy, but sometimes you need a little treat! I bought these for after our New Year’s Eve steak dinner and I had some left so I thought hey, why not air fry them this time?

Credit where it was due, these churros came out of the air fryer lovely and crispy. The oven ones tasted slightly burned in the centre, but they were lovely and chocolatey when they came from the air fryer. Served up with a small quenelle of good quality vanilla ice cream and some fresh raspberries, they are quite the treat.

Time saved: 9 minutes

Experiment 5: Roast Potatoes

⭐⭐⭐⭐

Oven time: 25 minutes, plus 10 minutes pre-boiling

Air fryer time: 20 minutes, plus 3 minutes preheat, as instructed

My husband will hate me for this, and he hated me for it (lovingly, of course!). Normally, my husband does the Sunday dinner, so when I took over the kitchen and turned out some delicious, crispy roasted potatoes from the air fryer, he wasn’t too impressed – well he was, but he at least tried not to be!

The trick to crispy potatoes is to pat them dry with some kitchen paper after peeling and cutting. If you don’t, then the potato juices repel the oil and the oil sits at the bottom of the pot. The result? Hot, dry, boring potatoes – bleurgh!

To make my potatoes, I mixed 1/2 tablespoon olive oil (as is the recommendation) with 1/2 teaspoon all purpose seasoning, then poured the mixture on the spuds and gave them a good toss to coat them all. I did find that I needed to add about another tablespoon of oil as the potatoes started to dry out, but that’s still a lot less than what they would have been cooked in if I’d allowed my husband to cook them in the oven!

I definitely think they’d be better for a bit of drying with kitchen paper next time, but the best part was that you don’t need to pre-boil them before introducing them to the fryer. That’s a +1 for saving time, energy and water right there!

Time saved: 12 minutes

Overall, air fryers definitely are a healthier, more time efficient way to enjoy the not-quite-so-healthy foods that you know and love. If you have the room to store it, definitely consider adding an air fryer to your kitchen – just make sure you keep you eggs and bacon on the other side of the room.

Keep smiling, everyone!

Helen xx

I Got Another One.. (Plus Review Updates)

Hello lovelies,

You may recall that, about eight weeks ago, I bought and reviewed the Google Nest Mini. One of the prerequisites of listening to music from Youtube on these devices is that, unfortunately, you need to pay for the Youtube Music premium plan – at £9.99 a month.

To be honest, I’m not begrudging these additional costs too much. Google has introduced me to songs that have rapidly become favourites of mine (Camila Cabello’s “Liar” definitely becoming one of them!) and even when the song has finished, having Google keep the party going is definitely much better than silence (or worse, the repeated song). To me, I hardly ever drink, I don’t smoke, I have no involvement whatsoever with narcotics and I don’t eat that much junk food – so pardon me if I treat my ears to some good sounds, will you?

About a fortnight ago, I had an email in my inbox with the title “Don’t forget to claim your free Google Nest Mini”. I was suspicious at first, as anyone aware of phoney emails would be. I’m pretty keyed up and I can usually sniff out a scam, so I did some rooting around to try and find something, anything that was off about this seemingly too-good-to-be-true offer. I came up blank.

There had to be something, so I used Google to Google Google’s offer. Oh, the irony.

Nope, Google really, really were giving away free Google Nest Mini’s to Youtube Music premium users, and I was free to claim one if I wanted to, so long as I ordered it by the end of the month.

With the Second Edition Mini, you have two colour choices, charcoal (black) or chalk (white). Because of my oh-so-sexy monochromatic bedroom, we have a charcoal one in the bedroom, and a chalk one in the lounge. As our kitchen has a similar neutral feel to the lounge, I opted for another chalk one, checked out the product with an oh so generous discount of £49 and a total bill of £0.00, and waited.

Last week, I received a rather strange looking box, Now not much phases me, but I’ve never seen a box with wings before. That was definitely novel.

When I pulled back the strip and opened the box, I was introduced to Google and asked to recycle the packaging. Lo and behold, my new Google Nest Mini had arrived.

Setting up the new Mini was simple enough and the new speaker is now housed on top of the dishwasher. My initial plan was mount it to the wall but, with sockets the way they are in our kitchen, it was actually easiest to place it atop the tabletop dishwasher and plug it into the extension on the windowsill. With that done, my dearly beloved took over the software side of things and the “Kitchen Speaker” is now fully installed.

One of the advantages of having a speaker in the kitchen is that I don’t have to shout across the lounge to turn the kitchen light on. A quiet mumble in the generalised direction of the dishwasher will generally work. It’s an advantage for me and saving my voice, and an advantage for anyone watching TV in the lounge at the time.

A second advantage I’ve found has been in ordering groceries. Thanks to the the IFTTT app, I have been able to add groceries to my basket, using my voice. When I’m waltzing around my kitchen and I’ve noticed that I’m running low on an ingredient, I can generally ask Google to add an ingredient to my basket, and have the job done in 2-3 minutes. In amongst all of the indefinite tasks that come with running a home (even for two people and a dog), there are definite perks to that.

A third advantage comes in being able to ask Google for guidance on recipes. With starting the new year with a bang and trying to eat a lot healthier, being able to ask Google for inspiration and a talk-through of recipes has saved me from having to go between cooking and getting messy fingerprints on (and off of) my phone. A simple “Okay Google, what’s next?” will have Google chirpily talk me through the next step of my new found recipe.

The last (and final) plus comes in being able to wirelessly link my speakers, which makes playing my ‘Housework’ playlist (more or less) throughout the flat oh so much fun. I’m not rushing back into one room to be close to the speaker to enjoy the music. With a speaker in the three main rooms of my home, I’m able to enjoy my favourite tracks effortlessly while I work. A definite plus one for getting more work done.

On the not so good side of things, sometimes Google can’t tell the difference between ‘off’ and ‘on’. “Okay Google, turn the office light off” I’ll say, hoping that Google will turn the bedroom (also my home office) main light off, but leaving the headboard lights and desk lamp on. “Sure, turning office light on” she replies. Result? The bedroom main light stays on when it’s time to clock off and unwind. She’s good, but she’s not perfect.

On other occasions, I’m greeted with a “Sorry, I couldn’t reach Philips Hue”, prompting me to override the switch (a simple off/on at the wall) and turn the lights on myself. I also do this when I’m already in a room, and forgot to ask Google to turn the lights on. By now the novelty factor of being able to control the lights with Google has quickly worn off. Fortunately, the Philips Hue lightbulbs are rather energy efficient.

In terms of getting others to embrace Technology, my family is having none of it. My mother is very wary of these devices and is vehemently against having one in her home,

“Yeah, but they reckon they listen in on you, don’t they?” she said with great suspicion.

I suppose it’s another of those generation gaps, the modern smart technology, combined with a generation that saw the introduction of Ceefax, colour television and the internet.

Just as for my mother’s generation, then speakers that listen to you and control your home may well seem scary. Formy generation, then I suppose a time where our kids are forcing us to be comfortable with driverless buses and robotic baristas will come.

Blogging Tips: How To Use Jetpack’s Star Ratings (And Give Half Star Marks!)

Hello Lovelies,

If you’re like me, maybe sometimes you like to write a cheeky little review for something or somewhere and you want to throw in a star rating to give your review that all-important reviewer feel. If you know how to add them then great, but if not, the process is very simple:

Provided you have the Jetpack plugin enabled, simply Add New Block > Search for a block > Enter ‘Star Rating’ > Click Star Rating and select however many stars you want to give. Easy!

Now, let’s say you and some friends went to watch a new flick and you’ve written up a review. It was okay, but it wasn’t great and you want to give it half marks. This is where a lot of bloggers (myself included, until yesterday!) get stymied;

Currently, you have two options. First of all, you can award it 3 out of 5 stars, which you don’t really want to do because that’s not the half marks you advocate. Secondly, you can set the blocks star count to the full 10 and then highlight half of them. Nightmare!

So what is a reviewer to do? Well my friends, have have no fear, Helen is here with her handy dandy reviewer guide to star ratings.

To give half star scores, simply pick the number of stars to the nearest whole number. In this case, 3 stars.

Now, click the last full star. In this case, the third star. Ta da! That star is now only half filled in!

WordPress (or Jetpack) really needed to take the time to create a wee pop-up tutorial or something to tell you how this works because honestly, had I not clicked a star by accident then I never would have known and I’ve seen many other bloggers tripped up by this also (just ask Google). If you write reviews like I do, it can help keep your reviews looking smoother. I now have to go back through all of my reviews and tweak my star ratings to be closer to the truth because somebody didn’t take the time to write out a few lines which would have told me what to do!

There you have it folks. I hope this article helps you if you use star ratings for anything!

Over and out until next time,

Helen xx

Product Review: Nerf Dog Tennis Ball Launcher

Good afternoon lovelies,

I bought this Nerf toy as a Christmas present for Hugo, owing to his love of all things tennis ball. I have to be honest, I had huge hopes that this toy would be really impressive and see tennis balls (and Hugo, respectively) flying off into the distance. Sadly, that wasn’t the case.

My first frustration with this toy was the use of plastic cable ties to secure the product to the cardboard. You know how it is in this era, everyone is a lot more environmentally conscious than they used to be. With that in mind, I would have actually preferred a moulded plastic tray over the gun and the tennis balls which I could have put out with the plastic recycling. Instead, I got a couple of black, un-recyclable cable ties. Sort it out, Nerf.

Before we headed to the park, one of my biggest fears was being ambushed by armed police. As ridiculous as it sounded, I didn’t trust that some imbecile wouldn’t report me for being in possession of a firearm, in which case I’d find myself staring down the barrels of half a dozen MP5’s. Fortunately, more people were impressed by my tennis ball shooter than had considered reporting me for possessing it.

On the way to the park, I experienced a number of bizarre encounters. How does one carry something gun-shaped without looking at all offensive? Hugging it across my chest looked desperate, and walking with my finger on the trigger felt somewhat dangerous. I made an effort, for a change, not to make eye contact with anyone,

I’m a 31-year-old woman with a toy gun, there’s absolutely nothing to see here!

Damn my credibility. Why didn’t I consider this before?

On the main road, I faced another dilemma: The zebra crossing. On any other day, these white and black road markings seem perfectly simple to navigate. On this occasion though, quite the opposite was true. When I moved to wave with my left hand, I looked like a string puppet and narrowly hung the dog in the process. With my right, I realised that there was nothing remotely friendly about waving a gun (even a toy one) at a poor driver. With that in mind, I opted for the most simple, least clumsy and least intimidating method of all: The gracious nod.

The gun itself is rigid and nothing about it feels like it will break very easily. Cocking and loading it was very simple, and I was able to send tennis balls out for Hugo at quite an alarming rate: Load the ball, pull back the launcher and fire, load, pull back the launcher and fire. It was simple, methodical, effective. The packaging also claims that you don’t need to bend to pick the ball up, but even myself, at 165cms, still had to bend somewhat to press the ball into the launcher cage.

Unfortunately, 10 metres on the packaging is absolutely nothing in reality. When I saw 10 metres on the cardboard backing, I was impressed,

10 metres is the width of a swimming pool! That’ll exercise the little bugger!

The simple fact is, not really.

To start even panting or to look even remotely exercised, Hugo needed me to send a tennis ball out 19 times. As fun as firing tennis balls into the air was, the dog really wasn’t getting much exercise and I had other things back at home that I needed to be doing. Because of that, Hugo didn’t really get the exercise that he needed. Even if I’d sent the ball out, at varying trajectories and for over 35 times, nothing I tried seemed to improve on the launcher’s measly firing distance. Even firing the ball along asphalt saw it dwindle to a casual stroll quite quickly. The idea was great, but the execution was pretty weak.

In the end, this toy won back a star for the simple fact that Hugo really seemed to dig it. Every time he bought the ball back, he’d drop it and wait eagerly for me to send it out again. Credit where it was due, I’d never seen him so excited by a ball launcher before, but he was clearly really enjoying himself. Once I get a bit more organised, I will certainly consider taking it (and him) down the park more often, even if only to fire a tennis ball a few hundred times for him.

If I could give this toy two and a half stars, I would. It’s of good construction and the dog very clearly enjoyed himself, but there was still some bending to load it, which doesn’t really allow for that no-bending claim. It’s a fun toy, but it’s definitely more of a novelty than it is a serious game-changer for when it comes to providing your dog with some physical activity.

Update 31/12/19: This toy has been opened for less than a week and already two of the three tennis balls supplied are in tatters. The tennis balls are not dog-proof and the squeakers easily come out which can be a choking hazard for your furry friend. Please do not buy this product!

A Sobering Thought

Good afternoon lovelies,

As you may have noticed, on my blog, I do reviews. All of the products I mention and places I’ve been are products I’ve bought or places that I’ve been to. I would not, ever, review or recommend something that I myself have not tried.

Which is why this article really worried me.

The fact that these celebrities and social media influencers could be paid to recommend a product that they themselves have not tried or investigated is incredibly dangerous. The fact that they even advertised the fact that the ‘drink’ (albeit not real) contains hydrogen cyanide without knowing what said chemical does, is even more so.

Is that what blogging and social media has come to? Is that what’s required to go big? Potentially poisoning and killing people?

That’s sick.

It’s beyond fucked up that people will willingly be paid to put people’s lives at risk. I’m not saying all, because I’m sure some people really do make a concerted effort not to mislead their audience, but if fame means putting people in danger, then I’m out.

I may not be famous now, but if being even remotely famous means I risk killing people, then I never want to be famous. Ever.

It’s incomprensible that these people who are supposed to care about and love their followers are by definition the same people who will lead them, potentially, to their deaths.

And because of what? Money.

We all, bloggers, social media influencers, Youtubers and anyone else I’ve not mentioned, we all need to work as a collective to make sure that our audiences are never, ever put at risk of death or serious harm because of our actions. Could you live with yourself, knowing that one of the people who followed you died because of your misinformed promotion?

I know I couldn’t.

Please, I beg of you today, please think of every one of your fans and followers. We owe it to them to review a product and investigate it in full before we promote it. Lets do our homework and keep our fans and followers safe, before we accidentally promote a product containing hydrogen cyanide for real.

A Thankyou To Technology Bloggers

I just wanted to write a short post as a huge THANKYOU to technology bloggers.

I finally made the painful realisation today that my beloved Samsung S7 really needs to be replaced. The software is old, the USB port no longer works and it’s been used so much that there is a faint remainder of the keyboard on the screen, even when it’s not technically in use. It’ll still work in a pinch, but it’s time to accept that it’s probably had it’s day.

I have to admit, when it comes to technology, I’m about as knowledgeable as a newborn baby trying to swim the English Channel. I’m good with many things, but technology isn’t one of them.

So when I eyed up the phones-within-my-budget on Argos, I narrowly settled for the Samsung A20E. Thanks to Sammobile’s review, I narrowly avoided that mistake. I told you- I’m not tech savvy!

So I settled on the Samsung A40 instead.

I know it’s not top of the range but, at a sizeable £220 I decided that it’s within my price range. It has the camera which a blogger and ASMRtist really needs (I’m parting with my Canon EOS D2000, but that’s a whole other story). It has a good battery life and so that’s all I really need. It’s also about the same size as my old trusty S7, so that works our fine for me. I also decided that a £200 spend was the first time I’d ever had a major phone splurge, so needs must.

Thanks to technology bloggers, I’ve also learned how to connect my Blue Yeti microphone (I love that thing!) to what will be my new camera/smartphone and that I can use Apple products with Android. With that in mind, I cut out needless expensive cables and hubs and got myself an Apple mini USB C – to- USB female adapter for £19. From there, I should be able to open up the camera, record some wonderful ASMR (or the dog) et voila! I’m onto making content.

Blogging is great and there are so many wonderful people out there. Unfortunately, not all of us know everything and there are all areas in which we depend on each other. I may have a good grasp of mental health and housework, but it’s taken me more than two hours to understand all the different types of USB cable.

Over and out until next time, folks!

Helen xx

Special thanks to:

Sanjin Dumisic

Sammobile

Expert Reviews

How-To Geek

My Help On Monday: Criticism- How To Give It, How To Take It (And Two Times I Was Harshly Criticised)

Last week, Matt and I visited The Inn On The Green, and then reviewed our experience following our visit. As is standard procedure, I write two reviews- one for my blog, and a shorter summary that I post on TripAdvisor, no biggie.

Now, experiences at The Inn On The Green weren’t exactly stellar. As a reviewer, I can only be honest and say what I did and didn’t enjoy, and that’s all I set out to do.

So when I saw the response from the manager to my original review, I was quite surprised.

Most managers that I have reviewed have taken any criticism on the chin, taken my pointers on board and gone back to work unscathed. Not this guy.

According to him, I fabricated dishes and I was hard to please. He pretty much chewed me out for being among the 5% of people who weren’t satisfied with how his pub operates.

Yeesh, now it’s personal.

For a moment, it took my husband and a few deep breaths to stop me bouncing onto my laptop and bashing out exactly what I thought of him. It wouldn’t have resolved the issue, but I would have definitely felt more relieved.

But then it struck me, his excessive use of (sometimes multiple) exclamation marks struck a chord.

This wasn’t about me, this was about him.

Him, and the way he handled criticism.

Badly.

Let me be honest, there are two British celebrities that really resonate with me. Heck, I’d even go as far as to say that they inspire me.

Simon Cowell, and Gordon Ramsay.

Not exactly ‘nice’ guys. Agreed?

But you see, once you get past that tough cookie exterior, they are among some of the nicest, most thoughtful, most genuine people you could ever meet.

And I’m pretty much the same.

I can be a bitch, and I can be a complete asshole. But I’m a bitch and an asshole because I want to see you win and I want to see you succeed. I’m not going to sugar-coat things.

Just like Simon Cowell and Chef Ramsay.

Two Times That I Was Criticised

Make no mistake, I am human, and as a human, it means I am fair game to critique. If you want to criticise what I do and you have a good reason to, feel free! In fact, I welcome your criticism because it allows mo to shape the way I do things and make my blog better for you. Go ahead and criticise me!

Story 1: My Writing Club Story

When I joined my local writing club, I was really hopeful to make lots of fellow writer friends. There were 5 of us, three elderly ladies, one younger girl and me. One of the older ladies was the group leader, and she sort of decided what we were going to do, or what we would write about.

Very early in, I realised that we all had very different writing styles. The young girl liked to write about growing up in Africa, two of the ladies wrote poetry, the leader lady wrote prose and then there was me – who wrote pieces aim to assist, guide and inspire. Leadership stuff.

For whatever reason, the leader lady gave us all ‘homework’ to do at the end of the first week, we all had to write a piece of prose about someone we knew, without saying who that person was.

So, I wrote a piece about my neighbour.

It wasn’t a particularly nice piece, sure, but I wanted to convey the emotion that I felt. I wanted to convey the disgust and detest I felt for him for the way he would stand in front of me and lie so frequently and so prolifically. I had some strong emotions about him, and I took that chance to get them out.

She hated it.

It wasn’t prose at all, she said. But the emotion was there. My detest for my neighbour was apparent.

So, then, even if it wasn’t prose, it was still something.

Emotional, powerful. Hey, that was okay.

Each person in the group was told how bad their work was, they were each, in turn, criticised for the work that they produced. Even the poets who struggled the least with the challenge were told how they could improve. At that point I realised that nothing short of perfect prose would be good enough and I decided to disregard her feedback. I don’t write in poetic styles anyway, so that was fine for me.

Although I’ve never been back, my reaction to her criticism was to calmly and quietly leave the group at the end of the session, and vow never to return. I didn’t attack her, I didn’t berate her and I didn’t shut down to everyone else. I just decided it wasn’t the right place for me, and left.

The last that I heard, the leader lady has now left and the group is now led by someone else. Of what I’ve heard, they’re also doing quite well producing articles for our monthly local newspaper, so kudos to them.

Story 2: A Bad Joke

Sat on the seafront in Northern Cornwall, my brother pointed out the sun and said that the sun was in the sky. Amused by his pointing out the obvious, I made a bad attempt at trying to be funny.

“Is that what it is? I thought it was a giant ball of fire.”

I know, I know, it was painful.

“Well yeah, that’s exactly what it is” he said bluntly.

Yeah, that’s exactly what it is. Awkward.

“I’m sorry sis, but if that was what you call humour then.. wow”

Wow yourself!

I was deeply aggrieved and possibly rightly offended. He just didn’t criticise my joke. He criticised me.

Criticism: How To Take It, How To Give It

In life, anything we can do can be criticised. For as long as we can form opinions, and the opinion isn’t favourable, then we’re likely to dish out some criticism. That’s just what we humans do.

The difference, though, is in how you do it.

If, like the writing group leader lady, you just criticise something that someone did, then that’s fine and fair. You aren’t judging them, you are judging something they said or did. That’s good. If you criticise someone for something about who they are (like my brother did), then you’re likely to lose friends, and your criticism will probably be ignored completely. Throw in a compliment or two with your criticism (who can say no to the “compliment sandwich”?) and you’re good and ready.

The difference between helpful criticism an unhelpful criticism, is how you give it, and the intent.

When I criticised the pub, I was not criticising the pub nor the manager. I was criticising my experience. The pub itself was nice and I’m sure the manager is decent, too. It wasn’t about hurting him, it was about allowing potential paying customers to make a decision based on collective reviews. One bad review on TripAdvisor wouldn’t put me off of visiting an establishment, personally, but ten bad reviews on the first page might change my mind. Places like TripAdvisor require a huge level of honesty.

Most people do not set out to belittle you, nor do they set out to offend or upset you, and so it is important to try and see it that way. Criticism is not, generally, meant as a personal attack against you, but as negative feedback against the thing you did.

When we get criticised, it’s easy to overreact and lash out. Try not to let that be the case. Overreacting to criticism does nothing to preserve your credibility and is likely to make people refuse to give you an opinion again. Instead, smile and say thankyou, then decide exactly what you’re going to do with it.

Products Review: Twinings Superblends, Imperial Leather Unicorn Bath Foam & Neutrogena Ageless Boost Face Mask



Hello Lovelies,

I’m back today with another product review for four very different products. When I received my Tesco shop this morning, this little #EveryLittleHelps goody bag was plonked on top with four products inside to try.

The beautiful thing about this little gift bag is that it feels like it’s aimed at mental health and relaxation. With #EveryLittleHelps printed on both sides, it feels like this little bag is aimed at supporting the stressed out Mum’s & Dad’s that shop in-store and online. Parent or not, even if you shop online, home ownership (which involves putting the groceries away!) can be challenging, tiring and stressful. The text on the back of the paper bag promotes relaxation, using the products inside.

Opening the bag, there were 4 products inside, two of which, really, are aimed at women and so I decided I didn’t really need Matt to review the products with me. There is the Imperial Leather Unicorn Marsh Mallow Foamburst body wash, Neutrogena Ageless Boost hydrogel recovery mask and two Twinings tea bags – Calm & Glow. There are also two leaflets for discounted offers on three of the products inside, and a discount code on the back of the bag for the fourth.

Neutrogena Ageless Boost Face Mask

N/A

This is the only product I didn’t review, purely because, to be honest, I’m only 31 and I stay young and youthful with a party-free, laugh-hard lifestyle alone. Ageless at my age is probably baby-faced, and that just makes things weird. It’s fun to squish for stress relief, but realistically speaking, it’ll probably land up on Freegle.

Twinings Superblend Tea – Glow

⭐⭐⭐

The next product to fall victim to my scrutiny was the Twinings Glow – a infusion of strawberry, cucumber, green tea and aloe vera. Brewed with water from a jug of not-quite-hot water, this tea filled my kitchen with an aroma of succulent and juicy strawberries. 4 minutes later (though they suggest three) and my tea was ready.

I have to be honest, it only tasted very slightly of strawberry. I noticed under the new Twinings Superblends they had a Detox option, which made me wonder if they’d had a problem with mislabelling because that’s all this tasted to me – clean, fresh and healthy. If I was into detoxifying teas, then I’m sure this would be perfect. Alas, I’m not into detox teas.

Twinings Superblend Tea – Calm

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If you had heard all of the ooh’s and ahh’s emanating from my bedroom this morning, you would have thought something was goin’ on. What really happened was that I’d brewed my Twinings Calm tea bag using more not-quite-hot water (I learned this trick from a tea master in Padstow). This tea was strikingly similar to my much-loved Teapigs vanilla chai tea and I could feel the calm and tranquillity course down my veins and into my fingertips, which has me making all kinds of perverted and audible noises. It’s more like a chai than chamomile tea, but with the added calm and clarity of chamomile instead- highly recommended!

Imperial Leather Foamburst Marsh Mallow Luxurious Body Wash

⭐⭐

The little girl in me squealed with excitement when I saw this product (because like, unicorns, duh). When something speaks of unicorns and unicorn magic, we instinctively expect that promised ‘unicorn magic’, but y’know what I got with this product? A big, fat, nothing, just excessively sweet-smelling shaving foam, and that’s disappointing. I hoped that when I added water, the foam would change colour – it didn’t. Maybe there would be glitter? No glitter. There’s an absolute nada to give you any experience, presence or idea of unicorns, other than the packaging. It smells excessively sweet, like faux strawberry and feels like nothing more “luxurious” than any other bog standard shaving foam. This, too, will probably end up on Freegle.

So there you have it! If you’re in the UK, I strongly advise you to check out Twinings new Superblend teas. For unicorn poop-powered shaving experiences? Well, maybe don’t bother 😉

Over and out of here for now, folks!

Stay safe and stay well,

Helen xx