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When my children were younger they burst forth from their classroom at the end of the day, waving indeterminable scribbles and tatty bits of paper with random items stuck to them. In fact, I’m sure that teachers save up the worst contents of their recycle bins just so they can have a giggle at our expense when we attempt to enthuse over our loved one’s latest creation,. Over the years, I became hugely experienced in the discovering what each scrawl or construction was supposed to be, learning from, but also channelling, the late, great Joyce Grenfell’s questioning technique:

Now then, children. Shall we talk about this picture? Tell Mummy what you can see. My favourite part is this blue bit. Of course I can see what it is but I want you to tell me all about it…

Of course the pictures deserved praise – I have to retain my Supermum title somehow – and I’m hugely adept at deciphering what my ‘talented’ children created, but here is my confession. There is no special plastic ‘memory box’ in which the artwork is stored or a coloured perspex display board because each precious picture went in the bin a few days after it was brought home.

Craft sessions with the rugrats are all well and good – and I’m a dab hand at cutting a star into half a potato – but the fruits of their labour serve no real purpose. School glue is renown for not actually doing its job very well therefore, essential parts of the creation disintegrate or drop off and the sparkly stuff gets everywhere! Glitter flavoured mash for tea? Of course, darling. And, whilst I’m at it, who’s bright idea was it to stick uncooked pasta onto an A4 piece of paper? There’s a great conversation in Victoria Wood’s ‘dinnerladies‘ that parents in my shoes will love:

Dolly: (reading Tony’s get well card) What does that say?
Twinkle: Love Twinkle.
Dolly: We had to practice handwriting when I was at school! The little boy next door can only write his name in macaroni! How’s he going to move on to joined up writing?
Bren: He’ll have to have a pencil case big enough to hold spaghetti

And, you know what? There’s no respite. Twenty years later my grandchildren are presenting me with handiwork that is covered in just as much glitter, pasta paint and glue. Craft… timeless, huh? 

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*hangs head in shame* I toyed with the idea of publishing this post before I went away but it was technically still April and there was a chance I still might learn something new. Then I returned from holiday and I've been snowed under with Can't-Be-Arsed-ness since Friday. Anyway, not one to let you down, here's all the stuff I learnt in April with a little bit of "What I Learnt In Magaluf" included too. I'm now off to write out "I SHALL NOT BE LATE AGAIN" 100 times...

What I Learnt In April - eBay message
Honesty wins the day! We sold an old compressor on eBay - we had no idea if it worked or not and we were totally honest in the description. We received a fair price for it and an old chap came to collect it.  We received a lovely email from him and he sounded chuffed to bits with his purchase and enjoyed a bit of tinkering!

I don't need knee surgery.  Yet.  I've been diagnosed with arthritis of the knee and probably shouldn't be running.  Cycling or swimming as an alternative form of exercise were mentioned but I can't blow my Whistle Of Power in a swimming pool and I haven't ridden a bike since I had a paper round! I've got a four month period of pain management and now that I'm not running further than four miles in one go, I'm finding that I'm getting very little pain. I have resigned myself to the fact that I'll probably never run another 10K or that half-marathon I had my heart set on but I love my GroupRun Blackburn running family community and truly believe that fate has had a hand in making a decision for me. And now I'm never going to mention my knee injury again.  Brownies Honour.

I didn't win the National Stationery Week Blogger of the Year award. But my good friend Adam from DeskOfAdam did which I'm really pleased about.  If you're not already you can follow him on YouTube / Twitter / Instagram.

Some brands can really shoot themselves in the foot when it comes to marketing.  A while ago I contacted a stationery brand to see if we could collaborate and was met with a wall of silence.  That's fair enough because I know some brands have their own criteria for contacting partners or ambassadors and I don't have the biggest blog when it comes to stationery.  Anyway, this same brand interacted on a video of mine on YouTube that demonstrated one of their competitior's products with a blatant "come and see our product" comment, including their price. I've since challenged them about it and I'm not sure they can see any wrong in what they've done (their private messages don't provide any apology) but they did remove their comment - but not before I took a screengrab of it though..

If you challenge a journalist about their views you find out that they very often say certain things just because they are asked to be an 'antagonist'.  Therefore, I had a very interesting Twitter conversation with Giles Coren after his 'lycra wearing elephants' comments during the Little Stoke parkrun fiasco. He more or less admitted that he says what he believes the listener doesn't want to hear which may (or may not) make the interview more interesting. This makes me sad and a little mystified.

It's over 25 years since Madonna's Blonde Ambition Tour (I KNOW!! I'm Vogue-ing right now) and six of her seven backing dancers have come together to make their own documentary called 'Strike A Pose' which I really need to see! This BBC feature about it is an excellent read.

Here is my video of the month. I saw it shared on Facebook and, after a bit of digging, found out that it was about three years old.  I'm not sure many people realise that Miley Cyrus can actually sing really really well and this is one of my most favourite songs in the world

We recently went to Majorca for a much-earned holiday so here's the "Seven Things I Learnt In Magaluf" section

  • There's always one gobshite in a party, regardless of the theme of the holiday (stag/hen/birthday)
  • Matching t-shirts for the aforementioned group are a must
  • Some blokes still think it's a good idea to verbally abuse a women and then think they are going to get a shag for their efforts
  • I have one of those bus queue faces that now attracts all the foreigners who want to know what my views on Brexit are
  • I read a lot more on holiday than I do at home
  • I always come back from holiday wanting to write this book I have in my head... this wears off about three hours after landing on British soil
  • If you raise your own children correctly they respect your (their) house and don't hold 'the party to end all parties' when you go away and leave them to their own devices (or they tidy up extremely well)

I think that's it for this month.  I totally encourage you to follow me on Snapchat (username: nickieohara - original, huh?) because I think I've found my groove over there and I've posted a few new videos on YouTube which include some time lapses from the holiday (watch out Casey Neistat) and the odd "Today In 1 Minute" not-a-daily-vlog type thing I do. I'm off for a lie down.

Snapchat - nickieohara

Sometimes a notebook is so special you just have to take your time deciding what you want to use it for.

When my friend, Liz, told me that she had undertaken a new venture - Hope House Press - I squealed with delight even thought I felt slightly jealous that she now owned a stationery-related company. It's a huge leap of faith for her and the family and they are working day and night to make this a success. Whilst it is a learning curve for them all, it's also wonderful (and a bit nervewracking) to hear all the behind-the-scenes news.

Essentially, Hope House Press make personalised and bespoke leather notebooks which can be used as diaries or journals to document those important (and not so important) moments in your life. It's also probably the best present you can gift to any stationery lover or someone starting a new venture that needs documenting to look back over at a later date! My own leather notebook is caramel in colour (although I am also drooling over the British racing green) with black inking. 

My B.O.A.T. (Book Of All Things) is an important part of my life as it acts as a diary, a bullet journal, a brain dump, a mind map, an ongoing bucket list... it's literally my life wrapped in a leather cover. I've not written in this notebook yet though, simply because I'm haven't found planner happiness this year.  It's April and I've already attempted four systems!!! I'm a one-notebook kinda girl and when I settle in to something then that's IT! Once I do find that happy place (and I seriously think there isn't a printed planner out there to suit my needs, hence my obsession with notebooks and journals) then I will use this notebook. I know... I'm fussy but if you had a notebook this lovely, you'd want to make sure that it was fit for purpose, wouldn't you?

Anyway, I'm all about supporting small UK businesses and products from the Hope House Press shop are at the top of my shopping list for at least three or four people for their birthday or Christmas this year.  If you've got something specific in mind for a friend, why don't you have a chat with them to see if they can help out?

Hope House Press : Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest | Instagram

*Hope House Press did send me this notebook as a gift as they were trying out new techniques for the journals and their cover printing but I wanted to show them some support too.  I truly believe in supporting home-grown small businesses, especially with stationery. The fact that I've got a glorious new leather notebook is a bonus*
Many times I have wondered how people can find themselves so emotionally involved with a 'celebrity' that they participate in public grieving on social media channels.  I often think it is so that they can 'be seen to care' or to join in with a trend.  I usually comment on the passing, sometimes share a relevant news article and then wait until the next Deadpool newsletter.

Victoria Wood - beat me on the bottom with a Woman's Weekly

Hearing about the sudden and shocking passing of Victoria Wood was different.  I immediately understood why people feel the need to communicate their grief. And why they feel so completely and utterly bereft.

Victoria Wood is someone who's comedic genius I have grown up with. Even before I was old enough to understand her observational humour, I remember her appearing on our family television. Then slowly, and surely, some of the jokes felt as though they made sense - the Northern intention, the strong women used in her sketches... but just the way in which she managed to cover almost every single subject using music and humour and very little swearing.  My mum used to email me Victoria Wood clips and quotes and scripts to cheer me up when she knew I was having a bit of rough week.

I can't pick an absolute favourite sketch or song as there are so many to choose from. Acorn Antiques will always be one of the most ingenious "continuing drama series" that has ever been created and everyone loves The Ballad Of Barry And Freda. I occasionally revisit her sketch series, As Seen On TV and dinnerladies has one of the most connected scripts I've ever seen on a "comedy drama". I never tire of watching any of her stand-up shows whether they are as old as An Audience With... or something more recent such as Victoria Wood, Live At The Albert Hall. However, this is one small sketch that has been attributed to the way in which I deliver a stretch session after I've taken my running group out.  The first time someone mentioned it, I cringed but, seriously, it's an honour to even have that accolade.

I have no idea why I felt compelled to write this - there are far better tributes out there - but 2016 feels like the year that the best of the best started depleting and this just tipped me over the edge. 

Whilst looking for clothes for my impending holiday, I came across this great website - Eles Clothing. They are a wholesale clothing company stocking ex-chain store items at rock bottom prices with all garments being guaranteed at brand new Grade A perfect stock (unless otherwise noted).

I've been in touch with Eles Clothing and they've happily agree to give one lucky reader from the Typecast blog a dress from their new arrivals section which changes on a daily basis.  It's really easy to enter - you just have to follow their Twitter account - @elesclothing - and let me know that you've done it via the Rafflecopter widget below.  I've also included some additional entries to make it a bit more fun! 

Good luck!!

TERMS AND CONDITIONS * This giveaway will begin at 00:01 on 21st April 2016 and will close at 23:59 on 29th May 2016 * This giveaway is open to any of my readers aged 18 or above who reside in the UK. * There is no cash alternative to the giveaway * There is one compulsory entry which asks the entrant to follow the Eles Clothing Twitter account. You can gain additional entries using the options in the Rafflecopter widget * There is one (1) prize in total * The prize has been provided by Eles Clothing * The prize winner will be asked to provide their email address so that contact can be made to arrange prize delivery * Entries will only be accepted as instructed and any entrant that does not complete the qualifying requirements will be disqualified * The winner will be chosen by using a random number generator built into the Rafflecopter widget and will be contacted direct on the email address provided within five (5) days of the draw.
My previous YouTube recommendation post was a HUGE hit, which was a bit of a surprise. The theme was picked up on by Kirsty who is also sharing her fab five each month now. It's always intriguing to see what type of content other people watch, whether they actually subscribe to receive regular updates from one particular content creator and how much time they spend watching their chosen content.

It's also interesting to see how YouTube take your viewing history and recommend more videos for you to watch. I've tried it with a few themes and the endorsed content is always from highly-subscribed channels and/or videos that already have a huge number of views - especially where they are all connected to a specific 'keyword' (i.e. What's In My Bag, The Best Friend Tag, My Boyfriend Does My Make-Up... meh). Where is the support for the channels looking to grow or those that cannot seem to break through this type of crap? Leading on from this, there is a fascinating realisation from a handful of highly-subscribed channel owners that regular content is becoming static and there are fluctuating trends for certain styles.

I don't know what the fix is - or if, indeed, there is one. It feels as though more people are producing video content these days and expecting to make an income from it. I truly believe that, just like in television or film, there are a few people who are engaging and know how to retain audience attention and there are others who don't. So, on that note, here are the five YouTube channels I think you should be watching in April.

5 YouTube Channels You Should Be Watching In April

The Stomach Churner

There's parkour and urban climbing and then there's James Kingston. His style of video production and communication with his audience has improved dramatically over the past 12 months or so and it's one of the best uses of a GoPro on YouTube at the moment.

The Travel Vlogger

I can't remember how I discovered Christian le Blanc's channel (it definitely wasn't his elephant selfie that went viral because I've literally only just seen that) but he has done something that most of us only dream of - given up his corporate life to travel the world.  His channel is woefully under-subscribed for the experiences that he shares and for the really useful "How To..." travel-related videos

The Teacher

When I picked up a ukulele for the first time last year, this was the first channel that can up in a search when I was looking for instructions on how to play a certain song.  The Ukulele Teacher makes learning really easy with demonstrations and annotations and I love that he's not the best singer (I hope he doesn't mind me saying that...) but has a go anyway!

The Over-40 Female Vlogger

Dominique Sachse is a newscaster from Houston, Texas and shares a lot of lifestyle tips for women who are a similar age to her. She's obviously learnt a lot from the professional studio stylists over the years and is extremely adept at styling her own hair and make-up application. There's also some great advice videos on topics such as public speaking, fitness and looking good in photographs.

The Gore

There were a few shocked faces last month when I didn't recommend Dr Pimple Popper but I thought it was a bit too obvious, what with my obsession with cysts!  Anyway, due to popular demand, here is the best channel out there for all things filled with pus - no dodgy camerawork and profession-led explanations about the procedures. I still wish I hadn't bottled it when I had my pyogenic granuloma removed last month - I really should have filmed the whole operation!

Your Turn

It's time to recommend me some new content to watch. I don't care what it is but it should be something that really engages you and, as I said last month, the more random, the better!

You can also subscribe to me on YouTube too if you like...