Sunflowers definitely give me the "Flower Effect"

ladybird, label, The #FlowerEffect, funny how flowers do that,


You may have seen on my Instagram that I received a surprise bouquet of flowers today. I had absolutely no idea who they were from. Then, checking my email, I found a lovely note from The Flower Council of Holland explaining "The Flower Effect" - a way to spread happiness through a random act of kindness (and we all know how I adore that). This bunch of flowers has definitely brightened my day up especially as sunflowers are my favourite!


The Flower Effect, #flowereffect, Funny How Flowers Do That, sunflower, bunch of flowers, yellow, carnation,

Sticking with the theme, I requested that two bunches of flowers be passed on to two great people [1 | 2] who I know deserve them this week. Just my little way of continuing to spread happiness. Hopefully they've received them by now or I've just ruined a great surprise... 

¨¨°º©©º°¨¨

To see more about The Flower Effect, here is a short film produced by Basha de Bruijn for the Flower Council of Holland. Only the two main characters are actors - all the reactions from passers-by are genuine. The idea behind it is that seeing someone carry a bunch of flowers cheers us all up and leaves us pondering who the flowers are for and why they deserve to receive them.


Flower Council of Holland info : web | Twitter | Facebook 
Here's a link to my disclosure policy to explain more about my connection with campaigns

Vintage Postcards Of London

vintage, postcards, London,


A pack of vintage postcards of London arrived in the post this week. Sian found them at a car boot sale over the weekend and knew I would love them. I have scanned a few of them in here (see below) but you can flip through them all with me in this video.

There is another postcard (featured at the end of the video) which has actually been written and sent through the post many years ago. I am going to write about that one separately so stay tuned...





vintage, postcard, London, Beefeater, Tower of London,
A Beefeater (Yeoman Guard) at the Tower of London

vintage, postcard, London, Bonnington Hotel, Holborn
The Bonnington Hotel, Holborn, London

vintage, postcard, London, Charing Cross, The Strand,
Charing Cross and The Strand

vintage, postcard, London,  St Paul's Cathedral,
St Paul's Cathedral

vintage, postcard, London, Trooping the Colour,
Trooping The Colour at Horse Guards Parade



The Gallery : 8am

The Gallery
The Gallery is one of those blogging comfort zones.  It's a place that led me to enjoying taking (and sharing) photographs and helped me to make great blogging friends.  I was there at the start - you can see my very first post for The Gallery here - and now we're on week/prompt number 200. I haven't joined in with every single prompt but I've loved joining in when I can and seeing entries from other people on all the other weeks. I've discovered new blogs, rediscovered forgotten blogs and revisited regular reads.  Of course I had to join in with this milestone week which has a prompt of...

8am


8am, home office,


At 8am, during the week, I have usually managed to push a teenager out of the door on time for school.  Until recently, I would have been heading out of the door myself but now I work from home, so I make a quick cup of tea in my "Super Nan" mug and head off up the stairs to my office.  I open my laptop, check my emails and diary and start the first stretch of the day I have planned.  One great aspect of my new working life is that no two days are the same. One day I could be managing social media updates for a client and the next I could be covering an arts and culture event.  It's also not a traditional 9-5 job any more so the flexibility allows me to feel I am accomplishing so much more. 

There is another 8am in my life and that is one on a Saturday morning. This is a new 8am for me and one that I'm surprisingly enjoying. I recently completed a "Couch to 5K" programme and Saturday mornings are now all about getting out and going for a run before everyone else wakes up.  It's a lovely experience (yes, really), jogging along the canal, nodding to early morning dog walkers and other runners, especially when you see a bloke doing a "Phoebe run"* - that really perks you up! Later this month I will be volunteering to help the next group of C25K-ers through their programme as a way of starting to pay back what is now a new part of my life.

running shoes, couch to 5k, blackburn


*A "Phoebe run" is a Friends reference.  If you have no idea what I'm on about then take a look at this video.

What's In My Handbag (part 6) - The School Bag Edition

When I was in my last year at high school there was a definite trend with school bags. The girls used a green canvas messenger bag which could be purchased from the local camping shop.  The strap was kept as long as possible so the bag hung near your knee somewhere and the bag material was ideal for writing friend's relationship statuses on (yes, even before Facebook was invented we flaunted our love life in public) in black marker pen. The boys preferred to use the largest bag available - an Adidas sports bag - with the shortest straps so it could only be carried with the handles clenched in the fist and slung over the shoulder. You quickly learnt not to stand behind one of the boys whilst waiting to get off the school bus as they flung that bag over their shoulder with great force.

school bags, messenger bag, adidas retro sports bag


JD Sports, rucksack
To celebrate what is the last ever "First Day Back At School" in the O'Hara household, JD Sports sent Jake the pick of their school bag range. It seems that the rucksack is the bag of choice for this year as he selected this bag which is almost as big as he is - and that's saying something (he also chose this gym sack for his PE kit which proves that Adidas is still going strong after all these years).

As a bit of an experiment, I thought I'd compare the contents of a school bag from over 25 years ago (of course my memory is that good!) with a school bag of today.  Here are the results:

1987-1988

Homework Diary (complete with forged parent signatures each week)
Pencil case (4 pens in different colours, scented eraser, felt tip pens, liquid paper, liquid paper thinners, a couple pencils, a pencil sharpener, a maths set (protractor, set square which I can't ever remember using, compass)
Two or three A4 Project files
At least three or four text books at any given time
At least three or four exercise books depending on what lessons we had
Jotter
Trainers
(PE Kit twice a week)

2014-2015

Homework diary
Pencil case (6 pens, 2 pencils, rubber, ruler, sharpener, Tippex roller)
School booklet
Exam test days
School text books (Science, english, maths, drama)
Exercise books (Science, English, Maths, Drama)
School holidays timetable
Trainers
(PE Kit once a week)

We both made our lists in secret so what amazes me is how similar they are, even with a 25+ year gap, especially the fact that we both carried trainers with us all the time.  Jake's are probably for dossing around but mine were for extra sprint training at lunch time (in between Prefect duty and sneaking off for a crafty fag round the back of the school Chapel). Also, even with the advent of digital technology, schools still hand out Homework Diaries for pupils to write out their timetable, take notes and keep reminders.


So, can you remember what was in your school bag and how does it compare to the bags your children take to school now?


NB: As this post contains a bit where I talk about an item we were sent, here's a link to my disclosure policy.

My 'Come Dine With Me' Dream Team

come dine with me,

This would be the best Come Dine With Me ever. Fact.
But you would have to watch with your eyes closed.

---------------

Alan Dedicoat (the voice of The Balls)
Peter Dickson (the voice of X-Factor)
Dave Lamb (the voice of Come Dine With Me)
Marcus Bentley (the voice of Big Brother)

I will fill in for Dave Lamb as the voice-over.
I'd even write my own script.

---------------


Who would be at your dream CDWM table?


[RECIPE] How To Make Peanut Blondies

recipe, peanut blondies, hungry student cookbook,


You can watch what happened in this video as I demonstrate how to make Peanut Blondies from the Hungry Student Easy Baking Book.  It's worth it, I promise... 



Ingredients


  • Vegetable oil or butter, for greasing
  • 100g white chocolate, broken into squares
  • 60g butter, softened
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 150g light brown soft sugar
  • 2 medium eggs, beaten
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 150g peanut butter (crunchy works best but smooth is fine too)
  • 80g plain flour
  • 1/4tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 20cm square cake tin
  • non-stick baking paper


Method


  1. Preheat the oven to 180C / Gas Mark 6. Grease a 20cm square cake tin and line with non-stick baking paper.
  2. Melt the chocolate (traditional or microwave method).  When the chocolate is melted, set it aside to cool for around 10 minutes.
  3. In a mixing bowl, beat together the butter and both types of sugar until pale and fluffy.
  4. Combine the beaten eggs and vanilla extract and add to the mixture along with the peanut butter.  Beat in vigorously until well mixed.
  5. Pour in the cooled melted chocolate and stir to combine well.
  6. Sift in the flour, baking powder and salt and fold in.
  7. Pour the mixture into the tin and bake for 25-35 minutes.  Be careful not to overcook or the blondies will be dry.
  8. Allow to cool fully in the tin before cutting into slices.
  9. Store in an air-tight container and eat within 7 days.



This recipe has been reproduced with full permission from Charlotte Pike and the Hungry Student Cookbook publishers, Quercus.

Charlotte Pike : Twitter | Website
Hungry Student Cookbooks : Twitter | Amazon

August Favourites

August Favourites, tangle teezer, bare minerals, Ghost perfume, Zatchels, Smirnoff


Here's a short (!) video where I talk about my "August Favourites" - products I've bought and/or used last month that I really loved.


Links:

My phone is the Nokia Lumia 520.  The Windows Phone update was the 8.1

Bare Minerals Lipstick (Debenhams website) in the shade "make your move"

The Thomas Cook Emporium duty free magazine can be found here and I bought... Tangle Teezer (page 66) | Ghost Perfume (page 14 - oops, it was £32 for the pair) |  Medley Boho Watch (page 60)  | Smirnoff Vodka with Lime (page 78)

Zatchels Spring Green 16" leather satchel




Back To School (for the last time ever)

This is the last time I'll ever be posting a "first day of the new school term" picture so humour me, please.

Back To School, Year 11, Jake

Every September since 1995 I have waved my child(ren) off to start a new school term and today was the last time.  My youngest set off on his Year 11 journey today.  He actually has another compulsory year of EET (employment, education or training) but this will have to be away from his high school as they don't have a sixth form/Year 12-13.  He's got plans anyway... plans that involve something non-academic and fun and that will incorporate all his vocational GCSE's - music, drama and catering.

It doesn't seem that long ago since I was starting the top class of high school and yet it was a full generation away. I was full of dreams and expectations and had ideas about the career path I was going to take.  Nothing much changes, does it?


I've linked this to Tara's Gallery this week as she has a "Back To School" theme.



Online Slots with a Music Theme

Everyone has a favorite type of music that they like to plug into and block out the rest of the world for a while. Whether it be classics from decades past, the pulsing beats of club music or high energy rock‘n roll, music plays a key role in setting the mood so to speak. Top developers in the online gambling industry have harnessed the power of music making it central to the themes of several online video slots available online today.

Online Slots That Sound as Great as They Play

Online Slots with a Music Theme
There are several slots on the market today that centralize high energy music such as Karaoke Party (Microgaming), Spinions Beach Party (Quickspin) and DJ Wild (Elk Studios). These slot titles stand out from the rest due to the ability of each to successfully create a sensual ambience that leaves a memorable impression.

Everything about Elk Studios’ DJ Wild from its neon symbols to its synthesized electronic clubbing soundtrack is meant to recreate all of the flash and glamour of a nightclub. This online slot sets its own unique mood perfect for that player that loves to party. With an RTP (Return To Player) value of 96,3% and the chance to win up to 170,000 coins a single wager, DJ Wild promises to be as rewarding as it is entertaining.

Spinions Beach Party’s addictive soundtrack keeps things fun and interesting during gameplay. It offers an RTP of 96% and the chance to win up to 500x the Bet! Bob and sway with the little Spionions in this high-energy slot.

Enjoy karaoke from home with Microgaming’s Karaoke Party slot. Hum along to the tune as you play for the chance to win up to 150,000 credits.

Pop Stars and Rock Bands

Online Slots with a Music Theme
Developers have harnessed the ‘star power’ of legends in the music industry by creating slots centered around top artists including Michael Jackson, Kiss, Jimmy Hendrix, Guns N’ Roses and Motorhead to name a few. These online slots successfully allow players to enjoy their favorite music while spinning for cash by featuring hit singles during gameplay. Fans will also appreciate the use of symbols featuring Jimi Hendrix’s favored Stratocaster, band members and even Jackson’s gloves. www.slotsdaily.co.uk reviewed all these slots.

Bally’s Michael Jackson King of Pop recreates a concert experience by featuring an animated Jackson moonwalking across the slot screen and incorporating top hits including “Beat It,” Dirty Diana,” “Bad,” Billie Jean,” and “Smooth Criminal.” In addition, it offers the chance to win up to 2500x the Bet.

Kiss is fully loaded with hit songs (“Shout it Out Loud”), live concert clips and fire spitting which all go toward successfully creating an immersive concert slot experience. WMS’s Kiss offers an RTP of 95,98% and the chance to win up to £125,000.

The ‘NetEnt Rocks’ slot series currently includes Jimmy Hendrix and Guns N’ Roses. It will soon include a soon to be released installment centered entirely on Motorhead. Popular hits are featured in all of these slots, and each offers an RTP of 95% or better.