Things I Learnt In June

June has been much of a muchness. We've had extreme weather from glorious, almost tropical, sunshine to rain that falls so hard from the sky that it bounces off the pavement. I can go to work wearing a summery outfit and come home wearing galoshes and a snorkel! 


It's been the worst ever month for my hayfever. In fact, hayfever can fuck off right to the back and then fuck off a little bit more. I usually suffer from March to the beginning of May and then a little bit in September but this year there's no respite and I'm unsure why - maybe it's because of the aforementioned mixed up weather? I'm in the process of trying a different type of antihistamine and the use of an acupressure point on my hand to try and curb it. But it still shit. 

Once you start thinking about it, there's no natural place for  your tongue to rest in your mouth.

favourite emoji
The Egyptians were way ahead of their time with hieroglyphics.  Most of the communication I read on social media is accompanied by emoji to emphasise the mood of a photo or a caption or a status update. I've even got a few of my own favourites (crying-with-laughter face, tortoise, yellow heart, running man, glass of wine, crown - which basically sums me up) and I have seen friends correspond solely in emoji and not use a single word.


The "When You Were 16" theory of marketing is fricking GENIUS! I heard about this on the radio and can't find a definitive link to anything written about it but I have no doubt it works, so here goes...

  • You have a product to market
  • You find your target audience
  • You research what music was popular when your target audience was 16 years old
  • You use this music in the commercial for the product

The reasoning behind this is that you were (probably) at your most impressionable when you were sixteen years old so if you are taken back to that point with some nostalgic memory you may be swayed to buy the product because of the triggered memory.  SEE... GENIUS!

Rhomany, Twitter,
You can have one hundred bits of paper but you have to have the *right* piece of paper to write a note on. I thought it was just me until I saw my stationery-loving friend @Rhomany announce on Twitter that she had a load notebooks and paper on her desk but nothing to scribble on... 

I'm falling in and out of love with Big Brother on a daily basis. I've never missed a series and I berate myself every year for becoming hooked on it but I love people watching and seeing how they interact when in a confined space and a forced living environment. The issue I have is that originally there was no real format to the show - it was basically about putting a bunch of people who would never normally interact with each other together for a few weeks and seeing what would happen.  Within about four years, the Big Brother housemate were being linked into the zelebrity (sic) culture and more and more 'wannabes' were auditioning for the right to their 15 minutes weeks of fame. I'm really disappointed that the majority of this year's housemates were already known to (a) each other and (b) to me - a reality TV junkie. Rather than an official audition process, I'm sure there's a reality TV agency that sends the CV's of (say) 100 potential housemates and the Big Brother producers stick a couple of pins in them. There's no research done, especially to the extent of looking at their social media streams (see my thoughts on the permanency of digital footprints here) which can be a dangerous move.  I'm still watching though (and flogging myself, nightly, for doing so) but I wish I could be drafted onto the reasearch/production team for a while just to get a gist of what goes on behind the scenes. This paragraph has almost turned into a blog post of its own - maybe I should write about it again - I used to, after all!  

If you ask Amazon nicely to remove the advertising from your new Kindle, they will do so for free.  My five-year old Gen4 Kindle was doing just fine until I bragged about it and it gave up the ghost after we returned from holiday a couple of months ago. I asked Amazon if they did trade-ins but it was way too old so they offered me a discount on a new Kindle, which I gratefully accepted. I was a little annoyed that my Kindle now displayed advertising on the screensaver and the homepage/library so I contacted Amazon to ask them if it could be removed. They explained that displaying advertising for their Kindle store allowed them to offer the Kindle at a lower price and linked me to a page where there was purchasing options for with/without adverts. They then told me that I would be charged a one-off fee of £10 to remove the advertising. I mentioned to Amazon that I had not been told that this was part of the deal (and I had a copy of the original web chat with them to prove it) so felt as though it had been mis-sold to me. After some conflaboration, they agreed with me and removed the ads for free. 

which leads me nicely onto...


What I have enjoyed reading this month:

What I am looking forward to reading next month:
*there's a theme of physchological thriller running through these selections for some reason...


Things I Learnt In June - The runner who finishes last is the one that gets the most out of their entry fee
I'm still finding running Hard Work. I bloody love my 'couch to 5K' community running group but I'm pushing myself to improve on my own stamina and to better my breathing pattern to try and make it easier for myself.  I've now started co-leading a 'Wednesday Social Run' group which leads between 30 and 50 runners around a mystery 5K run in and around Blackburn each week. I'm also challenging myself to a 'long run' of between 6K and 8K every Saturday after the C25K session with some running buddies (with the possibility of entering a 10K 'race' in the near future again). I'm beating myself up about everything because I'm not anywhere up to the standard I was this time last year (pre-injury) and don't envisage myself being there anywhere in the near future. I do have some great running buddies though who have told me I need to take some of my own advice and keep at it!

Here is my video of the month. It's one I saw shared on Twitter by @TOther_Simon and I didn't realise at first, but it's actually him singing a brilliant original song called Porridge and Pins which is about how he can't dance. I'm fascinated by the loop pedal and wish I was more musically talented and more inclined to pick up my own ukulele and practice!


So here we are at the end of another month. The hayfever hasn't subsided (either from the beginning of the month or during the time it took me to edit this blog post at the end of the month) and I'm just about to setting in front of another episode of Big Brother - so nothing changes!! Let me know what you've learnt this month, if you have any psychological thriller books you can recommend me (I'm not planning on killing anyone... I promise) or just go straight from here to my YouTube channel to have a sneak peek at the stationery items I've been reviewing this month.  



5 ways to relax after a hard day at work

If you have a high pressured or stressful job, it is often difficult to leave the work stress behind at the office at the end of the day. However, being able to relax after work is important as it will help you feel less stressed and safeguard against having a burn out. Here are my five favourite ways to relax after a hard day at work.

Blow off some steam with fun online games

Sometimes when you have had a long and hard day at the office, you need to de-stress your mind as soon as you get home. The best thing that I have found for relieving work based tension is playing online games. It really gives me something to focus on and lets me block out all of the day’s stresses. Royal Vegas online casino games provide all of my favorite casino games on one platform, which makes it easy to switch between them depending on my mood. Some days I want to play slots, and other days blackjack suits my mood better.

The traditional lazy night

Nothing beats a traditional lazy night after a hard day at work! Get into your comfiest pajamas and order your favorite take-out, be it Pizza, Chinese or Indian food. After a long day working sometimes it is okay to be lazy and forgo spending an hour in the kitchen trying to cook something yourself. Once your dinner has arrived, curl up on the coach or your bed and turn on the TV! There is something so comforting about warm clothes, tasty food and feel-good entertainment; the post-work relaxation trifecta!

Calm your mind

When you have a billion different thoughts and worries circling around your head, it can be difficult to calm your mind and focus on your personal life. Meditation is a good tool to use to center and calm your mind. There are some great meditation apps out there, but even with these some people find it very difficult to meditate. If this is the case, why not try another calming activity lie Yoga or Tai Chi?

Get lost in a book

I often find that in my busy life I rarely have time to read for pleasure anymore. But sometimes it is good to actively carve out some time when you get home and read. Getting lost in a good book of your choosing is a fast way to let go of all of the work worries and transition into your personal time.

Get outdoors

If you work indoors or in an office, like most people do, you may have a bit of cabin fever from sitting down at a desk all day. In this instance it is a really good idea to get out into nature for a bit before the sun goes down. Whether you go for a walk in a forest or on a promenade, or a run on the beach –the combination of light exercise, fresh air and the beauty of nature is sure to make you feel instantly relaxed!

This is a featured post. Please see my disclosure policy for more details

How Do You Save Money?

How Do You Save Money?

This year has been a frugal one; lots and lots of talk about austerity.  


Many moons ago I wrote about 'extreme couponing' and how we don't embrace it enough in this country. I've also been using a lot of the advice in my ever-popular money saving tips blog post just so that we can save a little bit of extra cash here and there.

Favourite exercises are to use cashback websites more often and save up my cashback amounts so that I have a bit of extra money towards the end of the year (I daren't mention Christmas the 'C' word just yet - we're only in June!).  I'm trying to be careful and I'm sharing my purchases out between in-store bargains and online offers.  I'm a huge fan of money-off round-up sites such as My Favourite Voucher Codes for saving on clothing and home supplies - especially for great Debenhams discount deals.

Another activity that I enjoy doing is searching for online competitions.  I love finding giveaways on blogs (and they are usually have low entry levels too which means more chances for me to win... ssshhh!). Bloggers usually request that you follow their blog or their twitter account as part of the qualifying conditions and sometimes they use a special entry application like Rafflecopter.  You can log in using your Facebook account which mean that you don't have to combat hundred of unwanted emails that usually accompany registering for competitions on branded websites.  Search for blogger's giveaways using Google search but add the words "UK blog" or, if you use Twitter then have a look on the #win or #giveaway search stream.


Let me know what your main money-saving tips are at the moment. What's you're best 'saving' technique? Do you have any discount code websites like the one I recommended for money off at Debenhams?  Let me know in the comments!



This is a sponsored post.  Please see my disclosure policy for more details.

How To Make The Perfect Slice Of Toast

How do you like your toast in the morning?
I like mine with a hug.
Dark or light,
The world's all right,
As long as I get my hug.
How Do You Like Your Eggs In The Morning : Dean Martin feat. Helen O'Connell



My name is Nickie and I suffer from toast anxiety. There, I said it.



I shared this picture of the fifteen stages of toast a while back (ranging from warmed up bread to total cremation) and it caused all sorts of debate. I'm personally a 15 kinda girl (8 at a push) and cannot really deviate from that.

My toast has to be perfect.  Hot, buttery and crunchy. And cut into triangles (because you can get a better bite out of it and there's only one corner to eat, just in case you were wondering).

But... do you know what the worst thing is? It's when you make a couple slices of toast and by the time you get to the final triangle, it's lukewarm *shudder*  I never, ever order toast in a cafĂ© when having a fry-up because you can guarantee that the toast will be stone cold by the time it comes to the table. Oh and toast racks just give me the absolute jitters.

All my life I have been trying to come up with solutions to this dilemma. I've lost count of the amount of times that I have stood up in the kitchen, eating the first slice of toast, hovering over the toaster as the second slice cooks only I can never time it right. Sometimes the toast cooks too soon so has popped up before you're ready to butter it or it pops up too late and you're left with toast-cravings. I have been waiting for the day that Jon Tickle (yes, he of Big Brother Series 4) got past the prototype stage for his Toaster delay idea but it's never yet materialised. 

Now, I know I'm WAAAAAAY behind the times here but imagine my delight when I saw the toaster of my dreams in the House of Fraser sale. A DeLonghi Argento 4-slice toaster. LOOK... you don't have to cook four slices in one go - you can utilise both sides and cook at separate times and there's even a 'reheat' setting for if the toast you've made does go cold. It's like all my prayers have been answered. And it looks bloody gorgeous sitting on the kitchen worktop. 

Delonghi Argento 4-slice toaster from House of Fraser

So, whilst I munch on my multiple perfect slices of toast, tell me how you eat yours and if there's a kitchen appliance you have (or dream of having) that makes your life easier. 


5 Of The Best Last Minute Father's Day Gift Ideas

Why is Dad always so difficult to buy for? Don't they seem to have everything already? I've been on the hunt for the best (and affordable) present for my Dad - and also some ideas to give to my children - and came up with these five last-minute gifts.


Magazine Subscription

Firstly, a magazine subscription is always a bonus.  I gifted my dad a year's subscription of Private Eye for his birthday and he loves it. He even posts me the magazine when he's read it all so double bonus!  I can highly recommend magazine.co.uk* for this present as they have a huge range of magazines to choose from.

man cave sign

Gifts For Under £10

At Christmas I was looking for some stocking fillers for the grandchildren so the DotComGiftShop was one of my first port of calls for gifts under £10.  I am totally loving the Man Cave sign and the retro alarm clock (not kidding... probably going to purchase one of these for myself) but there's all sorts of ideas on this website.
(aside: last year I was named as one of their recommended Lifestyle blogs - go me!) 

Stationery

Once upon a time, my husband was bewildered by my ever-growing stationery obsession. That was until I introduced him to the smaller style notebooks so he now has one to hand next to his computer. The ones he loves the best are the Word.Notebooks from Pocket Notebooks because of their 'to do list' style layout. 

For a more luxury option, you might want to take a look at Hope House Press and their leather notebook collection (I wrote about my friend, Liz, taking over this company a few weeks ago). They have a great 'Genius Of Dad' journal that would be a fantastic gift.

Personalised/Handmade

I know this is fairly local to me, but my friend Jane has the most brilliant pottery studio just outside Preston called Fired4U (you can even look inside via Google Maps). There are loads of ceramic based workshop available and it's definitely a few steps up from a glitter and painted pasta creation.

DIY-related

Sugru
About a year ago, I saw a video about a mouldable glue that sticks to anything then 'hardens' into a flexible rubber after 24 hours. It was pretty genius, to say the least as you can use it for repairs and home improvements. The Sugru starter kit* is probably the best way to start creating and fixing.



Can you add anything to this list? What are your Father's Day gift ideas?


I have curated this list myself and without prompting. Any items that have been sent for review or that include an affiliate link have been marked with an asterisk * 



Things I Learnt In May - All About That Car Accident

There are times earlier this month when I wanted to write this blog post and there are times earlier this month that I wanted to never write again. May has been a long month and I've learnt a lot about myself and my family in that time.


*trigger warning* I have included a picture of the car after the accident

Hearing your son tell you on the phone that he's been in a car accident whilst he's still trapped in the car sends you into parental overdrive, especially when you find out that the accident has happened less than two minutes away from your own house. I'm still not sure the decision to jump in the car and head off to the scene of the accident was a good idea.

Actually seeing your son trapped in a car and watch him be cut out by the emergency services renders you feeling useless.  Hearing him cry out in pain and know you can't do anything about it makes you feel more numb than you've ever felt.

All About That Car Accident


Seeing people flock to the scene of the accident and take photographs makes you wonder why they need to record this incident for posterity.  This extends to the man who told me he was "recording it to show his son to warn him about dangerous driving" (I *might* have given him a mouthful), to the people ducking under the police cordon to get a better view, to the journalist from the local paper who eventually recorded all the wrong information and to the 'friend of a friend' who felt the need to share his view of the accident on Facebook... fuck you all!

Sitting in a hospital, in the major trauma unit, just watching everything going on around you makes you feel lucky to be alive - and for everyone around you to to be alive. There are people of all ages with all manner of injuries or health issues around you and no one person is more/less important than the next.

Trying to find the words to tell other people that your son has a blood clot on the brain, a broken neck, bleeding and bruising on the lungs and a broken pelvis means you have to bottle your own feelings for a while and try and find the answers to the questions and then the questions for more answers.

There are not enough expressions of gratitude to be able to begin to thank the emergency services and the continuing health care we have available at the drop of a hat here in the UK. And then not receive an invoice for that care when you are discharged. And not have to consider the price of the continuing care for the next three months or so.

It is possible to survive off very little sleep and lots of adrenalin. I think I was running on 47 hours awake with four hours of broken sleep at one point.

No matter how old your child is, you are always rendered helpless when you see them lying in a bed, frustrated with the situation they have created, feeling guilty because they put one of their best friends in danger and angry at themselves for everything else. And you just want them to be little again so you can scoop them up and hug their pain away.

Updating Facebook is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it's a great way to inform many people about developments and where they can express their love, concern and support.  On the other hand, it's a place for judgemental bastards to think that providing information via your Facebook status is more important than caring about your child in the hospital. But then these people would rather believe the aforementioned local rag than come to the source for the real details.

It is impossible to be in two places at once and sometimes you have to accept that, even though you are wracked with Mother's Guilt.

You run out of things to say to each other, especially when you see more of your grown-up child when visiting him in hospital than you do on a normal day-to-day basis! This is mainly because he is laid on a bed with nothing to do, he has very little to tell you and because you have only been home to sleep, back to work and then driven to the hospital again.

A collective sigh of relief and a silent cheer is heard when the official discharge documents are signed a mere two weeks after the accident. This, in itself, is a small miracle when the original diagnosis was that initial recovery was thought to be a hospital stay for five weeks, possible surgery and many months of physiotherapy.  Of course, it's a start of another long road to recovery which will take time, patience and hard work. But this could have been so much worse.

At this point I normally share a Video of the Month but I'm not sure there's an appropriate one. This one, however, is one that's been playing on a loop in my head for days now.




I think that's it for now. Normal(ish) service will resume next month. Thanks for getting this far and letting me share my train of thought and emotions.