[REVIEW] Dolce Gusto MINI ME - Perfect Coffee In Under A Minute

This quote from my husband sums it up:
"A rich filter coffee in seconds"
When I first opened my Dolce Gusto "Mini Me" pod machine I immediately though it looked like a penguin. It fits perfectly into our kitchen, looking pretty cool on the sideboard, getting lots of compliments from visitors.

It's so easy to make a barista-style coffee using this machine because after you have ensured that the water tank is full, fed the "pod" into a special drawer and selected the amount of water to be filtered through the pod, the machine does the rest, delivering perfect coffee every time.  Have a look at the video below to see just how easy it is - I filmed this in real time. 

There are lots of different flavours of coffee pods available. Some of the coffee styles require more than one pod (such as the cappuccino) but there are many that only require one pod. You can also mix up pods to create different "recipes".

At the time of writing three boxes of pods (16 per box) were on sale at my local supermarket on a "3 for £10" offer. It sounds expensive however your perfect cup of coffee works out at around 21p each - much cheaper than your specialist barista-style branded cafes.  Saying that, this isn't the sort of coffee I would drink each time I fancy a brew - they are more a one-a-day treat or a morning booster. 

Let me know if you have one of these.  What's your favourite coffee pod? 

Reviewed as part of the #dolcegustoblogger programme. 
For more details please see my disclosure policy.

Where It All Began

Sunrise on 28th July 2009

This was the sunrise on the 28th July 2009. 
At the time I never knew how that day would change my life, 
but it was the start of a new path for me.

Today this blog is five years old.  I've been blogging much longer under many guises however Typecast came into existence with this post about becoming a young grandparent. This blog has given me space to air my opinions and speak freely, occasionally with people listening and responding.  It has connected me with an amazing and inspiring group of people that continue to grow as an online community.  It has helped me raise thousands of pounds for a charity very close to my heart. It has brought me opportunities to help support some awesome campaigns. 

It continues to take me on a journey of self-discovery.
Thank you for travelling with me.

The image was sent to me by The Day That..., mounted and framed. 
It is now hanging over my desk as a reminder of where it all began. 

Treating Myself

satchel, camcorder, notebooks, laptop,
Recently I have invested in a few items that are definitely going to add meaning to my life. We all need a little boost sometimes don't we?

In the picture you can see my gorgeous denim satchel, my (purple) laptop, two (moleskine) notebooks and a video camera. 

The laptop was the biggest investment. I'm working from home now and my old laptop just didn't cut it when it came to multi-tasking. 

I've never owned a traditional style satchel before so when the Zatchels sale was on recently I thought I deserved a bit of a treat.  

The camcorder is because I'm becoming involved in vlogging and spending more time on my YouTube channel.  

The notebooks are... well, a girl can never have too many notebooks, can she? The larger one of the two will be my next bullet journal and the small green one fits perfectly into the back of my Filofax and will be for random notes.

Brand new starts in life require brand new things to help you along.  

The moleskines were sent by Ryman Stationers. Click to find out more about their #brandnew website. 
For more information please see my disclosure policy.

Cirque Du Hilarious - The 'must see' Show In Blackpool this summer

Cirque Du Hilarious poster
It's not often you can watch a show where every generation of the family breaks forth with uncontrollable belly-laughs and has a great time. However, this is exactly what happens at Cirque Du Hilarious.

Cirque Du Hilarious, father and son duo, Clive Webb and Danny Adams, along with their small-but-perfectly-formed cast (including two of Clive's other sons, Mick Potts and Jonny Marx) pack in groan-worthy jokes, slapstick comedy that makes you laugh so much your cheeks hurt, magic acts, song, dance and audience participation in their hour and a half show in a very engaging and intimate cabaret-style atmosphere.

We attended as a family of four (two adults and two children aged 5 and 4) and it was great to see a few jokes included for the adults but the rest of the show being very family orientated.  There is a very loose show storyline about wolves living under the pier but this type of show doesn't need a storyline as you get carried along with the humour and on-stage action.

Danny Adams is the ultimate clown and performs slapstick entertainment very well with Clive Webb (and if Clive is ever getting rid of his Union Jack suit then I want first refusal on it). The show is slick and even when there are mistakes, the twinkle in Danny's eye make you wonder if it really was a mistake or whether he's just a really, really good showman.

If you want a reasonably priced afternoons entertainment in a great Northern venue then you really must go and see Cirque Du Hilarious.  


Cirque Du Hilarious - Danny Adams and Clive Webb
Tickets: Tickets are available via Ticketmaster or at Central Pier Box Office and are priced at £10 per adult and £8 per child or there is a family ticket (2 x adult, 2 x children) available for £26. The show runs until 31st August (please check show times).

Top Tip:  The seating at the Central Pier showbar is unreserved so get to the door early (doors open half an hour before the show starts) and take your pick of the cabaret-style seating where each table seats four people. Also, try to sit facing the stage as you get a much better view. We sat stage right and missed a few visual jokes because the cast were facing front.

We were provided with a family ticket for the purpose of this review. For more details please see my disclosure policy.

What Is The Best Way To Discuss Sex With Your Child?

According to a recent report the number of teenage pregnancies in the UK is falling however East Lancashire (where I live) still has some of the highest rates of teen pregnancy in the country [source: Lancashire Telegraph].  So it was no real surprise to receive a phone call from BBC Radio Lancashire asking to provide my opinion having been a teen mum and as the parent of a teen mum.  

You can hear my chat with Graham Liver here on the BBC iPlayer (available until 29th July) at around 2hrs 8mins. As well as sharing my thoughts about finding out my daughter was to become a teen mum, I talk about how the positive stories are not included in any media-led statistics and how case-studies like mine (pregnant at 18 and still in a relationship the child's father 24 years down the line) are probably not as rare as they are believed to be - they are just not reported on because it doesn't make a dramatic headline. 

male and female symbols intertwined
This discussion got me thinking about how we really talk to our children about sex. Age appropriate dialogue is always important but are we too scared to actually talk about sex with our children? Is it the responsibility of us as parents to ensure that our children know everything there is to know or do some parents (incorrectly) presume that they develop, physically and mentally, at the same rate as their peers and leave it to the sex-ed class in school, whenever that may be these days?

What exactly is the best way to teach our children that having sex could (and does) get someone pregnant? We very much need to have this conversation with our children but there are no true guidelines anywhere. Do we proceed with the 'birds and the bees' talk, teach them about pollination in plants, introduce them to real live stories (rather than shock-doc type programmes), provide them with the statistics, tell them about our own experiences - good and bad... or what? Also, now that we are living in a more diverse world, how do we teach our children that they have to respect (and sometimes protect themselves from) the possible variations within different cultures?

At what age does sex stop being 'yucky' and start being a worry?

Is it so wrong that I had a child at the age of 18 a and then became a grandmother at the age of 36? And of curse I thinking the unthinkable and already wondering if history going to repeat itself once again in a few years? 

Procreation is needed but it is a gift. It needs to be treated with respect for so many reasons. Let me know how are you sharing that message with your own children.


Books I Read On Holiday (and really, REALLY enjoyed)

recommended reading for 2014
When I went on holiday recently I chose five books from my recent downloads to read (a lot of my random e-book reading are from the "free" section of Amazon with paid downloads being true recommendations from friends). Two of them were never started, the other three were a glorious surprise.

The first book I completed was 48 Hours : A City Of London Thriller by J Jackson Bentley. It was free when I downloaded it (and, at the time of writing, still is free).  The plot was unpredictable and kept me glued to the book.  When you thought it was concluding you realised there was loads more of the book left and another twist happened.  My only criticism is that one of the characters is literally Bob Geldof with a name change - there should have been more originality with this character because it still would have worked. I'm glad to have discovered this author and will probably be downloading more from him.

Next was The Last Day which has been written by a very good blogger friend of mine, Emily Organ.  Emily was offering this as a free download just after publication so I grabbed a copy (at the time of writing, this is available for £1.75). I love that it was set in the 80s and the cultural references are spot on. The story is set during just one day and hinges on the fact that the main character had a premonition about the day that he was going to die. A really unique plot with an unusual ending. 

Finally, and probably my most favourite book, was No Tears For The Clown : An Autobiography by Les Dawson (I can't remember if I paid for this download but it's currently priced at £2.99). Les lived in St Annes in Lancashire which is where I grew up for part of my childhood so many of the references to the town are places that I know well. This part of his autobiography is based around his first wife's death and his new relationship with Tracy and it's good to hear his side of the story, especially as the media version is so different.  I kept reading parts of this book out to my husband because of references to locations and events that have also been a big part of my life.  The book finishes with the birth of his daughter, Charlotte and, as we all know, he didn't live for very long after that.  I would love to have read a conclusive chapter from Tracy (or even a book of her own about her life with Les).

As you may have gathered, much of my holiday was spent with my Kindle in my hand, which was perfect for me (and I mention it in this video). It also made me realise that I haven't been reading much recently which is something I've already rectified although I'm dreading starting The Fault In Our Stars because I'm probably going to cry all the tears.

What books would you recommend to me for the rest of my Summer reading?


Soundtrack To My Life - Craig From 80sNostalgia.com

Soundtrack To My Life
As many of you know (because I've talked about it so much) a lot of my early internet hours were spent on the 80s Nostalgia forum and chat room. I discovered it after it was the recommended website in the Daily Mirror and still have many (very close) friends from those times.  I have lost touch with the original founder (Birdy) but Craig took over the website and still runs it today.

If I am being totally honest, I expected more 80s music from Craig's Soundtrack To My Life but, in a way, I'm glad that it's as mixed as it is.  For now, it's over to Craig.


Shout - Tears for Fears

This, for me, is how an 80s song should be – moody, mechanical and unhappy. I think I've always been a moody male, even when I was at primary school. Over the years I've often pondered why I was so moody for the early part of my life. There were no events that I was unhappy with, not occasions that made me sad, nothing bad ever happened to me and so it was a bit of a mystery.

Eventually I realised why I had been unhappy for so long - it was because for my entire school life, all through primary AND secondary school, I had been sporting a womans hair style. Every time my mum took me to the hairdressers, not the barbers, they would ask me how I wanted it cut. I’d tell them I wanted it spikey, or long at the back, or something fun that kids want. Then they would go to my mum and ask her what I ACTUALLY wanted. I never heard what she whispered to them, but in retrospect she probably said, “make it look like mine.” As a boy growing up between the ages of 4 and 14, my haircut was identical to my mums.

Shout is one of those songs that has lyrics you can read your own meanings into, and interpret in different ways depending on your own mood. For me it usually reminds me how I eventually rebelled and never had a haircut again.

Epic – Faith No More

From Out Of Nowhere, the album from which Epic was a taken, is a superb record. I bought it from a second hand record shop in Bolton, and it cost me a fiver. The first song I had ever heard by Faith No More was Woodpecker from Mars, which is an instrumental Aztec-themed song. I had heard that at my mate Olivers house, and the fact that this album had that song on was the primary reason I bought it.
Having bought it I got home and put it on, plugged headphones in and listened to the entire album from start to finish, reading along with the lyrics on the record sleeve. When Epic came on I had a few questions. What is this strange music? Its not quite metal, not quite rock, not quite rap, but I like it a lot! Why does it sound good?

I became obsessed with playing it over and over again, to the point where, ironically, I made a mix-tape of just that song over and over again. I think this song was the start of my preference moving from pop music to metal.

Silent All These Years - Tori Amos

Ok, I know I said I moved onto metal but, sweet mercy, Tori Amos was amazing! I first saw the video to Silent All These Years while bowling with my mate Russ in Bolton. They used to stream MTV onto the TVs, back when the M in MTV stood for Music. I remember stopping bowling just to watch the weird video and listen to her awesome piano. I think Russ liked it too, but as it was his week of footing the bill for the bowling lane, he was eager to play on.

The lyrics just sounded like odd, disjointed soundbites, with each subsequent line completely unconnected with the previous one. I loved the randomness of the song and every time I hear it, it temporarily reminds me of being 18. I wouldn’t want to be 18 again as I like where I am now, but that song in particular fills me with nostalgia.

The Size Of A Cow – The Wonder Stuff

When I left secondary school I went to a sixth form at a different school; the Deanery in Wigan. I was only there for a year but after a month it felt as though I’d been there for years. I began to mix a very small, close-knit group of people who grew to become good friends. They were quite diverse compared to the people I’d been to primary and secondary school with. Its weird how people of the same age differ based on the location of their upbringing. The people I was now mingling with grew up about 10 miles away from where I did and, even though they were ace, they all dressed differently and listened to weird music.
Alistair made a copy of two Wonderstuff albums onto a couple of C-90s for me. I’d never heard of them before. There was a song called Inertia on the Hup album which, due to Alistairs dodgy spelling, I believed was called Interia.

The first gig I ever went to was The Wonderstuff, and I went to it because of the people I met at The Deanery. Size Of A Cow had just been released, as had Dizzy with Vic Reeves (featuring The Wonderstuff) and I loved them both. The gig cost me £30 and it was ace!

Alice in Chains – Would?

By FAR the best gig I ever went to was Alice in Chains at Manchester Academy. It was the least expensive gig I’ve ever been to, and the most intimate. There were only about 1000 people there and I was so close to the front I could have untied Layne’s shoelaces, if they had been tied already. In fact I could have tied them for him.

Dirt is a superb album and one that I wholeheartedly recommend any fans of metal should listen to. Its just so… I think the best word is “dirty” Not dirty in a rude way, but grindy, mechanical, uncomfortable and moody. It is absolutely delicious.

I went with my mate Nick. I bought us both tickets and although Nick had never heard anything by AIC before, he was eager to give it a go. As we left that evening he admitted that was the best gig he’d ever been to. He repaid the favour by buying us both tickets to watch Living Colour a few weeks later, which ended up being the worst gig I’ve ever been to in my life. Not Nicks fault by any means, but I don’t think anything will ever live up to the AIC gig.


Soundtrack To My Life

You can find Craig remembering the 80s with a little bit of 70s and 90s thrown in for good measure on his website, Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus.

Read and listen to all previous Soundtrack To My Life entries by clicking on the mix tape to the right.  If you want to participate please complete this form and I'll be in touch very soon.  

The Gallery : #WIDN (What I'm Doing Now)

This isn't really a "what I'm doing now", it's more a "what I was doing then" or a "I wish I was still doing that" type of Gallery entry today.

This time last week I was on a short break in Tunisia with my husband. It is only the second time we've been away on our own in our 24 years of being together. Whilst we were away, we celebrated our 22nd wedding anniversary with very little pomp and ceremony. We did absolutely nothing whilst we were away; we never left the hotel, we sunbathed, we swam in the sea, we didn't get drink copious amounts of alcohol, we allowed ourselves half an hour a day to catch up on British news and Facebook alerts on our tablets using the fairly erratic hotel wi-fi connection (hence where I saw the Gallery prompt) and just properly chilled out.

Here's more of what we did (and didn't) do...

taxi, Tunisia

Monastir, Tunisia

horse, beach, tunisia

We also watched the sun set...

Tunisia, sunset, Monastir, Sousse,

...and watched it rise again.  A lot!

sunrise, Tunisia, Monastir

And here is a gratuitous planescape 
(of which I have more and will be added to my collection very soon)

planescape, Tunisia, Airbus321,

For more Gallery themed posts, check out Tara's blog.

This isn't the body I want but its the body I've got. For now.

A few months ago I accepted that I am who I am inside this body.  This isn't the body I want but its the body I've got.  For now.  Every mark, lump and bump on my body tells a story. This includes the stretch marks from three pregnancies, the scars from six operations, the pock marks from childhood illnesses, the way I choose to decorate my skin with tattoo ink and all the weight I've put on over the past few years.  

I have made conscious decisions to make changes to my body to attempt to become happier with it. I've joined a local Slimming World group and I'm learning how to keep fit with the 'Couch to 5K' running programme. It's not easy and I want instant results to become instantly happier with who I am but I'm sensible enough to know part of the psychology behind it determines that it's going to be a slow process.

However... here's the twist...  

bikini body, bikini bridge,
Newspapers choose to print images of celebrity bodies which range from one extreme to the other; the image that they have drilled into the heads of so many people as the 'perfect' slim, toned and tanned body to the 'horror' image of anything that is larger than a size 10. We've had slut-shaming, now we're having fat-shaming. Or maybe it's all part of the same strand of hatred?  

I went on holiday recently and was in two minds about what to wear whilst sunbathing.  This is more about the way I feel about my own body rather than believing that someone else is looking at me and disliking what they see. If someone does have time to look at me, make judgement and compare me to a media-led ideal then they can go fuck themselves, if I'm being totally honest.  

But whilst I was away I read this piece of fat-shaming drivel from Linda Kelsey in the Daily Mail (yes, I know, I know... but you do need to read it to understand why there are so many people out there being brainwashed into thinking that you have to be slim and pretty to be accepted in life).  From then on I stopped covering up with my baggy t-shirt to walk to the hotel bar and I embraced the fact that people (of every shape and size you can imagine) were far more occupied with enjoying themselves than worrying about what I was wearing to hide my own insecurities. I even took this picture of my own bikini body to remind myself I don't need a 'bikini bridge' to be happy now... today... right in this moment.

There are two bikini-themed blog posts that I want to highlight that are so worth a read (them damn girls got in before me).  Kate Sutton's post and Jenny Trout's post (both entitled "I Wore A Bikini") highlight the fact that the world didn't stop turning and people didn't die just because they chose to wear what they wanted to wear on holiday. It's good to know that there are other people out there that feel the same. I've written so many times about body appreciation and how I use make-up as a mask or confidence boost (have a read of Fat or Sans Fard - they include my thoughts about passing on confidence to my children and grandchildren even though I don't have much myself) but I haven't been happy in my own skin - literally - for a long time. 

Finally, I'm sure you've seen this video this week. It's being shared with the title "She was sick of being photoshopped so here's what she did next" or words to that effect. The blog post titles are total clickbait but it's an effective video and the lyrics are worth a read:
Do you like you?
You don't have to try so hard
You don't have to give it all away
You just have to get up, get up, get up, get up
You don't have to change a single thing.


#VlogChallenge - Week 1 - Top Tips

Welcome to week 1 of "Vlog Challenge"

If you've wandered on over here and wondering what all this is about, you can
read all about "Vlog Challenge" here.

This week's theme is "Top Tips"

How you interpret this is entirely up to you so get creative!
Vlog. Upload. Share.

Here's my contribution: 

Leave me your own vlog link in the comments here,
the comments on my YouTube channel or
tweet them to me using the hashtag #vlogchallenge.

#vlogchallenge Week 1 - Top Tips

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