Sunday, 3 May 2015

Life Through the Lens

I have always been one to take many photos. I love to capture our everyday lives and capturing it through the camera lens means that, that one moment in time has been captured forever. It's flawless, a time capsule that brings back those feelings that were felt in that one moment. Laughter, love, the emotion that you just cannot re-create. Photographs tell the truth, one facial expression, one simple glance at another, it's a true reflection of the people your looking at through your camera lens. 

One of my most memorable days, was the day Leo entered the world. It's hard to believe that it is now coming up to 4 years ago. Even in the throws of labor it was important to me that we capture the day, from the birth through to that very first meeting, it's a day I will never forget. From being in the birthing pool, to the seconds after Leo hurtled into our lives, to every moment that has followed since. Each photo taken that day caught a different emotion, a once in a lifetime facial expression of becoming first time parents. It was the most magical, scary, emotional, exhilarating, spectacular, tiring and amazing day all rolled into one. Looking into our first born babies eyes, holding him tight and breathing in his newborn baby smell and counting his ten tiny fingers, and his ten tiny toes. You can see the look of uncertainty on my face, the look of pure shock at how quickly everything had progressed, the look of a proud new Mum.

Those photos are the most treasured out of all of the photos I have taken, because they mark the very moment that my little family was born, and cemented together for always. I have always stored my photographs on my laptop, and following the birth of Leo back in 2011, my laptop hard drive decided to fail. Absolutely everything was lost, my holiday photos, even the photographs taken back in the day at school. Thankfully I still had the photographs from Leo's birth on my camera's SD Card, and although I was devastated at losing the rest of my treasured memories, I was comforted in the knowledge that all wasn't lost. That the most important photographs were safe.

It took my hard drive failing for me to realise how important it is to back everything up, and I very quickly invested in an external hard drive. I don't back up as much as I should, but I am relaxed in the knowledge that everything is backed up, so if the inevitable does happen, I can restore my photos, and keep those special memories alive. I had no idea what I was looking for when I began searching for an external hard drive, I didn't know what I would need, the space I required or really have a clue what I needed.

The fist thing I did upon receiving my external hard drive was immediately back everything up. 

I still love flicking through the photos from Leo's day of birth. I remember every moment, I study each facial expression and marvel at just how much we have all grown in every day since. How much we have all learnt, how far we have come. 

Written For Tesco

Thursday, 30 April 2015

What if you were washed up on a desert island?

It's a scenario that has been asked for as long as I can remember, but the answer to that one question differs for everyone. So I pose it to you. Which 3 items from your home would you want to have with you if you were stranded on a desert island? It could be absolutely anything, your television, your hair straighteners, even your make up bag.  Say you hopped on a plane tomorrow and you got washed up on some isolated island without much hope of being rescued. Which 3 items could you not live without?

I have thought about this scenario long and hard, and I have actually found it a pretty tricky question to answer. Being on a desert island it kind of makes certain things obsolete. It may come as a surprise to you but I won't be adding my hair straighteners or my make up bag to this list! Like I say... I have given this a lot of thought, and my top 3 items are as follows:

Number 1: My memory foam mattress. Now I know this is not something that you usually take on a plane, and the chances of being washed up on a desert island with it is not a likely occurrence. But if there was a choice in the matter, then my memory foam mattress would rank pretty high. I love nothing more than a relaxing nights sleep, and after camping recently on nothing but the tent liner for comfort beneath me... I know that if I was to be bracing the elements, I would certainly want somewhere comfortable to sleep!

Number 2: My Nutribullet Blender - Let's just in vision for one moment that this island is similar to the one featured in Lost, that it has electricity and the potential for me to make use of my most used kitchen appliance. Just imagine all of the exotic fruits that I could whiz up, all of the taste tantalizing smoothies, Banana, Mango, Coconut and even Pineapple! I know, it's quite a random item to long to have on a desert island, but seriously this would make life so much easier and really spice up the meal plan for those stranded with you! Fruit alone can get a little tiresome but smoothies are just my favourite thing ever!

Number 3: Last but not least... My final item that I would want to be stranded with are my Nike running shoes. As some of you know, I am really into my fitness right now, and I have the most beautiful pair of Nike Airmax shoes. Just because I was stranded on a desert island, it wouldn't stop me running. In fact it may even spur me on, imagine those serene beaches and the waves lapping up against the shore on that mid evening jog just as the sun is setting over head. This would certainly keep me running! 

They may be the most random items to wish to have if I was stranded on a desert island, but I think they are pretty creative. Did it get you thinking about your top 3 items?  

You can't ever really prepare to be stranded, so I guess it all comes down to your personal circumstances. Of course there are far worse circumstances than being washed a shore a stunning beach right!? A burglary, a fire, but I guess that's exactly why we have home insurance right!?

Disclaimer: This is a featured post

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Star Stables - A Review

My school days saw the rise of the internet, and in those years so much changed. You could log online and a whole new world was presented before you, and it was in those years that I discovered the virtual reality of online games. Of course 2015 is a whole new ball game, the internet has exploded and now expectations are set so much higher when it comes to online gaming. 

The popularity of these online games has continued to grow, and the kids of today are spoiled with choice. Take Star Stable for instance, when I first saw this game I thought it must be a game you have to purchase on a CD Rom (That right there show's how old I am right!), because of course in this day and age you just download everything straight to your computer. There is no waiting around (here I wanted to come out with the 'Back in my day....' line!) but that really does just demonstrate how far the internet and games have come.

Star Stable is the online horse game where you explore the beautiful island of Jorvik on the back of your very own horse. I know that if this had been around when I was younger I would have swooned over it. I had such a passion for horses as a little girl and longed to learn to ride, of course it is more difficult than it looks! In fact... The last time I attempted to ride a horse I actually managed to end up clinging on for dear life around the horses neck after he decided to spring into a canter and caught me completely off guard!

You can see the trailer for Star Stable here, and I have to admit that after having a little play with it recently that it's easy to see why it's so popular.

What I really like about Star Stable is being able to explore the fully functional 3D world, and not to mention being able to do it by horseback. I once proclaimed that I was never going to learn to drive, instead I was going to learn to ride a horse and I was going to ride absolutely everywhere, even to school. Unfortunately this never became my reality...But online with Star Stable my childhood dreams have become virtual realities for little ones. The game play allows you to take part in competitions and embark on exciting quests as you watch your story unfold before you.

You can enjoy Star Stable for free up to level 5, this is a great sample of the game and gives you an idea of whether or not the game is for you. After that you need to become a Star Rider Member. Becoming a full member unlocks the following bonuses to you:

  • Progress beyond the free-player level cap all the way up to level 15.
  • Access to thousands of member-only quests and exciting adventure areas.
  • Access to special member-only clothes, equipment and horses.
  • Receive a weekly allowance of 100 Star Coins every Saturday morning.
As a grown up who admittedly enjoyed the game play of Star Stables, I can see why it is so popular with the younger generations. 

Disclaimer: This is a featured post

Tuesday, 28 April 2015


For years I didn't have the time or inclination to treat myself, I didn't feel overly great about the way I looked and this put me off buying clothes. Of course as we were living in our own home, we didn't really have the expandable income to just buy things willy nilly, and for those years Leo was the only one who really befitted from any lovely new clothes. That was because Leo needed new items, he was a growing boy, and as fast as I could kit him out for the one size, he was moving on up into the next one! Leo is turning 4 years old in 2 months time, and I have been buying age 4-5 for the last few months now, just so that he can get the maximum wear out of his wardrobe.

It just so happens that yesterday I was made redundant from my job, so now money is looking to be a little tighter again. With that being said though, it is always down to budgeting, and it just means that I need to be a little more refined with my spending, which these days seems to happen much more freely than back in the days where I didn't feel I could pull of anything I wore...  

Of course it's times like these that you see all the items that you would just LOVE to buy. It sods law, and it literally is as though someone is having a really good giggle at your expense. Trying to tempt you to purchase that gorgeous new dress, or those shoes that would go perfectly with that bag you already have at home... But you know that you need to save. You need to be a grown up and make sure all of those bills of yours are paid each month, because you don't really know what is going to happen over the coming months. When will you be back in work again? Will you be able to cover all of your bills until you get back on your feet?

It's times like these that you really think about what you would do with an extra £100, and right now I can think of so many different things, from necessities that I really should be focusing my full attention on to all of the shiny items that capture my attention without trying. However right now my main focus is on my little man's birthday. Leo has been promised a Nintendo Wii U for his upcoming fourth birthday, of course this was before my job was on the line. An extra £100 right now would work wonders towards making my little guy's birthday. Leo is Mario mad at the moment, so he is hoping for Mario Kart 8 to accompany the console, and Mummy is going to be cooking up a storm in the kitchen baking a Super Mario Kart Birthday Cake!

I may have to have a look into the TSB Plus Account!

For now I am applying for jobs and deciding what I want to do with myself. I left my position yesterday after finding out that my job was now redundant, as I felt that I would be in a better position to think the situation and make the changes that need making from home. I feel like I have had a productive day, and I have even looked into the possibility of returning to college. One thing is for sure, I certainly have some decisions to make over the coming weeks.

What would you do with £100 extra this month?

Disclaimer: This is a featured post.

The Birmingham Baby Show

When I found out I was pregnant back in November 2010, it was a scarily exciting time all wrapped into one. I had no idea what I was doing, or even a clue as to how to look after a newborn baby. In May 2010, a month before Leo made his appearance into the world. I visited the Birmingham Baby Show with my 8 month bump wallowing out before me, but at The Baby Show this is a common sight. Pregnant ladies and newborn babies everywhere you turn.

Walking through into the show is always exciting, there is always an abundance of positive energy and excitement as everyone wanders in ready to shop until they drop! I find that the Baby Show is the perfect place to find all of your favourite brands all under one roof, it is the most efficient way to get everything you need for your baby’s arrival and take advantage of special show prices.

The show is full to bursting with first time Mum's to Mum's with 2 or more, everyone is out in force to see what is on offer to them. If their visits were anything like mine, then I am sure they were not disappointed.

The best bit of the baby show for me, is meeting the people behind the brands, being able to talk face to face with someone who holds all the answers to your questions. It is great that they will offer you all the advice in the world and still not expect to make a sale. For me this is what it is all about, gaining a confidence in the brand and the product that you are investing your hard earned pennies in, for your bundle of joy. It's only natural to want the very best.

The Baby Show opens up baby products like no where else does. If you want to see a certain pushchair that isn't usually stocked in the likes of Mothercare, then you can do that! You can have a side by side comparison, you can sit your baby in the helm and take it for a spin. 

You will quite simply not find a bigger collection of the pushchairs on the market anywhere other than the Baby Show, so my advice is if you are looking to buy a pushchair and you know that the one you are after isn’t stocked anywhere locally to you, head to the show. You will be able to have a proper play with it and also other models that people recommend. Not to mention having the brand right by your side to speak to directly about any of there products.

Why not stay over?

The show goes on for from Friday 15th May 2015 right over the weekend and comes to a close on Sunday 17th May 2015. If you are going to be kitting the nursery out at the show, it really is easy to watch time run away without a trace. It is so easy to spend hours walking around and talking to people, so it may be advisable to stay overnight and maybe visit again on the second day. I especially advise this on the Saturday through to the Sunday, as you find that there are some extra special deals floating around at the end of play on the final day! 

If you are thinking of heading over to the Birmingham Baby Show, then there are some great places to stay within the vicinity of the show. The Crowne Plaza Hotel is only a stones throw from the NEC and makes a very attractive base for while you visit the show, which will be even more attractive when it comes to lugging your Baby Show haul back to the hotel!

This will be the first year that I haven't attended The Baby Show, but with Leo just about to turn 4 years old, we are a little to 'over the hill', but that does not change just how amazing the show is, and when the time comes to add another little person to our family, you can bet your bottom dollar that I will be in attendance!

I hope everyone going along has a lovely time, and grabs some great bargains!

Disclaimer: This Post was written in collaboration with IHG.

How wearables could revolutionise online banking

Wearables have, until recently, been associated mainly with getting in shape: pedometers, calorie counters, and other methods to help you monitor your health.

Wearable fitness band (image courtesy of Griffin Technology via Flickr)

But in recent years, this area of technology has seen major developments not only in terms of personal fitness goals, but as a practical addition to the modern lifestyle. They are no longer simple wristbands or tiny devices to clip on your clothing: in essence, wearables are shaping up to be the next step up from a smartphone, but we’re going to expect them to go beyond smartphone functions.

The rise of the smartwatch
According to the Wearables Report, the global wearables market will increase at a compound annual rate of 35% over the next five years. And it should come as no surprise that the smartwatch will be the leading product category, thanks to the Apple Watch. 

The Apple Watch (image courtesy of Ryan Ozawa via Flickr)

However, even with this steady expansion within the market and all the hype surrounding the Watch’s release, there are mixed feelings about wearables: while 40% of consumers surveyed in the UK want to buy a smartwatch, 35% said they would feel embarrassed or self-conscious about wearing one. In order to overcome these reservations, wearable tech needs to significantly improve the quality of life of the wearer.

Wearables could change our way of life
With this whole mobile revolution, one of the key features that’s being marketed is its convenience: everything you’d normally head to a computer or laptop to do, you can easily complete on your smartphone with a few simple taps. And in the case of wearable technology, everything you need is already strapped on to your body. As Otabek Saydikaharov, Business Analyst with Misys Financial Software, says in a recent article: ‘For wearables to be adopted, they should deliver a value proposition which mobiles cannot.’ Smartwatches, wristbands and other wearables eliminate the customer’s irritation with having to dig for their phone in their bag or pocket, and provide a smooth transition to productivity.

Banking revolutionised
Mobile banking should be preparing to take advantage of this wearable craze, as it could enhance the user experience and strengthen ties with customers. Surveys have shown that consumers are checking their accounts via mobile banking with increasing regularity, and wearable banking could make this even easier.

Wearables also have the power to reverse the common that mobile banking is less safe than internet banking: with Halifax trialling technology that uses the heart beat as an identification device, wearable banking could actually be the safest option of all. 

Card machine with Google Wallet capabilities (image courtesy of denebola2025 via Flickr)

Another feature of wearables that banks could capitalise on is easy payments – the ability to purchase using only your mobile device. With Apple Pay, Google Wallet and soon-to-come Samsung Pay, customers can make contactless, hassle-free payments with a simple wave of their smartwatch, enabling a seamless, quick shopping experience.

Better relations, better results
Wearables are poised to completely change the mobile banking game, if banks wise up and invest in the proper technology. We might even see an improvement in customer relations if they use the mobility as an asset: for example, Oscar Health Insurance paired up with wearable fitness device company Misfit to reward healthy customers with gift vouchers. If banks adopted a similar technique, general attitudes toward their company will improve.

Whether you like them or not, wearables are here to stay. They’ll revamp and restructure our attitudes towards what we can accomplish with technology – and banks should position themselves to take advantage of its success.

 Disclaimer: This is a Featured Post

Monday, 27 April 2015

45 Months Old

April has flown by and it has been a month that signifies that big changes are coming our way. Changes that let me know you’re not the baby I brought home from the hospital, anymore. Leo you are growing up, it’s plain to see. From the sheer height of you these days, to how you conduct yourself to the world and everybody around you. I can’t call you a toddler anymore because you outgrew that title quite a while ago. Mummy has to face facts that you are now a little boy, a little boy who will be starting school in a matter of months.

Just the other week we received news of your school place, and were over joyed that you got into the school we had dreamed of for you. We have been talking to you about school for months, we wanted you to be aware of the changes that were coming, but we didn't want to over load you. You have been worried, you know that it’s going to be very different, but you know that different isn't bad. It just means that there are new adventures ahead of you, and when has an adventure ever been anything less than exciting!?

Your Nursery being in the grounds of your new school really helps and they are doing a grand job of helping transition you ready for September. Nursery have started to take you and the other school leavers into the school on a Wednesday for a school lunch. I remember filling out the menu selection just before Easter, and with you being such a fussy eater I was worried that you wouldn’t eat any of the selections over the coming weeks and months. On that first Wednesday they took you over you seemed worried. You said you didn't want to go to big school, and that you wanted to stay at nursery. I thought of you more than usual on that day, and knowing it was a double whammy of things that you didn't want to do (Forest School) I thought it may be a less than great day for you. I was so pleased to get home from work that evening to discover that you had had the BEST DAY! You had loved Forest School for the first time ever, and even put your own trousers on (You’re a little bit lazy and refuse to do these things!) and you had enjoyed the activities. I think even Nursery were surprised and pleased with you!

Then of course it was time to head into School for your lunch, which was Tuna Wrap. I didn't think the Tuna would go down well, in fact I thought that meant that you wouldn't eat at all. Instead you picked the Tuna out declaring ‘I hate fish!’ and devoured the wrap on its own. You did so well and didn’t let the Tuna put you off, and I cannot fault you for that. You saw children that you already knew from the school and got very excited. When I saw you that evening you couldn't tell me about your day quickly enough.

The weather has been improving so you and I have been spending so much more time outside. We have been abandoning the car (Because Mummy is still on her health kick!) and we have been walking all over town. What we are really loving at the moment is a cheeky Costa, you have your Babycino and Mummy has her Cappuccino. In fact you relentlessly flirt with the poor barista. Each time you have been in recently you have flashed your blue eyes, lifted up your shoes and announced ‘I have new shoes!’. Of course the lady looks to admire your new shoes, but those shoes you are describing as new haven’t been new for the last 5 months. But you try again each time you see her, just to get her attention.

We take our Costa’s to the park, we sit in the glorious sunshine and then you’ll run off to play on the tunnel slide while I finish mine. It’s so peaceful sitting there and watching you run around, it made me realise that this right here and now, shows me just how grown up you are. I wonder when I suddenly gave you so much freedom? When I stopped having to follow you around everywhere you went, when I became content that you were now big enough to go down the tunnel slide on your own, and climb back to the top again. Of course I am always there watching you, making sure that you’re ok, that no one is being mean to you, but that again is something I am going to have to relent upon when the school days do swing around. For now though I love the days we get to spend in the park while the sun is shining and everyone else is at work or school. Those days are my favourite kind of days, so simple and special all at the same time.

We even took you on your very first camping experience! Ok so it was only in the back garden, and only because Granddad invested in a shiny new tent and couldn't wait to practice putting it up! We very quickly decided to seize the opportunity and make the most of the tent while it was there, we thought it would be a super time to see how you got on with camping, and of course you couldn't have been more excited about the opportunity! We kitted the tent out with your cot mattress and brought out an abundance of blankets so that we would all be toasty during the night. You and I Leo donned layers upon layers, you in PJ's and a Onesie and me in two Onesies! We did look a sight in our Christmas onesies!

We had a camp fire in the garden where you roasted your very first marshmallows with Daddy and then you were more than ready to go to sleep. You went straight off and slept until morning, so excited with your new experience and I know that it won't be long before you want to camp again! But let my back get back to normal first please!

Time isn’t slowing down little boy, and in 2 months’ time you will be turning 4. My head is a mash of all things Mario at the moment, because that is now your theme of choice. For a while you were set on Thomas. Now however…It’s all things Mario! I don’t know how I am going to pull this one off yet, but somehow, someway I’ll make it happen.

Until next month little man…