Today I had my MIND BLOWN by a story in the papers about how to open OXO cubes.

First of all, let’s picture a little scene where I’m making something tasty – a shepherd’s pie maybe, or a bolognese.

I’ve fried a onion, browned my mince and had a glass of wine and I’m ready to add some stock. I get an OXO cube out of the little OXO tin I have in the cupboard which says ‘the original beefy cubes’ on the side. I fiddle about with it, trying to peel off the foil and invariably dropping at least part of the wrapper into the frying pan.

Finally I have it unwrapped and I crumble it into the pan. My fingers are covered in OXO cube. I lick them, forgetting it’s OXO cube. Bleurgh. I wash my hands.

Does this sound familiar?

It’s because all this time we’ve been OPENING OUR OXO CUBES IN THE WRONG WAY.

I can barely believe it. It’s like my idiotic hand gliding vs hang gliding moment all over again. View Post

Designed to stand out from the crowd, just like you.

That’s what the website says about the SKODA Kodiaq SportLine. I look down – I’m wearing red tights and a dress covered in red, orange and blue flowers. You’d spot me in a busy Tesco, that’s for sure.

The SKODA Kodiaq SportLine isn’t wearing red tights when it’s dropped off at my house on a sunny Monday morning, but it certainly stands out next to the ten year old Renault Clio I normally drive. I think it might be genuinely twice the size. It’s a beast of a car, demanding you look at it in all it’s shiny, four cylinder turbo diesel glory.

It reminds me a bit of one of the cats when they really want my attention, and they sit on my lap and nudge aggressively at my hand with their face until I stroke them.

SKODA Kodiaq SportLine review View Post

I once had a boyfriend (shocker) who was obsessed with watching television in HD.

Okay, ‘obsessed’ is a strong word, but if I was watching something in regular old standard definition he would make me change the channel. (Okay, not obsessed at all.)

‘How can you not even tell?’ he would ask, clearly appalled at my stone age ways.

‘Oh,’ I’d say, ‘I don’t know, I just don’t really notice the difference.’

And I didn’t.

When Belle and I opened up the ACER Swift 3 though, to watch a film in my bed, (White Chicks – 4/10, would not recommend), the first thing I noticed was the quality of the screen.

I noticed it in this really annoying way I have of noticing things, where I feel the need to say it several times to Belle at what I think are long enough intervals that she will be interested all over again – ‘the picture quality really IS amazing though isn’t it?’ – until I imagine she wants to close the laptop and use it to hit me. (Also would not recommend.)

‘The picture is just so sharp though isn’t it?’

‘So much better than our other laptop don’t you think?’

SHUT UP WOMAN.

Acer Swift 3 review View Post

‘Domestic violence is the abuse of one partner within an intimate or family relationship. It is the repeated, random and habitual use of intimidation to control a partner. The abuse can be physical, emotional, psychological, financial or sexual. Anyone forced to alter their behaviour because they are frightened of their partner’s reaction is being abused.’  

Credit – Refuge

Think about that for a bit.

‘Anyone forced to alter their behaviour because they are frightened of their partner’s reaction is being abused.’

According to the Office for National Statistics, one woman in four experiences domestic violence in her lifetime, so the chances are that if you don’t recognise that statement in yourself, it may well be happening to someone you know. Perhaps they’re hiding it, perhaps you have your suspicions, maybe it’s obvious but you don’t know what to do to help.

One option is to get in touch with Refuge. Refuge supports anyone who has experienced domestic abuse in any of its forms, through a range of services including, but not limited to, refuges, advocacy and a telephone helpline, run in partnership with Women’s Aid. (Open 24 hours a day – 0808 2000 247).

(If you’re nervous about visiting the Refuge website it might be useful to know that it has an escape bar across the top of the page – click on it anytime and it will immediately change the screen to show the Google homepage.)

Today, September 5th, is International Day of Charity and I wanted to use it to make sure that as many people as possible know about Refuge and that anyone looking for support, either for themselves or someone else, can access it as quickly as possible.

What is domestic abuse?

Because domestic abuse encompasses so much more than just physical violence, it can be hard to be sure whether or not you are experiencing it.

That might sound like a strange thing to say, but when you’re in a relationship it can be hard to get perspective on a situation. You make excuses for people you love, you blame a difficult background or problems at work perhaps, because you don’t want to believe that they would hurt you. You are probably scared – scared to admit the abuse to yourself or other people or scared of the consequences of taking action to get away.

If you suspect that you might be experiencing domestic abuse, take a look at the following questions from the Refuge website: View Post

Belle was having a bit of a freak out last night about starting college today.

She was doing her summer holiday homework, (clearly VERY prepared), which involved creating a Pinterest board about herself. I was throwing ideas at her, she was dismissing them. (Genuinely her homework was to create a selection of Pinterest boards. How is that homework?)

At the same time she was having a bit of a generalised meltdown. She’s doing a music based A-level and she’s worried that she can ‘only’ sing.

‘You have beautiful voice though,’ I said, ‘and grade seven singing.’

‘But that’s just a VOICE,’ she said, ‘I’ve not had to LEARN something have I?’

‘Just because it feels easy to you,’ I said, ‘doesn’t mean you aren’t good.’

She raised her eyebrows.

‘Take the Beatles,’ she said, ‘John Lennon could play the guitar, piano, keyboards, saxophone, harmonica, six-string bass guitar and some percussion. And then you have Ringo Starr playing the drums. I’M RINGO STARR. No one wants to be Ringo Starr.’

I thought that actually a lot of people probably really wouldn’t mind being Ringo Starr. I told her she needed to find some things to add to her Pinterest boards about comparison being the thief of joy.

‘The thing is,’ I said, ‘you’re never going to be the absolute best at anything – it takes a certain type of weirdo to be the best in the world at any one thing. We’re never going to be that person because we have friends and family and other interests.’

I wasn’t sure her I was winning her over.

‘You can’t beat yourself up for not being THE best,’ I went on, ‘you just have to be your OWN best.’ View Post

Post in association with Babbel

I arrived at the warehouse on the outskirts of London feeling nervous.

I pushed my way through the plastic strip curtain covering the door. I felt like I was nine years old again, going into the chilled food aisle at Gateway with my Gran.

My head was full of Spanish phrases. ‘Tengo tres gatos,’ I muttered to myself. ‘Tienes mascotas?’

On the other side of the plastic curtain a film crew was setting up.

It wasn’t your normal kind of first date scenario.

First dates can be pretty nerve wracking at the best of times. Blind dates even more so. Add in the fact that you are being filmed and the whole date has to be conducted in a language that you’ve only been learning for three weeks and the scope for personal embarrassment is massive.

Fortunately I do not embarrass easily, which is why when language app Babbel set me the challenge a few weeks previously I had been all over it. I mean sure, I’d been secretly hoping that I would end up with French or German, as I studied both of these up to A-level, but Spanish… I’ve watched a bit of Dora the Explorer. I felt up for the challenge.

The fact that my date was Spanish had only been revealed to me three weeks previously in an Oscar ceremony style envelope opening. With the cameras on me, it was revealed that my date was going to be Marco, and off I was sent with a subscription to Babbel and a childlike desire to be star pupil. (I was one of four people taking up the challenge and damn it, I was going to be the best.)

How does Babbel work?

So there I was.

I had Babbel and I had three weeks. I was a little daunted, but I got stuck in. You can use Babbel on your desktop or via the app, but I did all of my learning through the app as liked the flexibility this gave me. You can download lessons to do offline, so I could do twenty minutes on the way to work easily, or do a little bit in bed last thing at night. (I had the idea that it would work a bit like a hypnosis and that if I did it just before going to sleep it would SINK IN without me having to do anything.)

The Babbel team recommended that I did around 15-30 minutes every day and I have to admit that initially I thought I might struggle. I was worried that it might feel a bit like a chore – like having homework set that you didn’t want to do – but it really didn’t. I actually found myself looking forward to it. Sometimes I did an hour, sometimes less, but the time always passed pretty quickly while I was learning.

Your learning on Babbel is split up into lessons, which probably take around 10 or 15 minutes each, depending how quickly you go. You can either work through a course of lessons, or try other ad hoc lessons according to why you’re learning. I went through the whole of the beginner level 1 course and part of level 2, but I also dipped into other subjects, like this one, you know, just in case:

learn Spanish with Babbel View Post