Watch this video. Then go offline and talk to someone.

I want to share something I came across by chance today that confirmed I’m not the only person on the planet who worries about becoming too tech dependent. What a relief!

Let me start by explaining. A couple of years ago I removed my date of birth from Facebook to see if anyone would wish me a ‘Happy Birthday’ when the time eventually rolled round. Unsurprisingly, most people didn’t notice. I think perhaps two friends remembered and wished me all the best.

This year, with my birthdate reinstated, my newsfeed was littered with well wishes – 75 of them in fact. The posts were from a mix of people – some I’d only ever met at parties at University, others from good friends I have known for years. My point is, they were all pretty much the same and had the tech giant not prompted my friends I doubt any of them would have remembered. And I’m no different! I’ve become totally reliant on social media to remember birthdays, job and wedding anniversaries and more. But is my BFO – (Best Friend Online) – actually depleting my social skills as opposed to enhancing them? Are we investing all we should be into the friendships we claim mean the most to us?

Sherry Turkle discusses in this thought provoking TED talk:

It seems alright now, maybe a bit of unnecessary paranoia on the part of a few skeptics, myself included. Tech is our friend, right? But fast forward 30, 40 years when the Facebook kids who first logged in back in the early to mid-noughties will be in their - our - 60s and (hopefully) heading toward retirement. Will we be sitting alone plugged into our iPods, shopping online and IM-ing friends when prompted rather than engaging in real conversation? I worry we’ll turn into shells of ourselves. Thoughts?

A speedy adventure in the kitchen

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Afternoon folks! Today we need to talk about egg muffins. They are taking over my newsfeed! Everyone is talking about them, eating them and uploading pictures of their efforts onto Instagram and Pinterest. Not one to miss out on hurling myself on top of an already weighed down bandwagon I thought I’d give them a go for my lunch. These are pretty cheap to make and taste great, probably not as saintly as the regular type but, hey, life’s too short to spend eating bland food.

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Here’s how I made them:

* Preheat your oven to 180°C / 360 °F. Cook 2 clumps of frozen spinach in the microwave. While that’s doing it’s business chop up one piece of bacon and fry in a pan. Chop it up quite small – wee fingernail size is a good guide – so you have enough for each muffin. If you want to be good fry in a low-cal spray like Frylite and discard any visible fat from the meat.

* While that’s cooking whisk 5 eggs in a bowl. Add salt, pepper and about 1 tsp of curry powder. Don’t be mean with the curry powder it’s not that strong once cooked. Chop some chives and whisk them in too.

* Grease a muffin tray. I sprayed a silicone one with Frylite.

* Chop 1/3 – 1/2 a slice of cheddar cheese or grate some of whatever cheese you have to hand.

* Assembly time: Pour your egg mix evenly into each muffin hole. Don’t fill over halfway as they rise like Yorkshire puddings when they are ready. Add your cooked and drained spinach and bacon evenly to each muffin. Decorate with your cheese and add another pinch of pepper and curry powder for good luck before popping them in the oven until they are cooked through and are desperate to get out of their moulds – (about 15 mins or until a knife comes out of the middle of each one clean).

Tip: If you are using a silicone mould be careful putting it in the oven. You probably know this already but I wasn’t expecting mine to go as wibbly wobbly as it did and I nearly dropped it on the floor in surprise. You have been warned!

Enjoy the fruits of your labour. Once cooled they should store in the fridge for a few days. Bon Appetit!

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Something (sweet) for the weekend

Last week I took a race back home to see loved ones, soak up some culture and eat some good food. The Northern Irish excel at good food and eating is a national past time. I’m pretty certain we invented the term ‘traybake’ though in crossing the Irish Sea these goodies appear to have shrunk and assume a rather paltry portion size that would almost certainly be sent back should one dare present its puny self in a coffee shop back home.

The dark horse leading the charge of the (possibly-not-so-) light brigade towards food nirvana is none other than Belfast-based chocolatier Co Couture. Discreetly tucked away down the steps of a basement on Chichester Street Co Couture has quietly been gathering an army of followers over the past few months and I for one am a devoted disciple to the church of chocolate.

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I arrived pretty late to the Co Couture appreciation party only discovering their existence during Belfast Restaurant Week last year but it was love at first taste. I attended their dessert club which I wrote a bit about here and when I discovered they were hosting another one which happened to coincide with my trip home I knew it was fate and managed to bag a spot for my mum and I on the Saturday night.

CoCouture

The bijoux chocolate boutique showcases an impressive array of award-winning fare and the minute you open the door you are greeted by the welcoming waft of chocolate. But the best is yet to come! Dessert club is a fairly intimate affair with just two small tables and a sofa amounting to a full house. You can enjoy your dessert of choice with a cup of Suki tea for £5 or go all out with a glass of Cava for £8. Co Couture owner Deirdre and her team were recently recognised by The Bluffer’s Guide to Chocolate as one of the best chocolatiers in the world. High praise indeed but is it really as great as they hype makes out?

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In short, yes. Deirdre’s desserts are divine! Mum and I shared a salted caramel pecan meringue and Mississippi mud pie with Co Couture’s signature chocolate sauce. Being the gorb that I am I got a bit ahead of myself and poured far too much chocolate sauce onto mine so if I was having it again I’d probably be a little less heavy handed!

The desserts were just the right size to sate but not overpower and were presented with such attention to detail from their arrangement on the plate down to their rockabilly-style edible garnish on top. I always think going out for dinner is one big lead up to the dessert. I mean, if you are lucky, you basically eat a main course for your dinner every night anyway but a dessert isn’t necessarily a regular feature on the tea time menu, it’s a treat!

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Should you ever find yourself in Belfast head to Co Couture before the word gets out and snap up some of their delicious – not to mention award-winning – brownies to go or grab a seat by the window with a cup of the best hot chocolate in town and watch the world go by. And if you hear tell of another dessert club happening book your place immediately!xx

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Photo Credit: Common Grounds Cafe

A film about Christmas

Afternoon folks! I’ve been a bit quiet this past wee while but been very busy nonetheless. I am really excited to share my first ‘proper’ attempt at making a short film with you and not before time!

Belfast was in the news rather a lot over the Christmas period and sadly not always for the right reasons. I wanted to make a film that explored the importance of Christmas to the individuals featured beyond what’s going to be under the tree on Christmas Day. Don’t get me wrong, Christmas presents and parties are brilliant and something to look forward to but there’s more to the season than just that. For me, and the people I interviewed, it’s a time for family – whether that’s the family you’re born with or the one you pick up along the way – and generally looking out for one another. I hope that comes across when you are watching.

If you like what you see free to spread the love and pass it on. I know it’s a bit rough around the edges but it was a great learning curve and I had a great time hearing the stories of my very own stars! The music is by a brilliant Northern Irish band called The Jepettos. Check them out, you’ll be in for a treat!xx

Because Who Is Perfect?

Laura:

Thanks to Kirstan for sharing this terrific video. Well worth a watch!xx

Originally posted on Getting On Top:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E8umFV69fNg

I always love the videos and commercials that show real women with real curves. This video goes deeper and shows the beauty of people with disabilities. One man transforms store front mannequins from a high end store to look like people who have physical disabilities. What a beautiful and powerful video.

View original

Spread a little sunshine

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Yesterday I got a lovely message from Kirstan of Getting On Top to say she has nominated me for the Sunshine Award. My first ever blog award – how exciting and made all the more flattering that the award is for bloggers who inspire in a positive and creative way. I’m delighted that Kirstan and others have enjoyed reading my blog and am very chuffed to receive this award!

I first discovered Kirstan’s blog through WordPress’s Freshly Pressed series. The post that led me to her blog is this one. Once you read it you’ll know why I followed her right away and why you ought to as well!

As is the process with a lot of awards on WordPress this one necessitates listing 10 things you mightn’t yet know about me so here goes:

1. I love to sing in the shower when I’m at home, the louder the better. It makes me a little sad that the walls of my new flat are so thin and I don’t have a shower radio…YET.

2) When I was 13 I fell in love with Taylor Hanson and began a roughly 2 year campaign to persuade my parents to relocate to Tulsa, Oklahoma. I don’t remember why my campaign ended but I remember feeling particularly peeved years later when I discovered they all married fans who they spotted in the audience at their concerts. That could have been me!

3) When I was wee I wanted to be a hairdresser. When I was at University I cut off all my hair and dyed the remainder jet black. I was quite the sight to behold. In spite of this not one but FIVE friends subsequently allowed me to cut / dye their hair.

4) I’m fortunate to have family in the most beautiful place on Earth, the Faroe Islands and hope to visit them once I can save enough money. I’d like to make a film there in the future.

5) I really enjoy mixing curry powder with ketchup. This tastes incredible with chips (fries) and sausages and takes me back to my time abroad, eating Currywurst in Herbert Groenemeyer’s favourite sausage stall.

6) I like my own time and space but I hate to be lonely.

7) I make no apologies for watching TLC shows like Extreme Cheapskates, Extreme Couponing and Alaskan Women Looking For Love OBSESSIVELY.

8) Along with a DIY haircut that horrified my parents I also used to sport quite a number of piercings with 2 in my arm – these ended horribly – 1 in my nose and 1 in my lip, among others. Sometimes I re-pierce my lip and nose because I miss them, occasionally because it drives my mum nuts. By her nature she will worry about me anyway, right? Better to worry about a couple of irrelevant things over anything bigger!

9) I once hitchhiked from Glasgow to Amsterdam for a charity race. It was good craic – thankfully I wasn’t doing it on my own!

10) I’ve been told I’m a good person to have around in a crisis. I suppose this is relatively subjective and crisis-dependent but I’ll take it all the same.

I don’t know if any of those things are interesting but there we are. Now, enough of me and on to the next part of the award process – nominating the new recipients! I’ve chosen 5 blogs which brighten up my day, teach me new things and generally inspire me to keep putting one foot in front of the other to get to my end goal. I hope you will visit these blogs and I hope they will uplift you as they do me. Follow them, talk with the authors and keep sharing. I’m grateful to have come across each of them. Without further ado here, in no particular order, are my five:

From Casinos to Castles
A Pretty Penny
Ali Does It Herself
A Girl Called Jack
Made by Fi, Made by Me

To the nominees, if you would like to accept this award, just write a post about the award include who nominated you and pass the award along to others. If you want to you can also tell us some fun facts that we might not know about you. Thank you and happy writing!xx

Five tips for a thriftier life

Nearly a month in and I am adjusting to London life nicely. It’s an expensive place to be so it’s important to make my money stretch. Here are 5 tips that are helping me to live frugally, maybe they’ll be of some use to you as well. Some are my own, some are from my mother and others I’ve picked up from fellow bloggers and the TV.

1) Invest in some eco balls

eco balls

Embrace some out of this world savings with these cosmic shaped balls! I first heard about these when I worked for a conservation charity and was intrigued (if a little sceptical) about this seemingly cheap way to clean my clothes while lessening the impact on the environment. I am impressed! All you need to do is pop all 3 balls on top of your laundry in the washing machine and set the temperature to 30°, no further detergent necessary. You can’t use them with fabric softener so if you want to put that in you need to take the eco balls out once your main cycle is done. I don’t bother with it and my clothes are still soft.

The detergent is contained inside the spheres in the shape of little balls. It’s gentle but effective on stains but there’s an extra cream you can use on stubborn stains. The balls are totally eco friendly meaning that the impact on the environment is minimal. And the best bit? Your eco balls ought to last you for…wait for it…up to 1,000 washes! AND each box contains free refills! You can buy them online for under £25 and I really can’t recommend them highly enough. I haven’t used them on delicate fabrics like silk or wool but for everything else they should be grand.

2) Make your windows and mirrors sparkle with white vinegar

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Not only does vinegar taste amazing on your chips it’s just the ticket for cleaning glass. All you need to do is pour a little in a bowl – say 1 tbsp – with hot water. Just dip a cloth in the mixture and wipe it across your glass surfaces. Then simply scrumple up a piece of newspaper – a reason to hold on to your free copy of the Metro at the train station – and polish dry. No streaks and it’s a fraction of the cost of cleaning sprays with much better results.


3) Freeze your herbs

Photo credit: katefreemannutrition.com.au

Photo credit: katefreemannutrition.com.au

Fresh herbs can be costly, especially if you are only buying for yourself and can’t use them all up before they start to go off. Just wash and chop your herbs and put them in a freezer bag and use as and when you like. I think herbs and spices can totally turn dull dishes around. You can throw them straight into bakes and sauces frozen and they’ll cook quickly and your meals will taste great.

4) Meet Jack

Photo credit: The Guardian

Photo credit: The Guardian

Jack Monroe is the woman of the moment when it comes to money saving recipes for the tightest of budgets that don’t scrimp on flavour. Her blog even gives you the exact cost per portion of every meal she makes.

5) Bicarbonate of Soda’s for more than just baking

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It’s also great for cleaning your shower head and costs pennies compared to the normal super-strength grime removal sprays. Just add a generous sprinkle or a tbsp or 2 to a bowl and pour in some boiling water. Then just rest your unscrewed shower head in the bowl and leave for about 15 minutes. Using a washing up brush give the shower head a gentle scrub and watch the dirt fall away before your eyes. Give it a rinse and you’re good to go!

Have you any thrifty tips to share? Feel free to post them here, I’m always on the lookout for new ways to save!xx