Thursday, 12 June 2014

Pay As You Go from Three - Nokia Lumia 520 Review


It's a long time since I've used as Pay As You Go mobile phone. I think I must have been a teenager at the time, so well over 13 years ago (gosh I'm getting old)! So when I was offered the opportunity to review the Nokia Lumia 520, one of the many available Pay As You Go phones on Three I was intrigued to find out how much had changed since my days as a Pay As You Go user.





The Phone - Nokia Lumia 520 


To be perfectly honest, my expectations weren't very high. In the past I've found that the quality of Pay As You Go mobiles isn't usually the greatest unless you can afford to spend a lot upfront buying one of the better models. I had expected that would still be the case, but the Nokia 520 easily exceeded those expectations.



The Nokia Lumia is a very attractive handset. I received it in black and it looks very sleek, but the phone is also available in an impressive range of vibrant colours from pillar box red to cyan blue. It feels sturdy in hand, not flimsy or cheap despite how slim the phone is, and I was impressed by the screen size (4 inch - 400 x 800). I found the screen resolution to be better than I expected, all images on the phone are very clear for the screen size.



The touch screen is beautifully responsive and I haven't had any issues using it so far. I also found out through a little bit of online research  that the touch screen on the Nokia Lumia 520 works even if you're wearing gloves! I did actually try this, and I can confirm it's true! Certainly good to know for the winter months. I think this is an impressive feature considering the affordable price point of this handset. The only part of the handset I was slightly disappointed in was the lack of a flash for the rear facing camera. There isn't a front facing camera either, so this might be a bit of a dealbreaker for those who love taking selfies. However, if you do still snap a few too many pics the phone can easily store them, since the phone can accommodate an impressive 64GB microSD card.

So what's my overall impression of the handset? Easy to use and well designed. A big thumbs up!

As someone who is used to using android and apple devices (I have both),  using a Windows phone was a bit of an eye opener for me. Initially I was a bit daunted by the set up, but it took just a few hours until I was familiar with the apps and the phone. It really doesn't take long to get to grips with this phone, even if you aren't very tech savvy, as the menus are pretty easy to navigate.

Features of the phone I was particularly impressed by were the inclusion of Microsoft Office and OneNote. The microsoft Office app lets you create, view and edit documents, presentations and even spreadsheets on your mobile.

I also liked the way social media is set up on this phone.  It's quite straightforward and easy to navigate.  Simply access the People app, this gives you an alphabetical list of all your contacts (including thumbnails).
Tapping on someone brings up all their information – from email and phone number right through to birthday or address (if you have it stored of course).


Swipe right from the contacts page and you'll access the 'history' screen, this shows all communications between you as well as their recent posts and updates on social networks.
Swiping to the left will take you to a 'what's new' screen, which combines accounts like Twitter and Facebook into a single feed, displaying recent activity without having to use a separate app. As someone who spends a lot of time using social media, this set up is really great for me. It saves me time going between different apps to keep up with everyone!

I could go on and tell you more about  the phones features but I don't want to bore you! So I'll just wrap it up and say that this Windows phone really has some great apps and features, the bonus being that they are all easy to use! All round, this is a great phone for the price.


Pay As You Go

Along with the Nokia Lumia 520 handset, I was given a Pay As You Go SIM card to try out. I'm really impressed by the prices on Three's Pay As You Go service. With calls charged at only 3p per minute, 2p per text and 1p per MB of data it's a very affordable option if you're looking for an alternative to a contract. I seem to remember Pay As You Go prices being much higher and maybe they still are on other networks, but not on Three!




Topping up your mobile is easy too. You can:

  • Buy a top of voucher at the Supermarket, petrol station or any other shops where you see the Top Up sign displayed.
  •  Top Up using the Three App (available free on iTunes or Google Play)
  •  Top Up at the ATM (Top Ups available at 1000's of ATM's across the UK)


 I really did enjoy using the Nokia Lumia 520, it's a good affordable mobile with lots of fantastic features and would be ideal for anyone looking for a great Pay As You Go deal with Three. I don't think I'm quite ready to switch from my Three contract yet, but it is something I might be more willing to consider in the future given how affordable and flexible the options are.




*I received this product for the purpose of review.  All views and opinions expressed are entirely my own.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Father's Day Gifts - Dove Men + Care & Radox



As you know, Father's Day is fast approaching and I've been scratching my head wondering what gifts Holly and I could give to her Daddy. He really isn't one for showy or expensive gifts and always gives us a telling off if he thinks we've gone overboard! So the search was on to find something he would enjoy using that didn't break the bank either! 

Whether he's pottering about in the garden (it's his pride and joy) or at his weekly kick about at the 5-a-side football pitch, Holly's Daddy really enjoys coming home to a warm bath or nice refreshing shower.

That's why I think Radox and Dove Men + Care products would make really affordable gifts for any Dad this Father's Day. 

Radox Muscle Therapy Bath Soak (RRP £2.31) is great for soothing those tired muscles after a day of sports or outdoor activity. There's also Radox Stress Relief Bath Soak (RRP £2.31), ideal for relaxing after a busy day at work.  Is dad more of a shower man? Then for an invigorating shower why not treat dad to some Radox For Men (RRP £2.15)?  

TOP TIP - If like me you love Radox, you can always steal borrow some when he isn't looking! Shhh! I won't tell if you don't!



If a relaxing soak in the bathtub isn't quite what you're looking for,  the Dove Men + Care duo gift pack would be make an ideal alternative. The Daily Care Duo includes a Clean Comfort anti-perspirant deodorant which 48 hr protection against odour and sweat, and a Clean Comfort shower gel with MICROMOISTURE technology to protect the skin from drying out. This is the perfect set if you like your partner to smell clean and fresh - I know I do!




I definitely think any of these products would make fabulous Father's Day gifts and even better for me and Holly they won't leave our purses or piggy banks empty! 





Thursday, 5 June 2014

Review - Little Big Songs by Jerry & Co


We all know toddlers love music, well mine does anyway! My 2 year old Holly loves listening to new songs and learning to sing and dance along to music.

 That's why I was thoroughly delighted to review Little Big Songs, an album of music made specifically with preschoolers in mind.







The album consists of 11 delightful songs on a variety of themes. The CD comes with an accompanying lyrics booklet complete with some lovely illustrations which makes it almost look like a little story book! The first time we listened to the songs we did it with the booklet in hand so we could read the lyrics and look at the pictures as we sang. Holly thoroughly enjoyed the experience.




We've been listening to the CD for a few weeks now and on numerous occasions Holly has asked that I put the CD on for her. So as far as she is concerned it's clearly passed the toddler test!

As for me, I really enjoy this CD too. I often find music aimed at toddlers can be rather annoying and a tad repetitive, often with silly or nonsensical lyrics. However, I don't feel this is the case with Little Big Songs at all. Each song tells a story and the tunes and melodies are lovely.

Our particular favourites on the CD are the opening song "Scrub-a-Dub" which is a fun little song which we've made our own actions to. We also really enjoyed "In the Family", "What's the Time Mr. Wolf" and "Pipes and Taps".

We tended to favour the more up tempo songs (like the ones I've listed above) but there is a good mix of styles on the CD. There are some slower songs that would be perfect for quiet time with your toddler or even to play before bedtime. In particular the songs "Ladybird, Ladybird" and the delightful "Goodnight, Mr Moon".

Overall this is a great CD for anyone with children of preschool age. I'd definitely recommend it if you are looking for some music for your child, but it would also make a great gift too. I certainly think Holly and I will be enjoying these songs for a long time to come!






* I received this CD for the purpose of review. All opinions expressed are my own.




Monday, 26 May 2014

Adventures in Potty Training


We've had the potty since Holly was 1 and for the longest time we've talked about potty training. Yet one thing or another keeps getting in the way.  Colds, and teething and the horrific accompanying acid teething poo of terror. I certainly didn't want to start potty training when there was a risk that my home would be pebble-dashed with that hideousness. Then there were holidays and days out and life. All getting in the way. There's always an excuse not to start.

Well, the teeth are all here now (thank God) and the big girl pants have been purchased and we're going cold turkey on the nappies. RIGHT NOW. Holly is currently strutting her stuff in a pair of rather fetching Peppa Pig pants and eyeing the potty suspiciously wondering why I've suddenly moved it from the bathroom.

Of course we've talked about it to her, we've had many dry runs at sitting on the potty, but there still hasn't been a piddle in the potty. She's sneaky like that. Happily sitting astride the potty, proudly pretending to pee then waiting until we put her nappy is back on to do a real one.  Well, no more. I will not be outwitted by a toddler. Today there will be a potty full of pee. I'm determined and we will be holed up in the house until further notice. Thankfully it's chucking it down outside (just another beautiful Scottish Summer day) so we aren't missing much.

I predict over the next few days there will be tears, bribery, more tears, carpet shampooing and excessive consumption of chocolate based foods. Do you have any words of encouragement for me? Please tell me I'll make it out of this alive, with my sanity still intact?
Wednesday, 7 May 2014

What I Ate Wednesday - The Slimming World Edition!


Welcome to What I Ate Wednesday!



I've had to cheat a bit this week, as I knew I was going to be super busy this Wednesday and wouldn't have time to photograph and edit. So these are actually my meals from Tuesday! Hope you don't mind!




BREAKFAST 

 Today I chose 3 ingredient pancakes for breakfast. A lot of SW people swear by the yogurt pancakes (muller light, egg and oats) and while I do like those, I prefer to make mine slightly differently. I feel it's a bit of a waste of yogurt as I don't think it really enhances the taste of the pancakes. Instead I prefer using oats (27g), mashed banana and eggs (x2). As I've mentioned before some people like to syn mashed banana but in this recipe I don't. Mainly because I only use one banana and if I hadn't mashed it I would have probably had a whole banana later in the day (without syns) anyway! Anyway, these pancakes are hugely filling and this recipe makes three huge pancakes. I topped my pancakes with a drizzle of Agave Syrup (0.5 syns per level teaspoon). I only managed to eat one and a half pancakes because they were so big. Maybe next time I'll make a half the amount of pancake batter!




LUNCH 

 One of my favourite lunches! I'm a bit obsessed with Warburtons Sandwich Thins. Unfortunately they can't be counted as a Healthy Extra. Luckily they are only 5 syns each though and in my opinion they are well worth it! Today I have ham, 30% less fat cheddar and tomato. 




DINNER

 I was looking forward to this all day long! Pulled pork served with homemade savoury rice and roasted vegetables*. I made my pork yesterday in the slow cooker and the delicious smell has been driving me mad. Pulled Pork is another one of my obsessions at the moment and I could probably eat it every single day if I let myself. If you fancy making this, the recipe is available on the SW website.

*Apologies that I didn't take a pic of the roasted veg - it was in a side dish and I forgot!



SNACKS 

Only carrot crudités today. I've been so full thanks to my huge breakfast and dinner I haven't been feeling too peckish at all. 


SYNS 

Warburtons Sandwich Thin - 5 SYNS 

1 tsp Agave Syrup - 0.5 SYNS



So that's my What I Ate Wednesday. What did you eat today?






Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Days Out with Kids in Scotland - Thomas at Bo'ness Railway



Last weekend we visited Bo'ness and Kinneil Railway with Holly. We were accompanied by our friends and their daughter too. We'd never been before and the reason for our trip on Sunday was to take a trip on Thomas The Tank Engine! The railway hosts a Day Out with Thomas on various days throughout the summer alongside their other events (see website for further details of these - they even do afternoon tea).




When we booked our trip, even though I had read about it on the website I wasn't entirely sure what to expect at all. The first thing that made me smile was the booking confirmation email we received. A lovely message from Thomas himself! Both the girls are two so can't read it themselves but I thought that was a lovely little touch and I'm sure it would be very exciting for any child to receive a message from their favourite train!





When we arrived on the day it was understandably very busy and because it is a small railway, the car park space is limited. We weren't able to park in the car park, but that really wasn't an issue. They had some extremely helpful car park attendants & they were able to direct us to a parking space nearby. The parking was extremely well managed.




We arrived early (our train ride was at 12.30pm) and the girls had a great time at the station. They were able to say hello to Thomas and Percy and climb aboard to have their photos taken driving both trains. They met the (Fat) Controller who stopped to talk to them and give them some Stickers and we watched some older children take rides on the miniature steam train. There was more to see and do, but by then it was time to board the train!

We boarded the train at our allocated carriage (I was particularly pleased that carriages were allocated as it meant there was no fighting for seats). There were staff and volunteers present throughout the train and they were all wonderfully helpful and friendly. One staff member explained to us what happened on the train trip and showed us where to find the snack bar and toilets. Another came to punch our tickets and managed to get the girls to help him do it, which they were very pleased about! Every person we encountered had a smile and time to chat or say hello.




The train travelled from Bo'ness to Birkhill station where we disembarked. You take a very short walk from the station up to the bridge to wave the steam train off and then you can enjoy the entertainment facilities. There were small chair swings, a bouncy castle, a tent with face painting and temporary Thomas tattoos. A home baking stall and entertainment in the form of a puppet show and a magician. The homemaking was delicious and they had a great selection of cakes and treats to suit every taste. There was also a small shop at the station selling coffee, tea and a small selection of sweets and crisps.

I found the facilities were good, but do have a few minor criticisms. Obviously Scottish weather is notoriously unpredictable and although it was a nice day there were a few small showers while we were at Birkhill. This meant that every time it rained the bouncy castle couldn't be used (for health and safety reasons obviously), so everyone would then naturally move into the tent instead. The tent got quite cramped at one point so was a bit uncomfortable to try and move around in. Especially while keeping an eye on excited children! Also, apart from the seating inside the tent which was set out for the magic/puppet show and a few benches down at the station the seating was limited if you wanted to sit down and eat your homebaking, or perhaps if you'd brought picnic food as we had. The addition of a couple of tables or picnic benches would have been ideal. Apart from that it was a very pleasant place to spend the afternoon.




When you wanted to head back to Bo'ness you could just hop back on the regular trains that came back through Birkhill. On the returning trains you could hop into any carriage you wanted and luckily we managed to grab one of the 1st class carriages for our return journey. Obviously this was far more exciting to the adults in our group than the children! On the returning train the girls received a lovely certificate to commemorate their journey too. When we got back to Bo'ness station we stayed a while longer as we enjoyed the other facilities we hadn't checked out before. There were food tents and the railway museum which was well worth a look as well. We didn't end up leaving until nearly 5pm and we were all thoroughly exhausted. The girls had a fabulous time.

I would definitely say that this is a wonderful day out for any little (or big) Thomas enthusiasts out there. I believe it is very good value for money. Tickets are £11 and under 2s are free. We will definitely be visiting Bo'ness Railway again. Perhaps next time to try one of their other events that run throughout the year.

Thanks Thomas!




You can check out upcoming events at Bo'ness and Kinneil Railway HERE.









Saturday, 19 April 2014

Where Did You Go?


I didn't notice as you started to change. As he attached himself to you and started to change your view. Still, everyone changes though don't they?

Then you started to talk differently. Your outlook changed. Positivity disappeared. Defensiveness and bitterness growing like a weeds around you. Choking out the last pieces of you that I knew. It got so I could barely reach you, but still I tried to cling on.

They started dropping like flies. Your friends. Your family. As one by one your actions became stranger. I stood by you. Saw it from a neutral position. I tried to mediate. I apologised for you. I tried to build bridges for you, but every time you burned them.

According to you there was only ever one side. Yours. I see now you wanted me to be like you. To turn my back on everyone but you. I could not. Would not.  Then came the day I knew in my heart would come. You would not tolerate my tolerance any more. For the last time you asked me to choose. To walk away with you and leave everything else behind. Yet still I would not choose. So you chose for me. You cut me out of your life like all those before me. Like I was a wart. Vile. To be removed and never thought of again.

I tried to reason with you, but the girl who could be reasoned with had gone. Someone else I really didn't know stood in her place.  Would I do it differently if I had the chance again? No. My decision would be the same.  I could never give up everything I knew for someone I did not know anymore.

Yet still I miss you. The real you. The you who went on thrilling teenage midnight walks, of talking until the sun came up, of shared Saturday jobs and trying to be grown ups in fishnet tights and dog collars at the local rock club.

A fixture in my life for so long. I wonder if you really could have simply disappeared before my eyes.  I can't believe that you are gone forever.  That you aren't still somewhere, the girl you used to be.  So if you're there, if you come back...know that I am still here. Your friend. Even if you can't make it all the way, then maybe we could meet in the middle. Maybe find a new route to get to where we once were.  I'm holding my hand out, I'd love for you to take it. Whatever path you choose, I wish you well.











 

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