If Only Home Decorating Was This Simple! (Samsung Mob!lers)

No offence to my beloved moggie but I’m bored of him staring out at me from my phone. I decided to have a change. I’ve yet to decide exactly which wallpaper I want (no doubt I’ll have about seven or eight before I settle on one, which will, if I’m honest, will probably be the cat again!) but I thought I’d do a quick tutorial with the Samsung Galaxy Pro on how ridiculously easy it is to have any picture you should so desire on your phone.

I thought I’d use the above photo for a few reasons. Mainly because it’s super pretty but also because I took it on holiday (was it only two months ago?!) which brings back a happy memory and also because the content might remind me to reach for a piece of fruit, rather than a lump of cake, if I look at it often enough. So, picture chosen, I transferred it to my phone and opened it using the gallery. I then selected the ‘More’ menu and pressed the ‘Set As’ option.

I modified the image to crop the part of the photo I wanted to use then selected to have the picture spread across both home screens.

Select ‘save’ and you’re done. Here you can see how the image is stretched to fill both screens. Nifty eh? And it took me about 2 minutes to do from start to finish.

I’ve also used a neat little app called Zedge for new wallpapers (as well as ringtones) which is great if you want to change the look of your phone in even less time. Easy to use and (there’s that magic word again) free. Just type in a key word and see what pops up. You could even use a photo manipulation app like Pixlr-o-matic which adds really impressive retro effects to your photographs which you could then set as a wallpaper. The options are endless. Have fun!

Failing to be Moved

If you follow me on Twitter or we’re friends on Facebook, no doubt you’ve spotted me moaning about our house sale over the past few months. After 2 years on the market we accepted an offer in June (was it June? It could have been May, it’s all so very long ago) and since then I’ve felt like life has been on hold while we wait for other people to move things on (at a snail’s pace it would seem). At every single stage there have been hold ups, miscommunications, mistakes and, without going into the mind-numbingly boring details, it has, thus far, been a ruddy nightmare. And we still don’t have a moving date.

The thing is, speaking to other people who have recently been through the same process, we’re not alone. In fact, most people seem to find the experience nothing short of horrific. It’s not the physical moving process (though the control freak in me does NOT relish the prospect of giving three strangers a van full of my stuff and letting them drive off with it!), it’s the build up, the legalities, the bureaucratic faffery and general messiness of the thing. And it’s not as if it isn’t something that happens on a fairly regular basis. AND with the market as quiet as it is right now, surely all relevant parties should have more time to concentrate on the cases they do have.

What I’m saying is, it shouldn’t be this difficult, should it? I swear it will be a miracle if I make it into a new house without my hair having turned completely white. I’ve told N that we’re never moving again and we haven’t even moved yet! If I am totally truthful, I think one of the reasons I’m so fractious is that, in readiness for moving, and so we don’t have to pack up 150 tins of tomatoes/fruit and umpteen bags of rice/pasta, I have been running down my Zompocalypse cupboard which makes me feel vulnerable and a bit grumpy. If Z-Day hits now I shall be utterly livid.

If someone could just reassure me that it’ll all be fine, the Zompocalypse won’t break out until after the move and I’ve had chance to restock, and that by Christmas I’ll be settled in the new place and all this madness will be a distant memory, that would be lovely. Or feel free to purge yourself of your own horror stories too.

Blue Skies over Yorkshire (Samsung Mob!lers)

So, the weather hasn’t exactly been glorious this summer, no tan to be had in the back gardens of Hull this year. Still, I’ve had some great days out and about and Yorkshire has, as ever, done itself proud.

Over the last couple of months I’ve been getting to know my Samsung Galaxy Pro and its nifty camera. It has the capacity to produce some great shots and various effects can be achieved (I love the Retro Camera app) for quite impressive results. I thought I’d share a selection of the pictures I got over the summer holidays that show we did have the odd nice day (each one has at least a tiny slice of clear/blue sky).

Recognise anywhere?

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Travel Broadens The Mind

It is a near miracle if I end a holiday without at least one near death or slightly dodgy/worrying experience. In Holland it was ‘The Battle of Sparta Rotterdam’ where a ‘friendly’ football fixture was infiltrated by rampaging Feyenoord fans, resulting in bloodshed and an armed escort back to the train station. In Swansea I was relieved of my handbag and ‘pretend held hostage’ for my pin number. In the Scottish Highlands I almost drowned when my kayak started taking on water and then sunk. In Belgium (at the Spa Francorchamps racing circuit to be precise) I fell down a hill – luckily my arse cushioned the impact. In Florida there was the hurricane and on school camp (Wales again!) there was ‘the quad bike incident’.

Until now my fiance has remained relatively unscathed by my penchant for holiday doom, though he has been a bemused/concerned onlooker on a few occasions. Until this year. When we went to Barcelona. And I accidentally took him cottaging.

We’d decided to walk up Montjuic (though in the end it was walk a bit, cable-car a bit) which is a maa-hoo-sive hill covered in parkland, nature and all that stuff, overlooking the city. There is a graveyard up there that I wanted to see (yes, I like graveyards, it’s not *that* odd) and a couple of museums and a magic fountain with pretty lights. I had a map and it had served us well until we got, as Ray Mears might say, ‘turned around’ and took a left too early. Thinking about it, I did notice the middle-aged bloke who was stood near the bushes a little further up the path give me an odd look as I ditzily studied the map, as did the young lad who drove his scooter to a stop at the bottom of the path, but I figured they just thought me a stupid lost tourist. Scooter Man set off up the path and a few seconds later, having decided to go thaddaway, myself and N followed – well, not literally ‘followed’, but went in the same direction. At that point the two gentlemen greeted each other with a furtive nod and proceeded to walk into the bushes.

In all honesty, N was pretty much oblivious to it all and it was only after we’d realised that we’d taken a wrong turn and decided to double back, necessitating passing ‘the bushes of love’ again that I told him what was going on. I don’t think he really believed me. Preferring to suppose that they were two, totally platonic, nature-lovers who disappeared into the undergrowth in a fairly remote location to study rare butterflies or some such. That is until I called on The Knower of All Things that is Google, which revealed that yes, the delightful woodland glades of Montjuic, particularly near the graveyard (which is stunning by the way), are well-known and highly thought of in outdoor gay sex circles.

So, depending on your preferences, consider this tale (and handy map!) either a friendly warning and a ‘things (people?) to do’ suggestion. While I’m not in the least bit offended by the concept, I do think some kind of sign-post would have been nice to prevent unsuspecting tourists stumbling across such private (*ironic face*) moments. Though perhaps our presence served only to increase the frisson felt by these Mediterranean pleasuremongers. In which case, Middle Aged Man and Scooter Man, you’re entirely welcome! And if it didn’t, I’m sorry if we put you off, you might want to think about lobbying your local MP regarding my sign-post idea.

Silent Sunday

To forgive is divine, and so are brownies

I’ll be the first to admit this, I’ve had somewhat of a strained relationship with Wales. While I realise you shouldn’t judge an entire country, people and culture on a few incidents, it’s only natural to form an opinion of a place on the experiences you have. And my experiences have been mixed to say the least.

In the positive column – I met my first proper boyfriend on a carefree, ‘endless summer’ type, school camp in Anglesey. I had an extremely fun night in Aberystwyth involving an Australian rock band, about 600 sweaty students, some policemen and a Santa’s Grotto. I’ve also got nothing but love for Ivor the Engine, Dylan Thomas (any man who liked to eat liquorice allsorts in the bath is alright in my book), Portmeirion and, of course, the glorious Manic Street Preachers.

But I’ve also had a number of Withnail and I-esque “We’ve gone on holiday by mistake!” moments in Wales too. In South Wales, I (and my colleague at the time) was robbed of a quantity of stock (probably while I was distracted by a Samwise Gamgee look-a-like who decided I should be his girlfriend because I made the mistake of saying I liked his Bill Hicks badge). Also, while on a different trip, I was relieved of my handbag (and my favourite ever pink phone *wails*!) by some of Swansea’s finest tealeafs and ‘pretend held hostage’ for my pin number. This being the same trip that the car broke down and had to be towed all the way back to Yorkshire (by some genuinely lovely RAC men – another tick in the positives). Oh, and I’m 99% certain a Welsh waitress phlegmed in my curry once, which gave me food poisoning leading to me concussing myself on the hotel en suite door in the middle of the night.

So, yeah, ‘mixed’ is probably the right word.

However, I’ve discovered something that means Wales will forever more be held by me in nothing but the highest esteem. Short of kidnapping my entire family (actually, scratch that – it would go in the positive column!) there is now literally NO wrong that could be done to me by the country or its people.

Let me explain. One of the reasons I love comping (aside from the obvious ‘owt for nowt’ incentive) is I’m introduced to some great products (and also people) that I wouldn’t otherwise have known about. About a year ago I noticed a competition on Twitter from Gower Cottage Brownies – the name rang a bell with me as I’ve visited the area and it’s really beautiful, even though I did get robbed (see – ‘mixed’!). I tweeted an entry (@Gowercottage) and the next day I found out I’d won. “Yey! Summat for nowt!”, I thought, but little did I know just what kind of ‘summat’ I would be getting. To paraphrase Mr Marks and Mr Spencer, “These aren’t just any brownies, these are Gower Cottage brownies.”.

As soon as I opened the box I knew I was in for a treat – the smell (even for someone as olfactorarily challenged as I) was divine. Nestled inside were 12 icing sugar dusted portions of (at the risk of infringing Thorntons copyright) what I can only describe as chocolate heaven. I could throw around words like delectable and moreish or ambrosial and luscious but they could never do them justice. I will say, however, that the on-box suggestion to try these little beauties warm with ice cream should also come with a strong health warning because the experience was SO uncommonly good that I was rendered speechless and possibly drifted off into a temporary, deliciously blissful, fuzzy round the edges, gooey, fudgey, utterly gorgeous chocolate induced coma.

I do my fair share of baking and I’ve been making brownies since I was knee-high so I’ve had 20-odd years to perfect my recipe, which, as it stands, is pretty damn good but putting my brownies next to these is like comparing a Pot Noodle to a meal at Nobu, there’s just no contest. There’s a half-serious consensus in my house that, given the sublime quality of these parcels of deliciousness, Kate Jenkins (Queen of the Gower Cottage kitchen) may, in the nicest possible sense of the accusation, actually be some kind of witch. A thoroughly lovely, very good, sent to do good things (though, not necessarily for the waistline) kind of witch, but someone who has powers which are not of this earth nonetheless.

Since winning that first box, I’ve had a tendency to view the balance of my PayPal account in terms of how many boxes (at ¬£15.99 each) I could buy with the available funds which, I’m pretty sure, is one of the main signs of addiction. Still, somehow, I’ve manage to exercise restraint, only buying more boxes as gifts for special people who I thought deserved a slice of, what I’ve come to think of as, brownie crack. Clearly my appreciation hasn’t gone unnoticed as my cat (with, I imagine, a bit of help from my OH) bought me a box for Mother’s Day. I would have shared but cats can’t eat chocolate – shame.

So, while it may be a tragic clich√©, it doesn’t make it any less true in this case – chocolate does indeed make it all better. Such is the power of these brownies that Wales is well and truly forgiven for every past indiscretion against me and any future faux pas and injustices that may yet still be to occur. Sticking with the theme of bastardising advertising slogans, I’ll finish by simply saying that, “Carlsberg don’t make brownies, but if they did, they’d be made in The Gower Cottage kitchen.”.