Friday 19 April 2024

Where to see the retired space shuttles

Recently I shared some of the things that I saw on our recent trip to New York and Washington, and I mentioned that we had now seen all of the retired space shuttles. I thought I'd put together a post about where all the space shuttles can now be seen, as they are awesome to see in person! The best thing is that they are all displayed in different ways to showcase their various features and uses, so even though the shuttles themselves are similar you can learn new things about them as you see each one.

Space Shuttle Atlantis

Atlantis is on display at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and the museum has gone to a lot of effort to showcase its star attraction. The shuttle is housed in a separate building, fronted by the massive familiar orange external fuel tank and two solid rocket boosters.

Space Shuttle Atlantis at Kennedy Space Center in Florida

Before seeing the shuttle you go through several exhibits, including a short film about the history of the space shuttle programme and how the shuttle was conceived and developed. The final film is displayed on a floor to ceiling screen, and at the end the screen rises quickly to reveal the space shuttle suspended in front of you, tilted as though flying through space.

Space Shuttle Atlantis at Kennedy Space Center in Florida

The shuttle is displayed with the payload doors open and the Canadarm extended, and as you walk closer you can get a really good feel for how it would have looked while carrying out a mission.

Space Shuttle Atlantis with Canadarm extended

Space Shuttle Discovery

Space Shuttle Discovery is on display at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Washington D.C. in a large hanger, along with lots of other impressive air and spacecraft. It's displayed resting on the ground with the landing wheels down. There's just a low barrier all around it, and it's so close that you almost feel as though you could just reach out and touch it! It's really interesting to be able to have a good look at how the wheels slotted into place underneath the shuttle.

Space Shuttle Discovery on display in Washington

Space Shuttle Endeavour (currently off display)

Endeavour is currently stored at the California Science Center in Los Angeles. We saw it in 2018 when it was in a temporary home, suspended in the air in a large hanger above the heads of the visitors. Unfortunately at the moment it is off display, as it is in the process of being moved to a new part of the museum - the Samual Oschin Air and Space Center. When open, it will be the only place in the world that you'll be able to see a complete Space Shuttle System with a flown orbiter as the shuttle will be displayed upright, attached to the rocket boosters and external fuel tank ready for launch. It looks as though the museum is expected to open next year (2025) and I would love to be able to go back and see it again in its new home!

Space Shuttle Endeavour in Los Angeles

Space Shuttle Enterprise

Space Shuttle Enterprise is on display at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York. It's housed in a separate, covered display area at the far end of the museum, and be prepared to wait in line for a little while if you visit on a busy day. Space Shuttle Enterprise is the only shuttle that didn't actually fly in space, it was used for atmospheric test flights. 

You can view the shuttle from a raised walkway around the front of the shuttle, so you can get a good look at the windscreen and heat shields.

Space Shuttle Enterprise at Intrepid Museum in New York

Space Shuttles Challenger and Columbia

Space Shuttle Challenger broke apart 73 seconds into its flight in 1986, killing all seven crew members aboard - the first fatal accident involving an American spacecraft in flight. Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated as it re-entered the atmosphere in 2003, also killing all seven crew members. (There was a recent three part documentary 'The Space Shuttle that Fell to Earth' which was excellent in telling the story of what happened in the Columbia disaster, it's available to watch on BBC iPlayer.)

You can see some pieces recovered from both shuttles at the 'Forever Remembered' memorial at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, along with personal items and stories from the crew members. There are also memorials to the astronauts of the Challenger and the Columbia at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington D.C.

Finally there are two more shuttle experiences that we've not yet managed:

Space Shuttle Pathfinder (test simulator)

Not a real space shuttle, the Space Shuttle Pathfinder was a space shuttle test simulator made of steel and wood, and it's about the same size, weight and shape as an actual orbiter. You can see it on display at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, and this is definitely somewhere that we would love to visit one day. 

Space Shuttle Independence (replica) - formerly known as Explorer

Space Shuttle Independence is a full scale space shuttle replica. It was formerly on display at the Kennedy Space Center and can now be seen at the Space Center Houston (another place that we would love to visit). It's displayed in Independence Plaza, mounted on the original NASA 905 shuttle carrier aircraft. Visitors can enter both the shuttle and the plane, which sounds amazing.

Saturday 13 April 2024

Some cool things I've seen over the last couple of weeks

This Easter we finally managed the trip to New York and Washington that was originally planned for March 2020. We spent 6 nights in New York, 5 nights in Washington D.C. and travelled by train between the two. It was a brilliant holiday, with lots of walking and sightseeing. I feel like my head is full of all the amazing things that we saw! 

Here are just some of them:

On our first evening in New York we all booked a trial for the Apple Vision Pro at the shop in Grand Central Station. I've written before about how I was interested to see the technology in action, and we weren't disappointed. We each had half an hour or so to run through a quick demo, learning how to use the headset and seeing what it is capable of. We all loved it and I think my husband was very tempted to bring one back home with us, but at $3500 it's a little out of our price range at the moment!

Apple Vision Pro headset demo in New York

We spent a lot of time in museums on this trip and saw so many things that it's difficult to pick out a few, but one thing I was excited to see was definitely this costume from Hamilton in the National Museum of American History. We spent a lot of time learning about different aspects of US history, we also did a tour of the Capitol building and saw the original Declaration of Independence along with other historical documents.

Hamilton costume in Washington DC museum

We were also lucky enough to see not one space shuttle but two! We first saw the Enterprise at the Intrepid Museum in New York. The Enterprise is the only shuttle that didn't actually fly in space, it was used for atmospheric test flights. Then we saw the Discovery at the Udvar-Hazy Center on the outskirts of Washington. It's parked in a huge hanger at the Udvar-Hazy museum, and it's almost close enough to touch which was amazing. This means that we've now seen all of the space shuttles in their various homes across the US!

Space Shuttle Discovery at Udvar-Hazy Center near Washington

We saw lots of other space related artefacts as well. At the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. I was most impressed by Neil Armstrong's actual space suit which he wore when he first walked on the actual moon. I was also interested to see a replica of one of the Voyager probes which I remember learning a lot about as a child. 

Neil Armstrong's space suit

Also in Washington I loved spotting this Floral Library on the National Mall. At this time of year the 93 beds are filled with tulips planted with bulbs from Holland. 

Tulip library in Washington DC

On the final day of our holiday we were fortunate to still be in the US for the solar eclipse. Although Washington didn't fall into the path of totality, the sun was 87% covered by the moon and everyone was looking forward to it. We joined crowds of people sitting on the grass to watch from the moment that the shadow first appeared across the sun.

Children wearing solar eclipse glasses

It was all very exciting, and the sky remained mainly clear throughout. Apart from at the actual minute where the eclipse reached its peak and a cloud appeared in front of the sun! It was quite funny because it blocked out the sun completely and everyone cheered because it felt like a total eclipse! 

Solar eclipse 2024 in Washington

We had a fantastic trip and although we all came back exhausted from so much walking around we saw things that will stay with us for a long time to come.

Thursday 21 March 2024

Things that make me uneasy

My current read is The Pillow Book by Sei Shonagon (affiliate link). I discovered it a little while ago when I was reading a fiction book which quoted extracts at the beginning of chapters - My Year of Meats by Ruth Ozeki (affiliate link). 

The Pillow Book was written during the 990s and early 1000s in Japan. It's collection of thoughts, lists, poems, anecdotes and other musings, recorded by Sei Shonagon about her daily life as a court lady to the empress. I've only just started but I'm really enjoying it so far, the translation is really easy to read and many of the sections are really relatable!

My favourite chapters are the lists. They include things like 'Things that make one's heart beat faster', 'Elegant things', 'Surprising and distressing things' and 'Things that should be short'. They make me think of the lists that I compose in my head and then often write up in a blog post (like Things I think about while I'm running or Things I collect that I don't need.) In fact the whole book is a little bit like a blog!

So here is a blog post inspired by Sei Shonagon.

Things that make me uneasy

Large trees, especially when it's windy

Empty plug sockets with the switch left on

Curtains left open after dark

Uneven pavements

Dogs not on a lead

A phone battery below 20%

A cupboard door left open

A letter addressed to me when I'm not expecting anything

Traffic wardens

The back door left unlocked

Level crossings

Temporary traffic lights that haven't changed for a while

Lightning

Japanese garden
Photo credit David Emrich via Unsplash

Thursday 14 March 2024

Things I collect that I don't need

I've been looking around the house recently and thinking that I'm well overdue for a good declutter. It's been ages since I last took part in a decluttering challenge, and things are starting to pile up a bit. My poor bookshelves in particular are looking a little overcrowded, and there are lots of random things lying about that need to be sorted.

I've noticed so many things in the house that I really don't need but I just can't help keeping. They include:

Scrap paper - I can't bear to throw away any piece of paper that might come in useful. Letters that are only printed on one side, spare pages torn from old schoolbooks, notebooks going back to when I was at school.

Slippers from hotels - Freebie slippers are great while you're on holiday but not much good back at home, however I still can't resist bringing them back with me.

Other items purloined from hotels - In particular little bottles of toiletries, especially now that they are less common. I always think they will come in useful for travel, and then I just find more at my destination. Recently I emptied about twenty tiny bottles of shower gel into one large bottle and forced myself to work my way through it!

Books - This is becoming a big problem. I've always been quite minimalist with my books and passed them on once I'd finished, but I've recently been adding some old favourites to my library as I come across them in charity shops and I'm running out of book shelf space.

Blankets - I love snuggling under a blanket all year round, and I've also made quite a few blankets over the years. We have several times more blankets than people in the house!

Fabric - I don't do a lot of fabric crafting but I do like to keep some fabric scraps on hand and I often buy pieces on holiday in the US where it's much cheaper. There are also quite a few odd balls of wool lying about that I'm unlikely to use.

Recipes - This is definitely an aspirational collection! I cut out recipes from the free supermarket magazines and I also print out ones that I come across online. I store them all in a little box in the kitchen and then forget about them.

Things from the beach - Sea glass, shells, interesting pebbles. I walk along the beach fairly often and it's rare not to come back with something. My handbag and coat pockets are also filled with beachy souvenirs. 

Pretty boxes - From mugs, toiletries, chocolates, little gifts. I do love a nice box and I can't bear to put them in the recycling!

Added to that are clothes and shoes that the children have outgrown or have worn out, and all the other random things that pile up over time.

Cluttered table with mug and books
Photo credit Ella Jardim via Unsplash

Over Easter I'm definitely going to be having a good sort out and making some trips down to the charity shop!

Monday 11 March 2024

What is everyone listening to?

Recently I wrote about some of the things that I think about when I'm running, and one of them was wondering what the people I see out and about are listening to on their headphones.

Is it just me, or are more and more people wearing headphones? I notice it more and more! Usually just the ear bud style, but also large over the head ones. If I'm running behind someone and want to overtake I never know if they can hear me coming, even if I try to let them know I'm behind them with an 'excuse me'.

I have a decent pair of bone conduction headphone, but even though they leave my ears free I don't feel as aware of my surroundings when I'm wearing them. I want to hear what's going on around me, especially if I'm running early and alone. So the only time that I wear headphones is at the gym, and I use the corded headphones that came with my phone - I'm still stuck in the 90s!

The children have always owned headphones which they use for travel, but recently they've upgraded to fancier ones and they seem to wear them all the time. I can't complain because as a teenager I was constantly plugged into my personal cassette player, but I do feel a bit lonely sometimes when I'm driving them back from school and they would rather switch off with their own music than chat with me!

I like to wonder what people are listening to. For exercise I enjoy some fast paced music with a strong beat, but I like peace and quiet when I'm out for a walk. Maybe some people aren't actually listening to anything at all, they just want to be left alone, I can see that being something I would do!

Person on street wearing headphones
Photo credit Mark Rohan via Unsplash

Thursday 7 March 2024

Kindle Paperwhite 11th Generation - How to display a book cover on the lock screen

I recently upgraded my old Kindle to a Kindle Paperwhite 11th Generation model and I am very happy with it. This time I chose to buy a Kindle which doesn't display special offers and ads, and one feature that I was really looking forward to was the ability to display the cover of the book that I'm currently reading on the lock screen. 

However when I was setting up the device, the options on my menus didn't match the ones that I found when searching for help, and I just couldn't work out how to do it. I spent an hour and a half talking to Amazon online trying to set it up which was very frustrating as they were very unhelpful and actually lied to me, telling me that it would be fixed in a later software update! I was really annoyed.

But then! I was changing some other settings and I found the option under a completely different menu option! So as I hadn't found that information anywhere else online I thought I'd share it here and I really hope that it can help someone else out.

There are just a few things to check first:

* The setting to display a book cover is only available if you have an ad free device. This means that when you bought the Kindle you paid a little extra (for me in the UK it was £10) for a device that doesn't display special offers. To remove the ads from your Kindle go to Manage Your Devices on Amazon. Select your device and look for the Special Offers tab. Click Remove Offers and you will be given the option to pay the fee and remove the adverts. 

* Make sure that your Kindle is loaded with the latest version of the software. You can check this under Settings -> Device Options. Under Software updates it should say 'Your Kindle is on the latest software' and when you press here it will confirm that your Kindle is up to date.

* Restart the Kindle by pressing and holding the power button.

To display the book cover on the lock screen on the Kindle Paperwhite 11th Generation:

Go to Settings -> Screen and brightness -> Show covers on lock screen - make sure this option is checked. 

Kindle Paperwhite 11th generation book covers on lock screen

It's so easy to do, I can't believe that it caused me so much annoyance trying to get it set up!

Tuesday 5 March 2024

Sorting through my broken links

At the end of last year, Amazon Associates announced that it had decided to stop using the SiteStripe image feature which allowed Amazon Associates to link to products on Amazon using an image link. Although Amazon Associates isn't a huge source of income for me, I do get a small voucher from time to time which is always appreciated. I often include lists of craft supplies, as well as linking to books that I've enjoyed or products that I recommend.

Text links to Amazon still work, but I always used an image link because I think readers find it easier and more appealing to see a picture. So I had hundreds of image links on my blog. I'm afraid I rather buried my head in the sand and pretended it wasn't happening.

This week I realised that I'd not done a broken link check on my blog for a long time so I gave it a run and I was dismayed to see the number of broken links to Amazon. I use Broken Link Checker which is a great free tool, and I've spent hours finding the links and removing or replacing them. Sometimes I've changed the image links for text links, otherwise I just deleted them. I think I've got rid of most of them, but I'm sure that there are some that have slipped through the cracks.

I also discovered many other broken links. Links that have changed, attractions that have closed, products that are no longer available.

Among them I was sad to find many broken links to bloggers who no longer blog. I used to love the blogging community back when I started, I took part in lots of blog hops and link ups. Many of my early craft posts were inspired by groups of bloggers getting together to work on a craft together, like my Sky Blanket, or sharing crafts like Needlework Days. There was also the linky which I co-hosted - Crafting is my Therapy.

Re-visiting my old posts also made me feel really nostalgic. I used to love doing all the little themed crafts with the children and sharing them on the blog! It reminded me of lots of fun things that we've done. Now I feel a bit silly doing children's crafts on my own, although I think I'll still be playing with the Hama beads for a while yet!

Hands blogging on a laptop at a desk
Photo credit Mel Poole via Unsplash

It has made me think about how my blog has changed direction as the children have got older, and I'm not sure that I've really found a new focus for it. I really enjoy being a content creator and I definitely want to continue, but I need to have a think about my new direction!

Friday 1 March 2024

Things I think about while I'm running

When I set out for a run, my first thought is usually how cold it is, and how long it will take me to warm up. Sometimes I'm a bit self-conscious, and I'm testing whether my shoes are comfortable. But it doesn't take long to get into my stride, and then my mind can start to wander. 

All sorts of things go through my head while I'm out for a run, and these are just some of them!

* Rehearsing conversations and text messages. Here's something that I read recently in the book Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott:

"Left to its own devices, my mind spends much of its time having conversations with people who aren't there. I walk along defending myself to people, or exchanging repartee with them, or rationalizing my behavior, or seducing them with gossip, or pretending I'm on their TV talk show or whatever."

This is exactly me, and I suspect a lot of other people too! I explain things to an invisible audience, I share anecdotes, I discuss my experiences. (Then very occasionally some of this turns into a journal entry or a blog post!)

* I think about the book that I'm reading or the television show that I'm currently watching. I ponder what has happened and the impression it has made on me. Often I have an internal conversation with someone about it. 

* I decide what I will do first once I get home and am showered. Sometimes it's an urgent task that is bothering me, otherwise which routine job to tackle first.

* I feel virtuous about the fact that I'm doing exercise when it would be really easy not to be. I never compare myself to the other people that I see out running, but I do feel solidarity with them! I wonder how far other runners have run, and whether they run regularly.

* I wonder what people are listening to on their headphones.

* I hope that the many dogs I pass won't jump up at me or run under my feet.

* I plan whether I should just run up behind the person walking ahead of me, give a loud cough or try for an 'excuse me' before I squeeze past.

* I think about how easy I'm finding the run, whether I should consider doing an extra loop or if it's time to head home.

* I run over any particular problem that is going round my mind, usually something to do with one of the children, although I try not to ruminate too much.

A woman's feet running along the beach
Photo credit Dulcey Lima via Unsplash

I find that running is a really good way to clear my mind. Even if I've been thinking about something that makes me anxious, I find that going over it often helps me to come at it with a new perspective. And when I get back from a run I always feel better both physically and mentally.

Wednesday 28 February 2024

Can you eat thirty different plants in a week?

It's actually not as difficult as it sounds!

Sometime before Christmas I read a nutrition article online that made an impression on me. I think it may have been this one - Forget five a day, 30 a week is the new rule you need to follow. It's behind a paywall, but if you don't have a Telegraph subscription you can find a similar article here with lots more advice - Why should you eat 30 plants a week?

The premise behind eating 30 different types of plant in a week is that it can boost the diversity and health of your gut biome, which is also really important for other aspects of your health. When I read the headline I thought that it sounds impossible, I find it difficult enough to fit in my five a day! But after I read more closely I realised that actually it's very achievable. 

Plants doesn't just include the usual fruit and vegetables, it also counts grains, nuts, seeds, herbs and spices. Even chocolate counts if it's more than 70% cocoa, as does coffee and popcorn. The curry mix that I sometimes use in cooking contains coriander, cumin, turmeric, garlic, cardamom, chilli, star anise, bay leaf, cloves, mace - that's 11 plants in one go!

I've been making a big effort with my diet since the new year, trying to make healthier choices and increasing the range of foods that I eat. So I decided to quickly add up the number of different plants that I ate on a fairly typical day (that does admittedly tend towards the healthier end of the scale) and see how many I got to. I was really surprised!

Simple bean salad in a bowl

Breakfast - Muesli. I eat a small bowl of Sainsbury's Swiss Style Muesli which contains oat flakes, wheat flakes, sultanas, hazelnuts and almonds. Then I top it with a mixture of my own - raisins, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds and some flaked almonds. Adds 9 plants.

Lunch - Bean salad, includes kidney beans, sweetcorn, onion, tomato, red pepper, olive oil. Followed by a handful of grapes. Adds 7 plants.

Snack - A couple each of Brazil nuts, cashew nuts and almonds. Adds 2 plants.

Dinner - Lentil Bolognese, includes red lentils, green lentils, potato, onion, carrot, tomato, olive oil, garlic, curry powder (coriander, cumin, turmeric, garlic, cardamom, chilli, star anise, bay leaf, cloves, mace), black pepper. Adds 15 plants.

Snack - Apple. Adds 1 plant. I also had some chocolate, but it was milk so doesn't count!

Even allowing for overcounting or miscalculation that makes an impressive 34 plants! The curry powder does feel like a bit of a cheat, especially because I don't use very much, so I think that I would need to add it more frequently to get the full benefits.

I could definitely do with some adding some more variety to my diet - I eat the same for breakfast every morning and I often repeat lunches - but I was pleasantly surprised to find that eating so many different plants wasn't as overwhelming as I had thought. I'm definitely in the right mindset at the moment to want to improve my diet, and I'm really enjoying researching the topic and finding some new recipes to try - and feeling better for it too.

Tuesday 27 February 2024

Four ways to improve lone worker safety

This is a collaborative post

All work can be risky given the right (or wrong) circumstances, but working alone comes with a unique risk profile simply because it involves working independently of others.

As the UK’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) reminds us: "Lone workers face the same hazards at work as anyone else, but there is a greater risk of these hazards causing harm as they may not have anyone to help or support them if things go wrong."

That being the case, health and safety managers must devise the policies and kit lone workers out with the right tech that gives them the best chance of staying safe.

Let’s take a look at four ways businesses can improve their lone worker safety.

Assess The Risks

Anyone from machine operators and engineers to teachers and social housing managers can be asked to work alone, meaning they face an elevated level of job-related risk.

How much risk and where the biggest risks lie should be determined by a company’s risk assessment or risk audit process. 

A risk assessment is key to identifying the safety issues that lone workers are likely to encounter and keeping on top of the changing risk profile of a workforce.

Electrician working alone
Photo credit Emmanuel Ikwuegbu via Unsplash

Train Staff

It’s all very well drawing up a set of safety protocols, but if workers aren’t familiar with them they are next to useless.

Therefore it is essential that a business shares its risk assessment findings with staff and familiarises them with the protocols it has established to mitigate lone worker risk.

At its most basic level, this might mean providing staff with a simple check-in/check-out system so that a boss can keep tabs on a worker’s whereabouts.

However, it’s also likely to involve a good deal of training in the right use of equipment, both the tools of the trade and the safety devices a company uses to keep lone workers safe.

Monitor

At the heart of any effective lone worker safety regime lies staff monitoring. Here, technology has an important role to play.

Perhaps the most effective way an employer can provide a lone worker with a vital lifeline in case of an accident or emergency is to fit a worker with a lone worker alarm.

Respond

The lone worker alarm comes into its own when the lone worker hits a snag or has an accident. 

At this point, an accessible SOS button provides the worker with a vital lifeline by allowing him to reach out to colleagues and the emergency services.

If the alarm is sounded the company must have the protocols in place to know how to respond to a lone worker’s mayday signal.

An extra layer of monitoring comes in the form of GPS-powered true man-down detection, a real-time system that allows colleagues and emergency services to pinpoint the exact location of an incapacitated worker.

Conclusion

There is believed to be somewhere between seven and nine million lone workers in the UK. The risks these lone workers face can appear formidable, but with the right protocols and technology in place, it’s always possible to mitigate risks and manage the biggest dangers they face as they go about their jobs.

Monday 26 February 2024

A review of the four new jigsaws that I received for Christmas

For Christmas I was lucky enough to receive some lovely jigsaw puzzles, and so I thought I'd do a quick review of them all in case you are looking for some puzzling inspiration! They are 1000 piece puzzles with bright, colourful designs and all of them were quite quick and easy to put together - a nice change after my larger 3000 piece puzzle!

Modern jigsaw puzzles review

Parkside View by Galison (1000 piece)

This is a colourful view of a city park with skyscrapers in the background. At first I thought it was going to be a very tricky puzzle with all the different colours and shades, but it wasn't as bad as I thought. The pieces only come in two shapes and so you can work out the orientation. Once you've put together the sky and the buildings, as long as you have space to lay out the majority of the pieces then you can work on a tree at a time, picking out the distinctive pieces that you need for that section. It was a bit difficult to take apart, each piece needed to be removed separately which took a little while. There was a separate poster with the image which I always appreciate, especially as the square box doesn't show the complete design. I loved the beautiful, vibrant colours.

Parkside View by Galison jigsaw puzzle review

Art Cats by Happily (1000 piece)

This was a very easy sort, as you can identify the parts for most of the cats from individual pieces. In fact after I'd sorted out the edge pieces and the text I didn't really bother sorting the rest, I just hunted through the box for the pieces I needed. I didn't want to finish it too quickly! Each cat is drawn in the style of a different artist, with an appropriate cat themed name underneath which makes for a really fun illustration. The pieces are solid and chunky, and it didn't take too long at all. 

Art Cats by Happily jigsaw puzzle review

Book Nerd by Workman Puzzle (1000 piece)

I didn't realise until I read the box that this puzzle is based on the book of the same name, which looks like a fun, illustrated read about the love of books. The first thing that I noticed about this puzzle was arrows on the back to indicate which way up the pieces go, which I've not seen before. I didn't need them though! The pieces of this puzzle are all really interesting different shapes which made the puzzle fun to put together. I started with the figures and the plants and then enjoyed piecing together the different sections of books. I loved the variety of books in the image, it's not just classic and well known books but modern books too. I enjoyed the style of the illustration and all the different objects that go on the shelves along with the books.

Book Nerd by Workman Puzzle jigsaw puzzle review

Classics by Happily (1000 piece)

This puzzle was another easy sort. Each book joins to the edge, so once that is in place you can work on a book at a time. This means it's a great puzzle to work on in small bursts, even if you only have a few minutes to put together one of the spines. Although the books include some of my favourite authors - Margaret Atwood, Daphne du Maurier - along with a good selection of adult and children's books, I did think there could have been a bit more variety in the titles! The 37 books include 7 by Jane Austen, including 'Love and Freindship' which apparently isn't a spelling mistake, Anne of Green Gables features twice and books by Arthur Conan Doyle three times. That aside, I enjoyed the contrasts in the colours and patterns of the book spines, and it was a pretty easy and fun jigsaw to put together over a few evenings.

Classics jigsaw puzzle by Happily review

I feel like I've been a very busy puzzler this year so far! Now I just have one borrowed puzzle to get on with and then I might take a bit of a break, or go back and do some of the old favourites in my collection!

Book Nerd jigsaw puzzle completed

Thursday 22 February 2024

Walking in the rain

I love going out for a walk, and as well as my regular runs I also venture out for plenty of walks around my local area. I don't go very far, just a short wander around the estate for half an hour or so, often after lunch. It's not always easiest at this time of year, especially when it's as cold and rainy as it has been lately. 

But I do enjoy taking my walk in the rain. One is that there are fewer people out - because I'm regularly out and about I bump into the same people over and over again and I always feel the need to notice them and smile a greeting! A lack of people also means that I can stop to take photographs of my lovely boots in a puddle without people wondering what I'm up to. 

Boots standing in a puddle

It's soothing to hear the sound of the raindrops falling around me, and as long as I'm well wrapped up I don't get too cold or wet. It's a great feeling to come back inside with a head full of fresh air and tired legs, put on some dry clothes and socks and make myself a hot drink to warm up.

When there has been lots of rain I like to visit the attenuation pond at the bottom of our estate. It's a fancy name for a sunken grassy area which is designed to collect excess rainwater so that it doesn't overwhelm the local drains. When we moved here about ten years ago I can't remember it ever being wet, but lately it seems to be flooded quite a lot of the time. 

Recently two new life rings appeared, one on each side. Not long ago, a couple of local ladies that enjoy sea swimming filmed themselves swimming in the new 'Lido', complete with their wild swimming floats, and I can't help thinking that this is what triggered their installation! Even at its very wettest the water doesn't get deeper than a foot or so, but I suppose better safe than sorry!

Life rings next to an attenuation pond

I prefer a warmer walk in the rain to an icy walk in the cold - although I'm very much looking forward to warmer walks to come as spring approaches!

Monday 19 February 2024

Waiting impatiently for Spring

At this time of year, every time the sun comes out I turn my face towards it and bask in the anticipation of warmer days ahead. Winter thankfully didn't feel too cold this year, but I'm starting to tire of wearing so many extra layers around the house and keeping myself warm with a constant supply of hot drinks.

I keep looking out into the garden and seeing all the jobs that need doing. There are dead leaves from the autumn that still need to be swept up, the gravel needs weeding, it's time to think about jet washing the patios and I want to plan my vegetable patch planting. But when it's cold outside I just can't face it!

This morning I went for my run wearing a thinner jumper for the first time this year and I really felt the cold before I had warmed up. I'm still putting a hat on when I go out for a walk and although we haven't had a frost for a few weeks now there has still been some freezing rain. 

I'm so looking forward to getting out the garden furniture and enjoying a cup of tea outside. I'm determined to spend as much time in the garden as I can this summer, I might even roll out the yoga mat for some exercise or borrow a laptop from another family member so that I can do some work.

I am eagerly watching out for each and any sign of spring - the first crocuses and daffodils have put in an appearance so I'm hoping that it won't be too much longer before the warmth that I'm longing for comes along!

Miniature daffodils in bloom
Photo credit Shishir Pandey via Unsplash

Friday 16 February 2024

Why I can't use TikTok

A few years ago when TikTok first started to become really popular I downloaded the app. As a blogger I felt that I needed to keep up with social media trends, and lots of other bloggers were starting to create content on TikTok. As a parent I was aware that there was some disquiet about young people using TikTok, and so I wanted to see what it was all about.

Within minutes of opening the app I was hooked. I just could not turn it off. I was scrolling through these short, addictive videos and I couldn't stop myself - it was scary! And with each video it felt as though I could feel my brain melting. 

I couldn't even imagine how I would go about creating content for TikTok. The popular videos are professionally filmed, with good lighting and photogenic narrators - I didn't know where to start. I also don't have the time or the inclination to research what's popular and to make videos that fit the trends. 

I don't want to judge people that enjoy scrolling TikTok - it's a really easy way to relax, it's entertaining and it's home to lots of interesting and informative content. But I found that I personally wasn't able to control my use, and so the easiest thing was to delete the app. I don't have this problem with other social media - I check Facebook once a day or so, and I can scroll through Twitter and Instagram for just a few minutes and put them down. There's just that something about TikTok that makes it impossible to turn away from.

On a cruise last year I was amused to notice that the large screen by the pool on a sea day was showing a compilation of short TikTok style videos, mainly cute animals doing funny things. It was clearly aimed at all the people who didn't have internet access on the cruise - it was something easy to watch and zone out to while relaxing by the pool without a smartphone. 

I definitely have concerns about TikTok and what it is doing to people's attention spans. There have been a few studies which seem to bear that out, and there is plenty of anecdotal evidence - I found an interesting article here - TikTok and the Death of the Attention Span. I think that my generation are probably less affected as our brains have developed without it, but it does worry me what it is doing to children's brains. I'm hoping to keep mine away from it as long as I can, and I don't intend to reinstall it myself!

TikTok logo on a smartphone screen
Photo credit Solen Favissa via Unsplash

I have a similar problem with YouTube shorts. I use YouTube daily because I have a selection of exercise videos that I follow. It's really difficult to avoid the temptation to click on a short or two, and I almost always get sucked in for a few minutes! I'd love to know if other people have the same problem or whether they just have better self control than I do!

Tuesday 13 February 2024

Happy Pancake Day!

I had to share, because I'm feeling very proud of myself today! I usually attempt pancakes for pancake day, but in the past I've always used a pre-made mix - usually a plastic bottle that you add water to and then shake. I always go for American style pancakes which are thicker, sweeter and easier to flip over.

But I'm trying to think a bit more about the food that I eat, and so this year instead of buying the readymade mix I decided that I would make them from scratch. I was pleasantly surprised to find out just how easy it is to make the batter, I had never even looked up a recipe before! I used this one from BBC Good Food - Easy Pancakes Recipe. I also read a tip online to make the batter about an hour before you need it and leave it to chill in the fridge.

Pancake frying in the pan

To my great surprise, not only did I actually manage to make several successful pancakes for our lunch, they turned out really well and they were delicious!

Pancake spread with toppings

We ate them with lots of far too sweet toppings (I'm only taking the healthy eating so far...) and I have been feeling very accomplished all day. No more pancake mix for me!

Rolled up pancake on Pancake Day

I hope that you have also enjoyed some pancakes today! I will leave you with the obligatory Pancake Day video. When I searched for this I was amused to find that one of the comments underneath was my own, left nine years ago!

Teaching Tails: The valuable life skills dogs instil in kids

This is a collaborative post

Child playing with a dog on the beach
Photo credit Fernanda Greppe via Unsplash

Have you ever contemplated the wonderful things that happen when a dog becomes a member of the family? The patter of little feet brings joy to the home, as does the soft, tender sound of our eager furry family member's steps.

This partnership between kids and their loyal canine friends transcends playful chases and joyful barks. It's a journey of growth, learning, and mutual love that imparts invaluable life lessons to the youngest members of our families. Right from the moment they meet, the connection between a child and their dog serves as a learning opportunity and shapes the future adults they'll become. 

The Joy of Companionship

Imagine the scene: a child and their dog, inseparable friends, embarking on endless adventures together. Dogs show children that friendship does not come with any requirements through their unconditional love and enthusiastic presence. They prove that true friends are there for you through good times and bad ones, ever ready with a cheering nuzzle or lively wagging tail. These experiences help children comprehend the idea of solid friendship, which they will apply in their future relationships.

Responsibility and Care

When a child take on the role of caring for their furry friend, they are signing up for one of life's most enriching courses: the skill of being responsible. Daily tasks like feeding, grooming, and ensuring that their pet is in good health become a part of their lives. This isn't just about keeping a bowl full or a coat shiny; it's about understanding the needs of another living being. 

Kids learn to plan their day with their dog's care in mind, recognizing the importance of reliability and dedication. This hands-on experience in nurturing teaches them that their actions directly impact the health and happiness of their devoted companion, laying the foundation for a lifetime of responsible behaviour.

Choosing the Right Dog

For those looking for a safe and good pup, the journey begins with choosing a dog that fits seamlessly into the family dynamic. This process teaches children the importance of thoughtful decision-making, emphasizing that the right choices lead to harmonious relationships. Through this, kids learn to approach decisions with care, understanding that their choices have long-term implications for themselves and their furry friends. 

Family dog breeds are easy to train and can be ideal candidates for households with children. This attribute ensures a smoother transition for everyone. 

Patience and Understanding

The path to a well-behaved dog is paved with patience and understanding—qualities that children learn as they train and interact with their pet. Each command taught and each trick learned is a lesson in persistence for both the child and the dog.

Mistakes are met with encouragement, not frustration, teaching kids the value of gentle guidance over harsh criticism. This journey fosters a sense of empathy in children, as they come to understand the world from their dog's perspective, recognizing the importance of patience in teaching and learning. 

Social Skills and Empathy

Dogs are not just pets; they're catalysts for developing critical social skills and deepening empathy in young hearts. Through their interactions with these compassionate creatures, children learn the language of non-verbal communication, discerning feelings and needs without words.

The intuitive understanding that children develop through their interactions with dogs improves their relationship with other people. This interaction helps them develop empathy as they learn to see the world through the eyes of another living being. It’s a skill that they will carry for the rest of their life.

Physical Activity and Health

In the era of digital devices and screen time, dogs become vital companions in ensuring kids engage in physical activity. Playing fetch in the backyard, walking in the park, or running along the beach allows the kids to put their gadgets down and become one with nature. They enjoy the freedom of movement, the excitement of exploring, and the soothing influence of nature during their outdoor playtime with their dog. They are learning the value of taking care of their health and improving their mental health.

Small children sitting on floor with dog
Photo credit Sabina Fratila via Unsplash

 Conclusion

The impact of dogs on children brings invaluable life lessons. These furry friends teach loyalty, responsibility, patience, empathy, and the importance of physical activity. The bond shared between a child and their dog is more than just companionship; it's a foundation that will shape their approach to life as an adult.

Monday 12 February 2024

Bringing back memories of my Maths GCSE

I did very well in my Maths GCSE back in the nineties if I say so myself - I got an A*, which was one of only a few in my year. Maths didn't come easily to me, but I'm good at memorising things so I was able to remember equations and processes without necessarily understanding exactly how the maths behind them was working. I definitely peaked at GCSE level, I couldn't have coped with taking it any further!

Harry has an instinctive understanding of maths, and he also loves reading around the subject. I've never had to give him any help with his maths homework, and when I caught a glimpse of it the other day I had no idea what it was about. Mia on the other hand is just like me. She is capable of doing the maths and she's in the top set, but it doesn't come naturally and she needs to put in the work.

Recently I was called upon to help her with her homework on quadratic sequences. Some elements were vaguely familiar but most of it was long lost to time. But the big difference between now and then is the fantastic access to resources that the online world has brought us. The homework is completed online, and there were links to videos explaining how to do each step of the process. A quick Google brought back loads more information, with different websites explaining the concept in different ways so that you could find the one that made the most sense to you.

Maths equations
Photo credit Antoine Dautry via Unsplash

I must admit that the last and most difficult questions did defeat us, so I'm hoping that her teacher can work on them with her. I find that my brain just doesn't seem to work the way that it used to, I'm so out of practice and I just can't muster up enough interest in it to make myself focus!

Thursday 8 February 2024

The launch of the Apple Vision Pro, and some of my thoughts

Earlier this month the Apple Vision Pro was launched in the US, priced at $3500. If you aren't sure what it is, here's a short introductory video:


The Vision Pro looks and behaves much like a VR headset but Apple are very keen to make sure you don't call it that. Instead they are referring to it as a 'spatial computer'. I'm not an expert on the technology, but in summary it has cameras on the outside so that you can still see what is going on around you, and eye tracking cameras on the inside. These inside cameras along with body movements allow you to navigate between several different virtual screens at once, which are projected around you. The cameras pointing at your face mean that other people can see an image of your eyes on the front of the headset, and you can turn a dial to adjust from an augmented reality style experience to full immersion. 

If you want to know more and see one in action there are numerous reviews and videos from technology experts and new users, or there is this longer promotional video from Apple:


I've been following the release with great interest, because I am fully expecting at least one of these devices to enter our home within the next few years. It's expensive of course, but not out of reach expensive, and I'm sure that the price will reduce over time to bring it within the price range of most people, just like smartphones. At the moment it's very bulky, and you need to wear a separate battery pack while using it, but technology moves so quickly that I'm sure it won't be long before it's much more streamlined.

It seems to be tailored perfectly for someone like my husband. He is always working on multiple things at once, and this device allows you to have so much going on at the same time within a large field of vision - you can be writing an e-mail, responding to messages, scrolling social media, all while watching a video. You can be literally living in your own little world, sitting on the sofa in your home but completely absorbed and oblivious to what is going on around you.

I must admit that I am very worried about what technology like this means for the future. I'm not sure that I personally could cope with lots of screens at the same time, and it will take any smartphone addiction and ramp it up to the max. I can see people becoming used to communicating with each other virtually rather than in person, and it would be so easy to never leave the house when life can be run from inside a headset.

Having said that, I would love to try one out, and I'm very interested to see where this technology leads over the next few years. At the moment I find them a bit overwhelming and can't see that one would benefit me, but if you'd shown me a smartphone when I was a teenager I probably would have thought the same, and maybe I'm just too old!

Are you interested in the Apple Vision Pro? I'd love to know what other people think about it!

Tuesday 6 February 2024

Some tips for completing a larger jigsaw puzzle

Recently I completed my first larger jigsaw puzzle - Garden of Sun Signs by Ravensburger. At only 3000 pieces I realise that I am barely scratching the surface when it comes to enormous jigsaw puzzles, but as I've only worked on smaller puzzles before I thought I would share a few tips that I picked up along the way for tackling a bigger puzzle.

Probably the most important thing to consider when you are looking at larger puzzles is whether you have enough space to lay it all out in one piece. You can make a start by working in sections, but eventually you are going to want to work on the puzzle as a whole. It doesn't necessarily need to be a permanent space like a table, you can use large foam board sheets or similar to build a base and use them to extend your table space or to work on the floor. 

If you have small children or pets, make sure that you can pack away the jigsaw when you aren't working on it, maybe by storing it high up, and putting away any sorting trays and boxes when not in use.

Tips for completing a larger jigsaw puzzle

Sort, sort, sort! I used to think that sorting the pieces got in the way of solving the puzzle until I began watching videos by puzzling YouTubers and realised that sorting the pieces is as important as placing the pieces. I find stackable puzzle sorting trays really useful, and I also use kitchen trays and the jigsaw box itself. 

Also, one good sort won't be nearly enough. You'll always miss some pieces, and once you've got a feel for the jigsaw it will be easier to go back through and sort again to find the pieces that you need. Try and keep all the sorted pieces the right way up so that you can easily spot one that you need.

Try not to worry too much about missing pieces as you go along, they almost always turn up and often look different to how you had imagined them while searching. 

Large sections of sorted pieces can be put away to one side while you work on other areas to make it feel less overwhelming.

Don't necessarily worry about completing the edge first if this is the way that you normally tackle a puzzle. Having a large empty area with just a flimsy border around it can make the puzzle more fragile and it's easy to knock pieces out of place. Also, sometimes it's easier to put the border together when you've made a good start on the puzzle, especially if you have large sections that are the same colour.

Take progress photos, even if you don't plan on sharing them with anyone. I love watching my jigsaw go from trays of sorted pieces to completion.

Search online for people that have completed the same puzzle - Reddit is a good place to look and also YouTube for progress videos. Just type Reddit into the search bar followed by the title and brand of your puzzle. I find it really interesting to see how different people tackle a puzzle, for example which areas they choose to start with. You might also pick up some tips specific to your puzzle. 

I'd love to work on a 5000 piece puzzle at some point but there are two barriers - the space it would take up and the cost! I could work on our dining room floor if I moved all the furniture out the way, but I don't think that would be very popular with the rest of the family!

Investing in your taxi business - Key considerations when looking for taxis for sale

This is a collaborative post

Embarking on the journey of taxi business ownership requires a strategic approach, particularly when it comes to the acquisition of your primary asset – the taxi itself. Selecting the right vehicle is not just a matter of preference but a pivotal business decision that impacts your service quality, operational costs, and, ultimately, your company's reputation.

Fuel efficiency and environmental considerations - Choosing eco-friendly taxis

With rising fuel costs and a growing emphasis on environmental responsibility, the fuel efficiency of your taxi fleet cannot be overlooked. Modern taxis offer a range of eco-friendly options, including hybrid and fully electric models, which reduce your carbon footprint and decrease your operating costs substantially in the long term.

Budgeting for your purchase - Balancing cost and quality

Investing in a taxi is a significant financial commitment, and the adage of ‘you get what you pay for’ holds particularly true in this industry. A careful balance must be struck between upfront costs and the expected longevity and reliability of the vehicle. Opting for the cheapest option may save you money initially but could lead to higher maintenance costs and downtime. Conversely, purchasing a high-end taxi may offer better quality and durability but at a steep price that may not align with your business model. A well-considered budget will account for these variables and include potential financing options that can spread the cost over time.

Vehicle specifications and features - What your taxi really needs

The specifications of your taxi are crucial. It must be comfortable for passengers, robust enough to handle high mileage, and equipped with the necessary features for a taxi service, such as a reliable metering system and payment facilities. Space for luggage, accessibility features for passengers with disabilities, and ease of maintenance are factors that can set your service apart in a crowded marketplace.

Brand and model comparison - Making an informed decision

When perusing taxis for sale, the brand and model of the vehicle are more than just a matter of personal taste. They can affect everything from customer perception to resale value. Some brands are renowned for their durability and low maintenance costs, factors that can contribute significantly to the long-term success of your business. You can use Cab Direct to research and compare different brands and models, considering factors such as the availability of spare parts and common issues reported by other taxi businesses.

Navigating licensing and regulations - Legal aspects of taxi ownership

Taxi ownership in the UK comes with its own set of legal requirements. Licensing can vary significantly depending on your location, so it's essential to familiarise yourself with the local regulations. Ensuring your taxi meets all area-specific requirements is a must to avoid any legal complications that could stall your business operations.

Technology integration - Modernising your taxi service

Finally, the integration of technology can vastly improve your service's efficiency and customer satisfaction. Modern taxis can be fitted with GPS navigation systems, digital fare meters, and even onboard Wi-Fi. Considering the technological enhancements that can give you a competitive edge is crucial in today’s market, where customer expectations are ever-evolving.

Whether you are browsing taxis for sale through a trusted dealer like Cab Direct or considering a private sale, these key considerations can guide you in making a wise investment into your taxi business. With the right approach, your new taxi can become the cornerstone of a profitable and sustainable enterprise.

London taxi on street
Photo credit Bruno Martins via Unsplash