If you only read two books this year!

One of the very few benefits of my hubby no longer commuting with me comes from the fact that I have had to change my own commute.  I now get a train closer to home as hubby can drop me off and pick me up, which avoids the £9.00 daily parking charge.  It costs me more each month in train tickets, but overall is better than the petrol I would have had to pay from having to drive myself each day to the other station, which hubby and I used to share.

So, what is the benefit?  Well it is twofold!  I now get a seat each day, rather than standing cheek to cheek with other passengers!  As the journey time is longer, I have time to relax and read a book.  This has completely changed my daily 3-hour commute.  What used to be a stressful time, is now quick relaxing.

Having the opportunity to sit and read has also awakened a passion I had almost forgotten.  A book I have been trying to read for over 6 months was finally finished.  It allowed me to move onto another book with I can only describe as a truly moving piece of literature.

I overheard a couple of colleagues at work one day talking about his book. Both were saying how good it was.  It was the word Auschwitz that sparked my interest.  I had been to Auschwitz and Birkenau twice.  Both trips were very different in some ways, but similar in others.

On my first trip in around 2006/2007 I remember there was an exhibition in Birkenau of photos taken by a prisoner.  Knowing what I knew about the camps, I couldn’t understand how a prisoner could smuggle a camera in.  It had troubled me for years.

The first visit was more of a relaxed tour.  We had our own private guide who had been our driver for the whole week while we were in Poland.  He took us around at our own pace, telling us all the stories and history of the two camps. 

I remember the silence that fell over them both.  It was like the world had stood still in remembrance of those that had lost their lives there.

I returned to the camps in 2018 with my hubby.  This time, it was an organised tour.  My memory may be playing tricks on me, but I felt that there was less huts open to us to visit.  Or maybe they were missed on the tour, I really don’t know.

The emotions I felt on the first trip returned.  The pain and suffering that had gone on was felt deeply.  I couldn’t imagine what these people could have gone through.

When I returned, I posted some photos of my trip on my Youtube channel and Facebook page.  Someone on Facebook criticised me for posting my pictures.  They felt I was dramatizing the camps.  I absolutely wasn’t.  My photos, I felt told the story of my visit, of how I felt, the conditions the prisoners lived in, and the life they may have lived.  They were not photos of people having fun.  I don’t think on either visit I could have found the emotion of being happy whilst walking around the camps.  I don’t know anyone who could.

With my visits brought back to the forefront of my memory, I needed to know more about the book my colleagues were talking about.  It was called ‘The Tattooist of Auschwitz’ by Heather Morris.  It was based on the life of a survivor – Lale Sokolov.  The author had the pleasure of meeting Lale in his later years and was given the privilege of telling his story. I quickly ordered my own copy from Amazon.

I was captivated from the very first page.  The story she told was like an emotional roller coaster.  Of determination to survive against all odds.  The sadness of losing loved ones, newfound friendships, of loyalty, trust and so much more.   I finally understood how that camera could have got into the hands of the prisoner.  How he took the photos unseen will always remain a mystery.

I don’t want to go into the story in detail.  Firstly, because I couldn’t do it justice, but secondly because it is a story that has to be read.  I felt I knew the characters by the end of it.  Having been to the camps, I could picture them, I felt their pain and willed them on to survive. I cried when they died or were tortured.

At the end of the book, Heather sparks your interest in the sequel – Cilka’s Journey.  Unlike with Lale, Heather never got to meet Cilka.  Her story is from people who did know her and research.  Whilst not from Cilka, you still feel that you are with her.  I’m so glad as with Lale, her story has been told.

Whether you have been to Auschwitz or not, both books are a must read.  What happened in those camps is past anything I can ever begin to understand.  How someone can choose who should live or die based on their religion or looks is beyond me.  The things they had to do to survive.  Their bravery and strength.  The bonds they formed.  I am completely in ore of them.

So many people lost their lives, their only crime was being different from others.  As with my photos, these books keep the memories of those that died or survived alive.  I don’t think we should ever forget what happened in these and many other camps.  By knowing what we know, it should make us better people.  To not judge people by their race or religion.  To be kinder and not judge.

If you only ever read 2 books this year, these are the ones you should choose.

God bless all those that suffered in the camps.  May they rest in peace.

Photography Show and my Gimbal!

So on Saturday hubby and I, together with a friend headed off to the Photography Show in Birmingham.

This is our 3rd trip to the show which was held at the NEC.

The last couple of times we went it coincided with the Comic Show! Thousands of comic fans arrive dressed up in some incredible outfits. It’s an amazing sight!

Sadly this year this wasn’t the case. The Big Bang Show and a craft show didn’t have the same impact.

We arrived about 10.30 at the show. Hubby and I have a routine when we attend. We start off in the far left corner and work our way up each row.

The show is full of a large variety of exhibitors including Canon, Nikon, printing companies, Studio equipment, digital photo albums, editing software etc.

I had a list of things in my head I wanted to look for! A new case for my Canon, new editing software and a hip holder for my camera!

So as we head up the first isle we are curious to explore what is on offer as well as see what amazing equipment is out there ! Some won’t be of use to us, but is interesting. A lot will be out of our budget but it’s still great to look at it and maybe have a play! But what ever was on show, it was certainly going to be interesting!

At the end of the first row we come across a stand for Removu. They are selling Gimbals! I’d never seen or heard of them before so was really curious. There was a couple that caught my eye. One for your iPhone and the other a 4 in 1!

Now if you don’t know what a Gimbal is, and I didn’t as I said, it’s a piece of equipment that helps stabilise your camera when you are moving.

I used to use my iPhone for videos but found it was chewing up my memory and battery. I invested in a GoPro and a Canon Powershot last year instead. When doing my cooking vlogs I use them both together.

Unfortunately, I’ve never had much success videoing when we are out and about because you tend to get a bit of shake. My hubby says it’s like getting sea sick! So Gimbals really captured my curiosity.

The 4 in 1 particularly got me excited. The Gimbal had a built in camera, video recorder and stabiliser all built in! It’s rotating head meant you could capture some really good wide shots!

The stand has a show offer on. £100 off the Gimbal plus a free case and rucksack holder. You could also buy an accessory kit half price! I was sold! I thought hubby would try and talk me out of it. Tell me it was a gimmick, but he too could see it’s worth!  Don’t get me wrong, he wouldn’t have stopped me buying it.  I earn my own money,  so can spend it how I like, but it is good to get his opinion.

Although I wanted to buy it there and then, I decided to wait and see what else was around . I mean, I hadn’t actually planned to buy anything like that before I came!

We continued our walk around. There was so much to see. Some amazing cameras and lenses that we could never afford!

I found a stand that did the hip holder. The stand was busy so I couldn’t really get to ask questions.  It was perfect from what I could see – Spider Pro SCS.  It was however a lot more expensive than I thought!

https://amzn.to/2HCQ8d3

I decided to leave it for another day!  I have a birthday coming up, and it could go on that list

The Gimbal though was still playing around in my head!  Finally, after a few hours we had exhausted all the stands!  I suggested to hubby that we go back and have another look at it.

We had seen another Gimbal on another stand.  It was a lot more compact, didn’t seem as good!

So we headed back to the stand again.  I had a lot of questions to ask, and they were able to show me some videos that had been recorded from it.  It definitely lived up to my expectations.  The decision was made.  I was going to buy one.

The stand didn’t sell them themselves, you had to go to the London Camera Exchange stand.  So off we went.

At the stand I asked them for the product.  After a bit of difficulty locating it, they finally found it.  When they came back though they hadn’t got the free gift or the additional accessory kit I wanted.

After another long search they came back with the free gift.  Still no accessory kit.  The computer said they should have 1!   Yes you heard it – 1! I’m not being funny but this was the first day of the show.  The Gimbal stand were promoting this amazing deal, however they only had 1 item available to sell!  This is so not good marketing!

After another long wait, they couldn’t find that 1 item.  They did however offer to send it to me.   Initially for a £4.99 postage charge!  I refused to pay this.  If they don’t hold stock on day 1, then it isn’t for me to pay to have it posted to me.

The lad who served me was lovely though and I did feel for him.

It was agreed it would be sent to me free of charge, although not until after the show!  As it was only a ‘nice to have’ additional accessories, I didn’t mind.

Whiles I was waiting for them to find the items, I checked on Amazon for the micro SD card.  It was half the price I could get it for at the show, so I quickly ordered it for delivery the next day.

Eventually, I had my new toy in my hands and on the way home to try it out!  Very excited I have to say!

Gimbal – https://amzn.to/2FiUiW0
Accessory Kit – https://amzn.to/2FiUiW0
64GB Memory Card – https://amzn.to/2OiEPYZ

When I got home, I placed it on charge.  The next day the card arrived.  Ooh the excitement!

I read the instructions quickly and decided to go for a walk to try it out!

I have to apologise for anyone who may have seen me, skipping and singing at one point!  I wanted to test the microphone and movement out!

I got home and downloaded it onto the laptop!  

The quality of sound and video were fantastic.  I was over the moon I decided to do a product review vlog!

See my vlog here:

I was so happy with my toy!

Now, I just need to go on a long walk and really test it out! It has 4 hour battery life which should be enough for a nice long country walk!

So even though I never planned to buy a Gimbal, I have to say it was a fantastic purchase. If I hadn’t gone to the show, I would never have known about it! If you see a show like this go along. If you book early you tend to get some good deals.

For £11.00 each, we had a great day out, and learnt a lot more about photography and what is out there! Plus I got a new piece of equipment to improve my videoing ability!

If it seems too good to be true!

If it seems too good to be true, it usually is!

Most of you will have heard of this saying, but how many of us forget about it when we see a bargain?

Just recently, whilst looking through Facebook, I saw an advert for an amazing piece of exercise equipment. A folding walking pad. This piece of kit was available at 60% off, and end of year sale price, at a cost of £54, including free shipping!

Now I have to confess, I absolutely loved the piece of equipment. I could see it would be absolutely perfect for me. The walking pad as it is called, folds up in half for easy storage. It was remote control and could go at speeds up to 9.94 miles per hour! It was battery charged, so you could set it up anywhere. I thought it would be great for walking in front of the TV at night, to burn off some calories.

Then my sensible side kicked in. This piece of equipment seemed very cheap, considering what it could do, and comparing it against other running machines on the market. You only have to have a quick look on Amazon for example, and see that some of the more basic, clunky models are more expensive.

I looked at some of the comments from other Facebook users. It seems that where ever you were in the world, it would be shipped for free! That made me very suspicious. I could perhaps understand if they had a supply of them in the UK from China. They may be able to afford free shipping, but with no country having to pay to ship – that wasn’t right. I’ve posted parcels in the UK. They were expensive enough, never alone abroad!

I then thought I would google the product. The machine does exist, or at least there is a company who is selling one similar. This one is made by Xiamomi Youpin and is on offer at 45% off by another store online. Current selling price is £328. It looks exactly the same, and the videos are very similar. This is a bit different to the price being offered by this other company.

I’m now even more suspicious so I researched the company. A website called Scamadvisor.com gave a warning out about the website. It had only been active 8 days. It stated that the website was probably in USA but the company based in China. I then looked at Companies house and saw that the company was owned by a parent company that had many more companies underneath it. Most had closed very quickly.

I next decided to look for reviews on some of these companies. All the comments I saw reported that people had ordered goods but never received them. They also never received their money back.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not naive enough to pretend that there are not good copies of things coming out of China that you can pick up at a fraction of the price. Of course you can, but I would still expect there to be a reputable company behind it selling the product. Surely there would be other products for sale by them, which you could gauge customer satisfaction. This didn’t seem to be the case with this company.

What was interesting about the online store I was looking at, was that it didn’t take Paypal, just debit or credit cards. I never buy from companies I don’t know, if I can’t use Paypal as I worry about passing my financial details on. This is a perfect example of why!

I messaged the company via Facebook to ask if there were any customer reviews I could see? No answer, so I messaged via Messenger, to ask if anyone had yet received their product, and if so, was there any reviews I could see. I am still waiting for a response.

Since then, the online store has closed. Now that could be because they have sold out of this amazing product.

The advert has been shown 93.8k times. 623 people have shared the post, so many more may have seen it. There are hundreds of comments from potential customers. Questions range from the speed, shipping and price for 2, which was further discounted. It would seem that for the last day or 2, none of the comments have now been responded to.

From the comments, a lot of people really like the product. And why not. It is a brilliant product. I myself really love it. But does this particular company really exist and are they genuinely selling the product they are advertising? Sadly, I wonder how many of the 93.8k bought it, and how many of them will actually receive it?

I have purposely not named the company I have been looking into on here, as I am only talking from my own research and suspicions. I hope for any potential customers that this is a genuine site and in 6-9 days they will receive their walking pad and be very happy with it.

If you are in the market for one of these machines, I would personally recommend looking at companies selling it. It seems the genuine price is about $300-$440. I still think it is an amazing product.

When I have saved up, I would like to buy one of these myself. Yes it would have been great to have bought it for only £54. But as I said, if it looks too good to be true, it usually is.

I am really hoping I have been proved wrong, so if anyone knows of anyone who successfully bought this product at that price, please let me know. I will be kicking myself for not snapping it up then!

So next time you see an amazing offer, just think before rushing in. Do your research, and if you have any doubts, don’t go ahead. You could be saving yourself a lot more money in the long run! If you get a genuine bargain then great. I always like to be proved wrong!

Happy shopping.

Do you like to give or receive gifts?

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With Christmas only just over a month away, many of you like me, may have already started your Christmas shopping.  Some of you will be running around on Christmas Eve, still shopping for ideas.

With the exception of my food shopping, I have completed mine!  I start almost as soon as New Years Day has passed!  Yes, it might be early for some, but there are many reasons why I do it early.

1).  I really can’t stand shopping in crowded shops, queuing at checkouts, or finding parking spaces!

2). I like to make sure I have everyone’s present early, so if for any reason I’ve forgotten someone, I still have time to buy it! (not that that actually happens!)

3).  I can get it all wrapped and under the tree from the beginning of December, so it looks more festive under the tree.

4). December is such a busy time, to have to make sure I have time to shop, something else would have to give!  That would be too much pressure!

5).  By buying presents over the months, I can ensure I spread the cost.

6). I can buy presents when on offer, so I can either save more, or buy more for someone.

There are also downsides though!

1).  I forget what I have bought, and duplicate presents.

2).  You have to store them somewhere.

3).  You see more things you like for someone, so you end up buying them more presents!

I absolutely love shopping for others.  I make a list of who I have to buy for.  During the year, I make notes of what they like doing, sizes, dreams etc.  I then try and match the presents so they mean something to them.

I’m not a fan of giving money to people, as I don’t feel that there is any thought gone into it.  Also, if they are like me, it is so easy to just spend it on something like food shopping, just because its in your purse.

I will however buy a voucher for a specific shop, if I know they really like to buy things like music.

Children are great to buy for.  I know I always spend a lot more on my nieces than I plan to every year.  I always buy them something they have asked for, then lots of other things I have seen throughout the year that I think they might need, or enjoy.

Older family members are more difficult as they tend to have everything.  By buying early, I have time to think about what they might need, more than a last minute rushed buy.

Even Fido and Lola get presents.  I will still hide them from them, so its a surprise to them too!

Its not only Christmas that I like buying things for people.  I’m a very generous person by nature, and will treat people to things throughout the year.  I am not however good at telling people what I would like or being treated.

I dread every year that question!  ‘What would you like Maria’!  That could be Christmas or my birthday.  I really hate giving people ideas.  I don’t like imposing a set cost onto them.  I don’t want them to have to go out of their way to get something, and also, I love surprises.

My hubby is terrible.  I can say it on here as he knows how I feel.  Every year he asks, and every year, I ask him to surprise me!   He never does.  I have to tell him exactly what I want.  Many times, I have even bought it and he has given me the money back.  It takes the joy out of receiving presents for me.

We are all different.  He likes to know what he is having.  He doesn’t like surprises as I do.

So how do I get around this?  I put together a list of things as I think of them.  Amazon is great.  You can easily set up a ‘Wish List’.  You can select items at varying price levels.  This can be emailed to family and friends if they ask the dreaded question.  They can choose off there or not.  You don’t know.  If they buy something else, it really doesn’t matter.

On Christmas Day, hopefully there will be a surprise under the tree.  That’s the excitement and pleasure of receiving gifts.

For me, it isn’t the amount of money someone has spent on me, it is the thought that has gone into the gift.

I know many people find Christmas stressful.  The cost of presents has gone up year on year.  What children ask for these days, compared to most of us at that age, has significantly changed.  Instead of asking people for specific things, maybe ask them for a list?  Think out of the box and buy something thoughtful.

Don’t feel pressured to spend money you don’t have.  It is the thought that counts.  If you have really thought about the present, and you know it is something that they will use or like, the price tag doesn’t matter.   And if the person receiving it doesn’t agree, then ask yourself why you are still buying for them.

If money is tight, try making your presents.  It could be homemade fudge, toffee, biscuits or cakes to knitted jumpers, scarves and hats.

Happy shopping!

 

Invasion of the Wasp

In all my life, I have never seen as many wasps as I have the last week!

It didn’t matter where I went in the house, there was a wasp.  They were in the bathrooms, lounge, kitchen, my study, hubby’s study, our ensuite etc.  It was driving me bonkers!

The one night, I popped to the loo.  Normally I don’t put the light on, but for some reason that night I did.  Phew!  Thank god I did!  There on the seat was another wasp!  Can you imagine what could have happened!  I dare not think of it!

I then saw one walking along my hubby’s study floor!

I now ensure I don’t walk anywhere in the dark!

In one day, I killed 13 wasps, and they still kept coming!

Did you know wasps only live on average 17 days.  17 days!  Can you believe that they can cause so much damage in such a short time!  The queen 12 months!

I was so bewildered by the volume of wasps, I sent a message out to my neighbours via our Facebook page!  The response back made sense! One of my neighbours had seen a swarm of them going to my roof!  So there is the expected culprit!

The question now is, is there a nest in my loft?  If there is, how are they getting into the house?  We don’t use the loft, so the door is never open?

I was recommended to close all the vents in my windows, which I quickly did!  It still didn’t stop the buggers?

This time of year, they are very sleepy.  Its great for getting rid of them as you can pick them up easily, but I worry my dogs might go for them and get stung.  My old dog Ember got stung by one once.  He had a terrible reaction and his face blew up like a football.  I’d hate that to happen to Fido and Lola!

So I’ve been researching what to do.  My brother said he had one in his loft last week.  He waited for a cold morning and got it out himself!  I was a bit worried at first, so googled it!  I now have a plan of action!

I’m going to send hubby up into the loft at the weekend – well you don’t think i’m stupid enough to do it, do you?  Oh no! Armed with a torch, he can check out whether we do have a nest or not!  If we do, I have some Nippon Wasp Nest Destroyer Foam from Amazon.  You apparently spray the nest and leave it for 24 hours.

https://amzn.to/2D3Qh70

As the weather gets cold, most of the wasps die off.   However the queen usually goes into hibernation, but not until she has mated.  In the spring she will then lay her eggs and the nest becomes active again! Its important that the nest and queen are destroyed.  She sometimes dies from starvation as there are no wasps left to feed her, but I’m not taking any chances.  She has to die, so the foam it is!

The nests are amazing constructions, and in some ways, it will be a shame to destroy it but needs must!

Wasp Nest.jpg

After 24 hours the wasps should be dead. We will put a black bag into a bucket and, using something sharp, cut the nest off where it is fixed.  It will drop into the black bag.  We have to ensure it doesn’t drop too far and burst the nest.  We will then secure the bag and bin it!

It all sounds so easy!  Eek.  I’m dreading it, but it has to be done!

To prevent them from returning, I’ve bought 2 decoy nests!  Wasps won’t build a nest near another one.  The wasp sees the decoy, and decides to go somewhere else!  Well that is the theory so I’m going to try it.

https://amzn.to/2zxxWM8

I will let you know how it goes!

Wish me luck!

 

Travelling in a car with your dog

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It’s true that a dog is a mans best friend (and women!).  My two definitely are for me. It is therefore really important to me that I ensure they are safe, and well looked after at all times.   Taking them out in the car is no exception.

We all ensure our dogs are on leads when we take them out, have food and water at home, and go on regular walks, but what happens when we take them out in our cars?  Whether its a short or long journey we should still ensure they are well looked after.

The legal bit!

Did you know that if your dog isn’t secured in the car you could face a fine of up to £2,500, as well a getting 9 points on your licence?  Well you can.  Rule 57 of the Highway Code states: ‘When in a vehicle make sure dogs or other animals are suitably restrained so they cannot distract you while you are driving or injure you, or themselves, if you stop quickly.’  A seat belt harness, pet carrier, dog cage or dog guard are ways of restraining animals in cars.

If it is felt the dog caused or contributed to an accident, you car insurance can also refuse to pay out.

How to make travelling with your dog easier and safer?

Firstly, take them for good walk before you start their journey.  Make sure they have been to the toilet.  Which reminds me, keep plenty of poo bags in your car too!

Don’t have your dog on your lap or loose on the passenger seat.  You may think your dog is well behaved, but what if something distracts them?  What about if you have to do an emergency stop?  You could cause them significant injury or death as well as to yourself.

I have 2 dogs.  If I am going a short journey then they are both happy to be in the boot.  Fido is happy to lie down and just chill, but Lola likes to see what is going on around her.  She will spend the journey looking over the back seat or out of the window.  Whilst she is in the boot she is safe and can’t distract us.   If I break the back of the boot will stop her going too far.

For longer journeys though, I put Fido in the boot and Lola on the back seat.  To comply with the law and to make sure she and us are safe I use a dog seat belt.

Dog Seat Belt.jpg

These are relatively cheap to buy.  This is mine and only cost £4.95 from Amazon.  If using one of these, I would suggest you use it with a harness as it allows the dog to turn around more easily.  You attach the lead part to the harness which is usually in the centre of the back.  If you have to break the harness will give greater support.  Putting it on the collar not only restricts the dogs movement, there is more likely hood of them becoming tangled, which will distract you as they will no doubt get distressed.  I also feel it would damage their necks if I braked heavily so don’t like the idea.

By separating the two dogs, I feel helps them to be more comfortable.  Fido just wants to lie down and sleep, which makes the boot perfect, and Lola likes to be nosy, so can look out of the windows.

Some owners like to use crates.  This is also a good way of transporting your dogs, but please make sure they can stand up and move around in it.  They also should be able to see out so they don’t feel frightened.

I always cover my back seat with a travel rug, with the underside upwards.  This way the dog hair won’t stick to it, and I can use it if we want to have a picnic to lie on.  I then cover this with a towel or blanket for more comfort for the dogs.

As with us, dogs need food and drink.  I would suggest you don’t feed them for a couple of hours before the journey, especially if they get travel sick.  Thankfully both my dogs are fine, but my previous dog was terrible.  He loved the car, it just didn’t love him.  The vets gave me some great tablets that prevented travel sickness.  They are not cheap, but worth it for my dogs happiness.

I always make sure I have plenty of water in the car.  Stop regularly to give them the opportunity to stretch their legs, just like you will need to.  You don’t need any fancy water bottles, old squash bottles will do just the job.  I do have travel bowls though.  They fold up nicely in the car when not in use, but I can also put them into my bag if we go walking.

Dog bowl

Again you can get these quite cheaply from Amazon for around £5.00.  If you don’t want to buy one, an old takeaway pot works just as well.

Take a small pot of food with you.  Just a little treat to keep them going will help them.  There is nothing worse than your dog starving when you are sat in the front munching on your travel snacks.  Just limit it to avoid car sickness!

Never leave a dog in the car.  Many people think that if they park in the shade or leave a window open, then it’s ok to leave the dog.  It is absolutely not.  The car can warm up faster than you think.  A dog can die in the car in less than 20 minutes.  If you wouldn’t leave a child in the car why would you think its ok to leave your dog?

If you need to pop somewhere such as the toilets at a service station, and you are on your own, securely tie it up outside, in the shade!  Maybe ask someone to keep an eye on them for you.  Pop a bowl of water down for them too.  If you can, take them with you.  I have taken my dog into a public toilet with me before now.

It’s always good to plan your journey in advance if you are taking your dogs.  Find places on the map you can stop safely.   Is there somewhere you can walk them?

Keep cleaning clothes and black bags in the car too!  Your dog might not have shown signs of car sickness before but you never know!  On one journey one of my dogs got a little sick.   I was able to pull into a parking spot, clean her bed up and put her bedding into the black bag, tie it up so it didn’t smell the car out for the rest of the journey!

Dogs are such a joy to have around.  Don’t be afraid to take them away with you or for days out, but as you do with young children, plan what you need to take.    This can make your life and theirs more enjoyable and relaxing.