Monday, 23 February 2015

My First Zipcar Experience!

For Valentine's Day, we decided to go on a last minute trip. The original plan had been to go down to where I used to live in Kent, but it turns out the trains weren't running properly on the weekend and it would take us hours to get back and hours to get anywhere. We began to look at day trips instead, and I chose Whipsnade Zoo, but again we found that the trains were being a bit complicated.

It turned out that my friend had Zipcar membership, but had never actually used it, despite having membership for over a year. As he hadn't driven on the left before he was worried about it and was exceptionally worried about driving in London, but we found out that for £29 (pro-rata) we could add me on to his Zipcar account. We figured that way I could do the majority of the driving but give him a bit of a go if I got too stressed out by it.

Adding me to his account was pretty easy - I had to call them up and give them his account details. They called him to confirm he wanted me on his account, he did, then we just had to go through DVLA to confirm my details. All good! It was a pretty easy experience. My card obviously didn't arrive in time as we only got me added the day before we were going out - this didn't matter to us as he had a Zipcard already, but even if you don't you can use the app to unlock the car. Interestingly, my card got sent to his address, but there you go. 


Meet Lin! Lin is a 2014 VW Golf, and you may be surprised by the size of him. It turns out that Golf's are now much bigger than we thought we were getting, but that was okay. When you book your car you are given the location of where the car is parked. We picked him up from Borough (the picture above is obviously from Whipsnade and not Borough) and this was easy enough to find. We managed to unlock him easily, and from there encountered our first drama of the day.

So, I hadn't driven in probably over a year and a half, but originally I thought I'd be fine - my previous car was a VW Beetle and so I thought it would be pretty easy. I gave my friend the little damage book and sent him off exploring the car to find any problems, whilst I sat there and learnt how to use the car. So far so good - only we couldn't actually turn him on. Cue us sitting there trying every button, googling it, reading the manual and getting nowhere. After about twenty minutes of trying to figure it out, we called Zipcar, and they were able to remotely do something (seriously, it was a bit creepy. We were sitting in the car talking to them when it just started locking and unlocking the doors by itself) which allowed us to actually turn him on, and then we didn't have a problem again.

Picking the car up from Borough was our first mistake. What a bloody nightmare. We didn't have much choice - there are actually lots of Zipcars much closer to both of us, but because we'd booked so close to a popular date the convenient ones had gone, and as Borough was basically in the middle of us both it seemed like a good option. It was not. I was more scared about having not driven for so long than I thought I would be, and therefore trying to drive a brand new car whilst very rusty around bloody Borough of all places was terrifying and I spent the first hour completely stressed. This was not as bad as the end though - because Borough and London Bridge are just filled with roadworks, getting back was absolutely awful. We couldn't get down the roads we wanted, the Satnav was getting annoyed with us as we repeatedly ignored it because we couldn't take the roads we wanted it to, and then when we finally got to our space again there was a car parked way too close so I couldn't actually park the car - which brought out all the stress I'd been holding in for the previous few hours of driving, as I'd actually been totally dreading the parallel parking bit and not being able to do it, and then couldn't! We had to swap with me getting out and directing and it took a grand total of 20 minutes to get the car in the space - obviously this had never been a problem with my own car. If I couldn't park on my road, I would just park one road over, or one road over from that, so I hadn't dealt with having to get into such a tight space. Obviously none of this paragraph is ZipCar's fault though - London is a nightmare to drive in (It really likes having four lanes suddenly turn to one with no warning, or a road suddenly becoming right turn only for no apparent reason), Borough is being dug up, and the car that was parked semi in our space wasn't supposed to be there anyway.

Aside from the horror of the actual driving, Lin was a lovely car. We weren't sure what to expect, but we were very happy with him. He was a nice, clean car, and very new and modern. I drive automatic, and he was really smooth and easy to use. I used the fully automatic mode but I think there was some kind of tiptronic semi-automatic business going on if you wanted to use it (however I have always maintained that if I wanted to use gears then I would save money and use a manual car, so...no idea on that one) It had the convenience of having your speed clearly displayed, and, most importantly, the radio was touch screen, connected to our phones easily so that we could listen to Spotify through them and at really good quality! It was a really comfortable and easy drive (for the person not driving at any given time.)

Overall, the Zipcar experience was a pretty easy one, and worked much better than we were expecting it to. All the issues we encountered (apart from the car not turning on!) were really down to us. Obviously a big problem of using any hire car is that you're probably not used to driving the car, and for us, having one person who did used to drive in London but hasn't for over a year and a half, and one who hasn't driven on this side of the road, added a whole new level of difficulty! However, he thinks we should try and do trips more regularly, once every two months or so, so that we're able to keep our confidence with it and get used to it - but he's the one who drove about 5% of the journey, so he would say that ;)

Check out zipcar.co.uk for all the info - and no, Zipcar at no point paid for me to hire a car or asked me to write this, I just thought I'd do it as I'd always been curous about what it was actually like.

PS. We really enjoyed Whipsnade Zoo, and the little country drive/pub we went to afterwards. Check back next week to see about that!
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Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Three Months of Jaw Surgery Recovery

Okay, this post is about two weeks late, but here's the three month update as to jaw surgery and genioplasty recovery.

My main concerns throughout the process have been appearance and eating. From the six week mark I was able to start eating again but found eating to be a ridiculous and painful experience - and five weeks of swallowing all my food whole meant that I had become so stupidly good at it that my brain didn't see the point of attempting to chew when I knew I could probably just swallow it in a far quicker amount of time!

However - chewing food has become much more natural and automatic again, however I do still struggle with it quite a bit. Some foods are just really difficult to eat, and they aren't always the ones you expect - for example, for some reason bacon is incredibly painful for me to eat and I'm not entirely sure why. Krave cereal is ridiculously difficult for me to eat, again for reasons that I can't explain. It's all a bit bizarre. The other week I sort of forgot about the surgery and attempted to eat a segment from a chocolate bar and it was a really depressing experience as try as I might I couldn't bite into it but had already shoved the whole thing in my mouth and had to sort of sit there with it in my mouth and wait for it to soften up a bit - thankfully I was on my own because I'm sure it looked super attractive. My mouth doesn't open wide enough to eat a burger or a sandwich yet and I'm a little alarmed about that anyway because I basically have no idea how to use my front teeth. I guess because they haven't been used in years it feels unnatural and they're weak so I've randomly tried to bite into food using them and it's just felt wrong! However for the most part I now eat more or less normally although I'm quite a slow eater now, and if no one else is around I now eat with my mouth very slightly open as it's much easier for me that way. My jaw no longer gets jammed open, which is nice!

My speech is pretty much perfect now, although apparently my accent has changed very slightly. A few people have commented on this, again, no idea why!

Appearance wise - no obvious swelling any more. My lips still look slightly strained when they're closed, but they WANT to close, which I guess is the important distinction. So it looks a bit odd, but if I try to catch them out they're closed anyway nine times out of ten. My lip shape has changed a little bit. I think it looks odd, but that may be because I'm not used to it. Certainly no one has mentioned it to me as a negative, and in my line of work they definitely would... I should also note that most people don't appear to have noticed any difference, although a few people have mentioned that something has changed but they can't work out what it is. I think this is probably unusual though - I think in a way I was lucky as the amount my lower jaw moved forward is pretty much the exact same measurement as the amount my chin was moved back, and therefore it's hidden the fact that it has changed. I think people undergoing this should be prepared for more of a noticeable difference - I still notice loads of subtle changes, but in most people I think the overall facial differences are much greater.

I have never done any of the jaw exercises, I tend to just go with my normal routine. However I can tell you that it may be coincidence but excessive kissing seems to have helped the lips settle, so I guess I can always advise doing lots of kissy faces?! My jaw opens by just over two fingers, I guess it should probably open by more now but I'm not sure.

All my energy is back and it came back much quicker than I expected. I felt so awful for at least a month after surgery, but I managed to pass my annual fitness last month just fine! I've been back at work averaging 40-60 hours a week and it's actually been no problem at all. Because of the nature of my job I had longer off than most people I think at just over eight weeks so I was really worried about my energy levels returning but actually it was no problem at all.

As always, any questions, feel free to ask! :)
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Monday, 16 February 2015

5 Recommended Netflix Shows

I suddenly got really, really into TV whilst on medical leave. Normally I don't have time to watch much of it, and as at the start I had no attention span and therefore no choice, Netflix became my friend. It turned out I found it much easier to get into TV shows than movies (which really surprised me!), so here are my five favourites that have been occupying me over the last few months.


1. Orange is the New Black
  I started watching this show about a year ago and surprised myself by watching the first season in just a couple of weeks - normally I really struggle to get into TV shows, but I was hooked on this one pretty much straight away. I would say it is the first show where I have really cared about so many characters since Lost. Basically, this is a show about the inmates at a women's prison - but it is much more than that! It's a real character driven show where you'll find yourself really caring about what happens to the characters and finding yourself relating to them - even though on the surface most of them are not pleasant people at all. I have been recommending this show to pretty much everyone since I first started watching it, so I might as well recommend it to you as well! I can't wait for season three of this.


2. Breaking Bad
  I genuinely struggle with including this show here because I thought it was great, but I also don't know if I'd recommend it. The acting in this show is incredible - Bryan Cranston really surprised me, and this show introduced me to Aaron Paul who is a phenomenal actor. This show is great at really developing the characters and really getting you to understand them (to the extent that I fell in love with Jesse Pinkman instead of the actor who plays him, very rare for me!) however it's also incredibly slow at times. I found season one okay, I really struggled to get through season two and part of season three - and then suddenly I was incredibly emotionally invested in it and powered through the remaining three seasons in about two weeks. I'd say this can be quite a hard show to get through as it is slow paced quite frequently, so I'm not entirely sure I'd recommend it - even though I did find that by the end I had really enjoyed it as a whole and am still thinking about some of the strange feelings it made me feel! In short, this is a show about a chemistry teacher who discovers he has cancer and so teams up with a former student to manufacture and sell meth to pay his medical bills.


3. American Horror Story
  This show differs from most in that each season has a completely different location and storyline. Currently, I'm nearly at the end of season two. Season one is based around a haunted house and I thought it was really good, though towards the end I felt like I would quite like it to hurry up and end as it was ruining what had been great - still a recommendation though! Season two is based around an asylum, and honestly, I've struggled with it for the whole season. There are some really good moments in it and some really horrible ones where I just have to wince at the screen, but I'm not enjoying it as much as the first and am tempted to skip straight to the next season, Coven. I'd still recommend you watch this show though, it has some great ideas to it and I'm enjoying the novelty of a horror themed show.


4. The Inbetweeners
  We've had the big American dramas, let's move on the low brow British comedy hey? I love the Inbetweeners, it turns out. This is a surprise to me, as I watched the first episode when it was first on TV and thought it was absolutely awful so I never watched it again. Until recently, when I watched every single episode in a week. It turns out that I now find this show absolutely hilarious. It's a comedy about four sixth formers and their lives, and I find it ridiculously funny - worryingly, I also find it reminds me of when I was about 14! If you like your comedies serious and thoughtful then this is not the one for you, but I do find it very funny and want to get hold of the movies ASAP.


5. iCarly
  Yes, really. The Nickelodeon show. Yep. This is about Carly, a high schooler who stars a web show with two of her best friends. AND IT'S SO FUNNY. I don't care. I think this show is hilarious. It is quite a random show, but one that I actually find amusing. This is probably helped by the fact that I'm in love with her brother, Spencer, but still, this is a great show when you don't want to watch something too serious.

What are your Netflix favourites at the moment?
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Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Food Review: Champagne Buffet Brunch at the Landmark Hotel

Recently we've had reason to celebrate, and so decided to look up a champagne brunch. We came across The Landmark Hotel's Sunday brunch option - I've eaten at The Winter Garden before and it was really good, and the menu was just so massive and varied that nothing else we came across could compare, so of course we ended up choosing it. We were pretty lucky as the reservation people told us it was booked for ages but luckily we called up the day before and got a cancellation.

There were two musicians playing throughout - although at the end we did notice that the piano was continuing to play by itself, keys moving as if by ghost and all!

The view of the hotel atrium from the level we were at!

Did I mention that the champagne was unlimited? It's one of those places where they sort of just continually fill your glass up so you're not entirely sure how many glasses you've had.

My friend wanted to go ahead and go crazy with the choices that he wanted, but I told him that to get our moneys worth we needed to plan it a little better. I didn't get pictures of our first course, but it was typical breakfast food - but such excellent quality! I went with scrambled eggs, salmon and pork sausages - and then went back and had it all again because seriously, it was so nice.



Our next courses consisted of salad and fish options. The salad choices are a lot more varied and more of main meals than you'd expect. We went a bit wrong here as we both got a lot of sushi which filled us up earlier than we needed it too! We both went for some salady options and my friend also got some prawns, whilst I went for a crab cocktail and some sort of lobstery soup!

Not pictured, but there were also more hidden main courses - I went for a sea bass with some vegetables and mashed potato next.

Next up we went for a roast. You had a choice of a few different meats and sauces, and then went with the typical Yorkshire puddings, potatoes and vegetables to go with it.

Now on to the important bit - the desserts!

First was the chocolate fountain. I didn't have anything from this as I was prioritising the other desserts, but my friend had a few chocolate coated marshmallows. And now I'm just going to pic spam you with some of the dessert selection - not pictured so much but there were also fruit options, both free selection and in little pots, and a few cheeses.





As you can see there was a very good selection of desserts. Between us we had at least one of everything and they were all absolutely delicious!

It does mean you ended up coming back with plates looking like this though. Considering the cost of the place there were quite a few pretentious people looking down at our choices, haha. Even a small child judged us for the amount of desserts we were consuming!

And finally, they also brought me over this at the end - the congratulations was for passing the assessment centre for a new role, by the way! 

Overall, we had a good time at this. We probably did get our moneys worth due to sheer amazing quantities of food that we ate and probably for the champagne as well, and the food really is of really high quality. It's still pricey at £90 each but if you've got something to celebrate then I'd recommend it as a one off - you can view the information and menu here!



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Blogging Tips for Beginners - Part One


As Pink Confetti had its first birthday yesterday, I decided that I'm finally qualified to write out some blogging tips. I am absolutely by no means a master at blogging, but I did do many things wrong as well as a couple of things right during my first year, and so I decided it was probably a good time to write a tips post. These tips are going to somewhat basic as I'm aiming it more at beginners to blogging, but hopefully you find it useful!

What do you want to write about?
Before you think about anything else, you need to know what you actually want to write about. Do you have a specific niche in mind? In which case, great - if you've got a really unique idea then you'll pretty much always have an audience. If your blog is going to be more general that's fine too, but you'll still need a bit of an idea behind it. Do you want to be a beauty blogger, a fashion blogger, a technology blogger, a book blogger?

My personal favourite blogs are lifestyle blogs. The majority that I follow would come under this category, and obviously my own blog is a lifestyle one too - but I do think that where possible you still need some sort of consistency to it. This could mean that you do a weekly post (ie. Motivational Monday), or a similar sort of theme such as frequent food posts or fitness posts, but it definitely helps if you're consistent with what you're writing about. People will start following your blog because they're interested in you and what you're writing about, so if you're constantly mixing it up people may find it difficult to stay with you. I'm also a complete hypocrite - I mix it up all the time! But still, the point stands - the more consistent you can get, and the better the idea you have about the way you want your blog to go forward, the better.


Designing your blog
Now that you've got your idea in mind, you'll want to start designing your blog. Pick a name for it - if you've gone for a specific type of topic this will probably be easier for you. But don't worry too much about it - I feel that with lifestyle bloggers in particular, most bloggers seem to grow out of their name or find that it just no longer suits them. At the end of the day, it doesn't really matter!

Next up you'll want to choose where to host your blog. The two main sites are blogger and wordpress - wordpress is typically seen as being the more professional and customisable, but I use blogger and I'm perfectly happy with it. I'm not going to go into two much detail on the comparisons of the two here, I'd just recommend you take a look at both and see which one you like the most. See which interface you like, or which one offers the things that are the most important to you. At a later date, look into getting your own domain name. I'd say to do this as early as possible, but if you're not sure you're definitely going to be sticking with your blog then don't worry about doing it too quickly.

What does matter, however, is how your blog looks. You'll need to pick a nice design for it that you feel represents you and your blog. It's shallow, I know, but if you're using a default blogspot layout you'll find a lot of people won't spend too long looking at your blog. I paid someone to make mine for me - it worked out well for me, I had an idea in mind but lacked the skills to make it become a reality, so I had someone else get it exactly how I wanted it and I love it! You don't have to go that route though - there are plenty of stores out there where you can buy premade layouts which are generally pretty nice, then you can customise them to suit your blog by changing the colours or the background. You can of course also find plenty of free ones!

If you don't know where to start, just look in the sidebars/info of your favourite blogs. If they've got their layout from somewhere, there will almost certainly be a little button somewhere that you can click to find the store/website of the designer. And obviously, if you're already good at HTML and graphic design - go ahead and make your own so it'll be exactly how you want!

Getting organised
The art of getting organised and staying organised is probably one of the most important things about blogging. I've definitely struggled with it - it took me a really long time to find a good system, and I've gone through several! If you have a job, school, a social life - all of this can make it really hard to find a good time to blog without it becoming a chore.

So, how many times a week do you want to post? I think consistency is definitely important here. It doesn't matter if you want to blog once a week or five times a week - having a goal in mind is important. I schedule all of my posts to make sure that I -generally- keep to mine.

If you can, schedule in some time each week to work on your blog. That doesn't work for me - I work different hours all the time, so having set time would never happen for me - but if you can make it work for you, great! However, the most important thing about staying organised is planning your posts out. You don't have to write lots of detail about your posts, just have an idea about what you're posting about and when.

Personally, I use Evernote to plan mine out. I do the bulk of my planning on my laptop, but its linked up to my phone so that if I have ideas on the go I can add them. I write out a calendar of my three posts a week up to three months in advance, and then add ideas I go. I try to spread out ideas a bit, as otherwise I would find that I kept doing something really fun and wanting to blog about it - so I'd then have to get rid of a 'filler' post and keep pushing it back and back until it ended up never getting posted, and then I'd suddenly have no ideas anymore and nothing to write about. When I've completed a post, I'll schedule it, and then highlight the post on Evernote so that I'll know I've done it already. For other people they need more detail - they like to work out ideas, they like to colour code so they know if they've started the post, if they've taken the photos already, etc. Find a system that works for you - this is probably my 5th system!


Okay, that marks the end of part one. Check in same time next week for part two, where I'll be telling you what I've learnt about writing good content, photography, and getting interactive! Hopefully you've find the above information useful so far, and feel free to ask if you have any questions or want to give some of your own suggestions!
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