Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Little Party Parcels Unboxing!

Please note that I received a box of sample kids party bags and party bag items from free of charge in return for producing this blog post and the linked-to vlog.  However, opinions are my own.

At the weekend I got an unexpected parcel in the post, which is always nice - it turned out to be that it was from Little Party Parcels, a UK company that sells party bags, goodies for party bags, and pre-filled party bags, with a wide variety of items and bags to choose from.

A tiny selection of the items we were sent - my son has taken ownership of most of them, and keeps coming back to help himself to a new toy out of the box!

The selection that they offer is absolutely huge and suits pretty much any budget - my wife was particularly taken with a double layer pencil case which was 90p, while I had great fun with a 35p superhero mask, and bag fillers start from just 4p!

I have to say that I genuinely think that what they offer is absolutely excellent - if you're having a kids party then party bags are just another thing that you have to sort out, and you can either spend time and a fair chunk of money going round shops trying to get a decent selection of goodies, or go to and get it all sorted there quickly and inexpensively.  And the pre-filled party bags are even better :)

They don't just do kids parties, they also have a whole section of the website devoted to weddings and entertainments for kids there, which of course is always tricky - as wonderful as weddings are, little ones often get a bit bored!

My son picking through the parcel for his next toy!

Furthermore, Little Party Parcels are offering a special discount for blog readers - in the cart / view basket area of the website, if you enter the code BLOGTHOG10 in the coupon code field you'll get 10% discount on the shopping cart total!

I took the opportunity to ask Jennifer from Little Party Parcels why she started the business, and she said "I was a really boring accountant beforehand, worked long hours, thought that was what you were supposed to do. Had my daughter and knew I could never do the hours or the job again, fell in love with her and fell out of love with my job and accountancy. I did a few local small accounts for a little while but my heart wasn't in it and then after wasting money again buying packs of party goodies in all different quantities thought I would give it a go at only selling what you need (I am very careful with money and hate wasting it). It will never earn a fortune but I do get to the school gate on time most days. I have a couple of friends who are mothers and a grandma (plus my mother if I am really, really desperate), we all pull together and we somehow manage to send out most orders on the working day they arrive or the next working day."

Finally, I strongly recommend checking out our unboxing video - we had an awesome time playing with all the toys!!

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

UK Solution #FixThePlus

So, it's been an eventful few days in the UK, topped off with the result in the football.

Anyway, with all the uncertainty, I've had an idea of a little backup option, just in case things don't go well...

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Travelling Book Project update

Apologies for the delay in blogging, but readers may be aware that it's been somewhat of a busy week in the UK, there's been a vote and apparently our little island is being relocated or something :)

Anyway, I wanted to make the announcement that sadly the Travelling Book Project website will be closing down in the near future.

Briefly, the Travelling Book Project was an attempt to connect people around the world by sending a blank journal from person to person, with each person contributing some information about themselves and their life.

Photo of me with one of the books.  I still have the t-shirt.

It was a hell of a project - I did an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to raise money, and despite all the mistakes I made (after all, it was the first time I ever tried doing one) I managed to raise over £200 from friends and family, but also total strangers that discovered the project and felt it was worth supporting.

I got to be interviewed on the local radio, which was very exciting, I've promoted the project at Hull College with my bespoke clothes hanger display, and I've made contact with people all over the world as the books visited places such as Ohio, Las Vegas (via Australia), Portland, Chicago, Dublin, Germany, and all over the UK.  And I thank everyone who took part in the project for helping that happen.

The website is still live for the next month or so until the subscriptions run out, but I've archived some of the key information (badly) on this blog at - I'll review and tweak the archived info so it sits better on this blog when I have chance.

But for now, thank you again to everyone that got involved, and I continue to hope that a book will make it back to me!

Regards, Mike

Sunday, 19 June 2016

No Toast

My wife has just put our son to bed, and had the below conversation.  For information, we used up the last of the bread earlier for sandwiches, but (apparently unknown to him) I went to the garage and bought a loaf.

Son: We've got no toast.
My Wife: Yes, there's toast, daddy bought some bread
Son: But there's no toast tomorrow.
My Wife: Yes, we have bread, you put it in the toaster and you make toast.
Son: But there's no toast tomorrow.
My Wife: Yes, daddy bought bread.
Son (sadly): There's no toast Monday. No toast on Tuesday-
My Wife: Yes there is darling! Daddy. Bought. Bread.

I'm kinda excited to see what happens tomorrow when I try to make him some toast for breakfast while he insists that we can't have any.

Here is the bread.  It exists.

Not that I care - it's Fathers Day, I got candy pizza :)

All the calories of real pizza, but without those nasty vitamins.

And to celebrate Fathers Day, I made a video of dad jokes - and if you think these are bad, you should have seen the ones that I didn't include :)

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Are you keeping an eye on Jeff?

Just a quick post to say that if you aren't already, you ought to be checking out the Saving Jeff series on Life, Explained - robots, war, and a guy from Packing.  What more do you need.

And Bob, the Custodian, of course.

Read Part 1 - Jeff and the Tiny Killer Robot here, and then...
Part 2 - Jeff's Body Fights Back
Part 3 - The Battle For Jeff
Part 4 - Saving Shipping Guy Jeff
Part 5 - Dawg Turns On The Charm
Part 6 - We take the offensive in the Battle for Jeff

Excited?  I know I am.  It's like the England vs Russia match all over again.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Football's coming home... #Euros2016 #ENG #FixThePlus

Football has returned with an almighty bang as the European 2016 football championship (aka UEFA EURO 2016) has well and truly kicked off. 24 of the best teams from around Europe are taking part in the matches across France, in an attempt to lift the trophy on the 10th of July.

As expected, England didn't win their first group game, although for a few minutes they got worryingly close to lifting the spirits of the nation as they led 1-0, until Russia pulled it back to a draw.  Even the BBC continuity announcer today introducing the Germany/Ukraine game couldn't stop himself from commenting "I bet THEY won't concede in injury time"! (which they didn't - Germany did what exactly they should do, increasing their lead in stoppage time to put the result beyond reasonable doubt)

For myself, I have many strengths, but playing football is not one of them.  For a number of years I used to play regularly, never getting quite beyond the level of "Extremely Bad", which I blame entirely to my eyesight.

I am somewhat shortsighted you see, which first came to light when I was 19, and finding that the road signs really weren't big enough, I couldn't read them until I got right up to them, and subsequently discovered that it was my eyes rather than the rest of the universe that were at fault on this particular point.

But wearing glasses whilst playing football isn't really recommended - I did tinker with some special prescription goggles, which are designed to pop apart when you get a ball in the face.

And make you look like an extremely unfashionable time traveller from the future.

But these didn't work that well either, I found that they steamed up within a couple of minutes of playing, rendering them even worse than playing without corrective lenses.  Contact lenses I never managed to correctly put in, so I resorted to playing generally in my second best glasses, so that I didn't mind when they did get hit, and scattered lenses and bits of spectacles liberally across the playing surface.

Now, I have sadly retired from soccer (after attempting a Zidane-style hop over a football, and instead stepping onto the ball, falling off it, and doing some sort of ligament damage to my knee) but whenever the big tournaments are on the football shirt comes out of the cupboard, and I find a comfy sofa, and some beer, and spend a pleasant two hours shouting at the television in an attempt to inspire some of the best footballers in the world, whilst balancing snacks on my stomach.  Well, someone's got to do it.

If you're interested in football, maybe this video where I explain the benefits of soccer over american football might be of interest.  Plus you get to see me be punched in the face.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Selfie Phone Clip - Panoramic Goodness!

Disclosure - this post reviews an item that I received free of charge.  Nevertheless, the views expressed are mine.

Today's post looks at a Selfie Phone Clip that I was kindly sent by Paladone, a wholesale gift supplier with offices in the UK, USA, and Hong Kong.  Now, I'm a huge fan of any kind of gadget so I was very keen to try this out!

The selfie phone clip is designed to be clipped over your phone's normal lens, giving you the ability to take panoramic shots than otherwise capable.  Boxed it comes with a lens cap and storage bag.

The clip is very straightforward to use, and the lens cap is very tight, it's certainly not going to come off by accident.

Below you can see a couple of photos taken as selfies in our attic:

Normal shot

With the selfie phone clip

And the below photos are with my main phone camera, from the skylight:

Normal shot

With the selfie phone clip

Now, obviously my photographic skills aren't the best, and these are just quick shots taken as examples, but even so the clip definitely does allow for much wider shots to be taken.  I would say that it may be even better with certain phones - a friend of mine tried it with his phone and got some really impressive results with it, whilst the ones above were taken with my Huawei P8.  I think that the position of the lens on your phone makes a difference - mine is in the corner of my phone which isn't an ideal position for the clip, the lens on my friend's phone is further away from the edge of the phone so the clip could grip a little better.

So although it's marketed as a "Selfie Phone Clip" and if you want to take a nice big group selfie it'll certainly help with that, I'd also say that it's also got value for when you want to take panoramic shots, for example when out walking, and the small size of it makes it extremely portable.

You can find out more about the Selfie Phone Clip at the Paladone website - I'm aware that the Paladone website currently only sells them in multiples of 12, so if you're just after one you might want to check out their Amazon listing.

Friday, 3 June 2016

Not Completely Duo in Lingo

Today we're very fortunate to feature a guest post from Rahul Singh, a brilliant blogger who I enjoy immensely. Apparently Rahul is endeavouring to learn French...

21st March, 2016 - The Duolingo app downloaded from the Playstore.

21st April - My app shows me 12% fluent in French.

21st May - My app now thinks I'm only 10% fluent in French.

1st June - I sit wondering if I log in to the application, and mess a lesson up what my fluency in French will be downgraded to. Maybe to 1%, seems realistic.

Apparently, I'm not too good with dates, so I just kind of made that data above by myself. Here's a sure thing though. A month earlier I did my French lessons for 19 straight days in a row. My fluency in French rocketed to 12%. Everything appeared to be cruising, and then 1 day, my INTERNET connection gave up. The 19 day French streak was broken, and it's never been the same henceforth.

Somewhere in February/March I downloaded an app for learning a foreign language. I found out Duolingo to be the best FREE option. I quickly (not so quickly.. I still use 2G) downloaded the application, and there began my journey.

By the end of 1st week. I knew at least 40 words. It gives me immense pleasure to remember the 1st sentence I made in French. It was "Je suis un riche garçon". I don't even know now if it's correct (just kidding.. I checked it). My app still shows me as 10% fluent in French, but I'm not. I have always found horoscopes to be a waste. Apparently, no horoscope as a child warned me 'bout using 2G internet. Things take ages to load. Heck, I even think of suing some of these Telecom companies. But, then 2G is cheap, and I am too.

[Side notes: Sorry, I got a bit lost with emotions there. I always do.]

So, Bonjóur, Boññe nuit, garçon, hómme, femme, chat, rouge, and as I am writing this, I think I still remember a lot of those words, and maybe I am not too bad with French. So, if I login again - which I will - and, Duolingo tries to act mean to me and says that I'm as ridiculous in French as it's in working with 2G. Maybe, I will start a #RahulKnowsFrench movement on Social Media and let Duolingo know that I'm a French master.

Although, I personally think horoscopes are sh*t, but one I randomly came across said that Geminians have French as their favourite language. Although, it's stupid to generalize so many people just because they were born between 21st May and 20th June (or whatever the sample class is), but anyways, I will stick to learning French. I sometimes think that I should try to learn German simultaneously too, but I will persevere with French.

English is another option too, but it would hurt my ego to see the app showing my fluency in the language as 0% initially. Learning language is never 'bout arithmetic, but my ride with Duolingo seems to be all 'bout numbers.

In all that, I often wonder how small this world has become. And, how fascinating and exciting the world of technology is. Internet is there to stay long in a world with so many uncertainties, although who knows what more humans will add to this world of increasing wonders.

On another note, the woman whose voice has been used in the app is really sweet, but I often wonder if she's having fun testing my listening skills. French like anything new looks difficult to adapt to, but it's fun nonetheless. It will be interesting to see what my fluency remains once after messing up a lesson, I log out of the Duolingo app next time, if my 2G internet is able to load the data too.

In hindsight, it could've been very different if my internet connection hadn't crapped out on the 20th day. I could've even been applying for an official masters degree sometime soon. I wish, ages and ages hence, I wouldn't be telling my kids that, "One March evening, the data didn't load, and that has made all the difference - well, at least to my knowledge in French."

Thanks for reading.

When he isn't fighting towards attaining fluency in French, Rahul blogs over at - go say hi!

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Scarecrows in Wetwang

On Tuesday I was on leave, tasked with the duty of looking after our child for an entire day without anything catastrophic happening.  Naturally, I did a quick Google to try to find something to do, and as a result me and the dude ended up in Wetwang, a village in East Yorkshire, checking out their scarecrow festival.  The festival consists of over fifty scarecrows dotted around the village, made by the residents, and it's very popular.

They've also been very cunning in Wetwang, because to get a map of the scarecrows, you have to go to the village hall, and walk past the cafe, selling a variety of delicious baked goods.

Needless to say, we didn't make it past the cafe.  Unless my wife is reading this, in which case this photo just shows me and the little one sat down, and there's no evidence of any cake in shot.

Fortified with cake, we took to the streets, and took a few photos.

I made my son sit down next to this one.  I kind of wanted him to lift the hat, but I was worried it might mentally scar him for life.

Spot the living creature.

This one was awesome, you pressed the button and it made bubbles.

Scary Queen is rather unsettling.

Unfortunately the rain came down before we got round all fifty three scarecrows, but we did manage about half of them, and the fish and chips in the car rounded the day off :)  So, in summary, if you're in the vicinity of Wetwang, and fancy seeing a scarecrow or two, I can't recommend highly enough the Wetwang Scarecrow Festival, it has both Wetwang and Scarecrows.

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