My Milk Frother Makes My Life Better

For Christmas I received the Nespresso Aerocinno 3 and now everything is better. While I am not a huge coffee drinker, I am a fan of other milk based hot drinks. I experimented first with a tea latte which was an idea I found on the teapigs website. I used their Darjeeling Earl Grey which I brewed for a good 5 minutes in a little water and then added my freshly warmed and frothed milk from the Aerocinno. I like my tea milky anyway – and the tea latte was a different experience that I really enjoyed. Of course I have made some delicious hot chocolate, the Aerocinno can heat milk without frothing it and for me, the temperature is perfect to gulp and warm your tummy without scalding your tongue.

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The Aerocinno looks beautiful on my work top and is designed beautifully. Operation is simple and cleaning is an absolute breeze. The “flask” separates from the base and is waterproof so it takes just seconds to clean everything up. My only gripe is that there is no lip to the flask when you need to pour into a mug. A confident pour will not cause any spillages but if you want to make a Macciato a nice, slow pour is necessary which the Aerocinno flask struggles with.

Speaking of aesthetics and design, as a pairing gift to my new Milk Frother I was also given some Bodum Pavina Double-Wall Thermo Glasses. These beauties are hand blown glass that are feather light and hold your hot drinks without burning your hands. Anything you put in these things looks spectacular – maybe it’s the magic effect of floating liquids within the glass but I can’t get enough of it. Serve me everything in a Bodum Pavina glass, nothing else will do.

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However the king of drink receptacles that I have received this past Christmas is the one shpaed like the best time machine I know from a friend who knows me best.

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Instant Photography Forever

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I have been taking pictures with the Fujifilm Instax Mini 50S for nearly a year now, and while the experience has been completely brilliant – there are some things you really need to get used to when operating the camera. The first thing is that you need to do is love every photo that you take. There is beauty in every single frame – even if it only teaches you what not to do. I had never owned a film camera before – I have grown up using digital since I was a teenager. When using film, particularly instant film like this which is expensive, you have to make every shot count. However do not take this to mean the camera is all serious, it has a whimsical side to it that I adore. With every click and flash the camera noisily whirrs and spits out a credit card sized photo which slowly develops in front of your eyes. The anticipation, excitement and physical photo you’re left with is what make this camera such a joy to wield.

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This camera definitely takes some getting used to. The problem with this compared to digital cameras is that it costs you money to figure out how best to use it. You could go through an entire pack of film (which contains 10 frames) just figuring out the settings. The most important thing to note is that the flash always fires. No matter what setting you place the camera on, the bright light will always shine. This is because if there is not enough light, the film will not develop so Fujifilm probably thought it best to make sure you always got some sort of a picture – even if it is a really washed out one.

This brings me to my second point. The camera has a feature to either lighten or darken the film as it develops. My advice is to never not have it on the darken setting. Once in a while I forget to do this and I’m left with a hazy, washed out colour on my prints. But I love practically every photo I take with this thing and I can’t help it. I was gifted a pair of Mini Photo Albums for Christmas this year and every picture has a place in those albums. I haven’t even managed to fill one completely yet but I look forward to shooting hundreds of photos instantly with this camera because it’s fun, addictive and strangely satisfying.

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I have been obsessed with using this camera, almost as much as I have been obsessed with my new boots. They were a Christmas present to myself. From Bershka, it’s my second pair of boots from this brand and hopefully they will last as well as the pair I got last year did. This pair weren’t as difficult to break in either – which my feet were thankful for. They’re good because they can be worn with a smart outfit on a night out or with something more casual – which I appreciate. All my clothing items should be able to do double duty.

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iPad Mini

I finally managed to get myself an iPad. I thought I would feel differently. I thought I would enjoy having this little device halfway between my MacBook and my iPhone. I was not prepared to fall in love with a 7.9″ tablet.

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There are far more professional reviews of this iPad on the Internet. I’m not going to cover what has been covered already. However I want to touch on a number of issues with the iPad mini that feature strongly within the majority of reviews I have read.

The first issue is that this device does not have a retina display. The display of the iPad Mini is lovely. It is a pleasure to behold for hours and hours. (You get at least ten hours with this baby.) When it is playing a HD movie, the quality is great. I take issue with the letter boxing of widescreen films – but this is not the display’s fault. The display does a great job. At no point have I thought, “Omigod I can see all the different pixels around these letters! This is ruining my iPad experience!” Not once have I thought this. Honestly.

The iPad Mini has an A5 processor, which is a whole number less than the chip being used in the iPhone 5 and the fourth generation iPad. The Mini is a snappy little device and loads apps happily and comfortably in a very short time. There was a time when I would be able to go and make a hot chocolate in the time it took for Microsoft Word to load up on my PC when I was young. Let’s not be dramatic about the processor speed of the iPad Mini, I can handle waiting maybe five seconds for the Pages App to load.

Before I purchased my iPad Mini, I read the reviews and I immediately had all the reservations that reviewers pointed out – lack of retina, A5 chip. After nearly a month of using the Mini these reservations are all forgotten. What makes the Mini fantastic, straight out of the box – is the weight. This thing is light and it is comfortable to hold for hours. I have barely touched my laptop since the iPad Mini in my life and when I do pick up my laptop, it is with a “oof” noise. That thing is hefty.

Operating the iPad Mini is a pleasure. Every swipe and tap is registered with ease. The Design of the Mini, complete with narrow edges to the left and the right of the screen does not impede using any app and I’ve used every kind. I’ve played various games, read various magazines, flipped through comic books, drawn with my fingers, written with a stylus and I am now typing this post. The smaller size and the altered design will not affect the use of the iPad. Truly, the little beast can do everything its big brother can do.

I am completely thrilled with the iPad Mini. It is everything I wanted in a tablet and I highly recommend it. If or when my laptop gives up the ghost I am sure I will be happy to not replace it as long as I have an iPad Mini for my on the go computing .I believe it is up to nearly any task I want to accomplish in my online, digital and entertainment life. (Read: Excuse to get the new iMac.)

iPad Smart Case

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Apple’s mainstream products are great. The iPhone is fantastic, MacBooks are wonderful and the iPad is a joy to wield. However often the accessories for these products fall short of the high standards I expect. Apple Earbuds are terrible and the iPhone bumper case deteriorates after a few months of use. This has meant that my pleasant surprise after some use of the iPad Smart Case has restored my faith.

I’ll start with my two negatives. And they are small ones. The first is that it is a little finicky getting the cover open. You have to sort of pinch underneath and use your nail to flip it open. At first I thought this would drive me nuts but now I’m used to it – I barely notice.

My second issue comes with the fact that I eat my lunch and use my iPad. Because of the case creating a lip around the edges the iPad, I have found that crumbs find their way into the corners and can be difficult to clean out. I should hope that everyone else in the world is less of a slob with their expensive Apple tablet, but then again I have seen children dangling out of a prams with a chocolate smeared iPad in their hands. If you get crumbs on your screen while using the case, you might have to take the whole device out to clean it off properly.

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Positives are plentiful. The Smart Case fits snuggly and securely without adding too much bulk to the device. It feels sturdy and safe even though the material the case is made of is light. The case has spaces for the dock and earphone jack as well as raised “buttons” on top of the volume rocker and sleep button so they can all be used easily while the case is in action.

The cover of the case performs all the functions of its predecessor, the Smart Cover. It provides a perfect angle for typing as well as watching a video depending on how you flip the iPad. It also allows you to wake and sleep the iPad simply by opening or closing the cover thanks to the magic magnets in the cover.

The IPad Smart Case is the cherry on top of an already amazing product. It should come with the iPad as standard because it adds functionality that should be enjoyed by all iPad owners. Plus it has the Apple on the back so you don’t have to have a case with a circle cut out of it to show your iPad pride!

Journey

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You are stranded in a desert, the white hot sun blares in your eyes and drags sweat from every one of your pores. You trudge up sand dunes hoping the beacon you move towards on the horizon isn’t a mirage. Suddenly a fellow traveller appears at your side and you are immediately filled with confidence that you are not alone on this journey that is only going to test your strength every step of the way.

This is what playing Journey on the Playstation 3 is like. Unlike other online games, the chance of you actually playing with other players is completely random. There is only a rudimentary form of communication between players in the form of whistling or singing. You can choose to travel together, explore the open world together or go your separate ways. This is a new form of online gaming that is not only original but blends together seamlessly with the entire atmosphere of the game.

Beautiful is a weak word to describe this game. Everything in Journey is gorgeous. The art direction, the graphical style and particularly the sound design are all outstanding. The storytelling is masterfully done and even though a single play through the game is short, I was almost immediately ready to dive back in, begin another journey and hope there was something more to discover in this world. Perhaps there were secrets I missed. Regardless, Journey is not a game. It is not something to simply entertain you while time passes. It is an experience I recommend to anyone with an adventurous spirit and wide imagination.

Life in the Apple Entertainment Ecosystem

Between my boyfriend and I we own: a MacBook, a MacBook Pro, an iPhone 3GS, an iPhone 4S, the New iPad, an Apple TV and an Airport Express. There is also a first generation iPod Touch in my bedside locker drawer and a second generation iPod shuffle in his. It is safe to say we have invested in the Apple lifestyle. The Apple TV was the most recent addition, rounding out the Apple family in our home. It cemented the company’s firm grip over every facet of our entertainment and online recreation. So how’s it all working out?

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First of all you should know that I don’t pirate any music or movies. I buy everything from iTunes. This works for me because I can watch or listen to anything on any of my devices. I believe that once you commit to the system it works out really well. There are instances when something isn’t available on iTunes but out on DVD or it hasn’t been released in this country. I get frustrated but I believe that is more an issue with the entertainment companies than Apple (and that is a blog post for another day).

At the Apple keynotes and in the ads we are presented with these happy multicultural people wearing bold colours enjoying life with their apple products and the entertainment offered by the iTunes store. Once you buy into iTunes – your life ends up just like the ads.

Your content is available to listen to on your commute, play through speakers in the bedroom and watch on your TV in the living room. For me the flow between devices is enough of a reason to spend the money in iTunes. Apple isn’t getting out of the entertainment game any time soon so I feel comfortable buying a movie iTunes knowing it will travel with me as long as I stick with iProducts.

The spanner in the works gets thrown when I want to combine my Apple ID with my Boyfriend’s. It doesn’t mesh together well. Particularly with the Apple TV. Home sharing does its best to help but it is a big question. How do you bring together your digital entertainment life? And on the flip of that – how do you split it up if things go south? Separate external hard drives? Should I get a secret back up in case this relationship doesn’t work out?!

It’s a good thing I have friends who will always be there for me. But what if unlike me, they aren’t willing to put themselves into debt for the latest gadget from Cuepertino? I can’t bring my iPad to a friend’s house and assume they have an Apple TV to stream Tangled to. iTunes doesn’t play nice with my friends setup. The short answer to this is to only befriend people who you meet in the queue for the new iPhone. The long answer is that investing in the Apple Ecosystem is fun and works brilliantly. However it is a solitary experience unless you always want to play host and show off how well AirPlay works in your living room.

Which I do.

Graze

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There are worse things to be done than trying to eat healthy. For me it’s trying to get more fibre, fruit and grains into my diet. When Graze was recommended to me by a friend, (Complete with coupon code) I couldn’t say no!

At the time of writing I have received three boxes. I have enjoyed each and every one of them, which includes the twelve different snacks I have sampled so far. Graze is helping me personally to eat lots of things I rarely touch, particularly grains, nuts and seeds. Usually I grab a bag of crisps or a bar of chocolate when I get a pang of hunger in my stomach. Graze is opening up my eyes to a whole variety of healthy alternatives I could be snacking on that are actually beneficial instead of artificial.

The entire Graze experience is seamless and endearing. Friends and coworkers have exclaimed at the beautiful and personal presentation of the boxes and included leaflets that bare my name. The website makes it easy to order boxes and adjust their frequency – including a feature to miss out on your box for a week or so while you’re on holidays. The rating system follows the example of every other part of Graze, it is simple and easy. You can rate foods up or down and can even make sure certain foods never make it into your box whether it be because you are allergic to a product or because you can’t stand the taste of dried cherries.

Graze has opened up my eyes to an entire world of tasty, healthy snacking. My only gripe is my apartment letter box is too thin for the box to fit through, but that one is on me. Graze is my weekly treat of healthy eating that is gently pushing me to snack healthier every day.

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