Author: Sinead

Girl’s Day In

It wasn’t planned but I’m having a bit of a duvet day today. I started out with good intentions; getting up and getting ready as normal. I did a few things around the house that needed doing. I ran around town ticking off a few things on my list. Then a little while after I came home, it started to pour rain…and next thing I knew, pyjamas were on :-).

Isn’t it just the best feeling ever to slip into something cute and cosy on a miserable day?! When you know that you don’t have to leave the house again and you can just feel all warm and comfy indoors. Days like this have to be one of the best perks of this season! Over the weekend, I’m going to compile a list of all my other favourite things about autumn. I’ll post the finished result up here first thing on Monday morning so be sure to check back! Have a great weekend :-).

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how cute is this pj set from Forever 21? sums up a perfect duvet day!

The Experience of an E-Cigarette User

Let me start by saying, I’m by no means an expert on e-cigarettes. I am, however, very familiar with one user’s experience of them and I want to share that.

e-cigarettes

It’s been just over a year now since my partner swapped the regular cigarettes for an e-cigarette. Before that, L had been smoking 20 a day for seven years. I always thought I’d never date a smoker but somehow he won me over!

Personally, I’ve never liked smoking. I tried a few cigarettes out of curiosity when I was younger and they were enough for me for a lifetime! Nothing about them appeals to me —the cost, the inconvenience, the smell…not to mention the obvious health risks have always put me off. Of course I pointed all this out to L over and over again but — at least up until a year ago — that still didn’t stop him!

I used to hate when we were in a bar or club together and he’d be going to the smoking area every half hour. Or when I used to stay over at his place for a few days and I’d come home reeking of stale smoke. I’d have to go for a shower and wash all my clothes immediately to get rid of the smell — not nice!

Then, last year, e-cigarettes started to become widely available. A lot of people are turning to these either as a stepping stone to giving up altogether or as an alternative to regular smoking. L was going back to college and looking to cut back on recreational spending so he decided to give them a try. He originally paid around €50 for a starter kit which included two e-cigarettes and chargers. He also picked up a bottle of “e-liquid” for around €13.

These liquids contain a certain amount of nicotine and there are different strengths and flavours available. L gets one that’s equivalent to Silk Cut Purple. This liquid (or juice, as he calls it) is poured in to a little compartment in the e-cigarette and an atomizer, powered by a battery, heats it up and turns it in to a vapour. This vapour is inhaled and it gives a similar effect to inhaling regular cigarettes.

Once a month, he buys a bottle of this juice for €13. Every once in a while, L also buys a small bottle of flavoured juice for about €7. Flavours include strawberry; banana; vanilla; mint and even bubblegum. Some people use these on their own but L just mixes a drop with his usual juice — something to do with flavours and strength. This isn’t necessary; it’s just for his own personal taste. It’s recommended that you change the atomiser every month at a cost of around €5. L generally only changes his every 6-8 weeks and hasn’t had any problems with it.

L started using his e-cigarette in September of last year and since then, he’s smoked less than twenty regular cigarettes. I find that pretty amazing considering he was smoking twenty a day for so long. The only times he has smoked these regular cigarettes in the last twelve months was always on nights out. Twice it was because the battery for his e-cigarette went dead. One other time it was because he’d run out of juice and forgot to pick up another bottle. It’s so important to remember to charge the e-cigarette’s battery regularly — L charges his every night.

He’ll admit that he’s not completely put off regular cigarettes now and he did enjoy smoking them on those nights out. However, he doesn’t massively miss them either and he’s happy enough to stick with the e-cigarette for now.

He spends between 13 and 20 euro on e-juice every month and then a bit extra as well on a new atomiser every couple of months. Considering a single pack of cigarettes cost almost €10 now, you can imagine how much he’s saving. I’m aware that there’s some talks about banning e-cigarettes inside public places but for now, L can use it pretty much anywhere. I’m so happy about that because it means we don’t have to hang around outside the shops/restaurant/cinema or go to a designated area while he smokes. Also this little device means I don’t have to put up with that stinky cigarette smell anymore! In fact, when the e-cigarette contains flavoured juice, it actually smells quite nice and sweet!

I don’t want to say outright that e-cigarettes are the healthy option because I’m obviously not a doctor and I don’t know a huge amount about that side of things! However, I do know that L used to get three to four chest infections every year but he hasn’t had a single one in the past twelve months. I doubt this is a coincidence and I hope it means that his lungs are in a much better condition than they were before. It’s good to know that e-cigarettes don’t contain the same harmful chemicals of regular cigarettes. Having said that, they obviously do still contain nicotine so non-smokers shouldn’t really get in to the habit of using them (I find that really strange but apparently this is something that is actually happening?!).

Like I’ve said before, I’m not an expert on e-cigarettes. I’ve just been by L’s side over the past twelve months and I’ve seen how they’ve worked for him. I’m so delighted that they have worked for him. He’s having a very positive experience with them and although he is currently using quite a high strength (24mg), he’s looking in to reducing that soon enough. Who knows, maybe one day he’ll reduce it to nothing and be completely nicotine free!

Sally’s Cinnamon Rolls

Today felt like the first day of autumn. It was noticeably cooler, the colleges are back and the sky darkened earlier. From the heavy fog that lingered outside this morning to the steadily increasing amount of Halloween stock in the shops; all the signs are here that a whole new season has begun.

I love the cosiness of this time of year — the reintroduction of knitted jumpers, hot drinks and comfort food. Online, people are going crazy for everything pumpkin spice but I’m not really familiar with that flavour (am I missing out?!). I think it’s just not something you readily come across here in Ireland. For me, autumn spices typically include nutmeg, cloves and — of course — cinnamon.

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I love baking with cinnamon so when I came across this recipe for Cinnamon Rolls on Sally’s Baking Addiction, I knew I’d have to give it a try. I was definitely a little apprehensive as I haven’t made many things that require yeast. I carefully read the method and got to work…and before I knew it, I’d made one serious rookie mistake.

Looking back on it now, it was pretty stupid (and it wasn’t even to do with the yeast!). The recipe calls for one large egg but I only had medium and — without really thinking — I decided, oh sure I’ll just throw in two medium eggs instead…! The result was a shockingly wet and sloppy dough. I did my best to knead it and then allowed it to rest (hoping it would magically fix itself in the meantime). With the next step, I was meant to roll out this mess of a dough. Instead I just poked it, sighed and threw the lot in the bin. What a waste and such a ridiculous mistake! I was so annoyed with myself but instead of letting it get the better of me, I started again. I stuck with the one medium egg and thankfully it worked just fine. I really need to study the ingredients properly as well as the method in future!

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cinnamon-rolls

Baking-wise, second time around was a lot better. I did make one other mistake with this batch and that was to leave it in the oven a few minutes too long. They turned out just the slightest bit darker than I wanted but they still taste pretty delicious! Buttery and chewy with its sweet and spiced filling, these rolls are such a lovely treat on a crisp autumn day/cool September evening. Making these has also made me feel a bit braver about working with yeast and I’ll be on the look-out now for similar recipes that will challenge me to do something different. If ever there was a good time to brush up on your baking skills, it would have to be autumn!

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Step Nine

At the start of 2014, I decided that — rather than creating a long list of resolutions — I would come up with a new goal every month. Some of these goals that I’ve since made include “take the stairs instead of the lift”; “work on my blog”; “read for thirty minutes a day” and “do more of the things I love”.

small steps

We’re hurtling towards the end of the year so I’m going to take this month to work on the goals I’ve already set. The whole idea of creating these monthly goals was for me to make small positive changes one step at a time. Having already set eight goals by now, I feel it’s important for me to make sure I’m still putting these in to practice whenever possible. I’ve definitely been slipping a bit with some of my older goals and there’s no point in me creating another new goal just because it’s a new month! Instead I can use this opportunity to remember the things I’ve been trying to achieve and concentrate on them for now. Hopefully then by October, I should be all caught up and ready for something brand new!

Friday Fun featuring The Sims 4

These are some very funny moments I captured while playing The Sims 4 over the past week. Enjoy and have a great weekend!

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^Death consults his tablet, oblivious to the grieving family members beside him^

sims4-scare

^an evil Sim scares this poor guy half to death^

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^the same evil Sim tries and fails to throw a drink over an innocent passer-by^

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^does anyone love breakfast more than this guy?^

sims4-proposal

^an angry man interrupts what could have been a nice romantic proposal^

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^death (again), this time catching up on his shows after a hard day’s reaping^

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^hitting up the sadness hotline when a cry under the covers just won’t do^

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^mom accidentally walks in on her teen “messing around” with her bf^

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^as this guy finds out, public bladder failure will get the ladies running…in the other direction^

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^sometimes the bed is just too damn far away^

Review of The Sims 4

The Sims 4 was released earlier this month and after playing it for about a week now, I wanted to share my experience of the game so far.

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After installation, as long-term players will know, you can jump right in and play one of the pre-designed families. However, if you want to make your own characters, Create-a-Sim is where it all starts.

Here, you shape who your Sims are. You give them a name, a voice tone and a walk style. Choose their skin tone, eye colour and hairstyle. Players can now click directly on to each part of their Sim to sharply define their features. You can give them small ears, thin lips, broad shoulders, a beer belly…or whatever comes to mind! I found it does take a little practice before you can get things exactly how you want them. To make things easier, there is a selection of templates to choose from so you can automatically get the big nose or heart-shaped face that you want for your Sim.

There’s a good selection of clothes to choose from for both genders and every age group. Although they’ve done away with the colour wheel of The Sims 3, there is a bit of a choice of shades and patterns with every garment. Sims can have different outfits for everyday use and formalwear as well as for the gym, bedtime and parties. Accessories include socks, hats and pretty jewellery.

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When you’re finished styling your Sim, decide what they want in life by choosing one of ten aspirations. They can aspire to become a musical genius, to be fabulously wealthy, to find their soulmate…Whatever aspiration you choose unlocks a bonus trait — for example, your Sim will become a quick learner if they want to be a computer whiz or they’ll gain a high metabolism if they dream of being a bodybuilder. You also choose three more traits from a range of thirty-five to make up your Sim’s personality. They can be cheerful or mean; a foodie; a geek; romantic; clumsy; materialistic and more.

If you’re creating multiple Sims, you can define their relationships with each other before you send them out in to the world. Although you can have children and siblings and the rest, there are no family trees in TS4. That’s the only feature I’m missing from Create-a-Sim (also toddlers but I think enough has already been said on that!). Other than that, I really like this part of the game. It’s easy to use, there’s lots of variety and the opportunity to make some really unique characters.

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When your Sims are ready to start living, you can choose to move to the lush green Willow Creek or the desert-like Oasis Springs. Go straight in to a fully-furnished home or buy up an empty lot and build from scratch. There is only a small selection of lots and homes available which is a bit disappointing. If you want to put your own stamp on your place, Build/Buy mode is really easy to use. You can purchase entire pre-designed rooms to place directly on to your lot and you can push and pull walls to instantly build an extension. Also, at any time, you can pick up and move the entire building — very handy for when you realise you need more space to create that dream back yard!

Some players love creating interesting and original characters in Create-a-Sim while others can spend hours designing a replica of their perfect home. My favourite part of the game is live mode when you get in to your Sims’ lives — for me, that’s when the fun begins!

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So — to start — when your Sims settle in to their new home, at least one of them is going to want to get a job. Bills arrive on a regular basis and you only get 48 hours to pay. The amount of Simoleans you have to part with will vary depending on the size of your home and what items you have inside it. If you don’t pay up on time, you’ll face the consequences! Unlike in previous games, it’s not going to be a repoman just popping by to take an item of equal value. Instead, your power will be cut. If you still haven’t coughed up the cash by the next day, your water will go too. Imagine a home with no lights, showers, no flushing toilets, no TV…! I love this new feature!

I’m not, however, a big fan of the range of the careers in TS4 — astronaut; criminal; culinary, entertainer, painter, secret agent, tech guru and writer. There are currently no jobs available in medicine, politics, science, law enforcement…Call me traditional but that’s what I would rather see! One positive here though is that it is a bit more of a challenge for your Sim to get promoted. It’s no longer just a matter of showing up on time, they also have to complete little tasks and reach certain standards. If you want to climb that career ladder, you need to put in the effort!

You’ll definitely want some money coming in if you’re planning to have a family. As always, loved-up Sims can woohoo or try for a baby (at the moment, these actions are limited to the bedroom!). For fifteen Simoleans, lady Sims can take a pregnancy test by clicking on the toilet. Whether or not they take the test, all expectant mothers start showing within a few days.

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The first two trimesters lasts twenty-four hours each with the bump growing every day! It wouldn’t be unusual for your Sim to be a little heavier after she gives birth. In previous games, Moms snapped back in to shape straight after their little one appears in their arms. This time around, it seems different. My first Sim wanted lots of babies and ended up practically obese by the time she had her fourth! She was constantly hungry throughout her pregnancies so naturally I let her fill up but it definitely showed…Oh well, I’m all for a bit of realism!

For pregnant ladies, the third trimester can last up to a couple of days. When Mom goes in to labour, she can choose to have the baby at home or in the hospital. Babies arrive in bassinets and spend this life stage there. Parents can pick them up to feed, cuddle, bounce and change them. Annoyingly, there’s no maternity leave. My poor Sim was in her third trimester and still had to go in to work! She gave birth as soon as she came home and the next day, she was back in the office. Baby was automatically sent to day-care. I do like that there’s day-care now but I still wish we could have babysitters as well. I find it a bit strange that teenagers can get part-time jobs as babysitters and yet parents are never able to hire any! Also I’ve noticed that only the babies get sent to day-care. One of my Sims was a single mom and had a child who would be left in the house on her own every day after school (until 11pm when mom finished work!).

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After two days, babies turn in to children. As always, children are expected to go to school and hand in their homework on time. Continuous bad grades can result in the intervention of Social Services so if you want to continue raising them, be sure the youngsters regularly hit the books. They can also improve their skills by practicing their typing on a computer, playing some violin or drawing at the activity table (their works of art can even be proudly displayed on the walls!).

After thirteen days, your sweet little ones turn in to teenagers. I’ve got to say that I don’t find the teens too interesting for now. There are no curfews; they don’t really have mood swings; they don’t get in to trouble for skipping school or not doing their homework….I found it impossible to make my teen Sim fail her classes! If you want to keep them out of the house for longer, teen Sims can also get part-time jobs such as babysitter, barista and sales assistant. They can also start up relationships and even ask their parents about woohoo (or their parents might even bring up the talk themselves — cue the cringing!).

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Sims can also adopt through the computer. It costs 1000 Simoleans per adoption and — for the first time — prospective parents are given a choice of who they’ll get. It’s no longer just about picking a baby or child, boy or girl. Now they’re also given fifteen faces and they can select whichever one they feel will best fit in with their family. These children come with their own names but they can be changed at the time of adoption. I’m very much a family-oriented player so all my Sims end up being parents eventually!

There are, however, lots of other cool features that aren’t related to parenthood. For the first time ever, Sims can properly multi-task. They might be enjoying some mac and cheese at the table when they decide to head to the couch and watch some TV while they eat. If they see their friend is working up a sweat on the treadmill, chances are they’ll hurry over to strike up a conversation. They could be playing a fun game on their phone when they suddenly need to pee — gross as it is, they’ll have no problem continuing their game in the bathroom! This is one of my favourite new features in this game. It definitely adds a sense of realism as you play.

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Sims can throw different types of parties — house, birthday, dinner and wedding. You can hold these events at home or on a community lot and there’s a fun option to hire help. Order a caterer to keep the hunger pangs at bay, an entertainer to provide the music and a mixologist to get the drinks flowing! As the party gets going, Sims are challenged to meet different goals such as thanking guests for coming and serving up some yummy cake. If they meet their goals, the party is deemed a success and they even receive a reward for all their efforts!

Emotions is a huge new feature of TS4. Every day, Sims are influenced by the world around them. Doing something fun will make them happy while a dull conversation will make them bored. A game of chess will get them focused. A fight with a friend will leave them angry and wanting to blow off some steam. Even their showers can affect them. A brisk shower gets them energized, a long and thoughtful shower fills them with inspiration and a hot and steamy shower leaves them feeling flirtatious!

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Seemingly it’s possible for Sims to die from emotion overload, such as having a heart attack when they’re massively shocked or even literally “dying from embarrassment”. For the sake of this post (ahem), I tested this theory but I really don’t think it happens so easily. I had my Sim walk in on his housemate in the shower, get rejected by the girl of his dreams and then wet himself in a crowded room and — although he was “mortified” — all he did was hide in his bed! So for any players concerned about their Sims meeting a sudden demise, I’d say don’t worry too much (but still save regularly just in case…!)

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Since I started playing The Sims 4 a week ago, I’ve explored a lot of the great new features but also been a bit disappointed with what’s missing. It’s not just toddlers and pools and family trees that are gone. There’s also no repairman, no burglars, no cars…There has also been quite a number of glitches, some of which have been fixed but some which remain. It’s still early days but hopefully they’ll be sorted soon — really they should be because a glitchy game is unacceptable and can get very annoying!

Earlier in the week, I mentioned that I was about 75% happy with this game. I’m sticking with that for now. There is a lot to improve upon but for the most part, I’m enjoying the new features and challenges. It’s been a week but I feel like there’s still more for to discover and do within the game (yeah that includes making my Sim die of embarrassment — I need to see that now!)

Teddy Bear Toast

I’ve seen this idea on a number of different sites and I just had to share it for my playtime theme this week. Teddy Bear Toast has to be one of the cutest breakfast/snack options out there!

Simply spread some peanut butter on to slices of toast and top with blueberries and banana slices for eyes, nose and ears. During my college years, I worked as an au pair and also did a lot of babysitting and I know all the kids I looked after would love this idea! Anyone who has little ones to mind should definitely consider making this. It’s cute and healthy and can be quickly thrown together with no fuss. As far as kid-friendly snacks go; it doesn’t get better than this!

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