Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Favourite Photo Editing Apps

So, as someone who likes taking pictures of pretty much anything and far too many selfies on my iPhone I am always on the hunt for new photo editing apps to enhance the photos I take or give them a retro feel. So, I thought it's only fair that I share some of the ones I use the most and like. 


Cost: free

The last selfie I took of myself as a 22 year old! I turned 23 last weekend. Eep! 

Instagram is one of the most popular photo editing and sharing platforms used by smartphone owners of the moment. Over 100 million people have downloaded it! It offers several different filters to your image, most to help you create a vintage/retro look to your images. Much like twitter, tumblr and other such social networks instagram lets you follow your friends, celebrities, artists and other awesome people to keep up to date with their photos and lives. You can like other photos and make comments. It's a pretty standard setting and one that's so simple it's really took off. The one issue I have is that you can't share your likes with other people, which would help find people with similar interests and styles as yourself. You have unlimited uploads and sharing has never been easier with just a tap you can choose to share your images on facebook, twitter, tumblr, foursquare or send it in an email. I for one have met some lovely people through the app and am continuing to find more. Stores use the app for promotions and give aways and it's a fast growing community. My biggest grumble is that twitter won't allow your images to be seen in your feed, instead you have to click the link and go to a new page. But this is just a minor grumble. Additions to the instagram app is the instacollege app which allows you to put two images together in creative ways and offers different filters to the original app, however this does cost 69p. If you don't already have an instagram then get moving! :) If you'd like to follow me my username is: Amehduck . 


Photoshop Express
Cost: free for lite or in-app purchases for more features range from 69p-£2.99

Edited in just photoshop. I'm so glad the flowers have started to bloom and have brought splashes of colour to the world again. :)

I have the free version of this app and the only extras I have purchased was the extra effects. This is one of my favourite photo editing apps to help define images with subtle changes to contrast, saturation or sharpening the image. I use it as a basic clear up before I put the photo into one of the other apps for filters as to be hones the filter effects on this app aren't the best and to be honest are too heavy most of the time so I rarely use them. It's another simple app to use with sliding effects to change contrast, for example, allowing subtle changes. I don't find it uses alot of my battery life as well, which some other apps I've used does. For free I think this is an app worth checking out and playing around with. 


Cost: 69p

Note: I edited both images in Afterlight and then put the images together using Instacollege. 

I've only recently downloaded this app after someone on instagram mentioned it. I've only used it once but boy am I in love! As with the other apps this is simple to use and has a beautiful range of filters for different effects. Like the photoshop app Afterlife also comes with editing to the image directly (eg contrast, exposure) so it does mean I can skip the PS stage of my editing process. The real reason this app has got me got me head over heels is the camera film effects you can add. I adore film photography and I own my own Diana F+ Mini (though I have film that desperately needs developing!), I love the grain, the textures and the feeling of nostalgia for my childhood playing with my parents film camera. I'm really looking forward to use this app more and with it's beautiful design, multitude of editing possibilites (I can't wait to use the borders) I can already tell this is 69p well spent! 

Cost: 69p plus in-app purchases from 69p. 

Say Hi to my new three little gerbils! :)

Anyone who knows much about the blogging world will know about Elsie and Emma's A Beautiful Mess blog. I've been following them for a long time now and when they announced they were releasing a photo editing app I was very exciting! Now this app was released last week and is already proving to be a hit with various bloggers and instagramers. The main reason I love this app is that it allows you to put a personal, quirky touch to your images whether this is is with a personal message or a cute border they certainly give you new options. HOWEVER, there is a pretty big grumble with this app is that depsite already paying 69p alot of the extras cost more if you want more than the basic package (and it is pretty basic). At another 69p for each extra it soon adds to a few pounds. Ok, that's still very cheap and I maybe I shouldn't be so irked but I can see it putting people off purchasing the app. Despite this I'm looking forward to, hopefully, new content being added in the future and seeing the app grow into itself. As with the others this is a simple app to use and allows easy sharing with instagram, twitter, facebook and others. 

I hope you enjoyed this post and maybe gave you an idea to try a new app. I'll give the low down if I discover anymore gems in the appstore. Would you like to see more review posts? I'll happily review books, films, music, recipes and anything really! Enter any thoughts in the comment box. :)

Sunday, 12 May 2013

She opened her eyes to see, She was the one for me

Hi! I'm back from my holiday from Devon and since being back I've already got my creative head on. A few weeks ago I found a tutorial for a simple straight line skirt and I already had bought some fabric from the NEC sewing for pleasure exhibition that I had already bookmarked for a skirt. 

The tutorial is simple to follow and it's a really simple design that is perfect for a casual day look. The elastic waist is also friendly for people like me who can be prone to bloating a bit after big meals! It's also so cute for summer days out! 

The only problems I had with this were:

  •  I measured the elastic to fit exactly to my waist but when I put it on it's really loose. Next time I'll make it an inch or two smaller so it fits more snugly and allows for my continuing weight loss aims. 
  •  Make sure you leave about two inches of the side sem free or else it's a nightmare when you thread the elastic through later! 
  •  I used a zigzag stitch on my machine but my Mum said a straight would be better, I didn't really realise until it was almost finished. 

If you'd like to have a go yourself then the tutorial by Brett Bara is here
You can also purchase her book on amazon here, I already have it on my wishlist!

Outfit Details:
Denim shirt - charity shop and diy, skirt - diy, belt - new look. 

Friday, 3 May 2013

I can see clearly now the rain is gone

Staying positive is a really hard thing to do, I think with all the media that's thrown our way it's so easy to get down and only see the negatives in life. It's hard to pull yourself out of that cycle but when you do, oh does it feel wonderful.

I started 2013 wanting to work on my positivity, I have trouble staying optimistic and little things can really get me into a seemingly endless sadness to the point of not wanting to do anything but lie in bed staring at the walls. I realised how much of life I'm just throwing away and therefore I decided I wanted to take 2013 as a new year and start finding and counting my blessings. Some days are obviously easier than others, as the classic Coldplay song goes 'No-one said it was easy, no-one ever said it would be so hard".

I want to share with you some of the little things that have helped me start embracing life as fully as I can again.

Count your blessings. 
Every few days (I don't make it a thing I have to do everyday because then it seems like a chore) I write down the things that have made me smile, laugh or made me happy. Some of these are special days spent with loved ones, other days are just being thankful that I have people who care and love me. Anything can go into this growing list, from making a really tasty sandwich to seeing the first flowers bloom in the garden. I use this book when I feel sad, it's full of little memories now that I can fall back on when things get too much. Having a written record is great for this, you could even do one on your computer if that suits you but I love seeing my handwriting and the act of writing these things out.

Get a hobby. 
In the last few months I've got back into sewing, something I hadn't done since I was a little girl, and now I have several creative projects lined up to do. Finding something you enjoy helps keep you motivated but also is a great stress or anxiety outlet. I was so overwhelmed one afternoon that I grabbed my scissors and material and ended up making a new cushion cover by the end of the evening and I felt so much better for it. I also find baking is a huge anxiety release, when things got really stressful at university I would whip up a batch of cupcakes and sometimes it helped release that stress - and gave me something yummy at the end! I personally find the hobbies that have a physical 'object' at the end of each session are the best for me. I also find working with my hands helps distract any anxiety symtoms such as hyperventilating and has also had positive effects on my neurological conditions symtoms. n days when I either feel too unwell to leave my bed I find reading is also a good outlet. I've loved reading since I knew what a book was, and my family have always referred to me as a bookworm. I find being able to drift into another reality therapeutic as a very simple hobby. Other examples could be photography (which would also help get you out the house), knitting, creative writing, playing or learning a new instrument or origami.

Try to exercise more.
So we're always hearing how good exercise is for staying healthy and increasing/maintaining fitness but guess what it has another advantage! During exercise our body releases endorphins and lifts our mood, anyone who works out regularly can testify to the exhilarated mood after a good work out. Obviously this doesn't mean you need to go forking out for gym memberships and the such, even having a walk has the same effects on the body. I personally do, almost daily, my neuro-physio excersises, a mix of yoga and tai-chi I've adapted to my health conditions and last week I started the 30 day squat challenge. I also enjoy swimming, but due to my health constraints I have to be with someone and have to be feeling well enough to do it. I know when you're really down finding the energy to do exercise cna make you feel more exhausted but doing just a little of something really has positive effects on the physical and psychological aspects of our bodies.

Meditation and breathing techniques. 
I've added this even though I find it so hard to switch my mind off, after years of trying I still can't master it! But I know it's been really helpful for others, and even slowing down our minds for five minutes can have those uplifting effects. Look online for tips on breathing techniques (which are amazing during anxiety attacks!) and meditation. From what I've heard and read it is something that takes some mastering so I still try when my mind starts making quantum leaps!

Try not to compare yourself to others. 
I for one know how difficult this is but it's integral to being positive about your life. Instead of seeing what everyone else has achieved write a list of everything you have achieved. Even the littlest things like getting through a tough period and still standing is worthy of this. We're all individuals and comparing ourselves to everyone else just makes us miserable. It's another thing that would probably help keeping a written record of to remind ones self on bad days.

These are just five suggestions but there are so many more out there. I would suggest that if a low mood or anxiety is directly affecting your daily life then it would be a good idea to speak to someone you can trust like a doctor, teacher or relative even just to chat. Sometimes we need someone who we don't know just to listen and give us a bit of a helping hand and there's no shame in that. Working towards a more positive lifestyle and attitude towards life may not be the easiest thing to do but it's worth it. I'll post any other tips and ideas to help when I can think of some more but I think these are the ones that in general have helped the most.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Two simple recipes

As I've mentioned before, since going vegetarian last June and vegan this new year I've taken a huge interest in food and what's in it. I think these days there are too many shortcuts that are full of unhealthy additives, salt and sugars that really just aren't necessary. Although I'm not a perfect advocate for healthy eating (crisps, biscuits, cake and sweets still feature in my diet!) I've been working hard at making healthier main meals that have a wide range of veggies or fruit, are tasty and challenge my growing skills as a cook. Nothing really beats the feeling of satisfaction of cooking a wholesome, healthy meal that others can enjoy. It's one of my favourite feelings, and I love the smell of food cooking or baking in kitchens, makes it seem so homely. 

I've been asked by people on instagram and tumblr to post some of my recipes and I did start once but now I have this blog I'll try and put in some of my successes more often. I probably should also start looking for some tips on taking good photos of my creations as well! I want to share today two simple recipes that I made yesterday and today for the evening meal shared with my Mum (though just me tonight cos she's out). These are great recipes for summertime and I can't wait to be introducing them more often into the weekly meal plan and also trying out some variations. 


Baked basil tofu pasta with mixed vegetables in a tomato sauce. 

This is a simply tasted summery pasta dish. I love how I was able to use the leftover veggies in the fridge and there are so many variations to this dish. You could also make it with a little chilli for the colder months. Other variations could include olives, feta cheese, spinach, chilli, various oils and different marinades. Instead of tofu you could instead have diced chicken or turkey breast. It really is a simple recipe that can suit whatever is in your fridge/cupboards. 

To serve 2. 

5 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil infused with Basil (in the UK you can get this in Sainsburys)
200g firm or extra firm tofu
2 cups Pasta (I used gluten free)
1 tin chopped tomatoes
Fresh or dried basil
1 cup mushrooms
Half cup of onions (I used spring onions this time as we had some in)
2 cloves of garlic
1 Pepper 
100g beansprouts (I had some that needed using up)
10 cherry tomatoes 

1. Either in the morning or an hour before cooking take your tofu and wrap in paper towels and then place between two plates to drain the water out for 15 minutes. Once the tofu is drained (it feels alot drier) cut into cubes and mix with whatever marinade you desire. For this version I placed the tofu in 4tbsp of the basil infused olive oil and left standing for 10 minutes (I would do this in the morning next time to allow more flavour absorption). 
2. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees centigrade or equivalent.  
3. Once oven is hot place the tofu onto a baking tray (foil is really useful to place underneath to protect your trays!) and place into the middle of the oven. The cubes take around 30-40 minutes to bake with turning them over after 20 minutes. 
4. Once the tofu is in the oven you can start chopping your veggies. I always do this in order of cooking and place them into bowls. The first bowl will have the chopped garlic cloves, mushrooms and onion in. The second bowl had the cherry tomatoes (halved) and sliced pepper. I find this just causes less stress as I'm prepared in advance. 
5. Heat the last tbsp of oil in a frying pan or wok and once hot stir fry the garlic, onion and mushrooms under a med-hot heat. Once they start to soften add the peppers, and tomatoes and continue to fry for about another 3 minutes before adding the beansprouts. 
6. Once everything is starting to brown in the pan add the chopped tomatoes and either the freshly sliced or dried basil. Turn the heat down to a simmer and allow to cook. Keep stirring now and again to prevent any sticking, if you find there is I find adding a little water helps.
7. Boil salted water in a saucepan and add your pasta when the water is boiling. Cook per instructions on packet.
8. Once your pasta is cooked, drain the water out and add directly to the vegetable mix. Mix together until the pasta is coated with the tomato sauce. 
9. Serve the pasta and vegetables, the tofu should be cooked by now so take out the oven and spoon onto the top of the mixture. 
10. Garnish with either fresh basil or watercress for a more summery look. 


Simple couscous salad with falafel. 

Middle Eastern cuisine is an oasis for vegans, there is limited meat and the only substitutions that usually need to be made is changing to soy instead of dairy ingredients. Last summer I had my first go at making a basic tabbouleh salad and I loved it so much, along with how quick and easy it is to make it's become a staple for when I fancy a lighter meal. This is also one of those times where I did cheat a little, the falafel balls in this recipe are bought frozen from Tesco's meatfree range. Making falafel does take some time and therefore isn't always time-friendly. Though if you do want to have a go at making your own there are lots of different recipes on the internet to try. Again, this is another meal with so many variations! Usually you'd have crushed garlic in with the tabbouleh but I have none at the moment and I like it with just lemon and mint. You could add different fruits for an exotic salad (raisons go really well!) and again, feta cheese, olives or any of your favourite salad ingredients can be utilised. You could also serve this with a yoghurt (soya or dairy) based dip or some houmous. This meal works great as a lunch as well as a main meal and the tabbouleh can be eaten cold and is still tasty. 

To serve 1. 

Half cup of wholewheat couscous
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp mint sauce (you can use fresh mint as well)
3 frozen falafel balls 
1 cup lettuce
1 tomato
Quarter cup cucumber
1 spring onion
2 celery sticks
1 pepper
3 baby beetroots

1. Preheat your oven to the temperature guided by the packet of falafel and bake for approx 20 minutes.
2. Mix the lemon juice, couscous and mint sauce in a saucepan and add enough boiling water to just cover the couscous. 
3. Heat the couscous over a medium heat until air bubbles appear, remove from the heat and let stand. 
4. Prepare and chop all your salad ingredients and place into a bowl. 
5. Add the tabbouleh mixture on top and then the falafel balls when they're cooked. Garnish with salad cress.  


Hope you all have fun cooking! If you'd like to see more of my meals please follow me on instagram. I'd love to know if you'd like to see more of my meals/baking feature on here and any questions pop in the comment box. 

Amy. x