5 ways on how to optimise Display Advertising campaigns for Christmas?

Rockfeller NY

It’s scary to think that its less than 124 sleeps until Christmas and less just under four months away from starting the festive season. If you haven’t already started looking at your clients display campaigns for Christmas, now is the time to start planning.

Under four months may seem like a lifetime away, but if you don’t start looking at your campaigns until the last minute, you will almost certainly find your competitors stealing all your potential business. Have you heard of the saying “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail?”

For most retailer’s Christmas is the busiest time of year, with a news article published in the Guardian revealing that “Sales on Christmas Day 2015, were up 21% from the previous year, 2014, making it the most lucrative ever for online shopping, according to data from a web services group PCA Predict.”

The article also revealed that retailing giants John Lewis, were also big winners when it comes to online advertising the retailing giants reported a 10.7% increase in revenues on 25 December 2015 compared with the previous year, with the spree happening between 2pm and 4pm, as people sat down for Christmas lunch looking for an early Boxing day bargain.

Here are 5 ways on how to optimise a display advertising campaign for Christmas:

Remarketing

Why not use Dynamic Remarketing through the Google Display network? If you have previously attracted customers with certain keywords earlier in the year or last Christmas that worked, target them again with the products your customers have been viewing. Keywords that include terms such as “iPhone”,“iPad” or “bikes” are items that always sell well during the festive season.

Optimising for mobile


Optimising your Display ad campaign for mobile

An article on eCommerce news said that  for the first time ever smartphones and tablets accounted for over half of online sales in the United Kingdom. During the period November 2015 to January this year, 51 percent of UK online retail sales took place using smartphones and tablets. This is a significant increase on the 45 percent share recorded in the third quarter of last year.With this in mind, it would be unthinkable to ignore optimising your display ad campaign for mobile by concentrating on desktop only.

Think about suitable placements?

Stop and think about where you would like to place your ads before repeating what has worked on previous campaigns.

If you are using using strong ad placements remove them and make sure you’re using managed placements so you can choose the sites that you are targeting and design your ads so that they compliment the look and feel of the site that you wish to target. There’s no point in placing your display ads on a site that is irrelevant to your customers or placing an ad on a website that looks out of place and doesn’t fit their theme. Always do your homework before optimising a display ad campaign.

 

mobile ad testing

Split test your display advertising ads

Have you considered splitting your display advertising ads in the same way as text ads? Try out different (CTAs), new offers, promotions, images and colour schemes.  Make sure that your ad rotation settings are set correctly so that you can collect equal data for A and B split testing.

Test the Display advertising campaign optimiser tool

If you are looking to put a quick display advertising campaign together, why not check out the Display Campaign Optimer tool from Google. You will need at least 15 conversions in the last 30 days and you will still need to optimise them manually by doing regular target and placement reviews.

What optimisation techniques do you use on Display Campaigns for your clients? Have you started thinking about or working on your clients Christmas campaigns yet? It would be great to hear from anyone.

How beneficial is Thrive’s Feel Stress Free Mobile App?

Feel Stress free bubble

After a fellow blogger sent me an email inviting me to try out an app, I decided to check it out and see how beneficial Thrive’s Feel Stress Free Mobile App can be.

The new Feel Stress Free app released this year, is the second mindfulness app I have tried as I was recommended Headspace by a therapist.
In a world where people are working 24/7 and with many of us constantly stuck to a computer screen, tablet or mobile phone, its important to have some time away from your emails and social media. This is why mindfulness apps that offer meditation and yoga are a great idea as they offer an escape from the stresses of modern daily life.

I suffer from a mood disorder which is why I jumped at the chance to try out this new app, when I was offered a free trial from a fellow blogger.

The app advises you to use it in a quiet and peaceful environment with headphones and no distractions . When you first log in, you will find an animated picture of a desert island, featuring a palm tree, a deck chair, a beach ball and a rocking rowing boat along with a floating robot assistant who helps advise you where to go when you log in.

stressfree

You are advised to wear headphones to give a more personal feel to the background music, where you can listen to the sound of the waves crashing on the shore, with seagulls flying overhead and pleasant calming instrumentals that creates a therapeutic atmosphere.
The app features four different interactive relaxation activities which include; meditation, breathing, deep muscle relaxation and self-hypnosis. All these techniques are designed to help you to feel stress free. Take a browse around the island before you start an activity as this will give you an idea about how the app works. Some of the exercises may not be for you, as they aren’t for everyone. Self –hypnosis takes practice and the app even tells you this before you start.

One of the benefits of seeing how beneficial Thrive’s Feel Stress Free mobile app can be is that you fit it into your busy schedule by downloading it onto your tablet or mobile phone whenever you feel like you need to escape from the madness. You can even choose how long you do a technique for, for example, the app gives you the choice of 3 minutes, 7, 10, up to 15 minutes if you feel you need to get more out of the experience.

My favourite exercise was the deep breathing , especially alongside the calming music and waves because I find this helps me in stressful situations and I had a therapist who used to teach me deep breathing exercises.

The app features an island called the Zen garden which caught my eye because it allows you to build your own calm garden where you can build sand castles and add your own water features and for those of you who are artistic you can rake patterns into the sand.There’s also a message in a bottle feature which allows you to send encouraging messages to others using the app.

I tried out the mood metre, which allows you to enter how you are feeling on a scale and recommends an activity routine in the app based on the results. We can never tell how accurate, these things are, however, I found this useful and I’m yet to try an app that has this feature built in.

Moodscale
So how beneficial is Thrive’s Feel Stress Free Mobile App?

The techniques are suitable for everyone both young and old and it doesn’t require too much physical activity which is also great for those with disabilities. Overall, it’s a nice app to try, especially when you are having a stressful day or are feeling a bit low. It won’t work if you have anything more than mild depression as it advises you to go to your GP but it works well for some short-term relief.

Be Stress Free is available to download for iOS and Android. You can download the app for free.It works on a subscription basis,which can be purchased for one month, three months or a year. For one month it will set you back £4.99, for 3 months it will cost £3.33 each month and for a year it’s £1.99 each month.

Penzance welcomed the “Man Engine”

The Man Engine

Penzance went back in time as the town welcomed the”Man Engine”and the Soap Box Derby with approximately 22,000 locals and visitors celebrating the occasion.

This “Man Engine” was made up with materials used back in the mining days along with bits of new technology to make it stand and walk like a real robot.

Over the past few weeks, the “Man Engine” (which is the UK’s largest ever mechanical puppet) has been visiting towns in Cornwall to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape being added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.

I attended the event in Penzance,on August 5th, late on Friday afternoon and was surprised to see the amount of cars parked alongside the roads, even on the back streets.

Walking through Causewayhead to get to Market Jew Street where the “Man Engine” was stationed, I noticed a buzzing atmosphere packed with locals and visitors of all ages. I have never seen the town as busy as this before, not even during the annual Golowen, Mazey Day Festival celebrations.

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I arrived in town around 4pm, but felt a bit under-dressed for the occasion as in true Cornish Heritage style, locals and visitors were dressed up as maids, miners and pirates enjoying browsing at the stalls, music, street food and dancing which went on throughout the whole town. I wish I had made the effort to dress up.

Even the back streets were packed full of activities, with the “Mine Cart” Soapbox Derby, which also took place down on Market Jew Street earlier in the day. There was something for everyone both young and old as activities were put on for the children with a Heritage Hub and a creation station.

I arrived on Market Jew Street looking for the perfect place to take some photos without having to barge through the crowds and having to take pictures of peoples heads. There wasn’t much chance of this because everyone was surging forwards and scrambling for a spot to stand towards the covered up “Man Engine “ which was situated down the bottom of Market Jew Street facing upwards.

I was a bit disappointed because even though I managed to take a few pictures, I perched myself behind a black wheelie bin on the edge of a pavement at the top of Market Jew Street. I was thinking this would be a less crowded place to stand. How wrong was I when a few uncooperative holiday makers decided to put their child on top of the bin, blocking both mine and everyone stood behind’s view.

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At 5pm, the 10 Metre plus largest mechanical puppet ever made in Britain, the “miner” was uncovered. The man puppet is a major feature of Cornish engineering and is the same height as a double decker bus when in its “crawling’ mode. The Man Engine transformed to almost three times its height when it stood up, it reminded me of my younger days when I used to watch transformers on television.
The “Man Engine” was accompanied by animated theatrical shows with music, theatre, and storytelling and was created by a team of more than a dozen miners’ and Bal-maidens who animated the giant throughout his travels.

Once the “Man Engine” was unveiled, the activities didn’t stop there as the first ever event, The Grand Man Engine Ball was hosted at the Jubilee Pool. The town’s iconic swimming pool has recently undergone a £3 million makeover.

This was an event not to be missed as locals and visitors rolled back the years and enjoyed a glimpse of the mining days alongside new technology. This celebration is a day of history, where Penzance was restored to its former busy glory and with an estimated 22,000 visitors, I doubt we will ever see the town as busy as this again, at least, not in my lifetime.

As for the man-puppet? It’s rumoured that it could be going on a tour to Mexico and South Australia. I will keep you posted on this!

10 Free SEO tools every online marketer needs

Analytics

This blog post features 10 free SEO tools every online marketer needs to be able to do their daily job efficiently and effectively.

There are so many free SEO tools out there, which make it difficult to choose the best SEO tools online marketers should use as several these do the same job.

Here are the best free SEO tools which I find useful for looking at my blog metrics:

The Google Keywords planner
The Google keywords planner, formerly the Adwords Keyword Tool, is one of the first free SEO tools that I have ever used. I was introduced to this great content tool when I started working as a Content Executive at a digital agency back in 2012. I was working on a “Windows 8 guide” for a well-known retailer. When planning my guide I was searching for popular keywords in the computing category.

Trends

Google Trends
This is another must have free SEO tool that I am used to using on a daily basis. When writing a blog post, or any content. I use Google Trends because it tells me what everyone is searching for and which topics are the most popular.

Hubspot
I have signed up to this website and I receive free daily SEO advice on how I can optimise my blog. For those of you who have never heard of or have never been to Hubspot. This tool helps online marketers create content, optimise it for search engines and share it on social media. It also helps you to create landing pages, calls to action, personalised email and a personalised website.

SEM rush
This SEO tool was mentioned in my SEO session on the advanced digital marketing course which I’m taking with Shaw Academy. I have only just used the free SEO tool and I have found it to be very informative because it gives me my blog metrics such as organic search, paid search,backlinks,display and organic keywords.

SpyFu
SpyFu is another free SEO tool that was introduced by the tutor,on my digital marketing course. This is ideal for getting competitor research without spending any money. You can even find your competitors keywords and ranking history. If you haven’t heard of this tool, it doesn’t cost anything to try it and see if it would be a useful daily tool for you.

GTmetrix
GTmetrix is one of the most important things in SEO because it examines the page speed and diagnoses opportunities for improving your website or blog. The speed of the page affects the user-experience and you are more likely to have a high bounce rate if your page speed is too slow. A Web page should ideally take one second to load to give the users the feeling that they can navigate freely. If your page speed takes over one second to load, people are more likely to get fed up with waiting and click off your website and leave your site, often going straight to your competitors if there is a specific topic that they are looking for. I’ve used this free SEO tool since 2012 and have personally found GT Metrix reliable and it gives me very good advice when looking to improve the SEO on my blog.

waybackmachine

Wayback
When I started my first role in digital marketing, as a Linking Strategist, my mentor, told me to use the Wayback Machine for seeking out client cases of missing traffic and looking for the age of the blog or website. For this reason, I recommend trying this free tool. It can also help you look back and check how a site has changed over the years.

Keywordtool.io
This spectacular free SEO tool will quickly help throw out lots of great relevant keywords based on the autocomplete feature on YouTube, App store search, Google and Bing.

Keywordtool.io will present you with a dictionary of keyword ideas containing your specific search terms, especially long-tail keywords that won’t show up in the Google AdWords keyword tool due to having very low volumes. I usually use Keywordtool.io when I need long tail keywords.

Google Analytics
Most of you who are reading this blog post will have used or be using Google Analytics on a daily basis.
This free SEO tool is the tool that I use the most because it helps me to understand visitors to my blog and it helps me to understand how my audience interacts with my site.

Screaming Frog
Screaming Frog is a free website crawler which is designed to get data on every URL on your website or blog. Guess what? It’s also free to just download so make sure you and check it out, if you aren’t already using it. This free SEO tool also features a resources section to help all newbies analyse their data.

Here are the free SEO features you can enjoy with Screaming Frog:

• Find Broken Links, Errors and Redirects
• Analyse Page Titles and Meta Data
• Review Meta Robots and Directives
• Discover Duplicate Pages
• Generate XML Sitemaps

The best way to find out which free SEO tools suits you best is to try each one of the above and look at specialist blogs such as Moz.com and SearchEngineLand for further advice.

Preparing for that first ever Skype interview

Business woman full body standing isolated on white background with copy space.

I ‘m currently preparing for that all important first ever Skype interview for a freelance role that I applied for about a month ago.

I’m slightly nervous about this because I’ve had lots of face to face interviews over the years and a few telephone interviews, but I have never had a Skype interview before, so I decided to write this blog post on how I’m going to prepare for it.

Here are some tips on how you can prepare for a Skype interview:

Dress to impress
Just because the person on the other end can only see the top half of you, doesn’t mean you can laze around in your favourite pair of tracksuit bottoms or your pyjamas. I plan to dress up, go for a smart casual look, and do my makeup as I would usually do when I go to in-house interviews. I find that if you look good, you will feel more confident when talking to the interviewer. It could be embarrassing if you have to stand up to set up or move your computer so your interviewer can see you on camera, and you are still in your favourite PJ’s, shorts or ripped jeans.

Set up the computer and clear away clutter
There’s nothing more distracting than background clutter when talking to someone. You don’t want your interviewer to get distracted by background mess. If the room that you are planning to have your Skype interview in is a mess, make sure that you tidy up. If there are lots of candidates being interviewed it could come down to something as minimal as being untidy. This might give the impression that you work in a chaotic space and that you aren’t a tidy and organised person when it comes down to doing the job you have applied for.


Make sure you are sitting in silence

Find a quiet room with no interruptions. If you have children in the house make, sure that someone is keeping an eye on them and if you live in a shared house, ask your housemates or family to make sure that you are not interrupted between the times of the call. There’s nothing worse than having to shout at the kids in the background or shouting at the interviewer , over the television, radio or a barking dog because you can’t hear them. This could be suicidal in terms of taking your application further. Switch off the television and music and make sure that your mobile is turned off or on silent.I will be keeping my mobile phone nearby and on silent just in case I get cut off.

Make sure you are prepared for getting cut off. With technology anything can happen, the electric could go off at either end or your laptop battery could go dead in the middle of that important Skype call. By keeping your mobile phone near the computer you can always call, the interviewer back by phone if anything should go wrong and they can call you back if they lose connection.

dead battery


Charge the laptop battery

Have you ever been in the middle of an important call or document and suddenly your computer cuts out and the battery goes dead? I have and it’s annoying, so I’m going to make sure that this doesn’t happen and that my laptop is charged up and ready to roll.

skype


Make sure that your Skype works

Check that your Skype account is working properly. Ask a friend or family member to Skype you before the big day. This will iron out any issues that you may have on the day. The last thing you need is to get a phone call or an email from the interviewer telling you that your Skype ID is wrong or isn’t working. This will just get you into a fluster and might annoy a busy potential employer, especially if they are short on time.


Prepare as normal and research the companies’ website and social media outlets

After setting up your machine, it’s easy to forget to do your homework .If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. DON’T FORGET to read or re-read the job description. Make sure that you understand the job role and what is required. If you are unsure, ask and ALWAYS prepare questions to ask at the end of each interview. I usually aim for around five questions.

If you need any further advice on preparing for interviews visit Prospects.

Five reasons why I signed up for a lifetime membership with Shaw Academy!

Shaw Academt

I was looking to do another degree in Computer Science with the Open Learning Academy until I signed up for a Diploma in Web Development with Shaw Academy free.

Back in April, this year I was filling in questionnaires online to see if I could win some prizes and one of the questions asked me if I would like to do a course with Shaw Academy free. At first, I have to admit I was a bit sceptical about this as they say “There is no such thing as a free lunch” or is there? It turns out that I was wrong as a few weeks later I received an email from Shaw Academy with details on the Web Development diploma.

Increase my knowledge and skills
I have a background in marketing and PR and I wanted to increase my skills in photography and design programmes such as Photoshop which is useful for my blog. Digital marketing and social media is changing all the time and there is a lot more to learn than I first realised. One of the tutors explained that although we take a course we often forget everything we have learned, especially if we are not doing the subject as part of our daily job role. As new updates become available, the courses will evolve so we will never stop learning and I know myself that refresher courses are extremely useful, especially in the areas that I work in.

The Shaw Academy Lifetime membership is a fantastic price
For just £395 you can take as many courses as you like and the great thing is you don’t have to try and cram them all in by paying a monthly fee of £29 or pay £995 for your advanced courses. You also don’t have to pay £5000 for degrees. You can learn new things in different areas and all you pay is a one off fee. The courses are set up so you can ask questions after the session and if you are too shy to share this with the group, you can email or set up a call with one of the tutors. I was impressed with the fact that a tutor contacted me via email after my first Web Development session and I emailed my tutor about a problem I was having with coding on my blog.

Success poster

Success poster

I can invite up to 3 family and friends to take courses
I’m not sure if you have any family or friends that are interested in a career change or maybe they just need a new hobby or have always wanted to learn about a certain subject but haven’t got around to it. You can register up to 3 people and they can take as little or many courses as they wish. They can also receive around the clock support from one of the Shaw Academy tutors. I have signed my parents up as my dad is retired and likes to learn about new things and have introduced my mum in case there is a course she feels might benefit her. I have also asked my five-year old niece if she would like to do the kids course in coding. She says she would like to learn but maybe when she’s a little bit older as I am now a lifetime member there is no rush.

Shaw Academy provides a range of online programmes
Shaw Academy offers something for everyone. You can study a number of diploma and advanced diploma courses, each accessible on a variety of digital devices. Options range from household budgeting to health and fitness, as well as diplomas in photography, online marketing, and advanced financial trading. I joined Shaw Academy in May for my free course in Web Development. Since then I have taken foundation Photoshop and I am taking the Advanced Diploma in Digital Marketing. I have already identified other courses that I want to take which is why I joined the lifetime membership. I was trying to rush a number of courses into a month but realised that this was impossible because some of the courses clash.
I can study at my own pace!

There are no deadlines with the Shaw Academy Lifetime membership
Unlike taking other courses where you are given a deadline to complete several assignments, there is no reason to rush. You can complete these courses and assignments as many times as you want. If you don’t feel ready for the exam once you have completed the course you can replay one of the sessions and retake the assessments as many times as you like. You can even take the same course twice if you wish. If you miss sessions you can also listen to them as they are put online usually within 24 hours of the lesson. If you work full time and you fall behind this is the ideal way to learn.

If you would like to know more about the courses that Shaw Academy offer or the Shaw Academy Lifetime membership click here for more information email support@shawacademy.com or call + 44 207 022 6483.

An evening at the Eden Project with the Manic Street Preachers

The Manic Street Preachers

I can’t believe it’s been 21- years since the Manic Street Preachers lyricist and guitarist Richey Edwards went missing and the band’s future looked uncertain.

However, in 1993 the band reformed as a three piece and the fans were lucky enough to join the band celebrate its 20th anniversary, as they did with fan favourite The Holy Bible in 2014, the Preachers have been touring ‘Everything Must Go’ around the UK and Europe this year.
I have been waiting to see the Manic Street Preachers since the 1990s and what better place to watch them play than in the tropical surroundings of the lit up biomes at the Eden Project.

When the tickets went on sale, I waited for the countdown and booked two tickets for my mum and me. My mum hadn’t even heard the Manic Street Preachers music but thought it would be good to see the band that was playing in Cornwall for the first time ever.
We arrived around 4pm and headed to the café for a drink and a piece of cake before a quick browse around the shop for a quick look and through the admissions gate to collect our bright yellow wristbands. I wanted to buy myself a Manic Street Preacher T-shirt, but I was disappointed with the lack of merchandise available and the prices so I purchased my T-shirt and double “Everything Must Go” CD online for £32 instead of paying £25 just for a T-shirt.

Unfortunately, the half an hour wait in the queue to go into the arena felt like eternity, especially when the light misty drizzle started and began to get heavier, I had to reach for my new rain mac from Fat Face. When we were finally allowed into the arena, I managed to stand just two rows from the front of the stage, which was exciting because I have never been that close before. We had to wait another half an hour for the first support band to come on at 6.40pm.

The Anchoress
I had never heard of this band before so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from them. The band is lead by Welsh multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and author Catherine Anne Davies alongside her Violinist, drummer, bass player, and cello player she played on the keyboards. The crowd appeared to be quite impressed with her music until she turned political. The singer-songwriter made a comment about Nigel Farage and UKIP, and dedicated the song “PS Fuck You.” The audience didn’t appear to be impressed by this.

The Bill Ryder-Jones Band
This is the first time I had ever listened to this band and I have to say these guys are brilliant, it’s not just their music I loved, but also their humour, energy, and they really looked like they were enjoying the occasion and interacting with the audience. Their leader Bill Ryder-Jones was the lead guitarist with The Coral, and English rock band formed in 1996. Bill Ryder-Jones played on the band’s first five albums. In 2005, he briefly stopped touring with the band due to a stress-related illness.

The singer-songwriter, musician, composer, and record producer is a real talent and a cool guy who has recorded solo albums as well as collaborated with Blur’s Graham Coxon and Paloma Faith. I sent a message on twitter to say what an excellent show they put on and he even had the courtesy to like the tweet from his personal account. Not many celebrities tweet you back from their own account. In fact, only one celebrity springs to mind, Nicola from Emmerdale who I interviewed at Inside Soap Magazine back in 2004.

The Manic Street Preachers

I was almost shaking with excitement as I watched and took pictures of the band’s equipment being set up. They had some great looking and sounding Fender and Gibson guitars on the rack, which I would relish the chance to play.

Fresh from their Welsh football celebrations in Cardiff the previous night the band didn’t disappoint as they came on stage and kicked off with “Motorcycle Emptiness.” My favourite Manics song is “Australia” this one really got the audience jumping. It’s a special song for me because it reminds me of the time I spent 3 weeks in Australia back in 2006.

“Little Baby Nothing” saw The Anchoress’s lead singer, Catherine Anne Davies return to the stage for a duet with James in a role that has previously been occupied by Traci Lords, Kylie Minogue among others.

As the rain continued to fall, James spoke to the audience and played “Raindrops are falling on my head” with a guest trumpet player. Nicky, the bands bass player paid tribute to former band member Richey Edwards, “This song is dedicated to Richey Edwards, who is with us every time we play on stage, and the group played their 1991 hit “You love us.” This song was the last song the band played live with Richey before he went missing.
“A design for life” ended the show after an hour and a half of playing their greatest hits.

I would definitely go and see the Manic Street Preachers play again, even my mum enjoyed the music, she also loved “The Bill Ryman-Jones band.”

How technology and music helps with mental health issues

Businessman with tech devices computer phone and tablet in his hand

Research suggests that one in four of us will suffer from mental health issues at some stage in life. With today’s busy lifestyles and media expectations on how we should be and what we should have when we reach a certain age in our life.Everything can become too much for some of us and we can end up in situations where we find ourselves alone with little or no support.

I’m close to someone who possibly has bipolar 2 but due to the lack of help and support from health professionals, doctors and the mental health team in their area this person is unable to get the correct medication and diagnosis she craves. Due to not being able to get diagnosed , she is also unable to receive the right medication which means she has to live on her medication which doesn’t work well and they are unable to function as well as they would like to.

This is how technology has helped her try and put her life back together after years of suffering, losing friends, several jobs, and recently getting in trouble with the law.

music-headphones-and-ipod-hd-wallpaper

iPod
Almost everyone owns one of these and if you don’t then they aren’t expensive to buy you can purchase them from retailers like Argos, Curry’s or Tesco Extra stores from as little as £40. IPods are light and portable and will easily fit in your pocket or you can clip them to your clothing whilst out and about. Listening to music can help relax you when you are feeling low, stressed out, or can help slow you down when your mind is ticking 100 miles per hour and you need to slow down and chill out.

Wireless Headphones
Grab yourself a pair of wireless headphones alongside your iPod and go for a stroll, a run or just sit in the garden and listen to your favourite tracks. This can help you unwind after a stressful day or if you are feeling a bit low. I picked up a pair of Philips wireless headphones in the Argos Black Friday sale last year for under £30. These are perfect for listening to my iPod and going for walks by the seaside and a lot easier than having wires dangling down, getting caught in clothing and on the way.

Playing a musical instrument or learning to play
I have played instruments since I first started primary school. My parents brought me my first guitar for my 4th birthday and by the time I was 6 years old I had taught myself to play a few tunes on the piano. When I was 11 years old, I got my first electric guitar for Christmas and when I was fifteen, I traded in that guitar for a Fender Stratocaster. I started out playing grunge and Nirvana songs until more recently. I have started to play more acoustic songs from the 1950s like Buddy Holly, Eddie Cochran, Elvis Presley, and Johnny Cash. These guys are legends and made a huge impact on music during the 1950s, creating the Rock N Roll years. If you aren’t keen on playing a guitar or keyboard, you can always try a wind instrument. I played the recorder throughout primary school and would like to try the harmonica. A number of great musicians such as John Lennon, Bob Dylan, and Brian Jones were famous for playing the harmonica.

Mood apps
I have recently discovered mood apps, after a recommendation from a friend whose therapist suggested that she tried it. I tried Headspace, which allows you to download 10 free 10 minute sessions onto your laptop, tablet, and mobile phone. You will be surprised how calming this can be as I downloaded the app onto my laptop and I do this for 10 minutes in the morning on a daily basis. There are other apps you can try which are free to download.

Blogging or writing about your experiences
Many bloggers and writers who I have spoken to, agree that they feel happiest when they are writing about the things we love on our blogs. As a songwriter, I also find comfort in writing about my experiences, good and bad. Keeping a diary of thoughts and feelings can be another release of letting it all out as recommended by many therapists. You can open up a free blogger account if you don’t feel confident with sharing your experiences or you can purchase a domain name and host for a small fee. I used to write about my experiences on e-blogger and WordPress.com. I am now hosting my blog on e-host which costs me less than £150 for 3 years.

Purchase a camera and take photos
I have recently purchased a digital Pentax K50 just in time to capture those summer memories. I am hoping to get as many pictures as I can and create a portfolio. I can’t wait to get started! Taking pictures can be therapeutic and you can have lots of fun capturing those unforgettable moments you spend with family and friends or just capturing and freezing that sunrise or sunset.

iphone 5s

A decent mobile phone
If you can’t afford to buy an iPod or a camera, make sure you have a decent android or apple mobile phone. I am happy with my iPhone 5S because I can take photos at concerts which don’t allow me to take DSLR cameras in and I can still download and listen to music when my iPod has run out of charge or if I forget to bring it with me and I want to chill out and listen to music. I also download iBook previews on books that I’m looking to buy and I keep up to date. I also use my iPhone to keep track of my social media accounts and Fitbit account.

Dumb Phone

Dumb Phone

The latest mobile phone trend has seen a rise in Dumb Phones used by many celebrities. Many smart phone users are now ditching their phones for basic phones which make calls and send text messages. The most popular dumb phone is called “The Punkt” which can be purchased for £229.
Some can play music, or access the internet, but according to The Financial Times, there’s still a demand for them (though it’s vastly outweighed by demand for current capabilities).

iBooks
Since buying my iPhone 5S I have started to download books. Sometimes finding a quiet corner and taking yourself away from the hustle and bustle of your daily routine can help make you feel calm. Whatever your hobbies are, there are always plenty of iBooks you can purchase or if you have an Android phone, there are books that you can download for a small price, or you preview some free. The best thing about being able to read books on your phone is the fact that you don’t have to carry books around when you are on holiday or on a lunch break at work. Books are heavy to carry around.

One of my future posts will feature songs to listen for those of you who have a mood disorder or you know someone who has one.
If you are feeling depressed or you know someone who either suffers from depression of another disorder and you need to talk to someone here are some websites you can visit with details on how you can contact them.

http://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/helplines or phone 0300 125 3393
https://www.bipolaruk.org or phone 0333 323 3880
http://www.sane.org.uk 0300 304 7000 open 6pm – 11pm daily
https://www.rethink.org/about-us/our-mental-health-advice Call 0300 5000 927 Monday to Friday, 9:30am – 4pm

How owning a Fitbit Flex has benefited me

Fitbit-black-friday

I purchased a Fitbit Flex two years ago after becoming a fitness fanatic and a huge fan of Sean Ts Insanity workout and Hip Hop Abs.
After months of research and looking at different reviews for top sports brands such as Nike, Samsung gear and the Jawbone.

I decided to take a plunge into the unknown and go for the Fitbit Flex because they have better reviews. After browsing through websites for the best deal on this product, I found the cheapest Fitbit Flex on the “I WOOT”website for just £55.What a bargain!

The Fitbit came with a battery device, two Flex, bands; a large band and a small band,a USB device so you can upload the Fitbit interface to your computer and the biggest surprise was the gift that was thrown in with my new Flex, the small bottle of iced cold tea.

Fitbit Flex

Fitbit Flex

Here are five ways owning a Fitbit Flex has benefited me:

1: Wake with the vibrating alarm
This alarm is great if you find the radio or a bleep too annoying because this vibrates to wake you. This means you will be woken up without smashing up an alarm clock for being too loud. The Fitbit flex is also a great choice for those who wish to get up in the morning without having to bother anyone else in the room. I haven’t overslept once since setting my alarm.

2: This fitness band counts my daily calorie intake
One of the greatest things about this fitness gadget is the fact that I type into my mobile phone each I item of food or drink, I consume each day and it will roughly work out the amount of calories I am eating and how many calories I have left. You will be surprised how many calories one meal can take up of your daily recommended allowance.

Research suggests that women wanting to lose weight should aim to for a 300 calorie breakfast, a 400 calorie lunch, and a 500 calorie dinner – with 300 calories left from a 1,500 calories-a-day diet to use for snacks. I’m trying to lose weight so I can tell which foods and drinks have the most calories in and what I should avoid. For example, if I go over my daily calorie intake I will swap a beverage or food for a glass of water. Water not only fills you up, but it also speeds up your metabolism.

3: Fitbit Flex Counts my calories I have burnt
FitBit is ideal for counting the calories that I have burnt. The number of calories you need each day can vary depending on your age, activity levels and life-stage, but for women it is normally taken to be around 2,000 calories (kcals) a day. I try to aim for losing at least 2000 calories a day. Any less and I have to make sure that I lose more calories the next day. It sounds easy, but it’s actually not as easy as it looks, you will be surprised how many steps it takes to lose just 1 calorie.

4: I get sent a weekly fitness report
I receive weekly fitness reports both on my phone and to my email address.This is an advantage because I find it interesting to track the amount of steps and calories that I have lost each week and it motivates me to try and aim for more steps and to lose more calories than the previous week. To help spice things up there is a section on the Fitbit app that allows you to take part in challenges such as competing with family members and friends to see who can do the most steps in 24 hours or over the weekend.

Fitbit report

Weekly Fitbit report.

5: This Fitbit Flex helps track my sleep pattern
Make sure you wear the device to bed because it tracks the amount of hours you sleep, as well as the number of times you aren’t in a deep sleep. Don’t forget to set the alarm on your phone or on your computer. Just download the Fitbit app or put the USB interface into your PC or Mac. Now you will never have an excuse for being late for work!This is a particular advantage to me because I suffer from bipolar mood symptoms, which is why it’s important that I get enough sleep to help stabilise my moods and keep me healthy.

I’m due a new Fitbit band, so I’m going to order one off the official website. Beware of the fake bands sold on certain websites, although you might save a few pennies in the long run you will end up paying more because if the reviews are anything to go by. The fake bands aren’t as strong as the real Fitbit bands.

Fitbit Flex wristbands

Fitbit Flex wristbands

Bands I would like to see “Wish list”

Glastonbury Crowds

As I type this post from a damp and misty Cornwall, thousands of people are packing up their cars and heading to Glastonbury, I can’t help feeling a little envious of the people who will be watching one of my favourite bands, Muse who are headlining on Friday evening.

The Devon rockers are one of my favourite bands who are also on my “Bands I would like to see wish list”. I have never been to Glastonbury before and as much as I would love to join festival-goers in the muddy, wet fields and experience the lack of washing facilities, being soaked in beer and singing and dancing until dawn, I always get put off attending the five-day event at Worthy Farm in Somerset because of the monstrous traffic jams and queuing. Like many others, I’m not very patient when I have to sit and wait or stand still for hours.

Traffic jam

Queuing to get to Glastonbury.

As a music fan, you will be surprised to hear that the only outdoor music event, I have ever been to was at Milton Keynes back in 2014 when I watched Pearl Jam put on a perfect show.

One of the disadvantages about growing up in Cornwall means that it’s not that easy top watch live concerts and festivals as big bands rarely come down this far. This is up until recent years, Now the Eden Project has now made it possible for people like me to see good bands without the hassle and expense of travelling to London, Bristol, or Cardiff.

After watching Pearl Jam in 2014 and the Corrs in Cardiff earlier this year, there are still some popular bands on my wish list that I would love to see.

Next month I will be heading to the Eden Project in Cornwall to watch another one of my favourite bands play. The Manic Street Preachers are coming to Cornwall and I’m really looking forward to as I have been feeling a little nostalgic recently and what better way to cure this than by watching one of the best British 90s bands on your home turf. Growing up in the late 80s and early 90s was a time when bands such as Nirvana ,Blur, Alice in Chains, Green Day, Pearl Jam and other indie/grunge bands made guitar bands cool again after they faded out in the 70s.

Here are some bands that I would like to see next:

Foo Fighters
I was supposed to be seeing the Foo Fighters last June until lead singer; Dave Grohl broke his leg when falling from the stage in Sweden.
The former Nirvana drummer fell and broke his leg during the second song of the set in Gothenburg, but in the true spirit, he surprised his fans by returning to the stage to play the rest of the show with his leg in bandages.

Unfortunately, for Glastonbury goers looking forward to Foo Fighters headlining the festival and Wembley dates booked for the following week, Dave was advised by his doctors to stop touring and to cancel all UK dates scheduled for the rest of the month. The band was back in the UK in September to play at a concert in Scotland,but sadly, I couldn’t make this and Wembley is a bit of a trek from Cornwall, let alone going all the way up to Scotland. I’m not quite sure when the Foo Fighters will be back in the UK again, when they do, I will be one of the first sitting at the computer impatiently waiting to book those tickets, second time around. Hopefully, I will be lucky next time!

Blur
I’ve been a huge fan of this band since the 90s Smash Hits battle of the British bands, Blur Vs Oasis. For some reason I’ve always supported Blur because I found the Gallagher brothers a bit big headed. I think that Blur’s lead singer, Damon Albarn wrote more catchy tunes than the Northern brothers who were always arguing or comparing themselves to the Beatles. As a teenager and during early adulthood and even to this day I can still see myself bopping along to “Song 2” and “Coffee and TV.”

Muse
I love this group! The 2016 Glastonbury headliners have been touring the UK this year, sadly, I haven’t yet been to them because London is a 5 hour journey from my door and I have already seen the Corrs in Cardiff earlier this year. I’ve started listening to them a lot over the past two years because my brother-in-law downloaded two of their albums; Absolution and the 2nd Law. Ever since then I haven’t stopped playing them on my ipod. Next time they tour, which will probably be in 2018, I will definitely be booking VIP tickets to see the group.

Fleetwood Mac
I’ve been a big fan of this group since the 1980s. Stevie Nicks is one of the most creative and inspiring female lead performers and songwriters to this day. Alongside her writing partner and guitarist Lindsey Buckingham, who plays awesome riffs on the guitar, which I am still learning to play. Mick Fleetwood, the only original band member remaining has to be one of the best drummers in the world, which is the perfect excuse for me and other music fans to spend big on tickets and transport to attend one of their concerts. Had I not booked tickets to see the Foo Fighters last year I would have gone to see the group. I’m not sure when they will come back to Britain again, although I did consider attending one of their US tour dates. It shouldn’t be too long before I can finally tick this off the “Bands I would like to see wish list.

Nickelback
This group has taken a lot of stick from the media; however, I like a lot of their music. My favourite song of theirs is “This is how you remind me.” My parents once bought one of their albums when they were shopping in Aldershot a few years ago and we listened to their CD on the way back to Cornwall. The group is touring the UK in October, so I will have to see if the dates are convenient for me.

Green Day
I’ve recently learnt to play some of my Green Day favourites on the guitar having listened to their CD’s growing up. Although they don’t have any tour dates confirmed right this minute, if the rumours of a new album coming out later this year are true, I have a sneaking suspicion it won’t be too long before the trio start announcing tour dates in the UK.

The Rolling Stones
It’s amazing these guys are still rocking into their seventies and sounding great. Maybe not as great as the days when the late, great Brian Jones founded the band but definitely still worth seeing. My parents grew up listening to this band and I grew up listening to them and learning how to play “Paint it black “and “Satisfaction” on my nylon string acoustic guitar which was my fourth birthday present from my mum and dad. I would love to see this band play. I’m not sure if they will ever play again in the UK but if they do, this will have to be another “Must see” concert as a VIP.

Pearl Jam AGAIN!
Eddie Vetter is fantastic on the guitar, his voice is pitched perfectly, and he is great with the crowd. This group, for me, is one of the best bands in the world. Alongside Nirvana, Alice in Chains and Soundgarden I grew up listening to this style of music and on July 11th, 2014, I finally got to see them at my first ever real live concert. Previously I had attended Radio 1 road show concerts in St Ives and seen the likes of Natalie Imbrulia, Kavana and Bille Piper,but never had I seen a famous band live in the flesh.

At the concert in Milton Keynes fans were treated to 3 whole hours with Pearl Jam as well as guests like Simon Townsend, the brother of The Who’s Pete, who joined Eddie to play acoustic guitar to ‘I’m The Answer’, Simon’s own tune. Dhani Harrison, George’s son, came on stage to help cover The Beatles’s ‘Rain’. Without a single drop of rain in sight, as the sun went down the band finished the show and the second encore with ‘Rockin’ In the Free World’ by Neil Young, featuring members of off! Drummer, Matt Cameron’s son Ray also joined the band on the guitar at the finale. Any band would be lucky enough to come anywhere close to this concert and I’m already looking forward to seeing them again! Here’s to the next time Pearl Jam!

Eddie Vedder at Milton Keynes

Eddie Vedder at Milton Keynes