Saturday 31 October 2015

Halloween - The Paranormal Tag

Happy Halloween everyone, for a special spooky post today I thought I would do The Paranormal Tag.  I've been really wanting to do this tag for a really long time so I thought of course, what better time to do it than for Halloween :-)

1. How old were you when you had your first paranormal experience?I think I was about 17, there used to be a phone box in the downstairs hallway of the boarding house I lived in.  The door was like a stable door, no top and no bottom about a foot from the ground.  I was sat on the floor in there chatting on the phone, when I saw a dark grey see-through shape of someone walking past the phone box.  I stood up straight away and looked out to see who it was, but no one was there!

2. Have you always believed in ghosts?
Yes pretty much, I've seen too many things and had too many weird experiences not to!  But I am quite sceptical, I need good hard proof before I'm convinced.

3. Where are your favourite places to investigate?
I don't do this anymore, but years ago a few of my friends and I used to go to several places and take photos and sound recordings, it was great fun!  Graveyards are of course always good, there used to be a place near my school called the Old Priory which we often used to go to, that was even feature on a paranormal tv show once!  There's absolutely loads of great places here in Wales too, like Chirk castle, that has quite the reputation and a lot of creepy stories.  I took this photo in the dungeons, it was extremely creepy and I would not like to be left down there alone!! :-(

4. What are your favourite investigating tools to use?
A camera has to be the main one, you never know what spooky spirit might photo bomb your pictures!  I think voice recording is great too, to pick up any ghostly sounds.

5. What was your scariest paranormal experience?
It would have to be one night about 3 or 4 years ago, I can remember it really clearly yet it feels unreal that I saw what I did.
I was on my own in the house, I went to turn off the light in the dining room and I thought I heard a noise in the hallway, where the lights were also off.  I looked through the glass door and I noticed I'd left the landing light on which was glowing down the stairs.  Suddenly I saw a tall black figure stood in the hallway, it moved away from me towards the front door, turned around the banister at the bottom of the stairs and then walked halfway up the stairs then disappeared!  Lets just say I wasn't too keen to go up to bed that night!!

6 What is your favourite paranormal experience?
I don't really know if I have a favourite as such, even though the one I just described was pretty creepy, that was probably one of the best because it was so real, it just couldn't have been anything other than a ghost of some kind!

7. Do you know anyone else personally who has had paranormal experiences?
Yep quite a few, they have lots of stories too.

8. Do you have trouble convincing friends and family about your experiences?
Not really, most of them have had their own!

9. Favourite paranormal TV show or movie?
Oh wow, we could be here all day if I write down all of them for this answer! :-)  I love horror films, I'm a total horror buff, so there's not really many I haven't seen, although a good horror film is hard to find, there's a lot of rubbish ones out there, Mama is still one of my favourites and the original Poltergeist.

As for TV shows, I wouldn't be me if I didn't straight away shout out The X Files, those of you that know me will be nodding like crazy now lol, I grew up watching it I was totally obsessed, I even got nicknamed Scully at school.
Basically if it's spooky I'll watch it; Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Ghost Whisperer, Roswell High, Walking Dead, Afterlife, Dr Who, Bedlam, Sea of Souls, Paranormal Investigators, Strange but True, Most Haunted (+ a load of the other general ghostly/haunted programmes).  I think one of the only popular ones I haven't watched is The Vampire Diaries, I still really want to see that.  I think the very first paranormal show I ever watched was Randall and Hopkirk, I used to love that when I was a kid, ooh and The Twilight Zone that was amazing :-)

10. What would be your dream place to investigate?
There's a few places but I think one of the best would be an old house called Plas Teg here in Wales.  It's supposed to be extremely haunted and the old lady that owns it does overnight tours, which I think would be a really cool thing to do.

11. Do you prefer to investigate alone or in a group?
I think (fear aside), being in a group would be a lot better.  I mean the least little noise or cold chill and your mind will be playing tricks, but if you're in a group then others can verify what's going on or at least you can all be scared together!  Personally there's no way I could go alone, far too creepy!

12. Is your home haunted?
Yes I definitely feel it is, myself and my family have all experienced weird things at different times over many years, definitely some strange stuff going on here!!

13. Have you ever had any paranormal experiences with animals?
Yes.  One time, one of my little poodles suddenly started backing at the corner of the room for no reason, it was very out of character.  Another time one of my other poodles was having a drink of water from the bowl on the floor, suddenly turned and started growling at something but there was nothing there!  Myself and other people in my family have also thought we've seen a little dog, like a little while ago I was in the kitchen and both our poodles were in another room, yet I'm positive I saw a small light coloured dog go past me, I went to check straight away and they were both asleep in bed!

I hope you liked this post and it made you feel very creeped out and ready for Halloween :-)  Please leave comments and let me know if you've had any paranormal experiences and what happened, I'd love to hear your stories!
Until Next Time Stay Spooky and have an amazing Halloween 

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Wednesday 28 October 2015

Halloween Creepy Cupcakes

Hi everyone, to continue on with my spooky Halloween themed posts this week, today I'm showing you how to bake these really easy Halloween themed creepy cupcakes :-)

In just over a weeks time, my friends and I are having a late Halloween party so I thought I would make some cute little scary cupcakes to go with all the rest of the decorations we bought the other day (we went a little Halloween crazy in Poundland and got a huge bag full :-)  So excited, can't wait!)

So, on with the cakes

To start off with, this recipe makes 12 cakes.  I've listed everything you need for the main cakes and the amounts on this recipe page, just click on it to see it bigger.

To start off with mix the butter and sugar together, you can either do this in a bowl with a spoon or in a food processor, like I've done here.

Next take 2 eggs (free range of course), crack them into a clean bowl and lightly whisk with a fork and pour in to the rest of the mixture and stir again (making sure there's no bits of egg shell dropped in with them).

Next measure out the flour, salt and baking powder and stir it all in together.  Easy!

Your finished mixture should now look like this pic below!  Now is also the time to add in any other tasty bits like chocolate chunks, fruit, chopped nuts etc.

Add your cute Halloween cupcake cases to a cupcake tray.  These ones were from Asda for £1 and they came with the little spider cake toppers you can see dotted around the photos.

Next spoon in the mixture.  I used a 5cm ice cream scoop with a sweeper, I only got this last week and wow I love it, it makes it so much easier and it's just the perfect size for cupcakes and cookie mixtures :-)

Cook the cupcakes for 18-20 minutes, turning the tray around halfway through.  Keep a check on them to make sure they don't over-cook and when they're done, lightly prod the tops, if they spring back then they're cooked.

I decided it would look quite cool to fill some of the cupcakes with strawberry jam, of course to look like blood!  So I spooned some jam in to an icing bag (very messy job) and using a 'Tube' piping nozzle, I pushed the nozzle into the centre of each cake and gently squeezed the jam inside until it started to show on top.

Very tasty! :-)

Next it's time to add icing to the cakes, once the cakes are cooled.  I chose to do some with white icing and some with chocolate, you could do whichever you like depending on the design.

For the plain white icing, you will need 115g of icing sugar, gradually add tablespoons of warm water and stir in well.  For the chocolate icing, use around 50g of icing sugar and about 20g of cocoa powder, (you can adjust this as you go), again add the water gradually.  And if you run out of icing halfway through, just make up some more.

You should then end up with a smooth mixture, that will drop off the spoon slowly but not drip off!  I then applied a teaspoon sized dollop on to a cupcake, and with a butter knife (or palette knife), just smoothed it over the top of the cake turning it around slowly to get a nice smooth finish.  Honestly it's easier than it sounds!

Now for the fun part, decorating the cakes :-)  I searched for ages through pinterest to gather ideas for decorating my cupcakes.   Ideally I wanted to make coloured icing, orange, purple, black maybe, but the only food colouring products I could find in my local supermarkets were full of E-numbers and I didn't fancy putting all those nasty additives on my cakes, so I opted for sticking with white and chocolate icing and some creative patterns instead.

Along with white chocolate buttons, I also used this 4-pack of chocolate decorations from Tesco, these were £2.10 and you get white and chocolate drops, chocolate flakes and sprinkles.

If you're planning to do these designs, I will give you one very important tip, you'll need a pair of tweezers and a heck of lot of patients!
To make the spiders, I used the chocolate drops and the sprinkles for legs, I also used these for the large spider too.  They also came in very handy to make the 'Jack' face, I think they look quite effective for the stitching on his mouth, I used a small dollop of chocolate icing for his eyes but you could also use small chocolate buttons or smarties too.
For the mummy cakes, I covered 2 of the cakes with chocolate icing, added 2 white chocolate buttons for the eyes and a small chocolate drop stuck to each button with a little smear of icing sugar to help it stick.  I then used a 'ribbon' piping nozzle to add strips of white icing over the cake.  The spiderwebs were probably the easiest to make, again I covered 2 cakes in chocolate icing, then I added 3 thin circles of white icing on the top, using a cocktail stick I just lightly dragged it through the icing from the centre to the outer edge, I did this all around the cake, about 4 or 5 times in all to get the pattern, I then added the Asda spider toppers to finished them off.
And finally, for the wound cakes, I topped them with white icing then made a cut with a knife in the centre over the jam inside so that it oozed out a bit.  I then added a bit more jam across the cut just to make it look more 'bloody'!

It does take quite a while to decorate these cakes, so make sure you allow plently of time to do it and get as creative as you can, there's loads of ideas online and they're all pretty easy and great fun to do.

As always I hope you like this post and I hope it inspired you to make your own Halloween cupcakes this year.  I pre-made mine as I knew I wanted to write this post and also so that I had them ready in plenty of time before our party, so they are now sitting happily in airtight sandwich boxes in the freezer until they're needed.  You can freeze cupcakes for up to 2 months as long as they are carefully stored so that they can't get accidently squished, because after all that hard work that would be pretty crappy!

I'm uploading another post especially for Halloween on Saturday,  so keep a look out for that and until then, I hope you all have a very fun and spooky Halloween :-D
Until Next Time Stay Happy

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Sunday 25 October 2015

A Spooky Short Story

Hi everyone, Halloween is just around the corner and so I've decided to do a few extra posts over the next couple of weeks. Look out for some devilishly delicious treats on Wednesday's post and a very creepy tag post on the 31st.

With it being my most absolutely favourite time of year this coming weekend, I thought I would kick off the spooky celebrations with a scary short story I wrote a few years ago, I hope you like it :-)
Until Next Time Stay Happy

The Watermill by Dani Martin

As Joanna walked into the old watermill, she could hear the giant wheel creaking in a dimly lit corner of the room.  Water trickled silently over the wooden slats into a small stream that ran past a creepy old graveyard and into a small lake nearby.
She often came here just to sit and think, although this night, she hadn’t planned for what was in store!

Suddenly, as she sat there quietly watching the old wheel turn, a soft, grey cloudy mist seemed to gather itself in the room.  Gradually, it became thicker and thicker and now, pulling itself into one small corner of the room, the mist came together forming the shape of a dark figure.  As the shape became clearer, she saw what looked like a man but hideously disfigured and he looked as though he was shouting.  Joanna jumped back, terrified.
“Get out of here!” the spirit shouted at her in a chilling, echoey voice.  She had never seen anything like this before and she hadn’t a clue what to do next.

“Who are you?” she managed to ask in a small, frightened whisper.
“GET OUT!!” he shouted again but much louder this time and with more force!  But then something even more scary happened, he suddenly started to move towards her.  His bony arms out stretched, getting closer and closer.  Joanna tried to scream but no sound could be heard.  She dropped down into the corner of the room, back turned toward the creature.  She froze as a brittle looking hand grasped her shoulder in an icy embrace.  She was terrified but still unable to scream.

Then, the feeling of fear seemed to gradually drift away, she felt warm and still.  She turned and looked up, an old man stood above her, with a gentle smile on his face.

“You’ll be safe now, with me.”  He said.  Slowly they both slipped away into a soft glowing mist and crept silently into the darkness, never to be seen again!

Watermill by ankorc on Deviantart

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Thursday 22 October 2015

Amazing Photo Editing Apps

Hi everyone, one of my favourite types of posts to read are about peoples favourite photo editing apps or the popular 'How I Edit My Instagram Photos'!  I love looking at people's different photo styles and it always helps me find new apps to use.  I can happily sit there for hours editing photos using all the different effects, stickers and filter etc before I upload to Instagram, although is anyone who doesn't use VSCOCam!  So after quite a long while of downloading a huge amount of apps (feel sorry for my poor phone memory), and trying out every possible option on each of them, I feel I have now narrowed it down to all the ones that I love to use and what I think are the best editing apps around.

I love using these types of apps, I look for a good lot of features and I want ones that are going to do a bit of everything.  These ones that I've chosen to talk about are ones that I use all the time, I love the features and effects you can get with them and I'm still constantly finding new things that they all do.  Obviously if they are free then all the better but I have paid out for some too and I've bought several of the extra 'in-app' purchases.  If you fancy checking out my Instagram feed to have a look at the type of photos I upload, you can do that here :-)

Just as a side note, I have all of these from Google Play for Android but I have also added if they're available on iTunes too!

I've used a couple of sample photos to show you some of the effects I love to use, one is of my gorgeous poodles (you may have seen them once or twice before), they're looking rather fluffy here as this was taken just before going to the 'Poodle Parlour' and the other is just a pretty patch of pink flowers I found on Google.

To start with my first port of call is always Afterlight (59p on Play, free on iTunes)

I really like this one mainly for cropping and doing the general brightness/contrast/saturation etc.  I don't feel I've really seen the full potential of this app yet but I'm working my way through all the various actions, so I'm excited to see what else this app can do.

Next I always go straight to Pixlr (free on Play and iTunes) which is probably my most favourite app of all and is truly amazing for being a free app!  I love this one as it's so easy to use and is a generally good all-rounder.  I have just found out they also do a pc version on this app, as well as a really great photo editing software to use online, which is also free and is very similar to the old-style Photoshop, very handy!

You can adjust all the usual brightness/contrast etc, but also it gives you a whole host of other lovely things like filters, stickers, overlays, frames, edges and some really cool grunge inked edge borders.

You can type your own text, change the fonts to loads of different styles, change the colour of the text, there's just so much you can do.

My favourite effects that I use the most are the white ripped edge frames and the glitter overlay, I love that you can fade the overlays as well as change the orientation of them.  It's just so versatile.

A Beautiful Mess (£1.60 on Play, 79p on iTunes) is one of my newest apps but already it's become one of my favourites (love the icon too).  It's actually designed by two lovely bloggers that go by the name 'A Beautiful Mess' and you can read about how they came up with the app here.

I use it mainly for the stickers and word art, I just love the font!  Again you can alter the colour, size and orientation of all of them too.  But I also love the filters on it too, there's only 5 at the moment, yea I know not many but I do really like them as I think they cover all the general looks.  I'm not really one for filters but I do like these a lot.

Again this app has several other features but I'm yet to figure these out but so far I'm loving it. The only down side is that even though you can download a lot of extra stickers and frames etc, each pack costs 61p, but I would say most of them are worth having so it's difficult not to spend out!

Photo Studio PRO (basic is free/PRO is £3.20 on Play, £1.49 on iTunes).

This was one that I got ages ago but it just didn't do anything for me, I found it hard to use and suss out all the various actions and I almost got rid.  But then one day I looked through it again and decided to go back to Google Play and purchase the whole package.

I'm so glad I did because it made a huge difference, with the free package you could only use certain features but not only that, if you used a non-free action and tried to save your finished image, it would then tell you it wasn't free and try and make you pay, so annoying!

Having the full package means you have access to a whole lot more options and features than with the free version (of course).  There's a ridiculous amount of filters, frames, stickers and all the usual bits as well as a really great section where you can write your own text, change the font, colour, size etc but you can also add a background behind the text and you can even do patterned text!!

By the looks of it I think the iTunes version might be a little different and so I don't know what features you would get with that one, sorry!

Insta Bokeh (free on Play, also free on iTunes but different version)

This is such a cute app to use, it gives you 4 options 'Text' to write your own words and then 3 different options of the type of bokeh filters you can use, 'Romantic Sky', 'Tender Night' and ''Dream World' which is the one I always go straight for because I just love the pretty sparkly effects.

Each of the 3 filter options has loads of different filters to choose, you can fade them out and alter the brightness/contrast etc.  It's really easy to use and you can even apply your chosen filters straight away as you take a photo which I've quite enjoyed having a play around with!

Sticker Overlay (free only on Play) is a really nice app I found a while ago.

It has lots of features but the best thing about it has to be the word art quotes, stickers and frames which are so nice and again you can change the size, colour and rotate and reposition them until your hearts content.

It's also easy to delete them too, which is something I find annoying with some apps, you try to get rid of the last thing you did and then oh the whole thing has disappeared and you have to start all over again!

Pic Stitch (free on Play and iTunes) is another one I use quite a lot, there's a crazy amount of different layouts to collage anything from 2 images, to about 15 images.

Again it's really easy to use and over time you get more and more free layouts given to you for free to add to your collection.  I actually prefer using this app now to PicMonkey, I honestly think you get a lot more choice of layouts for free.

Those are the main apps I use but sometimes I like to use other ones just for specific effects.

Studio Design 1.6.10 (free on Play and iTunes) this app is great for added quotes and phrases to images, it's a little tricky to use at first but once you've downloaded all the overlays you like (and there are absolutely loads), oh and they're all free, you can do some cool things.  One tip I would say is make sure you save your finished picture in your gallery rather than sharing it straight from the app or it will add a logo along the bottom.  I found if I save it first then share, it doesn't do that.

Perfect365 (free on Play and iTunes) this is really perfect for those selfie pictures, it instantly smoothes the skin and makes you look flawless in seconds, you can also alter the make up you have on or add it completely, which actually looks amazingly realistic.  You can even choose different eyeshadow shades, false lashes, lipstick shades etc and various other effects, I was really amazed how natural it looked!

Selfie Camera-Facial Beauty (previously known as CunPics) (free on Play and similar app available free on iTunes).

This has similar features as Perfect365 but the effects are a lot more pre-set, where as with Perfect365 you can alter everything separately, on CunPics it's just like using filters.  It does give some really nice effects though and the various frames are so pretty.

Pic Lab (free on Play and iTunes) this is quite a nice easy editing app. You can do all the basics, but it also has a load of hidden features you can add as well.  This app does leave a little logo on your pics though.

I've also just found a really nice app called Image Blender Fusion Free (free on Play and on iTunes) it lets you merge 2 images together, like if you wanted to add a quote over an image or have your dog sat in a flower or something.  I'm quite enjoying this one so far and I think it'll be quite useful.  The only thing I would say is don't bother with buying the extra features they do seem a waste of money.

I'm still in search of a really nice simple bokeh effect overlay, like the popular one from the iTunes PicFx, which so far I've not found for Android :-( as all the bokeh effect filters I have, have a lot more to them, a lot 'busier' and less simple, so no doubt I'll be working my way through another bunch of apps soon!

If you use any that you love and think I should try out, please let me know, I love playing around with new ones :-)
Until Next Time Stay Happy

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