Saturday, 14 May 2016

New Life: A tour of the bird nests in my wood

May is my favourite month of the because the world around me suddenly springs into a scene of vivid colours, fresh growth, warm light and the happy sounds of birds singing.

Each month, the Outdoor Bloggers community create a post around a theme set by its members. This month, I set the theme ‘New Life’. My interpretation of the theme centres around the nesting birds and evidence of wild animals around the woodland in which I live.

In this video, I take you on a tour to show you some of the bird nests I have found; some with eggs and some with young chicks.

If you like owlets (baby owls) and robin chicks, click play.

Outdoor Bloggers was set up by Zoe, writer of Splodz Blogz, and I. It’s an initiative to bring bloggers who share a passion for the outdoors together and share stories, knowledge and enthusiasm for anything outdoors-related. We already have over 50 members who blog about varies outdoor activities from nature photography, trail running and climbing to cycling, camping and outdoor education.

If you blog about the outdoors, we would love for you to join us! Head over to and register to be a member. It’s totally free and your blog details will be added to the directory and you will receive a monthly newsletter from the Outdoor Bloggers team.

Monday, 18 April 2016

Vlog: Releasing Lindy the rescue hedgehog

Finally, after almost 7 months of being in a care, we released Lindy back into the wild.

Lindy has come along way since Ian, my step dad and Rachel, our next door neighbour, found him while on a walk last October. He was tiny, very thin and was wandering around in the daylight. Ian knew the hedgehog was in danger so scooped him up and brought him home. After consulting a hedgehog hospital we committed to caring for him for the winter.

For the last 4 nights of his care he lived in Magnus the magpie's aviary so that he could acclimatise to outdoor conditions after spending so many months in the warmth of a cage with a heat mat in one of the sheds. I set up the wildlife cam so I could monitor his feeding at night and was pleased to see him foraging and eating all the food I left out (with a little help from Magnus). I vlogged about his final few days in captivity here.

Here's the footage I recorded of Lindy's release and our farewell to the cute little ball of spikes. Enjoy!

Follow Lindy's journey in these previous blog posts:

We rescued a baby hedgehog
Update on Lindy the rescue hedgehog
Vlog: Catching Lindy the rescue hedgehog on the wildlife cam

PS. Stupidly I uploaded my last vlog to the wrong YouTube channel. 
Please click here to subscribe to right The Thrifty Magpies Nest blog channel.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Vlog: Catching Lindy the rescue hedgehog on the wildlife cam

I'm very excited to post my very first vlog. I bought myself a (bright pink) selfie stick especially recording vlogs for The Thrifty Magpies Nest and for recording 'how to' posts for SocialRocks, my social media consultancy business.

In this vlog I visit Magnus the magpie and collect the wildlife camera to check whether it has captured any footage of Lindy the rescue hedgehog who is currently acclimatising to the outside in the aviary before being released.

Oh, and why does YouTube always insist on giving you a choice of three video thumbnails that are all so unflattering?

I'd love to hear what you think of my first video in the comments here or on YouTube. Thanks!

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

My struggles with 'living the dream'

Trying to juggle a new business, this personal blog, the Outdoor Bloggers network and everything else going on in my life is making my brain hurt a little bit. It feels like there is no room in my head for thoughts and many days seems to pass without the feeling I have accomplished something. And it's been bothering me.

On one hand, I'm bursting with ideas and brimming with enthusiasm for each project I have on and I'm determined to make each one a success. However, it doesn't actually seem to be happening. I'm not really getting any further ahead. I'm getting on with client work, going to lots of networking meetings and getting the essential stuff done, but I'm not pushing the boundaries as much as I had hoped.

Since going self-employed my home became my office and I spend each week day working on my business. Working from home has always been my career goal and now I have finally accomplished it, my routine isn't quite how I envisioned it to be though.

Ultimately, the dream is to have a good work/life balance that allows me to be in the wood more. I want to be able to spend more time in the garden, playing with my pets, actually getting to see home in daylight hours during the winter month and, overall, actually enjoy living each day.

I want to spend more time writing and promoting this blog. I have so many ideas I want to put into practice yet I'm not finding the time to write any posts. The thought of writing posts for this blog, on top of working on my business and everything else, is actually making my brain freeze. I can't seem to fit it in timewise and I can't seem to fit it in mentally, either.

I want to grow Outdoor Bloggers so that its members have a valuable resource and a place to meet likeminded bloggers. Yet, this is pushed to the bottom of my priority list due to my business and my blog.

Reality isn't quite like I had imaged. And it isn't because it can't be. I believe it's because I'm stopping it from happening. Either that, or I have bitten off more than I can chew.

My business is still in the development stages meaning I'm spending a lot of time working on client projects, strategy planning, networking, quoting and marketing. There is just so much to do and so much more I want to get done. It's exciting yet very overwhelming. It means that every time I try or want to focus on anything else, such as my blog, or preparing the vegetable patch for spring or research my next outdoor trip, I feel like I shouldn't be concentrating on those things and, instead, I should be working on my business. I know I need to give myself a break but the feeling of guilt still won’t go away. So, to try fix the issue, I spend more time on my business but gain no extra satisfaction.

I have implemented a 'reward' system which does help, when I stick to it: I complete an essential business task or two and then reward myself with a lesser-important task such as blogging or planting seeds.

Saving time as a result of not having to commute and also just being around more should mean I get to fit in more stuff. You know, stuff like posting that parcel, tidying that overflowing cupboard, giving that wall the lick of paint it so desperately needs? Even getting the food shopping ordered. Well, for some reason time runs away with me. When I worked in an office I had no choice but to rush around and get 'stuff' done. I just did it. Whereas now, I have the misleading concept that I have more time. Then it disappears!

The issue is me. My mindset isn't right.

After years of a fixed routine dictated by the hours of employment my conscience is all messed up and I believe my mindset needs training to fit my new daily routine.

One of the solutions I would like to explore is meditation. I listened to a Ted Hour podcast which discussed the benefits of meditating every day. To be honest, I used to think meditation was just for hippies and spiritual-types but now I have heard so much about the positive effects it can have on anyone, whatever their personal beliefs and mindset. But, when do I fit it in? That's no excuse though. I need to make time for it as it may provide a long-term solution.

I'd love to hear from anyone who has experienced the same transitional struggles as I am currently and I would also love to speak to anyone who uses meditation to maintain focus and positivity. Please get in touch if you have wisdom or heartache to share!

Monday, 4 April 2016

4 days in beautiful Berlin

A couple of weeks ago we travelled to Berlin to see some sights, eat lots of food and learn lots of history.

Being a country bumpkin who finds cities rather noisy and full of concrete, a camping trip is my usual choice of holiday. I do, however, love going to museums to learn about history and other cultures and seeking out independent cafes and pubs that serve delicious food.

Berlin, although many buildings are relatively new, is steeped in history, especially the dark and scary kind. I knew little of the city other than it was once divided by a wall, was once the power hold of Hitler, the SS and the Gestapo and is known for the graffiti that covers many buildings and empty spaces.

I studied German at school for a couple of years so know some very basic terms but Dave, however, knows none.

Graffiti covers many walls and buildings in the city.

Ian, my step father, is a bit of a Hitler fanatic (by this I mean interested in his reign and WWII, not actually liking the man!) and he spent several years working in construction in Germany. This meant he could give us a quick over view of what to look for, what to eat and a lot of history about the country. Oh, and some useful phrases such as ‘Can I have one beer please?’

We awoke at 3am to travel to Manchester airport and fly to the city. On arrival we followed the masses to the train station which was a short walk from the airport. Within 15 minutes of arriving in the country we were stumped, though. The ticket machines for the train, although available in English, had trouble taking our coins and 3 debit cards. The credit card worked in the end though.

The next challenge was working out which stop to get off at. We didn’t have a map, no data on our phones and each station started with ‘Berlin’ in the name, which wasn’t helpful. In the true nature of tourists we decided to just follow the crowds so departed the train when everyone else did. After leaving the train we sought help from an information point, picked up a map and started heading towards our hotel. We should have got off a stop earlier but we didn’t mind the walk; we got to see more by doing so.

After a stop for waffles drowned in chocolate and cream we found the hotel and enjoyed a nap before heading out to some local pubs for beer and food.

The hotel had free WiFi so we downloaded some useful Apps apps and planned our days in the mornings, taking advantage of Trip Advisor and Google Maps. Berlin by Triposo is the app we pretty much used to plan the whole 4 days. Although the descriptions of the m museums, attractions, eateries and pubs were poor, the map was comprehensive, had all the tourists attractions pinpointed and worked without WiFi.

The Trabant car is a symbol of life on the East side of the Berlin Wall when the GDR were in power. 

After 2 days of reading the MANY interpretation boards and museums about the Berlin Wall I can confidently say I now know a lot about its history. I find its history equally fascinating and rather disturbing. It wasn’t even that long ago. Seeing sections of the wall, visiting Check Point Charlie and learning about the contrasting lives of normal people both sides of the wall was incredible. Before the holiday I knew nothing about this important part of European history. If you don’t know much about it, I can’t recommend studying it (reading or visiting), enough.

Remaining sections of the Berlin Wall at the East Side Galleries.

A path of cobblestones marks where the Berlin Wall once stood.

Famous graffiti on the Berlin Wall.

We visited the site of the Gestapo headquarters and learnt about the terrifying rise of Hitler, the Gestapo and the SS at the insightful and free Typography of Terror museum. Sections of the Berlin wall stood in their original positions on ground level, just above the ruined Gestapo headquarters; both reminders of the two different yet similar times in Berlin’s history.

Meat, cheese, fruit and bread makes a staple German breakfast.

Schnitzel for me and Bratwurt for Dave.

The famous Siegessäule monument rises high above the Tiergardens, the large woodland park in the centre of the city. The goddess of Victoria can be seen from such a distance and we climbed the inside of the monument to get a closer look at her. The views across the city from the top were amazing; well worth the 2 euros to get in!

Selfie with the Goddess of Vistoria at the top of the Siegessäule monument.

Wanting to learn more about the city, we visited the Story of Berlin museum which was interesting but quite hard-going. The museum walks you through the last 800 years of Berlin’s history but we got rather confused and there was a LOT to read. I think it may be the translation from German to English as I found it difficult to follow. The visit was definitely worthwhile though, because the museum price included a guided tour of the nuclear fallout bunker that was built several blocks beneath the shopping mall above in the 70’s in fear of the nuclear threat from the Soviet Union. The nuclear bunker was insane! The description of how it would operate in the case of a nuclear threat was terrifying. The bunker could fit 3000 people, managed by 16 wardens and the whole place was filled with bunk beds 4-beds high. No room to move, no privacy and just 4 toilet blocks between everyone. The temperature would rise to 40c and water supplies were limited. The bunker would be able to sustain its inhabitants for 2 weeks and no more. At the time, it was though 2 weeks was long enough for the radiation and dust to settle above ground. If the inhabitants survived the two weeks, they would emerge above ground but would be surrounded by the enemy as they, at the time, occupied the rest of Germany. Apparently social experiments took place in one of the other 21 bunkers built below Berlin and apparently the experiments had to be halted after just a few days. Luckily none of the bunkers have been used. I would rather get blasted by the nuclear bomb than risk two weeks down there.

The 4-deep bunkbeds can be just made out in the dim light of the nuclear fallout bunker.

The layers of beds are folded and have never been used (thank god!).

The Memorial To The Murdered Jews of Europe is vast and dominates 4.7 acres of the city with 2711 huge slabs of concrete. Their representation is writen in detail on this website which is worth reading but I found it difficult to put into my own words for the sake of this post. Walking among the slabs that vary in height made me feel a bit uneasy, which is what the artist, Peter Eisenman, intends.

On our last day we spent a few hours in the fascinating DDR museum, learning about life on the East

side of the Berlin Wall during the reign of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) between the end of the WW2 in 1945 to the fall of the Wall in 1990. The multimedia museum gives a good insight into the lives of East German residents in a socialist society. From my short spell of education, I formed the opinion that their lives were extremely restricted and individuality was difficult to express. Life was dull yet there was virtually no one out of work and everyone had good opportunities to gain secure jobs that paid well. I came away keen to learn more and really recommend the museum to anyone intrigued by East Berlin history.

Extremely sleepy from walking for miles, reading tons of information, learning about so many new things and nursing bellies full of German food, we headed to the airport to return home.

Berlin is such an interesting city with so much history, even if the majority of the buildings have been built in the last 70-or-so years. If I wrote about everything we managed to fit into our 4 days there, this post would be much much much longer! It’s a great location for a short city break and I’m sure we will go back to lean some more history, in the future.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

The Epson EcoTank printer may be 'The One'

My relationship history with printers hasn’t been very good.

My current printer needs me to hold its paper for it and gently guide it through or it will chew it up or tell me I haven’t given it paper. Hand feeding a printer 20 sheets of paper, praying its stupid little feet will pick the pieces up quickly before it decides to halt work and flash all its clever little lights and tell me I’m doing something wrong is frustrating and tedious.

Dashing to print a document that I need there and then often ends up with the printer deciding to ‘clean’ itself- whatever that means- which takes several minutes of precious time and lots of weird noises that start then stop then start again.

Then, the ink will decide to run out half way through printing a document then I’m really screwed.

Next, I would need to apply for a mortgage to pay for the ink or choose to buy 3rd part ink cartridges which may just decide to splatter all over my lap.

On one occasion the ink wouldn’t come out of the cartridge so I thought I would tempt it out by giving the cartridge a little suck. 2 days later I still had a blue/black tongue. Bad idea.

A few weeks ago, Epson contacted me about there new all-singing-all-dancing-all-in-one printer that promises to cost me less in ink and comes with a three year warranty. Even better, it has wireless printing so I don’t have to be near the thing while it does its job. I welcomed the offer to review the printer and the very next morning I received a text to tell me my printer was to be delivered that same day and also what time to expect the courier to deliver it. It arrived promptly on time. Good service!

Setting up the device took about an hour. After the standard pressing of buttons and managing setting the printer requested about 20 minutes of alone-time to set itself up. The printer recognised my phones and laptops automatically and now all was needed was the ink.

The Epson ET4500 comes with a year’s supply of ink and refillable cartridges. This means that the ink is supplied in bottles that you just poor directly into the cartridges. The advantage being you aren’t paying for the actual cartridge each time- just the ink itself. This is really the only ‘eco’ thing about the printer. I was disappointed with the crazy amount of packaging that the printer came in, most of which isn’t recyclable. I HATE polystyrene. It diffiulct to recycle  and when dumped in a landfill it would take thousands of years to decompose. There’s also a lot of clear plastic bags in the box, too. The only easily recyclable component is the box itself.

I was a little nervous about pouring the ink into the cartridges but my steady hand managed to get the ink in the right place.

According to, the ink is so cheap to buy it’s just 0.49p per page which even the most competitive cartridge-based inkjets will cost about 6x this amount to run. Pretty impressive!

The print quality for standard documents is fine and it throws out the pages quickly. However, I can’t seem to get a good photo print. The images looked dull and dark, almost although the paper has absorbed too much ink. I’ve heard that photo paper may improve the quality and I am yet to test this theory.

It has a fax function but I haven’t used fax since 2004 so haven’t bothered setting it up. Does anyone even fax these days?

The design looks a bit dated and the button sounds remind me of the early 2000s but to be honest, a printer is there to print and not to look good. It’s compact and doesn’t look bulky like many all-in-ones which is more of a concern to me.

As my social media consultancy business, SocialRocks, grows I plan to be as ‘green’ as possible. Adding the EcoTank to my team is my first step in reaching this goal and I’m looking forward to every printing session being a happy one. You know what? I reckon we are going to have a good relationship; the EcoTank and I.

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

We're going to Berlin next week!

Last week I received an email from a lady at MyVoucherCodes to tell me about their new holiday quiz that recommends a destination to you based on three simple criteria- the temperature, the cost and the type of holiday.

Coincidently, Dave and I had been discussing the possibility of taking a short break since he has been very busy at work with a big project and would like to de-stress. Being the country bumpkin I am I prefer holidays to somewhere rural and I'm perfectly happy to camp to keep costs down however, with the weather being rather chilly, Dave opted for a city break somewhere in Europe. Considering I'm normally the holiday planner it was only fair to let Dave pick where to go. It’s quite easy to choose the destination of 3 night camping break because we are restricted by travelling time and I always choose a hilly location. Either the Lakes, the Yorkshire Dales or the Yorkshire Moors are my first choice. Picking a European city, however, is somewhat overwhelming. There are so many places to choose from and we know so little about any of them. So the email about the 'My Perfect Holiday Generator' came at an ideal time.

I chose a 'Warm' destination because I don't really like to be too hot and find hot places a bit too desolate and lacking in vegitation. I also chose 'Explore' becuase we both want to discover exciting places in a city. Being the budgeters we are, we chose 'Cheap' for the price.

The result we got was Paris.

Inspired by the quiz we researched things to do in Paris. I visited while on a French Exchange when I was students so have experienced some of the main tourist attractions. Visiting as an adult, however, and without teachers, would be a somewhat different experience!

Naturally, we started to investigate other Europeans cities and we became totally inspired by all our options. We decided between us that we would like to go to a city we bot haven't been to before so lay the Paris suggestion to rest for the time being. After asking for recommendations from our friends and over Twitter, we settled for Berlin.

Berlin appears to have it all- museums, a good nightlife, amazing street art, lot's of history, cheap flights, good pubs, authentic street food - perfect!

We secured cheap-ish flights from EasyJet for £243 for the two of us booked a central hotel with fantastic reviews on TripAdvisor for just £204 for three nights. Best bit: we go next Tuesday!

Although we want to see some of the main tourist attractions we are keen to get a real sense of the culture and discover the places the locals hang out. Our plan is to find a good German pub and get advice from the punters over a pint.

So, if you have been to Berlin I would loooooove to hear your recommendations of what to see and where to go. Please comment with your recommendations or Tweet me at @MissJTulip. Thanks!

PS. This is a collaborative post however all views are my own.