Thursday, 7 August 2014

How to take better Holiday Photographs - An Infographic

How to take better holiday photographs
How to take better holiday photographs Infographic by Sykes Cottages

Thursday, 31 July 2014

School Holiday Book Giveaway

It's school holiday time and I've partnered once again with Bloomsbury in the organizing of a book Giveaway.

The prize is a pair of books released today, 31st July 2014

The prize pack is a pair of books:

How to Write a Story by Simon Cheshire - an illustrated activity book where you can pen your own words directly onto the pages!

The Anti-Boredom Book of Brilliant Things to Do by Andy Seed - with quizzes, fun facts, mind challenges  and much more!

Entrants must be over 18 - 

How to enter: in a few words say why it is that your child/children won't be bored this summer - leave your entry as a comment on this post. 

Note: I'm running giveaways of further pairs of these books on other online outlets. T&Cs will differ according to the platform in which the competition appears.

A random draw (UK based participants only) - T&Cs apply

If you would like to view the T&Cs email - putting requesting T&Cs at Not Compulsory in the subject line.


Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Let's Talk About...Music

and this is a case of a me (the reviewer) reviewing the work of another reviewer, Carl Wilson

Carl Wilson is Slate's Music Critic and the author of the new, standalone edition from the Let's Talk About Love series by Bloomsbury 

In  the book Wilson considers both the world-wide popularity, and, on the flip-side, the mockery that has surrounded Canadian Mega Star/Pop Star, Celine Dion, but the book is really a case study of what we deem to be cool or uncool, and what is good music taste, and what is bad. Even more, it is a blueprint about reviewing music and music culture with a professional eye. Recommended.
I ask what is it that makes a reputed reviewer. I'm sure Wilson would agree with me that the answer, in short, is that it is down to being as objective as you can and not being swayed by populist opinion, and then being a stickler for those principles over time. You should have some knowledge of your subject; not just prior knowledge, but academic knowledge (on a level). Being insightful is useful, and, in a peculiar sense, be non judgmental - it helps.

®Manuel Harlan

I have been a theatre critic for seven years now. Reviewing stage, as with reviewing anything professionally, means you have to be discerning, but when it comes to reviewing music, well you still have to be discerning, but it is a little more complicated than that.

There is a pull, in youth music culture, to be part of the ‘in crowd’, and, then, as time passes, snobbery sets in because music that is more lasting, eventually achieves critical acclaim as a matter of course, largely because of the ‘in crowd’ loyalty surrounding it.

Growing up with two Metal loving brothers meant my love of Glam Rock and Disco was often ridiculed, whereas my aversion was to Country music. I’m still not a fan but I have learned to appreciate it (I’m expressing my sensibility with this comment), but, yes, it is funny how tastes shift.

Take the music of Burt Bacharach for example, if his songs were ever riding o’er the airways or performed on TV it would be enough to send teenage me in to a state of sustained boredom while it played. Yet, I hear only this week, on the radio, that Burt is touring the UK this summer. They play a couple of sound bites…“Walk on By” and “The Look of Love” and I’m suddenly two feet deep in awe. I look up the main man's back catalogue and can do nothing but admire the genius.
Photograph of Burt Bacharach Source: The Dusty Springfield Network

Yet, I’ve never learned to love Opera, nor Deacon Blue or the Manics as it happens, and I’m not, on any account, being anti elitist, anti-Scottish or anti-Welsh when I say that. 

 Hell is other people’s music” is the first line of the book I mention above by Carl Wilson entitled ‘LET’S TALK ABOUT LOVE Why Other People have such bad taste’ arguably, no truer words have ever been spoken! 

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Haberdashery Heaven (this way)

Specially for those Born Again Knitters (like myself) and for those who sew, incessantly, (unlike myself), I thought I would put together a selection of Haberdashery Items appearing on other things i.e. buttons, scissors and threads illustrated on other formats. Great gift ideas for the crafting enthusiast girlie, young or old.

1. Ravensburger Jigsaw Puzzle (1000 pcs) called Haberdashery Heaven (available at Amazon UK)
2. Mug called Vintage Sewing by Poppy & Red - selling online at Society 6
3. 'Sewing Pattern' Baby Doll Dress -  Bonne Chance Collections
4.' Cute as a Button' Nail Polish by Essie available at Liberty London
5. Donna Wilson for John Lewis - Pins and Needles Tote Bag
6. Sewing Kit Journal by Paperchase

See more on Pinterest - just click on the jigsaw!

Monday, 19 May 2014

Fussels' Fine Food Recipes


A simple yet sophisticated way to serve smoked salmon.Serves 4

175g smoked salmon slices
4 teaspoons baby capers, drained
2 small shallots, peeled, finely chopped 
2 tablespoons celery leaves or dill chopped
10 pumps Fussels’ Rapeseed oil
lemon, cut into wedges for squeezing 
  1. Arrange the smoked salmon slices onto 4 serving plates in a single layer
  2. Mix together the capers, shallots, celery leaves or dill, rapeseed oil and season with freshly ground black pepper
  3. Just before serving, spoon the relish over the salmon
  4. Serve with a lemon wedge on the side for squeezing and rustic granary bread and butter

6 ripe, William pears
2tsp cracked black pepper
6tsp caster sugar
1tsp sea salt
5tbsp cider vinegar
2 pumps Fussels’ Rapeseed oil per pear half

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C, 400F, Gas 6. Peel, half and core the pears and lay in a roasting tray cut side up
  2. Place the pepper, sugar and salt in a small bowl and mix well together. Scatter over the pears
  3. Drizzle over the cider vinegar, add 2 pumps of the rapeseed oil per pear half and spoon over 3tbsp cold water
  4. Roast in the oven for 25 minutes. Remove tray from oven and turn the pears over, drizzle over 3tbsp cold water and return to the oven for 15-20 minutes until pears are golden and tender
  5. Serve the pears warm on a platter with goats’ cheese, crumbled feta or air-cured ham

8 pumps Fussels’ rapeseed oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 large red pepper, halved, deseeded and cut into strips
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 red chillies, deseeded & finely chopped
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 tablespoon sundried tomato paste
1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes in rich tomato juice 
200mls (1/3 pint) tomato passata
Approx. 300mls (1/2 pint) water
1 x 400g black eye beans, drained & rinsed 
4 tablespoons low fat yoghurt or crème fraiche
1 large ripe avocado, stoned, peeled & sliced 
1 bunch fresh coriander, roughly chopped 
salt and freshly ground black pepper

  1. In a large pan, heat the rapeseed oil. Add the onion and 2 tablespoons water. Cover with a tight fitting lid and gently steam fry for 5/6 minutes until softened. Add the pepper, garlic, chillies and ground coriander and fry for a further 3 minutes. Add the sun dried tomato paste.
  2. Stir in the canned tomatoes, Passata and water. Season and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes, adding extra water if the soup becomes too thick. Stir in the black eye beans and simmer for a further 10 minutes.
  3. To serve, stir in half the coriander and ladle the soup into large warmed soup bowls. Swirl each soup with a little yoghurt and top with the avocado and remaining coriander. Serve with crusty bread.

450g (1lb) minced turkey
125g (4 ½ oz) ready grated raw carrot (approx. 3 medium carrots,peeled and grated)
4 spring onions, chopped or snipped 
45ml (3tbsp) green or red ready-made pesto
1 large egg, beaten
freshly ground black pepper
10 pumps Fussels’ rapeseed oil approx.
4 ciabatta rolls warm and split
handful rocket leaves
pepper relish to serve
  1. In a large bowl, mix the turkey with the carrot, spring onions and pesto. Add the egg and season with freshly ground black pepper, stir well to combine really well.
  2. Divide the turkey mixture into 4 and shape into large burgers. Chill in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.
  3. Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan, cook burgers for approx. 7-8 minutes each side on a medium heat or until golden and cooked through.
  4. Serve in ciabatta rolls with crisp rocket leaves and a good dollop of the pepper relish
...and the accompanying RED PEPPER RELISH  SERVES 4 
8 pumps Fussels’ Rapeseed oil 
300g (10 1/2oz) frozen sliced mixed peppers
1 red chilli, chopped or a pinch of dried chilli 
1 bay leaf 
1 tablespoon sugar 
2 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly crushed juice 1/2 lemon
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large pan. Add the frozen peppers, chilli, bay leaf, garlic, sugar and lemon juice. Place a piece of wet, crushed greaseproof paper over the peppers and cover with a lid. Gently cook for 35-40 minutes or until the peppers are meltingly soft.Remove the paper from the pan and increase the heat to reduce the liquid for approx. 3-4 minutes. Season. The relish will keep in the fridge for several days.
It has been a while since I had recipes feature on the blog. The fresh and summery offerings detailed above is the result of a partnership between TV Chef, Lesley Waters and Somerset Producer, Andy Fussell and their newly launched Cold Pressed Extra Virgin Rapeseed oil in a spray bottle.

As well as featuring recipe instruction and photography, I also like to profile the lives of people who have commendable work ethics, and are doing good things educationally and socially be it near to home or that bit further afield. 

Lesley Waters - Lesley is a former tutor at the Leith's School of Food and Wine, and apart from regularly appearing on television shows and running her Cookery School in rural Dorset, Lesley is also an author of many cookery books. She also happens to be a fitness instructor, and a mother of two! Super Woman!   
Andy Fussell - Farmer Andy, started producing rapeseed oil in 2007 when he first set up the Fussels' Fine Foods business. He has adopted a practice where he preserves his rapeseed by cold pressing (just once). The spray oil used in the recipes above is new and there is nothing added to it, but other oils, dressings; sauces and mayonnaise's that Andy has created, with the addition of other locally sourced ingredients, have been quite special and Fussel's Cold Pressed Chilli Rapeseed Oil is award winning. Super Man!The clever pair are featured below in a promotional shot of the Rapeseed Spray Oil

The Cool Create Club - Craft Activities for Children

I often publish 'how to do' crafts for children (and adults sometimes) at Not Compulsory. I love the spark and originality of art and craft designs that children produce, and more so at the times when they haven't been guided through the activity.

Yet I want to tell you about the Cool Create Club. They are looking to grow their online membership over there. From what I can gather children have a chance for their finished pieces to feature on the Cool Create Wall. The pieces that are showcased are simply completed craft projects made from kits, from brands that sell at so not much opportunity for self expression within the craft activity itself!

If you sign up to the Cool Create Club however, then you will get mailings featuring craft ideas that are set away from the ready made kits and often in line with up and coming topical themes. There are plenty of prizes to be won every month and aside from those published on the Cool Create Wall.

Whatever my opinion surmounts to in regard to the undertaking of craft making using materials that are presented, rather than sourced, I do acknowledge that many children (girls especially), who are moving through their informative years, really like these shop bought kits. My daughter had so many different ones when she was young. Middle school aged children also like being members of online communities and clubs. 

These are the reasons I decided to talk about the Cool Create Club and to engage members of my Blogger Outreach Group to blog about it themselves.

If you click away from here and end up signing up please mention Not Compulsory as the blog which provided you with the info - Many thanks

Monday, 12 May 2014

Book Review - USER EXPERIENCE DESIGN by Fairchild books

ISBN 978-2-9404-9613-6
USER EXPERIENCE DESIGN by Gavin Allanwood and Peter Beare
A BASICS INTERACTIVE DESIGN book by Fairchild Books an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing (published February 2014)
Price £23.99


Overview – Introduction
5 Colour Coded Chapters (Each chapter includes a practical activity)
Further Reading
Picture Credits
Chapter 1 – What is User Experience Design (UXD)? 
And in answer to that Question P26 states ‘UXD is a UCD (User Centred Design) approach that also considers the user experience’. Chapter 1 explores this in greater detail over 28 pages. Page 23 (1.7) shows a simple chart which sufficiently demonstrates how a multidisciplinary team can link and work together. Experiences and working practices are relayed as examples to help workers/leaders channel creative skills effectively, and straightforward methodology further demonstrates key points made
Chapter 2 – Users
Chapter 2 is devoted to the importance in identifying the target audience who will potentially be the users. It states that the two important questions to ask at the beginning of a new interactive design project are:
(1) Who will use it?
(2) What will it do?
Suggestions are given in regard to marketing strategies that could or should be deployed when undertaking research, and this chapter is acknowledging too, the importance of meeting the high expectation of the user when they encounter an interactive design for the first time and what will motivate them to return to it
Chapter 3 – Experience design
Many businesses keep a close eye on their ROI, and like to measure the return for the outlay. The authors acknowledge the difficulty in being able to quantify the effects of UXD. Branding can add value to a product, and higher pricing comes in to play when something is regarded as premium. Pricing is one of the four Ps in marketing, with the Product, the Place and the Promotion being the other three, these things get a small mention over just one or two pages. This Chapter’s title gives little away but this chapter is mostly about Usability, especially in terms of the visual experience, the narrative and the fun aspect (for users) and not just the measuring of it. This chapter includes an interview with Chris Artherton who works as a Freelance User Experience Architect. The Gestalt Theory is over viewed with some depth, and the importance and problems with constraints is debated
Chapter 4 – Design Process
An interesting chapter. The life span of a design can be relatively short or long lasting. Whether the design is good or bad, the experience of using it (positive or negative) can be far reaching because of it being web based. Chapter 4 acknowledges the value of a positive online presence and the importance of working to standards. This chapter includes an interview with Garry Byrne, head of Powered by Reason – a strategic, creative and technical digital agency based in the UK
Chapter 5 – Design methods
This section is more about the nuts and bolts for evaluating the user experience. To give you some idea the Sub headings are as follows:
• Platforms and technologies
• Meeting the requirements
• Semantic Design
• Mindset and toolset
• Design Patterns
• Layout
• Type
• Image
This book has a simple structure and pattern to its layout. This is an extremely useful reference/activity book and teaching aid and/or student handbook. Ideal for a Design Teacher, a Project Leader, a Design Team Member or if you are mentoring a Design Team for example. Use for guidance, to stimulate ideas and to plan project meetings. The book is a good resource to aid lesson planning, or to compile presentations. Also stepping away from focusing on the work of a design team a little, know the book can work very well for a digital or search engine marketer to dip into for snippets of information. Just a few of the photographic images are of an average quality. Illustrative work is visually pleasing. Illustrations of graphic design work is eye catching.

Also Available in the BASICS INTERACTIVE DESIGN series is: Interface Design by Dave Wood ISBN 978-2-9404-1199-3
This book is solely about Interface, Visual, and Product Design and is more about the work of a graphic designer than the book above under review. This book is the same in layout as the UXD book and its format matches too, except this book has 6 Chapters.