May 10 2015

The Blurb Story – Part 4

**This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking through my links.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been sharing how and why Blurb is such an incredible source for telling your story—whether it includes photos, words, or both. I realize that not everyone has the desire to write a novel or sell a book of their photos. Some people just want to commemorate a trip, an event, or a special occasion. Others may want to visually capture a business concept or life experience. Whatever the inclination, Blurb makes it easy and affordable to realize it.

Chances are you already have an idea for the kind of book you want to create. But in case you need a little inspiration, here are a few ways people have used Blurb to create their own creative and useful books:

A beautiful, custom-made book is one of the most thoughtful, meaningful gifts you can give. With graduation and wedding season just around the corner, this type of book can make the perfect gift that keeps on giving. And with Blurb’s cutting-edge book-making tools, you can add photos, words, stories, drawings—anything you want—and make something that’s truly one-of-a-kind. Ideas include: a favorite recipes book, a baby’s first year book, a book of poems, a senior year book, etc.

You have a story to tell. Ok, so you may not have hiked across the Sahara or been on Broadway, but that doesn’t mean that you haven’t impacted lives or had interesting life experiences. And it certainly doesn’t mean that you don’t have valuable insights to impart. Even if you have no interest in sharing your memoir with anyone, the process of reflecting on your life and writing down some of your thoughts and experiences can be incredibly eye-opening and cathartic.

Pet Books
What better way to showcase your best friend than with their very own book. It could be something as simple as pictures and quips of trips to the park, naps on the couch, playing with a favorite toy, or basking in the sun, to a more in-depth life story book about your pet. These can be shared as gifts, sold to fellow pet-lovers, or just kept for your own personal enjoyment.

Non-Profit Fundraising Books
With Blurb, non-profits can share their story with compelling words and images and then sell them via Blurb’s Sell & Distribute option to fundraise for their organization. For example, Gerrit Greve’s Hearts for Healing book showcases how kids interpret a giving heart through art. It also chronicles how Greve’s students gained new confidence in themselves and their abilities knowing that their art could make a difference in someone’s life and health. This beautiful book is an example of how Blurb’s platforms can be used to support a cause that’s important to you.

These are just a few ways that you can use Blurb to share your story or promote a purpose, but know that there are many, many others. Get creative! Honestly, the most important part is just clicking on the “Get Started” link on As you start the process of creating your own book, you’ll be surprised at how quickly the creativity floodgates open!

And when it does and you’ve created your own book, be sure to tell me about it—if you’re okay with me doing so, I’d love to promote it to other readers. Who knows? You may inspire someone else to create a book of their own!

Apr 30 2015

The Blurb Story – Part 3

**This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking through my links.

Thus far you’ve heard the Blurb story and learned a bit about the extensive tools and resources that Blurb makes available to their book-making customers. While all that is impressive, what’s really remarkable to me is how they offer all of that and provide visually stunning books made on photo-quality paper—AND do it all at such an incredibly affordable price. It’s really is something to marvel at.

Since day one, Blurb has been praised for their unwavering commitment to quality, which is why renowned photographers, graphic designers, architects, artists, and other creative professionals repeatedly choose Blurb to display their works of art. That speaks volumes in my book (no pun intended) because, if they trust Blurb to showcase their work, then it just seems logical that I should too.

Professional-Quality Books and Magazines
Whether you’re creating a photo book, a trade book, or a magazine, Blurb allows you to choose from a wide range of trim size, covers, fonts, layouts, and paper. Paper type is actually really key to any book which displays images. Other book-making platforms may have some nice quality paper, but you’re going to pay out the wazoo for your book. Others use recycled paper, which is good environmentally, but not so great for producing visually-rich images.

Blurb, on the other hand, provides customers with several paper options, including standard paper that has a smooth, semi-matte finish on 80# stock, to uncoated ProLine semi-gloss paper on 140# stock that’s ideal for high-end photography and design books.

Digital Books/Ebooks
Blurb is actually one of the few book-making platforms that gives you complete control over creating an ebook. Blurb lets you make ebooks in both fixed-layout (Apple iPad®-only) and reflowable formats (iPad and Kindle devices). You can even convert any book or magazine you create into a gorgeous ebook so you can share and distribute it in a way that’s easy, affordable, and earth-friendly!

If price is a factor (when is it not?), Blurb is bar none one of the most affordable printers out there with one of the lowest price per page available – especially when you consider their quality and array of creative options. So that you will know exactly what you’re getting at what cost, Blurb developed a Pricing Calculator. I mentioned their pricing calculator in my last post, but to recap, this fantastic tool lets you see what your price per book will be based on the selections you choose (e.g. soft cover, 7 x 7 photobook, on ProLine Uncoated #100 paper).

You can also compare the pricing of different types of books (trade book vs. magazine, vs. ebook, etc.), covers (hard or soft), sizes (7 x 7 vs 13 x 11), paper type (matte, glossy), etc.

Although their pricing is already impressive, take note that Blurb is generously offering you 15% off any book you create from now through 5/30! Get started now!

I recommend sorting through those pictures on your camera, smartphone, Facebook feed, or Instagram page and start creating your very own book. You’ll be so excited with the results that you’ll probably want to make a copy for all of your friends and family (I’m speaking from experience here!).

If you need some inspiration, I’ll be sharing examples in next week’s post of how some people have used Blurb to create their own creative and useful books—so stay tuned!

Apr 23 2015

The Blurb Story – Part 2

**This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking through my links.

So last week I shared a bit of the Blurb story and how they came to unleash the power of self-publishing. But Blurb is actually way more than a self-publishing platform. They are really a tour de force of creativity that strives to help give your story – your inspiration – a stage. And they provide some really incredible tools to make that possible.

Here are a few of my faves:

  1. Free book making tools – This one may be obvious, but there’s more here than meets the eye. Blurb offersmultiple easy-to-use bookmaking tools and templates to give you complete creative control and customization:
    BookWright: The only desktop publishing software built for creating professional-looking print books, magazines, and ebooks. It’s super simple to use, which means you won’t need to hire a fancy designer, know a line of code, or buy expensive software. BookSmart: A user-friendly book-making tool that allows you to create beautiful, professional-quality photo books, notebooks, and planners.
    Adobe InDesign Plug-In: If you use Adobe® InDesign® then this Blurb plug-in is for you. It lets you create and lay out books and magazines directly within InDesign and output in both print and digital formats. It also includes free professionally designed starter templates for photo books, cookbooks, portfolios, and magazines.
    Adobe Lightroom: This book creation tool is fully integrated into Lightroom, so users can make a gorgeous photography book without needing to leave the Lightroom workflow. It also includes 5 paper choices, including high-end photo-quality paper from Mohawk Fine Papers®.
  2. Online photo books – With this tool, you can create your very own online photo book in less than an hour. The online templates and layouts are gorgeous. All you have to do is drag & drop your photos from your computer, Facebook, and Instagram accounts.
    Instagram Photo Book: Blurb allows you to make a little 7 x7 book that’s as unique as your Instagram feed. You can start with up to 60 images and go up to 240 pages! It’s like a tiny museum devoted to your style!
    Facebook Photo Book: Now you can turn those favorite socially-shared memories into a book-store quality book! You just curate your photos and any Facebook comments you want to include and voilà! You’ve got a beautiful 60-page book of shared experiences.
  3. Step-by-step Tutorials & Webinars – If you ever get stuck on how to do something or just need some creative inspiration, you’ll definitely appreciate Blurb’s interesting and informative Webinars and Tips and Tutorials sections. So helpful.
  4. Free Tools to Use – Not sure what size book you want? Blurb shows you what a 10 x 8 book would look like versus a 13 x 11 with their creation and layout tools. You can also see what different paper types would look like, such as Premium Matte or Proline Uncoated and what makes them different.
  5. Pricing Tool – Blurb’s Pricing Calculator will save you from pricing surprises. You just select your book type, number of pages, type of cover, and paper you want and this tool calculates what your book will cost. They also have special pricing on large orders (e.g. 300+ books).

I encourage you to take some creative time for yourself and explore Blurb’s unique and valuable book-making tools. And remember that from now through 4/30 you can get 20% off any book you create, just use code: APRILLIGHTS! If you are thinking of self-publishing or starting a fundraiser use code: BIGAPRIL and get 20% off 20 or more books!

Apr 15 2015

The Blurb Story

*affiliate disclosure

Like many great companies before it, Blurb was actually started by accident. In the early 2000s, Eileen Gittins, Blurbs’ Founder, rekindled a passion for photography while trying to figure out her next career gig.

She wanted to compile her photos into a nice coffee table photo book, but she only wanted to print a handful of copies. The conundrum was that every publisher was quoting her hundreds of dollars for each book! She found this curious – and frustrating. So she asked herself, are there other people like me who want to affordably create their own high-quality book from their photos? The answer, of course, was yes, and it changed her life – and book publishing – forever.

In 2006, Eileen launched Blurb, a simple book-designing platform and a publishing process that could quickly produce beautifully made books at game-changing price.

Everyone from award-winning photographers, to couples wanting to commemorate the birth of their child started using Blurb – and they continue to do so today. Even after almost a decade, people are still blown away by Blurb’s user-friendliness, quality, and affordability. People trust Blurb to create every kind of book imaginable, including:

Blurb doesn’t just help people make books and magazines, they also help market them by providing publishers with their own dedicated sales page. Blurb’s dedicated sales pages allows authors to:

  • Make their book or magazine available to the public or by invitation-only
  • Write a compelling book description
  • Customize a preview of their book
  • Share their book with others on social media

Blurb also created their publishing platform to work seamlessly with Amazon and Apple iBooks Store so authors would have even more options for how they sell their books.

There are so many remarkable things to share about Blurb – too much for just one post! So keep an eye out for next week’s post because I’ll be sharing some of my favorite Blurb tools and tips — which, if you’re like me, will leave you thinking … “I didn’t know Blurb could do all that!”

Oh! And I almost forgot to mention that now through 4/28 you can get 20% off any book you create! Can’t wait to see what kind of book you create!

Nov 7 2014

Culture Connect

Visitors to the wonderful city of Milan should consider a visit to Sesto San Giovanni, one of its suburbs. Why? Because there you will find a hidden gem of a restaurant that has received very many positive reviews (especially on Tripadvisor). Culture Connect specialise in Senegalese cuisine – Perfect if you are looking for new or exotic cuisine or you enjoy experimenting when you dine out. And if you are looking for an African restaurant in Milan and hinterland there are lots of good reasons to head to Culture Connect. But first of all, let me explain what the food from Senegal is like.

Dishes from Senegal are influenced by the cuisines of North Africa, France, Portugal and the many ethnic groups which make up population. In general you could say that the dishes tend to be spicy, and they would feature couscous, rice, sweet potatoes, blackeyed peas or lentils along with either fish, chicken, lamb or beef (pork is not part of the cuisine). You can also expect peanuts in many of the dishes since Senegal is a major producer. Various vegetables are also incorporated into the dishes, so not only is this cuisine exotic and tasty, it’s healthy too. Onions, garlic and peppers are also very much part of the flavour profile.

The chef and staff at Culture Connect really do like to interact with their diners and they will explain in detail what each dish consists of, so there will be no unpleasantly hot surprises. It’s not that the staff merely want to sell to you either; they are genuinely interested in seeing you enjoy the experience. It’s also great to see cooks who are so willing to ensure that the guests will enjoy their experience, so don’t be surprised if you find the chef wandering our from the (scrupulously clean) kitchen to see how are are faring.

Italian, French and English are all spoken fluently by the staff there, so you will definitely be able to choose a dish that suits your palate. The owner Danilo really has put together a team and venue that doesn’t disappoint. The restaurant is small (you could mistake it for a bar if walking by) and its size really does add to the lovely atmosphere.

Meat and vegetables are generally marinated or stewed in spices and herbs. Then the meat and its sauce would be poured over rice or couscous or accompanied by bread. Many of the dishes are like an Indian curry, yet they are distinct, and they have a flavour all of their own. Try the Thiebou curry – it’s really special. In fact the version with fish is the national dish.

Another cool thing about eating at Culture Connect is that the prices are very reasonable (especially if you book your table during ‘Happy Hour’). So, be sure to try an aperitif while you mull over what you are going to eat, because your bill won’t be expensive! Dessert also deserves a mention. It often consists of a combination of yogurt and couscous. This makes for a refreshing and healthy option that isn’t too sweet and that doesn’t leave you feeling too full.

It’s really going to be tough to find an African restaurant in Milan and hinterland which betters Culture Connect. For more information visit their web site. There you will also be able to make contact with them in order to make a booking, something I recommend in view of the limited number of places. I genuinely don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Feb 28 2014

A Rare Treat – The Aurora Borealis

One of the amazing things about living far up in the Northern most part of Ireland is the exciting prospect of being able to see the Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis. Last night was one of the most spectacular displays in a very long time. Some amazing photos are flooding Facebook today as photographers are sharing their pictures with the world. I ran out with my camera at about midnight last night when I first heard they were visible, but I was about 2 hours too late, and didn’t get to see them. I have been excited all day at the prospect of seeing them tonight, and have my camera and tripod packed up and ready to go. Unfortunately conditions are not favorable tonight, so I will have to be patient and wait for the next time. I am so disappointed to have missed the show last night!

But here are some photos that you might enjoy!

The Northern Lights at the Giant’s Causeway – 27th February 2014

If you are interested in seeing if they will be visible where you are, here are some useful websites to bookmark – I know I will be checking them out every day over the next few weeks!

Real time Kp numbers – if they are above 4, then there is a good chance of seeing them.

Space weather alerts and warnings – If you see green on today’s date on the G1, G2 or G3 rows, then be prepared!

Magnetic Field – If the Bz dial is showing negative numbers, then the chances of Aurora sightings are good.

Aurora Forecast

Inishowen Tourism Blog

Here are also some Donegal Facebook pages that you might enjoy if you are interested in the latest Aurora photos:

Donegal Weather Channel, Donegal Photographic Tours, Visit Inishowen, Adam Rory Porter Photography, Martina Gardiner Photography, Rita Wilson Photography and Buncrana Camera Club

Nov 23 2013

Chiptuning by RaceChip – How to Easily Boost the Power and Economy of Your Motor

What is Chiptuning?

The engines in all modern cars are controlled by an electronic control unit or ECU.  Within this unit there is a memory chip with data that has been provided by the vehicle manufacturer. The ECU uses this data to directs the operation of the engine – ignition timing, air to fuel ratio, turbo boost and more.

Chiptuning refers to the different methods that can be used to alter the data that the ECU uses; it can refer to replacing the memory chip, reprogramming the chip, or adding an additional ECU. Altering or replacing the typically conservative data programmed by the manufacturer can result in greater power output and economy, provided it is carried out properly.

The different approaches

The data which is used to govern the engine can simply be completely replaced by simply exchanging the memory chip that is in the ECU for a chip with data which allows for different ignition timing, fuel ignition etc.

Another approach, and one which has become more popular than replacing the chip, is getting the existing chip reprogrammed (or ‘remapped’). The individual carrying out the chiptuning in this way would usually reprogram the chip by using the onboard diagnostics interface (OBD). He plugs a computer into the vehicle’s OBD port and introduces the new data. These two methods can result in greater power than the third option (see below) but there are disadvantages, risk of engine damage and inability to carry out diagnostic tests.

The third way to change the data is to add another ECU (sometimes referred to as a tuning box) which acts in the same way that the manufacturer’s ECU but uses a set of data which increases power and performance. This method offers significant advantages as it can easily be removed, allowing the original ECU to take over engine control. This is useful when it time for the vehicle to be sold. In addition, with the right setup the original engine protection program that the manufacturer installed is retained, so you good a boost in power and economy without the risk of engine damage.


RaceChip are a chiptuning company based in Germany; they have been in operation for over 18 years. RaceChip only use the the third option outlined above – that of adding an additional ECU. Their systems always leave the original engine protection data in place, so there is no risk to your motor. The ECU is easy to install (you can do it yourself in 15 minutes) and there are no structural modifications to the vehicle or the existing ECU.

Their basic system – which costs a mere €129 – can give you the following benefits: up to 25% more performance, up to 20%more torque, up to 1l / 100km less consumption. Those are very impressive figures indeed. True, you may get a greater output by replacing or reprogramming the chip, but is it worth the risk when RaceChip’s inexpensive system offers so much?

Chiptuning that is not carried out properly can actually result in poor performance and economy, and even engine damage. Therefore, it is advisable to only tune an engine by use of an additional ECU, one which allows the engine to be governed by the engine protection data programmed by the engine manufacturer. RaceChip systems certainly are the way to go.

Oct 20 2013

Huggler Books


Aug 26 2013

A Busy Summer!

Phew, it’s nearing the end of August, and we have had such a busy few months!  Although we haven’t been able to travel anywhere abroad, we have had quite a few visitors, and have shared some of the sights of Ireland with them instead!  We have also made many new friends, which means that we have got more places to visit in the future!


My dear sister and family were able to visit us from the US! It had been about five years since their last visit, so it was sooo great to see them.  They came up to Donegal for a week, and we took them on a tour of our beautiful beaches, we ate fresh seafood in Malin Head, picked and cooked mussels from the beach, went to see the Giant’s Causeway, the rope bridge, and much more! We even had the amazing and unusual occurrence of some warm weather and sunshine!! It was such a wonderful few days.. We are planning a longer trip to Georgia to see them as soon as we can, so we are keeping an eye open for great flight deals with companies like US Airways!

We also had fun with a family visiting Buncrana for to months, my cousin and his wife from Wales, and a big  group of Germans from Augsburg!  It has meant a lot of trips to the Giant’s Causeway and the rope bridge, but it is always fun! And I even managed to cross the bridge once :-/IMG_6460

Travelling abroad is such a wonderful experience, and hopefully we can visit some more countries in the near future, but travelling at home can be fun too!


Jun 18 2013

You Can’t Get Fresher Than This!

One of the best things we have done since moving here is discovered the delights of fresh ingredients.  On our list of ‘To-Dos” with any visitors is going to get fresh mussels for dinner.  There is nothing quite like driving to the beach, and walking out on the sand when the tide has gone out, collecting a bucket of fresh mussels and oysters, and cooking them!  Cleaning the barnacles from the shells is not so glamorous, however, but definitely worth it!

Blurb Cookbook Mussels

We have tried two recipes – both equally delicious!

The classic mussels in white wine: Fry some onion and plenty of garlic in a shallow cast iron pan, add some white wine and reduce slightly.  Add a good slug of fresh cream, some ground black pepper and chopped fresh parsley. Tip in the cleaned mussels, put a lid on your pan, and steam until the mussels are open. Discard any that remain closed. Don’t overcook them or they will be rubbery! Serve with crusty bread and chilled white wine.

For something a bit different, and equally tasty (I have my sister to thank for this one!): Fry a chopped onion, plenty of crushed garlic and some fresh grated ginger.  Add some chopped chilli (not too much that it will take over the taste of the mussels, but enough for a little bit of a kick), and 1/2 tsp of tumeric, 2 tsp ground cumin.  Stir in 1 cup of water and 1 3/4 cups of shredded fresh coconut. Sprinkle in some fresh chopped coriander.  Steam your mussels as in the previous recipe, and garnish with some more fresh coriander.

This sounds like a bit of a strange combination with mussels, but believe me, it’s so delicious you will be spooning up the juices with your mussel shells and drinking it!!

When you try out new recipes, be sure to snap some photos of this finished masterpiece.  You can then collect all of your favourite recipes into your own special recipe book. I am in the process of putting together a cookbook using Blurb of all of our favourite family recipes. This will make a great gift for close friends and family! It’s so easy – you should try it too!!