The Blogging Sites You Should and Should Not Use

I’ve been blogging on and off for more than 5 years. I’ve gone through 10 different layouts, 4 different names and 3 different hosting sites. I’ve tried all the popular ones, and these are my experiences. Hopefully, I can save you some hassle (and money).

Screenshot (26)Blogger: Blogger is the blogging platform created/run by Google. I started my first blog on this hosting site. (Awww baby writer) It is like blogging with training wheels. It is very basic, but that is what you need when you are just starting out. Instead of using it to generate traffic, or be the fanciest blog on the block, I used Blogger as the place to really nail down my personal voice. Writing content is easy, as is adding embedded links and pictures. The best part is how straight forward it is to design the layout how you want. In addition, it links so well with your Gmail, Youtube, and Google profile. The help page was useful, and if I had further questions I always got prompt responses. I was never able to get Google Ad Sense to work…which is ironic because Google is the host… I recommend Blogger for the new writer who is just exploring what blogging is and where they want to take their writing. I give Blogger a 6 out of 10.

Screenshot (27)Wix.com: Wix was my second hosing site. I transitioned from Blogger to Wix because I thought Wix could generate more traffic and take my blog to the next level. I was wrong. I will say the layout was better than Blogger, although it took me much longer to arrange the way I wanted. It had more options for personalising my various pages. They have free images to add to the blog, but they make it difficult to Pin on Pinterest. It was the prettiest version of my blog that I have had. However, I paid a premium rate so I could have Google Ads…and Wix never gave them to me. I was paying a fortune to the company every month for services they never delivered. The Wix help is HORRIBLE! They mostly redirect you in a circle on their FAQ page. The traffic for my blog went waayyyy down on Wix. They do nothing to help with blog promotion, which Blogger did. And the final issue is it is next to impossible to leave Wix. They bill you for things separately, so I tried to cancel my plan and domain, and I managed to cancel for one of them. But, Wix continued to charge me for hosting a blog that no longer existed. The website wasn’t live online, but I was paying for it….When I complained, they refused to refund. And the free version they offer for blogs is next to useless. Wix is not a good host for a blogger, maybe for a different kind of website but not for a writer. I give Wix a 2 out of 10.

Screenshot (28)WordPress: This is the 3rd blog host I have tried. It is a bit more complicated to use than Blogger, but they layout looks better. I have been able to personalise it to my liking. The help page is equal to Blogger. Creating content is easy, and they offer a lot of stock images which is crucial to a small writer. I still don’t have Google Ad sense. All blog hosting sites now charge you to use Google Ad sense, and it is only worthwhile if you have a lot of traffic. But, if you have a lot of traffic, most sites offer you abs for free. So, is not the ideal situation. The one thing that WordPress is spectacular at is attracting traffic to my blog! I’ve gotten more likes and follows with WordPress than any other hosting site. The free version is more than enough for me. I would say this blog is good for the writer who knows their content, knows what they like, and is prepared to put in a bit more work to make their website look how they want. If Blogger is for a beginner and Wix is for NO ONE, then WordPress is for the intermediate-advanced blogger. I give WordPress a 7 out of 10 (so far).

If you are a new (or old) blogger and you are thinking of switching your hosting platform, or upgrading, read this! I wish I had found more honest reviews of hosting sites before I started out. I would have saved myself a lot of time and money. Please comment and share which sites you like or hate!

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Buy This If You Are Renting or In a Dorm

Screenshot (21)I don’t frequently do reviews, unless something truly warrants my attention. But, hands down the best investment I have ever made is a foam mattress topper. I have moved every year since I was eighteen. I’ve lived in three different states, and two different countries.

The one thing that has stayed constant in all that is, I move into furnished houses/apartments. I don’t move furniture, just clothes. And all of the beds in the places I have moved to have been less than heavenly. Usually, they are old, threadbare, and covered in stains. For a lot of these years, I’ve been a poor university student, or struggling graduate. I could not afford to buy a new mattress every time I changed homes. So, for five years, I just accepted having a bad back from constantly sleeping on terrible mattresses.

Then, one day I got smacked with the worst food poisoning of my life (and I’ve lived in East Asia so that says a lot) and I was trapped in a bed where I could feel every single metal spring. It was agony. In a haze of vomit, I rush ordered a foam mattress topper off Amazon Prime. It cost me £50 and was the only cheap, highly rated option that had next day delivery.

From the minute I put it on my ancient bed, everything turned magical. It was like laying on a cloud. I’ve moved three times since I bought the mattress topper. And the only thing I have always brought with me is this foam pad of heaven. The foam mattress topper is nearly two years old, and it hadn’t worn down. The eggshell like top is still visible, and there are no dents from my partners larger frame.

No matter where I live, from now on, I will always buy or bring with me a foam mattress topper. They can compress into a box, and it ensures I always get a good nights rest. For any university student, or anyone renting a house that comes fully furnished, this is an investment you will NEVER regret. Plus, you can find them for fairly cheap, and it will save you loads in coffee and chiropractor costs because you won’t have a bad back or lack sleep due to your bed arrangement.

How To Turn a Side Hustle Into a Career

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Does your ESL teacher look like this?

Staying in England, I have struggled financially. The cost of living is high all over the country, and finding a well paid position in my skill set isn’t easy. Around Christmas of 2017, I had a lot of people to buy gifts for and no cash to do it. I was desperate, and even though I already worked 2 part time jobs, I took on another. My parents taught English online, and suggested a company that had flexible schedules and decent pay. It was called Cambly, I applied, and was hired within 3 days.

I initially took the job as a way to get through the holidays, but, I was so good at it, and I made so much money that I never got around to quitting. I’ve been with Cambly 6 months now, and I work online almost every day. I swore that I would never be a teacher, but, I have a knack for teaching English. Just a few months into working for Cambly, I became one of the highest rated teachers, and I rarely have any open slots in my schedule. Sometimes my teaching hours are booked up weeks in advance.

Teaching English was my side hustle. I never thought it would turn into more. But, I was miserable in my day job working at a nursery/daycare, and was desperate for a change. The UK is a hot spot for ESL summer camps, and all of them were looking for qualified English teachers. I applied for 2 different companies and was hired by both. So, I immediately left my job at the nursery and NEVER looked back.

My side hustle was born out of necessity. I needed money, and I had the skills to teach English (those skills were a degree and understand of different cultures). But six months in, my side hustle is now my primary source of income. I make at least $100 a week and I only work 10 hours teaching online. I make around $500 a week teaching English at summer camps. My schedule is insanely flexible, I design my own classes, and am basically my own boss.

Will I always be an ESL teacher? I don’t know. For now, it pays the bills and allows me the freedom to write. Turning a side hustle into a career was never my plan. However, side hustles are usually things that people enjoy, are good at, and treat as a hobby. Like running an Etsy store or a blog. It only makes sense that something a person is passionate about would become more profitable than a job they despise.

If you have any questions about side hustles, making profits out of them, or about teaching ESL, DO NOT hesitate to contact me. I will answer any questions and happily lend support!!

 

You MUST Add ‘Origin’ To Your 2018 Reading List

24171946_10214772928821363_888742527_nI believe the Robert Langdon series is so beloved because the character is a modern day Indiana Jones. An academic (which appeals to us cerebral types) who goes on thrilling, dangerous adventures seeking to solve a mystery and discover some groundbreaking truth. Who wouldn’t want to read that?
After ‘The Lost Symbol’ I thought that I had seen the last of Langdon and Dan Brown. But, through my social media stalking, roughly a year ago I realized that Brown was in fact writing a 4th book in his Langdon series, and I’ve been salivating in anticipation ever since. I was so excited that when I actually bought the book that I deliberately only allowed myself to read a chapter at a time. But eventually, my restraint ran out and I had to finish it!
There are three things that are fantastic about Dan Brown as a writer. First is his ability to fit 300 pages worth of plot into a time span of only a few days. In the case of ‘Origin’ the entire book occurs over a period of less than 24 hours. Langdon is invited to a secretive media presentation hosted by Kirsch (an old pupil) that was being held in Madrid’s premier modern art museum. During his virtual tour, Langdon is introduced to Winston, Kirsch futuristic artificial intelligence. Winston guides Langdon through the museum and finally into the presentation.
Inside a massive art installation, Langdon is taken on a sensory journey that explains religion, the origin of mankind, and concludes with two central questions. These questions are the scientific breakthrough Kirsch has invited Langdon to see. Alas, before revealing his achievement, Kirsch is murdered in cold blood by a fanatical religious Spanish naval officer. Langdon felt he owed a debt to his former student, thus, he resolved to release the breakthrough with the help of Winston. Tagging along for the ride was a beautiful Amal who helped construct the installation for Kirsch before his demise (Brown knows that every good hero needs a woman by his side, as Langdon always has a brilliant female assistant). The three set off on a path across the city and Spain in a bid to discover how to unlock the encypted presentation.
Here is the second brilliant thing about Brown as an author, he has a puzzling mind that can produce puzzles, hints, and clues in seemingly innocuous things that no one else could think of. Brown does this by weaving together art, nature, science, religion, and in ‘Origin’, technology. Amal and Langdon rely on a specially designed smart phone designed by Kirsch to lead them back to Kirsch apartment where they attempt to find the master password to Kirsch science presentation. Langdon uses his skills to recall text to basically delve through an entire library in the space of an hour. Meanwhile, the duo are being hunted by the police as Langdon has been accused of kidnapping by the Royal Palace of Spain.
Eventually, Langdon realizes that the password hint is hidden in a tome that Kirsch donated to a modern church within Barcelona. This is where the third amazing thing about Brown emerges. Throughout ‘Orgin’ and all of his novels, Brown is able to interpret religion in a way that makes it seem alive and interesting. With the help of a Catholic priest, Langdon and Amal discover the password and attempt to rush off to the stronghold of Winston. Unfortunately, the crazy Spanish navy killer catches them and attempts to kill Langdon (it wouldn’t be a true Brown novel if his protagonist didn’t face death at least once). Luckily, Langdon survives and escapes to the find the supercomputer Winston, which is hidden within another church.
After a night of trials and dangers, Amal and Langdon finally reach the physical computer version of Winston and release Kirsch breakthrough to the world. Kirsch had managed to make a supercomputer strong enough to simulate the origin of man. The computer proves that life on earth emerged not from God, but chemicals and energy. Kirsch goes on to explain that he also simulated where life on earth was going. Kirsch predicted that humans and tech would merge into a new species. In the end, Langdon achieved his goal of publicising his students work. Sadly, he still doesn’t get the beautiful girl Amal, who is quickly spirited away. Langdon goes on to make one further discovery, that I won’t reveal to you. Some things need to remain a surprise.
To conclude, I was taught that every good review needs to include at least one thing that could be improved on. It is probably the best advice I’ve ever been given because it forces me to be critical of things I love. In the case of ‘Origin’, I question if Brown was reaching too far outside his comfort zone. The beauty of Langdon is that his talents/knowledge lie in classical art, symbolism and religion. It almost felt uncomfortable to read about Langdon being involved in so much technology. Furthermore, some of the scientific leaps described in ‘Orgin’ seem a bit too far fetched. I believe they are possible, but not for decades. Lastly, can Langdon ever get the girl? He deserves some peace and happiness.
Nonetheless, I loved ‘Origin’. It was a thought provoking read that taught me new things about architecture, Spain, and technology. I forcefully recommend that you read not only ‘Origin’ but all of the Langdon series. You will never be bored, and I guarentee you will be educated in a variety of areas. Furthermore, I pray that this isn’t the last I hear of Robert Langdon. He is simple too good a character to retire.
I aspire to be an author like Dan Brown. He manages to make intriguing, complicated characters that maintain mass appeal. Brown also has a way of provoking thought by constantly weaving religion and symbolism into everything. It makes me wonder what Brown’s actual views on religion are. I could easily research this, but I choose to let it remain a unanswered question. Maybe he will tell me himself one day when I’m also a best selling author and we meet for coffee.

Can You Find Tex-Mex In The UK?

tex mexIf you were to ask me my favorite foods it would go 1. Pizza 2. Tex-Mex 3. Candy 4. Cake/Desserts. England is full of American pizza chains, and they do a fantastic job of making American style pizza. Poppa Johns, Domino’s, Pizza Hut, all exist in abundance in the UK, and they even have stuffed crust. I can find good candy here as well, especially in the small American food sections most grocery store chains have. Cake and desserts are a no brainer. England is after all, just across the Channel from Europe where the French live. So, the cakes, pies, pastries, they are all top notch.

The food I constantly am lacking in my life is Mexican! I’ve been to many “Mexican/Tex-Mex” places in the UK, and so far none have lived up to my standard. I’ve had Mexican food all over the US, always in the little Mom’Pop restaurants that are small, set back, and not crazy busy. They all have similar decor, tastes and menu prices. And they are all delicious! I love to order a queso cheese dip appetizer, with two chicken enchiladas, re-fried beans and re-fried rice as my entree and then I’m so stuff I couldn’t possibly eat anymore. Other classics are the chicken mole which is a delicious Mexican chocolate sauce that somehow goes savory and heavenly. Going out to eat at the local Mexican restaurant never breaks the bank, is always fun, and you don’t feel like you are in a chain food environment.

Having eaten and loved Mexican food my whole life, it kills me to be in the Mexican wasteland that is the UK. I haven’t found one authentic Mexican restaurant in the 3 years I have lived here. Most do a passable job, but they are just missing certain touches. The decor is all clearly store bought, and cheap, all too shiny and new. The appetizers are always lacking a queso cheese dip. They include BBQ pulled pork in the meat options for burritos. And other small things that just make it clear that the UK will never be able to replicate the food or environment of the Mexican eateries I grew up with.

I recently gave Chimi Changa Tex-Mex restaurant in Leicester a try. The menu had burritos, enchiladas, nacho’s, and chimichanga so I thought I might finally have discovered the holy grail of Mexican. I was disappointed, yet again. I ordered the chicken enchiladas while my partner had a pork burrito. First of all, the rice and beans we were served were a kids portion. It put the massive meals at the American Mexican restaurants to shame. The rice was also not re-fried, and the beans were your basic black beans. Secondly, I could distinguish no difference between my partners burrito and my enchinallada. His was bigger and he had one large one to my two small ones, but otherwise they were identical. The enchilada was missing the key tomato style sauce that is crucial to make a meal into an actual enchilada. They also added too many veggies, not enough cheese, and the spices taste more curry than Mexican.

I had such high hopes for Chimi Changa in Leicester. It looked like it could be the real deal. But alas, it was not. If you are British and don’t know any better, then it is a wonderful place to eat. The prices are fair, the meal is exotic to the British pallet and overall it has a nice vibe about the place. I would reccommend it to all my British and European friends, just not any Americans living in the UK. Better to try and make your own Mexican food at home.

Also, in the picture, the menu describe a taquito as a ‘Mexican spring roll’! How inaccurate/wrong is that?!

Thor Ragnarok Is a Must-See for You This Summer

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Photo by Donald Tong on Pexels.com

I am a HUGE Marvel and D.C fan. Anything with superhero’s, sci-fi, then I am in! It is a bit of an odd obsession, because I wasn’t exposed to much superhero style things during my childhood. Therefore, I am at the movie theatres as soon as I can get tickets at a cheap price. In the UK that means a Tuesday or Wednesday when you can get 2 for 1 tickets.

I went to see Thor the day after it was released, that is how eager I am. I’m already counting down the days to see Justice League. Thor has never been my favorite Avenger. He is ok, but I feel that his personality is eclipsed by Iron Man and Hulk. Nonetheless, I was excited for Thor, especially because it has Hulk as a star (and Loki, I have a weak spot for him).
I was astounded at how much I loved this film! Before I saw this, Deadpool was number one pick for superhero flicks. But, Thor 3 gives it a run for it’s money! In this film, Thor suddenly has a sense of humor, a brain, and is more than just brawn. He has to make decisions on his own, act as a leader and doesn’t blame everything going on around him someone else’s fault. Added bonus, he got his hair cut and takes his shirt off for an extended length of time.
Perhaps the best aspect was the comical side Marvel injected into this film. Hulk was hilarious and Loki gave his best performance ever! I was laughing through out the whole film. Even my friends who don’t laugh at Kevin Hart were cracking a smile.
The plot line was spectacular. Spoilers ahead if you haven’t watched it yet. Thor discovers that Loki has taken the throne and his father was banished to earth. In a surprise twist, Thor’s dad died and Thor discovers that he has a secret sister, who is crazier than even Loki. (It says something about Thor’s parents that they managed to raise two psychopaths) The sister is the Goddess of Death and takes over the throne with the plans of taking over the universe.
Thor and Loki get banished to a trash planet, where Loki befriends the ruler and Thor is forced to battle in gladiator style to entertain them. Again, surprise #2, Hulk is his opponent. The two are pretty evenly matched and only through the rulers intervention is it ended. Hulk and Thor bond for a bit, before Hulk, Thor and a random warrior chick escape to go save their home planet.
Thor battles his sister while Hulk and the warrior chick try to rescue the citizens, but it is actually Loki who swoops in to save the day. The combined power of all of them are able to destroy the Goddess of Death but is came at a heavy price. Thor’s home planet is destroyed by a fire demon.
Overall, the plot was full of twists and turns, jokes, Easter eggs, and cinematic gems. If you haven’t already gone to see this, then you should!
#doitcheap tip: Go see the film early in the day, and get cheaper prices (both in UK and USA). Never go on the weekends or after 6pm unless you have a coupon.

Why ‘The Girl Who Takes An Eye for An Eye’ Is Not Worth Buying or Reading

Let me preface by saying I am obsessed with ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ trilogy! The plot was so haunting and addictive that I bought all 3 novels back to back. Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomkvist are such compelling characters. Salander has a gory, tragic past that never leaves her alone, while Blomkvist has had a fairly nice upbringing and runs his own paper. They are an odd pair, but Stieg Larson made it work. Plus, the gore factor was really high for a book and I loved it (I’m a total horror fan).
I was disappointed when I finished the third book in his series. Salander was so interesting I wanted to read about her life until it ended. Which is why I was so excited that David Lagercrantz somehow got the permission of Larson to continue the series!! But, I should have left the books alone. No matter how talented the second writer is, they can never be as good as the original author.
Lagercrantz does an adequate job of mimicking Larson’s writing style. A style that I find in many Swedish novels. But, he doesn’t push the boundaries enough. Larson was not afraid to make Salander and Blomkvist suffer or go through painful experiences. I find that Lagercrantz has dialed down the awful factor in the story. He skips over describing a beating in vivid detail, something Larson would never do.
I also think he reaches too far with the story. As crazy as Salander’s life has been, I don’t think she would kidnap a child, end up in jail, kill a criminal in jail, then get kidnapped herself and go on the run. I also don’t think that the genetic experiment Lagercrantz thought up on twins was as horrific as he intended. Overall, he just threw logic to the wind and piled a lot of half connected plot points together, in the hopes that they would be as good as Larson. But, he can’t make Salander sing the way Larson could.
Which is why, as sad as I am to say it, this series needs to be put to rest. I understand the appeal of continuing to write novels in a series of best sellers. You are guaranteed a profit. Something I understand and sympathize with as a writer myself. But, Lagercrantz is tarnishing the series by adding to it. What should be done instead is having the books as a HBO show. Imagine the gore of Game of Thrones added to the twisted criminalness of Hannibal. Instant small screen gold!