10 simple steps for successfully spring cleaning your computer

As media types who spend most of our working days sat in front of a screen, we’re big advocates of spending as much time away from computers as possible. It’s also important to make sure that the time you do spend on the computer is productive, to avoid endlessly scrolling through Tumblr timelines or stalking old Facebook friends until you accidentally (and embarrassingly) like a photo that has nothing to do with you.

Spring is a perfect time to change old habits – we use it as an opportunity to clean out our homes, so why not our computers? These 10 quick tips will help you to make the most of every moment you spend logged in, leaving more time for the real fun stuff.

1. Have a Facebook cull

You know that cocky Facebook friend who bragged about unfriending half their contacts in one fell swoop? They’re actually on to something. By getting rid of any person who makes you do a little internal ‘ugh’ whenever you read their cringey status updates, you allow yourself to focus more on the people who really matter to you. The same goes for all those Facebook apps you signed up to when you first joined the site, unless you want to be constantly reminded every time your friend’s Mum who still plays Farmville wants a new chicken.

2. Create Twitter lists

This oft neglected feature will revolutionise the way you use Twitter. Sort everyone you follow into lists – close friends, companies you’d like to work for, parody accounts, and so on. This will mean you don’t have to spend all your Twitter time scrolling through a constantly refreshing timeline, trying to find updates from the people you’re curious about. It’s especially useful if you use apps like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite, where you can make separate columns for each list.

3. Decide which apps and websites you really need

7910370882_39d180fb66_zYou don’t need to be on every social media site. Make note of the ones you find useful or enjoy spending time on, and delete your accounts on the rest. It’s a liberating feeling – no more emails or push notifications reminding you to log in and check the multitude of time-sapping content you missed doing something more important.

4. Stream what you can

Computers obviously have limited file space, so if you want to keep yours running fast and smooth, make the most of streaming services. This way, the big media files you need access to will all be stored on massive internet servers instead of your modest hard drive. You may decide it’s not worth migrating your entire iTunes to a new laptop, in which case you’ll probably find most of the songs you want to listen to on Spotify and Soundcloud. Likewise, you don’t need to download entire films and TV shows when they can be streamed online.

5. Clear out your bookmarks

A super quick one that anyone can do in less than a minute: delete all those bookmarks that are taking up space at the top of your browser. Yes, all of them! Start fresh, and only create new bookmarks for the sites you find yourself visiting time and time again. If you desperately need anything else you previously bookmarked, it’s only a Google away.

6. Delete your cookies

Unless they’re the chocolate chip kind, I don’t fully understand what cookies are. However, I do know that periodically deleting them can miraculously cure your browser of any niggles you’ve been experiencing. For this reason, it’s well worth doing every once in a while.

7. Create a filing system that works for you

15846226225_e487ef842b_zDesktops crowded with files are a drag to look at every time you log in. You know what else is a drag? The solution! Create a glorious multi-layered filing system, then drag (see?) and drop your files into the relevant folders to achieve beautifully organised bliss. Celebrate by setting your desktop wallpaper to something you like looking at, and vow to keep that pretty picture free from clutter.

8. Use productivity boosting apps

While many things on the internet are designed to waste your time, others are designed to help you make the most of it. Evernote, for example, has completely revolutionised my note taking. No longer do I scribble things down on easily lost scraps of paper – I simply add an item to my ‘to do’ notebook and it’s instantly there to read on both my phone and computer. Dropbox is similarly handy, especially for accessing larger files on the go. A ruthless little app called SelfControl is the ultimate weapon in my productivity arsenal. It lets you to block yourself from certain sites when you can’t afford to be distracted. Cruel but effective.

9. Procrastinate with purpose

If you REALLY aren’t in the mood to get on with that thing that needs doing, you may as well spend your computer time doing something useful. Research fun things to do on the weekend, find the best price for that holiday you’ve been planning, catch up on current affairs, write a blog post. When you’ve scratched one of those itches you’ll be in a better frame of mind to get on with the bigger task.

10. Literally clean your computer

Computers can get pretty mucky. It’s important to keep their components squeaky clean to avoid them overheating, breaking or generally being a bit gross to use. Turn the thing off, let it cool down and unplug it. To clean the inside, carefully remove any detachable parts (laptop batteries, fan covers and the like) and use a can of compressed air to blast the dust out of delicate bits. For the screen and keyboard, a microfiber cloth is ideal. Dampen it slightly if you need to – as long as you aren’t dousing your device with water, you’ll be fine.

Got any computer productivity hacks of your own? Leave us a comment below or tweet @Creative_Hacks and let us know!


Six vegan chocolate brands that taste better than dairy ones

Coco Caravan date bar

If you can’t consume dairy products, it’s hard to get a chocolate fix when you need it. Thank goodness for these six artisans of vegan chocolate! Each different in their own way and easy to find, they are supplying the demand for quality, delicious vegan chocolate one bar of rich cocoa at a time. Read on to discover your next best friend.


Divine Dark Selection

This fair-trade company is owned by chocolate farmers all over the globe, so both you and the farmers get a good deal with every bite. Divine chocolate, available in bars, eggs and cute novelty shapes, is divine by name and divine by nature. A personal favourite is the 70% dark chocolate with raspberries; the cocoa flavour is robust and creamy, while the tartness of the fruit pieces pokes through.


Booja Booja Hazelnut crunch truffle

As a vegan, you tend to lose hope of receiving a scrumptious box of choccies on a special occasion. If this sounds familiar, point your friends and family in the direction of Booja-Booja, makers of rich, indulgent vegan truffles. They literally melt in your mouth (I thought this was merely a turn of phrase until I tried these), plus they’re dairy, gluten and soya free with a leaning towards organic ingredients.

Hotel Chocolat

Hotel Chocolat Fruit and Nut frenzy slab

Unlike a lot of chain chocolatiers, Hotel Chocolat have gone to really good lengths to accommodate vegans. The vegan chocolates have much more cocoa and less sugar than their milky counterparts and have won awards for their quality. The fruit and nut frenzy (pictured above) is a heavenly slab of crunchiness, chewiness and sumptuous meltiness.  Yes, it’s so good I made up descriptive words.

Moo Free

Moo Free mini moos

One of the most commonly available vegan chocolate brands (try Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Holland and Barrett), Moo Free makes fun everyday treats that are affordable and satisfy a chocolate craving. They make mini bars, big bars, buttons, advent calendars and eggs. In other words, with their rice milk based goods, they make sure vegans can join in with occasions like everybody else.

Coco Caravan

Coco Caravan

This start-up’s chocolate is so pure it’s almost unbelievable: no additives, no preservatives, no dairy, no gluten, no soy and no refined sweeteners. With just two key ingredients – ethically sourced raw cacao and unrefined raw Coconut Blossom Nectar – Coco Caravan makes and package everything by hand in Cardiff. The bars and sweet treats come in exciting flavours and varieties, making vegan chocolate fun.


Montezuma truffle grand collection

Family owned British company Montezuma’s pushes the mould when it comes to vegan chocolate. They specialise in making perfect matches between different spices, herbs, essential oils and cocoa strengths. It’s not just bars here – they have moreish truffles, chocolate engulfed fruits and luxury drinking chocolate, all of which are an absolute joy worth savouring.

Know any other vegan chocolate companies? Share your favourites below or tweet us @Creative_Hacks and we’ll spread the word (and have a nibble).

Amy sig

Where to eat in Bath: The Green Rocket, Yak Yeti Yak, Chapel Arts Café

Bath_eatsWhen it came to choosing places to eat while visiting Bath, we were spoiled for choice. Well known for being a foodie destination, the city attracts restaurants serving up just about every cuisine you can think of.  Our limited time meant we had to be selective about the places we ate, so we ended up choosing places that we felt offered something unique – and weren’t disappointed.

We made a beeline for our first lunch stop as soon as we stepped off the train; Chapel Arts Café was conveniently located halfway between the station and our hotel. Although it’s right in the centre of town, you’d be forgiven for skipping past this quaint little vegetarian joint, which is hidden away in the basement of St James’s Memorial Hall on Lower Borough Walls.

delicious-the-farmerVenturing in from the stone steps outside, the space is a hip and cosy combo of mismatched tables and chairs, gig posters, chalkboard menus and artsy knick-knacks. The café’s signature is its wood fired flatbreads, so naturally we both opted for one. Mine was was topped with a perfect balance of goats cheese, caramelised onion and roasted veg, while Amy’s was a spicy concoction of houmous, harissa, salsa and tabbouleh. Both were delicious, and combined with a coffee and a cuppa came to £20 – not bad for a wholesome lunch in one of England’s poshest cities.

This filled us up nicely until our evening meal at the hotel (I could write many more paragraphs on how incredible that was, but you should probably just check out the review I wrote here).

Lunch at Thermae Bath Spa’s Springs Café the next day took relaxed dining to a new level. Straight from the steam rooms and into the light, airy eatery, we sat eating serrano ham sandwiches and an olive salad in our robes and slippers, surrounded by similarly dressed down guests. The salted caramel and chocolate cheesecake at the end of the meal was undoubtedly the highlight – an extra slice of indulgence that I couldn’t resist in the midst of a seriously decadent day.

yakyetiyakBy dinnertime we were feeling adventurous, so decided to mix things up with a cuisine neither of us had tried before: Nepalese, courtesy of Yak Yeti Yak. Similar to Indian food but switching the blistering heat of traditional curry houses with subtle and smoky spice combinations, it was exciting to visit a restaurant where veggie food received equal billing to the meaty choices. Our mains consisted of Chyauko Tarkari (stir-fried mushrooms with earthy spices and tomato) and Pork Sag Aloo (slow cooked with potato, spinach and coriander). Both, however, were outshined by their irresistible accompaniment, Musurko Dal (mildly spiced orange lentils and garlic infused vegan ghee). It was so moreish that we had to order an extra portion.

We probably saved the best for last by squeezing in a visit to award winning café The Green Rocket before catching our train back to Cardiff. This vegetarian and vegan wonderland serves up an unpretentious array of fresh, healthy and original recipes, from satisfying mains to tempting home baked cakes.

IMG_7564IMG_7542 IMG_7545Everything on the lunchtime menu sounded good, but our individual choices really stood out to our respective tastebuds. Amy’s mezze offered a refreshingly different variety of light bites, from the mild and smooth baba ghanoush to the warm and soft dukkah flatbread. It looked incredible, but nothing could distract me from my awesome mushroom, sundried tomato and basil rice burger. Combined with halloumi and a cool green salad, even the stubbornest hamburger purists couldn’t have turned down this animal-free winner.

There were so many highly rated restaurants in Bath that we couldn’t possibly visit them all, and we’re already hungry for our next trip back to this flavoursome city. We’d love to hear about your foodie recommendations in a comment or a tweet @Creative_Hacks.


Vintage restyled: Cardiff’s Castle Emporium

Cardiff Castle Emporium general outside shotFor the past two years, the old converted cinema opposite Clwb Ifor Bach was home to Cardiff Fashion Quarter, the go-to place for vintage clothing and knick-knacks. While it had a lot to offer fashionistas, it was perhaps quite limited, both in its offering and the layout of the space.

Relaunched by new owner James Morgan-Rees, CFQ has transformed into The Castle Emporium. While some of the old traders remain (Rock-ola Reborn, Eagle Eye Vintage, AMARAS), there is a new range of stalls, i.e. a whole lot more vintage-gem-hunting to get excited about.

We took a walk around the Emporium, snapping some of the independent businesses that have set up shop.

Cardiff Castle Emporium aerialThe view from the first floor – the colourful stalls are a treat for the eyes

Cardiff Castle Emporium candle tinsRoughneck Candles recycle pocket sized tins by turning them into kitsch homeware

Cardiff Castle Emporium minotaur booksJust some of the bookshelves at Minotaur Books, who stock everything from popular poetry to obscure dystopian literature

Cardiff Castle Emporium Al's Musique BoutiqueCardiff Castle Emporium bow ties suitcase Cardiff Castle Emporium horse whiskyAl from Al’s Musique Boutique poses alongside vintage clothing and accessories for gentlemen

Cardiff Castle Emporium mario kart yoshi playstation 2Cardiff Geek Party‘s shop houses games memorabilia, retro consoles and stacks of bargain computer games

Cardiff Castle Emporium Super Mario Bros gaming stationWe’ll be heading back here for the Mario Tournament. There’s a different game leaderboard each month; Matt’s hoping he gets a chance to show off his Crash Team Racing expertise

Cardiff Castle Emporium vegan chocolate cake Cardiff Castle Emporium vegan snacks chocolateSo many yummy treats at Simply V, including marshmallows, wagon wheels and chocolates – and they’re all vegan!

Cardiff Castle Emporium vintage clothes Rock-olaCardiff Castle Emporium vintage jumpers Cardiff Castle Emprium shelves of bric a bracFor fans of upcycling and vintage fashion, there are stacks of menswear, womenswear and accessories to dig through

With the rejuvenated vintage haven sitting firmly at the top end of Womanby Street, it makes what is already a culturally busy passageway even more exciting. Take a stroll winding around the Emporium then down to Urban Tap House; you won’t be disappointed.

Know any other great spots in Cardiff for finding vintage treasures? Comment below or tweet your suggestions @Creative_Hacks.

Amy sig

Where to stay in Bath: The Queensberry Hotel

We adults have it pretty tough at this time of year – short days, miserable weather and no half term to look forward to. For those reasons, taking a couple of days off last week for a short but sweet visit to one of our favourite UK cities was much needed.

Bath is barely an hour away from Cardiff on the train, but stepping out of the station and onto its iconic brown stone streets reminded us why tourists flock from all over the world to see it. Because the entire city is a World Heritage Site, its striking mix of Roman and Georgian architecture has been preserved beautifully. We probably could have spent the whole trip strolling up and down the streets marveling at the impressive buildings, but drizzly weather convinced us to seek refuge in one of Bath’s equally alluring boutique hotels.

We couldn’t have picked a better base than The Queensberry Hotel on Russel Street. Converted from four terraced Georgian townhouses, the hotel is a tastefully curated clash of old and new – period furnishings are mixed up with touches of contemporary luxury and the owners’ love of classic English wit.

After being welcomed by a smiley member of the concierge team, we were led to our luxurious room. With a mighty king sized bed taking pride of place, we couldn’t resist faceplanting gleefully on to its cushty mattress as soon as the door was closed. You haven’t known comfort until you’ve spent ten minutes lying on one of these beds while Classic FM blares triumphantly from the bedside digital radio; nibbling complimentary chocolates as you allow your eyes to roam around one of these incredible bedrooms.

It was the small touches that made this room really special, from a stately trio of winged pugs soaring up the wall to an indulgent (and free) overnight shoe cleaning service. This was much needed after our soggy roaming around the city; waking up to find two pairs of spotlessly polished boots next to our complimentary newspaper made both of the mornings we were there feel like Christmas.

The generosity continued downstairs in a cosy drawing room, where Teapigs tea and fresh coffee is freely available from 8am until 8pm every day. We made a habit of spending at least an hour in here each day, sipping our hot drinks in front of the fire while collaborating on a crossword. Old fashioned, perhaps, but timelessly satisfying.

For us, the jewel in the crown of The Queensberry had to be its restaurant, The Olive Tree. We had the pleasure of meeting head chef Chris Cleghorn, whose résumé includes time with Michelin Star chefs including Heston Blumenthal and Michael Caines. Chris told us that his menu was all about treating the diner to bold and well-matched flavour combinations, without leaving anyone bloated or overfed. After three sublime courses, this was exactly how we both felt.

The kitchen aptly accommodated for our resident vegan, from the creamy butternut squash soup starter to an intensely savoury salt baked celeriac main and three scoops of sweet sorbet – blackcurrant, chocolate and mandarin – for dessert. Having been faced with countless humdrum veggie options at other restaurants, Amy really appreciated being able to choose from a range of original and thoughtful vegan dishes.

As for me, I purposely went for food that I’ve not had the chance to try before – a melt-in-your-mouth crab lasagne, an exquisitely British take on duck à l’orange and, finally, a super indulgent chocolate fondant with pistachio ice cream. It took a shot of espresso to rouse me from my flavour-induced stupor to truly appreciate what I’d just eaten – an absolute sensation, matched with impeccable service that made the evening unforgettable.

The next morning, The Olive Tree’s similarly delicious but more relaxed breakfast was chance to reflect on what an experience staying in The Queensberry had been. We can’t imagine anywhere else in Bath being more accommodating, comfortable or uniquely charming – a real treat for anyone seeking something special enough to rival the vibrant personality of the city.

We did manage to tear ourselves away from The Queensberry to experience some of Bath’s other attractions – look out for some of those in another blog post!