Have you ever felt that you're not good enough at something and the pressure to be better brings on so much stress that it almost brings you to quitting?

Well this was me at the back end of 2016.

When I started blogging it was a whole new world to me, writing for enjoyment was something I had never done before - ever, but for some reason I naturally took to it and by my own admission I did get quite popular and well known quite fast.

But that seems so long ago now, yet it was only two and a half years ago.

I know that people do still say that male bloggers are rare but back when I started we were kind of none existent, well not totally, maybe just there, hiding in the shadows a little bit.
Nowadays though everywhere you look there is a new male blogger popping up and I think it is such a great thing, but I do still feel we are quite a way off from catching up to the scale of the female blogger community.

Back when I began I don't seem to recall there being many smaller male bloggers around - the ones already on the scene were all already quite well established and therefore I felt I had some really good male blogger role models to look up to and gather some insight from of places where I hoped to be someday.

But like I said, writing for fun was never a hobby of mine, nor did I ever expect it to become one - I've always struggled with my spelling and grammar you see but it's something I've always been honest about - with the amount of 'odd mistakes' I make it really isn't something I could hide anyway but I always hoped that my content would grip people, making them want to read the post and then perhaps said flaw could be overlooked...

I do realise there are so many things to consider when it comes to blogging - good content, great pictures, SEO, being a whiz on social media, but with my blog I wanted to focus on the things I felt I was good at rather than muddling through, trying to get each and every factors spot on all of the time.

For me my content and being really social on different social media platforms were my strongest points, I still don't really know much about SEO but I feel I must be doing OK because quite a lot of my posts get really good views daily from Google searches and people looking for things similar to what I'm talking about in the posts.

My content is and always will be totally honest and original and for this I have been complemented loads of times - which is better than great.  

And I know that my blogging routine my be a bit different to others because I never know what I'm going to write until the laptop is open in front of me and I start typing and I do think this is why my content is a little all over the place sometimes, but I think that's OK - it's me and it's real life.

I do find social media really easy and I don't often schedule posts so 99.9% of my tweets are live and I have found that the more sarcastic you are the more interaction you get - which again is perfect for me because I am very much like this all of the time.
I do wish I had more time to tweet and interact through the day though but sometimes with work I don't even get chance to make a brew let alone load up social media but I do always try to get back to people who have interacted with me once I am home though.

My biggest blogger struggle has to be taking them damn PHOTOS - it really isn't easy and it' this part that almost forced me to quit my blog.

I find taking photos of products OK, mainly because I usually try to annoy my wife about it until she offers to do them for me but it's the outfit shots for my fashion posts which I really struggle with and it is such a shame because I love writing these posts; I love fashion and I've found that they are by far the most popular topic of post on my blog.

Finding time to dress up and find photo taking locations during the working week is impossible - I work really long hours every day and then weekends are taken up with Dad duties and taking my son to play both rugby league and rugby union.

There's certainly no time for fancy photo editing either once I have the photos taken - I could never get my shots as perfect as all of those male bloggers I looked up to managed to get theirs looking.

I don't have nice looking, bright white houses on my door step or beautiful, picturesque parks with amazing boating lakes surrounded by perfect flower beds or use as stunning backdrops...I wish I did but nope.

Outside of my house I have half a broken council fence, a tiny patch of seen better days grass, my park pond has about 4 upside down trolleys shoved in which have been nicked from the local Tesco that are swimming next to a lovely mixture of Special Brew cans and White Lightning bottles which the four poor ducks that live there are using as an assault course.

Don't get me wrong, my hometown Bradford does have some very beautiful places but finding the time to get to them can really be a struggle.

I felt so much pressure to get my photos right that I didn't do any outfit posts for ages and I'll admit I felt so jealous when I saw the bloggers I looked up to producing their amazing pictures and then watching their following shoot up partly because of it.

And jealousy was a strange feeling for me because I've never wanted to be like anybody else before and I've never really looked at other bloggers following and compared it to mine...but it was something I found myself feeling more and more and I didn't like it.

So I wanted out.

I still felt this way until a couple of weeks ago actually.

You may of seen quite a bit of drama on Twitter around the subject of cheating on different social media platforms to gain a higher following and for some reason seeing all of this negativity in the blogging community actually fired me up and gave me a massive kick up the arse to get going again and for a few reasons really.

The main one being that actually, as it turned out a few of the bigger bloggers I looked up to - who I still admit do produce killer photos and content - were found to be cheating their way into getting some of their amazing opportunities and their huge followings...it wasn't always a natural progression, so why on earth should I be jealous of that.

So last weekend I pulled out a selection of clothes that I admittedly should have blogged about a while ago, and I put together an outfit.
I pulled my son away from playing with his friends and told him he had to come with me and take some photos (luckily he said yes)

We had a little drive around and I remembered a little spot that I'd seen near to our local post office collection point the last time I picked up a parcel.
  
The location was a really old youth centre within an estate that had a little graffiti wall area.

It was perfect and, well, here are the results of a quick, spur of the moment, thrown together outfit and my amazing son's camera skills using a really random backdrop in a council estate...

And I'll take you through the outfit too.



The Snapback is from Salaam Apparel and is the 'Gold on Black Tree of Life' with leather brim snapback.

The gold jacket is from Boohooman



The Snoop Dogg tee is also from Boohooman

The black bomber jacket and black skinny jeans are both from Jacamo




And I'll be totally honest I haven't a clue where the watch is from.









But the white leather High Top Pumps are from Boohooman too



I would love to know what you think of this post, the outfit choice and the location, so don't be shy and leave me a comment or two.

CARL


As the colder days seem to be past us now it's quite likely that our skin is in need of some TLC.

I know for certain that my skin has taken a battering from the awful winter chill so it has never been as important as it is now for me to have a set of good male grooming products in my life.

Over the winter most of my days have been spent outside working, and my face is the only part of my body which hasn't been wrapped up from the often terrible weather.

Two pairs of socks, thick work pants with long-johns underneath (on the very cold days),
a tee shirt, jumper, fleece, wooly hat and gloves have formed my uniform most days.

Definitely not the most fashionable attire but it helps to keep me nice and cosy.

I'm not a fan of the cold at all and I don't think I will ever get used to being outside for hours in horrible weather conditions - by now, after doing a similar style job for sixteen years, you would think I would be more than comfortable with it, but I'm really not.

If you have read my blog before or if follow me on on any of my social media channels (if not, why not?) then I bet you are thinking that there's no way I should be moaning about my face getting cold when there's only about 30% of it not covered in hair.

No, I'm not Teen Wolf before you ask, I just have a really good, thick beard and an even better mop on top of my head.

And so, when it comes to choosing my skincare I really need to remember this hair and find something which is beard friendly.

But back to the cold - I don't know about you but my skin becomes really dry in the colder weather - my beard goes really brittle too and as well as not being ideal for me it also gets me in the bad books at home because the hair just falls out everywhere which the wife isn't impressed with.

So to try and eliminate these factors let me tell you what I have been using recently.

I'm not a big fan of mixing products and I like using things which are from the same brand at the same time and the range I was sent recently from grüum has been perfect for this.

grüum state that they are "every man's alternative to the overpriced, underwhelming high street grooming brands" and they have a very minimalist Scandinavian design which definitely stands out, as does their philosophy to supply the modern day man with all of his grooming product needs for a fraction of what would normally be paid.


Sounds good, but what about the products themselves?

I have been looking particularly at a beard maintenance gift set that I was kindly sent which contains a beard wash, an oil, a wax, as well as a face wash, a moisturiser and facial tonic.


For many years now I have been given quite a few different gift sets on occasions such as my birthday or for Christmas but to be honest, I never really use them, mainly because they are more often than not some sort of Lynx set which don't really agree with me...but they do make great presents for other people ;)



But this set by grüum, I'm a massive fan of because the products have kept my skin well hydrated, looking fresh and feeling really soft.

The face wash and moistuirser really complement each other and for myself, there is no better feeling after a hard days work in awful, cold conditions, covered in all sorts of filth and grease, than getting a nice warm bath and pampering myself with some really refreshing products.

The eucalyptus in the face wash is extremely refreshing and never fails to wake me up when I've used it early in the morning and because I'm normally up for work between 5am and 6am I love this as I need all the help I can get - it's an essential for me.

It also exfoliates really well, removing horrible dead skin cells and dirt, which is never a bad thing and I feel like a new man once I've leathered it on.

The wash is really nice and light and the moisturiser absorbs fast into the skin, both smell really great too.

But as with a lot of mosturisers, I've found my face can often look quite shiny after I use them and this is where the facial tonic works it's wonders for me.

It can also be used after shaving to help the skin heal but I will never get to try this side of it out because the beard is here to stay.



Just like the face wash, the beard wash is really refreshing which is down to the mixture of eucalyptus and orange within it which also helps give it a lovely, very sweet smelling aroma when it is being used.

After using all of these products I've noticed, almost immediatly, that my beard has really softened up and is looking really well and I have to say that I think it even looks a lot thicker too - that beard wash is one of my favorite products from the bunch for this very reason.



Both the beard oil and wax have really helped me bring a little shape to my beard once it is clean - I don't use these daily for work or anything but if I'm going out for the day I will use them both together as the make a great little combination.

They are subtly scented with blends of spearmint, thyme and rosemary and none of them are really overpowering either which I like - in the past I have found that a really over powering scent on the beard can get really annoying and, put simply, will really get up my nose all day.
I've hated this so much in the past that I've actually had to wash the products off half-way through the day just because the scent was too much.



This gift set has everything I could want for all of my grooming needs and I know I will definitely run out of it all really quickly because I use it that often.

So go check out grüum and don't worry if you don't have a beard and you don't need a grooming kit for it, they have a few different gift sets tailored to many individual needs and tastes.

No one is left out by grüum.

CARL





Trend Watch 2017: This year’s best timepieces

For me, I think one of the greatest gifts you could possibly buy someone - or yourself - is a luxury watch.
A eeally nice watch is both an investment and a point of pride - they are fashionable, they are beautiful and they are practical – and an amazing watch will make a terrific present for both men or women.
And 2016 actually sa2 a change in "favourite" watch styles - watch buyers became a lot more interested in simple, uncomplicated designs and technology.
But what would YOU select and why?
Here are three ideas of timeless timepieces that could be bought for a special someone or, of course, be kept as a treat for yourself...well that's if you have a spare bit of cash lying around because some of the watches that catch my eye when surfing the net are quite pricey to say the least.
And if I ever did splash the cash on a beautiful, luxury timepiece I'd have to make sure I looked after my investment well with some watch insurance.








Watch trends for him

The Minimalist Choice – Longines Master Collection L2.718.4.70.3

This is a dress watch that is sleek, sophisticated and designed to effortlessly mimic the designs found in the 1940’s era, with its crocodile strap details it is a beautiful example of a minimalist timepiece.

A watch like this will go with any smart or smart casual outfit, especially a nice, sleek, blue suit and brown shoe combo - well that's my opinion anyway.
The Longines Master Collection 38mm has a twenty one jewel automatic movement and is water resistant to 30m with a 38mm sapphire glass case.
This is a watch that has as much sensibility as it does dress appeal - the silver elements contrast with the brown strap beautifully, creating an accessory perfect for a winter formal occasion such as an office party.
Priced at £2,200 and up, visit the Longines site for more information.

The Diver’s Choice – Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean Deep Black


I've mentioned a few times in older blog posts about my love for a full black timepiece and this watch strengthens my love for them.

While this watch will not suit everyone’s budget, it really is a beautiful piece of engineering that will certainly be appreciated by anyone who dives.
It was new in October 2016 too, so to have it would certainly mean the owner would be one of the few sporting such a beautiful design.
It is a bold, all-black watch that can take on 600 metre dives thanks to its ceramic construction and is inspired by the dark side of the moon - these watches are out of this world when it comes to durability and technical achievement - yet having prices starting from £7,000 it is certainly for serious divers only.

The Trendy Luxury Choice – BreitlingNavitimer in blue



Breitling is synonymous with quality, and nothing has changed over the years. However, many watch trends in 2016 seemed to have prized blue faces – with little surprise, as blue is a versatile colour that matches virtually any outfit.
The Navitimer men’s watch is a delightful instrument that looks absolutely spell-binding on any man’s wrist. It captures attention immediately and is a favoured timepiece for pilots and aeronautical experts alike. The mechanical chronograph is crafted in Breitling’s workshop and is a true technical marvel. Available from £5,999.

Watch trends for her

The Minimalist Choice – Montblanc Tradition




The Montblanc Tradition is a masterpiece in 36mm. It’s a simplistic piece that features a classic guilloche dial with Roman numerals and a small date function. Uncluttered and unassuming, but engineered to offer the finest level of quality. The watch also has 30 metres of water resistance and comes with a beautiful strap. While it’s unisex, this is a piece that will suit a businesswomen looking for a clean, elegant dress watch. Prices start at £930.

The Diver’s Choice – Oris Diving




Oris Diving watches perfectly capture the sleek trends of 2017, with a bold black face on a sturdy metallic strap. Built for diving first and foremost, the watch offers 300 metres of water resistance and is engineered specifically to fit a women’s wrists. The model has an immaculate display with a sapphire crystal watch face. Swiss-made movement completes the watch – a truly dependable diving model that does not compromise on quality.

The Trendy Luxury Model – Chanel Boy.Friend

In the fashion world, Chanel reigns supreme. One of the most instantly recognisable, sought-after brands on the planet, Chanel speaks of quality in a way many watches can never hope to.

This boyfriend model features a diamond bezel and a sleek black strap that complements the simplistic face. It’s a modern watch for a modern woman – but is adorned with the type of luxury you’d expect from a fashion leader.
Prices start from £3,200 for the non-diamond version and £5,700 for the one pictured.

Sleek, sophisticated and low-key is the name of the game for 2017. Even if you don’t have the money to afford these luxury brands, learning from the styles and features they offer can guarantee you make a good purchase on whatever brand you choose.

CARL

So with me being with my wife now for about fourteen years and being married for coming up to six you'd think that by now we would of had our fair share of Valentine's Day surprises for each other, done some amazingly romantic things and lavished some fabulous gestures on each other.

Well, you would be wrong.

To be honest I can't actually remember the last time we spent even a portion of the day together, just the two of us.

In one respect it would be amazing to have a little bit of "us" time to just go to the cinema or nip out for a meal but we have two (very amazing) reasons why we don't...
Charlie who has been with us for eleven Valentine's Days and Willow who has been with us for fifteen months. 

You see me and the wife know how much we love each other, we know that we have each other's backs though anything, we know that if one morning I leave the house for work without giving her our usual "See you later" kiss on the head as I walk past, half asleep, juggling my morning brew, work phone and tablet, trying to remember where I left my van keys are. I'll get the death stare or a text if I make it as far as the van so that I realise and pop back in (regardless of how late I am) to give her that little kiss.

We are more than just love, it's a real best friend kind of friendship.

And like friends, yes we argue and neither of us backs down because we are both similar and are both really stubborn, but with all good relationships, after twenty minutes it's all forgotten and never mentioned again. 

We know that life is too short to let stupid arguments and a lack of spending time as a two not a four get us down - we wouldn't have it any other way - our kids are everything to us and we love spending our time together which is the reason we started our YouTube channel "The Baker Bunch" up.

Now I do apologise if you thought this post was going to be a lovey-dovey post about romantic weekends away or candle lit dinners but that's just not what The Baker Bunch are about.

But then again is anyone really about all of that 24/7?

Anyway,I did have a bit of a laugh around the whole romance thing - although she knows me well enough to know I'm not that kind of a guy, earlier this week when a delivery man walked down our drive with a huge bouquet of flowers in hand, for a split second Simone thought I had gone all out and treated her.


But her excitement was short lived and she remembered who I am when the delivery guy said it wasn't actually for her but was a treat for me -










And then she looked closer and realised that it wasn't just a bouquet of flowers but it was full of cakes too...and not just any cakes either but Mr Kipling's at that - and we all know that they are "exceedingly good"
(sorry I know corny but I couldn't resist) 

But who sent me this bouquet?

Did I have a secret admirer?

Well,yes actually I do and it was Mr Kipling himself.

Not only did he send me the amazing bouquet but I was also given a fair few box's of Valentine's ready cakes-  all classic favourites but with a cheeky, Valentine's edge to them...

Fancy a Kiss?
Love you Cherry much!
You're the one by a Country mile!
In a Whirl over you!


And well, as you can imagine, my wife was furious...but then I said she can share them with me and all was forgiven :)


All of the Valentine's Day themed boxes give the cakes a lovely romantic feel making them the perfect gift for a special person this Valentine's Day, and if you notice the French Fancies are all pink - brilliant - no fighting over them (because they are by far the best!)


I have to say, especially after my wife's reaction to this delivery, I really do think these would go down a real treat for anybody on Valentine's Day.


So how will I be spending this Valentine's Day?

More than likely sat at our kitchen table, cuppa in hand, tucking into a few of these Mr Kipling treats with my wife, my son and my daughter - here's to having another, very special Family Valentine's Day. 

Oh and I know that when Simone tweeted a picture of the bouquet a few people said they where jealous and wanted to share?

Well guess what, it's your lucky day - if you enter the Rafflecopter competition below you could be in with a chance to win your very own Mr Kipling bouquet and cake bundle to hopefully arrive in time for Valentine's Day.

Now wouldn't that be the perfect gift - so be quick - the opportunity won't be around for long.







CARL
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