Clean Home vs. Chemical Free Zone


A chore for many and a hobby for some.

As sad as it might be to say cleaning is something I enjoy, you can’t argue that a clean, clutter-free environment is not a pleasant place to be.


Maybe these thoughts are a foreign language to some. But if you can in any way appreciate this perspective, perhaps you’ll understand the joy that a visit to the cleaning product aisle in the supermarket brings (and maybe, you’ll have even experienced it yourself!)


Or maybe, that’s the most ridiculous statement you’ve ever heard.

However you feel about it, I know that my feelings are no longer the same, for reasons I never considered to be an issue.


After spending 7 months in the domestic cleaning industry I can no longer look at cleaning products with the same heartfelt appreciation I did once before

Besides that fact (without going into the details) that it is not an enjoyable part-time job

It’s certainly not something (as I ‘ve learnt from experience) that’s good for your health.

Physical activity every day ✅ (maybe that shouldn’t be considered the worst part)

Breaking your back trying to haul Henry the hoover in and out of homes/up & down stairs ✅

Breathing in harmful chemicals ✅

I would never have imagined that the amount of energy being exerted could be negatively affected by the toxic fumes exposed by every bottle

Maybe I missed the part where they educated me about this in my childhood.

Maybe I’ve just lost the plot entirely.

Yes, I know certain chemicals shouldn’t be mixed,

Yes, I know bleach should be kept far away from children,

Yes, I know that there are specific chemicals that should be used with precaution even in small, diluted quantities.

But when everyday cleaning products are used every day and they begin to have adverse effects on your health?

I’ll admit maybe when it’s your job you’re using them more often than the average human concerned with keeping their home smelling fresh and countertops bacteria free.

But still.

Google has a lot to say on these issues and you can check it out for yourself.

I just know that when I began to cut back on using cleaning products completely I found that water and equal elbow grease left the same impression.

Could it all be just a marketing ploy?

Do cleaning products really make a difference to the cleanliness of your home?

Or do they just pollute your environment with toxins to give you the impression of a clean home?

Related imageImage result for you sit on a throne of lies

You can argue with the experts.

I just know I’m no longer as eager to try out the newest scent in the Zoflora concentrated disinfectant range or Febreze’s newest collection of holiday scents for Christmas.

If you’re particularly keen, Pinterest is the best place to pick up natural cleaning hints and tips on how lemons and vinegar will do the same job at a fraction of the price.

Rachel Henry is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on Linkedin at: Rachel Henry

Digital Poster Paste

You and your mates are in a band, you want gigs, you book them yourself. Maybe you’re a promoter, with the thankless job of getting everyone in the same place at the same time. You book two or three bands; you get the sound guy there on time, charge a few quid at the door and split the profits. Sounds simple, right?
Not really. Let’s take into account the fact that while you’re waiting for a 6pm sound check, you find out that the night before the band were at Electric Picnic, taking drugs until 5 in the morning, and are too mashed to drive from Cookstown. Or what about the lead singer who decides to emulate Jim Morrison and give the audeince a bit more than what they paid in for, or the guitarist who was clinked up for, ominously, ‘something to do with his mother…’

Shane 2Yes, reader, I took the thankless job of vicariously being in a band. I had a Monday night slot for a local showcase. For every night where the band outnumbered the audience there were others that saw some spark of brilliance on stage, the first headlining slot for a band that went far and on one glorious occasion, a sell-out show.

These were the old days of the paste-bucket and poster, but now your band or your night relies on the internet to make your mark. You need that crowd. A good crowd hears your music and buys your merchandise and physical albums. A good take on the door pleases your booker, who should be cutting you in on that sweet action – (and if not, have a word). A good crowd buying drinks endears you to the venue, which can lead to bigger shows. So how should you go about marketing yourself online?

There’s a plethora of books and blogs on the topic, so I’ll just briefly tell you what helps me out. We all know that the video is king. Invest some time and money in one really good video. It doesn’t have to be the November Rain promo, but a good quality live video will work wonders for your Facebook. There’s been times when I’m pushing a show and the support act gets the glory, as the headliners’ YouTube presence consists of wobbly footage of an ‘illegal gig’ and some confusing poi display.

Think of your bio. We don’t need to know that your band is ‘like no other’. Some brief history, a few influences and some of the gigs that you’ve played really give us an idea of where you’re at. Photos are useful too, but make sure you’re genuine. I once saw a picture of a 20 something local musician on stage at the Concert for Bangladesh.

Shane 1

Keep it brief as well. I was once handed a four page press release that had what the individual members liked for tea on it.

You have an online presence? Use it. Interact with me. Have fun. Send me any footage you want to use, let me know if the pictures are out of date and share, like and retweet as if your life depended on it. Your mate’s just done a new video? Let us show it first. The Ballyhalbert Examiner interviewed you lead singer? Link it up! Having a digital press pack, with all your social media links, the aforementioned video and a few hi-res photos can make all the difference.


Shane Horan is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found on Twitter @shanehoran.

What to expect – when your dog is expecting

What to expect – when your dog is expecting

I decided to breed my Lhasa Apso dog, Pippa, when advised by a vet that allowing one litter of puppies is usually healthy for a female dog – I also loved puppies and wanted more! From the process I learnt that behind all the cute puppy photos, there is a lot of hard work… But it is worth it!

Below is the stages of what to expect, if your dog is expecting puppies:
1. Finding a mate
First you have to find a suitable partner for your dog. Prepare for the awkwardness of setting up a dog date at the owner’s house, however it is quite funny. You have to pay a fee to the owner for the dogs’ time, usually this is the price you intend to sell one puppy at. In my case the owner wanted to keep a puppy from the litter so she got first pick.
2. The wait
Pregnancy in dogs is much shorter than a human span at only 9 weeks. You can even get a puppy scan at the vets, which determine the number of puppies. Poor Pippa had a very noticeable bump, she was very tired throughout which actually made her needier and almost childlike. (See below when she started stealing dummies from the house.) During this time it is important to ensure your dog receives extra attention, sleep and nutrients.EO13

Witnessing the strain pregnancy put on her, I only think dogs should be allowed to have one litter of puppies in their lifetime. It is unfair to think puppy farms put dogs through this sometimes twice in one year for financial gain.


3. Be prepared
Preparation is essential. At around six weeks dogs start thinking about where to give birth, so prepare somewhere warm and enclosed with lots of blankets, and encourage your dog to start sleeping there.
4. The arrival
It is important that an owner is aware of their dogs’ due date – just like humans, dogs water breaks and they go into labour. House dogs generally do not have the wild instincts to cope with situations like this alone so it is important they are carefully monitored if anything was to go wrong.
Originally at Pippas puppy scan, the vet predicted she would have four puppies. To my surprise on the night, after the fourth, more just kept coming! It turns out she had six puppies!! I received regular updates from my parents who were on midwifery duty from 1am in the morning right up until 4am!


5. How to look after six puppies
It is a challenging task. You have to ensure they are all fed regularly, therefore it is essential the mum bonds with them. Within the first two weeks it is advised not to handle the puppies, unless it is absolutely necessary as this may make the mother disown them.

At the start, the mother does the majority of the work as the puppies mostly sleep – this makes it an easy task of just admiring how cute they are!


EO18     EO19

As they get older, the process gets more challenging. Once the puppies open their eyes at two weeks, they start running around more and crying earlier in the morning to go to the toilet or play. Be prepared for layering the floor with newspapers to avoid accidents, constantly cleaning up, cornering off areas and having eyes everywhere to prevent them running away!

The mother begins to actually run away from the puppies when she feels they can survive alone and is no longer up to the commitment of feeding them all. (See below Pippas look of despair from feeding and being followed everywhere by six puppies!)


6. Finding suitable owners
Promoting puppies surprisingly takes a lot of effort – four people to be exact, to sit, pose and distract hyper puppies for the perfect photograph. After many failed attempts we eventually got the best photo and advertised them on Facebook.


Failed photo attempt number 1 of many. (I don’t think they liked photos) 


One of the final promotion photos.


The best photo of all six puppies sitting still. 

Prepare to answer many queries and send additional information. We found genuine owners for all puppies within two days, ensuring all new owners visited their new puppy to make sure they had the right intentions before agreeing to sell.

7. Letting go
Puppies are ready for their new home within 8-12 weeks. Before they go to their new home, they have to be vet checked and wormed, so the expense is something to consider.
It is very sad letting puppies go when you grow attached to them. This can be hard on the mum and vets advise to separate the mother and puppies in advance to make the process easier. However, Pippa had got to the stage of wanting her own independence again and did not notice as she was running away from them.
Of course – I had to keep one! It is only fair for the mum and makes it a lot easier on everyone. I kept the ‘fatty’ of the litter and called her Peanut, who resembles a teddy bear! We still receive regular updates from the new owners and are reassured they all went to good loving homes.

I would advise anyone who is considering dog breeding to do their research and speak to their vet first, it is more challenging than it looks but it is so worth it!

Elizabeth Owens is a final year BSc Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be contacted on Twitter @eowens12_ or LinkedIn: 




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Beneath a Scarlet Sky tells the tale of Giuseppe ‘Pino’ Lella, one of Italy’s forgotten WW2 heroes. Despite being unknown, he played such a pivotal role in driving the Germans from Italy and at such a personal cost, forever altering him. Mark Sullivan’s book allows Lella to step out of the shadows, telling his story and getting the recognition that he deserves.

This story focuses on the forgotten front that is Italy between June 1943 and May 1945. Despite being described as a work of historical fiction, the story behind the book is real. With so little available on WW2 Italy, Sullivan published it as what he describes as ‘a novel of biographical and historical fiction’ weaving together historical facts with an emotionally charged story of a 17-year-old caught up in a brutal war and along the way finds a love that stayed with him throughout his life. A tale kept in the shadows for the tragic reason that despite the good he did, Lella describes himself as a coward, not thinking himself worthy of the title hero.

The story starts with Lella at 17, living in Milan, not yet touched by the brutal reality of WW2 until he and his brother got caught in the bombing of the movie theatre. Making it back home relatively safely but changed, for the next couple of months Allied planes came for Milan, Lella stayed in Milan with his father until a bomb destroyed his home and his father sent him to Casa Alpina, a refuge in the Alps ran by Father Re.


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Giuseppe ‘Pino’ Lella papers aged 17

It is at Casa Alpina a hero is born, not content to be left on the sidelines Lella joins the underground railroad of the Catholic Church and the Italian resistance to save the lives of many Jews. Making a trek through the Italian Alps guiding Jews to the safety of the Switzerland border, first alone then he trains up other boys including his younger brother, Mimo. Risking his life and making many daring journeys until just before his 18th birthday he is summoned back to Milan by his parents. Fearing for his life, they convince him to enlist in German Army to avoid being conscripted and sent to the Russian frontlines; he reluctantly joins the Organisational Todt (OT).

“Nothing in life worth doing is easy,”

Not long after his enlistment he is injured and sent home. His story takes another turn here. We see him risking more and in a different way. Opportunity strikes when one of Hilter’s top men, General Hans Leyers, recruits him as his driver, eager to have a role in bringing down the Nazis’ he becomes a spy, operating under the codename ‘the observer’. Frequently risking his life to gather information to aid the end of the war, witnessing many atrocities, Lella makes many a daring feat to help those who are in need. He works his way into becoming Leyers’ right-hand man, translating information and bearing witness to meetings of influential figures within Italy at the time, such as Mussolini.

Throughout his time as a spy, the circle of people who know about his undercover status is small, until he reunites with Anna, who he met, briefly, at the start of the book but whose memory stays with him, giving him courage. With Anna, he has moments where he is just a young man falling in love for the first time. For someone who risks so much not just his life but his relationships with family and friends, he experiences so much pain and heartbreak. Throughout his risky mission, he keeps what Father Re told him close ‘Have faith in God’s plan for you.’


“Do what I sometimes do when I get scared: imagine you’re someone else, someone who’s far braver and smarter.”

The ending of Beneath a Scarlet Sky is bittersweet and the life led by Pino Lella during those last two years of the war is remarkable, he suffered and witnessed more than most in those short years than most do their entire life. The story here is truly inspiring, courageous yet heartbreaking story and it begs the question how many more people out there are like Pino Lella? WW2 heroes with untold stories, that possibly will remain untold.

Pictured: Mark Sullivan and Pino Lella with a copy of Beneath a Scarlet Sky.

Pino Lella currently lives in Lesa, Italy.

The rights to Beneath a Scarlet Sky has been acquired by Pascal Pictures and is soon to become a major motion picture with Tom Holland leading as Pino Lella. 

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Tom Holland has been cast as Pino Lella.

Celine Ward is a 3rd year Communication Management with Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be contacted on on LinkedIn: and found on twitter @celinemward

“Buy it in bulk” – my mother


If you were to ask my mother at 19 what does her future hold? I’m sure her answer would have been that shed hope to become a nurse, have a house by the beach with someone tall dark and handsome and spend her days tending to tomato vines in her green house.

I guess no one knows what the future holds because my mum defiantly didn’t.

Fast forward 23 years later. She’s a Mother of 8 and a Grandmother of 19 and as you guessed it has no time for a green house. My names Jessica and I am 2nd youngest in a family of 10.

Coming from a big family does have its perks, the constant stream of hand me downs over the years and a lot of people to take the focus of you if you wanted to stay out that half hour longer. If anything, it prepared me a lot for the ‘student life’ with its constant noise stream that people are only subjected to in their first shared accommodation and with its bulky buffet style dinners I was able to adjust very quickly.

In fact, whenever I would come home to an empty student house I would miss the echoes of tell-taling and watching my mother take several attempts to remember some of our names.

Coming from a house of so many there are certain things you have to accept, you will never ever have a plate of left overs wrapped in tinfoil waiting in the oven for you waiting. If you want to go on any family activity you to ensure that you’re guaranteed a seat in the car as they gold dust and if you want to talk to your mother you have to schedule her in at least one week in advance.

I should have joined a debate team because I get plenty of practice arguing how just because I went to the kitchen should not mean I lose my seat in the living room, every day. Coming from a big family you have to learn how to fend for your self because your older siblings they can sense weakness.

Being constantly surrounded by nieces and nephews is however refreshing and their innocence’s is something to indulge in. luckily for us Santa and the tooth fairy has never missed a year.  So, it does have its perks, like when it’s your birthday and your flooded with gifts and cards. Unfortunately, it also means that its someone’s birthday every other week and I’ve tasted enough cream and jam sponge cakes to do me a life time.

I do sometimes wonder what the ‘only child’ does with their free time and what it would be like to have full power of the remote control 24/7. All I can hope for is to have half the patience my mother does and half the children.

Yes, if you were to tell her at 19 she wouldn’t become a nurse I’m sure she would be disappointed but only because she wasn’t made to become ‘just a nurse’ but also became a doctor, a teacher, the judge the jury and the driver. Tomato vines are over rated anyway.


Jessica Phillips is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University.

Extra Extra

Extra Extra

Have you zero experience in the film industry? Do you have free time during the week?Have you ever wanted to be on TV and do you live in Belfast? If you answered yes to all of those then you would be perfect for a role on Game of Thrones, The Fall and The Line of Duty.

If you haven’t guessed already the role would be as an extra! What is an extra? It’s a non-speaking role in the background of a movie or television series and the purpose of an extra is to make specific scenes as real as possible. If you watch any of the shows you’ll understand why they would need extras but I might as well explain why to boost my word count.

‘Game of Thrones’ require a huge amount of extras because the show has massive battle scenes and so extras are essential, you could be anything from a Lannister soldier to a White Walker, if you watch ‘Game of Thrones’ you’ll get those references and if you don’t then you won’t find this blog very interesting, if you even did in the first place.’The Fall’ and ‘The Line of Duty’ are more simple, you would more than likely be playing a member of the general public as these shows are as close to reality as television could get.

The company that handle all of the extras in Northern Ireland is called ‘The Extras Department’. Here is a link to their website – The Extras Department

To sign up all you have to do is fill in some basic personal information along with your body measurements, it takes around 5 minutes to do and you can make up to £100 for a day of filming! You can even set your account up for late notice work , which means you will get a text the day before or even the day of shooting to work. Which if you’re like me and can’t commit to long term filming it’s the perfect set up.



The photos you see above this are screen-shots I took of the scene I was in from Game of Thrones season 6 episode 9 and I played a Lannister soldier (sorry, I didn’t get to choose my role). Now I know what you’re thinking, there is absolutely no way to prove that is me. Well it is me so back off, prove it isn’t me? That’s what I thought.

Anyway, this was filmed in October of 2016 and it was the last bit of extra work I’ve done! With my part-time job, university and placement right around the corner I soon lost any free time I had. The only reason I took the role was because it was a last minute text I got the day before and I was free.

The day involved me getting up at 3:30am and driving to a meet-up point where buses would then take us to the film set. We arrived to the set somewhere in Dromore at around 5am, then myself and about 100 other people were taken to get fitted for costumes for our specific roles. After that we were all welcome to breakfast and were left to wait for a producer to call us for filming. It was a constant back and forth all day of being called to film and going back to the waiting tent, but we did get fed all day and it wasn’t too hard to get a nap in between shoots! As a Lannister Soldier I was in plastic armour all day and most of the filming took place in a field that was made to look like a temporary base as the Lannister’s made there way north in the show. Filming went on for 12 hours that day (after 10 hours its time and a half) and I only got back to Belfast at around 8pm.

As a one off experience it was brilliant for a number of reasons; I am a huge fan of Game of Thrones, I made £120 that day, I was at one point right beside Jamie Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) & Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) and ultimately ended up on the show in the most minuscule way possible (still counts).

The one thing I would suggest is to sign up with a friend! My day would have been a lot better if I had a friend to chat with and share the experience with, instead of having to make small talk with strangers to pass the time! I would recommend to any of you reading this to give being an extra a chance, especially if you like Game of Thrones and earning decent money to mostly sit around all day.

Aaron is a final year student studying Public Relations and can be contacted on Twitter @aaronoreilly and – LinkedIn

Money can’t buy happiness – but it can buy food & drink!

Money can’t buy happiness – but it can buy food & drink!

My first two years in university consisted of a very regimented routine. The Hatfield on a Sunday night, the Fly on a Monday night, the Bot on a Wednesday night, with some university squeezed in-between! There was also a lot of counting the pennies and praying there was enough in my bank account, for that next Maggie Mays or that late night pizza from Domino’s… Being a student in Belfast is harder than one would think, especially when you are used to home comforts. Paying rent, paying bills and a bit of partying with a measly student loan, is extremely difficult!

My third year was different. I was on placement year in Belfast, which meant getting paid! I found myself getting away from my usual university routine as I was now in full time work which meant I could not go to the Bot on a Wednesday night… Instead I found myself socialising in different places as I was with different company. It also helped that I was doing my placement within the drinks industry as it became very normal to go for a drink on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thu… only joking, just the occasional Thursday and Friday evening in Belfast. As well as this, working in Belfast City centre let me discover some of the best food places in the city.

So let me tell you about the best places, in my opinion, to eat and drink in Belfast city. (As the majority of my placement wage went towards this!)


The BEST cup of Coffee in Belfast city

On a Monday morning I would find myself eyeing up the clock waiting for my ten o’clock tea break which only meant one thing. Straight over to Home Restaurant for “a coffee & treat” for £2. A vanilla latte and blueberry & white chocolate scone on a Monday morning was like going to heaven without having to die!

Lunch in the city – a hidden gem

Being a typical student, I thought there could not be possibly anything that would compare to a Boojum until I tried a Cuban sandwich from the Cuban Sandwich Factory. My mouth is watering thinking about a sloppy joe…chilli mince, chorizo, cheese…. So much goodness. If you have not been here before, you have to go!


Saturday Brunch

There are so many options in Belfast city centre right now it is really hard to pick one. The Gallery, Harlem and French village are all incredible but General Merchants blows them out of the water. You have not lived until you have tried the “Huevos Rotas”. This consists of crispy potatoes, chorizo, avocado and smashed eggs. Amazing. Their coffee would also give Home restaurant a run for their money!


Dinner in Belfast..

If someone asked me right now where I would like to go for dinner in Belfast I would have huge difficulty picking, as there are so many great places to eat. But, I would have to say Three Levels! This relatively new restaurant in Belfast has a really cool concept. It has three floors of Asian inspired foods and provides mouth-watering food options. There is a huge entertainment focus here as you sit around and watch your chef spectacularly, interactively cook in front of you.

After work drinks

My favourite thing on a Friday evening after a long week of work was a half pint of Hop House 13 listening to the amazing live music in Sweet Afton. Their cocktails are absolutely amazing as well! Also on a nice summers evening it is only a stone’s throw to the Perch, the most amazing rooftop bar in Belfast.

The best Tuesday night out

The Comedy club in the Empire is absolutely hilarious. It takes place every Tuesday night from about 8-11. Its only £8 in to watch three seriously funny comedians perform all night. NOT that I would have promoted drinking a full bottle of wine on a Tuesday night with work the next morning…. But a bottle is only £12! £20 for a great night out. However, it is not for everyone. Especially if you take offence easily.


A taste of home

Kelly’s Cellars is one of my favourite bars in Belfast. It’s warm, cosy atmosphere with the most amazing live traditional Irish music reminds me of the traditional pub I used to work in at home. Apparently it’s the best pub in Belfast for a pint of the black stuff!

The best place for a G&T?

Muriels. Hands down!


So there you have it – my run down on the best places to eat and drink in Belfast, that had I not stayed in Belfast for my placement year, perhaps I would not have discovered. Now back to final year, with no disposable income and a scary overdraft, I find myself counting my pennies again wondering – will I have enough to go out tonight?

Helen McAleer is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn on and on Twitter: @Helen_McAleer30