Monday, 26 November 2012

The lost kittens!

I've never been one for pets, mainly because of the extra work they involve. A few days ago however, two black kittens turned up at our front door. I know I shouldn't, but I kept nipping out to give them some milk as they looked so thin and kept miawing so much. As a person who regularly moans about cats using our garden as a toilet, my neighbours were pretty shocked at my change of heart. But these kittens were so so so lovely, they were so playful and friendly.  I was convinced they didn't have a proper owner and was intent on rescuing them in some way. That was until I remembered the story of a friend of mine who recently spent over £300 on an operation for his cat because he didn't have pet travel insurance.

Anyway, it turns out that if you persist in giving kittens milk then they keep miawing pathetically on your door step for hours and hours at a time. If you are cooking anything remotely meaty they will also try desperately to get inside your house at all costs. They will dodge through your legs and will not be put off by anything. They will then run riot all around your house and do a few wees on the carpet and scratch your leather settees. When you do eventually get them out, then when you try and go out in your car they will purposefully sit behind the wheels so that you are in perpetual fear of running them over. They also like hiding behind inaccessible objects in garages and generally making life difficult for you. I think I've just talked myself out of "rescuing" those kittens!

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Life of a Full Time Working Mummy...

I'm not trying to score points with this post, or annoy anyone into commenting about the rights and wrongs of stay at home versus working (outside the home) mums. About six months ago I was considering giving up work altogether so I could be with my boys and reduce stress in our lives. I have worked part time since I went back to work after my first maternity leave in 2009. Working three days was great and I did it for two years until I went on maternity leave for son 2. However, going back to work when he was 9 months was very very hard. He still wouldn't take a bottle and I would get very uncomfortable at work and was always itching to get home so I could feed him. Worst was, he still wasn't sleeping through the night which made working a ruddy nightmare, we were tired constantly.

After a while, the stress of it built up until we could not cope anymore, so I decided to resign and we would have to somehow manage financially. Luckily I managed to get a new job much closer to home, working two days a week instead of three. The one day difference made things so much easier for us as a family. It meant only two days getting our boys into the car to take them to my parents at 7.20 in the morning, something I have always felt very guilty about.  However, my stress levels on the whole didn't decrease. Being at home with my children was certainly no easier than being at work all day.
Around that time something happened that was amazing; I had been working for lovely teaching resource website twinkl for a while doing bits and bobs of social media in the evenings. After a while one thing led to another and it turned out that they wanted me to work two days a week, this meant I could work from home. It was like a dream come true to me - I could work from home, be there for my boys, drop off to school etc at a reasonable time - when it's light and stuff.

However, I am now effectively a full time working mum. It is hard, and the house has definitely suffered, it's an utter tip. The washing has stacked up, the house needs a bleddy good clean and it seems that we are living off easy to cook food. This is my typical Sunday evening:

  • cook whole chicken
  • boil veg to save time tomorrow
  • make three lots of sandwiches
  • iron uniform for the whole week
  • sort out swimming kits
  • clean shoes
  • change beds
  • do another load of washing, hang out, fold clothes and put away
It sounds exhausting doesn't it! But because I have no time in the week now, if we go away for the weekend then it all just becomes unmanageable. Being a full time mum AND a full time worker is hard, very hard. But it means we don't have to worry about money, I feel utterly fulfilled professionally and we are all (hopefully) happier long term. Just need to schedule in some sleep zzzzzz

Friday, 23 November 2012

What do you get the man who has everything!?

When hubby and I first got together, we hardly had anything. No money, no cars, no house, hardly any nice clothes. We really were just starting out. It was nice in a way to come into a relationship where we were on an equal footing as I see people having to give up their own house and move into their partner's house and see how they struggle with it. Eight years on, we have been through many birthdays, Christmases and anniversaries together, and I am honestly starting to run out of ideas of what to buy for him. It is actually starting to get to the stage where we are "rebuying" stuff that we have already bought because they are worn out. That is scary as it means we have been together a really long time!

A few years ago I bought hubby, what I considered at the time to be quite an expensive watch. It was probably about £100 and we had only been going out about six months, but I wanted to get him something really special. These days we've upped our game and recently hubby actually bought me a watch for no reason at all (he called it a "push" present) which was a ludicrous amount of money. So this Christmas, I want to get hubby a watch, not an over the top expensive one like mine was, but just something special without causing us to sell a kidney or something. I've spotted this ToyWatch by Van Mildert and at £311 I think is a bit of a bargain, just the right price for something a bit special.
Van Mildert ToyWatch £311

If I'm honest though, probably hubby's choice would be something by Tagheur, something like this at £1116.50, OUCH!
How much do you think is a reasonable amount to spend on a watch?!

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Hotel Chocolat Surprise!

The other day I was working from home when the doorbell rang. Being a bit of a workaholic it was with some annoyance that I turned my attentions away from what I was doing and went to answer the door. Happily it was the postman rather than an unwanted sales call who asked me for a signature. Though unhappily as I was signing for the parcel the postman DROPPED the parcel which resulted in what can only be described as an unsettling crashing sound. This was the result...

Hotel Chocolat Reindeer
It was a lovely reindeer from Hotel Chocolat, or at least it once was. I felt rather sorry for it all squashed up, however it didn't stop us from scoffing the lot and very delicious it was too. The chocolate tasted like "proper" chocolate if that makes sense, very rich and yummy. I see myself buying one of these perhaps for a niece or nephew or as a stocking filler for one of my boys for Christmas.

A shame it had been dropped, but these things happen, and anyway, it didn't detract from its general yumminess!!

This chocolate reindeer was sent to me to review by Hotel Chocolat but opinions are entirely my own.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Early Thrifty Thursday! Baukjen Surprise, Joules treasures and Sparkly H&M Shoe Bargains!

Ruched Jersey Dress by Baukjen £99
Now though I admit I do paid posts sometimes, this isn't one of them, this is something I think is a great deal! As you will know if you are a regular reader, I am a bit of a fan of Isabella Oliver now rebranded as Baukjen. This season's offerings haven't been that great if I'm honest, and there has been a bit of repetition or in the case of the button t, a "less good" (is that a phrase?!) than last year as this year's looks a bit slouchy for my liking. When I was pregnant I fell in love with IO, and even though it's pricey, they do enough 20% off days and the like to make it more or less affordable. A few months ago, my mum bought me the lovely ruched jersey dress for my birthday which I love. I keep meaning to put pictures on my blog about it but on the day I wear it (which is often)I never seem to find the time to take a picture.

Baukjen Pink Drape Cardigan £57
I always pair it with this lovely wrap leather belt also by Baukjen. The colours actually contrast quite nicely though you can't tell from the pictures.

Anyway, the reason I am writing about Baukjen is that they are doing a lovely SURPRISE at the moment, basically until the end of today, if you buy anything worth £45, you enter SURPRISE at checkout and you get a free item of clothing! You can't choose yourself, but it's either a white shirt, a maxi skirt or the lovely wrap dress. I really want the maxi skirt as I've been looking for a nice long skirt for ages to wear with a white tee. All the items are worth up to £100 so to me, it's a pretty good deal and also includes free delivery. I've decided to get this lovely Pink Drape Cardigan which is in the sale at £57. So basically for £57 I get a cardy that was £95 and another item worth up to £99, bargain!

Elsewhere on my travels I've been obsessing about joules recently. I love their offer at the moment of £20 off £100 spend which basically means 20% off. I bought two lovely things from there, this Bronwyn loose print top £49.95, which looks nothing in the picture but is absolutely lovely in real life.

Joules Fiona Loose Fit Shirt, £59.95
 The square neck is great for me as I have narrow shoulders, and it helps to balance me out a bit. I also love the Fiona Loose fit shirt (£59.95), which I only picked up as I wanted something to wear with skinny jeans, and though this isn't a great pic as the shirt is a bit creased, it is lovely I promise. The material feels "expensive" and it looks great with navy denim as the prints on the shirt are also navy.

On a completely different note, I'm looking for a lovely little black dress for the party season. I have yet to find anything I like, though I might get one of my existing dresses taken in as a nod to austerity! However, I don't mind spending £24.99 on these bargain H&M glittery party shoes!

H&M glittery party shoes £24.99

If you see a lovely lbd on your travels let me know, I need something to go with these shoes!

Sunday, 18 November 2012

I love my new EasyWalker June!

It's been a few weeks now since I first started using my fabulous EasyWalker June! So far I've been really impressed with it and more to the point it looks very cool. I love the way the handle goes up and down which is great for my long legged self and also works wonders for getting it in the back of the car. The seat is also very comfy for my son unlike the Phil and teds which has hardly any padding. He does look rather large in it but he is happy to sit and be pushed around and that's the main thing!

I also have a list of some stores in the UK that are now stocking the EasyWalker June!

346 Holderness Road
HU9 3DQ Hull, East Yorkshire

Ladybugs Ltd
53 Park Lane
SK12 1RD Cheshire

Winstanelys Pramworld
725-729 Ormskirk Road
WN5 8AT, Wigan

Twins Store Ltd
6 Brockhurst Way
CW9 8AP Cheshire


Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Asda Pie Event!

Asda Pie Event!
As a blogger I am constantly receiving emails, some nice, many spammy, and some downright bizarre! However, a few weeks ago I was lucky enough to receive an email from the lovely Lucie inviting me to a pie event at Asda. I was rather unclear as to what the event would actually entail. In my head I saw rows of pie waiting to be tasted and me giving them marks out of ten, saying things like, "yes this one has too much pastry". In fact I already had my responses rehearsed in my mind based on the professional version of Masterchef, "you can't put that rubbish in front of Michel" type of thing.

I was also interested in having a general nose round Asda' head office, it's based in Leeds city centre and I've driven past it many times and wondered what goes on in there. It was very lovely inside and looks like a great place to work.  I was also pleased to see that most people had gone when we arrived there at 6pm. There is nothing more depressing than seeing people working past 5.30pm.

Upon arriving we were ushered to "The Green House" where it turns out, all the magic happens. It was like a home from home, lovely dining table surrounded by cook books (well, not our home obviously, but a nice home) and a large kitchen, something akin to a high tech home economics room. There were  some other bloggers attending the events so I did the inevitable staring at name badges and trying to decipher hand writing and work out who was who. 

The event itself comprised of being shown how Asda make their pies, which you can see in the pictures below. They area actually made in a far more homely fashion than I imagined and we were shown the methods used and it is all exactly how I would make a pie at home myself. The Asda team work together to try out different ideas and flavours and then do complicated stuff where they work out exactly how the pie will be made and the costs involved. The Pork Farms chefs onsite showed us how to make the perfect beef and ale pie, the smell was overpowering and I think it made us all a tiny bit starving seeing as how it was tea time and all.

Chef hard at work
There were some really good tips about how to thicken the sauce up in various ways and also about reserving some of the beer for the end of the sauce creation process to further flavour the mixture with that distinctive "ale" taste.
The pie mixture just being finished off.

Finished pies about to be cooked!
Pie and Beer shot!
I was pretty impressed to hear that Asda use local ingredients wherever possible and actually seek out boutique producers like Joule's Beer Makers for the ale element of the pie. We actually had a chance to try some ales (more later!). We were quite surprised to find out that part of the evening involved a pie making competition for the bloggers present! I felt completely out of my comfort zone as I have never made a pie before and am hopeless with pastry, however luckily the pastry was pre-made so all we had to do was roll it out. We were given a large selection of ingredients to choose from (it really was like Masterchef in that respect!) and set on our way! My husband (who I had persuaded to go with me) and I decided to go for something a bit different to the norm so we made a salmon and creamed leek pie with a puff pastry topping. 
Hubby doing some tasting for seasoning purposes!
It was basically the same as the mixture that I make for normal fish pie (with a potato crust) which wasn't too challenging, however we were pretty clueless when it came to rolling out the pastry. In the event we rolled it too thickly which meant that it was all pastry and no filling! Anyway, here are the finished pies...

Bloggers' Pies!
Our entry, nearly done!
We tasted some of the lovely Joule's ale as our pies were baking (my husband enjoyed this part) which was a bit of a treat, I like blonde ales (I like to claim it cures my heartburn!) and it was nice to try the different varieties.

We all then sat at the lovely dining table and ate the pies. There were some interesting and varied ideas including an em-pie-nada which was chorizo, chicken and tomato sauce and a vegetarian layered pie with med veg and cheese. Everyone had a taste and then the winner was announced, it was interesting to see how competitive everyone had got during the course of the evening. At one stage I promised hubby that I would definitely cry if we didn't win. In the event we didn't win and the worthy winners were the creators of the em-pie-nada, one of which was the lovely Laura from Are We Nearly There Yet Mummy? Laura and her friend (sorry I've forgotten your name (!)) were presented with £50 Asda vouchers each and looked absolutely over the moon (it was the joy of winning rather than the money I think!). Sadly I think our pie actually came last. Poor pie.

We really enjoyed our evening with Asda and particularly enjoyed being shown round the tasting rooms and seeing the little computers behind little windows where people do blind tastings. It was all so "un-corporate" and made the people of Asda seem real rather than a faceless large company. 

We really enjoyed our evening, and now you can have a little taste of Asda too! I've giving away a £25 Asda gift voucher to someone at random through this handy rafflecopter widget.

All you have to do is:
  • leave a comment on my blog
For extra entries:
The giveaway ends on 25th November, I will notify the winner on 27th November. 
For full terms and conditions see here.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Christmas Party Season for Petite Ladies!

Even though I am 5 foot 8 (ahem, 7) I must admit I always take a browse in the "petite" section in shops. The truth is I have a very short body so actually tops in the petite section aren't too far off the mark. I can see other shoppers however, becoming incensed at my presence, "go to the "normal" bit you tallee!", I can almost hear them seething.  Therefore for a bargain fashionista (not my words) like myself no shop is off limits, even if it is for those of more diminutive stature. I was actually shocked to read online the other day (so it must be true) that the average height for women in the UK is 5 foot 3. Most of my friends are pretty tall for some reason, maybe that's not a coincidence? And in my extended family I am certainly a little shrimp compared to my extremely tall cousins.

Anyway, one shop for petite ladies I've always admired when going into department stores is Precis who are actually doing a really good offer on coats at the moment. On the website, this luxurious looking ultra cosy Long Camel coat really stood out to me, though I don't think you would have to be petite to wear this to be honest. It's currently on offer at £209.
Precis Long Camel Coat £209
£209 might sound a lot, but this is a real classic and if well taken care of could last you years, everyone knows that a camel coat is a wardrobe staple.

Now it's November it is officially legal to talk about Christmas, and I'm already thinking about what I'm going to wear to my work Christmas party. I have no idea why, but I've suddenly got a thing for black dresses, this is odd because black doesn't suit me at all, but there's something about Christmas which requires something black, preferably with sparkles too. The offerings from Precis are pretty cute, here are my three favs (you'll have to excuse the navy one, it's nearly black isn't it?!) FYI there is actually a 20% discount on these dresses at the moment, applies at checkout!
Black Pleated Lace Dress £149
This black pleated lace dress has two things I love for this season - lace and ruching. For those of us who have had children, ruching is a blessing in many ways. It prevents that "pulled" look a lot of tight dresses have on even the slimmest mini, and it allows it to fall nicely. The lace just adds a certain extra something, and attracts attention away from lumpy bits too!

Black Embellished Dress £99
This one screams CHRISTMAS with it's sparkles, and I actually think you could get away with wearing it on Christmas day as well as for parties. Again it has the ruching I love so much plus a very flattering shape. If you're going to any Christmas weddings I don't see why this wouldn't work for that as well.
Navy Embellished Maxi Dress £119
This is basically for those ladies who love their necklines but hate their legs. I love the sheeny material and glittery Christmas feel,  another wedding classic! I also love the (essential) ruching around the waist which will hide...a lot. The first two dresses will probably be ok for any height but with this being a store that specialises in petite, this maxi dress will not work for taller ladies for obvious reasons.

Well, I'm really in the Christmas spirit, what I'm looking for is a black party dress, with sparkles and ruching for someone who is 5 foot 8 ish. Any ideas anyone?

This is a sponsored post but all opinions are my own and I really do like Precis!

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Best holiday EVER with

I'm having a poorly day today, resting at home after a very hectic week and a 12 hour drive on Saturday. Last week we were lucky enough to spend a week in my most favourite part of France - Champagne. It really is a little visited place and I don't really know why - it's dead handy for Disney (more on that later), only three hours from Calais and best of all, you can get cheap champagne direct from the "maison"! We left last Friday after both working a full day and arrived at our hotel in Ashford around 11pm. Only problem was that we had booked the wrong premier inn, which involved another five mile drive, which at 11pm with two small children feels more like 500 miles.

The next morning after what felt like two seconds sleep, we took the chunnel to France - it was really quick and easy but doesn't really allow you a rest from your car unlike the ferry, or the chance to eat anything! As bargainmummy, I was interested to see quite a few cool shops in the terminal building including a Pandora shop, though it was ridiculously busy so I didn't go into any of them :(

We drove in a hailstorm to Dormans, Champagne and nearly came a cropper on the motorway when the car in front of us did a 360 degree turn right in front of our car. It was a pretty hairy moment and not one I wish to repeat anytime soon. We had really reduced our speed owing to the conditions but it seemed that no-one else was concerned about dying on the roads, certainly not the driver who nearly killed us by whizzing past at 90mph before he lost control. Thanks pal.

We arrived in Dormans late afternoon and were immediately welcomed by the lovely owner Isabelle. From the outside, La Maison du Clos Rigaux (I still have no idea what that means, anyone!) didn't look like much, but as soon as we opened the gate to the back garden, we were ushered into another world of good taste, shabby chic interiors and general loveliness. In fact when we arrived home on Saturday I felt ASHAMED of our house and how functional it is - nothing is lovely at all.

After our long drive, we were pretty pleased to be presented with a bottle of champagne to welcome us to the region, made by the owner's son - it was called Bertin and was beautiful.

Here are some pictures of the house, it really was like staying in a 5* hotel, the smell of lavender pervaded, it had its own TOWEL ROOM with neatly folded fluffy white towels. I would like to take lessons in how to make up a bed the way Isabelle does - so many layers, all lovely, cosy and warm.
Lovely Bedroom!

World's most tasteful lounge
Little haven of peace and quiet

One of the things that I loved about the house was the presence of a piano. Before I left home I played piano every single day of my life. It was my sanctuary from stress and something I really enjoyed tinkering on and playing Andrew Lloyd Webber ballads (I am not ashamed to admit that).
It was great to see my son immediately drawn to the piano and he seemed to naturally understand how it worked -musical genes you see!
Piano man
The day after we arrived, we took the train to Paris with my oldest son. On the website, it says "train station 20m" which I took to mean meant 20 minutes drive. However it actually meant 20 metres! So we were easily able to walk to the station and catch the train. I'll write a post about Paris some other time as all the photos are on my husband's phone.

I have to admit that a lot of the activity undertaken that week involved tasting champers. We went on the Mercier tour with our boys which meant going on a little train and doing a tour of the caves followed by a well earned tasting! However I'm not actually very keen on Mercier champagne so we had a drive up to the village that makes Dom Perignon champagne (Hautvillers) and proceeded to buy up most of their stocks for this year, not in Dom Pom itself but some of the lesser known maisons whose grapes are grown on the same ground as the Dom Pom ones. We found ourselves paying between 14 and 17 euros for brut champagne, slightly more for the rose and vintage ones, but still much much cheaper than the UK.   We also visited Moet & Chandon which was lovely, I have come to the conclusion that to work in one of these places it is a requirement that you have long legs and blonde hair.
A good day
My head has started pounding again, so I'm going to leave it there for today, I'll fill you in about our day from hell at Disney in a few days....arggh!


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