Sunday, 15 December 2013

Clawing it back after Christmas

For my regular reader (singular) you'll notice a common theme - I am not a fan of Christmas. Never have been, never will be. For me it just conjures up memories of long periods of small talk and spending loads of my own money on things for other people so they can spend an equal amount on me and get me something I don't even want or like. Logically it makes no sense. I'm definitely up for thinking up ways of clawing back some of the expenditure after Christmas, usually this takes the form of returning gifts to shops and then spending the proceeds on something useful for the boys. If it's from M&S it's even better as I can exchange it for some champers or little tiny pies or beef burgers. Yum.


Anyway, back to clawing back some money after Chrimble. Here's my top five:-
1) the obvious thing is the local facebook buying and selling groups. First thing on Boxing day, start listing all the unwanted toys and trinkets, you'll be quids in.
2) Like a bit of Cash in the Attic? Have a hunt around your own (or your parents') house for some potentially valuable antiques, take a look on Value My Stuff and job's a good 'un!
3) Fancy yourself a bit of a writer? Take a look at Yahoo Contributors network - £20 per article and you can do one in ten mins if you're quick, awesome!
4) Do the usual - freeze all your energy prices, ring down suppliers and don't accept what you hear!
5) Give up booze and takeaways! You'll save loads of money PLUS it's better for you. Take walks in your local area for a month rather than actually going anywhere, say hello to every single person you meet and spread the community spirit.

How else do you plan to claw back some of the expenditure of Christmas?

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

The softest blanket in town...

Until fairly recently I've never been a fan of blankets, I find them rather annoying and apt to fall on the floor all the time, which necessitates me picking them up. Fail. However now that I work from home full time I do get rather cold in the winter months and I absolutely will NOT put the heating on when it's only me in the house. My husband finds it rather amusing that I sit at my desk with a blanket over my knees, but it keeps me warm and I love it!

I was therefore pretty happy to be send this GORGEOUS Soak and Sleep throw and I must say I love it.

Throw tastic! Cuddling up for Winter!

Goes perfectly with our sofa which is leather and cold, we've also had it over our duvet at night time.
I think at £46.00 this is really good value as this is a silk throw and you can really tell the difference, it's both super soft and warm too. It also comes in its own little carrying case so you can package it up during Summer.

I hate being cold so I also like it in the evenings when I'm watching a film or something and I can just lie in and on it. My sons also love it as they play hide and seek underneath it and mess around generally with it! I honestly cannot say anything negative at all to say about this throw, I don't think I will ever go back to any other sort of blanket ever again!

I was gifted this throw for the purpose of this review but all thoughts are my own.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

The cost of cars...

I'm always looking for new ways to save money and one of the biggest expenses in my life is most definitely my car. A while ago I got rid of my Astra as it was simply costing me so much in petrol, I really didn't need a 1.6 engine and so settled for a funky new red Ford Fiesta. I don't actually own the car as I have a lease arrangement in place, this probably isn't the cheapest way of doing things, but it works for me and I pay £104 a month for a brand new car that is INCREDIBLY fuel efficient. Over the years I have found a few ways of saving money on everyday motoring (can't believe I just used that word!) and so I thought I would share them with you!

1) Keep your tyres pumped up and do it regularly. It makes a real difference to fuel consumption and makes your car safer too.

2) This is obvious, but unless you really need it keep that air con and heaters switched off! As every contact lense wearer will tell you, they are really drying for the eyes and skin, bad for the environment and will cost you money in petrol costs!

3) Collect vouchers and loyalty cards for petrol stations and use them wherever possible. Sainsburys quite often 6p off  a litre if you shop with them which is a good deal. Obviously weigh it up to ensure it is a genuine saving, sometimes they can be a little misleading.

4) If you need new tyres, don't just bob down to your local Kwikfit, like anything, it pays to be prepared. Google cheap tyres and book that way. I've heard http://www.asdatyres.co.uk/ is quite good though I've never tried it myself.

5) GLIDE! Don't race towards red traffic lights and always reverse into spaces if you can. The reduction in revs will help you to save petrol.

6) Service your car regularly. It will cost you less in the long run (as we found out last year!) and should also help your car stay fuel efficient.Safer too.

7) If something does go wrong with your car, don't just take it to your nearest garage, shop around with a website like http://www.whocanfixmycar.com/ Post a job, get quotes and this also includes mobile mechanics who can help you out at home! Perfect for people who either work from home and/or have small children. Ace!

Do you have any tips for saving money on cars? Share here!

Sunday, 8 December 2013

De-cluttering for 2014






De-cluttering and organising your home is one of the most therapeutic things you can do. Not only is the whole process quite calming, you are left with a wonderfully clean and tidy home in which everything has its right place. The New Year is the perfect time for fresh starts and a new way of living, and a big part of that is starting how you mean to go on. Spending a bit of time during December clearing out things that you no longer want or need is a great way to make way for Christmas, and get your home ready for a new start in 2014.



Be ruthless

A proper de-cluttering mission involves working your way methodically through each room, making decisions on each and every item in each area. Work out if the things you find are things you really need, or have just kept hold of out of habit. A good rule of thumb is if you haven’t used it in the past year, you probably don’t need it. The same goes for things you forgot you had, they obviously weren’t that important to you in the first place. There is no room to start keeping random things “just in case”. Be ruthless and only keep what you really need and you’ll be well on your way to reclaiming your home.



Waste not-want not

Just because you don’t want something, doesn’t mean that someone else might not. The expression, “one man’s trash is anothers treasure” is often true, and something you’ve cast off as useless could make you some money in the right market. When you’ve decided what to get rid of, sort it into different groups. Large items you might want to try to sell locally on online platforms or in the local paper, smaller items can go on eBay to reach a wider market, and things that you don’t want to sell that are still in good nick can go on to the charity shop – anything else you can bin.



Replace important things

On your mission you may well find things that need throwing out, but that must be replaced. Kids wardrobes are a top place for this - when you have cleared out 30 items of ill fitting clothes you are going to have to replace them somehow. As it is the school holidays it is the prime time to check uniform too and replace shirts, shoes and everything else, binning the old ones. If you don’t want to spend a fortune you can buy everything you need in the supermarket, from George's boys school shoes to girl’s tights and backpacks, so you can bin, replace and refresh with no hassle.



Once you have ditched all your clutter you need to remember to keep it that way. Think about every purchase you make and remember where you have decided to keep your existing things so you can put everything back in its right place. It’s much easier to keep a tidy home that way rather than starting the process over, so make sure you are organised and maximise the space you have. All being well you should be well on your way to a clutter-free 2014!


Saturday, 7 December 2013

Christmas at home or away?

It's that time of year again when I start looking at my bank balance and crying, at the same time as desperately needing to spend money. They say these things come in threes and we've had woe of a month starting with car taxing and MOTing followed by a HIDEOUS gas leak which ended up costing us £800. Admittedly I had smelt gas in the downstairs of our house for quite a while but everyone kept saying it was in my mind. We had it checked out and it turned out there was, indeed, a leak! Initially the whole of the foundations of the house were going to be destroyed to locate the pipes but in the end, British Gas just inserted new pipes in the floor boards, though it still cost us a pretty penny as these things always do.

Anyway, back to money woes, as my regular reader (singular) knows, Christmas is not at all my kind of year. I am not one of those girly girls who goes all gushy about Christmas, quite the opposite in fact, I find the whole thing a bit drag and being nice to people for day son end quite a strain. What I would love more than anything is to get away from it all and actually go away for Christmas. I'm not sure exactly how I would go about doing this in a stress free way, but one way would be to go to London for a few days. There were years that went by when I didn't go to London at all, but in the last twelve months I've been about eight times and it is quite a trek from here too. I love the busyness, the fact that there is so much choice, the quality of things, it's awesome. I'd love for the boys to come with us next time so they can experience all the touristy things, so naturally I'm looking at cheap hotels in London as otherwise the cost can be prohibitive.

Thinking about all the places we'd take them to: Buck House, Westminster, The London Eye, Tower of London etc, so much choice!

Would you take young children to London, is it a mistake? What do we do in the evening?!

Monday, 2 December 2013

My Ideal Wedding Meal!

This blog post is my entry to win a night away at an amazing hotel called Stanley House Hotel and Spa. I've been given the awesome job of designing my perfect wedding breakfast (though I should point out I am already married) which is no chore as far as I'm concerned!

For our wedding, over seven years ago, I'm ashamed to say that I can't actually remember what we ate, I honestly can't. To be honest I don't think I ate much as my dress was very tight indeed.

In a perfect world, if I had all the money ever then I would definitely start with my most favourite entree of all time - scallops with black pudding and cauliflower puree, it's just something I never ever tire of. Hubby keeps talking to me about pate and crusty bread which I personally feel would be an error in case there are any pregnant women in the room.

In terms of a main course I have two, I can't choose between them: rib of beef with horseradish mash OR duck in a port and plum sauce with potato gratin with spinach and green beans.
For dessert I would tarte tatin with a calvodos sauce and a mascapone ice cream - yum! It all sounds rather French doesn't it which is no surprise since I love French cuisine.

For drinks I would go for a glass of Sancerre with the starter; a Pinot Noir with the Duck main course and a glass of demi sec champagne with the dessert - or possibly a glass of Calvodos.

What would your favourite wedding meal be?

This is my entry into the Stanley House wedding menu competition. Find out more at: http://www.stanleyhouse.co.uk/news/competition-escape-for-the-night-to-stanley-house-hotel-spa

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Party Time With F&F!

I'm not very good at buying clothes for the boys. It's not all my fault though, there simply don't seem to be that many nice clothes for boys, not the same way there are for girls anyway. I've come to the realisation that the best thing to do is simply dress the boys like their dad, then at least I can apply the same styling rule to three people. Because I'm so clueless, I was pretty excited to be gifted a voucher by F&F to buy some lovely kids party wear for the boys for Christmas. Luckily, we've already had an opportunity for the boys to showcase their lovely new clothes as they went to a Christening on Sunday.

Borg Fleece Lined Jumper from F&F from £12

Borg Fleece Lined Jumper from F&F from £12

Borg Fleece Lined Jumper from F&F from £12
 with F&F Canvas Chinos from £8
 As you can see it wasn't easy to get the boys to keep still during the photography session! However, I've already washed the clothing once and it didn't need ironing at all, which is a definite plus! The trousers are comfy as well as nice and thick for winter. The jumper is really really soft and warm, I've been looking for something like this for a while and I'm really impressed with the overall quality, it should last for ages.

Son 2 also had some lovely partywear, starting with the F&F Signature Twisted Seam Chinos from £14. Again, these have already been washed and didn't need ironing, because they are turned up I think they will last for quite a while, and as with all the trousers for kids, the waist has an elasticated button section so you can slacken and tighten as the child grows.
F&F Signature Seamed Chinos

Striped Raglan T shirt from F&F along with a Grey Cardigan.

If you look closely, you can see the missing front tooth, a long story.
I've never bought anything online from F&F before but I thought the website was really easy to use and I like the fact that there wasn't a ridiculous amount of clothing to choose from which in my opinion is a good thing as it makes it quicker.

All in all, I'm really impressed with the clothing, the quality and the price too. I think we will be buying quite a lot of the boys clothes from F&F in the future due to the quality, easy of ordering and the really good value.

I was gifted a voucher by F&F to buy the boys some party clothes, but all thoughts are my own.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Review - Aldi Champagne BARGAIN!

 It's no secret that I love a lot little bit of bubbly. Over the years I've dipped in and out of all sorts of different types of bubbly; cava, prosecco and lots and lots of different brands of champagne. In fact, I love champagne so much that we've been there twice, last year for a week long holiday (see my post about holidaying in Champagne). I've traipsed round Moet, Veuve, Dom Perignon, the lot. I've tasted big brands and small boutique "maisons". One of my favourite brands of champagne up until now is the boutique brand, Tribault. This "maison" is farmed on the same fields as Dom Perignon and apparently tastes very similar, it's also worth noting that Tribaut is around £10 a bottle. Understandably we stocked up.

So it's pretty obvious, I'm keen to try lots of different types of champagne, and it isn't always the case that most expensive is best. Most people would say they like Moet and Chandon, but to me it has quite a sour taste and is not one of my favourites at all. I've heard on the grapevine that Aldi has some lovely champagne which is priced at £11.99 a bottle, total bargain, though I was lucky enough to be sent some by Aldi for the purposes of this review, happy days! At this price it's perfect for a Christmas present or buy a couple of bottles in just to "have", there doesn't always need to be a special occasion for Champers

The champagne was totally lovely. It was light and fresh and I thought stacked up well against far more expensive brands. We had it with food but I can't see why it wouldn't work at any occasion! I actually think it would be great for a party as you could buy a case of it and at £11.99 a go it would be fab value.  

Did you also know? "Already this year, Aldi’s beers, wines and spirits range has received 82 accolades from internationally recognised competitions, including 33 awards at the International Wine Challenge 2013, 20 awards at the International Wine and Spirits Competition 2013 and 10 awards at the International Spirits Challenge 2013."

After doing my weekly shop at Aldi I was really impressed how many brands there were and how much cheaper it was than going to the other supermarkets. I was worried that the meat and fresh sections wouldn't be up to scratch, but actually I thought they were great. It's definitely worth a try, if only for this amazing value and delicious champers!


Bubbles!

Yummy Aldi Champagne

This champagne was gifted to me by Aldi for the purposes of this review, but all thoughts are my own.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Review, Hunter Wellies!

Since moving to the "countryside" about six years ago, I noticed quite a large amount of mud. It's everywhere, I think it's because it rains so much here on the hills of Yorkshire, it kind of drives me mad. Every time we enter our house there's a huge influx of mud that seems to come with us. The boys are well used to wearing wellies everywhere we go, especially in winter. We sort of, hose them off after every outing, all part of a good day out! Anyway, where I'm going with this is that up until now, I have refused to join the welly brigade. Yes I would far rather spoil a perfectly good pair of boots and hop around avoiding puddles, it never works.

So, for my birthday, hubby bought me a pair of wellies. They were from Joules, but to be honest, they did nothing for me. I already have sized 8/9 feet and the wellies he bought me had vertical stripes on, it wasn't a good look, so back they went. Therefore I was pretty happy to be sent this pair of AWESOME Hunter wellies from Cloggs the other day. I've been waiting for an opportunity to wear them, and it happened today on a short trip to Ilkley - a very muddy place. I wore some Joules welly socks with them, and I never thought I would say this, but my wellies were amazing! Really comfortable, really warm, no rubbing at all even though they are new. Who would have thought it?!

So now I'm a complete convert to Hunters, I don't think I would ever buy another brand of wellies now, not that I intend to buy them very often, if ever.
Here they are, in all their glory. You have to agree with me that they are gorgous. The colour is really
vibrant, I think it's been captured well in this photo.


Pink Hunter Wellies, awesome.

Awesome, gotta love those welly socks too.
Are you a welly wearer? What do you think of them? Girlify them up and you'll be surprised how glamorous they can look, honest!

These items were gifted to me for the purpose of this review, but all thoughts are my own.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Will you be taking a short break in 2014?

 For the last few months, we've been arguing talking about where to go on holiday next year. As for every parent with young children, holidays aren't always the relaxing stress free breaks that you see on the adverts. Last summer we made the brave move of going away for a fortnight, to France, just the four of us. The first week was fun, the second was trying. For us, the main problem was the fact that the boys aren't very good at going to sleep in places that are unfamiliar to them, so we end up going up and down stairs all night long trying to get them off to sleep.

Holiday picnic fun!


So this year, we are saving our money (for ourselves, obviously) and have decided to holiday in the UK. Yes, the weather can be unpredictable, but that's why it's worth considering a break at a "fun" style holiday park where everything is laid on and you don't have to THINK. As I've learned, there's almost no point in trying to get the children to sleep at a reasonable time, as they don't seem to want to co-operate. So you may as well go out in the evenings and just "go with it".


I remember as a child, being extremely jealous of anyone who was going on a Butlin's holiday, as it sounded like amazing fun. I know for a fact that my children would have a great time and enjoy the swimming pool, the clubs, activities and general atmosphere. I'm starting to think that stress free UK holidays are the way forwards - what's the point in working hard all year for two weeks of stress stuck in the car the whole time.

If that sounds like your idea of a good way to spend your holiday time as a family, the Butlins 2014 UK holiday breaks are available now.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Christmas come early...

Was I the only one to notice all the Christmas adverts on TV during the adverts in X factor last night? John Lewis and the like unashamedly advising us to spend our money in order to make Christmas a really special time? I can't have been the only person who felt a tad cynical, thinking about all the people who will actually find it very tough to buy presents this year, and for whom it must seem even tougher when faced with adverts like that. The only advert that resonated with me was the Asda one, not trying to sell people stuff they don't need. Just telling us that their prices for the things we do actually need are lower than their competitors. Enough said. Having said all that, my children completely love Christmas and are already 100% on countdown. I keep telling them it's only 20 days until Advent but they keep thinking there are only 20 days until Christmas. Whoops.

I remember before we had children I always thought I would make Christmas completely about the true meaning rather than just make it about presents (aka plastic tat). However when faced with the day to day pressures of parenting, I hope I am not alone in insisting there are "Santa cams" scattered around, Santa is on speed dial (8) on my phone, etc etc.

Anyway, in an effort to buy into it all, I wanted something a bit different for their advent calendars this year. Son 2 is soon to undergo a general anasthetic to have his front tooth out (he fell over and smashed it) so I thought it might be rather counter productive to give him lots of chocolate and sweets. I was pretty pleased then to spot some awesome Lego and Playmobil advent calendars where it seems that the whole point is to get enough pieces each day to eventually build something at the end of it. No sweets or chocolate, but hopefully lots of learning and fun times together too.

Here my boys are with their booty! They are now counting down to when they can start counting down, if you know what I mean.
Playmobil Advent Calendar for Son 2

Lego Star Wars Advent Calendar for Son 1!



The lego is available at Argos online here and it's pretty reasonable priced there compared to elsewhere. I'm actually starting to look forward to Christmas a bit more (see an older post about why I hate Christmas) as I'm looking forward to seeing what is in the Lego and Playmobil advent calendars. Happy days!

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Time for a new bag?

Ok so although I'm going to be moaning a lot about what a waste of money Christmas presents are in the next few weeks, and ways to save money on them, that doesn't mean I'm not thinking about what I want for my own presents! I'm starting to wonder whether it might be time for me to have a new bag, though if it's a great offer that will of course be a bonus. I like these Kipling bags, in particular this one, it looks really practical for when I'm on "Mummy duties" and other times too (though not sure when those times are). This one looks great as it zips up, goes across the body and is also pretty cool looking. It goes without saying that these bags are currently on sale.
Kipling bag, £49.50
 For something a bit more formal, perhaps for the one Christmas party I've got lined up, I like these Visconti bags especially as they have lots of laptop bags, which is something I also need.

Visconti Bag £59.99
This might be something that I could get for my mum, great quality, really practical and looks great too.  Aside from that, something I really really want just generally are some Ash shoe boots. Baukjen had some on offer a few weeks ago, but they are beige and everyone knows that beige shoes get ruined fast.

What do you want for Christmas this year? Or is it just a great big giant rip off?

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Weekend Money Saving Pledge...

I don't know about you, but for us, the most expensive part of the week is definitely the weekend. Lunches out, shopping, miscellaneous/pointless trips to TK Maxx and Laura Ashley to stock up on rubbish essentials. Not only is it tiring work, it's for the most part pretty pointless. I never sit on a Sunday evening and think, "I'm so glad I wasted spent £95 in B&M Bargains today, I really needed those giant angry birds for the boys bedrooms, where would we be without them?". No, instead I think, "why oh why did we even set foot inside that retail park? The boys hated it, it tired us out, we gained nothing from it as a family, it ate away at our weekend and we bought things we didn't even need. Or possibly want. Did I really need to spend £10 on something that makes my hair into a bun shape? The answer is no." (Speaking of those bun shape things, did you know you can make them really easily out of old socks? Yes, true!)

So this is my advice. One weekend a month, don't spend anything. Yes, that's right. Leave your wallet at home. Go for walks in your local area, play in the park, cook food from your freezer and cupboards that have been there for ages. Make models from stuff in the recycling - like this (from Arty Tots)

Yes, a dolls house made out of milk cartons!
You too can be the proud owner of this awesome dolls house! The thing about staying home and stopping with the splashing of the cash - it actually feels good as a family. You spend time together rather than walking round shops shouting and chasing 2 year olds about. You don't have to worry about your child's behaviour in restaurants, you go back to basics (as John Major would say) and you know what, it's actually pretty cool. Don't sweat the small stuff. One weekend a month make a pledge to spend no money at all, on anything. Stay home, work in the garden, pick up acorns and conkers. Make collages and home made play dough. Make mud pies in the garden and forget about stuff.

Buying stuff won't make you happy, believe me, I've tried.

Can you do it?

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Save money - be a funny shape?!

I was chatting to a work colleague today (not in person you understand, does anyone do that anymore?) about money saving and asking for her tips As she is ten years younger than me I wondered if she might have a different take on things and some ideas I hadn't thought of before - and she did! "Be a funny shape", she said, "like me, I have no hips so I get the small jean sizes no-one else can fit into, so I snap them up in the sale."

Hmm, it got me thinking. I'm a size ten top and bottom so I thought - well I won't be able to take advantage of that. How wrong I was! If you think about it, there is probably something about you that isn't, how shall I say it, regular? So for me, it's my feet - I'm near enough a size 9 now, which is pretty huge for a woman. That means I can snap up whatever I want in the sales as no-one else wants that size, bonza! 

What do you think? Have you picked up any irregular sized bargains?! 

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Save £100 a month with my Sunday money saving tips...

So on Friday I found out some amazing news, I am a finalist for Savoo's UK's Smartest Shopper! How cool is that?! So this weekend I will be going down to London along with nine other finalists for my "interview"! So excited as the prize is a cool £10k. Since we are about 10k short of the house of our dreams, that would come in very nicely thank you very much indeed.

So since this blog was mainly created to share as many good deals as possible, and I seem to be more fixated more recently with spending money, rather than saving it (owing largely to a change in our financial circumstances), it only seems right that I share a few of my money saving tips that I've picked up over the years....

1) One thing I've learned is that companies make a lot of money from "lazy" people. What I mean is, people who just carry on letting those lovely direct debits go flowing out of their accounts each month. Check your balance regularly, check your direct debits. Are they all correct? Are any higher than you thought? Check them out, make that call, do it today!

2) After you've checked your direct debits make a list of the things you think you can either do without or make cheaper. I noticed our Sky bill was around £90 a month which is frankly, ridiculous. So I rang them. I said it was too high and we couldn't afford it. The lovely lady on the other end immediately gave me 20% off for six months and free fibre broadband too. The cost? Only the time taken to make that call. We saved around £20 a month just by making that call.

3) Look at your car insurance. Don't just let your new premium begin without checking out what else is out there. Make calls, look online, compare. You'll most probably save around  £60 at least just by shopping around!

4) Ring your energy company, or have an online chat with them like I did! If you can't be bothered to swap (which Dave Cameron tells us we should) then just give them a call and ask for their best deal. Easy peasy and you ALWAYS get a better price. We were paying £146 a month for gas and electricity and now we are paying much less!

5) This is one from my friend Dan. Need new tyres, find them expensive? Don't take your car to Kwikfit whatever you do. Google "cheap tyres" and you'll see there are loads of companies that you book through to get cheaper tyres, you just choose the garage closest to you on their website and book it a few days in advance. As always, being organised and booking things in advance saves loads of money. I think our tyres were about £25 cheaper each doing it this way, and we got the tracking done (the curse of Ford) much cheaper this way too!

So that's it for today, with these tips I reckon you can save at least £100 a month! Make that call, don't accept the price you are given, always say "it's over my budget" and you'll be surprised what companies can offer you.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Top Ten Toys for Little Princesses this Christmas




Unless you’re incredibly organised, building a Christmas list that is suitable for your child (without going overboard and spending frivolously on things she doesn’t need) can be extremely difficult. It’s so easy to get carried away when you’re shopping for toys and games – the marketing strategies clearly work in most cases!
When it comes to little princesses, there’s a whole manner of options to add to her Santa sack that would make her day extra magical – but the cost to you may not be quite so enchanting! If you write your shopping list in advance and keep a record of what you’ve spent, you will have more chance of sticking to a reasonable budget. Spread the cost over the next couple of months and your bank balance will thank you. Here are ten top ideas to make a little girl’s dreams come true.
1.       Little People Princess Songs Palace is a perfect choice for little hands that are just learning to handle figures and playsets. With pieces big enough to play with without being a choking hazard, these fabulous Song Palaces are available from Fisher-price.
2.       Princess Dress-up Outfits are bound to be a winner with little girls who love to immerse themselves in the world of fantasy.
3.       A Doll’s House will last them for many years to come, giving them hours of play independently, with you and with friends. Furniture and figures would make perfect stocking fillers, too. Whether you go for a modern house or a traditional wooden house, your little doll is sure to be delighted.
4.       Pretend Play Stocking Fillers are perfect, budget-friendly additions to her stocking. From pretend lipsticks and hairdryers to bracelets and princess crowns, you can find all manner of things in the shops that won’t break the bank.
5.       Dolls. You can’t go wrong with dolls! Give her hours of fun making up scenarios and enjoying her own company.
6.       Sticker Books may not be classed as “toys” but they are fabulous, affordable gift ideas which teach children dexterity and fine motor skills. A princess themed sticker book would be perfect!
7.       A New Bike would be ideal as a ‘big’ present, even though our winter weather can’t always guarantee suitability to ride it. Choose one with girly details like a basket or streamers.
8.       Minnie Mouse Bowtique continues to be a hugely successful range of toys that coincide with the hit television show. Choose from a “bee-u-ti-ful” myriad of figures, playsets, bathtime fun and cuddly toys!
9.       Dora the Explorer’s Backpack will be a hit with any Dora fan in your home. With everything a little explorer needs stashed away inside it, she can feel like Dora herself!
10.   Role Play toys that will give her the chance to be just like you would be a great idea. A toy washing machine, ironing board or dustpan and brush, for example, will make her feel like a grown-up while also keeping her entertained. Or perhaps she’d prefer a tool set, play kitchen or doctor’s case? Anything that gets that imagination sparking is ideal.
Make Christmas truly special for your little princess by treating her to a selection of fabulous toys that will keep her occupied for hours on end.  

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Getting into the Halloween Spirit...

I'm not really one for anything where I feel I "have" to celebrate. Christmas is a bit of a chore for me and Halloween is certainly not something I would ever normally bother with. However, "normally" doesn't really come into it anymore, since I have two children who love any excuse for a party! Rather than go trick-or-treating (which is more than I could bear) we took the children over to my brother's house on Sunday for some good old fashioned party games. I thought I'd share some of those ideas here as the games were really easy to organise and we did have loads of fun!

1. Pumpkin carving competition! Asda are selling two pumpkins for £3, so I dutifully bought two plus two pumpkin carving kits (which were £1 each). My sister in law and hubby carved a pumpkin out each in record time and then we had a judging session to see whose was the best. After a few tears and tantrums (mine) we decided that the two pumpkins were "equally good". It was just easier.
Hello Jack

Pumpkin carving tool.
2. Hide the mini skeletons. These are £1 for eight in a packet, what money well spent it was. My brother and I hid them around his house and the children ran round hysterically looking for them.  A few broke in the ongoing struggle, more tantrums.

It's funny, last night when I was in bed, I saw a weird glow coming from my dressing table, upon closer inspection I realised it was the skeletons! Yes they are even glow in the dark.

3. Disco dancing competition/musical statues/general exercise. Put together some Halloween related tracks, e.g. Thriller, Monster Mash, erm, a few more, and come up with new dance moves everyone has to copy. Happy days.

4. A variation on find the skeleton, buy some eye ball choccies (again from Asda) hide around the house and give each child their own bucket or bag to collect their looty in. Perfecto!

This bag was from Your Design, who personalised it for them, it would be great for Halloween parties and trick for treating, I'm going to keep it for years!

So my Halloween ideas are not very imaginative, what do you do in your family for Halloween?

Monday, 28 October 2013

Take time out with online bingo


 Image by chacrebleu 



 Being at home with the kids is great if you can manage it; fitting in work from home alongside being a great mum. But that doesn’t mean you’re not entitled to a break from the routine every now and then, whatever form that break may be.

Of course, it’s not always practical to go out and have time away from the kids – you have to arrange for someone else to look after them and if that’s not your partner or a friend, it probably means booking and paying for a babysitter. If you can take time out without leaving the children in someone else’s care, it gives you a chance to have a breather and then be refreshed to carry on being mum for the rest of the day. And there are lots of times during the day to do that. When they’re watching their favourite programme, do you have to watch it with them? What about when they’re having a nap? That time doesn’t have to always be taken up with chores. Fortunately for many of us at home today, we are never alone thanks to the Internet. It gives us a link to the outside world and a vast choice of entertainment that our mothers and their mothers could never have dreamt of. You can down tools at any time and find something to interest you on the Internet, whether it’s the news, gossip, shopping or gaming.

Now, while you may not see the value of games like Candy Crush Saga or Farmville, there are some games that, though simple, can be great value entertainment. Online bingo has become the game of choice for many people who just want something easy and entertaining to distract them for a few minutes, with the added incentive that they just might win an amazing amount of money while playing it! Since the game went online, it’s undergone a renaissance and is now really popular with hundreds of sites to choose from, each of them offering a wide selection of games and prizes. It’s so easy to start playing too.

You can play Costa Bingo’s online bingo now, whatever time it is and wherever you are. All you need to do is sign up and choose a game. You don’t even need to pay to play as there’ s a no-deposit bonus to take advantage of when you first sign up, and if you like what you find, you can then put down an initial deposit and the site will give you a 200% bonus – trebling your original amount. However small an amount you put in, an initial deposit and bonus will go a long way in bingo games – most of them are only pennies to play, and there are lots of free games on the schedules too. At Costa, you can even join in a weekly free game called Costa Crazy, which has a guaranteed £10,000 jackpot. Who’s not going to want to buy a ticket for that one?! Even if you don’t feel you have time to sit and play bingo, you can still buy a ticket for any game you’re interested in and it will play through automatically at the allotted time. Any wins you have will be automatically credited to your account, so you might get a nice surprise the next time you login. Playing bingo on a regular basis may not be right for you, but for a way to take five, it’s always a handy option!

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Sunday, 27 October 2013

Eco Stationery Review!

So after mulling over the spelling of stationery/stationary I think I've hit upon the correct one! I'm a big fan of nice stationery, but normally go for something very functional rather than girly, no need for all that fuss. Therefore I was thrilled to be offered the chance to review some fab eco stationery from Memo Etc. Memo etc sent me some lovely items from their new website's collection with many items from the Remarkable range. Many of the products are made from recycled material, which I love the idea of including a ruler and biodegradable pens! What's not to like?

Here's a piccy of the lovely looty...

Lovely Lot from Memo Etc
In my pack were lots of lovely notebooks with the covers made from recycled leather, a pencil case made from recycled tyres, the ruler and crayons as mentioned above and various other lovely bits and pieces. We all waded straight in, desperate to get what we each felt we needed!

Here's Son 1 using his leather notebook...
Leather notebook fun
He really loved the idea of having something so posh to draw his angry bird pictures in - it also kept him quiet for quite a while so we were all winners.

I was really impressed with the range - I thought the items were amazing quality and I really liked the fact that they had been recycled as it meant they were environmentally friendly which is something I think we should all be conscious of. I get so sick of all the packaging I seem to end up recycling each week so it was nice to think that something can be made from things like leather that we wouldn't naturally associate with recycling.

Overall I was really pleased with my lovely set and so were my boys! Winner!

These items were sent to me for free for the purpose of review but all thoughts are my own.

Friday, 18 October 2013

Awesome Competition - Best Driving Views!

Sometimes when we're driving about the Yorkshire countryside, I come across a view that I think is truly breathtaking. I sometimes see other people have pulled over to the side of the road with their cameras to get a better view. Once my parents did that and then submitted their photo to the local news station as they often put up viewers' photos during the weather, but it never got aired (!). A few years ago, I got a great shot of Mont St Michel in Brittany/Normandy when we were driving along, here is it...

Mont St Michel, Normandy/Brittany
I was actually really pleased with this photo as it can be hard to get good clear shots when you're driving. Mont St Michel is one of my most favourite places in France, it has to be one of the most atmospheric places in the world. Monks are singing, nuns are praying, it's mega steep, it really has everything. You can even get marooned on there by the tide if you go at the wrong time of day, awesome. It also has some nice restaurants so you can have a relaxing meal and take in the view. Happy days.

Anyway, if you have any good driving views, why not enter this fab competition with Carcraft? They are looking for great photos of driving views, but hurry, it ends today! Here is how you enter.

There are three methods to enter. You will get one entry per method, and you can enter using all three methods to get three entries. So if you do use all three methods, you will have a higher chance of winning!
• Email us your photo to marketing@carcraft.co.uk
• Tweet us your photo with the hashtag #VROOMwithaview
• Post your photo on your blog/website with a link back to the Carcraft website
Enter today! :)
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Wednesday, 9 October 2013

New Shopping Addiction Alert

Like many women, I enjoy sticking to my "mainstay" of shopping haunts. For me it will always be Oasis, Karen Millen, Baukjen, LK Bennett with a bit of M&S and Primark thrown in for good measure. Occasionally if I've enough time I'll pop into Zara or H&M. But most of the time those places make me feel old, and I can't stand going anywhere that people choose to go to in a group. It's a bad sign. Online shopping has become my "go to" activity these days, mainly because like most mothers, I cannot ever go into real shops. Occasionally I get time off for good behaviour when hubby takes one for the team and goes to visit someone leaving me free to Shhhhhhooooopppp. Happy days. Anyway, back to internet shopping, I've a new one for you today called Spy Love Buy. Heard of it? No me neither, but I could have said that same about Baukjen a few years ago and now it is one of my fav shops ever.  This winter, as ever, I'm looking for the perfect boots. Last winter I happened upon some awesome Tamaris ones in a local shoe shop. Naturally I've not looked after them properly and now they are ruined. This winter I'm not only after some ankle boots but also some reddy brown longer boots, they have to be shiny and horse riding looking. It's difficult to explain.

So anyway, back to Spy Love Buy (I'm liking the name), I spotted these.
Browny boots £37.95
They just about hit the mark, if only they were SLIGHTLY redder I would be happy.

Then I spotted these, to the untrained eye they might look very similar to the first pair, but there are subtle differences...

More browny boots £37.95

Still, they aren't quite reddy brown and shiny enough for me. Will I ever find my perfect boot?

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Saturday, 5 October 2013

Perfect birthday with Baukjen's Jessica Dress and a Heart Swarovski Necklace


So the moment has arrived, I'm officially old! Yes, 35! I can't really complain as I had a lovely weekend away with my friend Emma (who blogs over at www.hertfordshiremummy.com) at the Savoo Saveup event in London. We had a great time with the Savoo gang at the amazing Soho Hotel where we actually saw Jason Statham who is apparently dead famous, 

I took some lovely photos which I will post at a later date, but the best part of the weekend was meeting all the other bloggers and getting some great savvy shopper tips as well.

Anyway, I was lucky enough to be given this perfecto Jessica dress by Baukjen by my mum. I can honestly say it is by far the nicest thing in my wardrobe and  plan to wear that for years. 

At £89.99 it's a compete bargain, then the other day Baukjen did a 43% off day! Complete bargain! I actually ended up buying myself thus jumper in lipstick pink, I love it...


I'm wearing it right now! It's angora and it looks absolutely gorgeous, though I'm not sure I'd spend £109 on it -but it was a great price with 43% off.

Anyway, this is the beautiful heart my hubby bought me. At first I thought it wasn't delicate enough but it actually looks really divine and goes well with the Jessica dress too..


So there you have it! Three beautiful items, one birthday, happy days!


Tuesday, 1 October 2013

I love London....

Although I've heard countless times from people who live in London, "I hate London, I want to leave!". To me, it's heaven. It's probably because I don't live there, or live near anywhere even remotely like it, but like the little Englander I am, I look forward to a visit there for months. I couldn't tell you exactly what it is I like about it; it isn't really the shopping - most of the shops in London I can go to in Leeds, I do like the boutiques but never really sure if they're my kind of thing; the sights are pretty amazing, but I think I've seen most things now a couple of times, and it's very hard on the feet; I'm not sure it's the nightlife, as a knackered mother I've very rarely got the energy to stay up past 10:30 anyway. I think it's the general atmosphere. The promise of excitement, the different languages and nationalities. It makes me feel, well, alive.
Big Ben - from a recent trip to London!

So far, we have never actually taken the boys with us on a trip to London. It's about two hours on the train from Leeds so it's not ridiculously far, but somehow I see London as our tranquil (!) oasis away from everyday life. Would taking the boys eat into that? I don't know, maybe. Anyway, if we were to take them, there's no way I could cope staying with them in a hotel, it would be just too depressing. Listening to the sounds of people having loads of fun while we're stuck in some (probably small) hotel room watching cbeebies until it's coming out of our ears. I think what we'd do is stay in one of these short stay apartments London and probably go for a week. Looking at the prices they are actually a LOT cheaper than staying in a hotel, give you far more room and are also away from the really noisy areas that hotels tend to be in. In terms of things to do in London, here are my favs:
1. Boat ride on the Thames - can be done really cheaply if you get the Thames Clipper, just a couple of pounds.
2.A walking tour between Westminster, Trafalgar Square and Buckingham Palace, time it for the changing of the guard, again, free!
3. Have a cocktail in Raymond Blanc's restaurant overlooking Covent Garden, there's a little side door and some stairs up to it, and you can sit on the balcony and have a lovely view.
4. The royal parks are free and lovely (great for children too) - St James' Park, Regents Park, Hyde Park and the one next to Buckingham Palace (Green Park?) - pick up some bits in M&S and have a picnic there.
5. Borough Market - walk round when it's lunchtime, try loads of samples and enjoy! Near one of the entrances there is also the Monmouth Coffee Company which always has REALLY long queues. We've never braved it but there must be something AWESOME about that place? Nearby we went to a hot chocolate place and had some chilli hot chocolate. It was great for a winter's day.

What are your top tips for a fun day or night in London?

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Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Evening Dress Flop....

It's been quite a while now since I last bought an evening dress, but this one here sticks in my mind for all the wrong reasons. I bought it in Sydney a few months before this photo was taken, back in 2003. It's generally a mistake to buy things when you're abroad as it's easy to get swept away with holiday fever only to discover once you get home that what you bought was hideous. This is one of those. I was in a rush, couldn't find anything else to buy and it sort of fit. Except it didn't, it was way too tight.
Me looking rather rigid.
By the way, hello Jeremy and Ben who are also on the picture.  This picture was taken on a train station platform on our way to night out in Osaka, I think it was some sort of leaving party. It's difficult to describe exactly how hot we were on this picture, the humidity in Japan is something I never ever came to terms with and I was permanently sweating. So, a hot, tight, uncomfortable dress. You can see I got it badly wrong.

I guess part of it was also lack of money, these days however, things like evening dresses such as these seem a lot more affordable, something like this green one would have suited me (not in that heat though...)

Emerald Evening Dress
At £29.99 that's really affordable, especially for prom nights or student balls.

Some of the dresses on that site even stack up as potential wedding dresses, maybe if you were going abroad and didn't want to lose an expensive dress to baggage handlers, this one would be a good option.

Cream Ivory Dress

There are also some lovely formal dresses on the website. This burgundy formal dress is actually really similar to the dresses my bridesmaids wore at our wedding.
Burgundy formal dress

However at £29.99 I can tell you that this one is much much cheaper! This one would definitely be great for a formal works "do" particularly at Christmas time.

Do you have any favourites when it comes to formal dresses? Where are your "go to" shops?

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