Thursday, 28 February 2013

Cool Ideas for World Book Day!

World Book Day is a fantastic opportunity for children all around the world to see how fun reading can be. With a range of eight different books by bestselling beloved children’s authors up for offer, there’s sure to be something for every child of every age to enjoy.

Children are given a World Book Day voucher at school or nursery, with which they can purchase one of the books on offer absolutely free. Whether your child already loves reading, or if this is the first book they’ve sought after themselves, it’s a great way to expand your child’s bookshelf.

Sometimes children may need a little encouragement to get involved with reading, and there’s no more fun way to do this than to dress up as children’s literature characters! Dressing up is fun for kids of all ages and for the adults too, making it a fantastic way to help kids engage with literature. even has a World Book Day dressing-up section on their site, meaning it’s really easy to get ideas. Your little boy could dress up as super detective Sherlock Holmes, while your little girl can go on fun adventures as Alice in Wonderland.

To make the day even more immersive, consider theming an afternoon of fun around the character they’re dressed as. Little Alice may enjoy a Mad Hatter-themed tea party, where you can read extracts from the book together and enjoy afternoon tea and biscuits!

You could also hide clues for little Sherlock to find around the house, which will lead him to a brand new book to enjoy! The possibilities really are endless, and it’s a great way for all the family to get involved with World Book Day this year.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

How I dress my boys...

As any regular readers of my blog know by now, I like to dress nicely. I like shopping, looking at clothes online and looking at what other people are wearing. Not in a nasty way, just in a hideously nosy and Mrs Mangel type way. Part of it stems from an utter lack of creativity on my part, I couldn't just "put an outfit together", I would need to see it put together first on Polyvore, a mannequin or a photograph.

Anyway, as well as dressing myself nicely I like to dress my two boys nicely too. Not in a tweed wearing way with Hunter boots (anyone who has ever visited Ilkley will know what I mean) but in a smart practical kind of way. I'm not overly keen on spending masses of money on their clothes, but they each have a couple of smart outfits for parties, events etc.

We went to Center Parcs a few weeks ago, now I have learned the hard way what to wear there - tracksuits, it's not something I normally wear, mainly because I find they drag along the ground, but when you are swimming and messing around all day, a tracksuit and a gilet are the only things to go with. For the boys, I like to put them in boys tracksuits with comfy sandals like these Birkenstocks for the summer months.For me, buying kids clothing online is the only way to go, what child wants to be dragged round clothes shops anyway, even if it is for them!
Boys Birkenstocks £35
Speaking of Birkenstocks, I recently learned that they have a lifetime guarantee! How cool is that, I bought some a few years ago from Costco and the soles have now really worn down, maybe I can have them repaired? Aside from tracksuits, I like to shop in places like Joules, Crew Clothing and H&M for the boys. I've also found Supermarkets like Tesco and Sainsburys to be pretty good and decent quality.

Where do you buy your children's clothing from?

My Life With Skype....

A few years ago, when I was living in Japan (have I mentioned that?) I met a guy from England who had been having a long term long distance relationship with a Japanese girl, who mentioned this thing called Skype. I had never heard of it at the time but it sounded cool, a way to ring people for free and also appear in person via video? At the time, I was not at all technologically savvy, so I never followed it up.

These days, I can't imagine my life without Skype, we talk to family over it most weeks and it's also a great way for our wider family to see our children in "real life". It also means our children can appear together and it's also more enticing to them than speaking over the telephone.

For work too, it's become increasingly my main method of communication as I work from home, which can get quite lonely. Sometimes it's nice just to have Skype on and not actually speak to anyone, it's almost like I'm actually there. I can always ask someone a question or start a conversation whenever I feel like it, which is far more natural. I also instant message over Skype as I find it better than facebook and also quicker. I also feel a lot more comfortable using Skype than having a call over the phone, as it also means by hands are free to look at relevant documents or websites that we are talking about. I love this video showing how Skype can even be used for finding jobs and auditioning for parts! My grandparents would never believe this technological age we live in....

 Do you use Skype and if so, how often? Do you use it socially, for work or both?

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

What To Wear to a Kaiser Chiefs Gig!

So I am now officially obsessed by Polyvore. It's a great way to put outfits together and get inspiration too! This weekend I am lucky enough to be going to see The Kaiser Chiefs at Brixton O2 Academy (is that what it's called?). So obviously I have nothing trendy to wear, which is pretty important as I want to look like a trendy person who often goes to gigs rather than a mother of two masquerading as a trendy person. Plus my cousin is one of the chiefs, so if there is an after show party we will be able to go and possibly meet (and by that I mean stare at) famous people. So anyway, here is my outfit....

Gig outfit!

£10 - Topshop

£20 Topshop

£29.95 Joules

I never thought that as a 34 year old mother of two, I would ever wear a crop top again, but as the skirt is high waisted there is no actual flesh on show. The skirt is double layered and ruched which hides lumps and bumps and it looks laid back and relaxed. I'm still not sure about the trainers, I can't help but think that skirts like these are made for heels, but who wears heels to a gig? Especially in London.  I was actually really impressed with the offerings in TopShop, they've a big mix of styles and they still have a "tall section" which was actually really well stocked.

As well as the gig I'm looking forward to people watching and seeing the sights, it's so vibrant and exciting, makes me feel alive. 

Friday, 22 February 2013

Help Your Local School With Florida4less!

I love a good competition, especially one with a lovely prize.  With World Book Day just around the corner, it seems sensible to start thinking about your child's costume for school and also books of course! My children have loads of books, but they aren't cheap and it's always good to get some help in buying more (yes I know about libraries but I think we've been banned).  Schools have been particularly hard hit in the recent recession and funding cuts, and are always grateful for extra help. With all this in mind, I wanted to let you know about a brand new competition which may be of interest to you and your children from Florida4less!

Florida4less feel that children are an important part of their business, and have decided to run a great competition, giving children the opportunity to win £150 worth of National Book Tokens for their school and £50 of Disney shop tokens for themselves! Sounds great doesn't it?!

All they have to do to enter is colour in this specially designed mermaid and email their entry to

The competition itself is to celebrate World Book Day which is taking place on March 7th. The full PDF of the picture can be found here
Get entering, closes soon!

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Achica Elkin Bracelets

A few weeks ago I wrote a post entitled How Do You Shop about my new found love for members sites like Achica. I bought some beautiful wine glasses at a snip of the usual price and every time I use them, it gives me pleasure (and not just because of the wine!).

Anyway, I was delighted to be sent some information about these lovely new bracelets by Elkin, that will soon be on the Achica site. They are priced from £20 and I can see myself stacking these in a variety of colours with skinny jeans and a white shirt (plus converse?).

A bit different and I bet you won't see anyone else wearing the same thing as they can't be found on the high street. What do you think? Do you like skull accessories?

I do genuinely love Achica though I have received a voucher so I can buy one of these bracelets!

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Working from home is so damn lonely...

If you had asked me last year, I would have said that my ideal job was working from home, as it would mean that my children wouldn't be in childcare for ten hours a day, I could attend assemblies and nativities without having to beg, put the dinner on, hang washing out and just generally have a more relaxing time. All of these things are true, but I forgot one crucial point: it's very lonely. At the moment, I am working from home two days a week. The way it works is that I drop one son off at nursery, another at school then race home so I can get as much done as possible before 3pm. Sometimes I don't even clear the breakfast stuff away as I have so much to do. I try to have a little break from the screen around 11am and then work through until 3pm when I have to pick my son up from school. Somewhere, somehow, something has gone wrong. It isn't the relaxing idyll I imagined at all. If anything it's more fraught as I am so aware of the horrid mess around me and all the jobs that need doing around the house. Worst of all, I have literally no-one to talk to, to bounce ideas off, to ask advice or seek inspiration from. It's hard to come up with ideas when it's just you on your own all day and hardly a "working from home" day goes by when I don't sink into bleak thoughts, I'm painting a lovely picture aren't I?!

There are many pros, but I didn't think of the cons, as a human we need that interaction to keep us going, to make us feel alive.

The other con is the fact that I find it hard to cut off. After I pick my son up from school I tend to keep on working, often late into the evening, I find it hard to stop checking my iPhone and bobbing onto facebook (especially as some of my work is social media).

Does anyone have any advice on successful working from home strategies? What am I doing wrong?

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Bargain Le Temps Des Cerises Jeans from Zalando...

Ever since my previously favourite high street jeans "go to" turned a bit rubbish and started selling cheap and nasty bargain basement clothes I've been on the lookout for somewhere else to go. I've been hearing a lot about Citizens of Humanity Jeans and also 7 For All Mankind, but I just don't have the time or mental strength to face buying something so expensive online when I have absolutely no idea what the quality is like or whether it will fit. On the otherhand, I don't want to go to places like Oasis and Gap before - it really is true that it's a buy cheap, replace twice sort of thing. I bought a pair of Miss Sixty jeans in Paris over ten years ago, they were really expensive, even in the sale, but they lasted brilliantly, until the top button popped off. I suppose I could have had them repaired but in reality they had been worn to death and I was a bit sick of the colour, so off to the charity shop they went. The point is though that they lasted ages, they didn't fade, and I could also wear them for ages without them looking marked - that's another thing I've noticed about cheaper jeans, they just don't absorb dirt and sticky hand stains quite so well.

So this is a bit of an experiment for me, get some better quality jeans in a sale, see how they go and maybe get exactly what I want next time by paying full price (let's face it, few of us ever get exactly what we want in a sale). I had some fortuitous timing, as I was offered a voucher to try out online store Zalando so I thought I would see what their jeans offering is like...I was pretty impressed. Zalando seem to mainly stock lots and lots of brands, it can seem a bit overwhelming at first as there is literally so much stuff on there. It really helps if you know exactly what you are looking for, which I did. I knew I wanted skinny/straight jeans in a dark blue denim, something smart but also comfortable too. I already have some smart skinny dark blue jeans that are fine for wearing out but not much good for when I'm at home as they get a little annoying around the knees.

Anyway, after having a really good look through, I found some lovely jeans by a brand called Le Temps Des Cerises (the Susie jeans). Naturally I had a good look at their own website and did a bit of background research to see what people say about their jeans, the reviews were really good, and the jeans were £26 reduced from £85 (they've gone up to £48 now  but still a good buy!). The weird thing was that one day they would have a size 29 and the next a size 31 so you do have to get on there quick if you want a sale item. Anyway, in the end I sized up to 31 as I wanted them to be really comfy. They fitted nicely when I first put them on, though they were a little baggy at the waist, but a few days in they are now looking really big on me though I assume they will retract a little after being washed. It doesn't really matter though as long as I wear a belt they look great, and more importantly the quality is amazing, the colour  is great and I can see why they cost so much more (at normal price) than high street jeans. The length is quite long, I normally take 33 inch legs and I have had to fold these over a bit so that might also be something to take into account, would be ok in heels though and to be honest I wear boots over the top of them so you can't see the length.
Le Temp Des Cerise Jeans from Zalando
I'm too self conscious to post a picture of myself wearing the jeans though I'll see if I pluck up the courage soon!

Zalando offer free delivery and they also came really quickly wrapped up in a nice box. I ordered some black leggings as well from the site to make the value up to £40 which were also great.

All in all, I would recommend Zalando to anyone who knows what they are looking for on a website, you might find a great deal on there like I did as long as you are willing to take a chance on a brand that you may not have heard of - a lot of their brands seem to be German and French but that's not necessarily a bad thing as it might mean you get a really good quality item at a reduced priced.

I was offered a £40 voucher to spend at Zalando for the purpose of this review, though all views are my own.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Style It Up - The Perfect Date Outfit

It has been quite a while now since I went on a first date, and to be honest, it's not something I miss. I remember quite a few years ago now going on a first date with someone and sitting on the bus into town thinking, "what am I DOING", with a horrible fear of what I was getting myself into. Needless to say we went out for over a year, it was an utter disaster.

Now I have been married for almost seven years, we still have date night and I still like to get dressed up and look nice. We love going out on dates together and spending time together just the two of us, and I always make a special effort with my appearance on these occasions. I think it's really important to spend time looking after yourself, in a sensible way of course, sometimes I get a bit lost in hair extensions and fake tan and look in the mirror thinking, "who ARE you?".

Speaking of date nights, I've been challenged to come up with the perfect "Style it up" First Date outfit from the new Claire Sweeney clothing range, which is really nice, affordable and also looks very versatile and wearable too.  I've been given a budget of £180 but to be honest, as a bargain mummy, I can do it for FAR more than that.

The most important thing about dates is being yourself, but in a good way, as in, show yourself to your best advantage. This has to be reflected in what you wear too. Something you feel lovely, comfortable, and flattering in yet glam at the same time (not to mention slimming).

I've created two looks that I think would look great on a first date, the first is here and comprises:

  • A lovely camel coat that will last FOREVER (£66)
  • Leopard print peplum top (£30), perfect for hiding those lumps and bumps.
  • Stretch slim jeans that to me look more like black trousers (£21)

Claire Sweeney First Date Scrapbook!
What I really love about this outfit is that it's dressed up and dressed down all at the same time. The leopard print is very glam whilst covering all your lumps and bumps (if you have any!) and the trousers very slimming. I would save the camel coat for best, away from chocolately fingers!

I've also created a second look for those who are going on a really romantic date, perhaps somewhere posh for Valentine's Day....

The camel coat is as before and the Embellished dress is priced at £65.

What do you think?

So anyway, I've entered this blog post into a competition to win £50 voucher for my readers, the post with the most comments wins, so my question is, what would YOU wear on a date?

This is a sponsored post though all thoughts are my own!

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

To Maxi Skirt Or Not?

For a while now, every time I have looked at a new item of clothing, tried it on or indeed, bought it, I have had one word in my mind - slimming. There is one item of clothing where I have yet to ever buy, and that is a maxi skirt. For spring/summer they are a great idea, but as we live in a three storey house and until this year I was carrying a baby all the time, I was a bit worried about tripping on the skirt and ending up falling down the stairs! Now my youngest is now perfectly able to walk up and down the stairs himself, I'm wondering about taking the plunge. I've also managed to convince myself that with the right accessories and fit, they could look quite slimming, as long as they are not massive ones that just look like a sack. Anyway, with that in mind, I've done a little round up of my fav maxi skirts - to be worn with a cropped denim jacket of course. New Look have some great maxi skirts here, and my fav is this one which is £16.99 and a lovely jersey material. Jersey hangs really well and also washed well and often doesn't have to be ironed. These are also a great price if you are not sure and just want to try something out, or you only want it to last for one summer before you get bored.
I've been toying with buying a Baukjen maxi skirt for a while, they were in the sale last week and I really should have bought one, but wasn't sure, and now they have gone up to full price again!
Anyway, here it is...not sure I would wear trainers with it though.
Baukjen Saskia Maxi Skirt £95
 Somewhere in the middle price wise, at £48 and in a very summer mode, is this floral maxi skirt from Top Shop - great for a spring day, maybe with a cable jumper and some flats.
Top Shop Maxi Skirt
What I like about this one is that it is super slimming as the shape is quite fitted, and the floral colours are a bit more springlike than black, though black does go with everything.

Do you like Maxi Skirts, do you have any tips on where to buy one?

This is a sponsored post though all thoughts are my own!

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Small Changes Make A Big Difference

There are quite a few ways you could intepret the title of today's blog post and they would all be relevant to most people. First of all you could say a small change can make a big difference, for example if you are trying to lose weight and you decide to make a small change you could always take the stairs rather than the escalator/lift. So making a small change in your habits means that you burn a few more calories a day. Hmm, not sure this would actually make a big difference...

Or the other explanation is that your actual small change, as in, coins in your pocket, can make a big difference to your overall spending. Luckily it's been a while now since we've had to be really careful with money, mainly thanks to the opportunities that have presented themselves from writing this blog! Having said that, old habits die hard and no-one wants to be wasting money on things they don't have to, especially when  making small savings here and there can actually lead to saving enough money to go on, say, a nice holiday or fix your broken down car. It really does all add up and isn't there a saying about if you take care of your pennies then your pounds will take care of themselves?

For quite some years now, I've made a pact with myself that I will never pay full price for anything, if it isn't on sale, if it doesn't have a discount code and/or a free delivery code, then forget it, I'm not paying. The only exception to this is on my birthday where I always make a point of buying exactly what I fancy, special offer or not. We have also decided to buy most of our food at places like Waitrose, though I always get their stuff delivered and there are usually £20 off deals to be had anyway which usually brings the price down to rival one of the cheaper supermarkets.

Anyway, I digress, so I set myself a challenge - to make my small change make a big difference. I was lucky enough to be offered this challenge by Voucher Codes who have a great spending calculator that helps you to figure out just how much money you are wasting  spending. You also have the chance of winning a £200 Argos voucher by taking part. This is how it works:
  1. Select the number of little treats you buy in an average week
  2. Tell us how much you'd like to save in 2013
  3. We'll do the hard work and calculate the small changes you can make to hit your saving resolution
For me, I'm a bit of a latte addict. Wherever I go, whatever I do, I like to start my day with a latte. Now sadly, lattes are not cheap (neither are they free of calories), and though it doesn't seem like much money, it all adds up. I don't really buy snacks when I'm out as it doesn't seem to agree with my heartburn problems so that part of the challenge I could smugly leave blank. For the next part I put in that I have about five take away coffees a week, one takeaway meal, five glasses of wine (ahem!), and no cigarettes as I don't smoke (and think it's a filthy habit but that's another story). I was completely shocked to find out that even this pretty small amount of "vices" added up to £1420! That would easily pay for a week in Center Parcs (off peak), what a waste! How can I be spending all that money on things I don't need, I was in shock. Anyway, I then put in that I wanted to save £900 which I could easily do simply by cutting back a small amount.

Latte Addiction

Anyway, my first decision has been to quit my latte habit. That is a ridiculous amount to spend on coffee and milk, so I have bought my own latte maker. Yes I have to pay for the electricity, milk and coffee to actually make my own, but I suspect this comes to something like 10p a cup which I think I can allow myself. The machine itself was £90 (bought in a sale) and is really easy to use AND makes great coffee. The only thing I do miss  is going to nice coffee shops, though with two little boys in tow, this was always more trouble than it was worth anyway.

Other things I have also done to save money (this might sound weird) is to buy a new car. My old car was really fuel inefficient and because it was 7 years old was costing me a lot in repairs, petrol, and insurance. I've bought a new car which is costing me £104 a month and because it has a smaller engine etc I think I am saving that on fuel and insurance alone, plus I have a shiny red new car that doesn't have random lights on the dashboard that scare me.

scary dashboard lights
What changes could you make in your life to save money? Do you think it's worth it and how much do you think you could save?

This post contains all my own thoughts though I was given a small contribution to my running costs to feature it on my blog.

New Look Blog!

Well, sort of. It is now a year since I got rid of the blogspot part of my blog and just went to a plain old .com . I thought I should celebrate in some way and decided to have a bit of a clear out, which meant goodbye to my old blog header which was kind of squashed and stretched and looked kind of rubbish. However I do still have over a hundred business cards to get rid of with the old header on, oh well. I was lucky enough to have my blog header created for me by my good friend Cath who is also a photographer and she's done an amazing job!

I've been very neglectful of my blog recently which I can only attribute to good things, mainly that my working life is busy and fulfilling and I no longer have that much to moan about. There are more changes afoot in the next six months and by September, if everything goes to plan, my working life is going to change again! The one thing I'm struggling with at the moment is working from home, although it's great from a school pick up point of view, and I do get a lot done, it is also very lonely. I am considering looking for an office to rent or even just a desk in an office whilst I build my new business venture up. It would be lovely to hear from anyone else who works from home and how you cope with it, where does work end and family life begin as it can be difficult to switch off...


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