Saturday, 1 September 2018

Celebrate World Letter Writing Day with Viking*

When I was younger, I was absolutely desperate for a pen pal. I actually had one for a little while - a girl called Emma that I met whilst camping in the Lake District - but after a couple of months I guess it fizzled out. I would buy cute little writing sets and send embarrassing long 'thank you' notes to people in the hope that a new pen-palship would start. When I was offered the opportunity to begin a new pen pal journey with Viking, I could hardly contain my excitement. With World Letter Writing Day being celebrated on 1st September, I wanted to share with you my little writing routine. 


The first World Letter Writing Day happened a couple of years ago, on 1st September 2014. Founded by Richard Simpkin, who wanted to encourage people to put pen to paper and write a letter to a loved one, friend or even a stranger. I just love the thought of writing a little positive letter to somebody I've never met and maybe leaving it tucked inside a library book - wouldn't that be incredible to find?
The kind folks at Viking really went above and beyond what I expected with my little kit. They included some super cute personalised writing paper - with my blog logo on, isn't that adorable? I love the style of it and it made me feel quite sophisticated to use my own paper when writing my letters. I even received a little wax seal, which I think is super fancy. I'm so proper, y'know?


With my stationery set complete, I was ready to start penning my first letter. Honestly, most of my work is completed online or by typing away at a computer so I fully appreciated the art of a good letter. I think writing out a letter is quite therapeutic and I definitely took my time to get into the writing 'zone'. I lit a fancy candle, wrapped myself up in a blanket and found somewhere comfortable to write. I don't have a writing playlist or anything, but I tend to find Laura Marling or some other folky artist a good bet to focus my mind. 

Writing a letter, for me, goes beyond those boring conversation starters like asking how the weather is - they just seem like pretty dull things to put onto paper. As my new pen pal didn't know anything about me, I thought I would write about my favourite books. I gave a bit of background about my degree in Publishing, and also let them know my dream publishing job too. I think getting personal like this and really revealing a little bit more about yourself - your character, your beliefs, your likes or loves - is such a great way to get into letter writing. You could speak to someone every day, a work colleague perhaps, and not know this sort of thing about each other. 

I've got to say, since Viking got me thinking about writing letters, I've truly fallen in love with pen and paper a bit more. Do you have a pen pal? Would you like one? 
 
*Disclaimer: This post was sponsored a collaboration with Viking. Content written by myself.

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Taking Care of Yourself as Autumn Starts*

When you suffer with dry skin, chances are you're not looking forward to the changing seasons. Although it feels like we've had an actual summer here in the UK for a change, with dry skin you have to prepare for the months ahead. Instead of waiting for Autumn to sneak up on you, why not help prepare your skin for a better chance once the cold weather kicks in?



As someone who usually suffers from dry hands in autumn and winter - and grew up with eczema as a child - I can tell you it's not the easiest thing to keep on top of. Dryness starts off barely noticeable, but once it sets in you could end up feeling uncomfortable, less confident and that's not good for anybody! I've listed my top 3 steps to help you take care of your skin as the nights grow darker.

1. Moisturise shortly after washing
By moisturising within a couple of minutes after washing, you help to lock the moisture into your skin. This should then ensure your face or body doesn't become dehydrated or dry. If you already feel like you need something specifically for dry skin, you could try this

2. Don't spend too long in hot baths or showers
On a cold morning, I love nothing more than standing under a gloriously hot shower - but did you know this could make your skin worse? You're better off having lukewarm baths or showers, and it helps to ensure your body temperature doesn't get too confused or that your skin goes from shockingly hot to shockingly cold in a tiny space of time. 

3. Keep Hydrated
Do you even need to be told to keep hydrated these days? Surely everyone knows that whatever ailment you might have, water can help. Although during the colder months you might prefer a hot drink instead of a glass of water, your body still needs its fair share to stay hydrated. Hydrated skin is the key to keeping pesky dry skin at bay, so drink up!

So there we have it, my top tips to keeping your skin in tip top condition as Summer ends! 


*Disclaimer: This post was a collaboration with The Independent Pharmacy. Content written by myself.

Sunday, 26 August 2018

Saving Money on Your Next Vacuum Cleaner*

The humble vacuum cleaner is one of those household appliances which are only missed when they stop working. If your vacuum cleaner has stopped working recently, or has sucked up way too much pet fur over the years to work as well as it used to, then it’s time to think about buying a new one rather than getting it repaired, because believe it or not, even vacuum cleaners have evolved a great deal over the years. While it is recommended that you invest a bit and get a good model since it’s probably going to be a while before you buy your next cleaner, that doesn’t necessarily mean you cannot save money while buying the best vacuum cleaner for the price. 


Do Your Research 

We live in the age of internet, so it only makes sense that you do your research before deciding on the model. You will quickly come across websites such as best-vacuums.co.uk, where all the best vacuum cleaner models available in the UK are listed, along with the top products of the month. They score each model individually after putting them through a vacuum cleaner test and take reviews across the internet into consideration. This should give you an idea of what to expect from which model and what would be the best product for the budget you have. Don’t be shy to extend your budget a little if you think that the product is worth it. 

Compare 

Once you have gone through the available models and have decided on one, it’s time to cross check and compare the price across all the major online platforms. While they are priced similarly in most listings, you will find exceptions, and there’s always a chance of getting the vacuum cleaner at a discounted price due to an ongoing sale on one of the sites. Don’t forget to check and compare the prices offered by the relatively smaller eCommerce sites as well. Although brick and mortar stores usually find it hard to match online prices, there’s no harm in checking with a few local stores as well. At the very least, you will be able to perform a little vacuum cleaner test of your own during the demo. 

Consider Refurbished Products 

The refurbished vacuum cleaner strikes the perfect balance in price and quality between second-hand/used vacuum cleaners and brand-new products. They are used products that have been renewed and serviced to perform almost as well as new products, if not just as well. When you purchase refurbished vacuum cleaners from a reputed and authorised dealer, you will likely get warranty on that purchase too; all of this at a significantly discounted price of the brand-new model. 

Invest in a Good Product 

The final tip to save money may seem somewhat counterintuitive, but it’s actually not. While trying to save money on a vacuum cleaner, your target should not be to try and buy the cheapest product available, but to get the best possible deal on the product which would be the best fit for your home and budget. In the long run, those few extra pounds won’t matter if you get a consistent and long-running performance out of the vacuum cleaner.
*Disclaimer: This post is sponsored content. 

Sunday, 12 August 2018

Life Lately - Trips, Tips and Trying Things Out

We are not even halfway into August yet, and I am already feeling somewhat exhausted by it. I'm quite lucky in that my job is term-timely so I get this mammoth amount of time with my family. However, I had an unexpected (and somewhat expensive!) trip back to my parents at the start of the month to attend a family funeral, and I seem to have been chasing my tail ever since. Of course, I appreciate that I am fortunate enough to have been able to go back to be with my family, but it just highlighted the how big the gap is between us. Joe and I have both agreed that we would love to go back 'home', but uprooting your life 300 miles is a costly, and stressful, task - even if you have already done it once before! 



Because of my trip North, Joe has been working pretty much every hour he has available to fill up the dent in our budget, and this means I haven't really spent that much time with him over my time off. We are going away on holiday to York for the week on Monday, so I shouldn't complain really. We're staying in an airbnb for the first part of our trip, and then meeting up with my parents for the second half and staying in their motorhome. Joe has said he can't wait to enjoy the first half of the trip and endure the second half - but at least the boys will enjoy it! Dylan and I stayed in the motorhome while I was pregnant with Robin, and Dylan adored it so at least we know they'll be happy. Let's pray this rain goes away before then, though!

I mentioned in my last post that I was hoping to do something with Joe for our sixth wedding anniversary, and I managed to book us in to a new restaurant that had only been open for a week. The food was incredible, and we really enjoyed the evening. If you're ever in the Taunton area, I would recommend you check it out! Other things I've been up to include breaking my toe (fun!), finishing The Cactus by Sarah Haywood - and unfortunately not reading anything else! - and relaunching my little shop.

You might remember that last year, I designed some tote bags with my friend Dannie to raise money for our chosen charity helping women in need of basic healthcare.  Since then, we still have a steady flow of bag sales, but I have also created my own range of candles. From a logo redesign, to picking out the glass containers, I have found every aspect of pouring candles to be so enjoyable and relaxing. I'm definitely the type of person who always has a bit of a busy mind buzzing away in the background, but being able to take some time out and mix fragrances has been such a joy. I would love it if you could have a little look, I'm hoping to expand the range slowly and add some new scents too. 

As I'm typing this, I guess I should be sorting through our clothes and packing everything away but I feel that can wait. It's definitely one of those 'when the kids are in bed' type of jobs! If you've got any tips for a trip to York with kids (or without, ha!) then I'd love to hear them! 

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

How To Stop Your Pets Eating Through Your Money*


Are you spending too much money on your pets? Here are just a few tricks to stop your animal companions eating away at your funds.

Buy supplies in bulk

You can save a lot of money on pet supplies by buying them in bulk – a huge bag of pet food or rodent bedding could be a lot cheaper than buying the same quantity in small packs. Local pet shops and supermarkets may not always sell these supplies in bulk, however online wholesalers are likely to sell these bulk pet supplies. Be careful of buying items such as wet dog food in bulk that could expire before you’ve had a chance to use them.

Make your own pet toys

If you’re constantly buying new pet toys, it’s possible you may be able to save money by making your own DIY toys out of everyday items in your home. For example, you can make your own DIY tug rope for a dog by twisting together a few old t-shirts and knotting them at the end. Empty cereal boxes and cardboard toilet roll tubes meanwhile can make fun rodent cage toys.

Shop around for veterinary care

Vet bills can often be one of the biggest expenses of being a pet owner. However, you can often save costs by collecting quotes from different clinics and not just choosing your local vet. There are low cost vets out there that specialise in offering treatment for pet owners on a budget. There are also pop-clinics to consider, veterinary colleges and clinics with payment instalment plans.

Consider pet insurance

In many cases, it can be worth taking out pet insurance to help cover the cost of vet bills. Pet insurance is often cheaper to take out when your pet is young without any health problems – fixed rate schemes can ensure that you pay the same amount throughout your pet’s lifetime. Older pets with existing ailments can be quite expensive to insure and you may be better off going without insurance. Make sure to shop around for insurance in order to find the best rates.

Give your pet a healthy lifestyle

Keeping your pet healthy can also reduce costs. Many medical problems later in life that require expensive veterinary treatment including diabetes, heart problems and arthritis can be prevented by not letting your animal get overweight. Regular exercise can help to prevent this. When it comes to dogs in particular, walks can have all kinds of health benefits such as naturally trimming a dog’s nails and keeping them mentally stimulated. As for their food intake, keeping to a healthy amount won’t just save you money in vet bills, it will also save you money in food shopping too.

*Disclaimer: Collaborative content.

Friday, 27 July 2018

Providing Your Pooch With the Best Quality of Life Possible*


Believe it or not, the majority of households have at least one pet, and seeing as dogs really do lay claim to the title of man’s best friend when it comes to popularity, chances are that you either have a canine companion or are planning on getting one. So, if this is the case, here’s everything you need to know in order to ensure your pet has the best quality of life possible!

Veterinary Care and Insurance

Your pet is going to need dedicated veterinary care through their entire life, so make sure that they are signed up to a local veterinary practice such as Vetcare. An experienced vet will be able to ensure that your four legged friend gets all of their necessary vaccinations, worming treatments, and flea treatments. They will also be able to carry out more complicated procedures and even surgery if your pet experiences illness or injury. It’s important to remember that veterinary care does come at a cost though, so it’s always best to have a comprehensive insurance policy to ensure you can always foot the bill!

Nutrition

Dog food is widely available and tends to be sold in almost any supermarket or corner shop. This isn’t all too surprising considering so many of us have canine companions. But not all dog foods are created equal and believe it or not, some will prove a whole lot better for your pet than others. Seeing as your dog is entirely dependent on you when it comes to eating a healthy and balanced diet that meets all of their nutritional needs, it’s extremely important that you don’t just throw down the cheapest or most convenient feed in their bowl each morning or night. You need to do your research to find what’s best for them! The best source of information regarding the best food for your pooch is your vet, but you can find the flavours and textures that your dog prefers by a means of trial and error. Once you’ve found something that keeps them nourished and satisfied, you can just pick it up each time you’re at the local pet store or grocery store.

Grooming

All dogs have different coat types. However, generally speaking, there are six main coat types that you should familiarise yourself with - smooth, double, silky, wool, wire, and combination. The type of grooming that your pooch will require, as well as the length of their hair, will ultimately determine what grooming regime you will have to carry out for them. Most shorthaired moulting breeds will only require an occasional bath at home. This is relatively simple to carry out yourself, as long as you are particularly careful around their eyes, and try to avoid letting water running into their ears or mouth. Your vet can then clip their nails and take care of their anal glands. Long haired or non-moulting dogs are likely to be a little more tricky, as their fur doesn’t shed, so will grow and need trimming. Curly haired dogs’ fur is also more prone to matting and will need to be brushed out. For these kinds of dogs, a trip to a professional groomer is preferable. These specially trained individuals will know how to wash, brush, and cut their fur into shape.

These are just a few areas to focus on, but as long as your dog is in good health, is well fed, and is well groomed, chances are they’re going to lead the long and happy life that they deserve!

*Disclaimer: Collaborative content.

Monday, 16 July 2018

How to Save Money and Still Enjoy The School Holidays


The summer school holidays are quickly approaching and if you're not careful, you could end up spending a small fortune in an effort to keep the kids satisfied. Whether it's last minute trips to an attraction or over-priced buckets and spades from the seaside - it soon adds up and the expenses could have covered a well-earned weekend away once the holidays are over. Although this is my second real 'school holiday' with Dylan, he certainly has a taste for the finer things in life, if finer things include Iron Man toys, Pokemon cards and ice creams every time he hears the van chime along the street. I might as well get shares in Mr Whippy by the time the holidays are over! 

Have some old fashioned fun

There are plenty of articles out there that say children are growing up too quickly. As they grow up with more advanced technology then we could have ever imagined as kids, these tech-savvy children haven't experiences the true joys of climbing trees or going on a scavenger hunt for beetles and funny shaped feathers. Becky from Baby Budgeting shared a fun old fashioned summer holiday checklist of things you can do with the family - and thankfully most of them are cost-free! It includes a number of games such as What's The Time, Mr Wolf? and Piggy in the Middle and my all-time childhood favourite of building dens. I loved all sorts of dens as a kid - whether it was under a load of blankets and cushions in the living room or fashioned out of cardboard boxes in the garden! There's plenty of old favourites to make you feel like a big kid again, too. 


Check out local free events

Where I live in Somerset, I'm quite lucky to be surrounded by plenty of interesting places just beyond the doorstep. By simply googling 'visit (your area!)' you should be able to find out all the local events happening nearby. On the Visit Somerset website, for example, I found out that there is a Kids Fest happening in Weston-Super-Mare and different activities every day at Radstock Museum for children during the holidays. 

Make sure you meal plan effectively! 

Crikey, I could write a whole different post on meal planning but during the school holidays you need to meal plan to a whole different level. Things you could consider over the holidays is being flexible with meal times - I know when my kids are outside playing football, they often don't want to come in mid-match for food. By serving dishes like bolognese, means you can reheat a portion alongside some pasta when they come in. Another thing to consider during the holidays is that you somehow always end up feeding the entire street! If you're lucky enough to have an extra storage freezer, you could bulk it up with easy kid-friendly things like pizza, chicken nuggets and lasagnes. Or, you could grab a load of ice pops and dish those out for when friends come wandering in for a snack too! 

If you're planning a day trip out but know you'll be home in time for tea, make sure you use your slow cooker! Most people make the mistake of hiding the slow cooker away once the weather warms up, but if you're going to be out all day having fun, you want to make sure you don't waste any money on a quick fix tea - like a take away! - when you could have had something working hard in the kitchen for you while you were out! There's plenty of excellent summer slow cooker recipes on Pinterest, so there's no excuse really!

Have a 'Summer Bag' in the boot! 

A quick trip to the poundshop could save you a small fortune over the holidays. By packing up a bag with buckets and spades, frisbees and other outdoor toys, you shouldn't find yourself paying over the odds whilst out on a trip. You could also store a spare towel and some loose change - handy for ice creams and parking! 

I think sometimes the best thing to do over the holidays is to understand that your budget may take a bit of a hit at some point or another. Although we try our hardest to put money away during the year to put towards petrol or hotels for trips away - which we always need to do, with family living halfway across the country! - you can't predict what will happen in the future! If you've tried all these money-saving tips and still find yourself short, then maybe considering a well-established and reputable short-term lender like Cashlady to help you on your way. 

What are your top tips for saving money over the school holidays? 


*Disclaimer: This post was a collaboration with Cashlady. Content written by myself.
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