Friday 23 June 2017

5 Money Savers That Will Make You Smile

I don’t like to weigh in too much when it comes to politics and economics, but I was amazed to read recently that average unsecured household debt in the UK has soared to over £13,000, which puts it on a par with the levels we saw just before the financial crisis of 2008. Everyone’s situation is different, and personally, given how low interest rates are at the moment, there’s nothing wrong with taking out a loan if you’re confident of paying it back.
That said, prize number one is to obviously avoid debt as much as possible, and live within your means. That doesn’t necessarily mean cutting all the fun things out of your life. But I had a think the other day about some savvy, even slightly enjoyable ways to make staying within budget a bit easier. This is what I came up with…
  1. Be an expert on deals and discounts
We live in a competitive world, and businesses across the spectrum are trying their best to build customer bases. That means there are guaranteed to be good deals and discounts on the go. You can keep your finger on the pulse with sites like ‘All the Deals’, while many others like Groupon keep you up to date on the latest big savings. Perhaps the best bit of advice though is to avoid buying discounted goods or services for the sake of them being cheap. Rather establish what you need, and then start your search in that frame of mind.
  1. The cash challenge
In the days of easy, contactless payments, many consider cash to be outdated and inconvenient. But the downside to card payments is that it is tougher to keep track of spending. Instead, why not withdraw a fixed amount of cash at the start of each week? Thereafter, challenge yourself to put the card away for the rest of the week, and subsist on the amount you’ve withdrawn. And if you have any savings left over, put that away so that you can treat yourself to something nice at the end of the month!
  1. Work those green fingers
Inflation is rising, and one of the costs which seems to have gone up appreciably is that of fruit and vegetables. Even if you live in the City, chances are you’ll have some kind of garden area. Not only is it a lot of fun (and addictive!) to start developing your own veggie patch, but once you get in the swing of things, you’ll find you end up saving a lot of money too.
  1. Find free activities
As any parent knows, once you have children, it can feel like your wallet or purse empties at a rate of knots every time you leave the house. Activities, especially over the holidays, are a necessity to keep kids stimulated, but it can add up. The good news is that there are plenty which are either dirt cheap, or don’t cost a penny! You can find a comprehensive list on the Moneysavingexpert site, which has more than enough day trips and activities to keep you and the family occupied this summer.
  1. Pay for bad habits
Do you bite your fingernails? Slouch when you sit? Watch too much reality TV? Well, this one is simple… every time you catch yourself committing one of these ‘crimes’, then pop 50p or a pound into a jar. As long as you’re strict with penalising yourself, you are guaranteed to benefit either way. If it curtails your bad habit, then it’s a win. And if doesn’t, well, at least you’ll have a handy savings account building up over time!
This is a sponsored post. 

Wednesday 21 June 2017

Bigjigs Dungeon - Review #PlayPatrol

As a member of the Bigjigs Play Patrol, last time round, we reviewed the Medieval Train Set which the children loved and this time we are testing out the Dungeon. I love that although it isn't a full train set, it connects well to the previous set for additional play.

The Medieval Train Set and Dungeon tie in well together so as soon as it arrived, C was eager to get both sets built up to play together. The Dungeon comes in only ten pieces, including lanterns and a pillory, and I was able to put it together easily in a matter of seconds. It comes with a few pieces of track and really the only difficult part was deciding where to connect it with our previous set.

C and E very happily engaged with the set along with the character figures from the Medieval Castle and I feel like it's enhanced their play. C's favourite aspect of the Dungeon set is the shutter to allow the train to stop or pass through the actual dungeon. 

The set has been a great educational tool too. C, at four years old, has not yet learned much about castles and dungeons so he was really interested in learning what dungeons were and what they're used for.

All in all, I think it's a fab addition to any existing track set, as it doesn't come with a train itself, although it works fantastically with the Bigjigs Medieval Castle. The pieces are all made from sturdy wood which is sanded smoothly so it's perfect for little hands. The paintwork is brilliant too.

The Bigjigs Dungeon is recommended for children aged 3+ and retails at £20.99. You can find out more at the Bigjigs website and you can follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

(I received this item for the purpose of this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.)

Tuesday 20 June 2017

Win a Num Noms Series 3 bundle!

2016 was the year of the Num Nom with the scented collectable craze making its way into households across the UK. My two children became obsessed with Series 1 from seeing them advertised on TV and now you'll find Num Noms in every toy box in our house! Anything collectable is a huge hit with them and my daughter E especially loves the lipglosses.

Now in 2017, we have the release of Series 3 and Lights! The brand have created new food themes and funky characters meaning that there are more ways to collect. The Lights really glow - something that my son will be very excited about! The Nums fit on top of the scented Noms which light up in two different colours and come in a cute juice carton. This is effectively like a blind bag so the character that you get will be a complete surprise - you may even snap up a limited edition one!

Series 3 includes nine new collections with themes such as Marshmallows, Donuts, Veggies and Fiesta Foods. As well as dual-flavoured lipglosses, you can also collect erasers and stampers. You can buy Series 3 as Mystery Pots, Starter Packs, Lunch Box Deluxe Packs and Surprise in a Jar. They have never been more fun and I'm sure little ones will excitedly be trying to collect them all.

Num Noms Series 3 and Series 1 Lights are recommended for children aged 3+ and are available to buy from all good retailers such as Toys R Us, The Entertainer and Smyths Toys. For more information, you can visit the Num Nom website.

Want to win some for your little one? The lovely people at Num Noms have offered my readers the chance to win a Series 3 Starter Pack, Lunch Box Deluxe Pack and Mystery Pot. All you have to do is fill in the Gleam widget below. Good luck!

  • One winner will win a Num Noms Series 3 Starter Pack, Lunch Box Deluxe Box and Mystery Pot
  • The giveaway will run from June 20th until July 9th
  • Open to entrants aged 18+
  • UK residents only
  • One entry per person
  • No automated entries 
Num Noms Series 3 bundle  

Friday 16 June 2017

Our #PrezzoLaFamiglia Experience

I'm going to start this post by saying that we very rarely eat out as a family. My delightful children are very unpredictable when it comes to their behaviour and my anxiety is already high enough that we just tend to avoid it to have a peaceful life. We were recently invited by Britmums to visit our local Prezzo to try a new dish on their menu for the #PrezzoLaFamiglia Challenge.

I live in Northern Ireland and Prezzo only just opened two stores here within the last four years. I do love Italian food so it was definitely on my wishlist of places to eat. I put my big girl pants on and decided to visit, children in tow!

We visited the Belfast, Boucher Square location as it's close enough to walk to so the kids should have been in good spirits as we wouldn't be travelling far. As soon as we arrived, we were seated promptly in a booth and supplied with menus. It was a beautiful, sunny Friday evening and the sun shone in through the glass windows - it was a lovely, relaxing setting. For the #PrezzoLaFamiglia Challenge, we were there specifically to try one of their new La Famiglia sharing pasta bowls. 

You are able to choose from Penne Arrabiata, Spaghetti Bolognese, Spaghetti Carbonara or Penne Alla Rusticana. We opted for the Penne Alla Rusticana and two large garlic breads. We were told, "the garlic breads are the size of dinner plates - I hope you guys are hungry!" but we were so ready for the challenge. The garlic breads came out first and by God, they weren't lying! Our four year old son C loves garlic bread so I knew he'd probably eat more of that than the pasta! The pasta followed and the bowl was huge. We each had our own small bowls so we could take as much pasta as we wanted. 

The kids had small bowlfuls but Chris and I went all out. We are both oversharers and I know for a fact that our portion sizes are too big 99% of the time! I think I filled my bowl three or four times - it was to die for! The pasta itself was perfect, the tomato based sauce was delicious and I loved the chicken and bacon lardons that were mixed in. I honestly couldn't get enough! Having a big bowl in the middle of the table is a great idea. It really made me think of a proper Italian family, dishes in the middle of the table for anyone to pick and choose what they wanted to put on their plate. It's so easy and I honestly felt it to be a bonding experience. Usually I ponder over a menu for a while, changing my mind constantly then we receive our meals and I end up thinking Chris's looks better than mine. This eliminates all of that.

C is a very fussy eater, especially if it doesn't come from his "list of OK'd foods" and decided that he wasn't a massive fan of the garlic bread, simply because you could really taste the balsamic vinegar - this was actually something I loved but the kid has his creature comforts! E, on the other hand, absolutely demolished almost all of hers and I lost count of how many slices of garlic bread she reached for. Between the four of us, we really didn't leave much at all!

To finish, we had to have a dessert! All four of us chose different flavours of Prezzo's Selection of Gelato, Ice Cream and Sorbet. You could choose two scoops of either chocolate and sea salt gelato, vanilla, strawberry or chocolate ice cream, melon and lime or blood orange sorbet. C stuck to his usual two scoops of chocolate ice cream, his daddy joined him in that, and E went for a scoop of chocolate and a scoop of strawberry. I would usually do the same but I felt that I wanted to branch out and try something different. Unfortunately, they were out of chocolate and sea salt gelato so I substituted that for chocolate ice cream and tried the melon and lime sorbet too. I have to admit that I'd never tried sorbet before and I will definitely be getting it again. It's so flavoursome and a great palate cleanser. Of course, the children and Chris has no issues with their ice cream - C even got stuck in with his fingers!

All in all, we had a fantastic experience dining out as a family at Prezzo. C may not have eaten much, E may have had meltdowns over not being able to pick the pasta up properly on her fork or the ice cream on her spoon (resulting in her setting it down on the table, Chris leaning his elbow on the end and catapulting it onto the back of the booth - cue me dying of laughter) but that's all the fun of eating out with children! 

This post is an entry for the Britmums #PrezzoLaFamiglia Challenge, sponsored by Prezzo.
Thursday 15 June 2017

Ordering Prescription Eyeglasses with GlassesShop

I've been a glasses wearer for most of my life - 14 years to be exact. I've stayed loyal to my local opticians and have only ever purchased my eyeglasses through them. I felt that they know me and my prescription and I was happy to do that. offer eyeglasses online as well as prescription sunglasses. I have to admit that I was a little dubious about the whole thing as I wasn't sure that it would be as easy as it is to order through my optician or the glasses wouldn't be as good.

There are tons of glasses frames to choose from and I actually found it quite hard to settle on a style because I loved so many of them. In the end, I opted for GrandPrarie Wayfarer in black. I do love a thick black frame, it's my signature style. The shape was a little different from what I am used to but I hoped they'd suit me - I did worry about not being able to try the style on before purchasing but I was hopeful.

In order to have the glasses tailored to me, I just had to input my Rx (OD & OS prescription) and my PD (pupillary distance). I had my prescription at home and working out my PD was easy enough using online tutorials. After ordering, my glasses arrived quite quickly.

They were packaged well, in a hard case, and came with a cleaning cloth. As soon as I tried them on, I could tell that the prescription was perfect for me and my partner Chris actually told me that he liked them better than the ones I'd been previously wearing.

Every time I get new glasses, it does take me a while to get used to the shape of them and how they look on my face. This time was no different. The more I wore them, I got used to them and I'm loving having a extra pair so I can switch them up whenever I want. It's also handy having another pair as I have two young children who can be very 'rough and tumble' when it comes to playing!

I have definitely been converted now that I can see just how easy it is to buy prescription glasses over the Internet. The prices are great too and as I've never had a pair of prescription sunglasses, I'll definitely be treating myself to a pair for the summer!

If you want to order your own pair of glasses from, you can use the code GSHOT50 for 50% off all eyeglasses and sunglasses with free lenses, with the exception of sale frames. 

(I received a pair of glasses for the purpose of this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.)

Sunday 11 June 2017

What I've Won - May 2017

Yay, I can't believe I'm actually writing this post before the last week of June! My plan of getting back on track seems to be working. May was a fantastic month for me and I actually won my most expensive prize to date. Here's what I won:

1) Beauty and the Beast tea set (RRP £19.99) from Wow Free Stuff
Beauty and the Beast is one of my top three Disney movies and now my daughter is obsessed with it/Belle too. I was so chuffed to have won this set for her and have put it away for her birthday.
2) £10 spend at Sew Serendipity
I love Instagram shops so when I won £10 to spend at Sew Serendipity, it was so hard to choose what to buy. I opted for this gorgeous pink unicorn skirt and matching bow. E loves it too!
3) Three A4 monochrome prints (RRP £7.00) from mummasprints
I am a little bit obsessed with wall hangings and decorations so I love wins like this! The Mickey and Minnie ones will go in the kids rooms above their beds with the other going in our room.

4) MIBO board books (RRP £14.97) from Let Them Be Small
We have so many books that I think we could open a children's library - it doesn't stop me from entering to win more though! The kids are such little bookworms and love having new things to read.
5) Baby Groot figure from Cineworld Cinemas
C absolutely loves Groot so he was so pleased with this little win. I think Cineworld had 100 to give away!
6) WOW Toys vehicle and book (RRP £12.48) from WOW Toys
I love the WOW Toys brand and we already own a few items from the range. The book is great for learning about different types of vehicle too.
7) Case of gluten free goodies (RRP £17.90) from Kent & Fraser
I forgot to take a photo of this before gifting it to my friend, but here is the winning announcement so you can see exactly what I received.

8) Bottlegreen cordials (RRP £3.58) from Bottlegreen Drinks
Bottlegreen were giving away 50 of the above prize over Facebook and Instagram. I'd never actually tried the brand before but they are delicious - especially the raspberry!

9) Shakespeare Star Wars book (RRP £11.99) from Storgy
I love when May 4th rolls around because there are so many Star Wars competitions. I won quite a lot last year but this was my only one for 2017. I have given it to Chris and it's such a fun book!

10) Signed Steve Backshall books (RRP £27.96) from Explore Learning
Okay, I'll admit it, I do love Steve Backshall so I was delighted to win these signed books! I'll put them away for C to read when he's a little older - as long as he's careful with them!

11) Fitness tracker (RRP £25.00) from Affordable Wearables
I have been after a fitness tracker for ages and finally won this one on Instagram. I've been a bit rubbish and haven't set it up yet! Must get a move on.

12) Abeille blanket and Willow the Pillow pillowcase (RRP £39.99) from Abeille
I absolutely love this prize! I'll be gifting the beautiful blanket and have kept the pillowcase for E's bed - it's so cute.

13) Diamond earrings (RRP £1,900.00) from Diamond Heaven
This is my biggest prize in 5 years of comping. I couldn't believe it when they announced I'd won and still wouldn't believe it until they actually arrived at my door. The competition actually said they were worth £1,500 but they came with a certificate of authentication stating £1,900. I'm still a little bit in shock!

14) Gluten free hamper (RRP £23.61) from MACE NI
Like the gluten free products in my win above, I gifted these to my friend who is coeliac too. I always enter these competitions for her and I love gifting them.

15) Pirate craft book (RRP £5.99) from Primary Times
This was a little surprise win that showed up - I love when that happens! It came from a web entry at Primary Times. They have lots of competitions running every month so it's a great place to check out.

16) Prey on PS4 (RRP £44.99) from Boomerang Games
Chris is very big into his PS4 so I was delighted to win this for him!

17) Personalised crayons (RRP £3.00) from Crayation Station
How cute are these!? They are handmade crayons and E absolutely loves them.

18) Milk_shake hair products (RRP £43.07)
I'd been entering the milk_shake competitions on Facebook for a few years now with no luck and I actually almost missed the winning announcement - I only found it when doing a search of my name. They smell divine!

19) Sliders (RRP £19.99) from Ego Shoes
Sliders are hot at the moment and I love these! I'm not a fan of the fluffy ones but these will be perfect to wear in the summer.

20) Aquabeads set (RRP £19.99) from Pink Magazine
C got an Aquabeads set for Christmas last year and loves making things with it. I think I'll put this away for his birthday when it arrives.

21) 'Little Mouse Helps Out' book (RRP £7.99) from Rachel Bustin
This is such a lovely book about a little mouse helping out his mummy. C is at the age now where he wants to help me and his daddy and I'm trying to get him to be more independent.

In May 2017, I won 21 prizes worth a total of £2,259.49! The earrings obviously make up a big part of that. If you haven't read any of my What I've Won posts before, I always like to do a comparison to previous years:

May 2016 - 40 prizes worth £1,002.19
May 2015 - 8 prizes worth £242.99
May 2014 - 14 prizes worth £742.48

Did you win anything nice last month?
Monday 5 June 2017

BRIO Farm Set - Review

We have reviewed a few different toys from the BRIO range over the past couple of years and I always get excited when we're offered something new to test as they've quickly become one of our favourite brands. I love that they encourage children to use their imaginations - and most importantly - no batteries are required!

The past few sets we have reviewed have been for an older age group (3+) so when we were offered the BRIO Farm set which is recommended for age 18 months+, I thought it would be perfect for 2 year old E.

The set is comprised of:

  • barn
  • farmer figure
  • cow figure
  • horse figure
  • four fences
  • bucket
  • wheelbarrow
  • spade
  • hay bale
  • water faucet 

In typical BRIO fashion, there is a good mix of plastic and wooden pieces, which is great from a texture point of view but also makes the set durable. The barn doors open and close and there are spaces for the hay bale to sit for the farm animals to "eat" it.

The fences connect together so you are able to leave it open or close it completely to keep the animals inside. This was a little bit difficult for the children to do themselves so I did need to help them with it. 

At the side of the barn, there are two circles where you can keep the water faucet and bucket. The bucket, wheelbarrow and spade all have a circle attached, meaning you can pop it over the wooden farmer's head for him to use them.

Both four year old C and two year old E have enjoyed the open ended play with this set. They like to put the characters in different scenarios and make the farmer look after the animals from getting them water, carrying the hay to the barn in the wheelbarrow and making sure to bring the animals into the barn from the pen at night time. They love imaginative play and this is a great set to encourage that.

The BRIO Farm set retails at £39.99. You can find out more at the BRIO website and you can also keep up to date on Facebook and Twitter.

(We received this item for the purpose of this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.)