30 April 2015

Fun with Upcycling at the Preloved Blogger Event

I'll tell anyone that listens that the fabulous Miss Terri Lowe is one of my absolute favourite blogging type ladies, so when she invited me to an event to learn about the awesome company she's currently working for I wasn't going to say no! 

I'll admit I wasn't overly familiar with Preloved until recently - it's a super site for buying and selling used or unwanted bits and bobs, a bit like a friendly ebay.

They are hoping that by passing along previously loved goodies to new homes means they are keeping junk out of landfills. To go along with the planet-friendly stuff-recycling vibe of the company we were given a couple of crafty challenges to keep us busy while we chatted over earl grey and cupcakes.

The first was a super cheap and simple coffee body scrub.

I'll admit I managed to more or less ignore any ratio suggestions given in the 'recipe' and instead poured bits and pieces in 'til it mixed up about right. 

I'd been meaning to try making my own for a while anyway (but have way too many shop-bought scrubs to get though) so this was a great excuse to have a go under some degree of supervision. I think I undoubtedly made the most mess of anyone sat around the table but was pretty pleased with my finished product, and that was before I tried it! It's such a good scrub, and left my skin feeling amazing, a combination of the scrubby sugar granules and the moisturising coconut oil felt like a real treat! Coffee grounds are meant to be awesome for fixing cellulite too. 

If you know me, I'm letting you know now - this is what you are getting for Christmas! 

Our other task was to upcycle old keys into funky necklaces with just the addition of some pretty ribbon and a nail polish or two! 

I must have been sat in the right spot as I definitely nabbed the prettiest key! I felt a bit guilty about it, but not enough to swap! 

preloved blogger event

This was another simple but fun task with a great result - I'm not the most artistic by a long shot but I do like how mine turned out!

Preloved is part of The Hut Group, and some of it's sister companies provided us with some of the items for out craft activities - the coconut oil was sent along but MyProtein and Look Fantastic provided not only the nail polishes for us to get painty with but a wicked beauty box apiece too with some great products! We also came home with these ever so pretty, sweetie-laden goodie bags! 

Also an extra big thanks goes to Terri's grandad for sending over a tin of keys for us to paint!

One of the bonuses of going to events ran by bloggers is they'll have picked up a few tips about what makes an enjoyable event and what to avoid and I must say the pacing and atmosphere of this afternoon was spot-on. Sure we had the activities to give us a bit of structure but it was a really relaxed do with plenty of time for chatting and wandering round in between (and starting at a time the enabled us to shop and stuff ourselves with food while in Manchester!) - a really pleasant and fun way to spend an afternoon! 

The venue as well was really cool - in Ziferblat you only pay for your time. So for a grand total of 5p per minute, you can help yourself to the tea, coffee and soft drinks which are available to wash down a wide variety of cakes and biscuits. There's cereal too, as well as games and free wifi. That works out at a mere £3 an hour and I'm more than confident I could get my moneys worth of tea and cake! It's such a nice place too as well as having such a unique concept - it'd be a great place to pop along to for an hour or two of working, blogging, studying or just chilling out! 

Big thank to Terri and the rest of the Preloved ladies for having us over, I'll have to get my account set up soon for that clear out I keep promising I'm going to have!

27 April 2015

Conwy Castle

I really like castles. I'm that sort of nerd. So obviously when we booked our holiday to Wales, the availability of castles was one thing I had in mind - the place is riddled with them! I'd graciously agreed to limit myself to just one castle, and a couple of days into our trip we headed out to explore Conwy Castle!

We even passed a couple of castles on our short trip over from Prestahaven Sands (like I sad, riddled with them!) but as soon as we drove into Conwy and were met with the very impressive sight of this commanding medieval construction I was assured I'd made the right castle choice!

On the way in the kids were given an activity sheet - clues were found around the castle as to which pieces of a puzzle to full in to complete a picture - this was to be handed back in at the end and swapped for a badge. The young 'uns love having a task like this to complete and I find that having an objective often adds to their enthusiasm for exploring somewhere like this!

Unlike a few other similar sires we've visited, there was no strict one way system in place, no specific way to look around - we could walk the walls, delve into dungeons and race up and down the numerous towers to our hearts content. I understand why this isn't possible everywhere but really added to our day - you really get much more of a sense that you are actually exploring the castle, rather than just walking around it.

It wasn't the warmest day when we visited, and as you might expect the higher up we got the colder and windier the weather was...


... but absolutely worth it for the awesome views from the top of this highest towers! Even if a combination of the height and the wind made some of our party a little too nervous to appreciate them properly!

Family entry cost us around the £20 mark, which I think was well worth it for such a cool attraction and our hours of fun! And speaking of excellently priced attractions, it cost us a mere 50p each for the kids and £1 for the adults to look around the smallest house in Great Britain. Being, as stated, tiny it wasn't a lengthy visit but a fun one - the house is so dinky and cute, it's so strange to imagine anyone actually living there!

odd tourist attractions
And then, since we were by the sea - regardless of weather it was time for an ice cream stop! Yes, we had the ice cream before our obligatory fish n chip seaside dinner but we were on holiday so dessert first is absolutely fine! Besides, with flavours like the kids toffee apple ice cream and my maple and walnut on display, how could we not?

We'd have loved to have stayed and explored the town a little more but unfortunately had afternoon plans back at our holiday home but it does seem like a charming place and well worth a visit if you ever find yourself in the area (and a must for castle nerds!)

24 April 2015

Sea Life Scarborough

I know it's not been that long since I visited the Seaquarium in Rhyl on my holiday, but as much as I like the place, it doesn't have penguins - so when I heard the cute little critters had taken us residence at the Sea Life Sanctuary in Scarborough it didn't take much convincing to get me to agree to another fishy visit!

family activities yorkshire

We didn't pick the best day to visit the coast weather-wise (I think I'm cursed!) but since most of the attractions are indoors it didn't affect our trip too much - and certainly didn't stop us getting ice cream by the sea afterwards!

The last time I visited this particular sea life centre was so many years ago, when I was a nipper on holiday with my folks. My memories of that trip are a bit grey and fuzzy to say the least - I distinctly remember finding a jellyfish on the beach with my brother afterwards and that can't be true? Can it?

(Just a small diversion here but does anyone else clearly remember things that definitely didn't happen? I can see in my memories, clear as day, the killer whale that used to live at Flamingo Land when I was a kid - except according to ... well, facts.. there was no such thing! I can't be the only one whose mind plays tricks on them?)

sealife scarborough

Anyway, it was nice to be back at Sea Life with an adult appreciation for all the weird and wonderful things that live in the ocean!

fish with weird face

My favourites were the Jellyfish. I think they are some awesomely odd beings anyway, but the Scarborough centre had by far the best collection of jellies I've ever seen! So many different kinds, from short and fat ones to long and stringy ones with plenty on 'what on earth is that?' ones! They were all brilliantly displayed in tanks illuminated by colour-shifting lights so you could see them all lit up pink one minute, blue the next, then green.... They were completely magical and I could have watched them for hours!

sealife centre scarborough jellyfish

One creature that completely took my breath away though was the Octopus. We were all sort of peering into the tank going 'I wonder what lives in there' when he unfurled himself majestically from just out of view in the corner. Truly stunning (though a nightmare to photograph - remember to turn your flash OFF if you visit! - so apologise for this grainy shot but I had to include this beautiful thing!) and worth waiting a while for him to emerge if he's hiding at first!

 weird creatures sealife ctr

sealife ctr

As well as all the cool fishies to see you can check the feeding times for various species so you can see them eat, as well as the occasional talk. There's a touch pool too which is really fun and sorta gross - I stroked a starfish which does NOT feel like I'd imagined it would!

I know a favourite part of this type of attraction for many people is the underwater tunnel. It's such a surreal experience, walking round surrounded by water (and its inhabitants), no less so when one of these bad boys swims right overhead - eeeeek!

sealife scarborough sharks

The turtles went down a storm with the kids (and adults too!) - they had their own section again with plenty of different breeds of turtle. My favourite of them was this huge fella... (sorry terrible picture again, he just did not want to swim where I wanted him to!)...

...while the younger of us were very keen on these playful little guys!

The real reason we were really there though was to see the penguins! Their new enclosure - Penguin Island - only opened last month and has been expertly designed to keep the penguins happy (plenty of room for swimming, climbing and waddling about!) and you can walk right though it, getting almost close enough to steal one of the little guys and take him home!

 sealife penguins
The penguins  - there are 20 of them currently living in Scaborough - are brilliant, they're so cute and funny and we could have hung out with them all day. Its probably a good job the rain stopped us doing so (you can see the rain drop ripples on the penguin pool!) or we wouldn't have seen anything else!)

days out yorkshire

We had the same issue with the seals, just around the corner. Most of them were hiding under water, having a good old swim and avoiding the direct sting of rain - except for this one! He (I don't know why I think all the things we say were 'he') kept looking like he wanted to try to move, half turning round, and then giving up. Lazy cutie, my kinda seal!

They have otters at the Sea Life Sanctuary too that I would have loved to have seen, but unfortunately they were hiding from the rain - I just got a tiny peek of one inside a toasty looking box - which is the only regret of the day but really couldn't have been helped!

(The only regret apart from nearly being eaten by piranhas that is!)

There was an on-site restaurant and play area inside the centre too (which we didn't make us of this time round as we were off to meet Daniella for ice cream and arcade games across town), as well as a crazy golf course next door (which we didn't make use of because, well, it was throwing it down) but all together these would add up nicely to making this a really full day out - especially as it's right on the sea front too! We had a great time at the Scarborough Sea Life Sanctuary and definitely recommend a trip! You can save money on entrance by booking tickets online before you go too!

Do you have a favourite sea creature? Or do fish make you freak out? Sharks make you shiver? Turtles make you.... you know where I'm going with this...?!

* Tickets were provided free of charge so I spent all my money on cuddly penguins and turtle-shaped mugs in the gift shop instead!

23 April 2015

Ways to Wear with George

The sun is finally shining, and I don't know about you but that always makes me want to buy new clothes! Holiday season is just about upon us after all and I can't be hitting the beach in least years clothes, can I now?

I fell in love with George at Asda a few years ago when I bought a silly number of their winter coats (it was like a rainbow of duffel coats - amazing!) but didn't take long to realise their more summery options were just as good! Prices are so purse-friendly too so it really is a top place to get the family kitted out!

In an effort to show how versatile some of their key items are, George have been challenging bloggers to dress up one piece to make three different outfits. Finding my one hero item was a piece of cake - it was love at first sight for me and this gloriously sunny Seaside Print Dress! I love summer dresses, you dress them up, dress them down, wear things under them, wear things over them, wear them on their own. Here's a couple of ways I'd wear this one!

Dress - £20 * Flip-flops - £2 * Bikini top - £8 * Bikini bottoms - £5

This dress was made for holidays. In an ideal world, I'd be wearing this regularly to slip over swimwear for a classier poolside-to-ice-cream-vendor/bar walk and for wandering the streets of exotic locations worldwide!

Dress - £20 * Blouse - £14 * Shoes - £12 * Bag - £8
Sadly, I'll be more likely to be stuck in the office for most of the summer, but doesn't mean I cant still rock a pretty frock! A demure and lightweight blouse will help me maintain my professional demeanor, which I will then throw out the window with a butterfly bag for all my work-based necessities (or for keeping secret chocolate in, hurrah!). The shoes are perfect - never mind work, I'd wear these everywhere.
Dress - £20 * Leggings - £6 * Cardigan - £16 * Shoes - £6
However, the summer weather here in the UK is a fickle beast. It can be glorious one minute, freezing the next and there are those days that just don't seem to warm up at all. Cardigans are your friend. They're perfect for showing off your summer dress but keeping you toasty, and will double up as a jacket too when needed. The canvas shoes have a relaxed summer vibe but still keep your toes and other bits covered, and if its really cold you can always stick on some leggings or tights, save getting your legs out for when it warms up again!
Would you believe all everything shown here for all three outfits totals less that £100? Told you George were purse-friendly! Now I just have to look at getting the rest of the family kitted out for summer.... 

21 April 2015

My Little Dream Box

I'm sure I don't need to tall any of you about how rubbish Monday mornings are. But yesterday I rolled up at to work (roughly on time, ish), turned on my computer, sighed a 'hear we go again' sigh and prepared myself for a day of drudgery and paperwork.

And then the postman came!

Lifestyle Subscription Box French

I've been really excited to receive the last few packages from My Little Box, but this one... I think I needed it more. Not anything that was inside, in particular, just needed a little treat to make me smile. I think all nice deliveries should be sent out on Mondays when they'll be so much more appreciated!

Opening the box to these lovely words of encouragement was a great start - I shall have to keep this somewhere on my desk to inspire me throughout the day!

Disney Quote

I next discovered this adorable ink stamp. I sometimes get to use a stamp at work which is always fun (stationary nerd!) but I love that I can send friendly mail with a more positive and uplifting message that 'bill overdue, please pay immediately' stamped on!

My Little Dream Box Stamp Set

I loved the cloud-shaped secret package, I almost didn't want to cut it open to see what was inside! I did in the end though, of course and found this cutie 'bonne etoile' necklace, designed bt Delphine Pariente. It's not necessarily something I'd have chosen but is very sweet!

Bonne Etoile french jewellery

In a little canvas bag encouraging me to 'do all things with love' is where I found this months selection of beauty products. I'm most excited to try Hair Repairing Mask For Dry Ends - a My Little Box product (they usually have one of their own alongside a couple from other brands) with walnut oil and shea butter to boost dry and damaged ends. That sums up my hair perfectly, and the warm weather that seems to be finally on the way will only exacerbate things, so this could be a lifesaver!

Canvas bag beauty

The little lip balm pot worried me a bit because its really really red, but it actually just gives a really nice hint of colour, and the botanical-based Nominoe cleanser hasn't been used yet but sounds lovely!

My Little Box costs £11 + postage and is such a lovely monthly treat! I always look forward to mine and can't wait to see what the next one brings!

20 April 2015

Family Dining at Haven's Mash and Barrel

I've already written plenty about my most recent family holiday to Haven site Presthaven Sands in North Wales, but it just wouldn't do to not have at least one post focused on one of my favourite aspects of any holiday - the food!

There were a few on site dining options at the holiday park (including fish n chips and pizza as well as a Burger King) but our most frequently visited food spot was the family-friendly pub, The Mash and Barrel (and not only because this was the only spot on site I could jump on the free wifi!)

I figured somewhere as family orientated as a Haven site would have a pretty decent kids menu, and Little Miss found plenty on there she wanted to eat! The menu was split into two sides, with a sort of pick n mix option (with choices of, for example, fish fingers/chicken nuggets/burger to go with chips/mash/rice with beans/veggies on the side) alongside set meal options like macaroni cheese and her favourite sausage, mash and peas with gravy! At one point after our return she was asked what her favourite part of the holiday was and I kid you not she said eating this sausage and mash. Much as I hope that wasn't true - I'm glad she enjoyed it!

mash and barrel kids meals
My son, who was fraternising with vegetarianism at the time of our holiday, didn't fancy the vegetarian sausages he'd had on our first visit again so instead opted for a jacket potato with cheese and beans from the main menu. I don't think this was too dissimilar in price to the kids meals (around £4?) and was massive - we never expected it to come with two potatoes! The lad did an admirable job but didn't come close to finishing both, so I reckon this would definitely satisfy a hungry adult!

mash and barrel haven

Speaking of massive meals to satisfy a hungry adult, my pasta dish was satisfying and delicious! I can't remember the exact name and details of what I got here (I normally pay more attention, but hey, I was on holiday!) but it was about a tonne of pasta in a spicy, creamy sauce with cheese and chicken, served with garlic bread. I couldn't finish it, and it isn't often that happens to me! I don't often eat pasta when I'm out (as it's something I can cook quite competently at home) but this was absolutely a great choice and one I'd recommend!
I was doubly pleased with my choice when my partner's ham, egg and chips turned up, as the ham looked a little disappointing and the chips were on the pale side, but he swears that despite appearances everything was really good.

Obviously, since we were near the sea side, we had to order ice cream! The Forest fruits sundae sadly wasn't mine to eat alone, this pile of strawberry and vanilla ice cream, fresh berries, fruity sauce and cream was a full family sharer...

huge ice cream sundae

Well, I say that but I bet you can guess who had most of it!

We also popped by for breakfast one day (with the justification I'd be able to provide a more well-balanced, thorough review of the place!) but unfortunately none of the food managed to last 'til the photographing stage before being demolished!
The breakfasts though, along with the other meals, surprised me with how good value they were. I'll admit I might not have had the highest expectations - I'd have thought that being a sort of captive audience on the site would mean we'd be charged well over the odds for sub-par food, and while a lot of the food was nothing particularly special (the exception being my gorgeous pasta!) it was never less than good. Meal sizes were substantial, and prices were less than feared - I managed to feed us all (including drinks and dessert) for less than £50, not too bad!
So if you have a Haven Holiday planned this year it's definitely worth bearing The Mash and Barrel in mind for one of those days you just don't fancy cooking for everyone - after all, its your holiday too!