31 March 2017

Holiday Packing - The Great Swimwear Question

March is a terrible time to work in accounts. It's our company year-end, which means we have a *lot* of work to try and squeeze in before the end of the month - and obviously its even worse when my computer decided to throw a wobbly, making it necessary to re-do half of the last month work.

I can honestly say I've earned my cookie Fridays at work this month!

But thankfully, the end is in sight. March is nearly done with and after a few days in April tidying up my messes of paperwork and receipts that I have thrown around my office, I am taking a well earned break. I actually didn't realise when I boked my holiday how much I'd feel like I needed it by the time it came around - but I really do!

In less than two weeks I'll be sat on the beach, cocktail in hand and hoping the kids don't drown while I just finish the next chapter of my book.... but because I've been so busy on the run up I've barely given any consideration to things I need to go away with! So, as a treat for getting my VAT return in on time, I've allowed myself a quick holiday-browse!

One thing I really need, is some new swimwear. I have about half a dozen swimming costumes at home that are all 'broken'... missing straps, or lost underwire, or something else making them, well, not ideal. (Yes, I know I should get rid of them,... I'm not so good at throwing things away!)

But swimwear is a tricky thing to buy. I'm not a bikini-wearer. It's not because I'm too old and fat, I never wanted to wear one when I was young and skinny. They're just not for me. I also don't like anything that's too plain or too fancy, anything with cut out bits or plasticy embellishments,... anything red or pink or,... essentially I'm a massive fusspot!

This year for the first time I am discovering the magic of the swimdress!

What a revelation! Now, don't get me wrong - I'm sure this isn't a new idea,... but I'm slow to catch on, ok? But I love it, all the swim-ability of a swimming costume, but with the 'I'm dressed enough to be out in public'ness' of a dress! These two from Bonmarche were the first two to open my eyes to this war of dressing for the pool, and I think I'm edging towards the turquoisey one, it's a cracking colour with such a cute shape to it... like a shorter, swimmier version of something I would definitely wear on holiday anyway.

Of course, I probably need more than one (and I like over-shopping) so I've also got my eye on this gorgeous strawberry number from Joe Browns, and the cute-as-a-button polka-dot swimdress on the Swimwear365 website...

So that should be my swimwear covered,... now I just need shoes, hats, dresses, bags, books, a plug adaptor, books,... what else?!

* I was fiscally encouraged to write this post,.. but I really do need to think about holiday shopping!

22 March 2017

Forgotten Costs of Cheap Holidays

If there's one thing better than a holiday, it's a cheap holiday and I've often been impressed with the prices I've managed to book a quick European break for. I don't really like to let myself believe that some of these trips aren't quite the bargain I tell myself!

So my 'less than £200' trip to Prague, or my 'bargain' trip to Paris end up actually costing a lot more than I expect, because of the hidden costs I 'forget' about in order to justify booking!

Here are some of the holiday costs I never take into consideration:

Airport Parking - sorting out my airport parking is always one of the last things I do. I don't mean to leave it to the last minute, but once I have something booked I want to concentrate on the 'fun' planning and sorta forget the 'boring but necessary' bits that need planning too! But, of course, any money saved on not booking the expensive last minute parking is money that can be put towards the fun stuff, so it all relates - I'll be making sure to follow these tips on how to save money on airport parking next time!

Passports - Mine is good for a few years yet, but both the kids passports need renewing this year. At £46 each for a child passport, that roughly an extra £100 on top of the next family holiday away!

Plug Adapter - OK, so this isn't something that I should need to buy every trip, but it's the thing I always forget until I get to the airport, where they cost about four times as much as buying one anywhere else! I have literally about 8 European adapters at home.... maybe one day I'll remember to take one with me!

Insurance - This is with airport parking in the 'boring but necessary' category. I might save money overall by getting one of those annual policies but I really need to make the time to look into it properly, instead of quickly clicking 'yes' to something on the way out of the door!

New clothes/shoes/sunglasses/whatever - Now I understand there is a big difference between needing new holiday things, and needing new holiday things, and this can vary depending on what type of holiday it is. I didn't really need a couple of new dresses bought for Paris, but I did definitely need a thick waterproof coat for Iceland!

Airport spending money - I have my holiday spending money carefully budgeted and stashed away, but I always invariably end up spending a small fortune at the airport before we go. Drinks for the plane, sucky sweets, a brew and slice of cake to kill the couple of hours waiting around time... it all adds up!

And that's before we even go anywhere! Once I arrive at my destination its a whole other mess of spending as my carefully planned budget goes out the window and the 'whatever, I'm on holiday! attitude comes in!

Still, it's not going to stop me telling myself that I can definitely afford that weekend away I've been looking at!

* In collaboration with Cheapflights but no less true for it

20 March 2017

A Charming Mother's Day Giveaway

As a special, gift-giving occasion is coming up I'm going to rely on my usual suggestion for the best gift to give to the important ladies in your life - one of the gorgeous handbags from Vendula London!

My love for these stunning bags is old news to anyone who's read this blog for a while, and only grown as they release new ranges. Today I get to share my love for this innovative company by giving away fantastic Vendula prizes to two lucky winners this Mother's Day!
Up for offer are their unique charm bags. There is a choice of a couple of styles of bag complete in a range of colours. The bags can then be accessorised with the detachable charm sets in a range of designs to really dress them up!

I love how one quite simple bag can be personalised to suit a range of preferences and occasions. The charms really add something different and fun, and are bound to be a talking point! I know my cat-lady mum would love the Cat's World charm set, but my favourite is the Beside The Seaside set - so reminiscent of those classic British beach holidays, making me long for ice cream in the sunshine that is hopefully not too far away now!

The lucky winners can choose from any one bag and any one charm set from those shown here (apart from the Alice or London charm sets), just enter below!

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

(And remember, even if you don't win a bag, you can give thanks/win points with your mum by treating her to a Vendula London gift anyway - they're making it even easier for you at the minute with 20% off full priced items before Sunday if you enter the code 'MUM2017' at the checkout!)

17 March 2017

The True Tea Club

It's been a shamefully long time since I've posted here, I know. I've been a busy bee with work and life and my new blog project. If there was one thing that would drag me back into action, it's my love of tea!

The lovely chaps over at The True Tea Club asked if I'd like to try out their tea subscription box, and I've rarely been more certain in my 'yes'!

I love subscription boxes but my dabblings with them in the past have led to me having a houseful of random stuff I don't really know what to do with. But never with tea. Tea is always useful, tea is always wonderful.

The True Tea Club (Yorkshire based, like all the best folk) want to share their 'exper-teas' (yes, I know that's terrible) by introducing their subscribers to a variety of exciting tea blends. These are perfect for the tea beginner as well as those who know their way around loose leafs already, as they come with simple instructions, plenty of info, and even a couple of empty tea bags for those more comfortable with that tea-making method (or lacking the equipment for otherwise).

There's a couple of subscription options, starting at £10 a month (UK postage included) for around 40 cups worth of tea. There's options for tailor-making your box too, if there's a particular tea-type you aren't fond of. I personally like the surprise!

Here's what a typical box might look like...

The first one I tried was the 'Mighty Mango' tea, which smells INCREDIBLE when you open the packet. I'm quite partial to a mango tea and so was really looking forward to this, and the official description really helped sell it: 'Mellow like a Californian beach, the sencha basis is surrounded by bright sunflower blossoms which relaxes in harmony with the fruity mango flavour.' Sounds dreamy, right? I was surprised by the brewing instructions, which suggested a mere 10-20 seconds brewing time. In fact I was half convinced it was a mistake so it was with a certain degree of cynicism that I brewed mine for a (generous) 20 seconds but was pleasantly surprised with how much flavour came out in this brief window, which also didn't give enough time from any green tea bitterness to seep into the final brew. This was just lovely, and would make a particularly cracking drink come those warmer summer days!

Next up was the Vanilla Cupcake - a sweet smooth rooibos with an extra fruity touch in the way of orange peel, papaya strips and banana chips. Plus, isn't it pretty? That's the addition of cornflower, marigold and rose petals which add to the flavour as well as being a treat for the eye! I love the creamy vanilla rooibos base, and though I'm not convinced of its cupcakey-ness, it was a delicious brew nonetheless!

Earl Grey never struck me as particularly rebellious. A little too dainty and flowery for that, so I was interested in what earned the Earl Grey Rebel it's name. Oh, this is punchy! Its Earl Grey, but fresh and zesty, and just properly good. Love it!

I know I've already mentioned how pretty the teas are, and 'prettiness' is a funny desired trait in a tea in a way as the lovely colours and textures found in a tea blend aren't really reflected in the look of the finished drink... but still, look at this beauty! (I could get into why a pretty tea actually is a better tea, but that's a whole other blog post..! Do have a look at The True Tea Club's explanation of the differences between loose tea and tea bags here if you are interested though!) Despite loving the colours of the Rainbow Chaser, made up of apple pieces, blackberry leaves, peppermint and orange peel, this was my least favourite of the bunch. It's just not my cup of tea, as it were. It might be partially because I lack the patience for the longer brewing time of 5-10 minutes, it might be that it tastes like it's really good for you, but I'm just not that into the more herbal/fruity teas. My brother loves this one though, so it's all personal preference - and of course, if there's something you don't like, tea-wise, you can always mention it in your subscription to avoid getting them in future boxes!

I think a service like this is a great way to try new teas - especially if you aren't really sure of what you like yet and want to try different kinds. If you come across a favourite you can even stock up on it from the True Tea Club online shop! You can also follow The True Tea Club on twitter, facebook and instagram for sneaky peaks at what's coming up in future boxes