Monday, 31 August 2015

DEGUSTABOX | July 2015

Well I'm so sorry this is so late! I've really tried to make sure that we'd tried all of the things in the box this time before writing up my little review, and only in the last couple of days did we have the last bits.

The July Degustabox was a decent enough one.  It hasn't blown me away, but similarly we did enjoy (between us) what was in there. So without me waffling along, here's what I had :)

Lambrini - £3.29
It's been YEARS since I've had Lambrini.  My memories of it are mostly heartburn, but enjoying the taste.  Well this is their So Strawberry version, which I can say is super duper yummy! Both the hubby and I demolished it, and it didn't give us heartburn, YAY!

Newtons Appl Fizzics - £1.20
This is an apple juice and sparkling water drink - this is one the hubby had (I'm not great with apple juice) which he really loved.  He said it was tasty and refreshing, so it's got the man stamp of approval!

Lambrini and Newtons apple juice

Tasty Little Numbers - £3.49 (each)
These were ones for the hubby too as they both had meat in them and I'm vegetarian.  He had these at the weekend and on toast.  He said they were nice, pretty much exactly what you'd expect from a 'nice' ready meal and said that he'd be happy to have them again - he also added that yes they're a bit expensive, but they were better than Sainsburys ready meals, so he said if you want a nice one, these are worth paying a little extra for :)  In our box we had the beef sausage & beans one, and the chicken tikka masala one :)

Tasty Little Numbers (ready meals)

Fru Snax - £1.25 each
These are a low calorie high taste snack (just 45 cals a pack).  They're a bit strange, but not in a bad way.  They have dried (well, dehydrated from freezing them) pieces of fruit in them, and rectangular shapes of yoghurt.  My favourite pack was the fig with cherry yoghurt melts (even Squidge liked the yoghurt melts!), the strawberry was a bit overwhelming in flavour for me!

Fru Snax

Quinola Mothergrain - Tex Mex Quinoa - £1.99
I haven't tried this yet... Squidge is too young for it and well, I keep forgetting we have it!  I love quinoa though, it's packed with protein and a good source of it for us veggies!  I love that they only take 30 seconds to heat up too.

Taking the Pea - £1.50
Now these were tasty! Think wasabi peas, but cheese and onion flavoured (yeah, weird!).  The hubby and I made short work of these!

Quinola Mothergrain and Taking the Pea

Vitamins Jele... 
Now I'm not sure this was supposed to be in the box as it's not listed on the card - however, it was in the June box (hence the confusion!) and listed as £1.20... the hubby had it in June, and I had it this time around.  I absolutely loved it, it's packed with flavour (like Ribena) but with little jelly pieces in it (think Aloe drinks), yummy!

Jele Vitamins drink

Weetabix On The Go - £1.49 each
These were interesting! I had the vanilla one, and the hubby had the chocolate one.  He really loved his, I liked mine but found it odd.  It's like a thick drinkable yoghurt.  It kept us reasonably full until lunch time (as good as having a proper breakfast) too :)

Weetabix on the go

Say Yes to No - Sour cream & Onion toasted bread chips - £1.49
In all honesty, I wasn't a fan of these.  They were packed with flavour, and the format I liked (toasted bread chips), but they just had a bit of a tang that I didn't really like.  They're not something I'd buy if I was in the shop, but I would be happy to try other flavours of these :)

Say yes to no

So there you have it, a pretty decent box, lots of things we liked and only a couple of things we weren't as fond of :)  If you'd like to try Degustabox I have a voucher code that'll give you £3 off your first box, just enter the code 73CEX when you get to the checkout to apply it.
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*Post contains a PR sample

Sunday, 30 August 2015

BOARD GAMES | Timeline - Historical Events

One thing I want to incorporate with my blog's new direction is board game reviews.  If you follow me on Instagram, you might well already know I'm a board game geek.  Over the years the hubby and I have accumulated quite a collection.  I'm not talking about games like Monopoly and Cludo, I'm talking *real* games.  Games like Pandemic, Carcassonne, Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride (Europe) etc.  I'm hoping to bring you at least one board game review a month, preferably more :)

The Timeline tin

I'm kicking off this series with a short, fun and educational game called Timeline. It's a fun and simple game that's really easy to learn.  It's a great introduction into slightly different games if you're looking to try something a little different.  There are 5 different versions of the game, the one I have is the 'Historical Events' version, don't worry, you don't need to be 'good' at history to play this, after playing a couple of times you'll soon learn when lots of these historical events happened :)

Side of the Timeline box

Close up of cards from Timeline
Close up of the cards in the game

The game is made up of a series of small cards.  On the front there is an image depicting the event (I like to use these as clues - often you can look at elements of the drawing to give things away, so look at the weapons being used, the clothing people are wearing or the buildings etc), and the name of the event.  You then have to decide if the card you chose from your hand, occurs before or after the starting card in the timeline (in my pic the starting card is 'The End of World War II' - 1945 - it's the card from the top of the pile, you simply place it down and turn it over to reveal the date to kick off the timeline).

Each player is dealt 4 cards which are date-down.  You have a draw pile which you will draw a card from if you place a card down incorrectly (if you put a card down and turn it over to reveal the date, and you've placed it in the wrong place).  If that happens, you discard the card and draw a new one. The winner of the game is the first person to get rid of all their cards (successfully placing them in the timeline).

A typical Timeline setup for 2 people

A Timeline game in play

The suggested game duration is 15 mins which is pretty accurate, depending on how many rounds you want to play.  The more people you have, the more complicated it gets, as when you have lots of cards in the timeline, it's easier to make a mistake, unless you really *know* the date of the event you're placing down.

It's a fun game to kick off an evening of board games, or just to have a quick couple/few rounds if you have a spare half hour or so.  I'll be taking this one into work to play during a lunchtime (yes, there's lots of geeks where I work and we regularly meet up to play board games at lunch) :)  If you're looking to buy this, it costs £12.99* and you can pick it up from Waterstones, and online at WH Smith and Argos.
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*Post contains a PR sample

Friday, 28 August 2015

STUDENT | Debt diaries

Pictures of me as a student
Me from my student days :)

Back years ago when I was in uni, I got into a real financial pickle.  And with students about to go back to uni or start uni, I thought now would be an apt time to talk about what I went through, and how I got myself out of it.

My first year in uni wasn't a happy one.  I was seriously home-sick and didn't make any friends in the halls I was in, quite the opposite.  I ended up spending money to try and make myself feel better, but like a lot of these splurges, it was a temporary high and after a splurge buyers remorse would set in and I'd feel even worse than before.

Fast forward 2 years and I'd calmed my spending down, but still had a mountain of debt thanks to me needing to cash bad cheques (for things like food and rent) that put me firmly outside of my overdraft.  Even after leaving uni and getting a resolve loan to sort out my debt, I still needed help as I wasn't earning enough to really live off.  I was earning about £750 a month and my rent was nearly £400.  The resolve loan took over £80 a month of my wages, leaving me only £270 for council tax, water, electricity, gas, phone, TV license, internet and food.  At the end of every month I'd be firmly down to my last pennies, if not worse.

Things eased up when the boyfriend got a proper job and we moved in together, but debt still followed me.  We had quite a few unexpected bills for the car we had and ended up owing a couple thousand on our credit card.  After a couple years of paying the minimum and not really seeing the amount owed going down we decided to go for a balance transfer credit card - we still paid the same amount off each month, but instead of it being 90% interest, every penny we paid was paying the balance off. This was a much quicker way to pay off the debt, and with each month it was paid, it was helping my credit score.

TIP - never taking on any debt won't give you a good credit score.  But taking on some debt, like a credit card or overdraft and using it and paying it off regularly will, just make sure you don't have any late payments, because that won't help :)

That being said, you need to be really careful if you are considering getting a credit card by making sure the interest rate isn't extortionate - store cards are terrible for it and often can have rates as high as 25-30%, whereas a credit card from the bank is likely to be under 20% - that may not sound like a lot, but it really adds up fast.

Another tip is that if you find yourself really struggling and getting into debt, it can be really scary, but go and speak to your bank.  Ultimately, they'll want their money back, so are usually willing to help even if that's setting up an affordable payment plan for you.  I was so lucky to get a resolve loan, that was all because I went in to speak to them, otherwise I could have faced bankruptcy, and you definitely want to avoid that.

I hope this somehow helps - just remember, no store cards and no payday loans and if you're in financial trouble, speak to your bank :)
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*Collaborative post

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

FASHION | What Baby Wore Today #WBabyWT

A little while ago I was invited to take part in a really fun campaign run by Asda, their #WBabyWT (What Baby Wore Today) campaign (how fun is that!?).   Well, if you follow me on Instagram, you'll know I'm very fond of photographing little Squidge, and he loves the camera on him too (such a little poser).  So when I was asked to collaborate, I jumped at the chance (any excuse to photograph him in cute clothes eh!).

I've long been a fan of Asda baby (and grown up!) clothes.  They're really good quality (very soft) and very affordable.  Miles and miles better than Primark in terms of quality, and pretty much the same price, as well as really lovely designs.

First up, Squidge models the 2 piece check shirt and shorts set (£8*).  Now seriously, how cute is he in this outfit!  It's lovely quality, the shorts are a thinner denim so more comfortable, and the shirt is a light cotton - perfect for Summer (lol, like we've had a Summer this year!).

Check shirt and shorts

Next up, Squidge models the Mr. Happy t-shirt and shorts combo (£5*)(I really really love him in this!). This is made out of 100% cotton too and is really soft.  Other than it being a very apt top for him (he's really become a happy chappy recently, more so than normal, constantly giggling at things), I love that it doesn't have poppers to do up on the shoulder, instead it's very stretchy.  Considering his head is 98% percentile (BIG!) and this still fits, that's pretty awesome.

Mr Happy t shirt and shorts

The next two outfits are part of one set - I love good value finds like that! It's the sea creatures print 4-piece set (£10* - now discounted to £6).  The first outfit is a romper suit where it's an all one one, so the vest part is actually part of the actual romper.  Once again, made of cotton and really soft against babies skin.  I really adore this romper suit - I'd bought loads and loads of romper suits for him, thinking that it was going to be a nice hot summer, but he's had hardly any opportunity to wear them as it's been pretty chilly and rainy.

Sea Creatures romper suit

Octopus top and shorts

Another great outfit and romper suit is the Finding Nemo All-in-one stripe and socks set (£8* now down to £5).  I love that the socks match the outfit and have a yellow top, a really nice touch.  Again, all made of cotton so it's nice and soft.

Finding Nemo romper suit

Yet another romper suit picked by me! This time it's the Mr Men Mr Tickle romper suit (£5*).  I really love seeing him in grey, I think it really brings his eyes out :)  I love the blue stripes on the sleeves too, a really nice touch, better than it just all being plain.

Mr Tickle romper suit

I have also bought him this Superman swim suit (£8*), I was planning to put him in it when we get out his little paddling pool, but we haven't had good enough weather to get the paddling pool out, and I doubt we will until next year... I just hope he gets to wear it before he grows out of it! It just seemed so mean to be as he's a 'Kent'.
Superman baby swimsuit

What do you think of my picks?  Have you tried Asda baby before?

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*Clothes are PR samples, opinions are my own
All of the clothes modelled were in size 9-12 months

A Slice of My Life Wales

Monday, 24 August 2015

FOOD | Beefeater - Walston Castle

Sorry for being absent for so long, I've been taking a much needed blogging break.  I was starting to feel really overwhelmed by it all and needed to take a step back.  I've got a few reviews that I need to get live, but once they're done, expect lots more crochet posts & tutorials and mummy posts :)  Don't worry, there'll still be some beauty posts too :)

A little while ago the hubby, baby and I headed to the Walston Castle Beefeater, it's not far from Barry here in South Wales.  It's one we've been too with friends a couple years ago, so we were a little familiar with it.

When we got there, they didn't have any record of our booking, but were easily able to accommodate us and get us seated, also giving us a high chair :)  They did also give us a colouring in sheet and crayons for Squidge, but he's about 2 years off being able to have them :)

Walston Castle Beefeater


Veg options

Despite it being a 'BEEF'eater, they had a reasonable selection of vegetarian options, including my favourite quorn burgers (yay!). 

For a starter we opted for the garlic tear & share flatbread, it was ENORMOUS!  It came with a dish of herby balsamic vinegar to dip it in which was really yummy - my tip is to only order this if you're sharing it with more than 2 people due to it's enormity! 

Garlic flatbread

Balsamic dipping sauce

Mains! The hubby couldn't help himself, he just *had* to order the fillet steak.  He had it cooked rare and without any sauces - he demolished it pretty darn quickly.  The chips were lovely, crisp on the outside and soft and fluffy in the middle, and nice and chunky.  There was a lightly dressed side salad to accompany it too.

I opted for the 'Veg-out burger' which was a quorn burger (I think the quarter pounders) with monterery jack cheese and chargrilled red peppers, ranch dressing and smokey tomato sauce.  It was lovely, and also very quickly demolished by me! It was served with fries and coleslaw, all were lovely.

8oz fillet steak

Quorn burger and fries

Dessert! We couldn't have left without sampling some dessert. The hubby has always loved a good black forest gateaux, but as it's so 80s, you don't really find it anywhere anymore, but I think it's making a comeback, I mean hello, it was on #GBBO!  The portion was massive.  It was moist and super tasty (despite being very full, the hubby managed to make short work of this too).

I opted for the Popcorn & Caramel Sunday.  I have such a soft spot for vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce, I'm not sure I can think of a better combination!  Looking at this I did think the popcorn was just on top but it did run all the way through.  I loved that it was caramel popcorn too, extra yummy!

Black Forest Gateaux

Popcorn & caramel sunday

I didn't manage to get a photo, but we did also Squidge a kids meal - chips and strips of chargrilled chicken.  He managed 2 sticks of the chicken and lots of chips (he LOVES chips) and a couple of peas :)  They got a high chair for us and for the most part he was happy while we were there - he did get tired and a bit bored towards the end, but that's just because he's a baby and doesn't like to be immobilised, he wants to crawl and walk everywhere.

All in all we really enjoyed our meal there, the staff were really friendly, the food didn't take long to come and was really tasty.  It came to just over £50 for 3 courses, a drink each and a childs meal, I think that's a brilliant price, especially considering the hubby's main was nearly £20.  We'd definitely go back and would be happy to have all the same things again - well, maybe not the tear & share flatbread, it was lovely, just a bit too much for us with everything else :)
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*Food was complimentary, opinions are my own

Friday, 14 August 2015

A beginners guide to crochet

When Squidge was born I decided to make him a creeper face blanket (Minecraft), at the time I could only knit, and not very well, so I decided to learn to crochet.  My mother-in-law lent me a book 'Kids learn Crochet' which taught me the basics (hey, if it can teach kids, it can teach me!).  Once I'd mastered chains and some different stitches, I started crocheting little squares.

Then I got so busy with Squidge and the blog I didn't crochet for months and months.  Well, about a month or two ago, I picked it back up again and have pretty much crocheted every day since! I'm fully addicted now!  I finished the creeper blanket (it's only a small baby blanket for the pram), it doesn't look great, but I'm so proud of it, I know that in years I'll be able to look back and see how far I've come.

Anyway, over on Instagram I've been putting pics up of my crochet progress and I've had a couple of people ask me to put a post together about how I got started, what I bought etc - something I was already planning to share with you :)

So - here's what you need to get started (links under the pics to the bits I bought and where from).
Essential crochet kit
Yarn (I buy Stylecraft DK from Wool Warehouse - it comes in a bag that's perfect for putting projects in) | Crochet hooks (this is a really decent cheap set £4.99) | Markers (great if you're working on multiple projects at the same time) | Small scissors (these are Tommee Tippee baby nail scissors) | Darning needles

These essentials (excluding the yarn) cost a grand total of £8.51, each ball of yarn costs £1.79 (if you buy this brand - I like it because they're decent sized, a good range of colours, they're soft and cheap).

FACT - did you know why people call it yarn and not wool? Because not all yarn has 'wool' in it - the stuff I use is 100% acrylic :)

That's one of the things I love about crochet, it's a cheap hobby to get started in :)  Once I learned the basics from the book, and felt like I'd learned how to stitch rows together really well, I tried to learn how to make a granny square... holy moly it took a lot of attempts! After a lot of practice I realised I was doing the wrong stitch (there's American terms and UK terms, I'd learn UK and the pattern was American... all very confusing!).  Once I realised, I corrected my mistake, learned how to Treble Crochet (TC) and there was no stopping me!

Here's some of the projects I'm working on:

Joined granny squares
I'm making a giant granny square blanket for us to keep on the sofa for the Winter, at the moment I'm making the width, so joining lots of squares together in a big row (it'll be 20/22 squares wide).  It's not perfect, but I'm still very much a beginner and learning. I learned this granny square from this video, and I learned how to join them together from Bella Coco in this video.

Giant granny square progress

Giant granny square close up

This is a giant granny square baby blanket for Squidge, it's still not finished, I need to add a lot more rounds to it, but that's the beauty of granny squares, you can be so creative in the colours you choose - it would look so different if where I used beige, I used black instead, and instead of the pastel colours, if I'd used orange and purple etc :)

Star baby blanket
I've just finished this baby blanket - the pattern was surprisingly ok - it only took 2 attempts to master, it's still not quite perfect, I think I've added an extra stitch in a couple places which is why the star doesn't have straight edges and has curved edges, but still a decent attempt :D   Again, I love how by changing the colours of this, or doing more than 1 row in each colour (I did 1 row blue, one row cream etc) it would have looked completely different.  This is the tutorial I learned this pattern from.

Baby chevron blanket progress
I'm really hoping my colleague doesn't read my blog, this is one of the baby blankets I'm making for her baby (she's due in Oct).  I wanted to learn a new stitch/pattern, and thought a grey and yellow chevron would be great and neutral for a boy or girl.  It's not perfect, I've made some mistakes, but for the most part it's pretty decent :)  I found the tutorial for it from a YouTuber called Jayda InStitches - she's amazing!!! 

close up of yellow and grey chevron blanket
A close up of the stitches - it looks more complicated than it is :)

Failed baby chevron granny blanket
Not all of my projects work out though - this was a granny chevron - it wasn't a great pattern as it didn't really tell you what to do with the ends/sides, so mine was getting smaller and smaller - that's when I found the pattern for the one above, which I love!

If you're thinking of learning, I really can't recommend it enough, especially if knitting wasn't for you. I find crochet much easier than knitting, and it's much easier to correct a mistake with crochet too - plus, I think the patterns are prettier - and I can actually follow a pattern in crochet, I never could with knitting :)

Sunday, 2 August 2015


Hello my lovelies.  I've been going through a bit of a battle with this blog recently, well, with both my blogs and my YouTube channel.  I've loved the last 3.5 years of blogging (nearly 4 years of YouTube) and I've met some really amazing people along the way, people I'd call my actual friends.  

I started off in YouTube, I wanted to take part in something that seemed full of excitement, and because it scared the hell out of me.  From there it evolved to this blog, where I've shared my beauty loves (and some hates) with you with the odd lifestyle post added for good measure.  Then, last March I started Mummy-Pixie to mark my pregnancy and parenting journey.

At one stage my blog seemed to be getting pretty popular (for me), I was up to around 2k page views a day, but then last January my brother died, I was very open and honest about it and talked about it on my blog - for me, that's where the blog started to dwindle - whether it was because I was posting less due to grieving and driving 2,000 miles to Southern France and back for the funeral, or because of the actual content I was posting about it - but at that point my views dropped to about 300 a day... I lost an astonishing amount of daily readers and they never really came back, not like it was before.  It's been a little soul destroying to put so much effort in with my photo's, reviews etc and hardly anyone reading my blog.

The last couple of months I've really struggled to find the time to post regularly enough on my blogs too, since Squidge has become so mobile he's taking up more and more of my time.  Plus, 3 weeks ago I returned to work part-time, rendering me with no time at all to film YouTube videos... so today, I finally made a decision about the future of my blogs and YT channel.

I've decided to close my channel.  I won't delete it, but I won't be uploading any more video's.  As it stands right now, while Squidge naps I don't really have time to set up the camera, do my makeup and film a video (he generally has half hour naps) and put everything away before he's awake - the only space I have to film is our lounge/dining room (which is the whole of the downstairs).  Hopefully when we move house, it'll be to a place where I can have a room for myself, a space to film without disturbing the baby - at that point, I *might* think about starting a new channel with a new focus.

My blogs
I've decided to merge my two blogs, I've thought about it for a long time and feel that it's the right decision.  This blog will remain, with Mummy-Pixie moving to here.

However, this blog isn't getting off scot free either.  It's main focus will no longer be beauty.  Yes, there will still be a fair amount of beauty posts, but it'll be a full on lifestyle blog.  I'll be posting about all aspects of my life (and my family), so things like my crochet projects, before & after pics of whatever house we move to, Squidge growing up, recipes and baking - and of course, still beauty.

You're also going to see a lot less PR samples, I'm going to be a lot more choosy on what I accept, especially as beauty won't be the key focus.  I've still got quite a few reviews (beauty) I'm committed to reviewing over the next few weeks, but once they're done you'll see a big reduction :)

I hope you'll stay with me in this new direction - but I also understand if it's not going to be your kind of blog to read anymore.
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