Thursday, 16 November 2017

Homemade Gin Hamper For Christmas

My husband and I have developed a taste for gin and tonic. So I thought this year I would put together a hamper full of items to make the perfect gin and tonic for my husband (and I!) to enjoy.
Gin has taken over from whisky as my husbands occasional tipple which I'm very happy about, as I'm not too keen on whisky.

Gin has become a very fashionable drink and bottles can sometimes cost £10,000 to purchase! I'm not a gin connoisseur so I'm intending on buying the actual gin to go in the hamper from local producers such as Sloemotion, I tasted a lovely Hedgerow Gin by them at the recent Harrogate Rocks Gin Festival I attended. Sloemotion is produced in North Yorkshire. I think it's nice to try something a little different at Christmas and with so many types to choose from, I shall take advice from the experts. I'm also going to visit local Christmas fayres and markets to source my gin. There is one held this weekend in Harrogate.

Of course there is no point in buying a lovely gin to completely ruin it by adding a cheap tonic. Fever Tree make lovely tonics and apparently certain gins should be drunk with certain flavours. I have no knowledge about this so I will buy a book, like this fab book from Fever Tree - The Art Of Mixing

I possibly may buy this book to add to the hamper too as it has great reviews.

Gone are the days when a gin and tonic was simply a measure of gin and a bottle of tonic with a slice of lemon and ice (if you're lucky!). The most recent and best gin and tonics I've had have been flavoured by infusions of herbs, fruits, spices and flowers, which not only tastes amazing, but looks very pretty too.

Again being clueless as to what goes with what, I will look at the recipes in the books and I will also be purchasing a gift pack of infusions to add to the hamper, like the one below.

Next addition to the hamper will be some lovely balloon shaped glasses.
Of course there will need to be two as he'll want to share with me, I'm sure! I quite like these Dartington Crystal glasses.

The whole lot will then be arranged in a basket, it will probably need to be quite sturdy to hold the bottles and I will use shredded paper to cushion the glasses and bottles, as well as it looks pretty. I will recycle the shredded paper from our shredder for this.

I think once it's wrapped in cellophane and a few festive touches are added, it will look fab. I will post a picture once it's completed.

I may also add some snacks to the basket such as popcorn and crisps. Whilst on the search for items for the hamper, I also came across some novelty items too. Coasters, T shirts and wooden plaques  which may make the hamper more personal. you could also add a long stirring spoon and ice trays.

Of course if this all seems to be too much effort 
you could always buy a ready made hamper! I'm sure they will be equally appreciated.

*this blog post contains affiliate links 

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Christmas Gift Guide

Christmas is dawning upon us, and many of us are already running around trying the find the best decorations, gifts for our families and of course trying to perfect that turkey recipe. The most challenging part of Christmas is finding the perfect gifts for the people we love. It can be difficult a lot of the time to think of what everyone would like, which is why we often end up giving up and asking instead. However, here are some ideas to give you some inspiration for your family and friends this year.

For The Men
Men love gadgets, technology and often anything with a splash of humour. If you are buying for an uncle or a male friend, you might want to stick to chocolate, beer or Thornton’s special toffee. However, for dads and partners- you’ll often find that they have a game or film series which they love, so you can buy that. And then to fill up their stocking you could look at funny promotional products, slippers and the classic- socks.

For The Women
It is well-known that women are much easier to buy for than men. There are much more options and you can really get creative. Bath sets are always a winner for aunties and grandmas, if you want to treat your mum you could buy her a perfume, a scarf, pyjamas or even a piece of jewellery. Many women also love stationery so you could take a trip down to Paperchase for a pretty notebook.

For Couples
Fun board games, activity days like zorbing or a spa retreat… chocolates. Couples are easier to buy for and you can play on their personalities and have a little fun with things. If you don’t know the couple too well, a bottle of wine is always a safe bet.

Children are the most important ones to please at Christmas, and luckily for us there are a ridiculous amount of gifts to choose from. You could opt for the route of an action figure, board games or even tonnes of sweets. Kids aren’t too fussy, so you’ll be fine.

Stocking Fillers
If you want some extra little bits to fill up everyone’s stocking this year, you could look at things like a fun festive mug, face masks or even a cute stuffed toy. The possibilities are endless, and as long as everyone gets that all-important Toblerone, you can play around with ideas.

If you want to let your creative side out when planning gifts this year, then buying a hamper basket and filling it to the brim with cheese, meats, wine and chocolate may be the best way to go. You’ll be able to sit in front of the TV watching a festive movie while filling up a festive hamper for your loved ones.

The Christmas Jumper
And of course, you can’t have Christmas without a silly jumper, and almost every shop you look in will have some hilarious choices for every member of the family.

*collaborative post

Advent Finances: Saving Money In Time For Christmas

Most of us would agree that it is always useful to have a good surplus of cash just in time for Christmas. It means that it is much easier to have the kind of Christmas that you really want, and to keep the family as happy as possible in the process. But saving up money in the run up to the day itself can often be hard to do, especially with the notion of presents on the horizon. But with the right approach, you should be able to ensure that you save as much money as you can, and have a much nicer Christmas in the process. Let’s have a look at some of the ways in which you can do that.

Save On Heating

If there is anything that tends to cost more in the run up to Christmas it is, of course, the energy bills on your home. If you are looking to save money, it is therefore a pretty good place to start. If you manage to save on your heating bills, you should find that it makes a huge difference to your Christmas budget - but how can you actually make it happen? It should be relatively straightforward for most households. One powerful way to save money on your heating bill is to simply change the heater or boiler to a tankless one. These are generally more efficient, and if you look at these rinnai tankless water heater reviews you will see they can help you save a lot of money.

Get Food Early

A main expense for Christmas is the food, so you can easily save money for the Christmas period by just buying some of that food early on. The prices in most supermarkets will be hiked up just before the run up to Christmas anyway, so if you get hold of at least some non-perishable food now you will be saving a lot of money in the long run. Getting food early will mean that you will also feel much more ready to tackle the big day, so this is a great way to make Christmas easier in more ways than one. Make sure you don’t buy anything fresh too early, however, as you might end up not using it and throwing it away!

Work Extra Shifts

If you are able to, it might be a good idea to work a few extra shifts just in the run up to Christmas. Many employers will appreciate this, and often they will even pay you quite well for doing so, in many cases double time. Working more shifts might not be the top of your Christmas list, but there is nothing wrong with trying to get in some more money before it comes to the time itself. You will be glad you did when it means that you can make much more Christmas time with your family.

*collaborative post

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Charity Shop Bargain Haul

It's getting to the time of year when every penny counts in our house. With four children for Santa to buy for, savings when purchasing the day to day items like clothes all contribute to our household budget. So I was really pleased with our charity shop bargain haul over the last couple of weeks!.

We enjoy car boot sales in the summer and have found quite a few bargains over the last year. My daughter's were thrilled to buy a Barbie car and Animal Hospital bus for 50 pence each! They have literally more or less played with them every day since! Their Barbie doll collection is now huge too, thanks to car boot sales.

Brand new M&S boots we found for £5!

The car boot season is over now so we enjoy looking at the local charity shops in search of our bargains. Prices are a bit higher than those you find at a car boot, however there's the added bonus of supporting local charities, as well as shopping in the warmth and without having to rummage and haggle quite as much!

Lovely Mini Boden top for £3

A Sunday spent wandering round the shops followed by a hot chocolate at cafĂ© Nero's is now a favourite family pastime. Although I'm yet to see my 16 year old son step foot in a charity shop! My 13 year old son however, loves them! As a keen gamer he likes to look to see what retro games, soft toys and books he can find. He seems to have a keen eye in spotting things for his collection. My daughters are following his example, except their focus is  anything pink, girly and sparkly. Lego is also a current favourite.

Over the last couple of weeks we have found lots of items for the girls, with the added bonus that they chose most of them themselves, so no danger of them not being worn. The only problem I have is that there sometimes ensues a bit of an argument, if they both like the same thing, which usually ends up with me spending more money buying a similar (but not the same- very important with the girls at the moment!) item from a high street shop costing ten times more! Still a bargains a bargain ...

I found this pair of boots for £5 in exactly the girls size. They are leather and from Marks and Spencer's. They were brand new when I bought them with labels attached. They have been worn quite a bit now.

 One of my girls found this faux fur gilet for £3, which she loves. I quite fancy it myself!

A Mini Boden top for £3

A gorgeous sparkly party dress from Next for £5. This item did cause a few arguments! It has already been worn lots, albeit in wellies, whilst collecting leaves in the garden. Not really a problem when we spent so little.

A lovely top from Next featuring a unicorn. With the added benefit of sparkly sequins! I think I paid around £3.

I love buying books from charity shops too. I spotted this lovely Holly Webb book for £2 and it appears to be new. RRP is £9.99 and any stories that feature animals are a winner with my girls.

Oh I so love a bargain!  


Being Environmentally Friendly Through the Winter

It can be difficult being environmentally friendly in the winter. We’re much more likely to use more energy to keep ourselves comfortable and warm, we’re more hesitant to spend time sorting out our recycling bins outdoors, and we tend to purchase a lot of items that get tossed in the trash after one or two uses. But rather than beating yourself up about it, use the winter months as an opportunity for self-improvement when it comes to being green. There’s no need to wait for the new year to get started with your resolutions. Start making a change today! Here are a few ways that you can be eco-minded over the coming months.

Insulate Your Property

Homes that are not properly insulated are environmental enemy number one during the colder months. Sure, you are going to use fuels to keep you and your family toasty. But you’re going to use excessive amounts if the heat in your property goes straight through the roof or out of the windows. Proper insulation can mean that you only have to heat your property once a day and the contained heat will keep you snug as a bug for hours on end. So, let’s start with the roof. Heat rises, so it’s not all too surprising that the majority of heat is lost from your loft. Prevent this by ensuring that you have thick insulation between your loft space and the outdoors. If you don’t use your loft space, also invest in insulation between the ceiling of your top floor and the base of the loft, as it doesn’t matter if the rafters are chilly. Next: windows. Glass is a poor insulator, but we use it so that we can allow natural light into our properties and see the world outside. Double glazing is as good a solution as we currently have. It keeps more heat in than single glazing and is altogether surprisingly effective at its job.

Make Use of Self Storage

As the temperature drops, many people will toss their summer goods and belongings aside. Hundreds of thousands of pool floats end up in landfill each year. So do many garden chairs, hammocks, inflatable pools and items of summer clothing. Why throw these things away when you’re just going to have to pay for new ones in a few months? Instead, find storage near you and keep your belongings in a safe and secure environment until you next require them.

Use Sustainable Gift Wrap

People tend to give a lot of gifts for the coming holiday season. This is brilliant. But where possible, try to use sustainable gift wrap. Stay away from virgin paper and plastic bows. There are plenty of recycled paper options out there, and plastic simply ends up in a land fill and does not biodegrade. Magazine collages can make exciting prints, and pine sprigs or pine cones make wonderful natural additions to your wrapping in place of plastic bows or ribbons.

Remember that the actions you take and the decisions you make can have profound effects on the world around you. So be green this winter!

*collaborative post

Monday, 13 November 2017

You're Never Too Young to Stabilise Your Finances

Calculate those pennies. Image sourcenumbers-money-calculating-calculation.jpg

You want stable finances, right? Well, if this is the case then you need to start doing all you can to stabilise them, today, no matter your age! You should do so because you're never too young to do so. You should do so because the sooner you do so the more chance you will have of having stable finances propping you up during your golden years. For advice on how to stabilise your finances at a young age, make sure to read on.

Save, save, save

Saving might be a bit of a foreign concept whilst you’re still drinking from the fountain of youth, but it is something you simply have to do. It is something you have to do because it will stabilise your finances no end in the future.

When it comes to saving, the first thing that you should be doing is putting your money into a savings account and then leaving it to grow and accrue interest over time. Specifically, you should be putting your money into and contributing to a ROTH retirement fund. When you do so your employer has to do so too, which means you can end up saving quite a bit come the time in your retirement when you wish to take out the money. What’s more, all the money you save in this type of fund is tax free upon withdrawal.

Insure, insure, insure

Saving isn't the only thing you should be doing with your money, however. No, you should also be protecting it though insurances, too. You should always ensure that you insure yourself and your finances because you never know when disaster may strike your financial kitty and result in all the money you've managed to save thus far in it being drained before your very eyes.

Specially, you should take out insurances on your life to ensure that your family and dependants are tended to financially upon your passing. It could be full life cover that you take out, that will see you covered right up until the day you pass. Or, it could be term life cover that you take out, that will generally see you covered for between ten and thirty years. The point is, you must take some sort of insurance out on your life.

No matter how invincible you may think you are, the truth is you're not. And because you're not invincible, and because you don't want your hard earned money falling into the wrong hands after your passing, you need to take out life insurance.

Plan, plan, plan

The final thing that you should be doing when stabilising your financial future is planning. Specifically, you should make plans regarding where your outgoings are going, and how they can be cut down. You should make plans regarding how you're going to spend and save your incomings. You should make plans regarding how you're going to manage all of your bank and savings accounts in the future. And you should make plans regarding any investments you may or may not make in the future, such as real estate investments. If this all sounds a bit too much for you, then make sure to enlist the help of a professional wealth investment and/or financial advisor, such as Partridge Muir & Warren. They would assist you in planning all of the aspects of financial planning above, and they would de-jargon all the complicated legal terms that you would have to face as they did so.

You could be in your twenties or thirties. You could even be in your teens. The point is, you're never too young to stabilise your finances. So, get saving, get insuring, get planning and get stabilising today, no matter how old you may be! When you do so, you'll be sure to live a comfortable and sustainable life.

*collaborative post

Is Your Home Winter Ready?

You know that winter has arrived when talk of Christmas begins! The festive season will soon be upon us, and if your home is not winter ready, it may not be the pleasant time that you are anticipating. With that in mind, read on to find out whether your house is prepared for winter and, if not, what you can do about it.

Is heat escaping through the chimney? If you have a fireplace that you don’t use, it could be resulting in a significant amount of heat loss. Of course, it’s understandable that you may not want to board up the fireplace, but this is not the only solution. You can actually get chimney balloons, which are fire resistant (good news if you forget about it and set a fire!) and they keep out cold air effectively.

How heavy are your curtains? If you merely have drapes or light curtains, it’s definitely time for a change. Did you know that roughly 40 per cent of heat escapes from your property due to uncovered windows? By investing in heavier, lined curtains, you can prevent this from happening, as you will limit where hot air can get out and ensure your windows are properly insulated. Plus, you will stop the icy winter breeze from getting in too.

Is your boiler in good condition? Worryingly, two in three households have never had their boilers serviced. If you are guilty of this, you should definitely make sure your boiler is working sooner rather than later. If your boiler is old, there is a very high chance that it is going to be inefficient. This is because, over time, boilers start to lose pressure.

Have you bled your radiators recently? One way to make your home comfortable and warm during the winter is to bleed your radiators regularly. When air gets into your radiator system, it can stop it from being filled with water. The trapped air will be released once you bleed the radiator, ensuring it runs more efficiently.

Have you cleared your gutters? If you have not cleared your gutters yet, your home is definitely not quite winter ready. One of the great things about gutters is that they get rainwater off your roof. Your gutters won’t be able to do this if they are blocked. There are some clear signs that your gutters need clearing, for example, if there is any discolouration on your walls or if the rainwater goes down the side of your property. It is important to get this dealt with as soon as possible, as water results in damp and mould, which can have a negative impact on your health.

Have you got a smart meter? If you don’t have a smart meter, now would be a great time to purchase one. Smart meters enable you to be more in the know about your heating system. You will get to grips with how much it is costing you to heat your property. Smart meters show you how much electricity and gas you are using in money terms, as well as how much energy you are using. It’s an excellent way to make sure you are using your heating efficiently and save some money in the process too.

Have you checked your oil tank yet? If you have an oil central heating system, the oil will be stored in a tank. It is up to you to monitor your usage. If your oil is running low, it would be a good idea to place an order for cheap heating oil sooner rather than later. After all, you don’t want to run the risk of running out!

Are your hot water pipes insulated? Winter months are when your hot water pipes are most at risk of a burst, which could be a disaster. Plus, most homeowners don’t know whether their pipes are insulated correctly or not. You can insulate your pipes yourself by using lagging, which will be available in any DIY shop. It doesn’t cost a lot, and not only will it prevent a burst pipe, but it could also save you some money every year by reducing heating loss.

Is your roof insulated? Last but not least, there are too many homes that are not taking the correct measures to make sure they are properly insulated. It is estimated that one in every four properties lose heat through the roof. Investing in loft insulation is one of the best ways to cut this heat loss.

*collaborative post