Tuesday, 21 August 2018

HOME & LIFESTYLE | HOW TO SAVE WATER AROUND YOUR HOME

I can't believe it's been a month already since I started the water saving challenge with Yorkshire Water! If you missed the previous posts, Yorkshire Water challenged me to try and save water around the home just by changing my daily habits ever so slightly which I've actually found fairly easy which surprised me!


The 4 Minute Shower - This was the one that I thought I'd find the most challenging but it was, in fact, a lot easier than I thought. I honestly think the only reason why I was spending longer in the shower was because I wasn't thinking about water consumption but as soon as it was at the forefront of my mind, miraculously, I was able to do things far quicker! If you order a water saving pack from Yorkshire Water it actually comes with a little egg timer that you can stick on the tiles so remind you of the time you've got.

Making Hot Drinks - I used to fill the kettle with way more water than I actually needed which actually meant that I ended up tipping away some of the water because, I don't know about you, I won't use water that's been stood in a kettle overnight because I'm convinced it's stale or full of limescale. So now I use the mug I'm going to drink out of to actually put the water into the kettle so I'm only putting in exactly what I need. Not only does this save me water, it also saves on electricity because naturally, a kettle with a lot less water in takes less time to boil.

Doing the Laundry - Being on my own I don't use my washing machine every day but what I was guilty of was washing twice a week, only filling it half full of clothes before I turned it on. This was obviously a totally unnecessary waste of water and I've found it surprisingly easy to wait until I've got a full load to actually turn the washer on. I have plenty of clothes so it's not as if I've been without clean clothes to wear and I can imagine that cutting down to one wash per week on average that I've cut down my average daily water usage by quite a bit!

Watering the Garden - Just before I started this challenge I bought a sprinkler because my garden was looking so yellow, sad and dead because it had been so relentlessly hot in the UK. However, Yorkshire Water recommend that you don't use a sprinkler or a hose pipe to water your garden because it's hard to control the water you're using. I actually haven't watered my garden at all during the past month and because we finally got some cooler weather with some rain showers it's not actually doing too bad now. If you do want to water your garden, the best thing to do is use a watering can so you know how much water you're using. Alternatively you could invest in a water butt which recycles rain water which can be used for watering the plants/grass. Another little tip is to Leave your grass a little bit longer which helps it to stay greener as the sun doesn't scorch it whereas shorter grass tends to go yellow quicker as it burns.

Washing up while the water is hot - This was the most challenging part of the whole month. I used to fill the washing up bowl with hot water and leave the pots to 'soak' for what I thought was 5/10 minutes when it actually turned into more like 40 minutes by the time I'd plonked myself on the sofa and forgotten about them. Obviously this meant that the water was cold by the time I got to it and no use for washing the dishes in. So over the past month I've stopped the laziness and I've been doing the washing as soon as I've put the water in the bowl - not once have I tipped it down the sink and refilled it. I'm quite proud of myself actually *insert smug emoji*

So there's 5 tried and tested tips on how to save water in your home. It's not a case of making massive changes, it's just a few little tweaks to bring your daily water consumption down. Although we have had a little bit of cooler weather in the past month we still haven't had enough rain so just by reducing your water usage a little bit, collectively we can make a big difference to the impact on water sources around Yorkshire. Not only would you be helping the environment, if you're on a water meter you could also be saving yourselves some money which, with Christmas in the not so distant future, should come in handy!

*post in collaboration with Yorkshire Water

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Monday, 20 August 2018

LIFESTYLE | 5 THINGS TO DO WHEN YOU'VE GOT A BIT OF 'ME' TIME

Just recently, I've heard/seen a few people say that they've had time to themselves but had no idea what to do with it which I guess is a symptom of how stupidly busy we all seem to be nowadays especially when you really start to adult keeping small humans alive etc. etc. We're all juggling one thing and another but it's SO important to actually take a step back now and again and actually enjoy the 'spare time' we have rather than using it as an opportunity to 'get stuff done'.

Stop worrying about that bit of ironing that needs doing, get rid of the guilt and look after yourself for once because everyone deserves some time to concentrate on themselves:

Get comfortable, sit down and enjoy a drink - How many times do you actually make yourself a drink then actually sit down and drink it. Your me time can be as simple as changing into some comfy pyjamas, making yourself a drink and actually sitting down to enjoy it.


Pyjama Bottoms £20.00 Hunkemöller*

Look after yourself - This can be as simple as having a bath, putting on a face mask, painting your nails, giving your hair a deep conditioning treatment or even shaving your legs. If you're so preoccupied with looking after everything and everyone else you are naturally going to suffer one way or another. I'm not suggesting that looking good is the answer to feeling good but just spending some time concentrating on your own body can be so therapeutic.

Start a bullet journal - I've loved writing since I was little, so much of my money would be spent on new notebooks and stationery and nothing has changed now aside from the fact that bullet journalling has become a thing. If you're not familiar with bullet journalling it's basically described as the 'analogue system for a digital age'; it's a place where you can get organised (or pretend to, in my case), record your thoughts, learn about yourself, set goals and even doodle if that kind of thing takes your fancy. I'm obsessed with pinning bullet journal ideas on Pinterest which is where I get most of my ideas from so have a look on there, grab yourself a fresh new notebook, some colourful pens and pencils and get bullet journalling!

Watch something on catch up - Busy lives often mean that we get home from a day of running around chasing your tail to grab something to eat and just flop straight into bed meaning that before you know it, you've missed out on your favourite TV series or that drama that you really wanted to watch. You don't necessarily have to do this through a paid for service like Netflix; BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 all have dedicated catch up sites where there's hundreds of episodes to watch. There's even older classic box sets on the Channel 4 on demand website like The Inbetweeners and Green Wing so there's bound to be something for everyone.

Text/ring somebody you've not spoken to in ages - Friends and extended family are among some of the casualties of a busy life because we just 'forget' to get in touch with them. One week rolls into the next and before you know it, it's been 2/3 months since you've spoken to some of your friends and family. We are all guilty of this at some point in our lives I think. Rather than worrying about them being annoyed out the fact that you've not been in touch just remember that they're probably in a very similar position to you and hearing from you might be just the pick-me-up they need that day.

There are so many more things you can do with a bit of me time but the most important thing for me is to actually make sure you allow me time. Don't feel guilty; look after number one for once.

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Tuesday, 14 August 2018

TRAVEL | 5 PLACES YOU NEED TO VISIT FOR A ROMANTIC GETAWAY

Travelling has always been a huge love of mine and over the past few years and I think that getting away with your boyfriend/girlfriend is definitely one of the best things you can do to spend some quality time together. I personally like to go places where there are things to do and see should you wish to go exploring; I'm not keen on just laying in the sun, I love to get out and about to see some of the local sights and culture so I tend to choose places that have plenty to keep me occupied for a week or so:

kelly-springs-apopka

Orlando, Florida
I am personally a huge Disney and Universal fan and I think they're perfect places to spend time with your significant other, especially if you enjoy a thrill ride or two however, you'd be forgiven for thinking that Orlando was a holiday just for kids and Disney fanatics but there's so much more to the area than the theme parks; there are some real natural gems in the Orlando area that are perfect for exploring on a romantic getaway such as Kelly Springs which has a natural 'lazy river' that you can float down as well as BBQ areas to enjoy something to eat while you're there.!

new-york-at-christmas

New York, New York
I guess you could say this is kind of a cliche couples holiday; proposing at the top of the empire state building and whatnot but New York truly is one of the most amazing places you'll ever visit. Don't get me wrong, it can be a very tiring break away but you'll come back with so many memories (and probably a shedload of insta-worthy photos). My personal favourite is to visit New York at Christmas because not only do you get to see all the usual sights but everything looks better with Christmas lights all over, right? You'll need to wrap up because the weather won't always be on your side but I personally can totally overlook the weather just to experience a horse and carriage ride around Central Park.

kefalonia-beach

Kefalonia, Greece
Greek islands in general are among my favourite holiday destinations but I enjoyed Kefalonia in particular because it's a quiet island with lots of different beaches to explore and because the southern beaches are known to be nesting habitats for loggerhead turtles you can see some real natural beauty while you're there. Although the habitats are heavily protected, you might be able to catch a glimpse of a turtle in Argostoli Harbour at around 11am when they go to looking for food from the fishermen bringing in the morning catch.

Maldives-beach

The Maldives
For me, the Maldives is the ultimate destination for a romantic getaway just due to it's relaxing and tranquil nature. There are so many absolutely stunning places to stay with white sandy beaches nearby and private pools and if you're looking for something a little different while you're there, there's plenty of opportunity to go on some exciting trips and excursions: you can even choose to be stranded on your own island for a day! It doesn't always have to be super expensive to visit the Maldives either; Destination2 have lots of different options to suit all budgets on their website www.destination2.co.uk so you should be able to find something within reach without compromising on luxury.

venice-gondola-ride

Venice, Italy
One of the most romantic things to do is take a gondola ride through the Venetian canals while you admire the beautiful architecture of Venice. I find the place itself absolutely fascinating how everything is built around a labyrinth of waterways! The cuisine has always tempted me as well with all the freshest seafood and fish on offer and who could resist some proper fresh Italian gelato?!


Where would be your destination of choice for a perfect romantic getaway?

*collaborative post
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Tuesday, 7 August 2018

FOOD & DRINK | DOES LOW CALORIE ICE CREAM ACTUALLY TASTE LIKE ICE CREAM?

Low calorie ice cream seems to be one of the latest things to hit the UK from across the pond, with a few different brands popping up offering seemingly 'low calorie' ice cream meaning you can eat the whole tub and feel relatively no guilt. Now I wanted to put a couple of these to the test because I had my doubts as to whether a low calorie ice cream would taste as good as a 'normal' ice cream. 

If you like ice cream then it'll be pretty easy to plough through a tub this size in one sitting especially if ice cream is your go-to comfort food when you're fancying a treat. If you were to do this with a tub of Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Fudge Brownie this would mean that you had consumed 855 calories which is nearly half of your recommended daily calorie intake *insert shocked emoji here*. I was genuinely shocked by that and you can tell why Ben & Jerry's don't shout about the 'calories per tub' like these brands do...

low-calorie-ice-cream

To be totally honest before I met Kev I never really ate ice cream but since being with him we've often bought a tub as a treat. However, we quickly realised that the treats were becoming a little too frequent so we needed a lower calorie alternative. 

We decided to pick up a couple of tubs of two different brands of low calorie ice cream; both brands seemed to have a full range of ice cream flavours at under 400 calories per tub. Both brands claim to be high in protein and lower in sugar which naturally you would assume as the calorie content is pretty much half of what is in Ben & Jerry's. 

Because I can't seem to make a decision, Kev chose the flavours. Breyers seem to stick to a more 'traditional' range so from theirs he picked up classic chocolate and mint chocolate chip and from Halo Top, who have a slightly wider range of flavours with non-dairy options as well; he meant to pick up chocolate and salted caramel but picked up cinnamon bun by mistake *insert eye-roll emoji*

halo-top-ice-cream


So first of all let's have a look at Halo Top: out of the two the packaging has a more premium feel than the Breyers tubs both in colours and design and also for the fact that they have a foil lid whereas the Breyers tubs don't.

Calories-wise the chocolate comes out at 10 more than the Breyers chocolate and the tub is actually 473ml rather than Breyers which is the usual 500ml and let's look at the full breakdown of nutritional values in comparison:

Nutritional Values Per Tub
Breyers Chocolate 
(500ml)
Halo Top Chocolate (473ml)
Calories
310
320 
Sugar
22g
22.4g
Protein
20g
19.6g
Fat
8.4g
10.8g
Salt
0.44g
1.12g

The values are pretty similar, although you are getting 27ml less ice cream in a tub of Halo Top than Breyers so that's something to remember. I did wonder whether they'd pack this low calorie ice cream full of artificial sweeteners but thankfully, both brands use Stevia, an organic sweetener which softens the blow somewhat but I can't find any information about specifically how much sweetener is used in each of these tubs. 

Anyway, onto the taste test...

breyers-low-calorie-ice-cream

On first impressions, Halo Top is easier to scoop from the tub whereas Breyers is spoon-bendingly hard to get out unless you leave it to melt for a little while on the kitchen side; I did wonder whether this was due to a lack of something that higher calorie ice creams usually have - maybe more cream or something. 

I'm going to compare chocolate on taste because that seems like the fairest way to truly tell which one I prefer. To me, Breyers looks more appetising because it's a darker brown colour whereas Halo Top is surprisingly light brown and looks are not deceiving in this case because I actually prefer Breyers chocolate and here's why:

Halo Top chocolate ice cream (and the cinnamon bun one, actually) tastes quite powdery in my opinion; it doesn't have that creamy texture that you expect from ice cream, and the chocolate flavour isn't very strong at all. The cinnamon bun flavour does have more flavour to it but that's possibly because cinnamon is a naturally stronger taste so it comes through more easily. Cinnamon bun also has some cookie-dough-like pieces through it which did make it taste slightly better but in all honesty cinnamon isn't my favourite flavour and I was a little gutted by my silly mistake (the tubs are very similar so make sure you double check the flavour before you buy!).

Breyers chocolate is a lot creamier and has far more flavour than Halo Top; it doesn't have that powdery texture at all and tastes a lot more like higher calorie ice cream. It is harder than the Halo Top as I mentioned earlier which means it's not as easy to scoop out but I can totally overlook this and use a stronger spoon for the sake of a better flavour payoff. The mint chocolate chip is also pretty amazing and has plenty of little chocolate chips in it; it's whiter than you usually find mint chocolate chip ice cream, presumably because they haven't used artificial colourings to make it green but it's still a really minty, enjoyable ice cream.

Both ice creams currently £5 per tub in Tesco but you can often find them on offer. You can also buy both brands in Asda and Sainsbury's. I would personally recommend Breyers out of the two and I can definitely say that this low calorie ice cream definitely tastes as good as calorific ice cream. 


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Friday, 3 August 2018

HOME & LIFESTYLE | A LOOK INSIDE THE NEW JYSK STORE IN DONCASTER

If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram you might have seen that they've very recently opened a JYSK store in Doncaster and you'd be forgiven if you were left thinking 'what the heck is JYSK' because they are a fairly new retailer in the UK and at the moment they've got stores as far down the country as Coventry so if you're any further south than that you may have a little longer to wait before they open one near you! But all I can say to that is high five to the retailers who see some real potential in the north of England! Anyway, I digress...

JYSK is an international retailer who specialise in 'everything for the home' and the name 'JYSK' is actually meant to be said as it's spelt not as a series of letters; the word in Danish actually means 'anything or anybody from the Jutland Penisula' (mainland regions of Denmark) but more specifically it's associated with modesty, thoroughness and honesty. So when you're saying it just remember it's not J-Y-S-K it's JYSK.

The store they recently opened in Doncaster is their first 'Concept 3' store which means that it differs from existing stores in that it's more home and lifestyle led in the range of products. This is the first time I've ever been to a JYSK store though so I was excited to see what they had...



On first impressions the store isn't actually very big at all, I expected it to be a lot bigger especially as I expected lots of displays of the products and furniture in action. However, despite the size they've actually used the space really well and managed to showcase lots of their furniture whilst not overcrowding the place. They have everything from storage drawers, wardrobes and shelving to beds, sofas, dining sets and garden furniture; along with lots of other home accessories and essentials.

What I also noticed immediately was the price-point; everything seems very affordable but the quality doesn't seem compromised. The layout of the store suggests that the products would actually be more expensive than they are which makes a nice change! They have lots of opening offers on in store but even the 'normal' prices seemed very reasonable.


They have a whole section of the store dedicated to beds and mattresses which is separated off from the rest of the store to give it a more bedroom-y kind of feel. As you can see all the beds and mattresses are there for you to try out which is perfect because who wants to buy a mattress without trying it first?! I certainly wouldn't!


I couldn't help but absolutely love this VESTERVIG bunk bed even though I have zero use for it as I don't have any kids but it's absolutely perfect for anyone that does and again the price is so reasonable; for the frame PLUS mattresses for both the top and bottom bunk it's only £369; I would have loved something like this as a child!

As you can see behind the bed they have a range of wardrobes which are, again, all very reasonably priced and there was a darker wood triple wardrobe with mirror called the VEDDE which I had my eye on and it was just £225.



Another price I could not believe was these chairs; the grey fabric ones are only £45 and they are so sturdy; I've known similar ones be priced at double that if not more so if you're looking for an affordable dining set then I definitely recommend JYSK because you can mix and match the tables and the chairs. For example you could get the HALLUND table plus 4 of these type of chairs for just £255! Again, you can see how they've sectioned this bit of to be able to show lots of their products in-situ which is helpful for getting some inspiration.




Unsurprisingly, the sofas were also very affordable and I liked the way they used the available space to actually showcase what they look like paired with some of their other furniture because sometimes matching up different furniture is half the battle because I get stuck to know what will go with what.



Onto accessories and I can safely say that their bedding is the one; I was particularly drawn to that RINGSTIND printed duvet cover; it's 7.5 tog which is perfect for when the nights start to get a little cooler and a double is only £25.

Looking at the second photo, I absolutely love that they have the duvet covers on hangers so you can get a proper look at them and actually feel the texture. I hate having to buy bedding 'blind' as it were because although you can look at the pattern through the plastic, you never get a proper feel for it until you get it home and wash it. There's nothing more disappointing than finding that your pretty bedding is also scratchy bedding. Luckily, all the duvet covers I felt on the display were very soft and silky and again, you can't go wrong at the prices because they were mostly under £20 and they had some amazing geo patterns (we all know I love a geo pattern!)


There's a very good selection of cushions in store aswell with lots of different colour schemes and patters and you can also buy just the covers in some patterns which is perfect if, like me, you like to switch up your cushions now and again but you don't want to keep buying the cushions themselves. I particularly have my eye on the DUEHOE dark grey geometric cushion cover which is an absolute steal at only £3.




And onto the final part; bathroom bits (well I say final, the final bit that I'm going to cover in this post because otherwise it would be far too picture heavy!). They have a nice little selection of bathroom accessories and as you can see the glass soap dispensers caught my eye along with the matching toothbrush holders. They also had a great range of towels in different colours and sizes and surprise surprise they were very affordable at £9 for a bath sheet (I usually end up paying around £15), I also really like those guest towels in that last photo; the bit of pattern just makes them a little bit different to the norm; perfect for a downstairs toilet.

Wow, that post was long and I probably haven't covered half of what was actually in the store! Although I would love to see what a bigger store is like I am very impressed with their use of space in the Doncaster store; they've utilised it all very well without making it look too overcrowded. It'll definitely be a place I'll visit often to see what new bits they get in!

Do you have a JYSK near you?



*I was not paid to write this post, I simply asked permission to take photos and film in the store because y'know, ya girl needs something to do in her 6 weeks off


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Wednesday, 1 August 2018

OWNING A HOUSE| MONTHLY EXPENSES

Owning your first house is an absolute minefield because you never fully know what to expect especially when it comes to how much it's going to cost. I found that figuring out whether I could afford to live on my own with a mortgage was the main thing that actually worried me during the whole house buying process because I didn't really have a proper clue about what my monthly outgoings would be. 

Obviously I realise that everyone's will be slightly different and some of us will be in a better position than others with regards to monthly outgoings that we can't avoid due to being stuck in contracts etc. but I wanted to give you a rough idea of what you would need to think about when it comes to monthly expenses when you own your first home so here are my monthly 'non-negotiables' shall we say, basically the stuff that I can't avoid paying if I want to continue living in my house:


Mortgage - obviously the figure will differ massively depending on the house you're buying, how long the mortgage term is, how much deposit you're putting down but the bottom line is that this is probably going to be one of the biggest, if not the biggest expense every month.

Council Tax - again, the figure will differ depending on the size of your house and your local authority but it will probably be another fairly significant figure coming out of your account every month. Before buying a property you can check your council tax band on the government website or if you're buying a new build you'd have to ask any current residents on your development for an idea; they wouldn't be able to give you a definitive answer but you'd get a rough figure according to similar houses on the development.

Gas & Electricity - Clearly, the bigger your house and the more people living there, the bigger your utility bills are going to be and to be honest for the first few months you'll be billed based on estimations but you can get these estimations from your provider's website just by giving them a little bit of information about your daily habits. Your bills will eventually level out as they get a better understanding of your usage but do make sure you keep in touch with your provider to make sure you're on the best deal! Companies like USwitch can be really helpful if you are buying an existing build and for new build owners I would personally recommend staying with whoever the provider was before you bought the house if you're happy with the tariff because as I say it's very difficult to estimate if you've no idea of usage at all and they have no previous data from the house. Obviously the choice is totally yours but I just preferred to keep it as hassle free as possible when I moved in, I'm currently on a fixed tariff for both gas and electricity until February 2019 with British Gas but I will 100% be shopping around next year when the term is up!

Water - If you're buying a new build house then you'll definitely be on a water meter which means that you're charged for every drop you use. Some older houses don't have water meters and those who use a lot would probably benefit from the old system but if you are on a water meter you might want to look at some tips on how to save water so that you don't get any nasty shocks when the bill arrives. I'm not saying you should have a world war 2 fill line around the bath but a water meter definitely does make you think about the water you use. 

House Insurance - Another non-negotiable purely because your mortgage company will insist on this and you obviously want the peace of mind knowing that you'll be covered if anything does go wrong. Can be another slightly tricky one if you're a new build owner because postcodes aren't always recognised and some insurers won't insure on a property when they're unsure of the risk factors (fair enough I suppose) but again within a year or so Royal Mail should have indexed your address and you shouldn't have too much trouble when your renewal comes up. You could of course pay this in full if you have the spare cash but I personally pay monthly for mine. I have buildings and contents insurance, even though the only actual requirement for my mortgage is buildings, I figured it was sensible to get things covered in case of a break-in etc. 

Broadband & Phone Line - Not an absolute essential, some may say, but for me it's 100% on my non-negotiables list. I waited almost a month before I got it installed because they were rolling out fibre in my area and it was like my left arm had been chopped off (I say left because I'm left-handed). I went with BT and probably pay slightly over the odds for what I get (and I've had notification that it's going up! *eye roll*) but I prefer familiarity and reliability where possible and to be fair to them they were super efficient at getting my line connected etc. I do have (and pay for) a phone line but I don't have a phone connected to it - purely because I'd have no use for it. The purpose it would serve is to irritate me with junk phonecalls. 

TV Licence - I personally don't pay monthly for this, I paid the £150.50 yearly fee in full because I could afford to at the time and it brought my monthly financial commitments down slighty. But there are other ways to pay for your TV licence by spreading the cost over the year. Again, another non-negotiable if you watch live TV because it's a legal requirement. 

There are of course other personal costs that will be quite different from one person to another so I'll leave that for another post but there's my roundup of all the expenses you can expect when owning your first home. If you've got any questions please do tweet me or instagram message me and I'll do my best to help!

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