Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Liberty London freebies

Just a quick post while I remember...
It's not very obvious on their website, but Liberty have a free loyalty card with some very good benefits. It's not a credit/debit card, just a rewards type card. I rarely shop there but do like to pop in for a browse – I love the creaky floors and how things are laid out, most things are 'touchable' and not hidden behind glass – but they still send me emails, the latest one was a £15 voucher. No minimum spend, no catches, so I'm off to have a guilt-free shop today and take in the Christmas lights.

Other emails I've received are for discounts and previews (often with snacks and a glass of bubbly). If you want to sign up, this is the link.

Image by VeRoNiK@ GR

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

I saw Mummy kissing Santa Claus

Last Friday was K's childminder's Christmas party and Mr unwittingly got roped into playing the part of Santa. He knew he was being lined up for the role so when he was asked to do it he replied that he would love to (liar!) but unfortunately he had no holiday left and wouldn't be able to get the time off work. When told that the party was actually in the evening he couldn't back out of it.

Mr brought home the suit he was given and tried it on after K had gone to bed. I don't know about wanting to kiss Santa Claus (I'm not a lover of beards, no not even on you Brad Pitt) but I did cry with laughter. I was forbidden from taking a photo because "it will be on Facebook in 5 minutes" but here is one of him and K at the party.

We wondered if K would recognise him – she didn't, but she kept staring at him as if something was familiar – and although Mr did a superb job of dishing out presents to around 30 kids, all high on a cocktail of cake and soft drinks, I don't think he'll be volunteering again in a hurry. I've not seen him so desperate for a beer in a while.

On Monday we took the train to Brighton to meet a friend and her daughter. We decided to go to the grotto at Churchill Square and after queuing for 45 minutes with only a couple of animatronic bears for distraction, and a last minute dash to the loo with accompanying tantrum, we were ushered in by an elf. On entering the grotto I was taken aback at how young Santa was. I was expecting a rosy-cheeked old man but what we got was a sullen 20-something. The girls didn't seem to mind and were happy with the book they were given but I refused to pay another £5 on top of the £5 to get in just for a photo of K with the student Santa. Bah humbug! Next year I'm going to get organised and get tickets for one of the big London department stores instead. Or as Mr suggested, if you can charge those kind of prices, and with his Santa experience under his belt, maybe we should set up our own!

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Free drinks! Coca-Cola's designated driver scheme

This initiative is a great one for rewarding those who opt to be the designated driver over Christmas (and being pregnant means you are always the designated driver). Simply use this pub finder to see which pubs and bars are participating in the scheme – there are over 8000 to choose from – and when you buy one Coke or Diet Coke you will get a token for another one for free.

The scheme runs over the festive season from the 9th to 31st December and is part of an ongoing partnership with the Department for Transport’s Driver Friendly campaign to encourage responsible driving at a time when there is a lot of celebrating going on. Last year Coca-Cola gave away 1 million free drinks!

If you'd like to find out more, there is a video here which explains the scheme and its backing by the government (worth watching if only to see David Miliband awkwardly looking like he has never been in a pub before). For full terms and conditions take a look at the Coca-Cola website.

Disclaimer: This isn't a sponsored post, however I've been promised a mystery festive treat from Coca-Cola, I  have no idea what it is, hopefully not a CD of 'Holidays are coming'

Monday, 5 December 2011

Christmas gift wrapping on a budget

I see every pound saved on wrapping paper and ribbon as a pound that can be put towards presents, after all the paper just ends up in the recycling bin and has a very short life span. Of course I still want my gifts to look lovely and there are ways to do this on a budget...

Do what my Gran did and reuse your old wrapping paper. She'd be sat there on Christmas day smoothing out the wrinkles from pieces of paper that were a good size to reuse. This may be a bit drastic, and I can't say I'd do it, but I do keep gift bags to reuse and the odd fancy ribbon.

Make your own tags. I wrote a post here about upcycling your Christmas cards as gift tags. It only takes a few minutes to do before they go in the recycling, it costs nothing and they look as good as shop bought ones.

Buy your wrapping paper and ribbon in the January sales. After Christmas the last thing you want to be doing is trawling the shops looking at yet more Christmas stuff, but you can really pick up a bargain. Last year I bought lots of lovely Paperchase stuff for half-price and the supermarkets almost give it away. Stock up, stash it away in the loft or a cupboard and you'll be prepared for next time.

Buy supermarket budget paper and give it a makeover. Do check how much you are getting on a roll though, they can vary from about 2 metres long to 5 metres+. I bought some for just 15p a roll in Tesco this week. It still looks pretty, does the job and where I saved money on the wrapping I bought a box of 10 wooden reindeer decorations (£1) to add on with the tags and some ribbon. Hopefully the reindeer will be kept and reused on the tree next year.

I also love this look from 33 Shades of Green. If you splash out on some really nice paper you can stretch it a bit further by using strips as a feature against a budget paper background.

Don't wrap conventionally. Instead of placing the gift to be wrapped square to the rectangle of paper, turn the paper 45 degrees so that it's a diamond shape and bring the corners into the middle. Strangely you can wrap with less paper this way.

Use newspaper. Ok, maybe not The Sun (unless you fancy incorporating page 3 for adolescent nephews), but if you can get your hands on some foreign newsprint it looks great with a bit of ribbon and a rubber-stamped tag. Try Chinese supermarkets for free papers.
This lovely example is from The Patchwork Dress

Go Japanese. Technically not a budget way to wrap, but Furoshiki is perfect if you plan to give something that is fabric, e.g. a silk scarf, which can be used to wrap another gift. There is a good tutorial video on Recycle Now.

Get your little helpers in. Some big sheets of cheap paper, some paint and some little handprints or potato prints makes wrapping paper that Grandparents will find adorable. And it should keep your kids amused for a while.

This is the first post in the 2012 Christmas homemade advent bloghop hosted by Snafflesmummy. There's a new link to a crafty blog post every day (like a little bloggy advent calendar), so do take a look :)
Also linked Thrifty Families Blog Carnival at A Thrifty Mum.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Art frame by The Handpicked Collection {review}

At first glance, the catalogue that I received from The Handpicked Collection looked well out of my budget, but having perused it I found that amongst the high end and very beautiful gifts were plenty of affordable ones that would make great presents.
I chose the Children's Art File & Frame (£19.95 for a double) to review. It can store multiple A4 pictures and 3D artwork by simply inserting them in a slot at the top of the frame, great for decluttering. There is no glass so it would be safe for a child's room and the best thing is that you don't have to take it off the wall when you want to change the picture. I'm looking forward to stashing K's masterpieces neatly away in it; at the moment they are either stuck on the fridge, hidden in a ring binder or *whispers* in the recycling bin. It's also available in a single and triple frame.

Here are a few of my favourite items under £10:

Bunny ring holder (£6.95)
A cute little bunny for storing your rings on.

Bird apple feeder (£4.95).
Lovely, simple design, easy to fill, good for adults or kids

Heart hole punch (£9.95)
Punches 2 hearts instead of the usual boring holes. This would make doing my accounts a tiny bit more bearable.

The Handpicked Collection is definitely worth a look for some unusual gift ideas that have been selected by an expert panel. The only drawback I've found is that their stock levels are hit and miss (I received an email on Monday to say the Bunny ring holder was in stock, but as I write this it's now out of stock again).

If you order via Quidco you'll also get 10% cashback. You can find The Handpicked Collection here.

I was sent the frame free of charge for the review, all opinions expressed are my own.


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