Archives for posts with tag: Friends

Yesterday evening we visited my in-laws, where we ate home-made apple & cream sponge (thank you very much to my sister-in-law, Karen). My husband’s parents had returned from their holidays, during which they visited the Imperial War Museum. They brought us back these amusing postcards; needless to say, I am finding them very useful as motivational phrases for my quest to curb my spending.

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So, budgeting is no new concept. In fact, during the World Wars, women had a tough time with very little money for cosmetics and limited access to fashion clothing. I’m not suggesting that we all cover our legs in gravy rather than spending money on tights, but there must be some tips we can glean from reading about these wonderful wartime beauties.

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To combat the rather masculine style of
“Utility Clothing’’, introduced by the government as functional and cost effective options, women sought other ways to feel pretty. Hair and make-up became a way of expressing one’s femininity with more elaborate styles coming into fashion. Hats were thought to be too great an expense. However bows and ribbons, made from fabric remnants, were worn instead.

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I’m not usually one for elaborate hairstyles. However, I was due to attend a wedding on Saturday evening and, due to the exhaust fiasco (which, by the way, cost us £136!), I didn’t have time to wash my hair. I got home, dug out the hairspray and started backcombing franticly. I’m no stranger to a bit of backcombing as my hair tends to need a little encouragement on the day between hair washes, but this was a whole other level. I shaped my tresses into an almost bee-hive style at the front, and then started to pin curl some of the lengths. I didn’t really expect the curls to stay put, but I was surprised at how simple they were to create, and how easy they were to secure.

I arrived at the wedding feeling glamourous, despite my thrown-together outfit and my mad dash in the rain. I got lots of great compliments on my hair too, which is always a good boost to the confidence.

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I had a clear out a month or so ago and stumbled across a gift voucher I had received for my birthday last August. It was for a prescriptive Jessica manicure, and the expiry date was 8/8/11.

For weeks, I kept meaning to phone and book the appointment, but I wanted my nails to be nice BEFORE the appointment, so as to make the most off the pampering opportunity. Unfortunately, my nails are weak, and very rarely in good condition and, to quote one of my favourite films, “my nail-beds suck!”.

Last week, I stumbled across the unused voucher again and realised that the expiration date was fast approaching. I phoned the Balmoral Spa and practically begged them for an appointment. Fortunately, they had availability this afternoon. So off I went to be preened and pampered.

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The spa was very tranquil, and the manicure well executed. I chose a lovely coral colour called Juicy Melon (!) for the varnish. The finish is lovely, I just hope they last!

So tonight, here’s my tip: A voucher is only great if you use it. Be it a gift or a discount voucher, you’ve got to make sure you book it early. Groupon, Living Social, KGB Deals or Itison all have amazing deals but only if you take the time to USE them (will post more on this subject soon).

I’m heading to bed early tonight, and intend to get a good eight hours rest every night this week. I’m working on planning my meals and being organised to… you guessed it, save more money! Wish me luck.

Man make fire

Yesterday, I returned from a camping trip for my lovely friend Janine’s 30th birthday. Janine her husband, sister and closest friends all ventured north for bonfire & barbecue fun on the beach.

I’ve mentioned before that I think this is a fantastic way to spend a birthday, saving money rather than splurging on a party in a hired venue. J’s in-laws have a static caravan up north so a quite few folk slept indoors, whilst the remainder (including me & my husband) pitched our tent for the night.

We picnicked in the sunshine on the way up, just near Bruar and then continued up to Forres, a town just before Findhorn, to buy our barbecue goodies. We all put £10 in the kitty for the food, which turned out to be far too much so we got £5 back (score!).

The evening was spent collecting wood and building the bonfire at Findhorn sand dunes. The boys had a great time making fire and keeping it lit. In fact they got so carried away that they brought back a whole felled tree, which didn’t exactly fit in the bonfire, given that nobody had brought an axe!

It was a lovely night and a great way to celebrate J’s birthday.

Sunset over Findhorn Sands

The expensive part came on Saturday. My husband & I only planned to stay the one night so we headed back around about lunchtime. We weren’t even on the road for half an hour before we heard a rattle, and then just seconds later, the clank of the exhaust. Oh dear.

I have AA membership through my bank (that’s Automobile Association rather that Alcoholics Anonymous to those not in the UK – this story isn’t going to take that strange a tangent!) but I didn’t have the number on me. I tried to look it up on my mobile but there was no reception. Eek!

Luckily, a passing contractor pulled over to see if we were okay. He looked under the car & secured the exhaust to the tow bar loop with cable ties, which he explained would melt once the exhaust got warm, but he offered to show us the way to Frank’s Garage, who would be able to sort us out in the meantime.

Frank’s was all you would expect of a garage based in rural North East Scotland. A man of very few words directed us onto the ramp and secured it with thick copper wire instead. He didn’t charge us anything and said it should hold for the 3 hour journey home.

We’ll have to take the car to the local garage on Monday. Fingers crossed they’ll just be able to reattach the exhaust and that there’s nothing wrong with the exhaust itself- could be pricy!

So my money saving tip today is… Don’t own a car unless you really have to! We’ve already spent over £700 this year on maintaining our car (new brakes & tyres), not to mention £385 on insurance and more ££s on road tax. It’s really expensive, and strictly speaking, we don’t NEED it. But it has dramatically improved our quality of life, and allowed us to go camping for our holidays in July. Sigh. I fear it may have to go if the bills keep coming in at this rate.

My next post will be more up-beat, as I will be typing with my freshly manicured digits. Watch this space.

… make chocolate & lime cupcakes. I made these chocolaty delights yesterday after finding the recipe on the BBC Good Food website. The recipe is for ‘easy chocolate cupcakes’, I added the lime twist based on the old-fashioned sweets Chocolate Limes. This recipe is extremely easy to follow, but I felt it was just a little too chocolaty for me so made a few adjustments. If you love bitter chocolate then go for the higher measurements on the cocoa and plain chocolate, if you like your chocolate sweet, then use the lower measurements or switch to milk chocolate instead of plain. My adaptation is as follows:

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Preheat to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4. This mix makes approx 10 muffins or 24 cupcakes.

For the cakes:

  • 100g plain chocolate , blitzed into small chunks in a food processor (don’t use one with a high cocoa content)
  • 200g self-raising flour (a little extra may be required)
  • 200g light muscovado sugar
  • 2-4 tbsp cocoa to taste (I used 4 tbsp of Green & Black’s cocoa and it was VERY chocolaty!)
  • 150 ml sunflower oil , plus a little extra for greasing
  • 100 ml soured cream
  • 2 eggs (keep ’em free-range folks!)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • zest of 1-2 limes
  • juice of 1 lime
For the chocolate topping:
  • 60-100g plain chocolate , blitzed into small chunks in a food processor (don’t use one with a high cocoa content, adjust to taste)
  • 3 tbsp light muscovado sugar
  • 2-3 tbsp sour cream
To finish:
Sieve the flour and cocoa and add the sugar. Beat the eggs and add the other wet ingredients (sunflower oil, vanilla extract, lime juice & zest and sour cream) then gradually fold into the dry ingredients. Add the blitzed chocolate chunks and mix well. At this stage I found the mixture a little bit too runny so I added about 4-5 tbsp self raising flour. The consistency should be sticky rather than runny; it should spoon into the cupcake cases rather than pour. Pop on the oven for about 20 minutes. The cakes are done when you can insert a cocktail stick into them and it comes out (just about) clean. Leave them to cool on a wire rack.
Gently heat all of the ingredients for the chocolate topping in a small saucepan until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes. Pour a teaspoon of the topping onto the cupcake and sprinkle the crushed chocolate limes on top. Unfortunately I couldn’t seem to find chocolate limes in the shops, so I used lime zest to decorate instead. There are a number of online retailers that sell chocolate limes, including chocolatebuttons.co.uk.
I have made a stash of these for a birthday party this weekend, which brings me to my little money saver this evening. My good friend Janine is celebrating her 30th birthday on Friday, and rather than having an expensive bash, she’s invited a few of her nearest and dearest to her favourite spot in Scotland, a little village called Findhorn, on the north east coast for a beach party and camping. Okay, maybe it isn’t everyone’s idea of fun, but camping out makes weekend trips so much more affordable and flexible. My husband and I are heading up for one night, whilst others are there for a long weekend.
Luckily I love camping, and might just borrow this idea for my own birthday celebrations. And when life hands you lemons…

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I’m writing this post from the Spiegel Garden, which is part of the Edinburgh Jazz Festival. The atmosphere here is buzzing; lively crowds of twentysomethings sitting in scattered groups on the (plastic) grass, whilst others sit at picnic benches chatting intently with the sound of the bass coming from one of the three performance tents. The excitement of the Edinburgh festival is creeping in, happily egged on by five days of sunshine.

This is far from my most frugal evening. We’re seeing the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble play later, and at £16 a ticket, this is definitely more pricy than a cheap evening in front of the telly with a frozen pizza in the oven, but it is definitely possible to enjoy the jazz festival on a budget. As I look around me, there are plenty people with a drink in their hand, but there are quite a few without too. It’s free entry to the garden, and if you’re happy not to drink, or to nurse a half pint like I am, then it’s actually a pretty well priced (or even free!) taste of Edinburgh Jazz.

It’s the same scenario during the Edinburgh Fringe. It’s great fun (and free!) to just wander around town, soaking up the atmosphere, watching the street performers, perusing the stalls… and on a lovely warm evening like tonight, it’s perfect.

Sadly my iPhone battery died before I could finish uploading. The gig was awesome, I will post about it tomorrow. G’night!

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Today I joined Twitter. I’m still to decide how I feel about it. After spending hours setting up an account and fluttering through the giant birdcage that is Twitter, I feel like I have achieved very little. I have wished Daniel Radcliffe a happy birthday in hopes of getting it to ‘trend’, gathered 3 followers and lost 1 already.

Not a very fruitful afternoon. And it’s sunny outside! Here in Scotland, sunny days are hard to come by, so I really should be making the most of it. At least I managed to get the washing hung out in the garden.

My money saving tip today was to talk my darling hubby out of going out to dinner. I’m sure we can find something good to make at home at just a fraction of the cost. I did my supermarket shop online today as well, so at least I’m practicing what I preach! It’s being delivered on Monday night. Also, we’re going fishing this evening (off the harbour), so if we catch anything, that’s free food!

Nobody has visited my blog today, I’m guessing it’s because it’s the weekend. So I thought I’d try a bit of reverse psychology and tell people NOT to read this post. Sorry if you thought it would be more interesting. A post like this is very much a result of a very sleepy me! Happy Saturday!

In other news… I had the best night last night, chilling with my bestest lady friends. Gossip and food fest are just the best Friday night activities…. This morning I tried Chocolate Sugar Puffs, they kinda just taste like Sugar Puffs but they turn the milk brown…. The chilli plant has been repotted and is settling into it’s new home nicely!… The big batch of soup from the allotment is nearly finished, fortunately father-in-law has kindly donated another turnip from his allotment to go into the next batch!

Morning! So I’ve got that Friday feeling, which only happens to me once a month as I work alternate weekends (and on my other weekend off I’m off the Friday as well – yay!). I’m pretty excited today as I’m going to a friends house after work for dinner and movies and gossip! There will be five of my oldest friends, we’ve known each other since before high school so there’s always plenty to catch up on.

My husbands always moaning that he doesn’t have enough money to meet up and hang out with friends. He seems to think that he MUST meet his friends in the pub and that he MUST order several beers. I disagree. Some of my favourite days/nights socialising in the last year have been at home or at friends houses.

My friends and I have revived ‘the sleepover’, and could happily spend the night chattering away, watching movies, and, of course, eating junk food! I should state now that we are all in our late 20s (very late, 30 is looming!), so we probably should have grown out of sleepovers by now, but we would all argue that it’s one of the cheapest and most relaxed way of socialising around.

We’ve done pot luck dinners (everybody makes a course so there’s plenty for everyone and nobody has to shell out on the cost), ladies that lunch (we all got our glad rags on and made lunch and afternoon tea – it was awesome!), barbecues, even breakfasts! It’s all been at someone’s house, on the cheap!

Don’t get me wrong, I love a night out too! But there’s nothing worse than going on a night out when your skint, worrying about spending money you know you shouldn’t be spending, especially when others are egging you on – ‘Go on, have another drink!’. Frugal times are best spent with frugal friends at home!

In other news, I have started reading the Harry Potter books again from the start (the end of the movies has left a huge gap in my life, until the box set is out of course!). Also, and this is the best thing, I think I might get paid today. Here’s hoping! Will check my balance on the way to work. It’s been a tough month money-wise, so this pay-check is most welcome!