Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Slimming World - What I Ate in a Week (4lb Loss)

Not Sponsored/No Samples - I am not affiliated with or sponsored by Slimming World in any way. 


Hi!

A few people asked me to do this post over the past month, but to be honest there has never really been a week where I've stuck to the Slimming World plan 100%. This week was a much better week, I was down 4lbs (total of 11lbs since the New Year), and I hope this gives people an idea of what Slimming World can be like, that it's not all Muller Lights and Mug Shots. I weigh in on a Tuesday morning, so my week starts on a Tuesday.

Warning - I have a huge appetite and I adore my food, I'm also at quite a high starting weight so this will be too much food for a lot of people.

Healthy Extras are in Green (you get one 'A' choice (dairy or non-dairy equivalent) and one 'B' choice (fibre) per day on the Extra Easy plan. You are also allowed between 5-15 Syns per day, 1 Syn = roughly 20 kcals.

If you're not interested in Slimming World or you think it's a load of shite, please skip this post! I think elements of it are a load of shite myself (like synning Avocados), but I love the recipes and the basic structure of it.

Overall, it was a good week, despite the packet of Crisps on Wednesday that I ate just because they were there looking at me, and not knowing how many Syns was in Saturday's dinner, but apart from that - really good and I was delighted with the 4lb loss.





Tuesday February 2nd

Breakfast: Banana, 2 Clementines, Strawberries.
Lunch: Wholemeal Bagel Slim, Cajun Chicken pieces, Lettuce, 1 tablespoon Light Mayonnaise, Melon and Strawberries.
Dinner: Fish Pie (made with Quark, Fish, Herbs, 30g Cheddar Cheese, topped with Carrot and Turnip mash), Green Beans.
Drinks: Water, Peppermint Tea.
Syns: Total - 8.

Wednesday February 3rd

Breakfast: Strawberries, Clementine.
Lunch: Wholemeal Bagel Slim, 2 Slices Lean Ham, Lettuce, 1/2 tablespoon Light Mayonnaise (1 Syn), Rocket, Melon.
Dinner: Soft Taco Shell (4.5 Syns), filled with Taco Spice Mix (homemade), Passata, Extra Lean Mince, Mushrooms, topped with 30g Cheddar Cheese. Served with Green Beans, Sweet Potato Fries with garlic (homemade),
Snacks: 2 Pieces of Lemon Drizzle Cake (homemade) (2 Syns), 20g Dark Chocolate (5.5 Syns), Packet of Tayto Snax (4.5 Syns)
Drinks: Water, Green Tea with Lime/Ginger
Syns: Total - 16.5

Thursday February 4th

Breakfast: Porridge (35g Porridge Oats), Full Fat Milk (from 175ml allowance), Mixed Berries, Half a Banana, 1 teaspoon Agave Nectar (0.5 Syns), Melon, Decaff Coffee with remaining milk.
Lunch: Homemade Leek & Potato Soup, Salad (Lettuce, Cucumber, Beetroot, Tomato), Leftover Taco Mince & Passata.
Dinner: Homemade Chicken Tikka (1 Syn), Brown Rice, Broccoli, Homemade Onion Bhajis.
Snacks: 2 x Lemon Drizzle Cake (2 Syns), Quark mixed with 2 teaspoons of Choc Shot (1), Manhattan Popcorn (6.5)
Drinks: Water
Syns: Total 11

Friday February 5th

Breakfast: 4 Original Ryvita, topped with 2 Boiled Eggs mashed with Diced Onion, l.5 tablespoons Light Mayonnaise (2 Syns), Mushrooms.
Lunch: Leftover Chicken Tikka (1 Syn), Half Pack of Microwave Basmati Rice (2 Syns)
Dinner: Lettuce, Tomato, Sliced Roast Beef, Lean Ham, Beetroot, Egg, Cajun Chicken Pieces.
Snacks: Banana, Kelkin 100kcal Popcorn (5 Syns), Fruit Salad Pot (Melon/Pineapple/Grapes/Apple)
Drinks: Water, Coffee & Milk
Syns: Total 10

Saturday February 6th

Breakfast: Banana, Melon, Decaff with Milk.
Lunch: Wholemeal Bagel Slim, Lettuce, 1 tablespoon Light Mayonnaise (1.5 Syns), Cajun Chicken Pieces.
Dinner: Went to Macari's (husband had a Snack Box craving). Didn't know what to order, didn't want anything battered or cooked in grease so I had a Veggie Kebab - it was a Pitta Bread with Lettuce, Cabbage, Onions, Tomatoes, Carrot, and Chilli and Garlic Sauce. I couldn't finish it. Also had 4-5 of husband's Chips.
Snacks: None
Drinks: Water
Syns: Absolutely no idea

Sunday February 7th

Breakfast: Banana, Latte (counted Milk as HEa)
Dinner: Garlic & Rosemary Roast Potatoes (parboiled & done in Airfryer), Spicy Roast Chicken (no skin), Mushy Peas, Green Beans, Sweetcorn.
Tea: Wholemeal Bagel Slim, 1.5 tablespoons Light Mayonnaise (2 Syns), Lettuce, Cucumber, Hot Smoked Salmon.
Snacks: Mini Kinder Bar (3.5 Syns), Snack-a-Jacks (4.5 Syns).
Drinks: Water
Syns: Total 10

Monday February 8th

Breakfast: Scrambled Eggs using 2 Eggs and Milk from allowance, 2 Bacon Medallions, Mushrooms, Clementine.
Lunch: Wholemeal Bagel Slim, 25g Philadelphia Light (2 Syns), Smoked Salmon, Cucumber, Strawberries.
Dinner: Stir Fry using Chow Mein Noodles, Leftover Roast Chicken, Veg, Spices.
Snacks: 2 Lemon Drizzle Buns (1 Syn), Snack-a-Jacks (4.5), Dark Chocolate Square (3.5 Syns)
Drinks: Water, Coffee with rest of Milk from allowance.
Syns: Total - 11.


Hopefully that'll give you a better idea of how you the plan works when you're not a fan of "diet" foods or sweetener. If I'm baking I use granulated Stevia (Dr. Ava Orsmond told me it was a good alternative to Aspartame so I'm taking that as a good thing!)

I post some Slimming World recipes on my Facebook page, so if you see me cooking something on Snapchat and you'd like the recipe, just shout and I'll pop it up for you.





Blogger Tricks

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Bloggers, Snapchat, and Hate

Hi!

This post has been playing on my mind for a while now. I said nothing about the whole "sponsored post" issue because everything has been said, I have nothing to add to that. But even before that issue was brought up, there has been a bit of a change in the way people view bloggers.

"Blogger" has become a dirty word in some circles. It's something I used to be proud of, being able to write 'blogger' in my twitter bio. Now I see it there and know that certain people will see that and go "Oh she's one of THEM".

Since I started blogging in 2011, there has been a shift. When I started, there weren't as many as there are now. I followed Beaut.ie, Fluff and Fripperies, Cherry Sue, Lovely Girly Bits, Red Lemonader, Leanne Woodfull and a host of lifestyle blogs that are now defunct (and sadly missed, like White Rabbit NI and A Chick Named Hermia). Events were non-existent. Product samples weren't sent out frequently. Now, there are hundreds of bloggers who put time and effort into making their spaces informative and unique to them, regular events,  and PR companies that work with many bloggers to get their brands out there.

But there's another type of blogger now - the ones who embrace the entire lifestyle. The "super bloggers", or digital influencers, who pump time and money into turning themselves into a brand. They vlog, they release makeup, they publish books, they hold event days, they spend a massive amount of time promoting themselves, they become brand ambassadors - they do it as a job. This has been happening in the US and the UK for years now, but it's a relatively new concept in Ireland.

I have massive respect for people who have the dedication to do that full time. I can only imagine that preparing and scheduling posts and social media content, constantly being "on", while holding down other jobs and having a life away from the internet must be so time consuming and draining. I can't understand the hate that people get for being paid to do that, it's a job. Maybe because it's a job that didn't really exist up to 5 years ago, it's so new that people don't understand the amount of work they put in and the amount of shit they put up with. Imagine trying to do your job and having a constant stream of people telling you you're doing it wrong, or you look like shit today.

If you believe a blogger or influencer is waffling about a product because they've been told to, then either don't buy the product, or go try it out for yourself and see what you think - simple as that. Don't sit bitching about the person.

And therein lies the reason behind this post. Because of platforms like Instagram and Snapchat, bloggers are expected to share every minute detail of their lives. I joined Snapchat last year for the craic, because I'm a stay at home Mum and my husband works - I don't really see anyone during the day. I don't see it as an extension to my blog - my blog is a hobby, not a job.  I fell in love with Snapchat - gradually I started getting more followers by word of mouth, and I'm now at the point where over 3,000 people watch and interact with me daily.

I've had conversations with people from all over the world, from Texas to New Zealand. I've had chats about slow cookers, slimming world, children, twins, shopping, books, bargains, beauty - I love the interaction and I love the fact that I always have somebody to talk to now.

But with that, comes a nasty side. A few months ago, I was told my house is a shithole, all I do it sit on my arse, I'm not a real blogger, and my kids are being dragged up. I get intrusive questions daily - a lecture on how to use a grill around children, 'show us your husband', why do I 'let' my kids get up so early, etc.  Yesterday, someone disliked me so much that they felt the need to take to a forum and rip me to pieces over the way I'm raising my children. They said that my kids look ill because we never go anywhere or do anything, that they won't have any childhood memories of me because I always have my back to them while I'm facing a screen, that they run around all day on their own and I don't interact with them, that I'm selfish, narcissistic, that I'm on Snapchat all day every day and it's all about ME. That I share so much that I obviously don't do anything with them or I'd be sharing that too.

Of course it's all about me. It's my Snapchat channel. I'm myself on Snapchat - but I choose what to show you. I change nappies several times a day, I don't show that. I have showers and use the toilet, you don't see that. I have sex with my husband, you definitely don't hear me going on about that. Actually, you don't even see my husband, because he detests social media. I limit the amount of snaps of my boys (my eldest rarely appears because he doesn't want to) because people were screenshotting them, and also because I don't want them plastered all over social media. It's not their decision, they can't say "don't do that". I don't film activities because I don't sit playing with them while holding a phone. I don't film in their Nana's house every evening, or their baths, or their tantrums.

I choose what you see. 

That doesn't mean I'm being deceptive - but this goes for the digital influencers and other bloggers too. They choose what you see. You don't see the girl with 50,000 followers crying herself to sleep at night because of a torrent of vile personal abuse on an instagram photo. You don't see the boy sitting alone in the dark replaying someone's insult about his voice over and over and over and over in his head until 3am. You don't see people washing dishes, or cleaning their homes, or arguing with their partners, or telling their children off.

But - we have public accounts, we should put up with it, right? I mean, just because you have a public account, that means you're bound to get hate and you need to ignore it. Rise above it. Don't give them a reaction.

Sorry, but No. 

I have the right to defend myself (as I did on that forum yesterday). But that person obviously has her own issues and is projecting them on to me - maybe she feels guilty about her own competence as a mother. I am not thick skinned. I'm alone most of the day. When I get personal, poisonous hate directed at me, I cry. That might not be very adult, but yes, it gets to me, because these people WANT to get at me. They go for the jugular. When you watch someone for a while you feel like you know them, and you know what means most to them. Therefore, you attack that. And congratulations, it works. Does that make me weak? I don't think so. I don't think I need to sit there and take that abuse and not react. Do I know it's bullshit? Absolutely. Vicious lies? Yep. Does it still hurt? You betcha.

If I see someone out in public and think "that's a horrible coat" - can I just walk up to them and tell them their coat is shit because they have chosen to wear it in public? Can I walk up to someone in a shop and say "just thought I'd ask why your accent is so weird". Can I go up to someone on the street and say "you should get off your phone and pay attention to your baby", or walk up to someone in a chemist and say "are you paying tax?" Is that all okay to do? Is that where we are now?

Nothing makes me despair more than seeing parents being spiteful. You are responsible for a new generation, one that will grow up in a very social media-led world. You are responsible for shaping their behaviours, their attitudes. It scares me that there are parents who would put energy and time into berating and tearing down people because they don't agree with what they do or how they raise their kids. Go raise your own children perfectly, in that case, and leave mine to me. If you're concerned about the welfare of children in general, I'm sure Barnardos would love a fundraiser.

If you don't agree with the way someone promotes products, or the way they speak, or what they do,

unfollow them. 

Why are you punishing yourself by watching something you know will annoy you? I've unfollowed people who annoy me. I haven't sat behind a forum nickname and bitched about them.

There's an argument that "we need somewhere we can go to criticize bloggers". I disagree wholeheartedly. I just think that if you don't like something, don't watch it. I don't like a certain TV show, I don't watch it. I don't like certain magazines, I don't read them. I don't like some websites, I don't log on. I don't see myself logging on to Digital Spy anytime soon just to bitch about how much I don't like the soaps anymore or how a certain character wrecks my head.

I can't see the situation improving unless people realise that what they say has a very real effect on others. Until they realise that when they write a message, that a real person will be reading that. I'm not writing this for attention, or for validation - I had hundreds of supportive messages yesterday on Snapchat and Facebook, from people from all walks of life. I know I'm a good mother and a good person. I also know I'm not going to be universally liked - who is - but if I wreck your head, please don't watch me. You're only annoying yourself.

To quote EmilySkyeFit on Snapchat - imagine all the good you could do in the world if you put all that negative energy into something positive. You could make a real difference, you could be someone people look up to, instead of someone people block, unfollow, avoid.




Friday, February 5, 2016

eBay Makeup Brush Recommendations

Not Sponsored/No Samples

Hi!

When I showed you my Jessup brushes on Snapchat last week, lots of you said you'd be interested in a post about what kinds of makeup brushes are available on eBay.

Over the years, I've bought a lot of makeup brushes from eBay and AliExpress. The odd time I've gotten caught with a fake MAC or one that smells of chemicals, but for the most part, the unbranded ones are pretty okay. Some of them are more than okay, they're every bit as good as brands you can buy in shops here.


Jessup Brushes
There are hundreds of people selling Jessup brushes on eBay, just search "jessup". They're available in sets of 7,8,10, 15 or individual face and eye sets. I've never tried their small eye brushes but I've ordered a set for €7 so I'll let you know what they're like when they arrive. The best thing about Jessup is the value for money - a 15-piece eye and face set will typically set you back around €16 including postage. I bought my blue face set in 2013, and they're only just starting to give up the ghost now. I think they were around the €8 mark for a set of 10.



They wash well, they're soft, and they apply makeup well. I mostly use them all for foundation or cream products, but they do the job and the flat top kabuki is every bit as good as more expensive brands.


I use the smaller ones in the face set for blending concealer or an eyeshadow base. Again, they're fluffy and they do the job, but they're no good for detail or for the crease, they're too big. They work great for buffing larger areas or applying concealer under the eyes.

Random Brands


The top brush is one you'll have seen all over social media. The brand Cailyn do one for €20, and The Beauty Deli do one for €10. This was €1.49 on Ali Express. From watching videos of people using the other ones, this looks to be the same size, maybe a tiny bit smaller. It's soft, it washes well, and it applies liquid foundation well.

The little flat kabuki in the middle is by a brand called Mixcos, I got it here on Ali Express for €3.46. It's not as dense as the Jessup flat kabuki but it still does a great job, I've had it 2 years and it hasn't shed or loosened.

The third brush is a new addition to my collection of eBay brushes, I saw this on CherrySue's facebook page after Christmas. Apparently it's a dupe of a very expensive brush by It Cosmetics but I've never heard of them, I just wanted this because it looked SO FLUFFY!! It took about three weeks to arrive, I got it on eBay from this seller for under €6 posted. It's every bit as soft as it looks, and it'll be a dream for applying bronzer to my neck or face powder or setting powder.

Tips When Searching for Makeup Brushes on eBay or AliExpress:

1. Don't search for brand like MAC or Real Techniques. They're fakes, they're not well made, and they stink of chemicals.
2. Stay away from unbranded brushes if they resemble MAC or if they've a block of colour hiding the name. In my experience, if they don't have a name or logo, they'll arrive stinking of varnish with "m.A.c" stamped on them.
3. Use sellers with feedback of 98% or more.
4. Urban Decay have never made a "Naked" brush set. Don't buy that.

Hopefully that gave you a bit of an idea what to expect if you're thinking about ordering brushes from overseas. I still love my Blank Canvas, Real Techniques, etc - but it's great to be able to instantly double your brush collection for under €15.



Monday, February 1, 2016

Books I Read in January

Not Sponsored/No Samples/No ARCs

Hi!

The first monthly round up of the year is here!! I love writing these posts so I hope you enjoy this one. All book covers will be added to the brand new shiny BOOKS 2016 page, so you can click on any cover to go to my more detailed review over on Goodreads.

This month, I read one (very) short story and 16 books.

The Rick O'Shea Book Club



This month, Rick kicked 2016 off with four choices. I read all four (I'm determined to step outside my comfort zone this year and try to read all book club picks)

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
A story about WWII from two sides. We follow blind French woman Marie-Laure from her childhood in France right up to the present day, and learn of her incredible story of survival. We also see German orphan Warner Pfennig, from his early days at an orphanage to his deployment to fight for Germany in the war. Both stories are intertwined, chapters are short, and this was an amazing read.

The Book of Strange New Things by Michael Faber
Peter, a Preacher, leaves his wife Bea behind to travel to a distant planet and teach the local inhabitants about religion from the Bible (The Book of Strange New Things). Meanwhile, things on Earth aren't going well, there's increasing disaster and Bea sends word that something very bad might be happening. This was such a weird book, I didn't like Peter but I couldn't put it down.

The Bees by Laline Paull
Flora is a sanitation bee, the lowest class. She looks different to the other bees, that in itself is a crime. She is put to work on the nursery ward after a chance meeting, and eventually her luck gets her an audience with the Queen and permission to forage. I just couldn't get used to the fact that I was reading about bees - aside from that, Flora's good fortune was all dependent on chance encounters and lucky escapes rather than actual intelligence or talent, which annoyed me. The male bees were disgusting, as was their really odd fate... A very strange book.

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
I bought this book last year when it was one of Richard & Judy's book club picks. I'm delighted that Rick chose it because it finally gave me the push to start it - and it was a great read. I found the first quarter a bit slow, but after that it really picked up. It's about an 18 year old girl, Nella Oortman, in Amsterdam in the late 1600s. She is married off to a wealthy merchant, Johannes Brandt. He presents her with a cabinet-style dolls house, a perfect replica of the one they live in. She employs a miniaturist to make furniture for the house, but as she begins to receive items that she hasn't requested, items nobody outside the house could know about, she begins to wonder whether or not the miniaturist is a prophet or engineering events.

The Richard and Judy Book Club


The Spring Books have been chosen, you can see them all on my BOOKS 2016 page. Of the 8, I managed to read 3.

The Bones of You by Debbie Howells
Rosie is 18, and she has been murdered. We hear from Rosie from beyond the grave as she looks back on her life and slowly reveals what happened. In the meantime, we follow Kate McKay, a woman who knew Rosie from allowing her to help with her horses. Kate is convinced that Rosie's parents know more than they're letting on, and that her sister Delphine, knows something. A twisty tale with horrible characters, this was a mediocre read for me.

In a Dark Dark Wood by Ruth Ware
I saw Reese Witherspoon mention this on her instagram a few months ago and it was sitting on my Kindle ever since - whyyyy!!!! This is a brilliant book, it's about a hen party that takes place in a strange glass house in the woods. Leonora Shaw is invited, but she has no idea why - she hasn't seen the hen, Claire, in years. She agrees to go with another friend, but there's something very sinister going on, and one of the guests is in grave danger. I didn't love the ending but I really liked the setting and story otherwise.

The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett
A book about what would happen if one decision in our lives was different, or one small event never happened. An interesting premise but one that doesn't work on Kindle - I had to keep notes on each version (there are three) and some events were so similar that it became confusing, there were parties or meetings that took place in two versions and I found it hard to follow. I also wasn't bothered about any of the characters, I didn't like Jim and I thought Eva was settling. I know others enjoyed this much more than me, I just think it would work better in book form because having to refer to a notebook really interrupted how the story flowed for me.

Young Adult Series


I first heard about the Lux series by Jennifer L. Armentrout on Aoife's YouTube channel (here). She mentioned the first book, so I downloaded it and was hooked.

Obsidian
Katy moves with her mother to a sleepy little town in West Virginia. She discovers that she lives next door to a big ride, but he's moody and grumpy and seems to hate Katy for no reason. Oh, and his name is Daemon. Oh, and he's an alien. This was standard YA fare - half the characters had green eyes and there was a lot of will-they-won't-they drama but it had just enough about the aliens to keep me reading.

Onyx
The Department of Defence are now stepping up security after an incident in the first book. Something happened Katy during that event, and now she's not the same old Katy anymore. In this book, we get the Jacob Black of the series - Blake, a spanner in the works and a Hybrid (not a car, an alien/human). The gang discover a secret and are determined to find out if it's true.

Opal
Starting to get sick of this now, this book was mostly filler - nothing really happens. The event they planned at the end of book 2 still hasn't happened. On to book 4, then!

Origin
So something bad has happened, but Daemon is going to save the day. Unfortunately, I could no longer give a shite, because the lack of respect for human life in this book is shocking. People are killed left right and centre but it's no biggie, because - bad guys. Even if they're bad human guys. We get Daemon's POV here too but it's pretty much like a male version of Katy. WHY HAVE I WASTED FOUR BOOKS ON THIS SERIES OMG

No, I didn't read the fifth. No, I won't be reading it. Yes, I wikipedia'd it.

Fiction


The Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie West
I read this after a heavy read, just for something light and fluffy. Gia Montgomery needs a fill-in boyfriend after her real one dumps her just before her friends finally meet him. I use the term 'friends' loosely, because they're bitches, but she meets Hayden in a car park and he agrees to pose as Bradley, her ex. I found this really immature, full of mind games, but Gia did grow up over the course of the book and it passed a few hours.

Into the Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes
The best thriller I've read in a long time. (I know that Kate over at Bibliophile Book Club recommended it). Each chapter goes back and forth between 2003 and 2007. In 2003, Cathy Bailey met Lee Brightman, Mr. Perfect. As he becomes increasingly sinister, we know something's going to happen but Cathy doesn't, and it's incredibly tense and hard to read in parts. In 2007, Cathy is controlled by OCD and PTSD. She cannot leave her home without performing certain rituals, and she's paranoid that Lee will come after her when he's released from prison. As she begins to get her life back on track with the help of her neighbour, something happens. Highly recommended.

Non-Fiction 


I want to read more non-fiction this year, so I got through 2 in January.

The Diary of a Young Girl: The Definitive Edition by Anne Frank
I hadn't read this since school, and I'd forgotten a lot of it. In this definitive edition, previously unpublished chapters are included. I'm not sure if that was a good idea - it felt alien to read about some of the subjects Anne talked about, particularly those of a sexual nature (it got quite graphic, description wise). It's quite a boring book, to be fair - it's popular because of that, because it's such a normal snapshot of a normal girl caught up in something horrific. There isn't that much of an insight into the war, so I'd look elsewhere if you want that. As a historical piece of work, it's an essential read. I found it quite sad the way they kept planning for the future and kept hoping, I felt a sense of guilt that they were making plans and I knew what was coming. Uncomfortable.

What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe
Randall Munroe is apparently the creator of XKCD, I don't know what that is. This is full of interesting questions that Randall has received via his website over the years - it was wittier and warmer to read than some similar books I've read, he has a great sense of humour. This is just brilliant if you're into science or geekery - some of my favourite questions were "What would happen if you made a periodic table out of cube-shaped bricks, where each brick was made of the corresponding element?" and "If everyone on the planet stayed away from each other for a few weeks, wouldn't the common cold be wiped out?" A fun read.

Short Story



Ponies by Kij Johnson
This is like if Louise O'Neill rewrote My Little Pony and then got Tina Fey to turn it into a film. It's Only Ever Yours meets Mean Girls meets.....well, a pack of mean little brats driven by consumerism and one little girl desperate to fit in. This still pops into my mind and it's literally two minutes long - you can read it for yourself here.

So that's it! January got off to a flying start, hopefully I can keep the momentum up and clear a lot off my TBR piles this year without adding too many more.

Are you reading anything at the minute? Would you recommend it?





Thursday, January 28, 2016

Budgeting and Saving Money - My Tips

Not Sponsored/No Samples

Hi!

A while ago, I was asked by someone on Facebook if I could put together a post with some of the money saving/budgeting tips I've shared on Snapchat. I just want to start by saying I haven't been paid or sponsored by any of the companies mentioned in this post, this is how I manage money for our household and this is what I personally do, it's not in collaboration with anyone.

PAY YOUR ELECTRIC IRELAND BILL BEFORE IT ARRIVES




If you're an Electric Ireland customer, there's a way you can space out your payments instead of having to pay that dreaded lump sum every 2 months. If you email them on service@electricireland.ie or ring them on 1850 372 372 (8am-8pm Mon-Sat) with your account details to hand, you can request an EasyPay card. They'll send you out a plastic card the size of an ATM card that you can use to lodge money into your Electric Ireland account at the Post Office. We put €20 in every week and we're nearly always in credit with them when the bill comes in - I think our highest bill since 2014 was €45. It's much easier to budget for €20 a week than it is for a massive lump sum that needs to be paid within a few weeks. They also now have an app available that lets you keep an eye on your usage, so you can reduce bills further.

* Thanks to Dawn Ryan on Facebook for letting me know that if you have an online account with Electric Ireland, you can make payments to your account too if you can't make it to the Post Office. 

JOIN THE TESCO CHRISTMAS SAVER CLUBCARD SCHEME


If you're a regular Tesco shopper and you use your Clubcard to build up points, you'll know about the vouchers that are sent out a few times a year. Instead of getting them a few times a year, you can join the Christmas Saver scheme and have them all saved up and sent out to you at the end of November. As well as that, you can top up at the till to a maximum of €360. I started topping up in August last year - even if I didn't do my main shopping in Tesco, I'd nip in and put €5 or €10 (you can put in any amount, from 50c up) and by November I had €153 in vouchers to spend at Tesco. That took a massive amount of pressure off at Christmas - it freed up that week's grocery money for presents, it covered one big weekly shop, plus I stocked up on essentials like nappies, wipes, detergent - all from loose change I'd put in during the year along with my clubcard points and the bonus Tesco give (either €3 or €6) when you top up by a certain amount. You can sign up for the scheme in store, or by phone at 00800 0059 1688 with your clubcard details to hand. The only thing is, I'd recommend keeping a record of what you lodge into the scheme, because there's no way to check your balance. You'll still get money off and extra points coupons with your mailings during the year, just not the cash vouchers.

DO THE 52 WEEK SAVING CHALLENGE

Fancy €260 to spend on something nice? That works out as €5 a week for 52 weeks. You could use that for a bill next January, or to pick something nice up in the sales, or to help with children or an event. The original version of this challenge suggests that you put an amount from €1 to €52 in a jar every week, but there's never going to be a week that I'll be able to save anything above €10 and not miss it. Instead, I save €5 or €4 into a can every week. This is how I was able to afford my Canon camera last January in the sales, there's no way I could have done it otherwise. I haven't started this yet this year, but I'm only 4 weeks behind so I could still have a nice amount saved if I started putting a fiver away now. I tried to do this last year but ended up dipping into it all the time, I'll definitely try and be more rigid this year. Even if you do dip into it, it's really handy to have an emergency can there for an unexpected "teacher says I need €2 tomorrow".

JOIN THE SHOP & SCAN PANEL FOR SHOPPING VOUCHERS


This is something I'm very new to, but I recently joined the Shop & Scan panel. The idea is that you are put on a waiting list (I was on it over a year) and then when they need somebody in your area, you're sent out a book and a scanner. You'll need to keep your scanner plugged in at all times, and the data is transferred wirelessly at night. You don't need a phone line or broadband. You scan all the barcodes from your grocery shopping, and the data is used for market research. In return, you get points, which are converted into vouchers for a shop of your choice (some available options are Argos, Amazon, Boots, New Look, Debenhams, One for All, Brown Thomas, plus a number of charities). Every 100 points = €1, I've only been a member since November and I've redeemed £30 in Amazon vouchers already (Kindle books sorted for the week year!!). Customer service is great, I've had to contact them a few times when I couldn't get my scanner working and they sorted it straight away. They've also emailed me when I wasn't scanning (I was sick) to check if everything was okay with the scanner. It is tedious, and it's time consuming, but I find if I cross items off my receipt as I'm putting them away I get it done quickly. You don't have to do loads of grocery shopping to receive points, you just have to promise to scan regularly. If you want to find out more, you can sign up at www.volunteer4panels.com.

NEGOTIATE A BETTER DEAL WITH SKY (BUT PREPARE FOR A LONG CALL)


We've had Sky for over 12 years now, and we've never had any customer perks from them. In fact, In 2015, we were still using the old Sky Digital box and dish that had been installed in 2004. We'd never had any money off, despite offers for new customers coming in the door every week. I got annoyed and decided to cancel. They will keep you on the phone for AGES so you'll get tired and hang up - but hang in there, it's worth the price of the call. They don't want to lose customers. In the end, I got a new Sky + HD Box, a new dish, engineer installation, and a reduced package rate for 9 months. For free. Originally I was quoted €50 for a box and another €35 (approx) charge that would be refunded to my account - I refused to pay anything and suddenly they didn't need the €35. If you're finding it difficult to meet monthly payments, ring them up. They do not want to lose you - negotiate a better package for yourself by calling 0818 719 819 and telling them that you'll move to a different provider if they can't help you. If it were up to me I'd get rid of it altogether, Netflix and Saorview are more than enough, but there are others in the house who watch Sky.

SET A WEEKLY SHOPPING BUDGET AND STICK TO IT

freeimages.com/Suzanne van Hatten

I have a maximum shopping budget every week. I think it's important to know the price of things you buy regularly, that way you'll always know if there is better value to be had somewhere else. I always bring a list. I start off with nappies and wipes, then work my way around the house. To find out what weekly offers are on, I look at the Tesco and Lidl websites (I don't shop at Aldi for personal reasons). I signed up for a Tesco online account even though they don't deliver my area. I input all the things I want to buy, and I write the prices down on my list. Then, I go to Lidl and I buy everything that comes up cheaper than Tesco, and I get the rest in Tesco. I get my meat and chicken from the local butcher, most of them will be happy to do you a deal if you go in and give them a budget - I go in every 2 weeks and get chicken fillets, mince, diced beef, gammon, etc. This sounds like a lot of messing but it just keeps my spending in line and makes me stick to a budget. Caitriona at Wholesome Ireland does a weekly post every Monday in which she lists all the fresh food offers and some special buys from the main supermarkets. This week's post is here.

Hopefully this has given you a few ideas on how I like to save, I got a few comments on Snapchat at Christmas asking me how I could do so much shopping - this is how!




Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Review: NYX Soft Matte Lip Creams

Not Sponsored/No Samples

Hi!

I've been raving about these lip creams for a long time now, since I first stumbled across Antwerp in a collection of NYX lip products that I bought on eBay. Last year, NYX finally became a little easier to buy in Ireland, so I've been building up a collection of the lip creams.

I received Amsterdam from a friend at Christmas, I purchased the other 8 myself. Apologies for the grubby lids, these are much loved!

L-R: Amsterdam, Stockholm, Antwerp, Istanbul, San Paulo, Milan, Prague, Cannes, Copenhagen

The formula is creamy, pigmented, and it dries to a soft matte finish. They're not drying. After I read The Rebel Lipstick's (excellent) review of her NYX lip collection, I wanted to try Copenhagen myself to see if the darker shades were easy to work with so I bought it last week - it's definitely not as pigmented as I'd have hoped, but that's alright, it's still a colour I'm happy to own and I had no issues with the formula. These last a few hours on me if I'm not eating or drinking (rare) but the applicator means they're easy to top up without much fuss.


I think my favourite shade for my skin tone is Milan, it's the one I reach for most often. Some of the shades are very similar, I had trouble telling Istanbul and San Paulo apart on my lips despite them looking different in the tube - that's the only gripe I have about them, I've ended up ordering shades that are too close to ones I own already.

They last a little longer with a lipliner underneath, that also stops them balling after multiple applications. Sometimes it can change up the colour too - Antwerp becomes much more vibrant with a nude liner underneath.

I bought these from a few different places - including Cara Pharmacy (€7.75, 9 shades available), Littlewoods (€11 - huge price increase but they have 22 shades available) and Boots (€7.75, 22 shades available).

I'd happily recommend these, they're a lovely product.


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Twinsie Tuesday: Grey and Gold

Not Sponsored/No Samples

Hi!




This weeks prompt was "Grey and Gold", two of my favourite colours for nail polish. I knew I wanted to use striping tape for this, so I painted my nails with a base of O.P.I Goldeneye. It's a polish I haven't used in a while, I forgot how nice it is. On top, I used striping tape with Essie's Petal Pushers, a gorgeous thick grey that's opaque in one coat.



I have a guide on using Striping Tape here, and you can check out a swatch of Essie Petal Pushers here.

Please check out the other Twinsies at the links below, they're a great bunch of ladies and they always come up with much, much better looks than I do!

Savannah (Addicted to Polish)
Róisín (Cuti-CLUE-les)
Claire (Kerruticles)
Chelsea (Nailed Blog)
Amanda (Fashion Footing)
Amanda (Amandalandish)