Free/Money Saving Activities for the Family in May Half Term

Yeah to May half term, hopefully its sunny and warm and we can spend the whole time outside. Or maybe not, it’ll be cold and rainy and you need to refer back to my February half term post for indoor entertainment tips!! This post will give you plenty of ideas for half term on a budget. Lets do this for less than £100 (based on 3 children, boys;-0).

Bookable Sports Camps/ Active sessions

Check out you local council run sports centres, sports clubs and schools for entertainment that you can book your 2014-08-31 10.39.21kids into. We have lots of options local to Knebworth including football camp at a Stevenage school for £10 (if you book at least 2 sessions, otherwise its £12.50) for 6 hours, or multi-sports for the same price. I have seen netball master classes locally and a football fun week at our local school, 4 days for £45 per child. Knowing that my 8 and 6 year old will want to play football every day for 10 hours a day if they could, they are booked into football camp at Marriots school. £40 for 2 days each. Plus their mates are going too:-)

Activities for Dare Devils

I have one dare devil child, Josh the middle one. He always wants to do the muddiest, most dangerous stuff. So for him I have planned a walk to the woods with an assault course that we will create. We live near to Mardley Woods which have lots of hills, fallen trees, ropes hanging from trees. And in the middle of the woods is a huge green grass area to put down a blanket and have a picnic if its sunny. This is of course a wonderful freebie activity.

Visit to the Farm

So when I go to the farm, I go to see the animals. I am a sucker for a cute lamb or piglet and could spend ages watching them run around/eating/fighting with their brothers and sisters. Sometimes its different for kids and they require a bit more entertainment with rides etc..but really? Its a farm, take it for what it is and get your kids to learn and experience the real farm. There are lots of ‘entertainment’ farms about, Willows for example in Hertfordshire but its expensive, If I booked now a 7 day advance tickets for half term its £13.85 for me and £14.60 for each child over 2. That is a huge £57.65 for me and family of 3 children. I WONT be going there.

2014-08-03 12.20.13 2014-08-03 12.58.26

I have mentioned Church farm Ardeley before. Its £10 for a family of 5 or £3 per person to enter. Its huge, you can walk for miles around the hundreds of animals. There is always a baby animal of some sort. There are sheep, cows, rabbits, goats, pigs, chickens, ducks, turkeys which you can feed. There are a couple of play areas, not that great to be honest, but they will keep the kids happy for 30 minutes. And there is a lovely cafe and farm shop.

Free Museums

2011-08-20 11.28.472015-07-26 12.13.46

There are lots of local places you can drive to including RAF museum in Hendon or the Natural History museum in Tring..or if you fancy an adventure get the train and go to London for the Science Museum or Natural History Museum or maybe the Tate? Use your Family and friends Railcard to get the train, I only needed to use it twice before I had got my money back, click on this link to get a 10% discount, so £27. Underground is free for kids. And hit the London museums. Warning..I have been in half term and they are busy. Only do this if you can cope with it..maybe with friends;-)

Children’s Bake Off

Baking Challenge_Smart Energy GB_149

So this is inspired by my recent Smart Energy GB Bake off Estimation Challenge last week, yes that is me with Ian Cummings runner up from Great British Bake Off and Paris from Working Mum Blog. More to be written in a dedicated post later this week when I have the video content, as I am wearing an attractive go-pro;-). The professional photographer was amazing and captured some incredible moments. We are going to do  cup cake estimation challenge. I am going to get the boys to guess the amount of flour, sugar, eggs and butter to add to their cupcake mix. A bit of fun to fill an hour or so. The winner will get some Panini football stickers, the current reward for good behaviour, goals scored in football tournaments, tidy up tasks etc.

Splash Park

We have loads of brilliant splash parks near here, so you must have too wherever in the UK you may be reading this post from. There are great parks in Baldock, Letchworth, St. Albans and Stevenage that I know of. Probably more. The kids love these and given warm weather will spend hours running around whilst I can sit and chill in the sun. Great thing to do with friends and its another freebie. Again take a picnic to save some extra pennies. You might not get away without buying an ice cream though!!

2014-07-26 13.21.36

Local Council Run cinema/soft play

19-11-15 cinemaDo a search for your local facilities on Google if you don’t live in Hertfordshire. I have Campus West in Welwyn Garden City and Letchworth cinema. Both have bargain cinema deals and the added advantage with Campus West in Welwyn is soft play, roller city and a big cafe. Take a look at a previous review  I have written for lots more detail and information. We might be checking out Angry Bird this half term, not my first choice of film. Its £4.15 per ticket when booked with a Zebra card at Campus West.

 

Library

Spend an hour or at the library. They all have brilliant inspiring children’s sections where you can sit and chill and read a book or two. Have a check of your local library website and see if there are any organised activities . There probably are. And we really need to support this service as its in dire risk of closure at the moment with the many government spending cuts. Rant over.

I know this will have given you lots of ideas for a great half term at little or no cost to you. Have fun..send me your pictures of your half term fun and use the #mrsmummypenny.

 

A Money Saving Night at the Movies with the Girls

18-5-16 The girls A night at the Movies

Last weekend I invited a few of my best mummy/girlie friends over for a quiet night in to watch a movie. We could have had a night out at the pub, but to be honest our local pub isn’t that great and we would have spent a fortune on cheap wine & beer. Nights in are the way forward, you get to have a proper catch up with no interruptions (apart from the boys who were rebelling against me putting them to bed at 7:30 on a Friday night) and eat & drink your choice of food. A definite Mrs Mummypenny money saving evening.

18-5-16 Snacks and canapesSo we got the snacks in, a few frozen Aldi cocktails (they are amazing and only cost 79pish, Asti bubbles, decaf tea for the drivers, a ton of popcorn, crisps, canapes. We might have overdone the snacks….I am super proud of my canapes, how cool do they look:-) Very simple…rye bread and wraps bread topped with cream cheese or mozzerella with tomatoes, ham and salmon. We managed to get Jane to try smoked salmon….she wasn’t keen;-) I personally admire the look of posh canapes next to a bowl of Aldi’s version of monster munch and frazzles. Classy.

I chose the DVD a few weeks back and was put on the spot a bit. Now I knew it would be girls coming over so I chose 19-15-16 Jane and Sufragette DVDthe ever do serious Suffragette. I did this with intention as we are all independent women that would maybe enjoy a bit of education about how we fought in the early 1900’s for our votes, better pay and equality.

We really tried to watch it, we really did..but ending up gossiping, taking the mickey out of Jane for being the token old one (soz Jane who is only actually 43!). We discussed current affairs, like the injunction case in the media at the moment, we discussed willies or lack of them (2 out of 5 of us are single mummies), we discussed people who have a resemblance to shrek.

So we had to give up watching the educational film. We did a quick search through Sky movies and we settled on ‘50 shades of Grey’. How predictable I hear you all saying. So we sat and watched that which of course led to bizarre conversations about bondage, bad treatment of the 50 shades girl, and the fact that if you eat a popcorn kernel it might turn into a tree in your stomach*.

Thank you to Gracewell for sending me the DVD, popcorn and sweeties. This organisation is a care home provider, and believe that every single one of their residents – and families – have individual needs for both their level of care and for the life they want to live. Movie nights are a regular event at one of their many care homes where they actively encourage residents’ families to attend. The nearest location is us is Gracewell of Chingford.

18-5-16 popcorn kernels

*Not a scientific proven fact

Competition Time – Give away of 2 copies of ‘The Little Guide to Financial Admin’

I posted on Thursday How to simplify financial admin. A really popular post it turns out that has been shared lots of times. A few thousand saw the post on facebook and 250 people have clicked through and read the post…pretty great stats:-)

I mentioned at the end of the post that I have had some of my tips published in a book from Standard Life Savings and I have 2 copies to give away to you lovely readers.

15-5-16 little book of financial admin

All you need to do is comment at the end of this post what your no 1 top saving tip is.

The competition closes on Sunday 22nd May at 8pm.

I will choose my favourite money saving tip from the bunch so be creative and inventive, or funny and clever to win the little book of financial admin.

Here are a few quotes from the book:-)

15-5-16 bottle of water15-6-16 cashback

 

How to simplify Financial Admin – The Mrs Mummypenny Way

So financial admin, a job we all love to hate yes?? But alas there are a few admin jobs that are a must and if you get it right you can save yourself lots of money. A bit of simple planning and organisation will help you to prepare for the future and likely remove some stress and worry. A few interesting stats

  • 40% of UK adults put off organising their day-to-day budget
  • More time is spent organising music collections than planning pensions
  • 10% of adults don’t review their finances at all
  • Of those adults who have lost their pension details, a fifth prefer to live in blissful ignorance

My recommendations for the Key Financial Admin Jobs

  1. I still get lots of bills/paperwork items in the post even in these ‘digital’ times. I always open my letters every 12-5-16 mrs mummypenny filing pilesday just in case it’s a cheque;-) Of course it very rarely is but is sometimes something that needs to be sorted out quickly. So the life lesson here is don’t shove all the unopened post into a drawer! Set aside some time once a month if you bear it, or once every 3 months if not;-) to go through all the post/paperwork bits that have arrived. And get reading and filing. Here is my spare room at the moment.  With piles of paperwork relating to

 

  • Mrs Mummypenny Paperwork
  • Credit card statements
  • Household Bills
  • Receipts/Instruction manuals
  • Personal Tax/Employment stuff
  • Current Account/Joint account details
  • Savings/Pensions details
  • Mortgage Details

Each pile of stuff then gets files in a storage box for when its needed. The other handy benefit of doing this job             every12-5-16 mrsm mummypenny filing box month/few months is that it allows to check on a few of the             following financial admin jobs.

  1. Creating a budget. Its very important to know exactly where your money is going every month and that you have enough income to cover your expenditure. Write down a list/create an excel spreadsheet of all your incomings and outgoings. If you need an excel template I have a great one, Email me for a copy. Look through your bank statement for all of your direct debits, credit card charges for your regular costs. It should all be fresh in your head if you have just done your filing.

Have a good look at all of the outgoings and really think do you need that TV subscription to Netflix or that TV             insurance policy? Cancel the stuff you don’t need. Also there are likely to be costs that can be reduced. Is that               Sky subscription costing way too much? Can you bear to cancel it? If not call them to threaten you are leaving               them, most likely they will offer you a discount. Same goes with your broadband & mobile phone. If your                       contract is up get on the phone and get that bill reduced:-)

Definitely check your utility costs, do a quick comparison check on a site like Uswitch to check you are with the           best provider on the best tariff. The first time I did this I save £50 per month!! I urge everyone to do this once a            year.

  1. Check your debt position regularly. Take a look at the paperwork for your latest credit card bills/loans statements/HP agreements and work out how much you owe. It’s a great exercise to carry out and will make you want to do something about it. It is something I do every 6 months. Maybe you are a super lucky person and maybe the only debt you have is a mortgage…that’s not many people I suspect.

Anyhow add it up and look at the number written down, if it scares you, you need to do something about it. Are           there credit cards with a monthly interest rate that you can swop to a 0% card? There are so many great deals               around where you can do a balance transfer. Maybe there is a HP agreement on something that is due to end                 soon? Result there is some cash soon to be freed up. If you are in a difficult debt position and do not know                     where to go, please talk to the Citizens Advice Bureau or take a look at Debt camel.

  1. Add up all your savings pots to hopefully balance out the debts bit above. If you have debt with interest charges swop your savings to pay off your debt. If your debt is low interest/interest free leave things as they are.

12-5-16 piggy bankI have short-term easy access savings and longer term savings. I would advise to have both. I have easy access cash ISA where I will let my spare cash sit, trying to earn a little bit of interest. Unfortunately, interest rates are poor at the moment but do try to maximise where you put your money. I also have an account where I transfer a set amount every month. This is an account where if I make no withdrawals for 12 months I get a nice           interest bonus. I am 2 months away from getting a 6% bonus which should be worth around £100. I have a few shares staying locked away until they make some profit;-) I also invest £25 per month into a shares ISA. I                     started this 16 years ago and recently cashed in my ISA to help with a house extension and cashed in £5000.                Worth it for £25 a month. I also pay small amounts into Child Trust Funds for my children.

  1. Proper long term savings are your pension. I was not surprised to read that 58% of us don’t review their pensions at all and, of those that do check their private pensions, the average is only once every nine months. Of those adults who have lost their pension details, a fifth (20%) seem unconcerned, preferring to live in blissful ignorance! It is a complicated subject that not a lot of us know much about, including me. All I will say on this is, if like me, you have a few pension pots from different companies you have worked for then keep a record of everything. If you have lost your details then go to https://www.gov.uk/find-pension-contact-details this government link that will help you find it:-) If you don’t have a pension or any other form of longer savings, then get some financial advice from your local friendly financial advisor. Or take a look at a great website like Moneytothemasses who specialises in pensions advice.

Jamie Jenkins, pension expert at Standard Life Savings commented, “Despite the resurgence of vinyl, most music collections will be of limited long term value when it comes to funding retirement. It’s easy to put off things you don’t enjoy but keeping on top of both day-to-day budgeting and longer term savings will help you relax, knowing things are under control for the future. More people than ever  have access to a pension through their workplace, and technology is making it easy for people to regularly review their savings online, so there’s no better time than now to get organised.”

Standard Life Savings has put together a book of useful tips and guidance, crowdsourced from consumers and financial experts (including Mrs Mummypenny!), aimed at helping people make the most of their money and get their finances in order. You can view the ‘The Little Guide to Financial Admin’ along with other tips and calculators to help you plan your financial future http://www.standardlife.co.uk/c1/news-and-blog/little-guide-financial-admin/ That’s not all, I will have x copies of the book in paperback version to give away to my wonderful readers. Competition details will be posted on 15th May 2016. Look out for it.

This post was written in collaboration with Standard Life Savings.

How to have the best relationship with your child – A day of play with Jack & Dr Margot Sunderland

Last week Jack, my youngest, 3, and I had a fabulous day out in London. We went to an event to celebrate the launch of Dr Margot Sunderland’s new DVD series. There are 3 DVD’s all about the relationship with our children. Dr Margot is a leading child psychologist and has written many books including ‘The Science of parenting’ a million+ selling book. She is also the Director of Education and Training at The Centre for Child Mental Health. Pretty well qualified in the subject area of children and their mental well being I would say.

10-5-16 jack on the trainWe arrived at perfect North London location and walked into a huge room full to the brim of all types of play. Jack was already excited after a train journey….okay so he doesnt look excited but I promise he was and that is a lolly pop in his mouth! There was sand pits,10-5-16 jack with the slush water play, slushy snow messy play,huge drums, a sensory tent, musical instruments, giant telephones, puppets, pots and pans, hoolahoops and lots of balls. Jack didn’t know where to start..hang on find the messiest play thing going and go for it with that! Whilst I had a nice coffee and met my fellow mummy bloggers:-)

We spent half an hour or so working our way through all the different toys and zones in the room. Jack really loved it. There were lots of other ‘blogger children’, is that a new phrase I can patent, for Jack to play with and there was a lovely girl called Emily who helped out looking after the children whilst we listened to Dr Margot speak.

 

10-05-16 jack with Emily and the sand - Copy 10-5-16 jack and hoolahoop

Dr Margot proceeded to talk to us all about  attachment play….did you know :-

  • Attachment play is getting down to your child eye level & really engaging with them.
  • It can involve any type of toy or prop, from pots and pans to reading a magazine together or playing catch.
  • It can be used from birth until much older, I was surprised to see it still being ultra effective at 9 or 10.
  • For the older children you just need a more complex engaging game.
  • Attachment play is a great anti-anxiety solution.
  • It generates dopamine and energises your child/ren.
  • Attachment play improves your childs self esteem.

10-5-16 jack in sensory roomI got a lot from the presentation in terms of play for all of my children. When your children are little you are more inclined to get down on the floor and do real attachment play but as they grow up it maybe stops, well it has with me. I have 3 boys, 3, 6 and 8 and there is still a huge requirement for attachment play for all 3 children. We were shown a game to play with balls on a giant drum. For a small child of maybe 2 you are rolling the ball across from parent to child, a bit older involved throwing and bouncing on the drum, or bouncing and then catching in a hat. The aim is to make it more and more challenging and fun for the child. Jack loved this one.

We watched lots of clips from the DVD’s and I got lots of ideas for fun games with the 10-5-16 jack in the sensory room darkboys. We did a few games that Jack hated, puppets. Now I am not a fan of puppets and certainly not me sticking my hand up a puppets bum and talking as the puppet. But to show enthusiasm I tried it, I went for a non threatening flamingo who wanted to share a banana with Jack. He ran away screaming and started to cry. That attachment play idea didn’t really work for Jack.

We had some delicious lunch and had a great chat to my wonderful fellow mummy bloggers. We left shortly after lunch armed with a goodie bag including all 3 of the DVD’s and 2 of Dr Margot’s books. Jack loved the frog book so much that he took it into school the next day to tell everyone where he had been (we look a sneaky half day off pre-school;-)). This was super fun event for both Jack and I and I highly recommend the DVD’s and the books from Dr Margot Sunderland.

Here is some more information about the 3 DVD’s available. Click on the pictures for speedy link over to Amazon where they are £14.99 each.

Best Relationship with Your Child: The First Five Years

This film, entirely backed by brain science, is designed to support your relationship with your baby, toddler and ‘under fives’ child in amazing ways. It covers key ways of communicating with your baby and child: what to say and how to be, to ensure the finest attunement and best possible connection for both language development and long term emotional health. Using footage of many actual parents with their infants, there is delightful demonstration of a wealth of relational games for you to play with your infant. There are sections on parent –baby and parent- child attachment play and physical play, vital for IQ and EQ and designed to develop social skills for life.

Best Relationship with Your Child: Creative Quality Time (for babies and children up to the age eight)

With all the pressures of modern day parenting, quality time with your baby or child has never been more precious. Many parents want something deeper and more significant than the usual going to the park, the playgroup or watching TV together. This film will offer that. It’s packed with ideas for together times to strengthen your relationship in enduring ways, offering the richest shared experiences. The creative activities for quality time are designed to transport you together into the world of sensation, imagination, wonder, delight and shared laughter. Using the latest brain science research, and featuring footage of the loveliest parent-child connections, this film aims not only to enrich your relationship now, but to create memories for life.
DVD 3 Best Relationship with Your Child: Age five to twelve

In middle childhood many parents feel disheartened and de-skilled about maintaining regular quality time with their child. The increased independence, the allure of technology, hobbies, and time spent with peers can be so strong. So this film is designed to empower and inspire parents and professionals to engage their five to twelve year olds in attachment play and relational games that deepen bonding and strengthen their relationships in amazing ways. Through a wealth of delightful footage, parents and professionals will gain a fabulous resource of practical ideas to make the time spent with their five to twelve year olds, fun, engaging and deeply rewarding.

The books that Dr Margot writes are about some really challanging and difficult areas in childhood..take a look at her range on Amazon..there are story books to help with Anxiety, chasing a dream, bullying, compulsive behaviour..really all sorts.
A Pea Called Mildred: A Story to Help Children Pursue Their Hopes and Dreams (Helping Children with Feelings)
Helping Children with Low Self-Esteem: A Guidebook (Helping Children with Feelings)
Teenie Weenie in a Too Big World: A Story for Fearful Children (Helping Children with Feelings)

I was not paid for this post but was invited to the event free of charge.

 

Supermarket special offers – How they make you spend more £££!!

A few months back I was invited onto my local radio station Bob FM to discuss the perils of supermarket special offers and how they make you spend lots more money. It was very exciting to get onto local radio and hear my voice every hour on the news with my ‘expert views’. Now I know quite a bit about those super market offers..I used to work for Tesco’s so I am very aware of the sneaky things supermarkets do to make you buy more stuff and spend more money.

The Money Advice Service has asked me to share my top tips on things to watch out for when shopping and how to save yourself some cash.

  1. Write a list. Now I have to confess I am not that great at this. I do have a list, that is in my head and ultimately6-5-16 shopping list this means I spend a bit more money than I should. So go with a list and only buy what is on that that list. Even better write a meal plan and get the ingredients for those meals. One thing I will do at the end of my shop and is have a quick rummage through my trolley and ‘rethink’ about items I have put in there. Do I really need 2 bottles of wine? (normally yes;-))..do I really need the giant bag of popcorn? I will often put back a few impulse items I have picked up.
  2. Avoid the ends of the aisles where you will get impulse buy special offers. Its normally snackie convenience food, crisps, chocolate, cakes..have you noticed this? The aisle ends on the power aisle (the big path that runs down the middle of the store) are where your eyes are drawn to.  Do not go there, you don’t need that much snack food!!
  3. 6-5-16 aisle endAvoid going shopping when you are hungry. Apparently women are more likely to pick up sweet treats and extra bakery products, check, I would do do that. And men are more likely to pick up extra meat and alcohol!! Also not always doable I know but try to go without the children. They inevitably bug you into buying things that you really didn’t come in to buy.6-5-16 no children in basket
  4. Watch out for bulk buy offers, for instance a 1kg box of washing powder might cost £8 on special offer…but you might be better off buying 2 of the 500g boxes for £3.50 each. Every time I go to Tesco’s I always find examples of this, you need to be careful and savvy about the special offers.
  5. Try something different, I have shopped at Tesco maybe for 25 years ( I am far too loyal a customer!)  but have recently swopped over to Aldi. I’ve not looked back, the price difference is incredible. I easily save 30-40% on the cost of my weekly shop. Also try unbranded versions of the branded stuff you normally buy. Supermarket own brand products are often made by the same manufacturer as the branded in the same factory so often there is not much difference. Go on try something different.
  6. Check out Moneyadviceservice for lots more info and additional tricks to help you save A LOT of money:-)

Money Advice Service also sent me this very cool super market cheat sheet..have a look an see if there is anything else you can do to save you a bit more cash. We can all do with that-)

6-5-16 supermarket hacks money advice service

This post is in collaboration with the Money Advice Service.

Bargain Finds in Aldi & A Preview of May to November Special Buys

I know I keep blurbing on about Aldi…but do you ever get that excited feeling when you discover a new shop with bargains galore. And when I find bargains I have to share them:-)  I used to shop at Tesco for my regular weekly shop but finally gave in to the high cost and gave Aldi a try. I am so glad I did:-)

18-4-16 Aldi Blackboard TableI did the two-weekly shop yesterday and I love having a wonder around finding lots of tasty new foods and rummaging the special buys in particular to see what bargains are to be found. I mentioned the baby and toddler event a couple of weeks back. There were plenty of those products still available…lots of blackboard tables I noticed. My boys are still loving this table, using it for all sorts of creative games. Its £29.99 for the table and 2 chairs. I also found Nurofen for children, £2.99, cheaper than Tesco and Boots where I checked comparative prices.

Make Up Bargains

I also discovered the make up range. I like to give budget make up a go to see how it compares to the more expensive brands. I didn’t go too mad, I wanted to save some of my shopping budget for wine after all;-) (Blanquette de Limoux is my wine of choice…sparkling wine for £7.99, tastes like champagne)

I got some eye liner and mascara. I am always in search of the holy grail of mascara..maybe this is it??!! So here are the products in their pretty nice packaging, Eye liner £1.99 and Mascara £2.39. First picture I have just done the one eye so you can see the difference and then 2nd image is full effect. I really like the eye liner and it makes a great replacement for eye shadow. Is it the holy grail of mascara..not quite..I had to put on 3 layers to get this effect. But it didnt clump up and made my lashes look nice and long, so I am pretty happy. Its better than a recent Clinique Long Lashes mascara I have tried.

 

4-5-16 Aldi makeup packaging 4-5-16 aldi make up one eye only4-5-16 Aldi make up

Kitchenware Special Buy promotion launching 5th May

There are lots of great offers in the Kitchen Special Buys range that kicks off tomorrow in store. I have got this sparkly new kettle to match all my multi-coloured accessories..its £14.99. Hubby has been asking for a new kettle for months so thanks Aldi:-) Another fantastic bargain was this set of knives, £7.99. A welcome addition to our kitchen where my current knives are no longer sharp and a couple have broken. They glide through the vegetables and meat. Really happy with them. And they look like space according to Josh, middle son:-)

4-5-16 Aldi red kettle 4-5-16 Aldi knives

Another item that is very cool and exciting include a Multi-Slicer and Sorbet Maker (£24.99). It offers a choice of five creative cutting shapes,  and the Sorbet Maker attachment will turn frozen fruits into cool, refreshing snacks to satisfy those ice-cream cravings. Yum. I am getting one. I’ll order that one online at www.aldi.co.uk.

4-5-16 Aldi multislicer

Special Buys for the next 6 months – May to Nov

I was invited today to a special event with the Aldi buying team to view the new products in the special buys range over the next 6 months. I was very excited to see things like a lovely clothing and jewellery range. The jewellery pricing is around £5, so really great value for money. Perfect statement pieces to go with the festival clothing range..

4-5-16 Aldi dress 4-5-16 Aldi jewellery

The children’s range looked great with lots of branded clothing including some very cute Finding Dory T-shirt. And I loved the childrens garden tools. I know Jack would love them too.

4-5-16 Aldi childrens bits 4-5-16 Aldi kids garden toys

The kitchen range was my favourite including some really amazing pieces at such great prices, there is an Aldi 4-5-16 Aldi kitchen ware4-5-16 Aldi fridge and microwaveversion of the nutribullet coming later in the year, a SMEGesq fridge, a bread machine for around £50. Just take at look at these goodies.

Basically any gadget you need you will be able to get it in all Aldi stores or online.

 

 

 

 

 

4-5-16 Aldi homewearThe home wear range looked beautiful. The glass wear was really pretty and there was beautiful 4-5-16 Aldi gadgetssoft furnishing. The bedding felt like really good quality cotton and the cushions were super soft. I have a lime green throw at home that I purchased during a weekly shop so I know their home wear is good quality.

And finally there was a brilliant range of gadgets, that will be for sale around fathers day. There is a 4G TV available…price point of around £2-300..pretty incredible. I loved the cool jukebox as well.

 

 

 

 

There is lots to get excited about in the Aldi special buys range. I look forward to seeing it in store over the coming months. And thanks Aldi for giving me and my readers a sneaky peak look into what is coming.

MMPxx

The Day My Life Changed Forever – The death of a parent

I have had one of those inspiring weeks…I have been super busy with Mrs Mummypenny, I have had lots of fun time with family and friends over the bank holiday, I managed a good amount of exercise and ate well. And my mission to drink 2-3 litres of water every day was a success.

I have also been hugely inspired by a friend whom has started up a new Blog. I used to work with her at EE, she was the ultimate skilled copywriter and was the always the one you hoped to get when delivering a promo or new product launch on the website!! Our paths have gone different ways but we have stayed in touch sporadically on Facebook as you do, as few PM messages every now and again. Last week she helped with some info on a money saving piece I was writing for MMP. I got a short instant message from her saying her life was a bit of a rollercoaster at the moment and she had breast cancer. Not just cancer peeps she is also 6 months pregnant, surgery was in 1 weeks time. Now I know she wants this blog shared to help as many people as possible so give it a read. Its written beautifully but is also heart breaking to read. I admire your strength hon in writing as you do, 100% truth but also humour. Good luck with everything. xx

So whilst out on a long run on Friday I was thinking about my friend and what she is going through and I thought about a post I had written 9 months ago on something pretty life changing in my life. I have always been too scared to publish it as its so painful and personal. But the thing is if you have been through or are going through shit, if you can write about it and even if just one person reads it who is going through the same as you, you have done a wonderful thing and have made a difference to their lives.

So here you go, the day my mum died.

On June 26th 1993 I was 16. I had a great life for a teenager, I lived with my parents in Penzance, Cornwall.  I would go the beach every weekend with my friends, go out teenage drinking to the Admiral Benbow every Saturday night. I worked in Olivers the high street shoe shop for a few extra pounds, to pay for the Saturday night drinks. I had just finished my GCSE’s and felt like I had done well. I had a long summer ahead of me with no school or much to focus on. A-levels were next in the September.

But waking up early on that morning of the 26th June my life would change forever. I had the attic bedroom, great to have my friends over for make up/drinking preparation for going out on the town. It had the most perfect view of St Michaels Mount and Mounts Bay. My sister was shaking me to wake me up, strange as my sister lived in a different house. Then it struck me we had been at the hospital the night before as my mum had fallen ill. She has been rushed to hospital by ambulance, we all followed and were eventually let in to see her in intensive care. He was hooked up to all the machines and we were told she had had a heart attack. She was alive, I spoke to her, and she nodded her head when I said I would see her tomorrow.

Tomorrows chat never came. My sister was waking me up to tell me that mum had had another heart attack in the night and had died. It is really strange to reflect back now on 23 years ago and think of the feelings I felt that day. To be honest I remember very little. I remember my sister, 21 years older than me, climbing into my bed and cuddling me for what felt like hours. It wasn’t fair to expect an older sister to tell her 16 years old child of a sister that their mum had just died. I suppose that was the day I became an adult.

I don’t remember my dad at all that day, maybe he just retreated into his normal quiet, uncommunicative, unemotional mode in his shock? I do remember my sister going into organisation mode all day trying to sort everybody and everything out. I had to get out, so I got dressed and went to work, in the shoe shop. It was Mazey day that day, a Saturday, I will forever hate that annual Penzance event. The high street was covered in palm tree leaves and decorations. I walked into the shop went straight to my manager and told her that my mum had died but I was coming to work. She sat me down, gave me a cup of tea and sent me home again.

I called my best friends to tell them. I remember saying to them, “Is your mum with you?”. Ironic that I asked them that just before telling them my mum had just died. I went through the script and there were many tears. It’s such an alien conversation to have that your mum has just died, a complete surprise and shock to the system. Mums don’t die when you are 16, before boyfriends, GCSE results, A-levels, university, first jobs, more boyfriends, marriage, children.

My friends did the best thing they could and we decided to stick to our original plans of Saturday night drinking at the pub to take my mind off it. It didn’t of course and I was a blubbering mess by 11pm after a few ciders. It was a lovely thing of my best mates to do to bring some normality into my day. I remember feeling glad I could walk into a pub and no one know what had happened that day, I didn’t have to explain yet to anyone that my mum had died.

The Aftermath

That day and the days that followed were again memories I have chosen to block out. I know we had problems finding my old brother and had to get Interpol to find him. He was on a boat somewhere in the Med, that’s all we knew. He was eventually located and he flew back to London. On day three I drove up to Heathrow with my sister and her boyfriend to collect him. My dad was really angry. Angry because his wife of 38 years had just died, but took out that anger on my brother for the trouble we had in trying to locate him.

My school leavers prom was in the week following mums death. My sister again rallied to make me a dress, a rough silk emerald green off the shoulder prom dress. She made it in one day from a pattern. I had been seeing a guy for a few months before mums death, but we had split up a few weeks before. But he took me to the prom, he arrived at my house in his suit and tie from Burtons. We had photos taken in from of the beautiful red dahlias in the garden. He held my hand as we walked around the ball room of the Queens hotel. Everyone knew by then that my mum had died, so there were a lot of hugs and I am so sorry to hear your news. We danced to the 1993 music, we slow danced to Boys to Men. I cried. We got back together that night. I needed someone to have contact with, someone to hug and hold my hand. I will forever by thankful to him for being there.

The depths of despair between death and the funeral dragged on for a few days I think we had the funeral maybe 6 days later on Friday 2nd July.  It was a big Wimbledon day and I remember Andre Agassi playing. And I remember it being really hot. I wore my only black dress and we got in the funeral car for the drive to St. Just church for the funeral, the village my mum grew up in. We sat at the front, I remember looking around and seeing all the faces, shocked that someone so caring, warm, friendly could have passed at the young age of 58. I remember seeing my best friends at the back with their mums, and feeling so glad they were there for a cuddle at the end. I sat next to my sister and dad, and my sister held my hand all throughout it. That’s all I remember.

MMPxx

2-5-16 red dahlia

Mummascribbles

Reflections From Me

How the Cheapest Estate Agent is not Always the Best Value

The Costs Involved in Moving House

So I think we all know that moving house is a mighty expensive business. Expensive and stressful so hopefully you and I don’t have to move too many times in our lifetimes. We have bought twice and sold twice and each time has had its stresses and strains and has cost far too much money!!

26-4-16 moving house woman chillingThe last time we moved house was 6 years ago, moving date was when I was 36 weeks pregnant!! I don’t really recommend that, although it meant I didn’t have to do much moving of boxes and heavy work! We bought a 3-bedroom semi-detached house in the same village as our previous 2-bedroom house. We purposely bought a house that could be extended so we didn’t have to go through the stress of moving again. But the cost of moving really annoyed me especially when you are selling and buying at the same time. And the worst cost of all is that evil stamp duty….

An example of moving costs is something like this, I have used moving from a £250k house to a £300k house as an example.26-4-16 house for sale

  • Stamp duty of new house, new house is £300k, stamp duty is a complicated beast, and rather than me boring you with the rules..use this handy Calculator  = £5,000!
  • Solicitor Fees are normally around £1000 to £1500
  • Survey costs are around £500 to £700
  • Valuation Fee & Mortgage Fees. Maybe £500-£700
  • Moving Costs Using a removal firm is going to set you back £500ish
  • And estate agent’s fees on the house you are selling at say £250k at 1%+ VAT = £3000
  • So that is an incredible total cost of £11,400.

There are a few bits where you can save money. Firstly the removal costs, i.e. do it yourself, maybe hire a van for £100. I have done it..its stressful and hardwork…I think its possibly only worth it when you don’t have much stuff. If we were to move now from a house containing 5 people with tons of stuff I might just hire a removal firm. You can choose a mortgage with £0 fees. I know the last mortgage we got from First Direct has no upfront fees. Or you can get it added onto the mortgage. The next part you can save money is the estate agents fees.

Estate Agents Fees

So there are tons of high street estate agents. So how do you choose one? You could go by hearsay or reputation or you could try a more impartial tool I have discovered called Getagent.

Getagent compare local estate agents to find the best estate agent for you. You can compare agents based on agent quote, number of properties listed within the last 6 months (experience), average sale time & average asking price achieved %. It is an amalgamation of these statistics which shows you the true value of an agent – not just the cost!

26-4-16 Moving house box imageFor example, the lowest price agents may not have the highest average price achieved %, meaning they may over value your property to get you to instruct them, before lowering the cost.

An Estate Agent with a higher fee, may charge you more to sell your property, but if they have a better asking price achieved %, they will be able to correctly value your property, possibly making you more money. It is important to understand the valuations from a range of Estate Agents.

Here is a picture of my quote so you can see all of the above in action. I like the asking price achieved column as a small difference here can mean a large amount of money lost or made.

26-4-16 get agent infograph

The final fee quoted can also be negotiated down, I have spoken to friends who have paid considerably less than 1%. If it’s a one-man band firm they are possibly more likely to lower the fee, or maybe offer it with VAT payable? Always ask as you might be surprised what you get.

There are several situations where employing a traditional agent will benefit you and take some stress out of house buying and selling. If your property is a bit quirky, or a bit dated or location is not the most desirable then an estate agent can really help to market it in creative ways. If you need a quick sale and want all the hard work to be done for you then an estate agent is perfect. Just make sure you negotiate that fee and pay as little as you can;-)

This post was sponsored by www.getagent.co.uk

The Worlds Best (YES!!) Brussel Sprouts and a review of Mastro’s Las Vegas



There are some things that are done better in America…customer service (you know its true), theme parks (sorry Alton towers but you cannot compare to Disneyworld or Universal), box sets (OMG Girls, House of Cards, The Good Wife..I could go on and on) and my new finding Brussel Sprouts:-)

So last week hubby and I went to Las Vegas. We adore it there and try to save our pennies and pounds and go as often as we can, Easter is a nice time to go as its the perfect temperature, not too hot..around 25 to 28 degrees. I promise there is a post coming soon on my money saving tips for Las Vegas…yes there are quite a few.

On Wednesday last week we had Britney Spears tickets…not much to say on that except it’s a waste of money. Don’t bother as she mimed like the whole concert, check out my Youtube clip. Anyhows we had planned to meet my wonderful friend Mildred for drinks after she finished her concierge shift at the Aria where we stayed. I met Mildred 3 years ago whilst there for a friends 40th birthday. At the time she was working at the Cosmopolitan where we were staying. She did everything possible to make the trip the most special ever. And we have kept in touch ever since. She is wonderful and if you’re ever staying in Vegas at the Aria ask for Mama Mildred and say Lynn James AKA Mrs Mummypenny sent you;-)

So back to drinks, we had a couple of drinks in the Todd English pub by the Aria front desk. I had pineapple cider…wierd. Hubby had a whisky milkshake containing a lot of cream and the service was actually not great. Maybe because it was English themed pub??

21-4-16 Mastros Las VegasSo we left and went to Mastro’s Ocean Club for dinner instead. I had never heard of it, despite walking past it maybe 30 times. Its a tried and tested favourite of Mildred’s and is often recommended to her guests. We got there for the earliest possible dining time of 5pm. We were treated like absolute royalty, mainly because we were with a concierge from a posh hotel;-). But also because we mentioned my birthday and because its America and service is king as are tips;-)

 

21-4-16 martini at mastros 21-4-16 giant prawnSo we were seated at a great table, the manager came over to say hello and wish me happy birthday and we had the nicest waitress ever. I had a smoking apple martini to start. Our starter was 8oz prawns, seriously huge, more like lobster, Mildred went for crab cakes. And then for main we went for the 21-4-16 brussels and salmonrecommendations from the waitress sea bass for hubby, salmon for me and fillet for Mildred. The accompaniment sides were lobster mash potato and roasted brussel sprouts. Now let me tell you no 1 the fish and meat was very good but the brussel sprouts were AMAZING, like the best side dish I have ever ordered. Boy does Mastros cook them well.

 

 

21-4-16 uncooked brussel sproutsAnd I made them tonight myself as Mildred shared the recipe. 21-4-16 cooked brussel sproutsBrussels from Aldi for 85p (half the packet to the left). Slice the ends off and cut them in half. Place into a roasting tray. Drizzle over oil, I used rapeseed oil as I love it. Generous sprinkle of sea salt and cracked pepper. Roast for 25-30 minutes at 200 degrees. That is it. Bloody perfect. See the pictures. Do it, you won’t regret it. Check out my photo..they look EXACTLY like the ones in the restaurant. I am impressed with myself!!

 

 

 

 

So back to Mastros, they only made me a birthday cake. I say made me, possibly not made just for me, likely a shared dessert already on the menu..but it was amazing. A butter cake topped with ice cream, fruit and a huge bowl of creme fresh. Bloody lovely, a struggle to eat the food as it was sooo nice and we were so full. But we forced it down..

21-4-16 birthday cake at mastros

And off to Britney we rolled….