My savvy family


My family are not pirates (had to use that lame joke). Paul’s mum was

Paul's mum got through the first round and now has her own blog!

selected through the Nectar Savvy Families competition to keep a blog for several weeks. Along with 7 other families, Rhian will write about money saving tips and how to get what you want on a budget on the blog. She’s new to blogging but you wouldn’t know that because her first posts are great and well worth a look. We can all be more frugal and get more for the money we do spend.

Do you have any savvy tips?

A holiday even you can afford!


In yesterday’s post I mentioned that I had been on holiday.

Outside St.David's cathedral- they always pose like that

When I told people I was going on holiday, they assumed I must be going abroad, but I didn’t, I went to a costal county of Wales called Pembrokeshire. More specifically I went to a little town called Broad Haven. Since the recession, magazines and newspapers inform me that staycations are becoming more and more popular. It’s a cheaper holiday, arguably ethical (helping the local economy), but it is also a lot of fun. My experience taught me that you can have a great holiday without spending a lot of money.

My friends and I stayed in a self-catering lodge which had a beautiful scenic view and a veranda, a lake for fishing, a child’s play area (my boyfriend loves rope swings)  and big open grassy space to play in. The boys went fishing a lot, we had a bbq and sunbathed on the veranda, we had rugby golf on the common land, played murder mystery in our lodge, and each night we took it in turns to make very nice dinners. We managed to do all of this for no extra cost to our accommodation. As we went out of peak time we had the lodge for a very cheap price, but even if we had gone during the school holidays it still would have been an absolute steal. Having a self-catering lodge meant that we didn’t have to spend lots of money on eating out, and as we each only cooked one night, everyone made a big effort, it was like having a dinner party every evening, and much cheaper than having dinner in a restaurant. Lodges, B+Bs, and family run hotels are sometimes not much more expensive than camping or caravanning so it’s worth looking around, especially if you are not the sort of person who appreciates living in the great outdoors.

This sunset was free

Once you pay for accommodation then you don’t need to spend loads of money on day trips, you can go to the beach, to parks, go on costal or countryside walks, all for free. A lot of the attractions (museums especially) in Wales are free so we didn’t have to pay many entry fees, we might even have spent less while we were away than we would have in a usual week. If you have a family (entry fees get pretty expensive when you’re paying for four) or are really strapped for cash then visiting these attractions would be perfect.

One evening we played murder mystery

We were pretty lucky with the weather but on a rainy day we went to Pemberton Chocolate Farm because it was indoors, the tour would have been £4.50 but we skipped that and paid 50p to design our own chocolate and then looked around the free museum and cinema. Other rainy days we stayed in doors to play games (Twister was lots of fun) and watch movies, so weather shouldn’t put you off of holidaying in the UK. Don’t underestimate how relaxing it can be not to have to work through your to-do list every day, you can just read a novel or magazine without having to worry what you should be doing around the house or running errands.

We might have bought a treat in the chocolate shop...

We did take a day trip to St.David’s, the cathedral didn’t charge to go in but just took donations. It was a really sunny day so we got chips and ate out in the sun, but for a cheaper alternative you could take your own picnic, especially as you won’t feel bad buying an ice cream then! Just looking around the city and visiting the galleries was a fun day, you don’t always need to go shopping. My boyfriend and I collect postcards and fridge magnets where ever we go, it’s a cheap way to buy souvenirs that will mean we remember our holidays. Instead of spending a lot of money on buying gifts for every man and his dog, it’s much more personal to pick out postcards you think the each person will like and send them a little message while you’re away.

If you were feeling crappy that you’re not going to have a holiday this summer, I hope this post inspires you to do a bit of research to see if you can change that. If you really can’t afford to go away though, I am also going to attempt being a tourist in my own city so watch out for posts about that. And, of course, I would love to hear all about the staycations you have planned or have been on. Happy holidaying!

Home-made: CHOCOLATE FAIRTRADE PUDDINGS


A quick and easy Fairtrade pudding is chocolate fondu- melt some Fairtrade chocolate and dip bits of Fairtade food into it.

BAKED CHOCOLATE BANANAS

This recipe is a little more time consuming but will still only take a couple of minutes to prepare, and it’s part of your five-a-day!

All you need is:

One Fairtrade banana per person, preferably a bit more ripe than the ones I have here;

A bag of Fairtrade chocolate buttons, big or small, or can use squares of chocolate;

A tub of your favourite Fairtrade ice-cream (optional).

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 150C/ 300F/ Gas mark 2

2. Slide each banana open, do not peel the banana.

 

3. Push the chocolate as deep as possible into the banana.

4. Cover eat banana with foil and place on baking tray. Put in the oven for about 15 minutes or until the banana and chocolate seem gooey. Keep checking them though, you don’t want them to burn.

5. Remove the bananas from the oven and carefully scrap all of the inside of the banana into a bowl. Add a few scoops of ice cream and serve immediately.Enjoy!

The prophecies of the analogue world


If you know me personally, then you know how ridiculously generous my boyfriend is. This year we agreed on a maximum amount to spend on Valentine and anniversary presents. For quite a few weeks now I have been drooling over a camera, a Diana F+ with flash by Lomography. I wasn’t casually mentioning this to Paul as a hint. As usual, he cheated and bought me the camera I wanted, even though it cost more than we had agreed. If you haven’t heard of Lomography you are in for a treat.

The Lomography society is all about the snapshot. They produce cheap, almost entirely plastic cameras, made to be taken everywhere by their snap happy owner. The point is to capture that exact moment and turn it into brightly coloured, moving art. The model I have is based on a camera from the sixties, now improved and re-produced. It is really weird going back to film, it completely changes taking photos. Unlike with my digital camera, I don’t take a million pictures per event but only take one or two and I have to rely on skill. I can’t just keep taking photos and get the camera to auto-focus, I have to do most of the work myself, even deciding on the shutter speed. This leaves so much room for experimentation. And, best of all, the subject cannot request seeing the photo, and then keep asking for re-takes until a perfect one comes along. I haven’t finished my film yet, I’m a bit nervous, I hope it doesn’t come back from the processors as blank. The excitement of collecting photos from the processor is back!

Anyway, the Lomography society is now producing a new campaign- The Ten Prophecies of Analogue. I’ve listed a shortened version below. Even if you don’t like taking photos, take the principles to heart and let them change how you see the world. I was having coffee with a new friend today, a lady who has the same illness as me. We talked about the burden, the frustration, the pain, but we also talked about the way this illness has changed us. We are different people than before our lives were smashed apart, but we are not worse people. We have to take pleasure in the simple things, and take life in the slow line. Our lives are not, and cannot, be high-pressured, running from one task to the next in a caffeine fueled mission. And this is not necessarily a bad thing.

Today, well maybe tomorrow because its late, stop and take time to smell the roses, enjoy life- definitely don’t sit on your laptop all day. The digital world is a great thing, I found my new friend on Twitter, but use it to share all the things you enjoy about life, don’t let it be your life. Don’t be a slave to the beeper, to your smart phone, to your Facebook status, and for goodness sake, do not post your every move on Twitter. Instead of tweeting every inch of your train ride, look out of the window and at the people inside your carriage. And then, by all means, like me, come and report back, use social sites to be social, read blogs, but also remember to talk to people, to see people, to touch, to feel, to smell. But read the ten prophecies below first. If you want to apply these ideas to photography, you don’t have to buy a Lomography camera, although they are pretty great, you can pull out your old camera which takes film or buy a disposable one. The full version of these prophecies is on the Lomography website, click on the link.

If you have been inspired to be apart of the Lomography revolution then a great place to start is the Sampler camera. And, believe it or not, there are actually still places processing film.

THE 10 PROPHECIES OF ANALOGUE:

1. Leave the digital grind behind

2. The return of luck, coincidence, contingency, chance, fortune and surprise

3. Expect the unexpected and the excitement of experiment

Trial and error is your policy. Action and reaction your strategy. Believe in yourself, never stop looking, never stop asking and never stop recording.

4. Lomography will bring back overtones, nuances, smells, shades, dirt and dust and real life beauty to us

Great art is not imitation but interpretation of the world.

5. Film and paper ensure originality, authenticity, and eternity

6. Look twice

Pictures that don’t grab your attention today might do tomorrow, the day after or in your next life. Rediscovering means rein-venting your: taste, style, habits and general understanding of the world. A true revolution. Look twice to find real beauty.

7. Let loose with Lomography

You are a boat, the world is an ocean and you are floating along wherever it might take you with the wind in your sails. Nothing else matters; you’re alright as long as you’re with your Lomo.

8. The avant-garde is analogue

Through the challenge of the new, the old re-invents itself and breaks free from all conventions. It finds styles, relations and languages that remain undiscovered within the mainstream. Therefore analogue is the most exciting form of expression nowadays; the avant-garde of the 21st century.

9. A bazillion fresh tunes await us

10. The analogue future is the home of a whole lot of love, joy, fun, sex and… paradise!

Disclaimer: I did not take any of the photos featured in this post. I got them from Google images, have a look, there are tons more.

Judy’s Affordable Vintage Fair


On Sunday, Judy’s Affordable Vintage Fair came to my Student’s Union. I was really, really excited about this so I took a lot of my student loan out of the cash-point and arrived at opening time. I had a strategic plan, quick look around the whole fair, picking out cheap items or things which I would be gutted if I didn’t get, and then back around once more when I had decided on my items. I meant to take pictures of the fair, but I went into a shopper’s frenzy as soon as I left my flat. Poor Paulie (my boyfriend) was dragged around the fair several times for almost two hours, and bless him, he did not moan.

I like to divide my shopping into categories, part of my desire to organize everything. So firstly, here is one item I picked up on the first round of looking around the fair. I was trying my hardest not to spend an absolute fortune, so it was a toss up between cigarette case and a reel of old ticket stubs. My instinct was that it would be more difficult to find the ticket stubs so that’s what I went with.

I also picked up a lot of £1 and 50p items which I intend to turn into other things. You’ll probably be seeing these things sometime soon in Home-made.

But my bargain of the day was this vintage real leather clutch purse. I could not have put it back down on the table when the stall owner told me I could have it for £3.

I have saved the best ’til last. This was my most expensive item, a new hand-made handbag. I bought this from Fennella for £15. Fenella sells lots of different handbags, each unique and at very affordable prices. It took me a long while to decide which one to get. This is exactly the sort of hand-made items I like, taking used clothes, curtains, rugs, belts, pretty much anything used, and then make them into something completely new. The strap is a leather belt, the main bag is made from an old tapestry-type curtain, the front red part is leather cut from something else, probably clothes, and then vintage pictures, text, sketches, magazine cuttings, etc covered in varnish and then sewn on as embellishments. Even the lining has been made from material salvaged from something else. I imagine part of the reason why Fennella can sell bags at cheap prices is because all the whole product is made from recycled/reused items. I have been meaning for so long to get to grips with learning how to use a sewing machine so I can do projects using the same idea as Fennella, but, for the meantime, I will settle for buying instead of making.

And even with buying all of that, there were so many items that I exercised restraint, and did not buy. There is one stall where lots of old “junk” is turned in to charms and pendants. You pick out whatever you want from the boxes, pick out a vintage chain,  and then the jeweler at the stand and the buyer discuss and design exactly how and what you want the “junk” to be made into. There was also a lot more jewelery that I really wanted to get, an absolute abundance, and loads of clothes too. And then, like my ticket stub, there are vintage items that are incredibly hard to find like glasses, french magazines, even flying goggles, and Judy does not lie, the whole fair was very affordable.

Judy’s Affordable Vintage Fair travels- so far they have been to 22 cities and 6 major festivals in the UK. On the website you can find out when the fair is next coming to a city near you or sign up to their email list so you have a reminder.

Home-made: BUNTING


This is a really simple and quick project. All you need is:

1. a paper punch or a lot of patience to cut shapes out by hand

2. some string or ribbon

3. a glue gun or super or pva glue

4. different coloured papers- I wanted to recycle so I used newspaper and flyers

Method:

1. Cut out lots of your chosen shape in different coloured and/or patterned paper or card. If you want to keep a pattern going then it’s best to sort out shapes in to piles. You can also use different shapes, but I’ve just used bows in the example.

2. Unwind a good length of string and glue on one shape. Place a blob of glue onto your shape and stick it onto the string. Turn the string over and glue another shape onto the other side. Keep repeating this until you reach the length of bunting you want.

I told you it was easy. This is a great party decoration or holiday decoration, but you can just make them to pretty up a room. I hung the bow bunting above my desk to add a bit of colour and pattern among my many sticky notes and flash cards.

It’s the little things: FAMILY


I just spent a happy afternoon with my family yesterday. We’ve all been going through a rough couple of years for a lot of different reasons, in fact things have gotten worse instead of better. My parents came to visit me and my sister, and our significant others. We went to a pub have a very British (and delicious) Sunday roast carvery. There was nothing especially luxury about our afternoon, we didn’t spend much money at all but we all had big smiles on our faces, we couldn’t stop chatting, and, most of all, we all felt happy. There’s never a better afternoon to be spent than among family, especially if they’re also your friends.

It was my mummy’s birthday this week so we were celebrating that a bit belated. The biggest present Paul and I gave to my mum was a family tree. I saw a similar project on a blog; I tweeked and changed what I needed to so it would be just right for my mum. My parents are notoriously hard to buy presents for, I wanted to give my mum something that would make her smile, something she might actually use. We decided to make her a family tree so that she can remember, every time she looks at it, that we are so lucky to have family (I’ve known a lot of people recently who have lost loved ones by sudden deaths, and divorces), and that these tough times have brought us closer together, and we will get through everything that life sends our way as a family, all of us together.

It’s a simple little thing, family, but your family are able to completely shatter your life or become your rock in tough times. It’s so easy to cut someone down when you know all the buttons to press. It’s sad to say but through my own experience, and my friends, I have found that rejection by a family member hurts so much more, and cuts so much deeper than any friend could do. This post may seem overly sentimental to some, but I couldn’t help but remark on the stark change in mood after yesterday. It really is the best thing in life. Having said all of this, I do also have some friends who feel like family, because they have been such a good friend to me, so loyal, so understanding, they have acted in ways I could have only expected from family. Hope this post reminds you too of friends and family you love dearly and always make you smile.

P.s. We also watched the Ireland vs. France rugby game together too, so expect some thoughts from Paul later this week.