Sunday, 22 July 2018

Five Ways to Save Money while Travelling

Pin Map of the World
Photo by Brett Zeck on Unsplash

I've always had a passion for travel, back when I was in my early twenties I spent a month travelling around Europe, I loved discovering new places and experiencing different cultures and if I had the money at the time I would have continued on my adventures and expanded my horizons further. Fate has its way of working things out the way they should be though, as it was just after I got back to the UK that I met my now husband and father of my children.

My life took a different turn and within a few years we were married and parents to two wonderful little people. Ours travels now tend to be a lot more UK based such as our youth hostel adventures in Yorkshire.

I have to admit that my heart is still filled with wanderlust and world travel is certainly something in my future plans. One of the benefits for us of having our children at an early age is that once they are older we can fulfil our dreams to spend time travelling the world and satisfy that desire to see the the sun rise and set in far away locations filled with earth shattering beauty.

Sunset in Norway
Photo by Pascal Debrunner on Unsplash

Even though our worldly travels may be a few years in the future, that doesn't stop me from from mentally planning them now and one thing that won't change is my compulsion to make my money stretch as far as possible, so while I'm dreaming of sunsets on far away shores, I've pulled together some top tips to save money for travelling the world.

Photo by The Enlight Project on Unsplash

Top Tips for Saving Money while Travelling

Lay Your Head Somewhere Different

Why not think outside of the box when it comes to accommodation? Rather than staying in a hotel room all of the time, just imagine the adventures you could have pitching a tent in Thailand, sleeping on a boat in Reykjavic or spending your nights on the road, travelling around the Australian Outback in a caravan you found on Gumtree. Closing the door on hotel rooms isn't just about saving money either, you will be able to see the city you are visiting from a truly different perspective.

Talk to the locals

It's a simple one, but it really can make a difference to how much money you end up spending. When you arrive in a new country or city, talk to the people who live and work there. Find out the best value places to eat, the hidden gems that the tourists usually miss out on and the the best times to visit those must see attractions. In these days of modern technology, you don't even have to wait until you arrive to do this, you can check out forums and facebook groups online before you even set off on your trip!

Visit fewer places and stay longer

The slow travel movement is really taking off. It makes so much sense when you think about it, how many times have you come back from a trip and just wished you had longer to take it all in. Instead of planning an action packed itinerary that will risk you burning out half way through, why not get to know somewhere really well?  As well as feeling more relaxed and being able to explore so much more of a destination, this will also save you a lot more money that you realise. Flights, bus trips, train journeys and driving long distances can really eat into your budget. You can also often negotiate better rates on accommodation if you are staying for longer, so the savings all add up. 
Slow down, take more in, save money and discover so much more.

Be Flexible with your Flights

If you have the luxury of being flexible with your dates of travel, it can really save you a fortune! Firstly, when booking flights, it's always best to use an incognito or private browsing mode so you see the best prices. The next step is to identify the cheapest day to fly, it is often accepted that this is a Tuesday, however that could be just a myth, so to be sure for the time that you are travelling you can do a search on a booking site such as Skyscanner. To do this, choose your departure and arrival destinations, select a the one way flight option, then select 'depart', but instead of selecting a date, choose 'whole month', then 'cheapest month', and then search flights. You should now have an idea of the best value dates to fly and can start to arrange your travel around these.

Walk More

When you are at home or in a place you are familiar with, you are much more likely to walk from place to place than when you are visiting somewhere new. When travelling, it can be almost instinct to jump on a tram or bus when you see one that displays your destination, even if it is within walking distance. However, by walking across a town you can see so much more of the place you are visiting and save those pennies for the important things!

This is a collaborative post.

Saturday, 21 July 2018

Celebrity MUA Masterclass with Amy's MakeUp Box

What's in Amy Katrianne's Make up box?

I've always loved makeup. As a teen, i'd save up my pocket money to go to Boots with my friends and buy the latest lipstick or eyeshadow trends. As I got older my taste in makeup got more expensive and my application became more skilled.

However now I'm in my thirties, I've recently come to realise that my make up routine has barely changed for over ten years and my make up bag certainly needs an upgrade!

When I  was offered the opportunity to attend and review the latest Celebrity MUA Masterclass in Manchester in association with Debenhams Beauty Club hosted by the beautiful Instagram and youtube star Amy Katrianne (@amysmakeupbox), I knew it was the perfect chance to pick up some tips and hopefully give my makeup routine a well-needed upgrade.

Amy Katrianne's Make up

Relaxed Atmosphere

The location was the luxury Radisson Blu Edwardian hotel in the centre of Manchester, a stunning setting, easily accessible by public transport. We were kindly greeted with coffee and pastries and soon it was time to meet Amy. I have to say that I wasn't sure what to expect from the whole day, I was quite nervous about attending a beauty orientated event on my own, way out of my comfort zone, presented by a youtube and Instagram star with over 400k  YouTube subscribers! I really had no need to be though as despite her fame and following Amy was amazingly friendly and down to earth, her rather hunky boyfriend Alex Beattie (of Love Island fame) accompanied her and was rather sweet helping her out and taking pictures on her phone.

Amy Katrianne taking a photo of her finished make up on model

Look 1 - Bridal Makeup

The morning was all about the more 'natural' bridal makeup look, Amy demonstrated to us a look that she has done for many clients when she was working as a freelance make-up artist. She explained to us the importance of a trial run, of getting to know what products work with a client's skin and also building up a rapport with them.

Amy started with the eyes, which I have to admit really confused me as I have always applied my foundation and concealer first before starting on my eye make up, but this way makes so much sense! Much easier to sort out a smudge. I was in awe of the amount of time spent on the brows, as if i'm honest they are one area I always neglect! It was fascinating to see the detail that Amy was able to create in the brows and they really did look 'on fleek', as the youngsters say!

Bridal make up by Amy Katrianne

Look 2 - Glam and Sparkle Makeup

In the afternoon, we watched as Amy talked us through the application of a Glam and Sparkle Make-up look, perfect for parties and special occasions where a little bit of glitter is a must! 
I was really interested to see that some of the bases of the look were identical to that of the morning, such as the meticulous brows and the foundation, however the eye shadow shades were darker and glitter was added, the eye liner was smokier and a little rougher around the edges and of course the lashes were bigger and bolder and the lip was full on gloss! 
The whole look was stunning and I would love to try and recreate it myself next time I have a special occasion to shine at!

Glitter and glam make up by Amy Katrianne

Glitter and glam eye make up by Amy Katrianne

Afternoon Tea

In between the two make up looks, we were served a mouthwatering 'afternoon tea' style lunch, including sandwich and a variety of delicious looking cakes, despite my weight loss journey,  I admit I indulge in one or two while I chatted to the lovely Emma from Style Splash. There was much of a vegetarian selection sandwich wise but i'm sure this would have been catered for it I had made clear any dietary requirements before the event.

Afternoon Tea at Radisson Blu Edwardian hotel

The Goody Bag

At the end of the day we left with a branded cloth bag full of make-up delights to enjoy, The goodies included a £25 Debenhams gift card, an Urban Decay Palette, lashes from Unicorn Cosmetics and Doll Beauty, a Benefit mascara and some face glitter.  

goody bag at Celebrity MUA Masterclass

Overall Experience

The whole atmosphere was really relaxed and friendly, Between sharing tips and tricks of the trade, Amy chatted and answered questions from the attendees with charm and ease. It almost felt like chatting with an old friend (albeit a much younger, prettier one!)

Despite being aimed at Make Up Artists, as someone who was just just interested in picking up some tips and ideas for their own make up routine  I really got a lot out of it and would wholeheartedly recommend future masterclasses to those with a developing interest in makeup and who are starting their journey as a MUA.

The class costs £150 for the full day, which includes all refreshments and a fully packed goody bag with a value of £100. On the run up to the event I spotted a fabulous 241 promotion on social media which means you could bring a friend along for the same price and both get to take home a bag full of treats!

I was invited to attend the day free of charge in exchange for an honest review of my experiences, all opinions are my own. 

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

ROAR-some Dinosaur Toys to Celebrate the Release of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

ROAR-some Dinosaur Toys to Celebrate the Release of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

If your child is excited about the release of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the latest movie in the Jurrasic Park series then they'll love these dinosaur-themed toys and gifts!

#Stikbot Dino egg

#Stikbot Dino Egg

The multi award-winning StikBots have suction cup hands and feet which allow them to be posed in numerous different ways, these fab little blind eggs have an RRP of £4.99 and each contains a unique and easy-to-pose StikBot Dino, which have extra moving parts for easy animation and enhanced play value.

#Stikbot Dino egg velociraptor

#Stikbot Dino egg red velociraptor

A great pocket money toy to spark their imagination with educational value, kids can play with the dinos on their own as a fun fidget toy or download the FREE StikBot stop-frame animation mobile app for iPhone or Android and start making their own movies! 

#Stikbot Dino stop motion video making

Check out the mini Roarsome blockbuster my seven-year-old created here.

#Stikbot Mega Dino - StikBrontosaurus

#Stikbot Mega Dino - StikBrontosaurus

Just like the Dinos inside the Stikbot eggs but BIGGER! And with the added bonus of being able to choose your favourite Dinosaur. These retail at £7.99 so still a great value toy for any dinosaur fan. Check out the regular content over at Stikbot Central for ideas and inspiration!

#Stikbot Mega Dino - StikBrontosaurus

#Stikbot Mega Dino - StikBrontosaurus and velociraptor

2 in 1 T-Rex Buzz Wire from Brainstorm Toys

Always a favourite at fairgrounds, kids can now play this fun buzz wire game at home! This skilful game also comes with a dinosaur themed twist, Two dino shaped wires call for your cool head and a steady hand. Touch the wire and you set off the buzzer with a dinosaur ROAR!

2 in 1 T-Rex Buzz Wire from Brainstorm Toys

2 in 1 T-Rex Buzz Wire from Brainstorm Toys packaging

GLOW Stars and Dinosaurs

You can now bring Jurassic adventures into your own bedroom with this pack of 35 glow in the dark stars and eight glow dinosaurs including Spinosaurus, Tyrannosaurus rex, Ceratosaurus, Velociraptor, Triceratops, Dicraeosaurus, Stegosaurus and Styracosaurus, the pack includes self-adhesive pads to stick to your walls and ceiling for some dinosaur themed fun!

GLOW Stars and Dinosaurs

Aqua Dragons Jurassic Time Travel Eggspress

Aqua Dragons Jurassic Time Travel EGGspress Includes egg-shaped tank, eggs, food and feeding spoon, just simply add water and then sit back and watch them hatch within 2 to 3 days, then just make sure that you maintain them by feeding and taking care of your dragons. A great low maintenance first 'pet' for Dino-crazy kids! RRP £13.99

Aqua Dragons Jurassic Time Travel Eggspress

T-Rex Projector and Room Guard

T-Rex Projector and Room Guard

The ultimate gift for a dinosaur crazy child, this terrific T-Rex is not only a projector but can guard your bedroom as well. This daring Dino can project 24 images onto your child's bedroom wall, up to 1m wide, and features 18 species of dinosaur, including Stegosaurus, Diplodocus, Brachiosaurus, Triceratops and many more!

T-Rex Room Guard

This mighty T-Rex roars into action with each unwanted visitor (or nosy little sister!) A trembler alert makes your Tyrannosaurus roar when picked up and a motion sensor detects movement up to one metre away. For curious dinosaur fans, there’s even a secret code to unlock fascinating online dinosaur facts.

T-Rex projector

Don't forget to join in the twitter party at 7pm on Thursday 14th June 2018 for some dinosaur chat and for your chance to win some ROAR-Some prizes! Just follow @Brainstormltd and the hashtags #stickbots #dinosaurs to find out more!

Sunday, 3 June 2018

How I'm feeling after 5 weeks on a meal replacement diet #Boostbuddies

Firstly I'd like to apologise for not updating you last week, there were a few reasons for this, as you know I was in Croatia (holiday spam coming soon!) until Sunday and my intention was to write my update on Monday, but after a day of travelling and with a mountain of washing to tackle all I wanted to do was relax with the children so I had a day in the park! I then got down to tackling the washing mountain and before I knew it I was back to work so I thought instead I'd give you an extended update this weekend...

There's been so much going on over the last two weeks that its tough to know where to start!

Family walking by the Sea in Croatia

I went to Croatia and was a little bit naughty food wise

I'd been looking forward to this break for so long that I really wanted to make the most of my time away and that did mean that there were days that just didn't fit in with two meal replacement shakes a day, so yes I had a few 'cheat' days. I ate a few ice creams and tried the local cuisine, but I also walked a lot, swam and ate salads as much as possible. One thing I have learnt so far in this diet programme is that when you are committing to something like this on a long-term basis, you have to let yourself have bad days and just start fresh the next day without beating yourself up. I realised that one or two days of enjoying myself wasn't going to have that much of an impact in the longer term.

I wore a swimsuit

I don't have a lot of body confidence, if I'm honest with myself I never really have, whatever size I've been (from 8 to 18). I am always uncomfortable revealing parts of my body that are usually covered up so for me wearing a swimsuit is a significant thing. However, I've been thinking a lot recently about how I view my body and how other people view my body. Two particular other people, in fact: my children. 

My children see my body in a completely different way to me, they see my back as something to climb on to see high than they can from the ground, they see my legs as somewhere to hide and feel safe if they are unsure of a situation, and they see my arms as somewhere to hold them tight, to lift them up and to comfort them. When I wear a swimsuit, all they see is their mum ready to get in the water and play with them, to laugh and splash and have fun together. 

So that is what I see when I look at this picture:

Wearing a swimsuit in the pool

I've lost 3lbs in the last two weeks

With everything going on I decided to be a bit kinder to myself and have combined week 4 and week 5's weight loss, which has taken me to a total of 17lbs down. Every pound is a step in the right direction and each time I see the number on those scales go down I get a little bit more sure in the belief that I can do this!

I've lost over a stone in the last 5 weeks and I'm feeling healthier, more confident and am feeling much more comfortable in my clothes.

For me, that's a win!

loosing weight with XLS Meal replacement diet

I joined the gym 

One of the first things I did when I got home from Croatia was to join the gym. I've seriously increased my physical activity over the last 5 weeks and am finding that exercise if helping me to feel happier and more positive in my outlook on life in general as well as supporting my weight loss goals. I'll be sharing more about my progress in the gym over the next few weeks.

Don't forget, you can check out my video diary over on youtube.  and catch up with me on my social channels; on InstagramTwitter and Facebook,, I'd love your support and I need the motivation!

I will be back to update you next week.

Disclaimer: I have received free product and support from XLS during my weight loss journey, but am not being paid. All opinions and thoughts are my own.