Friday, 27 March 2020

11 positive things about this whole experience which will help make us better people

Urgh, where do I start? You low key want to watch the news but you also kind of don't because it's all doom and gloom and you are guaranteed zero news on anything other than the coronavirus. As surreal a situation we find ourselves in right now, it's important to remember that we are all in this together and to keep the faith where possible. I write to you today to try and spread some positivity at this challenging time. Today's topic: How will this uncertain time help better us as people?

Good vibes only

It will make us appreciate more


We take things for granted like going to the shops, seeing people and having access to household essentials like toilet roll and pasta. You will never look at a toilet roll in the same way ever again. I like to think that everyone is full of respect for healthcare workers anyway, but this whole situation will make everyone appreciate these hardworking doctors and nurses - who put their lives on the line every single day - even more.

It will make us more creative and imaginative in the kitchen

I can usually guarantee getting all the ingredients I need and I know what I'm going to cook all seven days of the week. The pandemic has thrown this into disarray for many of us. You can't get your usual ingredients. The shelves in the shops are empty. You can't get a home delivery slot. So at this time it's all about scouring your cupboards, fridge and freezer and being creative. I mentioned here how I helped calm my anxiety by taking inventory for everything I had in the fridge, cupboard and freezer so I know what random ingredients I have to cobble up meals with. I also have a spreadsheet with expiry dates to ensure zero food waste. It's all about being organised with a sprinkling of imagination.

It will make us check in with other people more

Normal life is busy, busy, busy and when you reach out to people by text / Whatsapp / social media etc, you don't always hear back. I'm good at reaching out and checking in, but I'm rubbish with the frequency I do it. This whole experience has made me worry about absolutely everyone and I've reached out to friends in other countries as well as here, and I've been in touch with my own family a whole lot more, especially as they are classed as high risk. The other day one of my best friends and I spoke on the phone which we haven't done that in the longest time (we usually just message each other and meet when we can). It was really lovely to talk and it's something I'm set on maintaining. If you haven't heard from someone in a while, I urge you to reach out to them and see how they are doing. You will make their day.

It will make us take better care of ourselves

Washing your hands after using the toilet, handling raw meat, touching bins and etc, and regular cleaning of surfaces at home should be common sense and a given, but sadly it's not to some people. Imagine doing these things and then putting your fingers near your face or worse in your mouth (blergh). This is exactly how bacteria and viruses spread. Whilst I have always been OCD about washing my hands, I have a terrible habit of biting at my nails or the skin around my nails. I've had to be really tough on myself to get out of the habit of putting my hands near my mouth. Hopefully this pandemic will help people be more mindful of their hygiene and / or habits. Including reducing the number of people who travel into work to 'solider on' when they're sick. There is nothing more important than your health and the health of those around you.

It will bring us together

There is a war time feel to this whole situation (just thankfully without the bombs) and however bad it feels, remember we are all in this together. Spare a thought to the vulnerable like the elderly and help out where you can. Get involved in your community (whilst adhering to social distancing of course) and reach out to your neighbours and help other out. My heart has been warmed with stories of families sharing their supplies with others. Kindness costs nothing. And remember not to buy more than you need or stockpile so that no one is deprived.

It will help us appreciate quality time with the family even more

Not all families eat meals together. With many now working from home, former absent members of the family will be around more and able to join in with meal times for a greater sense of togetherness. As we're going to be spending more time with each other, turn the TV off and talk more. Watch less TV and bring out the board games and jigsaw puzzles. Play charades. There are so many ways that you can enjoy quality time together without needing going to go out or spend money. I've seen so many creative examples from home-schooled children on social media lately. And for those of us separated from our families and living in different households, it will make us appreciate future family gatherings in a whole new light.

It will help us appreciate our homes more

We are after all going to be spending a lot more time at home from now on. With an age of constantly needing to go places, see people, post the countries we've visited and things we've done on social media, we suddenly find ourselves enforced to stay home and not travel. With all the uncertainty and worry out there, we will appreciate our homes a lot more as a safe haven to be. Spending more time in your home than you normally would may help you realise that you actually like being at home and it may be a lifestyle change you make when this all blows over. If you find yourself spending a lot of time in one room (say you really get into cooking), it may encourage you to invest money into a home improvement / reno project rather than that second holiday you think you need. Investing money into your home will add value to your property and your quality of life.

It could change the way people and businesses work

With lots of people working from home for the foreseeable future, this could help companies that frown on working on home in normal circumstances, be more amenable to the idea in the future. Viruses are so easy to contract on the daily commute or from planes after business travel or a holiday. The more workers work from home, the less chance a virus will spread to other people in the workplace and multiply. Instead it will keep it confined to the household it started in and reduce risks of an outbreak. An agreed number of days working from home a week will not only help motivate individuals, but could bring about less annual sick days. I don't know about you, but I feel more rested when I don't have to commute all five days of the week. Also this pandemic could transform how shops and businesses operate - particularly the supermarkets - with more investment in people and resources to help fulfil the increased demand in online shopping.

It will help us take better care of the environment

Forget airborne viruses for just one second. Here in the UK we have had the most glorious weather since people have stopped commuting and have started working from home. Days of non stop sunshine and clear skies is unheard of here in the UK. It's a novelty. The fact that there is less pollution from air travel (less flights), factories (many in lock down) and commuting (cars being used less and no one taking the train into work any more) can't be a coincidence. As cabin fever inducing as staying home can be, you can't deny the good this will do the environment.

It will help us be more prepared in the future

This whole experience has taught me a lot and hopefully this is something we can all learn from. For me personally this has given me the drive to grow my own fruit and veg so I can be more independent in the future. Because if you can't get food and your supplies are running low, how do you survive? As a society, I hope this gives the government a kick up the backside to consider future strategies. At a time where isolation is essential, all stores should be closed. We need to have more of a focus on online food shopping with increased investment in people to meet demand. However such an arrangement is not ideal for individuals like the elderly who may not necessarily be connected online. During a pandemic, we almost need war time rations so we avoid the risk of people overbuying and depriving others. In an ideal situation, each household should be supplied with a weekly aid box. It will take into consideration the number of people - and their ages and health conditions - in each household and provide them with sanitary care, essentials like bread and milk, and healthy, nutritious ingredients like fresh fruit and veg. This will enable families to maintain a healthy diet and will ensure that everyone is on a level playing field.

It will make future cold and flu feel like a walk in the park

It will give us a sense of perspective and however crappy we feel from the common cold or regular flu in the future, we will have a new found appreciation that at least it's treatable and that we are fortunate to have the ability to soldier on and recover from it.

Photo by Allie Smith on Unsplash

Tuesday, 24 March 2020

Money diary // Coronavirus edition


MONDAY

I'm working from home so it's a no spend day. I find myself drinking a lot more water than I would in the office and I don't feel the need to snack. There is leftover chilli from the weekend which makes a fabulous lunch.
____________________

TOTAL
£0.00
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TUESDAY

I have a Tesco delivery booked for today (note: this was before the latest madness where delivery slots are like gold dust!). I have a £10 off voucher that requires a minimum spend which is quite a bit more money that I'd usually spend on just a two person household, however there are lots of heavier things I want to buy that I'd struggle to carry back from the shops.

As you'd come to expect, things like toilet roll and pasta are out of stock online.

The shop arrives and lots of it is missing. Luckily the £10 voucher is still being honoured so I'm spending less overall AND still getting £10 off.
____________________

Tesco shop - £54.00
____________________

TOTAL
£54.00
____________________

WEDNESDAY

It's sod's law that a lot of my clothes have suddenly decided that now is the time to give up on life. I have three pairs of jeans and a pair of knickers, all of which cannot be saved with a needle and thread (not that I can currently locate said needle and thread). I ordered replacement jeans from Topshop last week but I keep getting apology emails from Toppers about delays so gawd knows when they will arrive.

The novelty of being at home is wearing off already. I miss seeing people. Whatsapp just isn't the same as an IRL conversation. My mum pops over for a cup of tea and to drop off presents for the soon-to-be birthday boy (note: this was before the current social distancing measures were in place). 

____________________

TOTAL
£0.00
____________________

THURSDAY

Today is Mr Curiouser and Curiouser's birthday. This time last year we were in the Maldives, but this year - even before everything escalated to how it is now - we both collectively agreed not to make any travel plans.

He has a free day off from work for his birthday (a company perk) and is adamant that he doesn't want a fuss or anything in particular for his birthday. He just doesn't want to be out in public at the current time, or for me to spend a lot of money given the uncertainty ahead of us all these next few months.

Birthday boy decides he would like to visit the green space near to where we live and go for a walk given that we've been stuck at home so much lately. It's a lovely sunny day so we only need light layers. He wears his new super soft grey knitwear I bought him recently (which I'm secretly a little jealous of).

Once there, we opt for the longest walking route which is over two hours long. This route has a bit of everything. Woods. Two separate expanses of water. Wildlife. Bridges. Farmland. Fields. Steep uphill climbs. It's impossible to be tired or bored because there is so much to look at.


We see one or two dog walkers but mostly don't see another soul. We very quickly realise that not many people choose the long route as we encounter what we now call the fairytale meadow which has dappled sunlight filtering through the trees, a carpet of daffodils and super green grass that is largely untouched. It's magical.


We are out all morning and I offer birthday boy a pub lunch on the way back (again, before social distancing was in place), however he asks if I'd be happy to make my chilli linguine (a different one to this one here), a personal favourite of his. We have all the ingredients for it already as I was planning on making it next week.

His only other request for the day is that there are a couple of films he'd like to watch. Given that the day has been zero cost so far (he's a cheap date!), I look them up on Amazon Prime with the view to renting / buying. However some further research shows that both films are on NOW TV and it's actually better value to buy a monthly film pass as there's the benefit of having access to many more films. I am a little reluctant to spend any money with NOW TV due to my annoyance with them before here, but as luck may have it, as I haven't used my account in a while, I have access to a free 7 day trial which I immediately snap up. We watch one of his chosen films over lunch and then the other later that evening.

At the time of writing this post, our 7 day trial is coming to an end and we have made good use of it! These are just a few of the things we have watched: Us, Rabid, Escape Plan 3, Hobbs & Shaw, Toy Story 4, The Lion King, the latest Escape Room movie and tons of horrors and thrillers.

Another zero cost birthday treat centres about my aptitude in the art of full body massage. Birthdays can usually be super spendy but this year proved that money isn't the key. We had a zero spend day and my husband was raving about how well rested he felt to his co-workers the next day.

____________________

TOTAL
£0.00
____________________

FRIDAY

Not all of our online shop arrived and we are running low on food. Social media and the news stress how hard restaurants and local takeaways have been hit, so we reach out to our local takeaway in support. We pay online so no cash has to exchange hands, and the delivery is left on our door step, so all parties are happy. We'd usually eat more than we did that night, but we make a conscious effort to eat less so we have leftover food for other days. Especially as we can't guarantee that we will get another online food shop, or find anything left in the shops.
___________________

Takeaway - £20.00
____________________

TOTAL
£20.00
____________________

SATURDAY

Due to missing items from our online shop, there a few things we need from the shops (note: this was before the social distancing measures were in place and we haven't been out since).

We head out super early but the shelves in Asda are already empty. We can't get everything we need - or much at all really - so we improvise and get out as quickly as we can. We see plenty of face masks, but the sight of a man in what looks like a full on gas mask is surreal.

Aldi is a lot better stocked - they even have pasta and toilet rolls - but their meat section is lacking. Our usual basket turns into two baskets as we buy more than we usually would. I mentally prepare myself for a really expensive visit, but Aldi as ever constantly amazes me on sheer value for money. Everything came to just over £30 which I'm still really chuffed about. Comparatively we didn't get much in Asda so the £18.30 spend there didn't sit well with me.

That night we plan on making a roasted Mediterranean vegetable filo pie which we've made before and is great for leftovers. However life has a funny sense of humour. When popping the veg into the oven to roast, the door of our oven gives up and will no longer close. We discover that if the oven door isn't sealed - i.e. shut completely - the oven just won't cooperate. It's a huge blow because tonight's meal relies on an oven, as does the roast dinner we'd planned for tomorrow.

As luck may have it, we have a tiny grill which is separate to the oven. We use this to roast the vegetables but it does take ages compared to normal. We then construct the filo pie and thankfully there is just enough room in the grill to cook it. It turns into a late dinner, but we are thankful that our ingredients didn't go to waste.

____________________

Aldi - £30.20
Asda - £18.30
____________________

TOTAL
£48.50
____________________

SUNDAY

I have been sneezing loads and all sorts of thoughts are going through my head. Fortunately it's only hayfever and I start myself on a daily dose of Piriteze which thankfully stems the sniffing and sneezing.

We stay home today - and have continued to since then - and look into getting the latch on the oven fixed, but quotes range from £80 upwards. Plus there is no one actually available to come out given the current climate. We find the replacement part on Amazon for just £10 and after watching some YouTube walk-throughs, are considering to give it a go ourselves. If we can sort it great, if we can't then we will still be in the same situation anyway (sans oven).

Dinner is a challenge considering we were originally planning on a roast dinner. Seeing as we cannot fit a roast in the tiny top oven, we change our plans. Going through the cupboards, I find I have all the ingredients for homemade pulled pork and defrost burger buns that I have in the freezer. It's quite a large joint of meat and we are determined not to have any food waste, so we portion off a separate cut which we cook off and save for a stir-fry next week, and strip off the fat which we crisp up for homemade crackling.  For the main event, we create a marinate for the pork and put all the ingredients into my favourite piece of kitchen kit, the slow cooker. It takes six hours all in all and it tastes insanely good.
____________________

TOTAL
£0.00
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TOTAL FOR THE WEEK
£122.50
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We are living in funny times. Our weekly grocery spend rocketed compared to normal. Admittedly we would have spent less in Asda and Aldi - or not needed to go at all - had our online shop delivered everything we asked for. I usually pride myself on my ability to plan meals in advance and sniff out bargains, however when the shops are empty and you can't get an online shop for love nor money, this presents challenges. Particularly when you lose the ability to cook oven meals.

This week was a real wake up call for me and if we're in this situation for the long run  - which I fear we will be - I want to be better prepared. There is no need to stock pile and buy things in excess depriving others - it's all about buying enough for your household, making savvy choices, and cooking in bulk for lower cost per head plus tasty leftovers to serve you on other days of the week.

Following this shock to the system, I emptied the fridge, freezer and cupboards, laid everything out, and made lists of what we physically had in the house. I then compiled another list, sussing out what we could cook with what we have. It turns out we are good for 14 more days of meals  - and I can probably cobble together more if I get really creative - which has done wonders for calming my anxiety. For now.

I hope you are all doing ok despite the madness we currently find ourselves in!

MY PREVIOUS MONEY SAVING DIARIES
The money diary of a London blogger

First image - source Unsplash
All other images my own

Tuesday, 10 March 2020

Future plans for our living room // a living room mood board

A slightly different approach to my hallway mood board as unlike the hallway, the living room transformation is already under way! Gone is the scabby blue carpet that had seen better days. And don't get me started on the magnolia walls...

WHAT WE HAVE DONE SO FAR

Our idea of a deep blue statement wall escalated as we loved the colour so much. We used Dulux's Teal Tension (as seen here) which is a dead ringer for the Farrow & Ball navy ones in low light, and when used on all walls, creates a cosy, cocooning feel. Contrary to popular belief, going dark didn't make the room feel smaller - it actually made the room look longer and the ceilings look higher as it blurs the corners of the room and casts the eye up.

We ripped up the carpet - no nice floorboards underneath sadly - and laid our own flooring. It's a lovely warm colour which pairs beautifully with the dark blue walls. I love the character of the knots in the wood and how every floor board is different.

We swapped out the musty smelling curtains for these ones from Dunelm and also bought the matching cushions. The metallic thread gives it a luxe feel - in fact one of my best friends call us the Mandarin Oriental whenever she comes round!

FUTURE PLANS FOR THE LIVING ROOM

Future plans for our living room // a living room mood board

Window 
- although I am relieved to have replaced the shabby curtains with lovely Gatsby inspired fabric, the ultimate dream is to have white shutters or blinds like these in the future for a sleek and fuss-free look.

Home library - as much as I love our dark walls, the walls in this house are dodgy as. Most of them aren't straight and the walls in the lounge are bumpy making any future prospects of wallpaper a hard no. The dark walls help disguise the imperfections, but in the future I'd love to have fitted bookcases / shelving to provide much needed storage and to camouflage the TV, wires, and perfectly imperfect walls. Something a little like these ones here that I have been pinning. My goal being to create a home library to house our many books with the shelving all painted dark blue to make each title stand out (as they quite rightly deserve to) and a print like this one here. Bespoke bookcases can be expensive (especially if you enlist a carpenter) so I'm considering an IKEA hack using IKEA products like this (or a ready painted blue unit like this) to get the look for less.

Fireplace - we don't have a chimney breast in our lounge so can't have an actual functional fireplace, but I'd love to give the room a focus point. I very nearly scored a fireplace here but sadly it wasn't meant to be. This is the sort of style I'm on the hunt for (a white fireplace surround with brushed silver detailing on the cast iron).

Lighting - something that drives me mad about this room is the fact that there is not one, but two light fittings. One in the centre of the room (fine), the other in the far right hand corner (BUT WHY). This weirdly positioned light fitting sat above the previous owner's TV and it annoys the hell out of me. So I really can't wait to get it taken out and plastered over. As for the other (central) light, it's dated and I'd love something a little more modern. Either a chandelier or something in gold or copper like this sputnik light here.

Home bar - we have an unused corner of the room which I'd love to transform into a reading nook and bar area with a statement chair (my eye is currently on this one). If we can get built in storage (see "home library" above), I like the idea of having dedicated space on the shelving for a drinks tray, drinks and glassware and also a gold circular bar cart to match our Gatsby themed living room.

Cushions - I'd love to add a few more cushions onto our DFS sofas (aren't these beautiful?) and get some cushion covers so I can mix up the display for different times of the year.

Storage baskets - we have a surplus of blankets (all dedicated to movie nights and box set marathons) and it would be great to tidy them away into baskets like these when we have guests over.

Plants - I'd love to add some tropical plants to our lounge like tall palms and ferns as seen here. We do have cats who chew on absolutely everything so sometimes I wonder if artificial is the play here!

Statement wall - I really can't decide what to do with the wall behind the sofa. It's a blank canvas and I flit between wanting a gallery wall of framed art and quotes from somewhere like Desenio, Juniqe or Fy, or keeping it simple with one large piece of art or a mirror like this. Another part of me is considering a picture ledge like these so I can chop and change the artwork I have on display, whilst incorporating plenty of plants.

Rug - as lovely as the flooring is, it can get a little cold under-foot compared to the carpet that was there before. I purchased a teal trellis print rug which was great when it was new, but now it's showing signs of age. I'd love to get a blue patterned rug with a deeper pile so it's more luxurious under foot and lasts a bit longer. I love Moroccan tiles and prints so this rug here has my name on it!

Which items are your favourites?

Friday, 28 February 2020

AD | Chilli and prawn linguine recipe with Schwartz

Our house (well its inhabitants) loves food but naturally, with some foods you can agree to disagree. My husband loves pepperoni pizza whereas I can't stand meat on pizza. He loves spicy foods whereas I have always struggled with spice. Fast forward some years and my husband is now equally as enthused with veggie pizza as I am. And me? I am getting braver and braver with spice.

Previously I was removing chilli from recipes and instead having chopped chilli / chilli flakes on the side so my poor husband didn't miss out on my behalf. Nowadays I find myself craving the addictive nature of spice and even pouring more and more of our household staple - chilli flakes - onto my plate to give food that is lacking that extra something.

With spices like crushed chillies, I like to keep the meal itself quite simple so the chilli has a chance to sing. Prawn and chilli linguine is always a dish that goes down well in our household. It doesn't need too many ingredients, it's easy to clean up from (largely a one pot meal), it's simple to rustle up and doesn't take long.

Schwartz chilli flakes * 

CHILLI AND PRAWN LINGUINE

INGREDIENTS
  • 300g linguine
  • x2 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
  • Tomato puree (optional)
  • Sugar (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon Schwartz chilli flakes * 
  • 225g pre-cooked prawns (larger / king prawns will offer a meatier taste)
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 3 large cloves of garlic, chopped
  • Small handful of parsley, chopped
  • Seasoning 

METHOD

1. Start the sauce first. The key to a fantastic sauce is giving it time to reduce and develop a wonderful rich flavour. Start by frying off the onion (I like mine golden and just 'caught' for extra depth of flavour)

2. Add the garlic, it won't need long (approx 2 mins or it will burn). Up to you if you crush or chop your garlic (in Italian dishes I love bigger pieces of garlic so chopped is my preference!)

3) Add the chopped tomatoes and the chilli flakes. Leave the sauce to reduce for 10-15 minutes

4) Do an initial tasting of the sauce. If not tomatoey enough, add a dollop of tomato puree. If too tart, you can counteract this by adding sugar (do a teaspoon at a time though!). Add more chilli flakes if you feel it needs it. Season to your liking (I find a generous sprinkling of salt really helps bring out the flavours!)

5) Start cooking your linguine (we used fresh pasta which only takes 4 minutes, but most dried versions take 10-12 minutes)

6) Prawns can over cook really easily (especially already cooked ones) so it's important to get the sauce as far along as possible beforehand as the prawns won't take long. Once you are happy with your sauce, add the prawns (they will only take a minute or two to warm, but will take longer if raw) and the chopped parsley.

7) Do a final taste test of the sauce which will now incorporate the flavour of the prawns. Again, add extra seasoning, chilli etc if you feel it needs it

8) Once you are happy with the sauce and the pasta has cooked, drain the pasta. You can either mix the pasta into your sauce to generously coat it (what I do), or dish it up separately and ladle the sauce on top. Don't forget to take salt, pepper and the chilli flakes to the table with you! 

Schwartz crushed chillies
Chilli and prawn linguine

We really like this meal as it largely uses ingredients we already have in the house (I usually only have to pick up prawns and parsley) and it's low in fat so good and healthy.

And to quote my husband:
"If I ordered arrabbiata in a restaurant and this turned up, I'd be very happy!"
"You know what? This would be just as nice without the prawns"
And for his latter comment, I'd have to agree. A plain tomato, garlic and chilli pasta sauce may sound basic and boring, but using the Schwartz chilli flakes, it would be anything but! The beauty of the sauce is that it's full of flavour so would be great with seafood, meat, vegetarian substitutes or as is. For a cheaper / vegetarian version, omit the prawns (something we plan on doing next time!). Whether you use seafood, meat or keep it vegetarian, the sauce does require some patience while it simmers down, but trust me, it's worth it!


 * Schwartz have sent me (this product) for review, but all views are my own

Wednesday, 19 February 2020

10 things I've learnt from my Casper mattress // Casper mattress review

Shopping for a new mattress presents a plethora of options. Should you go for foam, springs or a mix of both? And which brand is better? As luck may have it, my search was refined a little in that the new mattress in question had to fit up the tinniest staircase and live in the loft. So with that in mind, this ruled out a fair few mattresses and focused the search around a 'mattress in a box' solution. With so many out there, it was tough deciding whether to go for a Simba, Eve, Leesa, Casper or Emma.


My advice? Go to your local retail park or bed store (checking first if they stock them) and trying as many as you can. Whilst many of these one box mattresses have a 100 day guarantee (you can return at any point in the 100 days, no questions asked), purely picking one out blind online and not trying them first, you won't get a sense of how they compare (some are foam only, some are hybrids i.e. foam AND spring-loaded). My original MVP was the Simba, but then I went to John Lewis and had a chance to try a try a few more of the others and then Casper came up on top.

Said Casper mattress has since arrived and as I didn't really see much in the way of Casper reviews online, I wanted to put my thoughts to paper (well screen) in case anyone else had any questions around the Casper range.These are the 10 things I have learnt from my Casper mattress:

That springs were not for me

I've never had a foam mattress before, but when I went to try out different mattresses locally, I learned that springs weren't for me (each to their own). I couldn't even get on with the hybrid versions (springs AND foam). My advice? Seek out these online brands and try each for yourself before you place that online order.

Quite how bad my previous mattress was

I only learned recently that you should replace your mattress every 8 years. The mattress I was using before was 13 years old (so hardly surprising that I started getting lower back pain!). I knew it was old, but I forgot quite how old and when it was no longer comfortable, I just stuck a mattress topper on it rather than addressing the problem head on like I should have done.

Since I've been sleeping on the Casper, my back pain has completely gone. Admittedly it was still a little sore on the first night (these things take time), but I find the new mattress is supporting me a lot better in the small of my back. When I went to John Lewis, they advised me to lay flat on my back and place my hands under the small of my back. Basically there shouldn't be a gap there, the bed needs to be supporting you in this crucial area. And that's exactly what the Casper does.

It's not just me who rates this mattress

My in-laws knew we were looking at the mattress in a box brands ("aren't they expensive?"). We told them how comfortable The Casper was (their mid range mattress) and how much of a difference it has made to us, and we just found out that they went to look at mattresses themselves and loved the Casper so much, they ordered one for themselves too!

It IS possible to have a hotel style bed at home

Never has my bed compared to the comfort of an exceptional hotel bed. The mattress topper I bought a couple of years back extended the life of my knackered former mattress a little longer, but it wasn't a permanent fix / solution. The Casper needed 24 hours to fully expand once released from the box, but I did cheekily have an initial lie down and I think my face says it all. ABSOLUTE BLISS


24 hours later the mattress was even thicker, but every bit as comfortable. I dressed the bed with a silky smooth fitted bed sheet and grey velvet Matalan bedding, and that night we had the best sleep we'd had in ages. I found myself sinking deliciously into the mattress - but not too much - whilst still being supported in all the right places.

It smells a bit funky

Having seen plenty of mattress in a box reviews and unboxing videos on Youtube, I was fully prepared for this. I'm not sure if it's the wrapping used or the machinery used to vacuum pack the mattress into the box, but something gives the mattress a distinct smell. It's strongest when you first open the box and unload the mattress, but I found the smell was still there even when I lifted onto the bed and added the fitted sheet and duvet (adding bedding doesn't seem to stem it). The scent does linger, however after a week of being in the room, I am noticing it less now. It only seems to resurface if I plonk down on the bed particularly heavily. I hear the smell goes in time, and obviously it's still early days yet.

The pets love it as much as I do

Cats are curious creatures so naturally they came in to investigate. They were sniffing around (clearly clocking the weird smell) and reluctant to jump up on the bed initially, but lately I've woken up to find two cats on the bed. One nestled in-between us and the other either in the bed or sleeping at my feet. They also love the box it came in (as I'm sure you will have seen here!).

How it fits in a box will blow your mind

The box was as big as I am, however I still couldn't get my head around the fact that a mattress was in there. Seriously impressive use of vacuum packing right there!


I can still use my same bedding 

Some of the reviews I read for the other mattress in a box brands mentioned how the expansion of the mattress meant it was too thick to accommodate their existing bed sheets, so the reviewer(s) had to purchase new fitted sheets in a larger size. I was a little nervous about this because after an expensive mattress purchase, I didn't really want to be spending more money on bedding. As luck may have it, my existing bed sheets fit on the Casper like a dream (cue a big sigh of relief!)


It IS possible to get a mattress up an impossible staircase

When we first moved into our home, it was such a faff getting our mattress up the stairs. Our room is in the loft conversion with the narrowest, most awkward staircase known to man / woman. We caught the hallway walls on the way up (luckily we are due a refresh so this didn't matter!) and at one point were wedged into a corner. We learnt our lesson from this and when ordering furniture for our room, opted for flat pack furniture so we could get the components up the stairs easily and build in the room. When it came to replacing our mattress, the 'mattress in a box' solution was a great one for us. Yes the box was ridiculously heavy and quite awkward to get up the stairs on account of being as big as me, however it was much easier than a full sized mattress, let me know tell you that now.


A mattress in a box is expensive

Any of these brands will cost you a pretty penny and whilst I write about money saving tips, there are some things in life worth spending money on (anything to do with your health and well-being shouldn't be ignored). I could have bought a much cheaper mattress which wasn't half as comfortable, however I know people who have long term (and irreversible) back problems stemming from a poor mattress. So whilst this purchase was an eye watering one (I paid for the mattress myself and am not working with Casper or affiliated with them in any way), I knew that I needed to take action sharpish to nip any potential future back problems in the bud.

Saying that, there are ways to help reduce the cost of your new mattress. Casper had an online sale at the time so I managed to get a discount, plus I managed to get cashback as well. Definitely check out TopCashBack and Quidco who frequently have 10-15% cashback offers. My in-laws purchased their Casper mattress through John Lewis who gave them 15% off and a £100 John Lewis voucher so do check with your local store (our local John Lewis sadly didn't have this offer at the time of our visit which is unfortunate)

IN SUMMARY

It's easy to think all these 'mattress in a box' brands are all the same, but on the contrary, each have different ranges with different price bands, so it's worth doing the research and trying each of them out. Whilst I love my Casper, I'm not necessarily going to recommend them to you because what works for me won't necessarily work for you. But promise me one thing. Don't let your mattress reach it's 13th birthday like I did.

Wednesday, 5 February 2020

4 things I have been loving lately

I used to have pink phobia (or pinkophobia according to Urban Dictionary) and now I find myself making an online order and 3/4 of the items are pink. WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME

Pink coat here (currently in the sale, selling fast!) // over-sized cardigan here //
lace trim pink crop top here // Pink military style coat here

PINK COAT

Nothing screams spring more than a soft pink coat. I love pink coats paired with light blue denim and a simple white top. I couldn't decide between the above two (aren't they beautiful?) so naturally I ordered both. Which coat gets your vote?

OVERSIZED CARDIGAN

I love a slouchy cardigan for true dressing gown / robe vibes. I love the monochrome colour blocking on this one and the gold buttons - it looks so much more expensive than it was! (also comes in the cutest soft pink shade here)

LACE TRIM KNITWEAR

Again with the soft pink.. WHO AM I. I usually prefer a v neck / scoop neck / off the shoulder on knitwear for a flash of skin, however I love the higher neck and lace trim of this one. It would look amazing with an updo like a high pony tail, don't you think?

What have you been loving lately?

Thursday, 30 January 2020

Money diary // Chinese New Year and mattress shopping


MONDAY

Morning trains were screwed due to a signalling failure (another great start to the week). The boards at the station were blank so I literally had no clue when a train was going to materialise. I ended up waiting for over an hour on the platform. In that time I could have walked home TWICE and logged on from home (a much more efficient use of time). I did contact my boss to say there was no telling what time train I'd get on and it'd perhaps be a better use of time if I could work from home. But I never heard back from him. Instead of gaining an extra 30-45 minutes of work from me that day (if I'd worked from home), he instead lost out on almost an hour's worth of work from me that day. There are no words.

When I finally got onto a train I was shivering like mad with icy fingers (despite having worn gloves). When I got into London I was shivering even more furiously. As luck may it, I had a fully stamped Caffe Nero loyalty card which entitled me to a free hot drink. This helped defrost my fingers but I did have to keep my coat on at work for a while until I stopped shaking. If I get ill from the whole experience, I will take great delight in phoning in sick.

That afternoon I watched trainline.com like a hawk. Any sniff of train problems and I would be off, giving zero fucks.

The silver lining? I should get a bloomin' marvelous claim back from the train company at some point.

For Monday night dinners, I've started cooking extra meals at the weekend so it's an easy re-heat jobby on Monday night. Things like veggie lasagna, chilli, etc. I recently found a lovely sounding Sri Lankan cauliflower curry recipe in the Aldi mag (also here) which I cooked up on Sunday. We reheated on Monday night and it was GLORIOUS. Plus it provided all the leftovers (x5 pots of it to be precise)


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Hot drink - FREE
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TOTAL
£0.00
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TUESDAY

I went for a lunch time walk to return a previous New Look purchase (a long story but we have time).

I'd bought some bits in the sale which were reduced even further at checkout (£17 total for pyjamas and ankle boots...not bad eh?). But probably reduced for good reason though, as the boots pinched like hell and the pyjamas weren't the greatest.

When I went to return these items, my local New Look store said they didn't accept returns on sale items = exchange only. Whereas my colleague ordered things from their online sale and they were more than happy to accept returns via return post. Go figure.

I obviously didn't want to spend any more in-store, so sought out the ugliest thing I could so I knew I wouldn't get attached and wouldn't be tempted to keep it. The closest thing I could find for the same cost was £17.99 so I had to shell out an extra 99p.

Fast forward to today, I went back and returned the unwanted £17.99 piece of clothing with no objections and no questions asked. So what pray tell is the point of 'exchange only' policies on sale items? Lesson learnt: there are always ways around red tape. It's annoying and a bloody waste of time for all parties, but at least the money is back in my account.

Whilst I recuperated the £17.99, some of it immediately left my account after I treated Mr Curiouser and Curiouser to some of his favourite chocolate treats. I went a little overboard but things like the biscuits and the chocolate honeycomb we can't get locally.

I also had to grab some peppers since the pepper I'd been saving for a recipe had sadly withered and died a sad death. I was already at the mercy of stupid Central London prices (£1 for a pack of peppers... ouch), but when I got to self checkout, they rang up a lot higher. I pointed out the shelf to in-store staff and asked why said item was ringing up higher than the shelf price. They were quick to apologise and refunded me the difference. Little victories and all that.

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Pack of peppers - £1.00
Snacks - £4.55
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TOTAL
£5.55
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WEDNESDAY

Following the success of the African and Caribbean cook off at work, there was another one for Chinese New Year. I didn't have a whole lot of time to cook this time round, so went fairly simple with more of a snack / side dish. I picked up ingredients for crispy kale and also had a heart attack over the cost of Waitrose sesame oil compared to the Asda / Tesco ones I usually buy. But hey, that's central London prices for you... At least the oil will last for several other meals


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Ingredients for food event - £4.21
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TOTAL
£4.21
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THURSDAY

The Chinese New Year work lunch event is today which means only one thing: FREE LUNCH.
Mine isn't quite free as I volunteered to make something for it (costings in yesterday's entry)

We didn't have as many volunteers to cook this time around, so food offerings were a little sparse. Saying that, we have a lot less people in the office at the moment, so it worked out ok.

I enjoy a big plate of chicken chow mein, crispy kale, lime fried greens, pork belly, a veggie rice noodle dish, aubergine, kale and chilli in black bean sauce and pineapple fried rice (the latter two being the MVPs). The company all sat together in the kitchen and it was a lovely social event with prawn crackers and fortune cookies laid out on the tables.


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TOTAL
£0.00
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FRIDAY

Some of us from work go out for lunch. We do a spot of shopping first, then it's 50/50 between Wasabi and Tortilla. As I had the Wasabi pumpkin katsu fairly recently, I opt for a burrito. It's good, but I can't ever remember Tortilla being that expensive?? It does the job for meh Fridays, but I do feel myself falling into a food coma later that afternoon.
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Burrito - £5.80
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TOTAL
£5.80
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SATURDAY

We pop out to do our weekly food shop and as ever, we shop around. Most of our food comes from Aldi as it's such great value, however there are few items I can't get, like chickpeas, which I need Asda for. We have leftover crisps, sandwich fillings and hummus from when the family visited last weekend, so we pick up a baguette for an easy lunch. 

I was originally intending on making a beef dish that night but completely under-estimated how long it would take to prepare and cook. It was too last minute to defrost anything else we'd bought and stashed in the freezer, so we ended up cooking some duck we'd got in Aldi's special buy of the week and then had to improvise as I'd forgotten to pick up any potatoes. We feebly had one large carrot and one large parsnip each(!) which we cut into chips and oven roasted, and cooked up a big batch of French beans. It was a fairly small dinner, but it did the job.

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Aldi - £23.17
Asda - £8.56
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TOTAL
£31.73
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SUNDAY

I bought a beautiful rose gold table lamp in the Argos sale, however it is crazy bright and not at all suited for the ambient lounge lighting scheme I was going for. Plus it glares off the TV making watching anything nigh on impossible. We have an early morning trip to Argos to return said lamp before the crowds. So that's £30-something back in the bank. RESULT

Whilst at the industrial park, we look at kitchens (we are getting a kitchen extension done this year) and beds (our mattress has died and who can blame it? It's a 13 year old mattress). We get lots of kitchen inspiration and decide a 'mattress in a box' dealio like Simba / Eve / Leesa / Emma / Casper is the only way we are going to get a mattress up our impossibly tight stairs to our loft conversion.

For lunch we head to Subway as we had some vouchers through our door and thought it may be a good way of trying out the new vegan meatless meatball sub. We both LOVED it. Plus £3.99 isn't bad at all for lunch for two people (two 6 inch subs with a drink).


We have a chilled movie afternoon and then for dinner we FINALLY cook that beef dish we had an #EpicFail on the day before. It largely uses ingredients you typically already have in the house, so I only needed to buy the beef on Saturday. I also have a little bit of kale left from earlier in the week.

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Subway - £3.99
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TOTAL
£3.99
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TOTAL FOR THE WEEK
£51.28
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Highlights this week:

  • a free hot drink can turn a day from shitty to fab
  • stupid sales return policies don't actually work
  • the cauliflower curry of dreams which was as fruitful in leftovers as it was cheap to make
  • improvising with leftover ingredients can sometimes result in the best meals 
  • Continuing to use vouchers and discount codes to make my money stretch further (a £3.99 Subway lunch for two people was a great result)
  • not standing for over-priced items. Remember it is your consumer right to pay the advertised price, no more 

If you decide to give this money diary a go yourself - or have any money saving tips - do let me know in the comments below!

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