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)


____________________

Hot drink - FREE
____________________

TOTAL
£0.00
____________________

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.

____________________

Pack of peppers - £1.00
Snacks - £4.55
____________________

TOTAL
£5.55
____________________

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


____________________

Ingredients for food event - £4.21
____________________

TOTAL
£4.21
____________________

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.


____________________

TOTAL
£0.00
____________________

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.
___________________

Burrito - £5.80
____________________

TOTAL
£5.80
____________________

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.

____________________

Aldi - £23.17
Asda - £8.56
____________________

TOTAL
£31.73
____________________

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.

____________________

Subway - £3.99
____________________

TOTAL
£3.99
____________________

TOTAL FOR THE WEEK
£51.28
____________________

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!

MY PREVIOUS MONEY SAVING DIARIES

Monday, 13 January 2020

51 things I was thankful for in 2019

Can someone please tell me how it's been a year since I wrote last year's review?! WHERE IS TIME GOING

Last year was decidedly quieter on the opportunities front (anyone else find this?). In 2019 I found it increasingly difficult to be noticed in such a saturated market. Although 2019 was a bit of a quieter one, there was still plenty to be thankful for:

January
February


March
  • I attended the Ideal Home Show (an annual tradition)
  • I shared my quick and easy a├žai berry pancake recipe full of nutrients and antioxidants ready for Pancake Day. The ingredients for which were very kindly provided by Sambazon.
  • I took a much needed two weeks off work and went to the Maldives for my honeymoon which was every bit as special as it looks. It also coincided with Mr Curiouser and Curiouser's birthday so it was definitely one to remember for him! 
  • On my way back from the Maldives I headed straight to the wedding of one of my best male friends. I was jet lag as hell, but I wouldn't have missed it for the world!


April
  • I wrote the first of my Maldives travel guides here (more coming soon)
  • I was able to test something I have always wanted to try - a silk pillow case (more on this here) - and found it did wonders for my eczema and psoriasis prone skin (thanks again Calidad Home!)


May
  • May was my one of my busiest months and also my birthday month!
  • I saw Walking on Cars with one of my best friends (best.night.ever) 
  • I wrote about what I opened on my birthday here
  • I braved clothing atypical to my usual black, white and grey wardrobe and fell in love with this stunning saffron pleated maxi skirt
  • I wrote a guide on how to style an oversized blazer (again made possible by the wonderful Fashion World team)
  • I found my dream fireplace for just £10 / $13 (I also promptly lost it as lamented about here)
  • I worked with I Just Love it on a Father's Day gift guide here
  • I went to Grand Designs Live (another firm favourite of mine)
  • Something I hadn't mentioned on these parts was how our little girl Tia had gone missing. Miraculously she was returned to us in May after being missing for 2 long years (something that merits its very own post, but I haven't yet found the words)

June
  • I started planning an interiors mood board for our hallway here and can't wait to decorate 
  • I worked with Moonpig on a Father's Day gift guide here and if I'm honest, the cats loved the hamper as much as my Dad and Father-in-law did! 
  • I was invited to Space Spectacular at the Royal Albert Hall and it was OUT OF THIS WORLD
  • I tried my very first plant based afternoon tea here and I loved it!


July
  • I was nominated for the Vogue Parody Q&A by the lovely Tanya so if you want to find out more about me, hop on over here...
  • I wrote about how the struggle is real with blogging AND working a full time job here
  • Had a company-wide half day so we could go to the park and play softball in the sun (AMAZING)
  • I attended Yuu Kitchen's new residency launch at ICEBAR in swanky Mayfair in London and covered it here


August
  • I started my money diary series (here / here / here) as an experiment after feeling inspired to be better with my spending after writing this post. I really enjoyed writing them (and turns out you liked them too!) so they will be here to stay
  • I started my "interiors trends I don't get" series here (more to come this year) 

September
  • The interiors inspiration kept on coming where I talked about my love of statement lamps here
  • I also discovered that River Island has a boss homeware collection (here)
  • I went back to one of my favourite places to eat - Cote Brasserie - and experienced all the Paris feels here
  • I was promoted at work and received a pay rise which was a sweet way to end the year
  • I received a dick pic in an ASOS order which I tweeted about here. The customer service I experienced was so shockingly bad (it deserved its own blog post if I'm honest) that I haven't been on the ASOS site or ordered from them ever since. I am thankful for this experience and for having my eyes opened. They do not value their customers in the slightest, you are just a number to them


October
  • I found last minute (reduced) tickets to the Book of Mormon which were central AND second row (not sure how I pulled it off either!)
  • Tried Flight Club for the first time and LOVED IT (plus the cocktails weren't bad either)
  • I applied for The Circle, wasn't shortlisted (boo), watched it, and swooned about the interiors here. Next year perhaps?
  • Wrote about the most wonderful staycation here with treetop hotel / treehouse hotel vibes. Also threw in an #ootd or two for old times sake


November
  • November is usually one of my busiest months so everything felt a bit... weird? With no events to cover, I found myself writing about shoes and autumn winter fashion here
  • We had an African & Caribbean cook off at work which made for one of the best work lunches known to man / woman
  • I also continued on with my money diaries here having got a bit spendy in Oliver Bonas (again)
  • I went on the Jack the Ripper tour again (last time's write up here), but this time as a paying customer. I took my Dad with me for his birthday (he absolutely loved it as well as the milkshakes and burgers beforehand!) 
  • Black Friday this year was one of the worst ever (great on the bank balance though!)
  • NOW TV pissed me off royally with their Black Friday promotion (more on this here)

December
  • December flew by in no time at all thanks to having sporadic days off + finishing early for Christmas
  • I caught up with friends and family, visited Christmas markets, and went to Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park
  • I wrote a piece here on which Christmas decorations to avoid if you have pets 
  • I wrote a gift guide with a difference here for those who hate gift guides and / or feel awkward about asking for anything for Christmas  
  • After moaning about NOW TV, we some how managed to find a free one month pass which covered us nicely for movies over the Christmas break (RESULT)


SUMMARY

Every year has its ups and downs, but 2019 was truly a special year. Lots of our friends had exciting engagement and / or baby announcements. I went on my honeymoon (FINALLY). And my standout moment: our little girl came back after being suspected stolen and missing for 2 long years.

Admittedly blogging took a little bit of a back seat at times as I was still in shock about having her back and I wanted to (and still do) want to spend every minute of the day with her, having lost out on the last 2 years. And you know what? The occasional breaks from social media and the Internet have been really therapeutic. Sure, I come back onto Instagram and find I have dropped x amount of followers, but if you are so flippant to follow and unfollow someone so quickly, I''m better off without you to be honest.

This attitude overrun into the Christmas period. I finished at work the week before and as soon as I left the building. I pretty much abandoned all social media. No constant photo updates over the festive period, no cringey Christmas and / or New Year selfies. I just lived in the moment with my loved ones without my phone glued to me and it was refreshing as hell.


In 2020 I hope to:


  • put myself out there again and hopefully have the chance to attend more events and work with more brands and PRs who are open to the fact that 10,000+ followers IS NOT ALL THAT
  • get back into vlogging and finish editing my travel footage (why does it take so long?)
  • start THAT podcast I keep raving on about
  • continue to detox offline and keep up my exercise regime
  • continue to grow my social media organically (give me a follow here and here if you haven't already!)
  • FINALLY get some wedding posts up and share my incredible engagement story 
  • continue to embrace my darker hair (I was born with white blonde hair which turned golden blonde over time and is now what I fondly refer to as 'dirty blonde' which suits my personality perfectly. Ha)
  • continue scoping out new authors and books and read every day (I bossed this in 2019)
  • finish writing my many travel posts still sat in my drafts (doh)
  • I'm beyond excited to be getting an extension and new kitchen this year - so being able to work with any interiors brands or kitchen companies would be a dream come true!
  • travel more and experience more of the world

A huge thank you to everyone who reads this little space of mine and for your continued support!

Monday, 23 December 2019

The adulting hard wish list and gift guide

I don't know about you, but I've officially reached that stage in my life when I struggle to put forward gift ideas for myself. I remember poring through the Argos catalogue when I was little circling toy after toy, but nowadays I feel guilty asking for anything. I always wondered why I used to struggle to get much back in the way of gift ideas for older members of the family and now I totally get it. As you get older, your priorities change.

As I got older I discovered the difference between want and need (do you need it? 96% of the time you probably don't). And if I do want something, the stubborn Taurus in me would rather get it for myself than subject my friends and family to spending their hard earned money on me.

It sounds weird, but on Christmas day, I'd much rather watch other people unwrap presents than have any myself. Christmas for me is being with those I love. I adore seeing other people happy, that's gift enough for me.

I've noticed this shift for a while now and this Christmas only emphasised it. When my family asked for ideas in October (I kid you not), my list was minimal and I later noticed it contained functional items where I identified things that were past it and in need of replacing (slippers), commonly used household items, or else identifying day-to-day annoyances (the inability to keep food and plates warm when entertaining).

If you find yourself (or anyone else you know) in the same boat, the second category ("commonly used household items") is a good way to go. And these are the sorts of items which sit perfectly within this bracket:


Reed diffusers - I always have multiple on the go around the house so these are forever useful. Not to be confused with incense sticks which I avoid like the plague (increased risks of cancer).

Candles - because you can never have too many candles! My favourite scents include Pecksniff's bergamot and spiced tea candle (brings back amazing memories of my honeymoon), the Winter collection by The White Company and the Oliver Bonas Mandarin & Lotus candle smells like HEAVEN (as does their Seagrass & Amber) and also comes in a matching reed diffuser.

Matches - adult matches are the very definition of adulting hard. Forget a box of matches, how much nicer looking is this jar of matches?

Fragrance - fragrance can be quite personal, but it's one of those things that I won't treat myself to often so it makes a really lovely gift. Jo Malone is my absolute favourite (blackberry and bay for the win) and I love trying new scents I haven't tried before.

Moisturiser - another thing I don't really treat myself to is a decent moisturiser. I use coconut oil (which does the job) but it would be nice to try a branded moisturiser. Something like Liz Earle or Clinique.

Hand wash - I regularly use a 80p hand soap from Aldi which is an excellent dupe for Molton Brown. As simple as it sounds, having an extra special hand wash from The White Company, Molton Brown or Baylis & Harding is a real treat. Plus it's nice having these out for when you have visitors or people over to stay (also a solid gift idea for any friends and family who have had a new bathroom put in lately!)

So if you're like me (or know someone like me) who isn't brimming full of ideas or feels a little awkward asking for things, the above is a good place to start!

What is on your Christmas wish list this year?

Thursday, 12 December 2019

7 Christmas decorations to be wary of if you have pets

GLASS BAUBLES

Cox and Cox lustre glass baubles here (now in the sale!)

Unless you want to be sweeping up broken glass each morning... AVOID 

FROSTED / GLITTER / FLOCKED CHRISTMAS TREES

6ft Rosa Prelit Pink Glitter Tip Tree here

I fell in love with the above tree this year (trust me, it's better in person). Whilst I'm not normally into glittery Christmas trees, the branches were so much nicer on this tree. None of that fake plastic-feeling rubbish or the thin tinsel-like branches. But I couldn't have in my life and I'll tell you why.

Fake snow and glitter on Christmas trees can be toxic to pets. There are varying levels of toxicity so it very much depends on the toxic levels and how much is ingested (a small amount is less likely to cause any issues but it's just not something I want to risk). If you are going for a festive decorated artificial Christmas tree, always check the packaging which should clearly state whether it's pet safe or not. If nothing is said either way, it's not worth taking the risk.

Real Christmas trees also carry a risk for pets (apparently some of the oils in the needles can be toxic to dogs), so if you have a real tree, monitor closely and if doubt, close off the room with the tree if you are not around to supervise.

SNOW GLOBES

Christmas Scene Snow Globe here

Many snow globes contain anti-freeze and knowing my cats, 
they are 96% likely to knock off a shelf and lick the contents. So no.

GARLANDS & HANGING DECORATIONS

Balsam Hill Holiday Poinsettia Garland 6ft - in the sale here

Anything that hangs is risky business for cat owners. And Lord have mercy 
on your soul if your garland contains feathers (see FEATHERS below)

CERTAIN HOME FRAGRANCES

Neom real luxury reed diffuser here

Did you know that certain aromatic oils within reed diffusers, incense sticks or candles can be poisonous to dogs? Whether ingested or in contact with their fur / skin, these are the ones to be wary of: pine, cinnamon, citrus, penny-royal, sweet birch, peppermint, tea tree, wintergreen and ylang ylang. Before bringing anything into your home (or unwrapping / lighting), always check the label first.

FESTIVE POT POURRI

Mandarin Cinnamon Clove pot pourri here

Whilst I'd love to have bowls of scented pine cones and dried orange 
slices out, my cats would treat it as an all-you-can-eat buffet.

ANYTHING WITH FEATHERS

Olivias feather bauble here

Any decorations, garlands, wreaths or ornaments with feathers will be de-feathered by your feline friends faster than you can say Merry Christmas. So if you have anything like this, maybe invest in a glue gun for any possible fatalities!

Are there any other Christmas decorations your pets go mad for?

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Tuesday, 10 December 2019

The NOW TV Black Friday offer which gave existing customers the middle finger

What do you think of when you hear the words 'Black Friday'? Chaotic stores with people arm wrestling over the last item on the shelf? A great chance to stock on Christmas gifts for less? So-called bargains that aren't actually bargains? People buying s**t they don't need?


I have always associated Black Friday with reduced price consumer goods and never really thought about it in a services capacity. Enter NOW TV.

I first became aware of NOW TV's Black Friday offer last year, and with savings of up to 60% off, whether you are an existing customer or not, it's definitely one to make you sit up and listen

There are Sky sports passes, kids passes, and my personal favourites: the entertainment and cinema passes. Offers range from a one month pass, a 3 month pass and the ultimate: the 12 month package (the latter being the bandwagon I leapt on last year)

WHAT'S THE DAMAGE?

At the time of writing this, the 12 month entertainment and cinema Black Friday pass rings in at £99. And whilst £99 sounds like a lot of money, know this:

1) The 12 month entertainment and cinema pass usually costs circa £252 (so it's a pretty decent saving)

2) The reduced price works out at £8.25 a month. With the cinema costing far more than this each visit, NOW TV gives me the chance to catch the latest movies freshly released before they've even made it onto Netflix or Amazon.

Since signing up to NOW TV's Black Friday offer last year, I've barely been back to the cinema and can watch many new movies a month than ever before - plus great Sky shows like Riveria (recommend) and old favourites like SATC and The Walking Dead.

THE BAD NEWS

With last year's Black Friday pass soon coming to an end. I hopped onto the NOW TV website here hoping to renew for another year. As an existing customer, I had to log onto my account and then head to the Black Friday offers section (this section personalised to each type of customer).

What first struck me was the lack of offers available to me. Despite being an active user of the cinema and entertainment channels, I wasn't offered anything in these areas - just a sky sports package (something I have never used and never will).  I couldn't see the 12 month Black Friday offer I was seeing splashed about on every TV advert left, right and center. I heard whispers of there maybe being a 3 month offer (also not there)

I did some further research and discovered the Black Friday NOW TV entertainment and cinema offers were only available to new customers and not existing customers.

I wasn't happy. And I wasn't alone. The NOW TV forums and help pages were (and still are) full of disgruntled existing customers left feeling very disappointed this Black Friday.

LAST YEAR

Admittedly last year wasn't exactly smooth sailing either. I had issues claiming last year's Black Friday offer because my existing pass had a certain number of days remaining on it which clashed with the Black Friday promotion dates. However having popped onto the NOW TV chat, I spoke to a very helpful customer services advisor who managed to resolve the issue for me without any fuss, and even sent me a new NOW TV smart stick in the mail.

THIS YEAR

I would love to say this was the same story this year (WRONG). The advisors on chat this time around lacked empathy and were really robotic (likely bored of hearing the same complaint over and over again) and were reeling off blanket responses, likely from some company approved script. I gave it a good go, but wasn't getting anywhere. 

The advisor I spoke to then had the cheek to say "stay tuned for our up-and-coming Christmas and New Years offers". I argued these were unlikely to be as good as their 60% off Black Friday offer and asked what these would be (they couldn't disclose). How can I "hang on" in good faith when I have already done this ahead of Black Friday and then been let down all because I am not a new customer? 

THE REALITY

NOW TV are unable to offer existing customers anything for their previous custom and year(s) of loyalty. There is no thank you or incentive for being an existing customer (rookie error NOW TV).

Not only that, but my existing Black Friday offer comes to an end soon and when it does, I would have to pay more than I did before for the service. As a loyal customer for the last few years, how is this fair?

The whole experience leaves many (including myself) deactivating their NOW TV accounts, not wanting to pay a penny more out of principle. Surely £99 is better than no money at all? Add onto that existing customers leaving NOW TV completely. There is no value to alienating existing customers, it never ends well.

HOW TO BEAT THE SYSTEM

There are several hacks to get around this if you are an existing customer and don't fancy shelling out circa £252 a year (and why should you?)

1) sign up as a new customer - in doing so, you will be able to claim the Black Friday offer (but check the offer is still available first). 

2) sign up for a free trial - NOW TV does free 7 day trials so if you are strategic with when you claim these, you can easily be covered with Christmas movies and entertainment for your family over the Christmas break. 

3) assess your usage and cut back - I have been on the annual cinema and entertainment pass for the last year and on reflection realised that I don't use the entertainment pass all that much (it's only really to binge watch a series like Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead). With this in mind, it makes a lot more sense to only purchase a one month entertainment pass as and when I need it. 

4) reduce the cost with Tesco Clubcard - I have spoken at length before here about my love for the Tesco Clubcard system. By shopping at Tesco and also using my Tesco credit card card elsewhere too, I can generate Tesco points which are then converted into Tesco vouchers. On the Tesco Clubcard exchange site here, these vouchers can be put towards days out and a whole wealth of other experiences. Often your Tesco vouchers can be doubled or tripled in value - meaning you get more for your money. NOW TV is currently included as one of the offers on the site and for every 50p of Tesco vouchers, this converts into £1.50 to spend with NOW TV. So say you needed a £9 one month pass (don't quote me on that number!), all you would need to do is use £3 of your Tesco vouchers (essentially free money!). 

WHAT'S NEXT?

I didn't sign up as a new customer out of principle and have deactivated my account. I may go down the Tesco voucher route next year, but will only sign up when I know there is a series or film(s) I want to watch. And even then, I will only sign up for a month pass. Because £10 or less a couple of times a year is still a darn sight cheaper than their £99 Black Friday offer. 

Did you feel cheated by the NOW TV Black Friday sale?

Image source: Pixabay