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!

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!