Monday 28 February 2011

Re-claim your 'lost' clubcard vouchers

Do you have a Tesco clubcard? Maybe you don't use it all that often. If you've shopped in Tesco over the last 2 years read on, you might be in for some 'free' money - the best kind, right?!

I don't shop at Tesco for my main shop, but do pop in as it is nearby.  I never really paid much attention to the clubcard vouchers.  I've spent a few in store and exchanged a few for meals out.  I guess I assumed if I didn't spend them they'd 'roll-over'.  I'd never noticed they had an expiry date on, and that they are valid for 2 years.

You know how these things start. I think there was an email from Money Saving Expert recently (I am subscribed but I have to confess I rarely read them!). My brother must have read it, and followed the instructions and 'found' some unspent vouchers. He then told my mum who did the same, and 'found' a tidy stash. She told me, and I found over £40 worth of unspent, lonely, forgotten vouchers.

The other night I mentioned this in Twitter, I talked a few people through how to check and lo and behold, they 'found' their lost vouchers.

So now, I'm sharing with you...

First you need to go to the Tesco website.  Click on the little Clubcard icon at the top of the screen.  That should take you to this screen...

Click on the 'My Clubcard account' tab at the top.  If you've never registered online, you'll need to do that now - with your clubcard number and address details. Otherwise, log in with your email and password.

Then click the 'your vouchers' button in the centre right of the page.  Ta-dah! This will show you all the vouchers you have been sent in the last 2 years, all those you've spent and crucially, those you haven't spent will be shown as a balance.

The voucher code is shown (although I've blanked mine out above!) so you can spend them online and triple/double them up for rewards depending on the current offer. Or you can request they are re-sent and you can spend in store (if you are doing this make sure your address details are up to date).

That's it.  Easy!

If you 'find' any unspent vouchers, please pop back and leave me a comment to let me know xx

This is not a sponsored post, but a public service announcement!!

Magpie Monday - When I am an old woman I shall wear purple...

It's Magpie Monday again folks.

Last week was the biggest ever with more people linking up than before, and I was so so happy to share all your treasure with you. A huge thank you to you all for your support and enthusiasm.

I said initially when I launched this feature that I'd trial it for a month to see if there was any interest.  This is my fourth week and I'm really pleased to declare it a permanent feature on the blog - hurrah!

I'm afraid being confined to the house with chicken-poxy child has meant slim pickings this week.  By Friday I was getting a bit jittery through lack of fresh air and charity shopping so we braved a trip to town.

I visited only one shop, but it proved a veritable trove of treasure.

In a side window, up a very quiet alley-way, I spotted a lovely display and ended up buying half it's contents.  So secret was this window that the volunteer serving didn't even know of it's existence and had to call for help from the manager to obtain a key.

I checked the size of some purple suede killer heels and they were a fit!  Better still, a closer examination told me they were completely unworn. An absolute steal at £3.99.

Not my usual style of shoes, and they do look a bit tortuous, but despite my Marcos-esque collection of footwear I actually own very few pairs of 'proper evening heels'.  I have a purple evening dress that these will match with perfectly (pah! Like I ever go anywhere to wear an evening gown anymore!).

Displayed with the shoes in the poor neglected window, was a gorgeous silk scarf. With hand rolled and stitched edges, and a gorgeous bold design on the bright cerise pink I snapped it up at £2.49.

I doubt I'll wear it, but I'm thinking of framing it, or even getting some of those clippy curtain rings and using it as a cafe curtain somewhere.

Finally, on the bric-a-brac shelf I spotted this old beer bottle for £3.  I have several old bottles dotted around the house, including some I've dug up from the garden.  But this one appealed because it has the name of a long since gone local brewery.

The writing reads Wells and Winch Ltd, Biggleswade.  Some research told me that this brewery was finally swallowed up by Greene King in the 1960's, but traded in Biggleswade, Bedfordshire from 1899.  I love the fact that purchasing something from a charity shop has sent me on a journey of discovery. I've learned a little bit of local history and also found a gorgeous looking bistro which we plan to visit, as the old Malting where this brewery was based is now trading as The Lounge - a coffee house, bistro and film club.

I'd love you to link-up your finds. Maybe something you've found has taken you on a journey, or taught you something new?  Please grab the badge below and link up a blog post, or feel free to share on twitter with the #magpiemonday tag or post on the facebook page.

Me and My Shadow
Grab my button
and link to my blog

Saturday 26 February 2011

High Kicks & Low Life - a trip to the gallery with a toddler

Nothing exciting ever happens in our little old town, so imagine the joy when I heard that our local gallery were exhibiting the world famous Toulouse-Lautrec prints. The British Museum tour of his prints is currently at the Bedford Gallery until 10th April.

I grew up with posters of the French artist's lithographs adorning the walls up the stairs at home and so many of them were very familiar to me, although it has to be said these are the more commerical and aesthetic prints rather than his work which explored the underbelly of Parisian life.  Toulouse-Lautrec was described by a contemporary critic as "the quintessential chronicler of Paris".

 La passagère du 54, 1896. Colour brush, crayon and spatter lithograph.

Bedford Gallery staff (as I suspect most museums and galleries these days) are wonderfully welcoming, and it was a pleasure to take Ruby along.  She was happy to wander around gazing at the pictures and the 'nudey ladies' while I ambled round looking at the artwork and read the descriptions.

The exhibition is staged over two floors, with the upstairs hosting the Toulouse-Lautrec work and downstairs there is a further exhibition of his contempories. 

Eugène Grasset The Vitriol Thrower  1894  Lithograph

Ruby loved downstairs even more as there was a kid's area set up with crayons for her to colour in her very own lithograph, a dressing up rail so she could get into the Parisian vibe, and some French flash cards with colours and animals.

All in all, a fab afternoon. Entrance was free, and there was plenty to keep us occupied for a couple of hours. 

If you do visit, I can also recommend the new Riverside Grill restaurant just around the corner.  They have a lovely light lunch menu with great offers - we dined for £6 per adult for a main lunch meal including a glass of wine, and children under 7 eat free.

For more information on the exhibition and Bedford gallery, you can follow them on Twitter or their blog and for more on the Riverside Grill, they are on Twitter and Facebook.

This is not a sponsored post! I am simply happy to recommend both for a great family day out.

Escape to Nature with Nature Valley

A couple of weeks ago the nice people at Nature Valley sent me a wonderful goody bag, full of tasty treats and perfect bits for our family woodland walks.  How very lovely!

We are already fans of Nature Valley granola bars in this house.  Made from wholegrain oats and with no artificial colours or preservatives they are perfect for snacking on the go.  For someone like me who often skips breakfast and then finds herself ravenously hungry at about 10 or 11 am, having one of these tasty bars tucked in the handbag is a great way to stave off snacking on crisps or biscuits.

Even better, the variety pack has 3 different flavours, and each of us have our own favourite so no arguing over who has what! I love the moreish Canadian Maple syrup flavour, while Dad loves the Oats and Honey and Ruby adores the Roasted Almond bar.

Nature Valley have just introduced some new chewy trial bars to the range, and I had the pleasure of sampling these too.  Moist and chewy these are perfect for lunch boxes, picnics or an anytime snack.  You can choose from mixed berry or fruit and nut.

Besides the yummy bars, what I really admire about the company is their love of the great outdoors and their desire to get people out there enjoying our countryside.

They have devised an online guide called 'Secret Spots' so everyone can get outdoors and find hidden places to enjoy, whether you live and work in a city or a town you can log on and find somewhere to take a walk and get some fresh air.

Nature Valley are working with Chartered Psychologist , Dr David Lewis to encourage everyone to enjoy a little 'green time' during their day. His research shows that sitting in green surroundings or even just looking at a green view for just fifteen minutes a day, can lower stress levels by up to 60%. This in turn reduces blood pressure and heart rate, and heightens relaxation and physiological well-being levels.

There are over 2,000 free walks listed, but the site is constantly being updated and you are encouraged to share your own walks and secret spots so the community can grow.  There are only a few currently uploaded for near where I live, so I shall be spending a bit of time adding a few of our favourites to the site.

So what are you waiting for - get outdoors!

For more information, you can join Nature Valley on Facebook and Twitter.

This is a sponsored post. I was sent items free of charge, however I received no other financial reward for this post and any views expressed are my own and are honest and accurate.

Tantalising Twitter Tasting

As most of you know, I'm working with the lovely ladies at Chocadores on some promotional activities.  I'm very proud to have them as my Cybermummy sponsor, and working with them is not like work at all!

The latest event has taken a lot of planning but I'm very excited to announce it.  I actually think it might be a first for social media.

I'm sure a lot of you have heard of 'Twitter Parties' (using a shared hashtag reference, an online discussion takes place at a pre-planned date and time).  Well, on Monday 28 February at 8.30pm GMT, we will be hosting quite possibly the first online, virtual chocolate tasting club.

Now, I've been invited to chocolate tasting parties before for various fundraisers and charity events, but have never been able to attend due to child-care issues or transport problems.  There are also clubs you can join by post where you are sent samples each month.  But this is where the Chocadores Tasting Club will be different.

As it's on Twitter, it will be a social experience, a chance to chat with others and talk about the chocolate. Of course Chocadores, as the hosts, will be on hand with advice and guidance for novices like me, and will talk through the tasting notes of each product.

Chocadores are passionate about educating people about the pleasure of real chocolate.  It's not something reserved for the elite or gourmets.  Real chocolate should be available to all who want to sample it, and if you want to learn more about the subtle differences between beans and the countries the chocolate comes from, then this is an excellent opportunity.

The first tasting club members are 12 Tweeters who responded to messages on Twitter and Facebook and expressed an interest.  They will all be sent 3 very different chocolates to sample, free of charge on this special first occasion.

The chocolates we are sampling are the Fresh Chocolate Mediterranean Orange Ganache (Yippeee, my favourite!); Duffy's Ecuador 43% milk chocolate and El Ciebo 75% dark chocolate.

If you want to find out more, please drop in to the party. We'll be online on Twitter at 8.30pm on Monday 28th February, and you'll find us using the hashtag #tastingclub.

You can also follow me and Chocadores on Twitter to find out more, and find out news on future events.

Hope to see you there. x

This is a sponsored post, and my participation on Twitter during and before the #TastingClub are also sponsored in line with my Cybermummy sponsorship. For more information please see my disclosure policy.

Thursday 24 February 2011

But Mummy, I'm poorly...

We've been quite lucky that throughout the whole 'chickenpox' incident, Ruby hasn't been anywhere near as ill as some other kids. To be perfectly honest, the worst part about it has been being confined to the house for a week.

She very quickly learnt how to milk it, and I of course indulged - on the basis that if I'm to be stuck indoors with a poorly 2 year old, it might as well be a happy 2 year old. Anything for a quiet life!

She managed one day where she consumed nothing but Skips, Ribena and Peppa Pig DVDs. Another when she insisted I built her a den in the living room. She then retreated inside with all her teddies, her duvet, pillow and the remote control and remained there all day. Like a fool I fetched and carried drinks and snacks for her and posted them through the 'roof'.

When I finally made it out to the supermarket, I promised to buy her whatever she wanted for dinner that night as 'she was poorly'! Did she say she'd like one of mummy's delicious home-cooked roast dinners? No. Did she request mummy's homemade fish pie? She did not.

Her special request, for her most favourite dinner in the whole wide world fingers, Smiley Faces and peas. Hardly Cordon Bleu.

Smiley Faces are a bizarre potato-based foodstuff (I gleamed this from reading the label, because you'd never guess it from the taste). After eating these at our soft-play centre, she has fallen in love with them.

I consoled myself with the fact she was getting Omega 3 from the fish fingers, and frozen peas are probably one of the 'freshest' vegetables you can eat. But Smiley Faces? Pointless!

Although they do make quite good monsters.

What do your kids get away with when they're sick?

This post is submitted as part of this month's Oui Chef over on Beckicklesie's blog. This months theme is 'Frozen with Love'

Wednesday 23 February 2011

Pine Cone Bird Feeders

Confined still to the house, we've been doing yet more crazy things with pine cones today.

The un-naturally large cones that Ruby bought home from the park seem to be breeding. I'm thinking of releasing them back into the wild as I'm running out of ideas to do with them.

We decided it would be nice to make some bird-feeders, and after much trawling of the internet it seemed the easiest and safest way to do this would be using peanut butter.  I couldn't think of a toddler-safe way of using melted fat!

Apparently it's better for the birds if you use low fat and low salt peanut butter.  Also, I shouldn't really have to say this, but as I don't want to get sued, please bear in mind:


Got that?  Right, butt suitably covered, lets move on.

You will need

  • Pine cones (don't feel inadequate by my super-sized cones, normal ones will do!)
  • Peanut butter
  • Bird seed
  • Tray
  • String

First, tie some string to the cone to make a hanger. It needs to hang from the pointy end (stalk end down).

Then, using a spoon, smear the cone with peanut butter. Try and fill the crevices with sticky peanut butter.

Abandon spoon because apparently it's much more fun with your hands!

Mmmm, yummy.  Next, place your sticky cone in a tray. I bought this one from a Poundshop, I think it's intended as a cat litter tray but I thought it would be great for messy play.  Incidentally, the big bag of seed was also from the Poundshop (I'm so frugal!).  Sprinkle bird seed over the cone so it sticks to the peanut butter 'glue'.

Roll, sprinkle, dip or throw - whatever works best - to make sure all the peanut butter is covered in seed. Shake off excess.

Finally hang outside for the birds to enjoy.

We then retreated indoors to watch the bird feast commence from the window, but Ruby soon got bored of that game. It seems toddlers don't make great twitchers!

This post is also linked here, pop over for more great kids craft ideas x

Thinly Spread

Someone thinks I'm bloggy brilliant!

This morning, bleary eyed and dishevelled with my bed hair and dressing gown, I opened the door to my postie. Poor man, they should pay him danger money for having to experience that sight most mornings.

He handed over an intriguing cardboard box, which I immediately ripped open, to discover the most lovely surprise.  I have been awarded a 'Bloggy Brilliant Award' from Azaria PR, even more lovely as the award is in the form of a yummy looking iced biscuit.

Thankfully, they also sent me a virtual rosette, so I can munch the biscuit and still be able to adorn my blog with pride.

It is so lovely to receive something 'just because', and Azaria are 'one of the first PR agencies in the UK to acknowledge the blogger's hard work'.

Guys, I'm so touched that you think my lil' old blog is worthy of an award.  I am taking it as a positive that the award came directly from the agency, and I wasn't nominated by a reader (I shan't dwell on the fact that none of you lot nominated me!!), and very happy they made particular reference to my Magpie Monday feature, which I also love.

So thanks very, very much, I shall stop writing now before I go into 'Oscar acceptance speech' mode, but I will celebrate with a nice cuppa and my delicious biscuit. x

Monday 21 February 2011

Practicing for Perfect Pancakes

This is a sponsored post.

Easter falls quite late this year, which is a bonus for me as it gives me more time to get organised, to plan Easter egg hunts, decorate the house and more importantly, practice my pancakes for Shrove Tuesday which falls on 8th March this year.

I consider myself to be a reasonable home cook, but for some reason the simplest things elude me.  I fail on a regular basis to deliver a satisfactory boiled egg, omlettes are usually a sticky mess, yorkshire puddings are very hit and miss and pancakes are a total disaster zone.  Actually, thinking about it maybe it's the eggs fault. Eggs seem to be the common denominator here...

This year, I've decided we WILL have proper pancakes. Traditional ones with sugar and lemon.  There will be no congealed mess, hurled out of the frying pan onto a plate, no more thick smoke from burning oil.  I'm bringing out the big guns and enlisting Betty Crocker and their tips for making perfect pancakes.

While I'm about it, I am also going to do some homework and refresh my memory about the traditions of Shrove Tuesday, Ash Wednesday, Lent and Easter. It's interesting stuff, even for a heathen like me.

I'm also going to look into going to the Olney Pancake race, a world famous event which is practically down the road from us.

pancake race Pictures, Images and Photos
Image credit Photobucket

What are you up to this Pancake day?

This post is sponsored by Betty Crocker, you can find more company info and recipes on their Facebook page.

Magpie Monday - Time for Tea

Firstly, can I just say how much I'm enjoying Magpie Monday. I'm loving everyone's enthusiasm for it, people's commitment and determination to join in - scheduling posts because they are away on holiday! Wow, that is just amazing.  Thank you all so much.

I hope the beautiful blog posts that have been linked up so far have inspired people to look differently at purchasing 2nd-hand products, rescuing items which would otherwise go to landfill and save natural resources by re-using items.

This week I'm going to show you some tea time treats that I've purchased from charity shops and car boot sales, and hopefully show you how you can decorate your home by thinking differently about things.

First up is this little dish with dome.  It's like a mini cheese dish, although with the exception of perhaps a Boursin I don't think you'd get much cheese in it.  What actually is it?  For butter presumably? I have no idea of it's real purpose but when I saw it in a charity shop for 50p I knew exactly what I'd use it for.

A fairly pointless addition to my kitchen I'll admit, but it makes a cupcake feel extra special and if nobody had bought it, it would have ended up in the bin. I couldn't let that happen!

Next up is this gorgeous cup and saucer I bought a while back from a charity shop for £2.50.  I loved it because it has a 'biscuit' saucer (least that's what I call it!) and will fit several hobnobs alongside my cup of tea.  I also like to use it in other ways and for the last two springs I have had bulbs in it.  Admittedly I should have photographed this earlier before the Hyacinth decided to take on triffid-like proportions, but it's still pretty!

Finally, it's time to own up to my secret addiction.

Jelly moulds. I can't help myself.  I just love them, and if I ever spot one at a car boot sale, antique fair or charity shop I have to have it.  I'm not talking about the ridiculously silly money Shelly moulds, or the super-expensive copper ones. Just the basic china moulds you can pick up for a couple of quid.  I don't care if they are chipped or cracked.  I don't have anywhere to display this collection at the moment, but I keep on buying them when I come across them - they are for my 'one day house' where I shall have an under-lit glass shelf mounted high up in my kitchen to show them off and forget to dust them.

I can't really explain my fascination with these.  I loathe jelly.  I think it's the history attached to them, the houses they must have lived in, the parties they must have served.  I have both sweet and savory moulds, some with flowers or fruit patterns, others with fish designs and asparagus moulds.  It amuses me to think of the aspic monstrosities that were once served at dinner parties.

Plain and unassuming, some might say unattractive on the exterior, inside they hold hidden beauty and complexities - I feel a strange affinity to them!

So what treasures have you found recently? If you have something you've bought or found 2nd hand I'd love you to grab the badge and link up a post below.  If you don't blog you can share a picture on Twitter using the #MagpieMonday hashtag or upload a picture and some words to the blog facebook page.

I can't wait to see. x

Me and My Shadow
Grab my button
and link to my blog

Sunday 20 February 2011

My Beautiful Girl

After hoping for the past few weeks that we'd got away with it, Ruby finally has Chickenpox.  It started with one boy at nursery about 3 weeks ago, and following on from that she was a bit off-colour for a fortnight. Nothing specific, just a bit grumpy, a bit of a cold and an upset tummy.  But then she perked up and I assumed it had passed.

On Wednesday I took her to nursery and the 'poxometer' board outside read '7 cases of chickenpox confirmed'.  Uh-oh!

Thursday morning we were getting ready, I was due in London for an event and Ruby was looking forward to her Auntie collecting her from nursery at lunchtime and taking her to story time in the afternoon.  She showered and was fine. I dried her and she was fine.  She sat in her dressing gown eating her cereal while I got ready.  Then I heard it: "Mummy, I've got a spot".

I checked her over and she had 5 spots, but they were unmistakeably the pox.  She was distraught, denied she had 'chicken pops' and was adamant she should go to nursery.  Hasty ringing around and alternative arrangements were made.

My girl wasn't unwell, she just had spots.  Over the next few days these started to irritate and itch and she's having trouble sleeping, and is grumpy we can't go out, but apart from that she's ok.

Until that is, she said to me, with a look of absolute pure sadness "Mummy, I'm not beautiful anymore".  My heart nearly broke. I had to fight back the tears, and promise her she is, and always will be beautiful.

What saddened me most was where she'd got the idea that beauty was to do with her face or her skin.  I need to work on this, and help her understand that beauty is within.

We are not a particularly vain family.  We don't spend a fortune on ourselves, we don't have walls full of studio photography self portraits.  But I have told Ruby every single day that she is beautiful and I love her.  I want her to grow up with self confidence and belief.

A few spots will not change the fact that she is the most beautiful person in the world.

Silent Sunday - Inside and Out

This post is inspired by Mocha Beanie Mummy, and although there's no link-up this week, I'm doing it anyway because I love it! x

Silent Sunday

Saturday 19 February 2011

Toddlers & Dogs: safety rules, plus dfs Crufts giveaway

As most of you know, I am proud to be a dfs Crufts Mum and really pleased to be bringing you this great competition to win a family ticket to the event and your own personalised flight bag.

We had our dog - a chocolate Labrador called Ella - before Ruby came along. The timing was great because Ella was about 3 years old by then, and I think this is a great age.  She was no longer an over excited puppy, snappy or boisterous, nor is she yet into cranky old-lady dog mode. Although, all that said, the advice is still never leave a child and a dog together without adult supervision.

I've never had any worries about the two of them playing together although Ruby's love of dogs generally has meant we have had to teach her some basic rules as she has a habit of bounding up to any dog she meets. She has no fear and will happily cuddle a dog twice her size, but obviously it can potentially be dangerous with dogs she doesn't know.

The basic rules she has learnt are:

  • Always ask the dog's owner for permission before approaching the dog or trying to stroke it
  • Be calm and gentle around dogs
  • Never pull, push or hurt a dog, or treat it like a toy
  • Never 'corner' a dog, always make sure the dog can walk away if it doesn't want to be stroked
  • Never try to take a toy or bone off a dog, and stay away from them when they are eating.

You can read much more about toddlers and dogs on the Kennel Club's website and their Safe and Sound campaign.

Now, onto the giveaway.  We are really looking forward to attending dfs Crufts this year as a family, and The Kennel Club have given me a family ticket plus the personalised bag to give away to one lucky blog reader.

To enter, simply leave a comment below stating you wish to be included.

You can gain one additional entry for doing each of the following:
  1. Like the Kennel Club Facebook page  
  2. Follow them on Twitter @KCLovesDogs
  3. Like my blog Facebook page
  4. Tweet the following " I've entered @missielizzieb 's competition to win family tickets to #dfscrufts with @KCLovesDogs. You can enter here: "
Please leave details in your comment of any additional entry methods you have completed and PLEASE MAKE SURE YOU LEAVE ME A WAY TO CONTACT YOU such as your twitter ID, facebook name or email address.

The winner will be drawn at random.

Closing date is Wednesday 02 March 2011 at 8pm.

The prize is for one personalised bag and a family ticket to visit dfs Crufts.

Open to UK entrants only.

This is a sponsored post.

Friday 18 February 2011

Winner of the be.ez MacBook cover is..

Thanks to all who entered the competition to win the stylish MacBook air case by be.ez, and thanks to so many of you for signing up for New Mummy Tips newsletter.

I've counted up the individual entries and used and the winner was...

CoxeeFoxy!! Well done you, please get in touch with me via DM on Twitter or PM on Facebook with your address so I can send your prize out.  If you're about and could get it to me before Saturday lunchtime that would be great, because after that I'm not sure when I'm able to get to the post office, being housebound with a Chickenpoxy child!!

Well done to CoxeeFoxy and commiserations to all the other entrants. x