The Easter Degustabox

Last week saw the arrival of Spring, apparently, and with it came the delivery of the March Degustabox*- named the Easter Box. I’m not entirely sure what made the box Easter themed as I didn’t spy a single bunny hopping about but it contained chocolate and that’s good enough for me!
This month’s product of the month were these two chocolate bars from Cadbury. I’ve gone off of Cadbury’s chocolate over the last couple of years but I was still excited by the release of these bars as they combine some of my favourite things. Initially I assumed I would like the peanut butter one the best but in reality it was a little bit of a let down (purely because it had so much potential, I was hoping to get something akin to Reeses) but the mint one is truly delicious. I love mint chocolate anyway, and the addition of the oreo pieces added a new dimension. Each bar has an RRP of £1.49- but you’ll find it on offer for around £1 in many shops right now.
What better to wash the chocolate down with than some cider? Well, not for me personally as despite my West-Country origins I’m not a cider lover. These were passed on to my Dad who dutifully tried them and approved. I don’t have the pricing or stockist information for these but if you happen to see them in the shops then they are apparently worth grabbing!
My dislike of coconut water is probably well known by now, but coconut milk I do like. This Chocolate “Mylk” from Rebel Kitchen (RRP £1.99) is delicious and has a reassuringly short ingredients list too. Probably not a direct substitute for a chocolate milkshake but a refreshing (and healthier) drink in it’s own right.
I’m not sold on the idea of “breakfast in a bottle” but did try a swig of the vanilla Weetabix on the go (£1.39). I can see where these have their place in the market and would be ideal for commuters or people who don’t like to eat first thing but I’m too dedicated to my morning porridge to ever see myself swapping. I didn’t try the protein variant (£1.99) as I don’t like the flavours but I imagine this would be ideal for busy gym-bunnies.
Nothing says Easter more than a share bag of Salt and Vinegar crisps right? These are really, really good crisps- made with good quality ingredients from named and passionate providers these really are “crisps as they should taste”- and this comes from someone who doesn’t generally like crisps. RRP £2.00 and perfect for Easter gatherings!
I’m getting really in to my cooking so it was great to see some new ingredients to play with in the box. I love the Maldon smoked sea salt flakes- they add a deeper flavour to all manner of dishes and I happen to think that they pair perfectly with fish (£1.50). The [Seriously] Good Sauce from Heinz is yet to be tried but has been earmarked for some kind of chicken dish as we’re not big fans of steak, which the jar suggests in this house. I’ll report back but I think these jars of sauce are a great size and there are some really nice sounding flavours in the range! (RRP £1.99 per jar).
A slightly random assortment in this section, first we have an organic lemon energy drink from Gusto (£1.50) which is an energising blend of lemon, guarana, ginseng and astragalus. This is an adult take on lucozade in my eyes and probably much better for you as it’s sweetened with agave nectar, apple and grape juice.
I was excited to try the new “full of super” bar from Whitworths as I love this kind of bar as a snack to keep in my work bag or when I’m out and about. This Cacao Raw Bar (£1.50) has almonds, coconut, chia seeds, golden flaxseeds, quino and acai (phew!) and are gluten free, soy free and vegetarian friendly. All that and they taste good too!
The final product in this trio was the intriguingly named “Naturelly” (£1.19) which claims to be a fun and refreshing juicy jelly snack, drink or dessert full of vitamins and with no added sugar. As curious as this product sounds I couldn’t bring myself to try it- it’s a texture thing with me, but if I do find a volunteer I’ll update this post.
If there’s one sweet I can’t resist it’s jelly beans. As soon as I saw this box of 36 flavours from The Jelly Bean Factory (£1.49 for 75g) I hid it away- there’s no way I was sharing! These have been my favourite brand of jelly beans for years, although I hadn’t had them in a while. I’m pleased to report they are as good as ever- and long gone!
Last but by no means least was a bag of chocolate eclairs from £onepounders (go on, guess the price!). I gave these to my parents to try and they raved about them. I’m not sure where you can buy these from although I’m sure I saw them in a local corner shop but dismissed them as “cheap and nasty”. Knowing now that they are cheap but certainly not nasty I’ll be seeking out more of these as well as other products from the over 65 strong range.
For those who don’t know Degustabox is a monthly subscription box filled with 10-15 food/drink products, most of which are brand new to the market so it’s a great way to try things out. On a month by month basis the box costs £12.99 (with a discount for longer subscriptions) but the contents are generally worth far more than this.
If you’re persuaded to give Degustabox a go (and really, you should) you can claim a brilliant £7.00 off of your first box (making it just £5.99!) by entering the code 6HZJ8 at the checkout. It’s been a pleasure to work with the brand regularly over the last few years and it’s without a doubt something that I will continue to purchase long after our partnership ends. I love the monthly surprise and excitement as well as the chance to discover products I’d otherwise pass up on the supermarket shelves.

Let me know if you’ve tried any of these products and what you thought of them.

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Spring Style for Men*

I spend the majority of my time focusing on wish lists for myself, which would make sense given that I am a) without a man in my life and b) female. But sometimes my mind likes to wander and I’ll pop together something a bit like this, with the alternative title such as “what to wear on our first date”. Perhaps this is me ready to really embrace the world of dating again, or perhaps more to do with the fact it is 6am as I write this post and I have already been awake for almost three hours. Either way here is a little menswear wish list kind of thing for your browsing pleasure.
I don’t profess to be an expert on men’s fashion, I couldn’t even tell you what the trends are this season (that might be my next time passing exercise) but I like this outfit. It’s clean, it’s simple but to me still shows that some thought has gone in to it. I especially like the denim shirt although anyone wearing it around me might find that I borrow it from time to time- hence the emergency white tee to be worn underneath. I was going to go for a double denim type approach to this look but then saw sense and played it safe with some chinos instead- I really like the blue and green colour combination and I think the shoes finish it off nicely. In case anyone was wanting to shop the look, the whole lot is from Jacamo.

Accessories wise I don’t think anyone can go wrong with a backpack, although I might be projecting my own current obsession with them here. I like it when men carry bags- it means I don’t end up lugging around their keys/phone/wallet when they get bored of carrying things in their pockets…I can’t imagine leaving the house without a bag and still find it alien when I see men with just their bank card and house key shoved in a pocket.

Anyway, I’m rambling on here but I think I’ve managed to come up with a stylish and semi-on trend (a quick google tells me backpacks are in so I ticked one box right there). What do you think of this outfit? Any men taking notes? (Don’t all rush at once!)

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I promise not to make sleep deprived blogging a regular thing!

Little Ways I Manage my Money*

I’ve always been pretty good at managing my money (thanks for that skill Dad!) so although I’ve been off from work for almost a year I’ve managed to cope without running up heaps of debt. Obviously this in part is due to moving back home to my parents following the end of my relationship- there’s no way I could have kept the flat on myself, or moved in to another no matter how much I loved it. I’ve always been very fortunate that financial help from my family has been available to me. But it would have been all too easy to bury my head in the sand and continue spending like I was on a full time wage. As it stands I’ve still managed to build up a modest amount of savings whilst still living a life so I thought that today I’d share some of the little ways in which I manage my money.

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1.: Alongside my main current account I have several other accounts that have all been given a specific role. One of these is for buying gifts, another is to fund a social life and another is my savings. Whenever I find myself with a bit of extra cash- any income generated from my blog for example the first thing I do is divide it up- a portion gets put away for end of year tax return (so I’m not left having to find a big chunk of money), and I also add a bit to each of these accounts so I’m constantly building up resources so I can accept a coffee invitation or pick up a birthday present without needing to dip in to my current account funds.
2.: For my day to day spending I use cash, my debit card rarely gets used in a shop. It’s far easier to face up to an empty purse than it is to keep a regular eye on your bank account and once my weekly “allowance” is gone it’s gone and I have to put serious thought in to whether I withdraw a bit extra to tide me over. If I don’t carry cash it because far too easy to fall in to the “oh I’ll just pay for that diet coke and magazine on my card” mindset- a quick swipe of the plastic doesn’t feel like spending money and it quickly adds up.
3.: Every pay day I put aside a certain amount of cash for shopping trips- usually £50 per month and this pays for my bi-monthly shopping trip with mum and funds a few purchases in Monki along the way. I find that by doing this I a) have something to look forward to and b) don’t tend to buy clothes outside of these trips because I know the next one isn’t too far away.
4.: If I do want something outside of these shopping trips I try and sell something on e-Bay first to fund it. This has the added bonus of a “one in, one out” effect on my wardrobe and makes me address my hoarding tendencies!
5.: I like to treat myself as much as the next person but before making a purchase I do force myself to think long and hard about whether I really want/need it or if I’m just caught up in an “ooh, shiny” moment. As I’m fortunate enough to make some money through my blog I tend to use what I haven’t filtered off in to my bank accounts to fund these purchases and often find that by the time I’ve amassed enough to make a purchase I’ve realised that it was more of a whim and stopped myself from making an impulse buy of something I’d later regret.
It might sound pretty boring and rigid but I’m convinced that this is what has helped me through the last year and being forced to be more mindful of my money means that when I am back earning my full wage through work (first day back today, woo!) I’m fairly confident that although I’ll be feeling flush I’ll make sensible decisions and focus on re-building my savings rather than splurging as soon as it hits my account. Of course I won’t deny myself and there will be treats along the way but with wanting to move out again as soon as my health and finances allow I have more reason to save than ever.

Although I’ve managed to keep myself afloat it’s good to know that had it have been needed a short term loan from a reputable company such as Cash Lady would have been a short-term solution. I’m not suggesting, or advocating this kind of loan as any kind of solution, but in an emergency it’s reassuring to know that there is a regulated website out there to bridge the gap.

I’d love to know the little ways in which you manage your money, or if any of my habits have helped…leave it all in the comments below!

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How to Add a Pop of Colour to your Summer Wardrobe

When the sun is shining I feel the sudden urge to get out my bright clothes and I’m not the only one. Knowing how and where to add colour can be hard though as you don’t want to overdo it. I feel at ease with red lips and fun prints but what other ways are there of adding a pop of colour to your summer outfit if you’re not quite so brave?

Colour block skirt
I own more A-line skirts than I’d care to mention and have them in pretty much every length, colour and print. It makes sense then that for summer I like to colour block with a bright skirt and a complimentary colour top. For those with a curvier frame wearing bright colours from the waist down works really well and an A-line shape skims the hips. If you want a more toned down look just pair with a neutral top instead.

Bold Summer dresses
For the ultimate boost of colour and energy to your wardrobe it has to be a patterned summer dress. There are so many patterns that are trending right now- from pastel gingham to bright stripes and vintage florals to fun food prints – pineapple anyone? Aztec prints also never go out of style so I’m keeping an eye out for this trapeze dress from Sainsbury’s holiday shop when doing the weekly shop.

Add colour in your accessories
In winter it’s easier to accessorise with colour simply because you wear more accessories and can layer up with hats, gloves and scarves. It’s still possible to do it in summer though – albeit in a slightly more subtle way. I like to add colour with a big bright bag to carry all of my everyday essentials (i.e. my entire life) or in or a pair of platform heels.

Off the top of your head
You can use your head, quite literally, to top off your colour offering. My cat beret gets a little rest over summer but out comes the sun hat instead. Even if yours is plain it’s always possible to wrap around a colour-coordinating scarf to match your outfit. For another instant colour update using a pretty silk scarf tie it round some classic vintage rolls- with the added bonus of keeping your neck nice and cool!
Finishing touches
Last but not least don’t neglect your face and fingers. If you’ve gone for accessories to add tones to your outfit pick the same shades out in your eyeshadow, lipstick or nails for added zing. While I stick to reds and darker shades of make-up in winter, spring is the time to experiment and I’m not afraid of orange lipstick, purple eyeshadow or pastel green nails – as long as it matches something I’m wearing! If you’re not feeling too brave start with a bold nail colour and go from there. This guide to nail shades covers orange, green, bronze, hot pink and everything in between.
How will you be adding colour to your Spring/Summer looks? I’d love to know.

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Dressing up the Hoodie

I’ve already professed my love for the humble hoodie recently and whilst thinking of ways to wear it that wasn’t just with jeans I remembered how I saw it styled in Monki when I made my purchase. The store had paired the grey version of my sweater under a simple black camisole dress so I figured why not give it a try myself? I’m not entirely sure I’d wear it like this often, something so bulky underneath something so flimsy doesn’t give the most flattering of silhouettes but it was fun to branch out and try something new.

Hoodie: Monki (comes in loads of colours!) | Dress: Unknown but similar here | Boots: Long Tall Sally

I think the word best used to describe this set of photos would be “wonky”. In my defence almost as soon as I stepped foot outside it started to rain but knowing I wouldn’t get any other time I decided to power through hurriedly hence the slightly slanted (and headless) shots.

This dress has been hanging in my wardrobe unloved for so long I can’t even remember where it came from, I don’t really go anywhere that would require a little black slip dress but it actually fits quite nicely so I’m determined to incorporate it in to some more casual outfits- more likely with a simple tee or roll neck rather than a bulky hoodie though.

I also wanted to use this post as a chance to say thank you to those who commented or showed support on my “bad mood” post last week. It really is appreciated. If you hadn’t seen my joyful announcements on social media, on Friday I was finally told I can go back to work, starting Wednesday on (very) reduced duties so finally it feels like my hard work is reaping rewards. That makes it little bit easier to tolerate and I’ve been able to further ignite my desire to get well and get back up to my full role ASAP. Having this space on the internet where I can share my thoughts and struggles at times is invaluable and unless people start telling me they are sick of it, or don’t want to read it (although you could just click away from my blog) then I will continue to share my journey to health…a journey I only plan to undertake this one last time. I truly am so grateful for having so much support, and an incredibly supportive employer.

Has anyone else tried a hoodie under a dress like this? I really like how it looks, although perhaps a more oversized dress, or less bulky hoodie would help me feel more streamlined.

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