Christmas can be a really expensive time of the year for families with travel costs and Christmas food shopping to take into account. And that’s completely leaving out the stress of preparing for presents for the kids and gift exchanges! This can potentially wreak havoc on your wallet if you don’t plan accordingly, which is why this article exists – with lots of tips to help you make a delectable Christmas dinner and save money in the process.
The key points involve reducing the cost down enough to make a fulfilling meal for everyone. In this current digital age, you can use the services of a grocery app to find the best values for the myriad of ingredients you might need. Then, gather up a handful of loved ones or friends who will be at the Christmas dinner party, and go value shopping for all the necessary ingredients.
Here are some tips on how to make Christmas dinner on a budget:
My vegan Christmas roast dinner 2017 - a sprinkle of dried mint and lashings of gravy were added after the photo. Yum!
Decide on a budget
Decide first of all either what your total budget is or how much you want to spend per head. With Christmas Day lunches at pubs costing around £60 per head, your at-home meal should be an awful lot cheaper than this! Once you have worked out your maximum expenditure, and then make sure you stick to it and are careful with your spending. It can be tempting to buy a lot of treats at Christmas, but if you are on a budget and money is stretched, then you’ll have to hold back.
Make a shopping list
Instead of aimlessly wandering around the supermarket aisles choosing as you go, have a meal plan and write a shopping list for exactly what you need. This should help stop you overspending as you know exactly what you need to buy and you just need to have the willpower to stick to your list!
Whilst you may think that choosing organic is expensive at first, some of the online veg box deliveries offer really good value and you can be sure you are getting high quality ingredients. Plus they deliver to your door which will save the time and money spent travelling to the supermarket.
Go to a farmer’s market
A great way to support local farmers and also to save on produce is to pick up everything you need at a farmer’s market. They often have great deals on fresh produce and can be really competitive on price with supermarkets.
If the organic boxes and farmer’s markets are out of your budget, then go with the value brands. You’ll be surprised at how amazingly cheap supermarket own brand vegetables and value ranges are, even at Christmas. Often the supermarkets will have lots of offers on the fruits and veg you need to make Christmas lunch as they want to win your custom for your Christmas food shop.
Get everyone to chip in
Not with money, but with the food. If you’re making the main meal, then why not ask some family members to bring desserts, others to bring drinks and another to bring the starters or canapes? Make it a family affair and don’t feel pressured to have to provide for everyone if you can’t afford to. Your loved ones will understand and be more than happy to chip in and bring a part of the meal each.
Make everything from scratch
While it might be tempting to buy ready-made canapes, desserts and frozen yorkies or potatoes, it’s often much better value (and tastier) to make your own homemade versions.
Control the portion sizes
Be sensible with the portion sizes. Ensure that everyone has enough, but don’t overfill plates and end up with a lot of food waste which is wasted money also. Cook enough for each person to have a good sized portion and a perhaps a tiny bit extra for those who will want seconds. Leave the extra off the plates and in the kitchen so if it’s not needed it can be saved and eaten as leftovers instead of wasted.
Keep it simple
Have the star of the show (usually meat, but in my household a nut roast), potatoes, stuffing, yorkies and three or four veg. Some condiments such as dried mint and cranberry sauce and of course gravy. You can go all out and start creating cauliflower cheese and so on, but you can also keep it much simpler and choose a couple of tasty steamed veg that will do the trick and keep costs down.
Before writing a shopping list and buying anything, check your cupboards to see what you already have. You might have some jars of condiments in there, packets of stuffing and a tub of gravy granules. Don’t go out and buy it all again if you already have it at home.
There we go. Whatever your budget this Christmas for your dinner, make sure you don’t break the bank and follow these tips to be a little savvier with your festive food shopping.
Let’s face it. Kids grow fast. One day they’re crawling around in their onesie and the next they’re choosing their own clothes in their favourite High Street fashion store. It’s crazy how quickly children grow and how often they need new clothes, especially in those younger years. No matter what kind of kids’ clothing you’re looking for, be sure you’re giving particular attention to their functionality. And, believe it or not, there are even some ways you can save money when buying kids clothing.
How to choose functional clothing for your children
Not only does buying functional clothing serve a purpose, but it will also save money in the long run. If you’re buying clothes that suit their intended use then they will stand the test of time and won’t need replacing so often, or get ruined easily. For example, if you know your child is going to wear the clothes in the rain or the snow, it might be a good idea to look for something that repels water instead of soaks through when wet. If you’re constantly hanging wet coats to dry then they’re going to need a spare whilst one is drying out. By buying a suitable water repelling coat in the first place then you’ll only need to buy one and not waste time and money on drying wet though jackets.
You might also keep an eye out for the quality of the clothing. Cotton is very popular since it is the least likely material to contain substances that can be harmful to your child. Choosing organic cotton which you know has not been sprayed with chemicals is even better. Quality clothing like this washes well, maintains its softness and feels great on the skin. Additionally, be aware of your child’s needs. Do they have sensitive skin? If so, wool might not be the best choice (plus it’s a pain to wash!)
If you’re not sure what size kids clothes to buy, get something a little bigger than you think. Even if your child cannot wear it now, they’ll eventually grow into it, plus it saves a trip to return it to the store if it was too small. That’s one less thing you have to buy at that stage when they do fit the item! Plus, if you’re anything like me, clothes can shrink when washed and tumble dried for the first time, so allow for an element of shrinkage!
Of course, you always want to consider your child’s style preference. Once you’ve determined that what you’re purchasing fits your child’s needs and is functional, you can take a moment to find something that they’ll enjoy wearing. Kids can be stubborn and I’ve often bought clothes that my kids refuse to wear at all. Perhaps it’s best to take the kids with you and let them pick, then you can guarantee they’ll wear it and you won’t be wasting money.
Lastly, after you purchase clothes for your children, you want to be sure they’re safe. Wash them before letting your children wear them, just like you would do with your towels or linens. This helps to remove any remaining substances or residue that may cause skin irritation. If you’re choosing organic clothing then you might want to skip this step as they should have no chemicals on them at all.
Kids clothing can quickly add up, especially when they outgrow it so quickly. Here are four ways you can save money on kids clothes.
4 quick tips on how to save money when buying clothes for children
Buy a size larger – obviously not so they look ridiculous or their clothes swamp them, but often with my daughter I have been able to buy a jumper or coat a size larger and it’s lasted for two years instead of one. For my son I’ve been able to get away with buying even t-shirts a size larger as baggy t-shirts suit him more.
Check for second-hand bundles – check online marketplaces for people selling second-hand bundles of kids clothing at great prices. These are particularly great for buying clothes for messy play, forest school and pre-school as you’ll not care about them getting marked or covered in paint!
Buy out of season – check the end of season sales for clothes for the following year. Choose sizes a year ahead ready for next summer in the end of summer sales, for example. Do the same in the winter sales and you’ll never have to pay full price for clothing again.
Swap with your friends – if you have older kids or your friends or family have older kids, then pass on your outgrown kids’ clothes and they’ll be happy to do the same to you. I once even borrowed a big box of baby clothes from a friend and returned it once my son had grown out of them, ready for my friend’s new arrival!
Buying kids clothes can sometimes be a challenge or a costly experience for any parent, but don’t get overwhelmed. Just follow a few simple guidelines and you’ll have your child ready to go no matter what the season – you might even have next season’s wardrobe ready and waiting if you’re savvy about it. Whether you’re buying for your first child or the fifth one, you’ll be a pro in no time!
I received my results today so I want to share with you my thoughts and a review of the Genesis DNA Talent test. Firstly, though, let’s start at the beginning as you may be wondering what completing a DNA test involves.
How to complete a DNA testing kit with Genesis DNA
Usually you would register and order a DNA testing kit from their website directly, but as I was sent the kit for the purpose of this review, I didn’t order online. I guess my process is the same as if you receive a kit as a present. It comes with instructions to register your kit at their main website using the special ID number unique to your kit. You simply fill in a few quick details such as your name, age, email address and sex along with the box registration number to ensure that your results are sent to you when ready.
The kit comes with everything you need to take two DNA swabs and clear instructions so you’ll know exactly what to do. It’s totally pain free and you simply need to pop on some gloves and take a swab with an extra-long cotton swab in the side of your cheek. You twirl it round whilst coating it for 30 seconds or so and then pop it in a test tube. Then you repeat with a second swab.
There’s no need to worry that you’re doing it wrong as they’ll send you a second kit if for any reason they can’t extract your DNA from your two swabs.
Simply send the test tubes back in the envelope provided and await the email of your results!
Why choose the Genesis DNA talent test
I was at first offered an immune health DNA test which is very appropriate for this time of year, but my immune health is not something that concerns me. I eat a plant based vegan diet full of superfoods, fruits and vegetables every day and exercise several times a week. I don’t drink alcohol and I don’t smoke. Whether it’s my lifestyle choices or a strong genetic immune system, I rarely get ill - this entire year I’ve had one migraine and one day where I was feeling under the weather, but that’s it. I never get sick or ill. It’s very rare for me.
So I decided the immune test might not be so beneficial to me and they offered a talent test instead. It definitely sounded intriguing as it promises to reveal:
Your physical, mental and intellectual predispositions
Which activities and professions could be your most successful
What potential talents you haven’t yet tapped into
How your genes affect your personality
This certainly interested me as perhaps there is a hobby I have not yet realised I am good at or a profession I have never considered. Maybe I’d have a light bulb moment in my head and realise my future career and potential.
Through my twenties I never had a hobby or interest and always felt I was lacking one. I wanted so desperately to be good at something and to have a talent. I tried a few things and nothing ever stuck. I was always so envious of those who had a skill or talent, especially those who had perfected their skill from a young age. Why didn’t I know what I was good at?
It was the same with career choices. As a child I never knew what I wanted to be. I never had a focus or set dream. I flitted between wanting to be a teacher, a firefighter, a radio presenter and more. I never knew what my skills were or what I wanted to be. I had no set direction and this continued into adulthood. I never had a set career in mind. I was always hardworking and worked my way up in a company I was loyal to for 9 years before having children, but once I left to start a family I again realised I did not know what I wanted to be.
I knew I didn’t want to return to the same job as it was demanding and full time hours, when I wanted to be with my new daughter more, and so I trained to be a childminder. I think I was more passionate about running my own business and having more flexibility than the job itself and it never materialised as a house move took a lot longer than anticipated. In this time I had already started a jewellery business and from this a passion for writing was rediscovered and I turned to blogging as a hobby and future career choice. I am now a full time blogger - a blogger because I love to write.
Yet I always wonder how long the blogging bubble will last and if it bursts, then what will I do next. I have no idea.
Perhaps my DNA test will help guide me to a suitable career choice or suggest a talent that I could be great at!
A breakdown of my Genesis DNA talent test results
When my results were ready yesterday I was sent an email notification. I had to login to my account and download the results – a 36 page A4 booklet! It can be viewed online, but as it looked quite extensive I printed it out and read the whole thing. Sometimes I find a huge amount of information easier to process on paper instead of staring at the screen for a long period of time. But there’s no need to print and you can access everything totally online.
The results are broken down into an overview, main recommendations and then detailed recommendations. Let’s look at my results and my thoughts:
Apparently due to my variant of the COMT gene I have an increased level of dopamine and adrenaline which help to shape my personality. I was somewhere on the middle of their scale which meant I was a ‘sensitive discoverer’ as well as a ‘warrior’. I definitely like being called a warrior!
My personality traits were a bit hit and miss to be honest. It was a bit like reading a horoscope where some I could really relate to and sounded just like me, but others were nothing like me. Perhaps genes aren’t always conclusive or maybe I’m not interpreting them correctly. Here are some of the interesting points:
It says I can easily lose my temper which is true! Not with friends though, but more with my kids! There’s only so many times I can repeat myself and ask nicely before I do lose my mind… put your socks on, put your socks on, put your socks on, put your socks on, put your socks on, can you please put your socks on, PUT YOUR SOCKS ON. Job done.
It does tell me to break away from my professional life or else it will have a negative effect on my lie. I’m certainly a workaholic and even more so since running my own business. It’s important to take breaks and not let it take over your life, but that is sometimes easier said than done when you work by yourself and can only rely on yourself to get the work done!
It suggests I work on my creativity by listening to classical music. I’ll just leave that one there…
It does say I can easily break addictions which I think is very true. Some people are terrible at breaking an addiction, but I am strong willed and if I want to do something then my will takes over! I also love an experiment and see anything such as giving up added sugar for a year (which I did in 2017) a challenge and one that I will succeed in! Turn giving up something into a challenge and I bet you’re far more likely to succeed.
For my professional career, seeing as I have traits of both a sensitive discoverer and a warrior, it displays a whole host of varying career ideas: writer, fashion, artist, lawyer, nurse, waitress, broker, manager, lifeguard, the list goes on. It’s not very specific, so at least now I can blame my genes for my indecisiveness when it comes to a career path! It does say I need to decide which personality prevails in me to make a career choice, so can I be a warrior?
Pressure at work is apparently good for me and I agree. I hate twiddling my thumbs and I need a lot of work to keep me engaged, so lots of deadlines and pressure – yes please. I work best when I’m fired up with lots to do.
But then it says I need greater self-discipline which I disagree with as I am highly self-motivated and work well by myself, at-home, where others often say they’d be too distracted or procrastinate too much!
It says as I’m a warrior then if I’m not satisfied with my career then a change won’t be challenging – ‘hear hear!’ This should so be true for everyone! Isn’t it so boring to hear those people moan constantly about their jobs they hate, but they don’t do anything about it?! Life’s too short to keep working a job you detest – do something about it!
The diet section is probably relevant to everyone –consume more magnesium, don’t drink sugary drinks, do drink green tea. Sensible advice for all I’d say.
Memory and spatial orientation
I have a high level of the BDNF factor so I’m predisposed to faster transmission of information from short term to long term memory. This must be before I had kids and suffered baby-brain and mumnesia…
It goes on to say I gain motor skills rapidly and memorise them even after a few days. I’m a fast learner and can learn pretty much anything I set my mind to, especially anything academic. Here are some of the points that are interesting from this category:
I might be a good driver. We’ll have to ask my husband Ben’s opinion on that…
I may be good in maths, geometry and geography. Yes I am! Or at least I was! I got an A in GCSE maths and GCSE geography and loved the subjects. I ummed and arrrred about taking them at A-level, but was trying to release my more creative side and took drama and philosophy instead. Doh! I 100% should have continued with geography and maths and then who knows what career path this could have led me down.
It reminds me that cortisol is increased in stressful situations and also too much working out and lack of sleep… I know, I know. I’m working on it.
I’m also predisposed to high blood pressure which is interesting as my Grandad has hypertension and my uncle did. I’m hoping my lifestyle choices will help to keep mine down.
I have high levels of the protein KIBRA which means I have high verbal communication skills:
Written and spoken communication isn’t a problem for me so it suggests a career with these. This is good as my current career involves a lot of writing! I love to write and hopefully I communicate well through my writing. I’m always told everything reads well.
I don’t have problems with written work at school or work. I’ve always loved writing, spelling and reading and always enjoyed writing essays!
I shouldn’t have a problem learning foreign languages. Well I learnt German at school and found it relatively easy, so I took up French as a second language and struggled! I don’t think I’m great at languages, but I just don’t have the time to learn one currently.= or the need.
Apparently public speaking and presentations are not difficult for me. But they so are! I hate talking in front of large groups of people. I hate the attention and all the eyes on me. I went to a yoga class recently and had to introduce myself in front of around 35-40 people and my heart was beating so fast and palms sweating. I’m definitely not comfortable speaking in front of large groups of people I don’t know. I prefer small groups or 1-1s.
I have a higher sensitivity of the oxytocin receptor which means having a higher resistance to stress, emotional, optimistic and empathetic. I don’t think I do have a higher resistance to stress. Maybe more than others, but I still get stressed on a regular basis. But perhaps we all do?
‘Stressful situations aren’t problematic for you’… until I had kids…! (Of course I’m always saying this in jest, but parenting is stressful!)
I find it easy to recognise lies and manipulation – yes I think I do. I’ve known a few liars and manipulators and I can see straight through it, even when others can’t.
I’m kind. Why, thank you :)
Type of muscles
My muscles contain an additional protein – alpha-actinin-3 (ACTN3 gene). I may be good at sports that require high dynamics, muscle contraction and anaerobic effort.
Because I have an additional protein in my muscles I should be able to take part in sports that require high dynamics and strength. I love to run 5km-10km and I also love the step machine at the gym and yoga classes.
I can easily build a muscular silhouette. Ooh I’d better try this! I do need to work on my bingo wings!
I’m apparently more suited to sprinting, but I never got on with sprinting. I’ve always been good at and enjoyed long distance running. I do 5km runs at the gym a few times a week and sometimes go up to 10km. For 5km I run 1km per 5 minutes which I don’t think is bad. I could push myself to go faster if I was racing. I do sometimes sprint for a minute or so at the end of my 5km to really get my adrenaline pumping!
My energy is efficiently transported during physical activities, meaning I get fatigued slowly during exercise. This definitely rings true and is why I like long distance running over sprinting and can sometimes keep going and going…
I am apparently talented in ‘sport’. I’m not sure I am. I enjoy running to keep fit, but I don’t think I’ve ever been talented in any other sports.
This section tells me to choose long distance, whereas the muscle section said short distance. My genes are conflicted!
It tells me to include dark chocolate, green tea and cocoa in my diet to improve performance. All things I love and all things that will give me more energy and also contain caffeine. I use cacao rather than cocoa as it is less refined. I choose dark chocolate that’s without added sugar so it’s healthier. Anyone who knows me will know how much I love green tea! These three foods could benefit everyone.
Final thoughts (and save 20% off Genesis DNA tests)
Wowsers, that’s only a tiny snippet of the comprehensive DNA report I received! There’s a lot that I feel matches me and some that really doesn’t. Overall I found the process of completing the test and receiving the results a fun thing to do. It was definitely interesting to see what levels of certain genes I have and what this should mean for my personality and health traits, even if they weren’t always accurate.
I’d definitely do a DNA test again, but I think I’d opt for something more specific like a health DNA test or even a food intolerance DNA test if I thought I might have intolerances to something. I think DNA testing for health reasons is great to pinpoint a specific health problem or issue and could really benefit someone’s life. For recreational purposes or for a nosey insight into your genes it can be quite expensive, so I think it’s more valuable if you have a specific purpose in mind. That said, it does make a modern and unique gift idea!
Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to easily share your family moments with your grandparents? Perhaps they are not tech savvy and can’t regularly see all your happenings on social media and via email. Now there is an app that is very easy to use to upload your photos and captions to each month which will automatically create a booklet and post it directly to your grandparents or chosen recipient. Isn’t this a genius idea? The app I am talking about and will review in today’s blog post is the Neveo app.
Today something very exciting came through the post to me – my Neveo booklet. I have literally just opened it and flicked through every page. I’m very impressed with the quality and even more excited to know that a copy is also winging its way to my husband Ben’s Gran (Oma) in Germany.
What is Neveo?
Neveo is an easy to use platform that allows you to upload up to 50 photos per month, along with captions or descriptions if you wish, that will be sent to your chosen recipient each month. You can upload your favourite photos each month from your tablet, iPhone or computer to your account and they’ll go into that month’s album for your chosen recipient.
A family newspaper automatically sent to loved ones
On the first of the following month Neveo will automatically gather all your photos and create a family booklet style newspaper that will be dispatched directly to the recipient.
Then you start adding your photos to your album for that month and they’ll create a booklet the following month, and so on.
It’s a subscription service so you pay each month and they will automatically use the photos you upload to send a family journal to grandparents or whoever you choose. You can even add more than one recipient if you like. It’s a hassle free way to send memories to family members who live far away.
Easy to use app
I personally find the app easiest to use as I take all my photos on my iPhone. I simply upload a few photos, mainly of the children, every few days and add some quick descriptions. As our recipient is German I just add short captions so they are easier to translate, but you can be more detailed.
Add more contributors
Plus you can choose to add more contributors. I have added my husband Ben as a contributor and we can create the album together. He has the app on his phone and it is synced to my account. That way we can both share our favourite photos with his Gran.
You can send the booklet to anyone in the world! Neveo offer worldwide delivery so you can keep in touch with friends and family far and wide. It’s just perfect for us to send family photos regularly to Ben’s grandparent in another country.
Who will receive our Neveo family newspaper?
Ben’s mum is German and moved here to the UK by herself as a young adult. This means the rest of his mum’s side of the family is in Germany – an uncle, cousins, his cousin’s children and his Gran.
Ben calls his Gran ‘Oma’ as this is German for Gran. As she is our children’s great Gran we came up with the nickname ‘Oma Oma’ for the kids to say which technically means ‘Gran Gran’ as it was easy to say when they were younger, rather than ‘Uhr Oma’ which is the correct translation. So we all now just say Oma Oma.
We have been very lucky to fly to Germany five times to visit Oma Oma with the children and she absolutely loves to see the children and play with them each time. It’s always an incredible feeling to see how happy she is to see them.
Oma Oma is now 94 years old! She doesn’t have a computer, email or mobile telephone which means we cannot send her images of the children and our goings on electronically. Neveo is the perfect solution for us!
We try our best to print photos and send them as often as possible as well as a larger printed album of the children each Christmas. We always hear that she loves to receive them and now we are able to send even more with ease, thanks to Neveo. It's going to save us the hassle of uploading and printing our own photos and even a trip to the post office!
My final thoughts on Neveo
I am really impressed with Neveo, from the level of customer care to the quality of the booklet. The app is very easy to use and they sometimes send little reminder notifications so you don’t forget to upload photos to your album. When the album was printed I received an email and again when it was dispatched so I was kept in the loop the whole time. They have been very helpful and friendly every time I have contacted them.
I absolutely love the concept and it’s going to be an amazing way for Ben’s Gran in Germany to see what we are up to each month. The booklet is a nice quality and just perfect for a little update each month and to bring so much joy for only £9.99 per month. 50 photos is more than generous to include each month and can really give an insight into what we have been doing. You can choose to pay more, currently £14.99 a month and have up to 100 photos!
I’m also tempted to order a booklet for ourselves each month. When Bella was a baby and toddler I was keeping a family scrapbook, but since having Reuben and working full time it’s been impossible to find the time to maintain. All our photos are now digitally stored or on our iPhones. It will be a great idea to use Neveo to create a little family newspaper for ourselves each month of the best photos.
Special offer – first booklet only 99p
They currently have a special offer of your first booklet for only 99p if you sign up through my Neveo link. There is no commitment so you can cancel anytime, but I really hope you will see what a beneficial service it is and continue to print a family journal for your loved ones each month.
Watch the video to learn more
Get more of an insight of how much it can mean to grandparents and how it all works in this video:
Welcome to my November UK family lifestyle roundup. It's my monthly roundup where you get an insight into the person behind this blog and what my little family and I have been up to for a whole month. It's also a place for me to document our lives each month and save them in this category so we can look back through them and remember what we've done!
If you follow me on Instagram then you’re probably up to date! But here is a more in-depth blog post of things we’ve been up to and family happenings.
We're a family of four - Victoria 33, Ben 35, Bella 6 and Reuben 3 in Gloucestershire, south west England, UK.
Although every month feels busy, I didn’t feel like we did many day trips or outings in November. Ben has been busy working in his workshop on a couple of furniture commissions, so we didn’t go out anywhere extraordinary at the weekends. This is going to be the difficulty of Ben trying to set up his own business – he already works full time, so it only leaves the evenings and weekends to do it.
With cold dark nights upon us and little time after work/dinner/kids, it really only leaves the weekend days for him to make things in the workshop. It’s fine and I support him, but it means we are getting a lot less family time together at the weekends. I’m sure the summer will be better when it’s lighter and warmer for longer and he can work more evenings on his business venture and make use of working outdoors in the sunshine until late!
We still did a lot of little things this month and even managed to alter our kitchen to improve it.
Plus we've been feeling a bit more festive as the kids get excited for Christmas and we've seen displays, trees and lights in shops.
Here’s what’s been happening:
We see two sets of fireworks
We went to see two sets of fireworks this month. Well, we all went to the local Churchdown fireworks which is the next part of Gloucester to where we live in Brockworth. The display was amazing. I also took Bella to Calton Primary School’s fireworks at the end of the month in Gloucester, so Bella and I saw two displays! Last year we went to Birdlip which was brilliant, but I want to keep trying different venues each year. In 2019 I want to go to Alton Towers to see their fireworks extravaganza!
New kitchen worktop and design
Our fridge-freezer had been on the brink for ages and had started getting too warm, causing food to go off quicker than usual. It was around 10 years old and only a cheap appliance. It was definitely time for a replacement! I had a plan though – rather than get another tall fridge-freezer, I wanted to get individual under counter versions and extend our kitchen worktop instead. Our kitchen is really small and the room I was most disappointed with when we bought this house. I was happy when we looked round, until I saw the kitchen and my stomach sank. I had hoped for a kitchen diner, a hub of the home where we could cook and be together as a family, but instead we have a poxy kitchen that even me and Ben can’t cook in together without constantly getting in each other’s way.
We have a side door on the kitchen which we never use. So I thought we could increase our kitchen worktop space by around 50% if we get under counter appliances and cover up the door! We did get a quote to brick it up properly and insert a window to the top, but we were looking at around £1300-£1500. Instead, Ben thought he could cover it up with something, leaving the window at the top and then it could be reverted back to a door in the future if needed. We went with this option and it actually looks great! Ben boarded up the bottom half of the door, painted it, added new worktop, a windowsill and tiled so it blends in with the rest of the kitchen. We just need to add some skirting board under the counter to complete.
It looks great and has given us extra worktop space and also somewhere to sit in the kitchen. We have added two bar stools so the kids can eat their breakfast in the kitchen now or do their homework and I can keep an eye on them. I hope it will make a big difference.
I go shorter again with my latest hair cut
Yet again I went to the hairdresser for a trim and decided to have more cut off! I definitely went too short for my liking this time and so I’ll grow it back down to the last length which I feel suits me more. For now though it is chin length!
I went and experienced Kundalini clubbing in Stroud for the first time with a friend! It was definitely an experience, but also very fun! I hated the beginning as we sat in a large circle (30-40 of us) and had to go around and introduce ourselves and why we were there. I felt like I was at an AA meeting or something! I hate speaking in front of large groups of people so my heart was racing and palms getting sweaty the closer it got to my turn. That over, we had some raw cacao drink for a burst of energy for the night. We had to do some sort of salute to the North, South, East and West – again something that felt a bit bizarre, but I went with it.
After these two parts which were either a bit strange or increased my anxiety, we did some kundalini yoga and I felt much more relaxed. It’s more breathing technique than posture and I found it very relaxing and empowering.
Next was dancing! All sorts of club music and tribal music to dance around to for a couple of hours and to let myself go! This was so much fun as I haven’t danced around since going ‘club clubbing’ over 7 years ago! Then a gong bath to finish which is super relaxing – lying on yoga mats with a blanket and listening to the soothing sound of live gongs.
Ben creates a custom bespoke fitted wardrobe (for a customer!)
As mentioned above, Ben has been working on creating a bespoke fitted wardrobe using a mix of new and reclaimed materials. He’s so far only made standalone furniture items, so this was his first installation in someone’s house. Luckily it was at my best friend’s girlfriend’s house, so it meant they were very relaxed about the whole thing and understood he had limited time around his full time job and family life!
It took a few weeks of lots of evenings in his workshop and whole weekend days, but it is finally complete and looks amazing! The customer is very happy with the new wardrobe so well done Ben! He’s had a few commissions so far and already has another one to start now he's finished the wardrobe, so this is a great start to his side business.
Reverse advent calendar
I took part in the ‘reverse advent calendar’ which is organised by the UK Money Bloggers who I am a part of. I saw it a little too late last year, but this year I knew I wanted to get involved once I saw everyone’s blog posts on the subject. It involved adding an item of food or toiletries to a box once per day for 24 days – the length of an advent calendar. Instead of receiving during advent, it’s a way to give. It’s all about raising awareness of food banks and especially at Christmas when they see a 45% increase in their services in the two weeks before.
Not only did I go Kundalini Clubbing with a friend this month, but the following Saturday I went out into Cheltenham for a meal with two friends. I rarely go out and never two weekends in a row, so this has been a real treat. I definitely need to get out more and have a bit of a social life again instead of just working and being mum which is often how I feel! I wanted to try the vegan menu at The Swan in Cheltenham as I’d seen it shared in a local vegan group and luckily my friends were happy to go with my suggestion. We all had a vegan burger and all thoroughly enjoyed it! It’s a lovely cosy pub in the centre of Cheltenham with friendly staff and great vegan food. I recommend it and will go back again as soon as possible!
We got a fair few quotes for our home in November. I mentioned the kitchen one above to brick up the door, but we also got more. I quite desperately want our artex removed and plastered, but we had a quote of £1600 for that! It’s too much at the moment. I should probably get a few more quotes just to see if that’s right. It’s two smallish ceilings, a large ceiling and three walls. I’ve no idea how anyone ever thought artex was a good idea or that it looked attractive!
We also had a quote for the front of the house to change the window on our garage conversion into a smaller window and door. I’d like to convert the room into an ensuite room to rent out and to give its own entrance so people don’t have to access it through our home. When we don’t have people staying then it will be a guest room for us and will also provide us with a downstairs toilet. It’s all an idea stage at the moment, but it was good to get a quote of just £1300 to add a door to the front if we need to. We’d need quotes of adding an ensuite (probably Saniflo unfortunately) and also relocating all our meters which are in this room. That’ll probably be a porch on the front which is something else I’d like to add to our home.
We have lots of ideas at the moment, but we’re not moving forward with anything just yet. I have a two year plan at the moment to save an emergency fund to cover our mortgage and bills for one year in year one, and then to pay our personal debt off in year two. I think at the moment these two things are the most sensible financial things to do before improving our home anymore. If anything happens with either of our jobs then we can think about converting the room into a lodging opportunity if we need the money! But for now I think it’s safer to wait and get all our savings and finances on track.
Re-mortgage is finally complete
Wow, after starting the whole process of re-mortgage towards the end of August, we finally had our new mortgage in place in the middle of November! It seemed to go on forever! Read why I won’t use a mortgage adviser again to see why I’ll try and go it alone next time.
My teeth are finished
My teeth are finished! Kind of! The brace is off and my permanent false teeth are on – two bridges. I might just need some bonding for a gap that is next to one of my canines and the tooth behind. But otherwise, they look great!
In an attempt to minimise my office space even more, I moved a large square unit up to Reuben’s bedroom for his toys and books and it fits perfectly! I now have more space in my office area and Reuben has plenty of space for toys and books in his bedroom. I think it really brings his room together and feels more complete. Before there was a much smaller unit there and it felt a bit bare.
Reuben has a hospital visit
Reuben had his first heart check-up appointment in one year. We used to go every three months when he was a baby, then 6 months and now once per year as he is growing and everything is stabilising. He has pulmonary stenosis and had two heart interventions called balloon dilation when he was a baby. This involved feeding a tiny balloon up an artery from his leg to his heart and blowing the balloon up to force the heart valve to widen. Scary stuff! At a couple of our last appointments there was talk of open heart surgery, but luckily the pressure in his heart is going down as he grows, so it’s a case of monitoring it until he’s an adult and then he may need a donor, but we’ll see what happens when we reach that point or if anything changes in the meantime.
We rarely think about Reuben’s heart now unless he has an appointment. It doesn’t seem to bother him or affect him in any way so he just seems like a normal child. Read more about his story here.
Walking treadmill desk
Isn’t this amazing?! I had been thinking of getting a treadmill desk for ages, but they are so expensive – around £1000. But once I’d cleared the shelves out of my office space, I had lots of room so thought about it again. I looked online and found just the treadmill part which could go under my desk and then bought a rising stand for my laptop. I still need to get a better laptop set up as I look down to type, same as if I was sat at the desk, so I need to get a separate keyboard and split level stand so I look straight ahead instead.
Here’s a more in depth review of the treadmill desk:
Eugh! So last month I mentioned our Bongo was in the garage (again) and potentially needed £1000 of repairs… well, the final bill was over £1900!!!!! Oh my goodness. My actual cars usually cost that much or less, so a bill of even just £300 for a repair is the most I’ve ever had previously and I thought that was expensive!
The head gasket needed replacing which meant they had to replace the top half of the engine or something or other.
We were originally quoted £1200… then told £500 extra for the part… then turned up to a £2200 bill which we had no idea about and were not happy with. They knocked £300 off, but it was still far too much.
Our savings have really taken a knock this year due to this Bongo so now I’m only halfway to my savings target for this year. Grrr!
I just hope nothing else goes wrong with the Bongo or I’m going to want to sell it and just settle for a cheaper car for Ben. Only problem is he now says he needs it for his furniture business to be able to pick up large pieces of wood and deliver his furniture. If it takes off then he can get a separate work van and cover the costs from his business in the future as it’s too much to keep paying out of our personal accounts. It’s definitely too much of an extravagance. I think our previous cars cost a lot anyway, before we had the Bongo, yet they never cost us anywhere near this much.
Someone told me the head gasket always eventually goes and that we should be fine now. I hope they are right!
On to some good news – Bella can swim!! Yay! It’s taken almost two years of lessons – a year in a class, then a year of private lessons. She can swim a whole width on her back! She is fine doing this, but still panics a little on her front, so needs to work on this over the next few weeks. I’ve promised her a trip to town for vegan chocolate cake once she swims a width on her front, so she’s very keen to do it!
She technically got her swimming certificate at the start of December, but she had already swam the length on her back in November. Go Bella!
Aside from the gym, kids clubs, meeting friends and family, etc, that's about all my news for this month. We didn’t have any days out or breaks this month. Pop back to my Monthly Family Roundups next month to see what we get up to in December – a busier month I’m sure!