Thursday, 23 January 2020

Big Energy Saving Week 2020

Did you know that this week is Big Energy Saving Week, a national campaign run by Citizens Advice to help people cut their energy bills and get all the financial support they are entitled to.

The week focuses on raising public awareness of how to save money on energy costs by switching energy supplier or tariff, accessing discounts or grants, and making homes more energy efficient!

5 glass light bulbs hanging.

Find out exactly how much energy you’re using and what you’re paying for it. Talk to your supplier or local Citizens Advice if you think your bills are wrong or you have problems paying. You could be entitled to support to help you pay your bill.

 On average you could save up to £200 or more by switching energy supplier or changing the tariff. Switching energy provider is a quick and easy way to save money on your monthly gas and electricity bills and Citizens Advice have an energy price comparison tool to see if you can save money by switching.

Make your home more energy efficient by insulating lofts and walls where possible. You could save up to £130 a year on your energy bills by insulating your loft, and £150 with cavity wall insulation. Both can cost hundreds of pounds upfront to install, so it's worth checking whether you can get free insulation from your energy supplier first. Our energy supplier doesn't supply it but I searched on Google and found a company which would do it for free. We are getting it put in next week! 

You can cut your energy bills even further by being a bit more energy efficient. See if you can make any of these changes around the house:

Set the thermostat to come on only when you need it - 30 minutes before you get up in the morning and set it to switch off 30 minutes before you are due to leave. On an evening, set it to go off at least an hour before bed time, the remaining heat should keep you warm until you’re tucked up in bed.

Don’t leave anything plugged in that isn’t being used. A lot of wasted electricity occurs through leaving appliances plugged in that aren’t being used. Even charger cables that don’t have anything plugged into them but are still connected to the socket can waste electricity.

Close your curtains at dusk to stop heat escaping through the windows and check for draughts around windows and doors but make sure your curtains aren't covering any radiators, as this will stop heat from getting into your room.

Always turn off the light when you leave a room, and don’t leave appliances on standby and remember not to leave laptops and mobile phones on charge unnecessarily.

When you are doing the washing try to fill up the machine, tumble dryer or dishwasher. One full load uses less energy than two half loads. Washing at 30 degrees rather than 40 degrees can help reduce your energy usage too.

Try and ensure that you only boil as much water as you need.

A dripping hot water tap can waste enough energy in a single week to fill half a bath. Fix leaking taps and make sure they are fully turned off.

If you’ve got a shower that takes hot water straight from your boiler or hot water tank (rather than an electric shower), fit a water efficient shower head. This will reduce your hot water usage while retaining the sensation of a powerful shower. A water efficient shower head could save a four person household as much as £70 a year on gas for water heating!

If you turn down your main thermostat by 1 degree, you can around 10% on your energy bill. But make sure your home is warm enough during cold weather. Cold homes can damage your health.

Install a smart meter. If your supplier offers smart meters it’s a no brainer to install one. By clearly indicating where you’re spending the most on your energy, you can take steps to cut down usage wherever possible and save money.

There is several benefits which can help with heating costs especially in the winter.

Cold Weather Payment - A  payment if the average temperature in your area is recorded as, or forecast to be, zero degrees celsius or below for 7 consecutive days. 
You’ll get £25 for each 7 day period of very cold weather between 1 November and 31 March.

Warm Home Discount Scheme - You could get £140 off your electricity bill for winter 2019 to 2020 under the Warm Home Discount Scheme. The money is not paid to you  it’s a one off discount on your electricity bill, between September and March. You may be able to get the discount on your gas bill instead if your supplier provides you with both gas and electricity. Contact your supplier to find out.

Winter Fuel Payment - If you were born on or before 5 April 1954 you could get between £100 and £300 to help you pay your heating bills. This is known as a ‘Winter Fuel Payment’.

If you’ve tried to save energy but you are struggling to pay your bill, you should contact your supplier and see if they can help. You may be able to negotiate a payment plan if your energy bills are becoming too much for your budget.

Do you ever check your electric and gas supplier to see that you're on the best deal?

Wednesday, 22 January 2020

(Ad - Gifted) Getting creative with LoveCrafts and learning to Cross Stitch!

January is a great time to start new projects or a new hobby. So when I was contacted and asked if I would like to try a new craft I thought why not. Crafts are great for self care, mindfulness and are perfect for taking time out from the busy parent life.

LoveCrafts is the home for all things crafting from knitting to stitching and even more. There are kits, patterns, supplies, tutorials, guides and lots of inspiration.

I decided to give cross stitching a go and was sent everything I needed in a kit. The one I chose was the Rico Hare Cushion Cross Stitch Kit.

The packaging of the cross stitch kit.
The rabbit cross stitch pattern and wool.

The cute Hare design cushion front kit comes complete with threads and counted cross stitch design. It seemed ideal for a beginner like me.

Cross stitch is simply making cross shaped stitches in an open weave fabric. I have seen and read about people doing it but I've never tried it myself, until now.

I opened the packaging and had a quick look at the instructions which were a little baffling, not because they were confusing but because I didn't have a clue what I was doing. I went straight back to the LoveCrafts website and found a tutorial. How to cross stitch: A beginners guide! It was just what I needed.

a cross stitch pattern. It's a rabbit

The hare pattern looked easy compared to what I have seen, the colours are simple and the pattern looks straight forward. I think this was a fantastic kit to get me started. 

I cracked on and set to work. I may have got a little carried away stitching the red triangles and went right across the top of the square material. Oops. I had to un-thread the majority of it and leave some spaces. I have noticed that I have gone a little bit wrong with the space I need to leave for the rabbits left ear but I am carrying on regardless. My first try at cross stitch was never going to be perfect but I feel good about.

my first few stitches of my cross stitch project

Doing crafts like this is so relaxing and I am really enjoying it. I can see me continuing to cross stitch after I have finished this project and I will of course be updating you on how I get on.

It's not something which will be finished overnight. The above photo shows where I am up to as of yesterday and that has taken me a week. It is starting to take shape and look like the pattern. I kept showing the kids and they weren't convinced but yesterday they could see the rabbit ear. Hooray! It is time consuming but I am fine with that. I am going to be so proud of myself when it's finished. Whenever I get a free half hour I am picking it up and carrying on. My fingers are like pin cushions but it's not putting me off. lol

LoveCrafts has a massive selection of cross stitch kits and I am already eyeing up my next challenge.

 I was sent the Rico Hare Cushion Cross Stitch Kit free of charge in exchange for this blog post.

Tuesday, 21 January 2020

What I do in an average day.

I know the kids think that while they're at school and college I stay at home and do nothing. I know this because they have told me several times. Grr! I am so lucky to be in a situation to be able to stay at home but that doesn't mean I sit on my bum all day, drinking tea and watching TV.

A cup of coffee and a pile of chocolate chip cookies.

Becky's favourite jumper wasn't washed the day she wanted it. She ignored the fact that it was still in the tip that she calls a bedroom somewhere on the floor and the day I was supposed to have washed it I had changed and washed her bedding. Just because I didn't wash her jumper she assumed I did nothing all day!

Ellie had wanted me to bake a cake for a bake sale or something at school. I said I wasn't baking the one she wanted. A confetti unicorn cake! (I'm still not 100% sure what that is). I am not Mary Berry so I made her 12 cupcakes, an apple and pear crumble for after tea as well as a roast dinner! Just because I didn't bake the unicorn cake I did nothing all day!

On an average Wednesday, in October last year I decided to record what I did all day while the kids were at school and college. (I had meant to post this sooner. lol) It was a normal day. I didn't have to go out and run any errands. I just had the daily housework to do as I had already deep cleaned the house earlier in the week.

I made the beds & opened the curtains.
Got myself dressed.
Checked my emails, promoted my daily blog post and probably had a mooch about on social media.
I tidied the living room.
Hung washing out on the line that hadn't dried the day before and put more outside out of the washing machine.
I got all the clothes off the airers and folded & sorted it into everyone's basket. I then put all the socks and knickers on the airer inside.
I put another load of washing on.
I did then stop to have a cuppa a couple of muffins while I wrote a blog post and watched a bit of This Morning.
I cleaned the bathroom.
Commented on some blog posts.
Put the washing up away which wasn't put away the previous night. Grr and washed the breakfast dishes.
Tidied and had a quick clean of the benches in the kitchen. 
Emptied the bin and swept the floor.
I had more of a mess around on social media.
Brought the dry washing in from outside, folded and sorted that.
Took the baskets upstairs and put everyone's clean clothes away and put more washing on the line.
Commented on more blog posts.
Hoovered the living and dining room.
Made a leftover roast dinner pie, mashed potato to go with it and jam tarts with the leftover pastry. 
Started to write my Project 365 blog post for that week and edited the photos.
Then it was half past three and Ellie was due to come in from school. 

That is just an average day for me. This doesn't include things that I have to do as well as my daily routine like having to deal with paperwork, helping my dad out, doing the online weekly grocery shop, going into town for appointments, shopping for anything we need, changing the beds, hoovering the stairs and deep cleaning the house.

So staying at home isn't just lazing about, drinking tea and watching daytime TV. I sort of wish it was though!

Monday, 20 January 2020

(Ad - Gifted) I've been trying out the Calypso Sensitive Face and Neck Lotion!

Summer seems a long, long time ago. I was all about protecting our skin from the sun during the warmer months but in the winter I tend not to bother. It's wrong, I should be protecting my skin all year round. Whilst UVB rays are responsible for causing burning and are often weaker during winter months, UVA rays are strong all year round. UVA rays can increase the risk of premature aging, the Skin Cancer Foundation states that more than 90% of the visible skin changes associated with ageing are caused by UVA rays!

Calypso sun care have recently launched a facial UV protection lotion which protects from both UVA and UVB rays. 

The tube of Calypso Sensitive Face and Neck Lotion on a wooden floor

The Calypso Sensitive Face and Neck Lotion SPF50 is specially formulated for sensitive skin which means children can use it and adults too. It's a lightweight and non greasy formula which can be applied before makeup which makes it super easy to include in our daily skincare routine. 

The handy sized 50ml tube is perfect for taking on the go making topping up throughout the day a breeze. 

Unlike many facial moisturisers which contact SPF, Calypso’s Sensitive Face and Neck Lotion actually protects you from UVA rays (responsible for ageing) which we are exposed to year round regardless of how sunny it is!

The opened tube of Calypso Sensitive Face and Neck Lotion with some of the cream dripping out of the lid.

In the past we have tried the kids sun products from Calypso. They were so good that I went on to buy more for them. It is a brand that I know and trust so I was keen to try the Face and Neck Lotion. I have been using it for a couple of days and so far so good. It feels good on my skin and I really have no complaints. I am at an age now (just turned 40) where I really need to look after my skin and it feels good to know that I am doing all I can.

Calypso sun protection is available to buy in Morrisons, ASDA, Wilko, Home Bargains, B&M Bargains, Bodycare, TJ Hughes, Well Pharmacy, Semichem and independent pharmacies.

I was sent the Calypso Face and Neck Lotion free of charge in exchange for this blog post.

Our weekly meal plan! 20th - 26th January. #MealPlanningMonday

Last weeks meal plan went OK. I messed up when it came to having the omelette's. I had forgotten to buy eggs and no one was in the mood to go to the shop as it was a wet evening. We had fish fingers instead. The kids loved the Chicken Nugget Mashed Potato Bowls and they will be going on the menu again. Stu and I decided we didn't fancy them so had the sausages wrapped in bacon with apple traybake that we missed a couple of weeks ago. Everyone was happy!

I have started sneaking at least one veggie meal in a week and my family are not even realising. Last week they had veggie fajitas and no one asked where the meat was so this week I am going for 2 vegetarian meals. We're not turning veggie but sometimes it is good not to eat as much meat.

This week on the menu we have:

Monday - A casserole cooked in the slow cooker. I have diced pork and plenty of veg which needs using up.
Tuesday - Vegetable pasta bake
Wednesday - Sausages, mash and baked beans.
ThursdayMushroom rice bakes with Mediterranean style roasting vegetables which I got from the Tesco reduced section.
Friday - Waffle Pizza Fries. It's been a while since we had this and my family love this meal. It's so simple to make and makes a change from the normal pizza.
SaturdayTakeaway style Chicken Chow Mein with vegetable spring rolls.
Sunday - A roast dinner of some sort. 

What are you eating this week?