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Sunday, 23 October 2016

As much as I love Christmas, we all know how expensive the season can get - not just for exchanging presents, but for decorations, food (for Christmas dinner and just lush Christmas food in general), Christmas parties, Christmas dinners with work/friends, Christmas nights out and seasonal things in general.

Since my mum died, our family doesn't tend to bother with Christmas too much. We no longer exchange presents and instead choose to 'celebrate' the holiday in our own way.

That being said, I am always up for seasonal things to do, so of course, it's around about this time each year that I tend to sit down and budget and work out ways to earn some extra money to tide me across.

I did do a pretty successful money saving post years ago which I was pretty proud of, but most of the sites on there are actually redundant now, so here's an updated version on how to a) save money and b) earn some extra cash for Christmas.

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Cashback websites are always a good idea. Set your homepage to one and just remember to always use a cashback website for everything you buy. Of course bigger spends pay off - so things like car insurance and phone contracts can get you around £80 back, but every little helps! My favourites to use are Quidco and Topcashback. Quidco's minimum withdrawal amount is only £1, which avoids waiting around, whereas Topcashback doesn't have a minimum withdrawal amount, but does take an annual membership deduction which is, if I remember rightly, £5.

Topcashback also currently has a fun competition where you can win money just by looking through the website. Cashback websites often run easy promotions like this during holidays like Halloween or Christmas.

Bex did a fab guest post on this a few years back, and this is still my favourite way to earn extra cash. My personal favourites are Yougov, GlobalTestMarket and Swagbucks - but unlike in the past, right now I'm finding myself focusing just on Swagbucks and getting quicker payouts. Halloween is a great time for survey websites like these - this week alone, I've cashed out £25, and that's by only doing one or two surveys a day. It can be a long process as you have to put the effort in, but around Halloween and Christmas is best. There's plenty of ways to earn extra SB's for free, which can then be converted into vouchers or Paypal. Right now there's a sale on, meaning it's quicker than ever to redeem points.

Now this is something I'm relatively new at and still getting used to, and I kind of hate the name. To me it just conjures up the image of a sleazy old man hanging out in a bookies, trying to scam money out of everyone and possibly stinking of alcohol. Don't ask me why. I heard about this first on Save The Student and went on to learn that not only is this process entirely legal, but that it's also even been recommended by The Guardian. The best way I can explain it is that you sign up to betting websites that offer free bets along with your first deposit, place two bets on two different websites betting against yourself so that you will still win money back and that you're qualifying for the free bet. In most cases, you lose something like 10p on this first bet. You then use your free bet to repeat the process. It's super hard to understand, I still don't know how it works, but the guide is really useful - you just have to study it and take it very slow. This method certainly is not a quick fix, but if you're willing to put the time and money in, I've heard people can earn up to £1,000 a month. I'd probably be too scared to bet big amounts to get to that much, but I can very easily get an extra £15 or so per bet, which all adds up in a month. My only tips are to read everything very carefully as it's very easy to make a mistake - on my first go, I didn't realize my free bet was only valid for three days, so I missed out on using it. My second tip would be to probably keep around £50 aside and spare for this alone. You'll need it for things like Liability amounts (nope, I have no idea what that is either) but you do get it back. Essentially you spend a little money to earn a lot of money I guess, and it's a wildly recommend money-making method online!

You can of course actually take some time to earn money online. People Per Hour is great for this - especially if you have a lot of admin skills to sell. In the past, I've earned a fair good amount of money by just doing things like typing up interviews, or typing up old students work and placing their answers into teacher packs. It's as easy as that, and this is a really, really good way to earn extra cash when you're sat at home in an evening in. It's so nice sometimes to just sit down with a cup of tea, put a decent TV show on the background, and get to work. Sometimes I even do it in bed...

There are tons of useful websites out there to help you earn extra money or help you save. I find Money Saving Expert's forum an absolute godsend, mostly for things like Swagbucks or the TopCashBack promotions, but also other little ways to earn extra cash. It's so helpful. Gratisfaction is really useful for voucher codes and bargains, but freebies too, and, finally, I've just downloaded the Qmee toolbar for my browser again. You don't actually have to do anything, but it sometimes brings up suggested websites based on what you google. Click on what is suggested and that's it. I've only earned 43p so far but hey, it all adds up, am I right? There's no minimum cashout amount, and it's just started doing surveys too, where you can see what each survey is worth exactly.

There are of course loads of ways to 'up your income' but these are the ones I find most useful. Some of them aren't easy and take some time and effort, but at the end of the day, if you're sat at home on an evening anyway, you might as well spend as little as one hour to try and earn some extra cash. One useful tip is to keep everything you earn this way in a separate savings account so a) you don't dip into it and can save it for Christmas/a big holiday etc and b) you can see just how much you earn this way exactly!

Do you have any tips on how to save or earn money for Christmas? Let me know!

*Please note, I have used some of my own referral codes for these websites but these benefit you too! For example, the People Per Hour code will give you a 5% discount voucher if you choose to sign up and complete a project. However, you don't have to use my referral codes!

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Friday, 21 October 2016

When was the last time you threw a Halloween party?

I remember the first and only time I ever threw a Halloween party was actually courtesy of my Mum. I was eight or so at the time and had this awesome Dracula game I bought at a bootsale. 

I can't remember the logistics exactly, but it involved a CD, a pair of glow in the dark fake teeth and I think it was a mystery. During the game, we were required to walk around different rooms, but as upstairs was off limits, we only had three rooms to work with really, plus the hallway. 

It was a disaster of course but I loved every minute of it, even if we gave up after half an hour and just ate sweets instead.

Although I don't have my own place, Halloween is my favourite time of year and I always buy Halloween decorations and home ware for when I do eventually have my own place. So far, I've got a steady collection of Halloween glasses and mugs, Halloween cupcake making kits and some skull coat hooks, which are so damn cute that I can use all year round.

But I know it's not easy throwing a Halloween party, because there's a very thin line between what can be for kids and what can be for adults. I don't know about you, but despite being an adult, I still love carving pumpkins, dressing up and eating sweets.

So I thought it might be nice to share some tips on how to throw a proper sophisticated grown up Halloween party.

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If you can, throw a theme. Halloween isn't just one theme. Why not choose a film or genre? Zombies would involve lots of gory decorations, cupcakes and goodies representing hands reaching up out of soil, and tons of impressive makeup. Why not set up a makeup station, with a base of pale green or grey for faces, of course? Likewise, ghosts would involve a (fake) ouija board and scary sound effects. 

The food. Oh god, the food. Cupcakes and mini treats are the best and you can pick up so many kits to help you recreate these, or just pop down to Tesco or ASDA for pre-made goodies. They're seriously impressive, but Tesco actually has some recipe ideas as well. Pinterest is awesome too, but really the opportunities are endless. You could even just mix up some vodka and cranberry juice in a giant jug and throw in some fake eyeballs. Easy.

There's a fine line between tacky and awesome when it comes to decorations but luckily with Halloween, everything works well. You don't have to go all out though. You might want to pick up a spooky tablecloth and use orange and black confetti, or, for a more classy look, paint some pumpkins in silver glitter and stick them in the middle of the table with some blank candles for a more laid back centrepiece. If you just can't be bothered, why not pick up some stickers instead, like this witch one from Not On The High Street?

It's always fun to get drunk and have a dance at Halloween, but if you're a big kid like me, you might want to throw in some games and activities too. Why not have Halloween movies playing back to back on the TV - or scary music videos - so even if everyone is dancing, there's still some gory stuff going on too. Or, you could try your hand at cocktail making, or play horror movie drinking games! This Halloween party pack for grown ups is useful with some great game ideas (and cocktail ideas, too!)

Are there any other tips you can share for throwing a grown up Halloween party? Let me know with a comment!

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Wednesday, 19 October 2016

I can't believe I'm actually featuring a recipe on my blog

Ever so slowly, over the past year or so I've started getting into cooking more. I think it was Veganuary 2016 that really done it for me and pushed me out of my comfort zone.

Beforehand I was too scared to try much or even experiment and now I'm getting better at thinking what things go with what and trying new things. 

I suppose the discovery of Rocket Salad has helped too. Trust me, once you find a salad/salad leaves you actually like, STICK WITH IT. I'm not really a lover of mixed leaf salad or cabbage for example, so now that I've found a salad I genuinely like, it's helped a LOT. Salad goes near enough with everything and I always keep a bag in my fridge - even if I'm making something light like stuffed mushrooms for lunch, I'll throw some rocket salad alongside with it just to stop it looking like something is missing.


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I discovered these grilled chorizo and halloumi burgers at Reading Festival and loved them so much that me and my friend must have gone back at least four times over the course of the weekend. I tracked down the full (but short) list of ingredients and discovered that a harissa yogurt sauce is super tasty with it, but I've yet to attempt making it myself.

The burgers are great on their own, but if you do need a sauce to add with it, I've also tried Nando's Perinaise.

The method is actually super simple. I usually buy a chorizo sausage as this lasts for a few burgers and I can use it throughout the week in other recipes, but you may be better off with the slices if making them just the once.

1 X chorizo sausage
1 X pack of brioche buns
1 X pack of Halloumi
1X pack of wild rocket salad

This will cost you £6.39 from Tesco, £5.75 from Asda and £6.10 from Sainsbury's. On average, these ingredients make around four burgers.

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ONE Chop the halloumi into slices, and the chorizo sausages into mini slices. I like mine quite thick.
TWO Grab a medium sized frying pan and either heat up some cooking oil or butter. I use butter because I just think it's healthier.
THREE If it's big enough, pop the chorizo sausage in together with the halloumi. If not, do the halloumi first. Each will take about 5-10 minutes to cook, but keep an eye on the halloumi as it cooks very quickly. Despite this, it will tend to look sort of burnt when done.
FOUR Meanwhile, cut the brioche buns in half and pop them in the oven just to make them a tad crispy.
FIVE Once the halloumi and chorizo is done, remove it from the pan and arrange it onto the buns. I tend to put the rocket salad on the bottom, then the halloumi, then the chorizo.

It's as simple as that - and it's absolutely delicious. A burger is perfect for lunch, or, for dinner, sprinkle some rocket on the side with a splash of balsamic vinegar, and I tend to do either wedges or sweet potato fries with it, too.

It's fast become my go-to meal.

It's not the healthiest option out there but it's a bit different and is an alternative to, say, a big mac. Plus the chorizo is always full of flavour!

Would you try this? Let me know with a comment below!

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Monday, 17 October 2016

It was actually a bit of a challenge for me to watch this movie.

I didn't see it when it was first in the cinema, so I put it on my Love Film rental list as soon as I could pre-order it. I'd planned to watch it with my sister, so put it aside until I was seeing her next, but then we quickly realized her TV actually doesn't include a DVD player as previously thought.

Then, when I finally got ready to watch it, I ended up burning my first lot of popcorn and stinking the house out, and accidentally making myself a cold water bottle as I forgot to boil the kettle before pouring the water in. Do'h.

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When I did eventually watch it, I was quite surprised. I expected it to be a standard funny romcom with a few laugh-out-loud moments and a happy ending, but what I instead got was a film that was actually quite empowering to women and, at parts, incredibly witty.

The characters are entirely down to earth and loveable, showcasing both independency at being single and weaker moments when, Alice (played by Dakota Johnson) for example, misses her ex boyfriend. It's refreshing to see both sides of the bat - I'm so used to seeing overly neurotic female characters who can't depend on anything but a guy or female characters who are so independent that they almost seem like robots with no feelings. 

This film showcased the right amount of both, and made main character Alice seem incredibly, well, human.

There were some corny parts in the film, but there were also plenty of funny moments and witty one-liners that really made me laugh out loud, too. 

Although the film was mostly based around Alice, there were a few side storylines which worked really well. The character of Lucy did annoy me a bit, but even towards the end, her story was quite interesting to watch. 

Her storyline is based around the fact that she's using a bar's free Wifi to browse lots of dating websites to find the one (very modern), and ends up becoming friends with bartender and womaniser, Tom. She has a long list of what she wants in a man and of course we expect her to end up falling for Tom but her ending is a little different and, I suppose, shows that sometimes having a set list of what you do and don't want isn't always a bad thing. 

Although she did come across as neurotic in some parts, she didn't settle once and the movie shied away from the storyline we would expect of her learning to love herself but turning things down a bit to instead fall for Tom who was there the whole time. Perhaps she loved herself all along.

How To Be Single really breaks the barriers - and I love it.

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I read an article once on The Debrief about how it's rare in Hollywood for females to end up happy and single in films. Then I read it again after watching How To Be Single and realized it actually references and suggests the film, which I totally forgot about but nevermind. 

Even though The Debrief is kind of like my bible, I actually sort of disagreed with this article at first. Even though I love being single, I didn't think I'd ever watch a romcom and feel satisfied at an ending where the girl ends up alone. It's not that I believe women can't be happy without that typical happy ever after, I just like seeing it in movies. 

So I was pleasantly surprised at how satisfied I was with the end of this movie. It showed main character Alice genuinely really happy to be alone. She takes up hobbies she's always wanted to do and talks about how you should appreciate time you have alone.

It was really refreshing to see the movie come back around full circle and see her get exactly what she wanted when she broke up with her boyfriend at the beginning of the film, citing that she wanted that independency and wanted to be able to take up these hobbies. Although she did get caught up with other men throughout the movie, eventually she found happiness within herself and didn't have to sacrifice anything to do so.

What was also nice was the fact that the standard player of the film, who was obviously a guy, actually ended up alone (although we did see him taking steps to become less of a player towards the end), too. Some characters did get their happy endings, but in a non-traditional sense.

To conclude, I really loved How To Be Single. Unfortunately these more witty and empowering female led movies are few and far between, but I think that's changing and we'll be seeing more of them - hopefully. How To Be Single is up there with Bridesmaids and Bachelorette (both of which also star Rebel Wilson - all hail Rebel!).

Have you seen How To Be Single yet? Let me know your thoughts if you have!

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Saturday, 15 October 2016

When I was 11, there was only a small handful of things I cared about. My friends and family, my dog Jasper, Busted...and Neopets.

Like all pre-teens my age, I was obsessed with Neopets. Maybe it was the fun of having a virtual pet I could look after without any actual responsibility (and the fact that they were seemingly immortal - creepy), or perhaps I just enjoyed the online fantasy world that came along with owning such a pet.

I’m not sure when Second Life launched, but I like to believe Neopets was perhaps one of the first examples of such sites.

So when I got a sudden longing to check up on my virtual pets recently, I delved back into the world of Neopets and here’s what I found.

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 Logging in was actually easier than I thought. I remembered my username (suga371, lolz) and password immediately, as it was the same username and password I used for EVERYTHING back then. My passwords have since changed, so plz don’t try and hack me.

It was when I got a message saying extra precautions had to be taken since I hadn’t logged in in so long that got me stumped. I entered my birthday as requested - but it was wrong. It was then that I remembered when I first signed up I was technically underage so lied about the year I was born in (breaking the rules early here!). I took a wild guess, entering my birthday to make me three years older than I actually am and - bingo. I was in.

I go to check on my poor, poor starving pets, and am immediately faced with the sad expression of shan5222000, a poogle, and my first ever Neopet which was therefore always my go-to pet. At 5,484 days (that’s 15 years between you and me), she’s at level 16, dying, and still has a PetPet named Charlie (after Charlie Simpson from Busted, of course) - which is just a blue blob, really.

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shan5222000 really ain't happy with me here...

My other pets include an Acara (cat, basically) named Janiney9 (named after my sister), who’s PetPet is a Cobra named Cobrall - so original, Charlieeeeey the Korbat (a bat, and another example of my obsession with Charlie Simpson), and my other pride and joy, Chocoqueen27, the uni painted Christmas. If I remember rightly, this was one of the most highly sought after paintbrushes back in the day.

I am slightly disappointed to see only 1,615 NP (neopoints) - until I look in the bank. 688,702 NP biatches! My account is Diamond Deposit Gold, with a yearly interest of 68,870.

Hey, why don’t Neopets let us transform our NP into real money? I could really do with that amount of money right now...

The map, or rather ‘The World of Neotopia’ looks much the same - although I still can’t get my head around that new Mystery Island. There’s still little there. But - what’s this - a whole new island: Krawk Island. Was that always there?! I remember some Dubloon related games, but not the island.

When I rotate the world/map, there’s a whole bunch of new worlds on the back. I’m overwhelmed! Shenkuu, a Japanese-like city based high in the mountains seems pretty damn cool.

Remember those bullsh*t tasks you used to have to do, for the good fairy or for the evil witch just to get some rare items? Those tasks were loooooong. You’d have to search high and low (and pay NP, might I add) for other rare items, within a certain time frame, just to do it all over again with a new task. All I ever remember getting was a sh*tty mirror, and getting in such a faff about and spending hours for it.

I did used to love the little welcome packs you’d get though - so cute!

I swing by my house before I go, but I’m disappointed to find that despite having three rooms, they are entirely unfurnished. My little apartment on Soup Alley in Neopia Central will always have a place in my heart, however, as being my first home.

At 11 years old.

And then I log off, feeling all nostalgic and wishing I could be 11 again (or 14 as I pretended to be) so I could have an excuse to play Neopets once more.

Aw damn. I still didn’t feed my Neopets...

Did you used to be addicted to Neopets like me? Tell me all your funny stories and memories below!

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