The £50 kitchen makeover

I’ve taken a deep breath and decided to revamp my kitchen on a budget – a very tight budget!

I’m taking part in the MoneySupermarket #HomeImprovementHero challenge which means I have £50 to make a difference. When the challenge came along I knew exactly what I’d do as we’d been given some fab solid wood worktops but that was it! So the basis of my kitchen makeover is to add to this, persuade my dad and partner to make it happen!

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Introducing the main players in this project:

My dad for patiently and brilliantly cutting said worktops, making them fit and doing everything humanly possible to improve our kitchen on a budget.

Jonathan who scoured the shops and internet for tile bargains and found a beauty! Driving across the city to get our bargain extractor fan and spending a long time making it fit and putting up new tiles!

Me – for my vision and excellent project management skills – he he he!

So here’s what we bought: A ridiculously amazing bargain on Ebay. We bought a £700 NEFF gas hobb for the princely sum of £23. Once it had had a clean up it looks like new.

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A new extractor fan from freecycle – so no cost at all

One box of white tiles – £4.75

Kitchen tap – £7.50

Two tins of French grey paint for the walls – these were buy one get one half price and cost £ 15

Three lovely Norwich-themed prints for the wall from Gumtree – £5

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So far we’ve made a huge difference with the princely sum of £55.25

We kept the white tiles and just cleaned them up and when we’re back from holiday we’ll be painting all through in lovely French grey.

What I’ve learned.

  • The internet really is your best friend
  • Always drive slowly past skips!
  • Sometimes you have to play a waiting game and be prepared to work hard for your bargains. Today we’re all too busy wanting everything now but taking a while to make do and mend and scour for a bargain is just so much more satisfying. It can be frustrating and time consuming too but I it’s about taking a completely different view and running with it.
  • Our kitchen is a work in progress but it’s really liberating to go out there and make something fab for a few pounds. We’re not experts, we’re just a family wanting to improve our home for little money
  • Having little money to play with brings a new-found focus which is invaluable

I wanted quality and while we’ve still got things to do, what we’ve bought on a budget of just over £50 is pretty impressive! If we can do it, anyone can.

Stage two

We’ll be sanding down the cupboard doors. We were going to get new ones but my dad pointed out they were solid wood and just needed a little TLC. Then ripping out the lighting and putting in some plain wall lights.

We’ve also rescued some solid oak from a house renovation and Jonathan is going to make me some rustic kitchen shelves. I’ll definitely be blogging about this again and sharing our progress and bargain hunting.

Aldi nappy challenge

Last month we kicked off our Aldi month-long nappy challenge. The challenge being to swap our normal brand for Aldi’s Mamia brand and see what we thought.

I was planning to wait right until the end of the month but quite frankly, I’ve been so pleased with them I thought – why wait?! A few months ago I was converted to the Mamia baby wipes – incidently they’ve just one the Mother and Baby Gold Award- again. So I was intrigued to try their nappies, I’d heard good things about them and importantly, they would practically slash the cost of nappies on a monthly basis in half.

We’d been using Pampers which had been great, no problems with them and Arthur seemed more than happy but it’s expensive. So when I saw the cost of a pack of 40 Mamia size 5s is just £4.49, I was sure something had to be wrong!

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Mamia nappies from Aldi

I have three criteria really when it comes to nappies:

  • How long do they last? How many hours do I get out of them during the day compared to others
  • Leaking – do they last the night properly and comfortably? To put it honestly, do these cheaper nappies hold back the pooh spillage!
  • Finally and I guess most importantly – what does Arthur think? Are they comfortable on his little bum, do they fit his legs well and does he ever mention them.

So here’s what we found:
They lasted easily as well  as Pampers and other supermarket brands I’ve used. Arthur’s two now so doesn’t need changing as often and when I did change him they were still dry and not damp on his bottom. This was from around 7.30am to 11.30-12. For me this is good for two reasons, firstly I know they last and don’t irritate in secondly it impacts price. It’s no good being cheap if you have to use loads. The night time nappy was equally impressive. He generally woke up and the lining was still dry.

I’m really happy to say that we’ve honestly had no pooh leakages whatsoever. Not one! I’m so impressed with the quality for the price, He also uses them when at nursery and I’ve double checked and they’ve had no problems either. We had a couple of leaks during the night which were just wee and these were both nights he’d slept in so had the same nappy from about 6.30pm to 7.30am.

Finally, my boy is happy! I asked him right at the beginning how his bottom felt and he said “lovely” and since then he’s never complained and I know he would say if uncomfortable. I’ve also monitored his nappy rash and apart from a teething rash a couple of weeks ago he’s been fine.

I wrote a few months ago how I’d become an Aldi convert – I really mean it. These nappies are a great price with no compromise on quality, While the economy remains in freefall and family budgets are being stretched to the max it’s refreshing to see Aldi constantly offering realistic choices for families. I will definitely be continuing to use them and I’m looking forward to trying out the pull-ups next.

Aldi’s nappies came out top along with Pampers in the Which? Survey – they really shone when it came to value for money.

 

What Arthur said….

Inspired by another blogger I’ve kept a list of the things Arthur said to me over the last fews weeks -some of them comical, some violent and others simply mortifying. All proof that toddlers are indeed tyrannical beings concerned only with their own survival!

Whe I asked him not to pick his nose: ” Mummy I mash this nose stuff on you.”

While out in the park an elderly lady came past in a wheelchair: ” Mummy, a monster!”

When asked to give his granny a kiss: ” No, I too busy banging things.”

Getting ready for bed: “Mummy your face is big.Your teeth is dirty. You are like poo poo.”

On waking up and shouting through at 5am: ” Mummy where are you? I need a bath cause Winnie poo on me“. Winnie is his cuddly toy.

My personal fav: ” Mummy you happy?” I answered yes and he said: “You grumpy cause you look like gruffalo and I cut your feet off with my saw.” I think this was a heady combination of the book we’d just read and his new tool kit!

When asked if he wants a yoghurt while in the park: ” No, help me, help me!” Simple yet effective.

Sometimes it’s important to remember the ridiculous, slightly unhinged things, as well as the cute things they say. We’ll all need ammunition for the 18th birthday!

Pleasurewood Hills – fab family fun!

On one of the hottest days of the year we headed off to Pleasurewood Hills in Norfolk.

It’s a bit of an institution in Norfolk – a childhood favourite steeped in memories, so I was hoping it would live up to expectations. It’s 30 years since Pleasurewood Hills opened its doors and so what a great time to take a trip back. I remembered  rollercoasters, the smell of fresh donuts and the Pirate Ship. I didn’t want to find, rickety old rides and chip fat!

Road races and icecreams

I really wasn’t disappointed! In fact I will go so far as to say it’s one of the best family days out I’ve had for a long time. The beautiful sunshine did help but it was the well laid out, bright, clean and fantastically fun park that clinched the deal. I was a bit worried about Arthur being too young but there was a huge amount for toddlers – loads more than I expected.

Unlike many places toddlers are not an afterthought and there was loads for him and his little buddy Lily to enjoy. They went went on mini rollercoasters, boat trips, trains and other mini versions of the big rides. There’s also the new Woodies tea cup ride and loads of others for them to enjoy. Granted we should have read the boating lake signs which told us ‘small children may be frightened’ as it involved pirates, strobe lights and darkness but to be honest that was our fault and they didn’t seem too bothered by it all.

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We sat on the grass and watched the sea lion show, had an icecream and nothing felt like a rush. There were no huge queues and it was just easy.

I also loved the fact there was loads of places to picnic and every where was clean and tidy. There are also lots of picnic benches and you don’t feel pressured into buying their food which is always a plus.Some areas may have needed a lick of paint but in a way it added some charm. Bit like the seaside towns you visit as a child – all the more endearing for their slightly peeled paint. They’re ploughing a lot of money into the park so I guess it takes time to get round to every part.

I couldn’t resist a ride on the iconic water flume and my friend jumped on another ride – can’t remember it’s name but it was big and fast and swingy! We all went on the train and Arthur loved the whistling and there was a competitive tractor vs motorbike race early on in the day! The motorbike won – well done Lois!

The carpark is huge and easy to use with staff on hand to guide you, not only into the right area but actually into your space – that’s good service and despite going on a busy July day the park didn’t feel packed or crowded.

The only thing I would say is that they could do with another set of toilets along the way and may be a couple more staff. We waited a long time for an icecream despite there not being a huge queue.

I was really impressed, it lived up to my expectations and even surpassed them. The old classics were there together with lots of new and exciting rides and attractions. I want to go back and try out Hobs Pit – billed asone of scariest rides in the UK and opening soon.

I would recommend it to families with children of all ages and I’ll definitely be going back.

There’s loads happening – here’s a taster of what’s new at Pleasurewood Hills this year:

As part of a £3.5 million investment pledge, Pleasurewood Hills has four new rides for 2013.

hobsHobs Pit - one of the most scary rides in the UK – not for the faint hearted – coming soon.
Pleasurewood Paddlers – the return of the pedalos to Pleasurewood Lake. 
Woodies Tea Party - a traditional family tea cup ride.
Moby Dick – climb on board for mariners fun for the youngsters.

Happy Birthday Cabbage Patch Kids!

There are some things that define your childhood. It could be the Rubics cube, Slinkies, Transfomers and most definitely Cabbage Patch Kids. The CPKs have been a much-loved feature on the landscape of childhood toys for 30 years – yes that’s right, 30 years! Born in 1983 it’s time to say a big Happy birthday!

Arthur and I were lucky enough to be invited to an exclusive party at the famous Hamleys store in London to celebrate their birthday. What a fab time we had. Walking into Hamleys is like walking back through all your pre-teenage Christmas’s. Everyone turned up and waited excitedly outside before being greeted by two of the well-known Cabbage Patch Kids and the fun began.

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The Cabbage Patch Kids are unique, each has it’s own birth certificate and the lucky boy or girl who gets to look after them can fill it in and send it off – to make it official. How good is that?! Children for 30 years have loved their stories and it’s great to know there’s more to come with lovely new anniversary dolls and even a mini range too.

We played lovely party games and Arthur was rather taken with the craft table – although his creation seems to be soley made up of silver glitter! The we ate fab retro 80s food, including mini trifles, quiches and prawn cocktails, complete with party plates and hats. Plus an amazing three-tier cake to celebrate the occasion

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Despite being born the wrong side of the 80s – I still managed to feel like a child again and I hope the Cabbage Patch Kids continue to feature in childhoods across the world – I for one would be up for celebrating their 60th!

There are new lines arriving for the 30th year celebrations including the mini collection and special anniversary kids and we got to see some of these – they look amazing.

For more information on Cabbage Patch Kids please see www.jakks.com.

 

 

 

Turbo-charged roast chicken thanks to Schwartz

If I had to choose one food to take on a desert island with me it would be the humble roast chicken. I just love it – it’s a big comforting cuddle and let’s face it it’s pretty easy to get right too.

So anything that turbo-charges my most favourite meal has to be worth a try. This week I took chicken to a new level with the Schwartz 2 in 1 roast chicken and roast potato flavouring. One packet with all the flavouring you need to fool everyone you’re a great cook.

It got the thumbs up all round

It’s so easy, simply mix the seasoning with a little oil and smother over a scored chicken. We used it on a whole bird but it would work equally as well on legs and breasts. Cook as you normally would and hey presto, a little over two hours later we had a delicious roast. The flavourings worked so well and helped keep the chiken moist. Containing garlic and thyme, as well as marjoram, paprika and other delightful bits and bobs I would never use, it gave the chicken an almost mediteranian taste but was not over-powering. Far easier than chopping everything individually and mixing them all up.

As for the potatoes – oh my word they were good. I remember watching Nigella using semolena on her roasties and making a mental note to do the same and reel in their coquetish crispiness that no one can resist. As usual I never got round to it – until now.

 

Again it was so simple, just par boil the spuds and add the seasoning before popping in a tray of hot oil. They took about 45 mins and were seriously good. I always make far too many and have loads left over but not this time.

The seasoning have no nasties like artifical colours and chemicals and couldn’t be easier to use. To be honest as long as you can read, or someone near you can, I think it would be quite hard to go wrong. A great idea for cutting down on prep time but not cutting down on taste – perfect for me in my eternal quest for the 25th hour! I’d definitely use them again and I’m looking forward to giving the pasta bake a go next week too.

This post is an entry for BritMums ‘What’s for Dinner Tonight?’ sponsored by Schwartz. Find out more about the new 2in1 mixes here.

 

Bounty – a misplaced mutiny

I’ve been reading blogs and tweets about the Mumsnet #Bounty mutiny. Their campaign to stop the bounty reps coming round the maternity wards and giving out their pack.

The crux of the rebellion is a survey by Mumsnet which suggests women feel harassed by these reps and that this commercial practise has no place in a hospital ward. According to the survey eight out of ten women don’t think it’s acceptable and 56% felt a Bounty rep invaded their space. I have read some of the supporting feedback Mumsnet received and it’s totally unacceptable and these reps were completely in the wrong

Of course if you create a campaign such as this you will hear the bad and the ugly, people who’ve had good or indifferent experiences won’t come forward that’s how it works – it’s marketing in a mask.

And I just don’t think it’s a true of all women and our experiences. I have spoken to friends, family and even people at various groups over the past couple of weeks and no one had a bad experience. Many felt indifferent towards the sales reps, hardly registering their presence and several thought it was a lovely part of the process. One of those things you expect and a bit of a rite of passage.

When I had Arthur it ended up as an emergency C-section, a little dramatic at the time but everything was fine. The next day Joan came and sat on my bed, the Bounty rep. We had a bit of a chat and she said:” Here’s you pack, there might be some stuff in there you find interesting and don’t miss out on all your freebies”. She did ask me once about photos, which I refused and then she went about her business. Cooing at babies, smiling and offering out the well-known packs. Versions of which most of us had clutched close to us since those first nervous days of pregnancy. All your notes spilling out over the free nappy and free online sign-ups and who hasn’t got the Cow and Gate cuddly toy. Even today I still get my monthly emails though telling me about Arthur and his development – makes me smile.

Yes it’s a commercial transaction and Bounty pay the hospitals but that’s not a dirty word for me. Commercial gain in an environment where budgets are being squeezed while a baby boom happily continues to grow, is understandable. I don’t find that shocking and I think it’s naïve to do so. Mismanaged, pushy reps are not acceptable but this is not, for me, reason enough to campaign for the banning of Bounty.

I absolutely agree sales reps should not hassle women at any time, particularly at such an emotional time. It’s just that this is not my experience or that of anyone I know. I whole-heartedly support Mumsnet campaigning on behalf of mothers and families but I would feel so much better about a campaign that encouraged mothers into midwifery – currently there’s a shortfall of around 5,000 in the UK. One that drew support for much needed funding for Surestart centres, supported and paid for breastfeeding counsellors to visit mothers in hospital.

#Bountymutiny, for me is a diluted campaign, one which doesn’t deal with an issue – just a sales technique.