Friday, 26 August 2016

Frugal Friday

Even though I'm back in the land of working full time again which means more money (I'll shut up about it soon, I promise), for a while there, like nearly 4 years of a while, I was properly skint. I'm not going to lie, it was hard. To go from having disposable income to no income was a bit of a shock and took me right back to 1998 when I finished uni first time round and was poorer than a church mouse. Me and my roomies were all either unemployed or working rubbish jobs that paid peanuts and we used to scrape together a fiver between us to go and buy a huge bag full of veg and a packet of dried soya mince which would be the basis for food for the whole week. That time in my life sucked bad. Like really bad. Luckily this time round wasn't quite as awful as all that, I could afford to eat well, but all the fun stuff that I had previously loved to do was off the cards. As was all the buying of the treats. However I rallied through and found some really excellent budget options that I thought I'd share today. Cos you never know when you might find yourself there too. 

Most of it is beauty related, y'all know I love my lotions and potions by now! 

First up skincare. The most obvious place to go first was for the Simple skincare range. The majority of their range is really affordable, often on offer in the high street or supermarkets, and most importantly is really nice to use. It's an added bonus that it's really good value for money and a little goes a long way. I traded in my expensive moisturisers and tried out a few along the way. My favourite was the Kind to Skin + which lasted for about 7 weeks in total and cost me about £6. Total bargain. And with added SPF 30, it's a great product to use over the colder months when you don't need full on facial sunscreen protection. In fact, I loved this so much I plan on using it again over the winter as there's really no point in splashing out loads of money when you know something works well. 

I would also really recommend trying Superdrug, for all sorts of things really, but especially their Vitamin E range. I used to use the Vitamin E range at the Body Shop but the price point was just that little bit too high and so I looked for an alternative. The products within the Superdrug range are really good, however they do come with a warning - the packaging is absolutely rubbish! On the majority of the products either the lids stopped closing after first use or the product just wouldn't come out and I had to find alternative ways to make it work. Not ideal, but as long as you have somewhere cool to keep them they can keep on being used without any worry (like a bathroom cabinet). The tip top pick of the range for me is their Hot Cloth Cleanser which I absolutely love! It's worth noting that the packaging on this hasn't presented me with any problems at all. For a fiver, I've been using it for months now and it's still going strong, and I can honestly say, hand on heart, that I like it more than the Liz Earle Cleanse and Polish! Superdrug products are also cruelty free which is an added bonus if this is your thing, and are often paraben and SLS free too! 

When it came to shower gels and body lotions/butters I tended to shop around and grab whatever was on offer. The supermarkets often have really good deals and when you're adding a 99p shower gel to your weekly food shop you don't notice the spend so much. A definite tip in this category would be to ask for things like this for Christmas. I did that and got absolutely stacks of stuff which I was delighted by! And it was July before I had to buy a new shower gel which is not bad going for the year at all! 

In terms of makeup I have to be honest and say that I just didn't buy any. I already had quite a lot and just used up my own products. When I did need something new I didn't seek budget alternatives as the spending was minimal here anyway. Often this category was where I saved up in order to splurge, particularly when it came to base products, as I think when you find something that works with your face it's best to stick to it. Cheaper alternatives can sometimes end up costing more as they break you out and you end up chucking 'em out. Just not worth it. 

My last words of advice are about cotton pads. I know, exciting stuff eh? If you wear mascara on the daily you're going to need something to take it off with and cotton wipes are one of those weird things where buying 'em cheap usually means they shred into your eye - nice! However, after lots of trying and testing I have found two possible options. Wilko dual cotton pads are only 50p for 80! And they even have offers on sometimes like buy one get one free, you really can't go wrong. The other ones I can't find a link for I'm afraid, but if you have a Home Bargains near you, they do the same type of product for 80p. In case you're feeling spendy *chuckles* 

If you liked this and would like to know more, give me a shout out in the comments. I'm the champion of budget shopping in all categories and am more than happy to share! 

Monday, 22 August 2016

Oh hi!

Hey y'all, did you miss me? How was your week? That's really interesting and all but let me tell you about my week, go on, please!

So first week at work. That weird and wonderful thing of nerves, anxiety, excitement, and wonder if you've made the right decision. The answer to that last question is most definitely - I had a great week! I'm under no illusion at all that it will stay that way, been there and done that too many times to know that the honeymoon period doesn't last that long, but let me tell you a few reasons why I know it's going to be rockin'. 

First up, I get to sit down all day again! I know, right? After pounding the library floor for the last 8 months it was absolutely delightful to just be sat still. At MY OWN DESK! With my own computer, and a set of desk drawers where I can keep my mug and emergency Polo stash. 

My team seem to be a group of really nice people, albeit a bit on the quiet side. I'm part of the website team which means they're mainly techy-bods who are not used to having a chatty Kathy sitting with them. I might have already scarred them for life with my day to day nattering, but they best get used to it. I'm the 'social' media person, as in very social, loves a good conversation. I'm looking forward to getting to know them better. They might not be thinking that about me...hehe. I'll know for certain when the headphones come out and they block me out! 

The work is interesting, challenging, is going to require a lot of organisation on my part, and best of all they pay me to spend all day on the internet and social media sites! I mean come on! How 21st century is that?! I've already got a lot of lists, but I do love a good list. The best thing seems to be that I get to hear about all the good stuff happening in Middlesbrough and get to go and do some of it for work - sweet! 

I'm loving being back in the town again too. So far I've met up with Toni for a picnic lunch and already have plans to meet up with Rach and all sorts of other Libraryland Version 1 buddies. Happy days. There is a downside to being back in the town and that's the close proximity of all the cool shops. At this present moment my bank balance can't take it and I've had to have a serious word with myself to just stay out of the shops. It didn't help that I was massively disorganised in the first week which meant going out to buy my lunch everyday instead of packing one. What with that and the parking costs I've already had to get a sub from Dave to see me through to the end of the month. Eep! Starting from today though, packing my lunch is definitely a priority! 

All in all, I think the first week went pretty well. By Friday I was looking forward to the weekend and Dave and I met up in the town for a cheeky ice cream treat (pudding before dinner is definitely the way forward) which we haven't done anything like that in about 4 years. Around about the time I left my other full time job, funny that eh? 

I still plan to stick to my previous blogging schedule but every now and then I might miss a few posts, but I don't think anyone will mind too much, eh? Thanks for waiting for the update! See you again soon. Over and out. 

Monday, 15 August 2016

New girl

I'm starting my new job at about the same time that this post goes live. I'm nervous, excited, and a bit worried that working properly full time is going to really do me in until I get back into the swing of things...but the main emotion is excitement which is a great feeling! 

I'm going to try my hardest to keep up to date with the blog but just in case I go missing for a while, please be patient and stick around, I will be back I promise. 

Okay here I go. Wish me luck...!

Friday, 12 August 2016

Leaving Libraryland

When I quit Libraryland (LL) version 1 all those years ago now, I was pretty adamant that I would never return to libraries again. Turns out that 'never say never' statement can be all kinds of true as in December last year I found myself returning to Libraryland. Version 2 was WAY different to the original, gone were the surly students and in was the general public, all the public, of all ages, shapes, and sizes. You know what surprised me most of all? I loved it! Of course there were frustrations (lots of 'em!) and moments when I could easily have banged my head against a wall, but it was busy and diverse and no two queries were ever the same. It gave me a regular wage, and the chance to earn more money by joining a casual register for extra hours.

The most rewarding element was definitely the dealings with the public. Some were fun, some were challenging, some were absolutely heartbreaking, but with each one I did the LL thing and sent people away with answers and hopefully a few less worries for having talked to a friendly face. I remember the first time I told someone that the book they wanted had nearly 100 reservations against it - expecting some sort of backlash as would most certainly have appeared in LL version 1, they just quietly chuckled, shrugged their shoulders, and replied 'oh well, it'll get to me eventually'.

The biggest surprise of all, that still astounds me daily, is that my most favourite dealings were with the littles who would come in for visits. Ask anyone and they will definitely assure you that I am not a littles person at all, no way, not a chance. But there was something about these little people coming into the library that just got me each and every time, sometimes to the point where I would be left feeling a little bit emotional - I know! Me! Say what?! In the few months I worked there some of my happiest times were reading stories, running school sessions, and spreading the library love by joining people up, especially the kiddos!

Working in a public rather than academic library really opened my eyes to how vitally important libraries are, and increased my own enthusiasm and joy for the service that is on offer. Even though I'm saying goodbye to working in libraryland I will remain a loyal user and a massive fan. And anyone who has littles who haven't joined a library yet, take them along sometime soon, you might just be making a library assistant's day!     

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Weekly favourites

This week's favourites include not one but two transport things. The first one could also be classed as a day out/adventure as it was our annual trip to the Nostalgia Festival at Croft Racing Circuit. As is often the case with tradition, it was the usual story of lots of interesting cars, a couple of planes flying over making some pretty shapes in the sky, lots of car racing, donuts smothered in butterscotch sauce, a whole heap of fun, and a tonne of walking! So much with the walking that I earned two merit badges from my Fitbit - must have been all those steep banks to get the best view of the track! 

I'll have this one please! 
Next up is my car. My new car! Yep, sad as it was to say farewell to the old Zip, it is beyond nice to have a new car that doesn't have warning lights on when you start the engine - the luxury! The new car is basically a more up to date version of the old car, it's still a Skoda Fabia but as my Pops said, it's just so much more streamlined. It's higher up, the wheels have beautiful alloys, IT HAS A CD PLAYER, it has a funky thing in the roof that you click and a little case comes down where you can keep your sunglasses (genuine excitement every time I show that to someone), there's no gaffa tape holding anything together, and did I say IT HAS A CD PLAYER? I know this sounds so old school but my other car had a cassette player for goodness sake, can you now understand my excitement?! The CDs are back baby! 

I realised as I was bevvying along in Zippy mark 2 that for the past few months I had mainly spent much of my time driving along glancing down at my dashboard just in case more warning lights came on, or the worst of the worst, the car just came to a standstill. Seriously, that did happen. So yeah, not the best method of driving! But now, in Zip mark 2 I am looking in my mirrors all the time. Oh and the mirrors? Wow, you can see so much out of them! My old ones were all scratched and marked and probably didn't have the best view out into other lanes, so it's super amazing to be able to see so much. You new car drivers take so much for granted! Driving to work these days is now a joy, rather than a minor terror. I am the happiest car driver in the world! And just think in 5 years time when I've paid the loan off I can come at you with another new car update! 

Just kidding, let's hope I can drive this one for ten years too - happy motoring! 

Monday, 8 August 2016

Round Our Way: Wynyard Gardens

A couple of weeks ago when Dave was on holiday we headed to Wynyard Gardens to see what all the fuss was about. My Ma had been first on her own, then took my Pops back as she loved it so much, and there was all kinds of talk about how good the cakes were and how nice the gardens are (notice the cake reference came first...always), and we do love a wander round some gardens, so off we went. It was a Monday morning, and man was it a civilised way to spend a few hours at the beginning of the week! 

The majority of the gardens are contained within a walled garden, though you can head out into the grounds a little bit where they host weddings and events. The walkways are very people friendly, and definitely buggy and wheelchair appropriate, so open to all! There are roses and blooms of all colours, and water features, and lots of seating areas where you can take a pew and take in the sights and sounds. We waited patiently until some people moved on so that we could nab the bench right opposite the main waterfall features at the back of the garden and it was so peaceful, pretty much could have fallen asleep right there and then. 

Having heard so many good things about the cakes it would have been rude not to go and check them out so we finally dragged ourselves away from the bench and headed to the cafe. 

It is of course in a tip top location and you look out right across the gardens. It was warm enough for us to sit outside so we nabbed yet another prime spot and sat down to enjoy the delicious treats. I had the fruit scone with cream and jam which was indeedy very delicious, and Dave had the English garden cake which was pretty good too. My coffee was a little bit too much froth and not enough coffee but it wasn't that big a deal when you had this view to gaze upon:

We would probably have lingered there for a while just soaking it all in, but along the way from us was a group of women who NEVER STOPPED TALKING about all the films they had seen and programmes they had recorded and which Nicolas Cage movie was the best and it was all a bit much for early on a Monday so we wandered around the grounds for a while longer, which was definitely the best (and quieter option).

All in all, it truly was a lovely way to while away a couple of hours. We paid £5.50 each to get into the gardens and as we wandered around decided it would be worth paying the £15 for an annual ticket so that we can go again as the seasons change. You can visit 8 times on the annual ticket which is a pretty good saving! 

I would highly recommend a visit if you're in the area as the gardens are really rather delightful. If you just want to go and try out the scone, you can go into the cafe without having to pay to go into the gardens, and if you sit outside you would still see the gardens...up to you really, both are equally lovely. 

For more details the website is here

I'm already looking forward to going back as Summer winds down to see how it looks in Autumn. I have this idea that it will be just warm enough to sit outside bundled up in a jumper with a steaming bowl of soup in front of me. And then maybe in the Winter a delicious hot chocolate as you gaze upon the fairy-lit garden...(sidenote: that is pure dreaming on my behalf and I have no actual information that there will be fairy lights...but I am ever hopeful). 

Friday, 5 August 2016


I recently organised a display in libraryland to introduce all of our readers to the library staff. I did a nice little blurb about everyone and then I set the ultimate challenge: pick your top 5 books of all time. For some people, this caused almost as much angst as the idea of having a photo on the info sheet so that people would be able to recognise us. Not so much of a problem for me, as somewhat geekily, I always have this top 5 running in my head...just in case anyone ever asks me (sidenote: they never do). 

Featuring in my top 5 is probably my most favourite book ever: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. The first time I read it I was 16 and in my final year of big school. I remember absolutely loving it and since then, almost every year, I have read it over and over again. As I have aged, along with my very battered copy, I seem to get something different out of it each time I read it, but no matter how many times it remains my all time favourite. Which is why I was kind of nervous about picking up Go Set a Watchman. What if it was so awful that my favourite character of Scout would be ruined forever?! 

Well it turns out it wasn't that awful...but it also wasn't that great. My overwhelming reaction was a kind of lazy shrug. I loved revisiting all my favourite characters and it was interesting to see how they might be as they aged, but other than that nothing really happened. Nothing of any great consequence anyway, which is a real shame as there was obviously a massive amount of hype about this when it was published. 

I think the key with this book is to just read it as any other book. Don't look upon it as a sequel or even a companion to the original, it's just another book in the pile by the bed. That way you won't be disappointed or frustrated at how different it is; at most you might join me in a lazy shrug and an oh well, I've finished that book now. I can however say with absolute certainty that it won't be making it into my Top 5 list anytime soon...

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Weekly favourites

What do you call it when you're at a wedding but you're not a guest? Nor are you working, you're just kind of there as a favour to a good friend who asked you to help out running a bar for the night...? Not sure there is an actual name for it, but whatever, it was hands down my weekly favourite, and honestly, one of the best weddings I've been to in ages! 

First of all it was in a marquee in their back garden. It was shabby chic meets boho meets the 1970's. The bride wore an off the shoulder lace gown and she and all the bridesmaids had flower crowns in their hair. We were serving behind a giant wooden pallet with hardly any space to squeeze past each other and lots of oops sorry moments. The crowd were some serious drinkers so we were busy all night long, and everyone was just so bloomin' nice! The wedding cake was a massive chunk of chocolate deliciousness, the DJ was bloody brilliant and the dance-floor was full from him opening to the final dance at midnight, just as we all started turning into pumpkins. 

I spent the whole night smiling, laughing, singing, and dancing. It was brilliant and felt like a proper night out, even though I had been working since 9am that day so effectively was at work for 15 hours, yowser! But when the DJ is spinning all the cheesy songs and you're dancing and serving drinks all at the same time, it's simply a grand night out. 

And this song has been stuck in my head ever since, so here it is for your daily ear worm too. Arms in the air and all together now, REACH for the stars...

Monday, 1 August 2016

Peek office space

Disclaimer: this is the least Pinterest-y office space you will ever see. Just so you know. In case you're expecting some kind of white wall, gold features, and marble shit. My office space is absolutely none of those things. It's not even really a whole office space as I share it with Bob the dog, who let's face it, owns the room. I have a small corner which he lets me sit in grudgingly, but only if I'll pet him every now and then and play tug of war. So now you've got the idea, let's see some photos and I'll talk you through it. 

First up we have the gallery wall. There's three more pictures alongside the Marilyn and Casablanca but I thought the corner shot made it more arty (ha!). So yep, we like black and white movies. And Mark Rothko. Bit of a contrast there, but what's life without variety and big blocks of coloured squares. 

Next up we have the mantelpiece. Where the meerkats live. And the wildflowers I pick on a daily basis from the garden. And the candle that smells like cheesecake. Not forgetting the wooden roman sword. I bought that for Dave on our last holiday. Yes he is actually 7...

And finally my favourite corner of all. As you can see there's a lot of thought and imagination gone into being the perfect blogger here with the array of coloured pencils, the drumsticks, the lip-balm, and my two favourite images that make me smile every time I sit down to do some work. Andy made that card for us at the top when we moved into this house and it is amazing! She be a clever lady. And the photo in the frame is from when before me and Dave were officially me and Dave. I was sitting on his knee. And probably flirting but there was nothing new there. I have no idea what we were laughing about but it was clearly hi-larious as you can nearly see my tonsils. I like to think of it as the photo of things to come as since then we have had many, many hi-larious times that always lead to tonsil-showing, head thrown back laughter. 

It's the perfect office space. I have a black desk and a super comfy chair. Here I type up my blog posts, schedule in loads of social stuff for the theatre, and have even been paid to work from this very desk! I hope you liked this little peek. Let me know if you want to see more of our house - we're slowly making changes here and there now, exciting stuff!