I’m ridiculously, stupidly busy. Working from home, with deadlines galore, two teenagers, a hubby who is away on duty for two weeks at a time, an evil cat and a new puppy, means that there aren’t many hours in the day that aren’t filled with either work, home or walkies. I try and find time for myself too, which isn’t easy, but often an hour in a lovely bubble bath with music on and a nice glass of wine is all I need to recharge my batteries.
It’s no secret that I love my food. I’m pretty active (being dragged round a field by a small and perpetually enthusiastic whippet is incredibly exhausting) but still occasionally I do worry about what I eat. We eat a decent meal every night, but I do have a bit of a cake habit. Generally, I try and balance this by forcing myself to eat a healthy breakfast, at least on weekday mornings.
So Valentine’s Day is coming up fast and even if, like Mr English, you’re not the whole flowers and chocolates romantic type, an amazing steak is the perfect way to celebrate with the one (or ones) you love. My lovely chums Farmer’s Choice are offering you the chance to win a really amazing Farmers Choice ‘Love Steak’ pack, containing two 250g fillet steaks, two 250g sirloin steaks, two 325g t-bone steaks and two 400g wing rib steaks, so basically everything you need for several romantic dinners, not just one!
To be in with a chance to win, all you have to do is tell me what your ideal Valentine’s Day dinner is. Remember if you’re a first time commenter on English Mum, your comment won’t show up straight away.
There are also a couple of ways to increase your chances of winning: for one bonus entry, just like Farmers Choice on Facebook. Leave a separate comment to confirm that you’ve done so and this will be counted as an extra entry.
For a further bonus entry, follow @FarmersChoiceUK on Twitter. Leave a separate comment to confirm that you’ve done so and this will be counted as an extra entry. Usual English Mum competition rules apply. This giveaway ends at 9am on 9th February (to give us time to get the prize to the winner in time for Valentine’s Day) . Winner will be chosen at random. Good luck!
***This competition is now closed – congratulations to Gloria Christiansen who won the ‘love steak’ pack!***
Ah I’ve absolutely loved looking through all the amazing bakeoff entries. Now it’s down to our lovely judge Catriona to choose a winner to receive all those lovely Yeo Valley goodies. Good luck everyone!
So once upon a time, back in… ooooh… 2010, I did this competition called The Great Cupcake Challenge. The entries were fab, and encouraged by this, the competition morphed into English Mum’s Big Bakeoff, (yes, before that one on the telly) and since then we’ve had various different ones, including the ‘baked with love’ bakeoff for Valentine’s Day, an Autumn bakeoff and even a fresh bread bakeoff. My fave, though, has always been the Christmas one.
So without further ado, I give you… The Big Christmas Bakeoff 2013!!
As usual, there really are no rules, and since the ‘send English Mum a piece of your entry for testing’ rule was scrapped (dammit) these are the only ones that remain:
1. You actually must have baked something yourself (although see below re: sneaky rule breaking) – doesn’t need to have been specifically for the bakeoff though.
2. You must take a picture (there’s none of those dodgy ‘I baked it, but then I ate it’ excuses…). The picture MUST be of your baking and MUST be original (I do check them!).
3. Email it to me at english[dot]towers[at]gmail[dot]com, telling me what it is and who you are. Entries must be received by midnight on the closing date (see below).
The Cheaty Bit
Hey, it’s Christmas, and any bit of Christmassy cookery is basically fair game. And I do like a healthy bit of skulduggery amongst friends, so any entertaining reason why your entry should be considered will be looked upon favourably. For example, if your trifle is beautiful, but obviously not exactly baked, let me know. I’m a flexible type and I’ll probably allow it. No lying though.
Okay, a bit of lying then, but not too much…
The Social Media Bit
If you’re a blogger, please link back to this post, and if you’re on Facebook or a tweeter or Instagrammer, please use the hashtag #bigChristmasbakeoff - if you’re none of the above, then just ignore this bit completely.
The Exciting Bit!
Those lovely little pixies down on the farm at Yeo Valley have very kindly agreed to give the winner a copy of their brand new cookbook. The Great British Farmhouse Cookbook, plus a lovely cool bag full of delicious Yeo Valley goodies!
The Inspirationy Bit
Get that camera or phone out and snap a picture of your home made mince pies, your festive cupcakes or your Grandma’s old Christmas cake recipe. Or maybe you can have a go at my jaffa cake Christmas trees, or some cranberry and pistachio biscotti. Whatever floats your boat.
And don’t think you have so be some sort of uber super duper food stylist. The bakeoff is all about the fun.
The Judgy Bit
Entries will be displayed in one enormous blog post and accompanied by the usual descent into hysteria while I wrestle with pixels and uploading and all that other complicated stuff. Follow me on twitter (@englishmum) to witness the carnage as it happens.
The very lovely Catriona from the very popular Irish food blog Wholesome Ireland has very
foolishly kindly agreed to be our judge this year. You can find her on Twitter @wholesomeIE if you want to attempt a bit of online judge tampering. The judge’s decision is final. No arguing. She’s an Irish mammy y’know, she’ll take none of that boldness.
So that’s it, then. You’ve got loads of time, plenty of inspiration, and some very ambiguous rules. Let’s get baking!
The Small Printy Bit
This competition is open to everyone in the UK and Ireland. No age limit. The closing date will be Wednesday 18th December at midnight. There is no cash alternative to the prize. If you’re outside of the UK and want to enter, please feel free. If you win, I’ll mail you the cookbook but I’m afraid the yogurt won’t travel!
So donning my Santa hat once more, I’ve got another lovely giveaway for you all. This would be a fab present for those who love to travel and explore new countries. Or maybe you’d like to keep it for yourself and learn to chat away with the locals next time you’re away? It’s also a really fab thing to do as a family – I’ve had a go myself and it’s really quite easy – you can listen and repeat and the app will tell you if you’re pronouncing it correctly.
All you have to do is visit Rosetta Stone’s website, then leave a comment and tell me which language you’d like to learn and why. The winner will receive an online 6 month language course of their choice.
For a bonus entry, send a tweet to @englishmum and @RosettaStoneUK saying which language you’d like to learn, using the hashtag #RosettaMum and comment to confirm that you’ve done so.
Usual English Mum competition rules apply. This giveaway ends at 9am on Tuesday 10th December 2013. New commenters please note that your comment won’t show until it has been moderated. Winner will be chosen at random. Good luck!
**This giveaway is now closed. Thank you for all your entries – congratulations to winner Beth Gurney! **
It’s an expensive old business, Christmas. This is why I love it when people like the lovely chaps at Farmer’s Choice give me fab stuff to give away. This Christmas, they are offering you the chance to win a really amazing Farmers Choice Christmas hamper to give away, stuffed with all sorts of lovely stuff, including a huge 2kg beef topside, smoked salmon, lamb, streaky bacon, a gammon joint and loads more, worth £84.
To be in with a chance to win, all you have to do is take a look at the Farmers Choice Christmas dinner page and let me know what, for you, is the best part of Christmas dinner. Remember if you’re a first time commenter on English Mum, your comment won’t show up straight away.
There are also a couple of ways to increase your chances of winning: for one bonus entry, just like Farmers Choice on Facebook. Leave a separate comment to confirm that you’ve done so and this will be counted as an extra entry.
For a further bonus entry, follow @FarmersChoiceUK on Twitter. Leave a separate comment to confirm that you’ve done so and this will be counted as an extra entry. Usual English Mum competition rules apply. This giveaway ends at midnight on 15th December 2013. Winner will be chosen at random. Good luck!
**This competition is now closed – winner to be announced shortly!**
I’ve just started to have a look online to get ahead with the Christmas shopping. The trouble is, all I seem to see are things that I’d really like myself!
I’m a huge fan of Zalando – you can get all your shopping done without moving from the sofa and they’ve got everything from gorgeous designer clothes to really original stuff for the house (including lots of lovely things for Christmas).
They’re also, I’m rather proud to say, big fans of English Mum and they’ve given me a fabulous £200 to give away for one of my lucky readers to spend online at Zalando.co.uk.
Sadly, I’m not allowed to win, so, dear Santa, if you’re reading, I’ve been a really good girl this year and if you could see your way to filling my stocking with any of these lovely things, I’d be very grateful.
To enter, just comment and tell me what you’d like to buy and who it’s for – don’t worry, you can spend it all on yourself if you want, you have my permission. The winner will be chosen at random and usual English Mum competition rules apply.
This giveaway ends at 9am next Friday, 22nd November 2013. Remember if you’re a first-time visitor to English mum your comment won’t appear until it’s approved. Good luck!
******THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED – CONGRATULATIONS TO MELISSA MANNING WHO WON THE £200 VOUCHER! THANKS FOR YOUR ENTRIES******
What’s your favourite holiday photograph? I have so many. This one, of Mr English on the deck of the Celebrity Infinity as it set sail from La Rochelle…
Or this lovely one of all of us during our visit to Aquatica on the SeaWorld trip:
Holiday Inn hotels are running a lovely social media competition all based around your holiday memories. The competition is in two parts:
The first part is being run by ten hotels on twitter who are asking their followers to submit their best family or childhood holiday images to Twitter. You can do this by tweeting the Holiday Inn hotels… any of the following:
Holiday Inn London Bloomsbury - @HIBloomsbury
Holiday Inn London Regent’s Park - @HIRegentsPark
Holiday Inn London Mayfair - @HILondonMayfair
Holiday Inn London Heathrow M4, Jct. 4 - @HIHeathrowM4J4
Holiday Inn London Gatwick Airport - @HIGatwickHotel
Holiday Inn Edinburgh - @HI_Edinburgh
Holiday Inn Glasgow Airport - @HIGlasgowAirprt
Holiday Inn York - @HolidayInnYork1
Holiday Inn London Kensington Forum - @HIKensington
Holiday Inn Bristol Filton - @HIBristolFilton
…with your image, using the hashtag #himemories. The winner will receive a free weekend stay in that hotel.
The second part is being run by the 49 other Holiday Inn hotels. Followers can win a free night in any of these hotels by submitting a tweet describing their best family or childhood holiday memory in a tweet, again using the hashtag #himemories.
This is a brand new competition so GET TWEETING THEM NOW! You have a really good change of bagging yourself a lovely weekend or night in a fabulous hotel. Good luck!
I hate to mention the C word, but I’m already starting to collate gift guides (stay tuned – some wonderful ideas on the way) and search for beautiful things to give my friends and family.
One of my favourite sites is The Cotswold Company, not just for their scrummy oak furniture (I adore their wine racks) but for all the lovely accessories too. I use their baskets on top of my kitchen units to store things I don’t use every day like big platters and special baking tins, and their lamp tables are just gorgeous. They also have cushions, throws, all sorts of lovely stuff.
I’ve teamed up with The Cotswold Company to provide you with a little treat: £100 to spend on whatever you like! So, if you’ve got your eye on something bigger, like one of their amazing oak dressers, this will be a big chunk towards it, or maybe like me you’re in love with all those baskets?
Just leave a comment and let me know what wine you’d put in this fabulous Costswold Company wine rack and the winner will get £100 to spend on anything they like on the Cotswold Company website. Off you go, then!
The Small Print
Usual English Mum competition rules apply. Competition ends Friday 11th October at 9am. UK only. Prize comprises: £100 to spend online on cotswoldco.com. Winner will be chosen at random. New comments will not show straight away as they require moderation.
**This competition is now closed. Congratulations to Mark Hawes who won the £100!**
As you probably know, we’re all serious chocoholics here at English Towers. Our latest obsession is the very peculiar range of Marvellous Creations bars (the Cola Pretzel Honeycomb one is ridiculously good). Imagine our delight, then, when a delivery of new Cadbury Dairy Milk Pebbles arrived on the doorstep! They’re yummy – think a combination of Cadbury Mini Eggs and Smarties (sorry, not Cadbury!) and you’re about there. But because they’re absolutely nothing to do with Easter you can eat them ALL YEAR ROUND! I’ve also recently seen glimpses of a special edition Winter Wonderland bar with milk and white chocolate trees. Yum.
To celebrate the launch of these delicious little beauties, I’m giving you the opportunity to win a family ticket to Cadbury World, PLUS Cadbury have very kindly offered to fund off peak rail travel for the lucky winner too! So even if you don’t live close, you can still experience the magical world of Cadbury!
All you have to do is leave a comment and tell me your favourite Cadbury product. I’ll even throw in a bag of new Dairy Milk Pebbles too. What are you waiting for?!
The Small Print
Usual English Mum competition rules apply. Competition ends Friday 27th September at midnight. UK only. Prize comprises: one family ticket to Cadbury World (two adults, two children), plus rail travel costs funded from the winner’s home mainline UK railway station to Bourneville Station only, and return – off peak. All other expenses to be covered by the competition winner. New comments will not show straight away as they require moderation.
** This competition is now closed. Congratulations to Kirsty Caffrey for winning the tickets and travel! **
On our recent trip to The Grove Hotel, we’d arranged a visit to the Warner Bros Studio Tour - The Making of Harry Potter at Leavesden Studios. The tour, based in the studios originally used to film the series, has some absolutely amazing things to see and do – loads of props and costumes, sneaky peeks behind the scenes and much more. It’s a difficult one to review as I’m conscious that I don’t want to spoil it for you if you’re planning a visit yourself, but here’s our top ten tips for visiting the Warner Bros Studio Tour:
If you want to visit the tour, you MUST book. They don’t accept any walk-ins at all and we saw quite a few people who had paid a lot of money to travel from London who were turned away at the ticket office. You cannot buy a ticket at the studios.
2. Check prices
There are options for family tickets which work out better value than buying single tickets. At the moment, the adult ticket is £29, child is £21.50 (age 5 to 15) and under 4s are free. The family ticket (two adults, two children or one adult, three children) is £85.
3. Invest in the audio visual guide
The guide costs £4.95 and basically narrates your journey around the tour to you through headphones. It’s narrated by Draco Malfoy, which is a rather lovely voice to have in your ear as you wander round the tour. It’s invaluable as it stops you missing bits out and also is full of really interesting facts too. Oh, and if you buy the guidebook, don’t look at it as you’re queuing – it contains lots of spoilers!
4. Check the website before you book
There are often special events – for example over the summer holidays (Friday 26th July to Monday 2nd September) there’s the ‘Summer Spells’ special events where you can learn more about some of the famous spells from the series and take part in wand choreography lessons.
5. Be prepared to queue
The staff let about 100 people in every half hour, so you might queue for a short while.
6. Take your time
The tour is SO exciting, and there’s so much to see that the temptation is to rush round everything. However, once you’ve left the first studio, you can’t go back in, so if you discover you’re pretty quick round the second part, you can’t go back! This is another reason why the audio visual tour thingy is worth the money as it encourages you to pace yourself.
7. Hogwarts Castle
Don’t rush past the model (you won’t want to anyway, it’s beautiful) as the lighting is adjusted from night to day over a 4 minute cycle – perfect for pictures.
8. The shop
Be aware that the tour filters you out into the shop, so you’re going to have to be prepared to run the ‘can I have this? Can I have that?’ gauntlet. If you’ve got younger children it’s worth setting a budget before they’re exposed to all the goodies!
9. Food and drink
There’s a café in the foyer which serves decent food and drink, but if it’s a nice day, bring a picnic as there’s a nice picnic area by the carpark that you can use. You can also buy a drink and a snack in the outside area after the first studio – you can also buy butterbeer here and see the Dudleys’ house and the Knight bus where you can hop on and take photos!
10. Look out for hotel deals or store your luggage
The deal we reviewed was an overnight stay at The Grove. You’ll find more information, and prices, here.
Whether you’re travelling locally or you’re flying in from abroad, ABC Selfstore in Camden have a range of luggage storage facilities to make your trip around the Warner Bros studios more enjoyable and less weighed down!
I’ve also got a family ticket for the Warner Bros. Studio Tour to give away courtesy of the Current Accounts team at NatWest! Just leave a comment, telling me your favourite scene/quote/character from the Harry Potter movie series and the winner will be chosen at random. Usual English Mum giveaway rules apply. Giveaway ends at midnight on Friday 2nd August 2013.
**THIS COMPETITION IS NOW CLOSED – THANKS FOR YOUR ENTRIES – THE WINNER OF THE FAMILY TICKET WAS JOANNE BLUNT**
Want to win a dining experience unlike any other?
River Cottage evening events are a celebration of the River Cottage ethos, where the food, location and atmosphere take centre stage. You will be treated to delicious dishes whilst enjoying the familiar surroundings from the River Cottage TV series.
You will be seated outside on covered decking with beautiful views of the Axe valley below – should the evening be cooler there is an outdoor log burner to keep you warm and removable walls to ensure a comfortable evening.
When you arrive you will be met by members of the River Cottage team before getting on the tractor and trailer for the journey down to River Cottage HQ. Your host for the evening will greet you with a seasonal welcome drink and canapés will be served. You will have the opportunity to have a look around and soak up the atmosphere. Once seated, the chef will introduce the menu and talk about the dishes being served. You will learn about the River Cottage philosophy, the food, its provenance and how it has been prepared. You will enjoy further canapés at the table, before tucking into a four course menu made using the very best local and seasonal ingredients. The menu is decided on the day depending on what produce is at its very best. A wonderful evening is rounded off with coffee and petit fours. At this stage the tractor will be available to take you back to the car park when you are ready.
The prize is worth £140. There are a selection of dates available on Friday nights throughout the summer and all are subject to availability. To enter, just click the button and enter your details:
For further information about the dining events, cookery courses and other events at River Cottage visit www.rivercottage.net
THIS COMPETITION IS NOW CLOSED – THANK YOU FOR ALL YOUR ENTRIES! ANNOUNCING THE WINNER VERY SOON!
I’ve just come back from a gorgeous break on the Cote d’Azur: three glorious days of sun, sightseeing, food and relaxation. But my word, the STUFF you need, just for three days: dresses, heels and some sort of clutch for going out to dinner; shorts, comfy shoes and t-shirts for sightseeing; swimsuits, cover ups and flips flops for beach days; and don’t get me started on beauty products, make up and toiletry bags, sunscreen and perfume. And if you’re taking little ones you can pretty much do that all over again (bar the heels and make-up admittedly).
So with all this in mind, I’ve teamed up with the gorgeous bunch at Insure and Away, who incidentally provide annual holiday insurance, another must-have for your holiday, to give you a little bonus with which to purchase some essentials for all your travel plans this summer: a £200 John Lewis voucher.
So that’s £200 of lovely shopping money, plus experts in cheap travel insurance to boot. You don’t have to thank me, honestly, answer the simple question below to enter, and give me a little shout out on Twitter as one of the extra bonus entry methods…
To enter, just:
Answer the following question in the comments box below: what is your no fail tip for a stress free travelling experience?
Tweet the following phrase:
I’d love to #win a John Lewis voucher with @EnglishMum and @InsureandAway #competition http://bit.ly/17oJb7a
…and follow @InsureandAway on Twitter. Leave a comment saying you have done so and state your Twitter username.
Like Insure and Away on Facebook and leave a comment saying you have done so below.
The usual English Mum competition rules apply. The winner will be chosen at random and this competition closes at midnight on Tuesday, 28th May 2013. And finally, don’t forget that if you’re a new commenter, your comment won’t show up immediately as it has to be approved first. Good luck!
THIS COMPETITION IS NOW CLOSED – THANKS FOR ALL YOUR ENTRIES – WELL DONE TO KATIE H.
It’s no secret that I love a bit of a shop, so when Zalando approached me about a competition, I was keen to have a look at their site to see the sort of things they sell. I wasn’t disappointed. They’ve got pretty much everything you could buy on the high street, including designer stuff like LK Bennett, uber trendy Ash known for their amazing wedge trainers, and, my own personal favourite, Orla Kiely. Or maybe if you’re not into fashion you’d prefer the home section, where they’ve got really nice bedlinen, kitchen stuff… you name it. OR maybe you’d prefer to treat yourself to a flash new watch? Gorgeous jewellery? Premium beauty products? A comfy pair of Uggs? I could go on, but I’d only bore you.
So, in the interests of giving you the best choice, we decided not to ‘fence you in’. Your prize, should you win, is £200 to spend ANYWHERE in the store, on ANYTHING at all.
I know, right? You’re welcome.
Just comment and tell me what you’d spend your little windfall on. Winner will be chosen at random and usual English Mum competition rules apply. This giveaway ends at midnight, this Saturday 13th April. Remember if you’re a first-time visitor to English mum your comment won’t appear until it’s approved. Good luck!
THIS COMPETITION IS NOW CLOSED. CONGRATULATIONS TO NICOLE COTTRELL.
If you follow me on Facebook (if not, why not? We’re a lovely gang and have all sorts of waffly conversations), you’ll know that a while back, my chums at Disney offered me the most FABULOUS prize for you, my lovely readers: a 7 night holiday in a Walt Disney World Resort, Florida, complete with park tickets. I, of course, bit their arms off (not literally – you don’t bite Mickey, it’s just not done), but then, disappointingly, we couldn’t persuade anyone to offer flights (it’s the end of the financial year, times are tough, blah blah) so I faltered. I wondered if people would be disgruntled with a competition that wasn’t a WHOLE holiday as it didn’t include the flights. But people commented, in their droves, to say that it didn’t matter, that they’d definitely enter a competition. And hey, it’s a fabulous holiday, worth a ton of money. So here it is, in all its glory.
The prize (squee!)
Disney will provide one winner with a vacation package for four people for seven nights and eight days at Disney’s wonderful Art of Animation resort consisting of accommodation (one standard room for four people for seven nights), PLUS four 8-day Magic Your Way tickets with Park Hopper® option (EXCLUDING flights).
How do I enter? I hear you cry!
My favourite attraction at Walt Disney World is Pirates of the Caribbean. I’ve always loved it. So just leave a comment and tell me: what’s the attraction you’ll be heading to first if you win this amazing prize?
(New commenters please note yours won’t show up until it’s been approved.)
For an extra chance to win, just comment and let me know that you’ve tweeted the phrase:
I’ve entered @EnglishMum’s Walt Disney World Florida holiday giveaway #visitMickeywithEnglishMum
The small print
There’s quite a lot of small print, I’ll admit, but hey, giving away a holiday is quite complicated, so I’d be really grateful if you have a read through and make sure you agree before entering. Ta muchly
- Usual English Mum competition rules apply. This competition is open to the residents of UK and Ireland. You must be over 18 years of age. The prizes offered are not transferable (and may not be sold, traded, transferred or refunded) or exchangeable for cash. The winner will be chosen at random.
- Items that are not included as part of the winning vacation package are: meals, hotel room service, laundry service, alcoholic beverages, merchandise/souvenirs etc, local and long distance telephone calls, tips, gratuities, service charges or taxes, all other charges and items not offered as the main prize, and the big one: FLIGHTS. Entrants must arrange their own air travel.
- The winners are responsible for arranging visas, travel insurance, transfers, etc.
- The competition ends at midnight on Saturday 6th April 2013. No entries received after this time will be considered.
- Winners will be asked to provide 3 dates when they can travel, but departure date and accommodations are subject to availability; certain restrictions and block-out dates may apply. Prize to be taken within a year, subject to availability.
- Disney, its parent, related, affiliated and subsidiary companies and their respective officers, directors, agents, employees and assigns shall be released and discharged from any and all legal claims, losses, injuries, demands, damages, actions, and/or causes of actions that arise out of and/or in any way related to the prize, the receipt, use and/or enjoyment of the prize and/or the promotion.
- Oh and lastly – don’t cheat! One entry plus one bonus Twitter entry per person The system picks up on duplicate entries
THIS COMPETITION IS NOW CLOSED. THE WINNER, CHOSEN BY AN ONLINE RANDOMISER, IS CAROLINE CAVANAGH – CONGRATULATIONS! THANKS FOR ALL YOUR ENTRIES – MORE COMPETITIONS VERY SOON XX
Every so often someone comes up with an idea that’s just so brilliant, I’m amazed I haven’t heard of it before. Wimdu is one of those things. It’s a website (or ‘accommodation platform’ to use the technical term) that brings travellers together with people around the world who have accommodation. It’s not small, either. They currently list over 150,000 properties in over 50 countries around the world.
So what do they offer? I asked Wimdu’s lovely Joshua Goodwin to tell us more about it:
‘We offer a range of accommodation. Anything from a small private room in a Berliner’s flat to a villa in rural Spain. We list many unusual properties too but the vast majority of our business comes through city breaks and beach holidays. We are the number one alternative to hotels.’
So why choose Wimdu?
‘People stay with us because they prefer the comfort and authenticity of a home over a faceless hotel chain which they can stay at anywhere in the world.’
And what are the benefits of choosing Wimdu to book your accommodation?
‘People can decide to take a room in an apartment or the whole property which means we can suit almost all budgets. We want people to take a classic villa by the sea over an overpriced and over subscribed hotel you get with a package holiday. We want to show people that the extra comfort and authenticity does not come at extra cost and the average family will save money through us.’
I LOVE this idea. And presumably local people in these resorts benefit too?
‘Absolutely. I like how it takes a lot of tourism money away from the multinational hotels and puts the money back into local hands. It encourages people to mix with locals more, as you can often find yourself just surrrounded by fellow natives and it can really water down the culture which is a shame.’
So who are your hosts? Are they posh people with grand villas by the sea, or just ordinary folk?
‘You don’t have to own a second home to make a bit of money, just a spare room in the house or perhaps your child is away at uni or moved out and its a great way to make a bit of income.’
And to celebrate this absolutely FABULOUS idea, Wimdu have given me two £200 vouchers to give away.
As usual, there are a few ways to enter:
1. Leave a comment saying which accommodation you would choose on the Wimdu website (I would choose the stunningly beautiful modern apartment overlooking Lake d’Orta pictured above)
Then for an extra entry:
2. Like Wimdu on Facebook
And for another chance to win:
3. Tweet ‘I want to win holiday vouchers with @wimdu and @englishmum’.
Usual English Mum competition rules apply. Competition ends Saturday 23rd February at midnight.
* THIS COMPETITION IS NOW CLOSED. WELL DONE TO STACEY GUILLIAT and ERICA PRICE. THANK YOU FOR ALL YOUR ENTRIES*
People seem to be really torn about Valentine’s Day. There are definitely those who see it as a cynical marketing ploy dreamed up by greeting card companies and florists (or is it restauranteurs and wine retailers?), but I personally think it’s no bad thing to remind your loved one how much you care once in a while.
With this in mind, I’ve teamed up with the lovely bunch (geddit?) from Prestige Flowers to help you spoil your valentine. Just comment below and tell me who you’d treat and why, and we’ll arrange for a gorgeous bouquet of red roses, a bottle of wine, a teddy bear and a box of chocolates to be delivered to the object of one lucky winner’s affection in time for Valentine’s day.
And hey, if you’re not lucky enough to win, you’ll find loads of perfect Valentine’s Day flowers at Prestige.
Usual English Mum competition rules apply. Prize will consist of one dozen roses, one bottle of red wine, Belgian chocolates and a cuddly bear. Competition closes 11th Feb 2013.
THIS COMPETITION IS NOW CLOSED- CONGRATULATIONS TO KATE GOODALL WHO WON THE PRIZE FOR HER FRIEND.
I’ve teamed up with American Express® Preferred Rewards Gold Card to offer one lucky reader the chance to win a selection of family travel essentials, as chosen by radio DJ, mum of four and ambassador for the Gold Card, Jo Whiley.
This exclusive prize includes an iPod Shuffle and headphone splitters so that two of you of can enjoy your favourite tunes at the same time (brilliant for kids while travelling), a Trunki ride-on suitcase to keep little ones entertained at the airport, a stylish Trilby, a sun cream kit to protect you from the hot weather and a Lonely Planet guide to 2013, so that you can start planning your next trip and have something to look forward to!
The American Express Preferred Rewards Gold Card gives you and your family the freedom to travel on your terms with its flexible rewards programme. Points can be spent with over 30 high street and online retailers and can contribute to flights, hotels and car hire with an extensive range of partners. Cardmembers also receive 24 hour global assistance for when outside the UK. The Card offers families amazing choice, flexible travelling and peace of mind. For more information click here.
To be in with a chance of winning Jo Whiley’s handpicked travel essentials, just comment, answering the following question:
Which celebrity handpicked these family travel essentials?
- Jo Whiley
- Victoria Beckham
- Jude Law
Usual English Mum competition terms apply. The closing date is Sunday 20th January. The American Express Preferred Rewards Gold Card prize includes the following: 1 x iPod Shuffle, 1 x Trunki, 1x trilby hat or equivalent, 1 x Lonely Planet guide book, 1 x earphone splitter and 1 x Nivea Holiday Sunshine Pack.
***THIS COMPETITION IS NOW CLOSED – CONGRATULATIONS TO EMMA, COMMENTER #12 WHO WAS CHOSEN BY RANDOM NUMBER GENERATOR***
I absolutely love doing giveaways just before Christmas. Giving someone the chance to win something that will cross a pressie off their list gives me such a great feeling. This one is brilliant – I’ve teamed up with Argos to give you the chance to win probably the best toy in the whole of the LEGO Star Wars collection: the amazing Millennium Falcon!
This huge beast, with (and I quote) ‘hull plates that open to reveal a detailed interior, twin flick missiles, rotating quad laser cannons and detachable cockpit cover’, as well as including Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, Chewbacca, Ben Kenobi, Princess Leia Organa and Darth Vader, is worth £129.99 and will make some small person’s Christmas this year, I’m sure.
Just comment to enter and tell me what you’d do with this amazing 58cm long beast of a toy!
The small print:
- This toy is suitable for ages 9 years and over, and NOT suitable for children under 3 years old
- Delivery will be within 28 days of Argos receiving the winner’s address (but Argos assure me it will be ordered as soon as the competition ends)
- The prize as described will be supplied direct from Argos, and there is no cash alternative
- This competition is open to UK residents only.
- Competition ends midnight 9th December 2012
Click here to check out the rest of the LEGO Star Wars at Argos!
****THIS COMPETITION IS NOW CLOSED. THE LUCKY WINNER IS EMMA DUNN!****
I’ve recently discovered a GORGEOUS website with all sorts of really lovely brands. Beautyland.co.uk is the brainchild of the lovely Suji and sells some really great brands of make up and Glo Therapeutics skincare. I asked her a little bit more about the site and how it came into being:
‘I have worked for the last 15 years for some of the largest premium beauty companies helping them to find out what British women really want from their beauty regimes. In that time I spoke to literally hundreds of women who just felt that as they got older, their makeup routine didn’t really work for them.
‘When you have a hiatus such as having children, you pare your routine down to the absolute minimum because you just don’t really have time to think about it. Then things start to calm down a bit, you look up and find that everything’s changed and also you have changed and so what you used to do doesn’t really work anymore, but it’s hard to know where to start, especially as a lot of the looks you see in magazines are modelled on very young women and it’s hard to tell if they might be appropriate for you as you get older.
‘I did go back to work after I had my kids, but I increasingly felt I – and they – were missing out on spending time together, even though I loved putting my heels on a going into Bond street to work. So that’s why I set up Beautyland – really to try and bring back a bit of fun to people who have lost some confidence in their makeup and skincare but also so I can spend a bit more time at home with my kids.
As for the brands – I chose Becca because they have amazing technology and the complexion products are second to none both in terms of technology and also the colour range. They do tend to focus a bit more on colours that are suitable for a more everyday kind of look – and so all the colours are really wearable. Paul and Jo are a bit less about the complexion and more about the fun aspect of makeup with great colours and really fun packaging.
I recognised myself in so much of this, and thought it would be fun for one lucky reader to try out a fabulous Christmas look. Suji’s very kindly agreed to put together a special selection of items perfect for Christmas (worth nearly £100). The kit contains:
- Paul and Joe Shimmering Pressed Powder: a luminous powder you use to add a little glow and sparkle to your cheekbones, temples, collarbone, etc
- Paul and Joe Shimmering Body Lotion: a lightly scented moisturising body gel that adds a sensual shimmer to the skin
- Paul and Joe Nail Varnish in 30: a metallic silver nail varnish
- Paul and Joe Lash Macara in 01 – black
- Paul and Joe Eye Gloss Duo - a double ended eye gloss that features two complementary colours, one in a pearl finish and one in a metallic finish that can be worn separately or together. There are 3 colour options to choose from and you will find them here
- Becca Ultimate Colour Gloss – a long-lasting, highly pigmented gloss available in 7 shades that you can choose here
To be in for a chance to win all these gorgeous Beautyland goodies, all you have to do is leave a comment and tell me which colours you’d choose for the last two items, the Paul and Joe Eye Gloss Duo and the Becca Ultimate Colour Gloss.
The small print: the winner will be chosen at random. No cash alternative. UK only. Judge’s decision is final. Competition closes Sunday 25th November at midnight.
***THIS COMPETITION IS NOW CLOSED! THANKS FOR YOUR ENTRIES – WINNER TO BE ANNOUNCED SHORTLY!***
I always find that as soon as I return from one holiday, I start planning another. Next year, we’re going to Brittany for a couple of weeks in the summer, and are also hoping to get away in the UK for a week.
I’ve been talking to Norfolk-based Richardson’s Boating about their fab self-drive boating holidays on the Norfolk Broads – my sister in law did this last year with her sister and family and absolutely loved it. Richardson’s are a lovely bunch – a family-owned company, with over 50 years’ experience and over 300 Norfolk Broads cruisers in their fleet. This means that they can provide everything from a cheerful little two bedroom boat of a big huge boat for a larger family or group of friends.
One of things I love about this sort of holiday is its low impact on the environment. Richardson’s are big on conservation and have been developing a low-wash hull, which less impact on the riverbanks, thus helping to preserve the wildlife this area is famous for. They are also introducing new, more efficient solar panels on our new boats.
So if you’re planning on a UK break, check them out – you get to go at your own pace (and yes, I asked about those of us who are slightly ‘technically challenged’ – they give you a very full and thorough demo on how to drive the boat!).
So to find out everything you need to know, check out Richardson’s Boating Norfolk Broads cruiser hire. In the meantime, Richardson’s have given me a very tidy £100 John Lewis voucher to give away, just in time for Christmas shopping.
To enter just check out Richardson’s fleet (click link then scroll down) - I quite fancy the Ibiza – and let me know which one you’d choose!
Competition is open to anyone and everyone (vouchers can be used in store at John Lewis and Waitrose and online too). Winner will be chosen at random, no cash alternative. Competition closes at Midnight on Monday 19th November 2012. Just call me Mrs Christmas!
*****This competition is now closed. Well done to the winner: Emily McMillan – vouchers on their way! *****
The Ninja Cat of Death has been up to her usual tricks again. This time, it’s the corner of our rather lovely leather headboard that’s taken the brunt of her aggression. She’s often to be found perched on the headboard at a jaunty angle – it gives her a good view of her kingdom and she can spot approaching humans in time to ambush them as they come in the room.
Anyhoo enough of my woes. Whether or not you’ve got a hideous destructive dictator of a cat, or maybe you’ve got a little one who’s outgrowing their cot and ready for their first proper bed, or indeed whether you’re just due a new bed (you’re supposed to have a new mattress every five years or so, apparently), I’ve got a £300 voucher to give away from Time4sleep.
If you don’t need a new bed, don’t despair, there are all sorts of lovely accessories, or if you want to add to your voucher and spend a bit more, that’s fine too (they’ve got a gorgeous double dark wood sleigh bed in the sale for £349).
For what it’s worth, if I won, I would spend my voucher on this gorgeous king size Como metal bed frame:
…but I’m not allowed to enter. Boo.
To enter, just leave a comment telling me what you’d spend your voucher on. Oh and if you’re a new commenter, don’t worry if your comment doesn’t appear straight away – it will need to be approved by me first.
The small print: this competition will end at midnight on 30th October 2012. The winner will be chosen by Time4Sleep after this date and will receive a £300 voucher to spend online at Time4sleep.com. UK only. The judge’s decision is final. No cash alternative.
****** THIS COMPETITION IS NOW CLOSED! THANKS FOR ALL YOUR ENTRIES *******
Although my children are teenagers, I seem to be surrounded by babies at the moment – several of my friends have had babies and I’m spending rather a lot of time oohing and ahhing over adorable baby videos (I am NOT broody, I am NOT broody…).
Just in time, then, the lovely chaps at Verdbaudet have offered one of my lucky readers an e-voucher worth £100 to spend on their website. Their children’s nursery and bedroom stuff is absolutely adorable, but if your children are older, don’t despair, because their range goes right up to 14 years.
Just leave a comment to enter and you’ll be in with a chance of winning.
The small print: This competition ends on Sunday 14th October. Winner will be chosen at random after this date and will receive a £100 e-voucher to spend online at Vertbaudet.co.uk. UK only. No cash alternative.
*******This competition is now closed. Well done to Lynn who bagged herself an e-voucher worth £100!*******
Ah we love a bit of the old Silver Fox. There’s not much telly that makes me stabby when disturbed, but the Great British Bake Off is one of them and I’ve been known to get very shushy if people start talking over the lovely Mr Hollywood. I remember him making me laugh like a drain with the adorable Jeni Barnett back in the days of Great Food Live and I still love him now. Le sigh…
Anyhoo, enough about the man himself and on to the book. Often ‘celebrity’ books can be a bit disappointing (I would point you in the direction of Gregg’s Favourite Puddings, but I’m far too polite) but Paul Hollywood knows his stuff. There’s a satisfying mixture of easy, basic recipes and challenging new ideas to please even the most enthusiastic home bakers. I tried his shortcrust pastry when making a treacle tart (and this was a wrench, as my own shortcrust recipe is tried and tested), but I have to say Paul’s – using a whole egg – was really good. The recipes are sprinkled with professional tips and tricks and good ingredient notes too.
There’s a whole chapter on sourdough, something that I’ve tried before but not really mastered, and I’m dying to have a go at making my own Danish pastries. The photos are fab (you know how picky I am about photography) – check out the lavender honey and toasted almond sourdough – and the methods are clear, concise and not too waffly. I suffer from this when writing recipes – it’s so easy to go off on a tangent about some ingredient or other – very distracting when you’re actually cooking it.
A great addition to my already groaning cookery book collection. If you need further persuading, here’s Paul walking you through his grape and stilton flatbread recipe:
How to Bake by Paul Hollywood is published by Bloomsbury, RRP £20 and is out now. If you’d like my spare copy, leave a comment. The one that makes me laugh most gets the book. I’ve got it here so I’ll send it anywhere, no UK only competitions today! Entries must be received before midnight, Friday 3rd August. No cash alternative. My decision is final, so there.
*****THIS COMPETITION IS NOW CLOSED. CONGRATULATIONS TO RACHEL, WHO WON ME OVER WITH HER EPIC POEM *****
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