If you’re a ‘last minute Larry’ like me, there are still plenty of wonderful things to buy, and often, if you hang around for a bit before ordering, you’ll find there are quite a few deals to be had. First things first, though, you need a mince pie and a glass of fizz….
One of my favourite places to shop is upstairs in our local T K Maxx. I’m not massively keen on the clothes, but I love all the kitchen stuff, gifts and candles. We recently discovered their new shop on our way to Lidl in Aylesbury (I think I mentioned it here), and Mr E and I recently went back for a proper look around and ended up having a really lovely Christmassy afternoon of shopping. Here are my favourite discoveries:
The best thing about winter when you work from home is being able to snuggle up in a lovely warm jumper, light a candle that smells of Christmas pudding, make yourself a hot chocolate with extra marshmallows and sit in front of the fire all day, with a warm whippet for company. Unfortunately the aforementioned whippet also needs to stretch her legs, so my day is broken up with a couple of frosty walks, which actually I don’t mind, as long as I’m well wrapped up.
I’m SO excited about all the new autumn/winter 2015 collections I’m seeing. It’s funny isn’t it, how after thinking of nothing but bikinis and straw bags for weeks and weeks, all of a sudden we just turn our backs on it all and start oohing and aahing over coats, chunky leather boots and gorgeous knitwear.
I think really good basics should be the foundation of everyone’s wardrobe. A well-fitting tee is just so effortless. I love the hush summer sheer crew tee. They’re so soft and drapey (that’s a word, right?) and look fabulous on (I’m about a size 12 and go for the s/m size). The silver is such a lovely colour and seems to go with everything. A great basic (£35):
Happy Sunday! I hope you’re having a wonderful weekend. We’ve mostly slobbed around, eaten cake, signed the contracts ready to exchange on our house (YAY!), splurged in Majestic Wine (this Stag’s Leap ‘Karia’ Chardonnay was buy two, save £10), stroked our gorgeous little furball family and started prepping for our next painting project: Sam’s bedroom (feature wall dark grey, other walls silvery grey).
I’ve got my first trip coming up very soon, a cruise on the gorgeous Disney Dream – one of my favourite ships, so I thought it would be a good time to stock up on some of the summer stuff that’s inevitably in the sales:
So next on our wonderful trip to Florida, we hopped back into our amazing Mustang and headed down to Sarasota, to the brand new Mall at University Town Centre (UTC for short). The brand new Macy’s there is utterly fantastic, and very state of the art. We joined store manager Kerry Yelle for a tour of the store. She’s understandably pretty proud of the place and pointed out several really cool features that are unique to this ‘smart store’. The lighting, for example, has been designed to be sustainable and the lamps don’t need replacing, plus the changing rooms have lights that only come on when you enter, to save energy.
So with news that the House of Bodily Fluids could soon be ours (I guess we shouldn’t totally get our hopes up until we’ve actually exchanged contracts), we’ve started doing that nesting thing where you go out window shopping for things you’ll never really be able to afford but you’d buy if you had unlimited funds (known as ‘champagne lifestyle, lemonade budget’ in our house).
We’re so lucky where we live to have an amazing choice of food shops – I shop all over the place: our lovely local farm shop, several different supermarkets and sometimes at a local, but quite small M&S Simply Food. We love M&S food and wine, and we often pop in, especially if I’m going to be away, to stock the boys up on their pizzas, which are amazing, and their meatball pasta sauce, amongst other things. Plus, of course, I need to keep myself stocked up with Penny Pigs. My fave.
I’m very lucky, and the postie often brings me all manner of yummy bits and bobs (he doesn’t miss out – he’s got a bit of a thing for blue cheese, which I’m not massively keen on, so he’s often rewarded).
Here’s the latest bunch of postal bounty that we’ve loved:
Abra-ca-debora pancakes made me my very own pancakes in time for Shrove Tuesday – isn’t that amazing?
But pancakes aren’t just for pancake day – these beauties are the perfect storecupboard ingredient all year round – fill them with creamy chicken and spinach, or roasted veggies in tomato sauce. Scrummy.
Steenbergs Organic were established in 2003 and are based in North Yorkshire. They sent me a fabulous selection of products from their amazing array of fairtrade and organic goodies. The spiced chai sugar is absolutely gorgeous, and the flavourings are incredibly good quality. Check out their website as I can’t even begin to list all the stuff they sell.
We’ve been drinking a ridiculous amount of this delicious Villa Maria Gewürtraminer. It was on spesh at Majestic but is sadly back up to £9.99. I’ll be watching out for the next time it’s on offer.
Cawston Press brought out a range of ‘grown up’ fizzy drinks (just in time for my failed attempt at alcohol free January): the sparkling apple & rhubarb was my favourite, closely followed by the sparkling lemon and lime (which tasted sublime with a dash of gin).
Lovely Sophie at Mullion Cove makes traditional Cornish fairings. They’re gorgeously soft and spicy, and the fig and ginger had us all fighting over the last one. Oh, and apparently the word ‘fairing’ comes from the fact they were sold at Cornish fairs and feasts and in Victorian times they were brought by a gentleman to give to his sweetheart as a love token!
French’s have brought out some new products this year: our faves by far were the Jalapeno Tomato Relish and the Sweet Onion Relish (scrummy on hot dogs, but I’ve taken to putting it in toasted cheese sandwiches too). I’m not keen on mustard, but English Dad insists that the new Smooth & Spicy version of their original yellow mustard is fabulous too.
Elizabeth Shaw have brought out two new scrummy new flavoured bars: Pear and Almond and Blackberry and Ginger. We liked them both, but I would have liked to see larger chunks of nuts in the almond one that came across as slightly gritty. I was, I admit, in the minority in this view, though, and they were both scoffed in seconds.
The lovely chaps at Farmison sent me an ENORMOUS British artisan cheese box. Really well packaged, with lots of ice packs to make sure the cheese stays in perfect condition, the selection was varied, interesting and creatively put together. The Caboc Highland Cheese, which is covered in oatmeal, I think, was especially delicious (just as well as there were two of those in the box), and my other favourite was a sharp, but still creamy Keens of Wincanton Traditional Cheddar. For blue lovers there’s a hand-made Yorkshire Blue and a seriously strong Colston Bassett. The quince paste and water biscuits are delightful extras. The whole box would make an amazing present for any cheese lover.
Wagamama‘s new chilli, coriander and ginger dressing is fab on salads and in chicken wraps, but SUBLIME on avocados, mushed into rye toast. Don’t question me, just do it. We also tried Nando’s Smokey BBQ marinade which is lovely with chicken, sausages, ribs and any chunky white fish.
I think that’s it. Go forth and get shopping!
Firstly, can I say that this review is about the online shopping experience and not about the iron – although this iron has given me so much entertainment, I’ve popped a little video at the end, just for you.
When Littlewoods asked me to give their online shop a go I was a tiny bit dubious. I think probably because I’m remembering the Littlewoods catalogues my Mum had when I was a kid. Now, happily, you can buy just about anything you could possibly want, and, although you can still do that thing where you pay for things weekly, you can also pay by credit card very easily. And now, with the addition of the gorgeous Myleene fronting their adverts (check out her lingerie collection, it’s gorgeous), Littlewoods is fresh, modern, and just a little funky. Brand-wise I was really impressed: there’s all the big guns like Coast, Lipsy and Ted Baker for the ladies and stuff like Superdry, Diesel and – my teenagers’ favourite G-Star RAW for the fellas, as well as all the usual big household brands.
It also got the boys’ vote for things like the ability to pre-order games such as Halo 4 and for good value gaming bundles too.
I purchased an iron (more of this later) and was able to pay, and chose a delivery time and date all within a couple of clicks. I was also sent tracking information and was kept up to date with emails. You can also reply to the emails to easily change the delivery date if it turns out it’s not convenient after all.
Delivery was very smooth and there was no waiting – the van was waiting for me on my return from the school run on the date requested. Impressive.
All in all, I came away with a completely positive experience of shopping online with Littlewoods and will definitely be back (well, now I’ve got an account it would be rude not to) to do my Christmas shopping.
And the iron? It’s great: it has a massive 300ml water tank, a huge 3 metre cord, and is heavy enough to feel substantial whilst not breaking your wrist every time you iron a shirt. The soleplate is pointy so it’s easy to get in between buttons on school shirts and it gives a big, hefty shot of steam when you need it. There’s just one downside:
I SAID, I’M I R O N I N G! NOPE, I CAN’T HEAR YOU!!!
It is, quite simply, the loudest iron in the world. Now I don’t really care, as its strengths outweigh the single flaw, but if you routinely iron while you’re watching TV, or with a sleeping baby in the room? Forget it. WHAT? I SAID FORGET IT!
Many thanks to Littlewoods.
So you know the feeling, you return from holiday, suffer the Gatwick Express, then the tube, then possibly a taxi too, finally open the front door and the first thing you can think of is a nice cup of tea. But the problem is that the milk you left in the fridge two weeks ago now resembles furry blue yoghurt.
During the summer, Tesco tested out a brilliant service at Gatwick Airport’s north terminal: the Gatwick ‘virtual store’. Customers could view a range of products by whizzing through some very flashy moving screens on large virtual ‘fridges’. They could then scan the barcodes (iPhone or Android) to put goods into their online baskets, then book a home delivery and pay. With hour slots, you could practically predict that your shopping would arrive home at the same time as you. Here’s a link to the video of the ‘virtual store’ in action:
Tesco let me have a dabble with their online app, available here, so I could see the technology in action. I’m not massively techno-fabulous so I enlisted the help of the Death Wish Dude (my first mistake). After an easy (and free) download, he set about roaming the house, randomly scanning barcodes, to see whether we could arrange an entire shop using just the barcode scanning.
The technology, though fabulous for when you get back from holiday, is also fabulous when you’re stuck at home. Someone on Twitter asked me if you could scan goods as they run out throughout the week, and yes, you can. It remembers the goods in your online basket, ready for you to ‘check out’ at the end of the week. No more shopping lists stuck on the fridge.
The dude’s verdict? Generally positive although it didn’t recognise the barcode on Nutella and we noticed random things like if you want to re-order a box of Bud, you can’t do it unless you kept the box as there are no barcodes on the bottles. Still, easily searched for on the search engine.
The delivery: spot on time, VERY friendly and helpful, took away all my plastic bags for recycling, gave me loads of tips about busy/quieter delivery times, and my order was perfect, not a single replacement.
A massive thank you to Tesco for letting me have a go with the app, and huge apologies for the randomness of my order which, thanks to my youngest son, included such delights as two massive jars of coffee (‘what? It was buy one get one free.’) a large amount of Double Deckers, and some David Beckham aftershave. I vote to make the service permanent at Gatwick too. I, for one, could do without furry blue tea after a week away.
Read any self-respecting food blogger’s posts and you’d be forgiven for thinking that the only things in our supermarket trolleys are stuff like truffle oil, organic this, free-range that, puy lentils and 90% dark chocolate.
Of course I’d love to tell you that’s true, but the reality is that my teenagers hit the kitchen like a plague of locusts every evening after school and yes, I’m afraid they demand crisps, sliced bread, gallons of milk and digestives as well!
Now I’ll be the first person to shout that our obsession with cheap food isn’t always a good thing, but everyday staples have to be bought, and essentials like eggs and bread, and those after school bickies, really add up.
Handily, Tesco have now given us a way of voting with our keyboards and actually influencing the items that we all want to see added to their new price drop campaign. All you have to do is click on The New Price Drop on Facebook and you can really help to make a difference to the price of the food in your trolley.
Of course, I shall be demanding price drops on caviar and quail’s eggs too. Worth a try, surely?
For more information on Tesco’s New Price Drop, go to tesco.com/pricedrop.
One thing about being back in the same country together after our long period of job-enforced separation is that we can now go shopping together.
I’d kind of forgotten about this. I’d happily tootled around shops in Ireland (just happy to be there, frankly, after the epic journeys that necessitated getting to any decent shops), picking out just what I wanted and never thinking twice about it. Now there are several things about co-shopping that drive me insane:
Before we’ve even got into the shop, we’ve started. I like a big trolley and I like to push it. I also like to bring my own bags (they’re bigger and stronger and yes, more environmentally friendly). He favours trying to cram everything into one of those small granny trolleys and has no truck with bags hanging on the front (‘they give you bags at the checkout, FFS’), so I have to hold them. And apparently (bag-free) trolley pushing is the man’s job. Sexism: alive and well and living in Hertfordshire.
I know what I like. And I know what I don’t like. I don’t like shopping a deux and wish to be finished as soon as possible. Therefore I don’t want to stand around and look at all the cheeses in the deli (we always buy Cheddar – what’s the point?). Neither do I want to discuss the merits of wild vs farmed salmon at the fish counter (he doesn’t like salmon so it’s kind of pointless). The only time I like to dither is when I’m shopping alone in Waitrose – then I could spend hours. Fickle? Moi? I also like to tut loudly at those silly arses that stand in the middle of the aisle and chat, whilst blocking everything up with their trolleys. Want to chat? Sod off outside. Shops are for shopping. I’m thinking of writing to the supermarket bosses and suggesting a special ‘dithering/gossiping’ aisle, so the rest of us can bloody get on with it.
I will only buy free-range chicken. As the awesome Jimmy Doherty says in his book, A Taste of the Country, ‘if the chicken you buy in your supermarket is not labelled free-range, I’m afraid you are responsible for terrible cruelty’. I can’t have this on my conscience. The husband, however, cannot see the point in picking up a pack of two chicken breasts for £5, when there is a pack of four just below them for same price.
The chicken, being relatively near the front of the shop, causes us to bicker all the way round the store. We’ve kept chickens, I argue, and you know what intelligent and freedom-loving little chaps they are. He knows, he says, but somehow his wallet rules his brain…
Hence, every time he picks up biscuits (we don’t need them – I can make my own), chooses Perroni over Budweiser, or adds ridiculous items such as Rice Krispie bars to the trolley, he is reminded that he’ll spend money on that, but not on the welfare of a poor little innocent chook. It’s all wrong. In return, of course, I get told off for buying fresh herbs ‘in bags! Pointless‘ and arborio rice.
We’re just speaking by the time we get to the dairy aisle, then it all goes pear shaped again. It has to be Yeo Valley. I’m sorry, but I can’t be doing with that watery shite and I’ve a special affinity with the Valley of Yeo, seeing as I’ve visited a couple of times. The husband picks up Mullers. I put them back. Then we spot the big pots of Yeo Valley lemon curd and grab several. Marital bliss is resumed.
After relenting to his requests for the small trolley AND his insistence on being the one to push it, he then proceeds to do the worst stacking job in history… milk is rested on top of eggs and salad is squashed with beer. I tut and move things. He tuts about pickiness. There’s a lot of tutting.
So by the time we’ve bickered all the way round, him dithering to look at things, me charging ahead tutting at the gossipers, got to the checkout where he’s flirted outrageously with the woman behind the till (he’s never that nice to me), and we’ve huffed out to the car with my ‘ridiculous’ bags… we end up driving home in silence.
So I’m afraid I’ve asked for a trial separation. Oh not permanently, just every time we need some shopping.
I just need to be on my own… to find out who I really am.
I hope you understand, Hubby, it’s not you, it’s me. I hope we can still be friends…
So for some reason #1 has a random day off school. This is a bugger as I have quite a bit to get done and, not trusting him to stay at home (he could well burn the house down) I decide it’s safer to take him with me. My first mistake. On the way there, we have a very in-depth chat about global warming, the methane produced by Ireland’s dairy herds, how Johnny Gatillo is, like, the wickedest greyhound EVER (apart from Bert, obviously), why Razldazl Billy dropped dead, why Eric Clapton’s such a legend, and I explain, yet again, why he doesn’t actually have to drink the wine we’ve laid down for his 18th birthday all on the actual day.
We decide to split up initially, then to regroup an hour later in the game shop. This is my second mistake. When I find him, he is standing playing an X-Box game in the corner of the shop:
The Game Shop
Me: Well, have you decided what game you want?
#1: Yes, I want this Star Wars one
Me: It’s a 16. You’d better phone the boss.
There follows a long, tedious phone call and even longer rambling explanation to his father about what the man behind the counter said about why it’s got a 16 rating and why it’s totally, like, random as it’s only the same amount of violence as the film, y’know, like light sabers and stuff… While this conversation is going on, I stand imagining the look on Hubby’s face (and those of his colleagues) as he interrupts his meeting in Knock to have a one-sided conflab with a thirteen year old on the amount of violence, fake-blood and flying body parts in a Wii game.
#1: Dad says yes if it’s ok with you
Me: Okay then, let’s get to the till.
#1 (lingering by the PC games): Or there’s this Spore one I quite like…
[Half hour pause while #1, who has obviously befriended the spotty lad behind the till, has a protracted chat with him about the merits of Spore versus the merits of the new Star Wars one]
#1: Nah, I’m deffo going Star Wars. Erm…. yes. No. I definitely am.
Me: Thank Christ. Quick, pay before you change your mind.
The Guitar Shop
(via McDonalds where he woofs down a Big Mac, large fries, large coke and an extra cheeseburger, burps and stands up to leave before I’ve even touched my lunch). I have orders to buy four new sets of electric guitar strings and two plectrums:
#1: Ooh they’ve still got that savage French electric guitar in the sale [flutters eyelashes hopefully]
#1: It’s a bargain…
#1: Look how cute I am when I beg. And you have a credit card… I know you do…
#1: Can I have a plec in the shape of a skull, then?
Me: Yes, if we can go.
#1: Done. Ooh, and I’ll have this one in the shape of an alien too…
The Shoe Repair Shop
We have to get him a back door key cut in the shoe repair place. #1’s eyes light up in wonder at the sparks coming off the key. He fiddles with the plastic key covers on the counter, knocking them everywhere:
#1: Oooooooh, deadly! Can I have a green plastic thingy on my key?
#1: Oh go on
Man behind the counter when passing over the key, taking pity on me: Here you are, you can have the green thing for nothing.
#1: Serious? Wow that’s savage! Thanks!
Finally, we’re off to Specsavers where I’ve still failed to choose the new glasses I need. #1 rushes around sporting an enormous pair of Terry Wogan frames, fetching every ridiculous pink, spotty, stripy and violent green pair he can possibly get his hands on for me to try on, before getting bored and playing with the machine that takes your photo to help you choose glasses to suit you. I give up trying to find glasses and my last glimpse as we exit the shop is seven different views of my son’s ugly mug gurning out of the photo machine. On the escalators back up to the car park he has a violent fit of the giggles because the lady in front has a hairnet over her pony tail which apparently makes it look just like a willy. Everyone turns to stare at us. On the drive home I am treated to a précis of the combined plot of every one of Garth Nix’s Morrowdays books, an insight into how much he’s going to earn when he’s a fighter pilot, how he’s going to work in the game shop in the holidays to earn extra money, and reminded of the story of how Obi Wan Kenobi first gave Luke a light sabre and how he cut off C3PO’s head with it.
We get home. He goes off to play his new game. I go for a lie down.
- The weekend wishlist: summer glow May 20, 2017
- Post 40 beauty: a hair revamp with The Hair Secret, Berkhamsted May 18, 2017
- A Trainline trip to Birmingham May 16, 2017
- Tips on buying a bikini if you’re curvy May 15, 2017
- Weekend wishlist: flirty florals May 13, 2017