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Feel At Home in Spain With Three

Some people are good with languages and some are not. I have always believed that I fall into the latter category.

The basis of this belief is a mostly forgotten memory of the three years I spent in secondary school in NZ trying to learn German. I’m not sure who was most frustrated by this exercise, me or my poor teacher. Let’s just say nothing came naturally to me in that subject and I was relieved to give it up. Good riddance, I thought, and when am I ever going to use a foreign language?

Now, of course, I live in England and our holiday travel plans can depend on who speaks what. Luckily DH gets by with French, and so far I’ve managed to stumble my way through the German speaking countries. But this summer, we are probably heading down through France to Spain, which means that someone has to learn Spanish.

So when I was offered a chance to try out some ‘Learn To Speak  Spanish’ Apps, available on both iPhones and iPads, I decided to give it  a go. There were a lot of Apps to choose from, so I chose the first three that popped up. Mainly I concentrated on Duolingo as I have used it before. But I also used the Busuu Spanish Course, which is designed to help you learn the language while you are actually in the country. I can see this might be useful during our travels but in the meantime, I’ll keep on plodding along at home too. I’m not sure I’m making any progress but it’s only been 2 weeks since I started learning.

Something that will be very useful in our travels through Europe is Three’s Feel At Home offer, where you can use a Three network phone in Spain (and other countries) at no extra cost. This page gives you a list if the countries included and shows you how much money you can save by taking advantage of this offer.

I’m not that hopeful about being able to make myself understood while travelling around Spain any time soon but I have a secret weapon in DD1, who is luckily learning Spanish at school. She has found the Apps very useful in revising for her school exams so they won’t be wasted.

And with Three’s data roaming package, then at least I’ll be able to access a translation App on my phone without bankrupting myself.

Three sent us a ‘Learn Spanish Like A Boss’ pack  in return for this post, but all thoughts above are my own.

spain

Staying Healthy At School

This is a Germie.

Germie boots

It’s like a Selfie, but when Boots emailed me and asked me to get the kids to take a picture of themselves acting like a germ, this is what DD3 came up with. Germs have tongues apparently, and chocolate smeared all over their faces. Who knew?

Boots also sent us a nice bag full of useful bits and pieces to keep the kids healthy, now they are back at school. Multi vitamins, some antiviral hand foam, nit solution, a nit comb and a first aid kit that  has come in very handy already.

As a family, we don’t seem to come down with bugs very often. Although the common cold sometimes does the rounds, we usually manage to evade the nastier flus and tummy bugs. I am aware that I am probably invoking sods law just by typing that last sentence. I put our family’s general good health down to me being quite strict about hand washing at home and trying hard to encourage the eating of fruit and vegetables. We also have cats and dogs; I believe pets in the home stimulate a healthy immune system.

I was glad to see some of these things covered in Boots’ latest recommendations about how to keep your children germ and creepy-crawly free, now the winter term is well underway.

boots

But while my kids may be relatively germ-resistant, they are terribly accident-prone.

I  can illustrate this point with DS’s Germie.

 Boy germie

Earlier that day, he fell over his own feet in the school playground and grazed all around his eye, cheek and chin. It looks pretty bad but after he got over the shock, he went back to class and was fine until I told him that a plaster wasn’t really an option.

Three days later and his face is healing nicely, but it goes to show a good immune system isn’t everything.

Boots sent us a ‘Back To School’ pack  in return for this post, but all thoughts above are my own. Except for the branded infographic, of course.

How To Save Money While Driving On Holiday

Our family likes driving holidays. They are such a convenient way to holiday when you live in the UK. Simply take your own car on the Chunnel train or ferry to Europe and off you go. The continent is yours for the exploring. France is right there, but if you want to go further you can drive to Spain, Germany or even Italy. Last year we drove through 12 countries and ended up in Montenegro. This year we are heading north, to Denmark and Sweden.

A driving holiday can be as cheap or as expensive as you want to make it. Obviously if you only drive a short distance, camp and stay put then your holiday will cost less than if you stay in hotels  and drive 1000’s of miles. But we all like to save money if we can, so with our upcoming holiday in mind, when Debt Free Direct offered to send me  a money saving car kit , I said yes please!

The kit I was sent contained four useful items that have, and will, help us save money during our upcoming travels.

A Digital Tyre Inflator.
This has been incredibly useful as I no longer have to go to the ‘Air’ machine that eats 20p pieces at our local petrol station. Gone are the days of fiddling around valve caps in busy forecourts, and the time running out just as I am about to do the last tyre. Now I can fumble with tyre pressure from the privacy of my own driveway.

It’ll also be handy when we set out for Denmark, roof box attached and kids belted in between the luggage. Did you know most vehicles have a different optimal tyre pressure when they are fully laden ( as we will be) and that your car’s fuel economy can be affected by 25% if you are driving with your tyres at the wrong pressure? We will drive over 1300 miles during our holiday, so that could save us a whole lot of fuel.

Jump Leads.
We always carry a pair of jump leads with us when we drive anywhere. We extend our RAC cover for our European jaunts, but you don’t want to be wasting your call outs for things like a flat battery when you are 100s of miles from home.

In a couple of the countries we visited last year it was illegal to drive without your lights on, even during the day. We were ALWAYS leaving our lights on and flattening the battery but even when no one spoke English, we managed to get someone to help us by standing by the car, holding the leads and looking pathetic! And as we are holidaying in Denmark and Sweden this summer, where you must drive with your lights on at all times, we are anticipating more flat batteries in the near future.

After last year’s holiday we’ve managed to lose/misplace our old, beaten-up leads and had a new pair on our pre- holiday shopping list. Thanks to Debt Free Direct, we can now cross them off.

Car Dustbuster.
Our car is always a tip. We have four children and two dogs; what do you expect?

But every now and again I will get sick of the mess, and send the kids into the back of the car with a black bag. It’s amazing the crap that comes out of it, but once it’s tidy, it’s easy to see how desperately the poor vehicle needs hoovering. We have a car cleaning place just around the corner and sometimes pay for them to do it but often I force our older two DDs to drag the house hoover out to the car. They hate it and complain bitterly, then do a shitty job; it’s easier just to pay the car valet, to be honest.

Debt Free Direct sent us a car hoover that plugs into the lighter in our car and comes with an extremely long cord. The kids love using it and it’s very handy to keep in the car so we can deal with the mess as and when, rather than waiting until we notice our car has developed it’s own ecosystem before deciding to tidy it.

Spare Bulb And Fuse Set.
Driving with a faulty light could set you back £60 if you are spotted and fined. And if you are driving around Europe, then most countries require you to carry a spare bulb kit anyhow.

Changing a blown bulb is easy to do in most cars, and could save you a few quid and a whole lot of trouble. Google is your friend and if you drive a popular brand of car you will find easy to follow instructions on Youtube. Investigate what’s involved before you leave home, if you are travelling in your car this summer; there is not much worse than trying to search for instructions on the side of the road, miles from anywhere.

Debt Free Direct also sent me this handy infographic, full of  practical and easy to implement money saving tips for anyone driving anywhere this summer.  The one that we find the most useful is using cruise control; if your car has this function then use it as it makes a huge difference when it comes to time and fuel efficiency.

debt free motoring

This post has been brought to you in partnership with Debt Free Direct.


Sponsored Post: One For The Nespresso Fans

If you don’t drink coffee, then this is not a blog post you need to read. Instead, sit down for a few minutes with a nice cup of herbal tea or something.

Nespresso CitiZ and Milk red

But if you do drink coffee, and happen to have a Nespresso* machine, then read on. Those little capsules you buy for your coffee machine may be a saving on visiting your local coffee shop regularly, but the cost can still add up. It’s quite easy to go through a couple of boxes of pods in a week, especially if you have more than one coffee drinker in the house and/or have a lot of people round for morning tea.

Up until now, if you rely on a Nespresso machine for your caffeine hit, then you have been stuck with the branded capsules that work out at around 50p a shot. And unless you live near a selected outlet, you will probably have had to buy them online, so there is no chance of nipping down to the local shop and picking up some extras if you are about to run out.

But now we Nespresso owners have an alternative; Premium French coffee brand Carte Noire would like to introduce their Collection Espresso; a range of exquisite espresso capsules compatible with most Nespresso machines that cost about half the price of the branded ones.

The new range of capsules features four distinct flavours and each espresso comes with its own special character.  For the coffee connoisseurs, there are detailed descriptions of notes and textures but if you just want to know how strong your coffee is going to be then all you need to look at the numbers. The higher the number, the higher the intensity.

You can chose between;

·       N°3 Élégant is an exceptional pure Arabica coffee with a smooth and subtle taste enhanced by cereal notes.

·       N°5 Délicat is a pure Arabica coffee with fruity notes and a silky texture

·       N°7 Aromatique is an aromatic pure Arabica coffee with delicate hints of cocoa

·       N°9 Intense is a rich, intense blend of pure, darkly roasted Arabica coffee

Carte Noire Collection Espresso capsule boxes
Each flavour/intensity comes in a easy-to-store box of 10 individually wrapped capsules costing around 28p each. And the good news is that this coffee will be available  at a supermarket near you very soon. The capsules are plastic and so lack the visual appeal of the branded ones, but I did like the aroma of coffee that you get whenever you open a new one.

carte noir capsule next to nespresso capsule

The base of the Carte Noir capsules is also slightly thinner than the Nespresso brand, so they didn’t fit as snugly as the original ones, but worked fine in my machine without any problems.

I have to admit I am no coffee snob; I’ll even drink instant without a second thought if that’s what is served to me. I was sent a box of each flavour so have been trying them out on anyone who walks through the door, and the general consensus is that these capsules make a good cup of coffee. As for me,  I especially enjoyed the N°5 Délicat and N°7 Aromatique varieties.

A cup of coffee is my treat once I’ve done the school run, the kids have been dispatched and the house is quiet. I like to take my time over a cup of coffee before I get on with the tedious bits of the day and I think that a box or two of Carte Noire Collection Espresso will be a permanent addition to my kitchen cupboard from now on.

This post is an entry in the Foodies100 Espresso Collective Challenge, sponsored by Carte Noire. Each box of Carte Noire Espresso capsules contain 10 single servings and are available in supermarkets at an RRP of £2.79 and are available in four intensities. To find out more about the new Carte Noire Collection Espresso click here.

*Nespresso® is a registered trademark of a third party without any link with Mondelez International group. Compatible with all Nespresso®* machines bought before July 1, 2013. After that date, compatible with most Nespresso®* machines bought. For additional information regarding compatibility, please see UK:www.CARTENOIRE.co.uk/compatibility

This is a Sponsored post about a product I was sent samples of to review, but  the opinions expressed above are entirely my own.

Stay Warm And Save Money With The Hive: Sponsored Post

When people find out I come from New Zealand but choose to live in the UK, they often seem very surprised that I’d make such a decision.

‘What are you doing over here?’ they cry in disbelief.

‘ How can you stand the weather?’ they ask. ( This winter, they may have a point.)

People seem to think New Zealand is some kind of  earthly paradise where the sun always shines and it never rains. This is not the case. I think they are probably thinking of the really tropical parts of Australia ( without the snakes, spiders and bushfires).

New Zealand has a temperate climate and the weather can change quickly. On average it is slightly warmer than the UK but the winters can be just as wet and miserable as the British ones. And the worst thing is that a lot of the older houses have no insulation, no double glazing and no central heating.

Since moving to the UK, I have fallen in love with central heating. I enjoy waking up in a room that doesn’t have ice on the inside of the windows and being able to walk around inside in a T shirt. But of course this heat comes at a price. It’s not cheap and while you don’t want to come home to a cold house at the end of the day, you don’t want to waste money on heating an unoccupied house.

Many people have their heating on a timer but timers can require a degree in rocket science to set correctly and there are times when you deviate from your daily routine. And there are times when you would like the heating turned up or down without having to get up off the sofa or out of bed.

That’s where a clever new invention by British Gas comes in handy.

hive active heating

Hive Active Heating  cleverly lets you control both your heating (and hot water if you have a hot water tank) remotely from your mobile phone, laptop or tablet. This means you can turn off your heating if you are going to be out for longer than anticipated, then switch it back on when you are finally heading home.  Or if you get soaked on the way home and feel that only a bath is going to warm you up again, then you can make sure there will be enough hot water available when you set foot in the door.

This approach to home heating can save you up to £150 on your heating bill a year, meaning  you could earn back the cost of the system and installation in under two years.

The kit consists of a thermostat, a hub and a receiver, which can be installed alongside your existing heating system by a professional British Gas Engineer without having to change your energy supplier. It is controlled by an easy-to-use App available for both Apple and Android devices and includes features like ‘frost protection‘, which automatically switches on when the temperature inside drops below a set temperature.

If you are like me, and fancy some control over your home environment even when you are away from it, then Hive Active Heating could be for you. Watch the video above, or look around the Hive Website, for more information and advice.

This is a Sponsored Post but I only write commissioned posts for things that interest me, and that I think might interest you too.

 

Sponsored Post: Total Greek Yoghurt

I admit that I have had a bit of a love/ hate relationship with yoghurt.

I was 8 when I was put on my first diet because I was  a ‘ bit chubby’. Biscuits and sweets were withdrawn and I was offered yoghurt, rice cakes, beans sprouts and cottage cheese instead. Not surprisingly, these substitutions didn’t hit the spot and I merely became more devious in my efforts to acquire the now, even more attractive, junk food.

My teenage years passed in a blur of a calorie counting and gym schedules, and at university most of my nutrition was taken in liquid form. When we did eat, it was mainly toast, vegemite and yoghurt. In those days there was only one kind of yoghurt in New Zealand. I don’t remember it tasting great but it was low calorie and that’s all that counted. My weight fluctuated madly but I paid no attention to how healthy I was. Weeks went by without one of my ‘5 plus’ passing my lips but it didn’t matter, as long as I was thin.

Once I started working, I found I did have to pay some attention to what I was eating. I simply couldn’t get through a long day of visits, consults, surgery and after hours on an empty stomach. I joined various slimming clubs that made me very calorie conscious and I spent hours in the gym, which wasn’t ideal but at least I was eating well. Again yoghurt featured in my diet,  usually as a snack. This time it was definitely ‘lo fat’ and had a nasty chemical taste to it.  It put me off yoghurt for years.

I was pregnant or breastfeeding for a lot of my thirties, and I craved carbs, not dairy products. And when, in my late 30’s, I  finally gave up the dieting mentality for ever, the first thought I had was that I never had to eat any ‘diet foods’ ever again. And for a long time, I didn’t.

But now I’m in my 40’s, I have retried some of the foods that I thought I would never voluntarily ingest again. And some of them actually taste quite good.

Yoghurt is one of these, and there are so many varieties now. My favourite is Total Greek Yoghurt– it’s 100% natural without any added nasties. It’s creamy and authentically Greek, and remains unchanged since 1926. Yoghurt from New Zealand certainly never tasted this good in the ’70’s and ’80’s.

total greek yogurt serving

I eat it with muesli for breakfast but it can also be used for baking and cooking. There are many different recipes on  their website, or you can follow them on Facebook, or Twitter for new ideas.

The kids like it too. It’s naturally sweet and filling and makes a great snack with chopped up fruit. And because FAGE, who make Total Greek Yoghurt, have a philosophy of never make a product that they would not give to their own children, I’m confident that my kids are eating something that is good for them for a change.

Total Greek Yoghurt has gone a long way to repairing my damaged relationship with yoghurt and for that I’m thankful. Now I just have to do something about the way I feel towards bean sprouts…

This Post Was Sponsored By Total Greek Yoghurt.

Where Our Children Want To Go On Holiday

We take our children on lots of amazing holidays. Their passports include stamps from Sri Lanka and the Maldives, Jordan , Namibia and South Africa. We think they are very lucky children, as do our friends. But what do the kids think; do they appreciate these opportunities for exotic travel? The short answer is no, not really.

We do try and involve our children in choosing our holiday destinations and as they have got older, they are definitely more vocal about their preferences. ‘We want to go to a beach’, ‘We want a really big swimming pool with slides and waves’ and ‘We want fun things to do’ are some of their thoughts for 2013.

It’s no wonder that the latest advert for Butlins caught their eye, is it?

The first time they saw it, their jaws were hanging around down their ankles.

‘What country is this wonderful place in?’ they cried. I was forced to admit that Butlins was in the UK and that not every holiday involved  getting out of bed in the small hours in order to catch a plane. We could simply get in our car and drive to our nearest Butlins, we wouldn’t even need to have a last minute panic about passports.

The weather isn’t always good in the UK, I tell them. Wouldn’t it be nice to go to somewhere where the sun will almost certainly shine. They reply that the weather doesn’t matter. Look!  The Splash Waterworld is under cover and there are shows and activities indoors. They tell me they don’t mind a bit of rain and anyhow, what about all those wet weather outfits I’m always bundling them into to walk the dogs. We can pack those, just in case.

But wouldn’t you rather go somewhere different?, I wheedle. Like Marrakech, perhaps? They point out we’ve never been to Butlins either and start watching Butlins videos on YouTube.

As usual we haven’t started looking at family Easter breaks just yet, but the kids are convinced a week at Butlins would provide them with their ideal holiday.  In the name of preemptive  research, I have asking around about Butlins online. To be honest, I expected horror stories left, right and centre. Instead I have had tales of  nice accommodation, friendly staff, plenty to do, happy children and parents who got the opportunity to relax.

Hmm, maybe the kids are onto something, after all? I think I’d actually consider going to Butlins, now we just have to persuade DH.

 

sponsored by butlins

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sponsored Video: Monkey Thief

When our children were small, they really ate very little.  It’s not that I was worried about their appetites, it’s just that they physically didn’t need much.  Up until a few years ago,  we could feed all 6 of us on enough food for 3-4 people. But those days are long gone. These days, they could eat a horse ( and probably have, given the reputation of our closest supermarket).

Sometimes it seems that I’ve barely just unpacked the groceries before I find it empty again. Where does it all go? The four answers to this question are lined up on the sofa gormlessly staring at the TV while I type; they are like a plague of locusts sometimes. read more

Sponsored Video: Win A Samsung Galaxy Note II With Wreck-It Ralph

If Santa bypassed you on his way to your kids’ stockings, and New Year’s Eve proved to be a bit of a damp squib, then now’s your chance to even things up a bit.

How would you like to win one of  Five Samsung Galaxy Note II handsets?

 

This is an absolutely amazing phone. A friend of mine has one and I’ve been lucky enough to have a play on it.

With a screen size of 5.5 inches and an excellent camera; if you have a Galaxy Note II as your phone no one is going to accuse you of following the herd. read more