London take two: part two

Those of you anxiously awaiting the news of my second ‘big’ London trip (hi mum) will be disappointed to know that there was little in the way of drunken clubbing and strip clubs this time round. Unfortunately my flu-like-bug recovery turned into a sinus infection while I was away and I ended up pottering about feeling sorry for myself and having early nights.

That said, it wasn’t all snot and early bedtimes. I did get to meet Kip at the Tefal event thingy we’d been invited to (which I posted a couple of pictures of on Instagram) — as well as Alex and a handful of other bloggers — and it was exactly as awesome as I’d expected.

Gaz and I also did the Crime Museum exhibit, a bunch of other touristy stuff, left a shit comedy gig early and by some amazing fluke won £175 dropping £5 on 16 (the day we met) on the roulette wheel at the birthday thing on Saturday. This would be more awesome if I hadn’t spent £140 on a dress earlier that day.

ONE HUNDRED AND FORTY POUNDS ON A DRESS.

And I wasn’t even drunk.

Anyway, another good trip despite lurgies. See you next year London.

Making money with ‘comping’, win a weekend trip to Paris

Off the back of yesterday’s post about earning passive income (which in itself was a kick up the bum, and I feel a little more inclined to get some of my stuff done) I’ve been thinking about other ways to earn “on the side” and one that I know is successful for a few of my friends is “comping” — that is, entering competitions regularly as a deliberate way of earning cash and prizes.

The huge rise in social media use has seen comping explode as a viable method of earning a side income over the past couple of years, as entering is often as easy as clicking ‘Share’ or ‘RTing’ to your followers. The potential for winning in some of these competitions can be huge, with prizes ranging from clothes and food hampers to cash prizes and even holidays, which is not bad for a quick ‘share’.

Take for instance leisure and hospitality site Leisurejobs: currently running a competition for a weekend trip to Paris and a Michelin star meal (flights and hotel included) and entry is as simple as retweeting a pre-populated tweet with the hashtag #perfectparis2015, or sharing the hastagged post via facebook or linkedin. You don’t have to put any effort into this one!

weekend in paris

I’ve never won anything myself (mostly because I’m too lazy to enter) but one of my aforementioned comping friends had these top tips to share:

  1. Enter Facebook competitions run by small to medium-sized businesses as they’re easier to win (there’s less competition from other entrants because the business usually has less fans)
  2. If you’re a blogger, and use an affiliate marketing network (e.g. Affiliate Window) to monetise your blog, keep a look out for competitions run by the network or the individual brands. People rarely enter them so there’s good odds.
  3. Go the extra mile – don’t just write 200 words and put a picture in. Spend a little extra really putting in some effort into your entry and you’ll stand out. Check other entrants out too (e.g. in comments section or by viewing the hashtag) and try and out do the other participants!

In addition to that, it’s worth considering:

  • Joining a forum for compers to get access to new competitions before they hit social media
  • Set up a dedicated email address for your entries, so that you’re not spammed to death between competitions
  • Always check the competition close date so you’re not wasting effort on something that’s done and dusted

Worst case scenario, you don’t win. But they say nothing ventured, nothing gained. I might even enter the Paris one myself…

Barcelona, boobs and a bigass church

I ticked another item off my 30 things before thirty list last week when I flew to Barcelona with Gaz for the mystery holiday he’d booked us. He did quite well actually, I didn’t find out where we were going until check in when ‘unfortunately’ the destination flashed up on the screens above the desk (despite my best effort to keep my eyes on my feet). Considering many of my closest friends were in on the destination I was surprised I didn’t find out sooner.

Barcelona was great — very warm! — and I really enjoyed taking in another culture. It was my first proper holiday outside of the UK which made me a little nervous, but I made an attempt to throw in a bit of terrible Spanish as well as trying new food (including a weird seafood salad which contained sea things that remain a mystery to me) and drink (mostly cocktails).

We visited La Sagrada Familia (nicknamed the bigass church by yours truly), designed by Antoni Gaudí. It was nothing short of impressive to look at outside, but for me its true beauty was on the inside: columns that seemed to stretch on forever, reaching up to an explosion of sunbursts in the ceiling; enormous stained glass windows that lit up the inside of the church with a fantastic array of colour as the strong Spanish sunlight poured in; complex shapes, spiral staircases and beautiful carvings as far as the eye can see.

(Gaz took more / better photos which you should be able to see in this Facebook album.)

We also visited Casa Batlló — another work of Gaudí’s — and walked for miles along La Rambla, the beach, up to and around the grounds of the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya etc. In fact most days we were clocking up 10 miles or more.

I was surprised by how slim and beautiful virtually everyone in Barcelona seemed to be. The beach in particular seemed like *the* place to hang out if you were utterly gorgeous. I managed to find a spot near some middle aged women of various shapes & sizes who were sunbathing topless, clearly giving no fucks, and plonked myself down for a bit of boobs-out sunbathing of my own. I didn’t think I’d be doing that when I wrote my 30 things list, when even the idea of wearing a bikini had me virtually shitting myself.

Fun in the sun aside, I wasn’t expecting to look forward to coming home on the last day as much as I did. I can’t tell if it’s because I’m more of a homebody than I realised (and I do miss the stability of a regular routine) or if its just because I’m so used to being at home that anything else pushes me outside of my comfort zone. I guess the only way to find out is to go on more holidays… ;)

Weekend in a Tent

Gaz and I celebrated our first anniversary by spending the bank holiday weekend in a tent.

I have to admit I was a little anxious about the whole thing. It’s May, and the weather is still changeable, so I expected a weekend of rain. Gaz only bought the tent (second hand) the weekend prior to us leaving and hadn’t checked for holes etc, so we could have put it up and discovered it was useless. Not to mention “camping in North Wales” was a bit of a come-down from Gaz’s original idea of spending the weekend driving a hired supercar around the country (scuppered by the fact that I’ve not been driving long enough).

Still: we did it, and it was good fun. The novelty of being able to erect a tent without argument isn’t lost on me yet, and I managed to not kill us with my dodgy BBQ breakfast. And, with absolutely bugger all mobile phone signal on Shell Island we even had to rely on Actual Conversation and Doing Stuff to get us through (this was probably tougher on Gaz than me ;)) We visited castles (Harlech and Caernarfon) and walked along sandy beaches and I even stripped to my bikini and ran across the beach into the FUCKING COLD sea. That’s another thing I can check off my 30 before thirty list :)

I didn’t take any pictures (I forgot to take my camera) but Gaz is a better photographer so I will just nick some of his when he’s finished editing them.

Thank you for an amazing year babe <3

Fun Days and Holidays

This post was originally written a week ago, so the first paragraph probably doesn’t make much sense now…

Having told you all back in March that I’m blogging wrong, I then went on to not blog at all, which is probably as wrong as you can get if your aim is to actually blog. Unfortunately this was in the most part due to me coming down with some sort of mega cold which left me barely able to function (but without the fever and sleepless nights of flu, thank goodness for small mercies).

On the plus side, it got the lurgies out of the way just in time for the Easter school break, which whilst not normally significant (because we don’t celebrate Easter and I work full time) this year I’d actually remembered to take advantage of the Easter bank holidays and booked 4 days off work (equivalent to a full week with the BH) so that I could take the kids away.

I was meant to blog before we went away to tell you how terrified I was of the whole idea. Long journeys! An entire week with the kids and no break! No adult company apart from strangers! Potentially having to listen to “I miss my Dad” / “I want to go home” whines and not being able to do anything about it! A week without sex Gaz!

Anyway, to ease myself gentle into the whole “being a parent” thing (because I might have them for most of the week but they’re asleep or I’m at work for most of that), I accepted an invite to join various other bloggers and “VIPs” at the Sealife Centre in Birmingham on Saturday 28th March. I was supposed to be telling you all about their new exhibit, the Sea Stars, in time for the Easter holiday. Unfortunately that’s not quite gone to plan.

sealife-centre-birmingham (more…)

London, baby!

I am … hastily does the maths nearly 29 years old and this weekend I visited London as a tourist and used the underground for the first time. The capital city of my very own country and it’s taken me this long to go and visit it!

On Thursday, Gaz and I went to see Stewart Lee live at The Leicester Square Theatre and we stayed on in London until earlier today, determined to crack some more items off my list of things I’ve never done (which is a surprisingly long list).

Other firsts over this weekend include my first time in a casino (we left with a profit of 25 pence), my first oyster card (genius invention), first time seeing attractions such as the Tower of London and the London Eye, and my first time in a strip club (more about that in a second).

On the Friday we visited the Taste of London 2014 show (another first) and sampled as many alcoholic drinks as possible to try to balance the crazy entrance fee (£25 each just to be sold to by a ton of exhibitors?!) We had a wander around the Tower of London; I saw my first selfie stick on the London Eye and we attempted to photobomb other tourist’s Eye photos with stupid faces; we ate at the first steak restaurant that basically involved cooking my own meat (Steak & Co.) and bar-hopped the night away.

On Saturday we went to Harrods and the British Museum, and I’m not sure which took the longest to get round. I was absolutely flabbergasted at the designer infantwear in Harrods, with Gaz spotting a little leather jacket for babies priced at over £900! I think I’ve spent less than that on clothes for Isabel in the entire 5 years of her life.

Saturday evening we went out for food in Prezzo which, while very tasty, ended up giving me the shits causing me to have to find an available toilet in the middle of Oxford Street on a busy Saturday before Christmas. NOT FUN. (First ever diarrhoea in a public loo.) After that we did the only logical thing that one does with a dicky stomach and filled it full of cocktails. I did manage to stop pooping, thanks for asking.

Cocktails demolished (there’s something fucking hilarious about watching your boyfriend ask the female bar staff for a screaming orgasm) I suggested we head back to Leicester Square to visit a “gentleman’s club” we’d walked past on Thursday night because it seemed like a logical way to end the night.

Weirdest. Place. Ever. Quite apart from the £15 entrance fee (each), the world’s most expensive ATM in the corner (£10 charge for withdrawals!) and the fact that I was the most-dressed woman in the room, I felt overwhelmingly vulnerable in there. I’m not sure what I was expecting exactly, but we were pounced upon by women from the moment we walked in til the moment we left, desperate to sell themselves. At one stage I was being groped by one of the dancers who thought that fondling my boobs would get me agree to a private dance. I was almost tempted, just to see what it would have been like, but Gaz stopped me (by sensibly pointing out that we were going to miss the last train if we didn’t leave). Obviously I checked my feminist card in at the door.

After we left the strip club, we hopped back on the tube and I ended up sharing a fellow drunk passenger’s McDonalds chicken nuggets. It felt slightly odd to be eating McDonalds when it was a Maccy Ds loo I emptied the contents of my stomach into earlier that night, but the woman seemed insistent I help her out with those nuggets.

Daft drunken escapades aside, it was incredibly weird to be walking round London seeing things that I recognised from the TV or films, and actually being there and it all being real. I was oddly fascinated by the red buses (also known as buses, to Londoners) which have always seemed such an iconic London thing but have never really registered as being actual public transport and available everywhere. I realise that this probably sounds incredibly stupid, but I’m from the country: we’re lucky if we get one bus around here a day, let alone anything more frequent or indeed painted red.

I was also blown away by the massive multicultural feel to London, and the fact that 95% of the conversations I overheard as we walked down the street were in languages other than English. Attempting to listen to a conversation between a French family on the Thursday night (because I’m rude like that) made me realise that I remember absolutely no French from school whatsoever. So much for that GCSE.

I’m not even close to covering my whole experience, and I was so busy just doing stuff over the past few days that I took ZERO pictures, which I don’t think has ever happened to me before. Still, the memories I’ve got (what’s left after the effects of too much alcohol) from this weekend: fucking amazing. :)

The Year of Me: An Update

In April I declared 2014 “the year of me”. Finally, after far too many years of existing for the pleasure of other people, I decided to take control and start being a little bit selfish… start doing things for me.

So far I have:

So what’s the grand plan for September? Well, I’ve made some arrangements with my mortgage dude which might see things progressing with buying Karl out, tomorrow I’m going to see my Granddad for the first time in years, and on the 26th I’m going to #revolutionconf again.

I have to admit I’m running out of ideas on what else I can do for me though – financial constraints make it much harder than I’d like to be completely selfish :p

Firsts

I have had a most amazing week, and it occurs to me this morning that it has been a week full of “firsts”:

  • First holiday on my own
  • First time “glamping”
  • First time I drove on a proper motorway (3 lanes)
  • First time I drove to a destination on unfamiliar roads without using satnav
  • First time I went to a track day:

driving celica gt-four at blyton park

That’s me! Driving Gaz’s Toyota Celica GT-Four on a very wet track at Blyton Park.

Other firsts include driving with someone for 3 hours without getting into an argument or being shouted at because we might be lost/traffic is bad/weather is bad and my first time putting up a tent without an argument, but I guess those are less noteworthy in the grand scheme of things ;)

I am back! Or: adventure with pictures

I am back from my grown-up glamping adventure. I did not get (too) lost, eaten by insects, die of food poisoning from eating undercooked BBQ food or indeed go stir crazy about being on my own like I thought I would. So here’s what happened, with some pictures:

I left on Monday, already running late because I had planned on going straight from lunch with a new friend to Wales but had forgot my wellies & running shoes so wanted to nip home. Went back, grabbed wellies (which ironically I ended up not needing) and forgot my running shoes again. Finally set off, got 20 miles out and Google Maps on my phone died. Cue mad panic because I had no idea where I was going. Couldn’t get it to reconnect so decided to wing it, with the vague notion that I needed to go along the A49. Had to eenie-meanie to decide which WAY along the A49 I was supposed to travel and thankfully guessed right.

Arrived, later than I had originally planned, to find this:

little oasis pandy

And after going through that gate I met the lovely Emma, who walked me up the hill to this:

rosy_wagon_mini

Rosy, the beautifully furnished bow-top gypsy wagon, with a very inviting bed that I had to resist the urge to climb right into:

rosy_bed_mini

Having decided not to climb straight into bed, I unpacked my stuff, familiarised myself with the gorgeously picturesque site & view, and then decided to go for a drive. Having ended up in the vague direction of the town of Abergavenny, I nipped into a local supermarket and came back armed with sausages and other yummy scrumptious goodies, which I set about cooking, and settled in for the night with my book.

The following morning I decided to find a beach, because no trip to Wales is complete without a bit of a splash in sea, and after picking Katy‘s brains decided to head out to Barry Island, just outside of Cardiff. Because what’s an hour and a half trek to a beach when you’ve got a whole day to waste? Barry Island did not disappoint:

barry_island_mini

barry_island_two_mini

And I had a bit of a paddle on the beach, and a walk up a bit of a hill, and then came back to the beach to take a dodgy “sun is in my eyes and I can’t get the camera to actually take the picture” selfie:

barry_island_selfie_mini

After I got bored of taking crappy selfies on the beach at Barry Island, I decided to head to Hay-on-Wye (totally the opposite direction) because Katy suggested they had a lot of cool bookshops. However, not far from Barry I spotted a sign for Caerphilly Castle and decided to follow that instead, for a fun hour or two mooching around a big Welsh castle:

caerphilly-castle_mini

caerphilly-castle-two_mini

And then came home and used my SKILLS to set up the 3rd fire of my trip and consume my weight in bacon/sausages:

cooking-on-the-fire-pit_mini

After which I settled into my chair with my books, and a blanket to watch the sunset:

sunset-in-wales_mini

The following morning after I’d cleared my stuff away and washed up everything ready to leave, I had decided I’d go to Hay-on-Wye after missing it the day before. However, it was at that point I noticed that my wheel/tyre (which I’d clipped on a curb last week) looked pretty knackered, so I decided not to risk it and headed straight home. Slight downer on a glorious trip but I’m not letting it (or the probably massive future bill) put me off because I had a fantastic time.

I’ll be writing up a proper review of Little Oasis for WAHMweb in the coming week but in the mean time, I would heartily recommend them to absolutely anyone and I can’t wait to go back – hopefully next time with some company, too.

Grown-up adventure

So I’m off on a proper grown-up adventure tomorrow. Camping — “glamping”, rather, with Little Oasis Pandy — ON MY OWN. I’ve never booked a spur of the moment mini break before, let alone one in which I am completely in control of what I do, where I go, what time I get out of bed etc.

I have no idea what I’m actually going to do with the next few days, and it may be that I am going stir crazy by the end of tomorrow as I’m not used to being completely alone, but I guess there’s only one way to find out!

See you on Thursday :)

Holidaaaaaaaaay

In Wales this weekend – don’t miss me too much :)

Little Holiday

We spent last week in North Wales in a posh central-heated caravan; our last holiday as just the 3 of us (although we went with Karl’s mum). Lovely to get away from the stress of work — don’t get me started — and housework etc. It was supposed to piss it down with rain all week but was surprisingly nice, if a tad chilly.

Unfortunately, the caravan had a flat screen TV. As a no-TV household generally you’d think it’d be nice to have access to the ‘free’ entertainment but it was a pain in the arse. Isabel, who has previously shown absolutely no interest in TV, became obsessed… asking for it within seconds of waking and throwing complete melt-down tantrums when I said no. I wouldn’t have minded her watching it, we were on holiday after all, but I quickly realised that children’s TV these days is puerile shite interspersed with grating adverts clearly designed to trigger the words “mummy, I want…”

Seriously, I caught the last 5 minutes of In The Night Garden (I think?) and was having to hold back the urge to swear at the TV. Nonsensical tosh. Contrast this to the good oldies: Dangermouse, Button Moon etc where people spoke real English and there was some semblance of a storyline.

Anyway, aside from that it was all fine and dandy. Not a great idea to share a teeny queen size caravan bed with daddy + toddler when you’ve got a huge bump, mind you.