Start the fans, please!

Back in June, a group of us went to Manchester to do the Crystal Maze experience at the Old Granada Studios – and it was pretty epic! I thought I’d write a review of our day and give some tips because the ticket prices have been drastically reduced now that they’ve decided it’s staying open for longer. Ticket prices start at £30, which I don’t think is at all bad, if like me it was a childhood dream to take part!

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Our Crystal Maze team

On arrival, we were put in a holding room waiting for our game to begin. We chose our team captain, a second in command, and gave ourselves a team name. It might not be a bad idea to come up with a team name in advance if you know your teammates, or at least think of some suggestions if you’re being put in a group with people you don’t know… you don’t get too long to think about it! It was also very hot, so I would certainly advise for you to wear lightweight clothing. There were lockers to use though, so bear that in mind.

We were taken into a small room for an intro, which is where we met our “Maze Master”, a Spice Girl none the less! She reeled off her script with aplomb and started to enthuse us all for what challenges lay ahead. There are over 50 different Maze Masters who all entertain and guide you around in their own unique way, but you don’t get to choose who you have.

Anyone who has watched the TV programme will know there are 4 zones – Medieval, Industrial, Aztec and Futuristic. For me, it felt like I was actually taking part in the TV show I remembered back when I was a kid. The set was exactly how I remembered it and the games were so much fun! Everyone on our team got to play 2 games each, but they don’t give any guarantee as to how many you’ll play – A lot of it is decided on how quickly you can get through it. We were racing between each room, and deciding who was going to play which type of game on the hop. All of the games we played were well thought out – and there were so many rooms that we ran past, I think if we were to go on another occasion, we wouldn’t need to play the same games again.

My advice is for you to get really stuck into it! Enjoy it, get involved, and don’t get too frustrated if you don’t win your game… If you’re an observer, you can offer advice through the ‘windows’ and help your teammate get through their game – Just try not to talk over each other! It’s really hard to hear clear instructions when everyone is shouting and you’re under a time limit too.

Each crystal you collect by winning your game you exchange for 5 seconds in the crystal dome. This is where you get to put on the Crystal Maze jackets!

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Crystal Maze jacket

It’s such fun trying to catch the silver and gold tickets! I’m such a shorty I found it hard to reach the box to deposit my tickets into, but it didn’t distract from the fun – I simply handed them to another teammate to do it for me. The time whizzes past though, so be warned! At the end, your tickets are counted and by the time you’ve walked back round to the front you’ll see your team score on the leaderboard.

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Leaderboard

As is often the case at this type of place, you can buy some merchandise from the shop, and photographs to remember your day by. My friend kindly bought one of the photographs for me, and I bought a crystal to keep. The prices weren’t too bad, but I’m pleased to say that there was no pressure to buy at all.

It was such fun – ideal for a team bonding day, I’d suggest. We had a great time, I felt like I’d lived out a childhood dream, and we all enjoyed ourselves immensely.

Lincs Lotto – Win up to £25,000!

Anyone who knows me knows how much I love entering competitions! I’ve been pretty successful over the years too, but I’ll save my bragging about prizes won for another blog post one day… My latest favourite one to enter is the Lincs Lotto because it also helps support local causes to where I live. We support Barton Juniors because that’s the team our son (sometimes) plays for, and my husband is a volunteer coach for one of the teams.

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Lincs Lotto

There are lots of local good causes to support, but let’s face it, we all want to actually win, as well as support our chosen charity or fund! Tickets cost just £1 per week, but of course, you could buy more than one ticket if you wanted to. Each ticket has a 1 in 50 chance of winning a prize – far better odds than winning on the National Lottery, Euromillions, Health Lottery etc. Every Saturday night a 6 digit winning combination is picked. Prizes are given to players with tickets that match the first or last 2-6 numbers from the winning combination. If you match all 6 numbers, you win the £25,000 top prize!

Lincs Lotto is a weekly online lottery, which was created to support local causes in North Lincolnshire, and an amazing 60% of the pot goes to local good causes. The places to support range from sporting to community groups – each with their own great reason to raise money.

Barton Juniors FC provides an opportunity for children between the ages of 5- 16 to enjoy football, regardless of their ability. Each team is run by volunteers to provide the children with the opportunity to improve their skills, and experience being part of a team. It’s a great aspect of the community but one which needs money to continue to buy equipment and maintain the ground.

Please join the lottery today and choose which group you’d like to support. If I can persuade to you support Barton Junior Football Club, then all the better!

Good luck!

Anna x

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You can support Barton Juniors FC on the Lincs Lotto

 

Wooden watches from MAM Originals

Do you like my new watch? Isn’t it lovely! It’s actually a wooden watch… both a wooden strap and watch face. It’s not often that I’ve seen wooden watches for sale – and it’s made a great talking point since I’ve been wearing mine…

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The ‘Geese’ watch (c) MAM Originals

It’s made from Sandlewood, so it’s a deep reddish brown colour. The time is very easy to read thanks to the white watch face and the metal pointers. It comes with a 2-year warranty and a lifetime care service from MAM Originals too, and that’s often something I look for when I’m buying online. It arrived in a very nice gift box too, so my first impressions really were great. It’s really lightweight too – It would be very easy to forget you’re wearing it! I know many of my friends and family who would be thrilled with a watch like this. I think it’s a design that won’t easily go out of fashion, and one which I’d suggest is suitable to dress up or to use every day.

If you’d like to check out the watches MAM Originals sell, check out their Amazon listings for the very best prices.

 

I am such a lucky girl! I had the opportunity to purchase this wooden watch at a discount in order to review it, and I am so happy to do so because I am genuinely thrilled with it!

Anna x

Bring back Mr. Bean!

We’ve really enjoyed watching old episodes of Mr Bean on our Amazon firestick, recently.  It’s such great family entertainment! It’s great to have things that make us all laugh out loud! I can remember watching it when I was a kid, and I love the fact that Henry can watch it nearly 30 years later, and still find it as funny as I did then.

It would be absolutely brilliant if they brought it back for a new series. I really enjoyed the special they did for the Olympics opening ceremony a few years ago – just goes to show that it would be perfectly possible to do a whole series.

 

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Mr Bean (c) Universal/Everett /Rex Features

 

One of my favourite episodes is the one where Mr Bean drives his car sitting on the top following a pretty epic shopping trip! You can watch it on YouTube here:

Anyone else enjoy it as much as us? Perhaps we should begin a petition…

Anna x

Garden Wildlife Camera

So, I recently bought a wildlife camera, and have been really enjoying seeing what it captures in our back garden. I’ve been putting the odd picture on my Facebook page, where quite a few of my friends have paid an interest in it, so I thought I’d write a quick blog about it because you might find it interesting too! My son, Henry (8 nearly 9), finds it fascinating because it captures both stills and short video clips, like this one: 

 

I bought ours on Amazon for just under £70 but there are plenty of similar products on the market. Initially, I had been hoping to capture some footage of Hedgehogs because we’ve had them in the garden previously, and whilst they’ve not made an appearance on camera so far, it has captured all sorts of birds, cats, squirrels and people!!

Garden Wildlife Camera captures bird posing for picture
I’m sure this bird is posing for the camera!
A night vision picture of our cat, Ernie, face to face with a mouse.
A night vision picture of our cat, Ernie, face to face with a mouse.

If we walk past it, or if my husband mows the lawn, it will take picture or videos of that too! We’ve had some quite funny shots of Henry and his friends playing football etc, and even caught a delivery man having a good old look in our shed!

It produces some lovely photos and video footage, day or night.  I have been quite impressed with the night vision. Once you’ve set up the date and time, it is printed along the very bottom of the shot. The unit holds 8x AA batteries underneath the cover, and since it works on a motion sensor, the batteries aren’t really being used until they’re needed, so you don’t have to be concerned with always replacing them…

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Apeman Wildlife Camera on Amazon

 

The case on ours is really durable and has two catches on the side to secure it shut. If you wanted to, you could attach it to a tripod or strap it to a tree if you wanted a higher view. Maybe you have bird boxes and could put the camera closeby?

You’ll need to buy yourself a memory card as none of the ones I’ve seen for sale come with one – mine is a 32gb which works fine and lasts us for weeks and weeks.

If you get one, please feel free to post comments below with your pictures/video/stories. I’d love to see…

Anna x

Money saving this Christmas…

OK – So I realise that I promised this blog last year, but time just flies by and I’ve only just got round to publishing it for you. BUT – there are some good ideas here which could help you save some money this Christmas.

As you probably already know, I like to start my Christmas shopping nice and early.  I already have my list of people I’m buying for in the free app I use called ‘Manage Christmas’ where I make a log of what I’ve bought for who, so that I can keep a track on it all. There are lots of similar free apps available – have a browse and find one that suits!

 

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The ‘Manage Christmas’ app I use (c) Manage Christmas

 

One thing that I do every year is to save vouchers I have acquired and spend them just before Christmas. Tesco Clubcard is a great way to do this. I have a Tesco Clubcard credit card which I use all the time in order to collect points. I’ve got to be honest, I don’t tend to do my weekly food shopping there anymore, but this is the easiest way to collect points. They have also recently introduced a new Tesco Pay+ app which allows you to pay for your shopping or petrol, and as a special offer whilst the app is new, you can earn an extra 25% on your spending until 14 January 2018. Basically, it means you’ll get five points for every £4 spent. If you have a Tesco Bank current account you can collect points that way too – whilst it’s not the best bank account to have, in terms of interest, if collecting points is your thing you might want to consider it. Tesco Bank mortgage repayments earn points too, but I’d certainly recommend that you do your homework to work out if moving over is good for your personal circumstances. If you have a Tesco Mobile contact or pay as you go SIM you can receive points that way too…  So, once you’ve collected your points, you can then spend them on the Clubcard website, where you can get up to 4 times their value with their partners – Far better than spending your hard earned coupons on food! One of my favourite ones is the Goldsmiths jewellers where you get 3 times the value of your voucher. Gifts from this jeweller can make lovely Christmas presents and keepsakes!

Another thing I’ve started doing in recent years is to make a “No Presents Pact” with some of our friends. As we’ve got older, and families have expanded, the list of people to buy for can certainly spiral, so to make a pact with our friends can save any embarrassment… Having said that – have an emergency gift ready! This can be something as simple as some homemade biscuits or fudge, so it doesn’t have to cost very much, but then you’re covered if you get an unexpected visitor bearing gifts!

Why not swap your skills! I recently started a Facebook page for people in and around Barton upon Humber to swap their expertise. It could be a great source of free presents if you have a skill or hobby that is swappable! Why not have a look around your area for a similar group, or even set one up yourself!

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Barton Skills Swaps

I always do some online research so that I can be sure I’m getting the best price, especially if I’m making any big purchases. I always buy online using my credit card, for extra protection, which also helps me collect Tesco Clubcard points towards Christmas the following year! #bonus

The most important thing is to remember not to let the cost of Christmas run away with you. Keep a track of your spending, budget, spread the cost etc. In my opinion, there is no need to get into debt because you’re being generous – there are lots of ways to show you care without it converting into pounds spent.

Anna x

Barton Skills Swaps

This is a post for people who live in or around Barton upon Humber, North Lincolnshire.

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I thought it might be a good idea for local business people to have the opportunity to offer their expertise for swaps – i.e. You might be a painter & decorator but want someone to check over your end of year accounts, or you might be a shop owner but need some advice about how to create a website etc. If local people can come to a mutually beneficial arrangement – then brilliant!

I have created a Facebook group in order for locals to see what is available to swap – Please feel free to join and post on there what you can offer and/or what you’re looking for… It’s called Barton Skills Swaps. At the time of writing this, we have just over 100 local people interested in swapping!

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1343883105731115/

I have already successfully completed a few swaps – I have had a pair of curtains lined and a carpet fitted, and not a single penny exchanged hands! I simply was able to trade my skills for theirs. It has the potential of being a great group, which can nurture community spirit, help local businesses network and receive word of mouth recommendations – so don’t be shy, join in!

I grew up in what was a close-knit community in Derbyshire and saw first-hand how people used their skills and hobbies to do favours for each other. I really like the idea because I think that doing a favour for someone makes you feel good about yourself, and makes you feel a valued part of the community. The idea behind the Barton Skills Swaps group is to negotiate something in return to do each other a favour!

Enjoy!

Anna x

Bargains and Double Discounts

Those of you who know me, know that I always try to avoid paying full price for anything! Unless I need it instantly, I tend to research online and find the place selling the item I’m after at the cheapest price – and then see if I can get some cash-back, or use vouchers I’ve collected to help pay for it. If you’re a bit like me, you might be interested to know that I’ve recently come across a great company called Zeek. This is an online shop where you can buy discounted gift vouchers for high street shops or online stores. If you sign up using my link or use the code 2P64B9 you’ll get a further £3 discount too – and I’ll get money off my next purchase as well!

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The discounts tend to be up to about 15%, but if you’re planning on hitting the January sales this year, these vouchers will help you to make even bigger savings. I can give you some good examples:

I bought a £50 Debenhams voucher via Zeek which gave me an 8% discount, bringing it down to £46. With the £5 I got off for opening my account, it brought it down to £41. I needed a new coat for my friends’ wedding – and found a lovely Wallis coat which had been £65. In the Black Friday sale, it went down to £50. I used my £50 voucher and smiled to myself that I had bought the coat I wanted for the bargain price of £41! Of course, had I bought it just a couple of days earlier, I would have needed to have paid the full £65. A great saving of £24 there for something I needed to buy!

A colleague of mine knew that she had a few occasions whereby she would be dining with various friends at the restaurant  “Ask Italian” on the lead up to Christmas. She bought herself an online voucher which would have ordinarily cost £100. She got an 8% discount on it, which brought it down to £92 and then got a further £5 off by using my recommend a friend code, which brought it down to £87. Bargain – right! Because she knew she was going there anyway – it made perfect sense to purchase the gift card in advance. Many restaurants don’t use other discounts and special offers during December, so this is a great way to beat that rule! Of course, if you were dining out during other times of the year, they’d be absolutely nothing stopping you combining their special offers and paying with your discounted gift card! Double win!

With Christmas literally just around the corner, you may find that Zeek can help you out! They have a website, and an app, from which you can purchase physical or ecards. If you’ve got someone to buy for and are running out of time – why not consider a gift card this way? It’s a quick, safe and secure way to do it. There are loads of different places to choose from, from coffee shops, to sports shops, departments stores and just about everything in between! I’ve really enjoyed using mine! I like to buy a coffee on my way into work sometimes – but I hate paying £2.50 each time! I bought a Costa Coffee card for £25, and Zeek gave me a 7% discount. Using a £5 discount I got from referring someone, this brought it down to £18.80 – so instead of paying £2.50 per drink, it’s actually only costing me £1.88. Much better!

Let me know if you make some great savings over the January sales!

Anna x

An Autumn Surprise…

I am such a lucky person! I have been sent the most amazing arrangement of flowers from www.okbouquet.com to review, and I am so happy to do so because I am genuinely thrilled with them!

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Autumn Surprise (c) OK Bouquet

By the time we all got home after work & school, the courier had delivered a large box to one of our neighbours, who had kindly taken it in for me. Henry and I enthusiastically unboxed the bouquet, and we were presented with the most wonderful arrangement of autumn flowers! They have such a sensible way to package the flowers… they stand in a square plastic tray, which is filled with a wet mulch so that they didn’t dry out in transit, but it doesn’t make the cardboard box wet either! Clever!

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Henry with the delivery

This particular bouquet is called “Autumn Surprise” and can be found here. It costs £40 or £50 depending on which size you plump for – which I feel represents great value for money, especially when you take into account the very large size of the arrangement! It is filled with Red Roses, White Lilies, and a lot of Crocosmia foliage. It has plenty of Blue Supernova Thistles and Orange/Bronze Tom Pearce Chrysanthemums with long stems of Oak Leaf foliage too. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if people were tempted to split the arrangement into two vases! The bouquet is so big, it would be very easy to do.

I happily recommend OK Bouquet for the next time you’re considering sending flowers, whatever the circumstances. Flowers really are a splendid gift, because there is something for everyone, and for each occasion. OK Bouquet offer a next day delivery throughout the UK mainland (excluding Mondays), but including weekends – which means they even deliver on a Sunday! Something to remember for Mother’s Day!

The fresh flowers care tips that came with the flowers was also a lovely addition, giving great advice about how to care for the display and to make them last as long as possible. OK Bouquet present beautiful flowers at affordable prices, whilst offering a friendly, fast & personable service from a family-run business. You can find them on Twitter and Facebook too!

I’ll add some more pictures when the beautiful White Lilies open… I can’t wait!

Anna x

PS – As promised a couple of extra shots to show how beautiful the White Lilies are now they’re opening!

 

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