Monday, 24 November 2014

Competition: Win A My Friend Cayla Doll

It's not long now until Christmas and my friends at Us Two Friends have kindly given me a My Friend Cayla Doll to give away to one of my lucky readers.

Before I get into the competition I thought it would be nice to share a lovely website I came across about five years ago now called Portable North Pole where you can get a FREE personalised video for your child from Santa. Just by answering a few questions and maybe adding a picture of your little one to make it personal you can create a great video direct from Santa. It's magical and my niece loves receiving hers each year.

Here is Lilly's video from Santa this year so you can see the example of the free video you get from Santa. The people behind this site are making so many children happy with their videos. You can also make one for grown ups too! 

    *** Win a My Friend Cayla Doll *** 

My Friend Cayla is an interactive doll that you can get to know by asking her questions. You can also play games with her and she also tells stories. You can connect to her with a free app on android or IOS. Cayla would make a great Christmas present for a little girl aged 4 or over.

To enter the competition just use the gleam widget below and answer the question:  What do you or your children want for Christmas this year?  A winner will be chosen at random at the end of the competition. The competition is open to residents of the UK only. Good Luck.

Win a My Friend Cayla Doll

Win competitions at

Family Time

Last week I went home to Bath to see my family. I say Bath but in actual fact all my family have moved out to Midsomer Norton and Trowbridge now. My mum and sister picked me up as I don't drive and we went back to Norton to my mum's house where I stayed. At the moment my mum and sister live on the same street so I spent most of my time between the two houses. 

It was so lovely to see everyone. My niece was so excited to see me. She has grown up even more since I last saw her in the summer. Lilly and I will always have a special bond as my sister and I lived together for the first two years of her life. Here we are: 

On the Monday my mum and I went to Devon to see my Nan, Auntie and family. It was so lovely to see everyone. I love Nan so much. I wish I wasn't so far away from her but I do try and go down with mum when I can to see her.  My auntie and family look after her so well. 

On the Wednesday afternoon I went with my sister and Lilly over to see dad and my family on his side. I have a half sister and a step brother and step sister. They all have children too so it was lovely to have a get together and see all the kids. I took all the children some Cushelle koala's that I won last year so they had one each and some chocolate coins which they did a little treasure hunt with. They are all really growing up. Here is a picture of them all in age order: 

We also managed to get a group picture of all of us on my camera using the timer:

For the rest of the week mum and I went to a craft fayre in the village she is moving to and on Friday evening my mum, sister and I went to bingo in a village hall nearby. It was great fun even though my OCD kind of played up which annoyed me. I have had this since I was about 11 years old that when I am in a room with lots of people I feel like I am going to be sick and I focus on it. It's hard to explain but I was fine when everyone was talking but when the guy was reading out the numbers and it was quiet I felt a bit panicky. My sister suggested that maybe some CBT would help so I might look into that because it's annoying and afterwards I get upset with myself for being so silly but I can't help it. Anyway but at bingo I won a line which was £9 but another lady won with me so I got £4.50. I also won the raffle and chose 10 cans of dark fruit cider which Neil likes. 

On Sunday morning dad drove me back to Kidderminster. It was a fun week but it flew past. I hate it that my niece Lilly gets so upset when I leave. It's sweet that she loves me so much but it's hard to see her like that. I hope to go back down and see my family again sometime in the New Year. I miss them and love them so much. I am so lucky to have such a lovely family. My mum even made me some rock cakes and flapjacks to bring yummy! 

Friday, 14 November 2014

Competition: Win Three Decorative Christmas Moose Heads

A few weeks ago I did a review for The Christmas Boutique and one of the items they sent me was an adorable wall mountable moose head which I thought was fun and quirky. If you thought the same then it's your lucky day because The Christmas Boutique have kindly offered up three moose heads as a prize to one lucky reader. 

Decorative wall mountable moose heads 

To enter the competition simply complete as many of the steps as you wish on the Rafflecopter form below.  A winner will be chosen at random at the end of the competition. The prize is three moose heads, one of each colour; green, magenta and pink. The competition is open to residents of the UK only. Good Luck.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Win competitions at

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Funky Laser Review

The other day I saw the Coca Cola advert on the telly. I know that it's a vast Americanism to refer to winter as "the holiday season," but it is a reminder that Christmas is no longer sneaking up - it's charging towards us full speed ahead! Of course it's not just Coke, all the supermarkets and department stores are getting in on the act. 

You just have to give in and accept it. Advent is almost here. 

Of course as we get closer and closer to Christmas, we get the party invites; the family dinners and disco dancing... or something like that. To go with the season, you get all the usual mix of hideous jumpers, musical Santa ties and Rudolf headbands. Today though, I'm looking at a nice alternative to adorn you this holiday season. Something that is festive, wearable and tasteful while still remaining quite fun. 

The lovely people at Funky Laser have sent me one of their necklaces to review; and it is ideal for winter as it's one of their glitter reindeer necklaces. 

For those of you who haven't heard of Funky Laser before, they make cool laser-cut jewellery as well as producing custom designs. (Their web-page lists all sorts of things from jewellery through to cake toppers and wedding designs). The glitter reindeer is part of their Christmas offers (other items include a snazzy looking Robin pin, charms and more. 

They also sent me one of their Christmas baubles which you'll see hanging on our tree when December finally hits. 

Anyway, without much further ado, I should start talking about the necklace. The necklace they sent me is the Glitter Reindeer Necklace. As you can see in the photo it has a really nice shape to it; there are shades of the cute little Babycham deer in the design, which takes me back. As a child there used to always be adverts for it this time of year, although now I'm an adult I find myself wondering if anyone else remembers it. (Since being old enough to drink alcohol the brand seems to have disappeared from the shelves or it doesn't seem as popular as it was!) 

The necklace is available in a variety of colours and styles; from solid colour acrylic through to glittered acrylic. I think the one I was sent is a pearled acrylic red. It's a really cool colour and catches the light wonderfully. The design is cut really nicely; for all the shapes and angles in it, it is really nice and smooth. No sharp edges or hard points. They've done a nice job finishing it. The shape, even though it's in outline, is really detailed and does evoke the feeling of a cute and playful reindeer caught mid-spring. 

I definitely will be wearing this to as many Christmas get-togethers, parties and discos as possible. 

If you'd like to get your own reindeer necklace, then there's no better time as they're currently one of the products on offer for Christmas and at time of writing is retailing at £5 in a choice of colours.

Along with the necklace was one of their Christmas baubles. They have four designs of bauble and are currently giving one free with every order until 2015! Ours is of a sweet little robin (the others available are a snowflake, a heart and one with the words "ho ho ho" on it). 

Our bauble came on a solid red acrylic. This is a 2D design like the necklace, and like the necklace is simple but very effective with its design. I don't know if you get a sense of size from the photo, but the bauble is about the size of a Quality Street 'penny toffee' (maybe a tiny bit larger). So comparable to a larger spherical bauble. The detail on the robin is quite nice, with the lines for the feet and beak tapering to a very fine point. 

It's very cute and a very nice freebie! From the photos of the other baubles I can assume that the rest of the designs are just as good. I have been really impressed by the quality of these two items; and browsing Funky Laser's website and Facebook page I can see that these are just the tip of the iceberg. They look the ideal place to go to get something a little bit different of a high quality, whether it is party jewellery or cake decorations or something uniquely custom.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Wins Of The Week - 9th November 2014

Hello fellow Compers, I have started entering more competitions on the run up to Christmas and it's less than a month away to the advent calendar competitions. For people new to comping this is where the madness starts with 100+ sites offering prizes up daily. There are lots of lists but for the advent competitions, in my opinion, Loquax is the best site. So I will be using them again this year if it's the same as last year where you can track the competitions you have entered each day. 

I have quite a few wins to share with you this week. In fact it's been a couple of weeks since my last update. I am going to try and get back to do doing a weekly post. Here are my wins: 

Competition prize win number 1178: First up I won a Gillette Fusion Proglide razor. Another one for Neil, I don't think he ever needs to buy a razor because there are always lots of competition/freebies about for them. I find the same with mascara for my sister. 

Competition prize win number 1179: The Best of Gershwin CD from Just Competitions - I haven't listened to it yet but I think I might put it on one evening and have a chill out to it. 

Competition prize win number 1180: Yay I won a fish slice -  I know it's a bit pathetic to get excited over this but I have been entering this competition every Tuesday on twitter for months. I won it from Fish Is The Dish on twitter. They give away five fish slices every Tuesday so give it a go. 

Competition prize win number 1181: I won Oculus on blu-ray from This movie looks really scary, even the picture on the front scares me a bit. 

Competition prize win number 1182: 3 x bars of Cadbury Chocolate from the win a banger instant win competition. Each voucher can be used to buy one of the following bars of chocolate: Wispa, Wispa Gold, Boost, Double Decker, Starbar or Twirl. I think I will definitely get a Boost. I love them! 

Competition prize win number 1183: I won a Day Of The Mummy DVD from Junsui Films Limited on  twitter. Another scary looking film for me to watch. 

Competition prize win number 1184: I won a copy of The Idea of Him by Holly Peterson book from Goodreads - First reads. When I first joined Goodreads I won about four books from them and then I didn't seem to win any more so I stopped entering for awhile but still went back and did reviews on the books they sent me. I decided this week to try and enter again and I won. I am so pleased because I love reading and this looks like my type of book. I know some people enter for all books on there but I only enter for the ones I want to read. It's a great site. If you enter make sure you review if you win otherwise chances are you probably won't win again. The whole reason they send out the free books is for people to review. 

Competition prize win number 1185: My dog Shortie won a goodybag from Petface on Facebook. For Halloween they asked pet owners to post pictures of videos of their pets doing tricks. Shortie does this great trick where I go bang and he falls down and plays dead. Here is a link to the video on Facebook that I put into the competition.  His prize was a cow toy, some treats, some lovely smelling doggy conditioner and it all came in a lovely bag. 

Competition prize win number 1186: I won a copy of Saving Grace by Jane Green and a lovely candle that Jane chose the scent for from Book Love Bug blog. The candle smells lush and I have just started reading the book. 

Competition prize win number 1187: I won some awesome Batman Lego goodies from Smyths Toys UK on twitter. Neil and I love Lego so we are excited about this one. The goody bad contained: A Lego Batman 3 t-shirt, two Lego Super Heroes polybags, some stickers, a mask and a Batgirl and Joker Lego key rings. Yay!

Competition prize win number 1188: I won some Halloween goodies from Forza Supplements on Facebook. The prize is a pumpkin bucket. African Mango 2:2:1 capsules, Garcinia Cambogia capsules and a bag of Halloween sweets. 

Competition prize win number 1189: I won a leather multi strand bracelet from Wow Thank You. The bracelet is beautiful. I'm thinking of giving it to my sister as a little present but I might keep it for myself. The bracelet was made my Rosie Hall of Red Dehlia and it's lovely. 

Competition prize win number 1190: And my last win for now is a signed book called Archie Greene and The Magician's Secret by D.D. Everest. I won this book from Faber Children's on twitter.  I think my niece or one of my nephews would really enjoy this book. 

And that is all my wins for now. I also have a competition running on my blog at the moment to win 2 x Cadbury Advent Calendars and 2 x Cadbury Selection boxes (one winner wins them all) which you can enter here if you wish. 

Good Luck to everyone entering competitions in the next week. 

 Why not leave me a comment of what you have won in the last couple of weeks.

Prizes waiting to arrive:  
Rubicon backpack from Rubicon
Vit Hit Drink from Vithit
Jelly Belly Beans prize
iPod Shuffle from Dettol
Football from Capital One
LOGO Grab Game from First4Dads
YOU Homecare Goodies from You Homecare
Disco ball bracelet from Nude Jewellery
Q Pootle 5 DVD from umeandkids blog
Yazoo Yoghurt cup from Yazoo
Trust In Me book by Sophie McKenzie from The Book Bag

Saturday, 8 November 2014

National Insurance: A Warning To The Self Employed

Last month I went back to the doctors to discuss my fatigue. I did a post before about how I have been feeling tired for over 18 years now with no diagnosis (you can read it here). Well finally I found a lovely doctor who looked at all my blood test results and the way I have been feeling for so long. She has diagnosed me with Chronic Fatigue. I had suspected this for a long time but no doctor had ever confirmed it. There is no test for Chronic Fatigue it's just a case of ruling everything else out first. I have now been referred to a specialist at the hospital who will hopefully be able to help me to manage it better so that eventually I can return to work. That is my hoping anyway. 

Whilst I am pleased to get a diagnosis, I am unable to work at the moment because I wouldn't be reliable so the doctor has signed me off work for three months. Let me tell you a bit about my situation. I worked for ten years, self employed, part time helping to run an online B&B booking agency. Sadly due to the bigger hotel agencies dominating the market I lost my job a year and a half ago. The job was great for me because I worked from home and was able to work around my fatigue. 

My fiancĂ© Neil and I have been together for five and a half years and I moved up to Kidderminster to live with him nearly two years ago. Neil has a full time job. 

I decided as I can't work at the moment I would try and apply for benefit as I have no money coming in at all and still have a few bills to pay each month. Here is where my frustration starts. I rang up the benefit agency and they told me there are two types of benefits. The first is based on the household income, which as Neil works full time I wouldn't be entitled to. Fair enough. The second is based on National Insurance contributions. As I was self employed I paid the minimum National Insurance therefore it is not enough for me to be able to claim benefits. I am angry about this because when I first became self employed twelve years ago I rang up and asked for advice about National Insurance and was told which one to pay. No one advised me that if the worst was to happen and that I would lose my job I wouldn't be entitled to job seekers or any other benefit. I would have happily paid the extra had I known. So my warning to people self employed is please check you are paying the correct National Insurance so you are entitled to claim if you need to. 

There are people out there who have never worked who claim every benefit under the sun. For me this is a horrible situation. I am lucky that Neil understands my illness and is fine with the situation. For me though it's not right. I feel like a scab. I don't want to ask Neil for money all the time to cover my bills. I am constantly worried about money. Luckily I don't spend much. I don't wear make up and I am not into fashion so that's one good thing but not having money for the little things really gets me down. Like buying presents for my family for Christmas. They don't expect anything from me, they know my situation but for me personally I want to buy them a little something. That's where my comping (enter competitions) comes into it. I have luckily won a few vouchers so I can at least get some small presents. 

I am not a scab and don't want to be on benefits. I want to work but right now I am unable to and I just feel totally let down by the self employment agency who didn't even advise me that this could happen when I first became self employed. I never thought I wouldn't be entitled to anything especially as I have worked. I have put money in, I didn't realise it wouldn't be enough. 

So please please please if you are self employed check. Hopefully my post will help others. I really hope no one is ever in my situation as it is quite stressful. 

Monday, 3 November 2014

Christmas Advent Calendars and Selection Boxes Giveaway

Christmas is well and truly on the way and next month it will be time to open our advent calendars and as a comper, to enter lots of advent competitions. So I thought it would be lovely to do a little competition to win some Cadbury advent calendars and selection boxes.

One winner will win 2 x Cadbury Advent Calendars and 2 x Cadbury Selection boxes. The competition will end on the 27th of November so that I can get them in the post to arrive for the 1st of December to open the first window.

To enter the competition simply complete as many of the steps as you wish on the Rafflecopter form below. A winner will be chosen at random at the end of the competition. The competition is open to residents of the UK only. Good Luck.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Win competitions at

Saturday, 1 November 2014

The Christmas Boutique Review

Well Christmas is coming and the goose is getting fat - please put a penny in the old man's hat; if you don't have a penny then a ha'penny'll do, and if you don't have a ha'penny God bless you... 

Ignoring the fact that the halfpenny hasn't been in circulation since 1984, the geese around these parts have been seen flying to warmer climes (and far too far away to tell if they're fat or not) and there isn't really an old man or his hat around here; Christmas is coming. Christmas is always coming and as I write this it is little over a month a way! Which probably means I should be doing much more getting ready for Christmas than I am - but I can start by reviewing some Christmas decorations generously sent to me by The Christmas Boutique.

First up is this wonderful hand-made advent calendar. A nice variation on the standard advent calendars you get in that it is long rather than... well, short and rectangular. As you can hopefully see from the photograph it is a fair length - approximately 6ft long when draped horizontally. It has pockets for each day in advent (which you then chose and place a little surprise in - we're imagining things like small sweets or chocolates, or small toys (like Lego mini-figures or small toy cars)). The pockets are pegged onto a length of ribbon and are removable for washing, ironing or re-arranging (for those who have small wall space, you can probably be creative with a zigzag pattern to allow them to take up a little less wall space or accommodate corners and re-spacing after being removed from storage in subsequent years).

All in all I found it a wonderful advent alternative for a child (this one may go to my niece and be filled with a mixture of chocolates and surprises).

Price: £12.99 (on offer at £6.50 at time of writing).

Now this funny fellow is a decorative moose head. I think ideally you'd want at least a couple of these (to be facing each other on opposite walls of a room). He is wall mounted (I know he's magenta, but I think it looks like a 'he') with that standard "keyhole" shape in his back so you can simply put a screw or nail or similar in the wall and slide him into place over it.

I'm going to be honest, he's not altogether my taste and I probably wouldn't use him as an all year decoration; but I could see him being a fun decoration (with a couple of his buddies) I'd use to brighten the room for a bit of a Christmas or New Year's party (along with streamers, balloons and tinsel etc.). These moose heads are available in three different colours: green, magenta or pink.

Price: £7.99 

Now these little darlings made both me and Neil smile. Probably not something we would chose for ourselves, but they definitely have a style all of their own. They are pretty detailed, well made, and a bit of cheeky Mrs Christmas fun for the tree. I think they're styled a little bit like those saucy seaside postcards you used to see for sale around the pier when you were a kid (that you'd look at but weren't quite old enough/wise enough to understand the innuendo-laden jokes) with their rosy cheeks and almost not-quite-so innocent and not-so naughty poses.

I think we'll probably end up hiding this pair in our tree and seeing how many of our family and friends spot them (and smile).

Price: £6.99

Now these are quite nice looking items. We're not sticking them up yet (I'm sure it's bad luck to get decorations up before Christmas actually starts) but they look really nice and will be good either hanging from the ceiling, or used as a table decoration.

Assembly was fairly easy; you remove a paperclip, open the decoration out and replace the paperclip et voila! It can then be hung or stuck on a table or used anywhere you'd usually stick hanging decorations.

Because it is card and paper it is a little fragile and prone to knocks or creasing on the outside while in storage; however these blemishes are unnoticeable when it's opened out (with all the knocks or creases being on the join that is never seen) so it isn't too much of a worry and doesn't affect the final decoration at the end of the day.

All in all it's a nice hanging/table tree decoration and when the time comes I think will look smashing.

Price: £14.99 

Now this is lovely; it's a Christmas present bag. Now I've not put anything in it just yet (I need to get the presents first!) but I think it's a good size to put half a dozen small-to-medium sized gifts in and leave under the tree for Christmas day.

The main material (the tartan) is - I'm not a material person, but I'd say somewhere between tablecloth and shirt in "what it feels like" - which I think means that it should be strong enough for what you'd expect to put in it, and feels more bag like than the either plastic or felt-based bags you often find being mass-produced.

It has a definite traditional feel to it as well as that hand-made quality, and it is something I can see myself using to make some of the gifts I'm giving this year look and feel that little bit more special. Plus it's reusable and will last for many years. There are two designs available on the site: Tartan (as above) or natural linen.

Price: £34.99 (on offer at £26.24 at time of writing)

When I think of nativity sets I find myself thinking of one of the local churches near where I used to live in Bath; every Christmas they would set up a small nativity scene above the entrance to the church which would then be on display throughout December, even being lit up at night by some convenient street lights.

I don't own a nativity, but if I were to chose one I think I would pick something like this. The figures are really nicely detailed and have a good weight to them - not too light, not too heavy; just right.

It's a shame that there aren't more figures you can add to this set, although probably part of its charm is the fact that it is simple and doesn't over-crowd the scene by sticking rigidly to the full compliment of shepherds, wise men and animals. There is something very nice about the uncluttered style of the nativity.  It feels right, possibly as if you caught the whole thing as it was happening - just before some of the visitors arrived to pay tribute.

All in all it was a lovely selection of Christmas decorations, some I would have definitely chosen myself and some I might not have but was glad to have been given the chance to see up close; and to be honest, some of the things I wouldn't have chosen I can see becoming favourites (Mrs Claus being a prime example). So a thank you to The Christmas Boutique for these products to review; they were packaged well, arrived quick and safely and made us realise Christmas is a lot closer than we'd hoped already!