Top 5 Low Cost Ideas to Have Fun This January

January is not the most fun month of the year.  The weather is gloomy and it can be very cold.  The bank balance is looking rather depleted after Christmas and the January sales really haven’t done much to help this.  But think of it another way, you are going out far less so saving that money you hadn’t been paid yet and may have otherwise spent.  This is the perfect opportunity to catch up on fun activities that maybe you didn’t have the chance to before.

Here are my top 5 low budget ideas to have fun this January without having a drastic effect on your bank balance.

Go out for Dinner using Restaurant Vouchers

We all love going out for dinner, I know I do but it can be a costly pastime.  Going through websites that provide discount vouchers such as Buyagift or My Voucher Codes can give a reasonable saving plus you may discover some wonderful new restaurants that you might not have otherwise.  For example Buyagift has a 2 for 1 on a 3 course meal at The Hilton on Park Lane costing only £49.  Naturally I couldn’t resist and had to look at the menu – it’s what I do lol I AM food obsessed!  The menu is varied and I must say looks good enough to entice me out on a freezing cold winters day / night.

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The rest of my suggestions will be based from home making them equally as fun but also a little lighter on the pocket.

Dinner with Friends

This can be pretty pricey if one person foots the bill and that is not what we are looking for.  Each guest will bring a dish (prearranged so you don’t all bring a main and miss out on dessert as that would be a disaster).  Don’t forget to ask them all to bring a bottle of something alcoholic or not.  Avoid pot luck as I’ve been invited to these before and once you have tried the 3rd persons offering of a potato salad you can get pretty fed up and it’s not so much fun.  Everyone tends to have a speciality dish which they can whip up fast or at least easily and tastes great.  Another option that leads on from this is a theme night.  These can be petty fun (don’t forget you also have the option of fancy dress too here for those so inclined) and you can try some delicious dishes without is costing a fortune.  For those that lack confidence in the kitchen you have two options either buy a dish or simply arrange a few evenings with friends where they can teach you how to make various dishes as in my last suggestion.  Not only is it great fun it also increases your cooking range and makes meals far more exciting as you can improvise with ingredient the next time you make the dish to create other dishes.

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My Courgetti, Tomato, Chorizo and Olive recipe is easy to make, low calorie and very tasty.

Movie Night at Home

Movie night can be great fun and pretty inexpensive too.  I love to snuggle with my daughters and little boy on the sofa and watch cartoons or animated movies whilst nibbling on homemade popcorn and a share bag of chocolate.  Alternatively, once the kids are in bed it’s always nice to snuggle up to my husband and watch a movie.  If we are feeling social then I tend to grab the phone and invite a few friends over.  We love to sit around the tv watching movies and munching on snacks and drinking wine or hot chocolate or one of my homemade cocktails (I have enough alcohol to stock a bar it’s great! – surprisingly I don’t drink very often).  Again the expense is minimal if all contribute and this can often be a fun night in catching up and enjoying a great film.  I am hoping to have some friends over soon for one of these nights in – for my friends reading this, whatssap message coming to your phone soon!  PS. I have a new dessert you simply must try!!!!!!!!!!!

PPS.  Can you let me know which of these you want to watch???

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For any of my readers that might like to watch any of the above movies they are very well priced on Amazon.  I found The Hobbit for £4.49 on there, bargain!

Games Night at Home

This has got to be one of my favourite things to do along with watching movies with anyone that will watch them with me and dining in or out with friends and family.  Whether I am playing board games with the children or with our fabulous Marble Run (I love this it’s fabulous!!!!!) which is perfect for children and those like me that are very young at heart.

You have to see this in action it’s so much fun!

Want an adults night games night instead.  Not a problem again you can grab your board games and interactive games and have a great time.  My friends have various versions of Scene It and one recently bought a Disney one.  I can’t wait for her to bring it so we all have a play I think my chances are pretty good if the questions are about the movies and nothing too complicated!  That is definitely something that will make a fun evening in.  There are other versions of Scene It including a Harry Potter one, Friends, Music, Movies and others.

Baking / Cooking with Friends

As I mentioned we all have dishes we are fabulous at making and that our friends would love to learn to make too.  An evening in teaching each other how to make them would be something that I would really enjoy and would be beneficial to all.  I have been promising one of my friends that I would help her learn to make my pavlovas.  I will agree they are brilliant and that’s not me tooting my own horn – you simply must try one to fully appreciate how good they are.  These are a favourite amongst my family and I am always asked to bring one to family get-togethers.  Why not take a look at my Black Forest Fruits Eaton Mess, or my Eaton Mess with Pimms recipes to get a simple and delicious pavlova recipe.  Eaton Mess basically includes a broken up pavlova with some kind of fruit and cream added and is a lovely recipe.

    It is of course easier to see them being made than to follow instructions which are not always clear.  Having taught people / trained staff in the past I learnt that that the best way to learn is to do it yourself so having friends over or going to them and talking them through a recipe can be the best way to teach them how to make it plus it’s fun.  The best part is that they might let you try it after too, yum!!!!!!
 
What do you think of my low budget ways to enjoy January 2017?
Do you have any suggestions that you might add?

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Did you Cut your Spending this Christmas?

I have been reading all sorts of articles over the Christmas period from those about gift ideas for various members of the family, great party food ideas and more.  Some of these were found online and some I found in my inbox.  One that caught my interest covered spending over the Christmas season.

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An online voucher company recently did a survey and discovered that 42% of those asked have tried to save money this Christmas.  It’s not surprising Christmas is an expensive time of year and it’s hard especially when you have little ones not to feel that you should get them the latest toy that they really want and have been on about for the last month and a half.  With our desire to make Christmas as special and magical a time as possible for children and loved ones some really do get a little spend happy it’s easy to get swept up in the Christmas buying frenzy that seems to happen and sometimes we might swipe the plastic a little too much it’s easily done as by not physically handling cash it can make you a little less aware of what you are spending resulting in quite a few cases in accounts being overdrawn as we venture into the cold January months.  I wrote a post in November titled ‘Save this Christmas and Enjoy a Happy New Year’ which I hope some of you managed to read and this gave some great tips on how you could save money for this Christmas as well as begin working on saving money for the next.

The company that carried out the survey that caught my attention was none other than My Voucher Codes which I frequently use and you can see the full survey ‘here‘.  The great thing about this particular company is that savings are not merely restricted to Christmas time although saving money at this expensive time of year is of course great.  These guys like many other voucher services allow you to save money on a whole array of products /  services from holidays, dining out, shopping for clothes, jewellery, beauty products, the list goes on.  I will be using vouchers to help save me money over the year and might even buy a few Christmas gifts on the way to reduce the load for next Christmas.  I’m quite excited to see they link to the offers on the buyagift page where I plan on making the most of discounts and go on a few of the experiences yet again.  The gift and occasion page is one to keep an eye on for those needing gifts over the year or want to get their Christmas shopping for the coming year finished early.  At the moment many of the stores they list are offering up to 50% off so if you want to grab some bargains why not go take a look.

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Have fun shopping x

Do you use money saving voucher sites like these and which do you use?

Afternoon Tea at Harrods

Having had such a wonderful time when I went with a friend using a Buyagift voucher to have afternoon tea at the Waldorf a little while back we were very keen to repeat the fabulous foodie experience.  Our plan is to work our way through the numerous restaurants and afternoon teas in London and report back to you all so you can see them in action and get a feel of each experience for yourselves from the privacy of your own homes.  Let’s face it, seeing the posts with the food itself makes it much easier to decide where you want to go and I will warn you from now you are going to see some exquisite treats as you scroll down so I really hope you are not reading this on an empty stomach.

We took a look at the Buyagift site as we were really impressed with the level of service the last time we used them.  Yet again I struggled to decide where to go to next as there are so many fabulous afternoon teas on their site which is great for foodies like myself as I love to have a variety to choose from.  Finally the decision was made and thinking back it was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

The title of my post gives it away, but the afternoon tea we decided to experience was at none other than at the world famous Harrods store in London.  Once we ordered the gift experience from Buyagift the voucher took next to no time to arrive which was great as we were extremely excited to get ourselves booked in, who wouldn’t be!  The afternoon tea experience makes a super gift and it’s not just foodies that are catered for on the site, they also have offers for days out, driving experiences, short breaks and much more which is useful to know as Christmas is rapidly approaching.  You might also like to take a look at their special offers, would you believe they have experiences starting from £10!

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The day arrived and in our excitement and chatter about the previous Afternoon Tea we had experience recently the time flew by and we arrived at Knightsbridge Station.  A brief walk and we were at the world’s most famous department store.

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As we strolled through the store taking in the ambience we couldn’t help but notice some gorgeous handbags.

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What more could a girl want, a spot of shopping and a luxury afternoon tea, now that’s my idea of heaven.

Off to the Georgian restaurant with it’s bright airy room and extremely comfortable and spacious seating.  The attire here is smart casual.

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The best time to come or should I say the quietest is during a weekday at around 11.30 when they open.  By about 1pm the room was much livelier although this did not in any way affect the service and it was not what one might called packed.

Tea Time!

A lovely light Jasmine Dragon Pearls, China tea was the perfect accompaniment for the impending feast.

A beautiful selection of savoury and sweet arrived at the table .

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Our server for the two hours (that’s how long a time slot is) was the fabulous Loretta.  She ensured that the service was impeccable throughout the duration of the afternoon tea and was also kind enough to pose for photos too.  If the guys at Harrods are reading this I hope you know how great a member of staff she is.

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The sandwiches were dainty, freshly prepared (the bread was soft and not dry on the outside a tale tale sign of freshness) and there were four different ones plus a warm tartelette with sundried tomato and mozzarella which was yummy with the flavour of the sundried tomato really coming through nicely.  The pastry was lovely and crumbly and the filling aside from the generous chunks of sundried tomato was smooth and creamy.

Sandwiches from left to right (in the photo above):

Egg and cress on plain white bread.  It was nice as I do like egg and cress although I could’t see much cress in mine.  The filling was chunky and creamy and there was plenty of it.

Roast beef with blue cheese, rocket salad and caramelised onions in granary bread.  This was a great mix of flavours that worked well and created a delicious sandwich which you will wish was full sized!  The most prominent flavours were the blue cheese and onion.  The inside of this sandwich was moist which was nice as you don’t always get that with sandwiches containing beef .

Turkey and sundried tomatoes in carrot bread.  The prominent flavour here was the sundried tomato with was nice, the flavours were not as strong as those in the beef sandwich so I would suggest eating the beef sandwich last.

Smoked salmon and herbs in beetroot bread.  I love smoked salmon and it was beautiful complimented by the selection of herbs that appeared to have been blended with butter and spread on the bread.  Just in case you’re curious you can’t taste the beetroot in the bread.

Once everything was close to vanishing the lovely Loretta appeared and offered us another plate.  Of course it would be rude to say no.  After the second plate of sandwiches we were ready to tuck into the scones which again appeared perfectly timed like a military operation, it was flawless.  The scones were warm and ready for us to tuck into.  By this stage I was wondering whether I could bribe Loretta to come live at mine she was aware of everything happening in the room and was very efficient and fast.  If the tea needed refilling or even a fresh pot of tea brewed she was there to do just that before we batted an eyelid.  Plates were cleared between courses and fresh ones brought out and placed in front of one person and then a trip around the table (no leaning over one to get to the other) to place the second plate in front of the next person.

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We were brought two plain scones and two with raisins with the option of more if wanted.

We declined a second portion as by this stage we were getting pretty full!

The selection of toppings included lemon curd, strawberry jam and rose jam with rose petals.  Each was delicious but I struggled to decide which to use on the second side of the second scone (side 4).  And then a moment of pure genius I didn’t have to choose I could have all three which I suggest you all try.

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I bet your mouth is watering now, it would be hard to resist these gorgeous freshly made scones which were nice and buttery with a soft fluffy centre.

Next a colourful array of delicious pastries that were simply stunning and tasted just as good as they looked.

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Mixed berry glamour.  This tantalising dessert was mouthwateringly tasty with a refreshing berry flavour.  It was lovely and smooth and not very tart and was one of my favourites from the selection.

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Next along was the vanilla millefeuille with Chantilly cream.  This was divine, the pastry was moist, with a buttery flavour yet still flaky and combined with the vanilla custard and topped with cream, the millefeuille in its entirety tasted superb.  If I wasn’t feeling pretty full by this stage I would have considered second helpings.

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This was followed by the banana toffee cheese cake.  I must admit this was not quite on par with the rest of the pastries but they still managed to vanish all the same.

The vanilla eclairs looked really cute.  The choux pastry was exemplary and these were everything you would expect from an eclair.  With the range now available in eclairs I would personally suggest swapping these for an alternative flavour that is a little more adventurous like a pistachio eclair or salted caramel or the like although we still enjoyed it very much.

Last but certainly not least was the jasmine macaroon.  In a word fantastic!  This was extremely delicate and it was tricky to not destroy it with fingers as it made the journey to our mouths.  This was moist and literally melted in the mouth and was really good.  I freely admit that it is even better than my homemade macaroons, I better get practising!

The final item served was a Harrods trifle which was exceptional.  Although we were fit to burst by the time it came, our plans just to have a just one spoon just to try soon flew out of the window as it was the best trifle ever!!!  This strawberry trifle had just the right amount of sponge, compote, custard and crumbly topping and was expertly made so that the flavours and layers combine like a dream.  It was almost a case of blinking and the trifle had vanishing it was that good and just thinking about it is making my mouth water.

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This was such a great afternoon and the atmosphere in the Georgian room was very relaxed which combined with the fabulous service meas you simply won’t want to leave.  The thought of going back to reality, doing the school run, going home to do hours of homework was not quite as appealing but unfortunately it had to be done.  For the moment I must dwell on the memory and photos from this lovely day out and thank both Buyagift and Harrods for the fabulous service and making this afternoon tea the best I have ever experienced.  Hopefully the next afternoon tea will be just around the corner and of course I will again share some more photos of the delightfully delicious delights with you all.

Champagne Afternoon Tea at the Waldorf Hilton (London)

With Afternoon Tea Week starting next week, yes NEXT week I thought it important to give you all the heads up, well who doesn’t love a great afternoon tea!  From the 8th to the 14th of August it’s officially Afternoon Tea Week 2016 and I am sure like me you are all extremely excited.  To mark the occasion I decided that the celebration of one of Britain’s favourite traditions should begin early and booked via the Buyagift website to indulge in a delicious afternoon tea.  With numerous fabulous choices I must admit it took me ages to decide which to choose as frankly they all looked very delicious and I am easily distracted by pretty pictures of food, aren’t we all?

Buyagift is the UK’s leading online gift experience provider and is one of the official sponsors of afternoon tea week.  They offer over 250 different varieties of afternoon tea with locations all over the UK.  Options range from afternoon tea at the iconic Harrods’ to chocoholic afternoon teas at the Hilton Park Lane and also Hotel Chocolat.  Prices start from a mere £17 for TWO people.  Well i’m sold sign me up for one each day for the next month, in my dreams. There are up to 148 locations which makes it so simple to get booked in locally or further afield should you so wish.

Here are just a few of the teas you can choose from.

Afternoon Tea Cruise on The Thames for Two, £64

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Pass under the magnificent Tower Bridge, see the buzzing Southbank, marvel at The Shard and gaze up at Big Ben from the river – all the while tucking into delicious sandwiches, scones, pastries, and refreshing tea for two! There’s no finer way to see London than whilst bobbing along on the River Thames. Background music is provided by a pianist tinkling the ivories as you cruise along this world-famous river, taking in the sights whilst being served traditional treats and a pot of tea. Don’t forget your camera, as this river cruise on the magnificent Harmony affords incredible and unique views of London landmarks.

Champagne Afternoon Tea for Two at the Cake Boy Emporium, £80

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Celebrity chef Eric Lanlard, the Cake Boy himself, has conceived a mouth-wateringly fabulous cake boutique, in the heart of London’s Battersea, by the banks of the river. With a trendy yet relaxed vibe, this quirky pleasure emporium is the perfect place to while away an hour sipping on organic tea or coffee, and tucking into such sweet delights as petit pains, mini pastries, French macaroons, and delicate fruit tarts. There are scrumptious sandwiches as well, to satisfy your savoury tooth, and you’ll each enjoy a glass of Champagne to help you celebrate the occasion.

Afternoon Tea for Two at Harrods’ Georgian Restaurant, £88

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Harrods is an iconic London institution, famed for its high-quality products, elegant settings and faultless service; its Georgian Restaurant boasts all three and has been satisfying customers since 1913. Recently refurbished, the decor combines the elegance of 1920s and 30s fine dining with modern elements; the restaurant itself is a work of art and a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach. You will be met by staff and seated at an impeccable table before being served a luxurious version of the quintessentially British treat: a range of finger sandwiches, tea pastries, fresh scones with clotted cream, fragrant rose-petal jelly, tangy lemon curd and sweet strawberry preserve. These will be accompanied by the unlimited loose-leaf tea of your choice, to be taken from Harrods’ extensive menu; including the finest teas from around the world, each blend on offer has been specially selected by Harrods’ tea experts.

My choice:

Champagne Afternoon Tea at the Waldorf Hilton (London)

This was £105 but has now been reduced to £69, how fabulous and a bargain to visit such a prestigious and historical location.  The afternoon tea without Champagne price has gone down from £87 to £49.

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Booking is simple you are set a voucher through the post or you can arrange an e-voucher which is a great idea for a gift, hint hint (I’d love to going again).

The staff were very attentive and this chap was keen to pose for a quick photo before rushing off to attend to other guests.

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Doesn’t the room look beautiful! with it’s original chandeliers, pretty coving and pillars.  I loved that it was so bright and spacious with comfortably spaced seating.

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At the door we gave our booking number and were shown to our seats.  Playing in the background, classical instrumental music to set the scene and helping to create a relaxed atmosphere.  A mix aged clientele busily chatted amongst themselves whilst sampling the delectable delicacies laid before them.

The Menu looked very appetising and of course we watched the serving team as they flitted too and fro from table to table with their delicious looking selection of sandwiches, scones and pastries.

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Here there was no need to rush to eat or drink.  I had left the children in safe hands as I wanted to eat in a relaxed manner and enjoy a drink hot, yes hot tea (all mothers out there will understand exactly what I mean and how pleasurable an experience that truly is).

Tea was served, my friend had opted for The Waldorf Tribute Blend which she enjoyed immensely.  I requested the Jasmine Petals and Pearls, a delicious floral tea.  How pretty does the tea look!

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Glass of Mumm Champagne?  Go for it, you really shouldn’t refrain from trying this as it’s a really nice one and you don’t do afternoon teas everyday.

By the time the food arrived I must admit I was starving.  I hadn’t eaten all day as I had been running around after the children.  Everything looked so beautiful and we couldn’t wait to tuck in!  The afternoon tea is served on a three tiered stand made from handmade Royal Crown Derby fine bone china the company who also supply the Royal Household with china.  Touches like this make the whole event that little bit more special.  Who can argue with lovely surroundings, attentive staff, great crockery and not forgetting beautifully prepared sandwiches and sweet treats.

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Everything looked so pretty, it was like a culinary work of art.

Savoury first.

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The smoked salmon sandwich that one would normally expect in an afternoon tea was substituted for rolled smoked salmon with chive infused cream on a pumpernickel disk an unusual change to the norm (I wasn’t sure about the pumpernickel working so well but the salmon and cream cheese was nice).  My favourite was the coronation chicken.  This was simply divine and extremely flavourful and I could have easily eaten a few of the same.  The sandwiches were made with fresh, soft fluffy bread prior to serving.

This was followed by the warm homemade scones with clotted cream and preserve.  The scones were lovely and crumbly and were very much enjoyed with the tea.  The tea was great to clear the palate between samplings as well as being very refreshing.

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The gorgeously presented pastries were next.

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I will confess to have started feeling a little full part way through these but they looked so pretty I had to try them all, it would be  a crime not to.

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My favourite was the coffee mousse cake.  This was smooth, sweet and delicious and perfect for my sweet tooth.

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What can I say this was a fabulous afternoon tea and a pleasure to try.  I strongly recommend visiting the Waldorf Hilton and trying their afternoon tea as it really is delicious and filling.

Fancy Afternoon tea at any of the locations mentioned above or any other Buyagift.com location?

In celebration of Afternoon Tea Week Buyagift.com are offering an exclusive press discount of 20% off all afternoon teas on the Buyagift.com website from 8th– 14th August off some already discounted prices, your readers will simply need to enter AFTERNOONTEAPR at the checkout.

Exclusions apply. Offer available from 8th-14th August 2016.

The afternoon tea was complimentary thanks to Buyagift.com but all views are my own.