University: The Student Advantage Card

One of my most treasured possessions is my student card. I never pick up anything without checking if it’s eligible for student discount, as a loyal New Look fan it gets pretty regular use.

 photo 40125005-e185-4ca2-99bf-f928a065ddee_zpsbns5gmrg.jpgOne student discount card I hadn’t come across before now is the Student Advantage Card, and right now you can pick one up free (+ p&p costs). Definitely a bargain compared to NUS cards!

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From paintballing to zoos, clothes to meals out, even driving lessons, this card will save you money at over 3500 locations across the UK. I’d suggest checking on the website as to what deals are available in your area as they are a bit more limited that the usual NUS…but it’s still well worth picking up! I’m pretty sure it might also get you access to Bella Italia’s secret menu too…though don’t quote me on that!

 photo How-It-Works-Banner_zpswjgzjgzj.jpgThey also have a pretty cool calculator so you can estimate how much you could save with one of the cards. It calculated I could save £25.20 in a year…which I was a little disappointed about, but equally the discounts available in the area I’m currently living in are very limited (as there’s no university nearby I can understand why!). I know that my NUS paid for itself immediately when I hit Joules one year (whoops, though it was technically a birthday present!).

You can get a one-year discount card free at the moment, with just delivery charges to pay. Check out if you are eligible here, and get ordering and saving!

This is a sponsored post, but as always all opinions are my own. 

Do/did you take full advantage of student discounts? I know I do, probably too much…it’s so tempting knowing New Look have 20% off at the moment!

Lifestyle: A Weekend in the Country

After a stressful few weeks at work, top of my list was relaxing. Limited screen time, less electronic devices buzzing incessantly at me to action something, and plenty of fresh air. I certainly managed that last weekend!

 photo IMG_2246_zps8vlg4q22.jpg photo IMG_2239_zpst2p6oank.jpg photo IMG_2236_zps6gdxaxel.jpg photo IMG_2225_zpsjkysrmiq.jpgMy dad’s 50th, a hired cottage sleeping 10, family friends and dogs, it wasn’t as relaxing as I had planned but I certainly felt rejuvenated. Days started with helping my mum cook massive fry-ups and debating where to spend the day. The majority of the weekend was taken up with trying to wear out children and dogs. Basking in the sun on Saturday. Discovering that 18 miles on a bike (bought when I was 8!) stuck in fourth gear is impossible (my bottom remains bruised). Sheltering from the cold with on the Sunday. Giant bowls of chilli and tortilla chips. Sending the men outside to BBQ, ferrying food through windows so we could eat without shivering. Sunday roasts. Practicing first aid when play-fighting meant eye brows hit sideboards (it’ll be a lovely scar). Hide and seek in the huge hired house. Board games, films, plenty of baked goods. A pretty perfect weekend.

 photo IMG_2235_zps9i6forwr.jpg photo IMG_2230_zpsnfcv3v5e.jpg photo IMG_2228_zps566yhwwh.jpg photo IMG_2227_zpspt4jpcbc.jpgApart from being chased by cows, and trying to stay standing as my dog hurls himself to the end of his lead after sheep (the far end of the field I hasten to add, I wouldn’t risk walking him close to sheep!).

 photo IMG_2187_zps7kg1evhd.jpg photo IMG_2198_zpsfilewhie.jpg photo IMG_2199_zpsigxncws5.jpgDiet ruined, plenty of baked goods were consumed. A customised birthday cake from M&S was as delicious as it was huge, despite the disturbing green icing. I made some delicious Bounty Flapjack (recipe to come soon), Dad whipped up Peanut Butter Brownies (at 6am…the smell was a killer waking up!), and W made an amazing Malteaser Tiffin that I’m slowly trying to get the recipe for!

 photo IMG_2240_zps0utkak16.jpg photo IMG_2242_zpsqdrhtfyg.jpg photo IMG_2244_zpsdyc3muby.jpgBeing fortunate with the weather on Saturday, I spent the day moaning about being too warm in tights and shorts. The sudden cold snap on the Sunday meant I was hugely grateful for my new Barbour Jacket from Repertoire Fashion. It’s actually a men’s jacket, as I find they fit me better (I don’t have to size up and they cover my bottom adequately). I’ve loved browsing the site as they have some great bargains, though sizes are limited so if you see something I’d snap it up pretty quickly!

 photo IMG_2159_zpscsa0t7l0.jpg photo IMG_2244_zpsdyc3muby.jpg photo IMG_2245_zpsdngc0zcm.jpg photo IMG_2241_zpstc0et5s8.jpgI picked up a standard Barbour Heritage* in navy, though I’m hugely craving the Merlot Red colour now too. It’s perfect, warm and cosy, protective from the wind, yet it allows me to scramble up/down hills and really get a pace on whilst walking. I’ve always assumed you were just paying for the brand, but the jacket just screams quality. I’m not sure I’ll ever buy a different branded dog-walking jacket again! Just excuse the not-so sensible shoes, my Joules wellies have cracked and I’m yet to find any suitable for my wide-calves…

 photo IMG_2229_zpsu1czbbga.jpg photo IMG_2210_zpsy8uxbfra.jpgThe most wonderful weekend, quality time with family and friends, delicious food, and succeeding in wearing out the dog. I rediscovered how stunning the countryside is around Leicestershire and Rutland, remembered how I love using footpaths as opposed to more tourist-y country parks, and I’m itching to pick up an updated OS map (the one I use is from the nineties!). Now if only I could have another weekend to recover!

What have you been up to with your weekends lately?

Food: Bella Italia’s Bargain Secret Menu

An evening out involving delicious food and handsome date? Who was I to say no…? Bella Italia recently invited me and W to try out their new Student menu and we jumped at the chance.
Bella Italia is a family favourite as it has enough choice for everyone. Out of my parents and my sister, one is allergic to citrus, one to tomatoes (shifty eyes…), and one doesn’t eat cheese. It can cause problems when eating out! We all have a great choice at Bella Italia so it’s our go-to for a family meal, and it doesn’t hurt that it’s great value too. And with this menu it’s even better…

 photo c8eedda7-fb49-42b7-8939-fdd3806e549f_zpsxnymooya.jpgFor just £5 with a valid NUS card students have a pretty huge menu to choose from. It’s shorter and more basic that the regular menu, but FIVE pounds?! A KFC can cost more than that…
I was also pretty impressed that there was a good choice of non-tomato options. I was expecting to be lumped with carbonara (no complaints!) but even I had options. Including two pizzas. Most places can’t manage a tomato-free pizza when charging £10+ but here it is possible. Impressed to say the least!

 photo a185efe9-1d06-4a35-ba09-2e854a4f8470_zpsb6dxusdd.jpg photo c9093e59-feaa-4f4d-a344-5204ca29a2df_zpsmfoalyb8.jpgIn the end I did go with carbonara, and very nice it was too. Especially after my customary heaping of parmesan and black pepper. A massive plateful, creamy sauce, and beautifully cooked pasta.

 photo 30cb34fa-d3ca-4194-961f-6b46fb916e1c_zpspsf9jo8b.jpgW made his own pizza, adding ham and chicken. It was “mightily delicious” – he really enjoyed it. For £5 our mains were excellent value, cheaper than some ready meals and a darn sight nicer. They certainly didn’t skimp on the amount of meat on his pizza, or the portion size of my dish!

 photo 72145b0c-6fa0-49ae-b5dc-5d10b2ee1de0_zpsv0elu5xq.jpgI accompanied my meal with a Bella Fresca – a combination of peach puree, rum and some other alcohol. I found it sweet, fruit, refreshing and with a great kick. Whilst it was pricey at just short of £6, most cocktails at Bella Italia are 2-for1 with the student menu which makes them slightly more affordable.

 photo 477cc375-f2cc-4793-b3ba-8431c920dc0b_zpsveqqh94e.jpg photo c6293a79-3e9e-4302-abc6-582172ac7451_zpshfrbn0tw.jpg photo d91213cf-09cf-4e4e-ac0b-366e50113bef_zps7kx15zjp.jpgWe were pretty full after our mains (not bad for £5) but shared  three desert shots. Banoffee Pie wasn’t great, rather artificial tasting and a bit gloopy. Panna Cotta was the best, tart cherries, sweet syrup, creamy base. The Amaretto Chocolate was good, but scarily rich and a little too cold.

 photo c1ddfd40-b47a-4609-9420-99430d20aebb_zps08o8ybn6.jpgService was excellent, friendly, smiley, without being awkward or over-the-top. I’d perhaps suggest they don’t flash the lights on and off with a Happy Birthday (I’m badly affected with dizziness when there are flashing lights), but other than that I thoroughly enjoyed my evening. After this carb-fest then a weekend away I definitely need to get back to my healthy-eating!

Have you ever been to Bella Italia? What did you think? What’s your favourite Italian restaurant?

Lifestyle: Time for an Upgrade?

Mobile phones are the bane of my life. I seriously have the worst luck with them!

 photo 8b71cff1-d327-4905-be59-ae6c7c65d477_zpsr5aqvfb3.jpgMy first one was the only one that never caused me a problem. Long live the Nokia 3310! It went down hill from there. The Motorola Razr with dodgy hinge. The Samsung Tocco with no back and unpredictable touchscreen. The Samsung Galaxy S1 – if you turned it off, it never turned on again. It would have to be sent off for repair each time. Eventually they replaced it with an S2. This was better, but my first landed in a puddle as I fell (SOBER!) out of a taxi. The replaced version was dreadful, it never charged, overheated, and kept telling me there was no SIM inside.

 photo cdb24974-574a-4192-8e8f-d2e9048987aa_zpseshs8qew.jpgMy current phone is the HTC One, and other than the DREADFUL camera I did like it. Until just before Christmas, when it decided making calls was beyond it. I would ring and hear nothing, despite the other side answering. They would ring and I would answer, but the call wouldn’t connect. Not ideal when you live on your own. My contract is up at the end of August and I honestly have no clue where to go next (I’m not an Apple person). When I was offered the chance to trial a Nokia phone, I wasn’t going to say no!

My first go at a Nokia since the glorious 3310, I was expecting good things. And mostly this phone delivered.

 photo ddaadefb-ec87-4b18-9054-7b167d041c99_zpsiwmoambq.jpgI wasn’t a huge fan of the brightly coloured back. I like my technology to look sleek and expensive, I usually stick to black pieces. This felt a bit cheap-looking and I was self-conscious using it. That said, I loved the size of it. Yes, it’s huge. No, I can’t use it one-handed. But I do like big phones, I use my phone for watching TV and reading blogs so a big (and incredibly crisp) screen was a massive bonus.

 photo 7a3cd91f-42a6-4aca-a20a-4e7c465a8201_zpsq5swrscx.jpgThe camera was excellent. Not as good as my Canon, but infinitely better than my HTC. The size meant it was also easy to hold to phone steady, leading to good quality snaps.

 photo 681ebf77-e217-45bb-9064-27cae44bda4f_zps3g4wj77g.jpgThe speed of the phone also gets a big thumbs up from me. No laggy keyboard, apps loaded immediately, no jerky scrolling. This packs in a powerful processor and it shows – it’s incredible how quickly phone technology is advancing.

 photo 4a7ad006-e891-40c8-aac2-0ce4bddcc60b_zpsf6a2llef.jpgAnother downside though, I wasn’t a huge fan of the Windows system. I loved having Windows applications on my phones (hello spreadsheets!) but the menu design and lack of apps (no Instagram, no Bloglovin) made it hard to love the phone as a whole. This was the dealbreaker for me.

 photo 5e1c206f-621e-49de-ba5c-f4f19b7e89b5_zps2a0l5noa.jpgHad the phone (in a less bright colour) been available as an Android option, I’d buy one in an instant. The size, the tech behind it, everything was great. But I just couldn’t get on with the Windows operating system and limited apps, and for that reason it is likely I’ll be sticking with Android. The only question now is what to look at next!

What phone do you have? Do you recommend it?!

Beauty: Save or Splurge?

I’ve been a bit spendy since last July (hello full-time wage) but knowing I’ll be back to student loan living come September means I haven’t got my thriftiness. I still love highstreet finds, I’m perfectly happy to rummage through charity shops (in fact I occasionally set a whole day aside to do just that!). But there are a few things I’ve splurged on and not regretted it at all – and I’ll probably continue to buy these as opposed to saving a few pennies with cheaper items!

 photo 8529c880-9fe3-4da4-89af-76a4d4ceded0_zpsble5s3cg.jpgSo what do I save on? For me, items which I prefer to pick up cheaper are skincare (everything from moisturizers to cleansers), foundations and concealers. My all-time favourite moisturizer comes in at £4.99 full price (though I usually bulk-buy when it’s on offer). The Garnier Moisture Match range has something for everyone, but the glow-inducing SPF one is my go-to. I’ve used it for years and I’d be gutted if it was discontinued. With foundations, I’m always scared to go high-end in case it breaks me out – what a waste of money that would be! Rimmel do the perfect pale shade that has just the right under-tone for me, and with a variety of finishes there’s one for every occasion. Especially now I’ve finally thrown away my bottle of Wake Me Up – now that was a foundation I hated!

 photo 4d3b6fcd-ef8b-41af-afad-c348947a1579_zpstg8oxbob.jpgSplurging is the much more fun option! I have used Pixi Glow Tonic for a while, and whilst some would consider an £18 toner to be cheap it’s definitely a considered purchase for me. But a bottle does last a good six or so months, and it really does keep my skin in tip-top condition. My Hourglass Ambient Lighting palette was a 21st gift, I adore it though the price still makes me wince. It’s impossible to cake this on, and my skin always looks so radiant. I’m half-tempted to purchase a single pan of the middle-toned shade…that might have to go on the Christmas list though! I picked up one of the Real Techniques Bold Metal brushes, crying inside as I handed over my card. I love the look of it and love how it applies blusher. But £20+?! I’d love some of the others but I doubt it will happen anytime soon! My most regular splurge is probably MAC lipsticks. I wouldn’t say they are worth the price, but the colour range means I’ll always find what I’m looking for, and they have a variety of warm-toned options which I think the high-street struggles with.

 photo d6438dc9-0fa1-40a9-be0f-b93d8f8e9925_zps8wjue4sc.jpgI much prefer to save my money, particular on frequent buys – I love watching my savings climb higher with each pay-check, and knowing that my strict saving this year has meant I can afford a rather nice flat in London for the summer. I make my own lunches, I don’t buy coffee and I have a tight food budget. But I do have my treat items, and I have been adding to my wardrobe a fair bit. After-all, I’m not working hard to not treat myself!

Are you a high-end fan or a high-street girl? What are your treat items?

Saving Money: Down the Plug Hole

There are two things that really bug me when I’m trying to save money. The first is expensive candles – I wouldn’t burn a £20 note, so why burn a £20 candle?! Especially now I know making my own isn’t so difficult..

 photo 2015-04-12 19.06.26_zps0uzxud7g.jpgThe other thing is the cost of water. It’s something you don’t really think about – I know I haven’t really as water bills have always been included in my rent. But starting from next year they won’t be, so I’ve been looking at water costs – and it’s more than I imagined. This all meant I was doubly grateful when Salamander Pumps got in touch with this infographic;

down the plug hole-final

I never really thought that we used so much water a day. Which is bad for an ex-geography student, though admittedly the exam covering ‘Water Conflicts’ was the reason I didn’t get an A* at A-Level (by one single mark #notbitteratall). And most of it gets used for flushing the toilet. That worries me! I live in a rented room in my landlady’s house so I won’t stop flushing the toilet anytime soon, but it’s definitely made me think that the ‘if its yellow, let it mellow’ strategy might come into play when me and W finally move in together and start paying bills (sorry babe!).

*Sponsored post. And that plug hole is the one at work (I’m not shoddy at cleaning), I had to do a rushed picture as my SD card went a little dodgy last weekend!

Do you have any tips for saving money on water bills?