Friday, 16 February 2018

The angst of the weekly food shop - 4 hacks to make it less stressful and how to stick to the budget!

Like most families in recent times, we’ve discovered that (contrary to what the supermarkets will have us believe - shopping basket comparisons, blah blah) buying the weekly shop has definitely become more expensive. I’m a strict stick-to-the-budget-every-week kind of woman, but I’ve noticed its getting harder and harder to stick to the target each week.

So, Operation Clawback is in place…

1: Internet shopping is the way to go...
I do our food shopping online. I hate, HATE, doing those massive supermarket shops. Just looking at the image below makes me feel stressed! I used to shuffle around the enormous supermarket every Saturday with armfuls of toilet roll and bread and bleach, trying to find where the husband had wandered off to WITH THE TROLLEY AGAIN, and swearing under my breath because of PEOPLE! But I find its so much easier to stick to the budget when I shop online. I can find all the special offers in one place, I can compare prices much more easily - and, crucially, I can see how much its going to cost me before I pay.

The angst of the weekly food shop - 4 hacks to make it less stressful and how to stick to the budget!

2: I buy from more than one place…
Having said what I said in the last paragraph, I do still do a supermarket shop - but this time it’s in a much smaller supermarket that I know (because I’ve methodically, aka sadly, checked prices against my usual shop) is cheaper for specific items. Basically, we're talking Aldi time. It’s a quicker shopping experience because I know exactly what I’m going to buy and it’s a much smaller shop so I can be in and out in half an hour.

3: The supermarket checkout lottery
Now there's something that always has a kind of ‘game show’ feel about it when you shop in the actual, you know, shop - you never quite know how much its going to cost until you’re there with your purse in hand. Of course, you could fastidiously add it all up as you go round - but no, I don’t think my brain could cope with that. At least, not when it’s also trying to cope with working out Will We Like It/Is There A Cheaper Alternative/How Long Does It Take To Cook/Is Anyone Allergic To It/How Long Will It Last/What’s In It/Is It Healthy Or At Least Not Unhealthy, etc, etc, etc. Throw ‘adding up as I go along’ into the mix and I might crawl into a ball on the floor and start to rock… So, here’s a tip for you: a friend once told me that her mum advised her to basically round everything up or down to 50p or a £1 as it goes in the trolley. So, as you tip those 25p tinned tomatoes into the trolley mentally think “50p”. As you choose a that toilet roll for £2.00 think “£1”. It makes it easier to add up - and can actually be surprisingly accurate. Well, it used to be surprisingly accurate. Now I find you need to round up and down to £1 or £2. See, I said food prices were getting more expensive!

4:Impulse buying be gone!
But overall online food shopping for me is the way to go. Plus, I can do it by myself. No family chucking stuff into the trolley without my noticing (Fray Bentos Pies that sit so long in the cupboard they almost become part of the family), no complaints when I buy something they don’t like/want, being able to stick to my list. I know the apparent trend now is not to do a big weekly shop - we’re all supposed to be nipping into the local mini-supermarket on the way home to buy food for the next 24 hours and no more. Living for the moment. Fancy artichokes on toast and balsamic flavoured ice cream for tea tonight? Then that’s what we’ll be having. Not in the PhotoFairytales household though. I’m sticking to the retro-style weekly shop. Besides, it means we have that lovely cupboard glut sensation. You know, that feeling when you’ve just done ‘the big shop’ and the fridge is groaning with salad and freshness, and the cupboards are full of treats and there’s biscuits in the tin.

The downside of course is that by the end of the week we’re down to ‘freezer surprise’ for dinner and eyeing up the chocolate coins the Tooth Fairy entrusts me with…

Sarah :)

Friday, 9 February 2018

Brand New: Engraved personalised oak photo cubes

Oh my goodness, is this really my first post of 2018? {blush} That's a bit shabby, sorry!

I haven't been idling my time away though, I've got some lovely new goodies to show you that have just arrived at PhotoFairytales... I'm going to start today by introducing these gorgeous new wooden photo cubes that are not only personalised to order but can also display four of your favourite photos (they even come with Belgian chocolates inside too!).

These adorable wooden keepsake boxes are a unique and romantic gift idea for Valentine's Day or an anniversary - or just to say 'I love you'!

Personalised wooden engraved photo cubes | romantic Valentine or anniversary gift from PhotoFairytales

There are eight designs available, some are personalised with your chosen name and on other designs you can add an entire message. All designs feature photo slots where you can slide in 4 of your chosen photos - and of course you can swap around your photos and replace them as often as you wish.
Personalised wooden engraved photo cubes | romantic Valentine or anniversary gift from PhotoFairytales

These handcrafted boxes are made from real oak, and are carefully engraved to order. You can either order a box empty and fill it with your own little treats, or you can order it filled to the brim with 30 delicious Belgian chocolate hearts.

Some of the wooden photo cube designs also feature gorgeous little rose gold embellishment, for an extra special little touch!

Personalised wooden engraved photo cubes | romantic Valentine or anniversary gift from PhotoFairytales

A gorgeous romantic gift, and perfect for a 5th wedding anniversary when the traditional gift for that year is wood

This beautiful new range of wooden storage cubes are a truly lasting keepsake for your loved one - do take a look at all the designs available by clicking on any of the images shown above.

Sarah :)

Friday, 15 December 2017

The top 20 things I love about this time of year...

The panic that tends to come at this time of year can sometimes obscure the little moments of pleasure that the season brings - not on Christmas Day itself, but the few days before and after...

Here are my top 20 that I love:

  1. Hoping for snow (or at the very least, a really heavy frost!) - opening the curtains in the morning or glancing out of the window and seeing everything coated in white.
  2. The smell of the decorations box - OK, I know that’s weird, but the box always has a certain type of smell (loft smell perhaps?!) that instantly takes me back to childhood Christmas’s and gives me a little flutter of excitement.
  3. Putting the presents under the tree on Christmas Eve
  4. Having a house full of food and family.
  5. Trying to get the dog and cat to accept they’re going to get dressed up - albeit very briefly!
  6. Cold turkey and chips for Boxing Day lunch!
  7. Mulled Wine
  8. Watching Christmas movies  - I can never decide which one’s my favourite, but I’d say my top 3 are “It’s a Wonderful Life”, “Elf”, “Muppets Christmas Carol”, and “Arthur Christmas”. Oh, sorry, that’s 4. Oh well!
  9. The sparkle of the lights on the Christmas tree
  10. Seeing Freddy dog in his winter coat - technically he doesn’t need it, but he looks so handsome in it…
  11. Enjoying the small squeaks of excitement that my daughter emits every now and then during the couple of days before Christmas Day.
  12. Going off the ‘Wish List’ and surprising someone with a really special present you know they’re going to love even though they didn’t know they wanted it until now!
  13. Going for chilly walks with the dog (bonus if it snows of course!)
  14. Playing ‘Spot the Lights’ to see who’s the first person to spot a house with their decorations up in the run up to Christmas. (I won this year, the neighbours put them up at the end of November.)
  15. Not having to think twice about what to eat - and it being OK to have chocolate or marzipan before lunch (or breakfast).
  16. Candles 
  17. Playing board games over the holiday
  18. Mulled Wine…. Did I say that already?
  19. Taking time off work and knowing that people accept you’re away - it’s the time of year when pretty much everyone is taking a holiday.
  20. That lovely relaxed feeling after Christmas Day when you can sit back and know that all the hoo-har is over and now it’s time to put your feet up.

What little festive pleasures do you have at this time of year? 

Sarah x

Saturday, 9 December 2017

My supremely traditional Christmas, totally under control…

This year I am going to approach Christmas being serene, calm, and so organised I’ll have time to make handmade decorations for the tree.

My traditional Christmas daydream is as follows...

I will organise relaxed yet elegant little soirees where I will invite nearest and dearest to my home (tastefully decorated and impeccably gleaming of course, with a hint of wax polish and cinnamon in the air). I will wear a brand new outfit and serve mulled wine in twinkling crystal glasses (all matching, and enough to go round) and the table will groan with homemade food that would give Jamie or Nigella a run for their money in the style and taste stakes.

The weather will be crisp and fresh - just enough snow to look festive of course, and the kind of snow they have in the movies (ie, the non-melting, non-slippery, never grey - or yellow! - kind). I will line the path leading to my door with those little bags filled with twinkly nightlights.

Christmas shopping will, of course, have been completed many weeks before. I will have spent an amusing couple of hours with a glass of wine sitting in comfort and placing online orders for exquisitely appropriate gifts for each and every loved one. They will be tasteful (of course), unique and in many cases handmade and bespoke. The wrapping will be crisply executed (all presents will be square or rectangular), and the paper will be of beautiful quality (with matching gift tags). There will be enough paper to wrap all gifts (no bare cardboard roll panic for me - no trying to wrap things diagonally in the hope it makes the paper go further - no adding lots of bows to cover the gaps). Talking of gift tags, I will write everyone’s names in a beautiful calligraphic style.

No gifts will feature the description “novelty” - there will be no “bog books*”, no “funny” socks or ties. No ironically bad jumpers featuring reindeers.

All cooking for the Christmas season will be planned with military control thanks to the supermarket delivering everything to my door (everything being in stock of course, no substitutions or items close to their sell by date).

Mind you, having said all that, those Christmas decorations that we put on the tree year after year are a bit of a tradition. And being a bit too broke thanks to Christmas shopping to buy any new clothes - that’s a kind of tradition too. And there’s not much point in twinkly nightlights leading to the front door when they are overshadowed by the neighbours inflatable 6’ snowman.

And it wouldn’t be Christmas if I wasn’t sat hunched over the computer wrestling with the “can I get this cheaper/faster/delivered free/with a discount/with free gift wrapping somewhere else” anxiety and generally prevaricating for so long that inevitably “out of stock” becomes the phrase of the season. And wrapping paper with an identity crisis - coupled with homemade gift tags cut from last years’ Christmas cards - that’s definitely traditional. And having a houseful of guests or planning a party can be pretty stressful - and besides, Pirates of the Caribbean might be on that night - and isn’t it so much nicer to be able to put your PJ’s on hours before bed and nick the chocolates off the tree? And I’m sure Tesco will keep up their end of the traditional bargain and try their hardest to run out of a few essential items (turkey’s, Christmas puddings, bread, milk) so that we can all laugh and embrace the fact that year after year Christmas at PhotoFairytales Towers is always traditional.

And you can’t mess with tradition at Christmas.

Sarah x

* ‘Bog Book’ - a book, usually novelty, that is only ever read on the loo. Often contains “amusing” pictures of old cars, bad haircuts, interesting facts and figures that are instantly uninteresting and forgettable, etc.

Friday, 8 December 2017

Christmas: Last orders and opening times

Here's a round up of all the last order dates for delivery in time for Christmas - please note that I am now unable to accept overseas orders in time for Christmas I'm afraid. The following dates may change over the next few days, so please visit the Christmas Opening Times page on the website for the latest information - just click on the image below:

Opening Times over the Christmas period: I will be closed for a Christmas holiday from midday December 19th and will reopen on January 8th 2017. The website will remain open and you are very welcome to place orders or contact me while I'm closed, but please be aware that I won't be able to process your order or acknowledge your message until my return.

Last Orders by Date:

December 3rd:
Wooden Gifts 
Birth Announcement/Invitations 
Fantasy Portraits with Greeting Cards 

December 7th:
Mixing Bowls 
Fantasy Portraits with Canvas Prints
Gift Plates 

December 10th:
Memory Card Game 
Photo Albums
Board Books
Bunny Rabbit Family Prints
On Our Wedding Day Prints
On This Day Birthday Prints

December 11th:
Love Gift Boxes
Rocket Photo Holder
Christmas Eve Boxes

December 12th:
Family Tree prints, A3 size
Fantasy Portraits with Unframed or Mounted Prints

December 14th:
Canvas Prints
Blue Heritage Plaques
Round Wall Plaques/House Signs  
Hoop Prints
Fork & Trowel Garden Sets
Personalised Gift Sacks
Family Tree print 8x10" size
Metal Street Signs
Fantasy Portraits artwork only   
All Personalised Prints in A3 size  

December 15th:
Official FC Gifts 
All Personalised Prints in 8x10" size

December 17th:
Santa Letters - UK orders 
Santa Telegrams - UK orders  
Standard Greeting Cards (fast dispatch cards)  
Tooth Fairy Letters 

December 18th:
Gift vouchers 

December 19th: closed from noon

If you have any questions please don't hesitate to contact me!

Sarah x
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