DIY Gel nails at home

DIY gel nail colour

Gel nail varnish stays on for two weeks and has a better finish than normal nail polish. However it will cost you at least £20 every two weeks to have the polish soaked off and re-applied, as well as the time it takes for the appointment.

DIY gel nails are really easy once you know how and it means that you can do your nails whenever it suits you (evenings in front of the TV for me). I like the Blue Sky range but you can also use Shellac, OPI, SensatioNail or any of the other brands. Continue reading DIY Gel nails at home

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Upcyling charity shop clothes – easy no sew skirt alteration

I love rummaging through charity shops to see what I can find. I have brought home some awesome clothes for the kids in the past and things for the house. Quite often I find clothes that I really like but are the wrong size or not quite the right shape, so I have taken to upcycling them. Doing your own skirt alteration may be a bit daunting if you are not used to it, so here is an easy method to alter the length of a skirt that doesn’t involve any sewing!

This skirt caught my eye because of the colours and tweedy pattern. It was the right size for me but way too long. So here is my step by step instructions on how to shorten a skirt using the ‘no sew’ method!

 

The skirt before alteration
The skirt before alteration

1. Get the skirt length right

Use an existing skirt to measure the length.
Use an existing skirt to measure the length.

I used an existing (black) skirt that I have to guide me in the right length for my alteration.

Measure the skirt’s length from waistband to hem and then pin that same length along the fabric of your skirt to be altered. Try it on at this point as the waistband of one skirt might sit higher than the waistband of the other, which would result in the wrong length! It’s also worth trying the skirt on with the shoes you would normally wear with the outfit, as heels vs flats will make a difference in how the skirt sits on your hips.

Measure the hem allowance.
Measure the hem allowance.

Cut the excess fabric off, leaving around 5cm additional length for your hem. If your skirt is lined (like mine was) then just cut the lining to the same length for now.

 

Cut away!
Cut away!

 

2. Create the hem

Iron creases into your hem allowance to create the folds for your hem by folding the fabric up into the wrong side of the skirt. It can be easier to do this if you turn the whole skirt inside out. You want to fold the hem up about 2cm, iron it flat, then fold it up again, about 2.5cm and iron it flat again.

By doing this you will make sure that your hem is even all the way around and you can double check that the skirt length will be even all over, using a tape measure. Pop a few pins in and try the skirt on again.

Fold, iron, fold, iron
Fold, iron, fold, iron

3. Iron in place

Iron hemming tape in place.
Iron hemming tape in place.

Once you are happy with the hem length you can iron in the hemming tape (Wundaweb). Take care not to touch it with the iron as it can get very sticky!

 

4. Dealing with lining

If your skirt is lined you will need to lay it flat and mark out the final length of the skirt on the lining using either pins or tailor’s chalk. For the finished garment you ideally want the lining to fall 2-5cm shorter than the skirt, so cut away any excess and repeat steps 2 and 3 for the lining.

Because lining fabric is harder to work with I tend to pin it through to the ironing board to keep it in place better. For lining you want the hem to sit on the outside of the skirt so that any rough edges are away from your legs.

 

Cut away excess lining.
Cut away excess lining.
Pin the lining to the right length.
Pin the lining to the right length.
Pin lining hem.
Pin lining hem.
Iron into place.
Iron into place.

5. Wash and iron – finished!

The finished skirt!
The finished skirt!

Here are the tools needed to do the job with a link to suggested products on Amazon:

How I cut our energy bills by half

Energy Company logos

I realised this week that we have cut our energy bills (gas and electricity) by half compared with what it was this time last year. I’m quite proud of that! I haven’t done anything radical, but I have played the system a bit, so here are my tips to see if you can make a saving too.

You probably shop around for a mortgage deal and the best credit card, so why not your energy account too? We’ve ended up saving hundreds of pounds per year on our energy bills, which actually makes me quite embarrassed now that we paid so much before!

[At this point I will declare an interest that I have an energy company as a business client, but what that does mean is that I can share a bit of insider knowledge!]

1. Get an online account

Most of the UK’s energy providers allow you to register for an online account. This enables you to access your details via the web and gives you better visibility of your energy usage and therefore puts you in control. Look for a ‘log in’ or ‘register’ button on your energy company’s website.

2. Check you are on the right tariff

Using your online account you can see if you are on the right tariff for your needs. If you have come to the end of a fixed term deal (just like mortgages you can get 1-year or 2-year fixed price deals for energy) you may have been transferred onto a standard tariff, which is normally higher rate and will be costing you more. Use your company’s tariff checker to see if you could save money by switching to a different product. Before you switch check if there is an exit fee for the product you are currently on.

3. Select the money saving options for your new tariff

Some companies give discounts for paperless online billing and monthly direct debit. Unless you have an aversion to either they can save you a reasonable amount of money (£50+). If you are on a pre-pay meter try to get a credit meter installed as they generally offer better priced deals. If you opt to take both gas and electricity from the same provider you may also qualify for a dual fuel discount of £15-£20. Some providers offer extra benefits such as Tesco Clubcard points or Amazon vouchers either as a one-off golden welcome or as an ongoing customer benefit, so take those into account too.

4. Opt in to price alert emails

Some providers will notify you each time they drop their prices or issue a new product that could be cheaper. Other providers will notify you 6-monthly. Either way, it is worth signing up for this service as it ensures that you are kept up to date on the latest deals from your current provider.

5. Join the Cheap Energy Club and switch supplier

Sign up for Moneysavingexpert.com’s Cheap Energy Club. This works as an intermediary, using the collective buying power of all the members to negotiate the best prices for a fixed time period. Again, it is worth signing up to join the club and you will be notified when a collective switch is available. When the switch opportunity comes along you get to select the best tariff for you, from whichever company you want, and the switch is managed via the intermediary.

Before you switch just check out the green credentials and customer service ratings for your new supplier, as it is sometimes worth paying a little extra to get a good service. You can however even use the club to switch tariff and stay with the same supplier.

6. Get accurate bills

Estimated bills are not good for you or the energy company, so provide regular (at least monthly) meter readings (either online or via your company’s mobile app) to ensure that you get an accurate bill. Otherwise you could be paying over the odds for energy you haven’t used. Watch out for what they call the ‘billing window’ which is a period during which the meter reading/estimate that is on the system is used even if you provide an accurate reading.

Once Smart Meters are installed across the country you won’t have to provide meter readings any more as they will be automatically transmitted to your provider, but for now the responsibility is for you to provide accurate consumption data to your provider.

7. Cut your energy use

Whilst the biggest savings to be made are by switching supplier and/or tariff you can still save money by cutting down on the amount of energy you use.  A lot of the energy saving tips will save you a few pounds a year, but I discovered that the biggest savings you can make are by turning your heating and/or hot water down by a few degrees.

Being completely nesh [Nesh: Nottingham slang for a person who feels the cold] I couldn’t face turning our heating down but have dropped our water temperature to 60 degrees (Hot water should be stored at 60 °C at least in order to kill legionella bacteria.) No-one has noticed and I am sure it has made a difference to our energy bills!

Many energy companies offer an energy saving tracker tool online, or a counter-top energy monitor which are worth using for a while at least to understand where you use energy and how you could make savings. Worth looking into if you have the time and sufficient attention span!

I’d love to hear how you get on and if you manage to make savings too!

Sharing my energy saving tips

Engergy saving tips

Brrr! A bit frosty isn’t it?! If, like me you feel the cold and have to stop yourself from turning the heating up the minute the temperature drops below ‘mild’, then these easy energy saving tips could help you avoid nasty energy bills.

Cold weather pushes up our energy needs as we have the lights and heating on more, and typically boilers need to work harder to push out the same amount of heat. We all know that insulation is a good thing, but what if you don’t want to go to the expense and upheaval of major DIY? According to USwitch turning your thermostat down by 1°C can save you as much as £60 per year, so by avoiding putting the heating on for a while or keeping it at a lower temperature you could save yourself some dosh. Here’s how I avoid wacking the heating up to tropical:

Layer up

Love your jumper
Love your jumper

Don’t just pop on an extra jumper, make sure you are layered where you feel the cold. Wear thicker clothing or thermals under your clothes. Several thin layers are typically more effective than one thick layer, with the added benefit of being able to peel a layer off if you get too warm. Wear slippers to keep your feet warm rather than shoes or just socks. Most heat escapes from your head, so if you are really cold wear a hat! Once your face starts to freeze you might need to pop the heating back on again though!

 

Such a hottie!

Hot water bottles are not just for bed time. Keep one on your lap if you are sitting at a desk working or snuggling up on the sofa under a blanket. It’s amazing how much heat they retain and they really do keep you warm.

Close curtains and blinds

Close curtains or blinds as soon as your heating comes on, and to retain heat in the room in between. Curtains should be tucked behind the radiator if possible as otherwise the heat will just escape up behind them and straight out the window rather than into the room.  If the sun comes out then throw the curtains open wide as the sun will naturally warm the room.

Use your doors

By keeping the doors of rooms closed you will stop warm air escaping into rooms that aren’t in use. Given that heat rises the upstairs and loft doors (if you have them) are the most important to keep closed. If you are going to be in one room for a period of time close the door behind you to keep the heat in. It really works!

Bleeding heck!

Use a radiator key to bleed any air out of your radiators whilst they are cold. Air stops the warm water circulating properly and can make radiators less effective.  Don’t put anything on top of, or in front of radiators as this stops the heat getting out into the room.

Move it and shake it

Being active warms us up, so move about every now and then – dance to the radio, tap your feet whilst sitting down or get up and have a stretch to get your blood pumping.

Time for a cuppa

Warm drinks are your friend and go nicely with a biscuit. Ginger is warming, so Lemon and Ginger Tea is idea. So pop the kettle on for a tea or coffee and top up your hottie at the same time.

So, you’ll be dancing around wearing multiple layers whilst trying not to spill your tea in no time at all! Stay warm!

(Image credit: Freepik Vectors)

 

 

Easy way to always bag a bargain

Always bag the best bargain

With the sales happening in the shops and online how do you know that you are getting the best deal? How do you know if the heavily discounted item is a bargain or not?

Here’s a really simple way to check prices and make sure you know where to bag a bargain.

This simple app is called Red Laser and is available for Apple, Android and Windows mobiles and tablets.

Red Laser
Bag a bargain with Red Laser!
  • Simply download the app from the app store to your smartphone or tablet
  • Scan the product bar code or search by product name
  • The app will show you the best prices for that product online
  • You can look for local retailers or product reviews
  • Add things to your favourites or lists so you can come back to them later.
  • You can scan in your store cards so that you don’t have to carry them all around with you

The app does loads more, but those are the key points.

I’ve used it for books, printer ink cartridges and lots of other things in the run up to Christmas.

Happy shopping!

 

 

 

 

 

5 ways to get free ebooks

look

Ebooks are great. OK, they will never replace REAL books where you get the joy of ownership, the feel of paper in your hands and the pleasure of being able to use your favourite bookmark. BUT eReaders and eBooks are great for avid readers who have run out of space to store their library of books, for taking multiple books with you which would otherwise not fit in your bag, and for the fact that there are loads of free eBooks out there just waiting to be read!

Just a word of warning – Kindles will only accept eBooks in their particular file formats, hower you can convert ePubs to Kindle by using the Calibre software. Kobos allow you to read books from any source (Kobo store or other) so long as they are in ePub format, and iPads and other tablets allow you to read any format via the eReader apps – Amazon, Kobo, Nook and Bluefire for instance.

1. Libraries

Most local libraries offer free eBooks for loan. If you have a library card then check online or ask at your local library. In Nottinghamshire we are given a pin number and you simply log in, find a book and download it to the Bluefire app and off you go. You get to borrow up to 5 books at a time for loan periods of 1 to 21 days (depending on the publication). If the book you want is out on loan you can request it and you can opt to be emailed when it becomes available to you. The drawbacks are that the ePub format won’t download to Kindles, and works best via the Bluefire app on iPads. Most libraries have a decent catalogue but it is not always up to date with the latest titles.

2. Amazon

Amazon compiles a handy Top 100 Free eBooks list, but you can also search for books by price by using this handy link from MoneySavingExpert. That second link lets you narrow down the list by category, recency and author to find the books you want using the left hand menu. Don’t search or you will end up back in the paid section!

MoneySavingExpert Forums also have a thread where users post free books they have found – on Amazon or other sites, so join the forum and follow the thread to be notified of free eBooks by email.

3. Kobo store

The Kobo store by WH SMith has over a million free eBooks, which you can read via your Kobo or the Kobo app downloaded to any tablet.  Just visit the site to create a Kobo Store account (free) and start adding books to your library. Then access the store via your Kobo eReader or download the app and sign in to your account from the device. Your books will be visible in your library and ready for you to read! The free eBooks available from Kobo are listed here.

4. Barnes & Noble Nook store

The Nook eReader is supported by an extensive store of books by Barnes & Noble. They list nearly 2 million free eBooks on their site, so once you have set up your

5. Other useful sites

There are a host of other sources for free eBooks including:

Apple iBook – This app come pre-loaded on most Apple devices and allows you to access a range of free eBooks. The range is limited compared to other sources but still worth a look.

eBook Friendly site lists a good number of sources in their post.

And if none of those have the ebooks you want for free, then sorry folks you will have to buy them!

Have you found any other great free eBook resources?