When you read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as a child, how desperate were you for the three course meal in one piece of chewing gum to be a reality? I wanted it so badly. As I read it I swear I could feel the hot tomato soup at the back of my throat, followed by the rich, roast beef.

(I stopped imagining before I turned into a blueberry obviously. No one wants that.)

I’ve always been kind of fascinated by the idea of meal replacements. In old school science fiction people of the future were forever knocking back tiny pills as substitutes for entire meals and the principle really appeals to me – I’d never have to worry about ‘accidentally’ eating 14 Oreos ever again. Everything would be so simple. I’d be so slim…

Of course despite what the stories would have us believe, a meal in a pill could never be a thing. You just can’t get the calories you need into such a small thing. Back to the Oreos for me then.

Or is it?

For the last couple of weeks I’ve been trialling a meal replacement system called Solo. Solo is a vegan, allergen free, dairy and gluten free meal replacement powder that you mix up with water to make a shake. It contains all 26 essential vitamins and minerals, 100% of your recommended fibre intake, and can in theory entirely replace regular food.

I say ‘regular food’, but Solo IS food. That’s key here. It’s not some kind of artificially produced powder, it’s made with natural whole foods – wholegrain gluten free oats, pea protein, flaxseed, coconut – real food. There are 42g of protein in each serving, so it fills you up too. I’m genuinely not hungry for several hours after a Solo shake, and I can eat pretty much anything, any time. (See above about the Oreos.)

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When we moved into our new house, the garden had a very distinct look. I’m going to call it ‘prison yard chic.’

Now for some people, the idea of a square of gravel might be bliss – no grass to cut, no plants to maintain – but for me, not so much. Our living room runs the width of the back of the house and has a very big window. I didn’t especially want to sit on the sofa and gaze out onto this:

garden makeover tips

garden makeover

Nope.

I wanted a TROPICAL PARADISE.

I described it to my friend Lucy, and she drew me some stratgeic plans: View Post

A couple of weeks ago I did something that was pretty disgusting but potentially very interesting. I filled a tube with spit and then I took a sample of my own poop.

Even better, I then put both of them in the post.

You want to date me RIGHT NOW DON’T YOU?

I’m not going to go into too much detail about how exactly I did it, suffice to say that it wasn’t the most glamorous of occasions. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being receiving an award at a glitzy ceremony and 10 being the time I accidentally pooped a little bit on a midwife whilst giving birth, it was a strong six. However, when my samples arrive at the Atlas Biomed lab for analysis I’m going to find out some very interesting things about my DNA and my gut bacteria.

Atlas Biomed DNA test

It’s kind of weird really that those are both something that for nearly 40 years I’ve known pretty much nothing about, given how key they both are to how my body works. Both are unique, and important factors in things like disease risk, and yet we wander around, oblivious to what’s going on behind the scenes. View Post

Here are some things I love:

  1. Books
  2. Winter evenings when it’s cosy indoors

For this competition, 1 + 2 = EIGHT books to keep you busy as the evening draw in and you find yourself at home, wondering if it’s okay to watch three episodes of the Dynasty remake back to back.

It’s not really okay guys. Switch the TV off and do something wholesome instead, like enter this competition and learn how to make a bunch of paper flowers.

This competition is brought to you in partnership with The Book People, who I absolutely love. They are such a staple for me, especially in the run up to Christmas, that the top shelf of my wardrobe turns into a big pile of The Book People boxes during November and December. You could do most of your Christmas shopping with them I reckon, and at the same time look way more generous than you actually are, as everything is such a bargain.

In today’s competition, I’ve chosen eight craft related books, which you could either keep for yourself or give away as gifts. I’d recommend going for a general browse through their craft books craft books too though, as there is so much to choose from that picking out these eight was HARD.

So, here’s what we’ve got: View Post

In association with HotUKDeals

God I love Christmas.

I harp on about it, but I really do love it. Mainly I love the shopping and the twinkly lights which yes, I know, is totally NOT what Christmas is about, but YOLO, as I’m sure the three wise men would have said if they’d have thought about it.

What I’m not so keen on is the ‘spending vast amounts of money’ aspect, so I do like to make savings where I can. I’m one of those really annoying people who will buy presents in April if I see something on special offer, (although if it makes you feel better, I will then put said present away ‘somewhere safe’ and forget about it until January.)

I am also, thanks to the bargain hunting skills of an ex-boyfriend, well trained in the art of sniffing out an online deal. HotUKDeals was in fact one of his absolute favourites and he’d browse it regularly, in a kind of excited/guilty way, like other people might look at the profiles of exes on Facebook.

He knew what he was doing though as HotUKDeals is a great way to save cash, whether you’re buying gifts for Christmas or looking for things for around the house and garden, as I am ABOUT TO PROVE…

DUM DUM DUM!

HotUKDeals set me a shopping challenge – exactly how much could I save by exploring the special offers listed on their site?

Let’s see shall we?

The deals on HotUKDeals are pretty easy to navigate. You can either go to the main deals page and see what’s hot, or you can use the drop down menu to explore deals by department or by retailer. Members use the temperature gauge to vote on deals so other users know that the hotter the deal, the stronger the offer.

HotUKDeals

Deals could be anything, from someone having spotted cheese slices at half price in Morrisons to £100 off a mattress. Literally anything, so it’s always fun to see what new offers have been listed.

Now, my mission primarily was Christmas presents, but then browsing through the main deals page I came across this kettle, which I thought would look very nice in my kitchen, and which was reduced from £80. When you find an offer you like the look of you just click on it to find out more and then get linked through to the retailer where you can either buy directly or find out more. View Post

‘THE AVERAGE FAMILY SPEND £2,831 ON CHRISTMAS!’

‘FAMILIES ACCUMULATE £1,298 OF DEBT OVER CHRISTMAS!’

These are the kind of jolly headlines you can look forward to over the next eight weeks – it’s so festive isn’t it? Just what you need to get you into a Christmassy mood. I mean seriously, you’d need a pint or two of mulled wine after reading things like that. (My excuse.)

The truth is though that YOU are not an average family. You are just you, and you don’t need to spend £2,831 or accumulate £1,298 of debt to make all of your Christmas dreams come true.

Christmas chocolates

My Christmas dreams. In a box. In chocolate form.

How much do you spend on Christmas?

So how much DO you spend? Do you think about it beforehand and set yourself a budget, or do you wing it and worry about it later? Aspire Money have put together a handy tool that you might like to have a play with – a Christmas Budget Planner.

The Aspire Money Budget Planner asks you to consider all of your Christmas costs, including those you might not think to factor in, like advent calendars, travel to visit friends and family, and Christmas stockings. (I’m not sure why it includes this though, as obviously Father Christmas takes care of those.) View Post