Saturday, 23 September 2017

A surprisingly healthy few weeks of freebies

Well, I started my last post by saying I was going to start blogging weekly. That was just under 2 weeks ago. Meh.

School has started in earnest and I'm 4th in the queue for the laptop. My 3 kids all go to bed that bit later too so by the time I get my go I'm too tired to think. I wish blog posts were as easy as Instagram...

Late summer and autumn is a wonderful time for a walk - the greatest freebie of them all. The colours and smells change, the animals are grown, the leaves start to fall. Plus, there's an abundance of free food in those hedgerows. Off we set through one of my favouritest corners of Derbyshire for a blackberry forage. A tree full of crab apples was a welcome bonus too. We took just as much as we needed and left the rest for others or the birds - there are always plenty to go round.

A few days later my wife magicked these into a wonderful crumble - I don't remember a year we haven't had blackberry something. It's usually a crumble (sometimes eked with elderberries or, like this year, crab apples) but we've enjoyed pies, tarts and I've made a lovely liqueur before now. Popping blackberries into vodka with some sugar syrup at this time of year gives you a stunning drink just in time for Christmas, and the booze-soaked blackberries can then be mashed into whipped cream or ice cream for a boozy dessert.

The Carabao Cup appeared at Manchester Piccadilly station last week. Nobody seemed too bothered to lift it and have their photo taken, the cup seems to be as popular with commuters as it is with Pep Guardiola. Carabao gave plastic cups of the drink away and it was OK, as energy drinks go. I'm not a big user of them but I don't mind them - this seemed very similar to Red Bull (Carabao is also from Thailand) or stores own brand drinks to me. Fine, but nothing different. Other people seemed to disagree and maybe were caught out by it being an energy drink. The outside of the station had a few plastic cups lying around with this yellowy liquid in it - I was reminded of the aftermath of a large rock concert.

Dead Man's Fingers is a small batch spiced rum produced by the Rum and Crab Shack in St Ives. I've
entered a few competitions to try and win a bottle but in the meantime I received half a dozen cool stickers. I suspect they are bottle labels, but the kids loved them as stickers. There's something about skulls and a bit of kudos in having boozy merch on school books, I'm sure.

The highlight freebie of the last few weeks is my huge chimenea that I won from Santa Maria latin American sauces and stuff like that. It's a contemporary cast iron structure and was easy to assemble. We've had about an hours fun with it so far as the weather has been shocking but so far so good. Maybe this weekend we get to taste a marshmallow or 2. I really must highlight the incredible service from Santa Maria - the parcel company managed to lose the original chimenea (how you lose something this size I don't know) and then continued to mess up every instruction sent to them. I won't say which they were but I was tracking the parcel on the internet and it wasn't getting closer to me. The contact at Santa Maria was wonderful and kept in touch for the several weeks it took, even popping in a gift voucher as a gesture of goodwill. I hadn't paid for anything, it was a competition prize! If the customer service for paying customers is as good as it is for comp winners like me then they deserve every success. I must point out that Santa Maria have no idea that I write these blogs or post in Instagram, I was just any other comp winner to them.

I finally got to the end of The Ice by Laline Paull. full review is on Goodreads (yes, it was yet another of their giveaways sponsored by the 4th Estate) . An important environmental message comes through the story line but it did plod along a bit before rushing the finale.

L'Occitane en Provence have some very generous giveaways. One of their Manchester stores happily parted with a sample of a shaving balm in return for a voucher that was offered on the internet. It's lovely - you'd expect high quality as it's not cheap stuff and their shops look quite exclusive. It's on King Street, if that tells you anything. The balm is thick and soaks in wonderfully, lasting all day. It smells fresh and slightly manly but not overly so - it reminds me of holidays but I've never been to Provence.It's a smell I feel proud of when I get on the train in a morning.

Talking of generous giveaways in return for a voucher, Holland & Barrett surprised me when I went
to claim one of their freebies. I was expecting a sample sized jar of vitamin C tablets but no, it was about £9 worth to last 3 months. If I have a cold in the next 3 months I'll edit this post and complain but no complaints so far. they do taste a bit more orangey than the cheap soluble ones I usually get from a budget chain.

And so the last freebie and one I nearly passed up on. As you've noticed, I spend too much time noticing the best things in life and finding little victories that cheer me up cos I'm as skint as most other people with five mouths to feed, clothe and shelter. I walked past JD Williams giving away nags of something as it appeared to be stuff for the ladies and that's not part of
this blog's mission statement! However, a colleague did grab a bag and in it was a very good quality brolly that wasn't overly girlie. Now I love a brolly as the sound of walking under one in the rain reminds me of camping and makes me feel cosy. I went back and was cheerfully given a bag so thanks JD Williams and I'm sorry I won't be buying any frocks just yet. Mrs Blogger has flicked through the magazine though, so who knows.

Not a bad few weeks really. Nearly £200 worth of freebies I reckon and all happily given away. When I started blogging I had 2 rules - I won't lie and I won't beg or blag. See you next week (or the week after, whatever homework allows).

(All the photos are mine).

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Music, curry and clowns - my week of freebies

I've decided to change the way I blog and move to a weekly summary rather than individual posts. I like posting about each freebie on Instagram but trying to come up with something each day about, say, a bottle of Coke can be burdensome. I'll still post book reviews on Goodreads rather than here and link through but all others will be below. I also aim to still give away as prizes any freebies that I've enjoyed but don't want to keep - usually books or DVDs. Follow by email (it's on the right, over there) to make sure you find out when. I might not even run a competition and just give bits away to a subscriber drawn out of a virtual hat.

So here goes...

Sunday started the week well with the culmination of the Town Hall Sessions free music festival in Glossop. It moved into town centre this year rather than being in Bankswood Park in neighbouring Hadfield and several pubs and clubs also held gigs. Due to other commitments I didn't get to see as much as I liked but I did catch the closing set from Rook and the Ravens and they were excellent, as expected. Quite a coup getting a decent band like this at a free festival. They've been going for a few years now and have a great catalogue of songs (and singers) to choose from. Great weather and a decent turn out - roll on next year.

Monday was a Bank Holiday and a chance to try a free sample of Simoniz car shampoo. Instruction were followed to the letter and the results were fine. Nothing more special than most other shampoos but no smears or marks so fair enough. First time I've actually enjoyed washing a car for a few years too, not sure why that was. It looked great all week until today. I had to park under a telegraph pole yesterday and now it's splattered with starling cack. Gits.

On Wednesday I spotted the smiling face of a jolly chap outside Leon's on Piccadilly Approach in Manchester. Nothing unusual about that but this chap was holding a tray of samples. Free food is always good even in small amounts, and Leon's is good food. The South Indian spiced fish was delicious. Nice chap informed coley from Scotland and it was lifted with a creamy coconut and turmeric sauce. Slightly spicy but not too much to take away from the fish, although coley does have a stronger flavour than most white fish and can carry off spices well. It was on a wee bed of Leon's rice that is a triumph in itself. It's brown rice and is also lightly spiced or dressed in something to give it some body. For those not in the know, Leon's does fast food in a healthy and generally ethical way. Walk in, tell them what you want and it's already cooked just like any other fast food joint. The difference is that this is healthy stuff cooked well. It's a pay day treat as ethics don't come cheap but it does make a change.
me that the fish was sustainably caught

Also on Wednesday was the usual Shortlist magazine, I'll write more on this another time but it's a free magazine I look forward to each week and go out of my way to get. As I do with the Manchester Evening News every Thursday - it's jobs day!

The week finished with me finishing off another book that I was lucky to win in one of Goodread's giveaways. Clown Wars : Blood & Aspic is dark humour or humorous horror, whichever way round you prefer. It's gruesome, sickening and genuinely funny and a clever satire on the state of the modern world. The pictures in my head were like scenes from the League of Gentlemen and the plot like a terry Pratchett. My full review is on Goodreads and I can't wait to read the rest of the series. Nice of the author to comment on my review too.

So there it is, my week in freebies. Not a bad haul and not a penny spent on all those. I'll leave you with another freebie - a ten song Spotify playlist to see you through until next week.