Monday, 8 December 2014

Keeping my toes toasty

Sunday was a day of getting some chores done outside and was also the perfect day for trying out my new Gola* walking boots. When Gola asked if I would like to test drive a pair of their shoes I was pleasantly surprised to see they had an outdoor section on their website. As well as needing some waterproof shoes for everyday wear, as discussed in the last post, I have also been on the look out for some reasonably priced boots for plodding around the wood.

To start the day we, took Paddy the pooch for a wander around the wood and the Gola walking boots proved to be very comfortable and kept my toes toasty - something that my welly boots just don’t do. For hiking, I prefer boots made of leather that I can wax, but for wandering around the wood, shoes that don’t require extra care are much more practical.

When I’m at home in the daytime, Bramble and Forest the ferrets take it in turn with Bracken, the rescue ferret, to play out in the large aviary. They love having such a large space to play in and love digging but I daren’t let them stay in there permanently as they could dig their way out. So, I have made way  to ferret-proofing the small aviary which will become Bramble and Forest’s permanent home. Bracken will be moved into Forest and Bramble’s current cage and run which will be perfect for a single ferret. Sadly, he has to be housed separately because the three of them don’t get on together.

I searched the yard and shed for old bits of mesh that could be cobbled together and laid on the floor of the small aviary to keep the escape artists, in. Attaching sections together, and then to the sides, is a painstaking, fiddly job and took several hours and two finger nails to get it almost done. I am one of those people who always has cold toes, but the Gola boots kept them very warm paired with fleecy socks. When the mesh on the ground of the aviary is completely secure I’ll put a layer of soil over the top and fill it with obstacles and a new bed box. I shall post some pictures when it’s done.

The hens have settled in very well and are extremely tame. So much so, I trip over them constantly as they love to be under my feet. Five of the six hens are laying everyday and we have been enjoying fresh eggs for lunch at the weekends. Now five of them are laying, I can start selling them to help cover the cost of their food. I think they approve of my new boots too!

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Waterproof winter boots for under £40

Living in a wood at this time of year does have some pitfalls: Your hair becomes decorated with teeny tiny birch seeds; acorns drop on your car creating small dimples; leaves blast out of your car air vents and into your face when you turn your car on and it’s impossible to make it to the car with clean shoes.

It’s been raining for several days now which has turned the normally firm car parking area into a pit of muddy gloop- not great when I have my smart work shoes on and the heels sink deep into the sludge and the moisture gets through the seams to my toes.

I have ordinary welly boots for when I clean out the chickens and I have walking boots for hiking, but I would like some sensible yet stylish waterproof boots for visiting the ferrets and chooks and to get to my car complete with dry feet. 

Check out these amazing options I found on the net, including branded names, under my budget of £40.

Winter boots 1

1. Hayley Lace-Up Boot £39.95

Ok, these are a bit weird but I think they are rather funky. They are designed for gardeners but the bright colour and classic boot shape would look cool with skinny jeans.  They would be prefect for festival season too. 

Cute little red suede boots that are waterproof- amazing! The mud may not brush off easily though.

3. Barbour Womens Wellys Low Biker Red £39.95 down from £65.00

Despite being a country bumpkin I don’t own anything Barbour, mainly because their clothes are way above the amount of money I am willing to spend. But these discounted stylish wellies are very tempting. 

4. Faux fur lined mid heeled calf length snow boots £31.50 down from £42.00

Oh these look sooo snugly. I’m one of those who always has cold feet so these would be sure to keep my tootsies toasty.  I would expect them to be of good quality if they are from Debenhams and the discount price is very attractive.

Winter boots 2

Pretty much short welly boots with a folded knit cuff but I could get away with wearing these in the office with thick leggings. 

6. Casual Wellie Boots £17.99

An absolute bargain and if they actually look as boot-like as they do in the pic, then I would be super impressed.

7. Briers Stardust £9.95

Dirt cheap and sparkly - need I say more?

These would look ridiculous but the idea intrigues me. If they are easy to get over my normal shoes and then easy to remove once I get to the car, then they are a winner.

I haven’t quite decided which ones to go for yet. Which do you think I should choose?

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Giveaway: Flutter Butter™ bird feeder and food

The weather is getting colder and soon the snow will may(be) here and even though we look forward to being huddled in front of the fire with slippers on and a hot choc in hand, our little feathered friends won’t have it so easy.

Winter is a tough time for garden birds but putting out some food for them not only brings a beautiful spectacle right up to your window, it also helps them survive the bleak winter. 

Living with Birds sells a huuuuge range of food and accessories for garden birds including over 200 feeders, 50 foods and 100 nest boxes - everything you need to attract beautiful birds such as finches, blackbirds, woodpeckers and sparrows to your garden or yard. 

The wonderful people over at Living with Birds are offering one of my lucky readers an awesome Flutter Butter feeder along with a jar of each Flutter Butter flavour. Just enter using the Rafflecopter widget below for a chance to win. 

Flutter Butter comes in a jar that simply screws into the Flutter Butter feeder and provides a rich nutritious protein boost for birds that is naturally low in salt. It comes in three delicious-sounding flavours - lucky birds! The feeder can be suspended from the attached chain or hung to a wall or fence using the hinged bracket that turns the feeder upwards for easy refilling.

The prize would make a lovely Christmas present, or you could just keep it for yourself (I know what I would do).

The giveaway is open to UK residents only. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Visit or request their free catalogue on 0800 072 0130.

PS. Good luck!
Advertised on

Friday, 21 November 2014

7 animals that Attenborough made up

I love animals and I really love Sir David Attenborough’s wildlife documentaries. Who doesn’t?

But I need to tell everyone the truth and stop this nonsense going on for any longer. Last night while watching the latest episode of Life Story, I had a moment of realisation: Some of these animals he’s showing us aren’t real. He’s just made them up. They don’t exist.

Before getting all “how dare you slag off the eighth wonder of the world which is Sir David Attenborough” on me - just hear me out.

Sir David manages to “film animals that have never been filmed before” then broadcasts them on television and we believe they exist, because he told us they do. After producing over 77 series of wildlife films (that I have counted) he has to have some way of keeping the number of viewers up to convince the BBC to send him to all corners of the planet on holiday. He must have run out of animals to film years ago, so now just dreams them up. We will never find out because all these animals just so happen to be in the depths of the impenetrable Amazon, unreachable at the top of the highest mountains in the Himalayas and in the uninhabitable centre of the Sahara Desert. Coincidence? No, it’s a conspiracy.

I know this sounds radical, but take a close look at these ‘animals’ that Sir David has, until now, managed to convince millions of people around the world that they are real things.


These stupid looking birds apparently stand up to 1.5 metre high and live in marshes and swamps in Africa. This bird couldn’t possibly survive with that ridiculous beak. It would be so top heavy it would fall over. I think Sir David is trying to pull a fast one here.

Image credit


My sister told me that these are made-up (true story). I mean, can you imagine having a tooth that long sticking out of your gob. Why the hell would an animal even need such a stupid implement? Conveniently, they live in the Artic so Attenborough thinks we can’t get there to not find one and prove they do not exist.

Dumbo Octopus

Clearly Attenborough was watching Pokémon when he dreamed up this one.

Image credits

Eastern Long-Necked Turtle

A turtle and a snake photoshopped together. You don’t fool us David.

Image credit

Superb Bird of Paradise

Hidden in the forest depths of New Guinea these male birds dazzle potential female mates with a hypnotic dance. Does that look like a bird to you? I think David was hallucinating while chillin’ out with the New Guinea tribesman while on location when he ‘filmed’ this one.

Leaf-Tailed Gecko

No Sir, that’s a leaf. Do you really think we are that stupid?

Image credit

Giant Isopod

You can recreate this trick at home. Just get a woodlouse and put it in the hand of a Barbie doll.

Image credit 

I’m sorry to be the bearer of disappointing news.  I am truly saddened by my findings. I had the same feeling deep in my stomach when I was 10 years old and compared the writing on my Christmas presents’ gift tags from my parents, to the ones delivered by Father Christmas.

I hope, like me, you can find it in yourselves to forgive our beloved David for this deception that has been going on for several years, and understand he is only doing it to entertain his loyal viewers and to keep up the viewer ratings for the BBC.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Thrifty wedding: The perfect wedding dress for £30

Earlier this year my sister, Sheryl, had the most wonderful thrifty wedding and I have been writing posts to show that a wedding doesn’t need loads of dosh thrown at it to make it beautiful.

Previously I have posted about how she bought her own wedding flowers and arranged them herself and the vintage style name place cards I handmade to cut the cost of the wedding. This time I’m talking about the most important part of a wedding (apart from the groom, of course!); the wedding dress. It has to be perfect. It has to be special. It has to make the bride feel elegant. But when you are on a budget, it has to be the right price too.

Second hand dresses are a great way to get the dress of your dreams at a fraction of the retail price. Even more, you can alter a dress to your liking to make it truly unique. This is exactly what my sister did.

She fell in love with a dress from Phase Eight, which, at the time, was a bit over her budget at £750 and it was no longer available to buy as it was end of line. So, she started looking for a second hand dress. After all, wedding dresses are worn for only a day meaning a second hand dress is more than likely to be in excellent condition.

After a while searching websites such as eBay, Gumtree and Sell My Wedding for second hand wedding dresses she actually found the Phase Eight dress for just £350. That’s £400 less than a new dress and it will have only been worn for one day - bargain!

When she tried on the dress for the first time she was a little disappointed because it wasn’t ‘perfect’. The lace design covered the whole piece and she felt it looked a bit heavy on her. So, she paid a dress maker to alter it. It was an additional cost but it would still be cheaper than buying a brand new dress and it would be truly unique and exactly what she wanted as a result.

The dress maker removed some of the lace pattern from the chest and from an area of the back to reveal the netted fabric underneath. The size of the train was reduced and a ribbon handle was attached the train so she could lift it up while walking. The result was a daintier dress that flattered her small figure beautifully. The dress maker cost just £75 bringing the final cost to £425.

And here’s the best bit; she sold it on for £395. That means the dress only cost her £30! Now, that's an amazing bargain, don't you think?

PS. Have you or would you be happy with a 
second hand dress on your wedding day?

Monday, 10 November 2014

Get a great deal on a (not so) Top Secret Hotel

Last week I received the amazing news that I was a finalist for Savoo’s Smartest Shopper 2014 and I was (and still am) over the moon. The finals were held in London last weekend so I needed to book a hotel to stay in on the Friday night. Even though the price of one night was kindly covered by Savoo, I was still determined to get a good deal. Dave and I haven’t had a break together this year so we decided to take the opportunity to do a bit of sightseeing and spend the whole weekend there.

Visiting London is a daunting prospect for scrimpers and savers like us because everything down there is so expensive compared to ‘ere up North. So, like any thrifty thinker, I set about looking for a good deal on the internet. I knew it was the weekend of Remembrance Sunday and the ceramic poppies at the Tower of London were attracting many visitors to London, so the prices were going to be higher than other weekends.

I headed straight to thinking that there should be some good offers on since I needed a place to stay in just 3 days’ time. The map functionality allows you to look in the area you want to stay and find hotels within your budget, which is very handy.

I saw a notice saying ‘Our Top Secret hotels are so confidential that, unfortunately, they can't be displayed on the map’. I was intrigued. What were these Top Secret Hotels?

Well, Top Secret Hotels are hotels that have up to 35% off the normal price - fantastic news! However, the name of the hotel isn’t provided and neither is the exact location. Instead, a description and a ‘zone’ on a map in which the hotel is situated within, are provided. No biggie though - read on…

I sorted the list by price - cheapest first of course. It was then a case of clicking on each one to see where the hotel was located. I wanted somewhere near to Westminster so I didn’t have far to travel the next morning. I found one which was in the right area, near the Tower of London and at a great price too (compared to the others). It was £252.00 for two nights, two people, compared to the original price of £297.60. It was described as a 5* (!) hotel and had a spa which guests could use.  I got that rush of adrenaline that ‘thrifties’ describe when they find a ‘too-good-to-be-true-but-it’s-actually-true deal.

My big secret about Top Secret Hotels is sussing out which hotel it is. It’s also the most exciting part. Just enter some of the keywords used in the description into Google and scan the results to see if there is a close match. I did this for a few hotels and it worked each time! For my favourite choice, I found the answer on the MSE forum (see screenshot) then went direct to The Grange Hotel website to check it out. After checking out the location and facilities I knew I had found ‘the one’.  I got butterflies in my stomach and I knew I had to have him… I mean, it.

Now, I am a bit of a sceptic so I needed to do some background checking before I fully committed. Was the ‘deal’ just a way of drawing me in and was the room actually any cheaper because of the Top Secret Hotels offer? I did some snooping. I looked for the hotel in the normal section of the website and found it was, in fact, the higher price of £297.60 just like the offer had said. Perfect; it was genuine and honest.

When we arrived at the hotel I was even happier - it was next door to Tower Hill station and the Tower of London which was perfect for seeing the ceramic poppies. But it didn’t stop there - we got upgraded to an executive suite on arrival. How amazing is that!

PS. Do you have any secrets for finding a good deal on hotels? 

Thursday, 6 November 2014

I've been shortlisted for Savoo's Smartest Shopper 2014!

Right now I'm bouncing off the walls because I have been shortlisted for Savoo’s Smartest Shopper 2014 title! I can’t believe I have been picked!

The annual competition is run by Savoo and there is a generous cash prize for thou who shalt be named ‘Smartest Shopper 2014’ as well as a yearlong partnership for a money-saving blog.  Entrees were asked to answer a series of questions regarding their saving tips and explain how becoming a savvy shopper changed their life. Last year Ricky Willis, aka Skint Dad, was crowned with the impressive title and he inspired me to enter the competition this year. Ricky started Skint Dad around the same time as I started The Thrifty Magpies Nest and I have been following his journey since his 4th blog post and now he’s on the judging panel!

The other 9 finalists and I are heading down to London this Saturday for the last stage of the competition which involves an interview with the judging panel. It’s made up of Ricky Willis of Skint Dad, Marc ‘The Negotiator’ Lockley who writes for The Guardian, blogger Miss Thrifty and the General Manager of, Simon Bird. I am so super excited for Saturday and still can’t believe I've made the finals.

Last year I didn’t enter the competition because I didn’t think I had a chance of winning. However, after a year of blogging and amazing support from readers of The Thrifty Magpies Nest I thought I would have a whirl at the questions. I’m so glad I did!

Thank you, so much, to all The Thrifty Magpies Nest readers who take the time to read my posts, leave lovely comments and as a result, gave me the confidence to enter.

Now to dig out that thrifty hat of mine to pack for Saturday!