Countdown to Christmas

We like to try and make Christmas magical by doing different things on the countdown, this can be really difficult with our clashing shifts and work hours. Some of these things will be free, some are not at all free, some things are a one off for this year, some things we do every year, some are indoors and some are outdoors! We put the tree and decorations up before we went away, to make sure the house felt Christmassy when we came back!

December 1st-

We went to Glasgow and headed to the Christmas Markets! A nice Christmassy way to welcome December! We were travelling here specifically for NBC live with an Orchestra, we have never travelled this far for Christmas Markets before! Ended up being cheap as we bought nothing!

December 2nd-

We had booked to see Nightmare Before Christmas, live with an Orchestra and original cast at the Hydro for its 25th anniversary. Super Christmassy, very wonderful and I dont think it is something we will see happening again! I bought middle range seats!

December 3rd-

We watched a program about the making of Home Alone on Netflix, can just pass as Christmassy but had driven back from Glasgow, been shopping for food and also bought some new decorations from the Range! Technically Christmassy to buy decorations?!

December 4th-

Hubby had been working some ridiculous hours today, so the dogs and I watched Christmas films on Netflix! Some of the homemade ones are so good, really give you the Christmas feels!

December 5th-

We watched The Holiday, technically a Christmas film, very good film!

December 6th-

Another Christmas film tonight, with the dark nights and wet weather, this is a good way to welcome Christmas! We havent decided which one yet

December 7th-

We are going for a Christmas meal with friends at their house, this should be a nice cheap evening, with board games and festive things!

We haven’t planned out any other specifics yet, but the other things that we like to do are:

  • Get Christmas Hot Chocolates- home made or shop bought, maybe both
  • Go out for a Christmas meal
  • Wrap presents
  • Watch many of the Christmas films we love, Polar Express is saved for Christmas Eve and Elf is always on Christmas day! Other films: Christmas Chronicles, Home Alone 1&2, Santa Claus 1&2, Get Santa, Jingle all the way, Die hard (!?) and I am sure there are others!
  • Go light hunting, this is sometimes done more than once, we pick a direction and head off looking for the best light displays in our area, the dogs come too!
  • This year we will be decorating a second tree, which my mum is giving to us
  • Adventure to local shops, garden centres and local markets to get that buzz and find local gifts
  • Hubby has a December birthday, on that day we ignore Christmas and make it about him!
  • Do the gift delivery to family
  • Go to Santa night if not in work!
  • Wear Christmas clothes, this can be just around the house, to work or when we go out!

Please share any ideas that you do, or traditions that you have, I am always looking to expand my horizons!

December Mortgage

Oh look, a post about reducing/saving money! Thats a novelty at the moment!!

Was: £152,973
Now: £152,475
Monthly Payment: £666.72 + £50
Capital Paid: £498
Interest: £219

I am hoping that January 2020 will see us drop into the 151’s! How exciting! We are still waiting for further information from Tesco regarding them closing and moving us to another mortgage provider, hopefully we will barely notice!

I am happy with our reductions this year, of course I always want more, more of everything, more overpayments, more holidays…but there is some semblance of balance, tipping more to adventure at the moment!

Glasgow

On Sunday 1st December, we said goodbye to the doggies, leaving them with their lovely sitter and drove 4hours and 15minutes to Glasgow! The drive down was great, very little congestion, hubby did all the driving (I did offer to share) and we stopped for a hot drink, krispy kreme donut and burger king on the way!

We arrived at the hotel- Radisson Red- parked up and were just in time to check in. We unloaded our bags, checked out the very lovely room, with perfect views of the Hydro stadium and the Clyde River. Then off we went, using google maps. We wandered into the heart of the city, along the riverside which was beautiful, it was very, very cold! Our main aim was to get to George Square for the Christmas Markets. We had a really good wander around, looked through the Market and all the other lovely shops before getting a bit lost and confused, then headed back to the hotel. We found the local Hard Rock Cafe- this has become an accidental thing, we have glasses from Vegas, London, Edinburgh, Paris and Orlando, we will collect more in New York! We had tea at the hotel, a cocktail and got a bottle of wine- which I have brought home as we didn’t finish it!haha. Food was ok, quite pricey for what it was. I was worried about noise levels in the hotel, but actually, it was all quiet!

Radisson Red in Glasgow: views from the window and our room! We could see the Hydro!

We got up at 8am the following day, got dressed, wrapped up warm and walked to TriBeCa cafe on Dumbarton Road, took about 33minutes. I chose this place for breakfast after googling for the best pancakes in Glasgow! I am a bit obsessed with american style pancakes, I admit, I have issues! We had a thoroughly enjoyable breakfast there, the pancakes were so yum as was the french toast. Hubby had candied bacon on his, he said it was delishious! Once we were filled, we wandered about 15minutes to the Riverside Museum.

Wow, what a museum! We loved it, its up there for me, with the Mob museum in Vegas! The building itself was fascinating, and the inside was just great, really interesting, well designed and interesting space! We spent a couple of hours wandering around and enjoying it all. I am sure it would be easy to spend more time there if you were so inclined. The museum was free, they survive on donations, we donated a tenner for both of us. We then went to the Tall Ship, which is behind the museum on the river. This was fascinating and interesting too, again free, so a small donation was made. We then got the hop on hop off bus, hubby enjoyed lisitening to the audio, I enjoyed looking out of the window. We got off at George Square then wandered down towards Enoch Shopping Centre. I found Yours, plus size shop and got some great clothes all on offer, yay! We didn’t end up going into the shopping centre, we were all shopped out just from the high street, there are so many shops! We then got back on the hop on hop off bus and got back to the hotel. We booked into the Rotunda Italian restaurant for an early tea, as that night was the main reason we travelled to Glasgow. We had the pre-theatre menu, which was super yummy, it was very busy so the service was a bit hit and miss understandably. Good food, would definately go back!

Mega fit pancakes from TriBeCa, some Glasgow shots and some of the Christmas Market!

The reason we went to Glasgow: The Nightmare Before Christmas, live with an Orchestra, featuring Danny Elfman, Catherine O’Hara and Ken Page!!!!!!!!

OMG, could I be anymore excited?! Probably not, I am a massive NBC fan, watch it every year, got married on Halloween and got the DJ to play some of the songs during the night! We booked the tickets a year ago, when I saw that it was coming over for the 25th anniversary. Hubby decided he would like to see it in Glasgow, as we have been to London a few times and the distance is similar. So, thats how we came to be in Glasgow. He has been to Glasgow before and I hadn’t, and as a massive Scotland fan, I was more than happy to go! We walked the two minutes from the hotel to the Hydro, wasted some time before going to sit to watch the show.

It was incredible, the Orchestra were incredible, Danny Elfman was out of this world, the back up singers were perfection, Catherine O’Hara knocked my socks off and Ken Page was spot on! Best production I have ever been too, I didn’t think I could love NBC anymore than I do, but I do love it even more now! We did queue up and get a program- £15, ouch. But you gotta do it sometimes! After the brilliant show, we went up to the Red Sky Bar at the hotel and had a couple of very expensive cocktails before going to sleep.

The screens at the Hydro, we were on quite an angle, but still a great view! My Sally ears came all the way from Orlando in September, love them! And hubby always looks good!

We then travelled home- the car needs a very expensive part replacing so that made the drive a bit tense, but we got home in one piece!

Costs:

  • Radisson Red- £158 for 2nights
  • Parking at hotel- £10 for 2 nights
  • Tickets for NBC- £124 for 2 tickets including booking fee etc
  • Food, drink, fuel and miscellaneus- £311
  • Hop On Hop Off bus- £32 for 2 of us for one day

What a great short break, Glasgow is a great industrial city, lots of shops etc and plenty to do! If you are thinking of going, stop thinking and go!

December is fast approaching!

I am, and always have been, a Christmas girl! Not in any religious sense, but in a, magical, warm and fuzzy sense. I find all the decorations, lights everywhere, films and songs warm me to my cockles. I love nothing more than snuggling with the doggies on the sofa and finding a Christmas film to watch and give me the feels. It’s a month where the daylight is short, nights are long, the weather is more wet (if that’s possible!) and Jack Frost is often creeping around.

Both Hubby and I like to decorate early, we try to put our decorations up on the 1st December and take them down sometime in January. I love how the Christmas tree and lights make the room glow! We don’t tend to decorate outside the house, mainly because I have always been paranoid about ‘showing’ we are Christmas and making us more at risk of burglaries (paranoid!).

This year we are not going to be here for the first few days of December, so will be starting to decorate this week, will be lovely to come back to a fully decorated and lovely looking house! Last December absolutely flew by, I was working on the agency to taking last minute shifts whenever I could in order to make sure we could pay our bills and this meant the month seemed to disappear. This year I want to re-do our wooden countdown calendar, I write down a list of things to do- buy a festive hot chocolate, put down Christmas film names, go looking for the best festive nights, go to a Christmas Market, Wrap the presents etc. etc.

I work long days and Hubby works away a lot, this means that I will have to consider our availability to make this work! Was easier when I worked 9-5, as only had to work around hubby!haha. I am hoping to be able to wear some festive outfits to work and find some fun earrings (only got my ears pierced this year), as I am working Christmas eve and Boxing day on 12 hour shifts….

I have a lovely day off with the doggies today, trying to recuperate from two long days with lots of energy expended, so I will spend it making notes about what can go in the calendar to help keep the whole month feeling delightful and festive despite super busy and tough jobs for both of us!

Part of this plot, is to make Christmas about doing things together, low to little cost, which helps with the magical aspect!

Florida Round Up!

We got off to a good start, our hotel, the Radisson was very close to the terminals, with a covered walk way. After a good nights sleep- well, excited wakey nights sleep- we wandered off to find the correct terminal. No problems at all, except the flat escalators weren’t all working and I am a grump in the mornings! Just as we arrived at the terminal, we looked up to see my family and the others coming with us stepping off the taxi! Perfect timing! We checked our luggage in with minimal queuing and went off to the lounge. We drank fizzy wine and ate some yummy food, did some duty free shopping- I just bought toblerone! Then headed onto the plane with plenty of time to spare. The pilot announed we might even set off early! Ultimately, we ended up leaving nearly an hour late. Talk about frustrating and numb bummy when the flight was already over 9 hours long!

Flight was pleasantly uneventful, we paid £12 to get the enhanced entertainment and enjoyed lots of films, food and drinks. I also love watching the planes progress on the sky map, would love it if you could zoom in and have a good nosy though!haha.

Once in Orlando, it took an absolute age to get through customs, then the bags were delayed, must have taken two hours to finally head to pick up the car. It was a bit of a faff, it was a 12 seater which was great, except we all had huge suitcases, cue me getting very frustrated and feeling fat when I was trying to squish in the chairs!! After all that, we headed out of the airport and headed on our way! There was more fuss when trying to get the room keys, the car was hot, full of people and luggage and we were all getting quite cranky by this point! When we finally got to our apartment, it was so worth the wait, the master bedroom was amazing- we bagsied as paid extra and we’re super old compared to my sister and her boyf! The balcony was fab, the ensuite amazing, the whole place was great. And the air con was so appreciated after the heat outside! That night we wandered over to the clubhouse for food, which was ok, not a lot of choice anywhere we went for non-meat eaters though if I am honest!

Day 2- We went to the local Walmart, which was huge and as crazy as I hoped, no guns here though! We bought unicorn cake ice cream- this had purple glitter in it- and my favourite wine was less than 10$ for a litre! We left the family all relaxing by the pool after this and headed over to International Drive, Icon Park. Hubby was amazing driving in the USA for the first time in a small tank! It was a super hot day, we went to the Orlando Eye and Sea Quarium, this is something we like to do when there is a local one! The 365degree glass tunnel was very impressive! We drank frozen slushies and tried not melt as we wandered around. After that, we headed back to the apartment and went out for a late tea with everyone!

Perfect reverse parking in this beast! Kudos hubby!

Day3- After some drama the night before trying to organise everyone, we all went to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. We were the only ones in the group to have pre bought tickets, they all bought one dayers and met us inside, at a much higher rate than we had gotten. We had a great time, hubby isnt a massive fan of rides so we went on whatever he felt he could manage. Very much enjoyed the fabulousness of the themed areas, Springfield and New York were great! We rode the Hogwarts express over to Islands of Adventure, queued a ridiculous amount of time for Hagrids Motorbike Adventure, which was great and enjoyed Hogsmeade before carrying on! I did purchase the Elder Wand and we had fun trying out the magic, though I am not a natural! It was a super busy day for us. The first couple of weeks in September seemed like a perfect time, apart from Hagrid, there were 10minute queues for pretty much all the other rides! Was a lovely way to spend the day with everyone before heading back, and having another late tea out!

Quick snapshot, Hogwarts Castle, Patrick Starr! Chocolate Emporium and Gringotts!

Day 4- Hubby, myself, sister and her boyf all headed off in the morning for Volcano Bay, it was amazing! Loved the whole theme and they way it is all put together. We shared a locker and could all open it separately with our Tapu Tapus which was really useful when we went our separate ways! I enjoyed some cocktails and a wonderful vegan burger here, so much appreciated that I could enjoy no fish for once! We came for opening and stayed until closing. Hubby was brave and did one of the drop slides, he was still shaking when he came to find me after! The wave pool and both the lazy and fast rivers were brilliant. We did have to evacuate a couple of times due to possible lightening strikes, but everything was fine! Felt rejuvinating after such a busy day the day before!

Such an amazing place! Loved Volcano Bay and all the details that went into making this fab water park!

Day 5- Pretty calm day, spending time at the pool before heading over to Old Town for the American muscle Car show. What a fab town, so much fun, nice shops and a lovely pub for a drink. Live music was playing, and best of all, loads of amazing cars! We enjoyed our evening here, then popped to IHOP for a late tea and a couple of giant gift stores for a mooch!

Day 6- We got the shuttle over to Universal and Islands, we popped to the Chocolate Emporium, such an incredible steampunk based cafe/restaurant. I got a birthday cake freakshake which was delicious! We took a much slower route around both parks, taking lots of pictures and noticing a lot more than the first time round! We got the Hogwarts express back to Universal so got to enjoy it both ways and I played with my wand again, very fun! It was very hot and we were getting tired after spending the day mooching and nosing so headed back to the complex, not realising how far it was, so the taxi cost $50, ouch! Lovely driver though.

The simpsons donut! So gooood!

Day 7- I accidently enjoyed too many buckets of cocktails at the pool, got room service, had a 15minute nap before my little sister came to wake me as I needed to get ready for Halloween Horror Nights! Quick shower, sister braided my hair, lots of water and we headed out! Everyone had some food when we arrived, but I couldnt face it! Honestly, I think this was my favourite thing about the whole trip! My stepbrother, his girlfriend, Auntie Netty, hubby and I were the only ones brave enough to go, perfect group to go with! We headed straight for Ghostbusters, it had one of the longest queue times and I couldn’t see it getting any shorter! It was great, the scare zones were fabulous. We went into Ghostbusters, Stranger things 2&3, The Yeti, Monsters, US and Killer Klowns from Outer Space- my goodness how amazing, so much effort and perfect timing! Think US and Yeti were my favourites, found Stranger Things too stroby with the lights and they were rushing us through! We left at 1am in the morning, I was still hungover and tired but wished we could have done more houses! We didn’t get time to use our free night which was such a shame, I think House of a 1000 Corpses would have been amazing. Lots of queueing, which was to be expected.

Some shots from Halloween Horror Nights, and one from the daytime in Universal! Couldn’t get pictures to do the night justice!

Day 8- So very late to bed, very early to rise! Hubby, sister, her boyf, stepbrothers gf and I had all decided that we wanted to go to Animal Kingdom as well as Hollywood Studios! So the day before, we bought Disney Park Hopper for the day, this was not cheap, but totally worth it! We headed straight to Pandora, this was so beautiful! We didn’t go on Flights of passage though my sister said it was the best ride ever! We did go on the river which was just so pretty and fascinating! We pottered around, went on Safari walked through exhibits and had lunch in the park before getting the bus over to Magic Kingdom. We literally had time to take some pictures, rush over to the castle to get the iconic picture before we had to get over to Hollywood Studios as we had lightsabers to build! Did I mention that it was the hottest day of the entire holiday so far? I was very moany and tired by this point in the day, and the bus to transfer us seemed to take forever to come. We made it to Hollywood Studios and met up with the rest of the crew. We spent quite a lot of time in Galaxys Edge, hubby built his own lightsaber- expensive, but a fantastic thing to do! My stepbrother also built one, they were both very excited! The attention to detail was just unbelievable! We then had a potter around the whole park, to be honest, we were just so hot by this point, that when my stepdad came to pick us up at 6.30pm, we were glad to get home! Though on reflection, I wish we had at least pottered over to Epcot, or hung out somewhere until the fireworks came on! Got uber eats for tea that night!

Quite literally ran in here for this picture! Magic Kingdom!
The lightsaber!

Day 9- We had a lovely day in the apartment and by the pool just relaxing and recharging, lots of badly played volleyball went on!

Day 10- We went to NASA! I will be totally honest, I wasn’t sure I would be that bothered, I am not spacey, but hubby is spacey and has always wanted to go! I was very surprised at how interesting it all was, I was really gripped. We also saw an Alligator which was my best bit! It was a hot but very valuable day out, I would recommend NASA as a must do! We went out to a cheap pizza place called Cici’s for tea, where I had found a discount card for buy one get on free on unlimited pizza buffet, best tea of the trip and it only cost $8 for both of us!haha. I am a cheapskate and honestly, I think our food bill would have been a lot less if it was just the two of us!

Day 11- Another pool day, with tea at the clubhouse for our final night together!

Day 12- We travelled home, plane left on time, Thomas Cook staff were great and the only hold up was collecting our car from the hotel as someone who had the keys wasn’t there- annoying when you just want to go home and sleep!

Hope this may be of some interest to anyone who has been or is thinking of going!

Florida Prep

I love to read and research about places we are going to go on holiday, and even places we may never end up going! I love to read about what amazing places, eateries and things there are to do, and make lists upon lists of must do’s, if we get time do’s and fantasy do’s!

So it will be no shocker than when we decided to go to Florida, I researched the poop out of the holiday! I was aware we would never be able to do everything that I had read about or listed so we narrowed it down to must do’s:

  • Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure- this comes with Volcano Bay, the new water park, and ticked off hubbies must do of a water park visit!
  • Halloween Horror Nights, they would be on when we went, and we needed to go!
  • Hollywood Studios- New Star Wars land, Galaxys Edge for hubby!
  • Old Town for the American Muscle Car show on a Friday night
  • NASA

We were initially only going to go for 8 nights, but we found a kennels we liked (dog boarding but seperate areas- we will never use them again, as when we got back dogs were all stressed and the people said the little dog was aggressive. There is a whole other story here which basically boils down to the kennels not doing what they said they would). So I got in touch with the airline and paid £100 to move both our tickets from the Tuesday to the Friday. I was happy to spend this, but to be fair could have been avoided if we hadn’t prebooked the tickets!

We booked our flights 18months out, with Thomas Cook, we were flying out with 8 other people in total and my mum wanted to lock in the early bird prices and they seemed perfectly acceptable so I happily agreed. They all went for 14nights, too long for us to be away from home! I feel our 11 nights was just the right amount of time, any longer I would have been homesick!

The rest of the folks all got a taxi to the airport, we didn’t, obviously, as we came back early and there was no way a taxi for 2 would be cost effective. We got a hotel and parking in one for a good deal (IMHO). I will go over prices towards the end of this epic tale!

We prebooked Universal, Islands of Adventure and Volcano Bay and Halloween Horror Night tickets with attractionticketsdirect. No affiliated links here, just that they were offering the best deals at the time! We got 14day unlimited tickets for all three parks which was great. And Halloween Horror Nights came with buy one night, get one free! Love it! W bought NASA tickets direct from their website on a day where they were offering a 10% discount, another win!

Old Town was cost free in theory, any spends would be our choices and we would get to see some authentic american muscle cars- hubbies favourite!

We debated getting our own car- ultimately would have been more convenient on reflection- but we hired out a 12seater mini bus instead, hubby and step dad were the drivers on it and everyone chipped in!

Accomodation was ‘free’, as my mum and stepdad have a timeshare and points to spend. We did pay to upgrade our room from a one bedroom with settee bed, to a two bedroom as we were sharing with my little sister and her boyfriend, and to be honest, we live alone usually! First world problems, I dont want to sleep on the couch, or have someone sleep on the couch, I want to be able to unpack and make myself at home- not possible in one bedroom and I am not used to sharing closed spaces with others! Money well spent, we got a huge two bedroom, two bathroom apartment, with a balcony overlooking the golf course with a beautiful lake. We got a massive room and the ensuite was insane! Huge bath and massive shower! Brilliant kitchen and lounge area and washing machine and drier. The complex itself was also beautiful, lots of swimming pools, couple of places to eat and lots of beautiful lakes. Lots of wildlife too, which I find very exciting!

The only downside for hubby and myself about the complex, was you had to drive everywhere, there was a walmart and restaurants 10minutes away in the car, this meant taxis to eat out every night. I think if we were going alone, we would have forgone the beauty of this complex for convenience. For others in the group, this was also a relaxing and rejuvinating holiday, so this was great for them. I think we only spent one whole day next to the pool!haha.

We got a great deal on exchanging money as hubbies work had USA dollars that they no longer used, so they sold it to staff at previous rate of 1.42 dollars to the pound. We changed all our money to cash, we are heading to New York next year so left overs are fine!

It was agreed that this holiday was all about theme parks, so that is where we would channel our times and efforts! Most people had been before except hubby and sisters boyfriend. I hadnt been since I was a teenager and couldnt wait to go back!

One thing I found frustrating, was that people wanted to go with the flow, I like to plan the crap out of things like this, so I did struggle there! I think it would have been a very different holiday if we went alone, but there are so many aspects of the holiday that were made great by having a group of lovely people with us that I wouldn’t change it!

Money breakdowns (warning, though I attempted to be money saving, we did spend a lot of money 🙂 )

  • Thomas Cook Flights- £980 in total, this includes the date change and booking seats in advance, as I like to pick my seats, I am sad! We flew back on the Friday before they went bust. Sad about this, they were great. The rest of our group flew on the Monday, the day they went bust, luckily they were brought back with no issue
  • Hotel (Radisson) at the airport with two weeks secure parking- £179.10, could have been cheaper, but very happy with the service!
  • Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure and Volcano Bay, 14 day unlimited tickets- £548 for both of us. Best deal we could find at the time
  • Halloween Horror Nights- £135 for two tickets, and we got a night free- sadly didnt get time to use the extra night. The people in the group that came with us bought tickets online just before we went and paid about £10 more per person, on the doors was so much more expensive!
  • Travel Insurance- £65.39 for both of us, for multi trips so cover a couple of local holidays this year and New York next year
  • ESTA- $28, for both of us and will cover New York next year
  • We last minute decided to buy a park hopper for Disney, instead of just Hollywood studios, we went onto the website the day before and paid around £400 for both of us, I cannot remember the exact figure, cheaper than on the door
  • NASA- £78 for both of us, such a fantastic place!
  • Orlando Eye and Sea Quarium- $70
  • Car Hire- £250 including extra payment to make hubby a named driver, that was the highest cost!
  • Room upgrade- £200
  • VIP lounge- £40 for both, loved this, drinking fizzy wine and eating snacks before the flight!!
  • Eating out and taxiing- disgusting amount of money I don’t want to think about!Haha.

I think that is most of the costs, but if I think of anymore I will add them on! I am not adding this up- I think I will cry. I loved the holiday though, hubby also built himself a lightsaber- so expensive, but he paid for it himself- and it was a great experience and the lightsaber is often twirled around even now! I would definately go back to Florida, not sure I would be bothered about the Theme Parks, kind of been there done that, but we only saw one alligator, I wanted to see Manatees, I wanted to go walking to find bears, go to the Florida Keyes etc! So that can be a future adventure!

November 2019 Mortgage Stats

November Mortgage Stats:

Was: £153,420
Now: £152,973
Monthly Payment: £666.72 + £50
Capital Paid: £447
Interest: £270

I am disappointed to not be dropping into a new thousand bracket every month, but am glad that we are still heading in the right direction! And this money does see us in the 152’s! We have had some unexpected bills pop up, so its really useful to have reduced this overpayment at this time as we have some more flexi money to cover.

We will defeat this mortgage, one overpayment at a time!