The Most Unusual Pet Beds For Cats & Dogs on AliExpress

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I’ve always been a bit of a bargain hunter. I can’t leave Tesco, even if I’ve just gone in for milk, without a quick nosy at each of the reduced sections, and you better believe that I know which aisle in every supermarket in town each markdown shelf is located.

So when I discovered AliExpress, the Chinese website and app where thousands of small businesses and sellers can sell their products worldwide, and found their minuscule prices, I was hooked. So much so that now after a few years of buying from the site, I’m a platinum member. That’s a lot of 99p scarves, knic-knacks, and anything & everything they’ll print the Roblox logo on for my son.

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What I like best about the app is if an item arrives and it’s broke, defective, the wrong colour, print, or anything else, you can open a claim with customer service rather than the seller, and send them a photo. You usually get a full refund, no hassle, within 24 hours. So it takes the risk out of what otherwise might be paying for a T-shirt for example, then the print being bad quality. If it is, you simply send customer service proof and the seller’s money is refunded to you by AliExpress, you don’t have to try to haggle with someone in another language.

Ditto if an item fails to show up. Whilst items shipping from Asia will take a few weeks to arrive, so you will have to wait longer, if your expected time expires, you can claim a full refund for that item, even if it shows up afterwards (although I got in touch with the seller the one time that happened to me, and resent the payment cause I felt guilty!)

Anyway, this post isn’t even sponsored by AliExpress, I’m just a huge fan, and I was spying out some cat beds for Mrs Meow this afternoon, so thought I would share some of the most fun designs I spied along the way. Who doesn’t enjoy some comical photos of dogs and cats inside funny pet beds after all? All beds were priced under £20, with the majority being under £10. I used the search “pet beds”

Challenge Your Dad This Father’s Day To Take On M&S’s ‘Daddy of All Burgers’. The 1kg Hunk of BBQ Beef That’s So Big, They Had to Bake A Special Bun To Hold It.

Tomato Mix £2.50 : Sauce £1.50 : Steak 3 for £10 Offer (or £5)

Tomato Mix £2.50 : Sauce £1.50 : Steak 3 for £10 Offer (or £5)

 

It’s Father’s Day this Sunday, June 16th 2019, and usually this time of year when we gather at my parents’ house at the weekend, the BBQ is whipped out with the weather being so nice. That’s when it hasn’t been raining for three weeks straight. I don’t know what’s up with our spring this year, but I’m just hoping that once July rolls around surely it’s got to stop.

Halloumi £4.25 : Sauce £1.50 : Burgers 3 for £10 Offer (or £4.50)

Halloumi £4.25 : Sauce £1.50 : Burgers 3 for £10 Offer (or £4.50)

 

 

M&S has so many delicious BBQ products in their the Grill range, which is packed with 3 for £10 mix and match offers, and I’m dying to try them actually barbecued! They invited me to pick up some of their new for 2019 products, which I will be trying this weekend, come rain or shine, with my family. If they aren’t being BBQed by my Dad, everything can be easily cooked on the grill, or in the oven. The halloumi, which I got the pesto variety this time around, I had bought the chilli variety two weeks ago and grilled it myself and it turns out just great.

Daddy of All Burgers £8.50

Daddy of All Burgers £8.50

 

 

Their show-stopping product, which could almost be a Father’s Day present for a real BBQ-loving Dad, is their ‘The Daddy of All Burgers’. It’s a 1kg BBQ beef burger with a creamy cheese sauce in the centre, which is wrapped in bacon. That’s the size of eight quarter pounders. It costs £8.50 and there are special hamburger buns to go with it which cost £1.50. If your Dad has ever wanted to compete in one of those food challenges, now is his chance! Alternatively the whole family could share one, just pick up some sides like M&S’s Deli Coleslaw and a side salad.

The Grill 3 for £10 mix and match offer extends over burgers, steaks, chicken and fish, so you can pick up tastes that will please everyone, and there’s also and offer right now for 2 packs of premium sausages or bacon for £5. It’s a smart time to buy and stock the freezer, as most of these items can be frozen on day of purchase, so if there’s an item you really love, you could get yourself a few for over the summer for future BBQs.

Camembert £1.75 : Peppers £1.80

Camembert £1.75 : Peppers £1.80

In the 3 for £10 offer I chose the new BBQ Beef Sizzle Steaks, they are simple but look absolutely delicious (very top photo). For something a little more exotic I chose the Masala Salmon Burgers with red chilli (second photo down, above). I like trying something a bit different. I’ve had basic fish cakes before, but nothing like this, I’ll be nabbing one of these for myself on Sunday for sure.

Beetroot £1.75 : Pork Belly £3 for £10 (or £4.50)

Beetroot £1.75 : Pork Belly £3 for £10 (or £4.50)

The Pesto Halloumi Kebabs in the same photo above are £4.25 and are separate from the offer. If you haven’t had a cheese kebab before you are missing out. Halloumi is a firm cheese that doesn’t completely melt like cheddar and cheeses we are more used to. So it can be used in cooking and heated up. Just give it a try, it’s a real treat.

Buns £1.50 : Burgers 3 for £10 (or £4)

Buns £1.50 : Burgers 3 for £10 (or £4)

Camembert is another cheese that is traditionally cooked, and the Grill also has one available in a really intriguing sweet chilli variety. This would be a scrumptious snack in the evening to heat over a campfire or mini BBQ grill, and to have with a crusty loaf. It doesn’t need much more with it because it is sure to be bursting with flavour on its own. I will let you know over on Instagram

Back to the 3 for £10 the Grill offer and I picked up Spanish Style Pork Belly. I love these boxed meat joints as they are really good for sharing and they just easily pop in the oven, and they are packed with juicy flavour. This one comes with a roasted pepper sauce on the side. 

I also chose some Blue Cheese and Bacon Jam Burgers. I think these will be my favourites when we cook them on Sunday, I am a big blue cheese fan, especially on a burger. The M&S Brioche buns are a super accompaniment to any BBQ and you can get a pack of four for £1.50 from their bread and bakery department. 

Texan Slammers 3 for £10 (or£4) : Crisps £1 (on Offer)

Texan Slammers 3 for £10 (or£4) : Crisps £1 (on Offer)

 

 

The last two items from the Grill I picked are the Texan Style Slammer sausages, and the Thai Kebabs. The Texan Slammers are cheese stuffed jalapeño peppers which then get wrapped in bacon, which then get wrapped inside a sausage, tasty madness! The Thai Kebabs I chose because they come with a satay sauce, it’s a nut-free blend which means all families can enjoy it, and you can bring it along to all BBQs you may be attending without effecting anyone’s allergies which is handy. 

Kebabs 3 for £10 (or £4) : Crisps £1 (on Offer)

Kebabs 3 for £10 (or £4) : Crisps £1 (on Offer)

The fresh fruit and vegetable section of Marks and Spencer is bursting with lots of happy, in season goodies to accompany all these BBQ mains. I spotted the multicoloured Summer Selection Tomatoes (very top photo), the perfectly crisp Sweet Red Pointed Peppers (fourth main photo), and the Cocktail Sweet Chilli Beetroot (fifth main photo) which are sure to impress BBQ guests. There are also a range of the Grill table sauces to compliment your summer dishes, like the Piri Piri, or House BBQ in this blog, but also Smokey BBQ and Burger Sauce that I featured previously. They can be used as dipping sauces, or marinades. 

The very colourful, funky crisp packets are new in store too and just £1 a pack right now. There are a couple of other flavours but I grabbed the Chicken Katsu Curry, the Habanero Hot Wings and the Asian Pulled Pork. The packaging alone wins me over, I love it, very summery and they will brighten up this Father’s Day BBQ even if the sun doesn’t shine.

If you are looking for some last minute Father’s Day gift inspiration, the Marks and Spencer website has you covered from fashion to food to accessories, and don’t forget a card! 

RHS Botanical Illustration- The Gold Medal Winners, A Tome For Those With a Passion For Art, The Gardening World- Or Both Combined!

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The Royal Horticultural Society Lindley Library has a long tradition of partnering with artists to create beautiful artworks for their collection. In fact since they first started commissioning in 1806, they have gathered over 30,000 works of buds, fruits, flowers and leaves.

A new book, published by ACC Art Books, and curated by Charlotte Brooks, presents sixty botanical studies by gold medal winning artists from the Lindley Collection. The book, RHS Botanical Illustration- The Gold Medal Winners includes an essay detailing the long-standing relationship between artists and the RHS.

Each splendid, full colour illustration includes a short biography of the artist and a discussion of their winning composition. The artists are diverse, from around the globe, but the style is consistent, botanical illustration is described as, ‘a genre of art that endeavours faithfully to depict and represent the form, colour and detail of a plant’. Still you will see the artistic finesse and style choices between each gold medalist. It is especially interesting to see different people approach such a precise artistic genre I find. The subtle stylistic flairs are so fascinating. Click any image below to see detail.

Charlotte Brooks, the creator of the wonderful book, has worked as art curator at the RHS Lindley Library for over 15 years.  She also works on the judging panel, and researches Anglo-Chinese Botanical Art. 

The book itself it simply stunning and would make a glorious gift for anyone who loves floral gardening, or equally has an interest in still life drawing or painting. It would make a really good reference for botanical drawing as there is a lot of excellent work in there.

RHS Botanical Illustration Gold Medal Winners by Charlotte Brooks, available on ACC Art now.

Other Worlds- A Marvellous New Online Hub Where Geek Culture Meets Theology (Plus It’s Run By Someone Very Close To My Heart, So I’m A Bit Biased)

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I first heard about Other Worlds a month or two ago, when my brother mentioned to me he was filming with a friend at the Dark Hedges, one of the famous Game of Thrones set locations. They had plans of putting together a podcast of sorts, and Other Worlds has turned out to be the result.

This past Sunday, at our weekly family dinner he passed me a very fancy purple business card with the logo and URL, and it seems now I am not the only Spence with a web presence on the go! 

 

Other Worlds is a collab between himself, Michael Spence, who in his day job works a minister, and two friends Jonny Orr and Andrew Matthews.  

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The website will take a theological spin on geek culture and include a podcast. The ‘about’ section states-  “Other Worlds is a media project connecting theology with geek culture: films, writing and podcasts that engage deeply with the theological themes raised by our favourite media:Game of Thrones, Star Wars, Doctor Who, Harry Potter, Dungeons & Dragons, HP Lovecraft, CS Lewis, and whatever else we come up with.

Other Worlds is for you if you’re interested in what fantasy has to say to reality; if you’ve been inspired to adventure by The Lord of the Rings; if Harry Potter changed how you feel about death; and even if you think that Darth Vader is a bit like Jesus.”

There is some written content on the site to explore already, and you can like their Facebook page to keep up to date. If you want to watch the video podcast about Game of Thrones that was taken at The Dark Hedges, you can view it on the Other Worlds Youtube Channel here.

DIY at Home Moss Pole for Training a Cheese Plant

The finished product

The finished product

I finally got my hands on a Monstera AKA a Cheese Plant, the most 1970s’ of houseplants. It’s tropical, palmesque leaves are very trendy right now, and Ikea have medium sized Monstera plants for £15 in their garden department. 

 

Cheese Plants have aerial roots, which sprout from the ‘branches’, and your plant will try to grow out horizontally and take over as much space as it can.  

I Googled and came across a great blog post on the blog Green Obsessions, about how to construct a pole for your Monstera’s roots to instead climb up, which will give height to the plant. 

It’s pretty easy and involves bamboo rods, the lining of hanging baskets and twine. You can read all about it over on her blog, click through here, she explains the process over there. I followed her directions and carefully trained my plant and hopefully it will begin to climb the pole. I will release the bindings a little once the roots start to take to the pole properly. Green fingers crossed!

Bao Buns & Their Best Burger Ever- M&S Food Hall Gears Up For Summer 2019, Let’s Check It Out!

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We had a few sunny days about a fortnight ago where many a dad around the country could be seen sneaking into the shed, and the squeaking wheels of BBQs could be heard being tested out to see if they were fit for the season, or if a brand new MAX GRILL DELUXE could be on the books for summer 2019.

But this week, and this morning especially, it’s fair to say that spring is definitely here to stay and there will be a few bbqs fired up for the first time this evening.

The change in the weather means a selection of the summer food has arrived in Marks & Spencer, including their Best Ever Burger, which is included in the 3 for £10 meat offer across sausages, burgers and various cuts of meats. Last summer M&S sold 4 million of these burgers!

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I picked up the new version of the Best Ever Burger which includes a cheesy melt. It’s a mix of moreish cheese, gherkin, tomato sauce and mustard. Sounds delicious. I will be trying everything from this blog post this week, so keep up to date on my Instagram to find out what I think.

I also spied The Grill Special Burger Sauce, which is only £1.50 and is an excellent Big Mac sauce alternative. The bread and bakery department has a wealth of delights when it comes to baps for your sausages and burgers. From the ordinary floury or sesame seed variety, to brioche buns and these flavoursome Fried Onion Burger ones which are £1.50 for four.

Another new product I’m really excited about, because I’ve tried them at Yo Sushi before and adored them, is the M&S Bao Buns (up top).  Now I can make them at home! It’s £2 for a pack of six buns, and you can then pack them with whatever meat and fillings you desire.

I picked up the Slow Cooked Mexican Pork Shoulder for £6, which would shred down really well and be a fab filling for the bao. With spring onions and a little spicy mayo it’ll be yummy! Watch out for my results on Instagram, most likely on Sunday. The bao buns are vegan and can be eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner, so get creative.

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When I was grabbing the Burgers I couldn’t help but notice another new product that tempted me, and even better was part of the 3 for £10 offer- doughless pizzas! My Bangor Marks and Spencer had both Margherita and the Spicy Pepperoni versions of the Meat’zza, and I’m very keen to try them out. Toppings are the best part of the pizza and now you can literally just get a whole pizza that’s just topping. Marks and Sparks, making dreams come true.

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They’ve also a selection of fresh salads in with nice mixes of vegetables which are more refreshing than your usual tomato and lettuce staple summer bbq salad. These make really super sides for bbqs along with their coleslaws and potato salads, and if you didn’t see my blog post earlier this year, M&S now have completely vegan versions of coleslaw and potato salad, so now you can have something for everyone in your extended family. 

The summer salads I chose to try were Chargrilled Courgette & Green Bean, because I grow courgettes so it was a must buy, Asparagus, Pea and Potato, and Roasted Aubergine & Sweet Potato. These salads are £3 each and there are many more to choose from. They also come with a little drizzle pot.

Also worth noting that apart from the salads, everything in this blog post is freezable, including the bao buns and burger buns. Very much looking forward to firing up the bbq on Sunday and trying everything out with my family. Hoping the weather holds until then. Remember to check my Instagram for my taste tests!

 

Ikea Sommar 2019 Bringing the Sunshine This Easter

£12.75 with Ikea Family Member Price £15 Regular

£12.75 with Ikea Family Member Price £15 Regular

We took an early morning trip to Ikea this Easter Monday to pick up some Gardening bits and pieces. I ended up getting a couple of small house plants, colourful pots which were £1.25 each, and Smix got a mini aloe plant for his room.

I really wanted to get one of the Sommar 2019 picnic baskets, but couldn’t find one, and they said they were out of stock as it’s proving so popular and I can see why, it’s adorable! Hopefully I can find one next time I’m in store as I want to use it in the kitchen as storage as it’s so bright as cheerful.

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The rest of the Sommar Collection has napkins from 85p, and sets of six glasses for £3.40. There’s a cute little teapot for £7.65 and glass bottles with stoppers for £2.13, and smaller sizes too. You can also get some very snazzy trays for £2.98 and £1.70.

There are lots more products in the collection like plastic cups, cutlery etc you can use over the spring and summer for picnics and BBQs, or to use in your caravan. I also love the retro floral door mat (bottom right above), it’s all so 1970s’ retro cool.  

Accidental Encounters With The Extinction Rebellion: Our Easter 2019 London Trip

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You may be familiar here at The World of Kitsch with the little jaunts my son and I take over to London at least once a year, on my super-duper budgeting as featured in this previous blog post. I book Ryanair flights about six weeks out, and get a return trip to London for the pair of us all in for under £50, then I book an Easyhotel room for under £50, which means the bare bones of the overnight getaway costs less than a hundred for us both. 

The Easyhotel cheapest rooms that I book are basically a bed in a room the size of a bathroom, but we’ve stayed in their locations all over the city and each one has always been clean, safe, and we’ve found it satisfactory. When you are staying somewhere like London, when you are out the whole day and you really do only use the hotel for sleep, not to hang out in, somewhere like Easyhotel does the job.  

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Anyway, back to our trip this past week. I wasn’t really going to blog about it, as we didn’t do that much this time. We hadn’t made many plans, we’ve done most of the major tourist attractions for families on our previous visits, and on top of that, my health isn’t so great right now, so we had to pace ourselves. So we took it as a shopping holiday, and we also had School of Rock booked to go see at the Gillian Lynne Theatre the evening of our stay. Click any image below to enlarge.

Sunday night as we were packing at home before we left, my Dad phoned me, warning me that there were some crazy protests organised in the city for the next day, Monday, while we were there. Oxford Circus, Piccadilly, all the places we would be to shop, Hamleys of course, our first stop! I wasn’t too worried as I hadn’t seen anything online myself, I mostly thought it was probably something Dad had seen in The Daily Mail that would come to nothing...

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...2pm Monday we emerge from Oxford Circus tube station and the first thing I thing is, “wtf, is it Pride?” because number one, I see a giant hot pink boat, number two, there’s pumping rave music, and number three, there’s a man dressed as a centaur.

Looking at the Extinction Rebellion website, they closed Oxford Circus at around 11am, so we must have stumbled upon things near the beginning of what’s turning out to be a week long protest, so far. They’ve blocked bridges all over the city, roads, superglued themselves to trains and there have been hundreds of arrests. We were quite lucky that we were not disrupted by any of the protests the days we were there, and it was quite a sight to see Oxford Circus closed to traffic with hippies swarming all over dancing and doing yoga.

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As for our trip, we enjoyed School of Rock, explored the Tower of London and Tower Bridge (one thing we hadn’t gotten around to visiting), and shopped Covent Garden and Spitalfields Markets.  We had some great crêpes at Crêpe Affair and shopped for snazzy sunglasses.

Hoping to fit in a return trip in the summer, but would love some new places to visit next time we are there. Quirky cafes or unusual shops. We’ve visited all the major tourist attractions but are there any hidden gems? We have the cat cafe on the list for next year, as it’s over 12s only. 

Let me know on Instagram if you have any suggestions for us!