On a budget? Seven cheap but romantic date ideas

Hey guys!

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Photo by Lea Khreiss on Unsplash

So, as you may have guessed from the title of this post, we’re getting a little bit romantic today on A Little Mad Smith. First off, I have to apologise to all of you who are already sick of Valentine’s Day! I have to be honest, I’m not much of a Valentine’s Day person myself; I was one of the kids who never received a Valentine’s card while I was at school,  meanwhile some of the other girls were receiving teddybears and chocolates in abundance. Safe to say it put me off the celebration somewhat- we’ve all been there, right? 

Skip to the present day, and I still don’t eagerly mark the 14th Feb on the calendar in gleeful anticipation; but one thing that I certainly do enjoy doing is going on dates with my boyfriend Jason. Hence today’s post!

But before we begin, a little disclaimer! These date ideas are more aimed at couples who have been dating for a while rather than those wishing to woo that special someone. I’m not one to speak for others, but your Valentine might not enjoy spending your first date cycling!

BUUUTTT today is for those of you for who are all loved up and looking forward to spending some oh so important quality time with your partner this Valentine’s Day. Today I bring you my favourite cheap date ideas, for those who want a little romance without breaking the bank!

Cycling Date– One of my favourite days spent with Jason was about three and a half years ago, on the day we finished our GCSEs. We decided to go out for the LONGEST bike ride ever! It was bloody exhausting, but great fun. Neither of us really cycle much in our day to day lives- it’d been a few years since I’d last rode a bicycle before Jason and I decided to go out for a ride!- but it made a lovely change to our usual routine. If you’re lucky enough to be living somewhere warmer than ‘freezing your you-know-whats off’ this Valentine’s Day, why not pack some sandwiches and sweet treats in your backpack, have a cycle down to a local park and enjoy a mini picnic! Great exercise and great fun.

Indoor picnic– This is probably one of the most romantic things I’ve done for Jason, he’s usually the romantic one (he’s gonna kill me for saying that). To mark three years of us dating, I decided to lay out an indoor picnic in my living room to surprise him when he came round for lunch. I laid out blankets and lots of cushions, brought out my record player and the picnic baskets, and put on a load of good food. I also made some of his favourite coffee cakes. Wanting to up the romance a bit? Go all out with candles and rose petals. Put on an array of their favourite treats and have a romantic song playing when they walk in; wayyyy cheaper than a meal out, and way more intimate.

Go for a walk!– I know, I KNOW, this is so obvious. But you’d be surprised at how nice a walk just the two of you can be, especially while its chilly out. Enjoy each other’s company without getting distracted by phones and the buzz of everyday life, before coming home to a warm drink and lots of blankets! Who doesn’t love getting cosy after you’ve had your fingers fall off from frostbite? At least that would be the case with the current weather we’re having in Lancaster.

Iceskating– If you’re lucky enough to live near an ice rink like I am, then iceskating makes a really great date idea! Great fun, cheap entry and good exercise! All the while it gives you an excuse to cling on to each other for dear life- win win win win, right? 

Go to watch a little known singer or band– As some of you may know, I live near Manchester in England. This means that there are an absolute shedload of up-and-coming artists who perform at venues throughout the city all year round. Jason and I recently went to see Nina Nesbitt, with our tickets costing £12 each. I know it isn’t THE cheapest date idea, but its always a great night out for music lovers. Plus the fact the artist is up-and-coming means that the performance is likely to be in small, intimate venues, making for a great atmosphere. Don’t forget, Ed Sheeran started by gigging in pubs and small venues, so you could be watching the next big thing!

Museums and Art Galleries– If you and your SO have a shared interest for a particular artist or period in history, museums and galleries make a great date idea! Plus the best part is that they’re usually free to enter! Jason and I have visited a good few museums and galleries in our time, as we both enjoy that sort of thing, and it’s great to learn new and interesting facts together.

Movie night in– An oldie but a goodie. Who doesn’t love buying loads of junk food and sitting down to watch a film together in the comfort of your own home? Jason and I are movie addicts; we love going to the cinema to watch new releases- that’s actually what we did for our first ever date! But when money’s a bit tight, there’s few things better than stocking up on microwaveable popcorn, dimming the lights and enjoying watching a classic Rom-com.

That’s all from me today guys! I hope some of you found this post helpful and no one hates me too much for writing about Valentine’s Day! Back to normal next week- no more of this lovey dovey stuff. 

What’s your favourite date activity? Will you be celebrating Valentine’s Day this year? 

Let me know in the comments!

Best wishes to you all,

Maddie x

5 Top Tips to save money and stay healthy on a student budget

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Hi all! Seeing as it’s a new year and all that, I thought I’d do something a bit different for today’s post. So, who’s been making New Year’s resolutions? I’m one of those people who only makes resolutions that I can keep, to save me from being disappointed in myself when it gets into February and I find myself surrounded by empty chocolate wrappers even though I swore I’d cut out chocolate this year- we’ve all been there. Last year my resolution was to start a regular home yoga practise, a resolution that I’m very proud to say I managed to keep! I now practise yoga daily. My only resolution for this year is to drink more water, something that I know I really should be paying more attention to.

I’m pretty sure that one of the most common new year’s resolutions is to be healthier, whether it be eat better or start a regular exercise routine. Another popular choice seems to be save more money! So today’s blog post is bringing you a little combination of the two- how to eat healthily and save money!

As some of you will know I am currently a second year student at Lancaster University, England, studying Theoretical Physics with Mathematics. Following moving out of my family home for the first time and learning to look after myself, I’ve come to know a few tips and tricks that have enabled me to really save my pennies when it counts. I also like to eat a well balanced diet, so I’ve gotten used to shopping in a manner that allows me to make plenty of healthy meals whilst saving my money.

I’ve put together my top 5 tips that I have learnt during my time as a student that have allowed me to make my money go further, whilst also maintaining a healthy and well balanced diet. Enjoy!

Meal plan! This is without doubt the most important thing I could tell you about budgeting. Weekly meal planning has saved me so much money over the past year, as it ensures I won’t go hungry while keeping waste to an absolute minimum. I will not buy anything unless I know I will definitely be using it for a meal that week. Make a plan, write your list and stick to it. Meal planning also means that you can concentrate on making meals which all use the same basic ingredients, and also ensuring that you will be eating a wide variety of healthy foods over the week ahead! Almost everything I cook will feature the same basic ingredients, whether it be a curry, chilli, risotto or quiche. I purposely buy veg that I know will work well together and in a variety of different recipes, such as onion, red pepper and mushrooms to name a few. Cook with the same kind of oil all the time to save you buying several, whether it be vegetable oil or olive oil. Purchase a few carefully chosen spices that are good all rounders, such as black pepper and mixed herbs. These will allow you to add favour to your dishes without requiring a full spice cupbpard to store them in!

Buy veg individually and focus on carbs Purchasing your vegetables individually will keep costs low. Buying just one or two carrots every week as opposed to a pack will mean that less food is wasted and also less money. I do this will all my vegetables, and usually only pay a few pence per item. You’ll already know exactly how many of each vegetable you will need thanks to your meal plan, so stick to it and don’t get carried away buying 3 for 2 cauliflowers when you know you’re only going to eat one. Opting for veg instead of fruit is also a great way of eating your five a day whilst on a budget; it’s cheaper and can be used to make several different dishes. Focusing on carbs such as rice and pasta is also a good way of maintaining a healthy diet while on a student budget. You can purchase a kilo bag of pasta for just a few quid, and it will be a great foundation for so many meal possibilities! The same goes for rice; open up your mind to curries, chilli and risotto, all using the same main vegetables, of course.

Learn the lifetimes of your groceries This is something that you will get to grips with within your first two weeks of moving away, though you probably won’t have given it much thought before. Think about it, if you live in a house with four people and you all drink milk, you’ve probably never seen that milk go off before, seeing as you all drink it daily. But if you go and buy yourself a 4 pint of milk just for you, you’re probably not going to drink it all before it sours. The same goes for your eggs, fruit, veg and meat. Learn the lifetime of your food! Once you know how long things will last, you can evaluate if its worth you buying 12 eggs or 6, and if its really worth buying a full pack of bacon just for you.

Make in bulk I have to be honest with you, I don’t freeze food. I wish I was more confident with that, but it’s just not something I’ve ever done. I do still, however, make food in bulk. Cooking for just yourself is strange, you’re dealing with much smaller portion sizes that will probably only require, like, a quarter of a pepper or something. I make things like veggie chilli and pasta salad and keep these in the fridge in tupperware for about three days. This means that I can still use full vegetables when I cook, and it gives me some really quick and easy no-cook meals later on in the week! To avoid getting bored of eating chilli three nights in a row, I’ll mix it up by serving it with rice one day, sweet potato another day and maybe tacos on the third day. But, of course, if you don’t fancy eating that much of the same thing and you’re comfortable freezing your food, by all means, go for it!

Buy the cheaper brands– OK, so I know this is probably not the piece of advice that you wanted to hear. You like your Heinz tomato ketchup and your Kellogg’s cornflakes, I get it. But cutting down costs does means that you have to make some sacrifices. I’m not saying you have to give up everything; decide which brands you cannot live with out and which ones you’re open to change with. I don’t like cheap baked beans as much as Heinz baked beans, so I still buy Heinz. But I purchase the supermarket’s own brand of bolognese sauce and honey. Making these decisions and being open to trying new brands really will cut down your weekly spending.

There you have it guys, my top 5 tips to help you save money and live healthily on a low budget. Going from living at home to managing your own finances at university can be challenging, and daunting for some, but with these top tips I guarantee that things will be a little easier.

So remember: implement your meal plan and stick to it, don’t buy perishable items in bulk, learn the lifetimes of your groceries, make large batches of food for the fridge or freezer, and be open to making sacrifices.

I hope that you’ve found this helpful, whether you be a student or simply looking for a way to cut down your weekly spending!

If you would like any more advice on food shopping on a low budget, or anything else for student life, please get in touch in the comments! You can also check out my other post on student life, Packing for university, here

Best wishes to you all,

Maddie x

One month of blogging!

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Wow, that went fast! A Little Mad Smith is one month old today (can we get a hip hip hooray?) and I just wanted to share a little post to say thank you so much to all my lovely followers and readers of this blog. Your support over this past month has meant the world to me- I am over the moon to see that my blog has been received with so much love all over the world! I never would’ve thought that people in hometown would have been at all interested in my craft projects and recipes, let alone people on the other side of the globe! So thank you to all who have shared, liked and commented on my posts, and thank you, yes you, for taking the time to read this.

I hope I can continue to produce content that you find interesting, entertaining and inspiring. I already have a thousand crafty ideas and tasty recipes that I am dying to get stuck into and share with you all in the near future, so I do hope you stick around!

As a little celebration of our one month birthday, I’ve put together some of my favourite posts from over the past four weeks. I hope you can find something that inspires you to get crafty and try something new!

Fabric Flowers DIY– This is one of my favourite mini sewing projects of all time. I love the vintage look of these and they’re a great method of using up excess fabric. I also think that they make a beautiful addition to any handbag.

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DIY Photo Holders- This DIY was a super simple project that produced great results! And all you need is a pebble, some paint and a bit of wire. What could be better?

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Peanut butter and Chocolate Cupcakes- I cannot describe to you how good these tasted, but believe me when I say, they were goooood. Like, seriously, you need to try these.

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DIY Patchwork cushion cover– This beautiful DIY is a great project for those wanting to try out patch working, and its a great way of using up scraps of fabric. I love how this turned out.

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Domino’s style cookiesThe inspiration behind this bake was my favourite fast food cookies. Served warm, these soft squishy cookies are truly divine. Why not give them a try?

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DIY painted glass lanterns– This DIY is a great project for the kids to get involved with. A great way of using up excess jars, my DIY glass lanterns are the perfect addition to any evening garden party.

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Drawstring bag DIY– Drawstring bags are so useful and so versatile! My drawstring bag DIY gives a simples method for making your own drawstring bag that can easily be adapted into a child’s PE kit bag ready for back to school.

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Well there you have it guys, just a selection of some of my favourite blog posts from over this past month. I hope you enjoy them if you didn’t see them first time round, and please let me know if there’s anything else you’d like to see up on the blog over this next month! In the meantime, remember that there’s plenty of other projects to keep you busy in the craft and food sections of my blog- why not have a look?

I’m always looking for new ideas and crafty inspiration.

Hugs and best wishes to you all,

Maddie x

 

Packing for university

Packing for University

Leaving home and going to university is probably one of the biggest life changes you’ll face in your teenage years. It’s now fast approaching that time of year again; I’m sure some of my readers will know someone who’s starting uni (or college) this Autumn- or maybe it’s you! If so, congratulations!

For those who aren’t aware, I’m a second year student at Lancaster University, England. I study Theoretical Physics with Mathematics, and live in student halls.

Soooo, I was thinking that some of you might be interested in hearing about my experiences from over the past year and what I’ve learnt. I plan on doing a series of posts all about student advice, what I wish I’d known and insights into other areas of student life- is that something you guys would be interested in?  Today’s blog post is the first of the lot- my tips on Packing for University.

 

  1. Pack your creature comforts! – This is probably the most important piece of advice I could give. Moving away from home for the first time can be quite a daunting experience, at least it was for me. I’m very much a home bird- I love my bed, my blankets, my candles, my tv. Basically, I love everything that makes home home. Now, I know packing space may be limited, but I cannot stress how important making room for your homely trinkets is. Whether it be ornaments, posters, a colourful throw- bring things that will make your dorm feel like your space. It’s so important to have a homely space where you can relax and be yourself.
  2. You’re not Gordon Ramsey – Let’s be real guys, how many of you are really going to use an electric whisk? Or one of those massive kitchen knives that look like they’ve come out of a horror film? Or a garlic crusher? Leave it at home. It’s so easy to get carried away when purchasing your kitchen supplies for uni and accumulate enough to kit out a small kitchen. Don’t do it! Realistically, you’re not going to be cooking full, restaurant standard meals. I found that two saucepans, a frying pan, one good quality knife, a chopping board and a baking tray are enough to provide you with some good home cooked food without overdoing it. Your kitchen space is limited, and do you really have the cash to spare on a steel bread bin when you’re shopping on a student budget?
  3.  Don’t go hungry – A mistake most people make when moving into university is not taking any food with them for when they arrive. You’re probably not going to have chance to get to a supermarket on your first couple of days living in halls, so I always advise taking your bare basics with you to move in. I’m talking tea, coffee, biscuits, cereal. Get some snack food in so you don’t have to rush out to the nearest food store as soon as your stomach starts to rumble. I’m lucky enough to only live forty minutes away from Lancaster, so I also take chilled goods like milk and butter.
  4. Pack for the climate – Wardrobe space is limited in student halls. If you’re going to University in England or a similar climate, don’t pack summer dresses and shorts for your first term! Winter is coming (lol), so pack for it. Save space by only bringing clothes that are appropriate for the weather that you’ll be having that term. There’s no need to bring your whole wardrobe with you! You can rotate your clothes every time you go home to stay seasonal and sensible.

Well there you are guys, that’s my top four tips for packing for university. If there’s anything else you’d like to know, please ask! I’m happy to help. Are you going to university this time? Let me know!

Hugs to you all,

Maddie.

 

 

 

How I attach Bias Binding

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Hey guys! It’s finally Friday! I’m afraid that due to a very hectic working day today I haven’t had chance to put together my usual projects for the weekend post, I have however got a small post for all you sewing enthusiasts out there! If sewing’s not really your thing, why not check out some of my previous posts for some weekend inspiration?

So you may have seen my recent post about my battle with my gran’s blanket. If you didn’t, why haven’t you been keeping up to date with my blog?! Jokes, thanks for being here now! But if you did you will know all about my struggle of bias binding the edges of said blanket.

After publishing that post it occurred to me that some of my readers wouldn’t know what bias binding was, and also some of you would probably like to know how to use it! Hence today’s post: How I attach bias binding. I called this post ‘How I attach bias binding’ rather than ‘How to attach bias binding’ as I’ve never actually been shown how other people do this. I’ve just sort of tried a few different techniques over the years and eventually found one that works for me, which is what I’ll be sharing with you today.

So what is bias binding? 

Bias binding is something used for covering up raw edges when sewing garments or things like quilts. Its basically a strip of fabric with the two edges folded in and is bought on a roll, kind of like a cotton ribbon with the two edges folded over.

How do you attach it?

Well I can’t speak for everyone else, but this is how I attach bias binding to my projects.

  1. Fold the bias in half lengthways and press it with an iron. When you have done this you will have three folds in your binding, the two it is purchased with and then the one you have just added.
  2. Pin your bias along one of the outer folds to the raw edge of your fabric as shown below. I was adding the bias binding to a blanket that had started to fray at the edges, hence the mess poking out from behind my bias! Not to worry, all this will be encompassed by the bias binding once we have attached it 🙂P1220938
  3. Machine stitch along the fold where you have pinned.P1220941
  4. Fold the bias over the raw edge of your fabric, encompassing the edge. You want the centre fold that you have pressed into the bias to be on the edge of the fabric. Pin this into place as shown.P1220940
  5. You can see now that you have two neat edges on either side of your bias binding, exactly what we wanted! Machine stitch close to the edge.P1220942

There you have it! My way of applying bias binding. I’ve used this technique to edge a quilt and also to make bunting; two projects that I will be sharing with you in future blog posts!

I hope this may have been of some help for those of you wanting to try out something new with your sewing! Leave any questions or comments below!

Best wishes to you all,

Maddie.