A Loyalty Card Birthday Freebee Spree

As I am sure you are already aware, it was my birthday last month. I promise, I will stop going on about it after this post. Until next year anyway. I recently went on a shopping spree with the sole intent to see what I could get for being such a loyal customer to… most of the shops on the British high street. Materialistic, perhaps, but also a bit of an experiment. Do loyalty cards really pay off for your birthday? Do these big commercial places really look after you, especially on your birthday, as you do them with your loyal custom?

Space NK

Space.NK emailed on my birthday to say that I had a complimentary NARS Audacious mascara to pick up when I went in store with my email and my N.dulge card or used a unique code given to me on the email on their online store. As I decided to have a day out mooching around the more luxurious shops, I popped in to Space.NK.apothecary and gave them my card.

Instead of the mascara (of which, I had plenty anyway), they gave me the Kiehl’s Iris Extract Activating Essence Treatment (40ml), an anti-ageing liquid concentrate that hydrates the skin to be used in addition to your skin care routine. With LHA and sodium hyaluronate, it exfoliates and smooths the rough texture of skin over time.

As I am no skin expert, I am not entirely sure that this is the perfect product for me, a risk that comes with getting a generate freebie for your birthday.

 

*Collect within 28 days, no purchase necessary.

The Body Shop

An absolute favourite when it comes to offers and loyalty, although I was left a little confused some months ago when they changed the loyalty card over. The new Body Shop loyalty card is much nicer, no longer scrawled in sharpie but I wasn’t sure why I had two at one point and whether my loyalty from the old card was transferred to the new. That aside, they still honour the £5 to spend “during your birthday month”. As my birthday is 28 March, I was unsure whether this meant prior to my birthday, just the entire month of March or a month after my birthday (my shopping spree was in the first few days of April).

I didn’t really know what I fancied at the Body Shop this time, I seemed well stocked up on my favourites so thought I better treat myself to something I don’t usually buy. I perused the make up counter as I have a lipstick I’ve been using almost every day and picked up another one (colour crush 235) and took it to the till when I learned that they were currently promoting a ‘buy one get one half price on all makeup and skin-care’. Not going to decline on one of their frequent offers (get me every time, they do), I also picked up the Honey Bronze highlighting dome in 01, I never use highlighter and frankly terrified of any kind of cream blush, highlight or bronzer, so thought I would give it a go since I had the voucher.

Both the lipstick and the highlighting dome with the offer and the voucher came to all of £9. Not really going to complain about that.

*Use within 1 month after your birthday, with qualifying purchases only.

Paperchase

Another email popped into my inbox on my birthday from Paperchase, saying they had “credited my card with £5 birthday money”. Not one to turn down free money, I decided to find the tackiest notebook (sorry, paperchase) to act as a cocktail recipe book and guestbook for Katie’s Taki Bar “patrons”.

It wasn’t until I was at the till before I saw a girl with the perfect, miami-vice looking notebook, exactly what I was looking for. The book was also the cheapest, cheaper than my voucher, so I then needed a pen to go with it. They don’t match at all, which I guess is kind of the point. The notebook and the pen cost me all of 25p (30p if you get a bag of course).

*Valid for 2 weeks, will discount from your first shop after your birthday automatically whether you want it or not (I believe).

ASK Italian

I had the email from ASK Italian first, as early as 9 March. This offer was for a £20 spend when you spent £50 dining in the restaurant. When you think about it, this is a very good deal, it could buy a bottle of prosecco to accompany a nice meal or give a decent discount to a group of friends having a nice post-birthday lunch.

That was our plan: 5 ladies and one baby. We headed to our local shopping mall where I am sure it was in the corner, it had also closed down in our local town…

It’s a story anyway, maybe next year!

*Use by the date on email, minimum £50 bill.

Katie’s Taki Bar

It was about time I showed you around my pride and joy of my entire house. A true centrepiece to any party and a half-decent conversation topic. My home bar, named “Katie’s Taki Bar”, a twist on the good old tiki bars. You don’t need a fancy cocktail cabinet, antique globe or oak cabinet to have an equally as impressive and functional home bar, maybe you’re lacking space, funds or you live in a rented property (like me). Here, I give you, a piece of flat pack and functional furniture that I’m sure every blogger is familiar with, an IKEA BILLY bookcase.

The inspiration came to me when I came to view the flat. It was originally occupied by two lads who had the bare essentials in the furnished property: TV, xbox. As I looked around, there were two bottles chilling on the otherwise empty bookcase, albeit a bottle of nearly finished Malibu and some Aldi’s finest Cream liqueur. That idea lightbulb that everyone tends to dread with me lit up.

I’ve always had a passion for mixology. At the time of moving in, I was working for a hospitality group with a number of bars and restaurants. This meant I was surrounded by great mixologists whom I call friends, so when I was joking about having my own bar shelf they quickly gave me a lot of inspiration (think full on Miami Vice). Some even donated equipment from their own personal collections!

A few months on, the bar shelf is no longer a shelf but almost the entire corner of the room. Over the months, Christmases, birthdays and friends in duty free, my collection has grown from the tackiest possible decor you can imagine, to some interesting brands of different booze.

I tend to have a mixture of branded and Aldi alcohol. I find this works as I often have people round for a tipple, night cap or full-blown cocktail party. It also seems to work to have a rule of “If you bring a bottle (and leave it), I open the entire bar. Many a-memories have been had already.

For my birthday, my sister gave me an engraved martini glass and some tacky sunglasses. It sits pride of place in front of my copper shaker and copper ice bucket, the flamingo filament lightbulb in the copper hold was one of the first things I bought. You may ask why I have coins stuck in wine corks in a Hendrick’s Gin tea and saucer set? It’s a family tradition to stick a penny (or in this case, 5p and 10p – inflation) in the cork of your first bottle of champagne at age 18 and 21.

My friends, Kieren and Sarah bought me the personalised “Katie’s Taki Bar” sign spelt exactly for my birthday, I am SO happy with it. I must mention the Newcastle Pub Stops framed poster, I got it from my mam Santa for Christmas. Again, such a conversation topic whenever anybody comes round, including decorators! I tried to keep the L-shape serving space I had for my most recent house party, but I think that might have just tipped my housemate over the edge.

Other nicknacks include the Luxe Lounge stainless steel cocktail compass, my nana and grandad’s crystal glassware (they’re meant to be used, at the end of the day) and all the other bits and bobs you might be able to see on there. If I’ve missed anything you want to know about, just drop me a tweet! The bar grows and changes CONSTANTLY.

I am ready for any themed get together. Have you seen the latest from my 1920s Gatsby themed party recently? What do you think I should get next? I can’t wait to share my cocktail ideas with you…

…So, what’s your poison?

A DIY Murder Mystery Dinner Party.

The best thing about an idea to have a murder mystery party to celebrate my birthday is that I can bring back one of the best events of the year – in Spring. Halloween. A little party never KILLED anyone…

I bought a murder mystery story online for about £30 but I wanted to still put my own twist on it by doing some DIY projects to make it my own. I always had the impression that murder mysteries could get quite boring with people just sitting around a table, people might not stay in character and it ends up just a Q&A. No. Not on my watch.

Firstly, I am friends with a theatrical, confident bunch who are all comfortable with taking the piss out of themselves in front of each other so staying in character was not a problem. In fact, they were in their characters the week before and the week after the event. Hilarious.

Characters.

The story had 14 characters made up of 7 females and 7 males but I had 9 females and 6 males wanting to play. I took a male role of barman and my friend Natasha took the role of Bebop B’doo, telling the rest of the party that the two B’doos will be sisters not husband and wife. I decided to scan & send the character info to my guests beforehand so they were prepared with their character’s bio and storyline.

I also made a list of random names for any other friends who wished to attend so I could make them “decoy characters”. For example, I named my cousin/friend Chris “Tatty Bojangles” the poker dealer. When each character were introducing themselves at the beginning of the night, he had even made up his own story to tell the group (he was in the same union as Casey Stumbles, Catsby’s butler). Later in the evening, the original Booboo B’doo was called into work (in 1920s flapper dress!) so the next thing I saw was Chris dressed up to take over the role, also returning the B’doos back to husband and wife (but gender reversed).

Setup.

Rather than have all 14 characters (and then decoy characters) sitting round a table with a three-course dinner, I decided to have a three-course buffet instead. This meant that we had people free to act out their characters at a dinner party rather than sit around. The only problem was that it meant we were asked the same question more than once, which, wasn’t really a problem.

The game was led by the audio files included in the set, which I created a giant Spotify playlist full of 1920s music into a radio show, “Radio Alibi” WITH adverts! The radio then came on for each act (and in turn, course) to move the story (and the meal) along. I put in about an hour’s worth of songs for each course, but skipped ahead if people seemed to be finished with that act’s questions.

I also had plenty activities available. I made a Photo Booth with 1920s props, a poker table and had my fully-functioning home bar, a true centrepiece to the evening (post on my home bar coming soon). The poker table was actually perfect (and a coincidence!) for Bebop B’doo’s character, where it was later revealed that he/she had a gambling addiction!

DIY.

I did a couple of DIY projects to put my own spin on the evening. These included an £8 Photo Booth, ‘dead man’ napkins, evidence bags and photo cards for the buffet table.

I created some ‘dead man’ napkins using just liquid white chalk, card and an interesting familiarity with silhouettes of dead people. I created the stencil and dabbed away at the edges on the corner of black napkins while I watched an entire episode of Saturday Night Takeaway, then I decided I had done enough. These were a little added touch to the buffet table, which I decided to take quite gothic with bleeding candles, crime scene tape and low light.

I had also created photo evidence card out of yellow card and a black sharpie to number the food on the buffet. I had three starters, three mains and three desserts for the courses of the evening and so creating nine evidence cards and printed the ‘menu’ with each meal corresponding with a number. I had that also on yellow card with a desk light shining onto it in a police-interrogation style. Again, this added enough light into the room (as well as about 30 tea lights and the bar) to give a great atmosphere.

I also created evidence envelopes with each character’s name on, to give to each person upon arrival. Inside, were their character bio and information, a ‘menu’ of questions to ask others in each act and a little card to say whether they were the murderer or not. Again, I feel like this was a nice added touch that gave the whole night a great feel.

Another great feature was the photo booth. It cost me all of £8. I bought some 1920s themed props and spent about 30 minutes putting them together one evening, put a gold tassel wall up and switched on my day light. I didn’t need to set up any fancy camera, everyone just took pictures or selfies on their phones. My friend, Natasha, is also the person you usually avoid on a night out due to having a camera in your face so she naturally took on the role of taking pictures. She even downloaded other people’s photos and put the vintage-look filter on them and re-uploaded them to Facebook. I’m really glad I did that as we have something to remember our characters by – even though I’m sure we’ll see Gray Catsby, Harvey Wallbanger, Farley Hatpin, Greta Garbled and co. again!

“Stay Tuned” for further posts coming your way about the killer DIY cake and a post (maybe series) about my home bar – le pièce de résistance of my entire home!