Thursday 27 December 2012

Sodastream Review and Giveaway!

This post is brought to you by NotBlondeHusband. I wish Blogger made it easier to tell who the author of a post was! I love our SodaStream Drinks Maker but NBH is the one with fizzy history.

To me SodaStream conjures up memories of childhood. I never had one but I remember friends who did and I also remember greatly coveting one, although never quite managing to get my parents to succumb and get “busy with the fizzy”. I was slightly worried that admitting to remembering it may show my age but given I also remember when most people in Scotland had fizzy drinks delivered to their door on a milk float so I decided SodaStream is probably the least of my worries.

Despite the fact that I considered it somewhat of a sevnties/ eighties throwback SodaStream never really went away. It’s always been popular in Europe where apparently more than 1 in 5 households in Sweden own a machine, but it seems to have somewhat reappeared in the UK recently, so when we were offered a chance to test one out I was keen not only to right my childhood wrongs but also to see where the growing move back to SodaStream had come from.

Sodastream Drinks Maker
First off I was surprised how easy it is. We tried the “pure” drinks maker. It doesn’t need plugged in, just a work surface to sit on. Initial set up was a doddle and afterwards it’s just a case of screwing on a plastic bottle and pulling a lever. You then add your syrup of choice and hey presto, 1l of fizzy goodness. A 500ml bottle of syrup costs around £3.49 and makes 12 litres, so the savings that can be made on even supermarket own label soft drinks are pretty good.

Aside from fiscally, SodaStream also makes sense environmentally. The bottle used in the machine is reusable, so instead of piling up mountains of empty 2 litre bottles and throwing away drinks cans that we intended to recycle but just never got round to, the SodaStream has reduced the amount of rubbish we create, which can’t be a bad thing.

My main concern about SodaStream was the flavours. When it comes to soft drinks I’m a label whore, supermarket brands are not an option. First time around I remember SodaStream having name brand flavours like Vimto, Tizer and Irn Bru, now it’s all made in house. I needn’t have really worried, the fruit flavours are great and there’s a surprisingly large range of other drinks, clear flavoured waters, natural options and even energy drinks (I found the Red Bull-esque Xstream particularly good). I’m not going to lie though, for me the cola flavours don’t stack up to the name brand equivalents. We started with a sample pack which let us try without buying a full bottle of the syrups. The root beer in particular was a huge success. We’re all root beer fans in our house and as it’s generally imported into the UK it tends to be expensive. £3.49 for 12 litres with SodaStream is a bargain. It’s not hard to find the syrups either. We’ve bought some in both Tesco and Asda, as well as ordering from the full selection on the SodaStream website.

I think the main reason my parents were anti-SodaStream in the eighties was that they were worried that it somewhat relied on a novelty factor, that we’d all be excited to make our own fizzy drink once or twice and then we’d put it in the back of a cupboard and forget about it. So far that’s not been a problem for it: three months on it’s still in the kitchen and we still use it, both for knocking together soft drinks and soda water. In fact we like it so much that I’m pretty sure that it’s a permanent feature.

The SodaStream Drinks Makers are available to buy at most major grocery stores or online via the SodaStream online store starting from £55.99.


The fabulous people at SodaStream are giving you the chance to win a SodaStream Drinks Maker! If you live in the UK leave a blog comment and follow the Rafflecopter instructions to enter.  Competition ends Friday, January 11th at 4am (see widget for hours remaining). See Rafflecopter widget for full Terms and Conditions.
Competition CLOSED.
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Transatlantic Blonde was provided a SodaStream Drinks Maker for review and one for a prize but all opinions and stories are our own. I don't know about yours but my husband only does and says things he wants to say!

Wednesday 26 December 2012

What I Wore Wednesday: Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas! Santa Claus has been and gone, turkey has been eaten and Blondie Boy puked on the table--it's been quite a day! We've finally gotten a very excited Blondie Boy to bed shortly before midnight and now we are playing board games. Instead of scrambling to upload photos I hope y'all don't mind I'm taking this week off! My Mom gets on a plane in California tomorrow and will be with us on Wednesday so still lots of family fun to be had. Hope you've all had a great holiday!

Wednesday 19 December 2012

What I Wore Wednesday: Nativity, London & Santa Oh My!

Where has the year gone??!?! I made a folder for work called "Week 51" on Monday--how are there only two weeks left n the year? It's all flown by so fast and I know I'll blink and Christmas will be here.

On Friday Blondie Boy had his first Nativity Play at school; I wasn't sure what it was going to be like but it was just kids dressed up singing Christmas songs so my "separation of church and state" issues didn't really matter. Blondie Boy was a shepherd.

For the past two weeks he's been singing songs to me in the car and it's been super cute. He knew all the words and sang in tune so I was looking forward to seeing him perform with all his friends. This is what he did for the entire show:

Yup. He was happy, well behaved and cute but he didn't sing. He just stuck his tongue out. Stuck it straight out, to the left, to the right--anyway you can stick your tongue out he did it. He's obviously the next superstar.To be fair to him there are many stories of myself at age 3 showing my Mom and Dad my ballet recital routine over and over and when the actual recital came I stood there with my fingers in my mouth. I got over my stage fright so I'm sure he will too. Here he is actually singing Rudolph though just so you know he can actually do it.

I love that he says "very nice shiny nose" and "like toothpaste." I have no idea why we said that for the history part growing up but I promise you we did even though NotBlondeHusband hates it because toothpaste can't be of a historical nature--whatever it's funny.

As soon as the play was over we had to high tail it home to grab our suitcases and head to the airport and visit NBH's sister for the weekend. Blondie Boy was super excited to visit London (he's only flown through before) and see his Auntie Katie.  We went to the Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park but most exciting we accidentally came across Santa at the South Bank Christmas Market!

Now tell me that's not Santa! Santa was very lovely and Blondie Boy was pretty star struck but managed to count out on his fingers for Santa which cars he wanted. Now if you don't believe explain this--after telling Santa what he wanted NBH and I found said cars that we've been searching for for months at Tesco in Clapham. I believe!

We had a great weekend and we've come back and it's still go, go, go! My outfit this week is from Monday. I was chairing a fundraising meeting for Glasgow Women's Aid and then went to get my eyebrows done. My salon is in the centre of town so I got to walk through George Square and the Christmas lights to get from my car to the salon.

Purple and Grey Striped Zipper Dress-LOFT outlet
Purple Quilted Vest-GAP outlet
Skinny Jeans-Old Navy
Black Boots-Sketchers
Grey Knit Newsboy hat-Adidas outlet

The sun goes down around 3:30pm now and once it's down you need a hat on! I liked this zipper details on sides of the bottom of this dress but the dress itself is pretty shapeless so I have to wear the vest over the top.  Also it is freaking freezing and you need a coat--to be honest I should have worn a full coat but I love my vest! I'm not sure if maybe a belt would help the dress? I'm a bit scared of belts if I'm honest. The dress is basically sort of sack of potato like around the middle if you know what I mean!

So we're 6 sleeps until Christmas and we don't even have a tree yet since things have been so hectic! If you celebrate Christmas are you ready?

Also I feel I need to say that I don't feel it is my place to say anything about the horrible events last Friday; I'm very clear in my own thoughts on gun control and the 2nd amendment even more so than ever after such a horrible tragedy. I urge you all to please sign this petition for legislation on gun control in the USA.

Wednesday 12 December 2012

What I Wore Wednesday: Chanukah & Night Out

It was to the wire and I almost didn't have a WIWW outfit this week. NotBlondeHusband got struck with the sickness but and was really, really unwell for several days. So while he was quarantined in the bedroom Blondie Boy and I hung out downstairs making mulled apple cider and decorating gingerbread men.

Isn't our wee gingerbread family cute? I cancelled a night I had out with the Glasgow Women's Aid Board so I don't have a fancy night out outfit to show but I do have what I wore  today. Today Blondie Boy and I went to his class to teach them about Chanukah! It was super fun and I showed them the menorah, taught them how to play dreidel and sing the dreidel song and BB and I made egg-free cinnamon sugar donuts for them all as well. I was actually really impressed at how long we were able to hold their attention!

We came home from that and then I ran around like a crazy person trying to get my VISA application together. Thank you so much for your thoughts last week because I passed my test!!! I can't say it went smoothly it totally didn't. I went to go park and the street parking was all closed for "filming." It freaked me out but I found a spot nearby luckily. I sat outside the room and was studying when I saw a girl get her ID out so I decided to grab mine. IT WAS NOT IN MY WALLET.

I called NBH frantically asking where it was as I'd asked him if it was in my wallet before I left and he said yes but he'd apparently thought I'd asked about my bank card! So he jumped in the car to bring my ID to me. The test people said as long as he made it before registration closed I'd be okay. So I'm freaking out now because I don't want to lose £50 if they won't let me take it but luckily he made it literally 1 minute after the test man told me I had 3 minutes left!

So yes I passed and then I got the back bank statements I needed today in the mail so I rushed around trying to get copies (they make you send the originals and a set a copies) and then to the post office and then I met my friend Julie to to a Cook School class!

It was great fun hanging out with Julie, who I hadn't seen since Guns N Roses, and the class is amazing; Head Chef Phil Lewis showed us how to make so many different dishes for holiday entertaining and best of all you get to eat them all as they generously top up your wine glass. 

That's not even all the food we ate! There was soup, curry and an amazing Panettone Bread Pudding with cherry jam too! Phil was extra kind and dug out some mince pies and mulled wine for Julie, too! We had a fab evening, came away with all the recipes and are going to try and book on to a full day class next!

So while I'd planned, in my head, to change clothes between teaching toddlers about Chanukah and going out I ended up wearing the same outfit; hopefully it translated well from day to night!

Gap Purple Vest

Gap Purple Quilted Vest
Old Navy The Flirt Skinny Jeans

You can't tell because of the vest but the sweater has two buttons on each shoulder which I think is just a really cute detail. Also it is a great length for skinny jeans because it is a bit longer than normal sweaters but not as long as a sweater dress. Somehow I managed not to spill any food on myself so I was able to take this picture when we got home!

On a totally unrelated note look how freaking long my hair is! It is really starting to annoying me for a variety of reasons not really length related and I'm tempted to do something new to it. What would you suggest? Keep in mind there is no way I'm going for a pixie cut or dying it black so don't even go there :)

Wednesday 5 December 2012

What I Wore: Faux Leather Ponte Dress

I've pretty much been slumming it this week so no outfit photos. I did go on a tour of a dual language primary (elementary) school we'd like Blondie Boy to attend but my outfit wasn't exactly inspiring. BB's had a bit of a cold since then and then Sunday night it snowed so we haven't been going anywhere except a quick trip to the grocery to grab more bread. I've been drinking hot chocolate in sweats and studying.

Studying you say? Yes studying. Ugh. On Thursday I have to take the "Life in the UK" test as part of my application for Indefinite Leave to Remain. The questions on the test can be pretty random and it costs £50 to take the test so I can't risk failing so I've been taking lots of practice tests and reading the study book. If you're bored and want to see how you'd do this isn't an official site but you can take several practice tests yourself.

So if you'd like to think happy, test passing thoughts around 14:00GMT or 9:00EST on Thursday I'd be ever so grateful! I'm not bad at taking tests but the whole process leading up to tests really stresses me out. To be honest the whole application process is not the most relaxing thing in the world but once it is done hopefully it means I never, ever, EVER have to apply again. Since I've moved here I've had 2 student Visas, 1 Fresh Talent Visa, 1 Work Visa and am currently on a Spouse Visa. Please don't make me add up how much they all cost of I might cry. True love ain't cheap that's for sure.

So anyway this is called What I Wore Wednesday isn't it? So I bring you what I wore at my speaking engagement in London a few weeks ago. I flew directly from Cincinnati to London between the jet lag and preparing to speak I forgot to take an outfit photo; I've attempted to recreate it on Polyvore for y'all.

I drove NBH a little nuts looking for a dress for my presentation. We went to Kenwood Towne Center (it's the mall I grew up with) and when we walked in he asked if we wanted to go to The Limited and I said no. Long story short we went to several stores, held a dress in Ann Taylor and when we came back that night after deciding the Ann Taylor dress was a no go I went to The Limited and found this dress.

It was a major steal because not only was it on sale but the seam was coming the tiniest bit apart so I got an additional 10% off AND I had a free $10 gift card to the mall for signing in on Foursquare and spending $75 the day before--WINNER!

I wore it with my New Look ankle boots and a manicure I barely remember getting in my post jetlag haze but I managed to look at the bottle to see it was called "Get in the Espresso Lane." I talk with my hands so a manicure was necessary.

I love the faux leather patches and best of all the dress has pockets! I think it's last season now but I don't care I love the featured zipper back, too. I can't wait to wear it again and I'm thinking I might try it with coloured tights and the Darcie Docs Si├ón and Claire got me for my birthday. What do you think? How would you style this dress?

Monday 3 December 2012

TK Maxx Christmas Challenge

It will come to no surprise to anyone that even vaguely knows me or has even glanced at my blog that I jumped at the chance to do the TK Maxx Christmas Challenge. First I freaking love TK Maxx. Second I love shopping. Third I love a challenge. Throw them all together and I have to wander around TK Maxx for an hour looking for the perfect presents--AWESOME.

December/January is a busy month birthday wise for us; NotBlondeHusband's Dad, Mum and Sister all have birthdays as well as Blondie Boy. So for us Holiday shopping, plus the bulk of our birthday shopping can sometimes put a strangle hold on the budget. Luckily you can find a present for just about anyone, at a fraction of the price at TK Maxx.

My challenge was to shop for the different people in our family and find the perfect Christmas gifts and keep it all to under £200. I had my mission and I went for it. First I have to say if you are looking for Christmas decorations hit up your local TK Maxx. Look at all these baubles and decorations!

Christmas decorations

I was in the Cincinnati Ballet production of "The Nutcracker" when I was 6 so I'm always partial to a cool Nutcracker--plus these were only £9.99! Can't beat that price! I managed to pull myself away from the pretty sparkly things and get on with my mission.

First up my Mother-in-Law. She and her husband recently retired and is headed off on a 7 week trip around Asia and Australia in the New Year. I decided to put my jealousy about her amazing trip aside and use it for inspiration!  She's a sucker for pink and I thought this suitcase would certainly stand out on the luggage carousel.

Pink Suitcase

 RRP: £120.00 TK Maxx Price: £49.99!

It's also her birthday in early January and she's addicted to her iPhone almost as much as I am so I'm pretty sure she'd love this camel smart phone gloves so she can play Words With Friends while out and about without freezing her fingers!

Cashmere Touch Screen Gloves

 RRP: £54.00 TK Maxx Price: £19.99!

Next up is my Sister in Law; she also has a January birthday so I decided to pick a theme and buy two presents that would complement each other. She's recently been making cakes for some of her friends so when I saw this baking display I knew I'd find something!

TK Maxx Baking

So many options to choose from! I had to restrain myself from not buying anything for myself! I decided to go with a 14 Piece Cupcake Decorating Kit and a gorgeous sterling Cake Stand to display her creations!

Cupcake Decorating Kit
RRP: £19.99 TK Maxx Price: £9.99

Silver Cakes Stand

RRP: £45.00 TK Maxx Price: £16.99

Next up I was looking for a Chanukah gift for my Grandma Bess. She was a bit of a Carrie Bradshaw back in the day and is still really stylish. She's partial to scarves so when I saw this designer beauty I knew it would be a perfect gift for her!

Galliano Cherry Scarf

RRP: £109.00 TK Maxx Price: £34.99

NotBlondeHusband is notoriously hard to buy for so sometimes we just end up going for more practical presents. He wears button down shirts to work but can have trouble with some shirts since he has broad shoulders. I know this American designer fits him and favourite colour is green so it was a winner!

Ralph Lauren Green

RRP: £120.00 TK Maxx Price: £39.99

Last but not least is Blondie Boy. As you know he is obsessed with Cars and he also loves building towers and garages with Duplo; he doesn't have this set yet but I know he'd love to add it to his collection!

Lego Duplo Cars

RRP: £40.99 TK Maxx Price: £29.99

The total retail price of my shop should have been £508-
 I only spent £201.93! 

I went just under £2 over budget but I shopped and bought for 5 people including 4 Christmas presents, 1 Chanukah present and 2 birthday presents! I think we can let the £2 slide don't you think? I've always loved TK Maxx for shopping for myself but now I more than know it's perfect to shop for everyone on my list! What's the best deal you've ever found when shopping?

TK Maxx provided me with a gift card for my mission but all opinions are my own. Y'all know well enough by now I don't say something I don't want to right?

Wednesday 28 November 2012

What I Wore Wednesday: Family Photos

As I mentioned last week our first attempt at family photos was thwarted when our photographer had her camera stolen. Luckily my sister works with a lot of photographers since she's an event and wedding planner and we were able to schedule another session.  We couldn't get everyone we had together for my Grandma's party but we were able to get photos taken with my sister and her husband by the crazy talented Tine Hoffman of TM Photography.

It was a gorgeous day up in Eden Park and despite Blondie Boy not always being the most cooperative subject we got some amazing photos.

I wore a purple vest I got at the Gap outlet and a Mossimo flannel shirt from Target. Blondie Boy's sweater is from Target and his pirate t-shirt from the J. Crew outlet. I freaking love American outlets and Target. We have outlets in the UK but they really don't even come close to comparing to the ones back home.

I'm so grateful we were able to get some photos for my Grandma and for ourselves. I love that photo of my sister and her husband and the ones of Blondie Boy in playing in the water fountain with NBH are just such fun! I'm really grateful we were able to get them done--how often do you get family photos done?

Wednesday 21 November 2012

What I Wore Wednesday: USA Catch-up

I've been a bad, bad blogger. I managed to go a do What I Wore Wednesday for a full year (how did I miss that anniversary?) and only miss one week and then I went and missed two in a row. Sometimes life gets in the way of blogging and that was certainly the case since I had plenty of outfit photos.  Unfortunately my Grandma ended up in the hospital and while she is home and fine now it meant I missed WIWW and then last week my flight was delayed back from London and I was exhausted when I got home and just couldn't pull it all together. So apologies! 

We had a great time at home spending time with family and friends and eating far too much. It was a great trip home and I'm so glad we were able to spend as much time in Cincinnati as we did. Three weeks went so fast! So here is our trip in round-up photo style.

This was the first year Blondie Boy picked his own Halloween costume. We asked him fairly early on what he wanted to be and his answer never changed so he was a pirate! I'm totally that Mom who dresses up to take their kid trick or treating so I was a pirate too!

Mom and Toddler Pirate Costume

We had this stuffed Blue (from Rio) already in the house so I sewed it on to the vest Blondie Boy wore to my sister's wedding last year along with the tux shirt, some striped PJ pants, a bandanna and his requested moustache and his costume was good to go! The only thing we bought were his skull rainboots which I'm glad we did because it was a wet and cold night.

For my costume I borrowed a white button down from my dad, tied my skull scarf around my waist and raided my Dad's attic (which is full of costumes) for the hat and jacket.

We went trick or treating with my friend Allyson and her son Parker again this year but I somehow didn't manage to get any pictures of the two of them! Parker was such a big help holding Blondie Boy's hand going up and down steps and was just really sweet. BB was a major trooper and stayed out the whole two hours! Apparently the "thing" in my hometown now is golf carts and I thought it was rather telling all the older children being driven around on golf carts while my two year old hoofed it.

The very next day by best friend Sabrina and her son Landon flew out to visit us from Maryland. I'm so lucky to have someone willing to schlep to Cincinnati for me and the boys had so much fun together playing with cars, laughing about burps and we even had a trip to the Cincinnati Zoo. I love the Cincinnati Zoo and it's ruined all other zoos for me because it is SO amazingly awesome.

Cincinnati Zoo Statue
BB, Me, Sabrina & Landon
When Sabrina and Landon left NotBlondeHusband, my Dad, my step-sister's boyfriend Drew (who you might remember from the Light the Night post) and I went to watch the UC vs. Syracuse game. Both my Dad and I are UC alums but I think we were all really excited for the game; it was crazy how much the campus has changed in 9 years. The weather was frankly awful, but our seats were AMAZING. When it started sleeting we decided to give up but the Bearcats won so all was okay!
Cincinnati Bearcat Nippert Stadium
Nippert Stadium- Home of the Bearcats!

Cincinnati Bearcat Flags

Cincinnati Bearcat fans
NBH, Drew and I
We went immediately from the game to meet my sister and her husband and drive up to Dayton for my Grandma's 90th birthday party. Unfortunately I have no photos as the photographer on the day had her camera stolen. How crappy is that? I do have a shot of one of the cute cupcake toppers my sister made though.

1940's Swimsuit
Bess rocking a Bikini back in the day
Next up was voting! I'm a huge political nerd so I loved being home for the election. This was the first time I ever voted in person in a presidential election; I've always voted absentee since I was living in DC for university or in Scotland. Since Ohio is a swing state we got upwards of ten phone calls a day at my Dad's house and I had a LOT of fun telling certain callers that I would under no circumstances be voting for their candidate.

Blondie Boy got super excited about voting but that might of just been because he got stickers and candy.

Obama cookie

Toddler Vote

If you are wondering about the cookie every presidential election Busken Bakery in Cincinnati does a Cookie Poll and predicts who will win the election based on which candidate sells more cookies. It has never been wrong!

Since my Grandma ended up in the hospital we got to spend more time with my Mom (who lives in LA) then we thought we would which was nice although not the best circumstances. Luckily she got home quickly and got to spend some more time with Blondie Boy. She'll probably kill me for posting a photo of her without make up but I don't care I think it is super cute!

Blondie Boy and his GG Bess

Mother and Daughters
My Mom, Sister and I
It was great spending so much time with my family and my Dad and my Step-Mom decided to have Thanksgiving early so we could be there! So we had a big family Fauxgiving the Saturday before we left. Blondie Boy had a great time playing with some of his (3rd?) cousins and we all indulged in too much amazing Thanksgiving food. I wish I could take credit for these photos but my sister stole my camera and took way better photos with it after a few minutes than I have all year.

My cousin Betsy and her gorgeous girls

My Grandma Jane and I

My cuzfriend (cousin+friend) Laura and I

I've just realized I have no photos of my Dad and I or my Dad and Blondie Boy. I'm honestly not sure how this happened! Sorry Dad! I went straight from turkey to go see a midnight showing of Rocky Horror Picture Show with my friends Allyson, Dana and Candi. We went to see it at the theatre I first saw it at over fifteen years ago! I took advantage of the post Halloween sales and got a french maid costume to be Magenta.
Rocky Horror Picture Show Costumes
Dana the Transylvanian and Magenta Me

Rocky Horror Picture Show Costumes
Allyson and Riff Raff

You can't tell but I wore my flowered Doc Marten boots that I've had since I was 15 as part of my costume. When Dana saw them she was surprised they still existed because that is how much I wore them back in the day. I was going to spray my hair red but I had a big presentation in London in two day and I didn't want to risk accidentally staining my hair.

 We had a great night and it just reminded me so much of how you know a good friend when you don't have to see each other all the time but you can just pick up where you left off when you do see each other.

We had such a great trip home and three weeks flew by really quickly. I flew straight from Cincinnati to London for work and then Blondie Boy got sick and then I got sick and I'm off to London again tomorrow but I'm sure when things calm down I will get properly homesick. It was so nice being with my family and seeing Blondie Boy play with his Papa and Mimi and Aunts and just having a great time. Plus I really do love my friends and I hate that I'm so far away from them. I hope they know how freaking amazing they are and how much I miss them.  Don't get me started on Cincinnati food or I'll be here all day. I know we can Skype and Facetime and GChat but it's not the same as being face to face y'know?

Do you live near your family or do you live near where you grew up?