Saturday, 29 November 2008

The Saturday Salute 29.11.08

Image thanks to Sherry Rose Cottage

Won't you stay for tea? I've got lots to tell you...

You can find all sorts of online discount codes at and save yourself a pretty penny.

Please go and adore this quote, you won't be disappointed.

Get some Homemade Gift Ideas to ease the Christmas shopping strain.

Talullah Tu is a darling online store crammed with goodies. They even stock Carrie's SATC Eiffel Tower Bag by designer Timmy Woods.

Check out these sweet Handwriting Tips from Paper Penalia.

And finally, back on the travel theme, get some great tips concerning 'Wanderlust on a Budget' from this advice site.

Do you have a salute to offer this week? Write a great blog? Found a great website? Got a street fashion idol? Hit us up with some linkage!

Megan x

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Ultimate Paris on a Budget, Part Two

Where to Eat

Oh how I love to eat... and in Paris, there's nothing short of a minefield of cafes and restaurants, some awful, some downright fan-dabby-dozy (that means good!) I, of course, sampled merely a teeny selection of these eateries, but here is my verdict nonetheless.

In a city like Paris, you could pretty much splash your life savings on eating out, and you might well come close, even by accident, if don't do a little snooping beforehand. I mentioned it yesterday, but this guide (follow the link in the right column) offers up several places for you to munch, budget and luxury, which all sound very good. I tried out Galerie 88 based on their suggestion and was not disappointed; the place was a real gem.

When it comes to breakfast, you can't take two steps forward without finding yourself in the doorway of a charming boulangerie. If you're lucky enough to stumble on a good one you can grab melt in the mouth croissants for less than a couple of euros. Try this article on the Best Boulangeries in Paris.

For something a bit special, try a charming patiserie like La Petite Rose, described in this great article: Edible Adventures in Paris as "A dollhouse in shades of powder pink and cocoa brown... reasonably priced for such high quality." It's a winner for delightful atmosphere and divine cakes.

Where to Play

Of course, there are all the classics: The Eiffel Tower (best seen at night in glowing blue) The Louvre (get your museum pass here if that's your thang) Notre Dame (nothing short of epic) or a cruise on The Seine (I've heard it's really worthwhile, but it will cost you.)

Other top choices are The Sacre Coeur (used in the film Amelie) The Palace of Versailles (Marie Antoinette!) and (who could forget?) Euro Disney.

If you want to experience 'old Paris' I really loved Le Marais district for simply adoring the architecture and browsing the shops. Something else I really wanted to do was catch a show at Le Crazy Horse but time and funds wouldn't permit, it really does look a spectacle.

Basically, you can spend as much or as little as you like on playing in Paris. Mostly, I had a good time just wandering the side streets and wondering at the sights, all for nothing!

What to Take

Here's a hit list of things you might find useful:

Comfy shoes! Paris is fabulous seen on foot but not if you're nursing blisters.

Check out all of these gorgeous Polyvore Parisian style sets to inspire your look.

A pocketful of small change - sometimes you have to pay to use the public toilets!

A beret, a great camera and sexy leather gloves (the metro handrails leave little to be desired...)

More, more, more...

Yahoo Travel has a bit of everything when you've got a trip to plan.

For some seriously amazing deals on holidays, cruises and city breaks, it's always worth checking out Travel Zoo.

Like my suggestions? Have any to add? I want to know about it!

Megan x

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Ultimate Paris on a Budget, Part One

Bonjour! Indeed, Paris was where I spent my grand 20th birthday and I loved every minute, but enough about me, here are a few top tips on how you can have your own amazing yet budget-conscious trip to the continent's style capital!

Before You Go

I'd say don't buy a guidebook if you want to save yourself £7. It really isn't necessary as you can research everything on the net before you go, here's how:

Find the best hotels and restaurants at the holy grail of travel sites, where you can get candid, real people's photos, star ratings and reviews, plus maps and price comparisons. They've even put together a whole guide to visiting Paris with both budget and luxury options (follow the link and it's a little way down in the right column.)

Print necessary maps straight from Google or pick one up free when you get there, they are available from the train station at the airport and probably your hotel, both will come with maps of the metro too.

If you want to get uber-organised before you go, head over to where you can put together an entire itinerary with incredible ease!

How to Travel

I flew with easyjet for what I considered to be a reasonable return price of around £80. You could probably get an even better deal by booking in advance but that was the best price I could achieve through many an evening of Internet research.

Flying was my choice simply because I am conveniently close to an airport and it's the quickest most exciting way to go! If you do fly and want to save money then DON'T get a taxi on the other side unless you have absolutely no choice, we thought we might until we discovered that to central Paris from Charles De Gaulle airport we'd have to pay around 50 euros! The train and metro system in Paris is so speedy and reasonably priced that there really is no need.

Plan your train and metro travel here before you go for extra efficiency and less confusion.
You could also buy a travel pass in advance here if you think it'll be worth it for the amount of getting about you have planned (it probably will be!)

Obviously, there are alternative travel options like taking your own car on the euro tunnel or getting a coach, but I'm not sure of the prices. I know you can get great coach deals (many including sight-seeing options) with a bit of web research if you're willing to suffer the long journey!

Where to Stay

This was my first and only time in the city so, of course, I can't offer ultimate authority on the best bits. However, I can assure you that due to being the nerd I am, literally hours and hours of research went into my trip and it was most definitely a winner.

I stayed at the New Orient Hotel which, although only a two star establishment, certainly felt far more luxurious with lovely clean rooms and absolutely fabulous, helpful staff. I couldn't fault it. That said, my first choice was this hotel - how cute?! I definitely want to go back in the summer time and stay here.

There is a great, if slightly dated article on Cheap and Chic Hotels in Paris from the New York Times which is how I found my hotel. There are some fab finds in there and because of their popularity and general greatness, I'd suggest booking as early as possible.

Clearly, staying in a hotel will always be more expensive than a hostel but, for me, where you stay is integral to the whole sense of your trip. A gorgeous, well staffed hotel just screams luxury, and man oh man, do I love a bit of luxury.

You need to work out what you want from your holiday and what you are and aren't willing to splash out on. Are you going to ride the metro or get taxis everywhere? Do want to go out for five star dinners or haunt the nearest burger joint? Do you want to splash out at Chanel or save the shopping for the sales back home? Allow yourself the one luxury that means the most to you. And really, if you're going to stay in a city like Paris, you might as well do it properly!

Look out for Part Two of Charade's Ultimate Guide to Paris on a budget where I will offer up ideas for Where to Eat, Where to Play and What to Take.

Do you have any top travel tips? Have you been to Paris and loved it? Comment away!

Megan x

Monday, 24 November 2008

Words to Live By #15

Image thanks to zedvox

“Certainly, travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.”
Miriam Beard

Good evening passengers and welcome aboard Charade airways. Yes, I have returned from my sublime birthday excursion and am ready and raring to offer up a whole week of travel themed posts!

Expect sweet, Charade style budgeting tips, pictures from my trip, juicy links and, as always, a sprinkle of fabulous!

Megan x

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Notice of Absence

Image thanks to geishaboy500

Just to let you know, I shall be out of action until Sunday due to a little trip I'm taking for my Birthday on Friday, so excited! I've got lots of associated travel articles to come but I'll leave the location a secret for now... Enjoy the rest of your week!

Megan x

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Student Portraits

Hopefully, you like what you read here on Charade but, of course, I'm just one student of a million talking about my own personal experiences. So from here on out, every so often, when the wind takes me, I shall be calling on a fellow student blogger to share their wonderful stories and give out a few tips.

Sound cool? I shall call it Student Portraits and it starts right here people!

Who? Helen of Afeitar

Where do you study?
I study English Literature and Language at The University of Liverpool

Where are you from? Have you travelled far to study? If yes, what made you choose to do so? If not, why not? I am from a small town on the outskirts of Liverpool so no, I haven’t travelled far to study! I decided to stay at home because partly I’m a home-body, partly because it was much cheaper to do so and also because I am extremely lucky in having such a good university on my doorstop in a city that I love!

What made you choose the path of higher education? I suppose it has always been something I expected I would do – and study English too! From a very young age I have been a bookworm and would visit the library every Saturday with my mum and sister to get books out and devour them. Of course I did once want to be a lawyer and a vet, but I always returned to English. To me, going to university wasn’t about getting a good job at the end of it but getting an education.

What do you love most about the course you study? This is a hard one… I love reading so I suppose I like that about it! I am really enjoying being in third year at the moment because the modules we do are so interesting. At the moment, I’m studying speculative fictions, which is science fiction, horror and fantasy and it’s something I would never normally choose to read yet I am loving it. I love discussing books too every week with my class mates and how much we get to read. It also gave me the chance to volunteer for a project called Get into Reading where I help out at a reading group in a mental health unit which I have really enjoyed and found rewarding.

What do you love most about the place where you study? Oh Liverpool! I have really grown to love this city since being at university. I have explored it more while on breaks in between lectures and really feel a part of it now. It’s been brilliant this year because it’s the capital of culture so there have been lots of events, such as the Shipping Lines Literary festival or the Made Up Biennial, but Liverpool has always been an exciting place. I love the fact that it’s compact so I can stroll around and discover all the hidden gems it has and the people are really the friendliest in the world! You always meet a character or two around town. It’s not just full of criminals and wags, it has heart and soul and really is like no other place I’ve ever been! I could praise this city forever!

What would you change about your higher education experience? The cost and the stereotype of students. I hate that I feel obliged to go out and get pissed because that is what students do. If I told people I would rather stay in and bake or read a book, they would think I was some kind of freak and not a ‘real’ student! While I do enjoy an occasional night out with my friends, I don’t enjoy ‘student culture’ at all. I am not paying thousands of pounds to go out every night and miss lectures the next day! Many of us aren’t like that, I know, but I dislike how we’re perceived in the media.

What are your main interests outside studying? Do they tie in with your future career? I really love baking, as I said above. On my blog I often post recipes of things I bake. I probably bake at least once a week, if not more! Lots of people tell me I should open my own bakery but while I would love that, I don’t see it happening soon! Another hobby of mine is photography, since I studied it at A-Level and have carried on with it since then. I love all kinds, digital, film, lomography, polaroids. I also have a love of fashion, especially street fashion from ordinary people such as on fashion blogs or wardrobe remix. I love how creative people can be!

What are your aspirations after University? They are not too clear at the moment! I am considering studying for a PGCE and becoming a secondary school English teacher, because I would love to pass on my passion for English to other people. Even if I just influence a handful across my career I would think it worthwhile! I also had one really inspirational teacher for GCSE English who I will never forget and hope maybe one day I could be like him.

Do you have any favourite student websites or blogs? Charade of course! I also like Student Bloggers and Gearfire Productivity helps inspire me to get my pen to paper! I read lots of blogs and there are some lovely, stylish students out there, such as Flying Saucer, WishWishWish and The Life Aesthetic

What would your three top tips be for a fabulous lifestyle on a student budget?

1. Buy quality, not crap! I always invest in a nice winter coat that fits me properly, because you will wear it so much it’s always worth it. Of course I do indulge in some Primark bargains, which are always useful for jazzing up old outfits, but a whole wardrobe from Primark would just be a false economy.

2. Don’t waste money on expensive ready made food! Always buy cheap, fresh vegetables that are in season, or store cupboard essentials from the value/smart price range at supermarkets. Use lots of different spices and herbs to jazz up simple, cheap dishes such as pasta or stews.

3. Try not to fall into the trap of using your overdraft as your own money. Okay, it is there to be spent, but that does not mean you can go out on a huge shopping spree in Topshop! Too many people live on credit these days, but with this economic climate there’s never been a better time to learn how to budget properly.

A round of applause for superstar Helen please!

Megan x

Monday, 17 November 2008

Words to Live By #14

Image thanks to Abhi

“I think that when we look for love courageously, it reveals itself, and we wind up attracting even more love.”
Paulo Coelho

Something to think about this week, winkity-wink! Do you have any incredible, life-altering quotes that you're desparate to share? I want to hear them!

Megan x

Saturday, 15 November 2008

The Saturday Salute 15.11.08

Image thanks to Micky

Welcome to your weekend. Here are some Saturday snippets of cyberspace for your eyes only!

Capture the Castle is a beautiful and intelligently written blog, if you don't already know about it - you should!

Get a few tips on How to Shake Up Your Style from Coral Stars.

Wanting to try your hand at a little photography but don't have a clue where to start? Aimee Marie has the answers.

Learn How to Travel on the Cheap with these amazing tips from Sarah Von of Yes and Yes.

And that's all I got for ya! What do you Salute this week?

Megan x

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Cheap Tips

Image thanks to clspeace

Soup. It's a meal, in a can, what more can I say? I know, how about that you can get supermarket's own brand tins of soup for less than 20p? That's lunch on a budget if ever I saw it. Get soup with beans or lentils in it and you'll be balancing up your meal a treat.

Bargain knitwear - has it ever looked so good? I bought two gorgeous sweaters for just over £10 yesterday. Primark rocks my world. Grab yourself some brightly coloured knits for a steal.

The clearance, bargain-o-rama. I need say no more.

Free day passes to amazing gyms, that's what I've got my grubby mits on for today. Sniff around your local to see if they've got anything similar on offer, then make the most of it! If your local is a Cannons gym then looky here. Steam room here I come...

My faux-fur jacket from River Island for a mere £54.99. It's so soft and cosy I could cry.

Orange Wednesdays plus student discount equals cinema tickets for under £3 each. Happy days. [Update: I've been told this can't be done, but a nice man let me do it, so there you go...]

Megan x

Monday, 10 November 2008

Words to Live By #13

Image thanks to aussiegall

"We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are."
Anaïs Nin

Megan x

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Getting The Most From Your Winter Basics: The Sweater

You may remember my post titled Your Autumn/Winter Wardrobe on a Budget well, as an extension of that, I'm going to be running a short series on getting the most from your basic winter wardrobe staples. Here's part one!

A cosy sweater is an absolute essential for a chilly winter, although, it's easy to get bored when you can't afford one in every style and every colour. What about using your imagination to get just that little bit more mileage out of only one? I've got a few ideas...

Tuck your sweater into a high-waisted skirt or pair of trousers for a classy look.

Product Information

Wear over a mans white shirt. If your sweater is fitted or baggy this can look really great.

Be fun and flirty by wearing your sweater with colourful braces.

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Add your favourite broaches or badges to personalise your sweater.

Couple with a waist-belt and fantastic shoes for a slick, up to date look.

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Chop the sleeves off an old sweater for a granddad-chic body warmer.

Layer with a long waistcoat and scarf for a cosy, casual look.

Product Information

There are a tonne of ways to customise an old sweater. Try adding cute buttons or a lace or pearl trim.

What would you do to lively up a plain sweater?

Megan x

Saturday, 8 November 2008

The Saturday Salute 08.11.08

Image thanks to Porcelaingirl

Exciting times! It's my birthday in two weeks and I'm taking a little trip which I shall surely blog my brains out about, can't wait! But enough about me, all hail Saturday...

If you run a Blogger blog and like the look of the 3 column thing Charade has going on, here's how I did it.

We it seems like a cute way to record and share your visual internet adventures. I like this.

I've recently come across Students in Need though I'm not sure what it really has to offer as I've yet to explore... Check it out and see what you think.

Student-life-focused David's Blog advertises itself as 'Everything you didn't need to know about university and student life.'

Jenny who runs Style PA describes herself as 'A bargain-hunting, budget fashionista.' I love her already!

And that's it cuties! What do you salute this week? Share!

Megan x

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

How to Write Better Essays

Image thanks to net_efekt

Whoever invented the essay was a cruel, cruel being but, unfortunately, those little slithers of paper and ink are now a fact of student life and we must learn to deal with them.

But what if we could learn to do more than just deal with them? What if we could ace them every time? What if we could get essay structure down to a fine art so that they would be so easy to churn out, our stress levels could come back down where they belong?

Let’s try it.

Brainstorm. Write down every idea you have, even if it might seem stupid, no one has to see this scribbling, you’re simply organising your own thoughts. Once you have a couple of ideas group them on a new page to form the basis of your paragraphs.

STOP! No writing yet. Talk about your ideas with someone. You should have a clear argument before you begin writing, not expect it to arrive whilst you’re staring at a blank word document. Speaking your thoughts aloud is a great way to develop your argument. If you take this seriously enough, you’ll have the essay formed in your head before you sit down to write it.

Wait! Don’t start writing just yet. Plan, plan and plan some more; the more you plan the easier the writing process. Know exactly what you’re going to say and when you’re going to say it, using bullet points in a rough plan as a hard copy to refer back to. Break each point up into small 150-200 word chunks so the whole thing seems less daunting. Aim to blitz each segment individually, not the whole essay in one go.

Now is the time to just write, no pressure, leave the introduction for now if you want, start anywhere you can. If you’re at a place where you’re thinking ‘I have an idea, but how am I going to make x amount of words out of it?’ then start with a killer conclusion and work backward. This should be easy for you and hopefully, as you write it, further ideas will emerge. If you’re thinking ‘I have no clue what I’m supposed to say about this' then start somewhere in the middle, start with anything you have, spew some keywords that sound clever into your word document and then start linking them somehow. Think of your initial writings as merely a first draft, we want words on the page that’s all; we can play around with them later.

If you get at all stuck, immediately move on to the next point. Don’t run the same ideas around in your head thinking ‘crap, crap, crap’ or you’re just going to completely bum yourself out. You’ll probably find the best ideas about one point come to you when you’re supposed to be focusing on another point!

Have the question or guidelines in your sight at all times and stop after every point to review and make sure you’re on track. This is essential because it's all too easy to run off on a tangent and end up wasting your own time because you'll only need to cut it later.

Got a first draft? Now be your worst critic; admit what’s bad. Cut it. Then be your best critic; admit what’s excellent. Go get yourself a treat.

Come back. Review, rewrite, reassess. Cut and paste, move points here and there so that your argument develops coherently on the page. You could even print a copy, snip it up into paragraphs and key sentences then rearrange to your hearts content, a really practical option for organising your argument.

Where necessary, back up what you're saying. Rarely are you allowed to make big, sweeping claims without some kind of reasoning or proof. Be sure to check if quotes come under your word count.

Got a second draft? Try getting some outsider opinions, ideally from your tutor, but classmates are also great if you can coax them away from their own essays.

Tighten your writing: check grammar and turn sloppy turns of phrase like ‘much more bold’ into ‘bolder.’ Lose excess adjectives; as a rule of thumb, one per noun should be sufficient, don’t let yourself say the same thing three times just to appear eloquent e.g. ‘as a writer he was eccentric, unconventional and incredibly original’ this will just annoy your tutor, eat up your word count and make your argument sound too flowery.

Most importantly: try and learn something! Don’t think of your essay as merely an inconvenience – what can you learn from the specific topic? What is interesting about it? What makes you go ‘hmm...’? What original ideas can you bring to the subject that might just make your tutor sit up and think ‘hey, they're on to something there’? Step back from the assignment and remember why you’re at University. This is your topic, this is why you’re here, you have incredible potential waiting to be unlocked or else you’d never have got this far. Take the essay between your teeth and ace it; deep down, you know you can.

What tips do you have for writing better essays?

Monday, 3 November 2008

Words to Live By #12


Here's what I wore for Halloween. I'm rubbish at remembering to take pictures so this is all I've got... I'll try harder next time!

The first party I went to on the Friday was themed 'dead musicians' and I went as none other than The King himself. I did try to avoid Elvis 'glam' and was going to go for the Jailhouse Rock look but the odds were against me and as soon as I spotted these gold leggings there was just no going back.

Elvis Wig £9 - Local costume shop
Glasses (with attached sideburns!) £2.50 - From the shop where I work
Belt £4.50 - Charity Shop
Leggings £16.50 - Clothing Federation in Bristol
Shirt / Scarf - Already had

Here's how I looked (sorry I didn't get a full body shot.) My boyfriend went as Jimmi Hendrix as you can see and the house looked amazing with blue fairy lights, fake cobwebs and real ivy on the walls.

For the second party I simply did the masquerade thing and my costume pretty much amounted to this mask; low key but just as a effective.

Mask £4.50 - Local costume shop

And that was two parties covered for just shy of £35, not bad for some budget costuming!

Here's my quote for the week, it's a good one:

"You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough"
Mae West

Also, you may well have noticed the tweaks I've made to the site. My aim is to make navigation to different posts much easier so there will probably be more changes to come, hope you like! I'd love your suggestions on how you think Charade can be improved.

Megan x

Saturday, 1 November 2008

The Saturday Salute 01.11.08

Image thanks to re-ality

It's November! I don't quite believe it but it is. For many of you year one college kids that'll mean first assignments due in (eek!) and for absolutely all of you that means an impending Christmas break, woo hoo!

Anyway, seeing as I did the link thing already yesterday, I've got an opportunity for all of my lovely readers...

You do the Saluting!

If you run a blog or website - salute it; if you've seen something awesome on the web this week - salute it; if you're reading an amazing book - salute it; if you're in love with a band or in a band yourself then, by Jove, salute it! You get the picture. Comments will be moderated so they may not appear right away.

Let's all get to know each other a little better...

Over to you!

Megan x