25 February 2015

Lush Mother's Day Treats

Much as I love the limited edition offerings from Lush, I tend to entirely miss the Valentine's range as I'm still swimming in their Christmas goodies by that point and can still rarely justify much of the Mother's Day bits either - annoying how all the holidays you can theme a bath bomb around seem to be crammed in at one end of the year, the Easter stuff will be out before we know it!

But, that little madam of mine had been asking when we could go to 'the bath bomb' shop again (it's her favourite!) and I do like to oblige wherever possible so off we went to the White Rose branch to see what treats our spending money would get us.

I told myself beforehand I was only getting one and I knew which of the newer releases was calling my name before setting off but when we got in there I was blindsided by Mother Superior.

looks like finn from adventure time bath

How cute? We decided we couldn't leave this one in the shop because of her uncanny resemblance to our mate Finn from Adventure Time - though she's supposed to be a big boss nun. She's a bubble bar, rather than a bath bomb, so the best way of using her is to crumble her up under running water and swish her about until you got tonnes of nice pretty-smelling bubbles. The bubble bars are really good value too, as you don't have to use them all in one go like the bath bombs - I got three out of Mother Superior so at £3.75 each that's a much better bath/cost ration than the bath bombs from the same brand! I could have used less too, but I'm indulgent at bath time!

lush mothers day products

Of course, you have to weigh this up against the fact that the bubble bars are often no as 'showy' as the bath bombs but this still gave me pretty blue bath water with a bubbly bonus, so I'm happy!

mother superior in bath
As well as the fetching blue shade, Mother Superior has a very pleasant floral scent - derived from its key ingredients of Jasmine Absolute, Orange Blossom Absolute, Mimosa Absolute and Sicilian Lemon Oil. I've heard it's the same fragrance as the Sakura bath bomb but I'm so far yet to try that one so can't really comment!
I'll admit though, I bought this one on appearance rather than for fragrance and it's not my favourite of Lush's smelly things - not bad by any stretch but not one I'd run out to get again.
It's a very different story for me and Ultraviolet!

lush mothers day violet bath
This is the one I'd initially gone in for - knowing very little about it but the name that seemed to sing sweet promises of parma violet scented soaks. Violet is one of my absolute favourite scents so was desperate to get my hands on this bad boy!

mothers day lush
It was hard to miss in the shop, this beautiful big purple treasure! It's priced at £4.75, a little more than your standard bubble bar, but is huge and bound to provide bubbles for bath after bath. I love the purple-rainbow aesthetic too, but will admit I wasn't initially as sold on the fragrance as I'd expected. In store it wasn't as sweet as I'd hoped for and had a more earthy, grassy sort of smell (like violets still in the ground, I guess!) I wasn't going to let it put me off too much though, and it was only later in the day when returning to the room I'd left this in that I was first hit with a wave of that violet aroma I'd hoped for! By the time I got it in the bath I was nuts about the scent!

ultraviolet bath

It also gives the water one of the strongest colours of any of the bubble bars I've tried which I love, especially since that colour is purple!
These are both nice bath choices that would make great gifts for your mum or yourself, but if I were to campaign for one of these to become part of the permanent range it'd definitely be Ultraviolet for me - in fact I might need to make sure I stock up on these before they disappear again!

20 February 2015

Sherlock's Coffee House, Whitby

On finding ourselves in a sudden shower on our recent trip to Whitby, we decided on the only sensible course of action in such situations and dived quickly into the first place we spotted where we could wait out the rain with a cup of tea.

Nice places for tea in Whitby
Thankfully the first place we stumbled across was the very charming Sherlock's Coffee House and managed to find a cosy seat upstairs.

Upstairs Sherlocks in Whitby

Sherlock themed cafe

Sherlock mirror

Isn't it the cutest? I could have sat there all day noticing new little nick-knacks displayed on the walls and crammed in between books. One shelf contained a violin as a nice nod to the famous detective the place was named after, and there were more books and other oddities than I could shake a stick at.  
Most importantly though, the tea was hot and good and came with free top-ups, and the scone was freshly baked, delicious and served with enough jam and cream to make me a very happy lady! As an always-welcome bonus, service was exceptionally friendly (and no one minded that we basically sat there 'til everyone else left so I could take the above pictures!)

Scones at Sherlock's Whitby

There's plenty of none-cake food on the menu too, mainly sandwiches and paninis but also an impressive sounding range of Ice Cream Sundaes that I'll definitely be back to try in the summer!
They also had a fine looking range of cakes upstairs, and even more downstairs so would definitely be able to satisfy any sweet tooth. Unfortunately we'd eaten not long before popping in so all I could manage was my lonley scone!
Holmes family coffee shop whitby

The Sherlock theming was consistent but not so strong that this wasn't also just a nice place for tea and cake for people who are not avid fans of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's literary hero. It did make me giggle though when the sweet little old lady on the next table over declared to her family that 'Sherlock Holmes really lived here'. Bless.

19 February 2015

Win Mother's Day with Toxic Fox!

I'm a big fan of Toxic Fox for gifts after turning to them at Christmas for some ace presents, so now they're firmly on my 'I need inspiration' panic list! I managed to avoid Valentine's Day with a minimum of fuss but it's not long now 'til Mother's Day is upon us! 

Mothers Day Gift competitionI think I've lamented before here about what hard work my mum is to buy for, but there's a couple of things on the site that even she'd like! And the good news is Toxic Fox are now running a competition where you can win a £50 gift voucher by telling them which of their tonnes of products you think would make the perfect Mother's Day gift! 

Just have a search through the site and when inspiration hits, share your favourite present on either Google +. Pinterest, Twitter or Facebook between now and the 1st March, making sure you use the hashtag #toxicfox. One winner will be chosen per social media channel! 

Obviously I can't tell you here what I've got my eye on for my mum just in case she ends up reading this (hi mum!), but on the off chance my little ones decide to forgo their usual hand-made route there's a couple of things I wouldn't mind receiving myself! 

Love Cloud Bath Bomb set

The personalised tea cup and saucer set is just lovely, and can help make up for the fact that neither of the young 'uns can be trusted to make a proper cup of tea yet.

Both the little ones know how much I enjoy a good soak, so the Love Cloud Bath Bomb Gift Set would be right up my street too - it's very pretty (one of a number of lovely looking bath gifts on the site!) 

They also do Afternoon Tea vouchers too - who wouldn't want to get one of those?! 

Mothers Day Afternoon Tea

What do you think your mum would like from the site? As well as being able to win a voucher you can get 10% off the Mothers Day range with the code TFMother before the 15th March!

18 February 2015

My Little Frenchie Box

My Little Frenchie Box is my second box from the French lifestyle/beauty subscription box company, and my favourite so far!

French Lifestyle and Beauty Subscription Box

Each month has a different theme, reflected in the boxes name. Last month for example was My Little Energy Box. This months frenchie theme is due to the collaboration with French fashion icon Ines de La Fressange, bringing an extra touch of Parisian chic to an already pretty chic box!

inspired by french fashion icon

The box will contain a couple of 'lifestyle' items, and a couple of beauty ones. The first 'lifestyle' item I dug out of this box was this little 'pot of messages' - isn't it the cutest looking thing? Each teeny scroll inside unrolls to reveal a positive or inspiring message - just the thing for putting a smile on your face on those not-so-smiley days.

inspirational quotes gift

The second item is this fancy-pants smartphone case. This is great for me because there are two things I do with my phone very often - lose it, and drop it. This case should definitely lower the impact of both of these, plus its very grown-up and sophisticated looking, something I definitely need more of in my life!
The press-stud on my fastening strap came broken, which was disappointing but when I contacted My Little Box to let them know they offered to send a new one out straight away like heroes!

French Leather Phone Case

The beauty items always include one of the brands own products - in this case it's the My Little Beauty Complexion Enhancer a lightweight cream for brightening your skin! While not working miracles on my old face, it definitely does bring about a certain glow and is a very sweet little product so I'm happy!
I also received a L'Oreal Super Liner Brow Artist Plumper. I'm a bit nervous about brows. I don't really do much of anything with mine, and I worry that any amateur attempts to will only lead to disaster. However, the 'plumper' I got is transparent (though it does come in three different shades) and with a small precision applicator so even I couldn't do too much damage - it's great for a bit of gentle tidying up!

L'Oreal Brow Plumper Terry Khol DHC Blotting Paper

Alongside these I got the prettiest Terrybly Khol Pencil. This super-soft pencil contains a boat load of glitter too for a really stand-out eye look, and one that won't disappear in the rain as it's waterproof too!  
Finally, we got a pack of DHC oil blotting paper. I'm a big fan of the oil cleanser from this Japanese brand, so it's nice to be able to some of their other products! These are essentially little bits of paper for sucking up the oil from your skin. I didn't think I was particularly oily, but the sheet I just pulled out to test thinks otherwise so I'm sure these will come in very handy!
All in all I'm super chuffed with my box and can't wait to see what they have in store for us next month! If you fancy getting your hands one of these little beauties, you can subscribe here for £11 + postage (£3.95) per month.

17 February 2015

#SpreadTheLove Through Baking

The love folk at Intellicig are all about spreading the love. You can read about their campaign here, but essentially its about doing those nice little things for people to help put a smile on their face. They did a nice thing for me (sent me this awesome baking kit) so I could do an nice thing for others (provide them with lovingly handcrafted cakey goodies!) 

One of my favourite ways to Spread The Love is through cake. I love cake - it makes me happy so I know it can make other people happy too. There are few better feelings in the world than knowing someone has taken the time out of their day to make something for you. 

Cute heart shaped baking equipment

The kit I was sent included a gorgeous Paperchase baking notes book, heart shaped measuring cups and cookie cutters, cupcake cases and toppers, a silicone heart muffin tray, teacup cake moulds, and cupcake icing and sprinkles! All you need to create a variety of delicious baked treats, which is what I set to work to do! 

Despite the fact that it was Valentine's Day just a few days ago and a lot of my new baking treats were heart themed, I decided to ignore the romantic occasion (my usual attitude towards Valentine's Day anyway) and bake some treats for my dad's birthday on the 13th.
white choc blondies

The heart muffin tray was perfect for making these little hearty White Chocolate and Raspberry Blondies - they didn't stick at all and popped right out of the tray in one tasty piece! 

choc orange heart shaped biscuits

The cookie cutters were perfect for creating these Chocolate Orange Heart Biscuits.

heart topped cupcakes

The Easy Swirl Icing really was easy to use - just squirt onto your cake with one of a choice for four nozzles - and delicious too, in a really sugary vanilla sorta way - given an extra sweet touch by the sugar heart sprinkles used on these cupcakes.

Cupake silicone baking moulds

And the tea cup cake moulds - my favourite item, I think! - deserved nothing but the very best of tea based goodness, so Earl Grey Cupcakes with Lemon Buttercream seemed like just the thing! 

DIY recipe book

I'll post my recipes soon enough if anyone is interested but will make sure I get them written up in my nice new note book first! (Though I won't be making note of the scone recipe I used to make the worst scones in the world, that should have been in this post but ended up in the bin instead!)

Apart from the scones, the baking was easy enough, and I had an eager helper who was more than willing to stir everything in return for getting to lick the spoons when we were done - the tricky bit was getting it all over to my dads, getting it iced, creamed, filled, drizzled, decorated, and displayed on my lunch break while he was out! Hopefully that crazy hour was worth it when he came home to discover a tableful of baked treats - I know I'd love it and I get my sweet tooth from the old man!

A good deed should be its own reward of course, but as an extra reward I got to eat a whole bunch of goodies too when I went round with the rest of the family to celebrate with the birthday boy! I like to think everything went down pretty well and everyone was feeling the love!

cake table

And extra joy! You get to win your very own baking kit with all the same awesome gear as mine! Just enter via the rafflecopter below - good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

9 February 2015

Cottage Industry

I was, for a change, going to start by getting to the point and talking about the actual subject of this post - but realised it would be entirely remiss of me to not first point out the excellent work done by my little model. I asked madam if she fancied modelling for me and she ran straight upstairs to put on her favourite kitty dress and pull out her little plastic make up set (the effects of which, thankfully, had vanished by the time we came to take the pictures - she has a lot of skills this girl, but a light hand is not amongst them). We then headed out the the park for a photo session, where I promptly realised I'd not actually put a memory card in the camera.

Thatched cottage handbag

This wasn't my first hold up in taking these pictures - I've been waylaid in the past by bad weather, failing batteries and.... well.... more bad weather (it hasn't been very nice out - you may have noticed!) Finally though we gave up on pretty settings and resorted to the garden! I think missy did a much better job than I would of modelling though - and I like to think I did a better job than she would have at taking the pictures in the end - so it worked out in the end! 

house bag

The main subject of this problematic photo session is not my pretty little daughter, or my rather unfortunate looking garden, but this stunner from my favourite bag company Vendula.

novelty handbags

I've mentioned a few times how much I adore Vendula's bags and accessories and every new season seems to bring with it new releases that catch my eye but I really think this time they have truly outdone themselves. The Thatched Roof Cottage Grab Bag is one of the most brilliant bags I've ever seen, from this brand or any other. It's so good that Vendula released a 'tea room' range at the same time and I still prefer this one! (Though it's close to be fair and the and the tea room is pretty darn adorbale too!)

vendula bag details

This is the perfect English cottage - but one I can afford. White picket fence, beautiful rose bushes, timber beams and framed windows are all individually sewn on and sit under a thatched roof where the bag fastens. It's the little details on this, like the gorgeous ribbon roses, that make it such a special item. The back of the bag isn't forgotten either! 

thatched cottage vendula rear

Which reminds me about the pockets, oh so many pockets! I love pockets. They don't stop me losing things but at least break up the areas I have to look for my keys or phone or whatever item has eluded me. There's no less than seven in total in this baby! And in the prettiest London-themed lining too. 

bag lining pockets

And speaking of losing things, this bag is huge - I could lose loads in here! I mean that in the best possible way of course - I love my Jewellery Shop Window bag (the last one I got from Vendula) but it's just not big enough to take my big camera out in, which means switching cameras or carrying it separately. This can fit in my big camera, fat purse (no money, just receipts and loyalty cards!), a decent sized lunch and all the usual girl bag paraphernalia! 

really cute unique bag

Plus I can't begin to tell you how many comments this has received when I've been out and about - shop workers, museum staff and the teaching assistant at the school have all expressed how fabulous they think it is, and I can't help but agree! 

This bag along with a different styles of the thatched cottage design - amongst many more gorgeous and eye-catching themes - are all available through the Vendula site. But I'll warn you - they can get pretty addictive! 

* Bag sent free of charge, gushing praise all mine 

6 February 2015

The Humble Pie and Mash Shop, Whitby

When you are looking for somewhere to eat in a place you don't know very well, I'm sure its not unusual to head to Tripadvisor to check out reviews of places that take your fancy. Often good reviews have encouraged me to try somewhere, and occasionally bad reviews have made me very cautious. It's not often that it is the less favourable reviews that cement my decision to visit somewhere, but this was what led me to the Humble Pie n Mash Shop in Whitby.

Pie Shop Sign
Or, I suppose, it was less the bad reviews than the owner's brilliant responses to them. Anyone who has ever worked in service knows full well that the customer is not always right, and owner Dave seems to have no problems pointing out when they are wrong. His often-sarcastic responses to daft complaints are pretty much exactly the exact sort of thing I've longed to say to people in previous employments (that's why I don't talk to anyone in my current job!) and I lost a morning to giggling away at the Tripadvisor listing, which you can find here. It's not all snark though, which might have put even me off - every genuine complaint is met with an offer of a refund or free return visit.

Best Pie and Mash in Yorkshire

It's not just that I enjoy people being mean, but I respect the passion and pride the owner clearly has in his humble little pie shop.
That being said, I did feel a bit nervous about what to say if my visit wasn't up to scratch!  
Inside Pie n Mash Shop

The menu and pricing structure are very simple, which is something I always appreciate. Basically, you can get a pie with mash, peas and gravy for £6.99. Any pie on the menu. There are no chips instead, no alternative veg. There's a couple of variations on this base meal deal (like you can get a pie on it's own, or one without mash, or if you are really pushing the boat out, you can get bangers and mash), but that's more or less it. The simplicity is as beautiful as it is rare.

Humble Pie and Mash Shop Whitby

The shop itself is adorable - cute and homely, with a vintage 1940's theme running through the décor and music. It was pretty quiet on our visit (around 6pm on a Saturday), but it was a day no one would want to be out in if they can help it. Thankfully our welcome was as warm as the café, and we were soon settled in.

War time decoration cafe

The full menu contains around nine different pies, including a couple of vegetarian options. I went for the Steak and Stout (you say boring, I say classic) whereas the other half went for the slightly more adventurous Yorkshire Sausage and Black Pudding. Now, I'm far from a pie expert and it's only recently I've seen the true wonder in these little pastry parcels so don't have a huge wealth of experience to compare it to, but I can honestly say this was the best pie I've ever eaten. Proper nice thick pastry that reminds me of the stuff my mum used to make, and absolutely stuffed with its yummy meaty filling. The portion of mash was huge too, and I almost couldn't believe my ears when the lovely lady serving us asked half way through if we needed any more! (Though I saw her stock up the lads on the next table with more mash and gravy so know this was a genuine offer, even it if was one I couldn't take up myself!) As it was, I'm sad to say I couldn't even quite finish the portion I had in front of me.

Delicious pie in yorkshire

I noticed they do a classic Jam Roly Poly for dessert, which seems like the perfect pudding for this place - no fuss, old school, proper food. Unfortunately, I was too full of pie to partake on this occasion but maybe next time!

Though they don't seem to have a website as such at the minute, you can keep up with all the Pie Shop shenanigans on their facebook page. And of course, you know how to get their attention on Tripadvisor! 

5 February 2015

CityConnect - York in a Box

I like to go out for day trip adventures with my kids. And sometimes when we are out and about in towns away from home they say things to me like 'Oh mum, today is the Mexican Day of the Dead - can we get Chimichangas?' so I have to dive on my phone (which is a work phone for which I'm supposed to have all outdoor interweb thingies turned off unless strictly necessary for work related things), and try to find a local Mexican restaurant. 

This was pretty much exactly the situation I found myself in on a visit to York last year. Between quick online snatches, pestering local experts on twitter, and a lot of wandering around we did find a Mexican restaurant. It was closed. 

I am getting to a point, I promise! 

It's that sometimes when you are out and about you need access to more information than you'd set off with. Whether it's checking train times, figuring out where to meet someone, or checking the opening times of spicy food emporiums, it's really handy to be able to get online easily. And now you can get FREE Wifi all throughout York with CityConnect!

pretty biscuit tin

I'm really excited to head over to Yorkshire's capital soon to test it out, but in the meantime I was sent an awesome box of Yorkie treats to get me excited for my uncoming excusion! I'm sure it will come to no surprise for me to say that the divine Bettys Cafe is one of my absolute favourite things in York and the gorgeous tin of Yorkshire Shortbread did nothing to dampen my affections for this Yorkshire institution. These were amazing - proper melt-in-your-mouth buttery biscuits. They did not last long! I can't wait to get back in there and stock up on treats! 

Alice in Wonderland Mug

Vincent's Coffee, on the other hand, is completely new to me and a lovely new discovery. Though primarily a tea drinker I do tend to start my working day with a coffee and this has definitely been a welcome start to a day at the office! 

Jorvik Free Tickets

I'm very excited to use the passes I have for Jorvik and the York Dungeon. I love York Dungeon but think I'll have to save that visit for an occasion when I go without the kids or I can see it ending in tears (and not just mine!), but the little ones love the Jorvik Viking Centre and it's sister attraction Dig and I'm sure they'll be very excited about another visit!

York businesses

I also got a delicious chocolate bar from York's Chocolate Story - a brilliant chocolate based attraction with an amazing gift shop and cafe, a Benefit foundation sample and a really cool pin badge from the Yorkshire Museum (which I've actually not been to yet!)

So now, armed with knowledge of a few new places I'm yet to visit, a renewed enthusiasm for those I already love, and free CityConnect wifi for if I get lost in between them, I'm all set for my next visit! Is there anywhere else I should head while I'm in York? I'm always happy to hear about favourite tea sports in particular!