22 November 2017

The Viking Christmas Arty Party

If I tell you I attended a brilliant Christmas event over a month ago, and I'm only just now getting half a minute to think about it - you'll have a pretty good idea of how my Christmas preparations are going! 

Well before we've even hit Advent-calendar time, my kids are giving me a daily countdown of how many 'sleeps 'til Christmas' and their boundless enthusiasm and those over dwindling numbers are making my just want to stick my head in the sand and not bring it out again 'til January.

It's not that I'm a Christmas Grinch, not by any stretch - I LOVE Christmas, and I think that's half my problem. I want it to be perfect. I want it to be special and magical and wonderful. I don't want to half-ass it, and I don't seem to have to have any time to whole-ass it, but if I don't get my skates on I'll have missed it altogether! 

If it wasn't for the lovely folk at Viking Direct and their fabulous Arty Party, I wouldn't have done a thing towards the festive season - and I'm grasping onto any festive ticked boxes as hard as I can! The event, despite taking place on an unseasonably warm October day, definitely got my festive heart a-jingling, and I hope I manage to get that Christmas Spirit back in full force before the weekend when organisation begins in earnest!

So, looking back to the event should give me some ideas on how to force myself into the right mood, because the afternoon was full of those all-important Christmas staples - garish jumpers and prettily decorated trees, Christmas music and turkey sandwiches, mulled wine and excellent company! 

They'd even put on a couple of crafty activities, with experts to guide us along the way (like Rudolph)

I'll admit, I wasn't particularly looking forward to the calligraphy section - not because I didn't think it would be fun but because I suspected (correctly, as it turns out) that I wouldn't be very good at it. Joyce from Artsynibs was a very encouraging teacher (as well as a remarkably talented lady!) and through her expert tutorage I managed but finally put together something that looked not-terrible. Until I smudged it, oops.

I was amazed at some of the skills displayed by many of my fellow bloggers though, what a clever bunch!

My particular skill set is much more based around the eating of massive sandwiches - I could do that for a living!

The block printing was much more my cup of tea - much as I'd like to be otherwise, I am inherently messy. Having no real artistic skill to speak of, I love to cut, stick and splodge, and it's amazing how easy it is to create something quite pleasing to the eye! We were tasked  with block printing some plain magazine files by Tea and Crafting, and though I kept breaking my block stamp and I ended up with more paint on my fingers than on my file - I'm really happy with how mine turned out! 

I'm really not doing a good job of painting myself as a competent adult, never mind an artist, am I?

Still, I think I managed to make a relative success of the next challenge, with no caveats! Next up was the creation of these super cute little Christmas Crackers... the idea is that 24 of them will make a super advent calendar, but they're so lovely and sparkly on their own that you don't need 24 to make some easy decorations! The glitter paper we were provided with is potentially life-changing as it doesn't shed glitter. At all. Usually you are finding it everywhere for weeks!

The crackers were so easy to put together that my youngest has been making them herself since I got back from the party with all the necessary materials - so we'll definitely have a full set before Christmas!

I just wish I'd carried on the momentum from the party and I'd be all set now!

Please tell me I'm not alone - how far have you got with Christmas prep?

* Because Search Laboratory put on the best events, they send their own photographer, so I didn't have to get my inky-and-painty fingers on my camera, hence none of the pictures are mine but provided by Search Laboratory or stolen from Married To A Geek.

5 November 2017

Design Made Simple with Logojoy

Blog design is such a tricky thing, especially for someone like me who has A) absolutely no artistic skills, B) absolutely no computer-based technical skills and C) absolutely no social skills to explain what I would ideally want to someone who does possess both the artistic and technical skills to produce it.

Luckily for me, I was recently introduced to Logojoy, who make creating a logo a, well,.. you know where I'm going with this...! 

The process couldn't be easier (remember what I said about my none existent technical skills?) - once you hit the web page you can put in a bunch of preferences for design styles and colours, as well as your wording specifications. You'll then be presented with a few logo samples designed to your requirements. None of them quite fit the bill? No problem, all the samples are editable so you can change up shades, fonts and anything else 'til you get a design that you are happy with! 

I love mine, what do you think? 

It's certainly more personal that the pre-made design I bought off ebay, and not any more difficult! And now I have the incentive I need for a full blog-refresh as soon as I get the time!

Once you are happy with your design, you have a couple of different buying options too - from a simple one-time low-res download for $20 to a full $165 'enterprise' package which comes consultation time with a designer if you want something truly custom. The premium package seems like it'd cover most needs though - for $65 you get a high resolution download of your chosen design, as well as an extra black and white version and a bunch of extras. You even have the option to add a social media pack for only an extra $9.

Now, I'm not saying that Logojoy is the best design service in the world. If you have the ability to fully design a completely original and personal logo yourself, this might not appeal to you. But for those of us who can't do that, who want something personal and fun but want it to be really simple and straightforward, this is a great option! The best thing is you don't need to commit to buying anything 'til you come up with a design that you like, so there's really nothing to lose by having a play - you never know what you might come up with! 

29 October 2017

Why Winter Sun holidays just make more sense....

One of my work colleagues is off this week, having taken himself and his family down to his favourite spot in Cornwall on holiday.

Don't get me wrong - I love the look of Cornwall, and all reports tell me its a beautiful place to visit. I'd make the drive for the clotted cream alone. But not in November!

This interesting holiday decision has been the starting off point for many an-office discussion this week about appropriate-weather destinations for holidays and the benefits of jetting off to the sunshine Vs staying closer to home. Infinitely more interesting that usual office talk of deadlines and margins and bills!

One guys' top choice of a couple of July weeks in Turkey annually came with tales of temperatures so high they made me crave shade and ice cream even from my chilly Yorkshire office, and stories of Spain's sweltering summers don't do anything for me either. See, I think they've got it all backwards - surely the best time to go seeking the sun is Winter? 

In the summer, the holiday options are pretty limitless. I've said I wouldn't fancy Cornwall in November - - but June? Sounds lovely! We've had a great time on our last couple of Summer trips to Scotland - would I want to visit again in January? No I would not. 

The British summer weather is just fine with me - sure it's not guaranteed to be hot, or dry but it will usually at least be light out, and the rain doesn't usually last for too long. Certainly nothing I feel the need to run away from at any rate. 

But the winter is a different thing altogether! People can romanticise pretty snow-covered winter walks as much as they like but that vary rarely reflects the reality of a British winter, which is much more likely to cold, wet, dark and miserable. 

THAT's when I need a sunny holiday. When I haven't seen daylight for a week because its dark when I get to work in a morning and dark again when I leave - when I need to buy boots in a size bigger than I need so I can fit three pairs of socks on under them, when I practically live in a hot bath because it's the only thing that can make me feel actually warm. THAT is the perfect time to jet off to Tenerife for a bit of R'n'R, or to catch some rays on the beaches of Cape Verde. 

Winter sun holidays just make more sense - and as it starts to get darker in the evenings, and the cold starts to creep in,... I know where I'd rather be (and it's not Cornwall!)

* Incentivised post, but you know I'm right! 

22 October 2017

Emily's Scottish Holidays Diary - Day One

Since I have been an absolutely horrible blogger of late, I'm passing responsibility of writing up our Scottish adventures to my dear daughter miss Emily. She's already written up her holiday journal and not only will typing up her thoughts be much quicker that organising and writing up my own, but I think she's done a grand job of capturing the spirit of our trip. So, without further ado, I shall pass you over to the little lady....

Day One

Woke up early today because it was time to go to Scotland so I shoved on my dungarees (which I packed yesterday) over my checked red shirt and raced my brother Harry to the car. When we got in the car Mum asked us what we want for breakfast so I said McDonalds. The closest one was in Kendal but when we got there McDonalds was shut. So I was a bit disappointed because I wanted a McDonalds pancake and syrup, but there was a place called Booths Café which also had that so we had breakfast there. My mum had a bacon sandwich, harry had pancakes, berries and yoghurt, KC had crisps because he's a vegan but us three had hot chocolate and marshmallows with cream except me I don't like cream.

In a bit we drove to Scone Palace. When we got there I opened the café door and there was tonnes of cake. My favourite was the Malteser Cake. My mum ate a scone. The scones were fabulous but I don't like scones so I did not eat one. My least favourites are cheese scones and then its cherry scones.

Also we saw some Highland cows (Heilan Coos) and it was love at first site. I loved the baby one and I stroked its fringe and I touched the adult ones horns. Not to forget we were in a maze but it was pouring it down, also known as raining cats and dogs. We never found the other end. We could have bathed for a month with all the rain.

At night we had a large carvery and stayed in Travelodge at number 2034.

25 August 2017

Cool Things you can do in Switzerland

I'm on holiday, woo! 

And in the weeks before my holiday, I remember having many a discussion with family, friends and workmates, who - with a simple look at the rain we seem to have had all month - questioned my choice of booking our family holiday to the Scottish Highlands, as opposed to Spain, Corfu, Turkey or any of the other sunnier destinations they were all flying off to! 

Now, sadly coming to the end of our holiday, I regret nothing! We've had a wonderful time in Scotland and I'm looking forward to getting back and reminding those folks at home with renewed vigour - there's more than one kind of holiday! 

With that in mind, along with my apparent predilection for beautiful scenery over sunshine and my desire to enjoy the last couple of days of my trip, let me pass you on to my guest poster who can tell you some of the best reasons to visit Switzerland - I'm already convinced! 

Cool Things You Can Do In Switzerland

Travelling, they say, is the best way to broaden one’s perspective. It does not just allow you to see tourist attractions or taste local food, but it also enables you to meet other people and talk to them. Indeed, travelling is the best way to immerse yourself in a different culture and truly live in other people’s shows. However, true travelling is being a globetrotter rather than a tourist, and the best way to start is in Europe. The continent is home to a rich and vibrant history, one that is wholly preserved in their cities. And there is nothing like seeing the old world mix with new world luxuries -- it gives the place texture and personality.

Europe is a vast continent though, not to mention, countries are extremely close to each other. So while it is the perfect first chapter in your travels, the next question would be which country you should start with.  For that, the answer is simple Switzerland. Yes, a Switzerland vacation is an ideal prelude to your European tour because it has everything - medieval landmarks, mountains, good food, and some of the happiest people in the world.

Shopping and food tour around the city
Let us start off with something simple, and activity you probably already love doing: shopping. Especially if you plan on exploring the whole of Switzerland, it would be best to get shopping out of the way first, each time you are visiting a new town or city. When you stop by Bern, Geneva, and Zurich, you would see chic boutiques, high-end brands, and local labels that highlight their exclusive Swiss fashion trends. You can start by browsing through all of the shops and see which items will catch your attention. But do not just limit yourselves to clothes, accessories, and house fixtures, consider buying chocolates and cheese in Switzerland -- both of which are Swiss specialties. One of their most famous cheese dishes is melting Gruyere and Vacherin Fribourgeois, and mixing in garlic, cherry brandy, and white wine. They also serve raclette dishes that will surely get you stuffed with cheese for the whole week.

If you can, try to rent a car so that you will not have any problems roaming around the city with hands full of shopping bags and a stomach full of cheese and chocolates.

Hiking and skiing activities in mountainous towns
If that view of the Alps and the other purple or snowcapped mountains are to go by, you would know that Switzerland is home to some of the best ski slopes and hike trails. Outdoor, nature-based activities are a norm in Switzerland, if you are the adventurous type, you would surely enjoy yourself here. Make your way to Zermatt where you can find 200 miles of slopes to ski and 400 kilometres of trails to trek. There is also a cable car that ascends to heights of up to 3,883 metres high and gives you a view of 63 mountain peaks that can be seen jutting at Zermatt.

As a tip, when you go hiking up those trails, bring a walking stick with you as a precaution. No matter how often you hike, there may be unexpected events during your trek, especially when it is the Winter time. Wear sturdy hiking boots and protective gear to help prevent the onslaught of cold wind when you reach a high peak and injuries such as a twisted ankle.

Cruising on the lakes
Switzerland is not just surrounded by mountains, you can also find beautiful lakes too. Riding a boat at any of the lakes when you visit a town is the perfect way to relax and unwind. If you want to take a break from all those adrenaline-pumping activities, the shopping, and even the eating -- you can always make your way to the docks. Ride a small cruise ship or rent a boat so you can row on your own and be alone with your thoughts for a while.

You can visit Interlaken, a town sandwiched between Lake Thun and Lake Brienz. You can also cruise by Lake Geneva and see the Chateau de Chillon, or experience riding a paddle steamer at Lake Luzern. You can even cross the border to Italy when you ride through Lake Lugano.

Learning different languages
During your tour of Switzerland, you will notice that the locals speak very different languages. There is German in the northern and central parts of the country, Italian in the south, Romansh in the east, and French in the west -- those are also national languages, too, so you cannot really pinpoint one language that everyone widely speaks. If you know some of the basic of these languages, then consider your Switzerland vacation as one of the ways in which you can improve on any of those languages.

By learning any of these languages at any of the cities in the Swiss regions, you will fully understand the effect of lenient borders within the European countries. Because they are so close share borders with each other, they are able to introduce their cultures with one another. As a globetrotter, this is one of the things you will appreciate about not being too severe with visitors and accepting new ideas from neighbouring countries.

Visit remote villages
Switzerland is also known for its quaint villages, remote enough that you will not be bothered by city noise. Some people think “remote, quaint villages” connote a backwards place where people still churn their own butter. But this just means that they are a small village that does not have all the modern luxuries a city has like boutique shops. Yes, you can only find the more practical luxuries and nature -- what more can you ask for?

Simply make your way to Arosa -- a place where rolling hills and a lush green is a welcome sight. There are a range of activities like skiing and hiking which you can enjoy during your stay here. Additionally, Arosa has some of the best spas and cafe that you will not want to miss.

Switzerland is the quintessential European country -- filled with natural beauty, exciting activities, and delectable dishes to try. So start your journey here and enjoy a different kind of travel experience.

17 August 2017

A Back to School Giveaway

When I was little, the six week holidays seemed to stretch out endlessly.

As an adult, the holidays so far have fled by in a whirl of noise and mess, leaving me just two weeks to get organised for the start of term - there's uniforms to be bought and labelled, lunchboxes and bookbags to be decided on, PE kits to locate - and I know the longer I leave it the harder it will all be as stock levels dwindle because all the organised parents got in there first.

But hope is not lost for all us last-minute types, as Haliborange have put together a fantastic back to school kit for me to giveaway! This awesome prize bundle contains Mr Men/Little Miss lunchboxes, water bottle and stationary, as well as a supply of kid-focused Multivitamins (chewy and sweet but containing more nutrients than my daughter is likely to get on her diet of Macaroni Cheese).

Even if you are one of the organised parents, unless you have just as organised children, this is still bound to come in handy - I've never gone more than a couple of weeks into the start of term before one of the shiny new items we've picked up had gone missing; you can always consider this a pack of 'spares' for when the inevitable happens!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck! (Both with the giveaway and with getting everyone ready for school on time!)

21 July 2017

A New Menu at Turtle Bay, Leeds

I've been a big fan of Turtle Bay since it landed in Yorkshire, nearly a couple of years ago now - and it's been great to see the brand grow in popularity in that time.

Between visits to a couple of its Northern branches I've familiarised myself with the menu and established some firm favourites - so I was very excited to hear that they'd refreshed their menu with a whole host of new dishes and drinks for me to fall in love with! 

I was thrilled to be invited along to the Leeds restaurant to check out some of the new options.

I know the food at Turtle Bay is good,.. really good even. But one of my favourite things about visiting is actually the amazing rum cocktails! I was keen to try the Roots Culture, one of the new cocktail offerings made with Uncle Wray overproof rum, strawberry liqueur, raspberry, lime and lemonade. Absolutely delicious and, like all good cocktails, a little too easy to drink!

Turtle Bay do have a nice range of 'softails' too which I (as the usual designated driver) really appreciate - there's nothing more depressing than drinking boring coke while everyone else is on tasty and colourful concoctions!

Choosing a starter was tricky - so many delicious sounding options! I did try to convince KC to get one too so I could try a bit but I couldn't tempt him. As it was all up to me, I settled on the Stuffed Pepper Roti - trini oven baked roti stuffed with cheese, carrots, spiced potatoes and onions, and served with scotch bonnet & herb mayo...

Mmm these were good! Hot though, I'd been eyeing up the impressive array of table sauces but didnt dare add any of these in the end!

As a vegan, KC can occasionally be a difficult chap to take out for dinner, but Turtle Bay has always offered some really tasty and interesting vegan options and these have been expanded again with some new additions to the menu. He liked the look of the Spinach, Aubergine and Sweet Potato curry. This fragrant spiced dish came served with fluffy steamed rice and got two thumbs up from my gentleman guest! I didn't try any but it sure did smell good!

I couldn't resist the pull of spicy chicken, and opted for the Two-Way Chicken Burger. Another new dish, this consisted of a spicy panko-crumbed chicken fillet, topped with pulled jerk chicken, crispy gem lettuce, fresh pineapple chow and herb mayo in a sweet bun.

 Now, I am undoubtedly one of those people that will tell you pineapple on pizza is the devils work. The very idea of it is so hideous that it's almost enough to put me off pizza altogher. So I was a little wary of my pineapple filled chicken burger, but it was actually amazing! 

I knew the chicken would be good (and it was!) but I wasn't quite prepared for the juicy taste sensation of the pineapple - it added such an unusual edge to an otherwise relatively sedate menu choice.

It's still awful on pizza though!

The spicy fries are probably worth a mention too, I could have eaten these aaaallllll day long!

Anyone that knows me knows that I'm all about the desserts, and Turtle Bay have never let me down in this area - their BBQ pinapple with coconut ice cream is one of my favourite things that I've ever eaten, and the upside down rum cake is pretty special too. On this occasion, though, I looked to the newly offered Passion Pie - an exotic twist on a classic lemon meringue pie.

The meringue topping was so light and squidgy I just wanted to keep prodding it (I didn't) and it was delicious to eat on its own - though of course much better combined with the zesty passionfruit curd and sweet sauce. It was huge too, and took me longer to finish than the rest of the meal put together - I managed it all though!

I know some restaurants concentrate on putting out amazing food, other places have an impressive drinks list to lure in customers, and some simply offer a really cool, relaxed place to hang out - but when (like me!) you dont get to go out that often you need a place that does all that in one, and Turtle Bay ticks all the boxes for us!

20 July 2017

Am I too old for festivals?

For weeks now, months even, I've seen loads of bright eyed youngsters getting giddy about their upcoming festivals this summer. And I've been happy for them, excited,.. even a little jealous, but from the safe distance of knowing that the festival life is not for me these days, that I've outgrown it.

And then I realised why - it's been twenty years since my first festival. I took my little brother to V97. He got sunburnt. I was stung by a wasp (twice!), we danced like idiots to the Prodigy, we got lost on the way home - it was awesome, and it was the start of a long love affair with festivals.

Photo from Hannah at planestrainsandmeltdowns.com
Some of my other favourite stupid festival memories include:

Taking a full box of Rice Krispie Squares to Leeds one year so I didn't have to spend any money on food. I haven't been able to eat one since. 

Agreeing to meet my bother at a particular spot at the end of the end of the night to I could make sure we got on the right coach home. I waited so long that by the time I figured out he wasn't coming, the coach had gone without me. I ended up sleeping on the reception floor of Milton Keynes police station. My brother, of course, got straight on the coach and fell asleep, only realising I wasn't there when the coach pulled up back in Bradford.

Photo from Hannah at planestrainsandmeltdowns.com
Heading to Leeds on the morning before the festival started, pitching my tent, hanging out for the day - then getting the train back home to see my favourite band who were playing half a mile away from my house! I did make it back bright and early the next morning though! 

Bumping into a good friend early on in the day, and trying to convince him to come and see The Get Up Kids with me. He'd never heard of them, and I wandered off to my own to watch. 17 years later we live together and they're his favourite band.

Photo by Hannah at planestrainsandmeltdowns.com
Then there's the knowledge that I was always invariably grumpy as sin on the last day as the culminative effects of not sleeping for several nights got the better of me, the fact I could buy a full weekend ticket (including camping!) for around £70,.... and the more recent sad realisation that I seem to have no photographs from these wonderful occasions (so big thanks to Hannah and Vicki for letting me us theirs!)

Photo by Vicki at tippytupps.com

Maybe it's the need to capture some of my festival memories on camera that has me itching to go back to a festival now, maybe it's just nostalgia. It might be the many upgrades to the festival-going experience that has me excited (fancy pre-set up tents and food that you actually want to eat rather than have to for survival? Yes please!)

Mainly though it's learning about the huge variety of type of festival available. I used to think festivals were all for drunk teenagers, and that suited me because I was a drunk teenager. Now that I'm an adult with a family it's great to discover so many festivals are designed for adults with families! I took Travelodge's Family Festival Personality Quiz for inspiration, and it suggested that as a 'gang of nature lovers', Latitude Festival or Yorkshire's Deer Shed Festival would suit us perfectly!

We've left it a bit late this year but now I know festival-going is not something I have to leave behind me, we definitely want to include it in our plans for next summer (if only so the kids are having their first festival experience where I can keep an eye on them!)

* I was incentivised to write this post, but I genuiney have done some daft stuff at festivals! 

22 May 2017

A Blooming Great Tea Party

You may not know this about me, but I'm a big fan of tea and cake (OK, so you MAY know that about me!) 

Coming up next month is the Marie Curie Blooming Great Tea Party, which is exactly the kind of fundraising event I can totally get behind! 

Hosting your own tea party can be a great way of raising some cash for charity, and getting together with your nearest and dearest to appreciate the finer things in life (like cake). The Blooming Great Tea Party takes place over the 23rd-25th June, and if you are interested in hosting your own party - at home, work, or anywhere else - you can get a free fundraising pack from Marie Curie here!

There's loads of advice and recipes on the website too but the good thing about a tea party is it can be relatively simple to put together some thing spectacular. The individual elements are all quite straight forward - you need tea (lots of it!), daintly little sandwiches with a variety of fillings, a good selection of cakes,... and possbily the most important (and potentially controversial) aspect - the noble scone. 

The scone is the source of many arguements - plain or fruit? served warm or cold? And each of these could take up posts and posts worth of discussion but today I thought I'd tackle one of the biggest scone-related debates - do you top little baked nuggests of goodness with JAM first or CREAM first? (based on the incontestable truth that for a scone to really count, it has to be served with both)

Now, I know my opinion (which may be illustrated by my various sconed photos) but in the spirit of fairness I thought I'd throw it open to debate and see what others thought. Here are my findings.....


I was gong to keep you in suspense to the end, but I might as well let you know the inevitable truth now - the Jam First crew had a resounding victory, with 50% more people thinking this was the right way round to do it. And just like that, my faith in humanity was restored! Here are some of the reasons I was given

Faye Jones from Glossytots knows it's the right thing to do because 'the jam slides off the cream otherwise!' Similarly, Emma (emmareed.net) thinks 'its a mess trying to put jam on top of cream' and Lyra (thisiswhereiblog.com) knows that 'it just looks prettier that way!'

Applying the cream before jam is traditionally the favoured approach in Devon but this is no excuse for getting it wrong, as both Devon Mum Emma and and Devon Mama Hayley put their jam on first too. I particurlarly likes Hayley's passionate response - "Jam first. I just don't understand how you could do it the other way round?! Do you spread the cream like butter and then jam over it?! It makes no sense! Everyone knows the joy is a nice thick layer of jam and then a HUMONGOUS dollop of cream on top!' Girl knows her stuff! 

Donna at Bobsys Mum makes another excellent point - 'that way means you get more cream!' - always a bonus! Emma, Louise and Kirsty are also firmly in the Jam first camp. 


The Cream First side does have it's supporters though! Suzanne from And Another Ten Things suggests you should 'Use the cream like a second butter and then spoon the jam on obvs', and Aarti at Honestly Wonderful likes to 'put loads and loads of cream with a little teeny weeny dollop of jam on top'. 

Natalie, who blogs at Diary of an Unexpectant Mother, has hers like this - 'A thick spread of cream then a spoonful of jam on top. And try not to get it on your nose. And it has to be proepr clotted cream' I do agree with her there at least!

Tracey seems to think that it's 'Definitely cream first - the jam slides off if you do it the other way!, and for Emma it's 'ALWAYS cream first!'


And then there are the others. The ones that don't like to play by society's rules. The rebels like Kristine's husband who eats them dry. The mavericks like Becky who will only have cream because 'Jam spoils it', the nonconformists like Claire, Lucy and Helena who avoid the cream.And then there are the Jade's and the Nadine's of the world that will jam one side, cream the other and then stick both halves together.


I think, if anything has been proved here, it's that the preparation of a scone is a very personal thing. My advice? If you put together your own tea party -I'd just provide jam and cream by the bucketload and let your guests apply to their own liking (yes, even if they're doing it wrong!) 

That way any scone based argueemnts can focus on the number one issue - - how do you pronounce it?!

8 May 2017

The Source of Good Skin

I've been a long time fan of Crabtree and Evelyn, and funnily enough it was their La Source range that was my first introduction to the brand. We found mini versions of their products in a hotel we were staying in on holiday, and that was the start of the love story. 

The La Source collection was inspired by the 'restorative power of the sea' and features marine based ingredients included to boost skin benefits. The collection has recently been reformulated, featuring four new marine blends and a whole host of products featuring the La Source super ingredient, green seaweed extract. 

I was thrilled to have the opportunity to try out a couple of these hero products recently. The La Source range covers products for your hair, body, face and hands but I was particularly interested in the foot products. I have karate training around three times a week, which can be not only quite tough on my feet physically, but it means people probably spend longer looking at my bare feet than is common. This gives me double the reason to take care of them! 

So now, my favourite post-training treat is a relaxing soak with the La Source Efferversent Sea Foam Soak, followed by the La Source Warming Foot Soother.

The soak features Crabtree and Evelyn's Refreshing Marine Blend - anti-oxident rich green seaweed and purifying brown algae extract - and contains citric acid (for exfoliation) and mineral rich Dead Sea Salts (which conditions the skin). A few minutes soak in hot water containing this is perfect for soothing any aches and strains.

The results are even better when coupled with the warming foot smoother. This is a great little scrub featuring volcanic sand, fine pumice and salt crystals to exfoliate hard areas, but it's also intensely moisturising, containing shea butter and rice bran oil to soften and condition the skin. The product is self warming, and while I'd have liked to be warmer (read: HOT), it feels really indulgent and comforting - just what I need! 

It's hard to describe the difference in how I feel after using these two products - its incredible! I've gone in feeling like I never wanted to so much as walk again, and finished up feeling completely renewed, like I was walking on a cloud! These two products will be part of my life for a long time to come for sure!

And while at the minute I'm all about the feet, I feel it would be remiss to write about Crabtree and Evelyn and not mention their Hand Therapy creams. I love these creams and have gone through numerous scents and varieties over the years (and since La Source is my current bae, of course the matching hand cream is my current go-to!) The Overnight Hand Therapy is the 'beauty sleep' version of this - pop it on before bed and wake up to smoother softer hands! 

My only problem now is that my hands and feet are so well taken care of that I feel like I'm neglecting the rest of my body!

Do you have a favourite Crabtree and Evelyn range? Or any other tips of how to look after my poor achey feet? 

31 March 2017

Holiday Packing - The Great Swimwear Question

March is a terrible time to work in accounts. It's our company year-end, which means we have a *lot* of work to try and squeeze in before the end of the month - and obviously its even worse when my computer decided to throw a wobbly, making it necessary to re-do half of the last month work.

I can honestly say I've earned my cookie Fridays at work this month!

But thankfully, the end is in sight. March is nearly done with and after a few days in April tidying up my messes of paperwork and receipts that I have thrown around my office, I am taking a well earned break. I actually didn't realise when I boked my holiday how much I'd feel like I needed it by the time it came around - but I really do!

In less than two weeks I'll be sat on the beach, cocktail in hand and hoping the kids don't drown while I just finish the next chapter of my book.... but because I've been so busy on the run up I've barely given any consideration to things I need to go away with! So, as a treat for getting my VAT return in on time, I've allowed myself a quick holiday-browse!

One thing I really need, is some new swimwear. I have about half a dozen swimming costumes at home that are all 'broken'... missing straps, or lost underwire, or something else making them, well, not ideal. (Yes, I know I should get rid of them,... I'm not so good at throwing things away!)

But swimwear is a tricky thing to buy. I'm not a bikini-wearer. It's not because I'm too old and fat, I never wanted to wear one when I was young and skinny. They're just not for me. I also don't like anything that's too plain or too fancy, anything with cut out bits or plasticy embellishments,... anything red or pink or,... essentially I'm a massive fusspot!

This year for the first time I am discovering the magic of the swimdress!

What a revelation! Now, don't get me wrong - I'm sure this isn't a new idea,... but I'm slow to catch on, ok? But I love it, all the swim-ability of a swimming costume, but with the 'I'm dressed enough to be out in public'ness' of a dress! These two from Bonmarche were the first two to open my eyes to this war of dressing for the pool, and I think I'm edging towards the turquoisey one, it's a cracking colour with such a cute shape to it... like a shorter, swimmier version of something I would definitely wear on holiday anyway.

Of course, I probably need more than one (and I like over-shopping) so I've also got my eye on this gorgeous strawberry number from Joe Browns, and the cute-as-a-button polka-dot swimdress on the Swimwear365 website...

So that should be my swimwear covered,... now I just need shoes, hats, dresses, bags, books, a plug adaptor, books,... what else?!

* I was fiscally encouraged to write this post,.. but I really do need to think about holiday shopping!

22 March 2017

Forgotten Costs of Cheap Holidays

If there's one thing better than a holiday, it's a cheap holiday and I've often been impressed with the prices I've managed to book a quick European break for. I don't really like to let myself believe that some of these trips aren't quite the bargain I tell myself!

So my 'less than £200' trip to Prague, or my 'bargain' trip to Paris end up actually costing a lot more than I expect, because of the hidden costs I 'forget' about in order to justify booking!

Here are some of the holiday costs I never take into consideration:

Airport Parking - sorting out my airport parking is always one of the last things I do. I don't mean to leave it to the last minute, but once I have something booked I want to concentrate on the 'fun' planning and sorta forget the 'boring but necessary' bits that need planning too! But, of course, any money saved on not booking the expensive last minute parking is money that can be put towards the fun stuff, so it all relates - I'll be making sure to follow these tips on how to save money on airport parking next time!

Passports - Mine is good for a few years yet, but both the kids passports need renewing this year. At £46 each for a child passport, that roughly an extra £100 on top of the next family holiday away!

Plug Adapter - OK, so this isn't something that I should need to buy every trip, but it's the thing I always forget until I get to the airport, where they cost about four times as much as buying one anywhere else! I have literally about 8 European adapters at home.... maybe one day I'll remember to take one with me!

Insurance - This is with airport parking in the 'boring but necessary' category. I might save money overall by getting one of those annual policies but I really need to make the time to look into it properly, instead of quickly clicking 'yes' to something on the way out of the door!

New clothes/shoes/sunglasses/whatever - Now I understand there is a big difference between needing new holiday things, and needing new holiday things, and this can vary depending on what type of holiday it is. I didn't really need a couple of new dresses bought for Paris, but I did definitely need a thick waterproof coat for Iceland!

Airport spending money - I have my holiday spending money carefully budgeted and stashed away, but I always invariably end up spending a small fortune at the airport before we go. Drinks for the plane, sucky sweets, a brew and slice of cake to kill the couple of hours waiting around time... it all adds up!

And that's before we even go anywhere! Once I arrive at my destination its a whole other mess of spending as my carefully planned budget goes out the window and the 'whatever, I'm on holiday! attitude comes in!

Still, it's not going to stop me telling myself that I can definitely afford that weekend away I've been looking at!

* In collaboration with Cheapflights but no less true for it

20 March 2017

A Charming Mother's Day Giveaway

As a special, gift-giving occasion is coming up I'm going to rely on my usual suggestion for the best gift to give to the important ladies in your life - one of the gorgeous handbags from Vendula London!

My love for these stunning bags is old news to anyone who's read this blog for a while, and only grown as they release new ranges. Today I get to share my love for this innovative company by giving away fantastic Vendula prizes to two lucky winners this Mother's Day!
Up for offer are their unique charm bags. There is a choice of a couple of styles of bag complete in a range of colours. The bags can then be accessorised with the detachable charm sets in a range of designs to really dress them up!

I love how one quite simple bag can be personalised to suit a range of preferences and occasions. The charms really add something different and fun, and are bound to be a talking point! I know my cat-lady mum would love the Cat's World charm set, but my favourite is the Beside The Seaside set - so reminiscent of those classic British beach holidays, making me long for ice cream in the sunshine that is hopefully not too far away now!

The lucky winners can choose from any one bag and any one charm set from those shown here (apart from the Alice or London charm sets), just enter below!

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

(And remember, even if you don't win a bag, you can give thanks/win points with your mum by treating her to a Vendula London gift anyway - they're making it even easier for you at the minute with 20% off full priced items before Sunday if you enter the code 'MUM2017' at the checkout!)

17 March 2017

The True Tea Club

It's been a shamefully long time since I've posted here, I know. I've been a busy bee with work and life and my new blog project. If there was one thing that would drag me back into action, it's my love of tea!

The lovely chaps over at The True Tea Club asked if I'd like to try out their tea subscription box, and I've rarely been more certain in my 'yes'!

I love subscription boxes but my dabblings with them in the past have led to me having a houseful of random stuff I don't really know what to do with. But never with tea. Tea is always useful, tea is always wonderful.

The True Tea Club (Yorkshire based, like all the best folk) want to share their 'exper-teas' (yes, I know that's terrible) by introducing their subscribers to a variety of exciting tea blends. These are perfect for the tea beginner as well as those who know their way around loose leafs already, as they come with simple instructions, plenty of info, and even a couple of empty tea bags for those more comfortable with that tea-making method (or lacking the equipment for otherwise).

There's a couple of subscription options, starting at £10 a month (UK postage included) for around 40 cups worth of tea. There's options for tailor-making your box too, if there's a particular tea-type you aren't fond of. I personally like the surprise!

Here's what a typical box might look like...

The first one I tried was the 'Mighty Mango' tea, which smells INCREDIBLE when you open the packet. I'm quite partial to a mango tea and so was really looking forward to this, and the official description really helped sell it: 'Mellow like a Californian beach, the sencha basis is surrounded by bright sunflower blossoms which relaxes in harmony with the fruity mango flavour.' Sounds dreamy, right? I was surprised by the brewing instructions, which suggested a mere 10-20 seconds brewing time. In fact I was half convinced it was a mistake so it was with a certain degree of cynicism that I brewed mine for a (generous) 20 seconds but was pleasantly surprised with how much flavour came out in this brief window, which also didn't give enough time from any green tea bitterness to seep into the final brew. This was just lovely, and would make a particularly cracking drink come those warmer summer days!

Next up was the Vanilla Cupcake - a sweet smooth rooibos with an extra fruity touch in the way of orange peel, papaya strips and banana chips. Plus, isn't it pretty? That's the addition of cornflower, marigold and rose petals which add to the flavour as well as being a treat for the eye! I love the creamy vanilla rooibos base, and though I'm not convinced of its cupcakey-ness, it was a delicious brew nonetheless!

Earl Grey never struck me as particularly rebellious. A little too dainty and flowery for that, so I was interested in what earned the Earl Grey Rebel it's name. Oh, this is punchy! Its Earl Grey, but fresh and zesty, and just properly good. Love it!

I know I've already mentioned how pretty the teas are, and 'prettiness' is a funny desired trait in a tea in a way as the lovely colours and textures found in a tea blend aren't really reflected in the look of the finished drink... but still, look at this beauty! (I could get into why a pretty tea actually is a better tea, but that's a whole other blog post..! Do have a look at The True Tea Club's explanation of the differences between loose tea and tea bags here if you are interested though!) Despite loving the colours of the Rainbow Chaser, made up of apple pieces, blackberry leaves, peppermint and orange peel, this was my least favourite of the bunch. It's just not my cup of tea, as it were. It might be partially because I lack the patience for the longer brewing time of 5-10 minutes, it might be that it tastes like it's really good for you, but I'm just not that into the more herbal/fruity teas. My brother loves this one though, so it's all personal preference - and of course, if there's something you don't like, tea-wise, you can always mention it in your subscription to avoid getting them in future boxes!

I think a service like this is a great way to try new teas - especially if you aren't really sure of what you like yet and want to try different kinds. If you come across a favourite you can even stock up on it from the True Tea Club online shop! You can also follow The True Tea Club on twitter, facebook and instagram for sneaky peaks at what's coming up in future boxes