Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween everyone! I assume you all did most of your celebrating over the weekend seeing as Halloween awkwardly falls on a Tuesday this year!

We didn’t celebrate this year as much as we normally do – we are all packed up and ready to move house! We were hoping to be moved out well in advance of Halloween but unfortunately everything (including all my Halloween decor!) is still packed away in boxes eagerly awaiting our moving date….

I found it really depressing that we couldn’t decorate or throw a big party like we normally do every year, but I still had a great time having a small Halloween celebration with my Mum and Sister’s over the weekend!

We carved pumpkins and made apple tea light candles which was really messy but good fun! I made a puking pumpkin which Mum wasn’t very happy with!! Sorry Mum!

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We then watched Hocus Pocus! What a brilliant family Halloween film!

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Whilst we were watching Hocus Locus we toasted marshmallows! Yes, indoors! I bought us this amazing toasting marshmallow kit from the Naked Marshmallow Company! I’m not going to talk too much about it or post too many photos because I think a separate blog is in order for this brilliant kit! Watch this space….

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I also did my yearly goody bags for family and friends and treated myself to some fantastic Halloween treats!

The Pumpkin and Frankenstein goody bags were from good old Marks and Spencer’s! They were also in the three for two offer! Bonus!

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Our family love Yankee Candles so it would have been wrong not to include some lovely autumnal scents in this years goody bags! The scents I used this year were Crackling Wood Fire, Autumn Night and Fireside Treats! Perfect to light on a cold, wet autumnal evening! The Autumn Night one is burning away on the hall shelf as I write this.

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I used good old Marks and Spencer’s again for the Goody Bag sweets – check out these Percy Pumpkins, Freaky Frogs, Zombie Owls and Scary Spiders!

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For the adult recipients I thought these Crystal Skull Vodkas were brilliant! You can get them in several places but the cheapest place I found them were from the Drink Shop as they were in the sale!

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The vodka is made by Dan Ackroyd and contains no additives, sugar, or citrus oils – the emphasis on this product is its purity. Was I sold by this? Not really – I literally bought them because they are in an amazing skull bottle which is perfect for Halloween!

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These little guys have been in our Halloween gift bags for as long as I can remember!

Plus I also found these great chocolate lollipops from Marks and Spencer’s (again on the three for two offer).

I got these amazing cake pops and other treats from Popadoodledo! They were so well made and so tasty I think I will do a separate blog on this brilliant company too! I can’t wait for her Christmas range to come out!

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Check out these white chocolate fingers with white chocolate “blood dip”! Brilliant!

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and these little guys, believe it or not, are mini Oreos covered in white chocolate!

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I also treated myself to these extra special treats from The Whimsical Cake Company through Not On The High Street, aren’t they stunning? Almost too good too eat…. almost.

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Some lucky people had some extra special chocolate from Hotel Chocolat because they will only eat dark chocolate (you know who you are!)

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I especially loved this Hotel Chocolat Yumpkin! Tasty dark chocolate and vegan friendly!

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How cute are these tiddly little dark chocolate vampires??

Plus some lucky recipients also got some Halloween themed Lush Cosmetics products! You can read more about these in my “A Lush Halloween” blog which was published on Sunday!

So as you can see we were all a little bit spoilt over the Halloween weekend! Sort of makes up for not being able to decorate the house properly and have a big party, but not quite!

We should be in our new house for next Halloween so I’ll have to push the boat out on next years party instead! I’m thinking something along the lines of this amazing house I found on Pinterest

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Not sure we would get many lovely Trick or Treaters though!

 

A Lush Halloween!

Woohoo! I’ve been looking forward to getting hold of this years Lush Halloween collection for absolutely ages! They do have some products which come back year after year but also release several new exciting products! Here are the lovely Lush autumn warmers I recommend for this time of year;

Ghost Shower Gel

This was released as part of a Game of Thrones themed Lush kitchen week and I couldn’t wait to try it because all the reviews I have seen have been really positive!

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Ghost has the scent of lillies, jasmine, ylang ylang and neroli and is made with rose water and dove orchid infusion, so I was obviously expecting a bouquet of floral scents. The rose water scent is lovely and isn’t  overpowering, and you can also smell the sweetness of the jasmine and the almost grassy aroma of the neroli.

The shower gel also contains jojoba oil to moisturise and soften the skin, and you can notice this straight after using it. Due to the oils in the gel, it doesn’t lather up incredibly well, creating more of a foam than a lather, but this really doesn’t matter when you see the moisturising effect it has on your skin.

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The gel also contains snowflake lustre which gives it its shimmering texture, but it doesn’t leave you absolutely covered in glitter after using it, in fact it is a very very subtle shimmer.

I really liked this shower gel but not sure I would buy it again, which surprised me after the rave reviews it received from other Lushie’s – flowery scent’s just really aren’t my bag and I didn’t really think the scent went very well with the name? Maybe it is just me…

Monsters Ball Bath Bomb

I couldn’t wait to get hold of a few of these little guys as they have had such good reviews online! Aren’t they great!?

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Monster’s Ball contains lime and neroli oil and this bath bomb gives off a bright, zesty lime smell. It also includes olibanum oil so overall the bath bomb is great for cleansing as well as softening, healing and hydrating purposes! Just what is needed on those cold October nights!

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As if that isn’t enough, this lovely bomb also contains Himalayan rock salt and cocoa butter! The rock salt is great as a natural healer to hydrate the skin and the Cocoa butter of course moisturises for some time after you step out of the bath.

The cocoa butter forms the centre of the bath bomb, which dissolves slowly once the rest of the bomb has disappeared and adds just enough oil to the bath so the water doesn’t become greasy.

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The bath art you get as a result of the lovely pink and blue colours which come streaming out also make this bath bomb a worth while choice! The combination of the pink and blue colours leave you with a lovely deep purple coloured water – in my opinion, the best bath water colour from a bath bomb so far!!

Just to think I only bought this bath bomb because I thought it looked like a great novel design but it has actually turned out to be one of my most favourite! Better stock up on a few whilst the Halloween range is available!

The only downside was that I didn’t find the scent to be strong enough for me, and it didn’t last as long long on my skin after the bath as I had hoped it would. But still, a highly recommended bath bomb!

Lord of Misrule Shower Cream

This was another scent I had heard lots about and couldn’t wait to try! It is bright green in colour and as this is the first of Lush’s shower creams I have tried, I was surprised at how much thicker it is compared to normal shower gel.

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Lord of Misrule shower cream contains patchouli and black pepper which gives it it’s very distinctive and unusual fragrance! To add a layer of sweetness it also contains vanilla absolute which also reduces the kick of the black pepper. It also contains wheatgerm oil which is full of nutrients including vitamin A, B and D to condition the skin, and vitamin E which is known for reducing skin damage.

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Use your shower cream in exactly the same way you do your shower gel – I found it  funny because the label on the shower cream says under the how to use section “if you really don’t know how then we suggest you find someone you really like and invite them into the shower with you to demonstrate”. Brilliant!

Anyway, I lather it up in a sponge which turns it into a nice thick foam. Immediately it feels really lovely and moisturising on the skin, and for several hours after you step out of the shower too. The scent also lasts a long time afterwards, and the smell is really gorgeous! I am really looking forward to using the Lord of Misrule bath bombs now too! Another favourite scent to add to the list! Why are most of my favourite scents seasonal??? I will have to bulk buy some more before they stop making them until next autumn!

Bewitched Bubble Bar

The Bewitched bubble bar is new for Halloween 2017 and I’ve seen some really good reviews of it so far! Doesn’t it look great!?

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As with all my other bubble bars I cut this one up and crumbled it (it was quite difficult to cut with a knife so go carefully!) and then sprinkled about a third of it under running bath water. This bubble bar isn’t very big but don’t let that fool you into using too much – some people have halved it and found this to be a bit too overindulgent! You should easily get three baths out of one of these bubble bars.

It created mounds of lovely bubbles and made the bath water a dark grey colour which I am pleased to say didn’t leave any marks on the bath afterwards!

This bubble bar contains blackberry and bergamot and frankincense oils and is one of the nicest smells I’ve had in a bubble bar! The oils made the water incredibly moisturizing and I didn’t want to get out of the bath once I was in because of its amazing scent and moisturizing effect!!!

I bought three of these in the end so I am well stocked up and a couple of these will be appearing in my famous Halloween goody bags I give to friends and family too!

Black Rose Naked Lip Scrub

I’ve not tried a naked lip scrub before (no little glass pot so it saves on packaging) so I wasn’t really too sure what to expect. I have to admit I don’t find it ideal – if you are using it on your lips one end then it means that you are handling it the other end which only makes me think of germs building up each time you are using it! Still, I can see why they have introduced them.

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The naked lip scrub is like a little bar of soap! I was really pleasantly surprised when I used it – go steady as you swipe it across your lips to buff and smooth as it really does give your lips a harsh scrub if you do it too hard!

The scrub contains illipe butter, extra virgin coconut oil, mood lifting ylang ylang and Sicilian mandarin oils. The caster sugar content exfoliates and keeps your lips soft and smooth whilst the organic jojoba oil moisturises.

I was really impressed with the design and found it easier and far less messy to use than the normal pots of lip scrubs – I am definitely going to buy some more of the available scrubs in this design!

Pumpkin Bath Bomb

A perfect little Halloween bath bomb and one which returns year after year!

Pumpkin bath bomb contains vanilla absolute and pimento berry and is designed to give off an aroma reminiscent of pumpkin pie! The funny thing is, although I love the smell of this bath bomb – I don’t even like pumpkin! I just get excited when it is the time of year that pumpkin flavoured items are released as it means Autumn is finally on the way! This includes Pumpkin Spiced Lattes at Starbucks!

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This bath bomb has a lovely strong flavour which is apparent as soon as you open your Lush parcel! On some occasions the scent almost smelt fruity, which was something I wasn’t expecting! The bath bomb also contains cinnamon and vanilla which gives it its lovely autumnal warming scent which is definitely something I would describe as a “home baking” scent.

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This one is a fast fizzer (seriously – gone in seconds!) which let off streams of orange coloured fizz which was followed by a lovely yellow coloured core. The smell remained strong during my bath and stayed on my skin for a long time afterwards too! It doesn’t put on much of a show as it is gone so quickly but you can’t have everything can you??

Not the most moisturising of bath bombs and I wish the cinnamon scent was stronger, as cinnamon is my favourite scent, but Pumpkin is still an incredibly enjoyable bath bomb which left my skin feeling lovely and soft – I can see why it is a firm favourite in the Halloween collection!

Magic Wand Soap

I don’t normally buy soaps from Lush as I am not a soap person (I prefer shower gels, jellies and creams!) as I find soaps quite drying on my skin, but when I saw the soap range that Lush had released for Halloween and Christmas I knew I just had to try them!

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This lovely looking soap features tangerine oil and orange oil (two of my favourite scents!) and pomegranate molasses which give this soap a lovely strong, fruity scent. The scent isn’t very strong until you actually start using the soap, but it is amazing once you start lathering it onto your skin! Both of these fruits are natural cleansers and are great on the skin for clearing out pores.

The soap also features charcoal (its black outer core) and coconut oil. The charcoal is a great exfoliator and of course coconut oil is great for moisturising and replenishing the skin. I was slightly worried that the black charcoal colour would stain my skin or the tiles in the shower but fear not – although the soaps lather was a dark grey colour as a result of the charcoal, it didn’t stain anything and just washes away with water which is great (I’m still getting over cleaning up the mess after the Dark Arts jelly bomb – I think I am scarred for life after that one!)

When you order a soap from Lush they arrive in rather large chunks, so fellow Lushie’s do tend to cut a chunk off to use, rather than taking the entire block into the bath/shower. Don’t cut the pieces of soap too small though – they are slippery and difficult to keep hold of anyway so it would make it even worse if you are trying to keep hold of a tiny piece!

I’m so pleased I took the risk and bought this one – it didn’t leave my skin feeling dry afterwards (which is what I experience with normal soaps) and the smell is really lovely, and definitely one of my top Lush scents.

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Lord of Misrule Bath Bomb

Obviously the same scent as the Lord of Misrule shower cream I’ve already covered, apparently this bath bomb is inspired by the the ruler of the Pagan Feast of Fools!

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Again containing ingredients of black pepper and patchouli oil with vanilla absolute, this bath bomb almost looked a bit Christmassy due to its bright green colour with specks of pink and white.

This bath bomb was a violent but very slow fizzer – after fifteen minutes it was still going! It is very hypnotic though! After a lot of green fluffy foam, eventually the centre cracks open and out comes this very dark red centre! It is very fascinating to watch!

The water goes from a light green colour to a dark red colour once the centre cracks open but remember to warn the husband/boyfriend of this because when mine poked his head round the bathroom door he thought there had been a horrible accident! I’m not really selling this am I?! Let me put it another way – the end result bath water is one of the most stunning colours I have seen from a bath bomb!

It definitely suits its name – calming green followed by chaotic splashes of red which completely transform the water – this is definitely one of my favourites and is very beautiful to watch!

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The scent is quite strong but not off-putting – you can definitely smell the pepper in it and  it lingers for a long time after you’ve hopped out of the bath.

I wish this bath bomb was a member of the permanent range! Love, love, love it!

Sparkly Pumpkin Bubble Bar

The Sparkly Pumpkin Bubble Bar is bright gold and orange and is COVERED in glitter! The scent isn’t one of my favourites, but it is definitely autumnal!

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The bubble bar is made using lime, juniperberry and grapefruit oils, so it has a warming, zesty and almost woody scent. It also contains lime oil for a bit of a citrus twist and cinnamon stick (the “pumpkin” stem).

It isn’t a particularly big bubble bar – I sliced mine and cut it up like I do with my other bubble bars and found it fit into a much smaller pot than my usual bubble bars. I reckon you will get maybe three baths’ worth out of each one of these little glitter balls.

If you don’t fancy cutting it all up, slice a chunk off and then just crumble it under running water – be warned though – the glitter on the outside of the bubble bar will go everywhere!

Whichever way you break up your bubble bar, once it is crumbled under running water you get a bath full of lovely fluffy bubbles. After having my bath I was expecting to be covered head to toe in glitter, but the glitter was actually subtle in the bath water and didn’t stick to my skin at all. Even better, there was no glitter left in the bath tub at all afterwards, and it all just washed away with the bath water.

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I found the scent of the bubble bar to be relaxing, but not quite as strong as I would like. It also wasn’t as moisturising as some of the other bubble bars I have used, although my skin did feel lovely and soft afterwards.

I enjoyed using the Sparkly Pumpkin bar but it wasn’t one of my favourites. I bought a couple as soon as the Lush Halloween range was released – would I buy it again? Not sure, the smell is growing on me each time I use it….

Hedgewitch Soap

As I said with the Magic Wand soap, I am not really a soap fan in general but I was completely captivated with the Halloween and Christmas range of soaps so I ordered a few to try, and I am so pleased I did!!

I can’t even begin to explain how amazing this soap smells! It is really incredible and I have used it everyday since I bought it! I will definitely have to buy myself several more before the Halloween range is no longer on sale! I’ve bought one for my Mum and Sister too!

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I cut a chunk off my soaps so I use them just a bit at a time and keep the remainder in a sealed Tupperware box for freshness.

This soap contains honeysuckle flower infusion, cocoa butter, coconut oil, organic caster oil, Sicilian mandarin oil, osmanthus absolute and gardenia extract – I think I would go so far as to say this is my absolute favourite soap EVER. It lathers up really nicely (I lather it up on a sponge) and the smell is so addictive that I find myself lathering up several more sponges full of soapy bubbles just to savour the scent for a little bit longer!

Honestly, if you are passing a Lush store, go in and ask them to smell this soap and let me know what you think!

Ectoplasm Jelly Bomb

I couldn’t wait to try this one! A bath bomb named after the green slime that ghosts vomit all over people in films like Ghostbusters!

A relatively harmless looking purple jelly bomb with yellow dots and a little ghost shape on top, Ectoplasm smells absolutely incredible! It contains tangerine, grapefruit and litsea cubeba oil which gives off a gentle zesty lemony kind of scent, which is very refreshing and uplifting.

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This jelly bomb appears to start fizzing quite quickly but overall the bomb took ages to dissolve, and after around half an hour I actually crushed it up in my hands to try and get it to dissolve a little bit quicker! Even after this there were big chunks of the bomb left floating in the bath which I found a bit disappointing!

I was also disappointed because it didn’t let off much jelly – just a bit of purple coloured whisps, and (due to the name) I assumed it would at least resemble something green and slimy which wouldn’t look out of place in a horror movie! You did get a few blobs of fluorescent slime though which was pretty cool!

The smell was incredible and I would buy it again just for the scent, but it was the most disappointing jelly bomb I have tried, jelly wise! I stocked up on a few of these to put in family and friends Halloween gift boxes which I do every year, I hope they aren’t disappointed with them!!

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Goth Fairy Shimmer Bar

I must admit I was quite surprised at how small this little buy was when he arrived because he wasn’t particularly cheap (£5.95 I think), so I was expecting something around the size of a small bubble bar!

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This cute little guy contains grapefruit and bergamot but has an almost creamy blackcurrant scent which is really lovely – definitely more a “berry” fragrance than a “citrus” fragrance. The bar also contains cupuacu, illipe and almond butters and oils for moisturizing.

The idea behind the Goth Fairy Shimmer Bar is to apply your normal moisturizer and then use the shimmer bar on top to add a beautiful scent and a layer of sparkle on your skin. You can use it as the sole moisturizer if you like but due to the size, you would probably end up getting through a bar quite quickly.

When you use the bar it melts slightly due to the warmth of your skin but it is not sticky or messy like some products of a similar nature, such as a massage bar. You can even add the product to your face as part of your makeup routine! It would make quite a nice highlighter I think!

I found the bar to be really moisturizing as well as really effective due to its shimmer, and I didn’t have to wait ages for the butters and oils to be absorbed into my skin.

Be warned that I found the lustre quite difficult to remove – so take it easy if you don’t want to turn up to a business conference looking like a mermaid! Even after having a bath I still found some of the gold, green, silver and purple lustre on my skin a day or so later! Its is very difficult to catch the full shimmery effect on camera but this might give you an idea –

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Due to this I would probably only use the bar when going on a girls night out or to a party, and as I don’t do this very often (I’m usually spending my time at work, in the gym, walking the dogs or in my pyjamas watching Netflix or blogging!) so it probably isn’t a product I would use very often. Having said that, I did buy a couple for my sister and best friend to use because I think they are cute and again would be something they would use before a girls night out!

Pink Pumpkin Bubble Bar

To be honest I wasn’t really looking forward to using this bubble bar because I was a bit disappointed with the sparkly pumpkin version and in my mind I tarred these two with the same brush!

Pink Pumpkin is a lighter more floral scent as it contains geranium oil, bergamot oil and jasmine absolute alongside some cinnamon stick which acts as the pumpkin “stem” decoration. I cut the bubble bar up as I would normally and sprinkled a handful under running bath water. Pink Pumpkin produces a mass of lovely fluffy bubbles and turns the water a beautiful rose pink colour. I am not normally a fan of floral scents but I preferred this scent to that of the Sparkly Pumpkin Bubble Bar.

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The thing I was most surprised about with pink pumpkin was how moisturising it was when I got in the bath. You could feel the oils moisturising your skin straight away but without the bath water being oily so it would still be ok to wash your hair in. It was in fact probably one of the most moisturising baths I have had and a bath I really didn’t want to get out of! So pleasantly surprised with this one!

So there you have it – this years Lush Halloween range! I have already purchased the Christmas range too which is HUGE this year so by the time you read this blog I will be well underway trying out these lovely seasonal products!

Keep an eye out for my Christmas Lush blogs in December which will form part of my “Blogmas” attempt this year!

 

Halloween in the Evans’ house!

Wow I really love the autumnal season! Yes the days get cooler but you still have the occasional bright sunny day with that fresh autumnal breeze, ideal for going for long walks with the dogs, and the best part of autumn of course, has to be Halloween!

Now I don’t ever need an excuse to have a party and to celebrate with friends and family, so needless to say, Halloween is always a big event in the Evans’ household! The celebrations usually continue over the entire Halloween weekend, with the first event being a good old trip to the cinema on the Friday evening of Halloween weekend to watch the latest scary horror film! Past films include Insidious and Paranormal Activity – several evenings of no sleep and jumping at every sound the house makes usually follow this!

On the Saturday of Halloween weekend I spend the day decorating the house with all the spooky decs! I have a LOT because every year I come across more decorations I like and I just can’t resist adding them to my collection!

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The real focus of the decorating is the dinner table! Sometimes I host three course dinner parties and other years I just set the table up with buffet food so people can help themselves if we have a lot of party guests!

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Every year I also make up goody bags for family and party guests – these boxes I came across on eBay are brilliant! I bought a load in orange and black and just printed off some spooky pictures, add the persons name and they are ready to be filled with sweets and treats!

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Aside from sweets, I also buy other bits and pieces to go with the goody bags, such as these brilliant spooky balloons (99p each from Clinton Cards) and these great orange flowers complete with Scary witch (from Morrisons).

You can read about what appeared in this years goody bags in my Happy Halloween blog which is being published on Tuesday! I can’t give the game away before everyone has had theirs and ruin the surprise!

If we are having guests over for Halloween parties we usually insist on them wearing Halloween outfits! Some of the outfits we’ve seen over the years have been absolutely amazing! So much time, effort and money has gone into them – so most years I will award a trophy to the best dressed guest! Check out some of these scary characters!

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To keep the guests entertained we usually do a few games and activities – we tried apple bobbing one year – it didn’t end well so we scrapped that! Yearly activities usually now include pumpkin carving and the standard party drinking games!

After our normal yearly Halloween parties, most of the day after is spent clearing up and rescuing the earrings out of the toilet and trying to get the red wine out of the curtains (yes – really!!) but we usually put aside some time to finish off our Halloween weekend with something spooky such as a visit to Frightmare. Frightmare takes place a few miles away and has become so popular over the last few years that the tickets sell out within hours for some of the most popular dates! Each year is a different theme and each ticket gets you entry to five different attractions including the Haunted Hayride, Séance, the Offering, and Caged!

I highly recommend getting tickets if you can – it’s a brilliant event which is really well planned and of course is absolutely terrifying! If you are a bit nervous and think you might not be able to take part in the full experience, they also offer Slightmare, which is a toned down version of the main event!

Have a great Halloween weekend everyone!!!

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Halloween Eats!

Hooray! It’s finally Halloween weekend! I’ve got some great things planned for this weekend but it wouldn’t be a real Halloween celebration without my favourite Halloween recipes I make year after year!

Ghost Cakes

All you need for these is your normal cupcake recipe (vanilla, chocolate, whatever you fancy) and a set of dariole moulds (usually sold in a set of six). Dariole moulds are quite difficult to get hold of in everyday shops, so try somewhere like eBay or Lakeland.

Make sure the dariole moulds are greased and lined and fill to about two-thirds full to allow the cakes space to rise. Once the cakes are cooked, allow them to cool and then carefully remove from the moulds (you might need to cut a bit off the base so that the cakes can stand upright) then all you need to do is roll out some pre-made royal icing and fold it over the top of the cakes so that it looks ghost-like! Add two raisins or dots of black icing for the eyes and voila!

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Welsh-rarebit Ghosts

These are so easy!

Just buy yourself a ghost-shaped cookie cutter and cut ghost shapes out of any type of bread. In a saucepan add 225g of strong cheddar cheese, 1 tablespoon of butter, 2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce, 1 teaspoon dry mustard, 2 teaspoons of plain flour and cook over a low heat until melted. At this point you can even add a couple of tablespoons of your favourite beer if you like! Stir the ingredients until they become paste-like.

Toast the one side of the bread, then spread the rarebit over the non-toasted side and brown off under the grill. Only down-side to these are they do need eating straight away after they have been served, but they go down brilliantly as a drunken party goers midnight snack! Delicious!

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Chocolate Frogs

Easy-peasy! Buy the mould from Ebay, choose what chocolate you want to turn into frogs (I use dark chocolate, milk chocolate and cookies and cream chocolate), melt the chocolate slowly in the microwave (do 30 seconds then stir and repeat until all the chocolate is melted) and then pour into the moulds and leave to set.

Hint: do these a couple of days in advance a few at a time, don’t rush them and don’t put them into the fridge to get them to set – changing the temperature too quickly will make the chocolate go white and although it doesn’t do you any harm to eat, it doesn’t look very appetising and your frogs will look mouldy!

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Shattered Glass Cupcakes

These are really popular at my parties, people always comment at how great they look!

Take your normal cupcake recipe, again any flavour you like, and make the cupcakes as normal. When you go to ice the cakes, use a plain vanilla buttercream or cream cheese as these look the most effective.

A couple of hours before the guests are due to arrive, begin making the shattered glass. The glass needs to be made last minute as when it is left on the cakes for long periods of time, the glass begins to melt and doesn’t look anywhere near as effective. The recipe for making the glass is basically the same as for making caramel, you just don’t leave it cooking as long so the liquid stays clear.

Put 275g of granulated sugar and 175ml of water in a small saucepan with high sides and bring to the boil whilst stirring to make sure all the sugar has dissolved (keep kids well away from this!). Reduce the heat to medium/high and leave to cook until the mixture starts to go golden brown around the edges. This can take a while – around 15 to 20 minutes but keep an eye on it at all times! As soon as this happens, remove the mixture from the heat and pour onto a rimmed baking sheet, tilting the baking sheet slightly as you pour so it spreads evenly and makes a thin layer. Be REALLY careful at this stage – this mixture is incredibly hot!!

Let the mixture cool so it hardens (around 30 minutes). Once the mixture has set, twist the baking sheet slightly and hit the mixture with a rolling pin to crack it like glass (again be careful, these shards can be as sharp as glass) and start adding the shards to the cupcakes.

To finish off, drizzle a blood like mixture over the top of the cupcakes (I make runny icing using royal icing sugar, water and red food colouring, but you can also use jam or cherry preserves etc – I even found pre-made red runny icing in the supermarket last year).

Serve up the cupcakes straight away and watch jaws drop! Oh and teeth break if they don’t go steady on the hardened sugar!

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Mummy Hotdogs

Love these! I could eat the whole lot!

Again so simple to make! Buy a tin of hotdogs, buy a pre-made pack of croissant dough, unroll the dough and cut into thin slices to use as the “bandages”, wrap the dough around the hotdogs to look like mummys and put them in the oven for about 15-20 minutes until the dough starts going golden brown and the hotdogs are cooked. For the eyes, add two dots of mustard! Really tasty!

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Rice Krispie Pumpkins

I’ve only made these once and they didn’t turn out quite as expected (I didn’t use enough orange food colouring!) but again they are very easy to make and are quite effective! Make up your normal batch of Rice Krispie cakes, add orange food colouring, shape into a ball shape and decorate the eyes, nose, mouth and stalks with black and green ready rolled icing.

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Witches Fingers

There are a couple of recipes for Witches Fingers on the internet – both sweet (Almond Witches Fingers) and savoury (Cheesy Witches Fingers). Both are really effective and very tasty!

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Almond Witches Fingers

Peanut Butter Eyeballs

These are quite easy to make but take bloody ages to decorate so be warned!!! I took a batch of them into work for my work colleagues a couple of years ago and they went down really well though! The recipe does make a lot, which is probably why they take so long to decorate! Find the recipe here.
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I hope this has given you some ideas of some easy but effective Halloween treats! I’m off to start working my way through the bowl of sweets we put aside for the trick or treaters!

Have a great Halloween weekend!

Monkey Cookies!

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Hello fellow Cookie Monsters!

I came across Monkey Cookies whilst shopping in Selfridges a few months ago and those of you who know me well will know that I do have a bit of a thing for cookies, so it would have been incredibly wrong not to try them!

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Monkey Cookies began as a home baking trial by Abdullah Al Ansari in 2012 but quickly evolved into a full blown business operation. The Monkey Cookies idea was inspired by “Mr Al Ansari’s passion for combining various ingredients to create unique and novel cookies that are all freshly baked.”

Monkey Cookies say to make their cookies even more enjoyable you can warm them up in the microwave for ten seconds – fresh warm cookies – amazing!

The first thing I found quite surprising about Monkey Cookies was that they don’t do a lot of different flavours when compared to other cookie producers – so far they produce six flavours in total:

Original

An original flavoured cookie with milk chocolate chips. Sounds boring? They aren’t! They’ve got an almost cinnamon like taste which makes them the ultimate comfort food cookie! Stick them in the microwave for ten seconds and you will be in cookie heaven!

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Monkey Mallow

An original cookie with a dollop of marshmallow on with a square of milk chocolate Hershey’s plonked on top.

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After it has been in the microwave for ten seconds the marshmallow begins to warm and go fluffy and the chocolate begins to melt so you have a s’more like combination – delicious!

Monkey Hershey’s

An original cookie with a square of white chocolate and milk chocolate Hershey’s on top. Pop it in the microwave so the chocolate just starts to melt…

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Monkey Cookies produce three types of these little “bites”, which are small round cookies with delicious fillings:

Monkey K-Bites

The Monkey K Bites are my favourite of the three – the K in Monkey K Bites stands for Kinder (as in Kinder Chocolate), so when these bites are put in the microwave, the middle is melted and warm and absolutely yummy!

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Monkey N-Bites

The N Bites both have Nutella centres – the Monkey N Bites are original cookies with a Nutella centre. I’m afraid I am not a fan of Nutella but I gave both of the flavours a try – the taste is not overwhelmingly hazelnut so I still really enjoyed them!

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Monkey N-Brown

The Monkey N Brown also has Nutella in the centre, except the cookie is a double chocolate cookie instead of an original cookie. Again, not my favourite as I am not a fan of Nutella but for all you Nutella fans out there, stick these in the microwave for ten seconds to warm them and you will be in heaven!

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Cookies are around £1.29 each for the larger cookies or you can buy them in the tin sets as shown in the picture for £15.99. The tin set gets you two each of the original, Monkey Mallow and Monkey Hershey and three each of the Monkey K Bites, Monkey N Bites and Monkey N Brown Bites – and of course you get to keep the rather fetching tin as well – the brother in law uses his to take his sandwiches to work – bless!

The cookies are available to order online in other countries but not yet in the UK, fingers crossed they will let you order them online very soon! They are definitely on the shopping list next time I can get into a Selfridges!

Check out Monkey Cookies at their website here.

Kylie Lip Kits and Glosses

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Hello makeup lovers! It’s about time I wrote a blog about some of my favourite makeup products!

I wasn’t sure about writing a blog about Kylie Lip kits, as although I love makeup and cosmetics, I’m not very outgoing with the colours I choose and I tend to stick with “safe” colours such as varying shades of nudes!

However I do love the Kylie Lip Kits and glosses and have already ordered several, so I think they are definitely worth a mention!

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One thing I do find frustrating about the Kylie Cosmetics range is that items are currently only available to order directly through the Kylie Cosmetics website and, living in the UK, this means high delivery charges and then, even more annoyingly, customs charges are then charged on top! This means reasonably priced cosmetics end up costing you a pretty penny in the end! My advice? Make a note which items you want to order and keep an open for buy one get one free offers on the lip kits! These buy one get one free offers do come up quite regularly and will of course save you money on products and money on postage if you buy a few items at a time! Keep your eyes peeled on the Kylie Cosmetics Instagram page where these special offers are usually announced! Make sure you get in early though as products sell out very, very fast!

The Kylie Lip Kits consist of one liquid lipstick and one pencil liner. I’ve only bought the matte variety of kits so far but they are also available in the velvet variety. The lip liner is an ultra long wearing lip liner with a creamy texture which glides on very easily. The lip liner can be sharpened in most standard sized sharpeners. The matte liquid lipstick contains a “high intensity pigment” which is extremely long wearing but also very moisturising, so the long wearing of the lipstick does not dry out your lips.

Anyway, the Kylie Kip Kit and glosses I have tried so far are:

Maliboo Lip Kit

Maliboo is recommended for use on fair to light and light to medium skin tones and is a light cool-tone nude colour.

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Maliboo

It is my favourite lip kit colour so far and I’ve already stocked up in case it is discontinued!

Moon Lip Kit

Moon is recommended for use on light to medium skin tones and is a taupe nude colour.

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Top to bottom Maliboo and Moon

Exposed Lip Kit

Exposed is a warm mid-tone beige colour.

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Top to bottom Maliboo, Moon and Exposed

Dolce K Lip Kit

Dolce K is a deep beige nude colour.

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Top to bottom Maliboo, Moon, Exposed and Dolce K

and the glosses I have tried so far are:

King K Metal Matte Lipstick

King K is a soft metallic gold colour. The Metal Lipstick gives you bold metallic lips with a creamy feel and smooth texture.

While this is a long wearing formula, again it does not dry out your lips. Throughout the day your lips remain moisturised with a shimmering metallic finish.

Many people layer the King K lipstick over the top of their favourite matte lipstick for an ultra-dramatic look.

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Top to bottom Maliboo, Moon, Exposed, Dolce K and King K

Literally Gloss

Literally is a neutral mid-tone nude. I especially love this gloss because Kylie Cosmetics sent it to me for free when I placed an order during their last buy one get one free offer, as an apology for making me wait for my order because some items were out of stock! Bonus!

The glosses are again ultra-pigmented and glide on the lips smoothly and evenly. A blend of vitamin E and highly moisturising ingredients provide hydration and moisturise the lips, while natural lip enhancers provide volume.

Again you can wear the Literally Gloss alone or layer on top of your favorite Matte Liquid Lipstick.

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Top to bottom Maliboo, Moon, Exposed, Dolce K, King K and Literally

I hope this has given you an idea of the product – as I tend to go for the same nude/neutral colours, here is an idea of some of the other shades which are currently available:

Pumpkin (a dirty mid orange tone)

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Wicked (a deep violet)

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Mink (a rich taupe brown)

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Kristen (a warm brown berry)

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Vixen (a “blackened vampy plum)

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Mary Jo K (a deep red)

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22 (a vibrant burnt orange)

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As these products are only currently available directly through the Kylie Cosmetics website, please please be wary of all the fakes that are doing the rounds on places like eBay. Even the fakes are very difficult to spot so cost wise, if they look too good to be true, they probably are – don’t waste your money or risk buying cosmetics filled with god knows what ingredients!!

A really highly recommended product – I just hope they will soon be more easily available in UK stores!

UncommonGoods.Com – an unusual gift givers delight!

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My favourite item on the site so far – this set of four Agate Coasters – beautiful!

For those organised people who are already thinking about this year’s Christmas gifts – if you are stuck for ideas or fancy something really different this year then I have got a brilliant website for you!

I start my Christmas shopping really early, not just because I have so many people to buy for, but because I am not one of those people who leaves it until the last minute and then hits the stores with a massive list and basically grabs whatever is left on the shelves! I like to give each present I buy some significant thought to ensure I am buying something the person will love and either use regularly or treasure forever!

As the years go on it is becoming harder and harder to find such unusual gifts for people. Trends change really quickly and as soon as someone has introduces a great idea, it is not long afterwards that the market becomes flooded with copycat ideas and everyone ends up with one of these latest gifts or gadgets under the tree.

This is where Uncommon Goods comes in!

The website is an American website but they make it incredibly easy to shop online from the UK. All prices are quoted in Pounds sterling and all the duties and taxes are calculated at the checkout – so you know exactly how much something is going to cost and aren’t left with any outstanding fees surprises when the item is delivered! Uncommon Goods also keep the international shipping rates as low as possible so you aren’t stung on delivery costs which, on some websites I’ve used, end up costing more than the item itself!

I’ve spent lots of time searching through this brilliant website – there are hundreds and hundreds of amazing gifts to choose from, it was really hard to whittle it down to just a few but here are some of my favourites from the following Uncommon Goods collections:

Perfect Christmas gifts for her

I love this necklace which reads “do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and make a trail” because I first came across this quote on a plaque in Las Vegas at the New York New York hotel in 2009 – I loved it then and I’m so pleased I came across this!

Travel Stub Diary – ideal for storing tickets, maps, postcodes and any other memorabilia you’ve collected from those special places you’ve visited.

I LOVE snow globes – how beautiful is this cherry blossom snow globe?! My sister adores cherry blossom so she might find one of these hiding under the Christmas tree this year!

Bath salts are always a firm favourite – I love these Chakra bath salts in these bright cheerful colours!

How elegant is this wine tasting flight? Ideal for a girls night in to give guests the opportunity to sample different wines!

I’m not normally a fan of mugs but how cute are these little owl mugs?? I hosted a Harry Potter themed party recently – these would have been ideal for it!

Check out this amazing Elwood unicorn mug! There’s also a matching bowl! You can’t go too far wrong with anything unicorn themed as a present at the moment!

This woven wine tote with glasses is a great idea for picnics or even when just sitting in the garden – no more knocked or kicked over wine glasses when they are put safely back in this woven tote!

These cocoa butter truffles bathtub soaks look good enough to eat but you will have to settle with using them in a nice hot bath instead! Ideal for relaxing with during those cold winter months!

I love this set of three loofah scrubbers! The embedded loofah is made of dried gourd which is a natural skin polisher.

Perfect Christmas gifts for him

Check out this whiskey wedge! Simply make the “ice slope” from the mould to keep drinks cold but with minimal dilution.

This bottle loft is brilliant and definitely something hubby will be adding to the Christmas list! It looks really impressive and saves space too!

My father in law loves guitars and has built up quite a collection over the years so these coin guitar picks and guitar themed socks will probably end up in his stocking this Christmas!

Carrying on with the music theme – these two are great for music lovers! Check out the record clock and record bowls! There’s also a matching doormat if you’d prefer…

If you want to avoid having ice in your drinks altogether then these nautical whiskey stones are brilliant! Simply freeze them and add them to your drinks to keep them cool and prevent watered down drinks.

How unusual is this stone drinks dispenser?? I’ve never seen anything like it before! Probably why it appears on the UncommonGoods website though!

If food is more of a perfect gift for the man in your life, how about this brilliant beer jelly? It comes in a set of four preserves which are infused with craft beers!

Or these boozy Jonboy caramels? A set of three in absinthe, whiskey and fleur de sel flavours!

Perfect Christmas gifts for Mum

I was really looking forward to rifling through this section of the website because I love choosing special presents for my Mum!

I really love these birthstone wishing balls – each one comes with 52 slips of paper for you to write down your wishes, memories or accomplishments every week of the year! Coil them up and put them in the tiny hole near the base and they become a permanent part of the display! Stunning!

Continuing with the birthstone theme (this features a lot in my choices I’ve noticed!) is the birthstone jewellery dish – ideal for Mum’s dressing table!

I also love this Nordic tea light trough – really cosy looking and relaxing!

I love this molten sculptural bowl – probably more for myself than for someone else! The base is the root of a gamal tree and it can be used as anything from a vase to an unusual wine decanter. Absolutely beautiful and utterly striking.

I thought these wine cork candles were a brilliant idea! Really effective, they come in a pack of 12 to keep you going for a while.

How unusual is this real sugar maple leaf night light?? It is preserved in 24 karat antique gold so it retains its delicate shape and veins, and is stunning as an ornament in the day and a night light in the evening.

Sorry… birthstone related gifts again! But believe it or not these are SOAPS! Aren’t they great? They are all handmade and look just like gemstones, I would like one of each in my stocking please Santa!

My Mum loves her herb garden, and so these brass herb plant markers are a perfect present for her!

Or how about this slow brew iced tea maker?! A great idea if your Mum enjoys her iced teas whilst working in the garden!

 

If this hasn’t been enough to convince you, UncommonGoods also have a really admirable mission statement, and are working hard to make sustainability a key part of their business. They are constantly working to make UncommonGoods more environmentally friendly and more socially responsible.

Here are just some things UncommonGoods focus on as part of the everyday running of the business:

Handmade, Recycled and Organic Products –

“We’re committed to offering you a creative and exciting merchandise assortment and are working with our suppliers – from artists to small manufacturers – to make their products in a more socially and environmentally responsible manner. Since our founding, we’ve featured products that contain recycled components and have not sold products containing leather, feathers or fur – we’re committed to selling products that do no harm to people or animals.”

Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)

“We understand that by producing a catalog we use the earth’s resources. We try our best to minimize that impact by shifting more business online, limiting how many catalogs we mail, and printing our catalogs on either recycled paper (virtually all of which is from 30% post-consumer waste) or paper sourced from FSC certified forests (which are harvested in a sustainable manner).”

Better To Give

“Giving back is important to us and we want to share this passion with our customers. That’s why we created the Better to Give Program in 2001, which allows you to select a non-profit organization to receive a $1 donation from us at checkout. UncommonGoods has donated over $1,000,000 since we created this program.” Learn more about this here

B Corporation

“UncommonGoods is proud to be a founding member of B Corporation, an organization created to help customers understand the social and environmental impact of their purchases. The B seal means that a company has met the standards outlined in a comprehensive screening questionnaire, which evaluates a company on issues ranging from providing a living wage, to lessening their impact on the environment, to giving back to the community.”

So as  you can see, they are a wonderful company to purchase from!

Happy shopping – I’m sure you will find some truly amazing gifts for your loved ones from UncommonGoods! I would love to hear from you about your fantastic finds! Don’t forget to sign up to their website – secret sales are available to their email subscribers only!

A fly-by trip to Florence

We visited Florence as part of our grand tour of Italy and to be honest it was the place I was looking forward to visiting least, as I was really excited about finally getting to visit Rome and Venice. It turns out I was completely blown away by this beautiful place and it ended up being my favourite out of all the places we visited in Italy during our trip!

We did a walking tour of the centre of Florence with a local guide who was brilliant – he really enjoyed talking to us about his amazing city and was so knowledgeable. Our walking tour around Florence included stops at these wonderful places:

The Church of Santa Croce

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The Basilica di Santa Croce (Basilica of the Holy Cross) is the burial place of some of the most famous Italians, such as Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli, the poet Foscolo, the philosopher Gentile and the composer Rossini, and it is therefore also known as the “Temple of the Italian Glories.”

The construction of the current church, to replace an older building, started on 12 May 1294. The Basilica became popular with Florentines and it became common practice for greatly honoured Florentines to be buried or commemorated there. As time progressed, space was also given to other notable Italians from elsewhere. For 500 years, monuments were erected in the church including those to:

  • Leonardo Bruni (15th-century chancellor of the Republic, scholar and historian)
  • Dante (buried in Ravenna)
  • Galileo Galilei
  • Giovanni Gentile (20th-century philosopher)
  • Niccolò Machiavelli by Innocenzo Spinazzi
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The tomb of Galileo
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The tomb of Leonardo Da Vinci

You can read more details about the Church of Santa Croce here.

Outside the Church of Santa Croce you will find the statue of Dante. Dante was a major Italian poet of the late Middle Ages and the statue was erected in 1865 to celebrate the 600 anniversary of his birth. Dante’s “Divine Comedy” is widely considered the greatest literary work composed in the Italian language and a masterpiece of world literature. 

You can read more about Dante and his work Divine Comedy here and here.

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Dante Museum

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The Casa di Dante is a three floor museum which shows the life and works of the great Italian poet. The original building was rebuilt in the first decade of the twentieth century right where the family homes once stood and where in 1265 Dante was born.

The First Floor covers the life of Dante and medieval Florence, the Second Floor continues with the life of Dante and his exile and the Third Floor covers the Divine Comedy, including original editions of this amazing work.

It’s a very interesting museum, and the entrance fee is only €4 per person!

Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore (Florence Cathedral)

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I will always remember the first moment I saw Florence Cathedral and Bell Tower. We had walked through the winding streets of Florence with our local tour guide learning about the city’s history when we turned a corner and walked into an open area with this beautiful building right in front of us with the sun beaming down on it. I remember gasping aloud and turning to my Mum who was a few paces behind me and saying “oh my god!” She looked at me for a second and then walked forward into the view of the cathedral and then said exactly the same thing! The Duomo Cathedral and Bell Tower along with the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona are probably the most breath taking buildings I have encountered on my travels!

The camera I had with me for this trip was rubbish but believe me, I think even photographs taken with a top of the range camera would not do this building justice! It has to be seen to be believed!

The exterior of the Cathedral is covered with marble bands in various shades of green and pink and bordered by white. These marble bands had to repeat the already existing bands on the walls of the earlier adjacent baptistery the Battistero di San Giovanni and Giotto’s Bell Tower.

The Cathedral was the location of the murder of Giuliano di Piero de’ Medici. He was assassinated on Sunday, 26 April 1478 by Francesco de’ Pazzi and Bernardo Baroncelli as part of the Pazzi conspiracy (a plot by members of the Pazzi family and others to displace the de’ Medici family as rulers of Renaissance Florence).

Giotto’s Campanile (Bell Tower)

Giotto’s Campanile is a free-standing Bell Tower that stands next to the Cathedral and the Baptistry of St. John. The structure is square with 14.45 metre sides and it is 84.7 metres tall. You can read more about the Bell Tower here.

The Dome

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The Cathedral’s dome remains the largest brick dome ever constructed.

Grand Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici decided to have the dome painted with a representation of The Last Judgment. This huge piece of work (3,600 metres² of painted surface) was started in 1568 by Giorgio Vasari and Federico Zuccari and wouldn’t finish until 1579. 

The Baptistry (Battistero di San Giovanni)

The Florence Baptistry (also known as the Baptistry of Saint John), is one of the oldest buildings in the city, constructed between 1059 and 1128. The baptistry is an octagon shape, which was a common shape for baptistries since early Christian times. The number eight is a symbol of regeneration in Christianity, signifying the six days of creation, the Day of Rest, and a day of re-creation through the Sacrament of Baptism.

The Baptistry is renowned for its three sets of incredible bronze doors! The east doors were dubbed by Michelangelo the “Gates of Paradise.” These doors consist of 28 panels, with the twenty top panels depicting scenes from the life of St. John the Baptist. The eight lower panels depict the eight virtues of hope, faith, charity, humility, fortitude, temperance, justice and prudence. They are really beautiful but you can only get so close due to the gates – I’m sure up close the detail on them would be all the more incredible.

Dante and many other notable Renaissance figures, including members of the Medici family, were baptised in this baptistry.

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The Academia Museum (Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze)

The Gallery of the Academy of Florence, is an art museum which is most well known for being the home of Michelangelo’s sculpture David. The Academia has housed the original sculpture since 1873. It also holds other sculptures by Michelangelo and a collection of Renaissance paintings.

I really wanted to visit the museum but we were very rushed for time and the queues to the museum were very long so we didn’t get the chance to visit. The museum itself is very vast and so we would have needed a good few hours to get round and see everything inside. Very disappointing but a good reason to go back again one day!

There were, however, some great statues outside the museum which we thoroughly enjoyed looking at, including a replica of the statue of David, and the Fountains of Neptune.

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Replica of Michelangelo’s statue of David
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The Fountains of Neptune

Florence is such a beautiful place full of fascinating history and is definitely somewhere I would love to re-visit to spend more time here. You could spend days just visiting the fantastic museums and even more time absorbing all the wonderful culture and friendly and relaxed atmosphere! It is worth going just to see the incredible Cathedral and Bell Tower, if Florence is not already on your bucket list then I highly recommend adding it – and placing it somewhere near the top!