The Thomas Cookie Co

Those of you who have been reading my blog for sometime now have probably realised what a ridiculous cookie monster I am! Is there anything better than that warm cookie smell filling the house and eating hot cookies out the oven with a dollop of vanilla ice cream??? I’d be hard pushed to think of anything!

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I’ve tried lots of cookie “dough” companies where the dough is designed to be eaten raw straight out of the pot (they don’t use egg in the ingredients to make the recipe safe to eat), but I haven’t tried many pre-baked cookie companies…..yet!

I came across The Thomas Cookie Co on Instagram and after looking at their brilliant website and all of the amazing flavours they had to offer, I knew I had to put an order in!

The first ones I tried were the S’mores flavour – two Belgian milk chocolate cookies sandwiched together with sticky gooey marshmallow! Delicious, although a bit messy! The kids will love these! They are pretty big too…..

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The second flavour I tried was the Caramel Cookie Cup. These are little cup shaped cookies filled with caramel and then topped with chocolate! Stick these in the oven for a few minutes until the cookie cup is warm and the centre is melted and gooey – amazing! These are only small in comparison with the S’more’s cookies so you’ll find you will get through a box of four VERY quickly…

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The final flavour I tried was the Brookie which is a cross between a brownie and a cookie! The base is a Belgian milk chocolate cookie and the top is a double chocolate brownie! A great combination which again tastes delicious straight out of the oven!

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These are only three of the huge range of flavours available, others include Nutella cookie cups, peanut butter cookie cups, salted caramel and pecan and pistachio, dark chocolate and smoked sea salt.

You can order the cookies in batches of 4 or 8 and one of the things I love about this company is that if you buy two boxes or more, you get free delivery! I have honestly got as far as the checkout point of ordering with other cookie companies to find they were going to charge me £20 for delivery! After seeing this ridiculous delivery cost of course I abandoned my purchase with them.

The Thomas Cookie Co are well worth checking out – great service and delicious cookies – plus they are ideal to send as presents to someone who deserves a treat! Who sends flowers anymore anyway???

London at Christmas Time

My Sister, my Mum and I visit London every December to get into the Christmas spirit and god did London put on a show this year! Everywhere was adorned with stunning oversized Christmas trees and decorations and lights – it really was breathtaking!

Here are some of the incredible sights we came across during our travels around the city;

First stop after getting off the coach was (and always will be!) Dominique Ansel’s for breakfast and some of their sweet treats! As usual they didn’t disappoint!

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The outside and inside decorations have been updated to a beautiful white theme, a stark contrast to its last theme which was Halloween/Autumnal colours.

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I had my usual turkey croque monsieur and tried this incredible chocolate Pinecone. Inside was a gingerbread flavoured mousse and biscuit base! Amazing!

I also tried Dominique Ansel’s cinnamon roll latte which had a toasted marshmallow on top and tasted incredible!

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Other Dominique Ansel treats looked pretty spectacular too!

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I also couldn’t resist buying a box of Christmas morning cereal – I can’t wait to try this!

Second stop was Peggy Porschen’s – I can’t visit London now without buying a box of their amazing cupcakes to bring home with me!

Along the road from Peggy’s was Les Senteurs – how amazing are these oversized baubles which appear outside?!

The flower shop next to Les Senteurs is called Moyses Stevens and has the most beautiful bouquet and flower arrangements I’ve seen. The ceiling is also adorned with flowers and so it is well worth a visit!

I would highly recommend a visit to Somerset House if you have the chance – they have a huge beautiful Christmas tree outside the front and if you have the time you can also go ice skating here too!

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Our next stop was Covent Garden, I can’t believe out of all the times I have visited London I have never visited here! It is a stunning place and the festive decorations were out in full force! I loved the giant mistletoe pieces which were hanging from the ceiling and the giant reindeer, giant Christmas tree and decorated car were stunning to look at too!

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We’ve walked past Fortnum and Mason so many times but have never actually ventured inside! Can you believe it?? It is like a tardis when you go inside – I can’t believe how big it is!

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Such a beautiful place with so many festive goodies on sale – how great do their cupcakes look??

Claridges currently has a lovely Christmas display outside! I love stars! I should have ventured inside though because they have a display called a love tree inside! Instagram it and you will see what I mean!

The Ivy restaurant looked beautiful….

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Oxford Street never disappoints at Christmas time!

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And neither did Harrods…

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And if you only visit one place this festive season to see the decorations, it has to be Annabel’s! I could take a million photos of this festive display and it still would not do it justice! It is incredible!

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and if all of that isn’t enough, we even came across a Christmas sheep on our travels!

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Bear’s Brownies

If any of my readers have a thing for brownies then I think I may have found the holy grail! Thank you Instagram for another amazing find called Bear’s Brownies!

They don’t just do your every day chocolate brownies, they have wide range of flavours to choose from and even have a “free from” menu which is suitable for vegan diets and those of us who have allergies, such as lactose free, dairy free, egg free and low sugar brownies.

Here are just some of the flavours you can order from Bear’s Brownies;

Billionaires Brownies

These are my absolute favourite and are to die for!

These are luxury chocolate brownies with a caramel layer which is then topped with a dark chocolate ganache and gold leaf! They are beyond delicious and even got the seal of approval from hubby who is not at all a fan of sweet treats and desserts! I think it is safe to say that these were his favourites too!

Blondies

These are brownies but are made with white chocolate rather than milk chocolate. They are much lighter than a traditional brownie and are ideal for those who prefer white chocolate to milk chocolate, or vanilla cake rather than chocolate.

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Funfetti Brownies

I love the look of these!

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They are perfect for a Birthday celebration – they are white chocolate blondie brownies but filled with Birthday cake colourful sprinkles!

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Mocha Brownies

Dark chocolate and espresso flavoured brownies – perfect as an after dinner treat with coffee! I love coffee flavoured desserts!

Cookies Brownies

Crunchy Oreo cookie pieces folded through traditional chocolate brownies, perfect for  cookies and cream lovers!

Chocolate Fudge Brownies

The classic chocolate fudge brownie flavour, you can’t go wrong with these! Not the most exciting of the bunch but still a really tasty original style brownie!

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Salted Caramel Brownies

These are a close second favourite – salted caramel flavoured brownies with a salted caramel centre and chocolate ganache icing and then sprinkled with crushed pretzels and shimmer!

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Salty and sweet and amazing all at the same time! Plus they look AMAZING!

Bears Brownies also supply seasonal flavours such as Red Velvet Valentine’s Day brownies and Christmas Candy Cane and Christmas Gingerbread brownies! I’m definitely going to order some Christmas flavours this year!

One of the things I love about Bear’s Brownies is that you can order boxes of 12 or 24 but they don’t have to be a box of the same flavour. If you order a box of 12 you can choose up to three different flavours and if you order a box of 24 you can order up to six different flavours! Ideal if you are struggling which flavours to choose from! Note that you can’t order the Billionaire’s Brownies as part of the “fill your own” boxes but I promise you you won’t regret ordering (and scoffing!) a box of 12 of these!

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The other thing I loved was that the brownies arrived beautifully packaged in a black box with a ribbon on, and were securely packaged up to make sure they weren’t damaged during transit.

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You can also add hand-written gift messages free of charge to your order if you like and can choose a delivery date which is suitable for you. Bear’s Brownies deliver all over the country so are ideal to send as gifts to people!

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I cannot recommend these brownies enough, I already can’t wait to put in my next order!

The Naked Bakery

Well you all know by now what a cake and sweet treats fanatic I am so here is another one of my absolute favourite online bakery’s!

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I came across The Naked Bakery on Instagram. What I love most about them is that they offer a wide variety of goodies rather than just specialising in cakes or cupcakes – they offer everything from macarons and meringues to doughnuts and even wedding cakes!

They are called The Naked Bakery because they offer products which are gluten free, plant based, RAW and vegan. All their products are free from dairy, eggs and any animal products, and if you want your products to also be gluten free you have this option too when you order!

I’ve placed a couple of orders with the Naked bakery over the past few months and the products I have ordered have always been brilliant! Their treats not only look but taste incredible

Here are some of the lovely things I’ve ordered from this fantastic bakery so far;

Unicorn Macarons

The unicorn macarons come in boxes of six or twelve and you can pretty much have any flavour you want!

Just a few of the flavours include vanilla, strawberry, lemon, mint, caramel, peanut butter and jam, red velvet, cookie dough, candy floss and bubble gum! Amazing choices!

So far I have tried the cookie dough, bubble gum and candy floss flavours and they were all delicious!

Unicorn Cupcakes

This is probably my favourite product from the Naked Bakery! I’ve ordered a batch of Unicorn Cupcakes with every order I’ve made so far!

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You can order Unicorn cupcakes in any flavour you like including candy floss and bubble gum!

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If you choose a vanilla sponge base they will colour the sponge to any colour you like or as multi coloured. They look and taste fantastic and the pictures really don’t do them justice! Perfect for a Birthday party (or to scoff all to yourself just as I have done!)

Oreo Cupcakes

A chocolate flavoured cupcake filled and topped with Oreo flavoured icing and a glittery Oreo biscuit! The icing on top and the Oreo flavoured filling is delicious and these cupcakes are real show-stoppers!

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White Chocolate and Raspberry Skull Cupcakes

Don’t these look AMAZING?? Again the pictures really don’t do them justice!

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A raspberry and white chocolate sponge topped with a marbled white chocolate buttercream and then topped with a hand painted rose gold coloured skull. I’m definitely going to order some of these around Halloween this year!

So as you can see, they have some fantastic products! I’m hoping to do another order with them very soon but there is just one downside to Naked Bakery – their online shop is often closed due to being fully booked with orders!

You can access the Naked Bakery shop and check product availability here.

At the moment the Naked Bakery are also running a “kickstarter” campaign with the aim of opening a shop to sell all their delicious goodies from!

They only have until 8th July to reach their goal, so please donate if you can! You can read more about their campaign here. All pledges receive something in return, I’ve got everything crossed that they will meet their target on time!!

Popaball Drink Shimmers

I first wrote a review over a year ago on Popaball’s amazing Rose Gold shimmer for prosecco, but things have come on a long way since then and Popaball now have a range of SIX of these amazing drinks shimmers, so I thought it was time to write an updated blog!

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Here is the full range of lovely drink shimmers you can currently get from Popaball;

Violet Shimmer

This one tastes delicious! It is blackcurrant flavour and can be used in any drink from champagne to lemonade!

Simply add 1/3 of a teaspoon of the shimmer to a glass of drink which is about half full and watch your drink turn a multicoloured unicorn effect until the bubbles settle, revealing your drink as a beautiful violet purple colour.

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This can also be used in cocktails as an alternative to creme de cassis! It is my favourite shimmer flavour-wise!

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Rose Gold Shimmer

The original drinks shimmer – I love this stuff! I bought several packs when it was released and it was brilliant to take to parties and on girls nights out to jazz up your prosecco. I’ve also bought several as gifts for family and friends!

Everyone loves the shimmery rose gold effect it creates in prosecco! It is raspberry flavoured and also contains edible gold leaf hearts!

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Just fill your glass 3/4 full with prosecco, slowly sprinkle in 1/3 of a teaspoon of the shimmer powder, watch it bubble up and then reveal a beautiful rose gold shimmering unicorn style prosecco! My favourite overall shimmer from the selection so far!

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Blue Pearl shimmer for Gin

This shimmer is designed to be used in gin and tonics, however, I don’t like gin so I have been drinking this in my prosecco just like the other flavours!

The Blue Pearl is blueberry flavoured and (if you are using it in your gin and tonics) you just need to fill 1/2 a glass with ice, add 25ml of gin, and top with tonic water, slowly sprinkle in 1/3 teaspoon of the shimmer powder and watch your gin bubble and then reveal a beautiful blue pearl mermaid style shimmery drink!

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If, like me, gin isn’t your thing, then as with the violet and rose gold shimmer, simply add 1/3 of a teaspoon in with your prosecco/champagne/lemonade or whatever you happen to be drinking!

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Popaball’s latest releases are the Gold, Silver and Bronze drink shimmers which are designed for any drink as they are completely flavourless. As with all the others just fill your glass 2/3 full with a sparkling drink of your choice and add 1/3 of a teaspoon of shimmer, watch it bubble up and then reveal either a lovely gold, silver or bronze coloured shimmery drink!

Gold Drink Shimmer

I was looking forward to trying the gold one most of all as gold is my favourite colour and we had gold and cream as our wedding colours!

When I used it for the first time I wish it had been around when we had got married – we could have put some in everyone’s toasting champagne so it matched our wedding theme!

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The gold one is lovely – really effective and really shimmery!

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Silver Drink Shimmer

This was the colour I was least bothered about out of the three, and when I first sprinkled the powder in I thought it didn’t have much of an effect….

However once all the bubbles have gone and you give the drink a good swirl, the silver colour is actually one of the most effective shimmers of the range!

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Again, if you are getting married this year and silver forms part of your colour theme, I would highly recommend the silver shimmer if one of your arrival or toasting drinks is prosecco or champagne!

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Bronze Drink Shimmer

I wasn’t too sure about this one as although I love bronze/copper colours at the moment, I thought the colouring might be a little bit too dark….. how wrong I was!

It’s true this is the darkest of all the colours from the range but it is also the most shimmery and effective.

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The pictures really don’t do it justice – I thought this had the best “shimmering” effect by far – maybe because the colour is so dark the golden glitter and sparkles stand out far better? This one is definitely another favourite of the range and will probably be the go-to shimmer as unlike my other favourites, the violet and the rose gold, this one is flavourless and so will go with any type of drink!

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I really highly recommend you trying them, the pictures really don’t do the shimmers justice and they are great for all kinds of occasions!

The shimmers cost £7.49 each, are 21 gram packs and each pack contains approximately 21 servings, so although the pots look small, they do last ages!

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Add more shimmer than recommended if you would like a greater effect and taste, but add only a little at a time because the shimmer does cause the drinks to fizz up and overflow if you aren’t careful! I’ve been caught out many times with this!

I wouldn’t add anymore than the recommended amount of the violet shimmer as the blackcurrant taste of this shimmer is quite strong and you only need a little bit for a great taste effect!

I have placed multiple orders with Popaball over the past year or so for their shimmers and bubbles, (and that doesn’t include their products I’ve bought from my local Lakeland), but over the Christmas period they sent me a free double pack of their bursting bubbles to say thank you for my custom over the past year!

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I thought this was a really lovely touch and customer service at its best! Thank you Popaball, it was much appreciated!

You can buy the whole range of shimmers and bubbles online at Popball’s website.

NellieNoo Fudge

Ok, so you’ve probably all realised by now that I have a really sweet tooth! Cakes, biscuits, cake pops, cheesecakes, meringues, marshmallows… you name it, I’ve tried stuffing my face with them! One of my all time favourite sweet treats, however, will always be some good old fashioned fudge!

I came across NellieNoo fudge when I was Instagram stalking for some new treats and really couldn’t choose between the wide range of flavours which were on offer! In true Chloe style I couldn’t make a decision on just a couple of flavours so I ordered a huge batch! Here’s what I thought of the fabulous flavours I’ve tried so far:

Malted

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The Malted flavour is a milk Chocolate based fudge and is deliciously creamy and malty tasting (think Malteasers flavour!). It is also one of Nellie Noo’s best sellers!

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Salted Caramel

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I love anything Salted Caramel flavour! I can’t get enough of it at the moment! The Salted Caramel flavour is a milk chocolate based fudge with loads of Salted Caramel stirred throughout. It’s lovely and creamy but you can also taste the crunchy chunks of salted caramel when you eat it! Another one of Nellie Noo’s best sellers and once you have tasted it, its easy to see why! This is my definite favourite!

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Tiramisu

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The Tiramisu is brilliantly designed fudge! A dark chocolate rich, crumbly based fudge which combines the flavours of espresso and lady finger biscuits and is then sprinkled with cocoa powder! Just like a real Tiramisu! Perfect to serve with after dinner coffee!

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Cookies and Cream

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The Cookies and Cream is a white chocolate based fudge and is filled with cream filled dark chocolate cookie chunks! I love the different texture of this one – creamy fudge with crunchy biscuits! A must try for all you Cookies and Cream fans!

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Mocha

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The Mocha is a dark and milk chocolate based fudge which has been combined with  espresso for a rich, dark, coffee flavoured hit! Again, like the tiramisu, great for serving with coffee after dinner at a dinner party! It is really delicious but very rich! I couldn’t eat many of these in one sitting!

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Dulce De Leche

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Dulce De Leche is a white chocolate based fudge and is a smooth and creamy caramel flavoured fudge. I liked this one but not as much as the Salted Caramel because I like the combination of textures however, I’d imagine this flavour is still very popular!

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Cookie Dough

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The Cookie Dough is a white chocolate based fudge with cookie dough swirled throughout to give it a great cookie dough flavour. This one is a Nellie Noo bestseller too and I can see why!

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You can order your Nellie Not fudge online here. The range of flavours on offer is so vast, I don’t think there will be a single person who wouldn’t find something they like! Some interesting flavours to keep an eye out for include Red Velvet, Sweet Carrot, Gin and Tonic and Lavender! They also have seasonal special (grab your Hot Cross Bun flavoured fudge whilst you still can!)

If you subscribe to email offers they will give you 10% off your first order and also have an offer of 3 selected fudges for £10!

Get stuck in!

Happy Birthday to me!

It’s wrong to say Happy Birth”day” to me because in actual fact I have a Birth-week not a Birth”day”! I always pack my Birthday week full of fun and days out with family and friends and this year was no exception!

Here’s what I got up to during this AMAZING week!

On Monday, Mum and I caught the megabus to London! Yes it takes ages but it cost us only £8 each for a return from Gloucester to London! The coach stops at Victoria Coach Station which just so happens to be a five-minute walk away from one of my favourite bakery’s in London – Dominique Ansel’s! So, we popped in here for breakfast before starting our busy London adventure!

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I had an amazing turkey croque monsieur and one of their Blossoming hot chocolates, which I have wanted to try for ages!

I also had a delicious Cookie Shot, a shot glass sized cup made out of cookie and filled with delicious creamy vanilla milk! I bought a pack of six Cookie Shots to take home with me as well! The cakes in here are incredible – check out these lovely Blizzard Bear cakes!

After our lovely refreshment break we caught an Uber over to Kensington Palace. We had a lovely time here, so much so that I am writing a separate blog on this amazing place – the Diana Exhibition which is currently on was definitely an added bonus! Even better, we didn’t pay the entrance fee because we managed to pay for the tickets using our Tesco Clubcard vouchers!

After a few hours exploring Kensington Palace we moseyed on over to Cutter and Squidge for our Genie’s Cave afternoon tea! I really love attending these themed afternoon teas! I have been trying to get into the Tale as old as Time one for months but it is always fully booked. Then after going to the amazing Mad Hatter’s Tea Party afternoon tea in December last year I was on the hunt for something similar and came across the Genie’s Cave version! This was another brilliant experience with amazing food, so a a separate blog is to follow on this too! A word of warning though – the Genie’s Cave theme is due to end at the end of March so get booking if this is something you fancy!

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After stuffing our faces we wandered around and did the only thing we know best – bought more delicious treats to bring home with us! We visited Doughnut Time who sell THE BEST doughnuts ever! Move over KrispyKreme!

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After visiting all of our favourite food places we wandered slowly back over to Victoria Coach Station via Buckingham Palace to catch our coach home. What an amazing start to my Birthday week!

Tuesday was far less exciting but definitely a lovely day off – I basically got up at the normal time and got ready and then spent the morning in my local Starbucks catching up with writing my blogs and updating my Instagram and Twitter accounts. I managed to publish a blog every day in December for Blogmas, and over the Christmas holidays I had intended to get my blogs up to date and to have them scheduled several weeks in advance, but unfortunately this fell by the way-side and since mid-January I have been struggling to get my weekly weekend blog published. The week commencing 19th February I didn’t publish anything, which was the first time in a long time. I’ve found it especially hard to focus and get back into the blog writing since our lovely dog Skibba passed away last month as well. Anyway, today gave me a chance to catch up and draft as many blogs as possible, plus drink ridiculous amounts of my favourite coffee! A nice calm and relaxed morning!

After a few hours of getting square eyes I wandered over to the business park next door to have a look in some of the furniture stores to get some decorating ideas for our house. We’ve got the plasterer booked to plaster most of the upstairs and the dining room ceilings next week and after that we can get cracking with the decorating, so I need to start thinking about designs and colour schemes! I’m hoping by the time we have been in the house six months (beginning of June) I can write a blog about the progress we have made so far, but things are moving far slower than I had expected and the weeks and months just seem to be whizzing by!

Anyway, I came across some lovely dining room tables and chairs, bed frames and wallpaper and kitchens and nursery furniture so plenty of food for thought!

In the evening hubby and I went out for a lovely meal to Zizzi’s which is one of my favourite restaurants. Plus, we had £40 worth of Tesco Clubcard vouchers to spend in here, so it was practically a free meal which was brilliant!

On Wednesday, my Mum and I traveled over to the nearby town of Tewkesbury. I’ve always wanted to see Tewkesbury Abbey and, as it is not too far away, Tewkesbury seemed to be a lovely day out. It is a really beautiful building with lots of history so, you guessed it, a separate blog is to follow!

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After visiting the Abbey we grabbed lunch at a nearby restaurant called Café E Vino. The lunch was delicious and they had plenty of vegetarian and vegan options which I thought was very impressive! I had a delicious meal of gnocchi in a gorgonzola and speck sauce – really tasty!

After a hearty lunch we wandered down to the waters edge to see the river, although we didn’t hang around for long as it was absolutely freezing and the water level was really high after the recent snowfall had melted.

After a lovely day we hopped in the car to go and collect my amazing Birthday cake from Claire’s Cakes Cheltenham! Isn’t it beautiful!?

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She has made several cakes for us over the years including an amazing Winter Wonderland cake, two amazing Game of Thrones themed cakes and a Harry Potter themed cake! This year’s cake was a Geode cake and as usual she has outdone herself and made a spectacular creation! Can’t wait for friends and family to see it tomorrow!

Thursday was my actual Birthday so my Sister and I started the day going to Hubble Bubble, one of our favourite coffee houses, for one of their famous freakshakes! We tried the Easter edition this time!

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After our sugar overload we ventured into town for a bit of retail therapy,  coffee  and lunch. The centre of Gloucester isn’t great for shopping however Gloucester Quays Outlet Centre is only a short walk away so we spent most of our time here. I had planned for us to go to The Grill Shed for lunch but unfortunately I woke up this morning with a stinking cold so I didn’t feel up to having a big meal! We ended up having macaroni cheese in Costa instead which was just what we needed!

After our shopping trip I came home and prepared a little buffet for the family and friends who were popping over to visit me for my Birthday! It was really lovely to see everyone and catch up with them and after the buffet we all enjoyed a large slab of Birthday cake! My Mum and my Sister bought me some beautiful flowers and people came over with mounds of presents!

When everyone had gone I had the important task of opening all of my cards and gifts! I just hadn’t had the time so far! As usual, I’ve been absolutely spoilt! My Mum bought me the amazing shoes I included in my Valentine’s Day treats post (and believe me they look as good in real life as they did in that picture!)

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My Sister asked me if I wanted anything in particular but she knows me very well and is brilliant at present buying so I told her to surprise me! And she did! As well as my beautiful flowers she bought me a lovely pair of grey trainers, a keyring, a pen and a Columbo boxset! (I LOVE Columbo!!!)

Hubby asked me ages ago what I would like for my Birthday and I really couldn’t think of anything I wanted but as my Sister and I were walking through town today we walked past the Pandora shop to have a peep in the window. I’ve always wanted a Pandora bracelet and really love all the amazing charms you can get, but I have always worn gold jewellery, and all my existing jewellery is in gold! The gold bracelets and charms are available but are really, really expensive and I would never want to spend so much on a bracelet. Anyway, when we looked inside they were promoting the new Pandora Shine collection which is basically thick gold plated jewellery and obvious makes it far more affordable than the solid gold range, so it was as if it was meant to be!

So I had a beautiful gold Pandora bracelet and two charms from hubby in the end! I was so pleased to finally get one and he was pleased I had chosen something I really wanted for my Birthday! I’ve been very spoilt! I also had cash and vouchers from family and friends so I’ll take these with me when I’m working in London next week to see what lovely things I can find!

A perfect evening with family and friends – except the washing up afterwards of course!

The Friday was another brilliant day because I got to spend the day with my Sister and my Mum! It would have been nice to venture over to nearby Cheltenham as there’s plenty of places I would like to visit, but unfortunately my Birthday always lands in the middle of Race week at Cheltenham Racecourse, so Cheltenham and the surrounding areas are jam-packed with people! Even trying to get a restaurant reservation in Gloucester during this week is quite difficult so we thought it would be best to go a bit further afield and visit Blenheim Palace! It is only around an hour away from us and once again we were able to get our tickets using £8 worth of Tesco Clubcard vouchers! We’ve done extremely well over the years exchanging these vouchers for days out or restaurant vouchers!

Before we set off I wanted to treat my Mum and Sister to breakfast so I booked a table at one of our favourite restaurants for breakfast – Cote Brasserie. In fact, I’ve not been here for lunch or an evening meal, only for breakfast! I always have the Croque Monsieur – it is to die for!

After a hearty breakfast we set off for Blenheim Palace. I’ve wanted to visit here for a long, long time so I’m really pleased I finally got round to it! I definitely want to re-visit in December when they have the “Christmas at Blenheim Palace” theme going on. I can imagine the Palace will look even more beautiful at that time of the year!

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We spent a few hours here, there is plenty to do and see and to be honest I really underestimated how big this place is! I will have to come back soon to finish looking at the parts of it we hadn’t got around to.

As a special treat I booked for the three of us to  have Afternoon Tea in the Orangery which was really lovely and the food was delicious.

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We finally got home after sitting in traffic for ages and luckily I hadn’t made any plans for the evening, so this gave me the chance to have a sort through and edit all the photos I had taken this week (and to have a well earned rest and hot bath!)

On the Saturday night we went over to our friends house and they cooked us a delicious dinner, my friend also made me this beautiful cookie mermaid, rainbow and unicorn display! Isn’t it amazing? She’s so talented!

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She also bought me a mound of presents including some sparkly trainers, amazing cocktail liquors chocolates, keyrings and some amazing Pusheen slippers! I’ve been wearing them all weekend!

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Our friends only live about a 15 minute walk away so we walked home, and just in time really as shortly after we arrived home the “mini beast from the East” struck and it started heavily snowing again! I don’t ever remember there being snow around my Birthday before! Fingers crossed Spring will be here soon and we can start the Easter celebrations!

Another fantastic Birthday! I’m so grateful to have such great family and friends!

Valentine’s Day treats!

I never used to make an effort for Valentine’s Day, hubby and I always used to get each other a nice card, but I was never really sold on all of the red fluffy toys, fake red roses and red underwear! I love eating out but Valentine’s Day means all of the restaurants are absolutely jam-packed and are usually offering some sort of set menu, and I find that I don’t like the majority of food they have on offer!

So, to be honest, we usually stay at home and have a nice dinner together. My usual go to place is Marks and Spencers for their dine in for two Valentine’s Day offer for £20, which always has a nice selection of things we both like.

Last year I made a bit more of an effort and bought some lovely red roses for the dinner table, bought us a lovely three course meal and made us up a gift bag each with treats and presents in. We had a real nice time last year so I wanted to do something similar this year again.

Anyway, here are some of the lovely treats and presents which have caught my eye for this years Valentine’s Day:

Marks and Spencers chocolate heart filled with chocolate ganache and decorated with gold leaf – £3.00.

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Marks and Spencer’s chocolate hearts (4 pack) – £1.50. I thought these were lovely and really reasonably priced so I bought a few packs for my friends to put in their Valentine’s Day gifts bags!

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Marks and Spencers Pink Himalayan Salted Caramels – £6.00. I gave in and bought these for myself! I had a peek inside the box and they look really pretty! Can’t wait to try these! Let’s hope I can resist eating them all before Valentine’s Day!

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Marks and Spencers red Love You Heart – I love these little chocolate hearts – and they are only 50p each!

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Morrison’s Heart Marshmallow Biscuit lollipop – £1.00. This didn’t last long after I bought it! I loved the fluffy mallow inside!

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Dr Oetker Heart Marshmallows – £1.00. I found these in Morrison’s but I’m sure other supermarkets will sell these too – perfect for a Valentine’s hot chocolate!

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Morrison’s Valentine’s jammy heart biscuit – £1.00. Hubby scoffed this one before I had the chance to hide it!

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Morrisons gingerbread hearts – £2.00 for this bag of one big gingerbread heart and three small gingerbread hearts.

Hotel Chocolat Salted caramel hearts – £3.50 – delicious!

Hotel Chocolat Raspberry daiquiri hearts – £3.50 – I bought a few of these for friends  and family and put them in their Valentine’s gift bag.

Hotel Chocolat dark chocolate heart melts – £5.50 – got these for Mum as she only likes dark chocolate! I hope she likes them!

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Waitrose gingerbread hearts – £2.00 – these little bags of pink iced gingerbread hearts are lovely.

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And to put all these lovely sweet treats in I bought these lovely gift bags from Clinton cards for £2.50 each

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If food and sweet things aren’t really your thing – how about some nice Valentine’s themed jewellery? These are just some of the lovely items I’ve come across in the last few weeks –

Rose detail chain bracelets from ASOS – £8.00 – great for a Beauty and the Beast fan! They’ve also got matching hoop earrings and a set of five rings!

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I love these Ted Baker Crystal Heart earrings – £29.00 from ASOS!

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Or, this handy “LOVE” ring holder from Next for £6.00?

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Who knew they did Valentine’s themed handbags?? These are my favourites so far:

This heart coin purse from ASOS is only £8.00 – bargain!

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How cute is this SkinnyDip heart crossover body bag – again from ASOS and only £30.00 – I love the faux fur detail!

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If you are willing to spend a bit more on a Valentine’s themed bag then I love this red Dune heart bag for £65.00.

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And, believe it or not, Valentine’s Day SHOES!!!! I love these Mistress barely there sandals from Dune for £85.00.

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Plus I’ve spotted these gorgeous babies on Instagram and I am desperate to get my hands on a pair! They are by ALDO but for some reason they don’t stock them on their UK website????? My quest continues! They do them in red too…

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If you are having a cosy night in then what about some Valentine’s pyjamas?? There are hundreds to choose from on sites like ASOS, Very, Next, Boohoo…. the list goes on!

My absolute favourites are these Mr and Mrs Pyjama sets from Next – £22.00 for women’s and £24.00 for men’s. I’m so disappointed as I went to order these for hubby and I but they are completely sold out in the men’s sizes! Gutted! I knew I should have ordered them when I first saw them!

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And if all of this doesn’t float your boat this Valentine’s Day, I’ve reviewed the entire Lush Cosmetics Valentine’s Day range and I can assure you there is bound to be something from their collection which you will love! My blog on their Valentine’s range goes live tomorrow to mark the big day, so watch this space!

Sugar Tits Bakery!

Hello fellow tasty treat lovers! Have I got a special one for you in todays blog! Another golden Instagram find, introducing – Sugar Tits Bakery!

Sugar Tits have a large range of products which I have noticed are updated very regularly. Most products can be ordered online and delivered around the United Kingdom but there are also some incredible items you can order which are delivered in and around the London area – god I wish I lived in London sometimes (seriously – check out their Galaxy Glitter Bomb Brownies!!)

Here are just a couple of the tasty treats I’ve ordered from them so far:

Bling Box

An amazing box filled with ten fluffy mini bling donuts and ten squishy mini bling brownies. The lovely soft brownies are loaded with white chocolate chunks and the donuts have nutmeg and cinnamon in for a deliciously comforting taste!

 

These amazing bling boxes come in three metallic shades of gold, silver and even rose gold! They would make amazing gifts for friends!

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They should be eaten straight away but will last up to a week if they are kept in an airtight container.

 

Fairy Floss (The Retro Revival pack)

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This pack of three delicious Fairy Flosses includes the following amazing flavours –

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A pack of Galaxy inspired candyfloss with starry sprinkles and sherbet flying saucers!

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Cola Ice Cream Float

Cola and ice cream candy floss with cola bottles and chewy ice cream sweets!

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Banana Split

Banana and ice cream flavour candy floss with banana foam sweets and rainbow sprinkles!

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Each individual bag measures 12cm x 20cm and the Candy floss lasts for up to a month when stored in a cool dry place.

Another idea for using the Fairy Floss is to add it to your favourite cocktails or prosecco which seems to be the latest craze at the moment!

Other Fairy Floss flavours are available from Sugar Tits Bakery including Peaches and Cream and Rhubarb and Custard!!

“If you can’t” Cookies

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A box of twelve lemon shortbread cookies covered with a lovely fondant icing and embossed the wording “If you can’t handle this sass then you can’t handle this ass”! Very sassy indeed!

 

 

Other themed cookies are available from Sugar Tits, including some which say “Girl Gang” and “Sassy and Bad Assy!” Brilliant!

The next couple of items I want to try are the Skull Rainbow Chocolates – A box of eight cookies ‘n’ cream chocolates made with white chocolate and loaded with Oreo cookie pieces and the Unicorn Bark – Beautiful brightly swirled strawberry white chocolate with a rainbow of candy treats, cookie pieces and unicorn sprinkles sprinkled on top! Aren’t they fabulous?? They have lots of products which are ideal as gifts for friends too!

Plus this week they posted on Instagram to say they had made Jade from Little Mix’s Birthday cupcakes! Amazing!

Christmas Cornflake Wreaths

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Now the kids have broken up from school for Christmas, if you are looking for a really fun, easy and cheap treat to make then this is ideal!

To make the Cornflake Wreaths you will need:

-100g soft butter

-200g mini marshmallows

-125g cornflakes

-1 teaspoon of any flavouring you would like such as vanilla or orange – my favourite is almond!

-Spinkles!

To make the wreaths –

Put a piece of greaseproof paper on a surface ready for the wreaths to set on later.

Put the hob on a low heat and melt the butter and marshmallows in a large pan. Stir continuously until the ingredients are combined.

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Take the pan off the heat and add any flavouring you want to use.

Add the cornflakes to the pan and crush them as you stir them so they are easier to shape later on, I find the smaller you crush the cornflakes the easier it is to shape them.

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Make sure all the cornflakes are covered in the marshmallow mixture.

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When the mixture has cooled down slightly, pull off a ball of mixture around the size of a golfball and flatten it on your baking paper – sounds easy right?? This is the hardest bit as it is REALLY messy! The kids will love it! Even flattening it is hard because the mixture sticks to EVERYTHING!!! Be prepared to get covered in goo!

You should end up with nine or ten wreaths after you’ve fought to flatten them onto the baking  paper.

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Once you’ve done this, use the end of a spoon to make a hole in the middle so they look “wreath-like”.

Fairly soon after you do this and before the mixture sets, you need to decorate your wreaths! Do this however you wish but I do find that red and green holly and berry decorations look really good, and I also add a few white stars on them too!!

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Finally, sprinkle on some edible glitter and leave them for an hour or so (if you can!) to allow the mixture to set and then indulge!!!

Christmas Pudding BonBons

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Hello Christmas Elves! If you are after a really easy recipe or a great activity to do with the kids then I’ve got just the thing for you! In fact it isn’t really a recipe at all – it’s just a case of cobbling a few bits together – but they do look really effective!

Here’s the ingredients you will need:

-Pre-made chocolate cake (preferably with buttercream centre and topping)

-Red ready rolled icing

-Green ready rolled icing

-100g white chocolate (I use  white chocolate chips)

You will also need one of these little leaf shape icing plungers. I think mine was from Lakeland but you should also be able to find one in places like Amazon or eBay – I saw some in Wilkinson’s the other day too.

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Ok, so to get started, put your cake into a bowl and break it up into crumbs and then re-shape them into twelve little pudding sized balls. I use a cake which has buttercream on top and in the middle because when you are re-shaping it into little pudding balls, the mixture holds its shape a lot better. When you’ve made twelve round little balls, pop them in the fridge to reset whilst you get on with the rest.

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Roll out your green ready made icing and then use your leaf plunger to make holly leaves (you need two per pudding so twenty-four in total).

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Then cut off some tiny little chunks of red ready rolled icing and roll them into tiny little berries. You will need three of these per pudding so thirty-six in total.

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Pop your icing leaves and berries in the fridge for a few minutes (so they don’t melt too much whilst you are placing them on top of the melted white chocolate).

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Add your chocolate drops to a bowl and melt in the microwave (melt them in thirty second bursts and stir before melting even more – it’s very easy to over melt and burn chocolate if you aren’t careful!)

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Stir the white chocolate so there are no lumps and then leave to cool for about ten minutes so the chocolate is just starting to re-thicken slightly.

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Once it is cooler but still runny and thick, start adding your white chocolate to one pudding. Once the white chocolate is on the pudding, add your holly leaves followed by your red berries, then move on to the next pudding. Don’t do all the white chocolate in one go as it will have set by the time you add your holly leaves and berries to the first one, and they won’t stick to the pudding properly.

Let your puddings set for around ten minutes and then they are ready to eat! If you want to store them they should be fine in an airtight container for around five days (if you can resist them for that long! I ate FOUR in one sitting – they are only small after all!).

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Happy pudding bonbon making!

Rocky Road Christmas Bars

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My sister absolutely adores these and they are incredibly simple to make! This recipe will make you around 24 delicious squares.

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Ingredients

-125g soft butter

-300g dark chocolate (preferably 70% cocoa solids)

-3 tablespoons golden syrup

-1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

-200g biscuits (rich tea, digestive, amaretti, whatever you fancy!)

-100g mini marshmallows

-2 teaspoons icing sugar for dusting

-Edible glitter for dusting

-Snowflake (or other!) sprinkles

Instructions

-Firstly, melt the butter, chocolate and golden syrup in a heavy based saucepan. When the mixture is melted, add your cinnamon and stir then scoop out about 125ml of this melted mixture and put to one side.

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-Put the biscuits into a large sandwich bag and then bash them with a rolling pin.

-Fold the biscuit pieces and crumbs into the melted chocolate mixture in the saucepan and then pour in your marshmallows.

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-Tip the mixture into a tin which had been lined with greaseproof paper. Flatten the mixture as much as you can and then pour the remaining 125g of mixture over the mixture in the tray and smooth over the top.

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-Put the mixture in the fridge for at least two hours.

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-When the mixture is completely set, take it out of the tray and cut the mixture into around 24 squares.

-Sprinkle the icing sugar, edible glitter and snowflake sprinkles over the cake bars and viola! They are ready to be devoured!

They are brilliant to put into Christmas themed cellophane bags to give away as presents, or for stocking and Christmas Eve box gifts!

Happy scoffing peeps! xx

CocoChlo’s Christmas Countdown!

Ok so it’s official! Silly season has begun! You officially won’t get any sense out of me for at least the next 25 days!

In case you haven’t already guessed – Christmas is my most favourite time of year! I look forward to it months in advance and am severely down and depressed once it is over and we move into the long dark cold month of January. I know my love for Christmas annoys people but, in my view, you need to have something to look forward to, and holidays and Christmas are the two things which give me something to look forward to throughout the year!

Christmas for me mainly centres around the fantastic traditions that myself and my family have developed over the years – after all, knowing what you have to look forward to makes you look forward to it even more!

Here are some of the Christmas traditions my family and I partake in year after year and all the other little Christmassy/wintery things which I love about this time of the year!

Advent Calendars:

Hopefully you will have seen my two blogs on how to make the two different types of Advent Calendars we have in the family. If not, you can read about these here and here.

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They take a LOT of time and effort to make but come out again and again year after year and make everyone very happy – all my family members look forward to opening their daily treats out of their Christmas Advent Calendars.

The calendars are filled during November with everyone’s favourite treats and then dropped off a few days before the beginning of December. In the past few years I have had to wrap up some of the treats (not fun! Twenty five presents times six people!), due to prying eyes and pokey fingers! And yes, all Advent Calendar recipients are adults!

Most of the days are filled with the likes of Cadbury’s chocolate mousse snowmen, Malteaser reindeers and tiny Lindt bears, and then an extra special gift awaits everyone for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (past years include baubles for the tree and personalised snow globes).

The perfect start to December!

Elf on the Shelf

Love him or hate him (hubby hates him!) Buddy will always make his annual appearance on the 1st December (apart from those days he is kidnapped and held hostage by hubby! Not joking!)

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Buddy plays a big part in helping to build the anticipation of the festive season, and often has some really good jokes and treats in store. This year Buddy has a particularly amazing surprise for the Evans’ which you can read about in Buddy’s very own blog which is being published in the next couple of days! #sorrynotsorry to all you Elf haters!

Buying our Christmas tree

We always had a real tree when we were growing up – my Mum, my two Sisters, the dog and I would walk miles to go and get one from the garden centre up the road (Mum can’t drive) and we would carry it all the way home, alternating between carrying the tree and walking the dog! When hubby and I first moved out and into our new home, I was over the top obsessed with keeping it clean and tidy and so, for fear of getting pine needles everywhere, I insisted on having a plastic tree for the first couple of years.

After a couple of years with this awful cheap plastic tree I decided enough was enough and we agreed we would buy a real tree the following Christmas. I was pleased to learn at this stage that there were a lot more trees around which didn’t drop their needles, so I was a double happy bunny!

We always get our tree the first weekend of December, which is usually around my Sisters Birthday. We usually buy it the Saturday morning and then get it home and set it up, and let the branches drop and the tree take shape for the next 24 hours.

Then on the Sunday we spend the day decorating it, listening to Christmas tunes and having hot chocolate and other Christmas themed treats! The trees usually get named at some point too….

Christmas shopping

My work organise an annual coach trip to London on the first Wednesday of December which is absolutely brilliant. The coach drops off at two places – Harrods (also ideal for visiting the Museums) and the corner of Hyde Park.

I usually go with my Sister and Mum and we’ve done all sorts during these trips – we took Mum to Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland one year, and visited the Ice Bar and Ice Sculpture display, the following year we spent a couple of hours in Harrods food hall and then popped over the road and spent the rest of the day in the Natural History Museum (which we concluded you would need to spend a week in in order to see everything!) followed by a couple of years of good old retail therapy down good old Oxford Street! I always pop into Primark as well to see if I can find any last minute stocking fillers or bits to go in my Christmas Eve boxes!

The beautiful London department store windows are another one of the highlights! My two favourites are Harrods and Selfridges – the designers must spend months in advance coming up with these amazingly creative ideas! Good luck getting a photo of some of them though – they obviously attract an awful lot of people so get in there quick to catch a glimpse!

Festive Days Out

Sudeley Castle Spectacle of Light, Longleat Safari Park, Prinknash Abbey, and a ride on The Polar Express – you name it we have probably been there and partaken in their Christmas-themed festivities!

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Christmas Markets

I really love Christmas markets and the family and I have been to several over the years! I don’t go to them to do my main Christmas shopping but to try the amazing food and drink and check out the brilliant arts and crafts people make – some people are so creative!

At Gloucester Quays Christmas Markets last year they opened an ice skating rink and lots of little wooden huts around the outside which served mulled wine, hot apple cider, hot chocolate and roasted chestnuts! Just what you need to get into the Christmas spirit, although I do get there very early so I can get around quickly before the crowds arrive! Some places become unbearable at peak times!

Festive Drinks – Coffees, Hot Chocolate and Eggnog!

Most days in December usually feature a trip to Starbucks, Costa or Café Nero to sample this year’s Festive coffee and hot chocolate flavours! Yes, a blog on these is to follow too! Sorry!

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Obviously hot chocolates can be consumed throughout the year but there’s something different about a Christmas hot chocolate! Perhaps it is the lack of guilt you feel when you spray on mounds of whipped cream and tip half a box of marshmallows on top!

A favourite of mine is to add a tiny bit of cinnamon and nutmeg to really make it taste like Christmas in a mug! I buy all my hot chocolates from Whittards – they are the best by far in my opinion! This years flavours I invested in are Dark Hot Chocolate, Praline White Hot Chocolate, Rocky Road Hot Chocolate and Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate! Delicious!

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I am also absolutely obsessed with eggnog! Is there a more Christmassy drink than eggnog!? If Starbucks ever stopped producing their eggnog lattes I don’t know what I would do!

Monin Syrups

If you want to make your own flavoured coffees or hot chocolates, I recommend you take a look at the collection of flavours Monin Syrups have to offer – there aren’t many flavours you can’t get hold of, and every year I struggle to choose which to buy next! I finally decided on Donut, Maple Spice, Amaretto and Macaron flavours!

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Christmas Adverts

Am I the only one who cries at these flipping adverts??? Lost Snowman looking for their partner….in tears, Buster the Boxer jumping on a trampoline…..in tears, Monty the penguin – so cute (in tears), the Sainsburys WW1 truce between British and German soldiers for Christmas Day….hysterical. I really do need to stop watching them to be fair! Anyway, every year they get more and more amazing and more and more heartfelt, it wouldn’t be Christmas without them!

Choosing the Christmas menu!

By the end of October I will have picked up several copies of each supermarkets festive food catalogues! I usually pick them up from Marks and Spencers, Asda, Tescos and Morrisons so we can all look at the full range everyone has to offer!

The family all meet in late October/early November to decide what food we are going to have on the days we are all going to be together (usually Christmas Day and Boxing Day or both). Everyone in my family has different tastes so it is quite difficult to choose things which most people will like!

You can read more about what is on the Christmas menu this year in my “what’s on the menu this Christmas” blog which is published on the 23rd December, but these will give you an idea…

Christmas Jumpers

Since Christmas jumpers came back into fashion a couple of years ago (the cheesier the better it seems!) I somehow now have an array of seasonal knitwear! It would seem I am a bit addicted, as every year they bring out better and sillier designs! Hubby had a jumper last year with actual flashing lights on! Amazing!

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Visits to the Cinema

What better way to get into the seasonal spirit than by visiting the cinema to watch a Christmassy film!!! Past cinema visits have included to watch Frozen, Bad Santa, Black Christmas and Krampus (ok so a couple of them are horror films, but still Christmassy!) This year I already have my sights set on two films – Bad Mom’s Christmas and Pitch Perfect 3! Can’t wait!

If I don’t have time to get to the cinema as I am spending my free weekends wrapping up the mounds of presents, I’ll always have some classic Christmas films on in the background whilst drinking my Christmassy hot chocolate! A blog on my favourite Christmas films will follow in a few days time!

Gingerbread Making

Gingerbread Houses – I love gingerbread but only the home made stuff which is lovely and fluffy and soft – not the hard shop bought stuff that you nearly break your teeth on!

For the first few years I was buying the shop bought sets (basically it was easier because all the pieces were pre-made so I could spend more time decorating them!) but I realised after making them that they didn’t get eaten because the gingerbread was rock hard! So my mother in law bought me a cookie cutter set which meant I could make proper gingerbread and cut out the pieces I needed to make my gingerbread house!

This year I spent the afternoon making gingerbread houses with my Sister and it was absolutely brilliant! We really enjoyed ourselves and it really got us into the Christmas spirit! I hope we make it an annual event from now on!

Christmas Yankee Candles

My family and I always buy Christmas themed Yankee Candles to burn throughout the festive season and I also put one in everyone’s Christmas Eve boxes for them to burn the night before the big day. Check out some of this years scents –

Nutcracker Dolls

An obsession of mine! If you are intrigued, a separate blog on these little guys is coming out in the next couple of days….

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Christmas Eve boxes

Unfortunately I am one of those annoying people who has usually bought all of the main Christmas presents and got them wrapped up before December even starts as this frees me up the time to do all of these other amazing things throughout December! I do tend to leave buying little things like stocking fillers until December though.

In December I will also start buying bits and pieces to go in everyone’s Christmas Eve boxes! Hopefully you will have read my blogs I released last year on how to make them and what you can put in them – if not you can read about them here and here.

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Last year was the first time I unveiled the Christmas Eve boxes but they were so popular and loved by everyone that I promised I would make them a regular thing. The only thing is, I went a bit mental last year with it being the first year and so everyone got a lot in their boxes in addition to their normal pressies, so this year I asked everyone what their favourite bits were and I have limited it to four or five items, and a few sweets and treats.

Now December is here I will start looking for some good surprises to sneak into people’s Christmas Eve boxes to make Christmas Eve that little bit more special! This year’s box contents will be revealed in my Christmas Eve blog so watch this space!

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Post-Christmas themed parties

The family and I are all very lucky in that we all tend to get at least a week off over the Christmas period. As we are all avid Christmas fans, once Boxing Day has come and gone and we are in the few days between Christmas and New Year, the post-Christmas blues start to set in.

To cheer us up after the main event has come and gone, and to give us something else to look forward to (and OCD organiser Chloe to organise!), I usually throw a small family themed party for my Mum, my Sisters and myself. Past themes have included Harry Potter, Frozen and The Polar Express! This year’s theme is Beauty and the Beast, so I have been scouring eBay and Primark for months and months looking for ideas and treats to go in everyone’s goody bags!

Yes it’s cheesy/corny/childish but it cheers us all up and gives us the chance to spend some time together over Christmas without the added pressure of running around to check the turkey, prepare the veg and grab someone another drink. Plus my older sister Lindsey, who has autism, really looks forward to the parties (and the opportunity to get some more presents, even after Christmas is over!) I’ll do a separate blog about this year’s party so you can see what a great time we had this year!!!

Time off

What could be better than some time off work to celebrate and then rest and re-cooperate?? By the time my Christmas leave comes around I’ve usually got huge lists of bits and pieces I want to get done during my time off! The first few days off are usually Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day but after clearing up after these celebrations I always feel really down that Christmas has come and gone for another year, so I like to keep myself busy!

One of the regular tasks which appears this time of year includes sorting through mine and hubby’s wardrobes – throwing out/giving to charity the old stuff, putting aside stuff which needs repairing or dry cleaning, eBay-ing any unwanted valuable stuff and making space for the new stuff we got for Christmas or during the sales! The rest of the time hubby and I spend watching DVD’s or Netflix whilst eating the left over Christmas goodies! I’m afraid the majority of this time off is spent in my pyjamas!

Anyway, this just about wraps up my plans for December! No wonder it flies by so quickly!! And no wonder they call it the most wonderful time of the year!

Enjoy everyone!

CocoChlo’s Christmas Advent Calendars – Take Two!

Ok so hopefully you have read my last blog about how to make Advent Calendars and thought it was a really good idea (hopefully!) but something which is quite complicated, time consuming and perhaps a bit on the expensive side.

The first year I made the advent calendars I made three – one for each of my two Sisters and one for myself – I had hoped to make more but the time and money involved in making them meant I had left it too late for that year.

The following year I decided to make a further three – one for hubby, one for my brother in law and one for my Mum, so all six of us had our own calendars.

I wanted the second batch of calendars to be different from the first (and hopefully more simple to make!) so I set about creating a new design.

Just something to note – some of the pictures in this blog show the original base size, which we decided to cut down after a few days because the calendars were too difficult to move and wouldn’t fit through our loft hatch when they needed to be put away!!! Of course you can have the bases bigger if you want.

The base sizes eventually measured 60cm long by 35cm wide and were again cut out of 2cm thick MDF which I bought from B&Q. I bought a sample size of black paint to paint each of the bases, but of course you can use any colour you want.

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I ordered several small sized Christmas trees from eBay (I think the trees were three foot high). The trees arrived and had a tripod style base which you put the metal rod in to stand them up. The original plan was to fix the tripod stand to the wooden base and then to cover the tripod bit with some Christmassy material (known elsewhere as a “tree skirt”, not joking!)

IMG_7462I tried to glue the tripod plastic base to the rectangle wooden base but this didn’t work very well as not much of the material was flat to the base to be able to glue it. To make matters worse, when I thought I had finished making the trees and filled the advent boxes and started hanging them on the tree, the metal pole acting as the trunk of the tree started to bow under the weight! I hadn’t even put all the advent boxes on so I knew I needed a plan B!

My Mum had recently had a log burner installed in her home so had a huge pile of pre-cut logs which were ready to go onto the fire. I stole a few of these logs and hubby drilled a hole in the centre of the log and we forced the metal rod “trunk” of the tree as far down as possible and then sealed it with very strong glue (we used Gorilla glue but for gods sake be careful with this stuff, especially if you have kids around!) The log we used was around 23cm in height, just to give you some idea.

This seemed to do the trick and held the weight of the Christmas tree just fine so I nailed and glued the log to the black base and let it dry for at least 24 hours.

After that comes the fun bit! The decorating!

To decorate the calendars I got most of my bits and pieces on eBay – these are the items I ordered but of course you can decorate yours however you want –

  • Glitter star toppers in red, gold and silver (£5.99 each)
  • Wooden names for the bases (the prices of these depend on how many letters each name has, for example, £3.00 for five letters and £4.20 for seven letters)
  • Red, gold and silver glitter paints (£5.69 each pot)
  • Red, gold and silver glitter LED candles (£5.99 for a pack of 12 in one colour)
  • Velcro dots to attach the LED candles to the felt (£3.65 a pack)
  • Pack of 25 Advent Boxes (£10 from Next)
  • A set of two glitter reindeers in gold, silver and red (£4.00 for the pair)

I painted the wooden names with the glitter paint first of all – a word of warning, you may want to put an undercoat of a matching or contrasting colour underneath your glitter paint as it took many many layers before it started to build up the glitter colour. To be honest, even after several coats, I still wasn’t particularly happy with the colour and amount of glitter, particularly as this paint is quite expensive.

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Once you have painted the name plaque, glue it onto the base alongside your other decorations like your reindeer and LED candles.

I also bought a pack of battery operated fairy lights for £1 from the Poundshop and wrapped them round the tree to make it look a bit more authentic!

Then fill your advent boxes with whatever you fancy (see below for some ideas!) and then hang on your tree ready to be found!!!

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CocoChlo’s Christmas Advent Calendars – Take One!

My love for Christmas goes as far back as I can remember!

I have amazing memories of Christmas from when I was younger, we always made such an effort in our house to enjoy and celebrate the festive season. One of my favourite memories were the giant Christmas advent calendars that my Dad made for me and my two Sisters.

We had a calendar each and they consisted of sections of round plastic tubes which had been cut to size and glued on top of one another into the shape of a Christmas tree. Once the sections were filled with treats my Dad would cut out circles on different coloured paper and number them one to twenty-five and then stick the circles onto the pieces of pipe so we would have to break through the paper to get our presents. We had these calendars for years until eventually they fell to bits and my Sisters and I started going through the awkward teenage years where basically we thought everything like this was childish and stupid, so Mum gave up on the idea for a while.

A few years ago my Sisters, my Mum and I were talking about the Advent Calendars and I thought it would be great to make some new ones for the three of us, just like we had when we were younger. Although I wanted the idea to be similar, I wanted a new design which was better than the last ones!

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My quest for materials began at B&Q which is usually my go-to place for materials for projects like this! To start off making your Advent Calendars you need the following materials –

  • Three lengths of square brown guttering 6.5cm wide (these were £6.28 each)
  • A sheet of MDF wood for the bases and the sides 2cm/20mm thick (£15.43 for the sheet)
  • Black paint to paint the calendar bases (I didn’t need a lot of this paint so I bought three sample sized pots which were £3.10 in total).
  • Green “tree” coloured paint – you need quite a bit of this so I bought a 1 litre tub as I wanted to do a couple of coats.
  • Felt numbers 1 to 25 (£3.75 per pack)
  • Felt and fabric glue (I bought two as I knew I would need a lot)
  • Brown felt

To make up the Advent Calendars you need to –

  • Cut your base – we cut ours 60cm long and 35cm wide. I’m lucky enough to have a husband as a carpenter so the cutting stages were relatively straight forward because we had the right tools. If you don’t have the right tools it is best to make a note of all the sizes of cuts you need and when you buy the MDF, request that the store cuts it into the sizes you require – I know that B&Q definitely offer this service and this will save you a great deal of time later on.
  • Paint your base black (or whatever colour you have chosen)

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  • Cut your sides – one will need to be slightly longer than the other so that they join at the top (think ceiling coving joints!). The sides are 80cm long and 7cm wide.
  • Cut the back triangle – this is one of the trickiest parts as if this doesn’t measure correctly, the sides won’t fit properly. The triangle is 54cm along the base and is 80cm high where the two angles reach the point.
  • Glue or nail the sides to the back panel – if you are choosing glue you will need very strong glue for this purpose – again I was lucky enough to have a husband with a nail gun for this part!
  • Once the sides and back are securely together (or the glue is dried), paint the sides and back panel green. They may need a couple of coats, but this all depends on the type of paint you have bought (matt or silk etc) and of course the shade you are painting it.

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  • Once the bases, backs and sides have all been painted and are completely dry (I would probably leave for 24 hours to be sure), you need to attach the base to the side and back panels. I’m afraid you will have to use nails for this part of the process, as any glue would probably not be strong enough to hold the weight.
  • The next stage is to make up the little advent boxes to fit inside the “tree”. Cut up the brown drainpipe into twenty-five 6.5cm by 6.5cm squares – you may have some casualties during this stage as unfortunately the plastic does have a tendency to crack! Try and go as carefully as you can – you should have some drainpipe left over in case of any mishaps! The edges may be sharp so you might need to rub them down with sandpaper before you go any further – annoying and time consuming I know but you don’t want sharp edges where little hands will be poking about!

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  • Once you have twenty-five perfectly cut squares – arrange the squares together in the following formations (bottom to top)
  • A row of five
  • A row of five
  • A row of four
  • A row of four
  • A row of three
  • A row of two
  • A row of two
  • A single cube
  • A single cube
  • Once you have arranged them they should stack in your advent calendar like this:

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  • Once you have arranged them, glue them into rows side by side (do not glue them on top of one another just yet!)
  • Once the squares are in this order, cut the brown felt to size and glue the felt across the tops of the rows of squares and allow “flaps” of felt to fall over the front of the cubes (to cover up whatever little surprises will be placed inside!)
  • Once all the rows or single squares have been covered in felt, glue the rows of cubes on top of one another to form your pyramid shape.
  • Once the pyramid of boxes has had the felt added and is completely dry, you can add the felt numbers to the calendar flaps using fabric glue. We did ours in order starting at the bottom left and working our way up to the top in a snake like fashion, but of course you can dot your numbers anywhere you like. At the end they should look something like this –

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Once the numbers are dry, glue your pyramid into your advent calendar frame.

The hardest bits are now over, now for the fun bit which is decorating your calendars!

To decorate the calendars I got all my bits and pieces on eBay – these are the items I ordered but of course you can decorate yours however you want –

  • Glitter star tree toppers in red, gold and silver (£5.99 each)
  • Wooden names for the bases (the prices of these depend on how many letters each name has, for example, £3.00 for five letters and £4.20 for seven letters)
  • Red, gold and silver glitter paints (£5.69 each pot)
  • Red, gold and silver glitter LED candles (£5.99 for a pack of 12 in one colour)
  • A pack of plain wooden snowflakes in various sizes for the sides of the calendars (£7.65 for a pack of 60).
  • Velcro dots to attach the LED candles to the felt (£3.65 a pack)
  • A set of two glitter reindeers in gold, silver and red (£4.00 for the pair)

I painted the wooden names and wooden snowflakes with the glitter paint first of all – a word of warning, you may want to put an undercoat of a matching or contrasting colour underneath your glitter paint as it took many, many layers before it started to build up the glitter colour. To be honest, even after several coats, I still wasn’t particularly happy with the colour and amount of glitter which ended up on the wood, particularly as this paint is quite expensive.

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I then glued the wooden names to the bases and the snowflakes down the side of each tree.

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I got these packs of LED candles and attached a candle to each space on top of the rows of the pyramid, like so:

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You can glue the LED candles on if it is easier – I bought a set of little velcro dots and attached one onto the bottom of the candle and one onto the felt so they are attached securely but you can still take them off and on. If you do glue the candles on, remember you won’t be able to switch them on and off as the on/off button is on the bottom!

I glued my two reindeers on the base of the calendar and cut a V shape into the base of the star tree topper so it slotted onto the point of the calendar and could be glued in place.

Then after all this I began buying all the bits and pieces to go in them! Chocolates, Sweets, Mini Games, Bubbles, Christmas Tree Decorations, Snowglobes and Treasure Hunt clues – you name it, we have probably had it as one of our Advent Calendar presents! Here’s a few ideas – you can get treats like these from all major supermarkets such as Sainsbury’s, Asda, Marks and Spencer’s and Tescos:

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my blog about my Advent Calendars, this was the first design I did – keep an eye out for the second design I created which is far easier to put together if you don’t have a lot of the appropriate tools to hand!

Happy Advent Calendar planning!!!

 

 

The Naked Marshmallow Company

If you are looking for a lovely Winter treat then check out this amazing idea!

I love all the American programmes which show everyone sitting round the camp fire toasting marshmallows and making S’mores, but unfortunately, living in the UK with such unpredictable weather all year round, its a risk trying to partake in marshmallow toasting even in the Summer!

Anyway, now you can toast marshmallows all year round with this amazing Marshmallow Toasting Kit from The Naked Marshmallow Company!

The kit costs £19 and includes any two packs of their gourmet marshmallows, with each pack containing eight marshmallows.

You can choose from five different flavours – Vanilla Bean, Candy Floss, Strawberry Cream, Chocolate Orange and Salted Caramel (if you want to order additional flavours you can add more boxes at £4.25 each). They have even got a Christmas range of flavours out at the moment too, such as Gingerbread and Candy Cane!

The marshmallows are made in the UK and are made from fair-trade sugar and have no artificial colours or flavours in them.

We tried four out of the five regular flavours (no-one likes chocolate orange in our family unfortunately!) and all of them were AMAZING! I have honestly never tasted more delicious marshmallows, even those I’ve bought from food festivals and markets!

Each kit comes with eight bamboo sticks and a non-toxic, odourless, smokeless gel burner which will burn constantly for two hours. If you don’t burn it all at once you can simply pop the lid back on to extinguish the flame and then use again whenever you fancy!

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The kit also comes in a gift box with a little printed guide on “how to toast the perfect marshmallow”, so is ideal to give as a present – if you are giving as gifts you can pay an additional £2 to have the burner label personalised as well!

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My favourite flavour was the candy floss one (closely followed by the salted caramel!) but the vanilla bean and strawberry cream were favoured by other guests so the flavours obviously cater for all different tastes too!

Even better, when I placed my order, standard delivery was free! I’ve gone to checkout on several online bakeries and food websites to find that the delivery costs are extortionate, so this was a real added bonus!

The family and I really enjoyed using the kit and I would definitely buy it again, and buy it for family and friends as presents – it’s certainly something a little bit different!

Just don’t forget to put your burner on a heat-proof surface! The last thing you want is to leave burn marks on your furniture!

If you want to take the toasting marshmallows kit one stage further, you can also order their marshmallow S’more’s kit! The kit contains eight marshmallows, eight Graham Crackers, three Hershey chocolate bars and of course your gel burner, eight bamboo sticks and a guide on how to make the perfect S’more!

I’ll definitely have to try this kit next time I put an order in!

Iconic London Illuminators

Hello fellow beauty product lovers! How many of you use highlighters in your makeup routine?

I’d not tried highlighters or illuminators before – I wanted to but I found it all to be a real mine field, and after trying so many different types of liquid foundations over the past few months and still not really being happy with the one I had finally settled on, to be honest I was a bit put off starting my quest to find one!

My sister told me about the Iconic London Illuminators – I’m not too sure where she came across them, my guess is an advert on either Facebook or Instagram.

Anyway, at the time, Cult Beauty had a really good offer where if you spent a certain amount, they would send you a free summer goody bag which contained loads of sample and full sized products which we agreed to split when it arrived, and we each ordered an Illuminator. I ordered the “Original” colour and my sister ordered the “Shine” colour.

I loved the Original colour so much that within a couple of weeks I ordered the other two colours as well!

Original

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Shine

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Glow

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This is a product that all the celebrities are currently raving about – celebrity fans include Jourdan Dunn, Perrie Edwards, Michelle Keegan, Binky Felstead, Abbey Clancy and Chrissy Teigen, and after using it just once it was easy to see why!

The illuminator is so easy to use – it can be added to your foundation, primer or moisturiser, or used on its own for an amazing highlighted glow.

To use on its own, simply add drops of the illuminator to your cheekbones, the tip of your nose, collarbones and cupids bow. Use your fingers to tap the product onto your skin and then gently blend it in.

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Top to bottom – Shine, Original and Glow

I’ve found that you only need a tiny amount/couple of drops for the most dramatic of effects which means the bottle lasts absolutely ages – good news for those who are slightly put off by the £29.99 RRP the product attracts.

As I said before, I ordered my first one from Cult Beauty (it was slightly more expensive here at £34.99) but the subsequent bottles I ordered directly from Iconic London. I get regular emails from Iconic after now I’ve registered my details with them, but they do have very good regular discount offers on these products so keep your eyes peeled! One of the offers included a free Rose Gold Makeup Brush and on another offer you got a free strobing stick worth £24.99 if you spent £25 in the iconic store – absolute bargain!

If you search for Iconic London Illuminators on Facebook they also have a 10% off offer which is regularly available (try discount code FACEBOOK10).

I know it is difficult to take my word for it when I have literally only tried one make of highlighter but I am so pleased that I did – I’m not going to bother trying any others, this product is absolutely perfect.

One thing which is disconcerting is this product is often labelled as “Limited Edition” – I don’t know why and I am hoping this was just from when they originally released it, because I really don’t know what I’m going to do if they discontinue it! I’ve bought a few bottles to stock up on just in case anyway!

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!!