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???

The Roman Baths

Hopefully you’ve read my blog about Sally Lunn’s Bakehouse after my recent trip to Bath. Of course, although I usually centre my trips completely around food and drink, one of the main reasons I wanted to visit this fantastic city was the famous Roman Baths!

I honestly had no idea how much was here before I planned my visit! I really thought you just walked in and saw the main bath area and that was it! You could literally spend all day and more here!

You walk out onto the terrace first of all which looks down over the main swimming bath. The terrace was completed in 1897 when the Roman Baths first opened to the public. The main swimming bath is just one part of the whole site, which consists of extensive baths, a temple complex and even hot springs.

 

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Along this terrace you can see statues of Roman Governors of the province of Brittania (as Britain was known then), and Roman Emperors who had particular connections to Britain. The statues include Julius Caesar, Claudius, Hadrian and Constantine the Great.

 

 

You will next see the Hot Spring – the hot water in the Spring rises at a rate of 1,170,000 litres each day at 46 degrees! It bubbles up into the Kings Bath which was built in the 12th Century AD. Beneath the Kings Bath is a reservoir built by Roman engineers who used the hot water to supply the baths.

 

As you continue you come across the beautiful Temple Pediment. This was the front of the temple of Sulis Minerva and was supported by four huge columns. The Temple looked down on visitors in the Temple Courtyard from a height of 15 metres. Lights shining on the Temple show the colours and designs it would have had back then and it is absolutely stunning.

 

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You then move into the Temple Courtyard and the Buttress of Spring Building. The massive stone blocks formed a buttress supporting a corner of the building over the Sacred Spring.

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When you enter the Temple Courtyard you will come across the Altar – this sacrificial altar was the focus for public worship where priests conducted ceremonies and animal sacrifices. two of the cornerstones are in their original positions and a third lies close to the altar where it was found in 1965. It is likely that the altar was painted but it isn’t clear if the panels between the cornerstones were plain or decorated with carvings.

 

You will also see the Haruspex Stone – after a sacrifice, the Temple haruspex removed organs from the animal’s body and studied these to predict the future.

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Next you will come across the Sacred Spring – the Roman’s would erect altars at places where great streams appear from hidden sources – they would honour springs of hot water as divine.

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In the 12th Century the Kings Bath was built within the Roman ruins. In the 18th Century the Pump Room was built. There were steps, or “slips” outside the windows which allowed bathers into the water from passages beneath the Pump Room. Unfortunately, the ledge around the Spring is all that remains of the King’s Bath floor. The orange stain marks the former water level. In 1979, the floor was removed and the water lowered to the “Roman level”, approximately four metres below today’s level.

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After viewing hundreds of Roman artifacts and learning about Roman brick making and sluice gates, you can view the Great Bath at ground level and then go on to view the East Baths.

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Back in those days, as you moved through the spaces in the East Baths the rooms went from cool to very hot. Mixed bathing was often practiced in the Roman world, but not always. Here you will find similar rooms to the East and West of the Great Bath which allowed men and women to bathe simultaneously but separately. There would have been smells of massage oils and hot steam greeting the bathers as they entered the large heated rooms.

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Noble and poor, slaves and free would have all used these baths together. Attendants were there to help with food and drink and slaves would have accompanied the rich, fetching and carrying their belongings. Common snacks included oysters, sausages and bread.

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People would move from the changing rooms (apodyterium), to a warm room known as a tepidarium, and onto the hottest room, the caladium. There were also shallow bathing pools known as sudatoria, two small deep immersion pools known as balnea and a large cool swimming pool called a natatio.

After all this, you can try a sip of the hot spring water – not the best tasting but worth a try for the experience!

And finally is the beautiful Cold Bath – this beautiful preserved bath, with two sets of steps leading down to it, was probably fed from a cold water spring higher up the hillside  above the Roman Baths. The two large brick pillars were built to support the road above when the electric trams were introduced to Bathing 1904.

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Plus, when you are on the Terrace when you first arrive, make sure you take a stunning photo of Bath Abbey overlooking the Baths!

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Sally Lunn’s Bakehouse

Hubby and I don’t usually buy presents for each other for Birthday’s – we’ve got to that age now where if we see something we want and we can afford it then we go ahead and get it! If you wait until special occasions to buy that treat you’ve had your eye on, its usually too late isn’t it? The soul destroying “discontinued” or “out of stock in that size” notices start popping up!

Anyway, because we don’t buy presents for each other, what we tend to do is have a few days off work around our Birthday’s and then have some nice days out somewhere. He will often go fishing with his friends and I quite often visit London or other places like Blenheim Palace with my Mum and Sister. For this years’ Birthday adventure I knew I wanted to spend a day in Bath…

One of the places I knew I wanted to visit when I got there was Sally Lunn’s Bakehouse! I had heard about the world famous Sally Lunn Bunns they serve and knew I had to try one for myself! The bakehouse is also one of the oldest buildings in Bath!

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We arrived relatively early as I had heard it gets pretty busy! I had the Bunn with gorgeously thick cinnamon butter alongside a delicious filter coffee. My Mum is dairy and gluten intolerant so she is always worried about visiting places like this in case they don’t have anything suitable, but they served a wheat and dairy free tea! She had two homemade wheat and dairy free scones which were served with strawberry jam and dairy free margarine! Absolutely perfect!

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So what was Sally Lunn’s story? Legend has it that Sally Lunn, a Huguenot refugee, came to this bakehouse in 1680 and started to make a rich, round and generously sized “Bunn” which was big in size but incredibly light and delicious. She made the Bunns with fresh eggs, local butter and warm milk together with the skills she had learned making French brioche.

The Bunn was served at public breakfasts and afternoon teas and soon Sally Lunn became so famous that the bakehouse began to be called after her. The recipe, which was found in a secret cupboard, is now passed on with the deeds of the house.

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The present bakehouse was built around 1622 and was built upon earlier houses. There is even an old bakery museum in the cellar which you can visit and is open every day. Entry to the museum is free if you eat or drink in the bakehouse and is well worth a visit!  In the museum you will see evidence of early Medieval and Roman dwellings on the site and even the oven it is believed Sally Lunn used back in 1680!

If you fancy trying a famous Bunn, there is a Bunn etiquette! The bakehouse menu is divided into sweet and savoury, and the Bunn is delicious with either. The Bunn’s are so big they are generally served in halves. They tend to serve tops of the Bunns with sweet toppings, and bottoms of Bunns with savoury. Some of the sweet toppings available include coffee and walnut butter, dulce de leche and chocolate butter, and the savoury selection includes Welsh Rarebit, salt beef and twice baked goats cheese soufflé! Delicious! They also serve a wide range of teas and coffees which go perfectly with your choice of Bunn.

You can also take a Sally Lunn Bunn home with you as they are sold in presentation boxes – they are sold downstairs in the museum shop and cost £2.48 each.

I could just eat one now as I am typing about it! Sally Lunn’s is well worth a visit if you are ever visiting Bath!

 

A visit to Eastnor Castle

Isn’t it fantastic when you come across a beautiful and fascinating place which is right on your doorstep? This is how we felt about Easton Castle when we finally went to visit! It is only a few minutes drive away and is one of the best days out we’ve had!

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Easton Castle is in Herefordshire and is surrounded by a beautiful deer park, lake and arboretum. It is currently owned by the Hervey-Bathurst family.

The beautiful castle is full of medieval armour and fine art.

Inside is a beautiful dining room which was most recently decorated in 1990. The ceiling was decorated in the 1860’s  by the 3rd Earl Somers and depicts the shields of families connected to to those of him and his wife. There are over thirty portraits in this room alone. The room is now used for weddings and other private functions.

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The fireplace is said to have been made from granite from the little quarry on the left hand side of the front drive, which is now unfortunately completely overgrown.

The Gothic Drawing Room is probably my favourite room of the whole castle – just look at the stunning ceiling detail!

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The room was transformed in 1849 by a well-known Victorian firm of decorators called the Craces. There are four large tapestries hung up across the room depicting the four seasons and they date from 1680.

The carpet was laid recently in 2011 and was hand knotted in Turkey and was ten years in the making! The design includes the letter S as reflects the crests of the Somers Cocks family and the Manner’s family.

The Octagon room was completely redecorated in 1989. The chandelier is Dutch rock crystal and still has candles as it was originally designed.

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The two Gothic fireplaces were restored to their original place after they had been discovered in the Castle cellars. They had been removed by Lady Somers in the 1930’s when the left hand one was replaced by a large stone fireplace in order to give a single focus to the room and to dissuade, it is said, the men from congregating away from the ladies after dinner at the alternative source of warmth.

The ancient Assyrian tablet story……On a wet Sunday afternoon in 1998 the Hervey-Bathurst family and their weekend guests were rummaging in the remote areas of the castle cellar. The family thought they had thoroughly explored the cellar space over the past ten years, and had retrieved furniture and paintings which had been in store since 1939. It was amazing that after ten years of restoration that this incredible find came to light in a dark corner of a cellar that had been passed by many hundreds of times.

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Coated in thick dust, this ancient Assyrian tablet dating from approximately 700BC was discovered behind an old cooking range. It is estimated that it had been lying undisturbed for at least 100 years! Lying near the tablet were letters from the archaeologist Henry Layard, who first discovered the tablet in 1850.

Henry Layard was a good friend of Charles Somers, an ancestor of the Hervey-bathurst family. Layard describes in his letter to Somers how he excavated the Assyrian Palaces where he discovered the reliefs which lined the walls. It is likely that Somers, who was a great traveller, met Layard while travelling abroad and became good friends with him.

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Layard often gave fragments like this to friends and patrons in the hope of securing financial backing for continued excavation. The Eastnor relief was found in about 1850 and the scene shows Chaldean or Babylonian prisoners and comes from Court XIX of the palace originally built by Sennacherib (704-682). Some of his descendants had many of the wall panels scraped flat and this is one of those, recurved with more up-to-date scenes in 640-630 BC.

The Eastnor Castle Doll’s House was found in the furniture store in the cellar. It was first used in the 1920’s but could actually date far earlier than that as some of the original furnishings remain.

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The Library is another beautiful room – the walls are hung with 19th Century design fabric. The Billiard table dates from 1920 and the walnut bookshelves date from 1646.

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Upstairs you can find The Chapel Bedroom, Chinese Bedroom, The Queen’s Bedroom, bathroom, The Chapel and several passages.

The Queen’s Bedroom has this name because it commemorates the visit of Queen Mary in 1937. This room has 18th century Chinese wallpaper and 19th century furniture in the Chinese style.

The Chinese Bedroom was created for Queen Mary’s visit and was used by her Lady in Waiting.

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The Chapel was created from a bedroom in the 1880’s. The stained glass windows were given to the 3rd Earl and his wife by their daughters. The Chapel has never been consecrated and is only used for family prayers. It has not been used much after the death of Lady Herny Somers in 1921.

Downstairs you can find the beautiful State Bedroom and State Bathroom. It was restored in 1996, but hasn’t been used since 1939. The latin on the fireplace translates as “Hope conquers all”. The Italian carved walnut four poster bed dates back to the 17th Century.

In the beautiful grounds you will find an arboretum and a lake with beautiful trails and views of the castle which are lovely on a warm summers day!

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So, as you can see, a wonderful place which is well worth a visit!

Don’t forget that the Fireworks Championships are hosted here every year as well! If you are a fan of fireworks then this is a great evening out for all the family – it’s on the 31st August and you can buy tickets here…

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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Lush Bomb Bomb Bath Bombs

The Lush Christmas range is absolutely HUGE this year! I had to split it over four days of Blogmas last year so I’ve done something similar this year!

As part of the range they have a new type of bath bomb called a “Bomb Bomb” Bath Bomb. They are named this way because they actually comprise of two bath bombs in one and so promise you double the bath time fun!

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You can get the Bomb Bomb Bath Bombs in Snowman, Santa and Princess versions!

As I always do with the Christmas range, I ordered one of each to try them out. I just admit I did feel a bit stung by the £9.99 price tag for each Bomb Bomb but didn’t think much more of it, seeing as you are getting two bath bombs in one.

 

The Santa Bomb Bomb was the first one I used, I was looking forward to using him as I expected him to be quite a spicy, festive scented bath bomb. I was really surprised when I looked at the list of ingredients and saw that it contained bergamot oil, vanilla absolute and cocoa absolute! The website says it is a strawberries and cream type fragrance, but I really didn’t detect this scent. In fact, despite the fact there were two bath bombs in one, I found the scent to be extremely faint and almost non-existent! I’m wondering if anyone else found this?

 

The second thing I was rather disappointed about was that, again, despite the fact that there were two bath bombs in the water, I didn’t find the water to be particularly moisturising…

Not a good start with this new product I’m afraid! I keep thinking I could have bought nearly three other bath bombs from the Christmas range in exchange for this one…

 

I had higher hopes for the Snowman Bomb Bomb because it had a much stronger scent than the other two. Probably not very surprising, but Snowman Bomb Bomb has a refreshing minty scent due to its spearmint oil ingredient.

I enjoyed using the Snowman Bomb Bomb far more than the Santa Bomb Bomb and I’m not actually a huge fan of minty scents.

 

Although I quite enjoyed using it, would I use Snowman Bomb Bomb again? Due to the £9.99 price tag, I doubt it very much I am afraid! I really just don’t think the product is worth the price tag, especially in view of the fact that last year Lush was selling Giant Golden Wonder Bath Bombs for £12 each – and they were absolutely incredible!

 

The third and final Bomb Bomb of the collection is the Princess Bomb Bomb. Please don’t be put off by my pictures – the Princess Bomb Bomb doesn’t normally look like this but mine was absolutely battered when it arrived in the post! Her face was all crumbled and her little crown had fallen off!

Princess Bomb Bomb is very different from the other two scent wise as it contains ylang ylang oil for sweetness, cedar wood oil which is toning and balancing, benzoin resinoid which is an anti inflammatory, and bergamot oil which is really uplifting.

Although I found the Princess scent to be stronger than Santa, I was still really disappointed at how weak all the scents were considering the size and price of the Bomb Bombs.

Again I also couldn’t understand how such big Bath Bombs weren’t making the bath water particularly moisturising and weren’t leaving my skin anywhere near as soft as some of the other bath bombs from both the Christmas and regular ranges.

I’m pleased I tried them as I always look forward to trying new products from Lush, particularly the Christmas range, but I’m afraid I won’t be purchasing any more of the Christmas Bomb Bomb Bath Bombs! Such a shame….I don’t think we have seen the last of this design though!

Christmas at the Bush Inn

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Hopefully you have already read my post about The Bush Inn and their famous picnic benches! I’ve been four times this year and am already booked to go for a fifth time!

As soon as I had been for the first time back in March for one of the Spring benches, I knew I would have to come back for the Christmas edition! Needless to say, it didn’t disappoint! Here’s what they were serving for this years Christmas picnic bench;

Turkey and Stuffing roll – (hint – the Pig in Blanket is served in a little pot of gravy – pour the left over gravy into your turkey roll, delicious!)

Potato Wedges – lovely and crispy on the outside and fluffy in the middle!

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Pig in Blanket in a little pot of gravy;

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Deep Fried Brie with Cranberry – I love cheese and it doesn’t get any better than when it is deep fried!

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And for the sweets section we had;

Home made Mince Pie – Home made ones are the best!

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Christmas Tree Brownie – such a simple but effective idea – i will have to try making these at home!

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a Home made Gingerbread Man and a Satsuma – you can’t beat home made gingerbread! Plus you need a bit of fruit to level things out!

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A Christmas Trifle – trifle isn’t a favourite of mine but this was lovely

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Home Made Churros with a Toffee Sauce and a White chocolate Rocky Road Reindeer 

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and a lovely mini Hot Chocolate complete with marshmallows!

and a little bottle of cranberry juice to wash it all down with!

Another lovely trip here, I’ve never been disappointed! And for £17.50 per person I think the price is an absolute bargain! If you want to check them out then here is their Facebook page – you can only book the picnic benches by contacting them by telephone but be quick – the picnic benches get booked up really, really quickly!

I can’t wait for our next visit in a couple of weeks!

A spot of Llama trekking!

If like me you are always looking for some interesting and different days out, then I have just the thing for you!

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How stunning is Bowie??

I come from a family who adore animals and although I enjoy visiting farms and safari parks, sometimes they start to become very much the same old, same old.

A lot of these trips out are weather dependent and if you time it wrong and it’s a really rainy day, you don’t even get to see the animals come out of their shelters half the time, never mind actually interact with them! Mind you, who can blame them!?

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I came across an advert on Facebook advertising days out with llamas through Briery Hill llamas and, as I had seen a few videos going round on social media showing just how loveable and hilarious llamas were, I thought it would be brilliant to give it a go!

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Bossy Rossi! He’s not actually bossy as such – but he is definitely the boss!

I booked two spaces for my Sister and I to go during our week off together. It was £35 per person and we expected to be part of a larger group of maybe around ten people. We were over the moon when we arrived and it was just the two of us!

We had the whole place to ourselves and received full on superstar treatment!

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Hello there!

When we arrived we had a short introduction to all of the llamas, their names, ages and characters. We could then choose a llama we wanted to take out trekking, which was a really difficult decision to make as they were all so beautiful and all so different!

After much deliberating we finally decided on taking Bowie (Bowie was pretty much a dead cert to be chosen, you can see why from his pictures!) and the snooty scamp of the group, Macchiato!

Lisa (the owner) and an employee, Jade, also offered to take Rossi out with us so that we could switch llamas half way around if we wanted to! So we had a really good trio for the day!

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Beautiful Bowie!

After getting the boys all ready to go and giving them a bit of a grooming session so that they could get to know us, we wandered off on our llama trek across the fields and through the nearby woodland.

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We picked a perfect autumnal day for it, the llamas were lovely and gentle and stopped a  few times for a quick snack (Mr Macciato was renamed Snacky Macky!!)

As you can see, we also had time to stop for a few photo opportunities with them which was great!

After a slow mosey on back to the farm we gathered all 14 of the llamas together so we could feed them.

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What a beautiful face!

Cue fourteen lovely looking llamas surrounding you with puppy dog eyes like it had been such a long time since they were last fed! It was a lovely experience.

The owner told us that they were going to soon introduce a new “llamas and lattes” experience and asked us if we would like to be guinea pigs for this new package so of course we jumped at the chance!

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We were taken into the dining room of the beautiful house and served a latte with a llama shaped cocoa sprinkling and a llama shaped ginger biscuit! The perfect end to a lovely morning!

The company also offer an afternoon tea or cream tea service after you have been on your llama trek and, judging by the latte and biscuit, we had when we were there, I would imagine this would be well worth paying a visit!

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Snacky Macky at his finest!

Please check out their website! After visiting them I started following them on their Facebook page which you can find here. I noticed the other day they’ve added three new lovely members to the llama pack! They are called Limon, Rubio and Cirillo!

We shall have to rebook now so we can meet the new boys on the block!!

A hugely recommended day out – plus if you are looking for a great but unusual Christmas present why don’t you book someone their very own llama experience??

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween everyone! I hope you all had a great few days of Halloween celebrations! This year we had our Halloween party on the 26th and I’ve had the last week off to take part in all things autumnal!

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I loved my Pumpkin Patch which sat outside the front of the house!

We had a great time at the Halloween party – I normally make a real effort with my Halloween outfits but this year was a very straightforward outfit with some striking makeup instead! This crystal skull set is from The Gypsy Shrine – they have some amazing sets which are really easy to apply!

I have been so busy at work and planning other events over the past two months that I just didn’t get the chance to do anywhere near as much preparation for Halloween this year I’m afraid. I normally spend a couple of days preparing treats and decorations but it was very last minute this year!

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On the Sunday, hubby and I ventured out to see the new Halloween film at the cinema – we always try and go to the cinema to watch a horror film over the Halloween weekend. I really enjoyed the film but as I was sat there watching it I realised I had watched all the sequels but had never actually watched the 1978 original! It’s on Sky cinema at the moment so I have recorded it to watch it when we get the chance!

When we’d got home after scaring ourselves to death at the cinema, we tucked into all the amazing Halloween treats I’d been gathering over the last few weeks! As usual I’ve bought far too much and we had hardly any trick or treaters so we are going to be eating them until Christmas!

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How cool is the ghost and black slime pizza from Asda??
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These sweets get more and more gross every year!

On the Monday my Mum, my Sister and I went Pumpkin picking! I was just going to include the details in this blog but we had such a fantastic time that I thought it deserved its own blog so watch this space! It was well worth the visit and I think we may have created a new annual family tradition!

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On the Tuesday my Sister and I had a fantastic day in London! We’ve never been around Halloween before but we were pleased we did as it was a brilliant experience. Cafe’s and shops and florists were covered in autumnal and Halloween decor and they looked spectacular! Dominique Ansel’s, Peggy Porschen’s and Elan Cafe were all looking particularly autumnal and spooky!

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Our top prize for window displays went to this florists called Pullbrook and Gould. The photos really don’t do it justice, it must have taken them ages to create it and you can see how much time and effort has gone into it! Amazing!

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On Halloween my Mum, my Sister and I spent the day together (and admittedly started discussing our Christmas plans!) but spent a lot of the day munching on our Halloween chocolate whilst watching the new Netflix programme The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell – if you haven’t watched it yet, you really must!! The only way I can describe it is a cross between the film Labyrinth and a Nigella Lawson cookery programme! It is seriously corny, but seriously good, and a perfect programme to watch over the spooky period!

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After a day of errands on the Thursday, on the Friday we paid a visit to Puzzlewood! This was my Sisters choice as she said she has always wanted to visit, and to be honest I didn’t know much about the place – I just assumed it was a woodland trail! Well there is so much more to it than this! So I have written a separate blog all about it!

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So as you can see we have had a fun-filled week full of Halloween and autumn themed activities! It is such a shame when all the decorations have to come down again for another year. Plus as soon as they do it means I have to really start putting my Christmas plans into action!

 

Pumpkin Picking!

I made a pact with my Sister last year that we would go pumpkin picking this year after seeing all of the amazing photos on instagram of all the autumnally dressed people stood in the fields of pumpkins!

In the last couple of years there’s also been a real surge in unusual hybrid type pumpkins too! It started with the all white Ghost pumpkins and went onto the adorable miniature Munchkin pumpkins, and now all the pumpkin growers are coming up with all sorts of weird and wonderful looking pumpkins, gourds and squashes!

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We looked at some of the places that people had been tagged in on Instagram and decided on visiting Pumpkins R Us, which is around an hours drive away from us.

There’s no fee to get in and there were lots of amazing decorations (including an incredibly scary clown!) to have a look at as you walk around the marquee full of pumpkins.

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The selection really was incredible! I had already bought a few pumpkins from the supermarket the week before we had visited so I had only planned on looking but some of them were so unusual looking I just had to give them a home! If you pay a visit, grab a little trolley to wheel all your goodies around – they weigh an absolute tonne!

There was a huge array of different types and colours and sizes (seriously, some were absolutely MASSIVE!), and all of them were reasonably priced.

The only downside we found was that we didn’t actually get to go out to the field to pick the pumpkins, they were already picked and crated up for us. Having said that, it was nice to have the same types all grouped together so you could compare them size wise!

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My cart was quite full by the end!

On the way out there was also a little shop you could visit and buy unusual ornaments and decorations and bits for the kids for their night out trick or treating.

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We really enjoyed going and it was well-worth the trip – I’m pretty sure we will be paying a returning visit next year and I can see a new annual family tradition developing!

 

The Lush Halloween Collection

I couldn’t wait for this years Lush Halloween collection to be released! Last years collection was brilliant and I fell in love with some of the returning classics. I just hoped that some of my favourites would be returning this year as well!

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When the collection was announced I was surprised at how small it was compared to some previous years. I found out shortly afterwards that this was probably because Lush were putting far more resource into their HUGE Christmas range, which was being released only two weeks later!

Anyway, here is the down low with this years selection of spooky soaks!

I reviewed the Bewitched bubble bar as part of last years Lush Halloween collection and I really loved it so I’m pleased it has returned this year!

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Bewitched produces mounds of lovely fluffy bubbles and a deep, dark black bath water! But fear not, it doesn’t leave any black rims or stains on the bath tub after use!

It contains blackberry, bergamot and frankincense oils and is one of the nicest smells I have come across in a bubble bar. The oils make the water incredibly moisturising and once I was in the bath I really didn’t want to get out!

The Eyeball bath bomb is new for this year and is a great design – I can’t believe it hasn’t been done before!

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Although the design is great I was really surprised about the scent –  it contains lavender oil, Brazilian orange oil, rose absolute and ylang ylang oil. I love lavender and orange scents but I found the rose absolute to be the most prominent scent.

The scent is really quite floral, which seems rather strange for a product which forms part of the Halloween range, especially when it is something as gory as an eyeball!

I bought three of the Eyeball bath bombs and have used two of them so far, I wasn’t too keen on the scent at first but have found that it’s grown on me since.

One thing I will say about Eyeball bath bomb is that it is fascinating to watch when it is bobbing around in the bath water!

Halloween wouldn’t be Halloween without my absolute favourite bath bomb, Monsters Ball! 

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They are a regular of the Lush Halloween range and so I always stock up on plenty to last me throughout the year! It may be because I have been using some Monsters Ball from last Halloween (and Lush always say you get the best results using their products fresh), but I’ve noticed the ones this year seem to be better than ever! The scent is stronger and the bath art is out of this world!

Monsters Ball contains lime and neroli oil and shares its scent with the Calacas range. It also contains olibanum oil which is great for cleansing as well as softening, healing and hydrating purposes. Just what you need on those cold winter evenings!

Monsters Ball is an amazing bath bomb that I will keep stocking up on year after year – let’s just hope that Lush keep on bringing it back every Halloween!

So this year the Halloween range is actually quite a small range but Lush have focussed most of their efforts on bringing out a new Ectoplasm range. The Ectoplasm Jelly Bomb was part of last years range and to be honest, after a buying a few, I was really disappointed with it. The bath I had bought did not produce much jelly and left hard bath bomb chunks in the bath which just would not dissolve.

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When I heard it was coming back again this year I had already decided that I wasn’t going to buy anymore. It was only because I went to Lush in Cheltenham on the day the Halloween range was released and the team did a demo for me that I realised the recipe and design had been far improved this year.

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The scent on the new jelly bomb was far stronger and really zesty. This years Ectoplasm also produces far more thicker jelly than last years version and there weren’t any hard lumps left behind like I had experienced with last years.

Ectoplasm contains tangerine oil, grapefruit oil and litsea cubeba oil. The scent is predominantly grapefruit and is absolutely addictive! I’m so pleased I gave it another chance this year and that I also bought the other products from this collection!

Another product from the Ectoplasm range is the Ectoplasm Wash Card. I’ve only used one wash card from Lush so far and this was the Kiss Me Quick wash card which was released as part of the Valentine’s Day collection earlier this year.

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To be honest I’m not keen on the whole wash card idea but I thought I would give it a try because I loved the other products which had the Ectoplasm scent.

It is a bit of a strange sensation using a wash card, I felt a bit like I was rubbing a small piece of leather across my skin! The Ectoplasm Wash Card includes fresh apple pulp, tangerine oil, grapefruit oil and litsea cubeba oil. It smells amazing and does leave your skin feeling lovely and soft but I find that the wash cards don’t lather up as much as I would like.

I’m glad I tried a new type of wash card but they aren’t one of my favourite products, sorry!

The product from the new Ectoplasm range I was looking forward to using most was the Ectoplasm Shower Scream! 

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Again the scent is incredibly zesty due to its tangerine and grapefruit oils and juices and it also contains fair trade cocoa butter, almond oil and litsea cubeba oil to leave your skin soft and moisturised.

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The cream is fluorescent yellow and as soon as I smelt its scent I fell in love with it and bought two massive bottles! I just hope it is here to stay and returns year after year for the Halloween collection!

I’m still not completely sold on the idea of the Naked Lush products (products with no packaging of any sort), but because I loved the Ectoplasm scent, I invested in an Ectoplasm Naked Shower Scream, as I thought I could use it like a soap to complement the jelly bombs.

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The first thing I noticed when the Ectoplasm Naked Shower Scream arrived with my order was that it was far softer and more malleable than the other naked products I had used before. I’m not sure why Lush have done this and I think it will make the products slightly easier to us, but I found the product starting to melt after only holding it in my hand for a minute. I can’t see this product is going to last very long if it is held for longer periods under hot running water.

Still, I did enjoy using the product and found that it left my skin feeling really soft and moisturised. The scent was lovely but no where near as strong as the liquid counterparts.  I’m glad I bought it but I won’t be changing the normal shower gels and creams for the Naked products any time soon I’m afraid.

Lord of Misrule Bath Bomb is another regular to the Lush Halloween collection and is a close second favourite to Monster’s Ball.

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Lord of Misrule bath bomb is inspired by the ruler of the Pagan Feast of Fools! It contains black pepper, patchouli oil and vanilla absolute. It has had a bit of a makeover this year and is now a darker all over green colour and had also had a change in recipe which has made the scent stronger and the foam smoother.

It is a very fascinating bath bomb to watch and produces some amazing looking bath art which is really hypnotic to watch. After a lot of green foam, the centre cracks open and out drools a thick, dark red centre. The bath water goes from a light green colour to a dark red colour and the end bath water colour is stunning. The scent is quite strong but not off putting, you can detect the black pepper which gives it a warm and spicy feel, and the scent lingers for a long time after you’ve hopped out of the bath.

Lord of Misrule definitely suits its name – calming green followed by chaotic splashes of red – it is easily another all time favourite!

The fait accompli for Lush this year has to be the Ghost in the Dark Soap! I am absolutely in love with this scent and design! So much so that I bought three of them!

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Ghost in the Dark contains lemongrass and bergamot oil which smells so fresh and zesty! It also contains fair trade organic cocoa butter, extra virgin coconut oil and organic castor oil to leave your skin feeling lovely and soft and moisturised.

This one is a firm favourite which I hope will return year after year! And if all of this isn’t enough for you – this soap GLOWS IN THE DARK!

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One thing I found quite unusual about this years Halloween range was the lack of pumpkins! Last year’s range had Pumpkin Bath Bomb, Pink Pumpkin Bubble Bar and Sparkly Pumpkin Bubble Bar, and this year, only Sparkly Pumpkin Bubble Bar has made a reappearance.

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Sparkly pumpkin very much lives up to its name – you get glitter absolutely EVERYWHERE! It is very much autumn in a bubble bar, simply crumble it under running bath water for a lovely orangey glitter coloured water and mounds of soft fluffy bubbles!

Sparkly Pumpkin contains juniper berry oil, lime oil and grapefruit oil and is topped off with a little cinnamon stick for that real autumnal effect! The water is amazingly soft and silky and is just what is required after one of those cold wet days!

I’m glad it made a reappearance this year and have stocked up on a few to keep me going!

I hope you all had a great Halloween – I’m afraid I am one of those really irritating people who, come 1st November, jump straight from Halloween celebrations to Christmas countdowns!

 

Saint Aymes Cafe

Ok so this is my third instalment of my favourite London Cafes – I’m hoping you have already read my blog about Peggy Porschen’s and Dominique Ansel’s!

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Saint Aymes is another place I will always try and visit whenever I am in London. It is situated on Connaught Street which about a ten minute walk from Paddington Station. The outside is draped in beautiful wisteria, and inside is a bright and airy cafe adorned with multiple flower walls.

 

 

They are particularly well-known for their innovative Unicorn lattes! You can choose the latte in a colour of pink, blue or purple and it is topped with whipped cream and gorgeous multi coloured decoration.

 

 

The coffee which is added to the latte is served separately so you can add it when you have taken all those Instagram worthy shots!

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They also do a fantastic hot chocolate called Marie Antionette which is a pink coloured white hot chocolate adorned with whipped cream and crumbled oreo cookies.

 

They also serve delicious cappuccinos and the thing Saint Aymes is most well known for is their 24ct gold leaf decoration which is added to all of its drinks – can you think of anything more luxurious than that?? Check out this 24ct gold cappuccino!

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Saint Aymes have also recently installed a candy floss maker, so it is served fresh on request.

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Add to this a beautiful selection of cakes, biscuits and cupcakes and all in all you have a stunning and relaxing place which is well worth visiting!

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Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay

I recently wrote a couple of blogs about some brilliant products I had come across which were made by Sand and Sky. I was talking to a friend about how much I liked their pink clay mask when she told me she had heard of a fantastic new product called Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay. My friend said she had heard great things about this new product and even better, the price was extremely cheap!

 

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I looked into this product a little bit more and found the product was being described as “the worlds most powerful facial”, what a claim!

Clays such as this have been used for centuries to beautify and refresh when used as a facial mask. Cleopatra used clay from the Nile river and the Arabian desert over 1800 years ago, as part of her beauty ritual. German and Roman spas have been using clay packs and treatments in the spas they built 4,000 years ago. Many of these spas still exist and use clay even today.

Pliny the Elder devoted an entire chapter of his book “Natural History” to the many uses of clay for spots, black heads and skin tightening. Many famous naturopaths have contributed to the revival of the uses of clay through their natural treatments for arthritus and skin ailments.

Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay  is bentonite clay from Death Valley, California, where it is sun-dried for up to six months in temperatures that sometimes reach 134 degrees. The clay does not contain additives, fragrances or any form of animal products.

The clay comes in powder form and to use it you mix the powder with equal parts of apple cider vinegar or water. I haven’t used apple cider vinegar so far, just water, and I have found the results to be great. Simply mix the clay into a smooth paste, adding more water or cider vinegar as needed.

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I have found it really difficult to get this mask into a smooth paste and have always ended up with lumps in the mask but when I was reading more about it today I found that if you use a metal spoon to stir the mixture with, it could be affecting the masks qualities, so only use something wooden to stir it with!

Apply a thick layer to the skin and leave it to dry, this takes around 15 to 20 minutes. If you have sensitive or delicate skin, don’t leave the mask on for any longer than 5 to 10 minutes, it is a really powerful mask!

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Whilst the mask is drying you will feel a tingly, pulling and tightening sensation. I have felt this when using other clay masks but not any whee near on this scale. It is almost like you can feel the mask opening your pores and drawing out all of the dirt and impurities, it is a really nice deep pore cleansing sensation!

The mask is quite difficult to wash off and you may find a slight redness of the skin straight after using the mask but this disappears after around 20 minutes.

Here’s the scientific stuff! When a spectographic analysis is done on Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay, almost every mineral found on Earth is present. Aztec Secret Healing Clay is actually volcanic Ash from when the Earth was formed. The residue formed a pure clay vein layered between white sand, near one of the lowest parts of planet Earth.

I ordered a 1lb pot from Amazon for £8.49. For some reason, Amazon don’t seem to sell it anymore, but it is still available on eBay for around £7.99. The website says that the 1lb pot will make 15 to 20 clay masks but I think it will make far, far more than this. You hardly need any powder to make up a clay mask for the face and every time I have made a mask up I always have lots left over!

The mask can be used on the face and body and even as a foot mask which I think I will try next time! It’s just hard to find 20 spare minutes to allow the mask to dry when I’m not on my feet rushing around that seems to be the problem!

I got my Sister to use the mask to see what she thought – she loved it too!

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I absolutely love this product, so much so that I will probably be replacing all of my existing face masks for it. It is incredibly inexpensive and the most effective mask I’ve ever used.

Lush Lotions

If you hadn’t guessed already, I am a real Lush Cosmetics fan!

Lush recently released a limited edition range of ten body lotions which you can only buy online. They released details of all ten scents a few weeks beforehand so I was dreading them being released so close to the launch of the Halloween and Christmas range, basically because I wanted all ten!

Now the first thing I will say is that the body lotions are pricey (ranging from £14.95 to £16.95 per pot depending on the scent), and I must admit this did shock me when they were released. When they arrived however I was pleasantly surprised because the lotions are EXTREMELY thick (honestly, tip a pot upside-down and the lotion is going nowhere)! As the consistency is so thick, you don’t need to use much during each use and I think these pots will last far, far longer than I had originally anticipated!

All of the lotions include almond oil, fair trade organic cocoa butter, organic jojoba oil and organic illipe butter for moisturising.

Here are the ten scents and what I thought of them;

Sultana

I wasn’t familiar with this scent but someone told me that the Bewitched bubble bar (which was part of this years and last years Halloween range), shares it’s scent with Sultana, and as Bewitched is one of my favourite bubble bars, I knew I had to get hold of some of the lotion!

Sultana has a huge range of ingredients to give it its unusual scent including apricot infusion, cranberry infusion, currant infusion, olibanum oil and bergamot oil. The cranberry infusion is exfoliating and nourishing and the olibanum oil adds a sweet and woody scent.

Sultana is really moisturising and I could still smell the lovely delicate scent on my skin the following morning. It has definitely become a firm favourite, I’m really pleased with this one!

Calacas

Another one of my favourite scents! I love the Monster’s Ball bath bomb which is part of the Halloween range and has the same scent as Calacas.

Calacas has an amazing smell because it contains organic cold pressed grapeseed oil, fresh aloe gel, lime oil, olibanum oil and neroli oil!  The organic cold pressed grapeseed oil is moisturising and regenerative and the fresh aloe gel is soothing and cooling. The scent is fresh and zesty and almost sharp – really unusual and another firm favourite!

I found the consistency of Calacas to be slightly thinner than some of the others I’ve used but it was still thick enough that you didn’t need to use much for good overall coverage. I’m glad I bought two of these!

Yuzu and Cocoa

I’ve not come across Yuzu and Cocoa before but I think there was a bubbleroon bubble bar with this same name and scent. I wish I had got my hands on some because I really like it in the body lotion form!

Yuzu and Cocoa contains yuzu infusion, cocoa absolute, bergamot oil, grapefruit oil and tonka absolute. The tonka absolute adds a sweet scent whilst the grapefruit oil is uplifting and refreshing.

You can see in the photo how thick the lotion is! You really don’t need much at all and to be honest I used a bit too much the first time! I love the scent of this one but found the scent didn’t last very long after I used it which was a shame….To overcome this problem I just doused myself in even more of it!

American Cream

I ordered the shower gel version of American Cream and really liked it when I got it so thought it would be great to have the matching scent in the body lotion form…

The first thing I noticed about the American Cream body lotion was that the scent was really, really faint. The second thing I noticed was that the scent of the body lotion didn’t seem to be the same as the scent of the shower cream, which was the main reason I’d bought it!

American Cream body lotion contains orange infusion, strawberry infusion, vanilla absolute, clary sage oil and lavender oil. Although there are some strongly scented ingredients contained in American Cream, I couldn’t detect most of them at all. The scent is very “strawberries with a hint of lavender” smelling which is nice but was just no where near strongly scented enough for my liking.

I’ve got to say this is the lotion that I am most disappointed with out of them all – I bought two of them and to be honest I think at least one of them is going to end up on eBay! I don’t dislike the smell, I just think if you are paying £15.95 for a pot of lotion that you should love the scent really shouldn’t you??

Noni I Washed the Kids

Noni I washed the Kids is a derivative of the existing “honey I washed the kids” range. The reason they have changed the name is because they have removed the honey from the ingredients and replaced it with a noni fruit decoction to make it suitable for all its vegan users. Noni fruits actually taste pretty gross but fear not, the noni fruit decoction in the body lotion is barely detectable! Noni fruits do have a high vitamin content and are great for making your skin bright and supple though!

Noni lotion also contains Brazilian orange oil and bergamot oil. The Brazilian orange oil is refreshing and rejuvenating and the oils and butters such as organic illipe butter and the cocoa butter are conditioning and restoring.

I must admit I wasn’t sure whether I would like the scent of Noni I washed the Kids when I looked at the list of ingredients but it is a really unusual, sweet smelling body lotion which I really enjoyed using. It’s scent is definitely very different from all of the other lotions from the range and I am definitely a fan!

Yummy Mummy

I’ve heard of this scent before too but haven’t actually ever got to try it. I’ve heard a lot of fellow Lushie’s really love Yummy Mummy so I had high hopes for this one!

Yummy Mummy contains fresh strawberry juice, geranium oil, Brazilian orange oil and tonka absolute. The geranium oil is toning and balancing and the Brazilian orange oil is refreshing and rejuvenating.

Although I was really looking forward to using this one, I was disappointed when I opened the tub and found that the scent was really, really faint. I think the only ingredient I could detect in Yummy Mummy was the strawberry juice and as this was the  main ingredient I could smell in American Cream, along with lavender, I found them to be very similar. So similar in fact that I probably wouldn’t be able to tell the difference if you put them both in front of me!

This was my second disappointment of the range and I’ve also come across some other fellow Lushie’s who love the yummy Mummy scent range but are really disappointed with the body lotion version. I think it would be far better if the scent was stronger but again, I think this one may find itself on eBay too….

Lord of Misrule

I love, love, love the Lord of Misrule scent range! The Lord of Misrule bath bomb is usually released as part of the Halloween collection and last year I also managed to get hold of some Lord of Misrule shower cream, so I was really pleased to get hold of the body lotion version to complete my set!

The Lord of Misrule body lotion had a really unusual scent because it contains black pepper oil, patchouli oil and vanilla absolute. The scent is quite a spicy, musky and almost fruity one, and you can definitely detect the black pepper oil in the scent.

I love the Lord of Misrule scent as it is so different from all the other regular Lush scents,  I just wish it was a scent which was available in bath bomb form all year round, not just at Halloween!

Avocado No Wash

When I ordered the American Cream shower cream I also ordered some of the Avocado Wash shower cream because fellow Lushie’s were raving about it! I wasn’t disappointed and I am now ADDICTED to the scent! When they released Avocado No Wash body lotion I knew I had to have some to compliment the shower cream.

Avocado No Wash contains rosemary infusion, lavender flower infusion, nettle infusion, bergamot oil, litsea cubeba oil, olibanum oil and gardenia extract. The bergamot oil is uplifting and cleansing and the rosemary infusion is relaxing and anti-inflammatory. As well as the usual butters and oils which are contained in the range of body butters, Avocado No Wash also contains avocado butter which is nourishing and hydrating.

This is a definite favourite scent! I’m so pleased I gave it a try! I just want to douse myself in this body lotion all day! Again, I am glad I bought two pots of this amazing smelling stuff!

Butterball

Butterball was the body lotion I was least bothered about in the new range of ten which were released. So much so that I only ordered one pot of Butterball when I ordered two or more pots of all the others!

It’s not that I dislike the Butterball smell, it’s just that in comparison with some of the other scents, I think Butterball is rather boring in a way! (Sorry Butterball fans!)

Butterball doesn’t contain many ingredients which is why the most prominent scent in Butterball is the cocoa butter. Butterball has a creamy, buttery and chocolatey scent.

Butterball contains, ylang ylang oil and the usual jojoba oil and illipe butter. It is a great everyday body lotion if you prefer your straightforward no-nonsense scent, or perhaps wish to combine it with a stronger more unusual scent to compliment it, it just isn’t quite extravagant enough for me I’m afraid!

Yog Nog

I have left Yog Nog until last because this was the one I was most looking forward to using! I managed to get hold of a couple of Yog Nog soaps from the Christmas range last year and I fell in love with the scent. If I was a scent, I would be Yog Nog! It is like Christmas in a pot!

To create Yog Nog’s amazing Christmas scent, the body lotion contains Canadian maple syrup, clove bud oil and ylang ylang oil along with its other nourishing and moisturising butters and oils.

Yog Nog is by far the strongest smelling and longest lasting scent of the range of body lotions and I absolutely adore it! Don’t be put off by the thought of smelling like a Christmas eggnog all day long, I promise you other people who can smell this lovely scent will love it just as much as you do, and people were commenting all day about it! It smells so good it is a struggle not to eat it! It is rich and cinnamon scented and almost like melted fudge and toffee!

I did find it took a while for the body lotion to soak in, and I think this is probably one of the thickest lotions from the range, but this was good in my eyes as it means that one pot will last me AGES! Seriously, if you can get hold of some, buy as much as you can!

So, a real mixed bag with these products! Some I really love and some I am disappointed with, but I am hoping that Lush will continue producing more scents in the body lotion range in the near future!

Lush Shower Bombs

I haven’t written a blog about any Lush products for ages! This is mainly because when we moved out last December I had to box them all up and they have been stored in the spare bedroom whilst we decorate the dressing room ever since! We finally got the carpet down and the furniture in the dressing room last weekend so now I have a whole tall unit with drawers dedicated to my Lush collection!

Anyway, a few weeks ago Lush released a new range of shower bombs which I wanted to give a try. I am a huge bath fan (as opposed to showers) but on those days where I’m in a real rush I don’t have the time to wait for the bath to run! I think it is great they are releasing some more shower related products, one Lushie said they thought this was brilliant and a long time coming, as not everyone has a bath so a shower is their only option!

They have released four different shower bombs so far;

Karma

Karma Shower bomb contains turmeric powder for a bright complexion, and pine oil for cleansing! It smells great and the scent of the turmeric gives it a real twist!

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It also contains patchouli oil, Brazilian orange oil and lavandin oil to moisturise the skin.

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To use the shower bombs, simply hold them under the running shower water and watch them foam up! It produces a lovely smelling foam which leaves your skin feeling cleansed, soft and moisturised, plus I also found Karma to be a good exfoliator as well!

Not Sleepy

I was looking forward to using Not Sleepy as the list of ingredients looked perfect for perking you up and getting you ready for the day ahead!

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Not Sleepy contains Sicilian lemon oil, lemon myrtle oil, petitgrain oil, neroli oil, Brazilian orange oil AND lime oil! Wow! Some of my most favourite scents!

I really loved the zesty scent of Not Sleepy and found the foam to be lovely and refreshing. Not Sleepy also contains ground white rice which acts as a great exfoliator and leaves your skin feeling perfectly soft. This is one of my favourites, I love the scent!

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I must admit that I do like to use a lot of product when I am in the bath and shower and found it quite disheartening watching the lovely smelling scent wash away down the plughole! I have a shower which is over the bath so to make the scent last a bit longer I put the plug in and let the bath start to fill up so that I could enjoy the scent that little bit longer! It also acts as a very good foot soak at the same time!

Koyaanisqatsi

I have absolutely no idea how to pronounce the name of this one! A quick Google search of the name reveals it is a Hopi word meaning “life out of balance”.

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I really liked the design of Koyaanisqatsi – it reminded me of a little spaceship! The scent however is VERY faint, which is disappointing because I do like my products to be strongly scented.

It contains lavender oil, lavender absolute, lavandin absolute, lavandin oil, violet leaf absolute, ylang ylang oil and vanilla absolute! All of these are lovely prominent scents so I don’t understand why I could hardly smell any of these ingredients? If you had given me a description of the ingredients I would have said that this was one of my favourites, but actually it is my least favourite of the four…..

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Another downside was that I found that Koyaanisqatsi didn’t produce as much foam as the others. With the other three I think you could have easily cut them in half and got two uses out of them if you wanted to, but I don’t think that is the case with Koyaanisqatsi….. Maybe I just ended up with one with a lighter scent and the others are fine?

Sleepy

I saved Sleepy until last as I had a sneaky feeling that this was going to be my absolute favourite! A fluffy little cloud with “Sleepy” stamped on the bottom……definitely the best design of the four!

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Sleepy contains lavender oil, tonka absolute, ylang ylang oil and fine oatmeal! The scent is incredible and just what you need to set you up for a nice relaxing sleep!

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Sleepy produced the most and the thickest foam out of the four shower bombs and it left my skin feeling incredibly soft. When I used Sleepy I put the plug in the bath and left it for ages because I just couldn’t bear to wash the scent away! I wish they did a GIANT bath bomb with this scent!

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As predicted, Sleepy is my definite favourite! I wouldn’t cut this one in half to use on two occasions as I want more, more, more of this scent!

The Shower bombs are available from the Lush website and in store and the prices are around £2.75 per bomb. I think they are a great idea and I get the impression we may start seeing more of them with different scents as they are proving to be very popular among Lush fans! Perhaps some seasonal limited edition shower bombs are on the horizon!?

Mary Arden’s Farm

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I am hoping that you have read my blogs about my last couple of visits to stratford upon avon and Anne Hathaway’s Cottage over the last few months. As part of the full story ticket we purchased, you can have access to Shakespeare’s Birthplace, Shakespeare’s New Place, Hall’s Croft, Anne Hathaway’s Cottage and Mary Arden’s Farm, as many times as you like for a full 12 months! If you are visiting Stratford, you must also pay a visit to the Holy Trinity Church which is of course the final resting place for William Shakespeare himself.

Mary Arden’s Farm was the last place on our list to visit and, once again, we chose a beautiful summers day to visit!

The Arden Family farmhouse was the childhood home of William Shakespeare’s mother, Mary. The house was built in around 1514 and was owned by Lord Abergavenny, and tenanted to farmer Robert Arden (Shakespeare’s grandfather) and his family. Mary was born in about 1535 and was the youngest of 8 sisters. All of them grew up in this farmhouse.

At the time, it was not unusual for children to die through illnesses, but Mary and her sisters all lived to become adults and she grew up as part of a busy working household. Mary’s mother died in 1548 and her father then married a widow who also had four children, so the farmhouse would have been fit to bursting, even though some of Mary’s sisters had already left home by this point!

In 1556, Robert Arden died, leaving his second wife, Agnes, the tenancy of the house and farmland. Mary was left with some additional land and a sum of money at this point. In 1567, Agnes Arden handed the property over to her son-in-law John Fulwood (John Fulwood was married to Agnes’ youngest child) and she continued to live in the house until she died in 1581.

By 1623 the Fulwood family continued to hold the tenancy. Avery Fulwood was the tenant and the farm was recorded as being 147 acres in size.

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In 1662, Lord Abergavenny sold off the farm to pay off debts. Mary Arden’s house, along with the147 acres, was bought by Anne Hunt for £300. At the time this happened, Mary Fulwood was listed as the tenant. Later in that year, it was purchased by the Loggin family of Clifford Chambers.

In 1738 the Loggin family sold the property to Edward Kendrick, rector of nearby Billesley. He made the purchase to increase the income of Billesley parish throughout the rent of the property. The property then became known as Glebe Farm (Glebe means land proving income to the clergy).

In 1742 Kendrick acquired a barn and additional land. This was probably land originally left by Robert Arden to Mary in his will of 1556. Glebe Farm now consisted of a house and about 188 acres of land.

By 1769, Glebe Farm was one of the largest farms in Wilmcote. The other was neighbouring Palmers Farm (which was actually mistaken for Mary Arden’s Farm for several years until it became apparent the building next door was actually where Mary Arden had resided).

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Palmer’s Farmhouse is next door to Mary Arden’s Farm and for a long time was believed to be Mary Arden’s Farm!

1925 Glebe farmhouse and land still belonged to the rectory of Billesley parish at this date. In this year the farm was sold by the Church Commissioners and split up.

In 1967 the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust purchased the farmhouse with 3 acres of land, tenant George Holmes was living there at the time.

In 1978 the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust took possession of Glebe Farmhouse following the death of George Holmes.

In 2000, Glebe Farm was finally identified as the Arden family home after it previously being believed that they lived at neighbouring Palmer’s Farmhouse.

Mary and John Shakespeare had 8 children, 3 of whom died at a young age. William Shakespeare was born in 1564. When William was very young there was an outbreak of plague in Stratford Upon Avon which he was lucky to survive. It is not known for certain, but is thought that Mary brought William to Wilmcote in the hope of protecting him from the outbreak.

Mary lived long enough to see William rich and successful in the 1590’s. It is possible that following John’s death in 1601, she moved into William’s grand home, New Place, before she died in 1608.

When you arrive at the Farm you are greeted by a range of animals including cows, horses, goats, a donkey and some stunning birds of prey!

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You can explore the inside of the farmhouse, which has been set up to look as it would have done back then, with huge open fireplaces and wonky walls and corridors!

The first floor, above the hall, was most likely added sometime in the 1600’s. Originally the room would have been much bigger as the chimney stack was smaller. People lived in the house up until the 1970’s and over the years it has been altered an extended to suit their needs.

The first floor chamber was the only first floor space in the 1500’s and it would have been reached by a ladder until a staircase was added in the 1600’s. It is not known if the room was originally fully floored or if there was only a sleeping shelf.

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On the beam in the doorway you can see some dark brown teardrop shaped marks which were caused by candles held so close to the wood that they burnt it. Marks like this were often found on the timbers of older buildings. It is possible they were made by accident, however they may have been created deliberately, perhaps in the belief they would protect the building from burning down.

Theres also plenty to do outside in the grounds of the farm. A game of giant chess anyone?

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You can also visit Wheelwrights workshop. The workshop was opened to visitors again last year after being used as a storage space for a number of years. It houses a collection of late nineteenth and early twentieth century wheelwrights and coppers tools.

Alongside the blacksmith, the wheelwright, carpenter and cooper were essential craftsmen in the village community.

The carpenter met a variety of needs in the home and on the farm in addition to playing an important part in the construction of buildings. he made tools, furniture and domestic fittings, as well as coffins, and acted as undertaker.

The cooper’s speciality was the making of barrels of varying shapes and sizes needed for the storage of beer, cider or wine and of dry goods such as flour, salt-fish, lime and crockery. Great skill was required to judge the number and dimensions of the oak staves required to make a cask.

The wheelwright made and repaired wagons, carts and other farm implements. Seasoned elm, oak, and ash were used to provide the hub, spoke and rim felloes of a wheel. An iron tyre, fitted when hot, held these parts together when assembled.

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And if all of this is not enough for you, you can also go for a lovely long walk in the wild flower meadow, past the pigs and crops and lower dovehouse pasture.

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You can also try your hand at archery, watch some goose herding or a bird of prey display and visit the adventure playground.

So as you can see there is plenty to see and do here and you can easily fill a day seeing everything Mary Arden’s Farm has to offer! And don’t forget, if you buy the full story ticket you can come back as many times as you like for a whole year!

 

A trip to see the Terracotta Warriors

Unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance to travel all the way to China to see these guys, but luckily, for the first time in 10 years the Terracotta Army came back to the UK for an exhibition at the World Museum in Liverpool. I’m ashamed to say I’d never heard of this museum until I came across this exhibition being advertised, but couldn’t wait to visit!

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You’ll learn so much from this exhibition, it is so interesting!

The story starts about 600 years before the Qin people became a powerful Empire, when they occupied a small region on the north-west border of China and served the Zhou kings by breeding and training horses. When the Zhou royal family sets up a new capital in the East, in around 771 BC, establishing the Eastern Zhou Dynasty, the Qin are left behind to guard the western border against nomadic tribes.

The Qin state gradually grows in power and prosperity through political alliances, social changes and economic and technological advances. One of the most radical changes was the forming of a new government based on a clearly defined set of laws and a strict philosophy. People were rewarded for good behaviour and punished for wrong doing, officials were promoted for their achievements and not just because they came from noble families. This was known as the Legalist philosophy.

With a strong economy and a stable government, the rulers of the Qin state are able to expand their territory.

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Ying Zheng was only 13 years old when he became king of the Qin state in 246 BC. With the Prime Minister and his mothers support, the young king administers the state from his capital at Xianyang close to modern Xi’an in north-west China. At the age of 22, he takes full control of the government and over the next decade, with massive armies, he conquers the neighbouring six kingdoms and becomes the first ruler to unify China in 221 BC.

As he proclaims himself First Emperor of China, Ying Zheng invents a new title for himself, becoming Qin Shi Huang, the Great August First Emperor of Qin. He also claims the “Mandate of Heaven”. According to this ancient concept there can be only one supreme ruler whose authority comes from the gods.

To reinforce his divine nature, the Emperor travels around his Empire. He erects monuments on sacred mountains to proclaim his achievements, declaring himself ruler of the entire universe. His reputation as a cruel and ruthless tyrant may explain why there were several assassination attempts on his life. During his lifetime, the Emperor gathers many concubines and has numerous children, one of whom succeeds him when he dies unexpectedly at the age of 49.

Influenced by the Legalist philosophy of his ancestors, Qin Shi Huang believes in the absolute rule of law. This means that everything in his new Empire is strictly controlled. People who behave well are richly rewarded but those who behave badly receive severe punishments. The Emperor puts in place a new centralised system of government. He removes regional rulers and divides his newly conquered territories into 36 provinces, each managed by a governor,  military commander and a superintendent. He also orders 120,000 noble families to move from the states that he has conquered to his capital at Xianyang to ensure their loyalty. He creates a standard system of weights, measures and coinage, introduces an official script and imposes heavy taxation. This means that the same political and economic system is used across the Empire, improving communication, administration and trade. Even the wheel axle of chariots and carts is standardised so that travellers can use any road.

As the Emperor grows in power, he is obsessed with the desire to become immortal. He orders his alchemists to make potions to extend his life, some of which contain mercury. During his life, he organises expeditions to the East China Sea in search of the mythical “Islands of the Immortals”. It is here that the Emperor hopes to find herbs and plants which will bring him immortality. There is a story that the Emperor sends his most trusted magician Xu Fu on an expedition with 3,000 boys and girls, but sadly they never return. Despite his attempts to live forever, the Emperor dies unexpectedly in 210 BC, most likely from mercury poisoning, strangely enough!

The building of Ying Zheng’s tomb commences in 246 BC soon after he comes king of Qin at just 13 years of age. The burial site lies 35 kilometres east of Xi’an, the modern capital of Shaanxi Province. It faces south with mountains behind and the Wei River to the front, and was already the burial site of the Qin kings.

More than 700,000 men are brought from all corners of the Empire to work on the project. The scale of the tomb complex expands massively when Ying Zheng becomes First Emperor of China in 221 BC. The construction lasts nearly 40 years and continues even after his death.

The burial site is designed like a city for the afterlife, with the Emperor’s mausoleum in the centre surrounded by palaces, living quarters, offices, ritual buildings and stables, all enclosed within defensive walls, watch towers and gates. Apart from the mausoleum, very little is now visible above ground.

People believed that a life similar to that on earth awaited them in death, so the deceased were buried with the things they needed for the next world. Servants, warriors, concubines and even horses followed their lord to the grave. Rulers were buried with all the luxuries of life. Their tombs were monumental and designed to recreate the world they had lived in.

Following his death in 210 BC at the age of 49, the Emperor is buried in his mausoleum. By decree of his son, the Emperor’s childless concubines are killed and buried with him. Historical documents record that “thousands of officials were killed and thousands of craftsmen were buried alive… to keep the tomb a secret”.

Believe it or not, these amazing figures went undiscovered until 29th March 1974 and are one of the most extraordinary finds ever made! They were discovered by local farmers in Lintong District, Xi’an when they were digging a water well approximately 1.5km east of the emperors tomb. The discovery resulted in Chinese archaeologists being brought in to investigate and the finding of the largest pottery figurine group ever found in China. A museum complex has now been constructed over the area.

Over the last 40 years, archeological investigations have revealed three underground pits covering an area of 22,000 square metres housing an estimated 8,000 life-size warriors and horses. Each pit originally covered with wooden planks, bamboo mats and earth which over time have collapsed onto the warriors. Found in hundreds of fragments, the sculptures have to be painstakingly pieced together.

It is remarkable that these figures were not mentioned by the first Chinese historian Sima Qian when he described the Emperor’s burial site over 100 years later. The figures are a great unsolved mystery but it is believed they are guarding the Emperor in the afterlife. They are one of the most extraordinary archaeological discoveries of all time. Warrior figures from other Chinese burials have been found, but nothing compares to the scale and realism of the First Emperor’s terracotta army.

The figures are life sized and vary in height, uniform and hairstyle depending on what their roles in the army were (the tallest sculptures are the generals). Although the face of each warrior looks different, it is believed that 10 basic face shapes have been used and then clay added afterwards to provide individual facial features. The figures are of armoured warriors, unarmored infantrymen, cavalrymen (wearing a pillbox hat), helmeted drivers of chariots with armour protection, spear-carrying charioteers, armoured kneeling archers, unarmored standing archers, generals and other lower-ranking officers.

With regards to their uniform, some wear shin pads, they may have either long or short trousers on some of which are padded, and the body armours vary dependant on rank, function, and position in formation. There’re also terracotta horses placed among the warrior figures.

Most of the figures originally held real weapons such as spears, swords or crossbows. Unfortunately, most of the original weapons were looted shortly after the creation of the army, or have rotted away over time. Still, some weapons such as swords, spears, lances, battle-axes, shields and crossbows have been found in the pits.  Over 40,000 bronze items of weaponry have been recovered, most of them arrowheads which were usually found in bundles of 100. Some of the swords carry inscriptions of their date of manufacture between 245 and 228 BCE which suggests they were used as weapons before they were buried with the army.

The figures were originally painted with bright colours – pink, red, green, blue, black, brown, white and lilac – which added to the impression that each figure was individual. When the army were excavated, their painted surface began to fade and peel off due to their exposure to the sunlight, air and moisture. The lacquer which covers the paint curls and flakes off within about 15 seconds of being exposed to dry air, so think how much damage could be done if they were left exposed for several hours!

The Emperor’s mausoleum and the terracotta warrior pits are part of a much larger burial site covering an area of 56 square kilometres. This makes it the biggest burial site on earth. It is nearly 200 times bigger than the valley of the Kings in Egypt. In 1987 the First Emperor’s mausoleum was given UNESCO World Heritage status.

It was estimated that the three pits which contained the army held more than 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots, 520 horses and 150 cavalry horses. The majority of these remain buried in the pits near to Qin Shi Huang mausoleum.

Here are some of the incredible warriors you can see as part of the exhibition;

Horse Keeper

This horse keeper was excavated in 1995 and is one of 11 terracotta horse keepers discovered near the First Emperor’s Mausoleum. The pit in which the figures were found was thought to represent the royal stables. The horse keepers were buried with 12 real horses which were found in coffins.

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Cavalry Horse

No animal has shaped the history of China like the horse. The horse was first domesticated around 6,500 years ago in the grasslands of Central Europe and Asia and it became a symbol of power, wealth and status for the Chinese. Horses were so precious to the great rulers of China that they were buried with them for the afterlife. The Qin Kings grew in influence and wealth by breeding and training horses for the rulers of the Zhou Dynasty from around 1000BC. Later, during the Warring States Period, the power of each state was determined by the number of horses and chariots that they possessed. The Qin people were able to achieve military supremacy with horse-drawn chariots and increasing numbers of cavalrymen and mounted archers in battle.

Cavalry was an important military force of the Qin Dynasty. It was lighter, faster and more efficient than horse drawn chariots in battle. The First Emperor’s terracotta army is composed of a large cavalry unit made up of horses and armed cavalry men. The horses have saddles decorated with studs and tassels and their tails are plaited. They were originally dress with bridles and reins made of bronze.

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Bronze chariots of the First Emperor

These are modern replicas of the two bronze chariots which were discovered west of the First Emperor’s Mausoleum in 1980. They were cast in bronze and then embellished in gold and silver. They are thought to represent the chariots in which the First Emperor travelled across his newly unified empire. These models were buried when he died so he could carry on touring his empire in the afterlife.

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Armoured Guard – Excavated in 1976 from terracotta warrior pit 1.

Generals are the highest ranking warriors excavated from the pits. Armoured generals can be identified by their long double-layered robe covered with scaled armour which extends down the front in the shape of a “V”. Their armour is decorated with ribbons tied into bows. The design of the plaques suggests that generals wore iron armour. They wore a distinctive headdress in the shape of a double-tailed bird called he guan, meaning “peasant cap”, a symbol of bravery and skill on the battlefield.

A hole under the left arm of this general indicates that he probably held a scabbard to carry a sword. The terracotta generals were found near command chariots where the remains of bells and drums were also discovered. On the battlefield, generals rode in chariots equipped with bells, drums and flags to direct the troops. The chariots were usually drawn by four horses and generals were accompanied by two lower ranking officers.

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Heavy Infantryman – Excavated in 1992 from terracotta warrior pit 1.

Armoured infantry soldiers were part of the main battalion buried in the largest of the pits. They were positioned behind light infantry units and war chariots, and were originally armed with weapons such as swords, halberds and crossbows. This infantry soldier wears heavy armour covering his upper body and a long tunic underneath. He has short trousers as well as gaiters and short boots decorated with ribbons tied into bows. His hair is tied in a bun on the right side of his head and remains of red paint are still visible on the laces of his armour plates and legs as well as on the ribbon in his hair.

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Light infantryman – Excavated in 1980 from terracotta warrior pit 1.

Light infantry warriors were positioned at the front of the main battalion comprising heavy infantrymen, war chariots and officers. In the Qin Dynasty, the majority of infantry forces were made up of conscripted peasants. On the battlefield, light infantry were first deployed as shock troops followed by heavy infantry. Light infantrymen moved more swiftly because they didn’t wear armour.

This soldier wears a long tunic over short trousers, gaiters and short boots. His hair is plaited around the back of his head and tied in a bun with a ribbon on the top. His facial features and thick beard suggest he may represent one of the people from the region around around the north-west border of China. The position of his right hand indicates that he originally held a crossbow.

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Military Officer – Excavated in 1979 from terracotta warrior pit 1.

This unarmored warrior comes from the main part of the army which was buried in the largest of the pits. his flat headdress called chang guan and his moustache identify him as a middle ranking officer. He wears a long tunic, a belt around the waist, short trousers, gaiters, and a pair of shoes. The position of his right arm and hand suggests that he once held a long weapon such as a spear.

Charioteer – Excavated in 1977 from terracotta warrior pit 2.

Charioteers were found in all three pits of the Emperor’s terracotta army. They were originally buried with real wooden chariots each drawn by four terracotta horses. There are different types of charioteers – this one is the driver responsible for commanding the chariot. Holding the reins with his clasped hands, he stood in the middle and was accompanied by two armed charioteers on either side. His flat headdress called chang guan identifies him as a middle ranking officer. His hair is plaited around the back of his head. He wears a long tunic, trousers and boots. His  torso, abdomen and back are protected with armour. In the Qin Dynasty, the driver of a war chariot was called yu shou, a highly honourable title.

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Kneeling Archer – Excavated in 1989 from terracotta warrior pit 2.

Kneeling archers were positioned in rows of two across four trenches and were surrounded by standing archers. This one wears a long tunic and heavy armour with overlapping plaques. Remains of pigment around the abdomen show that the laces tying the armour plates together were originally painted red. The archer also wears short trousers and two shin pads for protection. The position of his hands suggests that he originally held a crossbow. Qin Dynasty crossbows were slower to load than normal bows but required less skill and strength to use. Archers who used crossbows could shoot heavy bolts over long distances with great force and power.

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Standing Archer – Excavated in 1992 from terracotta warrior pit 2.

Archers were positioned at the front of a battalion of cavalry and chariots in pit 2. Standing archers were arranged in a square battle formation surrounding rows of kneeling archers. This soldier wears a long tunic, a belt around the waist, short trousers and a pair of boots. His hair is plaited and tied in a bun with a ribbon. The position of his hands suggests that he originally held a bow, ready to shoot the enemy. Unlike the kneeling archers, standing archers are all unarmored. In real life this would allow them to move more freely and swiftly on the battlefield.

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Archaeologists have uncovered around 2,000 life size terracotta warriors and horses with over 130 wooden war chariots, but it is estimated there are 8,000 figures in total, most of which are still to be excavated. The warriors were buried to the east of the mausoleum, possibly to protect the Emperor in the afterlife against the armies of the states he had defeated.

The life-size clay figures were originally arranged in battle formation within three separate pits. The two two largest pits contained the bulk of the army. The third and smallest of the pits contained warriors with ceremonial weapons representing the command post for the army.

The warriors were originally painted with bright colours which have since faded. Each soldier was given unique facial features to represent a real army. The different hairstyles, headdresses, armour and weapons of the soldiers reflected their rank and function. There are infantrymen, cavalrymen, charioteers, archers as well as generals, officers and guards of honour. In other pits there are life-size officials, eunuchs and horse keepers.

Spectacular finds continued to be discovered after the initial find in 1974. Later on in the 1970’s, a new pit was found south-west of the mausoleum containing terracotta warriors with over 20 horse skeletons thought to represent the royal stables. More stable pits containing remains of horses and kneeling stable boys were identified outside the outer walls, south-east of the mausoleum.

In 1980, west of the Emperor’s mausoleum, archaeologists found two exquisite half-size painted bronze chariots each drawn by four bronze horses (the pictures above show the modern replicas).

In 1998, in the south-east of the mausoleum, thousands of stone fragments from 87 suits of armour and 43 helmets were unearthed, as well as armour for a horse.

Since 1999, close to the stone armour pit, terracotta acrobats and strongmen have been discovered together with two large bronze cauldrons.

In 2000, north-east of the mausoleum, another pit containing 15 terracotta musicians and 46 bronze water birds was discovered.

A large amount of human remains have been discovered across the Emperor’s burial site. In the 1980’s, about one kilometre south-west of the Emperor’s mausoleum, 42 mass graves were discovered. They contained the remains over 100 workers who may have been killed during the construction of the tomb complex. South-east of the mausoleum, archaeologists also identified over 20 tombs of princes and princesses sacrificed to follow the Emperor in the afterlife. In 2009, within the inner walls of the Emperor’s mausoleum, 99 tombs of sacrificed concubines were found. Nineteen of these tombs have been excavated so far.

Owing to the number of objects that have been found and their fragility, the process of excavation, conservation and research will continue for decades. However the secrets of the Emperor’s tomb remain hidden, buried under a huge pyramid of earth. Our only clue about what lies inside the mausoleum comes from historical records written more than 100 years after the Emperor died. Until conservation techniques and non-invasive technologies improve, there are no plans to open up his tomb.

And if all of this isn’t enough information to absorb, the exhibition also goes on to cover the history of the Han dynasty and the amazing finds from Han Gaozu’s Tomb as well!

The exhibition is on at the World Museum until 28th October 2018, and after this date who knows when the UK will have another exhibition of these fascinating sculptures. The World Museum is well worth a visit for all of its regular exhibitions, which are spread over four floors and include World Cultures, Ancient Egypt, Dinosaurs and Space!

I’d highly recommend paying a visit and booking your tickets online in advance as you need to book a timed session and some of the more popular times sell out very quickly! Adult tickets are £14.50 each and concessions are £13.00 each and you can buy your tickets here.

Dominique Ansel’s Bakery

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Dominique Ansel’s Bakery is another one of my favourite haunts when I am visiting London. I usually catch the coach up to London and luckily for me, Dominique Ansel’s is right over the road from Victoria Coach Station! It’s perfect to fall into here after a long coach journey and marvel at their latest creations!

Their menu is seasonal and often contains limited edition creations which are just out of this world! Here’s some of the tasty treats I have tried here so far;

The famous Chocolate Cookie Shot – a little edible cup made of cookie and filled with a delicious creamy Tahitian vanilla milk. They are served all day and you can buy a pack of the Cookie shots to take home with you as well.

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One of the things I really wanted to try when I visited Dominique Ansel’s was their famous Blossoming Hot Chocolate. A delicious hot chocolate which is topped with a beautiful marshmallow flower which unfurls when placed on top and then slowly melts….. delicious.

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If you order one of these, have your phone ready to film it, it is fascinating to watch it unfold when the staff delicately drop it into the hot chocolate. This one is a definite favourite of mine and is such a clever idea!

One of the other treats I was really looking forward to trying was one of their Frozen S’more’s. 

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A honey marshmallow wrapped round Tahitian vanilla ice-cream with chocolate wafer crisps, these babies are then torched and served to order and are much bigger than I had expected!

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Could a Cotton Soft Cheesecake sound any more delicious? The Cotton Soft Cheesecake is a ricotta cheesecake which is slightly brûléed on top and promises to be “as refreshing as a cold glass of milk”. It is really light, so an ideal dessert if you are feeling rather full after a main course!

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What is better than Mini Madeleine biscuits? Freshly piped and cooked Mini Madeleine biscuits served straight out of the oven!

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Really light, fluffy and delicious, these were well worth the wait!

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If you are after something savoury, Dominique Ansel also has a lovely range of small and hearty savoury treats too! Although not the prettiest to look at, their Turkey Croque Monsieur is to die for! A lovely twist on a classic roque monsieur, if you like cheesy treats then this is an absolute must try!

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As you can tell I am slowly working my way through their menu, but there is still a long way to go yet! How lovely are these amazing looking seasonal treats?? You can check out their latest seasonal goodies on their menu here.

I also noticed on their website that they have recently started serving Afternoon Tea from Thursday to Sunday (12pm to 4pm) so will have to add this to my list too!

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Anne Hathaway’s Cottage

Hopefully you will have read my blog on our last visit to Stratford Upon Avon where we visited Shakespeare’s Birthplace, Shakespeare’s New Place and Hall Croft.

We paid for a “full story” ticket which gets you entry to the five different places – Mary Arden’s Tudor Farm, Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, Shakespeare’s Birthplace, Shakespeare’s New Place and Hall Croft. We didn’t have time on the day to visit all five places, so we saved Anne Hathaway’s Cottage and Mary Arden’s Farm for another day.

Well, we chose another beautiful day to visit Anne Hathaway’s Cottage! The sun was shining which shows this lovely cottage in its full glory and meant we could explore all the grounds without the threat of rain! A perfect day out!

Anne Hathaway’s Cottage is a beautiful cottage in Stratford Upon Avon and belonged to the wife of William Shakespeare. The cottage was built in 1463 until the first Hathaway’s moved in as tenant sheep farmers in 1540.

Anne was born in 1556 and lived here until she married Shakespeare in 1582 and moved into his family home on Henley Street, again in Stratford Upon Avon.

In 1610 Anne’s brother, Bartholomew, purchased the lease to the cottage and began to develop it. The cottage was extended, resulting in it doubling in size. Chimneys and an upper floor were built, providing bedrooms and storage.

In the 1700’s the Hathaway family fortunes begin to decline and by 1838, descendants of the Hathaway’s had sold the cottage but remained as tenants. In 1892 the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust bought the cottage, but kept the family on as custodians.

It is wrong really to refer to it as a “cottage”, as it is far larger than you would imagine a cottage to be, and has huge adjoining grounds! Whilst exploring the Cottage and its grounds you will come across;

Willow Arbour, there are a couple of these you will encounter along the woodland walk.

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The Music Note Willow Sculpture was designed by award winning sculpture artist Tom Hare. It is a giant musical stave with music notes and butterflies woven onto it.

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The sculpture leads the way to a special Butterfly Conservation Border planted with flowers to attract the butterflies, and believe me, it works! The gardens were full of beautiful butterflies of all colours!

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The Woodland Walk is really beautiful and well worth doing! Such peace and quiet as you wander through the wood and encounter beautiful trees, flowers, shrubs and even some little bunny rabbits!

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One of the highlights of the visit is the Willow sculpture, a crescent shaped sculpture also known as the “Moon Seat”. This is another design by Tom Hare and is not only beautiful to look at but also acts as the perfect viewing point for the cottage and the gardens.

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The Cottage Garden’s are really beautiful. Someone asked one of the guides whilst we were there how the garden grows such beautiful shrubs, plants and vegetables, to which the guide replied “over 400 years of practice!” It’s true, if the well established gardens hadn’t got the hang of growing the best quality produce by now then maybe it never would have!

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Miss Willmott’s Garden is named after the Edwardian horticulturist who designed the cottage gardens in the 19th Century style. During the Spring and Summer months the garden is full of beautiful scented flowers.

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and of course the main attraction; Anne Hathaway’s Cottage. Isn’t it stunning?! The outside is covered in beautiful roses with brightly coloured flower beds with wonderful scents.

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Inside the cottage you will find all of the rooms set up as they would have been back when Anne used to live here.

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The cottage is beautiful inside with long corridors and wonky walls and is full of original Hathaway furniture including the Hathaway bed!

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Outside, just up past the Traditional Orchard you will find the Sculpture Trail and Arbouretum, with some lovely Shakespearian inspired sculptures, and even more fluffy bunnies playing in the sunshine!

And this is by no means all there is to see! During your visit you can also see the Yew Circle, Shottery Brook Walk, Family Activity Tent (check for seasonal activities), Garden Cafe and Sonnet Arbour, where you can listen to Shakespearian verse being read.

A really lovely day out which is highly recommended and best of all, we bought the tickets using our Tesco Clubcard points so the tickets didn’t cost us a penny!

The “full story” tickets we bought are valid for a full 12 months after purchase, so you can visit any of the five locations as many times as you wish for a full year! So the ticket is excellent value for money!

Full story tickets are £22.50, or you can book online for a 10% reduction in ticket prices (you can book your tickets here.)

 

Peggy Porschen’s

If you follow any bloggers on Instagram then I am sure this beautiful pink coloured cake shop in Belgravia needs no introduction! The most popular bloggers with the highest followings have all queued up outside this Insta-worthy building with its beautiful flowered facade at some point!

I first visited in December 2017, so not all that long ago, and have been back a further three times since then. It is certainly one of my favourite London cafes so I will always try to visit whoever I am in the big city.

I looked back on all my visits to Peggy Porschen over the past six months and realised that I have been lucky enough to have visited at different points throughout the year which meant seeing beautiful new displays and seasonal menus each time I visited.

Valentines Day

The Valentine’s Day display was one of my favourites, the lovely big heart made of flowers over the door and the other lovely heart shaped displays inside looked really stunning.

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I had seen their Valentine Day collection of cupcakes on Instagram a few days before I visited and I’d already set my sights on their limited edition “Be Mine Peggy Loves Lulu” chocolate heaven cupcake in honour of Lulu Guinness! It did not disappoint!

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I wish I’d had room left over to try one of their strawberry and champagne fluttering hearts too….maybe next time!

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Easter

I didn’t arrive at Peggy Porschen’s until late when I went for my Easter visit, hence the poorly lit photos – sorry! Still, it looked lovely and Spring-like, and after a long, cold, dark Winter it was perfect to look at and start thinking about the warmer days which were on their way!

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As I arrived so late they had run out of some of the cupcakes I’d got my eye on but it wouldn’t be Easter without an Easter nest cake would it?!

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It was at Easter I also discovered Peggy Porschen’s beautifully decorated biscuits! Aren’t they stunning?

 

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And even better I can get these home in one piece, unlike the cupcakes (don’t risk buying them and then walk around London all day with them – trust me, I’m speaking from heart-breaking experience!) I also bought a couple for family and friends as Easter gifts which they loved!

Summer

The Summer theme was really the most impressive so far! Beautiful Wysteria and Roses and beehives everywhere! The pictures really don’t do it justice and it was the busiest I have ever seen it! At one stage there was a queue all the way up the road to be seated outside in front of this stunning display.

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I couldn’t wait to visit after I saw the amazing goodies they had as part of their summer collection but unfortunately they were completely out of stock of all the lovely bee-themed biscuits I’d got my eye on! I’m pleased they have been so popular but was gutted I didn’t get to try them!

I did, however, get my hands on the wonderful Beehive cupcake I’d wanted to try, and I really can hand on heart say that this is the best cupcake I have ever eaten. It was a chocolate cake with an organic blossom honey centre and is topped with a delicious honey meringue buttercream. I wish I could have bought a box of these to bring home with me but the cakes are so delicate, there was no way they would have survived the three hour coach journey home coupled with the crazy heatwave Britain has been experiencing! I hope I get the chance to go back again whilst this is still on the menu!

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Look at these other beautiful summery cupcakes they had on the menu whilst I was there; all made absolutely perfectly.

Christmas

After visiting for the first time last Christmas, Peggy Porschen’s has now become one of our must visit places when my Mum