The Naked Bakery

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

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

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

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

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

Unicorn Macarons

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

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

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

Unicorn Cupcakes

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

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

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

Oreo Cupcakes

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

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White Chocolate and Raspberry Skull Cupcakes

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Birthday to me!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Beauty and the Beast themed party!

If you have read my Christmas Countdown blog you will hopefully remember that I mentioned the themed parties I host every Christmas for my Sisters, my Mum and I. It started out as being just a bit of fun and so us four girls could spend some time together over the Christmas period (and to give us something to look forward to during the “in-between” time of Christmas and New Year) and to be honest it’s just stuck and become one of our regular traditions! My older Sister is severely autistic and especially looks forward to these themed parties, and now we are in a routine of doing them, not doing them would be most upsetting for her, so I’ve kind of pasted myself into a corner really!

Previous themes for these parties have included Harry Potter, Frozen and the Polar Express and, as you have probably guessed from the title of this blog, this years theme is Beauty and the Beast!

We all went to watch the new version of Beauty and the Beast at the cinema earlier on in the year and fell in love with this fantastic film. Shortly after, Primark started releasing all their amazing Beauty and the Beast products and so it seemed fitting that this would be the theme for this years party.

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I normally don’t start buying things for our Christmas themed parties until December, once I have done all my regular Christmas shopping, however, because most of the items in the Primark range were so difficult to get hold of, I grabbed as many as I could each time I spotted some in my local store (even this was difficult because they only allowed you to buy two at a time of the most popular items!)

These parties will always consist of a goody bag which fits in with the theme of the party. The contents vary depending on the theme but it’s fair to say the girls had an extra large goody bag full of treats this year!

Beauty and the Beast shopping bags:

There were so many pressies this year, I had to buy these huge shopping bags to fit them all in! They were £4 each but they are HUGE and at least the girls can re-use them for shopping in the future!

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Inside their goody bags they each had:

Chip coin purse

So cute – and very difficult to get hold of! Only £4 from Primark!

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Chip mug

Again, extremely difficult to get hold of! I’m so pleased I did – they look really effective and are far better designed than the official Disney ones. These are £5 from Primark, whereas the official Disney ones are in the region of £15-£20!

Beauty and the Beast pyjamas

Is there any better place to get pyjamas from than Primark?? Mum and I had the grey pair and my two Sisters had the pink trousers with the blue tops. The tops and bottoms are sold separately – I think the bottoms were £8 each and the tops were £6 each – still very cheap in comparison with other pyjama sets from elsewhere!

Beauty and the Beast socks

They aren’t actually socks but shoe liners – you can never have enough of these can you??

Mrs Potts coin purse

You can’t buy a Chip purse and not buy Mrs Potts to look after him can you?

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Lumiere coin purse

Another coin purse for the collection! I love the design of this one!

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Cogsworth Clock coin purse

And of course not forgetting Cogsworth! I must admit he is my least favourite design out of the collection, mainly because if you watch the films, Cogsworth is a bit of a miserable git and so this big laughing smiling face design doesn’t suit him I don’t think! There is also a Cogsworth Clock available from the Primark collection, but I haven’t managed to get my hands on one yet!

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Enchanted Rose drinking cup

Love this – isn’t it great? And only £5! You’ll pay triple that for a cup similar to this with a plain design! Plus I thought the design was great – you can unscrew the rose from the cup to make sure it’s washed properly and everything!

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Beauty and the Beast slippers

£5 for a pair of slippers! You can’t go wrong!

Beauty and the Beast footlets

I love the slippers but also like these “footlets” that Primark do – they are almost like thick socks but have a non-slip tread on the bottom of them so are ideal for wearing around the house. These are even cheaper at only £4!

Mrs Potts money box

How lovely is she? Primark also make a Mrs Potts actual teapot but I haven’t been able to get my hands on her yet! I think the money box is a lovely idea too though!

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Chip Jumper

I only saw these a few weeks back and I went away and gave it some thought as to whether to get them or not as I had already got so much stuff, but I couldn’t resist! Plus I love how they come in these lovely presentation boxes too!

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Chip Keyring

They can carry Chip with them everywhere they go now!

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Pom Pom bag charm

And this is really cute to brighten up an everyday handbag!

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Bell jar light

I haven’t got mine out of the box yet but thought these would look great on everyones dressing tables! The pictures really don’t do the bell jar justice, they look really lovely.

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Lumiere Tealight holder

And I was lucky enough to get a Lumiere Tealight holder from my friend for Christmas! She certainly knows me very well – I’ve not seen these anywhere!

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So as you can see the girls were all very spoilt and each now have a brilliant collection to cherish! All these Primark items go for a fortune on eBay at the moment so I’m hoping they will be worth even more in a few years time when they are collectors items!

We spent the day unwrapping our presents and watched the new version of the film whilst we munched our way through some delicious party food and drink! Another perfect family themed party!

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God knows how I am going to top this next year though – I think a more low-key party is in order after this years!

A Mad Hatter’s Tea Party

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I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas! I must admit I do struggle in the days after Christmas – I feel really down and depressed that it’s all over for another year! You look forward to it for so long and then it seems to come and go in the blink of an eye!

Anyway, if you have read my London at Christmas Time blog you’ll know that my Mum, my Sister and I go to London every December to check out all the festivities – this year we decided we wanted to do Afternoon Tea whilst we were there.

We looked at several Afternoon Tea options including Fortnum and Mason and the Ritz and tried really hard to get us into the Tale as old as time Beauty and the Beast themed Afternoon Tea at The Kensington but it was completely fully booked until the end of January!

I eventually came across this amazing Alice In Wonderland Mad Hatter’s Tea Party afternoon tea at the Sanderson Hotel. It looked perfect for what we wanted, and I managed to book it for a special price which included a free cocktail because we were visiting on a weekday!

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We booked for 1pm and the place was empty when we arrived which was really nice – I think we booked slightly early for afternoon tea but after getting up early to catch the coach to London I knew we would all be starving by 1pm!

We sat down and they gave us the selection of their lovely teas – you get a teapot of your selected tea each so we all chose a different one so we could try each others!

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Here was the selection –

White Rabbit – China white silver needles infused with white grapefruit, vanilla and almond white chrysanthemums.

Queen of Hearts – Red Rose congu infused with red rose petals and a hint of vanilla and chocolate.

Mad Hatter – Green tea infused with passion fruit, guava and mango.

Cheshire Cat – Marmalade orange oolong infused with chocolate and hugging orange.

Alice – China black tea infused with hints of blackcurrant, vanilla, caramel, citrus, bergamot, blue cornflowers and blue mallow flowers.

I choose White Rabbit, my Mum choose Alice and my Sister chose Queen of Hearts – all were very different but absolutely delicious! You can also buy the teas to take home with you as well if you choose!

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The cocktail arrived shortly afterwards and I was a bit worried because they said it was gin-based and I am not a fan of gin but the cocktail was also delicious – they said it was a Sanderson special so I didn’t get to find out the ingredients!

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Then the amazing food started coming out…. Here’s what was on the menu –

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Smoked salmon scotch quails egg with caviar and cream cheese

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Stack of King of Hearts ham and parmesan croque-monsieur

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Cornish crab bridge roll with dill, lemon, creme fraiche and avocado and White rabbit cucumber and cream cheese sandwich on pesto bread 

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Queen of Hearts rose and strawberry jammy dodger 

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Mocha chessboard gateau

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Tweedle Dee lemon curd financier 

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Mad March Hare vanilla pocket watch macaroon (my favourite!)

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Chocolate and Pistachio Blue Caterpillar 

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Wonderland Marshmallow Magic mushrooms

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Mad Hatters Lost Carrot and Fennel Meringue (hidden away in the “grass” in the teacup on the top – two little red shell shaped meringues – really cute!)

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Alices Cinnamon, apple and peach “Drink Me” potion

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And if that isn’t enough you also get Sanderson’s warm scones served with Cornish clotted cream and fruit preserve!

The staff asked us if we were celebrating a special occasion and we said we had decided to do it because it was my Sister’s Birthday the Friday before and it was my Mum’s Birthday the following Saturday, so they brought them out this beautiful slate with two delicious pieces of cake on and Happy Birthday written in icing! How lovely!

A really lovely afternoon – the hotel is beautiful and the staff were amazing. I would definitely re-book to go back here again the next time we pay a visit to London!

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What’s on the menu this Christmas?

One of my favourite aspects of Christmas is the incredible food you can buy this time of year! I have to say my favourite place to buy food from for the festive period is Marks and Spencers. In my opinion they overshadow all the other supermarkets and consistently bring out new, exciting and unusual products year after year.

For Christmas Day we will usually choose three or four canapes which I leave out for people to pick at whilst the main meal is cooking away. If the boys have been down the pub for a couple of pints before lunch they are usually rather peckish by the time they come home so they look forward to these!

This year for our canapés we are having Asian chicken lollipops, BBQ pork belly squares and Brie and Cranberry parcels (all from M&S) and a lovely Antipasti platter from Tescos which consists of grilled vegetable antipasti, marinated slow roasted tomatoes, Spanish olives with cheddar cheese, pitted Halkidiki olives with lemon and garlic, feta stuffed peppers, roasted and salted corn and roasted and salted broad beans! Delicious!

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We then have our starters – one is usually fish and the other either meat (we don’t have any vegetarians in the family). Past starters have included individual baked Camenbert’s with a range of toppings, gold flaked smoked salmon, cheddar cheese souffle’s, prawn cocktails, pate, and an amazing Lobster Thermidor!

This year we have actually chosen three starters as we couldn’t decide and everyone wanted to try a bit of everything! We have gone for –

Cornish Cruncher cheese and cider bakes (with breads for dipping):

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Smoked salmon bauble terrine:

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King prawn and poached salmon terrines:

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Then onto the main course which is usually the trickier bit to select – we have a half and half split in the family of who likes turkey and who doesn’t, so when there are between 8 and 12 of us having Christmas dinner – I will usually cook a turkey and one other meat (usually either lamb or beef wellington). Everyone likes different vegetables and condiments so we start off with a big list which basically includes everything you can think of and then this is usually cut down a bit after people compromise on a few things! I don’t mind cooking such a huge range of things if people like them but the issue I have found with cooking so many different things is a) getting the timings right so they are all cooked at the same time and b) keeping everything warm whilst you are serving the starters, cutting the meat etc. It really was becoming quite tricky so after having a meltdown one year because the sprouts were stone cold, I decided we had to start limiting our choices slightly!

We have gone for a plain turkey crown this year (no stuffing or bacon) but I am going to add this amazing looking Christmas spiced bacon on top of the turkey! Yum!

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After moving into our new house only a couple weeks ago, I was worried about trying to cook two meats in an oven I was still getting used to, and in one which is much smaller than my lovely range oven I had to leave behind at the old house, so in the end I choose this amazing looking gammon joint from Marks and Spencer’s – all cooked and ready to eat! Easy peasy!

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Add in pigs in blankets, sage and onion stuffing, yorkshire puddings, peas, carrots, parsnips, cauliflower cheese and green beans and we have a feast fit for a king!

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I’ve also bought some delicious bread sauce (Mum’s favourite) and cranberry and port sauce to top it off with.

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Then onto the best bit – dessert! We usually end up with a HUGE choice of desserts because again, everyone likes different things! Everyone always takes home a doggy bag of desserts to eat later and I freeze what I can and slowly work my way through them!

For the past three years one of the choices has been the “penguin party cake” from Marks and Spencers! We fell in love with it the first time we had it – the sponge was so light, and the buttercream and icing were delicious! We have bought it every year since and were really hoping that M&S decided to bring it back again this year, but it didn’t feature in their Christmas food catalogue! I tweeted them and they confirmed that it wouldn’t be back this year unfortunately! [insert very sad face emoji!)

This year is no exception on the dessert front and I’ve gone totally overboard AGAIN. I will be eating these until Easter I think!

Santa’s stuck in the chimney cake – really looking forward to trying this one!

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White chocolate Snowball Wreath (with raspberry compote inside!)

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Chocolate pinecones – I saw these last year but stupidly didn’t get any! Aren’t they lovely?

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Salted caramel yule log – I’m OBSESSED with salted caramel flavoured things so this looks like it was made for me!

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Mini Mince pies

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Then, believe it or not, I actually serve a course of cheese and biscuits! This year I think I got an absolute bargain buying this cheese “cake” from Tescos! It was £30 and weighs almost 3 kilos and consists of Coastal Cheddar, Red Leicester, Blue Stilton, Wensleydale with sweetened dried cranberries and blueberries and St Endellion Brie – so something for everyone’s taste!

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Whilst on the subject of cheese, I bought this lovely item from Marks and Spencer’s for several of my cheese loving friends – isn’t it great? It’s called in a pear cheese!

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Then the easiest part is usually the drinks! Everyone knows what they like and to be honest I have given up on making surprise cocktails and punches for the guests because they tend to stick with what they know they like!

Some of the most common drinks we partake in during the festive season are Apple and Cinnamon Martinis (apple juice and cinnamon flavoured liqueur – Smirnoff do a good one with gold bits in it!), Snowballs (Advocaat, lemonade and a splash of lime juice), Amaretto sours (amaretto and pre-mixed Finest Call sweet and sour mix – I tend to order in bulk from Syrup’s and Stuff as they do case deals on the Finest Call range) and of course Prosecco with chambord, limoncello or Popaball’s Rose gold shimmer for processo!

Anyway, as it’s almost Christmas Eve I had better go and start prepping! Two more sleeps to go!!!

Christmas in Narnia

I saw an advert for this come up on Facebook and thought it looked brilliant!

As I am usually on the prowl for special events such as this for around my Mum’s Birthday (9th December), and the family are all big The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe and Chronicles of Narnia fans, it looked absolutely perfect for the occasion!

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I commented on the Facebook post with my email address so they could send me a brochure as they were hosting evening events on several dates throughout December at Cheltenham Town Hall. After reading the brochure information I was disappointed that you had to book for a minimum of 8 people for the three course dinner, (as they don’t mix parties for the event), and there would only have been three of us attending.

I was much happier a few days later when they announced they were also doing an afternoon tea party version of the event due to its popularity. The cost was cheaper and the itinerary and style of event were much more suitable for my Sister, my Mum and I.

I contacted Hype Agency they confirmed there was no minimum amount of people you had to book for this event! Even better! So I booked our tickets for our Christmas afternoon tea in Narnia which also fell on Mum’s Birthday – perfect!

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When you arrive for afternoon tea you arrive by walking through a wardrobe and into Narnia! Look at Mum’s face – she’s so happy!

You walk through a snow filled tunnel and are met by Mr Tumnus whilst a flurry of snow falls from above!

Once you enter, the whole room is decorated with Narnian themed decorations, including the lamppost, beautiful candelabras and twinkling lights!

Even the White Witch and Aslan make an appearance!

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You are shown to your table and given an activity sheet with word searches and cross words to complete whilst you wait for your food. There are plenty of other activities for children to do, as well as many photo opportunities with all the characters!

You can also visit Santa in his grotto if you wish, and any children attending get a gift from Santa!

You then sit down for afternoon tea which consists of tea and coffee, sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jam and a fairy cake or chocolate brownie and cherry bakewell. They also offer gluten and dairy free options if you require them.

After afternoon tea, there are a couple of short ballet performances by the White Witch!

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There’s also a bar which serves Narnian themed cocktails and shooters including the Prince Caspian (vanilla vodka, grenadine and cranberry juice), The Lucy (Midori, pineapple juice and vodka) and the Tumnus Slammer (grenadine, tequila and pineapple juice).

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The company who host the event are called Hype Agency, and they regularly host themed Christmas parties in Bristol, Cheltenham and other areas in the South West. We all loved the event and are so pleased we went, we would definitely attend other events they are hosting!

The price for the afternoon tea was £19.50 per person which I thought was very reasonable in view of the planning and detail which went into the event.

If an evening event or Christmas party is more your thing as opposed to afternoon tea, the evening events are £32.00 per person and include a fully stocked Ice bar, live entertainment throughout the night, a three course themed meal, a themed photo booth, DJ and disco – just remember the minimum booking for this event is for 8 people though!

You can find out more about available dates and tickets here!

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Christmas Pudding BonBons

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

Here’s the ingredients you will need:

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

-Red ready rolled icing

-Green ready rolled icing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Happy pudding bonbon making!

Rocky Road Christmas Bars

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

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Ingredients

-125g soft butter

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

-3 tablespoons golden syrup

-1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

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

-100g mini marshmallows

-2 teaspoons icing sugar for dusting

-Edible glitter for dusting

-Snowflake (or other!) sprinkles

Instructions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy scoffing peeps! xx

CocoChlo’s Christmas Countdown!

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

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

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

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

Advent Calendars:

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

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

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

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

The perfect start to December!

Elf on the Shelf

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

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

Buying our Christmas tree

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

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

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

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

Christmas shopping

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

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

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

Festive Days Out

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

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Christmas Markets

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

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

Festive Drinks – Coffees, Hot Chocolate and Eggnog!

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

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

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

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

Monin Syrups

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

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Christmas Adverts

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

Choosing the Christmas menu!

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

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

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

Christmas Jumpers

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

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Visits to the Cinema

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

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

Gingerbread Making

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

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

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

Christmas Yankee Candles

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

Nutcracker Dolls

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

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Christmas Eve boxes

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

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

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

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

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Post-Christmas themed parties

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

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

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

Time off

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

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

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

Enjoy everyone!

The Naked Marshmallow Company

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Halloween!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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How cute are these tiddly little dark chocolate vampires??

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

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

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

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

 

Halloween in the Evans’ house!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a great Halloween weekend everyone!!!

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Halloween Eats!

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

Ghost Cakes

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

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

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Welsh-rarebit Ghosts

These are so easy!

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

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

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Chocolate Frogs

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

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

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Shattered Glass Cupcakes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Mummy Hotdogs

Love these! I could eat the whole lot!

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

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Rice Krispie Pumpkins

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

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Witches Fingers

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

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Almond Witches Fingers

Peanut Butter Eyeballs

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

Have a great Halloween weekend!

Desserts Delivered Bakery

For all you cake lovers out there – this is the blog for you! Let me introduce you to one of the best online finds I have come across so far!

Desserts Delivered Bakery is a fantastic online bakery which delivers a variety of amazing cakes all over the UK. They even guarantee to deliver your selected cakes within 24 hours and offer next day delivery as standard!

Here’s a selection of some of the great cakes they have on offer:

The Rainbow Cake

The first cake I ordered from Desserts Delivered Bakery was the amazing Rainbow Cake. I was slightly disappointed when it first arrived as it turns out they have recently changed the design, and I actually preferred the original one, but as soon as I tried the first slice I was so pleased I had ordered it – especially after a particularly rubbish week!

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The colourful Rainbow Cake is a plain vanilla sponge with multicoloured vanilla flavoured buttercream and decorated with white chocolate jazzies, coloured fizzy sweets and a stick of multicoloured rock!

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This cake is one of the best sponge cakes I have ever eaten! It is incredibly light and very, very tasty! As soon as I ate my first slice I knew I would be ordering more cakes for Birthdays and special events from this company!

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The Bubblegum Cake

The next cake I ordered was the bubblegum cake for hubby’s Birthday!

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This is a really unusual one – I think people will either love it or hate it but I absolutely loved it and it was a real hit with family and friends – even with those who you wouldn’t have thought would like it!

A delicious light fluffy bubblegum flavoured sponge with bubblegum flavoured icing and pink and blue bonbons on top!

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This is another top seller at the Desserts Delivered Bakery and it’s easy to see why! I’ve never tasted another cake like it!

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The Cookie Cake

If you like cookies then this cake is for you! And as I am basically a cookie monster myself, I couldn’t wait to try this cake!

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A vanilla sponge cake with a butter cream centre which is topped off with milk chocolate and broken cookies on top! Perfect for those who have a sweet tooth but who find chocolate cake too heavy and sickly! Will definitely be ordering this one again!

The only thing I would say is it would have been a nice touch if the buttercream was cookie flavoured or had cookies in the mix – just to separate it a little bit from a plain vanilla cake with vanilla sponge. Again, the sponge was incredibly light and very delicious, a definite second favourite after the Rainbow cake!

The Cookies and Cream Cake

If you like milk and cookies then the cookie and cream cake is definitely for you!

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The cookies and cream cake is a lovely light chocolate sponge cake with a buttercream centre, which is then topped off with cookie and cream biscuits. Amazing. I thought it would be really heavy and sickly but the sponge is so light, it’s one of the best chocolate cakes I’ve had!

The Peanut Butter Cake

Here is the perfect cake for you Peanut Butter lovers! I love peanut butter but have never tried a peanut butter cake before!

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This cake is a rich smooth peanut butter flavour chocolate sponge cake topped with a variety of Peanut butter chocolates such as mini Reeses Peanut Butter Cups and Reeses Pieces!

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I thought this would be the least popular out of all the cakes I ordered but our guests loved it and it was the flavour which went the most quickly when we ordered a few of the cakes for a family celebration! I only got one slice out of it in the end!

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There are also other cakes available from the Desserts Delivered Bakery if none of these other cakes tickle your fancy! These include the chocolate hazelnut truffle cake (perfect for those Ferrero Rocher fans like my brother in law!), the chocolate junkyard cake, and the jammy biscuit cake!

They have also recently released a red velvet cake which looks incredible! I can’t wait to try that one!

Order your cakes from Desserts Delivered Bakery here. Prices are £20.00 per cake and each cake serves ten people, delivery starts at £4.95, and extras such as candles and balloons are also available to add to your order.

Every cake is delivered in a strong corrugated cardboard box to ensure your cake isn’t damaged when you receive it. The parcel includes dry ice as the cakes are sent frozen to retain the freshness and quality of the cake. Fear not though – you only need to defrost the cake for four to five hours and the cake is then ready to eat! You do not need to refrigerate the cake either, it can be left in its box for up to a week and it will still be perfect to eat!

On one occasion I ordered three cakes together and was really pleased to find out that the next day delivery cost was still only £4.95! The cakes arrive well packaged and secure and with dry ice in the boxes to keep them cool – fantastic service!! Some online bakeries charge a fortune for their items to be delivered so the cost of delivery was brilliant in my opinion!

Get stuck in!

Popalicious Cake Pops!

Hello fellow Unicorn and cake fans! Have I got the perfect blog for you!!

Check out these beautiful Unicorn Cake Pops from Popalicious Cake Pops – an incredible find which I came across on Instagram! I couldn’t believe the amazing detail on them, they looked such good quality!  I was even more over the moon when I visited their website and found I could order them online and have them delivered – one of the things I’ve found so disappointing with some online bakeries is that they advertise all their lovely products but then won’t deliver, or will only deliver in the London area!!

As soon as I saw pictures of the amazing Unicorn Cake Pops I knew I had to try them! They sell a range of lovely treats so here’s what I have sampled from their delightful range so far:

Unicorns Rock Cake Pops

Look at the detail which goes into each and every one! The cake pops are beautifully designed, and absolutely flawless, it must take ages to decorate each of these! I wish I was this creative!

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Unicorn Cake Pops

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You’ll be pleased to hear that they taste just as good as they look!

Inside these two types of beautiful candy covered cake pops (if you can bring yourself to eat such a lovely creation!) is a lovely moist chocolate cake.

Rainbow Sprinkle Cake Pops

I couldn’t wait to try these! Outside they look like a straightforward pastel coloured cake pop but inside is an amazing moist rainbow cake!

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I’m only slightly ashamed to say that I ate nearly all of these in one sitting – for research purposes obviously!

Other treats aside from cake pops are also available including –

Unicorn cakelets

The cakelets are also made up of moist chocolate cake covered in a candy coating, hand decorated and finished with a sprinkle of glitter – ideal to give as gifts, I bought a set of these for my sister as a present – I knew she would love them!

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Vanilla Rainbow Cakelets

Amazing moist rainbow cake surrounded by a candy coating with sparkle and sprinkles!

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Chocolate Sprinkle Cakelets

These have the same moist chocolate cake inside as the Unicorn Cakelets and are covered in a candy coating with sparkle and sprinkles on top!

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Some of these incredible goodies are even available in gluten free options. The range is ideal for childrens’ parties and although the online shop is only showing the unicorn range at the moment, if you check out their gallery you will see all of the other brilliant designs they have completed for their customers including My Little Pony, Mr Men, and my absolute favourite which I hope they bring back this Christmas – Elf On The Shelf cake pops!

All the items I ordered arrived quickly and safely packaged so they wouldn’t get damaged, I’ve ordered from some online bakeries and the “protective” packaging certainly leaves a lot to be desired!

You can follow Popalicious cake pops on Instagram (popaliciouscakepops) and on Twitter  (@popaliciouscake) and their cake pops are also available to purchase through Not On The High Street.I’m hoping this means they are inundated with orders – they certainly deserve to be!

***Updated January 2018***

Elf on the Shelf Cake Pops

I had been waiting all year to order these little guys ever since I saw them in Popalicious Cake Pops’ gallery on their Instagram account! Aren’t they amazing?!

I ordered eight of them to munch over the festive period and they did not disappoint! Delicious chocolate cake inside a candy melt coating with icing at the bottom of his hat!

You almost get two cake pops out of each Elf because of the size of his hat, and look at the detail that goes into each and every one! I’m so pleased I got my hands on some – they sold out very quickly!

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Reindeer Cake Pops

These guys turned up in the nick of time too, just as I was debating what I could do for this years Christmas table favours! They are lovely reindeer cake pop place settings with personalised names on! They looked very good on the dinner table and were a definite hit with the family!

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Another delicious chocolate cake pop with a candy melt outer shell, they even have little ears, antlers and flower detail!

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I already can’t wait to put in my next order!