Blenheim Palace Illuminated Christmas Lights Trail

I love Blenheim Palace! It is one of my favourite places to visit so I’ve been several times at different times throughout the year. It is such a vast place I still haven’t got round to seeing everything!

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When I heard they were doing an illuminated Christmas Lights Trail this year I just had to go! By the time I had got around to booking tickets I could only get the latest entry time (8:00pm) on a Sunday evening but knew it would be worth doing!

There is a Christmas market on at the same time and lots for the kids to do including carousel rides and the Cinderella’s Fairy Tale Palace Experience.

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When we got there it was almost time for our 8pm time slot but we were stunned at how busy it still was! Despite pre-booking a time slot we still had quite a wait in the queue which was a bit disappointing, especially as it was a bit too cold to just be standing around! Still, at least it wasn’t raining!

Along the lights trail you will encounter a gingerbread house; complete with music and light show;

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Stunning “running water” lights;

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Beautiful red glowing poppies hanging from stunning woodland trees (the photos don’t do these justice!)

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Light arches and displays on the water;

Glowing bridges, waterfalls and snowflake lights;

An absolutely stunning light tunnel (my favourite of the whole trail);

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There are lots and lots of other things to see as well, but for the grand finale – the palace shows off an incredible music and light show!

Believe me when I say that photos really do not do it justice, it is breathtaking!

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Tickets were £16 per adult however the parking situation did annoy me slightly as you have to pre-book and pay for on-site parking for this event. I don’t think this was made particularly clear when I was booking it and as the car parking on site had sold out, it wasn’t showing as being available to include as part of my order. It was only once I had paid for two non-refundable tickets and received a “need to know” email from Blenheim Palace that I had to make other car parking arrangements.

I couldn’t get on site parking and the nearby park and ride car park had also sold out so I was really grateful when hubby offered to drive Mum and I to the event and to even wait for us nearby whilst we went around the trail! The event itself was wonderful but this drama beforehand did make things a bit stressful!

Still, I would definitely go back again and thought it was well worth the cost of the ticket! It certainly made me feel very festive!

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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Naked Marshmallow Snowman Kits

I’ve been ordering from the Naked Marshmallow Company for a couple of years now, I particularly like their Toasting Marshmallow Kits which are always a real hit at parties and when I’ve given them as gifts.

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Last year I bought a couple of their Marshmallow Snowman kits and I promised myself if they released them again this year then I would grab myself some more!

The kits come in a little cardboard gift box and contain flakes of chocolate which you can pour into hot milk to make a lovely hot chocolate drink, a mini whisk to stir the flakes into the milk, and two delicious marshmallow snowmen to place on top of your hot chocolate to melt slowly.

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I never used to be a fan of marshmallows until I tried Naked Marshmallows, I promise you once you have tried them you will never go back to buying cheap supermarket marshmallows!

I love to use my snowmen marshmallows in white hot chocolate to give that overall “melted snowman” look, but as it is a vanilla marshmallow it will go with any flavour hot chocolate you choose.

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You can order your snowman kits directly from The Naked Marshmallow company or I found them a couple of weeks back lurking in the Selfridges food hall!

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Seriously, if you get the chance – grab some whilst you can! If the £8.95 price tag is putting you off a bit then you could risk waiting for their post Christmas sale! I managed to get a couple of kits in the sale last year!

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!

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!

 

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, my Sister and I visit London as part of our annual Christmas shopping trip.

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Peggy Porschen’s at Christmas is an absolute treasure trove of beautiful cakes, biscuits and even the most stunningly decorated gingerbread houses I have ever seen! It really was a Winter Wonderland and, seeing as Christmas is my favourite time of year, this has to be my favourite theme of all.

The Christmas cupcakes were stunning, my favourites were the Bejewelled Chocolate cupcake and the Jolly Gingerbread cupcakes. Unfortunately they didn’t look as stunning by the time I’d got them home after carrying them around in a box all day but they tasted delicious never the less!

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The Gingerbread Houses were the most beautiful (and the most expensive!) I had ever seen. I wish I’d had the courage to buy one but they were so stunning I don’t think I could have brought myself to break it up and eat it!

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So, hopefully you can see why it appears on many peoples bucket lists to visit when they are in London! If you can get there early first thing when it isn’t so busy, I’d highly recommend popping in – it looks far more beautiful in real life!

 

 

A picnic at The Bush Inn

For all of you who love a good old Afternoon Tea, have I got a treat for you! This is no ordinary Afternoon Tea, it is called a Picnic Bench and is piled high with delicious home-made treats, and it can only be found at a place called The Bush Inn in Hereford.

I have been meaning to visit here since towards the end of last year after seeing their amazing Winter Picnic Bench doing the rounds on Facebook, but with the house move going on and loads of family events, I just didn’t get round to going!

My friends husband booked for them to go as a surprise for Valentines Day and as soon as I saw the photos I knew I had to go as soon as possible! My friend booked the four of us in at the end of April and I was counting down the days until we could go!

Anyway, we booked just in time for their Spring range of picnic benches, and the food on offer was all of my absolute favourites!! I couldn’t believe it when the menu was released,  it was like it was made especially for me!

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Here’s what the Spring picnic bench is made up of:

Chicken burger with salad

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Mozzarella stick with salsa

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Basket of seasoned waffle fries

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Mini macaroni cheese

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Mint Aero cheesecake in a shot glass

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Citrus jelly in a shot glass

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Mini jam jar of passion fruit posset

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Rocky Road slice

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Lemon Victoria sponge cake

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White chocolate coated cake pop

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all served with a mini bottle of Berry Fizz and a Mini Mojito!

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A vegetarian version is available on request – this option is a nut roast burger as an alternative to the chicken burger and everything else remains the same as it is all suitable for vegetarians.

You can only book by calling them directly (01432 830206) and 24 hours notice is required – although be warned, they only serve their picnic benches for a couple of hours a day (12pm to 2pm Tuesday to Saturday, 6:30pm to 8:30pm Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, Fridays 6:00pm to 8:30pm and Saturdays 5:45pm to 7pm) and so places sell out extremely quickly!

The price is £16.50 per person which is an absolute bargain for the amount and quality of food you get per person, I have paid double this for a posh afternoon tea which left me feeling hungry afterwards!

They don’t have a specific website but if you are on Facebook you can find their Facebook page here.

I highly recommend paying a visit if you have the opportunity! I will definitely be coming back! The seasonal picnic benches they have are brilliant. The Easter one they served recently looked delicious and the Winter version they had last year looked incredible so I would definitely like to try another seasonal one at some point! They are currently considering doing a Summer Picnic Bench and a Royal Wedding themed Picnic Bench in May to celebrate Harry and Meghan getting married – sounds a great idea to me!

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Popaball Drink Shimmers

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

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

Violet Shimmer

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

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

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

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Rose Gold Shimmer

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

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

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

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Blue Pearl shimmer for Gin

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

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

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

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

Gold Drink Shimmer

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

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

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

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Silver Drink Shimmer

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

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

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

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Bronze Drink Shimmer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Casa Das Bolita’s Dough Balls

I came across Casa Das Bolita’s dough balls at one of the Gloucester Quays food fayres last year. I’d gone with my Mum and my Sister and the weather was absolutely awful! So much so we made the decision to call it a day and miss out on those stalls we hadn’t had the chance to visit yet. On our way battling back towards the car park I spotted the Casa Das Bolita’s dough balls stall and knew I just had to try some! They were being cooked fresh but because the weather was so bad I didn’t want to risk them getting soaking wet and soggy! I was so pleased when they told me they sold them in frozen packs to take home so I just needed to heat them up in the oven!

It was so difficult choosing the flavour I thought I would like best so I settled on playing it safe and bought a pack of the cheddar ones.

I put some of them in the oven a bit later on that day and was blown away by how delicious they were! I went online straight away to see what other flavours there were and put an order in a couple of weeks later for one pack of every flavour!

So, what makes these dough balls different from normal dough balls? Well, to start with, they are Gluten, Wheat, Yeast, and Nut free! They are made from all natural ingredients, have no added sugar and no added preservatives. These “Bolitas” are the most popular Brazilian snack – they are cheese dough balls made from cassava flour and cheese, and they are ideal as snacks or appetisers. Simply pop them on some greaseproof paper and put them in the oven for a few minutes and serve warm! Delicious!

Here are all the different flavours I’ve sampled so far:

Cheddar

Good old cheddar flavoured – you can’t go wrong with these! Just pop them in the oven from frozen until they start going golden brown and serve immediately! The cheddar ones are one of my favourite flavours!

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Garlic Cheese

Another of my favourites is the garlic cheese – I love garlic and this gives the dough balls that little extra bit of flavour.

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Halloumi

I love halloumi, we often slice it and grill it and have it for dinner as a side so I knew I would love the dough ball version too!

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Mozzarella and Oregano

I love how the Mozzarella goes all stringy and gooey when you cook these! The addition of the oregano makes these extra tasty too!

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Chicken

I was really looking forward to trying these!

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They are bigger than the normal dough balls, are stuffed with tasty seasoned chicken and are absolutely delicious!

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Sausage Rolls

I have to say these are my least favourite from the collection but this is no reflection on the product – it’s purely because I am just not a fan of sausage rolls! I would never buy sausage rolls from the supermarket or bakery, but I thought I would give these a try!

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They are slightly bigger than the regular dough balls, and each one consists of a small sausage wrapped in cheesy dough. Like with all the others, cook them in the oven from frozen until they just start turning golden brown and then serve immediately. Great for buffets and parties.

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You can order Casa Das Bolita’s Dough balls online by visiting their website. All orders are even sent out frozen for 24 hour delivery!

They also offer sweet flavoured dough balls in fudge, guava and chocolate! I will definitely have to try the sweet versions next time I put an order in!

Genie’s Cave Afternoon Tea

I’ve got a real thing lately for afternoon tea’s – especially themed ones – so when an advert for the Genie’s Cave afternoon tea at Cutter and Squidge in London came up, I knew I had to pay them a visit!

Upstairs in Cutter and Squidge there is a beautiful tea room filled with incredible looking cakes and treats. For the Genie’s Cave afternoon tea you are escorted downstairs into an underground treasure trove where the walls are painted pink and purple and are adorned with all sorts of brightly coloured jewels, gold pieces and gold coins! It is just like a little cave of treasure!

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The only downside with this was that the lighting was so low that my camera didn’t take very good pictures so apologies for that, but hopefully you’ll get an idea of what to expect!

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A Genie’s Welcome

The first part of the afternoon tea was very unusual as it was a dessert type treat! The Genie’s Welcome comes in a little round glass bowl and is a raspberry flavoured yogurt type treat with raspberry sauce, raspberries and pomegranate seeds mixed in. This is then topped with pashmak which is a type of Iranian Candy Floss sometimes referred to as “Dragon’s Beard! They sell pashmak in Selfridges and I’ve always fancied trying it! It is very similar to candy floss but not as gritty, it is a bit “hair” like for my liking though, hence the Dragon’s Bear name!! This is then topped with a lovely home made thick fluffy meringue which has been torched on the one side.

Selection of Finger Sandwiches

Probably the most boring part of all afternoon teas but some people like sandwiches! The selection was Cucumber and Fresh Mint, Cheese and Tomato Jam and Coronation Chicken.

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Savoury Wishes

The Savoury Wishes part of the afternoon tea included these lovely delights:

  • Dessert Rose Tart with thinly sliced roasted vegetables

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  • Savoury Scones Swirls with roasted peppers and Feta cheese – These were really tasty – swirled pastry with roasted vegetables and feta cheese in. A nice alternative to “normal” scones as they aren’t as thick and heavy!

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  • Golden Cheese Clouds  – These were lovely, I really liked these! Imagine a savoury profiterole style choux bun is the best way to describe them! Very light and very cheesy! Yum!

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Sweet Wishes

The Sweet Wishes part of the afternoon tea included:

  • Raspberry and Rose Tart sprinkled with pistachio emeralds – tiny little pastry tarts filled with raspberry cream centres and topped with crumbled pistachios.

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  • Hidden gem Macaron with peanut butter and jelly.

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  • Magic Carpet Cookies – lovely little carpet shaped melt in the mouth shortbread biscuits topped with cocoa patterns.

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Ruby Dream Cake

A vanilla and strawberry cake with orange glaze and jelly ruby.

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Golden Treasure Biskie

Two chocolate cookie like biscuits with a delicious chocolate mousse in the middle decorated with 24 carat Gold! This was my favourite!

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The afternoon tea is £29.50 per person or £34.50 per person with a glass of bubbly, and Wheat free or dairy free options are also available for the afternoon tea which include a £5 surcharge. When we left they also gave us this lovely little treat to take with you which I thought was a lovely touch.

They are changing the theme at the end of March so get in there quickly if you want to experience it! The staff wouldn’t tell me what the new theme was as they have been sworn to secrecy but I’m looking forward to seeing what the next themed afternoon tea will be!

Valentine’s Day treats!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hotel Chocolat Salted caramel hearts – £3.50 – delicious!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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Sudeley Castle Spectacle Of Light

As my sister’s Birthday is the 1st December, we always try and do something a bit different on her Birthday or the weekend closest to it. She is definitely a winter baby and loves this time of year so we generally tie in her Birthday day out with something that is Christmas themed as well! Past days out have included a trip to Longleat Safari, ice skating at Cribbs Causeway and of course for her last milestone Birthday, an amazing trip to Iceland!

Last year I came across an event which was being hosted at Sudeley Castle called the Spectacle of Light. Last year was the first time they had hosted such an event and as several of us have been meaning to visit Sudeley Castle for some time, this event looked perfect for the occasion!

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The event is hosted after dark, and the Castle and grounds are lit up and decorated for a wonderful spectacle of light and sound. You follow a trail of light around the stunning castle grounds, magical gardens with majestic trees and into the romantic ruins where ideal photo opportunities await you! Music is also played as you wander the trail!

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We attended on the 1st December last year, but this year the dates span from the 8th to 30th December 2017.

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After you are done exploring, the café is open where mulled wine, cider and hot chocolate are served alongside other winter warmers like soup and hotdogs.

Entry times for the event are every half an hour from 5pm until 7:30pm – when we went last year we booked the latest entry time of 8:30pm, however they contacted us a few days before to ask if we could arrive for 8pm as they were short on staff – it looks as if they have reduced the amount of entry times this year as a result.

When we wandered the trail it was extremely quiet and peaceful, there were only a handful of other people who were there with us which made it all the more special! The weather was perfect December weather as well – cold but dry – we were very lucky on this occasion as I would imagine it to be a very different experience in the torrential rain!

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If you pre-book your tickets online you can also save 10% on the ticket prices – adult ticket price is £15.75 per person (normally £17.50) and child price is £9.90 (normally £11.00). Family tickets are also available.

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A typical walk will be approximately 60 -75 minutes, although if you wish to stay longer you are very welcome.

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According to the website, they have some new additions to the event this year including an “amazing kaleidoscope of illuminated parasols, an enchanting tree energising its sparkling roots and a friendly roar in the tower dungeon!”

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A highly recommended event, particularly for you budding photographers! We were slightly disappointed that our tickets did not give us full access to the Castle as this is a separately hosted event, however this just meant we were looking forward to re-visiting the Castle again in the daytime to see all that it had to offer!

CocoChlo’s Christmas Day

Merry Christmas everyone!

I hope you’ve all had a lovely day! I’m sat here in front of the TV feeling extremely full, surrounded by amazing tasty treats and am admiring all the beautiful presents I’ve received from my amazing friends and family.

I got up relatively early to do all the preparation for Christmas dinner but found I had plenty of free time this year just because of one small change – I cooked the turkey overnight last night so it was ready this morning! Friends have done this for years – I’ve never done it but I am definitely a convert now! It saved me loads of time and worry about whether the turkey was cooked and saved me loads of space in the oven so I could cook all the other bits and pieces! I will definitely do the same again next year!

We only got the chance to open a couple of presents this morning before people started arriving, I am incredibly lucky and got the Mulberry handbag and Tiffany perfume I was after! Completely unexpected and a real surprise! We decided we were going to save the rest of our presents until the evening when everyone had gone home so we weren’t rushing.

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Hubby then popped down the pub with a couple of friends whilst I cooked and prepared the rest of the dinner – this year I didn’t leave the kitchen as we only moved house a few weeks back and I’m still not used to using the oven and hob yet so was being over cautious – especially when there’s twenty different things to cook for Christmas dinner!

Anyway, I must have done something right because all my timings were pretty much spot on and everyone loved this years Christmas menu! As usual I bought way too much food and everyone ended up going home with huge doggy bags!

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Our canapés – BBQ Pork Belly Squares and Asian Chicken Lollipops
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Brie and Cranberry parcels
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Our amazing mediterranean platter
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Our yummy turkey, the first time I’ve cooked a roast in our new oven! It even had Christmas Spiced Bacon on the top (see below!)

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And our second meat was this amazing Christmas spiced gammon, ready to carve and eat (should the worst have happened with the turkey!)
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I don’t like Christmas cake myself but they always look so pretty don’t they?
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These bite-sized mini mince pies went down well with everyone!
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The Santa Stuck in the Chimney cake was AMAZING! A red velvet fudge cake inside, probably one of the best cakes I’ve ever eaten! And I’ve eaten A LOT OF CAKE!
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See what I mean? It tasted amazing!
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These chocolate mousse glitter pinecones went down a treat too! So pretty!
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Everyone went home with a lot of cheese! This amazing “Cheese” cake was from Tescos and was made up from Cheddar, Red Leicester, Stilton, Wensleydale with cranberries and Brie! Yum!

For place cards I bought these amazing Reindeer cake pops with little name tags, aren’t they lovely?

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And for favours I bought these lovely Nutcracker and Gingerbread Man bottle bags from Paperchase and filled them with Lindt truffles –

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Every year my Sister and my Mum buy me beautiful flowers to say thank you for hosting Christmas dinner, this year my Mum bought me a beautiful Christmas pudding flower arrangement from Marks and Spencers and my sister bought me a stunning snowglobe style flower arrangement (also from Marks and Spencer’s). I say this a lot but the photos really don’t do them justice!

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plus my Sister popped into Tesco’s to get some last minute Christmas bits and came across these beautiful Nutcracker flowers so she just had to buy them for me! I’m absolutely spoilt!

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The day completely flew by which is always such a shame, I hate it when it gets to the point where people have to leave! Especially today as we had a bit of a mini storm going on outside so everyone got soaking wet and blown away in the storm on the way to their cars! That will teach them not to leave won’t it!?

After everyone had gone, laden up with doggy bags and left overs, we finally sat down and opened the mounds and mounds of presents we had from friends and family. There was definitely a Nutcracker, Harry Potter and Beauty and the beast theme going on with my presents! My friends certainly know me very well! Here’s just some of the lovely gifts I had from friends and family-

Lots of sweets and treats:

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Elf cake Pop’s from Popalicious cake pops!

SO.MANY.PYJAMAS!!!! My favourite!

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And this brilliant Pusheen T-shirt! Pusheen is my spirit animal!

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Plus lots of smelly stuff, perfumes, bath bombs and hair treatments!

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Looking forward to using these! Anyone else used Philip Kingsley stuff before?

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Plus I was also given a pair of gold Beats headphones and BOTH pairs of trainers I wanted! I’m so lucky!

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