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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All this followed by a short doze and nibbling leftovers and cheese and biscuits on the sofa whilst watching Christmas TV makes this my perfect Christmas Day!

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I hope you’ve all had an amazing day full of love and laughter with your families and friends! I’m looking forward to Boxing Day when I usually have a good clear out of my wardrobe to give unwanted items to charity and to put away all my lovely new presents!

Merry Christmas everyone! xx

CocoChlo’s Christmas Eve

I can’t believe it’s here already! The best day of the year! I actually prefer Christmas Eve to Christmas Day – there’s no better feeling than the evening of Christmas Eve when you finally sit down and everything is wrapped and prepared ready for tomorrow! Here’s how my favourite day of the year unravelled in 2017 –

We usually get up early and bundle the two dogs in the car and drive up to Painswick Beacon for a lovely long Christmas Eve walk. A few years ago some fellow dog walkers chose a beautiful big tree along the dog walkers path and started hanging baubles and decorations alongside photographs of their beloved dogs who have passed on.

It’s such a lovely tribute, putting their pictures where they enjoyed frolicking in the woods and chasing across the golf course to annoy the golfers! We added a tribute to our dog Scampy who died in 2006 – he was such a lovely dog and was incredibly loyal to his family of us girls!

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After our long walk we come home and have some breakfast – usually bacon rolls or Christmas morning muffins – and then we will start going about our day visiting people and dropping peoples presents and Christmas Eve boxes off (there were a LOT of Christmas Eve boxes to drop off this year!)

We visit several of our good friends on Christmas Eve, and some of these friends we struggle to catch up with for most, if not all, of the year! So it is great to catch up with them and hear how they’ve been getting on for the past few months/year.

I have a lovely lunch at my friends Mum’s house, I’ve known this particular friend for a VERY long time (since we were about five years old!) so it is great to catch up with her lovely family and my beautiful god-daughter. Her Mum buys all these amazing cheese bakes which she puts in the oven and we then eat with fresh bread and bread sticks! Delicious!

By the time we have been round to everyone and dropped off all the presents and/or Christmas Eve boxes, it us usually around 5/6pm, so we finally get to settle down at home and watch our Christmas movies and have some party food, and open our own Christmas Eve boxes! It also gives me a chance to have a bit of a tidy up and to start preparing some food and drink bits and to decorate the dining room table ready for the guests tomorrow.

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Here’s what we had in this years Christmas Eve boxes:

Yankee Candles

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Christmas Pyjamas

I normally get one set in my Christmas Eve box but had an Elf set and a Grinch set this year!

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Plus some matching Grinch slippers!

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I also had some lovely Gingerbread Men tea light candles, rose gold reindeer tea lights (which went really well with my existing reindeer set!), some lovely salted caramel chocolate pinecones from Marks and Spencers, a pegasus ornament to hang on our Christmas tree and a sparkle and fizz chocolate bar from Marks and Spencers!

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Between us, hubby and I also had the entire set of hot chocolates from Wilkinsons – regular hot chocolate, white hot chocolate, gingerbread hot chocolate and marshmallow hot chocolate! Yummy!

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To make things easier, we normally cook a batch of party food for dinner tonight, so we can graze at it over the course of the evening!

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Then, at around 10:45pm, we walk up to our local church to attend Midnight Mass which usually starts at around 11pm and finishes just after the bells chime for midnight. We’ve been going for several years now, only missing it one year when I was feeling unwell, and I regretted not going for the whole of the following year. We aren’t particularly religious, we didn’t even get married in a church, but we are incredibly lucky. We have more than we need, we have an amazing family unit and all our family are currently in good health, we don’t have to worry about how to pay bills or where the next meal is coming from like some poor people out there have to, so we have a lot to be thankful for. Going to Midnight Mass is our way of saying thank you for everything we have had over the past year and to hope for as much good fortune in the year to come. It also gives me a chance to think about those friends and family who won’t be spending Christmas with us because they are no longer with us.

We usually get back around half midnight and go straight off up to bed so we can get up early the next morning to start preparing for the big day!

I hope you all have a magical Christmas full of love and laughter – MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE! xxx

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 Cornflake Wreaths

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

To make the Cornflake Wreaths you will need:

-100g soft butter

-200g mini marshmallows

-125g cornflakes

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

-Spinkles!

To make the wreaths –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New York at Christmas Time – Day Two

We were all up earlier than I had expected us to be (stupid jet-lag!) but this meant we could get ready and be out stomping the streets of New York as early as possible and cover more ground.

We put the TV on as we were getting ready and were mortified to hear that there had been an attempt to set a bomb off only a few streets away from our hotel but thank god no-one was seriously injured or killed. I take my hat off to the authorities who have to deal with terrible situations like this – they are all so skilled and well trained and professional throughout and I have to say, despite being only a couple of streets away from where disaster could have struck, I never once felt unsafe knowing the best of the best were out there protecting us all. I think it is fair to say that terrorism failed in more than one aspect that day.

Anyway, on a brighter note, off we went on Monday’s adventure. We walked a good twenty minutes to go and have breakfast at Broadway Café – we always have breakfast here at least once during our trips to New York. It is a brilliant place with so much choice, I challenge you not to find something on the breakfast menu that you like! If you get the chance you must pay them a visit!

After a hearty breakfast of pancakes with crispy bacon and maple syrup and omelettes, oatmeal and sausage sandwiches, we carried on walking South down Broadway, admiring all the shops and window displays.

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On our way to the Financial District we came across the Flatiron building – such an amazing design! It was originally called the Fuller Building, is 22 storeys high and was completed in 1902. The name “Flatiron” comes from its resemblance to a cast-iron clothes iron. The building is often described as “one of the worlds most iconic skyscrapers and a quintessential symbol of New York city.” It is certainly very amazing to look at!

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We eventually arrived at Washington Square Park, which looked beautiful as it still had some snow on the ground. The park is a 9.75 acre public park in Greenwich and is one of the best known parks of New York city. At the northern gateway of the park you will find the Washington Square Arch (in the second picture).

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We also stopped off at Sugarhut and spent a fortune on sweets! I have never seen so many different types of sweets and treats! I was like a kid in a toy store! You don’t get sweet shops in the UK anymore really do you? It’s mainly the supermarkets you have to get your sugar fix from!

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We carried on walking down Fifth Avenue for a few more miles until we reached the Financial District and One World Trade Center’s Freedom Tower. The last time we visited New York in 2013, they were still building here and we all said as soon as the observation deck was finished that we would come back to visit.

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One World Trade Center (also known as WTC of Freedom Tower) is the main building of the rebuilt World Trade Center complex. It is the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, and is the sixth tallest building in the world! The new skyscraper stands on the site of the original 6 World Trade Center building. The building’s architect was David Childs, whose firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) also designed the Burj Khalifa and the Willis Tower.

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Construction of below-ground footings and foundations for the Freedom Tower began on 27 April 2006, and when we visited Ground Zero in June 2009, all work was still being completed underground at this point. One World Trade Center became the tallest structure in New York City on 30 April 2012, when it surpassed the height of the Empire State Building. When we visited New York in May 2013, the work which had been completed was incredible – the Tower was almost complete and the final component of the Tower’s spire had just been installed, making the building (including its spire) reach a total height 1,776 feet! The building is 104 standard floors high, but has only 94 actual stories. The height of 1776 feet is deliberate, as it references the year the United States Declaration of Independence was signed. The building officially opened in 3rd November 2014, and the One World Observatory opened on 29th May 2015.

The tower has a three-story observation deck which is located on floors 100–102. The actual viewing space is on the 100th floor, but there is a food court on the 101st floor and a space for events on the 102nd floor. Admission to the Observation Deck is $39 and is well worth the price.

Once you have passed through security you enter a lift which takes you up to the 102nd floor. During the lift journey, screens on the walls of the lift light up and show you how the skyline of New York has developed since the 1900’s. Once you leave the lift you are escorted into a theatre type room which shows another video of New York, its residents and its developments over the years. The video is extremely moving, and once the video has finished, the black back drop lifts up and shows you a beautiful outlook of this amazing city! I cried at the time and thinking about it again as I type this it has made me tearful again! It was so moving and very tastefully done.

You then leave the theatre room and explore the observation deck where you can take some absolutely amazing photographs from all the viewpoints of the city. Keep an eye out for the Brooklyn Bridge, The Statue of Liberty and of course the incredible Empire State Building.

Photographs really do not do it justice, the view is exceptional and I could have stayed there all day looking out at this amazing place.

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We didn’t visit the National September 11 Memorial and Museum on this occasion as we visited on our trip during 2013, however I urge you to go and visit if you get the chance. I will cover more on the Memorial and Museum in my next New York blog which I hope to publish early next year.

After our amazing (and very emotional) visit to the Freedom Tower, we wandered down further into the financial district to see Wall Street and it’s infamous “Charging Bull”. Despite being to New York a couple of times before, we have never got around to seeing him so we were pleased we got to this time!

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We then started making our way back up Fifth Avenue towards our hotel and on the way we visited the Union Square Holiday Market. I was really looking forward to this market but to be honest I was rather disappointed. There were nowhere near as many stalls as I had expected and I couldn’t find any of the stalls I had ear-marked to visit which was a real shame! A very pretty market in the centre of Manhattan but I left here empty handed!

When we visited Union Square market I had made a note to visit a nearby bakery/restaurant called Union Fare, I am so, so pleased I did in the end because I managed to get hold of one of their famous Red Velvet croissants (a red sweet flavoured croissant filled with a delicious cream cheese flavoured filling) and a Birthday Cake croissant (a croissant with multi-coloured sugar strands running through it filled with a white Birthday cake flavoured filling which is again filled with colourful sugar strands)! Delicious! I also bought a very colourful Sugar Cookie which I saved to eat later on when we got back to the hotel!

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As we continued on we came across Gingerbread Boulevard in Madison Square Park.

Gingerbread Boulevard features a life-size Gingerbread House, with ginger “bricks”, a “frosting-covered” roof and is covered in candy canes, gum drops and more.

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You get to go inside the house where there is a fire lit and a fully-decorated Christmas tree. Inside are TV screens which show the Gingerbread Man decorating his Christmas tree and then running past the windows of his house – it’s probably more for the children but we enjoyed it and thought it was really cute!

It was a bit of a surreal experience but a really good laugh and a great photo opportunity! Plus the house smelt absolutely delicious! We didn’t have to queue to go in and there was no charge so I would highly recommend visiting Gingy in his Gingerbread house if you have the chance!

After finally getting back to our hotel (after a Dunkin’ Donuts stop on the way!), we checked our phones which said we had walked the equivalent of a half marathon!

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We decided we wanted to go back to the Rockefeller to do the ice skating tonight (even after walking all that way!) as the forecast was rain for the next day, so after a quick rest at the hotel we wandered back over to the Rockefeller Center.

It was far quieter tonight than it had been the night before which was great. We managed to get into the last ice skating slot of the evening which was from 10:30pm until midnight, and we only had around a 45 minute wait to get onto the ice which I didn’t think was too bad considering you can’t pre-book tickets. I think the slots of an hour and a half are a bit long as the ice skating boots were really uncomfortable and it isn’t the biggest rink in the world but anyway, another amazing experience ticked off the bucket list!

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After ice skating at the Rockefeller Centre we headed off back to the hotel and walked past Saks Fifth Avenue – I knew they would put on a spectacular show but I didn’t imagine something as incredible as this! The theme this year was to celebrate 80 years of Snow White so the window displays were all Snow White themed and then on the front of the building was a spectacular light display which went off every hour or so alongside music from Snow White such as the ‘hi ho hi ho’ song! It was truly incredible.

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I know now why they call it the city that never sleeps! By the time we got to the hotel we were all absolutely exhausted!! I was worried we would sleep in the next morning and lose precious time on our last day because we were so tired!

New York at Christmas Time – Day One

What an amazing past couple of weeks my family and I have had! My husband and I finally got to move into our dream home, we celebrated my Sisters Birthday, my Mum’s Birthday, had our annual trip to London and two themed afternoon teas and to top it all off, we spent three nights in New York!

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The day we moved (Friday 1st December), we were at my Mum’s house in the evening, celebrating my Sister’s Birthday with some cake and champagne when out came four gold envelopes, each containing a note saying how hard we had worked this year and as an extra special Christmas present, Mum had paid for the four of us to spend three nights in New York!

Everyone was (and still is!) absolutely dumbfounded! What an incredibly amazing and perfect present, all four of us have always dreamed of going to New York over Christmas!

We left on the 10th December and battled our way to Heathrow through the most terrifying snow storm I have ever seen! How we all made it to the airport in one piece I will never know! We were lucky we had an early morning flight because even as we were sat on the plane watching it be de-iced by a giant robot, I sat there thinking to myself they are definitely going to cancel lots of flights today due to the snow!

Anyway, we got away on time and around 7 hours later (and after my husband watching Home Alone nearly four times on the plane journey, not joking!) we arrived in the Big Apple!

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We were staying at The Roosevelt Hotel on East 45th Street and it looked absolutely stunning inside! Huge Christmas trees and decorations and wreaths and baubles, a really lovely hotel. I have been lucky enough to have visited New York three times over the last 8 years and this is the best hotel I have stayed in so far, I would definitely stay here again.

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So, we got checked in and had a quick shower and got changed and out we went! Our first stop was the amazing Bryant Park Winter Village which wasn’t far from our hotel. I couldn’t wait to visit this Christmas Market – it looked like the biggest and had loads of amazing food stalls I wanted to try!

It got dark as we were there so the buildings were all lit up above you whilst you were wondering around the market drinking mulled wine and hot chocolate – it was amazing! There’s an ice skating rink here and plenty of bars and restaurants surround the market too.

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Whilst I was there I indulged in some chicken from Chick N Cone which, funnily enough, is bite sized pieces of chicken in a waffle cone! I tried the Cinnamon Maple flavour – it was the best tasting chicken I have ever eaten! I wish I had bought two!

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My Sister tried some Mexican Tacos and the boys had a New York Cheese Steak sandwich (they ate these too quickly for me to catch a photo of them!)

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I also tried some truffle mozzarella sticks – god they were to die for!

Next we moved onto the dessert stalls – my Sister and I bought three filled Churros to start – one was filled with Dulce De Leche (caramel), one was filled with Boston Cream Pie (kind of a crème pâtissière filling) and the other one was filled with S’more (marshmallow and chocolate filling) – again, amazing! I do love Churros!

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I was also really pleased as I managed to get hold of two pots of cookie dough from DO whilst I was there – I follow them on Instagram and love their colourful cookie dough flavours and designs! I had a Birthday cake flavoured cookie dough and their limited edition Winter WonDOland cookie dough! Yum!

After a couple of hours (and a couple of drinks!) at Winter Village we wondered over to the Rockefeller Center to see the infamous Christmas tree and to go ice skating.

On the way to the Rockefeller Center, the streets of New York are lined with beautiful festive decorations and lights everywhere. It really is a magical place this time of year!

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When we arrived at the Rockefeller Center we were all speechless! The Christmas tree is absolutely stunning in real life and is HUGE! It is covered in multi-coloured lights and sits happily above the skating rink whilst people skate below!

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Aside from the spectacular tree, there are also lots of other beautiful statues and decorations at the Rockefeller Center to celebrate the festive season!

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Unfortunately, the skating rink was booked out to a private party this evening so we had a stroll around the Rockefeller Center and took plenty of photos before making our way back to the hotel for the evening. In hindsight, we should have left visiting the Rockefeller Center until the following day as it was absolutely HEAVING with people (as it was a Sunday) so you couldn’t get a very good view or take many good photos!

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If you visit New York for the first time I would highly recommend visiting the Rockefeller Center’s Top of the Rock viewing deck. We have been to New York twice before and done the Top of the Rock both times so we didn’t do it again on this occasion, however the views are incredible and you can visit both during the day or at night – I would recommend visiting at night if you can, as you can see the Empire State Building lit up in all its glory! I would also recommend pre-booking Top of the Rock tickets online as queues can be huge and the last thing you want to do is waste time hanging around in queues when New York has so much else to offer!

There’s also a huge selection of shops and restaurants within the Rockefeller Center for you to visit, and right outside you can also find Radio City Music Hall – their Christmas Spectacular show is infamous across the globe!

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We were exhausted by the time we finally got back to the hotel but couldn’t wait for the next day’s adventures!

What an amazing start to an incredible few days in New York!

 

London at Christmas time

London is such a brilliant place to visit around Christmas time – not so much if you are one of those headless chickens running around trying to source last minute Christmas presents, but if you have Christmas all wrapped up and have the time (and patience!) to explore and see what this city has to offer during the festive season then you are in for a treat!

My Mum, my Sister and I go on a day trip to London every December, here’s some of the amazing things we have done over the last few years:

Hyde Park Winter Wonderland

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This place is like marmite – I’ve spoken to people who absolutely love it here, and likewise, people who absolutely detest it! Winter Wonderland opened on 17th November this year and is open for six weeks until 1st January 2018.

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It is free to enter Winter Wonderland and inside you can find a wealth of things to do including –

Ice Skating

Winter Wonderland’s ice skating rink is the largest outdoor rink in the UK and is open from 10am to 10pm. Ice skating sessions run every hour on the hour and each session lasts for 50 minutes.  Adult prices start at £9.50 and child prices start at £7.50.

If you are unsteady on your feet you can also ask for the help of an Ice Guide – a trained ice skater who can escort you and your group on the ice – a really great idea but they don’t come cheap (£35 an hour on top of your skating ticket price!)

Magical Ice Kingdom

This has a different theme every year, the year we visited it was the theme Merlin and the knights of the round table and it was absolutely fantastic!

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Merlin
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One of the Knights of the round table
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The Sword in the Stone
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My favourite is this beautiful unicorn and her baby!
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And the grand finale was this absolutely incredible ice dragon with glowing eyes!!

Definitely well worth a look if you have the time! There were loads more characters to see and the pictures I have taken seriously do not do them any justice! This years theme is called Deep Sea Adventure and looks just as amazing! Adult Ticket prices start at £7.00 and child’s prices start at £5.00.

Bar Ice

You may have already seen my blog on the two Bar Ice bars you can find in London, if not you can read about this great experience here. One of the Bar Ice’s can be found at Winter Wonderland but obviously can get very busy so make sure you pre-book your tickets!

Plus loads more including the Giant Observation Wheel, The Sooty Christmas Show, Zippo’s Christmas Circus, Cirque Beserk, Cinderella on Ice and of course the stunning stalls selling everything from Mulled wine to Churros to Christmas Decorations to hats and scarves!

Outside of Hyde Park, we usually visit:

Oxford Street

My favourite shopping street! It is obviously very busy this time of year but do your best to stop along the way to check out the amazing Christmas decorations which line the streets! Regent Street always looks really pretty too!

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Oxford Street
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Regent Street Angels

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Department Store Windows

Have you ever watched the film “Mannequin”? It follows a guy who, with a lot of assistance from a mannequin which comes to life when no-one else is looking, is a Window Dresser, and together they design these amazing department store window displays which have people travelling from miles around to come and see.

Classic 80’s film and the department store windows this time of year always remind me of it!

Anyway, each year there is a bit of a battle between the different department stores to have the best dressed window displays. The ideas they come up with are amazing and must take them hours and hours to create. Here are some of the highlights we came across this year:

Harrods

A bit of an unusual one this year! An Instagram friend told me its because they were designed by Karl Lagerfeld and this seemed to make a lot of sense! I’m still unsure whether I like them or not….

Selfridges

I loved Selfridges windows this year! Really fun and eye-catching! Bouncing Santas, Robins and Christmas Puddings and a suit made of sprouts! What more could you want?? Oh yes, a “Nutcracker Queen” surrounded by her Nutcracker soldiers on the balcony above the escalators! That will do!

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Plus we loved the massive hare and fox which appeared in the H&M windows this year!

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Department Store Christmas departments

I don’t tend to do much shopping in the department stores, I’ve usually got everyone’s presents by now and the temptation is to spend far too much if I start wondering into areas like Saint Laurent or Alexander McQueen! What my sister and I do tend to do is head straight for the Christmas themed sections within the department stores to check out the decorations and displays! In some of the bigger department stores it really is like walking into a Winter Wonderland!

This year I encountered a life size singing Reindeer (only £4,500!) and a huge Nutcracker Doll (only £1,250!). Better start saving I think!

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Department Store Food halls

Harrods Food Hall at any time of the year is absolutely incredible but team it up with all the Christmas flavours and goodies they have to offer and I really am in heaven here!

Selfridges also has a great food hall but I do prefer Harrods. In actual fact I think that the food hall in Selfridges Birmingham is better than the Selfridges in London – far bigger and far easier to find everything!

Peggy Porschen Parlour

This year we also managed to visit the amazing Peggy Porschen Parlour in Victoria! It is one of the stunning places I have ever visited, the photos really don’t do it justice.

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The inside is just as beautiful as the outside, and each and every product sold here is crafted to perfection.

If you have the chance, check out the outstanding Gingerbread houses they sell – if I had bought one of these I really don’t think I could have brought myself to eat such an amazing creation!

I HIGHLY recommend you visit here if you get the chance! We are definitely re-visiting the next time we are in London!

So as you can see, we have some real adventures on our annual trips to London, which don’t always include Christmassy themed things (The British Museum and The Natural History Museum for example).

Our annual trip to London is one of the Christmas traditions I really look forward to and I hope carries on long into the future!

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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A Lush Christmas – Part Three

Well, we are on day three of my blogs which review this years Lush Christmas range – I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my reviews so far – I’ve certainly enjoyed trying them all out! Here is the next batch of festive Lush products for your reading pleasure….

Golden Wonder Bath Bomb

I couldn’t wait to use this one! I had seen a couple of short videos of it on Instagram and it looked really lovely – the perfect Christmas bath bomb shaped into a little golden parcel with white ribbon wrapped round it!

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It is a big, heavy bath bomb which takes a while to dissolve so it is well worth its £4.50 price tag!

I knew I would love this bath bomb when I heard that it shares its scent with Snow Showers Shower jelly which is one of my absolute favourite scents! The bath bomb contains  sweet orange oil, cognac oil, gardenia extract and lime oil – a perfect scent to come home to on a cold Winter’s day!

The bath bomb starts off with lovely thick white and yellow foam and then once the outer core is cracked it produces a lovely bright blue colour foam. The best bit though is the lovely gold lustre and soluble gold stars which make the blue bath water sparkle beautifully. The photos really don’t do it justice!

The bath water felt incredibly moisturising and the scent was very warming and relaxing. My skin felt lovely and soft afterwards and even had a slight gold lustre which was really nice. Even better, all of the lustre washed away with the bath water so no scrubbing of the bath afterwards! Yay!

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As predicted, this is one of my favourite bath bombs and is definitely one I will be stocking up on over the Christmas period and one I will be giving to family and friends for Christmas!

Even better, this year Lush have released a Giant Golden Wonder bath bomb! It is HUGE and I will be reviewing it as part of my A Lush Christmas Part Four blog which is out tomorrow so keep your eyes peeled for that one!

Luxury Lush Pud Bath Bomb

I honestly don’t know why but this one was one of the bath bombs I was least looking forward to trying! I think that because it was so striking and brightly coloured I thought it’s exterior had given everything away and as a result the inside would be nothing short of disappointing.

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Luxury Lush Pud is bright pink with multicoloured dots around the sides and a cute little holly leaf on the top of it and it apparently shares it’s scent with the very popular Twilight bath bomb.

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This bath bomb contains lavender, tonka absolute, ylang ylang oil and benzoin resiniod which soothes skin, adds shine to hair and eases muscles. So all in all a very calming and relaxing bathing experience.

This bath bomb looks amazing in the water and produces a mass of beautiful pink, blue, yellow and green multicoloured foams.

Other Lushie’s have reported that they didn’t think this bath bomb was as moisturising as other bath bombs but I thought it was fine and my skin felt soft and smooth afterwards. It is worth using this bath bomb purely for the scent alone which is one of the most relaxing and calming scents Lush offer in my opinion.

Another one to add to the regular purchase list for sure!

Man in the Moon Bubble Bar

I love, love, love the design of this bubble bar and couldn’t wait to use it!

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Another Lushie has described this bubble bar as smelling like green jelly babies and apparently it shares it’s scent with Monsters Ball bath bomb which is one of my absolute favourite scents!

It contains lime, neroil, and oilbanum oils and cocoa butter – just cut up or crumble under running water and you’ve got a lovely buttery yellow-green coloured water to enjoy!

This is definitely one of the most moisturising bubble bars I’ve ever used and I loved the scent so much I didn’t want to get out of the bath! I used about a third of the bubble bar and this was plenty, I think you will easily get four baths worth out of one bubble bar.

So pleased I bought three of these! I think I may buy some more before the festive period is over too!

Magic of Christmas Reusable Wand

This is a strange one…. I love the idea, I love the design and I love the scents and ingredients which form this bubble bar, but I had a bit of a disaster with it!

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The bar is a bright shade of orange and contains almond oil, sweet orange oil, cinnamon leaf oil, star anise, cinnamon cloves, and a cinnamon stick as the handle – could it get more Christmassy??

Now this is the first reusable bubble bar I’ve used so I read some blogs and watched some Instagram videos to see what the best way to use it would be. Lots of Lushie’s held their Christmas wands under the running tap water and then swish them around in the bath water to create some lovely fluffy bubbles, so this is exactly what I did.

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The bubble bar releases a lovely warm orangey, cinnamon Christmassy scent but I must have done something horribly wrong because after holding it under the running water for a few seconds and then swishing it around for a couple more, the bubble bar soaked up a lot of water, became soggy and then crumbled and fell off the cinnamon stick! Not good!

I put the remainder in a pot in its crumbled state and tried to dry it out a little bit – the next time I think I will have to grab a handful and crumble it under running tap water like my other bubble bars and hope that this works!

If anyone knows what I did wrong I would love to know! On the plus side it did produce lots of lovely fluffy bubbles and soft moisturising water! If this reusable bubble bar had worked as it should have done, you should easily get three baths out of one bar.

A real shame but I will enjoy using the crumbles of product left in my pot for the next couple of baths because I do love the Christmassy smell. I’ve also bought a couple of Magic Wand’s which are the same type of product, I hope I don’t have the same issue with these as well…..

Bucks Fizz Body Conditioner

The smell of this is absolutely AMAZING!!!

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This fantastic product contains organic jojoba, Kalahari melon oils, Brazillian orange oil, lime and pink grapefruit. When in the bath or shower, put all over your body and leave for a few minutes and then wash off for beautifully soft and amazing smelling skin! It is tempting to use a lot of this product in one go but you really don’t need to – a thin layer will do the trick just fine!

I urge you to try this product for the smell alone! I’ve already bought three pots, I just hope this is enough to last me for a while! They have also brought out a shower gel with the same scent called Bubbly so I strongly recommend grabbing some of that as well while you are at it!

Snowman Shower Jelly

I must admit I am not overly fussed on shower jellies, they foam up well but are difficult to use and I find that I lose a lot of the product down the drain if bits drop off but thought I would give this a go in the spirit of all things festive!

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This little guy contains Carrageenan seaweed, Buchu, bergamot and Sicilian lemon oils. The scent is very subtle in my opinion and some Lushie say this is so that the scent reminds them of delicate snow. It is a citrusy and uplifting scent which isn’t particularly Christmassy but would be great in the shower first thing in the morning as a pick me up.

It is quite a hard shower jelly to get any lather from to start with but I rub mine into a sponge and this seems to help make up enough lather for your shower. The jelly makes your skin feel lovely and clean and soft – I really wish that this scent came in a shower gel or bath bomb form though as I would much prefer it.

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I will carry on using the snowman shower jelly but would I buy another one? Probably not in the jelly form but it would be a great stocking filler for friends and family for Christmas to add a bit of fun to their baths and showers.

Sugar Plum Fairy Lip Scrub

BEST. SMELL. EVER! Please go into your nearest Lush store and smell anything Sugar Plum Fairy scented…..it is amazing! I bought the traditional Sugar Plum Fairy lip scrub in a pot and then later Lush released their new Naked lip scrubs so I invested in one of those as well!

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The lip scrub is made up of caster sugar, sweet orange oil, and jojoba oil – perfect for scrubbing and smoothing lips and then making them soft and moisturised.

Simply slather some across your lips and give them a good rub (it is VERY abrasive!) and then let the oils do their thing! Ideal for using as part of your makeup routine before a night out and before you apply your lipstick or lip gloss.

Oh and if some of the lip scrub happens to get eaten in the process, it tastes delicious!

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I wasn’t convinced by the Naked lip scrub range when it first came out but as soon as I had tried the Black Rose Naked lip scrub I was a complete convert!

Designed to save on packaging the lip scrub in a glass jar, the naked lip scrubs come in a little bar shape. They are far easier to use and far less messy and also work far more effectively – as you are holding the one end you can adjust the pressure to however you want and either give your lips a light rub for moisture or a good hard scrub to make them soft and smooth!

Sugar Plum Fairy is definitely my favourite of the entire lip scrub range!

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Salt and Peppermint Bark Body Scrub

I was really looking forward to using this but unfortunately it annoyed me because I put it in my soap tupperware box with all my other soaps and after only a couple of hours it started melting and seeping all over my other soaps! It must melt at a much lower temperature than the others I have so be warned – all my other soaps needed to be wiped off because they were covered in green soap juice!

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Anyway, Salt and Peppermint Bark body scrub is a lovely strong smelling minty product which contains peppermint oil and cocoa butter for moisturising. It is really refreshing and leaves your skin feeling tingly fresh and really moisturised.  It basically smells like a candy cane or a mint humbug!

The peppermint is the stronger scent but there’s also a sweet vanilla like scent to it as well which takes away some of the bitterness of the peppermint. It also contains sea-salt to exfoliate the skin which leaves your skin feeling lovely and soft. It isn’t a particularly rough scrub when compared to products like Scrubee so I did find that I used a lot more than I should – in fact I cut the bar in half for my first use and used around half of this in one go, so theoretically it will only last me for four showers which I found quite disappointing, especially in view of the £6.95 price tag.

It looks lovely – bright green with red and cream chunks in, but as I said, it does feel a bit greasy and buttery. Although it did leak some moisture, in fairness it did retain its shape. The scent of the scrub is quite strong when in the shower but I was quite surprised that a scent as strong as peppermint couldn’t be detected on my skin after I stepped out of the shower, especially in view of how much I used in one go.

As it is quite pricey, especially considering how quickly I got through it on my first go, and I wasn’t particularly blown away by this product, I don’t think it is something I will be buying again I’m afraid.

Snow Fairy Cold Pressed Soap

It is the Snow Fairy scent in the form of a soap – what more can I say?? I love it! This soap is jam packed with almond oil for skin hydration and cocoa butter and extra virgin coconut oil for softening and conditioning, and has a scent of candy and bubblegum.

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This soap lathers up really well and smells fantastic. After one use I found I had hardly used any of the product at all. The soap also has a lovely bit of shimmer in which looks really effective but doesn’t leave you covered in glitter. The only downside I have found it that the scent is not as strong and doesn’t stay on your skin as long as the shower gel version but it leaves your skin feeling lovely and soft so it is definitely a soap I would invest in again!

Snow Angel Bath Melt

I was really looking forward to using this one but have to admit I was a bit worried about how much glitter was on it! It doesn’t look too bad on the top but the back is rather glittery!

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It is a really beautiful bath melt to look at – just like an angel you would find on the top of the Christmas tree. Snow Angel is comprised of cocoa butter, rose absolute, cassie absolute and gardenia extract and smells really Christmassy and just like marzipan.

Considering how much glitter Snow Angel has on it, it surprisingly isn’t that messy so don’t let the glitter put you off trying it. It is a slow and calm fizzer which releases lots of thick, white, snow-like foam.

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There are tiny little beads of cocoa butter oil in the water which eventually melt away and leave your skin feeling soft and moisturised.

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Once all the white foam has disappeared, Snow Angel releases streams of yellow gold across the water, leaving the water a lovely shade of warming yellow. The lovely smell stays with you throughout the bath but unfortunately faded quite quickly after leaving the bath. The moisturising effect however stayed with me for a long time afterwards and felt really amazing – perfect for the cold winter months when your skin needs a bit of TLC. I’m pleased I bought a couple of these and think these will be great Christmas gifts!

Christmas Citrus Soap

This soap looks amazing and is bright green with thick slivers of lime throughout! If you like citrus smelling products then this is the one for you!

Christmas Citrus is so zesty because it contains fresh lemon decoction, lime oil, bergamot oil, lemon juice and gardenia extract. It is also really moisturising because it contains organic cocoa butter, coconut oil, castor oil and rapeseed oil.

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It lathers up really well and the smell is really invigorating and uplifting. I find the smell to be very similar to Shooting Stars soap but I think I will start getting used to their different scents once I have used them both a couple more times! I do love zesty fragrances and, just the same as the Shooting Stars soap, I would definitely buy another one of these!

It is a shame that this soap is not part of the permanent range because it would be great in the summer when your skin needs some extra moisture because it has had too much sun and, although I love the scent, I don’t think there is anything particularly Christmassy about it!

Anyway, that wraps up my third batch of Lush festive products!

My last Lush Christmas blog (Part Four) is released tomorrow and then you will be pleased to know that some usual blogs will resume again after a bit of a Lush overkill!

Having said that, I’ve just gone onto the Lush website to check the ingredients in one of their soaps and ended up ordering several more exclusive Christmas items which weren’t previously released! I give up!

A Lush Christmas – Part One

I knew I would have to start working my way through the Lush Christmas range early on in order to get the reviews ready for Blogmas but I had no idea that they would have such a huge range to work through this Christmas! I started using the Christmas products in early September and almost had to use a product a day to get through them in time to publish these blogs!

Here’s my first batch from this years exciting Lush Cosmetics range –

Snow Fairy Jelly Bomb

This came out earlier in the year as part of the Lush kitchen range and I missed out on it! I was stupid enough to think I could wait a couple of days after they were released to put in an order and of course they were all sold out! I looked for some on eBay and even considered buying two for £20! I’m glad I waited in the end as I managed to get my hands on loads at the beginning of September when Lush released its Halloween and Christmas range!

I’m pretty late to the party because the Snow Fairy scent has been around for a long time and major Lushie fans loved the scent and have since moved on to newer fragrances – however I may be “soooo last season” but I don’t care! I am ADDICTED to this scent and have bought multiples of each item this scent comes in!

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The Snow Fairy jelly bomb has a lovely strong scent – it is really sweet, almost like candy floss but also has almost a “cupcake”essence to it – you really must find your nearest Lush shop and go in and sniff the nearest Snow Fairy product!

The scent from the Snow Fairy jelly bomb stays with you throughout your bath and on your skin for ages afterwards – and I could even still smell this amazing scent hours later!

Just the same as most of Lush’s jelly bombs, this one is a fast fizzer and as soon as it hits the water, large pink blobs of amazing smelling jelly start floating across the water. Although a fast fizzer, it does take a while to completely dissolve, and a further 15 to 20 minutes until all of the jelly has dissolved.

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Although it feels really strange sitting in a bath of goo, give it time as in the end you are left with lovely smelling pink moisturising water!

The Snow Fairy jelly bomb left my skin feeling really smooth and soft, and the scent is so relaxing – this is definitely my favourite jelly bomb. I ordered a couple to try them out when the Christmas range was first released and as soon as I tried the first one, I ordered six more to stock up over the next few months!

Christmas Sweater Bath Bomb

I really liked the look and name of this bath bomb which is new for 2017 – I couldn’t wait to try it! As soon as Christmas Sweater went into the water, I knew I was going to love this bath bomb! It creates some of the best bath bomb art I’ve seen so far!

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Christmas Sweater bath bomb has a red-pink outer shell and yellow core which makes the bath water a lovely red colour. It is a slow and foamy fizzer which fizzes bright red until the core cracks open and yellow foam starts spilling out.

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The red coloured bath water goes really well with the scents in this winter warmer bath bomb which include cinnamon, ginger, clove bud oil and lemon oil. It also contains mustard powder and coriander seed oil to add that little bit of a kick!

The cinnamon smell is sweet but spicy and the lemon oil gives this bath bomb a sweet and fruity tinge. It really does smell (and look!) like all things Christmassy!

This bath bomb is amazingly relaxing, and one I can’t wait to have once I get home from a long day’s work in the cold, wet and dark winter months.

I will definitely be buying several of these in the run up to Christmas to stock up!

Plum Snow Bubble Bar

I love, love, love the look of this bubble bar! It is beautiful and really good value for money as it is HUGE! By far the biggest bubble bar out of Lush’s Christmas 2017 range!

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Plum Rain has a lovely berry scent but is more of a “perfume” scent than a natural scent. Plum Rain contains Osmanthus Absolute for soothing and calming purposes, Petitgrain Oil which is refreshing and uplifting and Sicilian Mandarin oil which is one of my favourite scents.

As Plum Rain is a huge bubble bar I did use around a third of it in my bath. It creates mounds of lovely fluffy bubbles and makes the water a lovely silky violet colour.

Not only is the water incredibly moisturising but the scent was also really relaxing! I really didn’t want to get out of this bath and stayed in it as long as I could until the water started going cold!

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This one is an absolute favourite – another product I’m going to stock up on before they stop producing them when the festive season ends!

Christmas Eve Bubble Bar

I have to admit I was a bit disappointed when this bubble bar showed up. I ordered three and they were all slightly damaged (nothing to do with the packaging as everything else in the box was fine so they must just be delicate) and the bubble bar itself (when compared to the likes of Plum Snow) was incredibly small.

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It is slightly cheaper than some of the other bubble bars on offer (£3.95 compared to £5.95 for Plum Snow), but still, I expected something a bit bigger.

I’m not entirely sure why they call it Christmas Eve…. yes it smells lovely but I don’t think it smells at all Christmassy! Christmas Eve however does contain some lovely ingredients such as Jasmine Absolute, Ylang Ylang oil and Gardenia Extract.

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After chopping up my bubble bar and worrying about the size of it, I sprinkled half a bar of it under my running bath water. It does smell beautiful and the scent is really relaxing, and after a few minutes you have a bath full of lovely fluffy bubbles!

I did like the scent, which is quite a potent flowery scent, but what I found really surprising about this bubble bar was how moisturising it was! It is probably one of the most moisturising bubble bars I have ever used. I wondered afterwards whether I should have actually split the crumbled contents into three rather than two, but it was lovely to have such a luxurious bath filled with blue silky bath water. The Jasmine scent stays with you throughout the entire bath and did stay on my skin for a couple of hours afterwards too.

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Not an absolute favourite, and I think the design needs a bit of work so it isn’t so easily damaged, but I am glad I bought three and would consider buying a couple more before they stop producing them.

Santa’s Christmas Shower Cream

I was really looking forward to trying this bright red thick shower cream! It’s got coffee and cinnamon in – two of my favourite scents ever!

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Santa’s Christmas also contains lime, black pepper and aniseed oils, although I did struggle to detect these individual scents when I opened the bottle.

With all these ingredients you would expect the scent to be quite overwhelming and complex but in fact I found the scent to be incredibly mild which, when it contains a lot of my favourite scents, was rather disappointing.

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If I had to describe the smell to someone I would describe it as a cola flavour but with a hint of vanilla scent, which is surprising as it doesn’t contain vanilla! I’m thinking it may be the cocoa butter I can detect. You can also just detect the cinnamon in the scent, but again it isn’t as strong as I would have liked it to be.

I enjoyed using the shower cream and I am pleased that I stocked up on a couple – it contains cocoa butter and so left my skin feeling lovely and soft after use – I just didn’t find the smell strong enough for my liking. I couldn’t detect the coffee or aniseed scent at all when I used the shower cream which was pretty disappointing.

Be warned, as it is a cream rather than a shower gel, it doesn’t lather up as much as a shower gel or soap would, so you do find yourself using more than you would normally!

As I said, I’m pleased I bought a couple of bottles to last me, and I really do like the smell, I just hope that the recipe is altered slightly in the future to make the scent a bit stronger!

Snow Fairy Shower Gel

I couldn’t wait to try this after I fell in love with the Snow Fairy scent after using the Snow Fairy Jelly bomb! Without even trying it I stocked up on three of these to keep me going for the next few months!

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This lovely bright pink gel contains little glittery sparkles (which I didn’t realise had all sunk to the bottom so make sure you give your bottle a good shake before you use it!)

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Again it has a lovely candy-floss cross cupcake scent which is quite sickly sweet but absolutely addictive. Although it says shower gel on the bottle, Snow Fairy shower gel can be used as a shampoo as well!

This lovely gel lathers up really well and the scent gets even better once you are using it. I love the fact that the scent lasts a long time after you use it too! It leaves your skin feeling lovely and soft and the scent is really uplifting – I challenge you to use it and not feel in a relaxed and uplifted mood afterwards!

As expected, I highly, highly recommend it – go out and buy some to see for yourself!

Twilight Sparkle Bar

I wasn’t too sure what to make of these new “sparkle jars” Lush released as part of their Christmas range – I wasn’t sure what you were supposed to do with them really!

The website says to “massage this dreamily scented cocoa butter bar over warm skin for heavenly hydration. Press something pointy into the dimples and shake out the glimmering powder to help you get sleepy”.

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The Twilight Sparkle Bar contains cocoa butter, chamomile powder, lavender powder, lavender oil, tonka absolute and ylang ylang oil – all the ingredients you need to help you have a good nights sleep!

I love the smell of the Twilight bath bomb so I thought I would give it a try and did exactly what the instructions said! I massaged the bar over my skin and then poked through one of the holes in the top and sprinkled the lovely scented powder onto my skin.

The bar itself was lovely and moisturising, the cocoa butter works really well. The only downside I’ve found with it (and other Lushie’s have noticed this too) is that it does tend to leave the purple colour of the bar on your skin, so probably not best to use it before you are about to go out – unless that’s the look you are going for of course!

I only poked through one of the holes to start with as I wasn’t sure how much of the powder would come out, and I found this to be enough. The powder has a lovely calming, relaxing lavender scent and is perfect to put on just before you go to bed to help you get a good nights sleep.

A really unusual product, but a great idea! I bought a couple of these and a couple of the Snow Fairy versions (of course!), and I’m looking forward to using them over the next few months!

Christmas Rocker Soap

I bought this soap purely for the way it looked without even checking the ingredients! God I’m so easily sold on gimmicks!

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When it arrived I gave it a good sniff and to be honest I was pretty disappointed. The scent is hard to explain but isn’t citrusy at all… This really surprised me as Christmas Rocker contains dried apricots, tangerine oil, mandarin oil, bergamot oil, gardenia extract and both extra virgin coconut oil and organic cocoa butter… what an amazing sounding combination you would think? The scent almost smells chemically/like bleach which sounds bizarre, but if you pass by a Lush store, have a smell and see what you think!

In fairness it was a quite nice soap to use, the scent improved once it was used under the hot shower and my skin felt lovely and soft afterwards, but I just can’t get past the initial strange smell.

Maybe it will grow on me but until then, I don’t think I will be investing in another one…. such a shame.

Frozen Bath Bomb

Inspired by the Disney film of the same name – obviously!

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A lovely pale blue/green bath bomb, this bomb contains grapefruit oil and neroil oil which gives off a lovely floral and fruity scent.

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Frozen is a fast fizzer which spews out lovely thick white foam whilst the middle cracks open and releases a beautiful trail of blue foam with glitter, resulting in the bath water becoming a lovely shade of glistening blue, giving that frozen, “icy” effect. Despite not having much oil in this bath bomb, it leaves your skin silky smooth!

Frozen is one of my absolute favourite bath bombs, so I was gutted to find out earlier on this year that they have now discontinued it!! I have stocked up on as many as I can but they discontinued several other bath bombs which were my favourites at the same time so I had to get a big expensive order in quickly! What are you doing to me Lush???

Bye bye Frozen! Hopefully they will bring back limited edition versions in the Lush kitchen soon!

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Christingle Body Conditioner

This lovely minty smelling body lotion contains jojoba oil and murumuru butter which makes it really moisturising – so moisturising that you only need to use a tiny bit each time, so don’t be out off by the price tag of this (and other body conditioners) which are currently available.

The body conditioner contains menthol crystals and peppermint which is really stimulating on the skin, leaving a tingling sensation after you use it! The peppermint and spearmint smell is quite strong, but incredibly refreshing.

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To use the body conditioner, simply turn off the running shower water (so as to not wash it all down the plughole!) apply it and massage it into your skin and after a few minutes, wash the lotion off and gently pat your skin dry as you would normally.

You will find the body conditioner leaves your skin feeling slightly greasy for a while afterwards, so pat dry gently and then leave the conditioner to work it’s magic for about ten to fifteen minutes before you get dressed. After this time you will find your skin feeling really soft and smelling amazing!!

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I really enjoyed using this product and have already invested in some other body conditioners in different scents, but a word of warning – it is really easy to use too much product at a time, so go steady, as you really don’t need much product to get the results you want! Can’t wait to try the amazing smelling Bucks Fizz body conditioner!

Snowshowers Shower Jelly

There are several ways that you can use shower jelly –

Firstly, you can rub the whole block, or a broken-off piece, directly onto your skin. This isn’t my preference as it is very difficult to keep hold of the slippery sucker, plus I don’t fancy rubbing it onto my skin and then popping it back into the pot (bacteria etc!).

Secondly, you break off a piece around the size of a ten pence piece and then rub it into your sponge to lather up before rubbing it into your skin. I tried it with one of those shower scrub things and it didn’t work too well so a sponge may be better!

Some Lushies get the block out of its pot and cut it into bite sized chunks and then store it back in the pot so it is ready to go when they next need it! The other thing I love about shower jelly is that you can keep it in the fridge or freezer, ideal for using in the showers on those hot sticky summer days!

Snow Showers shower jelly is a milky white jelly scented with oranges and cognac! Ideal for those Christmas months! It has a really lovely citrusy zesty scent and its ingredients are orange oil, cognac oil and lime oil, along with elderflower and seaweed gel!

The smell reminds me of Calpol medicine, but don’t let this put you off – it smells AMAZING!

It lathers up quite well and the jelly version of Lush’s shower gels seem to go a lot further than their liquids. The downside to shower jellies? They are difficult to keep hold of, whatever size you use which unfortunately can result in a lot of the product being washed down the plughole! Not good!

Ice Hotel Bubble bar

Ice Hotel is inspired by the famous ice sculpted hotel in Sweden and was re-released earlier this year as part of the Game of Thrones themed product week.

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Ice Hotel contains lavender and mint, although I have to admit, I couldn’t detect the lavender when I was using it. Still, the scent of this bubble bar is incredibly uplifting and refreshing, due to the dominant minty scent.


The bar is a lovely white shimmery bar which is easy to cut up and crumble so you can use as much or as little as you like, I used a handful for my bath and would estimate that there’s probably two baths’ worth remaining. The handful I used created a huge amount of beautiful white fluffy bubbles which lasted for the duration of the bath, but don’t expect a colourful explosion – white bubbles is all you are going to get!

The water is really softening and I found that the effects were long lasting after I had got out of the bathtub and my skin felt really refreshed and cooled, in a similar way to the Christingle scent. Hubby loves this one!

So there you have it, my first of four blogs about Lush’s Christmas 2017 range! If you have enjoyed it – Part Two is out tomorrow!

Icebar London

I’ve actually been to two Ice bars in London and had a really great time in both! The first one I went to was in Heddon Street, Mayfair and the second one was in Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park – they are most definitely an experience which gets you into the winter spirit!

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The Icebar temperature is -5 degrees celsius and everything inside is made out of crystal clear ice harvested from the frozen Torne River in Jukkasjärvi, Northern Sweden!

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You spend time in the Icebar in 40 minute time slots (believe me, people struggle to stay in here this long!) and you are given a thermal cape with a hood and gloves to wear to keep you toasty!

Once a year the bar is transformed with a new design and layout by a team of ice designers and sculptors!

During your visit you also get a cocktail as part of the entrance fee and it is even served in an ice glass for you! Click here for the latest cocktail list but be warned – they are strong! Helps keep you warm in the cold I suppose!

It’s cheaper if you pre-book online (£13.50 with your first cocktail for an off peak time) and cocktail refills start at £6.50 after that. Family days and times are also available which is a great idea.

The boys gave up after around 30 minutes but my sister and I managed the whole 40 minutes and were the last ones standing! Girl power!

Hyde Park Bar Ice

This one, believe it or not, is even colder at -10 degrees celsius! A complimentary drink is also included in the ticket price for Bar Ice, and as Bar Ice is part of Hyde Parks Winter Wonderland, the drinks are usually very festive flavoured!, and again come in a lovely ice glass.

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Again you are provided with a winter cloak and gloves on arrival, however you are allocated a 20 minute session here and not 40 like at the Heddon Street Icebar. We didn’t even manage the whole 20 minutes in this one – it was VERY cold! Also found it was much darker in Bar Ice than Icebar, which made it difficult to take decent photos which was a shame.

Ticket prices here are similar – £14 off peak to £16 peak time (but of course you are only getting half the time – Christmas inflated prices eh??) and I would definitely pre-book before you go – it gets very busy!!

A very novel experience but definitely worth giving a go – the sculptures, tables, chairs and bar are all made of ice and are very fascinating to look it – if this doesn’t get you into the winter spirit then nothing will!!

CocoChlo’s Christmas Coffees!

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As a coffee and hot chocolate lover, Christmas time is made even more special by some of the amazing limited edition flavours that the coffee shops create every year!

I have to admit I spend a fortune on coffee’s and hot chocolates this time of year and I would think that as much as 75% of my Christmas weight gain can be attributed to the ridiculous amounts of these drinks that I consume over the holiday season!

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After sampling several different flavours over the years, here are my top nine (so far!)

9. Costa’s Salted Caramel Cappuccino

A frothy cappuccino with a dash of salted caramel syrup, topped with shimmery salted caramel fudge crumb, yum!

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8. Costa’s Gingerbread Latte

A lovely  latte with a dash of gingerbread syrup topped with freshly whipped cream, gold stars and a little Gingerbread Man.

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7. Costa’s Chocolate Orange Hot Chocolate

This is an old photo – I learned the bad news at the beginning of November that Costa wouldn’t be bringing the Orange Hot Chocolate back this year!!! Shame on you Costa! They also stopped doing the Amaretti Latte this year! Double shame on you Costa!

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6. Costa’s Black Forest Hot Chocolate

Costa Hot Chocolate with a dash of Black Forest syrup, topped with freshly whipped cream, cherry sauce and a chocolate sprinkles!

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5. Starbuck’s Fudge Hot Chocolate

Creamy milk hot chocolate with fudge flavouring! The usual style is served with a fudge flavour whipped cream and sprinkled with golden curls but I do prefer plain whipped cream with mine or I find the fudge flavour just a bit overwhelming! I’ve also had it with a waffle sprinkling which I think normally goes on the top of the Toffee Nut latte.

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4. Costa’s Billionaire’s Latte

This one is new for 2017 and although I was disappointed that Costa had stopped making the Orange Hot Chocolate and Amaretti Latte, this one quickly became one of my favourites! Chocolate sauce followed by caramel sauce with a latte on top with whipped cream and a shortbread crumb sprinkled on top! Delicious! They only seem to make them in medium sizes though……

3. Costa’s Honeycomb Latte

A smooth and creamy latte with a dash of honeycomb syrup topped with freshly whipped cream and pieces of chocolate coated honeycomb.

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2. Costa’s Toasted Marshmallow Hot Chocolate

They also don’t appear to have my favourite hot chocolate on the festive menu at Costa this year!!! Argh!! This one was hot Chocolate with a dash of toasted marshmallow syrup topped with freshly whipped cream and glittery mini marshmallows. Please bring it back Costa!!!

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1. Starbucks Eggnog Latte!

My absolute favourite!!! I adore this drink!! Real eggnog, mixed with a bit of milk, espresso, and topped with nutmeg on top. AMAZING!

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Longleat at Christmas

If you are looking for somewhere to go during the festive season which includes animals, a beautiful country house and all the Christmas trimmings, then Longleat Safari is a must visit!

We took my sister along as a surprise for her Birthday and we weren’t disappointed!

The animals

Luckily we visited on a beautiful Winters day – even the sun came out – so all the animals were out and about for all to see!

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You can bypass the Monkey section if you want to avoid any damage to your car! We decided we would take the risk on this occasion and are really glad we did – check out these cute little guys-

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Isn’t he adorable!?

Look how close this gorgeous lion came to the car! Absolutely beautiful!

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Activities

After visiting the huge array of animals at Longleat, there’s plenty of other activities to keep you busy! Ice skating is available and costs £7.50 for an adult ticket – it’s probably best to pre-book these tickets online to avoid disappointment though!

If you aren’t an ice skater then try visiting some of the lovely little winter huts surrounding the ice skating rink – they sell lovely winter beverages including mulled cider, mulled wine, hot chocolate and soup!

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The sister and brother in law enjoyed their ice skating session!

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The House

Once you’ve explored everywhere outside it’s time to take a look inside the beautiful house, which has been decorated in a wonderful festive theme throughout each and every room! Christmas trees, lights and decorations everywhere – a Christmas lovers dream!

Throughout the house you will also find live actors dressed as your favourite pantomime characters! I won’t spoil the surprise by posting pictures but they definitely ensure you have a great time whilst exploring!

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The Christmas Tree

Whilst you are visiting you must pay a visit to the famous Longleat Enchanted Christmas tree!

The unique, giant 50ft Singing Christmas Tree, which has over 300,000 individual lights and is the only one of its kind in the Europe, forms the centrepiece of Christmas celebrations in the Stable Yard.

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Once it gets dark the multi coloured light combinations are amazing!

There’s also the Santa Train which is ready and waiting to whisk you and the little ones off to meet Father Christmas and his elves in their wintry woodland home!

New at Longleat Safari Park over the past couple of years is the Festival of Lights, where stunning Chinese Lanterns light up the safari park.

A highly recommended day out for all the family, and just the thing to get you in the Christmas spirit!

You can pre-book your tickets for Longleat online here.

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).