CocoChlo in Paris

Ooh la la!

What a beautiful place Paris is! So much to see and do and so much history! And so much style – I really don’t think there’s such a thing as being overdressed in a place like Paris!

I only spent a couple of days here but this is what I managed to fit in during my short visit:

Place de la Concorde

The Place de la Concorde is one of the major public squares in Paris and measuring 21.3 acres in area, it is the largest square in the French capital. Features of the Place include two identical stone buildings, separated by the Rue Royale. The eastern one houses the French Naval Ministry, and the western one is the Hôtel de Crillon. At each of the eight angles of the octagonal Place is a statue representing a French city:

  • Brest and Rouen by Jean-Pierre Cortot
  • Lyon and Marseille by Pierre Petitot
  • Bordeaux and Nantes by Louis-Denis Caillouette
  • Lille and Strasbourg by James Pradier

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Luxor Obelisk

The centre of the Place is occupied by a giant Egyptian obelisk decorated with hieroglyphics exalting the reign of the pharaoh Ramesses II. The obelisk once marked the entrance to the Luxor Temple and is over 3000 years old! It is one of two the Egyptian government gave to the French in the 19th century – the other one stayed in Egypt, too difficult and heavy to move to France with the technology at that time. It arrived in Paris on 21 December 1833 and three years later, on 25 October 1836, King Louis Philippe had it placed in the centre of Place de la Concorde. In the 1990s, President François Mitterrand gave the second obelisk back to the Egyptians.

The obelisk, a yellow granite column, rises 23 metres high, including the base, and weighs over 250 tons! Given the technical limitations of the day, transporting it was no straight forward task and on the pedestal are diagrams explaining the machinery that was used as part of the transportation. Missing its original cap, believed stolen in the 6th century BC, the government of France added a gold-leafed pyramid cap to the top of the obelisk in 1998.

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Champs-Élysées

The Avenue des Champs-Élysées is an avenue in the 8th arrondissement of Paris, 1.2 miles long and 70 metres wide, running between the Place de la Concorde and the Place Charles de Gaulle, where the Arc de Triomphe is located. It is known for its theatres, cafés, and luxury shops, for the annual Bastille Day military parade, and as the finish of the Tour de France cycle race.

Palais Garnier

The Palais Garnier is a 1,979-seat opera house, which was built from 1861 to 1875 for the Paris Opera. It was called the Salle des Capucines, because of its location on the Boulevard des Capucines in the 9th arrondissement of Paris, but soon became known as the Palais Garnier, in recognition of its opulence and its architect, Charles Garnier. The Paris Opera now mainly uses the Palais Garnier for ballet.

The Palais Garnier has been called “probably the most famous opera house in the world – partly due to its use as the setting for Gaston Leroux’s 1910 novel The Phantom of the Opera and, especially, the novel’s subsequent adaptations in films and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s popular 1986 musical.

The beautiful building includes very elaborate multicolored marble friezes, columns, and statues, many of which portray deities of Greek mythology.

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The two gilded figures on the apexes of the principal façade are Charles Gumery’s L’Harmonie (Harmony) and La Poésie (Poetry). They are both made of gilt copper electrotype. Bronze busts of many of the great composers are located between the columns of the theatre’s front façade and include Beethoven, Mozart and Spontini. 

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The Ritz Hotel

The Hôtel Ritz is ranked among the most luxurious hotels in the world and is a member of “The Leading Hotels of the World”. The Ritz reopened on 6 June 2016 after a major four-year, multimillion-dollar renovation.

The hotel was founded by the Swiss hotelier, César Ritz, in collaboration with the chef Auguste Escoffier in 1898. The new hotel was constructed behind the façade of an 18th-century town house, overlooking one of Paris’s central squares. It quickly established a reputation for luxury, with clients including royalty, politicians, writers, film stars and singers. Several of its suites are named in honour of famous guests of the hotel, including Coco Chanel and Ernest Hemingway who lived at the hotel for years.

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Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel

The Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel is a triumphal arch located in the Place du Carrousel. It was built between 1806 and 1808 to commemorate Napoleon’s military victories of the previous year. 

The monument is 19 metres high, 23 metres wide, and 7.3 metres deep. The 6.4 metre high central arch is flanked by two smaller ones, 4.3 metres high, and 2.7 metres wide. Around its exterior are eight columns of marble, topped by eight soldiers of the Empire.

The chariot atop the arch is a copy of the so-called Horses of Saint Mark that adorn the top of the main door of the St Mark’s Basilica in Venice.

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Notre Dame

Notre-Dame is a medieval Catholic cathedral and is widely considered to be one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture, and it is among the largest and most well-known church buildings in the world.  The cathedral treasury contains a shrine, which houses some of Catholicism’s most important relics, including the purported Crown of Thorns, a fragment of the True Cross, and one of the Holy Nails.

Read more about Notre Dame here.

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The Eiffel Tower and Parc Du Champs De Mars

The Eiffel Tower is named after the engineer Gustave Eiffel, whose company designed and built the tower. Constructed from 1887–89 as the entrance to the 1889 World’s Fair, it was initially criticised by some of France’s leading artists and intellectuals for its design, but it has become one of the most recognisable structures in the world. The Eiffel Tower is the most-visited paid monument in the world; 6.91 million people visited it in 2015.

The tower is 324 metres tall, about the same height as an 81-storey building, and is the tallest structure in Paris. During its construction, the Eiffel Tower surpassed the Washington Monument to become the tallest man-made structure in the world, a title it held for 41 years until the Chrysler Building in New York City was finished in 1930.

The tower has three levels for visitors, with restaurants on the first and second levels. The top level’s upper platform is 276 metres above the ground – the highest observation deck in the European Union. The climb from ground level to the first level is over 300 steps, as is the climb from the first level to the second!!

The Champ de Mars is a large public space between the Eiffel Tower to the northwest and the École Militaire to the southeast. The park is named after the Campus Martius (“Mars Field”) in Rome, a tribute to the Latin name of the Roman God of war. The lawns here were formerly used as drilling and marching grounds by the French military.

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Les Invalides 

Les Invalides is a complex of buildings containing museums and monuments, all relating to the military history of France, as well as a hospital and a retirement home for war veterans, the building’s original purpose. The buildings house the military museum of the Army of France, the Musée des Plans-Reliefs, and the Musée d’Histoire Contemporaine, as well as the Dôme des Invalides, a large church with the burial site for some of France’s war heroes, most notably Napoleon Bonaparte.

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Grand Palais

The Grand Palais des Champs-Élysées, commonly known as the Grand Palais is a large historic site, exhibition hall and museum complex located at the Champs-Élysées. Construction of the Grand Palais began in 1897 following the demolition of the Palais de l’Industrie (Palace of Industry) as part of the preparation works for the Universal Exposition of 1900, which also included the creation of the adjacent Petit Palais and Pont Alexandre III.

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Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile

The Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile is one of the most famous monuments in Paris, and is at the western end of the Champs-Élysées. The Arc de Triomphe has an overall height of 50 metres, width of 45 metres, and depth of 22 metres. It honours those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, with the names of all French victories and generals inscribed on its surfaces. Beneath its vault lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I.

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The Louvre

I had no idea just how huge the Louvre was! The Louvre is actually the world’s largest museum and is a central landmark of the city.  Approximately 38,000 objects from prehistory to the 21st century are exhibited over an area of 72,735 square metres. The Louvre is the world’s second most visited museum, receiving 7.4 million visitors in 2016. We had planned to visit the Louvre but just did not have enough time to explore such a huge place! I was disappointed we didn’t get the chance to see the infamous Mona Lisa painting though!

The museum opened on 10 August 1793 with an exhibition of 537 paintings, the majority of the works being royal and confiscated church property.  The collection was further increased during the reigns of Louis XVIII and Charles X, and during the Second French Empire the museum gained 20,000 pieces. The collection is divided among eight departments: Egyptian Antiquities; Near Eastern Antiquities; Greek, Etruscan and Roman Antiquities; Islamic Art; Sculpture; Decorative Arts; Paintings; Prints and Drawings.

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Inside the Louvre, find some world famous artifacts including:

Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa – arguably the most famous painting in the world, due in large part to when she was stolen in 1911.

Great Sphinx of Tanis (Old Kingdom, 2600 BC, Old Kingdom) inscribed with the names of the pharaohs Ammenemes II, Merneptah & Shoshenq. Excavated in 1825 among the ruins of the Temple of Amun at Tanis, it’s one of the largest sphinxes outside of Egypt.

Venus de Milo (100 BC, Cyclades, Greece) Art Historians believe she’s a 100 BC replica, however she does have typical 5th Century BC details.

Winged Victory of Samothrace (190 BC, Ancient Greece) Her Hellenistic form merits her place as one of the Louvre’s top three most important pieces. During WWII she was evacuated with the Mona Lisa, Michelangelo’s Slaves and Venus de Milo to Château de Valençay.

Luxembourg Palace and Gardens

The Luxembourg Palace was originally built (1615–1645) to the designs of the French architect Salomon de Brosse to be the royal residence of the regent Marie de’ Medici, mother of Louis XIII of France. After the Revolution it was refashioned (1799–1805) by Jean Chalgrin into a legislative building and subsequently greatly enlarged and remodeled (1835–1856) by Alphonse de Gisors. 

On the south side of the palace, the formal Luxembourg Garden presents a 25-hectare area of gravel and lawn adorned with statues and large basins of water where children sail model boats.

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Sacré-Cœur and Bell Tower

The Basilica of the Sacred Heart is a Roman Catholic church and minor basilica, dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The Sacré-Cœur Basilica was designed by Paul Abadie. Construction began in 1875 and was finished in 1914. It was consecrated after the end of World War I in 1919.

A mosaic in the apse, entitled Christ in Majesty, created by Luc-Olivier Merson, is among the largest in the world. It is absolutely stunning but unfortunately the use of cameras and video recorders is forbidden inside the Basilica.

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Cruise along the Seine

I was a bit unsure about going along to our pre-booked trip on a boat along the Seine because the weather had been so unpredictable all day but I am so pleased we went in the end. All the buildings you travel alongside are lit up beautifully and stunning views of the Eiffel Tower make this a fantastic photo opportunity!

There are several places online you can pre-book tickets for your river cruise, including Seine Cruises and good old Viator.

 

 

A fantastic trip to a beautiful place! Paris is a centre for art, fashion, gastronomy and culture – what more can you ask for in a destination??

In Love with Lush – the Valentine’s Day collection

Hey my little love bugs! I hope you’ve all got something nice planned for Valentine’s Day? We don’t tend to do much ourselves, especially when it lands on a Wednesday like it has done this year, but I do like to make a nice meal and decorate the dining room table for the occasion!

Anyway, if like me you are still wading through all the remaining Christmas chocolates and sweets and biscuits, and fancy something a bit different, then the Valentine’s Day Lush collection might include something you fancy! Here are the products the 2018 collection is made up of:

Rose Bombshell Bath Bomb

I have actually already reviewed the Rose bombshell bath bomb as part of my regular Lush blogs but it is a brilliant Valentine’s Day bath bomb so I bought another one to treat myself! Plus I wanted to use the regular sized bath bomb to compare it to the GIANT rose bombshell bath bomb Lush have produced as part of their Valentine’s Day range!

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It has a very potent flower smell – a sweet rose fragrance coupled with geranium and a slight lemony citrus aroma. I didn’t particularly enjoy this bath bomb the first time round, but this scent seems to be much more delicate, and no where near as overpowering – I wonder if Lush have adjusted the recipe for it, or whether I just had a really strong scented one the first time round? Either way, I enjoyed the rose bombshell far more this time around!

It is a fast fizzer (gone in only a few seconds!) and before you know it you have a lovely pink coloured rose scented bath water to relax in.

When the bomb is almost dissolved the centre opens up and spills out a handful of yellow rose petals, which is really lovely. As well as rose absolute, rose bombshell contains rose oil, sicilian lemon oil and geranium oil, which make it a very moisturising bath experience.

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I’m really pleased I gave this bath bomb another try and am especially looking forward to trying the giant version now!

Unicorn Horn

I bought a whole batch of unicorn horns the last time they were available from the Lush kitchen but they have had a makeover for the Valentine’s Collection!

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I used half of the Unicorn Horn in one go so this bubble bar will easily get you two baths worth. It looks amazing when you are chopping it up and when it is sprinkled under running bath water it creates beautiful bath art and mounds of lovely soft and fluffy bubbles!

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The water is really soft and silky and incredibly moisturising due to the lovely oils Unicorn Horn contains – lavender, Ylang Ylang and Neroli. The smell of the bubble bar is predominately lavender but it is by no means overpowering and is incredibly relaxing. I don’t know whether Lush have changed the recipe but I’m sure I don’t remember my other Unicorn Horns smelling so much of lavender? I will have to dig out my bubble bar pots from the spare room and double check!

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Anyway, I much prefer the look of the latest version and will always stock up on Unicorn Horns when they are released for a limited time so I’ll definitely be stocking up on a few on these to tie me over for a while!

Tisty Totsy Bath Bomb

I think Tisty Totsy was part of the regular Lush range but was discontinued. The original version was white, and now Lush have reinvented it and released it for a limited time as part of the Valentine’s Day range.

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Tisty Totsy contains seven rosebuds as part of its decoration, and once the bath bomb has dissolved, the little rose buds float along the top of the water.

Tisty Totsy is similar in ingredients to the rose bombshell bath bomb in that it also contains rose absolute, geranium oil and lemon oil but with an added extra ingredient of jasmine absolute.

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Tisty Totsy is a fast fizzer and soon the bath water is a lovely pink colour which smells of roses! I’m not a huge fan of rose scented products but this was really lovely and perfect for a Valentine’s Day evening bath! If you want to prepare the bathroom for your loved one to come home to on Valentine’s Day, then this is the bath bomb for that occasion!

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The Kiss Lip Scrub

For all this time I thought that the Sugar Plum Fairy lip scrub scent was my favourite but oh my god, this is now my absolute favourite! These tubs of lip scrub last for ages but I am still going to go and buy two more when I next pop into my local Lush store, this lip scrub smells incredible and tastes even better when you are scrubbing your lips with it!

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It is almost a fizzy sensation and contains both sugar and salt, a combination I really like but one which hasn’t been so well received by other Lushies! Thrown in with the fine sea salt and caster sugar is safflower oil, fair-trade organic cocoa butter, sicilian mandarin oil and almond essential oil to leave your lips soft and smooth and beautifully moisturised. As an added extra there are tiny little red edible hearts in the scrub as well! They look really cute but can be quite annoying when you are sat at work with random little red hearts scattered all across your chops! I thought people were looking at me strange!

I’ve done a couple of Valentine’s gift bags for my friends this year so I put a pot of The Kiss lip scrub in there for them! I hope they love it as much as I do!

Kiss Me Quick Wash Card

I wasn’t too sure what to make of these Wash Cards that Lush produce? I’ve seen some others for the range but have never really felt compelled to try them. As I was buying at least one of all the other products from the range I thought I would give it a go!

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I wasn’t too sure what to make of these Wash Cards that Lush produce? I’ve seen some others for the range but have never really felt compelled to try them. As I was buying at least one of all the other products from the range I thought I would give it a go!

I like the smell of Kiss Me Quick – it contains fresh apple pulp, clove bud absolute, mimosa absolute and tonka absolute. Basically when you are in the shower or bath you rub the card over your skin until it produces a lovely smelling lather. Although I liked the scent, I wasn’t overly keen on the sensation of using the Kiss Me Quick wash card, it felt like I was rubbing an old piece of thin leather across my skin!

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I used it sparingly as I got the impression the design of the product meant it wasn’t designed to last for several uses and, as expected, after only using it briefly, it started to fall apart and turn to mush! In the end I squashed the left over mush into my sponge and lathered it up with water but still, even for a one time use product, I don’t think I got much out of it!

It’s a good novel idea, and something which can be snuck into a Valentine’s Day card which is a nice touch but would I buy Kiss Me Quick or another style of wash card again? Probably not I’m afraid…..

Love Boat Bath Bomb

This was the one item I was really excited to try! What a brilliant idea! As I already love the Rocket Science and Yellow submarine bath bombs, I knew that Love Boat was not going to disappoint!

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The top of Love Boat is pink and blue with a lovely pink heart on the front and the underneath is bright yellow with lots of tiny little red hearts which are released when the bath bomb dissolves and float around in the bath water.

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Love Boat produces lovely thick colourful foam and this results in some of the most amazing bath art I’ve ever seen from a bath bomb!

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My little boat took a bit of a nose dive but luckily this meant the little heart on the front detached from the boat and floated around the top of the water which looked lovely!

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Love Boat has an amazing scent and contains sicilian lemon oil, organic sweet orange oil, and rose oil which is a lovely combination. The scent isn’t incredibly strong but is very relaxing and leaves your skin feeling lovely and soft – this is a definite favourite of mine! I’ve since bought three more but would really like Lush to make this part of their permanent range!

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I’ve also popped a couple of these in my friends Valentine’s goody bags as I am sure they will love them!

Whole Lotta Love Bubbleroon

I love the design of this bubble bar but it is rather small…. I can’t see that you would get any more than two baths out of it, so I cut it in half and chopped it up and then sprinkled it under hot running water.

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The bubbleroon makes a huge amount of bubbles and the water is really softening, the middle is very glittery but the glitter is really subtle when it is in the bath water. the water soon turns a lovely light pink colour and you are surrounded by lovely fluffy bubbles!!

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Whole Lotta Love contains bergamot oil, jasmine absolute, lemongrass oil, rose absolute, ylang ylang absolute and gardenia extract. Due to the amount of other products from the range which contain rose scents, I was worried this one would be overpowering but the rose scent is very delicate, and compliments the bergamot and jasmine really well. It is a flowery scent but is also very refreshing and uplifting.

It leaves your skin feeling really soft and moisturised because it contains fair-trade organic cocoa butter, murumuru butter and organic shea butter! Lovely.

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Not an absolute favourite but would definitely buy again and I think it would make a lovely Valentine’s Day present for those people who aren’t too fussed on chocolates and a bunch of flowers!

Heart of Enlightened Expectation Bubble Bar Melt

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I messed up using this product for the first time because I completely misunderstood what type of a product it was! I looked at the word “melt” and basically sat it in the bath water and watched it floating about doing absolutely nothing! It was then I realised it is a hybrid product and is a bubble bar melt! So I fished him out of the water and crumbled it under the running water. I didn’t get too many bubbles out of it because the bath was already full when I realised and started crumbling it and swishing it about! You can’t win them all as they say!

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Anyway, once I had crumbled it all into the bath, the water turned a lovely bright orange colour. Looking at the colour I was really surprised that it didn’t have an orange scent! It is in fact a delicate flower scent due to it containing geranium oil, bergamot oil, jasmine absolute, and rose absolute! I was really surprised when I read the ingredients because I am not a flowery scent fan, but I really loved this scent, probably because it was so delicate and subtle. This was one of the scents where I don’t want to get out of the bath because it feels like such a waste washing it all down the plughole never to be seen again, so I end up leaving the water in the bath long after I get out so the bathroom smells nice for hours afterwards!

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This was also a moisturising bubble bar melt (but not so much so that you can’t wash your hair in the bath water for fear of making your hair really greasy) due to the fair trade organic cocoa butter and the ylang ylang oil it contains.

I wasn’t too bothered about the look or scent of this product but it is definitely one I would buy again, but I’ll try and use it for the purpose it was intended next time!

Melt My Heart Massage Bar

I’m still not completely sold on massage bars, not because of the type of product that they are but basically because I hate moisturising full stop! Whether it’s moisturising creams, gels, sprays, butters or these types of solid bars, moisturising really is just my least favourite thing!

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The Melt my Heart massage bar is a good sized bar and every time I look at it I think to myself how much it looks like a bar of white chocolate!

I was a bit undecided about the scent of the massage bar but it is definitely a scent which has grown on me and smells far better once it is rubbed into your skin. Melt my Heart is made up of fair-trade organic cocoa butter, fair trade shea butter, safflower oil, dried rose petals, orris root powder, cypress oil, orange flower absolute and violet leaf absolute, so has quite an unusual combination of ingredients! I thought the overall scent was quite creamy (from the cocoa butter) as opposed to all the floral scents it contained, and to be honest I even kept forgetting the little red pieces in the bar were rose petals!

I used it quite a lot the first time so I could figure out what i really thought of the smell – it did grow on me when I started using it and the scent lasted a long time however I did find that after just one use I had worked my way through quite a bit of the product. I will carry on using it, but can’t see that it is going to last that long with regular use!

Cherryish Body Scrub

I’ve come across a lot of Lushies on Instagram who have said they aren’t keen on the smell of Cherryish, but I think it’s amazing! I used this body scrub once and I decided then and there that I was going to buy a couple more the next time I popped into Lush! So that is exactly what I did!

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Cherryish is made up of some amazing ingredients – for exfoliation it contains fine sea salt, ground cherry stones and dried cherries (hence the name) and for moisturising it contains fair trade organic cocoa butter, murumuru butter, organic illipe butter, fair trade shea butter, almond essential oil and extra virgin coconut oil!

It also contains vegan white chocolate, cocoa absolute and fresh apple pulp! Wow!

This scrub is amazing, it is quite abrasive so really does the trick but is also incredibly nourishing on the skin due to all the wonderful oils it contains. I loved using this product so I think I will end up using it really quickly, it’s definitely my favourite body scrub so far!

Tunnel of Love Soap

I love, love, love the smell of this soap! I bought four more and put one in my Sister’s and friends Valentine’s gift bags, I hope they love the scent as much as I do!

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Tunnel of Love is made with rose water, sweet wild orange oil and lime oil. I have to say I can barely detect the scent of rose water, but can definitely detect the lovely zesty smell of orange and lime. The soap produces lovely thick creamy bubbles which make your skin feel nice and soft and moisturised, the only down side with this soap is because I love the scent so much I used and used and re-used it loads of times throughout one shower, so I’d imagine I am going to get through each soap really, really quickly!

To keep your skin soft, Tunnel of Love also contains fair trade organic cocoa butter and extra virgin coconut oil – I seriously urge you to go and smell this in your local Lush store before they stop selling them – I wish they made this scent part of the permanent range. It is definitely one of my favourite scents so far and makes a perfect Valentine’s Day scent – delicate but refreshing and uplifting.

Tender is the Night Naked Shower Cream

I am still not completely sold by these Naked products. Don’t get me wrong I think they are a great idea to reduce on packaging and help reduce damage to the environment but I’m just not convinced they are all they are cracked up to be. I’ve written a separate blog on all the Naked products I’ve used so far which will be published in the next couple of weeks so I’ll leave it until then to go into any further detail….

Anyway, regardless of whether or not this product was a Naked product, I just can’t get used to it’s unusual smell! I don’t hate it, but there’s an ingredient in this scent which I’m just not keen on and I can’t quite figure out which one it is! It is really hard to explain but  it is almost like a musky smell…..

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Although relatively small in size, Naked shower gels are double the concentrate of the liquid shower gels they should theoretically last for twice as long. A bit disappointing as I’m not a fan of this scent but still, they look ever so pretty in the bathroom!

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Tender is the Night does lather up really well – I use a sponge to produce lots of fluffy soft bubbles – and does leave your skin feeling really soft. I didn’t feel like this scent was as concentrated as some of the other Naked products and didn’t find the smell to become much stronger when I was using it which I thought was pretty unusual.

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Tender is the Night contains Jasmine flower infusion, ylang ylang flower infusion, murumuru butter, fair trade shea butter, jasmine absolute, ylang ylang oil, vanilla absolute – all ingredients which I love the scent of individually, so this is why I am just not sure why I don’t like the combination of them!

The butters in the shower gel leave your skin feeling lovely and soft and moisturised, but this isn’t a scent I would buy again, in any other kind of product. I’d be interested to know what any of you guys thought if you have smelled this scent or tried this product…..

Giant Rose Bombshell Bath Bomb

I couldn’t wait to try this!! A MASSIVE version of the rose bomb shell bath bomb! In the past I have bought the giant Golden Wonder and the giant Dragons egg bath bomb called Mother of Dragons and I am really loving the giant versions of these great products! Yes they are expensive (£14.95 for the giant rose bombshell bath bomb), but they create the most luxurious bath you will ever have!

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Exactly the same as the smaller versions but on a much larger scale, this huge bath bomb fizzes away quite violently and spews out mounds of lovely yellow rose petals. Soon your bath water is a beautiful pink colour filled with petals floating around the surface. This is the perfect Valentine’s Day bath product! It doesn’t get much better than this!

The water is so soft and silky and the rose, lemon and germanium oil leave your skin feeling incredibly moisturised. I bought another one after using this one, I think I will save it until my Birthday next month! I wish the giant bath bombs were part of the permanent Lush range!

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So there you have it! The Lush cosmetics Valentine’s Day range! I hope you’ve all had a lovely romantic and special Valentine’s Day with your loved ones!

Valentine’s Day treats!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hotel Chocolat Salted caramel hearts – £3.50 – delicious!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A short trip to Venice

As I am writing this Venice blog and uploading my photos from a while back (Venice was one of the first places I ever travelled to!) I am thinking I will need to go back as soon as possible as I went when I had a really rubbish cheap camera which explains the really poor quality photos!! Sorry!!

I only spent a very short while in Venice, it was really just a whistle stop tour as part of our grand tour of Italy. One thing I will say about Venice and that is it must be seen to be believed! It really is unlike anywhere else in the World!

Whilst I was there, as well as consuming ridiculous amounts of amazingly tasty gelato, I also managed to have a snoop at the following:

St Marks Square

Otherwise known as Piazza San Marco, St Marks Square is the main public square of Venice. At the eastern end of the square is the great St Mark’s Basilica.

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St Mark’s Basilica

From the 11th century onwards the building has been known by the nickname Chiesa d’Oro (Church of gold) due to its grand design and gold mosaics.

The interior is based on a Greek cross, with each arm divided into three naves with a dome of its own as well as the main dome. The marble floor is entirely designed in geometric patterns and animal designs. The lower part of the walls and pillars is covered with marble slabs. In typical Italian style it is very ornate!

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St Mark’s Campanile 

St Mark’s Campanile is the bell tower of St Mark’s Basilica and it is one of the most recognisable symbols of the city.

The tower is 98 metres tall, and stands alone in a corner of St Mark’s Square, near the front of the basilica. It is 12 metres wide on each side and 50 metres tall, above which is an open room surrounding the belfry, which houses five bells. The tower is capped by a spire, where on top sits a golden weathervane in the form of the archangel Gabriel.

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The Clock Tower 

The Clock Tower was completed in 1499, above a high archway where the street known as the Merceria leads through shopping streets to the Rialto, (the commercial and financial centre). 

The Clock Tower is an early Renaissance building and although both the tower and the clock date from the very end of the 15th century, the mechanism of the clock has been much altered since then. The lower two floors of the tower make a monumental archway into the main street of the city.

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Doge’s Palace

The Doge’s Palace is a palace built in Venetian Gothic style, and is one of the main landmarks of Venice. The palace was the residence of the Doge of Venice. Today, it is one of the 11 museums run by the Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia.

Doge’s Palace has a LOT of history! Too much to detail in a blog – you can read more about it here.

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Bridge of Sighs

The Bridge of Sighs is made of white limestone, has windows with stone bars, and passes over the Rio di Palazzo. It connects the New Prison to the interrogation rooms in the Doge’s Palace.

The view from the Bridge of Sighs was the last view of Venice that convicts saw before their imprisonment. The bridge’s name comes from the suggestion that prisoners would sigh at their final view of beautiful Venice through the window before being taken down to their cells.

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Rialto Bridge

The Rialto Bridge is one of four bridges which span the Grand Canal. It is the oldest bridge across the canal, and was the dividing line for the districts of San Marco and San Polo.

The present stone bridge was finally completed in 1591 and is similar to the wooden bridge there before it.  The bridge has defied critics to become one of the architectural icons of Venice.

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Gondolas

You can’t visit Venice without going on a Gondola ride! It’s the best way to admire the city and get an up close look at some of the beautiful architecture! Plus it is fascinating to watch the guys steering the gondolas along the winding streets and under some VERY low bridges! It’s truly an art!

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Venice is a lovely place with very interesting history – you can get some fantastically cheap deals to Venice these days and a long weekend is the perfect amount of time to spend here.

If that isn’t enough to persuade you to book up and go then just remember, Venice may not be around forever as it is slowly sinking year on year due to rising sea levels from climate change! Although the levels are only said to be rising around 1mm a year, don’t forget Venice is already prone to flooding during high tides….it’s quite daunting to hear the sirens going off to warn you of an incoming flood tide!!!

New Orleans, A journey to the Deep South

We visited New Orleans mainly for the Mardi Gras celebrations (see my Mardi Gras blog!) but during our few days here we managed to fit in so much more besides! New Orleans is a truly beautiful place, I really I hope I get the opportunity to go back again someday.

Here’s some of the other amazing things we managed to see and do during our trip to the Big Easy:

Jackson Square

Jackson Square is an historic park in the French Quarter of New Orleans. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1960, for its central role in the city’s history, and as the site where in 1803 Louisiana was made United States territory pursuant to the Louisiana Purchase. In 2012 the American Planning Association designated Jackson Square as one of America’s Great Public Spaces.

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St Louis Cathedral

The Cathedral-Basilica of Saint Louis, King of France (also called St. Louis Cathedral) is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans and is the oldest cathedral in the United States. The first church on the site was built in 1718; the third, built in 1789, was raised to cathedral rank in 1793. The cathedral was expanded and largely rebuilt in 1850, with little of the 1789 structure remaining.

The cathedral is said to be haunted by Fr. Antonio de Sedella, more commonly known as Père Antoine. He was a priest at the cathedral and his body is buried within the church. He is said to walk the alley named after him next to the cathedral in the early mornings. Accounts of his apparitions by parishioners and tourists claim that he appears during Christmas Midnight Mass near the left side of the altar, holding a candle.

Another haunting is said to take place in the cathedral by Père Dagobert, a monk who resided in the church. It is said that his voice can be heard chanting the Kyrie on rainy days….

Luckily we didn’t encounter Père Antoine or Père Dagobert during our visit!

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The Cabildo

The Cabildo was the seat of Spanish colonial government, and is now a museum. It is adjacent to St. Louis Cathedral.

The original Cabildo was destroyed in the Great New Orleans Fire (1788). The Cabildo was rebuilt between 1795–99 as the home of the Spanish municipal government in New Orleans, and the third floor with mansard roof was later added, in French style. The building took its name from the governing body who met there — the “Illustrious Cabildo,” or city council. The Cabildo was the site of the Louisiana Purchase transfer ceremonies late in 1803, and continued to be used by the New Orleans city council until the mid-1850s.

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Pontalba Building

The Pontalba Buildings form two sides of Jackson Square, they are matching red-brick, one-block-long, four‑story buildings built in the late 1840s by the Baroness Micaela Almonester Pontalba. The ground floors house shops and restaurants; and the upper floors are apartments which, reputedly, are the oldest continuously-rented such apartments in the United States.

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The French Quarter

The French Quarter, also known as the Vieux Carré, is the oldest neighbourhood in the city of New Orleans.

The district as a whole has been designated as a National Historic Landmark, with numerous contributing buildings that are deemed significant.  Due to its distance from areas where the levee was breached during Hurricane Katrina in 2005 as well as the strength and height of the nearest Mississippi River Levees in contrast to others along the canals and lakefront, it suffered only relatively light damage from floodwater compared to other areas of the city.

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Saint Louis Cemetery

Saint Louis Cemetery is the name of three Roman Catholic cemeteries in New Orleans. Most of the graves are above-ground vaults constructed in the 18th and 19th centuries.

The above-ground tombs in New Orleans cemeteries are often referred to as “cities of the dead.” Enter the cemetery gates, and you will find decorative ironwork, sun-bleached tombs and stunning crosses and statues. It seems weird visiting such a place as a tourist, but I’m pleased we paid our respects to such a beautiful peaceful place.

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Early settlers struggled with different methods to bury their dead. If you dig only a few feet down in New Orleans, the grave becomes soggy and begins filling with water which results in the coffin literally floating. Even worse, after a rainstorm, the rising water would pop the airtight coffins out of the ground. To this day in New Orleans, unpredictable flooding still lifts the occasional coffin out of the ground in areas generally considered to be safe from flooding.

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Eventually, New Orleans’ graves were kept above the ground, following the Spanish custom of using vaults. The walls of some cemeteries here are made of vaults stacked on top of one another, while wealthier families could afford the larger, ornate tombs with crypts. Many family tombs look like miniature houses, complete with iron fences. The rows of tombs resemble streets–and this is why New Orleans burial plots quickly became known as cities of the dead.

We visited St. Louis cemetery number 3 which is located about two miles from the French Quarter. The cemetery opened in 1854 and the crypts on average are more elaborate than the other St. Louis cemeteries, including a number of fine 19th century marble tombs.

St. Louis No. 3 also includes a Greek Orthodox section. The cemetery was heavily flooded during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, but its tombs escaped relatively unscathed other than some plaster damage from debris.

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The Mississippi River

The picture I took of the river looks really cold and wet…. because it was! I couldn’t stand there in the cold for much longer to take a photograph so I’m afraid this was the best one I have!

The Mississippi River is the chief river of the second largest drainage system on the North American continent, second only to the Hudson Bay drainage system. Flowing entirely in the United States (although its drainage basin reaches into Canada), it rises in northern Minnesota and meanders slowly southwards for 2,320 miles to the Mississippi River Delta at the Gulf of Mexico. The river either borders or passes through the states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

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New Orleans Street Cars

Streetcars in New Orleans have been an integral part of the city’s public transportation network since the first half of the 19th century. The longest of New Orleans’ streetcar lines, the St. Charles Avenue line, is the oldest continuously operating street railway system in the world.

There are currently five operating streetcar lines in New Orleans: The St. Charles Avenue Line, the Riverfront Line, the Canal Street Line (which has two branches), and the Loyola Avenue Line and Rampart/St. Claude Line (which are operated as one through-routed line). The St. Charles Avenue Line is the only line that has operated continuously throughout the wide destruction by Hurricane Katrina and subsequent floods from the levee breaches in August 2005.

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Oak Alley Plantation

Oak Alley Plantation is an historic plantation located on the west bank of the Mississippi River, in the community of Vacherie, St. James Parish, Louisiana.

Oak Alley is named for its distinguishing visual feature, an alley created by a double row of southern live oak trees about 800 feet long,  which were planted in the early 18th century — long before the present house was built. 

The mansion has a square floor plan, arranged around a central hall that runs from the front to the rear on both floors. The rooms feature high ceilings and large windows and the exterior features a free-standing colonnade of 28 Doric columns on all four sides that correspond to the 28 oak trees in the alley.

The grounds include a formal garden that separates the mansion from the old garage. The old car garage is the temporary site for the sugarcane Theater, where the history of sugarcane cultivation is explained through a video and exhibits. A blacksmith shop and the Stewart graveyard are also on the grounds.

The film “Interview with a Vampire” was filmed here!

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Carriage Rides

I’d highly recommend taking a carriage ride while you’re in New Orleans – the tours are expensive but the drivers are so knowledgeable – you can learn a great deal during your 90 minute journey.  The carriages take you past the many landmarks of New Orleans, including Bourbon Street, the Mississippi, and Jackson Square.

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Food-wise there are so many amazing places to eat in New Orleans, but I would highly recommend a visit to Cafe Du Monde!

When you are there, order a Cafe Au Lait (coffee with hot milk) and Beignets (a square piece of dough, fried and covered with powdered sugar served in orders of three). They are absolutely delicious! Be warned – Cafe Du Monde gets VERY busy – be prepared to queue!

 

On our travels around the city we also tried jambalaya – a dish consisting of meat and vegetables mixed with rice. The meat usually includes smoked sausage such as andouille, along with some other meat or seafood, frequently pork, chicken, crawfish, or shrimp.

We also tried gumbo – a stew that consists of a strong stock, meat or shellfish, a thickener, and what Louisianians call the “Holy Trinity” of vegetables, namely celery, bell peppers, and onions. I highly recommend trying both – very delicious!

Drinks wise, as I say in my Mardi Gras blog – definitely give the Hurricane cocktail a try – a famous cocktail created by New Orleans tavern owner Pat O’Brien consisting of dark rum, white rum, over-proofed rum, passionfruit syrup and lemon juice. In the 1940s, Pat O’Brien needed to create a new drink to help him get rid of all of the less-popular rum that local distributors forced him to buy before he could get a few cases of more popular liquors such as scotch and other whiskeys. He poured the concoction into hurricane lamp–shaped glasses and gave it away to sailors, hence the name.

A definite place to add to your bucket list to visit – New Orleans is one of my favourite destinations out of all of the amazing places I’ve visited so far!

Addicted to Lush Take Five

Hopefully you have been reading my previous blogs containing reviews of products from the regular Lush collection. These have been slightly interrupted over the last few months to make way for the Halloween and Christmas editions but we are back to the regular collection for now!

Having said that, keep your eyes peeled in February for my blog on the Lush Valentines collection!

Butterball Bath Bomb

The Butterball scent is one of Lush’s most popular scents – the cocoa butter content make it really popular, especially in the winter months when your skin could do with as much moisturising as possible.

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The Butterball is a very small and plain looking bath bomb, and is designed to moisturise and hydrate the skin. It has sweet vanilla scent around it, and the ylang ylang provides a slightly fruity floral scent.

The Butterball is a loud little fizzer which releases foam containing small bubbles of cocoa butter which look like small blobs of oil and float on the surface. The oil coats your skin and makes it feel incredibly soft and moisturised. I didn’t need to use my normal moisturiser but if you suffer from greasy hair (like I do!), don’t wash your hair in this or it may be like an oil slick for the next few days!

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Not an exciting looking bath bomb but definitely one I will be stocking up on for using in the cold wet winter months! Perfect for a lovely warm bath after a cold day out in the wind and rain!

If you have read my Christmas blogs you may have seen the Christmas edition of Butterball, known as Butterbear! I learned after using both Butterball and Butterbear that they are small and mighty because they are designed to be used alongside a regular bath bomb to provide that extra kick of moisture! I will definitely give this a go next time I use a Butterball!

Ickle Baby Bot Bath Bomb 

This tiny little bath bomb is actually designed for babies and toddlers, basically to help them get off to sleep, but seeing as I often suffer from terrible insomnia, I thought it would be worthwhile giving it a try!

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The scent of Ickle Baby Bot is a gentle lavender scent and the bath bomb contains sandalwood oil and chamomile oil.

It is a really fast fizzer, and due to its size, it was gone ever so quickly. The scent is incredibly mild and, although the bath water went a nice shade of blue, it didn’t stretch very far. I assume this is because it is designed to be used in a small baby bath, rather than a very full, deep adult sized bath! If you want to give this bath bomb a go, perhaps buy a couple of them for a stronger scent and a more effective bath. It is priced at £1.90, so even buying a couple of them would be cheaper than most of the bath bombs from the range.

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Overall I am afraid this really didn’t do much for me and it isn’t a product I would probably buy again, but a great product for children and babies!

Brightside Bubble Bar

This is a good sized bubble bar and will easily last you for at least three or four baths – unless of course you are feeling particularly indulgent!

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Brightside contains tangerine oil and mandarin oil which I absolutely love – it is so refreshing and uplifting and zesty! This bubble bar is designed to reduce stress and combat restlessness. It also contains bergamot oil, which is designed to improve circulation and relieve muscle tension.

Simply cut as much as you want to use off your bubble bar and then crumble it under running water, or cut it up and store in an airtight container to use as and when you need it.

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The smell is lovely whilst you are in the bath and stays on your skin for a long time afterwards!

The bath water goes a lovely orange colour and the bubble bar makes mounds and mounds of lovely fluffy bubbles! I really didn’t want to get out of the bath!! A definite favourite scent and very moisturising, I’ll definitely be buying more of these!

Whoosh Shower Jelly

Shower jellies are a very strange product, and to be honest, probably one of my least favourite products. I just find them very strange to work with, and more often than not, a lot of effort for little return!

The reason I buy them is because they come in such amazing scents, and Whoosh is no exception to this!

 

There are several ways that you can use the shower jelly – firstly, you can rub the whole block, or a broken-off piece, directly onto your skin (although this is not my preference as it is very difficult to keep hold of the slippery sucker!)

Secondly, you can 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. 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, so I gave this a try.

The other thing about shower jellies is that you can keep them in the fridge or freezer, ideal for using in the showers on those hot sticky summer days!

It lathers up really well once you get the hang of using them and the jelly version of Lush’s shower gels do seem to go a lot further than their liquid counterparts.

A small chunk of the jelly will easily be enough to clean you from head to toe! The downside to shower jellies? They are so difficult to keep hold of (slippery suckers!) which unfortunately can result in a lot of the product breaking off, falling apart and then being washed down the plughole! Not good!

Yellow Submarine Bath Bomb

I love the look of this relatively new bath bomb and I’ve been really looking forward to using it! It’s main ingredients are orange, coriander and lemon grass! Very refreshing!

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As soon as this bath bomb hit the water it made a lot of lovely creamy thick yellow and pink coloured foam. It’s a slow release bath bomb and is really quiet!

Once the bomb has dissolved you are left with lovely orange bath water! I really loved the scent of Yellow Submarine but it wasn’t quite strong enough for me and the smell did seem to fade quite quickly, which was bit disappointing!

Although the smell isn’t strong enough for me I do love the scent and would definitely buy it again, my skin was lovely and soft afterwards and I found this bath bomb to be really relaxing…A really cute design with a lovely scent, just make the scent stronger please Lush!

Intergalactic Bath Bomb

Oh my god I love this bath bomb! Intergalactic along with Fizzbanger (now discontinued – annoying!) and Dragon’s Egg are my favourite bath bombs! If I had to choose my favourite out of the three I think it would be this one!

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Intergalactic contains popping candy (need I say more?!) and really is one of the most stunning bath bombs on the market. If you want to start adding #bathart to your Instagram account then this is definitely the bath bomb for you!

It’s a lovely looking bath bomb – a vivid blue colour with streaks of pink and yellow throughout. The key ingredients are peppermint, cedarwood and vetivert oil, which make this bath bomb a very minty, fresh and uplifting bath bomb.

This is a fast fizzing bath bomb which creates trails of thick blue foam before the pink, white and yellow elements begin appearing, creating an almost “galaxy” like appearance across the surface of the water. The bath water is also filled with a lovely golden lustre, adding to the beautiful display and crackling noises of the popping candy. The bath water ends up as a beautiful shade of blue – it’s hard to explain, but again it is very deep-space galaxy like!

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This bath bomb is very moisturising and the peppermint oil in it also make it very cooling on the skin – an ideal summer bath bomb. This one is an absolute must, must try!

I hope you have enjoyed reading about the latest batch of Lush products I’ve used! I’m slowly working my way through the HUGE stash I currently have which is now mostly made up of seasonal products! Keep an eye out for next months blog which as I said earlier will be a review of the Valentines Day collection – I’m really looking forward to trying these amazing looking products!

 

A day in Amsterdam

I only spent the day in Amsterdam but enjoyed it so much I booked to go back again for another weekend only a couple of months later! There’s lots to see and do here and it’s unlike anywhere else I have visited!

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Some of the things I would recommend seeing and doing during your stay in Amsterdam (in between your visits to the infamous Amsterdam coffee shops!) include:

Anne Franks House

The Anne Frank House is a house and museum dedicated to Jewish wartime diarist Anne Frank. During World War II, Anne Frank hid from Nazi persecution with her family and four other people in hidden rooms at the rear of the 17th-century canal house, known as the Secret Annexe. Anne Frank did not survive the war, but in 1947 her wartime diary was published.

The museum opened on 3 May 1960. It preserves the hiding place, has a permanent exhibition on the life and times of Anne Frank, and has an exhibition space about all forms of persecution and discrimination. In 2013 and 2014, the museum had 1.2 million visitors and was the 3rd most visited museum in the Netherlands, after the Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum.

We did have to wait a long time in the queue to get in so it may be worth while pre-booking your tickets. Entry fees are 9 euros for an adult ticket and I would really recommend it, it is a really moving and interesting place to visit.

Dam Square

Dam Square is the town square in Amsterdam. Its buildings and events make it one of the most well-known and important locations in the city (and the country!) The buildings on Dam square include Nieuwe Kerk (New church), De Bijenkorf and The Royal Palace.

Nieuwe Kerk (New Church)

The Nieuwe Kerk is a 15th-century church located on Dam Square, next to the Royal Palace. The Nieuwe Kerk is no longer used for church services but is used as an exhibition space and for organ recitals.

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De Bijenkorf

De Bijenkorf is a high-end department store founded by Simon Philip Goudsmit (1845–1889). De Bijenkorf is owned by the Weston family that also owns Britain’s Selfridges, Canada’s Holt Renfrew and Ireland’s Brown Thomas.

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The Royal Palace

The Royal Palace is one of three palaces in the Netherlands which are at the disposal of the monarch by Act of Parliament.

The palace was built as a city hall during the Dutch Golden Age in the 17th century. The building became the royal palace of King Louis Napoleon and later of the Dutch Royal House. It is situated on the west side of Dam Square, opposite the War Memorial and next to the Nieuwe Kerk and is a really impressive building to look at!

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Bloemenmarkt – The Flower Market

The Bloemenmarkt is the world’s only floating flower market. Founded in 1862, it is sited  on Singel between Muntplein and Koningsplein in the city’s southern canal belt. It includes 15 florists and garden shops as well as a range of souvenir gifts. The market is one of the main suppliers of flowers to central Amsterdam. You can find some really beautiful flowers here – we stayed away from the water as the wind and rain was pretty heavy that day!

The Rijksmuseum

The Rijksmuseum is a Dutch national museum dedicated to arts and history. The museum is located at the Museum Square in the borough Amsterdam South, close to the Van Gogh Museum, the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, and the Concertgebouw.

The Rijksmuseum was founded in The Hague in 1800 and moved to Amsterdam in 1808, where it was first located in the Royal Palace and later in the Trippenhuis. The current main building was designed by Pierre Cuypers and first opened its doors in 1885. On 13 April 2013, after a ten-year renovation which cost 375 million euros, the main building was reopened by Queen Beatrix. In 2013 and 2014, it was the most visited museum in the Netherlands with record numbers of 2.2 million and 2.47 million visitors!

It is also the largest art museum in the country with over 8,000 objects of art and history on display, from their total collection of 1 million objects from the years 1200–2000. Among these are some masterpieces by Rembrandt, Frans Hals, and Johannes Vermeer.

Madame Tussauds

Yes a really touristy place to visit but this was the first time I had visited a Madame Tussauds and I did really enjoy it! Inside you can find hundreds of wax figures of famous people from the world of music, sport, fashion and film.

My advice – definitely book online in advance to get the best deals and to avoid standing in queues which, during busy periods can mean a wait of over an hour! Pre-book your tickets here – you also save on entry fees by pre-booking.

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The Red Light District

A trip to Amsterdam wouldn’t be complete without a visit to its world famous Red Light District!

De Wallen is the largest and best known red-light district in Amsterdam. It consists of a network of alleys containing approximately three hundred one-room cabins rented by prostitutes who offer their sexual services from behind a window or glass door, typically illuminated with red lights.

The area also has a number of sex shops, sex theatres, peep shows, a sex museum and a cannabis museum. We visited the cannabis museum – a museum dedicated to the historical and modern uses of cannabis for medicinal, spiritual and cultural purposes. Interesting if you like that sort of thing – a bit of a waste of time and money if you don’t!

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Coffee Shops

A trip to Amsterdam would also not be complete without a visit to the infamous coffee shops!

In the Netherlands, coffeeshops are establishments where the sale of cannabis for personal consumption by the public is “tolerated” by the local authorities. Under the drug policy of the Netherlands, the sale of cannabis products in small quantities is allowed by licensed coffeeshops. The majority of these also serve drinks and food and in most of the places we visited, the rule was that you had to buy a coffee or hot chocolate with any purchase of cannabis. Coffeeshops are not allowed to serve alcohol.

If smoking isn’t your thing (which it isn’t mine!), you can always try one of the infamous space cakes! They come in all shapes, sizes, colours and flavours but be warned – they aren’t an easy way out in comparison to smoking!

Fast forward a couple of hours and you may find yourself walking around Madame Tussauds in a bit of a giggling haze…..just saying!!

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Happy New Year! My plans for 2018..

You’ll be pleased to know that this blog is going to be a pretty short one! This month has most certainly got the best of me, with moving house, three family Birthdays, Christmas meals and parties, planning, buying and wrapping Christmas presents, Christmas Eve boxes and Advent Calendars, three days in New York and actually completing Blogmas (I don’t know how you guys do this every year it’s almost killed me!) so I think a few days rest has been in order!

2017 was a very busy year, and I am ashamed to say that for most of the agonising months we were waiting to move, we literally just hibernated, didn’t make any plans, went to work and basically just wished our lives away until we could move and start our brand new chapter, not really the best way to live really is it?

Anyway, now all the house move stress has gone, these are my aims for 2018:

-Lose some of my Christmas weight! Yes it is a complete cliche but I have been stuffing my face and neglecting the gym for far longer than just the festive period! The stress of the house move basically made me want to come home, stuff my face and climb into bed! This time last year I had just run a 10k charity run that I had been training for for a few months – I don’t even think I could run 1k without stopping at the moment! To get back to that place would make me very happy! Not looking forward to the gym though – it’s always HEAVING in January with thousands of other people having the same idea!

-Get some house decorating done! We are by no means rushing this as we have a lot that we want to get done, but it would be nice to have a couple of the quick wins done by the end of the year – the three spare bedrooms would be a good start (nursery, guest bedroom and dressing room). This brings me onto –

-Creating my house project book! Although we probably won’t get much actually done in the house, I want to go from room to room, measure up properly and get reading Pinterest and lots of interior design blogs to perfectly design each space – I’m really looking forward to this project! I love Pinterest!

-Go on some good days out! As we have just bought our forever home and want to do lots to it, money is going to be tight for this next coming year which means I will have to say goodbye to my amazing travels for a while! Still, there are some incredible places to visit in this country at a fraction of the cost and I’ve already got my eye on visiting Eastnor Castle, Tewkesbury Abbey, Blenheim Palace, Stonehenge and the Eden Project!

-Start a family! Kind of a major plan! Now the first part of or plan is complete after moving into our forever home, the next stage will be to start a family of our own! Hopefully 2018 will be our year!

I thought this would be quite a big list but to be fair I am happy with everything else that is going on at the moment so there’s not much more to change!

I hope you all have an amazing new year and a fantastic 2018! Make it your best one yet! It’s around a year ago I started blogging and I’ve never met a nicer bunch of people along the way, everyone has been helpful and supportive and really, really kind.

I’m really looking forward to continuing being a part of the blogger community in 2018 as well!

HAPPY NEW YEAR ALL!! xx

A Beauty and the Beast themed party!

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

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

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

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

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

Beauty and the Beast shopping bags:

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

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Inside their goody bags they each had:

Chip coin purse

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

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Chip mug

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

Beauty and the Beast pyjamas

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

Beauty and the Beast socks

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

Mrs Potts coin purse

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

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Lumiere coin purse

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

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Cogsworth Clock coin purse

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

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Enchanted Rose drinking cup

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

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Beauty and the Beast slippers

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

Beauty and the Beast footlets

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

Mrs Potts money box

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

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Chip Jumper

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

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Chip Keyring

They can carry Chip with them everywhere they go now!

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Pom Pom bag charm

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

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Bell jar light

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

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Lumiere Tealight holder

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

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

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

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

Bowood House and Gardens

If anyone is looking for a good family day out, my Mum, my two Sisters and I had a really great day out at Bowood House and Gardens earlier this year.

The only downside was that we had to contend with a torrential downpour whilst we were exploring, but we all still really enjoyed ourselves! We didn’t get to spend as much time exploring the gardens as we had hoped due to the awful weather so I think we will be re-visiting in the future so we can take full advantage! On the plus side it meant the house and gardens were really quiet!

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Bowood House and Gardens is in Wiltshire and is currently home to the Marquis and Marchioness of Lansdowne.

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The house sits inside 100 acres of beautifully landscaped ‘Capability’ Brown Parkland and has been home to the Lansdowne family since the 1st Earl of Shelburne purchased it in 1754.

Over half of the house is open to visitors, with the family still living in the remainder. The places you can visit within the house include:

The Orangery

Originally designed as a large conservatory, the Orangery is now primarily a picture gallery, containing the remaining parts of the two great Lansdowne Collections of paintings and sculpture.

The Chapel

Opposite the Orangery entrance are the great doors to the Chapel. Created in the early 19th century for the 3rd Marquess by C.R.Cockerell, the Chapel is still used for special services and concerts.

The Laboratory

Through the doors at the east end of the Orangery is a small room known as the Laboratory. Here, scientist Dr Joseph Priestley, tutor to the 1st Marquess’ two sons, discovered oxygen in 1774! In those days the room was full of scientific equipment but unfortunately all were sold when the 1st Marquess died.

The Library

It was in this room that the great Bowood house parties would meet after dinner to read, play chess, sing, and talk about politics and other topics of the day.

The Sculpture Gallery

Through a small entrance hall at the other end of the Orangery is the Sculpture Gallery, created by the present Marquis of Lansdowne in 1980. Designed originally as a menagerie or zoo for wild animals, a leopard and an orangutan were kept here in the 18th century! Nowadays, the gallery houses pieces from the Lansdowne sculpture collections.

The Exhibition Rooms

A staircase at the west end of this gallery leads to the exhibition room which displays examples of 18th-century and 19th-century costumes. The Victorian Room holds (among other memorabilia of the period) Queen Victoria’s wedding chair!

Also on show in the Top Exhibition Room are the Keith Jewellery Collection, family miniatures, and the Napoleonic Collection. The Napoleonic Collection also came into the family via the 4th Marchioness; it includes Napoleon’s death mask, pieces of gilded Imperial Sèvres porcelain and other unusual treasures, such as Napoleon’s handkerchief!

The Gardens

If you can, try and get on one of the scheduled monthly tours of the Private Walled Gardens.

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Bowood’s Gardens have beautiful sloping lawns stretching down to the lake.  The park includes the Cascade, Doric Temple, Terrace Gardens and for children, the fantastic Adventure Playground!

Sorry for the lack of garden pictures, the rain was so bad I was worried about the welfare of my lovely phone!

A separate Woodland Garden, which hosts Rhododendrons and Azaleas, is open to the public between April and early June every year, according to the flowering season.

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There is an on-site cafe called the Treehouse Cafe which serves lovely paninis and delicious homemade cakes! Plus lovely hot chocolates and coffees which were greatly appreciated after being soaked through to the skin! British weather hey???

Adult ticket prices are £12.50 and child prices are £7.50 – £9.50, and family tickets are also available.

Bowood House and Gardens opens again on the 1st April – choose your visiting dates wisely though as it’s not called “April showers” for no reason!

A Lush Christmas – The Online Exclusives!

So after reviewing over forty items from this years Lush Christmas range I was quite pleased I had managed to try them all despite the bank balance taking a severe hit!

Anyway, the other day I was on the Lush website looking at a products ingredients when on the home page there was a link to “exclusives”, and lo and behold there was another batch of Christmas themed items which hadn’t been released yet! Me being me I couldn’t be without them so I ordered the exclusive items, and it was lucky I did because the majority of them are now completely sold out!

Here are most of the items from the exclusive online range-

Jingle Spells Bath Bomb

I loved the look and the ingredients of this one! This purple bomb with tiny gold soluble stars embedded in it contains juniperberry oil, tangerine oil, fennel oil,  and ylang ylang oil!

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Jingle Spells smells lovely and is a really fast fizzer. It leaves the bath water a beautiful purply/pink colour whilst the little golden stars float on top of the water.

This bath bomb ticks the boxes so far – it looks beautiful, smells amazing and it contains several of my favourite ingredients, so why was I slightly disappointed with it? Because basically I didn’t find it moisturising at all which was a real shame! In fact I would go so far as to say it was one of the least moisturising bath bombs I’ve ever used! Handy though if you want to use a bath bomb as well as wash your hair in the bath water as I think it is unlikely your hair will become greasy in this bath water!

Still, a very pretty and lovely smelling bath bomb, and ideal to buy as presents for people who are new to the bath bomb experience!

Hot Toddy Shower Gel

God as soon as I opened this bottle and gave it a sniff I knew I had made the right choice to buy two bottles!

This literally smells like Christmas in a bottle, and when I list off all the ingredients you will see why! Ready for it? Here goes – ginger infusion, fair trade aloe vera gel, fresh organic lemon juice, fine sea salt, clove leaf oil, patchouli oil, lime oil, cinnamon leaf oil, sweet orange oil and carrageenan extract!

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The shower gel itself is bright with lots of glitter in, however I didn’t notice any glitter on my skin when I got out the shower – even hubby used some and he won’t use anything which leaves him covered in glitter!

The shower gel foams up really well and produces a lovely thick foam which smells incredible! I found the shower gel to be really moisturising as well!

A definite favourite! As soon as I jumped out the shower after using it the first time I went online to try and order a couple more bottles to stock up as they are limited edition, but of course, I was already too late and they had completely sold out! If you can get your hands on a bottle or two of this stuff then do it!!!

Calacas Shower Gel

I’m not 100% convinced this is part of the Christmas range – the terminology they use on the label seems to suggest it would be more suited to the Halloween range!

This shower gel looks great – a darker orange colour at the bottom of the bottle lightening to a bright yellow gel nearer the top of the bottle! An almost ombre effect!

This lovely smelling shower gel contains aloe vera gel, lime oil, olibanum oil and neroli oil – great for cooling, replenishing and moisturising the skin!

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The description on the Lush website says this shower gel will leave your skin smelling like jelly beans! They aren’t wrong! A lovely shower gel but definitely a second best when compared to Hot Toddy!

Christmas Penguin Bubble Bar

This little guy is so cute! I must admit when I first saw him I made an assumption that he was going to have a minty scent, but when I saw the list of ingredients he contained I was surprised but still couldn’t wait to use him!

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Seeing as it is the Christmas holidays and I am feeling particularly indulgent (and lazy!) I couldn’t be bothered to chop up my bubble bars from this Lush order and so crumbled the entire thing straight under running water! It’s the first time I’ve used whole bubble bars all in one go and they did not disappoint!

This little guy is made up of lots of my most favourite ingredients – bergamot oil, sicilian lemon oil, orange flower absolute and sicilian mandarin oil! Lovely!

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I must say I am pleased I used the entire bubble bar as I didn’t find the scent to be as strong as I had anticipated which was a bit disappointing, but still I had a lovely bath full of fluffy silky bubbles.

The bath water was really moisturising, so much so I didn’t want to get out of the bath! Highly recommended if you are after a relaxing yet uplifting bath, that’s if of course, if you can get your hands on one of the little blighters!

Dashing Santa Bath Bomb

I love the design of this one – so simple yet effective! And one of the cheaper bath bombs available at the moment priced at £2.95!

Dashing Santa contains mandarin oil, bergamot oil and orange flower absolute – some of my most favourite ingredients!

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Dashing Santa is a relatively slow fizzer which spews out really thick white and red foam  mixed in with gold glitter foam from Santa’s gold boots!

The bath water goes a lovely reddish colour and smells amazing! For a little guy he certainly packs a punch of a scent!

The bath water is left lovely and silky and moisturising and the scent is incredibly relaxing and lasts a long time after you get out of the bath. I’m glad I bought a few of these to get stocked up because, you guessed it, they are already sold out online as well!

Peeping Santa Bubble Bar

Peeping Santa has been around for a few years but I have never managed to get my hands on one! I was really disappointed when I came across the huge Lush festive range to find that he wasn’t making an appearance this year, so I was over the moon when I managed to get my hands on a few as a result of the online exclusives collection!

I couldn’t wait to try this little guy! He is made with fair trade organic cocoa butter, bergamot oil, olibanum oil, geranium oil and fair trade shea butter with two little dark chocolate eyes!

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As I said above, I couldn’t be bothered to chop up all my bubble bars with this order so I knew I was in for a treat when I used the whole of this little guy for one bath!

The red outer part of the bubble bar crumbles really easily under the running bath water, whilst the shea butter middle slowly melts into the water. Soon the bath is filled with lovely fluffy bubbles and the water soon turns a lovely Christmassy red colour.

I knew before I even used the Peeping Santa bubble bar I would absolutely love it, it is one of the most moisturising bubble bars I have used so far and smells absolutely divine!  The cocoa butter stays on your skin for several hours after getting out of the bath and leaves your skin feeling silky smooth, I’m so pleased I bought three of these little guys when I got the chance!

Calavera Bath Bomb

This bath bomb has been available a couple of times throughout the year as part of the Lush kitchen range but they sold out really quickly and so I kept missing out! As soon as I saw these were available as part of the exclusive selection I ordered myself several!

It’s strange really, when you’ve been ordering bath bombs for a while, you start to learn which ones you will like and which ones you won’t just by simply looking at them without even checking the ingredients! When I saw Calavera on the website for the first time, I knew this was going to be a bath bomb that I absolutely loved!!

Calavera contains lime oil, olibanum resinoid and neroli oil. It’s outer core is beautiful – a white bath bomb encrusted with pink, yellow and blue sugar granules which almost make it look like a geode rock.

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The bomb I tried was unfortunately a bit of a dud as it kept sinking to the bottom of the bath so I had to hold it in place and then crush it towards the end to see its true colours revealed!

It is a very fast fizzer which starts off by spewing out mounds of white foam shortly followed by small strands of pink and yellow from the sugar coating on the outside. Once the middle cracks open, blue and bright green foam starts to pour out alongside loads of marigold petals which were completely unexpected!

The bath water does go a bizarre luminous green colour but the petals floating around the bath are a really lovely touch and the scent is really lovely, this one is a definite favourite!

The water is really moisturising and smells amazing – I think this one should become part of the regular range but until then, I bought five to keep me going!

Bling Crosby Bubble Bar

Lush items which leave everything (including you!) covered in glitter will always unfortunately find their way to the bottom of the review list, basically because I worry about the mess they will make and how long I will be sparkling for afterwards!


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I was feeling lazy and couldn’t be bothered to cut this bubble bar up and put it all in a pot so I crumbled the entire bar under running bath water. The water turns a lovely golden yellow colour and the glitter is really small and delicate. You do end up with tiny bits of glitter on your skin afterwards but it isn’t overpowering, and you will be pleased to know that the glitter just washed away with the bath water and the bath didn’t need a good clean afterwards!

The ingredients in this bubble bar are lovely – lavindin oil, lemongrass oil, brazilian orange oil, patchouli oil, pine oil and gardenia extract – interesting!

Although I like the scent of the bubble bar, I did find it very subtle and underwhelming, and I really do like strong smelling scents. The smell hung around for a while in the bathroom but I couldn’t detect the smell on my skin at all afterwards.

I didn’t dislike this bubble bar but I was a bit non-plussed about it to be honest – I have got a couple more left, but would I buy some again if they were re-released? Probably not….

 

So White Bath Bomb

I wasn’t too sure what to make of this one – it looks like an apple, it smells like an apple yet when you check the ingredients online, not an apple to be seen! Honestly! I triple checked!

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This lovely bath bomb is made up of bergamot oil, brazilian orange oil, rose absolute, orange flower absolute, neroli oil and gardenia extract. Unfortunately this one was also a bit of a sinker at the start but then started to float once the white foam had finished dispersing and the middle cracked open to let out mounds of dark blue foam.

It’s really strange but it is a fast fizzer which really reminded me of apple bobbing, the way it “bobbed” around the water!

Once the middle had completely cracked open, the water turned a lovely blue colour and the scent was like crisp apples. It wasn’t the most moisturising of bath bombs but I did still enjoy my bath – I just think I am overall a bit non-plussed about this one too though!

Very pretty bath art and a good present for people who are new to the bath bomb experience, I would definitely use it again but I wouldn’t go so far as to say it was one of my favourites. Shortly after I placed my Lush order online they released this scent in a shower gel format, but to be honest I wasn’t particularly bothered that I had missed out on it!

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Bombardino Bath Bomb

I’ve been fooled by little guys like this before – thinking they are going to be really weak and not much to write home about, but what I find with tiny Lush bath bombs such as Bombardino is that they really pack a cocoa butter punch!

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Bombardino is made up of fair trade organic cocoa butter, soya milk powder, vanilla absolute, sicilian lemon oil, bergamot oil and gardenia extract! Lovely!

So, I tied my hair up so I wouldn’t get it in the cocoa butter rich water and watched Bombardino do his thing!

He’s quite a slow fizzer for a little guy, but soon he was bobbing around the water, releasing little pearls of cocoa butter! I just admit the cocoa butter is the overpowering scent here, and I really couldn’t detect any of the lemon or bergamot oil.

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Needless to say this is one of the most moisturising baths I’ve had – Bombardino is certainly on a par with Butterball and the Christmas edition of Butterball, Butterbear.

Packed full of cocoa butter and oils, this is exactly what you need for those cold winter months! The scent of cocoa butter stayed on my skin for hours after my bath which was really relaxing and my skin felt amazingly soft and smooth. A definite must buy, I hope they will make Bombardino part of the regular Lush collection and, like Butterball/Butterbear, I think it would compliment some of the larger bath bombs which need a bit of a cocoa butter injection!

Yognog Soap

God this soap smells absolutely amazing! I only ordered two and I should have ordered more because it is sold out now!

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Yognog soap is made up of rapeseed oil and coconut oil, soya yogurt, clove leaf oil (really Christmassy!) ylang ylang oil, gardenia extract and is topped with cocoa powder and nutmeg powder! It is literally like Christmas in a soap bar and smells like creamy eggnog!!

It produces lots of lovely thick, creamy foam and the scent only gets better (if that is even possible!) when you are in the shower! Honestly, the smell is so good you almost want to eat it!

I found the soap really soft on the skin and the scent stays on your skin for hours after you use it, in fact, many people commented on the unusual scent!

Please Lush, please make some more products with this scent in future! I love it!

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed reading my “mop up” session of Christmas Lush products! Things will start returning to normal in the new year with the regular line of products being reviewed (and in much smaller doses you’ll be pleased to hear!) I wouldn’t even want to guess how many long baths I have had throughout December trying all the festive Lush products out! That is probably the reason I was so far behind on all of my Christmas shopping and present wrapping!!

A Mad Hatter’s Tea Party

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Here was the selection –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Smoked salmon scotch quails egg with caviar and cream cheese

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Stack of King of Hearts ham and parmesan croque-monsieur

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

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Queen of Hearts rose and strawberry jammy dodger 

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Mocha chessboard gateau

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Tweedle Dee lemon curd financier 

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

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Chocolate and Pistachio Blue Caterpillar 

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Wonderland Marshmallow Magic mushrooms

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

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Alices Cinnamon, apple and peach “Drink Me” potion

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

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

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

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Sudeley Castle Spectacle Of Light

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CocoChlo’s Christmas 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

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 Three

We didn’t have any major plans for our third day in New York as I didn’t know how much ground we would cover yesterday and whether we would need a couple of hours to catch up on things we missed yesterday!

We started off the day by walking north to make our way to Central Park. We stopped by the Plaza Hotel on the way (the hotel Kevin stays in in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York) to take some photos – hubby said if we were lucky enough to visit New York again he would like to stay here next time!

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We then stopped and had another tasty breakfast at a café on Columbus Circle! It was AMAZING!

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We then crossed the road to visit the Columbus Circle Holiday Market which was another market I knew I wanted to visit. The location is great – perched in between the hustle and bustle of the city and yet also on the edge of Central Park.

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I really loved this market, lots of lovely stalls and the food stalls were amazing! Check out my poo emoji and little lamb macaron I bought while I was there!

There was also a stall selling giant S’mores and the most amazing hot chocolates I have seen!

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After our visit to the market we went to visit Central Park and spent a good couple of hours walking round to see all that it has to offer. Here are some of the amazing things you can see in this massive park:

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Central Park Zoo

We visited Central Park zoo the first time we visited New York, so we didn’t visit this time. Still, it is a great day out and well worth visiting if you get the chance. You’ll find over 130 different species ranging from Snow Leopards to Tropical Birds in here! Prices start at $18 per adult ticket.

Wollman Rink

This looked like a lot of fun and was much cheaper than the rink at the Rockefeller Center (starts at $12 per adult). The rink also seemed bigger and far less busy too!

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Wollman Rink was opened in 1949 and has been a favorite attraction of Central Park ever since. In the autumn and winter, ice skating at the rink is one of the most popular things to do in Central Park. It’s lovely to skate with the city’s skyline looking down on you!

Loeb Boathouse

The iconic Loeb Boathouse offers boat rentals and gondola rides, as well as a very exclusive expensive dining experience!

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Calvert Vaux designed a wooden structure of the boat house that would last from 1873 until 1954. The beautiful, two-story, Victorian structure was eventually torn down, but its original purpose was carried on by its replacement, now known as the Loeb Boathouse.

Carl M. Loeb opened the new, red brick and limestone Boathouse in 1954. In addition to its traditional functions, the new Boathouse is also the site of the Boathouse Restaurant.

Pilgrim Hill

We wanted to visit here because this is where everyone goes sledding when there’s thick snow on the ground! We were hoping there would still be some snow when we got there but unfortunately it had all gone! Still a very pretty place though!

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Alice in Wonderland

Located just north of the Conservatory Water at East 74th Street, Alice in Wonderland stands eleven feet tall in bronze, surrounded by the Mad Hatter, the White Rabbit and a few of her other friends!

The Dairy Visitor Center

The Central Park Dairy, which now serves as an information center and gift shop inside the park, was originally intended as a source of fresh milk for children in the late 19th century.

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The Dairy was constructed in 1870; at this time, fresh milk for children was difficult to find and desperately sought after by parents. The Dairy was built at the southern end on the park, originally the children’s section, to provide milk and snacks for children in the cool and relaxing atmosphere near the Pond.

Plus there is loads, loads more to do in Central Park than this, you can easily spend a couple of days in Central Park checking out everything it has to offer!

After a few hours and a LOT of walking around Central Park we walked back towards the hotel and stopped off at Times Square where I checked out the “it’s always Christmas” shop! There has been a Facebook video going round which showed footage of the inside and outside of this amazing store so I was really pleased I got to visit!

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I also spotted this amazing little cupcake store on Times Square called Baked By Melissa. They sell adorable little bite-sized cupcakes in some amazing flavours! I bought a pack of six but wish I had bought more! They are only bite-sized after all!

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I also went into a brilliant deli and bought a rainbow bagel which had almond butter in! Delicious!

After a pit stop to stuff our faces we ventured on down to Macys Department Store. I wasn’t too bothered about doing any shopping as you could spend all day in this amazing store, but I wanted to visit their Christmas department which is called Holiday Lane! I’ve seen a Facebook video of Holiday Lane too so I knew it was going to be spectacular!

I have never seen so many beautiful trees and decorations and stuffed toys and wreaths and Nutcracker Dolls! I really was in my element!

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After a long final day we visited Times Square and splashed out on a HUGE slap up meal at Applebee’s which is one of our favourite American restaurants. I love the pretzels with beer cheese dips for starters and four cheese macaroni cheese with chicken on top, absolutely delicious!

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The perfect end to a perfect holiday! Our three nights here went so quickly but we all got to see things we wanted to see and do things we wanted to do, and most importantly we got to spend time together. A truly magical place this time of year, if you ever get the chance to go, grab it with both hands!

Until next time New York!

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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