Addicted to Lush!

If you haven’t heard of Lush yet then where have you been hiding!? I use their products so much I can’t believe that I haven’t already taken the time to write about them!

So many fantastic products are available and every day more and more products are released including limited editions! Here’s a review of some of the Lush items I’ve tried recently:

Lava Lamp Bath Bomb

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A lovely bright orange bath bomb with three big purple dots on the side, this bomb contains orange flower absolute (one of the most popular essential oils used in perfumery), tangerine and mandarin oils.

This sounds a silly thing to say in view of its name, but it really does make your bath water look like a Lava Lamp!! This is down to the extra virgin olive oil contained in the bomb which provides that “lava lamp” effect across the top of the water.

This bath bomb is a very noisy, fizzy bomb which leaves an amazing orange scent on your skin (and in the bathroom!) for hours after use. It’s a very nourishing bath bomb – ideal for dry skin or for days where skin has been exposed to the sun for too long. Some users have found this bath bomb to be too oily, but I’ve not found this to be the case.

The only downside to this lovely citrus bomb is the mess that is left behind in the bath tub! The olive oil results in the purple “lava” sticking to the side of the bath and does take some elbow grease to get off again! Not the thing you look forward to doing after having a nice relaxing bath!

Other than the cleaning session of the bathroom you have to undertake after using Lava Lamp, it is one of my favourites. The strong citrus scent is really relaxing and the colours and noisy fizz make it one of the most exciting bath bombs!

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Twilight Bath Bomb

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This is one of Lush’s most popular bath bombs so I put it to the top of my testing list! I have to admit the name does put me off (makes me think of vampires!) and I don’t think the name really suits the colour and scent of this bomb….. maybe it’s just me.

Twilight is a lovely soft pink coloured bomb and it’s main scent is lavender. This bath bomb dissolves far more slowly (and much less violently than Lava Lamp!) and creates a lovely thick pink and blue froth. Once the bomb is fully dissolved, it leaves the water a lovely violet colour filled with tiny pieces of silver glitter.

As well as lavender, this bath bomb also contains ylang ylang oils and vanilla essence to stop the lavender scent from being over-powering. This bath bomb is absolutely perfect for using in the evenings if you are struggling to sleep.

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Cup O Coffee Face Mask

As a self-confessed coffee addict, it’s like this product was made especially for me! An exfoliating mask designed for both the face and body, this amazing mask features a blend of coffee and cocoa extract. The coffee smell is dominating but you can also smell a lovely underlying chocolate aroma too, and the algarve nectar and vanilla absolute give it a bit of sweetness.

As a coffee lover I found the smell absolutely amazing! Other’s have said they aren’t too keen but I think it’s lovely! You add a generous amount of the mask to your face or body, massage it for a few minutes, leave it for 10-15 minutes and then rinse it away. The coffee grains in the mask will remove all the dead/dry skin and leave your skin feeling really clean and refreshed.

I’m not a big fan of face masks generally, but this is most certainly the best I have tried. A definite addition to the favourites list!

Bubblegum Lip Scrub

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This is the only Lush lip scrub I have bought so far but it is by far my favourite going by the smells of the scrubs alone! I loved this product so much I bought several for my family and friends for Birthday presents and demanded my sister bought one for herself when she visited the Lush shop in Cheltenham with me!!

The smell is amazing and this lip scrub works so well! The scrubs clear dead skin and flakiness from lips and make them feel so soft and smooth! The scrubs are mostly made from castor sugar and jojoba oil – to exfoliate and moisturise.

The smell is amazing – strawberry bubblegum flavour – and the colour is a bright hot pink. To use you just need a small scoop on your finger, and then rub it all over your lips in a circular motion, and then just add your favourite lip balm afterwards to moisturise.

Don’t be put off by the seemingly expensive price (£5.50 for this little tub), as you don’t need much for each use and you will find this small pot will last you for at least six months (unless you start eating it out of the pot!) I’m looking forward to trying some of the other flavours now – honey or popcorn are next on my list!

Dragons Egg Bath Bomb

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Ooh another one of my favourites!!! I love the name too!

This bath bomb begins with a white outer layer of Dragon’s Egg foam, which then releases “Dragon scales” in the form of rice paper confetti and popping candy!!

This bath bomb contains bergamot and citrus flavours and is quite a zesty bomb. It’s very refreshing and is recommended for use in the mornings or during the winter months.

It is a slow release bomb, creating more foam and froth than bubbles and fizz, but once the centre is cracked, it begins throwing out a beautiful golden, yellow, glittery flow. Due to the golden inner core your bath water ends up a beautiful amber colour with golden glitter floating in it!

Don’t be fooled by Dragon’s Egg’s relatively plain exterior! Dragon’s Egg is an absolute must try!

Big Blue Bath Bomb

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One of the key ingredients in this bath bomb is seaweed! Arame seaweed to be precise, as it is rich in vitamins and minerals. Big Blue also contains lavender, lemon and sea salt.

Big Blue turns the bath water a lovely vivid blue colour, as the seaweed swirls around the bath before sinking to the bottom.

A lovely invigorating and refreshing bath bomb, I did find this bomb to be more de-toxifying than moisturising but it is definitely one I would use again – despite having to clean up the remnants of seaweed from the bottom of the bath afterwards!

Pink Fun Bar

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Fun bars are a squidgy versatile product (like play-dough) which can be used as a bubble bar, shampoo, shower gel, soap and you can even shave with it!

Fun Bars consists of several different colours and flavours – Blue (lavender scent), Pink (Vanilla and Sweets flavour), Purple (Blackcurrant/Blackberry smell), Green (Lemon and Lime flavour), Red (Mandarin and Orange flavour), Orange (Orange Flavour) and Yellow (Vanilla flavour).

It is recommended that you break a bit off the fun bar to use a bit at a time, and keep the remainder somewhere cool so it doesn’t “melt”. The first time I used the fun bar, I used it like a bubble bar – I pulled off a chunk and held it under the running tap water and soon the bath was full of lovely bubbles.

The first Fun Bar I tried was the Pink one (although it looks a bit multicoloured as I accidentally mixed some blue and purple in with this one!). I must admit overall I was a little bit disappointed with the product. Yes the bath was full of lovely bubbles but I found that I could hardly smell the scent of the pink one, and I was disappointed that it didn’t turn the bath water a lovely pink colour either, plus the bubbles soon disappeared.

I found that using the fun bar as a soap made the scent much more prominent, but still no where near as strong as if you are using a bath bomb. On the plus side I pulled off a big chunk of the bar to use but didn’t even use a third of this – so it’s much more long lasting than I originally thought.

I hope you enjoyed my first Lush blog – if not then I am afraid I have two boxes full of Lush products I am hoping to blog about in the near future!

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Popaball Rose Gold Shimmer for Prosecco

I came across PopaBall a couple of years ago when I was shopping online at Lakeland to buy some bits and bobs for Christmas. I ended up ordering some of their Strawberry Popaball Bursting Bubbles – you just add a few of the little bubbles to your drink for a burst of strawberry flavour! You don’t have to just add to alcoholic drinks or cocktails, they also go down really well as toppings for ice cream or mixed into yoghurt! Yum!

The bubbles are real fruit juice in a shell made from seaweed extract, there are many, many flavours available as well as the strawberry including peach, blueberry and lemon. The blueberry and lemon flavours are specially designed to compliment your gin and tonic!

The pots of bubbles are 125g each, provide about 6 servings and retail for around £3.49. The bubbles proved very popular and jazzed up our champagne and prosecco’s over the Christmas period!

Anyway, a couple of months ago I came across one of Popaball’s new products:

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Raspberry Shimmer Popaball for Prosecco

This stuff is absolutely amazing! I’ve already used two packs and ordered packs for friends Birthday’s! It comes in a small pot of 21 grams which works out at about 14 servings and each pot retails at £6.99.

All you do is add a tiny amount (around 1/3 of a teaspoon) into a glass half filled with Prosecco and watch as the Prosecco changes into this beautiful rose gold pink swirling glitter shimmer- there’s even tiny little heart-shaped pieces of gold leaf added too!

The shimmer is raspberry flavour and sweetens up the Prosecco so don’t add too much if you like your Prosecco dry! Your girl-friends will go crazy over it and it’s absolutely ideal for events like hen parties and cocktail evenings! The photos and videos really do not do the product justice!

Don’t forget to upload your photos and videos to Instagram and Facebook and to tag Popaball in them!

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Order from Lakeland or directly from the Popaball Website!

Hello Oahu!

Oahu, Hawaii – one of the best places I have visited over the years! I can see why people continue to return here year after year! The people are so friendly, the weather is beautiful, the food is amazing and no matter which island you stay on, there’s plenty to see and do!

We struggled to decide whether to visit Maui or Oahu on our first visit to Hawaii but eventually settled on Oahu – it did not disappoint!! The name of Oahu translates as “the gathering place”.

We stayed in a hotel very close to Waikiki Beach and just over the road from the International Market Place.

There are so many amazing places to visit whilst staying on Oahu. Some of the highlights of our trip included the following:

Pearl Harbor

You don’t often expect to burst into tears on holiday but the tour was so so insightful and incredibly moving and very tastefully done. During the massive attack on Pearl Harbor, one of the ships that sank was the USS Arizona, and as part of the trip you can stand above the wreckage of this incredible ship, and visit the monument to the men who were killed in this ambush. You can also tour the Battleship Missouri.

On December 7, 1941, Washington intercepted a written message from Japan threatening war. The United States did not appreciate the full implications of the 7:30am Hawaii deadline. A last minute warning was sent to the Pacific commanders, however General Short did not receive the message until hours after the attack. Poor communications between Washington and Hawaii helped the Japanese achieve the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.

The Japanese began their air attack. The first wave arrived over Pearl Harbor at approximately 7:45 am to find seven U.S. battleships moored along “Battleship Row”, on the east side of Ford Island. Other moorings which the Japanese believed might include battleships, or the equally important aircraft carriers, were at the Navy Yard’s 1010 Dock and along Ford Island’s western side.

The Japanese initially hit the airfields, destroying many aircrafts located on the southern tip of Ford Island. This attack was the World’s first notification that war had begun in the Pacific. Moments thereafter, torpedo planes attacked from the west hitting the USS Helena, USS Utah and USS Raleigh, all on the west side of Ford Island. From the east, torpedo planes came in and hit the USS California, the USS Nevada, USS Oklahoma and West Virginia located on the east side of Ford Island.

As the torpedo planes continued the first wave attacks, additional bombs were dropped on “Battleship Row”, hitting several ships. The USS Arizona received a death blow followed by a huge explosion. As the first wave departed, the Japanese telegraph operator taped out Tora, Tora, Tora: the code word for surprise attack achieved.

The second wave of planes further attacked some of the ships already hit, further destroying the Navy Yard. The battleship Pennsylvania and three destroyers were bombed in dry dock. Other bombers went after the Nevada, which had left her berth and was trying to get to sea. Anti-aircraft gunfire met these ships, causing losses which were far greater than those of the first attack wave.

You can find out more about Pearl Harbor here.

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Tour of Honolulu – Ko’olau Mountains

It is not a mountain range in the normal sense, because it was formed as a single mountain called Koʻolau Volcano (Koʻolau means “windward” in Hawaiian). What remains of Koʻolau is the western half of the original volcano that was destroyed in prehistoric times when the entire eastern half slid into the Pacific Ocean.

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Iolani Palace

The ʻIolani Palace was the royal residence of the rulers of the Kingdom of Hawaii beginning with Kamehameha III under the Kamehameha Dynasty (1845) and ending with Queen Liliʻuokalani (1893) under the Kalākaua Dynasty, founded by her brother, King David Kalākaua. On a more modern note, it as where the most recent series of Hawaii 5-0 was filmed!

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Eternal flame memorial 

The Eternal Flame is an abstract sculpture erected just across the street from the Hawaii State Capitol Building in Honolulu. It is a lovely memorial which honors those who have served in the armed forces of the United States.

The Honolulu State Capitol building

The Hawaii State Capitol is the official statehouse or capitol building of the U.S. state of Hawaii. From its chambers, the executive and legislative branches perform the duties involved in governing the state.

Wedding Vows!

The hotel we were staying in organises a complimentary renewal of vows ceremony on Waikiki beach every week and so we took full advantage of this during our stay! It was a lovely event hosted by a real Kalu (priest) complete with Hula Dancer. It was really magical and a lovely memory to add to our holiday!

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Learning to surf

Hubby also couldn’t wait to take advantage of the waves of Waikiki beach and had soon signed himself up for a surfing lesson. As you can see from the pictures, he is one of those irritating people that attempt something for three minutes and then somehow seem to master it! I sat on beautiful Waikiki beach and worked on my tan and played the part of paparazzi whilst he showed off his new found skills!

Paradise Cove Luau

As soon as we had booked our trip to Hawaii the one thing I knew I wanted to do was to go to a luau!! After a bit of research we decided on booking tickets to the Paradise Cove Luau.

Your Paradise Cove Luau begins with a Mai Tai greeting. You then stroll through the Hawaiian Village and learn the Arts and Crafts of the islands and play traditional Hawaiian Games such as:

  • ‘O’o ihe: Spear throwing. ‘O’o ihe, which once trained young warriors in hand-to-hand spear fighting and helped develop skills for food gathering, is frustratingly difficult. A target, sometimes the stalk of a banana plant, is set up. Contestants stand 15 feet away and attempt to stick a lightweight wooden spear into it!
  • ‘Ulu maika: Rolling stone disks. ‘Ulu maika or ‘olohu was one of the most popular sports in early Hawaii. It consisted of rolling carefully crafted playing stones, resembling modern hockey pucks, on specially prepared courses. The stones were rolled between stakes to test a player’s skills or rolled down long courses to show strength.
  • Moa pahe’e: Dart sliding. A player slides a moa, or wooden dart, between two stakes or for long distances much like the competition in ‘ulu maika.

After the delightful Shower of Flowers, where men climb trees and sprinkle beautiful flowers onto the beach and crowd below, you can learn about the net fishing techniques of old Hawaii.

Later you can witness the time-honored techniques of underground oven cooking at the Imu Ceremony. An imu is an underground oven that uses a combination of hot coals, stones and layers of leaves and cloth or mats to steam food.  For a luau, the imu is primarily used to cook the delicious shredded kalua pork, a staple on any luau menu. The ceremony consists of removing the layers of cloth and leaves from the pit oven to expose the cooked pork. The pork is removed from the pit and taken to the kitchen for shredding.

After watching the beautiful sunset, the evening then continues with a traditional Hawaiian feast and an unforgettable display of songs and dances by amazing performers (including fire in some performances!)

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Byodo-In-Temple

The Byodo-In Temple is a temple located at the Valley of the Temples. It was dedicated in August 1968 to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the first Japanese immigrants to Hawaii. The temple is a replica of a 900-year-old Buddhist temple at Uji in Kyoto prefecture of Japan. Contrary to popular belief, it is not a functioning Buddhist temple in the proper sense as it does not host a resident monastic community nor an active congregation.

The TV series Hawaii Five-O and Magnum, P.I. featured several episodes where the temple is incorporated into the plot. The temple and its vicinity also served as a stand-in for South Korea in one episode of the ABC series Lost and as the Presidential Villa in an episode of seaQuest DSV.

The temple was also used in the 2001 movie Pearl Harbor as a replica of the Byodo-In Temple in Japan.

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Chinaman’s Hat Island

Mokoliʻi, commonly known as Chinaman’s Hat, is a basalt islet in Kāneʻohe Bay, Hawaii. Mokoliʻi is part of Kualoa Regional Park and is located 13 mile offshore of Kualoa Point, Oahu. 

Mokoliʻi translates from Hawaiian as “little lizard.” According to Hawaiian mythology, the island is the remains of a giant lizard’s or dragon’s tail that was chopped off and tossed into the ocean by the goddess Hiʻiaka. The common name of Chinaman’s Hat derives from its likeness to the Asian conical hat.

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La’ie Point

La’ie Point is tucked away behind a neighborhood in Laie, a small town on Oahu’s north shore. This small strip of land is called Laie State Wayside Park but most people just call it Laie Point. The iconic landmark of Laie Point is this small islet with a big hole in the middle. La’ie Point is apparently a popular cliff jumping spot! Rather them than me!!

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Sunset Beach

Sunset Beach is on the North Shore of Oahu and is known for big wave surfing during the winter season. The original Hawaiian name for this place is Paumalū. Today Sunset Beach is home to the prestigious Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, which is part of the World Cup of Surfing.

Like many beaches on Oahu’s North Shore, Sunset Beach is considered dangerous for inexperienced surfers, due to extensive coral formations near the surface! All the surfing contests take place in the winter around December and January, that being the time of the largest and best waves for surfing.

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Turtle Bay

The area which is one of the last undeveloped areas on Oahu is recognised for its rock formations, wild coastal beaches, threatened green sea turtles and endangered Hawaiian monk seal habitats. The beach is sandy but the swimming conditions are very poor at Turtle Bay because the ocean bottom near the shore is very rocky. There is a large limestone shelf that spans almost the entire length of the bay.

Due to its still largely unspoiled landscape, natural beauty and large waves along with its proximity to Honolulu, it is a popular area for filming. The area was the setting for the 2008 Universal Pictures film Forgetting Sarah Marshall and also served as a backdrop for the ABC TV series Lost.

Anyway, down to the real reason I wanted to visit this amazing place – check out these beautiful guys who were there to greet us on our arrival!!

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Dole Plantation

Originally operated as a fruit stand beginning in 1950, Dole Plantation opened to the public as Hawaii’s “Pineapple Experience” in 1989. Today, Dole Plantation is one of Oahu’s most popular visitor attractions and welcomes more than one million visitors a year.
Dole Plantation provides enjoyable activities including the Pineapple Express Train Tour, the Plantation Garden Tour, and the Pineapple Garden Maze. And, before you leave you can purchase fresh pineapple to take home!

Diamond Head

Diamond Head is the name of a volcanic cone on the island of Oahu and was given its name by English Sailors who mistook the calcite crystals on the adjacent beach for diamonds. Diamond Head is estimated to be around 400,000 to 500,000 years old and was created after a series of eruptions from the Koʻolau Volcano.

A 0.75-mile (1.1-km) hike (!!) leads to the edge of the crater’s rim. The hike is not a casual one: the mostly unpaved trail winds over uneven rock, ascends 74 steps, then through a tunnel and up another steep 99 steps!! Next is a small lighted tunnel to a narrow spiral staircase (43 steps) inside a coastal artillery observation platform built in 1908. From the summit above the observation platform both Waikīkī and the Pacific Ocean can be seen in detail, and the views really are spectacular and well worth the climb (although – highly recommend not doing the climb in the midday heat, in flip flops, like I did!!)

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As you can see, an incredible place with so much to see and do and so much history to learn about! I would highly recommend paying a visit – if I was offered the chance to go again I would absolutely jump at the chance!

Chatsworth House

We visited Chatsworth House in December as part of a trip through Newmarket Holidays, we spent one day at Chatsworth House and then spent the evening in a nearby hotel and the following day shopping in Chester.

Chatsworth is home to the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, and has been passed down through 16 generations of the Cavendish family.

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Today, Chatsworth contains works of art that span 4,000 years, from ancient Roman and Egyptian sculpture, and masterpieces by Rembrandt, Reynolds and Veronese, to work by outstanding modern artists, including Lucian Freud, Edmund de Waal and David Nash.

There are over 30 rooms to explore at Chatsworth, from the magnificent Painted Hall, regal State Rooms, restored Sketch Galleries and beautiful Sculpture Gallery.

Chatsworth House is built on sloping ground which is lower on the north and west sides than on the south and east sides. The main entrance was on the west front, which had four turrets, and the great hall was on the east side of the courtyard, where the Painted Hall remains the focus of the house to this day.

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Chatsworth has 126 rooms, with nearly 100 of them closed to visitors. The house is well-adapted to allow the family to live privately while the house is open to the public.  The family occupies rooms on the ground and first floors of the south front, all three floors of the west front, and the upper two floors of the north front. Staircases in the northeast corner of the main block and in a turret in the east front enable them to move about without crossing the public route.

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The Garden and some of its features

Chatsworth’s garden attracts around 300,000 visitors a year. It has a complex blend of different features from six different centuries and covers 105 acres!!

The Cascade and Cascade House is a set of stone steps over which water flows from a set of fountains at the top. It was built in 1696 and rebuilt on a grander scale in 1701. In 1703 a grand baroque Temple or Cascade House designed by Thomas Archer was added at the top. In 2004 the Cascade was voted the best water feature in England by a panel of 45 garden experts. It has 24 cut steps, each slightly different and with a variety of textures so that each gives a different sound when water runs over and down them.

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The Canal Pond, dug in 1702, is a 287 metre long rectangular lake to the south of the house.

The Seahorse Fountain is a sculptural fountain in a circular pond on the lawn between the house and the Canal Pond.

The Willow Tree Fountain is an imitation tree that squirts water on the unsuspecting from its branches!

The First Duke’s greenhouse is a long, low building with ten arched windows and a temple-like centrepiece. It has been moved from its original site overlooking the 1st Duke’s bowling green to the northern edge of the main lawn and is now fronted by a rose garden.

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Flora’s Temple is a classical temple built in 1695 and moved to its present site at the northern end of the broad walk in 1760. It contains a statue of the goddess Flora by Caius Gabriel Cibber.

The West Garden—now the family’s private garden with modern planting in a three-section formal structure.

The Emperor Fountain: An eight-acre lake was dug on the moors 350 feet above the house to supply the natural water pressure. The work was finished in just six months,  and the resulting water jet is on record as reaching a height of 296 feet (90 m)!!

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Although it was magical visiting in December, the house was decorated inside from top to bottom with Christmas decorations which was lovely, but it was also a shame because in some places you couldn’t see the traditional decor and ornaments, so in my opinion it would be good to visit at another time of the year in order to view the “real” Chatsworth House.

The house is open mainly from 11am until 5pm but double check the dates you are going for more accurate opening times depending on the season. Pre-book your tickets here. My suggestion is to get there as early as possible as there really is so much to see and lots of ground to cover, especially as you will need to stop for some lunch at some point!!

You can read even more information on Chatsworth House here.

 

 

Welcome to Miami!

My only regret about visiting Miami was that we didn’t visit for long enough! We travelled to Miami as part of a multi centre trip and only ended up spending three days here which was no where near enough time!!

We arrived in MIA airport in the afternoon but due to the ridiculous queues we encountered in customs we didn’t arrive at the hotel until the early evening! Be prepared to allow plenty of time to clear customs before making arrangements!!

Our first full day in Miami started at the Miami Seaquarium where we got to see Dolphins, Manatees, Sea turtles and Sea Lions and of course the infamous Killer Whale. We visited here before all the controversy surrounding the treatment of Orca Killer Whales in captivity (which came about as a result of the Blackfish Documentary) and although it was amazing experience to see all these incredible animals, and they all appeared to be well looked after, I’ve made a conscious decision to boycott these types of places from now on…

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The following day we took part in a full day tour of Miami, I usually like us to explore most places by ourselves but because our time was so short here in Miami this day tour was absolutely perfect to fit as much in as possible.

The tour started with a Miami city tour which included sights such as The Versace House,   Ocean Drive, Biscayne Bay and even the cemetery where the video for Michael Jackson’s Thriller was filmed!

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The Versace House
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Ocean Drive

The second part of the tour was a boat trip around Biscayne Bay which was absolutely brilliant! We had excellent photo opportunities of Star Island (where all the celebrities live) and the amazing Miami Skyline. We even got the chance to see the infamous house where Scarface was filmed (and just in time, as it was very sadly demolished shortly after our visit) and the houses where Bad Boys 1&2, Cocoon, Addam’s family and Miami Vice were filmed!! Throw in Madonna’s and Robert De Niro’s house and all in all it was a real star spotting afternoon!!!

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The Scarface House
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The Addams family House

The third part of our tour was a trip to the Miami Everglades!  We started off with an airboat ride through the everglades which was windy and extremely loud but a fantastic experience!! The guides talked us through the different animals and birds we encountered along the way, including baby alligators and GIANT toads!

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After our airboat ride, we sat down and had talks from the guides about alligators, toads, parrots and other animals they encounter on a day to day basis. Check hubby out with the baby alligator named Larry!!

We finished the evening off with a visit to Miami’s South Beach to catch it when it was relatively quiet and to see the sunset. If we had had more time in Miami I would have definitely spent the day here!

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Miami is somewhere I would love to visit again, and to spend far longer here as well, particularly as a few months ago I ended up binge watching the series Dexter on Netflix which is filmed entirely in and around Miami! Watching this series has only made me want to return to Miami even more!

Peonies and Petals

Just before Christmas I came across the most amazing website called Peonies and Petals. The ideas and flower designs they were showing on their website are nothing like I have ever seen before!

Peonies and Petals specialise in “one year roses” – real roses which last a year or even longer and are delivered in beautiful Parisian style keepsake boxes.

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The flowers are hand delivered to you, but at the moment delivery is limited to the Gloucestershire area. When the flowers are delivered, they are brought to the delivery address in a lovely black car with an incredibly smartly dressed driver who carefully brings them to your door for you (it was raining at the time mine was delivered so he arrived holding an umbrella over my rose to keep it dry!)

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The colours they use in their designs are spectacular – the “Tiffany Blue” colour is proving to be especially popular but they also have rainbow, gold and rose gold coloured roses.

As soon as I found them online I knew I had to have some! I trawled through the website for days trying to make my mind up which design and colour to go for when I learned about their new product – the Enchanted Rose. I fell in love with it then and there and contacted them straight away to place an order for a gold enchanted rose – and luckily for me it was the last one they had in stock at the time!

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The pictures really do not do it justice. Everyone who has seen the rose at my house has commented on how beautiful it is and enquired about where I got it. The Enchanted Rose collection comes in several colours – red, white, pink, gold and the new rose gold colour and they have also recently added a special edition “Beauty and The Beast” Enchanted Rose to their collection.

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After ordering my Enchanted Rose which was delivered a few days before Christmas, I had another amazing surprise in that my family had bought me another gold rose in a hat box from Peonies and Petals to say thank you for making such an effort for the family at Christmas! It really was a lovely surprise and shows how much I must have been bending their ears about the amazing Peonies and Petals website I had found!

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A beautiful selection of roses and absolutely fantastic customer service – I would highly recommend using them! In their gallery on their website it shows many people have used the flowers as part of their marriage proposals which is such a lovely idea!

Check out their Instagram and Facebook accounts to see the beautiful selection they have!

A Magical Trip to Iceland

In December I was lucky enough to spend four days in Reykjavik, Iceland to celebrate my sister’s birthday. Each of us have chosen a place to visit on special birthdays (my husband and I choose Vegas – I know, very cliche! And my brother in law chose St Lucia for his).

I must admit when my sister said she wanted to visit Iceland for her special birthday I was rather surprised and not particularly keen. I’d always visualised holidays as being somewhere hot, and as someone who hates the cold, visiting a place with an even colder climate was not particularly appealing! However, after spending four days in such a magical place I really had to eat my words!

We flew with WOW airways – I don’t normally mention the airline that we flew with for our trips but they really were outstanding! They gave my sister some chocolates and a mini bottle of fizz to celebrate her birthday and wrote her a lovely note wishing her a Happy Birthday. PLUS the pilot had to land the plane in a pretty bad storm! We hadn’t even realised how bad it was outside until we were told to take hats and scarves off as we left the plane as they would be blown away! I really do highly recommend them as an airline!

We stayed in the centre of Reykjavik – ideally situated near to all the restaurants and supermarkets. We got there late in the evening and were then picked up from the hotel early the following morning to go on a full day tour of Iceland and its amazing sights!

When we woke up in the morning we were delighted to discover that it was snowing! We had been told it was unlikely we would get snow in the centre of Reykjavik but yet my sister had her own personal Birthday flurry! It really made her day!

We visited the Friðheimar Greenhouse Cultivation Centre first – what a fascinating place! At Friðheimar, they grow tomatoes all year round, despite Iceland’s long, dark winters, under artificial lighting in greenhouses.

We then visited the Haukadalur valley area which is a geothermal area near the Hvítá river (white river).

We came here to visit the Strokkur Geyser, one of Icelands most famous geysers, which erupts on average every 6 to 10 minutes. It’s usual eruption height is 15 to 20 metres but it has been known to erupt as high as 40 metres!

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We then went on to visit the Gullfoss (Golden Falls) Waterfall – what an amazing sight! The wide Hvítá river rushes southward, and about a kilometre above the falls it turns sharply to the right and flows down into a wide curved three-step “staircase” and then abruptly plunges in two stages into a crevice 32 metres deep. As you approach the falls, the edge is obscured from view, so it appears that the river simply vanishes into the earth! The pictures really don’t do it justice!

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We then visited Thingvellir National Park – a place I was delighted to visit as lots of scenes from Game of Thrones were filmed here!! An absolutely breathtaking place, again the pictures really do not do it justice. The tour was fantastic as it was timed so that we were here to watch the beautiful sunset over the park – an amazing memory!!

Later that evening we were collected from the hotel again and taken out on our mission to try and hunt down the Northern Lights! They are of course completely weather dependant and we didn’t hold out much hope of seeing them due to the snow we had had that day, and the tremendous storm which had happened the day before that.

We hadn’t got very far when the coach driver said we were going to pull over because he could see the Northern Lights in the distance! We got out and stayed here for well over an hour and it was absolutely spectacular! My only regret – I had not learned to work my camera correctly in order to capture them properly and had forgotten to bring my tripod so the photographs I managed to get were very blurry, but I did better than those who were trying to capture them on their phones in the middle of a pitch black field with no lighting!

The following day we had a casual day exploring Reykjavik and visited the Hallgrímskirkja church. The Hallgrímskirkja church is Reykjavík’s main landmark and its tower can be seen from almost everywhere in the city and it really is a spectacular piece of architecture!

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Iceland really is one of the most amazing places I have visited and one of the very few places I would love to re-visit! I would highly recommend adding it to your bucket list! My sister had a really magical Birthday in Iceland – here she is frolicking in the snow – isn’t she cute??

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CocoChlo loves Cookie Doe

Breaking news!!! Heaven comes in little tubs and can be ordered online!!

I don’t even know how I came across this amazing website but as soon as I came across Cookie Doe London I knew I had to put an order in!!!

I bought a few different flavours to sample over the Easter break (makes a change from Easter eggs!) and stuck them in the freezer to avoid eating them all at once!

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Cookie Doe has been specially made to eat raw and doesn’t contain any harmful ingredients such as raw egg. The Cookie Doe needs to be kept in the fridge and will last for five weeks or can be frozen in which case it will last up to three months.

There are a wide range of flavours available on the website and new and seasonal flavours are added on a regular basis. Here are the flavours I have sampled:

Milk Chocolate Chip

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Salted Caramel – my absolute favourite! There are dark chocolate chips in this one which compliment the salted caramel sauce perfectly!

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Cookies and Cream 

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White Chocolate Delight

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And two Easter specials:

Cream Egg 

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Chocolate Nest 

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Other flavours available are Peanut Butter, Double Chocolate Chip, Chocolate Hazelnut and Strawberries and Cream.

Two sizes are available for all the flavours – an 8oz tub and 16oz tub. The 8oz tubs range from £4.85 to £4.99 and the 16oz tubs range from £7.50 to £7.80 so you get more value for money for the larger ones (although it means you will probably eat 16oz in one sitting rather than 8 so I stuck with the smaller tubs on this occasion!) Variety and multipacks are also available…..

The ONLY downside to ordering a little piece of heaven online – due to the weight of the tubs and the fact they have to be delivered with an ice pack to keep the cookie dough cool and fresh, the postage and packing is rather pricey. For the order I placed the postage and packing was £7.95, so I ordered enough to keep in the freezer to make the postage cost more worth while.

This website is an absolute must for Cookie dough fans! The Cookie Doe is a lot smoother than home-baked cookie dough and it doesn’t have that gritty texture (which I actually like!) but the flavour is amazing and it’s fantastic to know that its completely safe to eat as opposed to the raw egg contained cookie dough you are eating out of the bowl at home!

I will definitely be looking out for new flavours to try in the near future once I have worked my way through my last bulk order!

Merangz by Flower and White

I first came across these amazing meringues by Flower and White at the same time I came across their amazing Tweener cakes at the Gloucester Quays Victorian Market.

Merangz are Meringues with a crisp shell and an amazing flavour! They are made to a Swiss recipe and can be eaten as it comes or crushed with cream and fruit. Even better, Merangz are gluten free, low fat and selected flavours are suitable for vegetarians!

I’ve bought both the giant Merangz and Merangz Bites and both are show-stopping and extremely tasty! We ordered 60 Merangz bites for my Mum’s 60th Birthday party and they went down a treat!

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Merangz come in the following flavours:

  • Lemon
  • Pistachio
  • Chocolate
  • White Chocolate and Raspberry
  • Strawberry
  • Vanilla

and two new flavours (which I unfortunately haven’t had the chance to try yet!) – Mocha and Caramel and they are always adding limited edition flavours (at the moment they are chocolate strawberry and white chocolate and passionfruit).

Over Christmas they were also doing limited edition glitter giant Merangz so I bought several packs to give to family on Christmas Day.

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As well as the giant Merangz and Merangz bites, they have recently launched a new product called Merangz Pavs – little pavlovas which can be bought in single portions or in medium size. I haven’t had the chance to try these yet but will definitely add some to my next order!

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The great news is they are all available to order online. You can order the giant Merangz in packs of two (the same flavour) and the Merangz Bites come in packs of five or twelve (all different flavours including black cherry, strawberry, lime, lemon, passionfruit and chocolate orange). Giant Merangz are £3.95 per pack of two and the Merangz bites are £3.95 for a pack of five or £8.95 for the twelve pack.

Postage and packing is £3.95 irrespective of how much you order – why not add some of their equally good Tweener cakes to your order and stock up!?

Tweeners by Flower and White

I first came across these amazing little cakes when I went along to the Gloucester Quays Victorian Market a few years ago – they looked absolutely fantastic so my family and I bought a couple of boxes to try them out!

Tweeners are gorgeous round mini cakes made from the lightest sponge and a mound of tasty “in-between” compotes and curds and then topped with mounds of buttercream! Designed originally to be shared, but I have been known to demolish a whole one on more than one occasion!

Tweeners come in the following tasty flavours:

Caramel Latte

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Chocolate Caramel

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Lemon Curd

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Sticky Toffee Pudding

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Triple Chocolate

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White Chocolate and Raspberry

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Best of all – Tweeners are available to order online to have delivered right to your door! The minimum order is a box of four which costs £9.00 (£2.25 per cake which I think is an excellent price – I’ve paid nearly double that for a cupcake half the size!) and postage and packing is an additional £3.95 on top (again, compared to other places I order goods from and considering the weight of the cakes, I think this is really reasonable.) You can mix and match the flavours as well so you can have any combination of flavours you want which is brilliant. I usually order a couple of boxes, leave a couple out for me and the hubby and then freeze the remainder so they are there when the next craving for one comes around!

You can order your Tweeners from the Flower and White website along with their other amazing products – Merangz and Muffinz. The other week the amazing Tweeners even made an appearance on QVC and they are now available to order from the amazing gift finder website Not On The High Street.

I think they are destined for great things! Watch this space!

 

Sweet Trees for my sweets!

I mentioned in my Easter blog that I hadn’t bought traditional Easter treats for my family this year and had decided I wanted to do something a little bit different! I eventually decided on these fabulous Sweet Trees from Sweet Tree by Browns – aren’t they brilliant??

All of the sweet trees are made with edible centres and the trees will stay edible for four to six months if kept in its packaging.

They have a huge range to choose from (over 100 different designs) and because a member of my family only likes dark chocolate they made the dark chocolate Lindt one for me specially!

These are the trees I ordered:

Malteaser and Malteaser Bunny

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Ferrero Rocher 

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Licorice Allsorts

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Mixed Truffles (milk, white and dark Lindt truffles and Ferrero Rocher and Raffaello truffles)

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Mini Egg and Malteaser Bunny 

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Galaxy Golden Egg

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Dark Lindt Truffle

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The trees come in four sizes – 25cm (the ones I ordered), 35cm, 50cm and 65cm and are delivered in glass vases full of sweets. The glass vase can also be personalised with a message.

Prices start from around £19.99 for a 25cm Licorice Allsorts tree and increase to around £24.99 for the mixed truffles tree. For the next size tree up (35cm) you are looking at around £35.

Delivery is free and I found that all of my orders were delivered within three days. As they looked pretty fragile I was worried by the time I had got them that they may have been damaged but they were all really well packaged and not a single one was damaged or had any of the sweets fall off the tree so I was very impressed!

They proved to be very popular Easter gifts and I’ve already decided I am going to buy some more for my friends for their Birthdays!

 

 

 

Sweet Trees by Browns also sell chocolate plaques and chocolate scotch eggs which, judging from their Twitter account have also proved to be very popular!

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Easter time fun!

 

Even though Easter is probably my third favourite annual event after Christmas and Halloween, it is still one of the best times of the year – the warmer weather is (usually!) arriving by now, Springtime is underway and fluffy bunnies and Bank Holidays come to mind!

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Of course then theres also the large amount of Easter Eggs, Hot Cross Buns and other Easter goodies such as Easter Biscuits and Simnel Cake which make this holiday worth waiting for!

Each year I arrange a three course family lunch on Easter Sunday and there’s usually around 8 to 10 of us. I try and do a different menu each year (which is proving harder and harder with everyone’s different tastes!) and I try and arrange some Easter fun and games as well. A few years back I made everyone their very own Easter baskets with their names on and from that year onwards I sent them off into the back garden to fill their Easter baskets with chocolate. Although the family loved their Easter Egg hunts, everyone had so much in their Easter Baskets that they still had some left over months later! So this year I thought it was best to try something a little bit different!

This year I came across these lovely little Easter Bunnies from Lidl! They were only £3.99 each and each one has a yellow, white or orange flower in it. Everyone had their very own bunny with their name on it and an Easter trail clue which told them how to find this years Easter surprise! Each bunny is slightly different which made me like them even more!

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The Easter bunnies held a clue which took everyone to the hiding place of their Easter treat – instead of Easter Eggs this year I bought everyone their very own fantastic Sweet Tree! How amazing are these?? I’m so impressed with them I’m going to give them a blog all on their own so watch this space!

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As part of the Easter celebrations, every place setting has its very own obligatory set of bunny ears in pink, blue or yellow, and each year I buy everyone an Easter table favour to match.

This year I found these amazing Wax Amaryllis bulbs in matching blue, pink and yellow – perfect Easter pastels! They don’t need to be watered and will sprout in only a couple of weeks – I found them in the flower section of my local Marks and Spencer’s!

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Anyway, onto the best bit – dessert!! I am not going to be particularly surprising here as I stuck with my old faithful friend – The English Cheesecake Company to sort out our incredible dessert! I went for the Fruit Fantasy Variety cake as it had 4 different flavours of cheesecake to choose from – Mango Passionate, Raspberry Split, Summer Fruits, and Sicilian Lemon, and I also ordered a Butterscotch Caramel Crunch for the chocolate lovers of the family so there was something for everyone. You can have the cheesecakes delivered pre-portioned so you can keep them in the freezer and then just take out however many you need to defrost for a couple of hours before serving!

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As I was feeling especially greedy at the time of ordering, I also ordered their special edition Easter Cheesecake Minis!! Ooops!

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English Cheesecake Company really are amazing, I’ve been using them for a while now – check out my blog about them here.

As usually happens at times like Christmas and Easter, after most people had gone home for the day my sister and brother in law stayed for the evening so we could eat and drink some more!

I had a few bottles of Prosecco we could work our way through this evening and bought some amazing additions from Popaball to go with it! Check out their amazing new product Shimmer for Prosecco! People’s faces light up when you serve them a glass of Prosecco with this added in – it makes the Prosecco go a Rose Gold colour with little gold hearts floating in it – it looks amazing and tastes like raspberry! The Shimmer for Prosecco is £6.99 a pot and one pot will be enough for around 14 glasses of Prosecco.

When we finally got over our sugar rush from earlier, and after sinking a Amaretto Sours and Strawberry Daiquiri’s we then tucked into several varieties of “Cookie Doe”! This product is an absolute must for cookie dough lovers! A separate blog on this great product is to follow!

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And of course it wouldn’t be Easter without Hot Cross Buns! This year I stocked up on Salted Caramel and Chocolate Chip (a la Tesco’s) and Toffee Fudge and Belgian Chocolate from Marks and Spencer’s just as a change from the normal fruity flavours that are available!

Another amazing Easter celebration full of fun, family, food and drink!! Still working my way through the washing up though!!

Happy Easter everyone!

A visit to Harry Potter Studios

The Harry Potter studio tour has a new feature for 2017 – the Forbidden Forest! I visited the studio originally a few years ago but after the latest additions and the amazing time I had the first time round I thought it would be worth paying it another visit sometime soon!

Always pre-book your studio tour tickets online. You need to select not only the appropriate date but also a time you will be arriving for the tour, and tickets do get pre-booked months in advance! Don’t worry if you are a little bit late – we go lost on the way and ended up being half an hour later than the time we had booked our tickets for but it was fine, the timings are purely to try and control the amount of people flowing through the studios. Be warned – tickets are expensive! Adult tickets are £39.00 each, child tickets are £31.00 each, and if you are taking a child under the age of 4, although tickets are free you do still need to pre-order them a ticket. Family ticket packages are available for £126.00 for 2 adult and 2 child tickets or 1 adult and three child tickets.

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When you arrive at the studio you will be absolutely overwhelmed by the amount you will see – imagine how many props were used throughout the making of all the films and the majority of them are available for you to look at during the tour!

Just some of the highlights of the tour include:

The Great Hall

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Hagrids Hut

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The Wand Room

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Diagon Alley

Dumbledore’s Office

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Gryffindor Common Room

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The Knight Bus

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Privet Drive

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The Creature Effects Department – including Goblins and all time favourite Dobby the House Elf!

The Costumes Department – including Quidditch robes and Hogwarts Uniforms

The Forbidden Forest – new for 2017! Filled with 19 trees each with a diameter of over 12 feet, you can walk beneath the giant roots and can even control the weather whilst in the forest! Keep an eye out for Buckbeak and Aragog…

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You can also buy yourself a glass of Butterbeer! One of only three places in the world you can drink a real Butterbeer! An absolute must!

And finally, the Studio Shop! Normally I do battle my way through the gift shop of most places I visit and dart out the exit as quickly as possible, but I am such a big Harry Potter fan I couldn’t resist having a look! There are gifts galore in here – from T-shirts and Sweatshirts to wands and broomsticks to scarves and owls right up to a wide variety of sweets from Bertie Boots sweet shop!

Although a visit to the studio is expensive it really is a must for every Harry Potter fan! There is so much to see you could spend all day here! Highly recommended – I can’t wait for my next visit! Keep a look out for special events such as Hogwarts in the Snow (from 18th November 2017 to 4th February 2018) where the Great Hall and Gryffindor Common Room are filled with Christmas trees and decorations, and the Dark Arts event (from Sunday 1st October to Sunday 12th November) where Diagon Alley becomes far spookier and the set is patrolled by the followers of he-who-shall-not-be-named!!

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CocoChlo’s London Adventure – Day Four

I was so sad to leave after our final day in London but I think I need a holiday to get over this trip away!

Our first stop this morning was the London Eye. We only stopped to take a few photographs as all three of us are terrified of heights so it wouldn’t have been a very enjoyable experience actually going on it!

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After this we walked over to the London Dungeons. My sister has really been looking forward to visiting here as she loves her horrible history! We played an absolute blinder with these tickets as they cost £30 on the door but good old Tesco Clubcard saved the day again as we got an entrance ticket in exchange for £8 worth of Clubcard vouchers! Best deal of the trip I think!

When we got there and read all the warning signs about the dungeons (“not suitable for persons of a nervous disposition”etc) we all started to panic and wondered what on earth we had got ourselves into! In the dungeons you work your way through several different scenes from different eras such as Jack the Ripper in Whitechapel and Sweeney Todd the Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Some parts of it were quite scary and several people jumped and screamed throughout but the actors were fantastic and it was a really good experience in which you learned a lot about the history of London (and some awful torture devices!!)

After a couple of hours at the London Dungeon (which was absolutely amazing!) we had lunch at All Bar One . The menu was lovely, they had tapas available, 3 dishes for £15 or 5 dishes for £25.

After a big lunch we went over to the London Eye Pier and caught the Thames River cruise. I think there are several companies that you can book river cruises through – we pre-booked our tickets with City Cruises. The thing I liked about City Cruises was that they say although you pre-book a ticket for a cruise at a particular time, if you miss the pre-booked time you can use your ticket for another time that day, which takes the pressure off if you are over-running at another place prior.

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We caught the cruise which went from the London Eye Pier to the Tower Pier. During the journey we passed:

  • The London Eye
  • The Golden Jubilee footbridge
  • Waterloo Bridge
  • BFI Southbank Theatre
  • Blackfriars Bridge
  • Millenium footbridge
  • Southwark Bridge
  • Southwark Cathedral
  • London Bridge
  • HMS Belfast
  • The Tower of London
  • Tower Bridge

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After our river cruise we arrived at the Tower Pier and walked to the Monument to the Great Fire of London.

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After this we walked over to The Shard to have a couple of drinks in the cocktail bar – AquaShard. I thought it would be a lovely way to finish off our London visit and the views from the Shard are SPECTACULAR.

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If you are coming in for just drinks, you can’t reserve tables as they are on a first come first served basis but we had no problem getting a space in the early afternoon. Check out their wine, champagne and cocktail sample menu here.

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After a couple of very extravagant and very expensive cocktails we caught an Uber back to the hotel to collect our cases and wandered down to the Victoria Coach station to catch our coach home.

What an amazing trip! I think we did so well to fit so much in during such a short space of time! Of course there are still many other places I would like to come back and see but so pleased I got to see all these incredible places! I really do think that the key to such amazing visits is in the planning – if you group the places you want to visit and then plan your different days around a certain area, you really can pack loads and loads into your day!!

Off to plan my next city visit now – Prague in June for four days for our 8 year wedding anniversary!!

CocoChlo’s London Adventure – Day Three

Special day in London today as it is also my Birthday! What a brilliant way to spend it!

After another hearty Hutton’s Hotel breakfast we took a walk over to Westminster Abbey. We’ve pre-booked entry tickets for the Abbey – prices are £20 per adult and £17 concession. Looking at the on the door prices and online prices it doesn’t look as if you save anything by pre-booking them online but we have so much to do today and by pre-booking them and being able to skip the queue it bought us a bit more time!

Westminster Abbey is beautiful – well worth a visit despite its quite expensive entrance fee. Guide books are £6 each if you want to buy one to remember your visit as you are not allowed to take photos inside the Abbey.

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After our Westminster Abbey visit we wandered around and took photos of:

Big Ben

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The Palace of Westminster 

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Horse Guards Parade

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Trafalgar Square

 

After all this walking it was time for the event we had planned a whole visit to London around – the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child play! The play is in two parts and is being shown at the Palace Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue. We watched Part One at 2pm and then we went away and came back to watch Part Two at 7:30pm later in the evening.

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The first Part of the play was absolutely fantastic, we couldn’t wait to go back to watch the second part! I can’t say too much about it (as per a request by J.K Rowling herself) but I will say to any true Harry Potter fans – do all you can to get hold of these tickets, you wont be disappointed! The actors were brilliant and the special effects were out of this world – unlike anything I have ever seen on the stage!

During the gap between Part One and Part Two of the play we paid a quick visit the famous Snowflake for some ice cream. Way too many flavours to mention but amazing gelato and waffles, milkshakes, sundaes and desserts as well. There are a few Snowflakes across London (including within the Selfridges food hall) so pop in to one if you get the chance. An alternative to Snowflake is Snog Frozen yogurt if you would prefer a lower fat alternative! I ended up having three scoops – one each of coffee, creme brûlée and stracciatella!

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We had an early dinner tonight before Part Two was due to start, we chose to go to Bella Italia (another one of my favourites) but the main reason for choosing it was because we managed to exchange £10 worth of Tesco Clubcard vouchers for £40 worth of Bella Italia vouchers to put towards our meal due to Clubcard Boost (thanks again Tescos!)

 

Part Two of the play started at 7:30pm and finished at around 10:15pm – Part Two was well worth the wait! The play is designed to be watched on two separate occasions but I don’t know how people who watch Part one go away and then come back days or weeks later to watch the second part! The suspense would have killed me I think! An incredible play which had me in tears by the end, highly recommended!

Overall what an amazing Birthday! Definitely one which will be remembered for years to come!

CocoChlo’s London Adventure – Day Two

We got up early this morning as we have a busy day ahead, the Hutton’s Hotel cooked breakfast this morning was brilliant, we had a choice of eggs (scrambled or fried), sausages, bacon, baked beans, hash browns, cheese, fruit, cornflakes, muesli, tea, coffee, hot chocolate, and orange juice – just what we needed to start us off for day two!

First thing this morning we walked over to Harrods to visit the food hall – I have been several times before but the items you find in there still never cease to amaze me! There are cakes and pastries and bread and biscuits and macarons…. the list goes on.

 

 

 

Whilst we were there I bought a (very expensive!) bumper sized pack of La Duree macarons as they are my absolute favourite and all other macarons I have tried just do not compare to these! You can order them online however be aware because they are fresh and very fragile, shipping is expensive so bumps the price up even more!

 

I also bought some amazing Unicorn cupcakes! How cute are these??

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After spending way too much time (and money!) in the Harrods food hall, we wandered down to the Science Museum. The museum opens at 10am and closes at 6pm and is free entry. We spent a couple of hours here, the museum is not as big as we had imagined but is full of really interesting sections such as the energy hall, exploring space, agriculture and atmosphere. We didn’t spend as long here as we thought we would and in all honesty we didn’t enjoy it as much as previous visits we had paid to the Natural History Museum and the British Museum, but I have friends who have been here and have really enjoyed it. The other thing to bear in mind, if you go during the week, the museum will be chokka with school kids which makes it difficult getting close to some of the exhibits!

After over-working our brains at the science museum for a few hours, we caught an Uber over to the place I have really been looking forward to during our visit – Camden Market!

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There really are so many amazing places to visit and eat at that we couldn’t possibly visit (and eat at!) them all, but here are a few of the places you can try:

Chin Chin Nitro Icecream – AMAZING ice cream which is frozen using liquid nitrogen. We had cream cheese flavoured ice cream on top of a warm red velvet cake with cinnamon crunch toast – it was the best ice cream I have EVER had! Follow them on Instagram @Chin Chin Ice Cream.

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La Churrerialdn – I have always loved churros so this was one of the must visit places on my list! We bought 6 large warm churros rings with caramel sauce and tiny marshmallow sprinkles – delicious! Follow them on Instagram @lachurrerialdn.

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The Mac Factory – THE BEST mac and cheese I have ever tried!! All three of us had the “Nostalgic” which consisted of a blend of mature cheddar and mozzarella with a thyme and parmesan crumble topping. There are also lots of other choices including the “Super Mario” which includes sautéed portobello mushrooms, truffle oil and wild garlic and the “Lobster Mac” which includes lobster poached in a garlic and parsley butter with a lemon garnish. Yum! More info is available on their website.

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Hallumi Fries – One of the main reasons we visited Camden Market is to sample these amazing things!! I spotted them ages ago on Instagram and have been looking forward to trying them ever since! £5 a box is well worth it – pieces of hallumi are deep fried and then covered in za’atar yogurt, pomegranate molasses, mint, sumac, turkish chilli and pomegranate seeds. Incredible.

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Half Hitch Gin – I am not a gin drinker but my Mum and sister love it so they bought a bottle each. Although I didn’t try any, the small of it was delicious! The key botanicals for Half Hitch Gin is black tea, bergamot, wood, hay and pepper. For more information, visit their webpage here where you can also order bottles online.

 

South East Cakery – Award winning brownie bars including Oreo and Honeycomb, I settled for the Salted Caramel version! I took mine away for later but you can have them made up then and there to include whipped cream, salted caramel popcorn and pretzels too!

Also well worth a visit whilst you are here – the statue in tribute to the amazing Amy Winehouse. The statue is a really beautiful tribute to her as she stands amongst the market crowds.

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I ate way, way too much today! Could really do with going on a long, long run tomorrow morning to burn off just some of today’s calories!!

Later in the evening we visited the Lyric Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue to go and watch Thriller Live – what an amazing show! Every singer and dancer and musician was outstanding and we were lucky enough to get seats only 5 rows back! What a brilliant day and evening!

CocoChlo’s London Adventure – Day One

I’ve been wanting to visit London properly for years but it’s one of those places that you put to the bottom of the list because in the back of your mind you think to yourself that you can visit any time because it’s only a couple of hours away, so the more exotic locations usually win the “where should we go this year?” argument!

I’m visiting London with my sister and Mum so we needed to book a triple room for the occasion (much more difficult to find than I expected!) but we eventually settled on The Hutton’s hotel in Victoria, as we were travelling by coach and the hotel is only a few minutes walk from Victoria Coach Station. When we booked we also managed to get a  cooked breakfast included in our stay so thought we did quite well! For the triple room we paid around £390 for 3 nights so it worked out to be £130 per person in the end.

 

 

Once we had arrived we travelled over to St Paul’s Cathedral. We bought tickets online as they were slightly cheaper (£16 instead of £18). Pre-booking the tickets online also provide you with fast track entry to the Cathedral and as we were fitting so much into such a short space of time, any time spent not waiting in huge queues is a bonus!

The Cathedral is a really beautiful place, but I was most disappointed that you aren’t allowed to take photos inside! As you aren’t allowed to take photos,  I’d recommend getting a guide book to remember your visit, they are £4.50 each. Book your entry tickets to the Cathedral here.

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After our visit to the Cathedral we caught an Uber to Brick Lane to visit the Cereal Killer Cafe. What an amazing place! I highly recommend paying a visit! LOADS of cereals to choose from with a huge variety of milks and toppings to have with them. They also have a selection of pop tarts and hot drinks. Make sure you also try the cereal cocktails they have on offer! While we were there we had Unicorn Poop cereal (£4.90 a bowl) and a Salted Caramel malt shake! The friendly staff will help you if you don’t know where to start and can recommend cereals, milks and toppings which compliment each other. AMAZING!

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We then walked to the famous bagel shops Beigel bake (159 Brick Lane) and Beigel Shop (155 Brick Lane). I’ve heard great reviews about both of these places but my main reason for visiting was because I have been trying to track down some world famous rainbow bagels for ages and I had heard that I could find them here! The bagels did not disappoint – my Mum and sister had a lovely smoked salmon bagel and I left with a bag of 6 rainbow bagels for me and my friends (only 50p each!).

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Next was the Tower of London! You can book Tower of London tickets online here, but to be honest you don’t save much (£25.00 on the door vs £23.10 online). We found the best deal was to spend our Tesco club card vouchers and, due to Clubcard Boost, in exchange for £2.50 worth of Clubcard vouchers we got £10.00 back to spend on entry fees at the Tower of London! We paid for the vast majority of our entrance fee costs using Tesco Clubcard vouchers so only had to pay a couple of pounds to make up the difference! Bargain! You can read more about Clubcard Boost here.

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The Tower of London was fantastic and well worth a visit! You could easily spend a day here, there is so much to see. The Crown Jewels are incredible, we went round three times so we could keep looking at them over and over again, and the views of Tower Bridge and The Shard are spectacular on a clear day. I highly recommend waiting for one of the tours which run approximately half hourly – your Yeoman Warder guide is full of amazing facts and information and makes your visit to the tower far more enjoyable.

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After a  few hours at the Tower of London, we crossed Tower Bridge for our next stop – Southwark Cathedral. The Cathedral is a beautiful building, you don’t need tickets to get in and tours of the Cathedral start from £3.00. By the time we arrived, the Cathedral was closed so we didn’t get to go in which was a shame.

 

We then wandered over to see Shakespeare’s Globe (my sister is a big Shakespeare fan!) and had a well deserved drink in the bar. We didn’t have tickets to tonights show and we were disappointed we couldn’t go into the theatre, but the views of the Thames and the London skyline from here are absolutely stunning, especially at night when everything is lit up!

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Finally we caught an Uber back to the hotel, ordered a takeaway and collapsed in bed! What an amazing day full of spectacular things! Looking forward to day two of our London adventure!

Five Days in Dubai

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I’ve always wanted to go to Dubai and around this time last year an amazing offer came up on Travelzoo to stay in Atlantis, The Palm so I couldn’t resist booking it!

I knew the weather would be ridiculously hot in June and it would be relatively quiet as it was Ramadan during our trip but we’d got such a busy year ahead (and only a few select dates were available as part of the offer) so the beginning of June was the only time we could go.

We travelled from Birmingham airport and flew direct to Dubai with Emirates.

At The Atlantis we stayed in a beautiful Ocean Deluxe room but were given the opportunity to upgrade to a different room for an additional fee if we wanted to.

The Ocean Deluxe room was beautiful and we had an amazing view:

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You can choose an Ocean Deluxe room with either a king sized bed or two queen sized beds and the room has a minibar with cable TV, a walk-in shower and a separate bath.

The hotel really does live up to its reputation and is absolutely beautiful. We stayed on a half board basis which included breakfast and evening meal and there was no shortage of places to eat! The hotel has over 20 restaurants, the Atlantis Hotel website has more details but here are just a few of the restaurants you can enjoy:

  • Bread Street Kitchen and Bar by Gordon Ramsay – We ate in here and really enjoyed it, although there have been mixed reviews on the internet. Find a copy of the A La Carte menu here. For my starter I had Tagliolini with lobster, spring onions, chilli & parsley which was lovely and for my dessert I had Chocolate Parfait with salted caramel icecream – perfect!
  • Ayamna – Lebanese cuisine – Lovely friendly staff willing to talk you through the menu and recommend what they think you will enjoy, and the restaurant also has hookah pipes with a large menu if this is something you fancy!
  • Ronda Locatelli – A delicious Italian, we ate in here and had three courses each which were all really tasty! The freshly made pizza and delicious tiramisu come highly recommended!
  • Nasimi Beach – Closed when we went and throughout the summer, I assume because of the high temperatures. Nassimi Beach offers beachside dining in the cooler months and is an adults only beach which hosts regular beach parties and serves amazing cocktails. Private cabanas, sunbeds and tables are on a first come first served basis so get there as early as you can!
  • Saffron – South Asian buffet restaurant with a huge choice of dishes and live cooking stations. Saffron is also one of the places you can go for your buffet breakfast and again, the choice is huge. Out of the two places you can eat breakfast, Saffron was my favourite.
  • Kaleidoscope – International buffet with themed nights and the other restaurant to go to for your English and full continental breakfast. Kaleidoscope had a huge range of very good food, I just preferred the atmosphere of Saffron compared with Kaleidoscope.
  • TBJ – aka The Burger Joint – Tasty burgers quick and easy if you fancy dining a little more casually, as there is no dress code in TBJ.

There are also other restaurants available, although some of them charge extra to dine in if you are staying on a half board basis – Nobu (Japanese Cuisine), Ossiano (you can eat with stunning views of the Ambassador Lagoon!) and Seafire Steakhouse are some of the restaurants which charge this uplift. Platos and Illy’s cafe offer coffees, teas, pastries and paninis but had very limited opening hours when we were there due to Ramadan.

Outside dining is also available in the cooler months at The Edge (casual poolside restaurants serving pizza, salads and burgers), The Shore (poolside restaurant serving fajitas, nachos and steaks) and in other selected restaurants such as Nobu. You can also dine under the stars on Royal Beach with champagne and a set menu if you want to push the boat out!

If cocktails are more your thing, Barazura is the place for you! I’d recommend the Strawberry Daiquiri, Pimms Royal and the Frozen Blue Sky!

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The Atlantis has over a kilometre of beautiful beach front and two huge swimming pools (the Zero entry pool and the Royal Pool). We did visit both pools during our stay but couldn’t stay outside for very long due to the intense heat! Whilst we were sunbathing, staff members came out regularly to give us cold towels, ice creams and bottles of cold water which was a lovely touch. As it was so quiet whilst we were there, we even got extra ice cream! The Zero Entry Pool is designed for families and the Royal Pool has beautiful views of the Dubai Cityscape.

Included in the price of your stay at the Atlantis is unlimited entry to the Aquaventure Water Park and the Lost Chambers Aquarium.

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The Aquaventure Waterpark is brilliant and well worth visiting – there’s something for everyone. We would have stayed in the park longer but the heat got pretty unbearable in the afternoon, to the point where the soles of my feet were burning through my flip flops!

There are waterslides and river rides and activities such as ray feeding, and there’s a relaxation beach as well. The waterslides include Aquaconda, the Leap of Faith, Shark Attack and Poseidon’s revenge (which looks terrifying – you climb into a capsule and the floor falls away so you drop at around 60km an hour! Hubby was brave enough to do it but I worked on my tan instead!) You can find videos of most of these rides on YouTube if you want to judge them for yourself before taking the plunge!

There’s also Dolphin Bay and Sea lion point to check out – dolphin encounters are available but are subject to an extra fee.

The Lost Chambers Aquarium is worth checking out (keep an eye open for their baby albino alligator!) In here you will find over 65,000 marine animals and they offer free hourly myth tours.

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We were only in Dubai for 5 days so didn’t have much chance to explore, however on one of the days we visited the Dubai Mall. The mall is the largest in the world by total area and you really could spend days in here if you enjoy shopping! It was very quiet when we visited due to Ramadan, and the restaurants and food halls normally open within the mall were closed; however they had set aside a large area on the top floor in the food hall where you could still choose from a wide range of restaurants and fast food outlets. The choice really is endless!

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The main reason I wanted to visit the Dubai Mall was to visit the viewing deck of the Burj Khalifa, known as At the Top, Burj Khalifa. The Burj Khalifa is a metal skyscraper with a total height of 829.8 metres, making it the tallest structure in the world! The At the Top observation deck is on the 124th floor so as you can imagine, the views are spectacular. It is highly recommended that you pre-book, tickets are available here. You can either book tickets for levels 124 and 125, or tickets for the At the Top Sky which includes levels 124, 125 and level 148. Whilst you are at the Dubai Mall (and on the observation deck!), it is also worth checking out the Dubai Fountains, the worlds largest choreographed fountain system.

I really loved Dubai and I would definitely go back – I can see why people continue to go back year on year – it’s an ideal place for couples to get away for a few days and enjoy the luxury that Dubai and The Atlantis has to offer.

Travelzoo do have a similar offer on at the moment to the one I booked, although this latest offer is through a different company – happy holiday hunting!

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English Cheesecake Company

I’ve been placing orders through the English Cheesecake Company for well over a year now, so I’m not sure why it took me so long to write about how amazing they are! I can’t even remember how I came across them in the first place, I think it may have just been a good old google search….

Anyway, I came across their website. They have hundreds of amazing cakes to choose from and do seasonal versions for Valentine’s Day, Easter, Halloween and Christmas. Any flavour cheesecake you can think of, it’s likely that English Cheesecake Company have it; and more! From After Dinner Mint to Pina Colada to Pecan Pie to Salted Caramel Toffee Swirl, you are bound to come across several flavours you can’t resist giving a try!

Aside from cheesecakes, they also sell delicious fudge cakes and these amazing little inventions called cupcake cheesecakes which are regular sized sponge cupcakes with a cheesecake centre and topping – you must try them! My favourite of the cheesecake cupcakes are the Lotus Caramelised Biscoff Cheesecake Minis.

If cheesecake really is your thing, they also stock humungous cheesecakes for weddings and parties which serve up to 60 people. Flavours include chocolate fudge profiterole, chocolate cookie mudslide and chocolate truffle strawberry shortbread.

Here are some of the delicious flavours my family and I have sampled over the past year or so:

The Gold Digger – Vanilla cheesecake covered with Dulce De Leche toffee on a chocolate biscuit base, one half is covered with crunchy chocolate honeycomb and the other half is covered with shortbread chunks drizzled in chocolate! Both halves were amazing but the chocolate honeycomb side was my favourite!

Cinnamon Bun Streusel cheesecake – This one is my husbands favourite so we have ordered this one a couple of times and it’s unlike any other cheesecake I have tried! On the bottom is cinnamon sponge topped with vanilla cheesecake covered with cinnamon streusel crumble and then drizzled with white icing!

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Butterscotch caramel crunch – This is one of my brother in law’s favourites – a chocolate cookie base topped with vanilla cheesecake, Dulce De Leche toffee and LOTS of dime bars then drizzled with a chocolate fudge sauce!!

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Cookie Dough Collision – This one is my absolute favourite as I am obsessed with cookie dough! In the middle of the vanilla cheesecake is a huge chunk of cookie dough! The cheesecake is then topped with cookie chunks and dark chocolate chips and then drizzled in chocolate sauce – IT IS AMAZING!!!

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12 Cheesecake minis – 12 little cheesecakes of all different flavours – ideal for dinner parties as everyone is bound to find a flavour they like!! The selection consists of: Toffee Pecan, Raspberry White Chocolate, Toffee Crunch Daim Bar, Chocolate Profiterole Smash, Oreo Cookie’s and Cream, Honeycomb Golden Nugget, New York Baked Vanilla, Millionaire’s Shortbread, Alphonso Mango Passionate, Blueberry White Chocolate, Sicilian Lemon and Strawberries and Queen Cheesecake.

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Lotus Caramelised Biscoff Cheesecake Minis – These were the first cheesecakes I ordered from English Cheesecake Company. My sister and I were having the day off together and I ordered these as a surprise for us to scoff our faces whilst enjoying our duvet day together – they did not disappoint! When they turned up we unpackaged them and struggled to wait until they had defrosted until we started eating them! This selection box consists of 6 cheesecake filled Lotus biscuit topped cupcakes and 6 cheesecake minis. I would definitely order them again! Really tasty! My sister asked me about them again the other day as she remembered how good they were!

Rocky Road Cheesecake – I wanted to give this one a go as my sister loves Rocky Road! It’s a chocolate cookie base, covered with a layer of chocolate fudge, vanilla cheesecake and chocolate crumb. On top there’s loads of shortbread chunks, malted chocolate balls and marshmallows all with a chocolate drizzle on top!

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12 Christmas Cheesecake minis – I ordered these for over Christmas for when people are popping over so I always had a dessert on hand just in case and with this selection box I would have every taste catered for! This selection box is a Christmas edition so unfortunately it’s not available on the website anymore – the flavours were Luxury Mince Pie, Red Velvet, Salted Caramel, Honeycomb Smash, Profiterole Snowball, Mandarin Mayhem, Rasberry Pavlova, Peppermint Bark, Festive Chocolate Log Truffle, Gingerbread Man, Cranberry and Lime and Christmas Chocolate Star.

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Valentine’s Red Velvet Cheesecake – This was my most recent purchase – my husband and I started this for our dessert on Valentine’s Day and I have still got around half left in the freezer! This one is another one of my favourites so far – The vanilla cheesecake is filled with cocoa filled red velvet sponge and topped with a layer of chocolate fudge. On the top are lovely red and black chocolate hearts, mini chocolate heart pieces and red and white sprinkles. Definitely one to try!! Although it is a Valentine’s Day edition, they do also offer the regular Simply….Red Velvet Cheesecake as an alternative.

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Easter Cheesecake Mini’s

A lovely selection of 12 mini’s – 6 mini cheesecakes and 6 mini cheesecake cupcakes. Ideal for serving to guests over Easter and can be kept in the freezer until you need them! The cheesecake cupcakes are delicious!

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Prices range from £25 to £36 depending on whether you go for a traditional 12 slice cheesecake or 12 mini cheesecakes – keep an eye open for any of their “Cake of the moment”offers as when you buy a cheesecake with this offer, you get a free cheesecake added to your order! Flavours depend on what is being prepared on that day, I got a free one with my Christmas Cheesecake Minis order and the flavour I got was Raspberry and pomegranate. I gave this one to my Mum to enjoy over Christmas and unfortunately I forgot to take a photo of it before I sent it on its way!

When you place your order you can add personalised chocolate discs to the order (milk or white chocolate in round or heart shaped discs) and gift boxes and gift cards. You can also add “pre-portioning” to your order which means they will cut up the cheesecake into sections for you – this makes it much, much easier if you are freezing the majority of the cake and then just getting a few pieces out at a time. It is almost impossible to cut the cheesecake when it is frozen and you should not defrost it in order to cut it and then re-freeze it for obvious reasons. So I always add the pre-portioning to my order – it cost’s £1.99 and is more than worth it in my opinion.

Another thing I love about English Cheesecake is that delivery is included in the price (unless you want it delivered on a Saturday). You can select your nominated delivery date (they don’t deliver on Sunday’s or Monday’s though) and if you order early enough you can even get next day delivery! (An additional charge of £1.99 applies). The Cheesecakes are really well packaged in a polystyrene container and are delivered frozen with dry ice to keep them cool.

A highly recommended company with amazing products and brilliant customer service! Check out their website and drool away!!

Painswick Rococo Garden

We live literally down the road from this beautiful place but have only this weekend got round to visiting it! I visited here around 13 years ago when member of my husbands family got married but didn’t have the opportunity to explore it properly.

We thought about visiting after a a report was shown on the news that it was the time of the year where their famous snowdrops make an appearance. They tell you when they are all in bloom to keep a look out for the particularly tall Galanthus Atkinsii which was discovered in the 1800’s by an estate worker.

So what is Rococo? A style of art and architecture originating in France and and Italy in the early 1700’s, rococo was a development of the baroque.

The Garden’s restoration was led by Lord and Lady Dickinson and started in 1984, at which point it was a wilderness of trees and brambles. The Garden became a charitable trust in 2012.

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We visited on a Saturday and arrived at around midday. It was already rather busy by this time but we didn’t have to wait long to get tickets. Tickets are £6.20 per adult but if you choose gift aid entry tickets they are £7 each and Painswick Rococo Garden can claim much more tax back from the government if you choose this option.

They provide you with a map when you buy your tickets but to be honest you don’t need it. You follow the walk paths around the gardens and along the way you come across the following:

Eagle House

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Beech Walk and Gothic Alcove

Snowdrop Grove

Fish Pond

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Bowling Green

Plunge pool

Kitchen Garden

Maze

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and finally; the Red House which is where wedding ceremony’s are hosted.

I’ve seen mixed reviews about the on site cafe at Rococo Garden – we were willing to give it a try but it was jam-packed from the time we arrived until the time we left (which must be a good thing I suppose!) so we didn’t get the chance to try it on this occasion.

Overall a very nice day out which gets you out in the open air and gives you the opportunity to take some lovely photos. We all said when we were there that its the type of place which you could visit several times a year and it would be completely different dependant on the season.

Another thing I thought was brilliant was they hold events such as an Easter Trail and Shakespeare performances of As You Like It (30th June 2017 and 1st July 2017) and A Midsummer Nights Dream (21st July 2017). I really think my sister and I will come back for the Midsummer Night’s dream performance!

Find out more information about visiting Painswick Rococo Garden and the events they have on here.

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