Popalicious Cake Pops!

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

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

Unicorns Rock Cake Pops

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

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Unicorn Cake Pops

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

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

Rainbow Sprinkle Cake Pops

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I couldn’t wait to try these! Outside they look like a straightforward pastel coloured cake pop but inside is an amazing moist rainbow cake! I’m only slightly ashamed to say that I ate nearly all of these in one sitting – for research purposes obviously!

Other treats aside from cake pops are also available including –

Unicorn cakelets

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

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Vanilla Rainbow Cakelets

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

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Chocolate Sprinkle Cakelets

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

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

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

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

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

Barcelona Bliss

***Update 18/08/2017 – Thinking of everyone affected by the horrific terror attacks which took place in Barcelona yesterday. We all stand with you – there’s no place for terrorism on Earth. Sending you all love and best wishes.***

I have been to Barcelona twice now with two different sets of people and ever since then I’ve been trying to persuade my sister, brother and law and hubby to come back with me for a third visit!

Barcelona’s influence in commerce, education, entertainment, media, fashion, science, and the arts all contribute to its status as one of the world’s major global cities.

I spent four days in Barcelona both times I visited, and easily filled all of my time with the amazing sights and activities this fantastic place has to offer! Some of the highlights of my trips to Barcelona include:

Barcelona Cathedral (The Gothic Cathedral)

The Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia is the Gothic cathedral and and is one of the most beautiful cathedrals I’ve seen. It was constructed from the 13th to 15th centuries, with the principal work done in the 14th century. The roof features some incredible gargoyles of a wide range of animals, both everyday animals and mythical creatures.

The cathedral is dedicated to Eulalia of Barcelona, co-patron saint of Barcelona, a young virgin who, according to Catholic tradition, suffered martyrdom during Roman times in the city. The body of Saint Eulalia is entombed in the cathedral’s crypt.

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The inside is very grand and ornate, but also very tasteful and beautiful.

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The Columbus Monument

The monument is a 60 metre tall monument to Christopher Columbus at the lower end of La Rambla, but in my opinion is relatively easy to overlook! It was constructed for the Exposición Universal de Barcelona (1888) in honour of Columbus’ first voyage to the Americas. The monument serves as a reminder that Christopher Columbus reported to Queen Isabella I and King Ferdinand V in Barcelona after his first trip to the new continent.

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Port Vell

Port Vell translates to ‘Old Harbour’ and is part of the Port of Barcelona. It was built as part of an urban renewal program prior to the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. and is now a huge tourist attraction, containing shops, bars, restaurants and a cinema. It also holds Europe’s largest aquarium containing 8000 fish and 11 sharks!

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Sagrada Família

The main reason I wanted to visit Barcelona was to see this incredible building!!

The Sagrada Família is a large Roman Catholic church, designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí. The construction of Sagrada Família commenced in 1882.

Sagrada Familia’s construction progressed slowly, as it relied on private donations and was interrupted by the Spanish Civil War, in fact, when Gaudí died in 1926, the basilica was only between 15 and 25% complete.

In October 2015 it was announced that construction is now 70% complete and has entered its final phase (the building of six huge towers) The towers and most of the church’s structure are to be completed by 2026, which marks the centennial of Gaudí’s death. Visitor entrance fees currently finance the construction, which has an annual budget of 25 million euros!

Gaudí’s original design was for a total of eighteen spires, representing in ascending order of height the Twelve Apostles, the Virgin Mary, the four Evangelists and, tallest of all, Jesus Christ. The Evangelists’ spires will be topped with sculptures of their traditional symbols: a winged bull (Saint Luke), a winged man (Saint Matthew), an eagle (Saint John), and a winged lion (Saint Mark). The central spire of Jesus Christ is to be topped by a giant cross with a total height of 170 metres. The completion of the spires will make Sagrada Família the tallest church building in the world.

The Church will have three grand façades: the Nativity façade to the East, the Passion façade to the West, and the Glory façade to the South.

Nativity Façade

Constructed between 1894 and 1930, the Nativity façade was the first façade to be completed. Dedicated to the birth of Jesus, it is decorated with scenes reminiscent of elements of life. The three porticos are separated by two large columns, and at the base of each lies a turtle or a tortoise, to represent both land and sea. In contrast to the figures of turtles, two chameleons can be found at either side of the façade, and are symbolic of change.

Each portico represents a theological virtue of Hope, Faith and Charity. Four towers complete the façade and are each dedicated to a Saint (Matthias the Apostle, Saint Barnabas, Jude the Apostle, and Simon the Zealot).

Passion Façade

In contrast to the highly decorated Nativity Façade, the Passion Façade is plain and simple, with bare stone, and is carved with harsh straight lines to resemble the bones of a skeleton. Dedicated to the Passion of Christ, the suffering of Jesus during his crucifixion, the façade was intended to portray the sins of man. Gaudí intended for this façade to strike fear into the onlooker.

The Passion Façade is supported by six large columns. Above is a pediment (triangular part of the façade), made up of eighteen bone-shaped columns, which form a large cross with a crown of thorns. Each of the four towers is dedicated to an apostle (James, Thomas, Philip, or Bartholomew).

The scenes sculpted into the façade may be divided into three levels. The lowest level depicts scenes from Jesus’ last night before the crucifixion, including The Last Supper, Kiss of Judas, Ecce Homo, and the Sanhedrin Trial of Jesus. The middle level portrays the Calvary, or Golgotha, of Christ, and includes The Three Marys, Saint Veronica, Saint Longinus, and a hollow-face illusion of Christ. In the third and final level the Death, Burial and the Resurrection of Christ can be seen. 

Glory Façade

The largest and most striking of the façades will be the Glory Façade, on which construction began in 2002. Dedicated to the Celestial Glory of Jesus, it represents the road to God: Death, Final Judgment, and Glory, while Hell is left for those who deviate from God’s will. Purgatory and death will also be depicted, the latter using tombs along the ground. It will include seven large columns dedicated to spiritual gifts and at the base of these columns there will be representations of the Seven Deadly Sins, and at the top, The Seven Heavenly Virtues.

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Interior

I don’t even know how to begin describing the inside of Sagrada Familia! The ceilings are high and the decoration and designs made me feel like I was walking through a beautiful forest, with the canopies of the trees protecting me from all the elements. It was absolutely breath-taking…

 

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It has been a while since I have visited so I can’t wait to go back again to see what progress has been made on Sagrada Familia!

Park Güell

The park was again designed by Antoni Gaudí. The park was built between 1900 and 1914 and was officially opened as a public park in 1926. 

From the park’s high point it is possible to view the city, with the Sagrada Família and the Montjuïc area visible at a distance.

Within the park you can find:

Gaudi’s House

Casa Museu Gaudí was the residence of Antoni Gaudí for almost 20 years, from 1906 till the end of 1925. On 28 September 1963 it was opened as a museum.

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Hansel and Gretel Houses

The amazing Hansel and Gretel style houses, again designed by the famous architect  Antoni Gaudi.

Hypostyle Room

The great entrance stairway leads to the Hypostyle Room, which was designed to be the market for the estate. It is made up of 86 columns and the ceiling is formed of small domes constructed using the traditional technique of clay bricks decorated with original tile-shard mosaics.

The Salamander

Gaudí’s multicolored mosaic salamander, popularly known as “el drac” (the dragon), is at the main entrance.

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Other places in Barcelona also worth a look are:

Casa Batllo

Casa Batlló is a renowned building located in the centre of Barcelona and is another one of Antoni Gaudí’s masterpieces.  The local name for the building is Casa dels ossos (House of Bones), as it has a skeletal organic quality.

The Olympic Stadium

Originally built in 1927 for the 1929 International Exposition in the city (and Barcelona’s bid for the 1936 Summer Olympics, which were awarded to Berlin), it was renovated in 1989 to be the main stadium for the 1992 Summer Olympics. The stadium has a capacity of 54,000 (67,007 during the 1992 Olympics), and is located in the Anella Olímpica, in Montjuïc, a large hill to the southwest of the city which overlooks the harbour.

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Camp Nou

Camp Nou has been the home stadium of FC Barcelona since its completion in 1957.

It is the largest stadium in Spain (seating for 99,354), is the largest in Europe and the third largest football stadium in the world in terms of capacity.

As part of your tour around Camp Nou you visit the changing room, pitch, presidential box, press room, and the FC Barcelona Museum.

You can book your tickets for tours of Camp Nou here.

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Palau Real de Pedralbes (The Royal Palace)

The Royal Palace is a building in the district of Les Corts. From 1919 until 1931 it was the residence for the Spanish Royal Family when they visited the city. It houses the Museu de la Ceramica (ceramic museum), Museu Tèxtil i d’Indumentària and Museu de les Arts Decoratives (interior design museum), and is the permanent seat of the Union for the Mediterranean.

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Isabella II showing her son, Alfonso XII, by Agapit Vallmitjana i Barbany

As you can see, Barcelona is a wondrous city full of amazing architecture, fascinating places to visit and incredible photo opportunities! Make sure to add it to your bucket list! I’m going to keep on trying to persuade someone to come back with me again for a third visit!

Rainbow Roses

I was never really a “flower person” until I came across these incredible roses!

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My husband stopped buying roses for me several years ago as the last time he did, it was a few months before we were about to move into our first home. He brought home a lovely bunch of white roses and I remember saying to him “thanks so much babe, they’ll look lovely when we move into our new home in a few months!” He looked at me in the strangest way, and then said he didn’t understand? The lovely bunch wouldn’t be alive in a few months time! I smiled at him and tapped the bunch of flowers on the dining room table and said “of course they will be babe, these flowers are plastic!” He then had no choice but to admit that he had grabbed them from a petrol station on his way home without even looking at them and like I say, I tend to have to buy my own flowers nowadays!

I know I say this a lot in all my blogs but again, these photos just do not do these flowers justice! They are known as “Rainbow Roses” or “Happy Roses” and each rose is completely individual. The roses are created in these spectacular colours by splitting the stem and dipping each part in different coloured water. The colours are then drawn into the petals resulting in a multicolored rose. The drawback to this? It means that Rainbow Roses don’t last as long as regular roses which is an incredible shame.

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Rainbow Roses were initially quite difficult to get hold of – I’ve always ordered mine from Flowers Delivery 4 U and they’ve always been beautiful when they arrive. I often get emails from them offering up to 40% off all of their bouquets which do include the Rainbow Roses so I can order them for nearly half price! Prices start at £39.99 for 6 Rainbow Roses all the way up to £219.99 for 48 so take advantage of any discount codes you can get your hands on! I have also seen at least two deals on Groupon for Rainbow Roses from Flowers Delivery 4 U as well so its worth checking there for a good deal too!

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Rainbow Roses are starting to become a bit more common now – Tesco’s were selling single Rainbow Roses for Valentines Day and even places like Lakeland (yes they sell flowers online!) are selling bouquets with Rainbow Roses in them!

I’ve bought a couple of Rainbow Rose bouquets for friends for their Birthday’s and they absolutely loved them – it’s a real surprise to open the delivery box and find such an unusual colourful display!

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More recently I have also come across Rainbow Lillies and Rainbow Chrysanthemum bouquets on a website called Blossoming Gifts! I will have to give them a try as well!

Simply beautiful Saint Lucia

Saint Lucia is the perfect destination, whether you’re after romance, rejuvenation or adventure. A genuine, natural landscape of gorgeous palm-fringed beaches, miles of unspoiled rainforest and the majestic Piton Mountains, are sure to indulge every taste.

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During our visit to Saint Lucia we stayed at the beautiful Coconut Bay Resort and Spa on an all inclusive basis. The hotel is divided into two sections – the Harmony section which is for adults only, and Splash, designed especially for families.

We wanted to see as much of Saint Lucia as possible during our stay so we booked a trip through Viator called the Soufriere Island Delight half day trip. This trip was fantastic – we had a scenic drive to the town of Soufriere through traditional Caribbean fishing villages, tropical rainforest and banana plantations along the way.

We had beautiful views of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed twin Pitons. The Pitons are two mountainous volcanic plugs (also called a volcanic neck or lava neck). The Gros Piton is 771 metres high, and the Petit Piton is 743 metres high and they are linked by the Piton Mitan ridge. Saint Lucia’s local brand of beer made by the Windward and Leeward Brewery is named after the Pitons!

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As part of the half day trip we also visited:

Diamond Falls Botanical Gardens and Mineral Baths 

The Diamond Botanical Gardens (also known as the St. Lucia Botanical Gardens) is a 6-acre area with a river running through the estate called Diamond River. The river is black through the volcanic mud and there are mineral deposits on the river’s banks.

The centrepiece of the gardens is the colourful Diamond Waterfall. This beautiful waterfall is approximately 17 metres in height and is a mixture of rainwater and volcanism fed by the Sulphur Springs. The water is laced with minerals, sulphur, copper sulphate, magnesium, iron, manganese and calcium, all which contribute to the kaleidoscope of colours that appear in the rock behind the falls. The rock face changes colour depending on the mineral content at that point in time.

Superman, in Superman II, flies between the Pitons and then pauses before Diamond Falls and picks the beautiful bird-of-paradise plant to give to Lois Lane.

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Diamond Waterfall
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Diamond Waterfall

Sulphur Springs

Sulphur Springs (described as the World’s only drive in volcano!) consists of mysterious boiling pools of dark water which emit the pungent smell of sulphur. Sulphur Springs were deemed by folklore as a place where one’s soul meets death.

The creation of the sulphur springs, came from a weak spot in the crust of the enormous collapsed crater creating an upheaval of lava 410,000 years ago. The water located at the center of the springs boils at roughly 340 Fahrenheit (170 Celsius) creating large plumes of steam. The water coming out of the spring is blackened by a chemical reaction between the high content of sulphur and iron. The spring water also contains large deposits of copper, iron oxide, alkaline, lead, calcium oxide, and carbon.

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The Sulphur Springs are a popular tourist destination in St Lucia due to their ability for tourists to literally drive up to the edge of the springs. Up until the mid-1990s, tourists were able to walk right up to the end of the tar-colored pits however following a terrible accident where a local tour guide fell through the crust into a pit and received second degree burns, the formation now has restricted viewing to a platform a few hundred feet away.

A couple of hundred yards downstream from the springs, the water temperature is still hot (around 110 Fahrenheit or 45 Celsius), but cool enough for tourists to enter and give themselves mud baths!

 

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After our amazing trip to the Botanical Gardens we went for lunch at a restaurant high in the hills with beautiful views of St Lucia. Lunch was shortly followed by a trip to a rum distillery for some rum tasting!!

Speaking of rum… on the way back to the hotel we passed this beautiful place where some scenes from the film Pirates of the Caribbean were filmed…

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A truly beautiful place to relax with loved ones with lots to see and lovely friendly people to show you around!

Addicted to Lush Take Two!

Ok, so I thought I had a Lush addiction when I wrote my first Lush blog but since then I have spent even more time scouring the internet and popping into my local Lush for more products to test out! And I have to admit, I’ve really enjoyed doing it! Here’s some of the latest Lush products I’ve tried and tested over the last few weeks –

Blackberry Bath Bomb

Apparently, the Blackberry bath bomb was the first ever Lush bath bomb, and is still one of their most popular today!

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The Blackberry bomb is a beautiful lilac bath bomb with the word BOMB printed on the side of it. The key ingredients of the Blackberry bomb are bergamot and frankincense, and obviously a Blackberry flavour. I did find the scent of this bomb to be more flowery than fruity, however.

This bomb is a fast and quick fizzer! After only a few seconds the bath water turns a beautiful shade of lilac and a nice surprise can be found in the centre of the bomb!

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This is a really refreshing bomb and definitely one I would buy again. It makes your skin very soft but is not too oily like some of the other bath bombs available.

Sakura Bath Bomb

This is a Japanese themed bath bomb – Sakura translates as “cherry blossom”. The bomb has lemon oil, orange flower blossom, mimosa and jasmine. I really like the scent of this bath bomb, and it’s a pretty pink and purple colour.

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When put into the bath, the bomb doesn’t create any colour at all which I was quite disappointed about, but once the bomb dissolved, the scents of jasmine and mimosa become much more apparent. Unfortunately, the colour of the bath water isn’t much to talk about either – hardly any colour, just a bit of murkiness!

One of the strongest scented bath bombs I’ve used and very refreshing and uplifting, and leaves your skin beautifully smooth, just not much to look at I’m afraid! Ideal for those who are new to bath bombs and prefer the smell of a bath bomb rather than a colour show – for example I got my Mum and Mother in Law one of these each for Christmas to go in their Christmas Eve boxes.

Candy Floss Showder

Presented in a box reminiscent of the old-fashioned washing powders, this is the first Showder product I have tried.

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Candy Floss Showder contains calamine powder, clove bud oil and vanilla absolute, and the ylang ylang oil and vanilla gives the showder its sweet candy floss aroma. It includes granulated sugar to help exfoliate and polish the body, and the calamine to soothe the skin.

One thing which annoyed me straight away about this product was that it is a product which is designed to be used in the shower, yet it is packaged up in a cardboard box which is almost impossible not to get wet in between uses and will of course just disintegrate after getting wet a couple of times. I note a lot of Lushie’s on Instagram decant their showders into pots and bottles which are far more suitable for shower and bath use! I think I may have to look into this – especially due to the price of the product (£15.95 a box!).

I also found generous helpings of the product were required as it didn’t foam up at all, and if you weren’t quick enough, you’d find most of the product being washed away down the plug hole! I can’t see my box of Showder lasting as long as I had anticipated when I bought it!

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I do think it is a great gimmick, but I can’t see myself using this as an alternative to shower gel on a regular basis – due to both the price and practicality really! Overall I was a bit disappointed, I didn’t even find that the granulated sugar in the product was at all exfoliating. My top tip – use it in the bath rather than the shower – at least you have half a chance of mixing up a decent paste to use rather than it just being washed away down the plug hole! Afraid to say once I’ve used this up, I doubt I will be buying anymore….

Scrubee

How cute is he?? In case the name hadn’t given it away – he’s a bee!

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The dark striped areas are ground coconut shells and ground almonds, which give quite a harsh but natural exfoliation. The rest of this lovely little character is a solid body butter made of shea and cocoa butter which makes your skin feel beautifully soft and moisturised. It is a strange sensation when you first use it because it is really buttery and quite oily but works so well on keeping your skin soft so bear with it!

You may have already guessed the magic ingredient in Scrubee is honey! Scrubee smells delicious and the amazing scent stays on your skin long after using it.

This little guy has had rave reviews since its release – it has now been made a permanent Lush product after proving to be so popular. I missed out on getting one for a long time so I was so pleased when I finally got my hands on a couple! Just be careful when using in the shower – I stupidly balanced mine on the shower taps and as they got hot my poor little scrubee started melting and made the floor of the shower very slippery!

After a couple of uses the coconut shells and ground almonds start coming through and he starts to look more like this:

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A highly recommended product – grab one as soon as you can! I’m so pleased I bought a couple!

Fizzbanger Bath Bomb

A plain looking little guy, but don’t overlook it for this reason! Fizzbanger is another one of my favourites! This bath bomb is apparently known as the Big Friendly Ballistic and is based on the Road Dahl character “BFG”.

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Amazing blue and yellow coloured froth swirls around the bath along with the crackling of the popping candy which can be found inside this brilliant ballistic!

The Fizzbanger contains cinnamon leaf oil, Petitgrain oil, ylang ylang oil and gardenia, but the scent is almost lemony and is very refreshing, so it would be ideal for a morning bath to set you up for the day!

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Fizzbanger is a slow dissolver, beginning with yellow foam with an apple scent, which eventually became mounds of blue foam, resulting in a lovely green shade of bath water (think Slimer from Ghostbuster’s green!)

Once the middle of the bomb is cracked open, you will find a little piece of paper with the word “bang” written on it, which floats to the surface of the bath water. This bomb is a real character and demonstrates some amazing bath art once it gets fizzing!

Think Pink Bath Bomb

A lovely bright hot pink shimmery bath bomb! Apparently this version is the more updated version of the Think Pink bath bomb which only became available earlier in the year. After reading a few blogs of other fellow Lush fans I understand this came as a bit of a shock to them first of all, but after testing the updated version, everyone seemed happy with the tweaks which had been made!

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Think Pink is a fast fizzer and as soon as it hits the water it releases mounds of pink and white foam which soon turns the water a beautiful pink colour. When the core of the bomb is cracked, mounds of silvery lustre are released. This isn’t obvious at first, but more noticeable once the bomb has dissolved and the water has settled.

This lovely bomb contains tonka, vanilla absolute, lavender absolute and neroli oil, so its scent is both sweet and fruity and the lavender scent was very, very subtle in my opinion. Although not the best bath bomb for skin softness I’ve tried, it’s definitely not the worst either.

A beautiful bath display however I was rather disappointed with the scent – I didn’t find it anywhere near strong enough, but to be honest this wouldn’t put me off buying Think Pink again, and think this bomb would be great to give as a gift to friends.

Purple Fun Bar

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!

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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”. I must admit, I use mine just like a bubble bar – pull off a chunk and crumble it under running water and soon your bath is full of lovely bubbles!

The second Fun Bar I tried was the Purple one (blackcurrant/blackberry), and to be honest I was so disappointed with the pink fun bar I used last time I wasn’t particularly bothered about using this next one, but the purple fun bar smell is much stronger than the pink one, and this time I was happy because I got some pretty coloured bath water out of it too! Definitely won’t bother with the pink one after this – will keep trying all the others to see which I like best.  Although I’m not overly fussed with the fun bar product, they do make nice bubbly baths which leave your skin feeling lovely and soft.

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I hope you enjoyed my second Lush blog – after having a stressful few weeks I’m getting through the products far faster than I thought (especially the relaxing bath bombs!!) so I get the feeling another Lush blog will follow shortly……

FYI – I hate to be the bearer of bad news but this week Lush made an announcement that a load of their products would be discontinued. The items discontinued shockingly included two bath bombs in this blog – the Fizzbanger and Blackberry bath bombs which I am most disappointed about. To make matters worse, another of my favourites which I blogged about in my last Addicted to Lush blog is also being discontinued – this bath bomb is Lava Lamp! The fourth bath bomb I am upset about being discontinued is the Frozen bath bomb, which I am going to blog about as part of my Christmas Lush blog in December. Seriously, grab as many of these amazing products as soon as you can!

For a full list of products which are being discontinued, visit the Lush website.

The good news is that they are replacing these products with a whole new range of “jelly” based products – I have already ordered some and hope to review these within the next month so fingers crossed they have got rid of some of our all time favourites to make way for some even better products….

A Mexican Adventure

Mexico has always been a really popular destination for a lot of my friends, and some of them revisit year after year. I wasn’t particularly bothered about the destination itself but Chichén Itzá has always been near the top of my bucket list!

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We stayed in the Occidental Grand Xcaret hotel in Riviera Maya on an all inclusive basis. We choose this hotel because it’s full of animals and tropical plants in spectacular gardens, and has two Mayan ruins and a cove where you can swim with tropical fish.

Those who know me very well know that I absolutely love lizards and iguanas so I was in my element in Mexico!! Great big huge lizards EVERYWHERE!! Wish I had brought them home!! Hubby and brother in law weren’t so keen though!

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We also had a couple of really lovely parrots living in the hotel!

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Located next to the hotel is the Xcaret eco-archaeological park. The park features river formations, five outdoor pools (three of them fresh-water pools, one adults-only salt water pool and one kids’ pool), a swim-up bar and a private cove with soft white sand and so much more it would take too long to list here! Find out more information here.

Whilst we were here we saw tropical birds, huge marine turtles, jaguars, and manatees. We did the tropical jungle trail and admired the paradise river. There is so much to do here we were kept occupied for the entire day!

In the evening we attended the Xcaret Mexico Espectacular which was an amazing performance depicting Mexico’s rich culture and history from pre-historic times all the way to modern day times through dance and other performances. The show was well worth a watch!

The best part of the holiday was our trip to Chichén Itzá which we booked through Viator.

Chichén Itzá is a world-famous complex of Mayan ruins, a massive pyramid known as El Castillo dominates the six and a half square kilometre ancient city, which thrived from around 600 A.D. to the 1200’s. The city may have had the most diverse population in the Maya world, a factor that could have contributed to the variety of architectural styles at the site. Chichén Itzá is one of the most visited archaeological sites in Mexico; an estimated 1.4 million tourists visit the ruins every year!!

El Castillo (The Kukulkan Pyramid)
Possibly the best known construction on Chichén Itzá is Kukulkan’s Pyramid – a pyramid approximately 75 feet tall. Kukulkan Pyramid was built for astronomical purposes and during the vernal equinox (March 20) and the autumnal equinox (September 21) at about 3pm the sunlight bathes the western balustrade of the pyramid’s main stairway. This causes 7 triangles to form, imitating the body of a serpent roughly 37 yards long that creeps downwards until it joins the huge serpent’s head carved in stone at the bottom of the stairway!

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The Great Ball Court – Archaeologists have identified thirteen ball courts for playing the Mesoamerican ballgame in Chichén Itzá, but the Great Ball Court about 150 metres to the north-west of El Castillo is by far the most impressive. It is the largest and best preserved ball court in ancient Mesoamerica and it measures 168 by 70 metres! A whisper from one end can be heard clearly enough at the other end 500 feet away and through the length and breath of the court as the sound waves are unaffected by wind direction or time of day and also night. Legend says that the winning captain would present his own head to the losing captain, who then decapitates him. While this may seem very strange reward, the Mayans believed that this to be the ultimate honour!

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At the base of the high interior walls are slanted benches with sculpted panels of teams of ball players. In one panel, one of the players has been decapitated; the wound emits streams of blood in the form of wriggling snakes.

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At one end of the Great Ball Court is the North Temple, also known as the Temple of the Bearded Man. This small masonry building has detailed carving on the inner walls, including a center figure that has carving under his chin that resembles facial hair.

Built into the east wall are the Temples of the Jaguar . The Upper Temple of the Jaguar overlooks the ball court and has an entrance guarded by two, large columns carved in the familiar feathered serpent motif. In the entrance to the Lower Temple of the Jaguar, which opens behind the ball court, is another Jaguar throne, similar to the one in the inner temple of El Castillo, except that it is well worn and missing paint or other decoration.

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Tzompantli – The Wall of Skulls
The Tzompantli structure at Chichén Itzá is very interesting structure, where the heads of sacrificial victims were placed. The platform walls of the Tzompantli have beautiful carvings – the skull rack itself, scenes with human sacrifices, eagles eating human hearts and skeletonized warriors with arrows and shields.

Platform of the Eagles and the Jaguars
The elaborately carved platform is located on the central plain between the Temple of Venus and the Platform of Skulls. The pedestals that top the platform are crowned with serpent many heads, over which it is believed that there had been standard bearers in the form of jaguars. The figures of jaguars and eagles devouring hearts are said to represent the warriors who were responsible for obtaining victims to sacrifice for the gods. The “Eagle Knights” were archers who attacked the enemy before all other soldiers fought hand to hand. The aggressive eagles which sculpted on the walls of the platform are the symbol of these elite vip group of archers who stood out on the battlefield because they wore clothing of feathers from the bird for which they were named.
The “Jaguar Knights” were believed to be the army fiercest members, modeled after those found elsewhere in the Central Mexico. They fought hand to hand, with wooden clubs tipped with obsidian knives. They covered themselves with armor made of jaguar skins and also helmets of jaguar heads. The figures of jaguars represented the soldiers who were often charged with obtaining prisoners for sacrifice to the Gods of city.

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Platform of Venus
There are two different structures with this name at Chichén Itzá, the first is located at the Great Plaza and the second one is located near the Grave of the High Priest. In the corner of one of its panels, there is a Serpent Bird Man, which is considered to be the Quetzalcoatl-Kukulkan’s representation as the ‘Morning Star’. The Round Platform, one of the few buildings so shaped in Chichén Itzá, held a small stone-paved area and a container with offerings. The function of these buildings was probably as podiums for rites, ceremonies or dances.

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The Temple of the Warriors is one of the most impressive and important structures at Chichén Itzá. It consists of a large stepped pyramid fronted and flanked by rows of around 200 carved columns depicting warriors. All square columns are carved with Toltec warriors; in some places they are cemented together in sections, painted in brilliant colors and covered with plaster. The Temple of Warriors has a broad stairway with a plain, stepped ramp on either side, and each ramp has figures of standard-bearers to hold flags. On the top there are serpent columns which had S shaped supported wooden lintels (which are now gone) above the doorways. Astronomical signs and decorative features on the head of each serpent are carved over the eyes. On the top of each serpent head is a shallow basin that could have been used as an oil lamp.

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El Caracol, the Observatory, is a unique structure. El Caracol means ‘snail’ in Spanish and is so named due to the spiral staircase inside the tower. It is suggested that the El Caracol was an ancient Mayan observatory building and provided a way for the Mayan people to observe changes in the sky due to the flattened landscape of the Yucatán with no natural markers for this function around Chichén Itzá. The observers could view the sky above the vegetation on the Yucatán Peninsula without any obstruction and Mayan astronomers knew from naked-eye observations that Venus appeared on the western and disappeared on the eastern horizons at different times in the year, and that it took 584 days to complete one cycle. They also knew that five of these Venus cycles equaled eight solar years. Venus would therefore make an appearance at the northerly and southerly extremes at eight-year intervals.

Of 29 possible astronomical events such as eclipses, equinoxes and solstices believed to be of interest to the residents of Chichén Itzá, sight lines for 20 can be found in the structure. 

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The High Priest’s Grave is the name given to this pyramid because it contains an ossuary (which is a communal graveyard) beneath its foundations. The High Priest’s Grave includes a pyramid about 30 feet high with four stairways on each side, with a sanctuary in the center and a gallery in the front. The sides of the stairways are decorated with interlaced feathered serpents.

Between the first two pillars is a square stone-lined vertical shaft in the floor which extends downwards to the base of the pyramid, where it opens up on a natural cavern. The cave is 36 feet deep and when it was excavated, bones from several human burials were identified along with offerings of jade, shell, rock crystal and copper bells.

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After our visit to Chichén Itzá we were lucky enough to visit the Ik Kil cenote. A cenote is a natural pit, or sinkhole, resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater underneath. The cenote is open to the sky with the water level about 26 metres below ground level. There is a carved stairway down to a swimming platform and the cenote is about 60 metres across and about 40 metres deep. There are vines which reach from the opening all the way down to the water along with beautiful small waterfalls and there are also black catfish which swim in the cenote.

Hubby was very brave and jumped into the sinkhole but seeing as I am not a good swimmer I thought it best I just stood back and took photos! A very beautiful and calming place despite the huge amount of tourists passing through!

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I’m so pleased I got to go to Mexico and see Chichén Itzá! A really lovely location and great hotel! The only downside to our visit was the scores of mosquitos we encountered! Even the locals and the lovely people working at the hotel said they had never known there be so many at that time of year and the sprays and creams were just not keeping them away! It was frustrating at the time but looking back at all these amazing memories and adventures I think it was well worth being bitten for a few days!

Winky Lux Lip Balms

A few months ago I came across these amazing lip balms on Instagram and I knew as soon as I saw them that I had to have them in every colour!

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Check out these Flower Balm Jelly Lip Stains by Winky Lux!

This balm stain applies on clear then reacts with your skin’s pH levels, uniquely creating the perfect shade of pink lips!

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Each Flower Balm contains a real chrysanthemum in the colour of your choice. Plus these amazing balms are coconut scented!

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So far I have found the balms with Green, Yellow and Pink flowers, but there are also Blue and Purple versions available. I’ve bought several for friends for their Birthday’s and they absolutely loved them!

You can order your Winky Lux Flower balms from Beauty Bay (£13.00 each) or I recently came across this set from ASOS where you get the Pink, Yellow and Green balms for £25.00 with a lovely free gold makeup bag – this set sells out very quickly because you save 35% on the total cost of the three balms so grab it while you can!

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Our anniversary in Prague

I’ve been meaning to visit Prague for ages now, everyone I’ve spoken to who has visited says it is a beautiful place with lots to see. I originally toyed with the idea of visiting during December for the Christmas markets but as we are moving home in the next few months we settled on a long weekend away for our eight year wedding anniversary instead.

I’m so glad we made this decision – the weather was beautiful during our visit and we stayed in the Prague 1 area which meant every place I wanted to visit was within walking distance.

Some of the lovely places we visited during our visit included –

Prague Castle

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Prague Castle is a castle complex dating from the 9th century. It is the official residence of the President of the Czech Republic. The Bohemian Crown Jewels are kept within a hidden room inside it.

According to the Guinness Book of Records, Prague Castle is the largest ancient castle in the world, occupying an area of almost 70,000 square metres. The castle is among the most visited tourist attractions in Prague attracting over 1.8 million visitors annually.

The history of the castle began in 870 when its first walled building, the Church of the Virgin Mary, was built. The Basilica of Saint George and the Basilica of St. Vitus were founded under the reign of Vratislaus I, Duke of Bohemia and his son St. Wenceslas in the first half of the 10th century.

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The view from Prague Castle

During the Hussite Wars and the following decades, the castle was not inhabited. In 1485, King Ladislaus II Jagello began to rebuild the castle. The massive Vladislav Hall (built by Benedikt Rejt) was added to the Royal Palace and new defence towers were also built on the north side of the castle.

The last major rebuilding of the castle was carried out by Empress Maria Theresa in the second half of the 18th century. Following his abdication in 1848, and the succession of his nephew, Franz Joseph, to the throne, the former emperor, Ferdinand I, made Prague Castle his home.

The Black Tower

The Black Tower is one of the oldest existing buildings in Prague. It was built in 1135 as an eastern gate of the Romanesque fortification of the Prague Castle. You can still see the former gateway there in the ground floor, it is walled up now.

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The Black Tower belongs to the area of the Supreme Burgrave’s House at Prague Castle. Its name “Black” originates from the time of the big fire of the Prague Castle in 1541 – its walls remained black for a long time. The tower had also been called “Golden” in the era of Emperor Charles IV in the 14 th century as its roof was covered with gilded plates of lead.

The Black Tower was mainly used as a prison, as well as most of the towers at Prague Castle and many inscriptions written by prisoners can still be seen on the walls of the tower.

The Black Tower looks almost the same as it did after some modifications in 1538. The depository of the archaeological discoveries of the Prague Castle is kept here.

St Vitus Cathedral

The Metropolitan Cathedral of Saints Vitus, Wenceslaus and Adalbert is a Roman Catholic metropolitan cathedral and is the seat of the Archbishop of Prague. Until 1997, the cathedral was dedicated only to Saint Vitus, and is still commonly named only as St. Vitus Cathedral.

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This cathedral is an excellent example of Gothic architecture and is the largest and most important church in the country.  The cathedral is located within Prague Castle and contains the tombs of many Bohemian kings and Holy Roman Emperors. 

Construction of the Gothic Cathedral began on 21 November 1344 and King John of Bohemia laid the foundation stone for the new building. The patrons the Archbishop Arnost of Pardubice, and Charles IV, King of Bohemia and a soon-to-be Holy Roman Emperor, intended the new cathedral to be a coronation church, family crypt, treasury for the most precious relics of the kingdom, and the last resting place of patron saint Wenceslaus.

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The entire building process came to a halt with the beginning of Hussite War in the first half of 15th century. The war brought an end to the workshop that had operated steadily for almost a century, and the furnishings of the cathedral, including dozens of pictures and sculptures, suffered heavily as a result. As if this was not enough, a great fire in 1541 substantially damaged the cathedral.

Golden Lane

Golden Lane is a street situated within the grounds of Prague Castle. Originally built in the 16th century, to house Rudolf II’s castle guards, it takes its name from the goldsmiths that lived there in the 17th century. 

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Golden Lane consists of small houses, painted in bright colours in the 1950s. The street originally had houses on both sides, but one side was demolished in the 19th century. A fee must be paid to enter Golden Lane, and many of the houses are now souvenir shops. There is also a museum of medieval armoury which runs along the top of the small houses and is really fascinating so is well worth a visit.

House number 22 used to belong to the sister of writer Franz Kafka, who used this house to write between 1916 and 1917. Jaroslav Seifert, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1984, lived there in 1929.

Dalibor Tower

Golden Lane is connected with Dalibor Tower, which used to be a dungeon. Dalibor Tower is also well worth a look!

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The community of prisoners condemned to live in Dalibor Tower varied greatly over the centuries. Apart from wrongdoers from the nobility, there were also burghers, craftsmen and serfs from the countryside who were serving sentences here. From the beginning, the burghers of Hradcany served as guards in performance as part of their duties subjects. They were not relieved of this task until King Ferdinand II issued a mandate on 22 September 1628, commanding the Royal Chamber “to have the offenders at the Dalibor Tower guarded by an artilleryman or craftsman serving at Prague Castle, should the need arise”.

The first and perhaps the most important prisoner at Dalibor Tower was the knight Dalibor z Kozojed. Dalibor was imprisoned in 1496 shortly after the tower was built, not only because he had backed the rebels against Adam Ploskovsky z Drahonie, the merciless feudal lord of Litomerice, but also because he had illegally confiscated the property for himself. After two years of bread and water he was sentenced to “the forfeiture of his chattels, his honour and his head”, and on 13th March 1498 he was executed on the courtyard of the Lord High Burgrave. Only much later did the romantic legend of Dalibor and his fiddle arise…

Out of boredom, so it goes, Dalibor learnt to play the violin so masterfully in prison that people came far and wide and listened, enraptured, to his soul-stirring playing. It is in the chronicle of Jan Frantisek Beckovsky of 1700 that you first come across the Czech maxim “necessity taught Dalibor how to fiddle”. The reality of Dalibor’s musical talent was, however, quite different: the “fiddle” was a nickname for an instrument of torture, a sort of rack on which the convicted man was stretched until “out of necessity” (under pressure, in suffering), the victim began to “fiddle” (change his tune, confess). A considerably altered version of the story of Dalibor appears in Josef Wenizig’s libretto for Bedrich Smetana’s Dalibor. The opera premiered in the Provisional Theatre on 16th May 1868, the day the foundation stone of the National Theatre was ceremoniously laid.

Frantisek Tengnagel z Kampu, Chancellor, Privy Councillor of Arehduke Leopold of Passau, and an intriguer at the court of Rudolf II, was condemned to an especially harsh imprisonment for his political plotting and in particular for his part in planning the Passauer invasion of Bohemia. After repeated torture he was eventually released and banished from the country.

Count Frantisek Antonin Spork, a liberal nobleman, patron of the arts and sciences, and builder of Kuks, was imprisoned in the Dalibor Tower in the winter of 1720 because of disputes over an inheritance. To spite his opponents, he had the cell in which he spent almost three months decorated with numerous maxims and religious thoughts. They were then printed and disseminated throughout Prague. After serious illness Count Spork was released. To commemorate his confinement in Dalibor he founded a charity for burghers of Prague who had been condemned to prison for not paying their debts.

The noblewoman Marie Katerina Zahradkova z Eulenfels – one of the few women residents of Dalibor Tower was imprisoned here in February 1732 as an accomplice to the murder of her husband. The great age difference between her and him, as well as his violent nature, led the young Marie Katerina to contrive an attack by robbers, in which her husband was killed. After four years imprisonment in Dalibor she was taken, half mad, to the prison in the New Town Hall, where she spent another 20 years. A contemporary, the knight Jenik z Bratric, mentioned in his memoirs how this unfortunate woman often cried out at passers-by from the window of her cell on the ground floor, desperately rattling the bars from her window “acting mad in every respect”.

The last prisoner left the Dalibor Tower after the introduction of the new judicial system in 1781. With this Josephinian reform the old provincial court and the court of the burgrave were abolished, and with them the towers at Prague Castle ceased to be used as jails.

Lennon Wall

The Lennon Wall or John Lennon Wall was once a normal wall, but since the 1980s has been filled with John Lennon-inspired graffiti and pieces of lyrics from Beatles’ songs.

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In 1988, the wall was a source of irritation for the communist regime of Gustáv Husák. Young Czechs would write grievances on the wall and this led to a clash between hundreds of students and security police on the nearby Charles Bridge. The movement these students followed was described ironically as “Lennonism”!

The wall continuously undergoes change and the original portrait of Lennon is long lost under layers of new paint. Even when the wall was repainted by some authorities, on the second day it was again full of poems and flowers. Today, the wall represents a symbol of global ideals such as love and peace.

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Love Locks

Love padlocks (also known as Love Locks) are a custom by which padlocks are attached to a fence, gate, bridge or similar public fixture by sweethearts to symbolise their everlasting love. If you walk along the Lesser Town, very close to the Lennon Wall,  you will see small locks on the gates over the canal.

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Legend has it that when you find your true love you carve your names on a lock and lock it onto the gate and then throw the key in to the canal – so we did! On our 8th wedding anniversary too which was very apt!

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Charles Bridge

The Charles Bridge is an historic bridge that crosses the Vltava river. Its construction started in 1357 under King Charles IV, and finished in the beginning of the 15th century.

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The bridge replaced the old Judith Bridge built 1158–1172 that had been badly damaged by a flood in 1342. This new bridge was originally called the Stone Bridge or the Prague Bridge but has been the “Charles Bridge” since 1870. As the only means of crossing the river Vltava until 1841, the Charles Bridge was the most important connection between Prague Castle and the city’s Old Town and adjacent areas. This “solid-land” connection made Prague important as a trade route between Eastern and Western Europe.

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The bridge is 621 metres long and nearly 10 metres wide. It is protected by three bridge towers, two of them on the Lesser Quarter side and the third one on the Old Town side. The bridge is decorated by a continuous alley of 30 statues originally erected in around 1700 but all now replaced by replicas.

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The Old Town Bridge Tower

Old Town Bridge Tower is a gothic monument located at the Old Town end of the Charles Bridge.

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It was built in the late 14th century, during the rule of the Emperor Charles IV. It was designed by the architect Petr Parléř and is one of the most astonishing gothic-style buildings I’ve seen.

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Clementinum

The Clementinum is a historic complex of buildings which originally hosted the National, University and Technical libraries. The Technical library and the Municipal library moved to the Prague National Technical Library in 2009 and it is currently in use as the National Library of the Czech Republic.

The Baroque library hall inside Clementinum is known for its interior, including the ceiling artwork by Jan Hiebl, and has been described as the most beautiful library in the world. I was absolutely devastated when we arrived here because it is currently closed for restoration and isn’t open to the general public…. it was right at the top of my list of things to see in Prague too….Google the images of it and you will see why!

Powder Tower

The Powder Tower or Powder Gate is a Gothic tower which is one of the original city gates. It separates the Old Town from the New Town.

The Powder Tower is one of the original 13 city gates in Old Town and construction began in 1475. The tower was intended to be an attractive entrance into the city, instead of a defensive tower. The foundation stone was placed by Vladislav II and the city council gave Vladislav II the tower as a coronation gift. 

The gate was used to store gunpowder in the 17th century, hence the name Powder Tower or Powder Gate. The gate suffered considerable damage during the Battle of Prague and the sculptures on the tower were replaced in 1876.

Church of our Lady Before Týn

The Church of Mother of God before Týn, often translated as Church of Our Lady before Týn, is a gothic church and a dominant feature of Old Town. It has been the main church of this part of the city since the 14th century. The church’s towers are 80 metres high and topped by four small spires.

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By the beginning of the 15th century, construction was almost complete; only the towers, the gable and roof were missing. The roof was completed in the 1450s, while the gable and northern tower were completed shortly thereafter during the reign of George of Poděbrady (1453–1471). His sculpture was placed on the gable, below a huge golden chalice, the symbol of the Hussites. The southern tower, however, was not completed until 1511, under architect Matěj Rejsek.

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After the lost Battle of White Mountain (1620) began the era of harsh recatholicisation.  Consequently, the sculptures of George of Poděbrady and the chalice were removed in 1626 and replaced by a sculpture of the Virgin Mary, with a giant halo made as a result of melting down the chalice.

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Old Town Square

Old Town Square is a historic square in the Old Town quarter. It is located between Wenceslas Square and the Charles Bridge.

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The square features various architectural styles including the Gothic Church of Our Lady before Týn, and a medieval astronomical clock located on the Old Town Hall.

The Baroque St. Nicholas Church is another church located in the square, while the tower of the Old Town Hall offers a panoramic view of Old Town. An art museum of the Czech National Gallery is located in Kinský Palace.

At Christmas and Easter, markets are held on the square which resemble medieval markets. The Christmas Markets on the Old Town Square are the largest Christmas markets in the Czech Republic and are visited by hundreds of thousands of visitors from the Czech Republic and abroad. In 2016, CNN rated Prague’s Christmas Markets among the world’s best!

Town Hall

When I came home and started reading about the Town Hall, I wished I had taken more pictures of it as I couldn’t believe how much history it had! You can read more about Old Town Hall here.

Astronomical Clock

The Prague astronomical clock, or Prague orloj, is a medieval astronomical clock first installed in 1410, making it the third-oldest astronomical clock in the world and the oldest one still operating.

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The Orloj is mounted on the southern wall of Old Town Hall in the Old Town Square. The clock mechanism itself has three main components: the astronomical dial, representing the position of the Sun and Moon in the sky and displaying various astronomical details; “The Walk of the Apostles”, a clockwork hourly show of figures of the Apostles and other moving sculptures—notably a figure of Death (represented by a skeleton) striking the time; and a calendar dial with medallions representing the months. 

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The astronomical dial has a background that represents the standing Earth and sky, and surrounding it operate four main moving components: the zodiacal ring, an outer rotating ring, an icon representing the Sun, and an icon representing the Moon.

The background represents the Earth and the local view of the sky. The blue circle directly in the centre represents the Earth, and the upper blue is the portion of the sky which is above the horizon. The red and black areas indicate portions of the sky below the horizon. During the daytime, the Sun sits over the blue part of the background and at night it sits over the black. During dawn or dusk, the mechanical sun is positioned over the red part of the background.

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Written on the eastern part of the horizon is aurora (dawn in Latin) and ortus (rising). On the western part is occasus (sunset), and crepusculum (twilight).

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Golden Roman numerals at the outer edge of blue circle are the timescale of a normal 24-hour day and indicate time in local Prague time, or Central European Time. Curved golden lines dividing the blue part of dial into twelve parts are marks for unequal “hours”. These hours are defined as 1/12 of the time between sunrise and sunset, and vary as the days grow longer or shorter during the year.

Inside the large black outer circle lies another movable circle marked with the signs of the zodiac which indicates the location of the Sun on the ecliptic.

The Orloj suffered heavy damage on May 7 and especially May 8, 1945, during the Prague Uprising, when the Germans fired on the south-west side of the Old Town Square from several armoured vehicles in an unsuccessful attempt to destroy one of the centres of the uprising. The hall and nearby buildings burned along with the wooden sculptures on the clock and the calendar dial face. After significant effort, the machinery was repaired, the wooden Apostles restored by Vojtěch Sucharda, and the Orloj started working again in 1948.

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As you can see the building is still undergoing extensive ongoing restoration work.

Wenceslas Square

Wenceslas Square is one of the main city squares and the centre of the business and cultural communities. Many historical events occurred there, and it is a traditional setting for demonstrations, celebrations, and other public gatherings. The square is named after Saint Wenceslas, the patron saint of Bohemia. 

Formerly known as Koňský trh (the Horse Market), for its periodic accommodation of horse markets during the Middle Ages, it was renamed Svatováclavské náměstí (Saint Wenceslas square) in 1848.

Wenceslas Square is lined by hotels, offices, shops and fast-food joints. Wenceslas Square is also a popular location for stag and hen parties.

Food and Drink

I’m afraid for our anniversary meal we visited Hard Rock cafe – not very authentic I know but I love their twisted mac and cheese!! Plus we’ve made it a bit of a tradition to visit Hard Rock cafes all over the world – so far we have visited New York, Las Vegas, New Orleans, Amsterdam, San Francisco, Miami, Marbella and Barcelona Hard Rock cafes!

Whilst exploring I was delighted to learn that fried cheese seems to be a bit of a speciality in Prague! I took full advantage of this tradition of course!

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You also must try the goulash if you get the chance – hubby had some for his dinner which I managed to dip a few of my chips in and it was delicious!

Before we even arrived in Prague I knew I had to try a Vetrnik! This picture does not do it justice – it was absolutely HUGE! Three attempts and I still couldn’t finish it, but it was worth feeling sick for hours afterwards!

A Vetrnik is choux pastry with vanilla cream and caramel cream inside, topped with thick caramel flavoured fondant….

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Although these are spotted all over the world nowadays, I finally got the chance to try a Churro cone! An ice-cream shaped cone made from delicious sugar sprinkled fried dough pastry with a dollop of yummy ice-cream on top – need I say more??

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The drink Prague is most famous for of course is beer, and there’s certainly no shortage of places to go to partake! For those who prefer a sweeter taste than that of normal lager, try the Czech dark beer. Other beer brands you will find in the local pubs and bars include Pilsner Urquell, Krusovice, Bernard, Staropramen, Budweiser Budvar and Velvet.

If spirits are more your thing, try the Becherovka, a herbal liquor made out of several secret plants which is said to be good for digestion and to have medicinal properties. Becherovka is also used in some cocktails.

Fernet is another herbal beverage which comes in different variants, Stock (bitter), Citrus (lemon) and is best served  cold or with ice.

Also give Slivovice a try – an alcoholic beverage made from plums, but you can also find different flavours of this drink such as pear and apricot.

Prague is a beautiful city full of amazing history, beautiful architecture, and delicious food and drink – this years wedding anniversary will certainly be one to remember!

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

***Update 07/08/2017***

I’ve managed to get hold of Cookie Doe’s latest limited edition flavours! I couldn’t wait to try these!

Fairy Dust Cookie Doe

A pink coloured cookie dough with round and star shaped white chocolate chips and pink sugar sprinkles! I think I would have called it Unicorn cookie dough personally but Fairy Dust works too! Yum!

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Mermaid “Un-Doe the Sea” Cookie Doe

A bluey-green coloured cookie dough mixed with chocolate chips and marshmallow fluff to give it that “waves” effect and then topped with gold sprinkles! Amazing! This cookie dough looks far better in real life and tastes just as good!

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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

Plain cookie dough mixed with milk chocolate chips.

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Salted Caramel 

My absolute favourite! Cookie dough mixed with dark chocolate chips and a salted caramel sauce! Perfect!

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Cookies and Cream

Cookie dough mixed with crushed cookies and cream.

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White Chocolate Delight

Cookie dough mixed with white chocolate chips and topped with multi-coloured sugar strands.

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And two Easter specials:

Cream Egg

Cookie dough mixed up with crushed Cadbury’s cream egg – sugar overload!

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Chocolate Nest

Cookie dough topped with crumbled flake to give a “nest” effect and topped with a couple of mini chocolate eggs.

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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 eight 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. Although, having said that, my most recent order in August 2017 was for four pots of the 8oz and postage was only £4.95 on this occasion which is far more reasonable.

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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A couple of weeks later they flowered beautifully!

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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!