• Trip to Ightham Mote

  • Review: Brainwavz Hooka

  • Karma Cola Review

  • Interior Trends You’ll Be Loving in 2017

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Trip to Ightham Mote

On a recently slightly grey day my husband, our friend Amelia and I took a trip to visit Ightham Mote – a Grade I listed medieval moated manor house close to the village of Ightham, near Sevenoaks. I am lucky enough to have been given a lifetime membership to the National Trust under whose care Ightham Mote resides and I have recently been trying to make time to visit as many of their locations as possible to better take advantage of my membership. I have actually visited a large number of National Trust properties when I was younger, so it’s really nice to be able to return as an adult for a different level of appreciation.

The moated manor house has a long and fascinating history starting in 1320 and it still retains some of its original features with many owners making few changes to the majority of the structure over the years after the 16th Century when a new Chapel was added to the central quadrangle courtyard which is the heart of the building. Ightham Mote has more than 70 rooms arranged around the courtyard and is surrounded by a moat complete with three bridges.

The oldest surviving part of the house is the Great Hall which was constructed in the 14th Century along with the Chapel, Crypt and two Solars (the family’s upstairs private living and sleeping quarters).  The tower complete with battlements was constructed in the 15th century. These days very little of the building’s 14th century exterior is visible due to the rebuilding and refacing of the 15th and 16th centuries.

Some of the distinctive features of Ightham Mote include: the porter’s squint (a slot in the wall where visitors could hold their credentials aloft for examination before entrance was permitted), the open loggia and 15th Century gallery which connects the main house with the gatehouse range and (my personal favourite) the only Grade I listed dog house which was home to a St. Bernand named Dido in the 19th Century. I really love the beautiful tile work, stained glass windows and the wooden furniture all of which give the house real character.

The National Trust were left the building when the owner, Charles Henry Robinson, died and in 1989 they began an ambitious conservation project. Much of the building was dismantled so the  construction methods could be studied before it was rebuilt. Where the stonework had become badly eroded stone masons made new blocks from Kentish ragstone by hand; bricks and tiles were handmade to perfectly match the colour, size and texture of the surviving originals. The old lime render was also closely analysed for colour and consistency, and both as far as possible were reproduced. The project came to an end in 2004 after revealing numerous fascinating examples of structural and ornamental features which had been covered up by later additions. It is estimated to have cost in excess of 10 million pounds!

Ightham Mote has amazing architecture, furniture and history to see and explore. I can certainly recommend it as a lovely day out for all the family.

Review: Brainwavz Hooka

I don’t know about you but I am forever finding my headphones on the floor. Whether due to passing traffic or to my three curious black cats, I am always picking them up off the floor and putting them back on the nearest surface. Fortunately I am yet to find them in pieces, but this repetition does have me worried that one day my headphones simply won’t bounce back.

Luckily I was recently offered the chance to try out a new product from Brainwavz, provider of high-end earphones and audio accessories, in return for an honest review which seems to have solved my problem. I was sent the Brainwavz Hooka, a compact multi purpose die-cast aluminium hanger which has been designed to offer headphones a safe place to hang out when not in use.

The Hooka is small but strong and can hold even the heaviest of headphones without bending. It has a handy platform (78mm x 46mm) on top to support the headband and a raised tip to stop the headphones sliding off whilst vertical. The Hooka is attached to your chosen surface via a strong double-sided acrylic form tape, 3M VHB, which is designed to be a permanent adhesive.

When the Brainwavz Hooka arrived I was amazed at how dinky at looks at only 102 mm x 46 mm x 58 mm, and yet it has a really solid weight (125g) and great texture which comes from the die-cast aluminium which also gives the hanger a sleek industrial look which I find attractive. Setting the Hooka up took me mere moments, simply remove the backing from the 3M VHD tape, line it up on the wall (or surface of your choice) and press it down. Done!

I am very happy to say that my lovely blue ECandy headphones have been safe ever since installing the Hooka which is a weight off of my mind! I award the Brainwavz Hooka 5 out of 5 stars.

5stars

Karma Cola Review

I am a self confessed fizzy drinks addict. Pepsi Max is my tipple of choice and I can quite easily work my way through a 2 litre bottle over the course of a day, which I realise is not particularly healthy but it’s my only main vice. I was recently sent some samples from new soft drinks company Karma Cola who asked for my honest review for their three products: Karma Cola, Gingerella and Lemony.

Karma Cola believes in doing good with organic ingredients and offering their producers in Sierra Leone a fair deal, going so far as to be awarded ‘The World’s Fairest Trader’ in 2014 by Fairtrade International. A share of the proceeds from the sale of Karma Cola is pumped back into the people of Boma, who are re-establishing their lives in the aftermath of civil war and ebola, supporting projects such as building the Makenneh Bridge which connects new and old areas of Boma as well sending 50 young people to school, installing a primary school teacher, building a rice processing plant to ensure security and self sufficiency of food supply and rehabilitating 25 acres of rainforest farms.

All three bottles have a really fun and retro look to them. They are made from glass which makes them stand out in today’s plastic obsessed soft drinks industry and gives them a pleasant weight. The bottles are 330ml and come with a handy screw top and they fit easily into the door of a fridge which is handy because it’s recommended that you enjoy the drinks chilled which is exactly what I did over one recent sunny few days!

The Karma Cola drink is made from real cola nuts from the Boma village in Sierra Leon and top notch Fairtrade ingredients, using a traditional recipe. The drink has the additional boost of flavour from vanilla beans from Forest Garden Growers Association in Sri Lanka and is sweetened with Fairtrade organic cane sugar from the Suminter Organic Farmers Cooperative in Bhimanagar India. I find the taste refreshingly different from my usual tipple, with a more natural and well rounded flavour which allows you to really taste the cola and vanilla without the drink being to syrupy sweet. It is certainly refreshing and thirst quenching. The company works closely with it’s cola nut farmers and is helping to rebuild the crops and communities around this fascinating ingredient.

The Gingerella Ginger Ale is made from a blend of ginger, vanilla, cane sugar and lemons and certainly has a bit of a kick to it! My husband is a big fan of anything ginger so this was definitely his favourite. Gingerella has a good balance of sweet and bitterness with the fiery ginger being complemented by the mellow natural vanilla and cane sugar sweetness. Gingerella also plays an important role by supporting ginger growers in the Forest Garden Growers Association in Sri Lanka.

Made with organic lemons and organic cane sugar, Lemony is a great tasting product which really reminds me of homemade lemonade which has a bit of a kick to it but also has a lovely well rounded flavour. It has a pleasant cloudy look and has a great citrus aroma as well as a classic, clean lemon taste. Again this product has a perfect balance of bitter and sweet. Lemony, along with  the other drinks, is key in supporting sugar farmers in India to improve their lives and livelihoods.

All three drinks have a really great flavour profile, are refreshing and make a nice change to the syrupy fizzy beverages I am used to. In addition to the tasty drinks which are perfect for summer, Karma Cola does extraordinary work with the farmers and producers of their ingredients. Both these factors have been taken into consideration when offering Karma Cola a fantastic 5 out of 5 stars.

5stars

Interior Trends You’ll Be Loving in 2017

I know, I know,  we’re not even half way through 2016 but if you want to be on trend for next year you need to start thinking about the colours, styles and textures which are predicted to be big. Interior design is evolving and adapting to global demands all the time and 2017 already looks like it’s going to be exciting with fantastic earthy tones, historical references and natural materials coming out on top, which I can really get behind!

The colours

Although 2016 is bursting at the seams with exotic influences from South America and the orient seeing the use of psychedelic combinations, 2017 sees altogether more natural tones playing a key role. Add touches of earthy colours in your furnishings in combination with neutral walls to give living space a sense of depth while bringing the outdoors inside. Add some sophistication with a key piece in dark green (I love the Rodolfo Dordoni Denny Armchair from the Minotti collection on Mohd) to create an eye catching feature in any earthy-toned room. If you think that this might create a cold space try adding accessories and decorative items such as carpets, vases and throw pillows in golden colours for a hit of warmth.

The style

Although I really love the clean simplicity of Scandinavian style, I have to admit I have a soft spot for old time original features and a bit of rough and ready industrial chic. 2017 sees a revival for all features with historical value or features which represent classic years. An exposed brick feature wall in the living room? How about a wall covered in cork in the study where you can pin notes or hang decorative items (you really can hang anything!)? Try some delicious decorative terracotta pots in the kitchen. Mix and match antiques and modern pieces for a dynamic style which really catches the eye.

The texture

Rattan, monochrome, up-cycling with the use of natural materials and tones are all big this year. 2017 sees this love of natural materials continue with cork, wood, fur and paper being on trend with their warm textures bringing some excitement to flat spaces. Pair them with industrial elements for a great collision of styles and really create a talking piece for your guests. Try embellishing a room with black steel, burnished metals and concrete.

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Tips from a first time Landlord

Buying property is one of the most stressful and most rewarding challenges in life. When my husband and I bought our flat in London in 2012 there were a few bumps along the road, like being a couple of days away from being homeless while waiting for the council to sort something out, but I can happily say that I am very happy we took the plunge and got started on the property ladder.

We lived happily in our little two bedroom flat in zone 2 for 3 years before my Grandfather sadly had to move into a nursing home and his three bedroom bungalow in Kent, just down the road from my parents, was empty. On behalf of my Grandfather my Mother decided to do up the bungalow in order to rent it and make some money to go towards my Grandfather’s care fees. After much discussion my husband and I decided that we wanted to move to the countryside and escape the hustle and bustle of London for a more relaxed way of life and so we upped sticks and moved into the bungalow.

Of course that meant that our flat needed new occupants to help us make ends meet when it came to paying the mortgage and our rent in Kent. Luckily we were able to find a good local agent who helped us along the way of becoming a first time landlord and we have not had any major problems with our tenants since we let it out in April 2015. We certainly had to learn as we went along and so when Homelet asked for us to share some of our top tips and experiences from our first 12 months of renting out our flat to help anyone out there thinking about becoming a first time landlord I was happy to do so.

Preparing your finances

There are a few things you need to remember when you rent out any property that you own. Firstly you need to make sure that your mortgage provider allows you to rent our your home with your current mortgage. It is common to have to change to a buy to let mortgage which may have cost implications, however, the implications of not being on the right mortgage can be a lot worse! We were lucky with our mortgage as we were able to seek permission to rent our flat which was approved, so we did not have to change our mortgage.  If you are providing furniture it’s best to have contents insurance in place just in case. Don’t forget you will also have to take a look at any insurance you have for the property to make sure it is suitable and look at upgrading to landlord’s insurance.

Preparing the property

As a landlord you need to ensure that the property and everything inside it is safe. You should get PAT (Portable appliance testing) done for any electronic items you leave in the property such as washing machines, dryers, fridges etc as well as ensuring any gas in the property is safe. Landlords must provide fire alarms, it’s best to get these wired into the mains of the property to ensure no problems with batteries for peace of mind.  For any solid fuel burners you will need carbon monoxide detectors. Our flat does not use gas or solid fuel, so we made sure that the electronics were checked and mains connected fire alarms were installed. Find more information on this page about landlord obligations.

Doing it yourself vs. finding an agent

There are two options when considering management of the property, you can either do it yourself or hire an agent to do this for you. Of course there are pros and cons to both these options, the main one being around cost. It is perfectly acceptable for you to manage your property without outside help should you wish to, of  course this is the cheapest option. This means you will be responsible for finding and vetting tenants, putting contracts in place, managing the deposit and collecting the rent, fixing any problems in the property etc. This can be hard work, but if you have the time and know-how then this could be the best option for you.

You will need to pay someone else to manage the property for you if you don’t feel you are able to do it yourself and most agents will have a number of options available from minimal management up to full management with each option having a different price, usually a percentage of the rent. As first time landlords we decided that we would need some help with finding and vetting tenants as well as making sure proper contracts were in place and the deposit was properly looked after. However, we didn’t feel the need for full management services and so went for a middle of the range package where we are responsible for the day to day management of the house (solving problems, collecting the rent) but have the support of the agent when required.

We were glad to have the support of our agent when one of our original two tenants decided she wanted to move out. The agent informed us that there was a break clause and that the tenant in question would have to find a replacement before she could leave, otherwise she would still be liable for the rent. Luckily she was able to find a replacement tenant who passed the agent’s checks and the transition went smoothly. This arrangement has worked well for us, so take the time to review all the options and go for what best suits your lifestyle and your financial obligations.

I hope I have given you a few things to think about. Being a landlord is very rewarding, but it can also be hard work! Be sure to do all the due diligence before going ahead to make sure you have it all in control.

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Notes from an Osteopath: Living with Arthritis #ArthritisMatters

Please note the suggestions in this post are just that, suggestions – and whenever undertaking any major lifestyle change it is prudent to speak to your doctor about it first.

Living with arthritis can be a pain (pun intended) at the best of times. Of course, there are more than 100 different types of arthritis and related diseases. The vast majority of these conditions share common factors and there are common ways that can help to alleviate the pain and improve the condition. They are discussed below:

Inflammation is a common factor in arthritic diseases and there are ways and means to help reduce this inflammation. Firstly – diet and supplements can play a major role in increasing or reducing inflammation. The key here is to cut out pro-inflammatory foods (food that contribute to inflammation). It is best to talk to a dietitian or nutritionist in order to ascertain possible causes of foods that may be contributing to inflammation. Patients have used diet and supplements to control inflammation with good levels of success. Not least of these are the anti-inflammatory medications that are routinely prescribed by doctors. The side-effects of these medications need to be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

As an osteopath, I often see patients who have been diagnosed with a form of arthritis and this diagnosis doesn’t generally equate to automatic pain and suffering. Some conditions can be managed well using various methods. One of my patients suffers with ankylosing spondylitis, which is a form of spinal arthritis and she manages the symptoms very well with a grain-free diet. Even her inflamed eyes (uveitis), which are a symptom of this condition do not flare up as long as she keeps strictly to her diet. You can read the story about how New York chef Seamus Mullen reversed the effects of rheumatoid arthritis on the Telegraph.

Sleeping is a factor that can affect the levels of inflammation. When we sleep – the body has a chance to heal from various ailments and it will attempt to do so to the best of its ability. The inflammatory response is a factor in healing and overnight inflammation levels can increase. Some arthritis sufferers find that their pain is much better if they do not sleep over a certain amount of time, say 7 hours or so – for some this can be as little as 4-6 hours. Others find that they can only sleep for a certain amount of time before they are woken up with pain and once they’re up they cannot go back to sleep.

In either case, it is important to make yourself as comfortable as possible to take full advantage of the limited time that is available for sleep. Good ways to ensure this are to find a mattress that makes you as comfortable as possible. For some, this means a mattress that has a particular firmness level that they find by trial and error, whilst others cannot get comfortable for long periods of time on a conventional bed. If that is the case, an adjustable bed can be the key to a good night’s sleep.

Another common suggestion for patients with arthritis is to take up an increased level of exercise. Generally, due to the pain many sufferers adopt a more sedentary lifestyle, believing that exercise is bad for the joints or will wear them out.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but an increased level of exercise will lead to an increased level of musculo-skeletal health and this is a good thing when it comes to any disease, especially something like arthritis. Even for osteoarthritis, where the cartilage is worn and thinned, an increased level of exercise is often prescribed. The main factor in taking up more exercise is to find a form of exercise that you enjoy and that puts limited stress on the joints. Firm favourites are swimming and cycling, and some people even get on well with rowing.

For more information and advice, see this ebook.

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Cornerstone shaving subscription box review

Male grooming subscription boxes are getting more and more popular these days as more men are enjoying having new razors and fantastic products delivered to their homes. My husband has been lucky enough to try out a few different subscription services so when Cornerstone got in touch offering him the chance to try their offering he was very interested in giving it a go, particularly as they offered him a personalised engraved aluminium razor handle with his initials on it!

There are all sorts of different razors on the market these days and choosing one can be complicated. Cornerstone’s philosophy is to keep it simple with thoughtful design, quality products and fairness for their craftspeople partners. Setting up your subscription is simple, choose a combination of products that works from you and arrange the delivery of your choice. If you need to pause deliveries, change products to alter the delivery schedule Cornerstone offers maximum flexibility to suit any man’s needs.

So, what’s included in the box? Ultimately you can choose what arrives in the post, but my husband was sent the following:

  • 5 x razor blades
  • Personalised aluminium razor handle
  • Pre-shave face scrub
  • Sensitive shave gel
  • Sensitive cooling post-shave balm

Cornerstone’s razor blades are the only product which is not made in England, they are made in Germany and are super sharp and fine designed to reduce skin irritation which is perfect for my husband who has sensitive skin. The blades are mounted on a flexible head with an aloe vera moisturising strip for added comfort. Vlad has been very impressed with the razors which give him one of the smoothest shaves that he’s ever had.

The kit also includes a face scrub to ready the skin for shaving. Preparing the skin helps to prevent nicks, cuts and shaving bumps. The scrub includes cedarwood and volcanic sand exfoliating grains which unblocks pores and removes dead skin cells for smoother skin. It also helps to reduce uncomfortable ingrown hairs. My husband’s skin is too sensitive for prolonged scrubs but I personally think it has a great look (the volcanic elements giving it a dark grey colour), and has a satisfying coarse texture. I think I will be stealing this from Vlad!

Once the skin is prepared the next step is to use the sensitive shave gel which has been designed to protect skin from razor burns. The gel is made with eucalyptus oil with ginger extract to promote an irritation-free shave. Vlad has found the shaving gel to be lubricating without being too sticky and washes off very quickly, which helps the razors for a close and efficient shave.

Lastly the sensitive cooling post-shave balm refreshes and moisturises the skin and helps to restore natural moisture balance and reduces irritation. The balm is made with mint and honey which soothes and conditions. The balm has a great lightweight texture which applies easily and instantly cools and soothes the skin. My husband has found the post-shave gel  to be both refreshing and soothing after a shave which sets him up for the day.

Overall Vlad really enjoyed the Cornerstone products with excellent blades and top quality products to promote a great shave. He awards Cornerstone 5 out of 5 stars.

5stars

Brainwavz BLU-200 Bluetooth Earphones

As a music junkie my husband is always looking for the best of audio equipment to help him enjoy listening to his favourite bands whilst on the move. Vlad has tried many different sets of headphones and earphones over the last few years and he always looks for the best of music quality paired with comfort and practicality. He was more than happy to give the Brainwavz BLU-200 wireless Bluetooth earphones a try when he was offered the chance to review them.

The Brainwavz BLU-200 wireless Bluetooth earphones are designed for both sound quality and practicality using a micro 60mAh battery that will power 4 hours of continuous wireless audio playback, 100 hours of standby and can be fully charged in under 2hrs, via micro USB, which is very handy. The earphones are wireless and have a decent range of 30ft (10m) which is great for flexible listening options.

The frequency rang for the earphones is from 20 to 20000Hz with dynamic 9.2mm drivers and a closed dynamic impedance rate of 160hms. Connectivity is via Bluetooth 4.0 with aptX and the earphones can be paired with two devices at the same time so you can switch between two devices without having to unhook one and attach another.

The earphones have in-line 3 button remote controls (works with Apple iOS, Android, Windows phone, PCs) with low-profile cabling which makes them simple and easy to use for navigating through music tracks. They also have the option of adding a pair of ear hooks to the earphones for maximum security when on the move, perfect if you’re heading out for a job or a bike ride.

In terms of comfort the Brainwavz BLU-200 comes with 3 sets of silicone ear tips in small, medium and large sizes so you can personalise your fit and 1 set of Comply S-400 earphone tips with 30x softer material than silicone for added comfort.

After using the earphones for a few weeks my husband has been happy with their performance. He has found that they deliver a solid bass response, which he considers a key factor of sound quality, as well as having an overall balanced sound. The Bluetooth connectivity is convenient and the battery life has been impressive. The only negative with the earphones was that they were a bit fiddly to fit to begin with, but after testing the various ear-bud options he was able to find a good fit.

My husband awards the Brainwavz BLU-200 wirless Bluetooth Earphones 4 out of 5 stars.

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4stars

Spring beauty picks from House of Fraser

I have to admit that I tend to keep the same style of make up all year round, which can get a bit dull. I usually either wear a really natural look with shades of golds and nudes or a more dramatic look with more colourful options particularly for eye shadow such as blues and purples. It’s nice to shake it up a bit when a new season arrives and so I have spent some time recently browsing House of Fraser the hopes of getting inspired for Spring. Here are my top picks:

I am really dull when it comes to lipstick and I’d love to be more adventurous. When browsing House of Fraser’s Lipstick section I discovered this Urban Decay Gwen Stefani Lipstick, one of  a range of lipsticks made in collaboration with singer-songwriter Gwen Stefani which comes in six fantastic vibrant colours. My favourite has to be Rock Steady which is a bold red, perfect for a Summer party or BBQ. I have worn Urban Decay make up for many years, before they became famous for their Naked palettes, and can always rely on them to have some fabulous colours to fit my natural or my more colourful look.

This season is perfect for breaking out metallic, pastel and nude shades for eyeshadows. I have my eye on the Bobbi Brown Shimmer Brick in Rose which has five lovely metallic shades which can be used to create on-trend rose gold looks. My other pick is the Estée Lauder Bronze Goddess Summer Glow EyeShadow Palette which has an amazing surprise pop of turquoise to contrast the other five golden hues. 

If you want to complete your look with a healthy looking glow then you can’t beat a good blusher or bronzer. I like the look of the Benefit Cheekathon Palette which is exclusive to House of Fraser with a combination of full sized blushers and bronzers with a soft, natural-bristle powder brush so you can mix and match for your perfect look. I have never tried a stick blush but am curious about the The Multiple from NARS which can be used not only on the face but eyes, cheeks, lips and body to create shimmering accents, contours or highlights. 

What’s more refreshing than a new make up bag? I tend to use the same old bag to hold my cosmetics and it’s time to think about cheering the place up a bit with something new for Spring. Ted Baker is great for make up bags bursting with colour perfect for the season. I really love the Kizzy Light Pink Floral Cosmetic Bag which is so pretty with it’s pastel flower design and also a great size! I am also a huge fan of Radley and think that the Botanical Multi Coloured Large Zip Cosmetic Case is perfect  for Spring!

What are your Spring beauty favourites?

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Skinova Acropress Hyaluronic Patch #Giveaway

I have had a lot of fun over the last months trying out all sorts of new and exciting skin care products and sharing my thoughts on them with you. Today I want to talk about Skinova Acropress Hyaluronic Patches, a product designed to deliver hyaluronic acid into the epidermis to promote healthy, young looking skin by filling wrinkles and deep folds. The patches are particularly designed to use under the eye.

Skin is made up of many layers with the epidermis being the thin protective surface layer. It is designed to retain moisture in the skin it also acts as a barrier to keep substances out of the body. Most products out there today are creams which unfortunately can not make it past this tough layer and at best create a barrier and prevent moisture loss. Hyaluronic acid is found naturally in skin and is involved in tissue repair and hydration. Amazingly it can hold 1000 times its own weight in water!

Until now hyaluronic acid has come in the form of fillers which are injected but Skinova has developed the TransDermal Nano patch (TDN) which is made up of microstructures that can deliver hyaluronic acid into the epidermal layer of the skin without causing any damage or discomfort, which means you can get the benefits at home. Each patch contains the highest quality French hyaluronic acid along side Epidermal Growth Factor (EGF) to moisturise, lift and rejuvenate the skin.

So how does it work? It’s simple really with a process which is completely pain free and safe. It’s best to use overnight. First give the area a good cleanse and make sure it is dry. Remove the patch from the packaging (be sure to hold it by the edges) and gently place it onto the skin, patting it gently to make sure it’s attached firmly, and then go to bed! In the morning carefully remove the patch and finish with a toner.

If you want to try the Skinova Acropress Hyaluronic Patches for yourself for plumper, youthful skin, you are in luck! I have been offered the chance to giveaway some to my readers. Just see the rafflecopter below for your chance! Good luck!

Skinova Acropass patch #13

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