• Top tips for men who want to look good

    top tips for men's fashion
  • Introducing Pura Vida Bracelets

    pura vida bracelets
  • Visit to St Leonard’s Ossuary Hythe

    Femurs and skull at St Leonard's Church Crypt
  • Introducing Banton Frame Works Bespoke Glasses

    glasses with book

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Top tips for men who want to look good

I have to admit that as a women I assume that we girls have more of a hard time when it comes to looking good than men, however, little did I know that there is a lot more to being a fashionable man than I originally thought! I came across this infographic which outlines 22 top tips for men who want to look good and I was surprised at the number of issues men face when it comes to clothing and etiquette.

My husband does like to be well presented and does put in effort when it comes to making sure he is well groomed and ensuring that he has a suitable outfit picked out for any occasions where he needs to be presentable. Although he rarely wears a tie (most of his are patterned and colourful which obviously does against rule number 21) he does find pride in his choice of watch, socks (he has so many I have lost count so he is on track with rule number 13) and footwear, although I don’t think he is going to be wearing white suede shoes any time soon.

I feel like I have learnt quite a bit from these 22 top tips for men and although women seem to have a large number of fashion concerns to consider it would appear that men show admirable effort when it comes to details like the perfect knot in a tie and what sort of umbrella to use when!

What are your biggest male fashion faux pas?

Top tips for men who want to look good

Introducing Pura Vida Bracelets

After getting my last tattoo (a hummingbird on the inside of my right wrist) I haven’t worn any bracelets feeling that my ink was enough of a statement, however, when I came across Pura Vida a company which makes friendship-like bracelets in Costa Rica I was mesmerised by the different designs and their way of supporting the local craftsmen and I simply had to get some!

After a trip to Costa Rica two American friends were captivated by the simple way of life of the people and when they met two locals selling bracelets they were inspired by the designs which seemed to capture the essence of their journey. The two sellers were living in poverty and on seeing this the two Americans requested that the sellers make 400 bracelets for them to take home with them to create a new business Pura Vida which is Spanish for “pure life” a Costa Rican philosophy that encourages the appreciation of life’s simple treasures.

Each and every bracelet is delicately handcrafted by artisans in Costa Rica with seemingly endless colour combinations and innovative styles ;each bracelet is as unique as the person wearing it. Today more than 100 Costa Ricans are employed by the company supporting the local people and their families. Not satisfied with this Pura Vida offers a selection of bracelets inspired by 190 charities the world over and have raised more than $935,358 to date. They are also a member of 1% for the Planet, donating 1% of their annual net revenue to environmental organisations worldwide.

So far I have purchased six bracelets from Pura Vida and I love them all. I have chosen a blue/purple theme and have loved collecting the different styles of woven threads. All of the bracelets are wax-coated and are 100% waterproof, they come with an adorable gold-coated copper ‘p’ charm and are adjustable from 2-5 inches in diameter which makes them easy to stack.

The bracelets I have are as follows:

I have really enjoyed collecting the bracelets and adding new textures and patterns, all the while knowing that my money is going to many fantastic causes. If you’re looking for a way to mix up your style this summer I really recommend Pura Vida bracelets. It won’t be long until both of my arms are full of beautiful life changing bracelets!

pura vida bracelets

Visit to St Leonard’s Ossuary Hythe

On a recent camping staycation with my husband, parents and our combined three pooches to Folkestone Kent (about an hour’s drive from where I live) my Father was talking about how when he was a young boy with his parents he visited an amazing Church in Hythe which housed an astonishing collection of human bones. After a bit of Googling we discovered the Church was St Leonard’s (click for website) and we jumped in the car to go check it out.

Amazingly this little-known Church has the largest and best-preserved collection of ancient human bones and skulls in Britain consisting of 1,022 skulls on display in four shelved arches and a stack of long bones, pelvises and skulls measuring 7.5m in length, 1.8m in width and just over 1.8m in height.In total it is estimated that the collection represents around 2,000 people, however this is just an estimate as it is simply impossible to count them all.

First referenced in 1678 by Samuel Jeake, then Town Clerk of Rye who described St Leonard’s having ‘an orderly pile of dead men’s bones’ in the ‘charnel house’ on the north side of the church, this fascinating collection of remains has been studied over the years in order to determine where the bones came from, the ages and sexes of the remains as well exploring signs of diseases and injury visible on the bones.

I have to admit that I was worried about the ossuary being really spooky but my fears were unfounded. My father, husband and I were warmly welcomed in and given an introduction about the bones, the myths of where the bones came from as well as told a bit about the studies that have been undertaken. Some of the bones show fascinating signs of being damaged with re-growth visible which means that the person survived their ordeal and had started healing.

Of course my husband, the osteopath, really enjoyed examining the bones and looking for conditions he could recognise and name. On the other hand my father, the dentist, enjoyed looking at the display of jaws and teeth which were part of the collection. I found the collection of bones equally as interesting and found myself wondering who these people were and how they ended up in the Church.

If you’re looking for something a bit different to do and you’re in Kent then I really do recommend a visit to get a closer look at some of our ancestors and learn a bit of Kentish history at the same time. Of course you can also pop down to the beach, a short walk away, if you want to reflect on the wonders of sun shine and ice cream!

St Leonard's Church Hythe Kent

St Leonard's Church Crypt

Skulls at St Leonard's Church Crypt

Close up on skulls at St Leonard's Church Crypt

Femurs at St Leonard's Church Crypt

Femurs and skull at St Leonard's Church Crypt

Pelvis at St Leonard's Church Ossuary

Jaws at St Leonard's Church Ossuary

Introducing Banton Frame Works Bespoke Glasses

A few years ago I had laser eye surgery to correct my vision so I would no longer have to wear glasses, however, one of the big struggles when I was a glasses wearer was to choose a pair which would suit me, look great and still be practical. It always took a long, long time to choose which pair to go to and I always felt like the ones I came away with weren’t quite right for me.

My husband struggles with this today and although some opticians offer modern options to try and help you choose the perfect pair (Vlad was recently using an online tool which superimposed different glasses over a photo of his face), ultimately frames are mass produced and will never be exactly perfect for every individual, so when I came across the bespoke handmade glasses service from Banton Frame Works I was really impressed!

UK based Banton Frame Works offer a service which allows you to create your own one of a kind eyewear from start to finish resulting in a unique, hand crafted pair of glasses which will reflect your style as well as helping improve your sight. The company designs and manufacture contemporary eyewear collections which include special custom details of your choice.

The bespoke glasses process includes five steps for people who just can’t find the frame that fits or reflects their personal style:

Step 1: Draw and describe your design
Step 2: Email it to Branton
Step 3: Brandon produce a prototype of your design
Step 4: You try the prototype and provide feedback
Step 5: Once you are happy Branton will produce the final version for you to enjoy!

I think this is a great service for anyone who finds choosing frames to suit them difficult or who feels that the always end up with glasses that don’t really suit their style or reflects their personality.

Do you struggle when choosing glasses?

glasses with book

Review: Ivel Valley Wild Bird Food

When we moved into my Grandfather’s house we inherited his (somewhat bedraggled) bird table along with a lovely bird bath and I have to admit that I really enjoy watching the local wildlife arrive in the garden and enjoy a snack and/or a drink and a quick dip. There’s something really satisfying from knowing that by putting out some seeds and keeping the bath topped up with water I’m helping to keep the local fauna happy.

We have lots of the common species in our garden, mainly sparrows, blackbirds, collared doves, blue tits, great tits and the odd goldfinch however one day I was amazed to see a rather splendid Greater Spotted Woodpecker snacking on the bird table! We also have some adorable voles and mice who can be seen cleaning up the food dropped by the birds around the bottom of the bird table, not forgetting charismatic squirrels.

I was very happy when Ivel Valley got in touch offering me the chance to give an honest review three of their range of wild bird foods: a seed mix, suet pellets and suet balls from their 5 a day selection which includes 5 key ingredients for bird nutrition.

Ready peck 5 a day seed feeder mix and storage container

A seed mix is a standard option for bird feeders, Ivel Valley’s 5 a day option includes their super insect and suet pellet which they make on the farm along with a combination of  sunflower hearts, kibbled peanuts, naked oat, insect and mealworm suet pellets, white millet seeds, red millet seeds and red dari seeds which produces a high energy, low waste bird seed with no wheat which took five years to develop.

The 5 a day seed is designed to attract more beautiful birds to your garden such as Great Tits, Blue Tits, Coal Tits, House Sparrow, Greenfinch, Siskin, Chaffinch, Bullfinch, Robin, and Long Tailed Tit. The birds in my garden have certainly enjoyed this seed mix, in fact it has been the most popular option! As an added bonus the seed mix came in a fabulous storage container which makes it very easy to keep the seed dry and stops the risk of spillages in the house.

Ready peck 5 a day suet pellets apple

I had never considered using flavoured suet pellets before having usually bought the regular suet balls, so I was intrigued about the 5 a day apple suet pellets. Ivel Valley have designed the pellets to be used in a range of feeding methods: on the ground, on a bird table or in mesh feeders. I have a mesh feeder which usually holds peanuts so I emptied this out and filled it up to the brim with suet pellets!

The suet pellets are high in energy and are made with suet, wheat flour, peanut flour, oat flour, millet flour, dried apple and colour. This is designed to attract a host of different bird species including Great Tits, Blue Tits, Coal Tits, and Long Tailed Tit, Robins, Starlings, Wrens, Blackbirds and Thrushes. Although not as popular as the seed mix the suet pellets certainly has been enjoyed by my garden visitors.

Ready peck 5 a day suet balls insects and mealworm 

I have a love hate relationship with suet blocks and balls having had a number of them crumble to bits and shower me with various insects which the birds might find delicious but I’d rather not end up wearing so I was interested to see just how the Ivel Valley ones held up. The 5 a day suet balls are designed to go into a fat ball feeder – unfortunately I had to improvise with a mesh feeder – and is high in energy.

Ingredients include suet, wheat flour, peanut flour, oat flour, ground maize, sunflower seeds, millet seeds, linseed, insects and mealworms, oyster shell, colour. I was very happy that the suet balls did not fall apart when I took them out of the packet and made it safely into their container with minimal fuss! They are the perfect treat for Great Tits, Blue Tits, Coal Tits, Robins, and Long Tailed Tit, Robin, Starlings and Wrens.

I have really enjoyed watching the birds in my garden enjoying these new tasty treats and am happy to award Ivel Valley 5 out of 5 stars for their varied and nutritious range.

Ivel Valley Wild Bird Food in Feeders

Ivel Valley Wild Bird Food seed mix

Ivel Valley Wild Bird Food suet pellets

Ivel Valley Wild Bird Food suet balls

5stars

Review: Olixar Power Up Kit from Mobilefun

Most of us would be lost without our smartphone these days. I have to admit that I use it not only for making calls, messaging and emails but I also find myself working from my mobile phone often so when the battery starts dropping below 20% I find myself feeling very uncomfortable unless I have a charger near by. This fear of running out of power is exacerbated when on holiday and you might rely on your phone for maps and language translations, so when Mobilefun offered me the chance to honestly review the Olixar Power Up Kit, a 4-in-1 charging pack with travel case, I was very happy to get involved.

The Olixar Power Up Kit is made up of a mains USB travel adapter, power bank and two non-tangle retractable cables to help you keep all your devices charged and ready to go whilst on the move. If you are anything like me you usually have at least 3 of 4 electronic devices on you at any time when travelling (usually my phone, kindle and camera) so being well prepared with charging options is a must! I have to admit I have been quite smitten with the power up kit since it arrived.

Mains travel adapter

One of my favourite features of the power up kit is the mains travel adapter with 4 USB ports and 4 travel adapters, allowing you to charge 4 USB devices at once via the one mains plug which allows you to switch between EU, US, US and UK plugs which means it is compatible for use in over 150 countries! Simply slot the desired country plug onto the block and when you need to swap press where it says ‘push’ to slide the plug off and put another one in place.

I can’t believe I haven’t had once of these in the past, it’s such a great solution for when you have limited electric plugs and need to charge multiple devices. I am never sure what adapter I will need when I go on holiday, so I can’t begin to explain how useful this is!! The charger has an output of 4.8A (up to 2.4A per USB port) and uses Smart IC technology to automatically identifying the device, it will quickly charge your devices back to full capacity.

Portable power bank

Around this time last year I invested in a portable power bank for carrying with me on the go in case my phone battery died, although I really found it useful it was pretty clunky so when I spotted the slim line portable power bank (only 9mm thick!) in the Olixar Power Up Kit I was very happy, as it has the same capacity as my original power bank but is considerably smaller and lighter making it so much easier to carry when out and about at home or when I am travelling.

The power bank has a handy built-in Micro USB or Lightning connector so you don’t need to worry about leaving the cable at home and features a powerful 2500mAh capacity, adding up to 138% of battery power to your iPhone 6 and can significantly boost the available charge available on any smartphone. The Olixar Powerwallet uses LED indicators to let you know how much charge is left and when it needs recharging simply plug in via micro USB to replenish its power store.

Retractable Lightning / Micro USB charge & sync cables

The Olixar Power Up Kit comes with two handy retractable charge/sync cables which adapt between being a lightning charger and a micro USB charger which is really handy for people who have a combination of Apple and other products. I love that they are easy and neat to store away when not in use as the cables simply retract into a handy small size package, this is facilitated by the flat design of the cable making it easy to roll up for storage.

It is also really nice to be able to choose the length of the cable avoiding problems with extra length dangling and getting in the way. The cable is designed with a two step adapter which allows you to switch between lightning and micro USB adapters by simply pulling off the first adapter (lightning) to reveal the USB beneath. The connectors come with protective caps to ensure they remain in top condition. Both the lightning and micro USB connections support super-fast charging so devices are ready to go in no time.

Travel case

When packing my luggage for a trip I always try and ensure the more delicate items are surrounded with clothing to protect them from any bumps along the way, especially when flying aboard and expecting the luggage handlers to be a little rough. I am really happy that the pieces making up the Olixar Power Up Kit comes contained in a sturdy solid case which ensures that the accessories are kept in a secure, safe place protected from bumps and of course this means that the mains travel adapter, power bank and two non-tangle retractable cables are kept together ready to go on the next adventure!

I award the Olixar Power Up Kit from Mobilefun 5 out of 5 stars and can’t wait to take it away with me on this year’s holidays.

Olixar Power Up Kit box

Bottom of Olixar Power Up Kit Box

Top of Olixar Power Up Kit Box

Olixar Power Up Kit Cable and Battery

Olixar Power Up Kit charger cables

Olixar Power Up Kit adaptable mains plug

Olixar Power Up Kit UK mains plug

Olixar Power Up Kit Europe mains plugDIGITAL CAMERA

Dog walking kit essentials

A while ago I introduced our new addition Lexi the Labrador and over the last few weeks she has settled in really well, mastered an array of commands and undergone the recommended course of vaccinations to ensure she would be safe from catching any nasty canine diseases and she recently experienced her first walk out in the countryside! She has been loving them ever since.

I now have a routine before going out on the walk to make sure I have everything I might need whilst out with Lexi and I wanted to share this in the hopes of helping other first timer puppy walkers on their way. Here are my dog walking kit essentials:

Suitable footwear

We are lucky to live in the Kent countryside where we have access to lots of fantastic green spaces and fields with easy going terrain where we can walk dogs, we also have access to slightly more challenging conditions underfoot with woodland and river side paths which can get overgrown or slippery. The last thing you need when walking a dog is to trip over something and end up on your arse with the dog running off or trampling on you! I recommend hiking boots such as those from Hi-Tec UK with good grip to keep you steady on your feet no matter the weather.

Jacket/ Coat

Just like having appropriate shoes making sure you have suitable outerwear at hand in case a cheeky rain cloud comes overhead half way through the walk is a good idea. I recommend getting a a waterproof jacket or coat which folds down, or even packs away into a small easy to carry package, so it can easily be carried or worn depending on the weather. Having a jacket with plenty of pockets is also helpful as you can keep your other doggie walking kit goodies close at hand!

Poo bags

Of course if you are going anywhere with your four legged friend you have to be prepared for the inevitable. There are lots of manufacturers of doggie poo bags of all sizes, colours and event fragrances! I really recommend getting biodegradable poo bags which do not damage the environment. I recently reviewed Earth Rated Biodegradable Scented Puppy Waste Bags which I really like. You can get handy dispensers which attach to your dog’s lead which means you don’t even have to carry them.

Dog biscuits

It’s always a good idea to have some doggie treats with you on a walk in case you need an enticement or a reward for good behaviour. As Lexi is still learning lead etiquette we use treats to reinforce good behaviour. She is particularly keen of Winalot Shapes which you can find on Amazon

Dog whistle

My mum has two black Labradors which were trained as gun dogs and have been trained to return when they hear two short blasts of a whistle which comes in handy when out on a walk and mum wants to recall them if they wander off to explore. When we got Lexi we decided to train her to the same whistle so when we walk the dogs all together she will also come back to us if she hears the whistle. Dog whistles come in different frequencies so make sure you get the right one for your breed; Labradors respond to the gun dog frequency so we have a couple of Acme 211.5 dog whistles which you can also find on Amazon.

Dog walking kit essentials

Labrador in the garden

Puppy Lexi in the garden

How to: the perfect blow dry

You would think that blowing your hair dry would be simple. I mean it’s just hot air right? Unfortunately getting the perfect blow dry is more than just aiming your dryer at your head and hoping for the best. Whenever I leave the salon I know my hair looks fantastic because it has been washed and dried into a great style, because they know that they are doing! So here are my top tips for getting the perfect blow dry every time.

Any good hair style begins with a good wash so start with using your favourite shampoo and conditioner. The experts at Tangle Teezer recommend that you quickly switch to cold water between rinses as this is extra nourishing for your hair and adds additional heat protection from the very beginning. Once clean you need to give your hair a chance to dry out as much as possible before blow drying, try patting the hair dry rather than rubbing with a towel which can increase the chances of getting a frizzy or wispy finish.

A basic staple that everyone needs in their hair arsenal is heat protection. Once the hair has been dried as much as possible with the towel apply your favourite heat protection product generously through the hair to stop it from drying out or becoming damaged. At the moment my favourite is the Aussie Miracle Recharge Take the Heat Conditioning Spray available on Amazon.

Investing in a good hair brush is really key to getting the right result. Depending on the thickness and texture of your hair use either a round brush or a panel brush for the perfect blow dry. Section the hair into 6 to 8 separate parts so you can blow dry each one in turn. Don’t forget to always work from the back forwards to make it easier to manage the sections as you go along so you can easily track what is still left to do.

Start your blow dry by putting your brush in around the roots of the hair in your section, keeping the hairdryer above the hair, follow the movement of the brush so you are drying and brushing the same section at the same time. Once you’ve come to the ends of the hair move your brush back to the roots and start over, this can be tricky but with a bit of practise you can be an expert. Now, don’t give me a funny look but the best way to finish off your blow dry is to give the hair a blast of cold air which will help to give the hair a shiny finish as well as reduce any frizz.

Finish off your elegant blow dry with some serum and run through the hair with straighteners. A quick spray of hairspray (you can’t go wrong with Elnett Supreme Hold Hairspray) will keep you looking neat and tidy all day. Happy drying!perfecting the hair blow dry

Recipe: BBQ steak and slaw

Although the weather so far this summer has been rather disappointing it’s always a good idea to have some BBQ recipe staples ready to go for when the clouds clear and the sun eventually comes out! This is a great recipe to make for a group of meat-lovers with generous sirloin steaks complimented by a zingy, fresh red cabbage coleslaw. Make sure you’re prepared by stocking up on BBQ equipment ahead of time, BBQ World offer a great range. If the weather doesn’t clear up you can always cook the steaks inside using a griddle pan for a BBQ feel.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika
  • A pinch of cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 2 sirloin steaks (200g each, aprox. 1.5cm thick)
  • 2 medium carrots, grated
  • 1 eating apple, grated or sliced
  • A small bunch of fresh flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked and chopped
  • 3 tablespoons of Greek-style yogurt
  • 1/2 of a  lemon, zest and juice
  • 6 Haywards Medium & Tangy Silverskin Onions, halved
  • 1/2 of a jar of Haywards Medium & Tangy Red Cabbage
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. Make sure you get your barbecue up and running before you get started so that it is at the a good high temperature for cooking your steaks.
  2. First make your spice rub; combine the oil, paprika, cayenne, garlic powder and seasoning together in a small bowl and rub your spice paste all over the steaks.
  3. Place the spiced steaks on the grill and barbecue for 1 ½ mins on each side for medium rare.
  4. The steaks will need to rest so when you take them off of the grill put them onto a warm plate wrapped in foil and leave for 10-15 mins.
  5. While the meat is resting you can make the slaw. Combine the carrot, apple, parsley, lemon (juice and zest) and the Greek yoghurt into a large bowl. Be sure to season the slaw with a pinch of salt as required.  Throw in the picked silverskin onions and pickled red cabbage and mix everything together thoroughly.
  6. Now you’re ready to serve; slice the rested steaks and simply serve with a generous portion of slaw. Enjoy!

BBQ streak and slaw

How electronic cigarettes work

Giving up smoking is hard. You have probably spotted that I have posted a few times recently about vaping, electronic cigarette (e-cigarettes) and e-juices; that is because despite giving up smoking a few years ago my husband always turned to it when under stress, such as exams. I suggested that he try something different rather than giving up cold turkey and so he got his first e-cigarette and he hasn’t had a real cigarette since! Worried your e-cigarette might explode? This great article about the safety of vaping will reassure you.

I have to admit that when the e-cigarette arrived I was baffled over how it actually worked, especially as there are so many types to choose with all sorts of different functions. I mean what is a mod? What is a tank? What do volts have to do with anything? Over the last few weeks I have learnt a lot about how e-cigarettes work and wanted to share my new found knowledge to help anyone else out there struggling with the concept.

An electronic cigarette simulates the effects of smoking by converting a solution sometimes called an e-liquid or an e-juice into vapour made up of nicotine and flavourings which is inhaled. An e-cigarette is made up of three basic components – a battery typically between 200-300 mAh (milliamp hours), an atomiser that contains an electric resistance coil and some form of wick which feeds the e-liquid into the coil. It is the coil that turns the liquid into vapour when it is heated up.

So, what is an e-liquid? An e-liquid has four main components: propylene glycol (PG), vegetable glycerine (VG), nicotine, and flavourings. It is possible to choose e-liquids with different levels of the first three components so the user can find a balance they are comfortable with.  The propylene glycol supports nicotine delivery (or “throat hit”) while vegetable glycerine produces the vapour, simulating cigarette smoke. The Royal College of Physicians has reported no adverse effects or toxicity of concern in either of the two materials.

The user can choose the amount of nicotine in their eliquid based on how many cigarettes they smoked before you made the switch to e-cigarettes with heavier smokers wanting a higher nicotine percentage. Most people who take up vaping aim to slowly reduce their nicotine strength and therefore their dependency and you can get e-liquids in a variety of strengths including 18mg, 12mg, 6mg, 3mg and 0mg.

The most fun comes when choosing the flavour of the e-liquids you want to vape, there is a huge range on offer from traditional tobacco through to fruity and confectionery flavours! My husband has become quite a mixologist during the last few weeks by mixing and matching different flavours to try and come up with something that he really enjoys. Vlad’s favourite flavours are the fruity ones (I joke that he likes the pudding ones), and if he can find one which offers a ‘creamy’ taste alongside the fruit he really loves those!

 

Vaping e-cigarette