• A guide to my favourite traditional British sweets

  • The pros and cons of laminate flooring

  • Review: Leuchtturm1917 A5 Purple Dotted Notebook

    LEUCHTTURM1917 purple dotted a5 notebook
  • What breed of dog would best suit you?

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A guide to my favourite traditional British sweets

I have fond memories of going to the local sweet shop as a child and picking out my favourites from the shelves and jars as a treat. I very quickly discovered that I hated the flavour of aniseed and loved the sweet and sharp taste of sherbert! I recently popped back to the same shop which happily still sells sweets and being there again made me feel rather nostalgic, so here is a guide to my favourite British sweets.

Around the 14th February there is one sweet which really shines through as a favourite; Lovehearts! Funnily enough, they were first designed to go in Christmas crackers in the 1950s by British confectioners Swizzels-Matlow. These are a sweet and sherberty treat which sizzle on the tongue and are near the top of my favourites list, and I am not the only one as reportedly Diana, Princess of Wales, visited the Loveheart factory in 1990 and was given a personalised selection of the sweets including “Prince William” and “Prince Harry” stamped on each sweet.

If you want a long lasting sugar hit then a gobstopper is the perfect traditional treat for you. Made from layers of candy in a ball shape gobstopper sweets are usually between 1cm-3cm across (although you can get exciting giant versions too!) Traditionally these sweets were a favourite for British schoolboys in the years between the world wars. When I think of gobstoppers I can’t help but recall Roald Dahl’s Everlasting Gobstoppers in his famous book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

A couple of years ago my sister and I went on a long weekend jaunt to G`reat Yarmouth, somewhere which we had visited many times as children, to re-live a British seaside holiday. One thing you can always guarantee will be present at a British seaside town is rock! Made from pulled sugar mixed with vibrant colours and a huge range of flavours no-one can resist a stick of rock to enjoy whilst sitting on the beach. Check out this video which shows how rock is made.

At the very top of my list of favourite British traditional sweets just has to be Barratt’s sherbert fountain, made simply with a sharp tangy sherbet and a liquorice stick which you lick and dip into the citrus sherbert and then lick and dip… Of course, I wasn’t a fan of the liquorice (aniseed) but I simply loved the sherbert and would simply choose an alternative lolly or sweet to capture it. Sold since 1925 it originally came in a traditional paper packaging which was sadly changed to a plastic tube in 2009 to the horror of traditionalists.

At the very top of my favourite British sweets list are a sweet which divides people a bit like marmite – either you love them or you hate them, due to their slightly odd flavour. Parma Violets, named after the flower, have a floral flavour that some people think tastes like soap! However, I really love them! It helps that they are also made in my favourite colour; purple!

Lastly, a sweet that was voted Britain’s all-time favourite in 2004. First seen in the 1960s and made from layers of rice paper filled with sherbet, the flying saucer has to be the best way to get a quick sugar fix! These are an amuse bouche with a citrus sugar kick sandwiched in melt in your mouth rice paper parcels. Perfect!

What are your favourite traditional sweets?

The pros and cons of laminate flooring

When our current house was undergoing a renovation before we moved in I was given the choice of flooring, and having lived with laminate in our London flat and having found it to be a positive experience I chose to remain carpet free in our new home. Laminate flooring was invented as an inexpensive alternative to real wood, which can be very pricey, and today you can find a huge range of types of wood from oak, hickory and heartwood pine to more exotic species such as tigerwood.

Laminate flooring is made from a core of fibreboard backed with a moisture safe bottom later and covered on top with a high-resolution image of real wood or other materials, coated in a clear top layer to prevent scratches and dents. Laminate can come in all sorts of styles such as antiqued and rustic allowing you to create the perfect real wood look in your home but for a fraction of the price. You can also get laminate which looks like stone, tile and metal perfect for a more modern look! Check out this range of laminate flooring for some inspiration.

If you’re not sure if you want to go with laminate then check out these pros and cons to help you make up your mind.

The positives

  • Installing laminate is easy – it comes in planks or tiles with edges which have been designed to snap together so there’s no need for expensive and complicated tools or glues.
  • Laminate can be installed on top of most other floors (not carpet!) as it sits on top of a thin foam underlayer, so there’s no need to spend hours ripping up old flooring before laying it down.
  • The flooring has been designed with a stable construction which prevents the seams from opening during changes in moisture level, so you don’t need to worry about trip hazards.
  • Laminate has been designed to be very touch and hardwearing which makes cleaning and maintenance easy. It is perfect in a functional setting where practicality is your priority – our house is home to a labrador puppy who loves to get muddy! We have found that a quick mop and sweeping/hoovering every week or so keeps it looking new and paw-print free.
  • Solid hardwood can stain and is vulnerable to strong sunlight; laminate does not suffer from these problems.

The negatives

  • Although the flooring is protected against moisture, even the best flooring will become damaged with frequent exposure to high humidity. Avoid using laminate in rooms where there is a good chance of high moisture such as laundry rooms, bathrooms and basements which tend to flood etc.
  • Unlike real wood which can be refinished after a period of use, laminate needs to be replaced when it is worn out so check the warranty when making your purchase. It’s generally worth spending a bit more on your laminate to get a product which will last longer whereas cheaper options can wear out faster.
  • Although laminate looks like real wood it is, of course, different and doesn’t have the same feel when being walked on – although this has never bothered me!
  • Laminate flooring can be a bit slippery underfoot as it has a smooth surface. If you’re concerned about accidents occurring be sure to use floor coverings on large areas.
  • Hardwood and engineered wood give you better value when selling your property than laminate but of course, these are much dearer to purchase.
  • Sadly laminate contains plastic that doesn’t degrade in landfills and some chemicals such as formaldehyde which can be damaging to the environment.

Overall for our lifestyle laminate has been the best choice, perfect for dealing with countryside life and the abuse from an often muddy dog! Would you give laminate a go in your home?

Review: Leuchtturm1917 A5 Purple Dotted Notebook

One thing that is essential when you first get interested in Bullet Journalling is a good notebook! You don’t need anything fancy to get started. People in the community tend to prefer dotted notebooks and the Leuchtturm1917 brand is well known as a quality option, although it does come at a price.

I was lucky enough to have been given a Leuchtturm1917 A5 purple dotted notebook for Christmas from my sister, but they usually retail for £12.99. The notebook has a solid hardcover in a lovely vivid purple and it comes with two ribbon page markers as well as a handy elastic band fastener to keep the notebook closed when not in use.

It is made up of 249 pages which are prenumbered making adding pages to your index a cinch, especially as it includes three preprepared index pages ready to go. It also has eight perforated and detachable sheets of paper so you can write notes or shopping lists down, tear them out and take them with you.

The Leuchtturm1917 notebook also has a handy expandable envelope pocket on the back cover which contains some lovely preprinted labels to stick on the front cover and spine which you can use to name and date your bullet journal for archiving when it’s full.

I really like my purple a5 Leuchtturm1917 dotted notebook and have found it perfect for my bullet journaling needs. It’s the perfect size to be portable, whereas my previous a4 notebook was a bit cumbersome. I find the prenumbered and perforated pages very useful as well as the elastic band for closing.

I have to admit that I don’t get much use out of the page marker ribbons and this is for two reasons, the first being that I use sticky tabs to mark pages I frequently refer to and the second reason is because my cat decided to chew most of the ends off so they are a bit short! Haha.

The pages do feel like they are of good quality and thickness (80 gsm) and I am delighted that the paper fibres do not come loose and get stuck in my pen nibs which can be frustrating if using lower quality paper. I have found that some of my pens do ghost (show through) the pages, such as Sharpies, which can be annoying.

Overall I really love the style, quality and the prepared pages which come with the Leuchtturm1917 notebook. It is the perfect foundation for my bullet journal to keep me up to date and on track with my tasks.

I award the purple a5 dotted Leuchtturm1917 notebook 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for anyone wanting to get into bullet journaling.

LEUCHTTURM1917 purple dotted a5 notebook

LEUCHTTURM1917 purple dotted a5 notebook

LEUCHTTURM1917 purple dotted a5 notebook

LEUCHTTURM1917 purple dotted a5 notebook

LEUCHTTURM1917 purple dotted a5 notebook

LEUCHTTURM1917 purple dotted a5 notebook

What breed of dog would best suit you?

Are you desperate to add a furry friend to your family this year but aren’t so sure about which breed to go for? When it came to choosing our puppy, Lexi the chocolate labrador, it seemed like an obvious choice.

I had always been around large dogs and living in the beautiful Kent countryside means there are plenty of choice walks nearby. Meeting Lexi and her littermates when they were just 3 weeks old was such a magical moment and I am very proud of the intelligent, playful and often mischevious dog she is growing into.

However, if you live in a home without a garden, work full time and have social constraints on your time you really need to think hard about the breed of dog which would best suit your lifestyle because getting an unsuitable dog (even if they are super cute when they are a puppy) could end up being a problem.

PuppySpot has come up with this helpful flow chart to help you discover which dog breed would be your perfect match and hopefully give you some things to think about before making your choice. I have to admit that I came out on category 2 which means a Golden Retriever might have been a better choice than a Labrador, but I enjoy Lexi’s energy and lust for life so we are a great match!

What is your perfect breed?

What dog breed best suits you

Review: The Body Shop Festive Shower Gels

I’m not really one for buying things I don’t really need in the madness that is the New Year sales, however, this year I decided to stock up on one of my favourite bathroom staples from The Body Shop – shower gels.

I was very pleased to discover that the festive scented shower gel range at half price and as I have always found The Body Shop shower products excellent I scooped up one of each of the scents: frosted berries, spiced apple and vanilla chai each in attractive 250ml bottles.

The festive frosted berries shower gel is made with cranberry seed oil from North America which really helps it pack a punch when it comes to the aroma; you’ll be smelling the scent of juicy berries for a long time after use along with floral and praline undertones. The frosted berries shower gel, like the other two, is soap-free and the bold crimson gel creates a decent amount of lather when used with water.

The Christmassy Spiced Apple shower gel has been made with apple fruit extracts from the Alps and leaves the scent of cinnamon baked apples on the skin along with undertones of orange and flowers. It is free from harmful soaps and comes in a vibrant and festive green colour.

The vanilla chai gel is my favourite with a really satisfying blast of Madagascan vanilla, cardamon and star anise which leaves me feeling uplifted as well as clean. Again, this shower gel is soap-free and lathers up nicely.

I have found that the festive shower gels offer a bold and delicious scent which lifts my mood and prepares me for the day ahead. They all leave my skin feeling soft and clean without being dry which is important when you have sensitive skin like mine.

Overall I have really enjoyed using my sale finds; I wish they came in larger bottles! I am happy to award them 5 out of 5 stars.

Body Shop Shower Gels

Challenge: Could I live off-grid? #IWouldMiss

I have to admit that I have loved the idea of having a self-sufficient life for a long time, although I know that running a household without connections to the utilities and other modern facilities to which I am accustomed to would be a huge challenge. I really admire the people who choose to give up the drudgery of ‘normal life’ and choose instead to forge their own way.

Being independent and living off-grid means not depending on anyone else for existence; society, government or the public for water, electricity, gas, food and fabric. It means you have to make your own unlimited electricity, fuel, water and food. Of course to seriously live off grid you also have to live with no money, with most off-grid people using a barter system to get whatever they need.

The challenge put to me by alternative energy solutions company www.flogas.co.uk, who recently discovered that 85% of us like the idea of ‘escaping it all’, was to answer this question: What would I miss if I lived off-grid? So, here are the things I’m not so sure I could live without.

Communication

Of course most of us today rely on our mobile phones or the internet to keep in touch with friends and family. Living off-grid means living without these luxuries and so I believe that being able to communicate with the people who are most important to me would be much harder. I would very quickly feel the effect of his major change as I am in daily contact with my close family and believe I would get lonely within a couple of days of being off-grid. However, I can see the upside of this also – any contact achieved off-grid would be much more impactful on my life and instead of sending meaningless WhatsApp messages conversations with my loved ones would be far more important.

Convenient shopping

For many years I have loved the idea of growing my own vegetables in my garden, although I’m not so sure my thumbs are green enough. I am guilty of enjoying the convenience of popping to the shops or doing an online food order and I think this is something I would really miss if I decided to live off-grid. I have to admit that I am a huge Amazon junkie with a Prime account and next day delivery has ruined me and made me into a more impatient person. Living off-grid requires a lot of patience and knowing that you may not get what you want for weeks or even months! Reflecting on my last couple of sentences I can see that the upside of this would be a lack of unnecessary consumerism which ultimately is a good thing. I think modern society makes us feel like we need a lot of ‘stuff’ around us and without the availability of convenient shopping I would have less ‘stuff’ to worry about and I could focus on other more important areas of life.

Water on tap

When researching the off-grid lifestyle it became obvious that water is one of the most important things to consider when looking for somewhere to settle down. Having fresh water on your own land gives you the independence from modern facilities and allows for drinking, washing, bathing and cleaning all year round. Obviously, the lack of plumbing, safe water for drinking and hot water for showering is a really big change from ‘normal’ life. Wasting water would be a huge sin in the off-grid community so consumption would have to be carefully considered – no more long relaxing hot showers!

Plug in and Go

Living outside of society and the usual utilities would mean no access to electricity, something that I am very much attached to! Life is easy when you can just press a switch to turn on a light, to boil a kettle or start the microwave. Of course, you are able to produce your own electricity when you life off-grid and most people do this via water, wind or the sun. Having spent many a holiday with my family camping I am not inexperienced in not having electricity and looking back over the years I have to admit that the lack of electricity has led to evenings spent playing board games and going to bed when the light runs out, which wasn’t really the worst thing ever!

Going off-grid would be a massive life change for anyone who is used to the modern conveniences of ‘normal’ life, including me! That being said I still find the idea of living away from the pressure and stresses of modern life and living closer to nature attractive and I believe that after an initial transitional period I would be able to adapt. Would you be able to live off-grid?

living off-grid cabin

Review: Zebra mildliner pens

As a Bullet Journalist, I have built a large selection of stationery to ensure that when I am preparing my latest layout or spread I have everything I need for a practical and pretty planner. In the BuJo community there are a number of products that everyone knows and loves including the mildliner highlighter pens from Zebra which I am reviewing today.

The mildliners can usually be found in sets of 5, however, you can find sets of all 15 colours in some shops. The sets include bright neon shades usually associated with highlighters as well as other pastel and earthy tones to make a nice range of colours to be used in a planner all with soft water-based ink without the harsh startling pigments usually used in highlighters.

The pens are double ended (which people sometimes don’t realise!), with a thicker typical highlighter nib  which when angled correctly enables the user to highlight a thick row of text in one go (4mm), and a thinner end (1-1.4mm) which can be used for more precision work, colouring in or normal writing.

I have found the Zebra mildliner highlighters very easy to use with flexible nibs, a good flow of ink and a lovely selection of colours. The ink highlights text efficiently without blocking out the writing beneath and doesn’t usually seep through my notebook pages to stain the other side of the page. The highlighters can sometimes smudge ink if it hasn’t yet dried but I expect most highlighters would do this!

I really enjoy using the mildliners to add colour to my Bullet Journal pages and to point out important information that I might otherwise miss. I would like to see the range expanded and more colours available, but otherwise I am happy to award the Zebra highlighters 5 out of 5 stars and would recommend them to anyone looking for a way to brighten up their planner or documents.

Zebra Mildliners

Review: VIP Cig Mini Kit 40w Sub Ohm #vaping

Having graduated from his starter kit a good while ago, my husband now uses a sub ohm e-cigarette which allows him more flexibility when it comes to adjusting the power of his device.

Basic e-cigarettes range from 1.5 ohms to 2.8 ohms but sub ohm devices offer lower resistance leading to a more intense vaping experience. Ultimately this means you get more bang for your e-juice buck.

Vlad’s current sub ohm e-cigarette has a huge battery which is great for longevity but not so great when it comes to portability, so when he was offered the chance to try a Mini 40 Sub Ohm vaping kit from VIP Electronic Cigarette, a much smaller device boasting the same performance, he was keen to give it a go.

The mini kit from VIP Cig is described as a compact but powerful mod with a maximum output of 40w making it suitable for both vaping and sub-ohming. The tank for the mini kit holds 2ml of e-liquid and is top loading for easy and clean refilling. The device has been ergonomically designed and fits nicely in the palm of your hand.

It has a smart look with a black aluminium alloy body with a handy LED display showing battery levels and the current setting. The kit includes the vaping device with atomiser tank, a spare coil, manual and a USB cable for charging.

Vlad has been using the VIP Cig mini kit for several weeks now and is overall very impressed with the performance of the kit. Besides being smaller, which is in itself a benefit for portability, the kit has surprisingly shown itself to be equal to the larger sub ohm device.

Vlad now frequently uses the mini kit as a more mobile option when he is out and about. In addition during her visit over the New Year period my mother in law, who has smoked for many years, was introduced to the mini kit and has since discovered the benefits of vaping. I hope she keeps it up!

Overall Vlad awards the VIP Cig mini sub ohm vaping kit 5 out of 5 stars.

VIP Cig mini sub ohm vaping kit

What I would do if I won the lottery

At the start of the new year people tend to reflect on the last 12 months and start planning for the coming months. Of course, most people come up with a few resolutions but instead of saying the same old things which usually get forgotten a few weeks in I wanted to share something different!

This year I was challenged to think about what I would do if I won the lottery, like the EuroMillions which can have jackpots up to an astonishing £130m, so here are the things at the top of my list!

Pay off debts: It seems obvious but before I get to the fun stuff I would want to pay off our mortgage and my husband’s student loan to clear any debt!

Travel: I love to travel but I usually have a limited budget which gets in the way of everything I want to do and experience. If I won the lottery I wouldn’t have these restraints! My travel bucket list includes a lot of European cities and a trip on the Orient Express, but my husband has always fancied the idea of driving Route 66 in the States which would be a great way to celebrate a lottery win!

Upgrade my home: As much as I love living in our current home, I think if I had unlimited funds I would want a bit of an upgrade perhaps to a country estate or mansion, giving me enough space to spread out a bit and have some additional features like perhaps a swimming pool or home cinema.

Buy a second home: Following on from travel I would love to have a home elsewhere in the world where I could jaunt off to in order to get away from it all. Having visited Montenegro this year to celebrate my 30th birthday I think it would be the perfect place to have a bolt hole where I could admire the views and drink the wine!

Self-improvement: If I had unlimited funds I would feel no guilt when it came to booking spa days and beauty treatments! Who doesn’t love to be pampered? I would book myself in for regular hair cuts at top salons, massages and facials in the most luxurious of spas. If I won £130 million I would probably build a spa in my mansion along with a top notch gym!

Build our musical collection: Both my husband and I like to play instruments so if we had the funds we would both like to add to our musical instrument collection. I play the flute and would love to build a  collection of different flutes including alto and bass versions. Vlad plays the guitar and saxophone and I am sure if he had the money he would buy many more of both!

Do things I enjoy: Although I don’t think I could ever ‘do nothing’, and would have to do some sort of job even if I had unlimited funds, however, in my spare time I would love to dedicate more time to hobbies and things I like doing. I enjoy playing my flute (of course), as well as cooking and being creative (crafts, art, photography). I would love to be able to go on courses and develop more skills in these areas.

Charity: I like to think that I am not a selfish person and if I came into a large amount of money I would want to share it with causes close to my heart. I currently support three charities: WDC, Cats Protection and the RSPB. I would love to be able to do more and would happily donate to these and similar organisations.

What would you do if you won the lottery?

5 Amazing London Lighting Installations To Blow Your Mind

Walking the streets of London at night can be full of surprises. The city never sleeps, so whether you want to buy shoes at 10 o’clock at night or simply roam the streets for Pokémon, you can be guaranteed to stumble upon something you weren’t expecting.

In 2015, the world announced it was the International Year of Light, and light-based technologies and events were planned to celebrate it. This celebration spilt out into 2016 and London enjoyed an array of different lighting installations that ranged from fish tanks to tsunami-sized data visualisations. Below are five of my favourite lighting projects to hit the big smoke over the years.

1.8 by Janet Echelman

Back in January, American artist Janet Echelman suspended a billowing woven sculpture based on the data visualisation from the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan. The lighting structure was suspended above London’s busy Oxford Circus junction and lit up at night. The display’s colours were determined by the mobile phones of willing participants.

Image Source

The Phone Booth Aquariums by Benedetto Bufalino and Benoit Deseille

Londoners have a special place in their hearts for the classic red telephones boxes, so when one of these aging monuments of the pre-mobile world was turned into a beautifully lit living fish tank in Mayfair, it made all who saw it smile. These playful transformations by French artist Benedetto Bufalino and lighting designer Benoit Deseille have been popping up since 2007 and appeared in many of the major cities across the world.

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The Plastic Islands of Trafalgar Square by Luzinterruptus

Inspired by the Great Pacific garbage patch, Luzinterruptus took over the iconic Trafalgar Square fountain to deliver an important message of environmental awareness. This beautifully-lit installation was created from 13,000 bottles gathered from around London, floating in the central ring around the fountain.

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The Circus of Light by Ocubo

Ocubo are a Portuguese company specialising in 3D animation, illustration, motion design and video mapping. City dwellers were invited into their virtual big top for an awe-inspiring show, projected onto the side of the Granary Building. The show included acrobats, jugglers, dancers and performers which were all set to music within Granary Square.

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The Atrium Light By Cundall

Manufactured and installed by The Light Lab, this stunning atrium light feature at the commercial offices of Broadgate Quarter weighs in at over 750kg and uses over a kilometre of cable. At 45 metres long, it brings the entire lobby to life with its array of vibrant colours.

Image courtesy of The Light Lab

The Garden of Light by Tilt

This exotic garden of huge illuminated plants supported by the Mayor of London was a sight to behold. Tunnels for red trees, towering green spikes and suspended spikes of light made for both a breath-taking and almost foreboding experience.

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As the nights begin to close in, London is more than happy to light up and make you smile. With more new and interesting neon artworks appearing every week, it pays to avoid the underground and simply enjoy the streets.