• Heartsease Farm’s Raspberry Pitchfork Valentine’s Cocktail

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  • Review: Pret’s veggie breakfast roll

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  • Review: BarryM Get up and Glow Palette

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  • Review: Amazon FireTV stick

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Heartsease Farm’s Raspberry Pitchfork Valentine’s Cocktail

What are your plans for Valentine’s Day? Are you going to splash the cash and go on a big night out, or are you going to choose something more intimate and stay at home snuggled up with your loved one? This year I am opting for something low key and relaxed with my husband so when Heartsease Farm got in touch asking if I’d like to try out their Valentine’s cocktail I was happy to give it a go.

Made with Heartsease farm traditional lemonade*, raspberries and vodka this is a fruity and colourful cocktail perfect for sipping snuggled up on the sofa. It has a great balance of sweet and sour notes. Serve in a fluted glass, or be original and try a whisky glass and decorate with a slice of lemon on the rim, or add some fresh raspberries on a cocktail stick!

Ingredients:

  • Muddled raspberries
  • 30 ml Vodka
  • 10 ml of Framboise liqueur
  • A drop of Absinthe
  • 90 ml Heartsease farm traditional lemonade
  • 15 ml of lemon juice
  • Slice of lemon

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Review: Pret’s veggie breakfast roll

I have to admit that when it comes to buying a tasty vegetarian breakfast on the way to work the pickings are often a bit slim. A while a go Pret introduced a very tasty veggie-friendly mushroom muffin which I couldn’t get enough of, but unfortunately it was discontinued (due to lack of demand, I was informed!)

Luckily on a recent trip to Pret I spotted the new veggie breakfast roll and happily snapped one up in the hopes of discovering a new option for my morning treat. The Pret veggie breakfast roll is comprised of a mushroom and spinach omelette with the addition of bold matured Italian cheese shavings to balance the creamy egg and two slow roasted tomatoes. This is all daintily served in a seeded focaccia muffin and topped with a dollop of ketchup

I really like the use of a classic mushroom omelette in this roll, it offers a good shot of protein in the morning alongside some tasty cheese and a zing from the slow roasted tomatoes. I certainly feel that it does need the ketchup to bring it all together, but the use of the focaccia muffin really does make this feel like a bit of a decadent treat.

I have to admit that I gobbled down the breakfast roll pretty quickly and was a little disappointed that it was not a more generous size. I would certainly purchase a larger size which would keep me going for longer. I certainly recommend this for anyone looking for a meat-free breakfast option and award the Pret veggie breakfast roll 4 out of 5 stars.

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4stars

Review: BarryM Get up and Glow Palette

I have recently been adding a few items to my make up collection including some new foundations, blushers, highlighters, bronzers and sponges! I wanted to share these new pieces with you starting with this, the BarryM Get up and Glow Palette.

I think this palette has a really cute look about it, I love the lightbulb icons which match the name well. It is a easy-to-carry size and sits well amongst my other palettes. I also like the rose gold detail of the logo and lettering which nicely complements the pink shades.

The Get up and Glow  palette includes 1 x bronzer, 3 x blushers & 1 x highlighter in a mix of matt and glitter shades. Individually these are great shades which can build on the skin and not be too overwhelming. However, you can also blend several shades together to create something a bit more bespoke.

I particularly like the highlighter which adds a subtle shimmer to my face and the more peachy blush which suits skin tone nicely. I have to admit that I haven’t gotten on so well with the bronzer which I find difficult to blend but this might be down to my technique!

The BarryM Get up and Glow Palette has quickly been integrated into my natural every-day look and is a reliable daily option. I do feel that the palette could be improved by the addition of some suitable brushes in order to make it even more mobile, however, at under £7 this is a handy little blusher/bronzer kit.

I award the the BarryM Get up and Glow Palette 4 out of 5.

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Review: Amazon FireTV stick

I am a HUGE Amazon junkie. I am in a serious relationship with my Kindle Fire, I have an Amazon Prime account and I rely on Amazon Video to keep me entertained on my daily 2 hours commuting. So when I got a new Smart TV in the January sales and I discovered I couldn’t access Amazon Video on it I was disappointed!

Having searched through my Smart TV’s market place multiple times and coming up empty I decided to see what other options were out there to let me access my favourite films and tv series on my TV. Of course as an Amazon lover I went to them for the solution and came up with the fireTV stick.

The Amazon fireTV stick is a small dongle-like device which plugs into the HDMI port of a TV and via the internet offers entertainment options which you might not be able to otherwise access. The fireTV stick comes with 8 GB of storage and 1 GB of memory plus a dual-core processor for fast streaming and smooth performance.

The fireTV stick not only offers access to Amazon Video but also other entertainment options including Netflix, BBC iPlayer and more, plus games, music among other apps. It comes with a handy remote which makes it easy to turn on and navigate.

Thanks to my Amazon Prime membership my fireTV stick arrived next day and was easy to set up – plug the stick into the power and then into the HDMI port. Switch the TV’s input to the correct HDMI input channel and you are walked through a simple set up to connect the stick to your internet and pow, you’re all set up to go.

I really love that I can now access all sorts of bonus entertainment via my TV. One of my favourite functions is ‘ASAP’  an algorithm which learns what Amazon movies and TV episodes you like and buffers them for playback before you even select it, so it loads straight away! Another bonus is that you can pack the fireTV stick in your bag and take it anywhere you go for your favourite shows not only at home but at your friend’s house or even a hotel.

The Amazon fireTV stick has been the perfect solution for me to access my favourite shows on my new TV. It is quick and simple to set up and offers fast and high quality streaming. It’s my new favourite gadget and I award it 5 out of 5 stars.

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5stars

Review: The B.I.G. Company Beard Balm

Ever since I have known him my husband has had some form of beard and he has always taken care to ensure it is well groomed and looked after with regular trims and shaves to neaten it up.

Our bathroom has almost as many of his grooming products as my own including razors, shaving creams and post-shave products. So when The B.I.G. (Being Incredible Gentlemen) Company approached my husband to see if he would like to try their Beard Balm* he made a space on his shelf and looked forward to it arriving!

The B.I.G. Company Beard Balm is described as having a number of benefits including: beeswax to tame wild bushy beards and help maintain their shape, a deep moisturiser for both skin and hair for relief from dry and itchy skin, powerful nutrients to support strong and healthy hair growth as well as restorative properties to repair dry, frizzy and brittle hair.

The B.I.G. Company are proud that this product premium ingredients with no harmful chemicals. There are no fillers, additives, parabens or GMOs and B.I.G do not test on animals. The beard balm includes a number of nourishing ingredients including beeswax, shea butter, argan oil, jojoba oil, vitamin E oil and grapeseed oil.

The balm has the texture of beeswax and warms up to the touch to become pliable and easy to apply to a wet or damp beard. It is recommended that you apply from root to tip to ensure a good coating. It has a pleasant traditional creamy vanilla fragrance and doesn’t leave any nasty residue but absorbs into the hair helping to keep it neat and tidy as well as resulting in a soft, nourished beard.

The B.I.G. Company Beard Balm has now become a part of my husband’s regular grooming schedule and he awards it 4 out of 5 stars.

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4stars

HobbyCraft Spring Summer Press Show

I love to be creative. I actually wish I had more time to be creative, so when Hobbycraft sent me an invitation to their Spring Summer press show it took me about 30 seconds to decide to book off the afternoon from work and head out to Gallery Different on Percy Street for an hour or so of fun.

Spring is such an inspiration time of year with the days getting lighter, wildlife and flora waking up after the winter and fun seasonal holidays like Easter giving us a great excuse to get creative with chocolate! Here are the top trends for Easter 2016 according to Hobbycraft:

I love to bake, so Easter is a great opportunity to make and decorate tasty treats with chick and rabbit motifs. Whether it’s iced biscuits,  simnel cake, hot cross buns or making your own delicious chocolate easter eggs and bunnies with candy melts and moulds. Hobbycraft have a great range of tins, moulds and cutters, some of which were on display at the press show.

Of course it wouldn’t be Easter without decorations! One thing I like to do at Easter is make red eggs by boiling eggs with red colouring because it is part of my husband’s heritage. Colouring eggs is a long lasting tradition, but we’re upping the game with all manner of techniques from painting to metallic transfers to make this Easter extra special.

Another traditional decoration is the Easter wreath. Don’t go with the flow this year and do something different by making your own.  You can get a blank wreath and decorate it with all manner of fabrics, colours and textures to make something unique to your home.

I have some great memories of school Easter bonnet competitions of putting together an over the top design including pipe cleaners, plastic chicks and all manner of glue-gun escapades. I can’t remember if I ever won, but either way I still remember it 20 or so years later. It’s a great way to get kids involved in being creative this Easter, but if you like to think you’re more grown up why not try your hand at making a floral headband or fascinator?

Check out some photos from the press event for some creative crafty inspiration for spring and summer.

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How to have a thrifty Valentine’s Day

Not everything is about money, but when it comes to holidays like Christmas, Birthdays and Valentine’s Day people these days seem to enjoy splashing out rather than focusing on what really matters; showing that you care! I have to admit that I have been guilty of buying things because they are shiny and impressive rather than thinking about what the person really wants or needs, or even thinking about how I can show them how I feel about them.

So this year I have put some top tips together so you can do something a bit more special this year. Whether you met your special someone in a bar, at work or on a dating site** you can have a romantic February 14th without your bank balance ending up in the black. Here’s how:

DIY decorations instead of hearts from a shop

Windows, mirrors and even napkins can be decorated with hearts for little to no cost using whatever you have at home. Grab some chalk, pencils or even lipstick! Make a stylish heart garland from hearts cut out of different coloured cardboard and hang it above the fire-place. You can even write love notes on any left over hearts and leave them in the place where your husband will easily find them for some sweet surprises.

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Dinner at home instead of eating out

You don’t have to eat out to enjoy a romantic meal! Cooking at home is a proven way to save money and you can prepare favorite dishes for your special someone. Make desert extra sweet with cookies in shape of hearts. No celebration is complete without bubbly, but don’t go for champagne; try Italy’s favourite sparkling wine Prosecco which is easier on the wallet.  For something a bit different don’t eat at the table like usual but present your spread on a blanket on the floor with some cushions for a fun indoor picnic vibe.

Memories instead of gifts

Enjoying a new experience together for the first time is much more memorable than material things that, let’s face it will be ultimately thrown away. Try something you have never done before, for example an extreme sport (think skydiving), or if you’re not an adrenaline junkie why not book a weekend getaway? Plan this event in advance and surprise your other half on the day! Nothing beats looking back at photographs from a time when it was just about the two of you, so take plenty, print them and showcase them proudly.

Try something new this year and instead of buying something obvious for your special someone, try showing them how you really feel with something real.

**Guest post from Katerina Crowder

Review: WeLoveMaple Maple Syrup

I have very fond memories of sitting by my parents’ open fire in the winter toasting crumpets and then lavishing them with maple syrup. There’s nothing better than a piping hot crumpet and deliciously sweet syrup as a treat, although I am sure I must have made a mess dribbling syrup everywhere!

Of course back then, when I was younger, I didn’t really know anything about where maple syrup came from but now I know better, so when We Love Maple got in touch asking me to try out a range of their quality syrups I was happy to give them a go.  They sent me four sample 50ml bottles, each containing a different grade of syrup (did you know there were different types?)

Canada produces 71% of the world’s pure maple syrup, with 91% of this being made in Quebec. Maple syrup has long been part of Canada’s cultural fabric with their Amerindian peoples teaching the early settlers how to harvest the sap. These days it is harvested by tapping holes into healthy maple trees and allowing the sap to be collected and then boiled down into a concentrated format.

As I mentioned there are four grades of syrup:

  1. Extra Light maple syrup. Derived from syrup collected at the very beginning of the season it is light in colour andhas a delicate flavour.
  2. Light maple syrup. Harvested after the Extra Light, the Light syrup also is light in colour with a pure, delicate taste. It is perfect for use in vinaigrettes or drizzled over sweet and savoury dishes.
  3. Medium maple syrup. The most popular syrup, the Medium is harvested next. It has a more pronounced maple flavour is perfect for cooking, desserts and sauces.
  4. Amber maple syrup. Last to be harvested, the Amber syrup is considerably darker in colour and has a big rich maple flavour. Use this syrup in sauces and glazes.

I have very much enjoyed trying the different types of syrup and have to admit that the amber is my favourite, with it’s bold flavour. You may have spotted the syrup in a few of my recent posts such as my post about free-from crumpets and a modern version of a favourite childhood memory in my ice cream soda.

I found it really interesting to learn more about this beautiful product and award the range of Canadian Pure Maple Syrups 5 out of 5 stars.

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5stars

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Top 20 First World Problems

A report recently conducted by SPANA, a charity providing free veterinary treatment to working animals in developing countries throughout the world, reveals that on a daily basis as many as 30 million Brits suffer First World Problems and find themselves grumbling unnecessarily about relatively trivial matters.

Jeremy Hulme, chief executive of SPANA, said: “It’s so easy for minor, everyday problems to seem like a big deal, and most people in Britain admit to losing perspective at times” . I have to admit that I get frustrated with many of the problems on the list of top 20 first world problems myself and can sympathise with my fellow Brits! Jeremy goes on to say ““But these sorts of irritations really are so trivial compared to the problems faced daily all around the world – by both people and animals.”

The study shows 7 in 10 people frequently catch themselves grumbling about things which don’t really matter, and try to stop immediately, however,  85% say Brits like nothing more than a good moan about something which I guess is true!

I think that it’s fine to have a good grumble about leaving your phone charger at home or having no WiFi, but don’t forget that there are many people out there who are worse off, so sometimes it’s best to just calm down and count your blessings.

Here’s the top 20:

1. Having a runny nose
2. Call from unknown numbers
3. Being left on hold when calling a company
4. Receiving a ‘we missed you’ card for a failed parcel delivery
5. People who ignore queuing etiquette
6. Having no WiFi
7. Having to pay 5p to carry your own shopping home
8. Door-to-door salespeople
9. Having a bad phone signal
10. Not being able to find the end of the sellotape
11. Having to stand on public transport
12. Wanting to log into an account but being unable to remember the password
13. Not finding anything you like when clothes shopping
14. Having to use a tin opener when the tin doesn’t have a ring pull
15. No-one replaced the toilet roll
16. Running out of milk
17. Online deliveries arriving late
18. Unexpected items in the bagging area at self-checkouts
19. Dunking a biscuit and losing half of it in the cup of tea
20. Satsumas that have loads of pips in

What’s your biggest first world problem? Share below.

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Review: ECandy Wireless Headphones

I have something to confess; I am a major consumer of video content. I have Amazon Prime and so enjoy access to many films and tv series which I download onto my Kindle each day to ensure I will have something to entertain me when I am commuting (2 hours a day!).

In general this method works well, and I enjoy a few episodes between home and work and back again, however, one major bugbear of mine is headphone cables which seem to get in the way no matter how I wear my head or earphones. Commuting is practically a competitive sport and I don’t want to be worrying about getting my cables caught when I am trying to fight to a seat or alighting at my stop.

So, having been inspired by a colleague who recently bought some wireless headphones I did a bit of research and purchased some ECandy wireless headphones in blue from Amazon for £15.99 (down from £69.99) to alleviate my commuting problems. Now I have used wireless products before, however, for one reason or another I haven’t really gotten on with them. In particular I had a wireless set of earphones which despite being wireless from device to earphones, the earphones themselves of course were connected by a wire which tended to get in the way.

The ECandy wireless headphones boast top quality, high definition stereo sound with noise isolation ear cups and superior bass response. Additional bonuses include the fact that the headphones also have a removable audio cable option and are foldable. They use a simple Bluetooth connection as their mode of wireless transmission. The headphones are easy to charge via a micro USB and take around 2 hours to fully charge. 

So far I have been impressed with the ECandy wireless headphones in terms of sound quality with a crisp clear tones and decent bass. I have very much enjoyed cable-free entertainment both on the commute as well as at my desk. I particularly like the fact that these headphones fold up and therefore can easily be transported in a handbag.  The headphones offer great noise isolation, even people sitting next to me find it hard to get my attention when I am listening to music with them.

The only slightly negative comments I have are firstly, the controls which are located on the right ear cup and can be fiddly to use when the headphones are in situ. Secondly the headphones have a built in voice which lets you know when they have been switched on/off, are connecting/connected, although this is useful I find the electronic voice a little abrasive especially first thing in the morning!

I do find myself having to charge the headphones during the day to ensure I have enough battery to get me through my evening commute, however, as I can spend many hours listening to music at my desk I can’t really complain!

I am happy to say that I really do recommend the ECandy wireless headphones for a quality, cable-free sound experience and award them 4 out of 5 stars.

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4stars

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