Thursday, 3 September 2015

Dismaland Review - Banksy's Modern Art Exhibition

It's not often you visit an attraction and hope you are thoroughly disappointed but it's not often you visit Dismaland.

If you haven't heard all the media frenzy over the artist Banksy' new collaboration then you must have lived on Mars for the last month.

Prepared in secret, the pop-up exhibition on the site of an old lido on the seafront in Weston-Super-Mare, opened on the 21st of August for a 5 week run. Locals were told a Hollywood crime thriller was being filmed on the site so were surprised when the true nature of the project was revealed.

We are big fans of modern art in our house, and it's not often you get an exhibition like this within easy driving distance of South Wales, so we decided to see if we could get tickets online and visit this exciting exhibition.

Four thousand tickets are available everyday and we managed to get tickets within 30 minutes of them going on sale, soon after they were sold out for our date. 
Tickets are available until the 27th of September and there are a small number everyday for walk ups as well as the main way of booking which is online. 

I live in a seaside town and the resemblance to a fairground attraction past its prime is spot on.  In fact wandering around Weston-Super-Mare before and after you can see why Banksy put this exhibiton here. A seaside town slightly faded from it's 50's heyday and close to where Bristol born Banksy lived. In fact it's highly likely that Banksy visited Weston when he was a child, maybe the idea has been there in his head for years.

Dismaland staff are suitably depressed, unhelpful and sarcastic

Staff are suitably sullen and miserable and it is all part of the experience. My son was stopped by a 'security' person as he was videoing. She stood there whilst he was filming, with her hand over his camcorder whilst eating a Kit Kat. This is all part of the show by the way.

Modern art often has underlying meaning and social commentary on the state of life, the Universe and everything, and the way this exhibition delves into this is no different. A 'fairy tale castle', inside being a overturned princess carriage with the paparazzi taking photos, and the boats full with immigrants looking solemn as they float into the abyss are some such artworks. Thought provoking stuff. Then there is the fun aspect of the exhibition - the hook a duck stall with the prize being a fish finger in a plastic bag for example. 

Like a grown up dystopian apocalyptic fairground, some things add that run down feeling - in the castle wires protrude from the ceiling, signs are shakily handwritten, no bright painted attractions here, everything is, well, dismal. That is except the carousel, bright, inviting to children, fun - oh yes there is a strange model of a man dressed as a surgeon with a knife sitting there...

It's not just Banksy either, 58 other artists are involved including Damien Hirst, Jimmy Caulty and Jenny Holzer.

Would this work in any other country? Probably not. There is something about the great British sense of humour that loves this mickey take of Disney (no pun intended) and the saccharin sweetness that is the American theme park.

“Are you looking for an alternative to the soulless sugar-coated banality of the average family day out? Or just somewhere cheaper. Then this is the place for you — a chaotic new world where you can escape from mindless escapism. Instead of a burger stall, we have a museum. In place of a gift shop we have a library, well, we have a gift shop as well.

“Bring the whole family to come and enjoy the latest addition to our chronic leisure surplus —a bemusement park. A theme park who’s big theme is: theme parks should have bigger themes…

“This event contains adult themes, distressing imagery, extended use of strobe lighting, smoke effects and swearing. The following items are strictly prohibited: knives, spraycans, illegal drugs, and lawyers from the Walt Disney corporation."

Dismaland is bemusing, yet amusing too. A family day out? If your family likes grown up modern art then yes, it's not for little ones that is for sure. If you like modern art then go, and don't forget to exit through the gift shop....

Bathroom Light Review With Value Lights

Last year we decided to renovate our bathroom. The suite was old and needed replacing so we had a new suite fitted, tiles replaced and the bathroom painted so it looked fresh and modern. 

Getting the right accessories is important when you have a new bathroom fitted and we browsed various department stores for the right light that looked smart and modern. As we left this until after the bathroom was fitted my husband had to fit it. He is not a fan of DIY and to be honest we couldn't decide on one so he never got around to fitting a bathroom light, we used our old one... until now.

Value Lights have asked to work with myself and my blog to review a section of lighting over the next year, so I am now a Value Lights Ambassador, which gave me the perfect opportunity to review a bathroom light.

You may know from reading my blog that I like luxury products but I am also a savvy shopper too. I may stay in 4 and 5 star hotels on holiday, and eat in expensive restaurants now and again but only if I balance that with saving money in other ways. Even when I choose luxury hotels they still have to present good value for money in the extras they provide compared to their competition - be it an excellent location, complimentary drinks or a free breakfast.  I apply the same principles to items I buy for my home. 

Now I have to admit I haven't heard of the company Value Lights before, so I felt it was important to check them out and their website before I agreed to anything.

Value Lights is a trademark of LSE Retail Group which was developed in 2011 by three professionals with over 20 years experience in lighting retail. So far so good. Being based in Manchester they are a good solid British business. This is important to me as I love to support British businesses.

The company's ethos is built around affordable products with excellent customer service.  They felt it was important to create a name that is a concept and so ‘Value Lights.’ was born. 

A quick look at their website and the lighting is definitely affordable in my opinion, and although I have yet to use their customer service they do offer a 14 day no questions asked money back guarantee. That is very reassuring. 

So I thought that this company sounded great and therefore I decided to go ahead with the Ambassador role.

My first item I have chosen to review is a chrome bathroom light.

We both loved the modern sleek look of this light and thought it would fit into our bathroom perfectly. The cover has a frosted finish for a diffused glow. 

Instructions were simple and there were illustrations as well as written instructions. The light also came with the fittings needed. You can't use any lights in a bathroom due to the moisture in the environment and therefore this is certified for bathroom use. The company recommend you purchase an energy saving bulb for use in the light and you can buy these from the company as well.

It is important to switch off the wall light and the electricity before fitting any light. This is VERY IMPORTANT. I would highly recommend a qualified electrician to fit it, if you have no experience.

My husband has fitted lights before so he fitted it himself. After switching off the electricity and following the instructions the light was insitu. However ..we had a problem with the connection. After some adjustment he didn't know what was wrong, so he did what any self respecting British person does in times of trouble, he made a cup of tea!

After going away and coming back to it, it looked like a loose connection was at fault, an adjustment was needed and then we had light! 

The light now looks great in the bathroom and much more expensive that the £17.99 it cost. The light is bright enough to apply your makeup but diffused enough not to be too dazzling. It fact the brightness is perfect. 

So there we go, all fitted and in place. Tell me what do you think of the bathroom light I have chosen and more importantly what do you think of the price?

Monday, 31 August 2015

A Helicopter Trip To The Grand Canyon

We have recently come back from a fabulous road trip to California and Vegas. Whilst we were there we were treated to a present from family members - a helicopter trip over the Grand Canyon which was booked through and Sundance Helicopters.

We were picked up by a stretch limo from our hotel for the short drive to the airport. The limo was air conditioned and we were given water as well. We needed this as even early in the day the temperature was in the 90s.

When we arrived we were greeted at the helicopter base at McCarran airport and our details were taken. Weigh distribution is important on a helicopter and before boarding you are weighed. Now don't worry about this! No one can see your weight except the person taking your details and it doesn't show up anywhere, so even you can't see what it says. It is just part of the process.

The helicopter base had a little shop and toilets and was lovely and air conditioned. Then we waited for our helicopter pilot Pete.

Pete greeted us and was very welcoming. We put our items in the back on the helicopter, climbed up, strapped ourselves in, put our headphones on, and then we were off!

I have to admit at this point, I am a nervous flier and I have never flown in a helicopter before so the butterflies in my stomach had started. Before we went I took a travel sickness tablet. I am pleased to say though that the journey was smooth as anything. After we rose into the air and climbed to the select height, it almost felt that we were not moving, it was a little surreal, like being on a theme park ride.

We flew out of Las Vegas over the houses and hotels, and before too long the scenery changed. We were over the Moave desert with the Hoover Dam below us. The headphones were perfect at keeping the sound out whilst giving us a running commentary of our surroundings via the audio system.

A marvel of modern engineering the Hoover Dam is over 726 feet high and 1244 feet long. It was built in 1935 to provide a reliable source of water to those in California and today it provides water for communities in Nevada, California, San Diego and Los Angeles, supporting an estimated 18 million people.

We also flew over Lake Mead, which is the largest reservoir in the United States when full and is formed by the Hoover Dam.  The scenery was amazing as you can see below.

After approximately 45 minutes we arrived at the Grand Canyon. 

After time to take a few photos of the breathtaking canyon, we had a picnic lunch. It wasn't a luxury lunch but the sandwiches and pasta salad were tasty, we also had some fruit and crisps and a choice of a variety of soft drinks. 

Of course the glass of sparkling wine was very welcoming. We ate our lunch in a shaded canopy in the canyon which gave us some relief from the sun. 

On our trip back we flew over the Hoover Dam again and the Las Vegas strip. 

We enjoyed seeing the hotels from the air and the bustle of the strip from the relative quiet of the helicopter. In fact in my opinion this was even better than the Grand Canyon.

Before long we were back at the airport and taken back to our hotel in the limo. Our only complaint was that we seemed to wait a long time here before we were chauffeured back but in reality it wasn't longer than about 30 minutes.

Our stop in the Grand Canyon was short, but we had time for photos and a picnic lunch with a glass of bubbly. If you drove to the Grand Canyon you would definitely see much more of it however it would take you an all day round trip from Vegas by car. Our trip, from being picked up at our hotel to being dropped back off was approximately 4 hours, which is so much quicker than driving.

We enjoyed the trip, the scenery was breathtaking and although it was expensive it was worth it - I mean how often do you get the chance to go to the Grand Canyon?

Tell me what do you think of my photos? Have you been to the Grand Canyon?

Friday, 28 August 2015

Something Borrowed Something Blue - Saving Money By Planning A Wedding In Gretna Green

I got married in Gretna Green. Well, I should say my husband and I got married in Gretna Green.

Greta Green is a small village just across the Scottish border from England and is famous for 'runaway weddings'. It is one of the World's most popular wedding destinations with over 5000 wedding ceremonies performed here every year.

The History Of Gretna Green

Years ago no one under the age of 21 could get married in England and Wales without their parent's consent, however in Scotland this was not the case and boys of 14 and girls of 12 could without their parent's blessing. This fact and the close proximity to the English border made Gretna Green a very popular place to get married.

The local blacksmith and his anvil have become the lasting symbols of Gretna Green weddings. Scottish law allowed for "irregular marriages", meaning that if a declaration was made before two witnesses, almost anybody had the authority to conduct the marriage ceremony. The blacksmiths in Gretna became known as "anvil priests" - they often conducted the ceremony, bringing down a hammer on an anvil at the end of the service, to announce you were married.

When my husband and I got married we decided to go to Gretna Green as we liked the notion of getting married somewhere different, we didn't want a huge wedding with loads of family so this place sounded ideal and it all sounded very romantic, after all, it is the place where couples in love went to elope! However our family still decided to come along, and having a handful of close family did actually add to the experience.

Today the laws have changed but the tradition of going to Gretna Green for a quieter wedding with fewer or no guests still exists. You can get married in a religious or non religious ceremony and many celebrants still bring down a hammer on an anvil at the end of the ceremony.

However if you want a wedding with lots of guests and all the luxuries and extras you can also have this in Gretna Green too but at a much reduced price. This is due to the high number of weddings that take place every year. Our wedding photos were less than £200 for an album with a selection of photos and the rest on CD, the Rolls Royce was £120 and the flowers were beautiful and also very competitive in price too.

Memories Of Our Wedding Day

I am writing this post for the Something Borrowed, Something Blue campaign by Ocean Finance and the idea is to write about my wedding memories and give one tip on how to save money on a wedding.

I have a few lovely memories of our wedding day. We got married in a beautiful place called Anvil Hall and after the service the celebrant did indeed bring down the anvil at the end of the ceremony - it didn't half make me jump! This beautiful hall was the scene of a number of our photos, I like this one below showing everyone cheering.

We were taken to Anvil Hall in a gorgeous Rolls Royce which you can see in the top photo, I felt like I was a princess being taken to meet my prince.

It was a lovely sunny but cold day in March. In fact the next day when we arrived at our Edinburgh honeymoon destination it was snowing heavily, but this just added to the excitement and special feeling of going on honeymoon.

We would highly recommend getting married in Gretna Green. Some venues like Anvil Hall even allow you to watch the wedding over the Internet which is a lovely idea for friends who can't be there.

My Money Saving Tip

Everything in Gretna Green was well priced, so my one tip would be - if you want to save money, get married in Gretna Green. You can have a great wedding that is very special and that doesn't break the bank. Something you will remember forever, and something very special.

* I was compensated a voucher for this post

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Las Vegas Money Saving Tips

Las Vegas is certainly an interesting place, it's not all about gambling either. I have visited twice now and enjoyed the shopping, entertainment and great cuisine.  The hotels are amazing too, you can visit Paris, New York and Venice, all within the themed hotels and all within a pleasant stroll of each other, and that is just for starters!

I am happy to spend money on great meals and fabulous experiences, whilst in Vegas but I certainly don't like wasting money either.

Here is my guide to saving money in Vegas.

  1. For the best prices on hotels, stay midweek and avoid Vegas when large conferences/big events are on as prices rocket.
  2. Consider staying downtown as hotels and restaurants are normally cheaper.
  3. Check out Priceline. Their 'Name Your Own Price' feature can give you big discounts, especially if you don't mind which exact hotel you stay in.
  4. It may be worth staying in self catering accommodation, the Vdara and the Signature have such rooms. Even if you are only making your breakfast every day you can save a fortune.
  5. If you are on Facebook, you can build up freebies on My Vegas. This app allows you to plays games and complete tasks for points which build up for discounts and free food, shows and hotel rooms affiliated with MGM resorts.
  6. Travelzoo and Groupon have regular deals for Vegas on hotels, attractions and restaurants.
  7. Sign up for emails with hotels and restaurants before you go for special offers.
  8. If you are getting a taxi from the airport to the strip, tell the driver not to take the freeway. Vegas taxi drivers are notorious for doing this which adds to your taxi fare.
  9. Sit at a 1c machine and play for a little while. Waitresses come around and you can order a drink for free, just tip a dollar a drink.
  10. Search online for "Happy Hours Vegas ", to find the best prices on alcoholic drinks.
  11. For half price tickets for shows that night check out one of the Tix4tonight ticket booths on the strip.
  12. If you are booking any tours in advance search for discount codes online. Viator for example have a 10% discount code at certain times of the year. Check their social media pages.
  13. Vegas is known for its buffets. If you go at 10.30am you can pay for a cheaper breakfast buffet but 11.00am is often the time they bring out the lunch so you get the choice of a breakfast and lunch buffet at the cheaper price.
  14. The Grand Canyon shop on the strip sells cheap priced water - 2 for $1 and soft drinks 2 for $2. Much cheaper than any other shop around this area.

  15. Search for vouchers which you can buy to slash the cost of meals.
  16. Ceasars has a 24 hour buffet pass which can be used in a number of restaurants.
  17. Have your biggest meal for breakfast and lunch and have a snack for dinner as dinner is almost always the most expensive meal of the day.
  18. Split meals in casual restaurants. Most portions are BIG, appetisers especially.
  19. In Vegas many hotels do not have a coffee maker, so consider taking a travel kettle, sugar and powdered milk if you need your tea or coffee in the morning.
  20. If you have nerves of steel and can spare 90 minutes attend a time share presentation and be sure to say no at the end to collect free show and buffet tickets.

Here are some tips on saving money in Vegas. Let me know if you have been and if you have used any of these tips?

How To Take A Great Selfie

Mobile phones these day are much more high tech than when I was younger. If you are of a certain age, you may still remember waiting for friends and family to meet up in your local town ...and waiting... and waiting. In those days we didn't have mobiles and if the person didn't turn up you just went home. Then when the first mobiles came out then were so expensive and so big you couldn't exactly call it mobile!

Today phones are so much lighter, slimmer and packed full of the latest technology. As a traveller and a blogger it is so easy to use the camera on my phone and instantly upload to social media at a touch of a button. This is where the craze for selfies comes in.

A selfie is a self-portrait photograph and although they have been around for years, being taken by cameras initially, it is only in modern times that the phrase has been coined. In 2012 Time magazine considered selfie one of the "top 10 buzzwords" of that year.

Taking a great selfie is an art in itself. Making sure to get your 'good' side, getting in the perfect background and watching out for photobombers are important. Here is a humorous guide to taking a great selfie. 

Do you have any tips on taking a good selfie?

An infographic brought to you by

*PR Collaboration

Monday, 24 August 2015

Win A Gift Card With Irene Moller Jewellery Ends 23/09

Irene Moller Jewellery is a company new to me which I have discovered recently.  The company designs and makes stylish and elegant Scandinavian jewellery. I recently interviewed the owner Irene about her business and what makes their company special. 

When did you start your business?

I started my business in 2012 in San Francisco, but I've been making jewellery for myself for much longer. 

What is unique about your jewellery?

The design is very Scandinavian and inspired by Danish design trends. Also all my pieces are lightweight making them very nice to wear. 

Which is your favourite piece that you sell?
Lori Earrings

It is hard to say. I have many favourites, but if I had to pick one then there is one pair of earrings that I keep wearing again and again and those are the Lori earrings.  

What is the most popular item?

Lilly Earrings

My most popular item has recently been the Lilly earrings. The combination of the white pearl with the black oxidised silver ear hoop is really cool. 

Do you have a favourite piece of jewellery you own?

That's another hard question for someone who loves jewellery. If I had to pick one it would be the bracelet I made a few years ago from a necklace I had from my grandmother. The style of the necklace just wasn't me, but the beads were beautiful, so I redesigned it into a bracelet and now I love wearing it because it's part me and part her.  

What are your plans for the future?

I love what I do, and want to keep on designing and bringing new designs to my collections. I like to experiment working with new metals and many different kinds of semi-precious and precious stones.  

Thank You Irene

Today I am giving you the chance to win a gift card worth £55 to spend on Irene Moller Jewellery. You can spend it on anything from the collection. I love the Hannah necklace below myself. Entry is through the Gleam application below which picks the winner at random. It's easy to enter honestly, for a guide on how to enter check out this post by Super Lucky Di!

If you like the competition why don't you bookmark it as you can enter daily. If you enjoy entering competitions, I have more competitions running on my competition page here.

Good luck!

Win A Gift Card With Irene Moller Jewellery

Friday, 21 August 2015

Did You Know You Can Get Invisible Braces?

Braces are not fun. Unfortunately sometimes they are essential, to correct bite problems, close gaps between teeth and straighten crooked and misaligned teeth. According to the NHS and The British Orthodontic Society, over 200,000 people started orthodontic treatment in England and Wales in 2014-15. Whilst the vast majority of these were children, there has been an increase in adults seeking treatment for cosmetic purposes or having missed out on treatment when they were young. 

Dental treatment with braces can be given on the NHS if you are a child and in some cases in adulthood, but adults who want orthodontic treatment to fix minor cosmetic problems aren't eligible for NHS treatment. Private treatment needs to be considered in these cases. One of the main benefits of private treatment is having a wider choice of braces including clear or invisible ones.

The problem with traditional braces is that they are not attractive. My son had these when he was younger and to have a mouth full of metal seriously affected his self esteem, at an age when he was just becoming interested in girls.

Invisible Braces

There are many types of invisible braces available today including Invisalign and Inman Aligner.

Invisalign is a clear brace system which uses clear plastic aligners to straighten teeth, providing a very discreet alternative to traditional fixed braces. Invisalign uses a series of clear plastic aligners which as worn for two weeks before being replaced with the next in the series.

Inman Aligner is a removable orthodontic appliance designed to treat mild to moderate cases of misalignment. The appliance is made up of a coiled spring and metal bar which generate forces which effectively pushes and pulls the teeth into position using the latest technology. What is so good about the Inman Aligner is that it is one of the fastest treatments around and simple cases can be treated in a matter of weeks, and almost all cases within 4 months.

As you can see modern technology today now produces more discreet orthodontic treatment and prices for these clear brace treatments are surprisingly affordable with many companies offering 0% finance.

Tell me what do you think of these new advances in orthodontic treatment? Would you ever consider a clear brace if you had to? Did you have braces when you were a child?

* PR collaboration

Summer Wine Cocktails

Summer is here and it's the time for holidays, sunsets and cocktails. Two of my favourite cocktails are a Bellini and a Kir Royal. A Kir Royal is so simple to make and you can't beat a glass of champagne and blackcurrant liqueur, served chilled.  I also love a good Bellini. I once went to Harry's Bar in Venice where the Bellini was invented. It's such an interesting place, very small, historic and full of real characters. 

If you haven't tried a Bellini, I highly recommend it. A Bellini is a light and refreshing drink made with Prosecco and peach juice and is lovely and fruity. 

To recreate a good summer cocktail at home, have a look at this infographic from Roberson Wine. I'm off to Spain in a couple of months and I'm looking forward to sharing a jug of Sangria, topped with fresh fruit, with my husband. It's like summer in a glass isn't it?

Tell me, do you have a favourite cocktail made with wine? Would you like to try any of the drinks above.

* A collaborative post all words and opinions are my own.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

A Simple Guide To Growing Herbs

I don't have a garden. So when I was asked if I would like to try growing some herbs I thought... strange request! However did you know you can grow herbs almost anywhere?

I do enjoy cooking, and food is so much tastier when you use herbs, so I thought I would give it a go. Here is a simple guide to growing herbs for someone with no experience what so ever.

A Simple Guide To Growing Herbs

1 Buy a pack of herbs like these from Spalding Bulb (or any other good garden company).

2. Read the instructions or follow the pictures. 

3. Gather your soil, put it in a suitable container and water. In this case, I watered the soil pods and mixed throughly before spreading out in the box.

5. Sprinkle your seeds in the container and label them. I cut the names of the seeds from the packets to use as labels.

6. Water your seeds then cover with a plastic container for warmth.

All you have to do now is put the container somewhere where it can get light and spray them with water. I have put mine on a windowsill in my flat. When they have grown just cut them to use. 

That's it...Voila!

I have a mix of herbs here from basil, chives, and dill, to coriander, parsley and thyme. I am really looking forward to using the basil and coriander especially as I use a lot of basil when I make various Italian dishes and coriander for my slow cooker Indian curries. Most of the herbs in pots in my local supermarket cost around £1.50 to £1.99 and the seed kit I used cost £6.99 and no pots to buy, so I think it's a good price and you get the satisfaction of growing them yourself. I did wonder if I should have topped the seeds with soil, we shall see if it makes a difference. I did say I was a complete beginner :)

So a simple guide to growing herbs for someone with no gardening knowledge. 

Tell me have you ever grown herbs? Would you give it a go with your children?

* A collaborative post, all words and opinions are my own