Sunday, 31 May 2015

My Top UK Cities

The UK has many lovely cities to visit, this post is about my favourite UK cities. What cities do you enjoy visiting? 




The Roman Baths, Bath 
Copyright Ollie Taylor Shutterstock

Edinburgh


A unicycling juggler at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Why - Edinburgh is a beautiful historic city with great shopping and sightseeing and many festivals all year round.
When to go - To the Edinburgh Fringe Festival every August to see a variety of comedians and performers.
What to see - The Dynamic Earth is a science centre for all the family, whilst a trip to Edinburgh castle is recommended if you like history - if you are visiting in August be sure to see the Edinburgh Tattoo at the castle. An attraction with a difference is The Real Mary King's Close - see how people used to live in the 'closes' underground many years ago. For an entertaining ghost tour with the odd laugh, The Cadies and Witchery Tour company is highly recommended.
Where to stay - The Apex Hotel is a mid-price hotel chain with excellent rooms centrally located and The Premier Inn and Travelodge has a number of hotels in the city. For a gothic hotel room with some class consider The Witchery suites, but beware you may see a ghost.
Where to Eat - Most of the chain restaurants are represented but if it's a special occasion consider the Number One restaurant in The Balmoral Hotel for a Michelin star experience, whilst The Witchery Restaurant has a gothic setting for that wow factor. For afternoon tea visit Harvey Nichols or The Glass House. 

Cardiff


Cardiff Bay


Why - Popular with students Cardiff city centre is great for shopping and nightlife. Try St Davids Centre and The Capitol for undercover shopping, and The Royal Arcades for the many independent shops. The Motorpoint arena and St David's Hall are brilliant for concerts too, whilst Clwb Ifor Bach has live bands.
When to go - Anytime but avoid the city centre when a rugby match is on if you are not a fan.
What to see - Cardiff Bay has lots of restaurants and bars, a comedy club called The Glee, The Dr Who Experience and The Millennium Centre for world class shows. At Christmas, the Winter Wonderland in front of Cardiff Museum has ice skating, a fun fair and a Ferris wheel. The Museum of Welsh Life at St Fagans is free and interesting to visit to see how Welsh used to live years ago.
Where to stay - The Marriott is recommended right in the town centre, St David's Hotel in the Bay has a touch of luxury whilst the Hilton just off Queen Street is the only 5-star hotel in Cardiff.
Where to eat - Le Bistrot Pierre and Cote Brassiere are excellent French restaurants with amazing well-priced food, Bill's is great for all the family and The Purple Poppadum is great for modern Indian cuisine with a touch of class.

Bristol




Bristol Street Art

Why - Known for its artistic and musical community, Bristol is a multicultural haven.  Shopping is excellent with Cabot's Circus popular for the big chains as well as the lanes for independent shops. 

When to go - When a festival is on. Bristol has a plethora of festivals including a Shakespeare festival, the Foodies Festival, and The Bristol Harbour Festival.
What to see - 'At Bristol' is an excellent interactive science museum, then there is the SS Great Britain and Bristol Zoo as well as numerous art galleries. Watch out for a Banksy art work - they are everywhere on the walls of the city.
Where to stay - The Bristol, a Jury's Doyle hotel, has a lovely setting on the vibrant harbour quarter, the Victorian style Bristol Marriott Royal is close to the Bristol Hippodrome whilst Hotel Du Vin is highly recommended too.
Where to eat -  You will be spoilt for choice with many independent restaurants as well as chains like Brassiere Blanc and Carluccios in Cabot's Circus which come highly recommended.  Bristol also has a handful of Michelin star restaurants including Casamia and just outside Bristol The Pony and Trap gastropub.

Bath 



Bath Abbey
Copyright JeniFoto Shutterstock 

Why - Bath is a gorgeous historic city with lovely Georgian architecture. Shopping is brilliant with many independent and individual shops and the restaurants are fantastic too, many fit for foodies. Take a trip on a narrow boat on the Avon and Kennett canal for a lovely way to see the area.
When to go - A great year round destination, go in the summer for a trip on a narrow boat or the end of November/ December for the Christmas market
What to see - The Roman Baths is a must do and a trip to the Therma Spa for relaxation after. Visit Bath Abbey and the Jane Austen centre if you enjoy history. The American Museum just outside the city is in a lovely countryside setting and is worth visiting.
Where to stay - At the many great independent bed and breakfasts, or the Queensbury Hotel, The Royal Crescent or The Bath Priory (with a Michelin Star restaurant) for a luxury stay.
Where to eat  Jamie's Italian is a reliable chain, Clayton's Kitchen is a lovely independent restaurant and for a luxurious afternoon tea in a historic setting try The Royal Crescent Hotel. 

For more on Bath, check out Things To Do In Bath by the Trusted Traveller. 

So what do you think of my list? I haven't included  London as it deserves a post of its own. Do you have any recommendations on what to see and do in these cities?

You can read about these places further on my blog here :-


What To See And Do In Cardiff Bay              My Edinburgh Fringe Laugh-A-Thon



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Thursday, 28 May 2015

20 Ways To Save Money On Your Food Shop

These are my money saving tips on how to save money on your food shop.



Copyright  Shutterstock

1. Weekly meal planning. Planning for the week has the advantage that you only buy what you need and you can save money by cooking in bulk. For example you can buy a chicken and get a roast out of this, a curry, and have left overs for soup and sandwiches. It helps you be economical and get the most out of your shopping.

2. Take advantage of bulk buying and special offers if you have the storage area. Meat packs for example, can be better value when bought in bulk, and most can be frozen - check the labels. Also look for special offers such as buy one get one free or round pound deals.

3. Use discount supermarkets such as Aldi and Lidl or stores such as BM Bargains and Poundland. Discount supermarkets and bargains shops may not have the choice and brands and the luxury of packers to help you but you can make big savings on your shopping.

4. Take the downshift challenge - premium, branded, own brand and value. When you go shopping downshift to one step lower and see if you like the food in that band. You will be surprised that you may not notice a difference in the downshift. If you can't tell the difference in taste then it could be a permanent change.

5. Use coupons for discounts on your shopping. There are hundreds of free coupons available online and in supermarkets own magazines. 


6. Save with supermarket stamps and loyalty cards. Many supermarkets allow you to save with stamps and cash in the card in December for a bonus amount. Loyalty cards have great offers and when you have enough points you can get vouchers back. Some of the best ones such as Tesco or Sainsburys will allow you to 'double up' on vouchers for money off attractions and restaurants for example.

7. Go shopping late in the day. Food is often reduced after 8pm. 

8. It's an oldie but a goody - never go shopping when you are hungry. Supermarkets are very sophisticated these days with the smell of cakes and bread being piped around the store it is easy to add extra goodies to your shop when you are hungry.

9. Use supermarket 'Price Guarantee' or 'Price Match' schemes to save money.

10. Know your labels. 'Best Before' is about quality control and not food safety. If it pasts the sniff test and taste test it should be fine to eat although if in doubt throw it. 'Use By' should always be used by the date, but you should be ok to freeze it on the 'Use By' date if stored correctly beforehand.




Copyright  Shutterstock

11. Check out local markets. As well as supporting local traders you will be surprised at the quality and price of the produce from fruit and veg to meat and fish.

12. Consider online food shopping - this has the added advantage that you aren't shopping when hungry and you can take account of all the special offers. Balance the money saved with the cost of delivery or 'click and collect', for all your food shopping packed and ready for you. This has the added advantage of saving on delivery although you may have to pay for petrol.

13. Often we throw away left overs, but why not use them up in another meal or freeze what you don't use? Old vegetables can be used in soup and sauces, bruised fruit in pies and crumbles, breadcrumbs in coatings and stuffings.

14. Use vegetables to bulk out meals saving you money on buying meat. For example adding pulses and vegetables to a stew or casserole can make meat go further, helping you cut down on fat, providing fibre and nutrients and save you money too.

15. Buy fruit and veg when they are in season. The food will taste nicer and they will be cheaper too.

16. Avoid prepared food where possible. If you have the time it is almost always cheaper to cook from scratch. As well as knowing exactly what is in your food it will taste great too.

17. Take your own carrier bags. In Wales we have to pay for carrier bags, and most are 5 to 10 pence each. Even if you are not in Wales, some supermarkets will give you points back on their loyalty schemes if you take your own bags. Points mean money back on your shopping.




Copyright Oliver Hoffmann Shutterstock

18. Grow your own fruit and vegetables. Okay not everyone will have an apple tree but runner beans, carrots, and salad vegetables are easy to grow, and as well as the satisfaction you will be saving money too. Even if you have a flat you can grow herbs on a window sill.

19. Have a vegetarian day once a week. Meat is almost always the most expensive item on a shopping list so try out a day where you leave the meat and base your main meal around vegetables.

20. Buy a slow cooker or pressure cooker. Although you will have investment of buying the appliance in the first place,  cooking food in these ways mean you can use cheaper cuts of meat as the cooking process will tenderise them.

If you want more ideas on saving money check out The Money Advice Service for free impartial advice and ideas on how to save money.

* A collaborative post all words and opinions are my own
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Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Welcome To Holiday Gems

I love going on holiday, I mean who doesn't right? I love a bit of luxury too but that doesn't mean I want to waste money, so I always look around for the best prices and brilliant deals.



Holidays don't need to cost the earth

Copyright  Shutterstock

So when a company called Holiday Gems approached me to work together, a company that specialises in cheap deals, I thought I would like to find out more.





ATOL Protected 

Firstly security and safety is vitally important to me when I book a holiday. Security of my money and safety of my family. Holiday Gems is a company that is ATOL protected for your peace of mind. What that means is your money is protected if the company goes bust and also if you are stranded abroad. 

Secondly, if you book a holiday online the website uses VeriSign which means online payments are secure and protected. That is very reassuring to know, as I almost always book my holidays online.


Bargain Holidays

So we have safety and security covered so what type of holidays does it sell, you may ask? Well Holiday Gems specialise in cheap holidays, last minute holidays and cancellation holidays. For great offers you can sign up to their email for the best deals before anyone else. Also if you are looking for an extra special bargain, check out the home page of their website as they have 'Today's Special Offers' highlighted.

Luxury Holidays

Luxury holidays are here too though, for example they have a great selection of all inclusive holidays at realistic prices for Spain, Greece, Egypt and even Mexico and lots of other destinations too. For example a week in a four star hotel all inclusive in Kusadasi, Turkey with flights from Birmingham is only £275 per person. When you consider all your food is included too I think that is a hard price to beat.

Cruises

If you have always wanted to cruise, but have always thought of it as too expensive  then it is worth having a look at the cruise section especially the weekly deals. Many cruises these days are family friendly too and they have a dedicated section for these cruises.




The Norwegian Spirit Mediterranean cruise - see it, explore it, experience it

I've always wanted to go on a Mediterranean cruise. To see so many beautiful countries on one holiday would be a dream for me. The Norwegian Spirit cruise visits Venice, Kusadasi, Istanbul and Napes to name a few and the chance to go to Pompeii would be amazing. Definitely a cruise to check out.

The Booking Process

The Holiday Gems website is easy to navigate and the booking system is simple to use. When you book you can search for a flight and hotel together or a hotel only. After you have selected your choice you can then add on extras such as transfers, car rental, and cancellation protection. Payment terms are either in full or many holidays can be secured by a deposit as well - useful to know when you want to book that great deal but want to spread the payments. 

Extras

As well as transfers, car rental and cancellation protection you can also buy travel insurance, and pay for airport hotels and lounges.

Reviews

Lastly, don't just take my word for it - from over 500 reviews Holiday Gems has a 93% rating on review site Feefo, giving them 4 1/2 stars out of 5. 


I will be working with Holiday Gems over the next few months, so look out for my other posts and if you are considering booking a holiday why don't you try the Holiday Gems website, you could save enough money to buy yourself a whole new wardrobe before you go away. How fantastic is that!



Copyright Jag_cz Shuttersrock

* This is a post in collaboration with Holiday Gems - all words and opinions are my own
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Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Hearing Loss Can Affect Us All

Did you know that that about 1 in 6 people in the UK has hearing loss? It can come on suddenly or gradually and affects people of all ages. According to the World Health Organisation, more than a billion young adults are at risk of hearing loss due to exposure of unsafe levels of sound. That is a startling statistic by anyone's standards.

To blame for this risk are exposure to high levels of recreational noise from personal audio devices as well as loud concerts. Once you lose your hearing it won't come back, so warning young adults of the risk to their hearing is vitally important. Simple preventative measures are important too such as turning down the volume on personal headphones, limiting the time spent in noisy environments and wearing earplugs when visiting loud concerts.

If you do have to use a hearing aid, many are discreet today. Have a look at this informative infographic about hearing loss and don't forget, once you lose your hearing, it won't come back. 

The Science of Hearing
Infographic provided by Hidden Hearing

*A collaboration with Hidden Hearing
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Monday, 25 May 2015

My Holiday Fashion Wishlist

Summer holidays are fast approaching and this is the time of year when I look in my wardrobe and think I haven't got any decent summer clothes. So I have been looking around the perfect holiday clothes, and although I didn't realise, there is a little theme going on here of black and floral. These are the clothes I have on my wishlist.


Freya 'In The Mix' Bikini

The underwired bikini top holds busty ladies up and the halter neck gives a flattering fit. I love the frill on the bikini bottom too. If you feel your stomach is on show wear a sarong or beach dress on top. Everyone should have a black bikini or swimsuit in their wardrobe as the colour never dates.





Yumi Dip Floral Dress

This dress in a fit and flare style is so flattering as it loosely covers your stomach and is made of a cotton fabric with elastane for some stretch. Perfect for the day with some ballet pumps, simple silver earrings and a cross body bag or for night with some wedges and a bright cardi.

Biba Floral Blouse

This floaty loose fitting top would be great worn with black or navy jeans, or capri pants. Glam it up for the evening with lots of silver bangles, hoop earrings and a fabulous clutch bag.  So boho darling!

 Slide In 'Novy' Suede Fit Flops 

These pretty but practical Fit Flops tone your legs when you walk. I have a similar pair in Navy and they are very comfortable on as there is super soft suede under the straps. The sparkle adds that wow factor too. When you have walking to do but still want to look super stylish wear these. 



Ted Baker Camisole

I am a huge fan of Ted baker bags and purses and this camisole caught my eye  because of the beautiful print. Wear with a black cashmere cardi or a fitted jacket for a smarter look. Don't forget a strapless bra underneath or alternatively a bra with pretty straps as these will be on show with the thin spaghetti straps of the top.


Michael Kors clutch bag

This clutch bag by Michael Kors is simple, classic and understated. With a textured finish and a box design, this stylish accessory will add a touch of class to your evening outfit.


Freya Swimwear - House Of Fraser
Yumi Dress - Yumi
Biba Blouse - House Of Fraser
Fit Flops - Fit Flop
Ted Baker Camisole - Ted Baker
Michael Kors Bag - House Of Fraser

*a collaboration with House Of Fraser all choices and opinions are my own
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Friday, 22 May 2015

Flat Shoes Banned From Cannes Red Carpet

"Flat shoes Banned From Cannes Red Carpet"

When I saw that headline the other day, I was actually taken aback. I am all for glamour, especially on the red carpet but is this not an outdated concept and dare I say it gender discrimination?  Also, more importantly, rather than focusing on said dress code should we not be focusing on the amazing work of the actresses (and actors) at the Cannes Film Festival instead.


Among those voicing their concerns was actress Emily Blunt.



Copyright s_bukley / Shutterstock.com 

 “Everyone should wear flats, to be honest. We shouldn’t wear high heels,” said Blunt, “That’s very disappointing, just when you kind of think there are these new waves of equality.”

When asked if there was a ban on flat shoes on the red carpet, a spokesperson for Cannes Film Festival told Mirror Online, "Regarding the dress code for the red carpet screenings, rules have not changed throughout the years - Tuxedo, formal dress for Gala screenings - and there is no specific mention about the height of the women’s heels as well as for men’s. 
Thus, in order to make sure that this rule is respected, the Festival’s hosts and hostesses were reminded of it." ... Yet whether there is a written or unwritten rule, there is evidence to show that women are being told they should wear heels.

A group of women in their 50s were turned away from the gala screening of the film Carol for allegedly not wearing high-heeled shoes, according to industry newspaper Screen Daily. The women, some of whom had medical conditions, were apparently barred entry for wearing rhinestone flats.






Valeria Richter, a film producer and scriptwriter who has been coming to Cannes since 1998, was rebuked on the red carpet with a group of friends for Gus Van Sant's Sea of Trees premiere last week, for wearing flat shoes despite amputation.

She told The Telegraph she had been stopped four times by festival officials over her footwear, which was chosen to support her after she lost a big toe and part of her left foot two years ago.

She added a colleague of hers had metal in her foot and cannot wear heels, while another was wearing sandals with a small heel and was compelled to change.

"It is ridiculous," she added. "We are all working women who walk up and down the streets of Cannes all day doing business. They cannot force us to wear heels.

"We put on the dress and make an effort to be formal and festive, but to demand heels is not right."

For all this fuss there is a deeper message here perhaps. The message about women not being treated as equals in the film industry. The majority of women in lead roles are still paid less than their male counterparts in films and women appear to be still underrepresented in writing and directing roles. An example of this is in the film American Hustle where Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams were paid less than their male counterparts. When you think Jennifer Lawrence is a bankable star with a billion dollar franchise as the lead role in The Hunger Games films, you wonder how this can happen.



Maggie Gyllenhaal was recently told she was too old at 37 to be a love interest for a 55 year old in a film. She said “There are things that are really disappointing about being an actress in Hollywood that surprise me all the time".

The American Civil Liberties Union want the inequality of gender in Hollywood hiring practices to be investigated further and I totally agree with them. So Hollywood, wise up! Women as well as men can carry a film, can act, can write and direct and can put bums on seats, and to the organisers of the Cannes Film Festival -  move with the times, flat shoes or sandals can look glam too ...

Tell me, what do think about this issue?

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Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Degustabox April

My food delivery of Degustabox is here again. The monthly subscription food delivery box is perfect when you love to try new things. Every month as you get between 9-14 items, most new to the market and many utterly delicious. Boxes are £12.99 inclusive of postage and you are guaranteed to get much more than that in value.


The box this month had an International theme, with items with an Indian, Mexican, Italian and American influence. It comes in two versions with alcohol and without and they send reviewers both to try.


Nando's Peri-Peri chips RRP: 3 x 69p 

Nando's Peri-Peri Spicy groove potato chips have generous grooves to contain all the flavour.  They give a spicy tasty hit and have a wonderful crunch. I loved the Spicy Chicken especially - a very moorish bag of chips. Recommended.

Kingfisher Beer £2.00

The most popular beer in India, it is clean and crisp and perfect with everything from a mild korma to a spicy vindaloo. In fact it compliments  a range of dishes from all continents. Deservedly popular.

IDRINQ 2 x £1.49

One of the 'new generation' IQ drinks, containing an amino acid call L-arginine. They say "Consumption of arginine-containing food leads to a better performance in physical exercises and sex, and also increases resistance to exhaustion and fatigue." It tastes sweet and fizzy and I like the fact it has no caffeine. 

Scheckters £1.35

A fruity organic energy drink that is 100% natural. Packed full of healthy ingredients like organic elderberry juice, organic ginseng and pomegranate juice it tasted lovely and fruity. We liked this drink!

Wonjo Hibiscus Drink


This health drink is produced from the hibiscus plant and is rich in vitamin C, calcium and magnesium. It can be added to your diet to boost the level of antioxidants. Sweet in flavour this rich ruby drink has no additives or preservatives and is inspired by a traditional recipe from West Africa.
Perhaps an alternative to fizzy drinks for a lunchbox?



Schwartz curry mix 2 x £1.08

These recipe mixes add authentic flavours to family favourites like Korma, Balti and Biryani. From raw ingredients to a homemade curry in as little as 25 minutes, these packets are great to have in your cupboard when you want a quick meal but don't want to compromise on taste.

Debeukelaer Cookies £2.00

A big hit with all the family, these yummy cookies are packed individually for freshness and taste. With a chocolate gooey centre they taste truly indulgent. Add to a packed lunch for a sweet treat, or have with a cuppa for that mid afternoon pick me up.

Kinder Choco-Bons £1.55

Kinder Choco-Bons have a milky chocolate centre and crunchy hazelnut pieces in a little delightful sweet. Yum! These went in no time in our house.




Veetee Rice 2 x £1.49

Veetee rice packs are useful to keep in the cupboard for when you want a nutritious addition to any meal. Heat in the microwave for only a couple of minutes these are great for adding to stir fries too. We ate the spicy Mexican rice with chilli and it was tasty and had a good spy flavour. 

Cirios Tinned Tomatoes £1.69 & £1.20

I always keep tinned tomatoes in the cupboard, as they are easy and convenient to add to curries, pasta sauces, casseroles and stews and I also enjoy them on toast with grated cheese on top. This brand, famous in Italy, are known for quality and taste. 

Barry's Tea £1.75

This tea, an institution in Ireland, is an unique blend passed down through generations. This reminds me of PG Tips and fresh tasting I think this is a perfect breakfast tea.


If you would like to subscribe a Degustabox subscription costs £12.99 per month, inclusive of delivery. The value of the items is usually a lot higher. If you would like a discount of £3 enter code 16LVE into checkout when registering.


You can find Degustabox here:-








Tell me what do you think of the food this month?

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Sunday, 17 May 2015

Krakow On A Budget

Travelling on a budget? Head to Krakow in Poland

A guest post by Rhian from Rhian Westbury. Rhian blogs about music, beauty, lifestyle and travel. 

Poland isnt necessarily the first place people think of when they want a city break or a long weekend away, but peoples mindsets need to change. Especially if youre after a cheap holiday.



Krakow is a beautiful city with plenty to do and see, but not too much that youll have too much to cram into your 3 /4 days away. When I went I stayed at a hotel in the old town, while the rooms were pretty small they had everything that we needed, but the breakfast more than made up for it. Every morning we had a full on continental buffet which set me up on the day.

The main reason why Krakow is a fantastic place to go is how cheap it is. Over the four days I was there we had lunch and dinner out each night, and numerous drinks/ coffee stops and it was ridiculous how cheap things were. A sit down sandwich lunch with drink was about £2 and each night we had a 3 course meal, and wine, and it never came to more than £14 per person. Even going to the Starbucks there was cheap and I brought back a litre bottle of Polish vodka for £3! So if youre on a tight budget but still want to experience lots make sure you head to Krakow. Although I have been told by a Polish friend that the rest of Poland is even cheaper! I dont quite know if I can believe this though.


Whilst there we had a bike tour which took us around all the sites and our guide was wonderful and allowed us to stop anywhere that I wanted to take pictures, and we regularly got out to explore. You can book yourself on organised tours to various places when youre in Krakow and the two which I would strongly recommend are the Wielizcka salt mines and the Auschwitz- Birkenau world war two camp. 

If you opt to head to the salt mines - probably my favourite part of Krakow- then make sure you wear sturdy shoes as there is quite a bit of walking as you head deep into the depths of the mines. The salt mines are truly phenomenal and when you get downstairs you will be greeted by sculptures and ornaments made entirely from salt. They are all incredibly detailed and I cant imagine how skilled the people that made them had to be. Theres even a wedding chapel down there and we were told how some couples actually get married down there.


In contrast the Auschwitz- Birkenau camp is incredible for completely different reasons and this time you might need some tissues. It is all completely set up as it would have been back in the early 40s and as the tour guide walks you round there are some truly incredible sites. I actually went on this trip with my nan who was alive during the war so it made the trip even more emotional. Even if history isnt your thing its still a worthwhile trip to make.

If youre looking for a fun, cheap city break then head to Krakow and let us know what you think!
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Friday, 15 May 2015

Top Tips To Help You Choose The Perfect Mattress

Deciding which mattress to buy can be tricky. There are so many products to choose from, and the stakes are high. According to the Sleep Council, we spend an average of more than 2,300 hours sleeping each year, so a decent mattress is a must.
Also, as bedroom furniture specialists And So To Bed note, getting a good night’s rest is crucial if you’re to maintain your health and wellbeing. With this in mind, here are some top tips to help ensure you select the perfect mattress

A good night sleep is so important
Copyright  Shutterstock
Understand your options
Contrary to widespread belief, a mattress does not have to be hard to be good for you. As long as these products have an effective supporting structure, the level of softness and padding is simply a matter of personal preference. The important thing is to get to grips with the different versions out there.

For a traditional and luxurious style of mattress, you can opt for versions made using natural fillings like wool, cotton and horsehair. If you’re after a truly opulent finish, look out for designs that feature satin coverings.

Pocket sprung mattresses are also well worth considering. These designs contain springs sewn into individual fabric pockets and they can offer impressive levels of support. Because the springs move independently from one another, these mattresses allow you to move around in the night without disturbing your partner. In contrast, open or continuous coil versions move as one unit. Also, the coils in these products tend to wear out more quickly than pocket springs.
Memory foam mattresses are another popular option. Topped with a layer of temperature-sensitive viscoelastic foam, these designs mould to the shape of your body during the night and they can provide good support.
Meanwhile, if you suffer from allergies, look out for foam or latex mattresses. These products are often breathable, meaning they’re less likely to harbour dust mites and mould.
Try before you buy
It can be difficult to know whether a mattress is right for you without actually trying it out. This is why it’s always wise to visit a showroom to see them for yourself. When you’re testing the products, lie down in your usual sleeping position to see how comfy they are. Also, sit on the edge of the mattresses. High-quality versions should be firm rather than saggy.
Make sure you measure up
Last but not least, always measure up carefully before you buy a mattress. Bear in mind that dimensions can vary, so don’t just rely on descriptions like ‘double’ or ‘king size’. If your current bed base is getting old, it might be wise to purchase a new mattress and bed base together. This way you’re guaranteed a great fit.

* This is a collaborative post
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Classic Bakewell Tart

A classic Bakewell Tart is a thing of sheer beauty. The crisp light pastry and the soft almond sponge hides a raspberry jam full of flavour. This recipe is easy to make and is a crowd pleaser. 




Serves 6/8

Ingredients

1 Jus Roll shortcrust pastry sheet 
100gm butter
100gm caster sugar
3 medium eggs, beaten
150gm ground almonds
few drops of almond essence
3 tbsp raspberry jam
25gm flaked almonds

Method

Preheat oven to 190degrees C, gas mark 5
Line the pastry case with the pastry and trim as required, crimping edges.
Place in fridge for pastry to rest.
Cream butter and sugar together until soft.
Add egg a little at a time.
If mixture curdles add a table of flour and continue to beat until mixture comes together.
Stir in ground almonds and almond essence.
Remove pastry case from fridge.
Spread jam on base of the pastry.
Spoon the sponge mixture on top of the pastry.
Top with flaked almonds.



Bake for 30 minutes or until sponge is set and springy to touch.
Serve warm with cream or ice cream.





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Thursday, 14 May 2015

Everything You Need To Know About Emerald Rings



There’s no doubt the emerald is a captivating gemstone. Cleopatra loved them; the Mughals associated their colourand the Incas believed their goddess prized them above all else. Though it’s an unconventional option for an engagement ring, an emerald can make a striking statement. Halle Berry, Jackie Kennedy and Zoe Saldana have all chosen them to great effect. But emeralds are very different to diamonds, rubies or sapphires, and clients should make sure they understand their unique properties before committing to such a bold choice.

The first thing to note is that the Gemological Institute of America defines emerald as a ‘Type 3’ gemstone. This means that it’s very rare to find an emerald that is completely free of blemishes (or ‘inclusions’) that are visible to the naked eye. These inclusions can be tiny fractures or cleavages, growth lines in the crystal, or mineral impurities. This is simply the nature of emerald, and it’s unfair to judge it by the same clarity standards that are applied to other gemstones such as diamonds.




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If the inclusions are very large or too prominent then they will disfigure the stone. But small inclusions should be seen as the emerald’s unique ‘fingerprints’, created naturally when the crystal formed beneath the earth’s crust. Emeralds that are almost totally “clean” are unusual and very expensive, so if you hate the idea of any visible blemishes, then emerald is probably the wrong gemstone for you.

Another consideration is that the inclusions within an emerald are natural weak spots within the crystal. If an emerald gets knocked against a hard object, it’s possible for an inclusion to open up, and become more apparent. This compounds the fact that even the ‘cleanest’ emerald will never be the hardest of gemstones. With a Mohs Hardness Score of 7.5-8.0, emerald lags well behind ruby and sapphire (9) and doesn’t come close to diamond (10). While careless handling can damage any engagement ring, clients who chose emerald need to be particularly careful to avoid scratching or chipping the gemstone

If you are happy to live with some minor blemishes and are prepared to take good care of your ring, the next thing to think about is your emerald’s colour. Emerald is composed of beryl with trace elements of chromium, vanadium, and iron, and it’s the relative quantities of these elements that determine the stone’s colour. Without them, it technically isn’t an emerald at all, but a ‘green beryl’ which has a much lower market value.



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An emerald’s colour is defined by three factors; hue, tone, and saturation. Hue refers to the type of green, for example whether it has hints of blue or yellow in it. Tone defines the colour of the emerald in terms of light and dark. The saturation of the colour is all about the level of its intensity. The most valuable emeralds are bluish green to pure green, with a tone that’s neither too dark nor too light, and vivid colour saturation.

If you find a stone with good colour and clarity, the final aspect to consider is whether or not it has been enhanced through some treatment. If an emerald has disfiguring inclusions that reach the surface, these might be filled with resin or glass to improve the stone’s appearance. Unfortunately, this can make the stone vulnerable to heat, changes in air pressure, and a wide range of chemicals.

Another potential problem is the use of coloured dyes to enhance the saturation of emeralds. These dyes can often be dissolved by chemicals such as alcohol or acetone, and exposure to strong sunlight can also cause them to fade.

Many emeralds are submerged in oil at the point when they are cut, to mask inclusions and enhance colour. This process is centuries-old and needn't necessarily be a problem, but like any form of treatment, it should certainly be disclosed to the consumer. Over time, the oil will tend to dry out, and the stone will eventually need to be re-oiled. Luckily this isn’t a difficult or expensive process.



A jeweller positioning an emerald in a ring

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Even emeralds that have never been submerged are likely to have minor traces of oil near the surface, as there is oil on the cutting wheels that are used to facet and polish them. If you have any concerns, a reputable supplier won’t object to you paying to have an emerald checked by a laboratory before you make a purchasing decision.

Emeralds are wonderful gems, but perhaps more than any other gemstone they require a bit of specialist knowledge if you are going to get it right. Consumers should be careful, but shouldn’t be discouraged - if you’re looking for a striking and distinctive engagement ring, an emerald could be a great choice.

If you like this post check out my article How To Buy A Wedding Ring.


* This article is a guest post by David Rhode, of ethical jeweller Ingle & Rhode)


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