Monday, 29 June 2015

Taste The World - US

A guest post from Anca 

Hi. I would like to introduce myself, I’m Anca, an expat living for the last 3 years in UK and I share my recipes at cookstyle.co.uk.

I want to thank Mellissa for giving me the opportunity to tell you a little bit more about a challenge I started a few months ago and that I hope to finish in March 2017. The challenge is called Taste the World and I will cook 119 meals, from every part of the world. So far I cooked a few meals and I enjoy it a lot. There are things that I wouldn't normally try, but that will change my cooking style.

As Mellissa is visiting US, I decided to make an all American meal. I found a lot of interesting recipes and in the end I chose to make Corn chowder, Mac&Cheese and Hummingbird cake.


Chowder is a northern American soup that can be made with corn or seafood. The base of the dish is milk or cream. It is a simple and fast dish to make and it is very good. 



For 4 servings I've used an onion, 400g creamed corn, 300g corn, 700ml vegetable stock and 300ml milk and a few spoons of olive oil.

Saute the chopped onion for a couple of minutes in the olive oil. When it starts to get brown, add the rest of the ingredients and bring to boil. Add the salt and pepper and leave it to boil for a few more minutes. Top the soup with fresh coriander and it is ready to be served.



Mac&Cheese is another very well know American dish. While it originates from England, the pasta was made in a different way and it looked more like lasagne. I've made 4 servings again.

Boil 250g macaroni in salted water. Melt 30g butter and add 25g flour, mixing it. When the flour is dissolved, add 475ml milk slowly and stir. Take the milk off the heat and add black pepper, cayenne pepper, salt and nutmeg and stir gently. Add 275g Cheddar and 180g Emmentaler. 

The original recipe was with sliced cheese, but I didn't have any and Emmentaler has a similar texture.

When the cheese has melted, add the macaroni and stir. Put the mixture in an oven dish and sprinkle breadcrumbs on top. Bake it at 180C for 30 minutes.

Hummingbird cake was the last on my list. It is a southern recipe with Jamaican influences. It is made with pineapple, pecans and bananas. The cake I've made has 8 servings.


Mix 250g plain flour, 250g sugar, 100g crushed pecans and 1 teaspoon of baking soda. Add 100g mashed pineapple, 2 mashed bananas, 200 ml oil, 3 eggs beaten and 100ml pineapple juice. Mix the batter by hand, place it in 3 identical cake trays and bake it at 180C for 30 minutes.

For the icing, mix 50g soften butter with 200g full fat soft cheese. Add 400g icing sugar and 1 spoon of vanilla paste and mix with the mixer or by hand until it's smooth. Add a third of the icing on the first sponge, then cream the second sponge and then the third one. Add some pecans to decorate and enjoy.
I hope you liked my recipes.
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Saturday, 27 June 2015

Make Your Own Map Coasters

A guest post by Anneka  from Mrs Crafty B

Firstly a big thanks to Mellissa for having me over here on the blog and to you guys for stopping by. 

In light of my new feature ‘Making Home’, I decided to share a home decor project with you and as Mellissa is exploring in the USA, I thought we would keep that theme running back on this side of the pond! 



These map coasters would make the perfect addition to your stylish work area, your reading space or even a personalised gift. 

So here is how to make your very own. 

What you will need



A tile with a flat top. (I used a plain white 10cm x 10cm coaster from B&Q).
A piece of felt or cork to put on the bottom of your coaster.
Some strong adhesive such as Copydex to stick the felt/cork to the bottom of the tile.
Some cutting tools (rotary cutter, scissors or guillotine).
Some decoupage glue with an acrylic/waterproof finish. (I used Decopatch Paperpatch Varnish Glue).
A suitable brush for applying your glue (I used a Decopatch brush. Don’t use anything that will shed the bristles onto your project).
An image of your chosen map either cut from an old atlas, from a map style wrapping paper or decopatch paper or a photocopy of your chosen place. 

If you choose to do the ‘extra steps’ you might need a distress ink (as pictured) and/or some paint for the sides of your coaster (not pictured). More on that later. 

How to make you coaster

Ensure that your tile is clean and dry. 
Cut your image to your chosen size. You could take it all the way to the edge of the tile or (as I have done) cut it slightly smaller so that you have a slight border around the edge.



Coat your tile in a layer of glue and place your image on top trying to place the centre down first and pushing it outwards to avoid bubbles. The paper can easily tear with the addition of glue so don't try too hard to push out any air bubbles.



Paint another layer of glue on top of your map immediately
LEAVE TO DRY FOR AN HOUR
If there were any air bubbles, these may have now sunk and turned into creases (which is fine and will just add a rustic look ;-) ) Push down any raised areas firmly but carefully and add a second layer of your glue.



Cut your piece of felt or cork to the size of your tile.



One your coaster is completely dry, flip it over and glue your chosen material to the bottom.

VOILA - Your very own map coasters! 



EXTRA TIPS



You may notice that I have two different coasters. I photocopied an atlas in colour and in black and white. Once I cut my image from the black and white photocopy, I used a Tim Holtz Distress ink to give the image an ‘aged’ look. 
If you prefer a more polished finish, you could paint the edges of your tile white, or to give it an ‘edge’ (pun fully intended) you could go for a colour to match your image or the bottom of your coaster. Do this step first.

I would love to see your coasters so Tweet me a picture with #MakingHome so I can retweet them or pop them on the Mrs Crafty B Facebook for a share.

Happy coaster making!

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Thursday, 25 June 2015

How To Determine If Your Jewellery Is Worth Anything



Image by Sara Schonberg via Flickr

The value of jewellery is volatile. The items that we think are valuable might only be worth very little. And other simple chains could be worth a fortune.

If you’ve ever scored a gorgeous gem at a sale or picked up a piece of jewellery you’ve randomly found, no doubt you will have been excited and wondered just what your find is worth. Here are ways to determine if your antique jewellery is worth anything.

The First Step: Have a Look for Hallmarks

Ideally one of the first things to do when you are in possession of a new piece of antique jewellery is to inspect it for hallmarks. A hallmark usually can tell you what the metal content of a piece is. If there’s another hallmark, it should be able to tell you the country of origin, the manufacturer or even the designer. You will usually find such markings on the inside of a bracelet or ring, the post of an earring or on the clasp of a necklace. All fine pieces of jewellery should have some sort of hallmark, unless it has worn off or the piece is older than 100 years.

Common Gold Hallmarks

These include:
18K
14K
9K
750
585
375

Common Silver Hallmarks

These include:
925
Silver
Sterling
800

Common Platinum Hallmarks

These include:
PLAT
PLATINUM
950

There are a variety of different hallmarks and you can learn more about them on antique jewellery websites. But typically the fact that your item has a hallmark will be a good sign. Cartier, Tiffany & Co and Tacori are such examples of fine jewellery hallmarks that are valuable.

Any such hallmarks can be appraised for their authenticity. Some of the more common hallmarks found on costume jewellery include AVON; Trifari and Sarah Coventry. Such hallmarks will tell you that your jewellery is costume and not particularly valuable.

If you have a piece that looks like an antique but does not sport a hallmark, it’s worth having it appraised to make sure. If the piece looks brand new and does not have a hallmark at all, it’s likely that it is a costume item.

The Second Step: Checking the Piece’s Weight


Checking your piece of jewellery’s weight is important, especially when determining the value of bangles and chains. Silver and gold tend to be heavier than metals like pewter and brass. So if you have a thicker gold chain that is considerably lighter than a similar chain that you have, it’s probable that the piece is hollow gold or fake.

Simply put, fake chains feel fake whereas solid gold items are heavy, smooth and completely consistent. For example, if you’re in possession of a gold-coloured chain that looks darker or even has a silvery hue to it, chances are it’s gold plated and not worth very much. Look for similar items on antique jewellery websites to determine your piece’s value.

When platinum and solid gold jewellery begins wearing down, the parts that show through will be the same colour. But this differs for white gold.

When trying to determine the value of your chains: the heavier and longer a platinum or gold piece is, the more it is usually worth.

The Third Step: Inspecting Prongs

Just like fine jewellery, some of the higher quality costume jewellery pieces use prongs, but many of the stones aren’t glued in place. So if you have a cameo brooch that seems like it’s glued properly into the setting and there aren’t any prongs holding it in, chances are it is a costume piece and not particularly valuable. Fine antique jewellery will be finely crafted and each stone will be set intricately in a prong or bezel setting. The only exception is pearls.

Vintage costume jewellery that consists of many brilliant stones that are all set with prongs can actually be highly valuable. Sometimes such items can be as valuable as fine pieces. But you’ll need to be sure that the piece is indeed vintage, well looked after and has many brightly coloured and clean stones that are all set with prongs.

* This post was contributed by Media Buzzer
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Wednesday, 24 June 2015

How Much Gold Is There In The World?

Gold is such a wonderful and diverse metal, it's not just used for some of the most incredible jewellery but is actually reserved by countries all over the world. Why? Gold is reserved as a sort of back up, should a country be down on money (essentially). It's like a long term investment, so if the price of gold rises they can trade some of their gold for cold hard cash. Below is an infographic that looks as a handful of countries, known for their gold reserves, showing how much they actually have with an interesting fact or two about gold itself. It is interactive so have a look and click on the countries.

Who do you think has the most gold?




* a sponsored post
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Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Prawn And Chorizo Rice For Two

A guest post by Sally who runs the blog www.sallyakins.com. Sally is a mum who writes about eating well, working out and making the most of life

Even though life can be hectic, I try to make time to have dinner alone with my husband every now and then. When we've had a run of busy days where we rush around and hardly see each other, it's good to sit down and chat over a plate of food.

This recipe for Prawn and Chorizo Rice is really easy to make, and if I'm feeling particularly organised I can get ahead with the chopping and preparation earlier in the day. Remember to cover the garlic if you decide to do that, or everything in your fridge will taste of garlic!

If you are using stock cubes or melts, you may find that you have to make up 500ml of stock. This can be a bit of a bonus, as it then allows you to add a little more later on in the cooking process if you think the rice needs more fluid.
And if you're cooking for four, the recipe is easily doubled to feed everyone.

Prawn and Chorizo Rice for Two



Ingredients

(Serves 2)
1/2 tsp rapeseed oil (or similar)
75g chorizo, skin removed halved lengthwise and cut into thick slices
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
Pinch of saffron threads
1/2 tsp white sugar
125g paella rice
250ml chicken stock (plus extra if needed)
1/2 a 400g tin of chopped tomatoes in juice
125g peeled uncooked prawns, deveined if you wish




Method

Pour half a teaspoon of rapeseed oil, or whatever oil you generally use for frying, into a large cold saucepan and add the sliced chorizo.
Place over a medium heat and cook until the chorizo releases its oils - this usually takes 2-3 minutes. Then add the garlic to the pan and continue to cook for 1 more minute.
Add the saffron, rice, sugar, chicken stock and tomatoes to the pan. Bring it to the boil, then partially cover and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the prawns to the pot along with a little more hot stock or water if you think it is needed, and stir well.
Cover the pot and leave to cook for a further 10 minutes, by which time the rice should be tender and the prawns have turned pink.
Remove from the heat and allow to stand for 5 minutes, then fluff the rice and serve.
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Thursday, 18 June 2015

Ways To Host A BBQ On A Budget

A guest post by Angela from The Life Of Spicers blog - a blog about family life.

June is a busy month for us, and also features Miss A’s birthday. On her first birthday, we hosted an open house for all friends and family where all day people arrived and left. We had the barbecue running all day, drinks were flowing, and empty snack and salad bowls were being refilled as they emptied.

It was an amazing day, and we got to catch up and spend time with those closest to us. What we didn’t realise however was that it became a tradition every year without us realising it. On Miss A’s first birthday, we didn’t think about cost, it was her first birthday and was very special, but as the years have gone on, we have had other costs to consider, so our traditional barbecue party has seen some tweaks without hopefully losing any of the sparkle of her birthday.

We have learned that we don’t need to provide the drink for everyone. A simple “bring a bottle” in the text was enough on her second birthday for people to automatically bring something in future years.




I dread to think how much we spent on that first open house party, but as Miss A is eight now, we have learnt a lot over the years and now our costs are a lot less. We have tried a few ideas over the years with friends and family. Sometimes we ask everyone to bring a dish of food, this could be a bowl of crisps, a pizza, a salad etc. Just something that doesn’t cost a lot of money but goes towards the meal. As people stay for quite a few hours, there is a lot of grazing that happens with food. No-one ever seems to eat a full meal which is nice as there’s no structure or urgency to the day and everyone is relaxed.

As hosts we always supply the meat unless someone wishes to bring something in particular for their personal needs or taste. We also make sure we have plenty of soft drink for people, and any alcohol is brought by the guests.

We have started deviating away from the standard burgers and sausages with buns over the years as it can often be cheaper to make some vegetarian skewers, add corn on the cob and other additions to the traditional meat served on a barbecue.

I have also started to be clever with my side dishes and snacks as you can buy or make a pizza for very little which when cut up into small sections feeds a lot of people. Potato skins are also very filling and are great to pick at with a dip on the side.

Pasta and rice salad is so quick, easy and cheap to make with a variety of fillings, and all of these food items on the menu fill your guests up without providing expensive pieces of meat sold in barbecue packs.



Dessert is usually the birthday cake, but I will usually make extra cupcakes to ensure everyone gets something after the cake has been cut. This helps as I don’t have to buy more than one birthday cake in case one doesn’t stretch to everyone.

If you enjoy entertaining, I hope some of my ideas will help you enjoy the Summer without spending a fortune on food.
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Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Travelling in Sweden: Stockholm vs Gothenburg

This is a guest post by the lovely Rhian from www.rhianwestbury.co.uk

This Easter was my first Easter out of retail and I wanted to make the most of the time off by going away. After using the Skyscanner app to find the cheapest place with the best flights Sweden was settled on. 

The first thing people said when I mentioned I was going to Sweden was how expensive it was meant to be, but I want to put this myth to bed. As a (virtually) Londoner Sweden was not more expensive than being at home, and just like London if you looked around you could find restaurants and bars which werent expensive. You could easily have a tea and cake for a fiver and a pizza with beer for about 10-12 pounds so theres no big expense.





We flew into Stockholm and spent two days there which was just enough time to do everything we wanted to do without getting bored. The city is a made up of lots of small islands joined together by bridges which was a novel concept. We walked for about half an hour and had technically been on about six different islands. We chose to stay in a hostel (we did opt for an en-suite room) which was inside an old prison which meant there was lots of quirky things about but the rooms were quite narrow.

The town was easy to navigate and we did quite a lot of walking- mostly without the need for a map. There was quite a lot to do here including an aquarium with a rainforest style front, a small zoo, beautiful architecture and a theme park (although this wasnt open when we arrived). The best piece of advice id give is not use the metro, you miss out on so much if you dont walk around.

On our third day we took a train 6 hours south to Gothenburg, and instantly we knew how much further south we were as the weather was so much warmer, and Gothenburg was beautiful! There was so much green space and parks, places you could hire bikes and segways, and generally a more relaxing atmosphere than Stockholm. Plus not even Easter Sunday would stop everything being open!





There wasnt as much to physically see here but it was much nicer to explore, but if you do nothing else then head to the Science Museum as it is singlehandedly the best place I have ever been to. All of the games and hands on attractions are just as much made for adults as they are for kids, which kept us amused for ages, but they also have an indoor rainforest and aquarium. This was complete with monkeys and other animals which werent in cages,so yes you probably couldve touched them. I almost screamed the place down when a monkey almost jumped on my shoulder though, took me by complete surprise!





All in all I had a lovely five days in Sweden; the food and drink was nice, the weather was beautiful and the staff were so friendly. Plus pretty much everyone speaks English as its mandatory to learn it in school until the age of 16!

Tips for Sweden

Dont use the metro as youll miss a lot by being off the roads
Make ensure you go the Science Museum in Gothenburg
Book any internal travel in advance (you can say lots of money!)
Get the bus airport transfer to/from the airports as its a lot cheaper than a taxi
Make sure you take sunglasses, even if it isnt warm it tends to be sunny

Have you ever been to Sweden? Would you like to go?
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Saturday, 13 June 2015

Make Up Forever Lip Liner and Lipstick Review

This is a guest post by Sam from the blog Testing Time. Sam writes honest and detailed product reviews on her blog.

Make Up Forever Aqua Lips Lip Liner and Rouge Artist Lipstick

Debenhams have released a line of products from Make Up For Ever in the UK, the only store so far in the UK selling them.

I was sent some products from Debenhams to try before they were released and what I got sent was the Aqua Lips Lip Liner and Rouge Artist Lipstick.




Both came in a gorgeous sultry red colour, a colour I love but wear very little of because it worries me that it is too much. I also worry about it coming off on things and staining, or even every girls worst nightmare, lipstick on teeth!

The first product I tried was of course the Aqua Lips lip liner in the shade Red.



I have never really used lip liner that often, if I did it was under a colour but I decided to go for this on it's own instead of being used under a lipstick.

The lip pencil is very soft, it is easy to draw on the lips without it being hard or pulling like some can do.

As it's quite a vibrant red for a pencil, usually they are weaker colours but this is really intense. When I applied it, my lips look great. It's very matte but it looks like a matte lipstick more than a wishy washy liner.

It doesn't smudge, come off when drinking or licking, (self confessed lip licker here!)

It really is wonderful and looks great even with a gloss over it. As for wearing a lipstick over the top, it makes the lipstick last longer and lips stay red all day long. It is truly a waterproof lip liner and doesn't stain the lips either.

Next up is the Rouge Artiste Intense Lipstick in Moulin Rouge.





A beautiful bright red that looks the part on my lips.

I love the packaging, it's sleek and easy to use.

The red of this lipstick is so beautiful, I cannot explain just how happy I am I found 'that' red, you know that colour we always want, this is mine! It is my new 'That is so Sam' colour. My signature colour.

This is a very creamy but glossy like lipstick. It smears across the lips so well and leaves lips looking glossy, full of colour and gives you a beautiful look.

The lipstick lasts quite well, for a few hours, but when eating and drinking it does transfer, but not all of the lipstick. It doesn't stain the lips either which I have problems with, especially reds. I look like I have been eating vimto ice lollies.

If using the lip liner before hand, the lipstick lasts a lot longer and the liner stays put so you just top up for a glossy look. I find it hard to find lipsticks that stay put, even my high-end lipsticks are smearable and last an hour. I have to say, this does last a lot longer and had less transfer than others I have.

I would like this lipstick in a matte version too.

Make Up For Ever is now available in Debenhams through the following:
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Thursday, 11 June 2015

What To Do In Cardiff Bay On A Budget

I am a big fan of Cardiff Bay. This area of Cardiff has so much to see and do. A day out in Cardiff Bay needn't cost a fortune either. Here is my afternoon in Cardiff Bay on a budget, prices are per person.

Visit The Norwegian Church


The Norwegian Church arts centre is one of the landmark buildings in the Cardiff Bay area. This iconic and instantly recognisable building, originally a Norwegian Sailors church, dates back to the industrial revolution and was originally donated by the Marquis Of Bute. Now a registered charity the building is perfectly situated for panoramic views over the waterfront area.  

Today there are many free art exhibitions here where they showcase local artists and also a great little coffee shop, called Cafe Norsk. Have a tasty bowl of Cawl (Welsh lamb broth), a bacon sandwich or a scrumptious cake in the cafe and prices are very reasonable too.

Total cost £5



Visit The Dr Who Experience 



When I was a child I watched Dr Who every Saturday night with my dad. Tom Baker was the Dr then. When the new revamped Dr Who was launched about 10 years ago I started watching it with my son, who became a massive fan. 

The Dr Who Experience is an "interactive adventure through time and space" and well worth visiting if you have kids or not.  The interactive experience is a timed presentation, and I don't want to give too much away but you battle one of the Dr's greatest adversaries!  



After the interactive experience you can visit the exhibition of Dr Who costumes and artefacts. The costumes are brilliant - where else can you see all the outfits worn by the successive doctors, a variety of Cybermen and hear a Dalek speak? 

I visited The Dr Who Experience with my son and we both really enjoyed it, in fact we saw grandparents equally enjoying it with their primary aged grandchildren. The interactive experience, although short is great fun and better than we both expected too. Watch out for the Weeping Angels though!

It is also the winner of the 2014 Certificate of Excellence from Tripadvisor.

Total cost £14 (when you buy tickets in advance online)

Pay Your Respects To Ianto Jones


Science fiction fans are a loyal bunch. Ianto Jones was a fictional character from the Dr Who spin off series Torchwood. When the character was killed off in the show, a 'shrine' appeared almost overnight in Cardiff Bay, where many scenes of the series were filmed. It is fascinating to visit even if you are not a fan of the show, and I enjoy reading the many letters and cards from fans to their hero. 




In fact the management of Mermaid Quay have erected a plaque in recognition of how many tourists it brings into the area, with the words...

"Ianto Jones ... Gave His Life In Defence Of The Children Of This Planet... The Management of Mermaid Quay Salutes You."



Cost £0

Admire The Art At Craft In The Bay


Craft In The Bay is a retail shop and art exhibition space opposite the Wales Millennium Centre. It is housed in D Shed a grade II listed building and it well worth a visit. Operated by the Makers Guild Of Wales, an independent charity, it educates and informs as well as displays a variety of contemporary art from Wales and further afield. 

Admission is free too so pop in and have a look, I think you will be pleasantly surprised by the quality of the work. They also run workshops where you can make jewellery and pottery for example and early booking is advisable.

Cost £0 

Have An Ice Cream

Lastly finish off your trip to Cardiff Bay with an ice cream at one of the cafes or Cadwaladers ice cream parlour.

Cost £2

So that's my recommendations on what to do in Cardiff Bay on a budget, for a little over £20 per person. Tell me, have you been to Cardiff Bay? Would you like to visit the area?

* in association with Think Money, all words and opinions are my own
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Wednesday, 10 June 2015

My Top Jewellery Items For Summer From Fraser Hart

Summer is a time of hazy days, beautiful weather, and perfect memories -  memories where you are looking and feeling your best. Every summer I refresh my wardrobe and get some new fashion pieces that are timeless and also some that are 'in the moment' and fun. 

To get that summer look check out my favourite  jewellery pieces for this season from Fraser Hart Jewellers

Michael Kors


Michael Kors Parker chronograph stone set watch with ceramic bracelet £259

Michael Kors is an aspirational leading fashion brand that has many lovely jewellery and watches. Priced at the mid range market, every Michael Kors piece is designed with glamour in mind. The Michael Kors Parker chronograph ladies' watch, has pretty light blue ceramic inserts in the stainless steel bracelet and stunning sparkling crystals around the watch face. The strap has a chunky but elegant feel whilst the crystals add that summer sparkle. Although this has crystals, I feel you could wear this watch every day and it would certainly look great on your wrist whilst you are shopping or having lunch with friends. 

Bronzeallure


Bronzeallure 18ct rose gold plated vermeil stacking bracelets £129

This new and exciting Italian brand has an air of sophistication in its modern looks. Gorgeous coloured and clear gemstones such as rose quartz, amethyst, crystal and onyx are set in 18ct rose gold plated vermeil to keep costs realistic whilst still retaining the beauty of rose gold. This fun set of bangles can be stacked on top of each other or worn individually, and each one has a different look - one is beaded, one has a high polished finish and one is set with cubic zirconia. Super value and very versatile too, I am a new fan of this fashion brand.

Thomas Sabo

Thomas Sabo silver and cubic zirconia Infinity necklace £70

This German brand needs little introduction to the modern jewellery lover. Known for their charm bracelets, they also sell beautiful necklaces and earrings too and their jewellery is always fresh, with their eye on the fashion trends. This silver and cubic zirconia infinity necklace represents 'forever love'. It also has a charm carrier so you can personalise your necklace with your choice of charm. Perfect for all Thomas Sabo lovers everywhere.

Fraser Hart
Fraser Hart 9 ct two tone gold earrings £225

As well as recognisable and well known brands, Fraser Hart sell their own jewellery range that doesn't compromise on quality. This pair of 9ct gold two tone earrings have a diamond cut detail, so in effect giving you the look of diamonds without the cost. I think these adorable earrings are so pretty and I can imagine them catching the light, while you sip cocktails in a cool bar. The two tone colour gold is very on trend too.

Gucci
Silver Gucci heart toggle bracelet £110


Gucci, the iconic luxury brand, is always effortlessly chic. This cute classic Gucci bracelet has the Italian designer’s signature boule chain and a toggle closure with a heart motif. Set in sterling silver, this bracelet is sure to become a style classic and is perfect for everyday wear.

Fraser Hart

Fraser Hart 9ct white gold and blue topaz ring £199

My last piece is a blue topaz ring from Fraser Hart. Set in 9 ct white gold, what attracted me to this ring was the stunning blue topaz stone, with the criss cross cushion cut. This gorgeous cocktail ring can be worn day or night and is a gorgeous and well priced item of jewellery.

I hope you like my jewellery picks for summer from Fraser Hart. Tell me what you think.

* This is a sponsored post, all words and opinions are my own
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Monday, 8 June 2015

Why You Need Wood Flooring In Your Home

Wood flooring can be a gorgeous style statement in your home and it also has lots of added benefits too. 

Image CC Pixabay
Cost

Although initial outlay is more than carpet, wood flooring can last much longer. Typically carpets are changed every 5 to 7 years but wood flooring can last decades. It therefore has the durability that carpet does not. Today's modern production processes also mean that wood flooring is cheaper than it used to be, making it more accessible to those that could not afford it before.

Hygiene

Wood flooring is hygienic and easy to clean. With carpet, smells and dirt can get trapped in the fibres. If you have young children who spend time on the floor this is an obvious consideration. Cat and dog owners too will appreciate the ability to keep the floors hygienically clean. If you have allergies, wood flooring is also an obvious choice as solid wood flooring is easier to keep clean than carpet and doesn't trap dust and mites like carpet can.

Maintenance

Wood flooring is minimal maintenance. Most floors can be cleaned by a dry brush to collect the dust and then washed with a simple mop and wood floor cleaner, being careful not to saturate the wood, and always following manufacturers instructions. Use floor protectors under furniture to prevent marks. Scratches and damage can occur, but because wood has a uniqueness, each piece with it's only markings and knots, minor scratches and damage are easy to overlook.  Greater damage can be repaired with sanding and refinishing, and this is cheaper than a new carpet that's for sure.

Maple Wood Flooring
Image CC Pixabay 

Ecological 

Wood is a natural renewable and recyclable resource. Many floors are made from reclaimed wood and recycled from barns, churches, railway sleepers, warehouses and ships. 

Adding Value

Wood floors in a house can add value to your home. When buying a new house many people replace carpets but hard wood flooring is almost always kept due to it's timeless appeal, durability and classic good looks.



Image CC Pixabay

Lower Utility Bills

Solid wood floors have insulating properties as they trap warm air. This means a warmer environment and lower heating bills. 

Style 

Wood flooring never really goes out of fashion like carpets and lino can.  If you are having a new wood floor fitted there is a good choice of wood available to fit in with the look and style of your house including oak, maple, walnut and Scottish elm. If you get tired of the finish you can also sand and refinish the wood to get a different look.

As you can see there are many reasons why you need wood flooring in your home, including great looks, easy maintenance and lower bills. An initial investment in wood flooring will mean long term benefits for the future for the home owner

* A sponsored post all words and opinions are my own
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Saturday, 6 June 2015

Degustabox May

It's time for another Degustabox delivery! The monthly subscription food box is full of new products, perfect for those of us that like a bit of adventure with their food. Every month you get between 9-14 items, and with boxes only £12.99 inclusive of postage you are guaranteed to get much more than that in value.

This month we get all this lovely food.



Schwartz Grill Mates Marinade In A Bag £2.19

This is a no mess way of getting fabulously tasty meat, fish or veg. Pop the food in the bag in the fragrant marinade, leave for 30 minutes and then simply cook. Simples. Available in 6 delicious flavours when you want something different to boring chicken, beef, fish or veg.

Maggi Noodles 2 x £1.49

These noodles with a spice sachet are great to keep in your cupboard. Just add vegetables and some cooked chicken or pork for example for a tasty, super quick and nutritious meal. Great for those that don't like cooking much, from kettle to table in next to no time.

9 Bar £2.00

These bars are packed full of seeds including pumpkin, sun flower and sesame as well as dried apricots and dates and are topped with carob. A great nutritious snack that will full you up and give you energy. When you are craving chocolate but want something healthier.

Slim Pasta £2.49


I have tried Slim Pasta before and cannot believe it is only 21 calories per 100g. Made from all natural Konjac flour and oat fibre, use this instead of normal pasta for a low calories meal. This is also gluten, fat and sugar free and suitable for vegetarian and vegans. Helps you lose weight in conjunction with a low calorie diet.



Sweet Baby Ray's Honey Barbecue Sauce £2.99

This barbecue sauce is rich and delicious and perfect for Hunters Chicken. You can use it as a marinade or on ribs or as a dip for wings and on top of burgers too. It tastes sweet with a lovely smokiness and it is very tasty.

Sarsons Balsamic Vinegar £2.00

This full bodied balsamic from Modena - where the best balsamic is made, is great for salad dressings. The Italians have balsamic with strawberries as they say it brings out the flavour of the fruit. Can't wait to try this for tea tonight.

Green Coco 80p

This drink is made from coconut juice with banana. Organic from selected plantations, this is an alternative to fizzy drinks for those of all ages.



Daelmans Stropwafels £2.00

I have tried waffles like these before and they are utterly scrumptious. It recommends that you warm them over your favourite hot beverage so that the caramel is melted like they do in the Netherlands. I popped them in the microwave for 20 seconds and ate them warm, just be careful not to heat them too long because of the hot caramel.

Fuel 10K £2.69


A wheat biscuit with added protein, great to keep you fuller for longer. High in fibre and low in sugar and salt, these make a super breakfast. They taste the same as a well known branded wheat biscuit too so no compromising on taste.

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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Thursday, 4 June 2015

Polish Cuisine And Golabki Recipe

I think the United Kingdom is a fabulous place. As a country we embrace all nationalities and cultures and it is only a small minority that do not, even though the media would have us think otherwise. As a child my father had a friend called Bill and he was Polish. In the 1970's there wasn't many different cultures in the UK compared to now and I remember thinking how exotic that he ate Rollmops, which are pickled herrings to you and me. He also liked his vodka and used to say 'Na zdrowie' which is cheers!

Most Poles came into the UK since the enlargement of the European Union in 2004 and at the census in 2011 over 520,000 Polish people were registered as living in the UK. Today over 1% of the population of the UK speak Polish and Poles are the third largest foreign-born community in the UK after Irish and Indian born people.


'Pierogi' copyright  B. and E. Dudzinscy Shutterstock

Every nationality likes to keep their culture and traditions as that is part of who they are and the Polish people are no exception. Polish cuisine is at the heart of their community and Polish food is a hearty affair with lots of meat, winter vegetables and herbs as well as cream and eggs. Polish national dishes include 'bigos; which is a Hunters stew, 'pierogi' which are boiled dumplings and 'golabki' a type of cabbage roll. 



'Bigos' copyright  Shutterstock

Access to speciality food these days is much easier than in the past and many large supermarkets have a section where you can buy Polish food. "Polski Sklep" is a sign recognised by many in our town centres these days as well - the translation is Polish Shop and this is where you can buy many cured meats and traditional Polish foods.

If you would like to try a Polish recipe, why don't you have a go at this recipe for Golabki below. A delicious meal of stuffed cabbage leaves with a pork and beef filling, the tomato sauce adds a tasty addition. Serve with bread, the traditional Polish way or with potatoes and vegetables, the anglicised way.

Golabki



'Golabki' copyright  Shutterstock 


Serves 8

Ingredients

1 head cabbage, cored
2 tablespoons of butter
1 large onion chopped
1 pound of minced beef
1/2 pound minced pork
1 1/2 cups of cooked rice
1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
salt and pepper to taste
3 cans (10.75 ounce) of condensed tomato soup
2 cans (12 fluid ounce) of tomato juice
1/2 cup of ketchup

Method

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
On the top of the hob boil a pan of salted water. Place cabbage in water and cook for 3-4 mins until the leaves are soft enough to remove. Remove cabbage and set aside for 10 minutes.
Remove whole leaves from the head of the cabbage and make sure to cut out any tough centres. Chop the remainder of the cabbage and then spread it out on the bottom of the casserole dish.
Melt butter in a large pan and cook onion for 5 to 10 mins until soft.
Remove from heat and add to a bowl with beef, pork, rice, garlic, salt and pepper.
Place a good spoon of mixture onto each cabbage leaf. Roll cabbage around the beef and tuck in the sides to create an envelope.
Place cabbage rolls onto of the chopped cabbage in the dish. Season with salt and pepper.
Whisk tomato soup, tomato juice, and ketchup together in a bowl. Pour over cabbage rolls and cover dish with foil.
Bake in the oven for an hour until cabbage is tender and meat is cooked through.

Serve with bread to mop up the sauce.

Lebara, a mobile phone company that like to support ethnic cultures, have an online community for those of different cultures. 


They have also started running amazing competitions so be sure to check out their iPad competition ending on the 24th of June.

Tell me, have you tried any of these dishes? Do you cook Polish cuisine? 

*  This post is in association with Lebara
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Monday, 1 June 2015

Cartier Watches From Watchfinder & Co.

This is a guest post by Sarah-Jane Adams.

Diamonds may be a girl’s best friend, but luxury brand Cartier isn’t just known for its exquisite jewellery. Pioneers in making the wristwatch fashionable amongst men, the purveyor of luxury goods is more than just a pretty (watch) face. In fact, Cartier is responsible for some of the most interesting developments in horological history, a detail easily overlooked among the shiny lights and twinkling offerings of their lavish jewellery showrooms.




At the turn of the century, the fashion for short sleeves ensured that ladies’ wristwatches were already popular, adorning the exposed wrists of high society, yet the concept was deemed to be too feminine and delicate to be favoured by men. The pivotal change in attitudes came in 1904, when Louis Cartier created a small pocket watch mounted on a leather strap in order for his friend, Brazilian aviation pioneer Alberto Santos Dumont, to be able to tell the time hands free while flying. Later dubbed the Santos De Cartier, this model popularised the new male version of the accessory, and set a new standard in watchmaking.

In the same year, Cartier received its first royal appointment as official purveyor to King Edward VII, cementing its reputation as the ‘King of jewellers, jeweller of Kings.’ Cartier would reinforce its close ties with the Royal Family by presenting Queen Elizabeth with one of the smallest wristwatches in the world in 1938. Whether she followed Dumont’s example and donned a set of flying goggles to use it while manning her own aircraft remains unclear.



Perhaps the most recognisable Cartier watch, the Tank, came into being in 1917, and the ladies’ version has subsequently been embraced by women as legendary as Jackie O, Greta Garbo and Michelle Obama. A timeless classic, the Tank is often identified as the go-to aspirational timepiece for women, and has been universally adopted by the fashion set; Parisian couturiers such as Hubert de Givenchy, Pierre Balmain and Yves Saint Laurent all wore the men’s’ model. The Tank is not for everyone however, as the first choice of current Royal icon Kate Middleton is the Cartier Ballon Bleu.


As expected from one of the world’s most famous names in gemology, Cartier watches don’t shy away from a touch of sparkle, with many of the higher end models incorporating precious stones and metals into their design. The iconic motif of the company, the panther, even formed the basis of a ladies’ wristwatch in 1914, extravagantly created from diamonds and onyx. Fortunately, today’s buyer has access to vintage Cartier watches, allowing us to enjoy a touch of luxury at pre-owned prices.

‘A little bit of Cartier is good for everyone,’ declared a Cartier New York advertisement in 1972. And that’s certainly true for those with a taste for the finer things in life, whether it be watches, or jewellery. Richard Burton may have famously gifted Elizabeth Taylor the $1.1 million Cartier Diamond, and Prince Rainer may have proposed to Grace Kelly with an emerald cut solitaire, but for us, Cartier’s greatest legacy will always be worn on our wrists.

Sarah-Jane Adams is a contributor to Watchfinder & Co.’s digital publication The Watch Magazine. Visit thewatchmagazine.com for more on watches, and www.watchfinder.co.uk to browse a selection of fine pre-owned watches


* In collaboration with Watchfinder & Co.
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