Monday, 24 April 2017

Supporting British Jewellery Designers With The Fine Jewellery Company

For years Britain has been at the forefront of fashion design worldwide. From Mary Quant to Paul Smith, Stella McCartney to Alexander McQueen our fashion designers are well known for their stunning, unique and creative jewellery. Many designers mix vintage designs with modern styles and we are particularly good at incorporating innovation with traditional techniques. 

Our jewellery designers include well-known names such as Vivienne Westwood and Stephen Webster to lesser known names starting out in the business. When I had my own jewellery shop I used to love to support British jewellery designers, as the jewellery was always unique and different. This is why I applaud the Fine Jewellery Company.

The Fine Jewellery company is based in Birmingham and has a range of experienced and skilled gemologists with experience in retail, design, manufacture, diamond testing and grading. They sell a range of stunning gemstones from exquisite diamond rings, stunning sapphire earrings, pretty pearl bracelets and much more. But what I love about the company is their passion and support of British jewellery designers. Here are my top picks from the independent British jewellery designers available on the Fine Jewellery Company website.

Charlotte Lowe



Charlotte Lowe's current collection focuses on those special moments in life. Her jewellery is wearable, personal and current, and it perfect for that keepsake to remember a time, a person, a holiday or even a pet.


This lovely sterling silver and gold vermeil necklace is called 'Walk With Me'. Handmade this necklace celebrates those precious moments shared by mum and dad with their children, from walks in the park to strolls in the British countryside it is a reminder of the time we spend with our loved ones, in our down time.

Clare Hawley


Clare Hawley takes her inspiration from where she is based, the beautiful stunning Sherwood Forest.  Her first collection entitled "Leaves of Sherwood" was made by hand in silver and gold using traditional sheet fabricating techniques. 

She takes leaves from the forest floor and recreates each one in stunning rose and yellow gold vermeil. The result is a beautiful, commercial and ultimately wearable piece of art. This necklace above is made of rose gold vermeil and is the leaf of an oak tree. Her jewellery is exceptionally tactile, her inspiration being her mother who is registered blind. 

Fei Liu 



Born in China but now based in Birmingham, Fei Liu is an internationally recognised jewellery designer. After studying at the Birmingham School of Jewellery he has since gained worldwide acclaim for his glamorous work - a fusion of his eastern heritage and western influences. 
This exquisite sterling silver and black rhodium ring called 'Cascade', is set with blue cubic zirconia. A striking design with smooth curves and sharp lines, this ring is an item of jewellery that will certainly get you noticed. Fei Liu has won several awards including Harper’s Bazaar China Jewellery Designer of the Year and was a finalist in the UK Jewellery Awards. His jewellery can also be seen on the red carpet worn by many of his celebrity fans.

I Love A Lassie


Love A Lassie is a Scottish designer jewellery brand, offering solid silver contemporary designs inspired by life’s little treasures. Arlene Katorza the jewellery designer for I Love A Lassie, has been selling her jewellery for over 20 years in Edinburgh and since the launch of I Love A Lassie in 2013 the range has regularly featured in Elle, Vogue, and Grazia magazine.

Designs are based on precious mementoes, such as a piece of bark discovered on a woodland walk, a fragment of antique lace, or an antique Bawbee coin.

As you can see, we have amazing talent on the UK jewellery scene and if you buy from a British designer you will get craftsmanship, stunning designs and unique jewellery. You can find these items of jewellery featured on the British Designers section of the Fine Jewellery Company website, as well as other jewellery from other emerging and established British jewellers.

Tell me, do you try to buy British products if you can? What do you think of the British jewellery designers featured?


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Friday, 21 April 2017

Top 5 things to do in Reykjavik Iceland

Iceland is a beautiful country, full of outstanding natural beauty, volcanoes, waterfalls, and black sand beaches. It really captured my heart on my recent trip. With all the beautiful landscape in this stunning country, the capital Reykjavik can often go overlooked, but don't! It has some amazing architecture, vibrant street art, gastronomic delights and interesting museums. 

This is my post on top things to do in Reykjavik. 

1. Visit Hallgrímskirkj 
Hallgrímskirkj

Hallgrímskirkj, the largest church in Iceland is the main landmark being in an elevated position it can be seen from most places in the city. Designed by Guðjón Samuel in 1937, it's a cool building, the architect was inspired by the shapes of lava when it cools in basalt rock. For a fantastic view over the city, take a life to the top of the church. 

2. Snap a photo of the Sun Voyager


Solfar the Sun Voyager

On Reykjavik's waterfront, is the statue of the Sun Voyager - called Solfar. This striking landmark is a huge steel sculpture by Jon Gunnar Arnason. Thought to resemble a Viking ship, the sculpture is, in fact, a 'dream boat' and ode to the sun. The artist's intention was to give the city something to inspire dreams and hopes.

3. Go to a concert or grab a cocktail at Harpa


Harpa the concert hall
Harpa, the concert hall designed by Olafur Eliasson is a stunning building on Reykjavik's waterfront. Opened in 2011, it's the place to go for concerts as well as cocktails with a view. There are two places to eat in Harpa, a cafe and restaurant on the ground floor called Smurstöðin and Kolabrautin, a modern restaurant focusing on Icelandic food fused with Meditteranean cuisine. The coloured glass windows are inspired by the basalt landscape of Iceland.

4. Admire the amazing street art


Iceland is known for its amazing street art, and there is so much of it to see in the city that you could spend half a day just strolling around the centre and taking it all in. Some pieces of artwork are created with permission from private building owners, some are commissioned and some are less formal, but the variety of the artwork is astounding. 

5. Visit one of the many museums

The Settlement exhibition 

From the Punk Museum to the Whales Of Iceland exhibition and the Saga Museum, Reykjavik has a museum for everyone. We visited the Settlement exhibition which explored the life and work of the first settlers and was interesting for an hour. We were given a Reykjavik city card which covered a number of museums and attractions and gave us entry into the Settlement exhibition. Well worth doing if you are staying in the capital for a few days. 

Where we stayed

Eyja Guldsmeden Hotel
We stayed in the city centre at the Skuggi hotel before our drive around the country. We thought this 3-star hotel was good value as it had daily buffet breakfast and was only 5 mins walk from the main shopping street Laugavegur. The rooms were modern, stylish and exceptionally clean.  

When we returned to Reykjavik for one night before our flight home we stayed at the Eyja Guldsmeden Hotel, a stunning and very beautiful boutique hotel, not far from Laugavegur. 

Where we ate
Kopar

We had a tasty meal at Hraðlestin an Indian restaurant not far from Harpa, and Kopar, where we had an outstanding meal for my birthday. The location of Kopar was perfect too, right in the marina, with a great view. We also took a tour with the Reykjavik Food Walk which I would highly recommend for a taste of Icelandic cuisine as well as a humorous tour of the city. 

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Tell me would you visit Iceland? What do you think of my suggestions in Reykjavik?

* Settlement Exhibition Flickr CC 
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Wednesday, 19 April 2017

What To Wear In Dubai

Dubai is one of those places that is a rich mix of modern and traditional culture. A playground for the rich and famous, it's streets are defined by extravagance. From supercars to skyscrapers, it's definitely a place to visit if you like the finer things in life.

There are certain fashion rules that you may need to watch out for when visiting Dubai so here designer footwear retailer, Daniel Footwear, and The Diary Of A Jewellery Lover has produced a guide to show you what to wear in Dubai.

A fashion divide



Dubai has a distinct fashion divide. On one hand, Emirati women can be seen wearing traditional dress, including an abaya (long black robe), sheyla (scarf) and sometimes the niqab (face covering). However, expats and tourists tend to adopt more Westernised styles. Although it is not expected to adopt traditional dress it expected that you will remain respectful of the traditional dress code

Dress codes can vary depending on where you’re visiting. The following is intended as a guide only and you should always double-check the specifics of the dress code beforehand.

At the pool or beach


With temperatures in the 90s in Summer, you will undoubtedly want to take a dip in your hotel pool or the beautiful Persian Gulf during your time in Dubai.

At hotel pools, there are generally few rules regarding swimwear, although you shouldn’t go topless. Likewise, you may be asked to cover up if you wear thong or revealing bikinis. To complement Dubai’s thriving, colourful culture, choose a bikini or swimsuit in a bold print or colour — rich jewel tones are a great choice.

To the mall


Dubai is the destination for all you lovers of luxury shopping out there. As well as the Mall of The Emirates, with Prada, Rolex and Bvlgari, you also have The Dubai Mall, home to the likes of Christian Louboutin, Chanel and Tiffany & Co. Both malls have plenty of things to do besides shopping, including ice skating, cinemas and aquariums, and you can even go skiing indoors!

So how do you dress for Dubai’s elegant shopping malls? Most will have clear signs to inform you of their dress codes near their entrances, although there are some general rules to follow.

Although some of the malls may be located near the beach it’s not acceptable to stroll off the sand and into the mall while still wearing your swimwear or short-shorts. Avoid wearing bikini tops, sleeveless tops, short skirts and sheer or revealing clothing to the mall.

Dress codes will vary from mall-to-mall, but covering your knees and shoulders is generally a sign that you’re dressed appropriately. Chic maxi dresses are a great option — wear yours with a thin cardigan cover-up. In the shopping malls, air conditioning is often fierce so you will be thankful of that cardi. In terms of footwear, flats are a great choice. The malls are huge, so leave the heels behind and wear some comfy but elegant sandals instead.

Partying til dawn


You've caught the sun rays and shopped ‘til you dropped, now it's time to prepare for a big night out. You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to city centre hotspots in Dubai, with a huge range of fine dining establishments, cocktail bars and popular nightclubs to choose from. As these are normally located in hotels, the dress code offers a little more freedom.

In hotel bars, restaurants and nightclubs, you can flash a little more flesh — with short skirts, sheer detailing or sleeveless dresses all acceptable. Pack your cocktail dress and go all out with glitzy accessories and party-ready heels. If you’re venturing outside of your hotel, you should always check what the dress code is.

If you’re jetting off to Dubai this year, make sure you pack the following in your suitcase:

Cocktail dress
Cover-up cardigan
Party-ready heels
Colourful swimwear
Maxi dress

Dubai is a great city full of fabulous things to see and do, great dining destinations, chic cocktail bars and gorgeous beaches. If you want to read more abut what to do in 24 hours in Dubai, check out my blog post. Have fun!

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Tuesday, 18 April 2017

8 Easy Ways To Save Money On Your Gas And Electricity Bills

Ok, I like my luxuries but I am not one to waste money on essentials. I'd rather take that money and spend it on a holiday or nice meal out. That's why when I was asked if I wanted to work with Contact Numbers UK to promote their #ChallengeMyBills campaign I said yes. 

The Challenge My Bills campaign looks at ways to save money on your utility bills. We all want to save money don't we, but sometimes it seems like a hassle to do it. Here are my top tips on easy ways to save money on your gas and electricity bills.

1. Wrap up



An old tip but a good tip is to wrap up when it's cold. Instead of putting the heating on, use your thermals,  add an extra layer, put a cardigan on, pop your socks on and slippers. Why not get a blanket out if its exceptionally cold? You will be surprised at the difference this will make to your cosiness and your heating bills too.

2. Turn off

This means turning off the lights when you are out of a room, and turning off and unplugging electricals when not in use. When your phone is charged unplug it, you don't have to fully charge it at every moment. The Energy Saving Trust estimates you can save at least £30 a year but turning off appliances on standby.

3. Conserve water



A shower uses a third of the water of a bath, and this, in turn, can save you £18 a year on heating the water. Another way to conserve water is to use make sure any dripping tap is fixed as soon as possible. If it's dripping hot water think of it as pennies going down the drain, and those pennies can turn into pounds. If you are on a water meter this can cost you more too.

4. Draft proof

A simple but effective way to draft proof your home is to use old fashioned draft excluders on doors to stop the drafts and draft proof strips around your windows. In your loft, having effective and thick insulation can really help to stop heat escaping and save you money too. A quarter of your heat is lost through the roof in an un-insulated home. You may even be eligible for a grant for insulation so be sure to Google it!

5. Lower the temperature

Wash at a lower temperature, lower the thermostat on your home heating and rather than use a tumble dryer to dry do it the old fashioned way by using your line or a clothes airer. All this will save energy and in turn save you money.

6. Light the way

Energy saving lightbulbs although more expensive initially can save you money in the long term, as they last much longer and are more efficient. According to Which, replacing just one 60w bulb with a CFL bulb can save you £7 a year. If you think how many light bulbs you have in your home you can see how savings can be had.

7. Use your cooker effectively




Match the pan to the correct size hob, use all the layers in your steamer so your dinner will all cook at once, and batch cook your food so you use up all the oven shelves. I'm a big fan of my slow cooker which uses the energy of a lightbulb and makes tough cheap cuts of meat tender and delicious.

8. Question your tariff

Ring up your service provider and ask if you are on the best tariff. The Contact Numbers UK website has phone numbers for all the main service providers including British Gas, Southern Electric, NPower and more. They can tell you if you are on the right tariff for your usage, give advice on saving energy and help you set up a monthly direct debit which is the cheapest way to pay. If you have gas and electricity with the same provider that can save you money too so ask if they have any special deals.

Check out more energy saving ideas for your home on my blog post here. Do you have any tips on how to save money on your gas and electricity bills?

* in collaboration with Contact Numbers UK
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Sunday, 16 April 2017

Win Airport Lounge Tickets With Plaza Premium Lounges Heathrow Ends 14/05

It’s time for an extra dose of luxury with … Plaza Premium Lounges!

Whilst we all know about them, very few of us have actually experienced an airport lounge. Whether it’s a case of the unknown, the cost, or the hassle, we’re here to say it’s a lot easier than you think. 




Creating culinary delights, expert chefs draw from around the world, to offer both a hot and cold buffet to all guests. To accompany any tempting treat, there is also a selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages on offer, all included in the price!

To help you relax ahead of your flight, the lounges include plenty of plush seating, free WIFI and lots of charging stations for last minute charging of your essential holiday items.

And don’t worry if you’ve not managed to fit in those last minute holiday treatments. With some lounges offering Wellness, the ideal destination for all beauty treatments, you will truly begin your holiday as a pampered passenger.

Heading away on a long-haul flight? No need to worry about checking into a hotel. Some of the lounges even offer luxurious shower facilities and beds, the ideal alternative if you have a longer layover or have travelled from afar to get to the airport. 


Plaza Premium Lounges in the UK



With four lounges in London Heathrow Airport at the moment and a promise of more to come, experiencing an airport lounge has never been easier.

You’ll find Plaza Premium Lounges in Terminals 2 and 4 Departures, and Terminal 2 and 4 Arrivals at London Heathrow.

For the affordable price of just £35 for two hours or £68 for ten hours, Plaza Premium Lounge offers a first class experience, without the hefty price tag. Simply book online or pay on the door ready for a seamless and effortless airport experience.

Whether you’re heading away on a weekend break, a family holiday or an adventure of a lifetime, there is no better way to begin a holiday than with Plaza Premium Lounges, adding an extra dose of luxury to any holiday.

WIN! If all this has put you in the holiday mood and got you reaching for the travel brochure we have TWO tickets to a Plaza Premium Lounge in London Heathrow! Entry is via the Gleam app below.



Win 2 tickets to Plaza Premium Lounge Heathrow

As listed on The Prizefinder, LoquaxSuper LuckyCompetition Database
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Friday, 14 April 2017

5 Things To Consider When Buying A Conservatory

A conservatory can be a cost effective way of adding more space to your home without moving and also increase the value of your home. In this article, I will look at 5 things to consider when buying a conservatory.

1. Research
Think about what you will use the conservatory for. Will you be using it as a dining room, a living room, children's play area or other use? This has implications on the requirements needed and how often you will be using the room, If the room will be used on a regular basis you may need to think about heating and ventilation. Ventilation is extremely important in the summer months as conservatories can become very warm, so consider vents in the roof or windows that open. You could also consider blinds for the conservatory that will keep the room cool in summer and warm in winter. Of course, all these options add to the cost of the design.

Other research that is important is to check out conservatory companies. If you do not have personal recommendation, check out online reviews and get some comparison quotes on a like for like basis. 

2. Design


Most people will want the design of the conservatory to complement their home so that needs to be taken into account when planning.   Will your conservatory be more traditional in design such as an Edwardian or Victorian style or will it be more sleek and modern? A lean to conservatory is one of the simplest and cheapest designs with a single sloped roof with a longer wall adjoined to the house. 

If you have a limited budget you may want to consider one of the many styles of DIY conservatories over a bespoke conservatory. Installing a conservatory yourself is the most cost effective route but does take time and skill. Other options could be to employ a building company to install the conservatory and construct the base. A bespoke conservatory will give you the freedom to design what you want within reason but has obvious cost implications. 

3. Planning 



Adding a conservatory to a house is generally considered to be a permitted development but you should always check the building regulations for your area. You don't want to run foul of planning and then have to demolish the lot. There are some rules that are widespread, for example you won't be allowed to plan a conservatory higher than the roof. 

It's also important to consider your neighbours as you don't want to build a conservatory that will block their views and have a potential legal battle on your hands.

4. Disruption



Having a conservatory installed can cause disruption to your routine and home life.  The time takes will depend on a manner of things such as if you are having in installed or if you are installing the conservatory yourself. 

If you are having the conservatory installed for you, ask the company for an estimation on installation time. Obviously, this will depend on the size of the conservatory, and also whether you are having heating, lighting and other extras installed. allow 12 weeks to be on the safe side.

5. Budget
One of the most important considerations I have left to last is budget. This is because you may have a budget in mind but until you do your research on design, your requirements and potential costs then you cannot really tell how much it will cost. 

You also have to budget for hidden extras such as heating, ventilation, blinds, workmen, furniture and furnishings and don't forget to build in a contingency budget if something unexpected happens. 

Tell me, have you ever considered a conservatory?

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Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Win A Short Break With Visit Eastbourne Ends 26/04

The UK has some beautiful areas so it is not surprising that staycations are becoming increasingly popular. As the pound weakens you don't have to worry about the exchange rate, the hassle of taking a flight, and concerns about security overseas. One of those up and coming tourist destinations that may not be on your radar is Eastbourne - a secret gem on the south coast of England.

A seaside town with culture

 

Eastbourne pier


Eastbourne is a large seaside town and borough with a vibrant cultural scene. As well as the lovely beaches recommended in the Good Beach Guide it has lots to see and do for people of all ages. 

The town itself has no less than 5 theatres showing everything from West End shows to local comedians and the award-winning Towner art gallery has a range of events for all the family. Kids are looked after with the Eastbourne miniature steam railway, the Redoubt fortress military museum and the Treasure Island adventure park, which has indoor and outdoor adventure areas as well as pirate-themed mini golf. Aha me hearties!

Superb places to eat
The Beach Deck

If you are like me and always look for great places to eat on holiday you will be spoilt for choice as Eastbourne has some wonderful restaurants. From casual beachside dining with a touch of class at The Beach Deck on the picturesque seafront to fine dining in the Mirabelle restaurant at the Grand Hotel, recently voted one of the 50 best restaurants in the UK by the Independent newspaper. 

One of my favourite places is Season's brasserie, a restaurant, deli and wine bar. Check out their wine tastings throughout the year and their live music events for a great evening of entertainment.  Of course, you also have the option to get a tasty bag of fish and chips from the many fish bars and restaurants along the prom too or a delicious ice-cream from one of the many vendors.

Great places to drink

Visit Eastbourne and enjoy a glass of wine on the waterfront


Did you know Eastbourne has some great food and drink events throughout the year as well? The Beer and Cider By The Sea festival is on the 26th to the 28th of May this year and the Eastbourne Beer Festival is on the 5th to the 7th of October. At both of these events, you can try lots of delicious hearty real ales as well as listen to live music and be thoroughly entertained.

If you love a glass of wine only a few miles from Eastbourne town is Rathfinny Wine Estate in Alfriston where they produce the outstanding Sussex sparkling wine. You can visit Rathfinny for a wine tour or tasting or visit the historic Flint 
Barns on the estate to enjoy coffee and cake, brunch or Sunday lunch. Cheers!

Around the Eastbourne area

Beachy Head

If you want to venture further afield, only a short drive from Eastbourne town is Beachy Head, the highest chalk sea cliff in Britain, and the South Downs National Park with beautiful countryside and pretty little villages like Alfriston, only seven miles away.

The Eastbourne holiday guide

Eastbourne prom

So as you can see Eastbourne is a great place to visit. I hope I have whetted your appetite with this guide to Eastbourne and if you would like more information about the area, check out the online Eastbourne Holiday Guide. The guide is extra special as it is full of great attractions, brilliant places to stay and superb places to eat as well as exclusive offers. Go on, have a peek!

Win a stay in Eastbourne



Lansdowne hotel Eastbourne

Today on my blog I am giving you the chance to win a lovely prize - a 2-night stay with breakfast and vintage afternoon tea at the Lansdowne Hotel Eastbourne! Entry is easy through the Rafflecopter application below, for full terms and conditions check out the information on the Rafflecopter app. Good luck and I hope you get the chance to visit Eastbourne soon.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Monday, 10 April 2017

How To Avoid Jet Lag

If you have flown long haul you have probably had jet lag at some point.  You know those feelings  - difficulty in sleeping, disorientation, loss of appetite, but jet lag can materialise in a number of other ways too. In this article I will talk about jet lag, if you can prevent it and treatments for this condition. 




What is jet lag?

Jet lag is a term used to describe a range of temporary symptoms caused by air travel over different time zones due to the disruption in your internal 'body clock' or circadian rhythm. The symptoms materialise when adapting to the different light/dark schedule of a new time zone.


These symptoms can include the following:-
  • disturbed sleep pattern 
  • nausea 
  • loss of appetite 
  • difficulty in concentrating 
  • disorientation 
  • clumsiness 
  • headaches 
  • indigestion 
  • constipation 
  • irritability 
  • irregular periods

Jet lag is worse when you travel over a number of time zones and travelling east is worse than travelling west. When you travel east you effectively lose time and when you travel west you will effectively gain time and the body adjusts better to gaining time and having a longer day.

In most cases, jet lag symptoms pass in a few days but there are some things you can do to lessen the effects of jet lag in the first place.

Can jet lag be prevented?



It is difficult to avoid jet lag completely when you are travelling over a number of time zones but there are a number of things you can do to lessen the effects on you.

Keep hydrated - make sure she drink plenty of fluids and lay off the caffeine and alcohol which can dehydrate you.

Get plenty of rest - before you go on your journey ensure you try and relax and get plenty of sleep beforehand. 

Avoid sleeping tablets - these won't help your body adjust to the different time zones so are best avoided where possible.

Set your watch to the destination time - when you get on the plane if you set your watch it helps you mentally adjust to the different time zones.

Fly on a Dreamliner plane - a Boeing Dreamliner plane has a pressurised cabin at 6000 feet other than the normal 8000 feet, this means the cabin air is more dense and there is more oxygen saturation. This combined with LED lighting that subtly changes with the time zones and superior quailty air with 10 per cent more oxygen means less chance of jet lag.

Treatment for jet lag


On arrival stay awake until the local bedtime. If you find that hard try getting some fresh air and go for a brisk walk if it's daylight as this will also help you stay awake. 

Establish a local routine straight away to get you and your body used to the country you are in and the time zone. Eat and sleep at the local time not the time you would at home.

Research has shown that sunglasses may help reduce the effects of jet lag, so wear these to emulate nighttime. 


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Consider using Melatonin a naturally occurring hormone. Melatonin which is produced by the body when it is dark, has been found to help people sleep and reduce general feelings of jet lag. Melatonin is available on prescription in the UK and online, and widely available over the counter in the US. If in doubt and before taking any medication always check with a Dr first.

Tell me, have you flown long haul? Have you ever experienced jet lag?

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Friday, 7 April 2017

Super Spring Time Competition To Win £75

So today I have another fabulous and oh so sexy competition for you. This time you have the chance to Win £75 with The Diary Of A Jewellery Lover, Zena’s Suitcase and Ickle Pickles Life and Travels



To celebrate spring and the gorgeous weather our readers can win this lovely prize,  £75 via PayPal to spend on whatever you want. Maybe you want to buy some new clothes for a weekend away, or want to spend a day at the races, or you may have a big birthday celebration or summer wedding. You can spend the money on whatever and whoever you like. Perhaps a meal out or day out with the family?

Simply answer the question in the comments ‘What would you spend the money on?’  If you like the prize (and who wouldn't!?) you can come back daily and gain more entries, so don't forget to bookmark this page.

The competition ends at midnight on 31 May 2017 and is open to people Worldwide.

So, don't forget to enter and while you are here check out my other competitions running too.

Good Luck and keep your fingers crossed.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

As listed on The Prizefinder, LoquaxSuper LuckyCompetition Database
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5 Of The Most Romantic London Restaurants

Paris might be considered the city of romance, but London is the undisputed winner when it comes to hip bars and restaurants. From SOHO to Shoreditch and even less popular boroughs such as Southwark and Lambeth have a lot to offer when it comes to dining, pubs and restaurants. And what is more romantic than a cosy dinner with your date or an anniversary visit to a fancy restaurant with your partner? Right… not that much! Here are 5 of the most romantic restaurants in London for you and your partner to discover.

Old Bank Of England 



Fleet Street’s demon barber might be a thing of the past, but great pies can still be found when visiting the Old Bank Of England. The pub and restaurant lie between the site of Sweeney Todd’s barber shop and Mrs Lovett’s pie shop. As well as being a historic place ( the Crown Jewels were stored in the cellars of the building during World War II ), it also has an incredible menu filled with perfectly executed pub food and a list of great ales to choose from.

If you looking for something lively with a great décor for your first date then this one might be your perfect fit.

Berners Tavern

The name might not give it away but this establishment is actually very upscale. With a menu from chef Jason Atherton featuring everything from lobster to aged Scottish beef burger, you know this joint will not be the cheapest out there… but you can bet that it is one of the most beautiful!

It's a perfect mix between old and new and with a modern design and eclectic paintings on the wall, Berners Tavern is an absolute treat to the eye. One of the best restaurants to celebrate an anniversary.

Clos Maggiore 



Clos Maggiore ranks high up there for restaurants with a unique décor. The flowers and branches that weave an intricate tapestry above the diner’s head and the country-style decorations will transport you to a small and cosy Tuscan village. The menu is interspersed with some great Italian ingredients and their other ingredients are all handpicked and UK sourced too. Planning a proposal? This might be the perfect place to do it.

Savoy Grill 


The Savoy Grill is an exceptionally good restaurant. It is fine dining by the hand of the master himself - Gordon Ramsay. Yes, I know, it is quite pricey but it pays to keep an eye on discount websites like Groupon and bookatable for the best deals. The interior is very formal and I absolutely love how they do it French style, by having a daily roast that, when you decide to order it, is rolled out to your table and freshly cut for your pleasure. The restaurant has a very cosy feel to with enough privacy for each table. Big talks and great anniversaries are a good fit for this one.

Bob Bob Ricard

I absolutely love this restaurant, do you know why? At every table, it has "press for Champagne", how decadent it that! I always feel like a 1930’s American mobster when walking into this place. This is very much a spend and splurge restaurant but when living in London, I am of the strong opinion you have to have been here at least once in your life. The food is absolutely fantastic, finger licking good and I always look forward to ordering desert since their chocolate sauces are divine. This restaurant is perfect when you’ve recently bought a diamond ring and need to ask your partner something…

* Guest post written by Max Lami of www.maxlami.co.uk
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Wednesday, 5 April 2017

How To Choose Flooring For Your Home

When you are looking for flooring for your home there are so many options out there it can be confusing. This post will take you through some of the main options and look at the pros and cons of the different type of flooring materials out there. 

Firstly before you start you need to think about the look you want to achieve, the type of room it is, and how much footfall the area gets. This can all impact of the material chosen for a room. Your budget and the size of the area needed to be covered are also a major consideration. Then you can compare different materials.

Hardwood


Hardwood flooring is very durable and warm underfoot and is the perfect choice for a traditional and classic look. It is particularly good for high-traffic areas such as hallways. Oak and cherry wood are a popular choice and more exotic woods are now coming into vogue too.

Hardwood flooring is however expensive and not ideal for bathrooms and kitchens due to the moistness in the air which can affect it. 

Laminate

Laminate flooring is flooring that is simulated to look like another material.  It is a popular choice as it is cost effective and easy to install yourself especially when it comes in planks which you slot together.

The beauty of laminate is that it can be made to look like wood and stone as well as other types of materials. If you want a metal or leather looking floor then why not? 

Vinyl


Vinyl flooring is one of the most popular choices due to its cost effectiveness and ease of installation.

If you want wood in your bathroom or kitchen then consider wood effect vinyl flooring as it is durable and the moisture doesn't affect it unlike hardwood flooring.  It is also easier to keep clean and softer underfoot than some other options like concrete and stone. 

Concrete

Concrete flooring if the ultimate durable flooring option for a home. It is particularly suitable for garages and workhouses as it's very low maintenance and difficult to damage. A concrete floor can last a hundred years or more if it is looked after and maintained.

It is, however, cold underfoot, not easy to install and messy to put down. You would need a workman with experience to fit a concrete floor.


Carpet


Carpet is a popular choice as it is warm underfoot, provides cushioning and helps muffle noise. It also has the benefit of helping to save energy through insulation. Carpets can also be fitted with relatively little experience if you are trying to keep costs low.

Carpets can be more difficult to keep clean than other types of flooring, especially light coloured carpets and those with a long pile. If you buy a carpet with a stain guard in this will help with upkeep and maintenance.

Tiles

Rather than being one type of material, tiles can be made of a number of different materials including porcelain, ceramic and stone. Tiles can also be made of cork, vinyl, lino and carpet. Mosaic tiles can also add a design feature to a room.

The pros and cons of tiles depend on the type of material used. Porcelain tiles are impervious to water and this means they make a great option for kitchen and bathrooms. Ceramic tiles are very hard, easy to maintain but are cold underfoot. Stone tiles are hard wearing and hygienic but expensive to buy. Tiles are generally easy to fit and slot into place without much difficulty. This means that if you need to replace a tile it can be done quite easily. 


Tell me which type of flooring do you like? Which do you use in your home?

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Monday, 3 April 2017

The Reykjavik Food Walk Tour Iceland

Iceland is a country known for it's 'worse' food options, think rotten shark, 'black death' vodka and boiled and singed sheep's head, so it was with a little trepidation that I booked a Reykjavik food walk tour of the city with Mr W on our recent visit.  

Of course, I needn't have worried as I also knew that Iceland is known for its amazing fresh fish, seafood and tender lamb too. 

The Reykjavik Food Walk tour is an authorised food tour by the Iceland tourist board and is run by local foodie enthusiasts.



We met our tour guide, in front of Harpa the concert hall at the harbour.  You can't miss it if you are a tourist as it's pretty spectacular. Our guide was spectacular too, and you couldn't miss him either, Kjarnan, was tall with a great long red beard, and round Harry Potter glasses. 


our guide Kjarnan
So after our introductions, the small group departed from Harpa to our first stop at The Icelandic Bar.

Now before the tour, I had prepared myself. Information sent out from the company gave us the weather information which was very handy as Iceland's weather is notorious for being very changeable.  I also came hungry as the food tour is approximately 4 hours in length and includes a number of stops at local restaurants.  


lamb soup

At our first stop at the Icelandic Bar, we tried the lamb soup. It is the type of soup that grandmothers pass down through generations and consists of root vegetables, chunks of lamb and a gravy. Sometimes with this type of soup barley or oats are added although this variation did not have any. The soup was totally delicious, full of chunky piece of tender lamb. It reminded me a little of the Welsh soup Cawl. Accompanying the soup we were given lots of lovely bread. 

Lambs roam freely in Iceland and you will find lamb on most restaurant menus. If you go to Iceland and you eat red meat be sure to try the lamb dishes.

After our lamb soup, we moved to our next stop at Osta Budin.




Osta Budin deli

Osta Budin is well-known as an excellent delicatessen in the centre of Reykjavik, It also has a highly recommended restaurant attached which is number 3 on Trip Advisor for restaurants in Reykjavik.


meats and cheeses in Osta Budin

Here we had a chance to try a selection of meat and cheeses. Kjarnan explained to us these are local cheeses and cured meats, and there may be one or two things that are slightly unusual here. So what did we get that was unusual... smoked goose and cured horse that is what?! Now I'm an adventurous soul and years ago I tried horse in Franch so as the saying goes, in for a penny, in for a pound and I tried the lot. The horse tasted a little like beef, I wasn't too keen on the texture though as it was soft, the goose, however, was delicious and reminded me of smoked turkey.  The cheeses were very good, all different - a blue cheese, a harder Gouda-style cheese which was particularly tasty and a soft brie style cheese. Apparently, they only use cows milk to make cheese in Iceland and Kjarnan stated they are missing a trick here.

The little deli is a treasure trove of local delicacies and I would certainly recommend a visit if you are in Reykjavik.


Hallgrimskirkja

The next stop was Loki, a well-known restaurant that serves Icelandic food near Hallgrimskirkja, the iconic church for which Reykjavik is known.

Now rye bread is found everywhere in Scandinavia and Iceland too, and the ice cream we were to try on this foodie stop was made of rye bread. 

Rye bread ice-cream 

They make the ice-cream by caramelising the rye bread to get the right sweet flavour and it certainly showed in the taste.  With little chunks of rye bread in a smooth creamy ice-cream, it was an interesting flavour and had a great texture. Topped with whipped cream and caramel sauce I would definitely recommend trying it if you have a sweet tooth.  Loki is also a place good for trying the more unusual and traditional Icelandic foods as mentioned previously.

Before our next stop, we had a little history lesson from our guide, all about Norse gods. Kjarnan really knew his history and was a well-read and knowledgeable guide. I had to throw a little curve ball in here and asked him a question - was it true that many Icelandics believe in elves? At this point, Kjarnan laughed at me as said that is a load of nonsense, so that put me right. I told him I saw an 'elf school' on the travel show Travel Man and Kjarnan said that the owner of the school is, how can I say, a little unhinged!


Mr W and the infamous Icelandic hot dog

Onto our next stop. Now as food in Reykjavik is so expensive, the next item had to be the famous Iceland hotdog, the cheapest and most popular street food in Iceland. The stall we stopped by was well-known as Bill Clinton stopped here on his visit to Iceland. and is called Bæjarins Beztu Pylsu, which translates to best hot dogs in town.  We were told to have it with 'the works' this consisted of a ketchup sweetened with apple sauce, a sweet brown mustard, crispy onions and a remoulade that was sweet and a little sour. These hotdogs are made with lamb and were incredibly yummy. Were they much different to the hot dogs you get in the UK? Probably not but I think the extras all added to the flavour and they are a cheap street food for the Icelandics, as a sandwich can cost £10 in a cafe. These hotdogs were around the £3 mark.

Seabaron

Next stop was the Seabaron, a well-known restaurant on the harbour and at this point, we were getting full! 

Icelandic seafood soup

Here we were given a bowl of Icelandic seafood soup. The seafood soup reminded me of Tom Yum soup from Thailand, and we were told this is because coconut milk is added to this recipe. The soup was rich and tasty but did not really have any seafood in it except for a very small piece of lobster. Lots of bread accompanied the soup.

The Sea Baron is a rustic restaurant and here you can have the infamous rotten shark or hákarl which is actually fermented shark, not rotten shark. One to try at a later date! We also learnt here from our guide that beer was illegal in Iceland until 1989.

Just before our last stop, we were given a Skyr dessert. Now Skyr is made with curds from milk and is thought of as yoghurt but is actually made like a cheese. The dessert though tasted like a thick creamy yoghurt and was lovely.

Mr W trying Skyr

Our last stop was Apotek, a fine dining restaurant. It used to be a pharmacy in the past. Here we were given coffee and dessert. The dessert was outstanding, a beautifully presented concoction of chocolate, raspberry and lemon. The menu here looked really interesting and this would be a place for a special occasion meal for sure.

beautiful presentation at Apotek

Finally, before we left we were given a parting gift of a bar of chocolate called EITTSETT, which has a layer of liquorice on the top. As I am not a fan of liquorice I kept this as a gift for my son.

We both thought the Reykjavik Food Walk was a really great introduction to Icelandic food from street food to gourmet food. Our guide was funny, interesting and really made the tour entertaining. Vegetarians are catered for, and other dietary needs so be sure to contact them in advance to explain any issues. As Mr W doesn't eat much red meat he was offered vegetarian options. 


Pin for later

The Reykjavik Food Walk costs 13900 ISK, which is about £100. Yes, it is costly but everything in Iceland is. If you are a foodie though it is certainly worth doing. If you want a laugh, learn about the history of this beautiful country, and orientate yourself to Rekyavik do it! The best thing though is that you won't go home hungry. We really loved Iceland, it is a beautiful country and the Reykjavik Food Walk was a brilliant afternoon in the capital city. Why don't you check out some of the highlights of the food tour below from my travel blog Fly Drive Explore? Highly recommended.





The Reykjavik Food Walk
Austurstræti 17, 
101 Reykjavík 
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