Sunday, 22 July 2018

Win Unusual Cufflinks From Off The Cuff Ends 21/08

It can be difficult at times buying a perfect gift, especially for men. Well, why not a pair of cufflinks from Off The Cuff? Off The Cuff sell unusual cufflinks from their Etsy shop online. 





The owner of the shop Pete started making and selling cufflinks in 2010 as a creative outlet from his day job. Since then his Etsy shop has grown well and sells over 170 different cufflinks. From fidget spinner cufflinks to silver meteorite cufflinks to watch movement cufflinks, you know that if you buy a pair of cufflinks, they will be unique and no one else will have the same. 





The watch movement cufflinks are made from vintage mechanical watches, some up to 50 years old. The watch parts are carefully cleaned and polished and set in epoxy resin which protects the movement and the dome concentrates light which really makes the detail stand out. So unusual and different, don't you think?

At the moment Pete has a Kickstarter campaign running to buy equipment to make the process of creating the cufflinks easier, check it out.  For a little over £20 you can get a pair of these cufflinks if you pledge on the Kickstarter campaign.




Today on my blog you can win a pair of the prototype cufflinks made for the Kickstarter project, perfect as a graduation gift, or birthday present.

Entry is via the Gleam application below. It's straightforward to enter honestly, just register, leave a blog comment and click on the ways you wish to enter. Why don't you bookmark the page and come back for a daily entry? Good luck!

Win a pair of cufflinks with Off The Cuff
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How To Make The Most Of A Small Bedroom


Many of us live in a small space these days. Houses are more expensive than ever and space in cities is at a premium.

You may even be renting a bedroom and have shared kitchen and bathroom facilities, so it's important to make the most of the space available to you. Here are some ideas to make the most of a small bedroom.

Decorate in light colours




Use light colours on the walls to make the space look bright and airy. Avoid elaborate drapes, as simple blinds without fuss will add some chicness to the room and not look overly fussy.

It doesn't have to be all white though, tones of blues, greens and beige can all be used to create interest, just use bright colours sparingly for example on a duvet or scatter cushions and not on the walls.

Utilise lighting effectively

A small room can benefit from lots of lighting. Think of different ways to light the room, such as a mix of table lamps, downlights, uplights and spotlights for all purposes. 

You can then take the room from a working space to a cosy chill out space in next to no time. 

Be multi-functional





There are some cool multi-functional pieces of furniture around such as ottomans that can store bedding as well as being a seat or footstool, and sleek desks that also have shelving.

A small double divan bed with mattress and headboard can fit into the space perfectly whilst the under bed storage is useful for hiding away items you don't want on display.

Consider fitted units

Floor to ceiling fitted units can be a godsend in a small space. If you can't afford that what about making your headboard into drawers like in this article? Source a workman locally and you will get something unique for your home.

Mirrors can create an illusion


The old trick of using mirrors strategically can add an illusion of space and make it look as you have double the area. The bigger the mirror, the bigger the space will look. 

Fitting a mirror on a wall can work the best but having a free-standing mirror can also work if you are renting and can't attach anything to the wall. 

Curtains aren't just for windows

You can use curtains to divide a room, whilst giving some privacy too. Curtains can also be used to create a dressing area or divide a dining area from your sleeping area.

Wall mount your TV


Wall mounting your TV is a simple and effective idea that we expect in hotels these days so why not mount it on the wall? Again you may have to check if you can do this if you are renting but this is perfect when making the most of a small space as there is no need for a TV stand taking up room. 

While you are at it, think about subscribing to a streaming service like Netflix or Amazon Prime too, and do away with the clutter of your old DVDs.

For more ideas about making the most of a small space, check out my article on storage solutions to get the most out of your small space

Do you have any ideas on how to make the most of a small space?

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Friday, 20 July 2018

Driving The Great Ocean Road Australia

The Great Ocean Road in Australia is one of the most scenic and unforgettable road trips in the world. The beautiful coastline is just breathtaking and this is what makes the Great Ocean Road a memorable experience. In this post, I will talk about driving the Great Ocean Road in Australia and the must-see stops along the way. 

First a little about why we love road trips.

We adore road trips. Exploring the wide open spaces, seeing the beauty of the coastline, stopping in little towns and exploring and going off the beaten path are some of the reasons we love it so much. The world is a huge place and a road trip is a great way of seeing more of it. You also have an amount of freedom on a road trip, things aren't generally so scheduled, so if you see that instagrammable spot or that idyllic beachside cafe, you can stop and take it all in.




We've driven around the American deep south from Memphis to Nashville, along the Pacific Coast Highway in California and around the Golden Circle, the south and north of Iceland. So when Mr W suggested we travel to Austrailia and drive around the country then, of course, I said yes.

Austraila is a huge country and there are some great road trips to take, but we decided to focus on the Great Ocean Road, one of the most scenic drives in the whole of Australia.  





The Great Ocean Road is a 151 mile (243 kilometres) stretch of road along the south-east coast of Australia between Torquay and Allansford. Built by returned soldiers between 1919 and 1932 and dedicated to soldiers killed during World War I, the road is the world's largest war memorial.


Firstly preparation is key for a road trip. Choose your car or motorhome well.

A car should be comfortable to drive and have air conditioning, a convertible may seem glamorous but you need to weigh up the pros and cons such as where will you put your bags and don't forget your sunscreen if you hire a convertible. Some towns may be small and not have a lot of accommodation so it's always worth booking ahead especially in peak season.

With a motorhome you will have your place to stay with you at all times, however, you may not be able to park anywhere you like, so plan out the campsites in advance. You can buy a used motorhome here which may be worth it if you are travelling across Austrailia for a few months.

So you have got your wheels sorted, packed your swimsuit and your sunscreen and now it's time to plan the stops along the way of the Great Ocean Road in Australia. Here are some of the key towns to visit along the drive.

Torquay




The Great Ocean Road officially starts in Torquay (not the British one), a town famous for its surfing culture. The brands Rip Curl and Quiksilver were founded here and it has a surfing museum called Surf World, about surfing culture.

It's also close to Bell's Beach made famous by the film Point Break and every year Rip Curl hold their pro surfing competition here.

Lorne



Lorne is a picturesque town known for its arts community. While you are here stop by at Qdos ARTS with its gallery and sculpture park. Mountjoy Parade has many shops and cafes so why not stop for coffee and cake and watch the world go by.

Drive to Teddy's Lookout for a spectacular view of the Great Ocean Road over St George River and the coast. Close by are Angahook-Lorne State Park and the gorgeous Erskine Falls set among ferns.

Kennett River



Kennett River is a small seaside town 17 miles from Lorne. It is famous as it's one of the best places in Austrailia to see koala bears in the wild. Turn into Grey River Road, off the Great Ocean Road, and along the first two kilometres of the road, look up and you should be able to spot koalas in the eucalyptus. Also look out for king parrots, rosellas - a type of parrot and kookaburras. 

Watch out for dolphins and seals along the coast and magnificent whales from May to September. 

Apollo Bay



Apollo Bay is a small seaside town known for the Apollo Bay Music Festival every April as well as the Great Ocean Sports Festival. It has shops, cafes and restaurants and is a great place to stop along the way.

Close by is Cape Otway with Australia's oldest lighthouse as well as rainforests, streams, rocky cliffs and sandy beaches. Cape Otway was originally inhabited by the Gadubanud people, indigenous Australian people from Victoria and evidence of their campsites is contained in the middens throughout the region.

Port Campbell




Port Cambell is a small town known for the Twelve Apostles. These huge limestone structures tower up into the sky with a backdrop of limestone cliffs.

Whilst in town take a walk on the Port Campbell jetty and then head inland to the Kanawinka Geotrail comprising of volcanic lakes and craters. This volcanic plain is the largest in Austrailia and the third largest in the world.


Pin for later

As you can see there are lots to see and do along the Great Ocean Drive, some amazing wildlife to encounter and beautiful coastal points. 

For more about the Great Ocean Road check out the official Great Ocean Road website. 

Let me know, do you like road trips? Would you drive the Great Ocean Road in Australia?

*PR Collaboration 

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Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Being A First Time Driver

Do you remember your first time? Your first time driving that is! I must admit it was a few years ago now for me, but I still remember the excitement of passing my test and then the minefield of buying a car, getting insurance, driving on the motorway for the first time and all the rest.




My first car was a Ford Fiesta. I saved up for it for about 18 months and it cost me £1000. I loved my little car.   Of course, there has been the odd bump along the way, I even skidded on ice and drove my car into a hedge, I was lucky that the car didn't turn over! My next car was a Peugeot 205. I only had it three months and it was stolen. That was my first heartbreak. Not a boy.

Over the years I have learnt some things about driving, like seriously don't skid on ice. Today on my blog I am sharing some tips on how to make your life easier as a first-time driver, from someone who has been there.

Passing your test



Preparation is key.  Get a driving instructor that you feel confident with, perhaps ask around family and friends for a recommendation, but if you don't feel comfortable with them, don't be afraid to change. I changed mine.

Before you start driving ensure you have an up-to-date eye test and that you wear glasses or contact lenses if need be, then practice, practice, practice. Practice driving and also the theory paper so you are ready to pass your test.  

If you don't pass the first time, it's not the end of the world, have some more practice and apply for your test again. If you leave it too long you may lose confidence.

Buying your first car




Buying and running a car is expensive. There is car tax, MOT and servicing, petrol costs and car insurance to consider. You can, however, do some things to keep costs down. 

Firstly buy a car that is economical to run which is especially important if you are driving a lot of miles. You may need to balance the comfort of a slightly bigger car with the economy of a smaller car. 

Swot up on car tax and buy a car in a low car tax band to save money.  If you are looking for cheap petrol, supermarkets are often the best, but to take the guesswork out of it, download the Petrol Prices app to compare prices locally.

Insurance




Car insurance for a first-time driver can be expensive but there are some ways to bring the cost down.

Firstly, there are three different types of car insurance - third party only, third party fire and theft, and fully comprehensive and you need to understand the differences. Then shop around online to get the best rates. Adding a second responsible driver, with more experience may cut the cost. 


Some sites like Aviva will have a driving app that will monitor your driving skills and help you save money on your insurance. It also comes with an integrated dash cam to record any incidents so this can help support you in a legal claim too. Genius!

Rules of the road




Of course, when you have passed your test sometimes bad habits kick in. 

Only a fool breaks the 2-second rule - if you are of a certain age you may remember this advert, which means keep 2 seconds between you and the driver in front. Especially important when driving on the motorway. Also in wet weather conditions, your stopping distance will be further, so leave more braking distance. 

Ignore your phone!  Do not be tempted to answer it when driving. It's illegal to use your phone whilst driving and the sound of it will distract you so keep it on silent when driving. The only time I would look at my phone is if I am using it as a Sat Nav. It can be useful in that circumstance.

You can get 'P' plates to make others aware you are a new driver and it may help them become more considerate. 

You can have special lessons to help with your confidence driving on the motorway and if you are nervous having calming music playing quietly may help - its worth a try. As you gain experience you will become more confident and start to enjoy driving. 

Drive with consideration of others on the road and you won't go far wrong. Enjoy being a first-time driver!

*PR collaboration with Aviva


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Monday, 16 July 2018

The Feathers Hotel Woodstock Cotswolds Review

Imagine the most idyllic Cotswolds location, with cute little restaurants, antique shops and a deli selling local meats and cheeses, and this is where the Feathers Hotel is located, in Woodstock England. 

The Feathers Hotel is one of those hotels you may stumble upon but is a well-kept secret, the sort of hotel you don't really want others knowing about as it's just too perfect and you want to keep it all to yourself.



It's not always easy to find a traditional country hotel which mixes traditional decor with modern facilities but the Feathers hotel manages to do just that. 


Check in was swift and the receptionist welcoming and polite. The hotel is decorated like a modern version of a country house hotel - I personally loved the decor and immediately thought Kirsty Alsop would be very happy here!



We were shown to our room on the top floor. Stairs were winding and due to the fact that this is a 17th-century building then there is no lift, but it was so worth it. Our suite was huge!

The suite was a collection of three spaces, a dining area, lounge area with a toilet, and a separate bedroom with an ensuite bathroom. 


The dining area was big enough for six to sit around. There was also a tea and coffee tray with kettle and a phone in here.


The lounge area was very comfortable, with two chairs, a sofa, small table and footstool. The TV was a smart TV which is always nice to have to play YouTube.



There was a dark wood dressing table here and mirror. Always useful to have a dressing table in the room, and plug sockets were next to it so you could plug in a hairdryer. Bottles of water were provided.



It was great to have a second toilet with wash basin and mirror, as Mr W always hogs the bathroom getting ready in the morning!




The bedroom was through a set of doors which added privacy.






The bed was a king size and was super comfy. Mr W jumped on it to test it out, he's a big kid at heart, even though he looks like an old prune (only joking).

The bedroom had air conditioning which was really appreciated on one of the hottest days of the year. There was also a fan in the lounge if required.




I was impressed that the bathroom was super modern with a shower, separate bath, toilet and sink. Some things you want modern and up-to-date don't you? Fluffy robes added a nice touch and complimentary toiletries were provided, as well as cotton wool and cotton buds.

What you can't really comprehend from the photos was the size of the suite which must be the biggest hotel room I've stayed in, in the UK.


So we decided to have a wander. Downstairs there is a lounge area, a dining room and also a bar.



As you can see it was all decorated in rich colours, giving a feel of heritage and luxury.



The small bar was jam-packed full of gin! They make a point of stocking over 400 gins and have a place in the Guinness book of records for offering the greatest selection of gins on the planet.  





If you don't like gin though, don't panic, as the wine list was more than adequate too, I had a lovely Sauvignon Blanc by the glass. and with a decent selection of spirits then all your liberation needs are met.



The dining room was again decorated in rich colours and was impeccably set out.



Love this quirky display in the dining room of stacked china, it reminded me of something out of Alice in Wonderland.

So we went back to our room to freshen up and returned downstairs for dinner at 7.30PM.  When we checked in the receptionist (Monica?) suggested we take our dinner in the outside courtyard, so we decided to do just that.


The outside courtyard is a really lovely area to have drinks or a meal. Service was attentive from Flavio. 



We ordered a gin cocktail to start then looked over the menu. 



The menu had a wide range of items from fish and chips and steak, to pork belly and lamb as well as a vegetarian option.



I had rollmops (pickled herrings) on the nibbles section to start. They were good with a mild horseradish cream inside, and tasted strongly of the pickled vinegar, but exactly as they should be. 


Mr W ordered the Ceasar salad which came with chicken. I felt the salad would have been better without the chicken as it was so tasty on its own and the chicken didn't add anything to the dish.



For mains, Mr W ordered a tagliatelli of broccoli and artichokes with a Roquefort sauce and I ordered plaice, brown shrimps, cucumber and dill new potatoes.

Both dishes were beautifully presented and looked very appetising. Although the fish was tasty in the dill sauce, the tagliatelli was amazing, so rich but utterly delicious, and the Roquefort didn't overpower the pasta either. 



But the best was yet to come, a sticky toffee pudding, with a light as a feather sponge, drowning in a sweet, sticky, moreish toffee sauce and accompanied with a tonka bean ice cream with hints of vanilla.  Possibly the best sticky toffee pudding I've ever had. Just outstanding.




To round off the meal, Mr W decided to have coffee which came with the most delectable petit fours. A light coconut sweet, a dark chocolate truffle and a fruity petit four, with mango and passion fruit flavours. The last petit four I popped in my mouth and had a cool little surprise, a topping of popping candy fizzed in my mouth and added a little touch that was just delicious.

So with full stomachs, we retired to bed. We slept well on the comfy bed and the next morning,  we came downstairs to have breakfast in the dining room.




There was a small continental selection of fruit, cereals, pastries and yogurt to start. You could order from the menu. 








Choices on the menu included a full English breakfast, poached or scrambled eggs, kippers, pancakes with bacon and maple syrup, smoked haddock and more. You could even order a glass of prosecco to go with your breakfast.


We helped ourselves to fruit and then the waitress came around and took our order for tea or coffee and also toast.  We ordered a full English breakfast and a bacon and mushroom omelette.



Mr W enjoyed his full English breakfast whilst the omelette I had well prepared, seasoned, light and fluffy. 



Our time was up at the Feathers hotel so with heavy hearts we packed our suitcases and headed home.


So was the Feather hotel perfect? Well, of course, nothing is. The suite was lovely but may not be to everyone's taste if you like minimalism. The building is old and they don't have a lift but it adds to the character. I couldn't really fault the food or the location in Woodstock, a charming little town by the entrance to Blenheim Palace. What I did notice though was that it felt like a real treat to stay here.


Check out the video Mr W made for the travel blog and YouTube channel we run together Fly Drive Explore.





Would I stay again? Most definitely. The Feathers is a hotel jam packed full of character, personality and vivaciousness. Staff were very well trained, and the food excellent. I would certainly stay again, and In fact, I am planning to take my mother-in-law here on a visit to the area. Highly recommended.

The Feathers
Market Street,
Woodstock,
Oxfordshire,
OX20 1SX
01993 812 29
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