Thursday, 31 May 2018

Bagging A Bargain On Your Next Luxury Handbag

It’s true when they say that a woman can never have too many bags. Having options to pair with all of your outfits is never easy, and most of us will want to have enough of them to keep our outfits fresh and up-to-date. This isn’t always easy, though, given the price of a lot of the luxury options on the market. To help you out with this, I will be exploring four of the very best ways to bag a bargain when you’re buying your next handbag and ways to save you loads of money.

Browse online marketplaces

Over the last couple of years, websites like Depop have managed to make a name for themselves acting as a marketplace for people who want to sell the items which they don’t want to keep. Anything, ranging from clothes to shoes and handbags can be found on this platform, and its a great place to find vintage bags of all different designs. You can snap up a bargain at a percentage of the original asking price.

Explore the outlets

In some cases, you won’t want to go second hand with your handbag purchase so looking for a way to save money on a new one will be of utmost importance. One of the easiest ways to do this is to use outlet stores, which is much cheaper than going for the normal high street options. At outlets, the goods on sale may have slight defects or imperfections or are last seasons designs but you will get them at a great reduction on the RRP.

Check out discount codes

You should be able to find loads of stores on the web which can help you to find products like luxury handbags. Some sell new, some sell second hand, and loads of them will offer special deals if you have the right code. Michael Kors Voucher Codes, for example, can be used to get some great savings on handbags which you’d never be able to afford without it. This sort of route can be taken with most of the shops and designers you can find.

Join social media groups

Social media can be an amazing tool when you’re shopping for bargains. There are loads of closed and open groups which are set up for the sole purpose of sharing deals, coupon codes, and other ways to save money. By signing up for these sorts of pages, you will give yourself the chance to find better deals without having to do any work at all. There are also a number of Facebook groups dedicated to selling second hand and unwanted gifts. 

Rummage in thrift shops

Lastly, check out the thrift or charity shops in a wealthy location. You will be surprised what you can find at the right price. I've seen Cath Kidston and Kipling bags on a regular basis, and my friend who manages a charity shop says she does sees expensive bags now and again. Can you imagine the delight if you came across a Mulberry or Hermes bag?

Hopefully, this post will inspire you to start looking around for your next luxury handbag saving. There are loads of ways to save money on something like this,. and with these hints and tips you could find yourself never paying full-price again.

*PR collaboration 

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Travel Inspiration For My Home

I love to travel, I think that is probably obvious to my readers. I love it so much that I even have a second blog, Fly Drive Explore, with my husband, Mr W. Now Mr W (Marcus) likes travelling so much that he doesn't like to come home, but I'm always happy after a trip to return to my little seaside town on the South Wales coast. After all, there is no place like home. 

I like to decorate my home with the odd travel inspired item and recently I've been looking to newly decorate our computer room with a travel theme. It will be somewhere to make videos for our YouTube channel too.

Mural by Lovell Johns

The problem is knowing exactly how to design the room to make it perfect. The most important thing is to pick items that really suit our travels. First of all, I’d love to pick up this world map mural from Wallsauce above and use it as a feature wall. I think the colour palette is gorgeous. This made to measure mural would certainly add interest to any wall space.

Globe £51.99 Wayfair

Following on from that idea, I’d love a globe that I could have on a side table so that I could spin it and pick where we should go next - there are still so many places I’d love to visit, as would Mr W! I also think an ornamental compass and telescope would make a fab addition to the decor - we’ve all seen those age old films of people sailing the world, spying other boats with their telescopes and finding their way with the help of an old compass - they really epitomise travelling in the olden times and I’d love some ornamental pieces if I was to have a travel themed room.

Vintage suitcases - £180 Etsy

Whilst suitcases may seem cliche when it comes to travelling, there truly is so much you can do with your home decor with them. I’ve browsed Pinterest many a time and seen them being used as a corner piece or as some sort of side table. You don’t necessarily have to use full-size cases either to get the travel theme - smaller cases make for some perfect shelving and I’ve even seen people turn their suitcases into a gorgeous retro turntable.

Luggage label postcards £5 John Lewis

I’d love some vintage style prints postcards up on the plain white walls surrounding my feature wall - there is something so charming about vintage postcards, isn’t there? You can pick them up cheap in charity shops and boot sales. I find it intriguing thinking about where the person who wrote them must have been and what they got up to. They would make a great talking point. I've also seen some luggage label postcards that look very cool and retro too from John Lewis at the bargain price of £5 which would brighten up the room. 

A canvas I created with my photo of New York 

Finally, I recently I created a canvas of New York with my own photo which I adore so that would be the pride of place on the wall too. This was surprisingly cost-effective and how amazing is it to have your own photographs made into a canvas like this?

There are so many cool items to decorate a room these days in a travel theme, all I have to do now is choose some and get decorating. Do you like any of these items? How would you decorate a travel themed room in your home?

*PR collaboration

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

The Top 5 Places To Visit In India – That Are Off The Beaten Track

Whether you’re a nature lover, an avid hiker or keen explorer, rural India has plenty to offer you. With stretches of stunning landscapes hidden away from the hustle and bustle of the main cities, here are the top places to visit that are a must-see on your next trip to India:

1. Munisyari 

Located in the Uttarakhand’s Pithoragarh District, Munisyari is tucked away in the Himalayas, surrounded by peaks that are capped with snow. As the base point for a number of hiking routes, it’s perfect if you’re looking to trek across these stunning mountain ranges. But even if you don’t fancy doing something too strenuous, this area should be on your list of places to visit.

2. Lakshadweep 

Are you keen to explore the depths of India’s oceans? Then you’ll love Lakshadweep, which not only boasts blue lagoons, exquisite coral reefs and divine beaches but is also home to a variety of islands that are great for partaking in some water sports. To make the most of the tours and attractions on offer, the islands of Kavaratti, Minicoy, Kalpeni and Kadmath are the best places to start.

3. Kutch

The Rann of Kutch is a salt marsh located in Gujarat’s Kutch district. It’s divided into two parts – Little Rann and Great Rann, with a desert to one side and the sea to the other. This is what creates such a biodiverse area, meaning it attracts plenty of wildlife, from the Indian wild ass and the desert fox to the blackbuck, which is quickly becoming endangered.

4. Jaisalmer 

Close to Jaipur in the state of Rajasthan, Jaisalmer features thousands of sand dunes that are quite simply breathtaking. Often nicknamed ‘the jewel of the desert’, this location is well-known for its grand fort, palaces and various Jain temples which are true to the elaborate Indian style.

However, you’ll also find yourself marvelling at the natural beauty of this location, especially if you choose to explore the area by camel.

5. Dudhsagar Waterfall

Found on the border of Goa and Karnataka, the Dudhsagar Waterfall has been beautifully carved by the Mandovi River. Even though it is only India’s fifth largest waterfall, it’s certainly one of its most powerful, which is why you’ll often hear it being referred to as the ‘Sea of Milk’.

Nature-lovers will also be pleased to note that it’s found in the heart of the Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary which boasts an abundance of wildlife and birds.

Sadly, there isn't enough room to write about each and every one of India’s beautiful places, but hopefully, the list above gives you a good place to start when you begin your adventures in the majestic world of rural India.
*Guest post

Creating The Perfect Dressing Room

I think every woman dreams of having their own personal dressing room or walk-in closet. Everyone wishes that they had a man like Mr Big from the Sex and The City franchise - who can forget when he gave Carrie a walk-in closet as a token of his love? 

I must admit that I have been in friends houses and been in awe of their walk-in closets - I know a blogger friend of mine almost bought a flat with one too, it was such a selling point for her. But when it comes to a dressing room just for you, you need certain things to make it perfect. I wish I had my very own - it would certainly make getting ready in the morning a lot more pleasant and who wouldn’t love peace and quiet to get ready at their own pace?

Be practical

You need to make sure that the room itself is practical - have those beautiful decorative items, but also utilise the space wisely.  Consider the style and colour palette of the room - where is it in the house, and what sort of natural light comes into the dressing room. 

Many people have a dressing room or walk-in closet attached to a bedroom so you may not have any windows in the room. Getting a range of lighting, therefore, is a must. You want to make sure you are getting natural light but you also want to ensure that the artificial lighting you have is suitable for the room. You could always consider daylight bulbs, which imitate natural light and are recommended if you are putting on your makeup there.

When it comes to fittings, what are you looking for? When creating the space, are you looking for inbuilt fittings or stand-alone pieces such as one of these full length mirrors? If you are looking for a walk-in closet, inbuilt shelves and cupboards are probably the best ideas whereas a dressing room could work with either inbuilt or freestanding mirrors.

Consider furniture

You’ll definitely need a chair or a bench style piece of furniture such as an ottoman in your dressing room.  Somewhere where you can be seated whilst getting dressed or putting on your makeup. You’ll want somewhere to hide your clothes, accessories and cosmetics away so wardrobes, chest of drawers and shelving is a must. Of course, what is a dressing room without a dressing table? Somewhere to showcase your favourite cosmetics and accessories! Also, a full-length mirror is advisable - this will be your point of call in the room, where you check how everything looks and fits, where you check that your makeup is on point. 

I think that my very own dressing room or walk-in closet is a pipe dream - unless I change my son’s bedroom into one whilst he is away at university but I don’t think that would go down too well….

Would you love your very own dressing room or walk-in closet - or are you, in fact, lucky enough to have one already? If so, I am so jealous!

*PR collaboration 

Thursday, 24 May 2018

Achieving Good Feng Shui in Your Garden

Feng Shui is an ancient Chinese system of laws that concern how items are arranged in a space that allows energy – chi – to flow unhindered. It is a system that is applied to the where a building is built, the direction it faces and how interior items of furniture are arranged.

To prevent blockages of chi in the home and garden, even when it is not possible to knock it down and start again, the principles of Feng Shui can still be applied in spaces and areas that exist. This is why many people and gardeners who understand the concept of Feng Shui and the power it has for balancing harmony in a space, use it to determine the final design of their outdoor space.

So, where is the best place for your stylish rattan garden furniture? Should you incorporate a waterfall? Are you mixing the wrong colours in the wrong places, blocking harmony and chi?

Simple ways to include Feng Shui principles

Many believe that by composing a garden that works in harmony with them and nature, it becomes a place that relaxes and revives the mind, body and soul in equal measure. And so, without knocking down walls or heavy lifting, how can you apply Feng Shui to your garden?

Are you paying enough attention to natural elements?
We assume that everything in the garden is ‘natural’ but in recent decades, our penchant for cheaper materials has meant this is not always the case. Rattan, for example, is a better alternative to plastic garden furniture, simply because it is a natural material and from a sustainable source too. But it is not just the materials we use. It can be the design of the garden and its contents. For example, leave a patch to become a wild garden, allowing wildflowers and native species to thrive, for insects to visit and not be harmed by chemicals and for birds to enjoy the space too. 

Trees are an important part of Feng Shui in the outdoors but pay close attention to them. They should not be overgrown or touch your property.

Is there water in your garden?

Flowing water is generally good within Feng Shui, promoting the flow of energy in a space and is also thought to increase income too. Water in the Feng Shui system includes natural bodies of water, such as lakes and ponds, as well as man-made ponds. Waterfalls and fountains are also good news when it comes to Feng Shui.

If you haven’t already, why not add running water or create a pond, both create for wildlife.

Do you understand Bagua?
Bagua is a principle of Feng Shui that concerns where things are placed according to eight trigrams. By having the right things in the right places, key aspects of your life are harmonised.

For example, it could be that if a relationship is under stress, there may be an aspect of the Feng Shui within your home or garden that is out of line. By moving it, harmony is restored.

What shape is your outdoor dining table?

The simplest of changes can have a huge impact on how people enjoy a space. The principles of Feng Shui suggest that a round dining table is more harmonising in a space, including the garden, perhaps people linger longer. There is no ‘header or footer’ at a round table, no one in charge, no one at the bottom of the pile – all equal and all harmonious.

Have you considered the five-elemental colour cycle?
The colours representing fire, earth, wood, metal and water need to be incorporated in your garden in a way that accents and harmonises, rather than hinders and damages. Not come across the concept before? The five-elemental colour cycle is easy to adapt to your garden.

Is your garden too still?

We associate calmness with stillness and whilst this may be true, no movement in the garden can cause your chi to stagnate. Windmills and bunting flags that gently flutter in the breeze could be the very pieces that allow the harmony and energy to flow through the space.

Feng Shui is not just about adapting the space for your own ends but for your family too. Better still, your summer BBQ guests or friends that pop by for afternoon tea will have no idea how the ancient art of Feng Shui is having a positive impact on them. But you will because you will all linger, for lingering and be more relaxed and revived…

Rattan Direct help customer achieve harmony and balance in their gardens with a range of garden furniture made from sustainable materials. 

*PR collaboration 

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Making The Most Of A Lapland Holiday In Ruka, Kuusamo

Today on my blog I have a guest post from my good friend Lucy, Lucy runs The Parent Game blog and recently had a fantastic opportunity to travel to Lapland. This is what she got up to on her trip. 

Travelling to Lapland is the culmination of a lifelong dream for many people. It is the kind of destination which can be a long time in the planning and the result of years of build-up and saving. So, how do you decide what to fit into your dream holiday? Which of the many trips and excursions are going to make your adventure extra-special? We've put together this guide on making the most of your Lapland holiday, using our own experiences from our base in the fabulous Ruka Ski Resort in Kuusamo, Finland. Whether you are travelling as a couple or a family, there is something for everyone in this stunning part of the world.

My son and I visited Ruka in March for five nights and it was a jam-packed trip. I've included all the activities we tried ourselves, so all of them are suitable for children, although this is not essential! All the activities we tried are available either at the resort, or a short drive away from Ruka and there is also a reliable bus service. All our activities were organised through Ruka Safaris, who offer friendly and helpful guides to make sure you get the most from your experience. Although it is sometimes possible to hire equipment and go it alone, I highly recommend making use of them, especially if you are short of time, as they know all the best places to go to get the most from every activity.


Ruka is most famous for its fantastic skiing facilities. They have amazing ski slopes, ranging from beginner to expert and everywhere in between. The expert slopes are viewable from some of the many restaurants in the resort, and it's lovely to look out at the skiers and snowboarders flying down the mountain as you enjoy some local cuisine. If you have children or are more of a beginner, it's a short free bus ride to Ruka Snow Park, which has everything you need for beginner skiing. You can hire all your equipment, which is expertly fitted, and even book a ski lesson with one of the friendly instructors. Children are encouraged to take part and the instructors are lovely with little ones, there English is pretty good too, which really helps. As well as skiing, you can also hire toboggans for children to try on the slopes, or even have a go at snowboarding. There is also a restaurant where you can get a lovely cooked meal, we had Lasagne, or just enjoy a drink and snack while you rest from your activities in the warm.

Ice Fishing

Ice fishing is a brilliant activity, particularly if you want to really experience the Lappish culture. When you visit Lapland, you will notice a lot of large snow-covered areas, that look like fields. These are actually lakes and Finland is famous for having, not only a lot of lakes but also the cleanest water in the world. Ruka Safaris offer Ice Fishing expeditions where you will be taken to the perfect spot in the middle of a frozen lake. There, you will be shown how to drill through the ice and then provided with bait and equipment to try to catch a fish. It's beautiful and peaceful out on the lake and it's enjoyable just to be there, but nothing beats the feeling of excitement when you actually catch something!

Snow Mobiling

Ruka Safaris offer lots of options for snowmobiling. You can choose a long or short safari, to various destinations, you can even organise a safari from Kuusamo airport to your accommodation, as an extra-special start to your holiday! As we had children with us, we took part in a group safari around a lake, which wasn't too long and is perfect if you are a bit nervous of driving these pretty large machines, especially if you have your offspring on the back! For children to travel with you, they have to be able to reach the footrests, otherwise, they will need to travel in a trailer. It is best to check with the guide when you book.

Husky Rides

We visited Lammintupa to take part in a husky ride. Lammintupa is a short drive from Ruka Ski Resort and well worth the trip. There are lots of different activities to do there and they also have a cafe which makes the most delicious pancakes! The Husky ride was very exciting. You are given a big kick sled (where you stand on the skis at the back) which has a basket in the front for a passenger and is pulled by six really excited dogs. You have a brake and so have some control over how fast you go, which was great for me, because I was a bit scared and thought I was going to fall off! The huskies follow a set route and you are instructed to use the brake if you start to catch them up and use your feet to help them along if they start to struggle uphill. It takes a little getting used to but is worth it as it's a truly unique experience and really fun. While you are there, you can also spend time with the husky puppies, who are obviously adorable!

Sleigh Rides

Also available at Lammintupa is another favourite of a Lapland holiday, the sleigh ride. Before you enjoy a ride through the countryside, you are able to meet and feed the reindeer and find out a bit more about them. We did our sleigh ride straight after the huskies and it was lovely to be able to do something so relaxing after all the adrenalin and excitement. The best part of the sleigh ride, which also followed a set route through the forest, was that you had plenty of opportunities to take in the scenery. And, wow, what a scene! Miles of unspoilt, beautiful snowy forests, everything sparkling and white, a truly fantastic landscape that you will never forget. With the reindeer sleigh, both passengers get to sit down in the comfort of the sleigh and it's very easy to steer the reindeer around the route, so it's relaxing for everyone.

Northern Lights

If you are very lucky, like we were, you can sometimes catch sight of the iconic Northern Lights from your balcony. We stayed in RukaSuites Apartment Hotel and the balcony was a definite highlight, along with a very welcome sauna, which is an important Finnish tradition. For the best view of the lights, though, you need to get away from light pollution, then the lights are easy to see, take photos of, and you tend to get a better impression of the different colours. 

pin for later

Ruka Safaris offer guided tours either on foot, by snowmobile or on the bus. The Northern Lights are never guaranteed, they are fickle and prefer to please themselves when they show up, but the guided tours offer the best chance of seeing them because they have a lot of experience in when they are most likely to show up.

Lucy stayed at the Ruka ski resortWould you visit Lapland?

*Ice fishing photo & husky close up credit Harri Tarvainen


Friday, 18 May 2018

Bistrot Pierre Cardiff - Spring Menu Review And Get A Free Drink

Ok, I'll confess, I am a bit of a fan of the French restaurant chain Bistrot Pierre.  I've eaten at a few of their branches and they are head and shoulders above the rest of their competitors for the quality of food and the prices. Last year I reviewed the Swansea Bistrot Pierre in Mumbles, so I was excited to be invited to try out the new Spring menu range in their Cardiff branch last week.  Read on to find out what I thought and to get a free drink with your meal!

The Cardiff branch is just off the Hayes, on Caroline Street (affectionately known as 'chip alley' to the locals). Don't let that put you off though as the addition of this restaurant adds a touch of class to the area.

The restaurant is understated and tastefully designed inside and service is pleasant, attentive but certainly not stuffy.

My son and I were welcomed by Erica our server and shown to our table. Bistrot Pierre like to focus on seasonal ingredients and great value French cooking and the menu reflected that. 

We ordered from the A La Carte Spring Menu see below and chose the Salade de canard and the Calamars. I ordered a glass of Sauvignon Blanc and my son a coke. There was a selection of about 40 choices of wine, including champagne, almost all available by the glass as well as by the bottle. 

My Calamars (squid) was perfect. It wasn't overcooked and rubbery, instead, it was easy to cut into, coated in a mildly spiced batter and melted in the mouth. Served with garlic aioli I devoured it in no time. A very good dish.

My son really raved about the Vietnamese duck salad and said it was similar to Cantonese crispy duck but without the pancakes! Crunchy, crispy duck with yielding duck meat underneath, rested on a thin julienne of Asian vegetables.  A smattering of sesame seeds and hints of five spice, chilli and coriander made this a dish packed full of flavour.  A great start to our meal.

For our mains, my son ordered the 9 oz Entrecote or rib eye steak and I ordered the Poulet printanier, a chicken dish with a creamy tarragon and mushroom sauce. 

The steak wasn't as good as expected.  Unfortunately, It tasted as if it was not seasoned and was gristly. The herb butter didn't add anything to the dish and made it greasy. The fries, however, were crispy, light and very good. My son has had steak here before and has never complained about it previously, so I just think it was an off day for this dish. 

The latter dish, poulet printanier, was new on the Spring menu - pan-fried chicken breast sliced and served in a rich sauce of mushrooms, peas, asparagus and tarragon.  You could really taste the mushrooms in this dish and this was further enhanced with the addition of yummy truffle oil adding an earthy flavour. The tarragon really shone through as well. A good dish and one well worth ordering on the Spring menu.

In Bistrot Pierre, most mains come with roasted potatoes and seasonal vegetables unless otherwise stated, and the vegetables were seasoned and drizzled with butter. The baby roast potatoes were incredibly tasty. I think they are cooked in olive oil, and you get a great flavour but they aren't crispy like traditional roasties, just a note if you are expecting them to be. 

At this point, we were both full, but I couldn't resist dessert!

We ordered the Mousse au chocolat and the Frangipane. 

The chocolate mousse very good indeed. Rich and smooth and made of the best Valrhona chocolate, it was topped with small crunchy balls of chocolate that added a nice texture to the dessert. It had a slight orange taste but the waitress asked the chef and it didn't contain any. Odd but delicious all the same.

I've had the frangipane before and just couldn't resist ordering again as I remembered how great it was. A light sponge flavoured with pear and almonds, with a secret thrilling raspberry layer. It comes covered in cream and decorated with almonds and pistachios, adding a nice crunch. This frangipane pudding really is a delight and totally moreish and is one of my favourite dishes on the menu. If you like puddings I urge you to order this - you won't be disappointed. 

At this point, we were full to bursting so declined the cheese course and any further drinks. 

We really enjoyed our meal at Bistrot Pierre Cardiff. It was very good indeed the only slight disappointment being the steak.  What I like about the menu is that there is always a decent selection for those that don't eat red meat, like my husband.  Chicken and fish is always featured on the menu, with a couple of vegetarian options, and usually a pork dish too. 

The Spring A La Carte menu has a wide range of dishes and they also do a Spring Prix-Fixe (fixed price) evening menu with any two courses for £14.95, which I feel for food of this quality is a bargain.  The lunch menu has two courses for £11.95 and three for £13.95 which is also a great deal.

The chain also has a groovy Bistrot Pierre app, that allows you to collect points towards a free drink, starter, main course or even two-course meal. I do have this on my phone and it's surprising how fast the points add up. At present they will give you 1000 points if you download the app (which is a free one-course lunch or breakfast), but do check out the website to see if this offer is still valid.  I was so pleased to be given a free carafe of wine on my birthday, just for having the app! 

For my readers today that visits any Bistrot Pierre, and there are 24 around the country, I am giving you something free too! When you order a main course you can claim a complimentary 175ml glass of house wine, a bottle of beer or soft drink. 

Print off code LBPBWCKJ and hand it to your server when you dine quoting 'blogger free drink voucher'. Check out the terms and conditions here, valid until 20th July 2018. 

Tell me, do you like French bistro food? Would you give Bistrot Pierre a try?


Wednesday, 16 May 2018

6 Bedroom Storage Hacks

If your bedroom is a constant mess and you blame the fact that you don’t have enough space for everything, then perhaps you’re in need of some serious bedroom storage hacks, which is where this blog post comes in handy. 

I have teamed up with Happy Beds, the UK’s fastest growing online bed and mattress store, to create some handy tips on how to keep your mess completely organised. 

1. Invest in a storage bed
Storage beds are a great way to hide all of your mess, whilst still keeping it in one place. Rather than shoving everything under your bed and then spending ages taking everything out to find the one thing you’re looking for, ottoman beds help you stay organised and put everything into sections. Having one of these means you can lift up the top of the bed, making everything in the storage compartment easily accessible. 

2. Build shelves
Shelves are a great way to fill up wall space – especially corner shelves. Not only does it mean that you can display your photos or ornaments, but you will be able to make use of the corner of your bedroom when nothing else will fit. 

3. Bed organisers
I get it. You want a bedside table for your phone, a photo frame of a loved one and maybe somewhere to put your TV remotes. However, is this really a necessary piece of furniture? Why not invest in bed organisers? These work by sitting half under the bed and then the rest hanging out with multiple compartments – it does the same job, yet it is a lot more cost-effective and a little less large.

4. Make use of the door
Doors can become pretty handy when you use them in an innovative way. You can buy multiple storage pieces for doors; vertical handbag hangers, jewellery hangers and even shoe racks for the back of the door. These are extremely convenient, especially when space is at a premium, in box bedrooms for example!

5. Fold down desks

For those of you that are studying, or work from home and have a limited space, having a fold-down desk is a great option. Rather than having a clunky bit of furniture in the back of your bedroom, a fold down desk means you can access a desk when you need it, the rest of the time it can be free floor space.

6. Make storage boxes your best friend

Storage boxes are extremely convenient to keep you organised. They can be stored on top of cupboards, underneath beds and furniture and in whatever small spaces you can find. Add labels to these boxes so that you can easily decide which box t
o access, rather than hunting through them all. 

Tell me do you use any storage hacks?

*In collaboration with Happy Beds

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

So Cal So Good: What to See in Southern California

Southern California is a part of the world which is perhaps best-known for its year-round beautiful climate, stunning sandy beaches, and impossibly chilled-out atmosphere. However away from the ocean, you have a diversity that makes it a perfect vacation spot, with towering mountains, wine tasting areas, gourmet food and secluded towns that make a perfect vacation.  

Though you could conceivably spend your whole vacation time in each one of the different places below, you may need to be more selective if you don’t have days and nights on end. We drove from San Francisco to San Diego on a road trip and with so many things to do we had a fantastic experience, but you do need the time to explore properly. 

if you don't have the time, however, just find a base, pick some accommodation, (we fancy The Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel on our next trip), book your flights, and arrange car hire, to get a taste of a laid-back lifestyle like no other. 

Venice Beach

The original vision for Venice Beach was conceived over 100 years ago when Abbot Kinney came up with the idea to turn Santa Monica into a version of the iconic Italian city. To this day, the canals remain one of the area’s top attractions, but most tourists head straight over to the boardwalk, where street performers, food stalls, and souvenir shops all compete for your attention. Other than this, people watch at the volleyball courts, while the centre of bodybuilding known as Muscle Beach is the place to go for all gym enthusiasts and where Arnold Schwarzenegger started out.

San Diego

One of the best-loved cities on our California road trip was San Diego. San Diego boasts miles and miles of sandy beaches, a beautiful harbour, an iconic zoo, the USS Midway, Belmont Park theme park,- and we have only just scratched the surface! Situated right on the Mexican border, San Diego is known as the 'Birthplace of California', and if you are interested in discovering more about the history of the state, you have certainly come to the right place. Head to the Gaslamp Quarter for some great live music and interesting eating and drinking spots.

Santa Barbara

Take a drive north of LA along the coast and you will arrive in the beautiful city of Santa Barbara. However, if you are coming directly from the City of Angels, one of the first things that you will notice is how different the place is. The palm trees and red-roofed houses stand out if you take in the view from above, while the many beaches are all pleasant places to go to while away your time. Santa Barbara is also known for wineries and vineyards, make a stop at the many locations where the black comedy about a wine tasting road trip, Sideways, was filmed.

Palm Springs

A former playground of iconic Hollywood stars like Frank Sinatra, Palm Springs has opened up significantly to the general public since those heady days of wild partying. If you want to get a glimpse of what life was like in those days, take a trip over to the Movie Colony District. Beyond the built-up centre, there are plenty of opportunities to explore the surrounding landscape. One of the best experiences is a trip on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, which whisks you up nearly 3,000 metres to give you stunning views of the surrounding landscape.

As you can see, Southern California has more than its fair share of incredible attractions. Would you visit Southern California?

Monday, 14 May 2018

The Power Of The Greatest Showman

There are some films that you may have watched in your life that I bet you go back to time and time again. They may not be a critics choice, but they make you laugh, make you cry and make you feel that the world is a good place.  

From classic romantic comedies like Bridget Jones Diary, Pretty Woman and anything by Richard Curtis to some of my personal favourites, Elf, Forest Gump and The Shawshank Redemption.  One such movie recently has been taken the world by storm although it has had a lukewarm reception by critics is The Greatest Showman. In fact, even some of the critics that didn't like it at first have been won around, in some part, by its message and appeal. 

The Greatest Showman is loosely based on the story of P.T. Barnum, the circus inventor that some would say 'created showbusiness'. I say loosely based as Barnum, played by the rather handsome Mr Hugh Jackman, champions those of us who are different in the movie, in reality, the slightly darker side of what really happened is glossed over, but this is pure Hollywood escapism, not a documentary or accurate description. So if you are happy to suspend your disbelief, and you like big colourful musicals, I think you will enjoy. 

These are some reasons why it has been so successful.

It has star appeal

Embed from Getty Images 

From Hugh Jackman, one of the most underrated actors of his generation to Zac Efron who put all his time and effort into supporting the film and getting it made, the stars are fantastic and feel passionate about the film and it really shows. The film was in development for seven years and the cast supported the director Michael Gracey until finally, it came to screen.  

It has a cracking soundtrack

When the soundtrack was written the two musical writers Benj Pasek and Justin Paul were relatively unknown.  Since then they have become famous for the Broadway hit Dear Evan Hansen where they picked up a Tony award and last years La La Land where they won best original musical score at the Oscars.

The songs illustrate the story perfectly. The most famous song, all about acceptance, This Is Me, champions the underdog, and accepting people for who they are.  The rest of the soundtrack is equally as catchy and memorable so much so that sing-along shows all around the country have been held in cinemas. 

Did you also know that it held the number 1 spot in the UK music charts for 11 weeks, equalling Adele's 21 album?  It dropped slightly one week and then was back up to number 1 spot with the release of the film on download. So it has been 12 weeks as the number 1 album in the UK which is virtually unheard of today.  

It celebrates diversity 

The film celebrates diversity, a powerful message and one so relevant to life today too. In reality Barnum was a businessman and probably not so nice in real life, however, we, the audience, know it's not an exact representation of his life and we are prepared to overlook it. 

It's pure escapism and uplifting

When there is so much sadness and political turmoil in the world, from the war in Syria to Donald Trump' presidency of the United States and the UK Brexit negotiations, the film is that does of escapism. It also incredibly uplifting and joyful, and who doesn't want some joy in their lives now and again?

It appeals to all ages

Stories of 6-year-olds seeing the film on numerous occasions, to groups of friends going to the sing-a-longs to extended families seeing it all together and with 80-year-old grandparents loving it too, the family-friendly film appeals to people of all ages and surprisingly not just women, men are enjoying it too. I must admit, even my grumpy husband, came out of the film with a smile on his face. 

It makes you feel a range of emotions

It's an emotional film and explores love, both enduring love and new love, friendship and loyalty. Barnum came from a poor background and struggled to make his way in the world. Being 'good enough' is one of the threads throughout the film and will resonate with a modern audience, some who live their lives through social media and have that unobtainable pressure to look and be 'perfect'.

It's visually stunning

Every scene, every frame is visually stunning. From the rooftop scene with Barnum, his daughters and his wife, to the circus scenes. It has this visual colourful cinematic look reminiscent of Baz Luhrmann's' Moulin Rouge.

It will make you want to watch it again

I have yet to find someone who has seen it that didn't like it. If you look at the reviews on Amazon or Itunes you will see a very high number of 5-star reviews, with many people being surprised at how much they enjoyed it. Even those that thought they would hate it. So I would say, if you are not sure, watch it. It's a great feel-good film, it's uplifting, it has great acting, it's moving and it is a feast for the eyes and ears! Highly recommended.

The Greatest Showman [DVD] [2017] is available on DVD from £9.99 on Amazon and £14.99 on Blu Ray. Whilst The Greatest Showman soundtrack is priced at £9.99.  
Have you seen this film, or would you see it? Let me know!

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