Review: Lapland UK

Hello my lovelies,

For some years I’ve been hearing about this magical place in Whitmoor Forest, Berkshire where elves and Father Christmas invite children to help them prepare for Christmas.  I’d heard it was the most wondrous place where Christmas dreams come true so I was thrilled to get an early invitation to buy tickets.  Frequented by the likes of Sir Elton John, Idres Elba and other stars, there was no way I was letting this golden opportunity to see the inner workings of Father Christmas’ magical world slip through our fingers.

Missy (aged 7) received her personalized invitation in the post and it was left for her at our Harry Potter themed North Pole Breakfast in a pile of snow.  I knew she’d never be able to contain herself if we gave her the invitation days before so it was given to her on the morning that we went.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity (really only an hour’s drive) we arrived at Lapland UK and parked in the Owl parking lot.  All the lots are named after animals with clearly marked and fairy light lit paths to help you remember where you parked.

We were greeted with this gorgeous little cottage which belonged to Eeko the elf.  Already you get a sense of the kind of fantastic detail spread throughout Lapland.  Every detail from the sledges, carved stags and gently lit lanterns added to the magic.  Everywhere you looked there was some tiny bit of interest that made you feel as though you were really in Father Christmas’ home town.

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Of course, Missy had to have a photo outside a real elf’s house.  Little did she know we’d see lots of elf folk homes during our visit.

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The elves at reception greeted us with a traditional elf greeting and checked us in.

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Here I bought elf jingles the currency of Lapland which came in a red velour bag emblazoned with the word Lapland.

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Missy was also given an Elf passport and a complimentary pin of Wish the elf.  I loved that the massive books at reception hid a clever touch screen computer.  Once again, the details made something as dull as check in seem magical.

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After we checked in, we waited at a picnic table and took in the magic around us. On the opposite side to the reception desk was a cafe selling a selection of cafe type foods and coffees including gluten free and vegan offerings.  Prices were what you’d expect from an upmarket cafe.

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Our tour was due for 2 pm and two elves gave us a short introduction talk about what we could expect before leading us through the doorway into the the magic wood.  If I ever have a massive house one day, remind me that I want a wall of cases like this!SONY DSC

In the magic wood, we were led to seating around a magical tree.  The excitement was almost too much for some of the children who couldn’t quite wait to see what would happen next.

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We were greeted by Sage

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and Eeko

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the woodland elves who told us all about Lapland and how Father Christmas, a simple wood cutter became the legend he is today – due to a little elf magic of course.  We were introduced to our herders who split us into two teams.  We were put into team husky and given a cute husky sticker to help us remember.

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The first stop on our journey was to the toy making workshop where the children got to help the elves finish stuffing some toys for Father Christmas.  Due to an increase in demand, the elves were behind and the children we special helpers who helped the elves get back on track. SONY DSC

Once again, the details were superb. SONY DSCSONY DSCSONY DSCSONY DSC

Missy with Ursa Major and Ursa Minor. SONY DSCSONY DSCSONY DSC

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We decided that the trees were covered with magical never-melt snow and were surprised that it was actually cold to the touch!

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Next we were ushered to Mother Christmas’ bakery.  There was so much to see.  Each nook and cranny had some tiny detail or point of interest.  Including a self-stirring pot on the stove!

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Mother Christmas chatted to the children about Lapland and Father Christmas. They were also introduced to the baking elves.

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The children were shown to the tables where they got to decorate gingerbread Christmas trees.  I informed the office after I’d booked about Missy’s intolerances and they were every so helpful with providing a dairy free gingerbread Christmas tree and appropriate sweeties.

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Missy was the first to finish decorating her gingerbread and got selected to ring the story time bell. She felt very special!

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Mother Christmas read the children a story and then gave them a message for Father Christmas.  The children had earned their golden elf bells for their help in the toy workshop. We were told these could be collected from the Elf Emporium in the Elven Village.

I can’t tell you how magical the village was.  Missy was enthralled!

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The first elf we met was Pixie Mixie who owns the sweet shop.  Missy was taken with her and particularly liked her costume.

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I adore a nutcracker and this one outside the Elf Emporium was taller than me!

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Each shop had two entrances, one for Big Folk and one for Small Folk which Missy was determined to use at every opportunity.

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She was so excited to have earned her golden elf bell and couldn’t stop jingling it…

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much to my annoyance!  Of course, we had to buy an elf hat to attach our elf bell to.  I was quite impressed with the Elf Emporium in terms of content. There was a huge selection of good quality toys and games.  Even a homewares section that had some gorgeous scandi style decorations.

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I can’t describe the level of detail in the elf village. It was pure magic.

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There was so much to do. We petted Amber and Star the Huskies…

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We ice skated around a gorgeous snow covered Christmas tree to carols being sung merrily in the background.

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I was so impressed with the ice skates and how everything was geared towards families. There were the usual ice skates for adults and children could choose from the same type as the adults or clip on double bladed ones that made skating easier.  Stability penguins were provided to help the children feel more confident.  I should also mention that there were 3 ice wardens dressed in red patrolling the ice to help those who needed it.

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After we’d skated we visited Post office to write a letter to Father Christmas and post it in the magical post boxes.

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On our way round the shops in the Elven Village we met Compass and Bauble and had a little chat.

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While there was an elf restaurant, they also had a take away stall in the middle of the village where you could get traditional German bratwurst sausage on a roll that would set you back about £6.  The tea room sold a wide selection of cakes and hot drinks.

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My favourite shop was Bauble’s Christmas decoration shop where you could buy an official Lapland UK painted with each of the elves for £15 or buy a personalised bauble for £10.

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At Pixie Mixie’s we filled a cup with dairy free sweeties which were kindly pointed out to us by Pixie Mixie herself and paid £4.50. Missy excited by the sweeties while I goggled at the gorgeous displays.

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Once we’d enjoyed everything the Elven Village had to offer, we made our way through toward’s Ambolt’s forge where, just outside Father Christmas’ reindeer waited to greet us.

Then, we got to see Father Christmas’ actual sleigh!

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There was also an opportunity to buy Santa key’s, reindeer food and reindeer (horse) shoes.  I completely regret not buying one!SONY DSC

From here we checked in to see Father Christmas.  While Missy and Mr R waited and scoped out Compass’ office I went to the check in desk and double checked the details Father Christmas had for Missy.

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After only a three minute wait, an elf led us along a frosty path to Father Christmas’ cabin where we waited to be seen. Missy was so excited she could barley sit still.

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Upon entering, Father Christmas greeted us by name and Missy could hardy speak she was so in awe of the magical man.

Father Christmas praised her on doing well in her Literacy work recently and commented on her upcoming karate grading. She couldn’t believe he remembered so much about her life.  He pronounced that she was on the good list and presented her with a plush husky.

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After our chat with Father Christmas, we headed back towards the Forest and collected our complimentary photo (above) and had the opportunity to buy a scrapbook of our experiences in Lapland for £20.  It would include, all of the pictures taken with Father Christmas. We browsed the gift shop which had different items to the Elf Emporium. I particularly loved the ‘build-a-bear’ type costumes and accessories for the plush husky.

Lapland UK is honestly the Disney of Christmas.  Every item and activity besides the food and souvenirs is included in the price which, in my opinion is worth every penny.  There was nothing that I could find fault with or would consider changing.  It was a well thought out, perfectly fabulous experience that has made the run up to Christmas very special for us.

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For more details about Lapland UK, visit their website or Facebook page.  They are also on Instagram.

We heartily recommend Lapland UK and hope to visit again next year.

Bright blessings,

Mrs R

x

 

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Chiddingstone Castle school of witchcraft and wizardry

Hello my lovelies,

*This post has not been sponsored by Chiddingstone Castle.  I bought tickets to this even and all opinions and comments are my own.*

We had the most awesome day!  A month ago, I managed to book tickets to Chiddingstone Castle’s school of witchcraft and wizardry day in Kent and we could hardly wait! It was so well organised and so much fun that I was blown away.

I ordered Missy a robe (which looked nothing like the pictures on ebay which led to me opening a case – but that’s another story), made her a tie, dug out her wand (see my wand making post here) and for a wand box tutorial check out my post here.  I also decorated her a witches hat. We were all set!

I must admit, Chiddingstone wasn’t the easiest castle to find as the castle itself has a little concealed entrance and I landed up driving past it and having to double back. But I found it in the end.  The parking was ample even though they said the parking lot was quite small and there was a port-a-loo in the parking lot which I found quite random but it came in handy since we arrived early.  There was also a little honesty box to pay for parking with the proceeds going to charity.

 

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The castle itself is beautiful and we were surprised to find it had a red postbox just outside!

Since we arrived early, we had some time to take pictures while everyone arrived.  We were the only ones not in Gryffindor robes!

About 10 minutes before the doors opened we could hear a Harry Potter soundtrack playing which just heightened the anticipation.  The kids couldn’t wait!

Upon entering, some very organised admin witches crossed our names from their lists and checked out etickets. We were given a map and from there, we followed the directions round into the Great Hall.

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The entire place was decorated so well and it really added to the ambiance and theme.

In the Great Hall we were met by the High Wizard Merlin Hopkirken who sorted the kids into their houses.  Our entire group was sorted into Wormtail (which was kind of a crappy  name since Wormtail was the name of that traitorous Peter Pettigrew!) the yellow house.  We were then given our class schedule.

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Our first class was Flying Lessons in the Marquee.  Captain Karkus Prospero was brilliantly entertaining and got the kids ‘flying’ their brooms round a marked out course and doing races.

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Each child borrowed a broomstick for the lesson and it was fantastic to hear them shrieking with laughter. SONY DSC

In between each lesson was a 15 minute break and the children were invited to the craft rooms to make wands or colour pictures.

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Our next class was Spells and Incantations with Ms Septima Warbeck.

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The Spells teacher instructed the children on basic spells and wand movements as well as defense against the dark arts spells.

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Swish and flick!

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There weren’t enough kids to give each child a partner so Missy practiced with Ms Warbeck.

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After each class the kids got a stamp on their certificates.  Once they had a stamp from each of the classes they could graduate.

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We had a fun tour of the Headmaster Merlin Hopkirk’s office while we waited for our next class to start.

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Our third class was choir practice with Madame Mourge. Not sore how the ‘ou’ is pronounced ‘or’ but it was pronounced Morgue.

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Each professor was so well dressed and made up. They kept in character beautifully and the kids really believed they were at a school for Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Choir practice was very noisy but the kids loved every moment of it.

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While the kids were in choir practice I got an opportunity to speak to the event organizers who were such lovely ladies.  This is the first time Chiddingstone has done this kind of event and if all goes well they hope to repeat it next year.  Also, if all goes well, Christmas may be something just as special. Perhaps not this year but it’s exciting all the same.

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We made wands in our break before the long awaited potions class.  Dr Elphias Thicknesse was waiting for us in the potions classroom which was a treasure trove of potion ingredients bottles and other curiosities. The massive cauldron was of particular interest to the children.

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The children helped Dr Thicknesse to prepare a love potion to help her woo Captain Prospero and got to help chucking various ghastly looking ingredients into the cauldron.  I must admit, Dr Thicknesse was my favourite by far as she was completely zany and had the kids enthralled.

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The magic ingredient (hot ice) was added by Dr Thicknesse and the cauldron exploded in smoke much to the children’s delight.

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The only negative feedback I have is that upon booking people had the option of attending with their kids or dropping them off and fetching them later.  I found this to be a bad idea.   These kids got quite rowdy and rude at one stage which was uncomfortable for everyone.  One such 11 year old boy kept following me around and shoving his broomstick in my face shouting aaaaavraaaa kaaaadaaaavraaaaa!  He didn’t take kindly to me pointing out that it was in fact Avada Kedavra.  He also didn’t like the fact that I told him in a very firm voice that I didn’t appreciate the broomstick being shoved in my face.  And that if he did it again, I would make sure his parents were made aware that he was being rude to an adult.  But other than that one small blot on the day, I couldn’t have asked for a better event.

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Prize giving was held back in the Great Hall where the Headmaster announced the prize for the best dressed child who was dressed like Seamus Finnigan after his spell backfired. Well deserved I thought.

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Then he announced the day’s star pupil who turned out to be my very own little Missy!

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She won a t-shirt named after the event and a voucher for a free family visit during the 2018 season!  A fab prize!

After our classes were done, we went to the cafe where I had a cream tea and coffee.  I had packed a dairy, soya and apple free lunch for Missy as it’s been my experience that most places struggle to provide food that is allergen free.

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The staff were very happy for Missy to enjoy her lunch which me while I ate my cream tea.  It was delicious however, there was no way I could finish two large scones!  I’m a bit of a coffee snob and the coffee at the cafe was heavenly!  I only drank one cup because I was concerned I would be desperate to pee on the drive home but I could easily have drank the entire cafetiere.

All in all, we had a fantastic day and it was well worth the money.  I would definitely attend the event next year and look forward to attending other events planned by Chiddingstone and especially to exploring the grounds.

Bright blessings,

Mrs R

x

Review: East Side, Caterham

When I heard that East Side and independent artisan delicatessen and organic coffee house was opening near us, I was excited.  Finally, a coffee house that was not part of an ever-growing chain.  I was also delighted to hear that it was being opened by one of the teaching assistants from my daughter’s school.  Isn’t it inspiring to hear that people are following their dreams?

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My daughter and I visited East Side on 31st of October and to be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  From following the progress of the shop fitting, I knew that East Side was a deli/coffee house inspired by a New York deli.  Having never been to New York I was delighted to find that it was just like the Big Apple Deli’s of my imagination.

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Decorated in what I would consider an industrial chic style with a mixture of vintage inspired and modern pieces it felt inviting and just a little bit posh.  Rather than pandering to a coffee shop chain, it felt as if each piece of furniture and decoration had been loving chosen with much consideration.   The brick wall look wallpaper and canvases depicting scenes of yellow taxi cabs and city views sparked the imagination and I felt as if I could indeed be in New York.   Add in old blue eye, Frank Sinatra himself crooning in the background and just walking in felt special.  I was also pleased to see that the Halloween decorations were carefully selected and fitted the scheme well.

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East Side is proud of its Ethos which includes providing good quality British produce and fairer than fair trade organic coffee, while being mindful of farm to fork miles and using recyclable packaging wherever possible.  It’s lovely to see so much thought go into an independent enterprise.

15049597_10154469442715659_544774393_nAlthough there were no menus on the tables, was so much on offer via the old-fashioned chalk board and at the counter.  Everything from slices of cake to caramelised onions and goats cheese pies.  Even a few homemade pork pies.   On offer were also a selection of American style sandwiches on bread of your choice.

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Since my daughter is on a dairy free diet, I asked about dairy free options and was delighted to find the owners were very knowledgeable about what was in their products.  They even offered vegan spread for the sandwich.  Gluten free bread options were also available, those with intolerances and allergies will be happy to know.

My daughter enjoyed a malted bread ham sandwich and a blackcurrant cordial.  The ham was thankfully not one of those horrible reconstituted loaves but looked rather like a slice of ham cut straight from a ham joint. It was thick and meaty and tasted delicious.

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I didn’t fancy any of the options on the menu that day and asked if I could have a custom sandwich of bacon, brie and caramelised onion toasted on ciabatta bread and was happily accommodated. It was utterly delicious!  I also had the nicest latte I have possibly ever had.  The coffee had such a smooth flavour and left no bitter after taste like some large coffee chains. The owners informed me that they had tried this coffee blend two years ago and had been so impressed with it they knew they had to serve it in their deli.

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In the fridges, a large selection of local charcuterie and cheeses to buy all of which the owners were happy to talk about and recommend.  There was also local honey and jams.  The fridge by the counter had a large selection of pork pies, pasties, pastries and cakes as well as some gluten free options either to eat in or take away for later.  What a lovely idea to stop in for a coffee but take home a dinner of charcuterie and cheese.  Add a bottle of wine and some crackers and you’ve got a low fuss dinner.

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The only down side I could see is that East Side might not be the best place to take small children.  Being on the snug side, the tables that are perfect for adult dining would not be able to accommodate buggies and there is limited space on the floor for little ones to play.  But on the other hand, it’s not really a kiddie sort of place.

I am so happy to have such a gem in our little town and look forward to my next visit.

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Bright Blessings,

Mrs R

x

 

My Fair Vintage tea shop

Hello my lovelies,

I have found the most amazing little cafe ever!  It’s just a tiny bit fabulous and I’m so excited to share it with you. It’s called My Fair Vintage and it’s found in Caterham, Surrey.

Everything about this place is straight out of my dreams  vintage tea shop dreams, and I adore it.  Aren’t those cute hanging tea pots and tea cups cute?

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As you walk inside, you are greeted with vintage loveliness and a cosy warm feeling of homecoming. Everywhere you look, there are gorgeous little trinkets and homewares to buy and beautiful vintage looking tea shop decorations that make my inner Pinterest maniac purr in delight!

Just look at those hand painted chairs and tables and the hanging honeycomb decorations…

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This picture is taken from their Facebook page and shows their toe curling Christmas deccies. I’m gutted I didn’t get a chance to visit during the festive season but have definite plans to go this year.

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Alice in Wonderland inspired homewares that I was sooo tempted to buy… and just look at that grogeous painted welsh dresser. It’s for sale, as is other furniture around the store.

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More gorgeousness!  But would you look at that red velevet cake!  The proprietress bakes all the cakes and scones from scratch. She’s a real cake baking master. Paul Hollywood eat your heart out!

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Let us bask for a moment in the  gloriousness that is this cake.

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On the day we visited, there were plain scones, fruit scones, victoria sponge cake, chocolate mini egg cake, coffee and walnut cake, carrot cake and what looked like lemon drizzle cake. How can anybody make a choice?

In the corner on the way to the kitchen is this vintage sweet shop where lovely sweeties are weighed by the pound. Dotted around the shop are sweetie cones filled with nougat, fudge and brightly coloured gem coloured candies.

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There’s a list of teas to choose from but I’ve always loved my breakfast tea which is what I ordered. I adore that everytime I visit I get a different tea cup.  All of the tea cups and pots are mismatched and unique. My daughter loves chosing her table based on which tea cup she wants to drink from.

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Swish family Robertson

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She calls My Fair Vintage the Posh tea place because she gets to drink tea from these lovely cups and can actually strain it through a little silver strainer. Fascination in the extreme to a five year old princess wannabe.

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The menu is everything you would expect from such a lovely tea shop.  The kitchen is tiny yet they manage to prepare such lovely meals at very reasonable prices. And all prepared from scratch.

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Swish family Robertson
I’m taking my good friend here in April for her birthday for afternoon tea and I’m excited to say that it was made possible because My Fair Vintage are able to cater so ably for those with food intolerances and allergies.

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I bring my daughter here at the end of every term as a little treat for working so hard and being well behaved at school. In July, I’ve decided to start a new tradition with her of coming here for afternoon tea.

Who wouldn’t want a bit of this!

On the day we visited, we tucked into this gorgeous chocolate cake.  It’s honestly the chocolatiest, moistest most decadent cake I’ve ever had.

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We landed up sharing the cake and the Bacon, brie and cranberry panini between us because I knew my little one would never be able to eat the cake and a whole sandwich.  Worked out well for me though because I got the best of both worlds!

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I honestly cannot recommend My Fair Vintage enough. Over the past year I’ve been visiting they have surpassed all my expectations and never failed to delivery not only excellent service, but quality food and a special experience every time.  Check out their Facebook page for opening hours and the latest news.

I hope you’ll visit and find it as fabulous as I have.

Bright blessings,

Mrs R

x

Curried couscous salad

Hello my lovelies,

I’m excited to tell you about this cracking Curried Cous Cous Salad I’ve been enjoying lately.  It’s tasty, quick  and easy!  You can make it up and enjoy it in your lunch box during the week. Just make sure you serve it with lots of speed food ’cause it’s free food but you wanna make sure you’ve got 1/3 a plate of speed food to ensure a good weight loss.

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Here’s the recipe:

130g of Cous Cous (dried)

1 chicken/vegetable oxo cube

1 teaspoon of curry powder

1 teaspoon sweetener

35g of raisins (3.5 syns)

Place the cous cous in a bowl and crumble the oxo cube in with a teaspoon of curry powder, sweetner and 35g of raisins (3.5 syns). Cover with boiling water and allow to stand to absorb.

Mix once water has been absorbed and allow to cool. This makes around 4 portions so that’s about 1 syn per portion (rounded up).

Enjoy!

Mrs R

xxx

 

Pulse and Prejudice – a review

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I recently had the pleasure of reviewing Pulse and Prejudice by Colette L. Saucier for Netgalley.com.

I really did not want to like this book. As a die-hard Pride and Prejudice fan I have always felt that there should be no messing with the perfection of the original tale. But while I love my precious original version I must admit to having my interest piqued by the spin off tales I’ve been seeing in recent years.

Pulse and prejudice appealed to me because I enjoy a good supernatural novel and the idea of Mr Darcy as a vampire appealed probably more than I care to admit.

I started the book thinking it would be a waste of time and was prepared to scoff at what I thought would be a bumbling attempt at reinventing the wheel. I’m not ashamed to admit how very wrong I was.

I LOVED Pulse and Prejudice and having just finished it, feel I need to read it again!

I found it fascinating how the author managed to completely explain the original Mr Darcy’s behaviour by turning him into a vampire. Suddenly he became so much more likeable from the early pages rather than part way through the book. We see such depth and complexity to his character that I now realise was lacking in the original telling of the tale. But then again, Jane Austen could not have shown more of Darcy’s character and inner depth because her version was written almost entirely in Elizabeth Bennet’s point of view.

I found it disconcerting how the author seemed to use chunks of prose and dialogue from the original novel. I did however, think the use of quotes from famous poets and playwrights was a clever touch that showed how much research had gone into the novel.

The vampiric elements of the novel were cleverly interwoven into the storyline so that the reader can almost believe that Jane Austen herself must have known Mr Darcy was a vampire and forgot to tell us.

I was shocked by the love scenes between Darcy and Elizabeth because there were none in the original version and I hadn’t expected there to be any in the new version.  While said love scenes brought the novel into the modern world I felt that these, along with the other intimate moments between Elizabeth and Darcy helped to  portray a closer connection between them. The intimate scenes also fed the readers appetite for the romance that many felt to be lacking in Mr Darcy and Elizabeth’s declaration of love for each other close to the end of the original novel.

While I thoroughly enjoyed this novel it seems a shame that others might read it before reading Jane Austen’s version and assuming Colette L. Saucier the genius who invented such interesting characters. Other than that I loved this novel and can’t wait to read it again.

*Please note that while I was able to read this book for free for review, I will always express my honest opinion.  If I don’t like a product or an item I review I will say why and be honest about it. *

Bright blessings,

Mama R

x

Review: Garnier Ultimate Blends – the marvelous transformer

Hello my lovelies,

You must allow me to share with you my new favourite product!

Introducing, Garnier Ultimate Blends – the marvelous transformer!

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I do market research for Bzzagent a highly rewarding market research company. I have been doing market research for them for the past year and have tested products such as Lindt chocolates, sun creams and Dr Oetke pizzas.

The latest package that arrived from Bzzagent was filled with these gorgeous products and I couldn’t have been more delighted.

Since I had my daughter, my hair has suffered badly.  It’s been dry and dull, not to mention bushy. Whether from hormones or something else I don’t know.  I thought it was just split ends but even after having a hair cut within a couple of weeks it was back to being bushy.  I tried Argan oil but it made no difference and I kept on using my usual Pantene. Being a young mum it was easier, much easier to just put my hair up into a bun and be done with it.

I had no idea that a shampoo or indeed, a hair care ‘system’ would make such a huge difference.  I really wish I had taken before and after pictures but it never crossed my mind because I didn’t think it would make much of a difference to simply change my hair care products.

Using these products could not be simpler.  I just washed my hair as usual in the shower and used the conditioner afterwards.

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Before I shaved my legs, I put on the 1 minute treatment and continued to shave.  I rinsed it out and towel dried my hair. Running my hands through my hair afterwards, it already felt less dry and brittle. I combed my hair out and went to bed.  I must admit to never drying my hair with a hairdryer at night.

The next morning, when I woke up I was astonished!  My hair felt light and silky!  Gone was the bushiness I’d been experiencing and instead my hair was sleek and shiny! It also smelled lovely.  I added the Marvelous Glow Oil and the smell was intensified.

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I got several compliments about my hair over the next few days.  People asked if my hair had recently been cut, or mentioned how shiny it was. I also had someone mention that my hair looked so healthy.

I’ve been using Garnier Ultimate Blends – the marvelous transformer for two weeks now and I know I will never look back.  I noticed this product was on special at Morrisons and have bought several more bottles of Garnier Ultimate Blends – the marvelous transformer to make sure I never run out!

This product is highly recommended and nothing short of amazing.

Bright blessings,

Mama R