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If you’re anything like me, you’ve got men in your life that you just don’t know what to buy when it comes round to special occasions. But there’s one thing that is always a safe bet – food. And when its beautifully decorated and presented too you can’t really go wrong…

Sweet treats are always a winner in my opinion, but getting something that looks high quality as well as something that tastes good is often tricky. Thankfully Biscuiteers have resolved all those issues, boasting a huge range of beautifully decorated and yet totally delicious biscuit gifts.

This particular gift is their dad’s bbq luxe biscuit tin (£40.00) which is perfect for Father’s Day. Featuring 13 hand iced biscuits in a unique range of designs, perfect for the Dad that loves his BBQ! Not only are the biscuits great, but they arrive in a uniquely designed keepsake tin which would be perfect for using for summers to come – or somewhere to store odds and ends in Dad’s shed! I love a present that gives for years to come.

At Biscuiteers, all their collections are all lovingly iced onto rich, traditionally baked biscuits using only the finest British butter, eggs and flour and some very difficult to measure golden syrup! They are then mixed, chilled and then hand cut using their own special cutters, before being baked in their bespoke baker’s oven. All this before they are cooled on wire racks, iced and packed into Biscuiteers tins.

What I also love is that there is the option to personalise your biscuits by adding a personalised message to one of the biscuits in your chosen tin – in this instance its the beer bottle. How cute is that! It really completes this gift with a personal touch too.

So, if you’re in need of a gift for Dad and running out of inspiration and time – give Biscuiteers a try, you might even get to nibble on a few yourself!

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Microdermabrasion is a treatment I have heard so much about, and always been tempted by. So when I was invited to visit a SkinBase salon to enjoy a facial I snapped up the chance and begun researching just what the experience entailed.

SkinBase are the UK’s leading microdermabrasion facial provider and work with over 2,000 salons across the UK providing equipment and training for therapists to perform their facials.

Microdermabrasion is SkinBase’s most popular treatment and uses a stream of crystals to remove your skins outermost layer of dead cells. The treatment is chemical free, non-invasive and uses a mild suction to draw away any skin debris to reveal a d new and improved complexion.

Micro facial is performed by a trained therapist and is an amazing way of removing dead skin cells to leave a glowing complexion.

I visited the Dermaesthetics Clinic near London Bridge. Based within a Regus office it was a little odd to arrive to, however once you were inside the treatment room you could be anywhere… and honestly this was the most relaxing facial I have ever had – and I really didn’t know where I was from 5 minutes in!

Before I arrived for my appointment, I was emailed a form to complete, detailing any known allergies and any skin concerns. I am lucky that my skin is relatively good, so I was looking at this treatment as a one-off or a treat before special occasions, however a set of treatments is perfect for those that suffer from acne or similar skin conditions. The results look incredible and certainly worth investing for.

I would love to be able to go in to great detail about each and every stage of the treatment, but there were just so many masks, cleanses, tones, etc it was hard to keep up! But the exfoliation itself was actually pleasantly enjoyable, and not in the slightest bit painful – which I have seem some people be concerned about.

The sensation is a little strange at first, but you definitely get used to it. To me it felt somewhat like a nail file being lightly rubbed against the skin, with the suction then drawing any debris away. This really isn’t an unpleasant sensation, but perhaps a little difficult to explain!

After the exfoliation my skin felt slightly warm and a little red, however a cooling pack followed by several masks soon saw treatment to this and by the time I left my face was looking only slightly red – it was fine enough that I got the tube and a train home during rush hour and with no make-up on I felt comfortable enough that people wouldn’t stare…

Overall, I really cannot recommend this treatment enough, and if you’re in the area then this salon is perfect for a quick lunchtime or longer after work treatment. Prices start from £25 and go up to £60+ depending on the length of your facial.

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All four seasons have their beauty in some shape or form, but I have been, and always will be, a firm spring/summer girl. There is nothing better than long nights and warmer days, and the spring season in particular gives many opportunities to capture some truly beautiful sights in camera.

From the falling petals of a cherry blossom tree, to the birds out and tweeting early in the morning – spring is a wonderful season, and one I wish I could spend all day capturing on my camera. Whilst I may no longer utilise a professional, canon camera with multiple options to zoom, adjust lighting and much more… my iPhone 8 camera does the job just as well if I do say so myself!

With portrait mode options and a relatively high-quality camera for the size of the phone, I can capture perfect moments with little fear of them being low quality or resolution.

But what to do with all these photos? That’s where photo printing comes in. I am passionate about the fact that the art of printing your photos seems to have been lost somewhere along the process of technology development. No longer do you visit a friend to look through their holiday snaps in various photo albums and frames, instead we browse a Facebook page or Instagram profile to see what our friends have been up to – but for me that just isn’t the same.

Just like a physical book vs an electronic version, I like to feel the paper between my fingers. Flipping through photos feels so much more rewarding when you can pause and talk about each other, instead of simple swiping between and not seeking further detail.

But not only is it a joy to print photos in a size you can hold, but to display them around your house too. It is easy to spend good money on canvases to display around your home, but often these are mass produced and so you could spot them all over the place! Using your own photography not only makes your artwork individual, but it is a constant reminder to you of good and happy times, and even your favourite seasons.

 

Whether you opt for a canvas to hang on the wall, a chopping board for the kitchen or a notebook to keep your deepest secrets in… make use of those images and remind yourself of the beauty your eyes have seen before them.

It’s not expensive to do either with the current spring savings across Jessops.com and photo.jessops.com (50% of in fact!). You’ll be spoilt for choice, and if you’re feeling generous why not treat your friends and family to something personal too?

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Carousel Diary by Carousel Diary - 2M ago

A few weeks ago we were invited to Bill’s Chelmsford to sample their brand new Spring menu, and our choice of the delicious sounded dishes it contains! From burgers to fish, eggs benedict to salad – what I love about Bill’s is the diversity of their menu, and so I was excited for the visit.

On arrival we were shown to our table, a little booth which was super cosy and also perfect for people watching being positioned right by the bar. If you’ve not visited Bill’s before the décor is pretty relaxed, and a little quirky. On your table you’ll also find a little list of things you can buy from their shop, from jams to granola and even a tea towel – the perfect little gift for yourself or somebody else who missed out on a visit…

Anyway, back to the menu – always extensive whatever the time of day or season. I really, genuinely struggled to decide on what to eat as there were just too many options that sounded appealing.

But first I settled on a drink and was delighted to spot they offered a “homemade” style Iced Tea – which at only £2.95 I thought was a bit of a bargain, and it was delicious too! A really refreshing drink, and a great alternative to something fizzy.

Finally, we decided what we wanted to order and settled on sharing the Chicken and Sesame Dumplings with spicy chutney (£6.25) and Devilled Chicken Skewers with spicy barbeque glaze and tzatziki (£6.75) to start.

I wouldn’t normally pick a chicken starter as often it’s lacklustre and something I could easily recreate at home, but I had heard good things about these particular chicken skewers and so had to try them. And it turns out my sources were correct; they were absolutely delicious – tender and with the right amount of glaze. The dumplings also were really nice, and I would certainly order those too again.

Without too long a wait our mains arrived. My partner was sold on the special of the day, which was a Crab and Prawn Burger (£13.75). Whilst I opted for the (gluten free!) Pan Fried Sea Bass with an avocado, cherry tomato and caper salsa and a herb rosti (£15.95).

Both dishes looked delicious on arrival, and I couldn’t believe how full of colour my plate of sea bass was. The avocado was the perfect complimentary flavour to the dish, and I’ve never before had such a crispy piece of sea bass – mmm!

We were left feeling satisfied, although we couldn’t quite manage dessert – feeling 2 courses was probably a reasonable lunch! Thankfully Bill’s Chelmsford is conveniently located on Bond Street, so we enjoyed a stroll around the shops and by the canal to digest both our meal and our experience at Bill’s.

If you’re in the area I really would recommend a visit – from previous experience, the cocktails are pretty delicious too!

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I was recently invited to Muse of London, a hairdressers and beauty salon based in Fitzrovia, to sample their brand new “Biscuit Blonde” menu – and who can resist a bit of pampering, especially with a name that really appeals to my sweet tooth!

The Biscuit Blonde colour menu is made up of several shades for blondes: Custard Cream, Iced Biscuit, Gold and Viennese Whirl – which is for those with darker hair that want to start the process of going lighter.

I decided to opt for Custard Cream, a beautiful light blonde shade that I hoped would weave in to my existing hair shade like a dream and looked like the perfect uplift for the arrival of Spring/Summer.

On arrival at the salon I was greeted and shown to the seating area, here I was offered a drink – including prosecco on tap! What a relaxing way to enjoy your haircut… After a few minutes wait my stylist greeted me and took me over to the chair.

We spoke about what colour I was hoping to achieve, and how this would work with my hair. Previous bleach had left the end of my hair much lighter than the top, and some root growth assisted on this too. So, we opted for a half head of highlights which would help to better blend my hair shade and show off the Custard Cream shade to its very best.

An hour or two later my hair was washed, a toner applied, and then I was back in the chair for a quick trim before my blow dry.

Once my hair was dyed, cut and blow dried I finally got to check it out… and I was in love! Bright blonde tones weren’t brassy but instead sat naturally and subtly against my existing colour, and despite the half head of highlights my hair was super soft too. It has remained so too, definitely a relief after any application of bleach.

The service at Muse of London was great, and my stylist couldn’t have been more friendly if she tried. But from listening in to those around me it seemed like this salon was a friendly environment generally, and one I would most certainly return to. There is nothing worse than a salon that you sit in and leave feeling like you didn’t belong, but that certainly wasn’t the case here!

Quirkily decorated with neon signs and magazine cuttings, this salon may not look like much from the outside but it’s a complete transformation on entering. The lighting was also perfect to make me look less of a gremlin with my wet hair – we’ve all been there, right?!

I really cannot recommend this salon enough, and lucky for me it is just a few minutes’ walk from my office. For the cut, half head of highlights and blow dry package that I enjoyed prices start from £155 for short hair and £166 for long hair – prices dependant on the stylists position.

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When it comes to Mother’s Day, we’ve all shopped for the standard gifts we think our mum will love – perfume, bath sets, chocolates… but maybe it’s time to broaden the horizons and treat her to something that little bit different?

One thing my mum (and I!) love is sweets. And lots of them. A sweet tooth is something shared with many, and so there could be no better gift than a hamper full of them. Kilograms worth of them in fact.

This Jellies Sweet Hamper from The Gift Experience impressed me from arrival to exploring the sweet goodness inside. Presented in a high-quality wicker hamper basket, this gift looks great and it doesn’t need wrapping either – which is always a bonus. Inside there is plenty of tissue paper, and once you dig right in you uncover bags upon bags of sweets, of every type possible.

From gummy works to fried eggs, liquorice wheels, fizzy cola bottles and so many more, your Mum will be spoilt for choice on receiving this and it’ll last for days/weeks/months depending on her sweet tooth.

What my mum loves too is keeping nice boxes, and this hamper is perfect for keeping and utilising for storage. Whether she is filling it with bath bombs, candles or more sweets it’s a great investment for this alone… the sweets are just an added extra!

At £37.00 for the hamper and 2.4kg of sweets I think this gift is great value, and it will certainly be a talking point for Mums everywhere who are lucky enough to receive it. But the best bit? When you pop round to see her, you can always sneak a handful or two…

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Carousel Diary by Carousel Diary - 4M ago

A few weeks ago, I was delighted to be invited along to The Nag’s Head in Brentwood, to sample their new menu and enjoy their newly refurbished restaurant prior to public opening. I was delighted to attend, and despite the cold and rainy night – the restaurant was warm, welcoming and the food delicious!

Located just outside of Brentwood High Street, and a short drive from Brentwood or Shenfield train station, the Nag’s Head is located alongside a main road that’s connected to the M25 – making it highly convenient to reach from many locations! Despite the proximity to the main road you can’t hear a thing once inside, and you may as well be sat inside a pub situated in the middle of the countryside…

The restaurant itself has been refurbished to an incredibly high standard, and I really enjoyed some of the fixtures and fittings that had been installed – they really gave the place a luxe feel. A roaring fire and luxury, yet cosy, soft furnishings helped too to keep you feeling warm despite the dreary January weather.

On arrival we headed to the bar, where there was a gin station – enabling you to choose the mixer of your fancy, alongside a variety of fruit to blend your G&T to perfection. The drinks menu itself has a wide number of gins, and cocktails, available to give you a little inspiration should you not want to get creative!

We prepared our taste buds for the main event with a sharing platter, which included the most delicious pork belly bites I have ever tried! They were a perfect accompaniment to our gins, and I was pleased to see there was one of each for everybody – nothing frustrates me more than a sharing board you cannot share!

Once we were seated and presented with our menus, I was delighted to see such a vast range of dishes. From fish to meat, a vegan menu, pizzas, burgers, steaks and so much more – there really is something for everybody here, making it the perfect place to meet up with friends (especially if one of them is a fussy eater!). It was hard to narrow down our choices as everything sounded so delicious, but eventually we did and with salivating mouths we awaited the arrival of our dishes.

Among the dishes for our starters, the Chargrilled Lamb Koftas with goat’s curd, plum tomato, roasted red pepper, cucumber & mint salad (£6.95) and the Scallops of the Day (MP) were especially delicious. The scallops were served on a bed of puree, alongside crispy bacon, but they change each day – so this is certainly a dish you could order every time and never get tired of! The scallops were meaty, yet tender and cooked to perfection. A strong recommendation from me!

For mains I opted for the Lobster & Devon Crab Fishcakes with asparagus, pea & truffle oil velouté topped with crispy seaweed (£13.95) which were nice enough, if a little too heavy on the potato. The pea velouté was delicious however, and the fishcakes were perfectly paired with the rocket salad – although you could opt for fries instead. Another favourite of the table was the Seared Salmon Fillet on chorizo mash, with tenderstem broccoli, and a bouillabaisse sauce (£15.95). I love chorizo, and I love mashed potato, so that concept was bound to entice me – and it was as delicious as expected!

In all honesty we were quite full by the time we reached dessert, but with such a vast dessert menu and so many delicious sounding options, I couldn’t avoid trying at least one! The Mango, Berry & Coconut Meringue Mess with mango, strawberries & passion fruit coulis, folded in a coconut sauce (£7.25) won my favour and it was the perfect compliment to the rest of my meal. The sweet meringue contrasted wonderfully with the coulis, and it was a great alternative to the usual ‘eton mess’.

Overall, I thought that the menu was great value for the quality of food, and the amount of choice alone means that I will most certainly return. The pub itself is gorgeous and really high quality, perfectly suiting its Essex surroundings. If you’re in the area, I cannot recommend The Nags Head in Brentwood enough.

Disclaimer: This meal was received free of charge at The Nag’s Haed in exchange for this review. As always, all views and opinions are honest and my own.

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A Michelin star rated restaurant, sat atop the South Place Hotel located within The City of London, Angler specialises in seafood and boasts a number of tasting menus to ensure you sample the full range of delights that they have to offer.

Visiting on a Tuesday evening at 6pm in January we didn’t expect the restaurant to be particularly busy, however within about 30 minutes of our arrival the restaurant had quickly filled up and there were, surprisingly after the party season is over, some large groups too. However, the tables were situated far enough apart that this wasn’t an issue, and instead it added some atmosphere to the place.

On arrival we were invited to enjoy a pre-dinner drink on the covered balcony but, being slightly frosty outside and also feeling a little hungry, we proceeded directly to our table. The balcony area did provide blankets however and would have been the perfect place to enjoy a hot drink, or cocktail or two in the summer months.

The Buy a Gift voucher for a 6 Course Michelin Meal with Champagne for 2 at Angler South Place we received for this experience was £135 and enabled us to receive a glass of Champagne each alongside our 6-course tasting menu. This, I thought, was exceptional value – no less because you always seem to receive more than the quoted 6-courses with a treat from the chef and a pre-dessert pallet cleanser.

The menu included mackerel, red mullet, squid ink – and oddly for a restaurant that focuses on seafood – partridge. Each was as delicious as the last, but my favourite dish had to be the Gougère pastry which certainly enticed the taste buds!

Elegantly decorate, and with a particularly enjoyable scent around the place, this restaurant was a delight to spend a few hours in and the staff were always on hand to ensure your drinks were topped up. It did feel like our experience was slightly fast (we were on our 5th ‘official’ course within around 50/55 minutes) but perhaps that is because we enjoyed the food so much, we were consuming at too fast a rate!

There was no rush to turn a table or for us to leave however, as we relaxed with a hot drink and our petits fours options for around another hour.

I would really recommend Angler if you’re looking for a reasonably priced Michelin restaurant, that’s convenient to reach too. This certainly ticked all the boxes and I just wish I could enjoy it all over again!

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Carousel Diary by Carousel Diary - 5M ago

Skincare is somewhat of a passion of mine. Cleansers, toners, face masks, eye creams… I’ve got it all, and tried a lot. But I never get bored of trying new products, as you just never know when you might find the holy grail! Which was why I was so excited to give the Sonya Daily Skincare System a try.

Packaged in a cute green wash bag, this set includes 4 products which are full size:

  • Sonya Refreshing Gel Cleanser: aloe gel and natural cleansers help remove dead cells, dirt and makeup.
  • Sonya Illuminating Gel: a quick-absorbing gel that gives a soft, smooth and even complexion that glows.
  • Sonya Refining Gel Mask: an over-night mask that controls oil and brightens the appearance of skin.
  • Sonya Soothing Gel Moisturizer: a gel-based lotion that uses powerful ingredients to moisturise and improve the look of combination skin.

As is core to the Forever Living brand, the focus ingredient of these products is aloe vera. This special ingredient is powerful: it’s an antioxidant, it’s a healer of acne, it’s a soother of burns… it’s pretty much an essential for any beauty cupboard!

Retailing at £82.81, the Sonya Daily Skincare System has all the essentials that you need and would be perfect to throw in your suitcase before jetting off on holiday. If only because the aloe vera will most certainly help to heal any sunburn!

My favourite product of the four is the “Soothing Gel Moisurizer” as it really is soothing! Nothing is nicer than applying it after a hot bath. It leaves my skin soft and clean too, no heavy cream of additives here.

The “illuminating gel” is somewhat a more unique product. This one I apply before my foundation, and it gives me somewhat a subtle glow from within. It would be perfect for a lazy summer day too, when you want to look that little bit “perked” up without anything too heavy on.

Made specifically for combination skin, which can fluctuate and vary greatly, the Sonya Daily Skincare range features a high concentration of aloe and other moisturising botanicals. Nature meets science with a revolutionary gel-based technology that helps to deliver the benefits of aloe where your skin needs it most, plus its light texture leaves you feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.

Overall, I am really impressed with this little kit, and the Sonya products within. I would most certainly repurchase some of the range as the products have become essentials on my dressing table – and with so many products stashed in my cupboard, that takes some doing!

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Carousel Diary by Carousel Diary - 5M ago

Formerly Clarice House, Bannatyne Spa Kingsford Park is located in Colchester, Essex within a historical manor house. And it’s the perfect place to spend a day relaxing and pampering yourself.

After a busy festive period I decided that a spa day would be the perfect treat for myself and my partner. Lazing around the pool, getting sweaty in the steam room, eating lunch in your dressing gown and relaxing with a massage – honestly, what could be a better way to spend a Saturday?

This spa day package was purchased from Red Letter Days and included full use of the facilities, lunch and a 55-minute treatment at a reduced cost of £109 (£233 RRP). Some packages aren’t available at the weekend, but this one could be used 7 days a week which was a nice bonus.

Arriving at around 10am the spa was still relatively quiet, which meant there was plenty of loungers around the pool and, most importantly, space in the jacuzzi!

We hired a dressing gown and towel from reception on arrival (£15, £10 refundable) and headed to the changing rooms. We were additionally given a wristband which works as your locker key, which is so much easier than trying to keep a key somewhere when you’re relaxing by the pool. The changing rooms themselves were modern and large, with plenty of space to get ready.

The spa area of Kinsford Park features a large swimming pool, jacuzzi, a smaller spa pool with jets and showers and several rooms too: aromatherapy room, sauna and steam room. Round by the spa there is also a water bed room and a relaxation room with heated beds, these can be used all day too but are outside of the pool area.

After a few hours on hopping in and out of the water and relaxing rooms, we put down our books and headed to our pre-booked lunch time slot. I liked that we pre-booked our lunch and massage times in advance as it meant I knew the flow of our day, and was left feeling totally not stressed about it.

We headed to lunch in our aforementioned dressing gowns, arriving in a beautifully light conservatory room for our lunch. There is something strange about sitting down to lunch in a room full of strangers that are all wearing a white gown!

Given our menus, the package we had purchased for our spa day included a one-course lunch. There was a vast array of options including sandwiches, salads, burgers and main dishes too – some of these had additional supplements, but none of these were over £3 which I thought was reasonable. Whilst water was available, any additional drinks are on top of most packages as you would expect.

After a leisurely lunch, where I enjoyed this huge portion of chips with my panini and salad, we headed to the water bed room to relax before our couples’ massage. These beds are a bit of a challenge to get on to at first, but once on I soon felt myself start to drift off in to a nap – they were certainly comfortable, and most importantly relaxing.

 

Before we knew it our massage appointment time had arrived and we were called upstairs by our therapists. As we had booked as a couple we were sharing a room for this, although the spa did check that this would be ok – so if you are visiting with a friend or family member and would prefer to be alone, this isn’t a problem.

We enjoyed a back, neck and shoulder massage followed by a full body polish. The massage was firm and certainly got all my aches and pains out! The spa also uses Elemis products which was a nice treat. The body polish was the first time I have had a treatment like this but being scrubbed all over and then moisturised was very pleasant – and I left with skin softer than it has been for many years.

After our massage we headed back to the changing rooms to get changed out of our plush dressing gowns, and back in to our winter clothing. We left feeling especially relaxed, and charmed by Kingsford Park Spa – with plans to most certainly visit again.

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