Gift Idea: Prestige Christmas Hamper

Sunday, September 23, 2018
Today is the autumn equinox, the first day of autumn for the northern hemisphere, so that means that it's acceptable to post ALL THE CHRISTMAS posts now, right? I've already published my first christmas gift guide of the year which features a range of quirky gifts from Cool Stuff but today's is all about an amazing food hamper from the very lovely people over at Prestige Hampers.

*Prestige Food Hamper 
The hamper in todays post is one of their larger food hampers which doesn't seem to be on the website yet but I'll include a price and link as soon as I can! The hamper was delivered quickly and was well packaged; it's definitely a treat to open and discover all of the wonderful goodies within! The box I have contains so many fantastic food items from snacks, chocolates, biscuits and tea to preserves, wine and savoury snacks.
Savoury Snacks & Preserves 
I do have a sweet tooth but only very occasionally, I definitely prefer savoury and or salty snacks and there are a few within the hamper. My favourite snack from the hamper is the Yorkshire Popcorn and I received the sweet and salty flavour which is best popcorn flavour! The other savoury snacks in the hamper include a very nicely designed packet of garlic stuffed olives (sadly I'm not a fan of olives), gouda cheese biscuits (gouda isn't suitable for vegetarians as far as I know) and a couple of preserves, including a sun-dried tomato and balsamic chutney. Lastly for the savoury snacks, there's a tub of cured ham and pickle crisps from the same Yorkshire brand as the popcorn in the box which as a vegetarian, I'm not interested in at all but I know a lot of my family would love them.
Chocolates & Wine
There are a couple of bottles of wine within the hamper, one pinot grigio and one merlot, both from the brand Luccello which I haven't heard of before. I don't drink very often at all but I think one of the best things about this hamper in particular is that it caters for a lot of different tastes and preferences as there are a range of savoury options, sweet offerings, alcohol and biscuits to choose from - I think it would make a fantastic family hamper as there's something for everyone to enjoy.

There are a couple of sets of chocolates, the first is from a brand I've already tried and loved, Monty Bojangles and it's their yummy truffles. The second is a set of assorted Belgian chocolates - all of which look amazing! The hamper would be equally as good to split up and share between family members or friends as a group sharing gift.
Biscuits, Fudge & Tea
The final category of items are all of the sweets things and tea! The contents of this hamper would be great to make an afternoon tea with as there are lots of biscuits to share, strawberry jam to add to scones and wine for an adult afternoon tea! The biscuits I'm most excited about within the hamper are the original Scottish shortbread as not only does the packaging look amazing but they taste amazing as well - great for dunking in tea, hot chocolate or coffee.

There's another pack of shortbread but these are made in Cornwall's oldest bakery which makes them a little special. Chocolate Turkish delight and salted caramel fudge are also included and sound so delicious and perfect for Christmas Day snacking as we all do that over the christmas period. I personally don't like many traditional Christmas snacks or food so this hamper is perfect for me.
Overall, I think the wicker hamper box itself looks amazing, really well made and great for re-using after you've ate all of the wonderful goodies within. I think I'm going to re-use mine as bath bomb storage. The hamper, rather than a box, makes the gift as whole look so much more expensive, luxe and special, in my opinion.

I love so many of the snacks included, especially the popcorn, fudge, shortbread biscuits and the chocolates. There's a great range of items so your gift recipient(s) will definitely find a variety of items that they'll love and can indulge in over the festive season because christmas is a time for giving, eating and snaking! Check out my video below for a look at the hamper in detail and all of the wonderful products within.

What do you think of this hamper? Would you like to give and or receive one for christmas? 

First Christmas Gift Guide of 2018 ft. Cool Stuff

Saturday, September 22, 2018
Today's post is my first Christmas gift guide of the year so far (yes, I am very organised this year!) and it's featuring a perfect gift website, Cool Stuff. Cool Stuff stocks a huge range of gifts from quirky gifts, stocking fillers, gifts for him/her and gadgets. I was very kindly sent a few of their gift ideas and I love all of them! Cool Stuff offers very quick delivery and it's free on orders over £29.95.

*Prepara Herb Savor (£19.99)
The first gift is something I've wanted for ages and that's a fresh herb saver. I have been cooking for myself since I was about twelve so I'm always excited by cooking or kitchen gadgets. I use fresh and dried herbs in almost everything I make but fresh herbs don't tend to last very long so I thought this would be the perfect solution and so far so good. The herbs saver is very quick and easy to put together, it looks fairly sleek in the fridge and it has quite a large storage capacity. However, it is a little tall so I've had to rearrange the fridge. I think it would make a great practical cooking gift for any foodies in your life; also it would be ideal as part of a christmas cooking or food gift hamper.
*Pop-A-Cob Gourmet Popcorn (£5.99)
Next up is tied with the Papa Bear Screwdriver as my favourite gift in today's gift guide! You might not know this about me but one of my favourite snacks is popcorn, I can't get enough so I had to try this very unique looking popcorn. I haven't ever come across popcorn that pops straight off the cob before!

There are four varieties to choose from and I opted for the 'ruby red' corn which looks so unusual. You put the whole cob in the microwave, in it's bag, and it does what it says on the box - it pops right off the cob for crunchy popcorn. I think it would make such an amazing and very unique stocking filler, I cannot recommend it enough.
*Utenu Window Bird Feeder (£5.99)
Along with the popcorn, another unique and inexpensive gift, is this cute window bird feeder which is composed of clear plastic so you can attach it to your window and watch the birds as they visit the feeder - love this idea! Since we had an extension on the kitchen and split it into a utility as well, it's meant that we haven't been able to see the birds and squirrels that frequent our garden as much so I hope this will solve that!

It comes with suction cups so it's easy to attached to the window and the clear plastic means that it isn't an eye sore or a window obstruction. The feeder is a very inexpensive stocking filler or gift and I would be ideal for families or nature lovers, especially if your gift recipient doesn't have a garden.

*Papa Bear Screwdriver 
Last but not least is one of the cutest tools I've ever seen but sadly it doesn't seem to be on the website anymore. The bear comes in a range of colours but I chose the grey shade and I cannot get over how adorable it is! The bear conceals the screwdriver handle and a set of six screwdriver heads in the base. It's adorably presented and designed and would make the cutest practical stocking filler ever! You can see all of the products in action in the video below, apart from the bird feeder as it's been constantly raining in Manchester recently, as always.

What do you think of these gift ideas? Are you prepping for Christmas? Will you be checking out Cool Stuff?

*Car Buying: New vs Used

*Car Buying: New vs Used

Friday, September 21, 2018
Image from Cool Chic Style Fashion via Pinterest
If you’ve been following my blog or social media then you’ll have seen that we’ve been in the process of looking at new and used cars to buy which will be replacing my beloved Renault Clio (the car I first learned to drive in so I feel like it might be more normal to be sad to see it go). The whole process of choosing not just what make or model to opt for but also whether to choose a brand new car or a used car has been very stressful!

Depreciation 
There are so many points to consider when you’re looking for a car, whether it is new, used or a classic. There are positives and negatives for both a new and used car and one main negative that we were thinking about is the depreciation when it comes to a new car. New cars lose their value very quickly which for some might be a deal breaker and it was for us too. Compared to used and typically cheaper cars, newer options are a big investment!

Initial Cost 
Along with the condition of the car, one of the first things to consider is the initial cost of the car which naturally with a new car will be higher compared to a used car, depending on the model. Going back to depreciation, the initial outlay of the car is very high with a newer car and then it loses it’s value and to be honest, this was the main reason we chose a two year old car rather than a brand new model.

Driving History & Milage 
Another point to think about is the driving history! With a new car, you’ll only have the delivery milage and no driving history but a used car, depending on the age and condition, can have a whole array of hidden problems and a checkered history. The age and milage are easy points to check but the way a used car was driven is another matter.

Warranty 
It can be very exciting buying a new car (although I came to hate most of the car salesmen we encountered by the end of it) and there are numerous benefits such as a full warranty which is usually three years. Typically a used car will have a warranty but it will be more along the lines of 12 months after than three years. The used car we bought last month came with a 12 month warranty from Vauxhaul which is beneficial but a newer car does have a better deal in terms of the warranty.

Tax 
As well as the initial cost of the car, there’s also the MPG, insurance and road tax to consider, all of which will differ depending on the make, model, specifications and age of the car. With some newer cars, there’s a set rate of tax but with used or older cars, it might be cheaper; however it may not be the case with all. For example, our fourteen year old Clio had a road tax of £140 and our two year old Astra is only £20.

Insurance 
The final point to consider is insurance and whether you opt for a brand new car straight out of the show room or a used car, Aviva car insurance is a great option to consider. Aviva car insurance covers damage to your brand new vehicle and roadside repairs for your older used car. In the end, it’s up to you and your budget as to whether you want to buy new or used but make sure you look around for the best deal on your car and insurance.

Do you drive? What are your thoughts on new vs used cars?

*This is a sponsored post
*Image from Pinterest

Blog Tour: The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale

Thursday, September 20, 2018
I was very kindly sent a gorgeous hardback copy of this book, thanks Penguin! The cover is just stunning! However as I was travelling so much in August I read most of this book as an e-book on my iPad while on holiday but I finished half of the book within the month of September.
*The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale (480 pages) ★★★ (3.5)
In The Toymakers we follow Cathy, a runaway who has applied to work at the wonderful Papa Jack's Emporium in London. However all is not what it seems in the Emporium or for Cathy as she has her own not so little secret. What follows is an incredibly magical, endearing and christmas themed read that is tinged with sadness, loss and the devastating unseen affects of war.

I utterly adored the descriptions of the Emporium as well as the wonderful toys held within. It would be a perfect read for christmas time as it had quite a few moments of childhood wonderment you feel during that time of the year. Christmas feels like it is just around the corner (even though it is a few months away) and the descriptions of toys, childhood excitement for presents, whimsical decorations, the magic of Christmas and the thrill of playing with new toys during the Christmas period were rich and constant throughout this book which made it a very heartwarming, nostalgic and cosy read at times.

However, it is simultaneously a very heart warming, magical read as well as a very wistful and heartbreaking book with moments of sadness and melancholy. I never read emotional books and this one did get to me at times, especially after the half way mark of the book. I definitely prefer the more light hearted, magical elements of the book rather than the heartbreaking realities of life, uncomfortable emotions of jealousy, guilt and self doubt as well as the mental health aspects of the book but they are very important to read about and for the story. I'd definitely recommend it for it's utterly magical, Christmas themed setting and wonderful writing so if that sounds like something you'd enjoy then check out this read!

Will you be picking up this christmassy read? What are you currently reading?

*Are Bloggers Looking After Their Mental Health?

Wednesday, September 19, 2018
Mental health is an important topic of conversation recently as an increased number of individuals have confided they have been affected or are affected by mental health struggles. Mental health issues and illness can affect anyone in society regardless of profession, ethnicity, income etc so it's nothing to be ashamed of. So now more than ever, we should be showing support to each other and even checking in. Although life can get busy, sometimes we might find ourselves feeling out of touch or isolated, especially when working or staying at home on a regular basis.

Bloggers, in particular, can spend a huge amount of time keeping their blog updated and networking on social media, but while online conversations are great and lead to new friends, human contact is necessary for a healthy life.

While the stay/work from home lifestyles are nothing new in society, with people have worked in partial isolation in some circumstances for centuries, there has been an increase in individuals adopting a work from home life, including bloggers, freelance artists, marketers and independent business owners, to name a few. In response, a number of studies were carried out to confirm that “social isolation” was detrimental to our mental health, including a study that saw 42% of home workers report they had suffered from insomnia during their work from home, remote working lifestyle.

Can Bloggers and Freelancers Combat Social Isolation? 
There are plenty of things that can bloggers and work from home freelancers can do to practice good self-care including regular networking, working to a daily schedule and ensuring they eat a well-balanced diet (quite underestimated by many work-at-homers who sometimes revert to unhealthy snacking). Here are some other tips for bloggers who want to make better connections and scratch their social itch;

Voice Chat - Networking between freelancers tends to happen over social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter or even industry related forums and message boards in texts, posts or direct messages. Platforms that offer voice chat can help networkers forge better bonds and contribute to combating social isolation. Skype and Discord are popular examples of voice platforms and offer voice chat rooms for large amounts of people.

Build a Community - If you’ve been blogging for a while, you might belong to a community of bloggers already. If not, joining a community can be great for swapping stories about working from home struggles with others that have experienced it themselves, in addition to getting advice for seasoned work from home freelancers who have been doing it longer.

Organise an Event - Getting together is the best way to combat social isolation but going over to someone's home or inviting someone into your home can be uncomfortable or awkward or you might not have the space to invite all the bloggers you network frequently with into your space. An alternative idea is to organise an event between your group of bloggers, whether taking on responsibilities between each other, or seeking out a company to take care of the details or arrange an activity, like the services offered by team building organisation Team Challenge Company.

Taking on Part Time or Casual Work - Not only a positive contribution to combating social isolation but an opportunity to make some money on the side. Where time allows, working a part time or casual job can be a great way to connect with others and get you out the house for a bit in a new environment. It could even offer you inspiration or subjects for content creation, through writing or vlogging about what you do at work and the things you have experienced.

In conclusion, bloggers and freelancers should put more consideration into their positive mental health and self-care and work towards proactively being social with others regularly so they don’t find themselves falling into a negative self-care routine that could potentially have a negative effect on their mental and physical health.

Do you have any tips to stay connected while working from home? 

*This is a sponsored post

GlossyBox Back To School: September 2018

Tuesday, September 18, 2018
It's that wonderful time of the month again when subscription boxes are coming in and one I'm always excited for is GlossyBox. I subscribed to GlossyBox myself years ago and loved it but a student budget doesn't allow for pretty things so I had to cancel; however I'm very grateful that I am now sent the boxes to review from the incredibly lovely people over at Glossybox!

*GlossyBox - September 2018
The September box contains six items, five of which are full sizes items which is amazing! Subscription boxes in the past used to be filled with lots of sample sachets and I'm so glad that those days are behind us because it wasn't the best value for money as a customer but now it's fantastic. The brands in this months box range from Grow Gorgeous, Wet Ones and Bang Beauty to Daily Concepts, Model Co and Beauty Pro, only a couple of which I've tried.
*Grow Gorgeous Scalp Detox (£7.37, deluxe mini size)
Let's start with the product I used first and was most excited about! I have heard amazing things about this brand and this particular product sounded perfect for me as it is a vegan friendly, cruelty free scalp treatment that removes impurities that block your roots. My hair is fairly thick and coloured treated with dry ends and a fairly oily scalp so I thought it would be interesting to try out.

The products itself is similar to a face scrub cleanser and it has physical gritty particles within it as well as pomegranate enzymes and natural castor oil. The instructions state to use a generous amount which I did...which then acted as an almost glue in my hair. It wasn't a pleasant experience using this product at all however the results were fairly impressive. Overall, while I liked the results, the awful process of applying it and rinsing it out has definitely put me off using this product again sadly.
*Model Co X Karl Lagerfeld Lip Pencil in Rosewood (£25, full sized)
I love any product with the name 'rosewood' as I know that it's going to be a shade I'll love and the same goes for this product. The shade is just gorgeous and something I'd wear on a daily basis so I'm very happy with this product already. Also the price of it more than pays for the box alone! The lip pencil is fairly creamy, the pigmentation is good and I adore the shade.

*Daily Concepts Your Mini Facial Scrubber (£8.85, full sized)
Next up is a brand that I've tried from a different subscription box and loved - Daily Concepts. Their travel sized mini facial scrubber included in the box is the gentle option which my sensitive skin is grateful for. It would have been perfect for me to take on holiday last month! It is gentle but still feels like it, combined with my cleanser, deeply cleanses my skin.

*Beauty Pro Detoxifying Bubbling Mask with Activated Charcoal (£4.95, full sized)
One of my favourite things about the September box is how diverse the products are - from a travel sized facial scrubber to a lip pencil, scalp treatment, wipes and a mask. I'm very happy that there's only one skincare item in the box as typically I think that there are too many skincare items per box. This award winning mask claims to refine pores, reduce oil, clean away blackheads and detoxifying your skin - it sounds like a miracle and I can't wait to use it.
*Bang Beauty Eyebrow Cream (£16.80, full sized)
I have been looking for a new brow product to try recently so I was initially pleasantly surprised by this item but sadly the shade doesn't match my brows at all. Bang Beauty isn't a brand I've heard of but it looks great and I would have loved to try this eyebrow cream!

*Wet Ones Be Fresh Antibacterial Wipes (£1.19, full sized)
This box for me is a mix between items I've needed recently and a couple of disappointments and this product falls into the former category. Wipes are always something handy to have in your bag but I'm going to keep these in my car as I know they'll be used the most there. They are dermatologically tested and pH balanced so they can used on the the body, hands and childrens skin too.

Overall, my favourite products from this months box have to include the Daily Concepts facial scrubber, Wet Ones wipes and Model Co lip pencil. I really wish I could have tried the eyebrow cream as it sounds promising but the shade isn't quite right sadly. I liked this months box and I especially liked the variety of items included but it hasn't wowed me quite as much as previous boxes have done; however that's definitely going to change the next months box as the preview (which is always on the information leaflet) is very exciting!

What do you think of this months GlossyBox? Have you tried any of these products?