October 20, 2017

5 Little Luxuries to Take With You When You Travel


These days, we are on the go all the time. From jetting off on our annual vacations to visiting friends and family scattered around the country, racking up the air miles travelling for work or even planning that long-dreamed-of road trip across America. Even if you love a more nomadic lifestyle, there are times when we just want our creature comforts around us. But traveling doesn’t necessarily have to mean compromising in life’s little luxuries. Here are five ways to add a little touch of luxe to your travel set-up, no matter the occasion.

Cozy up in a cashmere wrap

When you’re between multiple locations, it’s the variations in temperature that can catch you out. Even when you’re on the airplane or a train, things can get really cold, and there’s nothing less luxurious than shivering! Luckily help – and luxury – is at hand with a cashmere travel set. Warm and cozy, unbelievably soft and also lightweight, a set like this one from won’t add bulk to your baggage, but it will stop you shivering if temperatures drop. You can get different combinations, but a travel wrap, eye mask and socks are a winning combination.

Invest in a travel scent set

There is nothing more evocative than fragrance, so controlling how your environment smells can be a powerful comfort – it can lift your mood, energize you, or simply help you to relax. It’s such a simple thing and yet so transformative. The right scent can instantly make a hotel room or guest room feel much more like home. Muji does great travel sets with mini candles and incense sticks, all in light but durable little aluminium tins that so easy to transport.

Luxe up your bathrobe

A bathrobe is something that most of us throw into our suitcase without a second glance, but it can be a simple but effective way to add comfort to your travels. There are so many different types of bathrobes, so don’t settle for the first one you find! Consider soft silk or cozy cashmere again, to add an extra enhancement to your downtime. You are often so busy when you travel, so it’s great to be able to come back to your hotel room and really get comfortable by slipping on your robe.

Pack your own pillowcase

It may seem weird to some, but using strange pillows and bed linens can affect the quality of your sleep while you are travelling, and one way to deal with that is by taking your own pillow or even just the pillowcase along with you. A beautiful silk pillowcase can not only enhance your sleep, but it can also stop your hair getting tangled and frizzy in the night meaning you can get away with packing fewer hair products and tools as well!

Escape into music

The real luxury when you’re traveling is often a bit of head space from other people’s noise, and it’s so comforting to be able to escape into some music, a good TV show or an immersive movie on your iPad. But to make this experience so much better, it’s worth investing in some good quality noise-cancelling headphones. Being able to blot out the world when you want to sleep or just get some peace and quiet is fantastic – you can even wear them playing a white noise app if you don’t wish to hear music!

*This is a collaborative/contributed/partnered, compensated post. The copy, content, images & opinions are not my own.

The Little Touches That Make Any Occasion Special

Whenever you are planning any kind of event, it goes without saying that you want it to be very special. The truth is that this can be surprisingly hard to pull off, no matter what that event actually is. But as long as you are happy with making some small changes if they're needed, you might be surprised at the kind of effect it can have on the day overall. There are a few key things which you can look out for which are always going to help make any occasion a little more special. Let’s look at those now, and see how you can make them a reality for your next special event.

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Special Guests
If you are keen for the day to be well remembered by everyone in attendance, then one sure way to do so is to have a special guest of honor of some kind come and visit for the day. There are countless people you could choose from, and it depends partly on what kind of day it is and who is attending. You could have your partner’s favorite singer visit for your wedding, for example, or maybe a magician could attend your child’s birthday party. Having some kind of outside entertainment can really work wonders on any event, especially if it is someone that a few people have heard of.


Flowers
It’s truly hard to think of any event which does not see improvement when you add a few flowers. For one reason or another, having flowers is always a powerful way to make sure that the event looks as good as possible, so it is definitely worth trying to find a good florist for your next event - no matter what that gathering actually is. With the right flowers dotted around the place, people will feel as though it is much more of an official event, and you might be pleasantly surprised at how much it improves the mood of a place as well. Consider this next time you are wondering what your special occasion might be missing, but can’t quite put your finger on it.


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Free Drinks
Something that always pricks the ears of people is when there is a free bar. Of course, this is not the ideal thing for every occasion under the sun - but for a good many, it is likely to go down pretty well. If you can afford to offer free drinks at least for a part of the evening, you might find it really affects the mood in a positive way, and there are few quicker ways of making the atmosphere much more light and happy than this. Consider doing this for any all-adult party which you might be planning, or of course for a wedding.

If you consider the above simple touches to your next event, you will find it makes a huge difference to how well it is received. It’s worth considering these when you are planning a party, but make sure you don’t go overboard on any one. Simplicity is often the key to success.

*This is a collaborative/contributed/partnered, compensated post. The copy, content, images & opinions are not my own.

October 19, 2017

Hi, I’m X And I’m Addicted To Caffeine!


Addictions are bad right? A person with a drug dependency needs help because it’s a destructive habit. Yet, there are thousands of people who deal with addiction every day. You may be one such person. Like or not, caffeine is a drug and the average person consumes more than 10 grams per day. To put it into perspective, 400 milligrams is enough to kill a person. The first step with any addiction is acceptance. Once you understand there is a problem, here are the next steps.

Keep A Diary
The problem with caffeine is it is ubiquitous without being conspicuous. Simply put, it’s in everything from tea and coffee to chocolate but it isn’t easy to spot. You can’t taste it, so you would have to read the label to get a clear indication. How many consult the back of the coffee jar before making a cup of joe? Hardly anyone! A diary helps you keep track of much caffeine you consume on a daily basis. When the amount gets too much, the journal should push you into cutting back. Checking the ingredients of food before eating is a useful tip, also.

Don’t Go Cold Turkey
Any self-respecting medical professional will say going cold turkey is a bad idea. If an addiction is severe, taking it out of a diet could be fatal. Of course, your habit isn’t as extreme, but cutting out caffeine altogether is not healthy. Also, it doesn’t help with the cravings. The key is to reduce the amount of it in your bloodstream over time. Start by having one less cup of coffee or tea a day, then have one less and one less until you don’t drink any caffeinated drinks. Gradually reducing the intake is better than jumping the gun.

Cover Up The Tea And Coffee
Drinking tea and coffee becomes a routine which is hard to stop. It’s even harder when they are on display 24/7. Many people keep their tea bags and/or coffee on the kitchen counter. Once you see it, the brain will decide it wants it. Try tricking your mind by camouflaging the container. Thankfully, there are gift caddies which are perfect for a cover-up job. Simply put it over the jars and the caffeine is out of sight and out of mind. The great thing is everything is still on hand should you fancy a brew. Plus, the cover stops the tea or coffee from going bad.

Make A Healthier Swap
People relate caffeine to sugar because it’s in lots of sugary foods. So, try and trick the mind into thinking it is getting its fix with a fizzy drink. The sugar should appease the body and stop the cravings. What about the caffeine in the soda? Don’t worry because some drinks don’t have any whatsoever. Sprite may be part of the Coca-Cola family, but it’s a healthier version. Just be careful to keep an eye on your sugar intake in you go down this route or you may end up with another addiction!

*This is a collaborative/contributed/partnered, compensated post. The copy, content, images & opinions are not my own.

Christmas on a Budget: 15 Money Saving Tips

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Christmas time, and the holiday period in general, is much more expensive than it used to be. Everything is just....more. There are more decorations, more events to attend, more food and drinks you can buy and more gifts on everyone’s Christmas lists. Then, the gifts themselves can cost an arm and a leg. Children are no longer asking for dolls and trains. Instead, they want iPads and other smart devices. Nothing seems to be cheap anymore, and many people find themselves either in vast amounts of debt or entering January with a severe lack of funds. Well, fortunately, there are still some fantastic ways to save money. Here is a look at some of the best.

Make Deals
Speak to your friends and family and agree to not buy each other gifts or set a spending limit. If you’re on a budget people will understand and probably be happy to save themselves a little cash too. Alternatively, you could have a deal to only by for the children in the family.

Send E-Cards
Cards can get very expensive, especially if you also need to pay for postage. E-Cards are very popular now and can come in some fantastic designs. Remember, it’s the thought that counts.

Make Gifts
Making gifts is a very thoughtful thing to do. Think about your creative skills and use those to come up with something awesome! Some great ideas to start with include:

•    Photo frames
•    Soft Furnishings
•    Paintings
•    Clothes
•    Bags and accessories
•    Jewelry

Have a look on Pinterest.com for some more ideas and think about what you enjoy making. If you’ve got kids, get them involved for added cute factor.


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Bake
Festive baking is a lovely way to get yourself in the mood, make your home smell lovely and save money. Make mince pies and Christmas cake or have a go at Christmas puddings. You could also bake gifts or make jams and chutneys for your friends and family.


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Shop Early
Check out giftbeta.com for some ideas and start your shopping now. Spreading the cost over time can make shopping much more manageable and save you a fortune.

Look For Deals
Starting your shopping early also means you’ve got plenty of time to search for the best offers and deals. If there’s anything big you want to buy, especially if it’s electronic, it might be worth waiting for Black Friday or Cyber Monday to see what’s on offer.

Book Tickets Now
If you plan to travel over the holidays, you could save a lot of money by booking your flights or train tickets in advance. You can typically book six to eight weeks in early, and the savings can be huge.

Compromise
If you can’t afford the best, don’t worry about it. Buy generic brands and/or make things yourself instead. You'll save money in the long run!

Have Fun at Home
There are so many events to head to over Christmas, and it can all cost a fortune. Even going to see a Christmas film at the cinema can be exceptionally expensive. So, have special treats at home instead. Get all of your old Christmas films out and make special hot chocolate to get everyone into the festive mood.

Don’t Buy Too Much Food
Most of us are guilty of buying far too much food for Christmas and, typically, a lot of it ends up getting wasted. Try to be realistic about what you need when you shop and don’t overspend.

Set a Limit
Instead of letting your kids write giant lists, give them a sensible limit that they have to stick to.


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Craft
It’s not just cards and gifts that you can make. You could also craft decorations for the home. Colorful paper chains and candle holders are easy to make and can look amazing.

Budget
The best way to save money is by setting yourself a budget and sticking to it. Set a total and then assign it to specific things.

Bulk Buy With Friends
Buying food and drink in bulk is often cheaper, but only if you need more than one. So, why not buy with friends and split the cost?

Remain Calm
One of the main reasons for festive debt is getting carried away, both with shopping for food and gifts. Remind yourself of your budgets, write a list and go into every shop with a firm plan.
If you need to, take some deep breathes and go home if you feel yourself getting carried away.

Above all, remember, and remind others , if need be, what Christmas time is all about. It’s perfectly possible to have the best Christmas ever on a tiny budget. You just need to believe you can make it happen.

 *This is a collaborative/contributed/partnered, compensated post. The copy, content, images & opinions are not my own.

October 17, 2017

Keeping Your Travel Plans Ethical


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When the wanderlust takes a hold of you, it’s almost impossible to resist the call. For those of us who place ethics of the forefront of everything we do - from the food we eat to the way in which we dispose of our trash - it’s important to know how to travel as ethically as possible with as little detriment to the environment and the rights of locals as possible. With so much conflicting information out there, it can be difficult to ascertain the best way to do this. While a sizeable portion of this will be dependent on where you intend to go and what you intend to do, there are some general principles to ensure that you don’t start off on the wrong foot wherever you go…

Pack light
The simple truth is that a lot of products marketed as travel products are not only unnecessary but packaged in environmentally damaging plastics. The fact is that you need way less than you think when you’re traveling -- just because a product is marketed as a travel product doesn’t make it indispensable. Another great tip is to bring your own water cantina. Drinking bottle after bottle of prepackaged water will be hugely detrimental to your carbon footprint.  

Consider your modes of transport
How you get to your destination and get around within it is the second most important facet of your trip. Firstly, an ethical traveler explores their own backyard before going further afield as local travel not only benefits the local economy but reduces the environmental cost of transportation.

Flying with one of the more eco friendly or ethical airlines is a great way to get to where you’re going. Once you arrive, traveling by public transport is a boon for both the environment and the local economy. Getting about by boat, however has a lower carbon footprint than traveling by plane so renting a boat from www.boat.me as preferable to taking an internal flight. If you plan on taking a tour, book through a local (preferrably family run, if available) tour operator.


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Eating ethically
Believe it or not, most of the good that you can do for the local economy and environment is not done through the way in which we travel but through the food we eat. While many of us are aware of the environmental cost of our travel, we tend not to give the same degree of scrutiny to our food.

Animal agriculture contributes to more greenhouse emissions than the entire transportation sector so when traveling (as when staying at home) abstaining from animal products such as meat, dairy and eggs is a great way to protect not just the environment but the rights of local animals.

When traveling, imbibing the local cuisine is not just a great way of sampling the culture, but of sustaining the local farmers and restaurateurs. Thus, try to patronize smaller local restaurants and street vendors and eschew recognizable chains and brands (however much you may miss the familiarity). Locally grown crops utilize far fewer greenhouse gases to transport to your plate.

  *This is a collaborative/contributed/partnered, compensated post. The copy, content, images & opinions are not my own.

October 16, 2017

The Road to Adventure: Planning Your Road Trip Across America



A road trip across America is a bucket list item for so many of us and it’s no wonder- it’s the ultimate adventure. There's so much to see and do -- so many different landscapes and types of terrain, so many tourists attractions as well as so much to see off the beaten paths, you can really customize the trip and make it your own. Here are some things to bear in mind when you are planning your road trip across the US.

Vehicle and Accommodations
There are a couple of different options when it comes to your vehicle and accommodations. First, you could hire a camper van or RV, and combine the two together. Doing it this way, you have something to drive and somewhere to stay, plus there are many many campsites across the US where you could stop in at overnight, and lots of these will even offer RV hookups where you’re connected to power and water, sometimes even wifi. If you aren't near a campsite when it comes to the evening, you could park up and sleep just about anywhere - providing it’s in a safe and legal place. Alternatively, you could do your road trip by car, staying in travel hostels, motels and hotels along the way.


Which Route Will You Take?
One of the main things to plan on your journey is the route you will take, since this will shape your entire trip. Route 66 is a famous one that many have taken, otherwise you could go coast to coast, or the trip along the ocean highway. America’s landscape is extremely diverse, from snow topped mountains in Colorado to deserts in Texas to beaches in California. Decide on the places and states you’d most like to visit and build your journey from there.

What Attractions Will You Visit?
Once you have decided on the locations you will visit, the next thing you'll need to do work out what you want to do in each place. Some will be easy - attractions like the Grand Canyon, the Statue of Liberty, Lincoln Memorial and more are up there on many people’s lists of things to see in America. Don’t overlook some of the less obvious attractions too. You could look for hotels in Amish Country, PA. You could visit the Charleston street market in North Carolina, or the rodeos and ranches in Texas.




What Food Will You Eat?
America is the land of tasty food, so it makes sense that this will be a big part of your trip. If you have fancy or expensive restaurants you want to try, budget for these first. The rest of the time you could take advantage of all you can eat buffets, or even go to grocery stores and stock up on essentials and keep them in a cooler in your vehicle. Cereal bars, dried fruit, canned tuna, nuts and crackers will all sustain you and keep you going until your next proper meal. 

  *This is a collaborative/contributed/partnered, compensated post. The copy, content, images & opinions are not my own.

October 4, 2017

Never Show Up To A Party Empty Handed

No matter the size of the guest list, planning a party is a challenging task to undertake.  You need to work around various dietary requirements and your decor should reflect your superior trendspotting skills. Throughout these moments of stress,  do your best to be charming, funny, and polite as well. If you’ve hosted a party recently, you must be aware of the obstacles faced by your hostess, and as such you cannot fail to show your appreciation. Although they will wave off the compliments, it’s nice for a hostess to know that their hard work hasn’t been taken for granted. Show your manners and admiration for the hostess with one of the following hostess gifts. 


A bottle of alcohol 
Everyone can appreciate a good bottle of fine wine, whiskey, or champagne. Even if your gift isn’t opened during the party, the hostess can save it for another special occasion, or they might offer to have you visit again for a more intimate gathering so you can sample a glass of your hostess gift. It’s best to do some research for this gift, not just for the hostess’ taste, but also for a high quality bottle. If you’ve heard the hostess is fond of whiskey, look up the Kikori whiskey price and reviews to see if it will go down well. Alternatively, you could read wine reviews and find something that suits your budget, yet can still impress the hostess. 

Drinking utensils
If you suspect almost everyone will bring a bottle for drinking, then you can give a stylish, yet practical gift, of decorative glasses, or personalized coasters. Classic wine glasses with a long stem will always be greatly appreciated at large gatherings, and stylish flutes can be used if anyone wants to pop some champagne. However, you can make your gift truly unique if you present the hostess with stemless glasses. Although they might traditionally be used for wine, the sturdy base might also make them appropriate for pouring scotch or after-dinner brandy. Pair the glasses with monogrammed coasters to make the gift more personal, and to protect their furniture from stains. 


Flower and vases
It’s traditionally a nice gesture to bring a bouquet of flowers for the hostess, but you can never be too sure if they have a spare vase to display your thoughtful gift. Take all the guesswork by giving the hostess a vase yourself; it’s thoughtful, useful, and they can keep using it in the future. You can get some beautiful ceramic vases with unique designs, but if you want to avoid clashing with her furniture, you’re better off getting a simple glass vase. 

Mixed herbs wreath
Flowers might be a thoughtful gift, but plants that double as functional decor is even better. You can now buy wreaths made from mixed herbs for the hostess to use in her cooking in the future. Some come woven with fresh bay leaf, sage, purple oregano, dill, lavender, and chile de arbol which are sure to be a treat for the eyes, nose, and taste buds. 

  *This is a collaborative/contributed/partnered, compensated post. The copy, content, images & opinions are not my own.