Probate guide to choosing executors

It isn’t something most of us like thinking about, but making sure your affairs are in order for when you’re no longer there can make it easier on your family when that day arrives. Probate is the process where someone, an Executor, applies for the right to deal with your estate when you are deceased. One of the important decisions to make for when that time comes, no matter what your circumstances are, is who you would like to be that person.

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Frette oasis of calm

Beautiful bedrooms: Frette

It’s only when I’m travelling that I realise how much I love a really beautiful bedroom.  I read somewhere that it’s important to keep your bedroom uncluttered and orderly (and free from work stuff and screens!) to make it an oasis of calm.  I’m naturally really messy,  but I do try and force myself to tidy up.  There’s something really lovely about going upstairs to bed and being greeted by a beautiful space in which to relax.

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WWI celebrations in France (Verdun)

Universal capital of The First World War, Verdun was the hotspot of the greatest battle the 20th century has ever seen. Destroyed villages, combat sites, museums, memorials and re-enactments bear testimony to the scale and the destructiveness of the war, as well as of the valour and bravery of the city’s defenders.

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Scarlett necklace

Scarlett Jewellery – perfect for Mothers’ Day

Scarlett Jewellery

Something personalised always makes a gift extra special, which goes down well with Mums.  Scarlett Jewellery is handmade in the UK and was founded by fellow mum, designer Sarah Fenton in 1998.   I had a chat with Sarah and she listened really hard when I was telling her what I would love for Mothers’ Day (basically something featuring ALL my family).  The result (with many of her suggestions) was this gorgeous necklace (above).

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Me with my gorgeous boys

Sanctuary Spa – top gift ideas for Mothers’ Day

What would you like for Mothers’ Day?  I usually like hand cream, bubbles or maybe a scented candle. They’re the sort of thing that you don’t really always buy for yourself as it seems a bit self indulgent.  I thought this little illustration from Sanctuary Spa was so pretty – and SO true – generally what we’d really love isn’t expensive presents or fancy meals out, it’s a lie in, a cuddle, and a little bit of pampering.  I also thought it was very funny that 42% of mums had admitted to pretending to like past Mothers’ Day gifts – what on earth did they get?!  Something home made presumably (I’ve had some shockers – but all made with love) – a lot of the time it’s poor Dad who ends up getting the pressie (the pressure!), so let’s hope while Googling, they land here and find out what we really want! Read more

Ten tips to get a spring-like look

Spring is a great time for the skin. After the challenges of winter, with its biting cold winds and fluctuations in temperature, it’s time to let your skin breathe and recover.  And while dark, glamorous looks may suit brooding skies and wintry nights, spring is a time to be playful and experimental with your make-up.  Here are ten tips for springtime success.

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shortbread biscuits

Weekend baking: quick and easy shortbread

It’s lovely to have a few perfect recipes that you can trust to work time and time again, and this is definitely one of those.

Once you’ve got the hang of shortbread, you can do so many different things with it – it’s perfect for cooking with kids (Mothers’ Day is on the way!) or it can be served as part of a dessert, say, with chocolate mousse or lemon creams.

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Indian tapas at Mother India's Café

Edinburgh for food lovers

Last year I visited Edinburgh, home of my fellow food-loving friend Erica.  We toured some amazing restaurants and markets and decided to make our ‘Foodinburgh’ trip an annual occurrence.  If you think Edinburgh is all haggis, neeps and tatties (not that there’s anything wrong with that – I had my first taste of haggis too, delicious!), then think again, it’s a serious destination for food lovers, with no less than five Michelin starred restaurants and a fabulous array of affordable restaurants and cafés.  I’ve put together a list of my favourites so far, but I’ve got a feeling this could change –  we’re already planning Foodinburgh 2014!

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Actimel Gary Barlow

#Squeezemorein – and win VIP tickets to see Gary Barlow!

I’m ridiculously, stupidly busy.  Working from home, with deadlines galore, two teenagers, a hubby who is away on duty for two weeks at a time, an evil cat and a new puppy, means that there aren’t many hours in the day that aren’t filled with either work, home or walkies.  I try and find time for myself too, which isn’t easy, but often an hour in a lovely bubble bath with music on and a nice glass of wine is all I need to recharge my batteries.

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Dubai beach

My top 5 tips for keeping your travelling costs low

You know me.  I love, love, love to travel.  Whether it’s a gorgeous English country hotel like The Grove, a city break, or a Caribbean cruise – I love them all.  Being somewhat overenthusiastic about it, though, has its downsides – mostly financial.  Here’s how a keep a lid on my holiday spending, before I’ve even walked up the steps of the plane:

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Chefs on TV – who gets you cooking?

Way, way back, many moons ago when we first moved to Ireland, I started writing this blog.  I’ll be honest, it started out of loneliness and, well, boredom.  All my family and friends were back in England, and I didn’t know a soul.  Happily, it grew and I started to love writing my little online diary, and I began writing not just about my family but about what I was cooking for them.  At the time, Rachel Allen was just starting out over there and I loved her easy, family-friendly recipes.  While the boys were at school I’d be trying my hand at making pastry, stirring soup and getting to grips with roast dinners.  I still remember my Dad and his wife coming over for a visit and cooking them Rachel’s mincemeat and almond slice.

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Hive

Hive – a new resource for the forgetful traveller?

One of the few downsides to travelling is worrying about your house when you’re away.  We’re lucky, we’ve got lovely neighbours who keep an eye on things, turn  lights on and off and even bravely look after the fearsome Ninja cat.  There’s so much to remember anyway when you go away: turn everything off, lock everything up… When we lived in Ireland, we had oil fired central heating (expensive old business).  One memorable holiday, we came back to find that instead of turning the heating off, Mr English had inadvertently set it to ‘constant’, and the whole house, much like its owners, had baked in tropical heat for the whole fortnight.  It had used nearly a whole tank of oil.  Not a brilliant discovery when you’ve just returned from a restful holiday.

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Animal Champion Logo

A great cause: signing up to the RSPCA Animal Champion scheme

Snuggling up with a furry friend or two is the perfect antidote to a cold, crisp evening and for those of us with a family pet we’ll often do anything to ensure their safety and happiness.

Unfortunately, not all animals are lucky enough to receive such care and affection but charities such as the RSPCA help prevent cruelty to animals. More than that, they ensure everyone knows how to care for animals correctly – highlighting common risks and areas for improvement. Those who want to train others to care for animals in the correct way should think about showing their support to the charity now – and there are plenty of ways to do it.

One particularly easy option, which also happens to be a great way to get the kids involved over February half-term, is to encourage your little ones to become an RSPCA Animal Champion.

It’s important to teach our children the differences between right and wrong from a very young age and allowing them to become a champion is certainly one way to educate them in the importance of caring for animals.

Becoming a champion

This new and exciting scheme is run by the and is open to children between the ages of 6 and 12 years of age. It comprises a series of action-packed activities and is the perfect way to keep the kids entertained throughout February half-term.

From animal themed sleepovers to conducting a little detective work in the back garden, there are a number of adventures to choose from.

What do they get?

Applying to become a champion will entitle the kids to their very own toolkit which comes in the shape of an activity pack comprising a challenge checklist poster and a series of video updates from the RSPCA inspectors. These activities can be completed with both friends and family and once your little ones have completed five, they’ll receive a special award and a certificate.

A majority of the challenges can be completed at home, such as baking animal cakes, whilst others can be completed with fellow animal enthusiasts in the local area.

There’s even one small fundraising challenge included for those who really want to show their commitment to the cause?

How do I sign up?

This brand new scheme is running for the first time during February half-term and signing up couldn’t be easier. It costs just £15 with more information on what’s involved and what you can stand to gain found at www.rspca.org.uk/animalchampion.

Visit the RSPCA website for more information on the work of this great charity and for details on how to help your kids become an Animal Champion. The Animal Champion scheme is open to children between the ages of 6 and 12 years and costs £15 per pack/child. The closing date for applications is February 12.

EMGP

 

 

Gunmakers Arms menu

The Gunmakers Arms, Clerkenwell

Yesterday I had a proper greedy day starting with lunch, moving on to afternoon tea with a client and then an evening at one of our favourite local hangouts, No 2 Pound Street for a couple of glasses of wine and one of their lovely sharing boards of cheeses and meats.

I was up in London to meet a lovely friend (we work together, but this has become secondary) to discuss travel plans and catch up on our news. She was bringing a colleague and they suggested The Gunmakers Arms in Clerkenwell, close to my second meeting. I arrived hideously early (typical ‘country mouse comes to the city’ type thing) but took my chance to wander slowly up Leather Lane, sniffing all the delicious smells from the food vendors and pressing my nose up against the window of Pieminister.  The Gunmakers is just off Clerkenwell Road and I loitered a bit awkwardly outside, wondering what to do for 20 minutes in the drizzle before deciding to head inside.  Good decision.  I was warmly welcomed (the staff put me in mind of when Jay Rayner described the staff at Hawksmoor as ‘bed headed and tattooed’ – seriously cool), provided with a drink and a warm spot by a radiator, and spent the rest of the time before my lunch mates arrived studying the chalkboard menu.

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Mismatched and marvellous – my new Emma Bridgewater teapot

So I think I told you a while back about my latest obsession about all things mismatched in the crockery cupboard. I’ve been adding to my collection with a few bits – always making sure they’ve got a touch of blue to keep everything together.  My goal is to slowly Ebay off all my matching plates and cups and end up with a completely mismatching collection.  I think that could take a while, to be honest.  Then recently, the lovely people at Emma Bridgewater sent me this AMAZING starry skies teapot:

Emma Bridgewater teapot

Emma Bridgewater Starry Skies teapot

It’s been a bit of a lifechanger since it arrived actually and suddenly everyone’s really keen to make the tea (unheard of in this house).

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Holidays for millionaires – luxury private islands

Private chefs, premium yachts and luxury spa treatments alongside crystal clear blue waters, hot white sand and palm trees… The lovelies at EuroJackpot have pulled together a collection of five fabulous private island holidays. Which one would take your fancy if you could splash the cash on a once in a lifetime trip?

Song Saa

Song Saa Island

Source

Located off the South coast of Cambodia, Song Saa island offers a holiday that could easily be compared to a trip to paradise – but only if you can afford it!  The luxurious hotel resort has huge villas with private pools, free wi-fi and all-inclusive food and drink from their world-class head chef.  The island also offers watersports on the beach, or spa treatments and boutiques for those who would rather take it easy.

Calivigny

Calivigny

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Calivigny Island is yet another hotspot for those looking for a lavish and luxurious break.  Found in the Caribbean with views of the Atlantic and Caribbean oceans, the six beaches of the small island should provide enough space for getting away from it all and soaking up the sun.  The island’s accommodation options include a beach house hotel for 20 guests, a selection of suites on the water or beach-side bungalows and two bedroom cottages for even more privacy.

Turtle Island

Turtle Island Source

The lush Turtle Island in Fiji is another option for millionaires looking to take some time out on a private island.  It wasn’t chosen as the location for the 1980 film Blue Lagoon for nothing – as well as being the actual location of the blue lagoon itself, its picturesque beaches, stunning jungle and calm blue waters all make it an ultimate paradisiacal destination.  They employ personal ‘Client Managers’ who are tasked with making sure each individual has a holiday that is tailored to them and their needs – so you can expect the utmost service and treatment.

Necker Island

necker island

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Necker Island, owned by Richard Branson, is another potential stop-off for a travel-hungry millionaire. Found in the British Virgin Islands, it can only accommodate up to 30 adults at a time, so a stay is truly exclusive and private. With so few guests, it’s likely that you’ll have the pick of the island’s beaches, watersports and spa facilities – unless you want to bring a few friends along and book the entire island for yourselves!

House in the Sea on Towan Island

house in the sea

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While it may be breaking with the exotic traditional of Caribbean and far-flung locations, this private island in Cornwall is a luxury getaway a little closer to home.  Known as the House in the Sea, the mini island is connected to the mainland via a private gated bridge, so peace and quiet is guaranteed.  The house itself can accommodate up to 6 guests, and is contemporarily decorated with a bar room, deluxe bedrooms and en suites, a fully equipped kitchen and two separate decks for sunbathing or gazing out onto the amazing sea view.  A BBQ is also included, but there are many foodie hotspots in nearby Padstow that may take your fancy instead.

If these stunning luxury retreats on private islands around the world have inspired you to save up for an extravagant holiday of your own, why not try a flutter on the EuroJackpot lotto?  Fingers crossed that a jackpot comes your way to help out with saving for a trip of a lifetime!

EMGP

Guest post: things you may not know about Cerebral Palsy

When a child is diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, it can be incredibly hard to come to terms with.  The future may seem wildly uncertain but help is always on hand for the journey.

Where questions exist here are just a few answers:

What Cerebral Palsy ISN’T

Cerebral Palsy isn’t a disease
Cerebral Palsy is not contagious. It is not communicable. It is a disorder that (in most cases) is caused by damage to the brain, which cannot be spread by human contact.

Cerebral Palsy isn’t curable
The injury and damage to the brain is permanent, and will never be cured, however symptoms and associative conditions can be managed through treatment and therapy. An individual diagnosed with CP will have the condition their whole life.

Cerebral Palsy isn’t progressive
CP is the result of a one-time brain injury and will not produce further degeneration of the brain. Although brain damage will not worsen, issues with muscles can improve or decline under different circumstances.

Cerebral Palsy doesn’t define who a person is
For the individual with cerebral palsy, the condition is part of what makes them who they are but it doesn’t have to define them There will be daily challenges to face, but many are conquerable. There has been a great challenge in providing awareness and funding for people with this disability, and therefore CP is often met with pity or fear. There’s no denying that Cerebral Palsy is tough however people with CP can achieve great things with the right support behind them.

What Cerebral Palsy IS

Cerebral Palsy is a blanket term
The name Cerebral Palsy isn’t a specific illness and can relate to many different symptoms and disorders. The one thing they all have in common is the damage or abnormal development of the brain that usually occurs due to a birth injury.
Depending on the location or severity of the injury, CP manifests in 3 main ways:
• Spastic Cerebral Palsy – affecting the muscles in the limbs
• Athetoid – resulting in jerky, uncontrolled body movements
• Ataxic – causing poor coordination, unsteadiness on the feet, problems with precise movements.

Cerebral palsy is the most common physical impairment in childhood
It is estimated that Cerebral Palsy affects about one in 400 children in the UK and is up to 10 times more likely if your baby is premature.
Worldwide, around 15,000,000 people have CP.

Cerebral Palsy is a disorder that can be detected from an early age
Most children who have Cerebral Palsy are diagnosed in their first two years, although it can be diagnosed at any age.
You may notice your child is slower in achieving important developmental goals such as crawling, speaking or walking. You may also notice problems with their muscle tone.
Tests, scans and ultrasounds will determine the type and severity of the child’s Cerebral Palsy.

EMGP

January: what I’m loving now

What I'm loving now Kerastase Elixir Ultime Masque (£28.50) I love being blonde but my hair is quite fine and does get a bit frazzled.  My lovely hairdresser, Sean, has made me promise that I’ll use this religiously AND commit to massaging my scalp for one minute every time I wash my hair to increase blood flow and nourish all the new hair I’ve got coming through.  The masque is quite pricey (currently on spesh at Gorgeous shop for £20.52!) but you only use a tiny amount and it’s really rich.  It smells sublime and leaves my hair soft and shiny.

Red Fox Bottle O’Butter We discovered this amazing stuff years ago on holiday in St Lucia, so I was delighted to see that it’s now being hailed as a ‘cult’ product.  I buy it on Ebay for about £3.50 for a massive bottle which last for ages.  It smells like Caramac, is a great all over body lotion, brilliant as an after sun and makes your skin feel amazingly soft.  Stockpile it!

L’Oreal Paris Revitalift Laser Renew Precision Eye Cream (£19.99) I love this light eye cream. It’s wonderful at de-crinkling and doesn’t feel at all greasy.  I use it night and morning and swear it keeps the crows’ feet away.

Radical Skincare Age Defying Exfoliating Pads (£45) These little moist pads are the easiest beauty treat I’ve ever used.  Just literally wipe them around your face after cleansing at night.  They leave your face feeling tingly clean and fresh and have serious exfoliating, wrinkle busting power.  Each pad contains age defying AHAs and despite having only used them for a couple of weeks, I honestly believe the texture of my skin has improved, and I’m convinced the skin just under my chin feels tighter too.  Highly recommended.

Dior Addict Lip Glow £22.50 I’m not really a lipstick girl, but sometimes feel that lipbalm isn’t really enough.  This super-glam Lip Glow apparently shows up as a slightly different colour on everyone, but with me it just seems to enhance my natural lip colour and leave my lips really soft.  I love it.

Review: Barclay’s Bespoke Offers – Virgin wines mixed case

Star and VineOver Christmas we reviewed tons of wine.  One of the selections that really stood out was from Barclays’ new website, Bespoke Offers.  It’s a new concept full of all sorts of different offers, discounts and deals, from days out and holidays through to tech and appliances and everything in between.  You don’t have to have a Barclaycard and you can also tailor the site to suit yourself, searching by postcode, for example, to find offers near you, or searching by subject, for example, if you’re looking for a spa break, you can look at all of them, or just look at the ones in your region.  You can also register your specific interests and get just the offers that suit you sent to you.  Bonus.

We reviewed a Christmas Treats mixed case of wine from Virgin Wines which contained some outstanding bottles.  Our favourite reds were the Chilean  Tierra del Corazon Casablanca Pinot Noir Reserva 2013 - a gorgeously fruit-filled Pinot Noir and the Star & Vine Lodi Shiraz 2012 - I love a Shiraz anyway and this one didn’t disappoint, with berry, cherry flavours and perfectly festive spicy notes coming through.  Yum.

The whites didn’t disappoint, with a lovely crisp South African Hope Springs Bush Vine Chenin Blanc 2013  and the outrageously good Florentyne Reserve Margaret River Riesling 2012 which was just off dry and beautifully aromatic and fresh, topping our list of favourites, but honestly, there wasn’t a bad bottle in there.

If you want to have a look at the food and wine offers on the Barclay’s Bespoke Offers website, just click here.  I think we’ll be returning for another look very soon.