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There’s been a distinctive ice theme on this blog recently. Maybe it’s because it’s nearly Christmas or maybe it’s because it doesn’t feel quite cold enough yet so I’ve been hunting out the colder spots. When you put it like that, I sound crazy. Last night however, knowing I feel the cold more than your average desert dweller, I headed for the ice bar in London. It’s not exactly a place I would choose to go but it was all for a good cause, my school friends were having a get together Christmas meal.

When we arrived we were shown downstairs to the restaurant area. Luckily for me there was plenty of heating and it was really quite warm down there. It’s set out a little like a winter lodge with lots of wood. The Christmas menu impressed me simply because it had two vegetarian options on both the starter and main course options. That doesn’t often happen! They were also a little different and I went for a feta and butternut squash warm salad and a root vegetable stack. Whilst we all agreed that the food was delicious, the portions were a little small for our hungry Christmas bellies.
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What was lovely though was having 9 of my closest friends sitting round the table together celebrating Christmas. We realised that we hadn’t all been together in so long, we now live all over the place from Aberdeen to Birmingham so it’s quite hard to get together. Looking round the table, there wasn’t one person there who I haven’t known and been friends with for at least 12 years of my life, which I think is pretty incredible. We all share so many amazing school memories and it’s so lovely to be able to watch every single one of them making their own unique path in the world, however soppy that sounds!
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After dinner we were shown upstairs ready to enter the ice bar. Fluffy blue coats were actually thrown over our heads, mine when I wasn’t expecting it. But still, for some reason, I did not expect the drop in temperature I was about to feel. I don’t know if it’s because it hasn’t really been all that cold this year but it was a major shock to the system walking into that bar. I immediately started shivering and had to do some strange dance to the music to try and get warm. You get a 45 minute session in total in there and I’m proud to say I lasted the whole hog, even though 5 of my friends didn’t! The ice bar itself is a lot smaller than I thought, there’s not much to it. But there is lots of cool ice sculptures and and an ice seating area. For some reason I had to keep touching everything to check it actually was made of ice! It was particularly fun to drink out of an ice cup that slowly melted in your hands, even though all of our lips did slowly but surely turn a funny shade of blue.
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After 45 minutes I can’t lie and say I wasn’t slightly relieved to be going back out into the weirdly warm December air. It was a fun experience though, something different from your typical Christmas meal – definitely something to do once in your life. When I finally got home though, all I wanted was a cup of tea and a hot water bottle!

Ice rink 1

We have a lot of Christmas traditions in our house, from wrapping presents in front of a Christmas movie to baking apple pies on Christmas Eve (because we don’t like mince pies!) So when I met my boyfriend nearly 5 years ago, we also had to have a Christmas tradition. Giving each other stockings on Christmas Eve was probably our first, the second one evolved more naturally and became trying out a different ice skating rink each year.

Since then we’ve tried Birmingham, Hampton Court, Somerset House, Brighton Pavillion, and this year we found our very favourite at the Natural History Museum. There’s something so festive about outdoor ice skating, especially with the backdrop of a beautiful building. We always follow it up with a mulled wine or hot chocolate in the cafe, just to drench ourselves in Christmas spirit!

I think going a little earlier in the day to the Natural History Museum made it even more special, there weren’t that many people on the ice so no worries about crashing or falling. We were both feeling a little ill so wrapped up to our cheeks in scarves and hats and layers. This year the ice rink is sponsored by Swarovski and the most beautiful tree sits in the middle of the rink, it really looks like it’s dripping in diamonds. Add to that, every single tree surrounding the venue is covered in white fairy lights. It really is a beautiful sight.

Ice rink 2

It started to rain whilst we were out there so the rink emptied even further, we could barely tell in all our layers. There’s even a mini rink attached for beginners which is undercover and a good place to practice if you’re feeling a little nervous. I always find myself a little like Bambi when I first get on the ice, Christmas is really the only time I skate. So it was nice to be able to get in a little bit of practice before being let loose on the actual ice.

After we were thoroughly worn out and ready to crash, we headed upstairs and ordered a mulled wine. It was like a winter snow lodge with sofas and fake snow sprawled all over the cafe. There was even a little booth where you could print out the photos you had had taken on the ice for free – such a nice little touch.

Ice skatingHarrods

The Natural History Museum is also perfectly placed to continue your evening getting even more festive. We chose to walk down the road to Harrods and check out all their Christmassy displays. It’s beautifully lit up and definitely worth walking round even if you can’t afford to buy anything!

Me and pumpkin

I know it’s very cliche and blogger-like to love Autumn but it is just such an easy season to love. Orange has always been my very favourite colour, add to that cosy jumpers, hot chocolate and warm fires and you couldn’t really ask for more.

Yesterday we decided to have the most autumnal day possible and visit Garsons Farm in Surrey which has a pick your own farm. It’s brilliant in the summer and spring with lots of fruit and veg but in the autumn my favourite things are pickable. They’ve got so many varieties of apples, squashes, beautiful dahlias, and best of all pumpkins! I took my little sister and she picked the cutest baby pumpkin, perfect for decorating and putting on display in her room.

Flower field

Bunch of flowers

We started off picking dahlias which were a new one there to any time I’ve been before. A field of the most beautiful autumnal coloured flowers in reds, oranges, purples and pinks. We decided to get a bunch together – it was pick 10 for £3.50 – and make a bunch to give to our Mum. There’s something about actually picking something fresh from the ground, it makes it so much better than just picking it up from the supermarket. Almost as good as growing the flowers yourselves!

Next we found the apple orchard. There were so many different varieties to pick from, but a little sign suggested that to find the best ones you walked right to the far corner of the field. Of course, we did just what it said and walked as far as we could to find the big juicy red ones, stopping for a few photos along the way. Today I made an apple cobbler from the apples we picked for our Sunday lunch pudding, I swear it tasted better than any I could have made with other apples.

Apples

After that we came across the pumpkin field, the one we had been waiting for. My little sister picked her baby pumpkin out of the ground and we wandered amongst the rest. Can there be any more autumnal scene than one in a pumpkin field? I just love how the bright orange pumpkins of all different shapes and sizes stand out against the muddy green and brown fields.

Pile of pumpkins

Me and pumpkin 2

Pumpkins

Finally we discovered a sweetcorn field, although we didn’t want to pick any, we still spent some time getting lost in the maze-like crops. They’re so tall and almost in straight lines so that when you go amongst them you feel like you’re in a maze. We all entered at different places and tried to get through the quickest, getting very lost in the corn along the way.

Sweetcorn

After all that picking and exploring, our goodies were weighed and we went for a well deserved hot chocolate and cake (or gingerbread latte and scone for me!) All in all it was the most autumnal and happy day I’ve had in a while.

Spa 1

I do believe a break with the girls is one of the best thing life has to offer. Romantic breaks are amazing and I adore family holidays, but there’s nothing quite like getting away with your besties. Suffering from the cull in holiday which occurs when you move from education to full time work, we decided to make the most of the recent bank holiday and head to a spa.

Me and my girlfriends have always envisioned a future of us – glamorous 40-year-olds leaving our kids, husbands, and of course, all encompassing important careers behind, once a year every year to visit the spa. We decided to get a taste of our future early this year, all feeling we needed a break and the spa was the perfect place to head.

Starting with some research on spabreaks.com, we came across the Luton Hoo Hotel. Luton probably isn’t the most sophisticated location in the world but the hotel looked bloody gorgeous so we got booked in. Our package included a 3 course dinner, one night’s stay, a buffet breakfast, a 25 minute and a 55 minute treatment. For everything you got included, we felt it was really reasonable. After navigating the country roads, ending up accidentally on a private estate at one point and having to drive through a flooded road convinced we were going to breakdown, we eventually made it. We had got lost a few too many times so ended up having to rush through check in and quickly get to our room in time for our first treatments. Because of this, we weren’t feeling particularly relaxed but the lovely spa lady immediately calmed us down. She gave us robes and slippers, showed us around and told us not to rush.

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My first treatment was a facial – I’ve never had one before and after this I would definitely have one again. My skin was analysed by the specialist and after deciding it was dry combination, she put together a special formula for me. It was double cleansed, toned, massaged, serumed (is this a word?!), everything you can imagine. A lovely little added extra was a hair mask and head massage, it was just what I needed. In the end, my facialist recommended me some products and reminded me that we also got £25 voucher to spend on ESPA goodies. I ended up choosing the Balancing Herbal Spafresh Toner which she used on me and smells delicious. Now everytime I use it, it takes me back to the spa.

After our treatment, we were taken to the ‘chill room’ to sit in massage chairs, watch the tropical fish in the tank, drink specially brewed herbal tea and eat dried fruit and nuts. We’d only been at the spa an hour and we all said we felt so relaxed.

Spa 3

We spent the rest of the day chilling by the pool, dipping in and out of the amazing jacuzzi and popping into the sauna and steam room whenever we felt like it. We caught up at a million miles per hour, filling each other in on all the little life details you don’t usually have time to chat about. Before we realised, it was 7pm but we didn’t feel in a rush at all. We wandered back to the room, got dressed and went for our 3 course meal. After a couple of glasses of prosecco and far too much more chattering, we snuggled up in bed in our PJs and put on a DVD.

I woke up the next morning feeling more chilled and at peace with the world than I have in ages. It is so important to just take some time out and so hard to find the time to do it. When you’re at a spa, you can’t help but fit in with the ethos of the whole place and relax, it’s infectious. On the Monday (it felt even better that it should be a working day), we had our amazing buffet breakfast and went back to the spa to chill. None of us even bothered to put make up on. We also had our 55 minute treatments, mine was a full body massage. The perfect way to end my time there, releasing any tension that could possibly remain.

Spending two days with my girls at the spa was one of my favourite things I’ve done this year. I came back with glowing skin and a peaceful mind. If there is one holiday you invest in this year, I would recommend a break with the girls – you just can’t beat it!