Magda Archer- Modern Life’s Depressing Problems Meet Sickly Sweet Kitsch

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I was starting into the BBC documentary where Chris Packam talks about his Aspergers, but had to pause and hit Google when I spotted this glorious Wire Fox terrier print on his wall.

The artist is Magda Archer, and perusing their other prints at Jealous Gallery only confirmed that they are right up my street. 

Enjoy. 

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The World of Kitsch Halloween Decorations 2017

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Today Smix has a surprise day off school. We got a text at 11pm last night from the school, all schools over the whole of Ireland are closed today. We are set to be battered by the worst storm in 50 years in a couple of hours. Already we’ve had one huge gust that sent the plastic post box flying down the steps. 

We went first thing this morning and bought snacks and fire logs. We are charging up our iPads and getting cosy. I also brought out the Halloween decorations for the living room. It’s a mix of pound shop light up treasures, and TK Maxx, American import pieces. The tobacco candles are also from TK Maxx and my absolute favourite. I always buy them up when I spot them in a store. 

The knitted decorations were bought about eight years ago from my local Oxfam.

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Tree ghost spooks cat. 

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These gorgeous sugar skull plates were a gift from my brother & sister-in-law. 

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Lastly, I just had to show you my class, old phone. We recently got WiFi in (we were living in the dark ages) and my Dad brought us this old phone to use as a landline.

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M&S Christmas 2017- Takeaway Lunch Sandwiches, Rolls & the 1st Ever Vegan Xmas Wrap- With Proceeds To UK Charity Shelter

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This time next month the Marks & Spencer Christmas takeaway food will be in store, and I got a chance to see what’s coming when I visited the Xmas launch party last month in London. 

Once again M&S are teaming up with the homeless charity Shelter,  giving them a percentage of sales of takeaway food and drinks.

There is one very colourful, exciting addition this year- their first ever fully vegan Christmas wrap. It looks so cool that everyone I’ll wll want to try it, roast chestnut with grape & cranberry chutney.

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With offerings of Lobster & Prawn Thermidor, and Mustard Crusted Beef, I’m really looking forward to these ranges arriving in store.

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I’ve noticed a few Christmas items sneaking into the Bloomfields Bangor store already, so you can see what’s on the way in my video tour of the food launch last month, below. 

Rustic Artisan Breads & Scrumptious Cheeses at M&S

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There’s a whole new range of rustic, British artisan breads in store at the M&S Bakery counter. Paired with their wide range of cheeses, they make for a homely comforting afternoon snack.

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The Summer May Be Over, But the Slow Adventures Are Just Beginning

Last weekend was the first official Slow Adventure Weekend in Northern Ireland. Slow Adventures are a new tourism initiative favouring slow, immersive experiences that engage with remote, wild and nature-rich places.

A chance to engage with nature and not only partake in an activity but also to learn aspects of the local area such as the produce, wildlife and environment.

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You can journey through break-taking views of the Glenga Valley in the heart of the Sperrins foraging for food along the way, bake your own bread the traditional way in the farmhouse kitchen of Bradkeel Social Farm, see how artisan cheese is produced or have a go at traditional fishing on the River Foyle and cook your catch on a wild camp fire. Other packages include interactive cooking demonstrations with local hand-picked ingredients, Irish walking tours, horse riding in the Faughan Valley as well as deer stalking, bird shooting and salmon fishing in Strabane.

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We were lucky enough to be able to go along and try the White Horse Adventure. Our break started with a visit to City of Derry Equestrian. The rural centre is located in the foothills of the Sperrin Mountains, and we met expert instructor Pauline and her team, who cater to absolute beginners and experienced riders alike at the 30 acre school.

 

Smix & I fell into the absolute beginner category, and were both a little anxious about the whole sitting on a giant horse thing, but I honest don't think they could have done more to make us feel at ease and enjoy the experience.  

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  We started by meeting our horses, brushing them and getting them ready for the hack. Once we were up on the horses, Smix definitely wasn't happy about it all, so Pauline got an extra instructor to walk alongside him to make him feel more secure. Like I said, nothing was too much for them to do, they were totally focused on making your experience an enjoyable one.

As part of the White Horse Slow Adventure you'll take a guided hack through the countryside, with different lengths of trails available to your preference. Pauline keeps you entertained with stories about the local area and wildlife. 

The landscape is absolutely beautiful, and you wouldn't know you are only four miles outside the city. I really couldn't recommend Pauline and her team more highly. They made us feel so welcome, and so at ease. If you live on the North Coast and want to learn to ride, or even experience some trail riding, you should check out the City of Derry Equestrian facilities.

The 'adventure' part was wonderful, but now it was time for some relaxation and being spoiled. The next stop on the White Horse Slow Adventure, is the 4* White Horse Hotel. The hotel is beautiful, and our room was perfect. Again they made us feel very welcome. 

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Your package includes a 3 course meal from the hotel's award winning chef Noel Ward, with a complimentary bottle of wine. The food is locally produced and sourced, with options to suit everyone's tastes.

For groups of over 20 people, there is Irish folklore story telling and traditional music available. For groups of any size, you can relax in the lounge bar for the evening.

 

 

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You also have full access to the leisure club facilities at the White Horse. They have a surprisingly large pool for a hotel, plus jacuzzi, both steam room and sauna, a gym, and spa treatments available as extra if requested. 

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Your checkout time on the second day is purposefully later than usual, noon, so you have time to use the facilities if you wish. We actually went shopping in the city after horse riding, the relaxed at the hotel, and used the pool the morning after. It worked really well for us.  Your package also includes a full choice of breakfast in the hotel restaurant, and as a final treat you will be presented with chocolate truffles spiked with local whiskey The Quiet Man, as a souvenir of your trip.

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We had such a lovely time, and this was just one of the many different  Northern Ireland Slow Adventures available to choose from. While the summer season is over, the Slow Adventures are available all winter. There's fishing, food tours, cycling, canoeing, and walking tours, so there's something for everyone who wants to discover more about Northern Ireland.

Asda Christmas 2017 Homeware Gets Even Better

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I featured this year's selection of Christmas bedding last week, but I noticed some new pieces online today, plus some kitchen products, so thought I would update you guys. I love the themes this year, deer, unicorns and Santa in his caravan. There's even a 'treepot', a Christmas tree teapot!

Shop Asda Christmas 2017 now

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Visit Free Sample Heaven This Weekend- Tesco Taste Festival, Custom House Sq, Belfast #TescoTasteFestival

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When I was a little girl one of my favourite outings of the year was the Ideal Homes Exhibition in the Kings Hall. I loved the little free samples, and have vivid memories of the sample Cookstown sausages tasting better than any sausage ever tasted. 

If you haven't been before, then let me tell you, the Tesco Taste Festival is a free sample heaven. 

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This is the 9th year of Tesco's food festival, which runs this weekend Saturday 10am-6pm & Sunday 11am-5pm. It's also open tonight until 8pm if you catch this post on time. It's in a huge tent in Custom House Square, and inside there are dozens of stalls with local producers with all their wares. There's even a Tayto Castle!

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Favourites like Mash Direct are there, but I was actually surprised at just how many local brands Tesco stock. There are a good 40-50 different companies on display, all with tasting samples, and products to buy should you like what you taste!

There is also cookery demonstrations throughout the day, using local produce. 

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So if you fancy taking a taste tour round the counties of Northern Ireland, why not stop by the tent this weekend. Entry is free and it's enclosed, so weather won't stop play. 

You'll be surprised how many brands you didn't know were from Northern Ireland there are, and you'll have fun tasting samples along the discovery way. 

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Spar Launches Meal Inspirations, Helping Us Enjoy Freshly Cooked Meals, That Are Quick & Easy For Tea Time

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It's estimated a whopping 87% of 16-34 year olds are no longer cooking their meals from scratch, and it's a figure I believe, as personally I favour the easiest ways of cooking available. 

The same study found that young adults and families aren't resorting to fully prepared ready meals, but are more likely to partake in component cooking. This means buying products like meat already prepared in a sauce that can be put in the oven, or vegetables that can be microwaved as a side dish. So whilst we are opting for ease and speed, we aren't going for full on American style TV Dinners.

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This insight has helped Henderson Group, which comprises of Spar, Eurospar & Vivo, to develop Meal Inspirations, aiding shoppers who are short on time to still manage to cook a fresh, locally sourced meal.

75% of their fresh food is sourced from Ireland, including brands like Mash Direct and Willowbrook Farm. 

Those ranges, as well as Spar's own enjoy local and The Kitchen are part of the Meal Inspirations initiative, suggested as ways families can eat fresh, but without huge preparation times.

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enjoy local includes prepared meats sourced locally, that simply need oven cooked, with fresh sauces included. The Kitchen is a Range you often see me singing the praises of on Twitter, I'm a massive fan of their meals and would use at least one product a week.

The Kitchen includes meals for one, almost like microwave meals, in fact you do microwave them, but the ingredients are fresh, not frozen. My absolute favourite The Kitchen product is the chicken curry. I would choose that curry over takeaway any day. There are huge chunks of chicken breast, button mushrooms, peas and onions, all fresh, all delicious. I'm probably going to have that for tea tonight now!

The Kitchen Range also has a line of desserts, that can be shared between two or three.

As part of Meal Inspirations you can also pick up this handy little mini recipe book, with quick and easy meals you can whip up using products from Spar, EuroSpar & Vivo.

You can also check out their  Instagram where they will be posting Tea Times Tables in the coming weeks  to further help shoppers decide their Meal Inspirations.

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