One of my favorite things to do with my family is to gather around the living room, usually watching a movie or show that we all enjoy, and devour a cheeseboard.
Cheeseboards have always had a special place in our house, whenever we have company, a special occasion, and lazy Sunday afternoons, there will be one in some form or other.

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Lately, they have become the go-to for holidays and birthdays rather than a big fancy meal that takes so much time and effort. It’s nice and simple so everyone can relax and enjoy their evening.
What is a cheeseboard? Well, it can be whatever you want it to be! Just crackers and cheese or you can make it super fancy with different varieties of everything. I like to have a good balance of sweet, salty, and a little bit of tart.

One thing I think a lot of people forget about is crackers. Most of the time we treat crackers as a canvas for all the other flavors, with no thought to it being anything but bland with maybe a hint of salt. Which is a shame really because the right crackers can completely transform the flavors they are paired with.

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Maine Crisps is a wonderful Maine company that makes the most marvelous grain-free, gluten-free buckwheat crackers! They are incredibly flavorful and crisp with the best possible ingredients. You can tell they are something special the minute you bite into them.dsc_0172-1

Cranberry Almond.
With cranberry, raw honey, and Herbes de Provence, these are a delightful balance of sweet and savory.

“Tart cranberries, a smidge of raw wildflower honey, and a medley of organic seeds with the savory undertone of Herbes de Provence. Pair this crispy crunch with soft oozy cheese and you’ve got your newest obsession.”dsc_0157

Cinnamon Maple.
Have you ever eaten something that simply made you feel happy inside? These do that to me. They have such a light, subtly sweet taste with maple, cinnamon, and nutmeg as the dominant flavors.
These are delightful with cranberry and goat cheese. I would also really like the try these with pumpkin hummus.

“Subtly sweet, slightly earthy, touched with pure maple syrup, a hint of cinnamon and balanced with sea salt. Irresistible with mild goat cheese. Great snack for the kids. They’re better than a cookie.”dsc_0167

Wild Blueberry Walnut.
The principal flavor in these is the rosemary, with a light fruity sweetness from the blueberries.
I love these with a generous bit of blue cheese and pomegranate.

“Savor naturally gluten-free buckwheat flecked with wild blueberries, California walnuts, and rosemary. Terrific paired with goat cheese and creamy blues. Deliciously satisfying on their own!”

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Fresh fruit is another thing that is absolutely essential in my opinion. Fruits add sweetness and a little bit of sharpness depending on which ones you choose. I had always just done apples, but lately, I have been enjoying incorporating berries and pomegranates. The sweetness is also a really good way to balance out stronger cheeses, I never liked goat cheese until I had it with cherries.

What is your favorite treat for a cozy evening at home? Do you have any traditions you and your family do on special occasions?

Thank you much to Maine Crisps for sponsoring this post and for sending me some of their delicious crackers! Make sure you check out their website mainecrisp.com and follow them on Instagram @mainecrisp

 

An Evening In Dublin City.

Happy Birthday Sparkle Of Grace! Three Year Bloggerversary.

3 Favorite Cleansers: My Cleanser Routine.

 

Hello!

Back in September I spent a day in Dublin, I didn’t get to see very much of the city, but it was enough to make me want to return and explore more.

We flew into Dublin on Saturday afternoon, rented a car and headed into the city to find our hotel. We stayed at the Westin on Westmoreland Street.

DSC_0548We only had a short stay in Dublin, one day and two nights so we didn’t get to see much of the city. Must of our exploration was within a few blocks of our hotel, and mostly on Grafton St in sweater shops and at the weekend doctors on Nassau St.
I wasn’t feeling quite the thing so I don’t get out to take photos until the evening. It was a slightly rainy evening with a pleasant coolness in the air.
We walked for a bit until we found a place to eat, we settled on O’Donoghue’s for a quick bowl of stew than off to explore a little.
Dublin is absolutely gorgeous at night! especially since it was a little dreary all the city lights reflected beautifully off the streets.dsc_0592image.png

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There you have it! Just a quick little glimps into my short visit to Dublin!

Don’t forget to check out my other posts from me U.K trip if you haven’t read them already.

Afternoon in Oxford: A brief History.

Dover & Brighton Travel Journal

London Highlights:

Pusheen Snack Parlour.

Hello everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas.
This is a day for some serious reflection, with the new year right around the corner there is no better time to gaze back at the year and appreciate all the fun and amazing things it was brought.
Today marks A Sparkle Of Grace’s third birthday!
I can’t believe it’s been three years! It seems like I started just yesterday that I started fresh, and rebranded myself as A Sparkle Of Grace. I have loved every minute of it, even the frustrating ones, after six years of blogging I’m still learning something new every day.

While I didn’t do nearly as much writing this year as I didn’t last year, 27 posts compared to last year’s 73, it has been a huge year of growth for both the blog and myself.

At the beginning of January my family I headed to Quebec for a week-long snowy adventure. Quebec City is truly magical in the winter I think it snowed somewhere around four feet while we were there. We visited the fabulous Hotel De Glace and the breathtaking Montmorency Falls, but we spent most of our time just soaking up the festive scenery of the city.
I neglected to write up a travel journal for Quebec city,
oops.


In late 2018 I decided to start a Maine blogger group and on February 16 we had our very first Meet up. Since then we have had three other events, and I’ve met some of the sweetest, lovely people. March brought my collaboration with Jord Watches. I had been an admirer of Jord for a while, so having them reach out to me was a dream!


April and May were the months for recipes, I shared my Not Your Basic Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe, my Lemon Cupcakes with Lemon Butter Cream Frosting and The Perfect Iced Cut-out Sugar Cookies. There were also a few mini skincare reviews sprinkled in.


June and July were brought a bunch of additions to my Wandering Maine series, I spent the summer enjoying Maine, with many day trips around the coast, and a wonderful family vacation. I got to see one of my favorite bands( Gaelic Storm) in concert for the second time. They are so much fun and super nice people.
I also attended my first BloggersliveBoston event at the Rustic Arrow in Freeport, which as a blast!


August had a shocking lack of blog content but I had the awesome opportunity to so an Instagram collab with Loft Outlet, which as incredible fun as Loft is one of my favorite stores.


The whole month of September my mom, dad, brother and I spent in the U.K, so there was very little written content that month except for my review of the Pusheen Cafe. There was however some much material that I’m still working at writing up all of it.


October brought my travel journal for London, one for Dover and Brighton, and a history-based post about Oxford and Oxford Univerity. This trip as one that I have been wanting for as long as I can remember, and it was a dream come true and I’m so incredibly blessed. I also turned twenty-two.


November was another quiet month on the blog. With just one post, 3 Favorite Cleansers: My Cleanser Routine.

Which brings us to December!
This is the first and last post for December because this month has been crazy busy. A couple highlights were the Windham Chambers Singers Christmas concert, which is always amazing and getting to meet Norm Lewis again was really nice.

And who can forget about Christmas! As I’m writing this it’s the day after, and I feel tired but very happy. It was wonderful to see all the family again, I haven’t seen everyone in a while. This was my nephew’s second Christmas, but the first one that he was really able to enjoy, getting to experience that with him was the sweetest thing.

Top Five Post of 2019

Tarte Rainforest Of The Sea Sizzle Palette

Tartes New Sugar Rush is Just In Time For Spring. First Impressions and Review.

Wandering Quebec: Montmorency Falls

Zoella X Colourpop Brunch Date Haul & First Impressions

Revolution SophX Nude Lipsticks

This year’s top five surprised me a little, I guess you can’t go wrong with a good old fashioned review.

Instagram.
While this year has been pretty quiet on the blog front, I have been putting more effort on Instagram, most of my activity, growth, and brand collabs have been there. There are a couple of reasons for this, one is that it’s easier and doesn’t take as much time as sitting down, writing and researching a blog post. It has also been simpler to follow my brand’s growth and to see what kinds of content my followers like and dislike. Plus, I have been loving the supportive, encouraging community.

Health.
I had pertussis (whooping cough) this year which was quite the adventure. Since I had been vaccinated the infection took its unique direction. I came down with it in the middle of August, and it continued through our U.K trip when it developed into severe asthma and I ended up going to a doctor in Dublin to get an inhaler.
While I was still able to enjoy the trip, it slowed me down considerably, I had pretty much constant discomfort in my lungs, and I couldn’t walk of stairs, hills, or even laugh without having a coughing fit.
I think I’m finally better now! I do still have occasional asthma attacks but other than that I’m back to the way I was before.

Chronic Pain.
This has been an interesting year on the health front.
I have talked a little bit about my adventures with chronic pain in the past, but it’s been a long time since I gave an update. If you would like a more in-depth chat about my fibromyalgia, and chronic migraines let me know I might do a post about that soon.
For the most part, this has been a good year there has been ups and downs like always, but the number of good days increased and the number of bad days has decreased( not counting the ones caused by whooping cough)

This year has been amazing!
I can’t wait to see what 2020 brings, it’s already promising to be a wonderful year.
I hope you all have a marvelous New Year.

 

Find me on Pinterest and Instagram.

Cleansers are a very personal product, everyone has different preferences and different skin types. What works for one person with one skin type may not work for someone else with the same skin type.
Finding the right cleanser is a daunting task, the options are never-ending and each brand has one marketed for every different skin need.DSC_0007

My skin is dry around my eyes, noes and sometimes my cheeks, with occasional breakouts on my forehead, chin, and jawline. So when looking for a cleanser it needs to thoroughly clean without stripping the skin of its natural moisture. I have found that instead of having one cleanser that I use exclusively, it works better for me to have a few different ones that I can switch and use depending on how my skin feels at the time. I have finally found three cleansers that I love and use regularly.DSC_0052

Soap & Glory Peaches And Clean Deep Cleansing Milk.
I use this one every morning, and in the evenings where I have worn little to no makeup that day. It is very gentle and soothing and works beautifully for removing the day from bare skin, dust oils and any light makeup you might be wearing. The peach scent is very sharp and refreshing too, it’s one of the reasons I love it so much in the morning.
This does claim to be a makeup removing the cleanser, but I have found it doesn’t do a very good job at removing mascara and eyeliner, and a full face of makeup is a bit more then it can handle.DSC_0055DSC_0057

YesTo Cucumber Exfoliating Cleansing Balm.
This one is the next step up, I use it at night after a day of wearing makeup. It comes with an exfoliating pad that I use every time to get that lightly exfoliated clean feeling. This does a great job at removing any extra makeup and leaves my face feeling clean, bright and fresh.
I love the smell of this cleanser it’s exactly like cucumber, but it is quite a strong smell, so I’ve your not a cucumber fan, just be aware.
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Origins Checks And Balances Frothy Face Wash.

We have now reached phase three!
I had a facial done at Origins and they used these cleansers, I was instantly obsessed and purchased it then and there.
It has both spearmint and lavender so it smells incredible, and my skin just feels happy after using it! It is definitely gentle enough for everyday use, I used it morning and evening for three weeks when I was traveling recently and my skin didn’t give me any of the normal travel issues. As it foams and is more an intense clean I don’t find I need it every day. I only use this in the evenings when I’ve had a long day in makeup, or when my skin feels itchy and tiered( you know the feeling). It’s a bit like a breath of fresh air for your skin it feels extremely clean, but not over-dry or tight.

What it really comes down to is what your skin wants! I spent a long time trying to find one cleanser that did it all and worked perfectly for my skin at all times, but it turns out my magic number is three!

The next stop on our U.K adventure is Oxford!

After a couple of hours in the car, it was the perfect time to stop and stretch our leg find some afternoon tea, and explore.

Oxford was an absolute must-see for everyone so we stop there between Brighton and the Cotswolds, and although we only spend a few hours there, there was no doubt it is an incredible place.

You can feel the centuries of history all around you, the past of this place is incredibly impressive. DSC_0300DSC_0309

A bit of history:

Oxford is known as the City of Spires because of its stunning Gothic towers and steeples. Most of which belong to the university, which happens to be the oldest in England. The first mention of the town was in 912 in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle when it was acknowledged that Edward the Elder held London and Oxford. The University of Oxford’s buildings were mostly built in the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries. The earliest colleges of Oxford were built in 1249.

Robert D’Oyly, the first Norman governor of Oxford and was responsible for building Oxford Castle, of which all that remains is the That wall enclosed an area of about 95 acres. not much remains of it except for a few small sections. Each college is built around courtyards, with a chapel, hall, library, and walled gardensDSC_0335DSC_0413DSC_0328DSC_0357

The town’s history became the history of the university, there was always bit hostility between town and gown, but it grew to its most violent in 1355 the Massacre of St. Scholastica’s Day.

Students who were drinking in the Swindlestock Tavern at Carfax complained about the quality of the wine. The landlord who happened to be Mayor of Oxford at the time is said to have reacted rudely to their criticism and a student threw a drink at him. Locals came to his defense and had the City Church bell rung to gather the townsmen to arms. the University retaliated by stirring its students to the fray with the bell at the University Church, and battle commenced, with both townsmen and students making good use of their bows and arrows.

The next day around 2,000 men came in from the country to help the town. They broke into University halls, killing scholars, the violence lasted until the next day, 62 scholars were killed. DSC_0296DSC_0300

As it is with so much of history not all of it is pleasant, but that doesn’t make it any less interesting or important to be remembered, and Oxford has definitely had its a fair share of the darker side of things. At the same time, it has been responsible for some of the most important medical discoveries.

In the 13th century Roger Bacon’s conception of science as the experimental and inductive research to Dorothy Hodgkin’s discovery of penicillin during World War II.

It has an incredibly impressive list of students

Wiliam Tyndale, who was burned at the stake for translating the Bible into English.

William Penn, who founded Pennsylvania 

Ivy Williams, the first female barrister in the UK

Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Importance of Being Earnest,

JRR Tolkien, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings 

CS Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia, Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters

And that’s just a few of the most notable ones, they have been 28 British Prime Ministers, 120 Olympic medal winners, 55 Nobel Prize winners, and over 30 world leaders.

I hope to get back to Oxford in the future, I would love the explore more of the town itself, neighboring countryside and of course Oxford Castle.