Trend Watch 2017: This year’s best timepieces

For me, I think one of the greatest gifts you could possibly buy someone - or yourself - is a luxury watch.
A eeally nice watch is both an investment and a point of pride - they are fashionable, they are beautiful and they are practical – and an amazing watch will make a terrific present for both men or women.
And 2016 actually sa2 a change in "favourite" watch styles - watch buyers became a lot more interested in simple, uncomplicated designs and technology.
But what would YOU select and why?
Here are three ideas of timeless timepieces that could be bought for a special someone or, of course, be kept as a treat for yourself...well that's if you have a spare bit of cash lying around because some of the watches that catch my eye when surfing the net are quite pricey to say the least.
And if I ever did splash the cash on a beautiful, luxury timepiece I'd have to make sure I looked after my investment well with some watch insurance.








Watch trends for him

The Minimalist Choice – Longines Master Collection L2.718.4.70.3

This is a dress watch that is sleek, sophisticated and designed to effortlessly mimic the designs found in the 1940’s era, with its crocodile strap details it is a beautiful example of a minimalist timepiece.

A watch like this will go with any smart or smart casual outfit, especially a nice, sleek, blue suit and brown shoe combo - well that's my opinion anyway.
The Longines Master Collection 38mm has a twenty one jewel automatic movement and is water resistant to 30m with a 38mm sapphire glass case.
This is a watch that has as much sensibility as it does dress appeal - the silver elements contrast with the brown strap beautifully, creating an accessory perfect for a winter formal occasion such as an office party.
Priced at £2,200 and up, visit the Longines site for more information.

The Diver’s Choice – Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean Deep Black


I've mentioned a few times in older blog posts about my love for a full black timepiece and this watch strengthens my love for them.

While this watch will not suit everyone’s budget, it really is a beautiful piece of engineering that will certainly be appreciated by anyone who dives.
It was new in October 2016 too, so to have it would certainly mean the owner would be one of the few sporting such a beautiful design.
It is a bold, all-black watch that can take on 600 metre dives thanks to its ceramic construction and is inspired by the dark side of the moon - these watches are out of this world when it comes to durability and technical achievement - yet having prices starting from £7,000 it is certainly for serious divers only.

The Trendy Luxury Choice – BreitlingNavitimer in blue



Breitling is synonymous with quality, and nothing has changed over the years. However, many watch trends in 2016 seemed to have prized blue faces – with little surprise, as blue is a versatile colour that matches virtually any outfit.
The Navitimer men’s watch is a delightful instrument that looks absolutely spell-binding on any man’s wrist. It captures attention immediately and is a favoured timepiece for pilots and aeronautical experts alike. The mechanical chronograph is crafted in Breitling’s workshop and is a true technical marvel. Available from £5,999.

Watch trends for her

The Minimalist Choice – Montblanc Tradition




The Montblanc Tradition is a masterpiece in 36mm. It’s a simplistic piece that features a classic guilloche dial with Roman numerals and a small date function. Uncluttered and unassuming, but engineered to offer the finest level of quality. The watch also has 30 metres of water resistance and comes with a beautiful strap. While it’s unisex, this is a piece that will suit a businesswomen looking for a clean, elegant dress watch. Prices start at £930.

The Diver’s Choice – Oris Diving




Oris Diving watches perfectly capture the sleek trends of 2017, with a bold black face on a sturdy metallic strap. Built for diving first and foremost, the watch offers 300 metres of water resistance and is engineered specifically to fit a women’s wrists. The model has an immaculate display with a sapphire crystal watch face. Swiss-made movement completes the watch – a truly dependable diving model that does not compromise on quality.

The Trendy Luxury Model – Chanel Boy.Friend

In the fashion world, Chanel reigns supreme. One of the most instantly recognisable, sought-after brands on the planet, Chanel speaks of quality in a way many watches can never hope to.

This boyfriend model features a diamond bezel and a sleek black strap that complements the simplistic face. It’s a modern watch for a modern woman – but is adorned with the type of luxury you’d expect from a fashion leader.
Prices start from £3,200 for the non-diamond version and £5,700 for the one pictured.

Sleek, sophisticated and low-key is the name of the game for 2017. Even if you don’t have the money to afford these luxury brands, learning from the styles and features they offer can guarantee you make a good purchase on whatever brand you choose.

CARL

So with me being with my wife now for about fourteen years and being married for coming up to six you'd think that by now we would of had our fair share of Valentine's Day surprises for each other, done some amazingly romantic things and lavished some fabulous gestures on each other.

Well, you would be wrong.

To be honest I can't actually remember the last time we spent even a portion of the day together, just the two of us.

In one respect it would be amazing to have a little bit of "us" time to just go to the cinema or nip out for a meal but we have two (very amazing) reasons why we don't...
Charlie who has been with us for eleven Valentine's Days and Willow who has been with us for fifteen months. 

You see me and the wife know how much we love each other, we know that we have each other's backs though anything, we know that if one morning I leave the house for work without giving her our usual "See you later" kiss on the head as I walk past, half asleep, juggling my morning brew, work phone and tablet, trying to remember where I left my van keys are. I'll get the death stare or a text if I make it as far as the van so that I realise and pop back in (regardless of how late I am) to give her that little kiss.

We are more than just love, it's a real best friend kind of friendship.

And like friends, yes we argue and neither of us backs down because we are both similar and are both really stubborn, but with all good relationships, after twenty minutes it's all forgotten and never mentioned again. 

We know that life is too short to let stupid arguments and a lack of spending time as a two not a four get us down - we wouldn't have it any other way - our kids are everything to us and we love spending our time together which is the reason we started our YouTube channel "The Baker Bunch" up.

Now I do apologise if you thought this post was going to be a lovey-dovey post about romantic weekends away or candle lit dinners but that's just not what The Baker Bunch are about.

But then again is anyone really about all of that 24/7?

Anyway,I did have a bit of a laugh around the whole romance thing - although she knows me well enough to know I'm not that kind of a guy, earlier this week when a delivery man walked down our drive with a huge bouquet of flowers in hand, for a split second Simone thought I had gone all out and treated her.


But her excitement was short lived and she remembered who I am when the delivery guy said it wasn't actually for her but was a treat for me -










And then she looked closer and realised that it wasn't just a bouquet of flowers but it was full of cakes too...and not just any cakes either but Mr Kipling's at that - and we all know that they are "exceedingly good"
(sorry I know corny but I couldn't resist) 

But who sent me this bouquet?

Did I have a secret admirer?

Well,yes actually I do and it was Mr Kipling himself.

Not only did he send me the amazing bouquet but I was also given a fair few box's of Valentine's ready cakes-  all classic favourites but with a cheeky, Valentine's edge to them...

Fancy a Kiss?
Love you Cherry much!
You're the one by a Country mile!
In a Whirl over you!


And well, as you can imagine, my wife was furious...but then I said she can share them with me and all was forgiven :)


All of the Valentine's Day themed boxes give the cakes a lovely romantic feel making them the perfect gift for a special person this Valentine's Day, and if you notice the French Fancies are all pink - brilliant - no fighting over them (because they are by far the best!)


I have to say, especially after my wife's reaction to this delivery, I really do think these would go down a real treat for anybody on Valentine's Day.


So how will I be spending this Valentine's Day?

More than likely sat at our kitchen table, cuppa in hand, tucking into a few of these Mr Kipling treats with my wife, my son and my daughter - here's to having another, very special Family Valentine's Day. 

Oh and I know that when Simone tweeted a picture of the bouquet a few people said they where jealous and wanted to share?

Well guess what, it's your lucky day - if you enter the Rafflecopter competition below you could be in with a chance to win your very own Mr Kipling bouquet and cake bundle to hopefully arrive in time for Valentine's Day.

Now wouldn't that be the perfect gift - so be quick - the opportunity won't be around for long.







CARL
It seems like I haven't posted anything beard related in ages, which is quite sad really because the last time I did, I said there would be something live on the subject every month at least.

Unfortunately that hasn't happened because I kind of had a bit of a fall out with beard products, especially oils.

All of the posts had begun to sound the same...I mean an oil is an oil no matter the brand - you use them all the same, they all come in the same kind of bottle with maybe a mix up happening in the applicator area, and if I'm being brutally honest a lot of them even have the same kind scent bar a few of those "lets be crazy to try and be different" kind of scents, but they just never seemed to work.

In fact I fell out with beard products so much that I was turning down some really great opportunities with some great brands because I wanted to stay true to my blog by only writing about stuff I'm 100% happy but I just lost my passion for this type of product.

My beard was feeling quite good too especially to say it had gone untreated for a couple of months...well I did wash it but not with anything special, just with whatever shampoo was on the bath side at the time.

But all of this changed when I started my new job a few months ago - the job is a lot more of a dirtier job than my last one and my beard and face is constantly getting covered in old dirt and grime.

So off I popped, to my draw full of products - many of which I probably should have blogged about by now - I know, I know, bad blogger!

But this is all going to change, starting from NOW!

Luckily I had quite a few beard products sat in their draw waiting to be looked at in there, some are very nice products too and I've refound my enthusiasm for them...the enthusiasm I had before my little beard blogger strop. 

A brilliant set of such products came to me from The Great British Grooming Co



 The product is designed to have quite a manly look to it with really simple, striking packaging which really stands out.

The range offers up four different products which I feel is a really good number - I hate shopping, even online shopping and I've lost count of the times I've ended up not buying anything because I've been so bogged down by there being just too much choice and too many products on offer.

A small, core set of products which do everything I need is perfect and this set offers me that.

The Great British Grooming Co has an ethos that they want to bring traditional grooming in line with the busy world today's man lives in and they do this by using quick fixing, multi-tasking ingredients that tick more than just the one box - they want to tame beards in minutes.

So lets take a look at the products.

First up we have the beard oil.



When I initially tell people I use beard oil sometimes I get laughed at because people tend to think grooming and using the oil is simply for vain purposes.

Not the case at all.
I want my beard to look shiny, healthy and well kept but when I explain this to them, that yeah, the oil does make my beard look better but actually it's main use is for skin hydration purposes as well as providing nourishment to the actual beard hair - thanks to the majority ingredient Argon Oil - a lot of people don't believe me or don't understand.

Until they see the results for themselves that is, then they are banging my door down asking to take all my oils away for themselves.

I don't blame them really, espe ially not with this one - this even won Highly Commended Best New Male Facial Product in the 2016 beauty awards.

Says it all really doesn't it.

And next up is the Beard Wash.

I think every man with a beard should own a decent beard wash, it's the first product of the set I actually ran out of and this one even found it's way into my gym bag.

I've had quite a lot of experience using different beard products and my overall opinion is that if you manage to find a decent beard wash then there's no need to use lots and lots of other products every day.

Those can be kept for occasional skin treats.

And this beard was is certainly one of those "decent products"...well it's better than decent, it's one of the best I've ever used.

It gives my beard a brilliant, really thorough deep cleanse, leaving it feeling and looking great.
The was is infused with subtle notes of bergamot ('aint got a clue what that is), cedarwood and amber, which when combined together give a really fresh, amazing scent.

Next up is the balm but xadly I can't say too much about this product because I haven't used it yet.
I'm not the biggest beard balm fan at all and I never use it on my beard and I don't plan to either - they just don't personally work for me, but what I can say is that this smells absolutely amazing.

Formulated with Coconut Oil, Shea Butter and once again Argan Oil you can see why it should be an irresistable beard treat - just not one for me - but if it's anything like the other products in the set then It will definitely be a winner.



And tgen last but not least is the beard thickening serum.

I've never used this type of product before but it has definitely won me over even though my beard looks quite thick already I do have some thin patches but this serum 100% gives it all a much fuller look.

The serum contains protein building blocks, keratin and Pro Vitamin B6 which all help to strengthen the hairs shaft, helping it grow better.

To use, simply apply a few drops to damp or dry hair - I prefer my beard to be damp - and then gently rub it in and wait to let the magic happen.

I really can not express how much I love this product because it has made my beard look a lot thicker, darker and it smells great all of the time too.

This is such a good set of products and after that glowing review, what would you say if I told you that you could win the full set for yourself (or partner or a member of the family who's got a beard)?

I know just what you're thinking...Wow Carl, you're the Man!

Well obviously don't just thank me, thank the people over at The Great British Grooming Co too.


And so to be in with a chance of winning a set all you have to do is visit the rafflecopter page below and complete the steps...

Good Luck.

CARL
Is it just me or did Christmas fly past so fast this year?
It literally seems like my house decorations were up for a day and back down the next (they weren't by they way, they were up for almost all of December actually).

Christmas this year started on a massive high, which I will explain in a minute, but it ended on a massive low with a few emergency calls to the hospital when Willow became quite poorly and at one point I reallyvdid think I'd lost her when she was lying helplessly in my arms, and it has really knocked me for six and is going to take quite a while to get that image out of my head.

I don't want to talk too much about those lows because our Christmas started great and we had a fun-packed family weekend just before Christmas when the lovely people over at Talented Talkers invited us to spend a day and night over in Manchester at the Mercure Hotel.

It's not often the Baker Bunch get to go away for weekends anymore, what with myself working or Charlie playing rugby, but this weekend we had nothing planned so we jumped at the opportunity and to be honest if we had of had something planned we would of cancelled anyway.

Not only did we get to spend the night over at the hotel, we also got a family ticket to the Winter Wonderland being held at the Trafford Centre that weekend too.

So let's start with the hotel, like I said it's in Manchester - smack bang in the centre of Manchester to be exact - which is a great location if you are wanting to spend a bit of time browsing around the vast amount of shops and bars the city has.

In my old job I used to do a lot of work in Manchester so I know the area quite well and knew exactly where the hotel was which was handy because town centre driving can be a big pain in the backside if you are not familiar with the area.

Manchester is booming at the moment and to be honest it's where I get most blog event invites to so trust me when I say it's definitely worth the travel over.

Now the hotel is located next door to the bus station and is only a short walk from the nearest train station with is great, but because we were heading over as a family I decided to drive and made use of the hotels on site parking which costs £15 for an overnight stay - very reasonable for the location.

We arrived at the hotel a little before our book in time but the staff made a few calls and let us into our room early, which was very nice.



I think we had a family room and it had a nice king sized bed, a sofa bed and they also supplied us with a travel cot for Willow.
The room was very spacious and Willow enjoyed whizzing around, exploring on her hands and knees.








The lovely people at the hotel left us a little supprise too and I'm not ashamed to say that we didn't leave a single crumb - us Bakers do love a bit of chocolate.








And we also love the odd glass of Prossecco.

 (Please note Charlie did not help us drink this!)





As a group, we were treated to a guided tour of the hotel by the manager so that he should show us the different things the hotel has to offer and I was shocked by the sheer size of the function rooms.
They were huge!

And with it being Christmas Party season it was the perfect time for us to walk around really, we had the chance to see staff setting up for a huge party for that night and, I may be wrong here, but I'm sure the manager said the main function room holds a massive 600 people.

Now that's one hell of a party.

 






There is also an onsite gym too for guests to use and I could tell you that I got up early and smashed out a big gym session in the morning but that would be a big fat lie.
What I can tell you though is that the gym had plenty of apparatus and was very well looked after.


And so, as I said earlier we had tickets to head over to the Trafford Centre to check out the Winter Wonderland, which is what we did after the tour.
We were all very excited but after spending around an hour there we left quite disappointed really, I wasn't a fan at all - I think Willow was a little too young for everything and Charlie was a little too old - and to make matters worse I dropped my camera whilst we were there and broke my lens - which I still haven't had fixed because Christmas made me skint.




But we couldn't leave with out Charlie sampling one of the amazing smelling crepes they had on offer - one filled with his favourite Nutella of course.


Oh and we also had to take a few selfies to show off my amazing new Christmas jumper




But we soon headed back to the hotel so we could go for some lovely food in the hotel's restaurant, well so we thought anyway.

With it been quite late and far past Willow's bed time we always knew it was going to be a struggle to keep her awake for a late meal, and we were right, she was falling asleep when we were all freshening up in our room

Sadly Simone stayed in the room with her whilst myself and Charlie went and ate food, but because the hotel staff are quite amazing they said they would let Simone order and would take it up to our room for her which I thought was a great gesture.

If you want to know what she ordered you can read her post Here! too.


And this may sound strange but one of the hardest things I find about blogging is writing about food, I just never think I do good food justice, I'd rather just tell you it was good or bad and try let the pictures do the talking.

So that's what I'm doing.


First up we both choose the butternut squash soup with a slice of garlic bread to dip in which is a firm favourite in the Baker household anyway - it's usually a Slimming World special I make and we all love it.

This soup tasted just as good as my own I must admit.


Next up was the easiest pick of the menu for me, it was Betty's Famous Hot Pot. 

If you're a Corrie fan then you will have seen many a person order this in the Rovers Return, and if not, well just think of a Lancashire hotpot made by your Gran!

It was packed full of flavour, the meat was super tender and melted in the mouth, the potatoes were nice and crispy on top but if I had one criticism it would be that there just wasn't enough for me - it was quite a tiny portion - but other than that I couldn't fault it. 


Charlie definitely takes after his dad when it comes to eating and it's very rare that he will order from any children's menu these days, but at the hotel there wasn't anything he fancied on the main menu so he opted for the cheese burger and chips on the kid's menu, which was a great choice actually because it was huge. 


And last but by no means least - pudding.
We both choose Sticky Toffee Pudding and ice cream and yeah, it tasted as good as it looks


We didn't leave a drop and could quite easily licked our bowls clean - but the restaurant looked very posh so there was no doing that.

After food we headed back to our room to see Simone and watch a bit of TV an 10 minutes later I was asleep on the sofa bed and stayed there until Willow woke us in the morning.

We also had breakfast at the hotel that morning but being the blogger who thinks with his belly I totally forgot to take any photos.
I was too busy stuffing my face with Cornflakes, a full English, muffins, fruit, and everything else they had to offer.

I do eat quite a lot of cooked breakfasts I have to say (it goes with the job...kind of...) and this one was up there with the best of them. 


So all in all, myself and the Baker Bunch had a great time at the hotel - it was certainly one of the best parts of our Christmas 2016 experience anyway.

Don't forget to check out what offers the hotels have on at the moment too.
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