Life: A Food Lovers’ Christmas Gift Guide

At first I worried about what to include in this gift-guide – but in the end I’ve pretty much published my own wishlist (minus the odd MAC lipsticks and socks I’d included!). Some of these things I’ve since kindly received for my birthday (thank you to those generous friends and family!), some are still on my Christmas list, and some are waiting to be put on the wedding list next year (looking at you, Joseph Joseph!).

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For the Cheese Lover

It’s only in the last 18 months or so that I’ve gotten properly into cheese (before I’d stick to cheddar and the occasional sprinkling of parmesan), it’s safe to say I’m really looking forward to some festive cheeseboards this year! There’s also quite a few cheese-related gifts I’d love to see under the tree on Christmas day… this set from Oliver Bonas has been on my radar for a long time.

And of course, being a fan of Switzerland means melted cheese is just one of the food-related ways to be heart. These Tabletop Raclette Grills* are the perfect at-home date night companion.

For the Wine Lover

Clearly I’ve grown up recently, because I’ve gone from a ‘wine with special dinners’ type of gal to one that realllyyyy enjoys a good wine. I’m not a huge drinker, though, so we can often be round trying to fashion a bottle stopper to keep it fresh for the next day. This Kate Spade stopper would solve that problem! And, ya’no, sparkly.

For the Chocolate Lover

Now chocolate is something I’ve ALWAYS loved! I’m of the firm opinion that if you gift me some Dairy Milk, or a Terry’s Chocolate Orange, I’ll be a happy girl. However I also love more artisan chocolates. We picked up some delightful (and shockingly expensive) bars from Pump Street Bakery in Suffolk a few months ago, which we’re slowly savouring. I love visiting Cocoa Amore in Leicester for some of their delicious pralines.

But for a real chocolate lovely, I highly recommend attending some kind of cookery class or workshop. I spent a wonderful morning at Ginger Whisk Cooking School* with Lucy (you can see one of the recipes we worked on here) – the bulk of the day was spent learning how to temper chocolate, and experimenting with flavourings. I loved adding fruit and herbal teas to mine, and am working on a couple of flavour combos to share with you all soon.

For the Style-Conscious

Much as I love cooking and eating, I also want my kitchen and dining area to look pretty. Of course, it helps with the Instagram game too (you can come follow me here). There’s the ultimate in kitchen chic the Kitchen Aid, or slightly more budget-friendly Kenwood kMix* (though neither come cheap!). I would also be the first person to admit that I’m in love with dining sets right now – plates, bowls, cutlery. Whilst we’ve just invested in some new bits and pieces, I’m still totally lusting after this Habitat set.

On the more practical side, anything from Joseph Joseph gets my vote. I’d love one of their bins, but who can spent three figures on a bin?! Slightly more realistically, I’d love their compact cutlery drawer organiser – sad I know!

For the Adventurous

Again, I’m going to advocate a cookery class here – there’s nothing better for getting stuck in with a cuisine you’re not totally familiar with. I’d never cooked any Chinese food before I helped out at Wok for 1000, but I’ve definitely caught the bug. I’m hoping to attend School of Wok for a class or two in the New Year so watch this space!

For the Cookbook Lover

There was just so many cookbooks I wanted to add to my Christmas list this year – it was hard to whittle them down. I mean, I could have included them all but I kinda didn’t want to risk being in a situation of having 15 hardback books to bring home on the train!

Top of my list is definitely The Roasting Tin – I’ve heard such good things and the recipes sound incredible. I can also highly recommend Fress*. Not only is the book absolutely stunning, but the recipes are lovely to boot. The cover recipe (a roasted cauliflower salad) is unbelievably good. And of course, there’s the book that appears to have taken over Instagram this festive season – Nigel Slater’s Christmas Chronicles. It’s as beautiful in real life as it appears in pictures. I’m also after Jamie’s new book (of course!) and as I’m looking into cooking more Asian Food I’ve featured Rosa’s Thai Cafe book high on my wishlist.

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For Those Who Are Difficult To Buy For

Got everything? Not quite sure what their taste is? Want a lasting gift? I love, love, LOVE subscriptions. Whether it’s cheese toasties through the post (I need to try this at some point), a wine delivery, or a foodie magazine I’m all for a gift that last a whole year long. We’re already subscribers to BBC GoodFood, but I’ve love to read more copies of Delicious Magazine as their Instagram account is SO inspiring. Sure, the recipes are pretty much always online, but flicking through a magazine of seasonal recipes is part of the fun of cooking for me!

And if all else fails – restaurant vouchers are always an appreciated present. My parents bought us a voucher to visit Duck & Waffle last Christmas (read my full review here) and it’s probably one of the most thoughtful presents I’ve ever received. In the past I’ve also bought a giftcard to visit Pollen Street Social, so it’s a great way to gift a treat meal out!

*Some items have been gifted, though all opinions are my own as always!

What’s on your wishlist this year?

Food: Christmas Cooking Tips & Ultimate Orange & Whisky Mince Pies

Now, I could apologise for the early mention of Christmas but I won’t. Because actually it’s not *that* early. Stir-up Sunday has been and come and IT’S DECEMBER TOMORROW. In just a few hours it’s acceptable to start decorating my lounge, wearing festive jumpers and humming Christmas carols. And so it’s time to start talking about the best bit of Christmas if you ask me. Whether it’s a roast turkey or goose. Traditional dinner or buffet. Whether you prefer the main event or the Boxing Day leftovers. A good Christmas Dinner is the bit I always look forward to, and the part that always makes me sad when it’s over. And lucky for me, I got to start the Christmassy eating early this year!

On a rather grey and wet Saturday we headed to The Cookery for #AEGTasteofXmas. Welcomed in with Prosecco (the best kind of welcome!), we watched some excellent demonstrations (though I still cant’ handle filo pastry to save my life!) and made mince pies (whilst dancing along to the Buble Christmas album!) before being treated to a rather large Christmas dinner.

Here’s just a few hints and tips I picked up to perfect your Christmassy cooking (although you can read a few more via the link!):

  • Buy cheap mincemeat and jazz it up with extras. Add extra festive spices, some orange zest, a good splash of booze. You can mix it up extra how you like it!
  • Always make pastry by an open window. If your room is too hot, keep popping the bowl in the fridge to stop the fat melting. Oh, and handle your pastry as little as possible. One re-roll is okay, any more and your pastry will suffer. You have been warned…
  • Make a simple and light starter. We whipped up a veggie wellington – roasted veggies wrapped in filo pastry. It took no time and was super-scrummy!
  • Test the temperature of our oven. It’s rare they will be exact to their dial, so an oven thermometer is essential for cooking. You’ll notice the difference once you start cooking meat at the correct temperate!
  • Always, always, always rest your meat before carving. A large turkey will stay warm covered in tin-foil for a good hour or so – meaning you can turn up the oven to crisp up your roasties/pigs in blankets/yorkshires.
  • Make extra brussel sprouts. They’re awesome in bubble’n’squeak the next day!

And now it’s time to share my favourite mince pie recipe. I confess I’m not a huge fan of these (dried fruit is just not my thing!), although these are just about acceptable in my eyes. Zesty with orange and a little boozy, if they’re served warm and with enough cream I can just about look over the dried fruit situation.

Recipe – makes around 12, easily doubled if you’re hosting a party!

  • 250g plain flour
  • 65g icing sugar
  • 190g cold butter
  • zest and juice 1 large orange
  • 2 tbsp whisky (or other festive spirit, I imagine brandy would work well!)
  • 250g mincemeat

Mix half of the orange zest and juice in to the mincemeat, along with the whisky, and leave to sit whilst you make the pastry.

Rub the flour, icing sugar and butter together until the mix resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the remained orange juice and zest, and stir with a knife until the mixture begins to clump (add a spoon of cold water if there’s not quite enough juice). Tip onto a floured surface and knead very briefly until smooth before flattening into a disc, wrapping in cling-film and chilling in the fridge for 15 minutes.

Re-dust the work surface (top tip – use bread flour to dust surfaces as it’s finer), then roll out the pastry to approximately the thickness of a £1 coin. Use an 8cm cutter to cut out rounds, then press into a 12-hole non-stick bun tin (don’t grease the tin!). Re-roll the trimmings to the same thickness and stamp out the tops – as these have alcohol in I prefer to leave the tops slightly open so it’s not *too* boozy*. Spoon about 1 tbsp mincemeat into each base and press on the tops, then bake for 20 minutes until golden and crisp. Cool for a few mins, then remove from the tins and cool on a wire rack.

Are you a mince pie fan? Will you be baking festive treats this year?

Lifestyle: Feeling Festive

I’m not quite sure what it is about this Christmas, but I’m looking forward to it more than I have done in a while!

I’m normally a bit of a scrooge. I hate Christmas songs playing in the shops from mid-October, hate how busy things are, and I can’t stand the smell of mince pies. Yet this year I threw on Heart Christmas (my new fav radio station), my festive jumper and begged to put the tree up on the 1st December. I think it’s a combination of working full-time (and having two weeks off over Christmas, roll on 5pm on the 23rd!) and it being my first Christmas living with W – it just feels so magical and exciting!

 photo Christmas 2016 16_zpsj82vnq9t.jpg photo Christmas 2016 18_zpsn3lze10m.jpg photo Christmas 2016 19_zps9sx1dqvj.jpgWe picked up our tree a few weeks ago – getting a bit of a bargain in the process. It’s a 7fter – tall, but as it’s a “slim” tree it fits quite nicely in it’s designated corner and doesn’t overwhelm the room. It’s box is also pretty compact. A bit of a relief, really, considering I wasn’t thinking and ordered it to store. In the City. Trust me, getting a Christmas tree home on the Tube isn’t the easiest of tasks…

Our colour scheme is a *little* confused this year, as we didn’t want to fork out for a load of new baubles. Turns out a certain someone had forgotten about playing “indoor cricket” last January with wrapping paper and tree decorations, so quite a few hadn’t survived. It was a case of mum to the rescue, and she treated us to a gorgeous box of rose-gold baubles. I’m hoping to ditch all of the red decorations next year and go full-on copper-y colours.

I’ve also invested in decent wrapping paper (it’s not just wrapping paper, it’s Marks & Spencer wrapping paper…), I’ve gotten all my presents bought and wrapped wayyyy ahead of time. Last year we were frantically wrapping on Christmas Eve, so this isn’t like me at all!

 photo Christmas 2016 5_zpsv5qf5dbi.jpg photo Christmas 2016 4_zpsre41gogh.jpg photo Christmas 2016 1_zpsjuyzjexn.jpgOf course, it wouldn’t be Christmas without trying out some of Costa’s festive drinks. I found the Toasted Marshmallow Hot Chocolate insanely sweet, to the point of having a headache about half an hour later – though the glittery marshmallows almost made up for it! The Orange Hot Choc, however, is by far my favourite. So yum. We also indulged in some of their Christmas foodie items. We were a little let down by the Pigs in Blankets Panini – it only being sausages and bacon rather than an actual pig in blanket. Better was the Christmas Dinner Toastie, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

(My work canteen does an actual Pigs in Blanket panini, for less than my lunch allowance. It’s so, so good. Very dangerous, I had three this week!)

 photo Christmas 2016 14_zpssh4m1xfr.jpg photo Christmas 2016 13_zpsgs0a2g1u.jpgNow all I need to do is find me an advent calendar and catch up on all the chocolate I haven’t eaten!

How are your celebrating the run up to Christmas?

Lifestyle: Birthday & Christmas Gifts

I was in two minds about publishing this post. On one hand, I hate to think like I’m bragging, when in reality I’m hugely grateful for any gifts I get given. I also worry about whether I’ve missed anything out, and in doing so will offend someone. On the other hand, I love reading other people’s ‘what I received’ posts, and this blog is meant to be a reflection of the type of posts I’d want to read. In the end however I decided to do this as a huge thank you to those who bought me a gift, those who wrote me a card, or even those who just wished me a “Happy Birthday/Christmas” or “Congratulations” last week. If I’m forgotten to mention anything then I’m truly, truly sorry, but I can say hand on heart everything I have received will be treasured.

 photo Gifts 2015 4_zpsq6zpey84.jpg photo Gifts 2015 14_zpsdpuyr8ou.jpg photo Gifts 2015 3_zps6now4ov3.jpgI was thoroughly spoilt for my birthday at the start of the month. I’d spent a relaxing few days at home the weekend before, where I was treated to my favourite homemade curry by W’s dad, followed by a lovely roast beef dinner by my parents. My dad also made the most amazing cake for me! Gift-wise I was so touched by everything I received; some new PJs (much needed!), a lovely berry-coloured cape which I’ve hardly taken off over the Christmas break, a totally ‘me’ scarf and a paperback version of my favourite book. W’s parent picked me up my first (?!) Christmassy jumper, a cute Joules jumper that looks exactly like Tee-J and is so cosy (Joules jumpers are a little pricey but totally worth it and there’s often some great discount offers available – like up To 45% off selected jumpers and cardigans!), alongside a sleeve for my Chromebook. I also was gifted some cash to treat myself with (I picked up a lovely pair of heeled ankle boots from Asda and the Real Techniques Bold Metals Gift Set). My Nan also treated me to some tabletop studio lighting, it’s making food photography much easier!

 photo Gifts 2015 2_zps6ucszqzh.jpg photo Gifts 2015 1_zpsoquejvyd.jpgAs I’d been told I was being whisked off on a surprise weekend away, I didn’t expect anything from W, but he still presented me with a lovely selection of chocolates from Cocoa Amore. They didn’t last too long!

My housemates were, as always, complete babes and gave me some perfect bits and pieces. A Milani blush in the most gorgeous colour, some chocolates, slippers, handcream and some vouchers to treat myself. I couldn’t ask for better friends!

 photo 2015-12-25 14.59.02_zps29scjbwh.jpgAlready feeling rather lucky, it was soon time for Christmas. If I’m honest Christmas was extremely overwhelming this year after everything that had happened, I’m quite pleased things are starting to calm down now if I’m honest! That said it was super magical to spend some quality time with our families – and it was the first year W and me spent the whole of Christmas together! The day was quite relaxed, staying at his overnight and giving each other stockings in the morning, heading to church before driving over for lunch with my parents – a full on feast of goose, turkey, two types of stuffing, pigs in blankets, and of course the obligatory sprouts!

 photo Gifts 2015 17_zpsx9tsvedo.jpg photo Gifts 2015 10_zpsovw1pedo.jpg photo Gifts 2015 6_zps2kgvhd7m.jpg photo Gifts 2015 18_zpschefb6lb.jpgAgain I was completely spoilt; a stocking full of little gifts from W, then some gorgeous pressies from family and friends. My stocking included some of my favourite chocolates (Strawberry Creams taste of Christmas to me!), a few festive t-shirts and the most gorgeous scented candle. I was also super excited to receive a ‘fiancee’ Christmas card…especially given it was brought in October presuming I’d say yes! My mum put together a collection of bits and pieces to pamper myself in the New Year – I’m quite picky when it comes to things like this, but she got all my favourites. She also picked me up a shiny new frying pan, something I’m probably far too excited about! Alongside this my family also brought me and W some cushions – a “W”, “&” and “C” ready to start furnishing a flat together in the (hopefully) not too distant future. I’d picked out a few makeup bits from my Nan, choosing MAC Diva along with another makeup brush. And again W’s parents and family spoilt me rotten – some healthy cookbooks, a gorgeous ASOS scarf to name just a few bits.

 photo Gifts 2015 11_zpsswlrv7xa.jpg photo Gifts 2015 5_zpsp4ewbltz.jpgAlways a fan of Secret Santa’s, I took part in two this year. The first was with my lovely housemates, where I received a chunky tartan scarf, gorgeous mug and some hot chocolate to fill it. I also took part in the #FDbloggers Secret Santa, receiving some delicious pecan nut butter, and some rather interesting chilli and hemp flavoured chocolate – I haven’t been brave enough to try it yet!

 photo 2015-12-20 15.53.22_zpstufvalxj.jpgAnd of course, the best present of all – a fiance and the promise of spending the rest of our lives together.

I’m such a lucky, lucky girl! Not only did I receive some gorgeous gifts, more importantly I got to spend plenty of time with my nearest and dearest. The perfect festive break!

How was your Christmas? What gifts did you receive?

What’s Occurring: 2014 Resolutions Review

Ignore the spelling mistakes and long ramble here. I wrote this post a week or so back, late, after my work’s Christmas do. A lack of food (going out for lunch then not being served our started til 16:45?!) and wine makes typing a littleeee tricky. And a note: normal posts will resume next week. This weekend is my boyfriend’s 21st, and I’m the only one in the office this week. Being crazy busy isn’t helpful to getting back into blogging after a break!

 photo 2014Review_zps0fa2cb5c.jpgAlmost a year ago I wrote this post with a rather long list of “to-do’s” for this year, and I reviewed them halfway through here. Today’s my chance to review them after virtually a full year. How have I got on? Have I achieved what I wanted to achieve? Is there anything I want to work on next year? etc, etc, etc…

Academic

I haven’t actually been at university since I wrote my update post, due to being on my placement year. I’ve really used my Filofax since starting work, not sure I could actually live without it! I reckon my note taking has improved dramatically for work-based topics though – I’m hoping that will translate to study when I go back to university in September!

Blogging

A lot of progress I reckon has been made here. In January I moved to self-hosted, and I’m currently working alongside my boyfriend on a custom design (see here). Commenting on blogs is something I’ve loved doing, though it has dropped from once a day in recent months. I do comment in bulk when I get chance every couple of days though! Photography is gradually improving, especially with the addition of my new camera. I’m especially proud of these photos.

 photo 1caec8db-29b0-4680-88ee-d0cb5e2d2ee5_zps73842900.jpgCooking/Baking

I’ve definitely made a lot of progress here, particularly since starting my placement. Whilst I still don’t spend much on food, I’ve been able to afford expanding my ingredients cupboard. I now have a lot more spices. I’ve managed to bake my own bread a few times; it’s so much tastier than shop bought, and I’m finding it kinder on my tummy too! The only thing I haven’t really started doing is cooking with joints of meat. My live-in landlady is a vegetarian, and I’d sooner keep my home for the year! I have branched out a bit with meat recipes though, I’ve got a super-yummy one scheduled for January!

 photo 9d054e3d-8d86-4faa-93d8-43f061d69799_zps4c001192.jpgBeauty

I completely forgot I even set myself goals in this section, oops! I’ve generally been really good about taking makeup off, at least doing a quick cleanse if not a proper wash. Pixi Glow tonic has been bought and repurchased, turns out I love the stuff. The hunt for foundation is still ongoing, but I’ve picked up some Rimmel ones which are at least the right shade. And I have a rather pretty Hourglass palette which can make pretty much any base look perfect…The only thing I have completely failed on is keeping my makeup brushes clean. I thought I had done well, until I came home this weekend and swiped my mum’s kabuki as I left mine – turns out mine must be seriously clogged up! That will be sorted as soon as I get hold of it next weekend!

Andddd Personal

Exercise is something which has eluded me slightly. I upped the walking, but other than that it’s been a fail. I actually managed to buy running trainers and clothes a few months ago, got ridiculously excited, then dropped a cupboard door on my foot. Those trainers still don’t fit over the swelling, but I am hoping to sort it out asap. And knitting. An utter fail. I have tried, and tried again. I can get two rows and a tangle, so give up in a strop. Any tips are appreciated because I really want to do this!

That’s my 2014 goals, now I just need to set myself some for 2015! How did you do last year, and what are you planning on working towards next year?

Lifestyle: Shutting Down for Christmas

Today I finally, finally, travel home for Christmas. I’d like to say it will be a relaxing week but that would be hugely optimistic. I’m meeting friends in London for lunch and Winter Wonderland on my way, then going straight out for my sister’s fifteenth when I get back. Tomorrow I’m lunching at W’s and dinnering with my parents. Monday brings hospital appointments and ice-skating. Oh, and presents need to be bought and wrapped, and cards need to be delivered. I’m exhausted even thinking about it! But I am so looking forward to being back with my favourite people for just over a week. I’ll be back for a four day weekend over New Year’s too, which might be a little more chilled – though it still involves W’s 21st!

 photo 47dcd0b2-46b7-44f0-9ffb-92a6d27df6fb_zps32de00eb.jpgAll this rushing around, combined with last week being horrendously busy at work, means that I’ve been feeling under pressure to get blog posts written. I’ve always sworn to myself that the moment I feel pressure is the moment to step back, so that’s exactly what I am doing. I don’t want to force out a substandard post and icky photos. I’d sooner put whatever time I do find spare into improvements for next year.

 photo fc07e33d-ca1a-4f8d-877b-03d85a014cfd_zps6431b94f.jpgThat said, there’s a few Christmassy tags I feel quite tempted to do, so if I do pop up it will be unscheduled, and rather festive. We shall see! But for now, I hope you all have a lovely Christmas, and no-one has been naughty enough to get a lump of coal in your stocking!

Festive Friday: Gifts for your Guy

Or any guy in fact.

 photo 2014-12-03183234_zps29ddbe27.jpgI love giving presents. I love to put thought and effort into the gift, wrap it nicely (though it still looks horrific), present it with a smile. I feel so happy when someone loves what I’ve bought them. But that often makes the process of actually buying the present horrendous for me. I constantly stress over choices, obsess about what they might already have, and generally just freak out. Buying for my boyfriend is the worst, and I am sure he’d possibly say the same about me!

 photo 2014-12-03183437_zpsc9051f1a.jpgSmall gifts often go down really well, especially alongside something more sentimental, something homemade. I was trying to knit him a scarf this year. As in, I have been trying since January. It’s not gone well, and if he can wrap two rows of hole-y thread around his neck, I’m sure he’d be grateful. But anyway, he’s some ideas for stocking fillers for you man, or bigger gifts for any other guys in your life.

 photo 2014-12-03183314_zps5c8b8ce7.jpg photo 2014-12-03183304_zps4e29a1be.jpgTechnology is always a good bet for a boy! Something different also goes down well too – and I reckon those who “have everything” will love a living room keyboard (Logitech*). Connecting with your TV, it really enhances viewing experiences. More practical and not as exciting, I’ve also included an external hardrive. I wasn’t going to include this, it’s actually part of an insurance post coming in the New Year, but my boyfriend got hold of this one* when I received it and I think he would rather like one himself! Though perhaps with 2TB we can share…

 photo 2014-12-03183329_zpsec39374b.jpgGoing different, and this water bottle with in built filter is a great little stocking filler. I have a bug bear with tap water, as I know I actually get physically ill in different parts of the country due to water. I have one of these which I use for work, and it really does seem to make a difference. Mine’s from Water To Go*, and I highly recommend it!

 photo 2014-12-03183148_zpsf4861e9d.jpg photo 2014-12-03183513_zps8b4346c4.jpgNow for toiletries. Christmas is the time of year where you fill your bathroom cupboards for the next few months! I’m quite picky on guys scents (Paul Smith is my favourite!), and was worried this Ted Baker Gift Tin* wouldn’t be too my taste – but I actually really like it. Nice and fresh, and not too masculine that I can’t borrow it (ahem). They have some great sets with wallets in too, and they’re damn good value. Far nicer smelling than the female version I remember of my teenage years…

So there’s guys stocking fillers…and that’s perhaps not the best way of putting it! Now I better get cracking as he unhelpfully has a birthday right at the beginning of January, and all my ideas have proved impossible.

Do you hate shopping for presents? What have you got your man this Christmas? Any clues for a twenty-first present?!

 

Festive Friday: Decorating Small Spaces on Small Budgets

I’ve never lived in a big house, big enough for our family of four plus dog(s) but with no space to spare. Our Christmas tree is rarely fully up (we usually leave the bottom, widest part in the loft) as it takes up too much space, and other decorations are placed where we hopefully won’t fall over them immediately. Christmas morning of 1999 saw me fly across the hall floor, colliding my face with the corner of a wooden cabinet, but I think that’s the only more serious accident we’ve had. That and my granddad virtually sawing his hand off whilst potting the tree (we now have a fake one!) but that’s another story…

 photo 47dcd0b2-46b7-44f0-9ffb-92a6d27df6fb_zps32de00eb.jpgSince becoming a student, I’ve found decorating for Christmas a real struggle. For one there’s the lack of pennies. Then there’s the horrendous pre-existing colour scheme in halls, that nothing matches. And of course, you more than likely move every year, so you need something to go with everything. And you also don’t want to go to over the top, as it will still be up when you return from your holidays mid-January.

 photo fc07e33d-ca1a-4f8d-877b-03d85a014cfd_zps6431b94f.jpgWilko has become my new-go to for cheap home accessories over the past two (gulp!) years. It’s pretty good quality, but also lightweight – perfect for lugging back from town without a car, and for packing up each and every year. Colours are bright and cheerful, and that brings me onto my next point. I try not to have too much of a theme when it comes to decorating for Christmas. My mum’s tree is a gorgeous combination of teal and gold, and I can’t wait to have a fully coordinating decor theme in a few years time. But whilst I’m trying to fit things into rented rooms, I’m going for a light reflecting silver, and lots of bright contrasting colours.

 photo 639a46dd-b11f-472b-bbc5-f0354d9b79e9_zps3b4a068d.jpgMy plan this year (I try to switch it up so I don’t get bored!) is to hang alternating silver and colour baubles on silver beading, and drape this all around my very small room. The majority of my baubles are from Wilkos, as is the ridiculous cheap beading, and they have them in so many colours. At £5 for all the decorations I needed it was well worth it!

 photo 7105c15b-9d60-40d1-8024-ac6af3e92af1_zps732f2d63.jpgHowever I was also offered the chance to review some goodies from UK Christmas World, and what better way to test them out by ordering “shatter resistant baubles.” I went for the set of 9 Masquerade Baubles*, and I’m pleased to say they all arrived intact (and very speedily too!). These are huge baubles if I am honest, and very, very glittery. Pleasingly this didn’t mean I had glitter all over my bed after taking these photos – I feel these are really good quality for the price.

Homemade decorations is also a way to go – pine cones look wonderfully festive piled into jars. Me and my boyfriend made a lovely paper star last year, I’m hoping to remember how we did it and post instructions over on instagram soon! So far I haven’t made anything homemade, but I don’t think it will be too long…

 photo 85f4b4fd-844c-4c9c-8e3c-c69b626aba5b_zps146c60ac.jpgMy number one top tip for decorating on a budget is to lean towards items which aren’t strictly Christmassy. I fell in love with this Lit Heart*, and couldn’t resist. Again it’s a pretty decent size, and being battery powered means you don’t have to worry about rising electricity bills. Plus I know there will be no rush to take this down come January, it fits in with my current room perfectly.

 photo 2412a8c6-a5d4-49e3-a238-a900e0250b80_zps715cfa44.jpgGood lighting is a much in small spaces. My current room is by far the smallest I’ve lived in since I was 10, and it is a bit of a squeeze. I have to be careful to keep things tidy, and Christmas clutter is not an appealing thought. Keep my room bright with festive lighting, however, is another story. Following on from my previous tip of avoiding being too festive, I picked out this Blossom Tree* – again something that will look lovely come spring.

 photo c41be6cc-c4a0-40a6-905d-9dd9e42aa841_zps2ee9aa32.jpgAnd of course, no Christmassy room is complete without festive candles! My favourite this year is the Cinnamon & Mandarin offering from MUJI (seriously the best value candles I’ve come across!). The scent throw off is amazing even unlit, and paired with a simple vanilla scent my room is smelling amazing.

I hope it’s not too early to decorate for Christmas! Have you decorated yet? What’s your colour scheme? Any tips for decorating on a budget?

Savvy Spending: House of Fraser Black Friday Deals & £30 GIVEAWAY

It’s coming up to the time of year where deals and sales are everywhere. Black Friday deals might be an American thing, but I’m more than happy to see pre-Christmas sales. Not only is it a chance to stock up on Christmas presents cheap, there’s often more electrical items on sale making it the perfect time to invest in anything you need. I’m keeping my eyes out for a new mini-chopper, though I’m desperate for an air-fryer too!

Source

House of Fraser have kindly offered to give one of my lucky readers a £30 voucher to spend online with House of Fraser. Just enter using the giveaway app below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Now for a few general nit-picking rules. I will be verifying entries, so please be honest. Also please not serial competition entries, this is for genuine readers and I will be checking. The winner will be notified on Thursday and will need to respond ASAP as the voucher will be sent on Thursday evening. I will make all reasonable attempts to contact you, but no response will mean me picking another winner. And UK entries only please – sorry!

Now back to the fun…what are you hoping to pick up in the sales? How’s your Christmas shopping going – I’m hoping to really kick start mine this weekend! 

In Pictures: Christmas Holiday

I have a lot of pictures to show from my Christmas holiday and as most of today is being spent on a train back to university (I can’t wait to see everyone again, although I’m already missing the people at home!) I thought I’d just do a simple photo-heavy post and show you them all, with a few explanations. Let me know if you want more lifestyle posts like this…here goes!

2013-12-21 17.47.06

2013-12-21 17.45.43Coming back to my mum’s amazingly decorated tree!

2013-12-21 17.49.50Snuggles with this cutie…

2014-01-03 09.43.46…and this one! I enjoyed spending lots of time with my boyfriend. During term time we’re anywhere between 150 and 200 miles apart, and although we try and see each other every fortnight it’s been great to see him every single day for a long period of time. We tried to do a lot of ‘dates’ this holiday to offset me having to study, and it’s been great!

2014-01-09 13.47.01One of our dates included a wander round Borough Market, where we lunched on this yummy paella.

2013-12-31 10.41.18I received some lovely expensive make-up…

2013-12-28 09.22.09…and got myself some fab bargains!

2013-12-23 15.21.05Did a little bit of baking.

2013-12-31 10.39.10-1And made sure I pampered myself!

2014-01-02 13.49.20Made the most of the Christmas leftovers.

2013-12-31 13.31.54Devoured some bread baked by my boyfriend (and resolved to make my own!)

2014-01-04 19.42.19Made some amazingly good Massaman Curry.

2014-01-11 16.19.00Watched a lovely sunset…

2014-01-11 16.20.53…whilst drinking a yummy hot chocolate!

2014-01-13 19.34.51I was treated to my favourite meal, fish pie! Thank you to both my boyfriend and his mum for their joint effort in this meal, it was wonderful!

BeHwDX8IYAAjbmpAnd this was topped off by lemon-y pancakes with the papers the next morning.

2014-01-15 20.48.02One of our date nights was a lovely Italian meal (paid for via a voucher we received for Christmas) which we finished off with a trip to the local cinema purely for the Ben & Jerry’s counter! I went for Peanut Butter Cup, with is my absolute favourite, and Smores. The perfect combination in my eyes!

And finally, perhaps best of all…

1157450_10151785402043516_1823432763_nYep, I managed to secure my Year in Industry placement which forms part of my degree! I feel really proud of myself for gaining one so quickly, it was my first non-retail/leisure interview, and I didn’t have to start panic-applying to every single placement I could find! I have a few posts set to publish on the University of Kent’s Employability blog about my application journey, but as soon as they are up I’ll be reblogging on here to give some tips. Back to the subject- I’m looking forward to working within the Pricing team of one of the UK’s biggest insurance companies from July, it’ll definitely be a change from university, and it’s an amazing opportunity. So excited!

 

How was your Christmas holiday period?