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!

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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?

My Christmas in Pictures

Little bit of a warning, this is rather a picture heavy post. A tad unusual for me, but I think that these pictures say it all. My Christmas was a lovely mixture of family, friends and food – probably one of the best yet.

2013-12-25 09.02.14Day starts with a lovely glass of cava…

2013-12-25 11.58.33…followed by a boiled egg.

2013-12-25 10.05.23Then it’s time to start prepping the gravy. Goose innards, a selection of veg, bay leaves and some water.

2013-12-25 10.12.35A story about our goose: we picked it up on Christmas Eve, then decided to keep it in the car overnight (it was definitely cold enough!). A good idea, until we couldn’t find the car keys on Christmas morning…

After locating the spare set (upon which point we remembered where the real keys were) we prepped it up by simply whacking the oven up to top temperature, scoring the skin, and placing in a tin. And finding out the goose definitely didn’t fit in the oven. All was well though – a bit of butchery and it did, albeit with the leg rubbing on the side of the oven and thus causing the oven to smoke continuously.

2013-12-25 10.01.41The best thing about having a goose – the fat for roasting potatoes! The farm shop we bought ours from provided two bags (one shown above) full, which we put straight in the freezer, and we also “harvested” plenty from the cooking of our bird!

2013-12-25 13.52.33Time to set the table (and start on the wine!)…

2013-12-25 10.02.04…and then it was present time!

2013-12-25 09.09.33Someone was rather protective about his presents…

2013-12-25 09.06.52…and very impatient to open them!

2013-12-25 09.34.20I was thoroughly spoilt, and received this new Radley watch, as well as a hairdryer and some lovely clothes from my parents. I was also treated rather well by my boyfriend, with a selection including the Naked 3 eye pallette which is definitely not leaving my side anytime soon.

2013-12-25 13.52.10By that time, the goose was brown and crisp, and it was time to get on with the vegetables, before sitting down to a very lovely, very yummy Christmas dinner!

2013-12-25 14.14.02If you haven’t tried goose before, I really do recommend it. It’s harder to dry out than turkey, is rich, the leftovers are FAR better (and you get lots – we’re still going!) and it just feels like so much more of a treat. Not to mention it provides enough fat for proper roast potatoes for the whole year!

Have you tried goose? How was your Christmas?

12 Days of Christmas (#12): Happy Holidays

Well, the countdown is over – Christmas is here! I’d like to say I’m organised and ready, but as I write this ready to schedule it’s 23.16 on Christmas Eve, and I have a pile of cards still to write. But I know that however unorganised I am, I will have a brilliant day.

I can’t wait to spend the day with my family, followed by an evening with my boyfriends family – the first time in our relationship we’ve seen each other on Christmas Day! I plan to wake up relatively early (though part of me is longing for the lie-in that has eluded me since the end of term), drink some fizz (not only is it Christmas, it is also my lovely Mummy’s birthday!), and open some presents. Then it’ll be time to help with the dinner, followed by devouring the goose in a fraction of the time it took to get to the table, before falling asleep to Christmassy films. Sounds perfect to me!

So, from me and Rudolph, Merry Christmas!

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12 Days of Christmas (#11): Christmas Wrapping & Festive Traditions

As I am notoriously always under-prepared for Christmas, I usually spend Christmas Eve wrapping presents. Whilst I doubtlessly complain, I tend to really enjoy it. I’ll tuck myself away with some chocolate, maybe a glass of wine, and plenty of Christmas songs, and I’ll wrap everything up.

I’ve been a littleeee more organised this year, and everything was wrapped up on/by the 23rd, in a red-and-gold theme (I try to stick to themes as much as possible when wrapping, as I think it looks so much better!). I went for cheap wrapping paper and accessories from The Card Factory, and I have to say I’m quite impressed with the quality of the paper – it’s thick and doesn’t tear easily. It doesn’t beat Paperchase, but its not a pain to use so I’d happily buy it again!

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I think my presents turned out quite well, especially as I’m not the best wrapper in the world (hence when I go for a colour scheme!). If you want to see amazing present wrapping skills, head over to my friend Libby’s blog!

My other festive traditions are undergoing a bit of a change at the moment, which is strange but also very exciting! My family have always tended to order a takeaway or head out to an Indian on Christmas Eve, but since meeting my boyfriend I’ve preferred to spend the time with him. For the last few years we’ve visited his family Church for the children’s evening service, but this year (due to having no nieces/nephews available to make this a valid option) we’re doing something different. What that something is, we haven’t yet decided! No doubt it will involve yummy food, Christmassy films, and snuggling by a fire.

What are your favourite Christmas traditions? 

 

12 Days of Christmas (#10): Last Minute Gifts

Here’s one for all the lazy boyfriends/husbands/significant others, or those who have just been unorganised in getting things done this year. Yes it is mainly based on gifts for the girls, but that’s only because that’s all I have inspiration for – trust me, it’s not just the boys who run late! I confess that  haven’t actually arranged my boyfriend’s Christmas present yet…

So, if you haven’t bought your girl something yet, or you have a birthday to buy for in the New Year, here’s some good ideas which will hopefully score you brownie points, and maybe save you a few pennies too!

Collage 1I treated myself to a bottle of Oscar de la Renta “Live in Love” perfume after getting some good news on Friday – it was 50% off in store, so keep your eyes peeled. It’s quite a subtle fragrance, fresh and classy, not too girly, and very wearable. I love the vintage style bottle too! House of Fraser have some great bargains at the minute, so it’s really worth having a browse in-store and online!

Naked 3 is one of the most talked about products in the blog world this Christmas – it is gorgeous! I’m very surprised it hasn’t sold out yet!

Finally, I really don’t think you can go wrong with a classic leather watch – I know I wouldn’t complain. I love the Radley watches, as they are affordable and elegant.

Collage 2I got ridiculously excited by this Calculator Cushion – must me the maths geek in me! This would make a fabulous present for a student or potential student if they are mathsy. I know I’d be treating myself if it were a little cheaper!

I’m a real fan of vintage pieces, and I also don’t know a girl who could live without a good make-up mirror. This would look great in any room!

If you aren’t totally sure on what to get, I find cushions and home things are a safe bet. This doorstop is sweet!

Finally, a nice pretty make-up bag. I like to update mine yearly, so this would be a perfect present for me!

 

Of course, if you are really struck for ideas you can go down the vouchers route, but try to think differently from the norm! Go for an expensive shop, so the recipient is forced to treat themselves (though make sure the value of the voucher actually covers something!), buy an experience package, or really think about what they’d appreciate – at this time of year an Amazon giftcard is something I would love, as it would let me fill my Kindle with new books, and then I can snuggle up by the fire to devour them. In fact, that’s what I’m off to do now! Happy shopping!

 

Have you finished your Christmas shopping yet?

 

 

12 Days of Christmas (#9): Home for Christmas

This is my favourite part of the year – the build up to Christmas, cold wintery walks, warm fires, hot chocolates, and cosy catch-ups with everyone you’ve missed. I came home on Thursday (a little before the end of term, but it was the little sister’s birthday, and I had completed everything well before deadlines!) and have so far enjoyed doing absolutely nothing but relaxing. And maybe a little celebrating…the reason for which you’ll hear about soon!

I was planning a slightly more exciting post, but instead I’m just got to offer you pictures of my mum’s decorating skills – this year we have a mainly teal-and-gold theme in the living room, and due to a new table we’re lacking the usual dining room tree (generally we have a white tree in there, with pink and gold decorations). I’ve not managed to add a Christmassy touch to my room yet, but I’ll certainly share when I do!

2013-12-21 17.45.27I love Christmas decorations, leaving home one of the things that hit me hardest was I’d have to start at the beginning when decorating my tree! With that in mind, me and my boyfriend had a talk, and decided (i.e. I told him my decision) to get our future children a decoration each in their stocking every year, so when they leave home they’ll always have some. Kind of the opposite of my family tradition – I always went with my grandparents to buy my mum a decoration every December.

2013-12-21 17.45.43Afraid our tree is massive (we’ve had it forever, I think it was a January bargain back when I was a little girl) so I haven’t managed to photograph it all. The ones above will have to be enough!

2013-12-21 17.47.06Halloween isn’t the only time for cute tea-light holders! Here’s a cheeky glimpse of me and the sister too…

2013-12-21 17.46.37We’ve not had a ‘proper’ advent calendar for as long as I can remember, instead my parents fill a wooden one with chocolatey goodies and tiny treats. As both mine and my sister’s birthdays fall in December, that drawer always includes a cheeky £2 coin too!

2013-12-21 17.49.50But one of the best things about coming home? It’s coming home to this snuggly boy…he pretends not to like the camera, but he’s a limelight (and sofa)  hogger really!

 

What’s your family’s favourite Christmas tradition?

 

 

 

 

 

12 Days of Christmas (#8): Gifts for the Baker

Apologies for this post coming up so late for Christmas, however I made this bundle up for a housemate of mine, and needed to wait til she received it before publishing!

As you can probably tell from this blog, I’m a massive lover of baking, and this housemate is also relatively keen on baking. She also seems to love vintage-style items (her room is amazingly well decorated!) and so I went with a slight vintage theme on a baking gift set for her present. Oh, and some cute reindeer cake cases, as it is Christmas after all!

IMAG0448I bought a vintage-themed baking set from Wilkinsons; a thick and decorated ceramic bowl, with a mixture of cookie cutters inside. I love this type of bowl!

I then scoured Ebay searching for a nice, not-too-expensive, slightly pretty rolling pin, and ended up finding one with a floral print end. It was delivered really quickly, is a good weight and really looks great for the price. Yes, you can get cheaper rolling pins, but I didn’t want to go down the plain route! I can’t find exactly what I bought, but this set is similar.

Finally, I bought a Kilner jar from Wilkinson’s, which I plan to fill with the dry ingredients to make some kind of Christmassy bake – that’ll be another blog post!

All in all, I reckon this is a fabulous little gift set, I’d be happy to receive it! I’m almost reluctant to give it away! Best of all, it falls under the £20 barrier, so is perfect for those on a budget.

 

Do you make up gift sets or hampers to give as presents?

12 Days of Christmas (#7): Secret Santa Gift Guide

I mentioned yesterday that my house did a Secret Santa. I highly recommend this as a cost-saving exercise, for two main reasons. One, you only have to buy for one person, so it will be inevitably cheaper. And two (my favourite!) you end up with a slightly higher budget for this one person, so you can get them something they will truly treasure.

Here’s what I received from my secret Santa (we had a £15-£20 budget);

  • A homemade ‘Tomato-Free’ recipe binder
  • A cake-pop stand, and sticks – guess they’ll be some cake pop recipes coming soon!
  • A festive cupcake set, which I hope to make good use of this weekend
  • A lovely tartan snood, which I’ve absolutely fallen in love with!

I would always recommend that, especially with a slightly larger budget, you try to stick with a theme whilst creating a secret Santa present. I feel it just makes it look so much more expensive, and it seems like a whole lot more thought has gone into it. Here’s my ideas for some Secret Santa gifts!

For the Relaxer

Relax CollageSome girly bubble bath, a nice mug, a good book (I LOVE Dorothy Koomson – I’m hoping her new book “The Flavours of Love” will be in my stocking this year) and some yummy hot chocolate.

For the Prospective Student

Student Collage

A good pretty pencil case, some lovely photo frames, a cheap and easy cookbook (this is a personal favourite) and some bed linen – I highly recommend H&M’s offerings as they are 100% cotton and very comfortable!

For the Fashion Conscious

Fashion Collage

A winter-berry nail polish (I’m lusting over this shade at the moment!), a pretty purse, an on-trend ‘curtain’ material scarf (loving this one!) and a good lipstick.

As for what I got when I was playing Secret Santa? You’ll have to wait until tomorrow!

Do you like giving secret gifts?

12 Days of Christmas (#6): A Budget Dinner

As you might know from this post, my housemates and I decided to a do a Christmas dinner (on a “school” night no less!). None of us are particularly full in the bank department right now, so we had to do it on a tight budget. I think in the end we each spend under £5, and we had an amazing dinner. Here’s how to copy us and do it on a budget!

Note: we have moved our main shop to Aldi, so that’s where I’m pricing from today (due to having receipts) unless stated otherwise. For all of my other recipes I tend to price using ASDA online, disregarding special offers. That said, all of my costings are very rough (and generally rounded up) anyway!

2013-12-12 18.39.23What we bought (specially) for this dinner:

  • A stuffed chicken breast joint (£2.99 – you can get turkey versions too!)
  • Pigs in Blankets (£2.50 for 12, from Tesco)

We then added:

  • Potatoes (both mashed with black pepper, and roasted with garlic) – £1
  • Homemade Yorkshire puddings (see here for recipe) – £1
  • Gravy – 20p
  • Sweetcorn – 50p
  • Roasted carrots – 20p
  • Broccoli – £1
  • & whatever other veg people had lying around that they fancied (hence I added red cabbage, savoy cabbage and curly kale)- 50p

2013-12-12 19.16.08We even managed to find 8 crackers for a £1 in Poundland! Okay, they didn’t have exciting plastic gifts, but they did include some rather lame festive jokes, obligatory hat, and even some cute stickers!

2013-12-12 18.39.56We finished off the meal with syrup sponges (£3 for four) and gave out our Secret Santa presents (although that’s another post!).

2013-12-12 18.40.28This was a fabulously festive night with my girls, the best antidote to a horribly stressful week. I really do suggest all student houses give this a go, even if it is the only time they cook together.

What’s your tips for Christmas dinner on a budget?

12 Days of Christmas (#5): Winter Warmers

This isn’t strictly a Christmas post, but I felt like it was getting forgotten, and one of the items of clothing included is rather Christmassy (and rather vintage…)!

I thought I’d share with you some of my favourite things to wear/do over the winter and Christmas season, so here goes:

2013-12-16 21.41.22I absolutely adore my tartan scarf this season – I actually bought it in August, not to be stylish or fashionable, but because I was at the Edinburgh Fringe and it was cold and windy. The scarf was needed so I bought it, and I’m so glad you did. Mine is 100% lambswool, and is a little itchy, but I couldn’t quite stretch the budget to a cashmere one!

I’m also loving all of the lovely berry-coloured hats this year – I bought a beret from Primark a few weeks ago and I really like wearing it. I’ve also asked for a bobble hat in the same colour for Christmas!

Then there’s my beloved Kindle – there’s nothing better than curling up in front of the fire with a good book.

Finally, there’s this chunky cardigan, which has become my favourite thing. Its baggy and cosy, looks great with skinny jeans or leggings, and is perfect for lounging around, layering under coats for a cold walk, or indeed lectures. Best of all – its older than me! It was actually one of my mum’s 18th birthday presents, it features in many family photos (including her getting ready for her 21st and her hen night, and loads of my baby photos) and its such a constant thing in my life that I love getting it out each winter. Check out the pattern on the back too;

2013-12-16 21.42.24So cute, I will definitely be wearing this at some point on Christmas day!

2013-12-16 21.49.49Here’s a couple of other things I’m loving this winter/Christmas!

  • First of all, you can virtually always find me in thick fluffy socks, even in summer. I’m liking these Cath Kidston bed socks as they are non-slip, not too thick (so can actually wear in bed) and they have a cute penguin pattern. I’m lucky enough to have the matching pyjamas too!
  • Then there’s the hot chocolate and chocolate combo – I’m a huge fan of Cadbury’s, so that’s my go-to brand.
  • Toastie’s. I love a good toastie in the winter, and this book has been great for making up new ideas and combinations. I don’t actually own a sandwich toasted, and currently fry mine in a pan, but I’m looking to invest in a cheap one in the new year.
  • Now the last things is a little strange, but I’ve become addicted to room and linen sprays lately. I find that having the central heating on and drying clothes inside can lead to a musty smell, and this covers it perfectly. Not the cheapest, but wonderful when it’s half price!

 

What are you loving this Christmas? Do you have any much-loved handed down clothing items?