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: Christmassy Jumpers

I’m not a huge jumper fan. I rarely wear jeans, I live in floral dresses and skirts (and pyjamas…) and cosy cardigans are my go-to cover ups. But there’s something about a festive jumper that screams Christmas, and for a few weeks I’ll happily live in one. I tend not to go too festive, and I still tend to accessorise with tartan scarves, but these are my wardrobes concession to festiveness. Excuse the slightly yellow light – the new lightshade in my room might look pretty, but isn’t helpful for blog photos!

 photo 2014-12-03183821_zps21671c4a.jpg photo 2014-12-03183838_zpsde03ec6a.jpgNot strictly a Christmassy jumper, but I’m so glad I splurged on this Terrier number from Joules (one of my favourite shops!) last year. Not only does it match my fur-baby, the cashmere makes it feel wonderfully soft and luxurious – as it should for the price I paid (especially considering the assistant neglected to give my three-year NUS card back, and I never saw it again). The colours make it suitable to wear whatever time of year, and it looks great dressed with with smart trousers as well as thrown over jeans.

 photo 2014-12-03184037_zps5fd79350.jpg photo 2014-12-03183859_zps6199e167.jpgSorry to say, but I failed at taking a photo of my real dog against my jumper-dog! Real dog just wouldn’t sit still for the camera, so his feet are the best I have! See here for the likness!

 photo 2014-12-03183234-Copy_zps8fb923d9.jpgNext up and I couldn’t resist included my boyfriend in his festive jumper. A classic reindeer in a lovely berry shade, this was a bargain from New Look. I think men’s jumpers are so much nicer than womens – especially this year as there’s far too many pastel colours around! M&S have some lovely ones this year, there’s one I’m desperate to get him but being short on funds makes this unlikely…sorry my love!

 photo 2014-12-03183853_zpsd072b36f.jpgNow for my favourite festive item – not a jumper, but a ridiculously oversized cardigan. It’s unbelievably a Size 8, and from Warehouse, but I’m afraid you’ll only pick this one up by rifling through attics as it’s actually older than me! This was one of my mum’s 18th presents many years ago, so many that it is officially a vintage piece. I’ve loved this for years, and I finally bagged it two years ago. Perfect with skinny jeans, and it acts as a festive dressing gown on Christmas morning too. Oh, and its warm enough to wear without a coat. I love it!
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Are you a fan of Christmas jumpers? What one are you wearing this year?

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?

Festive Friday: The Party Look

It might only be November, but I am freely admitting that there’s just a hint of festive feeling now. My walk home is brightened by Christmas lights, and Wilkos have been playing “Stop the Cavalry” for four whole weeks. With this in mind I thought I’d start a little cheery feature to celebrate my favourite time of the year.  First up is what I’m guessing will be my party look this festive season.

 photo 2014-11-05174249_zpsfde9fe88.jpgMakeup wise it’s a pretty classic combination, made perhaps a little bit ‘on-trend’ by the brown-toned lipstick. Flawless base, courtesy of Rimmel Lasting Finish, with a combination of concealers and a powdering of Java Rice Powder. An added glow and sculpting from my current two favourite products, and my base is looking pretty good and ready to dance the night away. Or attend university awards, like the night I took these photos. Yep, no staging here, I was actually getting ready! Base done, it’s time to wriggle into my tights. Once I’ve got them on unladdered (with the two laddered pairs thrown across the room in despair), it’s time to dance around the room curling my hair and burning my fingers. I must be the only girl my age who is so drastically unskilled in hair styling. I can’t put it up, I can’t straighten it nicely, and adding proper curls seriously risks my fingers. I’m hoping for some heated rollers this year, but failing that? A new set of hair please!

 photo 2014-11-05174502_zpsf3cd59ae.jpgOnto the eyes, and my go-to party look is far heavier than usual. Smudged eyeliner (brown or grey seems far more flattering on me than black), and a selection of the darker tones from Naked 2. I love this palette, buying it discounted from Cohorted was definitely a wise decision! So easy to blend, and everything goes well together making it pretty damn foolproof. Well, I can apply it anyway. Some heavy duty mascara, and I’m almost good to go…just need to add a dress!

 photo 2014-11-05174106_zps431de1dc.jpg photo 2014-11-05174114_zpsc816d41a.jpgI’ve had a nightmare finding a party dress this year, and this is the only one I’ve found that looks half decent. I’ve had to go up two sizes and down a length (Next really do know how to make a girl feel attractive) but eventually I’ve found a figure hugging dress, a little daring without being revealing. I can’t say red would be my first pick of colour, but it’s not horrifically bright. And bright is better than sequins (that will come off before I’ve left the house) any day. Bonus – this is still available to buy online at£50, but it was in a local discount store as a ‘second’ for £25. And I get a company discount in the discount store. So yep, pretty cheap dress right there.

 photo 2014-11-05174311_zpsbc123802.jpgA quick spray of L’Oreal Elnett (I don’t think you can get a better hairspray) and black accessories later, it’s time for the finishing touch. A good lipstick is something I hardly ever go without. Now, either I have a dodgy skintone, or I’m wearing the wrong colours, but I never seem to like the ‘popular’ MAC lipsticks. Velvet Teddy? I went to buy it and despised it. Creme in Your Coffee was what I went for instead and I haven’t been disappointed. Creamy and pigmented, this has just enough dark brown to look a little vampy, without seeming like I don’t own a mirror. It’s neutral enough to be pulled off alongside smoky eyes, and long lasting so I don’t need to top up constantly.

 photo 2014-11-05174746_zps9c580073.jpgI’m gutted I don’t have any photographs of the finished look. I put off taking my own as I was running late and knew they would be an official photographer at the dinner. And typically, we missed him. But I’m probably wearing this exact same thing (unless I can find a dress on Saturday…any suggestions?!) for my twenty-first next week so I’m sure it won’t be long before you get a glimpse!

Are you feeling festive yet? Brought a new dress for the party season – I need inspiration?! Have a lovely 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!

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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?