Gift Guides: Christmas at Home of Juniper

Like it or not we’re creeping ever closer to the festive season- two weeks today and it’ll officially be December, and try as I might I can’t help but feel a little bit excited about Christmas this year.

For my next gift guide instalment I’m returning to a brand I featured earlier in the year, Home of Juniper have some of the loveliest Christmas decorations and gift ideas I’ve seen and I can’t wait to share them with you.

grow your own christmas tree | solar chalet light | jewellery | mini christmas soap | peppermint and chocolate marshmallows | penguin decoration

I think the solar powered chalet light is my favourite item on the entire website right now- at £25.00 it’s an adorable AND affordable way to bring some festive cheer in to your home without being too obvious and is something I’d bring out year on year.
Other particular favourites are the little penguin decoration (penguin obsessive here) and the rather delicious sounding peppermint and chocolate marshmallows which I reckon would be absolutely divine popped in to a massive mug of hot chocolate.

Have any of these pieces caught your eye? Let me know in the comments if you’ve spotted anything you love from Home of Juniper.

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5 Cheap Cities For Long Term Travel*

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If you’re reading this article there’s a high chance you have a pretty long bucket list when it comes to travel, and with so much to do in such little time you might question whether the trend of “slow travel”- where one spends a reasonably long time in one place, for example a month, often working and fully integrating with the culture of the destination is a viable way to squeeze more from your travels, or whether slow travel is actually just slowing you down.

The thought behind “slow travel” is that by spending more time in one location- be that a few weeks or a few months, you can experience the city in more depth and more authentically. The term “like a local” is often used to describe the experience of getting beneath the surface of a city and living more like a local – however to do this in a weekend isn’t realistic no matter what guidebook you possess.

However, if you have a month or more to integrate with the local culture and genuinely live like a local, in that you rent a home and perhaps even get a part-time job; you will experience a whole new side of the city that is much richer than the typical tourist trail.

CHIANG MAI

Chiang Mai is known as the “capital of the north”- Many would describe Chiang Mai as a mystical land of temples, rice paddies, monks and natural jungle. Whilst this is true for areas around Chiang Mai, the town turned city itself is pretty bustling and at times resembles a more relaxed version of Bangkok.

Chiang Mai is a digital nomad’s paradise with a high concentration of freelancers working from the many independent coffee shops and restaurants scattered around the city’s walls. There’s also a large university meaning the city has a young, vibrant and aspirational feel to it.

Finding somewhere cheap to live in Chiang Mai is pretty simple. There are several modern condos available for exclusive rent on AirBnB at a cost of just $10 per night if you are renting for a month or more. In terms of finding a more traditional short term lease there are property agents, but the majority require three to six months minimum stay.

Chiang Mai is a great place to have as a long term base, in which you can explore the rest of Thailand. With direct flights to Krabi, Phuket and Koh Samui you are able to have a base in the North of Thailand (much cheaper than the south) and go on mini breaks to more exotic locations.

ISTANBUL

Istanbul has unfortunately received a lot of bad press in recent years, with terrorist attacks, political instability and social unrest bombarding the headlines. The truth is that whilst there are pockets of unrest Istanbul is a place where people get along with each other very well and there is a sense of community and brotherhood that instantly makes you feel part of the culture. Yes, there are the occasional demonstrations but on the whole Istanbul is a very safe city due to its police presence and security measures now in place.

Istanbul is much like London, New York and Paris in that it is is one of the world’s greatest cities, yet comparatively cheap to it’s western counterparts. The joy of Istanbul is the city retains a traditional and authentic feel yet is superbly modern, design oriented, relaxed and friendly.

Istanbul is unlike any other city in the world due to being separated by the Bosphorus Strait which divides Istanbul into two sides on two different continents- the European Side and the Asian Side. The European side offers the more modern side of the city with well known brands occupying prime real estate on the busy high street whilst independent hipster bars and coffee shops can be found nearer the river. Indeed the European side has a feel of San Francisco about it with all its unique and creative independent stores, cafes, restaurants and watering holes.

In terms of finding a property it’s this side of the river where you’ll find trendy loft apartments at a quarter of the price you would pay in New York. The Asian side, however, is a little more shabby and this is where you’re likely to find a great deal on a property. The Asian side has a much more “local” and rustic feel to it.

MARRAKECH

Marrakech is an incredibly colourful and vibrant city. The majority of people visit for just a short while as there is an element of endurance to be had with exploring Marrakech due to the frenetic pace, the hustle and bustle and, in summer at least – the sweltering heat.

Marrakech for some may feel like stepping into Disneyland in that it is such an overwhelming delight/attack on the senses. Whilst it provides a stark contrast to the Western World it is only a short hop on a cheap flight to Mainland Europe and the “new city” offers some very luxurious accommodation at an incredibly cheap price.

Whilst you may not choose to live in Marrakech for a number of months it can be a fantastic place to base yourself for a few weeks whilst exploring the gems of Morocco such as the Sahara Desert and Atlas Mountains. A more relaxed alternative to Marrakech is Essaouira which has a more chilled out coastal vibe to the city.

“CHEAPISH” CITIES FOR LONG TERM TRAVEL

One of the dangers with hunting for cheap destinations for long term travel is there’s normally a reason the destination is so cheap; perhaps there are socio-economic problems, adverse weather conditions, political instability, or a lack of modern infrastructure. The challenge is that whilst a destination can be “cheap” it doesn’t always provide good value, therefore below you’ll find two “cheapish” cities that might not be the least expensive but offer a great value experience.

SINGAPORE

Singapore is a melting pot of cultures with a serious foodie scene. Whilst Singapore isn’t particularly cheap as a place to live you can earn a decent wage here and regulations for foreigners working within Singapore are reasonably easy to navigate.

Hotels can be pricey but there are some great deals to be had on long term apartments. HDB flats have a number of listings for places to rent in Singapore, some of which include short-term leases.

Singapore offers a great place to have as a base for exploring other parts of South East Asia such as Bali, Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia. There are very cheap flights to the majority of popular tourist destinations within South East Asia and flights are just a few hours long.

BERLIN

Berlin is a large multicultural city that is very “cool” yet manages to have an unpretentious charm where the locals value personal freedom and a creative lifestyle more than wealth and status. This means the vibe in Berlin is very light, fun, relaxed and yet still lively. Berlin on the one hand is a vibrant city with very intense parties – yet on the other it is a relaxed artsy bolthole that is occupied by a variety of gentle creatives.

Berlin is a large city yet the key areas are easily navigated on foot as they are all congregated in a reasonably compact central area. Germany is not known for being a cheap destination when compared to countries such as Nepal and India, but if you are looking for a fun European city that offers great value for money in terms of the experience you’ll have – it’s hard to beat Berlin in terms of bang for your buck.

With regard to accommodation then the best bet is to look for somewhere on AirBnB as property agents tend to require a minimum six month commitment – whereas many enterprising creatives list their modern (and occasionally funky) home on AirBnB at a great price.

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Statement Pieces for Winter – a wish list

Last year I was all about fashion that allowed me to blend in to the crowd. I was feeling vulnerable and lacking in confidence and my choice in clothes seriously reflected that. This year however, I’m feeling great! I can’t remember a time where I’ve been more happy and more content with my life, and as such my sartorial choices are reflecting that. It seems that any spare time I have is spent browsing my favourite retailers (I’m looking at you, Monki!), blogs and websites such as Lyst for style inspiration and making the most of having an afternoon at home for once I’ve put together a little wish list of stand-out pieces I’m loving.
The run up to Christmas is the perfect time to sport sequins for night and day, and whilst I might be getting ahead of myself a little bit, when you see pieces like this skirt from new discovery and firm favourite LOTD. This is the perfect example of a piece that can work daytime and a night out- just pair with a chunky black knit and flat ankle boots to tone it down or pump up the glamour with some shimmer and heels.
Another multi-tasking sequin piece that’s caught my eye is this pair of jeans from Monki. I’m a big fan of their jeans, in my eyes it what they do best, and this pair would work equally well with trainers and a slogan tee or a metallic top and some shiny court shoes for a smart-casual night out.

Knitwear is one of my favourite things to shop for in the colder months, and despite being an absolute essential it really doesn’t have to be dull. Take something like this cosy knit dress for example- a bold colour and interesting cut means you keep nice and snug whilst still standing out from the crowd. This dress is probably top of my current Monki wish list, if I don’t manage to get my mitts on it before Christmas then I’ll be keeping everything crossed that shopping karma strikes and it goes in to the sale.

Vinyl is big news this season and whilst being a trend that I’m still a little bit scared of, incorporating it in to outerwear makes it seem a little less bondage and a lot more workable. I’ve never really been one to covet a puffer jacket before, let alone anything so shiny, but somehow Topshop have won me over with this number- another I’m hoping might find it’s way in to the January sales.

Is there anything more satisfying than bundling up in a scarf? Much like knitwear, your winter warmth essentials don’t have to be boring- take on the faux fur trend the subtle way with this patchwork faux fur scarf (also from Topshop) and tick off the trend for all things fluffy whilst keeping seriously snug!

it wouldn’t be a wish list from me without a pair of boots now would it? These New Look glitter slouch boots made it in to all of the glossy magazines, and with good reason. Want to jazz up your jeans? Look no further than these designer dupes. A steal at £34.99 they’d also be the perfect party shoes on a frosty winter night.

Are there any statement pieces or trends you’re seriously taken with right now? I’d love to see which highstreet pieces have made it on to your wish list- leave links in the comments below.

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Swan Song

It’s big knit weather! I don’t know how we’ve suddenly zoomed to the middle of November, but here we are in all it’s cold and frosty glory. Now I’m properly back at work I’ve been able to indulge in a little bit of shopping and warm and cosy knits have been top of my list. Of course, Monki was my first port of call and I picked up an absolute gem.

Jumper: Monki (here) | Skirt: Pull and Bear (similar here) | Boots: Miista

I love a good print and this Swan jumper pretty much jumped off the hanger and in to my arms. It was quite the bargain at £25 and is the perfect balance of slouchy and warm. I love the look of a big knit teamed with a pleated midi skirt so pairing the jumper with my old faithful Pull and Bear number was instinctive. Finished off with my default black opaques and my bargain Miista boots which are now several years old and still a favourite this is exactly the kind of outfit I’m living in when not at work.

I’ve been saving hard and I’m hoping for another shopping trip in a few weeks time with my partner in crime, Mum. We’ve gone from seeing each other pretty much all day, every day to being like ships that pass in the night. Life has got so un-believably busy compared to this time last year, it’s still a bit like “pinch me” every time I take the time to sit back and reflect- from being signed off work, under threat of hospitalisation for anorexia and being utterly miserable to working in a new and exciting role, getting my health back and absolutely loving life. I never imagined I would be where I am right now and I wouldn’t change it for the world (except for factoring in Mum time). I certainly never dreamed I’d be in a loving and supportive relationship, or joint owner of a little kitten- a post to come on that one!

Where are you loving for knitwear right now? In a fit of madness I got rid of a lot of jumpers last year so I’m on a mission to have a major wardrobe upgrade.

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4 Incredible Places That Should Be On Your Travel Bucket List*

Nearly everyone has a bucket list- that one list of things that they would like to do or achieve before they die. For some, the bucket list is something they would like to complete before a certain age whilst for others as long as they tick off most of the boxes before they die they are happy! One of the most popular options for a bucket list (aside from finding love and buying a house) – is travel.

It’s very rare to find someone that doesn’t get a touch of wanderlust at some point in their lives. The world is a big place and the idea that you could get from birth to death without getting that itch to explore is something that isn’t conceivable for most. Travelling is about so much more than hopping across continents on trains or planes. It’s about self-discovery. It’s about tasting new cultures and absorbing new experiences. It’s about drinking in the world and seeing people in a totally different way, accepting differences and adapting opinions based on those differences. Of course you do get those who believe travelling is about checking out the differences in the sand on the beach, but that’s beside the point.

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When you write your travel bucket list you need to really think carefully about the places you want to visit. Are you out to soak up new experiences in the world? Or are you aiming to buy a luxury new condo abroad therefore fitting in your travel plans with an investment? Are you hoping to escape the commute for mountain tops? Or are you hoping to get to the depths of different oceans and be up close with the fish? Whichever way you want to manage your bucket list of travel destinations we’ve got four fantastic places that should be on yours. Don’t forget, a bucket list is a plan and budget goes right out of the window when it comes to dreaming!

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Australia
I haven’t specified a state, city or a town here because Australia is huge and there are so many places that the only suggestion I can make is to road trip! Australia is travel heaven – how could it not be with its unique wildlife, beaches of white sugar and varied landscapes? The beaches you find along the legendary Great Ocean Road vary so widely that it isn’t possible to miss out on spectacular sights. There are beaches with hidden coves and water that sparkles like diamonds. There are beaches in the cities for people to relax beside during a sunny day, and let’s face it, there’s plenty of those!
There is an island of kangaroos to explore just off the South Adelaide coast. Alongside the cities are deserts in the form of the Outback. The scenery and landscape are so vast that it is physically impossible to miss out on something that suits you. You can ski in Mt Buller, swim in the oceans off of Byron Bay and meet indigenous people of varying cultures. Australia is somewhere that should be on your wanderlust list, and if it isn’t it’s time to write it down.

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Paris
It may be a short hop over the English Channel but Paris with its beauty and history feels so far away from the day to day drudgery we all deal with. It’s not just a case of wanting to visit Disneyland- although that is something that should be on the bucket list of everyone in the world. However, gracing the Louvre with your presence, seeing the real pieces of art that have been lauded as masterpieces for centuries and soaking in the culture is a must. Visit the many galleries and museums that have been built for purpose and we now enjoy as monuments of history. Explore Parisian culture- enjoy pastries and chocolat chaud in the cafes that line the beautiful River Seine. Explore the French neighbourhoods from the top of the Eiffel Tower and hunt for Qasimodo at Notre Dame Cathedral. It’s just got to be done!

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China
One of the world’s oldest civilizations, China has a history vaster than you could ever imagine. The culture, the food and the people are a world away from what you may be used to, but it’s a place that should be on your cultural radar to experience. It’s one of the biggest countries in the world, meaning that the landscapes that you would experience are bound to be breath-takingly beautiful. The frozen Harbin to the tropical warmth of Xishuangbanna should be life goals for all. You may be wary of street food, but unless you take a stroll through the many markets and breathe in the scents of spices and seafoods you’ll never know what it is to taste authentically Chinese food for cents!

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Fiji
This one is a little out there for a bucket list entry but there are so many reasons why Fiji should feature for you. The beaches are the main act of Fiji, with coconut trees and sunshine a step away from wherever you stay. The people that grace the island are friendly and will welcome you wherever you go and while you hop from one of the islands to the next, there is always someone to greet you and say hello. Experience the jungle treks in Nadi and discover hidden waterfalls and man-made canoes. Fiji has its own history, with the Sri Siva Subramaniya Temple, which is the largest Hindu temple in the southern hemisphere. Take part in extreme snorkelling, which is as good as diving down to the deep of the Great Barrier Reef. It’s somewhere that most people don’t think about, but it should be!

Your bucket list of places should always include somewhere you feel you could gain a cultural experience from. It should also include beautiful scenery to make memories from, and visiting the most cultural places around the world is how to get those memories. There is always something to visit and see, so don’t be left behind in life – go and see it all!

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