Top Tips For Decorating Your Home For Christmas*

We are so far into December now that we can say that Christmas is just around the corner- and it’s actually true. In fact, Christmas is so close that I can practically smell the turkey. Because of this, if you haven’t got your decorations up yet you really should get a wiggle on. If you’re just procrastinating then there’s not much that I can do to help you, but if you are just stuck as to where to start then you’re in luck. Here are some great tips to help you with your Christmas decorating this year.

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1. Choose A Colour Scheme
It can be fun to mix and match with your decorations and have everything looking a little higgledy-piggledy, but if you want your home to have the wow factor then a colour scheme is a great idea. It doesn’t matter if your chosen colour scheme runs throughout the entire house or you have a colour scheme for each room, as long as you stick to your theme your home is going to have a big impact. Green and red are the colours traditionally associated with Christmas, but if you wanted to mix it up a bit then purple, blue, white, and silver are all popular colour combinations too.

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2. Be Sensible With Lights
When Christmas comes around it’s usually people’s mission to have their home lit up like, well, a Christmas tree. As great as this may look, you don’t need to waste so much energy to make a big impact. Instead of annoying your neighbours with ridiculous amounts of Christmas lights on the front of your house get some simple waterfall lights from therange.co.uk to add some sparkle, and skip the big glowing reindeer. Not only does this look just as good (if not better), but also requires much less effort when it comes to putting them up.

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3. Match The Dining Table
With any luck you will be spending a lot of time at the dining table this Christmas so it’s important for it to look absolutely perfect. Luckily, it’s pretty simple to do this. Once you’ve decided on a colour theme for your dining room buy napkins and crackers to match this theme. You could also buy a matching tablecloth or even just a table runner. Then all you’ve got to do is make sure the cutlery and crockery match.

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4. The Tree is The Key
Your Christmas tree is the most important decoration in your house so it requires the most attention. If you have a conservatory, like one of the ones from visualconservatories.co.uk then you might even have two, so you have to decide if you want them to match or have different colour schemes. Whatever you decide make sure you spread the decorations out evenly on the tree and don’t forget the start or angel on top.

Christmas is a magical time but it can also get pretty stressful. Hopefully these tips will make yours a little easier.

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Rocket Man

My latest print obsession involves all things space- from moons and stars to spaceships and rockets, if it’s even vaguely related to outer space I want it.

This directly ties in with my latest shopping obsession, a store I found via Facebook called Thunder Egg- there have been a couple of space related pieces I’ve been coveting since I first discovered the store, so when payday yielded a little financial surprise I wasted no time in ordering both of them.

Hat: Marks and Spencer (here) | Jumper: Thunder Egg (here) | Skirt: Monki (here) | Boots: Banana Republic

The jumper is part of a unisex range by the brand Run and Fly and I just love it- how great is that print? I’ll share my second purchase from the site soon, if you haven’t already checked out Thunder Egg then I practically insist that you must. I went for the medium for a slouchy fit and I’ve basically lived in it since it’s arrival. I actually bought the cord skirt from Monki specifically with this jumper in mind, although I have wanted a cord skirt for a long time so it wasn’t entirely based on one item of clothing! The hat is also a new addition to my wardrobe (I appear to have spent a lot of time shopping lately) and was an early Christmas present from Bob when we ventured over to Bath for the Christmas Markets. It was so bitterly cold we decided to exchange the hats we’d bought each other early and I’m pretty obsessed with this rose gold finish.

It’s all been a bit quiet on the blogging front lately and it will probably remain that way now until the new year. Life is exciting and busy and chaotic and time to create content is short. I’ve also not felt brilliantly inspired in terms of content, although I have plenty of plans as to which direction I want to take the blog in for 2018.

I’m slowly but surely getting back my confidence in terms of outfit photos so those will be a big feature next year, as well as more food related content and general lifestyle. Things have changed beyond all recognition over the last twelve months and now I’m coming to terms with it it’s time to bring it in to my hobby.

Anyway,
in two weeks time it will be Christmas Day- how crazy is that? This is the first year in a very long time I’ve been genuinely excited for Christmas so I’m savouring every second of this December.

Are you feeling festive yet?

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Gift Guides: For the little folk*

I’m at that age now where friends and family have children- from newborns to toddlers, there are plenty of kids in my life and whilst I don’t have plans for any myself in the near future I do find it fun to browse and shop for other people’s, and the same rules apply to adult shopping- I want to find the perfect present.

I’ve heard a lot of good things about River Island Kids range and after having a good old browse I’ve popped together a collage of gift ideas that covers everyone from the tiniest tots to the most boisterous (and harder to impress) school goers.

You’ll find something for all ages and budgets in River Island- from stocking fillers such as packaged up retro sweets and novelty watches (not going to lie, I want that penguin one for myself) through to party perfect outfits and some of the coolest shoes I’ve seen. Prices are decent- the most expensive item I’ve featured is the wonderfully on trend pom pom jumper at £22. Probably the best all-rounder of a gift is the hat selection- there’s a great selection of novelty (and more sensible) beanies and bobble hat for around the £10 mark and with a cold winter predicted- and a child’s tendency to misplace things I reckon you can’t go wrong with one of these.

Anyone else getting to that stage where there are almost as many kids to buy for as there are adults? My youngest cousin has just announced she’s expecting and I can’t wait to get stuck in to shopping for a brand new squishy one.

Where do you recommend for children’s gifts? I tend to favour practical presents over toys but I’m open to ideas and inspiration.

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Healthier Baking for Christmas*

December is notoriously a month of over-indulgence- all those parties, meals out, chocolates, tins of biscuits and homemade treats. Most people find that by the end of the month they’ve packed on a few pounds and feel decidedly sluggish, especially if like me they love to bake and can’t resist filling the house with the sweet and spicy aromas of festive bakes. With that in mind I thought I’d explore a few ideas for healthier baking, mostly simple ingredient swaps to serve as inspiration for myself and also to inspire my fellow baking addicts- and nab your ideas for healthier cakes and biscuits too!
One simple swap you can make is to reduce saturated fats by replacing butter with an ingredient like rapeseed oil. The added bonus of Rapeseed oil is that it has a pretty neutral taste so it won’t detract from your delicious treats.

Obviously baked goods are notoriously laden with sugar and it’s hard to avoid it completely- and at this time of year why would you want it? What you can do though is look for sweeteners that have more nutritional benefits than refined white sugar- honey, apple puree, banana or sugar alternatives such as the SugaVida I previously featured are all good substitutes.

You can improve the nutritional content of cakes and bakes by adding in ingredients such as flaxseeds (also a great alternative to egg in vegan baking) to boost fibre content as well as providing a good source of vitamins and minerals. You won’t necessarily taste the difference but the benefits will be there. Adding plenty of dried fruit and nuts to your recipes, and less chocolate (or dark chocolate) will also help- and with the right blend of spices are just perfect for this time of year.

Using alternatives to standard white flour will also boost the nutritional content of your bakes- buckwheat or spelt flours will increase fibre whilst almond flour will add a protein and vitamin E boost.

Finally when it comes to topping your bakes try switching regular cream or icing for greek or natural yoghurts- you could also use fruit, nuts and spices to decorate with in place of icing, and make open topped mince tarts in place of the all out pastry fest that are traditional mince pies.

I’d love to know what smart-swaps you make for healthier baked goods, both for the run up to Christmas and for the new year when everyone is trying to be good and watch their weight.

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The November Degustabox

Another month has passed us by, and another delivery from foodie subscription service Degustabox* has arrived. Unless you are brand new to my blog (in which case, Hi!) you’ll know this is a regular feature. As with last month I’ve done my absolute best to try everything in the box, but time constraints and wanting to get a post up in a fairly prompt manner means that there are a couple of things I’m yet to sample. I’ll pop up some mini reviews of these on social media when I do try them for anyone who is as curious as I currently am to know what they were like, I’m getting really quite adventurous with my food trying lately so with each month the arrival of this box brings a whole new level of excitement! This month the box had a distinct festive feel, and has to be one of my favourite boxes, contents wise in a long time.
Kicking off with some Kallo organic stock pots- I was sent the chicken variety which makes a great base for a hearty pan of soup, or a comforting stew. I always have stock pots in my cupboard and these ones are organic and all-natural which is a real selling point.
There was also a really rather fancy looking tin of tuna in this month’s box- I’m not a massive fan of tuna these days and I’m phobic of olive oil so I haven’t tried it yet. I have it earmarked for making some tuna pate in the coming weeks- my Nan and I used to make this all of the time and it’s delicious (and full of enough other ingredients foe me to be able to ignore the oil!
The tuna has a RRP of £3.00 and the stock pots are £1.80
Included in this month’s drinks selection was some rather fancy coffee from Taylor’s of Harrogate- a brand I often turn to when I want a touch of luxury. The Cacao Superior Colombia blend is truly magnificent and I highly recommend this to any coffee fan.
I haven’t tried the other two drinks included- the Alo water I just can’t get my head around if I’m honest. The Dalston’s Fizzy Apple appeals more, but, as long time readers know I’m not a big drinker of these kinds of things so I’ll be passing this along to someone who will appreciate it.
RRPs are £4.49 for the coffee, £1.99 for the Aloe Water and £1.89 for the apple fizz.
Pasta and pesto is such a great standby meal and one of my favourites too. This Filipo Berio Classic Pesto is really one of the best I’ve tried and well worth picking up as a storecupboard staple. I don’t have price information for it, but I imagine it to be around the £2.00 mark.

I actually reviewed a large selection of The English Provender Co’s products last year and loved them- their caramalised red onion chutney was a favourite so I was excited to see a jar of it nestled inside this month’s box. Perfect with goat’s cheese in a toasted sandwich, this jar won’t be lasting me long! RRP £1.99

December isn’t really known as being the month for healthy eating, but I do like to try my best. With the current freezing temperatures I’m enjoying a lot of soup and the Ryvita Multigrain Rye Cakes are the perfect thing to dunk in it. Equally they’d be great as part of a cheeseboard over the festive season, unless, like myself you aren’t a fan of cheese.
Having an allergy to peanuts meant I couldn’t try the Planters Fruity Chocolate Crunch but given that the bag has since vanished from the house I’m guessing they were a hit. This kind of product seems synonymous with this time of year- and this pack with it’s mix of peanuts, cranberries and milk chocolate buttons sounds wonderfully festive. RRP £2.00
Finally on the savoury snack front we have Filipo Berio Formaggio Crostini- I haven’t tried these yet but you can expect a review over the coming weeks. It should be noted that Degustabox subscribers will only get one of the three Filipo Berio products mentioned.
I’m a huge fan of Popcorn and Propercorn is my current go-to brand when I’m on a snack mission at work. The Perfectly Sweet variety is a welcome addition to the range- sprinkled with unrefined, fairtrade sugar it’s utterly addictive and I’ve eaten about a dozen bags of it since my Degustabox arrived.

When it comes to sweets Jelly Beans are my ultimate favourite so I carefully hid this bag of super sours from The Jelly Bean Factory. Made with natural colours and suitable for vegetarians I’d be delighted to find these hiding in my Christmas stocking.

Finally we have Cadbury Picnic Bites which my Dad devoured due to aforementioned peanut allergy. I used to love Picnic bars so I was saddened I now can’t have them, it might be a bit of a gimmick but I can’t resist a minature version of anything.

Last but not least we have Weetabix Additions in apple and raisin. I’ve reviewed other products in this range before and really enjoyed them, but this one, with it’s warming hints of cinnamon is my favourite- perfect with hot milk on a cold morning. RRP £2.99 for a box of 24.

For those who don’t yet know, Degustabox* is a monthly food subscription box that gives you the chance to try new and exciting products on the market whilst providing amazing value for money.
On a month by month basis the box costs £12.99 (with a discount for longer subscriptions) but the contents are generally worth far more than this as you can see if you do the maths.
If you’re persuaded to give Degustabox a go (and really, you should) you can claim a brilliant £7.00 off of your first box (making it just £5.99!) by entering the code 6HZJ8 at the checkout. It’s been a pleasure to work with the brand regularly over the last couple of years and it’s without a doubt something that I will continue to purchase long after our partnership ends. I love the monthly surprise and excitement as well as the chance to discover products I’d otherwise pass up on the supermarket shelves.
Let me know if you’ve tried any of these products and what you thought of them.

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