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Category Archives: christmas

Latest Purchases #103 – More Candles!

I am really into candles at the moment. I bought a few from Bath and Body Works on our trip to Boston and I love how cosy the living room looks with just the Christmas tree lights and a flickering candle. The scent it adds is lovely too and I do like to match my candles to the season so here are a few autumnal and festive ones I have been burning recently.

The most Christmassy one is this Peppermint Bark scented candle from TK Maxx. I got this as a present and think it is just beautiful. From the little gingerbread men on the box to the red, frosted glass jar, this is lovely. There is a strong candycane peppermint scent, but it is mixed with a creamy white chocolate note which stops it from being overly sweet. This was a nice alternative to the usual Christmas candles and quite refreshing.

Next, two large two-wick candles from B&M. I saw these popping up on various blogs recently with comparisons being made to Yankee and Bath and Body Works candles. There is no doubting the influence these have taken from the two bigger brands and I have to say they are great value for £2.99 each. They look great and even have the pretty embossed lids too.

Apple Orchard is a warm, cinnamon scent which reminds me of apple pie and the fruity scent does come through when it is burned.

I also picked up Radiant Red Maple which has quite a similar scent. I would say this is less fruity and more spicy, kind of like a chai latte – my all-time favourite drink. This has a strong cinnamon and nutmeg smell with an additional sweet creaminess.

It goes without saying that these aren’t quite as good quality as the Bath and Body Works ones. Only having two wicks means they don’t burn quite as evenly and the scent isn’t quite as powerful either. However, I wouldn’t turn my nose up at these and will definitely repurchase again.

From Dunelm, I bought a small Mulled Wine candle. This deep red candle smells of citrus, spices and berries and reminds me of warm cups of wine being sipped at Christmas markets. Being quite small, this doesn’t have the strongest scent but is a pleasant enough candle to burn.

Finally, not strictly a candle but I have been loving this oil burner. I bought it for Ian (he’s a fellow candle lover!) and it is a beautiful Himalayan pink salt candle. It gives off a lovely, warm glow and the little glass tray on top allows you to burn wax melts or use essential oils. I have been using this Frosted Cranberry fragrance oil from The Body Shop and it is a really nice sweet, berry scent which fills the room.

Beauty Review – L’Occitane en Provence Advent Calendar

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas. As usual, we had two days celebrating with each side of the family and were thoroughly spoiled with presents and stuffed with food and drink!

Today has involved a big family walk (complete with some sloe gin shots along the way!), more food and buying a new kettle and toaster in the sales…rock and roll.

Despite deciding I didn’t need a beauty advent calendar this year, my lovely husband went online, read a load of reviews and bought me this one…and earned lots of brownie points!

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Luckily, L’Occitane en Provence is a brand I know and love. Their hand creams are a staple for me and I really like their almond, cherry blossom and verbena shower gels.

The calendar itself was beautifully illustrated and felt very ‘French’ too. It goes without saying how nice it was to have a little beauty treat to look forward to each day and I will miss opening it. There was a nice range of products included in this advent calendar. My favourites were the mini hand and foot lotions and the shower gels which I find so handy for travelling.

I was also intrigued by the Essential Water, the toner and the moisturiser only because I haven’t tried any L’Occitane face products before.

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There were only two items that I cannot see myself using which are the two soaps, purely because I much prefer shower gels than hard soaps.

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So, a big thank you to Ian for a lovely gift! I’m excited to see the beauty advent offerings next year.

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Our Next Adventure…

This Christmas, both Ian and I were really keen on cutting down on ‘stuff’. You know, the kind of things you don’t really need more of…kitchen gadgets, novelty festive items, more nail varnish. Of course, there are some things I get every Christmas that are really useful and that I use all year such as smellies, good coffee, candles, books, pyjamas but Ian and I decided not to get each other anything to open under the tree this year. Instead, we decided to buy each other an adventure to look forward to in 2017.

So…we are going to Japan! (I am smiling just typing that!)

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Yes, we are off next summer which gives me about 7 months to master using chopsticks! We are starting in Tokyo then visiting Mount Fuji on the famous Bullet Train.

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After that (and the main reason we are visiting in July and August) we are going to the famous summer festivals that occur in Akita and Aomori. In Akita, we will see the Kanto Matsuri festival where the streets are lit up with ornate paper lanterns and performances and in Aomori we will see the Nebuta Matsuri festival which involves large parades of floats, traditional music and dancing.

Finally, we will stop in Busan, South Korea, a bustling port city with a huge seafood market, and then back to Nagasaki in Japan, where the atomic bomb was dropped, before ending up back in Tokyo to fly home.

We have ummed and ahhed about booking such a big trip for the past few months but then thought that we both work bloody hard and having a holiday like this gives you something to really look forward to. There’s also the knowledge that if/ when we have children, it will definitely put some of our travel plans on hold for a few years so we are both keen to travel as much as we can, whilst we can!

So, Merry Christmas – I hope you too get something wonderful to enjoy and that your day is filled with food, family and fun! x

 

5 Things To Do on Christmas Day

It’s almost here and I have come up with the top 5 things I think everyone should try and do tomorrow:

  1. Wear some Christmas pyjamas. Whether you wake up in them or have to change into them after your jeans feel a little too tight after dinner, festive pyjamas are the best. I have a few pairs, as well as a Christmas onesie, so all bases are covered!

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2. Have a Christmas cocktail. Bucks Fizz for breakfast, a classic Snowball before lunch or a round of margaritas, there are no rules on Christmas Day so indulge!

3. Family time. We always end up playing a game together or settling down for a good film and it is the best. For a lot of people, it is one of the few times the whole family has the chance to be together so don’t just sit there on your phone…get up and join in a round of charades!

4. Relax! As lovely as it is, Christmas can be stressful so take a bit of time out if you need to…wrap up and go for a walk, take a nap, indulge in a long bath (hopefully using some new smellies), read a chapter of a book, anything that lets you chill out.

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5. Say thank you. Whether it is by phone, text, email or in person, chances are people have either bought you something incredibly thoughtful or spent the day cooking and a little gratitude goes a long way.

Merry Christmas to all my lovely readers – have a great time with your loved ones xxx

Recipe – Mince Pie Pastries

After yesterday’s blog post, I had a little notification pop up on my WordPress app informing me that it was actually my 1000th post which feels like something of a milestone! I can flit between hobbies but I am so pleased I have actually stuck with this one as it brings me real happiness to write blog posts. I know my photography is not the slickest, and there is the occasional spelling mistake or two, but I do love looking back on what I have written and seeing how much things have changed.

Today, I wanted to share a really easy festive baking recipe that is a twist on a classic mince pie and would make a perfect breakfast pastry if you have family staying over Christmas.

Ingredients

A sheet of puff pastry (feel free to make your own but I always buy puff pastry!)

A jar of mincemeat (again, you can make your own. I bought some from Sainsburys and jazzed it up with some extra cranberries, mixed peel and a dash of orange liquor)

How to make it

  • Preheat your oven to Gas Mark 4/ 180°C
  • Roll your pastry out on a floured surface
  • Spoon over the mincemeat, leaving a gap of about an inch the whole way round

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  • Gently but firmly roll the pastry up into a swiss roll-style log

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  • Slice into rounds about 2cm thick

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  • Put each round between a sheet of greaseproof paper and lightly flatten with a rolling pin or your palm

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  • Place the slices onto a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper

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  • Bake for around 20 minutes until golden brown

These went down a treat with my colleagues and were tasty warm and once cold. The filling can catch and caramelise on the bottom if you’re not careful so make sure they don’t overcook and burn.

Mani Monday – Navy and Gold

I have now finished work for Christmas so am feeling relaxed and eating my body weight in mince pies and party food on a daily basis!

I really love this week’s manicure. I think the combination of navy and gold is lovely and the dusting of glitter makes the nails looks really Christmassy.

I started with a base coat of Essie’s Style Cartel, my favourite navy blue. I looked for ages to find this shade and every time I wear it I’m reminded of how much I like it.

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The glitter is a Nails Inc bottle in Chelsea Embankment. I wasn’t prepared for how packed with glitter this formula was so needed a very light touch to get this effect. I basically packed glitter on around the cuticle, gradually fading out how much I used as I reached halfway along the nail. As always, some nails look a bit better than others but I am really pleased with the overall effect.

Mani Monday – Holly Nails

I was desperate to have Christmas nails for the last week of term as I enjoy a Christmas dinner with my class followed by a festive curry with my colleagues. I bought some holly wreath nail stickers which were a really quick and easy way to add a festive twist.

I went for a silvery, pearl-white base using Essie’s Cabana Boy. I love this colour and it always looks so clean and fresh.

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On each nail I added a sticker which has holly leaves and berries on with a layer of Seche Vite to seal the look. I think they are subtle enough to not look too over-the-top yet still a little special and fitting for the time of year.

Latest Purchases #102 – A Bath and Body Works Haul

When we were in Boston in October, the exchange rate was rubbish so shopping wasn’t really high on our to-do list. However, I did know that I would want to pay a visit to Bath and Body Works for a few seasonal treats! The lady in the shop told me Brits go mad for their products but I love their candles and hand gels and find the scents so different and original from anywhere else.

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Candles first…

I bought two of the large three-wick candles in Caramel Pumpkin Swirl and Chocolate Pistachio.

The first is a lovely autumnal scent with notes of pumpkin, caramel, cinnamon and vanilla. I have been burning this for about a week and I’m not exaggerating when I say the scent has filled the house! It may be slightly too sickly for some but I find it warming and perfect for this time of year.

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The other is a pretty green colour scented with pistachio and chocolate truffle. I’m saving this one for Christmas, possibly to burn in the kitchen. Both of these candles have gorgeous copper embossed lids too.

I also got a smaller candle in Pumpkin Pecan Waffles. This has notes of maple syrup, waffles and pumpkin spice. It also has beautiful artwork on the front.

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As well as the candles, I picked up a few seasonal items in the form of this Cinnamon Pumpkin handwash, this ‘Vampire Blood’ plum anti-bacterial hand gel and my favourite item, this Pumpkin Apple Cider shower gel which contains shea butter for a really rich lather.

Sunday Summary #48 and #49

Life

I have been a bit MIA on the blog recently so what better time to start afresh than the start of the month and the start of the most magical month at that! Yes, it’s December today which means all Christmas activities are now entirely appropriate and I don’t have to hide the fact my Christmas tree has been up for almost a week now – I even had the bands on my braces replaced with red and green ones!

I was shocked to hear the news that Fidel Castro had died and it made me so happy that we had managed to get to Cuba and see Havana earlier this year before things really start to change.

For my book club, I started reading The Versions of Us. It has good reviews and I’m enjoying it so far.

I’m not usually a huge fan of reality TV but Ian and I are loving I’m a Celeb this year. I find Ant and Dec hilarious (and so camp!) and the contestants seem a really nice group this year.

It has started to feel like winter this week with ice on the ground and having to spend ages de-icing my car in the morning. I’m overcompensating with extra blankets, cosy knitwear and lots of candles! Talking of candles, I made a few purchases at Bath and Body Works when we were in Boston and am enjoying starting to burn them.

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The cold weather has meant I have been drinking tea non-stop and tea addicts will appreciate the importance of a good mug. I love using this glass cup I bought in St. Petersburg this summer – something about holding it in both hands makes it feel so warming and comforting.

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Food

I headed up to London last weekend to catch up with several friends. I had the most delicious brunch with my friends Cat and Lucie at Jam in a Jar. I could have ordered most of the menu but instead opted for a healthy-ish breakfast plate with eggs, sourdough, smoked salmon, avocado amongst the contents…heaven!

I also met up with my friends from uni for our annual Thanksgiving meal. The food was delicious, especially the slice of pumpkin pie.

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We had an amazing meal recently at a local pub, The Longs Arms. It is probably my favourite place to eat at the moment and I am yet to enjoy a meal there I haven’t raved about! This time, I had lamb scrumpets followed by brill and cockled and a lemon crème brûlée and they were all divine.

Fashion

I made a little ASOS order this week for a couple of items. Firstly, a pair of Christmas cacti socks!

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I also picked up this striped jumper with suede elbow patches. I love the split sides on it and plan on wearing it non-stop.

Beauty

Despite telling Ian not to bother this year, he bought me this L’Occitane en Provence beauty advent calendar. The illustrations are beautiful and I love the hand cream I received today.

I was a little bit blasé about all the Black Friday deal that kept appearing in my inbox but I did put an order in at Organic Surge which I will share soon. I bought a bundle of their bestsellers and cannot wait to start using them as they smell amazing, are all organic and the company has a really great ethos too.

Finally, I have been really enjoying rediscovering the Maybelline Color Tattoo cream eyeshadows. I used them years ago and recently bought Bad to the Bronze and forgot how pigmented and long lasting they are.

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Travel Diaries – A Week in Boston (Part One)

After a busy week back at work, I have finally found a spare evening to start writing up our amazing trip to Boston last month. I had always wanted to visit New England during Fall and Halloween and this trip did not disappoint. As well as the seasonal joys of everything being pumpkin flavoured (beer, coffee, doughnuts…you name it!), it was fascinating to see the final run-up to the US elections and enjoy some amazing seafood. I also tried to master the Boston accent which was a little less successful!

Day One

We flew from Heathrow Terminal 5 with British Airways and it was a pleasant enough flight. I watched the films Money Monster, The Shallows and Finding Dory all of which I would recommend for different reasons. We landed in the evening and got a free shuttle from Logan Airport into Boston then a taxi to our hotel.

We stayed at The Chandler Inn Hotel in South End and I really liked it. South End is seen as quite a hip, cool area and our hotel was surrounded by beautiful brownstones. We were about two blocks away from the T (Boston’s subway system) which made it really easy to get around.

I was struggling to stay awake at this point but managed a short walk around the neighbourhood to pick up some essentials – pizza, root beer and M&Ms!

Day Two

Well, I was awake at about 4am on our first morning and itching to get outside and start exploring! We started with another walk around the surrounding area to get our bearings and delight in the pretty window boxes most houses had. It was a beautifully sunny, crisp autumn day and my first impressions of Boston were great.

For breakfast, we headed to The Pour House for eggs and homefries which would keep us going all morning.

I love a good bus tour and really do think it is a great way to see a city, especially if the tour guide is a local. We did a trolley tour and struck gold with our driver who was hilarious and had lots of funny tales about the city. Boston is a very historical city and we saw all the main sights with a little bit of history thrown in too.

An added extra with this bus tour was a mini-cruise around the harbour. This was really fun and gave us a different view of the city…plus they sold beer on the boat!

That afternoon, we visited Quincy Market where there is an amazing selection of food vendors. We wandered past the mouth-watering stalls before deciding on clam chowder and lobster rolls for lunch. We ate this whilst enjoying an Acapella contest! It wasn’t quite Pitch Perfect but very cool to watch.

We caught the last of the autumn sunshine at Boston Common (where there was a cute kids pumpkin decorating event happening) before going to Octoberfest, a beer festival complete with pumpkin beer, pretzels and live music.

Day Three

Our third day started with bagels at Berkeley Perk Café followed by a trip across the water to Cambridge. I had really wanted to visit Harvard University and we had a great tour from a student. I found the history fascinating and the grounds were beautiful…almost as pretty as Birmingham Uni!

We headed back to Quincy Market for lunch, stopping at an amazing little farmers’ market on the way, and had lobster mac and cheese in the sunshine before an afternoon of shopping, trying a Blackbird Bakery doughnut and burritos for dinner.