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Post-Christmas Musings

And so Christmas is done for another year. We ate, we laughed, we opened so many lovely, thoughtful and generous gifts and spent time with our nearest and dearest.

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After hosting our respective families at our house for the past two years, we were on the road this Christmas and spent a few days with Ian’s family before driving back to our house to do it all over again on Boxing Day with my parents, my brother and his girlfriend.

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When I think back to this time last year when my Mum was halfway through a gruelling cycle of chemo, I realise we all have a lot to be grateful for. Tomorrow I will be driving up to Liverpool to attend a family funeral which is very grounding amongst all the expense and extravagance of Christmas. Not to bring a downer upon proceedings but it really makes you stop, think and appreciate what you have.

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With only a few days left of 2014, I wasn’t too sure what to post today. I am planning a little blog content revamp in the New Year so am saving some posts for then but thought I should ‘check in’ over the festive period. I didn’t actually take many photos this Christmas which is a bit of a shame blog-wise but it’s the one meal of the year I just want to tuck into straight away rather than taking arty shots of it! However, a dog in a knitted reindeer hat is another story…

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We have the family over again tonight and I can hear my Dad calling us for dinner…leftovers with an extra batch of pigs in blankets made just because they are our favourite and we have all been reaching for them throughout the day! I think one of my less serious New Year resolutions will be to have these little beauties with every roast dinner as they shouldn’t just be enjoyed once a year!

 

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This Week’s Nails – Purple Candy Cane Ombre

Aaaaand I’ve finished work for the year! Such a good feeling to drive home knowing I can switch off and relax for a few weeks. I started today with a little lie-in then drove over to Salisbury for lunch and present-swapping with one of my besties Cat. I plan to spend much of my holidays this way: catching up on sleep, eating and seeing friends and family!

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When pondering my manicure this week, I was slightly overwhelmed and spoiled for choice with all the gorgeous shades I am getting on a daily basis from my Ciate advent calendar. I cannot wait to get swatching them but I found these lovely little purple and white candy canes in my nail art box (yes, I have a box!)  and decided to go for a purple gradient to compliment these nail decals.

Going from dark to light I used: MUA’s Frozen Yoghurt, ELF’s Lilac, Barry M’s Prickly Pear, Hello Kitty’s Darling Pink and Essie’s Go Ginza.

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I love all these shades individually and like the look of them altogether too.

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I placed the candy cane decals onto wet nails then sealed them with a couple of generous layers of Seche Vite. They are quite raised on the nail so I wasn’t expecting them to last for longer than a few days but we are on Day 5 now with no signs of them budging…God Bless that Seche Vite!

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Time for Christmas Day nails next…pass the glitter! x

The Christmas Tag

I don’t usually do these blogger tags that do the rounds but I am always willing to make an exception for anything Christmas related. Especially, as I spent last night decorating our house!

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1) What is your favourite Christmas movie?

It has to be a tie between Love Actually (which we watched this year as we put up our Christmas tree) and Elf (which I am watching with my class next week!) I have to admit to having the Sky Christmas film channel on in the background for most of December though.

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2) Do you open your presents on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning?

I wish I could say Christmas Day but we have a new tradition now where we open one present on Christmas Eve which is always Christmas pyjamas to wear that night and on Christmas morning…I don’t think it’s cheating too much!

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3) Do you have a favourite Christmas memory?

Lots! The waking up to discover my previously empty stocking full of presents, the food, time with family and the occasional time it has actually snowed on Christmas Day.

4) Favourite festive food?

All of it! Smoked salmon in the morning, crispy potatoes roasted in goose fat, spiced red cabbage, snowballs, mulled wine, cheese and biscuits, stollen, Quality Street, chocolate yule log…I could go on!

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5) Favourite Christmas gift?

In recent years, it would have to be my Kitchen Aid which takes pride of place in my cabinet. However, my most beloved item would have to be my Tiny Tears doll which I loved and still have back at my parents’ house.

6) Favourite Christmas scent?

Apart from the smell of the Christmas dinner cooking, it would have to be the Christmas candles I start burning from November onwards. My current favourite is a ‘Mulled Wine’ scent that fills the room.

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7) Do you have any Christmas Eve traditions?

Apart from a cheesy film in Christmas pjs, it sort of depends if we are spending the festive period at our house or at one of our parents’. If we are at home, then our village church holds a lovely evening carol service which we follow with a walk up to the local pub for a few drinks.

8) What tops your tree?

A big silver star

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9) As a kid what was the one crazy, wild, extravagent gift you always asked for but never received?

A puppy…and I am still asking for one now!

10) What’s the best part about Christmas for you?

All of it! Some time off work to just relax with family and friends is good for the soul and I intend to enjoy every minute of it! x

Latest Purchases #48 – A Huge Dotcomgiftshop Haul

This may be stating the obvious but I love my half term holidays! Not only does it provide a much needed break, but it also allows me to spend a few days getting my house and life back in order and I always seem to get my blogging mojo back too as I have time to write every day, take photos in good light and also think up some new and interesting posts.

Today I wanted to share a rather large haul from one of my favourite online shops. Dotcomgiftshop is my go-to place for presents and treats for the home (their vintage kitchen accessories are my favourite!) Once a year they have incredible sales and I always make a few purchases, stocking up on birthday presents and of course a few items for our house too.

Despite getting daily emails telling me about the sale, I hadn’t even gone onto the website to browse until my colleague showed me some of the amazing things she had ordered so I blame her for enabling me!

Anyway, here is the huge box that arrived:

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And the goodies inside:

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First up, the Christmas stuff – yes, I realise I am way out of season but I always buy festive stuff in the sales and put it away until next year (oh dear…that sounded so old!)

Two pretty Christmas tree decorations – a vintage looking silver bell and a scandi print heart.

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Some lovely printed baking cases for individual lemon drizzle cakes or something equally as tasty.

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Some fairy cake cases and matching napkins with a lovely snowy print.

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A pack of vintage-style paper lanterns to hang and brighten the place up.

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Now, some foodie/ kitchen items:

My Dad has a new wood-branding kit so I thought a couple of plain wooden spoons would be ideal for him to create something personalised for me and Ian!

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I love hanging signs around the house and this ‘Bon Appetit’ one is great for the kitchen. My Dad, who is a chef, used to work in an Italian restaurant of this name too so I bought one for my parents to remind them of all the nights we spent there over pizza and pasta!

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These adorable measuring spoons are pretty and practical.

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You can never have enough nice cupcake cases and I love this retro design…so much so I also bought the matching bunting and paper chains!

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I am forever spilling tea and dropping crumbs when I bring them through from the kitchen so hopefully this tray will solve this problem!

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These glass bowls are so handy – I am always running out of Tupperware to keep leftovers and work lunches in and these are just a bit prettier than our plastic ones.

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I love having nice tea towels hanging up and these two floral designs will fit right in with our kitchen.

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I also bought a matching oven glove after Ian left my Cath Kidston one on the hob and burnt it!

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I am determined to put more art up around our house and bought four pieces. I love this heart design, made using various pieces of pretty floral paper. I still have the protective wrapping on but I think you can see how delicate they look. I saw these for about four times the price in Covent Garden recently too.

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These would look great in a child’s bedroom but I couldn’t resist them either! I remember reading books with these retro style covers when I was younger and think they will be a unique and colourful addition to our walls.

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This little heart frame was only £1.95 and I am sure I can find a little corner for it.

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Finally, some completely random but useful bits and bobs!

I always need pretty cards so these birthday and thank you cards were a steal at 50p each.

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This floral washi tape will look great when used for wrapping presents.

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As a teacher, it can get very expensive buying presents for your class throughout the year. I always keep my eyes peeled for cheap and cheerful items and these packs of rubbers were reduced to 10p each so I bought enough for all my kids.

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These two patchwork cushions look like so much work has gone into them. The fabrics used are lovely and they even came with the cushion inside too as opposed to just being the cover.

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We currently keep all our medical stuff in one of my old make-up bags and can never find the things we need. This vintage-style medicine cabinet will hopefully get us a bit more organised and looks wonderful too.

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These his and her desk calendars will make a great gift and are handy for people like me who can never remember the correct date!

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Finally, I love bird cages and have several of them dotted around our house. This large cream one can be hung up and has a great little candle holder inside it too. I will hang this outside over the summer but that feels a long way off at the moment!

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Phew…so that’s everything and I now have the not so exciting challenge of putting everything away and clearing up the huge amount of packaging left behind!

Recipe – Cheeseboard Quiche

I thought this recipe would be useful to post in the New Year because I am sure, like me, many of you still have a fridge packed with cheese leftover from Christmas.

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Alas, the daily cheeseboards I enjoyed over the festive period are no more so I wanted a way to use up all of this cheese and make something delicious with it.

This quiche is so easy to put together and it is one of those great recipes that will work with pretty much any cheese you have hanging around in your fridge – I used a mixture of Stilton, St Agur, Double Gloucester with onion and chives, Wensleydale with apricots and Port Salut. I actually dreamt about this quiche last night after having a big slice for dinner…it’s that good!

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Now if you are busy or have a bit of a fear about making pastry from scratch then by all means buy some ready-made shortcrust pastry or a pre-made base – this quiche is really all about the filling.

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However, I decided to christen my new KitchenAid (a Christmas present from my lovely husband!) last night and made my pastry from scratch. I will include the pastry details in the recipe for those of you that want to have a go!

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Before I start with the recipe details, let’s just take a minute to appreciate this appliance in all its beautiful pistachio-coloured glory:

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Ingredients

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250g of plain flour

125g of cold butter, cut into cubes

A pinch of salt

Cold water

4 rashers of streaky bacon, cut into chunks

2 onions, sliced

2 eggs

284ml of single cream

Salt and pepper

A pinch of mixed herbs (you could use fresh or dry herbs)

250g of mixed cheeses

How to make it

  • Begin by making your pastry. Combine the flour, butter and salt until they have the appearance of breadcrumbscheese23 cheese24
  • Add 4-5 tablespoons of cold water and start to work into a dough
  • Tip the contents onto a floured surface and knead gently until your dough has come together to form a ballcheese25
  • Wrap it in clingfilm and chill for about half an hour
  • Preheat the oven to 180°C, Gas Mark 4
  • While the dough is chilling, fry the bacon until lightly browned and then the onions for about 10 minutes until they have softened and turned golden then put to one sidecheese16 cheese17
  • Mix together the eggs, cream, salt, pepper and mixed herbs
  • Get your chilled pastry dough and roll it out on a floured surface until it will cover your quiche dishcheese11
  • Lay the dough inside your dish (I always rub a little olive oil over the surface first) and using a smaller piece of leftover dough, gently push it in to all the edges. I gave a little whoop of delight at this point as my previous attempts at making pastry have been poor!cheese12 cheese13
  • Lay a piece of greaseproof paper over the pastry and add your baking beanscheese6
  • Bake for 15 minutes on a baking tray
  • After 15 minutes, take the tray out of the oven, remove the beans and lightly prick the base with a fork
  • Bake for another 10 minutes until the pastry has just started to turn goldencheese8
  • Now it’s time to fill the quiche! Begin by crumbling all your cheese into the basecheese9
  • Then layer on the bacon and onionscheese10
  • Finally, pour over the cream mixture and gently give it a shakecheese1
  • Turn the oven down slightly to 140°C, Gas Mark 3 and bake the quiche for 40-45 minutes until it is golden brown and the filling has setcheese2
  • I couldn’t resist having a slice of this warm with a fresh salad and some of my auntie’s homemade chilli jam on the side, but this is also delicious cold the next daycheese5

If you don’t have loads of leftover cheese, then I have noticed that the supermarkets are selling their truckles of Christmas cheeses for as little as 30p now so get down there asap!

Now that I have mastered the KitchenAid, I plan to spend my last day off baking something sweet and ignoring the fact I have to go back to school and be a proper adult again tomorrow!

Is anyone else feeling the back-to-work blues? Luckily, I have a few evenings out planned to get me through the first week back! x

Beauty Review – December Birchbox

I’m feeling like somewhat of a cliché today. After writing my 2014 resolutions post yesterday, I have been a busy bee! I was up and out for a run (suffice to say, I struggled!) this morning, out and about doing various admin tasks this afternoon and then arranged several appointments with builders to continue with our home improvements. This may not last long but I am embracing this enthusiasm while it lasts!

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Today’s rather belated post has been on my to-do list since before Christmas but you know how crazy things get in December and I accidentally tidied away this Birchbox so have only really sat down and had a proper look through it today. I think opening my beauty advent calendar throughout last month made me forget the December Birchbox had arrived but it was definitely a nice surprise to find it again!

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As expected, the emphasis was on sparkles and Christmas parties which is slightly redundant now but a good selection of products nonetheless. Birchbox seem to have ditched their magazine completely now and a set of postcards arrive with every delivery with a lifestyle article, hair or make-up tutorial and this month also had some lovely gift tags to use!

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Here was my first peek in the bag:

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First up, the Non-Aerosol Hairspray by Number 4. I have a very low-key hair care routine and hate using anything that leaves my hair feeling dry, crunchy or full of product. However, the fact that this is a botanical-rich formula and not out of a can means I will give it a go!

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Next, Nail Glitter by Nail Rock – a brand I have seen online but not yet tried myself. I love trying out a new nail product and although I have lots of glitter nail varnishes I have never tried this approach to a sparkly manicure. I received a lovely navy blue nail varnish and a bright blue pot of glitter, which conveniently left tiny pieces of glitter everywhere! I think this colour combination is great and will result in a statement textured manicure – it’s on my to-do list!

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A slightly unusual product next – a Twistband in a pretty pastel blue colour. This hairband claims not to leave those annoying creases in your hair and I think it looks rather nice and ribbon-like.

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A bit of luxury in the form of this pomegranate face mask by luxe brand Delarom. I love trying out new face products and this will be a Sunday night treat before going back to work again.

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Next, a beautifully scented body lotion by BeeKind. As you may have guessed from the name, this contains honey as well as a lemon scent. It actually smells just like Lockets but I like how refreshing it is.

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Finally, my favourite product in this month’s box was this shimmery powder by Alima Pure. It’s not a brand I have heard of before but I love this nude colour and it has just the right amount of shimmer to be noticed without being too glittery. I think it would look lovely worn alone as an eyeshadow or used as a highlighter.

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Overall, this wasn’t too Christmassy and I can see myself using all of the products included…a nice little bit of pampering to start the new year! x

Happy New Year!

Welcome to 2014! We have just arrived home again after a wonderful and food-filled night in London. Ian and I spent the evening with our best friends and were up at Alexandra Palace at the stroke of midnight where we had the most wonderful view over the whole of London and could see the various firework displays going off, all toasted with a glass of bubbly (in plastic champagne glasses of course!)

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Like most people, I find myself in a pensive and reflective mood at this time of year. 2013 certainly had its ups and downs and it really was one of the best and worst years of my life. I know that sounds rather dramatic but I don’t think I’ve ever experienced such highs and lows.

Without a doubt, the highlight was our American adventure this summer where I got to marry the love of my life in Las Vegas.

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Of course, when we got home again we received the terrible news that my Mum had breast cancer and we are still on that journey but halfway through chemo now so we are hoping for a healthy and happy 2014.

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Some other pictures of my year:

January

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February

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March

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April

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May

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June

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July

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August

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September

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October

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November

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December

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I looked back at the post I wrote this time last year to see if I managed to stick to any of my resolutions I made for 2013. On the whole, I think I did OK especially with starting to run, improve my skincare routine and making time for good friends, all of which I intend to continue with!

For 2014, I am trying hard to not to take on too much or set overly high expectations for myself as I only feel bad when I don’t meet them and to be honest I don’t see New Year Resolutions as radically changing your life or who you are but simply making small improvements to add to your overall happiness. So this year I aim to…

  • Get my DIY mojo back! Our home improvements have ground to a bit of a halt in recent months and I intend to fix that. I really do love working on our house and feel such a sense of achievement when a room or project is finished so I am working on my to-do list.dresser28
  • Run. A little bit of a repeat of last year but I want to continue running. I appear to be somewhat of a fair-weather runner and haven’t pulled on my trainers since the weather has gotten colder (!) but I bought some cold weather running gear in the sales so intend to get back into a routine. I am considering signing up to a 10k or half marathon towards the end of the year. The idea terrifies me but maybe that is a good thing?! Watch this space!run4
  • Host 12 dinner parties. I love having people over and I love cooking so I want to try and host one dinner party per month this year where I make a starter, main and pudding from scratch. This is to continue to make the effort to spend time with good friends and to try out some new recipes, hopefully with delicious results!
  • Read more. I am someone who needs a decent amount of sleep to function properly and I want to try to get out of the cycle of being shattered throughout the week and needing long lie-ins at the weekend – as much as I love them, they do eat into the day! I am going to try and go to bed at a decent time and spend some time winding down and reading a book. I have a huge stack of unread books just waiting to be read and several recommendations from friends to work my way through so I think this is one resolution I will really enjoy!fete21

I don’t feel any of these resolutions are too radical or unachievable and the good thing is that I can pick them up throughout the year. Ultimately, a new year is only another date in the diary but even though things aren’t perfect at the moment, I think a fresh start and a chance to reflect and grow is always welcome.

Wishing all my lovely readers a wonderful and adventure-filled 2014!

Have you made any New Year resolutions? x