Blogmas Day 12: Crazy Christmas Lights

Every year, a house in my hometown, goes a little bit crazy for Christmas. And each year, they seem to deck their exterior halls bigger and better than before.

I dread to think what their electricity bill is at the end of this month. It must be through the roof – a little like the their inflatable Santa.

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Oli had never seen this house before, so the other day we swung by it to have a closer look. We parked the car on the side of the road and hopped out to explore this explosion of festive light; all in the name of charity.

This house is so bright and so lit up, that astronauts must be able to see it from space. I’m convinced of it. And as I walked around it the other day, I started to wonder how the inhabitants or even the neighbours next door – and opposite for that matter – manage to sleep with this extravagant illumination, so bright outside. When do they switch it all off for goodness sake?

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But people love it. For all it’s gaudy, tackiness they love it. I love it. It’s outlandish and ridiculous and tacky but it’s also quite magical and it makes people smile and laugh at the sheer vastness of it.

They must have to start preparing this extravaganza in July; it must take them for ever. And where is all this stuff stored throughout the year? How many lightbulbs are used?

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But whatever the answers to my many burning questions may be, I enjoyed walking around this garish winter wonderland and seeing Oli’s incredulous face as he took in all the many inflatable and bright sights and sounds around him.

It may not be my ideal cup of tea and I may never decorate the outside of my home in the same way (like EVER) but I still loved it nonetheless. It felt festive and fun and I like the idea that all this effort is to raise a little extra cash for charity. It’s the season of good will after all.

Blogmas Day 11: A family trip to Lewes

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This weekend, Oli and I went to Lewes with my parents for a Christmassy, family day. If you haven’t been to Lewes before than I strongly recommend that you do. It’s a cute little place, full of Antique shops, amazing coffee shops, a Castle, bookish stores a plenty and cobbled stones. It’s quaint and pretty and a lovely place to escape to for a day.

We started our time in Lewes in the restaurant Bills for a scrummy, yummy lunch. The Bills in Lewes is the first, original Bills to have ever opened and as a result, they serve breakfast until 4pm. 4pm! Bills breakfast is where it’s at, it’s seriously good. And the idea of it being served until the late afternoon is a very exciting prospect.

But I decided to order off of the lunch menu instead and chose the buttermilk chicken burger with fries and chipotle mayonnaise. It was delightful and delicious.

Lunch finished, we headed off to wander around the shops and admire all the pretty Christmas decorations along the way. I was quite proud of myself because I managed not to spend any money at all. Even though I was very tempted, several times.

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But after a while, we were all in need of a coffee based pit stop and a slice or two of cake. We managed to secure a table in the cute, modern Flint Owl Bakery. They offer a huge plethora of good-looking cakes and pastries and tray bakes and proper coffee. You know, the kind with latte artwork on the top.

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I chose a caramel doughnut to accompany my cappuccino and boy did it not disappoint. It was soft and crammed full of salty caramel sauce and a chunk of honeycomb. Just what a girl needs to pep her up in the late afternoon.

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Once we’d finished sipping and nibbling away at our sweet treats, we came outside to see that the sun had disappeared and had been replaced by a dark sky. And as depressing as these dark, early nights can really be, they also serve to brighten all the lights that are out. The darkness makes all the fairy lights that little bit more sparkly and I love it.

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And as the shops shut, we made our way back to the car, gazing into the lit windows as we walked. I caught sight of Elsa stuck in the window of Waterstones, looking a little forlorn with a note wrapped around her and secured with an elastic band, because her owner had left her behind, most probably by accident. And most probably right about now, her owner and his/her parents are distraught because Elsa is nowhere to be seen.

img_6912I also caught a glimpse of this pretty, decorated tree, through this lit window. And it made me wonder about the family that bought and spent the day decorating it and all the little, individual, family traditions that make Christmas so wonderful and joyous. And personal.

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When we arrived back home, we changed into our PJ’s and I made us all cheese and red onion on toast and a large pot of tea and we sat together in the living room watching Love Actually and laughing the evening away.

It was ideal.

Blogmas Day 10: Knit one, purl one; happiest in knitwear.

This is a post about my love, love, love of wool. I can’t seem to shake the sound of knitting needles from my head at the moment. Because the truth is; I am happiest when in a jumper. And I’ve found a few gems this year in the old knit wear department.

It’s no secret that money isn’t of the essence right now, I’ve been made redundant and I have a wedding and a honeymoon to pay for, so there aren’t many spare pennies knocking around right about now. Sadly.

So no new winter coat for me, instead I’ve recycled last years. I like to at least try to get two seasons out of a coat. And there is no better way to jazz up a coat than to buy new accessories; cue cute pom-pom hats, cosy gloves and exceptionally snuggly snoods and scarfs. Normally I’d head straight for Accessorize but remember what I said about the old money tree. So this year, I stumbled across my latest knit wear investment in the most unexpected of places; Aldi.

Sadly there are no mirrors in Aldi so I ummed and ahhed for ages about which colour to buy; using my selfie camera on my iPhone as a mirror. I must have looked like a very indecisive idiot, whipping hats and scarfs on and off repeatedly and then taking pictures of myself as I did it. But in the end, I settled on a dark grey matching set and it was a choice well made. The scarf/snood (£5.99) is so super soft and cuddly that I find it hard to take off and the hat keeps my head super toasty too (£3.99).

As well as sporting my new Aldi bobble hat above, I’m also wearing my new favourite piece of clothing, in the shot above. This dusky pink number with candy cane arms and white neck and cuffs is from Primark for a mere £12. I adore it, especially the colour of it. It’s just baggy enough to be extra comfy but fitted enough that I don’t lose my shape.

Roll neck is not normally a style I go for in clothing. But when I stumbled across this dark, green beauty I decided to go for it. And to be honest, I wish I had more roll necks in my life. They are flattering and cute and cosy and keep your neck well heated. I love the fit of this jumper and I also love the fact that it matches my eyes so well, it makes them look greener than normal and I like it. I feel good in this jumper and if clothing makes you feel good than that can only be a positive thing. It was also only £18 from TU at Sainsbury’s.

H&M have some fantastic knit wear available this year. All for bargain prices too. After dragging Oliver around the shops trying on different jumpers I finally settled on this Oatmeal coloured, cosy number. This is also a slightly new shade for me; it’s always nice to add something different to your wardrobe. It also only cost me £15, an absolute steal. It’s thick and chunky and keeps me extremely warm in this chilly, bitter winter weather.

I may have purchased some lovely, new knitwear this year but that doesn’t mean that I don’t still love last years finds. And I’m referring to two festive favourites in particular.

Fatface always have a great sale and last Boxing Day, I picked up a blue and white beauty from the sale rail. I’m pretty sure I only paid £20 for it but I never fully appreciated it until this winter when I cannot get enough of it. It’s subtly festive without screaming, ‘I’m a Christmas jumper!’ and I’m really enjoying wearing it again this year.

And finally my trusty Hollister snowflake jumper which is most definitely, undeniably Christmassy – or at least wintery. It’s soft and comfy and fits really well. I just love grey. It goes with everything and will come in useful for many Christmases to come, I’m sure of it.

I really do love jumpers and knit wear and all things woollen and this really is the season to be decked out in the finest of baggy, chunky, snuggly knit wear. I can’t wait for Christmas jumper day! Whatever your style, I hope you’ve found a jumper that makes you as happy as mine do.

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Blogmas Day 9: Notes on why XMAS upsets me

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Ok, so I’ll begin with the fact that I’m a Christian. And so for me Christmas is all about Christ. The clue is in the name really; CHRISTmas.

Jesus is the reason for the season. Literally.

And as much as I love Father Christmas, reindeer’s, candy canes and multi-coloured fairy lights, I love Christ more. Because the essence of this time of year is that God sent his only son down to earth, in the form of a cute little baby. To reconcile us to Him.

So what exactly does the giant X stand for? The X that I’ve been seeing all over the place? It’s an abbreviation that really upsets me. Because it physically takes Christ out of Christmas; it wrongly removes him. Yet he should be synonymous with CHRISTmas, because it’s all about him. His birth is the foundation on which we decorate our Christmas trees and eat turkey; His coming is why we pull crackers and exchange presents with our loved ones. Writing C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S out on a Christmas card, or a shop sign or a classroom display should be a privilege not an inconvenience because of all the hope and love that those nine letters convey.

Yet, Jesus is sometimes the forgotten hero, obscured by good old, jolly, ho-ho-ho-ing Father Christmas. And no, Jesus didn’t come dressed in a plush, soft, velvety suit of red with a fur trim. He didn’t ride a sleigh pulled by Rudolph, he certainly didn’t shimmy and squeeze down a chimney either, or leave a whole bundle of glitzy presents in His wake. But He did arrive in the dead of night; humbly. He was born in a stable, surrounded by livestock and proud parents, a star resting over head, Shepherds and Wise Men flocking to see Him.

And if we strip away all the fancy, foiled paper, the ribbons, all the decorations and all the trimmings; there we’ll find Him. If we just look up from our frantic shopping and if we stop huffing and puffing in the ever multiplying queues for just a few minutes, then we’ll see Him. Remember Him even. A baby boy, lying in a manager, crying, helpless and fragile but simultaneously the best super hero, the biggest ransom Mankind will ever know.

Behind all the tradition and the tinsel and the brandy butter and the pigs in blankets, all this revelry is really because of this baby boy, born in a stable. He came to save us and give us a present more spectacular and more wonderful than anything that Santa and his elves could ever leave us on Christmas morning.

‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.’ John 3:16

It’s a pretty important and special time of year for Christians. And I just wish that merchandisers, big brands and the UK’s retail giants wouldn’t keep taking Christ out of CHRISTmas. Because that pesky X, marks the spot where He should rightfully be.

I guess, this post is really a reminder for me, of all people, to remember and be extra aware this year, of the true meaning of this wonderful, festive season.

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Blogmas Day 8: How to fill a stocking for a four year old for under £20

My Mum told me that this year I will not be getting a stocking. And I’ve had a stocking for the past 24 years, so this comes as a serious blow.

I’m a little bit gutted. But I guess, now that I’m getting married, I am too much of an adult to wake up to a bulging tartan sack at the end of my bed on Christmas morning.

But Christmas just won’t be the same.

Because as a child, my stocking was the most exciting part of Christmas. Aside, from Jesus being born and giving me eternal life, of course.

My parents (well, mainly my Mum. I’m pretty sure my Dad, like every other Dad, just said ‘Yes dear that’s lovely, she’ll love it!’ and then signed the card) always outdid themselves on the Christmas stocking front. Or Father Christmas did, or so they had me believe.

Our stockings were so amazing that we had to ditch the oversized socks and move onto pillow cases. And then one year my Mum made me and my Sister these gorgeous green and red tartan sacks to house all our unopened Christmas presents in which we’ve used ever since. They were always bulging with interesting and fun things like posh bubble bath, books, small toys, chocolate, CD’s, money, Theatre tickets, make-up, socks, all sorts really.

Opening our stockings was the highlight of the day; crawling into the end of our parents bed, early on the 25th of December and unwrapping like crazy, shouting out ‘THANK YOU FATHER CHRISTMAS!’ at the top of our excited lungs.

So fully embracing this memory, I’ve decided to at least attempt to re-create this magic for my little nieces. I’ve channelled all my lack-of-stocking-sadness into creating a collection of lovely little presents for them to open on Christmas morning. Little nik naks, big and small, lots of presents to open and play with all day.

I’ll start with Sophie’s stocking. Soph is four and she started school this year. She absolutely LOVES opening presents, in fact on her sisters first birthday, you would have thought it was actually Sophie’s birthday. Poppy was much more interested in a cardboard box that a toy came in whilst Sophie gleefully helped (aka single-handedly unwrapped) all of the presents.

She also loves small little toys like Shopkins, Palace Pets, My Little Pony and Sylvanian Families. She also goes mad for surprise eggs and anything hidden inside a cute little box. So I used all this knowledge to make her a stocking full of fun, things that she would love. All for under £20.

Well, just about. I got a little carried away and my mental maths is questionable.

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So here’s the contents of Sophie’s stocking. The stocking itself came from my new favourite shop, Poundland. It’s a red and white, Christmas knitted pattern and is stretchy enough to hopefully squeeze all these goodies into. My plan is to embroider the girls names on the top of each stocking in white thread for a cute, personalised touch.

The Kinder Santa’s were also a bargain from Poundland; a bargain considering how much one Kinder egg costs.

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Primark this year is full of great little stocking fillers. I opted for two pairs of cute, rabbit thermal socks for £2, a collection of three pretty shop kin-esque badges for £1.50 that I can just imagine pinned to Sophie’s khaki coat and a really sweet, little sequined butterfly top for £5 that changes colour in the light. (All pictured more closely below.)

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Sophie managed to go to school the other day without getting upset at leaving my sister at the school gate and the reason for that was all because of a hot dog key ring hanging off of her book bag. I figured that a pastel, My Little Pony would make a great addition to her book bag in the new year. I managed to pick this one up from Wilkinson’s for £3.50.

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Whilst we were on holiday in France, Sophie discovered the exciting world of Pez. She literally loved the idea of a beloved character dispensing sweets to her. So when I saw this My Little Pony Pez in Next for £2, it went straight in my basket without a second thought.

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Children love cuddly toys and Sophie has an extremely vast collection, including some of my own which I’ve accumulated over the years and that she’s stolen from my room. But we all know that they’re expensive and I do resent playing the best part of a tenner for something cute and full of stuffing. So that’s where the trusty charity shop steps in. I got this glittery, pink, fluffy poodle (because Sophie also loves dogs) for a small £1 from my local Cancer Research shop.

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She’s super cute and she’ll be going to a very good, loving home. I can just imagine Sophie falling in love with her on Christmas morning. Plus, she’s a Beanie Baby with her tag still on. Absolultey ideal.

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I should have really stopped a few presents back but I couldn’t resist these tiny little fish rubbers that would perfect for Soph to have on hand when she’s doing her homework or drawing something. She also adores all things Finding Nemo/Dory so these are just right for her.

I also picked up an unopened Minions bracelet for 50p from Cancer Research and a diamond ring, lollipop thing from the till point of a toy shop where I purchased this Frozen wrist watch (because what little girl doesn’t love this modern Disney classic, especially at this time of year?) that tells the time and the date; just what every school girl needs.

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And there you have it, a stocking fit for a very special four year old madam, all wrapped and ready for the 25th December! I can’t wait to see her little face when she opens all of these delights. Christmas spent with Children, really is magical.

Watch this space for a post on How to fill a stocking for a one year old for under £20.

Blogmas Day 7: A Gingerbread house of sorts

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Yesterday, was a particularly Christmassy one. It involved a lot of icing sugar, sweets, ginger, cinnamon and a whole heap of baking trays. It was sweet to say the least.

I’ve always wanted to make a Gingerbread house but for one reason or another, I’ve never actually gotten around to it. And whenever I’ve suggested it to Oliver, he’s never been overly keen about baking the day away and trying to assemble an edible house.

But when I was out Christmas shopping the other day, I stumbled across a Gingerbread House cutter kit in The Works for a fiver and I thought, ‘Do you know what? This year, will be the year that we construct our very own Gingerbread House. To the till I go!’

And so I bought it.

And yesterday, on Oli’s day off, we went gingerbread ingredient shopping. And then we spent the afternoon drinking from big mugs full of hot tea whilst baking walls and windows and little people, to the soundtrack of our favourite Christmas songs.

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The Gingerbread itself was pretty straightforward to make. The Works, had very kindly put a delightful recipe on the back of the Gingerbread House cutter box, so I followed that diligently.

Cutting the shapes out was also very easy, the cutters were pretty good and sliced through the dough perfectly. Transferring these cut outs onto the baking trays was a little more tricky and a little reshaping was required before we put them in the oven.

One top tip I would suggest is to make sure that your biscuit is rolled to the recipes specified proportions. Even if that means getting a ruler out. The Works, suggested a thickness of 0.5cm and in truth, ours was more like 1cm which leads to a more cake and less biscuity bake. Just a thought.

Another thing to note is that in the oven, the gingerbread will rise, expand and inflate quite a bit. So my advice would be to recut the gingerbread with the appropriate cutter as soon as it comes out of the oven, before it has a chance to harden. That way your sides and roof etc will be completely neat, relatively straight and squared off. It will make assembly all the more easy. We only did this on the sides of our house and not the front and back panels or the roof. We regret that.

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Making and baking the Gingerbread is by far the easiest part of the whole, ‘Making a Gingerbread House’ process.

Assembling it is a lot more complex. And time-consuming and it requires a lot of patience, a strong sense of teamwork and about fifteen pairs of hands in order to keep the damn, sticky thing steady. If you apply too much pressure, your gingerbread will crack/break.

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Surprisingly the main structure of our house was the easiest to erect (ooooh errr) and once we’d held it in place for about half an hour, we let go with bated breath, our eyes half closed as we prayed that it would still be standing as proudly, when we let go.

And by some miracle, it held itself together. We let go, stood back and cheered at the little, roofless house we had made. (My Dad rather aptly noted that at this stage it looks like a ruined Abbey).

Putting the roof on however, was an entirely different story.

The thing was that unbeknownst to me, I had unintentionally broken one of the two roof panels as I had taken it off of the baking tray. So we had a pretty significant roof issue.

After a bit more handling it snapped in two. I even tried to fix it together using skewers as dowelling (Great British Bake Off style) but that failed, rather catastrophically and damaged the roof panel even more. We tried gluing it together with the thick white icing that I made as our cement but that didn’t hold up either. So we had to go for the flat roof option instead. A very modern twist on the classic Gingerbread House.

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But that didn’t stop us from resting the one good roof panel on the house and taking a few wishful photographs before giving into our necessary flat roof amendment.

Once the flat roof was on, the decorating could commence. This bit was fiddley to say the least and resembled the game Buckaroo exactly. I was scared that with each extra icing embellishment the house would collapse. But some-crazy-how our edible house remained intact.

I opted for a rather wonky looking brick work effect in a lovely red icing, on the sides of the house with snow dripping from the window ledge. And on the front and back of the house, I went for a snowstorm, snowflake shower with some candy cane detail courtesy of Poundland.

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Oli made a really cute midget gem path all the way around the house and he also decorated a Gingerbread Oli and Becca, complete with boobs.

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I also added a little Christmas tree on top of the house, covered in midget gem multi-coloured baubles. Our flat roof has a delightful sprinkling of Christmas sprinkles and a handcrafted chimney. Good job Oliver!

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I’ve deliberately not featured a picture of the other end of our house because we were experiencing some construction difficulties and lots of cracks were fast appearing along with some Gingerbread warping.

With our little, slightly scary house complete, there was one thing to add. An icing sugar snowfall, via a sieve.

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And there you have it. A Gingerbread House, made by two competent adults (aged 25 and 26) which actually looks like it was manufactured by a couple of over exctied and hyper four-year olds. But we tried. We gave it our all. And we had fun and that’s the most important thing, right? We had an afternoon/evening (because it took ages) of festive fun; memories were made.

But sadly, I don’t think this will be a Christmas tradition that we’ll adopt over the years to come. At least not until we have children.

The idea of making a Gingerbread House, is all very romantic and sweet but in reality it’s sticky, messy and it doesn’t turn out quite how you expect it. But that’s a bit like life, I guess!

I love it though and it makes me giggle when I look at it. And let’s be honest, it’s the only house we’re ever likely to own! I wonder how long our interpretation will stay standing? I’ll keep you posted.

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Blogmas Day 6: Walking in a winter wonderland…

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There’s frost outside, on the ground. And the air is nipping at my nose. Biting at it actually. My hands and lips are chapped. Big time. I should really remember to moisture at night.

But I couldn’t be happier. I love summer don’t get me wrong but I love wrapping up warm too, donning my coat, my hat, my scarf, my gloves and heading outside into the winter air. Sometimes if you sniff hard enough, you can actually smell Christmas, in all it’s cinnamon, clove-y, star anise goodness.

The other day my Mum and I went to our local woods to collect some foliage so that we could make a christmas wreath at some point in the near future. And it was so crisp outside, the leaves were covered in a fine dusting of jewelled ice. It looked like they were covered in icing sugar. And everything had a crisp snap and crunch to it underfoot; the auburn leaves and the broken off branches.

And once we’d walked our feet off and finished foraging for sprigs of holly, we headed home for an afternoon of crafting and watching Christmas films, eating mince pies with salted caramel ice-cream and intermittent naps in front of the fire.

And that afternoon, I had that lovely inner warmth that only comes from a hearty walk in the countryside, at this chilly time of year. It was ideal and certainly got me into a very festive frame of mind.

Watch this space for my Christmas Wreath.

Blogmas Day 5: Who needs a Christmas tree?

I really want a Christmas tree this year. Like really, really bad. But my bank balance won’t allow it. And even if we opt for a small artificial tree, that’s still money we could – and let’s face it, should – be spending on the wedding or the honeymoon or the fund for our future life together.

So I’ve slowly but surely – and rather reluctantly – come to terms with the fact that we are not getting a tree this year and that this winter, festive tradition will have to be reserved for our first Christmas as husband and wife.

So until next year, I’ll have to make do without one. And today, I’ve done just that. I’ve made do, who needs a Christmas tree? When you can have some battery operated fairy lights, some cardboard bunting and a sprig or two of recycled tinsel!

I may have used a little splash of money, but considerably less of a tidal wave than I would have spent had I had to buy a proper sized Christmas tree and all the trimmings. And let’s face it, the trimmings are the best bit! I simply wouldn’t be able to hold back.

So let me show you, in true Blue Peter style, what I made earlier.

At the weekend, I popped into Poundland, a shop where everything is a mere pound. This year, they’ve gone all out and have quite the plethora of Christmas trinkets and decorations. You know, the sort of tat, that every good household should acquire over the years.

Wilkinson is also a fantastic and reasonably priced place to find Christmassy things to deck out your halls. Below is a little flat lay of some of the items I picked up in both of these shops.

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Let’s start with the baubles, which I’m a little bit in love with. Now, brace yourself because a bargain bomb is about to go off. These glass baubles (glass, not plastic) were a mere £1 a box, thank you Poundland! Now, yes, they are glass. But they are the thinnest glass imaginable and one of my red ones was broken when I opened the box which made me deeply sad. But despite all this I was still very impressed with them and can’t believe that for two tiny pounds I got 18 baubles.

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The baubles are speckled and catch the light beautifully and they come complete with pre cut gold strings so you can hang them on your tree or garland or off of your ear lobes if you so desire.

Or from the worlds tiniest tree.

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I bought this tree for Oli, years ago now, because he had no decorations in his house and it made me sad. So I bought this tree and I made decorations for it out of FIMO clay. This year, however I opted for a slightly different, more mature look and style. I bought the mains operated white fairy lights from Poundland and some gold beading from Wilkinson’s (5 metres for 75p) which I cut to size and wrapped in and out of the branches. I popped about six of my new baubles onto the tree along with some FIMO candy canes that I made when I originally gave Oli this tree.

I’m pretty chuffed with it to be honest and I love the red and gold look of it. I also made the star out of a cookie cutter and some yellow FIMO modelling clay, covered in glitter.

Because our Christmas tree is so small, that it doesn’t really count as a tree, I wanted to work on a garland to put on the mantelpiece. I just didn’t want it to cost a fortune. But when I was digging out the decorations from last year, I found a long, bushy string of green, natural looking tinsel. It was perfect.

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I folded it in half and twisted it so that it was all entwined together, so it looked bushier and more full. I found two plastic gold bells in the wardrobe too and used them to hang off either end of the garland, attached via chunky safety pins to keep the garland together.

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I wove the multi-coloured lights I had on our mini tree last year (from Poundland) into the garland and also studded the garland with some pretend glittery red berries, wound in with wire. These berries were a steal from Wilkinson’s, I got about 50 wired berries for £1; they’d be perfect for wreaths as well or for popping on top of fancy Christmas wrapping paper.

To attach my garland I used sellotape, discreetly. Not terribly glamorous but effective nonetheless.

The hearts underneath the garland, have actually been up all year round, but they were a little project that I handmade a few years ago, using Christmas material and hessian string.

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Above my garland, I have the word NOEL. These brown, wooden, distressed and snowy topped letters were from Poundland once again. All four letter for one tiny pound, how amazing is that! This year (because Starbucks red cups are so pretty this December, last year they were awful) I’ve made a point of collecting my Starbucks Christmas cups. They make really cute tea light holders and light up beautifully with a flickering flame inside. On a side note, I don’t advocate anyone doing this, it’s probably not my smartest idea as the cups are probably very flammable, seeing as they’re made as paper and all. But they do look pretty.

In between my Starbucks cups, is a delicious Christmasy scented candle which my Mum bought for me from Lidl. It smells like Christmas in a jar. Yum!

All in all my garland cost me less than a pound to make.

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Our friends, who got married last April, have lent us a lot of stuff for our own wedding next year. Including this bunting, featured above. It’s a ‘create your own’ bunting and comes with lots of letter for you to spell out your own words. I hope they don’t mind me using the bunting to spell out ‘Merry Christmas’ over the festive period.

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Speaking of things for the wedding, I borrowed one of our jars that we’re planning to use for our sweet table. I love this chunky glass cookie jar (£1.50 from ASDA) and it looks great with another thing we’ve borrowed for the wedding, from our friends – two sets of battery operated fairy lights. I also popped in the left over baubles that I couldn’t use, on account of the fact that our tree is microscopic, along with a ‘Merry Christmas’ Ornament that I found amongst last years stuff.

The lantern, is a new purchase. I went to a Garden Centre yesterday, in an effort to make myself feel more festive, again. I told you, Garden centres are where all the festive feelings are at. And I stumbled across this beauty. I wanted another lantern – in fact I’d seen some in Waitrose that were all £15 plus – to accompany our bigger lantern, but they were all quite pricey. But this battery operated one – not something I would normally go for – was only £5. So I bought it, no questions asked. It’s an all year-long investment and it’s brilliant.

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So there you have it, my festive creation on a shoe string, who needs a Christmas tree eh?

Blogmas Day 3 and 4: A Weekend in Exeter

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This weekend, I went to Exeter with some friends for a festive getaway. And it was delightful. I may not have opened any of my advent calendar chocolates until today (5 days late) as a result but it was totally worth the sacrifice, I can assure you.

The weekend consisted off lots of food – in fact it actually revolved around food. As well as shopping, laughter, coffee and friendship. And that suited me just fine. It was my kind of weekend.

I’d never been to Exeter before, so this weekend was the first time I’d ventured there. I wasn’t really sure what to expect to be honest – apart from Christmas markets, of course. The Christmas markets didn’t disappoint especially the cheese stalls with plenty of generous free samples and the cider company stall too.

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We spent Friday evening (after we’d disembarked from the train) sitting on the floor of my friend Beth’s bedroom, sipping prosecco and laughing and working out Christmas Dingbats together (I totally just wrote Wombats just now). It was such a perfect evening and her student accommodation is somewhere I’d be very happy to live in at 25. It was amazing.

Saturday was spent mooching, with Nutella porridge for breakfast accompanied by ‘I’m a Celebrity’ catch up on the TV. Then we headed into town and explored the Christmas markets, taking in all the festive trinkets and free samples. I liked the latter the best.

Exeter is huge but small simultaneously. It probably has every shop you could possibly want and we spent a good part of our day popping in and out of a lot of them, perusing and laughing and purchasing. My poor debit card. But my happy heart.

Once we had shopped until we dropped we went in search of a much-needed caffeinated drink. We settled on a place called Kupp, which I would wholeheartedly recommended. The coffee was creamy and strong and came in these really cool glasses. It was so relaxing to sit back in a patchwork armchair and look at all our purchases and laugh some more.

Dinner on Saturday was the most delicious affair at a restaurant called On The Waterfront, down by the Quay. And oh my word was the food there divine! I opted for a crab and lobster burger with chips and slaw. It was super tasty, I could eat it again about three times. Although maybe on a plate next time, I wasn’t a huge fan of the whole eating out of a basket thing.

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Once we’d gobbled down our dinner, we went in search of cocktails but sadly everywhere was rammed with an array of Christmas parties so we headed back to Beth’s instead and spent the evening messing around on snapchat and looking at old embarrassing photos. I couldn’t have been happier.

On Sunday morning, we had breakfast at the amazing Brody’s. And it was a breakfast to write home about. Hence why I’m writing about in on here.

If ever you’re in Exeter then you simply must, must, must go to Brody’s for brunch. It’s an all day breakfast buffet place and for a small £9.28 you get as much cereal, toast, spreads, cooked breakfast stuff, tea or coffee and juice as you can possibly eat.

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You sit at a bench with your friends and your very own Dualit toaster and up you go to fill your plate hundreds of time over. They literally have everything at Brody’s, I’ve never had a breakfast like it. They have every kind of spread you could ever think to smother onto bread, they have black pudding, hogs pudding, hash browns, fried bread, eggs, bacon, two types of sausages, tomatoes, beans, mushrooms; the list goes on.

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Oh and they also do all you can eat pancakes for an extra £1. It’s so good, I only wish I’d eaten a few more plates to properly make the most of it.

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After a lot of breakfast food, we mooched some more, this time until we stumbled across some carol singers and a whole host of interestingly decorated Christmas trees.

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As the afternoon ticked on, we wandered down to the Quay again to explore the craft shops and find a coffee too. The Coffee Cellar was our drink spot of choice this time and we sat in the cosy, slightly edgy space and devoured some much-needed caffeinated beverages. I’ve had some really good coffee this weekend.

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And then sadly it was time to think about catching the train home. But not before sharing some churros from the Christmas Market. But I wasn’t able to snap a picture of them because we ate them so quickly.

All in all, it was such a gorgeous weekend. I loved every minute of it and I’ve come home feeling the most festive that I’ve felt all year. And what a great feeling that is!

Blogmas Day 2: Enchanted Woodland at Syon Park

I love an enchanted forest or a woodland. Or whatever it is you want to call it.

I love colourful lights and trees and winter nights and I love walking around holding a hot drink in a take away cup; it makes me feel sophisticated and accomplished. Sad, but true.

So when I saw Syon Park’s enchanted woodland featured on Timeout, I thought, ‘You know what? I think I’ll do that!’ And so we did. Oli and I were planning to see our friends Ben and Sophia and so I thought this would be a great thing for us all to go to. Double date style.

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The tickets were only £9 a pop, which compared to Kew Gardens is an absolute steal. (I have to say, that Kew’s version is brilliant and well worth the money. I went a few years ago and it’s quite different to Syon Park).

So after a tasty roast, that I managed to time perfectly, we bundled into one car and hit the road. The drive to Syon Park took us the best part of forty minutes which was a tad annoying but it’s amazing how fast a journey can go when you’re chatting and listening to Michael Buble’s Christmas album.

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Our tickets scanned, we headed straight for the refreshment stand and got ourselves that hot drink to cradle in our palms as we admired the lights. I opted for a mulled wine, a seasonal and warming choice. I was also sporting my new Aldi matching bobble hat and large scarf, I was snug as a bug in a rug. Thanks Aldi!

The lights were lovely, with different colours and effects throughout the whole park. Some of them changed colours and some moved and flickered around the autumn leaf laden grass, it was the perfect way to end a good weekend; walking around in the chilly evening air, chatting with friends and gazing at pretty illuminations.

My favourite feature was the ultra violet light tunnel which was super fun and gave us all white glowing teeth.

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Mulled wine finished, we ended the evening gazing at the colourful lights being projected onto the house and then found ourselves in a rave like atmosphere in the orangery complete with dry ice and banging tunes. It was brilliant and I’ve never seen anything quite like it. Dancing in your Wellington boots, a coat, a hat and a thick woolly scarf is a strange feeling. I think it beats being scantily clad. I certainly felt extra toasty afterwards.

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If there’s an enchanted woodland or outdoor space near you that’s all lit up this December, than I say get yourself down there ASAP. Before all the tickets sell out. You won’t regret it, it really is great, festive fun! I couldn’t recommend it more.