Last Minute Gift Guide for Little Girls

I love Christmas, and the majority of it is thanks to my gorgeous little Goddaughters. Father Christmas has visited them this year already, and they are so excited by the festive season that it makes the whole thing magical.

I find them very difficult to buy for though, because I don't want them to think of me as their out of touch Godmother! I want to be able to gift them thoughtful things that they will like, so I think long and hard about it.

This year has been slightly difficult, and I remembered late that although I had got Lilly birthday presents I hadn't got her much for Christmas. I have solved the problem with some " I Love Niall" One Direction pjs (crowdpleaser for 7 year olds!) but below are some more ideas for the precocious tween in your life.

FOR TWEENS

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Lilly is old before her years and loves girly things that she feels are adult. This owl shaped lip balm is cute and will  make her feel adult while still being cute and girly. The Hello Kitty jumper is right up her street, and to appeal to her One Direction hysteria the backpack is great for all her school stuff. The I Heart Dance stickers will satisfy the tween need to stick things all over the place, and the Princessy watch will help her with her telling the time while still being cute. The Gingerbread house is something we could do together on Christmas Eve - she loves crafting but we need to make sure its relevant to her age or else she gets bored and leaves.

FOR YOUNGER LITTLE PRINCESSES

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My littlest Goddaughter is still a baby at three, so the gifts I would choose for her would be mich different. Minnie Mouse and Peppa Pig are still firm favourites, but this penguin hottie is the cutest thing and i can picture her snuggled up in her bed with this guy. I also really like the idea of getting a piggy bank for her so that if I give her money she can store it in there for a rainy day.

What have you bought? Is your Christmas shopping done?

Posted on December 19, 2014 and filed under Christmas.

This Recipe Will Change Your Life: Bacon Jam (+ recipe)

I’ve been talking a lot about homemade gifts this Christmas season, and I have absolutely loved the experience of making food hampers for my loved ones. The hampers are a few items away from getting cellophaned up and packed ready to go, but in the last few weeks we realised that firstly there wasn’t enough in them for a truly amazing foodie hamper and secondly, the hampers were a little sweet heavy. They contain coffee syrups and some fudge, but nothing for someone like me who should really stick away from the sweet treats.. I wanted to get the hampers completed before the Christmas week, which cut out a lot of foods that would have to be made last minute to keep, and then I came across bacon jam, (original recipe here).

BACON JAM. There is nothing in there that sounds better to me so I thought I would give it a whirl and it’s AMAZING. Firstly if you are making this recipe, don’t be too worried about the coffee. I have seen a lot of comments of people saying they don’t like coffee – nor do I. I couldn’t tell you why it’s needed in the recipe but just go with it as the end result is delicious.

Serve it on bread, with cheese and crackers or as a really delicious relish atop of burgers. Serve warm or cold depending on the consistency that your jam comes out. But don’t expect there to be any left – I’m waiting for the jars to arrive before prepping it for the hampers, and I’m worried there may be none left by that time! I'm a little reluctant to try it with cheese and crackers; I'm worried that if I do there might be none left for the hampers!

I found that tomake 8 jars I needed to make the recipe three times, but I also feel like in future I may make smaller jars; the jam is really rich and a little goes a long way.

Is all your shopping done? What are you making for the Christmas period? I think I only have the red cabbage to cook now!

You can find the original recipe here, I found it through the wonder that is Pinterest!

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Posted on December 18, 2014 and filed under Food / Recipes / Reviews.

Where To Stay When Travelling

I love to travel; to see a new city, experience a new lifestyle and find all the hotspots and eateries that I’ve been missing out on thus far. I also really like finding a gorgeous hotel where you feel completely spoilt and luxurious.. For the first night. And then I get bored and lonely and want to be able to cook my own food rather than eat room service, and don’t want to bump into strangers in the corridor. And stuff.

So of course I adore Air BnB. I discovered it this time last year when they sent me a deal to buy a night and the second night was on them, and I’ve not looked back. I love having a base while I’m in a new city and a place to call my own if I am a regular visitor.

Bergen, Norway

From the moment we booked I was happy that we had chosen to book a bolthole instead of reserving a hotel room.  The host was fantastic, sending us information on where to eat, what was close and where to avoid, and for a first experience using Air BnB I was very happy, the apartment was lovely and I couldn’t recommend Bergen more.

Manhattan

Nestled between Bleeker and Hudson in the West Village, this was my crash pad for the five weeks I spent in New York City. Although it was a pull out sofa bed it was comfortable and clean, and I loved it. It felt like I was a Sex in the City character!

Vancouver

The apartment had both ocean and mountain views, and I really miss stepping out onto the balcony and being able to see them. The time I spent in Vancouver was incredible, and it was amazing to be able to stand on the balcony in the centre of Kitsilano and be able to see the edges. Gorgeous.

Have you ever used Air BnB? What was your experience like, and where did you go?

This post is not sponsored by Air BnB in any way, I just love them!

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Posted on December 17, 2014 and filed under Travel.

The Body Shop Advent Calendar + GIVEAWAY!

Over the years, I have had some fantastic advent calendars. Homemade ones by my Mum, chocolate treats from Montezuma’s, the Yankee Candle advent calendar last year from the boy (really thoughtful as I'm diabetic) and a load of those paper ones that are slightly disappointing (where’s the chocolate?!)

So I’m super excited to be part of the Body Shop’s Advent Calendar. I’m not usually one to talk about beauty products but their products are ones I use regularly, and my family had to politely ask me to stop buying them these bath puffs last year when it transpired that I was so tickled by them each year that I re-bought them, forgetting I had gifted them the year before as stocking fillers. But they’re so fun!

I’ve been using Argan Oil products in my hair for quite a while, but was completely in the dark about the benefits of using skincare with the oil in. the body shop have developed a whole range inspired by the Moroccan hammam experience, designed to help you unwind and nourish your skin.

The first one I tried was the Miracle Solid Oil for Hair and Body, described as a boost for “extra-dry skin areas and lacklustre hair”. I feel like the cold weather has given me both these things and I was quite surprised by how healthy a tiny bit made the ends of my hair look. I also loved the body scrub which was a lovely rough texture, perfect for elbows and knees and other difficult dry areas.

The good news is I have a set to give away to you! One lucky reader will win a set comprising of a 1x body butter, 1 x body lotion, 1 x lip balm and 1x bubble bath in the Wild Argan Oil range. All you have to do is enter below,and don't forget to check out the rest of the advent calendar here!

* I've had to take Rafflecopter out as it's messing up the coding of the site, so please comment your Twitter handle in the comments box. All entries already submimtted through Rafflecopter are safe and stored!

Posted on December 13, 2014 and filed under Beauty.

Nordic Cuisine with Martyn Meid

Eating is quite possibly the highlight of my day, and so when Miele invited me to a seven course tasting meal with Martyn Meid (of INK restaurant fame), I was there with festive bells on.

Having visited both Norway and Iceland this year I have been exposed to the Nordic cuisine and absolutely loved it, sushi being a firm favourite of mine and this type of food feeling like an extension of that. The courses were designed to be fresh and locally sourced where possible, and cooked to preserve the flavours wherever they could.

All the courses were served with a complimentary pairing of alcohol (oh lord) and decorated beautifully with pansies.

The first course was an oyster. At this point I was slightly nervous, as the only experience I have had of oysters is my Grandfather insisting we eat them, and them making me think of a sneeze after you’ve been in the ocean. Not the best. These oysters changed my opinion though; oysters drizzled in lime juice, paired with a glass of bubbles.

The second course was turbot cured in apple vinegar with burnt onions – Martyn informed us that sugar is what causes something to burn, therefore bringing out the flavours. OK, it tasted good so I was happy with that! The second course was served with a Pisco sour, which wasn’t my thing so I exchanged it with Erica for her onions, which aren’t hers.

The third course was herring in rapeseed oil with different variations of cucumber, salmon caviar and quails eggs, which we were instructed to eat with the shells on. I did as I was told for the first but it was just too alien to me, so I abandoned the shell for the second egg and found it a much better taste. This course was served with a shot of sparkling gin.

The fourth was goose meat cured in caraway-infused vodka, served with two different types of beetroot. I actually really enjoyed this one which was a surprise as I normally shy away from beetroot, and was served with a glass of red.

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The fifth course was my absolute favourite. Pork belly (slow cooked for 17 hours, obviously) mashed potatoes and green cabbage, served with a glass of pinot noir.

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Next was salted cod served with steamed leeks and avocado puree. I initially thought that the cod was too salty, but when you had a mouthful of all the ingredients it balanced it out and was absolutely delicious.

And for dessert, a sheep’s milk crème brulee.

In all honesty, the event wasn’t what I was expecting AT ALL. It felt a little weird as half of the people around the table were bloggers and the other half were guests that had booked, so the atmosphere was quite disjointed. I also thought that the food to alcohol ratio was a little skewed, although admittedly I’m not a big drinker, but I avoided half the wine and half the shot of gin for fear of having to take a sneaky trip to MacDonald’s on the way home and ruining it all.

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Posted on December 12, 2014 and filed under London.

Top 5 Festive London Activities

Its that time of year again, when there is a chill in the air and there's nothing you dream of more than sitting round a big log fire (if you live in England anyway). Christmas is on its way, and I love to do festive things to get myself ready for the twinkliest month of the year. Here are my top 5 things to do in London town during the festive season!

1) Below Zero Ice Bar, London

Sure it’s quite a touristy one, but you have to do it once and its great fun. Upon arrival you get to don a fur lined cape and enter the Ice Bar – where everything is ice. The bar, the glasses, the sculptures… thank goodness for the thick mittens they give you on your way in! It’s definitely worth a visit, and gets you in the mood for…

2) The Christmas Market on the Southbank

From mid-November, the Southbank is adorned with hundreds upon thousands of twinkly fairy lights, and little grotto-esque stalls pop up and line the river, selling mulled wine and trinkets for the tree. I hear this year there is also a Christmas tree maze!

3) Ice Skating at Somerset House

Make sure you book this one, but there is nothing better to get you into the festive spirit than the atmosphere at an outdoor ice-skating rink with a stunning backdrop. If you don’t fancy Somerset House then they also have one outside the National History Museum, which I think is the most beautiful building ever.

4) Department Store Window Displays

Whether you heart Harrods or are silly for Selfridges, you can’t deny that the huge department stores put on fantastic Christmas displays. Selfridges have opted for the theme of storytelling this year, with each window paying homage to a different tale, while Harrods have a beautiful winter ballet story in theirs.

5) Christmas Lights

It doesn’t matter where you go in London, the lights will blow you away. My favourite this time of year is Carnaby Street (this year they have a fantastic ‘tached Santa) but Regents Street and Oxford Street are the crowd pleasers.

What are your favourite things about December?

Posted on December 11, 2014 and filed under London.

London Walking with GiffGaff

A few weeks ago I was invited to take a walking tour of London, and so despite the grim weather, I grabbed my sidekick Erica and headed off to the IMAX, where the tour begaThere were so many more people there than I expected, and so great to meet up with some favs (Katy, Becky, Haydy and Emsy to name a few!) before kicking off.

The tour was really cool. We followed our guide around Waterloo as she told us tidbits of info about sites that we had passed a million times but not stopped to think about, before heading to the tunnels at Leake Street to do some of our very own graffiti.

Last year we had our Christmas party in a venue in said tunnels, but I didn’t realise it was legal to graffiti in there. It turns out that after Banksy created a piece of work there, people started getting creative and to stop prosecution by the police, Banksy bought the tunnels and people have been happily graffiting there ever since.

The rain got worse and the night got colder so we ducked out of the tour after the Leake Street stop and I headed home to bed.

Thanks to GiffGaff for organising the event!

*This event was organised by GifGaff, but as always all opinions are my own.

Posted on December 10, 2014 and filed under London.

Winter Wedding Inspiration (Part I)

If you’ve been reading my recent posts you will know that I got engaged at the beginning of November, but I didn’t say that we are getting married in less than three months! The wedding date is set for the 15th of February, and it’s taking some military style planning to get it all to come together but I’m really enjoying it, and think I am missing my calling in life!

I’ve got some experience thanks to hungover Don’t Tell The Bride marathons, but the tool that has really saved my life has been Pinterest. It’s been great for saving pictures to come back to later and my goddaughters have whiled time away pinning pictures of the dresses they like and hair styles they approve of.

I’m not going to talk too much about the dress, but I have bought it and it isn’t what I expected. I tried on different straps, styles, colours and shapes but I have the one and I am really excited to wear it. It’s really sad when you have to take it off and put your normal clothes back on! I tested the suitability of the dress by the amount of tears shed by one of the bridesmaids during the fitting. My friend is like a tear barometer!

The same friend also wisely told me to not go for something too alternative hair wise so that I didn’t look back at the photos in a few years and wonder what I was thinking. I think I will go for an up do and I have been given a veil as my ‘something borrowed’ but I am yet to make a final decision. I really like these styles.

We had originally wanted a really rustic look with lavender but given the time of year it’s not going to be available. As the theme we have opted for is peacock, we are going to stick to white flowers with feathers added into the bouquets. I love these pomanders for the little girls too.

There are so many different styles of bridesmaid’s dresses, but strapless seem to be the nicest for my girls. I love the teal and peacock colours, and they all suit something with a bit of detail on the bust. I’ve ordered the bridesmaids dresses and the flower girl dresses have already arrived, and they look so cute! I’ve also got the little girls a fake fur stole each to keep them warm.

What would your dream styles be?

* All images via Pinterest

Posted on December 9, 2014 and filed under Weddings.

All I Want For Christmas....

Christmas is such a fun time of year. The mulled wine, the Christmas lights that adorn the street and the decorated shop windows, not to mention the neighbours near my Mum’s house having competitions to outdo each other on amount of electricity used to light up the street. Think coloured lights and blow up Santas on the lawn. It’s a fun time.

But it’s not fun when you forget to buy someone a present, Secret Santa at the office slipped your mind or someone gives you a gift that you weren’t expecting to exchange presents with.

I always have some extra presents hanging around, either that I would be happy to gift to myself as a ‘Oh dear its January’ gift, or in this year’s case, some extra homemade gifts ready for surprise Christmas guests. Here are my favourites this year:

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One / Bath and Body Works is one of my favourite brands, and I always take a near – empty suitcase back to California and stock up. This fragrance is my absolute favourite (the candles are amazing!) and there is always a spare in my cupboard in case of emergencies. Normally mine.

Two / Everyone loves a Filofax, and I love organisation. Addresses, post its, important birthdays… everything is stored in my purple butterfly one, and I love this hot pink colour!

Three / Candy Skull Biscuits. Biscuiteers is a fantastic little shop in Notting Hill and they decorate all kinds of designs onto biscuits. I went to a cookie decorating evening there a year or so ago and I have loved it ever since!

Four / Flawless makeup bag – perfect for storing all the necessary bits and bobs to touch up over the Christmas period.

Five /Be Fierce, Be Awesome, Be You Candle.  Who Wouldn’t want this?

Six / Boom Box iPhone Case – this is with my little sister in mind, she would love this iPhone case from Not On The High Street (another go to place for gifting!)

Seven / Unicorn Slippers. I’ve actually ordered a pair of these for my Secret Santa this year; I just know she’s going to love them!
 

Where do you go for Christmas gifts? What are you hoping to find in your stocking this year?

Posted on December 8, 2014 and filed under Christmas.

Christmas Crafternoon - Homemade Gifts

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, and for once December is here and I still haven’t done hardly anything for the festive period. It’s not down to laziness, but with an impending wedding and a crafty streak a mile long, I have decided to try and save money and make all my gifts.

Pinterest is a blessing for this, and so I have spent weeks thinking about the people I will be making gifts for and researching the possibilities of what to make. I have realised some easy to make items are way cheaper just to buy (lemon curd as an example) but having had some trial runs and got some great results, I’m confident that my homemade Christmas will go down a storm. After all, it shouldn’t be about the gift, more about the love and thought that has gone into it.

Here are some of my shortlist for homemade gifting.

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One/ Caramel Coffee Syrup Two/ Hot Chocolate in a Jar Three/ Limoncello Four/ Homemade Fudge

My other favourites include Garlic and Rosemary Flavoured Oil and Mini Heart Shaped Sugar biscuits. I've found great deals on glass bottles and little paper fudge boxes on eBay, and so the crafting begins! Unfortunately some of it will have to be left a little closer to the time to make but it's all very exciting.

Have you ever made homemade gifts or cards?

If you are looking for crafty inspiration, check out my Christmas Crafting board on Pinterest!

Posted on December 6, 2014 and filed under Craft.