Sponsor Shoutout: December


Pink Confetti
Nicola's blog, Pink Confetti, is so varied that it would be difficult to find something not to like. Whether it's beauty reviews, Christmas crafts or informative posts about her recent jaw surgery, there is something for everyone. Like me, Nicola is an avid reader so naturally I love her book posts! It's well worth checking Pink Confetti out.   

Lipsticks and Lashes
I seem to be on the lookout for Christmas crafts in this post. Gemma of Lipsticks and Lashes has two recent ones: The stamped gift tags posted above and these star tree decorations. I also absolutely love her Christmas nail art too. For non-festive treats, Gemma reviews a whole bunch of subscription boxes, such as Birchbox, so she's a great person to check out if you're looking into subscribing to one. 

If you'd like to see your blog featured in January's Sponsor Shoutout, check out my sponsorship page here

My Festive Bedroom


I've already made clear that I love to decorate my home for Christmas. My festive spirit is not limited to the living room though- I also go all out when it comes to my bedroom. Since that's the first room I'll see on Christmas Day, and the location of stocking emptying, it's important to me that it is as festive as possible!

This year, we treated ourselves to an early Christmas present and invested in a feather duvet which is the greatest thing I have ever bought! It's so thick and fluffy, it rustles when you move it and it even smells amazing with a real homely aroma. Since snuggling under the feathers, we haven't had to put the heating on in our bedroom so it's also helping us save money and energy. Perfect!
This year, Christmas bedding seems to be everywhere and I was over the moon to find this incredible red and white set. As you may know, I'm a Christmas purist and all my decorations need to follow a red and gold theme, so this fits perfectly. The repeated motifs of holly and robins have a Dickensian quality which just adds to the traditional feel. I even managed to find an adorable reindeer cushion to perch on top.


All year round, I have fairy lights strung around my headboard but, for Christmas, they are joined by this garland which has additional lights woven within it. I love how well it reflects the frosted wreath above which I purchased at a Christmas market a couple of years ago. Traditional Christmas markets are a wonderful place to find unique homeware for the festive season.

What would Christmas be without some festive candles filling the room with spiced scents? My bedroom cabinet is filled with candles so I can just pull one out and light it while reading in that snuggly, feathery bed. 
As you've probably worked out by now, it's important that every element of my room feels festive. We have a skylight covered with a grey VELUX blind which is fantastic for blocking out light but doesn't quite fit the yuletime theme. I fixed this by covering it in a little red fabric and adding white ribbon with pom pom trimming. I'm like Kirsty Allsop, just without the cameras. And Phil.

With that, my festive bedroom is complete! What do you think? 


5 tips for decorating a Christmas tree


Christmas tree decorating is my thing. I'm a fairly creative person anyway but, for some reason, adorning festive trees seems to be my calling. You know that episode of Friends where everyone decorates the tree really badly, then Monica turns it around and it's perfect? My tree is like that, only I won't let anybody else touch it. For the boring stuff (assembling our artificial tree andh putting the lights on), I "let" Rich do it and shout at him from the sofa when he does it wrong. The actual decorating, however, is my territory. I put my Christmas playlist on, light my Christmas candle and dance away while hanging up my baubles. Perfect!
While decorating this year, I had the idea to create a little post on tips for decorating a tree. Of course, everybody has different visions for their tree, but hopefully these are generic enough to apply to anyone. 

In my case, it's all about being as traditional as possible with red, gold and glitter in abundance. I also adopt a more-is-more policy when it comes to baubles and lights. Honestly, I don't think I'll ever be happier with the meagre (to me) amount I have. We also have an artificial tree as I like the look of a massive, full tree that would be far too expensive to go out and buy each year. 

I should also warn you now that I take my decorating very, very seriously. No doubt some of you will read this and think my approach takes the fun out of it but this is just the way I like to create my tree! 

Theme

This might be obvious, but decide on a theme and stick to it. As I mentioned above, mine is traditional red and gold. It's very rare that I stray from these colours, although I do have the odd decoration that doesn't quite fit. In this case, I keep within the general traditional theme since they're all green, or red and white. This keeps my tree looking cohesive and purposeful. I've seen some adorable retro pastel decorations this year, but they'd look ridiculous on my tree. Too many ideas or colours going on and you'll end up with a mess. 

Positioning

The one thing that will really make or break your tree is going to be the positioning of your decorations. They need to be evenly spaced and well-balanced in terms of size, colour and style. As with most things, getting the foundations strong will make it easier as you go along. 


With our artificial tree, we put the lights on before fluffing the branches. This makes the process of stringing lights up so much easier as we don't have to fight with branches hell-bent on poking us. With the lights on, you can clearly see where you've already placed them and avoid getting clumps or sparse patches. As the back of our tree is pressed in the corner, there is no point wrapping lights all the way around so we string them from top down in a zig-zag pattern.

After the branches have been fluffed (in all directions, not just to the side), we start draping the beads (no tinsel in this house!), again from top down in a zig-zag formation, one colour first, all the way from tip to foot of the branches and then repeat the process with the second colour. 

Before getting out the baubles, we put the star on top of the tree (although I don't actually like the star, so I'm hoping we can buy something different this year). I know this goes against everything you've ever known in terms of Christmas tree decorating but trust me. You know how you put the tree topper on and then all the baubles fall off when you knock them? Have you ever knocked the whole tree over when putting the topper on? (I haven't but it does happen!). Better to knock it over before you've spent hours carefully hanging up decorations. 

Ok, so now you have your tree lit up, fluffed up, beaded/tinselled up and toppered up. Now's the fun part: The actual decorating! While I'm beading up the tree, Rich tends to sort the baubles into both colour and size order (Remember, nobody else is allowed to touch it!). I always start with the biggest decoration and put it roughly in the centre front of my tree. Then I work down from the largest to the smallest, putting up one style at a time. So, for example, I have 10 icicle baubles- 5 gold and 5 red. I'll put all the icicles up, one colour at a time, before moving on to the bell baubles.

As I hang them up, I'm very careful to place them in a vaguely symmetrical pattern to avoid ending up with clumps of the same style and colour together. I want to balance my reds and golds carefully, so I try not to have two reds next to each other. The same goes for the style of bauble- I don't want two snowflakes next to each other, even if they're different colours. To avoid this, I'll put a red snowflake top left and then a second red snowflake roughly bottom right. I try not to do this with too much accuracy as I don't want my tree to end up looking too symmetrical. That would just be weird.

Once I've put the big, cumbersome decorations up, I can fill in the gaps with the smaller baubles, still ensuring I balance them out colourwise. 

Critical eye

After every single decoration is hung up, I take a step back and give my tree a look over. If the decoration I've just placed on the tree doesn't look right, I move it and step back again. Sometimes I do end up moving the decoration four or five times but, for me, it's worth it. Don't be afraid to move decorations around. One bauble might be placed perfectly to begin with but later clash with one nearby. If there's no better place for the second bauble, I'll put the first one somewhere else. Think of decorating as a constantly evolving, very fluid process. I have been known to move a bauble days later because it's suddenly looked out of place. 

Taking that step back to assess your tree can be really beneficial. It's very easy to get caught up in minutae and neglect the big picture, so constantly taking the tree in helps draw the whole look together.  

Timing

By now you'll have realised I'm completely obsessive when it comes to my tree, so it won't come as a shock to say it takes me hours. I'd say on average it takes me around 3 to 4 hours to completely decorate it to a standard I'm happy with. Allow yourself plenty of time, otherwise you'll just end up chucking everything on and saying "that'll do". Having the luxury of a whole day ahead means I'm under no pressure to rush. 

Details

Finally, it's the details that will truly make your tree. I have a handful of really personal ornaments that have memories attached, such as the one I bought at Walt Disney World this year, complete with a photo from the holiday. Don't neglect the area around your tree- a tree skirt is much more pleasant to look at than the cold metal stand. For alternatives to a tree skirt, try popping your tree in a basket or covering the area with some festive fabric. Mine is a tablecloth from Sainsbury's. 

The end result! As you can see, I don't limit my decorations to the tree alone- Consider the wider aspects of your ropm. I love the reindeer head so much that it's going to stay up all year round, minus the fairy lights.

Obviously, Christmas trees are very personal and not everybody will want a tree that looks as traditional as this. If you want a more rugged look, go for it! Please send me photos of your trees as I love to see them! 

FF CXVIII


Carrie looks absolutely beautiful in her white tulle skirt
Louise's photos of Edinburgh at Christmas are breathtaking! 
I don't usually like non-traditional Christmas trees but Amber's is so elegant!
I love Bee's gift guide for book and stationery lovers
Lucie is cracking me up with her Benefit advent calendar reveal.

Other Favourites
A 9 year old girl wrote this beautiful letter after her teacher explained he was gay. It reminds me of a letter I've still got from one of my girls last year that said "I hope you know that what you're teaching is all right". 
What guys think of girls' names. Becky is always on these lists and it's always something bad. Thanks, Mum! 

Book Review: When Mr Dog Bites


When Mr Dog Bites- Brian Conaghan
When Mr Dog Bites has not been specifically targeted at the young adult demographic, but it certainly fits the genre well. A tale of Dylan Mint, a 16 year old boy with Tourette's Syndrome, who finds out he is dying and aims to complete his short, modest bucket list in the few months he has left.

As Dylan manoeuvres through teenage life, he comes up against the problems that young men tend to find themselves in: Trouble with bullies, tricky attempts at seducing beautiful girls, coping with the breakdown of his family. The fact that Dylan has Tourette's is not a focus of the novel but rather a background aspect from which the rest of the story flows.
Although Dylan is only diagnosed with Tourette's, I found his choice of words very odd for a 16 year old with no other needs. His obsession with cockney rhyming slang and onomatopoeical exclamations seem to relate more to somebody with Asperger's or autism, but perhaps this is a symptom of Tourette's that I'm not aware of.

The use of language also bothered me in the text conversations between Dylan and his best friend Amir. As is usually the case with teenage protagonists texting, the use of language seemed cringy and antiquated, a little desperate to seem modern. 
Although interesting as a coming of age story with an unusual element, I didn't particularly warm to any of the characters. I feel as though I shouldn't say this, but Dylan irritated me. He was too naive and senseless for me to really get behind him and, being a teenage boy, had that whiny, self-indulgent tone that seems to be a requirement of puberty. The conclusion is predictable and only deepened my annoyance with Dylan- How could he not see what was coming?

Unfortunately, I don't think When Mr Dog Bites is a book that I will recall well in a year's time. It certainly wasn't a difficult read but there was no substance to it either. 

This book was provided by Waterstones in exchange for participating in an online book club. 

Text Santa 2014


As those who live in the UK may know, tomorrow night is Text Santa, a televised charity appeal raising money for 6 great causes: Alzheimer's Society, Marie Curie Cancer Care, Guide Dogs, Well Child, Teenage Cancer Trust and Together for Short Lives. Hosted by a host of celebrity presenters, including my favourite Ant & Dec, there will be all sorts of fun and emotional events encouraging viewers to text "Santa" and raise money for people who really deserve it. 
This year, there are several retailers teaming up with Text Santa in order to sell charity products, one of whom is The Hut. They are stocking a whole range of fantastic clothing, including t shirts and pyjamas to help boost the Text Santa fund. Not only are there lots of super adorable kids' clothes, but there are also some great items for adults such as the pink snowflake onesie I'm wearing here. 

I can tell you in three words why this is the best onesie I've ever owned: It. Has. Pockets. A onesie with pockets! Oh yes! It also has a popper fastening which is so much more practical. Nothing worse than trying to unfasten 10 buttons in a hurry when you need the toilet! 

I don't know about you, but I'm very excited to see what happens this year on Text Santa, all in the name of charity! 

Disclaimer: I was sent this onesie by The Hut in order to promote the cause. However, I will still be donating to Text Santa.

Gift Guide: Stocking Fillers



For me, stocking fillers are the most fun gifts to buy. It's like a little treasure hunt to see how many wonderful gifts I can find for my money. I've very kindly been gifted some great products for my stocking filler gift guide, all of which are under £13 (and most under £10). Who says great gifts have to be expensive?

Pink Champagne bath salts- Presents for Men- £4.99
For those who love a luxurious bath, these pink champagne scented bath salts are perfect! What could be more indulgent than lying back in a bath of champagne? (Well, kind of!)


Cupcake jar- G Desserts- £3.25
Not only do these cupcakes taste delicious (I can vouch for that!), but the jar they come in is perfect for reusing. Ideal for any fan of upcycling! 

Shimmer Spray- Sienna X- £4.95
Any glamorous tan fan will be very happy to discover this cracker in their stocking. The Sienna X shimmer spray is an easy way to inject some glitz to a Christmas party outfit: Just choose your shade (gold or silver) and spray all over your body for instant sparkling glamour! 

Glasses Case- Which Glasses are Which- £12.95
As a glasses-wearer, I can assure you that taking care of one pair of glasses bad enough. Those people who need multiple pairs for reading, driving, watching TV and so on often find themselves getting in a muddle. Until this very simple but ingenious innovation- Print glasses cases with relevant patterns. Not only does this help stay on top of which glasses are which, but they're also really cute accessories to pop in your bag and keep your glasses safe. 
Clouds make up case- Cath Kidston- £10
Although this Cath Kidston case is sold as a make up bag, it could really be used for anything: Pencil case, wash bag, knitting needle storage... The adorable cloud design is as beautiful as you'd expect from Cath Kidston and the PVC means it's easily washed. Perfect for travel fans. 

My Little Pony purse- Truffle Shuffle- £5.99
Regular readers will know by now that I'm obsessed with retro My Little Pony, so this coin purse is right up my street! Not just for young 'uns, it's also ideal for those with an affinity to quirky kitsch. The pony design is absolutely adorable, with a practical clasp and plenty of room for storing your change. 
Snore Ease- Prezzybox- £4.95
Rich will happily reveal that I can be a bit of a snorer at times. This kooky gift allows you to make your own eucalyptus plant using the included pot, compost disc and seeds. Since eucalyptus has soothing properties, it's the perfect plant for those who have trouble sleeping. 
Notebook (£3.50), sticker bookmarks (£1.95) and Puppy House sticky notes (£1.95)- Eccentric Fox
These stationery gifts from Eccentric Fox are absolutely adorable! Everybody needs an extra notebook in their lives, so why not make it one with a super cute cat on the cover? If you're more of a dog person, these puppy sticky notes are amazing, and come with their own little house to live in. Bookworms will appreciate these vintage-style stickers, which are actually designed as removable bookmarks. Stick them on your page to mark it, and then peel them off without damage. 
Stickers (£1.80), pen, fan pen (£2), plushie and Chi Cat charm (£2)- Kawaii Wonderland
Kawaii gifts are the ultimate stocking flllers for the kooky folk in your life. Kawaii Wonderland is stuffed full of cute pens, including this amazing fan pen, charms and, of course, food stickers too!
Personalised wrapping paper- Wrap.me- £4.99
Finally, let's not forget the wrapping! Wrap.me allows you to choose Instagram photos (you can also upload your own or select from Facebook) to send out entirely personal wrapping paper. Such a wonderful idea! 

There we have it! 15 gits under £13 (and one sheet of wrapping paper). Stocking fillers really are the best gifts to buy. Just don't forget the chocolate! 
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