Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Blogmas Day 16 | Festive Nail Essentials

I'm as guilty as the next person of applying nail polish in a slap-dash fashion half an hour before i'm heading out the door.  And yet i'm still annoyed when I see that it has almost immediately smudged.  Us women clearly cannot have it all, eh?  However, there is a lot to be said for taking your time and making a bit of a 'thing' of properly doing your nails.  Over the past couple of years I have amassed a little kit of products which I know I can rely on to help create a long-lasting manicure and I thought I would share them with you.

Sally Hansen Instant Cuticle Remover & Boots Essentials Manicure Sticks
If there is one thing that spoils any manicure, it's dry flaky cuticles.  The Instant Cuticle Remover makes light work of softening cuticles and makes it a doddle to then push them back.  In the early stages of using this, I had to snip away my fairly substantial cuticle skin (my god, there is no way of wording this nicely), however with continued use it really does keep them in check.

Leighton Denny Crystal Nail File
I very rarely actually cut my nails with scissors or clippers, and prefer to use a crystal nail file.  I bought this file around 3 years ago and let me tell you, it's been well-used.  At first I couldn't quite believe I had spent £12.50 on a nail file, however the promise of a lifetime guarantee really sealed the deal.  The file feels very gentle on the nails - there's no rough sandpaper feel like a regular file.  The crystal file helps to both smooth and seal the edges of your nails.

Mavala Nail Polish Thinner
Not strictly part of the manicure itself, but this is an unsung hero of a product.  As the name suggests, it helps to thin and revive any polishes which have become thick or gloopy.  I sometimes find that my glitter polishes tend to dry out most quickly, so a few drops of this and a good shake and they are back to applying smoothly again.  Apparently this can also thin out the oh-so-famous Seche Vite Top Coat when it starts to thicken.

Essence The Gel Base Coat and Top Coat
I am aware that I have already raved about this recently, but I cannot get enough of this duo.  The base coat has a matte finish, and it feels like your polish then sticks onto the base coat.  The top coat is super glossy, and although it is not marketed as quick drying, it is at least touch dry in no time.  It also lives up to it's gel name in that it lasts and lasts.  I can get about 3 times as long out of my manicure when I use these products - so, for example I can get 2 days out of a normal polish, but i'm still going strong for a week when I use the Essence base and top coat.

Saffron London Gold Flakes and Barry M Treasure Chest
A full-on glitter nail isn't always appropriate - well, I think it's appropriate, but my work may disagree!  So applying a flaky gold top coat is a not-so sparkly compromise.  It can be used as a light coat on all nails, built up as a glittery accent nail, and I love the way it can refresh a 2-day old manicure.  The gold is definitely a staple colour - it seems there is no colour it doesn't go with.

What are your manicure essentials?

Monday, December 14, 2015

Blogmas Day 14 | Make Ahead Cranberry Orange Sauce

Cooking Christmas dinner for 11 people seemed like a good idea at first.  Then, slowly the realisation that I will actually be cooking Christmas dinner for 11 people!  I'm in full-blown planning mode and I'm drawing up shopping lists, cooking timelines and wracking my brain to think of what I can make ahead.  Preparing elements of the meal in advance is essential - if only to reduce your stress levels and increase your level of enjoyment on the day.

Cranberry Orange Sauce is my first make-ahead and it's a good 'un.  I was never particularly fond of the jarred cranberry sauce, which always seemed like eating jam with your Christmas dinner.  This sauce has more of a pourable texture and I think tastes a million times better than shop bought.

This recipe makes roughly a pint of sauce.  Depending on how many you are feeding, this might be too much.  But luckily this sauce also tastes brilliant poured over ice cream and certainly livens up a plain bowl of porridge too.

You'll need:
350g cranberries (fresh or frozen)
200ml water
2 oranges (juice from both and zest from one)
50g soft brown sugar
50g granulated sugar
1tsp vanilla extract
Half tsp cinnamon
Splash of alcohol (I used Jack Daniels but the options are endless)

The method literally could not be any easier:  Chuck it all in the pot and let it bubble away until it leaves a thick coating on a spatula.

Let it cool completely and then you have 2 options depending on when you make this.  If you make it a couple of weeks before, pop it in a freezer bag and stash it in the freezer until the day before, then thaw in the fridge.  If you are only a couple of days ahead, pour into an airtight jar and it'll keep in the fridge until you want to serve.


Sunday, December 13, 2015

Blogmas Day 13 | Christmas Wreath

More Christmas DIY for you today in the shape of a lovely Christmas wreath.  For many years we have opted for a plastic wreath, mainly for convenience really.  However, with Blogmas in full swing I thought I would have a go at creating my very own real Christmas wreath and let me tell you, it's so easy to do!

There's a few things you'll need:

  • A wreath ring.  I have a wooden one but they also come in metal.  Mine was £4 from Hobbycraft
  • Secateurs
  • Garden gloves (the Holly is prickly!)
  • Thin guage wire.  This is from Hobbycraft
  • Foliage of your choosing i.e. holly, ivy, fir branches
  • Ribbon for bow
I started by affixing some cedar bush sprigs.  I think this may be known by a different name in the UK, but my Canadian friend who kindly supplied it knew it as cedar.  I simply snipped the branches into smaller sprigs, about 6-8 inches long, bunched them together and then wrapped the wire round the sprigs and the wreath ring itself, making sure it was securely attached.

I then repeated this, working my way round the wreath..

Once I had had completely covered the wreath with the cedar, my creative juices really started flowing and I added a few sprigs of holly, anchoring the stems into the wreath with a small bit of wire or simply by pushing it into the wreath ring.  Next up I added some pretty little flowering ivy-type shrub and finished with some broom.

Now at this point I should probably let you know that all the greenery I used was foraged from around our house.  I pulled on my wellies and, secateurs in hand, went in amongst the trees and started snipping away.  The general rule I used was, if it was still surviving at this time of year, then it would survive once cut until after Christmas.

Here is the completed wreath before I added the bow

For the bow I used some hessian ribbon I picked up the last time I was at Costco - it is a 50 metre reel so I am wrapping ribbon round everything that does or does not move in an attempt to use it up!  I used this pin to create the bow and it was super simple and easy to do.

All in all this project took around 30 minutes start to finish - not too shabby for a novice wreath-maker like myself.  I must admit I really love the finished wreath and think that it will become a new Christmas tradition for me.


Blogmas Day 12 | Christmas in Edinburgh

No Christmas is complete for me without a visit to Ednburgh during the festive period.  It's a beautiful city at any time of the year, but transforms itself into a winter wonderland, with twinkling lights everywhere, mulled wine flowing and every Christmas song known to man!

In the morning when we arrived we had a wander round the shops on Princes Street (the main shopping street) and even popped into Harvey Nichols for a quick tour of the beauty hall.

Shopping really does build up an appetite, and we were soon on the hunt for somewhere to stop for lunch.  We decided to head away from the crowds because everywhere was packed out and ended up at Reekie's Smokehouse.  The smell of the smoked barbecue meat as we walked through the door was amazing.  We both ordered burnt ends, which are the ends of the beef brisket diced up and put back in the smoker - the result is a chewy bark on the outside and the most succulent, fall-apart meat on the inside.  The fries were salty and crispy - I had rosemary salt on mine and they were a taste revelation!

With full bellies were headed back towards Edinburgh's Christmas, a huge Christmas market with rides, music, mulled wine and food.  We stopped for the obligatory hot drink = I had a Pimms Apple Cup which was spicy and sweet and very festive.

We rounded off our day with a walk along George Street, which has a lot of more up-scale bars and restaurants.  The most pretty by far is The Dome, especially at Christmas where they pull out all the stops and have lights snaking up the columns and large lit wreaths in the windows.  It is gorgeous.

I thought I would share some pictures from our day..


Thursday, December 10, 2015

Blogmas Day 10 | Party Prep Essentials

I almost enjoy getting ready for a party more than the actual party, is that weird?  Probably.  I love a good pamper session and there's not always the time (or inclination) to indulge in said pamper session on a 'normal' day, so a night on the town is all the excuse I need.

I have pulled together a few worthy essentials that I will be relying on to help me look my best in the festive season.

The perfect manicure is an essential stage of the getting ready process.  I have been using the Essence The Gel Nail Base Coat and Top Coat for a while now and can't quite believe how good it is at creating a glossy manicure and being incredibly long-lasting.  The magic comes from using both the base and top coat, which somehow bond together with your desired nail colour sandwiched in between to create a gel-like finish - but without the expense, curing and ridic removal process.

Having a bit of a tanned glow at this time of the year isn't a bad idea either.  I was recently sent the Crazy Angel Midnight Kiss Self Tan Lotion to try out.  It doesn't contain alcohol, parabens or mineral oil and has a really subtle yet pleasant scent to it.  I applied before bed and in the morning it had developed to an even and pretty natural-looking colour.  They also sent the Supreme Goddess Tan Extender which contains a small amount of tanning agent to help with that awkward phase where your tan begins to fade, evening everything out.

My hair needs a fair bit of styling product in it before it'll do what I want it to do.  My normal going-out style is adding a bit of texture and movement with some loose curls, courtesy of my GHD's.  I really enjoy using the Loreal Studio Line TXT Wave Creating Spray on damp hair.  It adds a bit of hold and texture to my hair and helps the curls last all night.  I also use it on my finished style for a bit of extra texture and definition, which it does without feeling crispy or sticky.

What are your party prep essentials?

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Blogmas Day 9 | Christmas Party Outfit Picks Under £50

I'm so envious of those what are off out partying this festive period.  Our office are going for out for dinner but it's not really a dressy affair, or should I say - we're not going out-out!  So instead I thought I would share with you the dresses I have been lusting over which would be perfect for a night of drinks and dancing!

 ASOS Curve Empire Skater Dress with Lace Bib £28.00 - I love a good skater dress, it so flattering and feminine.  This dress is a bit on the short side for me, but teamed with some tights I think I could jut about carry it off.  The lace detail at the neckline is really unusual and shows a bit of the ol' cleavage without being totally inappropriate - you don't want to be the focus of the water cooler gossip the following Monday!
 Billie & Blossom Navy Velour Bodycon Dress £25.60 - This season I have been drawn towards velvet fabrics - this looks so luxurious and the deep navy colour is the perfect combination.  Although this is advertised as a bodycon style, I definitely think the ruching at the front would be pretty forgiving.
 Joe Browns Sexy Shimmering Dress £50.00 - Although i'm not going out anywhere special this Christmas, I'm think this would also be a great Christmas Day dress.  I love the colour and the way the deep v-neckline is offset with long sleeves.  I'm so close to ordering this...
AX PARIS CURVE Sweetheart Lace Midi Dress £37.50 - What is not to love about this dress?  The off-the-shoulder sleeve, sweetheart neckline and lacy print are all working tether to create what is a really smokin' hot dress!

What do you think of these dresses?  Any tickling your fancy for the office Christmas party?

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Blogmas Day 8 | Black Friday Puchases

Black Friday is a new phenomenon here in the UK and has only really taken off in the last couple of years.  You'd be fooled, by the title of this post, to think that it's something I look forward to, but it's not.  I can't help but feel that it's all a bit of a front, 50% off (but look closely for the teeny tiny "up to" which prefixes it), or a couple of brilliant deals to dangle the carrot and get you through the door/on the site and then only marginal discounts on the majority of stuff.

But, this isn't a post about how much I dislike Black Friday.  It's a post about what I bought from the Black Friday deals.  I know, I know..I'm a hypocrite!

I placed an order with Beauty Bay, who were offering 20% off.  The package only arrived a few days ago, so I thought I would share my first impressions.

I first heard about this product when Kate La Vie raved about it.  Deep conditioners are 10 a penny and finding a decent one is really hard, I've found.  I have now used this a couple of times and must say that so far, I'm impressed.  First of all the packaging is so simple, and I love the fact it has a pump.  There is nothing worse that trying to get the cap back on a bottle with a hand full of conditioner!  I have been using 3-4 pumps and this is ample for my shoulder length hair.  I have noticed that my hair has more of a shine and feels incredibly soft, and not weighed down at all.

I am in the midst of a full-blown candle obsession.  I have heard good things about Voluspa candles and when I saw the discount it was a no-brainer.  The scent is Spruce Cuttings, which is like Christmas tree in a candle; it's woody and 'green' and oh so festive.  The metal tin is also gorgeous..I'm such a sucker for packaging!

Colleen Rothschild Clarifying Detox Mask
I lay the blame for this product squarely with MsGoldGirl.  She raves about this brand on her daily vlogs, so when I spied that this was discounted, it went right in my basket.  I love using masks in the Winter; home from work, into my PJ's, mask on, feet up...bliss!  I tried this for the first time last night and it is essentially a clay-based mask which gradually hardens as it dries.  It is packed with charcoal and kaolin clay to help draw out impurities, and micronised silver which keeps bacteria at bay.  It also contains glycolic acid so has exfoliating properties.  After I rinsed it off my skin feels very smooth and not at all irritated.  I think this is the type of mask which needs used on a fairly regular basis (the packing suggests 2-3 times per week) to really reap the benefits so in the run up to Christmas I plan to make a concerted effort to get my skin in tip top shape.

Did you pick anything up during Black Friday?

Monday, December 7, 2015

Blogmas Day 7 | Gingerbread Muffins

 Today I thought I would share these muffins which I am crazy about.  They are lightly spiced with ginger and cinnamon, and have a really familiar flavour which I think is due to the addition of black treacle.  I have topped them off with a brown sugar cinnamon buttercream and let me tell you, it's the perfect combination!  Oh, and they make your whole house smells amazing too.

This recipe makes 8-10 muffins

You'll need:
50g light brown sugar
80g vegetable oil
80g milk
100g black treacle
1 egg
220g plain flour
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsb ground cinnamon
pinch salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

And for the buttercream:
250g softened butter
500g icing sugar
60g soft brown sugar
2-3 drops vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon

Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees celcius.  In a large bowl, combine the sugar, oil, milk, treacle and egg.  I used a whisk which worked well to combine the treacle with the rest of the mixture.  Add in the spices, salt, and then the baking powder, bicarb and flour.  Mix until just combined.  Lumps are your friend where muffins as concerned, as you wan to keep the light texture and over-mixing can result in a chewy muffin.  I used an ice cream scoop to fill some muffin cases which I had placed in a muffin pan.  Pop them in the oven for around 20 minutes, but as all ovens vary, keep a toothpick on hand to test your muffins.  As soon as the pick comes out clean, whip them out of the oven.  

You'll need to cool them completely before staring on the buttercream.  I used my stand mixer to combine all the buttercream ingredients and whisked until light and fluffy.  You could be all fancy and pipe the frosting onto the muffins, but I simply used a palette knife and smoothed the icing on in a semi-haphazard fashion.

I used perhaps the cutest little gingerbread men toppers that I got in Hobbycraft, I mean, just look at them!  I love their little smiley faces..

These muffins are perfect with a cuppa or, if you like living on the edge, serve warm with custard or ice-cream.  You won't regret giving these a try!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Blogmas Day 6 | Jingle All The Way Frame


Pinterest, my friends, is a wonderful thing.  Need to know how to tie the perfect bow?  It's on there.  Need a recipe for creme brule? Yup, take your pick.  My Christmas board is growing by the minute right now, with meal ideas, wrapping, wreaths, cocktails...the list is literally never ending.  I came across this pin some time ago, and just loved everything about it from the style of the font, to that fact it's a shadow box frame which means you can trap little objects between the backing board and the glass.  The Range opened up a new store nearby s while I was in I decided to have a go at making my own interpretation and I thought I would share it with you, since it's Christmas n'all that!

All you'll need to create this little piece of festive art is:

  • A shadow box frame of your desired size.  I picked up this one from The Range at a bargainous £2.99 - Ikea also have a good selection.
  • Something to fill the void in your shadow box.  I picked bells since my wording was "Jingle all the way", also from The Range and £1.00 per pack
  • Printable acetate from Hobbycraft, £2.69 for 5 sheets
  • A printer
  • Scissors
  • Double-sided tape
  • Paper

I love the style of writing so much from this pin that I purchased the .png images as I couldn't find another font which worked as well as this.  Once I downloaded it I printed it onto the printable acetate and trimmed it to the size of the window of my frame.  I used a really thin line of double-sided tape at the four corners of my acetate before securing it against the inside of the glass of the frame.  Next I asked my husband Darren to create a candy-cane striped background on Photoshop for me, before printing it out and trimming it to the size of the apeture of the frame.  This was slightly larger than the acetate.  I emptied the bells into the cavity of the frame, positioned the background and replaced the back board of the frame,

Then I sat back and admired my handiwork for a good 10 minutes.  I may even have sipped a hot chocolate during said admiration.  Hey, I worked hard doing all that cutting and printing!


Saturday, December 5, 2015

Blogmas Day 5 | A Typical Winter FOTD

I have recently rediscovered the Lorac Pro Palette which was laying unloved under my more often used pile of Naked palettes.  It's a real 'staple' make-up item and has the kinds of colours I'm sure most of us reach for on a day-to-day basis; neutrals, a few shimmers shades and some darker crease colours.  The pigmentation and texture of the shadows is spot on, needing only one swipe of the brush and very easy to blend.  

Today I started with the colour Light Pink on the lid and then used Mauve, an earthy mid-tone cool brown as a transition shade.  I then used a smidge of Sable, a warm brown in the outer and inner corners of the eyes in an attempt to create a more deep-set eye look.  I finished off with some Maybelline gel liner and my go-to mascara, Bourjois Volume 1 Seconde Ultra Black.  

For my base I used the Too Faced Born This Way foundation in Light Beige.  I'm completely on the fence about this foundation - it has great coverage but has quite a shiny finish that I'm not sure I'm a fan of.  I then used Kevin Aucoin Sensual Skin Enhancer as my concealer under my eyes and to cover any additional redness.  I haven't used this in a while as it's one of those 'I don't really know what to do with it' products.  It's a thick cream, and I mean thick!  I haven't quite got to grips with this product, but today I warmed a teeny bit on the back of my hand and I was really pleased with how it applied.  Blush was MAC Warm Soul, a great, goes with anything type shade.  I used Maybelline's Tantalising Taupe on my lips then added a bit of shine with Maybelline Petal Plush lipgloss on top.

As i'm say writing this, the rain is hammering on the window and the wind is howling.  Be safe out there guys!


Friday, December 4, 2015

Blogmas Day 4 | Glasgow Botanic Gardens

Earlier this week Darren and I bundled up in many, many layers and headed into Glasgow for the Electric Gardens event at Glasgow Botanic Gardens.  The gardens were brought alive with light and sound, with the plants and trees bathed in various hues.  It was surreal to be strolling around such a place at night at this time of year, but there was a nice buzz about it and nice to see the park, which would normally be deserted, alive with people, light and music.  There was also a performance by fire artists which was a lovely touch.  We stood clutching onto our hot coffee vups while we watched - did I mention how cold it was?

Of course I took my camera along.  I am trying to improve my photography skills and have even moved the dial on my camera away from the Auto setting!  I thought I would share with you some pictures from the evening.


Thursday, December 3, 2015

Blogmas Day 3 | November Favourites

The confusion of me writing a November Favourites post on Day 3 of Blogmas has not escaped me, I've just been liking a lot of stuff this month and thought it deserved its own post before we got too far into the month.  Okay, disclosure done, let's crack on with the good stuff shall we?

First up is Handy Gurugu hand cream from Lush.  I'm not normally a hand cream user, but the sudden dip in temperature has left my hands dry and flaky...lovely eh?  So during a recent visit to Lush with my husband Darren in tow, he mentioned how dry his hands also were and that we should buy some Lush hand cream.  I knew there was a good reason I married this man, I tells ya!  We settled on Handy Gurugu as it had a rich, buttery texture but sank in relatively quickly.  We now both use it as part of our bedtime routine and I must admit it does seem to be making a difference to both of our hands (both sets of hands? All of our hands? Why doesn't that sound right?!)

Next I have been using Schwarzkopf got2b Mind Blowing Fast Dry Hairspray after seeing Kate La Vie rave about it on her blog.  That girl has shamazing hair so I'm more than willing to buy up everything she uses in an attempt to emulate her tresses quite frankly!  I had seen this product when it first launched but to be honest, I wasn't all that sure what it actually did.  The packaging doesn't really shed much light on how to use and the instructions are minimal. I've been using it on freshly washed hair and working in sections using short blasts all over my head.  It claims to speed up drying time which I haven't really noticed, but I tend to let my hair air dry til it's about 50% dry anyway and I haven't noticed much of a difference in that respect.  However, where this product excels is adding bounce and 'life' to my fine hair. I struggle to find products that don't weigh down my hair or make it greasy-looking but this, when used sparingly, really seems to make my hair look better.  I have also noticed that my hair keeps its style better for longer - I even had a day-three good hair day last week!

I've had the Neutrogena Healthy Skin Foundation for some time, but have found that if I wear it in the warmer months it gives me way too much shine.  I tried it early in November and found that the colder weather means that instead of descending into a oily mess, it imparts a healthy glow which, let's face it, is what we all need at this time of year.  It also gives a decent amount of coverage - it's on the fuller side of medium, blends really easy and is generally low maintenance which is what I need in the half light rush of a weekday morning!  The only down side of this foundation - and it's a biggie - is that it isn't, to my knowledge, available to buy in the UK.  I got this while on honeymoon in the States.  This is such a shame, because it is somethin' special indeed.  

What have you been enjoying this past month?


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Blogmas Day 2 | Sass and Belle

I recently came across this gem of a website called Sass and Belle which sells the most adorable things and it's a great place to pick up unusual wee gifts or stocking fillers - its not the 'normal' stuff you see in the high street stores. Here are my top picks. 

*Oh, and I haven't been paid/asked to talk about this site, I just genuinely love their stuff!

1. Glass Pyramid Terrarium I have always wanted one of these, I am terrible with actual plants but you can't really go wrong with succulents.  2. Scottie Dog Paper-clips Everyone loves stationery, no?  3. Forest Fox Snack Box This super cute snack box would be handy for snacks for work/school.  4. Go Your Own Way Banner  5. You To The Moon And Back Cushion Such a simple design that would look great with any colour scheme.  6. Bark Tealight Holder There is too much cuteness - the little heart window...I can't.  7. Letter H Mug  8. Copper Measuring Spoons These are so handy for the kitchen, and they are copper which means everyone needs them, obv.  9. Heart Wall Decoration This just screams blog background to me!  10. Pink Biscuit Cushion  11. Picnic Box Set My niece would love this, can you imagine the cute tea parties?  12. Cream Calendar Blocks  13. Square Photo Frame  14. Set of 4 Coffee Cups This would be a fab gift with some good quality coffee and some homemade biscotti.  15. Retro Measuring Cups These adorable pastel measuring cups make me want to put on a frilly apron and bake cookies.  16.  Around The World Map Cushion

Has anything caught your eye?


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Blogmas Day 1 | Christmas Tag

I'm doing Blogmas!  For those of you who don't know, that means I will be blogging every day until Christmas.  I'm not known for my regular blogging habits so this will be a real challenge for me, but I'm really going to try and see this through - eeep!  I hope you'll stick with me  and enjoy reading.

I tore open the first door on my advent calendar this morning (can I get a high-five for chocolate for breakfast?) , so that means It's officially the countdown to Christmas.  I thought I'd kick off the festivities here on my blog with a Christmas Tag.  I love reading these posts on other blogs - it always leaves me feeling so Christmassy! Right, let's do this!

1. What is your favourite Christmas Movie/s?
It has to be National Lampoons Christmas Vacation! Despite the fact I have seen it more times than I can count, it still has me laughing out loud!  My favourite moment is Clark Griswold's rant.  For those of you who haven't seen it, (shame on you!) here it is:

I also have a guilty pleasure for watching those straight-to-TV movies that are played almost non-stop in the run up to Christmas.  I watched one last week where a technology-obsessed family became stranded in a small town called (wait for it) Nowhere, and in the end they learn what Christmas is really about.  It's called The Town That Christmas Forgot and i'm sure it will be shown again before Christmas, so keep an eye out if you like super cheesy but heart-.0warming movies.

2. Do you open your presents on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning?
We always open our gifts on Christmas morning.  We all meet at my mum and dad's on Christmas morning and my sister sorts out all of the gifts, then we take it in turns to open something.  My husband always wants to open something on Christmas Eve though, so we usually pick a small gift to open before we go to bed on Christmas Eve - usually some cozy Christmas PJ's.
3. Do you have a favourite Christmas memory? 
My dad has always loved putting lights up on the outside of the house, him buying new lights from B&Q pretty much signalled the start of the festive period in our house.  I have so many memories of him up a ladder outside for hours on end, hammering up lights along the roofline of the house and stringing up more lights in the trees.    We would then all be ushered outside for the grand switch-on.  

4. favourite festive food?
I love all Christmas food and for the past couple of years I have cooked on Christmas Day - oh, and there are 12 of us!  I love preparing the menu almost as much as cooking and eating the Christmas dinner!  My favourite part of the dinner has to be the sprouts - I know they are a love-them-or-hate-them menu item, but I am on a one woman mission to convert everyone I meet to the humble sprout.

5. Favourite Christmas gift?
As a child, it was the huge doll house that my mum and dad stayed up most of Christmas Eve building for my sister and I.  My mum says they listened out for every noise, thinking it was one of us getting up, shhhh-ing and leaping behind the sofa with each creak.  I remember coming down on Christmas morning and literally being in complete awe of it, I couldn't believe how lucky we were.  In more recent years, Darren bought me a fancy-dancy stand mixer  - it is bright blue and I just love it.

6. Favourite Christmas scent?
At Christmas we always light the fire in the dining room at my parents house and this is my most favourite smell.  It's like it's truly Christmas when the fire is lit in our house.

7. Do you have any Christmas Eve traditions?
Christmas Eve is usually spent prepping the Christmas dinner; peeling the spuds, chopping veg and cooking the Christmas ham.  In the evening, we usually wrap up and walk to the local pub and have a couple of drinks - well, it is the festive period!

8. What tops your tree?
I shamefully do not have anything at the top of my tree.  In my defence, I haven't found the perfect star/angel yet - they all seem a bit cheap looking.  I definitely need to step up the hunt for this year!

9. As a kid what was the one (crazy, wild, extravagant) gift you always asked for but never received?
When I was 16, I was obsessed with wanting to get out on the roads.  Being too young to drive, I pleaded with my parents to buy me a moped/scooter, which you can legally drive at age 16.  There was no way I was ever going to get one, but it didn't stop my trying.

10. What’s the best part about Christmas for you?
Spending time with family is hands-down the best part.  I love having a house full of people.  I also love watching people open presents, is that odd?

I'd love to know what you love about Christmas?  Also, any ideas what I can get to top my tree?
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