61 articles Tag Christmas

7 Things To Remember This Holiday Season

The holiday season is a fun-filled time where there seems to be something happening every day during the busiest periods. Avoid feeling overwhelmed this time of year by taking these steps to prep for the new year and also take care of yourself.

Tie Up Loose Ends At Work

Before you take your end of year break, prepare your documents so that you can come back and hit the ground running. Settle up all of your projects that have deadlines over the holidays and consider making a checklist with ‘back to work’ you in mind.

Set up an ‘away’ message for your answer phone and email if you don’t need to answer your messages while you are on holiday. Maybe set up a meeting for when you return so that everyone can recalibrate together.

Plan Your Gift Buying

Gift buying can get out of control fast, so make a list of the essential presents you have to buy, then prioritise those gifts.

Set a budget so that you don’t go overboard or overspend on one person (this can get tricky if you prioritise one sibling over another). Go to the mall and tick off the list first, and if the stores are offering gift wrapping then take full advantage of that.

Self-care

With all the family catching up and friends, catering and parties, it can be easy to burn out. Self-care is recognizing when you are burning out and taking some time to recharge. Know your limits when it comes to your energy and listen to your body’s cues to know when you need to have a night in.

A night in can involve a favourite movie and book, or it could be some light yoga and stretches or some meditation. Have a wholesome meal and a good night’s rest so that you are decompressed for the rest of the holiday season.

Manage Your Bills

A tight bank balance can be a huge source of stress for anyone, so make sure that you are on top of your finances this season. Manage your spending with a spreadsheet or figure out the best way to manage your own finances.

If you have annual contracts, such as rent, insurance or medical, then have a shop around for a better deal. Plus, you can search around for things like a cheaper car insurance quote or a better life insurance deal. Making a saving can put you in a good mood for the next year.

Tidying the House

A cluttered home can make you feel busy and stressed, so take the time to declutter your home.

If you live with other people, set a ‘busy playlist’ of some music or a podcast which can be as short as ten minutes to clear the clutter. Once the music stops, everyone can stop tidying. This takes the burden of tidying off of one person and puts a time limit on the chore. There are more tips to get the house in order before the holidays.

 Manage Social Media Time

Everyone goes into holiday hyperdrive on social media and browsing through your friends’ photos is fun, but can be a huge time drain. Turn the mobile ringer off so that a notification doesn’t distract you from being in the present.

The holidays are about making memories, so make sure you have some and don’t get lost in the social media well. However, when visitors are coming over, turn the ringer up in case guests get lost!

Avoid The Tradition Trap

“But this is how we have always done it” is a phrase that can create unnecessary stress around holiday time, even if the tradition is not terribly convenient and even causing you stress.

Instead, rebrand and create your own traditions that work better for you and your family. Try activities that work around your plans, such as morning walks, baking together or just trying something new.

So roll up your sleeves and get ready for the holiday season, the holiday stress does not need to sneak up on you if you take a few steps to prepare for the fun. By managing your mood and your household, this season will be a breeze.

Finding a Winter Coat

I’m in a bit of a pickle at the moment. I’ve got three winter coats, but none of them is quite doing the job for me at the moment. The first is a black wool coat that I bought when I worked in an office. It’s decent quality and warm but is a bit too formal to go with my usual mum uniform of jumper, jeans and Converse! The second is a proper Berghaus hiking jacket which is super warm and weatherproof, but a bit too out-doorsy for every day. The last is a gilet, which I absolutely love, and it would be perfect…if only it had arms! I decided to take a look at women’s jackets from Superdry to see if I could find something which covers all of the bases and this is what I found:

Classic Rookie Fishtail Parka Coat

You can’t go wrong with a classic parka and this one looks lovely and cosy, with the fur trim around the hood. . The parka features a hood with detachable faux fur trim, zip and popper fastening, popper cuffs and four external pockets. Inside the coat is fleece lined and has a drawstring adjustable waist

Luxe Super Fuji Mix Jacket

I definitely like the thought of a longer coat – some of the shorter winter coats are what my lovely mother in law would call “bum freezers” and I have to agree. This jacket offers great protection from the elements while looking really neat and stylish.

Kiki Leather Biker Jacket

I’ve been coveting a leather jacket for absolutely ages and this one is a great shape and style. Leather is great for keeping the wind out, and when you spend a lot of time standing in windy playgrounds, that’s a definite bonus. There’s something a bit egdey about a leather biker jacket and I love the fact that you can dress is up or down, depending on your outfit.

SD Girlfriend Sherpa Jacket

I’ve always had a thing for Sherpa jackets and this Superdry one is so cute, with the patches and little details. Obviously, I won’t be copying the model and going bare-midriff underneath it, but I think it could make a really nice, fashionable alternative to a stuffy winter coat.

Which coat do you think you’d choose from Superdry? Leave me a comment below.

How to Make Your Christmas Cards and Envelopes Extra Special

Christmas cards and envelopesI don’t know about you, but the one part of Christmas that I find a little bit of a boring chore is sending out Christmas cards. It’s not that I don’t want to send messages of good tidings to our nearest and dearest each year – it’s more to do with how boring the cards are. Every year, it’s a conveyor belt of cards with “Dear XXX, From XXX” written inside, shoved into boring envelopes and the whole thing feels like a damp squib. I’ve decided this year that I’m going to make our cards a lot more interesting, and I’m sharing some of the ways with you today:

Ditch the Boring Envelopes

Plain white envelopes might be functional, but they’re hardly inspiring, and blend in with the daily post and bills coming through your door. We’ll be switching things up this year by using gold envelopes from Bestbuyenvelopes  for our cards so that each one looks like a little bit of magic, sitting on the doormat. They’ll definitely stand out from the other boring post!

Use Rubber Stamps

Another thing we like to do is use a rubber stamp and ink pad to put a lovely festive image on the outside of the envelopes. It makes it look so lovely and takes only the tiniest bit of effort. In fact, I highly recommend you get the kids involved with this bit because mine love doing all my stamping for me (disclaimer: I won’t be held responsible if you kids end up bickering over who gets to use the stamp!)

Include a Drawing

Speaking of the kids, one thing that Sausage and BB love to do is draw pictures. They spend a LOT of their free time with a pen or pencil in their hands and love nothing more than creating something for someone they love. Give the kids a pile of paper and ask them to do a Christmas doodle to put in each card. It’ll make a sweet keepsake that people can look back on when the kids are all grown up.

Make More of Your Message

I know it will take a lot longer, but making your message a bit more personal can really improve your cards. Include a joke you think the person will like, or even joy down a happy or funny memory you share so that they’ll have a smile on their face when they read their card. Just a tiny bit of effort can really spread joy at this time of year.

What do you do to make your Christmas cards special? Leave me a comment below, I’d love to hear from you.

Christmas Traditions Worth Sticking To

I’ve written in the past about how I feel overwhelmed by certain elements of Christmas. Being a mum in the age of social media means that as soon as Halloween is over, I’m bombarded by images of huge piles of presents, questions on groups about where people are going to see Santa and what people are loading their kids’ Christmas Eve boxes with. Each to their own, and all that, but I do find it all a bit excessive at times. When I was a kid, Christmas was a little more minimal but just as enjoyable.

We do, however, have a few Christmas traditions that we stick to and I thought I’d share a few of them with you.

Christmas Dresses from David Grant

New Dresses

The girls and I always get a new dress to wear on Christmas day. The key features are that it must be pretty, it must be festive and it must be comfortable! This year, I wanted something special for the girls so I’ve been looking at special occasion dresses for children from David Charles. The designs are stunning and I think Burrito Baby would look so cute in them!

Decorating the Tree

This is something that the girls and I do together every year. We set aside the first Saturday or Sunday of December and get the tree and decorations up. We drink hot chocolate with cream and marshmallows, we put a Christmas music channel on the TV and we get properly in the festive spirit while we adorn the house. It’s one of my favourite parts of the Christmas season.

Films

There are certain films that we watch as a family every year – Elf, Home Alone, Gremlins and The Polar Express, to name but a few. Then, on Christmas Eve, Husband and I watch It’s a Wonderful Life once the kids are asleep and share a few hours of peace before bed.

Wrapping

Speaking of wrapping, ours has become a bit of a regular event. I’m a bit of a control freak and love doing all the wrapping myself, so we usually compromise by enjoying a mulled wine while I’m doing it, with Husband delivering me festive treats like stollen and mince pies while I work. It may sound silly, but it’s something I really look forward to.

Boxing Day

Christmas Eve and Day are usually the time we spend with family, but Boxing Day is spent at home, eating junk (we usually buy party food from Waitrose to pick at throughout the day), watching movies and letting the kids play with their toys. Its great to have some downtime after two busy days and I think it’s something we definitely need, as a family.

Get The House In Order Before Christmas

Get The House In Order Before ChristmasIt’s that time of year when our thoughts are filled with festive plans; where we’re going for Christmas dinner, what’s happening on Boxing Day, who will we see the New Year in with? If you’re someone who likes to host, you may also be thinking about getting your house into shape before the masses descend upon you for eating, drinking and general merriment. But what can you do to spruce the place up without spending a fortune? Here are some ideas:

Flooring

It doesn’t matter how perfect your paintwork is, if your flooring is worn or dated it can ruin the whole look of a house. One of the most economical and hardwearing ways to improve things is by putting down some laminate flooring. It won’t cost a fortune, it will last for decades and you won’t have to worry about someone spilling a glass of Christmas mulled wine on it (which you KNOW will happen if you put a new carpet down instead!)

De-Cluttering

Another thing which can massively improve the look of a house is de-cluttering. If you get rid of stuff you don’t want and keep surfaces as clear as possible, it can even make your rooms look bigger and improve your health because of the reduction in collected dust. If you sell anything of value, you could even make yourself a few quid in the process!

Woodwork

Sprucing up things like skirting boards and dado rails can give the room a much fresher look, and sometimes they simply need a wipe down with a wet cloth or Magic Sponge to get them looking nice again. Look at the bottoms of doors and the areas around handles which can often get grubby over time, especially if you’ve got kids or pets.

Sofas and Cushions

If your sofa cushion covers and throw cushion covers are washable, taking time to stick them through a wash cycle will have two positive benefits – as well as looking cleaner, they’ll smell nice too, which can make your whole living room smell nicer. If they’re compatible with fabric softener, opt for one of the strong smelling concentrated ones for maximum effect.

Carpet Cleaning

If you don’t have the option of ripping up your carpets and laying laminate (if you live in a rented property, for instance), hiring a carpet cleaner is a good alternative. It won’t cost much and will revive the carpets, leaving them looking cleaner and smelling much fresher. You can get spot stain removers and even anti-pet smell solutions which can get your carpet looking and smelling as good as new.

Christmas Preparation

Christmas PreparationChristmas seems to come around earlier and earlier each year. There’s the long school term; a drag which seems to take forever, and when (mercifully) the summer holidays roll around, they seem to come and go in a flash and before you know it you’re faced with the onslaught of the silly season.

For many, what is supposed to be a joyous time surrounded by family and friends, becomes a stressful, unenjoyable holiday that feels like more hard work than the rest of the year. Thankfully you can take the edge off with some canny planning and a fresh outlook, and these are our favourite ways to take the stress out of your Christmas.

Budget (and stick to it)

Money is perhaps the biggest source of stress for families during the Christmas period. Gifts, food, drink, decorations, evenings out; the list is endless. Take the money worries away and you’re already 9/10 of the way towards an enjoyable yuletide season.

By writing yourself a strict budget you can work out how much you have to spend on each necessity and take away much of the indecision that comes with your Christmas shopping by sticking to your budget 100%. No compromising.

Write down all of your expenses, allot each one an amount and lock it down! If it isn’t on your list, kick in into touch.

The internet is your friend

Ordering gifts online is a huge time and money saver but many people forget that you can actually order much of your consumable Christmas wares online too. There are some excellent online butchers who can send you your meats and if you buy alcohol online you’ll likely save a fortune on supermarket prices. Once those boxes arrive with your gin,  turkey and other tasty treats, you’ll feel the relaxation descend. Guaranteed.

Be prepared to say goodbye to the Christmas rituals

Most families have things that they always do at Christmas time, whether it’s hauling themselves through the crowds to the local panto or making sure they watch their favourite Christmas films in the right order, but you don’t have to do the same things you do year on year. Krampus won’t sneak up on you in the middle of the night if you forego It’s a Wonderful Life and spend some time other things you enjoy. When things that are supposed to be fun become a chore, it’s time to cut them loose.

Your house, your rules

If you’re catering for friends and family over the Christmas period, you’re going to want to make them feel comfortable and well looked after, but all too often the hostess (or host) feels like they have to make a raft of changes just to sate their guests, and many of us have guests who are quite happy to be vocal about what they’d do, were they you. Here’s the thing though: they aren’t you. Your home shouldn’t be somewhere where you feel frozen out at the expense of others who are only around for the day – and drawing a firm line will let everyone know where they stand.

The emergency present

This isn’t a new one by any means, but budget for (and buy) an auxiliary gift that will suit anyone – chocolates, champagne, a diary or planner – and wrap it up, just in case you’re faced with an unexpected plus one or someone else that you might have overlooked. Just knowing that you have an emergency gift tucked away will allow you to relax that little bit more.

If your family is packed with kids, maybe include a child-friendly option, too.

Embrace your daily rituals

While we think it’s important to be flexible about saying ta-ra to your Christmas rituals, we think it’s integral that you maintain the things that make you tick day-on-day. If you go for a run every morning, take a bath before bed or enjoy a few pages of your book after lunch, make time for these things during Christmas. You’ll find it easier to keep your head in the game if your simple pleasures are there for you.

Remember Christmas is for you too

We all get caught up in process of making sure our loved ones get the presents they want and our guests are fed their favourite foods and everyone is happy and content – but you must remember that applies to you as well. When you’re doing your online booze shop, throw in that nice bottle of fizz you’ve been denying yourself all year, or treat yourself to some new clothes, so that you can feel on the top of your game come Christmas day. You’ll feel better for it and maybe (maybe) when next Christmas rolls around, you won’t dread it quite so much.

5 Great Luxury Gifts for Your Man

Let’s be honest with each other here, as much as they wind us up, husbands and boyfriends are pretty great (usually). They’re our partners through life, helping us each step of the way! So when it comes to a special event, or when you’re just feeling grateful, it’s nice to get them something super special; a luxury item that they’ll be really thankful for.

These moments of love are great but equally, they come with a lot of pressure. You want to make sure that whatever you gift you choose is amazing and perfect but what are the options? How can you be sure it’s the best one for him? Fortunately, here we have a list of great choices to get your cogs turning, hope it helps!

Watches

Watches are a classic choice. Luxurious, stylish and suitable for both casual and formal events, you can’t really go wrong with a quality timepiece. On top of the general elegance, watches also serve a practical purpose that you can use all-year round (a rarity in most luxury items), so not only are you supplying your significant other with an exclusive piece of menswear, you’re also giving a gift they can actually make USE of. Everyone knows that practical gifts are the best ones.

Cufflinks

Cufflinks are an essential part of any man’s formal ensemble. They’re subtle, they’re fashionable and they can add that little bit of pizzazz to his look. The best part about giving cufflinks as a gift is that they come in so many different styles, making it easy to pick out unique designs that complement your spouse’s specific tastes. Tateossian cufflinks are some of the most distinctive and impressive available, definitely worth checking out to add that extra wow factor to your man’s outfit.

Cologne

Cologne is a typical gift option. Nowadays, designer fragrances can cost a fortune, bumping them up to the ’luxury gift’ zone, but boy are they worth it! There are few things as great as when your partner smells REALLY good, it just makes them more irresistible. On top of the great effects of cologne, as you’ll be the one buying it you can make sure you love the scent before purchasing. It’s a fool proof plan that results in a great smelling better half! Just to help you on your mission for the best fragrance, here’s Forbes’ nine best men’s colognes of 2018.

Sunglasses

The summer months have passed and we’re slowly edging into winter but that doesn’t mean sunglasses are a bad gift choice. Great for any bright day, sunglasses are versatile and useful all year round. One of the best things about sunglasses is the massive variety available. Everyone has different tastes, different styles and different looks, so why not look through your partner’s wardrobe and get a few ideas of the colours that might work? Alternatively, just ask him what he likes! Use articles that show off multiple styles to help you make an informed decision and you’ll find the perfect pair in no time.

Wallets

Last but not least, wallets are one of the few items that most men carry around everywhere, meaning they’re always going to appreciate an upgrade. Before you make your purchase though, it’s worth doing a little research. Take a look at what your partner’s wallet looks like already because clearly, they like that style, then find another that emulates it. It’s also worth keeping in mind the features available and the habits of your significant other. Does he carry change all the time? Then a coin pocket would be appropriate. Does he have LOADS of cards? Then make sure that whatever you pick has enough space to fit all of them. Regardless, there are so many styles of wallet available today that you should be able to find a suitable one easily.

These formal menswear gifts are great but there are hundreds of other luxury options, so don’t be afraid to experiment and pick out something your partner would love. Often the most unusual gifts are also the most thoughtful and the most loved.

Alternative Christmas Gifts for Tweens

There are members of our family who are easier to buy for each year, and then there are some who are just flat-out difficult every bloody year! This year, much to my surprise, one of the toughest people to buy for has been Sausage. Every other year, she’s been a doddle, but every time someone asks me for ideas of what to get her I struggle, and asking her is usually met with “I’m not really sure”. I guess it’s good that she’s either not a covetous kid, or feels like she has everything she needs, but it doesn’t make it very easy for the whole family to buy for her, so I’ve been trying to think outside the box for gift ideas for her. Here’s some stuff I’ve come up with:

Experience Days

Obviously she’s a bit small for supercar track days or afternoon tea, but there’s been a pretty big surge in experience days for kids, with things like kids paintball taking off. Sausage loves doing crafts and art, so a voucher for a ceramics studio would be the perfect gift for her as it would give her an afternoon of doing something she loves, with something to show as a keepsake at the end of it.

Band T-Shirts

Sausage seems to be one of the only 9-year-old girls on the planet who isn’t obsessed with unicorns this year, but she is finding her identity through music at the moment (her David Meowie t-shirt is probably her most prized possession!) so indulging her self-discovery with some cool band t-shirts would be much appreciated by Sausage.  

Books

Sausage has always had books for Christmas (last year it was Pokemon graphic novels!) and she’s at an age where books are still a cool Christmas gift, as long as we opt for the right ones! I’m thinking of getting her a set of The Hunger Games trilogy as I reckon she’s at an age where she’d really enjoy them.

Stationery

Sausage is 100% my kid when it comes to her love of all things pen-and-paper related. Rarely a day goes by when she can’t be found either drawing pictures or writing stories, and I know she’d love a proper hard-back journal for all of her writing, so we’re planning to find her something really funky.

Jewellery

Last summer, Husband and I bought Sausage a Pandora bracelet for her birthday, which means that charms are always a good option for gifts. She also had her second lobe piercing done and has a bit of a reputation amongst her classmates for wearing some really individual and cool earrings (I think today’s earings were BMO from Adventure Time!), so jewellery is always a really good option for us, even if it’s cheaper stuff which can be used as stocking fillers.

What are you buying your tweens this year?

Have Fun With BetFair this Christmas!

Keeping the kids entertained during the Christmas period can be harder than it seems – everyone is hopped up on sugar and expecting constant stimulation and as well as being taxing on your brain it can also take it’s toll on your bank account, too! We try to do a lot of paper crafts and simple games which don’t require loads of cash and resources, as well as baking and other fun stuff around the festive period.

Roll a snowman provided by Betfair Slot Machine Games has you covered with this printable dice game:

We’ve got some other ideas for Christmas paper crafts if you’ve got ids who are raring to start decorating the house, just follow the link to see what we’ve been making.

Working from Home – 5 Things I Love

Working from homeBeing freelance can be a really scary prospect at times; the irregular pay, people taking forever to pay your invoices, lack of sick pay or holiday pay and the isolation are all things which weigh heavily on most people who work for themselves. However, there are some amazing upsides to it all as well (otherwise there wouldn’t be so many people who do it!) so I thought I’d make a list of all of my favourite things about working from home:

Lack of Other People

There are times, usually around Christmas, when I quite miss working in an office because of the lack of Christmas do and general excitement, but then I remember how much I’ve disliked certain colleagues in the past! Having to say a forced “hello” every morning to people I don’t like is something that I really do not miss, nor do I miss that march past the smoking shelter where, despite being a non-smoker, you end up stinking of smoke before you get to your desk. Having said that, if they were all to switch to vaping and use the best e-liquids of 2017, I probably wouldn’t mind it so much!

Flexibility

During the holidays, our routine is usually that we get up, Husband and I spend the morning doing a bit of work, we spend the day with the girls and then we both do some more work in the evening once they’re asleep if we have anything left to do. It means that we get to really dedicate time to the girls during the holidays and still get to carry on earning money. We can also work in other places if we need to; I’ve been known to sit on a park bench uploading work in the past!

Cost

When I met Husband, I was working as a payroll clerk in the NHS, and there were times when it felt like I was spending more money that I earned. Between the travel, needing to buy lunch, the daily scone and coffee run by another staff member, the birthdays that everyone had to chip in for, the expenses really totted up. Working from home means no travel expenses, no temptation for mid-morning pastry and the only birthday I celebrate is my own!

Variety

One thing that I love about freelance writing is the variety in my work, and I think this is actually the main reason that I’ve stuck as it for so long. I’m definitely a “variety is the spice of life” kinda girl, and I do get bored with a strict routine or structure, so this aspect of my work is a massive bonus. One day I can be writing about private education, another about a local shopping centre and the next I’ll be writing about high-end beauty products. It keeps my brain ticking and stops me ever getting bored.

Weather

When I worked in an office, the weather always had an impact on my mood. If it was cold or wet, I dreaded the commute and spent all day wishing I was at home, and on sunny days I’d spend the days wistfully looking out of the window dreaming of being outdoors. These days, I don’t have to leave the house (other than school runs) if the weather is rubbish and on lovely days, I can work from the garden if I want to.

Do you work from home? Are there things you love about it that I haven’t listed here? Leave me a comment below.