Sharing a Chair | Book Club

- Book Review: Enough -

by Angela Cox

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Book Peak: A real life story of overcoming, with tools to help those who will no doubt read this and relate on so many levels. Truly inspiring. 

Book Pit: Only that I was enjoying the autobiographical section of the book so much that I wished there was more to read. 

Favourite Quote: 'Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.' - Ian McClaren

Similar Reads: The Art of Being Brilliant by Andy Cope, Eat Drink Run by Bryony Gordon. 

 | FULL REVIEW BELOW | 

 
 

I've followed Angela on social media for two years, you could say that her transformation on The Body Coach plan sealed the deal on starting my own 90 day plan transformation. 

It was always clear from Angela's posts that she had a difficult relationship with food, I knew this because of my own experiences. Many of us will have a reason that we turn to food in times of trouble, and some of us will simply battle with food and body confidence and get stuck on that never - ending treadmill of self - destruction. 

I was stuck. Lost in a maze which seemed to have no exit and I really didn’t know where to turn.

Angela, much like myself, had a trigger. This was something I knew nothing about until I attended the launch for her book and she gave an emotional reading. I don't like to give spoilers in my reviews, and I feel it would take away from the heart of the book, the thread that holds it all together. Be prepared, it is shocking and the desperation you feel for Angela is overwhelming, but she tells the story so eloquently and has turned trauma into tenacity. 

The autobiographical section of the book will resonate with so many readers. Even if your battle has not been with an addiction to food, any addiction will occupy our thoughts and lure us into temptation much the same. We all have a story and Angela's is a brave one that so many of us can learn from. Many times I found myself nodding or even experiencing a few revelations about my own eating disorder that I hadn't yet dealt with. 

...I stayed strong in the moment of self-sabotage and didn’t yield to a binge. This was transformational progress.

Angela has played out the most recent part of her journey on social media, which brings with it an abundance of positives with a sprinkling of negatives too. This aspect of the book will be recognised by most who read it, given that the majority of us have experienced negative comments online and are all growing and adapting to this new world of fast - paced communication.

The second section of the book is brilliantly insightful, and to a planner like me, a real call to action. When you are sat on the edge of a seemingly impossible task, like having to lose a substantial amount of weight, it can appear hopeless. What I love about Angela's approach is that she too believes that breaking it down into smaller chunks or 'goals' and 'tactical steps' will make the task at hand seem less intimidating. We should celebrate the small achievements as ultimately they will add up to a much bigger one. 

... feedback in any form tells me less about myself and more about the person who is giving it.

I powered through this book, so much of it was like reading about myself or seeing my own thoughts written down. I wish I had this book when I was in my twenties because I know it would have pulled me out of that self destructive cycle and the years of self criticism which happened as a result of that. 

As a writer, I can understand why potential publishers wanted to split the book in two - one an autobiography and the other a book of tactics and strategy. However, this should only be seen as a positive, Angela has so much to give of value and I believe this book is just as successful as a singular module as it would be in two. The most important point is that the content draws you in with it's honesty, a characteristic of a great writer and of a great friend. Reading this book makes you wish you could give this friend a great big hug. 

The best people possess a feeling for beauty, the courage to take risks, the discipline to tell the truth, the capacity for sacrifice. Ironically, their virtues make them vulnerable; they are often wounded, sometimes destroyed. - Ernest Hemingway

Angela Cox is now a successful mindset mentor, specialising in one to one sessions, retreats and upcoming event 'Mojo' follow Angela on Instagram, Twitter or check out her Facebook Page for Big Girl's Journey to Lean.  

 

 

 

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BULLET BLOG: CYCLE TWO OF THE BODY COACH 90 DAY PLAN

Lifestyle : Getting Lean with Hypothyroidism

Having done the old plan a few times before, I knew that Cycle Two was going to be tough for me. The only reason I dread this cycle is because the increase in carbs (which I will discuss below) doesn't really agree with me. My body is always more sluggish and my progress slows down when I eat more carbs, however I know this about myself now so I just got my head down and focused on the fact that I would be building some serious muscle. 

How it works.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the 90 Day plan I will just give you a brief overview of how cycle two works. 

 

Month Two | AKA Cycle Two

NUTRITION - During the second month you up your carbs to two meals per day on training days, and you will still be aiming to work out 4-5 days per week - but this time you include resistance training as well as HIIT. So for at least 2 days a week you will be eating low carbs all day as in Cycle One. A typical training day for me looks like this (I usually trained mornings in Cycle Two):

Breakfast - Breakfast Pizza (Post Workout Refuel)

Snack - Rice Cakes and Peanut Butter

Lunch - Almond and Honey Pancakes (Low Carb)

Snack - 25g Mixed Nuts

Dinner - Mixed Bean Chilli (Carb Refuel)

My typical rest days would look something like this:

Breakfast - Coconut and Chocolate Smoothie (Low Carb)

Snack - 25g Nuts

Lunch - Fish Pie (Low Carb)

Snack - Protein Yoghurt

Dinner - Chilli Beef Nachos

TRAINING - Cycle Two is the kind of training I like because it mixes a bit of HIIT with weights and I absolutely love improving on my strength. I always aimed for 5 days training a week so that way if there are days I am suffering with fatigue a lot more, I can let myself off for having an extra rest day.

Workouts are 30 minutes long this cycle, so the time has increased by 5 minutes from last month. You will typically do 5 rounds of weighted exercises such as squats, chest press and shoulder press and then finish with an intense HIIT session at the end. 

Here are a few things from month TWO of the plan:

  • I felt extremely tired and sluggish during this cycle - as I mentioned above I try to eat low carbs most of the time when I'm not doing the plan as this works better for me with my condition. A lot of people with Hypothyroidism actually go Gluten Free completely. 

 

  • I didn't see a lot of physical changes throughout the cycle which can be disheartening when you are looking for NSVs (non scale victories) to help you get through and motivate you. However, I know I am edging ever nearer to my goal and gaining muscle at this point, so I tried not to let it get to me too much and stayed focussed. 

 

  • It was Easter during the cycle so I added on some time at the end. I was completely lured in by Easter because our house was full to the brim with chocolate (that's what having children does - and I didn't want them to eat it all did I?!)

 

  • I did get bored with this cycle very quickly, I know this is a mental battle because I wasn't seeing any results, and in fact as you'll see from my photos, it seemed as though the carb bloat actually hid the progress I'd made in cycle one. The best thing for me was to move on quickly to the next cycle with no break as demotivation can lead to lower restraint in my experience. 

So here are my all important results:

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Of course I saw these numbers and felt pretty disappointed. My weight went up and where my inches did drop they didn't drop by much at all. My progress is definitely slowing down the further along I get but those last pounds of fat are always going to be the most stubborn.

I've also started to accept genetics a lot more - they play a major part and are a big reason why you should never compare with someone who has always been a size 8, when you're naturally a size 12. The smallest I've ever been is a size 10 and I have reached that size now, but I'm the fittest and healthiest I've ever been in my life so that's the added bonus. 

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So when the numbers aren't saying much I go back to the photos. At the end of the day this is what we see in the mirror and is usually where we want to see change when it comes to confidence and wearing the clothes we like. This is a major factor for me in body confidence because I want to express myself through fashion and this just wasn't possible when I was at my biggest. 

Though the changes are minor I can see that my legs are more toned, this is a big deal for me as one of my genetic traits is having big thighs and wide calves. I have a much more defined collar bone and let's just say those squats are paying off! 
 

I have also been measuring body fat % and muscle gain on a Boditrax machine at my gym, despite the above numbers my muscle mass has increased from 48.7% to 50.2% and my body fat has decreased from 28.7% to 28.2% so something is happening beneath the surface.

If, like me, you suffer from a metabolic disorder then I urge you to take as many measurements as you possibly can along with photos and body fat %, as this will give you a much more rounded view than the scales ever can. 

If you have any questions about how I keep fit with Hashimoto's then please get in touch - I love talking to other people who are just as determined about their health!

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Bullet Blog: Cycle One of The body coach 90 Day PlanSharing A Chair

Lifestyle : Getting Lean with Hypothyroidism

 

 Left: 2016 first plan photo. Right: Beginning of Cycle One February 2018

Left: 2016 first plan photo. Right: Beginning of Cycle One February 2018

I found the Plan really easy to get into this time around (I've done the old version of the plan twice previously). I'm not sure if it was the brand new recipes and fresh set up or whether I was just mentally ready to start seeing results again. Either way, I was grateful for the motivation because that is the one thing between staying put or moving forward.

 

How it works.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the 90 Day plan I will just give you a brief overview of how this first cycle is laid out. 

Month One | AKA Cycle One

NUTRITION - During this first month you only eat carbs after a workout, and you will aim to work out 4-5 days a week. So for at least 2 days per week you will eat no carbs at all. A typical training day for me looks like this:

Breakfast - Cocoa Coconut Pancakes (Low Carb)

Snack - Apple Slices and Peanut Butter

Lunch - Mac 'n' Cheese (Post Workout Refuel)

Snack - 25g Mixed Nuts

Dinner - Prawn and Chorizo Stir Fry (Low Carb)

My typical rest days would look something like this:

Breakfast - Peanut Butter and Jam Smoothie

Snack - 25g Nuts

Lunch - BBQ Turkey Meatballs

Snack - Protein Yoghurt

Dinner - Chicken Cashew Curry

TRAINING - Cycle One is solely HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) and you aim to do 4-5 sessions per week (one per day only) for 25 mins each time. You would essentially do different moves for 40 seconds on followed by 25 seconds rest and you complete 3 rounds, but this does varies from workout to workout. 

Here are a few things from my first month of the plan:

  • I didn't stay away from the sad step, I find this is really difficult when you have hypothyroidism because weight loss is like walking a tightrope. There is a fine line between losing fat, water retention and building muscle and Hypothyroidism doesn't seem to care if you are working your butt off, it will increase your weight with no warning or visible reason.

 

  • At 5'2" and weighing 11 stone 9lbs it seems obvious I was overweight. However, looking at photographs of myself on my wedding day at the same weight - I am carrying significantly more fat. This helped me to gain perspective when this months results came in because fat loss is so much more than the scales.

 

  • I had a few periods of complete exhaustion. There were two days halfway through when I could not exercise, luckily they were at the beginning of the week so I overcame it by making them my rest days. The tiredness was a little concerning as I kept falling asleep throughout the day (luckily I'm home all day) and I wasn't sure if it was thyroid problems rearing their ugly head - fortunately, after two days rest and early nights, it ebbed and my energy levels went back to normaI. 

 

  • I had one treat on Valentine's day but I allowed for this by adjusting my day, making sure HIIT was before dinner and I had eaten strictly on plan the rest of the day. I had absolutely no guilt about this because it is a lifestyle change and I was back to being completely focused the next morning.

 

  • In the final week of the plan I did find my restraint starting to deplete a little, I was getting bored of HIITs and just looking forward to Cycle Two and getting back to lifting weights, which is what I love. I like doing HIITs as part of a variety of workout methods but when it's the sole method it does become a little boring. As soon as I feel like that I know it's time to change things up so I submitted my results and I'm waiting for Cycle Two to be delivered.

So here are my all important results:

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Overall I felt a little disappointed. I worked extremely hard and only lost a few pounds. This is the continual struggle of Hypothyroid, it doesn't help that on the plan I think they put me on higher calories than I would allow myself with such a slow metabolism. That said, I fully trust the plan, it's all going in the right direction and seeing my photos showed me that sometimes it's not all about the numbers. 

 Half and inch lost on the waist makes a big difference to look at!

Half and inch lost on the waist makes a big difference to look at!

 A slight tummy shrink and a perkier 

A slight tummy shrink and a perkier 

So now I'm just waiting for Cycle Two to hit my inbox. I'm not a fan of increased carbs as I don't react well to them, but I am very much looking forward to building muscle in the gym again.

In the meantime I always relax for 1 or 2 days and have a little of what I fancy without going too crazy. This isn't the approach for everyone, but for me it's realistic and I miss a pizza or some sweeties so I find if I allow myself a little of what I like, I'm even more ready to attack the next 30 days. 

If you're doing the plan at the moment then I wish you the best of luck, if you're thinking about starting then I couldn't recommend it more. You can sign up on Joe's website, where you will also find my guest blog about staying focused when illness or injury hits during the plan. 

SHARING A CHAIR | Blog

A Newborn, A Toddler and Hashimoto's Thyroiditis.

HI MAMA LETTERS | HYPOTHYROID MUM

Hi Mama,

As you lie there, listless on the floor next to your screaming 6-month-old daughter, your son safely preoccupied with dinner, I know you are afraid. You don't know what is happening to your body, and although the random shards of doubt try to pierce your thoughts with lies 'you're depressed', 'you're going crazy', deep down you know something else is wrong. 

 
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That night you will take off in the car like a cliché. Driving to the highest point you can find to breathe in the freshest air available. Whatever this is, it is suffocating. Your husband will be worried. 

You hear the words of others trying to reassure, but they actually lead you further away from the truth, 'two children under two is bound to be tiring', 'you're doing too much, with all this new exercise'. Your children both sleep through the night, and until two days ago the new lifestyle was making you feel the best you've ever felt. You are making inspiring moves to be better, physically and mentally and your body repays you by attacking you. Literally.

You will scream when people suggest you are depressed. You can see your life and how beautiful it is, how happy it makes you, but it is on the other side of a wall. It's out of reach. You ask yourself, perhaps this is what depression feels like? 

When you finally decide to seek help, it won't be because of the exhaustion, or the weakness in your arms and legs and it won't be because the darkness is quickly crawling into your eye line. It's the pins and needles that creep up your arm that start to scare you, like tiny knives prodding you to wake up to reality. 

The nurse practitioner is thorough, he suspects carpal tunnel and perhaps some strange virus. He is concerned about the exhaustion so requests an 'MOT'. Thank goodness you didn't listen to outside voices, thank goodness you listened to the still small voice inside. 

"You'll hear back about the blood test by the end of the week."

When the phone rings at 4:30 pm that same day and you hear the Dr state his name on the other end of the phone, your heart will skip faster than you thought possible. This confirms it, something is not right.

"You are very lucky the Nurse that you saw today was so thorough. Your Thyroid has completely stopped working, probably several months ago." You learn later that you have an autoimmune disease called Hashimoto's Thyroiditis, and you will learn over time that the state you were diagnosed in is very rare and was found just in time. 

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You won't have any idea the ordeal you are about to undertake. It may feel like an ending and you will cry with relief that you have answers, but this is only the beginning. You need to remember how well you know your body and hold onto that. This is a tool that will keep you sane through the weeks and months that follow. You need to remember that being healthy is paramount over body image, something you now have limited control over with this disease. 

At times you wonder if you will ever feel normal again, if you will stop snapping at your husband and children, and if your marriage will survive such a huge challenge.

Let me tell you that you are so much stronger than you will ever have imagined. Most people will not understand the gravity of what you have to deal with, but the more you talk and write about the issue, the more you will find friends who suffer with you and support you through it. But you will learn it is something that cannot truly be understood unless you go through it.

Most of all you will be surer than ever that you married the most wonderful man. He will take over with the children when you are too tired to function, he will take the time to research things with you, he will cook weeks worth of meals for you to keep lifestyle goals on track and he will support and inspire you to be the best you can be each and every day. Through sickness and in health.

There is still much that you don't understand about your body, and you live in hope that one day it will fix itself. For the time being, you are told it is permanent but you have not allowed any of this to hold you back, in fact, you are reaching goals all the time. You will surprise yourself with how much you have achieved when you come out the other side of this debilitating time of learning and healing. 

 
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Never forget that yes there are others with health problems much worse than yours, but it's not a competition and you have just as much of a right to voice how you feel. I know you feel guilty about complaining, but sometimes it's all you can do to get through. 

I now know you can take anything life throws at you and you will overcome it wonderfully. 

Rebecca

 

Original letter written for Hi Mama Letters.

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How to take better care of you in 2018

Bullet Blog | Self-Care

 

Mood: 🙃 🙏🏻 🥑 🛁

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 'Self - care', it's happily replacing the term 'New Year, New You' and if you ask me (you didn't, but let's pretend you did) I'm all for it. I've spent far too many years being awful to myself, not taking enough care of my physical or mental health. In 2016 after the birth of my daughter something clicked and I took a leap in attitude to change this. With the help of the inspirational Bodycoach and unending support of my husband I lost a lot of body fat and fell in love with the Gym. 2017 was the year of the mind for me and I tackled some big hurdles with my anxiety and mental health. Now I know the two go hand in hand so this year I'm all about looking after myself, body and mind. Here are my tips if you want to get on board!

 

  1. Baby Steps - no matter how you plan to tackle your wellbeing this year, my number one piece of advice is to take it slowly. As soon as we say we're going to overhaul our diet, exercise or commit to completing a giant list of tasks (or all three), we are setting ourselves up for failure. Too much too soon. Take one thing and then break it up into bite sized chunks, making little changes that you build upon is much more sustainable.
  2. Add Something - I find adding to something I already do helps me to not feel overwhelmed. For example I help to walk my Nana's dog every evening, so instead of walking with her I now run with her and it doesn't take anymore from my day or my brain!
  3. Write it Down - Whether it's your nutrition or your house clutter you are tackling, things feel that much better when you write them down. When I do this I find it isn't so overwhelming and not as bad as I thought. I then have the satisfaction of ticking it off when it's done. 
  4. Do Not Limit Yourself - Don't put a time limit on your change. If you say 'I'm going to get fit by summer', and then you don't quite manage that part of your plan, how are you going to feel about yourself? Only commit to things that are going to improve your attitude to yourself, and don't put limits - you have the rest of your life to achieve and slow progress is still progress. 
  5. Take Baths - We can't all take a regular spa day, it's pricey and it's time consuming. What we can do is give ourselves a little pampering at home whether that is taking a bath, painting nails, looking after your skin with a little face mask or just simply sitting quietly in a room with some scented candles. 
  6. Make Time - Leading on from the above it is important to find time. It's funny how now I'm a busy mum of two I realise just how much time I have in my day and I manage to fit a lot more in. I used to have an excuse for everything but now I know I can fit a little of everything I enjoy into my day if I prioritise my time and use every free minute wisely. It takes practice but if I can do it - trust me you can too!
  7. Read - You may not be a big reader, but I think reading is such a great way to unwind. So many people I speak to say they don't have time for a book. But we all find the time to scroll on our smartphones nowadays so if we cut back on this (good for the soul) then trust me you'll find an extra half an hour. If you don't believe me then download the app 'Moment', and see how much time you're spending on your phone, you'll be in for a shock! I find reading before bed helps me relax into sleep naturally rather than screen time which actually keeps you wired.
  8. Forgive yourself - This is a big one for me. When I first had children I struggled so much with not being able to keep on top of things. Before I would pride myself on a dedicated day to clean the house, keeping on top of washing, writing thank you cards and sending out birthday cards and gifts on time. I just don't manage this anymore and I consider myself a pretty organised person. You have to learn to forgive yourself the little things and let them go, we spend too much time measuring ourselves against an invisible standard. Set a new standard - one that ebbs and flows with the fluctuation of YOUR life.
  9. Clear the clutter - Have a good clear out of stuff. My mind feels so overwhelmed when my house is cluttered and all I can see is stuff everywhere. It's very cathartic to rid little corners of your home of clutter - it will have the same effect on your mind. Remember write a list i.e. under stairs cupboard, sort computer files, tidy bookcase, shred paperwork, and then just aim do one a month maybe even just doing a little bit each day when you walk past.
  10. Take walks - If you aren't one for the gym, running, or high impact exercise then just go for a 10 minute walk. I find even just going for a 15 minute walk around the block each day clears my head and gives me breathing space. Sometimes changing the air is all it takes and if you can listen to some calming music whilst you do it, then all the better.
 
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So remember it's all about the little changes, over time these will have a big effect on your wellbeing and you may find there's a little room to make another change, and so it will continue like that. The more positive you are the more, the more you will welcome positive change. 

Take care of you

Rebecca is running everyday in January to support Mind Charity and their R.E.D. January campaign

You can show your support too by sponsoring Rebecca on her Just Giving Page: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/reb-does-red2018

Thank You🏃🏻‍♀️

Sharing a Chair | Blogmas

 
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Blogmas Day 24 | TRUE CHRISTMASSharing a Chair

The true meaning of Christmas

On the final day of Blogmas I felt it all too important to reflect on the wonderful meaning of Christmas and why we celebrate to this day. Crafts and baking aside the thread amongst it all is love and giving - characteristics we have received from the greatest gift of all, Jesus Christ. 

 
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For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
(Isaiah 9:6)

Christmas means different things to different people, but to most of us it will mean spending special quality time with family and friends, showing how we care for one another by celebrating with food and the exchanging of gifts. 

The celebration of Christmas shifted more towards Santa and gift exchanging in the mid 19th Century, rather than focusing on the advent of Christ and giving to those less fortunate without expectation in return. Christmas can get very extreme and the true intention of the season gets lost amongst the madness of consumerism and commercialism. 

Giving to our friends and loved ones is by no means wrong, but it is good to take stock and remember why it is we are doing all of this so we don't become overwhelmed and lose sight of what is important.

When we say 'the true meaning of Christmas' we mean to reflect on why we came to celebrate in the first place. Christmas is a direct shortening of 'Christ's Mass', commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ. 

At Christmas we celebrate the ultimate gift. The gift of Jesus from God Himself. 

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

John 3:16-17

Christmas is a time to reflect on all we have been blessed with, but to also remember those less fortunate than ourselves who perhaps will not experience the same Christmas we will. 

Amongst the madness of shopping, expectation and the stresses of cooking for lots of people, there is a centre of peace and there lies the real reason for the season. 

Nicky Gumbel puts it perfectly when he says "..the point of Christmas is Jesus Christ. At Christmas we celebrate the birthday of the most important person who ever lived. He is the centrepiece of our civilisation. After all, we call what happened before his birth BC and what happened after 'AD'. 

 
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Let's make sure we reflect on why we are giving this Christmas, and celebrate the greatest gift we could have ever received. Remember that the joy of Christmas can be enjoyed all year round if we centre our hearts with Him. 

🙏🏻 Merry Christmas🙏🏻

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Blogmas Day 23 | CHILDREN'S BOOKS Sharing a Chair // BOOK CLUB

Christmas Book Picks: Children

We love story time in our house and Christmas Eve is the perfect opportunity to get out the favourite Christmasy books. We keep ours safe, stored with all the decorations throughout the year so we get to discover them all over again in December. Here are a few of our favourites.

 
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The Jolly Christmas Postman

By Janet & Allan Ahlberg

 

 - This book is lovely, with interactive bits for the children to pull out and look at such as letters and cards. It integrates classic fairytales such as Goldilocks and Jack & the Beanstalk which many children will recognise. 

 
 
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The Night Before Christmas

 

By Clement C. Moore & Niroot Puttapipat. This is a classic Christmas story, but we love this pop up version with silhouette illustrations that are just beautifully intricate.

 

 
 
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God Gave us Christmas

By Lisa Tawn Bergen. This is a lovely story that combines the true meaning of Christmas with the image of presents and Santa Claus. It shows that the two can live side by side but shows us the joy and importance of remembering God at Christmas time. 

 
 
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Stick Man

By Julia Donaldson. No one writes children's books like Julia. Now a short film, this tale is all about a Daddy Stick Man trying to get home to his family at Christmas. Perfect rhyming prose for little ones this Christmas. 

 

Other books we love:

  • The Snowman | By Raymond Briggs - What a classic, it's a bit of an obvious one so we haven't included it in the above list but it would just be totally wrong not to mention it at all. 
  • The First Christmas | The Bible - We read this lots throughout December in lots of different formats - but each and every one is just as special as the other. 
  • The Gruffalo's Child | Julia Donaldson - This snowy follow up to the popular story of The Gruffalo has also been made into a Christmasy TV short and is a favourite all year round in our house. 

What are your children's favourite stories to read this time of year? Or what do you remember reading as a child at Christmas time? Let me know! 

Sharing a Chair | Blogmas

 
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Blogmas Day 22 | CHRISTMAS CAKESharing a Chair

Alternative Christmas Cake

I'm not a fan of the classic Christmas treats, the fruity Mince Pies, Christmas Cake and Christmas Pudding are not my thing. So every year I make a Guinness Cake for my Dad which has become a festive favourite.

 
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The cake is dark and very moist with a white fluffy cream cheese topping, so looks precisely like a frothy pint of blakc gold. The recipe does involve a small amount of Guinness but mixed with Cocoa and butter it makes for a dark chocolatey sponge. I use Nigella Lawson's recipe however I do add my own little twist just to make it a little more festive and that bit more indulgent. 

For the topping, Nigella suggests using double cream but I substitute this with Bailey's Extra Thick Cream which is available at Christmas from Tesco as well as some other supermarkets, I'm sure. I love using this because it adds a little alcoholic kick and stays in keeping with the Gaelic theme. 

I wholly recommend this cake if you love a chocolate cake and especially if your partial to a bit of Bailey's at Christmas. I'm off to have a slice. 

 

 

Sharing a Chair | Blogmas

 
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Blogmas Day 21 | NO BAKE TREATSSharing a Chair

No Bake Christmas : Tunnocks Puddings

 

Today I am going to show you how to make another easy festive treat with minimal work involved - the best kind! 

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Ingredients: 

  • Tunnock's Teacakes
  • Icing Sugar
  • Water
  • Green and Red writing icing OR Berry and Holly sprinkles.

Method:

  1. Mix two tablespoons of icing sugar in a bowl with one teaspoon of water. Add more water or icing sugar until you have a thick consistency but not too thick as it needs to be able to run over the teacakes. 
  2. Using a teaspoon run the icing sugar over the top of the teacakes one by one. Encourage the icing sugar to run down the sides of the teacakes. If you are lucky enough to find some Berry and Holly Sprinkles then you can add these now before the icing has set so they stick nicely. Once they all have icing place them on a tray or plate to set in the fridge.
  3. Once the icing is set you can then decorate them using the writing icing if you are using some. I start by doing holly leaves (see pic below).
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4. Next I add 2 or 3 red berries with the writing icing to complete my holly.

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That is it! How easy is that? Such an easy little Christmas treat that you can add to a spread and will look very cute next to your no bake Reindeer Pops.

🍭 LAZY BAKING WINS! 🍭

 

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Blogmas Day 19 | CHRISTMAS EVE 

In some countries and cultures there are traditions that centre around Christmas Eve. In some countries like Germany, it is the day that the Christmas Tree and any greenery such as Mistletoe or Holly is brought into the house and it isn't to be brought in before that. It's not a day that is celebrated as much here in the UK but in our family it definitely marks the beginning of the celebrations. Here are a few of my Christmas Eve traditions over the years.

  • The Younger Years - My Christmas Eve would be spent at home, watching a Christmas film and putting all the presents under the tree and having one cheeky squeeze of each present. I would then put out all the mince pies for Father Christmas and carrots for the reindeer of course. I'd probably be too excited to sleep and wake up every hour until I tried waking my family at 5am...I never got away with that.
  • The Teenage Years - This would definitely still involve the tradition of present placing, however it definitely became something of a tradition to go out celebrating with my friends. I was usually back from University or finishing work for a few days so I was ready to let my hair down. My mum wasn't a fan of this time period - especially the Christmas Day hangovers...sorry mum.
  • With My Husband - Before Children ruled the roost over here, we really enjoyed going out for a meal together on Christmas Eve. It was a really lovely chilled out evening and the tradition started because this is precisely what we did after we got engaged on Christmas Eve 2011.
  • With Our Children - We're still working out traditions with the Children, mainly because we are usually spending Christmas Eve in a different place with different family members every year. But I like to give them a new Christmasy book to read at bedtime with some new cosy pyjamas, along with all the things I used to do when I was little - getting ready for Christmasy visitors in the night. 

🎄What's your Christmas Eve like?🎄

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Blogmas Day 18 | CHRISTMAS SONGS

My Favourite Christmas Songs

There is nothing that gets me in the festive spirit like a good Christmasy song or carol.. I pretty much love all Christmas songs and all of them hold special memories for me, but these listed here are extra special. Going to a carol concert or evening at church is a highlight of the season for me.

 

This classic reminds me of being a little girl and having the best Christmas and New Years Eve celebrating with  people from my close and extended family. Being that my dad is from a large Irish family  it makes sense that this one is so special to me. 

 
 
 

This has to be the most popular Christmas song doesn't it? I absolutely love it and when I hear it, it really makes the start of the season for me. I have to admit though that by Christmas Day I've heard it enough and I'm ready to pack it away for next year. 

 
 
 

This is another nostalgic one for me. It strangely reminds me of putting decorations on the tree, and my teenage years. It's definitely a party song and I can't help but do some immense shoulder dancing if it comes on in the car. 

 
 
 

I actually did Spanish at University so perhaps this is a little nod to that, but I also have quite a few Spanish friends so I love hearing this one at Christmas. I like that it's a little break from the norm. 

 
 
 

This is without a doubt my favourite Christmas Carol. It embodies the true message of Christmas and no matter how many times I hear it, it always gives me goosebumps. This version by Kings College is stunning. 

🎶 Which is Your Favourite?🎶

 

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Blogmas Day 17 | NO BAKE TREATS

 
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No Bake Christmas : Reindeer Pops

 

There is so much cooking to be done at Christmas that thinking about baking and making sweet treats from scratch too can be so overwhelming. I've got a couple of treats that people always enjoy at Christmas time in our house and they do not require any baking AT ALL. All you have to do is decorate, and that's the fun part anyway, right? 

In today's blog I am going to show you how to make these very cute Reindeer Pops. They are in fact, chocolate covered Oreos! 

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Ingredients - 

  • Pack of double stuffed Oreos (or normal if unavailable).
  • 200-300g Milk Chocolate
  • White chocolate drops
  • Smarties
  • Pretzels (sticks or small original)
  • Lollipop sticks (or if you don't have double stuffed Oreos then use cocktail sticks)

Method:

  1. Break all your chocolate into squares and place in a microwavable bowl. Heat on full power for 30 secs. Take the chocolate out and stir, then repeat for 30 sec intervals until completely melted.
  2. Lay out baking paper on a baking tray or plate. Put cocktail or lolly sticks in the cream layer of your Oreo - between the two biscuit layers.
  3. Holding your biscuit by the stick dip it into the melted chocolate and move around gently until the whole biscuit is covered. Once coated, place it onto the baking paper and repeat until all oreos are covered. 
  4. Whilst the chocolate is still warm and runny, place two white chocolate drops for the eyes and a Smartie for the nose on each of your biscuits.
  5. If you are using curly pretzels you will need to cut them in half to create the antlers, or you can use pretzel sticks like I have. Dip the end of your pretzels in the bowl of melted chocolate to act as a glue and attach to the top of the biscuit.
  6. For a finishing touch, use a spare cocktail stick and dip it into the bowl of melted chocolate. Use the chocolate covered tip to put a dot on each of the white chocolate drops to create eyes. 
  7. All that's left to do now is pop your tray or plate of Chocolate Reindeer Pops in the fridge for the chocolate to harden. When it's done it should look something like the picture below. Then it's time to put out for your guests (or not!) If you can get hold of some Oasis (floral foam) the lollipops will look great displayed upright and you could add ribbon and a few flowers to hide the foam. 
 
 
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🍭 Lazy Baking Wins! 🍭

 

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BLOGMAS DAY 16 | TRADITIONS

My Christmas Traditions

There is nothing I love more than reminiscing about Christmas of years gone by and discussing all the traditions that have come about and how they started. What I love even more, is hearing all about the traditions of other families and seeing how they celebrate. So I guess what I'm hoping is that after this post people will share their lovely traditions with me. But for now, here are some of our family traditions from Christmas time over the years.

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Christmas Eve

We don't put the gifts under the tree until Christmas Eve. This was always the tradition growing up in our house and we would place any gifts marked for ourselves underneath while giving them a squidge.

In our house now we can't have any gifts under the tree, mainly because our 1 year old would destroy them, but even so this tradition will be kept for our tiddlers.  If my sisters and I are together then we tend to watch the film Hook before going to bed, I have absolutely no idea how this came about but it's a pretty cool tradition. Bangerang!

 

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Christmas Morning

I remember painfully waiting for my mum to come downstairs and make a cup of tea before we were even allowed to take a single gift out of our stockings. I get it, I'm slow getting started in the mornings now I'm a parent and I definitely need caffeine! As we got older we would start the day with a Bucks Fizz and maybe a croissant.

We were only allowed our stockings in the morning, this is something some people cannot comprehend but we HAD to wait for all other gifts until after dinner. We were sometimes allowed one other gift which growing up was usually our outfit to wear for the day. We then proceed to eat our entire selection box in front of any films found in our stockings or a Christmas film if there was one on TV. Then it's time to get dressed up for the rest of the day and it was always something smart.

 

 

 

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Dinner 

Is usually around 2pm, not always Turkey but the usual trimmings and most definitely a cracker. I'm not a lover of Christmas desserts so my Christmas go to is Tiramisu - an absolute favourite and one I tend to only eat at Christmas or if I'm actually in Italy. Then I married a man who is half Italian so I guess it was meant to be!

We then open all our other gifts from each other after the last scrap of dinner is cleared away and washing up is done, this was agonising as a child but I still wouldn't have had it any other way. It made us savour every second of the day and stopped us from opening it all in a few minutes flat. This is a tradition that's definitely sticking in our house. 

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Giving of gifts

Growing up the youngest person was the one to hand out all the gifts. We would all sit around the room and have gifts delivered onto our lap or by our feet. Once everyone had all their gifts we were then FINALLY free to open them. I always remember the adults pausing and watching everyone else's faces as they opened their gifts. That's something I will never forget and definitely find myself doing now I'm a parent and in a position to buy lovely gifts for others.

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Boxing Day

This is by far my favourite day. I love the food on Boxing day because it's cold meats, cheeses and pickles and it's a much more chilled out vibe. We also have an age old family tradition which possibly goes further back than my Grandparents, where by we all buy small gifts for everyone around a £5 limit and they sit IN the tree. These are aptly named 'Tree Presents' and it's just such a lovely fun little tradition. The same rules apply though and you cannot open a single gift until after dinner - and no squidging.

Please Tag me in your christmas traditions

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Blogmas Day 15 | CRAFTY CHRISTMAS

 
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crafty christmas: Christmas Pom Pom Garland

This year I've been on a mission to replace all our plastic decorations with glass or more natural materials like wood. One of the things I really wanted to make for our tree was a Pom Pom garland. Pom Poms are so simple to make and you could easily make 5 in an evening  in front of the TV, so I've been squirrelling away and today I will share with you the process and the final outcome.  

 
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What you'll need:

  • One large Pom Pom maker and one Medium.
  • About 2 balls of wool in the colour of your tree scheme
  • Small sharp scissors
  • Large eye needle
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Method:

Method:

There are many videos on Youtube showing how to use a Pom Pom maker, but I will attempt to give a brief overview here. There are two sides to the Pom Pom Maker and you fold out each side to start.

1. Wind your wool round and round the blue arch shapes on one side until the wool is flush and the shape of the arch has now become flush. Once one side is finished you cut the end of the wool in line with the top of your first side, then fold that side inwards and repeat on the other side. 

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2. You should now have two full sides of wool. Take your sharp scissors and cut down the top of the wool on either side (as shown below) making sure you hold it all securely in your other hand so it doesn't all fall apart!

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3. To secure all your strands of wool together you now need to get a length of  wool to wrap around the middle slit of the Pom Pom maker (shown below). Then taking the two ends tie down a very tight double knot to ensure no strands will be able to fall out.

4. Finally you should be able to pull each side of the Pom Pom maker up, as below. The two pieces can then be pulled apart, hopefully revealing your complete Pom Pom!

 

5. You will need to repeat this process quite a few times in order to have enough Pom Poms to fill a garland. I used a large maker and a medium to alternate sizes along the garland. I then measure a length of wool to fit my tree. Using the large eye needle I threaded it with the wool and then simply slid the Pom Poms along. You can adjust them once they are all on the wool but I found the about 2 inches between them was a nice width.

 
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If you wanted you could also thread bells in between the Pom Poms to make it even more festive. I think you will agree that the snowy Pom Pom garland looks gorgeous against the green of the tree. Let me know if you make one!

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I hope you enjoyed today's Blogmas, subscribe to this blog below to be the first to know about updates and new posts!

 

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Blogmas Day 14 | STOCKINGS

Stocking Fillers 

Stockings for children are easy, besides Father Christmas has that covered...but, if like our family you are still making stockings for your loved ones when they are in their 20's, 30's and beyond, then often it's hard not to panic buy lots of rubbish to fill the stocking with. I am not one for buying things for the sake of it, I like to try and counteract the crazy world of consumption we live in by buying purposeful gifts. I buy things with people in mind which means every gift I buy has thought behind it. So today I've compiled a few ideas to help fill your stocking with useful gifts that will actually be used or enjoyed. 

 
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Toiletries

Everyone needs toiletries! You may laugh but I actually love getting the basics, shampoo, toothpaste, mouthwash and shower gel it saves me buying them for a while. If they are slightly more luxurious than normal then all the better because that's not something we tend to spend money on regularly, it's usually just dumped in our trolley in the supermarket, right? 

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Food

Always a win! For my husband's birthday the children filled a jar of sweets and then we labelled it 'To Daddy, there's no-one sweeter than you' such a simple gift to include and cute. It's easily personalised, just fill it with their favourite sweet treats so they have a supply to have on their desk at work or stored at home.

 
 
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Clothing

I mean socks are a given, but if anyone else buys my husband socks I may have to move out - SOCK OVERKILL. If you think buying clothes for someone else is too much of a personal decision then why not go festive. You could get a pair of Christmas pyjamas or a Christmas jumper that they'll enjoy for years to come, both are items that don't have to be taken seriously. 

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Music

Well I still collect CDs because digital is just so cold to me. But if the one's you love are all for digital then you could still buy an iTunes voucher, as much as it pains me to advise this, not everyone loves a CD anymore! *sobs*

 
 
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Film

This probably brings up more digital issues, but a festive DVD or film they've always wanted to see is a great filler. As people aren't as old school as me nowadays, and DVDs are dipping in popularity, you can pick one up pretty cheaply.

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Puzzle

Who doesn't love a puzzle or game at Christmas, especially in the slow afternoon when you're immobile due to overindulging. This can be anything from monopoly to a puzzle compendium magazine. Think Rubiks cube or travel scrabble too for fitting into the stocking. 

 
 
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Book

I will be the first to admit that buying a novel for someone else is extremely hard, even when you know them very well you don't always know if they'll enjoy a book. However you can buy books on ANYTHING so think about what they like to do in their spare time, or something they've always wanted to do and get them a book so they can read all about it. Have they got a holiday booked next year, or was there somewhere they went this year that left an impact on them? Wallpaper City guides are beautiful and a great thing to collect.

 
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Voucher

How about a little voucher with money towards a dinner out, cinema or their favourite shop to hit the sales after Christmas. It might only be £10 but it's £10 less that they'll have to spend. 

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Finishing touches...

When I was little there always used to be a clementine at the bottom of my stocking, along with a bag of chocolate coins obviously! Nowadays the clementine has been upgraded to a Terry's Chocolate Orange, natural progression. The smell of Clementines still remind me of Christmas morning to this day. It's often the little things that go the furthest in your memory. 

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Blogmas Day 13 | PACKAGING

Brown Paper Packages

In the words of Fraulein Maria 'brown paper packages tied up with string, these are a few of my favourite things!' Now, you may have realised by now that I love a thrifty alternative and brown paper is the BEST wrapping resource you can get. Did you know you can get 25 metres of brown wrapping on eBay for around £5? If you compare this to around £4 for 3 metres then it seems like a win right? Right!

I know you may have reservations because there are so many pretty wrapping papers out there, but I'm going to show you all the ways you can jazz this up and make it look so pretty, plus if you buy loads of it you can use it for anyone's birthday and tailor it to whoever! Makes so much more sense than one use festive paper. 

 
 Image: Pinterest

Image: Pinterest

 
 

Sometimes simple is the most effective. You could print off the labels and then all you need is some fine thread to recreate this look. All that needs to be added for the finishing touch is a little bit of greenery, whether that's clipped off your tree or from a bush outside it doesn't matter!

 
 
 

If you're a bit of a stationery hoarder like me, then you may well have a set of rubber letter stamps in your collection. If so then you could easily create these personalised gifts. Added bows or ribbons will add some colour.

 Image: Pinterest

Image: Pinterest

 Image: Pinterest

Image: Pinterest

 
 
 

I think this one is my favourite design. I am loving natural decorations this year and these are all things you can find foraging on a winter walk. All that's needed is some twine and maybe some bells to finish it off.

 
 
 

Pom Poms are so easy to make and you can usually find some wool pretty cheap, or perhaps ask a relative who knits if they have any balls of wool they no longer need. You can buy Pom Pom makers online fairly cheaply and in differing sizes, teeny tiny ones are my favourite. 

 Image: Pinterest

Image: Pinterest

 Image: Pinterest

Image: Pinterest

 
 

If lettering is your thing then you could pull this one off really easily. I'm not good with calligraphy, I wish I was! This is another lovely way to personalise gifts using just brown paper, a gold pen and some ribbon! Easy and cheap!

 
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Image: Pinterest

So you see, brown does not have to be boring, in fact it can looks extremely pretty - you just need a bit of inspiration to get started.

🎁  Get Wrap Happy 🎁 

 

These ones are fun and could be really great for children! All it requires really is cutting out some shapes from other coloured card and sticking it on. Easy but effective!

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Blogmas Day 12 | FRUGAL CHRISTMAS

Making Christmas Cheaper

Christmas is definitely the one time a year that things can get a little out of hand. People can feel a lot of pressure to keep up with the Jones' and this is especially true if there are children involved. I have compiled a list of the different ways you can cut back and save some pennies.

 
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  • Stick to a budget - May as well get the obvious one out the way first. Working out what you can afford to spend on gifts and food for Christmas can be extremely helpful. If you know you will spend more on the children then set that budget aside and split the rest between family and friends.
  • One gift each - Speak to family and perhaps come to a mutual agreement to only buy one gift for each other. You may be surprised how others will be relieved about this too and then you can really set about making that one gift a really thoughtful one.
  • Secret Santa - If you are part of a large group of mutual friends or a large family perhaps see if people would consider doing secret Santa, this way you only buy a gift for one person but everyone receives something.
  • Make your own - You don't have to be a good baker or crafter to create a good homemade gift. You could buy a Kilner jar and fill it with someone's favourite sweets, or perhaps buy a lovely mug and pop a cellophane pouch inside full of ingredients to make the perfect hot chocolate. If you are handy in the kitchen then you could make a batch of homemade fudge or honeycomb and package it up all pretty. Homemade gifts are sometimes the most well received because the recipient knows thought and time went into it.
  • Plan ahead - Write a list of who you need to buy for and then find the cheapest places online for potential gifts. If you are heading for the shops then write a list of what you need to get with a maximum budget next to each item. It's so easy to get caught up in the moment and lose track of what you are buying, if you've worked it all out beforehand then you know sticking to your list is the only way.
  • Make a hamper  - If you have a few couples you need to buy for then a hamper could be the answer. I often find it hard to buy for the men in my family and so buying a hamper to share between couples can often bypass this difficulty and help you cut back on buying unnecessary items.

So there you have just a few ideas to help you stay thrifty this Christmas. Some of these have definitely worked for me whilst I'm a stay at home mum with babies, also trying to save for our first house! Budget is the top priority. It's also worth remembering that if someone only bought us one gift would we be disappointed? Absolutely not! Any gift is a blessing and if we knew anyone was worrying about finances we would want them to forget our gift entirely. So if you feel you need to be a little stricter then speak to those you know will understand - you may find they feel exactly the same. Christmas is about so much more than gifts.

🎁 Happy Shopping 🎁

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Blogmas Day 11 | CRACKER JOKES

The Best (or worst?) Christmas Cracker Jokes

I expect most of us share the age old tradition of pulling Christmas crackers on Christmas day. One of the guaranteed goodies inside your cracker will be one of the best - or most awful, depending on how you look at it - jokes you have ever clapped your eyes on. I've gathered some of my favourites here, please let me know the best ones you've had!

 

 
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What do you call a line of men waiting for a haircut?

A barberqueue
What do you call a boomerang that does not come back?

A stick
 
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What did Santa do when he went speed dating?

He pulled a cracker
What’s a dog’s favourite carol?

Bark, the herald angels sing
 
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What does Miley Cyrus have for her Christmas dinner?

Twerky

What do you call a short sighted dinosaur?
A do-you-think-he-saw-us!

🎁  Share your best joke 🎁 

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Blogmas Day 10 | HAMPERS

Build your own Christmas hamper.

I love making hampers for friends and family, it's just the perfect way to cover all bases and contrary to popular belief it doesn't have to be all about food. Hampers are popular at Christmas but can be very expensive, making your own is a great way to stick to a budget and you can really tailor it to the recipients by making the gifts more personal.

Where do I start?

I always find following a loose theme helps me get started and then I usually go off on a tangent so it becomes a collection of thoughtful things rather than forcing all the gifts to fit the theme. For this example I will show a hamper idea for a couple and go with the theme 'date night'.

Basket or Box?

Think about your budget and how much you have to spend on the gift as a whole. You can easily make a nice hamper for £20 so buying a giant basket that costs £15 doesn't leave much to spend on gifts to fill it! You can often pick up lovely second hand baskets fairly cheap from charity shops but Paperchase do lovely large gift boxes from around £5 which you could line with lovely tissue paper. Don't be afraid to buy the cheapest, plainest box though because you can make them very pretty with clippings of Christmas tree or festive ribbon. Sometimes less is more! Here are my picks: 

The Basket Company

This really is what you think of when you hear 'hamper' but it doesn't have to be this extravagent. Classic Wicker Storage Trunk - Hamper Basket £12.50

 

Brown, or 'Kraft' as it's known to avid crafty folk like myself, is definitely not boring. It's a blank canvas so get creative!

Paperchase

A large box can work just as well as a basket, bearing in mind that whoever receives it will be focused on the lovely things you've put inside. Large Kraft gift box £4.50


What do I fill it with?

As I said before a hamper, gift box or even gift bag doesn't have to be all about food, but it can be a little bit about food (shouldn't everything be a little bit about food?) So if we continue with my theme of 'Date Night' then here are some of my little ideas on how to fill your box.

Lakeland

If you've got more of a flexible budget for your hamper then these reusable cloth napkins from Lakeland are gorgeous for a date night and christmases to come. Festive linen - look holly napkins (pack of 4) £16.99

M&S Simply Food

At the higher end of the high street scale we have this Monticella Prosecco Superiore DOCG from M&S at £16.00 a bottle. 

 

Napkins will make date night a little more romantic than just grabbing a bit of kitchen roll for dinner. may as well make them festive while we're at it!


Bubbly is a must surely? With smaller boxes use cellophane with lots of ribbon to keep everything together and place the lid underneath so it can be reused as a box later.

John Lewis

If you are trying to stick to a smaller budget these napkins are really cute from John Lewis. Christmas Robin Napkins £3.00

Lidl

If you are on a tighter budget you could try this award winning Prosecco from Lidl at only £5.79

I try to avoid fresh food, as it's so tricky to include when it needs refrigerating. So this hamper is catering for all the elements surrounding dinner and an evening as a whole.

Hotel Chocolat

This is a perfect date night treat for a pricier hamper. It's chocolate fondue with all you could need for an after dinner romantic dessert - but fun too! Mini Chocolate Dipping Adventure for Two, Hotel Chocolat £20

Scrabble

A classic and who doesn't love a game of Scrabble at Christmas time? £39.99 on Amazon.

 

An after dinner chocolate treat would be gratefully received I'm sure and both these options are delicious.


Where would a festive night in be without a good game to play? Here we have two classics but for two very different budgets.

Green & Blacks

Just because you are on a budget doesn't have to mean bad chocolate. This luxurious Green & Blacks organic 70% dark chocolate bar is only £2.00 at Waitrose. 

Uno

Another classic but a lot cheaper, it allows up to 10 players to so that's Christmas sorted with all the family. £7.65 on Amazon.

A good night in deserves a good movie, check out my top Christmas films for ideas to include in your date night hamper. If you've got room for one more gift then why not include some good old popcorn and these brilliant popcorn holders below! 

Joe & Steph's

This is the ultimate luxury popcorn - Gin and Tonic? Yummy. £3.00 from Waitrose.

 

dotcomgiftshop

Plastic popcorn holders for date nights and movie nights throughout the year - very cute! £1.95 from dotcomgiftshop.

Metcalfe's 

This popcorn is still yummy and if you haven't had sweet and salted you are missing out. The perfect movie night addition. £1.50 from Waitrose.

So there you have it, the makings of a pretty lovely hamper. You could extend on this quite a bit and take it from 'date night' to 'family night in' or wherever your search takes you, but a hamper can be made on any budget you just have to look around for cheaper options that still say 'treat'. Whoever receives your hamper will be happy about the thought behind each and every gift. 

🎁 Happy Hampers!🎁