A Lush Christmas – Part One

I knew I would have to start working my way through the Lush Christmas range early on in order to get the reviews ready for Blogmas but I had no idea that they would have such a huge range to work through this Christmas! I started using the Christmas products in early September and almost had to use a product a day to get through them in time to publish these blogs!

Here’s my first batch from this years exciting Lush Cosmetics range –

Snow Fairy Jelly Bomb

This came out earlier in the year as part of the Lush kitchen range and I missed out on it! I was stupid enough to think I could wait a couple of days after they were released to put in an order and of course they were all sold out! I looked for some on eBay and even considered buying two for £20! I’m glad I waited in the end as I managed to get my hands on loads at the beginning of September when Lush released its Halloween and Christmas range!

I’m pretty late to the party because the Snow Fairy scent has been around for a long time and major Lushie fans loved the scent and have since moved on to newer fragrances – however I may be “soooo last season” but I don’t care! I am ADDICTED to this scent and have bought multiples of each item this scent comes in!

IMG_9993

The Snow Fairy jelly bomb has a lovely strong scent – it is really sweet, almost like candy floss but also has almost a “cupcake”essence to it – you really must find your nearest Lush shop and go in and sniff the nearest Snow Fairy product!

The scent from the Snow Fairy jelly bomb stays with you throughout your bath and on your skin for ages afterwards – and I could even still smell this amazing scent hours later!

Just the same as most of Lush’s jelly bombs, this one is a fast fizzer and as soon as it hits the water, large pink blobs of amazing smelling jelly start floating across the water. Although a fast fizzer, it does take a while to completely dissolve, and a further 15 to 20 minutes until all of the jelly has dissolved.

761FBA19-0705-4AF7-895F-1A7125D5CF0B

Although it feels really strange sitting in a bath of goo, give it time as in the end you are left with lovely smelling pink moisturising water!

The Snow Fairy jelly bomb left my skin feeling really smooth and soft, and the scent is so relaxing – this is definitely my favourite jelly bomb. I ordered a couple to try them out when the Christmas range was first released and as soon as I tried the first one, I ordered six more to stock up over the next few months!

Christmas Sweater Bath Bomb

I really liked the look and name of this bath bomb which is new for 2017 – I couldn’t wait to try it! As soon as Christmas Sweater went into the water, I knew I was going to love this bath bomb! It creates some of the best bath bomb art I’ve seen so far!

IMG_9995

Christmas Sweater bath bomb has a red-pink outer shell and yellow core which makes the bath water a lovely red colour. It is a slow and foamy fizzer which fizzes bright red until the core cracks open and yellow foam starts spilling out.

7D251299-2AAE-4505-8625-F042BB17E0DD

The red coloured bath water goes really well with the scents in this winter warmer bath bomb which include cinnamon, ginger, clove bud oil and lemon oil. It also contains mustard powder and coriander seed oil to add that little bit of a kick!

The cinnamon smell is sweet but spicy and the lemon oil gives this bath bomb a sweet and fruity tinge. It really does smell (and look!) like all things Christmassy!

This bath bomb is amazingly relaxing, and one I can’t wait to have once I get home from a long day’s work in the cold, wet and dark winter months.

I will definitely be buying several of these in the run up to Christmas to stock up!

Plum Snow Bubble Bar

I love, love, love the look of this bubble bar! It is beautiful and really good value for money as it is HUGE! By far the biggest bubble bar out of Lush’s Christmas 2017 range!

IMG_9998

Plum Rain has a lovely berry scent but is more of a “perfume” scent than a natural scent. Plum Rain contains Osmanthus Absolute for soothing and calming purposes, Petitgrain Oil which is refreshing and uplifting and Sicilian Mandarin oil which is one of my favourite scents.

As Plum Rain is a huge bubble bar I did use around a third of it in my bath. It creates mounds of lovely fluffy bubbles and makes the water a lovely silky violet colour.

Not only is the water incredibly moisturising but the scent was also really relaxing! I really didn’t want to get out of this bath and stayed in it as long as I could until the water started going cold!

87EC05A0-0CD0-4276-9A48-6DF8615DAC57

This one is an absolute favourite – another product I’m going to stock up on before they stop producing them when the festive season ends!

Christmas Eve Bubble Bar

I have to admit I was a bit disappointed when this bubble bar showed up. I ordered three and they were all slightly damaged (nothing to do with the packaging as everything else in the box was fine so they must just be delicate) and the bubble bar itself (when compared to the likes of Plum Snow) was incredibly small.

IMG_9999

It is slightly cheaper than some of the other bubble bars on offer (£3.95 compared to £5.95 for Plum Snow), but still, I expected something a bit bigger.

I’m not entirely sure why they call it Christmas Eve…. yes it smells lovely but I don’t think it smells at all Christmassy! Christmas Eve however does contain some lovely ingredients such as Jasmine Absolute, Ylang Ylang oil and Gardenia Extract.

EC181C53-383C-422B-8CEC-EF059521022F

After chopping up my bubble bar and worrying about the size of it, I sprinkled half a bar of it under my running bath water. It does smell beautiful and the scent is really relaxing, and after a few minutes you have a bath full of lovely fluffy bubbles!

I did like the scent, which is quite a potent flowery scent, but what I found really surprising about this bubble bar was how moisturising it was! It is probably one of the most moisturising bubble bars I have ever used. I wondered afterwards whether I should have actually split the crumbled contents into three rather than two, but it was lovely to have such a luxurious bath filled with blue silky bath water. The Jasmine scent stays with you throughout the entire bath and did stay on my skin for a couple of hours afterwards too.

C9AFB4B9-FA5B-4F39-A771-8F99EC32CC89

Not an absolute favourite, and I think the design needs a bit of work so it isn’t so easily damaged, but I am glad I bought three and would consider buying a couple more before they stop producing them.

Santa’s Christmas Shower Cream

I was really looking forward to trying this bright red thick shower cream! It’s got coffee and cinnamon in – two of my favourite scents ever!

IMG_0002

Santa’s Christmas also contains lime, black pepper and aniseed oils, although I did struggle to detect these individual scents when I opened the bottle.

With all these ingredients you would expect the scent to be quite overwhelming and complex but in fact I found the scent to be incredibly mild which, when it contains a lot of my favourite scents, was rather disappointing.

8B808E08-EEED-471E-AE7F-5D24E3BBBE18

If I had to describe the smell to someone I would describe it as a cola flavour but with a hint of vanilla scent, which is surprising as it doesn’t contain vanilla! I’m thinking it may be the cocoa butter I can detect. You can also just detect the cinnamon in the scent, but it isn’t as strong as I would have liked it to be.

I enjoyed using the shower cream and I am pleased that I stocked up on a couple – it contains cocoa butter and so left my skin feeling lovely and soft after use – I just didn’t find the smell strong enough for my liking. I couldn’t detect the coffee or aniseed scent at all when I used the shower cream which was pretty disappointing.

Be warned, as it is a cream rather than a shower gel, it doesn’t lather up as much as a shower gel or soap would, so you do find yourself using more than you would normally!

As I said, I’m pleased I bought a couple of bottles to last me, and I really do like the smell, I just hope that the recipe is altered slightly in the future to make the scent a bit stronger!

Snow Fairy Shower Gel

I couldn’t wait to try this after I fell in love with the Snow Fairy scent after using the Snow Fairy Jelly bomb! Without even trying it I stocked up on three of these to keep me going for the next few months!

IMG_0003

This lovely bright pink gel contains little glittery sparkles (which I didn’t realise had all sunk to the bottom so make sure you give your bottle a good shake before you use it!)

0752481C-DF5F-4326-B2FB-A8C28AF77DE1

Again it has a lovely candy-floss cross cupcake scent which is quite sickly sweet but absolutely addictive. Although it says shower gel on the bottle, Snow Fairy shower gel can be used as a shampoo as well!

This lovely gel lathers up really well and the scent gets even better once you are using it. I love the fact that the scent lasts a long time after you use it too! It leaves your skin feeling lovely and soft and the scent is really uplifting – I challenge you to use it and not feel in a relaxed and uplifted mood afterwards!

As expected, I highly, highly recommend it – go out and buy some to see for yourself!

Twilight Sparkle Bar

I wasn’t too sure what to make of these new “sparkle jars” Lush released as part of their Christmas range – I wasn’t sure what you were supposed to do with them really!

The website says to “massage this dreamily scented cocoa butter bar over warm skin for heavenly hydration. Press something pointy into the dimples and shake out the glimmering powder to help you get sleepy”.

IMG_0004

The Twilight Sparkle Bar contains cocoa butter, chamomile powder, lavender powder, lavender oil, tonka absolute and ylang ylang oil – all the ingredients you need to help you have a good nights sleep!

I love the smell of the Twilight bath bomb so I thought I would give it a try and did exactly what the instructions said! I massaged the bar over my skin and then poked through one of the holes in the top and sprinkled the lovely scented powder onto my skin.

The bar itself was lovely and moisturising, the cocoa butter works really well. The only downside I’ve found with it (and other Lushie’s have noticed this too) is that it does tend to leave the purple colour of the bar on your skin, so probably not best to use it before you are about to go out – unless that’s the look you are going for of course!

I only poked through one of the holes to start with as I wasn’t sure how much of the powder would come out, and I found this to be enough. The powder has a lovely calming, relaxing lavender scent and is perfect to put on just before you go to bed to help you get a good nights sleep.

A really unusual product, but a great idea! I bought a couple of these and a couple of the Snow Fairy versions (of course!), and I’m looking forward to using them over the next few months!

Christmas Rocker Soap

I bought this soap purely for the way it looked without even checking the ingredients! God I’m so easily sold on gimmicks!

IMG_0006

When it arrived I gave it a good sniff and to be honest I was pretty disappointed. The scent is hard to explain but isn’t citrusy at all… This really surprised me as Christmas Rocker contains dried apricots, tangerine oil, mandarin oil, bergamot oil, gardenia extract and both extra virgin coconut oil and organic cocoa butter… what an amazing sounding combination you would think? The scent almost smells chemically/like bleach which sounds bizarre, but if you pass by a Lush store, have a smell and see what you think!

In fairness it was a quite nice soap to use, the scent improved once it was used under the hot shower and my skin felt lovely and soft afterwards, but I just can’t get past the initial strange smell.

Maybe it will grow on me but until then, I don’t think I will be investing in another one…. such a shame.

Frozen Bath Bomb

Inspired by the Disney film of the same name – obviously!

IMG_8447

A lovely pale blue/green bath bomb, this bomb contains grapefruit oil and neroil oil which gives off a lovely floral and fruity scent.

IMG_8453

Frozen is a fast fizzer which spews out lovely thick white foam whilst the middle cracks open and releases a beautiful trail of blue foam with glitter, resulting in the bath water becoming a lovely shade of glistening blue, giving that frozen, “icy” effect. Despite not having much oil in this bath bomb, it leaves your skin silky smooth!

Frozen is one of my absolute favourite bath bombs, so I was gutted to find out earlier on this year that they have now discontinued it!! I have stocked up on as many as I can but they discontinued several other bath bombs which were my favourites at the same time so I had to get a big expensive order in quickly! What are you doing to me Lush???

Bye bye Frozen! Hopefully they will bring back limited edition versions in the Lush kitchen soon!

IMG_8465

Christingle Body Conditioner

This lovely minty smelling body lotion contains jojoba oil and murumuru butter which makes it really moisturising – so moisturising that you only need to use a tiny bit each time, so don’t be out off by the price tag of this (and other body conditioners) which are currently available.

The body conditioner contains menthol crystals and peppermint which is really stimulating on the skin, leaving a tingling sensation after you use it! The peppermint and spearmint smell is quite strong, but incredibly refreshing.

IMG_8541

To use the body conditioner, simply turn off the running shower water (so as to not wash it all down the plughole!) apply it and massage it into your skin and after a few minutes, wash the lotion off and gently pat your skin dry as you would normally.

You will find the body conditioner leaves your skin feeling slightly greasy for a while afterwards, so pat dry gently and then leave the conditioner to work it’s magic for about ten to fifteen minutes before you get dressed. After this time you will find your skin feeling really soft and smelling amazing!!

IMG_8538

I really enjoyed using this product and have already invested in some other body conditioners in different scents, but a word of warning – it is really easy to use too much product at a time, so go steady, as you really don’t need much product to get the results you want! Can’t wait to try the amazing smelling Bucks Fizz body conditioner!

Snowshowers Shower Jelly

There are several ways that you can use shower jelly –

Firstly, you can rub the whole block, or a broken-off piece, directly onto your skin. This isn’t my preference as it is very difficult to keep hold of the slippery sucker, plus I don’t fancy rubbing it onto my skin and then popping it back into the pot (bacteria etc!).

Secondly, you break off a piece around the size of a ten pence piece and then rub it into your sponge to lather up before rubbing it into your skin. I tried it with one of those shower scrub things and it didn’t work too well so a sponge may be better!

Some Lushies get the block out of its pot and cut it into bite sized chunks and then store it back in the pot so it is ready to go when they next need it! The other thing I love about shower jelly is that you can keep it in the fridge or freezer, ideal for using in the showers on those hot sticky summer days!

Snow Showers shower jelly is a milky white jelly scented with oranges and cognac! Ideal for those Christmas months! It has a really lovely citrusy zesty scent and its ingredients are orange oil, cognac oil and lime oil, along with elderflower and seaweed gel!

The smell reminds me of Calpol medicine, but don’t let this put you off – it smells AMAZING!

It lathers up quite well and the jelly version of Lush’s shower gels seem to go a lot further than their liquids. The downside to shower jellies? They are difficult to keep hold of, whatever size you use which unfortunately can result in a lot of the product being washed down the plughole! Not good!

Ice Hotel Bubble bar

Ice Hotel is inspired by the famous ice sculpted hotel in Sweden and was re-released earlier this year as part of the Game of Thrones themed product week.

IMG_8790

Ice Hotel contains lavender and mint, although I have to admit, I couldn’t detect the lavender when I was using it. Still, the scent of this bubble bar is incredibly uplifting and refreshing, due to the dominant minty scent.


The bar is a lovely white shimmery bar which is easy to cut up and crumble so you can use as much or as little as you like, I used a handful for my bath and would estimate that there’s probably two baths’ worth remaining. The handful I used created a huge amount of beautiful white fluffy bubbles which lasted for the duration of the bath, but don’t expect a colourful explosion – white bubbles is all you are going to get!

The water is really softening and I found that the effects were long lasting after I had got out of the bathtub and my skin felt really refreshed and cooled, in a similar way to the Christingle scent. Hubby loves this one!

So there you have it, my first of four blogs about Lush’s Christmas 2017 range! If you have enjoyed it – Part Two is out tomorrow!

Icebar London

I’ve actually been to two Ice bars in London and had a really great time in both! The first one I went to was in Heddon Street, Mayfair and the second one was in Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park – they are most definitely an experience which gets you into the winter spirit!

Heddon Street

The Icebar temperature is -5 degrees celsius and everything inside is made out of crystal clear ice harvested from the frozen Torne River in Jukkasjärvi, Northern Sweden!

IMG_7319

IMG_7320

IMG_7346

You spend time in the Icebar in 40 minute time slots (believe me, people struggle to stay in here this long!) and you are given a thermal cape with a hood and gloves to wear to keep you toasty!

Once a year the bar is transformed with a new design and layout by a team of ice designers and sculptors!

During your visit you also get a cocktail as part of the entrance fee and it is even served in an ice glass for you! Click here for the latest cocktail list but be warned – they are strong! Helps keep you warm in the cold I suppose!

It’s cheaper if you pre-book online (£13.50 with your first cocktail for an off peak time) and cocktail refills start at £6.50 after that. Family days and times are also available which is a great idea.

The boys gave up after around 30 minutes but my sister and I managed the whole 40 minutes and were the last ones standing! Girl power!

Hyde Park Bar Ice

This one, believe it or not, is even colder at -10 degrees celsius! A complimentary drink is also included in the ticket price for Bar Ice, and as Bar Ice is part of Hyde Parks Winter Wonderland, the drinks are usually very festive flavoured!, and again come in a lovely ice glass.

IMG_7350
FFFFFFFFFreezing!!!!

Again you are provided with a winter cloak and gloves on arrival, however you are allocated a 20 minute session here and not 40 like at the Heddon Street Icebar. We didn’t even manage the whole 20 minutes in this one – it was VERY cold! Also found it was much darker in Bar Ice than Icebar, which made it difficult to take decent photos which was a shame.

Ticket prices here are similar – £14 off peak to £16 peak time (but of course you are only getting half the time – Christmas inflated prices eh??) and I would definitely pre-book before you go – it gets very busy!!

A very novel experience but definitely worth giving a go – the sculptures, tables, chairs and bar are all made of ice and are very fascinating to look it – if this doesn’t get you into the winter spirit then nothing will!!

CocoChlo’s Christmas Coffees!

IMG_1982

As a coffee and hot chocolate lover, Christmas time is made even more special by some of the amazing limited edition flavours that the coffee shops create every year! I have to admit I spend a fortune on coffee’s and hot chocolates this time of year and I would think that as much as 75% of my Christmas weight gain can be attributed to the ridiculous amounts of these drinks that I have over the holiday season!

86B5AB15-9566-4541-AB6F-36AF3EF07862

790CA437-2400-4232-8166-915F38988655

After sampling several different flavours over the years, here are my top nine (so far!)

9. Costa’s Salted Caramel Cappuccino

A frothy cappuccino with a dash of salted caramel syrup, topped with shimmery salted caramel fudge crumb, yum!

IMG_5445

8. Costa’s Gingerbread Latte

A lovely  latte with a dash of gingerbread syrup topped with freshly whipped cream, gold stars and a little Gingerbread Man.

IMG_5503

7. Costa’s Chocolate Orange Hot Chocolate

This is an old photo – I learned the bad news at the beginning of November that Costa wouldn’t be bringing the Orange Hot Chocolate back this year!!! Shame on you Costa! They also stopped doing the Amaretti Latte this year! Double shame on you Costa!

IMG_5769

6. Costa’s Black Forest Hot Chocolate

Costa Hot Chocolate with a dash of Black Forest syrup, topped with freshly whipped cream, cherry sauce and a chocolate sprinkles!

IMG_5767

5. Starbuck’s Fudge Hot Chocolate

Creamy milk hot chocolate with fudge flavouring! The usual style is served with a fudge flavour whipped cream and sprinkled with golden curls but I do prefer plain whipped cream with mine or I find the fudge flavour just a bit overwhelming! I’ve also had it with a waffle sprinkling which I think normally goes on the top of the Toffee Nut latte.

EE21E178-E3AB-41A1-9C64-D0BFC987D98E

052BFD94-EE1B-416A-ABF1-EB96AA6D919E

515F44D3-667E-4440-BCB3-7E3811BEE3BC

4. Costa’s Billionaire’s Latte

This one is new for 2017 and although I was disappointed that Costa had stopped making the Orange Hot Chocolate and Amaretti Latte, this one quickly became one of my favourites! Chocolate sauce followed by caramel sauce with a latte on top with whipped cream and a shortbread crumb sprinkled on top! Delicious! They only seem to make them in medium sizes though……

3. Costa’s Honeycomb Latte

A smooth and creamy latte with a dash of honeycomb syrup topped with freshly whipped cream and pieces of chocolate coated honeycomb.

D18D7896-B7B7-485D-AE7F-94976B3E2D90

2. Costa’s Toasted Marshmallow Hot Chocolate

They also don’t appear to have my favourite hot chocolate on the festive menu at Costa this year!!! Argh!! This one was hot Chocolate with a dash of toasted marshmallow syrup topped with freshly whipped cream and glittery mini marshmallows. Please bring it back Costa!!!

IMG_0770

1. Starbucks Eggnog Latte!

My absolute favourite!!! I adore this drink!! Real eggnog, mixed with a bit of milk, espresso, and topped with nutmeg on top. AMAZING!

IMG_1915

Longleat at Christmas

If you are looking for somewhere to go during the festive season which includes animals, a beautiful country house and all the Christmas trimmings, then Longleat Safari is a must visit!

We took my sister along as a surprise for her Birthday and we weren’t disappointed!

The animals

Luckily we visited on a beautiful Winters day – even the sun came out – so all the animals were out and about for all to see!

IMG_7271

You can bypass the Monkey section if you want to avoid any damage to your car! We decided we would take the risk on this occasion and are really glad we did – check out these cute little guys-

IMG_7275

Isn’t he adorable!?

Look how close this gorgeous lion came to the car! Absolutely beautiful!

IMG_7279

IMG_7280

Activities

After visiting the huge array of animals at Longleat, there’s plenty of other activities to keep you busy! Ice skating is available and costs £7.50 for an adult ticket – it’s probably best to pre-book these tickets online to avoid disappointment.

If you aren’t an ice skater then try visiting some of the lovely little winter huts surrounding the ice skating rink – they sell lovely winter beverages including mulled cider, mulled wine, hot chocolate and soup!

IMG_7292

The sister and brother in law enjoyed their ice skating session!

IMG_7293

The House

Once you’ve explored everywhere outside it’s time to take a look inside the beautiful house, which has been decorated in a wonderful festive theme throughout each and every room! Christmas trees, lights and decorations everywhere – a Christmas lovers dream!

Throughout the house you will also find live actors dressed as your favourite pantomime characters! I won’t spoil the surprise by posting pictures but they definitely ensure you have a great time whilst exploring!

IMG_7299

IMG_7301

The Christmas Tree

Whilst you are visiting you must pay a visit to the famous Longleat Enchanted Christmas tree!

The unique, giant 50ft Singing Christmas Tree, which has over 300,000 individual lights and is the only one of its kind in the Europe, forms the centrepiece of Christmas celebrations in the Stable Yard.

IMG_7285

Once it gets dark the multi coloured light combinations are amazing!

There’s also the Santa Train which is ready and waiting to whisk you and the little ones off to meet Father Christmas and his elves in their wintry woodland home!

New at Longleat Safari Park over the past couple of years is the Festival of Lights, where stunning Chinese Lanterns light up the safari park.

A highly recommended day out for all the family, and just the thing to get you in the Christmas spirit!

You can pre-book your tickets for Longleat online here.

Christmas Pudding BonBons

43789042-85EB-464C-97F0-58947FA16BDF

Hello Christmas Elves! If you are after a really easy recipe or a great activity to do with the kids then I’ve got just the thing for you! In fact it isn’t really a recipe at all – it’s just a case of cobbling a few bits together – but they do look really effective!

Here’s the ingredients you will need:

-Pre-made chocolate cake (preferably with buttercream centre and topping)

-Red ready rolled icing

-Green ready rolled icing

-100g white chocolate (I use  white chocolate chips)

You will also need one of these little leaf shape icing plungers. I think mine was from Lakeland but you should also be able to find one in places like Amazon or eBay – I saw some in Wilkinson’s the other day too.

3137B406-62B5-4D7F-AAD2-BD269AA12236

Ok, so to get started, put your cake into a bowl and break it up into crumbs and then re-shape them into twelve little pudding sized balls. I use a cake which has buttercream on top and in the middle because when you are re-shaping it into little pudding balls, the mixture holds its shape a lot better. When you’ve made twelve round little balls, pop them in the fridge to reset whilst you get on with the rest.

AD310F73-AF03-4157-94D0-DC48245BC33A

8D9F8D78-96EE-4ECB-83E7-7BC765B80D2A

Roll out your green ready made icing and then use your leaf plunger to make holly leaves (you need two per pudding so twenty-four in total).

7F341D65-4098-46EF-AA7C-E0D35FFD05F3

Then cut off some tiny little chunks of red ready rolled icing and roll them into tiny little berries. You will need three of these per pudding so thirty-six in total.

9D4F2D37-8DF1-4F4E-886E-AB0516B30792

Pop your icing leaves and berries in the fridge for a few minutes (so they don’t melt too much whilst you are placing them on top of the melted white chocolate).

B7974F1B-AEDE-4913-BF84-2643D9780721

873E3FA7-F038-44B5-B689-7191C6797F61

Add your chocolate drops to a bowl and melt in the microwave (melt them in thirty second bursts and stir before melting even more – it’s very easy to over melt and burn chocolate if you aren’t careful!)

0BE37800-F109-478F-8FFC-16E960ED68C9

Stir the white chocolate so there are no lumps and then leave to cool for about ten minutes so the chocolate is just starting to re-thicken slightly.

7A75F0C6-09E2-4712-9363-3FFD3AA111F9

Once it is cooler but still runny and thick, start adding your white chocolate to one pudding. Once the white chocolate is on the pudding, add your holly leaves followed by your red berries, then move on to the next pudding. Don’t do all the white chocolate in one go as it will have set by the time you add your holly leaves and berries to the first one, and they won’t stick to the pudding properly.

Let your puddings set for around ten minutes and then they are ready to eat! If you want to store them they should be fine in an airtight container for around five days (if you can resist them for that long! I ate FOUR in one sitting – they are only small after all!).

6265A595-C015-466C-BB91-996D6DF42759

Happy pudding bonbon making!

My favourite Christmas Movies!

I love watching Christmas films during the festive season! There’s nothing better than sitting in front of the TV in a warm house whilst it’s cold outside, snuggled up with a hot chocolate and some nibbles, wrapping some Christmas presents with your favourite Christmas movie playing! Here are my favourite Christmas films of all time!

The Polar Express

This one is a lovely family Christmas film! On Christmas Eve, a young boy encounters a train known as the Polar Express, that is on it’s way to the North Pole. There are other children on the train and the film follows them developing their friendship with one another. A Christmas Eve must watch film, especially for those non-believers!

IMG_0632

Fred Claus

Santa has an older brother! His name is Fred Claus!

He is actually nothing like Santa, and has a few brushes with the law which results in him having to stay at the North Pole and help Santa and his elves prepare for Christmas in exchange for money to pay off his debts – not much fun when you hate Christmas because it centres around your brother every year!

IMG_0633

Bad Santa

Two miserable, professional thieves pose as Santa and his Little Helper to rob high end shopping malls on Christmas Eve. But they run into problems when one of the conmen befriends a troubled kid who thinks he is the real Santa (“Your name is Thurman Merman??”) and the security boss uncovers their plot…..

IMG_0634

There’s also Bad Santa 2 but I haven’t got round to watching it yet!

How The Grinch Stole Christmas

On the outskirts of Whoville, there lives a green, revenge-seeking Grinch who plans on ruining the Christmas holiday for all of the citizens of the town……

The Grinch is a bitter, grouchy, cave-dwelling creature with a heart “two sizes too small” who lives on snowy Mount Crumpit a steep high mountain just north of the town of Whoville, home of the merry and warm-hearted Whos.

From his cave, the Grinch can hear the noisy Christmas festivities that take place in Whoville. Annoyed, he decides to stop Christmas from coming by stealing their presents, trees, and food for their Christmas feast……

IMG_0635

Love Actually

This is my Sisters favourite Christmas film! It follows the lives of eight very different couples dealing with their love lives and is all set in the run up to Christmas in London.

If you’ve watched the film, the scene where Karen (Emma Thompson) realises that the necklace Harry (Alan Rickman) bought isn’t actually for her still breaks my heart every single time I watch it!

I also love the scene with Juliet (Keira Knightley) and Mark (Andrew Lincoln) where he plays Christmas songs and shows her large cue cards which tell her he loves her! Sorry, spoiler alert for those who haven’t seen it yet! (Where have you been??!)

IMG_0639

Jingle All the Way

A father vows to get his son a Turbo Man action figure for Christmas, however, every store is sold out of them, and he must travel all over town and compete with everybody else in order to find one.

Every parent has probably been through this nightmare, I know my Mum did several times when we were younger!

IMG_0640

Deck the Halls 

Two neighbours have a big fall out after one of them decorates his house for the holidays so brightly that it can be seen from space. This one is a particularly cheesy one but I do love it! Matthew Broderick and Danny DeVito star – hilarious!

IMG_0641

A Christmas Carol

You surely know the story of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dicken’s?!

It has been done and re-done many times over the years (including a Muppet’s version!), but my favourite is this animated version with the voice of Jim Carrey. Bring on the ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Yet to Come!

IMG_0642

Remember to treat everyone with kindness, generosity and compassion, or you may end up like Ebeneezer Scrooge!

Home Alone

This story is probably just as famous as A Christmas Carol!

For those of you who haven’t seen it (not many of you I would imagine!) Kevin, an eight-year-old troublemaker, is forced to protect his home from a pair of burglars (by using some innovative booby traps!) when he is accidentally left home alone by his family over the Christmas holidays.

IMG_0636

An absolute must-watch over the Christmas period! This one will always be a classic!

Home Alone 2: Lost In New York

It isn’t often that a sequel to a fantastic movie is as good as the first!

One year after Kevin was left home alone, he accidentally finds himself in New York after he gets on the wrong flight.

Unfortunately for Kevin, the same criminals, Harry and Marv, are also in New York after escaping from prison….

IMG_0644

And my absolute favourite Christmas film of all time……

Elf

A man called Buddy who has been raised as an Elf at the North Pole goes off on an adventure to New York in search of his true identity.

This film stars Will Ferrell and is an absolutely brilliant Christmas film! Even if Will Ferrell films are not your usual cup of tea, I urge you to give this film a try. It is silly and funny and extremely Christmassy and is guaranteed to put a smile on your face!

IMG_0645

Happy watching! I’m off to make a Christmas hot chocolate and to wrap some more presents!

My Christmas Wish List

I am still a big kid when it comes to dreaming about what I am going to get for Christmas! I still remember how excited I felt every time Mum used to say to me and my two sisters “start writing your Christmas lists” so she could start planning and getting what she could as early as possible before the most popular toys sold out!

I admit my Sisters and I were absolutely spoilt at Christmas, and I don’t doubt this is why I still love the festive season today, but we knew how lucky we were and never took any of it for granted. My Mum was a teacher and although this was fantastic because she could be at home with us in the holidays, this meant she couldn’t have time off during term time and of course holiday prices are incredibly expensive during school holidays, so we never went away anywhere – our big annual celebration to look forward to was always Christmas!

Anyway, this year has been a particularly tough one. We sold our house before we had even put it on the market in May but still hadn’t moved at the beginning of November due to ongoing complications with the chain. We spent several months searching for our forever home, whilst also breaking our backs to get ourselves into the best financial position so we looked to be attractive borrowers to our prospective mortgage lenders.

I won’t bore you with the details here as this is supposed to be a happy blog, but basically getting into the position we needed to be in after jumping through so many hoops to make our lender happy, resulted in hubby and I working all the overtime we could, including very early mornings, very late nights and entire weekends, working our socks off to get all the bonuses we could and basically selling the majority of our valuable belongings on eBay, and the remainder at car boot sales! It has been incredibly hard work for the past 6 or 7 months, but we knew it would all be worth it once our mortgage was in place and we were in our dream home.

Doing what we have done over the past few months may have broken many couples, but we worked together and pulled it off in the end, which is why we are going to treat ourselves this Christmas! We are also hoping to start a family very soon so once baby Evans’ comes along we won’t have any money for the rest of our lives! So this may be the last Christmas we do get to treat ourselves!

Hubby has asked me for a list of things I would like so he can choose a few from the list and I will do the same for him – this way we both get things we actually want but are still unsure up until the last minute what we are having. I do usually add a few stocking filler surprises as well!

Here are some of the bits I have put on my list which I hope will appear under the tree:

Gold Beats Headphones

I did actually have a pair of in-ear Beats headphones but I gave them to Mum for when we visit the gym as she was getting incredibly bored on the treadmill – needless to say they have never been seen again! In fairness it is quite sweet watching her walk her 3km humming along to Bob Dylan, so I shall have to hope Santa brings me a new pair!

IMG_7872

Pyjamas, Pyjamas, Pyjamas!

I love pyjamas, especially the amazing ones you can get around the Christmas period! You can never have too many, especially when you spend two weeks of December slouching about in them watching Christmas films! The elasticated waistband of pyjamas always comes in really handy this time of year too!

IMG_7873

Game of Thrones season 6 DVD

I know season 6 has been out on DVD for a while now but I didn’t bother buying it because I had all the episodes recorded on our Sky box – unfortunately when we moved we cancelled our Sky subscription so we lost all the recordings! When hubby and I watched season 7 in July/August of this year, we also both said it would have been useful to have re-watched the other seasons again beforehand, as waiting a year (at least!) for the next season takes its toll on your memory of characters and events, so we have said we will spend a lot of time over the Christmas period re-watching the boxsets!

IMG_7874

Lush products

Whilst slouching in my pyjamas (or loungewear as I like to refer to it!) I often spend time using my favourite Lush products like lip scrubs and face masks. In between wearing said loungewear I also am rather partial to a lovely hot bath with a bath bomb or bubble bar, or at the very least a hot shower with a shower scrub or shower jelly! So hopefully Santa will help replenish my Lush stash so I can spend my Christmas holidays feeling really relaxed and smelling delicious!

Sophia Webster shoes

I absolutely adore Sophia Webster’s “angel wings” shoe designs but am yet to be lucky enough to own a pair. I added a pair to my online Selfridges basket once as they offered me 20% off but I stupidly didn’t check out and the offer later expired! I would love a pair of these – I’m not even particularly bothered what colour either – the design is so iconic, as a shoe fanatic I should be destined to own a pair of these incredible shoes!

IMG_7194

 

Mulberry Bayswater Handbag

A very optimistic present to add to the list but I would love a Mulberry Bayswater handbag! I’ve never really been too keen on some of the colours but I came across a beautiful nude coloured one in my local House of Fraser, a colour that Mulberry refer to as Rosewater! It also had lovely gold hardware which seems to be rarer than the usual silver hardware – it was absolutely stunning! Fingers and toes crossed!!!!!

IMG_7198

Kurt Geiger Notty Wedges

I fell in love with these wedges over the summer and they aren’t exactly the type of shoes you wear in the winter so with any luck the hubby might be able to pick these up in the end of summer sale with a good amount of money knocked off! I’ve never seen any others like this I think they are really unusual – and obviously cost far less than the Sophia Webster alternative!

IMG_6920

Nike Air Max trainers

I started getting a pair of trainers for Christmas years and years ago because once the post-Christmas sales started I would buy some new bits of gym kit ready to start shifting those pounds when the new year arrived! I used to wait to buy my trainers in the sale too but would always miss out on the ones I wanted because they would have sold out of my size. Either that or the ones I had my eye on weren’t in the sale anyway, so I may as well get the ones I wanted early on!

Nike Air Max are my absolute favourite make of trainers – I’ve been wearing them since I was at school! I absolutely love their latest styles – they  are more fashion than fitness really! I’m lucky because I can still fit into child’s sizes so I can get the great colours on offer for almost half the price! I came across these beautiful colours in my local Office store earlier on in the year – fingers crossed a pair of these will be appearing under the tree this year!

79481A6D-2D6A-4DE7-BB68-46CF77630CA9

Yes this is a very huge and greedy list but we can all fantasise can’t we??

And of course at the very top of my Christmas wish list is for all my family and friends to have the best Christmas so far – full of fun, games, laughter, good food and drink and family time!! I can’t wait!

Christmas Nutcrackers!

24C9B558-2518-44D2-8CC6-1E6E3D34110B

I did change my mind multiple times about whether or not to write this blog because my obsession with these little guys is probably going to come across as very strange to most people! Please will you still follow my blog after I’ve admitted my weird obsession!

Nutcracker Dolls, also known as Christmas Nutcrackers, are decorative nutcracker figurines which are most commonly made to resemble Toy Soldiers. In German tradition, Nutcracker Dolls are said to bring good luck and to scare away bad spirits. Nowadays the majority of Nutcracker Dolls are decorative and are not able to crack nuts out of their shells.

Nutcracker dolls originate from late 17th century Germany. They were often given as gifts, and at some point they became associated with the Christmas season. Wilhelm Friedrich Füchtner (1844-1923), commonly known in Germany as “father of the nutcracker”, began the first mass production of the Nutcracker design from his workshop in Seiffen in Saxony during 1872. 

Decorative nutcracker dolls became popular outside of Europe after the Second World War, when American soldiers stationed in Germany came home to the US with German nutcrackers as souvenirs. Further popularisation came from Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker, a ballet adaptation of E. T. A. Hoffmann’s story The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, which featured a toy soldier nutcracker. The ballet, introduced to America during the mid-20th century, became a favorite holiday tradition across the US and helped to make nutcracker dolls a Christmas decoration and a seasonal icon across Western culture.

I started collecting Nutcracker Dolls a few years back and so now I have a pretty impressive collection! I’m not really sure what draws me to them to be honest, I think it’s simply because I love the festive season so much and they remind me of all things Christmassy!

Varying from small tree ornaments to large decorations, here is my Nutcracker selection so far:

The Countdown Soldier

This is the biggest Nutcracker Doll I own and is from this years Matalan collection! As soon as I saw his fluffy hat, boots and cape I knew I had to have him for my collection!

51BE144E-4143-4C28-86C0-42AE8D93B6DB

A9F232FD-CE47-42BD-A350-27A1C5A30E07

The Bearskin Soldiers

A bearskin is a tall fur cap, usually worn as part of a ceremonial military uniform. Traditionally, the bearskin was the headgear of grenadiers and it is still worn by grenadier and guards regiments in various armies.

These guys are again from this years Matalan collection and are completely different from the rest of my collection! They will certainly guard the presents around the tree very well!

15A45E83-6DFF-46CC-854A-38720FF1336F

70A5BE78-C73D-4E33-AD05-FD43D60220FC

The Sequin Sword Soldiers

Named as such because of their tall sequin hats and silver swords, these are the only Nutcrackers in my collection who carry a weapon I’ve noticed! These were part of Matalan’s Christmas 2016 collection. They go very well with my Countdown Soldier!

D16C32C1-0FC2-4A10-8314-8820C71C2D77

0977E9A3-B1C1-494A-B83B-AD7FEC1547BA

The M&S Soldiers

These guys were, un-surprisingly, from Marks and Spencer’s and were more expensive than the Matalan ones. They were on the three for two offer but who wants three? My OCD dictates only to buy them in pairs! Still, despite their price I am pleased I bought them, they have lovely crystal detailing on their outfits.

7512C9BE-7E2B-48A5-9B6F-6DA019FF83BF

The White and Gold Nutcrackers

These guys were from Asda and so were pretty cheap! They are similar to some I already have but I loved their hats (which are made from tiny beads) and their fluffy boot and sleeve detail!

CFE0D1C0-4E79-47F5-9CDB-EB9F8F73E5C2

The Santa Nutcrackers

Another set from Marks and Spencer’s which were on the three for two offer, these guys are one of my favourite designs and are different from all the others as they are designed to look like Santa! The little bell they are holding really rings too!

F2627BA3-11DB-44F3-BF14-54597DDC5F02

22DA5367-11E0-4FF6-8B41-0CF1853B3585

The White and Gold Very Nutcrackers

As the name suggests, these guys were from Very and came in a set of two – one white one and one gold one from the two photos below – I bought two sets so I had two of each (OCD kicked in again!)

EE4A7D21-73DD-4B0B-960F-A659D8E154AC

CB20C667-44AD-4626-AF99-47E88D9EE06E

Plus this lovely Countdown Nutcracker my friend bought for me from her local garden centre!

AF1B94B0-7D37-4301-999C-80C27486A637

The Nordic Nutcracker

He is one of my favourite designs as he looks really traditional, he’s from this years Matalan collection as well! I love his little bag of toys!

BD665B71-5412-440F-B7D9-CD6061004F5D

The Morrisons Tree Nutcrackers

I happened upon these in Morrison’s last year and bought a couple of packs! They came in packs of six and were really cheap! They are still packed away at the moment but as soon as I have unpacked them I will add photos of them!

The M&S Tree Nutcrackers

These guys are from this years Marks and Spencer’s collection and again, they were more expensive than the similar ones from Morrisons but they were on the three for two offer and I will say that they do have a working handle and moveable mouth as traditional Nutcracker Dolls have, which the set of Morrison’s ones don’t have!

A270E785-A3F9-4F35-ACE5-7F2FF2BED3F8

590A4AF0-B26C-4C86-B306-8CF06D08052E

Partylite Tealight Holder Nutcrackers

These guys are very different from all my other Nutcrackers but I really love them – they hold a tealight candle in their hats!

634EE5E8-0707-4BC6-ABE6-92350037E07B

08223A53-1EA9-4B30-A5CE-67399D5D90FB

I get the feeling this collection will only continue to grow over the years! Last year at the Gloucester Quays Christmas Market they even had a giant Nutcracker trail! There were ten HUGE Nutcrackers you had to find along the trail, all with different names and colours and designs – it was really good and great fun for the kids!  

D0DD2A8E-15F3-4A99-9F8F-88D0430EB02E

If only I can find out who makes these giant Nutcrackers so I can have two standing guard outside our house…..

And if you love Nutcrackers but the dolls aren’t really your thing, check out these amazing Nutcracker themed items I’ve come across this year –

6830A7CB-C33F-4058-98F3-8F6ED08AC4BC
My Nutcracker dress from Want That Trend!
B9B11D2F-156E-499A-862F-5BF9154F9837
Nutcracker crackers!
DD4A2E95-E425-415C-A5C0-1FB6C1FA1B68
A Nutcracker tin full of chocolate chip cookies from Boots (and on the “3 for 2” offer!)

And if this isn’t enough for you, check out Paperchase’s Nutcracker collection!!! AMAZING!

CA78E155-97DE-4F41-862D-E4527E2D3C77
Nutcracker bottle bag from Paperchase

Rocky Road Christmas Bars

 

2ADFB8FE-B6F6-43CC-8A13-46C1DE824831

My sister absolutely adores these and they are incredibly simple to make! This recipe will make you around 24 delicious squares.

462F8204-6B5D-4BBB-869F-BB51F2CB0CC4

Ingredients

-125g soft butter

-300g dark chocolate (preferably 70% cocoa solids)

-3 tablespoons golden syrup

-1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

-200g biscuits (rich tea, digestive, amaretti, whatever you fancy!)

-100g mini marshmallows

-2 teaspoons icing sugar for dusting

-Edible glitter for dusting

-Snowflake (or other!) sprinkles

Instructions

-Firstly, melt the butter, chocolate and golden syrup in a heavy based saucepan. When the mixture is melted, add your cinnamon and stir then scoop out about 125ml of this melted mixture and put to one side.

C8FB8A8A-A894-4B2B-948E-3F5581DDEEE4

-Put the biscuits into a large sandwich bag and then bash them with a rolling pin.

-Fold the biscuit pieces and crumbs into the melted chocolate mixture in the saucepan and then pour in your marshmallows.

9F990A7C-CECF-4DAB-B11E-5220F0508386

-Tip the mixture into a tin which had been lined with greaseproof paper. Flatten the mixture as much as you can and then pour the remaining 125g of mixture over the mixture in the tray and smooth over the top.

141DC90B-3BC6-4ED4-AB63-07E903B622A7

-Put the mixture in the fridge for at least two hours.

012CFA58-A794-4971-90BC-884C36CA4B2A

-When the mixture is completely set, take it out of the tray and cut the mixture into around 24 squares.

-Sprinkle the icing sugar, edible glitter and snowflake sprinkles over the cake bars and viola! They are ready to be devoured!

They are brilliant to put into Christmas themed cellophane bags to give away as presents, or for stocking and Christmas Eve box gifts!

Happy scoffing peeps! xx

Elf On The Shelf

IMG_5798
Buddy the Elf

Meet Buddy! The Evans’ Elf!

I assume you all know the story of the Elf on the Shelf?? If not, let me enlighten you…. Elf on the Shelf is an American tradition which stemmed from the publication of a 2005 book by Carol Aebersold and her daughter Chanda Bell, which was illustrated by Coë Steinwart.

The book tells a Christmas-themed story, written in rhyme, that explains how Santa Claus knows who is naughty and who is nice due to his “scout” elves watching the childrens’ behaviour in the run up to Christmas. Once everyone goes to bed, the scout elf flies back to the North Pole to report to Santa the activities, good and bad, that have taken place throughout the day. Before the family wakes up each morning, the scout elf flies back from the North Pole and hides. By hiding in a new spot each morning around the house, the scout elf plays an on-going game of hide and seek with the family.

The idea of course, is to try and encourage children to be well behaved in the run up to Christmas, and to give frazzled stressed parents the opportunity to shout “the elf is watching! he will tell Santa” six thousand times a day! In order to make it more convincing that the Elves are alive and are watching the little rascals every move, the parents will have to move the Elf and rearrange him in a new location and position, perhaps doing a new activity.

The elves begin watching over the children between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve, after which they toddle off back to the North Pole until the next holiday season.

The Elf on the Shelf comes in a keepsake box that features the picture book and your very own scout elf.

Now is the rather strange part…. hubby and I don’t have any kids as of yet! We came about adopting our Elf Buddy basically because there were some brilliant articles and blogs going around about adult themed Elf on the Shelf ideas and I thought it would be a real laugh to do something similar!

Once Buddy arrived I got the usual disapproving “what the hell is she up to now?” look from hubby which only spurred me on to make Buddy’s behaviour even more annoying in the run up to Christmas!

IMG_0907
Happy 1st December
IMG_1104
Snow Angels
IMG_1121
Minion bananas
IMG_1145
Gone fishing
IMG_1149
Only 20 days to go!
IMG_1156
Marshmallow snowball fight!
IMG_1163
Scaling the kitchen!
IMG_1191
Microwaving popcorn
IMG_1214
Helping with the wrapping
IMG_1253
15 days to go! FYI – Don’t use toothpaste on walls – it stains/bleaches the colour!! 
IMG_1285
Sliding down the bannister
IMG_1303
Peek-a-boo!
IMG_1310
Running low on supplies – can you pop to the store??
IMG_1316
It’s ok, I found more supplies!
IMG_1347
Taking a day off, this scout work is stressful!
IMG_1405
Better get ready for tonight! Lads night out!
IMG_1351
Elves annual Christmas party! Hi Dobby!

Then things took a more sinister turn as I arrived home one day and Buddy was nowhere to be seen….it appears that hubby had just about had enough of his shenanigans!

IMG_1409

The next day, poor Buddy was found in the spare bedroom wardrobe! All alone and tied up in Christmas ribbon!!

IMG_1442

Buddy is not one for revenge, but he was not at all happy about this traumatic experience! He felt hubby need to be shown who was in charge!

From having an Elf accident on hubby’s best football shirt…

IMG_1333
Caught short…..

To using hubby’s toothbrush to clean the toilet….

To replacing the toilet roll with brown packing tape…

To trying to poison the hubby with dog biscuits…

IMG_1476

Then eventually things calmed down and Buddy and hubby became friends again just in time for Buddy to wish us a Merry Christmas!

IMG_1484

Yes it is all very corny, but is just a little bit of fun in the run up to Christmas! The hardest part is thinking of all of the new ideas, especially when we are so limited because we don’t have any children’s toys we can use as additional props!

This year was a particularly exciting year for Buddy, as on the 1st December he left an envelope for hubby saying he would get an extra special present that evening as a reward for working and saving so hard this year for our new house. My amazing Mum later gave us each an envelope which said we were off to New York for three days in the few days to celebrate Christmas in style!

We absolutely can’t wait! What an AMAZING Mum I have!

CocoChlo’s Christmas Countdown!

Ok so it’s official! Silly season has begun! You officially won’t get any sense out of me for at least the next 25 days!

In case you haven’t already guessed – Christmas is my most favourite time of year! I look forward to it months in advance and am severely down and depressed once it is over and we move into the long dark cold month of January. I know my love for Christmas annoys people but, in my view, you need to have something to look forward to, and holidays and Christmas are the two things which give me something to look forward to throughout the year!

Christmas for me mainly centres around the fantastic traditions that myself and my family have developed over the years – after all, knowing what you have to look forward to makes you look forward to it even more!

Here are some of the Christmas traditions my family and I partake in year after year and all the other little Christmassy/wintery things which I love about this time of the year!

Advent Calendars:

Hopefully you will have seen my two blogs on how to make the two different types of Advent Calendars we have in the family. If not, you can read about these here and here.

IMG_0928

IMG_0876

They take a LOT of time and effort to make but come out again and again year after year and make everyone very happy – all my family members look forward to opening their daily treats out of their Christmas Advent Calendars.

The calendars are filled during November with everyone’s favourite treats and then dropped off a few days before the beginning of December. In the past few years I have had to wrap up some of the treats (not fun! Twenty five presents times six people!), due to prying eyes and pokey fingers! And yes, all Advent Calendar recipients are adults!

Most of the days are filled with the likes of Cadbury’s chocolate mousse snowmen, Malteaser reindeers and tiny Lindt bears, and then an extra special gift awaits everyone for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (past years include baubles for the tree and personalised snow globes).

The perfect start to December!

Elf on the Shelf

Love him or hate him (hubby hates him!) Buddy will always make his annual appearance on the 1st December (apart from those days he is kidnapped and held hostage by hubby! Not joking!)

IMG_1285

Buddy plays a big part in helping to build the anticipation of the festive season, and often has some really good jokes and treats in store. This year Buddy has a particularly amazing surprise for the Evans’ which you can read about in Buddy’s very own blog which is being published in the next couple of days! #sorrynotsorry to all you Elf haters!

Buying our Christmas tree

We always had a real tree when we were growing up – my Mum, my two Sisters, the dog and I would walk miles to go and get one from the garden centre up the road (Mum can’t drive) and we would carry it all the way home, alternating between carrying the tree and walking the dog! When hubby and I first moved out and into our new home, I was over the top obsessed with keeping it clean and tidy and so, for fear of getting pine needles everywhere, I insisted on having a plastic tree for the first couple of years.

After a couple of years with this awful cheap plastic tree I decided enough was enough and we agreed we would buy a real tree the following Christmas. I was pleased to learn at this stage that there were a lot more trees around which didn’t drop their needles, so I was a double happy bunny!

We always get our tree the first weekend of December, which is usually around my Sisters Birthday. We usually buy it the Saturday morning and then get it home and set it up, and let the branches drop and the tree take shape for the next 24 hours.

Then on the Sunday we spend the day decorating it, listening to Christmas tunes and having hot chocolate and other Christmas themed treats! The trees usually get named at some point too….

Christmas shopping

My work organise an annual coach trip to London on the first Wednesday of December which is absolutely brilliant. The coach drops off at two places – Harrods (also ideal for visiting the Museums) and the corner of Hyde Park.

I usually go with my Sister and Mum and we’ve done all sorts during these trips – we took Mum to Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland one year, and visited the Ice Bar and Ice Sculpture display, the following year we spent a couple of hours in Harrods food hall and then popped over the road and spent the rest of the day in the Natural History Museum (which we concluded you would need to spend a week in in order to see everything!) followed by a couple of years of good old retail therapy down good old Oxford Street! I always pop into Primark as well to see if I can find any last minute stocking fillers or bits to go in my Christmas Eve boxes!

The beautiful London department store windows are another one of the highlights! My two favourites are Harrods and Selfridges – the designers must spend months in advance coming up with these amazingly creative ideas! Good luck getting a photo of some of them though – they obviously attract an awful lot of people so get in there quick to catch a glimpse!

Festive Days Out

Sudeley Castle Spectacle of Light, Longleat Safari Park, Prinknash Abbey, and a ride on The Polar Express – you name it we have probably been there and partaken in their Christmas-themed festivities!

IMG_7284

IMG_7149

IMG_7164

Christmas Markets

I really love Christmas markets and the family and I have been to several over the years! I don’t go to them to do my main Christmas shopping but to try the amazing food and drink and check out the brilliant arts and crafts people make – some people are so creative!

At Gloucester Quays Christmas Markets last year they opened an ice skating rink and lots of little wooden huts around the outside which served mulled wine, hot apple cider, hot chocolate and roasted chestnuts! Just what you need to get into the Christmas spirit, although I do get there very early so I can get around quickly before the crowds arrive! Some places become unbearable at peak times!

Festive Drinks – Coffees, Hot Chocolate and Eggnog!

Most days in December usually feature a trip to Starbucks, Costa or Café Nero to sample this year’s Festive coffee and hot chocolate flavours! Yes, a blog on these is to follow too! Sorry!

IMG_5503

Obviously hot chocolates can be consumed throughout the year but there’s something different about a Christmas hot chocolate! Perhaps it is the lack of guilt you feel when you spray on mounds of whipped cream and tip half a box of marshmallows on top!

A favourite of mine is to add a tiny bit of cinnamon and nutmeg to really make it taste like Christmas in a mug! I buy all my hot chocolates from Whittards – they are the best by far in my opinion! This years flavours I invested in are Dark Hot Chocolate, Praline White Hot Chocolate, Rocky Road Hot Chocolate and Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate! Delicious!

580F197A-A91A-472F-B046-C3A44A696260

I am also absolutely obsessed with eggnog! Is there a more Christmassy drink than eggnog!? If Starbucks ever stopped producing their eggnog lattes I don’t know what I would do!

Monin Syrups

If you want to make your own flavoured coffees or hot chocolates, I recommend you take a look at the collection of flavours Monin Syrups have to offer – there aren’t many flavours you can’t get hold of, and every year I struggle to choose which to buy next! I finally decided on Donut, Maple Spice, Amaretto and Macaron flavours!

3802A787-4F27-4A45-93A4-1CB7A8C2BCCD

Christmas Adverts

Am I the only one who cries at these flipping adverts??? Lost Snowman looking for their partner….in tears, Buster the Boxer jumping on a trampoline…..in tears, Monty the penguin – so cute (in tears), the Sainsburys WW1 truce between British and German soldiers for Christmas Day….hysterical. I really do need to stop watching them to be fair! Anyway, every year they get more and more amazing and more and more heartfelt, it wouldn’t be Christmas without them!

Choosing the Christmas menu!

By the end of October I will have picked up several copies of each supermarkets festive food catalogues! I usually pick them up from Marks and Spencers, Asda, Tescos and Morrisons so we can all look at the full range everyone has to offer!

The family all meet in late October/early November to decide what food we are going to have on the days we are all going to be together (usually Christmas Day and Boxing Day or both). Everyone in my family has different tastes so it is quite difficult to choose things which most people will like!

You can read more about what is on the Christmas menu this year in my “what’s on the menu this Christmas” blog which is published on the 23rd December, but these will give you an idea…

Christmas Jumpers

Since Christmas jumpers came back into fashion a couple of years ago (the cheesier the better it seems!) I somehow now have an array of seasonal knitwear! It would seem I am a bit addicted, as every year they bring out better and sillier designs! Hubby had a jumper last year with actual flashing lights on! Amazing!

IMG_1131

86EE713A-4F0F-4DAD-B876-4EBE5D35D3E9

Visits to the Cinema

What better way to get into the seasonal spirit than by visiting the cinema to watch a Christmassy film!!! Past cinema visits have included to watch Frozen, Bad Santa, Black Christmas and Krampus (ok so a couple of them are horror films, but still Christmassy!) This year I already have my sights set on two films – Bad Mom’s Christmas and Pitch Perfect 3! Can’t wait!

If I don’t have time to get to the cinema as I am spending my free weekends wrapping up the mounds of presents, I’ll always have some classic Christmas films on in the background whilst drinking my Christmassy hot chocolate! A blog on my favourite Christmas films will follow in a few days time!

Gingerbread Making

Gingerbread Houses – I love gingerbread but only the home made stuff which is lovely and fluffy and soft – not the hard shop bought stuff that you nearly break your teeth on!

For the first few years I was buying the shop bought sets (basically it was easier because all the pieces were pre-made so I could spend more time decorating them!) but I realised after making them that they didn’t get eaten because the gingerbread was rock hard! So my mother in law bought me a cookie cutter set which meant I could make proper gingerbread and cut out the pieces I needed to make my gingerbread house!

This year I spent the afternoon making gingerbread houses with my Sister and it was absolutely brilliant! We really enjoyed ourselves and it really got us into the Christmas spirit! I hope we make it an annual event from now on!

Christmas Yankee Candles

My family and I always buy Christmas themed Yankee Candles to burn throughout the festive season and I also put one in everyone’s Christmas Eve boxes for them to burn the night before the big day. Check out some of this years scents –

Nutcracker Dolls

An obsession of mine! If you are intrigued, a separate blog on these little guys is coming out in the next couple of days….

IMG_1120

Christmas Eve boxes

Unfortunately I am one of those annoying people who has usually bought all of the main Christmas presents and got them wrapped up before December even starts as this frees me up the time to do all of these other amazing things throughout December! I do tend to leave buying little things like stocking fillers until December though.

In December I will also start buying bits and pieces to go in everyone’s Christmas Eve boxes! Hopefully you will have read my blogs I released last year on how to make them and what you can put in them – if not you can read about them here and here.

IMG_0693

Last year was the first time I unveiled the Christmas Eve boxes but they were so popular and loved by everyone that I promised I would make them a regular thing. The only thing is, I went a bit mental last year with it being the first year and so everyone got a lot in their boxes in addition to their normal pressies, so this year I asked everyone what their favourite bits were and I have limited it to four or five items, and a few sweets and treats.

Now December is here I will start looking for some good surprises to sneak into people’s Christmas Eve boxes to make Christmas Eve that little bit more special! This year’s box contents will be revealed in my Christmas Eve blog so watch this space!

IMG_1210

Post-Christmas themed parties

The family and I are all very lucky in that we all tend to get at least a week off over the Christmas period. As we are all avid Christmas fans, once Boxing Day has come and gone and we are in the few days between Christmas and New Year, the post-Christmas blues start to set in.

To cheer us up after the main event has come and gone, and to give us something else to look forward to (and OCD organiser Chloe to organise!), I usually throw a small family themed party for my Mum, my Sisters and myself. Past themes have included Harry Potter, Frozen and The Polar Express! This year’s theme is Beauty and the Beast, so I have been scouring eBay and Primark for months and months looking for ideas and treats to go in everyone’s goody bags!

Yes it’s cheesy/corny/childish but it cheers us all up and gives us the chance to spend some time together over Christmas without the added pressure of running around to check the turkey, prepare the veg and grab someone another drink. Plus my older sister Lindsey, who has autism, really looks forward to the parties (and the opportunity to get some more presents, even after Christmas is over!) I’ll do a separate blog about this year’s party so you can see what a great time we had this year!!!

Time off

What could be better than some time off work to celebrate and then rest and re-cooperate?? By the time my Christmas leave comes around I’ve usually got huge lists of bits and pieces I want to get done during my time off! The first few days off are usually Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day but after clearing up after these celebrations I always feel really down that Christmas has come and gone for another year, so I like to keep myself busy!

One of the regular tasks which appears this time of year includes sorting through mine and hubby’s wardrobes – throwing out/giving to charity the old stuff, putting aside stuff which needs repairing or dry cleaning, eBay-ing any unwanted valuable stuff and making space for the new stuff we got for Christmas or during the sales! The rest of the time hubby and I spend watching DVD’s or Netflix whilst eating the left over Christmas goodies! I’m afraid the majority of this time off is spent in my pyjamas!

Anyway, this just about wraps up my plans for December! No wonder it flies by so quickly!! And no wonder they call it the most wonderful time of the year!

Enjoy everyone!

CocoChlo’s Christmas Advent Calendars – Take Two!

Ok so hopefully you have read my last blog about how to make Advent Calendars and thought it was a really good idea (hopefully!) but something which is quite complicated, time consuming and perhaps a bit on the expensive side.

The first year I made the advent calendars I made three – one for each of my two Sisters and one for myself – I had hoped to make more but the time and money involved in making them meant I had left it too late for that year.

The following year I decided to make a further three – one for hubby, one for my brother in law and one for my Mum, so all six of us had our own calendars.

I wanted the second batch of calendars to be different from the first (and hopefully more simple to make!) so I set about creating a new design.

Just something to note – some of the pictures in this blog show the original base size, which we decided to cut down after a few days because the calendars were too difficult to move and wouldn’t fit through our loft hatch when they needed to be put away!!! Of course you can have the bases bigger if you want.

The base sizes eventually measured 60cm long by 35cm wide and were again cut out of 2cm thick MDF which I bought from B&Q. I bought a sample size of black paint to paint each of the bases, but of course you can use any colour you want.

image

I ordered several small sized Christmas trees from eBay (I think the trees were three foot high). The trees arrived and had a tripod style base which you put the metal rod in to stand them up. The original plan was to fix the tripod stand to the wooden base and then to cover the tripod bit with some Christmassy material (known elsewhere as a “tree skirt”, not joking!)

IMG_7462I tried to glue the tripod plastic base to the rectangle wooden base but this didn’t work very well as not much of the material was flat to the base to be able to glue it. To make matters worse, when I thought I had finished making the trees and filled the advent boxes and started hanging them on the tree, the metal pole acting as the trunk of the tree started to bow under the weight! I hadn’t even put all the advent boxes on so I knew I needed a plan B!

My Mum had recently had a log burner installed in her home so had a huge pile of pre-cut logs which were ready to go onto the fire. I stole a few of these logs and hubby drilled a hole in the centre of the log and we forced the metal rod “trunk” of the tree as far down as possible and then sealed it with very strong glue (we used Gorilla glue but for gods sake be careful with this stuff, especially if you have kids around!) The log we used was around 23cm in height, just to give you some idea.

This seemed to do the trick and held the weight of the Christmas tree just fine so I nailed and glued the log to the black base and let it dry for at least 24 hours.

After that comes the fun bit! The decorating!

To decorate the calendars I got most of my bits and pieces on eBay – these are the items I ordered but of course you can decorate yours however you want –

  • Glitter star toppers in red, gold and silver (£5.99 each)
  • Wooden names for the bases (the prices of these depend on how many letters each name has, for example, £3.00 for five letters and £4.20 for seven letters)
  • Red, gold and silver glitter paints (£5.69 each pot)
  • Red, gold and silver glitter LED candles (£5.99 for a pack of 12 in one colour)
  • Velcro dots to attach the LED candles to the felt (£3.65 a pack)
  • Pack of 25 Advent Boxes (£10 from Next)
  • A set of two glitter reindeers in gold, silver and red (£4.00 for the pair)

I painted the wooden names with the glitter paint first of all – a word of warning, you may want to put an undercoat of a matching or contrasting colour underneath your glitter paint as it took many many layers before it started to build up the glitter colour. To be honest, even after several coats, I still wasn’t particularly happy with the colour and amount of glitter, particularly as this paint is quite expensive.

image

Once you have painted the name plaque, glue it onto the base alongside your other decorations like your reindeer and LED candles.

I also bought a pack of battery operated fairy lights for £1 from the Poundshop and wrapped them round the tree to make it look a bit more authentic!

Then fill your advent boxes with whatever you fancy (see below for some ideas!) and then hang on your tree ready to be found!!!

IMG_0928

IMG_0929

IMG_5526

IMG_5529

CocoChlo’s Christmas Advent Calendars – Take One!

My love for Christmas goes as far back as I can remember!

I have amazing memories of Christmas from when I was younger, we always made such an effort in our house to enjoy and celebrate the festive season. One of my favourite memories were the giant Christmas advent calendars that my Dad made for me and my two Sisters.

We had a calendar each and they consisted of sections of round plastic tubes which had been cut to size and glued on top of one another into the shape of a Christmas tree. Once the sections were filled with treats my Dad would cut out circles on different coloured paper and number them one to twenty-five and then stick the circles onto the pieces of pipe so we would have to break through the paper to get our presents. We had these calendars for years until eventually they fell to bits and my Sisters and I started going through the awkward teenage years where basically we thought everything like this was childish and stupid, so Mum gave up on the idea for a while.

A few years ago my Sisters, my Mum and I were talking about the Advent Calendars and I thought it would be great to make some new ones for the three of us, just like we had when we were younger. Although I wanted the idea to be similar, I wanted a new design which was better than the last ones!

IMG_0876

IMG_5528

My quest for materials began at B&Q which is usually my go-to place for materials for projects like this! To start off making your Advent Calendars you need the following materials –

  • Three lengths of square brown guttering 6.5cm wide (these were £6.28 each)
  • A sheet of MDF wood for the bases and the sides 2cm/20mm thick (£15.43 for the sheet)
  • Black paint to paint the calendar bases (I didn’t need a lot of this paint so I bought three sample sized pots which were £3.10 in total).
  • Green “tree” coloured paint – you need quite a bit of this so I bought a 1 litre tub as I wanted to do a couple of coats.
  • Felt numbers 1 to 25 (£3.75 per pack)
  • Felt and fabric glue (I bought two as I knew I would need a lot)
  • Brown felt

To make up the Advent Calendars you need to –

  • Cut your base – we cut ours 60cm long and 35cm wide. I’m lucky enough to have a husband as a carpenter so the cutting stages were relatively straight forward because we had the right tools. If you don’t have the right tools it is best to make a note of all the sizes of cuts you need and when you buy the MDF, request that the store cuts it into the sizes you require – I know that B&Q definitely offer this service and this will save you a great deal of time later on.
  • Paint your base black (or whatever colour you have chosen)

image

  • Cut your sides – one will need to be slightly longer than the other so that they join at the top (think ceiling coving joints!). The sides are 80cm long and 7cm wide.
  • Cut the back triangle – this is one of the trickiest parts as if this doesn’t measure correctly, the sides won’t fit properly. The triangle is 54cm along the base and is 80cm high where the two angles reach the point.
  • Glue or nail the sides to the back panel – if you are choosing glue you will need very strong glue for this purpose – again I was lucky enough to have a husband with a nail gun for this part!
  • Once the sides and back are securely together (or the glue is dried), paint the sides and back panel green. They may need a couple of coats, but this all depends on the type of paint you have bought (matt or silk etc) and of course the shade you are painting it.

image

image

image

  • Once the bases, backs and sides have all been painted and are completely dry (I would probably leave for 24 hours to be sure), you need to attach the base to the side and back panels. I’m afraid you will have to use nails for this part of the process, as any glue would probably not be strong enough to hold the weight.
  • The next stage is to make up the little advent boxes to fit inside the “tree”. Cut up the brown drainpipe into twenty-five 6.5cm by 6.5cm squares – you may have some casualties during this stage as unfortunately the plastic does have a tendency to crack! Try and go as carefully as you can – you should have some drainpipe left over in case of any mishaps! The edges may be sharp so you might need to rub them down with sandpaper before you go any further – annoying and time consuming I know but you don’t want sharp edges where little hands will be poking about!

image

  • Once you have twenty-five perfectly cut squares – arrange the squares together in the following formations (bottom to top)
  • A row of five
  • A row of five
  • A row of four
  • A row of four
  • A row of three
  • A row of two
  • A row of two
  • A single cube
  • A single cube
  • Once you have arranged them they should stack in your advent calendar like this:

image

  • Once you have arranged them, glue them into rows side by side (do not glue them on top of one another just yet!)
  • Once the squares are in this order, cut the brown felt to size and glue the felt across the tops of the rows of squares and allow “flaps” of felt to fall over the front of the cubes (to cover up whatever little surprises will be placed inside!)
  • Once all the rows or single squares have been covered in felt, glue the rows of cubes on top of one another to form your pyramid shape.
  • Once the pyramid of boxes has had the felt added and is completely dry, you can add the felt numbers to the calendar flaps using fabric glue. We did ours in order starting at the bottom left and working our way up to the top in a snake like fashion, but of course you can dot your numbers anywhere you like. At the end they should look something like this –

image

Once the numbers are dry, glue your pyramid into your advent calendar frame.

The hardest bits are now over, now for the fun bit which is decorating your calendars!

To decorate the calendars I got all my bits and pieces on eBay – these are the items I ordered but of course you can decorate yours however you want –

  • Glitter star tree toppers in red, gold and silver (£5.99 each)
  • Wooden names for the bases (the prices of these depend on how many letters each name has, for example, £3.00 for five letters and £4.20 for seven letters)
  • Red, gold and silver glitter paints (£5.69 each pot)
  • Red, gold and silver glitter LED candles (£5.99 for a pack of 12 in one colour)
  • A pack of plain wooden snowflakes in various sizes for the sides of the calendars (£7.65 for a pack of 60).
  • Velcro dots to attach the LED candles to the felt (£3.65 a pack)
  • A set of two glitter reindeers in gold, silver and red (£4.00 for the pair)

I painted the wooden names and wooden snowflakes with the glitter paint first of all – a word of warning, you may want to put an undercoat of a matching or contrasting colour underneath your glitter paint as it took many, many layers before it started to build up the glitter colour. To be honest, even after several coats, I still wasn’t particularly happy with the colour and amount of glitter which ended up on the wood, particularly as this paint is quite expensive.

image

image

image

image

I then glued the wooden names to the bases and the snowflakes down the side of each tree.

image

image

I got these packs of LED candles and attached a candle to each space on top of the rows of the pyramid, like so:

image

IMG_0926

You can glue the LED candles on if it is easier – I bought a set of little velcro dots and attached one onto the bottom of the candle and one onto the felt so they are attached securely but you can still take them off and on. If you do glue the candles on, remember you won’t be able to switch them on and off as the on/off button is on the bottom!

I glued my two reindeers on the base of the calendar and cut a V shape into the base of the star tree topper so it slotted onto the point of the calendar and could be glued in place.

Then after all this I began buying all the bits and pieces to go in them! Chocolates, Sweets, Mini Games, Bubbles, Christmas Tree Decorations, Snowglobes and Treasure Hunt clues – you name it, we have probably had it as one of our Advent Calendar presents! Here’s a few ideas – you can get treats like these from all major supermarkets such as Sainsbury’s, Asda, Marks and Spencer’s and Tescos:

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my blog about my Advent Calendars, this was the first design I did – keep an eye out for the second design I created which is far easier to put together if you don’t have a lot of the appropriate tools to hand!

Happy Advent Calendar planning!!!

 

 

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween everyone! I assume you all did most of your celebrating over the weekend seeing as Halloween awkwardly falls on a Tuesday this year!

We didn’t celebrate this year as much as we normally do – we are all packed up and ready to move house! We were hoping to be moved out well in advance of Halloween but unfortunately everything (including all my Halloween decor!) is still packed away in boxes eagerly awaiting our moving date….

I found it really depressing that we couldn’t decorate or throw a big party like we normally do every year, but I still had a great time having a small Halloween celebration with my Mum and Sister’s over the weekend!

We carved pumpkins and made apple tea light candles which was really messy but good fun! I made a puking pumpkin which Mum wasn’t very happy with!! Sorry Mum!

D39C984A-79F0-43B9-BBA1-DCC19587A734

550981F9-9AB4-4CAC-A943-03EE66670AE2

We then watched Hocus Pocus! What a brilliant family Halloween film!

C302CF3F-89D9-4E5A-AE41-A6A1FD7DA5AA

Whilst we were watching Hocus Locus we toasted marshmallows! Yes, indoors! I bought us this amazing toasting marshmallow kit from the Naked Marshmallow Company! I’m not going to talk too much about it or post too many photos because I think a separate blog is in order for this brilliant kit! Watch this space….

7394F8A9-5A90-4071-B91F-A628A6468E01

536AEF2F-F625-404E-B7FA-420922AA7BA2

3933FDD1-8242-4C7F-A1E9-D97D6B5F9EC1

I also did my yearly goody bags for family and friends and treated myself to some fantastic Halloween treats!

The Pumpkin and Frankenstein goody bags were from good old Marks and Spencer’s! They were also in the three for two offer! Bonus!

2BAA58D0-A1B9-46DE-A226-A38500258CF9

EF43F357-D3BE-43B3-BA5C-FB66B54431E3

Our family love Yankee Candles so it would have been wrong not to include some lovely autumnal scents in this years goody bags! The scents I used this year were Crackling Wood Fire, Autumn Night and Fireside Treats! Perfect to light on a cold, wet autumnal evening! The Autumn Night one is burning away on the hall shelf as I write this.

F5EA0219-8778-4DAB-B91B-D820BD0D7BED

I used good old Marks and Spencer’s again for the Goody Bag sweets – check out these Percy Pumpkins, Freaky Frogs, Zombie Owls and Scary Spiders!

E95EA698-71C9-4DEC-896A-0AE0AF140795

AF9217E9-BDA0-4B87-81FC-6C4E29AEB923

For the adult recipients I thought these Crystal Skull Vodkas were brilliant! You can get them in several places but the cheapest place I found them were from the Drink Shop as they were in the sale!

09AFD43F-366C-4ECE-9D85-5E1D95EF95B2

The vodka is made by Dan Ackroyd and contains no additives, sugar, or citrus oils – the emphasis on this product is its purity. Was I sold by this? Not really – I literally bought them because they are in an amazing skull bottle which is perfect for Halloween!

26FFF50A-D8A2-4BA4-AF1D-8259FE1441C4

These little guys have been in our Halloween gift bags for as long as I can remember!

Plus I also found these great chocolate lollipops from Marks and Spencer’s (again on the three for two offer).

I got these amazing cake pops and other treats from Popadoodledo! They were so well made and so tasty I think I will do a separate blog on this brilliant company too! I can’t wait for her Christmas range to come out!

57FFF090-B9F9-4AEC-BF98-47E8302E8DC7

Check out these white chocolate fingers with white chocolate “blood dip”! Brilliant!

04B1B7AE-1CDA-462E-84FC-3D458DFDFF2E

and these little guys, believe it or not, are mini Oreos covered in white chocolate!

5BAA091D-2CE4-4715-A740-0B2355BAD277

I also treated myself to these extra special treats from The Whimsical Cake Company through Not On The High Street, aren’t they stunning? Almost too good too eat…. almost.

97446B5E-E30B-4FC8-A9A4-74F23E7A7CC1

6C5E94E0-4882-40B7-9BC7-5AE9F263CCFC

 

Some lucky people had some extra special chocolate from Hotel Chocolat because they will only eat dark chocolate (you know who you are!)

D3382CDA-B223-4434-B686-F0C15DF9B6FA

I especially loved this Hotel Chocolat Yumpkin! Tasty dark chocolate and vegan friendly!

B1CDC5E2-9975-42AC-83A9-B672E1C218A6

How cute are these tiddly little dark chocolate vampires??

Plus some lucky recipients also got some Halloween themed Lush Cosmetics products! You can read more about these in my “A Lush Halloween” blog which was published on Sunday!

So as you can see we were all a little bit spoilt over the Halloween weekend! Sort of makes up for not being able to decorate the house properly and have a big party, but not quite!

We should be in our new house for next Halloween so I’ll have to push the boat out on next years party instead! I’m thinking something along the lines of this amazing house I found on Pinterest

C2CCC1F3-FD93-45BE-9ACE-9CF2A9183301

Not sure we would get many lovely Trick or Treaters though!

 

Halloween Eats!

Hooray! It’s finally Halloween weekend! I’ve got some great things planned for this weekend but it wouldn’t be a real Halloween celebration without my favourite Halloween recipes I make year after year!

Ghost Cakes

All you need for these is your normal cupcake recipe (vanilla, chocolate, whatever you fancy) and a set of dariole moulds (usually sold in a set of six). Dariole moulds are quite difficult to get hold of in everyday shops, so try somewhere like eBay or Lakeland.

Make sure the dariole moulds are greased and lined and fill to about two-thirds full to allow the cakes space to rise. Once the cakes are cooked, allow them to cool and then carefully remove from the moulds (you might need to cut a bit off the base so that the cakes can stand upright) then all you need to do is roll out some pre-made royal icing and fold it over the top of the cakes so that it looks ghost-like! Add two raisins or dots of black icing for the eyes and voila!

IMG_5203

Welsh-rarebit Ghosts

These are so easy!

Just buy yourself a ghost-shaped cookie cutter and cut ghost shapes out of any type of bread. In a saucepan add 225g of strong cheddar cheese, 1 tablespoon of butter, 2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce, 1 teaspoon dry mustard, 2 teaspoons of plain flour and cook over a low heat until melted. At this point you can even add a couple of tablespoons of your favourite beer if you like! Stir the ingredients until they become paste-like.

Toast the one side of the bread, then spread the rarebit over the non-toasted side and brown off under the grill. Only down-side to these are they do need eating straight away after they have been served, but they go down brilliantly as a drunken party goers midnight snack! Delicious!

IMG_5267

Chocolate Frogs

Easy-peasy! Buy the mould from Ebay, choose what chocolate you want to turn into frogs (I use dark chocolate, milk chocolate and cookies and cream chocolate), melt the chocolate slowly in the microwave (do 30 seconds then stir and repeat until all the chocolate is melted) and then pour into the moulds and leave to set.

Hint: do these a couple of days in advance a few at a time, don’t rush them and don’t put them into the fridge to get them to set – changing the temperature too quickly will make the chocolate go white and although it doesn’t do you any harm to eat, it doesn’t look very appetising and your frogs will look mouldy!

IMG_5231

IMG_5288

Shattered Glass Cupcakes

These are really popular at my parties, people always comment at how great they look!

Take your normal cupcake recipe, again any flavour you like, and make the cupcakes as normal. When you go to ice the cakes, use a plain vanilla buttercream or cream cheese as these look the most effective.

A couple of hours before the guests are due to arrive, begin making the shattered glass. The glass needs to be made last minute as when it is left on the cakes for long periods of time, the glass begins to melt and doesn’t look anywhere near as effective. The recipe for making the glass is basically the same as for making caramel, you just don’t leave it cooking as long so the liquid stays clear.

Put 275g of granulated sugar and 175ml of water in a small saucepan with high sides and bring to the boil whilst stirring to make sure all the sugar has dissolved (keep kids well away from this!). Reduce the heat to medium/high and leave to cook until the mixture starts to go golden brown around the edges. This can take a while – around 15 to 20 minutes but keep an eye on it at all times! As soon as this happens, remove the mixture from the heat and pour onto a rimmed baking sheet, tilting the baking sheet slightly as you pour so it spreads evenly and makes a thin layer. Be REALLY careful at this stage – this mixture is incredibly hot!!

Let the mixture cool so it hardens (around 30 minutes). Once the mixture has set, twist the baking sheet slightly and hit the mixture with a rolling pin to crack it like glass (again be careful, these shards can be as sharp as glass) and start adding the shards to the cupcakes.

To finish off, drizzle a blood like mixture over the top of the cupcakes (I make runny icing using royal icing sugar, water and red food colouring, but you can also use jam or cherry preserves etc – I even found pre-made red runny icing in the supermarket last year).

Serve up the cupcakes straight away and watch jaws drop! Oh and teeth break if they don’t go steady on the hardened sugar!

IMG_0533

IMG_0535

DEC80067-84FB-491F-8B58-565BC5A41F76

Mummy Hotdogs

Love these! I could eat the whole lot!

Again so simple to make! Buy a tin of hotdogs, buy a pre-made pack of croissant dough, unroll the dough and cut into thin slices to use as the “bandages”, wrap the dough around the hotdogs to look like mummys and put them in the oven for about 15-20 minutes until the dough starts going golden brown and the hotdogs are cooked. For the eyes, add two dots of mustard! Really tasty!

IMG_0542

Rice Krispie Pumpkins

I’ve only made these once and they didn’t turn out quite as expected (I didn’t use enough orange food colouring!) but again they are very easy to make and are quite effective! Make up your normal batch of Rice Krispie cakes, add orange food colouring, shape into a ball shape and decorate the eyes, nose, mouth and stalks with black and green ready rolled icing.

IMG_5290

Witches Fingers

There are a couple of recipes for Witches Fingers on the internet – both sweet (Almond Witches Fingers) and savoury (Cheesy Witches Fingers). Both are really effective and very tasty!

IMG_0544
Almond Witches Fingers

Peanut Butter Eyeballs

These are quite easy to make but take bloody ages to decorate so be warned!!! I took a batch of them into work for my work colleagues a couple of years ago and they went down really well though! The recipe does make a lot, which is probably why they take so long to decorate! Find the recipe here.
IMG_0545

I hope this has given you some ideas of some easy but effective Halloween treats! I’m off to start working my way through the bowl of sweets we put aside for the trick or treaters!

Have a great Halloween weekend!

UncommonGoods.Com – an unusual gift givers delight!

61509B32-472F-4AC9-8C3B-94BE7710F124
My favourite item on the site so far – this set of four Agate Coasters – beautiful!

For those organised people who are already thinking about this year’s Christmas gifts – if you are stuck for ideas or fancy something really different this year then I have got a brilliant website for you!

I start my Christmas shopping really early, not just because I have so many people to buy for, but because I am not one of those people who leaves it until the last minute and then hits the stores with a massive list and basically grabs whatever is left on the shelves! I like to give each present I buy some significant thought to ensure I am buying something the person will love and either use regularly or treasure forever!

As the years go on it is becoming harder and harder to find such unusual gifts for people. Trends change really quickly and as soon as someone has introduces a great idea, it is not long afterwards that the market becomes flooded with copycat ideas and everyone ends up with one of these latest gifts or gadgets under the tree.

This is where Uncommon Goods comes in!

The website is an American website but they make it incredibly easy to shop online from the UK. All prices are quoted in Pounds sterling and all the duties and taxes are calculated at the checkout – so you know exactly how much something is going to cost and aren’t left with any outstanding fees surprises when the item is delivered! Uncommon Goods also keep the international shipping rates as low as possible so you aren’t stung on delivery costs which, on some websites I’ve used, end up costing more than the item itself!

I’ve spent lots of time searching through this brilliant website – there are hundreds and hundreds of amazing gifts to choose from, it was really hard to whittle it down to just a few but here are some of my favourites from the following Uncommon Goods collections:

Perfect Christmas gifts for her

I love this necklace which reads “do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and make a trail” because I first came across this quote on a plaque in Las Vegas at the New York New York hotel in 2009 – I loved it then and I’m so pleased I came across this!

Travel Stub Diary – ideal for storing tickets, maps, postcodes and any other memorabilia you’ve collected from those special places you’ve visited.

I LOVE snow globes – how beautiful is this cherry blossom snow globe?! My sister adores cherry blossom so she might find one of these hiding under the Christmas tree this year!

Bath salts are always a firm favourite – I love these Chakra bath salts in these bright cheerful colours!

How elegant is this wine tasting flight? Ideal for a girls night in to give guests the opportunity to sample different wines!

I’m not normally a fan of mugs but how cute are these little owl mugs?? I hosted a Harry Potter themed party recently – these would have been ideal for it!

Check out this amazing Elwood unicorn mug! There’s also a matching bowl! You can’t go too far wrong with anything unicorn themed as a present at the moment!

This woven wine tote with glasses is a great idea for picnics or even when just sitting in the garden – no more knocked or kicked over wine glasses when they are put safely back in this woven tote!

These cocoa butter truffles bathtub soaks look good enough to eat but you will have to settle with using them in a nice hot bath instead! Ideal for relaxing with during those cold winter months!

I love this set of three loofah scrubbers! The embedded loofah is made of dried gourd which is a natural skin polisher.

Perfect Christmas gifts for him

Check out this whiskey wedge! Simply make the “ice slope” from the mould to keep drinks cold but with minimal dilution.

This bottle loft is brilliant and definitely something hubby will be adding to the Christmas list! It looks really impressive and saves space too!

My father in law loves guitars and has built up quite a collection over the years so these coin guitar picks and guitar themed socks will probably end up in his stocking this Christmas!

Carrying on with the music theme – these two are great for music lovers! Check out the record clock and record bowls! There’s also a matching doormat if you’d prefer…

If you want to avoid having ice in your drinks altogether then these nautical whiskey stones are brilliant! Simply freeze them and add them to your drinks to keep them cool and prevent watered down drinks.

How unusual is this stone drinks dispenser?? I’ve never seen anything like it before! Probably why it appears on the UncommonGoods website though!

If food is more of a perfect gift for the man in your life, how about this brilliant beer jelly? It comes in a set of four preserves which are infused with craft beers!

Or these boozy Jonboy caramels? A set of three in absinthe, whiskey and fleur de sel flavours!

Perfect Christmas gifts for Mum

I was really looking forward to rifling through this section of the website because I love choosing special presents for my Mum!

I really love these birthstone wishing balls – each one comes with 52 slips of paper for you to write down your wishes, memories or accomplishments every week of the year! Coil them up and put them in the tiny hole near the base and they become a permanent part of the display! Stunning!

Continuing with the birthstone theme (this features a lot in my choices I’ve noticed!) is the birthstone jewellery dish – ideal for Mum’s dressing table!

I also love this Nordic tea light trough – really cosy looking and relaxing!

I love this molten sculptural bowl – probably more for myself than for someone else! The base is the root of a gamal tree and it can be used as anything from a vase to an unusual wine decanter. Absolutely beautiful and utterly striking.

I thought these wine cork candles were a brilliant idea! Really effective, they come in a pack of 12 to keep you going for a while.

How unusual is this real sugar maple leaf night light?? It is preserved in 24 karat antique gold so it retains its delicate shape and veins, and is stunning as an ornament in the day and a night light in the evening.

Sorry… birthstone related gifts again! But believe it or not these are SOAPS! Aren’t they great? They are all handmade and look just like gemstones, I would like one of each in my stocking please Santa!

My Mum loves her herb garden, and so these brass herb plant markers are a perfect present for her!

Or how about this slow brew iced tea maker?! A great idea if your Mum enjoys her iced teas whilst working in the garden!

 

If this hasn’t been enough to convince you, UncommonGoods also have a really admirable mission statement, and are working hard to make sustainability a key part of their business. They are constantly working to make UncommonGoods more environmentally friendly and more socially responsible.

Here are just some things UncommonGoods focus on as part of the everyday running of the business:

Handmade, Recycled and Organic Products –

“We’re committed to offering you a creative and exciting merchandise assortment and are working with our suppliers – from artists to small manufacturers – to make their products in a more socially and environmentally responsible manner. Since our founding, we’ve featured products that contain recycled components and have not sold products containing leather, feathers or fur – we’re committed to selling products that do no harm to people or animals.”

Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)

“We understand that by producing a catalog we use the earth’s resources. We try our best to minimize that impact by shifting more business online, limiting how many catalogs we mail, and printing our catalogs on either recycled paper (virtually all of which is from 30% post-consumer waste) or paper sourced from FSC certified forests (which are harvested in a sustainable manner).”

Better To Give

“Giving back is important to us and we want to share this passion with our customers. That’s why we created the Better to Give Program in 2001, which allows you to select a non-profit organization to receive a $1 donation from us at checkout. UncommonGoods has donated over $1,000,000 since we created this program.” Learn more about this here

B Corporation

“UncommonGoods is proud to be a founding member of B Corporation, an organization created to help customers understand the social and environmental impact of their purchases. The B seal means that a company has met the standards outlined in a comprehensive screening questionnaire, which evaluates a company on issues ranging from providing a living wage, to lessening their impact on the environment, to giving back to the community.”

So as  you can see, they are a wonderful company to purchase from!

Happy shopping – I’m sure you will find some truly amazing gifts for your loved ones from UncommonGoods! I would love to hear from you about your fantastic finds! Don’t forget to sign up to their website – secret sales are available to their email subscribers only!

Eastnor Castle Firework Championships

If any of my readers like fireworks then I’ve got the perfect event for you! Needless to say, the photographs just don’t do these fireworks justice, but then, I’ve always argued that you could say this about any photograph you take!

IMG_8978

IMG_9071

I came across a leaflet about Eastnor Castle in my local sandwich shop believe it or not! I thought it looked like a brilliant day out so when I got home I had a look at the Eastnor Castle website. Whilst I was on there looking at ticket prices etc, I came across this fantastic looking event called the Eastnor Castle Firework Championships.

Hubby and I love fireworks but unfortunately we seem to miss out on attending any fireworks night events, either because they start too early and we can’t get there in time after finishing work, or because we have to stay at home to look after our poor dogs who become quite distressed by the loud bangs and whizzes!

This event seemed ideal – it is in September so the weather would hopefully still be mild, and we could go to the event leaving the dogs unsupervised knowing there wouldn’t be a load of fireworks going off in our local area at the same time which would upset them!

IMG_9214

The event is organised by MLE Pyrotechnics and involves three professional firework companies who compete for the title of Eastnor Firework Champions. MLE do a fourth display after the three competitors have finished and whilst the votes for the best display are being counted.

IMG_9225

Gates open at 5pm, we arrived at around 7pm because we wanted to grab something to eat and get a good spot before the show started. I would recommend getting here as early  as you can – parking takes a while and as we were sat down ready to watch the show at 9pm, cars were still queued up and trying to get into the event, so no doubt they missed the beginning!

IMG_9363

There’s a small fairground with a few rides and games to keep kids entertained whilst you wait for the fireworks and they encourage you to bring along picnics to enjoy whilst you watch the shows (although they don’t allow barbecues).

If you don’t fancy bringing your own picnic, food and drink is also available on site, but to be honest, we weren’t that impressed with the selection and wished we had brought our own picnic. There’s a pizza place (I love pizza but they didn’t look very appetising and I overheard a guy say he had waited ages but his pizza was cold when he got it), then there’s a burger and hotdog place (their cheesy chips were nice!) and a wrap place who did a choice of lamb, chicken and hallumi in a tortilla wrap (in my opinion the best of the three but also the most expensive!).

IMG_9085

The evening started with a small firework demo at 9:00pm and then the competition displays begin at around 9:30pm. Each team fires a ten minute show which is choreographed to music and the winner is decided by audience SMS voting. The evening then closes with a larger scale finale by MLE Pyrotechnics.

Camping is available on the Friday or Saturday night if you fancy it. You do have to buy permits for this which are available on the website, but on site parking is free.

This years competing teams are:

Shockwave Pyrotechnics

This was my favourite show and was this years winning team! I especially loved the part which was choreographed to the song “Hallelujah”. The show was amazing – some really big fireworks which completely lit up the sky – absolutely stunning!!

Skyburst Fireworks

Another amazing display with the best soundtrack so far (Feeling Good – Nina Simone!) but the fireworks on this display were smaller on the ground fireworks rather than the big “light up the sky” types and just didn’t quite take your breath away like the other two displays.

Firework Crazy

Another fantastic show and a very close second for me – I loved the part which was choreographed to Bruno Mars! They had some really unusual fireworks I have never seen before – especially some amazing side to side fireworks! This one was hubby’s favourite!

Tickets for the championships are £18.00 per adult and £8.00 for child if you pre-book online (on the gate prices are £20.00 per adult and £10.00 per child).