Last week, I was invited to travel up to the Phi Clinic in London’s Harley Street (I know!) to try out a brilliant new skin treatment that promises a healthy glow for tired, winter skin. If, like me, you’re just starting to think about diving in to the world of aesthetic treatments (see my post on Botox here), this one could definitely be for you. Here’s everything you need to know about new Juvéderm Volite, the latest in innovative injectable skin treatments.
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I really enjoy writing this round-up post – traditionally my last one before Christmas. I probably say more or less the same thing every year (don’t panic! It’s just a big roast dinner), but as usual, remember that it’s your Christmas too. Grab a few willing helpers to make some Christmas cookies, or whip up some of my perfect frozen whipped cream hot chocolate and have a little prep-party on Christmas Eve (it’s amazing how much you can get done the night before). Need a little inspiration? Read on for my top tips and recipes for Christmas dinner and beyond: fresh ideas, old favourites and more!
I’m obsessed with everything Scandinavian (some of you may know that I’ve just written the recipes and contributed some of the food photography for a book called Nordic Style for Viking Cruises along with Liz Jarvis and Sara Malm – super proud!). I especially love how the Scandinavians do Christmas, and, knowing that Homesense often have extra special bits and pieces from around the globe, I headed to my nearest store to find some inspiration for a Scandi Christmas, and a few bits for some special Scandi Christmas cookies.
If ever there’s a time to invest in gorgeously soft, luxurious cashmere (or give it as a gift), it’s surely Christmas? This season, cashmere has really come into its own: soft, slouchy sweaters paired with metallic pleats, cosy cardigans worn with leather trousers and a crisp shirt… and of course everyone needs a baby soft cashmere scarf when the weather is crisp and cold. John Lewis have a beautiful range of cashmere from lots of different designers, so I thought I’d bring you my top Christmas cashmere picks, whether you’re choosing for a loved one, or hoping for a squishy parcel under the tree!
I would probably be what you would call a ‘conservative dresser’. If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know that I favour classic wardrobe staples: simple shift dresses, dark denim, a crisp white shirt and black knitwear. But it’s Christmas! This season, even if you’re not a party animal, everyone needs a little laid back luxe in their life, and I’m loving the stylish winter florals at John Lewis. There’s a touch of the Bohemian about it: rich, jewel tones, soft velvet, a little sparkle, a hint of embroidery, dark toned florals… all things that tempt me to step out of my comfort zone. Here are my top picks:
We love a rich, fruity, spiced Christmas cake, but as I’ve said before, I’m just not organised enough to bake it weeks in advance then feed it every week. Happily, it’s very easy to make a lovely, moist cake this close to Christmas – if you get the chance to feed it a couple of times before you ice it, happy days. If not, it will still taste absolutely fine. I think that the trick is to use lovely plump, soft fruit, and get a bit of moisture into the dried fruit before you add it to the cake mix. This recipe gives the fruit a warm Christmassy bath of booze, honey and clementine juice, which makes all the difference to the finished cake. I used my fab new Kenwood Chef Elite (I’m completely obsessed) to make a really lovely light cake mixture to hold all that delicious fruit. This year, I decided to use my beloved Bundt tin as well – bit of a worry as I had no idea how long to cook it for – but with trial and error (and lots of poking and checking), we got there in the end. If you’ve got a tin, a Christmas Bundt cake looks striking, but I’ve left instructions for how to bake the cake using just a normal springform tin too.
One of my favourite things about Christmas is entertaining. I’m never happier than when there are guests at our table, and the house is filled with the sounds of chinking glasses and chatter. I was delighted, then, when Waitrose asked me to share one of my favourite recipes for easy Christmas entertaining. In our house, we traditionally invite friends and family over for dinner on Boxing Day. It’s a great way to relax and unwind after the big day, and I tend to make a huge ‘Boxing Day pie’ using leftover turkey and ham, then just serve it simply with mashed potato and steamed veg. Of course, you don’t have to wait until Boxing Day – this pie is just as delicious using chicken instead of turkey, and it can be made well in advance and kept in the fridge ready to pop into the oven. Here’s how to make my festive pie:
There’s a standard phrase in our house: ‘I want to move to Marlow!’. It’s uttered every time we see something fabulous happening in this lovely little Buckinghamshire town. We go as much as we can, but it’s an hour from us (though actually, right next to where Mr E works). It’s gorgeous in the summer, and magical in the winter. I’ve even earmarked my perfect house on West Street (you don’t even want to know how much it is). This weekend, we were lucky enough to be invited to the launch evening of The Pop-Up Festival, a unique pop up cinema experience combined with delicious food from the fabulous Tom Kerridge. I’d heard all about the Gourmet Picture Company as my lovely mate Amanda from Online Stylist attended one last summer at Chewton Glen. It looked absolutely gorgeous, so I was so excited to see how the Gourmet Picture Company would keep us all warm and cosy in December!
One of the best parts of Christmas for me is choosing all the lovely wrapping paper and cards. For some people, obviously I’ll just choose the ‘robin in snow’ variety, but for my friends and family, I’m always looking for great quality, quirky cards and wrapping with a bit of a cheeky edge – and I’ve definitely found it in Love Layla Designs, a fab, family-run small business from Yorkshire who have the most original tongue in cheek, fun Christmas designs. For this weekend’s wishlist, step away from the boring snow scene and come and discover some of my favourite Love Layla Designs:
Recently, an enormous box arrived at English Towers with a lovely note from the folks at Kenwood: ‘we know you love cooking, so would you like this beautiful Kenwood Chef Elite?’ Seriously generous, right? But I didn’t rush to open it, because, well, I’ve got a mixer already that I’ve had for ages and love, and on the box it looks all complicated and new-fangled, not homely and quirky like mine. Not wanting to seem ungrateful, though, and because everyone kept complaining that there was a huge box on the kitchen floor, I opened it up and popped it onto the kitchen counter. Well. Cue choirs of angels singing and all that jazz, because this thing is beautiful. Seriously, I sent a pic to Mr E and he replied ‘erm, wow. It really goes in our kitchen’. To give it a thorough test, though, and make sure it has brains as well as beauty, I attempted some Christmas crumble muffins with my sleek and shiny new baby. Here’s how I got on:
So after focusing on the lovely ladies, next up is my Christmas gift guide for the boys. I always find Mr E really hard to buy for, as if he wants something, he tends to just go and get it. Plus, if you ask him, he always says ‘buy me a jumper’. Trouble is, he tells this to his Mum and everyone else that buys him a present too. I find the best way to combat this is to have a list on my iPhone notes of anything he mentions during the year. The boys, on the other hand, never fail to provide Santa with the biggest list possible to choose from, but I like to treat them with small, unexpected bits and pieces so there are still a few surprises. So whether you’re looking for your grown up kids, Dad, uncles or your significant other, I’ve had a look around the shops – I hope this provides some inspiration for Christmas gifts for the man in your life – for every budget!
The run up to Christmas can be stressful. For most of us, it’s a whirlwind of online (and real life) shopping, cooking and planning, and of course my work doesn’t stop either (I’ve already cooked three Christmas dinners and it’s only just December). I decided to take a pre-Christmas pampering trip with a little help from Trainline’s new voice app. Here’s how I got on.
So here’s the first of a little series of gift guides. This one is Christmas gifting for her and, ok, I’ll admit it. I do kind of use these gift guides as a little Christmas wishlist for Mr E and the boys. Let’s face it, if they can open the blog and see something beautiful here to buy me, plus I get to share my ideas with you as shopping inspiration, it’s a win/win. Talking of gifts, I was recently asked by the lovely Sam over at I’m Sam Squire to contribute an idea for his Hopeless Man’s Gift Guide (his words not mine), and, as always, I shared my favourite gifting advice: if you haven’t been asked for something specific, it’s best to choose something that’s beautiful and useable (or indeed edible). So if you’re not exactly certain about the taste of the lady in question, it’s a good tip to stick to something like deliciously scented candles (see my guide to festive candles here), or bath and body products (and definitely not lingerie if you even remotely have to guess the size).
Have you worked out your personal style? It’s a tough one. I think by now, in my mid-forties, I’ve kind of sorted out roughly what suits me and what doesn’t: I like a mostly minimalist style in a palette of grey, black and white, and I tend to stick to classic styles, with the odd bit of leopard thrown in for good measure. What if, though, you could have access to your own personal stylist? Would you be interested in maybe shaking up your look? I’d love to be braver, especially at Christmas! I was intrigued and delighted to be invited to try Tuesday from M&S, a new, free, personal styling service that aims to provide style inspiration (with no obligation to buy).
You all know that I love everything to do with Christmas, and once the lights have been switched on in London, I’m always desperate to take a trip to go and see them. Mr E works really hard and we don’t get much opportunity to do things as a family, so I thought we’d plan a lovely festive trip up to London on the train to go and see the lights (and maybe grab some dinner and a cocktail or two) while we’re there. While we were planning our trip, I thought it would be a good opportunity to try Trainline’s new Price Prediction tool to get the best possible ticket price. Here’s how we got on.
You know that friend: she always looks amazing, even just in jeans, and of course she has a lovely, welcoming home, a gorgeous wardrobe and impeccable taste, and that all just makes festive pressie buying a bit – well – difficult! I came across this very dilemma recently when the lovely chaps at John Lewis asked if I’d like to do a pressie swap with the effortlessly stylish Sara, who writes the beautiful lifestyle blog, Notes from a Stylist. I mean, ARGH! Luckily, not only is Sara very lovely and friendly, but it turns out we also have lots in common: teenage kids, yummy food (bring on the roast dinners), a love of interiors, stationery, twinkly things, beautiful flowers and lovely smells. Of course, there are also things we don’t have in common: mostly the fact that I have no style whatsoever, which is why I was reading her blog and following her in the first place – to pick up some tips. So how on earth do you choose festive gifts for a stylish friend? Well…
- Staying overnight at the airport, BLOC Hotel Gatwick May 22, 2018
- Weekend wishlist: the perfect holiday capsule wardrobe with M&S May 19, 2018
- Breaded baked barbecue cauliflower May 17, 2018
- Why I’m pondering becoming a pescatarian May 15, 2018
- Weekend wishlist: 10 ways to live a more sustainable life May 12, 2018