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:
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.
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.
I’ve been writing about cooking Christmas dinner on this blog for ten years, can you believe that? When you’re thinking about cooking Christmas dinner (or indeed lunch) for everyone, it can seem a bit daunting, but I always say that it’s basically just a big roast dinner, and if you think about it like that, and make sure you’re really well prepared, it’s a piece of cake. The lovely team at Crisp ‘n Dry (remember I worked with them when they sponsored RNLI Fish Suppers?) have asked me to share my top tips and cook a little practice Christmas dinner – a ‘Crisp ‘n Dry run’ if you will – geddit?!), to show you that with a little love (and Crisp ‘n Dry), your ordinary Christmas dinner can really become the ultimate festive feast. Here are my top five tips for planning the perfect Christmas dinner.
How’s your relationship with alcohol? I’d say that mine’s… complicated. When we were younger, I was always the one who would volunteer to drive. I’m naturally quite chatty and happy, and it didn’t occur to me that I needed to drink alcohol to have a good time, therefore I was generally the designated driver, and happy enough with it. Now, we don’t tend to go out much, so our drinking is done at home, and this has increased steadily over time. Add to this the fact that we really love our wine, to the point that I write about it and we even invest in it, and you’ll see why our alcohol consumption has steadily grown. Next week, 13th to 19th November is Alcohol Awareness Week, and I’ve been thinking a little bit about how (and why) I drink. It’s been an interesting time…
One year, when the kids were small and we were still living in Ireland, our whole family came over to spend Christmas with us. I remember it as the most magical time: loads of fun and laughter, walks to the pub snuggled up in hats and scarves, the kids opening their presents together on Christmas morning… Years later, we still talk about our lovely family Christmas together, and one of the things we’ve considered is renting a cosy cottage somewhere and decamping as a family for the festive period. I’m thinking The Holiday but with considerably more people. So why am I hankering after getting away from it all? Well, here are five great reasons why we should all be having a cosy cottage Christmas:
You know that I’m a complete Halloween addict. I love all the little bits and bobs that come out around this time of year, and yesterday I was nosing around John Lewis, intending to buy a few baking bits to make my spiced chocolate skeleton gingerbread men (more of these in a second). They have some absolutely gorgeous gifts, decorations and treats for Halloween this year and I ended up buying rather a lot of that stuff too (I mean, mini pumpkin fairy lights, come on!).
If you’ve read my top ten tips for visiting Halloween Horror Nights, you’ll know that we had a fabulous trip, and this time – thanks to Dixons Travel – I get to truly share it with you as we made our first GoPro video! Yes, there was some jerky camera work (and rather a lot of screaming) but I’m actually really proud of our Halloween Horror Nights GoPro movie. GoPro have an excellent editing app called Quik that’s simple to use and allows you to edit your movie, blend clips together and add music too.
As the kids get older, the idea of lazing on a beach with an iced drink and a good thriller novel to hand (my idea of heaven) becomes a bit less realistic. I know some teenagers are happy to loll around on holiday, but we like to break it up and have at least a couple of days expanding our comfort zone. I thought it would be a good idea to suggest a few activities to get the heart-rate up and excitement pounding, so here are a few of my top activities for adrenaline junkies. These are also great if you’re not actually heading away anywhere, but want a few tips for great days out to break up the holidays.
Can you believe that the school summer holidays are nearly here? I love this time of year because it means… holiday shopping! I know, any excuse for shopping, but this one’s an important one: there are shorts and sandals and swimwear to be bought and you know what it’s like: blink and they’re all sold out! With this in mind (and because many stores have just started their sales), I’ve decided to put together a few tips to help you to simplify both the shopping and packing processes.
The Far East boasts some of the most unique and diverse cuisines in the world. From Japan and Thailand, China, Vietnam, India, and Sri Lanka, the use of spices and aromatics bring flavoursome taste experiences like no other, with everything from fabulous, colourful street food to fine dining on offer. If you’re planning a culinary trip to the Far East, I’d recommend that you arm yourself with the local currency (especially important with the street food), so do your research on travel money providers (there are several companies reviewed here), and make sure that as you switch countries, you exchange your local currency before leaving. With smaller currencies like THB or INR, it can be tricky to get them exchanged after departing the country.
With all four of us now driving, a pretty big part of our family finances at the moment are given over to motoring expenses. We’re very clear with the boys about what we expect regarding how they drive (one of them has one of those black box telematics things which records how they drive). Recently, quite a few new rules have come into force, many of which are to do with speeding and mobile phone. Chatting about it with friends and family, though, it seems like many people aren’t aware of the changes. Did you know about the new speeding fines? Read more
As you can imagine, I travel quite frequently, and it occurs to me regularly that my fellow travellers tend to slot in to a few distinct types. Mr E is definitely the impatient traveller – he strides ahead, leaving me bumbling behind, and can’t bear to queue. I’m a bit more laid back, but I do like a pair of shoes or three, so maybe I’m the fashionista (monochrome of course, dahling). I wonder if you see yourself in any of these descriptions:
Have you noticed that a lot of people are moving away from cow’s milk at the moment? When I was doing the smoothie challenge nearly every recipe contained coconut milk, almond milk, nearly anything but cow. I know a lot of that is because people are either trying to eat a more plant based diet or trying to lower their saturated fat or whatever, but when St Helen’s Farm offered us the opportunity to take their ‘vary your dairy’ challenge and give goats’ milk products a go, I was keen to dive in and give them a try.
As a nation, I don’t think Holland crops up that much as a destination when we’re planning our next family holiday, but this little stretch of land across the channel offers a lot more than the cultural riches of Amsterdam. It’s easy to reach by train, plane or ferry and boasts long stretches of coastline, rugged woodland, excellent cycle routes and some of the best theme parks in the world. The holiday parks are numerous and really high quality, so if you’re looking for a little bit of inspiration for the summer holidays, here are my top five holiday parks in Holland.
Every year, as you know, I write a round-up post looking back at all my travel experiences from the last year. I’m so lucky to have a job where I get to travel, and the photographs from my travels really are some of my most treasured possessions: mementos of experiences, people and places that I’ll keep forever (and happy memories are something we all need today, ‘Blue Monday’, traditionally the most depressing day of the year!). One of the things that always strikes me is how my blog photography has changed (hopefully for the better). I recently spotted the CEWE Photoworld ‘Top Ten Most Instagrammed Places’ campaign and it made me even more determined to keep travelling the world, and try to tick a few more off them off my list. It also inspired me to compile a list of a few of the things that I’ve learned over the years: little tips and tricks that I keep in mind when I’m travelling. Now, I’m no photographer (I’m mostly #iphoneonly), and I’m still on a bit of a learning curve when it comes to photos, but I genuinely think that these few things have helped me improve. So here are my top ten blog photography tips. See what you think:
- A night out at the Gourmet Picture Company, Marlow December 10, 2017
- Weekend wishlist: festive fun with Love Layla Designs December 9, 2017
- Christmas crumble muffins with the Kenwood Chef Elite December 7, 2017
- Christmas gifts for the man in your life December 6, 2017
- Shopping and pampering with Trainline’s new voice app December 5, 2017