*How to Host a Banging Christmas Party in 10 Steps

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Can you believe that it’ll be Christmas Eve this time next week!?  Crazy!  How many Christmas Parties have you been to so far?  If you haven’t, then I’ll bet you’ve got one coming up this week.  Or are you hosting one yourself?  If so, then this post’s for you.  Hosting at Christmas is one of my favourite things to do (I love planning and organising around Christmas more than any other time of year), but it can also be really stressful (in fact, I wrote a whole post about it here).  So here’s my ten step guide to hosting a banging Christmas Party.  Cheers! 🙂

1. Invitations

Christmas is the busiest time of year for get-togethers and partying HARD.  Office parties, family dinners, drinks “and nibbles” with the neighbours, Black Friday Blowouts… So get that guest list written and those invites sent out as soon as you can to make sure that everyone on your guest list is wide open and able to come along.  It also gives them plenty of time to get those RSVPs in, so you can kick back and get down to planning the good stuff… (i.e. food and booze 😉 )

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2. Dress Code

When you’re writing out your invitations, make sure you let your guests know what they’re expected to wear.  Is it a super-casual friendmas with drinks and games?  Or are we talking bow ties and tiaras – or something in between?

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3. Parking, Logistics and Warning the Neighbours

Maybe this one ought to be done and dusted loooooong before you send out those invitations.  Hosting any party is tough; it’s easy enough to invite everyone around before considering how it’ll actually work.  Like, how will your guests get to your place?  If they’re driving, where can they park without pissing off the neighbours?  And speaking of the neighbours, will they mind you hosting a noisy Christmas Party (and do you care?)?  Which rooms are off limits?  Do you have enough space to host five people?  Ten people?  Your whole neigbourhood?  Where are all the coats and bags going to go?  Shoes – on or off?  Also, what’s your budget when it comes to food and drink?  Get the big questions answered and out of the way as soon as you can – it’ll save problems further down the line or worse, on the night. 🙂

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4.*Food

“Oh Baby, all I want for Christmas is fooooooooood!” Now let’s down to the good stuff!  Because let’s be honest, the best thing about Christmas is stuffing your face, innit?  Before you hit the supermarket, before you even get down to making a list (and checking it twice 😉 ) think about what kind of party you’re hosting because the kind of food you’re going to be serving will depend on that.  Are you planning on serving up a full Christmas Dinner complete with pigs in blankets and a flaming pud?  Are you putting on a “help yourself” buffet?  Or are you just serving up snacks?  Or, are you going to take the weight off and ask everyone to bring a dish (in which case you probably should mention that in your invites, right?)?

Personally, I love putting on a Christmas Buffet and pretty much do it every single year for my family on Boxing Day.  It’s easier than putting on a full Christmas Dinner, you can get it all ready before hand (instead of spending the whole party slaving away in the kitchen!), and everyone gets a little bit of what they fancy.  My go-to every Christmas for party food is *Marks and Spencer because they’re all so easy to prepare, taste amazing and there’s such a fab selection (even for vegans – with these vegan sliders). A festive scoffing sesh in my house just would not be complete without their pork belly squares, profiteroles and baked Camembert – which this year, I have to say is the best yet with its spicy and sweet chilli glaze (the only reason there’s no photo is because it got annihilated within seconds).  Yum!

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5. Party Games

It wouldn’t be a party without a little entertainment, right?  So have a think about how you’re going to keep the good times rollin’ in between catch-ups and conversations.  How about putting on a pub quiz Big Quiz of the Year style with questions based on things that have happened in the past twelve months?  What about a few drinking games to get the juices flowing?  Or go all out with a monster game of Cards Against Humanity. 🙂

6. Drinks

Once you’ve finished planning your shopping list, make a drinks list.  Check your drinks cabinet (i.e. the cupboard under the sink if you’re like me!) and see what’s in stock and what’s running out.  Put all the drinks and mixers somewhere easily accessible so your guests can help themselves throughout the party.  If you’re feeling fancy come up with a few festive cocktails in pitchers or create a suggested drinks menu! 🙂

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7. Deck the Halls

If you haven’t already got your Christmas Decorations up, now’s the time!  Consider which rooms you’re going to be using and get them looking festive with fairy lights and garlands.

8. Christmas Playlist

If you’re like me then you’ll already have one of these babies on your Spotify just ready and raring to go!  I don’t like to have a playlist that’s just chocka full of pure Christmas though – I mean, there’s only so many times you can hear The Pogues before banging your head against wall.  I’ve got all the usual numbers old and new, but I like to mix it up with some classics and a few hits from the past twelve months.  I also LOVE sneaking in a few Vitamin String Quartet covers.  If you’ve never looked them up on Spotify, its basically a group of LA-based musicians who work at recording new versions of well-known songs using a string quartet.  There’s something kind of festive about their music, and it’s fun watching people hear a song they recognise reworked in a totally different way.

9. Game Plan (timings etc)

I like coming up with a game plan before a party, especially when it comes to food.  I like to know exactly what time I need to put the oven on, put food in, take food out etc… Making a list helps me keep on top of things and saves a lot of stress on the day.  It’s also great if you’re co-hosting – that way you don’t have to keep touching base with each other, you can just check the game plan!

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10. *And if you’re going to a party…

Don’t forget to take a little something for your host!  It’s good manners and is always well appreciated.  Sure you could take a bottle of something, but how about spoiling them with an extra special box of chocolates?  This box of fancy chocs from Marks and Spencer not only looks gorgeous, but is an absolute treat.

Thanks to Marks and Spencer for the fabulous food and drink! Happy partying! 😉

*This post contains gifted items, read more about what that means here.

 

Review: What Would Boudicca Do?

Do I really need yet another book on women’s history?  I’ve got a whole shelf sagging full of them at home; from Hypatia to Mary Queen of Scots, you name it, I’ve probably got it.  So do I really need yet another one?  Yes.  Yes I do.  Always.  Because just when I think I’ve read about every Warrior Queen and babein brainbox from the annals, I pick up another book and discover ten, twenty, thirty more inspiring women that I’ve never heard about.  Where the hell were these women when I was growing up?  How come school history lessons are still centered around great men and their great deeds?  How the hecky-pecky did I go thirty two years without knowing about Hedy Lamarr?

Thank God Women’s History is having a moment, and long may it reign – because as it turns out, no matter how clued up you think you are about it, there are still so many great women and their great deeds (and misdeeds 😉 ) to read about.  Which is why books like What Would Boudicca Do? are a great way of clueing yourself in on a whole handful of history’s most remarkable women rather than digesting one big brick of a biography at a time (which I’d totally recommend doing once you’ve found your historical soul sister 😉 ).

What’s unique about Foley and Coats‘ book is that you can flick through and pair up your modern day problems with a historical woman and be inspired by the way they overcame something similar.  Read how Mae West stayed body positive, how Akiko Yosano learned to love her boobs, how Catherine the Great dealt with the whole of Europe gossiping about her, and how Emily Dickinson defied FOMO.  Short and snappy chapters with beautiful illustrations, it’d make a great gift for someone who’s just got the Women’s History bug and wants to find out more.

Five other feminist books on my wishlist this Christmas…

1. Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The Rise and Reign of the Unruly Woman

“You know the type: the woman who won’t shut up, who flaunts it, who’s too brazen, too opinionated – too much. Sometimes, she’s the life of the party; others, she’s the focus of gossip. She’s the unruly woman, and she’s one of the most provocative, powerful forms of womanhood today.”

I really fancy this one!  Buzzfeed writer Anne Helen Petersen analyses eleven modern pop culture powerhouses like Serena Williams, Kim Kardashian and Hillary Clinton and looks at why we love to love them – or hate them for being too something.

2. What Would the Spice Girls Do?: How The Girl Power Generation Grew Up

“The Spice Girls gave a generation their first glimpse of the power of friendship, of staying true to yourself, of sheer bloody-mindedness. And the girl power generation went on to kick-start a new conversation around gender equality.”

If you grew up dancing to Wannabe on the playground like I did and still know the words to 2 become 1 (my husband shocked me the other night by repeating them word for word – proof positive that The Spice Girls really did rock a whole generation), then you’ll be just as eager to read this one as I am – especially ahead of their tour!  One of the reviewers over on Amazon calls it “a love story to the girls we were and the women we are” and I love that.

3. Bloody Brilliant Women: The Pioneers, Revolutionaries and Geniuses your History Teacher Forgot to Mention

“For hundreds of years we have heard about the great men of history, but what about herstory?  In this freewheeling history of modern Britain, Cathy Newman writes about the pioneering women who defied the odds to make careers for themselves and alter the course of modern history.”

Another collection of inspiring tales about badass babes from history, but this time a whole book of badass British babes like Marie Stopes, Beatrice Shilling and Anne McLaren.  Yes please!

4. Life Honestly: Strong Opinions from Smart Women

“Life Honestly is a complete guide to modern life from some of today’s most talented and insightful writers including Bryony Gordon, Dolly Alderton, Natasha Devon, Lauren Laverne and Yomi Adegoke.”

If trawling The Pool is part of your every day online routine then this is right up your street.  A book full of inspiring, smart articles with fresh points of view on every day issues from motherhood to relationships.

5. Becoming: Michelle Obama

“In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her – from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address.”

Yes!  Love her!  I was flicking through a magazine the other day and found an interview with Oprah that Michelle did to promote her book and after reading a little anecdote about her first night alone post-White House and how she made herself some cheese on toast and just enjoyed sitting on the porch with her dogs I knew I wanted to read it.

Happy weekend!  (…and happy Christmas shopping!)

*This post contains affiliate links; you can read more about what that means here.

Review: The Good Girl’s Guide to Being a Dick

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Not long after I moved back to Cardiff and into my house, the Jehovahs came knocking.  Two tiny, very sweet old ladies rang my doorbell whilst I was in the middle of emptying boxes and – caught up in the excitement of someone ringing my brand new doorbell – I rushed downstairs and opened the door.  I inwardly groaned as soon as they held out The Watchtower leaflet.  I wasn’t interested.  I didn’t have the time to discuss whether suffering is a punishment from God.  The only suffering I was interested in was the stacks of boxes upstairs that STILL needed emptying and where the hell I was going to put(/hide) Sunny’s stupid, ugly alligator head that had somehow survived the move from London.  In spite of all that, I found that I just couldn’t bring myself to slam the door in their sweet old lady faces or even gently tell them that I wasn’t interested.  I felt bad.  So instead, I stood in the doorway and decided to humour them for ten minutes.  When they handed me The Watchtower I took it and even joked that I needed something to read since all my books were in storage – even though I knew it was going to end up in the bin before they’d even made it to the end of my drive.  I didn’t want them to think I was mean.

Fast-forward three years later and those sweet old Jehovahs are still coming back.  We’ve settled into a rhythm.  They ring my doorbell once every couple of months, ask me how I’m doing, drop off their leaflet and then disappear.  They know my name.  They know my dog’s name.  The window for telling them that I’m not interested and have thrown away every single leaflet they’ve given me without reading a single word has looooooong gone.  And so here we are, all because I was too nice to tell them to go away.

This is just one example of how I’m constantly sacrificing my time and energy to spare other people’s feelings.  Social guilt all over the shop, all the time.  So, when I spotted The Good Girl’s Guide to Being a Dick in the airport bookshop, I knew I needed to pick it up.

Alexandra Reinwarth realised that her day to day behaviour was constantly being triggered by her fear of what other people thought of her.  She realised that she was spending far too much time with people she didn’t like, in places she didn’t want to be, doing things she didn’t want to do, all because she worried what people would think of her if she told the honest -often brutal -truth.  She needed to “become a bit of a dick”.  The book explores her journey in taking back control of her life (becoming more of a dick), from ditching a friend who was constantly using her as a doormat, heading into the office without a lick of makeup and dealing with difficult family members – full of funny and insightful anecdotes and advice on how to stop caring what people think.

It’s not a very long book – only six chapters – and so was an easy pool read and I pretty much swallowed the whole thing up in a couple of days (mostly because I kept getting looks around the pool on my choice of reading material and decided that I needed to wrap things up pretty quickly.  Ha!  Three chapters in and I shed that concern!).  While it’s not a traditional self help book in the fact that it doesn’t really contain any real techniques, it’s full of examples to follow and reads like a pep talk in the art of living honestly and getting what you want (without turning into an actual dick in the process!).  

I mean obviously I don’t want to become a dick.  But, reading the book has made me stop and think of all the times I’ve told little lies or put my own happiness aside because I’ve worried what people would think of me; the world won’t end if someone doesn’t like me.  I’ve started to notice whenever I’m heading down that road, and I’ve become a little bit more honest with those around me about what I care about or don’t like.  Of course, the true test will be whether I can tell the Jehovah’s to politely bugger off next time they ring the door bell.  They are due, after all…

Have a great week!  Or not, whatever. 😉

 

 

 

How I Do: My Sunday Night Soak in 10 Steps

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I don’t tend to do baths during the summer, but as soon as those nights start drawing in all I want to do is simmer in hot, soapy water until my fingers wrinkle.  Yes, it feels amazing but it’s also a really important part of my week because Monday to Friday I get a bit lazy when it comes to taking care of myself beauty-wise.  My skin routine is speedy and slim-lined, I touch my face a lot when I’m working on the computer and I scrape my hair back into a clip because I’m too lazy to curl it – so Sunday night is devoted to taking it slow and making up for all that neglect!  🙂

Preparation

1. Hair Mask Time!

If you’ve been following me for a while you’ll know that I’ve been on a bit of a journey with my hair and it’s still definitely in recovery (I wrote a whole post about how I’ve been taking care of my hair here) – so I try to whack on a hair mask once a week.  Usually I’ll melt some coconut oil and slather it on under a shower cap for a couple of hours, but recently I’ve been experimenting with something new.  Because my hair’s so fine I’ve been really trying hard not to fall back into my old habit of highlights and balayage.  But I’ve been really, really tempted.  So I’ve been looking up natural dyeing methods and came across a gentle alternative using just honey and water.

Here’s the science: Honey is naturally high in peroxide, and by mixing it into water you get a very gentle solution of Hydrogen Peroxide (found in most hair dyes).  It sounds absolutely ridiculous, but I’m on my seventh treatment and it’s actually working!  Of course you’re not going to get the same results as you would if you holed up in your local salon for a whole afternoon (and it definitely works best on lighter hair), but it’s a really easy (albeit very sticky!) way of gently lightening your hair and bringing out your natural highlights.

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2. Take off all my nail varnish (fresh week, fresh nails!)
3. Prepare the tub

I fill the tub with hot water, chuck in a bath bomb (Rosie from Miss Patisserie is my favourite), light some candles and prop the iPad up on the toilet (I love catching up with Youtube videos or rewatching my favourite shows while I’m soaking away).

4. Inform husband and dog that for the next hour – as far they’re concerned – I no longer exist. Bye!

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In the Bath

5. Wash hair, apply conditioner and leave it to rest.

I tried so many different expensive shampoos and conditioners when I went through all those problems with my hair – they were all a total waste of moolah.  The simple fact is you need to find a shampoo and conditioner that suits your hair condition and scalp.  I’ve got fine hair and a sensitive scalp which really seems to love the Garnier Ultimate Blends Oat Milk Shampoo and Conditioner combo – so that’s what I’m sticking with.

6. Exfoliate.

For my face I haven’t got a bad word to say about the Kiehls Epidermal Re-Texturizing Micro-Dermabrasion Cream, and for my body I recently had a little tester pot of the Nuxe Reve de Miel Body Scrub which has been a total treat!

7. Cleanse

I know most people tend to cleanse then exfolitate, but I like to do it the other way around.  Before I get out of the tub, I wash my body with the Nuxe Prodigieux Huile de Douche and a sponge.  If you love the body oil from the same range, then you’ll love this – it’s got the same subtle, nutty scent and leaves a delicate shimmer on the skin once you’re dry.  I haven’t been using Nuxe products for very long, but I’m totally and absolutely obsessed!  They’ve very quickly become one of my favourite skincare brands.

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8. Moisturise

I don’t do anything to my face just yet, instead I focus on my body.  I’m a huge fan of The Body Shop‘s Body Butters, especially the Shea scented one.  I slather that everywhere and then target the drier areas (like my knee caps and elbows) with some of the Nuxe Dry Oil.

9. Fresh Pyjamas and Face Mask time!

I mean, is there anything better?  I recently ran out of my favourite face mask (The Origins Active Charcoal Mask has rescued me from many a skin emergency, let me tell you!) but luckily, I recently got to try some Elemis goodies courtesy of their spa at The Celtic Manor and a mask was one of them.  My skin wasn’t looking its best at the end of the summer after a stressful month, but the Elemis Thousand Flower Mask – which has the weirdest mousse like texture – has really helped sort things out.  My skin’s looking much brighter and healthier and seems in pretty well prepared for those months of drying central heating ahead of us.  I also really love Simple’s Sheet Mask Range if I’m looking for a more cooling, less messy mask. 🙂


10. Once I’ve washed off my facemask, I leave my hair to air dry and finish things off by applying a face oil.

I don’t put any products in my hair on a Sunday, nor do I apply any heat to it.  It’s nice to strip all the products out and just let it dry naturally and recover ready for the week ahead.  As for my face, I’ve been a huge fan of the Kiehls Midnight Recover Oil for YEARS.  I add a couple of drops to my moisturiser (Just plain old Nivea Daily) and then press it into my skin.

How do you do your Sunday Soak?  What are your favourite products to use? 

*This post contains some affiliate links: you can find out what that means here.

The Secret to Successful Adulting

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A few months ago I got a letter from my dentist.  You know, one of those reminders that your check up is due.  Fine, except for the fact this was the third reminder.  My checkup was over due.  Waaaaay overdue.  I mean, the letter was typed up in the same tone my mum used to put on when I was a kid and still hadn’t bothered to tidy my room.  You know, “I don’t want to have to tell you again!” or “If you don’t do it, I’m going in there with a black bag!” (That one usually did the trick).  It wasn’t that I’d willfully ignored the first two letters, I’d just dropped them on the kitchen table with all my other “you need to deal with this at some point but not today” letters.  I’m not afraid of the dentist – that wasn’t the issue – I had every intention of calling up and booking an appointment, I just kept forgetting to actually do it, or brushing it off saying, “Meh, I’ll do it tomorrow”.

Did I do it?  Pfft.  Course I didn’t.  The letter got buried deeper and deeper under my pile of letters and takeaway menus until I’d completely forgotten it even existed.  And the dentist?  Well, they gave up nagging.

And then one morning I decided to make French Toast for breakfast, and as I sunk my teeth into that soft, sugary slice I felt tooth pain unlike any I’ve ever experienced in my entire life.  It was sharp, it was sudden and slow to go away.  I went white.  I had to lie down.  I cried.  Something was definitely up.

I booked in an emergency appointment and after a couple of weeks of careful chewing followed by horrible pain, I found out that I had a gaping hole in one of my wisdom teeth.  Yeouch.  And, as I lay back in the chair and endured the drill, there was only one thought rattling around in my head; WHY DIDN’T I BOOK THAT BLOODY CHECKUP?  I should have done it the minute after I ripped open that first letter.  Why didn’t I?

It’s not just dentist appointments; my everyday life is littered with these little moments of shrugging simple tasks off, kicking the can down the road to deal with later.  I put things off until I HAVE to deal with them.  I wait until the washing basket is overflowing with knickers until I put on a load.  I’ll tell myself that I’ll email back so and so or phone up to book something tomorrow, or next week.  Smear Tests (*wrist slap*), changing over ISAs, painting the skirting boards, updating personal details, registering with a new doctor, cleaning the oven (oh God no).  You know, all those “adult jobs”.  Why kick the can along?  You’re basically just sabotaging your future self.  I mean, the can is still going to be there at the end of the road – you’re still going to have to deal with it by being a responsible adult and picking it up and putting it in the bin.  But by that time, the situation might have completely changed.  The oven is going to be much, much harder to clean.  You could have earned much more interest in that time if you’d pulled your finger out and switched ISAs.  You might have a gaping hole in your wisdom tooth.  Worse, the tooth might have to come out.

I’m convinced that the secret to successful adulting is dealing with things straight away, or at least organising a time to deal with them and then actually following through.  Super-adulting is pre-empting them.  You know, putting the washing on when the basket’s only half full or writing a reminder in your diary before that check up letter ever lands on your doormat.  You’re making your life easier, that’s it.

Oh, I booked in my next check up straight after the dentist filled the hole, by the way.  January 2019, I’m in!