*DIY Insta Heart Collage

I first got into photography back in University.  Only back then I didn’t call it “photography”, it was just something I did.  Taking photographs to capture moments was something that – for whatever reason – I felt was important. Long before I had a fancy DSLR and was obsessed with Instagram (it didn’t even exist back then!), I lugged around disposable cameras on drunken nights out, drunken nights in, adventures away and trips down the beach (Swansea University is literally right on the beach).  It was a point, click, fingers-crossed world where you never knew how the photographs were going to turn out until you popped down to Boots to get them developed, and then laughed at them with housemates as you stuck them up on the wall with all the others. Photographs really were – as Angela Carter once wrote – chunks of time you could hold in your hands.  Good times!  And that’s probably the last time I actually got a proper film of photographs developed.

Nowadays I’m taking more photographs than I ever have in my life – and yet they remain in digital suspense on Instagram, my blog and on Facebook.  They can be seen by the entire world and yet I only get to see them if I log in and scroll!  What happened to those walls covered in photographs? So when Printiki got in touch with me recently and asked if I’d like to try their photo printing service, I said, yes please!

You can order prints, posters and albums of your favourite grams straight to your front door in varying sizes and shapes (matte or glossy), from retro Polaroid-style photographs to the square ones I chose.  You can even add text to them in their easy to use editor.  Choosing which photographs to print was the hardest part, and once I’d ordered them they dropped onto my doormat barely three days later! 🙂  I was really impressed with the colour and quality – and you guys know how much I love colourful things!

There’s a very boring bare wall above my sofa at the moment that Sunny and I have been having arguments over what to put up there, so I took a tip from my university days and decided to brighten it up with a heart shaped collage made with my new prints!


What do you think?  ♥  Do you ever print your photographs?  What do you do with them?

The Non-Gift Gift Guide

Everyone keeps telling me this year that I’m difficult to buy for, which – to be honest – came as a bit of shock because I’d always thought of myself as someone who’s easily pleased. At first I was insulted (You don’t know me at all!!!) and then when I thought about it a little bit more I realised that they’re probably right. I think it’s because the older I get the less interested I become in “stuff”. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to sound ungrateful here; of course I love presents, I’d happily rip open a new handbag or a bottle of this stuff on Christmas Day just like anyone else.  And (hint hint) if I find this sitting under my tree I will be a very happy bunny.  But I don’t need any of those things, and I’d hate for my friends and family to feel like they have to buy me anything at all let alone stress over what that should be. Sometimes the best things in life really are free, and a thoughtful gesture is far better than expensive clutter or “stuff” bought down the gift aisle under pressure.

So if you’ve got someone who’s difficult to buy for, or you’ve scrolled through enough expensive wish lists to make your eyes water (or you’ve left your Christmas Shopping a bit too late!  Oops!) then have I got the gift guide for you. 🙂

Favourite Place

If you’ve got someone who’s awkward to buy for, why not skip all those “that’ll do” gifts and surprise them with a trip to their favourite place.  It could be something as extravagant as a trip to their favourite city, a mini break, or even just an afternoon at their favourite local haunt.  Take them somewhere that you know makes them happy and that they’ll appreciate.

Kick the Habit

If you’ve got a bad habit that’s been annoying one of your nearest and dearest for a long time, then what more could they want for Christmas than a promise to kick it for good.  It could be something huge like vowing to give up smoking, or something a lot smaller like promising not to dump your clothes in a pile at the end of the bed every night!  Just don’t make it an empty promise, you’ve got to make good on it no matter what!

Together

Some people would rather make memories with their favourite people than receive gifts.  So why not give the gift of a promise to do more things together in the year ahead?  Maybe it’s a promise to join the gym together, or take a class together, or to go away somewhere together.  Surprise your favourite people with plans for spending time together in the new year – so much better than cheap perfume, right?

Go with your Gut

I never turn my nose up at gifts that involve food, and what better gift than to treat someone to a lazy brunch at their favourite spot?  Of course, it doesn’t have to be brunch; it could be a fancy dinner, or lunch, or even just dessert!  Is there somewhere they’ve always wanted to go for dinner?  Why not cook a special meal for them?  It also doesn’t have to be a one off – you could start a new tradition for the year ahead and spoil them once a week. 🙂

Chores & DIY

Are there a few things around the house you’ve been putting off?  Why not get off your bum and get them done as a gift to the person who’s been nagging you about them!  Or, why not take over someone’s chores while they put their feet up?

What non-gift would you love to get this Christmas? 🙂

*What’s in my Christmas Stocking?


Everyone does Christmas differently, and one of the toughest things about being married is choosing which family traditions to keep, and which ones to toss.  When I found out that Sunny and his family never had Christmas Stockings I was stunned and a little gutted as it’s probably my favourite part of Christmas!  As kids, my brother and I shared a bedroom wall so whoever woke up first on Christmas morning would knock (/hammer down) the wall to wake the other and then we’d head straight to my Mum and Dad’s bedroom with our stockings.  We’d take it in turns dunking for gifts until there was a pile of wrapping paper in the middle of the bed and four empty stockings.

So if you’ve never done the whole Christmas Stocking thing (or have a nagging wife like me who’s insisting on keeping the tradition…!), here are a few tips on what to put inside 🙂

My brother always used to pick the biggest stocking from our family pile because, naturally, he thought big stocking = more gifts.  Well, I’ve taken a tip from my brother this year; this 100% wool fairisle stocking from Woolovers is huge!  And I called it – see, it’s got my initials just so there’s no confusion.

Something to Drink

Tea, Coffee and miniatures make ideal stocking fillers – especially if you can find a festive blend for that first Christmas cup.  I’m already a big fan of Teapigs’ Darjeeling Earl Grey blend, so I’m looking forward to trying this Spiced Winter Red Tea on Christmas morning.

Lavender & Geranium Shower Gel & Bath Foam (£5.60 Faith in Nature), Pure English Lavender Bubble Bath (C/O Little Soap Company) and Daisy Chain Bath Ball (£3.90 Miss Patisserie)

Something to Relax

For me there’s no gift better than the promise of peace and quiet for a good ole pamper-sesh, so I always tend to get a couple of toiletries and beauty products in my stocking; ones you can smell before you’ve even unwrapped them.  They fuel me through those dark and gloomy January nights.

7th Heaven Face Masks are only usually around £1 each are great to keep handy in the bathroom cupboard.

Something Warm

Socks, scarves, hats, hand warmers are just the right size to wrap and stuff in a stocking.  I’m always losing my gloves (if you see one waving at you from a park railing then it’s probably one of mine) so I’ll never say no to a new pair!  These Grey Cashmere ones are from Woolovers; they’re soft and also nice and long on the wrist so there’ll be no up-the-sleeve draughts!

Something to Scoff

Chocolate coins, chocolate snowmen, tubes of smarties… The first thing I eat on Christmas day has usually come from my stocking and that usually means that it’s chocolate.  This Green & Blacks Miniature Collection could be shared around several stockings – but, then you could keep them all for yourself…

The Simple Things Magazine

Something to Read

You wouldn’t think it, but magazines make great stocking fillers; they’re cheap and easily rolled (usually!) and wrapped.  Perfect for flicking through while you enjoy your Christmas breakfast or wait for the turkey to cook.

Something Silly!

My Mum is the Queen of silly gifts.  We’ve had lottery tickets and scratch cards wrapped up in our stockings in the past, and a stocking wouldn’t be a stocking in our family if it didn’t have a satsuma rolling around in the toe!

What little gifts do you always love finding in your stocking? 🙂

*A great big thank you to Woolovers for sending me such a lovely early Christmas surprise!

Cardiff Christmas Shopping Guide

I LOVE Cardiff at Christmas.  It’s hands down my favourite time of year to potter around the centre (even if you’ve got to be up at the crack of dawn to have any hope of getting a parking space… pfft!).  The lights go on, the arcades suddenly look like something out of Harry Potter and the smell of bratwurst burning can only ever be a wonderful thing.  I popped in last week for my first bit of festive shopping and now I’m all excited for Christmas – bring on the Mince Pies, Queen’s Speech and Brussell Sprouts please!  So – now that I’m feeling all festive – I’ve put together a little Shopping Guide full of my favourite places in Cardiff (other than the main haunts) to prowl for gifts  🙂



Bodlon (Yr Hen Lyfrgell, The Hayes)

Perfect for: Welsh-themed gifts.  Beautiful homeware, welsh language books, prints and stationary by welsh artists, toys and locally produced chocolates and alcohol.  They’ve also got some beautiful tree ornaments and decorations at the moment.

Flying Tiger (St Davids Centre)

Perfect for: Quirky homeware, stationary and stocking fillers.  Tiger is one of my favourite places to hit if I’m having people over because they’ve always got the best (and cheapest!) party supplies.  When it comes to banners, cake decorations, candles, napkins and nick nacks Tiger is the place to go, and at the moment they’ve got some great Christmas themed decorations and party bits and bobs.


Miss Patisserie (7, High Street Arcade)

Perfect for: Handmade Cosmetics, Bath Bombs, Candles. Tucked away in one of the Victorian Arcades (just off St John Street) Miss Patisserie is my go-to if I’ve got a pamper session planned – their bath balls are the bomb-diggity (much slower to fizzle out than, y’know, that *other* highstreet handmade cosmetics brand, and they create beautiful tie-dye swirls in the tub).  All their products are handmade, vegan and cruelty free and downright gorgeous.

The Joke Shop (24, High Street Arcade)

Perfect for: Fancy Dress Costumes and practical jokes.  My brother and I used to love hitting up the joke shop when we were kids – it’s perfect if you’re planning a fancy dress night out at Christmas, or you’ve got pranks planned around the Christmas dinner table, or for fun stocking fillers.

Home byKirsty (16, Castle Arcade)

Perfect for: Scandi-style homeware and stationary.  Awarded best new business in the 2015 Cardiff Life Awards, Home byKirsty showcases statement pieces like lights, cushions, mugs and other accessories for the home.  Definitely worth a look if you’re looking to buy a present for someone who’s just moved house!


Cardiff Outdoor Christmas Market (The Hayes)

Perfect for: Unique handmade gifts, artwork and food.  If there’s someone on your gift list that’s impossible to buy for and you’re tearing your hair out over them then a stroll around the stalls should do the trick.  I took my friend Missy there the other day and she bought a lovely clock made from a melted down bottle of Bombay Sapphire (GiftGlass), and then Sunny and I treated ourselves to a few prints we liked for the house from Illustrate.  You can find a directory of all this year’s stalls here.

Cardiff Indoor (Central) Market (St Mary Street)

Perfect for: Foodie gifts (welshcakes!) and vegetables for Christmas dinner, homeware, sewing and crafty gifts, vinyl records.

Rossiters (Morgan Arcade)

Perfect for: Stocking fillers, Christmas Ornaments and Decorations, Secret Santa Gifts.  Hands-down one of my favourite shops in Cardiff and the place to shop for gifts all year round.  They’ve got stunning tree ornaments, homeware, jewellery, books and stationary.

Wally’s (Morgan Arcade)

Perfect for: Foodie gifts.  Wally’s has its own unique aroma, you’ll smell the spices and cured meat long before you step inside.  It’s definitely the place to go if you’re looking for things to go into a Christmas hamper as well as hot sauces, biscuits, chocolates, cheeses, pannettone and Christmas pudding.

Spillers (Morgan Arcade)

Perfect for: CDs and Vinyl.  The world’s oldest record shop and a Cardiff institution.  ‘Nuff said.

The Pen & Paper (Morgan Arcade)

Perfect for: Pens and Paper!  The best place to go for ink, card, pens, notebooks and diaries.




Kitchens Cookshop (High Street – castle end of St Mary Street)

Perfect for: Everything kitchen, cooking and baking related.  Guaranteed if I get a strange utensil or quirky cooking-related item from my Mum at Christmas time (and I always do!) then this is the shop it’s most likely come from.

Castle Welsh Crafts (Castle Street – opposite Cardiff Castle)

Perfect for: Welsh themed gifts, love spoons, slate and souvenirs.  Castle Crafts has been around for donkey’s years and it’s no wonder because it’s the best place to go for all things Wales – especially love spoons.

Forbidden Planet (Duke Street)

Perfect for: Comic books, cult action figures and collectibles.  If you’ve got a Sheldon Cooper to buy for then you’ll already know about Forbidden Planet and are probably a frequent visitor. 🙂

Cranes (High Street – castle end of St Mary Street)

Perfect for: Gifts for musicians.  Cranes is the Mecca for Cardiff Musicians and the place to go to buy instruments and accessories.

If you’ve got any Cardiff Christmas Shopping suggestions then I’d love to hear them – I’m always discovering new favourites! 🙂

5 Tried, Tested & True Skincare Products

Now that I’m 30, I can safely say I’ve been around the block when it comes to skincare.  I suffered with pretty bad acne during my teens (and I mean sobbing at the Doctors, bad…) and during my 20s I went through a fair share of raspberry-faced allergic reactions after being duped into buying every high-end, cure-all, must-have product I could afford.  Yup.  My skin and I have had a stormy relationship over the years, but these days I think we’ve come to an understanding of sorts, and I think it’s all down to having a simple routine with the same products.  You don’t need to squander your life savings to be happy in your skin – you just need to find what works and stick with it. 🙂

1. Nivea’s Daily Essentials Rich Moisturising Day Cream (Dry & Sensitive)

I’ve tried a lot of expensive face creams over the years (I used Kiehl’s “Super Multi Corrective Cream” for a while, Clinique’s “Dramatically Different”, and then Clarins “Hydra-Quench”), but every single time I came running back to this one.  This daily moisturiser is THE ONE.  It keeps my combination skin hydrated without feeling greasy, and creates a nice glowy base under my makeup.  My skin loves it (I even wear it at night), and so does my bank; it’s only £2.00.  It’s a keeper. 🙂

2. Origins Clear Improvement Active Charcoal Mask

Origins do face masks right, but this one is my all time favourite.  I use it once a week in the bath to clear the weekly skank out of my pores, and I even dab a little on overnight if I can feel a monster spot coming on (just don’t forget to wash it off before you answer the door the next morning – a mistake I’ve made more than once, my friend…).

3. Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Concentrate

Oh this stuff.  It’s expensive, but – ho man – it works miracles.  I don’t use it every night, instead it sits in my bathroom cupboard in case of emergencies – i.e. when my skin’s having a ‘mare.  A couple of drops massaged in under my moisturiser goes a long way to putting things right the next day.  I’m down to the last few drops right now too 😦

4. The Body Shop Chamomile Cleansing Butter

I’ve always been heavy on the eyeliner, and I ruined so many of my mother’s towels and pillowcases growing up (sorry Mum!).  In my defense, those were the days before Micellar Water and Cleansing Balms.  I’ve tried all sorts of ways to remove my eye makeup, but cleansing balms are my favourite.  I started out with Clinique’s “Take the Day Off” (which is great), but moved on to the Body Shop’s own because it’s much, much cheaper and does the job just as well.  It’s really satisfying watching my eye makeup melt off under my fingers, and even more satisfying is using a hot flannel to take it all off. 🙂

5. The Body Shop Body Butter in Shea

No explanations necessary, except that I’m hoarding pots of these in my bathroom cupboard in case the zombie apocalypse arrives.  They won’t be able to grab me on a count of my slick, moisturised skin.

What are your favourite, tried and true skin care products?