*How to Host a Banging Christmas Party in 10 Steps

eHBRgUr

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 😉 )

DSC_0064

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?

DSC_0021

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. 🙂

DSC_0019DSC_0011

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!

DSC_0014Cardiff-Cwtch-3

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! 🙂

DSC_0091_zpsedwydsnm

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!

DSC_0083

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.

 

September Home Style Shakeup

It’s no surprise that I seem to spend more on homeware and interiors in September than I do any other time of the year.  It makes perfect sense; the dog days are done, the nights are drawing in and there’s a distinctly Autumnal chill in the air (I wore my winter coat for the first time this morning… and then ended up shucking it off ten minutes later because we’re just not quite there yet!).  It’s time to get the house feeling warm and cosy and – ugh, yes – THAT Scandinavian word.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been stocking up on candles like a squirrel burying nuts, rearranging things a bit and just generally freshening everything up ready for winter.  I’m definitely feeling ready to hibernate 🙂

The lounge is the room I spend my life in and I finally feel like it’s “finished” – if there is such a thing.  This corner was a bit boring, so I’ve turned it into my Miranda from Sex and the City “You no longer exist” trashy magazine reading space.  I’m going to be sharing it with Bungle though, his bed is right next to it and he has a habit of sprawling right in front of the chair and leaving his toys everywhere.  We picked up this cheap little side table from IKEA about a year ago but the space underneath it was just wasted; it just seemed to collect tangled cables and dust (…and Bungle fur).  So to make better use of it, I picked up some baskets from IKEA to slot into the gap.  They’re brilliant for storing all of Bungle’s favourite toys.  I also picked up a new Yucca – which I’m not going to kill.


So here’s a tip; don’t ever stroll into a customer collection point stating that you’re there to pick up a “big clock” because the guys behind the counter will misunderstand what you’re saying.  Oh, and also don’t say “oh wow it’s huge!” when they appear with the package.  True story.  Anyway, this “big clock” is from John Lewis.


Some of our sofa cushions were looking a bit worse for wear, so I picked up these fancy  grey chevron ones from Tesco for £7 each, and I didn’t even realise until I got them home that they perfectly match our little footstool.  I also re-purposed this massive pirex pie dish and turned it into a little tray for the coffee table.  It’s nice to have somewhere to store lounge bits and bobs like flowers, tissues and candles.  Speaking of which, I’m absolutely loving this little Autumn Pearl candle that Yankee Candle Cardiff kindly gifted me.  It’s from their new autumn range and smells absolutely gorgeous – it’s getting me all excited for cosy nights in. 🙂

I also restocked my terrarium.  The old one was a graveyard.  It was tragic.  Oops!  I really love the cactus right at the back – mostly because it’s called a “Bunny Ear Cactus”.  Too cute!

Lastly, in the kitchen I’ve added a few bits and pieces around the hob.  Sunny and I made it to our fifth wedding anniversary at the end of August and so my mum and dad bought us this heart-shaped chopping board – because wood is the traditional gift for a fifth wedding anniversary. 🙂 I also picked up another plant (again, I’m really going to try not to kill it) because it’s nice to have some greenery inside during the winter I think.  She’s called Vera and the pot was a total bargain from TK Maxx.  Cute, huh?

Have a great weekend everyone! ♡

*How to Host the Best Ever Barbecue

DSC_0057

So far it’s been a summer of Barbecues; the weather’s been so beautiful here in Wales (I mean who’d have thunk it?) that we’ve had or been to one practically every weekend.  I’m not complaining!  I LOVE a good barbecue, and over the weekend we hosted yet another one in our back garden, thanks to the lovely people at Marks and Spencer who recently sent me an email asking if I’d like to try some of their goodies for the grill.

So, having put a few successful barbecues under my belt this summer (literally, you should see my waist line…), here are my top ten tips for hosting the best ever barbecue. 🙂


1. Fire up the Grill at 3pm

There’s nothing better than banging barbecue weather, but standing next to the grill at midday – when the sun is blazing overhead – will have you melting faster than that slice of Monterey Jack crowning your burgers.  Spare a thought for your grill jockey and get the grill going at 3pm instead when it’s cooler and shadier.  It’ll also give you plenty of time in the morning to prepare the food and set up. 🙂

2. Keep your set up simple

The last thing you want to be doing when the whole neighbourhood is squeezed into your back garden is rushing around making sure everyone’s got plates, ketchup, napkins etc…  The best way to host a stress-free barbecue is to make sure people can help themselves to whatever they need, whenever they need it.  Create a “Pimp Your Hotdog” stand where all the sauces, buns and garnishes can be found, and set up another space for plates, forks (no one uses knives at barbecues!) and napkins.

When it comes to decorating, keep it simple!  Brightly-coloured streamers and pom poms will look great when there’s a breeze, while fairy or pontoon lights will keep the party going when the sun goes down.  Oh, and don’t forget a couple of citronella candles and wasp traps to keep those stinging party poopers at bay.

3. Serve Pitcher-friendly Drinks

Aside from bottled beers and cans shoved in a massive ice bucket, pitcher-friendly drinks are a great way to serve up some fancier drinks that everyone can help themselves to. Plus, they’re easy to prep and make up beforehand.  I served up these Peach, Apricot and Raspberry Floats over the weekend and they went down a treat!  Just smear some glasses with raspberry coulis and pop them in the fridge or freezer, then make up a jug of the Peach and Apricot Fizz.  Serve up with a hefty blob of frozen yoghurt and garnish with some raspberries and mint.  Yum!


4. Something to Keep Pets Entertained

Bungle is an absolute nightmare when he’s out in the garden.  He digs holes, chews on the plants and just generally likes to cause trouble.  So, when we’re having a barbecue making sure there’s plenty to keep him (and his friends!) entertained is a must.  First things first, make sure there’s fresh water handy and somewhere for furry guests to cool down – whether that’s a shady area or a massive paddling pool is up to you, but be warned, if you pick the paddling pool then you’re going to get showered with shake off!  Make sure there are plenty of toys out, as well as a few treats handy. I like to make Bungle his very own cup of frozen yoghurt with chopped up bits of cheese and sausage.  They’re super easy to make and he goes absolutely mad for them (…plus they keep him out of trouble for a good half hour…).


5. Serve up the *Best Ever Burgers

I mean, can you even call a barbecue a barbecue if you don’t serve up some show-stopping burgers?  Especially here in Wales; according to statistics we consumed 180,000 M&S burgers in the last 12 months – that’s enough to fill the Principality Stadium to capacity twice over!  You all know how much I love Marks and Spencer when it comes to barbecue food; their Posh Dogs make the best hot dogs (and you all know how fussy I am when it comes to Hot Dogs, right?).  Well, now they’ve taken the Grill Crown once again with their Best Ever Burgers.  Apparently, the M&S boeffins (see what I did there?) spent a whole year creating the recipe, playing around with different cuts until they came up with a juicy patty that’s got a little bit of added bone marrow for an extra hit of flavour.  (M&S is also the only national retailer in the UK that can trace every single bit of beef it sells in store, right down the exact cow that provided it.)  We served them up on the weekend with fresh salad, fried red onion rings, beef tomatoes, bacon (phwoar…), some Cheddar and Balsamic Burger Melts and a hefty smudge of Smoky Onion Relish and they were a huge hit.  Sunny grilled them to perfection on the BBQ and when he asked my brother and I how they were, we just nodded and mmmmm’d with warm juice drizzling down our wrists.  Oh yes.  We may have sneaked a few before everyone arrived… 👌


6. Something for the Veggies

But why should us rampant carnivores have all the fun, eh?  Veggies like my Mum love a barbecue too.  There are plenty of great vegetarian dishes you can cook up on the grill, from stuffed peppers and mushrooms, to these spicy halloumi kebabs drizzled with hot mango salsa.  Just remember to make extra because you can bet everyone else is going to want to have a couple too.  And remember, depending on how strict your veggies are, you might want to have a separate grill or disposable barbecue handy to prevent cross contamination.

7. Pick Simple Sides

No one wants to faff around cooking up fancy sides in the middle of a barbecue, so pick a handful of recipes that you can make ahead of time.  Plenty of salad, grilled sweet corn and chips are always easy to make up and go down well.  I like making these baked new potato wedges with my Chilli and Red Pepper Jam and chopped chives.

8. Don’t forget to serve up something sweet!

But make sure it’s not going to sweat in the heat!  Ice lollies and ice cream are great if you’ve got somewhere to store them where guests can come and go as they please, but there are lots of other options too.  Why not whip up a very messy Eaton Mess, or serve up some cake with plenty of fresh berries and ice cold cream? 🙂

9. Evening Games

I went to a barbecue recently where we played musical chairs, no kidding!  We’d all had a bit to drink by that point, and what started off as a game to entertain the kids turned into an adults only duel to the death.  It was hilarious!  Once everyone’s had their fill of food, it’s great to have some after dinner games to entertain everyone while the grill cools and the sun goes down.

10. Make the Cleanup a Doddle

“Let’s host a barbecue, it’ll be great!”  And it is, until everyone goes home and you’re left to scrub grease off the grill and clear up all those bottles (and the mud and grass that the dog’s trodden in through the kitchen…).  Make life easier for yourself and clean up as you go along or consider serving food up on paper plates to cut down on the late night washing up.  Also close doors to rooms indoors that you want to keep clean and tidy; that way guests won’t get lost and leave you with extra spots to scrub up at the end of the day.

How many Barbecues have you had or been to this summer?  I think we’re up to about ten and honestly, I could easy go for at least ten more 😉  Massive thanks to Marks and Spencer for all the glorious food! 🍔

Our Garden

DSC_0043

I think this is the first year in a while where we’ve had a proper summer.  So far, anyway!  And because the weather has been so nice we’ve spent loads of time out in the garden scoffing barbecue food and just soaking in the sun like the little solar powered creatures we are.  When we moved in to our house three years ago, the back garden didn’t really exist – it was just a muddy slope.  Three years (and a lot of hard work) later and it’s finally looking good.  I mean, it’s still a work in progress, but this is the first year that a lot of the plants we put in during those early days have blossomed.  It’s definitely one of my favourite places to chill – and it’s one of Bungle’s favourite places too (although he can’t really be trusted on his own out there because he likes to dig!). 🙂



Against the back fences we planted a couple of climbing roses that finally seem to be growing!  You know me, I love roses, and so I definitely wanted some in my garden.  Luckily our soil is perfect for growing roses in, although they’re way more upkeep than I thought they’d be; they constantly need spraying to get rid of insects and fungus, and trimming back to encourage more roses.



For my birthday last year Sunny bought me these colourful hanging pots which I absolutely love!  We filled them with pansies and geraniums and it nice having a bit of extra colour on an otherwise boring brown fence. 🙂



5 ways to get that Spring feeling (when it’s not Springing outside)

Is it just me or has this felt like the longest winter ever?  True to form the British weather has been a right old tease the past couple of months, from that false flash of Spring back in February to the March deep freeze.  And despite the fact that we’re now over a week into April, Spring seems to still be playing hard to get.  So, if like me you’re getting tired of waiting for warmer weather to arrive, here are few things you can do around that house to get that Spring feeling. 🙂

T Shirt & Sunglasses – Primark, Trainers – H&M (similar here), Scarf – really old! (similar here)

Have a Wardrobe Clear-out

On a soggy Sunday afternoon a couple of weeks ago, I was bored enough to feel like tackling my wardrobe.  I made myself a cuppa, put Youtube on, scooped out my clothes and chucked them on the bed, and then I slowly started putting them into piles.  It actually didn’t take very long, but at the end of it I’d sifted out all the clothes I didn’t wear anymore and the ones I wasn’t going to need until next winter (I held a few jumpers back knowing full well that 1. Spring got lost in the post this year, and 2. Uh, Wales).  And bonus, I found some clothes I’d completely forgotten about, worked out what I was missing and made some room for some fresh Spring/Summer togs (you should see my ASOS wishlist…).  Ah!  That felt goooooood.

DSC_0161

Bring the Outside Inside

Ever since Bungle moved in, I’ve become a really neglectful plant parent, and over the winter my indoor greenhouse kind of turned into a plant mortuary.  Oops!  Last week I decided enough was enough and had a crispy leaf clear-out.  I got rid of all the dead plants, cleaned their pots and then trimmed, fed and re-potted the survivors (…there weren’t many… *ahem*).  It’s surprising how empty and bland the house feels without a bit of greenery though, and so – even though I should probably be banned from ever owning vegetation again – I’m going to think about buying some new plants. 🙂

Make a Spring/Summer Bucket List

Okay, so the weather’s crap and it’s just too miserable to go out.  So, I’m going to start making a list of everything I do want to do when the weather eventually cheers up.  That way, as soon as the sun makes an appearance there won’t be any dithering and deciding where to go and what to do!  I’m ready and raring.

Eat Fresh

I find it so hard to eat healthy when it’s cold and wet!  All I want to do is stuff my face with chocolate and pizza.  But I always feel so much better and more like summer is on its way when I ditch the heavy comfort food and start eating more fruit.  Time to look up some new recipes to try!

Deep Clean the House

There’s nothing better than having a good old Spring clean, and this year – let me tell you guys – a deep clean was definitely needed.  It’s been a wet winter and Bungle’s muddy paws had not only done a number on our carpets and skirting boards, but he’d flicked wet mud off on the walls so much that they were starting to look like a Jackson Pollock painting.  Before Easter I took a couple of days and cleaned the house from top to bottom.  And I mean really cleaned.  I washed the curtains, wiped and repainted the skirting boards and went through about five bottles of Zoflora, but IT. WAS. WORTH. IT. 

So whenever Spring actually feels like turning up, I’m ready for it!  Have a great week everyone! 🙂