*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.

 

*Buttermilk Plum Cake

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We’re stone’s deep into berry season now, and while I love a bowl of strawberries and ice cream as much as the next person, cherries, raspberries and plums for me are where it’s at (although – boring fact – technically plums aren’t botanical berries, they’re actually “drupes”).  Plums are so underrated, but I love them for their slightly sour skins and juicy insides, and they’re even better when baked into a cake.  Even Bungle loves plums 🙂

Anyway, M&S got in touch recently and asked if I’d like to try baking with some of their berries.  They’re a huge fan of the Great British Berry (not to be confused with Mary Berry who is also great) – they’ve had relationships with some of their berry suppliers for over forty years and it absolutely shows; the damson plums they’ve got on offer at the moment are absolutely banging.  This plum cake is incredibly simple to make and turned out so well when I served it up at a recent barbecue that I made it again a few days later.  It’s a little bit like an upside down cake, except you bake it upright!  It also stays lovely and moist for a few days because of the buttermilk and juice from the sliced plums… if you can resist scoffing it all at once, that is! 😉

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Buttermilk Plum Cake

Ingredients

  • 125g Butter
  • 100g Plain Flour
  • 125g Caster Sugar
  • 1 Large Egg
  • 1 tsp Baking Powder
  • 50g Ground Almonds
  • 100ml Buttermilk
  • 4 Ripe Plums stoned and thinly sliced
  • (Single Cream to serve)
  1. Heat the oven up to 170°, then grease a 20cm cake tin, dusting it with a little flour.
  2. Hold back 1 tbsp of sugar, then beat the rest with the butter in a large bowl.  Beat in egg.
  3. Sift together the dry ingredients and then fold into the buttercream and egg mix along with the ground almonds.
  4. Gently stir in the buttermilk, then pour the mixture into the cake tin.
  5. Arrange the sliced plums over the surface, making sure to overlap them as the cake will rise and expand as it bakes.  Sprinkle the surface with the extra sugar, then bake in the oven for 50 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.
  6. Serve up with fresh single cream. 🙂

Thanks to M&S for the ingredients and for sending this recipe my way – it’s a keeper!  Have a lovely weekend everyone! ❤

What I Wore: Four New Things

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It’s been a while since I’ve done a fashion post, because honestly?  Until summer hit the UK I just wasn’t feeling particularly inspired about getting dressed (…I live in leggings and an old hoodie most days anyway!).  It was that weird, in-between period between winter and summer (…Yeah, Spring. Duh! But not Spring weather, I guess is what I’m trying to say oh so eloquently – am I ever eloquent?), I didn’t really have anything to dress up for and just wasn’t bothered about anything I saw in the shops.  But, then summer arrived (…and, more importantly, stuck around for a bit) and recently I’ve started picking up a few colourful bits and bobs.  I’ve got a couple of trips coming up this summer, as well as a wedding, so I fancied sprucing up my togs a bit 🙂

Primark Pointed Flats – £6

Six quid well spent.  I LIVE in flats, and the moment I spotted these babies in the Cardiff store I knew they’d be permanently attached to my feet all summer long, and I’m not the only one; when I managed to nab a size seven and skipped off to checkout with them, the cashier laughed and said she’d been selling them like hot cakes.  Mine are looking a little bit grubby at the mo, it has to be said and I thinking of trying to give them a bit of a wash in the machine to spruce them back up.  They are a faux-suede material though so that might be a mistake in the making.  Hmm.  If you’re after ones that will last, Urban Outfitters are probably your best bet.

River Island Faux-Wrap Dress – £50

If you tune into my Instagram Stories then you’ll probably remember me despairing over what to wear to a wedding.  I was really hoping to get a jumpsuit (I love them, they’re so easy… and – if you’re like me – they tend to spare your dignity when you fall over after a few too many glasses of prosecco), but alas, I just couldn’t track one down that I liked and was a reasonable price, so that was that.  Then, I spotted this gorgeous pink faux-wrap dress in River Island and totally fell in love with it because I feel like it’ll be something I’ll wear over the summer out and about, not just to a wedding.  (They’ve even got it in yellow and stripe 🙂)

Florence and Fred @ Tesco Pink Espadrilles – £12

I need to stop trolleying around the clothes section in Tesco when I should be picking up bread and eggs.  I bought these to go with the wrap dress from River Island and for just general bashing around in over the summer.  They had loads of different colours, but I loved this frayed, dusky pink pair.  They also come bragging cushioned soles, which I’m always a bit suspicious about (to be honest, I buy most of my shoes with the expectation that they’ll cripple me), but these are so damn comfy that I easily looped around Bute Park in them without getting a single blister – even on the first wear.  Unfortunately, I can’t seem to find a link to the pink ones online (here’s them in a white broderie anglais), but Dorothy Perkins do a very similar pair.

T K Maxx Yellow Culotte Jumpsuit – £11

I haggled this one down, guys.  I love a jumpsuit, but when I spotted this one in store I wasn’t sold on the culotte-style legs.  Tried it on anyway, loved it, but found a couple of holes around the waist line.  They didn’t have any others in my size, and you know how it is with T K Maxx, once it’s gone, it’s gone (although looks like Boohoo have got a very similar one).  I’m good enough with a needle and thread (I knew that Brownies sewing level one badge would come in handy one day…) and decided I liked it enough to give fixing it a go, but was absolutely unwilling to pay full price.  Anyway, I bossed it up to the cashier and asked them if they could do anything about it, and they did.  I got it for £11 and half an hour of stitching in front of the telly.  Nice!  It pays to ask, right?

Bag – Marks and Spencer, Earrings – Dorothy Perkins (similar here)

Hopefully I’ll be taking it out for a spin this weekend if the weather’s nice.  Here’s to the Bank Holiday weekend!  Have a good one everyone! 🙂

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

July Favourites

I feel like this might as well be a November Favourites post because honestly? What a wash-out July has been!  I wore my wellies more this month than any other so far this year, have cwtched up on the sofa under blankets with candles burning, and have had some seriously miserable morning walks with Bungle.  I suppose we shouldn’t really be surprised, the good old British Summertime is has well and truly lived up to its reputation this year, and now that we’re into August, it doesn’t seem to be showing any signs of getting better.  So I’ve decided that I’m moving on to Autumn and have started to get well and truly stuck into browsing AW17 fashion – scarves, boots, coats – which I guarantee will spark a heatwave.  😉

FOOD

I ate some seriously great food in July, not limited to Aloo Parantha, Bubble Waffles and these Breaded Halloumi Sticks at Bill’s in Cardiff Bay.  Yum!

BOOKS

This month I picked up Kerry Egan’s ‘On Living’, which not only has the most beautiful cover but was a lovely read during those dismal July evenings (honestly, what the hell happened to summer?!).  On Living is a book about death.  Kerry Egan – for many years – worked as a Hospice Chaplain, working with patients who were close to or about to die.  The book is basically all the lessons, stories and truths Egan learned from her patients – lessons about “Dancing more, working less and other last thoughts”.  A beautiful book.

CARDIFF

Unfortunately I didn’t get around much this month because the weather’s been so rubbish!  But I’ve got a couple of favourite spots this month.  Number one involves some of the best Indian (and Vegetarian) Food I’ve eaten in a while – The Vegetarian Food Studio in Grangetown (watch out for my blog post on Monday), and number two is K9 Plus 1 in Barry – a cafe for dogs and their owners.


FASHION

The summer sales trump the January ones in my opinion; I always seem to pick up so many great bargains this time of year including these spotted, wide leg trousers from Marks and Spencer which were a total bargain at £5.50 (similar ones here).  I’m going to be wearing them all through Autumn and Winter with t shirts and jumpers.  Another fashion fave this month were these tassle earrings from H&M.  I’ve been after a pair for a while but didn’t want the same red and white ones everyone seems to be wearing.  I spotted these ones and fell in love – even if Sunny called them dodgy and said they looked like they belonged on the end of a curtain tie.

TV

“The North remembers…”  When I heard that the new Season of Game of Thrones had been pushed back until July, to say I was miffed is a bit of an understatement.  But day-am, so far it’s been worth the extra wait.  In our house we wait for Game of Thrones all year and then when it arrives we end up whinging that not enough happens quickly enough and the middle of season drags – but so far it’s been my favourite season yet.  🙂

Also, Poldark.  Always stunning to look at, but… this year it feels like every episode has just been a hour of simpering gazes and soft sighs (I’m looking at you Morwenna).  And now that  *SPOILER* Agatha’s gone, I’m a bit… meh about it all.

ONLINE

We bought my Mum an Amazon Echo Dot for her birthday because she’s gadget mad and constantly wondering what’s happening with the news/weather/traffic.  Anyway, it arrived and Sunny and I were so impressed with it when we set it up for her that when Amazon Prime Day swung around and we picked one up for ourselves.  You can do so much more with it than just check out the latest headlines and whether you’ll need an umbrella (It’s Wales, it’s July – the answer as it turns out is; is yes, yes you do).  You can tune into any Radio Station, check out Trump’s latest Tweet, get a random Blackadder Quote, and we’ve synced our Spotify with it so we can play our favourite music through it’s – pretty decent – speaker.  My favourite addition though has to be the game ‘Yes Sire’ – which you basically have to keep balance in your kingdom by answering simple yes or no questions which increase/decrease your wealth and power (it’s a bit Game of Thrones).  If either goes too high or too low then the King either has you exiled or executed.  Great fun while you’re cooking or doing the washing up 🙂

Hello August!  What have you been loving this July?  Obviously not the weather…  😉

Summer Fashion Update

Maxi Skirt – Primark, Votes for Women Charity T Shirt from Literary Emporium

I don’t tend to blog a lot about fashion, but there’s something about warm weather that makes me hightail it to the shops.  I love summer fashion and dressing for good weather; I love the colours and (at risk of sounding like Sheryl from Rhode Island ala Miss Congeniality) there’s no need for layers and light jackets.  I’ve picked up a few bargains recently – all under £20 – that (weather permitting, obvs!) I’ll be wearing all summer long.

Got to be honest, I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to pull off the whole off-the-shoulder thing that everyone seems to be going crazy for this year (don’t get me started on flared sleeves, they look lovely but I’d be forever dragging them through my food), but then I saw this lovely embroidered top in F&F at my local Tesco and fell in love with it.  It goes so well with this little straw bag and scarf I picked up in Marks and Spencer’s.


I parted ways with a lot of old shoes over the last few months (let’s not talk about the boots that became the winter rental of a family of field mice… no joke…) and so I’ve been stocking up on pointed flats when I see them.  As well as the striped flats I picked up in Primark (if you follow me on Instagram you’re probably sick of seeing them by now…!), I saw these blue suede ones in Matalan and couldn’t leave without them 🙂

What’s your favourite summer bargain you’ve picked up this year?