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Christmas Traditions

Monday, 23 December 2013

I'm a big Christmas traditionalist. For me it has to start early as we have events running from mid November onwards at work and they can't be escaped! I like to leave it till later at home though and as I've already mentioned on here, the tree doesn't go up till a couple of weeks before Christmas. Stuff the Coke advert: I don't start feeling properly festive until I've seen the Rotary Club Santa drive down the road.

It's all about going through the Radio Times with a highlighter pen, taking 5 minutes in the morning to sit in a dark living room and watch the tree lights twinkle, putting lashings of curly ribbon on presents, sneaking a candy cane when no-one else is looking, wearing festive odd socks and having a little cry at The Snowman.

I can't wait for it this year. Presents were all bought ages ago and wrapped last week. I've caught up with as many friends as possible before the big day. The house is so clean that I now have to sit very quietly in case I make a mess and have to do more cleaning. The big food shop was done by 7am this morning (yes, it means getting up at 5.30am but I quite like that once in a while). Yup, nothing to do now except sit back, relax, watch some Christmas films, read some Christmas books and eat mince pies.

I don't know anyone else that's ever read Holly in Love but it's the most comforting slice of 80s teen winter romance ever written and I adore it. If it wasn't so massively out of print I'd buy you all a copy.

Tucked away for a little while longer are shiny new clothes. I canvassed opinion about the following on Twitter yesterday and I'm pleased to report that most of you were either fully on board with this already or don't do it but approve of the principle: new pjs must be worn on Christmas Eve. Preferably a pretty new frock on Christmas Day as well.

*waves at Rosie and Maddie who will also be rocking these badgertastic pjs*

A sneaky peek of the pretty Christmas Day outfit I've got planned.

Things have naturally evolved a bit over the years and I'm no longer that child who can't get to sleep because she's so flipping excited. Nowadays it's more the time off work and the chance to see friends and family that I like best, along with a couple of days of serious loafing around. Six-year-old Alex hasn't entirely disappeared though - I do still get quite giddy about it all. It's the prospect of waking up to this:

And getting my two favourite things to eat:

My mother, inventor of the stuffing duck, is a genius.

We have long-standing traditions for present opening, namely open your stocking as soon as you wake up. One before breakfast present is allowed (I have a feeling this rule was invented so I could be given a book to keep me occupied till everyone else was awake) then the rest of them are opened after we've feasted on bacon butties and Buck's Fizz. One thing gets saved as an after-dinner present. It would feel a bit weird to do things differently after so many years but honestly, presents aren't the reason I love Christmas so much. I'm more excited to see how people react to what I've got them this year - I think (or should that be hope) I've picked some fab things!

I have much loafing around to do over the next couple of days and so all the gadgets are going back in their cases. Haven't scheduled any posts as I doubt people will be in a blogging or blog reading mood when there's so much else to do.

I'll be back in the New Year and I hope you all have a fabulous, fun and food-filled time over the holidays.

Christmas Parcels

Friday, 20 December 2013

Going to the Post Office is never high on my list of things to do. The only plus point about going to my local one is that there's a really good charity shop next to it. The downsides are that the parking is horrendous, it's always got ridiculously long queues full of deeply slow and annoying people and, after a couple of not-very-good dates with the man that works there, it's now somewhat of an awkward experience to step foot in the shop. I don't go there unless I have to.

Christmas is a-coming and that means things need to get sent across the country to various pals. Once I've done all the hard work of wrapping the presents and festooning them with curly ribbon, what's the alternative to a trip to the Post Office? For me, a nice stroll to the local offy. No, not to buy booze to dull the pain of queueing to send the parcels. To use the Collect+ service.

It came across my radar at some point earlier this year when I was returning yet another ASOS order. I really don't have much luck with buying things from there. A good 70% of what I order ends up going back. Anyway, I saw it listed as a return option, whacked my postcode into the search box on the Collect+ website and found out that there's a shop close to my house that's part of the network. Ever since then I've been using it for online shopping returns and even the odd order collection.

Woo, pretty parcels! I don't like sending boring brown boxes to people.

Earlier this year I started using them to send parcels too. So much easier than going to the Post Office and way more convenient as the shops tend to be open early and stay open till late, plus they're open at weekends. The prices are really reasonable too. In the interests of strict fairness I should point out that I'm not entirely au fait with current Royal Mail parcel prices but judging by the grumbling I've heard from friends, I believe they're now pretty expensive although they would probably have the edge on smaller, lighter parcels. There are two options with Collect+ : delivery to a store close to the recipient is a flat £5.29 for up to 10kg and delivery to a house varies from £4.89 to £9.29 depending on parcel weight and how quickly you want it to get there. Print out a label, whack it on the parcel and then trot round the corner, admiring the pretty houses as you go.

I haven't had a problem with them so far so it's a definite thumbs up from me. Char got the email to say her parcel had arrived today and had a bit of a 'mare when she collected it, having to wait almost an hour for them to locate the flipping thing but I think that's more due to the ineptitude of the staff in the shop she was collecting from rather than a flaw with the service as a whole.


ps - This post was written and waiting to be published with no involvement from Collect+. I subsequently got talking to them on Twitter and they very kindly offered to refund the cost of both parcels. I'd have published this without that though - it's a dead handy service and if you don't know about it already I hope it's been useful!

An Ace(r) Christmas Present

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Recent attempts to blog from the netbook have taken hours. I wish that was an exaggeration. My last post took 1 hour and 40 mins to edit five photos. I spend inordinate amounts of time wailing "Don't 'unresponsive script' me, you stupid machine. Arghhhh, just work!"

It does my head in but when I'm off work it's my only option. I always blog before or after work or on my lunchbreaks but now I'm home I'm limited to the crappy netbook or the iPad. Shouldn't moan really, should I? I'm a big Apple fan but even their most diehard supporter will admit to the flaws. You're locked into their systems, it's hard to import files from elsewhere and unless you have the most up to date devices, this causes a big old problem when it comes to photos. My iPhone is a 3GS which is almost four years old now and the camera is RUBBISH. My iPad is amazing and I love it for games and social media and general browsing but the camera is also pants. That makes life really difficult when it comes to blogging. I don't think it's worth upgrading the netbook to a laptop (they feel massive now!) but I've been looking at tablet reviews for a while.

The timing couldn't have been more perfect for an early Christmas present to arrive.

Acer sent me an Iconia tablet to review and here it is!

As an Apple girl I've never actually tried an Android device before and I'm rather impressed. Still need to sit down with the manual and work out all the little bits and bobs that aren't in quite the same place as on my iPad but it's all incredibly simple to set up and start using. Nothing has baffled me so far!

Spot the blog...

One huge plus for me is that you can plug stuff into it. On this tablet there's space for a HDMI cable and a micro SD card slot. I have 4 normal SD cards for my camera but no micro ones (d'oh!) so haven't been able to test that out quite yet but one of these clever gadgets is currently winging its way across the Atlantic to me. It's rather hard to track down but I'm pleased I found it, especially as it's cheap and has free postage. Once it's here the Iconia will be the perfect blogging device.

Negatives? Well, it kinda depends on how happy you are with Google interference in your life - it wants to auto default to a lot of things that I'd rather not sign up to. You just don't hit the OK button for them. I find it a bit less intuitive to use than my iPad but that may just be conditioning. The touch screen is definitely a bit less sensitive (especially the space bar for some reason) but it's still decent.

Overall, I think it's great. It feels nice to use, it looks well made and it's very reasonably priced for what it is. It's not an iPad and you're not paying that premium for the Apple design but you're getting a very nifty little tablet for your money. Definitely worth adding to your Christmas list.

Acer sent me the tablet for review purposes. All opinions are my own.

Tree Time

Monday, 16 December 2013


I'm officially off work until 6th January. It is bliss.

This month has been so busy that I'm planning to spend all of this week loafing around the house being as lazy as humanly possible in an effort to recuperate. I'm making a good go of it so far - didn't get dressed today! Now that I'm home and chilled out I can start to get properly into the Christmas spirit and that means it's time to buy a big tree, haul the decorations down from the loft and get cracking.

I was rather pleased with the tree this year. Not quite as bushy as some in previous years but it's a very pleasing shape, isn't it? Obviously needs some presents to go underneath it but give me time. I feel wrong sitting down to wrap things until the tree is up!

My trees always have been and always will be an utter mishmash. No colour scheme or style, just lots of much-loved favourites. Some of them are older than I am. Rockin' Robin, the cheeky chappy in the first photo, is at least 35. Being the senior and important fellow that he is, he goes on the tree first. Pride of place and all that jazz.

I do try and find at least one new bauble or sparkly thing each year but despite not having a theme they all hang out merrily together. Plus it's all part of the fun when decorating the tree to go "Ooh I remember buying/making that!"

One of the two new beaded baubles I made on holiday this year. It's either Byzantium or Anatolia, can't remember which.

From the shop in Castle Howard on a Yorkshire winter jaunt one year.

The fox was a present last year, the box of crackers was made when I was about 6 from a mega book of Christmas crafts, Shaun the Sheep came out of a cracker and Jimbo had to be bought. He's a robin doppelganger of Jimbo and the Jetset!

Every Scouse tree needs a Scouse bauble.

The world's tiniest reindeer came from a shop in Bruges. He's the same size as my little fingernail.

Peg Lady was made by one of the volunteers at work. She totally reminds me of Mrs Banks from Mary Poppins. Votes for women!

The rest of the house gets a bit of a jazzing up too.

The stairs get garlanded.

The cards get pegged onto ribbon and hung from the picture rail.

The Christmas cross-stitch comes out.

And the kitsch fawn, bought by my mum for her first flat in the late 60s, is stuck somewhere where I can see him. He makes me smile.

Now I come to think of it, I have quite a lot of kitsch Christmas decorations. Artistic and cultured I am not. Not at this time of year anyway. I went mad in a charity shop a couple of years ago and bought loads of ancient baubles. You know the ones. Sort of 70s brightly coloured things with glitter on them? Impossible to take photos of as you end up with a reflection of yourself in tatty pjs and scruffy hair in all the photos... The other half of the tree is covered with them. I love it.

A Merry Time at Matalan

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Last week I fought my way through the crowds in Liverpool city centre, headed for the Matalan store. Town at this time of year is not my favourite thing but meeting up with blogging and Twitter pals definitely is, so there was no stopping me!  Liverpool has the first city centre Matalan store in the country (yay us!). Luckily there's one quite close to my house so I never have to trek too far to get there but I do like it when shops that you usually on see on retail parks start moving into the city centre too. Much more convenient!

Matalan were having a celebration event for Kerry Crone and Imogen Stubbs, two Liverpool John Moores University fashion students who won a competition to design a range for them.

Love this safety pin print!

Both of those collections are available online but they're also in the Liverpool store and that must be so lovely for both of the designers.

The rest of the store is equally full of shiny things.

This Abbey Clancy dress is gorgeous up close. Just wish I could wear bodycon!

These were in with the Christmas decorations but they are so pretty. I can just see them adorning the home of many a blogger!

We had a mini blogger competition to pick our two favourite things in the shop and blimey, was that tough to decide! Laura and I walked around for ages until we made up our minds. These were my picks:

The eagle eyed may note that the gorgeous cocoon coat in the picture is an 18 and I'm not, but it's mega popular (unsurprisingly really because it's gorgeous and really cheap for such a nice coat) and there just weren't any smaller sizes. Hey, it's meant to be oversized so that's ok. Hope I'm the lucky winner!

Polka Dots and Petticoats

Friday, 13 December 2013

I'm all shopped out. There was not a scrap of shopping enthusiasm left within me when the time came to think about what I was wearing to the work Christmas do. Luckily I'm not the sort of person who finds it essential to have something new for every occasion! I've got about 4 dresses suitable for evenings so I was pretty sure it was going to be one of them that got hauled out of the wardrobe and matched up with a pair of party shoes.

Then I remembered the petticoat I bought for the wedding outfit. It turns out that with the addition of loads of frills an everyday dress can be magically transformed into something fit for a party.

I made this frock back in the summer and it takes a petticoat rather well, doesn't it? The other big benefit over the plainish green frock I was going to wear is that I could go mad with the red accessories rather than sticking to basic black. Any opportunity to whack on the MAC Russian Red lippy and strap on my ridiculously clompy Shellys heels is much welcome!

Dress - I made it
Petticoat - Vivien of Holloway
Blazer - Warehouse via Oxfam
Shoes - Shellys
Clutch - c/o Matalan
Earrings - New Look
Ring - Dorothy Perkins sale
Bracelet - vintage

The thing I love most about petticoats is swirling round in them. Obviously. But the second best thing is when you step out of it and the entire carpet is a sea of frills. Such fun.

The Clothes Show

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Last Sunday I went to the Clothes Show Live for the first time. Perhaps I was being a tad naive when thinking it would be ideal for a pre-Christmas stroll round a good selection of stalls. I definitely had a fab time but if you haven't been before, take it from me that it's a) huge and b) incredibly busy. Not exactly the ideal relaxing browsing experience! If you sharpen your elbows there are some good bargains to be found though. I was super restrained and only came home with one bag - well if Models Own will do such amazingly good offers, it's kinda rude not to take advantage of them.

I was invited along as a guest of Echo Falls and had a lovely time catching up with two of my favourite blogging pals and saying hello to some new faces.

Turns out that although the NEC is enormous and perfect for an event of this size, it has terrible lighting! Sarah and Gemma's gorgeous faces are obviously not really this blurry but this was the only photo I had of them together and it doesn't feel right to have had such a lovely day together and then not show them in the blog post.

We spent lots of time oohing over the beautiful things on sale at Silly Old Sea Dog. The stock is just my cup of tea. It's Sarah's too, as you can probably tell by her happy face in the changing room.

I was very, very close to buying this gorgeous skirt. Maybe for next Christmas.

Alison's shoes were almost as tempting! Aren't they fab?

Gem and I had a fun 15 minutes watching the catwalk show featuring all the girls from the last series of Britain & Ireland's Next Top Model on the area right next to the Echo Falls bar. I have a massive weakness for model programmes. I can do without the unrelenting bitchiness but the photos fascinate me. How do they transform such normal looking people into such amazing images?

Watching catwalk in real life turns out to be an odd experience. Fun, but definitely odd. Some of them walk so weirdly! Look how far Angel back leans when she stomps.

I'm not a big enough blogger to be blase about this sort of thing. PRESS PASS! That's well exciting!

Tapestry frock - New Look
Cardi - Gap
Elizabeth I ring - Cheap Frills
Owl ring - present

Thank you, Echo Falls. It was lovely to be invited!