Sunday, 30 November 2014

Countdown to Christmas: My 25 Favourite Things About Christmas



Tomorrow is the day when we can start saying "Christmas is this month!". For me, this is unofficially the time when it becomes ok to listen to Christmas music, get started on the Christmas shopping, put up the decorations and begin to work your way through all the Christmas films (except Love Actually. Everyone knows you can start that 6 weeks before Christmas...). 

I've bought myself an advent calendar (in addition to the one I have at home. Just one of the perks of living away from home for university) and I'm already feeling pretty festive. And to help you all get into the Christmas mood, I'm listing my twenty-five favourite things (in no particular order) about Christmas right here:

1. The whole cheeriness and general atmosphere at Christmas time. Everyone seems happier and friendlier and excited!

2. Christmas Dinner. Obviously. We have big roast dinners at home pretty often, but at Christmas having all the extra trimmings and triple the number of desserts make it even more special.

3. Christmas street decorations. It just makes everywhere look so pretty! If anyone's in Bristol over the Christmas period, Park Street looks incredible at night.

4. Big tubs of chocolates. Sadly they seem to be getting smaller every year, and I definitely prefer the metal tins to these plastic tubs, but they still symbolise Christmas to me and we get through quite a few over the festive period!

5. The Christmas adverts. I'm not sure when these started becoming a 'thing', but this year I don't feel like the last person to see the Coca-Cola advert- I've seen it twice already!

6. Christmas songs. I have well over one hundred in my iTunes that I love putting on as soon as December starts. Hearing them on the radio, in the shops and being sung all over the place puts me in such a good mood.

7. Christmas specials on TV. Generally watched after Christmas because the actual day is so busy, but I love an extra episode from my favourite series. 

8. Giving a really good present. Christmas shopping can be tricky, but when I'm confident that the person will absolutely love what I've chosen, I get really excited about seeing them open it.

9. Giving the dog a Christmas present. Yep. I'm one of those people and I have no shame about that. Saffy might not really understand Christmas, but she still looks really cute when she gets all excited about getting a new teddy bear. (Poor teddy doesn't usually last much past midday...)

10. Waking up at 4am to check my stocking. I'm still a big kid at Christmas. Even if nowadays I have to pretend I was actually asleep when 'Father Christmas' delivered it at just before midnight... (shh, don't tell anyone!)

11. Driving (being driven) home for Christmas. My university terms are getting longer and longer, so the journey home is getting closer to Christmas and it feels so good when I can finally stop studying and pack up to go home for a couple of weeks. And I sing Driving Home for Christmas in my head the whole way back...

12. Playing games with friends and family. A Christmas get-together usually involves some form of competitiveness- whether its the simple classics like 'Who am I?' or a game of Trivial Pursuit using cards I'm sure are old than me.

13. An excuse for new clothes- I love picking out a new outfit to wear on Christmas day. It's less frilly dresses and sparkly tights these days, but I still like making an effort!

14. Mince pies. I missed out on these for years after making the classic mistake of assuming they contained meat. Oops.

15. Decorating the house. We've never had a proper Christmas tree at uni and we might not be in the house on Christmas Day, but it's still fun to drape tinsel everywhere and hang those foil snowflake things. And then to leave them up as long as possible (i.e. until you move out in the summer).

16. Christmas jumpers. This wasn't something I ever really did until the past couple of years, but I'm slowly accumulating a collection of Christmas-themed knitwear. That I may or may not wear at other times of the year...

17. Catching up with everyone. Christmas events are a great way to see some of the people I don't see at other times of the year and I love that. My old Rangers group put on a Christmas meal every year and invite those of us who've moved on to come back and see old friends which is lovely.

18. The fact that it's completely acceptable to start every day with a piece of chocolate in December. I'd be sad if I didn't have an advent calendar...

19. Comparing Christmasses. I love that everyone does their Christmas slightly differently and I genuinely enjoy chatting about what traditions other people have.

20. Having time off. As I get nearer to finishing university and having to start work, I'm really starting to appreciate the fact that my Christmas Day is completely free. There will come times when I have to work over Christmas, so I'm enjoying the fact that until then it's a day off!

21. Mulled wine. Just the smell of it will do, although it tastes pretty nice too! I've marked a recipe for chocolate mulled wine in one of my cookbooks- perhaps I'll give it a go this Christmas?

22. Christmas films. Nearly always cheesy and predictable, but because I only watch them at this time of year I don't mind at all!

23. Meeting kids who are really excited about Christmas. It always makes me smile- hopefully as I'm on a paediatric placement at the moment there will be plenty of kids who are well enough to be at home for Christmas.

24. Christmas themed outings- ice skating, Christmas markets, Christmas drinks, there are so many fun things to do at this time of year.

25. Christmas cracker jokes. Ok, I'll admit I'm scraping the barrel a bit here (25 is a lot of things to think of!) but I've made my own crackers the past two years so researching the best cracker jokes has been a big part of my Christmas preparation!

So those are some of my favourite things about Christmas, how about you?

Jennifer
xXx
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November Favourite Posts

This month has provided some excellent reading material in the blog world and so I'm sharing the posts I've especially enjoyed from the blogs I'm following. November was obviously a great month for inspiration with plenty of wintery and festive themed blog posts and I've loved keeping up with what everyone has been up to this month.

Favourite Dessert Post
Starting with dessert is always best in my opinion! Kirsty has shared something that sounds absolutely delicious, and perfect for Christmas dinner party season. Accompanied by wonderful photography, this recipe definitely got my mouth watering and I've saved it in the hope that I'll have a good reason to try it out! It looks stunning and yet seems pretty simple to make with only minimal ingredients which is ideal. 


Favourite Throwback Post
8 Things We All Knew and Loved About MSN Messenger on Lucy Types
Lucy has summed up the shared memories of many people of my generation who used MSN messenger, and reading this post definitely got me reminiscing about those days. Days when it was less about Facebook friends and more about how many MSN contacts you had. When rather than silently seething because you know they've seen your Whatsapp message, you could just press nudge over and over again until they replied on MSN. I'd definitely recommend checking out what Lucy's memories of MSN are and sparking some reminiscing of your own.


Favourite Vegetarian Recipe
Spinach & Quinoa Patties on The Rosedog Blog
I'm not vegetarian but I don't often buy meat, so delicious vegetarian recipes are things I love finding. Recently I've spoken to a few people who have quinoa in their cupboard but haven't really been very inspired as to what to do with it. These patties would make excellent alternatives to burgers and look so fresh and tasty in Rosie's photos.


Favourite Lifestyle Post
I say lifestyle, but this is obviously yet another food themed blog post- although Rosie's stylish outfit does also contribute to why this is in my favourites! Konditor and Cook is a bakery I have very fond memories of so I was delighted to see it featured on Rosie's blog. I spent many years trying to perfect their buttery flapjack recipe - sadly a treat they no longer sell - but Rosie reckons they make a pretty good brownie too, and I'm inclined to believe her.


Favourite Cute Post
Ernest on Gingerly Pale
Now there is no question about me being a dog person, but that didn't stop Jessica's post on her kitten absolutely melting my heart. He's an incredibly cute little thing and if you only visit one of the links I've shared, then it has to be this one because I promise the photos will make your day!

Favourite Video
Boys Do My Makeup on Eltoria's Secrets
To be really honest, I don't usually watch videos and vlogs, I much prefer to read a blog post, but this video caught my eye and I decided to press play. I'll admit I don't actually know who Chip Daddy and Ed Jones are, but their 'talent' for makeup artistry was amusing nonetheless. What made me laugh was watching them switch between trying to show off genuine make up knowledge, and just trying to make poor Simone look as ridiculous as possible.

Other posts I've saved this month:

Hope you've had a lovely month!
Jennifer
xXx
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Thursday, 27 November 2014

RECIPE: Red Lentil Patties and Herby Tomato Beans

Once again I found myself with nothing in for dinner. I'm currently living in Bath on placement Monday to Friday, so when I get back to my flat in Bristol at the weekend, I don't have any fresh food in. And as it was rather cold and rainy all weekend, I didn't really fancy venturing out to the supermarket. So come Sunday night, it was time to get inventive and make something out the bits and pieces in my cupboard (plus a packet of 'fresh' coriander that was not going to last much longer).

I decided to make lentil patties alongside beans in a tomato and herb sauce- and the result is not bad for something made almost entirely from store cupboard ingredients! The beans were actually a lot better than ordinary baked beans and this made a suprisingly filling meal- plus it's vegetarian, gluten free and feels pretty healthy.

The lentil patties are quite crisp on the outside with a soft, mushy centre and you could definitely adapt the flavours to your own tastes. Next time I'd also consider adding an onion (assuming I had one...) just to give them that little bit more.



To serve two:

For the lentil patties
1 cup of red lentils (of a variety that don't require soaking)
Handful of fresh coriander leaves
1/2tsp black pepper
1/2tsp ground ginger
1/2tsp cumin
1 egg
2tbsp gluten free plain flour
1tbsp olive oil

For the beans
300g pinto beans
400g chopped tomatoes
1tsp mixed herbs

Add the lentils to a saucepan of water and bring to the boil. Boil for 10-15 minutes.

Drain and rinse the lentils, pour into a bowl, then add the spices and chopped coriander. 

Add the egg and flour and then mix together. I mixed by hand to ensure everything was thoroughly combined. If you are making these in advance, you can cover the bowl and place in the fridge until you are ready to cook them.

Drain the pinto beans and pour them into a saucepan, then add the chopped tomatoes and mixed herbs. Stir well and place over a low heat to cook through, but avoid boiling them.

Drizzle some olive oil into a large frying pan and when it is hot, dollop tablespoonfuls of the lentil mixture straight into the pan. Fry for about a minute either side and then take out.

Serve everything together!
















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Tuesday, 25 November 2014

How to Remove Wax From an Old Candle Jar



Since discovering the benefits of a scented candle, I've accumulated quite a few. Many of them come in pretty glass holders and it seems a shame to throw these away when the candle wick is all used up. So I found an easy way to clean them up, removing any leftover wax, so that you can re-use them for whatever you wish! It's really simple, and means that buying a candle also means you get something useful and long lasting afterwards- perfect excuse for buying them?!

When your candle burns out, let the remaining wax completely solidify again, then fill the candle holder with boiling water. Leave for approximately 30 minutes as the wax rises to the top to form a layer floating on the water. When all the wax has moved to the top, you can lift it all out in one big piece (which is really satisfying!). I guess you could probably keep the wax for something- if anyone has any ideas do let me know- but I just throw it away. Dry off the glass and wipe away and residues and then repurpose it however you wish!


Hope that's a useful tip!
Jennifer

xXx
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Sunday, 23 November 2014

9 Tips For Making Mornings Easier

How to make it easier to get out of bed

A positive, productive day starts with being able to get out of bed and get going. Which is all well and good, but early starts, dark mornings and chilly temperatures can all make it feel like far too big a challenge to be starting a new day!

I definitely consider myself to be a morning person, finding it much easier to be awake and alert first thing in the morning, and having a hard time staying awake much past 10 pm. Yet even despite this personality advantage, there are still plenty of mornings when the alarm is very unwelcome and I'd much rather stay in bed. For the days when a lie-in is simply not an option, these are my tips for making it easier to get out of bed and get on with the day.

How to make waking up easier

Out of Bed


1. Get a sensible amount of sleep

Sounds obvious right? Well we might as well start simple. Getting plenty of sleep allows us to wake up feeling properly refreshed and rested. How much sleep you require varies from person to person, but try and get what you need by going to sleep at a reasonable hour. A good morning starts the night before!

2. Set one alarm- no snoozing!

Be realistic with your alarm - it can be tempting to set an earlier one with good intentions, but if you know you'll likely ignore it, then just set one for the time you actually need to be up. Setting alarms that you don't wake up to can confuse your brain - whereas a single alarm you respond to is a signal to your body to get up!

Setting an alarm for morning

3. Make your morning productive

I like having some "me-time" in the morning so it's an enjoyable period, rather than a frantic rush, focusing on where I need to be. It's a great way to start the day positively. Some people like to fit in a work out or stretching session, others like to make time to read. I like giving myself an extra twenty or thirty minutes in the morning to catch up on blogs, watch TV or just sit and enjoy a hot drink.


Reading a book in the morning


Morning cup of tea to wake up

 4. Wake up warm

Our body temperatures actually change with our sleep-wake cycle, cooling down as we sleep and warming when we're awake. Setting the heating to come on approximately twenty minutes before you wake up (or longer if your room heats slowly) makes it far easier to transition from under-duvet, to upright.

5. Have an outfit ready

You don't necessarily need to have laid out every item of clothing, but mornings are much easier when you've eliminated any big decision making! Just make sure the outfit you think is clean, ironed and waiting in the wardrobe is actually there...

6. Have a breakfast worth getting up for

Food is great motivation to do just about anything, and an exciting breakfast is a brilliant example of this. It doesn't have to be an Instagram-worthy affair, just something that makes you want to get out of bed and eat it! Whether it's a bowl of lovingly prepared overnight-oats, your favourite chocolatey cereal, a stack of pancakes or the promise of poached eggs, having something to look forward is a great way of starting the day positively. 

Morning porridge with fruit


7. Put the radio on

Breakfast radio is all about getting everyone up and ready for the day ahead! You can use the radio as your alarm, or stick it on first thing as you wake. I really love knowing that I'm not the only person having to drag myself out of bed that morning, and the uplifting music might be all the motivation I need to throw back the covers.

Bedside radio

8. Get things ready the night before

Make life easy. Having your bag packed, lunch prepared and purse/keys/coat somewhere sensible makes for a much smoother morning. Whether that's an extra ten minutes in bed, or time for some stretching or reading is up to you.


9. Have a nice alarm

Nobody likes a rude awakening, and many people hate the sound of their alarm! A harsh alarm doesn't fill me with positivity or make me want to get up, so I use the radio to wake me up. Alternatively rotating between gentle-sounding alarms can make for a much calmer start to the day (you can always set a back-up for a minute or two later if you are worried that you'll sleep through it).

Don't forget to pin and save for later!

Top tips for easier mornings


What are your top tips for being a morning person?
Jennifer
xXx
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Thursday, 20 November 2014

Play Therapy - Making Christmas Elves


Studying medicine isn't all hard work, you know. I'm currently on a paediatrics (children's medicine) placement which means that there is plenty of excuse for playtime too. When we first got our timetables for this week, what immediately caught my eye was "session with the play specialists, in the ward play room." It was nestled in there between seminars and nursing shifts, but it stood out a mile!

Now I didn't want to get my hopes up straight away. There was still a distinct possibility that this would end up being just a talk on the theory of play as therapy, but the day before the play specialists had passed us on the ward and suggested that we'd be doing something more practical- and that maybe we shouldn't wear our best clothes...

Tuesday morning we arrived at the play room and took a seat at a table covered in newspaper, stacked with scraps of paper and fabic, coloured pens and even a few tubs of glitter and sequins. As a child, mum always encouraged us to be creative so this kind of scene is pretty familiar to me- but perhaps not while at university! They told us they wanted us to make elves, just like they would be getting any of the children to do over the next few weeks too. 

We got into small groups and instantly got started fashioning hats and tights and fancy tops for our elves. One group even went for an impressive 3D structured elf. While we worked (played?), the play specialists talked about their role in the hospital, helping children to deal with an unfamiliar environment, coping with any anxieties and generally just trying to make their stay in hospital a little more enjoyable. They had lots of useful tips that we can use as future doctors when it comes to distracting children that need treatments or examinations. They also talked about how they can often be a support for parents who are just as anxious when their child is ill.

Two hours went by very quickly and it was soon time to pack things away- but we made sure to get plenty of photos of our creations! The play specialists also told us they'd be putting them up on their new display- so I'll be looking out for those on the ward!




What do you think?!
Jennifer
xXx
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Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Guest Post: A Perfect Winter Evening with Jasmin

Today I'm back with another guest post on the subject of 'A Perfect Winter Evening.' You may have caught the one written by Adele that I featured earlier in the month, and today's comes from one of my favourite bloggers, Jasmin from Jasmin Charlotte Lifestyle. So, without further ado, over to Jasmin!

Cozy Nights In:
There is something a bit magical about winter, maybe I am biased as I am born in November but with the nights a bit cooler and the light drawing in earlier. Suddenly home becomes a little warm burrow! All that bad weather outside makes it so easy to lounge about around home, and after some very long day at work, a cozy night in is just what is needed! So I thought I would run through some of my cozy night essentials.
First comes warmth, the best bit about these nights in, is that you are not out in the cold! I personally pre Christmas go for as much Christmas regalia as possible, as I think it adds to the happiness. I am currently rocking these Christmas leggings from primark, some reindeer santa socks and a soon to be worn penguin Christmas jumper. I also think some kind of thick blanket or duvet is a requirement. As they say, I want to be as snug as a bug in a rug.


Second comes entertainment – my favourite definitely has to be some kind of series on Netflix which I can binge on. My top picks this year have been Orange is the New Black (hilarious comedy drama about a womens prison), House of Cards (Kevin Spacey goes power crazy), American Horror Story (people like to jump out at others) and at the moment we have just started Dexter (serial killer goes mainstream) which I have been loving! 


Third comes food and drink! I love some warm drinks which go down pretty well in the evenings. I have been loving some green tea with peppermint, but also some mulled wine or cider are my favourites. I even make my own mulled wine by buying the mulled sachets at the supermarket, along with some other spices and cinnamon. Although I am currently doing ‘no-sugar November’ (don’t ask me why, I have forgotten the reasons in my chocolate deprived tears), my cozy nights usually involve some kind of delicious treat. I wanted to share a very quick recipe of something which I make quite often – Oreo Balls! These are quite possibly the easiest thing ever to make, but trust me 1. People won’t believe you when you tell them there are only 3 ingredients, and 2. You will probably eat them all before you can give them to others.


The three things you will need is a whole heap of oreos, a tub of cream cheese and some cooking chocolate. Smush up your packet of oreos until they are pretty small and combine with the cream cheese. Roll these into balls and pop in the fridge to set. Once they are set, melt some chocolate in the microwave or on the stove and dip your balls in the chocolate. Pop back in the fridge for a couple of hours and then devour! I like to mix it up sometimes with white, milk and dark chocolate. These then last in the fridge for 3-4 days (if you can actually make them last that long!).


So there we have my ideal cozy night in – Christmas jumpers, Dexter, mulled wine and oreo balls – perfect! It has been a pleasure to write a little guest post for the lovely Jennifer on her blog, if you would like to hear more from me, then you can come and visit my lifestyle blog at www.jasmincharlotte.com
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Sunday, 16 November 2014

The Autumn Tag



Scrolling through my Bloglovin feed, I was delighted to find that I'd been tagged by Hannah of Suitcases and Sandals to complete The Autumn Tag. Autumn feels like it's going by pretty quickly, so I'm trying to make the most of it before we transition into winter! 

Coffee – What’s your favourite seasonal drink from Starbucks or any other coffee shop?
I don't often branch out far from normal lattes or hot chocolates, but I think there is/was a praline flavoured drink somewhere?! I've also heard a lot about a honey and almond hot chocolate at Starbucks- might need to investigate this.

Accessories – What do you opt for, scarf, boots or gloves?
Scarf is the first thing I bring out- I just bought a lovely tartan scarf from Joules which I'm really happy with. I do carry gloves in my bag all year round simply because it's an easy way to remember where I've put them! I'm also a big fan of long, brown boots, or any excuse to pull on my Dubarry boots.

Music – What’s your favourite music to listen to during Autumn?
Definitely not Christmas songs- they have to be saved until December! Autumn is the time though for cosy evenings in so my relaxing playlists do get a lot more playing. Just think a lot of Michael BublĂ©...

Perfume – What’s your favourite scent for this time of year?
I don't really vary my perfume all year round- in fact I usually forget to put any on. If I am wearing some though, it will probably be Valentina by Valentino.

Candles – What’s your favourite scent for this time of year?
Despite what I said about Christmas songs, I will happily bring out a Christmas scented candle at this time of year! Although I did go out with the aim of getting one and brought back a lavender scented one instead- which suprisingly doesn't smell too old lady-ish.

What do you love best about Autumn?
I always feel like autumn goes by very quickly, there's not much time between letting go of summer and festive, winteriness starting. I would honestly say though my favourite thing about autumn is probably the colours- natural things like the leaves and lower, golden sunlight and also fashions with deep purples and mustard yellows.

Favourite make up look?
Again, I don't really do anything especially different just because it's autumn- I generally stick to my every day eyeliner and mascara!

What are you looking forward to most in the Autumn?
I am looking forward to my paediatrics placement. Not autumn related at all, but it is happening during the autumn! When you've done a week of lectures, seeing 'play session in the playroom' on your timetable is rather exciting.

What things have you been enjoying so far this autumn? And if you fancy answering these questions yourself, then I tag you to do so!
Jennifer

xXx

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Thursday, 13 November 2014

A Muddy Walk in the Woods

Whenever I go home for a weekend, it's nice to spend an hour or so taking the dog on a walk she loves- down to the woods. This weekend was particularly nice autumn weather, with golden sun streaming down between the trees- and no rain. It felt like a proper, autumn Sunday morning with plenty of other dog walkers out and leaves that were still golden and not yet at the brown mulch stage.

There's something childishly enjoyable about getting really, really muddy when you know you can go home and wash your boots off right away. I didn't quite get to the level of jumping with both feet into the deepest puddles I could find, unlike a lot of the children around the woods this Sunday, but Saffy and I did come back with very muddy feet (and tummy in Saffy's case).








A walk in the woods obviously requires a tartan scarf, and a pair of boots to get covered in glorious mud!


As far as Saffy's concerned, no trip to the woods is complete without a visit to the 'doggy beach'. I actually tried to avoid this, but she pulled the puppy-dog-eyes look, before threatening to run down here whether I wanted to or not! She might look all lovely and serene, just paddling away, but I missed getting any photos of her having a rather serious tug-of-war with another dog, over a three foot long stick- which she then proceeded to hit me round the shins with until I threw it for her. Pets, eh?!





And after all the excitement I did manage to finally drag her away from the water... poor thing got a bit confused as to why we couldn't go different ways around the trees!



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