Our first Christmas tree in our first home

Baubles on our First Christmas tree

I’m not one to usually get excited about Christmas.  I’ve been called a grinch, a scrooge, but it’s not that I don’t enjoy Christmas.  I just have a limit to Christmas.

I’m all for staying in from the cold, seeing family and of course eating plenty of food.  I even like a good Christmas jumper!  But I draw the line at Michael Bublé on repeat (sorry to anyone who’s a fan) and Christmas decorations before December 1st.

But despite being a reserved Christmas fan (a reserved Christmas fan?), I’ve always liked Christmas trees.  Christmas trees have never made me cringe, unlike people referring to Micheal Bublé as ‘the Boobs’.  (Sorry, I just really don’t like Bublé.)  Christmas trees make Christmas, in my opinion.  They warm my heart.  Micheal Bubleé doesn’t.

Feeling festive

David and I made our biggest purchase in our lives so far earlier this year; we bought our first home together.  With moving out into our own place, I realised we’ll be in complete control of our own Christmas decorations. But when the Christmas period began creeping up on us it made me groan somewhat… (more expense!).

Getting out first Christmas tree

We’re definitely feeling the pull on our purse strings and Christmas decorations – like a tree, baubles, tinsel, wreath and, who knows, even one of those a random reindeer ornaments and a wooden carving that spells out ‘NOEL’ – all adds up.  We haven’t even bought blinds/curtains for our living room yet, how are we going to afford Christmas decorations?!

But I was in for a bit of luck as I was gifted a Debenhams Gift Voucher (from work, what a Christmas bonus).  So David went out to buy the Christmas tree (it had to be a real one, not fake) and I shopped the website for our first Christmas tree decorations!

Christmas tree colour theme

I understand a strict colour theme for a wedding, an Instagram grid but for a Christmas tree?  No, I don’t believe in such madness – another thing I simply draw the line at, in terms of Christmas do’s and don’ts!

Silver Reindeer Christmas tree decoration
Silver glitter stag Christmas decorations from Debenhams

I prefer an assortment of decorations, with different colours and varied levels of sparkle.  (Although, admittedly I do like an overall ‘warm’ theme over a ‘cold’ one, so I went easy on the silver decorations.)  A robin is a must-have for me, too.  (I very nearly ordered a walrus bauble out of sheer enjoyment to have something completely odd on the tree as well.  But I held back – maybe next year.)

The finishing touches included a massive gold and glittery star to top off our tree (although it’s a bit wonky – does anyone ever get theirs straight?) with multi-coloured LED lights that have 8 different settings – not to be messed with.

Robin Bauble
I love this podgy robin bauble from Debenhams!

Our first Christmas tree

So after a busy day at work on Friday, the stresses soon swept away when I walked into our living room that night.  David had not only bought in the Christmas tree – but he decorated it too!  (It’s okay, I told him to do so.)

And for someone who’s not that Christmassy, I was quite pleased and excited to see it.  (So much so that I instagrammed it straight away.)

Our first Christmas tree
Gold pine cone bauble from pack of 62 Christmas set

And although I now can’t spend my Debenhams voucher on more Mac lipsticks or another Urban Decay eyeshadow palette (like I did last year) I feel a little, dare I say it, Christmas cheer.  The thought of these being our first Christmas decorations that will build up into a collection was quite a warming thought.  Now to wrap up our presents!

Have you bought any of your own Christmas decorations yet?  Which ones are your favourite?  Let me know in comments below – I still regret not buying the walrus.

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Birchbox UK – December 2017

Birchbox_UK_December_2017_unboxing

It’s taken me to receive my Birchbox UK December 2017 box to realise it’s actually December now.  December hasn’t creeped up on me; it’s made an unexpected, out-of-nowhere pounce attack!  How does a year fly by so quickly?

You might remember last year (in my Birchbox UK December 2016) that I launched my first ever Birchbox giveaway.  Well this year I’m doing the same, but stepping up my game a little bit…

Birchbox UK December 2017 unboxing

To end the year, Birchbox UK have declared this month’s theme Life’s Little Treasures.  Which links up quite nicely with the beauty products that are typically released this time of year.  With the majority of these giving an iridescent sheen or at least a hint of sparkle, they too can look like little treasures too!

Interestingly, Birchbox have collaborated on the box design with Matthew Williamson.  A luxury designer I wasn’t aware of, but after a quick google I was soon to become an admirer of his gorgeous prints… like the one on this month’s box.

Samples

Birchbox UK December 2017

Birchbox subscribers had a pick from two full size lip products this month and I couldn’t decide which one to settle for.  (So I left it to Birchbox to decide for me…)

One was a rather feisty and festive red from Birchbox created brand LOC (Love of Colour).  Whereas the the other was a moisturising lip balm with a natural red tint.  Here’s which Birchbox decided I should receive, along with the other samples:

  • Baïja Paris Carmelised Honey Body Scrub
    Now this is what I’m talking about when I mentioned festive beauty products!  Think of a Christmas themed exfoliator and this would be it.  I half expected it to smell of clementines.

Baija Paris Caramelised Honey Body Scrub

  • LOC Vibrant Matte Lipstick in Color Me Confident Cranberry (FULL SIZE!)
    After leaving it to Birchbox to decide for me, I’m pretty glad they’ve given me the full-on red lipstick.  Despite being matte, LOC lipsticks still seem to be quite creamy and not lacking in colour.
  • Sand & Sky Brilliant Skin Purifying Clay Mask
    Apparently a cult product – which rock must I have been living under to miss this one?  At £39.90, this feels like a sprinkle of luxury in my box.
  • Spectrum Collections B04 Angled Blender Brush (FULL SIZE!)
    Another Spectrum brush to add to the collection!  The last Spectrum eye brush I received from Birchbox actually trumped one of my Real Techniques brush, so I’m happy to see this in my box.
  • ModelCo Contour Stick
    I’ve not read other Birchbox UK December 2017 reviews yet, but I think it’s a nice touch we received the other item from our choice of two Modelco products back in October’s box.  Especially as this was another decision I had left to Birchbox, because I couldn’t decide myself.
  • Cargo Blush in Sunset Beach?
    Can anyone solve this mystery for me?  This item isn’t printed on my leaflet, so I’m not sure if this is a mistake or a pleasant surprise.  It’s quite a lovely blush though that could easily double up as a highlighter.

Birchbox UK December 2017 swatches

Box round up

Once again, Birchbox have delivered in sending out a festive mix of samples just in time for the holidays.  With two full size items with a total that scrapes just below the price I’ve paid for the box, they’ve finished the year on a happy note.

Already looking ahead, Birchbox UK have already revealed a teaser for next year.  (I know, already!  I don’t even know what my New Year’s Eve plans are yet…)  A choice of two blushes (interestingly in stick form) will be in our January boxes from familiar brand Lord & Berry.

Birchbox UK December 2017 samples

GIVEAWAY:  As mentioned I am celebrating the end of another Birchbox year by doing a giveaway!  One lucky winner chosen at random will win a 6-month subscription – watch my Birchbox UK Unboxing video 2017 to find out how to enter!

Want to subscribe to Birchbox?  Subscribe here and get 50% off your first box!

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I have not been paid by, sponsored by or asked by Birchbox to make this blog post or video in any way – I just do it for the love!

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New Purchases Show & Tell – November 2017

New Purchases Show & Tell November 2017

I’ve made the same mistake as I did last year in my New Purchases Show & Tell November 2016, I haven’t bought any Christmas presents yet and I’m leaving it all to do in December.  Shit.  I need to break this habit.

So, if I haven’t been spending my money on gifts for the big pig-out day in December then what have I been doing?  Well, I went to Belgium.

David and I spent a few days away, which funnily enough we did the same thing last year when we went to Edinburgh.  (Although this is a habit that doesn’t urgently need breaking…)  But I accidentally slipped and fell into some Black Friday deals too.  So some of my money went there, witness below.

New Purchases Show & Tell November 2017

So here’s what I’ve been spending my monthly pay on:

Back2Front Holiday House (AirBnb) – 39 seconds in
David and I went to Ypres, a place we’ve wanted to explore for a while for its First World War history.  (We like our historical holidays…)  I really wanted to highlight our Airbnb from our trip because it was great value!  It was placed conveniently out of town and nestled within the countryside.  It was quiet, peaceful and just right for us to explore Ypres and the areas around it.  (I will do a blog post on this soon, don’t worry.)

Fashion Union Petite High Neck Top In Velvet – 1:38 minutes in
Back to the usual products you typically see me buying, month in month out…  When I first saw this top flicking through my ASOS app, I knew it was ‘the one’ for my work’s Christmas party too.  That, and a kind of ‘alternative’ but classy Christmas jumper.  I don’t know why I couldn’t see that it was velvet from the website, or that the ‘ball balls’ were actually pearls (fake ones of course).  Both pleasantly surprised me though and made me love this top more.

New Purchases Show & Tell November 2017

TopShop PETITE Dobby Trim T-Shirt – 3:51 minutes in
Okay, in comes the Black Friday items I couldn’t resist.  No surprises they’re all from TopShop (I can never resist their sales).  This was a basic top I spotted a while back, but felt it was maybe a little pricey for what it was.  (I was just being tight probably – I have a mortgage to pay!)  Thankfully I whipped it up in the sale with £10 off – the sleeves are so pretty!

TopShop PETITE Stitchy Knitted T-Shirt – 4:30 minutes in
I caught sight of this top before it went into the sale too, but same story above; I was trying to save money, so I didn’t splash out on it, blah blah blah.  This top was slightly more expensive though (at £26) but was knocked down to the same price of £12.  Bargain, and so versatile!

New Purchases Show & Tell November 2017

TopShop PETITE Floral Cupped Body – 5:00 minutes in
As is the case with most sales, even Black Friday sales, you end up buying an item completely out of season.  Like this, very summery body.  The kind of thing I should be wearing out in California or somewhere, rather than folding it away and hoping for a heatwave in Britain.  It was cheap as chips though (by TopShop standards) – £8!

Next month…

Oh lord, Christ was born… on Christmas Day… which is this month!  I’ve really got to pull my socks up and whip my debit cards out, through Amazon, shopping and anywhere else to start ticking off my Christmas list.

As I did last New Purchases Show & Tell December 2016, I’ll be bringing you this December’s video and post a little earlier than usual.  In it, I will divulge all the gifts I’ve bought for friends and family, in case you need any last minute gift inspiration.  (Which if you do, you’re worse than me.)

New Purchases Show & Tell November 2017

I have not been asked, sponsored or paid to review any of these products.  I just like to shop!

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What I ate in Paris

Things to eat in Paris

On top of my How I spent 5 days in Paris post, I thought I’d write a separate one on the hearty meals in cosy cafés I discovered when I was there.  A sort of ‘what to eat in Paris’, if you will and we know the French are well-known for being passionate about food, so why not write a food diary?

The French are known for many culinary delights, such as; beef bourguignon, the best fromages as well as idyllic baguettes from dreamy boulangeries.  Even the best desserts and naughty snacks herald from here – hello macarons!

So here’s a few things to eat in Paris that I particularly enjoyed.  (Don’t read if you’re hungry.)

Ravioli at Le Rouge Limé

Ravioli in Le Rouge Lime, Paris

Our AirBnb was conveniently close to metro stop Charonne.  And, as it turned out, close to some TripAdvisor tipped restaurants too.  Scanning the website for places to eat around us Le Rouge Limé was particularly loved and had received many good reviews.

So after arriving in Paris and eating a mediocre meal earlier in the day, we settled in amongst its cosy bar/restaurant setting, ordered a bottle of wine and its Ravioli (vegetarian) dish.  (Perhaps not the first dish you think of when looking for the best things to eat in Paris.)  But, the wine and food went down wonderfully and I actually regret not eating here again during my trip.  (So if you’re in this area, pop in for a meal.)

Croque monsieur at Café Le Nazir

What to eat in Paris Croque Monsieur

When you’ve been to Paris before as I have, then you’ll know that you’ll be doing a lot of walking.  So after getting up early, climbing to the top of the Sacré-Cœur and wandering around a bustling Montmartre; my tummy began to rumble.

We stopped off at a corner cafe (Le Nazir), which looked quintessentially French (dark red decor, with aloof waiters) and I knew before looking at the menu that I’d be asking for a croque monsieur.  I always have a croque monsieur when I’m in France, which isn’t the healthiest snack (it’s basically a fried boiled ham and cheese sandwich), so I reserve it for when I’m at my most hungriest!

Side note: there’s also a croque madame, which is the same but topped with a fried egg.

Macarons from anywhere

What to eat in Paris (macarons)

Before heading to Jardin du Luxembourg we picked up some macarons from somewhere in Montmartre.  I’m sure there’ll be some Paris experts that’ll tell you to go to prestigious macaron makers, but I’m really not that fussy when it comes to this meringue-based treat!

So apologies I can’t remember the exact name and place where I bought these macarons.  But I can tell you I went for the following flavours: strawberry, pistachio and champagne.  Délicieux!

Axoa of veal fried potatoes at Le Petit Baïona

Meat at Le Petit Baïona

Another restaurant close to our accommodation, although this time recommended by our Airbnb host, was Le Petit Baïona.  I was quite intrigued, given that it served traditional Basque dishes, a part of France that may seem world’s away from Paris in the deep south.

Although embarassingly this is where my memory escapes me.  I’m sure this was a tender pork meat, served with sautéed potatoes, but I can’t find this in the online menu.  So I’ve labelled this the closest meal to it, (I really should start keeping travel notes…).

Different regions of France are known for different culinary expertise, so although this was a bit meat heavy I was glad to try a different taste from the country.

Tarte Fine de Saison at Publicis Drugstore

Tarte Fine de Saison

It’s so easy to get pulled into French bakeries from just window shopping. This tarte fine de saison is a prime example.  I’d only nipped through Publicis Drugstore to get to an ATM, but these caught my eye.  I picked one up on my way back and munched on it in the queue to the Arc de Triomphe.

Its pastry crumbled away as only French pastry does. But sadly for me there was too many onions in the middle.  Other than that, I have no regrets – always buy something that takes your fancy, you’ll never know you might try your next favourite thing!

Have you tried any culinary delights when visiting Paris?  Let me know in the comments below because I don’t want to miss out on the good stuff!

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How I Spent 5 Days in Paris

How to spend 5 days in Paris

For a city where its grand boulevards look like they’re straight from all the movies, its café culture is magnetising, to even its rooftops applying to be UNESCO World Heritage recognised; it can be hard to decide how to spend 5 days in Paris.

Lucky for me then as I was preparing for my third visit in the city of love at the end of last month, I thought organisation is key.  I knew what to expect, yet I also knew what I had missed in previous visits too.

Whilst this isn’t exactly a guide on the top things to see in Paris you must see – after all, I’m no Parisienne expert – this is more a personal account to inspire any future trip to the French capital.  Which, if the spirit of Paris could speak, then it would tell you too to avoid planning it, discard any Paris itineraries and discover your own secret corners of a city that’ll stay with you for a lifetime.

Day 1

Père Lachaise Cemetary in Paris
Père Lachaise Cemetery… peaceful and beautiful
  • Arrival in Paris
  • Père Lachaise Cemetery

Being from the UK, I may be flying in, catching a train, boarding a coach or even driving into Paris – so I can choose to arrive at any time of the day; early or late.

Whatever time you arrive, don’t overdo it on your first day in Paris. Pick a sight that’s a walkable distance from your hotel, hostel or AirBnb.  For me, that was Père Lachaise Cemetery – an unusual suggestion for those who haven’t been initiated, but probably the most beautiful cemetery I’ve ever wandered within.  (Even in death, Parisienne’s do it in style.)

The final address of famous artists who’ve ever claimed Paris as their home rest here, such as; Edith Piaf, Frédéric Chopin, Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison.  After I dipped my toes in some exploring, I ended my day at a café for dinner with a glass of French wine.

“Even the pigeons are dancing, kissing,
going in circles, mounting each other.
Paris is the city of love,
even for the birds.”

― Samantha Schutz, I Don’t Want To Be Crazy

Day 2

How to spend 5 days in Paris
Montmartre is a dream…
  • Montmartre
  • Sacré-Cœur
  • Jardin du Luxembourg
  • Galeries Lafayette

Whether you have one day in Paris, or two weeks; missing out on Montmartre would be like missing out on the artistic heart of Paris.  Renoir, Van Gogh and Picasso all lived here, so this should set the scene.  Located on the highest hill in Paris, the Sacré-Cœur also sits here and looks over Paris with incredible views.

After walking this quarter’s charming streets, I headed south of the River Seine to stroll around Jardin du Luxembourg.  Dedicated to the children of Paris by Napoléon, these lush gardens make a good spot for a picnic lunch.  (Or just nibbling on some macarons!)

Jardin du Luxembourg Paris
Picnic in Jardin du Luxembourg…

A hidden gem I hadn’t discovered in my previous visits was the rooftop of Galeries Lafayette.  The luxurious department store provides a free view and is a sight to see itself.  (Even though I couldn’t afford any of the designer names within it…)  A stained-glass dome is at the centre of the building and on the clear day when I visited, I snapped some beautiful sunsets of the Paris skyline (Eiffel Tower included) on the top floor; the rooftop.

“… you’ll have to fall in love at least once in your life, or Paris has failed to rub off on you.”

― E.A. Bucchianeri, Brushstrokes of a Gadfly

Day 3

Hall of Mirrors Palace of Versailles
Every corner is a wonder in the Palace of Versailles…
  • The Palace of Versailles

The trip from Paris to Versailles (outside of the city) isn’t that long itself.  But the estate is so vast it requires a day, at least, to explore.  I’d missed out on Versailles too in my previous visits and so the former home of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette was a must do for me this time.

It really took my breath away; the palace, Hall of Mirrors and gardens as far as the eye can see.  I didn’t manage to see it all in the 8 hours I had. So if I were to go again, I’d consider hiring a four-person electric car (like golf carts), get around by the shuttle train or rent a bike.

“Paris is a hard place to leave, even when it rains incessantly and one coughs continually from the dampness.”

― Willa Cather

How to spend 5 days in Paris

Day 4

  • Disneyland Paris

Disneyland Paris isn’t a necessity when you don’t have kids, but considering it’s the only Disney park in Europe I’d have to travel a long way to find another one.

Sadly, I never experienced the *real* magic by visiting when I was young (a lot younger), but I had a blast on my first visit when I was 16.  This time round I particularly noticed how child-focused it really is (which of course it should be).  Or I could just be getting older…  For anyone who loves Disney though, it’s easily accessible from the city of Paris for a day out.

“Paris isn’t a city, it’s a world.”

― Lepota L. Cosmo, Love in Paris – Poetic Guide to the Romance of the City

Day 5

Arc de Triomphe in Paris
Perhaps the most well-known roundabout in Paris.
  • Arc de Triomphe
  • Champs-Élysées
  • Eiffel Tower

The famous Arc de Triomphe probably comes second on everyone’s Paris to do list (after the Eiffel Tower, bien sûr.)  Surprisingly, I’d only glimpsed it from the street previously, but even more surprisingly, when arriving at the back of the queue to climb its 284 steps to the top there wasn’t a long wait.  (Most main attractions in Paris have some of the longest queues I’ve seen!)

Now a roundabout, with 12 exits, you can point out a number of other monuments from the sweeping views above it.  (Never try to cross the road, there are underground subways.) I was lucky enough to see Sacré-Cœur all the way in Montmartre!

View from the top of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris

One of these 12 exits is probably the most famous street in Paris; Avenue de Champs-Élysées. (Beauty lovers: stop off here for Sephora!)  Luckily it’s only 2km long too, so you can stroll past all the designer names that line Paris’s most expensive avenue and reach Place de la Concorde.  If you keep going, through Jardin de la Nouvelle France you’ll reach the Louvre, too.

This time instead of getting lost in the artworks at the Louvre (I have done this before and it’s worth a visit), I indulged in a bit of retail therapy before setting sights on true icon of Paris.

How to spend 5 days in Paris

Queues spiral out of control at the Eiffel Tower, but don’t let this put you off.  (Learn from my mistakes; book in advance!)  The harder decision is to choose which time to venture to the top; during the day or by night.

Paris was more ‘Paris when it drizzles’, rather than ‘Paris when it sizzles’ on my first visit.  Meaning the view from the Eiffel Tower, by day, was almost non-existent.  By night, it quite literally sparkles, every hour on the hour.  Luckily, I went for the latter this time.

How to spend 5 days in Paris

Watch

The next day, sadly I was on the train home.  Have you been to Paris?  What are your favourite things to see and do in Paris?  Share your tips, experiences and in the comments section!

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