Driving home for Christmas 

Well that’s it. Work is now officially over for the year – well bar the emails that I will inevitably check whilst off work. I’m writing this as I am in the car on the way home for Christmas. Don’t worry, I am the passenger and definitely not driving, not after the drinks I’ve had this afternoon anyway! 

This year has been incredible. I’ve secured my full time job after my apprenticeship in an amazing team at Microsoft which seems crazy for a 20 year old. I also went on a work conference in Toronto which was my first time that I’ve travelled far afield and it was an  amazing but absolutely exhausting experience. I’ve been to a gorgeous island in Portugal called Porto Santo and drank way too many mojitos. Ibiza also happened this year – the quiet side for anybody who now thinks I’m a nutter. It was absolutely stunning and I exploring the old town in Ibiza will forever be one of my favourite memories. Add into that the WILD long weekend with my lovely pals in the Isle of Wight, which ended in ways we won’t discuss here, and you have just a few of my many highlights from 2016. 

Did I keep my New Years resolutions? 
Absolutely not. Well kind of. This time last year my resolutions were to go to the gym 3 times a week, volunteer for a charity and to cut out caffeine.

The only time that I kept the gym resolution this year was this week so it’s only taken me until December to achieve my resolution – good job Emma! 

With the craze of this year, I haven’t had time to think about volunteering for a charity but this is still very much on my list of things to do. And in terms of cutting out the caffeine, I think it’s safer for everybody if that doesn’t happen. I think my work bestie Matt will also vouch for that… 

I hope that your 2016 has been as incredible as mine and I wish you all a very merry Christmas. I hope that you all manage to get some time out of the office to catch up with you loved ones. 

Here’s to the end of another great year. Time just goes to quickly! 🎄🎅🏻🎁💆🏻

-Em💋

Merry and Bright – December 2016 Birchbox

img_0840It’s been such a busy couple of weeks that I totally forgot to share my December Birchbox with you guys… better late than never I suppose.

This box beats the November box by a mile in my opinion, although I pretty much use last month’s wet hair brush everyday and highly recommend it to get through your tangled knots after a shower.

So what’s in the box?

The full size product for this month was the Fierce Flicks Eyeliner by Ciaté London. I’ve used this product everyday since getting this box. I always prefer to use a felt tip liner and this one is the perfect thickness to allow you to get a precise finish and it’s a lovely dark black shade and looks great. The only downside is that it does tend to smudge a little so you will need to make sure you use some finishing spray or powder after applying to help it last longer and check it out every now and again to make sure it doesn’t look like you’ve had a mini meltdown at work! But all in all I’d give this product an 8 out of 10 – one of the better felt tip eyeliners that I’ve used.

Next up is the Cavier Stick by Laura Mercier in the Amethyst shade. This is an absolutely stunning colour and has a lovely creamy texture. It’s got a lovely sparkle to it which makes it perfect for the Christmas season and is a great addition to your Christmas or New Year’s party outfits. 10 out of 10.

This box also contains a travel sized Benefit product. My box came with the Benefit POREFessional Matte Rescue Primer but just note that it might vary as my boyfriend’s mum got a Cheek and Lip tint – which she already had and so donated to me #DoubleWin. This primer is fantastic and a great base for your makeup. I’ve heard lots of good reviews about this primer from various people and, after using it myself, I totally agree. This primer is a must-have and I’m definitely going to be purchasing the full sized product as a key feature of my beauty bag. 10 out of 10. 

img_0842December also brought the Perfectly Perfecting Wonder Balm by Percy and Reed. I’d never heard of this brand before and was a bit dubious as it doesn’t really smell of anything and I wasn’t sure on the consistency as it feels a little thin. All in all, it’s okay but I’m not sure that I’d purchase it again – especially at an £18 price tag. I prefer the texture and the smell of the Aussie leave in conditioners and last month’s protect and detangle spray by Beauty Protector personally. I’d give this product a 3 out of 10. 

Last but not least is the New Leaf Deep Pore Exfoliating Polish by amie skincare. I will put my hands up and say that I haven’t yet had chance to use this product so will let you know how I get on with it, but from taking a look, it seems to be quite a creamy texture and I’m not sure how abrasive it will be at first glance. Usually I use St Ives Apricot Scrub as an exfoliator, purely because it’s one of the more effective ones and this product looks to be the other end of the spectrum so I’ll give it a go and see what I think. Product rating TBC. img_0847

I love the packaging of this box. It’s nice and simple and would look lovely under the tree with a bow on top. The various leaflets that come with the box have a beautiful candy cane design and it made me feel instantly festive as it came to the door.

As an added bonus, this box has a cute gift voucher which you can use to share a Birchbox subscription code for a last minute gift. I thought this was a lovely touch and it’s perfect for those friends and family members who love to img_0849try out new brands.

With only a few weeks left of December – scary I know – there’s still time to place an order for the Merry and Bright Birchbox whether that’s for a friend or for yourself. Christmas shopping is hard, remember to treat yourself too! You deserve it.

Use this link to get your first box at half the price.

For those of you that already have a subscription, I’d love to hear what you thought of this month’s box and which full size products you are looking to purchase as a result of trying them.

In case you missed my review of the November edition of the Birchbox, you can catch up here. I’d love to know what you thought of your November beauty gifts!

-Em

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Family comes first 

With Christmas nearly upon us, I encourage you to really take the time to spend the holiday season with those closest to you. Life is short. Turn off your phones. Switch off your work email. Talk to each other. 

paulineYesterday, unfortunately, I spent the day attending my auntie Pauline’s funeral, celebrating the good times and reliving some of our great memories that we all have of her. It really hit home to me how important it is to take some time out to spend quality time with your loved ones. It’s so easy to get caught up in the stress of work and the hustle and bustle of daily life that you keep putting off spending time with those who are important to you in favour of smashing through your to do list. I, myself, am very guilty of doing this.

I have quite a large family and quite a lot of us are spread across the country which makes visits a bit of a nightmare. My boyfriend’s family mostly live in Wales, his father in Bristol and then his mother lives in Bracknell with us. Then you have my side of the family. My mother and father live in Wittering and the rest of my family up in Yorkshire. So you can see why it’s a bit of a headache to organise to see everybody. We tend to only all get together when there is a big event – usually either a wedding or, sadly, a funeral.

But with the new year upon us, now is time to make a change and I encourage you to do so too.

When I think about what is important to me deep down, it isn’t whether I manage to tick that task of my to do list which has been on there for the past month. I absolutely love my job but it’s really put things into perspective around what is really important in life and, for me, that is your health and wellbeing and spending time with those who are closest to you. Money doesn’t feature in those top important elements in life. You’re not going to remember that new lipstick shade you were able to buy or the money in the bank. None of that will matter in the end.

Material objects come and go but memories will last forever.

With Christmas nearly upon us, I encourage you to really take the time to spend the holiday season with those closest to you. Life is short. Turn off your phones. Switch off your work email. Talk to each other.

My auntie Pauline’s favourite time of year was Christmas because all of the family were together. So if I can ask you to do one thing this year, it’s to embrace the festive spirit and make some memories which will last in your memory forever.

The best gift around the Christmas tree is the presence of family.

Pauline passed away in November after being diagnosed with Amyloidosis in August. Those of you who watch House may recognise the name. Amyloidosis is a rare but serious condition caused by deposits of abnormal protein, called Amyloid, in tissues and organs throughout the body.

If you have any spare change over the Christmas period, please do donate to our Just Giving page where we are raising money for research into the condition which might eventually help us find a cure to this illness. Any donation, however big or small, could make a difference between life of death for somebody’s loved ones.

Thank you for your support.

-Em

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Day 2 – Christmas Gift Guide Countdown

Good afternoon all.

It’s the 2nd of December and do you know what that means? It’s time for my second Christmas gift inspiration.

Day 2’s Christmas Gift Inspiration:

For the work Secret Santa

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Average budget: £10 – £15

I bought this present for my work Secret Santa. We had a £10 – £15 budget and I wanted to get something that was indulgent and a bit different to the usual 3 for 2 offers that you get from Boots or similar stores. Inspired by my Pinterest search, I ended up going out and searching for a boozy hot chocolate gift and this is the end result.

Hamper breakdown:
  • Happy Holidays mug – H&M. I found this lovely mug in H&M’s home section which opened recently in Reading. You can purchase it online here. This mug usually retails at £6.99 but as I bought it on Black Friday weekend I saved 20% on this so it was virtually a steal. Plus, it is so cute I was tempted to steal this one for myself…

 

  • Mini Baileys – Morrisons. Is it even Christmas without Baileys?! Surprisingly, it’s not the easiest task to find these mini Baileys bottles – or at least it wasn’t in the stores near me. If I’d have been better prepared then I could have probably ordered these online but in the end I purchased a Baileys gift set for £5 from Morrisons and kept the glass for myself – #bonus! The Lindor chocolates were included so this was another steal.

 

  • Hot Chocolate Spoon – Whittard of Chelsea. What I love about this is that the mini marshmallows are included so I didn’t need to purchase these separately and it’s a bit different to making a normal hot chocolate. Having the chocolate on the spoon makes it feel a bit different and more luxurious. This was another Black Friday steal for me – usually £3.00 I managed to get this for £2. You can order it online here.

 

  • Salted Caramel Chocolate Nano Slab – Hotel Chocolat. This brings a final bit of luxury to the present and, having bought one for myself, this tastes delicious. Again, it doesn’t look like you can purchase this online but I picked it up at the till for £2 or less.

So, that’s day 2’s Christmas gift inspiration.

See you tomorrow for another boozy surprise!

-Em

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May the Christmas countdown begin…

Pinch punch, first of the month.

The 1st December is here and that means only one thing – the countdown to Christmas is on. There’s no better way to start each day than with a piece of chocolate for breakfast and, with it being December, it is now a perfectly normal thing to do! *fist bump*

So, with such a short time left until the big day, there’s no time to be putting off buying Christmas gifts anymore. Now is not the time for denial…

To help those of you who are perhaps less organised, restricted on time or simply have no ideas on what to buy for your family and friends, I thought I’d share some present ideas that I have stumbled across in my searches on Pinterest and some of the presents that I have pulled together for my family and friends this year, over the next few days to help you with your Christmas shopping.

Get your notebooks and pens at the ready and start writing your shopping list.

I love pulling together little hampers for gifts. They are a great way to be a bit more personalised and what’s better than having multiple gifts to open instead of just one. Over the next few days, I will be sharing some of the mini-hampers I’ve pulled together this year to give you a bit of inspiration.

Here is day 1’s Christmas gift inspiration:

For the film buffs

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Average budget: £35

This present is ideal for a couple as a date night gift – I purchased this with my cousin and his girlfriend in mind but it’s also a great idea for anybody who might be a bit of a movie buff.

Hamper breakdown:
  • Butterkist popcorn x 2 different flavours. You can buy these from any supermarket. I purchased these from Tesco at £1.49 each. If you want to give more of a luxury version of this present with a higher budget then you could always switch these out for some more fancy looking versions like these from Joe and Seph’s which average out a £4.00 for a 80g bag but come in a variety of quirky flavours like Marmite, Gingerbread or Peanut Butter… they will either love it or hate it.

 

  • Celebrations. These are a Christmas classic. Who doesn’t love a box of Celebrations?! I love the packaging of these ones as opposed to the usual shape of these boxes as it makes it look more like a snack box and, as an added bonus, this will be much easier to wrap up. I know, priorities… These were also only £3 from Tesco. Of course, if you are buying this gift for a weird friend who doesn’t like Celebrations then you can switch these out for any choccies that you fancy. Again, for a more gourmet, luxury gift then Hotel Chocolat is a good go-to shop. I highly recommend their Chocolate Dipping Adventure box for a good night in. *drools*

 

  • Cinnamon Popcorn Gift box. Okay, so this was more for the decoration side of things to bring the whole gift package together and again I purchased this from Tesco. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be on the online store and it’s something that I stumbled upon whilst doing a standard food shop. You can, however, get a couple of cheap popcorn boxes from The Range for less than £1 (which unfortunately I didn’t know about until after I bought this). Or you can order them on Amazon.

 

  • Cinema Voucher. The main part of this present is the Cinema voucher which my cousin and his girlfriend can use for a nice date night. If you have a lower budget, why not switch it out for a lower valued voucher or a new movie or maybe one of their all-time favourite movies for a personal touch. The opportunities are endless for this part. Remember that if you are getting a gift voucher, make sure you research the cinema’s that are close to them – you don’t want to give them an Odeon gift card if the nearest cinema is a Cineworld.

That marks the end of day 1’s Christmas Gift Guide Countdown.

Stay tuned for more and do share any of your Christmas ideas – sharing is caring after all!

-Em

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The most wonderful (& expensive) time of the year.

Christmas is almost upon us and I have to say that it’s come around fast. It feels like only yesterday that my family and I were all sat around the table eating, drinking and laughing at the cheesy Christmas cracker jokes.

For me, Christmas is all about taking some time out to spend with my family. My family live quite a distance from me and, with such a busy schedule at work, I don’t always get the time to pop them a visit. Christmas gives us the opportunity to all come together – whether that be voluntarily or not – and it’s one of my favourite times of the year.

You’ll probably have noticed the queues startchristmas-storeing to form at the shopping centres as December draws closer. Luckily I’ve managed to get ahead of the game a little bit and I have mostly finished Christmas shopping apart from a few extra bits like secret santa gifts for friends and colleagues. However, whilst trying to pull all of the presents together – and getting marginally stressed in the process – I can’t help but think how unnecessarily commercialised it has all become and whether it’s taken away from the core of Christmas.

Last year my family and I decided to opt to do Secret Santa instead of getting gifts for the whole family. The pressure is on at this time of year to get presents for all those that you care about as shops have taught us that this is how we show our love and gratitude throughout the festive season. But as the years go on and as more 3 for 2 offers launch in stores like Boots, gifts are becoming less thoughtful and more impersonal.

I challenge you to count on one hand how many body washes and body lotion gifts you obtained last year. Now count how many are still in your drawers…

Now whilst I must admit that I do love getting smellies and having a nice pamper session, it seems unnecessary that those close to me are stressing as they feel the need to purchase a present of some sort for me. Not to sound ungrateful but half of the gifts remain in the boxes until the next year as I have nowhere to store them and, let’s be honest, there’s only so much body lotion you can get through in the year.

I think about all those families that struggle financially and yet they still have hundreds of presents wrapped up under the tree for their little ones and I think it’s sad that Christmas seems to be so focussed around gifts that families are willing to put themselves under incredible financial pressure and probably won’t pay off the debt until the next year.

Give it a go.

Try Secret Santa with your family and friends – you’ll find that you are giving an receiving much more personal gifts too as they are under less stress to purchase gifts for everybody. For us, Christmas has gone back to what it is supposed to be – a chance to reconnect with loved ones.

We set a budget of £50 and pull names out of a hat. We include our main family excluding my brother who is 13 and would be a bit mythed if we were to take away all of his presents. Since we all save quite a bit of money doing Secret Santa instead, we all purchase 3 x gifts worth £5 each and use them as prizes for family games like bingo. It’s a great way to take the stress away from Christmas, a chance to be thoughtful about the gifts that you give and frees up the budget to incorporate some fun activities for the occasion.

So give it a try and let me know how you get on. I’d love to hear your thoughts on Christmas and how you celebrate the festive season with your family and friends.

Happy Christmas shopping all!

-Em

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