When you think of amazing festive illuminations where springs to mind? Blackpool? Regents Street, London? Times Square? Probably not Liverpool right? But if you want to do Christmas right, this is where rich and famous people from all over the world flood to order their Christmas decorations. Want to know who decorated the Rooney’s home, the posh restaurant you’re currently eating in or the hotel you’re spending your work Christmas lunch in? Most likely it was Christmas Lights Etc, a Liverpool based Christmas decorations company.
When the cab picked me and a select few bloggers up from Liverpool Lime Street train station and we told us where we were going, the cab driver looked at us as if we were totally bonkers. “Why the heck do you need to come all the way to Liverpool to learn how to make Christmas decorations? Haven’t you lasses heard of YouTube?” Yup he thought we were crazy, but apart from Youtube not having mulled wine on tap, it also didn’t have the years of experience or expertise which allows Christmas Lights Etc to be the team in charge of the Christmas decorations in Bethlehem for the last three years. Bethlehem people. Forget the fact that this team decorated Sharon Osborne’s home or the X-Factor studios. This is what made our jaws drop to the floor. These amazing people fly into Israel and get special permission to enter Palestine in order to decorate the Manger Square.
We snooped around their customer facing shop, which is open throughout the autumn months, closing the day before Christmas. It was crazy to see the huge array of choices available. There were mini room set ups so that you could visualise what the different designs could look like in your home. Many footballers wives and other customers are known to come into the store and use the displays as inspiration for their own orders through Christmas Lights Etc. It was fun to imagine what their homes must look like. It was also a great source of inspiration for my Christmas decorations this year. I’m not going to have a line of tinsel in sight.
Sarah, one of the founders of the Christmas decoration company, taught us how to properly dress a tree. Turns out I’ve been doing it wrong all my life, though that’s not that hard to believe as I’ve never been that great with decorating anything! We also made our own illuminated Christmas wreaths which I can’t wait to hang on our front door. You can order your own wreaths from their website here, along with loads of other high quality Christmas decorations. Many of their products are suitable for large shopping centres or shop displays but there are also many products for domestic use, including their Christmas in a Box range, which included everything you need to decorate your lounge for Christmas.
I expected a massive warehouse filled with a conveyor belt line of mass produced products and bored looking staff. What I was met with was a small, close knit team of funny, highly talented and creative employees and owners all getting stuck in and carefully constructing customer’s orders on a one by one, personalised basis. Great to see that even when a company has picked up so much notoriety, this Liverpool based Christmas decorating company hasn’t let their standards fall by the wayside.
Quick Christmas decorating tips from the experts:
- Decorate your tree in a downward not horizontal pattern
- Using an artificial tree will allow you to decorate your tree much more heavily
- Start with your ribbon/tinsel, then move onto your baubles
- Spray your wreath with tent protector to stop it from weathering
- Think outside of the box. Why not add decorated hat boxes to your display this year?
Christmas Lights ETC on twitter: @christmasetc
Christmas Lights ETC website: www.christmaslightsetc.co.uk
After spending a year working from home for a start-up magazine (if you can call working for free working?) going back into an office environment took some getting used to, both for myself and the little Mini Me, Princess. To be honest, I think it was more of a culture shock for Princess than me. She went from having her mum on tap, something that before last year she hadn’t had the pleasure of since she was 18 months old, to rejoining the land of child care, early mornings sitting drowsily on public transport and having school dinners. (Remembering to make packed lunches was just one step too far when I didn’t have the luxury of working from the kitchen table any more.)
A year in and I think we’ve finally found some semblance of normality, if not just acceptance of being back in an office environment. Initially I was only working half of the week in a job share. It was a lovely way to ease the family into the new routine and enabled me to safely have one foot entrenched in the world of school runs and midday pyjama wearing whilst the other foot was planted firmly in meetings and rush hour commutes. I loved it! Talk about the best of both worlds. We could have manic weekends and I had the luxury of being able to leave those pesky household tasks like laundry until Monday after the school run if I’d not had a chance to do anything over the weekend. More likely than not I’d put a load in the machine, prep dinner, change into some pyjamas and catch up on whatever my latest Netflix obsession was until it was time to pick Mini Me up from school.
Roughly six months in, I went up to full-time hours in order to help cover a team member’s maternity leave. Great extra income for a while which enabled me to pay off a few bits and bobs. It also meant I was able to give Princess a lovely birthday party as the one the year before had been a little shit. But O.M.F.G what a shock to the system having to wake up at the crack of dawn 5 days per week was!
Six months later and I think we are only now getting used to it. I knew the mornings would be hard but what I hadn’t expected was the behavioural changes in my little girl. It was as if we’d regressed to the tantrums of the terrible-twos. I had to keep reminding myself that it was her way of expressing her tiredness, her upset at being apart from her mummy all week, of having to spend her afternoons with new kids at a new child minder 5 days a week after only just getting used to the idea of 3. Sigh. It was rough but we’ve made it through.
Homework and work in general for Princess slipped. I put my hands up and accept that I dropped the ball. Juggling can be tough and this is one facet of my life/ball that I missed. It took ages to get back into a rhythm , making sure work was done, that she didn’t fall behind with her writing, with her reading, maths etc. I think we’ve gotten her back on track now we’ve made noticeable changes in our routines to make sure everything is ticked off.
We read books on the bus journey in the mornings and indulge in hugs on the return. We make the walk from the child minder fun, sharing stories, telling jokes and singing songs. I buy most of my groceries online and make meal planning lists before I order so we can prepare quick stove to table meals without having to scrimp on variety due to our time constraints. I’ve had to learn to be that much more organised, something that I’ve always been capable of at work but I’ve tended to let slip in my home life. Life hacks are blessings. Anything that gives me an extra ten minutes to cuddle or to sleep is a Godsend.
Saturdays are treasured. Mornings are spent snuggling under the duvet, watching films and getting breakfast crumbs in the bedding. I try to have a good mixture of planned activities taking us out of the house and time spent pottering around and just enjoying ‘being’. It was hard working full-time for a while but we’ve made it work. We’ve found our rhythm.
I might be going back to part-time in a month or so once my colleague gets back from maternity leave. We don’t know yet. I’ve got mixed feelings about whether that would be a bad thing or not. I like our new rhythm and the extra salary. I enjoyed the pjs in bed on a Monday afternoon too though. I think whichever way the coin lands, there will be blessings. I’ve gotten through the last 12 months and can’t wait to see what challenges and experiences the next 12 bring both at work and at home with my Mini Me, Princess.
The glorious weather is well and truly behind us. It’s time for winter coats, biker boots and probably the most important accessory for the autumn and winter months, a decent umbrella!
View some cool umbrella chic choices to keep you dry during the wet November weather over on Unique and Chic, where I’ve just dropped a post!!
Yesterday after what was an amazing evening playing with sparklers and watching our very own fireworks display in our back garden, we went out for a takeaway from our local Chinese. I think I may have also unwittingly supplied a teenager with her alcohol fix.
From behind she looked like an overweight teenager wearing her Aunty’s hand me downs. You know, not quite fitting right and in no particular style. Just thrown together to cover the lumps and bumps she wasn’t comfortable with. Covered from her ankle bone to her wrists, in different colours and cuts. I think my first impression as I walked through the door and into the warmth was one of pity for her.
This thought process took all of about 3 seconds. The girl turned around and asked if I had a spare pound, I assumed she’d ordered her food and realised she didn’t have enough to pay for it so instantly gave her a knowing smile and dug around in my purse for what change I had. I was in the takeaway shop because I was hungry too, so who was I to stand in the way of her and her meal? What if she were buying it for her mum and had to go all the way back home, without their meal, all for want of one measly pound?
That’s when it hit me. The smell, that is. As she turned to face me and take the change, the breeze created by her movement sent the stale smell of alcohol onto me. It was as if she’d been missing her mouth and pouring it straight onto her top. Over and over again. Then one more time, for old times sake. She became animated and literally towered over me trying to look into my purse as I shook it this way and that, trying to wriggle some coins out from beneath the receipts and business cards that had no right to be cluttering up my coin purse. Shit. She’s an alcoholic Tin. The King, tried to shoot me a look but it was too late.
I gave her the pound and she didn’t use it to buy her meal. In fact, it seemed as though she’d paid before we even came to the restaurant and she’d simply been waiting to make enough money to leave and buy her drink. I watched as she walked out of the takeaway shop and right into the off licence two doors down, coming out a few minutes later with a flimsy carrier bag with a four cans of cheap lager. It annoyed me a bit to know that my money was being spent on alcohol, but then she hadn’t said it was for her meal. I’d assumed. I’d seen her at the till and tried to do a good deed. Helping provide her with her next drink, was that still a good deed seeing as I didn’t know at the time that was what she wanted it for? Should I have looked in my purse and pretended not to have the change after all?
It’s not the first time I’ve given someone some change and it won’t be the last, but something about this time really bothered me. Maybe it’s because I misjudged the situation so badly, or because she seemed so young. I felt a little bit duped, that the baby faced girl in woman’s clothing had seen a smiling face and known she had an easy target. But who knows, maybe I’m reading too much into this interaction which must have lasted less than a minute but bothered me enough to have to write it down the morning after.
Seriously, who knew bonfire night was so much fun!? Normally I’d be indoors moaning about how loud the fireworks are and how late into the night they seem to go on until, but this time round, I was outside in the back garden setting off a gazillion fireworks which the lovely folk at Churchill Insurance sent us, trying to stop an excited little girl from literally peeing herself with excitement as she whizzed around the garden with multi coloured sparklers. I also spent a lot of time reading through the burns kit instructions (thanks again Churchill, I’m a hypochondriac as it is!) whilst also glancing worriedly at the back fence which I was certain would catch light at any second from our neighbour’s precariously placed bonfire.
As you can see from the pictures, we had a good selection of sparklers and fireworks to play with. I even got an opportunity to switch the camera to manual and try to capture them. Not too shoddy for a first attempt, what do you think? Princess loved every moment of the sparklers, waving them around as I tried to catch it on film. We followed basic safety rules like the ones found on Churchill’s website on the best way to have a safe home bonfire display, Princess wore gloves, kept the sparklers at arms length, put the finished sparklers into a bucket of water and was careful not to go too close to anyone else with them. It was a really useful resource as it has been at least twenty years since we’ve had fireworks at home, the first time we’ve had fireworks on this scale as adults. The site gave loads of advice on the best way to keep both kids and your pets safe. Worth taking a look for future years.
When is social media too much? Snapchatting on the way to work? Instagramming your meals to show all of your friends and followers when you’re out for a meal? What about live tweeting and vlogging the birth of your child, like Robbie and his wife Ava did just the other day? Is this the new norm or a sign we need to step into social media rehab?
Personally, I don’t think I’d mind my partner tweeting and sharing his excitement with others. Having gone through a labour which lasted over 24 hours and had us stuck in a hospital room for over 8 hours before Her Cheekiness finally graced us with our presence, it would have been nice to have taken a few pictures, maybe joined a Twitter party or checked in with friends and family over Facebook.
Times have changed. Whilst I didn’t share any part of my pregnancy on social media and went the traditional route of sending out physical announcement cards to introduce my daughter to people, if I were in the public eye I’d probably vlog throughout the nine months and live stream the whole labour via YouTube. Just imagine, a few thousand people all shouting ‘PUUUUSSSH!’ through the screen at the same time. Talk about taking a family to raise a child. Almost a bibical moment or what? And to think people moan and groan about community being a lost notion!
Last month I used 25 minutes of my mobile phone allowance but nearly all of my 5GB data. Rewind ten years and I’d have ploughed through 25 minutes in one phone call. How we communicate has changed but whether the value of that communication has become eroded is another issue. Ten years ago I was at uni, childless and only worked weekends. My time was my own. Now I’m lucky to find time to shower without being interrupted. Therefore, sending a friend a quick “what time shall we meet” DM or wishing someone a happy birthday on Facebook is ideal. Sure, I sometimes follow it up with an actual hand written card whenever I can, but it’s great to have the option to take advantage of the free wifi and send a quick, instant message via social media now and then.
Many parent and lifestyle bloggers have made interesting observations about how social media is putting an increasing amount of pressure on today’s youth to succeed and live life in a certain way. Nickie wrote about Youtubers and the emergence of The Gleam Team. The article and the resulting comments are well worth a read. With people choosing to show themselves only at their best, flooding social media sites like Instagram with artfully choreographed images of their holidays and everyday moments, is it only socially acceptable to be perfect? Is having a bad hair day or feeling down something to be bottled up and suppressed at all costs now?
Do you feel our need to share has gone too far? I love that I blog and use social media. I enjoy the sense of community I feel through my fellow bloggers and Twitter followers. Personally, I wish it hadn’t taken me so long to click onto the world of social media as it would have been a great support during my pregnancy. Do I have less time to interact in person because I like to tweet? Nope. Do the likes of Zoella and The Slow Mo Guys make me envious? Nope, well, only their stats! Do I talk in emojis and hashtag the life out of things at work? Well, sometimes but not enough for my boss to worry why the hell he employed me. I think.
I do think social media may have created a new rulebook on what is normal. Though hopefully only in ways which will enhance our society, rather than erode from it. What do you think? Feel free to disagree! I like discussions!
I’m looking for a house, or in this current climate, most likely a flat. Somewhere secure, attractive and safe to bring up my daughter and any new additions to our family over the years, somewhere cosy to snuggle inside on a cold winter’s evening with The King and to be able to invite our friends and family to for meals or general social gatherings. We know what we’re looking for in terms of space, proximity to transport links, catchment areas of good schools and open green spaces. It’s turning out to be much harder than we thought to tick our (reasonable?!) requirement boxes AND stick within our limited rental budget. Living in London and not being in the plus £50k bracket, we knew that it was going to be a struggle. What we didn’t expect was having to struggle with the fear of fraudsters at every turn! Keeping safe from fraud online is a thing – even with estate agents!
We’ve come across so many dodgy housing ads, both on reputable services such as Rightmove, and on the freer marketplace website, Gumtree. Ads where the descriptions don’t quite match up to the images, i.e talking about a spacious 2 bed, new build flat in a riverside apartment with concierge but showing photos of what is obviously an Edwardian house conversion….hmmm. When they seem too good to be true, things usually are. Which is why it;s so important to know the best ways to keep yourself secure online and off too. My spidey senses *cough* told me something wasn’t right with these ads. There were four in a row on Rightmove, all from the same bogus estate agent where the pictures didn’t quite correlate with the descriptions and where I knew from my local knowledge, these ‘flats’ couldn’t possibly be where the supposed estate agents said they were on the maps provided; on industrial estates and in one case, behind the IKEA Edmonton!!
What’s scary is the so called estate agents had gone so far as to make a fake website, I say it was fake because it was so poorly created and because the properties they displayed were all faked. We didn’t call them but can only imagine what would have happened if we’d have gone to view them, bearing in mind the ads all claiming to need no rental deposit, just the first month’s rent. Would they have insisted on cash? Made people transfer the money before hand then never turn up at the property? Are some people trusting enough to do that? I don’t know, but I wonder how they would explain you turning up at the proposed address to find a hand car wash and mechanics….
This infographic shows a disturbing fact.I’m web-savvy enough to see through most scams I get through my inbox and those on websites/ through my letter box. But what about my parents, or their parents? Would they know that replying to a text message from a fake delivery could cost them dearly and that poor Prince Babatunde really won’t give you £14million in return for you sending £3000 to help with some paperwork surcharges? It may make you giggle because you know about these spammy phishing tricks but are you worried about your parents? What about your kids? If you have kids old enough to use the internet unsupervised (how old IS old enough?) are they aware of the different types of scams out there?
Personally, the estate agents with the fake property listings and probably fake estate agency itself, really threw me, I thought I’d seen it all until that point. Have you come accross any ingenious or particularly ruthless fraudsters either online or in the physical world? Let’s share our experiences so we can warn others!
*post contains sponsored link. All views expressed and scenarios are my own
Glass half full or half empty? Personally, I tend to go with the glass half full approach, trying to see the best in every situation. You know, all that when life gives you lemons stuff? Yup! When life throws a spanner in the works, for instance being stuck on a crowded train on the way to work, I see the plus side – having an extra 45 minutes to finish reading my book. Getting in a grump, huffing and puffing with the rest of the carriage was of course an option, but I’m not a sheep and getting in a grump over something you have no control over is a waste of time and energy.
There are times when not even a positive attitude seems to fix my day and on those occasions when not even the thought of a bowl of ice cream or a cheeky mid-week takeaway can turn that lemon into something satisfying, I tend to call it quits on the day, recognise that I can’t win EVERY battle and just go to bed early, ready to fight the next day with a smile and a positive attitude.
I’m basically like the mum from Alexander and Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (out on Friday 24th October, in time for half term! – read my review here) Nope, I don’t look like Jennifer Garner, but I share the positive vibes of her character, Kelly Cooper, the mother to Alexander. Totally taking things on the chin and trying to see the best in every situation, even when things start to go horribly wrong. This Disney offering really resonated with me and I found myself getting a little bit emotional. I’m going through a lot at the moment, in fact I can’t remember when ‘a lot’ began, nor can I see a the trees through all of the negative fog, but I really believe that whilst you can’t always control the situations you find yourself in, you have complete control over how you react to them. This seems to be the message shared in this film too.
Now, when things go wrong, say we miss a bus, break a glass or deal with umpteen tantrums in one day, Princess and I can 1) be happy that our day pales in comparison to the bad day Alexander’s family had in the film and 2) remind ourselves that you can turn EVERY bad day into a good one with a little bit of perspective. And ice cream. When perspective doesn’t work, ice cream will…
What do you do when you’re having a bad day? Do you have a particular coping mechanism? A film or song that gets you out of a slump or do you let it wash over you and hope that the next day will be better? As always I love to hear your views!