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Saturday, 14 February 2015


I am starting to get a bit confused by all the depression surrounding 14th February.  Without sounding like a hypocrite, as yes I will be enjoying a dinner out with my boyfriend tonight, I feel like my lonnnnnng years in Singledom have given me enough experience to speak with authority on this subject.  In fact, one of my all time favourite Valentine’s Days to date was an evening in university, when three of my best girls happened to have been irate with their partners and so we all piled into my bestie’s dorm room and spent the evening gorging on chocolate and Colin Firth movies.  Perfect.

So where am I going with this, I hear you ask?  Well, in a world where psychoanalysts are constantly telling us that a Positive Mental Attitude is paramount to happiness, I begin to believe that the solution to the Valentine's Day Blues is incredibly simple: make yourself look forward to it.  Now don’t get me wrong, this is not some sort of feminist tirade and if a cute guy asks you out for a fancy shmancy meal of course you say “yes, please, what time?”  But if you happen to be between boyfriends then turn this contentious date into a date with yourself!  And it’s not just the singles.  Surely there are any number of civilian WAGS whose other halves are doctors/firemen/military who must settle for a brief Valentine Skype chat?  

So here comes February 14th and the house is empty.  Firstly, light that posh candle which you have never found an excuse to burn and put it in a prominent spot in your home (relaxing ambience, check!)  Then treat yourself to your favourite dinner, the one that nobody else understands and so you never have a chance to make it (mine is scrambled egg and chips); then pick up the book you have been meaning to read for months and/or watch a guilty pleasure chick-flick that you really should be way too old/jaded/sober for and indulge.  What about that bottle of champagne/prosecco/strange-looking-Caribbean-type liqueur that has been gathering dust under the stairs?  Give it a go!  I’m a sucker for a bubble bath, so I would definitely need to schedule in one of those.  And before you know it it’s midnight and you and your inner Goddess are back in sync while all the other girlfriends of the world are having to stroke their partner’s egos just because they stepped up to the plate on the right day (when reeeeally they should be showering us with flowers and slap-up meals for the other 364 days of the year too.)

As always, these are just guidelines and not just for singles and absentee girlfriends.  We all know that the shops and restaurants double their price tags on this one day in mid February, so why not give your boyfriend permission to do Valentine’s Day another night?  Or two… All in all, I think it is perhaps too easy to succumb to the negativity which seems to be snow-balling year by year.  But in reality, as with most things, Valentine’s Day is in the eye of the beholder.  So enjoy!

Wednesday, 21 January 2015


So here’s the thing:  January gets a lot of stick.  No two ways about it.  It doesn’t help that it has to follow Christmas, and then New Year.  Plus most of us are strapped for cash and carrying a little (a lot) of what my best friend calls ‘holiday weight.’  But most of all, there just isn’t anything to look forward to.  February has Valentine’s day which, love it or hate it, is at least a smiley/sad face on the calendar.  March, April and May shotgun Mother’s Day and Easter while by June (if the British seasons are behaving themselves) we are all so jacked up on vitamin D and patchy pinkish tan lines that we can handle anything.  September is still filled with barbeques and last minute Easyjet tickets, October grabs Halloween and then the fireworks are rounded up for November.  And then comes Christmas. Glorious, pleasure-filled, decadent Christmas.  Sigh…

January is derived from the Latin for ‘door.’  Most appropriate what with it being the door to a new year and all.  However, if Christmas is a magnificent garland-draped portal strewn with flashing lights and bursting with trees and presents, then January is the shabby backdoor cousin letting in the draft.  It is no wonder that none of us are eager to go through that battered excuse for a door, while all that is waiting for us are tight clothes, relative poverty and nothing to soften the blow of returning to the monotony of work.  We all feed off each other’s lethargy.  If anyone so much as mentions the dreaded term ‘Christmas blues,’ our shoulders drop and all leftover glitter becomes a rash-inducing irritant.  

So what is to be done?  First of all, don’t join a gym.  This will only lead to an unnecessary snowball of depression at the end of January when you realise you have paid £100 for what was essentially one gym session and 3 sauna sweats over the space of a week.  If you want to exercise then go for a walk. Your bank account will not recriminate you at the end of every month for the rest of the year if you stop walking.  Ditching the excess choccies (or eating them all in one sitting to get them out of the house) and lowering the daily alcohol intake provoked by festive cheer will immediately improve your waistline.  Then cut some carbs, ditch the morning tea break treat and you’ll be back to resembling yourself more than good old St.Nick.  

Now you are not dreading the results of festive plumping, it is time to cultivate the barren wasteland of your events calendar.  If your friends and family are selfish enough not to provide you with birthdays and anniversaries as an excuse to dress up, step up and take responsibility for your own social proliferation.  Start a book club!  It is a great way to kick the guys out and share an evening every fortnight with your favourite girls over wine and nibbles (I would say every week but for said waistline concerns.)  You will soon discover that the actual book discussions take a back seat (and I mean a bus back seat) to gossip and general merriment.  

Get your nearest and dearest involved in your improve-your-mood mission as the Christmas blues epidemic can spread if not vaccinated with smiles and positive thoughts.  Hippies aren’t completely full of nonsense when they preach about healthy spirits leading to healthy minds.  Scientists have proven that the act of smiling releases endorphins which make you happy.  So do it anyway!  Do not allow post-Christmas lethargy to infect your social circle and make a conscious decision to dispel negativity by arming yourself with smiles.

The door of January might not be as overtly camp-tastic as it’s Christmas cousin, but don’t be afraid to grasp the handle and happily stride through to next year.  After all, the number ‘one’ has plenty of positive connotations as well.  I once saw a news report about a young lad who had taken his parents’ garden shed and turned it into an insanely opulent den for himself.  I’m talking crystal chandeliers, velvet upholstery, marble fountain, the works.  Although I’m sure this would be an effective metaphorical microcosm for any number of life lessons, my point is that he left the exterior completely bare.  He felt that the interior was rendered all the more impressive because it was so unexpected in relation to the battered, splinter-riddled nature of it’s threshold.  The door of January might look unimpressive, but who knows what lies on the other side…?

Monday, 12 January 2015


I am a positive person.  Mostly.  Some might say annoyingly so.  For instance, when I want to lose weight I turn it into a competition with myself, app and all; when I want to save money I get enervated and begin religiously checking my bank balance every payday.  I just love that zing of achievement!  Therefore, I decided to put a happy spin on some common New Year grumbles for all you pessimists out there.

  1. “I’m broke.”  Well of course you are!  And do you know why?  Because you have lots of friends and family on whom you could not resist showering Christmas gifts.  For a few weeks you will be feeling the fiscal pinch, but think of that smile which you put on a brother’s/sister’s/parent’s/granny’s face!  Priceless.
  2. “There are no more lovely presents to look forward to.”  Well yes but what about actually using all the items you received for Christmas?  Surely your feet are far warmer than they were a month ago will all the socks you received from less imaginative relatives?  For me January is a time to indulge in gallons and tons of the fancy make-up and perfume I requested.  Not to mention DVD’s, CD’s and redeemed gift vouchers with which I can pleasantly fill my evenings.
  3. “The weather is rubbish.”  It is an inescapable fact that Winter in the UK leans more towards wet and windy than magical snowfalls.  However, for every storm that batters our coastline and hairlines alike, we are one step closer to Spring.
  4. “I’m looking a bit festively plump.”  I blame the lethal combination of my Dad’s cooking and Thornton’s chocolates for the unwanted poundage.  But as I just read in another blog, there are sooooooo many things which taste better than skinny feels!
  5. “It will be at least nine months until I can realistically whack out my Christmas jumper again.”  My family have solved this by celebrating everything.  Last year we had a huge Independence Day BBQ… even though we’re British.  Same goes for Thanksgiving, both of the Queen’s Birthdays, The Equinox, St David’s Day, every Sunday… You get the idea.

January will never be my favourite month.  However, this means that it has absolutely no expectational pressure placed upon it’s underrated shoulders and therefore every impromptu bout of fun time is a bonus, and all the more enjoyable because of it.  So cheer up and find those January silver linings, people!  (And if you don’t spot any, it’ll be February before you know it.)

Wednesday, 7 January 2015


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As is my wont on a dismal January evening, I am doing my best impression of a couch potato, waiting for an acceptable time to go to bed.  As it happens I was in this exact spot, reading the same soppy novel, wearing the same comfy PJs and sipping the same brand of tea last night.  So then why do I feel so much more relaxed than 24 hours ago???

Have I had a stress-free day?  Not particularly.  Is my sofa suddenly comfier?  Nope, that’s not it either.  Am I in a wine induced stupor?  Not today.  And then I look down towards the one addition to my therapeutic scene of slouchy solitude: a ‘Winter’ candle from that holy grail of chic, minimalist comfort, The White Company.

Can it be that my entire mood can be attributed to a little pot of wax?  As I watch the flame gently flicker and inhale the delicious fragrance, evocative of all things warm and snuggly, I can feel my heartbeat slowing and my shoulders haemorrhaging their tension into the sofa.  More than ever I can understand why a product which has been essentially rendered redundant by the invention of electricity, remains the driving force behind a multi-billion pound industry.     

You see it is the simple, affordable luxury of it all.  With one strike of a match, the atmosphere of a room is given a flattering makeover from everyday to soft and romantic.  In a human, such an effective transformation usually requires hours of preparation and liberal application of expensive cosmetics!  

They say that our sense of smell is the first to develop, a fact which those clever people in creative labs the world over have cottoned on to.  In most gift shops you can purchase a candle claiming to contain the essence of memories, from children’s sweet shops to holidays by the sea.  The candle in front of me has somehow managed to succeed in recreating the sense and scent of an entire season!

I have therefore added to my new year’s resolution list with some points of candle etiquette.  No longer will I allow these wonderful things which have survived the harsh evolution of technology to be relegated to bathroom and bedroom draws after one use.  I will make a concerted effort give each the burning time it deserves and bask in it’s remedial glow.  I anticipate an extremely chilled out 2015… no pressure to all you chandlers out there!

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

5 TIPS FOR A FAB NEW YEAR'S EVE (without breaking the bank)

  1. Don’t overspend on venue.  A party in a swanky hotel has its benefits, but all that glam can come at a pretty hefty price and with it the expectation and pressure on the evening to be ‘worth it’ can sky rocket to unrealistic proportions.  My best New Year’s parties have always been low-key and homey.  That way you concentrate on the fun rather than the cost!
  2. Keep it local.  If you are like me and are lucky enough to live close to many of your friends, staying home is always preferable to long, arduous journeys on unreliable, drunk-infested modes of public transport.  Once again everyone saves money and energy so friends and family turn up at your door looking fresh and excited rather than grimy and demoralised.
  3. Choose a culinary theme and get everyone involved.  This year we are having a curry competition with our extended family (which is luckily overflowing with talented amateur chefs.)  This way we are guaranteed an exciting menu with a festive side of good natured competition.
  4. Start the evening a little later than your average dinner party.  An 8/9 o’clock vague kick off time will allow guests to prep at a leisurely pace, thus ensuring stress levels are set to minimum and also saves the party from dragging before that all important stroke of midnight.
  5. Keep an open mind.  New Year’s Eve can often be met with anything from indifference to terror, particularly with singletons stressing over being thought of as 3rd/5th/7th… wheels at kiss o’clock.  Whether you have a guaranteed smooching partner or not, the turn of the year should be approached with a positive attitude.  New beginnings and clean slates are always healthy, even for the most content of folk. So cast aside all residual Yuletide anxiety, crack open the bubbly and get ready for (possibly) your best year yet!

Happy New Year Everyone!

Wednesday, 17 December 2014


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When Jo grumbles “Christmas won’t be the same without any presents” in Little Women... she was right.  Now I know that statement is going to raise a few hackles but hear me out...

Despite a prevalence of Christmas cheer and goodwill, you never have to look too far for that Scrooge-like demographic who are always eager to moan about the evils of commercialisation and the fact that tinsel is tying a proverbial noose around the true Christmas message.  However, I believe that these preachy proponents of appropriate festive focus are so busy disparaging Christmas consumerism that they miss the reasons behind it.

Every year my Christmas present journey begins some time in late November when I start trawling the internet and department stores for gift inspiration.  I have a lot of family and even more friends, all of whom I care for deeply.  One of my greatest pleasures in life is bringing a genuine smile to the faces of said loved ones and for me, that is where the true value of Christmas presents lies.  It is not about the amount of money you spend on someone or the designer labels emblazoned on the box.  It truly is the thought that counts.

Yes, of course it is important to teach our younger generation the Nativity story and part of me glows that little bit brighter when I see all the mini wise men, angels and shepherds running around after their acting debuts.  However, no matter what religion you subscribe to, surely the underlying message of love and generosity are consistently appropriate across the board?  

So I say buy your presents people!  Wrap up each perfect little something for someone special, guilt-free in the knowledge that the true meaning of Christmas may not be found on a price tag but there can never be anything evil or blasphemous about a beautifully wrapped symbol of affection.

Monday, 1 December 2014


My place of work does Christmas in a big way… and by big I mean huge.  No seriously, I suspect that Lapland has nothing on us.  It is my job to assist the extremely talented visual merchandisers in turning their artistic visions into a reality, from buying the first decoration in January right through to placing the final star on the last Christmas display tree some time in November.  As such, I have compiled a few tips over the years for recreating these festive works of art in the more humble setting of my own home and without breaking the bank...  

  1. Tree decorating is a treat not a chore, so gather some friends, crack open a bottle of wine and get NOW That’s What I Call Christmas in your stereo.  Enjoy it!
  2. Choose a theme…and stick to it.  Every family has a box of wonky angels made of toilet rolls and Papier-mâché stars.  Why not have a separate little tree for these works of ahem… art to be enjoyed in the kitchen or hall?  Meanwhile your main tree can be a beautiful champagne gold or frosted blue or Scandinavian red and white or…
  3. Beware of false economy!  Invest in your tree, be it real or artificial.  Stay away from cheapy, sparse pieces of green plastic masquerading as Christmas trees or that sad looking real tree which has been discounted to within an inch of its life because somewhere along it’s retail journey it has lost most of it’s branches.  This is particularly true for artificial trees.  A quality 7 footer can usually cost anything between £100 and £300 but will last for decades.  The better the tree, the less decorations are needed to fill in gaps between the branches and will therefore save you money in the long run.
  4. Lights… the more the merrier!  For a classy, tasteful look get yourself at least 600 warm white LEDs and intertwine the wires in and out of the Christmas tree branches to create a comforting glow which will draw all eyes to your beautiful Christmas centrepiece.  If your tastes run more towards a modern look do the same with ice white LEDs.  Your tree will look like it has been sprinkled with magical fairy dust!
  5. There is a time and a place for tinsel… and it is not on a Christmas tree.  It is actually a true talent to make tinsel look good so when in doubt leave it to the professionals.  Instead choose delicate crystal garlands and metallic sprays (small leafy branches) which will reflect your lights and create a soft backdrop for individual decorations.  
  6. Want to save money?  Put your tree in a corner.  This is a time honoured method of reducing the cost of a tree without sacrificing its quality.  A corner tree needs half as many lights and decorations as one which is in the centre of a room or in a bay window.  
  7. Want to save more money?  Mix in some shatterproof decorations.  While low quality garlands and tinsel tend to cheapen the look of a tree, certain low-end baubles can be the perfect way of discreetly filling gaps.  Tubes of plastic baubles in golds, silvers or block colours, when properly placed in non-obvious spots on your tree, are a great money-saver and don’t detract attention from the more expensive decorations.  Each year, you can replace them with nicer decs which catch your eye.
  8. Save spots front and centre for your favourite decorations.  Use the individual LEDs to create mini spotlights for your most expensive glass baubles and Gisela Graham fairies and let them steal the show!
  9. Don’t forget the base of your tree.  I like to use some leftover wrapping paper from the previous year to make some fake presents so that my tree doesn’t look like it is just sat there waiting for Christmas day.  Also look out for light-up presents which give off a subtle, whimsical glow and are the perfect way of masking unsightly base stands.
  10. Decorate your tree as soon as is acceptably possible.   The longer you leave it the more likely it is that the task will become a chore in your mind rather than something to delight in and brighten up those long winter nights.  

I hope these tips have helped.  Happy decorating everyone...