Category Archives: Christmas

Baileys Cheesecake

This cheesecake has become a bit of a festive tradition for me (we always have Christmas pudding, trifle and another pudding I’m in charge of), but you can of course make it at any time of year. And of course, my traditions will very soon be replaced by new ones Charles and I make ourselves. 

  
You will need:
125g or so Digestive biscuits
125g or so of butter 
2 large tubs Philadelphia cream cheese (280g each)
1 medium sized tub double cream (300ml)
Around 80g icing sugar, depending on your taste 
75ml Baileys or unbranded Irish Cream Liqueur 
100g milk chocolate 
Additional chocolate or sprinkles to decorate – I used a 150g bar of dark chocolate, some cherries and some gold confetti sprinkles but you can go as mad or as understated as you’d like 
A large round springform tin
    

crush the digestives 1. Put the Digestives into a freezer or sandwich bag, seal the top and bash them up with a rolling pin or anything heavy. You should aim for mostly even crumbs with a few small lumps to keep things interesting. 
 how to crush Digestives

2. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large saucepan over a low to medium heat. This is just to bind the base so you don’t need to go mad with heat.

 melt the butter 
3. Once the biscuits have been suitably bashed up and the butter has melted, tip the biscuits into the butter and mix until the crumbs have been evenly coated in butter and look like they’ll hold together when chilled. If it looks a bit dry, you can push the crumbs to the side, add more butter to melt and mix up again. 
 how to make a cheesecake base 
4. Tip the crumb mixture into the tin and press it down into the tin, spreading it out as evenly as possible.    

 5. Pop it into the fridge and chill for 30 mins to an hour, or longer if convenient.  

whip the cream6. Next, whip the cream until it is holding well but stop before that horrible curdle point.

  
7. Set that aside and pop the cream cheese into a bowl. Give it a quick mix to loosen it then add around half of the icing sugar and the Baileys. You can use more or less Baileys depending on your taste, but adding more than 50ml or so is likely to give you a looser filling which is harder to serve. I used about 75ml by the time I as finished swigging and that was about the edge of tolerance. If in doubt, use less, mix, taste then add more if necessary. Add a little more icing sugar, mix together and taste. If you are happy with that, leave it be.

 how to make a cheesecake 
 

8. Grate the chocolate. If your hands are relatively cold, this should be easy, but if you are in a warm environment I’d recommend chilling the chocolate in the fridge first to avoid it melting in your hand. Or use a larger bar than necessary and keep the wrapper on the unused portion to avoid sticky fingers. I use milk chocolate because the texture is softer and gives a subtler constrast to the smooth filling, but you can by all means use dark or even white if you prefer, or, of course, skip the chocolate altogether. 
 

  

9. Stir in the grated chocolate, and then you have your cheesecake filling. 

 Christmas dessert recipes
10. Pour into the tin, spread evenly and chill for at least 2 hours but preferably overnight.

 how to make a no-bake cheesecake 
Now comes the garnish! I did this on the day of serving but you can do it whenever you like. 

how to make chocolate covered cherries Melt a bar of chocolate, the easiest way is in the microwave, 30 seconds at a time, stirred until just melted to avoid burning or blooming but you can of course use a Bain Marie.  
  

 
Dip the cherries in, one at a time, and place on a piece of grease proof paper or a non-stick baking mat until set. 

   

  
If you have any chocolate left, use a spoon to drizzle into shapes on the paper. These will also set and can then be stuck into the cheesecake as prettily as you can manage.
 

  
Sprinkle on the edible confetti and crumble up and failed decorations. 
Put back in the fridge until it’s wanted on the table, then carefully remove the ring and present. 

  
 

Sticky Gingerbread Loaf Cake

*DISCLAIMER: if you don’t like treacle or molasses, don’t bother reading this any further – this loaf tastes very treacley and I don’t want you to go to the effort of baking a loaf cake only to realise you hate it: it’s not the recipe, it’s the treacle!*
    
If you do like treacle, go for your life. Personally, I can’t stand treacle, but it’s become a bit of an annual tradition for me to bake one of these guys for Mr Brooker, whose sweet tooth is more subtle than my own. He likes to keep it wrapped in foil for a couple of weeks to get really sticky, but you can serve it as soon as it’s ready, either plain or buttered. I’m going to experiment a bit before next Christmas to see if I can work out a treacle-less loaf which isn’t just a syrup cake. Oh, and there’s no electric mixer necessary for this recipe. 

 You will need: 
150g butter – can be cold!
200g golden syrup
200g black treacle or molasses
125g dark muscovado sugar 
2 tsp finely grated fresh ginger 
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon 
1/4 tsp ground cloves 
250ml full-fat (whole) milk
2 eggs 
300g self-raising flour
A loaf tin
Geese proof paper to line the tin
A little more butter to grease the paper 
    
 1. To prepare, remove the top shelf from the oven and lower the middle shelf so there’s plebty of room for the loaf. Pre-heat the oven to 160c fan or 170c non-fan. Line a loaf tin with grease proof paper and lightly grease with butter. Weigh out the butter and sugar into a medium saucepan. 

  
  2. Add the syrup. Lyle’s now make syrup in a squeezey bottle which is so much handier for baking. Just squeeze in, pop the cap back on and stick it back in the cupboard; none of that messing around with a mental tin which needs the lid levering off. 

  
3. Add the treacle, fresh ginger and ground spices. Unfortunately you will need to faff about with a treacle tin now! 
   

 4. Put the saucepan over a low heat and mix the ingredients together as they melt. 
 

  
5. Meanwhile, whisk the eggs in a small bowl, just to break up the yolks for even mixing into the cake batter, and measure the milk into a jug. Then seive and weigh the flour into a large bowl, big enough to take the total volume of all the ingredients.   

  
6. Stir the melted ingredients together until well-combined then remove from the heat for a few minutes. 
    

 7. Pour in the milk and mix together. Then add the beaten eggs. Stir very quickly after you have added the eggs to help the temperature even out, though the milk should have given the cooling process a good start. 
    

 8. Tip the wet ingredients into the flour and mix everything together well. The lumps are easier to get rid of with an electric mixer but if you don’t have one just spend a few extra minutes gently stirring, pushing the lumps against the side of the bowl to help them to disperse. And using a seive to measure the flour will help too. 
  
9. Pour into the loaf tin and shove it in the oven. It should take around an hour to bake but it’s best to keep an eye on it. Don’t open the door until it has risen and looks to be firm. It’s ready when you push a skewer into it which is clean when removed. If it’s not quite ready,give it another 10 minutes then try again. 
    

 Serve in slices, plain or buttered, or give as a host gift when visiting someone, wrapped in paper or foil. Kept airtight, it should last for a couple of weeks. 

Gifts for Your Gentlemen

We all have a demographic for whom Christmas shopping is most difficult. For me, it seems to change from year to year, depending on what the person has coming up, whether they have made requests, and how inspired I’m feeling. This year, I’ve been pretty well-organised, with most ideas gradually hitting me. My last sticking point is one of my Grandads, but everyone else is pretty well sorted, after lots of head scratching surrounding uncles, Dads, fiancés and so on. So when I finally got there, I thought it might be an idea to share some of my better ideas (sharing is caring).

 Christmas Blog 
1. A washbag. Is it just me, or do men seem to be becoming more and more concerned about their accessories, hair and skincare? Even the older generation seems to be going mad for beard oil. Every self-respecting man about town, therefore, should have a respectable washbag. This season, there seem to be lots of these on the market. Just hit a department store and you’ll find a range of options to meet a range of budgets. This one is by Jasper Conran, can be found in Debenhams, and will be under the tree for my Dad. If only they hadn’t left the security tag on….need to take a trip into the shop before I can wrap it.

 Jasper Conran Washbag 
2. Socks. Whether you have a stocking to fill or a little extra to pad your other presents up to your budget, lovely or wacky socks are a bit of a Christmas must-buy for boys and girls alike. My uncle likes to wear brightly coloured socks (really really), so gets them every year, but these ones are lovely thick, soft work socks for my future Father in-law. 

 Work socks  

3. A good jumper. Or any clothes, really. You have to know the person fairly well, though, or have a particular eye for style, as clothing can be a pretty personal thing. And then there’s the dilemma surrounding choosing the right size (please don’t offend someone – if in doubt, steer clear!) I found this jumper (reasonably priced but smart) quite by accident in the men’s section of Debenhams but later ordered it online as they only had it in medium. This is for my dad and is a sort of crisis cross knit with surfer shoulder panels. Cosy and smart and relatively stylish for a 50 plus. I also bought my grandad a £10 shirt and tie set from Tesco (who’s to know?!).

Men's Christmas Gifts 
4. Man chocolate. Unless your gifted has a particular favourite (my Dad’s used to be Toblerone), experience tells me that 9 out of 19 men prefer manly dark chocolate. These mint batons are a slightly classier After Eight, and are a great extra to throw in.  Chocolate Mint Batons 
5. The Amazon Fire TV Stick. This is my Dad’s main present. I bought him a Now TV box last Christmas but I had to throw this one in this year because Top Gear is coming back, and this little stick lets you access Amazon Instant Video and Netflix (provided you pay the subscriptions) without shelling out for a smart TV. 

 Christmas Gifts for Dads 

More Ideas for Filling Girlies’ Stockings!

As explained in my previous post, my Mum, Nana and I collectively contribute to each others’ stockings every year. This usually means buying 3 of everything. With my wedding coming up, however, we’re on a bit of an economy drive, so finding more specific gifts for each person has become a priority. I thought I’d share some of the things I’ve bought for them, in case it might help you come up with something new. 

  
1. Books – I buy a lot of books and I also buy a fair few books for my Nana through the each year so Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without getting her a couple. A novel is a great stocking filler: easy to pick up for a few quid, a great present if the giftee likes to read, and it takes up a big chunk of space in that stocking. If they don’t read, how about a daft little thing from the humour section (just make sure it’s actually funny) or one of those little cookery or baking books you get. If they’re planning a holiday, how about a travel guide? 

Books as Stocking Filler Ideas
Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

  

2. Cosy Socks – knowing my family, the warm socks of last Christmas seem to have scarpered, never to be found again by the time Christmas rolls around again.  At this time of year you can find great cosy socks all over the place. Even shops which don’t normally sell them seem to stock them for an impulse buy. Stick with your budget, but pretty and buy soft! These particular ones were from M&S – £5 for 2 snazzy pairs. 

 

Secret Santa Ideas
Ted Baker Gift Set
 
3. Bath Stuff People Might Actually Like! This is a lovely little gift set from Ted Baker which, for £6, offers a handbag-sized perfume and a travel sized body wash. Great for a secret Santa present too. 

 

Chocolate Coins
Chocolate Stocking Fillers
 
4. Chocolate! Of course, you can’t skip the obligatory chocolate coins, and I usually throw in a Chocolate Orange as well. Marks and Spencer are selling a good range of Christmassy chocolates perfect for throwing into a stocking, including clementines, brussel sprouts and caramel parcels, as well as the traditional chocolate coins. 


Homemade Mince Pies

If you’ve been following me for a couple of weeks, you’ll already have my homemade mincemeat recipe, as well as a nice and easy sweet shortcrust pastry recipe. Now it’s time to put them together to make warm, comforting homemade mince pies. Trust me, if you’re expecting friends and family to drop in over the festive period, you’ll feel very smug when you present a plate of these to them with their coffee or mulled wine! They’re also lovely to take with you as a hostess gift if you’re dropping in somewhere for a visit. 

And if you don’t like mincemeat (and if you haven’t been converted by my recipe yet) you could always use chopped apple and cinnamon or jam instead.

 how to make mince pies  

You will need:

1 batch sweet shortcrust pastry (or a packet of ready-made)

Around 24 tbsp of mincemeat (again, a jar of shop-bought would work) 

A little butter to grease the tin

A sprinkle of icing sugar for each one 

A shallow 12-hole tray 

Cling film

A rolling pin 

A round biscuit/scone cutter plus a small star cutter (you can make a round pastry lid instead as you make a couple of holes in it to let the steam out, or another festive shape such as a Christmas tree, or send them out into the world topless and calm them tarts!) the round cutter is pretty essential, but if you’re clever, a glass and a knife would do the trick, just aim for circles big enough to line the bottom and sides of each hole. christmas recipes  
1. Use a pastry brush to thinly butter each muffin tin hole, to make sure the pies can be removed later. 

 cling film pastry rolling 
2. Take the pastry out of the fridge and cut in half. Place one half on a large piece of cling film and flatten out as much as you can with your hands. Put another piece of cling film on top and roll out to about 3mm thin for nice crisp pies (and it makes the pastry go further!). This can be time consuming and it requires a bit of muscle, but stick with it. And, trust me, the cling film method is light years easier than trying this with flour and a board!

 cutting out mince pies 

 3. Remove the top layer of cling film and cut out as many circles as you can. Try not to twist the cutter, as this will change the shape of your little rounds. Keep as close as you can when you do the next one, and that way you’ll make the most of your pastry sheet without having to re-roll too often.  Remember you have the other half to roll-out as well. 

 thin shortcrust pastry 
They may lift out when you take away the cutter, but if not, just carefully peel each piece from the cling film. 

 how to make tarts 
4. One pastry circle per space, thank you. Lay the pastry over each hole and gently push in from the edge. It should fall nicely into place. 

  
 
6. Cut out the lids. If necessary, gather and re-roll, or roll out the other half if you haven’t used it yet. 

  

7. Carefully spoon in the filling. About 1 and a half to 2 tablespoons of filling into each pie. 

 homemade mincemeat 

  
8. Put the lids on. 

 how to make pastry 
9. Put in the fridge for at least half an hour to allow the pastry to firm up. It sounds daft, but it really makes a difference. 

10. Pre-heat the oven to 170C fan and bake for around 20 minutes or until the pastry is starting to brown. 

11. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before carefully removing from the tin. The pastry should contract a little making this easier, but you can always help them out a little with a paring knife. 

 christmas party food 
12. Once cool, dust with icing sugar. christmas home baking  

Super Drugstore Stocking Fillers for Ladies

If you’re anything like me, you’ll find it increasingly difficult to come up with ideas for stocking fillers as each year goes by. It’s really important to me that people don’t receive presents for the sake of just having a present; it should always be something people might want or like, or don’t even know they might want!  
My Mum, Nana and I contribute to a great big stocking for each other every year, so it can be hard to think of new ideas. Yesterday, I took a trip up to Superdrug for a bit of a stocking filler smash and grab (without the stealing) and I thought it might be helpful to share with you some items which make great stocking fillers but wouldn’t necessarily be traditionally considered for a Christmas present. 

  
This is something I’ll probably put in my own stocking: the B. Eye Shadow Brush, which looks lovely and soft, as well as big enough to blend out your shadow. It would probably be great for concealing too. At £3.99 and with good-sized packaging, it ticks the stocking stuffing box, whilst being a great present.

 

Imperial Leather; Stocking Filler Ideas
Imperial Leather Shower Gel
 
Shower gel is another great filler product. Most people use it, and they certainly know someone who would use it even if they themselves have a bath every day. It might be a bit of a boring present, but it will at least be useful (which, let’s face it, we start to appreciate as we get older) and if you can find an exciting scent or texture, even better. 

 

Superdrug Stocking Fillers
Superdrug staples
 
Beauty staples….I happen to know my Nana can’t be without this Vitamin E Intense Moisture Cream and my Mum keeps complaining about having dry elbows so I’ve picked a pot up for her as well. 

Nail polish remover pads are so handy for anyone who might ever wear nail polish, so a great, cheap little thing to throw in there. I always seem to be running out!
This GOSH Eyeliner was for me to replace one which has stopped sharpening, but you can’t really go wrong with a kohl liner as a little extra, and it’s always an intriguingly shaped present to open. And you currently get a free smoky eye palette when you spend £10 on GOSH in Superdrug (one present for you, one present for me….)!

Makeup Stocking Fillers
Makeup Revolution Palettes
 
I have to admit that eyeshadow palettes are a bit of a guilty pleasure for me just now – so many pretty pigments. However, I’m a big believer in sharing the love, so if you’ve bought something and loved it, why not buy one for someone else?  These are getting towards the pricier end of stocking filler territory but there’s still a 3 for 2 in Superdrug so it sort of evens out. The Makeup Revolution Beyond Flawless palette is one of my favourite things just now, but the Flawless palette has a slightly broader range of colours for people who might not be so comfortable with the concept of 50 shades of nude. 

I also picked up the Makeup Revolution Iconic Pro 1 palette for my Mum, as she tends to wear a lot of purple shades so I thought this might introduce her to the 21st century and no make-up make-up. Plus it comes with a brush, and it’s in that crucial £5 bracket. 

Other things I’ll probably pick-up at some point or which might be suitable for a sister or friend:

  • Hair bobbles 
  • Hand cream
  • Face masks
  • Hairspray or dry shampoo
  • Bath bombs/bath salts/bubble bath 
  • Body lotion 
  • Vaseline or lip balm
  • Nail polish
  • Lipstick or lipgloss
  • Blusher, bronzer or highlighter 
  • Your favourite primer or setting spray 

I wouldn’t recommend gifting a concealer or foundation (no matter how badly you want to share the wonder of Collection concealer) as you are very unlikely to be able to correctly match their skin tone!

Let me know if this has helped any of you out or if you have any ideas for me!

Homemade Mincemeat 

I thought I hated mince pies. Really and truly couldn’t stand them. They were just a bit too soft, a bit too stodgy, a bit too bland and then there were the crunchy bits. Urgh. 

Before I swore off them for good, however, I thought I ought to have a stab at making my own mincemeat. And it is night and day. Night and ruddy day. This recipe has no nuts (so no suspicious crunchy bits), heaps of juicy fruits (you do yours) and lashings of booze. It sounds like a jolly good Christmas to me! 

  
You may wish to include: 

500g seedless raisins 

500g sultanas 

200g dried cranberries 

1 tub French glacé cherries  

3/4 bag dried apricots 

2 oranges 

2 tbsp soft brown sugar 

3 tsp mixed spice

3 tsp cinnamon 

75ml apple juice 

50ml dark rum

50 ml brandy (or as much as you dare!)

Don’t stick too rigidly to the fruit weights; just use whichever size of bag they come in, or whatever’s lying around in your cupboard. And you can add your favourite dried fruits, miss things out and replace others – this is just how I like it!
 

1. Finely chop the cherries drop them into a large bowl. This is a sticky job which requires much patience! I really think they make the difference though in creating a really luscious filling for your pies. 
  
  2. Add in the raisins and cranberries…. 

3. Finely chop and throw in the apricots…
  

4. And then the sultanas. 
  
   5. Finely grate in the zest of the two oranges using a microplane, or the finest teeth on your grater.   

 6. Add in the sugar and spices then mix well. Add the juice from the oranges, half the apple juice and the booze, then give everything a really good stir. 

 
7.  Cover with cling film and leave everything to soak up for a day. Mix again the next day, adding more apple juice (and brandy) once the first lot has been largely soaked up. Repeat for the next 2 days and then allow to sit for another couple of days, stirring daily. In terms of total liquid, there should be a few inches in the bottom to give you a nice gooey caramel around your fruit when you make your pies. 

Pie recipe to follow after the weekend!

This will change Christmas forever!

Happy December and Collab. Shout Out

Happy 1st December, one and all!

I won’t claim I jumped out of bed with any sort of vigour, never mind renewed vigour, because I was up at 6.30am to get a train to Edinburgh. And I hate public transport. Really really despise it. What is with sitting on the platform freezing your toes off for 20 minutes to get on first just to be beaten to it by people who’ve been sitting inside until the very last minute who either happen to stand exactly where the train doors stop, or barge their way in front of you as soon as the doors open?! Rude. 

  
I have a personal space issue, you see. I’m one of those horrid only children you hear about. I can’t stand it when people in a queue seat forward so they keep bumping into your back, or having to sit next so someone on the train. It’s not their presence I object to as such, it’s the lack of space and total lack of control as to when you can decide to get up and leave. You spend the journey with your handbag digging into your knees and you can’t get into it for anything without feeling as though you’re elbowing them multiple times. And then there’s the awkward “are you getting off, can I get out please” dance. Just no. That’s why I always buy advance first class tickets when I visit Mr Brooker. Individual seat, free wine, lots of leg room – bliss. 

  
Anyway I’m digressing! I did get to enjoy my first Starbucks Toffee Nut Latté of the season, and there were turkey, cranberry and stuffing sandwiches for lunch! Excellent. For me, there should be no Christmas before 1st December, apart from any mincemeat/Christmas Cake you might have to bake. So I can finally dig out some decorations and a cinnamon candle. 

My Mum bought me the Ciaté Mini Mani Month advent calendar in TKMaxx (which I suspect was last year’s model but who cares! It’s rather lovely and will hopefully help me not to buy any more nail polish this year. We shall see….

  
This morning came with this rather lovely little bottle of Miss Mistletoe glitter, which I’m very excited about layering over something red or gold. 

  
I wasn’t sure I’d get home at a reasonable time tonight so I’ve opted for a cheat’s supper of fish fingers and peas. I’m not sure why I’m telling you this except that I’m considering whether Blogmas is a realistic possibility for me, and if so, what I ate this evening ought to feature, so let’s not leave 1st December out! 

    
I’m off home now to tackle two rounds of Blogilates (one is to make up for not doing any tomorrow night) including a rather ridiculous 4xHIIT workout which has rather innocently been called the Snowbunny Blast…

Anyways, the initial point of this post was to ask of anyone fancies a bit of a Christmas food collaboration? As Mr Brooker would readily tell you, I love a bit of themed baking/cookery. So just putting it out there – give me a shout if you would consider sharing your favourite Christmas foods. You wouldn’t even need to provide recipes- just share your “Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without” traditions. 

Happy December!

The 5 Best….Christmas Party Essentials (Collab.)

I’m so excited about this post. It all started a week ago, and here I am putting together my first ever collaboration post. It’s all thanks to Beautyandthelook for getting us all together, so thanks Siobhan! She basically gave a shout-out to anyone who fancied joining in and she was kind enough to include me. 

We’ve had some great Twitter chats as well; it’s been a pleasure to (virtually) meet you girls and discover your lovely blogs.  Anyway, we’re all posting right now on the same theme: top 5 Christmas party essentials, with office parties just around the corner. I’ve linked all of their blogs at the end of my post, so please check them out; it’ll be so interesting seeing everyone’s take on the same theme. And then there’s the glitter…..

  

 1. Metallic/Sparkly Nail Polish 

  

I always seem to find myself planning for Christmas parties at the last minute. I ordered some dresses online on Thursday in the hope that at least one of them will do, as I did last year, and the year before. So much stress. Anyway, once you have your clothes, shoes and accessories sorted, my first bit of game time preparation is to spend time filing and painting my nails. I’m one of those people who never leaves enough time then either chips their polish or falls asleep when it’s still tacky and wakes up with dents. 

Anyway, a glitter or metallic nail polish is essential for a Christmas party in my opinion! As I dont know what I’ll be wearing yet, I thought I’d share my favourite polish from last winter, which is the Barry M Aquarium Collection Nail Paint in Persian, which is a beautiful irradescent purple/bronze, which turns more bronzey if you add a clear top coat. It gives you a really beautiful metallic sheen which moves with the light. Perfect for a party!

  

2. Your Best Deodorant 

This is sort of self-explanatory, but I think deodorant/anti-perspirant is an under-reviewed area of beauty. I suppose it does tend to be cheap enough to warrant buying without research, but even if your wallet doesn’t feel the pain of a bad product, I reckon the embarrassment factor of being let down by your deodorant should really warrant a bit of research!

In my experience, office parties tend to either start straight from work, or give you a short amount of time to get ready before go time. My employer’s head office is in Edinburgh, so we all get shipped through there for the Christmas party. Normally we get to finish work at about 3 to meet the taxi to leave at about 5. I only live 10 minutes away from the office now, so I have the luxury of going home to shower and change, but I’ve had many experiences of fighting with the other girls for time in the loo to change, straighten my hair and reapply my makeup. In those cases, you need your deodorant to hold up all day as well as all night.

 

This one is my favourite, the Soft & Gentle 48 Hour Protection Anti-Perspirant Deodorant. I’ve used this for years and years. I’ve just noticed that it also has an anti-white mark formula, which may have been added somewhere along the lines after Sure started pushing their white and black situation. Anyway, I love this deodorant. I always pick up the Wild Rose and Vanilla scent, but I think there are around 4 to choose from. This gives me good day-long protection with a really natural scent. It doesn’t feel too powdery and it doesn’t really smell like a deodorant. It’s a big win in my book, and essential to keep you feeling and smelling fresh until you crawl home in the small hours. 

3. The Perfect Blusher 

The obvious inclusion in this post would be the perfect sparkly eye shadow. I’m going to be controversial and miss that out of my top 5, as I don’t necessarily think it is an essential for everyone. Depending on your look and what you’ll be wearing, you might feel more comfortable keeping your eyelids subtle and neutral. Provided you line your eyes well and choose a bombshell of a mascara, the shadow isn’t all that important.

What us essential, however, is a good blusher to give you a healthy, just in from the cold flush about the cheeks. Blusher is also a great product for dialling up your make-up from daytime functional to party time glamorous. 
  

This MAC Mineralise blush in Petal Power is just beautiful. It’s the perfect peachy pink, plus it has the most beautiful goldy shinmer to dial it up for Christmas, meaning you don’t necessarily need to highlight as well (although I’m pretty sure I will). 

4. Good Mascara

So even if you haven’t gone all out on the glittery shadow, you really need a bit of drama about the eyes for your Christmas party. This is a slight cheat, as I’m including 2 products here as one item, but given they’re both from L’Oreal, the price of 2 is still less than a lot of single high end mascaras. 

The two I recommend are L’Oreal Telescopic and L’Oreal Voluminous, both in extra black. Day-to-day, I’ve been using the voluminous on its own, for a great daytime look which gives plenty of frame to your eyes. However, trust me, the Telescopic really makes all the difference when you want to take it up a notch. It’s unbelievable at adding length to your top lashes, I was sold the first time I tried it, but it does leave them looking pretty leggy, so the voluminous is great for plumping them out. Use a couple of coats of each on your top lashes, but go slowly if you don’t like clumping. I haven’t been using the Telescopic on my lower lashes though, as I already have pretty long lower lashes and that would just be bizarre! 

 

The only problem here is that apparently the Telescopic has been replaced by the Telescopic Falsh Lash Effect, so we’ll have to see how that goes down when it’s time to replace this one.

5. Make-up Setting Spray 

Now what’s the point in spending all that time perfecting your make-up if it’s going to wear off by the time you get your Christmas dinner? That’s where setting-spray comes in. Use this one by MakeUp Forever if you’d like (but it’s £18 for the full-size) but Urban Decay has a couple of great ones as well. They are both pretty pricey though so I’m trialing the new MUA Pro-Base Fixing Mist (£5) today. Fingers crossed it holds!   

So there we have it! My 5 best Christmas Party Essentials. Hopefully you’ve got the bug now and will enjoy reading my fellow collaborators’ posts as well! Have a great Christmas party! 

Read these ones now!

https://beautyandthelooksite.wordpress.com/

https://manikui.wordpress.com/

https://karmabeauty87.wordpress.com/

http://jenniwren7.wordpress.com/

https://jessinthecrowd.wordpress.com/

https://thefreshwabisabi.wordpress.com/

https://bunniesblanketsandbandanas.wordpress.com/

https://50shadesofvanity.wordpress.com/

https://paigealiciabeauty.wordpress.com/

https://jessicaelizabiz.wordpress.com/

Unfortunately, Becca-Louise wasn’t able to get her post up for reasons outwith her control, but please check out her blog anyway!

https://beccaalouise.wordpress.com/

The 5 Best …Websites for Starting Your Christmas Shopping 

Here we are again. Galloping towards the end of November, but we’ve barely started our Christmas shopping. We’ve taken a few rambles around the local shops: Boots offers the same old FCUK and Nando’s gift sets, M&S wants you to give your grandad another mug to remind him he’s “Head Gardener”, and a scarf for, well, every female relative you know, just isn’t going to cut it this year.

  
Ok, ok, before you tell me off, I know that shopping local is great. It’s the best. But let’s not get into Perth local politics. In fact, I’ll be buying a fair amount from good local businesses, but we’ll get into that nearer the time. Just now, though, help is at hand. With a little bit of time, organisation and a sufficient number of postage days before The Big Day, you can really break the back of your Christmas shop in a relatively short amount of time. It won’t even do that much harm to your credit card if you start now during the Black Friday sales.

  

1
. John Lewis

Try to block the terrible Christmas advert from your mind for a moment. I mean, they have put some pretty good ones out in the past. John Lewis is great. It really is. It can be pricey, but not obnoxiously so, so it offers a good range of ideas to suit pretty much every demographic. Even boys. 

  
Their website is really helpful too, with lots of “gift by recipient” categorisation to help you navigate the options available without visiting every department, as well as allowing you to sub- search by budget. So if you want to spend under £30 on your granny, John Lewis has you covered. Genius. 

  
Another thing they do pretty well every year is their selection of hampers. I hear you groaning in boredom already. But hear me out. We hate hampers because every hamper we’ve had has been filled with rubbish no one wants to eat or drink, right? What if you could find a hamper that doesn’t break the bank, that gives someone a load of their favourite things all neatly packaged together and which might just let you get away with a sneaky 1-4-2 couples’ present (smaller price tag than 2 presents, and less time spent shopping)? I told you to trust me!

John Lewis offer hampers ranging in price from £15 to £500 (like you would…) as well as make your own hamper boxes, baskets and trays, if you wanted a more personal touch, so they’re worth a look (especially that Chocolate Cube….).  My biggest criticism is that all of them are Christmas themed. Ok, it is a Christmas present, but (think about it John Lewis) who really needs brandy butter and a mini Christmas pudding on December 25th? (Unless you’ve given them a spoiler not to go out and buy one or they’ve burnt the main guy or whatever) That’s why we hate hampers!

2. The Book People

There’s not as much to say about these guys, except I’m not entirely sure how the manage their crazily low prices. As a bookworm and lover of language, I think books make wonderful presents. I’m not a zealot, so I do get that you can take a person to the pages but you can’t make them read, but you can probably find a book on this site for about 80% of people. They do kids’ books, cookbooks, craft books, humorous books etc etc etc. 

  
There’s a bit of nostalgia for me with The Book People because I remember my Mum buying me books from them when I was a kid in the days when their reps would bring books to offices to sell. Weirdly they’ve just started doing that again. Anyway they had a catalogue at that time and have now moved online so I’ve had a great time rediscovering them over the last few years. The best thing they offer, in my opinion, is their collections. 

  
Basically, they offer collections by the same author, for example, the Harlan Coven collection of 10 of his novels for £10, or themed collections (I have the Penguin “Banned Books” collection, for example, whereby the books are sold as a collection for a fraction of the price they would be bought separately. Great, great presents. 

  

3. Not on the High Street

People seem to have mixed feelings about this one; they love its quirkiness or they’re put off by its gimmicks. I have to say I’m somewhere in the middle. The original idea behind this website, as I understand it, is to bring professional small scale producers to the mass market, in a more organised fashion than Etsy can manage. However, the message is getting lost a bit with all sorts of mass-produced gimmicks finding their way onto the site, I mean, who actually wants to receive chocolate Brussels sprouts, let alone pay a tenner for them?! 

  
  Still, I do think this website has its place, you just have to be savvy and be careful that you’re happy to pay the price their asking, especially as the base price can really ramp up when you add personalisation, gift wrapping, postage etc. There are some really lovely unique gifts on offer and it’s a great place to get ideas. I bought a lovely (in my opinion!) business card holder for Mr Brooker from this site, engraved with one of his favourite song lyrics. It was reasonably priced and the turnaround time was spectacular. Have a browse!

  
4. Feelunique.com

This website hasn’t been on my radar for very long, but they offer some really nice beauty brands, as well as their own beauty advent calendar which gives you 12 little gifts for £30. 

  
Although a lot of what they have to offer is on the pricier main present side of the scale, they have some great little stocking fillers which are a little bit different from the usual socks and chocolate orange. 

Even though you may hate gifting “bath stuff” to those friends and relatives you need to find a gift for about whom you know very little, this site offers you all sorts of lovely gift sets people might actually want and use.

5. Debenhams

Trusty old Debenhams has a load of good deals on just now; I saved £7 on a jumper I was planning to buy for my Dad anyway yesterday. So get in there before Friday’s over!

  
Debenhams is a middle of the road alternative to John Lewis, offering everything from slippers to food gifts, as well as the customary Christmas socks and gadgets. You can tick off lots of people at the sane tine with this one, especially your Mum and Granny. 

I hope this has been helpful! Let me know if you have any go to Christmas shopping websites.