I love bags. I have many and I can’t think of an occasion when I don’t take one with me. My everyday favourite is a shoulder bag and I have a few to choose from as I look after them and hang on to them as they don’t go ‘out of fashion’. They are an assortment of colours to suit the season and my mood. (Currently, I’m using a black Mulberry one but come the spring, I’ll change for something more colourful.)

Then there are my ‘pretty bags’, my Vogue purses. I don’t get many occasions to use them but they are my favourites. I have a beautiful bronze coloured clutch that my sister in law gave me on my 50th. I have a white leather bowling bag that I picked up in the Florida Walt Disney park years ago and I have an embroidered Italian pouch which is beautiful.

My most recent bag purchase was an ‘over-the-body’ bag by Mia Tui. It’s stone coloured and just the right size to hold my phone, purse and other essentials. I love it and it’s perfect for a hands-free day or for sightseeing and keeping your belongings close to you.

city messenger bag

I love weekend bags too and use mine frequently when we pack for a weekend in the caravan – it won’t be much longer before we re-open our seaside pad up again.

When I go food shopping I take a whole bag of bags with me and I’m very proud that I remember to use my recyclable bags to avoid buying any excess plastic bags. Even when I go ‘shopping’ shopping I take a fold away with me tucked in my handbag. In fact, I even gave some fabric fold away shopping bags as Christmas presents this year as I find them so handy.

I even use bags to tidy things up or keep things together, for example small zip bags I have used for sun creams in my beach bag, or holding phone chargers in my suitcase. Old toiletry bags that aren’t in use get recycled into ‘Hair accessories’ bags or bags for scarves. Larger unused bags become a new home for clothes that don’t fit but I don’t want to give away – maybe I’ll repurpose them one day? And those cloth holdall bags that brands give away – they are perfect for slipping into my suitcase and using for dirty clothes when I’m on holiday. I pack them up and tip them in the washing machine when I get home.

silver bag

I can even remember the first bag I owned that I was super proud of. It was a bronze holdall made out of a fake leather fabric and I bought it in Chelsea Girl, a really cool shop of the day. I used it for my school bags and was so upset the day the handles gave way and it had to be thrown out it was so well used.

How about you? Are you passionate about bags? Can you remember your first love?

Disclosure: A collaborative post.

I love January.

The Christmas decorations are back in the loft, the house has had a thorough clean and as the days are still short and cold, it’s time to snuggle on the sofa and enjoy my family.

Hygge the Danish call it. It’s all about the feeling and the moment. You can’t buy it, you create it and it is an enormously satisfying feeling.

Hygge - special feeling or moment

I am enjoying some fantastic British drama on the TV – Mrs Wilson, Luther and Manhunt to name a few.

I have been preparing some of my favourite winter recipes like stew with dumplings, some traditional roast dinners (we had roast leg of lamb on Sunday and it was amazing) and fish pie, mmmm!

January really is a proper hygge month for me. One daily ritual is lighting the candles on the mantle before I sit down to enjoy the calm winter’s evening. The flicker of the candles adds a warm glow to the room and adds to the cosiness as I hug my hot cup of tea and dip (once again) into the leftover chocolates from Christmas.

Actually, I hope we have soon finished off our Crimbo chocolate stash for the benefit of my wardrobe! Anyone else need to lose a few pounds that were gained over the festive season? I do. My trousers are tight around the waist, my t shirts are riding up and I feel uncomfortable. I’m going to have to make some time for exercise and long walks to get back into my clothes again.

However, I don’t want to go crazy and make it a mission. I’m not on that treadmill anymore, I know I have work to do but I’m not going to get all het up about it. By adding a few good walks into the week and cutting back on sweets, wine and large portions, I’ll get back to how I was sooner or later.

As my clothes are tight, I’ve been looking at the Simply Be website for some winter fashion inspiration. For me, this time of year calls for comfort clothing and also bright colours. Nice pops of red and yellow to brighten my mood and add a bit of happiness to my outfit. Black is wonderful but it can be a bit boring day in, day out.

How about this saffron coloured jumper? Worn with leggings or jeans or even a skirt would look great. 

Or this Joe Browns red cable cardigan? I love it, I think I would wear it forever with everything! UPDATE: I bought it!

I have my eye on longer skirts this year, I think they’re really going to take off. Maxi or long, both styles dress well and can be worn for both casual and formal occasions. Another element to look out for is animal prints. Take a walk down the high street (if you can bear to go out in the cold!) and you’ll see lots of prints in the shops.

How about you? Are you trying to incorporate some hygge feeling into your life?

Disclosure: This is a collaborative post.

christmas decorations

The reserve fridge in the garage has been switched on… I repeat… the reserve fridge in the garage is now on.

This can only mean one thing in our house, it’s Christmas and we shall be entertaining the troops – hence the switching on of the other fridge. My husband gets stupidly excited about this as he fills the shelves up with bottles of different beers, wine, champagne and of course food. He is a meat lover and I often find him slipping out to the garage with one excuse or another, simply to take a look at his festive bounty.

I guess, you could call this one of our family traditions. Having the larger house we are able to put family up and this year both of my brothers are coming to join us with their families; that’ll be a total of 10 on Christmas Day.

Christmas Eve

Twins christmas 2014
When they really did believe in Santa

They all arrive on Christmas Eve – one brother and his partner are taking care of Christmas Eve dinner – and there is a long list of cocktails and festive ‘must haves’ including a brand new Mincepietini (I think that’s what it’s called?)

The evening will be spent playing games and drinking alcohol. Our village scout group have a traditional Father Christmas parade that works its way around the streets and we’ll all pop out to wave him on as he passes by.

The girls asked earlier this month for the truth about Santa, I wrote the letter I found on Pinterest years ago and they were very happy to know the truth and be treated like ‘grown ups‘. It hasn’t ruined any fun, actually, it’s made life easier as I can now wrap whilst they are still awake but not allowed in the room.

first christmas - kids
The twin’s first Christmas 2008

Will they still let me put the plate out for Santa though? And the carrot for Rudolf…

Bedtime this year will change. I used to hurry them into bed so I could finish my wrapping but this year they’ll stay up a bit longer. I had a go at the Happy Beds Christmas Wake Up Calculator it predicts the twins will wake up at 7.15am. I’ll take that!

Christmas Morning

They will be sleeping in our room this year as the family are staying over so wake up will mean opening the stockings in our bed. Baxter will be allowed on the bed for the occasion too. Happy Beds have officially claimed that children will wake up at 6.44am, I am hoping we get to sleep a little bit longer to be honest but you know how it is, the moment the eyes open, that’s it.

There will be lots of paper to pick up, lots of oohs and aahs as they get to each gift. It’s best for me if they open the same gifts together so surprises aren’t ruined but inevitably one is faster than the other.

Then, of course, they will want to se the tree and open the BIG presents so we’ll trundle off downstairs in our pyjamas and with fresh tea to hand, the opening ceremony will begin.

Christmas day 2012
Gosh – Christmas 2012!

I get a bit OCD at this point. I will have black sacks to the ready and will spend more time catching everyone’s trash than concentrating on my own gifts!

Whilst the family take it in turn to shower, Bloody Mary’s will be served. This for me is one of my personal highlights. I LOVE Bloody Mary’s.

Lunch is a long traditional meal at my beautifully laid table and then there’s the clearing up.

Christmas table

The afternoon will be a mix of playing family games – I’m so excited as I’ve bought Boom Ball for us to play this year and it looks hilarious! Then someone will start getting out cheeses and pates ‘in case anyone is feeling peckish’. No one is but I bet we all tuck in regardless.

It will be a late night but the twins can catch up on sleep another time. I shall rejoice in having my family around me and sharing – the most wonderful time of the year with them.

Have a wonderful Christmas all,

Mari xxx

budgeting for christmas
Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

Only a matter of days until Christmas is here and, I don’t know about you but, I keep on remembering small things I have forgotten so off I go to get them or add them to my Christmas delivery order. The original Christmas delivery order started off at around £60 and has since doubled! I find the excuse that ‘It’s Christmas‘ gets thoroughly stretched and distorted and all manner of items make their way into my basket.

I have up until midnight tonight to sort it out and eliminate all odds and ends that I don’t necessarily need! I’m sure my christmas table will be as laden as ever – just more thoughtfully this year.

Gifts – that’s another shady area to keep an eye on. I start with a short list of my nearest and dearest. I vow to stick to it and not waver but as I trundle around shops, malls and supermarkets my eyes are caught by shining offers and incredible ideas – I know so-and-so would love that! Boom, it’s in the basket and the cash is flowing out of my purse faster than the Niagara falls in the springtime.

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

Will I ever learn?

Yes, I did! I made myself learn this year. A bit of willpower and common sense has seen a much tighter control on my purse strings but all helped along by a plan and a wonderful list…I do love a list. I share my top tips for budgeting at Christmas with you and if it’s too late for this year then take a look further down the post for some more excellent advice on how to get out of debt.

Top tips for Christmas budgeting

Make a gift list

…and stick to it! I started back in November, I wrote down everyone who we normally buy for and budgeted for each person, including ideas of gifts I know they’ll be pleased to receive. My list included all family members, teacher and TA gifts, Girl Guide leaders (2), Netball club leaders (2)

Along the way, I added a Secret Santa which was set at £10 and a couple of gifts for Guide leaders who hadn’t been accounted for. I also crossed off all non-essential gifts – do we really have to give something to EVERYONE to prove we like them?

Set a spending limit

…and stick to it. Husband and I only give token gifts at Christmas now and set a spending limit of £10ish. For every member of the family set your limit and go and have fun seeking the perfect gift. Do Not Be Tempted to go higher, they won’t love you more for it

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Pay in cash – no credit card

I have set aside a small amount of money each month to cover stocking fillers and husband has done the same too. This is worth remembering in January. Set up a savings account for this purpose, with as little as £25 a month going in you’ll have a nice £300 to spend which goes a long way when it comes to carefully budgeted gifts.

If you are sensible and stick to your plan, you’ll get through Christmas without creating massive debts to ruin the new year.

Hunt for bargains

This is also an area which needs forward planning but can shave off pounds here and there that go to helping you stick to your budget. The first sales to consider are September sales when Argos does a special toy sale. Find out when the big supermarkets do there special offers and of course pencil in Black Friday – we got quite a few bargains that weekend. All pound stores are heaving with great ideas for stocking fillers and keep an eye out in every store you visit for any sales, end of line discounts and so on that can help out with your gifting.

Don’t go crazy!

Sometimes I feel, we get dragged into a social world where everyone else is doing so much more and giving their loved ones everything on the list but is that truly the most sensible thing to do? Are we creating materialistic monsters. Do my Instagram photos have to make me look like I’m a billionaire or rather a happy family who has enjoyed the thinking and giving of small gifts.

Debt helpline

It’s all very well for me to sit here and chat about budgeting at Christmas time but I did learn the hard way and so I share my tips with you because they worked for me. If you did get yourself into debt this year, first of all jot down all the tips for next year and start budgeting ahead. You’ll thank me for it come December next year.

Secondly, be aware that there are places where you can get advice and help if you are in debt. Creditfix is one of those places who offer advice on handling personal debt and getting out of trouble in the quickest and easiest manner.

This is a collaborative post but the tips are mine and they do work!

Christmas table

What an autumn this one has been! I haven’t stopped to take a breath  (not even over half term) and now I am begging for the winter break to hurry up so I can put my feet up, catch my breath and make plans for 2019. Is anyone else feeling the same way?

I’ve talked before about cooking Christmas dinner and about which wines to choose for Christmas in fact, I have a whole category labelled Christmas with all of my favourite things in there but today I am concentrating on how to make my table look wonderful.

Being a Wayfair Home Expert means I get to stay up to date on all of their fabulous products (and there are tons of them!) One of my favourite posts was the bedroom wall art and I still really enjoy this corner of my home. Wayfair was recently looking to peek inside blogger’s houses and see what preparations they made for Christmas. I replied that for me, my dining table takes centre stage and enjoying good food and wines with my family.

table food stand

There will be 12 of us this year on Christmas day, both of my brothers with their crew are joining us and it’s always a day filled with love and laughter. The brothers are excellent chefs and everyone in the family has grown up appreciating good food and learning to cook it. This year will be no exception. Everyone will be bringing some of their favourite products to the table and our eating starts on Christmas Eve and goes through to Boxing Day breakfast, that is a lot of eating!

I mentioned this in my email to Wayfair and they were curious to see what I would come up with to make this feast as enjoyable and memorable as past years have been.

They gave me a budget of £75 and I started to browse their shelves.

My first choice was for a new white tablecloth as my old ones are looking tired and the stains are refusing to budge – there are only so many things you can place on a table to disguise them! I was delighted to find this option and in different sizes too.  I went for the longest as my table extends to seat 12 people. It’s perfect and although you can’t see from the above photos (as I prepared the table for 6) it really will look the business on the day. Total cost £23.16

My second choice was for a tiered food stand. It’s a wooden frame with two removable slate shelves to place your food on and we have already had so much fun with it. We had a girl’s night in and filled it to overflowing with sweet treats for pudding, it was the perfect choice for two mums and their three daughters, chatting and eating sugary delights. I

In my Christmas photo, I dressed the stand with antipasti and I am planning all sorts of uses for my new centrepiece. Cheeseboard, condiments, more puddings and even a sushi evening! One other thing to mention is how easy it is to clean, just a quick wipe over with soapy water and air dry – Ii’s already ready for its next outing. £23.99

wayfair pot holder

My final choice was for a rather lovely pot holder. The shape caught my eye and the good quality of the wood. It will be the proud holder of the turkey on the day. £23.99

What do you think? Which product do you like best? Here’s wishing you the most wonderful Christmas this year.