The Ultimate Christmas Gift Guide 2015

Over the past few weeks I have been sourcing a few things that I thought would make great Christmas presents or stocking fillers.  Some of these items I've bought myself, some have been sent to me for review and some are things I've found whilst browsing on the internet and are very firmly on my own wish list.


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Useful Gifts You Never Thought Of

I was sent a beautiful Ted Baker (sun)glasses case. When not in use it folds completely flat but its triangular shape means that it is big enough to hold my spare glasses, a contact lens holder and my cheap-and-cheerful sunglasses.  I keep this in my handbag all the time now and it is available from Qwerkity for £24.99.

I'm a huge fan of having calming scents wafting around the house so have an abundance of scented candles and my husband uses scented incense sticks however aromatherapy oils are my new go-to for diffusing and burning. I've been using a 14-piece set which comes with a 'recipe' booklet at £34.99 on Amazon from Essence of Arcadia however there is a 6-piece set available too which costs £16.99).

I have mentioned this before in my Things I Learnt In October post but I'm working with for the foreseeable future and decided to buy a 12-month magazine subscription of their choosing each for my dad and his wife (officially the two most difficult people to buy gifts for). I'm not even going to make the choice - I'm going to let them decide for themselves!

Rex London featured me on their blog earlier this year as one of their 21 Lucious Lifestyle Blogs (I KNOW...) and also sent me a little gift voucher to treat myself with. I picked up a few extra stocking fillers including some huge storage bags for the grandchildren's toys, a bento box and matching lunch bag for work and some extra bits of stationery which never goes amiss.  I always check our their sale section too as there's always a bargain or two to be had (mine was a retro flight bag for £2.95).

Do you know someone who drives long distances? How about getting them a car care kit or a breakdown kit to ensure they are safe whilst travelling?  I've got some ideas in my recent Is Your Car Ready For Winter? article and you can add lots of items into this little package for not a lot of money.

I found the perfect pair of gloves which will enable you to stay warm, stay stylish and stay connected. The double layered touchscreen gloves from Mujjo come straight from Holland and incorporate an extra layer made from wool to act as an insulator and a lining.  The updated design includes a leather wrist strap with a magnetic snap closure. Special pads on the fingertips of the gloves ensure that you can answer your phone (or even update your Facebook status) in the coldest of weather.

The Sports Section

I'm getting a bit more serious about my running now and have entered a few races. I came across RunClips which are the most genius way for you to attach your race number to your shirt without fiddling about with tiny safety pins (and no holes in your t-shirt).  Also, if you run a lot and need to carry medical or next-of-kin details then Tagnix are a great way to carry this information via a wristband or a clothing clip.

A recent discovery for me was Chaffree. Trust me when I say this; you'll soon know if you've got the wrong underwear on when exercising and these would be a welcome stocking filler for any fitness freak. I've been using the long leg knickerboxers and they are very comfortable and really do work! Top tip: they size up slightly large so go a size down when buying and they are also great for wearing under dresses.

My big splurge of the year is my Fitbit Surge. I have been using Fitbit devices for a couple of years now to measure my steps during the day and, via their app on my phone, monitoring my runs. I was looking for a runners watch - and there are a few to choose from out there - and found out that the Surge did everything I wanted it to, and more! It's expensive - £199 from their website or £179  from Argos - but it is an investment I wanted to make for my continued running journey and there are cheaper gadgets in the Fitbit family which all work with their app.

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For The Stationery Fans

I saw some fabulous Rick Astley 'rick-rolling' pencils on an Etsy shop called LZpencils. I'm not sure if they are still available but there are all sorts of other themed pencil sets on there. The shop/stock is based in the USA but there should be enough time for delivery if you get in quick!

I've been following Ohh Deer for a while but never really dug into their stock however these great day journals appeared on a couple of YouTube videos that I was watching and for £15 you can't really go wrong. I already have a Hobonichi as a personal diary for 2016 but I'm seriously considering this as my desk diary at work. I could also just buy everything on their website and die happy!

I've reviewed a number of notebooks this year. I have fangirled over Pocket Notebooks (the floral and skull Word. Notebooks are my favourite this year), discovered that Filofax now stock a ringless refillable notebook and that Bureau Direct sell the best thermo-sensitive journals ever (but sadly, not the sweary ones any more)!

Pampered Pets

I have reviewed a few Pawsome boxes and they are always really well thought out. These are essentially gift boxes for your dog (there is a Purrfect edition for cat lovers too) which contain about five or six toys and treats for your pooch. After filling in a questionnaire on their website, the Pawsome Box is geared to the size of your dog and can be bought as a one-off or as a monthly subscription. 

Geeks And Gadgets

I was looking for a new set of headphones to wear whilst out running but also whilst in bed when I listen to my podcasts and came across rechargeable  SoundPEATS wireless headphones on Amazon for £13.99. They link to your phone or device by bluetooth and are really lightweight but they also come with three different sizes of ear buds - a huge plus for me as I find that in-ear headphones almost always fall out of my ears! The controls are built into the neckband and the ear buds slot into the end of the neck band when not in use with a magnetic design. 

I am a huge lover of powerbanks (I have reviewed a few over on Geekalicious) for charging on the go and we use them for long days out and camping trips. My latest one is the silver Lumsing Grand A1 Plus 13400mAh which is really sturdy. What makes this one stand out from the crowd is that the shell is made from aluminium which fully protects the internal recharging system from damage. There is also added sleep protection which means that the LED charging lights shouldn't disturb you if using this powerbank at night.

Vloggers... you need the Flexible Mini Tripod in your life. I've just discovered this great camera accessory via the YT-Club and it resides close to hand. I can balance my big automatic digital camera on it for and it also comes with a mobile phone attachment and has all the usual angle adjustments. The flexible tripod legs mean that you can wrap it around almost anything to get those fantastic shotes. I have also used it as a 'selfie stick' by bending one of the legs out to use as a handle. Finally, it is really lightweight so won't add too much weight to your camera bag.

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I'll be adding to this list over the next couple of weeks as I make more discoveries.  Stay tuned!! 


Change Your Life Online

We all know the internet is a powerful tool, in fact it is so powerful that it can be the catalyst for you to change your life. Whether you are looking to learn a new language, earn a little money or get in touch with people across the world, the internet has the power to make life so much simpler. Take a look at the infographic below to see how you could change your life online.

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Spice Of Life Crochet Along - Finished Project

Back in September I was invited to a 'crochet along' Facebook group by Lesley from Black Sheep Wools (you may remember I reviewed one of their pattern books a while back which turned into a blanket project for my grandchildren) . I had no idea what a 'crochet along' was but it was exactly the right time for me to start a new project, especially one that would force me to complete it in small doses.  
SpiceOfLifeCAL, #SpiceOfLifeCAL

This pattern was designed by Sandra from Cherry Heart and the idea of a 'crochet along' is that the pattern is released in sections presumed to take an allotted amount of time (in this case, each section was released on a weekly basis). A couple of hours crochet time each evening, or a bit more at weekend, has kept me occupied and out of mischief for the past six weeks or so. 

SpiceOfLifeCAL, #SpiceOfLifeCAL

The whole project was released in six sections - an introduction, four pattern sections, then the border and finishing instructions - and Sandra has collated it all on her blog so you can also download the pattern and join in. The blanket is supposed to be completed in a variety of colours (hence the 'Spice Of Life' theme) but I decided to use just four colours. I bought the yarn from our local pound shop at 89p per ball (I know, go figure) and used a total of nine balls of yarn so this whole blanket has cost me £8.01

As I mentioned previously, I've only really created granny square projects in the past. With this SpiceOfLifeCAL I have learnt how to actually crochet in rows and I have mastered picking up the beginning and end of rows, I have worked out how to keep an even tension and learnt new stitches.  I definitely wanted to keep going to finish within a certain amount of time rather than it becoming just another WIP (work in progress). It is totally contagious and I'm now thinking that I'm ready for another blanket in the same pattern but a different colourway (I LOVE the yarn you can buy that's already multicoloured - that would look awesome) and maybe even one of the Attic24 ripple blankets...

Spice Of Life CAL, #SpiceOfLifeCAL


Are You More Than Just A Number?

For a while I've been on the peripheral of social media, just observing and taking it all in. Social media is a HUGE part of being a blogger. You know you can share a link across various media outlets to your latest musings and any number of people will come and read it; they may even share their own thoughts about what you wrote and then tell their own online network too. These ripples are different sizes for different people and for different reasons.

I've blogged here in this little corner of the internet since 2002. Blog posts from 2002-2009 were deleted (it's a long story, much regretted and I've written about it before) but if you go back through the existing archives, I like to think that I'm still blogging about the same things and in the same way: my thoughts, my words, my ideas. Moving some ramblings over to other blogs has worked however they are not updated as regularly or as competently as they should be or could be. 

The whole blogging (and now I include vlogging in this too) scene has changed. There has always been people telling you how to do it better and how to get your message to more readers or viewers. One single thought process can now be shared on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google Plus, Instagram, Tumblr... the list goes on. And then there is the expectancy to continue sharing over each platform just in case one of your readers wasn't online at the same time as you. How many times have you read an article online or watched a video on YouTube only to be reminded at the end to like/subscribe/follow for more thoughts in the future? A plea for acceptance and, to balance that out, a way to be disappointed if the numbers don't rise. 

As human beings we are driven by the need to be accepted and liked. Compliments create high self-esteem and confidence. All we have done is replace human interaction with a button on a screen. Hitting 'like' or 'heart' or 'favourite' takes one second of our time and whilst it validates the other person in their own mind, it also brings ourselves to the attention of that person. Look... I hit the attention-seeking button... I care about you.

I want you to watch this video. It's all over the interwebs at the moment so you've probably seen it but have you really listened to it? 

The announcement has been structured in a very clever way that makes you believe that this person is all about giving up social media and she encourages people not use social media for a week as an experiment in their own lives.  But wait... she has used social media to make this announcement and she requests that her followers contact her after their experiment to let her know how it went (and in subsequent videos she requests money from her followers because she now apparently can't afford to pay her rent now that she's stopped agreeing to take on sponsored content).  She also introduces a new website and vlogging series where she will be talking to the people who already connect with her. If she really was giving up social media, why not just close the accounts down and walk away quietly? I am convinced she knew that this would create waves across her community and create more attention and 'social approval' for her.  

If you have read anything I've written in the past, you will know that I totally champion the online world when it is used appropriately.  The modern way of living means that sometimes we are far away from our friends and loved ones and digital media provides us with a way to retain contact. Similarly, for those that are isolated for whatever reason, the digital world gives them a window to the world to connect with people. Regardless of whether we are a blogger or just someone who uses Facebook to keep in touch with their real-life friends in the comfort of our own homes, should we be reliant on social media networks to validate what we are doing?

What I do worry about is where it is all heading. I feel as though blogging and vlogging are on the brink of a massive bubble burst. There's not a lot of originality out there any more and the content ideas feel very saturated.  And whilst there is money to be made, the money is only available to a select few. Just as anyone can be a singer or an actor, there are only a small amount of people who make the big time because of the talent that they have and the steps in which they have taken to achieve it. The real stars are the ones who have longevity - not the 'famous for fifteen minute' people. However many thousands (or millions in some cases) of subscribers you have now, do you think they will be there to help you out of the shit if you need them? 

Over the past year, and without realising it until very recently, I have decided that the numbers are not important any more. I no longer have enough hours in the day to ensure that this content gets shared to all of the people all of the time. I cannot find space in my life to generate a Pinterest-worthy image so that this blog post can be shared on that platform. I do not have the camera/phone and light source to generate a picture for Instagram that presents a false image of me and my surroundings. I haven't actually been writing as much as I used to and I couldn't tell you how many subscribers I have on this blog because I haven't checked for about six months. I'm consciously not counting any more because I know that if someone enjoys reading my words, they will find a way to stay connected to me that fits in with their own life.  I can make it easy for them by providing them with ways in which to do that (hence the subscription options available) but I don't actively check the main statistics any more. This is not, and never was, and never will be, a main source of income for me, It was always about getting my point of view across and hoping some people would agree with me, some people would disagree with me and, somewhere in the middle, I might learn something new too. 

You (hopefully) connect with these words and the photos that I share because they feel real and they don't take up too much of your day.  I hope I make you think a little bit differently and spread a little enthusiasm

And before anyone mentions it... if you landed here via a social media share from me or anyone else, yes, I totally see the irony of it all. I gotcha in the end... 

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