In association with Coca-Cola Great Britain

Here’s a quick quiz for you – answer yes or no to the following questions and then check your score.

In the past month, have you:

  • Eaten a mince pie?
  • Had a glass of sherry?
  • Hummed a Christmas tune to yourself?
  • Pondered a Christmas wrapping scheme (everyone does this yes?)
  • Bought a Christmas-scented candle

If you answered YES to any of those questions then CONGRATULATIONS, you are ready to start the festive season! If you answered YES to all five then CONGRATULATIONS, you are me!

I absolutely love the run up to Christmas – the twinkly lights, shopping for presents, the smell of my winter-scented candles – I love it all. The trouble with Christmas though, and wanting to do all of the Christmas things, is that it can cost A LOT – both in financial terms and environmentally. The joy is sapped out of Christmas a little bit if afterwards all you have is a massive credit card bill and a mountain of plastic packaging.

As regular readers will know, I’ve been working with Coca-Cola GB over the last few months to help raise awareness of their sustainability initiatives. With Christmas fast approaching, they’ve challenged me to create a festive family-on-a-budget guide so that you can enjoy the Christmas season without it costing the earth. And, with Coca-Cola known for helping to bring the holidays to you, I’ve included a little suggestion from them at the end.

Visit a Christmas market

This is one of my favourite things to do to get myself feeling festive, and if you manage to resist the smell of mulling cider (good luck) then you don’t need to spend any money at all – just soak up the festive atmosphere. Town centre Christmas markets are normally outside, so you get to wrap up in hats and scarves and have a full-on winter experience, but if you’re less keen on the whole ‘cold cheeks for Christmas’ vibe then there are indoor options too.

You can find loads of round-ups of the best Christmas markets online to get you started – there are so many, you definitely won’t be short of options! Look out for local events in church or community halls, school Christmas fairs or events at things like National Trust properties and stately homes – there is so much going on, you’ll definitely find something nearby.

Bristol Christmas Market View Post

If you’re anything like me then you’re salivating just reading that title. It’s the ultimate comfort combination surely? Roasted seasonal vegetables, a hot and creamy risotto and juicy lamb kebabs – that’s a winter feast right there. What’s even better is that it’s dead easy to make, as I will show you now.

First up though, in case you’re thinking ‘hmmm… lamb, not sure really, it’s a bit pricey isn’t it?’ then FEAR NOT. I was in exactly that boat before I made this recipe. I hardly ever bought lamb because I thought it was too expensive and I wasn’t sure what to do with it. As much as I love the flavour of lamb, (soooo good), I thought I needed super meat cooking skills (which I do not have) to cook lamb well.

Turns out I was wrong. Lamb koftas are super easy to make, and so versatile too as you can add lots of different seasonings, herbs and spices depending on what flavours you like. Fun fact for you: lamb is a lot more sustainable than most other animal agriculture farming. It’s also one of the healthiest meats you can eat – it’s rich in niacin and vitamin B12 and a great source of things like protein, zinc, potassium and phosphorus.

Lamb doesn’t have to be expensive either – the 500g of lean lamb mince that I used in this recipe was just four pounds, and that made enough lamb koftas for four people. One pound a head isn’t bad is it? Most of the rest of the ingredients are either things you have in your cupboards already, or fresh, seasonal vegetables that can be picked up cheaply from a local greengrocer – this feast for four people definitely comes in at under a tenner.

Basically you’ve got no excuse not to buy some lamb RIGHT NOW and whip up some lamb koftas for tea.

easy lamb kofta kebab recipe

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In association with Aqua Optima

Okay, I know, it’s not Wednesday. Well not when I’m writing this anyway. Maybe you’re reading it on a Wednesday though, that’s a possibility. In which case well done – great timing.

The alliteration isn’t key though, it’s just one way to remind yourself of the importance of HYDRATION. Now I don’t want to get all ‘lecturey parent’ on you, but come on, when was the last time you properly drank enough? I mean like not tea and coffee or fizzy drinks, just actual water, all through the day?

I see you there, looking sheepish.

I’m just as guilty. I do drink a lot, but I drink my fair share of caffeine filled tea and coffee too, and squashes, smoothies and fizzy drinks all full or sugar or artificial sweeteners. Now I’m not saying these things don’t contribute towards hydration, but it would be much better for me if at least some of the time I cut out all the additives and just drank water.

(Wine though! *sad face*)

how to drink more water

Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

So. What to do about it?

Like most things it’s really just a matter of forming new habits. Once you do anything often enough it can become routine, it’s just finding the things that will help you to form the habits in the first place.

Here are some ideas: View Post

It’s a bit of a standing joke in my family that I’ve only just realised that ‘beach holidays’ is a concept. I said to Bee once that I’d always liked the idea of just going somewhere hot, lying on a beach and not doing anything. “Umm yeah,” she said, “you mean a beach holiday?”

Oh yeah.

But even though beach holidays are pretty popular and I didn’t invent them apparently, they’re not for everyone. Not everyone likes just lounging about on the beach for hundreds of pounds – they’d rather do something a bit more exciting and stimulating. Bee herself doesn’t even LIKE holidays at all (bit weird) but even she might like one of these ideas if she had something to occupy herself with.

I’ve always fancied going on a holiday with more of an itinerary so I don’t have to plan everything and don’t have any of that holiday regret where you wish you’d packed a bit more in. Here are some of my favourite unusual holiday ideas that aren’t just lying around on the beach.

Feel Yoga in Portugal

Whether you’re a daily Yogi or you’ve never practised before, a yoga holiday can be the perfect retreat for self-reflection and self-improvement. Yoga can be a really relaxing exercise, so this can be a great way of using your holiday time to get fitter while clearing your mind and also learning a new skill to take home with you. Do all of this in a beautiful sunny location with Feel Yoga in Portugal. There’s also a spa so you can truly relax and unwind.

yoga holiday View Post

In association with National Express

Picture the scene…

It’s November 1st, I’m wearing my Christmas pyjamas, and I’ve cracked open a bottle of Harvey’s Bristol Cream. There might be a mince pie warming in the oven and it’s all I can do not to watch the Gavin and Stacey Christmas special. Even better, I don’t care a jot about all those people who are HUMBUGGING all over the place, telling me November is too early for Christmas.

IT’S NOT.

If it was, then how do you explain the fact that there are currently over 50 wood cabins in Bristol city centre selling Christmas gifts, mulled wine and oversized sausages?

(Seriously, what is it with the bratwurst? Why do they not design them to fit in the buns, or buy buns big enough to hold them?)

Bristol Christmas market

Bristol Christmas market even has CURLING, which feels pretty festive to me, and a Jäger Barn Bar, which feels slightly less so, but I guess it’s drinking, so that counts. Of course the downside to visiting a Christmas market is that often you’ve driven there, which means you can’t really do the mulled drinks offering justice. Ironically, the stress of finding somewhere to park, and then realising it is going to cost you £2 PER HOUR, means you really need a mulled wine more than ever.

Fortunately I have a solution: National Express.

Ta-dah! View Post

Today was the day that I was expecting the proof copies of my novel to arrive.

I waited in all day, but then the postman came just as I was dropping Belle back at college in the afternoon and when I got back my parcel was outside behind the bin. Not the most salubrious of starts to my novel writing career, but potentially quite fitting with the tone of the book, plus it makes a nice intro to this post.

Once I’d retrieved the parcel from behind the wheel bin, avoiding falling into the green box full of empty cat food tins, I took it inside, into the kitchen, and opened it.

Inside I found these:

Playgroups and prosecco

They look pretty nice don’t they? Thicker than I imagined, but then I did write 95,000 words, (can you believe!), so I suppose they do take up space. I looked at them stacked for a little while. I liked the neatness of them. I imagined them on one of those tables as you go into Waterstones. View Post