Tuesday, 23 December 2014

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

I'm very aware of the lack of festive content on my little blog this December.

I must confess, SWB has taken a little bit of a back seat - life, as usual, has been busy, and I've been concentrating more on not forcing myself to write content, and spending time with friends and family, soaking up winter and the pre-Christmas glow. I've also been having a little trouble blogging, with inspiration being hard to find and my confidence waning (perhaps something I may post more about in the next few weeks - I won't go into it now).

I'm not going to apologise - life is for living, and I am a firm believer in making the most of the little moments - I'm not going to say no to an evening with my friends watching Frozen and drinking mulled wine!

I just want to share my favourite things about the build up to Christmas. Christmas day is, of course, an amazing time, but I adore the few weeks running up to it. The preparation and excitement just can't be beaten, and this year has been no exception.

Christmas isn't just about one day - it's about the entire season!

So, without further ado, here are a few things which have been making me happy this yuletide:

  • Hot mulled wine in my favourite mug.
  • Spending an early Saturday morning curled up on the sofa in my pyjamas with frost outside, drinking tea and sitting with the Christmas tree lights on in the peace and quiet.
  • Jamaican rum stollen from Aldi. The strongest (and most delicious) stollen I've had so far!
  • She & Him's Christmas album. It's been playing on repeat all week, especially the Christmas Waltz. It's pure retro festive heaven, and I am addicted.
  • Carefully co-ordinated Christmas wrapping. This year's theme is silver and green (a little bit Slytherin!) And all from Paperchase...naturally!

  • Spending a day baking homemade mince pies, and successfully creating crumbly, buttery pastry from scratch. They didn't last long!

  • Stocking up on tasty Christmas essentials to take home to eat with my family. Shortbread biscuits? Chocolate tree decorations? Amaretto flutes? Check, check, check!
  • I can't wait to whip up some of Rosie's Hot-tails on Christmas eve! They sound like my ultimate festive treat!
  • Using up my Lush festive treats in numerous hot baths and showers. I've already nearly run out of Hot Toddy...

  • When else can you eat chocolate coins before breakfast, and feast on eight different types of cheese in front of the TV?
  • Reading by candlelight.
  • Snuggling under a blanket, all curled up on the sofa, watching good television. This year I watched It's a Wonderful Life as soon as I arrived home, and it was so incredibly cosy!
  • Trying out all of the festive coffees at Starbucks and Costa. My favourites are Hot Spiced Apple, Black Forest Hot Chocolate and the Almond and Honey Hot Chocolate. Utterly delicious!

  • Brass bands playing carols in the shadow of Winchester Cathedral.
  • Waking up to classic Christmas tunes on my clock radio. Wizzard at 6.30am? The perfect start to the day!
  • Toasting my toes by the open fire at home, watching classic Christmas films with my parents. Nothing says Christmas for me like peace with my family.
  • Wrapping presents to perfection.

I could go on...but I'll leave it there for now!

I'm not sure I'll be posting much until 2015 now, so I just want to say have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! I hope you have a wonderful time with family and friends - relax, enjoy the food, and cherish each moment! Here's to a fantastic year ahead - I can't wait to get back to blogging! Thank you so much for reading my blog during 2014.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

#sotonmeetup - My Second Blogger Meet-up

Almost a month ago I attended my second ever bloggers' meet-up, not long after going along to my first in October! I was lucky enough to nab a place after meeting the organiser, Alice from Annie Writes Beauty, at the #sotonoctmeetup, and I am so glad that I was able to attend.

In the run up to the event there was a lot of hype on twitter amongst attendees. Alice was updating us on the brands sending items for our gift bags, and what we would need to bring with us on the day. Bloggers were organising their journeys, who to travel with, and sharing links beforehand. My Tweetdeck was full of positivity and excitement - a testament to the enthusiasm and friendliness of the blogging community!

As before, I was pretty nervous as I walked along to the venue. I mentioned in my last post how I was concerned about 'standing out' (for all the wrong reasons!). Though She Wears Burgundy is now a year old, I still feel incredibly new and have an awful lot to learn - and many other bloggers, to me, seem miles ahead of where I am with this little corner of the internet! These worries reared their heads once again, but as soon as I bumped into a couple of friendly faces from last time, I felt relaxed and excited for the afternoon ahead!

The venue was perfect for the event, and was in fact the same place as the last one! Orange Rooms, in Bedford Place, Southampton, had offered their upstairs lounge area as the ideal space for the meet-up, and it worked so well. The room had a cosy, warm atmosphere with low lighting, comfy seats and the perfect little spaces for the visiting brands to set up their displays.

It wasn't long before I had ordered a delicious virgin mojito and started chatting to the lovely Holly from Impatience is a Virtue, who was incredibly friendly. We ended up chatting about our blogs, motivation, makeup and (mostly) our lives! It's always good to settle into an event with a good chat to get to know someone. After enough nattering, we decided to take a look at the brands which had come along.

The first brand we saw was Bee Good, a local natural company who harness the powers of bees to create skin products. The team, a husband and wife, have rapidly expanded, and now their products can be found in many Waitrose stores. It was lovely to meet them and chat about what they have to offer - they were so friendly and helpful, and I loved everything their brand stood for. The science behind it, and the production process, was fascinating - no product from the bees is wasted! The products I tested were impressive - and I was delighted to find one of their lip balms in my goody bag at the end of the day. I definitely have my eye on them and will hopefully be picking up one of their cleansers to see how it compares with my beloved Liz Earle Cleanse and Polish.

We then headed over to see Weleda - another natural company who have been around for 90 years. With a number of different products for a variety of skin types, ages and needs, their range was very impressive. I was sorely tempted by the amazing Skin Food  which has won numerous awards and has (allegedly) been used by many famous faces. I tested it on my skin and it was rich, thick, and left my dry winter-damaged hands soft and fresh-smelling. 

Lush Southampton were also there, and were offering hand and arm massages and product advice - I had to resist the temptation to go over this time, as I had visited them at my first blog meet-up, and received so many lush goodies for my birthday that I really didn't need to buy any more! 

After chatting to the lovely brands and a few of the friendly girls at the event, Alice announced that we had raised £50 from buying raffle tickets, and that she and fellow blogger Amy would be matching it - so we would be donating the grand total of £100 to the Royal British Legion. Being so close to Remembrance Sunday and, indeed, Armistice Day, this was a poignant gesture and everyone, including myself, thought it was a wonderful idea and an appropriate cause. 

The raffle then began. There were some amazing prizes from some brilliant companies, including Your Tea, The Library of Fragrance, Oloves and Bodhi and Birch. I admit, I had my eye on the Library of Fragrance, having been intrigued by their bottles in Boots. I was lucky enough to have one of my numbers pulled out...and was amazed that I had won the chance to choose £25-worth of Weleda products! I was ecstatic, as I had been longing after the products I had been shown earlier that afternoon, and couldn't wait to have the chance to try some out. 

After much deliberation and testing, I decided to pick Skin Food, and a Almond Soothing Face Oil. These are both perfect for winter weather, offering intense moisturisation. Although I don't class my skin as sensitive, as I have mentioned in previous posts I like to use products which aren't harsh, which is why I decided the almond range would be best for me. I hope to write a review of my goodies soon, but I will say now...I've been very impressed! I felt very lucky to have won.

After a little more chatting, cooing over our raffle prizes and receiving some wonderful goody bags, I said my goodbyes and left feeling inspired and accepted into the world of blogging. 

I am so grateful that I was able to attend and meet so many lovely people, and discover some fantastic new brands. I'm already looking forward to the next blog event - for now, though, I think I have plenty of blog posts to write up, products to review, and mince pies to munch on.

To those who organised it - thank you so much for inviting me along - it really was a fantastic event.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

#givingtuesday - Ways to Give More this Christmas

My favourite thing about Christmas, aside from the food and drink (of course!) has to be buying the perfect gift for friends and family.

I get far more excited about giving my presents to others than what I might find under the tree for myself. Finding that one thing which will light up a loved-one's face just gives me the best feeling in the world - nothing can top that.

Making someone's Christmas special is my aim every year - not just through gifts, but by helping my parents out with errands, wrapping gifts, tidying the house and putting up decorations. Making sure I see friends and family when I go home for the holidays, and just spending time with the people I love the most. Making memories, for me, is far, far more important than the presents (though of course, I do appreciate them!)

However, this year more than ever, I am becoming very aware of how different Christmas is for thousands and thousands of others. Too many people will spend this season cold, homeless, lonely, ill, or in pain. It happens all year, every year, of course. It's an awful thing to think about, when many of us are fortunate enough to be surrounded by loved ones, warmth, and plenty of food and merriment.

At a time of year when the focus is on family, fortune and food, somehow, people in need almost get forgotten, when it's probably the time we need to remember them the most.

When we gather around the family table each year, we remember loved ones who can sadly no longer be with us for this very special time. For my family, we remember the origins of Christmas, stay thankful, and remember 'absent friends'. This year, I want to spare a thought for many others who will not be so lucky as us.

There are so many ways to do this, and if you feel the same, why not make a little change this year too? It takes very little time to change somebody's Christmas for the better, and it'll warm your heart more than any mince pie or open fire ever could.

There are so many blog posts about gift ideas, wish lists and shopping tips - so I thought I'd write an alternative. 

Today is Giving Tuesday - a day set aside amongst the hubbub of the beginning of Christmas to raise awareness of the importance of giving to others. With the madness of Black Friday and 'Cyber Monday (whatever that was!) over, it's time to remember that buying a new TV or that perfect party dress isn't what Christmas is all about. Watching the news last week, I became so uncomfortable seeing people fighting over discounted goods, desperately pushing and shoving to get the best deals, as if their lives depended on it.

Giving Tuesday is a day set aside across the world to highlight the importance of taking a moment to give to others; whether it's your time, money, or simply raising awareness.

Like many things, giving is not just for Christmas - but it's a good time to start.


Here are some ideas for giving more this Christmas, though I know there are so many other options out there;

      A good friend of mine sent me a link to this cause, which sparked the idea for this post. Donating money to Crisis will reserve a place for a homeless person this Christmas, including three hot meals, a health check and a chance to shower and change, advice on employment and housing, and support when they need it the most. I can't imagine how awful it must be to feel left out in the cold when others are inside, warm and surrounded by comforts, and often these people struggle to get back on their feet. Giving someone this little chance could give them the start to 2015 they need to change their lives for the better. 

      Buy your Christmas cards from a charity shop
        Instead of going for something cute and quirky and (often) overpriced from the highstreet, consider buying a pack or two from your local charity shop. The money will go towards a good cause, and there are some lovely designs available. Spread the joy with a card in more than one way this year. I've bought mine from my local British Heart Foundation shop, and they're very cute! 

          Donate to a gift appeal
            In December, local charities and media teams often hold gift appeals to ensure the less fortunate families have at least one gift under the tree for their children this year. Whether it's an unwanted gift from last year, an extra treat you picked up in a 2-for-1 deal, or a little something from the local supermarket, you're bound to bring the smile to someone's face if you take part in one of these. Research your local collection points, or find a national appeal online- it might be something to get your class / office involved with.

              Donate your time and visit the elderly or alone
                So many older people remain lonely due to few relatives and friends, or a recent bereavement. Just a couple of hours could make them feel less alone; lend an ear and hear their tales, make them a cup of tea, or take them a couple of mince pies. Nobody should be forgotten - and if you live in a small village or community, there's bound to be someone who would welcome your company, even for an hour! 

                  Invite your neighbours over for Christmas drinks
                    This is not so much about charity than creating a sense of community spirit. Say thank you to your neighbours for their help over the last year, whether they kept the noise down, brought round your post, or fed the pets while you were away. It's a chance to introduce yourself too!

                    Give Blood
                      With so many things going on in December, it's easy to forget that some things carry on as normal. The NHS still needs blood donations, whatever day, month or season it is. One in five appointments were skipped over the Christmas period last year, and levels of donations can drop dramatically when people are so wrapped up in Christmas shopping and parties. Find out if you're able to donate, register and book an appointment, and give a much-needed gift this Christmas.

                        Save your spare change while you shop
                          Even if it's mainly 10ps, popping a little change here and there when you do your big Christmas shop means that you don't notice that you're 'doing good' - every little helps, even if it's just the change from your last purchase! In major towns and cities there are always people with collection buckets, choirs and live bands playing.

                            Give the gift that keeps giving
                              What do you get someone who has it all? Charities like Oxfam have gifts such as Oxfam Unwrapped, where you can give which help those in need; buy a goat for a family, or some books for a school in Africa! It's a little gift to make a change, and you can still wrap it up and put it under the tree. Prices often start at about £5 too - the perfect 'tree present'. 

                              Wear your Christmas jumper
                                Save the Children hold an annual Christmas Jumper Day across the country to raise money while wearing your best ugly jumper. With festive sweaters so popular at the moment, it won't take too much time to take part, and it definitely brightens up the office!

                                These are just some of the opportunities around - there are so many more ways to give, and so many charities to support. I hope this post gives you one or two ideas to give more this Christmas - let's make this time of year magical for everyone.