Merry Christmas!

Awesome leggings from Blade & Rose, gift from my cousin. When we did our NCT course, the lady running it asked everyone what they were most looking forward to about having a child, and I remember replying 'I only had a child for Christmas' which is a terribly glib and dickheadish thing to say but it was genuinely a major factor for me. I loved Christmas as a kid (yeah, really unusual there I know) and I couldn't imagine growing old and not having a child to share all the joy and magic with (although I don't believe in lying to kids about Father Christmas, but that's a post for another day - Oli and I are already at war about it!). I have therefore been in my element over the past few days and am so excited that this year we are hosting my parents and my sister and having a big family Christmas day in our new house. We actually open all our presents on Christmas Eve, so really Christmas Eve is our Christmas Day, and this year on Christmas Day we're heading off for lunch at Oli's brother's house. So we get two Christmasses!

Last year Daph was too tiny to have any idea what the hell was going on, so we didn't really get her any presents, but this year we've gone a bit batshit and she has her very own personalised Christmas sack and about 30 stocking presents, plus a Mokee Teepee which I can't wait to set up. She's already had a few presents thanks to my aunt and uncle and has definitely got the idea that ripping wrapping paper from things is enormously fun, so I am sure she's going to love opening everything. Whether or not she plays with any of the millions of carefully selected gifts is another matter, but I've realised that pretty much everything about having a baby is trial and error. Will report back...

Before then however, there's a hell of a lot of prep to do and I really need to get off the computer and start cleaning. But just wanted to say merry Christmas to all of you who read this, and send all the mummies in particular lots of alcohol and sausage rolls to get you through the festive season! I'm going to have a little break from blogging until the new year (hands up who can't wait to see the back of 2016?) and so I wish you all a very happy new year too!

And most of all a big THANK YOU for reading and commenting and stopping this working-from-home-sort-of-stay-at-home mum from losing my mind with loneliness. Mwah xxx

Midweek Musings: Christmas, Christmas, Christmas!

lifebylotte-christmas Just a quick one this week - to wish you all a very happy Christmas!

We're spending Christmas week down at my folks', and have already enjoyed two family Christmas get-togethers and far too much cheese! Daph is being spoilt rotten by my parents and all the visitors we've had. And I've been getting some lie-ins as Granny looks after Daphne for me ;)

It was funny trying to decide what to get Her Majesty for Christmas, as obviously she's still so little and doesn't have a clue what's going on, and also, I seem to be continually buying her stuff anyway. We did buy one of those peculiar Mamas & Papas Baby Snugs for her as she loves sitting up so much, and were going to wrap it and put it under the tree but then it seemed daft not to get it out and use it when she is desperate for it!

We also bought her a projector light show for her cot, which has worked really well at entertaining her for a bit while we groan when she's decided 6am is the time that the day should start.

Oli and I always do rather OTT stockings for each other, so I'm looking forward to that! He also said he's bought Daphne a few bits which will be a nice surprise for me :) And he already surprised me on Saturday by giving me this beautiful handmade decoration as a reminder of Daph's first Christmas! Again, I cried. Ridiculous.

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I'm going to have a little break from blogging now as no one wants to read posts over the Christmas holidays. But I'll be back in the New Year (soz). Thanks to everyone who reads my ramblings, and thanks even more to those who leave comments! It's so nice to have an outlet when I'm not working - although I will be starting a new freelance job in January (eeek!) which is very exciting - more on that in the New Year...

Hope you all have an absolutely wonderful Christmas break, filled with friends, family and the aforementioned cheese! See you in 2016!

Afterthought: this post is severely lacking in snark. Must be the Christmas spirit getting to me.

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Daphne's Christmas tree

christmas-lifebylotte Like most people, I bloody love Christmas. Despite living in a compact flat, every year I've insisted that O and I get a massive tree and go to town decorating it. It has to be real, of course (THE SMELL!). And every year if I'm honest it's kind of a bit of a pain in the arse getting it back from the garden centre, up the stairs, and into position without it being wonky or either of us wanting to yell at the other. I seem to remember last year being a particularly stressful affair - as I recall the net machine in Homebase was broken, it was pouring with rain and when we got home we realised a huge chunk of the tree trunk had to be sawn off because it was too wide for the stand (which took hours and nearly ruined my carpet), .

However, I usually have selective amnesia about how stressful getting a tree can be, and within five minutes of it being up and decked and covered in twinkly lights, I'm all oohs and aahs and wasn't that worth it.

But this year we have a baby. And having a baby seems to have made our flat even smaller than ever. Mostly because of the proliferation of baby gubbins that has taken over the living room. Also, Oli starts rehearsing a new show this week and then will be away for most of December, and I'm off to hunker down at my parents' house in the Surrey wilderness while he's gone.

So this year, we decided to go small. Get a tiny tree. In a pot this time, so that we can keep it alive and bring it out every year. We thought we'd make it Daphne's tree, so that every year she can have it in her bedroom, and decorate it how she likes. Apart from this year, of course, when she's too small so Mummy gets total control.

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Mummy decided that, to go with the tiny tree, we needed a whole new batch of decorations, and we went with a woodland theme... little birds, hedgehogs and bunnies, and plenty of berries. All from our local garden centre, at the National Trust Morden Hall Park (sidenote: well worth a visit if you live in SW London!)

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I love it. It's titchy but so cute and still brings lots of festive cheer to the living room, sitting quite happily alongside all the brightly coloured plastic that keeps Daph entertained while I'm writing these groundbreaking posts. Part of me wonders why I didn't go down the tiny tree route before - it's so much easier and cheaper and really does look adorable.

I also scattered a few tiny little touches around the room which are slightly more 'grown up'.

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All I need now is the ubiquitous White Company Winter candle, and my Christmas decor is complete...

My Christmas traditions

Christmas tree I'm suddenly SO excited about Christmas. It's taken a while - I haven't really been feeling it at all up until last week, but I'm well and truly in the festive spirit now. Not least because this year I'm having more than two weeks off work - something I've never done before! In the ten years I've been working, the longest holiday I've ever had is just under two weeks, so this is VERY exciting indeed. I'm not even doing any freelancing.

Anyway, the reason I've managed to finally get in the mood is due in no small part to some of my favourite Christmas traditions, which I thought it'd be nice to share...

1) A real tree

Christmas tree

I always have a real tree. My parents were (are) quite snobby about it so it's never occurred to me to have a fake one. Last year I bought a small potted tree, but it sadly died in my garden earlier in the year. So this year I've gone for a cut beauty - it's a 5 footer and is decorated with glass, white and silver decorations. Mostly because I can't be trusted with colour not to go mad and end up with something tacky (and not in a kitsch way).

2) A tin of Quality Street

Quality Street

The second these go on offer for a fiver a tin, or two-for-one, at the supermarket/petrol station, I know Christmas is around the corner. I usually manage to eat most of them before Christmas Day, which means that I end up taking the coconut and orange cremes to my parents' house, where they get ignored until someone gets desperate or we run out of cheese. My favourite is a toss up between the toffee penny and the toffee finger, in case you're wondering.

3) The Sounds of Christmas by Cavatina

The Sounds of Christmas

This is THE album I put on when I want to feel Christmassy. I grew up with it - my mum bought it in Our Price (remember them?) when I was about 12. It's basically a combination of flute and harp, playing a variety of random Christmas songs, but the first one is the best - Sleigh Ride - literally I hear three bars of it and I feel ridiculously festive. It's the CD we always used to put on while we were decorating the tree, so I still do today. The original disc got lost somewhere when we moved house, but I managed to find it on iTunes about two years ago, so burnt my parents and my sister a copy. I love it.

4) Bacon and eggs on Christmas morning

Not much to say about this really. But Christmas starts with a fry up, and continues down its gluttonous path till my Dad whisks up his Boxing Day soup made with the leftover stilton.

5) Making gingerbread that no one eats

Gingerbread

I can't cook, but I quite enjoy making this once a year. I usually eat about two of them, then throw the rest away as I always make loads, and no one seems to trust my baking enough to try them. But it's more about the journey than the destination anyway. These were last year's efforts!

6) Bendicks Bittermints

Bendicks Bittermints

I'm obsessed with mint. My aunt always used to buy the yard-long box for Christmas every year, and even as a child I'd manage to eat three in a row without feeling (too) sick. They are, quite simply, amazing.

7) Presents on Christmas Eve, after dinner (which is always my mum's beef-in-beer stew)

I'm not sure when this started, or why, but I think it was something to do with the fact that my sister and I were such absolutely spoilt brats that we had so many presents there wasn't enough time on Christmas Day to get through them all. So now we usually do our immediate family (my Mum, Dad, sister and my) ones on Christmas Eve, then save the rest for Christmas Day.

8) Scrabble

CHristmas scrabble

I'll be honest with you. I NEVER play boardgames. Never. I'd like to pretend that I spend my evenings in ruminating over a tricky bout of Monopoly, but it's more likely to be the Glee boxset. No ruminating involved. But Scrabble is still my favourite game of all time. Because I usually win. I play this approximately twice a year, both times at Christmas - once with my Dad and once with O. Last year I was given the Christmas version, which is brilliant because you get extra points for words like 'mistletoe' (OK, admittedly have yet to use that one) and 'carol'. It will definitely be making an appearance again this year.

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That's about it really. There's no midnight mass or carol singing, or trip to the pub for my family. We tend to watch whatever DVDs we've been given and eat a lot. And fall asleep. And bicker. And drink an awful lot of Prosecco.

I can't wait.

Wishing you all a very merry Christmas.

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My kind of bauble

Prestat bauble By some kind of miracle, this year I have managed to get out of writing a single feature on Christmas. Not even a teeny tiny online news story. Nada. Which was a bit of a relief, if truth be told, because last year I was knee deep in all things Yule for nearly three months, working on the Ideal Home Christmas special magazine. By the end of it I was just about ready to punch Father Christmas in the face. And I've always been a good girl for Santa, so that was most out of character.

The downside to this year's Christmas feature drought is that I've had to sigh and delete many of the fantastic press releases and gift guides that have been filling my Inbox. Which is where this blog will probably prove very handy.

So first up from the impossible-to-overlook-Christmas-press-releases are THESE beauties from Prestat! AKA MY KIND OF BAUBLES! Let's be honest, those foil-wrapped Cadbury's bells and 'parcels' of chocolate you hurriedly chuck in your trolley during a late December shop just don't cut it. Half the time the little string ties break as you're attaching them to the tree and the garish wrappings don't exactly scream sophistication when paired with your precious White Company glass snowflakes...

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All hail Prestat then, for coming up with these delights. There are five different baubles available, each filled with posh chocolate treats. The Pink Heart Bauble and Blue Heart Bauble are both packed with Praline Truffles, the Snowman Bauble and the Rocket Baubles contain Prestat’s dark chocolate Sea Salt Caramels and the Crown Bauble is filled with Milk Marc de Champagne Truffles. At £6.75 each, I think they're a bit of a bargain too. Available online, and from Liberty, Selfridges and John Lewis. And Harrods. Of course.