Summer to-do list

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This weekend, I sat with HWSNBN watching the sun set on the longest day. It feels like summer has barely begun but soon enough it will be autumn. And unless I remind myself to get outside and enjoy myself I’ll spend all summer inside working. Besides it’s been far too long since I’ve written a list post.

This summer I will mostly be:

1. Go swimming outdoors once a week until September

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Considering my lifelong commitment to disavowing aerobic activities in favour of lying on the sofa reading books; it’s a wonder I love swimming as much as I do. Maybe it’s because it doesn’t feel like exercise to me but flying through the water. And there is nothing better than swimming outdoors and feeling the wind making wavelets in the water and the sun kissing your skin. Between now and September I’m going to swim outdoors at least once at week. Pinkie swear.

2. Perfect a summer cocktail

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It’s fair to say I’m not a ‘mixologist’. All of the alcoholic drinks I make taste like petrol, true fact. Our friends have given up asking me to make them drinks and instead head straight for HWSNBN. But this year I’ve decided I’m going overcome my considerable handicaps (lack of alcohol palette, and impatience to get a blotto as quickly as possible) to perfect a summer cocktail. Now shall it be Dragoons Punch or a Blueberry and Lavender Vodka Spritzer?

BTW Dragoons Punch is my new drag queen name.

3. Go to a drive in movie

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JAWS on the big screen! I’ll be Danny to HSWNBN’s Sandy.

4. Build a sandcastle

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My granddad was brilliant at building sandcastles. Elaborate palaces with long sweeping staircases that I still sometimes dream of. Damn Brighton’s pebbly beaches for the lack of sandcastle opportunities. I may have to make a day trip along the coast to West Wittering to tick of this item.

5. Explore a maize maze

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And try not to imagine I’m being stalked by a serial killer…

6. Go stargazing 

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One of my favourite memories of last year was lying with a group of friends on Devil’s Dyke watching the Perseids. They shots across the sky leaving trails in their wake. I don’t have a truck *sadface* but I do have blankets. Stars, I will be gazing at you soon.

7. Pick your own

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I love ‘Pick your own’ places. There’s something so fun about wandering round a giant field picking stuff you would never normally ate. Five variety of plums? Why not? Last time I ate too many strawberries and had to lie down.

8. Crazy golf

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Even though last time I played crazy golf five years old were lapping me I still love it and the holiday by the sea vibe it evokes.

9. Camping 

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Ah camping. I’ve written before of my reluctant camper status. I’m chooser to ignore the lack of indoor toilets and instead focus on communing with the great outdoors, toasting marshmallows on the fire and getting wankered with friends. In which I will try and fail to convince them to make this tent city. How awesome is this?

10. Water ballon fight

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You bring the pistols, I’ll bring the balloons. You in?

What are you up to this summer, internet friends?

April: eat, see, do.

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April, I loved you so much I want to kiss you with tongues. I started you so tired that I felt like a zombie except instead of brains all I craved was sleep. Paradoxically, an Easter so rammed full of activity with family and friends was the thing that saved me. What I needed wasn’t sleep but a break from work and spending time outside doing things that nourished my soul. Done and done. Here’s what’s rocked my world in April.

Eat

Foodie weekend in London

Over Easter weekend we travelled up to London ostensibly to see our good friends Oscar and Izz. Our real mission is seemed was to eat all the things. The first night we walked to Brixton village market for food.

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I grabbed a red velvet whoopie pie that I took me three days to finish. It was good but so huge.

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We were in foodie heaven trying to decide which of the restaurants to eat at. While we were waiting, we had to try the Tamarind margaritas at a Mexican bar.

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I’d like to blame the blurriness of this photo on the alcohol but if this post illustrates anything it’s that I can’t take photos for shit.

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Quizzes are tough after margaritas, you guys.

Then we went to Senzala for crepes. Not only were there tonnes of veggie options available but all the crepes were available gluten free and they had gluten free beer. HWSNBN was in heaven. I opted for the Fermiere aka cheese, tomatoes, spinach and garlic mushrooms. So, so good.

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Verdict: go here, eat all the things. You won’t be disappointed.

Breakfast at No. 67

The next day we went to No. 67 in Peckham for breakfast. It’s an art gallery and the space is light and airy with a gorgeous kitchen garden. I devoured the veggie breakfast which included two scrambled eggs, halloumi, bubble and squeak, beans, roast mushroom and toast.

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It was seriously yummy, my only slight quibble is that my sour dough toast was charcoaled. Being British I, of course, said nothing.

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Lunch/dinner at 90 main yard

After a long walk along the canals we ended up in Hackney Wick at 90 Main yard. This was obviously the week for eating a number named restaurants. 90 Main Yard is a cross between a hipster gallery and an Aladdin’s cave. HWSNBN ate carappacio and then ribs. Oscar had veggie chilli and I had macaroni cheese with parmesan and truffle oil so good it enveloped me in a white and saintly light.

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Verdict: SO FRICKEN AMAZEBALLS

Afternoon tea at Food for Friends

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Food for Friends is a Brighton institution. As a life-long vegetarian it’s the place I take the most fervent of my carnivore friends to show them that vegetarian food isn’t boring. I’ve been so many times I can order without looking at the menu. However, I’d never been for afternoon tea.  Obviously this heresy needed to be corrected immediately for my dada’s b-day.

So on Easter Monday (obviously lacking in calories from the previous days pig out) the Janvier’s and HWSNBN made their way through the Lanes to Food for Friends. I drank cups of chai and a kale and mint smoothie and eat Lemon cake with lemon curd and poppy seed cake.

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Verdict: foodgasm good. Did you expect anything else?

See

Orphan Black season 2

Are you watching Orphan Black? If so, can we talk about internet friends, pretty please?

If not, what do you have against clones, sharp and smart dialogue, and foxy ladies getting into trouble.

The basis premise is Sarah a grifter and con-woman comes across Beth, her doppelganger, minutes before Beth throws herself in front of a train.  Sarah steals Beth’s identity and discover that there are many other clones out there and shadowy scientific agency tracking them down. There are a couple of silly moments (ahem the tail) but the show moves so quickly its hard to keep up.

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What adds another layer of complexity is that Tatiana Maslany plays all the clones, frequently acting scenes out opposite her self and even impersonating other clones. For great swathes of the show I forgot that she’s just one actress playing many roles. She’s that good.

The show is darkly funny, suspenseful and based the Bechdel text in spades. Sarah is one of the female antiheroes out there and her compelling performance anchors the show. MOAR female antiheroes please.

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And then there’s Felix. The best chaps-wearing, foul-mouther, adopted brother and partner in crime in the world. I loves him.

Verdict: I’m addicted.

Eye-candy of the month

Yes, the song is gross and rapey. Just press mute and watch them dance.

Verdict: I’ll… be in my bunk

Do

Laaandan town

Over Easter, we went to London to see friends.

We saw the cherry blossoms bloom.

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We played in Victoria Park

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We messed about on pedallos. Or rather Oscar and HWSNBN did, I lay back like the lady of leisure I am.

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We wandered along the canal.

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Ending up stuffing our faces in Hackney Wick.

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It was a great weekend.

Read

10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works–A True Story by Dan Harris 

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Nightline anchor Dan Harris embarks on an unexpected, hilarious, and deeply skeptical odyssey through the strange worlds of spirituality and self-help, and discovers a way to get happier that is truly achievable. After having a nationally televised panic attack on Good Morning America, Dan Harris knew he had to make some changes. A lifelong nonbeliever, he found himself on a bizarre adventure, involving a disgraced pastor, a mysterious self-help guru, and a gaggle of brain scientists. Eventually, Harris realized that the source of his problems was the very thing he always thought was his greatest asset: the incessant, insatiable voice in his head, which had both propelled him through the ranks of a hyper-competitive business and also led him to make the profoundly stupid decisions that provoked his on-air freak-out. We all have a voice in our head. It’s what has us losing our temper unnecessarily, checking our email compulsively, eating when we’re not hungry, and fixating on the past and the future at the expense of the present. Most of us would assume we’re stuck with this voice – that there’s nothing we can do to rein it in – but Harris stumbled upon an effective way to do just that. It’s a far cry from the miracle cures peddled by the self-help swamis he met; instead, it’s something he always assumed to be either impossible or useless: meditation. After learning about research that suggests meditation can do everything from lower your blood pressure to essentially rewire your brain, Harris took a deep dive into the underreported world of CEOs, scientists, and even marines who are now using it for increased calm, focus, and happiness. 10% Happier takes readers on a ride from the outer reaches of neuroscience to the inner sanctum of network news to the bizarre fringes of America’s spiritual scene, and leaves them with a takeaway that could actually change their lives.’

Night Film by Marisha Pessl

‘On a damp October night, beautiful young Ashley Cordova is found dead in an abandoned warehouse in lower Manhattan. Though her death is ruled a suicide, veteran investigative journalist Scott McGrath suspects otherwise. As he probes the strange circumstances surrounding Ashley’s life and death, McGrath comes face-to-face with the legacy of her father: the legendary, reclusive cult-horror-film director Stanislas Cordova—a man who hasn’t been seen in public for more than thirty years. For McGrath, another death connected to this seemingly cursed family dynasty seems more than just a coincidence. Though much has been written about Cordova’s dark and unsettling films, very little is known about the man himself. Driven by revenge, curiosity, and a need for the truth, McGrath, with the aid of two strangers, is drawn deeper and deeper into Cordova’s eerie, hypnotic world. The last time he got close to exposing the director, McGrath lost his marriage and his career. This time he might lose even more.’

Wear

This month I have mostly been wearing mint green nail polish in honour of spring.

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And shiny blue nail polish to match my easter egg

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Can somebody buy me this t-shirt? K, thnx, bye.

Veganuary: the verdict

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So this January I tried out veganism.

I wanted to give veganism a go for three reasons:

1. I’d written it down on my life list and ticking tasks off lists is what I live for. (Yes, I am a listaholic. Yes, I couldn’t resist adding a list in this post. Yes, therapy would be advisable.)

2. Vegetarianism has always been an easy choice for me. I’ve never tried meat, apart from one gross encounter with a ‘vegetarian quiche’ in New Zealand. (Short story: I thought it was pepper, it was actually hidden ham. Welcome to Vom City, population me.)

So although many people have told meat is delicious, as I’ve never tried it there is no deprivation for me in not eating meat. I stopped eating fish when I was nine or ten and made the connection that fish fingers were made out of fish. (I was a bit of a slow child.) And since fish terrified me (I was also weird) why did I want to consume their dead flesh, ewh!

Morally vegetarianism has always been a no brainer for me. But I’ve become increasingly aware of my hypocrisy in not eating animals but eating animal products that are often (not always, but often) produced in intensive and cruel ways.

I’d always said that veganism would be too difficult with a coeliac husband and well…reasons but I needed to at least try it to see if it was for me.

3. Hi, my name’s Rowan and I’m addicted to cheese. Alcohol I can take or leave. Drugs, have never really been my poison because as you might have guessed from 1. I have minor major control issues. But cheese is my glorious nemesis*. If nemesis = means an delicious enemy you consume daily in a weird cannibalistic ritual.

Creamy balls of mozzarella, salty sizzling halloumi straight from the grill, chunks of aged cheddar. Sorry, I just need to wipe some drool away.

But I had started adding cheese to every meal as it was an easy source of protein. And eating cheese daily was turning me into a walking talking mini babybel. It was time to put the brie down and go cold turkey*. *No turkeys were consumed in the making of this post.

Five things I learnt from Veganuary

  1. Trying out veganism forced me to be more creative. I couldn’t just load up on extra protein via cheese or Quorn (damn you hidden eggs). Instead I ate all the nuts, lots of tofu, and green leafy vegetables until I dreamed of kale. It also inspired me to try out a huge variety of recipes: from tofu stuffed mushrooms (blah), channa dahl (mmh), vegan carbonara (suprisingly yummy), to tofu scramble (I loved. HWSNBN told me it looked and tasted like vomit).
  2. If your vegan asian food is your friend. The thing about any type of diet is that the moment that you feel like you are denying yourself something that’s when you crack. But Japanese, Thai, Chinese or Indian cuisine (minus the ghee) isn’t built around dairy products the way our diet is in the west. The flavours are different so you feel satisfied even without cheese.
  3. No milk = easy peasy. Almond or hazelnut milk is just as yummy but without all the hormones they pump into cows (poor cows). I’m still drinking it. Do not mention the word soya milk to me *spits*.  No butter= fine, I just used olive oil and eat a lot of bruschetta. No eggs= hmmh, this was tough. I missed omelettes but then managed to gross myself out by reminding myself that eggs are basically chicken periods. No cheese= what is the point of living?! I tried vegan cheese even though Beth had warned me but it is wrong, oh so wrong! The only nice alternative I found was certain types of smoked tofu gave me that protein fix and cashew cheese had the texture but not the taste of cheese.
  4. I had to be more organised. I packed myself lunch every day after buying a what I thought was vegan friendly bagel and noticing they’d put honey in the bagel mix, grr. Eating on the go was tough. And although we didn’t eat out much, when we did I had to carefully plan where we could go. And bear in mind I live in Brighton one of the most vegan friendly locations in the UK, apart from Glasgow apparently?
  5. I have the self control of a toddler. In the end I lasted three weeks before cracking and eating all the cheese. Although I got back on that vegan-friendly horse substitute my heart wasn’t in veganism anymore.

The verdict

I felt healthier and lot’s of people said I looked better. My skin was clearer. And apart from a three-day headache the first couple of days, I felt like I had a lot of energy. I also lost seven pounds, although I was also exercising and trying to eat healthier. I had fun as well trying out new recipes and the full range of disgusting vegan cheeses. Words cannot describe how wrong they are

Would I do it again?

Sorry, I can’t hear you over the noise of all the cheese I’m munching.

Next on the life list

Meditate every day for one week.

Once I’ve meditated I always feel better. It’s the actually doing it part I fall down at. Will post about the results soon. OMMMMMMMMMMMMMM.

Home is wherever I’m with you

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I have been thinking recently about what makes a home recently as HWSNBN and I are thinking about moving.

Our little flat is my haven. But sooner rather than later we are going to need somewhere a little bigger for my books and his magic the gathering cards (Yes, reader I married a geek) before our home begins to resemble Hoarders: the bibliophile edition.

I am dreading house hunting as I clearly remember the dawning horror as we viewed places a) we hated; and b) realised that we could barely just afford them. Our task is complicated by the fact we live in Brighton & Hove, a place so cool it rains glitter* (*LIES). Although we have both reluctantly conceded that to afford more than a shoebox we are going to have to look outside of Brighton, far outside of Brighton; I’m going to miss living here.

I wish I was one of those people who didn’t mind where they lived but I do. I grew up in a small town where there was nothing to do and nobody to see. I have done my time living with damp rot in the shape of Jon Bon Jovi’s head; or sleeping with a hat on to protect me from the wind whistling through sash windows; or endless bickering over bills. I’m going to be *gulp* thirty-one, I want to live somewhere where I am unaffected by the great Toilet Paper Rationing of 2008.

More important that physical comfort is feeling emotionally safe. Home has also been on my mind because for a variety of reasons I have chosen not to visit my family home for three months. I was twenty-one when I realised that homes, no matter how beautiful, can become cages too. I can still remember that sensation of opening the front door and waiting anxiety flooding through me as I listened for the sounds of somebody kicking off. It felt like living with a slow gas leak, and it wasn’t until I escaped travelling across continents that I realised how poisonous the atmosphere had become.

Since then it’s been really important to me that my home is a safe space. This month instead of feeling frustrated at the lack of garden, I lay on the sofa and looked around flooded by nostalgia for our home.

I remember the first night we got the keys. We were still living in my old flat which had little things like beds and chairs and working fridge. But we slept on the floor of our new flat anyway, the light seeping through the pinned up bin bags on the window to wake us with the dawn. We were so excited to set up home together.

This is the place where HWSNBN and I lived together for the first time. And although I know that home is wherever he is, the thought of losing those memories makes me sad. The thought that wherever I live next Lianne will never see it makes me feel a little sick inside.

But it’s time. We will start looking for a three bedroom house with a garden as close to Brighton as we can afford. Simple really, but the other things we are looking for are harder to define. A place flooded by light, that seeps across the floor like treacle in winter. A place where the eye is drawn outwards with inner horizons. A safe haven.

Easy, right? Wish me luck.

Any house hunting tips, let me know in the comments.

20 things to do when it snows. Aka how to survive snowmaggedon

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I wrote this in January, just as the cold weather started to thaw and thought I’d save it for next year. But then the unthinkable happened SNOWMAGGEDON, in March? As a true Brit I know that I can get a least a fortnight’s worth of small talk out of this. Brilliant.
Ahem. This isn’t the only reason I love snow. Snows turns me into a big kid. Yes, I know it’s inconvenient. Yes, I worry about the old people. But because we live in a country where we have proper snow, perhaps once or twice a year it is always thrilling me. Whether it is the Blitz spirit of people struggling on it public transport. Or the kids playing in the park. I love the way snow transforms the landscape immediately, folding over houses and fields like a white blanket. The familiar is rendered unfamiliar, almost uncanny by the stark whiteness. I love the way the snow catches in your eyelashes melting them into starfish shapes. I love how when the wind blows, the flurries look like vapor twisting like smoke from a genie’s bottle.

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I love it all so much I have created the definitive what to do when it snows list!

2o things to do when it snows

Get up really early because the light outside your bedroom is different.

Pull back the curtains swiftly so the white light blinds you.

SNOWDAY! Do the snowday dance! Source

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Check the weather. Is this a tiny flurry or are we in for blizzard time? 100 per cent chance of snow? Hell yes. (Avoid BBC weather, they lie. ‘Light sleet my arse. It’s like the Day after Tomorrow in out there!’)

Update facebook. Friends may not have windows, they need to know the precipitation levels where you are.

Turn the heating up really high, strip down to your indies and enjoy the incongruence of staring out at cold when you are boiling.

Check your food cupboards. Imagine having to survive on some dried quinoa and kidney beans. Thank god when the local corner shop is open and instead your surviving on cadburys and wotsits.

Bake. Something about the cold always sends me into nesting mode and we always have the ingredients for a victoria sponge.

Wrap up warm. You want to be so roasting you have to unbutton yourself. The key is layers, layers, layers. Plus tucking your trousers in your socks to avoid the old snow in the wellies dilemma.

Snow angel time. Press your body evenly into the snow otherwise you’ll get a bum angel. Nobody wants a bum angel.

Make something out of snow. Think outside the box on the one, kids. Anybody can build a snowman but can they build an anatomically correct snowman, a snowcat or an igloo (my project of choice).

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Leave tracks. Choose your spot wisely. You’re looking for a patch of untouched virgin snow. Take a step. Ease into it. Then another. What animal left these tracks?

Start a snowball fight. Particularly with a group of kids who are not your match in size or intellect or HWSNBN… BURN! Rules? There are no rules…

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Take lots of pictures so you can annoy your friends later with pictures of your snowy antics.

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Make a snowmade slushie: get snow and add sugar syrup and food colouring. Avoid the yellow snow though…

Drive in the snow after dark (if its safe.) The snow falling against a background of black looks like the opening credits of Star Wars.

Finally when you are so cold you barely feel your extremities go back inside. Feel the thaw as your fingers start to regain sensation.

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Make hot chocolate like your gran used to make it.

Create a blanket nest and grab an appropriately themed old kids book. My favourites the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe or the Wolves of Willoughby Chase. Don’t make me choose!

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Stare out at the snow.

Sadly, I’ve buggered my back. So my snowday consists of lying on the floor staring out at the sky. If your snowday is better than mine let me live vicariously through you in the comments.

DIY: how to make a stained glass candle holder

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This is my best friend Ros.

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She likes glitter and rainbows, and Rainbow Brite. Ros is camper than a bag of spanners and I love her dearly.

As we’re both broke we’ve started a twice-yearly tradition of crafting each other presents. It started when I collected together a jar full of baby advice for her baby shower. Then she gave me a memory jar full of things she had collected from my wedding. It was my turn.

The issues I often have with browsing Pinterest in search of inspiration is all of the DIY posts always require something expensive and obscure I never actually have. Which negates the whole point of crafting as it’s meant to be a) cheap and b) efficient, using up something you already have. It was a dull and grey January and all I had was an overdraft and a handful of rainbow coloured Quality Street wrappers too beautiful to throw away. Finally my gluttony pays off! I decided to combine rainbows and glitter (Ros’ favourite things) and make a stained glass candle holder.

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How to make a stained glass candle holder

What you need:

Quality Street wrappers
A jam jar (I love Bonne Mamon ones)
Glitter glue
Scissors
A candle

What to do

1. Flatten the Quality Street wrappers. Don’t worry if they are a bit wrinkled, it adds to the faux glass effect.

2. Cut the wrappers into four strips by cutting them in half and then in half again

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3. Get the glitter glue and depending on the effect you are after either draw a line down the inside of the jar or spread the glitter glue evenly across the glass.

4. Choose a strip of wrapper and stick it to the glass.

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5. Keep doing this until the jar is covered evenly.

6. Wait for the glue to dry

7. Add a candle (glueing it in place if the bottom of the jar is curved). And voila, you’re very own stained glass candle holder.

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You may end with hands like you’ve been giving Edward Cullen a wank but frankly them’s the crafting breaks. Look at me Ma, I can be a crafting blogger!

Other things I have made this month, for my other bestie Debs include:

Salt caramels (that tasted more like salty tablet but was very yummy)

Ribena vodka (add sugar and blackcurrants to vodka. Let it stew for as long as possible. Swig.)

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Comic book D (well, I say I made… but really I sat there with the bits until HWSNBN took over.)

Another five things ticked off my Make 100 lovely things on my life list.

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas

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This year, I’m not feeling Christmasy at all. I have no money. An essay due in the second week of January. But mostly I am heartsick and missing Lianne.

Lianne loved Christmas. She always gave elaborate presents, dressed up in festive jumpers or reindeer horns, and was the always the last woman standing after the drunken debauchery on Xmas eve. Now she is gone, but never forgotten, I needed something anything to get me in the Christmassy mood. So with her old advent calendar He Who Shall Not Be Named and I are taking it in turns to treat each other to some presents. Although there are one or two mini presents, in the most part we’ve focused on advent activities to get us in the Christmas spirit. Here’s what we doing if you want to play along at home:

Advent activities

1.  Nom some chocolate coins

2. Write a list to Father Christmas. Have you been naughty or nice?

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3. Eat a satsuma to help alleviate scurvy gained from living off sherry and mince pies over the holidays.

4. Put up a ribbon sash for Christmas cards. Detangle cat from ribbon sash.

5 .Make a wreath. Pinterest as ever is your homegirl, for any tutorials.

6. Look at old photos of Christmases past and reminisce. (This one made me sob a lot. But in a healthy cathartic way. HWSNBN: *comes into room, clocks me crying* are you OK. Me: Y-YYYes. Fiinne)

7. Make gingerbread men. Devour gingerbread men headfirst. Feel guilty for cannabilistic intentions

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8. Write Christmas cards

9. Decorate the tree

10. Buy a Christmas jumper. (Yes, I am not crafty enough to knit on. Don’t judge me!)

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11. Make hot chocolate, snuggle up and watch your favourite Christmas. Think Elf vs Home Alone. Muppet Christmas Carol vs It’s a Wonderful World. Miracle on 34th street vs Die Hard. http://www.empireonline.com/features/30-best-christmas-movies/p30

13.  Clean out your wardrobe and bookshelves and donate to a charity to prepare for all the presents.

14. Make mince pies

15. Wrap up Christmas presses

16. Listen to your favourite Christmas music. Are you a cheeseaholic or a christmas hipster?

17. Hang mistletoe in your house and kiss under it

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18. Go iceskating

19. Wrap up warm and walk around the neighbourhood voting on the best/tackiest Christmas lights

20. Drink mulled cider. Like you need an excuse.

21. Watch the burning of the clocks. This is a Brighton-centric thing. Nowhere else makes giant paper mache clocks and throws them in the sea to celebrate the longest night.

22. Go to a carol service. I love in the Bleak Midwinter

23. Put on jammies and snuggle up in bed. Not long to go now…

24. Drink lots while clad in sequins. Because this year I’m doing Christmas, Joan Collins style

Any advent activities planned? Let me know in the comments.