Winter is coming – but it’s not all bad!

I started thinking about writing this post after listening to a podcast, in which the topic was winter, and how we should use nature and being outside to help us through the long winter months. I can get behind that – particularly if I’m not feeling my best, nature can really help to lift my spirits – whatever the season. It grounds me somehow.

I’m possibly in the minority in that I’m not really a summer person! Yes, I like to be outside in the sunshine, but I don’t like getting burned and I get bored just lying around in the sun.

My favourite season is autumn, but winter is ok for me too.

I know it’s easy for me to say that because I have warm clothes, I can put the heating on if I want, and I don’t have to trudge to work in all weathers as I used to. I’m aware not all people have these things and I don’t take them for granted.

But I’m talking about a more basic level of learning to make the best of and appreciate all the seasons, rather than wanting summer all year round.

One of my students moved from Europe to a climate where there isn’t really much variation in the weather from month to month, and she misses the changing of the seasons. I think I would miss the transitions too, even if our weather has been a bit erratic in recent years.

Growing up

When I was a child, we always walked to school. In the morning, there was no other option. My Granddad needed the car for work, so my Nan and I had to walk. In the afternoon, my Granddad would pick me up, and we usually walked then too. Occasionally, if it was raining hard, he might bring the car, but otherwise, we walked.

It was quality time. We didn’t always talk, but we enjoyed the company, and the nature. The smells of freshly-cut grass, or the distinctive smells of the trees that showed me where on our route we were.

In winter, we would wrap up warm in coats, gloves, scarves, and hats. It made you appreciate the warm home after school, or when you came in from the snow.

We lived a lot further north when I was growing up, (although I’m originally from London), and it snowed more there. As children we got really excited about snow days – because school would be closed – but also because we could play out in it, build snowmen, and go sledding. Even the dog got involved in the games! (I am the child in the picture, and the dog is our pet dog Cindy)

My Nan loved Christmas, possibly more than the children did! She was always really enthusiastic about the day itself, but also the time before. All the preparations – buying things, wrapping things, making things, decorating things… And that enthusiasm was infectious! The activities are different now, but I still like the pre-Christmas time, which is why I had plenty to write about for the couple of years that I did Blogmas.

What winter means now

Ok, I don’t enjoy going out in the rain, and I’m glad I could say goodbye to freezing waits on train platforms and walking to work in the sleet. I do enjoy a good wintry walk though, when there’s a fresh breeze to blow away the cobwebs and clear my head. Maybe now, in this unusual time, it will also guarantee us more seclusion when we do go out for our walks. That will help me feel safer, and in turn make the walks more enjoyable.

I like making winter food – ok there is all the Christmas stuff, but also warming dishes like soups and stews. I like snuggling up on the sofa with a good book and a hot chocolate! I like hearing the sounds of the howling wind or lashing rain – as long as I’m inside! I like the snuggly, fluffy things that we bring out to wear during this time!

I listened to a report about winter life in places that have a lot more snow and a lot less light than we have. Of course they have problems too – no country doesn’t – but I really got a sense that this season is also something to be embraced and enjoyed, often with outdoor activities, rather than something to hide away from.

For me, winter is a quieter time – a time to reflect, to rest, and take stock. It’s a bit like the night time – we might be more active in the day, but you need the night as well, otherwise everything would be too exhausting! Ok I’m a night owl as well!

I know that this year it will be harder for some people – fewer chances to meet outside, if those activities are weather-dependent, probably a very different Christmas. We need to adapt, to make sure our friends are ok, and not be too ashamed to ask for help if we need it.

The clocks are going back, and the darker nights are coming. I know for some people that will be harder, in a year when some are already feeling isolated.

I’m not talking about people who are facing hardships right now, such as struggling to pay the heating bills or afford enough to eat. But I do get frustrated when people, many of whom still have a lot more freedoms than I’ve had all summer, want to dismiss the next few months because some things will be a bit different this year.

I’ve been shielding since March. I haven’t been able to do all the things I want, go all the places I want, or hug all the people I want to. But I still believe I have a lot to be grateful for. I intend to make the most of the winter when it comes, because every season has something to offer, even when you have to look a bit harder to find it.

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Blogmas 2018 – looking after your dog at Christmas

To finish off the week in which we’ve been looking at dogs, I decided to put together some tips for how you can take extra care of your dog in the colder weather, when there’s snow on the ground, and when there are more tasty treats around, not all of which are good for dogs.

Out and about

Many dogs love playing in the snow, but the salt put down on pavements can hurt their paws, especially if there are any small cuts on the pads. So be careful where you’re walking.

Your dog might recognise its favourite place for swimming, but if a lake or river is frozen over, it’s best to avoid because you don’t want there to be an accident involving your dog falling through the ice.

Some breeds’ coats are ideal for the cold weather, but if you have a young dog, an older inactive dog, or a dog with a fine coat, consider getting them a coat for wintry walks to keep them warm and dry. Cindy had one towards the end because of her arthritis and she never minded wearing it.

Snowy conditions may make your dog less visible, so you can do some work in advance to make sure they do come back when you call them. This is important anyway, but even more so when it’s harder to see them in snowy conditions. You might also consider a bell for their collar.

It’s important for dogs to get exercise, but only when it’s safe for you both to do so. A missed walk because of howling winds and a snowstorm is better than either you or your dog getting injured in dangerous weather conditions when people have been advised to stay indoors.

Try to stick to roads with pavements, but if you can’t, walk with the traffic coming towards you and the dog on the side furthest from the traffic. If you know that you’ll be out and about on roads with no pavements, consider wearing something reflective – this can also apply to your dog because you can buy reflective jackets or collars.

Frozen, hard ground is harder on a dog’s joints, so try to take things more gently when you first go outside – partly because it will take longer to warm up, and partly because landing on harder ground will impact more on a dog’s joints.

Antifreeze is used a lot more in the winter months, but it is toxic to dogs. Unfortunately it smells and tastes sweet, which makes it appealing to drink or lap up from the ground.

When you’re at home

As well as making sure there is no salt on your dog’s paws when they get back inside, it’s also good to check that there is no compact snow in there either. This can freeze and become very painful. I used to trim the long hair under Cindy the retriever’s pads so that it didn’t become uncomfortable after walking on the snow.

If you’ve been out in the rain or snow, make sure your dog has somewhere warm and dry to lie and get warm again. Towel-dry your dog to get the most of the water out of their coat. Cindy used to let me use the hairdryer on her, but not all dogs will like this!

If your dog isn’t as active in the winter, you might need to alter their diet accordingly.

If you let your dog outside, some dogs may bark or scratch to come in, but others won’t – so don’t forget about them or leave them out there for a long time or they could get too cold or develop hypothermia.

Around Christmas time

We have lots of treats around at Christmas time, but some of these are dangerous for dogs.

Chocolate contains a chemical called theobromine, which is poisonous to dogs. If you really want to give your dog chocolate, you buy doggy treats instead.

Currants, raisins and sultanas are also bad for dogs, including foods that contain these ingredients such as mince pies and Christmas cake.

Apparently blue cheese is bad for dogs too – I didn’t know that.

Holly and mistletoe can also cause an upset stomach. Eating pine branches or chomping on the Christmas tree may cause stomach upset, but the real problem is that the sharp pine needles can damage a dog internally if they scratch its insides.

Whilst onions and garlic may initially cause an upset stomach, the main problem is that they can damage the red blood cells, which can lead to anaemia.

Don’t leave unattended alcohol where dogs can lap it up! Smaller dogs will have less tolerance to alcohol, and if drunk in excess, it can lead to low body temperature or even a coma.

So, there’s a list of things not to do, but a few minutes to make sure your dog doesn’t get the forbidden products is much better than the trauma of having an ill dog, especially over the Christmas season when it’s harder to get vet appointments.

Advent calendar unboxing

Throughout Blogmas I’ll be unboxing my two advent calendars from Glossybox and the Body Shop and giving a brief product review.

Body Shop – a full size bouncy sleeping mask from the Drops of Youth range. I’ve never tried this before, but it’s been on my list of things I want to splash out on. RRP is £25 and you get 90ml. Apparently, the soft, gel-like texture moulds itself like a second skin and its enriched with Edelweiss stem cells from Italy and sea holly from France. Very festive! I haven’t used it yet, but I’m looking forward to trying it. You put it on as the last step in your evening skincare routine and leave it overnight.

Glossybox – I personally can’t think of anything more annoying to work with than a loose powder eye shadow, but that’s just my personal preference and I’m not saying it’s a bad product. Still, I’ll be finding a home for this Pop Beauty eye shadow pigment!

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Blogmas 2018 – staying warm this Winter with the Hive smart heating system

Earlier this week I talked about what you can do to keep warm this Winter. Staying on a similar theme, I want to tell you about the new addition to our home – the Hive active heating system. We got ours in the Black Friday sale, so as well as making our heating system more efficient and accessible, it was also a bit cheaper!

Why do you want a smart heating system?

When I lived in my last house, I put some markers on the dial of the thermostat so that I knew where 20 degrees was and could then go up or down a bit from there. IT wasn’t exact, because the dial was too small, but I could keep a constant temperature. However, in the night I usually turned it off or down, and as I couldn’t set the heating timer myself, I had to make a quick run for it in the morning and either get ready in a cold house, or sit with my hands around a coffee mug till it was warm enough to type! I probably saved on heating bills, but it wasn’t fun!
When I moved in with S, things improved a lot because he could set the timer, but he was the only one who could change it. So I had to remember to tell him if I had an early meeting and wanted the heating on early. If we didn’t want to be woken up by the heating at the weekend, we had to remember to turn it off, or I had to ask S to change the time, and then put it back again for Monday. When I was home alone, I could turn the heating on or off, but had no idea of the temperature.
Then we learned about systems that you can control using your phone, which should in theory make them more accessible to me. Interfaces on electrical devices often aren’t usable for me as someone with no vision, but if the app is accessible – and this isn’t a given – but if the app has been designed to work well with screenreading software, it can give me the access to the displays and controls.
It’s not just blind people who want smart heating systems – there are other factors such as the comfort of either of us being able to change the temperature or the week’s heating schedule from anywhere in the house, or to pop the heating on before we get home.

Why Hive?

If we were going to get a smart heating control system, I needed to make sure it was going to be something that I’d be able to use. I did some online research, and it appeared that there were two main systems in the running – Hive and Nest.
With Hive, you can download the app for free and trial it using a test house. So the house isn’t real, but you can look at the controls and the various parts of the app.
One of our friend let me join his Nest so that I could also test the accessibility of the app’s interface. I could have used it, but it felt less intuitive than the Hive interface, and the scheduler screen was very confusing. Still, it was good to be able to try both of them so that I had something to compare.
I could have used Nest, but the Hive app felt more streamlined and worked better with VoiceOver. S preferred the look of it to, so we decided to go for Hive in the end.

What was the installation process like?

We went for the package with installation, so a British gas engineer came out to install the Hive system, which connects to the boiler, set up the Hive receiver and the Hive thermostat.
It took about 45 minutes and the engineer gave me the product number that I needed to connect the device to our Hive account. Afterwards, as I was there on my own, he explained the functions of the buttons on the thermostat and pointed out how to override the thermostat on the main device so that we could still turn on the heating in the event of a problem with the thermostat. He was helpful and efficient.

What is it like to use Hive with VoiceOver?

We don’t use all the features of the app because we don’t have a lot of connected devices, but it’s been fine so far. We have schedules set up now and I can easily amend them if our plans change or I have an early morning meeting. I can read both the temperature in the room where the thermostat is and set the desired temperature.
The buttons on the app are labelled and I can change the time and temperature sliders by touch.
Maybe in the future we’ll add additional zones, but for now, we’re happy and it does what it needs to.
You can also control Hive using Alexa and Google Assistant, but we prefer to keep to the iPhone app.
The website says you can save money by never heating an empty house again. This isn’t something we did, because we always just turned the heating off if we were going out, so I don’t expect to see any massive savings on the heating bill. But it will benefit us in terms of me being able to control the heating independently, and as a result not being cold in the morning! And a cold Kirsty is a grumpy Kirsty, so that’s always good!

Advent calendar unboxing

Throughout Blogmas I’ll be unboxing my two advent calendars from Glossybox and the Body Shop and giving a brief product review.
Body Shop – another Spa of the World product – this time the Japanese Camellia cream, which is something I haven’t tried before. It’s probably not something I would have picked up because the scent is quite a strong floral one, but it feels like a rich, nourishing body cream, and I’m looking forward to giving it a go.
Glossybox – I don’t use most of the styling products I get in boxes or calendars, which is why I was happy to see a hair mask today. We have the Elgon concentrated restore mask- something I haven’t heard of before, so I look forward to trying that too. It’s a generous size, so even with my vary long hair, I’ll get a few treatments out of it.
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Blogmas 2018 – 7 ways to keep warm this Winter

When I get cold, I get grumpy! Not the same level of grumpy as when I haven’t had enough coffee – because that’s really bad – but I don’t do well when I’m cold!
One solution is to turn the heating up, but that doesn’t always work when you’re going out in the cold, and in any event it’s nice to snuggle up under something warm on an evening in.
So what else can you do to stay warm? Here are five low-cost ideas:

1. Baths

I love baths. They make me slow down, stop doing things, and take some time out to relax and destress. I know some people get bored in the bath, but this is never a problem that I’ve had. It’s time for me to have only positive sensory input – no noise –just a warm place to spend some time and unwind.
There are so many amazing products to help with this – from bath soaks to bubble bars and oils or shower gels that nourish your skin while you soak.
Baths are also good for getting warm too – as long as you don’t set the temperature too hot, or your skin won’t thank you for it!

2. Wrapping up warm

I can’t have wool next to my skin, which means a lot of woolly jumpers, hats, and things like that are out for me. All I’d be able to think of is the how annoying it is to feel the wool against me and I’d never get anything else done! But there are loads of other options such as fleecy things, or synthetic materials that don’t feel the same as wool.
I found some gloves at a Christmas market a couple of weeks ago that are very warm, but have two holes – one for the thumb, and one for all the fingers. They’re then cut off where the fingers start – which is good for anyone who still wants to use their hands.
Even cotton scarves can be warm – sometimes just having something round your neck is enough. I have thicker woolly ones, velvet ones, one with Labrador puppies, and one that came as a gift a couple of years ago with an owl hanging from it. Most people think it’s a necklace, but it keeps me warm as well.

3. Snuggling under a blanket

Blankets don’t have to be wool either – you can get some really soft ones either to suit your colour scheme, or with a picture of something that you like. S bought us some warm blankets with wolves on last year – one for our bed and a smaller one for the sofa in my office.

4. Wear a coat when it’s cold

I don’t want to judge, but on Saturday there were people at the Christmas market in the cold and pouring rain with no coats on. People going out to Christmas parties, not wanting to put a coat on because it would ruin the outfit. You don’t have to keep it on all night, but at least give yourself the option of wearing one!

5. Keep the cold out

See if you have any places at home where the cold is getting in. Windows, keyholes, external doors. If you can illuminate the draughts, the house will feel warmer.
In a previous job, my desk was directly under the air con unit and the cold air always came straight down to where I was sitting. It was so uncomfortable until I persuaded someone to come and deal with it!

6. Keep moving

I have a job that involves sitting at a desk all day, but I try and build in some exercise too, because apart from the obvious health benefits, working out also gets your blood circulation going and helps you to feel warmer.

7. Hot chocolate

If it’s cold outside, it’s good to indulge now and again in a steaming mug of hot chocolate. I’ve been buying chocolate orange or chocolate mint recently, but there are so many varieties available now. And those little chocolate sets with a mug and chocolate also make a nice little gift.
Do you have any more tips to add?

Advent calendar unboxing

Throughout Blogmas I’ll be unboxing my two advent calendars from Glossybox and the Body Shop and giving a brief product review.
Body Shop – two products today, both from the Fuji green tea range. We have the purifying shampoo and the hydrating conditioner. I don’t think I’ve tried these, because I usually go for the banana or strawberry haircare products, so I look forward to trying these out.
Glossybox – a deluxe sample of the BareMinerals skinlongevity vital power infusion serum. I didn’t know this brand also did skincare – I thought it was just mineral make-up. We won’t dwell on the fact that the first time I heard of this brand I was looking for Bear Minerals! I used this serum in my skincare routine this morning and liked it. It promises to empower, renew, replenish and fortify, so let’s see!

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Blogmas is coming

Well, it’s nearly that time of the year again – Blogmas is coming!

I did Blogmas for the first time last year. For anyone who doesn’t know what it is, Blogmas is when bloggers post something for 24 (or sometimes 12) days in December. If it’s 24 days, which is what I’m doing, it will be from 1st to 24th December.

What people do depends on the individual blogger. Some people follow prompts while others come up with their own ideas.

I’ve got a plan with 24 ideas, and I’ll be writing a post a day (none of this uploading in advance for me, mainly because the date picker widget isn’t accessible to me as a non-mouse user!) So what you get will in most cases have been written shortly before I hit “publish”.

So, what can you expect?

  1. A Christmas or winter topic each day – it could be anything from what I’ve been up to, to gift guides, to information about a popular Christmas or Winter tradition.
  2. An unboxing of two beauty and skincare Advent calendars, with a couple of lines about the products each day.
  3. The Unseen Beauty Blogmas giveaway, with 24 chances to win the main Blogmas box, which will contain 10 products from the advent calendars. There will also be a couple of runner-up beauty and skincare prizes as well.
  4. It’s also a time for giving something back, so throughout Blogmas there will be information about 3 charities that I support, and the work that they do.

What you won’t find is a lot of pictures…as I’m blind, I can’t take my own. There will be some images to show you the things that I’m talking about, but if I don’t have a suitable image, you’ll see Maisie the German Shepherd. A lot of work goes into creating interesting Blogmas content, and if I had to rope people into helping me source images all the time, Blogmas would feel very stressful and more of a chore. So come for the writing!

If you’re doing Blogmas this year, you’re welcome to leave your link in the comments.

I hope you’ll enjoy the things that I have planned and now we just need to wait till next weekend when it all starts!

Due to the increased volume of posts, I’ll be doing an update to my subscribers twice a week instead of the usual once a week.

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Blogmas day 22 – winter holiday tag

I don’t often do tag posts, but it’s Christmas and I want something light-hearted for today’s blog post – so here we go!

I was nominated by S & J from the Cozy Den – go and check them out if you haven’t already! They’re doing Blogmas too!

What is your favourite holiday tradition?
Hmm that’s a tough one because I love the time leading up to Christmas with all the fun of decorating the house, buying and wrapping presents, Christmas baking and visiting Christmas markets.

What are your favourite go-to winter lippies?
Hmm, I have so many. I have a lot of festive reds, and I like something with a satin finish or with “moisturising” on the label because my lips can get really dry this time of year.

What is your favourite winter scent?
It has to be a real Christmas tree. We don’t have one, but my grandparents did when I was a child and I loved that pine smell so much. Now, whenever I smell it, I immediately think of Christmas!

What is your go-to winter fashion trend?
I don’t have one, but I’m not one of those people who stand around in the cold with a skimpy dress and no coat! I love to be warm, so winter is a time to get out the fleeces, fluffy blankets and cosy jumpers! I’ve got a couple of really nice scarves too – a thick wool one, and one with an a sparkly owl that hangs from the middle.

Your all-time favourite holiday song?
I want something really original for this one! I know – last year there was a funny video doing the rounds on Facebook with goats singing Christmas songs! Wait, I need to find it now! Here! Merry Christmas from the goats!

Do you prefer to travel during the holidays or stay home?
I have spent a couple of Christmases away with some friends on the Isle of Wight, but I prefer to stay at home.

Your favourite winter skincare must haves?
Erm, all of the stuff from my advent calendars? If I can’t have that, then all the things you need for a pamper night – a relaxing bath, followed by a face mask. Not to mention something to take care of the lips, like a mango or pink grapefruit lip balm from Burt’s Bees!

Your favourite winter hair care must have?
I’d say the banana hair mask from the Body Shop!

Your favourite winter activity?
Either going to Christmas markets or going on wintry walks!

Your must-have winter beauty product?
I think this was meant to be make-up, but skincare is important too if you want to look your best!
I was really impressed with the night cream from Gatineau and as their skincare collection is on half-price at the moment at Feel Unique, I treated myself to it! There’s loads of other stuff in the sale at the moment, so if you are in the UK and want £10 off your first order, you can use my affiliate link!

Do you love the snow or hate it?
I love it when I don’t need to go anywhere and I can build a snowdog in peace! It’s not so much fun when you are struggling home from work, all the trains are cancelled and you need to queue for ages in the taxi queue because the snow has melted and frozen over again!

One item on your wish list this year?
I didn’t actually make one, but I am pretty sure that Mother Christmas got me a new office chair – more about that next year!

Your favourite holiday treat?
Holiday food would be turkey with all the trimmings. But I think they mean something more indulgent than that – I’m not a fan of the traditional Christmas desserts, but I do like a slice of chocolate log!

Holiday shopping finished before December or last minute?
Somewhere in between. This is the latest I’ve ever been this year because the last present arrived today, but that’s just because I had an extra idea. Mostly I’m done by mid-December.

I’m not going to tag anyone, but if you feel like doing this tag, feel free to post your link in the comments!

The calendars

In L’Occitane there was a shower oil. I prefer the shower gels, but it was still a nice product.

In M&S there was a primer – I didn’t use it today because I had a can’t-really-be-bothered-with-a-lot-of-make-up-day, but I’m looking forward to seeing how it compares to my Benefit or Elf primers!

Christmas tree in Stockholm

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Blogmas day 13 – warming winter food

On Monday a box arrived from Amazon and inside was my new pressure cooker!

The reason I’m telling you this is that I used it last night to make one of my favourite winter meals – a quick and easy winter stew!

I used to have this as a child too, although my Nan didn’t use a pressure cooker. I could smell the stew as it was cooking and I knew there would be a tasty warm meal with dumplings.

Actually I didn’t make any dumplings, because I didn’t have much time yesterday, but it’s a hearty and pretty healthy meal because all I used was fresh vegetables and some meat, though of course you could do it without the meat.

I won’t write down a recipe because my stew is different every time. Yesterday I used pork, potatoes, mushrooms, a tomato, an aubergine, and a couple of onions. I covered the meat and vegetables with gravy and whatever herbs and spices I felt like chucking in! I tasted the gravy mixture to make sure the spices were right before I poured it over the meat and veg that were already in the pressure cooker.

If you like it spicy, you can add chillis. I added two because we like our meals to have a bit of heat, but you don’t need to do this if you don’t like spicy food.

I like to make stews in the pressure cooker for two reasons – it’s super quick – after I’d prepared everything and the pressure cooker started steaming, it took about 25 minutes for the meal to be cooked. Then you just need to wait for the pressure to go down so it’s safe to open the lid. The second thing is how it makes the potatoes all soft and fluffy!

You can tell when it’s ready, because even if you can’t see the steam, it starts to hiss like a big snake, which is when you need to start timing.

I will admit that I’m slightly scared of the pressure cooker because I’ve heard stories of bad things happening, and I know that there is a lot of pressure building up inside it, but I have also heard that they are safer now than they used to be, so it doesn’t put me off from using it.

I do have a slow cooker too, and I sometimes cook casseroles in there, but sometimes I don’t feel the meat tastes quite as good as when you do it in the pressure cooker.

Making this kind of meal is a good way to use up any vegetables you have left over. We do sometimes have an excess of veg because of our vegetable box, and as I don’t like waste, I’ve been making winter soups. Having some hearty winter stews as well will be a good way to mix things up a bit!

How about you? What do you like to cook when it’s cold and grim outside?

Christmas tree in Stockholm

The calendars

So, what was behind your door no. 13?

L’Occitane – I thought it was another soap, but no! It was a sugar bath cube! I haven’t tried one of those before, so it will be interesting to see what they’re like, and as it’s a sugar one, it shouldn’t be too messy because sugar is soluble.

M&S – today I got a fragrance – blood orange from Shay and Blue. I know it’s a risky business putting a fragrance in an advent calendar, and you won’t please everyone, but I really like this. I’m glad they went for a citrus one rather than a really floral one. You get 10ml, so enough to really try it out (I can’t see the point of those little 2ml ones!), and it’s something I would consider buying full size.

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Blogmas day 11 – things I love about winter

Let it snow! It did actually snow in our part of the world last night. It has now mixed with rain, and there’s not enough to make a good snow dog, but at least it snowed! Some people got up to 32 cm of the stuff, and I do feel sorry for all the people who lost power to their homes over the weekend. Still, even as an adult, I do think there’s something magical about the fluffy white stuff – as long as I don’t have to go anywhere in it!

11 things that I love about winter

People sometimes see winter as a dull and dreary time of the year. It’s true that in England it can be cold and damp, but actually I think there’s a lot to love about winter. Here are 11 of my favourite things!

1. Winter walks
Now that I work from home, I certainly don’t miss running to the train station in the rain and spending the rest of the day trying to dry out! But when it’s dry, I love wrapping up in my big thick coat, hat, scarf, and gloves, and going for a walk. We don’t get a lot of snow around here, but the air is so fresh and crisp – it really feels as though you’re doing something good for yourself, especially as we tend to spend a lot more time inside during the winter.

2. Winter food
I’m not just talking about Christmas dinner here, although I do enjoy roast turkey with all the trimmings! I also mean the home-made pumpkin soups and the hearty stews and casseroles that I make when it’s cold outside. These are really healthy too because they’re basically just meat and vegetables with a few additional herbs and spices for flavour.
I’m not a fan of the traditional desserts like Christmas cake or Christmas pudding, but I do enjoy a slice of chocolate log (a kind of cake) or a mince pie (a sweet pastry case filled with dried fruit and spices).

3. Christmas
Not just Christmas Day though – I mean the whole time leading up to Christmas with all the preparations, getting the tree, decorating it, buying presents, wrapping them, making Christmas food, listening to the music…

4. Winter clothes
AT the moment I’m wearing a soft, thick fleece with a wolf on it. Winter gives me the chance to get out all my warm snuggly clothes that would be too hot at any other time of the year. I think there’s something really comforting about being wrapped up warm!

5. Snuggling up on a cold evening
The wind is howling outside, the rain is lashing down – but it’s ok, because you’re in the warm, snuggled up with a blanket on the sofa, reading a good book, watching a film, or just enjoying a steaming mug of hot chocolate!

6. Christmas markets
They are actually a German tradition, but they are becoming quite popular in the UK now. It’s basically a collection of stalls with people selling gifts, hand-made products, and food. You can usually pick up a tasty treat and find some gifts for Christmas presents, or just for yourself, that are a bit different to what you can find in the shops.

7. Decorating the house
I mentioned this earlier in the part about Christmas. I don’t go for the crazy lights and garden decorations that you can see for miles, but I do like to have a tree, the singing snowman and some greenery around the house.

8. Advent calendars
They really started to be a thing here last year, and now so many shops and brands are doing them. They used to be just for chocolate – you got a little chocolate treat every day, but now there are make-up ones, skincare ones, perfume ones, ones with candles, ones for pets, and ones with food or drinks inside. I love to see the variety, and getting a little treat each day from 1st till 25th December is of course fun too!

9. Snow
We don’t get a lot of it where I live in the south of England, but when we did get some, my dog used to love it. She would roll around on her back in it, burrow down into it with her paws, and do her best to catch the snowballs that I threw for her. Then she’d be really confused about where they disappeared to if they hit the ground.
When I was still at primary school, my family moved to the north of England, where there was more snow. The children used to get excited when it snowed because it often meant that the school would close and they could go sledging!

10. Time off work
I haven’t always taken holiday around Christmas time, but people don’t usually want training courses at this time of year, so now I usually take a couple of weeks off at the end of December. I don’t usually go away, so it’s holiday at home with my partner, and it gives me time to catch up with family and friends.

11. New Year
I’m not a fan of huge parties for New Year. Most years I stayed home with my dog, or celebrated locally with friends. When I used to live in London, I wasn’t interested in going to join the huge crowds. But I like New Year because it’s a new beginning – a fresh new year with so many possibilities. Like a blank page waiting to be filled, or a new chapter in a book.

Christmas tree in Stockholm

The calendars

So, what was behind your door no. 1?

L’Occitane – today I got another shower gel, this time the shea one. L’Occitane shower gels are lovely, and I prefer them to the oils. I haven’t had this one before, but I like the range.

M&S – after being so happy with yesterday’s mask (I tried it out yesterday), today’s offering was a make-up sponge. I can’t get excited about make-up sponges and do feel that this was a bit of a filler gift. It’s the first thing that I won’t use, so I suppose that’s not bad. I’ll find someone to give it to or put it in my give-away box – It’s not a bad product, I just can’t get very enthusiastic about it!

Question of the day

Today’s question – do you give or receive Christmas stockings? I don’t any more, but I always had one as a child, usually after Christmas dinner.

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