How To Throw The Perfect Party

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Something I really look forward to during the festive season is the parties. The work dos with fun activities, dinner parties with friends, not to mention News Year’s Eve! There’s something about sharing jokes over a few glasses of wine and getting down on the dance floor with old friends and new that makes me feel alive. I also love to host my own, and over the years I have discovered a few tips and tricks that turn a good party into a great one! If you’re planning a shindig, then keep reading for ideas on how to make your event one to remember.

Invites

Firstly, everyone loves receiving something special in the post. Secondly, nothing sets the tone and gets people pumped for a party like a chic invitation! So, if you’ve got the time, get some heavy card and gold or silver pens from a stationer and get crafting. They really don’t have to be too fussy, just pop in the details of the location, date and time and draw on some holly for Christmas, or hearts for Valentine’s Day, etc., and you’re away. If you are pushed for time, there are tons of online services where you can design, print and send invites at the touch of a button.

Social

I don’t know about you but I would probably miss half the events I’m invited to if it weren’t for Facebook! Therefore, in addition to paper invitations, you should create an event page with a relevant image and invite everyone you’ve put down on your guest list. You can also use social media to get people excited before the event. Give people little snippets of information in the run up, post photos of the venue and outfit ideas, etc. Do remember to keep it a private event – you don’t want the whole world turning up!

Theme

As you can probably imagine, I love fancy dress. If you’re a big fan too but are struggling to come up with a concept, there are some fantastic party theme ideas online. We went to a Great Gatsby do the other weekend and it was fabulous! However, as Mike always reminds me, there are lots of people who aren’t so keen. If you decide not to go for a costume party, it’s worth remembering that most people still love an opportunity to dress up a little bit. Setting the dress code to smart/casual gives everyone the chance to put on their glad rags without worrying about going over the top.

Lighting

Make sure it’s not too bright; nothing kills the atmosphere like strip lighting! Equally, going too dark can be unsettling, so you’ll want to be somewhere in the middle. My go-to for any evening event is string/fairy lights – they are sparkly and pretty, and make any location feel special, whether you’re outdoors or indoors. If it’s a daytime event, although the natural light may be beautiful, be sure to keep a few lamps at the ready in case it’s overcast and gloomy.

Decorations

A great party needs a great environment and this applies whatever the theme or nature of the event. If you have tables, they should always have cloths and be styled (I like a shabby-chic table setting, personally). Little details go a long way with decorations; for example, adding ribbons to folding chairs which match your colour scheme will tie everything together beautifully. Also, my policy with any party is that there is never enough glitter.

Music

I cannot stress how important a good playlist is to the success of a party. The right songs will fill the dance floor, and people are, in my opinion, at their happiest when they are so caught up in the music they get lost in the movement. To keep things fresh and exciting, make sure you have a mix of genres and throw in a generous handful of cheesy tunes. You’ll be surprised who you find shaking it to MC Hammer!

Relax

Keeping these tips in mind will ensure that your guests have an incredible night. But don’t forget to relax and enjoy all your hard work too! People will have the best time if their host is.

Please comment with any other tips or stories you have. I always love reading them. And enjoy all your festive parties this year!

5 Top Tips For A Super Organised Christmas

Beautiful Christmas Tree

As I was enjoying a local firework display this weekend, I felt a sudden surge of excitement despite the freezing temperatures. As much as I love fireworks and sparklers, the end of Bonfire Night means that I can FINALLY get excited about Christmas!

Anyone who knows me will know I am a huge fan of the festive period, so keeping my enthusiasm at bay for this long is usually a challenge to say the least! As soon as I start seeing those Christmas ads on TV and chocolate advent calendars in the shops, I know it’s time to start preparing!

Whilst it might be a bit too early to buy the turkey, there are still lots of things I do to prepare myself ahead of time. I usually go over the top on food, decorations and presents, so I’m always glad to have started planning in early November. Then when it gets to mid-December and my social calendar is jam-packed with fun festive activities, I don’t feel stressed about my Christmas To Do list!

I thought it might be useful to share my top Christmas prep tips for the super-organised amongst you. These are all the things you can do in advance to free up more time later, because really, it’s never too early to start planning for Christmas – is it?!
Decide on Your Plans for The Day

One very basic thing you can do now is to decide on your plans for Christmas Day & Boxing Day. If you’re going to be hosting then make sure you have enough dining space, chairs, crockery, and anything else you might need, so that you can buy or borrow any extras ahead of time. And if you’re not going to be at home this year, then you can make the appropriate travel arrangements ahead of time, particularly if you need to book flights or trains.

Set Your Gift Budgets
I have a history of getting a little overexcited when it comes to buying presents for my nearest and dearest, which has cost me substantial sums of money and many sleepless nights come January. These days I have to set myself a budget to make sure I don’t overspend. There are tonnes of ways you can do this, and in the past, I have used the Christmas Money Planner from the Monday Advice Service to help me figure out my budget breakdown!

Update Your Christmas Card List and Shop for Cards

I like to try and keep on top of my address book all year around, but inevitably it often falls low down my list of priorities. I keep a Christmas card list document on my laptop, so I’ll usually spend an hour or so checking through all the names and addresses to make sure it’s all up to date, as well as adding any new ones.

I also buy my Christmas cards early on so I have more options to choose from. Personally, I like to take this opportunity to support a charity close to my heart, so this year I’ll be buying these cancer charity Christmas cards to send to my loved ones!

Start Shopping
I like to get my shopping done as early as possible. Not only does this mean you can spread the cost over 2 or even 3 months, but it means you can make the most of any early flash sales. I will definitely be checking out the Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals this year to make my money go further!

Check your Christmas Decorations
There’s nothing worse than buying your tree and bringing it home ready to decorate, only to find your box of baubles has smashed, or even worse – you’ve spent ages untangling all those fairy lights and half of them don’t work. If you’re like me, then decorating your tree is serious business, and the earlier you shop for decorations, the more choice you’ll have! I like to spend a lot of time researching Christmas tree ideas to visualise how my tree will look.

I hope these tips will help you kick off your super organised Christmas, so you can have a stress-free festive season!

Autumn Days Out in The South of England

Autumn has long been one of my favourite seasons; there are plenty of opportunities to spend some quality time with my hubby and to work on getting rid of those extra calories after indulging in one too many cocktails over the summer.

A lot of people tend to feel a little depressed as those long summer evenings finally come to an abrupt end, and they are left counting the days until reluctantly putting the clocks back and spending their evenings curled up on the sofa. However, it doesn’t have to be this way; there is an abundance of opportunities to get out there and enjoy the crisp autumn sun and the beautiful colours. While the unpredictable British weather can make it a challenge to plan ahead, ensuring that you have a few days out planned means that you can leap out of bed at the first opportunity you get and spend a beautiful day out and about.

Horses In The New Forest

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For those of you who have been to the New Forest, you will already know that two wheels are definitely better than four! When we are children we are all told about the importance of sharing- this is especially the case in the New Forest.

When we are children we are all told about the importance of sharing- this is especially the case in the New Forest.

In this beautiful part of the country, animals certainly are king! A relaxing drive along its beautiful country lanes can be brought to an abrupt end as you come face to face with an unfazed horse or cow. If don’t have the opportunity to be around animals very often, this can be an incredibly rewarding experience that never fails to disappoint. That is unless you are my hubby, of course. He still likes to go on about the time a horse decided to relieve herself on his car bonnet.

Anyway, with this in mind, if you are local to the New Forest then you are better off getting a train to one of the many stations and taking your bike with you. You will have the complete freedom to explore the forest and its surroundings and get some much-needed exercise! It is always a good idea to check ahead that you are able to take your bikes on a particular train; however, most of the time this is not a problem. The only issue is that you have to lug your bike around, luckily there are plenty of carbon fibre road bikes available that are absolutely perfect for transporting with ease. Luckily for me, my hubby finally took notice of my not so subtle hints and treated me for my birthday last month.

My own particular tip would be to get a train to the village of Brockenhurst and start exploring from there. You will find that there are plenty of beauty and cycle routes to keep you busy, there are also plenty of pubs and quaint tearooms for you to refresh yourselves and enjoy some much-deserved rest and relaxation. If you are looking for something a bit more adventurous, then you will find a wealth of kayaking and canoeing opportunities to keep you entertained.

If your husband or boyfriend regularly bores you to death about cars, then treat him to an afternoon at the Beaulieu Motor Museum, which will captivate your interest whether you are car-nut, or not!

Hastings

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Visit 1066 Country

Due to its close proximity to Brighton, Hastings tends to be overlooked by those looking to head to the coast for a day out. However, Hastings is something of a hidden gem, especially the old town, where you will find a rich variety of architecture, ranging from medieval to Victorian.

For the history buffs amongst you, you will be delighted to learn that three of the seven churches that were standing during medieval times are still standing today. That isn’t all, though, the Hasting Fisherman’s museum is well worth a visit and is in a really lovely location. Surrounded by black fishing sheds, this is a delightful location to indulge in some sunbathing on a sunny afternoon.

If you are in need of a dose of culture, then there are plenty of art galleries to pass away the time in. I would particularly recommend visiting the Jerwood Gallery, which opened to an abundance of critical acclaim in 2012. If you are lucky enough for the sun to be shining, then why not treat yourself to a drink in the nearby café, which benefits from stunning beach views.

Finally, there is the old town, known locally as Twittens; it is an exquisite mixture of narrow streets and passageways, most of them were used by smugglers years ago and still make a fantastic place to explore.

Anne of Cleves House Lewes

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Go Back in Time

Personally, I have always been a huge fan of exploring the many beautiful old stately homes that we are lucky enough to have scattered across the country. One that I must confess to having particularly fond memories of, is the Anne Cleves House near Lewes. There really is so much to see, you will have the chance to learn all about this beautiful medieval house and the role it had to play in the life of one of England’s most famous kings, Henry VIII.

A particular highlight for me is the authentically furnished kitchen and the garden which is simply stunning! It uses traditional plants and genuine Tudor planting schemes and really is worth the admission fee alone.

If you are lucky enough, like me, to live in the Brighton area, then the many amazing cycle paths that we have to offer you the chance to explore this beautiful medieval house and enjoy the autumn air.

If your hubby is anything like mine then you will be glad to know that there is a delightful tea garden that offers all sorts of refreshments to indulge in and the chance to enjoy a much-deserved break!

Sussex Cycling Sights and Scenes – My Top 3 Routes

Wasn’t Brighton Pride incredible? Yes, I had one (or five) cocktails too many – but I still managed to enjoy the festivities. I woke up a little weary eyed but apart from that, I was miraculously chirpy. My other-half, on the other-hand wasn’t in such great shape. Having to put up with me until the early hours of the Pride morning took its toll I think. Regardless of how he was feeling, I was determined to get up and make the most of the day. It was such a gorgeous weekend of weather – I couldn’t lay in bed desperately gasping for water with a debilitating hangover any longer.

I looked down at the equipment from hobbies I’d taken up and put down again over the years, hockey sticks, badminton and tennis rackets, even a pair of football boots. God knows why my hubby puts up with me, I can’t imagine how frustrating it is to see him shower me with gifts invested into my new found hobbies – only for me to put them down after a month or two.

“I know” – I thought to myself. I’ll go cycling!

Cycling view

It is the only hobby that I’ve consistently carried on with, ever since I was a girl in fact. I’ve even invested in casual cycle wear over the years because I love it so much. I’m very lucky to live somewhere like Brighton, where there are literally hundreds of cycling routes, you can set off from your doorstep and find a designated cycling path within five minutes of cycling. But with so many to choose from, it makes deciding where to go very difficult.

I’ve narrowed it down to my top three cycling routes for you all to try for yourselves.

Route One

No, not the skateboard shop in North Laine. My first and favourite cycling route is setting off from home and pedalling happily along New Church Road in Hove. On nice days I’ll cut through Wish Park, but if it’s a bit muddy or the Sunday league footy fans are out I’ll ride right by. Once past Wish Park I turn left and start racing towards the Lagoon. The Lagoon is a perfect place to stop for an ice cream or even a bite to eat if I’m a bit peckish. From there I’ll walk my bike safely past all of the children running around enjoying summer, to the designated cycling lane on the seafront. One last check that everything is secure, and off I go!

The cycle lane stretches pretty much all the way to the Marina, and that’s where I’ll go. I don’t even mind that hundreds of other cyclists have had the same idea. The lane is colourful enough that no one will cross accidentally and Brighton cyclists are considerate enough ring their bell or overtake if I’m being particularly slow. Sun and sea on my right and one of the flattest rides I could ask for. Absolutely bliss. Once I make it to the Marina (or until I’m tired) I’ll turn around and go back the same way!

Route Two

Stanmer Park to Ditchling Beacon. This one is a little harder… No glass of rose on the night before this one. You need to be in tip top shape to tackle the Ditchling Beacon, it’s really hilly but it gets the blood pumping and the calves working! There aren’t many better leg workouts for Brighton girls than cycling through Stanmer Park and up the Beacon – the difficulty is getting there!

The way I do it is to get the hubby to drop me off so he can listen to the football on the radio whilst I race off to break a sweat. Make sure you pack a spare pair of clothes and lay down plenty of mats and bin bags in the car. The weather can change at any moment and he “just got the new interior fitted!”. Probably best not to ruin the leather seats at the expense of losing a bit of weight.

Route Three

Devils Dyke! Get your other-half involved for this one too – you’re going to park the car up in the car park and get the bikes out the back or take the train. “Why don’t you cycle there?”, I’ll cover that later. Once you’re ready, set off in any direction. There are designated routes but I always find the best challenge is a little more off the beaten track, just remember which direction you came from!

It’s a little rough under wheel and very hilly, but you’re sure to feel wide awake by the end of it. After working so hard, its only right to reward yourself with a big meal at the Devils Dyke pub. That’s why you came in the car, because cycling back after your second helping of chips is going to be impossible.

My Summer Bucket List

I thought it would be nice to continue following on from the very summery theme my blog has taken on this month with a nice bucket list. The hubby and I are still deliberating the best destination for our holiday (if it happens), so in the meantime I’ll talk about some my summer plans closer to home!

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Tan

It doesn’t matter whether we go abroad or not this summer, nothing will stop me topping up my tan. The weather has stayed so nice that it even looks like I might get a healthier glow in the UK than I would if we went away. Alright, maybe that’s a bit far-fetched, but no one can argue against how lovely it’s been.

I honestly couldn’t be better placed for summer tan: Brighton is gorgeous. The beach is always packed on the particularly sizzling days; it does get really overcrowded, so I always opt for a spot on Hove lawns or Pavilion Gardens to beat the crowds. With that being said, the atmosphere in Brighton is always so friendly I really couldn’t care less about the thousands that take to the streets.

Hundreds of London day trippers, students and Brightonians create an incredible buzz, especially in North Laine or along the promenade. There’s no animosity or frustration, everyone is just really keen to get themselves an ice cream from Marocco’s and enjoy the sun with their family.

If you wanted a perfect example of what I’m talking about – there’s no better than…

Pride

Brighton Pride – one of my favourite days of the year!

2016 has been really depressing for news. It feels like there’s conflict all over the world, not to mention how divisive the politics has been, I’m really looking forward to seeing everyone come together again for Brighton Pride! I never knew that Brighton Pride is the biggest pride festival in the UK? It’s only a week away and I just can’t wait. I’d like to go to Preston Park this year to see the parade again – incredible outfits, even more incredible outfits and the most vibrant display of colour.

I’m planning on renting a Nikon D5 for Pride next week. Firstly, it’s only £125, which I thought was an absolute steal and secondly – it’s meant to be amazing for tracking focus and low light. There might be an unparalleled display of colour, but a sizable portion of the Pride festival attractions are situated in tents. I always find them particularly dimly lit – so I’m hoping this camera might be the best one for the job. Don’t be surprised if my pictures come out looking like they came from India’s Holi Festival! With that being said, I’m not even the most talented photographer – so don’t expect too much. I just wish I had one for my own wedding, it’s meant to be perfect for that sort of thing. I guess we’ll let the camera do the work!

Keeping Active

The temptation in this sort of weather is to eat fatty foods, drink far too much alcohol and exercise even less. Not this summer. Of course, I have the added incentive of keeping fit so that my holiday pics won’t look like the “before” pictures from a diet plan!

I’m not promising anything again though. As much as I’ve worked hard on it over the years, my self-restraint always wavers when it comes to cocktails, but I’m determined. I’ve found morning yoga sessions particularly great for me, they let me clear my head and start the day relaxed. I might even get my bike up and running again and see if I can remember how to pedal. You might think I’m a pyramid scheme saleswoman for the city of Brighton at this point, but this city is ideal for riding your bike too. There are so many parks, cycle lanes along the seafront and even the South Downs if I was feeling super healthy.

No excuses, I’m going to get it all done!