Monday, 25 September 2017

A Mini Makeover for a Boys Bedroom

Spaghetti Legs is 3 and still has a cot in his bedroom. There, I said it. He hasn't moved up to a big boy bed yet because quite frankly, he's decided that he'd rather lie diagonally across my face in bed with me. To entice him back to his own room, I've been working on a mini makeover that doesn't involve redecorating or a major overhaul - just some appealing new additions to make it inviting and not babyish.

Bed & Bedding

As a result of the accidental co-sleeping, I dragged my feet for ages over buying him a bigger bed. I rather feel like that it's now too late for toddler beds and we should go straight to a single bed for him, but the dimensions of his room have made it tricky to find a reasonably priced bed that'll fit.

Finally, a plain white one was settled on, with vehicle themed bedding to match his curtains, and a Bounce Back duvet with matching pillow from Sleep & Beyond.

Fresh bedding from Sleep & Beyond, 'MALM' single bed in white from IKEA, Cars and Trucks Duvet Set from Wilko

I make no secret of the fact that I hate shopping, so I like anything that I can order from the comfort of my own home - and I was made up to get a machine washable duvet that's a good price. It's got an anti-bacterial filling to inhibit yucky stuff growing inside and after some of the stories I've heard from other parents I decided this was the perfect choice for my low grossness tolerance. My own preferences aside, the duvet is anti allergy which can only be a good thing; whenever Spaghetti Legs gets a cold it goes to his chest and although he doesn't officially have any dust allergies I do worry about his chest so I thought something to combat potential dust mites too would be ideal.


I couldn't resist these battery-operated Pom Pom fairy lights from Next to drape along his headboard for a cosy bedtime and I know he'll be excited to see them. I went for multi-coloured lights because although I do tend to dress him in blue most of the time, we do try and promote that idea that there's no such thing as boys' colours or girls' colours. And besides, monochrome rooms might be very trendy but I can't quite pull off the Pinterest look, and you can't beat bright colours when you're three and a half, can you?

Despite sleeping soundly in relative darkness throughout babyhood, like many 3 year olds he's now grown to equate darkness with scariness. He likes to leave the landing light on, whereas I don't like that much light shining into my own room, so an additional nightlight is perfect - and the block design of this LED Light Stax from Find Me A Gift is perfect for my building-mad kid.

Creature Comforts

When my son first moved into his room at the grand old age of 18 months (nothing says apron strings like an extended stay in your parents room does it!) it was decorated with handmade curtains, and lots of colourful toys and books, but very little in the way of actual wall decoration save for some framed prints on a picture shelf.

So to get him involved in adding some decoration to his room (and remind him that his room actually exists) I've got hold of some  monster themed wall stickers from Find Me A Gift that we are going to attempt to apply together - wish me luck!

Adding to the already well established collection of Itty Bittys, we welcomed Spider-Man, Batman and Robin to the superhero fold alongside Star Wars characters, Wonder Woman, Superman, Iron Man and the Hulk.

Our local Hallmark shop has unfortunately stopped selling them, but that's not the end of the world - it stops him from asking for a new one every time we go in, and I can still buy Itty Bittys online. I've got a feeling Father Christmas will be bringing some more as stocking fillers in a few months time, too.

Itty Bittys: With great toys comes great collectability

Snuggling Up

As well as some new pyjamas, he's now got a snuggly Yoda Dressing Gown from Find Me A Gift to look forward to in his new slightly-more-grown-up bedroom. He's a big fan of Yoda, it being his first ever (and best) fancy dress costume that gets lots of compliments whenever he goes anywhere in it. But the entire outfit (which includes one of my old cardigans and belts) isn't exactly practical for everyday use, so the dressing gown is much more convenient for a little Jedi's bedtime!

So, without entirely breaking the bank - and certainly without having to do any serious DIY - I hope that the mini makeover on Spaghetti Legs' room is enough to persuade him to move back in there. I'll report back on how successful the finished product was!

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

This Is The Week That Was #25

I keep saying that I should really change these to monthly updates, but in reality I'd probably only remember the last week of each month anyway; I've got a memory like a sieve, and this very often leads me to feeling quite overwhelmed - even with every day things.

How I ever used to handle complex and urgent workloads I'll never know. These days I find myself re-washing the same load of laundry for days on end because I just haven't got round to hanging it out on time.

That said, I'm going to try to get in less of a flap over these things and try to just roll with it. The washing itself doesn't care whether I wash it three or four times and - costs aside - it's only me who actually cares whether the washing is ever done and put away promptly. There's truly more important things in life and it's defo not worth beating myself up over.

It's proving quite hard work but I'm training myself to replace this kind of anxious and overly critical thinking with a more relaxed outlook and positive thinking. Yeah, I might feel flustered at the moment, or double-booked an appointment, or forgot to reply to an email - but I live in a safe part of the world, there's food in the fridge, and I've got my comfy knickers on.

The Best Bits

Carrying on from last week, when I introduced the 'Best Bits', I've been reminding myself of how much fun I had on a day out in Southport sans kids recently, when I didn't get my phone out of my bag all day and we got lost in time, sea air, and trashy arcades.

I've got this thing for British seaside towns, and as glorious and gastrocentric as Padstow and Cornish coastal destinations may be, it's the piers, promenades, and candy floss of former Victorian resorts that does it for me.

I might blanch at the shouty parents in vest tops and bulldog tattooes feeding their kids Fanta for breakfast but in reality I'll happily part with £30 on ice cream and greasy chips, and handle the 2p machine in Funland will all the skill and deftness of an RAF jet fighter.

I haven't mentioned one of my very first posts about 'Restoring Your Life Balance' in quite some time - but our trip to Southport certainly ticked the Fun and Energising boxes and did me the world of good. Sometimes, if you get chance, you just need to grab your mates and go and be a kid for a while, without having to wipe noses, schedule toilet trips, or have to do bedtime duties afterwards.

What I've Been Writing

5 Gross Facts About Parenting That Don't Involve Bodily Fluids

The 5 Most Annoying People in Your Office for the Daily Struggle

How To Absolutely Smash a Job Interview for Scouse Bird Blogs

This coming week I'm going to be blogging about my 'Glow Up' (trust me - it's a lot more stripped back and basic than it sounds) and some homewares and skincare stuff that I keep meaning to share.

Until next week/month,

B x

You might also fancy reading: This is The Week That Was #24

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

5 Gross Facts About Parenting That Don't Involve Bodily Fluids

We're all familiar with the horror stories of explosive nappies, projectile vomiting, being weed on, and the ever present threat of potentially having to deploy that manoeuvre to extract snot when they've got a cold. But the truth is, the full extent of how disgusting kids are goes even beyond the major bodily fluids. Here's the lowdown on all the other gross stuff about parenting...

Bath Toys

Every bathroom has a grubby little secret. Maybe you've let your sealant go a bit mouldy in places like me (my sealant, I mean - before you prescribe me a short course of antibiotics), maybe your shower head isn't firing on all cylinders because nobody thinks it's their job to descale it, or perhaps the loo needs more than the occasional visit from little old Toilet Duck.

But despite bathrooms being a breeding ground for all kinds of grossness, there's something particularly grim about seeing your little angels playing with rubber ducks full of floating matter that essentially comprises about 95% dead skin cells.

Rumour has it (and by 'rumour' I mean parenting hacks on Pinterest) that you can stop up air holes with superglue and therefore avoid the whole mouldy insides business. You can even chuck the harder plastic toys in the dishwasher (just not with anything that ever goes near my food or my mouth, ta v much!) or scrub by hand.

Or you can do what I do and bin the lot of it and get replacements from Poundland, because life's too short for disinfecting 26 spongey letters of the alphabet.


Gaah, where do I start?

If, like me, fruit (and in particular overripe fruit) has always given you the heebie jeebies, then becoming a parent is just about enough to push you over the soft and pungent edge.

Unless you want your child to grow up wasteful and full of food hang-ups, you kinda feel obliged to put on Oscar-winning performances from the first speckly banana you mash up during the weaning months to the oxygenated brown apple they've taken 45 minutes to eat (but can't bear to be parted from) as they grow up.

Yuck all round.

Down the Side of the Couch

Remember the days when you'd find cold hard cash, the remote control and a maybe a few lighters down the edge of your sofa? Yep, me too - although it's becoming a dimmer and more distant memory as time goes by.

These days it's nearly all of the raisins in the house (the remainder are stuck on the bottoms of everyone's slippers) and if I really hit the jackpot, a perfectly preserved (but rock hard) Mini Babybel. Makes you wonder what they put in those things; they could probably survive a nuclear blast.

Lunch Boxes

I won't lie: lunchboxes have always knocked me sick since the 80s and anyone who's ever caught the faintest whiff of an empty Ruffneck flask will know why.

These days, needs must in our house, and I'm presented with The Plastic Box of Horrors after school on a regular basis. The key is to empty it AS SOON AS YOU GET HOME - otherwise it's penicillin butties all round.


Much like the couch but this time more up close and personal.

Be prepared to find things in your own pockets that you didn't realise were in there; my dressing gown is a veritable Aladdin's Cave of small construction vehicles, pebbles, and dried up snot rags.

Meanwhile, the pre-wash ritual emptying of kiddie pockets yields bark, sand, orange peel and petals - I mean that could be the ingredients for a new Lush face mask but when you stick your hand into that little denim lucky dip and come out with what you hope is Play Doh under your nails then you start wondering whether there's anything about little kids that isn't totally gross!


Friday, 8 September 2017

This Is The Week That Was #24

I've been putting off writing this and I don't know why. It's not as though I've got difficult subjects to broach. I think there's been so many things whizzing through my brain that I keep meaning to include in 'This Is The Week That Was' but never get round to sitting down and writing it.

Sometimes - and this probably sounds so lame - but I think I can't possibly publish a blog post without an accompanying image, but you don't really mind, do you? I've got to admit it's sometimes a push to find an appropriate photo to go with an update of how I've been sitting at home picking crumbs out of my bra or a never ending cycle of picking up underpants. I mean nobody wants those kind of pictures do they? Or do they?

So please forgive me if I sometimes do a little blog post without pictures. It's not that I'm not arsed anymore, it's just that sometimes if I don't hit 'publish' I'll just never get round to it. Maybe I can chuck in the odd GIF now and then to make up for it? We all love a good GIF don't we?

Where to Begin?

The Summer Holidays came to an end for us this morning and I was going to tell you all about Spaghetti Legs' return to nursery but actually..... who's arsed? Suffice to say he was fine about going back and they did a cute little phased return where all the kids go in for a short day with a packed lunch. So that's that sorted.

Before that, I had some wonderful news. I hadn't mentioned it on here before but a few months ago I developed a lump in my collarbone area and I went to the doctors anyway to get it checked out. Now I'm not saying that locum doctors aren't any good (I had a fab long term locum doctor once who I wish to God had stayed at our surgery, she gave me some wonderful life changing advice and I was going to say I'll never forget her but I've already forgotten her name - but she was great, anyway) but this locum doctor that I went to see basically fobbed me off. A few more months went by and the lump was growing blah blah blah and this time and was sent straight to hospital for tests. I waited over the bank holiday for the results and got the reassuring news that I didn't have cancer of the lymph nodes.

It's not the first time I've had to be tested for this kind of thing; I've been investigated for ovarian, breast, bowel and now this. And let me tell you - this doesn't bode well with anxiety! Convinced it was only a matter of time til I got bad news, I was bracing myself to have run out of luck playing cancer roulette and that it was my turn this time round. You know when people say "try not to worry"? It's impossible not to. I did manage not to google it though, knowing how much I'd freak myself out if I knew what potentially lay ahead.

I cried I was so relieved. I cried because I was happy and I cried because I felt guilty; how come I get a pass when others don't? I cried because I felt like I didn't deserve it - especially all those times I've had some really shitty dark thoughts - and yet I get another shot at life. But my son deserves it. All kids deserve to have their parents.

So after the crying I felt really peaceful, really kinda content, really hashtag blessed. I mean it helped that I had a nap to celebrate. But I've managed - by and large - to stay in a good mood since then. I feel a bit differently about stuff; I'm no longer arsed about people who've pissed me off, or been stupid or rude, or even about the fact that there was noticeably fewer people who I confided in this time about the tests or results. As they say - if you keep more friends than you can count on one hand, count again because you keep too many..

I've still no idea what this lump in my neck is, like. Probably melted cheese, knowing me.

What I've Been Writing

Thinking Outside The Socks: Gifts for Men from £1 to £100 featuring some of my fave pressies ever (even though none of them are chocolate or cheese).

Why Your Phone Usage Around Your Kids is Nobody Else's Business - got another bee in my bonnet there didn't I.

BRYT Skincare, Helen Mirren, and Ditching the 'Anti Ageing' Label - the time I used a new face cream and decided to become immortal.

The Best Bits

Saw this on someone else's blog (who I'd normally link you to but their's is a very special and personal blog that I think they write for therapeutic reasons and I don't think the traffic would be needed or perhaps wanted) and immediately knew I wanted to introduce it to my This Is The Week That Was posts. I guess it's a bit like those gratitude journals that are doing the rounds at the moment. Except this is me, and I cringe at things like that.

Went to Tainted Love, the 80s night at Camp and Furnace and had an absolute ball. I wore a really comfy jersey jumpsuit which I've now worn like the last three times I've been out and don't give one shiny shit about because it made me feel good and so did the company - I could be dressed like I'm putting the bins out and wouldn't care as long as I'm with the right people. And I was with the right people. And I didn't take my phone. Cause not everything needs to be chucked on Snapchat to show you had a good time.

Oh and the tunes. The DJ was a belter. All killers no fillers. I think I need a few more Cod Liver Oil capsules before I attempt any more 'leg guitar' to Huey Lewis & The News but I don't regret any of the aches and pains that followed.

Until next time, wishing you all good health

B x

Read This Is The Week That Was #23


Wednesday, 6 September 2017

BRYT Skincare, Helen Mirren, and Ditching the 'Anti Ageing' Label

A few weeks ago, I got talking to BRYT Skincare about men's skincare for a little feature I'm working on, but me being me I inevitably got distracted and ended up getting stuff for myself instead. I may not be a man (which is a shame because I'd be a dab hand at mansplaining) but I am a very special and amazing person so they very kindly agreed to send me some bits and bobs to try out, namely their Calm Serum and Night Cream.

Then a funny thing happened: a few days into using the BRYT stuff (and yes I did like it but more about that later) I had a flick through the blurb to get some info so I could do a half decent write up, when I stumbled across them talking about "young skin".

My first thought (OK, second thought - my first thought involved denial at what year it was and what year I was born) was that I'd made a monumental cock up and got the wrong stuff; that maybe they assumed I was a young nubile thing (probably on account of how immature I am) and am not their preferred target audience and couldn't possibly have anything useful to say about their product; that maybe I should leave anything remotely beauty-bloggery to, well, beauty bloggers - and young ones at that.

Firstly, it wasn't that deep. Secondly, the lovely team at BRYT saw my waffly self-doubting post on Instagram, and reassured me that their products were suitable for me - and for all ages.

Then another curious thing occurred within days: I saw an announcement by Allure Magazine that they have dropped the 'Anti Ageing' label and won't be using that phrase again in their publication. At the same time, Helen Mirren was in the press reminding us that reaching your 70s is a fabulous privilege and not a twilight zone of Werthers Originals and sensible shoes (ironically, exactly what my 30s have panned out to be). And while L'Oréal's more recent race row has really taken the shine off the many positive messages that they are able to convey to women, the idea of celebrating women of all ages (read: older ages) is actually really quite liberating.

Having read this, I felt encouraged not to let the beauty industry stick a label on me, to make me feel like I have to try harder, or that I wasn't in any way as valuable as my younger contemporaries.

Now I don't claim to know too much about cosmetology (previously unreleased Sam Cook material there) but sod it - what difference does that really make? I've got this far in life just washing my face with soap and water every day so it's a bit late for me to start caring too much about scientific shit. But what I do know is that this inclusive ethos appeals to me far more that promises of miraculous wrinkle zapping.

As far as the actual products go, as well as giving me something of an epiphany alongside bad ass Helen Mirren, I've been really pleased with both the Calm Serum and Night time cream after using them for about three weeks now.

The smell is lovely - it's spa like without being over perfumed - and I've noticed that my skin's no longer tight, flaky, or getting the kind of angry spots which are soul destroying during teenage years but an absolute travesty at my age.

It's British made, cruelty free, and vegan (I don't actually know what that means but I can imagine that appeals to a lot of people so thought I'd mention it - told you I should leave this to professional beauty bloggers!).

One of the things I noticed compared to other clunky pots of night cream that I've used, too, is how compact the containers are which makes all the difference to me when my bedside table is cluttered with small tractors, beakers, and packs of sensitive wipes. I've managed well so far only using these two products but once I've stopped scaring myself with talk of "young skin" I'll be choosing something else to add to them.

Check them out on social media and browse their stuff on the Bryt Skincare website.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Why Your Phone Usage Around Your Kids is Nobody Else's Business

The other day I was walking past some small, quite quaint shops with my three year old. As we went by, I was explaining the shops to him: that's a picture framers, that one's a second hand bookshop, and this one sells tablets and lotions made from plants.

It's nothing special. It comes second nature to me, chatting away. We're always talking, I'm always pointing things out, and he's always curious. It's helped him to expand his (really very excellent) vocabulary despite his slightly delayed speech. I don't want a medal, it's just something my parents did with me and something I do with my son.

So it was quite flattering and also a surprise for a friendly lady (probably my mum's age) to stop me mometarily and praise me for it. "It's so lovely" she said "to see a parent taking the time to teach their children things. You never see that these days - they're always on their phones". In her eagerness to get her point across, she mimicked someone talking on the phone with one hand, and texting with the other - quite the feat of multitasking by anyone's standards.

You know where I'm going with this, right? If you ever read my quite lively post The Four Gobshites of the Coffee Shop (I hesitate to call it a rant because I am not Denise from Accounts, this is not Facebook, and you can't mop up the after-effects of a vicious and personal diatribe with a passive aggressive "rant over" and an emoji like nothing just happened) then you won't be surprised to learn that I feel a bit afronted by someone telling me what I should or shouldn't be doing in the presence of my child.

I mean, I know she meant well, and I know she was complimenting me. But there was a dig in there somewhere too. Maybe not at me, but at Mums in general. Yeah, sadly some parents do need reminders not to have sex in the same room as their kids, not to make their children resort to eating out of dog bowls because there's no food in for tea, or not to give them methodone to help them sleep. But they're the parents who need a hell of a lot more intervention than a busybody telling them to put their phone down.

You only have to glance at the paparazzi photos that the Daily Mail churn out to see labels plastered on women; whether mothers are branded as "Me First Mums" (I won't bother furnishing you with a link but let's just say the judgement is often very much cast on non famous types) or the more positive sounding "Multi taskers" (Jools Oliver or anyone else the Mail deign to approve of) just goes to show the whim of favour that women are subjected to - all over using a fucking phone.

And no, it's not a slippery slope. Phone usage doesn't mean that you are (or will become) neglectful or abusive. Phone usage doesn't mean that you don't also read books with them, educate them, sing to them, nurture them, explore nature with them, fucking well parent them.

It pisses me off and gets under my skin, so here's my defence of using my phone around my son,,.

What I Use My Phone For

Even the most golden of oldies know that these days phones aren't just for ringing people, but still they shouldn't assume that if I'm sitting in the park fiddling with my phone that I'm looking at Minions memes on the internet or any of the other millions of ways to ignore my child.

Sometimes - quite often in fact - I have to send emails instead of making important phone calls because (especially when my son was in his terrible twos) he'd either shout 'Monster Truck' in my face or bat the phone out of my hands so deftly that it'd put the South Korean Olympic table tennis team to shame.

Me while my son opens himself another tin of cold beans

Here's just some of the things I do online (in the presence of my son - shock horror!): repeat prescriptions, emailing his Dad who cannot use a mobile phone at work, or my Mum who checks her emails on her iPad but avoids answering the house phone because (like me) she secretly hates people, booking pre-school theatre workshops, arranging pick up times, paying for football lessons, renewing library books so we can spend longer in the park, or re-arranging delivery times so we can go out for the day instead of waiting at home.

See? It's not all wilful ignorance. But people like to assume.

Don't Blame the Phone

Is it the actual phone that's the problem here, or the parent? I get the feeling that if I was leafing through the paper while my child plays happily at my feet (like so many husbands did on their return home from work in their generation - don't even get me started on this!) then you wouldn't have such a problem would you?

If I was knitting, or talking to another mum, or another stranger-approved wholesome activity then I wouldn't attract any judgmental glances. But the moment you throw technology into the mix, the gloves are off.

Daily Mail approved multi-tasking. Not to be attempted by common folk.

This Isn't a Generational Thing

Don't make the mistake of thinking this is a new thing. Mums have been 'ignoring' their kids since the dawn of time. Do you think neanderthal women spent all day doing educational cave paintings? Did they fuck - they had sabre tooth tigers to skin, and fires to light, and snazzy little fur playsuits to make.

Going back nearly as far in history I recall routinely being left on a bench while my mum played badminton with her friend Bernadette or having to follow her round the jungle of lace and and sturdy straps that was the Marks and Spencer bra department.

I don't think there is a child alive that hasn't been subjected to boring shopping.

She even left her older kids strapped in the buggy at the poolside while she had swimming lessons - which makes even me shudder at the sheer lack of health and safety assessment but my point is parents have always had their own stuff to get on with.

It's My Time

There's not anyone who knows what I do all day (least of all me) so nobody is in any position to judge me. Well Meaning Woman talked about me "taking the time to teach [my child] things" but the thing about teaching any child anything is that you are always teaching them. You don't really get a choice in the matter!

They are constantly learning and very often we don't get the convenience of stopping what we're doing to have cutesy little one-to-one life tutorials. So we multi-task and teach. Do the dishes and tell them how the dinosaurs died. Navigate a ring road and explain why lions aren't technically 'King of the Jungle', or try to have a shower and explain why you've got hair in certain places and they haven't. We rarely get a choice in the matter, and sometimes you can't be arsed but you do it anyway because that's what we do.

But sometimes... sometimes I want my own time. I want to see what's being said in the WhatsApp group chat even if it's just pictures of dogs in sunglasses (especially if it's pictures of dogs in sunglasses, actually), I want to go on social media, I want to order something off ASOS, or do some bloody Sudoku in peace and quiet for five minutes. And guess what - I do it at home, too!

It's the technological equivalent of finishing a hot cup of tea, of having a wee alone and uninterrupted, of being able to get through the day without someone else's food or bodily fluids appearing as if by magic somewhere on your clothes.

So this one's for the parents (especially the mums) who find themselves on the receiving end of those looks. You send your texts, you skin your sabre tooth tigers. And to the strangers and passers by, however well-meaning: there's so much that we are made to feel guilty about these days, please don't add another one.


Saturday, 26 August 2017

Thinking Outside the Socks: Gifts for Men from £1 to £100

I don't know when I turned into my own Mother, but they say it happens to all women, and its latest manifestation is trying once and for all to get ahead with birthday and Christmas presents instead of leaving it til the last minute and then hurriedly sending a Moonpig card and an Amazon e-voucher the night before (if they're lucky). Nobody seems more neglected than men in the gift department, so I've decided to take action and look for ideas for all the dads, grandads, brothers, grown up sons and favourite work colleagues who are so often palmed off with giant Toblerones and novelty socks (both of which I am particularly fond of, if anyone's looking for ideas for me!).

Face Masks

One of the great stocking fillers of the modern age is Face Masks and when I dished these 7th Heaven face masks out to my male guinea pigs they all enjoyed a good pamper. No longer the domain of teenage girls or the terminally vain metrosexual, these are a great treat for the morning after the night before, after a long flight or difficult week at work.

Probably the most popular face pack brand on the market right now, pick them up from the supermarket or chemist for just over a quid (which means you can get a handful for Secret Santa and still come in under budget!).

Red Vape Gourmet E-Cig Liquid

Gone are the days that 300 duty free B&H make a suitable present at any time of year, but vaping is both a healthier alternative to fags and a booming business, with gourmet brands pushing their way to the fore. Did you know there's even Vaping Conventions and magazines dedicated to it? No wonder something of a connoisseur scene has developed.

With the rather posh Reserva range to choose from (we tried out the lower strength 'Shade' and 'Havano Gold')  or even the 'dessert' liquids 'Trinity Creme' or 'Noble Mint', vaping shows no sign of stopping. This Premium UK E-liquid from British company Red Vape, in its classy black packaging, makes great stocking fillers or Secret Santa presents for under £10 - especially for someone you're trying to help kick the habit.

Personalised Notebooks

From luxury British brand Smythson of Bond Street to quality German stationers Leuchtturm, nothing beats personalised notepads for those ideas that'll make him a millionaire, lyrics that'll propel him to number one, or as a head-clearing journal. Adding their name or initials turns what's already a nice piece of stationery into an even more thoughtful gift.

My favourites are the Italian brand Moleskin favoured by famous scribblers Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway and Vincent Van Gogh. Either shop online, on London's Regent or Oxford streets, or in many branches of Waterstones across the UK.

Olverum Bath Oil

This iconic bath oil is the kind of thing that you'll want to keep for yourself and not give away. Which is precisely what I did - I tried it and love its grown up scent.

Whether you buy it online or head to Harvey Nicks, Liberty or Fenwicks (and accidentally run up an impressive credit card bill on yourself while you're there), the blend of ten essential oils has unisex appeal and will guarantee a relaxing soak whoever ends up as the recipient.

Taken from the Latin name meaning 'true oil', the aromatic mixture of natural plant extracts has been going for nearly 90 years and is a luxury brand that's perfect for anyone who enjoys the finer things in life and loves to hog the bathroom!

Braun Multi Grooming Kit 3080

Such a stereotype to say men love anything remotely electrical or gadgety I know, but anything that needs a plug or batteries always seems like such a substantial present, doesn't it? I got the nearest available hairy fella to try out this Braun Multi Grooming Kit for me and it got the thumbs up:

"The packaging was really nice - it shouldn't matter but it did. You know where you stand with Braun, I suppose don't you. I mean, I'd use anything, me. I'd use a tin opener if I thought my nose hair was tickling too much. But it was nice trying out a quality brand. How dya say it? Like Brown or Brooooorn? Anyway I did a great job on my sidies and shaping my beard."

Now if that's not a sterling endorsement, I don't know what is. The 100% waterproof wet and dry shaver comes with 9 different attachments, including a body trimmer (woo!) and nose and hair trimmer (yay!). Have a browse online to find the best deal.

Drinks by the Dram

This is the stuff dreams are made of. Imagine the Brownie points you'd score with a whiskey lover if you presented them with an Advent Calendar from Drinks by the Dram packed filled with 24 different wax sealed drams of whisky from all over the world! That's what I did last year and everyone was asking me where I got it from. I won't lie, I basked for many weeks in the glory of this massive diversion from an Amazon e-voucher.

Not a fan of Whisky? You can get Gin, Rum or even Bourbon instead. Not a fan of Advent (er, what? it's only the best three-and-a-bit weeks of the year!) then check out their Christmas cracker sets. And if you're just not of the Christmassy persuasion at all then they have Tasting Sets that you can give all year round, featuring everything from Absinthe to Armagnac, Vodka and Tequila.

They'd impress anyone who loves a tipple; from occasional drinkers to fully fledged connoisseurs. Perfect for special occasions like big birthdays, anniversaries, first Father's Day, or graduation. Defo too good for the office Secret Santa!

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