Big Fat Quiz of the Blogging Year

2016 is nearly over, which can mean only one thing! It's time to look back on a fabulous year for blogging! There have been some real stand out moments over the past 12 months, and what better way to remember them than taking part in a little quiz! Now, I may not be Jimmy Carr, but I've tried my best and compiled twelve questions to allow you to test your knowledge of the biggest blogging highs and lows of the year! How many will you get right? Once you've had a go (without cheating, ladies & gents!), check your answers in the small print at the bottom of the post. If you get them all, reward yourself with a bit of that leftover Christmas chocolate - you deserve it!



1. A blogger caused controversy with an anti vegan post this year. But what was one of the claims made in the post?
a) Cows would take over the world if we didn't eat them
b) Eating cheese prevents cancer
c) Vegans worship Satan

2. Another blogger came under fire for writing a Christmas stocking filler post featuring a ludicrously expensive item. What was the gift in question?
a) A diamond encrusted doggy pooper scooper costing £5,499
b) A keyring costing £149
c) A phone case costing £799

3. Which big print magazine caused ire when they blasted "greedy" fashion bloggers?
a) Cosmopolitan
b) Good Housekeeping
c) Vogue

4. The blogging community pulled together to support Sarah (@wonderlandblogs) in a fundraising campaign in 2016. What were the funds successfully raised for?
a) Replacing stolen goods
b) Medical bills
c) A new power chair

5. Hayley from @teapartybeauty organised the Bloggers Blog Awards this year, a fabulous event that recognised all the hard work put in by bloggers. But can you remember which brand was the main sponsor?
a) Punky Pins
b) Jewellery Box
c) Magnitone

6. This year, Jemma from @dorkfaceblog celebrated the first birthday of #TheGirlGang, her fabulously friendly online community! Which cult movie was one of the very first films watched at a Girl Gang movie night?
a) Mean Girls
b) Freaky Friday
c) The Lizzie McGuire Movie

7. Posts entitled "How much is my face worth?", giving beauty bloggers the opportunity to tot up how much their everyday makeup look cost, was a major trend in the blogging community this year. Can you remember how much Alice from @alicespake's total came to?
a) £97.42
b) £366.05
c) £122.48

8. Hundreds of Twitter chat accounts launched throughout 2016, experiencing varying levels of success! Which well-known chat account, launched way back in 2012, hit a whopping 30k followers this year?
a) F.B.L Bloggers (@fashbeautylife)
b) The Bloggers Hub (@thebloggershub_)
c) Lazy Blogging (@lazyblogging)

9. Another big spat that happened in the blogosphere this year was to do with Relatable vs. Aspirational blogging, with many people saying that big bloggers are no longer relatable because of their collaborations with luxury companies. But which of these big brands did NOT send YouTube star Zoella blogger mail over the past 12 months?
a) Smashbox
b) Elizabeth Arden
c) Yves Saint Laurent

10. This year, Kayleigh from @veryberrycosmo started a very successful campaign to end stigma against a particular mental health condition. What was it?
a) Depression
b) Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
c) Bipolar Disorder

11. Blogosphere magazine, a print publication written by bloggers, for bloggers went from strength to strength in 2016, with a truly gorgeous selection of coverstars! Can you recall who fronted the first issue of the year?
a) EssieButton
b) Victoria from Inthefrow
c) Lily Pebbles

12. Certain brands have saturated the blogging world with their wares this year, and pretty much everyone under the sun has been reviewing them! Which of the products below was NOT a blogger mail staple in 2016?
a) Sally Express Cosmetics Organiser
b) Shadow Switch Dry Brush Cleaner
c) KISS Acrylic Nails

What are your most memorable moments from blogging in 2016? Share in the comments below!

Until next time,

A x

Answers: 1a, 2b, 3c, 4c, 5b, 6a, 7c, 8a, 9b, 10b, 11c, 12a

Winter Ballin'

Let's start this off my saying that I am NOT a partygoer. You're more likely to find me hidden away in my bedroom with a book on a Friday night than living it up in a nightclub, dancing on top of a bar, or whatever it is that people do to humilate themselves have fun these days. But there is one occasion when I can totally advocate dancing 'til dawn. And that occasion is a ball!

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This November, Merton College, where I have been studying for the past four years, hosted its triennial Winter Ball. The entire college was decked out in fairy lights, and transformed into a giant adult playground for all to enjoy! Included in your ticket were (unlimited!) food and drink, music, dancing, and all manner of entertainments, lasting until 4am! Keep scrolling to see some photos from the amazing night and read about my experience!

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Setting:
It's not very often that you get to have a massive knees-up in an Oxford college that's over 750 years old. The old buildings were beautifully lit up and tastefully decorated, with Christmas trees and fake snow everywhere giving a really festive vibe! There were loads of tents for drinks and food dotted around everywhere, so you were never without a glass in your hand. A cute bandstand was erected for the live jazz music, and a huge dance tent could be found in the gardens!

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Entertainment:
Some of the highlights from the ball included the opulent shisha tent, which also served coffee, cupcakes, and red bull mocktails to keep you going in the wee hours! There was also a casino with blackjack, poker, and a roulette wheel! Our common room was transformed into a games room, complete with dance-mats and a skalextric set up for the competitive ones! This was also the venue for the all-important alcoholic ice-cream milkshake stand, which I frequented throughout the night!

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Food and Drinks:
You could purchase a dining ticket for the ball, which entitled you to a three course meal in the dining tent before the rest of the ball began, but my friends and I opted for the non-dining option, as with this you still got to make the most of the numerous food stalls that were pitched all over the college. These included paella, pizza, curry, mac and cheese (a personal favourite of mine) and churros! In terms of drinks, there was a cocktail bar, martinis in the casino, your usual spirits and mixers, wine, beer, and pretty much anything else you could ask for!

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Fairground Fun:
One of my favourite parts of the ball was the fairground! Swingboats and dodgems were set up in the college gardens which were a real blast! I still have a huge bruise on my knee after some rather questionable dodgem driving from my friends Adam and Glenn! As well as the rides, there was a coconut shy, shooting games, and various other stalls. I even won a cuddly toy for my prowess at the coconut shy!

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What I wore:
The dress code for the ball was white tie. For the lads this is fairly straightforward: a black tailcoat worn over a white shirt and a white bow tie. For the ladies, it's open to more interpretation! Floor length gowns are typically expected for women, so I wore a floor-length black dress (originally from Coast) which I bought in a charity shop for a pittance! To keep warm, I donned a big grey fluffy coat (originally from Next) which again, I got from a charity shop for just £7. I also wore a pair of smart black heeled boots, which along with the long dress cleverly kept hidden the thick pair of Primark themal leggings I had on underneath! You can see a picture of me at the ball below with a couple of my friends!

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Music:
It wouldn't be a ball without some dancing! As well as live jazz to kick off the night and various DJs in the disco tent, the ball also had a headline act, the indie rock band Everything Everything. You might know them from this song! I hadn't actually heard of the band before the ball (sorry any die-hard fans out there!) but I did enjoy listening to them on the night! The silent disco kicked in until 4am and rounded off the night with the classic 'Angels' by Robbie Williams, after which we all stumbled home to bed!

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I hope that this little insight into my Winter Ball fun was interesting for you! Have you ever been to a ball? Let me know in the comments!

Until next time,

A x

Your Best Christmas Ever


Last week, I shared my best Christmas experiences with you. Today, I'm following this up by handing over to some of my fellow blogging friends: Em, Beth, and Sarah, who are going to reminisce about their favourite Christmas. Prepare yourself for some heartwarming and tear-jerking tales of cherished family memories, traditions, and seeing Christmas through new eyes! 

First, the gorgeous Beth from adventureandanxiety.com tells us about her treasured family memories:

"I'm lucky in that most of my Christmases have been wonderful, but there's one year that stands out to me. It was when I was 20, so it wasn't about getting the exact toy I'd wanted all year, but it will remain my favourite Christmas memory for a very long time.

I grew up in Edinburgh, but my dad is from the New Forest, so we didn't get to see his family very much. This year, though, we'd travelled 8 hours to spend Christmas at my Auntie's house. It was so special to get to share the day with my grandparents, aunt, uncle and cousins. We had so much fun over those few days, watching Christmas films together, going for wintery walks around the village and laughing when my nanny lost her glasses (turns out she'd hung them on the Christmas tree for some reason!)

The whole week, not just Christmas day, felt so full of love and laughter, and I am so grateful for the memory, as unfortunately my grandparents and auntie have since passed away. Every Christmas I think of that time, and remember how wonderful it felt to be one of the cheesy, loving families you see in the films."

🎁


Next, the lovely Em from www.emilybecca.com shares her traditional but charming Christmas:
"Christmas has always been very same-y to me. We get up, feed the pets, open gifts, drive two hours to see our family, have dinner, open more gifts with them, and watch the Queen's Speech and the Doctor Who Christmas Special as the adults fall asleep in their chairs. And then of course my grandma being, well, grandma, insists we must be starving and sets out supper. Next, we set off for the journey home, or sometimes my brother and I stay over at our grandparents' or aunties', as we repeat the whole journey the next day!

So it's hard to really reflect on my best Christmas, but I wouldn't have it any other way, as it's tradition, it just never gets old, everyone is so happy and carefree! It's as if I return to my 6 year old self with the rush of excitement and a feeling I can only describe as magic.

And for some family members, Christmas is the only time I see them, making it that extra special. Oh, and my grandma makes the best mince pies, what's better than that? So to me, every Christmas is the best Christmas, because it's Christmas! Cheesy I know but, hey, it's Christmas - we're allowed to get a little mushy!"

🎁


Finally, I'm handing over to the fabulous Sarah from thingssarahloves.co.uk, who is here to share the tale of receiving the gift of sight this Christmas:


"Sitting and mulling over my favourite Christmas memory or what I would consider to be my ‘BEST CHRISTMAS EVER’ really got me thinking. You see, my best Christmas ever is going to be the one that is right around the corner.
 
Four weeks ago I had my second cornea transplant (my first was two years ago) and I’ve never been so excited to celebrate Christmas. For the past five years, I’ve lived in a complete blur; not being able to see the Christmas lights, play board games, read the bad jokes from crackers or watch my family smile as they open their gifts. This coming Christmas I’ll be able to see everything a little better (it’s not yet perfect, but improving every day) and for me, that’s made my Christmas – I can’t wait! 

This year for me, it’s all about giving back and making the most of quality time with my loved ones who have supported me on my transplant journey. As for gifts, two donors have already given me exactly what I wanted for Christmas – I can’t thank them enough."

A big thank you goes out to the wonderful blogging ladies who took the time to share their Christmas memories with us all today! Please go check out their blogs and give them some love, they deserve it!

Do you have any festive tales to tell? Share your best Christmas in the comments!

Until next time,

A x

Christmas Bucket List


Hello all! This post is a simple one. I've already blogged about the reasons I'm not doing Blogmas this festive season, and I've also shared some Christmassy post ideas for you all, but today I was inspired by the lovely Kimberly's fourth Blogmas post about her Christmas bucket list to write one of my own! So a big festive thank you goes out to Kimberly for the inspiration! Christmas is such a special time of year when you can create so many lovely memories! I'm going to be updating this post throughout the festive period, checking off all of the things that I've done. Why not join me and write a festive bucket list of your own?

  • Go to a Christmas market
  • Do some Christmas baking with my Mum
  • Participate in a Secret Santa
  • Send Christmas cards to my blogging friends
  • Send Christmas cards to my uni friends
  • Send Christmas cards to my friends at home
  • Give my blog a festive makeover
  • Go shopping for Christmas food
  • Walk around Oxford in the evening, looking at all the Christmas lights
  • Watch Home Alone for the first time 
  • Drink hot chocolate outside in the cold
  • Instagram that hot chocolate because did you even drink it if you didn't 'gram it?!
  • Go ice skating
  • Help decorate the house
  • Donate to a food drive for the less fortunate
  • Take a festive family photo
  • Spend an evening cuddled up in front of the fireplace with my dogs
  • Sing carols
  • Help prepare the Christmas dinner
  • Read a Christmas themed book
  • Make some Christmas crafts 
  • Spread some Christmas cheer to my Twitter followers
  • Keep up to date with everyone's Blogmas posts
  • Walk the dogs with my Dad on Christmas morning

What are you hoping to do over Christmas this year? Please share in the comments below!

Until next time,

A x


*Image credit for this post: StockSnap

Etsy Christmas Gift Guide

Finding a unique gift or set of Christmas cards these days can be pretty difficult. If you're still shopping around for stocking fillers, you should definitely take a look at Etsy. There are thousands of sellers on the site, exhibiting gorgeous handmade products which really break the mould! To help you with your shopping, I've filtered down the very best shops on Etsy, and picked out some of their best products, so that you don't have to! Keep scrolling to find my Christmas Etsy recommendations...



Shop #1: Llama Talks
I discovered the wonderful Ellis's Etsy shop through her Twitter page and blog, and it was love at first click! Ellis, an incredibly talented illustrator, produces cards, stickers, prints, badges, phone cases and loads more! I was lucky enough to win a giveaway of Llama Talks products, and I was blown away with the quality. Ellis is also incredibly kind and flexible - when I wanted to buy an A5 print of a specific piece of her work, the sloth you can see above, she took time out of her day to make the print especially for me in the format that I needed - she's a superstar! Definitely check out her shop.



Shop #2: Destination Jewellery
This shop is run by Holly, who I knew years and years ago from my sixth form! Destination Jewellery is her business, selling one-of-a-kind vintage-style jewellery, hand crafted cross stitch quotes in cute frames, and accessories. Her shop is a real eclectic mix, and you never know what you're going to find! I've bought a couple of her jewellery pieces now, including this dainty eagle necklace which I always receive lots of compliments on! Holly always goes above and beyond to package her orders beautifully and her customer service is second to none!



 Shop #3:  Adventures of Hope
This gorgeous little store is run by a good blogging friend of mine, Kat Wilson, from her home in rural Aberdeenshire. Kat is a crafter extraordinaire, producing beautiful unique Christmas cards and tags, as well as knitted items like hair accessories and home decor. Kat puts so much effort into every item in her shop, battling through her chronic pain to produce these absolutely charming crafts! I highly recommend that you stop by Adventures of Hope for your Christmas cards and stocking fillers.

Spotlight items: Stag Merry Christmas Notelets - Dusty Pink Knitted Hair Bows - 10 Pack Christmas Gift Tags

I hope you've enjoyed this mini Etsy gift guide! Are you a regular Etsy shopper? Comment down below!

Until next time,

A x

Have a very Choosey Christmas!*

Nothing spreads Christmas cheer like a good old fashioned Christmas card! Postboxes up and down the country will be heaving with festive post this December, but it's easy to make your cards stand out! I was recently contacted by the lovely people at Choosey.com* who offered me the chance to try out their greetings card service, and I couldn't say no! Anyone who follows me on Twitter knows how much I love sending and receiving snail mail, so this was the perfect opportunity for me!


The perfect recipients of my cards were naturally my fellow bloggers! Choosey's website allowed me to easily pick out the cards that I wanted from an enormous selection, and I found the ideal card for each of my blogging friends! On Choosey's handy card finder engine, you can select from loads of categories, including funny cards, cute cards, rude cards, and animal cards - to name but a few. You can also narrow down the selections further, browsing cards suitable for mum or dad, an auntie or uncle, and a boyfriend / girlfriend. This made the process really fast and simple.


So, let's get into the cards that I picked out! I went for a selection of funny, cute, and text cards which show off the diversity of Choosey's offerings. All of the cards are large (most are A5, the square one at the top left is slightly smaller) and they definitely stand out on the mantelpiece amongst all the others! The cards are super glossy and the print and paper quality is very high. Choosey give you the option of having the cards sent to you, along with another envelope for the recipient, but they will also mail out the card to the recipient on your behalf, using first class post. I tried out both options, having half of my cards delivered to me, and the other half mailed directly to my blogging chums. The Choosey postal service was super fast and everything was delivered the next day - very impressive! 


Now let's look inside! Once you've selected your ideal card on the Choosey website, you can start to customise the interior and make it your own! One of my favourite features that Choosey offer is their video card service - you can record your own video using their app and have a code printed inside the card for your recipient. When they open it, they can scan the code using their phone and your little message starts to play! I absolutely loved this feature, it's a fantastic addition to a card - especially for a friend or relative who you might not get to see as much as you'd like!


As well as the video, you can also type in the message that you'd like to appear inside the card. There's a big selection of fonts to choose from! What you put inside the card is entirely up to you - if you'd prefer not to record a video, that's fine too, and you can even leave the card blank inside and write in a message by hand. I used some coloured pens to jazz up the inside of my cards with some Christmassy doodles.


The price of these cards is also very reasonable. Each one costs £2.99 for a standard A5 card. To add a video message costs an extra £1 and first class postage is £0.99. For a price that's very similar to what you would pay for a regular card on the high street, you get so much more when buying with Choosey!

The cards went down an absolute treat with my blogging friends!


My only complaint about the Choosey service is that some of the printing on the inside of the cards left a little to be desired. Some of the text had smudged on the inside, leaving unsightly black marks, but these were easily covered with my colourful doodles and didn't detract from how much I liked the cards! I would still definitely recommend that you check out Choosey.com if you haven't bought your Christmas cards yet!

You can also use my discount code: BGCHRISTMAS16 to get 25% off your order with Choosey! They are also offering you the chance to win ten cards to send out this Christmas so if you'd like to enter the giveaway, just fill in the widget below! Good luck!
Are you feeling in the festive spirit yet? Have you sent out your Christmas cards? Let me know in the comments!

Until next time,

A x

*The cards featured were provided by Choosey for free in exchange for a review

My Best Christmas


Christmas means cosy clothing, sitting by the fire, and playing in the snow, right? Well -  not in all cases! Today I'm going to be shaing my best Christmas ever with you, and there wasn't a fleck of snow in sight! My best ever Christmas was in the year 2012, when the family and I jetted off to spend Christmas in the sun, on the island of Cape Verde on the northwest coast of Africa.

 
 
The hotel that we stayed at was called the Riu Touareg, which at the time was newly opened. It was situated right on the beach, where we actually spent Christmas day sunbathing! We stayed for two weeks, including Christmas and New Year. As well as having a beach area, the hotel had extensive gardens and several swimming pools, so there was no shortage of places to relax. You also had the option of joining in with some of the hotel's activities such as water polo, shooting, darts, and aqua gym, so we were never bored!

Highlights:
The Food: One of the best things about being away for Christmas is that Christmas Dinner was all prepared for us! My Mum didn't have to spend hours and hours slaving away in the kitchen, we could just waltz up and grab what we wanted. There was an enormous amount of variety in the hotel restaurant, so all tastes were catered for. We also went all-inclusive so you could have as much food and as many drinks as you wanted, whenever you wanted! Score!
The Gifts: Another really nice thing was that we didn't have that many Christmas presents that year. There are only so many presents that you can fit into a suitcase, so our gifts were really minimalist. I actually preferred this as we got to open smaller, really meaningful items.
The Hotel: The hotel itself was absolutely stunning! One of my favourite features was the swim-up bar in the main pool, and the in-pool sun loungers! They were perfect for cooling off when the heat got too much!
The Weather: Getting a tan over Christmas was also a definite plus-point! Who doesn't want to go back to sixth form after the Christmas hols looking golden brown?!

 

Of course, the main joy of Christmas is getting to spend quality time with the family, and we certainly had that in abundance! My Dad, sister and I went on a snorkelling adventure just off the coast of the island. This was an amazing experience - snorkelling in the crystal clear waters, accompanied by hundreds of tiny, beautiful fish was just incredible! The whole family also went body boarding on the beach, which was really exhilerating, and we played loads of board games (including Pictionary!) in the evenings together.

  

Admittedly, it was very strange to spend Christmas on the beach and sometimes it didn't even feel like Christmas at all! The hotel was dolled up in Christmas decorations and there was traditional Christmas food available, it was just very strange opening the windows on Christmas morning to bright sunshine and 35 degree heat! However, the amount of fun that our family all had together on this holiday was absolutely priceless and I can safely say that 2012 was my best Christmas ever!

Coming up next week on my blog, a few of my other favourite bloggers be sharing the stories of their best ever Christmas - so keep a look out for that post!

What are your best ever Christmas memories? Does one year stand out for you?

Until next time,

A x

My Top Online Freebies*

Whether you're a student on a tight budget, or working full time and saving up for Christmas, a holiday, a house, or a car, we can all appreciate the power of a good freebie! By using just a few websites, I've managed to bag myself a whole host of free stuff in the last couple of months, and I couldn't resist sharing my finds with you all! Keep scrolling to discover a world of freebies at your fingertips....


1) Free Samples & Voucher Codes
There are so many websites out there that promise to deliver free discount codes and free samples to your door, and not all of them actually work! One that I've found to be really effective is Gratisfaction. They have extensive lists of freebies, bargains, and voucher codes covering travel, restaurants, fashion, photography and loads more. The offers on the site are updated fairly regularly, so it's always worth checking to see what's new. Recently, I've nabbed discounts on clothing as well as free coconut oil and toothpaste samples! I was delighted with my Gratisfaction free stuff, so you should definitely hit up this site and make the most of it too!

2) Free Photo Prints
I first heard about the FreePrints App via the lovely Kerry's blog. The opportunity to get 45 free 4x6 photos printed and sent out to me every month for only the cost of the postage was too good to pass up! My photos arrived very quickly, within a week of ordering, and they're super high quality! On the app, you can select photos directly from your Facebook account, so it couldn't be easier. There's no subscription, so if you order your photos as a one-off, that's totally fine! I definitely recommend that you check out this app.

3) Free Blog Photography Backgrounds
In need of some new backgrounds for your blog photos? The Little Greene Print and Paper company can sort you out! On their website, you can order a selection of A4 wallpaper samples which you can get delivered to your home for free! The size may not be the most ideal for larger photos, but if you're photographing makeup products or small objects for your Instagram, these provide the perfect backdrop. You can browse the samples and order some for yourself here. You can also order similar samples from Next, also with free delivery!

4) Free Sanitary Products
Tampons and sanitary towels are friggin' expensive. If you want to snag a range of Bodyform's ladies sanitary pads, you can take part in their #ChallengeBodyform test, and receive a pack of towels, liners, and discount coupons for their products in the post for free! Once you've tried them out, you have the option to write a review for Bodyform and let them know how you found their products, but this is entirely optional. If you do choose to write a review, you'll be entered into a prize draw, so you have every reason to enter! Click here to request your free Bodyform products.

5) Free Makeup
Trying before you buy is the way forward, right?! If you want to pocket a lipstick sample, or some free nail polish or mascara, click over to the free makeup section of WowFreeStuff.co.uk. You'll have to be quick because the freebies can be snapped up pretty quickly, but it's definitely worth a look! Another great part of their site is the competitions tab, where you can enter to win anything from hairdryers to holidays!

I'm always on the look out for more freebies, so if you've come across any that you'd like to recommend, please do so in the comments below!

Until next time,

A x


* This post contains sponsored links
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