Deck the Halls!

For me the sounds of Christmas from my childhood are my sister Kate excitedly clapping because she can’t sleep or the sound of my Little Nanny whispering to both of us as we cuddled up on the sofa and she told us how Christmas would begin; who would arrive, what they would bring. The clapping isn’t something my sister does anymore – as she’s a full grown woman with two kids. But I do. I love Christmas so much that I can’t help but clap spontaneously at the thought of it and every Christmas starts with decorating. I love nothing more than getting up when it’s still dark and gazing at the magic and beauty of the twinkling lights.

One of the most exciting things about spending my first holiday season here in the US is how many people but up their decorations right after Thanksgiving. I usually wait until the 1st of December – mainly because I like a real tree and I want it to still look good come New Year’s Eve (we used to have some epic parties in London!) but as any of my former flatmates would attest, I continue to decorate and add more every day until then. It’s basically like living with Buddy from the movie Elf.

This year is my first year alone at Christmas time. Usually I get to trim my tree with my flatmates and then my family. We ice gingerbread cookies with our names on them and trim the tree together. I once went full Elf and made popcorn garlands – it took me all night to make one that only went once around the tree and then the whole house smelled like a stale cinema – #christmasfail.

The last real tree we had was called Eric. My flatmate Rowls and I got up early to go and get the best tree in the whole of London. As we stepped out of our apartment building we were greeted by two rather worse-for-wear elves selling Christmas trees right outside the pub at the end of our street. We got the best tree we’ve ever had for a steal of a price but the Elves insisted we name him, so he became Eric. If you’ve ever had a real tree you’ll know, some don’t drop down, or they’re too wide at the bottom or too tall and skinny at the top. One dark night I bought a tree that was so lopsided I had to decorate every night because it would always fall over whilst we were out at work. Eric was, and will for ever be, the best Christmas tree ever. In fact, I’ve just realised I haven’t had a real tree since then.

He was perfection!

My Mum and Dad always wait for me to come home for Christmas for me to trim their tree.

We put on Johnny Mathis ‘When A Child is Born’ which has been THE Christmas album all our lives and it’s like I’m five years old again. Last year was really emotional because I knew that I wouldn’t get to spend Christmas with them next year. I decorated the dining room but made it my mission to use every single decoration in the box. It was an awesome Christmas grotto by the time I’d finished. Christmas is the one time of year when more is more!

When I moved to Minnesota at the end of January this year every house was covered in snow and still had their decorations and lights up. It was like touching down in the North Pole! So this year I’ve decided to keep my theme generic and seasonal (so I can keep it up for as long as possible!;) I’ve decorated my balcony with a swag and Mother nature herself has gifted me icicles.

Inside I’ve kept my theme festive but versatile so I can keep it up for New Year and beyond into 2017.  I’m off to the UK in January and I’ll be too excited to spend a belated Christmas with my family to be putting the decorations away. I’ll be listening to Johnny Mathis and looking forward to eating mince pies!


Here’s my quick guide to creating a seasonal theme that will last all winter:

The message of the season

Peace, love and joy. Signs that capture the spirit of the season work all year and remind you what’s it all about!

img_0707Be bold!

If you want to create a contemporary theme that extends beyond December 25th step away from the red and green. I LOVE pink! Think outside the box and embrace your favourite colours. I just used some spare glass jars I had in the kitchen to create this look.


Stars & snowflakes

They are an easy way to create a theme that gives a Winter Wonderland feel for the whole season and that you can add to easily.



Metallics & holographics

Metallics maximise your lighting to create more magic and are perfect for parties.



Poundshop, dollar stores and party stores

Some of the most effective decorations are the cheapest. Ikea are great for fun pieces that won’t break the bank and party stores for ceiling decorations you can re-use every year.

img_0701Fruits of the season

Pine cones, cinnamon sticks, oranges slices and berries are a feast for the eyes and fill your home with a wonderful, welcoming smell. This is an easy how-to guide I found online that I used to make these orange slices.


Lights and candles

Twinkling lights look magical all year-round. I have a timer on my balcony lights so I don’t have to brave the cold and it’s lovely to come home to.

Keep it safe with battery operated candles. These are great value at 6 for less than $20 and are remote controlled!

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Fun and the Games

With the 2016 Olympics in Rio now drawn to a close I want to share with you my experiences of the last Olympics in my home city.  When London won the games in 2012 the whole country was elated, shocked and then worried the whole thing would be a giant fiasco we’d have to live down until the end of days.  It wasn’t just a case of self-depreciating Britishness.  We’d never held anything of that scale in London (not since 1948), and hosting the games in a city where public transport was already stretched with 8 million Londoners seemed to be a flawed plan before we even got onto the logistics of holding events in venues never used before all over the capital.

ss-blog-4-bbAs the games dawned, the newspapers were filled with horror stories and living in London you heard many of them from friends; like how they’d ordered a set of speakers big enough to blow the back doors off a rave for the announcements at the ladies sycronised swimming.  The whole thing seemed destined to fail. Then, gradually, the mood started to shift, and people started to get excited.  The parks in London put up big screens so we could come together, drink our favourite beverage and sit on the soggy grass to watch the opening ceremony, and the world watch us.

ss-blog-4-flagWhere I lived in East London was a bike ride from the Olympic Park.  Everything that happened on TV we could see and hear first.  There was controversy over the choice of film director Danny Boyle to direct the opening ceremony, but he knocked it out of the (Olympic) park.  It was dramatic, it was funny, it went off with out a hitch.  And by the time HRH Queen Elizabeth walked through the palace with Daniel’s Craig’s James Bond, Twitter was having a meltdown and Danny Boyle was the toast of London.

Despite the success of the opening ceremony I, like many Londoners, had decided to escape months beforehand and had booked myself on a yoga retreat in Turkey.

I packed my mat, forgot about the games and woke to the sound of goat bells and the call to prayer high up in the mountains.  But, when I came back, ‘Super Saturday’ had turned the whole country upside down, the entire nation was in love with Jessica Ennis and Team GB, and was glued to the television in homes, pubs and parks across the country.

ss-blog-4-flagged-ladiesImmediately feeling a sense of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out!), I dived into every event I could.  I went to Jamaica house to watch Usain Bolt win the 200 metres, and go nuts with one hundred Jamaican fans when he did.  Hyde Park opened its gates to thousands every day and we went to watch Mo Farah in his highly anticipated second race.  The security lines at the park gates were so long that, once people got through, they’d start legging like they were in a zombie film . . . not looking back, leaving behind loved ones and anything they couldn’t carry because watching Mo win was more important.

ss-blog-4-flagged-dressBut the highlight for me, and the first time I stepped into the Olympic stadium, was for the Paralympics.  Being inside for the first time, I actually blinked my eyes like a cartoon character – I literally couldn’t believe my eyes.  The roar from the crowd was electrifying.  The sound actually moved around the stadium like a wave and, when your section was cheering, you couldn’t hear anything at all.

ss-blog-4-stadiumWatching from the stadium got my TV brain buzzing as to who directed what and how because they’d move from event to event seamlessly.  Even when someone was injured, the live commentary directed your attention somewhere else and to the next event.  The seated Javelin was a humbling feat of strength and bravery.

ss-blog-4-sitting-javelinBut the one I remember most was the sight impaired runners who run with a buddy who keeps them on track.  One runner was much slower than everyone else in the race.  I can’t remember the distance, but I do remember he was lapped quite early on and still just kept going.  At some point the crowd took over and, every time he went past, this heroic roar went rippling around the stadium, cheering on the people’s champion no matter how long it took him to finish.  It made me realise how team GB had stormed to victory in so many events because, with the sound of that crowd behind you, any one of us could believe we’re capable of anything.

ss-blog-4-runningAnd so the games came to an end. At the closing ceremony (when DJ Fat Boy Slim dropped, ‘Right Here, Right Now, if any of you know it!) it felt the whole world was watching us and we were part of something bigger than ourselves.  We joined thousands of other Londoners and characters in Trafalgar Square for the final procession of the athletes on open top buses through the city.  We stayed long after the procession had gone.  Most people did.  The games had been a magical moment in London’s history and we’d been lucky enough to be part of it.

Here are a few photo memories I’d like to share with you:





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Get out of your comfort zone!

As many of you know I’m the newest host here at Evine.  Taking the job a year ago followed many months of uncertainty and a visa process so lengthy it probably deserves a blog of its own!  I finally moved here from London in January this year.  Arriving in Minnesota in the middle of winter might sound like the worst time of year, but I had done my research, got some good boots and a big coat. With the beautiful houses and the snow it was like landing in Christmas-land!

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When most people talk about stepping out of their comfort zone, they think about doing something extreme like bungee jumping or leaping out of a plane.  But those are short, sharp shocks that are over quickly.  Moving to a new country, everything you do is new. New, job, new home, new people.  Even the car I drive (and the side of the road!) and where I buy groceries have all changed, so it takes a while to come down back to earth because there’s nothing familiar to come home to.  Plus, as there are so many decisions on a daily basis there’s no time to procrastinate!  You have to seize every moment, a way we often talk about in terms of living our lives but rarely get the chance to.

I’ve always had a love affair with America.  When I was little I used to watch Moonlighting from my bed and imagine that New York was outside my curtains.  I first went to New York when I was twenty years old and, in 2005, worked on the BBC documentary series ‘Soul Deep: The Story of Black Popular Music’ where we traveled the country interviewing some of the most influential names in soul music.  On my travels I’ve visited San Francisco, Las Vegas, LA, New York, New Orleans and Connecticut.  I’ve always found people in the US to be open, friendly and even an exchange with a stranger in a elevator can brighten my day.

Right place, right time..

Moving your whole life is a huge, but I had so many signs that this was the right place to be.  I’d lived in London for 10 years and always thought I would move after a decade but just hadn’t decided where yet.  Then my apartment building was sold and I’d be talking to my coach about moving to the States.  I was working in Dublin and walking down a street that could have been straight from Minnesota, thinking to myself that I always thought I would live in America one day and just weeks later I was approached by Evine!

In Minnesota, people are always curious when they hear me speak. “I love your accent”  is a daily thing, or “I could hear you talk all day” to which I say that can only be a good thing as I talk for a living and tell them they can watch me on Evine!  The question I get asked the most is, “What the biggest difference?” or “What do you miss the most?”  My advice to anyone going to live in a new country is to say your goodbyes to what and whoever you’re going to miss before you set foot on the plane, and look for connection rather than what’s different.

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When I first arrived I did miss being able to walk everywhere, as well as the architecture of London.  Unlike most Brits, I don’t crave PG or Tetley tea (British tea brands); I’m more of a Pukka girl when it comes to having a ‘cuppa’.  There aren’t any TV shows I can’t get online or live without.  In terms of fashion, I was sad to leave was my beloved Topshop.  I actually cried when I saw they’d come to Nordstrom’s – to see the familiar logo I’ve loved and worn for years in an unexpected place brought up unexpected emotions!

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There’s a French expression, ‘Vive la difference’ and ‘long live the difference’ is how I feel about living in America.  I love the four seasons that we have in Minnesota, I’m a water-baby (which you can read about in my last blog) so very well suited to lake-life.  I’ve also enjoyed the challenge of making new friends with the interests and person I am now.  I adore the weather here because, although Minnesotans refer to it as a short summer, three months is a cause for celebration and very different from our wet summers in the UK!

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Here’s my advice if you’re thinking about taking plunge and moving somewhere new:

Embrace the new

One of my mottos has always been ‘I’ll try anything twice’.  I hated sushi the first time, now I love it!  If you’re somewhere new you’re not the same ‘you’ so, be adventurous – you might surprise yourself!  When I came over last year, I went to the State Fair to sample the many foods on a stick and then drove to St Paul to hit up the yard sales.  A few months ago, I volunteered at the Minneapolis film festival; both to meet new people and so that I had to drive across Downtown in rush hour!  I often set myself ‘missions’ just to get myself up and out and about.

Laugh at yourself

Taking yourself too seriously can leave you feeling overwhelmed.  Another motto of mine is ‘Lighten up and let go’.  I like to try and laugh at situations and notice my negative self-talk.  Telling yourself, “I’m such an idiot” doesn’t serve you.  Try laughing at the situation rather than making it your fault.  We can’t all be comedians 24-7, but sometimes cracking up at a situation lightens the mood and gives you a new perspective.

Let yourself mess up

Things will go ‘wrong’ but, as a life coach, I’m a great believer that the only mistakes we make are the ones we don’t learn from.  Allowing yourself to fail allows you to grow.

*Pssst! I failed my written Minnesota driving test the first time and then spent two days revising the whole Minnesota drivers handbook!*

Make it your own

I’ve practiced yoga for 16 years and love to swim, dance and work out in the gym.

I bought my yoga mats with me and joined a studio the first week.  If your life is feeling all over the place, try and create your own routines to feel grounded and move your body to get those feel good endorphins.  I love the quote, ‘If Oprah has time to meditate you have time to meditate.’ (Even if I don’t always find time to meditate! 😉

Get out there!

Don’t stay in and wait for life to happen. is a great way to meet people with the same interests as you.  If you’re feeling you can’t go alone, post a message to say that you’re feeling nervous!  A lot of meetups wear wrist bands or something to make it easy for you to find the group. Go for it!


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