Christmas present haul

Christmas may be a few weeks ago now – I know, how did that happen? – but I wanted to have a go at doing my first ever haul blog! They are blogs and vlogs that I really enjoy reading and watching, probably because it satisfies the nosy parker in me but also because I like to get ideas for nice gifts for people when an occasion next comes up. I haven’t included every single gift I received but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t love and appreciate each and every one. So before I get started it’s disclosure time…this isn’t about me bragging about what I got, it’s just me having a go at writing a new type of blog.

As with every year, I was so lucky with the gifts I received, most of them being total surprises and I didn’t have one single gift that I needed to exchange or take back – score! The first gifts I want to show are some of the gorgeous LUSH bath bombs and bubble bars I got. I have taken them out of the beautiful gift boxes as I wanted to use them ASAP! Honestly, I know I go on about LUSH a lot and I will be doing a Blog in more detail about baths and relaxation, but seriously, if you haven’t ever shopped there – go. Yes, it is on the pricier side of bath and beauty products but I’d rather have fun baths than a run of the mill, boring, functional bath!

The first set I opened was called ‘Happy Daze.’ It included The Experimenter Bath Bomb, Fizzbanger Bath Bomb, Brightside Bubble Bar and The Comforter Bubble Bar. I was so thrilled with this set because out of the four, three are my favourites  and since trying the Fizzbanger, it’s safe to say this set will now feature on any future wish list!

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The second box was a seasonal Christmas selection box was called ‘Festive Friends.’ Inside were three gorgeous LUSH products: the Butterbear Bath Bomb, Father Christmas Bath Bomb and the Penguin Bubble Bar. You won’t see the Butterbear in the photos because I’ve already used him up! It was another product I’d never tried and again, LUSH didn’t let me down. I’ve always loved a musk scent (who remembers White Musk from The Body Shop?!) so this one suited me to a T.

Whilst on the theme of bath and beauty products, I want to mention the other skin care items I got. My skin has been even more sensitive than usual lately. On one of our many trips to Holland&Barrett, we discovered their skin care section. Mum has restocked my shelves with their Dr. Organic Aloe Vera skin lotion and the concentrated Aloe Vera cream which is the only thing (along with Clinique’s Moisture Surge) that my skin can handle at the moment and I LOVE them. They don’t have a scent as such but they aren’t greasy and dry on your skin quickly which is a positive for me. You don’t need to apply much of any of these Dr. Organic products, they are thick but they go a long way which means you don’t need to buy them frequently so are very cost effective. High Five!

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I also received a gift which will be really useful; it’s called, This Works, Super Sleep Dual Pillow Spray. The set contains two 20ml sprays, a sleep plus pillow spray which is a “fast acting, natural remedy to restore a healthy sleep pattern,” and deep sleep pillow spray which is “a best-selling natural sleep aid that inspires feelings of calm.” An absolutely spot on gift for me at the moment seeing as sleep is very important and can be a painful, disturbed experience.

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I haven’t been able to photograph my next gift because it was in use from Christmas Day! Mum and Dad got me the most amazing Dreamland Intelliheat Premium Fleece Dual Control Fitted Electric Underblanket. Now seriously, anything that’s name is that long and that detailed must be an out of this world product! And on top of that, it was a Which? best buy – wouldn’t expect anything less in terms of research from my Dad! It has two controls which means you can heat one side of the bed or both (I opt for both because I don’t have anyone else to warm up the other side for me!). When you are getting ready for bed you set the controls to ‘quick heat up’ for five minutes and then set the under sheet to your own personal preference once the time is up. You can set it to heat the bed for either one hour or nine. This is my only negative thing about the product – it would be good to have an in-between time setting, like four hours because at the moment, nine hours is too long but an hour is too short – first world problems or what?! Then there are five heating options, the last few nights when its been freezing I’ve gone for five but really, three is the optimal temperature and enables the perfect nights sleep. All old woman jokes aside, I really have found that it’s helped with my muscle pain during the night. Like with hot baths, heat does seem to ease pain and I haven’t felt as stiff when I wake up (!) Honestly, one of the best presents I have EVER recieved! I believe Mum and Dad got it from John Lewis but I’m sure there are other places it can be purchased from too.

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Next up are books. I got four this year and all serve a different purpose!

  • First up, Mum and Dad gave me a  Dorling Kindersley photography book aimed at helping beginners. It takes you through everything you will need to know as a beginner and uses step by step pointers and photos which is a real positive for me as I’m a visual learner. It teaches you about ISO, aperture and shutter speed as well as shooting in various locations, lights and photographing  different subjects. Photography is a hobby I want to learn more about this year so I was really chuffed with this book.
  • Then I opened my annual diary from WH Smith’s. It’s a beautiful, bright, butterfly themed, page a day diary which is what I have used since I was twelve! Spot on Mum – thanks.
  • Next I opened a hilarious book from a friend entitled, ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k by Sarah Knight. I’ve heard so many people talk about this book, although the title is funny, having browsed over the first few pages, it seems like there will be lots of things to take from the book to implement into my life. I’m looking forward to reading it and will feed back once I’m finished!
  • Then finally I received, ‘The Christmasaurus’ by Tom Fletcher – yup, the guy from the band McFly! He is also the author of the series of children’s books, ‘The Dinosaur that Pooped…..’ series. As a teacher, I know that children adore these books and as an avid follower of Tom on YouTube, I’d followed his writing and publishing process, so was excited to get my hands on the finished product. The book has already been commissioned for a stage show next Christmas and is being made into an animated movie – amazing, what a talented guy.

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I have an inkling that people may have picked up on the fact that I am partial to a quote here and there! The plaques and shaped quote gifts I received were all so lovely, meaningful and ones that Dad is going to have to come and put up for me – I mean, what else is he going to do with all this time on his hands now?! I don’t know where they are from but if you like the look of them as gifts for people, all you need to do is search the internet and you will be bombarded by similar things. They may not be big or expensive gifts but personally, I think they are a perfect sentimental gift for someone you care about. The one Mum gave me about socks, is an example of one that isn’t soppy but one that I will read over and over and always have a little chuckle to myself because we all know it’s so true!

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You will also see that I received my own personalised recipe book – so cool! I already have one but it’s the one I was given when I went to Uni and it’s quite small and won’t fit in the recipes I find in magazines etc. So this one is perfect. I am going to transfer the recipes into the new book but also make sure I cut and stick in the recipes that Mum hand wrote because they hold a sentimental value to me. There’s something about keeping handwritten recipes that hold a bit of family history in my opinion.

Luckily my friends know me very well! I received three, yes three Mahogany Teakwood Bath and Body Works candles! One all the way from Chicago and two from Dubai – seriously, so happy! I also received one other beautiful candle and a gorgeous, stripped wood tea light holder with butterfly detailing. I don’t have a problem – promise.

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My brother treated me to a necklace that I have had my eye on for ages. It is designed by a lady called Anna Saccone who is part of the Saccone-Joly family who are vloggers on YouTube. Each necklace has a Zodiac design on which means you can buy in accordance to the recipients star sign. You can choose from silver, rose gold or silver gold plated and they come in L, M or S sizes which is a great feature. Mine has the Taurus sign and is in rose gold, it came in a beautiful display box and included the story behind the designs. Anna sells these pieces on stilnest.com and she also designs Zodiac style charms and bracelets. Beautiful gifts for all ages, I would highly recommend.

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I wanted to feature the gorgeous tree decorations I received. You may see a pattern occurring here – I may possibly like penguins! All three are from from three different friends and I love them all. One is a wood carved decoration with my named carved into one side and a Christmas penguin into the other. The next one is a glass Christmas penguin and the third is a glitter covered, more traditionally shaped bauble and I love him! Also along the penguin theme, a friend bought me a penguin pen which I will use to plan future blogs – another quirky, fun gift.

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Finally, I wanted to mention a gift that you won’t be able to find or buy anywhere but that I am in love with. When I went to Egypt I purchased some beautiful material from a market at such a cheap price and had the idea that I wanted to use it for a throw or some kind. I mentioned it to Mum and Dad when I brought it home but never noticed that it had disappeared! So when I opened up the most beautiful quilt/bed throw and pillow on Christmas morning, I was in total shock! It was beyond what I had imagined for the material and I will treasure it forever. It was made by one of mum’s friends from choir and I would highly recommend her if you need anything like this made, she has done such a great job.

So there you have it, my first haul!  I hope you enjoyed it and that you may have some gift ideas for the coming year, let me know what gifts you loved this Christmas…that way I can continue to indulge in my nosiness!

Happy weekend!

#hairlesshannah

 

You can’t overdose on music

Anyone who knows me well, knows how much I love music.  All you had to do was spend a few years at uni with me and watch X Factor or Top if the Pops and hear me endlessly say, “I LOVE this song!”It’s been part of my daily life since I was born. A little unknown talent of mine is rapping. Oh yeah, female Eminem in your presence! Rappers Delight and any Misteeq verse by Alesha Dixon – I’m your girl! (Only in my bedroom with a hairbrush though so don’t get in touch for public appearances or anything!)

I totally have a soundtrack to my life. I can hear a song and immediately be transported to a certain year, club, party, holiday or remind me of certain people and times we shared… that makes me so happy. One of my favourite things to do is to drive with my favourite music blaring and having a good sing along, sometimes life can’t get any better than that. But topping my list, the reason I think music is so ingrained into our family, is my mum. She has the most amazing talent for playing the piano, by ear! She often sits and plays and sings along and on the whole (apart from when I’m trying to watch TV) it’s the best sound in the world. Singing and music has surrounded me my whole life and it’s got me through some tough times too.

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So, knowing all of this, you will understand how hard it’s been the last few months where noise sensitivity has been one of the worst symptoms of my ME/CFS. As with CFS on the whole, there is no reason why this symptom affects some sufferers; it’s simply explained by the fact that your senses go into overdrive, your immune system is hyper-sensitive and noise, light, smells and touch can be overwhelming for some. I have only noticed the change in how light and sound affect me. Sunglasses are a must, even before the sunny weather started!

But noise has been the worst. It’s like whatever sound there is in a room it’s ten times louder and intensified. This all amalgamates in my head and swishes round until I just want to scream. I don’t know why I didn’t get them earlier but before the Marathon, I went to the chemist and got some ear plugs as I was very anxious about the crowds and noise in London. They are simply amazing! They cut out background noise and bring everything down to a calmer, more acceptable level.

But, because of this I haven’t been listening to music on a daily basis. It had been recommended that listening to music on a low level through headphones calms CFS sufferers but even that was too much at times. I couldn’t think why music was so much harder to listen to than TV but I’ve put it down to the fact that there are many layers, voices and instruments in music. There’s a lot going on and my brain couldn’t cope with that. I’ve missed music so much but I have persevered with listening to a few songs every day, quietly on my headphones and now, I can listen to music on a low level and it’s like heaven!

So all this has got me thinking about my lifes soundtrack so far…

Tina Turner, Simply Red, Dire Straits, Annie Lennox,  The Beach Boys – all link to my childhood. Car journeys to Wales and Norwich would never go by without these artists being played at some point or another. Seeing The Beach Boys with mum a few years ago was such a fantastic experience, singing along to ‘God Only Knows’ and seeing how happy mum was will always stay with me.

Kylie Minogue….one of my heroines! I honestly couldn’t say how many hours I would spend watching the video tape of her ‘Kylie’ album and trying to copy the routines whilst dressed in a leotard and swishing my bowl haircut around!  My poor mum and dad had to endure that phase for years, mum even took to calling the house phone and pretended to be Kylie. She would tell me that when she was next in the UK she’d pop round to try one of mum’s  famous cakes – you can imagine how devastated I was when I learnt it hadn’t been Kylie, just mum mastering her Australian accent. Gutted.

Then came the Grease soundtrack phase. Enough said. Always one of my favourites and the film gave me my first true love, John Travolta as Danny Zuko. I am a huge musical fan and of recent years Wicked has become a joint number one with Grease..how can you not love a belting musical number?!

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My next big phase was the Spice Girls. I remember being in the playground at Primary School and mastering the routines whilst arguing over who was going to be who. As a twenty-something year old, seeing them reunite at their 02 concerts was a highlight of my life…I’m now waiting for the next reunion! My other massive girl band obsession was All Saints. It’s become a running joke that I always say ‘Pure Shores’ is my favourite all time song…it is a brilliant song but I think it was more because it was a song by my favourite band for a film that Leonardo DiCaprio was in who was, at the time (and kinda still is) my mega crush! So you can imagine my excitement when they released an album last month – happy Hannah indeed!

Then came 5ive. I’m not ashamed to say I was a die – hard fan and still am. I spent hours mastering dance routines and learning raps. I saw them in concert several times and when they split, I cried – for hours. I even featured with my group of friends and Jack on a Trouble TV show called, ‘The Fall of Five.’ It is such a cringeworthy watch, how ironic that I mentioned how Sean had glandular fever and he needed time and space to get over the illness! It seems that everywhere I go, any friends I make get to know that I am a 5ive fan through and through and don’t even get me started about the mega mix that gets played at parties! My wonderful friends and colleagues at school even changed the lyrics to ‘Keep On Moving’ when I left for Dubai – a whole school and staff singing an altered 5ive song to me – what a moment!

This was the stage of my life when my little brother was young enough to accept my suggestion of teaching him dance moves. I taught him mainly 5ive moves but also Hear’say – the video footage is classic and will remain in my childhood memories forever.

O-Town featured heavily too. The first American band put together on an X-Factor type show called, ‘Making the Band.’ I fell in love with Ashley and the rest as they say, is history.  I listened to them a lot when I was in sixth form and our common room is a place that holds some of my favourite music memories. Myself and Claire would tirelessly sing to the Black Eyed Peas and balance on the common room chairs whilst singing along and acting out the soundtrack from Dirty Dancing – you know, the balancing on the log scene – we nailed it, believe me!

Beverley Knight kicked in during my late teens and even my boyfriend of the time took me to see her in concert and admitted she was simply amazing. I recently saw her in Memphis the musical, and she remains one of my top five artists of all time. What a voice. I can always listen to an album of hers and find lyrics that apply to things I might be going through at the time, she’s a very talented lady.

The Script. Wow. Jack and I saw them in concert when they were hardly known at all and we’ve remained fans ever since. We even took Dad to a show once we’d converted him into being a fan; however, that was a concert I saw in the middle of my panic attack stage and I did spend the majority of the concert in a toilet cubicle deep breathing and eating Polos! Seeing them perform outside in Dubai last year was spectacular, they are just such a talented group of hot men – that always helps! It’s also worth a mention here of my love for John Legend. A man who got me through essay writing at uni and who I also saw live in Dubai last year, quite simply, he makes me swoon.  Whilst talking about male solo singers, I can’t fail to mention Mr Buble – not only is he now my favourite Christmas artist, he also manages to write songs that resonate with me. Mum often sings, ‘Just haven’t met you yet,’ to me – a girl can wish!

Tom Jones is the running vein through my life. It’s a Welsh thing! We’ve seen him so many times live, Cardiff Castle was one of the best but I must admit, seeing him a few summers ago and having Dad and Jack with us too was very special. However, I will never forget a group of us going to London to see him and taking with us the biggest pants we could find in M&S and waving them round all night – Tom Jones is just associated with lots and lots of laughter.

Kelly Clarkson. Possibly my number one female singer – I just love that woman. The number of times I have screeched those lyrics out in the car or at parties are numerous. Through break ups and make ups, highs and lows, she is my ‘go to’ girl and always will be. Believe me when I say, ‘What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger’ has been played way too many times over the last six months! I have to say at this point that Adele is in this category too, as I expect she is for many people. How can one person write so many songs that say exactly what you’re thinking or feeling and be sung by one of the most likeable people on the planet?! Genius. How lucky we are to be growing up with her music, we have been able to witness an idol in the making.

The Everley Brothers. Well, one specific song – ‘Dream.’ The first song that became ‘our’ song when I was with my first love. I’d always wanted to share a song with someone and it was a song chosen by him, not me and that made it even more special! It doesn’t matter what happens in life, that song will always make me smile and remember.

Justin Timberlake – another occasion where I bought the DVD of his concert and learnt the dance moves in my teenage bedroom with his posters blu tacked to my wall. He has since become one of Jack’s favourite artists – ‘Mirrors’ will always remind me of Jack as well as any Take That song!

George Ezra – ‘Budapest’ will always be known as my Australia song. I will NEVER forget one of my life’s highlights, driving along Fraser Island in a car full of new, amazing friends, sun setting and that song blaring out.  Happy, carefree days.

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Avicci – ‘Wake me up,’ Jason Derulo – ‘Talk Dirty,’ Pitbull, ‘Timber,’ Taylor Swift ‘Shake it off,’ and ‘Cool Rider’ from Grease 2  will always remind me of Dubai. Thirty second dance parties (inspired by Grey’s Anatomy of course) that got us through inspections, dancing at N’Dulge nightclub and being driven around by Gillen with the songs pumping out – I will cherish those moments and talk about them for years to come.

James Taylor and Carol King. On my 21st birthday my mum gave me a very special present – she’d been and recorded herself singing ‘You’ve Got a Friend’ for me. It’s just become mum’s theme song, our theme song and no matter where I am or what I’m doing, the original version or mum’s, it makes me cry. When I moved to Dubai, I played mum’s version over and over again, the lyrics ring true – ‘You just call out my name, and you know wherever I am, I’ll come running,’ and she would. My mum is one special lady.

You may be wondering why I haven’t really mentioned my Dad much in this musical blog. Well, my dad is one the most talented men I know but let’s just say, although he loves music, he isn’t very musical! If I were to say here that one of his favourite songs is “Have you got a light boy?” by the Singing Postman…kinda sums him up! No, really, Dad impresses me with how up to date he is with music, he always has a good playlist on his iPod and he is the one who has instilled my love for Motown. Any Motown songs reminds me of Dad, it’s some of the only music that he’ll dance to at a party – winner!

It’s not often I name a song or artists I can’t stand but I have to admit, any song by James Blunt makes me want to scream. My second year at uni was plagued by his album being played over and over and over in our uni house….never will I be a fan! Sorry.

There are of course so many other songs that remind me of things but, I can’t go on and on, this has probably been boring enough for you already! I guess through my rambling, what I’m trying to say is that I’ve found it quite therapeutic to sit and think about the songs that map my life. Like I said last time about milestones, it’s like each milestone or moment in my life is attached to a song and those songs trigger memories in the blink of an eye. I was listening to Kisstory today for a bit and the first four songs were all ones that literally took me back to be being 18 and clubbing at SOS nightclub in Tonbridge!

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We take our senses for granted and I guess like so many other things I’ve learnt since being ill, we really shouldn’t because senses along with everything else, can be altered at any second. I am so grateful for music, in any situation I’m in, music helps me. That’s why I think children are so receptive to music therapy. I tell you, if there was an adult music therapy class I could go to, I would! Music for me, is a kind of medicine/therapy. It helps me to heal wounds in a way.

Musicians cleverly write lyrics that they know listeners will be able to relate to and in turn, help them to deal with things. It can help you release tears that you’ve been trying to keep in, make you smile when you’re feeling sad or help you indulge in happiness when you’re having a good day. It can make you feel warm on a cold day and increase your happiness on a hot day. It helps you escape into another reality that is more bearable and it finds the words you need to express when you don’t have the strength to verbalise things. It’s one of life’s greatest gifts.

I wonder what some of your life tracks are…I’d be so interested to know! Comment below if you want to share!

I love the lyric by P!nk (another of my ultimate favourites) :

“If God is a DJ, Life is the dance floor, love is the rhythm, you are the music.”

Now – go play your favourite song and enjoy the sunshine!

Hairless Hannah

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