I’ve never done one of these posts before, but I thought it would be fun to put together a list of things I’d love to find under my tree this year. For me, it’s not about spending a fortune, I just love finding the perfect gifts to make my loved ones happy. In fact, some of my favourite presents (both received and given), have been thoughtful, inexpensive ones. I pride myself on being somewhat of a gift-giving wizard and have achieved happy tears on a few occasions, which is quite honestly the most wonderful feeling.

Ever since I was a kid, folding down the pages of the Argos catalogue and losing myself in the sparkling wonder of the Boots Christmas gift set aisle, I’ve loved making a Christmas wish list. It doesn’t matter if I don’t receive anything on it, it’s just fun to do.

So, without further ado, here is my Christmas list for 2017. Yes, it looks like it was made by an 8 year old and no, I don’t care.

Mermaid blanket

I know I’m super late to the party here, but I’ve wanted one of these for ages. I can just picture myself snuggled on the sofa with Dave and the kittens, with toasty warm feet and mermaid-like splish-splashability.

Kangaroo pouch cat-cuddling hoodie

I’m sure it will come as a surprise to ABSOLUTELY NO ONE that I want, nay need, one of these.

Rose gold Moderno organiser

I’m a sucker for beautiful stationery and anything that promises to help me be less of a flailing mess. This ticks both boxes.

I will likely use until March and then forget all about it, but LOOK HOW PRETTY IT IS.

Lush Christmas goodies

I’m not a massive bath-lover. I’m a bit weird about being in water full-stop (specifically having my feet in it). Hot tubs are a no for me. Swimming? Well, swimming can just do one.

But now we’re in the new house and I finally have a lovely bathroom, I really want to turn it into a little oasis of calm – and I really, really want to start liking baths. What better way to achieve this than by indulging in loads of gorgeous, festive Lush bath treats like this little cutie?

iPad Pro

One of my plans for 2018 is to add new designs to my Honeybee Cards range. I’ve been asked by a local bridal boutique to design some wedding ones (SO EXCITING!) and I also want to do some seasonal MH ones, for those who might find the festive period hard. Oh, and I’d like to perhaps sell some of the designs as prints, so let me know if that would be of interest to you!

So the plan is to kit myself out with a design tablet (I’ve also looked into Wacom ones, but would take any recommendations!) and really build Honeybee Cards in a big way.

Obviously, I’m not expecting anyone to get me such an expensive gift, but this is a wish-list after all.

Olympus Pen

One of my other goals for next year is to seriously improve my blog photography and work on my Insta game. I know this camera just screams BASIC BITCH, but I’ve heard plenty of good things about it from blogger friends. Plus, it’s pretty.

Priorities.

Sushi class

You probably know I’m obsessed with sushi. Dave and I have had a go at making it before, but we can never seem to get the rice quite right. There’s a great local cookery school called Flavours, that offers sushi classes (among many others – seriously, if you’re in Bournemouth, definitely check them out!) and I think it would be great fun to actually take a proper class and build on our sushi skills.

Perfume

Perfume is one of my favourite things to get for Christmas. I always like to have a new fragrance for a new chapter in my life and 2018 is going to be a huge year in terms of exciting projects. I love looking back on different times in my life – starting new jobs, certain special occasions – and being able to associate a scent with that time.

This is actually a perfume I’ve worn before (it was my ‘starting a career in marketing’ perfume), but I’ve decided I’d like it to be my fragrance for next year too as it’s just so gorgeous.

My 2018 scent is going to be Gucci Bamboo.

As you may know, I recently moved house, so I’ve been COMPLETELY OBSESSED with homeware. It’s been so exciting shopping for furniture for my new home, so when Sloane & Sons reached out and asked if I wanted to promote their latest competition to win this gorgeous chair, I was more than happy to.

Chair

Just look at it! I’ve actually been looking for a nice little armchair to go in my lounge and this might be perfect! I can imagine curling up on it with a kitten on my lap, some hot chocolate and a good book. Perfect for cosy winter evenings!

To enter, all you need to do is follow them on Twitter and RT this tweet.

Disclaimer: I was approached by Sloane & Sons to promote their giveaway, but have received no payment to do so. Plus, my thoughts on the chair are real – I love it!

If you’ve met me, you’ve probably realised that I’m a very awkward person. I stumble over words, never know how to greet people (is it a handshake? A hug? A kiss? Two kisses?!), and have been the perpetrator of many a social faux-pas. Trust me, I’ve got enough to fill a whole other blog post. Actually, I just might; it would certainly make for some entertaining reading!

I feel constantly paranoid about my appearance and spend hours after a perfectly normal conversation, cringing about something I said. However, in recent months, I’ve developed a few methods of easing my worries and alleviating some of my social anxiety.

Here are some of the things I tell myself:

“[Friend’s name] isn’t giving our conversation a second thought”

Are you worried about something you said in an earlier conversation? Take a moment and think about it. Are you over-analysing all the things the other person said? I doubt it. You probably don’t even remember the exact words they used. So chances are, they probably don’t either.

If, however, you have genuine reason to believe they’ve misconstrued something you said – ie. they confirmed what you said back to you and it wasn’t quite right – you can always send them a message to clarify. Make a joke about it, if appropriate, or apologise if you’re concerned you caused offence.

“It’s OK to make mistakes”

Life isn’t scripted. Sometimes we mess up our words or accidentally interrupt each other. That’s absolutely fine. Again, make a little joke, or apologise if you’ve interrupted someone, but don’t sweat it. We’re all human.

“It’s not always up to you to fill the silence”

Obviously if you’re hosting a dinner party, you probably should try to keep the conversation flowing. But I’m talking more about those awkward situations at work – you know the ones. Whether you’re trying to make a cup of tea around someone washing up their Tupperware, or enduring a silent ride in the lift with your boss, it’s important to remember that it’s not your responsibility to fill the silence. Remind yourself that they’re not saying anything either, so if they’re happy being quiet, you can be too.

“We’re all in the same boat”

Worried the person you met at that party last weekend thinks it’s really weird you kissed them on both cheeks? Chances are, they’re sitting at home stressing about the fact they shook your hand when you left, rather than giving you a hug. We all do it. Every one of us lies awake at night replaying these moments in our heads. They’re honestly probably too busy worrying about how they came across, to think about anything you did.

“It’s fine to step away from situations that make you anxious”

Sometimes I find large gatherings, especially with a lot of people I don’t know, very overwhelming. If things become too much I excuse myself to go to the loo, or step outside for a moment of fresh air. No-one’s going to think you’re rude or weird, and it’s OK to be honest with people. If someone judges you for telling them you need a moment to clear your head, quite frankly there are probably better people you could be spending your time with!

Other things that can help

In social gatherings I often like to have a drink in my hand. And no, it’s not because I’m a boozehound. Having something to hold (that isn’t my phone) means I don’t gesticulate wildly, which was something I found made me feel very flustered when I talked. It also gives one of my hands something to do, as I often feel self-conscious about how I’m holding myself and what I’m doing with my hands. Also, I find it really helpful to have something to sip while I talk, as it lets me pace myself, stops my mouth from getting dry, and gives me a couple of seconds to clear my head if I’ve lost my train of thought during a conversation.

I’ve learned to make jokes if I accidentally say something silly. I know – it’s easier said than done, and it definitely takes time. But I’ve really found that by not taking myself too seriously and just embracing my own ridiculousness, I’ve become much more relaxed in social situations.

Saying no

I try not to plan too many social events in one week, as I know I need time to recharge. You don’t have to accept every invitation – your friends will understand. Use whatever helps you feel organised, whether it’s a paper diary or the calendar on your phone, to manage your social life. Not only will planning ahead help you feel more in control, but scheduling regular self care time is a great way to avoid feeling burnt out. By being more selective, you’ll find that the social events you do go to are so much more enjoyable.

Don’t be embarrassed to ask for help

It can feel really daunting turning up to a large gathering by yourself. If there’s going to be someone there you know, why not ask them to come out and meet you at the door so you can walk in together? Obviously this won’t always be an option, but when it is, please don’t feel too embarrassed to ask. They’re not going to think you’re being silly but again, if for some reason they do, I would argue that there are plenty more supportive and understanding people you could be spending your time with.

Just be honest

Everyone has certain things that make them uncomfortable. What makes your needs any less important than someone else’s? For example, if you don’t feel safe in crowded places, let your loved ones know. In the same way they probably wouldn’t take their vegetarian friend to a steak restaurant, they shouldn’t want to take you somewhere that makes you feel anxious either. Your needs matter and you deserve to surround yourself with people who are considerate of your feelings. 

I feel I need to start this post with a very big disclaimer. I respect all religious views and I definitely don’t intend for this post to offend anyone.

But I’m frustrated.

My so-called lack of beliefs is a belief in itself. I am always open to learning about different religions, as I find them fascinating, but I don’t appreciate people trying to convert or ‘save’ me.

I am spiritual, in the sense that I think there could be some sort of higher power, and I believe in serendipity/fate/kismet/whatever you want to call it in some form or another, but I also believe in science, facts and proof. They may do for you, but for me, religious books don’t offer those things. I know that’s where faith comes in, but unfortunately, I don’t work like that, and I’m sick of people trying to prove me wrong. I can’t look at a sunset and see God’s work. I won’t hear a child prodigy playing the piano and think they have been given a gift from God – for me, it’s a sign of aptitude and probably a lot of hard work. People can do incredible things; of course I’m in awe of them, but I believe they have themselves (and possibly genetics and a good teacher) to thank for their abilities.

And that’s OK.

I wanted to have faith for such a long time.

I wasn’t raised religious. Most of my primary schools (I went to a lot!) were Church of England. My father isn’t religious and my mother is Buddhist. I wasn’t baptised and I was raised to be open-minded and curious. And I was very curious.

I went to Alpha Club, attended a lot of church events with my best friend and often prayed for some sort of sign that God was there. But I never felt it. I could never quite get my head around organised religion, and there are quite frankly, a lot of aspects that I don’t agree with. I really loved this post by Mark (The Honest Father), as it summed up a lot of what doesn’t quite sit right with me.

As a woman, there are some traditions and beliefs within various religions that make me feel uncomfortable. A lot of other things just don’t make sense to me and it’s not through lack of questioning.

Perhaps one of my biggest obstacles (and not just because of my own sexuality) is the notion that homosexuality is a sin. I can’t get my head around the idea that God would create a person a certain way, then tell them it’s a sin to love the person of their choice.

I don’t label myself.

I’m interested in Humanism, because I feel like I can align with its values. But quite honestly, I simply believe in being a good person and leading a fulfilling life. Anyone that shudders at the thought of Humanism or Atheism (and believe me, I’ve met a few people that do) needs to look at themselves and question why they feel this way. There are good and bad people in the world, religious or otherwise, so please don’t confuse lack of religion for a lack of morality.

I’m sorry if this post has come off as ranty or aggressive, I merely wanted to voice my frustrations and actually, my hurt. I’ve been made to feel like less of a person for not being religious, and to tell you the truth, I don’t see how this is any less offensive than discriminating against someone for their religious beliefs. It’s insulting, upsetting and surely not very in the spirit of loving thy neighbour.

Everyone has their own beliefs. Atheism, Humanism – or any belief system that doesn’t worship a deity – is just as valid as your religion. If I’m respectful and understanding of your beliefs, please extend me the same courtesy.

I’ve been mulling this idea over for some time now and I thought today – with #thrivingatwork trending on Twitter, and the topic of mental health in the workplace being widely discussed – would be a good time to share it.

I want to create an ‘openness in the workplace’ scheme

Now bear with me here, I haven’t worked out any of the finer details, but the basic idea would be that managers can sign up to have a little sticker or badge on their desk which shows their team they’re open and sympathetic to mental health struggles. Other members of staff could also display their support, with the goal of creating a safe environment, where people feel comfortable being open if they’re struggling. Anyone can sign up – whether they have personal experience of mental illness or not.

This would only be a small part of a wider campaign and I have yet to think of a catchy name, so if anyone has any ideas, please let me know.

I’m aware there are potential pitfalls

For example, I in no way want this to become a ‘counselling’ service. People involved in the scheme shouldn’t be treated like a substitute for qualified mental health professionals, nor should they give any sort of advice – just support and understanding.

In fact, this may be a crap idea altogether, so please feel free to tell me if you think it is! What I’m hoping is I can get enough people interested in getting involved and we can have a bit of a brainstorming session and bounce ideas off each other. Please get in touch if you’d like to be involved in any way.

People shouldn’t feel afraid to phone in sick if they’re having a bad mental health day

I’ve seen far too many people on Twitter saying they’ve often felt too afraid to be honest with their boss when calling in sick. We shouldn’t have to lie – mental health is as important as physical health. The goal of this campaign is to reduce stigma and help people to understand this.

I want talking about mental health at work to be as commonplace as talking about having a cold. In the same way you might grumble about having a headache, if you’re feeling anxious at work, I believe you should be able to mention it to your employer and be able to take a few minutes outside without it being a big deal. I have personally experienced working in an office like this and it was a wonderful, supportive environment that everyone should have.

If I can be a part of making that happen, even on the smallest possible level, I want to. Let’s do this!