DIY Christmas Pixie Decorations

I'm not usually one for a big Christmas hooha, but I have got a couple of Christmas-y blog posts lined up - the first of which is this one!
Me and James made these super cute pixies and they were so easy - I just had to share! I've also taken part in the Wren Kitchens #24daysof wren craft advent calendar so I'm sure there'll be some more Christmas themed crafts over there if this gives you the crafty bug.
You will need:
An assortment of wooden balls in different sizes
Christmas coloured fabric tubes - I used knitted tubes, but I'm sure you can make them easily out of felt or similar
Faux fur
Glue (I used a glue gun to speed things up, but I am aware not everyone has one! Mine was a bargain £5 from Hobbycraft though if you do decide to get one...)

Step 1: Put the largest ball inside the biggest tube and roll the edges. Glue to secure.
Step 2: Glue the medium sized wooden ball onto the top

 (You can stick the hair in different places and colour co-ordinate to make a couple!)
Step 3: Glue the smaller fabric tub to the back. Glue on two strips of fur to create hair.
Step 4: Roll one end of the remaining fabric tube, and tie a string around the remaining end to make a hat.
Step 5: Glue the hat, nose and hands in place. Tada!
Super simple! If you want to hang them on a tree, just stitch a loop into the hat and you're sorted.
What do you make around Christmas time? What sort of crafts do you like to make?
Tweet me yours!

The Martian - Andy Weir

The problem (or not really a problem as it means less work for your mind?) of books becoming films is that nearly always, new book covers are issued with the stars of the film on. Case in point – Matt Damon plays the main character in the film, and thus the book becomes his face. This meant that all the way through reading this (despite having not seen the film) I imagine the main character to look and sound like Matt Damon. I am not sure how I feel about that, but now I have a real comparison for when I watch the film to see if it lives up to my expectations.
If I start by saying this book is three hundred odd pages of a man being stuck alone on Mars, you may question why I read past the first chapter – should get boring after a bit right? Wrong. This book somehow managed to keep up the pace and excitement all the way through to the end, I literally couldn’t put it down. I then lent it to my fiancé on the trip home from Iceland and he couldn’t put it down either. He actually got a bit tetchy when I interrupted him reading, but hey ho…I then leant it to my assistant at work, and I’m sure she loves it too. In short, you’re pretty much guaranteed to like this book!
This book deals with science, politics, faith, humanity, mass media and the prospect of death all in one neat Matt Damon shaped package – I’ve also never wanted a potato patch just quite as much as I do now!
So, I’m now one step closer to my 25 in 25 goal, and I’ve added another film to my ‘to watch’ list!
Have you read the book or seen the film? Tweet me your opinions!


Paper Towns - John Green

I’ve got to admit, I’ve never read a John Green book before, and even with the Fault in our Stars hype, I still wasn’t inclined to. Mushy teenage books don’t really appeal to me any more (saying that, I really liked Girl Online when I read it recently!)
So why did I pick this one up? Basically, because Cara Delevigne was on the cover and I’m become slightly obsessed with her of late. (Who isn’t though? She doesn’t seem to be as everywhere now, but I’m sure she’ll explode again when Suicide Squad comes out. Those eyebrows!)
I kind of regret doing so. I feel like this is something that may have been better as a film – I haven’t seen the film yet, but I’ll add it to my list for when I actually have some free time.
I will admit, I liked the book to start with – the first few chapters of ‘boy is finally noticed by cool girl’ cliché were fun, but after she disappears, the book went rapidly downhill for me. It sort of felt like nothing was really happening, and when she was found, I feel like it was a bit anti climatic – I was kind of waiting for the story to get started the entire time. I probably missed some deeper meaning in the book, but hey ho.
Obviously this is only my opinion, and I’m not exactly the target audience – the book has won awards, so I’m in the minority!
I did however learn what a paper town was, so I suppose that was good thing to come out of this – my time wasn’t wasted! A new cartography related fact to add to my collection. (Plus, I’m one book closer to my target of 50 – there was no way I was going to love them all realistically…)
I think the moral of this story is that I need to move away from teen fiction!
What did you think? Have you ever read a John Green book? Tweet me your opinions!

Girl Online - Zoe Sugg

Latest on my read pile is Girl Online - Zoe Sugg -  another book to go towards my 25 before 25 goal of 50 new books!
Okay, so first things first – two things that annoy me about this book that I need to get out of the way:
1)      The ‘OMG Zoella didn’t write it herself’ kerfuffle – who cares? I’m sure she had input and loads of people get ghost writers.
2)      The constant belittling of red hair – the main character has red hair and this is kind of portrayed as a bad thing. GUYS! It wouldn’t be a problem if people didn’t pretend it is! Why on earth is red hair considered to be bad? It annoys me so much, especially because I was put through hell at school…anyway #gingerproblems.
That aside, I didn’t expect to like this book, I just read it because of the hype, but it’s actually really good! It was quite a quick and easy read as it is aimed at slightly (!) younger girls but I loved it! I read it on the plane home from Iceland and smashed through it in about 4 hours (including stopping at the airport).
In short, the book focuses on Penny, a typical 16 year old girl who doesn’t quite fit in, likes boys and who’s friends aren’t really that great (sort of reminded me of myself at that age, so maybe that’s why I liked it…). She starts a blog, ends up going to New York with her mum, meets the love of her life and it all goes from there…
I don’t want to say too much more as I’ll ruin it, but the ‘twist’ is quite predictable. The book highlights the perils of putting yourself online, and the perils of being a 16 year old girl.
I do quite like that this book is filed under ‘Self Esteem and Self Respect’ on Amazon – I didn’t know that was a book category, but on reflection the story does send out a message of self-love and acceptance, even if it is disguised.
Definitely a guilty pleasure, but worth a read!
I think the sequel is out now so once I work through my ‘to read’ pile, I might pick it up…
I just remembered Becky reviewed this a while ago & her review is much more in depth than my random thoughts so take a look!
Have you read this book? What did you think? Tweet me!

Life lately...My own little space on the internet

Having read Girl Online (review later this week), I paused to think about why I blog and how my views towards my blog have changed in the three years I've had it.
It initially started as a beauty blog when I was starting my second year of uni and had time to burn, whilst surrounded by lots of shops. I used to include the odd outfit post too as a throwback to Lookbook (does anyone still use that?). It was before blogging was really a big thing, and just before Zoella and other bloggers exploded into mainstream consciousness. 

I was pretty anonymous - I put pictures of myself online but I never used my full name & although my housemates were aware of a what I was doing up in my room, they never really cared unless they needed me to do their nails.  

 The thing that kept me blogging was the community surrounding it - I have never ever been one of the cool kids and I don't have masses of female friends (chatting about reality TV is an alien thing to me) but blogging was a way to connect, and it turned out the blogging circles I travelled in were full of people just like me - the late teens who had spent their early teens in their bedroom perfecting their MySpace coding. I never really gave anymore thought to it - it was something I enjoyed and I met loads of great people through it. 

It was only when I left uni and my blogging bubble and tried to explain it to someone I met who didn't blog, that I realised how someone on the outside of the blogging world may view it - the general consensus seems to be it is either a massively narcissistic thing, or something pathetic to laugh about behind the person's back. This threw me and I stopped blogging as much, partly due to a lack of time but also due to a fear of what people outside the blogging world might think of it - my blog has always been a very personal thing to me, my little space on the internet I can make my own and talk about whatever I want, and the idea of people mocking it terrified me.

I don't care how many followers I have - hence why I don't show follower numbers or enable comments - it's always been to me about making it my own, regardless of how popular certain posts are or how many views I get. I like doing sets of things, like home wear wish lists because I like pulling all the pictures together and getting ideas for my home. I like documenting my baking exploits because it makes me feel like I've created something. I like talking about my Etsy because I'm proud of the jewellery I can make - I've been doing it since I was 11 and I'm not going to stop soon.

 I have a similar view with my Instagram - it's full of the small things in life that I think I look pretty - not a single drunken snap of people in sight - my Instagram is a public thing, so why would I want to post my friends and family on there? Mine is very much about good photographs and pretty things I've come across, even if it looks shallow - I know I'm not and those that really know me know I'm not (honestly, my fiancé is currently battling me for a fancier wedding - I'd be happy with popping down the registry office and having a party in his parent's garden). My Instagram is mine, and I can do what I like with it, just like everyone else can - it's no-ones place to judge anyone else. 

I've come to the mind set recently that I just shouldn't care if people talk about it behind my back - ironically they'd just be bumping up my page views and they clearly don't have enough going on in their own lives, whereas at the moment I do (too much sometimes), and I'm choosing to document it in my own way.

 I've also seen the blogging community change itself as it entered the mainstream world - it's taken a turn for the worst - on the whole everyone is lovely but there is an undercurrent of bitchiness and jealousy, especially directed towards the popular bloggers - that's all it can be really, but why try and bring someone else down? Just pour your attention into something else. This is also the view I'm taking on life as a whole - focus on the positives, and I'm not going to worry what people that have nothing going on in their own lives have to snipe about. 

In short, I'm going to try and give my own little corner of the Internet more love and attention, and make it into the place I want it to be :) 

In the vein of showing other bloggers more love, here are some of my favourites I think deserve a look!

Becky Bedbug - one of the loveliest people in the world, with a super varied blog and the first blogger I met.
The Little Nomad - Nina was one of my best friends at uni, and though we've both become super busy recently, I still adore her blog posts when she has the time - lost of stunning travel pictures and solid life advice drawn for real experiences.

Hello, Terri Lowe. - Terri has exactly my sense of humour and a very no nonsense approach to bullshit. Also a great blog!

Little Winter - I stumbled across Katy's blog about a year ago and fell in love with the positivity and perfect photography.

MS Fist Fight - Noor was recently diagnosed with MS and has taken to writing a blog. She's far better with words than I will ever be, and is one of the best and strongest people I know.

And here are some of my favourite posts of my own so far:

 Helen xoxo

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime - Mark Haddon

This is the sixth book I have managed on my quest to read fifty new books (see here) and I feel like I am about a decade too late. Everyone I know studied it at school, whereas my class did Catcher in the Rye. 

This book is every where you look, including a play and  Liberty collection, so how come I never read it before? Quite simply I didn't know what it was about and never thought I would need to. All I knew about this book was that there was swearing in it, and at 14, that is all you want so I assumed that was the reason it was popular (and at my school it probably was - on reflection, I think this book would have gone over the heads of most of my classmates).

Someone mentioned it to me in passing and let slip it was about an autistic boy, and this piqued my interest. My little brother is autistic, goes to a special school and has just started to question it so this is something that hit very close to home. I actually ordered it the second I got near my laptop in the Amazon 3 for £10 deal and bumped it straight up to the top in my to read pile.

I can see straight away why this book has won so many awards and is so popular. It genuinely fascinates me, and I picked up on so many things in it that I could relate to that the average reader may be wouldn't be able to. Seeing the world through Christopher's eyes reminded me very much of some aspects of my brother.

I can try and sum up this book by saying that it is a murder mystery novel seen through a different view. I can say that it includes some heartbreaking themes and deals with complicated things such as deceit, love, murder etc very well, but that's not that point of the book. I could tell you word for word what happens and it still wouldn't ruin it for you - you have to read it and experience it yourself. 

I'm not ashamed to say that the final line of this book made me cry (though admittedly this is because it is something close to my heart).

It ends on the phrase '...I can do anything' but you really have to read the book to understand the context.

Have you ever read it? (If not, you should!)

Iceland - Northern Lights, Ice and the rest of my life

I should probably start with the headliner - I'm engaged! James proposed under the Northern Light on the Tuesday night of our trip - it was utterly perfect, and the only night we actually saw them, but more on that, and probably more on the ring and wedding plans later.

This is the glacier lake along the south coast. This bit is in between the glacier and the sea - it was stunning (and also a pretty good location to take a ring photo!). The water perfectly reflected the mountains behind it and the shades of blue were absolutely breath-taking.

This is the beach! Black sand again of course, but this is where the glacier joined the sea - lots of chunks of ice have washed up and all are completely different! See my instagram for more!

Finally, the Northern lights. They appeared about 8.30pm quite faintly but by 9pm they were in full force - shades of green, purple and red dancing and spinning above us - the most amazing thing I'd ever seen - until I turned round and James was on one knee...
We didn't see them again in the week as the cloud cover was high and the aura activity was low, but this night was perfect.

Have you ever seen the Northern Lights? Tweet me your bucket list!

Nutella Stuffed Cookies

One of my favourite spread like substances in the world is Nutella, and I'm a rather big fan of porridge too, so I combined them to make gooey cookie goodness. They actually sell a similar thing in Starbucks, but 1) It's like £2 for a cookie and 2) they're really thin and hard sometimes :(
So, obviously I decided to attempt them myself! I actually ended up making about 4 batches as they went down really well in the office, and the cookie dough that you end up with when you make them is simply delicious.

I based my recipe on the one I found from Bakerita, and tweaked the ingredients a bit - no salt, dark chocolate or nuts here!

I've recently made cookies and bread more and more, so I'm perfecting my dough technique - previously if any of my mixes had formed a ball I'd be freaking out, but in this situation it's perfect :)
To be honest, these are super simple to make - you basically just whizz everything bar the flour and oats together with a mixer, then stir in the flour and oats to form a dough. You can roll it out and use a circle cutter to get even sized cookies, or do what I did and grab two balls, make a pancake from each and squish a tablespoon of Nutella in the middle - either works!

This is a giant cookie I made with Nutella in the middle, pre baking - I would have taken one after but it got eaten before I remembered! (I had LOADS of dough left, as I didn't realise that the American 'cup' sizes didn't mean mugs...)
What do you think? Are you going to give them a go? Tweet me your results!

Beautiful Disaster - Jamie McGuire

This is the fifth book in my run of new books (see here), and by far the least satisfying I have read so far. This isn't to say it is a bad book (it has 4.2 on Goodreads) but the previous four had been so good that something had to let the team down eventually. 

I picked it up on Amazon fairly cheaply and I read it in a couple of days - it is quite easy going and doesn't deal with particularly hard issues.

In fact, it's basically just about a college girl who falls in love with a bad boy, and then the issues they face with each other. It actually has a ridiculous ending and the story doesn't rally have any real depth to it - it is very much a bad boy love story aimed at teenagers that want to read a slightly dirty book. Anything that could be expanded on to add more is skirted over quite quickly and some events are quite unbelievable. I'm not sure why I picked it up in the first place, but hey ho.

I must reiterate after the above - I'm not saying it's a bad book, it's just doesn't float my boat. That being said, I can see teenage me loving it. It's got a pretty cover too, so I'll give it that.

(Googling shows me this is actually the first of a Fifty Shades of Grey style trio...who knew?)

Have you read this book? What did you think?

Iceland - Waterfalls, geysirs and black sand beaches

Queen of the rock pile! 

Another quite photo heavy post so I won't go on and on - I can't recommend Iceland enough!

We left Reykjavik to do the 'Golden Circle' and traveled down the South coast to Vik. We stopped at lots of waterfalls, Geysir (seriously has the best visitor centre ever) and some black sand beaches!

This is Oxarafoss in  Pingvellir National Park.The entire area is very tourist friendly - there are loads of decked walkways and hand rails, plus lots of signs to tell you where to go/how far.

This is one of the pools at the Geysir site - the water is 80 - 100 C so no sticking your hands in!

This is Strokkur - he erupts every 10 minutes or so - I have a video on my Instagram if you want to see!

Black sand beaches are potentially the most breathtaking things I have ever seen - especially because we went when the weather was stormy - lots of dramatic crashing waves. 

This is a couple of days later at Skaftafell National park - look how drastically the weather changes!

The day of rainbows - the waterfall below is Skogafoss. I'd read about rainbows forming there, so at the first hint of sun, I made James drive us there - it was worth it - by far the best photo I think I've taken!

What do you think? Where are you planning to travel to? Tweet me and let me know!