TEAM ZOELLA NOVEMBER 22, 2019

How to Make Your Own Advent Calendar

If you've got chocolate coming out of your ears 1) Congratulations, you're doing Christmas right but 2) you might want to consider these fun and festive alternative advent calendar ideas for you and the family to enjoy.

From sentimental messages to your very own Christmas bucket list, count down the days until the holidays with these homemade advent ideas you can pop in your envelope advent calendar garland.

When you’ve made your envelope advent calendar garland you can use it year after year and fill it with whatever you’d like!

To craft your own you will need:

String
Brown craft envelopes
Scissors
Gold /silver pen
Mini wooden pegs

Using a metallic marker pen, number each of the craft envelopes 1-24 and if you’re feeling creative you can add festive doodles to the corners.

Now comes the fun part! You can fill each of the envelopes with whatever you’d like but here are some festive suggestions:

Festive Coupons

Hand-written messages with silly coupons like “free foot massage” will come in very handy after a hard days Chrismas shopping. Let your significant other or family members cash them in before the 25th. The perfect calendar where the only cost is your time and possibly some patience!

No more Chocolate!

The perfect option for those who are quite frankly fed-up of chocolate come December first, don’t worry we feel you! Fill your envelopes with something more preferable like different flavoured teas or coffee pods, miniature spirits for an evening tipple, or even just pictures of cute dogs.

Christmas Bucket List

Create a meaningful Christmas countdown full of ideas for things to do with your family. Some ideas can include bake a batch of Christmas cookies, make a Christmas playlist and go and look at a Christmas lights display. You can handwrite them onto gift tags or print them from your computer and slide them in. Every time you complete an activity, you can hang it on your tree for a sentimental decoration. Cute, right?

Attach each of the envelopes to the string in rows, gently opening the envelope and closing them around the string to secure. Alternatively, you can attach the envelopes to the string using wooden craft pegs.

If your wall space is wide enough, one piece of string will be enough for your garland.

Hang your festive garland using white tack or command hooks and enjoy counting down the days until Christmas.

There’s plenty of other advent calendar DIYs you can follow if you’re much craftier than us, here are a few of our favourites:

Takeout boxes

These cute little boxes are perfect for filling with chocolate, sweets, trinkets and hand-written messages to open every day on the lead up to Christmas. Write or stick your numbers on each box and stack them on top of one another on a side table in a pyramid shape. Get the tutorial here.

Christmas tree ornament

For the crafty and young at heart, you can create your very own Christmas tree ornament advent calendar to reuse time and time again. Decorate it with a mini bauble every day until Christmas Day for a simple and aesthetically-pleasing festive countdown. Get the tutorial here.

Ladder garland

Use a wooden display ladder to create a Scandinavian-inspired garland. Use small hessian pouches tied with red ribbon or decorated muslin craft bags and fill each of them with treats and small gifts. Tie the drawstring bags onto a piece of ribbon and attach either side of the ladder. Repeat until you have four or five rows of bags to create your garland.

Birch branches

Make a magical advent tree using birch branches or a bundle of twigs, mini baubles and chocolate coins. You can spray the branches with snow spray for a flocked effect or decorate with twinkling fairy lights. Arrange them in your favourite vase for a chic and contemporary calendar with a twist.

TEAM ZOELLA NOVEMBER 21, 2019

30 Thoughts We Had Whilst Watching Last Christmas

Written by academy award-winner Emma Thompson and starring Emilia Clarke and Henry Golding, Last Christmas has been dubbed the Christmas film of the decade, so it was only fair we went to see if it lived up to the holiday hype.

This post contains many a spoiler

  1. London is like, really pretty
  2. Did she just punch a reindeer? Yes, yes she did
  3. So, this is a Yuletide store is in Covent Garden but it only has two
    members of staff? Sure, sure
  4. Is pigeons sh*t green all year round or just at Christmas?
  5. Who is this mysterious dancing man in a nice coat who keeps
    appearing and waltzing off again?
  6. Must get “I will nail you to my dick” into a sentence
  7. Emilia Clarke’s eyebrows have more agility than my entire body
  8. “I’m busy, you’re weird” – It’s like a lesson in how-to Tinder
  9. Tom is basically like a modern-day Bernard’s Watch on a bicycle
  10. I could listen to Emma Thompson saying Dick and Penis all day
  11. I wish I could feel confident enough to go and chill in a public garden
    in London. Alone. Just me and my sandwich
  12. This must be their big Torvill & Dean moment
  13. Oh look, it’s only Sue blooming Perkins
  14. Santa is such a badass. I love her.
  15. Wow, he doesn’t have a phone. He’s either the perfect man or a serial killer
  16. Tom, you’re a dreamboat but please stop saying look up
  17. If someone has to die, let it be him. I don’t think I can lose Emilia Clarke twice in one year
  18. Being a human being IS hard. Tom is just so f*cking understanding
  19. Second to Thackery Binx, Tom might just be the sexiest ghost we’ve ever seen
  20. This is the cheesemas we all need in our lives
  21. The lyrics, oh oh the lyrics
  22. “Look after my heart, it was always going to be yours anyway” NO YOU’RE CRYING, KAREN
  23. This film is making me want to be a better human
  24. I want to make healthy choices
  25. If I cut my hair short I will hold Emilia Clarke personally responsible
  26. Who invited the estate agent to the party?
  27. Something’s happening… I feel like I want to clap. Shall I clap?
  28. Hands are clapping, people. Hands are clapping
  29. Best line of the movie: lesbian pudding
  30. Ah look, Kate’s drinking smoothies and now she’s bullet journaling which means she really has her sh*t together now

Have you been to see Last Christmas, yet? Let us know what you thought of the movie!

TEAM ZOELLA NOVEMBER 20, 2019

How to Care For Your Christmas Tree

Step one: you've managed to wade through the crowds at your local garden centre.

Step two: you’ve had your other half carefully inspect the Christmas tree pile, identifying the bushy from the balding, twirling around with 117 potential spruces so you can get a good look at him from all possible angles. Step three: your eyes meet. It’s happening. You’re pining. You’ve found… the one.

Now, you’ve just got to keep your Noble Fir alive and well. Here’s a bunch of tips to keep your spruce looking happy all through the holidays.

Before you buy your tree

Come well-prepared

Gloves always come in handy if you’re going to be handling a prickly spruce or 10. Protect those phalanges at all costs.

Measure up

Consider the available space you have for your Christmas tree and don’t forget to account for the stand, too. If you already have a prime position in mind, measure the height of your spot before you head out and buy your perfect spruce to ensure you’ve got enough room in your home (and your car).

Consider what you want from your Christmas tree

Top tip: pick a tree in a shady location rather than full sun to ensure the branches are at their best.

What do you look for in a Christmas tree? Are you all about the height or are you after some dense branch spread? Must it have excellent needle-holding ability and smell fresh AF at all times? It’s worth having a game plan for operation spruce.

Get the gloss

Much like a cat or a dog, you can tell if a Christmas tree is healthy by looking at its… fir coat. Ahem. What can we say, dad jokes are what we do best round here. A healthy tree should be a shiny, glossy green colour and you should be able to run your hand along a branch from the base to the end without losing needles. You can also lift the tree a couple of inches and drop it to the ground. Very few green needles should drop if it’s a goodun.

Don’t be shy

If a tree is still in its netting, ask a member of staff to cut it off so you can see the real shape and ensure none of the branches are damaged. The netting can hide a multitude of sins.

Driving home for Christmas

Most Christmas trees come wrapped in netting to keep the branches safely bundled once purchased. If it doesn’t, wrap it in a blanket. Position your tree with the stump end facing the front of your vehicle to avoid wind damage. If you have a roof rack, secure the branches from where the base to the tip with bungee cords or rope.

Tips for caring for your Christmas tree

Give him a haircut

Trim the trunk before setting in water but avoid carving into the trunk to force it into a stand. It’s always better to buy a bigger stand since whittling can remove the most active cells from the trunk and make your tree extra thirsty.

Thirsty work

Trees are thirsty chaps! Make sure you keep it hydrated and perky by topping it up every day if necessary, depending on how thirsty your sprucey boy is.

Cool it

Trees are thirsty chaps!

While chestnuts roasting on an open fire right beside a Christmas tree might be the quintessential Christmas you’re looking for, your tree will dry out if it’s too hot. A tree will stay looking its best when kept in a cool, dry place.

Bossing your baubles

Use green floristry wire instead of string to hang your decorations, you’ll be able to place them exactly where you want them.

Ta-ta tree

For an eco-friendly way to bid adieu to your festive friend, find out if your local council offer curb-side collection service or if you can drop your tree off at a recycling site (aka the Christmas tree graveyard). Real trees can be turned to compost or soil improver.

Make your tree go further

Fancy pants

Freshen your drawers and your closet by sewing scraps of fabric together and filling with pine needles.

Plant it up

You can plant the tree out in the garden once Christmas is over.

If you have a living Christmas tree in a pot, you can plant the tree out in the garden once Christmas is over. Re-pot your tree into a larger pot, allowing sufficient space for the root ball to grow and expand.

Some trees will struggle with the transition from inside a heated indoor environment to a cold and windy garden but if you give it time to acclimatise and water it regularly, it should live to see another Christmas. You can help prepare it for a colder environment by storing it in a garage for a few days, for example.

Next year, you can bring your tree inside again but bear in mind it probably won’t survive if you attempt to re-plant it in your garden again. Another option is to leave it outside and decorate with outdoor lights.

How to care for a faux Christmas tree

Go for something evergreen

Most artificial Christmas trees last a good decade, so choose one that’ll stand the test of time. You can’t go wrong with a traditional faux spruce that you can chop and change with various decorations year after year.

Keep it clean

Once assembled, use an upholstery bristle brush attachment on your vacuum to remove any dust. Next, use a damp J cloth with some washing up liquid to wipe down the tree. If your tree has any electrical components, make sure these are unplugged first. Don’t forget to dust off your base, too. Wait for your tree to be completely dry before you start adding any decorations.

Branch out

Decide if you want hinged or hooked branches. Hinged branches are never removed whereas hooked branches need to be assembled onto the tree. You could also spray your tree with artificial snow flakes or gold glitter if you want to make it look extra festive.

Started from the bottom now we’re here

When you’re ready to shape your tree, start from the bottom working your way up through the layers, section by section. Shape the top layer before you put it on the tree to avoid standing on a ladder or chair to reach the top.

Some faux trees are designed to have upswept or down-swept branches, so check the product photo before you start fluffing and shaping. Fan out each branch individually, lifting the foliage up or out to the side ensuring each branch is offset from the previous one for an authentic look.

TEAM ZOELLA NOVEMBER 19, 2019

Christmas Jumper Gingerbread Cookies by Baked By Steph

We were lucky enough to have @baked.by.steph come to the office and give us an icing tutorial a few weeks ago and now she's back with a recipe for her delicious gingerbread biscuit and some top icing tips!

Christmas is my absolute favourite time of year. I love cosy nights in, big chunky knits and the smell of cinnamon baking, so for me, these super cute gingerbread Christmas jumpers are the perfect way to get into the festive spirit and are guaranteed to be a crowd pleaser!

Christmas is my absolute favourite time of year. I love cosy nights in, big chunky knits and the smell of cinnamon baking, so for me, these super cute gingerbread Christmas jumpers are the perfect way to get into the festive spirit and are guaranteed to be a crowd pleaser!

What You’ll Need

  • Card
  • Rolling pin
  • Knife
  • Scissors
  • Piping bags
  • Cookie scribe or toothpicks
  • Gel Food colouring
  • –  Stand mixer or hand whisk
SERVES
PREP: COOK:
EASY

Making the cookies:

  1. Preheat your oven to 160 degrees |(fan)
  2. Add all of the dry ingredients into a bowl and mix together
  3. Add the softened butter and ‘crumble’ it in by rubbing it together with the dry ingredients between your fingers until fully incorporated
  4. Make a well in the middle of the mix and add in the egg and golden syrup
  5. Mix until it all comes together and forms a soft dough. If you take a little out and can roll it into a ball then it’s ready.
  6. Split the mix into two and roll each out to approx. 5mm thick.
  7. Place your jumper shaped card onto the rolled out dough and cut around it with a knife.
  8. Place all of the cut out cookies onto an oven tray and bake for 15 mins until they’re golden brown. Leave to cool completely before you start decorating.

Making the icing:

  1. Whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Whisk on a slow speed for 5 minutes, then a high speed for 10 minutes.
  2. Split the icing into smaller batches (as many as the colours you plan to use). Mix gel food colouring into each bowl of icing until you achieve your desired colours.
  3. Pop a little of each colour into a piping bag – these will be your outline icings.
  4. Add a little water to each of the remaining icing bowls and mix to make your flood icings. Pop each flood icing into a piping bag and you’re ready to go!

Cutting out the shapes

I’m going to go ahead and assume you don’t have a jumper shaped cookie cutter lying about your house? No problem! Just draw or print the shape onto a piece of thick card and cut it out. You then simply place this on your rolled out cookie dough and cut around the edge with a knife. It takes a little longer than a cutter but it means you’ll never be restricted by what cookie cutters you have in your cupboard. Aim for the cookie shape to be approx. 6-8cm tall, no one likes a stingy cookie!

Outline and Flood Icing

When it comes to decorating, the key thing is to get the consistency of your royal icing right. You’re going to be working with two consistencies: outline and flood.

Outline icing should be fairly thick, like toothpaste, and hold its shape when piped. We use this to outline the cookie and create a barrier so that the flood icing, which we use to fill in the outlined area, doesn’t run over the edge.

Flood icing should be runnier than outline and shouldn’t hold its shape.

Flood icing should be runnier than outline and shouldn’t hold its shape. To achieve this just add some water to your outline. I go by the 6 second rule: if you run a spoon over the surface of your flood icing, it should go completely smooth again in 6 seconds.

Here’s a tip: when you’ve filled your piping bags with your outline and flood icings, write an ‘o’ on the outline bags and an ‘f’ on the flood bags. This will help you differentiate which is which as they will be the same colour and hard to tell apart. I can’t tell you the amount of times in the past that I’ve picked up a flood bag thinking it was outline and ended up with an icing mess!

Let’s get to the fun part

Once your cookies are completely cooled from the oven you can start to decorate. Yay! Begin by cutting the tip of your outline piping bag and slowly piping a line around the entire edge of your cookie. See the picture for a rough guide on how thin I make my outline. I used white as the base for my jumper designs but you can use any colours you like. Why not make them all different colours?

Give the outline a couple of minutes to harden up and then pipe the inside of the line with your flood icing in the same colour. I like to work from the edge and flood into the middle. Use a cookie scribe or a toothpick to swirl the icing around and cover any gaps. These are also handy for popping any air bubbles that might appear.

To achieve the 3 patterns in my jumper designs I added different coloured flood icing to the still wet white flood base. This is called ‘flood-on-flood’ and means the pattern detail will all lay flat at the same level. It’s important that the base flood doesn’t crust over before you add the pattern so you will need to work quickly!

Here’s how I achieved the swirly pattern (that’s what I’m calling it) on the ‘HAPPY HOLIDAYS’ jumper:

First, add thin lines of one colour to the flood going horizontally. Then add another coloured line in between each line. Using your cookie scribe or a toothpick, drag the icing in an upward motion through the lines starting from the left. Move about 5mm across and do the same thing again but this time in a downward motion. Keep repeating the whole way across the cookie et voila!

Drying the cookies

Before you can add the top layer of detail to the cookies the base icing needs to dry. Simply pop the cookies into your oven at the lowest temperature (approx. 55 degrees) and leave them in for approx. 40 mins. An added benefit of the low heat? A smooth and shiny finish – perfect!

The finishing touches

Let the cookies completely cool before you add the final details.

With your white outline, pipe a line of icing around the edge of the cookie and then add a line for the sleeves. I also added some lines to the neck and bottom of the sleeves for a roll neck and turn up effect.

I used a black outline to add some festive text to my jumpers by cutting the tip of the piping bag as thin as possible and piping the text verrrry sloooowly. If you aren’t too confident with piping text, grab yourself some greaseproof paper or some kitchen roll and practice piping it out a few times before you try it on the cookie.

The best thing about these cookies is you can let your creativity flow and try out any number of different styles. Why not try out different coloured text? Or even try piping a wreath or a snowflake onto some of your festive jumpers for a bit of variation?

The cookies will keep for up to 4 weeks if kept in an airtight container so you can make them well in advance of Christmas. They’ll be the perfect accompaniment to tea and coffee on Christmas day, or you could pop them into a little cellophane bag, tie a ribbon around the top and gift them to your family and friends. Enjoy!

TEAM ZOELLA NOVEMBER 18, 2019

The Ultimate Cosy Hot Chocolate

We're a nation of tea lovers but sometimes you just need something a little naughtier than a cup of choc to see you through the cold Winter nights, ya know?

We’re spoilt for choice for hot chocolate haunts here in Brighton but when we’re not cosying up in a café corner, we love nothing more than re-creating an indulgent beverage at home.

Little else can soothe our souls more than a mug full to the brim with rich hot chocolate, bedecked with cream and marshmallows.

From dairy-free delights to salted caramel blends, fill your boots with these epic hot chocolates & all the trimmings.

Candy-canes

No hot choc is complete without a plethora of toppings to boot. If you fancy a festive twist, why not add some crushed candy-canes atop your hot choc? Traditional and tasty!

Squirty Cream

Hot chocolate and whipped cream go together like Beavis and Butt-Head. You know it makes sense, pile it up.

Mini Marshmallows

Melt some mini marshmallows into your hot cocoa brew for a wonderfully nostalgic cuppa. Dust with cocoa powder and enjoy!

Honeycomb Pieces

Sweet-tooth fans, try crumbling some honeycomb pieces over your cream for a crunchy toffee caramel topping.

Baileys Irish Cream

A creamy and frothy shot of Baileys in your hot chocolate provides the perfect night cap. Boozy and delicious!

Whittards Peanut Butter Hot Chocolate

Peanut butter and jelly is o-l-d news, it’s all about the iconic duo that is PB and hot choc. This velvety concoction is guaranteed to keep you warm on a chilly day.

Clipper Hot Chocolate

Seriously velvety hot chocolate with a conscience – Clipper products are made with responsibly-sourced, pure natural ingredients. Ideal for a spot of evening indulgence in front of a cosy film.

Cartwright & Butler – Orange Drinking Chocolate

Will these bitesize balls even make it into a mug with hot water before they fall into our mouths? Probably not.

A hot chocolate with a festive twist. Premium sweet orange oil mixed with dark chocolate in one of the signature Cartwright & Butler kilner-style jars – it would make for a very good gift indeed, if you can bear to give it away.

Ultimate Salted Caramel Hot Choc – Fortnum & Masons

Natural 41% Columbian milk chocolate married with lingering sea salted caramel. Mother, may I?

Whittards White Hot Choc

Deliciously sweet ‘n’ creamy, this is crying out for an avalanche of marshmallows, if you’re feeling particularly wicked.

Cadbury’s Drinking Chocolate

Vegans rejoice, the Cadbury’s classic Drinking Chocolate is dairy-free and designed to be mixed with a milk of your choice. No whey? Yes way.

Mix it with your favourite plant-based milk to create a dreamy drink perfect for sippin’ on in front of a binge-worthy Netflix series.

Twinings Swiss Hot Chocolate

Snuggle up with a good book and treat yourself to a silky-smooth hot chocolate with real Swiss choc. Simply add hot milk of your choice and immerse yourself in a moment of chocolatey glee. Bliss!

Green & Blacks

Organic dark chocolate, made with raw cane sugar and cocoa powder. If you like your hot chocolate intense and full of flavour, this one will tickle your T-buds.

Galaxy Instant Hot Chocolate

Wrap yourself around a mug of Galaxy’s silky-smooth drinking chocolate. It’s the ultimate cup of comfort on a blustery day.

Hotel Chocolat

Made with grated flakes of 70% dark chocolate, this one’s perfect for anyone who prefers their chocolate to pack an authentic punch.

Lakeland Hot Chocolate Selection Gift Set

From chilli, orange, cinnamon and hazelnut, there’s something for everyone in this hot chocolate gift set. Variety is the spice of life and all that!

What’s your go-to hot chocolate order? Let us know in the comments below!

TEAM ZOELLA NOVEMBER 17, 2019

Weekly Wants: Midi-Skirt Styling

All hail the Goldilocks of skirts. Not too long, not too short but a calf-grazing length that's just right. Didn't think you were a midi-skirt kinda gal? Allow us to make a case for it.

Elegant enough to wear after dark but equally casual enough for a weekend coffee stop, it’s one of the most versatile and hard-working pieces in your wardrobe, whatever the occasion.

Plus, when you’re only showing a flash of leg, who needs to bother with shaving or fake tanning, eh? And therein lies the real reason we’re major midi-skirt fans. We feel seen.

From wrap skirts covered in moody florals to slinky satin pieces, there are endless midi-skirt styling options to see you through party season, everyday workwear and beyond.

Here’s how we’re styling some of our favourites this season!

Shop The Post

*This post contains affiliate links. For more information and to read our disclosure policy, please click here.

TEAM ZOELLA NOVEMBER 16, 2019

Our Festive Lush Picks

Can you smell it, can ya? Christmas is in the air and we are ready to bathe in jolly holiday scented waters asap. And who better to handle our bathtime business than the holy grail of all shower and tub-related pleasures, Lush Cosmetics.

This post contains gifted items

You see, one doesn’t simply just shop at Lush. One sniffs every bath bomb, every bubble bar, every bath oil in the vicinity before leaving in a puff of gold glitter, eager to get home and wallow in a spa-like ambience.

From affordable gifts-to-self to sweet-smelling stocking fillers for the nearest and dearest, here’s a run through of the Lush products floating our boats this Christmas.

Elf Bomb Bomb

Son of a nutcracker, it’s like Buddy the Elf in bath bomb form. This naughty but nice blend of cinnamon leaf, ginger and grapefruit is sure to give your bath a Christmassy spruce up.

Penguin Bomb Bomb

Banish the Winter blues and step into arctic blue

Banish the Winter blues and step into arctic blue waters with a candy popping penguin pal for company. Whether you add his top, his bottom or both, this fizzy fella and his happy feet will make your bath go off with a bang fo’ sure.

Santa’s Belly Shower Jelly

Because why wouldn’t you want to shower with Santa’s belly, given the chance? If you’ve ever wondered what the merry man’s tum smells like, it’s a mix of star anise, uplifting nerolii, apple and grape. Whatdoyaknow, good ol’ St Nick likes his bath-time fruity and so do we, SO DO WE.

Santa Reusable Bubble Bar

Transform your bath into a Winter wonderland with this cheery reusable bubble bar. Simply dip it into your bath water, swirl it around and hop in. When you’re done, leave it out to dry and re-use again and again.

Retro Tree Bath Melt Tablet

Take your bath from boring to babbin’

Branch out this year and take your bath from boring to babbin’ with the silky soft Retro Tree bath melt – just as soon as you’re done adorning your Christmas tree with it that is. Break off a piece of the tablet to melt in the tub or give it a swish in the water before you dip your feet in.

If you’re in the market for a luxurious soak, then you just might be barking up the right tree on this one.

Golden Wonder Bath Bomb

Plop this carefully-wrapped mini gift into your bath for an explosion of majestic colour and shimmer. Sit back, relax and celebrate the festivities with a jolly good soaking.

Luxury Lush Pud Bath Bomb

This dotty orb is guaranteed to make you feel merry and bright. Enjoy the fresh and uplifting scent of bergamot oil and fruity blackcurrant absolute as this sweet creation washes away your worries and woes. When it comes to drawing your Christmas Eve bath, you won’t be able to resist this pink and playful pudd.

Snow Fairy Soap

Lather up with this candy-sweet rapeseed and coconut oil hand and body soap bar. Infused with the power of marshmallow root, it’ll have you smelling better than a confectionary aisle.

Yog Nog Naked Shower Gel

Who needs packaging when going naked feels this good?

Pudding lovers, here’s one you’ll love. Creamy and comforting, Yog Nog fills the room with the warming scent of clove and ylang ylang. Plastic-free and packed with softening soya yoghurt, who needs packaging when going naked feels this good?

What are your favourite products from the Lush Christmas collection?

TEAM ZOELLA NOVEMBER 15, 2019

A Guide to Autumn Flower Arranging

Now the pumpkins have had their time to shine you might be left wondering how to style your home for Autumn. Flowers are beautiful all through the seasons but during the Autumn, the burnt oranges and rich crimsons instantly make you feel ready to embrace the colder weather. And what better way to enjoy it than from the comfort and warmth of your own home?

Whether you’re styling a tablescape for an Autumn feast or simply wanting to get back to nature, something as simple as arranging flowers is a great way to unwind and get creative.

As we move into Winter, festive foliage is just as impactful – bringing a touch of living nature into our homes as the leaves and the greenery succumb to the cold snap outside.

From fresh and earthy eucalyptus to seasonal berries and oak leaves, Autumn flower arranging is the perfect rainy Sunday activity to enjoy around your kitchen table (Christmas songs not obligatory but we highly recommend).

Mix and match fresh flowers and foliage with dried flowers for a rustic and undone arrangement perfect for a table centrepiece. You don’t have to fill a vase to make a statement, sometimes less is more when it comes to flower arranging.

Bountiful blooms get all the credit in Spring and Summer

A handful of apricot-coloured roses balanced with a few fresh branches of eucalyptus provides a beautiful understated bouquet, whilst wild flowers clustered in a rustic vase look perfectly undone on a kitchen counter.

Bountiful blooms get all the credit in Spring and Summer but if you want to add stark beauty and a sense of wilderness to your fall bouquet moody filler flowers such as thistle really come into their own at this time of year.

If you just so happen to have any pumpkins still floating around – if they haven’t been blitzed into a soup already – then why not fashion them into a vase? Simply scoop out the middle, pop a little water-filled vase inside and voilà!

A bunch of supermarket flowers can easily be elevated by adding visual interest and texture from your own garden or local park. As long as you’re not uprooting any flowers or upsetting wild life, fallen leaves, twigs, feathers and berries can work wonders for filling out a bunch of shop-bought flowers and provide that unique and personal detail.

Create a dramatic arrangement by pairing simple eucalyptus with bright colours

Create a dramatic arrangement by pairing simple eucalyptus with bright colours and cascading amaranthus or everyone’s favourite pom pom flower: hydrangeas. They look even more beautiful in Autumn as they dry out.

Smoke bush is another particularly beautiful shrub during Autumn – its fluffy plumes turn a beautiful scarlet hue in Autumn so if you should be so lucky to have some in your garden it would the perfect for adding some texture and volume into your bouquet. If not, it wouldn’t be totally unreasonable to befriend someone who does own a smoke bush. We won’t judge.

You will need:

Sharp scissors or floristry shears
Clean vase filled with fresh room temperature water
Flower food
Flowers and foliage of your choice

  • First prepare your flowers by stripping any leaves that fall below the waterline. This helps prevent bacteria from gathering in your vase.
  • A vase that’s wider at the base and narrower at the neck to support the bouquet is the best shape to go for.
  • Where possible, use floral shears instead of scissors as some scissors can crush and damage the stems.
  • Cut your stems according to the height of your vase to create a balanced arrangement. As a general rule, your arrangement should extend the total height of the vase by 1/3.
  • For longer-lasting blooms, cut your stems diagonally at an angle to help your flowers drink up more water.
  • When arranging your flowers, first create a base by adding your greenery first, that way you can gradually build up colour and texture with your focal flowers. Your most impressive flowers go in last as these will be the focus of your arrangement.
  • If you have any smaller flower heads or fluffy filler flowers, add these in after your green foliage to create shape and balance.
  • If you’re using fresh flowers or foliage in your bouquets, remember to change the water every two days to keep your blooms looking their best.

Let us know how you arrange your favourite Autumn flowers below.

TEAM ZOELLA NOVEMBER 14, 2019

The Best Christmas Adverts of 2019

Pull up a pew, grab a hot beverage and hunker down because one of the biggest festive traditions is here. That's right, it's time for the Christmas ads.

From the tear-jerkers to the cheesy singalongs, here’s a look at the campaigns that have stolen our hearts, so far.

Barbour

That tubby little Santa with the red nose is the one we all pictured when we were growing up and he’s still pulling on our blooming heartstrings all these years later. There’s just something about an animation that just hits us right in the festive feels.

Ikea

The very first Ikea Christmas ad is here and it’s gone in on the comedy value. The 1:30 minute-long campaign features a couple racked with home shame as they’re faced with the task of hosting their friends for dinner.

Through the medium of rap, the ornaments around the family home come alive and start taunting the couple over the tired curtains, cracks in the walls and toys strewn all over the floor, all to a soundtrack by none other than grime legend, D Double E.

Ikea UK and Ireland county marketing manager, Sarah Green, commented: “Our first Ikea Christmas advert was born from the common feeling, that along with the seasonal joys, a lot of us feel a looming sense of dread when it comes to hosting others, with many of us feeling ashamed of our homes over the Christmas period.

“We believe that every home can and should be worthy of a get-together and that with a little imagination, some clever products and ideas, there’s no reason not to be proud to invite your nearest and dearest over. This campaign aims to inspire us all to get our homes party-ready and ‘Silence the Critics’, once and for all.”

Original, infectious and current, it’s one of our favourites so far. Buda bup bup!

Very

What do you get when you mix snow-lined streets, a lonely bewhiskered old man with a dog and a kind face, and a group of neighbours rallying around to make sure he doesn’t get forgotten this Christmas? Ugly cry faces and loads of snot, that’s what.

Every good Christmas advert needs a heartfelt message and Very’s is a simple but powerful one that hit us right in the cojones.

Visa

The all-singing Visa campaign turns our attention on not what we’re buying but rather where we’re buying it from. Featuring 13 real shopkeepers including a butcher, barber, greengrocer, bookseller and florist, it encourages shoppers to support their local independent shops this year. Ain’t nothing like a bit of community spirit to get us in the mood for Christmas.

Sainsburys

What is Christmas without a Dickensian twist? Marking the supermarket’s 150th anniversary, the ad follows the story of a young orphan boy known as Nicholas the Sweep.

Wrongly accused of stealing a juicy clementine from the Sainsbury’s stall on Christmas Eve back in 1869, he is banished from the city. But Mary Ann Sainsbury knows he was set up by a wicked felon and sets out to rescue Nicholas from the snow storm.

Upon finding him, she presents him with a sack of their finest produce as a Christmas gift. Nicholas decides he must share his present with his chimney-sweeping friends. When his work is done, he dusts off his red hat and gets back to his reindeer because… that mysterious little lad from humble beginnings is only Father Christmas!

Well played, Sainbury’s, well played.

Marks & Spencer

Feel good and full of fun, we love this off-piste Christmas jumper campaign from M&S set to the iconic tune of House of Pain’s Jump Around.

Heralding their charming Winter woollies, the all-dancing ad sees a group of knitwear-clad partygoers, families and colleagues with moves so good it puts our two-step to shame.

No tears here, just plenty of shoulder rolls and lols and we’re here for it!

Iceland

Ahead of the highly anticipated release of Frozen 2 in cinemas on November 22, Iceland has collaborated with Disney’s best-loved musical fantasy film to create a Christmas ad we won’t be letting go of in a hurry.

The ad begins with a family gathered around the sofa playing charades. A little boy acts out his favourite thing about Christmas using Olaf the cuddly snowman toy as a clue. Eager to join in the guessing game fun, Olaf suddenly comes to life along with Elsa, Anna, Kristoff and Sven.

Elsa uses her magical ice powers to make a dining table and chairs appear to show the rest of the Frozen family her favourite thing about Christmas. She says, “my favourite thing about Christmas is… a special meal that we share together.”

As the ad closes, we return to the scene with the young boy, Olaf his toy snowman and his family sat round the table enjoying the magic of frozen food.

Dobbies

Huzzah! Dobbies have joined the Christmas ad fray. In a cute 40 second animated clip packed to the rafters with yuletide glee, Dobbie the reindeer and the elves rally round to surprise Santa Claus in time for Christmas.

The ad showcases everything Dobbies has to offer, from trees and dazzling lights to delicious treats and thoughtful gifts – basically all the things you need to make Christmas come together.

Argos

This year, the British retailer shows a father sitting at his kitchen table flicking through their eponymous catalogue. He notices his daughter has circled a drum kit and lo and behold, a shiny new kit appears before him.

He starts beating the drums to the tune of Simple Minds, Don’t You – living his best life as any other parent would – before his daughter appears on the stairs, laughing and shaking her head at her silly pa.

A second drum kit materialises and the iconic duo start jamming together. They’re then transported to an arena stage to live out their rock star dreams with a crowd-surfing teddy bear.

It might not be the warm and fuzzy Christmas ad our heartstrings have come to love but it’s a feel-good watch nonetheless.

Aldi

For the fourth year in a row, Kevin the carrot strikes a Christmassy cord once more as he finds himself in hot water with the Leafy Blinders crew.

Miffed that Kevin has stolen his limelight, Russel Sprout kicks up a stink and ties poor ol’ Kev to a cheese grater. Just as it looks like his fate is peeled and sealed, Tiny Tom gnaws her way through the rope and saves the day. It’s a Christmas miracle!

Off they trot to the Greatest Showman-esque Aldi Christmas show with a stellar performance from the Flying Tra-Peas and of course, our main man Kev himself. Stick a fork in us and smother us with cranberry sauce already, we’re done!

There’s just one question on our lips though, is it or isn’t it Robbie Williams singing the track?

Asda

Asda was able to recreate that warm, cosy, magic feeling we get every Christmas with their ad this year. The story features a little girl fetching her Grandads old change jar (classic Grandad) and filling it with some super special festive magic from what appears to be the Northern Lights.

She and her brother then head all around town spreading joyful magic, we’re especially obsessed with the transformation of a maisonette into a gingerbread house and we’ve already looked on Rightmove to see if anyone has managed this magnificent renovation yet!

John Lewis

It’s the one we’ve all been waiting for, the unveiling of the John Lewis ad. Now it’s Christmas! This year’s ad is a joint partnership with Waitrose and tells the heart-warming tale of an accident-prone, fire-breathing dragon named Edgar.

He unintentionally burns down the village tree, melts an ice rink and in turn – our wee hearts, too. The Bastille soundtrack, the budding friendship between child and beast, the festive message. Elton who?

Yeah, do not watch in public.

Which is your favourite this year?

TEAM ZOELLA NOVEMBER 14, 2019

Recipe: Easy Spiced Granola

This is no ordinary breakfast granola. This is toasty granola with an aromatic Autumnal twist.

Take a simple oaty base, add in sweet maple syrup, ginger, nutmeg and crunchy nuts and you’ve got a wonderfully easy recipe to snack on all week.

It fills the whole kitchen with a warm festive scent

It fills the whole kitchen with a warm festive scent and luckily for us, it’s good enough to eat. Literally.

Here’s what you’ll need to whip up your very own batches of golden-brown homemade granola. Happy baking!

SERVES
PREP: 20 MINS COOK: 10 MINS
EASY
  1. Cut up the nuts and stir in together with the oats, maple syrup, coconut oil and spices.
  2. Place on a lined baking sheet, 180 degrees, 10 mins, serve warm with yogurt and berries or leave until cool.
  3. Top with fresh berries and serve with a generous dollop of Greek yogurt.
  4. Store in an air-tight container for up to six months.

Get it while it's hot!

Sign up to receive our email, delivering the latest stories straight to your inbox.