TEAM ZOELLA DECEMBER 18, 2019

The Best of Elf on the Shelf

It's that time of year again! Time for the spy in elf's clothing to cause all manner of havoc in the home, all in the name of reminding the little ones to stay on their best behaviour during the countdown to the holidays.

The premise of the phenomenon that is The Elf on the Shelf is that one of Santa’s Scout Elves keeps an eye on the children during the run-up to Christmas and reports back to the North Pole.

Every night once the kids are asleep, parents set up a cheeky tableau for their little nippers to discover the following morning and it turns out, the mums and dads really get into it, even more so than the kids.

Twenty-five long days of creative torture for mums and dads across the globe but for us at Zoella HQ they’re a constant source of laughter, and surprise at the festive geniuses across Instagram!

Here’s a gallery of 17 ideas to inspire that little Elf’s next move, or to just give you a good laugh!

What have your elves been getting up to in the run-up to Christmas this year? Let us know in the comments below!

TEAM ZOELLA DECEMBER 17, 2019

Boxing Day Cheeseboard Mac & Cheese

Despite how much we absolutely love a cheeseboard there’s always plenty of leftovers on Boxing Day that we think are best suited in a whole new dish!

Say farewell to your basic turkey curry and get your teeth stuck into something a little different this Christmas; the almighty Cheeseboard Mac & Cheese.

That’s right, you heard it, we’ve gone absolutely crackers and combined one of the best things to eat at Christmas with one of the best things to eat year-round. And speaking of crackers make sure you save those too as they’ll make a bloody lovely crispy topping when it goes under the grill.

Delicious dairy in all its forms meld together to create a cheesy taste sensation.

Lovely Red Leicester, brilliant blue, chalky cheddar, delicious dairy in all its forms meld together to create a cheesy taste sensation. Ease up on some of the stronger fellas and add as much of the lighter options as you possibly can, we even popped in some truffle cheese!

This recipe is pretty similar to your classic mac with a boatload of different cheeses and a crispy cracker topping.

SERVES 8-10
PREP: 15 HRS COOK: 25 HRS
EASY
  1. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil and add in your macaroni, don’t forget to salt the water. Cook for 10 minutes or until it’s cooked to your tasting.
  2. Grate all your cheeses or cut into small pieces if the cheese cannot be grated. Make sure to remove the rind or skin from cheeses like brie.
  3. Melt the butter in a large saucepan and add the flour to create a roux.
  4. Gradually mix in the milk adding a little at a time until the sauce becomes thick and smooth.
  5. Stir in your cheeses until the sauce is fully melted.
  6. Remove from the hob and add in the macaroni.
  7. Place the mixture in to an ovenproof dish and crumble you crackers over the top, you can also use breadcrumbs too.
  8. Place under a hot grill until the topping is brown and bubbling.

Serve your mac & cheese with salad for 8-10 people or use it as the pièce de résistance to your classic Boxing Day buffet. You could even pop your chutneys on the table for the ultimate cheeseboard experience.

Will you be trying Cheeseboard Mac & Cheese this Christmas?

TEAM ZOELLA DECEMBER 16, 2019

6 of the Best Christmas Games

Ahh, Christmas you dear old friend, always lulling us into a false sense of security with all your JOY, and then BAM! We’re all arguing over a game of Monopoly and your little sisters run off crying.

Quite frankly there’s nothing better at Christmas than a good old game! Bored of seeing Home Alone for the millionth time? Is no one messaging you back because they’re having far too much festive fun for themselves? Time to whack out the boardgames! Yes you may end up regressing into a childhood tantrum but it’s all a bit of a laugh, isn’t it!

Monopoly

Definitely be that guy who steals from the bank

If you fancy getting rich quick this Christmas a classic game of Monopoly is your go-to. Definitely be that guy who steals from the bank, definitely laugh chaotically when someone lands on one of your hotels and definitely win that beauty contest and collect £10! Big props also go to Monopoly’ little sister game Monopoly Deal, if you don’t know… get to know!

Linkee

Play this one round the dinner table while you’re slurping on port and pretending to like Christmas pudding.

Find out who’s packed full of general knowledge with Linkee. Answer four separate questions that are linked and shout LINKEE to be the first to answer, if you’re wrong you’ll be iced out the round but if you’re right you receive the card and the first person to spell Linkee with their cards wins!

Dobble

Dobble is great for quick-fire rounds and it also makes a really lovely stocking filler. Play this whilst waiting for the canapés after you’ve just come down the stairs on Christmas morning in all your new clothes, after using all your new body washes and scents and you’re feeling like a million bucks!

Tenzi

Sometimes the easiest entertainment comes from a crapload of dice! You can play so many little short sharp games with this, our favourite was each having six dice, rolling one to get your number and then rolling the rest until you get six of the same number, fastest wins.

Cobra Paw

The perfect game to pull you out of your post-turkey slumber

This game gets your heart racing and will end up with everyone poking each other and screaming. The perfect game to pull you out of your post-turkey slumber by introducing some solid competition into your family dynamic.

Bananagrams

A bit like Scrabble but also not that much like Scrabble. Start with your letters and create words that have to intersect (like Scrabble) and every time you run out of letters you shout PEEL (that’s the fun bit) you get to take another letter but so does everyone else. If you’re just not gelling with one of your letters you can discard him (sorry Q) but you have to pick up three more. It’s fast-paced, there are a lot of concentrating silences and the glory of winning is completely unmatched.

What’s your favourite board game to play at Christmas?

TEAM ZOELLA DECEMBER 15, 2019

Weekly Wants: Festive Beauty

This Christmas we had to have a Weekly Wants dedicated to cosmetics, for our face is almost as important as that elusive sequin party dress we're always searching for to wear at the office party.

‘Tis the season to be extra’ and that sentiment should, of course, apply to your makeup routine as well because what other time of year are you able to rock out on a Monday morning with a red lip and a glittery eye without your manager John asking if you’ve been home since Saturday night.

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TEAM ZOELLA DECEMBER 14, 2019

The Ultimate Christmas Playlist!

Compiling a crowd-pleasing playlist for the holiday season is an art. One doesn't simply wing it with Wizzard when it comes to Christmas floor fillers, oh no. You've got to know your audience, suss out what makes the people's feet happy and mix it up with the old, the new and the less familiar.

You need tunes that’ll carry you all the way through from December 1st when you’re decorating your tree right up to the big day itself. You’ll need choirs, high notes, trumpets, minor chords and stamina. Plenty of stamina.

Get your festive grove on with these feel-good tunes. From the Mariah belters to the Bublé bangers, if it’s cheesy, catchy and leaves your toes a’tapping uncontrollably then you betcha, it belongs on the festive jingles playlist.

Whether you’re looking for classic carols to make your nan’s heart sing or Bieber’s pop rendition of drummer boy, there’s something for everyone in this yuletide mash up.

Songs From the Movies

Christmas Eve listening done right! This is the time to turn up the film soundtracks, unleash the Polar Express ballads and raise the roof with a good ol’ hum along to the flurrying flutes behind the much-loved Home Alone theme. It’s enough to thaw out your innards isn’t it?

Listen to the Spotify playlist here

The Christmas Covers

All your favourite classics re-imagined for a new era. Entertain your guests with these chilled-out tracks, perfect for playing away in the background as you get on with the task in hand: making a dent in that festive feast. Reworking a Christmas classic is a risky little game but if anyone’s cut out for it, it’s Ariana Grande.

Permission to add this year’s John Lewis ad soundtrack by Bastille to this category – granted. Originally a rock classic by REO Speedwagon back in 1985, the Can’t Fight This Feeling cover has been given a pop-indie edge and we just know we’ll be playing it on repeat this Christmas. It’s what Edgar would want.

Listen to the Spotify playlist here

The Classics

Yuletide is all about the warm and fuzzy jams. The soothing kind you want on in the background when you’re slightly over wrapping all your gifts with Rowan Atkinson levels of enthusiasm and accuracy in that iconic Love Actually scene.

Enter Irving Berlin and Tchaikovsky’s nostalgic Nutcracker ballet. Their dulcet notes will keep you calm enough to carry on.

Listen to the Spotify playlist here

Pop Anthems

Queen Mariah rules this category – we can recognise those jaunty piano chords anywhere! Christmas pop anthems provide the best backing track for the family games segment on Christmas Day, or peeling the spuds ready for roasting with The Pogues.

And when gramps falls asleep – because let’s face it, with a belly full of turkey he will – pump out a bit of raucous Slade. That’ll liven him up in time for the Queen’s Speech.

Listen to the Spotify playlist here

The Bumper Soundtrack

And for a round-the-clock playlist to keep you in the holiday spirit from dusk till dawn, here’s the ultimate playlist featuring everything from all categories, rolled into one. Merry Christmas, ya filthy animals.

Listen to the Spotify playlist here

TEAM ZOELLA DECEMBER 13, 2019

A Very Merry Vegan Christmas

Something that can prove particularly difficult at Christmas time is catering for your meat-free guests, but veganism has come a long way over the last decade and each year we're discovering more and more ways to elevate our dishes without meat and animal products.

If you’re looking to introduce more vegan options into your diet or have a family member who has recently gone vegan, here are a few tips, recipes and foodie picks to make this Christmas feast the best one yet.

Nut Roast

Shuffle over turkey, there’s a new festive showstopper in town!
Make a vegan Christmas dinner equally spectacular with a nut roast or wellington. Gaz Oakley (Avant Garde Vegan) has a fab recipe for wellington and also a stunning centrepiece nut roast wreath, whilst Jamie Oliver’s alternative nut roast with a pastry base switches up tradition but still packs plenty of flavour.

If you’re looking for a time-saving recipe, Artisan Grains has a great pre-made nut roast mix that’s easy to adapt and add ingredients, or Clive’s nut roast comes ready-made and just needs heating.

Not mad on the nut roast idea? Higgidy Sweet Potato and Red Onion Parcels are a great alternative and lighter option for the main course – because we all need more room for roast potatoes.

Side Dishes

Sides are just as important as the main course and these trusty recipes by Jamie Oliver never disappoint. Side dishes are typically the same as your standard Christmas dinner, but here’s a few ideas and extras that are a great for vegans:

Roast potatoes, maple syrup glazed spiced parsnips and carrots, peas, leafy greens, sprouts, braised red cabbage and roasted onions.

Gravy & Chutneys

It’s not dinner without gravy and chutney and there are plenty of recipes and ready-made options on the market that all work well – this gravy recipe from Jamie Oliver is really flavourful, whilst Nigella Lawson’s chutney recipe is as extra and festive as you could imagine.

Alternatively, Mary Berry has a simpler yet equally yummy tomato and onion chutney that’s perfect for sandwiches a la Ross Geller’s Moist Maker.

If you’re looking to buy rather than prepare your gravy from scratch, then Bisto Original is vegan-friendly, whilst most supermarket-own chutney is dairy-free.

Sweets & Puddings

When it comes to dessert, you can either go all-out with tradition or keep it simple. Open the vegan Booja Booja Hazelnut Truffles or whip up a Yule log with custard to boot. There’s no such thing as holding back on the desserts at Christmas!

If Christmas pudding and mince pies are more your jam, Waitrose has some great vegan options that taste just as good as homemade (just don’t break that to your mum).

Snacks & Extras

And speaking of treats, vegan snacks have really upped their game over the past few years. From fancy alternatives to classics you didn’t know were vegan, here are a few recommendations of a few of our tried and tested faves:

Booja Booja truffles | Bourbon biscuits | Ginger biscuits | Cheese Garlic and Herb Spread | Livia’s bites | Waitrose Turkey and Stuffing Crisps | Pringles Original | Tyrells Crisps | Divine Chocolate | Mister Free’d Crisps | Violife Cheese | Twiglets

Gift Ideas

Finally, if you’re also looking for some gifts that are vegan-friendly, these would be great to find in any stocking come Christmas morning:

Herbivore Gift Set | Oskia Gift Set | Aurelia Gift Set | Booja Booja chocolate | Gift cards for People Tree and Thought Clothing who offer vegan-friendly clothing | Bath salts | Lush bath bombs

Are you going to be making any vegan food this Christmas, or have a favourite recipe? Let us know in the comments below!

Noelle Downing
TEAM ZOELLA DECEMBER 12, 2019

13 Questions with Noelle Downing

From the most magical wedding we've seen this year to epic New York Christmas content, it's no wonder why Noelle is one of our favourite bloggers from across the pond!

Tell us a bit about your story and how you started your online journey?

I grew up in the small town of Hammond, Louisiana. Growing up I always felt different in my younger years, not in a good way. From a very young age, I had a love for fashion and photography and really loved dog photography, hah! Working in thrift stores and doing little photoshoots with friends became my life as a teenager. At 18 I moved to NYC and a few years later met my friend Rachel of @JagLever. I became her photographer and through her encouragement, I started my own Insta! From there I went through so many body changes with getting older and felt I finally found my voice in this big blogging community and for some of the first years of my life, I feel comfortable in my skin and love sharing my journey so it can help others!

What do you love most about being an online creator?

 I love sharing my story of self-love and hearing how it actually impacts other women (and men!) lives and how my voice is actually making a difference at how they see themselves and love themselves.

What do you wish more people knew about you?

I think people make a lot of assumptions about me, where I come from, who buys me things etc.. my mom died when I was 7 and my dad 16. I worked my butt off for every single thing I have. I dropped out of college at 18 and moved to NYC. Many days of my life I had a negative balance in my bank account while working retail and trying to figure out how to make my next move. But I’m proud of what my journey looks like. I’m proud to say I did this and walked those steps and opened those doors.

You probably had one of the most magical weddings of 2019! Tell us your inspiration behind it and why Christmas?

Well… my name is Noelle so naturally, I was BORN to love Christmas.. but truly I do and I’ve always thought Christmas tree farms had something magical about them. A few years ago I saw @KJP’s tree farm wedding and thought it was perfect and I’d love to do my own spin off that. We wanted this magical night under the stars with the Christmas trees with a touch of Harry Potter’s Great Hall and man… it was everything and more.

What’s your favourite time of year and why?

I can’t pick between Halloween and Christmas.. but overall FALL is my season!!! The crisp air, falling leaves, cider season, spooky season, sweaters, PSL! It’s amazing.

Who are some of your favourite online creators?

@KJP is easily my favourite account on Instagram! I also love following all of my friends @Steffy @RachMartino and @Jaglever!

Who inspires you?

Harry Potter. Like him, I lost my parents at a young age and he gave me hope I could move on from it and that I was destined for more. I swear it got me through some very hard times.

Favourite Christmas tree in New York?

The Lotte Palace Christmas tree!

What was your favourite subject at school?

Drama class… I wish I would have stuck with theatre because I loved it so much! Maybe one day…

What does your ideal weekend look like?

One night cosied in with my husband (OMG FIRST TIME I’VE EVER TYPED THAT!) and one night out all glammed up with friends! I like having one of both!

What will you always find in your handbag?

A MESS. My bags always look so messy it would give many people anxiety! A fav nude lipstick, red lipstick, candy and lots of random receipts. Nothing very exciting… just a big mess!

What’s your current motivational mantra?

Don’t wait for that perfect day, perfect body, perfect size. DO IT AND WEAR IT NOW!

What would you tell your younger self? 

I swear, one day you’ll be cool.

TEAM ZOELLA DECEMBER 12, 2019

Styling a Christmas Table

For most people, the most anticipated event of the festive season is tucking into the gargantuan feast and all the trimmings; gathering everyone round the table for our two favourite F words: food and family.

Christmas is the perfect time to switch up your everyday décor and create the table setting of dreams for you and your guests to dine at. So, to help you on your way to hosting a magical meal for all the fam, here’s all the styling suggestions you need to make your table the talking point this Christmas. We even called on Maxine from the We Love Home blog for a few top tips you’ll find sprinkled throughout!

Pick a theme

Use lots of fresh foliage on your tabletop. Lay branches of Eucalyptus down the centre of your table and place a sprig of berries at each place setting for a festive feel.Maxine Brady

Reds and greens always make for a traditional colour combination whilst frosty silvers, whites and golds create a contemporary Scandi feel. You can pair dark charcoal grey linens and gold accents with a hint of red for a tablescape that’s both modern and cosy. For anyone itching to exercise their festive finesse, why not plan a menu that highlights your theme, too. Hostess with the mostest dontchaknow!

Layer your look

Add more visual interest to your table with charger plates and placemats. It’s a simple way to elevate your décor and it also makes your guests feel a little fancy pants.

Foliage

Fill the centre of your table with ivy, poinsettias and sprigs of holly for a traditional look or scatter in some dried oranges and pinecones amongst a garland for a rustic effect. For a fuss-free floral tablescape, you can always just stick with the greenery and a sprinkling of table confetti or white baubles.

Consider your interior style

Complementing your table décor with the rest of your space is an easy way to make sure all your elements come together. Incorporate similar tones, patterns or textures from your interior style into your table setting to create a beautifully balanced atmosphere for you and your guests.

Use a centrepiece

Create height with candles, vases filled with fresh foliage, flowers, ornaments or a mixture of all of them. A Christmas wreath can double up as a table centrepiece and looks charming with a few pillar candles dotted amongst it. Just make sure there’s enough room for all your tableware, serving dishes and glasses.

Lighting

Fairy lights will let your table glimmer way past lunch time. Pop strings of battery powered fairy lights down your table and candles will add glow to your Christmas lunch. Maxine Brady

How do you want to light your Christmas table? Do you want twinkly fairy lights, ambient candlelight or the warm glow of a floor lamp. Mood lighting is always great for a dinner setting. Use individual tea lights in holders, pillar candles in hurricane lamps or lanterns for a laid-back setting, perfect for relaxing with friends and family.

Place cards

Write your guests’ names on place cards, leaving one side blank for guests to fill in an achievement or something they’re proud of this year. Make a napkin bundle and place a name card on top with a sprig of something festive for a simple and aesthetically-pleasing way to help your guests find their seat.

It’s all in the detail

Keep track of whose glass is whose with coloured ribbons that match the theme of your table top. It saves drinks being wasted, too.Maxine Brady

From cutlery to glassware, the finer details can make all the difference when it comes to setting a table for Christmas. Here’s the part when you can bring out your metallic knives and forks and luxe gold-rimmed glasses. Pull out all the stops!

Crackers

It’s not Christmas unless you’re navigating yours and your family members’ arms is it? We are of course talking about pulling the crackers. Coordinate your party crackers with the rest of your colour scheme or mix and match with a kitsch print to lift a darker arrangement.

How will you be decorating your Christmas table this year? We’d love to hear what festive themes you’re going for!

TEAM ZOELLA DECEMBER 11, 2019

Surviving Your Work Christmas Party

The office Christmas party is creeping ever closer which means you're gonna need some kind of survival guide to keep the mischief contained enough to protect your employment. In an ideal world, anyway.

Here’s how to survive your office party shenanigans. May you make it out relatively unscathed.

Get ready in the loo – it’s not a Christmas do until you’re applying your makeup in a terribly lit bog and choking your colleagues with deodorant and Elnett.

Go all out on the festive theme. Now is not the time to hold back on the sequins and floor-length gowns, Julia.

Make a beeline for the buffet. Line your stomach with crudités and classic party dip or forever hold your peace. And secretly judge those who stab at the garlic quadrant with a breadstick like it’s a pool of eternal youth

Drink all the water. The aim is to be more hydrated than your Christmas tree at this point.

Don’t make the mistake of wearing a jumpsuit. See above.

Now is not the time to free the nip. Pack safety pins, tit tape, blue tack, gaffer tape – whatever it takes to keep your baps buckled in

Pace yourself. The merriment can run away with you at a time like this. Think sobering thoughts. Dot Cotton on a stretcher. A world without David Attenborough.

Know your poison. Wine, Sambuca, Jägerbomb. Unless you want to sip from the devil’s cup, avoid them all and remember, your body is a temple.

Try to look at life through the eyes of HR. Nothing says social sabotage like necking on with the CEO. Sure, this is a company blow out but it doesn’t mean you should blow the boss.

Beer courage will probably convince you that now is a good time to bring up your pay rise. It is not.

Accept that you’re going to get snap-happy with the blurry selfies and meet the new body parts you never knew you had. We see chins, chins everywhere.

Two unlikely colleagues will be heavy petting in the corner. Don’t be one of them.

Set an alarm to remind you when you need to head off. No one wants to be sleeping in the office dog bed because they missed the last train home (we have absolutely no first-hand experience of that. Zero)

You’re pretty liquored up, you’re feeling loose-lipped and adventurous. You might decide it’ll be fun to snog Kenny the copy guy. Again, don’t go there.

You might feel brave enough to tackle the key change in I Will Always Love You on the karaoke machine but know your weaknesses, friend. Stick to ABBA.

The Christmas party is a great way to catch up with people you spend 8.5 hours with five days a week. Prepare questions in advance in case the chat runs dry halfway through your duck liver brioche

Fight the urge to weep in a circle to Robbie Williams’s Angels. No one needs to see that.

Always, ALWAYS say thank you. It’s easy to forget all the organising that goes into an office knees up, so manners can go a long way. Make sure you acknowledge the person who pulled it all together

Leave on a high with your dignity intact. Je nais regrette rien!

TEAM ZOELLA DECEMBER 11, 2019

Shopping Small For Christmas: Gift Guide

In a world that is becoming increasingly dominated by generic profit-hungry superstores that look the same, think the same and act the same, the small independent businesses inject a much-needed sense of creativity and heart into our local high streets.

With their unique product offering and bespoke service, they breathe new life into the shopping experience and make the community what it is, which is why if you’re yet to start your Christmas shopping, you might want to consider championing your local gems over the giants this year.

From the quirky and eclectic to the downright delectable, have a look at some of the independent stores in Brighton that are encouraging us to shop small this Christmas.

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