TEAM ZOELLA NOVEMBER 21, 2020

Between You And Me: Answering Your Problems Part 10

In the penultimate series of Between You And Me 2020, we’re covering everything from establishing some healthy boundaries with the mother-in-law, how to tell your mum you’re gay, career advice and how to manage sex-based panic attacks.

Hey, life goes tits up sometimes and while sharing your problems doesn’t magically make them disappear nor solve them, it can definitely help put things in perspective

In the penultimate series of Between You And Me 2020, we’re covering everything from establishing some healthy boundaries with the mother-in-law, how to tell your mum you’re gay, career advice and how to manage sex-based panic attacks. Hey, life goes tits up sometimes and while sharing your problems doesn’t magically make them disappear nor solve them, it can definitely help put things in perspective and provide you with the clarity you need to approach the problem effectively.

Here’s a look at the team’s answers to this month’s BYAM life dilemmas.

TEAM ZOELLA NOVEMBER 20, 2020

How To Nail Your Secret Santa This Year

Whether you’re hunting for an affordable gift for your co-worker or your gal pal, we’ve collated a few tips and tricks to take the hassle out of sourcing your Secret Santa this year.

We haven’t been able to bump into our besties and congregate round the water cooler with our colleagues for some classic Christmas wish list small talk

Finding the perfect Secret Santa gift is never an easy task but during Covid times, it’s even trickier to master the art of anonymous gift exchanges since we haven’t been able to bump into our besties and congregate around the water cooler with our colleagues for some classic Christmas wish list small talk. Zoom has worn many hats this year but it’s not a subtle enough arena to plant the sweet Secret Santa seed.

Whether you’re hunting for an affordable gift for your co-worker or your gal pal, we’ve collated a few tips and tricks to take the hassle out of sourcing your Secret Santa this year.

Draw the names

During these strange Covid times, we need remote solutions! Well, look no further than Drawnames.co.uk for all your Secret Santa organisation needs. Simply enter all the email addresses of the participants and the automated program will assign everyone a Secret Santa name. It’s quick, easy and no-one ends up picking themselves. Sweet!

Plan ahead

Don’t leave it till December to organise, hop to it!

Getting your Secret Santa gift exchange sorted early on takes the stress out of it and gives those chronic-procrastinators of the group (every office / family has ’em) plenty of time to pull it out the bag, literally.

Stick to the budget

Bottom line: Decide on a budget and stick to it. While splashing out on a £50 perfume might seem like a great way to win at Secret Santa, part of the fun is hunting for a present that’s within the allocated budget, however hard it is to stick to it. The same goes for under-spending. Respect the limit, people. It’s there for a reason.

Make it personal

Try to get a Secret Santa gift that’s tailored to the person

No one wants to open a gift that could have been for anyone. Try to get a Secret Santa gift that’s tailored to the person, whether it’s a reference, an in-joke, something in their favourite colour, a brand they’re obsessed with or something they mentioned way back in January 2020 (aka 84 years ago).

Make it family/office-appropriate

Read the room and know your audience, especially if you’re buying for a co-worker. What might be a belly laugh for you might not be all that funny to someone else, so, if you know the person really well, feel free to make it funny and familiar but respect the Secret Santa boundaries. Go too risky or risqué with the present and it could all backfire with a letter from HR or a dressing down from your auntie Julie.

Prepare, prepare, prepare

The aim is to make yourself cry a little bit at how kind and thoughtful you are.

The key to nailing your Secret Santa is preparation. If you leave it to the last minute, you’re more than likely to fluff it up. After all, there’s only so much you can find in your local Sainsbury’s. Put some effort into it and your present will show it. The aim is to make yourself cry a little bit at how kind and thoughtful you are.

Consider shopping small & independent this year

Where possible, look to buy from small independent businesses and start-ups. Now, more than ever, they need all the support they can get. From hand-poured, small-batch candles to a bottle of wine from a local vineyard, artisan chocolate or prints from a local artist, shopping small and independent will ensure your gift is original and considered.

If in doubt, play it safe

What happens if you draw a name with a colleague you merely share the same communal fridge milk with? If you don’t know the person very well, go down the generic / useful route. This awkward turtle scenario right here is what gift cards and planners were made for.

Use their social media for intel

Friends on social? Watch their stories & gather your evidence from afar. You might see them post about a hobby or share a post featuring something they love, alongside a very cryptic gif saying: NEED. Instagram = research.

Have fun

The whole point of this festive tradition is to have a bit of good old fashioned holiday fun and nothing brings people together like Secret Santa – even if is on Zoom this year!

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Got any memorable Secret Santa experiences? Let us know in the comments!

TEAM ZOELLA NOVEMBER 19, 2020

Gift Guide: A Comprehensive List for EVERY man in your life

This comprehensive guide to help you shop for the man in your life- whether it be your boyf, dad, brother, grandad or cousin twice removed- has you covered for every kind of guy out there.

Ahhh men- the weird and wonderful creatures in our lives. Not only are they hard to figure out on the other 364 days of the year, but Christmas really hammers home how difficult the male species can be to understand. But never fear, we’re here to help!

Christmas really hammers home how difficult the male species can be to understand

This comprehensive guide to help you shop for the man in your life- whether it be your boyf, dad, brother, grandad or cousin twice removed- has you covered for every kind of guy out there. Slick, stylish, outdoorsy, organised, tech-loving or foodie, this edit has a gift for every kinda guy

For The Foodie

Did someone say a 3-course meal with a side of suave? Whether it’s the mastermind behind a Michelin star-worthy midweek dinner or simply the one you can always rely on to make your favourite comfort food, shopping for the foodie in your life offers endless gifting opportunities. Perishable presents are always a winner at Christmas time, but giving a gift that keeps on giving might be the more fulfilling route to shopping smart this Christmas. From recipe books, kitchenware, accessories to hampers, there’s something super comforting about food for the soul inspired presents.

For The One Who’s Always Outdoors

Adventure is a state of mind! If sitting still is this gift recipients worst nightmare, you’re in the right place for nailing the perfect outdoorsy gift. 2020 has got us all itching for a taste of escapism, whilst solidifying our love and appreciation for the simple yet luxurious pleasure of a nice, long walk.

We’re feeling optimistic that 2021 will offer us endless opportunities for out of the ordinary memories to be made, and this selection offers the perfect hints of wanderlust for walking weekends, camping trips and hikes against gorgeous scenery around the globe. It’s time to get planning!

For The Music Obsessive

Whilst your dad’s questionable taste of 80s bops, and younger brothers insistence on playing Post Malone on repeat might drive you up the wall, they do in fact offer endless opportunities for music-themed gifts you know they’ll love. The fun thing about this category is how nicely it crosses over with personalisation, giving you extra brownie points for thoughtfulness too! Sound wave artwork, retro record walls and lyric inspired prints are just a few gift options you might go for, as well as both speakers and headphones, depending on how aligned your music tastes are.

For The One Who Never Says No To The Pub

Ahhh, the comfort of your local boozer, there’s nothing quite like it! We’ve spent far less time at the pub in 2020 than we’d like, but that doesn’t mean your present options need be restricted for the man in your life that loves a pint and packet of crisps. Go chic with some Insta-Worthy bar cart accessories, or classic with a failsafe beer bonanza and rest assured knowing you really can’t go wrong with a tipple at Christmassss- cheers!

For The Lover Of The Finer Things In Life

Sometimes working with a bigger budget makes it harder to narrow down a gift you think the lucky recipient will really want, but there are a few classic present routes which will never fail you, namely accessories + tech. Go for a classic design in the form of a watch, wallet or tie for the slick and sophisticated man in your life or some smart new tech that promises to sort your dad’s forever overbooked calendar or brother’s extensive uni reading list. Finish with an impressively large bow on top to really stand out under the tree, and you’re about to get yourself in the good books for the whole of 2021- result!

The ‘You Can’t Go Wrong’ Gifts

Sometimes simple wins! Don’t overthink an extravagant or unique gift if you know your dad/uncle/boyfriend just isn’t that kinda guy, and instead stick with the classic holy trinity of Christmas presents – socks, pyjamas and gifts that serve a purpose. 2020 has been complicated enough and simplifying your shopping is likely exactly what you need an extra serving of. M&S, John Lewis and Debenhams- we’re coming for you!

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TEAM ZOELLA NOVEMBER 18, 2020

Deck The Halls! Here’s How To Make Your Own Dried Fruit Arrangements

Traditional dried fruit decorations bring a certain festive simplicity and fragrant flair to our homes throughout the holidays that no shiny modern & polished ornament would dare to compete with.

Traditional dried fruit decorations are the holy grail of Christmas crafts. Strung onto a garland, hooked into a natural Christmas wreath or even nestled into a bowl of potpourri, they bring a certain festive simplicity and fragrant flair to our homes throughout the holidays that no shiny modern & polished ornament would dare to compete with.

Losing yourself in this nostalgic craft for a few hours is a great way to switch off and get creative.

The chances are, you haven’t dabbled with the art of drying fruit since you were a wee nipper but losing yourself in this nostalgic craft for a few hours is a great way to switch off and get creative. Plus, your home will smell better than a Christingle service by the time you’re done and who could be mad about that?

You will need:

  • Oranges
  • Limes
  • String / twine / Raffia for threading
  • Baking tray
  • Metal cooling rack
  • Parchment paper
  • Cinnamon sticks
  • Paper towels / tea towel
  • Upholstery needle
  • Scissors

How to:

The first and most longwinded step is drying your fruit. Cut your oranges into 1-2cm thick slices and pat dry with paper towels or a tea towel to absorb the excess juice. Place your slices on a metal cooling rack over a baking tray lined with parchment paper to allow the air to circulate around the fruit and prevent them from burning.

Place them on low heat (120⁰C) in the oven for 3 hours and flip them over half way through drying. If you’re drying whole oranges, cut six ¼ inch slices around the orange and heat as per the sliced fruit but account for longer drying times (4-6 hours).

Once the fruit is visibly dry, remove from the oven and allow to cool before proceeding. You can create all kinds of dried fruit arrangements from present-toppers to place cards but here’s how to make traditional tree decorations & garlands.

Christmas tree decorations

Tie a knot in your twine or raffia, you may need to tie a few knots until it feels secure. Next, thread your dried fruit and cinnamon sticks onto your twine / raffia vertically to make a little stack. You will need to make small holes in your fruit to enable the needle to pass through.

When you’re done, tie another knot at the other end and create a loop to hang. For single fruit decorations, simply take an inexpensive Christmas tree hook/wire ornament hook and poke a hole around the rind. Pinch it closed and you’re done. If you’re attaching your dried fruit pieces to a wreath, use floristry wire rather than glue so you can reuse them for several years.

Christmas Garland

If you’re making a garland, thread your first piece of fruit from the back of your piece of fruit at a 1 o clock position, leaving a 12-inch tail of thread the other side. Then, thread back through the front of the fruit at an 11 ‘O clock position.

Take another piece of fruit. Poke a hole from behind at the 1 o’clock position again. Pull it all the way through next to the first piece of fruit to keep it taut. Take the thread out at 11 o’clock position again. Continue adding your fruit like this until you’re happy with how it looks.

After you’ve placed the last piece of fruit onto the garland, leave another 12-inch tail of thread at the other end for hanging, as you did at the beginning. Shuffle your fruit along the twine if they look too huddled together, then take the leftover string at the end, double it up to make a loop and make a knot a couple of inches down. Do this on both ends so you can hang your garland on the mantelpiece. Cut off the excess string and voila!

TEAM ZOELLA NOVEMBER 17, 2020

13 Questions With Grace Mouat

We sat down with Grace to talk about her career in the West End, her podcast Cut To The Grace and more...

First of all how are you and how are you coping in lockdown?

I am getting there! It was such a shock at first from going from 8 shows a week in such a full out, high energy show to just stopping completely. However, I have actually really enjoyed the break and have used this time to focus on new, exciting projects!

Talk us through your journey to the West End!

I have sung since I was 6! I used to always take part in local talent shows and take part in the school productions. It wasn’t until I started attending the Guildford School of Acting Saturday School and going to the theatre with my mum that I started getting serious about wanting to be on stage. I was then lucky enough to go from Saturday school to the 3 year Degree course at GSA! I landed the role of Swing/ Dance Captain in SiX the musical during my third year and made my debut in the show the day before my graduation! It was such a whirlwind week.

Which shows might our audience have seen you in?

I started my career in a very popular show, SiX the musical where I covered all of the Queens! SiX officially opened in the West End in January 2019 after we did a 6 month UK Tour. I left the show in in August 2019 to embark on my new adventure with & Juliet, a re-telling of the classic love story using the music of pop-writing legend, Max Martin. In the show, I cover the title role and it is one of the most fun jobs ever!

During the pandemic and whilst the West End is closed, I was lucky enough to appear in an outdoor concert version of ‘Hair’ on a jetty, directed by Arlene Phillips! The show is hopefully doing 2 shows at the London Palladium in January!

What’s parts would you most like to play in the future?

My current dream roles are Eliza in Hamilton, Eurydice in Hadestown and Glinda in Wicked.

How can people support the arts during lockdown 2?

You can support the Arts by buying tickets for projects that artists are doing during lockdown such as concerts, workshops or q&as. There are also incredible charities such as Acting for Others or the Theatre Support Fund who are doing incredible work to support creatives and theatres in this time whilst the curtains are down.

What is your advice for someone wanting to make it to the West End?

Never box yourself and have a ‘Just go for it’ attitude to trying new things. This industry is crazy so you never know where your path might take you! Also, be a nice human! Being a good company member is just as important as your talent when it comes to getting jobs.

What would you say is your biggest achievement to date?

With the nature of & Juliet, we are constantly meeting celebrities! However, a night I will never forget was when I played Juliet in front of Katy Perry. I sang ‘Roar’ with her in the audience and got to meet her after. She was so lovely and couldn’t believe I had only done the role a few times before that!

Can you tell us more about your podcast Cut To The Grace?

This project has been something I have wanted to do for so long! I wanted to do it to find out more about the incredible performers and creatives I know and admire. Not only about the careers, but also about them as humans! We can feel so defined by our jobs as actors. I wanted to break that stigma and show my audience that we are human beings with interesting stories and lives! It’s also a super casual, conversational podcast so that my audience can feel like they’re joining in the chat over a cuppa with their favourite Theatre stars who I am lucky enough to have join me on the show.

What is your favourite musical and why?

This is so hard! I absolutely adore the story and music of Hadestown.        However, Kinky Boots is a show that just makes me feel amazing every time I listen to it and it has such an important message. My best friend played one of the angels in the show so me and my mum saw it A LOT and loved every second!

What do you always carry with you?

I am not myself without my phone, my vaseline, a hair band round my wrist and a bottle of water!

What does your perfect weekend look like?

My perfect weekend would start with a massive cooked brunch with loads of coffee before a trip to London looking around the vintage shops. It would, of course, end with watching a show on the West End before a few cocktails! Sunday would be all about chill time- Netflix, puppy cuddles, dressing gowns, cups of tea, snacks, maybe even a cheeky trip to the spa!

If you could only eat one meal again what would it be?

This is the hardest question for me because I LOVE food! BUT I think it would be a vegan chicken piccata that me and my boyfriend make (it’s amazing). It consists of quorn chicken, capers, lemon juice, white wine, and ALL the garlic. With pesto potatoes, broccoli and a bit of garlic bread on the side. DREAMS. If I’m allowed a pudding at the end, Ice cream!

If you could give one positive message to our followers what would it be?

Comparison is the killer of creativity. So, stay in your lane and remember that you are more than enough just the way you are.

Keep up with Grace on Instagram here!

TEAM ZOELLA NOVEMBER 16, 2020

5 Classic Cocktails With a Festive Twist To See You Through To NYE

Station yourselves firmly by the bar cart and make an occasion of happy hour at home with these very merry & drinkable festive cocktails.

We enjoy a hot toddy as much as the next person but this year calls for something a tad more celebratory than a bottle of mulled wine, don’t you think?

This year calls for something a tad more celebratory than a bottle of mulled wine

Now, while we don’t suggest knocking back the cocktails is the most responsible way to deal with the calamity that is 2020 (ahem, we all have our vices), a Merry Mojito enjoyed in sensible moderation certainly helps matters and provides the perfect excuse to raise a glass to our resilience this year.

So, station yourselves firmly by the bar cart and make an occasion of happy hour at home with these very merry & drinkable festive cocktails.

The Christmas Margarita

A festive concoction with a classic tequila base, blended with cranberry juice, orange-flavoured liqueur and lime juice. You’ll never look back.

SERVES 1
PREP: 5 MINS COOK: 1 MINS
EASY
  • Pop all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker and serve over ice.
  • Garnish with a lime or orange rind and frozen cranberries if you prefer.

The Baileys Espresso Martini

A rich and luxurious Yuletide take on the classic coffee-flavoured cocktail – that’ll get you in the holiday spirit.

SERVES 1
PREP: 5 MINS COOK: 1 MINS
EASY
  • Pour all ingredients into a cocktail shaker and serve in a martini glass.
  • Garnish with coffee beans.

The Very Merry Mojito

Time to debunk the myth that mojitos sit firmly in the Summer bev category. The Merry Mojito is easy to make, light and refreshing on the palate with a seasonal, spicy twist. That sounds like a Christmas-appropriate jingle juice recipe to us but don’t take our word for it.

SERVES
PREP: 5 MINS COOK: 1 MINS
EASY
  • Pour the ingredients into a cocktail shaker (leave the Ginger Beer aside).
  • Pour over crushed ice and mint leaves.
  • Top with Ginger Beer and garnish with apple segment.
  • If you prefer your mojito to be more tart, add a splash more lime juice.

The Winter Aperol Spritz

If you’re sad about giving up your favourite tipple o’ Summer, we’re here to tell you we can fill the void with this suitably drinkable Winter edition Aperol spritz.

The cranberry juice works in perfect unison with the fresh citrusy notes of the Aperol and the prosecco and orange zest = quite the holiday romance. Get shaking and making – you’ll see. Bottoms up!

SERVES
PREP: 5 MINS COOK: 1 MINS
EASY
  • Add the zest, Aperol and cranberry into a cocktail shaker.
  • Strain over a glass filled with ice, top with prosecco then add a splash of soda.
  • Garnish with cranberries and an orange wedge and a sprig of rosemary if you have it.

The Sloe Gin Bellini

The perfect brunch-like cocktail for opening presents and lubricating those mid-morning salmon bagels. Sloe-secco is the new prosecco, people.

SERVES
PREP: 5 MINS COOK: 1 MINS
EASY

Combine all parts in a champagne flute. It really is as simple as that!

Which festive cocktail will you be wetting your whistle with this Christmas?

TEAM ZOELLA NOVEMBER 15, 2020

Weekly Wants: Mantelpiece Styling

Christmas is one season in which mantlepiece styling seems to come quite naturally to many, with lights, eucalyptus, pine garlands and earthy additions creating a cosy feeling that oozes into the rest of your home.

Ahh the mantelpiece … a central part of the home that feels very adult and one of peak sophistication. Whilst it may be easily confused and combined with the styling of a shelf (understandably so), there’s something about a mantlepiece forming the central, focal part of your living space that sets it apart from the humble shelf we’ve grown reasonably confident in styling. This week’s edit is one of two halves: the ones ready for Christmas and the ones unsure whether to dip their toes into the festivities, offering you a look at both ‘normal’ and festive dressing to inspire your space through winter and beyond.

Once the candles and fairy lights are decked out, it’s Christmas in our book no matter what the calendar says.

Finding the balance of textures, dimension, colour and light are often factors to consider when styling a mantle, nailing the equilibrium of chic yet still full of personality. Christmas is one season in which mantlepiece styling seems to come quite naturally to many, with lights, eucalyptus, pine garlands and earthy additions creating a cosy feeling that oozes into the rest of your home. Once the candles and fairy lights are decked out, it’s Christmas in our book no matter what the calendar says.

Let us know which picks you’re totally heart eyes for and any tips you’ve picked up along the way for styling this part of your home.

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TEAM ZOELLA NOVEMBER 14, 2020

14 Christmas Crafts To Do When You’re Bored In The House

From marble-effect crackers to snowflake coasters, here’s how to make sure you have the best DIY December yet #KeepCraftingAndCarryOn

As the comfort tv hierarchy goes, Kirstie’s Handmade Christmas is up there with The Great British Bake Off as one of the best ways to quiet the mind and de-stress after a long hard day. Or as the case may be, a long hard 2020.

What better way to fill that Winter Wonderland shaped void in our hearts and cure those bad-day blues than with a festive crafternoon round the table?

Watching the show every year has become synonymous with the countdown till the holidays. Cosying down for the evening to see some of the country’s finest makers create a cornucopia of handcrafted presents, joyful decorations and seasonal bakes gives us all the festive inspo we need to make something of our miscellaneous scraps of wrapping paper – even if it does shine a light on our inferior DIY skills.

As we continue into a second lockdown here in the UK, we’re going to be spending more time indoors during the days leading up to Christmas, and what better way to fill that Winter Wonderland shaped void in our hearts and cure those bad-day blues than with a festive crafternoon round the table?

From marble-effect crackers to snowflake coasters, here’s how to make sure you have the best DIY December yet #KeepCraftingAndCarryOn

1. Reusable Handmade Advent Calendar

Count down the days till Christmas with your very own advent calendar, made from 24 small muslin bags, number templates and red acrylic paint / number stamps. You can either trace the number templates and paint over them or paint a thin layer of paint directly onto number stamps and then stamp the bag.

Image Credit: Pinterest

If you don’t have wooden rods to hang the finished muslin bags, you can forage for a stick and tie a piece of twine to the ends for displaying. Fill the muslin bags with mini treats to enjoy all through December and tie onto your wooden framing with the handles or secure with rustic wooden pegs.

Follow the step by step guide here.

Image Credit: Pinterest

And for those looking for a longer DIY project, we’re obsessed with this felt stocking advent calendar by A Beautiful Mess.

Image Credit: A Beautiful Mess

2. Jumbo Christmas Garland

Give your door a statement festive makeover for the holidays with this jumbo Christmas garland made using wooden craft ovals, metallic spray paint and a drill. Go extra or go home right?

Get the full step-by-step here.

Image Credit: Sugar and Cloth

3. Crafty Christmas Baubles

Use polystyrene balls, glue, silver bauble tops, ribbon or twine and Decopatch papers to make your own Christmas tree baubles – hang them loud and proud, pride of place on your spruce.

Follow the steps from Paperchase.

You can also use clear baubles filled with sprigs of fresh rosemary decorated with calligraphy inspired lettering – give it a go with a gold or black Sharpie.

Image Credit: Paperchase

4. DIY Napkin Rings

Dress up your Thanksgiving table with budget-friendly napkin rings. You just need three things: twine, a roll of natural hessian burlap and some scissors.

Image Credit: Home is where the boat is

Cut your burlap ribbon to size, wrap it round your napkin and hold in place with twine for a rustic & frugal farmhouse tablescape. You can also add in cinnamon sticks and evergreen twigs for a table that looks and smells the part.

Image Credit: Pinterest

5. Snowflake Coasters

You don’t need to be Kirstie Allsopp to master this easy festive coffee table décor. All you need is a glue gun, scissors and white pipe cleaners. Sounds like our kinda craft!

Cut three 3 inch even pieces of pipe cleaner for the base, six 1 inch pieces and six ¾ inch pieces for the snowflake detail. Use the hot glue gun to secure the 3 inch pieces together to make a star shape for the base. Bend the smaller pieces to make a ‘v’ shape and glue onto each arm to complete the snowflake design. And you’re done!

6. Felt Garland

Here’s a Christmas garland you can put together in one crafernoon and enjoy using year after year. Thread a series of accordion bundles of felt together on one line of strong upholstery thread in vivid colourways or festive tones of your choice, pressing the pieces together as you sew. Knot the end, fluff your felt and enjoy.

Follow the full felt garland how-to here.

7. Paper Tree Garland

Scandi lovers, this minimal garland will speak to your soul. You’ll need heavy card stock paper in a few shades of green, scissors, bakers twine, self-healing cutting mat, precision knife and embroidery needle and thread.

Image Credit: Minted

Make a triangle template to map out your tree shapes, each tree will consist of two interlocking triangles (so if you’d like a garland with 12 trees on, you’ll need to cut out 24 triangles). Pair the triangles up and cut a half inch slit in the top of one and a half inch slit in the bottom of the other, so they can interlock. Using a straight pin or a small hole punch, make a small hole in the top of the tree. Then, thread the trees together with the embroidery needle and baker’s twine.

Check out the tutorial here.

Image Credit: Minted

8. Marble Christmas Crackers

Style your table with your very own marbled crackers – they’re surprisingly easy to make and they certainly look the part.

Get the 411 right here.

Image Credit: Home Edit

9. Gold pine cone place card holders

Why have we never fully appreciated the tiny notches of a pine cone before? To make your very own festive place card holders, give your pine cones a couple of coats of gold / silver spray paint, or leave them bare & rustic, they look just as nice.

Cut out your place cards using cardstock paper and write your guests’ names on each one using gold calligraphy ink (or just your best handwriting with an ordinary gold pen, no judgement). Nestle each card into a pine cone and place on the table for each guest. After your Christmas dinner, you can repurpose the pine cones in a bowl with some twinkly fairy lights or style them with your garland on your mantle.

Get your inspiration here.

10. Christmas cocktail stir sticks

Give your tipples a festive glow up with these super easy cocktail stir sticks. All you need is a set of wooden skewers, a hot glue gun, mini bottle brush trees (available online / at most craft stores).

Image Credit: The Merry Thought

Start by trimming your skewers to fit your cocktail glasses, dab a generous blob of glue on the top end and attach it to the base of a bottle brush tree, holding in place for 30 seconds to secure. Once cooled, add it to your favourite Yuletide beverage for a drink that’s dressed for the occasion. Stand back and admire your handiwork.

Image Credit: Freut Cake

11. Cranberry place cards

Crafts don’t get easier than this! Using fresh cranberries, wire, scissors, fresh tree trimmings, kraft paper and stamps, you can make your very own festive place cards. Christmas table of dreams pending…

Get the tutorial, here.

Image Credit: Say Yes

12. Swedish-Inspired Brass Ring Christmas Wreath

Making your own Christmas wreath is one of life’s simple pleasures and a great way to quiet your mind. To make your own simple Christmas wreath, you will need a selection of foliage (eucalyptus, berries, evergreen twigs and hydrangeas work wonderfully at this time of year), floristry wire, scissors and a plain brass wreath ring (available online).

Begin wrapping your floral wire around the base of the ring so you can place your foliage and secure the wire as you work your way round. Take your foliage all the way round for a statement wreath, or if you prefer the simple and traditional Nordic style, focus your greenery around the bottom half of your wreath, or down one side for a fuss-free but undeniably festive DIY wreath.

Image Credit: Pinterest

13. Car In A Jar Snow Globe

You know that quintessential Christmas scene with the old vintage car with a tree on the roof, well with bottle brush trees, faux snow, mason jars, a toy car, red and white twine and red jingle bells, you can make your very own to give to your loved ones for gifts, handmade with love.

To start, tie the red jingle bells around the lid using the baker’s twine. Remove the base from your bottle brush tree if it has one and tie round the vintage toy car with the baker’s twine. If your toy car has windows, thread the twine through the car to secure. Cover the bottom of the mason jar with a light layer of faux snow and nestle the car on top. Secure the lid and watch your loved ones tear up with joy at your thoughtful creation.

Image Credit: Pinterest

14. Pine Scented Candles

Homemade gifts don’t get better than Narnia-inspired Christmas candles. Once we’ve successfully made one of these, we’ll know we’ve hit our Yuletide peak.

Learn how to make these pine-scented festive wicks right here.

Image Credit: Sugar and Charm

What festive craft projects will you be cracking on with in the run up to Christmas?

TEAM ZOELLA NOVEMBER 13, 2020

From Amazon to Argos, Here’s Every Heartwarming Christmas Ad So Far

We will be updating this blog post as the ads roll in but for now, have a scroll through and watch every joyous Christmas ad so far…

Christmas advert season is finally upon us and after a whirlwind of a year, we’re so ready for the first crop of festive cheer to begin. As we wait with bated breath for the good people at John Lewis to reveal their 2020 tear-jerking goods, we’re rating the rest of the Christmas ads from Amazon to Argos.

Have a scroll through and watch every joyous Christmas ad so far

Something tells us they’re all going to go absolutely Christmas ham on the heartstrings because – 2020! We will be updating this blog post as the ads roll in but for now, have a scroll through and watch every joyous Christmas ad so far…

John Lewis

The hotly-anticipated Waitrose & John Lewis advert has finally made its debut, so we’re officially in the mood for mulled wine and mistletoe. Inspired by the spirit of kindness shown by the British public during the coronavirus pandemic, the two-minute ad titled, Give A Little Love, shows animals, children, snowmen and neighbours carrying out good deeds. Each character passes the campaign’s heart emblem onto the next, spreading love and kindness this Christmas.

Instead of using a single production team, this year’s ad is a celebration of different art forms, selecting multiple artists from animation and claymation to CGI and cinematography. In another break from tradition, an original song (rather than the usual breathy cover) was commissioned to provide the soundtrack. Written and recorded by Brit-award winner, Celeste, the charity single ‘Give A Little Love’ lands us right in the festive feels. Together, John Lewis and Waitrose are aiming to raise £5million to help 100,000 families in need.

Cry-ometer rating: we didn’t think a pigeon clad in a gold chain and acid wash denim would get us teary but 2020 is no ordinary year.

Sainsbury’s

Disclaimer: this advert may be triggering for racists.

The supermarket has released the first two Christmas ads in their three-part series focusing on families sharing their culinary memories and hoping they can be reunited this year amid the pandemic.

The first instalment, called The Gravy Song, features a father and daughter having a chat on the phone about Christmas and the legendary gravy he makes every year. As a montage of throwback home-style video footage plays, the dad breaks out into his gravy song in the most embarrassing and loveable dad-like manner.

Despite the retail giant receiving criticism from some, ahem, racist trolls, we applaud Saino’s for getting their ad so, so right.

The second instalment, titled Perfect Portions, depicts a mother and son reminiscing about Christmases with their dad and how he’d always carve perfectly even slices of turkey. The final instalment in the festive Saino’s collection, Big Sarnie, is set to air on Thursday and will show two cousins remembering the Boxing Days spent at their nan’s.

Cry-meter rating: Crying at a Christmas ad? No. Eye condensation? Yes.

Coca-Cola

The Coca-Cola ad sees a dad saying goodbye to his daughter as he sets off to work on an oil rig. After forgetting to post his daughter’s letter to Santa, he embarks on an epic journey to the North Pole. He sails the ocean, treks across the desert and climbs mountains in search of the North Pole but when he arrives, he sees a sign on the grotto door saying, “Closed For Christmas”. A certain kind bewhiskered sir in the famous Coca-Cola van gives him a lift home to his family, handing his daughter’s letter out the window to him as he leaves. The father, confused, opens the letter to find that his daughter’s Christmas wish was simply for her daddy’s safe return home. Who pulls away in the Coca-Cola truck? Good ol’ Saint Nick.

Cry-meter rating: Should come with a Christmas hayfever warning.

Tesco

In the year that humans stockpiled loo roll, we needed a light-hearted Christmas ad to poke fun at us.

The Tesco ad, titled No Naughty List, shows various people confessing to the things that might land them on the naughty list this year. From giving sisters dodgy haircuts (relatable) to failing to donate to Captain Tom (audible gasp), the retailer encourages shoppers to forget all about the naughty list this year and treat themselves instead. After all, we deserve it!

Cry-meter rating: howling, in a good way.

Amazon

As Christmas ads go, Amazon has set the barre pretty high. This year’s ad follows the story of a young, determined ballerina, forced to train from home due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Set to a moving instrumental of Queen’s ‘The Show Must Go On’, the two-minute advert sees a ballerina, played by French ballet dancer Taïs Vinolo, training on Zoom, in the streets and in her hallway, only to discover the Winter show has been cancelled.

Seeing her sister’s disappointment, the dancer’s younger sibling hatches a plan to invite the neighbours to a very special solo performance of, “The Show Must Go On” on their own snowy rooftop. The finale will have you on toast. Bravo Amazon – a touching reminder of the beauty of the arts and the power of community. Needless to say, Fatima’s next job will not be in cyber.

Cry-ometer rating: Ideally, you’ll have a tissue for each eye and nostril. Realistically, you’ll make do with one and use a heavy-duty sleeve to mop up the rest.

Asda

With England now in lockdown 2.0, many of us are clinging to the hope of a somewhat normal Christmas, even if it does look a little different this year.

Featuring the tagline, “the Christmas they need, at the prices they all want”, the ad sees the return of Sunny the superfan and his family as they decorate the house ready for Christmas & gather round the dinner table to tuck into a festive feast, c/o Asda.

The no-frills ad feels very simple & wholesome, acknowledging the pandemic but inspiring us all to make the most of the festive season, even if we’re spending more time at home.

Cry-ometer rating: You will probably release a tear or two but you won’t be dealing with face ache. None of that contorting your cheeks and mouth business, save that for John Lewis.

Argos

In this adorable Greatest Showman-esque ad entitled, ‘An Evening with AbracaDaisy & The Incredible Lucy’, the iconic Argos catalogue makes a welcome comeback.

When sisters Lucy & Daisy circle a box of amazing magic tricks in the Argos Book Of Magic, they are transformed into mini magicians. Soon enough, the front room becomes the theatre of dreams with a grand chandelier and a royal box for proud grandma to watch the show, as the girls perform their set.

As well as performing a range of tricks from sawing their sausage dog in half to vanishing objects, the feel-good ad sees the girls magic up presents for their whole family to enjoy, all to the jolly tune of Gary Barlow’s toe-tapping soundtrack ‘Incredible’.

Instead of centering the story around the pandemic, the retailer focuses on themes of family, togetherness and the magic of Christmas. It’s the pure escapism we were all hoping for.

Cry-ometer rating: Happy tears will be a’flowing.

TK MAXX

Move over Emily In Paris! If this was a competition for bougie openings, TK Maxx wins because within the first three seconds, they gave us the gift of a goat in a beret. Clad in designer gear, the animated goat struts her stuff across the countryside, showing off her new look to her fellow woollies, neckerchief and all.

Meanwhile, her farmers watch on from the window, tearing up indoors as they reflect on the year she’s had why she’s totally deserving of a designer outfit, even if she is a goat. At just 30 seconds, it’s short and sweet but it’s just the kind of light-hearted, silly randomness we were looking for in these troubled times.

Cry-ometer rating: When the farmer cries, we cry with him because he’s right, it has been one hell of a year. SNIFF.

Very

What appears to be just another perfect Christmas Day scene of a happy family gathered round a table blah blah blah (oh, pur-lease), soon cuts to a family watching the cliché Christmas ad play out on their tv screens and branding it ‘a load of rubbish’. That’s more like it!

The unfiltered ad is different to anything the fashion retailer has done before and focuses on all the ridiculous traditions that make the run up to Christmas what it is – squishing the 12ft Christmas tree into a 10ft room, sourcing presents for the bin man and panic-making a last-minute DIY lumpy box outfit for your kid’s Christmas play. It’s charmingly honest and relatable perspective encourages us all to embrace what Christmas is all about this year instead of sweating the small stuff.

Cry-ometer rating: May your tear ducts enjoy a 90 second dry spell. This one’s going after your laughter lines.

Disney

We were not prepared for this. The ad, titled ‘From Our Family To Yours’, in support of children’s charity Make-A-Wish, opens in 1940 when a young girl receives a cuddly Mickey Mouse toy from her father. Fast forward to 2005 and that little girl is now a grandmother, passing on her sentimental childhood toy to her granddaughter.

The festive animation follows the grandmother and her granddaughter through the years, making star-shaped decorations together and enjoying Christmas traditions, until her granddaughter gradually becomes less interested and goes out for the evening instead.

When she returns home, the grandmother is already in bed and she sees the Mickey Mouse toy on the table with a broken ear. She sets about filling the living room with different colour star decorations and repairs the nostalgic Mickey Mouse toy. In the morning, she surprises her grandmother by re-gifting the treasured Mickey Mouse.

And if that nostalgic tale wasn’t enough to get us blurry-eyed, the soundtrack, ‘Love Is A Compass’ sung by London-based singer, Griff, ought to do it.

Cry-ometer rating: Not a dry eye in the house. What did we do to deserve nans?!

Aldi

Kevin the Carrot is back for the fifth year running and this year, he’s a long way from home.

Soundtracked by the Home Alone theme tune (genius), the clip begins with Kevin’s young family eagerly waiting for their daddy to come home. Meanwhile, Kevin is miles away lost in the snow trying to find his way back. He stumbles across a friendly hibernating hedgehog who helps him on the first leg of his journey, until disaster strikes and they tumble into an icy river – Santa to the rescue! Will he make it back to his family in time for Christmas?

Cry-ometer rating: Who needs onions when you have carrots? Enjoy a comfortable and much-needed sob to self.

M&S Food

Narrated by the iconic Olivia Colman, the M&S Food ad takes us on a culinary journey featuring all their festive best bits from oak-smoked salmon and triple chocolate panettone to their sparkly cult tipple: the light globe gin liqueur.

Each week, from now until the New Year, a new festive M&S ad will drop on the telly, voiced by over 10 world-famous actors including Eddie Redmayne, Tom Hardy, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Dame Helen Mirren. M&S will also be donating £2million to charity.

Cry-ometer rating: If we can’t get hold of a bottle of THAT next-level gin, then yes – cry we will.

Barbour

Barbour’s much-loved festive grump is back for another blooming Christmas. Based on a true story of a customer’s cheeky Dachshund named Dudley, this year’s ad, named ‘Father Christmas To The Rescue’, sees Father Christmas help a little boy repair his dad’s old heirloom Barbour jacket after Dudley chewed his way through it.

After trying to mend it himself to no avail, Father Christmas goes on an adventure to the Barbour factory in South Shields to enlist the help of the experts to make it look as good as new in time for Christmas. A Christmas ad with sustainability at its heart – how blooming lovely.

Cry-ometer rating: Tears? Abso-blooming-lutely.

McDonald’s

There was absolutely no need for McDonald’s to go ham on our emotions like they did but here we are crying along right on cue and mopping up our tears with our burger bun.

Set to a stripped-back cover of the iconic, Alphaville’s Forever Young, sung by singer-songwriter, Becky Hill, the Christmas ad has made a surprising departure from their usual festive menu focus in favour of a tear-jerking animation.

The ad, titled Inner Child, tells the story of a mother trying to encourage her teenage son to get into the Christmas spirit but he’s more interested in his screens and gadgets than spending time with his mum. A relatable modern story that’ll ring true for many parents.

At the beginning of the 90-second clip, we see the mum dancing around a Christmas market with reindeer ears on her head in a bid to make him laugh but he sticks his earphones in and walks off. On the way home, the pair stop off at McDonald’s where Tom’s inner child lights up. When they get home, they have a snowball fight and Tom helps his mum decorate the tree and leaves carrots by the fireplace for Santa’s reindeer. The story ends with a message asking, ‘Are you reindeer ready?’.

The fast food restaurant has pledged to provide a further four million meals for the charity FareShare. The singer will also be donating 10p from every download of the soundtrack to the food charity.

Cry-ometer rating: Don’t bother putting makeup on.

What Christmas ad do you think is tipped to be the favourite this year?

TEAM ZOELLA NOVEMBER 12, 2020

Gift Guide: Small Businesses To Shop With This Christmas

Not only does this kind of purchase guarantee a gift that's been made with oodles of love and dedication to the craft, it also means the lucky recipient will no doubt reap the benefits of a unique, special and one of kind gift.

We’ve always loved to champion the small and independent brands doing it right, but in 2020 more than ever the importance of shopping indie has grown exponentially, and we couldn’t be more thrilled!

Not only does this kind of purchase guarantee a gift that’s been made with oodles of love and dedication to the craft, it also means the lucky recipient will no doubt reap the benefits of a unique, special and one of kind gift.

The offerings are so good in fact that we may have inadvertently been hitting ‘add to cart’ whilst curating this list

And the possibilities are endless! From artwork to skincare, fashion to soft furnishings and foodie to personalised perfection, the power of our dear friend Instagram means you won’t be short of small brands to support during the run-up to Christmas and beyond. The offerings are so good in fact that we may have inadvertently been hitting ‘add to cart’ whilst curating this golden list of chefs kiss worthy picks!

This year more than ever, voting with your £££ and making informed choices to keep afloat the incredible small businesses we drool over on Instagram is a tangible way to make a real, significant difference.

Drop your fave indie brands in the comments too!

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