Thursday 31 December 2015

2015, In A Nutshell

   It wasn't until I got around to writing this post that I realised what a great year it's been. I've achieved an awful lot, and looking back on it now, for me personally, I consider them fantastic achievements.
   I reached 1,000 sales this Christmas, which isn't something I ever intended, expected, or even once thought would happen when I opened my shop on Etsy in 2011, it was just a hobby and one I thought would fall apart after a couple of months, but it didn't. Somehow the dedication and drive just formed and never diminished, even through the Christmas stress.
   An art exhibit was also never something I planned for, but that happened this summer, too. It was a highly successful exhibit not just for me, but also for the hosting organisation - apparently one of the most successful they'd had in a really long time which is an amazing thought. And, though it's quite recent, on December the 12th I got a Daily Deviation for my winter collection on Deviant Art, which is another huge compliment!

   I finished writing my book and I'm going to start contacting agencies in January when I start writing the next. I don't expect it to be accepted simply for how few agents take on the fantasy genre, but I'm going to self-publish it in that case. Either way, to finish writing, proofing and polishing a book is a huge achievement, even if it's not the first time I've done it, and it certainly won't be the last. I've almost got my plan for my next book solid enough to start writing, and once I begin that I'll start querying agents. I'm really excited about this next book, I can't wait to start it.

   I'm presently between a UK size 8 and size 10, which is also somewhere I never thought I'd be, as I was a size 16 five years ago, and not only have I lost loads of weight but I've built up more strength and stamina than I ever thought I would - just like my shop and art exhibit, fitness is never something I thought would ever 'happen' to me. And while my strength and stamina has been improving over the past two years, only in the last couple of months have I started to truly force mind over matter. If I couldn't complete a set of renegade push ups because my arms were weakening, I'd drop to my knees or just stop and breathe it out, but now I push through it and breathe through every push. Now I only stop when my effort matches gravity and, while I am pushing upwards, I'm not actually moving, stuck in chaturanga and the only way is down. Despite a failed push up, it's such an awesome feeling to know that I did push as hard as I could have, and physically could not complete that rep. And I've pushed myself this far thanks to Jillian Michaels' amazing DVDs and instruction in my living room - while some people might find her intense, I've found that her attitude is perfect for me.
   Equally, I've been printed in Women's Fitness magazine, I've worked with loads of amazing fitness brands and tried all kinds of new things, and really broken through into the fitness scene - never a scene I thought I'd be found in.

   I might still be living at home with my parents, but with my mum's disability getting worse I'm challenged to juggle my own life with my dedication to my mum, and I'm managing it really well. She comes first - she will always come first - but I've not had to give anything up like I did in the past because I'm learning to manage my time better than I ever have, make compromises and get used to working on my shop, book and so on in different settings to make sure I'm always in reach of her. I'm her primary carer for 45 hours a week, and I'm surprised I'm able to do as much as I am. And, to be honest, I'm proud of myself for being there for her. Lots of people would have moved out and started their life, and somehow I'm managing to stay put without sacrificing my own life.

   This year everything has been more intense and more demanding than ever before, and I've managed to handle everything brilliantly, in my own opinion. I'm growing in a really positive way, and I've made lots of amazing personal and broader achievements. It looks like 2015 was my year. Now I have to shape 2016 to match.

Wednesday 23 December 2015

25 Photos Until Christmas - Day 23

   I've been in the kitchen all day. I've made tiffin, biscuits and a red velvet cake for Christmas - and, best of all, I didn't lick any spoons, spatulas or whisks. It may be Christmas, but if I let myself relax a little too much, I'll end up undoing the last 3 months of work, and I just can't have that. I did try one small piece of tiffin - divine - so I'm satisfied that I haven't missed out! And I decided I'd show my cake for today's 25 Photos Until Christmas - really, really pleased with it! The trees are biscuit, the snow is, of course, powdered sugar, and while it looks like the cake has dropped, it hasn't, it's perfectly level. It's just a bad bit of frosting that was unfortunately accentuated by the sugar.

Tuesday 22 December 2015

25 Photos Until Christmas - Day 22

   I got most of my Christmas wrapping done today - it took 5 hours but it was good fun. Aside from paper cuts, I can't fathom why people dislike wrapping presents! I put on Gold and watched My Family and One Foot In The Grave, and I finally treated myself to a little box of chocolates while doing it all. I wrapped my mum's presents in another room then moved into the living room with her to keep her company while I did the rest, and she sat there nodding off in her wheelchair or laughing at the TV. I had good fun and she seems more tired than usual this evening - a sign that she enjoyed herself too - and it was all round a good afternoon. I've got gifts for my nephews still to wrap which I'll do after dinner, then I'm finished! Unless the last few things I'm waiting for in the post come in, which is unlikely given that they were shipped from the US on November 27th and have been held up in one place for about 10 days before moving on. They're in the UK now, but unless Royal Mail get a move on, they're not likely to arrive in time. It's a shame because one is also for Seeg's birthday, on December 28th, and there's no post between Christmas and his birthday. If it doesn't turn up by Thursday evening, it's going to be late. But that's Christmas post for you! I'm not silly enough to just buy him one gift, anyway. He won't be going without!

Monday 21 December 2015

25 Photos Until Christmas - Day 21

   I'm officially finished for Christmas. I took my last trip to the post office for the year and dropped off a little box of chocolates for Hazel who always serves me and processes the massive load of parcels I have at Christmas like it's nothing. My plan for the day was simple: post office, Co-Op for a final few ingredients for Christmas and then a long soak in the bath. I used this fabulous peeping santa bubble bar from Lush for an extra festive touch! I've had a wonderfully wasteful afternoon, and tomorrow I'm wrapping presents! YAY!!

On The Twelfth Day Of Christmas, Etsy Gave To Me...

Sunday 20 December 2015

25 Photos Until Christmas - Day 20

   My shop is officially finished for Christmas. It's still open to take orders, but those orders won't be processed until the new year. I could set it to vacation mode, but it irritates me when shops do that because I can't impulse-buy as all listings are deactivated, and I always forget when I have to wait for them to return. So I don't want to make that mistake. Instead, my listings have been changed to a 1-2 weeks processing time, which coincides with January 4th at this point which is when I intend to start shipping again, so it will all work out. It's also mentioned in my policies, shop announcement and banner, so the info isn't hard to find.
   And so, finally, I have some time to chill and do nothing. All orders I've received up to this point are packaged up and ready to go tomorrow, and after that little post office trip, I'm officially finished. So I'm indulging in some World of Warcraft with a cup of sencha while Seeg plays Super Smash with his brother and friends back in The Netherlands, and a gorgeous roast chicken dinner cooks away downstairs. Sigh.

Saturday 19 December 2015

25 Photos Until Christmas - Day 19

   Today is my final day of taking orders for Christmas, and while most of my products are made to order, I've been working extra hard over the past two weeks to build up some ready-to-ship stock of my best sellers. That way I've been able to extend the deadline for UK Christmas orders to midnight tonight and can post them stress-free on Monday morning, which is also my last post run of the year. So, as of yesterday, I no longer have to handle clay, paints or adhesive until January, and as a treat for myself, I paid a visit to the new nail bar in my local hair salon. The nail bar opened up about 2 months ago and given that I'd already set out the Christmas deadline dates, I was able to make an appointment 2 weeks in advance to beat the Christmas rush. I'm so glad I did! It was nice to sit down and do nothing, I got a full nail treatment and hand massage, and came out of it with a wonderful shade of red that this picture just couldn't capture properly, and guaranteed for 2 weeks - and since I don't have to handle polymer clay, I certainly won't be melting it off! Polymer clay has a tendancy to react to nail polish and ruin it, which is part of the reason I made sure to be completely finished with clay beforehand. No pun intended.

On The Eleventh Day Of Christmas, Etsy Gave To Me...

   Lots of miniature goodies! If you've seen my Etsy shop, you'll know I love miniatures, so when I was putting together the eleventh (and a bit late) Etsy Christmas feature, I decided to focus on miniatures! And I love all of these finds! I wouldn't feature them if I didn't like them, of course, but every single one of these tickles my fancy in equal measures, and I want them all!
   And, speaking of miniatures, today is the last date for UK Christmas orders - any orders placed Sunday 20th onwards are unlikely to be processed or shipped in time for Christmas. However, all of the items listed in my shop right now are ready to ship so they're not subject to the processing delays I've been unfortunately experiencing these past few weeks, so they'll be shipped out on my last post run of the year, Monday 21st.

Friday 18 December 2015

25 Photos Until Christmas - Day 18

   It's Christmas jumper day today and £5 is donated to any number of charities. You can guess where my money is going! Though my jumper is also simply far more awesome than it is hideous!

Merry Christmas, From Vault-Tec

Thursday 17 December 2015

25 Photos Until Christmas - Day 16

  Yesterday Seeg and I went out to the German Christmas market in town with my parents to get a little festivity into a day out. It was drizzling, but we waited out the rain in the Galleries and still managed to get to the market before it got too busy. There were all kinds of lovely gifts and sweets, and lots of teacake-like marshmallows that I've found in The Netherlands a few times, so I had to buy them! And I got this lovely shot while I was there, and you can just see my mum and dad on the far left ^^


   I've been quiet for a couple of days, I've missed my blogging schedule including a few days of '25 Photos Until Christmas', but things have been so hectic lately I've hardly had the chance to breathe!
   My shop has been doing amazingly this Christmas, and I'm so proud of it and of myself for managing to keep on top of it and having all orders going out either on time or early, but, if I'm honest, the pressure is finally starting to reach me. I'm working until midnight and, unsurprisingly, I've been very tired for the past week, physically and mentally run down, yawning all the time and feeling generally negative. I've even been sleeping through Naruto on an evening, which Seeg and I have been rewatching - the moment my head hits the pillow, I'm out. I know that's far better than being kept up at night, but I'm struggling to handle it all now, so everything else has had to take a back seat. I knew it was going to be busy, but I didn't expect myself to be this run down.
   Unfortunately and in particular, my daily Christmas photograph has also been pushed aside, not because I've not taken them but because I've been too busy to upload them - and, sod's law, when I finally did find the time to upload them onto the computer I found that the connection cable between camera and PC has broken and my PC has no SD card reader, so I've had to buy one in. I have an alternative camera I can use until then but that still means I'm several days behind, and that does make me kind of sad given how excited I was about it.

   I've also had lots of crafts I've wanted to get up on the blog. Most of them are half-finished, but I'm hoping I can find the time very soon to finish up. One positive thing, however, was that I'd planned a little crafty get-together with my best friend, and since she'd taken time off of work for it because we've not seen eachother in 2 months, I was unable to back out. Of course I didn't want to, and it was so nice to just relax for an afternoon rather than work work work.

   If this year goes anything like last year, my Christmas sales will come to a screeching stop in the next day or two and I'll be done for the year, so I'm glad the pressure only started to kick in right at the end or I'm not sure how I'd have coped, but I am still really really happy with this year's success. I've got two more post office trips - Friday and Monday - and after the 21st I won't be posting anything again until January, shutting up shop for Christmas. I'm quite excited and I've got it all planned out: a Christmas-fragranced bath after the post office on Monday, wrapping the presents while indulging in a deserved box of chocolates while doing so on Tuesday, hiding out of the way while Seeg wraps my presents on Wednesday, and bouncing off of the walls on Thursday, all while fitting in lots of movie nights from this point until then. Festive stuff. Star Wars, The Hobbit, Minions - the typical Christmas stuff, you understand.
   If I'm honest, just thinking about all of that has calmed me a considerable amount! In the mean time, I'm going to take my free time to get my blog back on track and to just relax and enjoy the run-up to Christmas in my own way.

Sunday 13 December 2015

Killer Body - Two Weeks Later

   I'm a little late posting this, but Blogger gives me the wonderful ability to back-date posts so this one will appear right where it needs to!
   The past two weeks I've been using Jillian Michaels' Killer Body, and it has been more intense than I expected. I thought it was going to be focused strength - legs and bum one day, core the next, and upper body the third, and repeat - but it isn't. It's true that you seriously max out those muscle groups, which is what I wanted, but I didn't expect much cardio, if any, and had planned to tack on 20 minutes of cardio after the 30 minutes of strength.
   I should have known. Jillian Michaels loves cardio intervals, and many moves are compound, so your heart rate is quite high for quite a lot of the time, and then she adds on a 1 minute cardio interval at the end of each of the 4 circuits. It's crazy. The circuits aren't that long, though, and to be honest the whole workout is over before I know it, which is great - though my body aches like hell afterwards. And I only managed to tack on cardio to the core and upper body days, because lower body knackers your legs out so much you can't possibly do cardio afterwards unless you've got serious willpower, and my willpower just isn't good enough. I tried and managed 5 minutes before falling over - yes, falling over. It was dance, admittedly (Kukuwa), and for those whole 5 minutes my legs weren't responding quickly enough to even remotely keep pace, so I don't feel guilty skipping out on cardio on leg day. I give it my all for 30 minutes and I feel it for days, while core and upper body days I do add cardio and max my entire body out while doing so.

   I'm trying not to over do it, but with Christmas so nearby, I can't really shake it from my mind. I'm feeling really run down from my shop (like I said, this post was written on the 16th, not the 13th) and I think this might be piling too much on top, but I'm managing. I hope. I'm also trying not to feel guilty for the odd treat, because it's Christmas, but despite what I said recently about not feeling guilty over Christmas as long as what treats you decide to accept are worth it, I do still feel guilty, and far too easily. It's driving me crazy but I'm trying to muffle the voice. Not tune it out entirely, personally I need that little voice of guilt there or I might just eat everything I see, but certainly to lessen its volume because it is somewhat unjustified sometimes.

   I'll report back in 3 weeks! I'm running through this workout until January, and I'm starting next month's workout on January 4th, so I get 5 weeks on this workout this month!

25 Photos Until Christmas - Day 12

   Ohhh yes, the house has exploded in Christmas. Nothing is safe from festivity now. Even the postman is at risk of being attacked by tinsel. I'm bouncing around, screaming Christmas songs, hanging baubles everywhere I can and forcing Christmas hats onto anything they'll fit on. I love it. Though I do think my wind rider cub wears it well! For the Ho-Ho-Horde!!

Saturday 12 December 2015

DIY Christmas Eve Movie Box

   Christmas can be quite romantic. It's cold outside, all the fairylights on trees and in windows look like fallen stars reflecting on the tinsel, and all the pretty bows on the presents and the thought that went into them - in short, beneath the stress and rushing around, Christmas is quite a cosy, mindful time.
   Japan has noticed this - Christmas Eve in Japan is equivalent to Valentine's Day in the west, with most wedding proposals taking place that evening. They appreciate the lights, the wrapping, the decorations, and as Christianity has never had much of a place in Japan, there's little religious connection to the holiday. They've been influenced by western images of decorations and have seen something more in it. And I love that.
   I only found out about that last year while writing a guest post for a Japanese blog and I found myself loving Japan even more for it, because it's something I've felt for a while, and I've been extremely lucky to have Seeg's amazing company for the past five Christmasses - and again this year, of course. But we don't have any Christmas traditions except buying a single tree decoration every year that was chosen between the both of us. It's a silly tradition but it started on our first Christmas and it's kept up every year. It can't be helped! And as the decorations are one of the major things I love about Christmas, it's not something that will be given the opportunity to stop because I'm drawn to Christmas displays like a magnetron. I revert to a 10 year old every Christmas.

   But, as that is our only tradition, I can't honestly say what it is we do every Christmas Eve. I think we watch a movie, or binge-watch whatever show we're presently into, but this year I intend for that to be the case. And as I cannot resist getting creative around Christmas - be it decorations, baking, drawing, etc - I decided I'd make a sort of Christmas Eve movie box.

   I love how presentation can change things. If I were to buy a DVD and a box of chocolates to share while watching it, it wouldn't be quite the same. But presenting that DVD and that chocolate in a box with some hypnotizing shinines changes everything. It becomes a firmer plan. Rather than watching the movie with the lights on, they go off; we gather up some extra pillows; we have a bottle of Shloer (we're classy like that) on hand for refills rather than just a glass of juice or whatever - put simply, things are made a little more serious.
   Am I crazy?

   To make something like this you need to make sure you have bases covered, really. Rather than just a DVD and a box of chocolates, you'll want to include something to drink, maybe a little more choice of food - sweet and savoury, or just sweet and sweeter - and, as it's Christmas Eve, perhaps a small, simple gift. Nothing to match the real gifts the next day, but something a little special.
   So, what did I use?

   Well, a movie was necessary, but rather than stick us to one title we might not be in the mood for, I picked out 3: Miracle On 34th Street is a great little Christmas film, one of the best in fact, so I had to have a classic on hand. The Hogfather is my favourite 'Christmas' film, though technically about Hogswatch - an adaptation of Sir Terry Pratchett's 'The Hogfather', it sees Death and his granddaughter, Susan, trying to save the Hogfather from disappearing when kids are forced to stop believing in him. And, finally, Mission Impossible 5. We've not seen it, and it's a good alternative to a festive film if neither of us are in the mood to watch something we've seen a hundred times already. Yes, even on Christmas Eve.
   We braved a trip into Hotel Chocolat the last time we went to the Mall, and Seeg pointed out this 'dipping adventure'. He said it looked good but was too expensive - so I decided it was ideal! After all, if you can't splurge and both buy and eat expensive chocolate at Christmas, when can you? I ordered it online while buying some of the chocolate for his advent calendar, so he has no idea I have it. I also got some lovely raspberry and white chocolate marshmallows from Mello Mallo (sadly now closed for Christmas), and some rose lemonade from Fentimans.
   I've also packed in a little gift for him,something small and simple, not really worthy of being kept until Christmas day. Whether he gives me one in return or not is up to him. I won't be expecting it.
   As for the box itself, I could have used a cardboard box, but that's not very impressive, so instead I like to use a sturdy box that can be re-used. I could admittedly decorate it myself, and usually I would, but I...well, I wanted an excuse to buy this box from Paperchase, and this was perfect.

   I padded it out with shredded black tissue paper and that was that! I'll probably top it off with a black ribbon at some point nearer to Christmas - I've had to disassemble the whole thing because there's nowhere to put it, and fortunately the box flat-packs beautifully.

   Do you do anything special for Christmas Eve?

25 Photos Until Christmas - Day 11

   I didn't get the chance to post yesterday - lately I've been rushed off of my feet because of Christmas orders coming in and trying to fulfil them as quickly as possible, but yesterday the whole world escaped me because the Christmas decorations came out, so much so that I forgot to eat! I knew I loved Christmas but I had no idea it went that far :P I did grab a picture in the chaos, however, as simple a snap as it is! You all know that I love the tiny 2cm glass baubles from Paperchase, and it always gets me excited when I see them at home or in the shop. They're just so small and cute! I decorate small trees with them and string them up along the edges of shelves. They go everywhere - partly because I have 7 boxes. I'm not addicted or anything...

Friday 11 December 2015

On The Tenth Day Of Christmas, Etsy Gave To Me...

   These prints make gorgeous Christmas accents - find yourself a merry little Christmas frame and hang them up on empty walls, or replace that picture of a sunrise over the ocean with something more festive for the holiday period. Three of the images below are for digital downloads, so you can print them as big as you like!

Thursday 10 December 2015

25 Photos Until Christmas - Day 10

   Today I broke out the Christmas cards. It might be a little too soon to send them, but as we also have to send to Seeg's family in the Netherlands, the sooner they're written and posted, the better. And though I've been showing lots of different cards from Etsy, and they're all gorgeous, when I wrote out my Christmas card list I realised I needed far more than I had, and when I saw these Tudor house cards in BHS, I had to buy them!

Ginger Spice Cake Houses

   I don't get on well with biscuits. It's very unusual for them to go well for me, so much so that I'm never surprised when they come out too soft or too hard, but I'm shocked and left scratching my head when they come out perfectly. It doesn't matter what I read - in truth I think it's a combination of me and the oven - or what advice I take, it rarely works out.
   So, gingerbread houses are quite an unlikely endeavour for me. Even if the biscuit came out firm enough, it certainly wouldn't hold its shape and it would all be mismatched and wonky. So what can I do if I want to make a gingerbread house this Christmas?!
   Settle for cake.

   Last year I bought a little silicon village mould but never got around to using it. It has 6 house moulds and are each equivalent in volume to a muffin or about 2 small cupcakes, which makes them quite satisfying individually, and subsequently each house would make a good dessert that can be accompanied by custard, cream or ice cream.
   This mould, ginger cake batter and royal icing make for a perfect combination.

You will need:
For the cake:
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 cup softened unsalted butter
1/2 cup milk
2 medium eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract

Royal icing
Silicone village mould (Example)

1. First of all, make your ginger cake mixture! Preheat oven to 180 C/350 F/Gas mark 4, and, in a large bowl, sift together all the dry ingredients, then work the softened butter into the mixture until it resembles rough crumbs. Add the eggs, vanilla and milk and combine until smooth.
2. I decided not to chance the easy release of the silicone mould so I coated the cavities with non-stick spray before filling with batter. I used a tea spoon rather than just pouring it in to make sure the mould was properly filled. I didn't want any air bubbles to upset the outcome of the chimney, for example, so I filled them slowly and spread the mixture around with the spoon after every addition of batter to make sure that it was meeting the edges of the mould rather than trapping air.

Terrible colour from tungsten light - early morning baking for the win!
3. Transfer the mould onto a baking sheet and  be sure to adjust each filled house so that the mould isn't bending; each house should be resting on the centre of its roof. This will help prevent dips in the roof or walls.
4. Set in the oven for about 30 minutes or until cooked through, but be aware that every oven is different. Mine took 45 to bake, and mine always take longer than recipes suggest.
5. The cake will probably rise out of the mould as it bakes, but when it starts to do that, it has already taken on its shape. Mine started to rise out of the mould after about 20 minutes but nothing bad came of it.
6. I chose to over-fill the cavities a little because I could always level the cake out if the 'tops' (bottoms of the houses) rounded too much, but don't do this until they're cool as, odds are, they'll drop and shrink a little as they do and you may find you don't need to do it.

7. Let the cakes cool. I found that my cakes didn't look as good as I'd hoped, but once they'd cooled and I added the icing, it made a massive difference, so don't despair if your houses are a little wonky, have funny rooves or odd walls, because they'll look better soon enough!
8. Mix up your royal icing to a stiff consistency and then pipe through a fine nozzle - I didn't use a nozzle, I chose to use a disposable piping bag and cut off just 5mm. It made an easily controllable hole and I had no problems at all. Pipe your detail, either following your own design or just piping along the edges of the impressions left by the mould. Add any sprinkles or accents you like. I found that the icing was enough because the cakes were so much smaller than full gingerbread houses would be, but I wanted to add some kind of colour so I added holly to the best house, and I think it was enough.

   Very easy, very simple, and much less room for things to go wrong! Plus each cake makes for a satisfying dessert so it's wonderful for Christmas gatherings or a Christmas Eve dinner! Pair them up with some birch tree wafers for hot chocolate or coffee and you're all set!

Wednesday 9 December 2015

25 Photos Until Christmas - Day 9

   I tried out plunger cookie cutters from Lakeland yesterday, and given how badly cookies work out for me, I didn't expect them to hold the shape, let alone the plunger detail, but I'm so pleased! Yay! And the snowflake-embossed snowmen were nice too, but these were more aesthetically pleasing. AND, AND they weren't soft! They were as hard as biscuits should be! YAY! The most successful biscuits I've made to date :D

My Christmas Wishlist

   Christmas is dominated by decorations, food and music in my mind. Truly, presents are low on the list, and even then, giving them ranks higher than receiving them - and I'm proud to be able to admit that. But I won't lie, there are things I want, things I've had my eye on from weeks to months. But, if I'm to continue to be honest, putting this wishlist together was actually quite hard. It's when you put together something like this that you realise how little you truly want, the things that really stick in your mind.
   This is a wishlist for fun, though. I don't expect any of these things for Christmas, either because they're too expensive, impractical, or difficult to purchase since none of my friends or family are happy to buy from overseas. But, either way, if I want any of this enough, I can always treat myself to a piece or two after my birthday!
   So, for fun and personal shopping reference after my birthday, here is my wishlist!

Tuesday 8 December 2015

25 Photos Until Christmas - Day 8

   I told you nothing would stop me! Christmas baking has begun! Though I did make one batch of cookie dough, separated it and flavoured them all differently before storing the doughs in the freezer. Makes for easier portion control and less mess! I just have to thaw the dough out the day before I want it! And, yes, I bought myself an impression rolling pin!

Christmas Gift Guide for Animal Lovers

   I'm a real animal lover - you probably noticed from my Etsy shop alone! I was brought up around animals and have had any number of different pets, and it's mostly animal charities - aside from the Multiple Sclerosis Society - that get my money above others. So I love animal gifts - I love to give them and get them; if it has an animal on it I'm more likely to look at it in a shop. It's just what my eyes are drawn to. So I decided to put together this gift guide for animal lovers - lots of animal themed gifts, most with practicality and some are just simply nice ^^ Hopefully you'll see something someone you know will love and be able to check them off your gift list!

   This stag plate set makes a wonderful gift for animal lovers, a wonderful way to brighten up dinner with a fabulous stag and owl illustration extending from one plate to another which is undoubtedly a unique design placement! There are also other designs available.

   Vivid Arts is a garden decoration company, but in truth their products are so good most of them live indoors. My dad is a particular fan of them because they're both affordable and quite realistic. I can't count how many he has! Having said that, he's bought a few for me in the past, including a realistic and life-sized ferret statue, a small donkey, a mouse, and even a dragon! They're extremely fantastic quality, and this resin fawn ornament is no different! I think it looks gorgeous! In short, Vivid Arts make for wonderful gifts for animal lovers without breaking the bank!
   Animal loving ladies will love a piece of animal jewellery, and this fox in a jar necklace is a best seller! The jar measures just 2.5cm tall and the fox itself is about 6mm in size, and there are many other animal necklaces available as well as a few novelty Christmas necklaces! So there's a gift for every animal lover this Christmas!

   These needlefelted animals are sickeningly good! The needlefelted degu initially caught my eye, but the cats held it, in short because I'm still searching for a Christmas gift for Seeg's parents. This needlefelted tabby cat is just wonderful and stands at a tiny 4 inches! There are all kinds of other animals - dogs, deer, owls and so on - and they're all just as good as the last. Needlefelted animals would make wonderful Christmas gifts for an animal lover's mantle!

   You may have noticed that I've fit chocolate into almost all of my gift guides this year, and that's simply because it's the law. So for animal lovers, why not these chocolate dogs? A box of 6 dog-shaped chocolates as either labradors, dachshunds or spaniels, so it's perfect for lovers of big dogs, small dogs and the best medium dogs and lovers of chocolate!

   Animal adoption packs make a great gift - they capture the imagination with "I wonder what it's doing now?" and 'owning' a piece of the wild, and they can also be a great way of sparking greater interest and awareness in wildlife in general. There are plenty of different adopt an animal gift packs out there, and this adopt a meerkat pack is pretty great. It's a meerkat! And no, I'm not hopping on the Compare The Meerkat bandwagon because I've always loved the funny little things, so this was my representation choice. Look at the little guy!
   These animal adoption packs are 'better' than getting them a real pet, too - it's cheaper, cleaner and free of responsibility, so it's ideal for kids.

   Now, let's get a little more 'real'. Most charities have little online shops filled with cards, biscuits and gifts, and most, if not all, profits made from the sale of such items goes to the charity in question. So, I thought it would be a good idea to finish this animal lover gift guide off with some animal pieces with the added bonus of aiding an animal charity. So, from the RSPB shop, I picked this Forest Friends espresso set. The RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) works to save endangered birds as well as provide conservation areas and safe havens for birds of all kinds, and they have a number of parks around the UK you can visit for a day out, go for a nice walk and look at all kinds of ducks! In fact my recent gallery exhibit was hosted in one such location and proudly raised a good amount for the charity itself from art pieces sold in the event.

   Puzzles make wonderful gifts for peaceful people, but with 'impossible puzzles', it's likely that they won't stay peaceful for long. This border collies impossible puzzle is one of a number of dog puzzles found in the Dogs' Trust shop, and it will doubtlessly take some time to finish - though perhaps not as long as the chocolate labrador one! The Dogs' Trust is dedicated to rescuing and rehoming dogs.

   And from the RSPCA shop, I chose this wonderful robin nester teapot! A great gift for wildlife lovers and bird watchers, as well as adding a gorgeous touch of whimsy to the garden! It's a great gift for anyone who loves birds and wildlife, The RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) works to rescue animals of all kinds and bring them to health, as well as being the authority against animal cruelty.