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Who else could top this Christmas Day post then Santa Claus himself? And for good measure I thought I’d throw in a few! 2016 has been a difficult year for many, and particularly for the world. But I want to keep this Christmas post upbeat and as I always say there is SO much good news that unfortunately goes unnoticed. So to interrupt your Christmas dinner and marathon film watching, here are my favourite positive news stories from all my happy news posts this year. There may have been some questionable decisions but there are plenty of amazing, generous, kind people out there, so without further adieu (I love that phrase!), let’s give them a lot more airtime…

An Egyptian billionaire approached two Greek island owners to ask to buy their islands so he can house refugees. This is an incredible story. There’s been so many amazing acts of generosity but rarely do they get much coverage – I remember reading about a Greek grandma taking refugees into her home and acting as if they’re her children too. But this man, Naguib Sawiris, thinks it’s feasible that he could house thousands in need temporarily, if he can just buy an island!

A social experiment in Cardiff tested how many people would return dropped wallets, and every single person gave the wallets they found back. Maybe people are more honest than we think?

This is so cute, a Starbucks barista learnt sign language to communicate with a regular deaf customer. Ibby Piracha was amazed when he arrived to get his normal coffee and she was able to greet him. Before this he always had to write out his order on his phone. How lovely!

A travel agent surprised all her employees by rewarding them with a three day holiday to Barbados. Imagine this, you think you’re celebrating your company’s tenth anniversary with a day out to Flamingo Land in Yorkshire, and you end up on a trip with your 32 workmates to the Caribbean. The manager Helen Bilton is clearly a legend.

This story has all the feels, a regularly rejected one-eyed puppy finds a new home with a partially-sighted man. Little Australian shepherd Shiner Solo was repeatedly rejected by prospective owners because he was born without a left eye. After a gardening accident, Jordan Trent lost the sight in his left eye aged 15. So when Jordan went to adopt a puppy, he found his perfect partner in Shiner Solo.

This hasn’t appeared in any of my happy news posts this year but I just had to include it because I think it’s the most inspiring of 2016. Little Syrian 7-year-old Bana al-Abed has escaped Aleppo for Turkey after tweeting and raising awareness of the terrifying conditions there. What an amazing and brave little girl, I am so pleased this story had a happy ending.

And finally… The story that inspired all my Happy News posts in the first place. A penguin swims 5,000 miles every year to visit the man who saved his life. 71-year-old retired bricklayer and part-time fisherman Joao Pereira de Souza saved the penguin’s life years ago when he found him covered in oil.

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Have you left it til the last minute to buy your Christmas presents? Is there that one last person who you can’t find the perfect present for? Whilst dashing round Oxford Street on Christmas Eve can be fun, it can also be a complete nightmare and leave you frazzled rather than feeling festive. So I may be about to solve all your problems…

You might have missed the last date for delivery, but what if you can still order online from the comfort of your Christmas onesie? I was recently sent this amazing tea subscription box from Tea Tourist, you get a box through the post each month containing six unique tea blends. I love the fact that each blend comes with its own instructions and info card to find out more about it. All the blends were completely different but delicious and all December themed – from Marzipan Rooibos teabags to Gingerbread Chai and Winter Spice. They made me feel all festive and warm inside.

It’s the gift that keeps on giving, you can make a little voucher to give on Christmas day and then the recipient can look forward to their deliveries. They could be delivered to the office to give that person a little work pick me up or to anywhere at all. And it’s pretty perfect for all those people who want to make that New Years Resolution to drink more water (I know that’s me!) People get so many presents on Christmas day so I think a little monthly gift is probably more welcome – it’ll keep them going through the dark winter months! The boxes are £14.95 per month but I also have my own unique discount code so you can get 30% off the price of your first box when you start a teatourist subscription. Just enter 100WAYS30 at the checkout. And don’t forget you can cancel your subscription at any time. Let me know if you decide to go for it?

http://www.teatourist.co.uk/

Or if that difficult person you’re buying a gift for doesn’t like tea, there are plenty of other subscriptions out there. What about these instead?

  • A stationary subscription: I love this idea from Katie Leamon, every month you receive a surprise package of seasonal paper goods. It’s £65 for a three month subscription so only just over £20 per box.
  • A men’s accessory subscription: For all those hard to buy for men in your life (I’ve got quite a few!), what about a men’s accessory subscription box? It contains things like ties, bracelets, cufflinks and even wallets! And it’s only £25 per box.
  • A plant subscription: Everyone loves to fill their house with greenery and with this box you get a new plant each month which means no time to kill it like I usually do! Plant Post Club is £70 for three months and you also get plant-related accessories.

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It might still be a week until Christmas but already my thoughts are turning to the New Year. As a classic lover of lists, I absolutely love a New Year’s resolution. And okay I might be that stereotype who’s on it for week one and by week two failing on nearly every front, but it just makes that cold, dark January more bearable when you have a list of aims and feel optimistic. It’s a bit early so rather than write a normal resolutions list just yet, I’m going for a travel bucket list today. Next year I turn 25 and I feel like hitting that milestone has turned my thoughts to visiting a bit more of the world. This year I’ve been to Switzerland, Denmark, Croatia, Germany and Italy, and also seen much more of the UK. Next year I want to go a little further, I love Europe but I haven’t seen much more of the world. This is an ambitious list though, and to be honest it’s almost definitely going to take me more than a year! Hey ho, there’s nothing wrong with being ambitious…

1.Japan

I’ve wanted to go to Japan ever since I saw the amazing BBC documentary Japan: Earth’s Enchanted Island. There’s something so magical about its many islands and unique culture. I’ve never been to Asia and Japan is the first place on that continent that I’d like to tick off.

2.  South Africa

My Dad grew up in South Africa and I’ve always wanted to see what he saw as a little boy – although in 40 years I know it’s changed dramatically. I’m also desperate to go on safari and see animals in their real life habitats.

3. Budapest

A little closer to home, I’m desperate to go to Budapest. My brother and a few friends went this year and loved it and I’ve heard such good things from others too. I’d never been to Germany before this year so slowly ticking European destinations off my list (especially before we leave the EU) really appeals to me.

4. New York

This has been on my list forever. I am desperate to go to New York and I’d love to go at Christmas time. If only it wasn’t going to break the bank – I have a feeling this might be staying on my list for a while!

5. More of Scandinavia

Copenhagen was probably the best city I’ve visited this year and with the rise of Hygge and more and more people living life the Danish way, I want to experience more of this little slice of Northern Europe. Just what is it that makes them the happiest people in the world? I’d desperately love to bring a little bit more of that home to my own life.

6. Scotland

Can you believe I’ve never been to Scotland? Everyone’s been telling me I must get to Edinburgh and whilst I’m there I’d also really like to try the Highlands, they just look so beautiful.

7. To travel solo

In my job I’m lucky enough to be offered amazing opportunities to join press trips abroad, and I haven’t taken it up yet. Wherever it may be to, I’d love to try travelling without the home comforts of the people I know and putting myself to the test a little.

What’s on your travel bucket list for next year?

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I have been in and out of the festive spirit like a Jack in the Box the last few days. Sometimes I feel extra Christmassy and sometimes it feels like January already. I can’t make my mind up but Christmas Eve definitely does not feel like a week away. So I’ve got a pretty free weekend and I decided to write myself a festive to do list, one to make me feel full of Christmas sparkle and ready to embrace the next few days – I may be working till Friday but that certainly doesn’t mean I’m going to leave it until then to enjoy the big build up.

If you’re struggling to feel full of festive fever, give these steps a go and I’m sure it’ll make you feel like one of Santa’s elves in no time at all.

  1. Wrap your presents – It’s one of those jobs that poor wrappers like me really dread but I’m planning to put on a Christmas film, make some mulled wine and try my hardest to make my presents look presentable this year.
  2. Watch the Christmas 24 channel back to back – I’m yet to watch one movie on the channel yet, what is wrong with me? Whilst wrapping I’m planning to switch on the TV and fill an afternoon full of festive films.
  3. Light all your Christmassy candles – I don’t know about you but scent really helps to take me somewhere and all my wintery, orange scented, spicy candles take me right back to Christmas last year. Also the mood lighting candles create is super festive.
  4. Make mince pies – Mmmm definitely something I need to do ASAP. It’s the smells, the tastes, the baking. And don’t forget to put some little pastry holly leaves on top.
  5. Put on a Christmas playlist – And dance and sing around to all your favourite tunes like no one is watching or listening (preferably they won’t be!)
  6. Write Christmas cards – I’m still debating whether I can be bothered to send Christmas cards this year, but I think there is something about settling down with your candles and a mulled wine (I would include mulled wine in every step if I could) and writing your Christmas cards with a sparkly pen. If you’re not sure, maybe send e-cards instead? It might put you back in touch with an old pal.
  7. Make an amazing hot chocolate with a mini candy cane – Or alternatively you could just buy the Orange Costa hot chocolate, which is incredible, either works?
  8. Eat all the Christmas chocolate – And if I were you I’d do it in the morning. Quality Street, chocolate oranges, all your advent chocolates. There’s nothing quite like chocolate for breakfast at Christmas.
  9. Breaking out the festive pjs – Or if you’re me, the festive onesie!
  10. Play a board game – I don’t know about you but we never tend to play board games in any month of the year except December. Whether it’s Monopoly, Cluedo or my old favourite Taboo, whack one out and argue with the family till your heart’s content – there’s nothing quite like a heated debate with your siblings to get Christmas started…

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I’ve never visited Germany before and what better time to tick Deutschland off my list than at Christmas. Did you know it was the Germans who invented the Christmas tree and Prince Albert was the one to bring it over to England? They also invented those wonderful Christmas markets that have now flooded English cities, so I couldn’t wait to get into the festive spirit in the home of the festivities. 

Where we stayed…

It was my third experience with Air BnB this year and once again I wasn’t disappointed. We got to the main street in Baden Baden and found we were at the flat! It was right above one of the shops so we were truly in the heart of the action. And the flat was beautiful too, the bathroom in particular!  I would so recommend Air BnB, it’s so much cheaper than a hotel and it’s true that you do feel more like a local in the city you’re visiting.

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What we ate…

We ate at possibly the most Christmassy restaurant I have ever seen in my life, it looked like Christmas had thrown up all over it and I loved it. There was more lights than your eyes could absorb and even fake snow! The food wasn’t brilliant to be honest, but then I didn’t massively expect Germany to be great for Vegetarians. I did however drink the best Gluhwein (mulled wine) ever and I drank way too much of it too!

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What we did…

When we arrived on Saturday, we headed straight down to the Christmas markets. It was the best Christmas market I’ve been to, full of stalls with souvenirs, Christmas decorations (of which I took a few too many home), and amazing food. We ate a giant doughnut type thing filled with nutella, it was delicious.

Sunday was our main day in Baden Baden, so we started early and packed it full. After a wander around the cute town – and after discovering most things are closed on a Sunday – we had breakfast and headed into the Black Forest. Hearing it was voted one of the most beautiful forests in the world, we boarded the Merkur Funicular Railway into the trees. It was rather foggy so we missed out on the spectacular views but it did feel quite mystical and magical not being able to see the hand in front of your face. We even climbed the lonely viewing tower at the top to see very little and freaked ourselves out hearing noises as we climbed back down. After a walk back to the town through the trees, it was time for another trip to the market to buy some more souvenirs and then onto the spa. The spa was a definite highlight. There are two – Caracalla Therme and Friedrichsbad. They’re both rated amazingly but the second is nudist! So we went for the first and for €14 we got two hours there. There were two warm outdoor pools, jacuzzis, whirlpools, steam rooms, everything you could wish for and I felt truly relaxed when I came out. I’ll definitely remember sitting in that outdoor jacuzzi looking over the town filled with Christmas trees.

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We headed home on Sunday but I wish we’d had a little longer. Baden Baden is the perfect place for a wintery Christmas break and really got me in the festive spirit.