Monday, 15 January 2018

Getting my Aligners From Your Smile Direct - How They Look, The Amount of Pain and The Lisp(?)

Pretty much a month ago, I posted about Your Smile Direct and how we had begun working together (read that for more information on the brand and how their treatment works). I went to their Dublin office and had a 3D scan done of my mouth to create my aligners and treatment plan. They then sent me the proposal for my approval and, having seen the incredible progress they hoped to make with my teeth, I decided to go ahead and try it out.

For context, I have had traditional braces before, as a teen, but I didn't wear my retainers properly afterwards and my teeth pretty much shifted back into their original position - much to my shame, given the investment into my orthodontistry that my parents had made. I was already considering trying out Your Smile Direct, as a far more affordable way to fix my silly mistake, when they contacted me. It was kind of like fate. The treatment itself costs 70% less than traditional methods and works out at 4 installments of €399 each or one once-off payment of €1499. So, it really is a good option for people who have always wanted to have their teeth straightened but weren't quite able to afford it.

I was under the misconception that you made your first payment and then they sent out your first aligner, with each of the following being sent out accordingly. However, you actually receive a box with all of your stages of aligners at once, which makes far more sense, tbh.

My personal plan will last about 5 months, with each aligner being worn for two weeks before moving on to the next one, moving my teeth into position little by little with each new aligner. At the end of the whole process, I will have to wear my retainer all day for 6 months and then at night, thereafter, to maintain the results.

This morning, I put the first ones in and began my journey.

My initial feelings are that it is rather uncomfortable - not unbearable but it'll take some getting used to. Luckily, I don't have quite the lisp that my braces gave me, just a wee touch of one. Putting them in and taking them out is very easy - if not a little gross and messy. I also have quite the case of dry mouth, which I read can happen but may actually be for the best as it is forcing me to up my water intake - something I needed to do anyway! On the plus side, however, they are utterly unnoticeable when I'm wearing them, which is great!

Honestly, I'm a little worried about the discomfort right now, it's fine during the day, when I'm working, but I hate anything getting in the way of being utterly relaxed in my downtime. That's me being a bit of a baby, I suppose, and I'm sure I will get used to it. Either way, I'm gonna stick this thing out and let you all know how it goes, each step of the way!

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(This is not an ad or sponsored. My treatment is being provided free of charge by Your Smile Direct but all opinions are my own.)

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Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Love Letters To Dublin: 10 Of The Best Places To Grab A Drink In The City Over Christmas

Okay, up front, my idea of a good place to get a drink might not match everyone's tastes.

First of all, I can't really drink much anymore. I tap out early nowadays and suffer the next day even if I only have a couple.

Because of this, it's majorly about quality over quantity for me and I'm okay with spending a bit more. Therefore, this list features very few inexpensive options but it does boast choices of venues where the drinks are excellent and the atmosphere is second to none (and, in my opinion, that's worth paying for) but the price tag matches the sense of luxury.

That being said, Christmas is the time of year when everyone comes home and you have loads of people to meet up with. If you're looking for a nice place to bring them - especially pals who might now live abroad and not know where to go - then these are some great choices. And, of course, if you are planning on visiting Dublin at all, no matter the time of year, these are locations that I always love.

In no particular order, we have...

1. Dollard & Co., 2-5 Wellington Quay, Temple Bar

Let's get one thing straight, I don't rate the food here. I've been much less than impressed by it in the past. However, I am a fan of browsing the grocery store section for foodie picks (their frozen Vegan foods selection is one of the best in the city and the booze section is pretty on point as well) and it's a nice place to get good gelato, meet a friend for coffee and cake or, better still, grab a quiet drink. Timing is important. A weekday evening is the perfect time, not empty but not too busy and a place to have a polite conversation over a glass of wine, without having to compete with obnoxiously loud music or feel your way around in the dark (I'm aware that I'm a grumpy old man). Drinks aren't cheap (a glass of wine is just under 7 quid) but the setting is nice, well-lit and perfect for a catch-up.

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2. Roberta's, 1 Essex St E, Temple Bar

While in the area, if you're more interested in a cocktail, Roberta's is a good option. Again, it isn't cheap (it is in Temple Bar, though, so I wouldn't expect bargains) and I've heard rather mixed things about the food (though the fries we were given on the house to accompany our drinks were pretty damn good - not sure if this always happens) but the cocktails are great. And, once again, the location is super stylish. For seriously elegant cocktail bar vibes, it's one of the better choices in town and the glass ceiling over the bar means that it is a wonderful sunny location during summer evenings, in particular.

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3. The Liquor Rooms, 6-8 Wellington Quay, Temple Bar

(I swear to God that this is not sponsored by the company that owns all three of these picks so far, though, if you're interested guys, my rates are very reasonable) The Liquor Rooms are one of my all-time favourite bars in the city. A mixture between a speakeasy and your granny's sitting room, it is located underneath the Clarence Hotel and serves up some of the finest cocktails in the city. I'm obsessed with their menu of drinks named after and inspired by amazing women from Irish history, which is a thing of beauty in its own right and features beautiful illustrations and information about the women in question. In fact, I may have nicked one of the menus while drunk one time...heh...heh. But, for reals, cool-ass vibes and delicious drinks aplenty. Again, again, timing is key (the atmosphere can be weird and it can be way too packed late on a weekend night) but if you pop in and it isn't jammers, stick around and fork out the extra few quid it'll cost you to drink here as it is well worth it. I recommend the Tread Softly, which is inspired by Maude Gonne and is adorably served in a vintage teacup.

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4. The Westbury, Balfe St

Okay, so maybe none of my picks are anyway cost effective...oops.

I just really like fancy bars and, really, any part of the Westbury is a lovely place for a drink. Balfe's restaurant downstairs is great for a light bite with some wine (get a charcuterie board and sit outside under the heaters and you may trick yourself into believing you are in warmer climes). Wilde is a stunning dining experience with a wee bar outside it for waiting for your table. The bar itself is a classic Dublin institution. But, for me, it's all about the lobby. Get a table and couch, a truly excellent mulled wine (the best I've had after my mother's) and cosy up with a friend for long chats in the most luxuriously comfortable setting. Just don't expect speedy service. But that's okay, you'll want to loaf around.

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5. Balfe's, Balfe St

Worth its own mention, separately. Seriously, get the boards to share with a friend and a glass of wine, embrace continental living and forget your responsibilities for a few minutes...you'll thank me later, once you feel like you were on the Costa Azzurra for a couple of hours.

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6. Yamamori Izakaya, 12/13 South Great George’s Street

If you want Japanese beer on tap, black and white Japanese films playing on all the screens and Japas (Japanese tapas - or small plates of Japanese dishes), then Izakaya is the one for you. This George's Street bar, located underneath and connected to the restaurant of the same name serves up great food, great beers and some mean lemonades that can be made into alcoholic lemonades. Once again, it is a bit of an escape, transporting you away from Dublin for a while and much as I love the city, we could all do with that from time to time. My personal picks from the menu are the Kirin Ichiban on tap (in the giant glass that makes me feel teeny), the Ginger Lemonade with a shot of whiskey and the gyoza.

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7. Library Bar, Exchequer St

A little further down the street and around the corner from Izakaya, in the Central Hotel, you'll find Library Bar. Like the Liquor Rooms, it's a little like your granny's living room but a lot quieter, calmer, less hip but incredibly elegant in a charmingly old fashioned and worn-in kind of way and impossibly cosy. This isn't where you come for innovative drinks or wild selections of craft beers or for the 'gram. This is the type of place to go to if you really want to sit back, relax and enjoy good company in a truly pleasant setting.

8. The Marker, Grand Canal Square, Docklands

Somewhat similar is The Marker, or at least its lobby, in that it is a pleasantly chill place to curl up and catch up with someone. The bestie and I went there a few weeks ago, draped my blanket scarf over our legs and stuffed ourselves with fried food and cocktails. Here you will get those shots for the 'gram (between the architecture and the drinks) but you'll also have a chill evening of it. I've never actually been to the rooftop bar (I don't do queues, if I can help it) but I get the feeling that it's a lot buzzier and busier, by comparison so it's the lobby all the way, for me.

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9. Green & Bean, Brown Thomas, Grafton Street

These last two picks are a little unorthodox, I'll admit but they are two of my absolute favourite places to get a drink. The first is Green & Bean, located in Ireland's premier luxury department store, Brown Thomas, it is a pretty So-Cal-inspired cafe. While not a bar, it is a great place to grab an excellent Rosé either over brunch on the weekend or after work on a late-opening Thursday. My personal favourite combo? Wine and cake and a good friend.

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10. Lighthouse Cinema, Market Square, Smithfield

I LOVE the Lighthouse Cinema. I'd live there if I could. Not only do they show excellent films and host wonderful film festivals, but its also a great place to grab a drink. Either bring a beer into a film with some freshly-made popcorn or, do like me and Sarah, and go see an arthouse movie that will emotionally devastate you and then have to spend two hours drinking on the seats built into the stairs to recover.

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So, if you're catching up with good people over Christmas, keep these ideas for venues to grab a drink in mind and thank me later (your wallet might not do the same, though).


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Tuesday, 19 December 2017

A Farewell from one Colette to another: 24 Hours In Paris

"Fuck it. Why not?"

It's been a year of that for me. Saying yes. Living in the moment. Spending my time outside, with friends and family and great people, all the time, instead of at home being a reclusive nerd. It was exhausting at times, I'll admit, but it was endlessly rewarding. I'll likely calm down in the New Year (about damn time) and not plan out every second of my life but I don't regret living that way for a year. I've strengthened bonds and done fun things and been new places and, sometimes, I've been spontaneous in the way that I've always wanted to be. Which is how I ended up booking a 24 hour trip to Paris, simply to say goodbye to a clothing store.

Colette closes its doors for good tomorrow and when I found that out, I was impossibly sad. It was the end of the era. The end of one of the coolest boutiques the world has ever known. I was never going to take another goofy photo underneath the sign, pointing up and grinning over our shared names. I would never again marvel over cool things I couldn't afford in the store or pick out a magazine from the incredibly hip curation of publications or wonder if getting one of the lucky bags was worth it. I wouldn't get to say goodbye.

I briefly entertained flying in for a visit to say my farewells but a browse of the websites of the airlines connecting Paris and Dublin made it apparent that it would be far too expensive. I moved on with my day, gradually coming to think that the whole idea was silly in the first place. Flying into another country for a day to say goodbye to a shop? What kind of madness was that? I forgot about the whole thing.

Then, some weeks later, Ryanair announced a sale on their site and I looked again, out of curiosity. 56 quid return journey. Doable. The price of taking a train to Galway for a night...I contacted a friend to see if he could put me up for the night and, suddenly, an hour later, my mad trip to Paris to say goodbye to a clothing store with the same name as me was happening.

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When I told people, they frowned in confusion or laughed and waved a hand at me like, 'Oh, Colette, you're so silly'. My best and most supportive friend cheered me on for going for it. I didn't really care either way. It was something I wanted to do and I hated the idea of the store being gone forever and my regret at never having seen it again, at not being able to change that if I didn't go for it, at not being brave enough to say, "Fuck it. Why not?" one last time this year.

Cue Thursday last week and landing at Beauvais just before 11. I cursed Beauvais many times over the trip (as I always do, that goddamn shed) and flying there did cause several ordeals, even if it was the only viable option. An hour's bus to Paris, the confusion of trying to remember where the Metro station was at Porte Maillot, being mistaken for a local by several people who tried to ask me for directions in French, shaking my head wildly as I tried to remember what French hasn't melted out my ears over the years, finding the Metro, planning a route, discovering my stop was closed, getting off a the next stop in a panic, being unsure of how to proceed, stumbling across some Brits who turned out to be going the same way and finally ending up at my friend's house.

After all of that panicking, said friend welcomed me with Champagne (he'd gone to an acquaintance's vineyard and stocked up over the summer - as one does), fresh pastries and hours of conversation, despite the fact that we hadn't actually seen each other in years and the fact that he had work in the morning. While the whole trip was a little mad and fun and I got to hang around in Paris instead of going to work on a Friday, it was the people that made it for me.

When we finally went to sleep, I told him to wake me when he was leaving for work so I could say goodbye and thank again but the sweet baby angel that he is, he left me to sleep on until friend number two arrived. Said friend number two then acted as my guide for the day, having lived in the city for several years now. We rounded the corner and breakfasted outside with pastries and coffee (well, tea for me) as French schoolchildren shouted what English they could think of at us. So began one of the few times I've had 8 or more hours of unadulterated catch-up time with a pal as an adult and it was beautiful. It always is. You get to topics normally never broached and ideas you've barely ever even voiced to yourself before. We talked and walked all day so that, by the end of it, we were both hoarse and almost hobbling but it was worth it.

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After exploring for an hour, we headed to Colette. It was abuzz with people though it has only just opened for the day but I expected as much. This was always the case, even when it wasn't days from closing permanently. We dashed around and I picked up a limited edition tee and a Glossier Cloud Paint (in Haze) and a small present for my blog wife. We marvelled at the Saint Laurent roller-skate heels and the courtyard full of Christmas trees and the cool books and wildly expensive things that we couldn't even identify. I got my last picture in front, though the name had been removed from over the door so I had to pose with the word "Colette" painted low on the window, between my legs. That, in of itself, was gas though and we laughed as people looked on, confused. I have few photos of myself where I'm genuinely laughing that I don't hate and while this one is definitely goofy, I quite like it.

After visiting the store, we went to the Medieval quarter of the city, Le Marais, strolling past the Pompidou, and had falafel in the place across the road from the "best in the world", as it didn't have a line, is apparently just as good (my friend had tried both) and the people inside weren't being as damn pushy. Then we wandered some more shops and the area more before heading to the Louvre. I really wanted to go to the Dior exhibition there but there was a two hour line and we were running short on time so, instead, we just went to the gallery proper. I had never been before and was pretty excited but we were exhausted by this point and each kept whining about our feet being tired. Despite this, it was fun to wander around, discuss art (and my favourite debate topic of the moment: Can memes be art?), and see the Venus de Milo, Da Vinci's "Virgin of the Rocks" (my favourite) and Raphael's "Baldassare Castiglione" IRL.

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Then, sadly, time had well and truly run away from us and it was time to say goodbye so I got some food, headed back to Beauvais (ugh), stocked up on some Champagne in duty-free (yay) and embarrassed myself by trying to use my very poor Korean to tell the girl queueing in front of me that her bag was super cute (double ugh) and began the long-ass trip home.

Over in the blink of an eye but well worth it! I said my goodbye to a beautiful store that I loved, sure, and that was the reason for the trip but I got a lot more from it. Fondest memories were made and I was the kind of spontaneous that I normally only see in the (far too many) movies I have watched growing up. Life can actually be quite grand and magical in its own little ways sometimes, as long as you embrace it and just say, "Fuck it. Why not?"


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Sunday, 17 December 2017

Affordable Orthodontic Treatment With Your Smile Direct

I was listening to my favourite podcast, My Favourite Murder, a few months ago when I first encountered an ad for, and the concept of, a mail-order orthodontic treatment service. Immediately, I was intrigued, as it claimed to offer straighter teeth at a fraction of the price of traditional orthodontic treatments, fewer to no trips to the actual orthodontist and fast, efficient service. Then, funnily, in the weird way that the universe works sometimes, I got an email a few days later from the Irish sister company, Your Smile Direct. They were discussing working with bloggers on promoting their service and, as my retainers were too unbearably painful, my teenage orthodontic work had since all but reverted. I jumped at the chance to fix this and to try it out. I had considered seeking out a company and treatment option like it myself, anyway, and they were offering me the chance to trial the service, free of charge...what impeccable timing.

The process begins with a home impressions kit, which costs €99 and takes moulds of your teeth to help figure out how to proceed with your treatment. Or, if you can make it to their Stillorgan Clinic, you can get a scan done in-house, instead, for the same price. I opted for the latter and the whole experience was perfectly pleasant, considering. 

Upon arrival, my orthodontist spotted me looking for the building in confusion, guessed that I was a patient and brought me up to the clinic. As I sat filling out the forms, he brought me a cup of tea (the first I'd had that day - the saviour!). The forms themselves were not overly long or complicated and the setting of the clinic is minimal, stylish and office-like (as opposed to hospital-like) enough that it makes the experience seem less intimidating for those who may be nervous of such things. The only thing, in fact, that put me ill at ease throughout the entire experience was the consent agreement that I was told to read and sign. I'm perfectly aware that such things present the worst-case, highly unlikely scenarios and I've signed plenty before (for my laser-eye surgery, for example) so I wasn't overly concerned but it was a wee bit alarming. As I say, however, it was the only blip in an otherwise smooth visit. 

Once the forms were all signed, I went into an office where my orthodontist chatted to me politely to put me at ease (even going as far as to put on a K-pop playlist to distract me) and then the scanning process began. This process involves wearing a mouthpiece to keep your mouth wide open for a half hour while all of your teeth are mapped to produce a 3D model. It isn't exactly great fun but isn't unbearable or overly uncomfortable either. They've done a good job in making it as painless as possible. 

Then, I headed on my merry way and, a week or so later, I was sent a treatment plan detailing how they hoped my teeth would look at the end, how long it would take (5 months) and how long each stage of the treatment would last. When you are sent your plan to review, you can either accept and go ahead or decline to pursue it. If you accept, you make your first payment and they send out your first aligner. Then you receive each of your following aligners accordingly, as promised in your treatment plan. Each aligner ensures a certain amount of movement so that, as you get each one, your teeth are straightened bit by bit. You must wear each one throughout the day, unless you are eating or drinking anything but water. In this case, you simply remove and then replace the aligner. At the end of the whole process, you receive a retainer to maintain the treatment. 

The treatment itself costs 70% less than traditional methods and works out at 4 installments of €399 each or one once-off payment of €1499. So, as you can see, it is quite the bargain.

So far, I have to say that I have been incredibly impressed with the staff and service and am really delighted by the results we are aiming for. If my teeth look anything like it by the end, I'll be really happy. I'll continue to update you all throughout the experience so I hope you'll stick around for this journey with me! Check out Your Smile Direct if you're interested in trying it out for yourself.

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The end goal - no more gap!



(This is not an ad or sponsored. My treatment is being provided free of charge by Your Smile Direct but all opinions are my own.)

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Sunday, 10 December 2017

How To Give Better Gifts + A Giveaway Worth over €150 (ft. Urban Decay, Urban Outfitters, Primark and more)

Giving gifts can be tricky. I know a lot of people who hate it and genuinely buckle under the pressure of it. I've seen it damage relationships.

But that's not how things should be.

Gifting is one of my great joys in life. I love spending time, thinking and focusing on people I care about, one by one, and trying to find something that they will love. I don't always spend a lot of money and I don't always buy something at all. Hell, I don't even always get it entirely right but I do think that my gifts, generally, show people that I know them well and that I really thought about and considered them.

As so many struggle with finding the right thing, I thought I'd share some of my tips for getting better gifts, rather than giving specific gift ideas that might not apply at all.

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1. Think about the person

I know, I know. This seems so obvious, right? But I don't mean think about them like: "Oh, she's a woman. All women like perfume, right?" (NOTE: Perfume/cologne is never a good idea unless you know the person's favourite scent) or "He likes Star Wars, I'll buy him this Chewbacca mug" (NOTE II: If someone is really a fanatic and they don't have a house full of mugs, this is, actually, a good idea. See below for more discussion on these two examples).

When I say "think about them", I mean think about conversations you've had. Think about things they've said they really wanted or things they keep meaning to get for themselves or little indulgences they can't justify. For example, my friend once bought me a fancy candle for my birthday and I was really touched by it. He'd been around when his girlfriend (my BFF) and I had been discussing our love for the candles and how we couldn't buy them regularly because they were too damn expensive and, when he was buying her one as a treat, he picked one up for me as well. Similarly, I've been talking about buying a hair curler for years, but never got around to it. This year, my sister bought me one for my birthday as a surprise and I was genuinely delighted when I opened it.


2. Do some recon

If you can't think of anything from conversations you've had, can't remember any childhood game they've mentioned or book they keep saying they want to read, go find out. Subtly probe for info or merely pay more attention when you hang out. Or ask people close to them who might know. I always check in with the aforementioned friend when buying for my bestie to make sure she doesn't have things or isn't getting them from someone else. Make use of your sources!


3. Practical gifts aren't boring

Remember the example about the perfume? It's a dangerous gift if you don't know what the person likes but, if you happen to know their favourite one and that they might be running out soon, it is a super useful and thoughtful gift! Similarly, if someone has been complaining that someone in work nicked their mug and you know that they love Chewie, get them that mug!

Practical gifts aren't boring. It is so nice to receive a pricey skincare item that you always repurchase or a new kettle if yours is dying slowly. It means the person pays attention to you, your life and woes, and it saves you having to do it! However, know your audience. You don't want to be one of those cliches that gives someone a vacuum and ends up out on their arse outside on Christmas day. Conversely, if someone has always wanted a Dyson (pricey feckers) and loves to vacuum, it might be the perfect gift. It always depends on the person!


4. Time is the best gift

I always say that getting things isn't always necessary. A voucher to go to the spa together or afternoon tea or the cinema or a gig is a lovely gift. It can be customised to their interests - if they're a foodie, have been dying for the release of a new film, love a band, need a day to relax etc - and it ensures that you get one-on-one, quality time together. Basically, it's two gifts in one!


5. Be sincere (+ always accompany gifts with hand-written notes)

Some of the best things that I have given and received have been the notes that came with things (extra points if they're handmade as well as handwritten). Loving words mean a lot and can be things of great comfort to have around for lonely nights or hard days. Shiny baubles don't do the same for us.

If you're really trying your best, that comes across to most people. Just really consider the person that you are giving a gift to, try and get them something they'd really like, and you'll be alright. It doesn't have to be big or expensive. Wrap it nicely, accompany it with heartfelt words and tell them that they matter to you...


Speaking of which, you guys really matter to me! And I wanted to do a giveaway to thank y'all for reading my stuff throughout the year. Normally, I do "12 Days of Giftmas" or "5 Golden Gifts" with multiple giveaways but my November this year was crazy and those things involve a lot of work. I usually liaise with brands for weeks and weeks and email back and forth loads in advance to organise it. And then there's the photographing, writing and promoting each of those posts and the running and regulating of each of the giveaways. I'm sorry for not being organised enough to do all of that this year but I didn't want to do nothing either. So, instead, I have this one giveaway but it's a good 'un!


Worth over €150, it includes:
A €50 Primark Voucher
A Clarins Beautiful Lip Essentials Gift Set
A Madison Makeup Contour Palette
An Urban Outfitters baseball cap (similar here)
An Urban Decay All Nighter Long Lasting Makeup Setting Spray
A Pixi Hydrating Milky Mist
A Sleek Brow Kit (in the shade Light)
A Flormar Long Wearing Lipgloss (in the shade Backstage)
A mini Sumita Eye-liner Pencil (in the shade Black)
A pair of Pieces faux pearl stud earrings
A pair of Kurt Cobain style oval sunglasses (similar here)
A travel-size bottle of Oil Arganic dry oil from Tan Organic


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To win all of this, simply leave a comment on any of the social media posts promoting this article (Instagram & Facebook) before the 24th of December 2017. The winner will be chosen at random and notified on the 25th of December 2017 and the prize will be sent out shortly thereafter. Sadly, this is giveaway will only open to readers based in mind, so keep this in mind before entering. Good luck and happy holidays!

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