Archive | Christmas RSS feed for this section

Glamorous Gifts

11 Nov

Gift guide opening spread

I’ve recently completed one of my favourite jobs ever – compiling this year’s Christmas Gift Guide for Glamour magazine (the UK edition). Visiting all the Christmas preview press shows, making a virtual wishlist of what to include, and gathering together over 1,000 amazing gift ideas before making the final edit… it’s been FUN.

The results of all this hard work (well, someone has to do it…) are in this month’s issue of Glamour, with the December 2015 cover date. A fabulous 94 presents have made the cut, spread out over eight pages and grouped by colour – and there really is something for everyone, and every budget. Regular blog readers will know I love a bargain, so while the posh brands like Mulberry are in there, there’s also plenty of surprises for those of us with teensy budgets.

Glamour cover

I won’t spoil it for you, but here are a few of my favourite products that feature in the guide (below). And if you need any more inspiration, I’ll be sharing some of the lovely bits that didn’t make the mag over the next couple of weeks!

blog Glamour gift guide pic

Above: You Rock cushion £12 Tesco; Swedish dala horse necklace £25 RosieWonders.co.uk; Copper bear cookie cutter £2.50 Sainsbury’s; Pear trinket pot £18 Oliver Bonas; Tristan the T-Rex toy £15.21 Amazon.co.uk

A prickly subject

14 Oct

cactus-vase-small-serax-5

It’s never too early to start thinking about Christmas in my book. And top of my list for Santa this year? One of these A-MAZING cactus vases.

In gorgeous green glazed porcelain by artist Marie Michielssen, they look fantastic on their own or grouped together, and personally I don’t think you need to put flowers in them.

The smallest size costs £16.95; the medium is £34.95 and the large is £54.95 (I know, I know, not cheap – but they are things of beauty) from one of my favourite online stores, Howkapow. They’re also available – for slightly higher price tags – at the Conran Shop, Trouva and Notonthehighstreet.

cactus-vase-large-serax

They’d make a fantastic gift, so go on, grab yours while they’re still in stock. I predict a, ahem, spike in sales as soon as Christmas shopping season starts officially…

cactus-vases

Yummy bunting

16 Dec

Contact Marketing/ Press Office: 01202 596100

The homespun/Scandi red-and-white look is huge for Christmas this year, along with the idea being that you don’t have to spend a fortune on decorations. That’s all well and good, however if you’re not particularly crafty, handmade decs usually look a bit amateur.

Not so this friendly gingerbread bunting. So simple a child could do it, it looks really effective, and is perfect for stringing from a tree, mirror or mantlepiece (well, as long as you don’t hang it near toddlers or dogs!)

Using any recipe you like, just make a batch of gingerbread men biscuits, and pierce two holes in their tummies before you bake ’em…

Contact Marketing/ Press Office: 01202 596100

…then, when they’re cool, ice them (although you can leave them blank) and thread red ribbon through the holes. Easy eh?!

Contact Marketing/ Press Office: 01202 596100

For everything you need to make the bunting, such as cutters (£2) and grosgrain ribbon (£1.05 per metre), visit Hobbycraft

Which is the more rein-dear?

9 Dec

reindeer comparison

What’s the difference between these two large silver reindeer tealight holders?

£99, that’s what!

Yep, the one on the left, from Marks and Spencer (here) is £129; while the one on the right, from Sainsbury’s (here) is £30.

Go grab that bargain by the antlers!

 

 

Branching out

5 Dec

SCANDI LIFESTYLE Felt snowflakes £6 for 9 NextHere’s a nice idea for an easy-yet-effective Christmas decoration.

Buy a pack of felt snowflakes, £6 for nine from Next (here), then hang them from a small tree branch you’ve painted with some white paint (any leftover white wall emulsion should do the trick).

You can then hang the branch from a wall, or stand it up, tree-like, in a jar filled with pebbles/screwed up brown paper/marbles etc.

Simple!

PS: Obviously, any decoration would look good hung like this, but keeping them all the same design/shape/colour will look the most effective.

Goodbye pine needles!

3 Dec

Christmas tree light £120 BHS

Real Christmas trees are lovely – the look, the smell… but they’re also a faff.

So, if you’re looking for an alternative, try this amazing light-up tree from BHS. At 50cm tall, it’s perfect for small spaces; takes just minutes to set up; won’t drop pine needles everywhere; will look good year after year… oh, and unlike the real thing, the cat won’t want to play with the branches.

Whether you stand it on a shelf, mantlepiece or table; or hang it on the wall, I guarantee it’s the coolest Christmas decoration you’ll see all year.

Get your Christmas Tree Light here for £120.

unnamed

PS: It’s awards season in the blogging world again, and I’m very excited to be nominated in this years’ blogging Oscars, the UK Blog Awards – in both the ‘Lifestyle’ and the ‘Most Innovative’ categories. So, if you enjoy reading this blog as much as I enjoy writing it, I’d be honoured if you’d click on the below links and vote for me. Voting takes literally seconds – you just enter your name and email address – and would make me incredibly happy!
To vote for me in the ‘Lifestyle’ category, click here:
http://www.blogawardsuk.co.uk/candidates/the-treasure-hunter-uk-2/
To vote for me in the ‘Most Innovative Blog’ category, click here:
http://www.blogawardsuk.co.uk/candidates/the-treasure-hunter-uk/
If you only feel like voting once, please vote in the Lifestyle category. Voting closes on 3rd December.
Thank you!

In for a pound at Christmas

1 Dec

POUNDLAND LIFESTYLE paper stars on chair two for £1

Check out these gorgeous supersized gold paper stars (above), which are perfect for hanging from windows, banisters or walls. You’d imagine they’d be fairly expensive….

…but nope, you can get two for just £1 at – whisper it – Poundland.

And how about this cool Scandi-style peg wreath for holding cards…

POUNDLAND CUT OUT Peg wreath card holder £1 Poundland

Yep, it’s just £1 too, at Poundland.

And this on-trend honeycomb tree, and set of red and white bells? That’s right, just one pound (and in the case of the bells, £1 for ten)!

tree and bells for blogProving you don’t have to spend a fortune on nice-looking Christmas decorations, Poundland have come up with some corking bits and bobs to make your house look lovely. I also like this tasteful felt ‘Merry Christmas’ banner:
Poundland_1008063_MerryChristmasFeltGarland

And this jewel-coloured tinsel wreath, tabletop tree and glittertastic baubles:

jewel trio for blog

They also have some fab little metal tealight houses, in red and white, which would look amazing in a row on a mantlepiece; dainty felt snowflake bunting; and supersized paper stars in other colours:

red and white trio for blog

In fact, I reckon, you could probably kit out an entire room for around a tenner at Poundland, and no-one would ever guess where you got it all from. Race you to the checkout!

POUNDLAND LIFESTYLE Red and white decs

All the decs in the room above are from Poundland!

PS: It’s awards season in the blogging world again, and I’m very excited to be nominated in this years’ blogging Oscars, the UK Blog Awards – in both the ‘Lifestyle’ and the ‘Most Innovative’ categories. So, if you enjoy reading this blog as much as I enjoy writing it, I’d be honoured if you’d click on the below links and vote for me. Voting takes literally seconds – you just enter your name and email address – and would make me incredibly happy!
To vote for me in the ‘Lifestyle’ category, click here:
http://www.blogawardsuk.co.uk/candidates/the-treasure-hunter-uk-2/
To vote for me in the ‘Most Innovative Blog’ category, click here:
http://www.blogawardsuk.co.uk/candidates/the-treasure-hunter-uk/
If you only feel like voting once, please vote in the Lifestyle category. Voting closes on 3rd December.
Thank you!

 

 

 

 

 

Putting on the glitz

28 Nov

sequin cushions pillows

It’s almost December, so I’m going to get the ball rolling and start talking about Christmas. Every year, the shops are flooded with special ‘Christmas’ cushions – usually in red with festive slogans on – that are all incredibly cheery and Christmassy, but that also have an incredibly short shelf life. As soon as Christmas day is over, off they go to the loft/cupboard/blanket box for another twelve months.

Not so the sequin cushion. Nope, the sequin cushion – a thing of beauty – will look suitably sparkly all December; partytastic on your sofa over New Year; and if teamed with classy grey or white bedlinen, will give your bedroom a touch of glamour all year long.

The high street have cottoned onto this, and there are plenty to choose from at the moment. My two favourites are the silver ‘Glitzy’ sequin cushion, £12 from Isme.com (also available in red and black); and the on-trend copper sequin cushion, £12.99 from H&M Home (also available in pink and green), both above.

I’m also liking (from left to right, below) this ‘Luxe Large’ sequin cushion, £20 from BHS; this rectangular ‘Sequin Embellished’ cushion from Marks & Spencer; and this sequin number with a black background, £9.99, from H&M Home:

Sequin cushion £20 BHSAnd if you love the idea of metallics but think sequins are just a little too bling…how about this fantastic metallic silver cushion from Tesco Direct, below? It looks uber expensive, but will set you back just £10. Who can argue with that?!

MetallicCushion,£8 Tesco

PS: It’s awards season in the blogging world again, and I’m very excited to be nominated in this years’ blogging Oscars, the UK Blog Awards – in both the ‘Lifestyle’ and the ‘Most Innovative’ categories. So, if you enjoy reading this blog as much as I enjoy writing it, I’d be honoured if you’d click on the below links and vote for me. Voting takes literally seconds – you just enter your name and email address – and would make me incredibly happy!
To vote for me in the ‘Lifestyle’ category, click here:
http://www.blogawardsuk.co.uk/candidates/the-treasure-hunter-uk-2/
To vote for me in the ‘Most Innovative Blog’ category, click here:
http://www.blogawardsuk.co.uk/candidates/the-treasure-hunter-uk/
If you only feel like voting once, please vote in the Lifestyle category. Voting closes on 3rd December.
Thank you!

 

Cut price chic

2 Jan

Bird shower curtain hooks £9.50 Oliver Bonas SALEHappy New Year!

If your pockets aren’t completely empty, now is a great time to pick up a final few sales bargains before all the new season stock hits the high street. While much of what’s left is, quite frankly, a load of tat, there are still some lovely things available at very reasonable prices. Here are my top three (well five) picks – better be quick!

TOP: I’m aware these are ridiculously frivolous, but how cute are these little perching bird shower curtain hooks? They’d add a certain je ne sais quoi to any bathroom. Now £9.50 (was £14) for a set of 12 from Oliver Bonas (www.oliverbonas.com)

Auckland Li chrome lamp £24.50 Habitat SALE

ABOVE: Habitat (www.habitat.co.uk) are one of the few stores to still have LOADS of great bargains still available, so I was stuck for what to choose. My must-buys are this yellow Oken table £28 (was £35); this uber stylish Aukland Li lamp £24.50 (was £35); and this brilliant Kilo side table £12.50 (was £25), available in jade, pink, meadow green, teal or light blue. Use it beside your bed, next to your sofa, as a telephone table or even outdoors. At this price, it’d be rude not to buy one!

flower garden embroidered cushion £9.95 Dotcomgiftshop SALEABOVE: Embroidered cushion £9.95 (was £39.95) www.Dotcomgiftshop.com. Beautifully-finished, it looks like it’s worth a fortune. Buy two and pop them side-by-side on a sofa or bed for instant folk chic. There’s a square one available for the same price, too. Lovely!

Gimme fiver!

21 Dec

Primark hats

Got a tiny budget but a big list of people still to buy for? It’ may be too late to order online, but if you’re hitting the streets to do your Christmas shopping, you’d be surprised how many lovely gifts you can get for under a fiver these days. Yep, just £5.

Don’t believe me? Here’s my list of last-minute, under-£5 shopping suggestions (all available on the high street)…

Above, top of post: Christmas tree and pudding hats, £3 each, Primark.

Stocking fillers group shot 1

Above: Washing Uh Uh Up brush £5 House of Fraser; Grow your own chilli kit £4.50 Oliver Bonas; Drumstick pencils £5 and rubber band ball £4 both John Lewis.

Stocking fillers group shot 2

Above: Superman socks £4 BHS; sequin earmuffs £4 and leopard print scarf £4 both Matalan; statement necklace £5 Primark.

stocking fillers group shot 4

Above: Shopping basket £4.99 and Darth Vader mints £4 both Sainsbury’s; ‘Kramig’ Panda toy £3 Ikea; Novelty glasses £5 Next (instore only); Skipping rope £1 Poundland.

Baylis and Harding Mini Trio £4 Boots

Above: Bayliss & Harding mini trio £4 and ‘Cute or What’ lip balm trio £5 both Boots; Sparkle nail polish £3 Next; Ginger Sparkle shower gel £4 The Body Shop (get 40% off everything instore until close of business on 24th Dec with code 19804).

Stocking fillers group shot 3 mugs

Above: Mugs £2 each Asda (what a bargain!).

stocking fillers group shot 5

Above: Studio Eye Create Compact £4 Superdrug; Baru chocolate hippos £2.50 (these are DELICIOUS!) John Lewis; Oven gloves £3 each, Tiger (to find your nearest, visit http://www.tigerstores.co.uk).

Good luck and happy shopping!

On your Marks, set the table, go! WIN £200 of Marks and Spencer vouchers

20 Dec

IMG_1007_ammended

One of the MANY things I love about this time of year is laying the Christmas table. Growing up, I’d spend ages folding festive paper napkins into pretty shapes and throwing table confetti around like a crazy person.

So, I’m very excited to have been asked to help launch and co-judge a new nationwide bloggers’ competition with Marks & Spencer in which you can win £200 of M&S goodies (or one of two £50 runners-up prizes). All you need to do is write a blog entry explaining how you’d create a gorgeous table scheme for Christmas, New Year or any other special occasion, using M&S accessories.

To give you some inspiration, I’ve laid up my dream Christmas table with the help of the lovely people at M&S…

IMG_0992_ammended warm

Getting this look is EASY. The key is to stick to two main colours plus an accent shade (I’ve chosen red and white with splashes of green); and one or two themes or motifs throughout (I’ve gone for a Scandi feel with snowflakes). Making your table look pretty doesn’t have to cost much either – I’ve decorated a mini tree with ribbons and pine cones…

IMG_0998_ammended

…used pine cones and rosemary sprigs in a glass cake stand as a centrepiece; and used rosemary and ribbon to jazz up some plain white napkins:

IMG_1001_ammended

I’ve also cheated iwth a wrapping paper tablecloth. It goes well with the red and white, and after the meal I can just pop it in the recycling bin – no washing or ironing required! As for the chairs, I’ve simply tied on baubles with ribbon – simple but effective:

IMG_1000_ammended

Want to recreate this look? Everything in these pictures, apart from the white plates and cutlery came from Marks and Spencer (okay, the pine cones came from a tree in my neighbour’s garden, but you get the idea!)

Fancy having a go yourself and winning a fab prize? Here’s everything you need to enter the competition…

Bloggers, would you like to win £200 to spend on brand new tableware at M&S?

If your answer is ‘Yes!’ and you have a flair for interior design, then why not enter our Magical Dining Room Competition! To be in with a chance of winning all you have to do is create a blog post that shows what your dream dining room would look like, and how you would add a little magical and sparkle for a special occasion.

If you are posting before Christmas then you may like to include some of M&S’ festive tableware in your post. If you are posting in the New Year then let us know what items you would pick for a special dinner party.

What you need to do:

  1. Hop on over to the home section at Marksandspencer.com to started
  2. Choose your favourite products from the M&S Homeware collection (e.g. a dining room table, chairs, crockery and festive tableware)
  3. Create a mood board to show us what your dream dining room would look like and post on your blog. (You can use a tool like Polyvore or Paint to create a mood board, or just cut and paste product pics into your post). Here’s what my original moodboard looked like: M&S Christmas table selection
  4. Name your post: My M&S Magical Dining Room.
  5. Make sure you include the product name and price for each item you choose.
  6. Add the link to your post in the comments section of one of the judges’ blog posts by the 26 January 2014

Here are some useful pages that you may like use to find inspiration and reference in your post:

Who’s judging?

M&S has asked me and Jen of Love Chic Living to judge the entries and Jen is also running the competition over on her blog, so you can choose whether you enter here or there.

Jen and I will choose one overall winner from all of the entries and two runners up. The main winner will be awarded a £200 gift voucher and the two runners up will each win £50 to spend at M&S. We will announce the winners on our blogs two weeks after the competition closes.

The competition closes on 26th January at 11.59pm

GOOD LUCK!

Quids in at Christmas

16 Dec

Poundland Christmas tree CD

I watched a TV programme the other day that said the average person will spend nearly £900 preparing for Christmas this year. Yikes. I don’t think I spend quite that much, but like most people, I know I could definitely do with tightening my financial belt in a little.

But while £900 is a bit excessive, is it possible to buy everything you need to prepare for Christmas for just £20? That’s the challenge the lovely people at Poundland set me – the idea being you don’t have to spend a fortune when it comes to all those little extras that seem to add up at this time of year.

So, with a £20 voucher in my over-excited hand (Thanks Poundland – who knew they did vouchers?!) I went on my very own trolley dash round my local store.

And do you know what? It’s actually quite hard to spend that much in Poundland – even for a bargain hunter like me. So I easily managed to get all my festive essentials and more…

DECORATIONS:

Poundland Christmas decorations

I like Poundland’s tinsel – it’s £1 for a 2m strip and it’s not that weedy, thin stuff either. It’s thick, bushy and over-the-top sparkly! I also picked up these pretty mirrored tree decorations; some sparkly glitter snowflakes and some battery-powered star-shaped lights to pop in my fireplace.

WRAPPING KIT AND TASTY TREATS:

Poundland Christmas wrapping kitPoundland’s wrapping paper is a decent thickness, unisex design and what’s more, there’s a staggering 10 metres of it on a roll. I also stocked up on ribbon – four reels plus 12 bows again all for just £1. For those hard-to-wrap or last-minute gifts, I got a pack of three gift bags printed with happy snowmen and Santas; and a really sturdy post box-shaped wine carrier.
Christmas is the perfect excuse to stuff your face, so I splashed out on a box of liqueur chocolates; a Toblerone; and a pack of six teacakes which I plan to stack on a glass cake stand as a table centrepiece.

TO KEEP THE KIDS AMUSED AND ESSENTIAL BITS’N’BOBS:

Poundland Christmas kids stuff

Then, to keep my son and his little friends busy while I’m doing important things like scoffing mince pies – sorry, preparing the Christmas dinner – I got a huge pack of felt tip pens; a sweet little colour-your-own festive bag; and some old skool paper chains.
Slightly less excitingly, I looked for those mundane but necessary things like batteries and sticky tape. Buying these somewhere cheap like Poundland means you have more cash to spend on the fun stuff. So, I added a jumbo pack of batteries; a four-pack of tape; a good quality clip-top box (for all those leftovers); a pretty box of tissues and even a pack of four plain white cotton napkins (I’ve seen similar for £6 each on the high street!) to my basket.

Oh, and finally, as the soundtrack to Christmas, I picked up a cheesetastic  three-disc CD, Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree (top), with loads of traditional festive tunes (sung by the original singers, rather than cover versions). It goes for nearly a tenner online, so that’s officially the best bargain of the lot.

My verdict? I was impressed by the quality of things such as the batteries and snap-top box; and pleasantly surprised by how nice the wrapping paper, paper chains and tinsel were. People tend to pooh-pooh bargain stores like Poundland, but if you look carefully, you can find some real gems. And if you’re buying essentials like sticky tape or tissues, it’d be silly to buy them for more.

Dishes of the day

2 Dec

Flamingogifts rabbit jewellery dish

What’s this? A classy-looking, useful gift that almost any woman is guaranteed to like, but that costs under a tenner?!

Yep, I couldn’t believe it either when I stumbled across these really lovely dinky jewellery dishes from http://www.flamingogifts.co.uk. At around 10cm across, they’re the perfect size for stashing rings, earrings, pendants, trinkets or even a watch, either at bedtime or when you’re doing the washing up.

Flamingogifts squirrel jewellery dish

And with a rabbit, squirrel, deer and owl (sitting on a lotus flower by the looks of it) to choose from, there’s a cute animal or bird design to suit everyone. You can even get a dish with a golden bird/robin on top, for glamorous girls who like a bit of added glitz.

Flamingogifts gold robin jewellery dish

I’m planning to get them for several friends this Christmas, and I’ve put the sparky little rabbit on my wishlist. Want one of your own? If you, ahem, hop to it, there’s 20% off everything at Flamingo Gifts until midnight today, meaning the owl and deer are a bargainous £5.59 (instead of £6.99) each;  the rabbit and gold robin are £7.99 (instead of £9.99); and the squirrel is £6.39 instead of £7.99.

Happy shopping!

A-door-able advent calendars

27 Nov

Contact Marketing/ Press Office: 01202 596100

One my favourite things about Christmas is the expectation – for me, the run-up is almost as good as the big day itself.

For that reason, I’ve always loved advent calendars, and since I left home many moons ago, Mum and I have been making each other a personalised advent calendar, filled with little bits and bobs (dinky nail polishes, tiny decorations, chocolates, earrings, fun push pins, etc) we’ve secretly collected over the year.

I made the advent boxes we use (it took me HOURS…) but now they’re getting a bit tatty, and it’s time to replace them. The problem is, many fill-your-own advent calendars have really tiny drawers. You can barely squeeze a chocolate mini egg into them, let alone something a bit more substantial like a cute lipbalm or fun keyring.

So, this year, I’m on the hunt for the ultimate advent calendar – and I thought I’d share my findings with  you, above and below. There are LOADS of good ones to choose from, and I’ve included both fill-your-own and ready-filled versions, for those of you who either a) can’t be faffed buying pocket-sized treats, or b) have left it a bit late!

TOP: Advent houses, £20 for set of 24, Hobbycraft (www.hobbycraft.co.uk). They’re displayed on a white tree, £20 also from Hobbycraft, but you could just paint some twigs with white emulsion and stick ’em in a flowerpot to make your own display instead!

Contact Marketing/ Press Office: 01202 596100Stack of little buckets, £1 each, Hobbycraft (www.hobbycraft.co.uk)

cardboard storage house advent

Cardboard storage house (decorate it yourself), £35 http://www.notonthehighstreet.com or £34.95 http://www.theletteroom.com (I love the extra large drawers for the 23rd and 24th)

Advent house retro dotcomgiftshop50s Christmas house advent calendar, £18.95 http://www.dotcomgiftshop.com (almost identical to the one above, except it’s already decorated and almost half the price!)

black and white reusable advent calendar

Advent calendar storage drawers (choice of two colourways – black/white or lime/silver) £15 http://www.aplaceforeverything.co.uk

Buttonbag make your own advent calendar £16Buttonbag make your own personalised advent calendar kit £16 John Lewis (www.johnlewis.co.uk)

Ciate advent calendar

Ciate Mini Nail Lacquer Advent Calendar Gift Set, £42, John Lewis (www.johnlewis.co.uk). I would SO love to get one of these!

Lego star wars advent calendarLego Star Wars, £16.65 and Lego City, £13.32 advent calendars (with little Lego men and bits to open every day!), Sainsbury’s (www.sainsburys.co.uk)

Yankee Candle tealights advent calendar

Yankee Candle 24 Tealights advent calendar £22 http://www.Very.co.uk (with a different festive-scented tealight candle behind each door!)

Tesco chocolate advent calendar £10

3D Advent Calendar with Chocolate, £10, Tesco (www.tesco.com). You could save the boxes to use again next year!

Bargains dot com

18 Jan

Dotcomgiftshop sale set of pantry design cake tins £4.95 was £12.95

I don’t know about you, but I’m always a bit disappointed in the post-Christmas sales. The discounts are fairly measly, there’s only the dregs left, and it’s all a bit of a letdown.

But not with the sale at http://www.dotcomgiftshop.com. Oh no. Now that’s what I call a sale!

Dotcomgiftshop is one of my all-time favourite websites. There really is something for everyone, from cool homewares and cute prints, to fun knick knacks and great gift ideas from their talented in-house design team.

While everything they sell is pretty affordable anyhow, their huge sale is absolutely bargainous, with up to 70% off.

I’ve picked out some of my favourite pieces below, but to see the full scale of the sale, you’d better visit the website quick. Happy bargain hunting!

(above) Set of three pantry design cake tins, £4.95 (was £12.95). A great gift for someone who loves baking or just eating cakes!

(below)
Midnight blue flower embroidered cushion, £9.95 (was £34.95). Gorgeous designer-look embroidery for under a tenner.

Dotcomgiftshop sale Midnight blue flower embroidered cushion £9.95 was £34.95

Vintage doily paperchain kit, £2.95 (was £6.95). Perfect for parties!

Dotcomgiftshop sale vintage doily paperchain kit £2.95 was £6.95

1950s advent calendar house, £6.95 (was £18.95). Buy now for next Christmas…

Dotcomgiftshop sale 50s advent calendar house £6.95 was £18.95

Set of four vintage leaf design knick knack tins, £4.95 (was £9.95). Organise your desk, sewing kit or man/woman drawer in style.

Dotcomgiftshop sale set of four vintage leaf nic nak tins £4.95 was £9.95

Party ribbons, £2.95 (was £6.95). Look great wrapped around plain brown paper.

Dotcomgiftshop sale set of ribbons party £2.95 was £6.95

Alphabet magnets, £2.95 (was £6.95). A lovely gift for big and little kids alike – plus it fits in a flat envelope!

Dotcomgiftshop sale Alphabet fridge magnets £2.95 was £6.95

Set of six pantry design spice tins, £3.95 (was £9.95). Too pretty to shut away in a cupboard.

Dotcomgiftshop sale set of six vintage pantry design spice tins £3.95 was £9.95

Roll up, roll up!

3 Jan

mince pies

I realise that if you’ve eaten as much over the last couple of weeks as I have, you probably never want to see another mince pie for as long as you live. But these, my friends, are different

A few days before Christmas, I went to a friend’s party, and was confronted by a batch of these beauties. They’re made with pastry and mincemeat, but rather than being the traditional tart-style pies (which can be just a bit too mincemeat-y and lead to pastry overload), these  look like mini Danish swirls, and they’ve got the balance of ingredients just right.

Not only that, but they’re INCREDIBLY easy to do – even if you’re a complete kitchen klutz. What’s more, you can un-Christmasify them by using Nutella or jam or even a savoury cheese ‘n’ Marmite combo instead of mincemeat. Yum.

Here’s the recipe – if you make some, I’d love to see your pix! Email me at thetreasurehunteruk@gmail.com

ALTERNATIVE MINCE PIES

1. Take a slab of ready-made puff pastry and roll it out on a floured surface into a rectangle about 3mm thick. 

2. Spread it liberally with mincemeat (any will do).

3. Roll it up tightly, like a carpet (!), then chop the roll into pieces no bigger than 1inch thick.

4. Lay the pieces on a greased baking tray and brush with beaten egg.

5. Cook at Gas 6 (400F, 200C) until golden and bubbly. If you’re really fancy, you can dust with icing sugar to serve.

On the cards…

24 Dec

Cmas card with envelope

Unless you’re going shopping in town (which is madness on Christmas Eve, but when I worked on the perfume counter at Boots, there was a steady stream of panic buyers all day!), it’s too late to buy anything.

So, I  thought I’d show you a Christmas card you can make in five minutes that doesn’t require any particular skill or specialist materials, but that looks fancy and professional.

Here’s how:

1) Take a blank card (or fold a piece of white card in half).

2) Cut a piece of wrapping paper into a square a bit smaller than your card. Stick it onto the front of your card with Pritt stick or glue.

3) Take a flat-ish Christmas decoration (mine came in a pack of four for £1 from Tiger Stores) and stick it with a glue dot, a sticky fixer, some rolled over sellotape or even some Blu Tak to the middle of your card.

Cmas card sticking down decoration

4) Fold the hanging loop over the top of your card and fix with sellotape on the inside (see below). Cmas card back of card

And that’s it! You can use any paper and decorations you like. Easy.

Happy Christmas!

Cmas card four cards

Could it be magic (jar)?

21 Dec

iphone4_16_jar

Round at a neighbour’s  house the other day, her five-year old was being surprisingly well-behaved – saying please and thank you, eating all his dinner, doing what his mum asked first time… you know, suspicious things.

When I pointed this out, she admitted she’d had help – in the form of an iPhone/iPad app, invented by her designer husband and his fellow dad friend, called Magic  Jar. The idea is that Father Christmas has shelves and shelves of jars, one for each child, in his house in Lapland. If a child is good, the ‘magic’ in their jar increases; if they’re naughty, it decreases. Every time they click on the Magic Jar icon on their parents’ phone, the screen whizzes through space and snowy forests to Santa’s house; and takes them to view their jar. Parents can control the amount of magic in the jar (pretty swirly lights) with a password, when their kids aren’t looking. Genius.

It’s not much different to a phenomenon in the States, called ‘The Elf on the Shelf’ , where parents buy a toy elf and put it in a different place each day in December (the idea being that the elf has flown back to Santa’s house each night to report on the child’s progress). Only thing is, Magic Jar is a lot less effort and costs just 69p from the Apple Store (take a look at it here http://bit.ly/VTguol).

Now some people might not approve of bribery in this way (!), but my friend’s son loved it. He proudly showed me his jar and was so excited by the ‘magic’ inside. Besides, you don’t have to use it for kids – I reckon it’d be perfect for keeping boyfriends, husbands and even grandparents in line, too…!

Apparently there will be future versions of Magic Jar for birthdays and summer holidays. But for now, I’m going to use this one to keep my other half on his toes over the next few days. If he doesn’t behave and keep his jar full of magic, I’ll keep all his Christmas chocolates for myself. Yum.

iphone4_12_zoom_02

Last minute dot com

20 Dec

Still haven’t done all your Christmas shopping? Don’t panic! Here’s my guide to some of the best one-stop pressie shops and final online ordering dates for pre-Christmas delivery…

…and breathe!

1PM TODAY (THURS 20TH)

www.gettingpersonal.co.uk
Personalised and quirky gifts, from calendars to bespoke tea (below, £9.95). And yep, they will still personalise things for you at this late hour!

Last minute personalised tea with mug gettingpersonal.co.uk

www.dotcomgiftshop.com
Stylish, fun and vintage-style inexpensive goodies. Pay for standard delivery and you’ll be upgraded to express for free until 1pm. Be warned though, you’ll end up treating yourself, too! My picks? The crate of six old skool milk bottles, £9.95; and the Japanese blossom bowls, £4.95 each (several designs, I like the blue waves, below).

MONACO BLUE Japanese blossom bowl blue wave £4.95  dotcomgiftshop.com

5PM TODAY

www.firebox.com
Unusual gifts, gadgets and generally cool stuff. There really is something for everyone. My favourite? The new Submarine umbrella, £24.99 (below). Brilliant.

Last minute submarine umbrella couple

FRIDAY 21ST

www.next.co.uk
Next has some lovely gifts and homewares this season, as well as cute kids clothes and stuff men will like (always tricky). Order by 9pm Friday to get next day delivery. Want something that looks as if you didn’t buy it at the last minute (!)? Go for the You & Me frame, £14 (below) and pop in two of your favourite photos (get ‘em developed at Boots while you wait right up till Christmas Eve!).

Last minute you and me frame £14 next

SATURDAY 22ND

www.amazon.co.uk
If you can’t buy it on Amazon, it probably doesn’t exist. It’s hard to pick a top buy, as there are so many, but everyone I’ve bought the Ladybird Book Covers postcards for (£9.59, below) has loved them.

Last minute ladybird book covers postcards £9.59 amazon.co.uk

www.johnlewis.com
Order by 7pm on Saturday and good old John Lewis promise to deliver before Christmas. Or, order by 7pm on Sunday 22ndfor their click and collect service from any store. What would I recommend? That’s a tough one – maybe the set of three Orla Kiely multi stem storage tins, £22 (below).

Last minute Orla Kiely multi stem storage tins set of 3 £22 John Lewis

www.flamingogifts.co.uk
A gem of a site packed with inexpensive treats. There’s 20% off at the moment too. I love the Owl Hand Cream, £5.59 (was £6.99) in orange blossom scent with reusable grey owl-shaped pot; or the crème brulee scent (£8.79, was £10.99), which comes in a swanky gold pot!

Last minute owl hand cream grey flamingogifts.co.uk

Last minute owl hand cream flamingogifts.co.uk

Keeping it in the family

19 Dec

The next challenge set for me is by Rachel, who has this Christmas shopping conundrum:

“I have a friend with three kids aged 3-10, and rather than getting them each a present, I want to get one nice thing all three of them can enjoy. Any ideas?”

Actually, yes! I’ve got lots of friends like that, and am always hunting for something that’s fun, looks well-thought out, and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. So, here are my top five ‘family present’ suggestions…

Family Charades for kids amazon.co.uk
Charades for kids, £7.29 http://www.amazon.co.uk
A fun game for big and little kids alike, the cards have different levels of difficulty, so that the whole family can play along. It comes in a  post-friendly sized box, too.

Family time multicolour picture frame clock

Multi colour photo frame clock, £29.99 http://www.tch.net
Every member of the family – including pets – can display one or two photos in this clever clock. The one I gave to a friend last year has pride of place above her living room fireplace (hopefully because she actually likes it, not because she feels she ought to!)

doodle-tablecloth--washout-pen-set-by-stitch £29.99 Mollie and Fred

doodle-tablecloth--washout-pen-set-by-stitch £29.99 Mollie and Fred close up

Doodle Tablecloth, £34.95 http://www.dotmaison.com
Okay, so it’s not exactly a bargain, but how cool is this? A tablecloth you can draw on time and time again, and the ink washes out like magic. Write people’s names instead of place settings, give kids free rein, or get seasonal with drawings at Easter, on birthdays or at Christmas. Brilliant.

Family origami planes book

How to make paper planes, £9.59 http://www.amazon.co.uk
Who doesn’t like making paper aeroplanes? This book is one of the best out there, and includes 50 sheets of origami paper to practice with. It’s easy to post, too.

Family bingo crackers marks and spencer

Bingo game crackers, now £7.50 (was £15) Marks and Spencer http://www.marksandspencer.com
Every year, my family posts our French friends a pack of fun crackers (apparently they don’t ‘do’ crackers in France), and the one year we forgot, we got a letter asking where they were! It’s a fun, inexpensive family present that’s light to post, and this pack includes a bingo game everyone can play after lunch on Christmas day.

Bow wow!

12 Dec

gift bow ring V&A shop £8.50 straight on silver

Fact: there’s nothing that can’t be made festive with the addition of a big fat metallic gift bow. And that includes your fingers.

I saw someone wearing this amazing metal bow ring in a magazine (it’s very similar to a designer version by Kate Spade), and instantly fell in love with it. It’s everything I look for in a piece of jewellery – quirky, oversized, fun and not so expensive that it’s scary to wear it.

Yup, while it looks like the kind of trendy creation you’d find in some East London boutique, this ring is only £8 for a gold version – or £8.50 if you go for the silver – from the brilliant online Victoria and Albert Museum Shop (www.vandashop.com).

If you want one, you’d better be quick though, as I hear stocks are getting low…

Stocking up

10 Dec

stocking 1 low res

As you know, I love a challenge, and none so more than the one my friend Gemma set me last week. She has three little girls, aged 11, 8 and 5, and needed to buy them each a stocking chock full of toys and treats. Her problem? She only had £20 each to spend – that’s just £60 on the whole lot. 

The girls are my honorary nieces, so I was really excited to help. Playing Santa with someone else’s cash? That’s the best job ever!

I quickly realised the trick to successful stocking fillers is to know where to shop. With such a tight budget, I hit Poundland, 99p Stores, Tiger Stores (www.tiger.co.uk); Wilkinson (www.wilkinsonplus.com) and Primark. True, there is a lot of rubbish out there, but you can pick up some really cute things for just £1 or £2. The other trick is to split stuff – packets of pretty patterned tissues; bags of lollies; and craft bits can all be split two or three ways, giving you more for your money.

In the end, I got a whopping 23 things for each little girl, for just £54 in total. Impressive, eh? My haul is above and below. The best things? Animal gloves, £2 each from Primark; Japanese doll washbags, £1 each from Poundland; Make Your Own Bracelet kits from 99p Stores; and mini metallic piggy banks, £1 each from Tiger Stores.

If  you spot any other bargains that’d make great stocking fillers, let me know!

stocking low res r

Aunt these lovely presents?!

5 Dec

First to take me up on my Christmas gift buying challenge (see Monday 3rd December’s blog) is Jill from London, who emailed to say:

“Can you give me some ideas for my auntie? She likes luxury! But I don’t have a huge budget this year – I can spend £30 on her. She enjoys gardening, films, food and pampering. Help!”

Jill, your wish is my command. Here are my suggestions for luxury-loving aunties, below.

PS: Don’t forget, if you have someone you need gift ideas for, just email me at thetreasurehunteruk@gmail.com

Silver Plated Champagne cork salt and pepper shakers by Culinary Concepts, £27.50 http://www.johnlewis.com
Nothing says luxury like Champagne and these stylish shakers will look great on your auntie’s table for years. They come in a posh presentation box, making them easy to post. Culinary Concepts make several other fancy silver plated table items such as watering can-shaped shakers, mouse detail cheese knives, and a sweet silver honey pot and spoon, all for around £30 too. Check out the full range at John Lewis.

Cmas Jill culinary concepts champagne salt and pepper pots John Lewis

Make mine a mojito set, £32, http://www.plants4presents.co.uk
This fun set includes a good-sized lime tree and mint plant, each in your choice of pot; a mini bottle of Havana club rum; a muddle and instructions on how to make mojitos. All delivered anywhere in the UK. If your auntie doesn’t like booze, Plants4Presents sell all kinds of other lovely plants in fancy pots, such as a Calamondin dwarf orange tree for £25, which looks great in a conservatory.

Cmas Jill make mine a mojito set plants4presents lime tree

Cheese baker, £14.59 http://www.amazon.co.uk
This good quality china covered dish is decorated just like a traditional camembert box. Simply place a whole camembert or brie cheese inside, and pop it in the oven for an amazing melty treat. It comes in a matching box, so makes a great gift, and if you want to make it look even more special, you could always buy a decent camembert or brie cheese to go with it.

Cmas Jill camembert cheese baker from amazon.co.uk

Sophie Conran for Portmeirion jug and sugar bowl, £14 each, http://www.portmeirion.co.uk
Designer – tick. Classy and timeless – tick. Posh mint green presentation box – tick. Decent price – tick! This stylish range of tableware from Sophie Conran looks uber expensive but is actually pretty reasonable. A matching jug and sugar bowl would make a great gift for an auntie, or you can also browse the range for pitchers, serving bowls, espresso cups and even candles.

Cmas Jill Sophie Conran for Portmeirion milk jug

The Sanctuary Winter Spa in a Box, £20, Boots http://www.boots.com
Your auntie can turn her bathroom into one of London’s top spas with this handy kit that contains everything she’ll need to recreate The Sanctuary’s famous facial at home.

Cmas Jill The Sanctuary Winter Spa in a Box set from Boots

Dusky pink stud bowling bag, £32.50, Next http://www.next.co.uk
Ok, so it’s £2.50 over budget, but this roomy, versatile bag looks far more expensive than it actually is, and works as a classy day bag, work bag or travel bag.

Cmas Jill dusky pink stud bowlling bag £32.50

Black + Blum Candelabra loop, £19.95, http://www.handpickedcollection.com
Elegant and expensive-looking, this chrome candle holder should look fab on your auntie’s table, mantlepiece or shelf and comes in a presentation box. You can buy just one, or get a second one for your auntie’s birthday so she can link them together!

Cmas Jill Black and Blum candelabra loop flamingo gifts

Carluccio’s Lui E Lei balsamic vinegar and olive oil set, £22.95, http://www.carluccios.com
One of the best balsamic vinegar and olive oil sets that money can buy, in elegant bottles and packaged in a Christmassy box. They not only taste amazing, but they’d also look swanky on display in your auntie’s kitchen. Check out Carluccio’s website for other great foodie gifts too.

Cmas Jill Carluccio's olive oil and balsamic £22.95

Le Creuset Bloom Espresso Mug Set, £30, http://www.lecreuset.co.uk
If your auntie loves coffee as well as labels, she’ll love this chi-chi set of four petal-coloured stoneware espresso mugs from cuisine experts Le Creuset. They’re almost too pretty to drink from!

Cmas Jill Stoneware_espresso_mugs_bloom Le Creuset

Celia Birtwell Garden Trowel and Fork Set, £19.99, from uk_gifts_and_cards at http://www.ebay.co.uk (search under ‘Birtwell Trowel’)
The classiest way to do the gardening, this good quality fork and trowel have a flower print created by iconic designer Celia Birtwell.

Cmas Jill Celia Birtwell trowel set

Gone With The Wind quotation art, £21.75 by wall envy art at http://www.notonthehighstreet.com
Wall Envy Art take vintage novel pages (this one is from Gone With the Wind – you can also get a page from the book of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) and overprint them with famous quotations from the same book. They then mount the whole lot in a handmade wooden frame. Cute.

Cmas Jill quotation art Gone With The Wind

Your Christmas presents sorted!

3 Dec

It’s December, and that means – if you haven’t done it already – it’s time to buy Christmas presents.

I know how hard it can be to find the perfect gift, or to find inspiration when you’ve got someone tricky to buy for, so this year, I’m offering my treasure hunting services to you lucky (!) readers.

Want a present for a bookworm? Need to find something for a tricky dad? Got a workmate’s Secret Santa gift to buy? Want to impress a new boyfriend? Looking for ideas that’ll keep kids happy? Please, just ask away.

Email me at thetreasurehunteruk@gmail.com with your Christmas shopping conundrum (and a bit of detail about the person you’re buying for; your budget; and if possible, the general type of thing you’re looking for) and I’ll put my thinking cap on. I’ll feature as many answers on the blog as I can before the 25th December.

Getting the sack

26 Nov

Don’t you just hate it when you buy someone a Moroccan pouffe, large duvet, or space hopper – and then have a problem wrapping it?!

Here’s the solution: bin bags that look like Christmas puddings! Of course, they’re meant for putting rubbish in, but at nearly £1 for each ‘Happy Sack’, they’re surely destined for greater things. I reckon they’d make wrapping a difficult item really fun.

PS: a rubbish sack isn’t just for Christmas… they come in a goldfish design, too. Go on, give the binmen a laugh.

Goldfish Happy Sacks, £7.99 for 12; Christmas Pudding Happy Sacks, £9.99 for 12, both from http://www.flamingogifts.co.uk

I’ll take my hat off to that

21 Nov

I’m going to discuss hats. No, not fashionable ones, but party hats. Until now, the only real option was the flimsy, paper crown variety that you get in Christmas crackers. Not only do they break if your head is too big; or fall down your face if your head is too small, but lots of people (including my husband) refuse to wear them because they think they look sad.

But that’s not the case with these awesome party hats (yep, that’s their official name: Awesome Party Hats). They attach to your head with elastic – so they fit everyone – and they look like cool mini 3in x 2in caps. What’s more, you can even write your name – or any message you like – on them, as the ‘trendy’ lady in the picture below has done.

So, use your head this Christmas (sorry) and get your mitts on a pack of eight, £7.95, from http://www.cubicuk.com (or, if you’re reading this in the US, you can buy a set for $10 from http://www.gama-go.com).

Mirror, Mirror on the wall – this is the fairest of them all

14 Nov

If you thought next month was just ‘December’, you’d be wrong. For the last few years it’s been rebranded as ‘The Party Season’ – the month of high heels, little dresses and all things bright and sparkly.

To reflect that (you can see where I’m going here…), B&Q have designed this rather discotastic Colours Mosaic Mirror (above). It’s a decent 51.5cm width, perfect for doing last minute touch-ups. It’s £39.98 – not bad for something that looks designer.

It would make a fabulous feature in a bedroom; add wow factor to a plain bathroom, or look amazing in a hallway where everyone can comment on it (and check their glittery eyeshadow hasn’t smudged).

Plastic Fantastic

21 Sep

It’s not often that I come across something that’s not only completely new and different, but that’s a total bargain too.

Step forward Acorn & Will (www.acornandwill.co.uk). This really lovely site – the brainchild of retro queen Daniella – sells vintage-style plastic (it looks a bit like bakelite) earrings, brooches and rings in a myriad of pretty muted colours and shapes, from daisies and deers to cats and birds. They’re the kind of thing you’d stumble upon in a cool antique shop, think “Wow”, and snap up immediately. The attention to detail is impressive – they come beautifully packaged on bits of card printed with retro fabric designs. And the prices? From just £3.75 for a pair of earrings to £3 for a brooch.

They’d make a perfect little pressie to pop in with a card, use as a stocking or Advent calendar filler, or just give a friend to say ‘Thank you’.

As well as the plastic treats there are all kinds of other cool bits and bobs, from retro button badges and hairslides to little dolls and huge honeycomb paper Christmas decorations (I’m SO getting some of those this year!).

Particularly Refreshingly, postage is only £1.45, no matter how many items you buy. Brilliant.

I predict big things for this little brand, so if I were you, I’d place your order quick, before the magazines and hip stylists catch wind of it. I’m off to fill my online basket right now!

We are sale-ing

28 Dec

Traipsing into town and battling my way through the sale crowds is the last thing I feel like doing today, so I thought I’d take a look online to see what bargains you can nab from the comfort of your living room (although they’re available instore, too). Here’s my roundup of the best… enjoy!

Dunelm Mill (www.dunelm-mill.com) have reduced all their cushions – their classy embroidered tulip design is now £8.99 (reduced from £14.99 – a saving of £6); while their turquoise London Bridge cushion is just £2.49 (was £3.99).

Debenhams (www.debenhams.com) has great homes bargains with up to 70% off. I’m stocking up on bathroom goodies, like their Missoni-esque Pink Santiago Stripe towels, £6.50-£17.30 (30% off the original price); and Matthew Williamson’s bathroom accessory range in teal, hot pink or black, with 20% off.

Paperchase (www.paperchase.co.uk) also has some gems. I’m going for the cute but classy  kitty keyring, £3.50 (was £7) and as I love all things Japanese, I can’t resist the Toykyo Trippers Shopper bag, £7.50 (was £15).

The ingenious kitchen gadgets and gizmos at Lakeland (www.lakeland.co.uk) are often a wee bit pricey, but their sale is a good ‘un. My top picks? The Star Swirly Cupcake Stand, £3.99 (was £11.99) and the soda-coloured set of three Vacupot jars, £5.99 (was £14.99).

The Body Shop (www.thebodyshop.co.uk) has reduced all its Christmas ranges – the Cranberry Joy shower gel I’ve blogged about before is just £2 now (down from £4) but the real bargain is their amazing-smelling grapefruit shower gel – buy a humungous 750ml bottle for £7.50 instead of the usual £12.50.

Thinking ahead, I’m also investing in some Homespun Spots and Stripes crackers, £6 (was £12) from House of Fraser (www.houseoffraser.co.uk). They don’t look Christmassy at all, so will be great for birthdays later in the year.

Thinking along the same lines, visit Thorntons (www.thorntons.co.uk) and stock up on Chocolate Cupcakes, £2.99 (was £4.99) and Continental Chocolates gift boxes – the two-layer, 350g box is just £4.99 (was £9.99). They’d make great birthday presents.

Finally, BHS (www.bhs.co.uk) have reduced all their giftwrap from £10 for a set of four rolls plus bows/ribbon, to just £4. Buy now and use it next Christmas – or get the Coral and Mint set with stylish birdcage designs that you can use all year round.

Happy sale shopping!

Cake that!

26 Dec

I just had to share with you this mega cute Chirstmas cake – made by my mum – who was inspired by this blog to try a more adventurous design this year.

She got the inspiration from Good Food’s Rocky Robin cake (find it at http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/889664/rocky-robin-cake if you want to have a go yourself). The ‘official’ pic of how the cake should look is below. But while Good Food’s robins are small  and refined, I don’t know about you, but I quite like the way my mum’s robins are big, fat, bruiser birds. I think they’ve had too much Christmas cake to eat themselves!

The need for speed

22 Dec

Just three days to Christmas and let’s be honest – time is precious right now. Yes, handmade stuff looks amazing and costs just pennies, but no-one has the time to be faffing around making jam by hand or baking biscuits to use as Christmas tree decorations. That moment has passed.

But if you’re still stuck for a couple of presents, or your tree is a bit bare, here are a couple of solutions – each looks like it took you ages to lovingly pull together, but only takes ten minutes max, promise.
A last-minute present that suits everyone
Everyone loves sweets, from best mates to brothers – and they can keep the useful jar afterwards.
Prep:
Visit Poundland, a 99p Store or Pound Stretcher, and buy an old-school jam or sweet jar like the one above. Then, from the same shop, buy a couple of bags of sweets – go for retro Fruit Salads and Black Jacks; different flavoured bonbons; liquorice strings; or even multi-packs of Orbit chewing gum. Finally, you’ll need a piece of ribbon (satin or metallic curling ribbon) and a luggage tag (can’t find one? Cut up a spare Christmas card and punch a hole in it).
Pulling it together:
Pop the sweets in the jar. Tie the ribbon round the neck of the jar. Write the name of the sweets, or a Christmas message, on the luggage tag. Easy!
Total cost: £3-4.
Professional tree decorations
Origami birds look fab hung from a Christmas tree or bunch of sticks arranged in a vase. Or you can just pop one on every guest’s plate as a table decoration. And despite appearances, they’re dead easy to make.
Prep:
Take some wrapping paper and cut it into squares 15cm by 15cm. Grab a reel of cotton thread (any colour), a needle and some scissors. Turn on your computer.
Pulling it together:
Visit http://www.origami-fun.com/origami-crane.html. Follow the simple instructions to make your origami birds (the beauty of a video is that you can pause and rewind if you get stuck). If you want to hang it up, use the needle to thread cotton through the top part of your bird and tie to make a loop. Voila!
Total cost: free
Cheat’s chutney
Okay so this is a bit cheeky, but it transforms an ordinary item into something a bit more special – perfect for aunties, nans and neighbours.
Prep:
Buy a couple of jars of shop-made chutney, marmalade, jam – whatever takes your fancy. Grab a sideplate, some scissors (pinking shears are best but ordinary ones will do), a scrap of cotton fabric (you could use an old brightly-coloured top or t-shirt if you have nothing else), some string and a luggage tag (or cut up a spare Christmas card and punch a hole in it). Boil a kettle.
Pulling it together:
Stand your jar in the sink or a large bowl, and pour hot/boiling water round it until the label is covered. Leave it to soak until the label rubs off easily. Then take the sideplate and use it as a template to draw a circle on the underside of your fabric. Cut out the circle. Place it over the lid of the jam jar and tie round the neck with a piece of string. Attach your luggage label and write the name of the jar’s contents on it. Done!
Total cost: £2-3.

Last minute dot coms part 2!

21 Dec

STOP PRESS!

Everyone loved last week’s  ‘Last Minute Dot Coms’ blog entry so much, I’ve got an update for you…

http://www.dotcomgiftshop.com inform me that not only can you still order something from their site until noon tomorrow (Thursday 22nd); but they’ll upgrade your postage to next day delivery. So, you’ll only pay the normal P&P fee of £3.95, but you’ll get a next-day service, worth £7.95. My choice? Some wrapping paper or bunting in their gorgeous Vintage Christmas print (above).

The guaranteed deadline for Christmas delivery from http://www.johnlewis.com has passed, but they’ve just extended the deadline of their ‘click and collect’ scheme to 7pm on Friday 23 December. So, you can shop online and reserve the items you want to collect in the store of your choice, thus beating the queues.

http://www.Next.co.uk have also got good news – you can order online up to 9pm tomorrow (Thursday 22nd) and get your pressies delivered the very next day.

How to be a wrap star

19 Dec

Every year, I see articles and pictures in magazines of presents wrapped beautifully with brown paper, red-and-white string, doilies, baubles etc and think, “Right, I’m so going to do that this year”.

Thing is, time and life catch up with me and I end up just buying pretty printed wrapping paper and using that instead.

This Christmas, I’ve tried to find a middle way – a method of wrapping presents that looks classy and luxurious, but that doesn’t take ages, cost loads, or involve any huge amount of skill.

To get the look above, I wrapped my presents in silver-and-white patterned gift wrap  (my paper is from BHS, but you can buy this colourway anywhere); added a silver gift tag (mine are from Poundland!); and then tied on some coloured ribbon (mine’s from http://www.midpac.co.uk but John Lewis or any haberdashery store will do).

If you’re still looking for inspiration, and want to try the more crafty/brown paper approach, there are some AMAZING-looking but simple ideas on this great blog: http://soresourceful.wordpress.com/2011/12/06/tuesdays-resourceful-little-idea-wrapping-presents-a-christmas-special/ (a teaser pic is below!)

Last-minute dot coms

16 Dec

If you’re very organised, you’ll have done all your Christmas shopping by now – but if you’re like 90% of us, you won’t have. And you’ll be getting panicky.

The good news is, with Christmas on a Sunday, you can order stuff online until quite late on next week, and still have it delivered in time for the big day. Here’s my top four websites for getting last-minute gifts…

Dotcomgiftshop.com
Packed with one-off presents you won’t find elsewhere; gorgeous retro-style nick-nacks and cute things for kids, such as their bestseller, the Rabbit Night Light, above, just £4.95 (I reckon big kids would love this too!). To get your parcel before Christmas, last orders (standard delivery) are Wednesday 21st; or by noon on Thurs 22nd (next day delivery).

Cubicuk.com
I love the stuff on this site – there are loads of quirky yet quality bits and bobs for the home, such as this set of Letter Press cookie cutters, below (which contains all 26 letters of the alphabet plus ! and & signs), £14.95. They also sell the squirrel hooks, squirrel flower pots, and bunny desk accessories I’ve featured on this blog before. Last guaranteed order date for Christmas is Tuesday 20th.

Firebox.com
A brilliant site with gadgets, games and generally fun stuff for everyone from your best mate to your boyfriend. I particularly like the new Fridgeezoo fridge pets, £14.95, below, which talk to you in Japanese when you open your fridge door. Incredibly, you can order up to 5pm on Thursday 22nd and still get your items delivered in time for Christmas.

Formahouse.co.uk
The place to go for unusual and stylish kitchen and table accessories, such as this friendly-looking parrot bottle opener, £7.09, below, which is available in several colours. Orders for Christmas are being taken up to the morning of Thurs 22nd.

Happy shopping!

Merry and bright

14 Dec

Want an excuse to buy yourself some new Christmas decs? Buy them as presents – then you have every legitimate reason to pop an extra one in your cart for yourself.

This year, it’s all about rainbow brights. The poshest of the bunch are the classy Pantone baubles from Firebox.com, above. Okay, so at £8.99 (the purple one has 20% off at the moment and is £7.15), they’re hardly a bargain, but if you’ve got an arty friend, they’ll go down a storm.

On the more affordable side, B&Q (www.diy.com) have got some gorgeous decs in their new Carousel range, also above, £2 each. I particularly love the kitsch flocked reindeer and the big fat balls of multicoloured jingle bells.

But if traditional is more your style, head to M&S (www.marksandspencer.com). I’m secretly coveting the white china reindeer with silver antlers, £8 for my Christmas table, and the laser-cut white snowflakes, £8 for a box of eight. All their decorations are on 3-for-2 at the moment, and start from just £1, so you can afford to go a bit wild in the aisles.

It’s a secret!

12 Dec

Secret Santa. Buying someone you don’t know that well a present for a fiver can be tricky – that’s why so many of us receive a pair of panic-bought ‘comedy’ racing grannies, that end up getting left behind in the pub at the end of the Christmas party.

Call me uncool, but I like to put just a wee bit more thought into it. So, here are my top six suggestions for cheap-but-cheerful Secret Santa gifts I reckon anyone would be happy to receive:

Vaseline Lip Therapy Gift Tin
Who doesn’t like lip balm? This cool oversized tin (choose from pink or traditional blue) contains four different flavoured mini tins of Vaseline lip therapy balm. It costs £6.99 from Superdrug (stores and http://www.superdrug.com), but is currently part of their ‘3 for 2 Christmas gifts’ offer, and P&P is free, so if you buy three (one for your Secret Santa, one for a mate and one for, ahem, yourself), they’ll work out at just £4.60 each.

Touchscreen Gloves
Anyone who’s ever tried sending a text/email or playing Angry Birds/Bejewelled on their iPhone in the freezing cold will tell you why these gloves are a great idea. With special fibres in the fingertips, they mean you can work your iPhone/iPad/HTC or even SatNav without getting frostbite. There are loads on the market, but you can get various basic styles (mostly in black) at http://www.amazon.co.uk for around £4.25.

Owl handcream
This little fella has appeared before on this blog, but he’s now available in three colours/scents and makes a brilliant double-duty gift as the owl-shaped pot can be used for bits and bobs once the handcream has run out. He usually costs £5.99 at http://www.flamingogifts.co.uk but is available for just £4.79 in the run-up to Christmas.

Mini baubles
Paperchase do some gorgeous decorations, and their pack of 24 mini baubles is just £4. Perfect for Secret Santa – with £1 left over!

If all else fails… festive food
John Lewis has a couple of great Secret Santa ideas in its Christmas shop this year – an individual Panetone, £4, in a cute festive tin; and a bake-your-own sparkle cookies mix, complete with snowflake-shaped cutter, for £6.  Yum.

Say hello to some good buys

9 Dec

This Christmas, I’ve bought several of my gifts from brilliant new website http://www.culturevulturedirect.co.uk. With a mix of stylish home buys; fun stocking fillers; arty stuff for aunties; crafty sets for creative types; and movie/music-themed gifts for difficult-to-please men, you’re guaranteed to find at least something you want to buy.

My top picks? The Fairest Of Them All Mirrors, £30 for set of five, above (ridiculously cheaper than similar designs I’ve seen elsewhere); Typewriter Stamps, £6.99 for a full alphabet and ink pad (brilliant for making handmade cards, jam labels, placecards, gift tags, etc); Conoisseurs Cheese Baker with box and wooden spatula, £17 (for fromage fiends); and the cute Calf And A Half Creamer jug, £14.99.

Play your cards right

8 Dec

While loitering in the amazing John Lewis Christmas shop this morning (a dangerous thing to do if you have any money on you whatsoever), I spotted these fab special edition Christmas cards by Cath Kidston. At a very reasonable and un-Cath-Kidston-like £4 for a pack of ten, a portion of the proceeds go to Marie Curie Cancer Care.

The lighting in the shop leaves a bit to be desired – so excuse the grainy photos! – but hopefully you get the idea. There are four lovely designs (I went for the green one) – which will you choose?

It’s the thought that discounts

7 Dec

I’m loving the plethora of discounts that we’re being bombarded with this Christmas. But call me greedy, I’m not interested in a mere 10% off –  if I’m going to get my credit card out, I need someone to offer me at least 20% off.

So, today, I’m sharing my top three discounts of the season..

1) 40% off at The Body Shop
The bods at The Body Shop seem to have gone a bit bonkers – visit http://www.bodyshop.co.uk and enter code VOUCH444 at the checkout between now and 12th December to get a humungous 40% off your order. My top tip? Their brilliant Cranberry Joy range, which makes your whole house smell like Christmas. I particularly love the shower gel (normally £4; just £2.20 with  discount) and reed diffuser room scent (normally £15; just £9 with discount). Alternatively, if what you want to buy falls under the ‘Winter Essentials’ heading, there’s a whopping 50% off onsite right now (but you can’t use the 40% code on top – that would just be crazy!).

2) 20% off at Paperchase
Buying my wrapping paper and cards at Paperchase is a tradition I look forward to every year. But I always wait for the inevitable discount code first. This year, it’s courtesy of The Guardian newspaper – simply visit http://www.paperchase.co.uk and enter code guardian20 at the checkout. I’m going to treat myself to their stylish Dotty Stags gift wrap (normally £3.50 for a 3m roll; just £2.80 with discount) or the glass balloon dog decs (normally £8; just £6.40 with discount).

3) 20% off at Flamingo Gifts
This website is great for quirky little stocking fillers and Secret Santa gifts. You don’t need a discount code – everything on the site has 20% slashed off the price this week. My top pick? The ceramic postcard write-on wipe-off notepad (normaly £13.99; now £11.19 with discount) which is a stylish solution for anyone with a mind like a sieve.

Brooch-ing the subject

1 Dec

These gorgeous glittery badges have just arrived at Superdrug stores. They cost £1, with proceeds going to a very good cause – the NSPCC’s Childline.

They’re a brilliant way to jazz up your coat for Christmas; and would make a great advent calendar or stocking filler. I’m going to buy all three!

The best things in life are tree(s)

30 Nov

Another reader request! This time, Vikki has asked me to hunt down an stylish jewellery tree that she can give to her best mate for Christmas.

And looking around, it seems everyone has moved on from jewellery boxes (and piles of knotted chains in a drawer – or is that just me?!), as classy trees are everywhere right now.

My absolute favourite is this gorgeous white metal number (above) from http://www.culturevulturedirect.co.uk, £24.99. It’s like an ornament in itself, and a lovely way to display your best necklaces and rings.

Or, if that’s just a bit too expensive, check out the three trees below. The first two – the Spring Jewellery Tree, £12.95 and the Partridge Jewellery Tree, £19.95, are from The Handpicked Collection (www.handpickedcollection.com) – while the third, which features a cheeky squirrel, is a steal at just £12.95, from Dwell (www.dwell.co.uk).

Kimono-ver here

23 Nov

Do your bit for the planet and treat yourself to a new washbag from this gorgeous range made out of recycled Japanese kimonos.

Available in Muji stores and online (www.muji.co.uk), it costs from £2.95 for a bookmark to £9.95 for a large zip-top bag.

Each one is unique, and they’re so light, they’d make for brilliantly post-able Christmas presents.

The way the cookie crumbles…

16 Nov

Mmmmn… biscuits. Christmas morning for me is all about opening up a posh box of choccy biccies and having about half a dozen for breakfast. A nice tin also makes a great present for aunties, neighbours, in-laws, secret Santas and people you’d totally forgotten about until they turn up unannounced, clutching gifts.
And this year, it seems the only place to get your bix fix is Marks and Spencer. They’ve come up trumps with several really cute reusable tins – including one shaped like a Russian doll; a gingerbread man filled with gingerbread; an unusual ring-shaped tin; and one shaped like a London bus (perfect, if a little costly to post, for foreign relatives). They’re all around £8 each, and what’s more, they’re on 3-for-2 offer at the moment. Crumbs!
%d bloggers like this: