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Cutting it fine

20 Oct

Midas 16 Piece Cutlery Set £20 George Home

Silver coloured knives and forks are so 2014 (apparently). This winter, the most stylish tables across the land will be laid up with gold or copper cutlery instead.

But you don’t have to, erm, fork out millions for it. Previously only available in the chicest of boutiques for eyewatering prices, the high street has caught onto the trend and made it far more purse-friendly. For example, the ‘Midas’ cutlery at the top of this page is a bargainous £20 for a 16-piece set from George at ASDA; while the lovely copper effect set below is £32 for 16 pieces from Next:

Copper effect cutlery £32 Next

This  ‘Glamour’ gold set from Argos is £34.99 for a generous 24 pieces:

UC1042129#

Or, if you want to go a wee bit more upmarket, this weighty gold ‘Liberty’ set with tactile rounded handles is £75 (for 16 pieces) from Marks & Spencer:

16 Piece Liberty Cutlery Set £75 Marks and Spencer

It’s party time – excellent!

7 Oct

Baby zebra candle holder £11.99 Candleandcake.co.uk

How sweet is this little fella?! With his glittery feet, he’d make any cake he stood on look special. He’s part of a new range from designer Lola Beau, available on her website (Lolabeaudesign.co.uk) and at brilliant new party store Candle & Cake (Candleandcake.co.uk). He has some cute little friends too:

Mr Fox glitter candle holder £11.99 Candleandcake.co.uk

I’ve been reliably informed that party accessories are the next big thing – from cute hats to pretty napkins and out-of-the-ordinary balloons, partyware is becoming cool again. I can totally see why. I could spend hours browsing all the amazing stuff on the Candle & Cake website. For instance, check out these clever colour-in party cups (£3.45 for eight); Mini glitter party hats (£6.99 for eight); and Chevron party bags (25p each, available in loads of colours):

Colour In Paper Party Cups £3.45 for eight Candleandcake.co.uk

Then there are these cheeky cat napkins (£3.99 for 16), which would be great for a Hallowe’en party – or indeed, any kind of party:

Cat napkins £3.99 for 16 Candleandcake.co.uk

And hands up who remembers tie-die balloons from the Seventies? Well, they’re back! These are £4.75 for ten. There’s more glittery fun to be had with these unicorn cake toppers £3 for six; and you can get packs of 25 funky straws for £3.49:

Tie dye ballons £4.75 for ten Candleandcake.co.uk

I also love these pink and gold geometric party cups (£3.99 for twelve – six of each design) and matching party bags with seals (£2.75 for ten), which are a billion times nicer than ones you can get on the high street:

Party Time Geo Cups £3.99 for 12 (six of each design) Candleandcake.co.uk

Plus you can decorate the room as well as your tables with these honeycomb geometric decs (£8.50 for three) and tissue paper pom poms (£7.50 for seven, one of each colour):

Fiesta Geometric Honeycomb Decorations £8.50 for a set of three mixed colours Candleandcake.co.uk

Finally, I’m a little bit in love with this amazing Giant Rainbow Foil Balloon, £3.50 (below), which can be filled with either air or helium. Party on!

Giant rainbow foil balloon £3.50 (air or helium) Candleandcake.co.uk

Raise your glasses

7 Oct

EAT_17_GLASSES_3_AU14_2_A

Why have boring clear wine glasses when you could have these lovely coloured vintage ones instead?

With a pleasingly chunky stem (so you’re less likely to snap them while washing up!) they come in a mix of dusky pastel shades – purple, teal, pink and grey.

A set of four costs £39.50 from Marks & Spencer (www.marksandspencer.com), and you can get matching vintage tumblers (for £35) too. Bottoms up!

 

Vintage Inspired Wine Glasses £39.50 for four Marks and Spencer

Lolly good fun

26 Jun

Ice Lolly LIghts £21 berryred.co.uk

I’m a sucker for novelty lighting, and these mega cute ice lolly fairy lights, £21, from BerryRed.co.uk have got the competition licked!

They look almost good enough to eat and, puns aside, are perfect for summer parties, either indoors or out.

Ice Lolly LIghts £21 berryred.co.uk A

Topper the morning to you!

27 Jun

Cake topper bride and groom personalised

Searching for ideas for birthday cakes recently, a friend told me about Pegitdolls; wooden figurines painted to look like brides, pirates, footballers, superheroes, film characters… you can even get a ‘mini-me’ version of yourself copied from a photo. They’re fun yet non-cheesy – a winning combination.

Handpainted by Esther, a London-based graphic designer, they’re perfect for wedding, birthday and anniversary cakes – or just as a little present for someone. I particularly love the little Snow White and Yoda dolls (below):

Cake topper snow white

They’re all around £6-10 each, which is pretty reasonable for something bespoke, and you can frame them afterwards as a keepsake. If I were getting married again, I’d definitely commission a little personalised bride and groom to grace my cake top.

You can order one of your own by searching for ‘Pegitdolls’ at http://www.etsy.com

Cake toppers personalised wedding party

Cake topper personalised superman footballer ballerina pirate

Cake topper personalised bride and groom

Cake toppers personalised name holders

Lolly gosh!

1 May

Sainsburys picnic ware ice lollies full range on shelves

Last week’s glimpse of the sun has got me feeling all summery, so I had to be physically restrained this weekend when I went to my local Sainsbury’s and saw their new range of AMAZING plastic picnicware (above).

In candy colours and printed with gorgeous graphic ice creams and lollies, I wanted to buy the whole lot.

My top picks? The gorgeous large tray platters, £4 (below right)…

Sainsbury's picnic ware ice lollies platter and plates

…the cute bowls (perfect for everything from sweets to salads), £5 for the large or £2.50 for the small…

Sainsbury's picnic ware ice lollies bowls

…and the reusable double-walled plastic drink cups with straws, £2.50 each…

Sainsbury's picnic ware ice lollies cups with straws

Someone in the Sainsbury’s design team obviously loves their lollies, as they also feature on mega cute notelets, £3.99 for 12; a range of stationery (£2.99 for a notebook); and on disposable paper plates and napkins, £1.50 a pack, all below. Yum!

Sainsbury's ice lollies notelets

Sainsbury's ice lollies stationery pads

Sainsbury's picnic ware paper plates and napkins ice lollies

Ahoy there, me napkins!

9 Apr

Cubicuk.com napkin holder sail

Nothing says ‘fancy’ like a paper napkin.

Oh okay, lots and lots of things say ‘fancy’ better than a paper napkin, but they do make you look thoughtful. If you’ve got friends round, and you serve them some cake on a plate with a napkin, it looks so much more special than if you just fling a half-opened packet of biscuits in their general direction.

Anyhow, while I’ve got a real soft spot for napkins, I’ve always thought that napkin holders were a bit naff. They’re usually hideous stained wood affairs that look like holiday souvenirs; or very functional see-thru perspex ones that wouldn’t look out of place in a greasy spoon cafe.

Until now, that is. The clever people at hip San Francisco design company Gama-Go have turned their attention to the humble serviette holder and come up with these fun little Anchor’s Away sailboats. They suit any size, colour or pattern of napkin, and would look brilliant ‘sailing’ on your kitchen or dining room table. Who knows, they’re so fun they might even encourage visiting children to wipe their sticky fingers more (note I only said ‘might’!).

They cost £9.95 each from http://www.cubicuk.com. While you’re there, check out the other great Gama-Go items for sale – I defy you not to (ahem) push the boat out and leave the site empty-handed!

PS: Live in the US? You can buy the Sailboat napkin holder from store.gama-go.com for $14

Gama Go sailboat napkin holder

A Different Glass

9 Jan

JL gibraltar hi ball soda glassJL multicoloured soda glasses

I love modern coloured glass (in fact, I love vintage coloured glass, but that’s a whole different story), so I was chuffed to hear it’s a big trend for this year.

High street shelves will be groaning with the stuff this Spring and Summer, and on a recent trip to John Lewis, I’ve already spotted some lovely pieces. My favourites are their multicoloured Gibraltar Hi Ball soda-style glasses in red, yellow, green or teal, for just £2.50 each (above). You could buy four in the same colour, but I think one of each shade would look lovely – like a rainbow on your table.

There are matching water bottles too, with old skool stoppers (below), for just £5 each.

JL bottles

John Lewis is also the place to pick up these rather fabulous Playnation bright cocktail glasses, which are currently on sale for £4 each (below the bottles); and classy LSA Centro tumblers (£15.30 for four) and carafes (£10.50 each) in teal, purple, red or green (also below). They come boxed, so would make great gifts, particularly for a wedding.

JL cocktail glasses

JL LSA glasses

Finally, during my trip, I also spotted these fun retro glasses, £4.50 each. I can’t decide which design I love most – how about you?

JL soda glasses

PS: Live outside the UK? Don’t panic! John Lewis inform me that they will ship abroad. Visit http://www.johnlewis.com for details.

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.

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

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).

Shake it up baby now

16 Nov

Back in July, I told you about a pair of cute black and white bear salt and pepper shakers from http://www.cubicuk.com that looked like snowglobes. Well, they’ve extended their range recently, and the new products are so cute I had to share them with you…

First up, and my favourite, is the Seasonal Salt and Pepper Shaker, £14.95 (above). You pop pepper in with the cactus (so that it’s like the sand in the desert, see) and salt in with the pine tree (so that it’s like snow). Then when you season your dinner, you create a mini snow or sandstorm. Sweet!

Along the same lines are the brilliant Animal Parade Spice Shakers (below) for salt, pepper and two other condiments. They’re less of a bargain at £29.95, and quite frankly, at that price, you’d really have to love them, but they are amazing and would be a real talking point on any table.

Finally, while they have nothing to do with salt and pepper, Cubic’s  new line of paperclip tidies follow the same snowstorm idea. There’s the Rabbit in the Field paperclip tidy; the Deer in the Forest; and the Polar Bear on Ice. I’m coveting the bunny for my desk at home – the only problem is, I don’t think I could bring myself to use the paperclips!

‘Witch’ decorations to choose?

26 Oct

Call me a wuss, but I’ve never really liked gruesome/scary Hallowe’en decorations. Ugly witches, Scream masks, gloopy fake blood – ugh. I prefer something classier/cuter, like a well-carved pumpkin, a traditional ghost-made-out-of-a-sheet, or a plain black pointy witches hat.

So, this year, I’m loving the range of Hallowe’en decs from Wilkinson (www.wilkinsonplus.com).

Yes, they have all the scary, icky stuff, but they also have some really nice (if you can use that word about Halloween!), fun stuff, too. And what ‘s more, it’s all a total bargain.

For example, there’s a black, white and orange felt ‘Happy Hallowe’en banner (£3, top); sweet little black metal spider cupcake holders and packs of cupcake cases (£1 each); friendly Munsters-style felt masks (£1 each); clever reflective vampire stickers to help keep kids of all ages safe in the dark (£2 for four); black cardboard candelabras for the table (£1.50 each);  kitsch foil pumpkin/bat bunting (£1); and pumpkin- shaped orange fairylights (£4).

So why not join me in upgrading to a classier kind of spooky stuff? Go on,  trick or treat yourself!

It’s a mug’s game

28 Sep

I wish I drank more tea and coffee. That way, I could legitimately buy more mugs. I keep seeing such lovely ones, but as my other half is constantly pointing out, we only tend to use the same two over and over again.

However, on a trip to my local Matalan at the weekend (to buy the amazing Orla Kiely-esque retro storage jars I blogged about earlier this month), I spotted these AMAZING sets of number mugs (above) and retro pattern mugs (below). They cost just £5 (yep, a fiver) for six. That’s less than a pound each (!) and they’re really bright, cheerful and expensive-looking.

I reckon they would look great on a mug tree in my new kitchen. I’m hankering after the John Lewis Rubberwood  one (below, right) which, ridiculously, at £17 costs over three times more than the set of six mugs I’d hang on it; so I’d probably have to make do with painting the branches of Matalan’s bargainous £3 bamboo mug tree (below, left).

So, there’s nothing else for it, I might have to get a bit careless and break a few of my current mugs accidentally-on-purpose to justify the purchase… Only thing is, which set should I buy?!

PS: No Matalan nearby? Everything is available online at http://www.matalan.co.uk and postage is just £1 anywhere in the UK – brilliant!

PPS: while in Matalan, I couldn’t resist this very cool retro Milk Bottle tea towel, for just £1.50 (bottom). Whoever  designed Matalan’s kitchenwares this season is a genius.

Water wonderful bottle

12 Sep

While my kitchen is being redecorated (what was supposed to be a quick repaint/new-sink job has become a month-long and counting total overhaul/replaster/replumb job thanks to rising damp), I’ve been drinking a lot of water out of jugs and bottles.

I’ve read that tap water supposedly tastes nicer from glass bottles because glass is ‘taste neutral’ – a fancy way of saying you get none of the plastic-y taste you get from disposable bottles. While I don’t know if that’s true, water certainly looks a whole lot nicer if it’s served from a pretty container. The problem with jugs is that dust, flies and whatnot can land in it; whereas with a bottle you can take it from fridge to table to fridge again and it’ll stay nice and fresh. So, I’ve been on the hunt for something suitable.

Top of my list is the H2OMG Water Bottle from American website http://www.modcloth.com (above). It’s $15.99 (£10) plus $4 (£2.50) shipping to the UK – amazingly reasonable considering how much international postage usually costs. As well as looking funky, there’s the added bonus that for every four sold, the company who make it, Faucet Face, will install a water filtration system for families in need in India.

Alternatively, if you like optical illusions, the Sagaform PET water bottle, immediately below, looks just like a plastic one, but is made of glass. It’s not bargainous at £19.95 from http://www.dotmaison.com or £20 from either http://www.primroseandplum.co.uk or amazon.co.uk, but it is incredibly cool.

Want something cheaper? (We are only talking about serving tap water, not Champagne, after all). I like the simple red, teal, green or clear 1L glass water bottles from John Lewis’ new House range, just £5 each (also below).

I also love the metal lidded glass water bottle at the bottom of this post – it’s £8 from John Lewis; or £6.99 from either giftedpenguin.co.uk or mollieandfred.co.uk. There’s one catch though – it’s currently out of stock everywhere. However if you register your interest, all three websites will email you when they get more in. I’ll drink to that!

PS: Since posting this blog entry, one of my lovely readers has drawn my attention to another fab reusable bottle – the Retap bottle, £10.50 from http://www.amazon.co.uk (below). Made of glass with a choice of coloured lids, it’s designed to go in the dishwasher. I love the blue one!

The last straw

23 Jul

The other day I went to an event where instead of glasses, drinks were served in jam jars with paper straws (above). It’s such a simple idea, but it looked brilliant, and I’ve started saving jars so that I can do the same the next time I have a party. Paper straws, which are so much prettier than plastic ones, are easy to come by – a pack of 25 red, blue or pink straws is just £2.95 from www.dotcomgiftshop.com.

Another great idea is to make your own drink stirrers – something I did at my wedding (below). Simply grab a handful of wooden stick servers from Starbucks, Pret a Manger or Caffe Nero; then take strips of pretty paper (I used origami paper from EBay) and using Pritt Stick or glue, stick them around the top of each stirrer. Finally, cut the ends of the paper strips with scissors to make them look like little flags. Easy!

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