Archive | Food RSS feed for this section

The Friday Find: All the fun of the fair-y cake

5 Aug Ferris Wheel Cupcake Holder, £4.99 Home Bargains

Ferris Wheel Cupcake Holder, £4.99 Home Bargains

Why display your cupcakes on a boring old plate or cake stand when you can pop them in a ferris wheel instead?!

Not only does this fairground-inspired cake display gizmo look fun, but it actually turns and what’s more, it’s just £4.99 (nope, that’s not a typo, it really is under a fiver).

Great for a child’s party or, erm, just a treat for yourself. You could even spray paint it a different colour or add ribbons or pompoms if you were feeling particularly fancy.

Available in-store at Home Bargains (www.homebargains.co.uk)

 

 

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

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

A very nice cream van

15 May

Marks and Spencer ice cream van biscuit tin

As we stared wistfully through a shop window at a set of cake tins the other day, my friend said to me, “The two things you can never have enough of in a house are jugs and tins”. I agreed (but also added cushions to that list).

So, when my mother-in-law visited me the other day and bought the above gift, I was delighted. It’s a re-usable, retro-ish tin in the shape of an ice cream van, which looks great on a kitchen shelf. As a bonus, it’s full of slightly strange strawberry cookies that taste eerily like ice cream in crunchy biscuit form.

The next time you’re popping round to someone’s house for tea, I thoroughly recommend picking one up from Marks & Spencers for just £6. It’d make a very welcome gift,  no matter how many tins your host already has (you can also never  have too many biscuits – yet another thing to add to that list!)

PS: Live outside the UK? You can buy one of these tins for £7.50 from fab website BritStore, who ship all kinds of British goodies anywhere in the world. Visit http://www.britstore.co.uk)

An eggs-cellent choice

26 Mar

lindt_bunny cut out

It’s nearly that time of year – Easter – when you actually look weird if you don’t eat some chocolate.

However, as I’ve grown older, I’ve realised it’s about quality, not quantity. Cheap’n’cheerful eggs might be okay when you’re a kid, but when you’re an adult, and you’re probably only going to eat one or possibly two Easter items, you want the really good stuff.

So, this year (all in the name of research you understand), I’ve been perusing the shelves, looking for my top five chocolate Easter gifts – and one non-chocolate gift too – to share with you. And here they are…

1) The Lindt Easter Bunny, from 69p, supermarkets. The original and best, “with ze leetle golden bell”. Lindt chocolate is, in my opinion, simply the scrummiest money can buy. And this year, you can buy bunnies in every size and shape imaginable. Check out the overwhelming display in my local Sainsbury’s, below. A-mazing.

Lindt bunnies in Sainsbury's supermarket

2) The Lindt Easter Hen. Bunnies not your thing? This year, you can buy a chocolate hen in v.fashionable neon(ish) green, pink or yellow foil, £1.29 each, Waitrose, Budgens and selected supermarkets.

Lindt chocolate hens

3) Luxury Top-Loaded Eggs with Edible Straw, £10 for 5, Marks and Spencer (www.marksandspencer.com). How pretty do these eggs look? And you can eat the straw too! They’d make a beautiful table piece – if you can resist gobbling them up until after Sunday lunch.

Marks and spencer luxury top loaded eggs with edible straw £10

4) Cadbury’s Egg ‘n’ Spoons, £3 for a box of four, from supermarkets. More substantial and a better-looking gift than ordinary Creme Eggs, these have a fluffy white middle and a little spoon to eat it with. How thoughtful. I also like the authentic ‘egg box’ style packaging.

Cadbury egg 'n' spoon

5) Itsy Bitsy Eggs, £4.99 for a bag, Hope & Greenwood (www.hopeandgreenwood.co.uk). A smaller, slightly classier take on the traditional speckled mini egg, these make a thoughtful-looking gift. They make me want to cook those chocolate cornflake nests you used to make as a child, just so that I can scatter a few on top!

Itsy Bitsy bag of mini eggs Hope & Greenwood £4.99

6) Bunny money boxes, £3 each, Tiger (www.tigerstores.co.uk). Believe it or not, there are some people in the world who don’t like or can’t eat Easter eggs. Why should they miss out on the fun? Give them one of these kitsch flock money boxes instead – it’ll look cool all year round (and last a darn sight longer than a chocolate version).

Bunny money boxes £3 each Tiger Stores UK

When life gives you lemons… make pancakes!

8 Feb

lemon juicer

Next Tuesday is Pancake Day. It’s one of my favourite days of the year, because it means I have a legitimate reason to pig out!

I love experimenting with different pancake toppings – everything from cherry jam and Nutella to cheese’n’Marmite. But when it comes down to it, you can’t go far wrong with good old traditional lemon and sugar.

And that brings me onto the subject of lemon juicers/squeezers. The picture above is of my lemon juicer, which I’ve owned for 14 (count ’em) years. I bought it on a whim for 99p in a bargain homes shop in Bath. I wish I’d bought a whole box of them, as not only does it look like a friendly cactus on your kitchen shelf, but it’s absolutely brilliant. The pips and pith catch in the rim while the juice filters down into the pot, ready for pouring. It takes very little effort to get every last drop from a lemon or orange, and you simply run it under the tap to clean it.

Being such a simple but effective design, you’d think it’d be sold everywhere, but nope, I’ve never seen in anywhere since. All the other juicer models I’ve tried either lack a pot, result in sticky hands, or involve knuckle-breaking handles.

So, as my aim with this blog is to bring you the best, I’ve done some detective work. An extensive search has unearthed just one similar squeezer to mine, below – the Citrus Fruit Squeezer Juicer £7.49. from http://www.amazon.co.uk (sold through Amazon by The Italian Touch).

It’s by an Italian kitchen ware company (well, they do know a thing or two about cooking after all), and if you want an easy, squeezy gadget for your kitchen, I reckon you can’t go far wrong with this one.

Lemon squeezer main pic

Lemon squeezer from top

Let me know how you get on!

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

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!

How do you like them apples?

22 Oct

Every time I get a letter from my local garden centre, I smile. Not because I’m pleased to receive the birthday voucher they send all customers, or the news that they’ve just stocked up on Christmas trees (although those things are good too), but because the guy who runs the garden centre is called Roger Cocks.

Before you tell me off for being juvenile, I’m not laughing because it sounds rude (honest). What makes me smile is that he must have had a LIFETIME of abuse and mickey-taking, and he could just sign off as ‘Roger’, but no. He gives us his full name every time. Good for him.

Anyhow, the point of this long story is that the latest news from Mr Cocks is that it was National Apple Day yesterday (21 Oct).

And I LOVE apples. They smell amazing, they taste delicious, they look pretty, and on top of that, they’re good for you.

So, to celebrate, here’s some of my favourite apple-y things…

(Top) Apple tea towel, £10.95, www.todryfor.com, which would look fab framed in a kitchen.

(Below) Apple prints, from £15.99  – available in several sizes and colours – www.showlerandshowler.com:

Apple mugs by Swedish designer Lotta Kuhlhorn, on sale at £5 each (they’re £10-12 elsewhere, so this is a bargain!) at www.nellypepper.co.uk

Apples lunch box/ nic mac tin, £8.50 (also available in red/purple), www.mithus.co.uk:

Kitchen timer apple, £5.99, amazon.co.uk


Apple doorstop, £17 (in red, yellow or green), www.theorchardhomeandgifts.co.uk:

Typhoon’s Apple Heart range (includes tea towels, tins, utensil holders, aprons and chopping boards), all currently on sale at www.redcandy.co.uk:

Joseph Joseph ‘An Apple a Day’ worktop saver, £13, www.redcandy.co.uk:

Mixing it up

15 Oct

It’s National Baking Week this week (and the final of The Great British Bake Off on TV). One of my earliest memories of baking – in fact, one of my earliest memories full stop – is of helping  my mum make cakes in our kitchen in Scotland (we moved to England when I was six), using her Mason Cash traditional cane-coloured earthenware mixing bowl (top). She still has it now – the inside is marked with thousands of spoon marks made over the years, but it’s still as functional and great at it’s job as it was back in the Seventies.

So, when I got my own house, one of the first things I put on my Christmas list was my very own bowl. It’s ace. The size and shape have been the same for over 100 years – it’s heavy, to stop it moving while you’re mixing; and the round shape and raised pattern on the outside helps you grip it. The best thing about it is the ‘chink chink’ noise your wooden spoon makes when you stir. Lovely.

But now, after all this time, Mason Cash have decided to modernise – just a tiny bit – by bringing out several fab new bowls. The size, shape and white interior (designed so that cooks can tell if their mixture is the right shade) are the same, but the new bowls have different colours and patterns on the outside.

There’s the Zest collection (my favourite, above), which includes a red bowl with a strawberry pattern, a green bowl with an apple pattern, and a yellow bowl with a lemon pattern; the Hearts collection, which includes red, cream and pink bowls with a heart pattern on the outside (which were used on TGBBO); the Flour Power collection, which includes pink and cream bowls with Seventies motifs on; and the Jubilee collection (below), which includes red, white and blue bowls with crowns on and fun sayings such as ‘God Save The Cream’,  ‘Let Them Eat Cake’ and ‘Off With Her Bread’ (er, not so patriotic that last one!).

The Jublilee collection also includes a fab matching red  jug (which, if my Mum is reading this for Christmas present ideas, would go very nicely in my new kitchen, hint, hint!)

I know I don’t NEED another bowl, after all, Mum has had hers for over 30 years. But still, I’m coveting the strawberry or the apple version. Would it be too extravagant to buy one and use it as a fruit bowl, I wonder..?!

You can view the full range of bowls at http://www.masoncash.co.uk, and buy your bowl from http://www.dunelm-mill, http://www.very.co.uk, Sainsburys, http://www.amazon.co.uk or http://www.wayfair.co.uk. They cost around £15-£22, depending on where you shop.

Nice and Sloe

10 Oct

For years I’ve tried – and failed – to like gin. It’s just too flowery/peppery/bleurgh for me. However I love homemade sloe gin, which, if done properly, tastes more like syrupy port. It’s amazing to sip neat after a long winter walk or if you have a sore throat.

I’m lucky enough to have a friend who makes it, but this year, I’m going to try my hand at creating my own, thanks to the new Kilner Sloe Gin Kit, £29.99 from Lakeland (www.lakeland.co.uk).

It contains everything you need (including muslin, a funnel and a recipe card) to make four bottles – one to keep and three to give as Christmas presents.

Sloe season lasts from now till mid November (although my dad says  sloes are best picked after the first frost, which hasn’t happened yet) so there’s plenty of time to drive to the countryside and go for a fruit-picking ramble. Farmers love planting spiky sloe trees as natural fences to stop cows running amok, so hopefully it shouldn’t be too hard to fill up a basket. I found a few trees (below) on a trip to Warwickshire this weekend – if you’re not sure what to hunt for, sloes look like big fat blueberries.

There’s a dead easy sloe gin recipe below.  No previous booze- making experience or cooking skills required. I’ll drink to that. Cheers!

SLOE GIN

You’ll need:
1L airtight jar and some glass bottles, all sterilised (fill with boiling water; empty; then pop it in a warm oven to dry)
400g sloes, cut or pricked to break the skin
150g Granulated sugar
Approx 500g gin (cheap as you like)

Method:
1) Place the sloes and sugar in the jar and top up with the gin, leaving a little space at the top for air.
2) Shake the jar once or twice a day for the first week; then leave in a cool place for at least two months, shaking once a week (the longer you leave the sloes to infuse, the tastier your gin will be).
3) Strain the gin through a piece of muslin into sterilised bottles.

And that’s it. See? Easy!

A nice bit of crumpet

1 Oct

I don’t write about recipes that often on this blog (my slightly rubbish attempt at food photography/styling above probably illustrates why), but yesterday I stumbled upon something so simple and tasty I had to share it with you.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Black Forest Crumpet!

It is, quite simply, the most delicious thing I’ve eaten for breakfast in ages.

To make it, you toast a crumpet; spread it with Nutella; spread a layer of black cherry jam over the Nutella; then dollop some creme fraiche (or cream or yoghurt) on top to finish. Voila!

Seriously, it tastes AMAZING. And you  don’t have to use a crumpet – toast or muffins or bagels would work just as well. The nearest thing to it that I’ve found is Black Forest filled French toast (pic below) at http://www.adventuressheart.com/2011/08/black-forest-cherry-stuffed-french.html, but that involves actual cooking, whereas this recipe (I know, I know, you can hardly call it a recipe…) takes two minutes. I can’t believe no-one has thought of it before.

If you’ve invented an unusual yet yummy breakfast, email me at thetreasurehunteruk@gmail.com. I’d love to hear about (and try) it!

Put a lid on it

24 Aug

Everyone needs some small Tupperware containers in their lives.

Since I was given a set of four cute nesting tubs with lids from Paperchase, I’ve used them constantly – for taking biscuits or snacks to work; holding loose change; taking face cream away in on holiday; storing herbs in the kitchen; and providing hours of entertainment for visiting children (who love stacking them inside each other then taking them apart again). In fact, they’re so useful I’ve bought another pack.

Aside from all this though, they just look cute!

Paperchase bring out new designs all the time, and they cost £7 for a set of four instore or at www.paperchase.co.uk.

My favourites at the mo? The fab London Underground map set “All Change” (above); the abstract creatures of “Cheeky Chops”; the passport stamp-inspired “Stamps” and for kids (both big and little) the lozenge-shaped “Sunshine Holiday” (all below).

PS: If you like these, you’ll also love the Bright Mini Food Boxes by Rice, just £6.25 for a pack of 12 from http://www.nettlegreen.co.uk – perfect for transporting snacks.

Heyyyy, macaroon-a!

17 Aug

Sometimes in life you fancy more than a biscuit, but you don’t want to go the whole hog and eat a large wodge of cake. Step forward my absolute favourite treat – the coconut macaroon. A proper old skool recipe (they were invented by monks in the 1500s, fact fans), they’re a tasty, good-sized dollop of coconut and ground almonds, baked so they’re golden but still squishy.

Want to try ’em? Mrs Crimble’s makes the best macaroons going. I used to opt for their version that’s half-dipped in dark chocolate, but now I’ve got a new addiction: Mrs Crimble’s Cranberry Macaroons, which are, as you’d imagine, macaroons studded with yummy cranberries.

What’s more, they’ve been specially created to make money for Breast Cancer Campaign (they’re pink – see what they’ve done there), 10p from the sale of each £1.49 packet goes to charity, with the aim that Mrs Crimble’s will have donated at least £25K by the end of the year. So you can feel all self-righteous while you’re stuffing your face.

And if you feel like being generous, Mrs Crimble’s have launched a campaign to Share The Love – they’re going to send out 1,000 packets of goodies to deserving people nationwide every month. You can nominate anyone you like to receive a treat – just enter their details at the excellently-named website, http://www.letsbakelove.com. It only takes a minute, and means your friends and family can stuff their faces too, for free. Hooray!

Teapig for two?

30 Jul

The other day in my local gastropub, I had the audacity to ask for a cup of peppermint tea. “We don’t do fancy-pants drinks like that,” sniffed the barman, as he made my friend a mochachocacappuccinolatte  (or whatever) in his fancy pants coffee machine. I thought peppermint – in fact all herbal teas – had gone mainstream by now? Obviously not.

It’s the same when buying presents – coffee still has the upper hand. Look to buy a coffee lover a gift and you’re spoilt for choice. Look to buy a tea fiend something and there’s very little out there. Which is why I was really excited to discover the Mix’n’Match sample pack from Teapigs.

If you’re not familiar with Teapigs, they make very fancy-pants teas in a plethora of fun flavours. They come in silky ‘tea temples’ instead of paper teabags and have simple-but-stylish packaging. They taste delicious, too.

The Mix’n’Match set is a box containing 12 mini boxes of tea (with two tea temples per mini box). What’s really great is that you choose online which flavours to include in the selection, from a list of 21, such as chai, lemongrass, rooibos, super fruit, white tea, chamomile, liquorice & mint and even chocolate flake or popcorn tea.

Available online from www.teapigs.co.uk it makes a fab gift or is a great way to widen your tea horizons. Maybe I should send a box to the barman at my local…?

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!

Ooh, baby-baby, buh-baby-baby, Salt’n’Pepper’s here!

13 Jul

Salt and Pepper shakers fall into one of two camps. They’re either really plain grinder-style mills like the ones you get in Italian restaurants; or they’re kitsch ones in the shape of something silly. I’m definitely a fan of the latter – I love the pair of china sausage dogs  I got in Florida years ago, and the Alessi Chinamen my brother and his wife got me for Christmas.

But now I might have to add a third set to my collection. These bear salt and pepper shakers (above) are new in at http://www.cubicuk.com and are just genius. They’re designed to look and work like snowglobes – when you turn them upside down to shake out the salt or pepper, the little black bear and polar bear inside look like they’re in a snowstorm. Brilliant.

At just £10 for the pair, they’re a decently-priced present – or an affordable treat for yourself. Shake it up baby!

Ice to see you, to see you ice

2 Jul

I don’t know why, but this year seems to be the year of the homemade ice lolly. All my friends seem to be having a go at making them – and ice lolly moulds are on sale everywhere. But none I’ve seen are as cute as the Woodland Bunnies lolly makers, £4.95, from http://www.dotcomgiftshop.com.

Fill ’em with pure fruit juice, flavoured squash, milk (for an old skool taste) or even cold tea (!), stick ’em in the freezer and enjoy. The ears are the lolly sticks and the heads stop the melting ice from making your hands all sticky.

If you’re feeling really flash, you can make stripy lollies with different coloured fruit juices – just pour in a small amount of one colour juice, freeze; then add another splash of a different colour and freeze again; and continue ’til you’ve filled the mould. Clever!

Feeling really flash? Make the amazing melon and berry ice pops from the fab Will Cook For Smiles blog, at http://www.willcookforsmiles.com/2012/06/honeydew-melon-berry-pops.html?m=1

Yum!

Pud news travels fast

15 Jun

I know it’s hard to believe, but sometimes in life you can have too much chocolate. The sickest I’ve ever been was when I ate an entire box of Black Magic (remember them?) while revising for my GCSEs  and then sat in the back of a bumpy car for three hours. But I digress. My point is that there are other options, particularly when it comes to dessert.

And these little beauties, which I found in Sainsburys yesterday, are a very welcome new addition to the pudding club. They’re pots of Geonese sponge layered with summer berries and blackcurrant and raspberry syrup, with a decent splash of Pimm’s (my absolute favourite summer drink).

The packaging is a stylish hot pink; you can keep the cute little glass dishes for nic nacs afterwards, and the best news is they’re only 105 calories each – meaning they’re practically a health food. What’s not to like?

Limited edition GU Spring into Summer Berry Puds with Pimm’s cost £2-3.60 for a pack of two from Sainsburys, Tesco, Waitrose and Ocado. Yum.

Smart cookies

13 Jun

Mmmmn, cookies! If you love cookies and you love cakes, check out these little fellas!

These mega cute Cookie Monster cupcakes were made by designer/photographer Jane Donald. They’re surprisingly easy to recreate – you just need blue food colouring, butter icing, desiccated coconut, Milky Bar buttons, black writing icing (from the supermarket baking section) and little choc chip cookies to decorate normal cupcakes with. The full instructions are on Jane’s lovely blog at www.janedonald.com/blog.

And talking of the Cookie Monster, I’m thinking of getting this t-shirt (below, £15.95 from www.amazon.co.uk) to wear in bed. It’ll look cool with my check PJ bottoms and make me smile every morning when I catch sight of it in the bathroom mirror.

PS: Like this blog? Nominate it for an award!
If you love my blog, I’d be honoured if you’d nominate it for the ‘Lifestyle Blog of the Year’ in the Cosmo Blog Awards 2012. To do so only takes a few seconds – just enter www.thetreasurehunteruk.com in the ‘Lifestyle Blog’ category on the following link:
http://www.cosmopolitan.co.uk/blogs/cosmo-blog-awards-2012/cosmo-blog-awards-2012_nominate
Nominations close at the end of June. Thank you!

Looking for some hot stuff?!

1 Jun

I usually start blog entries with a photo, but today’s entry needs a bit of an introduction first.

Now, I’m a fairly liberal (I’ve worked for women’s magazines where it’s practically part of the job description). And regular readers of this blog will know I love everything from Lakeland – I could spend hundreds on their ruthlessly effective cleaning products and gadgets that solve problems you never knew existed.

But even I did a double-take when I saw their new Chilli Mill, below. Apparently it cuts chillis into tiny pieces like a pepper grinder (and I notice they have steered away from calling it a grinder), but hey,  never mind all that – JUST LOOK AT IT!

Lakeland, who obviously have a brilliantly wicked sense of humour, say it has an “eye-catching shape” and that’s certainly true. Imagine waving it around when the in-laws come round for dinner! Crikey. And you’d have to make sure it didn’t end up in the bedroom by mistake. With all those chillis, it might, erm, spice things up in a very painful way!

Buzzing with excitement to get one of your own? It’s £24.99 instore or from www.Lakeland.co.uk.

Welcome gnome

23 May

The other day, I went to Bromley (I know, I lead an exciting life!), and when I arrived at the station, I was nearly mown down by three and a half thousand schoolchildren waving Union Jacks. The reason? It turns out the Queen had been to visit.

Secretly, I was a wee bit gutted I’d missed her, as I’ve had a soft spot for Her Majesty ever since I wrote to her for a school project and she ‘replied’ on fancy embossed paper.

Anyhow, given all this, you’d think I’d  have snapped up all the Royal Diamond Jubilee memorabilia that’s around at the moment. But actually, I’ve been quite restrained. A lot of it is OTT on the Union Jack front and it all looks a bit same-y.

You see, I like my souvenirs to be classy, elegant, understated and unusual – like these Royal gnomes, above (well, one out of four isn’t bad…!). Yep, following the success of last year’s Royal Wedding gnomes, B&Q have created these jolly little people to rule over your flowerbeds. They’re £12.98 each or £20 a pair and unbelievably, they’re so popular they’re likely to be a sell-out. Bonkers.

On a slightly more serious note, I do love the stylish square Jubilee biscuit tins from M&S, below – they’re a great size and the biccies inside are top notch. Tins always age well, and they’ll look pretty on a shelf for years to come.

PS:
If you’ve got children, take them to one of B&Q’s special Jubilee craft workshops while you’re picking up your gnomes. Over 50 stores are running free kids’ classes  for 7-11 year olds on 2nd and 3rd May, where they’ll learn to make little wooden boats in honour of the Thames River pageant. Cute! Visit www.DIY.com/kidsclasses for details.

Fork this way

21 May

As I’ve mentioned before, afternoon tea is fast replacing dinner parties as the way to entertain friends at home.

But while you don’t have to faff about making three-course meals and dusting off your dinner service, you do still need to put in a little bit of effort. If you’re going to let them eat cake, they need to do it with a cake fork.

What’s wrong with normal cutlery, my other half asks. Well, it’s the same reason I always ask for a teaspoon to eat my pudding with in restaurants – dainty cake forks (or pastry forks, as they’re often called) make your dainty cake last longer. Which is kind of the whole point of afternoon tea.

Surprisingly though, it’s very hard to get anything other than boring stainless steel cake cutlery. Pretty forks are few and far between. Still, they do exist.

Your best bet? Head to www.portmeirion.co.uk where a box of six forks with gorgeous Crazy Daisy design handles is on sale for £13.20 at the moment; or a set of six Dawn Chorus forks, with candy pastel birds on the handles (top of page), is £17.

Alternatively, a set of six Italian cake forks with different coloured slender handles is £21 at www.thediningcompany.com; or if you’re eating outside, Rice’s cute bright melamine cake forks, available in two different colour combinations, are just £5.75 at www.pardonmyfrench.co.uk.

PS: I thought up so many puns I could have used as a title for this entry, such as ‘It’s so funny, how we don’t fork any more’ and the simple ‘fork it’. I particularly liked “Happy, hap-py hap-py happy fork”, but thought some people might not get it…

Cute as a button

16 May

Since writing my recent post about chocolate button moulds, I’ve stumbled across bajillions of (well, ok, a few) other fab button-shaped items to share with you.

First up are these classy ceramic buttons, above, by the very lovely interiors stylist, Marie Nichols, who’s just opened a new online store, www.theshopatnumber57.com, selling these and other gorgeous bits and bobs. They come in four different designs and cost a reasonable £13.50-15.50 each. They work well as ornaments on their own; or a trio would look amazing mounted on a strong coloured wall. Oh, and if you like Marie’s style, check out her brilliant blog at wholelottalovely@wordpress.com.

I’m also loving these fun little button-shaped pastel soaps from www.junkskull.com, £5.50 for a bumper pack of 23; and button-shaped Belle de Sucre sugar cubes from John Lewis, £7 per box (both below). They’re almost too cute to use.

Finally, for a few pence, you could try your hand at making some button-shaped biscuits (bottom). They’re easy to make but look super cool. You can find the recipe and instructions at http://www.bakerella.com/coraline-cookies/

It uses American measures for the cookie mix, but your own shortbread or biscuit recipe would work just as well. Box some up as a gift, thread them with ribbon to use as Christmas/Easter decorations, or just arrange on a plate and watch your friends look seriously impressed (before wolfing the lot).

Pot luck

11 May

At my local market, there’s a stall selling flavoured bread in real terracotta flowerpots. They look like little shrubs – too cute to eat!

Cakes are easier to make than bread, so when I saw these brilliant mini flowerpot-shaped silicone muffin cases from Lakeland (www.Lakeland.co.uk), I put them straight on my wishlist.

At £5.99 for six, they’re not bad for something you can reuse time and time again, and with some icing flowers/sweets on top, they’ll turn your cakes into bloomin’ tasty showstoppers.

The cat (and dog, duck, cow, rabbit and elephant) who got the cream

9 May

Check out these mega cute little creamers! They’re just £3.25 each, measure 8cm x 10cm and there’s a friendly-looking dog, cat, duck, cow, elephant or rabbit to choose from, at www.rigbyandmac.com

But how could you choose?! They’re all so lovely I’m tempted to buy one of each – that way, they could sit pleasingly together on a shelf; and when people come round for dinner, they could get one each to serve cream with their puddings or milk with their tea/coffee.

And talking of tea, there’s an adorable white porcelain elephant teapot, too (below). He’s the kind of thing you’d seen in a stylish homes mag, yet he costs a very reasonable £10.95.

He’d make a perfect present – how about pairing him with the baby elephant creamer, or a box of pretty Pukka teabags (£2.25, from supermarkets and http://www.pukkaherbs.com)?

Don’t cry for me, onion peeler

4 May

Someone recently asked me which of my wedding presents I’ve used the most in the two years since I got married. Was it the classy cutlery, the Le Creuset-style casserole dish, or the glass tulip vase? Nope. While all these things have proved useful on a regular basis, none of them have been called into service as much as my Onion Goggles.

Yep, you read that right. Onion Goggles do exactly what they say on the tin – put them on and the foam seal keeps your peepers tear- free while chopping onions.

My mum thought I was mad putting them on the wedding list, but my friend Diane saw their potential immediately and snapped them up for me.

Ok, so they make you look like a slightly deranged superhero, but they’re so effective that even my cynical husband finally caved in and wore them the other day when he thought I wasn’t looking.

So, if you’re hunting for an a-peeling wedding present; need a gift for the cook who has everything; or are simply fed up of weeping over your chopping board, look no further.

You can get your oniony-smelling hands on a pair for £12.50 at www.amazon.co.uk; £12.95 at www.cookability.biz or £15.99 at www.headcook.co.uk; plus you can read more about them at www.oniongoggles.org. You could say it’s a site for sore eyes…!

Bunny business

4 Apr

If you’ve ever been to Germany at Easter time, you’ll know it’s BIG news over there. Pretty pastel eggs, bunnies and chicks are everywhere. But for some reason, while the UK loves chocolate eggs, we don’t really go in for Easter decorations. Which is a shame, as they’re so cute.

So, I was pleased to see Sainsburys have decided to rectify this with a bargainous, pretty (and surprisingly tasteful) range of bits and bobs for your Easter table.

My favourites are the gorgeous plywood egg tree, £5 (which would double as a great jewellery stand the rest of the year); the pretty bunting, £2; the Easter crackers, £3 (why hasn’t anyone thought of this before?!); and the easy peasy egg and rabbit chocolate lolly mould, £2.

Pop some in your Easter shopping basket now!

Button it!

2 Apr

As Easter approaches, here’s a genius idea. Melt some chocolate in a bowl over some boiling water; pour into this cunning reusable silicone mould; pop it into the freezer for a few mins; then pop out button-shaped chocolate buttons!

They’re perfect for decorating homemade cakes, big or small; or for turning shop-bought cakes into something special. You can use milk, dark or white chocolate, and the mould makes 19 different-sized buttons each go.

You can buy the mould below from http://www.sewwhite.com for £4. Pair it with a huge bar of Dairy Milk and it’d make a great gift for any baking or chocolate fiend.

Top tip: grease the mould with a tiny bit of butter first to make the buttons pop out even more easily.

Sew White Cute as a Button Mould from www.sewwhite.com £4

Eggs-tremely tasty

28 Mar

Easter eggs. Yum. When I was a kid, it was all about the quantity – how many Cadbury’s eggs could I wolf down before I felt sick. But now I’m (supposedly) a grown up, and only usually get one egg at Easter, I want it to be a corker.

So, this year, I’ll be asking for the Rolls Royce of Easter eggs – from Prestat, chocolatiers to the Royal Family. They’ve bought out a range of milk and dark chocolate eggs, filled with delicious treats such as Marc de Champagne truffles, ganache truffles, sea salt caramels or rose and violet cremes. They look just as good as they taste, as they’re packaged in amazingly beautiful boxes designed by illustrator Kitty Arden. They cost around £14.99 for a 170g egg from www.Johnlewis.comwww.selfridges.com, or http://www.prestat.co.uk

Want to treat yourself (or a special someone else) to something other than an egg? Prestat also do stunning boxes of chocolates, again in almost-too-pretty-to-open packaging. Their blue and pink  ‘Jewel’ boxes cost from £6.50, a box of zingy chocolate mints costs £10.50 and a box of the fanciest hot drinking chocolate in the world is £8.50.

Okay, so buying chocolate this posh a bit eggs-travagant, but it’s only Easter once a year!

Party on dudes!

12 Mar

 

It’s my birthday this week, so to celebrate, I thought I’d share with you some party goodies from a brilliant website, www.talkingtables.co.uk, which sells everything from candles, crackers and cake toppers to streamers, bunting and napkins – all in exclusive, classy and colourful  designs.

Whether you’re holding afternoon tea for friends, a garden party or even a wedding, there’ll be something here to give it a professional touch for just a few pounds.

My faves? The cake wraps/toppers £5 for 12 of each, the striking matches, £3.25, gilded cake stand, £20, and the Charming Cleo crackers, £8.25 for 8, all from the ‘Social Soiree’ range (below); the butterfly garlands, £11 for 3 x 3m from the ‘Heat Wave’ range; and the bunting, £4.50, Happy Birthday candles, £5, and Whimsical Wonderball (a huge pass-the-parcel style ball filled with 14 little pressies and 90m of streamers, above), £6, from the ‘Riotous Rainbow’ range. Cheers!

 

 

 

Bedside Babushka

9 Mar

The perfect bedside water glass is tricky to find. Do you go for something squat and chunky so that you don’t knock it over when you’re flailing around in the dark? Or do you go for the largest glass you can find for those nights when you fall into bed plastered and wake up with a mouth drier than stale Weetabix?

Actually, my granny had it just right – she had a bedside carafe with an upside-down glass as the lid. It meant she could keep a decent amount of water on hand and just pour what she needed.

That’s why this Drinkup Carafe, £16.99 from www.firebox.com, in the shape of a friendly Russian Babushka doll, is so brilliant. Made of glass, it looks great, is stable enough to withstand the odd knock, and the doll’s body holds enough liquid that you’ll never go dry-mouthed in the small hours ever again.

But if the Babushka is too girly for you, check out the French carafe and glasses, £19.99 (bottom), and the Dopper  bottle, £11.99 (below), both from  www.mocha.uk.com.

The carafe is modelled on an old French design (the glasses cunningly stack in the neck of the bottle); while if you unscrew the top bit of the Dopper, you can drink straight from the bottle; or if you unscrew it further down, the top turns into a drinking glass. It’s made of Eco-friendly plastic and you can even put it in the dishwasher.

I’ve (bread) bin looking for you…

16 Jan

One of the most viewed entries on my blog is the one where I tackle where to buy purple kitchen accessories. So, it was only a matter of time before someone asked me to track down something similar – this time, Louise wants to know where she can get a green bread bin.

Easy, I thought. But actually, despite it being one of 2012’s ‘in’ colours, there aren’t that many good-looking bits of green kitchen kit available.

There are a couple of green gems though. I really like the old skool style of the decently-priced Simplicity Bread Bin, £22, from http://www.woolworths.co.uk, above (it’s also available in purple, red, black, silver and turquoise if you’re interested).

I also like the retro-look 1950s-inspired lime green metal bread bin by Zeal, below, which costs £30 from http://www.morcohome.com or £32.99 from http://www.4yourkitchen.co.uk (it also comes in aqua, black, fuchsia pink and red).

And for practicality, the acrylic Omada green bread bin, £35 from http://www.tesco.com, below, is dishwasher-safe and the beech wood lid doubles up as a bread chopping board; as does the lid of Dunelm Mill’s Modern Country Leaf Collection bread bin, currently on sale for £18.39 (www.dunelm-mill.co.uk)

Finally, if you’re on a tight budget, Argos (www.argos.co.uk) are selling their Colour Match Pittsburgh 5-piece storage set in apple green – which includes a bread bin, biscuit tin and sugar/tea/coffee caddies for just £16.49 at the moment (usual price £24.99). Bargain!

Honey, I’m home!

11 Jan

Obviously no-one really ‘needs’ a special container to store honey in – any old jar will do – but how cute is this gorgeous little pot from Le Creuset?

It comes with a handy silicone honey dipper and would brighten up any kitchen or breakfast table. It costs £16 from http://www.amazon.co.uk or is on sale at Harts of Stur (www.hartsofstur.com) at the moment for £13.33 + £2.67 postage. It would make a great present together with a posh jar of honey – if you can bear to part with it, that is.

The pot is part of a collection from Le Creuset, including an orange marmalade pot with silicone spreader; red and purple jam pots with matching silicone spoons; a white garlic keeper and a green olive pot with wooden fork. Only trouble is, if you buy one, you’ll want the whole set!

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

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!

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.

The seed of an idea

29 Nov

Healthy snacks. In my view, those words don’t go together very well. That’s cos when I think of a snack, I want cake and biscuits. Yum.

However, I do accept that attitude won’t help me achieve anything other than a bigger dress size.

So, I was very happy to discover a snack that tastes naughty but is actually good for you. Choccy Munchy Seeds are a mixture of sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and dried apricot pieces coated in milk and dark Belgian chocolate. They don’t really taste like seeds – more like delicious little morsels of chocolate – but apparently they contain loads of vitamin E, Zinc, Iron and fibre. The packet looks cute, too.

They cost £1.50 for a 50g snack pack, £4 for a 200g tub, or £8.50 for a huge 500g tub, from http://www.munchyseeds.co.uk (alternatively, if you’re posh, Harvey Nicks sells ’em too). The site also sells ginger Choccy Seeds; vanilla, chilli or cajun spice-coated seeds; and tasty granola if you want something even healthier.

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!

Purple reigns

4 Nov

I’ve had a reader request! Claire has a new house with a boring kitchen and wants to jazz it up a bit with purple accessories. Only thing is, like most of us, she doesn’t have oodles of cash to spend.

She particularly wanted a cheap bread bin. I’ve done some research and crikey, bread bins are expensive! You’re usually looking at around £40 for a metal box that’s just going to sit on your worktop and get filled with crumbs.

So, I was pleased to find this stylish little number for just £12.99 at good old Dunelm Mill (www.dunelm-mill.com). It’s part of the Spectrum range (below), and there are other matching purple accessories from just £1.49.

Alternatively, Debenhams (www.debenhams.com) have a good range of purple kitchen bits, including this traditional-shaped bread bin, £20, below.

If anyone else is looking for something specific, or has a shopping/interiors dilemma, let me know, and I’ll do my best to hunt down a solution!

It’s Grrrrrrrreat!

19 Oct

The best shop I’ve ever been into in my life was a Japanese pound shop in Singapore. Chock full of craft stuff, homewares and beauty bits, all in gorgeous Japanese prints or with quirky slogans, and all costing the equivalent of £1 each, it was so bargainous that it was almost overwhelming (you can drool at the products, and see store locations around the world, at http://www.daiso-sangyo.co.jp/english/)

I assumed the experience was a one-off until yesterday, when I visited the new Tiger store in Lewisham shopping centre (of all places). A Danish concept, it’s like a cross between that Japanese pound shop, Muji, Ikea, H&M and Poundland. I spotted gorgeous craft stuff, picture frames, baking equipment, pretty napkins, homewares, bathroom accessories, unusual wrapping paper and stylish stationery – almost all costing just £1-£4.

Apparently there are 90 Tiger stores in 11 different European countries, with ten or so of them in the UK. The Lewisham branch is their newest. It’s worth making a special journey to one near you (visit http://www.tigerstores.co.uk), as I guarantee you’ll stock up with Christmas presents.

My top picks? Toadstool biscuit tins, £2 and £3 (see top); Babushka socks, £3; multicoloured  hooks, £1; drawer knobs, £4; wrapping paper, £1 a roll; and big packs of A4 patterned origami paper, £2.

I’m in with the tin crowd

17 Oct

It seems every week is a ‘national week’ for something – last week it was Chocolate Week; and this week it’s National Baking Week (17-23 October). Not that you’ll hear any complaints from me – I love any excuse to stuff my face!

But, whether you’ve baked a cake yourself or cheated with one from the farmer’s market/Sainsburys, you’ll need a good tin to keep it in. And thanks to the recent baking revival, there are loads of cool, cheap designs out there.

Here are three of my faves: London tins, £19.99 for two from Procook.co.uk; Skyline tins, £6.75 for two (also available in a Cath Kidston-style cherry design) from Tesco (www.tesco.com); or if you plan to do a LOT of baking, Dotty tins, £12.99 for three from Argos (www.argos.co.uk).

Fairy easy

13 Sep

Apparently it’s ‘National Cupcake Week’ this week. I’ve also become obsessed with The Great British Bake Off on BBC2, at 8pm on Tuesday nights. So, I decided there was no better time to do some baking myself.

However, cupcakes, with all their decorative icing and fancy flavours can be tricky to make. That’s why I attempted their much easier baby sister, the fairy cake, using a simple all-in-one recipe from uber cook Mary Berry (who appears on TGBBO).

All-in-all, a batch of 18 took just half an hour to make from start to finish (including washing up!), and tasted so good I had to make a second batch. The recipe is below – if you manage to make some, email me your pics!

Ingredients
For the cakes:
4oz (100g) soft margarine
4oz (100g caster sugar
4oz (100g) self-raising flour
2 eggs
1 teaspoon baking powder

For the buttercream icing:
6oz (175g) butter, softened
12oz (350g) icing sugar, sifted

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6. Place 18 paper cake cases in bun tins.
2. Measure all the ingredients into a large bowl and beat well with a wooden spoon until the mixture is smooth. Half-fill the paper cases with the mixture.
3. Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 15-20 minutes until the cakes are well-risen and golden brown. Lift them out of the bun tins and cool on a wire rack.
4. To make the icing, beat the butter and icing sugar until well-blended.
5. Cut a slice from the top of each cake and cut this slice in half. Pipe (or dollop with a teaspoon!) a swirl of buttercream into the centre of each cake and place the half slices of cake into the buttercream at angles, to resemble wings. Dust with icing sugar to finish.

%d bloggers like this: