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Going green

8 Nov


A while ago I tested travel beauty products for a national newspaper. My favourite? The Green Balm, an ingenious – and very cute – calming balm from MOA (Magical Organic Apothecary).

It contains completely natural ingredients such as yarrow, tea tree oil, beeswax, plus coconut, sweet almond and soy bean oils, and smells DELICIOUS.  I now carry a little pot around with me as it has so many cunning uses, including (deep breath):
– helping heal cuts, grazes, blisters and burns
– treating insect bites
– soothing dry and itchy eczema, psoriasis and rashses
– soothing chapped lips and coldsores
– a sore throat gargle
– calming shaving rash and keeping newly-tattooed skin infection-free
– fighting athlete’s foot
– helping fade stretch marks
– nourishing dry hands, nails and cuticles
– removing eye makeup
– using as a hot-cloth cleansing balm


What’s more, despite looking and smelling uber posh, it’s a bargain. A lipbalm-sized 15ml pot for your handbag costs £4.99 or you can buy three for £11.50 in a sweet little tube; a larger 50ml jar costs £12.50; and a large 50ml jar plus bamboo face cloth costs £17.50, all from www.Moa.London


I know it’s supposedly FAR too early to think about Christmas yet, but it makes a fab, and unusual present. I’m getting my order in this week…!



The Friday Find: The pina things in life…

2 Sep


The ‘it’ fruit of the summer, the pineapple, isn’t going anywhere just yet. I’ve spotted chic black pineapple-shaped pots, sparkly cushions, and even metal pineapple bookends at the Autumn homeware preview shows.

But if you want a subtle way to try the trend, look no further than this brilliant gold pineapple necklace from HEMA (my new shopping crush).

Studded with tiny diamantes, and on a decent-length chain, it’ll make any ordinary t-shirt, jumper or sweatshirt look that little bit extra special, without going OTT. It looks expensive, but here’s the really great news – it’s just £4. I know, £4!

Quite frankly, I can’t think of a single reason not to buy one, or even a pear, sorry, pair…

Like this? I’ll be posting more fab finds on Instagram. I’m @Woodyjen and you can follow me HERE




The store that’ll change your life (or at least, your shopping habits)

3 May


In case you missed it, last week was ‘National Stationery Week’ (yes, I know, there’s a ‘week’ for everything these days). Having been a stationery geek ever since I first collected novelty shaped erasers at school, I decided this was the perfect excuse to treat myself to a few extra office essentials. Ahem, well, if you can count beautiful gold notebooks, stylish pens, quirky sticky notes and glass mason-type jars for making my pencils look pretty as ‘essential’..!


And my shopping destination of choice for these goodies? Not Paperchase or some trendy stationers, but HEMA, an amazing shop stuffed with everything from stationery and craft materials to kitchenware and food, makeup and jewellery. Originating in the Netherlands (where HEMA is a household name), it’s a mini department store with a difference – everything they sell is designed at their Dutch headquarters and is well-made, simple, good-looking… and great value. Think the marketplace section at IKEA, crossed with the jaw-droppingly-low prices of Tiger Stores.

HEMA stationery display (orange)

The shelves of my local store in Bromley (above) are groaning with gorgeous, quirky and bargainous bits that you won’t find anywhere else. On my last visit, I had a gift voucher to spend, and quite frankly, it’s a dangerous place to let someone like me loose. The jars pictured at the top? They were just £2 and £3 each; while the pens and sticky arrow notes below them cost 75p each; and the notebooks were £2 (spotty) and £3 (faux leather cover).

It’s also a brilliant place to shop for presents, and my new go-to destination for giftwrapping supplies. Just check out these shelves:

UntitledFor example, this amazing geometric wrapping paper below was just £1.50 a roll; the handy gifting stickers £1.50 a pack; the fun mini bunting £2 (which would look great wrapped around plain giftwrap or brown parcel paper); and the matching washi tape £2.50:



The cards are fab too, and very reasonably priced at between £1 and £2.50. Check out these lovely modern designs:

Untitled 2


There are five HEMA stores in the UK so far (in London, Kingston, Birmingham, Stansted Airport and Bromley), but if there isn’t one near you, don’t fret – you can buy everything online at (delivery is £4 to the UK).

What are you waiting for? Load your baskets now!

Thinking a-head

23 Nov

POSS OPENER PIC ceramic animal wall vases £35 Graham and Green (this is low res - high res is available if needed)

Vases are a great gift when you’re unsure what to get someone. After all, everyone needs them, and you can never have too many.

But if you’re giving someone a vase this Christmas, why not make it a bit special. Say, a vase in the shape of a polar bear or koala’s head?

These ceramic vases aren’t particularly cheap at £35 each (from Graham & Green), but they are AMAZING. Plus, you can almost guarantee the recipient won’t already have anything like one already.

Polar Bear Wall Vase  £27.99  (with roses)

Depending on the design, they’re 15-19cm high and 12-20cm wide, making them a fairly decent size. What’s more, they’re actually really versatile. Yes, you can use them for flowers or foliage; but they also work well for bulbs; or as a quirky pen or pencil holder; or somewhere to store your makeup brushes…

In fact the only problem with them that I can see is that you’ll have problems deciding which friendly little fella to go for!

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; Copper bear cookie cutter £2.50 Sainsbury’s; Pear trinket pot £18 Oliver Bonas; Tristan the T-Rex toy £15.21

A prickly subject

14 Oct


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.


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…


It’s party time – excellent!

7 Oct

Baby zebra candle holder £11.99

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 ( and at brilliant new party store Candle & Cake ( He has some cute little friends too:

Mr Fox glitter candle holder £11.99

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

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

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

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)

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

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)

Shop back in time

4 Sep


In my day job as a journalist, I get to meet some really lovely, interesting, talented people. One such person I’ve had the honour of getting to know is Carla, who, until recently, worked in the press office for a big high street department store.

unnamed (5)

Carla has amazing style, a magpie’s eye and a canny knack for spotting a bargain. She’s also obsessed with the 1950s, and now her love of all things retro has led to her branching out and setting up her own online business, Carla Collects, selling brilliant mid-century finds – my favourite era – at refreshingly reasonable prices.

In her etsy shop (at you’ll find everything from true vintage to kitsch, including jewellery, fashion, decorative bits, ornaments, kitchenalia, toys, and haberdashery – you name it, she’s probably got it. And if she hasn’t, she’ll happily seek it out for you if you put in a request.


What’s more, she also upcycles furniture and makes soft furnishings such as cushions and chair covers too. Phew!

So, whether you’re looking for a vintage tea set to give as a wedding present; an outfit-transforming retro necklace; or a 1960s teapot shaped like an owl (you never know!), I’d recommend taking a look. To give you a taster, here are some of my favourite pieces on sale at the moment. Everything here ranges in price from £6 to around £22 and is a one-off, so if you spot something you like, you’d better be quick!

il_570xN.738356314_rij5 - Copy

il_570xN.742698046_62xm - Copy

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PS: Bought something from the lovely Carla? I’d love to see it! Tweet me your finds @WoodyJen

Let it rain

19 Jun

Rainmaker £8 (with plants)

We’ve recently had a new lawn laid, so I’m OBSESSED with watering plants at the moment. But indoors, you don’t want – or need – to faff about with a giant watering can. Instead, how about this nifty little gadget? Called the Rainmaker, it’s an ingenious little cloud-shaped gizmo that screws onto the end of any ordinary water bottle, allowing you to shower your plants with a burst of rain-like droplets.

Just £8 from the The Science Museum Shop, it’d also make a great stocking filler for a green-fingered friend or family member (if you’re thinking that far ahead!)

Rainmaker £8 (with label)

Under my umbrella

28 Jan

life's a beach folding umbrella

It’s so cold, wet and manky at the moment, that it can be a mission just summoning up the energy to go outside. No wonder January is one of the busiest months for travel agents.

But if you can’t afford to book a holiday right now, or you can’t wait till summer to catch a glimpse of golden sands and blue cloudless skies, here’s another idea…

The quite frankly genius umbrellas from Where I’d Rather Be look like ordinary black umbrellas on the outside…



…but have beautiful panoramic photos of beaches, mountains, sand dunes and rolling hills on the underside:


So, when you’re trudging along in a downpour, all you need to do is look up, and you’re instantly transported to sunnier climes. Genius!

Available as a traditional hook-handle model for £29.99 or a bag-friendly folding version for £27.99, the umbrellas don’t just look cool, they’re quick-drying and wind-resistant, too. There are eight designs to choose from – including a mountain range design (below) for those who prefer snow to sand – but I’ve got my eye on the ‘Life’s a beach’ model (top).

Which would you choose?!

image002 (1)

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 (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:
To vote for me in the ‘Most Innovative Blog’ category, click here:
If you only feel like voting once, please vote in the Lifestyle category. Voting closes on 3rd December.
Thank you!


The last unicorn

13 Nov

unicorn dish

Now, I realise no-one needs a porcelain jewellery dish with a unicorn in the middle, but seriously, just how lovely is this? You can place chains and earrings in the dish part – so the unicorn is dancing in a sea of gold and silver; and pop rings on his horn.

At £9.95 from Sass and Belle (here) he won’t break the bank either. A lovely gift – although I bet if you buy one you end up keeping him for yourself!


Admit one (into your house)

11 Nov

Cinema ticket doormat

Doormats, let’s face it, are usually pretty boring. After all, there’s only so much you can do with a rectangle shape. This rubber one, however, is thinking a little bit outside the box- and I think it’s pretty awesome.

In the shape of a cinema ticket, it’s perfect for a film fan (or anyone bored of run-of-the-mill mats) and shows guests you’ve got a sense of humour before they’ve even crossed the threshold. Just don’t be surprised if they start demanding a giant vat of Coke and a tub of popcorn.

Get yours from The Gift Oasis for £22.99 here.

It’s a mug’s game

9 Nov

alphabet letter mugs £2 each Matalan

Giving a gift with someone’s initial on always seems that little bit more personal, and over the years, I’ve given many a letter mug to friends (often packaged with a fancy box of tea or coffee) as a thank you or birthday present.

Thing is, these mugs usually cost around a tenner each. So when I saw these fab alphabet mugs from Matalan for, wait for it, just £2 each, I got more than a little excited. At that price, you could even splash out on a set of several for a family; or buy a pair for a couple.

Obviously the popular letters are bound to get snapped up first, so if you want one (or several) better get yourself down to Matalan or visit their website pronto.

letter a mug Matalan £2PS: Love the idea but not got there fast enough? Oliver Bonas do almost idential alphabet mugs for the more pricely sum of £10 each, here. In fact, they have a whole range of alphabet stuff, from candles to washbags – well worth checking out.


Any excuse to eat cake!

29 Oct

COUNTRY Orla Kiely set of 5 Cake Tins £37

A while ago I blogged about my amazing set of Orla Kiely cake tins – a set so gorgeous that months on, they still sit proudly in a stack on my kitchen worksurface, rather than hiding away in a cupboard.

Well, Orla has just released some new prints – available on everything from mugs to storage – and her cake tins have had a makeover too. What’s more, they’re just as AMAZING. At £37 for a set at John Lewis or Unique & Unity, they’d make a lovely gift and they’re fairly reasonable too, when you consider you get five.

I can’t think of a single better excuse to bake (or just buy) more cakes and biscuits!

PS: Not got room for five cake tins? Try the trio of storage canisters / caddy set instead, £25 from John Lewis (here) or Unique & Unity (here):

pear canisters by orla kiely

Never judge a book by its cover

9 Oct


Spot anything unusual about the bookshelf above? No? Then read on…

Last week, I spent an entire evening hunting for my driver’s licence. I eventually found it down the back of a drawer. This isn’t unusual – in fact, I regularly spend hours looking for important things such as passports, credit cards, etc. Thing is, I don’t like putting vital documents in easy-to-find places, in case someone found them who shouldn’t.

So, I was thrilled to find a way to a) stop losing things; b) keep important stuff safe; and c) finally SORT MY LIFE OUT.

The answer? A secret book storage box, from new online gift and homes boutique, Flitty Bird ( From the outside, it looks like, well, a book. But open it up and it’s a sturdy MDF box with magnetic closure, that stores all those vital bits and bobs while keeping them safe from prying eyes. Genius, eh?

book box shut

There are three designs to choose from, and they cost a really reasonable £12 each (or £30 for a set of three):


If you want to get one of your own, you might fancy a browse at the other stuff available on the site too. There are some lovely gifts and homewares, including this handy Bloomingville basket £19.99; Grumpy Bear china drawer knob £17 (expensive but SO cute); set of eight Omm design matchboxes £8.99; a clever QR code cushion £19.99; and these fun ‘Yours/Mine/Guests’ hooks, £7.99 each (bottom)…

bloomingville_basket_with_handle flittybird

bloomingville_hooks_3 flittybird


A proper cuppa

30 Sep

photo 2 (7)If you love old-school Penguin book covers, then you’ll love these.

The Literary Gift Company ( has just launched new personalisable book cover mugs – you make up a title, and give them an ‘author’s’ name, and they’ll print you up a mug in one of three colours (green, blue or mustard) for £12.95. It’s such an ingenious idea, I can’t believe no-one has thought of it before.

The real beauty of it is that you don’t have to stick to existing book titles. You can choose anything you like. For mine, above, there wasn’t really any competition – I knew immediately what to order. But you could be as creative/funny/topical as you like, as in these examples:


What’s more, each mug comes in a box with shredded book pages as protective packaging (below, left). Clever eh?

photo 1 (7)They’d make an amazing present for any book lover, particularly those people who are tricky to buy for, like dads and brothers.

Order yours here. Oh, and if you think of a really good title to use, drop me a line – I’ve got a feeling I’m going to be ordering a load more of ’em come Christmas time…



Sounds amazing

15 Sep

photo (54)

As regular readers will know, I’m a sucker for anything retro, so I’m more a little in love with the latest addition to my home office – this ViewQuest Retro DAB+ Radio.

In lovely mustard yellow leatherette, with chrome and cream details, it’s a radio, clock, alarm clock and iPod/iPhone dock all rolled into one…

photo 2 (5)

You can choose between a model with a traditional Apple dock, or one with a future-proof ‘lightning dock’ (for iPhone 5s). It runs off the mains or batteries, and is so simple to use even technophobes like me can have it up and running within minutes. What’s more, the sound quality is great – even if, ahem, you’re only listening to cheese, like yours truly. I was given it to review for a magazine feature, and I’m properly impressed – not surprisingly, it’s also been given five stars by What Hi-Fi in their Sound and Vision reviews.


Don’t like yellow? It’s also available in a rainbow of other shades, including red, pink, cream, pale blue, teal, brown, black and gorgeous emerald green, as well as three limited edition Emma Bridgewater prints. Quite honestly, I’m having to fight my other half over which room it’s going to go in – it’d look just as lovely in a bedroom, living room or kitchen as it would in a study.

Tempted? Check out the full range at and buy one here for £99. Considering a similar retrotastic Roberts design would cost you upwards of £160 or more (and that’s without an alarm or dock), it’s practically a bargain!



Not so big Mac

8 May

mini faux macbok on a book

Looking for a present for a friend the other day, I came across these diddy faux MacBook Air mirrors.

Faithful copies of real Mac laptops, they’re actually tiny, cute cosmetic mirrors in disguise – perfect for popping in your bag or pocket and posing with when you need to check your makeup/check you haven’t got spinach in your teeth(!)

mini faux macbook air

I reckon they’d make the perfect gift for the techie, writer or designer in your life who seems to have everything.

Get yours from – search under “MacBook Air mirror”. Available in white or silver grey, they’ll set you back £5.55 – £9.95 depending on the seller you buy from.

little macbook and big macbook

What have we got ear?

7 Apr

Steiff easter bunny ear set

With Easter just a couple of weeks’ away (and trouser buttons across the country already quaking at the prospect of all that chocolate), I thought I’d share something with you that’s calorie-free, suitable for both big and little kids alike, and that’s very, very sweet.

Yep, when I saw this set of two Rabbit Ears – one for grown-ups and one for babies/toddlers – I couldn’t resist. It’s designed by mega posh teddy bear firm Steiff, and carries their trademark gold button and branded ribbon. Surprisingly, it costs just £12.50 (most of their stuff is waaaaaaaaaaaaaay more expensive), comes in a fancy box, and I reckon it’d make a fab Easter or pre-Easter pressie for anyone who has a little ‘un, or who – whisper it – doesn’t like chocolate.

Want a set of your own? Better visit and hop to it before they run out!

Animal magic

27 Feb

Abode by Magpie tins

British brand Magpie ( make some lovely things – from their gift-worthy mugs with different letters of the alphabet on, through to their cushions and tableware with 1950s-inspired bird prints. So I was really excited to see their new range – Abode – featuring four little animals in their natural habitats.

Inspired by geometric patterns as well as African and Scandinavian design, they’re fun, quirky and totally covetable.

Top of my wishlist is the handy set of three tins, £16, above. They’d work equally well in a home office or bedroom as they would in the kitchen. Get them here.

Other items in the range include these sets of two tea towels (£12 for a pair)…

Deer and mouse tea towels Abode by Magpie

…and the individual boxed mugs, which would make great gifts, £8.50 each…

Deer and woods mug Abode by Magpie

… plus a gorgeous boxed espresso set (a perfect wedding gift, £22.50)…

Abode by Magpie espresso set

…and set of four side plates, £20, which you could mix with white tableware:

Set of four side plates Abode by Magpie

PS: keep an eye out too for the fab placemats (£20 for four) and coasters (£10 for four) which are coming soon.

Money can’t buy me love… but it can buy these!

6 Feb

Tesco Valentines I Want to Hold Your Hand Cushion, £6.00

Love a bit of romance, but hate the huge waves of tacky, cheesy, chintzy Valentine’s products that flood the shops at this time of year?

Me too.

So, this year, I’ve tried to hunt down a selection of Valentine’s gift ideas that are fun, cheeky and even – heaven forbid – actually stylish. Enjoy!

Top: I wanna hold your hand cushion £6 (what a bargain!), Tesco Direct (click HERE)

Valentines mug and earrings

Above: Paul Thurlby for Wild and Wolf mugs £14.95 for the pair,; Pixel heart earring studs £4.50,

Valentines tea towels and tote bag

Above: I love you more than chocolate tea towel £11,; Lovely tote bag £12,; Me & You tea towel £5, Marks & Spencer (

Valentines sweets and chocolates

Above: Love Letter chocolates £10 Marks & Spencer; Marshmallow hearts in a giant jar £16 John Lewis (; Sweet hearts £2 Marks & Spencer; I love you lolly £2 John Lewis

Heart shaped hole punch £x Suck UK

Above: Heart hole punch £10

Valentines little gifts

Above: Scrabble tile magnet set £4.50; Missing puzzle piece keyring £10.99,; Heart ring £6.99,

Valentines tea mitt and roses

Above: Grow your own scented roses £4, John Lewis; Personalised tea tin £9.99,; Love and cake oven mitt £14,

Initial thoughts

10 Jan

Marks and Spencer F cushion It’s been a while since I saw something and bought it immediately, but the moment I spotted these alphabet letter cushions from Marks & Spencer (, I loaded up my online shopping basket quicker than you could say (or should that be ‘spell’) OMG. They are, quite simply, AMAZING. Not only do they look stylish and fun, but they’re just £10 each. Yep, you read that right, just a tenner each. Which means you can treat yourself to one with your initial on without feeling guilty at all…

Marks and Spencer J cushion…or go crazy and spell out a whole world on your sofa without breaking the bank (well, not spending an absolute fortune, anyhow).

Their simple design means they’d suit almost any kind of decor, and they’d make an absolutely perfect present, particularly for a wedding (you could buy two, one with the bride’s initial and one with the groom’s).

Race you to the checkout!

Marks and Spencer initial letter cushions

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

Good luck and happy shopping!

Green-fingered gifts

9 Dec

Garden gifts bee house

Every year on this blog, I promise to help readers find Christmas presents for people who are tricky to buy for.

If you have a gift-giving conundrum, please drop me a line at with the details of who you’re thinking of, and anything interesting about them such as hobbies, likes/dislikes etc. I’ll then hunt out some present ideas and post them up here!

This December, the first request comes from Helen, who needs to buy presents for both her dad and her friend Claire. They both love gardening, but she doesn’t want to get them: “something boring, like a spade or packets of seeds”. She also doesn’t want to spend over £25 each.

Luckily, there’s a whole host of gorgeous gardening goodies in the shops this year, and I’ve come up with some suggestions for her.

Hopefully they’ll inspire you too!..

Top of page: Thoughtful gardener bee house £17.50 Berry Red ( 

Garden gifts ladybird cushion bee cushion

Above: Ladybird and Bee cushions £25 each, Karenza & Co (

Garden gifts soap grow own allotment hand therapy

Above: Gnome soap-on-a-rope £8* The Great Gift Company (; Indoor Allotment £19.55 (; Gardener’s Hand Therapy hand cream £9 Crabtree & Evelyn (

Garden gifts trowels orla kiely gloves garden bag garden calendar

Above, clockwise from top left: Orla Kiely gardening gloves £14.95 Urban Cuckoo (; Matthew Rice A Year in the Country calendar 2014 £12.99 Cotswold Trading (; Gisela Graham gardening bag £10.99 Mollie & Fred (; Garden tool set £15 Tesco (

Garden gifts wheelbarrow grabbers

Above: Purple wheelbarrow £28 Asda ( – okay so it’s a little over the budget but it’s a bargain for such a cool wheelbarrow!; Get Gardening Leaf Grabbers £3.50 Wilko (

Garden gifts boot brush doormat lunch mugsAbove, clockwise from top left: Owl boot brush £12 Wilko (; Dig for Victory mug £7* The Great Gift Company (; I Garden Therefore I Am mug £6.99 Urban Cuckoo (; Best in Show coir doormat £19.99 Retreat Home (; Grow Your Own Christmas Lunch £14.99 The Oak Room (

*GET 10% OFF AT THE GREAT GIFT COMPANY from today until midnight on 13th December. Just enter code SUN10 at the online checkout.

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 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!

Wool you still love me tomorrrow?

18 Oct

Bronte star cushion grey

For my recent styling challenge (see Wednesday’s post) I got to borrow lots of lovely home products to use as finishing touches.

The pieces that got by far and away the most ‘Ooohs’ and ‘Aaaahs’? The absolutely beautiful cushions and throws kindly lent to me by British company Bronte  by Moon, a Yorkshire wool mill that’s been going since 1837 (

Made from Pure New Wool, Mohair and Merino Lambswool, everything they make is soooooo soft and snuggly, it’s perfect for cold winter nights. There’s a HUGE range of styles and patterns available – not just a plethora of checks and tartans, but also stars, spots and stripes. Many of the throws are reversible, too.

Bronte mohair throws

Bronte check purple cushion

While they’re definitely not cheap (between £69.95 and £150 for a throw; and around £49.95 for a cushion); from the little button and tassel detailing on the cushions to the fancy ribbon labels on the throws, they look and feel a million dollars. It was with great sadness that I had to package them up and send them back after the shoot!

Bronte spot throws

Still, at least I know what to ask Father Christmas to bring me. Who knows, he might even fancy one of the Nordic snowflake designs for his own pad…!

PS: Like the look but on a budget? Bronte by Moon also make supersoft merino lambswool scarves, £25 each, in a rainbow of colours and patterns, like the one below. You could even sew one into a long cushion yourself…!

Bronte scarves

Don’t judge a book by its charger

9 Oct

pride and prejudice booksi phone charger

Phone chargers – not the sexiest of items, are they? Mine hides away beside my dressing table, almost apologetically, looking functional rather than fabulous.

Which is why these ‘booksi’ chargers from Rich Neeley Designs on Etsy ( are such a clever idea. Fashioned from real new leather or cloth bound versions of classic novels (or one-off vintage books), a charging dock is built into the pages, so that when you plug in your smartphone, it looks like it’s sitting casually on top of your bedtime reading material.

peter pan booksi 2

There are loads of designs to choose from – I particularly like Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland  – and at around £20-£35ish each, they’re just about affordable. Available for iPhones and iPads, they’ll even custom-make you a booksi with the volume of your choosing. Genius!

bleak house booksi phone charger

the hobbit booksi

Tray chic

10 Sep

maria-dahlgren-dolores-colores-tray Howkapow £35

Not only has online store Howkapow ( got a great name, but they’ve also got great taste. They specialise in colourful, fun, quirky, well-designed products – I covet much everything they sell…

The best things in the shop though, in my opinion, are the new trays, £18-£35. Forget boring brown wooden versions, these are bright and cheerful with such pretty patterns you could almost hang them on the wall as art when you’re not using them.

maria-dahlgren-harlekin-tray Howkapow £18

Other goodies worth checking out include their cute fox and cat cushions, £28 each; blowball brooches, £15; retro ‘Bonjour’ print, £35; the sweet acorn-shaped salt’n’pepper set, £25; and the funky Kaleidoscope tablemats, £35 for four.

fox-cushion-orange-robin-mould £28 Howkapow

blowball-brooch-teal-snug £15 Howkapow

eduardo-barba-bonjour-print_1 £35 Howkapow

acorn-salt-pepper-pots-bliss £25 Howkapow

kaleidoscope-tablemat-set-fun-makes-good £35 Howkapow

PS: LIVE OUTSIDE THE UK? Have no fear – Howkapow reassure me they ship internationally! See their site for details.

Parrot fashion

5 Sep

Ceramic parrot ornaments - Homebase and Rigby and Mac

White porcelain or ceramic animal and bird figurines have been popping up in Elle Deco and Living Etc for a while now. They add a kind of kitsch cool to any room or colour scheme.

However, they also usually have a ridiculously high designer price tag attached. Until now…

Three forward-thinking stores have all come up with purse-friendly porcelain parrots. The one on the top left is from Homebase ( and is a bargainous £9.99; while the one on the top right is £16.95 from hip homestore Ribgy and Mac (and officially, it’s a Cockatoo) The unglazed porcelain parrot below is £12.50 (was £25) from An Angel At My Table

I think any of them would look a very pretty Polly indeed perched on a bookshelf or mantlepiece!

small porcelain parrot £12.50 An Angel At My Table

Foxing clever

29 Aug

Dunelm Mill felt fox cushion £12.99

They might give chickens nightmares and make a nighttime noises that sound like someone being tortured, but this Autumn, foxes are definitely ‘in’.

Of course, the foxes that are popping up on cushions, mugs and prints at the moment are the cute, cosy kind – glossy russet coats, big bushy tails and jaunty little faces. And even though a fox once stole one of my shoes and then pooed in the other, I have to admit, even I’m kind of liking them.

They’re an easy way to bring your home bang-up-to-date. Pop a cushion on an armchair, or a print on an unloved bit of wall and hey presto, you’ll look as cunning as a fox who’s just been appointed Professor of Cunning at Oxford University (one for the Blackadder fans there).

So, in an attempt to make friends with my former foes, here’s a round-up of my favourite foxy finds…

Above: Felt Fox Cushion £12.99 (yes really!), Dunelm Mill

Below: Fox art print £25 Marks & Spencer

M&S Fox frame art £25Cushions (clockwise from LtoR): Fox accent cushion £12, Fox tapestry cushion £14 Next, Linea fox cushion £25 House of Fraser, Fox face cushion £16.99 LS Prints fox accent cushion £12Fox sculpture ornament £15 fox sculpture ornament £15

Midnight Foxes giclee print £30 Culture Label

midnight fox giclee print £30

Friendly Fox cushion £17.99 The Oak Room

The Oak Room fox cushion

Rusty the Fox doormat £19.95 and tin of plasters £3.95 (other products also available in this range)

Rusty the fox doormat £19.95 Dotcomgiftshop

Sew Your Own Fox tea towel £12.50 Culture Label

culturelabel sew your own fox_tea_towel £12.50

Old School Czech label notecard with fox £2.50 Present and Correct (would look great framed!) foxy notecard

Like reading this blog as much as I like writing it? Then please vote for me in the Cosmo Blog Awards by clicking on the link below. I’m nominated in the ‘Best Interiors Blog’ section sponsored by NEXT. voting closes this weekend, 31st August. Thank you!

A spot of Bother

23 Aug

Oh Bother Designs large Scrabble wall tiles £4 each

Last week, a lovely lady called Stephanie got in touch to tell me about an online shop she runs with her boyfriend, Aiden. They make and sell homewares and jewellery under the name Oh Bother Design at

After taking a quick peek, I’m definitely a fan. I particularly like the oversized Scrabble wall tiles, £4 each, above. Printed on plastic just like the real thing, a single initial would look cool on a mantlepiece or on a wall  amongst a group of picture frames; or you could spell out a whole name or two as in the pic below (great for a wedding present).

Oh Bother Designs large Scrabble wall tiles £4 each two names

Steph and Aiden also make cool rings (£20) or bangles out of wood and coloured pencils; quirky stag head wall art (£15) and grandfather clocks (£19) out of cardboard; arty wooden letters in a ‘circus’ font; and pretty acrylic flower-shaped coasters (£12 for a set of three)…

Oh Bother Designs chunky wood pencil rings £20 in a row

Oh Bother Designs cardboard stag head £15

Oh Bother Designs circus style wooden letter £3.50 10cm tall

Oh Bother Designs set of three geometric coasters £12

Finally, it’s worth casting your eyes over (sorry) the fun eye test cards, £17 each including frame, which come in one of two designs, below. For a tenner extra, the guys will personalise one for you if you can think of a phrase you’d prefer in 20-40 characters…

Oh Bother Designs eye test card on brick wall £17

Like reading this blog as much as I like writing it? Then please vote for me in the Cosmo Blog Awards by clicking on the link below. I’m nominated in the ‘Best Interiors Blog’ section. Thank you!

Very pin-teresting

12 Aug

Giant metal safety pin with tea towel

The new catalogue has just popped through my letterbox and it’s a corker. If you’re not familiar with it, the website brings together thousands of different products from individual designers and small independent stores as well as bigger names. I’ve spent many a happy hour just putting different search terms in and seeing what goodies pop up.

Anyhow, my absolute favourite item from the new catalogue is this Giant Display Pin from Gertie & Mabel, top. It would look great in a kitchen with a tea towel on; in a bedroom to display necklaces; in a hallway to hang scarves; or in a craft room with spools of ribbon on. In fact, you can also buy vintage style wooden spools (£3.95 each) also from Gertie & Mabel to wind lovely ribbons on (yes, they sell the ribbons too!).

Giant metal safety pin with ribbon spools

Other standouts include these Industrial Metal Letters, below, from the Letteroom – at £29.50 each, they’re a lot cheaper than most designer ones you can buy…

Industrial metal letters

…and these AMAZING lights shaped like balloons (called Memory Balloon Wall Lights, by designer John Moncrieff). Made of handblown glass, they’re not just things of beauty, but they’re clever too – you attach them to the wall or ceiling, then pull on the string to switch them on. The only reason I haven’t run out and bought a load immediately? They start at £134 each, yikes!

Memory balloon ceiling light

Like reading this blog as much as I like writing it? Then please vote for me in the Cosmo Blog Awards by clicking on the link below. I’m nominated in the ‘Best Interiors Blog’ section. Thank you!

Sun, sea and chic

25 Jun

Whiting Post 4

As I mentioned last week, I went to Whitstable recently, and had a lovely time. A sweet little seaside town, it’s great for mooching, with lots of cute nic nac shops, stores selling affordable vintage furniture, and more charity shops that I’ve ever seen crammed onto one main street.

I picked up some brilliant bits and bobs, but my favourite boutique by far was The Whiting Post  ( Stocking new retro-style dresses, a huge range of Orla Kiely items, and boasting a table groaning with quirky jewellery, it’s the kind of place that’s impossible to leave empty-handed.

My picks? The fun doggie brooches and the kitsch retro flower earrings, above (mentioned on this blog a few months ago), which you can also buy direct from the lady who makes them, at

So, the next time you fancy a trip to the seaside, set your sat nav for Whitstable and let me know how you fill your shopping bag!

Whiting Post 3

Whiting Post 6

Whiting Post 2

Whiting Post 5

Oh deer!

11 Jun

Emma's ear with Jeremy Hoyle gold plated silver deer earrings

Jeremy Hoyle earrings £60 Woodland Creatures Silver Ear Studs

Now, normally I’m all about the bargains, but when I saw these brilliant deer earrings (kindly being modeled here by their owner, my lovely friend Emma), I had to draw them to your attention.

They’re very cool, but cute too – a winning combination in my book. Designed by Brighton-based jeweller Jeremy Hoye, silver versions cost £60 while gold-plated silver versions, like the one above, are £75 per pair. His website,, is well worth checking out – he has loads of similar studs, including squirrels, two-tone pineapples and lifelike mini pansies.

They’d make an amazing present for someone special – or you could pop them on your Christmas wishlist  (it’s never too early to start!)

If your budget won’t stretch to these kinds of prices, as always, I have found an alternative. These cute hypoallergenic silver metal fawn earrings from Oliver Bonas (below, are just £8 and come in a little gift box. Oliver Bonas also sell a gold ‘Bambie ‘ necklace, very similar to the Jeremy Hoye studs, for £9, also below.

oliver_bonas silver fawn earrings £8 pair

Oliver Bonas Bambie necklace close up £9

Cuppa load of these tea towels

29 May

Stuart Gardiner tea towels - tea and coffee

Graphic designer Stuart Gardiner makes some lovely tea towels – you might have seen them – with colourful tables showing which fruit and vegetables are in season; handy guides to pairing wine with food; and a cute design covered in flowers that attract bees (you can see some of them at the bottom of this post).

Not only are they incredibly cool, but they’re made of really good quality cotton that wears really well and feels soft and absorbent even after dozens of washes.

Now he’s launched two fab new tea towels, one with tips, recipes and sayings all about coffee, and one all about tea, above. They’d make brilliant, easily-postable gifts (you could even pair one with a box of tea/coffee or a  nice mug?).

All his tea towels cost  £10 each (plus just £1 P&P) from

Like his style? His site sells oven mitts, bags, mugs, prints and even chopping boards too.

Stuart Gardiner tea towel - coffee design

Stuart Gardiner tea towel - tea design

Stuart Gardiner tea towel - seasonal guide to fruit and veg folded

Stuart Gardiner tea towel Bee FriendlyStuart Gardiner tea towels - pairing red and white wine with food

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

Playing your cards right

9 May

Vintage playing cards animal rummy

On a recent visit to friends in Norfolk the other week (more on their AMAZING house in a later post…) I found these mega cute 1950s/60s playing cards in a junk shop for £4. I love the old school illustrations – kitsch but not too twee.

Back home, I’ve paired them up with squares of wrapping or origami paper and stuck them on blank greetings cards. I plan to use them for birthdays and thank yous, with the idea that the recipients can remove the card and recycle it again in a different way. I reckon they’d look great as a freize around a child’s bedroom wall; framed as little artworks, or even used as gift tags.

Vintage playing cards turned into greetings cards 2

Vintage playing cards turned into greetings cards 1

Fancy making some yourself? You can pick up all kinds of similar packs in different retro designs for around a fiver each on eBay (search under ‘vintage playing cards’ or ‘animal rummy’ or other card games like ‘old maid’ or ‘hearts’ or ‘happy families’).

Vintage playing cards hearts

Don’t worry, bee happy

7 May

Gold plated Alex Monroe bee necklace £130 Liberty

A workmate of mine used to have a gorgeous gold-plated ‘Baby Bee’ necklace (above) that she bought for her wedding day – and then wore every day since. It was small, simple, and went with everything from summer dresses to cable-knit jumpers. The necklace in question is by designer Alex Monroe, and costs £130 from Liberty ( Ah. That’s why I never bought one for myself.

Until yesterday. Idling away ten  minutes in Accessorize in Kings Cross station, I spotted the perfect homage – okay, it’s almost a copy –  a little gold ‘Bella Bee’ on a chain for just £6:

accessorize bee necklace full length and close up

Well, it would have been rude not to get it, don’t you think?!

Want one for yourself (or as a great gift for someone)? It’s available now in Accessorize stores and online at

Don’t like necklaces? You can also buy ‘Bella Bee’ stud earrings from Accessorize for the unbelievably bargainous price of £2 a pair:

Accessorize Bella bee stud earrings £2

Just my type of present

25 Apr

Typewriter floral cushion £15 M&S Marks and SpencerLooking for a present for a friend the other day, I stumbled upon this brilliant cushion, above, £15 from Marks & Spencer ( It’s perfect because she’s attempting to write a book, so spends a lot of time at her desk. Okay, so she’s hunched over a computer rather than a typewriter, but I reckoned it’d look sweet on her chair, and help keep her spirits up when she’s got writer’s block.

Once I’d seen that though, I realised how many other typewriter-themed goodies are out there. All of them would make great gifts for aspiring (or accomplished) writers, bloggers, journalists or general wordsmiths. Here’s my pick of the best:

Personalised notebook, £9 :

original_personalised-typewriter-notebook £9 notonthehighstreet

Typewriter ink stamps, £6.99, : typewriter stamps £6.99

Typewriter tablet sleeve, £14.99, :
Typewriter tablet sleeve £14.99 from

Typewriter keys magnets, £8.99, :

Typewriter keys magnets £8.99

Personalised typewriter bag (up to six lines of text), £15, :
Typewriter bag £15 personalised up to six lines Snapdragononline

Sh*t happens

11 Apr

Firebox lip shit tins white background

Now, I know it’s not big or clever to swear, but there are times (like when Roger Cocks from the local garden centre sends out a letter saying it’s apple season again) when it’s amusing.

So, I’m all for the name of this fun new beauty range that’s just gone on sale at There are two products to choose from – Hand Sh*t hand cream, £7.99; and Lip Sh*t lip balm, £4.99 (I’m not asterix-ing the “i” out because the packaging does by the way – I’m doing it because if a swear word appears in this blog, loads of subscriber’s firewalls will block it, the meanies).

Anyhow, those in the know say it’s actually a really nice product; there are lots of delicious sounding scents to choose from – including Asian Pear, Jasmine Fig and Grapefruit Rosehip – and it’s all packaged in quirky little tins and jars that’d make great presents.

For these reasons, I’m going to log on to Firebox and get my hands on some of that sh*t right now.

Firebox hand shit hand cream cut out jar Honeysuckle

Firebox lip shit tin in packaging Lemonade

Firebox lip shit hand cream tins by basket

Have your cake and store it!

2 Apr

Orla Kiely cake tins set of 5 £35 John Lewis

It was my birthday the other week, and some of my lovely friends clubbed together and got me John Lewis vouchers, as they know I’m slightly obsessed with pretty much everything they sell.

So, what did I spend them on? Well, I’ve been coveting this set of gorgeous cake and biscuit tins by Orla Kiely for some time, so I treated myself!

There are five tins in total, each in one of Orla’s signature retro-style prints, including a really large tin that’s great for Christmas cakes and other huge items. They look fantastic in my kitchen and match the colours on my blinds brilliantly (not that this matters, but it makes me love them even more). You can stack them inside each other when not in use, but quite frankly, they look far to pretty to hide away.

The whole set of five costs £35, which is actually fairly reasonable considering there are so many of them and they’re a bona fide designer item.

In fact, they’ve already had so many admiring comments, that the next time someone who loves baking (or just eating) cakes gets married, I’ll invest in a set for them too – I reckon they’d make a fantastic and unusual wedding gift.

Orla Kiely cake tins in two piles

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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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

Just for scarves

11 Mar

neon flouro leopard print scarf £6 stall on Argyle St in London

It’s that time of year again, when it’s too cold not to wear something round your neck, and too warm for a full-on woolly number. One of my very first posts on this blog was about the usefulness of the Transitional Scarf (a fancy way of describing a cotton-ish scarf you can wear in spring!) and I still think they’re a brilliant solution.

And my absolute favourite place to buy them is a little market-type stall in London, situated outside Oasis on Argyle Street, just opposite Oxford Circus tube station. It’s open every day and there’s always an amazing selection. There are brightly-coloured scarves and ones in muted tones; ones with birds, horses, zebras or deers on; ones with animal print and ones with flower patterns.

They’re all £6 each or two for a tenner. I’ve bought several over the years from there, both for myself and presents, and they always get a lot of positive comments.

My latest purchase, above, is particularly awesome – it’s grey and neon pink leopard print, a new design the little man who runs the stall says he’s trying out for the summer. He’s planning to sell more in other fluoro colours too.

So, if you live in London or are planning a shopping trip there, I thoroughly recommend a visit. If not, Primark also have a good, cheap selection, or you could try Oliver Bonas stores or (immediately below: Finches and Geese prints, £18; colour block, £26), or M&S (bottom: fish scale print, £15; grey Ikat print, £15.60).

Oliver Bonas Finch print scarf, £18

Lightweight fish scales geometric border scarf £15 M&S

Oh boy, Lollipop!

5 Mar

Lollipop designs cat note cards set

One of the things I love most about writing this blog is finding bits and bobs that would make great presents. And to me, a great present is fun, unusual, and not the kind of thing people would be able to justify buying for themselves. It also helps in a lot of cases if it’s easy to post.

So I was very happy to stumble upon Lollipop Designs ( and also on They sell some lovely things that tick all those boxes.

My absolute favourites are the brilliant Origami Animal Note Sets, £8.75 each (above and below) – ten sheets of printed paper that you fold to make a friendly little cat, mouse or fox face that you can then pop into the little square envelope provided and send as a thank you note or birthday card.

Lollipop designs normal_origami-notepaper-set-various

I also love the squirrel DIY gift tag ink stamp kit (which comes with 10 blank tags to get you started), £12; the classy Weekly Planner Pad, £9, which would look very smart either at work or at home; and the eco parcel tape, £9.50 per roll, which is decorated with little stars or animals, birds and speech bubbles (it’d be great for gift-wrapping), all below.

I’m off to place my order now!

Lollipop designs squirrel DIY gift tag ink stamp kit

Lollipop designs weekly-planner-pad

Lollipop designs parcel tape patterned

Can you dig these? Yes you can!

25 Feb


Something very exciting is happening in one of my favourite shops, Wilkinsons, from the beginning of March. They’ve had a major overhaul of their homes department and will be selling tons of gorgeous new designs in everything from cushions and bedding to lighting and rugs. What’s more, if you don’t live near a store, you’ll be able to buy it all at their new website address from the beginning of March.

Don’t worry, I’ll be writing about it all the  minute it goes on sale!

In the meantime, they’ve just released their new range of stuff for your garden. In a stylish palette of stone, olive and retro burnt orange, it’s fresh, fun… and a total bargain.

Here’s my picks of the best bits. I particularly love the watering cans and birdhouse – they’d make great presents for any green-fingered friends.

Olive Bistro Set, £80 (two chairs and a table)

Watering cans, £12 each…

3307793 _ How Does Your Garden Grow Watering Can, £12

Bird box, £8…

0330772 - Wilko Sustain Get Outdoors Bird House Metal Cream-Green - £8Grow Your Own set of three pots on a tray, £7…

3307717 _ Grow Your Own Pots on Tray, £7My Garden Things utility box, £15…

My Gardening Things Utility Box, £15, 0330770

Send in the clouds

18 Feb

Cloud eraser and pencil set

I’ve recently started working from home*, and to get myself in the right frame of mind, I’m trying to make my office space (erm, a desk in the spare room!) as welcoming, fun and lovely as possible.

While searching for nice stationery – a favourite pastime of mine – I discovered a new mini trend: clouds. I love their jolly rounded shape, and the fact they’ll bring a bit of the outside in for those times when I’m chained to my computer.

So, here’s my pick of the best cloud-shaped accessories around at the moment. Maybe best to stick to just one or two in a room though – you don’t want things to get too over-cloud-ed, do you?!

Cloud Pencil Eraser Set, £10, – I LOVE this as it includes a rainbow too. The only problem is that the giant cloud-shaped eraser is too pretty to use!

Magnetic keyholder, £20, – keys stick ‘magically’ to this handy keyholder, and look like rain. Genius! It’s stylish and unassuming even when not in use, and would go well in any room in the house.

Cloud magnetic key holder suck uk

Design Ideas Cloud Magnet Memo, £24.95 John Lewis,
This clever write-on/wipe-off memo board is also magnetic and would look particularly lovely on a coloured wall.

cloud memo board john lewis

Luckies Sunnyside Egg Shaper, £7.95, or
Place in your frying pan, then pop a yolk into the ‘sun’ section and the white into the ‘cloud’ – voila! (NB: want a quick way to separate egg whites and yolks? Crack an egg onto a plate, then gently lower the open neck of an empty water bottle over the yolk – it creates a vacuum and sucks it up! Then you can transfer it easily in the bottle to your pan).

Cloud sunnyside in pan

Cloud necklaces, from £6, and
Ok, so these won’t decorate your home, but they’re so sweet I thought I’d include them anyhow! Just seach for ‘cloud necklace’ on Etsy or and there’s a huge range to choose from. Lovely! (on the left is an antique silver finish cloud by thewoodlandburrow on Etsy for £6.64/$10; on the right is Blue Raindrop Silver Cloud necklace by SUNnMOONcafe on Etsy, £21.58/$32.50)

silver cloud necklace thewoodlandburrow on etsy £6.64 or $10

*If you’re interested, you can check out my new ‘professional’ website here:

The wheels on the bus

15 Feb

Bernie wooden toy bus from Jammtoys

A week or two ago I wrote a post about what to buy a one-year old for their birthday for under a tenner.

And a tenner is all you really need to spend. However, if you really want to push the boat out for a very special baby, I now have another suggestion. Yesterday, my little boy was given this gorgeous wooden bus as a late birthday present. And he LOVES it:

Bernie's bus with baby

I’ve always poo-pooed wooden toys to a certain extent – while they look lovely on a shelf, and adults go loopy over them, many of them simply aren’t interesting enough to hold babies’ attention. However, this bus (called Bernie’s Bus, £29.99 from has changed my mind.

It’s designed to be suitable from 12 months old, yet at first glance, it looks too complicated for a one-year old – but my little boy had it sussed immediately. You can take the roof off and the top deck, and there are six different coloured little passengers to arrange in the seats – or just chew. It’s well made, rolls along beautifully and can withstand even the most exuberant toddler.

Add to that the fact it does indeed look lovely on a shelf, and it’s the kind of thing both big and little kids will enjoy for several years to come.

Bernie wooden bus passengers


Insta gratification

13 Feb

Firebox Instagram coasters

One of the biggest downsides to taking photos on your phone is that that’s where they usually stay – on  your phone – until you get another one, drop it down the loo, or it breaks and you lose everything.

So, I’m a huge fan of anything that sets your photos free and turns them into actual, physical things you can keep.

I’m addicted to the Stannp app on my iphone (search for ‘Stannp’ in the App Store) which makes postcards from your photos and sends them anywhere in the UK or abroad for 99p. You can even do clever things such as add text, superimpose speech bubbles and remove spots and red eye (always a bonus). I’ve made and sent cards as a thank you, for birthdays, for Christmas, Easter, Mother’s Day…

Even cooler are two new services I’ve discovered which make objects from your Instagram pics.

The first is a personalised set of Instagram coasters from (top). For just £14.99, they’ll make good quality drinks coasters from four of your favourite pix- a brilliant present idea.

I’m also loving the new ‘Instagram necklace’ (below) from fun jewellery website Punky Pins ( They’ll take any Instagram pic, print it onto acrylic plastic and attach it to a chain for a unique pendant that also makes a great present. It costs just £13 and if you order before the 15th February, they’ll even throw in an Instagram camera logo ring for free.

If you’re anything like me (with over 2,000 photos on my phone – eek!), your only problem will be deciding which ones to choose…

Punkypins Instagram ring

Valentine’s Day? It’s a mug’s game!

11 Feb

VDay hot lips ceramic mug £5 M&S

V-Day falls on a Thursday this year, which means lie-ins and leisurely romantic breakfasts-in-bed are out the window. Still, you can still show your loved one you care (at least a little bit) by bringing them a nice cup of tea first thing in the morning.

And what better to bring it to them in than a nice new mug? A mug makes a good Valentine’s Day present as it’s not as fattening as chocolates, predictable as red roses or bleurgggggh as a teddy holding a satin heart.

You’ve only got three days to buy one though, so I’d head to trusty Marks and Spencer (, who have some lovely, non-cheesy mugs in at the moment. My picks? The simple ‘Mr’ and ‘Mrs’ script mugs, £6 each, below, that’ll look classy way past the 14th; or the fun ‘hot lips’ mug (top) or ‘love birds’ mug *(below) that both look a lot more expensive than their £5 price tags.

Single? Soften the blow of having to make your own cuppa by treating yourself to a new mug anyway. M&S has a mega cute fondant fancy mug, £6, available in pink or yellow (bottom). If I were you, I’d use it as an excuse to splash out on some real fondant fancies to go with it, too!

VDay Mrs mug £6 M&S

VDay love birds mug £5 M&S

VDay fondant mug £6 M&S yellow

I pity the fool who doesn’t love Mr Tea

6 Feb

Mr Tea in his cup

Say hello to Mr Tea, the cutest tea infuser ever created.

Simply load up his food-safe silicone trousers with loose tea leaves, pull them back on, then pop him in a cup of hot water with his arms over the side, and let him make you a tasty brew.


He costs £7.95 from and comes in a handy presentation box.

Mr Tea resting beside a mug

Mr Tea box

What to buy a one-year-old

28 Jan

Presents for first birthdays Tomy hide n squeak eggs

Who’s he hardest kind of person to buy for? Dads? Grandparents? Teenage boys? Nope. One-year-olds.

Buying for babies is easy – there are so many cute outfits, fluffy teddies and handy gizmos that you’re spoilt for choice. But one-year-olds are different. It’s a tricky age where you can’t be sure clothes fit (some are still in age 9-12 months; others are in 18-24 months already) and the toys you think they’ll like all turn out to have scary labels on saying they’re: ‘not suitable for children under 36 months’.

I realised this when my own little boy turned one recently – along with lots of his friends. However, having been given some amazing presents and having had to buy for six one-year-olds (and counting) in the last couple of months, I’ve become a dab hand at it. So, I thought I’d share my findings with you.

Here’s my list of perfect pressies guaranteed to be a hit on a first birthday – and what’s more, most are under a fiver and all of them are under a tenner. Bonus!

(above) Tomy Hide’n’Squeak Eggs, £4.50 Not only are these eggs different colours with different funny faces, but the tops of their shells come off, they ‘squeak’ when pressed, and their bottoms are different shapes, for babies to sort. Oh, and the plastic egg box carry case is a toy in itself. Hours of fun.

(below) Fisher Price Chatter Telephone, £4.48 Tesco Direct An old skool toy that’s still great decades on. My little boy loves to make the dial ‘ring’ and pulls it along everywhere with him.

Presents for first birthdays Fisher Price telephone chatter phone

Early Learning Centre (ELC) Bath Stacking Cups, £4.80 (was £6), Unlike normal stacking cups, each one is in the shape of a sea creature. Cute and perfect for little fingers to grip.

Presents for first birthdays ELC bath stacking cups

My First Book of Things to Learn (published by Tiger Tales), £5 My little boy was given this by an aunt and he is obsessed with it. The round tabs make turning the pages easy, the thick cardboard pages can withstand a lot of wear and tear and the pictures are fun as well as educational.

Presents for first birthdays My First Book of Things to Learn (tiger tales)

Gowi Watering Can, £4.99 or Another great bath toy – little ones love seeing the water pouring out, and when they’re older, they can use it at the beach or to help out in the garden.

Presents for first birthdays Gowi bath watering can

Halilit baby Tambourine, £6.67 It looks classy, doesn’t sound too annoying, and has no sharp metal bits.

Presents for first birthdays Halilit baby tambourine

Mega Bloks classic Big Builder bag, £9.50 Tesco Direct A toy that’ll last for years. One year olds will enjoy playing with/chewing the bricks and will grow to love building stuff ages before they can be let loose on proper (and much tinier) Lego.

Presents for first birthdays Mega Bloks big building bag classic

‘BUSA’ Play Tunnel, £10 Ikea My son got one of these for his birthday, and while he’s not mastered the hang of crawling through it yet, I certainly have, and it’s ace! It concertinas down to a hoop shape that you can store under the sofa when it’s not in use. Phew.

Presents for first birthdays Ikea Busa play tunnel

PS: Not entered my competition to win a designer framed butterfly print worth £45 from There’s still time! Check out last Friday’s blog post (25th Jan) for details.

Owl right now

21 Jan

Rigby & Mac Xmas felt owl wall clock £16.95

I was going to write about this fun little fella before Christmas, but then he sold out, and one of the promises I made when I first set up this blog was only ever to mention things you could actually buy.

Anyhow, I’ve just received an email saying he’s back in stock, so let me introduce you!

Called the Grey Felt Owl Wall Clock, from the lovely Rigby & Mac (, he looks like a trendy uber expensive Scandi-style timepiece you’d get somewhere like Heal’s. But actually he’s a very reasonable £16.95.

I love his little winking eye, his soft felt-y body, and the little baby owl on his pendulum. I think he’d look very smart in a hallway, living room or kid’s bedroom.

What a hoot!

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 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!

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

Coaster hunting

16 Jan

Alphabet coasters scrabble style letter E

Whenever I want a fun, personal present to pop in with a birthday, Thank You or New Home card, I buy one of these sweet initial coasters.

Made to look a bit like Scrabble tiles, there’s one for every letter of the alphabet, plus symbols such as @, & and a heart.

A single coaster would make a lovely little gift for someone to use on their bedside table or desk; or you could buy several and spell out a word.

I get mine from a little shop in Crystal Palace, London; but I see that have started selling them too (search under ‘coaster’). They’re just £3.95 each. Bargain!

Alphabet coasters full range

Alphabet coasters cake

All mapped out

11 Jan

map covered 3D letters and ampersand

Map covered 3D ampersand

My other half is pretty easygoing when it comes to what we put in our house – he’ll go along with most of my ideas without putting up too much of a fight (sensible boy!). It’s rare he makes a real point about mentioning something he likes, and when he does, I always take note.

This Christmas, he had his heart set on some lovely 3D freestanding letters from, that have vintage maps on the front, and can be personalised to show any country you like. He fancied our initials (we’re both “J”) and an ampersand. And he wanted Bali, where we went for our honeymoon, on one of them. Only thing was, when I checked the price of the ones he liked, they cost over £40… and I reckoned I could make them myself for much less.

So I did! And the results are above. I managed to get Bali on one ‘J’; the UK, Marrakech and Paris (favourite holiday desinations) on another; and California (where we got engaged) on the ampersand. They now have pride of place on our bedroom shelf and I’m pretty pleased with how they came out. What’s more, they were really easy to make. In fact, so easy, I thought I’d share the ‘how to’ with you, at the bottom of this entry.

Not into crafting? You can buy various versions of these letters, in different sizes, on – they come covered in everything from vintage  maps to music scores and comic book pages. Seller Roseberry Stone makes some nice ones for £7.68/$12:

etsy map 3D letter

While you’re visiting Etsy, you can also get sweet locket necklaces (£22.39/$35 by PAPERandPLACE), personalised prints (£14.07/$22 by FleaMarketSunday) and even metal keepsake tins (£4.64/$7.25 by HocusFocus) with the map of your choice on fairly cheaply – they’d make really thoughtful, unusual presents. Some pics are below.

etsy custom map locket letters on mannequin

etsy custom map initial


1. Buy a 3D letter in the initial of your choice. You can get them from (search for “3D Letter” – they’re currently on sale for just 99p!) or Amazon; or I got mine from Ebay (they were listed as “Large 7 inch 18cm Decopatch Freestanding 3D Cardboard Letters” £2.75 from seller bigbaggiepeck).

2.Paint it in any colour you like. You can use any leftover ordinary emulsion paint, or buy a little tester pot. I used a tester pot of a shade called Vintage Map (I thought it was apt!) by Farrow & Ball.

3. Choose your map or covering paper. I bought a sheet of vintage world map wrapping paper from a travel shop called Stanfords for just £2.99. Just visit and search under ‘wrapping paper’ – it’s a really cheap way of getting some great old skool style maps on the cheap.

4. Lay your 3D letter on the covering paper and trace round it. If you want to make sure you get a specific country on your letter, you can make a see-through template first. Just place your 3D letter on a plastic see-through slip-in document wallet; draw round it and cut it out; and then position this template on your covering paper and trace round that instead.

5. Cut out the letter shape from the covering paper, cutting about 1mm inside the lines you traced.

6. Stick your cut out paper letter shape onto your painted 3D letter (I just used Pritt Stick); trim any overlapping edges; and you’re done!

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 for details.

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!

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
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

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

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

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
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
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

Last minute owl hand cream

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
Charades for kids, £7.29
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
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
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
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
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.

Can you candle this?

17 Dec

teacup candle finished and wrapped

I’d always thought candle making was too difficult/faffy and involved specialist equipment – until a friend showed me some amazing teacup candles she’d made with nothing more than an old cup, some string and some melted tealights.

So, when my neighbour threw out a lovely vintage teaset the other day, I snapped it up and had a go at making some candles myself, to give as Christmas presents.

I’m quite pleased with the results – and they only took about half an hour to make! If you find yourself at a loose end over the holidays, why not give it a go? Please excuse my not-very-professional photos, but hopefully they’ll give you the general idea…

CandleShack blended paraffin wax £3.40 for 800g (from*
Wedo 25mm ECO multipurpose wick £2.15 for 20m (from
15mm wick sustainers 40p for 20 (from
Teacup and saucer
Pencil or chopstick
Blue Tak
Pyrex jug
Weighing scales

teacup candle equipment ready

1. Fill your teacup with water then pour that water into your measuring jug. Whatever the reading in ml, you’ll need the equivalent in grams of wax (eg: if your cup holds 150ml, you’ll need 150g of wax). Measure out the wax on your weighing scales.

2. Thread a length of wick through a wick sustainer and crimp it in place with pliers, so it looks like the pic below:

teacup candle crimping
3. Then stick the sustainer to the inside bottom of your teacup with a dot of glue (you could use Blu Tak at a push). Next, wind the wick around a pencil or chopstick to keep the wick straight, and stick it to the cup rim with Blu Tak to keep it in place.

teacup candle cup is ready

4. Put the wax in the jug and put the jug in a saucepan of water on a low heat. Stir gently until the wax completely melts. You can add fragrance (in a little bottle, £3.53 for 50ml Escentscia scent from – I used blackberry) or colour (30p for 5g – you need 1g per 100g of wax – from I used lavender) – just stir it in at this point.

teacup candle melting the wax

5. Carefully pour almost all of the wax into your teacup. It’ll set with an annoying well in the middle, so after 30 mins or so, re-melt the remaining wax in the jug and fill up the well.

teacup candle pouring the was
That’s it! I wrapped mine in cellophane (£1 a roll from Tiger Stores, or you could ask a florist nicely for a square) and ribbon to make it look all professional. Now I just need to decide which lucky people get them as presents!

*All prices from exclude VAT, so they’ll cost a wee bit more at the checkout.

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