Recently, my Mum send me a cracking picture of the two of us stuffing our faces on the beach in Tenerife years ago. Conclusive proof that my love of food and cookery comes straight from her!
I couldn’t finish off my gift guides without giving a little nod to our furry friends. It’s been a bit sad at English Towers since little Ninja passed away. I miss being attacked on the stairs, and slowly but surely the random white hairs are appearing less and less on everything I iron. Soon I won’t be cursing as I pick them off every item of clothing – and what will I do then?
Aw I had such a fab day yesterday. Despite their Dad’s absence the brevren rallied well – no cards (‘what, you have to buy presents AND cards?’) but they did get me a voucher for a lovely Clarins facial – will look forward to that. Mahoosive brownie points go to Mr English for the gift of THIS little beauty:
Isn’t it beautiful? After pressies it was off to The Akeman in Tring, Hertfordshire which is really lovely: all squishy leather, dark wood and roaring fires. The kitchen area is open so you can see the chefs at work, and the staff were so friendly. I had lunch with my gorgeous friend Glam C . We had Prosecco to celebrate, plus a delicious Mediterranean salad with Halloumi, roasted vegetables, couscous and chickpeas. Nomnomnom. The grin on my face says it all, I feel (and look, there’s The Claw – well, I couldn’t leave it at home on my birthday now, could I?):
The reason for the salad (I know, right? Not like me at all) was our evening trip to a local pizza place. We were accompanied by The Prof’s new girlfriend, who I’m proud to say is utterly lovely – very sweet and enormously good fun – we cackled like loons and, after we’d dropped her off, The Dude was heard to utter ‘wow, there is NOTHING wrong with her’. High praise indeed. However, it was only as we were getting out of the car that I realised I’d forgotten the cake. Ah well. We’ll scoff it today: think of it as unbirthday cake.
Thank you for all your birthday wishes on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. What a perfect day.
Nessie Maclay has a scrummy website with all her lovely designs on really nice quality cards. My favourites are the personalised Christmas ‘thank you’ cards. They cost £7.50 per pack of ten and there is plenty of room to write on the front of the cards and the reverse is blank so there is loads of space for your tiddlers (or bigguns) to write or draw pictures. Gorgeous. I’m also tempted by the personalised correspondence cards at £60 for 100.
Lovely Fiona at ‘Have a Gander’ designs tea towels and cards and has two adorable Christmas designs out at the moment. They are 100% cotton, hand-drawn in Kent and printed in England. Have a gander (see what I did there?) at their products
Not a gift, but rush out and buy Persil’s Warm Spice washing up liquid – it has the gorgeous Christmassy scents of cinnamon, clove and a dash of warm orange. If you’re stuck at the sink you might as well enjoy the smell!
Jardins D’Eden have created a gorgeous limited edition Christmas candle with sweet orange, cinnamon and clove oil and made with 100% natural wax and pure essential oils. Delicious and with the added benefits of aromatherapy too. They were really lovely and sent me one of these and the scent has been wafting through English Towers every evening making us feel really Christmassy! While you’re there, check out their other products too – absolutely lush.
For the man in your life, why not try the lovely Neals Yard grooming products from Big Green Smile. My boys both adored this face wash which is fabulously good quality and smells gorgeous too.
For those readers who live in Australia there’s a big selection of Toys at Big W. If you’re shopping for little ones why not avoid the mall altogether?
This beautiful hatbox is, admittedly, an expensive option, but it’s packed with loads of luxe goodies and would be a perfect present to receive from, say, your best friend or your husband. There’s a romantic, heart theme running through the contents, including little shortbread hearts and chocolates, and a little gold heart on a ribbon too. The toiletries are fabulously scented and really good quality and the candle, although quite small, packs a powerful punch and smells delicious. There are also two bottles of rosé in the hatbox: an Italian frizzante and a very nice French from Daylesford’s own vineyards. £150 plus delivery at www.harrods.com. Of course if you want non alcoholic food hampers, there are plenty of those too.
Verdict: luxe, but pricey
Yankee Candles have brought out this gorgeous woven basket wrapped in a lovely red ribbon, and filled with one of their scrummy jar candles, three of the small ‘Samplers’ votives and a glass hurricane votive holder, all in delicious, spicy Sparkling Cinnamon scent. £27.99 from www.yankeecandle.co.uk or call 0845 050 2623 for your local stockist.
Verdict: gorgeous, and Yankee Candles just mean Christmas to me.
Bouton stacker rings. Designed by Adrian Buckley – these beauties are £65 each and meant to be worn stacked (but obviously depending on budget, they’re beautiful on their own too). On the website you can click on different ring designs to see how they looked stacked together too. Clever.
Verdict: perfect Christmas sparkle, and collectible too.
The Seagate External Drive is a fab gift for the techy girl in your life. I’m not techy at all, but I can’t live without mine now. It’s a little box about the size of a mobile phone (well, maybe a tiny bit bigger, but I can’t think of anything the right size), and you just plug it in to one of your USB ports with a wire and it basically becomes another drive on your computer. Click control panel > system and security<backup and restore (Windows) and you can pick exactly what you want backed up, and even how often. I’m impressed. And now I can sleep easy at night knowing I won’t lose those precious photos, or all my stuff for my tax return either. They do a Mac version and difference sizes too. It’s priced at £54.20 and comes in a choice of colour – the pinky red is lovely.
Verdict: perfect for music, photos and other precious stuff you don’t want to lose.
Gifts for Europe do these lovely gift boxes that you can personalise with different wine choices. This is a great site if you have friends in different places as you can order from anywhere in the world for delivery anywhere in Europe. We tried the white wine and snack collection with a rather fabulous bottle of Bordeaux (you can choose other wines as well), lots of lovely little crispy snacks, cheesy biscuits and delicious macaroons too.
Verdict: scrummy and perfect for ex-pats or those with loved ones abroad
Arran Aromatics have the most delectable selection of Christmassy candles and reed diffusers. My favourite candle by far is the absolutely gorgeous Mandarin and Petitgrain which leaves the whole house smelling delicious and lasts for hours.
Verdict: A gorgeous gift for someone special
There’s nothing better than receiving a present that really makes you smile – a present that you know someone saw and thought ‘wow, that would be perfect’. And so, I was pretty delighted to receive this:
It’s ME! I adore it, it looks amazing in my kitchen and it makes me smile every time I look at it, which is, let’s face it, the very best thing about any present. Mr and Mrs B helped me choose the very best colour frame to complement my kitchen and set off the print and I think we all did a darned good job. You don’t have to have your personalised prints framed, of course, but there are so many lovely frames to choose from it seems a shame not to.
Boo & Boy is a gorgeous new website from the fabulous duo that is Mrs B&B (aka Laura, fellow blogger and one of my very best friends), and Mr B&B, aka Andy, designer of THIS VERY BLOG! So you know that everything they do is going to be darned fantastic, creative and beautiful (not that I’m biased in any way)
Next on my wish list is the very scrummy ‘my only vice‘ print, which, I’m thinking should say ‘cake… cheese… red wine… sunshine and… more cake’
Do yourself (and all your friends and family) a huge favour and bag some gorgeous prints for everyone. There is nothing better, I can vouch, than signing for a beautiful, brown-paper wrapped parcel and seeing those googly Boo&Boy eyes peeking at you from one corner…
Oh wait, there is one thing better: a special code for English Mum readers! Just add the code: B&B/EM/10/2012 at the checkout stage and you’ll get 10% off every order plus FREE Shipping, until 31st December 2012. Just in time to buy all your Christmas presents to show all your family and friends how much you care. Oh, you’re welcome.
So straight on with the Christmas Countdown, then… this time I’ve got some gorgeous, and distinctly grown-up gifts from Disney. The Imagination Winter range is a scrummy set of products to scent your home. And, even though I’m the biggest Disney fan EVER, there’s not a Mickey in sight. The candles and spray contain festive cinnamon bark, nutmeg and clove and I love that they should ‘transport you to a winter wonderland of enchanted pine forests lying under a blanket of snow ‘. Count me in!
And the verdict? Gorgeous. Even with the spices, the scent is not at all cloying or ‘Christmas puddingy’ – I’ve had the candle burning in the evenings for the last couple of nights and the fragrance is actually really light – almost herbal… I think the hint of orange helps here. The packaging is beautiful and would make a really lovely pressie, not just for a Disney fan either!
The range consists of mini candles (£10), a large candle in a glass (£12) and a scented room spray (£8). All are available from Disney Stores and via www.disneystore.co.uk
Christmas is THE time for chutney. Quite apart from the turkey leftovers, there’s all that ham, and tons of lovely cheese – a tangy chutney accompaniment is a must.
This chutney is loosely based on the cranberry and apple chutney in Nigella Christmas, but inspired by my very clever friend Katie, from Feeding Boys, who made a lovely autumnal pear chutney, I decided to pop in some pears and dried apricots as well. Oh, and because I love a bit of spice, I’ve added a fresh red chilli too. Leave it out if you’re not keen, or maybe deseed and just add the flesh.
A few tips:
- Make sure you cut the apples and pears into quite small pieces. My apples were frozen and I hadn’t chopped them that small, so quite a few large chunks remained. Not the end of the world, admittedly, but a bit annoying.
- If you don’t like something, substitute something else. Like cranberries? Then just do half the amount of sultanas and do the other 125g in cranberries. Don’t like dried apricots? Add some different dried fruit.
- No pears? Try quinces… or even veg – courgettes or butternut squash work well.
- Feel free to double up if you’re making presents or whatever. This recipe makes about a litre of chutney and filled two and a bit small kilners.
You will need:
1 large onion, chopped
350g apples, peeled and chopped into small chunks
250g pears, peeled and chopped into small chunks
150g dried apricots, chopped into small dice
350ml bottle of cider vinegar
1 red chilli, chopped very finely
200g brown sugar
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp salt
Bung everything into a big saucepan and stir while you bring it to the boil (see what I mean about the apple pieces?):
Once it’s boiled, turn it down to a simmer and allow to cook for 45 minutes until thick and golden brown, stirring occasionally.
Pour into sterilised jars. Click here for a link to my buddy Mammy’s excellent advice on sterilising jars.
And as this chutney makes a perfect thrifty Christmas pressie, I’ve added it to Violet Posy’s wonderful Thrifty Christmas blog. Pop over to get more thrifty inspiration and craft ideas.
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