How do you feel about cooking the Christmas dinner? I absolutely love having Christmas at home and I’m never happier than when I’m in the kitchen (made even nicer now we’ve knocked the wall down to the dining room so everyone can chat and mingle together). We’ve gone out on Christmas Day before, but we all prefer to be at home so we can relax and have a drink (and also, eating out is expensive – I’ve had a couple of emails from local pubs and restaurants advertising Christmas lunch menus, and they’re all around the £60 – £75 per person mark). I do know, though, that even if you love to cook, Christmas dinner is a big undertaking: there’s all the planning and shopping, and you might already have lots to do with buying gifts, maybe getting ready to have relatives to stay. I was pretty interested, then, when recipe box company HelloFresh got in touch and asked if I’d like to try the HelloFresh Christmas Box. Here’s how I got on.
So every year I do these gift guides, and half the time I’m thinking about the boys, or about what my Mum would like, or what would be wonderful for Mr English, but as I’m searching, I often see something and think ‘ooh, I like that’. I started to note them down, just so I could write a Christmas list, and here they are, my ‘that will do nicely’ list for Christmas 2013, interspersed with some lovely things that I’ve been sent.
Don’t forget flowers if you’re considering Christmas pressies for mums. I adore receiving flowers. Debenhams sent me these absolutely beautiful Christmas flowers called ‘Cinnamon Spice‘. They had soft, velvety red roses, cute gerberas, bright red berries, lots of beautiful-smelling red roses and the festive addition of some cinnamon sticks too. The flowers smelt divine and lasted for ages. (£29.99). If you use this discount code: XMASBLOG, you’ll get £5 off all Christmas gifts too (expires 21.12.13).
There’s nothing quite as lush as a Harrods Hamper. This beauty is £100 and contains six decent bottles including a nice Rioja, a Cape Coral Mourvedre Rosé, Emiliana Novas Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot and a lovely Chardonnay – the gift that really does keep on giving. Find the Harrods hamper selection here.
Asda have got some lovely foodie gifts this year. I especially liked this Extra Special olive oil set with Toscano extra virgin olive oil and a ceramic olive oil decanter. It’s just £6 too.
I’ve really enjoyed Tom Kerridge’s TV series Tom Kerridge’s Proper Pub Food and would really like to eat at the Hand and Flowers, which is actually quite near us. I’ll settle for the book that accompanies the series for now, though. I’d also like Raven Girl by Audrey Niffenegger. I adored The Time Traveler’s Wife and Her Fearful Symmetry, but missed this one for some reason.
For the home, I’m loving tartan at the moment (inspired, of course, by my lovely friend Erica up in Edinburgh). Buyakilt.com have all sorts of beautiful tartan rugs (as well as scarves and even kilts if you fancy going the whole nine yards). The pupster has got quite fond of our lovely soft Jacob tartan rug (they call it a rug but it’s perfect as a sofa throw – it washes beautifully on a cool wash) ad there are all sorts of lovely colours to choose from.
I love candles and I’m very spoilt as lovely Yankee Candle always send me their new ones to try. My favourite this Christmas is Merry Marshmallow which will fill your home with the delicious, warm sweet smell of baking, even if you can’t be bothered to actually bake! I’d also like the more traditional Christmas Memories scent as well please, Santa!
L’Oreal Paris Revitalift Laser Renew is hands down the best moisturiser I’ve ever used – it’s non-greasy and sinks in really easily. It also seems to give a really nice base for make-up, plus I like the smell. Winner winner chicken dinner.
Redken Body Full is a godsend if you have fine hair. When I had my hair cut recently my stylist used it and my hair felt amazing. WANT! (By the way check out the shop I’ve linked to here – it’s owned by a friend of mine from school).
This weekend, we were lucky enough to be invited to a preview screening of Dreamworks’ new animation feature, The Croods, by Odeon UK. Testing the boundaries of ‘family film’ somewhat, I was joined by de brevren: a touch off 18, and a smidgeon shy of 15. Testing, it would certainly be.
Happily though, this movie really does appeal to all ages. The Croods are a family of cavemen, living mostly in their cave, in fear of being eaten, like most of their neighbours, by various wild animals.
All this changes when the cave is destroyed and the family: Dad Grug (played by Nicholas Cage), Mum Ugga (played by the awesome Catherine Keener from The 40 Year Old Virgin) and kids Eep (Emma Stone), Thunk (Clark Duke) and the brilliantly wild baby Sandy (‘release the baby!!!’) along with Gran have to move out into the sun, meeting slightly more evolved Guy (Ryan Reynolds) along the way. Their journey is filled with loads of laughs and the most amazing creatures you could possibly imagine. There is more than a hint of Avatar about some of the scenes, with beautiful animation in incredible colours.
Along the way, the Croods lose a few of their caveman traits and even learn to appreciate each other a little more. The animal characters are in danger of stealing the show, especially ‘Chunky’ (above) who spends a large proportion of the film trying to eat the family, and ‘Douglas’, a dog-like prehistoric creature.
We giggled, smiled and (okay, just me…) even shed a tear. Verdict: uplifting, beautiful to look at and with incredible 3D technology.
As you know, I’m a bit of a Twitter addict. And yes, I know a lot of people just don’t get Twitter, but I’ve made some amazing connections on there (I hesitate to say friendships, as I suppose that’s not possible with someone you’ve never actually met). One such person is the utterly gorgeous and adorable Laetitia Maklouf. We discovered a shared love of garden-pottering and cooking when I was back in Ireland, and she’s always available with wonderful advice and gentle, kind encouragement for us enthusiastic but basically clueless gardeners.
Laetitia was kind enough to send me a review copy of her new book, Sweet Peas for Summer. It basically chronicles the year she spent creating a garden from scratch in her new home. As the year unfolds, Laetitia takes us, month by month, from the planning, initial groundwork and planting, through to lush pictures of a flower-filled summer garden which looks like it’s been there for years.
Laetitia’s writing style is similar to her Twitter feed: it’s gentle encouragement and wonderful advice. There are no barked orders or must dos in this book, just really useful knowledge sharing (and the odd admission of mistakes, which I love and find stupidly encouraging). The pictures are stunning and the overall styling is wonderful (I find this so important) – I love the leaf-prints punctuating the pages. All in all it has a lovely, fresh feel.
I miss my lovely Irish garden and gathering fresh vegetables and herbs from my raised veggie bed, but this book has made me see that I can do just as much now on my small patio with lots of containers: I can fill my little garden with wigwams of sweet peas and clematis, grow lovage and dill in pots (there are some beautiful, simple recipes), and make sure I have mint on my kitchen windowsill for fabulous mojitos too.
I inhaled the book on one Saturday morning, perched in bed with endless mugs of tea, my notebook and even the belligerent cat (just shows how still I must have been). I now have plans for hanging baskets, herbs and copious containers. Now all I’ve got to do is wait for this stupid snow to disappear.
Sweetpeas for Summer: How to Create a Garden in a Year by Laetitia Maklouf is out on 23rd March 2012. I know you’ll love it as much as I do.
This review did not start well.
When Hotter first contacted me and offered me a pair of boots to review, my initial reaction was ‘erm… aren’t they a bit, well, aren’t they for… erm… older people?’
I looked on the website and honestly didn’t see too many styles that I thought would suit me.
Anyhoo. I kept my opinions to myself (unlike me, to be honest, generally I’m a chronic blurter) and chose a pair of fur and leather boots off their website. They came. I unpacked them. I thought they were okay. I wore them.
And wore them.
And wore them.
They’ve tramped round muddy fields (and been subject to undignified hosing off in the garden afterwards), pounded pavements, trudged round Portobello market and Christmas shopped at Westfield. They’ve cleaned out the garage (not on their own, they’re not that clever), collected Christmas trees, been holly collecting and even to parents’ evening.
They are, I’m happy to say, completely waterproof, and the suede is still unmarked and lovely, and the fur has remained gorgeously soft and unmatted, with very regular use. Fabulous quality.
The one problem with them, I think, is that they’re not massively trendy. I can’t even put my finger on why – maybe it’s the seams on the top of the foot?
BUT. They’re SO warm, and so comfy and so easy to pull on, and look so great with jeans, that I’ve just completely fallen in love with them. And now I wouldn’t give them up.
So, Mr Hotter (or Mrs Hotter, maybe) – please give us some trendier styles and I will be your avid and loyal customer forever more.
The boots reviewed were Heaven (currently in the sale with £20 quid off).
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