A Christmas blog giving tips on how to make a magical, beautiful Christmas on a cheap budget. Ideas and advice on home made and shop bought shortcuts for Christmas decorations, Christmas wrapping, Christmas presents, Christmas crafting, Christmas baking, Christmas preparation, well all things Christmas!
Today is Black Friday! Which means there's lots of discounts to be had! Shop around to see who's got the best deals for the items on your gift list. John Lewis are doing a price match again. Great if you need electricals, they offer an extended warentee.
Think about what you actually need before you buy.
1. Can I afford it?
2. Do I need it?
Make a list of everything you purchase. Write down who it's for and how much it cost. Will help you keep track of your spending.
I love a good Macaron and oh my I think I've found my new favourite place for them. I thought Laduree was the best but I tried one from L'orchidee at the Taste Of London Winter event and I think Laduree have some serious competition.
They have a real mix of flavours, I had the Watermelon and it was unbelievably good. They have the usual flavours: Vanilla, Pistachio, Rose etc but they also had ones I've never seen Macarons in before: Watermelon, Peanut Butter, Mint Chocolate, Creme Brûlée.
If you're struggling what to buy someone who has everything a box of these would be great. A bit unusual and packaged really well. I don't think their website has been updated in a while because hardly any of the flavours were on there and the packaging at the event was different to what's shown on the site.
They deliver and sell mainly from both Westfield shopping centres in London.
If you like Christmas pudding and can't wait till Christmas day for it grab one of these Nakd bars. Really tasty and really healthy. They're made out of nuts, dates and raisins. Kinda all ground down and smooshed together.
If you're trying to be good before Christmas switch out your mid afternoon crisps or chocolate for one of these. The pack says it's 1 of your 5 a day, gluten and dairy free. Can't complain about that! Can pick them up in some supermarkets and Holland and Barrett, 75p ish normally but sometimes H&B do 2 for £1 or put them in the Penny Sale.
Saw this beauty as part of Asda's Christmas range at the Taste Of London Winter event. £39 for the whole leg and stand! Thought this was an amazing Christmas gift. They are selling it in most, but not all Asda stores. The one at the event had a sell by date of April which gives you a fair bit of time to devour the leg, as well as take some interesting Fred Flintstone style photos. Get this one while you can, I think it's gonna sell out fast.
I love grabbing a coffee on my way to the office, out of all the take away iced coffees I've tried I really like the Emmi CAFFÈ LATTE range. Really milky and smooth. I contacted them to share my love and they set me a challenge... Could I make something Christmassy with the cups? Up-Cycling - I like that, can I? Well I gave it a good bloody go!
I wanted to create something you could make quickly and easily just using what you could find in your work's stationary cupboard. Something that would be good to have in an office and I came up with an advent calendar!
To make it you will need
Emmi CAFFÈ LATTE (24 if you're doing the whole month)
Sweets, Chocolate or Miniatures
1. Rinse the cups. You can take the Emmi CAFFÈ LATTE labels off if you want, they peel off really easily, I stripped them off half the cups and left the other half with them on to add a bit of colour. I thought the deer looked cute!
2. Write out a sticky name label for everyone in your office and number them.
3. Wack one label on each cup.
4. Lay the string out and line up the cups. Leave about 15 inches of excess string (for when you tie it up) and then start attaching the first cup the string. Staple the string on one side of the first cup, run it around the back of the cup, then staple the string to the other side of the cup.
5. Leave a 3-4 inch gap then start stapling the next cup on. Keep going till you've stapled all the cups along the string, then leave another 15 inches of excess string at this end too.
6. Fill all your cups with sweets, chocolate or miniatures, pop the lids on and hang up.
Volia an office advent calander!
A Present Cracker!
I also thought of a great way of using the cups for wrapping awkward shaped or lots of little presents.
For this you'll need...
2 Emmi CAFFÈ LATTE cups
Cracker snap - optional (use if you want the 'snap' sound effect)
1. Rinse your cups and check what you want to put inside actually fits.
2. Put the cups next to each other. Next to the center of the cracker snap (light brown in my pic) make a bend in the snap cardboard (dark brown in my pic) and tape one end of it inside one of the cups, then bend the other end inside the second cup and stick down. Keep your cups close together to minimise the gap.
3. Fill the cups with your present/presents.
4. Close the two cups together and wrap sellotape around the join - not too much, just enough to hold them together until the 'pull' moment.
5. Fold a sheet of tissue paper in half, wrap lengthways around the cups and secure the join with a small amount of sellotape, don't seal then ends (by the bottoms of the cups), these need to be open for the cracker effect. Repeat with another sheet of tissue paper.
6. Pinch and gather the tissue paper together just past the bottom of the cup ends and tie ribbon around it to secure. Add a few different colour ribbons if you like to make it look pretty.
Morrisons have some great little finds this year. I got this little Christmas stash yesterday but seriously squashed my bakery goodies on the way home. Damn over packed trains! However with a little TLC they transformed.
I put a snowflake gift tag on top of the Chocolate Chip Panatone (£2), sieved icing sugar over the top then whipped off the gift tag and was left with a lovely outline. I then sprinkled with edible glitter, added a bow and volia pretty looking Panatone.
The Fruit Stolen (£1.69) also took a batttering on my way home. To save it I covered with sieved icing sugar, cut 2 separate strips of ribbon to run length and width ways across the stolen. Enough to tuck underneath the loaf and added a bow to the top. I think it looks like a fab little present.
The little Gingerbread House (£4.99) looks really cute, I haven't built mine yet but what I liked about this set is that it comes with a bag filled with ready made icing sugar glue that you can pipe straight from the bag to the house, if you've tried to make one without a ready filled bag you'll remember the messy drips! The bag is a must in my books. Comes with 4 mini packs of sweets too.
Their Deep Filled Mince Pies were certainly deep filled. Beautiful buttery pastry. Will be getting some more of those. 2 freshly baked packs (4 in each) for £2.50. With just a little edible glitter they look really fancy and taste it too.
Morrisons are very generous with fillings in their bakery goods. The chocolate panatone was full of big chunky chocolate chips, I sliced and lightly grilled mine and it was delicious! Really delicious!
The Fruit Stolen was jammed with raisins and had a marzipan layer running through it, again very tasty and a really good amount of filling.
Morrisons seem to have really got it right with their bakery goods this year.
I've tried some sparkly polishes but wow this Barry M one is glittery. Great stocking filler. It's a rough textured metallic nude/pink polish with silver/pinkie glitter in as well as larger round silver sparkles too. If you know any girly girls who like pink and glitter this one is for them!
Barry M - Textured Finish in Duchess
Can get it in Superdrug at the moment (£3.99) 3 for 2 on all cosmetics, free delivery on orders over £10 and if you're spending £70 or more you can get a tenner off by entering SAVE10 as your voucher code. Love a discount!
If you're buying charity Christmas cards (please do!) make sure you check the back of the pack to see what percent of the profit goes to charity. Some can be as little as 10p a pack. If you buy them directly from a charity shop normally 100% of the profit goes back to them so I'd start looking for cards there first.
Last year I wanted to make my own Christmas cards but I felt bad for not having charity ones. I looked around and found The National Brain Appeal sold sheets of stickers that I could stick on the back of my homemade cards and seal the envelopes with, and 100% of the profit went straight to them. Problem solved!
I don't want Christmas cards to get out-dated. I send them every year to old friends from Uni and relatives who are far away. I really appreciate getting them, I hope others do too! It's a great way to incorporate charity to Christmas too.
If you feel like you never have time to write them, why not do them on the bus or the train on your commute? Or whilst watching a bit of hang over TV on a Sunday?
Wow my first Country Living Fair! I am knackered but it was worth it. I didn't expect to want to buy so much! It was big, really big. So many beautiful stalls I wish I could write about them all, but as there were over 400 it would take me a long time!
It was really great to see so many wonderful stockists under one roof. Lots of original gifts. If you have the money go and buy everything! I was actually pleasantly surprised to see how affordable the gifts and home-wares were, if I could have I would have bought so much more.
I loved there were a lot of small, British and family run companies. I was a great place to find lots of original gifts and beautiful things for around your home.
There were a lot of boozy tasters. Mason's gin served with orange rind and tonic was pretty tasty but I really liked and couldn't resist the Kentish Tipple, I bought the Raspberry Vodka to put with Champagne or Prosecco on Christmas day. Their Blackberry Brandy was also delicious, I could have been standing sampling all day. I think these would be really great in a Christmas hamper. There were a couple other liquors I would have liked to fill my booze cabinet with but my bag was getting heavy! Lanique was also delicious, a rose flavoured liqueur, not too sweet or strong tasting (but was 37%). They were serving it straight with ice and lime, which was lovely, I'd add soda too as a tasty refresher. Think this is going to go onto my list of 'Things to buy people who have everything'.
I picked up some beautiful homemade cards from a couple stalls, www.ros-shiers.com had some beautiful prints and wrapping paper too. I picked up a sheet with woodland animals on. It was really thick and I think will look great with some bright red ribbon. £2.50 a sheet, so I only got one but I can mix it in with some cheaper plain red paper to make the whole pile look more premium.
I also bought some Cullisse Highland Rapeseed Oil Pepper Marinade, another British made product and family run business. It tasted great. Adam is really into health and nutrition and I know I've heard him mentioning rapeseed oil before so I thought it would be a good stocking filler for him (£3) and a sneaky present for me too!
Thinkgadgets is where I got these beautiful mistletoe fairy lights from £14 and they seem really good quality, I liked that the wire came wrapped too.
One of favourite stalls had to be The English Stamp. They had some fabulous ideas for stamping and embossing. It looked so easy (because it is!) but the results look such high quality. They have rubber stamps (bespoke ones too), fabulous ink pads and glitters. They'll be great for sealing envelopes, stamping Christmas cards and using on any plain wrapping or gift bags. The small stamps start at £4 and the ink at £1.75. I'm going to do a separate post on these when I'm doing some wrapping so I can show you how fab they are. They were a lovely bunch of people and do free delivery over £15. If you're thinking going for brown parcel paper and luggage tags as your wrapping theme this year, definitely get one of their stamps. It literally transforms the paper.
I could have easily bought a lot more. Blue Fish and Bro were a Tunisian based company who had some beautiful copper decorations and eco-friendly traditional towels which would be great so anyone you know who likes a lot of beach holidays. They are really absorbent and soft but lightweight too.
Diddywear had some sheepskin teddies which I thought were great for babies who had everything. Really soft and natural.
Silverdashery had some stunning jewellery for those who love haberdashery. In the picture you can just about see the mini knitting needles and wool necklace as well as the pretty little bobbin one. She also makes tape measure bangles. All gorgeous and a lovely lady who makes them.
For anyone likes cooking or baking PinnyPockets could be a Christmas winner! They're a new company (Husband and Wife) who sell aprons which have velcro patches on the front which allow you to remove and re-attach oven gloves. Really handy idea at £22 a set I thought it was pretty good value too.
There were so many other beautiful stalls. It was really worth going to. I will definitely be going again next year!
I personally couldn't think of anything worse then doing pull ups, but Adam (my fella) who's a bit of a fitness fanatic loves this piece of equipment and I love it to because it's a pull up bar that doesn't damage my walls and can be removed in 1 second!
The pictures don't really show it well, maybe check it out on this YouTube link (a guy giving it a full review), you literally just hook this between any door frame (it fits to most widths) and start pulling up. Some clever designer has made it not need any screws, bolts or nails to hold it up there. It's a weight transference trick.
Cheapest I've seen this Iron Gym one is on Amazon for £10
Pull ups are quite hard though so make sure if you get it for someone that they could make a good attempt at one first!
John Lewis are doing a brand match at the moment, meaning if you can find a product in a high street store cheaper then their selling price, they'll match it to the cheaper price for you. You can even apply for the brand match up to 28 days after you've bought the product. Good old John Lewis. They offer an extended guarenntee on electricals, at least 2 years (except on micros), that's a year more then any other retailer I know.
Miss Selfride have up to 30% off everything! Ends Sunday. Great for party dresses, they have some fab sequin ones in at the moment.
Debenhams have got up to 25% off everything, except beauty which is 10% now's the time to stock up on lingerie, perfume and Touché Éclat.
Yes companies sell that. Wanna keep the kids entertained on Christmas Eve? Why not get them to make some themselves? The beauty of it? You can make up the ingredients.
I'd get an old jar, put a recipe inside and a label around the top.
Write the recipe on fancy paper, or tea stained paper if you don't have any fancy stuff (just rub a damp tea bag over a normal white sheet of paper and leave to dry). Look in your kitchen cupboards and make up a recipe as you go, here's some ideas....
1 spoon of porridge oats
1 spoon of sugar
1 spoon of cornflakes
1 spoon of flour
2 spoons of milk
Screw the lid on and shake!
Will cost you next to nothing and keep the kids entertained.
Tonight when you spend £60 at Boots you can claim £10 worth of advantage card points. On Thursday 13th November in stores (except London ones) they are doing £12 worth of points when you spend £50.
Stock up on your 3 for 2 Christmas gifts. I did a post earlier this month on the beautiful Ted Baker make up bags. Now's the time to get shopping. Remember to get a 'from you to you' present with your savings!
It's getting a bit out of control now! But I've got some great goodies to add to it.
Asda is killing it with the deals at the moment. The tins of Roses, Heros, Quality Streets and Celebrations are back on at £4, this is the cheapest I've seen them so get them while they're £4 and treat yourself to a Terry's Chocolate orange with the £1 you've saved. Could stock up on chocolate oranges and mix them in with satsumas/clementines as stocking fillers (I love doing that).
They're doing bottles of Mulled Wine for £2.50 (8% alcohol). These are great if you've got lots of people coming round and you don't want to spend time in the kitchen making fresh batches. I added slices of orange (back of the bottle suggests them as an addition) and it was really tasty. Good for those who don't usually drink red wine as it's quite fruity. I'm definitely going to get some more. Adam and I have drunk a bottle within the hour!
Their 'Extra Special' mince pies are 2 for £3 at the moment. I've got some puff pastry ones, not seen those before, I like the idea, nice alternative to shortcrust. The pack recommends heating them up, I think I will and I'll serve those with cream and the short crust ones with custard. The star cut outs on the short crust ones look really pretty, I added a touch of edible glitter to give them some sparkle.
I think kids will love a giant chocolate coin. Great if you've got a toddler and a 4+ year old to buy for. You can give the toddler a little bag of chocolate coins (if that's safe?!) and the 4+ a giant coin. I can imagine they would feel very special.
Love the Strawberry Candy Canes! They actually taste like strawberry too! (the 'fruit' options I've tried just seem to taste like sugar'. These are really cute, quite mini and they come with little strings to hang on the tree. For £2 you get a lot in there (a couple more then pictured), they also do the traditional peppermint larger ones too for a quid.
The Cool Chocolate Santa made me laugh, Santa with a mobile phone and sunglasses why not? This one was £3 they have other more traditional options starting at £1 (snowman and santa without glasses pack looks cute).
Will keep you all updated with any other Asda goodies I find. It's certainly beginning to taste a lot like Christmas!
The lovely people at Country Living have given me codes to share with you guys allowing you to get up to 25% off the on the door ticket price to their Christmas Fairs. I'm going this Friday and can not wait. I'm sure I'll have lots to blog about when I'm back. Pen and paper at the ready. Don't forget to bring your Christmas note book, camera and a big bag to carry your goodies home in.
They say you'll be able to...
"Pick up unique gifts to delight your loved ones, as well as
inspired ideas and decorations to bring that magical Christmas sparkle to your
home. Meet hundreds of artisan designers and makers along with farmers and
growers from across the British Isles, Gathered together under one roof are all
the ingredients you’ll need for the forthcoming festivities.
There’s time for self-indulgence too with beauty products
for pampering; jewellery and party fashion. And in addition to all the unusual
companies that you don’t find on the high street are specialists and experts
offering advice and helpful tips about food and wine, gift wrapping and
decorative touches for home and table – so come and enjoy the workshops and
demonstrations as well."
London Fair 12th - 16th November for £12 tickets (instead of £16.50) use code CL14X3
Glasgow Fair 20th - 23rd November use code £9 tickets (instead of £12.50) use code COUNTRYWIDE03
Harrowgate 27th - 30th November £9 tickets (instead of £12) use code COUNTRYWIDE03
Let me know if you have any problems using the codes. Very exciting!