Saturday, December 19

Dos and Don'ts of Gift Giving

Christmas is HERE and in the spirit of all things fun and festive here is a look at some of the Dos and Don't of gift giving!! Some of these are useful, some are tongue-in-cheek - do you have any Dos and Don'ts?

...And if you're having trouble finding those last minute gifts in time, check out this list of 17 Gifts When You're Stuck For Ideas.

Do give something they'll use up - check out this list for lots of great ideas - candles, hot chocolate, bath treats, baked goodies etc

Don't become their decorator - ornaments, paintings and nik naks are very personal matters of taste, don't buy unless you're sure!

Do choose easy pieces- the exceptions to the above rule are scented candles and photo frames - just don't make the frame too big! 

Don't try to 'change their mind' - if they're very vocal about something they dislike, don't think 'oh but they'll like this one!' they wont - case in point, someone once bought me furry boot toppers.... it's a no from me...

Do think of them as you buy - football tickets? Couples aromatherapy massage? His and Hers gym membership??? Are you sure you're not just buying something that you'd like? It's the thought that counts - so think of them

Don't make it too big - a giant friendship collage is very sweet but consider if they have the space for it and, do they want it?

Do use your skills - are you a whizz in the kitchen? Can you make jewellery? Can you use a pyrography tool? A great dressmaker? Use your skills to impress! Scan Pinterest and YouTube for ideas and check out these easy Christmas Treats - Chocolate Covered Brazils Nuts.

Don't buy perfume - unless you know for sure that they like it

Do make it look pretty and give in advance - part of the fun of receiving gifts is having it there under the tree, looking beautiful. If it's given late and you have to open it right away, you're missing out on the pleasure of anticipation.

Don't go too far down the novelty route - giant slippers that light up and sing will soon be slung to the back of a cupboard never to be seen again

Do wait until you're alone - if you've bought something suggestive for after dark, don't open it on Christmas morning with all the family watching, wait until you're alone together.

Don't use this opportunity to reveal your long-held Fifty Shades of Grey fantasies - a blind fold is one thing but have a discussion before you present a selection of whips, handcuffs and paddles!!

Do get a gift receipt! - so they can return it...

Don't get offended - if they do return what you buy; maybe it doesn't work for them, maybe it just isn't their taste, maybe they know they won't use it or maybe there's just something else they want more -- try not to take it personally, I've returned a lot of things over the years but I've always felt grateful and was touched by the thought.

 And finally, Do remember Christmas is much more about having fun, together, than what's wrapped under the tree, so eat, drink and be merry! 
Merry Christmas
Joyeaux Noel
Happy Holidays
Feliz Natal

Tuesday, December 15

Easy Christmas Treats - Chocolate Brazil Nuts

Chocolate and Brazil nuts - what could be easier. cheaper to make and yummier?! My family loves chocolate Brazils at Christmas time but for some reason they're pretty expensive these days. Luckily, home-made treats are always appreciated so grab your apron and let's create!

Don't forget to also check out my list of Christmas gift ideas - 17 Christmas gifts when you're stuck for ideas and improve your hot chocolate with this post;

 You will need...

 Chocolate, about 100g-150g depending on size - whatever kind you like, you don't need cooking chocolate and it doesn't need to be fancy, the European brands from Aldi and Lidl are good choices as they have a mild nutty flavour like Ritter's 'Alpine Chocolate'.

Brazil nuts - we like a whole brazil nut in the middle but you can usually buy "brazil nut halves" slightly cheaper if you prefer

A cake pop tray - or an ice cube tray or chocolate flower tray, basically any kind of tray with individual shapes but I like the half cake pop shape.
A saucepan and bowl or microwave (I finally have a microwave after 9 months going crazy without one!)

1.) Melt the chocolate - If melting in the microwave take out and stir every 20 seconds. If on the hob put about 2 - 3 inches of boiling water in a saucepan and your bowl on top; make sure the water doesn't touch the bowl or the chocolate will 'seize' (become stiff and gritty) and be unusable.

2.) Assemble your treats - Place a brazil nut in each little mold and spoon melted chocolate over the top - be as generous as you like but make sure the nut is covered.

Use anything you like for the topping but if you want crushed brazils like me just use the bottom of a pint glass and crush each nut; the best way I've found and really easy. You could also use white chocolate chips, honeycomb, smarties, sprinkles, marshmallows, crushed candy cane - anything you have tucked away in your baking drawer.

 Once they've hardened simply pop them out and decide how to package them!

I chose an ex-scented-candle jar (which has been thoroughly washed and aired out) and then it was a simple case of double sided tape and a cute paper label. Then I did what I always do when I need a touch of ribbon - I went through my wardrobe and snipped off some of those annoying little tags that are always attached to women's clothing. You could attach any kind of little Christmassy decoration you like; bells, pine cones, glittery prettiness.

Place under the tree and enjoy!

Totally yummy and super easy. Perfect if your present offerings are lacking a little, you can just pop round the off licence or cornershop and grab what you need, and a great addition to a Christmas hamper or giftbox.

Merry Christmas all, I'm currently enjoying gazing at the beautiful Ben Barnes in Narnia; Prince Caspian, a lovely afternoon!


Saturday, December 12

17 Christmas Gifts When You're Stuck for Ideas...

If you're buying Christmas gifts for someone you don't know too well or you're buying for a friend who always leaves you clueless, there are a few simple tips which will make your gift buying so much easier. From homemade treats to feeding the meerkats - here are 17 ideas/tips when you're doing your last minute Christmas shopping or just plain...stuck! 

***Buy Something They Can Use***
The first, and most important tip for me - give them something they can enjoy using and then dispose of;

1.) Scented candles - a winner with everyone, men and women, old and young. You can also theme it depending on their likes/dislikes; cappuccino for the coffee lovers, Christmas cookies for the sweetie lovers, chocolate for the chocaholics, fruity for the young and summertime lovers, spicy cinnamon or jasmine for the romantic couples or stay safe with a clean cotton, linen type scent.
Yankee candle wih Yankee light shade. Midnight jasmin or clean cotton, glowing white and cream. Cosy scented candle.

2.) Fancy hot chocolate - We're talking Green & Blacks, some overpriced Whittards or look at the deluxe ranges in your local supermarket for flavours like creme brulee, white hot chocolate, toffee fudge or dark and mint. Go the extra mile and collect a few toppings together too; mini marshmallows, cinnamon, sprinkles and of course a couple of miniatures of Baileys or other liqeur are always welcome!

3.) Bathtime treats - go all out and spend spend spend on Lush bubble bars or take a trip to Asda and stock up on some delicious Dolly's Mixtures in scents like Candy Floss, Rhubarb and Custard and PinaColada - if you're lucky you'll find them on offer at just £1 each! The Treacle Moon range at Tesco is another great choice is scents like cinnamon, coconut, chocolate lime and ginger. Tie them with a ribbon, add a shower puff and voila; another great gift.

Dollys mixtures bath cream and shower gels original flavours. Candy floss, bubblegum, pina colada, lemon bon bon, red velvet cupcake and fruit salad. Discontinued scents from Asda beauty.
Dollys Mixtures BodySprays; New scents, New Products!
4.) Get cooking - if you're great in the kitchen, or even if you're not, there are loads of different types of biscuits, chocolates, fudge and sweet treats you can make and customise. If you're a beginner, go simple by melting chocolate and adding toppings, or if you're a dab hand, try fudge with flavours like whiskey, Baileys and white chocolate - just search for a recipe online. Try these Easy Christmas Treats - Chocolate Brazil Nuts

Chocolate DIY Christmas treats with candy canes, brazil nuts and recycled candle jar. Cooking for Christmas.
Chocolate Covered Brazils
5.) Alcohol - whiskey, amaretto, port, brandy, gin, Irish cream; find out what they like and buy them a good one.

6.) Coffee gifts - if you know they love coffee, you can now buy full sized syrups from some supermarkets, or buy a set of mini syrups from Costa Coffee. For something more impressive, go for a cafetiere (French press) and some fancy 'proper coffee'; add in a couple of whiskey/brandy miniatures and double cream to go with it too so they can make floater coffee!

Monin coffee syrups from Costa Coffee, perfect gift for Christmas.

7.) Tea Selection - Supermarkets have a huge range of tea bags now; pick out 3-4 boxes and present them in a lovely gift-box - the perfect alternative to seasonal over indulgence! Make it Earl Grey themed with some of the different variations out there, or a selection of fruity green teas. Of course Chai tea is my personal fave (tea bags, not the powdered stuff). If you feel like really splashing out, you could buy some vastly overpriced Teapigs or try Whittards.

8.) Make-up - nail polish, mini eyeshadow palettes and lipstick selections are always safe bets for girls who love beauty.

Sleek face makeup palette with blusher, contour and highlight shades.

***Universal Gifts***
Not something to be used up per say, but pretty universal and useful to all

1.) Gift Voucher - not very imaginative but much appreciated, especially by those who have everything!

2.) Mug - yes, they probably have a house full, but get it personalised (our local indoor market has an artist who'll apply any design you like) or find a particularly special or novelty one - maybe they're a massive Disney fan and you've found an unusual Gaston decorated one!

Pink fancy cat mug with bow from avon with home made gingerbread biscuits or cookies dipped in chocolate with golden balls. Sleek cat, cute gift.
Cute cat mug with room for biscuits from Avon last year (2014)
3.) Comfort gifts - fuzzy, fluffy socks and slippers are always a winner; don't go too far down the novelty route, stick to fluffy comfort rather than 3D sheep heads that light up and sing. Gloves and mittens are also good buys - buy something of good quality; lined and waterproof.

4.) Experience gifts - check Groupon, Wowcher, local zoos, spas and wellness centres for great deals on animal experiences, clay pigeon shooting, falconry, sports massage, beauty treatments and wine tasting classes - in Derbyshire there's even a company that will let you tear up the countryside in a tank --- a bloody tank!

5.) Books/DVDs - if there's something you really enjoyed and know your friend will too, why not get them a copy to enjoy? (The Holiday is my go to) Or download something they'll like from iTunes/Google Play/Amazon etc and fill up a memory stick - 2 gifts in one and easily sent through the post.

6.) Photo Frame and photo voucher - we take hundreds of photos and seldom display them, so give them a voucher for say 20 prints and a beautiful photo frame that'll work with their decor - not sure? Make sure the frame is thin and in a neutral wooden/gold/silver/mirrored design.

7.) Trivia Games - for a couple of pounds, our supermarkets have themed packets of trivia cards, full of questions on movies, TV and general knowledge that can be enjoyed after Christmas dinner - split the room into two teams, introduce prizes and forfeits and have at it! The ones below were part of a 3 for 2 offer from Marks & Spencer.

Eggheads and British trivia cards for after christmas dinner games. Teal flower and background.

8.) Theatre/Cinema tickets - is there something special coming up soon that you know they'll enjoy? Pre-book tickets for them! Alternatively get them a gift voucher to cover the cost of the ticket/2 tickets.(A good way to get yourself a Christmas date too!)

9.) Gag gift - if all else fails, chocolate body paint, furry handcuffs, a Rudolph onesie, silly glasses or a weird wig will, at the very least, raise a giggle.

These are my go to gifts when I'm buying for someone who has everything, someone I don't know too well or when I'm just stuck for ideas. Personally, I'd be happy to receive any 1 or all of them under the tree on Christmas morning! 

Is there anything I've missed? Let me know below.

A Peaceful, Joyful and Merry Christmas to all!! 

Ciao for now