Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Christmas with Hamper Lounge

Hampers are a huge part of Christmas - you can spend hundreds of pounds on a fancy one filled with posh sparkling wine and smelly cheese and crunch biscuits, or you can make your own by getting a little wicker basket from Home Bargains and filling it with chocolate bars, Christmas-special flavoured crisps and jars of lemon curd or own-brand Nutella. Either way, hampers make a great Christmas gift and when Hamper Lounge offered to send me one, I couldn't say no.


Their Chocolate Lover Box arrived at my door the other day in a silver box with a ribbon tied around it, and what was inside was just GLORIOUS. Two boxes of assorted chocolates, some Marc De Champagne truffles (they're *actually* pink) and three bars of fancy-looking chocolate in honey, gin & tonic and Earl Grey flavours. I am, through and through, a chocolate lover - and what I like about this box is that you get such a wide variety. Pink truffles that taste like champagne and that you normally get from Liberty or Ocado? Fancy. Dark chocolate that's been flavoured with Earl Grey? Interesting. A milk chocolate selection from House of Dorchester that's perfect for sharing? Nice. Probably won't be getting shared though.


This particular hamper retails for £46.99 plus shipping; this seems extortionate for some chocolate but the RRP of all the products is actually more than that, plus it's conveniently boxed up and nicely presented and delivered to your door. So if you're looking to spoil the chocoholic in your life, something like this could well be the answer. You can also add extra bits to any of the hampers on the site, which I think is a really cool idea - and they don't just do chocolate hampers. There are champagne hampers, wine & spirit hampers, hampers for new little babies and hampers for the home, too.

Hampers are a good gift for the person in your life who has everything, and it allows the recipient to discover new brands or variations of things they already like, which I think is pretty clever! Head to the Hamper Lounge website to discover a whole world of hampers to round off your Christmas shopping.

Want some other luxury gift ideas? CLICK HERE

Sunday, 9 December 2018

Christmas with British Made Gifts

My Christmas gift guide series went down really well, and I wanted to say a massive thank you to everyone for all the support – if you read or shared any of the posts, or clicked any links in them, thanks so much! There were a few bits and bobs that arrived just too late to feature in any of the gift guides, but that I still wanted to showcase. I’ve been well and truly spoilt by some lovely brands in the run up to Christmas, and have been able to spoil my loved ones too, so expect a few more ‘Christmas with…’ posts with some fabulous gift ideas. I also showcase PR samples/gifts on my Instagram stories when they arrive, so if that’s something you’re interested in then you can follow me over there (it’s @katy.gilroy) and keep your eyes peeled.

affordable personalised photo blanket

British Made Gifts do a huge range of affordable personalised gifts, from aprons to bar runners to cushions, and they offered to send me a personalised blanket. I thought about it for a while, and realised I own about 7 blankets but I knew just the people who would love it. My brother recently got engaged, and his fiancĂ© has the most gorgeous little boy called Sean. They’re a fab little trio, and I thought it would be lovely to surprise them with a blanket with all of their faces on. I chose the neutral gingham blanket as it was least likely to clash with any decor, and you can choose 12 pictures and some text (in your choice of font) to be printed on.

cheap personalised photo blanket

I scoured Facebook for the cutest photos of Sean and of them as a family, and it was so easy to upload them to the British Made Gifts site and position them within each square on the blanket. I then added the text I wanted, which was just their names, and voila – my design was ready. I checked out and waited for it to arrive, and I was absolutely over the moon with it when it got here. Sometimes with printed photo gifts, the pictures can go blurry or pixelated (especially when, like these ones, they’ve just been taken on an iPhone!) but these are so crisp and clear. The blanket itself is soft and thick and really big, a proper warm throw for when you’re watching films on the sofa with a bag of popcorn and a mug of hot chocolate.

They absolutely loved it, too; personalised gifts are incredibly special, because you know nobody else in the world has this exact blanket and it’s something they can keep forever. A personalised photo blanket will set you back a mere £22 and if you order it before the 17th December it’ll arrive in time for Christmas. Huge thanks to British Made Gifts for letting me spoil my favourite people with such a gorgeous gift.

If you're looking for stocking filler ideas, CLICK HERE

Friday, 7 December 2018

Donating to foodbanks at Christmas

Christmas is definitely the time for giving and, as such, a lot of people donate to foodbanks more so than throughout the rest of the year. I'm not here to tell you that you should be donating year-round, because not everybody can - so if you DO donate at Christmas, thank you for being a wonderful human. I was talking about this on Twitter a few days ago and wanted to just collate my thoughts, advice and ideas in a blog post. And here we are...


First of all, check what the final date is to drop your donations at the collection point; it's best to donate as early as possible, but if you're really busy throughout December just make sure you don't miss the cut off point. For our local foodbank the latest you can donate stuff is the 20th of December, and it's probably pretty similar across the country, but it doesn't hurt to double check.

Have a look on your local foodbank's website to see what particular items they're in need of - I've popped a more general list below, which also includes the products my local one have said they need. Most of these things can be picked up for less than a quid in your local supermarket, but places like B&M or Home Bargains are also really good for finding branded foods at a cheaper price.


They're on the list, but don't forget about non-food items such as deodorant, baby wipes, soap, nappies & nappy bags, shower gel, shampoo & conditioner and tampons & pads. It means people in crisis can retain their dignity, but so often these items go forgotten when people are adding extra packets of pasts and bags of sugar to their weekly shop!

The thing which sparked the little discussion I had on Twitter was tin openers - I was thinking, with a lot of things on the list being tinned (fruit, veg, meat etc), it's definitely a necessary item to own. People tend to donate own-brand food and the cheaper the tins are, the less likely they are to have a ring pull on them. It's such a simple little thing, but not having a tin opener might leave some people hungry. You can get bog-standard ones for a quid in Wilko, so consider chucking a couple in with your donations this Christmas! As I was looking into it, I found this article about tin openers and foodbanks that Jack Monroe has written recently - definitely worth a read.

So that's pretty much it - if you are donating to foodbanks this Christmas, you're a wonderful person. It's a sad state of affairs when so many have to rely on them (December is actually the busiest month for foodbanks), but knowing there are so many kind-hearted people willing to donate is lovely.


Looking for ethical gift ideas? CLICK HERE
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Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Secret Santa & stocking filler gift ideas 2018

Secret Santa is something that always sounds really fun in theory, but sometimes it comes down to it and you’ve ended up with someone that you barely know or someone that’s really fussy/has allergies/hates anything cute or let’s face it, if you’re doing it in the office for example, someone you don’t even like. Especially with office Secret Santas too, I find there can be quite a bit of pressure to buy something that’s Actually Good and not something naff or that’ll just go to waste. So I’ve put together this gift guide, full of Secret Santa ideas that are also fairly small and not terribly priced so could be the perfect stocking filler for your partner/kid/parent/whoever you might be making a stocking for. As with all my guides, some of these products were sent to me by brands for consideration to be included – I’ve only actually included the ones I love, and they will be marked with an asterisk.

Alcohol

Not to be ~predictable~ but if you know someone’s drink of choice, you can’t really go far wrong with buying it as a gift – and Christmas is the time for drinking. It’s also the time that the shops (and online retailers) are full of miniatures which can be a cheaper alternative to buying a full sized bottle of spirit, for example, and also fit in a stocking. Win win!


B&M Bargains (and also Home Bargains, Savers etc) always have a huge variety of miniatures and gift sets – which sometimes come with chocolate or glasses or whatever. There’s actually a whole site dedicated to miniature bottles of alcohol, aptly named ‘Just Miniatures’ which sells a massive variety of tiny alcohol from wine to whiskey and everything in between as well as soft drinks and jam. Prices start at around £2.50 and you can get some fabulous brands on there such as super-fancy Tiger Gin, Cointreau (my fave) and loads more.


If you’re looking for miniatures that are a little more ~out there~ then definitely have a look at Fallen Angel Drinks, who are an indie drinks brands who make crazy-lookin' drinks – they sent me this miniature duo* to share with you, which contains 50ml each of their British vodka and their herbal liquor. Look at those bottles!! Perfect for your horror-loving/metal-fan pals, right? At £17.50 for the set it’s more of a luxury stocking filler, or a Secret Santa present for someone you really like, but I think it’s so cool.



Beer is a bit of minefield if you don’t drink it, but craft beer is really popular amongst the cool kids and the grandads alike. Beavertown are a really cool beer brand and they sent me the beers from their core collection to share with you; there's six, ranging from an American pale ale to a smoked porter, and they all come in really well-designed cans that truly stand out from the crowd. If you're doing a stocking for a beer lover, a can of Beavertown would definitely be a hit and they're only £2.50 each. They also have a £65 advent calendar, if that's something that floats your boat, which contains 24 beers to get you through the month of December!

Beauty

It can be tricky buying beauty products for Secret Santa, but there are some ‘generic’ type of products that you can’t go wrong with – hand cream, lip balm, hair stuff, you know the drill. I’ve rounded up some really lovely ones to show you in this guide…

Lip balm is a must in the winter months (and all year round, really) and you can never have too many; Honey Bee Beautiful sent me this Guard Bee Lip Balm* which smells like rose, comes in pink packaging and really nourishes the lips. You can get a couple of different scents, each with corresponding packaging, and you can choose whether you want a tube or a pot. The cardboard tube version that I have will set you back £4.95 and will definitely be appreciated by beauty lovers.


Hand cream is another product that is a winter essential because cold weather = dry hands, and it’s just something that has always felt really grown up and luxurious for me. Soap & Glory do a brilliant sized hand cream, and I have it in the Sugar Crush scent which is obviously completely to die for. Not to mention it leaves your hands feeling amaaaaazing. My other favourite hand creams are definitely the Crabtree & Evelyn ones! Hand sanitiser can be a cute stocking filler idea, especially the Bath & Body Works ones which are adorable and all smell amazing. If you’re lucky enough to live somewhere that they’re readily available then please know I hate you (jokes) but if you don’t, check out Amazon, eBay and this website too.

When it comes to hair products, as Noughty are a brand I really like and this hair mask* is no exception - it's soooooo thick and genuinely leaves my hair soft and silky, which is no mean feat given how frizzy my hair usually is.

Food

For the most part, I really don’t think you can go far wrong by gifting people with food whether that’s to bulk out a stocking, or something they reaaaallly like as part of their Secret Santa gift. For example if someone just gave me multiple bags of Lorenz Pizza Monster Munch as gift I’d be more than happy. In fact I think I’d probably cry. So there.


Find Me A Gift really kindly sent a few things over for this gift guide series, one of which was a chocolate pizza slice*. Just LOOK at it. It’s a brilliant size, a brilliant price (£2.99) and comes in a few different flavours. Mine is (was) Heavenly Honeycomb and I devoured it right after I took this photo, and the other variations are: Crunchy Munchy, Salted Caramel, Jelly Bean Jumble and Strawberry sensation. Absolutely delicious. This is a bit more exciting than your average chocolate snowman lollipop, but still fits perfectly in a stocking!



If whoever you’re buying for is more of a savoury lover then you probably can’t go wrong with fancy crisps, which you tend to be able to pick up in garden centres particularly. Christmas seems to be the time for wacky and wonderful crisp flavours now, too – you’ll find Turkey & Stuffing, Brussels Sprouts, and even Christmas Tree Flavour nestled in with your cheese & onions and your salt & vinegars. I think food hampers that you’ve put together yourself can be a really affordable gift, especially if you hit the supermarkets at the right time – making a little parcel full of someone’s favourite food is so thoughtful, I reckon. Places like Poundland and Home Bargains are ideal for this – they tend to stock Whitworths who do a massive variation of savoury foods like nuts, seeds, raisins etc which look a bit nicer than your average bag of KP nuts, as well as the usual array of Christmas-themed sweet stuff you could add in too.


Another savoury food item which is pretty niche but definitely the sort of thing my dad would love to get for Christmas is this Pelagonia Aivar*, a sweet roasted red pepper meze which is perfect for your Boxing Day buffet and beyond. The lovely glass jar gives it a more luxurious feel (and can then be recycled into a tealight holder or pencil pot), and the stuff inside tastes delicious. It’s available at Waitrose & Sainsbury's and only costs around £3.50 – definitely the sort of thing to add to the aforementioned food hamper!

Miscellaneous

Books, books, books! I mentioned books in my affordable gift guide too, but I wanted to mention them in this one because I think even if you don’t know someone that well a book can be a great gift. Non-fiction works particularly well here; for example, if your secret Santa recipient is that guy from IT who’s obsessed with Led Zeppelin, get him a book about Led Zep. And so on and so forth! I have a few non-fiction books in my collection that I think would make great Secret Santa gifts – Brexit Cartoons* (a collection from Penguin which is slim enough to fit in a stocking), The Face* from Thames Hudson which ‘tracks the history of depictions of the human face throughout the ages’ at The British Museum, and England: Poems from a School*, edited by Kate Clanchy.



When it comes to stockings, different people do them differently – but my mum has always included a magazine, an orange and a new toothbrush in ours without fail. Other things you can bulk them up with include small gifts like in-ear headphones, bath bombs, sweets, retro puzzles, socks and those Primark multipacks of earrings. Or whatever small items you want, really.

So that's my gift guide series wrapped up - I still have a few gifting posts left to share with you, dedicated to specific brands who didn't quite make it in time for the gift guides themselves, so keep your eyes peeled for those. And happy shopping!

Sunday, 2 December 2018

8 almost necessary phrases to learn when travelling abroad

You’re probably thinking “come on, surely you don’t think this is an original blog post idea” and it’s not, really, but there are certain phrases that don’t appear on these lists that I think you really need to know when you’re in a foreign country. Obviously ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’ and ‘can we have the bill’ are all important, but so are these ones…

travel quotes

“Can I have a bag?” / “Do you want a bag?” (the first one is so you can ask, obviously, and the second is in case anyone asks you and you’re not sure what they’re saying and you’re stood in a foreign supermarket having a staring contest with the woman on the checkout until a kind person who speaks decent English intervenes)

“I’ve used up all my data posting outfit photos on The ‘Gram, what’s the wifi password?” (particularly important for my fellow bloggers)

“Does this bus/tram/train go to……” (because I can barely work out an English bus timetable, let alone one in another language)

travel phrases

“Can I have more lemonade than vodka this time?” (other countries drink their drinks sooooo strong)

“Where can I get pizza round here?” (because you might be sick of eating obscure foreign dishes and just really, really wanting a Dominos)

“Before I trustingly get in your taxi because I’m a bit lost, is my hotel/apartment actually within walking distance from this location?” (speaks for itself, really, but when I was in Riga we’d been trying to find our way back for what seemed like hours of walking round in circles, so we got in a taxi, showed the driver our address, and 2 minutes later he dropped us off at the door)

what phrases to learn what travelling abroad

“What’s your city’s equivalent to Peggy Porschen and how do I get there?” (again, a good one for my fellow bloggers/IG lovers)

“I’m utterly skint because I spent all my money on last minute flights to Berlin, do you offer student discount?” (places like museums and exhibitions often do have a really good discount scheme in place for students, families, the elderly, large groups etc etc – so if you’re got ID with you, it’s worth asking)

What phrases do YOU think someone needs to learn when travelling abroad?


Want to know all about my ideal trip to New York? CLICK HERE