Monday 30 October 2023

The perfect Christmas gift for the artists in your life: The Artists' Brush

This is the first ever definitive book dedicated to the history and development of the Artists’ Brush is available to order from Amazon and makes an ideal Christmas present for any art enthusiast.

Described as a book “that deserves to be in every school, university and bookcase of any serious artist”, The Artists' Brush  – World History, Theory & Practice by Dr. Philip Bayliss Brown, is aimed at artists, calligraphers, archaeologists, historians, educators, teachers and students of arts and history.

In his foreword, Angel of the North sculptor Sir Antony Gormley RA enthuses: “This impressive study of the brush in all its multiple forms is exhaustively examined in this extraordinary piece of scholarship which, in its diversity, becomes a celebration of human creativity…a panoply of human inventiveness as interesting to anthropologists as to art historians and to artists themselves."

The author examines the evolution and importance of the artists’ brush over history and geography. Extensively researched and referenced, it details the development and use of the brush from deep history to modern times, placing the brush in the context of the cultures in which it was used. 

Richly illustrated, it describes works on rock, walls (murals and frescoes), ceramics, textiles, panels (stone, wood), codices, calligraphic manuscripts and other peinture d'objets [painted objects]. Its chapters on brush anatomy, physics and mark making are essential reading for any artist or historian.

The history of art is re-told placing the brush at its centre: a tool, which in the hand of an artist, is responsible for some of the greatest and defining insignia of mankind. Indeed, the brush is emblematic of Homo sapiens’ ability to have wisdom and symbolic thought, and to create representational art, write and communicate. This book sheds light on historic artistic practices in Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas that are frequently overlooked and under-reported in academic literature.

Professor Paul Fieldsend-Danks, Vice-Chancellor and Professor of Fine Art, Arts at University Plymouth, adds: “This book opens our eyes, bringing to light arguably one of the most important instruments in creative expression - the artists’ brush. This fascinating book provides valuable scholarship in the history, manufacture, and physics of the humble brush, and interrogates the elegance of this tool.”

Published by The Cloister House Press ISBN-10 1913460738, the book is available in paperback and hardback, and can be pre-ordered on Amazon from 30th November for delivery by 12th December 2023.


FACTFILE: Philip Bayliss Brown studied medicine at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, London. He pursued a career in General Practice coupled with a series of Medical Informatic academic appointments specialising in the development of computerised health care ontologies for use in electronic medical records. He is a lifetime scholar of historical art techniques and, following retirement from clinical practice, obtained an MA in Fine Art and trained in portraiture in London, Salisbury and Florence. 

He has had several solo shows in the UK and Italy and also joint exhibitions elsewhere in Europe, the USA and China. He has been shortlisted for a number of awards including the Signature Art Prize (2015), Deutsche Bank Award (2017) and the Lynn Painter-Stainers Prize (2019). 

His painting of the Last Supper, ‘The Weight of Blood’ was long-listed for the National Portrait Gallery BP award and formed the focus of a solo exhibition in Westminster Cathedral, London. His passion for the subject matter, experience as an academic writer and a practising painter, has serendipitously placed him in the fortuitous position to author this definitive account of The Artist’s Brush. Philip lives with his wife and dog in Norfolk, England and Umbria, Italy.

Saturday 28 October 2023

Unconventional Christmas: A Guide to Creating Fun, Memorable Celebrations

Christmas is a time for tradition, but that doesn't mean you have to follow the same old routine year after year. In fact, some of the most memorable holiday celebrations are those that break away from the conventional. 

So, why not spice up your Christmas this year with an unconventional celebration that will leave you with cherished memories for years to come? In this blog post, we'll explore some creative and fun ways to celebrate Christmas differently and make it a unique and unforgettable experience.

Themed Christmas

One way to add a fun twist to your Christmas celebration is by choosing a unique theme. Whether it's a winter wonderland, a tropical paradise, or even a favourite movie or TV show, a themed Christmas can make your celebration feel exciting and fresh. Decorate your home, plan your meals, and choose gifts that fit the theme. For example, if you go for a "Harry Potter" theme, you can sort your guests into Hogwarts houses, have a magical-themed dinner, and even create a game of Quidditch in your backyard.

DIY Decorations

Getting creative with your Christmas decorations can be a fun and fulfilling way to celebrate the holiday season. Gather your family and friends for a crafting day, making ornaments, wreaths, and unique holiday décor. Using recycled materials and personal touches, you'll not only save money but also create one-of-a-kind items that reflect your style and personality.

Outdoor Adventure

If you're looking to escape the traditional holiday hustle and bustle, consider taking your celebration outdoors. Depending on your location, you could go hiking, sledding, skiing, or even have a beach bonfire. Outdoor adventures can be a refreshing way to celebrate Christmas and encourage everyone to be active and enjoy nature.

International Flavours

Instead of the typical Christmas turkey consider having a Christmas dinner inspired by the cuisine of a different country. Each guest could bring a dish from a different part of the world, creating a diverse and delicious feast. Not only does this add a unique twist to your Christmas celebration, but it also encourages cultural exchange and learning.

Charitable Christmas

Christmas is a season of giving, so why not focus on helping those in need? Instead of traditional gift exchanges, consider donating to a charity or organising a volunteer day with your loved ones. This approach to Christmas will fill your heart with joy and the true spirit of the season.

Film Marathon

Host a Christmas film marathon with your friends and family. Pick your favourite Christmastime films, set up a cosy cinema area, and prepare loads of tasty of snacks. You can even turn it into a competition with Christmas-themed trivia or games during the breaks. This is a great way to relax and enjoy quality time together.

Escape Room Christmas

Turn your home into an escape room and challenge your guests to solve holiday-themed puzzles, riddles, and mysteries. This unconventional Christmas celebration idea is perfect for those who love a good mental challenge. You can also create a story that ties all the puzzles together and adds a sense of adventure to your holiday gathering.

Christmas is a time for joy, love, and creativity. By thinking outside the box and embracing unconventional ideas, you can create a memorable holiday celebration that's unique to you and your loved ones. 

Whether you choose a themed Christmas, DIY decorations, outdoor adventures, international flavours, a charitable approach, a festive film marathon, or an escape room Christmas, the key is to make the day special and meaningful for everyone involved. So, this year, break free from tradition and let your imagination run wild as you celebrate an unconventional Christmas that will be cherished for years to come.

Friday 27 October 2023

A Timeless Tradition: Unwrapping the History of Christmas Cards

As the Christmas season approaches, we prepare to exchange festive greetings and heartfelt wishes with our loved ones through the age-old tradition of Christmas cards. 

These beautifully decorated pieces of paper or card have become synonymous with the yuletide season, but have you ever wondered about the history behind this tradition? In this blog post, we'll unwrap the fascinating history of Christmas cards, from their humble beginnings to the creative and meaningful expressions of love and joy that they represent today.

The Birth of Christmas Cards

The custom of sending holiday greetings in written form can be traced back to ancient civilisations. The Chinese are believed to have exchanged New Year's cards as early as the 9th century, and the Egyptians sent papyrus scrolls with seasonal greetings. However, it was in 1843 that the modern Christmas card was born in England, thanks to Sir Henry Cole.

Sir Henry Cole was a very busy man with a lot of correspondence to attend to. He found himself overwhelmed by the task of responding to all his Christmas well-wishers. Seeking a solution, he commissioned artist John Callcott Horsley to create a card that could be easily personalised and sent to multiple recipients. 

The result was the first commercially produced Christmas card, which depicted a family enjoying a Christmas feast and included the message, "A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You."

Early Christmas Cards: Victorian Elegance

These early Christmas cards were a far cry from the intricate and creative designs we see today. They featured simple, hand-painted illustrations and often carried religious messages, reflecting the predominant themes of the time. The cards were seen as a way to remind recipients of the true meaning of Christmas.

The tradition of sending Christmas cards quickly caught on in Victorian England and soon spread to the United States. People would exchange these cards with family and friends, often attaching sentimental notes and good wishes. The cards were treasured keepsakes, and some survive to this day, offering glimpses into the past.

The Rise of Commercial Christmas Cards

As the 19th century gave way to the 20th, advances in printing technology and mass production techniques led to the rise of commercial Christmas cards. Companies began producing a wide variety of designs, making it easier for people to find cards that suited their tastes and sentiments. These cards were no longer exclusive to the wealthy; they became accessible to the masses, too.

During this time, a new range of artistic styles emerged, from Art Nouveau to the Arts and Crafts movement, each leaving its unique imprint on Christmas card design. While some cards still featured religious themes, others embraced the secular aspects of the holiday, with Santa Claus, reindeer, and winter scenes becoming popular motifs.

A Timeless Tradition: Modern Christmas Cards

In the 21st century, Christmas cards have continued to evolve. The digital age has brought e-cards and digital greetings, allowing for quick and easy exchanges across the globe. However, traditional paper Christmas cards remain beloved by many. They have evolved into a canvas for personal expression, with handmade and custom-designed cards becoming increasingly popular, once again.

Today, Christmas cards come in all shapes, sizes, and styles. They can be humorous, heart-warming, or artistic, and they often feature family photos, personalised messages, and even in support of charitable causes. Many people still cherish the act of sending and receiving physical cards, as they represent a tangible connection to loved ones during the Christmas season.

The history of Christmas cards is a testament to the enduring power of human connection and the spirit of giving during the Christmas season. What started as a simple idea in 1843 has blossomed into a diverse and cherished tradition that transcends time and borders. Whether you opt for a vintage Victorian design, a modern masterpiece, or a personalised photo card, remember that each Christmas card you send or receive is a piece of history, a token of love, and a reminder of the enduring joy of the Christmas season.

(Image courtesy Oberholster Venita from Pixabay)

Introducing Everlasting Wreath Kits for Christmas from Everbloom

Are you seeking out a neat creative activity to share with family and friends this Christmas? Then Everbloom's 'build your own' wreath kits are going to be absolutely ideal!

They'll arrive at your door with everything you need to design your own luxury faux wreath that will last for years to come. 

Embrace your inner creative with an Everlasting Wreath Kit

Nothing says Christmas like a luxurious wreath on your front door to welcome your guests over the festive period!

The Everlasting Wreath Kits consist of an absolute abundance of rich festive greens, muted eucalyptus and delicate berries to decorate your own luxury faux Christmas wreath.

By following the simple instructions and perhaps by watching Everbloom's engaging online tutorials, the wreath kits will quickly transform into a meaningful and sustainable decoration for your home or the home of a crafting loved one.

Visiting London this Christmas? Attend an Everlasting Wreath Making Workshop!

Join Everbloom for the perfect festive activity, where you'll learn first-hand how to design your own everlasting wreath. Led by the Everbloom florists, guests are taught step-by-step how to design a unique wreath using a wide range of luxury faux foliage, berries and flowers. 

The perfect setting to socialise, embrace your creativity and enjoy a glass of fizz, guests will leave with an abundance of festive cheer and a wreath to enjoy from one season to the next. More information, dates and tickets can be found on the Everbloom website

Festival of Christmas trees - Francis House Children’s Hospice opens pop-up event

Francis House Children’s Hospice is bringing the magic of Christmas to a pop-up shop in Quayside MediaCityUK by filling it with 40 unique Christmas trees.

The Festival of Christmas trees opens on Saturday, October 28, and aims to encourage members of the public to place bids the unique trees, each packed with vouchers, signed football shirts, hampers, vouchers and handmade gifts.

The annual project involves businesses, community groups and individuals coming together in the decoration of a one-off Christmas tree which will be auctioned off to raise funds for the Greater Manchester hospice.

Based in Didsbury, Francis House provides respite care, homecare, end of life care and a range of other services to the families of children and young people with life-limiting and life-threatening conditions.

Participants this year include JP Goldman, Cardinal Global Logistics, Beaverbrooks the Jewellers, Morrisons, Uplift Knitters, LIFT-Financial, Amaranth, DLA Piper and Lowbury Construction.

The event this year is sponsored by Towers Business Park and Quayside MediaCityUK.

Julie Williams, fundraising officer at Francis House said: "Anyone visiting the display is in for a real treat. With the help of our tree sponsors there is something to tempt everyone to place a bid and be in with the chance of taking a truly unique tree home for Christmas.

“We provide the tree and lights, and the rest is left up to the imagination of our fantastic sponsors. Cardinal Global Logistics have created a bright and beautiful Barbie tree and the Thomason family have put together two trees bursting with football, gaming and food and drink goodies.”

Bids can be placed on each tree for five weeks in the run up to Christmas, either in store or online at

A range of Christmas decorations, gifts and cards are also on sale in the shop along with the opportunity to win a raffle prize and take part in a lucky dip.

With some trees fetching hundreds of pounds each it is hoped the event this year will exceed the £25,000 in profit raised in 2022.

The shop can be found on the first floor of Quayside MediaCityUK, formerly the Lowry Outlet and runs from October 28 until December 3.

To view a gallery of the trees and to discover more visit

Tower makes excellent Christmas presents

I was talking with my wife recently and we were discussing ideal Christmas presents. We'd seen someone on a TV programme saying that no woman would like kitchen equipment and gadgets for Christmas presents and my wife said: "That's not true as far as I am concerned! I love the idea of kitchen equipment and gadgets for Christmas presents!"

She also reminded me that she was absolutely thrilled when I bought her a set of stepladders for our wedding anniversary. (Ideal for reaching safely into tall cupboards in our kitchen, you see? She actually asked for them as her present.)

Many women, like my wife, adore the idea of good, sensible items for Christmas presents (and many men, too) and these superbly designed and made products from Tower will make absolutely wonderful Christmas presents for students who are away from home in student accommodation or for young people who are setting up their own homes for the first time. 

Those wonderful folks at Tower have asked us to share these amazing products with our readers, so here they are:-

T17128 – Vortx 12L Air Fryer Oven Black Chrome – Tower Website Exclusive

Tower’s newest Air Fryer, T17128 12L Air Fryer Oven cooks food 30% faster and uses less power than a conventional oven. Save up to 70% on your energy bills by switching to Air Fryer cooking.

This product also features a Rotisserie Function, cooking a chicken in under 1 hour! The ideal appliance for Christmas Dinners this year!

RRP: £149.99 (Black Friday Offers Available 13th Nov – 27th Nov)

T17136 – Vortx 7.6L Dual Basket Air Fryer Grey Chrome – Tower Website Exclusive

This 7.6L Air Fryer features 6 preset functions and has dual basket technology, including Smart Finish so your food cooks at the same time!

99% less fat & cooks 30% faster than a conventional oven. Save up to 70% on your energy bills by switching to Air Fryer cooking.

RRP: £129.99 (Black Friday Offers Available 13th Nov – 27th Nov)

T900302 – Smart Start Ultra Forged 30cm Frying Pan – ON TV IN NOVEMBER!

Simply wait for the SmartStart tick to dark red & take the guess work out of cooking for perfect results.

Features an aero glide ultra non-stick coating for superior food release & easy clean. Oven & dishwasher safe!

RRP: £33.99

T12069 – 1.6L Soup Maker Saute Function

Add more flavour to dishes without the mess! 4-in-1 cooking: Soup, Juice, Blend & Clean

Includes Saute function – save time on cleaning by cooking everything in one pot! Great for meal prepping or simple making winter favourites!

RRP: £69.99

T513011 – VL70 Flexi Anti Tangle Cordless Vacuum

High-performance cordless cleaning all around your home.

Use as a cordless vacuum for carpets and hard floors, a detachable handheld for cars, stairs and upholstery or use the 75cm flexi pole for going under tables and other low down areas

RRP: £129.99 (Black Friday Offers Available 13th Nov – 27th Nov)

T67300 – Portable Desktop Air Purifier

Portable Desktop Air Purifier with Multicolour Mood Lighting

Keeping your home environment refreshingly clean and free from allergens. Enjoy fresh clean purified air with a powerful clean air delivery rate (CADR) of 120m3/h - Ideal for rooms up to 14m²

RRP: 99.99 (Black Friday Offers Available 13th Nov – 27th Nov)

We would like to thank Tower for allowing us to share these products with our readers.

That's Food and Drink: European Cheeses That Make Perfect Winter Warming ...

That's Food and Drink: European Cheeses That Make Perfect Winter Warming ...: Winter is the perfect time to cook with cheese and European cheeses are essential ingredients in the kitchen due to their diversity of textu...

Thursday 26 October 2023

Biggest ever pet sale launched by Tesco as ownership of cats and dogs reaches record levels

That's Christmas has already covered buying Christmas gifts for pets, and Tesco has pointed out that ownership of dogs and cats in the UK is at its highest level ever following the lockdown years when 3.2 million Brits acquired a pet.

According to latest pet population information from the PDSA’s annual PAW Report (2023) reveals that the UK has:

11m dogs – 29% of UK adults own a dog

11m cats – 24% of UK adults own a cat

The overall pet population has increased from 8.3m in 2011 to 11m in 2023 

And Tesco is gearing up for what it believes will be the biggest ever Christmas for pets by launching a ‘4 for 3’ sale on all its pet products including food, toys and accessories.

The sale, said to be Tesco’s biggest ever for pets, which is open to all Tesco Clubcard holders, has just launched and will run until 14 November.

Pet experts at the supermarket predict along with the wide range of treats available, two training toys that should give owners as much fun as their pets will be amongst the most popular gifts.

The first is a set of Pet Training Buttons for dogs, which cost £7, that can be customised to teach your pet to answer various electronic sound commands that you record. By placing a paw on any of the various buttons or pads your pet can be taught to react to commands such as ‘Treat, ‘Play’, or ‘Outside’.

The other is a Pet Treat Launcher for cats or dogs that will help keep your pet fit by chasing after its favourite treat which can be fired from the device by a trigger operated mechanism. These cost £4 each.

Tesco Pet Category Buying Manager John Hext commented: “We know that Britain is a nation of animal lovers and now so more than ever as a result of the huge number of pets that were acquired during lockdown.

“As a result pet gifting, whether it be buying them food treats, toys or accessories has grown significantly in the last few years and is now one of the fastest growing areas in the UK retail industry.

“But we also know that times are still tough out there which is why we've decided to launch our ‘four for three, cheapest item free’ sale. We also wanted to help customers spread the cost of Christmas which is why we’ve launched it in October.” 

Own brand stand out items available for cats and dogs at Tesco this Christmas include:

Christmas pudding biscuits for dogs £3.50

Mince pies for dogs £3.50

Turkey and cranberry cracker treats for cats £2.50

Turkey and stuffing paw treats for dogs £2.50

Cheese and biscuit treats for dogs £2.50

The Tesco ‘4 for 3’ pet sale runs in large Tesco stores. The cheapest item of any four bought will be free.

We are disappointed that only dog and cat gifts are featured. Nothing for birds, rabbits and guinea pigs! Still, never mind. Maybe next year? 

Creative, crafting and Christmas shows to watch out for

"Simply Christmas: The Crafty Christmas Show is a seasonal dream with exhibitors showcasing exclusive ranges of bespoke and unusual gifts including glassware, jewellery, art, candles, ceramics, clothing and more!" This is at the SEC in Glasgow 26th to 29th of October.

Simply Christmas: The Crafty Christmas Show is a seasonal dream were exhibitors will be showcasing exclusive ranges of bespoke and unusual gifts including glassware, jewellery, art, candles, ceramics, clothing and more. This is being staged at the Birmingham NEC from the 2nd to the 5th of November.

Also at the NEC on those dates is the Creative Craft Show, featuring lots of fantastic crafting stalls all bursting with wonderful crafting ideas.

The above events are operated by:


Dominic House

Seaton Road


Dorset BH23 5HW

United Kingdom

Registered in England No. 1290524

VAT No. 291 7701 44

(Image courtesy Bob Dmyt from Pixabay)

Spreading Warmth and Hope: Helping Homeless Charities at Christmas

As the Christmas season approaches, our hearts are filled with warmth, joy, and a strong desire to share with those in need. For the homeless population, the Christmas season can be particularly challenging. 

The biting cold, the isolation, and the absence of family can make this time of year incredibly difficult for them. 

However, there is much that we can do to make a difference in their lives. In this blog post, we will explore ways in which you can contribute to homeless charities during the Christmas season, spreading hope and love.

Volunteer Your Time

One of the most valuable gifts you can give to homeless charities during the Christmas season is your time. Volunteers are the lifeblood of these organisations. There are numerous tasks that require assistance, from serving hot meals at shelters to organising charity collections. Spending your time and energy helping out can have a profound impact on the lives of those less fortunate.

Donate Warm Clothing and Supplies

Winter can be brutal for those living on the streets, and having warm clothing is essential for survival. Donating blankets, coats, gloves, scarves, and socks can make a significant difference. You can also provide basic hygiene supplies, such as toiletries and sanitary items, as well as non-perishable food items.

Financial Contributions

Monetary donations are incredibly helpful for homeless charities. They can use these funds to provide shelter, food, medical care, and rehabilitation services to those in need. Consider making a one-time donation or setting up a recurring contribution to ensure ongoing support.

Support Local Initiatives

Many communities have local initiatives and campaigns aimed at helping the homeless during Christmas. Find out what's happening in your area and get involved. Attend fundraisers, participate in charity runs, or collaborate with local businesses that are running campaigns to support homeless charities.

Organize Fundraisers

You don't have to be part of a charity organisation to make a difference. Organise your own fundraisers, such as a charity bake sale, car wash, or a charity auction. Get your friends and family involved to increase the impact of your efforts.

Provide Christmas Meals

Christmas is a time for feasting and celebrating with loved ones. Extend this joy to those in need by organizing Christmas meals at local shelters or soup kitchens. Gather a group of volunteers to prepare and serve a warm, festive meal, bringing a bit of holiday cheer to those who may have nowhere else to go.

Raise Awareness

Spread the word about the importance of helping homeless charities during the Christmas season. Use your social media platforms and other communication channels to raise awareness about the struggles homeless individuals face and encourage others to join in the effort to make a difference.

Christmas is a season of giving, and one of the most meaningful ways to celebrate is by helping homeless charities. Whether you volunteer your time, donate supplies, contribute financially, or organize your own initiatives, your efforts can bring warmth, hope, and joy to those who need it most.

Remember that even small acts of kindness can have a big impact, and together, we can make the world a better place for everyone, especially during the holiday season. Let's spread love and compassion, making this Christmas a time of generosity and empathy for all.

(Image courtesy Brigitte Werner from Pixabay)

Creating inexpensive Christmas wonderland décor for your home

Creating an inexpensive Christmas wonderland décor for your home can be a fun and creative project. You don't need to break the bank to make your home look festive and magical. Here are some ideas to help you get started:

DIY Ornaments: Create your own ornaments using simple materials like paper, felt, or even salt dough. You can paint or decorate them in a festive theme, and they'll add a personal touch to your tree.

Natural Decorations: Use elements from nature like pinecones, holly, and evergreen branches to create beautiful centrepieces, wreaths, and garlands. These are often free and can be found in your backyard or a nearby park.

Twinkling Lights: String lights can transform any space into a Christmas wonderland. Look for inexpensive LED string lights to hang around your home, on your tree, and in windows. You can often find these at discount stores.

Charity Shop Finds: Check out charity shops or second-hand shops for affordable Christmas decorations. You can often find unique and vintage items that will add character to your décor.

Paper Snowflakes: Create paper snowflakes to hang from your ceiling or windows. They're easy to make and add a delicate touch to your décor.

Candles: Candles can create a cosy and warm atmosphere. Look for inexpensive, unscented candles in Christmas colours and place them in decorative candle holders or mason jars.

DIY Christmas Stockings: Make your own stockings using old fabric or felt. You can personalise them with names and decorate them with simple embroidery or fabric paint.

Christmas Cards: Display your received Christmas cards on a string or a ribbon. It's a simple and sentimental way to decorate your space.

Christmas Printables: You can find free or low-cost Christmas printables online, including wall art, banners, and labels. Print and frame these to add a festive touch to your walls.

Repurpose and Recycle: Look around your home for items that can be repurposed into Christmas décor. For example, old glass jars can become festive candle holders, and a plain tablecloth can be transformed with some paint or fabric markers.

DIY Wreath: Make your own Christmas wreath using materials like old ornaments, pinecones, and ribbon. You can often find plain wreath forms at craft stores for a reasonable price.

Festive Table Settings: Create a festive table setting with inexpensive tablecloths, placemats, and napkins. You can also use holiday-themed dishes and cutlery.

Homemade Scented Pinecones: Add a wonderful holiday scent to your home by making scented pinecones. Simply dip them in a mixture of water, cinnamon, and a few drops of essential oils, then let them dry.

Budget-Friendly Tree Décor: Opt for a smaller Christmas tree, or use a table top tree. Decorate it with homemade ornaments, popcorn strings, and inexpensive tinsel.

Holiday Music and Movies: Don't forget to set the mood with Christmas music and films. They're a low-cost way to add to the festive atmosphere in your home. You can find many classical Christmas films on YouTube.

Remember that the key to creating an inexpensive Christmas wonderland is to get creative and use what you have. Incorporate your own personal touches to make your home feel warm and inviting during the holiday season.

Wednesday 25 October 2023

Give the Loved Ones in Your Life the Gift of Cornwall This Christmas With Trewithen Dairy's Luxury Hampers

Justifiably famed for its delicious dairy products, family owned and run Trewithen Dairy has the perfect selection of luxury hampers with exceptional provenance to gift or enjoy this Christmas.

Carefully made to a traditional Cornish recipe, Trewithen Dairy's Cornish clotted cream is produced using milk from local herds from their farms within a 25 mile radius of the dairy. The milk is then slowly heated to achieve its signature golden crust. 

With a selection of carefully selected local products to complement their award-winning clotted cream, Trewithen Dairy's range of hampers capture the essence of Cornwall's culinary heritage and make perfect gifts from the heart of Cornwall.

 All the hampers are available direct from and offer free weekday delivery using carefully insulated packaging, to ensure your hamper arrives in perfect condition.

Luxury Cornish Cream Tea For Two - £49.49

Offering a stylish blend of tradition and indulgence, this luxury hamper includes half a bottle of Joseph Perrier Champagne (37.5cl) and 175g of delicious Buttermilk clotted cream fudge that partners perfectly with the traditional cream tea staples: 114g Trewithen Dairy's Cornish Clotted Cream, 227g strawberry jam, four light and airy scones and 40 bags of Cornish Tea.

Prosecco Cornish Cream Tea Hamper - £26.49

Get in the festive spirit with this sweet and fruity hamper, containing four light and airy scones, 114g golden crusted clotted cream, 227g strawberry jam and 40 Cornish tea bags. The hamper also includes two 20cl bottles of fruity prosecco that compliments the sweet and rich taste of the cream tea. 

Cornish Larger and Pasty Hamper - £27.49

At the heart of this hamper are world-famous Cornish pasties, packed full of flavour and perfectly paired with Korev's Cornish lager. Enjoyed together they transport you to the rugged coastlines and rolling hills of Cornwall. Accompanying the two pasties and two 500ml bottles of lager are the essential components of a classic cream tea: four fluffy scones, ready to be generously smothered in golden crusted clotted cream (114g), and fruity strawberry jam (227g) along with 40 Cornish tea bags. 

All Trewithen Dairy hampers provide the option to choose between plain scones, fruit scones and gluten free scones (+£3) and to swap Cornish Tea for 227g of Cornish Ground Coffee (+£3). 

Feathered Friends Deserve Festive Fun: Christmas Gifts for Pet Birds

Christmas is a time for spreading joy and love, and what better way to do that than by giving your pet bird a thoughtful and entertaining Christmas gift? 

Our feathered friends bring so much happiness into our lives, and it's only fitting that we reciprocate with some special presents that cater to their unique needs and preferences. In this blog post, we'll explore some delightful Christmas gifts for pet birds that will keep them chirping with joy all year round.

Interactive Toys

Birds are highly intelligent creatures, and they thrive when given mental stimulation. Interactive toys are a fantastic way to engage their minds and keep them entertained. Toys like puzzle feeders, foraging toys, and treat-dispensing toys encourage birds to problem-solve and keep their beaks and brains busy.

Perches and Swings

Birds love to climb, swing, and perch, and adding variety to their environment can greatly enrich their lives. Consider gifting your feathered friend a selection of different perches, swings, and ladders to keep them active and engaged. Natural wood perches are a great choice as they help maintain healthy beak and nail conditions.

High-Quality Food and Treats

Christmas is a perfect time to treat your bird to some extra-special delicacies. High-quality bird food, fresh fruits, and veggies, and a variety of bird-friendly treats can make mealtimes a joy for your pet. Nutritional variety is essential for their health and well-being, so be sure to explore different options.

Challenging Puzzles

Puzzle toys designed specifically for birds can be a source of endless entertainment. These toys often require birds to figure out how to access a hidden treat, keeping them engaged and mentally active. Puzzle toys also promote foraging behaviour, which is essential for their overall health.

Comfortable and Cosy Nests

Many bird species appreciate a cosy spot to nest and rest. Consider getting your pet bird a new nesting box or a soft, comfortable bedding material. Make sure to choose options that are appropriate for your bird's species and size.

Bird Books and Magazines

If you have a pet bird that loves to be social and interact with you, consider getting some bird-themed books or magazines. Not only will you benefit from the knowledge, but your bird may also find the colourful images and vibrant illustrations fascinating.

Safe and Fun Outdoor Experiences

Depending on your bird's species and the climate where you live, you might consider a portable aviary, an outdoor bird perch, or even a bird harness. These options allow your feathered friend to enjoy some fresh air and natural sunlight in a safe and controlled environment. Although under current circumstances the risk of bird flu must be taken into consideration.

Health and Grooming Supplies

Keep your pet bird in peak health by gifting them some essential health and grooming supplies. This might include nail clippers, beak conditioners, or supplements to support their overall well-being. Be sure to consult with an avian veterinarian for guidance on which products are suitable for your specific bird.

This Christmas, don't forget to include your beloved feathered companion in the holiday festivities. A thoughtful gift for your pet bird can provide them with entertainment, comfort, and mental stimulation. When selecting gifts, always consider your bird's species, preferences, and unique needs to ensure they enjoy the present to the fullest. With the right Christmas gifts for your pet bird, you'll be sure to have a chirpy and contented companion throughout the holiday season and beyond.

(Image courtesy Alicja from Pixabay)

The Delicious History of Mince Pies: A Timeless Christmas Treat

Mince pies, those delectable little pastries filled with a sweet and spicy mixture of fruits and spices, are a quintessential part of the holiday season in many parts of the world. 

Their history is a fascinating journey through time, blending cultural influences and culinary traditions. Join us as we explore the rich and mouth-watering history of mince pies.

Origins of the Name

The term "mince pie" can be somewhat misleading, as the filling of these delightful pastries doesn't actually contain minced meat in most modern versions. However, the name has its roots in medieval Britain when it was indeed common to use meat in these pies. The word "mince" in this context originally meant to chop finely, and early mince pies combined minced meat (usually beef or mutton) with fruits and spices.

Medieval Beginnings

The history of mince pies can be traced back to the 13th century when they were introduced to Europe. These early pies often featured a mixture of meat, fruits, and spices. The spices were particularly important, as they helped to preserve the meat before the advent of refrigeration. The combination of sweet and savoury ingredients symbolized unity and harmony, making mince pies a popular choice for feasts and celebrations.

Cultural Influences

Over time, mince pies evolved as various cultural influences began to shape their recipes. The Crusaders returning from the Middle East brought back exotic spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, which quickly found their way into mince pie recipes. These spices not only added rich flavour but also played a significant role in masking the taste of less-than-fresh meat.

The Tudor Era

During the reign of the Tudors in England (15th to 17th centuries), mince pies continued to evolve. The addition of fruits like currants, raisins, and apples, along with those aforementioned spices, made these pies increasingly sweet and less reliant on meat. It was also during this period that the traditional shape of the mince pie, round with a top crust, was established.

Puritan Opposition

In the 17th century, mince pies faced a threat from the Puritans, who believed they were too extravagant and associated them with Catholicism. Oliver Cromwell, the Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, banned mince pies, along with other Christmas traditions, in an attempt to promote sobriety and eliminate pagan influences. Fortunately, this ban was lifted with the restoration of the monarchy, and mince pies once again became a beloved part of the holiday season.

Modern Mince Pies

Today's mince pies, particularly here in the United Kingdom, are primarily sweet rather than savoury. The traditional filling consists of a mixture of dried fruits, suet, spices, sugar, and sometimes a bit of alcohol, such as brandy or rum. The pies are often served in small, individual sizes and can be enjoyed hot or cold.

In the United States, a close relative to the mince pie, the mincemeat pie, often includes meat, though some modern versions are entirely fruit-based, resembling the British mince pie more closely.

The history of mince pies is a testament to the enduring appeal of certain culinary traditions, despite evolving tastes and changing cultural contexts. From its humble origins as a meat-filled pie to its transformation into a sweet and spicy delight, mince pies have become an iconic symbol of the holiday season, cherished by people of all backgrounds. So, as you savour your next mince pie during the holidays, take a moment to appreciate the centuries of history that brought this delicious treat to your plate.

(Image courtesy of Anita Smith from Pixabay)

Impress Your Christmas Guests: Dinner Designed for you by Masterchef Winner Steven Wallis

With the Christmas countdown well underway, why not impress your friends and family with a Christmas dinner designed by Masterchef winner Steven Wallis in partnership with recipe box company Chefs For Foodies. 

With all the ingredients you will need to create a standout centrepiece with all the trimmings, the Ultimate Turkey Christmas Dinner recipe kit is £139 for six people, which works out at only £23.16 per head.

With zero waste and an easy-to-follow and fun cook-a-long video presented by Steven, the kit includes quality ingredients sourced from British suppliers and family-run butchers including a turkey breast joint with rosemary and Parma ham and pigs in blankets. 

The delicious side dishes feature roast potatoes, sage and onion stuffing, maple roasted carrots with smoked salt, Brussel sprouts with lemon pangritata and, of course, delicious turkey gravy.

Masterchef winner and judge Steven Wallis commented: “There can be a lot of pressure on preparing the perfect Christmas dinner, but just imagine how easy and impressive it would be to have everything measured out and pre-prepared?

"With the recipe box I've created with Chefs For Foodies you're guaranteed to have a less stressful experience cooking the meal of the year, so you can spend more time entertaining your guests whilst wowing them with your skills at the same time.”

To ensure quality, fresh ingredients, the food boxes are delivered a few days before Christmas. Chefs For Foodies ensures minimum waste by supplying pre-portioned ingredients and recyclable packaging.

If turkey isn't your thing, don't despair, because Chefs For Foodies has some great alternative recipe boxes available, all of which are also designed by Steven. 

The Ultimate Festive Beef Wellington recipe kit is priced at £130 for four people. It includes a delectable chateaubriand fillet, roast potatoes, pigs in blankets, braised red cabbage with cranberries, maple roasted carrots with smoked salt and rich beef gravy.

If you have any vegan guests, they're in for a treat too. The Portobello Mushroom Wellington recipe kit is £55 for two people and features a vegan alternative to the traditional Wellington, roast potatoes, butternut squash with vegan blue cheese and cranberries, Brussel sprouts with roasted grapes and pine nuts, plus, of course, lashings of delectable vegan gravy.

If you're looking for a delicious way to end your festive meal, or some great snacks and starters, Chefs Foodies also has you covered.

Priced at £35 and serving four to six people, the Festive Cheeseboard includes British Farmhouse Cheddar, Burts Blue Cheese, Brie de Meaux with salt and virgin olive oil crackers, as well as Tracklements caramelised onion chutney. You can also upgrade this box to include a beautiful bottle of 2019 Montepulciano D'Abruzzo.

Perfect for a pre or post Christmas soiree, the Indian Feast platter created by celebrity chef and James Martin show regular, Dipna Anand, is £68 and serves six. It features turkey malai tikka with cranberry sauce, lamb tikki pittas, onion, spinach and potato bhajis and prawn pakoras, all served with mint and mango chutney.

All of these recipe boxes are available to pre-order now and if ordering for Christmas Day, they will be delivered on December 22. You can also use the discount code Autumn10 to get 10% off for a limited time.

To place your order and to obtain your 10% discount please visit Chefs for Foodies at

Tuesday 24 October 2023

Rediscovering the Magic of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" in the Modern Age

In the midst of the bustling Christmas season, few tales resonate as deeply with the spirit of Christmas as Charles Dickens' timeless classic, "A Christmas Carol." 

First published in 1843, this novella has captivated readers for nearly two centuries, offering a powerful message of redemption, generosity, and the transformation of the human heart. Dickens' work has had an enduring impact on our cultural understanding of Christmas, inspiring countless adaptations that continue to resonate with modern readers. 

In this article, we will delve into the world of "A Christmas Carol," examining its enduring themes, its influence on our contemporary celebrations, and the reasons why it remains a cherished masterpiece for readers of all ages.

The Dickensian Era

Before we dive into the heart-warming tale of "A Christmas Carol," let's take a step back in time to understand the world in which Charles Dickens lived and wrote. The 19th century was a period of tremendous change in England. The Industrial Revolution was in full swing, transforming society, and bringing about economic disparity and social injustice. As Dickens witnessed these changes first-hand, he became a fervent advocate for the underprivileged and a critic of the harsh conditions experienced by the working classes.

Dickens was a master storyteller, and he used his writing to shine a light on the social issues of his time. He wrote about the struggles of the poor, the suffering of children in workhouses, and the heartlessness of a society that often turned a blind eye to those in need. His works were not only entertaining but also deeply moving, and they were instrumental in raising awareness and inciting change. In "A Christmas Carol," Dickens took this mission to new heights, crafting a story that touched the hearts of readers whilst also delivering a powerful social message.

The Birth of "A Christmas Carol"

The genesis of "A Christmas Carol" was a journey from London to Manchester, during which Dickens visited some of the most impoverished areas in England. This experience deeply affected him, and it inspired him to write a story that would, as he put it, "strike a sledgehammer blow" on behalf of the poor. The novella was not just a product of his desire for social reform, but also a reflection of his own experiences.

The story was written in just six weeks and published on December 19, 1843, in a single volume. Despite its short length, "A Christmas Carol" resonated profoundly with readers and critics alike, swiftly becoming a bestseller. The story's universal themes and powerful narrative style made it accessible to a wide audience, and its immediate success established Charles Dickens as one of the foremost writers of his time.

Plot Overview

"A Christmas Carol" tells the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, a miserly old man who despises the joy and merriment of the Christmas season. 

On Christmas Eve, Scrooge is visited by the ghost of his former business partner, Jacob Marley, who warns him of the terrible fate that awaits him in the afterlife if he continues down his heartless path. Marley's ghost is bound in chains, representing the weight of his own greed and indifference in life.

Scrooge is then visited by three more spirits: the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present, and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come (or the Ghost of Christmas Future). These spirits take him on a journey through time, showing him scenes from his own past, the lives of those he knows, and a bleak vision of the future. Through these encounters, Scrooge is forced to confront the choices he has made and the impact they have had on others.

Ultimately, Scrooge undergoes a profound transformation. He realizes the error of his ways and the true meaning of Christmas, and he becomes a compassionate and generous man. He rekindles his relationships with his family and helps those in need. The story concludes with a joyous Christmas celebration, where Scrooge embodies the spirit of the holiday, bringing happiness and warmth to those around him.

Themes in "A Christmas Carol"

"A Christmas Carol" explores a range of timeless themes that continue to resonate with modern readers:

Redemption: The central theme of the novella is the possibility of redemption and personal transformation. Scrooge's journey from a heartless miser to a generous and kind-hearted man illustrates that it's never too late to change and make amends.

Compassion and Generosity: Dickens emphasizes the importance of compassion and generosity, especially towards those less fortunate. Scrooge's transformation is a testament to the power of these virtues.

Family and Friendship: The story highlights the value of relationships with family and friends. Scrooge's reconnection with his nephew Fred and his employee Bob Cratchit reveals the importance of love and companionship in life.

Social Justice: Dickens uses the novella to critique the social injustices of his time, particularly the plight of the poor. "A Christmas Carol" serves as a call to action, reminding us of our moral duty to help those in need.

The Spirit of Christmas: The story captures the essence of the holiday season, emphasizing the joy of giving, spreading cheer, and celebrating with loved ones.

Influence and Legacy

The enduring popularity of "A Christmas Carol" is a testament to its timeless themes and Dickens' masterful storytelling. This novella has left an indelible mark on literature and popular culture, inspiring numerous adaptations, including stage plays, radio dramas, and film adaptations. Some of the most iconic portrayals of Ebenezer Scrooge include Alastair Sim in the 1951 film "Scrooge," and Michael Caine in "The Muppet Christmas Carol" (1992).

One of the most famous recent adaptations is the 1983 Disney animated feature, "Mickey's Christmas Carol," which introduced the story to a new generation of young readers. In recent years, modern retellings and adaptations have continued to breathe new life into the classic, such as the 2009 Disney's "A Christmas Carol" starring Jim Carrey.

Furthermore, the novella has had a lasting impact on our cultural celebration of Christmas. Phrases like "Bah, humbug!" and the idea of a "Scrooge" have become part of our lexicon, serving as shorthand for describing individuals who lack holiday spirit. Additionally, the charitable giving and acts of kindness depicted in the story have become central elements of modern Christmas celebrations.

Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" remains a beloved and enduring masterpiece that captures the essence of the holiday season. Its themes of redemption, compassion, and the joy of giving continue to resonate with readers of all ages, making it a story that transcends time and place. Dickens' powerful message about the importance of kindness and social responsibility serves as a reminder to us all, inspiring us to embrace the spirit of Christmas and to reach out to those in need.

As we gather with our loved ones and celebrate the holiday season, "A Christmas Carol" invites us to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas and the profound impact that even one person's transformation can have on the world. In a modern age filled with distractions and materialism, the lessons of Scrooge's redemption are as relevant as ever, offering a timeless message of hope, love, and the possibility of change.

(Images courtesy of Prawny from Pixabay)

Want the perfect Christmas pudding? The Experts at DukesHill Share their secrets!

DukesHill's award-winning Christmas pudding is weighed, steamed and matured in-house, with an immense amount of passion and pride by the team.

For over four decades, DukesHill has remained committed to making Christmas puddings by hand to their traditional family recipe, with no commercial shortcuts in sight. 

Bursting with plump, vine-ripened fruits, cherries and free-range eggs, the team generously steep the puddings in the finest of French Brandy before allowing it to mature properly. This process allows the pudding to slowly absorb the rich aromas and develop a deeper taste profile.

And DukesHill's Christmas puddings uses butter in their recipe rather than of suet, which not only makes the puddings vegetarian, but also gives the pudding a much cleaner finish on the palate. The puddings are mixed in small batches to keep the texture light and prevent the fruit being crushed. 

Nicky Biddulph, Master Pudding Maker says, “A proper Christmas pudding is at the heart and soul of a Christmas feast, it's important to end the celebratory meal on a high note. Our team enjoys the cathartic process of making these puddings and we can't get enough of the rich, festive aromas in the air when it's Christmas pudding time. 

"Our recipe is time consuming to make and we only source the finest ingredients, but we know in our hearts that it's the closest way you can enjoy a genuine, traditional pudding, made in exactly the same way as you would at home.”

DukesHill Christmas Pudding weighs 454g and costs £14.50 available at 

The UKs Biggest and best Christmas Gift fair is back at the NEC

Be really inspired and get your festive preparations off to a flying start at the ever popular 4-day Festive Gift Fair this November. 

Now in its 27th fabulous year, it remains one of the most popular Christmas Shopping events in the UK for a good reason!

The Fair will be bursting at the seams with a colourful, eclectic mix of unusual stocking fillers and presents, festive food and drink and great Christmas decorations for your home and garden. 325+ stalls all in one hall …. with clever gift ideas for all ages and tastes … and lots of Special Show Offers!

The festive atmosphere is always fantastic! While browsing the stalls, let the music get you into tha Christmassy mood and enjoy being entertained by the Grinch … up to his usual menacing antics, Father Christmas with his amazing sleigh, a whole variety of Christmas harmonies by our live musicians and jazz stilt walkers who will be legging it up the aisles!

Make sure you visit the popular Festive Food & Drink area where you’ll find tempting stalls selling everything from cheese to chutneys, spices to spirits, puddings to preserves, chocolates to champagne, beers to brownies and hampers to hog roasts!

To get you in the mood here’s just a small sample of great presents ideas on offer this year!

Amazing children's gifts

You’ve managed to hide the presents out of sight from little eyes for weeks, and now the big day is here. All smiles on Christmas day!

Bright wooden Fair-trade toys for little astronauts and explorers by Lanka Kade that inspire kids to learn through play. Choose from a Noah’s Ark shape sorter to a 5-4-3-2-1 Blast Off space toy.

Welcome the UK’s No 1 sticker company Fun Stickers with over 1000 designs, you name it, they’ve got it! – tattoos, animals, party bag fillers and lots of Festive ones too.

Fun for all the family in the countdown to Christmas – advent calendars by In Sync Games. Solve the escape room questions for a sweet reward.

Award winning tech company Octagon Studio specialise in flash cards of animals, space, dinosaurs that bring 4D life onto your screens. Incredible technology and present for all ages.

Popular stall Oakmont Distribution will once again be selling branded toys and craft kits at unbeatable prices!

Head to Toys of Character for excellent range of Pocket Money Toys, from Everlasting play foam, Disney squish-a-boos to twiddle cubes and TY soft toys.

Eat, Drink and Be Merry!

Christmas is all about family, friendships and …. delicious food and drink. You’ll find a vast array of tasty treats and boozy delights that you can sample before you buy.

Choose from 15 fantastic cheeses by The Cheshire Cheese Company. Try their best sellers like ‘caramelised onion and rioja’ or ‘Irish whisky and stem ginger.’

For a sweet-tooth taste sensation, try good old fashioned gourmet fudge by Penny Lane Fudges.

Liquorice peanut butter, sea salt and caramel fudge to name just a few!

From plough to bottle, G & T Cornish Gin make a delicious range of tea distilled gins from ‘Cornish Cream Tea Gin’ to ‘Winter Blend Spicey Gin’.

The proof is in the eating, once tasted, Georgie Porgie's traditional melt-in-the-mouth Christmas puddings are impossible to resist!

Take your tastebuds on an adventure with Bugvita – superfoods packed with protein made from edible cricket insects!

Sheer luxury in a gold ingot box by Perfect Tipple, unique sparkling wine infused with 23 carat gold flakes! Great talking point!

Take home a box of gorgeously gooey brownies in over 30 flavours hand made by The Brownie Bar.

Discover your rebel spirit with O'Donnell Moonshine whose hand-made spirits and liqueurs are distinctively bottled in original Mason jars… try Sticky Toffee and Roasted Apple and Tough Nut….

Great stall for liquorice lovers, Black Liquorice Company source the finest liquorice from all over the world and have a vast range of both salty and sweet and even a liquorice syrup!

For partyware, stationery and cake decorating ideas – head to the Evelay stall full of cake toppers, flags, cracker kits and loads more.

For all the ladies in your life?

Pamper your Mum, Granny, Sister, Best Friends, Wife or Girlfriend with a special present this Christmas ….

Simply gorgeous – Primal Chakra make Reiki energy candles scented with pure essential oils and embellished with crystals – for an air of calm and relaxation.

Clutch bags, tote bags, back packs, shoulder bags, cross body bags and party bags – The Handbag Company specialise in premium leather bags at discounted prices.

The Cosy Chocolate Company sell handcrafted decadent drinking hot chocolate in individual pouches or gift sets – so find the perfect cosy moment to curl up and enjoy.

Jewellery designers The Picnic Blanket Company are passionate about creating beautiful whimsical beaded jewellery – stack a few bracelets on your wrist or ankle for the latest showstopping fashion.

Transform your hairstyle with the Golden Curl range of hair straightener and curlers, demonstrated at the Fair by Exclusive Retail.

To turn a head at parties or weddings, visit the Poppy Daisy stall to try on their exquisite hand-made flower headbands.

Husband and wife team formed Letterbox Love in the first National lockdown. Wanting to spread some positivity and kindness with their affordable jewellery message cards by post.

What about the hard to buy for chaps in your life?

Whatever he’s into, whether it be technology, sport, music…. there’s plenty of cool ideas at the Fair.

You’ll need time to browse on the Rebel Records and Toys stall.

Selling all your favourite vinyl discs from David Bowie to Queen and all the 80’s, plus nostalgic comics and toys.

For your after-dinner tipple – delicious Real Sloe Gin made from wild blackthorn bush and infused with gin by Condessa Fruit Liquers.

For hours of fun after your Christmas dinner! Puzzle Post have designed a cool and neat game for a group of up to 8 people – work together to solve 9 puzzles to get you all out of the challenging escape Room.

For great family fun. Take your micro drone by Extreme Flyers to the park – everyone will want a turn to testing their flying skills.

Get chopping the veg and carving the roast, Paudin sell Chef a fabulous set of 3 sharp Japanese Chef’s knives made of high carbon stainless steel.

Inspired by Super Mario, Pac-Man and Pokemon – Retro Gaming Centre will be showcasing their fun new gifts and stocking fillers.

For a unique personal gift, chose a men’s modern leather bracelet featuring their initial in a choice of classy colours by Instinct UK.

Décor for the festive season?

Dressing the tree? Well, that's just the start! Decorating your table, hall and mantle-piece with family heirlooms, twinkling lights, greenery, door wreaths and candles can all help make Christmas really special!

If a rustic traditional Christmas is your style, Tollhouse Country Crafts hand-make a huge selection of wreaths and garlands using dried fruit, cinnamon, pinecones and spices.

Nothing says Christmas more gloriously than a display of flickering candles that smell scent-sational by

Fragrance Sand

Popular 1 Stop Christmas Shop will be back with their great range of seasonal decorations.

Cards for Good Causes is the UK’s largest multi charity non-profit card retailer. By working as a collective group with lots of volunteers, they ensure that every penny of the customers money goes to those that need it most.

Baubles are not just for Christmas– mother and daughter team hand decorate every bauble with images of animals, flowers etc. to have on show all year.

For the dancing diva in you! Look out for LV Bespoke with their glitter ball range in which to hang your plants, plus loads of indoor plants and garden accessories.

Fairy Light Balloons will be selling stunning luminous helium LED balloons – fabulous for kids to wake up to on Christmas morning.

Join them with your friends and family for an inspiring and fun-filled day Christmas shopping at the Festive Gift Fair.

Tickets are on sale at

Great value! - Advance adult tickets from just £7 (plus transaction fee)

Take advantage of the Special Ticket Offer – ‘Buy 3 and get 1 FREE’ on advance Thursday/Friday adult full day tickets.

The Festive Gift Fair is open daily 09.30 – 17.00

Thursday 16th – Sunday 19th November at NEC, Birmingham.

For list of stallholders, entertainment programme and visitor information, please visit

Searching for a special Christmas gift for a special person in your life? Emilia Mala has them for you

Whether you're in seeking out a gift for an animal enthusiast, a spiritually inclined individual, or someone with a penchant for hedonistic living, Emilia Mala offers a diverse selection of printed silk scarves. 

Each piece of artwork is a vibrant narrative in itself, making it a unique and meaningful choice. Crafted in England from high-quality 100% silk twill, these scarves are available in two sizes: 60x60 cm and 130x130 cm, priced at £85 and £189, respectively. You can find them for purchase on

Founded in 2017 in London, Emilia Mala's core mission is to re-invent the timeless silk scarf by employing the art of visual storytelling. These prints are derived from hand-drawn illustrations and encompass themes from shamanistic wisdom to materialism. The creative force behind the brand is Anna Tuomaala, responsible for all design and artwork.

Try Weirdstock for Christmas gifting

Weirdstock, a New Female-founded Ethical Bedding Brand, Making a Statement with Colourful Retro Designs.

Weirdstock is a small London-based homewares brand specialising in organic cotton bedding in bold, retro-inspired prints.

Launched by Johanna Haughey-Lewis in September 2023, their range bridges the gap between vintage style and modern quality, while also having a minimal impact on the planet.

Each product has been thoughtfully designed to be fun and uplifting, injecting some 1970s eclecticism into your unique and joyful home.

Their sheets are 100% organic cotton, ethically sourced, and have that deluxe 'hotel-feel', so you can have a positively groovy bedroom without compromising on quality.

While Weirdstock is predominantly an ecommerce branding selling at our own website, we have also taken part in the award-winning Salad Days market, and we are currently stocked at Radical Giving, a boutique independent store in Lewes East Sussex. We are also joining the Wolf and Badger family, and will be stocked by Wolf & Badger online from 1st November 2023. 

Maximum impact, minimal fuss - Easy to create Christmas recipe ideas from Wayfair

This Christmas, Wayfair is inviting you to embrace your style and space, inviting colour and joy into your home.

Putting unique finds at your fingertips, with an unparalleled selection all in one place, curating the perfect look to suit your scheme is made easy. It’s time to ‘Go Your Own Wayfair’ for Christmas 2023!

With a huge choice of bakeware, dining and cookware online at, be inspired with showstopping, Instagrammable recipes, for maximum impact and minimal fuss, for the extra wow-factor this December.

New for 2023 Christmas recipes available:

- Wonka-inspired 'Rocky Road Wreath'

- Enchanting colour changing 'Magical Mermaid Mocktail'

- Nod to nostalgia 'Kitsch Christmas Trifle Cake'

- Cranberry crush 'Festive Christmas Mocktail'

- Super simple canapé idea 'Honey Roast Beetroot Blinis with Goats Cheese' 

Honey roast beetroot blinis with goat's cheese recipe

Makes 12


- 12 shop bought blinis

- 4 tbsp of shop bought beetroot houmous

- 100g baby cooked (un-vinegared) beetroot, sliced into 12 wedges

- 2 tbsp honey

- 1 pinch of chilli flakes

- 75g, soft goats’ cheese, crumbled

- A few sprigs of fresh parsley to garnish

- Salt and pepper to season


1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/gas 4.

2. Add the beetroot wedges to an oven proof dish, drizzle with the honey, a pinch of chilli flakes and a twist of salt and pepper.

3. Roast the beetroot for 15- 20 minutes, until sticky and glazed.

4. Arrange the blinis on a serving platter and top each with a tsp of beetroot houmous, a wedge of honey glazed beetroot and little crumbled goats cheese.

5. Garnish with a sprig of parsley and serve.

Let Desenio make your Christmas a stunning one

This Christmas season, deck your walls with all-new festive art prints and create the perfect backdrop for cocktail parties, mistletoe kisses and gift-wrapping marathons! Everyone celebrates differently - that's why Desenio is launching four interior collections, and four ways to celebrate the festive season!

"We know everyone celebrates the Christmas season in different ways. That's why we have launched four different interior collections, so that you can decorate your home in a way that suits you and your loved ones best," says Annica Wallin, Executive Creative Director at Desenio.

Christmas is a time for traditions. Turn your home into a nostalgic Christmas movie with a classic green and red aesthetic. 

"Embrace family traditions with a timeless aesthetic in reds and greens, creating a feeling of nostalgia and togetherness," added Annica Wallin.

It's a time for Peace

Reflect on the past year in a serene environment, with bright and hopeful hues.

 "Scandi minimalism meets the pure winter aesthetic in cool tones. This peaceful collection evokes a sense of serenity and hope," pointed out Annica Wallin.

A time for joy

Christmas is a time for playfulness! Have fun with colour and create a home full of joy.

"Make space for playfulness and joy this holiday season! Mismatching pinks and reds creates a festive but carefree aesthetic," said Annica Wallin.

A time for comfort

Light the fireplace and get cosy with your loved ones in a warming and nature-inspired home.

"Incorporate evergreen nature into your home this season with green tones and woodland imagery, creating a cosy and comforting atmosphere," says Annica Wallin.

Aldi’s Hotel Collection Candle Advent Calendar available soon

Counting down the days to Christmas has never been so luxurious as Aldi launches its first ever Candle Advent Calendar (£24.99). 

Featuring 25 candles ranging from Aldi’s best-selling scents to brand new and exclusive fragrances, all housed in a gorgeous premium teal and rose gold box complete with bow, Christmas is coming early this year! 

Available in stores from 29th October, it’s the perfect gift for those that love life’s little luxuries, although shoppers will need to need to be quick as with all Specialbuys once they’re gone, they’re gone.

Hidden behind numbered doors, candle fans will be stunned and surprised with a new single-wick scented candle each day as Christmas nears, including a selection of brand-new Hotel Collection scents. 

The NEW Birch & Hawthorn oozes leathery bark notes with a hint of vanilla and almond, while the NEW Tonka Bean & Pistachio is nutty and herbaceous with sweet, woody touches. Or, for a true scent of Christmas, Ginger Biscuit which will invite a warm, spiced scent into your home.

Ideal for lighting while unwrapping presents beneath the tree, there’s the delightful NEW Christmas Morning scent, as well as other festive-inspired fragrances such as Roasted Chestnut and fresh Peppermint.

Fans of Aldi’s Hotel Collection candle range will also be thrilled to see some returning favourites, including Peony Blush, Oud & Bergamot and Sweet Almond & Macaroon, as well as the best-selling Lime, Basil & Mandarin.

The full candle selection includes:

Ginger Biscuit

NEW Birch & Hawthorn

NEW Tonka Bean & Pistachio

Lime, Basil & Mandarin

Blackberry & Bay


Pine & Eucalyptus

Bitter Orange

Peony Blush

Amber Woods

Velvety Rose

Oud & Bergamot

Fig & Cassis

Oak & Redcurrant

Sweet Almond & Macaroon

Opium Noir

Night Orchid

Myrrh & Sweet Tonka

Roast Chestnuts

NEW Snowdrops


NEW Midnight Musk & Amber

Oud Wood & Vetiver

NEW Cypress & Eucalyptus

NEW Christmas Morning 

Aldi’s Hotel Collection Candle Advent Calendar will be available in stores from 29th October while stocks last.

It costs £24.99.

Christmas crisp alternatives from Aldi

Aldi’s latest launch of new limited-edition Walkers Christmas Pudding Crisps has caused a bit of a stir on heated social media.

Festive snack lovers are heading to Aldi stores to pick up the brand-new, limited-edition Walkers Festive Selection Pack, featuring unique Christmas-related flavours: Sweet & Spiced Christmas Pudding, Pigs in Blankets and Festive Turkey (£1.65, 5 pack).

The Christmas Pudding flavour, which has just landed on Aldi shelves, has sparked heated debate on social media, with one TikTok user calling the crisps a ‘crime against humanity’ while a Facebook user claimed that they taste ‘strangely nice’.

This new arrival will join Aldi’s existing range of quirky, festive crisp flavours in stores including the Specially Selected Hand Cooked Pigs in Blankets Crisps and the Specially Selected Hand Cooked Turkey and Stuffing Crisps, as well as the brand NEW Specially Selected Wagyu Dripping Roast Potato Crisps and Specially Selected Spicy Chorizo and Turkey Crisps (all £1.15, 150g).

As with all Aldi Specialbuys, shoppers best be quick to bag the new Walkers additions as once they’re gone, they’re gone. Aldi’s own brand festive crisp range will remain on shelves until Christmas.

Aldi’s Christmas Crisps range is available in stores now, so get down to Aldi as soon as possible!