Thursday, 30 October 2014

Time to think about Christmas - Part 2

So next in my Christmas gift ideas series is personalised and unique gift ideas. Each freatured items is purposely affordable, please do browse each suppliers site though to discover their full ranges. 

A few weeks ago I went along to the Dorset Lemur blogger/business link up. Despite being a very nervous newbie I spent a lovely time chatting to Cari Davies-Moore, owner of ErryBerry Design She makes beautiful personalised pictures and quirky images for your homes. As her Christmas deadline for the family portraits has now passed she is selling vouchers (£26.50) now to enable people to arrange their own portraits in the new year. You can see an example of the incredible detail that goes into them here.

For your keen cooks Cari has produced a range of kitchenalia prints (unmounted £18.00, mounted £25.50). I've already ordered my "Star Baker" and "Forks" prints, they may be for Christmas presents...they may just find their way onto my own kitchen wall!

At the Link Up I also discovered the brilliant Ware Street Market This online collective of small designers and producers has a lovely range of gift ideas for every family member and your homes. These Personalised small crates (£23.50) would be brilliant to use as the base for a family hamper or gardening kit for a green fingered friend.

Taking advantage of a quiet hour at work I thought I would take a browse through some of the brilliant shops found through Etsy. Etsy is surprisingly easy to navigate your way through, with easy to use search options and the ability to look at a shop's full range at the click of a button. I specifically wanted to find some more unusual jewellery pieces and Etsy had them in droves. 

A stand out shop for me was Addy's Vintage This shop has individual vintage items ranging from a few pounds to thousands of pounds, each item is unique and very desirable. My finger was particularly hovering over this Diamante Necklace (£18.50) 

For the dapper gent in your life NJDDesigns have lots of iconic design cufflinks, covering legendary music, films and TV programmes. These Pink Floyd Cufflinks (£9.54) would be brilliant for any music fan.

A company local to me is the Pink Party Box Company They have a boutique in Woolston, Southampton that sell all manner of girls clothes and accessories. They also hold princess parties and pamper parties, along with selling some of their handcrafted clothes for girls aged 0-13 years online, like this Baby Tutu (£10.00)

Not leaving all the baby boys out I found M'art Baby Accessories selling these gorgeous Yellow & Grey baby shoes (£16.50). They look super stylist but still incredibly comfortable too.

Hopefully that's given you a little inspiration or a starting point?

Next week will be the final gift guide - food & drink, before I start sharing some Christmas recipe ideas.

Monday, 27 October 2014

How to make juice without a juicer...

I remember those days in my youth when a pick-me-up was a full fat, sugar loaded Coke, salt & vinegar crisps and as many Haribo sweets as I could get my hands on.

These days the pick me ups are needed more following a stressful week at work than a night dancing weirdly to Faithless, but the craving for a treat remains the same. Sadly the "lowered metabolism" ...ahem... and the obscene value of the metal work holding my dentist-designed smile in place, means sugar loaded drinks and snacks are a no-no in my sensible grown up life.

As an aside, on our first date we spent the first round of drinks discussing how many brands of toothpaste Sion had in his bathroom (six I seem to remember) alongside the merits of a manual toothbrush versus an electric one. It got to the stage of the bar man butting in to plead with us to talk about something more fitting for a first date! Dental care is obviously high on our household list of priorities!

I love the idea of drinking virtuous vegetable based juices, but without a juicer I always thought it was a bit of a faff...and so many recipes seem to add high sugar fruits or even honey to them that they seem just as sugary as my favourite can of Rio. 

But the juicing Gods seem to have worked their magic by giving me an horrendously stressful week at work (auditors...urghh) exactly the same time as sending me a link to Simply Health's helpful infographic highlighting teeth friendly foods and a free afternoon to experiment.

By using the oracle that is Google, I found that by grating my ingredients then blending with a little water I could get a thick mixture ready for straining. I put a large bowl under a normal sieve, emptied my mix into it and left for 5 minutes, before helping pass the juice goodness through with a spatula. Using the ingredients below I got 400mls of juice...enough for a glass each.

I used 1 carrot, 1 small apple, 1 small pear, 1cm cube of fresh ginger and 100mls filtered water.

It tasted blinking yummy, surprisingly filling, but above all fresh. I'd definitely make juices again, especially if I had a proper juicer...Christmas present maybe?!

This is an entry to the Simply Health #SHHhealthysmile juice competition running until 31st October 2014.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Exbury Autumn Colours

A few weekends ago, before the high winds started to strip the branches of their jewel coloured leaves we took a trip into the New Forest to walk around Exbury Gardens.
When we visited in late Spring we only managed to walk around half the site so this visit we prepared ourselves with plenty of snacks and brought two children who were keen to run along every path! I think we pretty much covered most of the Gardens.
Happily I found my favourite spot from our last visit...
I'd love to return once a season to take a photo in exactly the same spot. Perhaps that will be my very own photo challenge for next year!
When I'm out taking photos I like to look up or look down, rather than just taking pictures of what is directly in front of me.
Looking up I see beautiful patterns and leaves like these...

When I look down this is what I find...

Of course there are beautiful things to see, right in front of me too...

Exbury Gardens you wowed us again...we can't wait to wrap up warm and visit you before your Winter rest!
Joining in this week with "How Does Your Garden Grow?"

Monday, 20 October 2014

Sonny Angel with Laduree Patisseries Collection #BigReveal Competition

I'm excited to introduce you to a very special member of the latest Sonny Angel collection, who was sent to me last week as part of the #BigReveal campaign.

The Sonny Angel brand have teamed up wiuth the iconic Parisian baker, Laduree to lauch a limited edition, 10th Birthday, Patisseries Collection.

This collection introduces 12 new characters, 6 angels wearing macaroons and 6 wearing beautiful pastries, such as Saint-Honore Rose Framboise. As with every previous Sonny Angel collection there is also a super secret version.

The beauty of Sonny Angels is that they are sold in blind boxes, so you will never know which one you are receiving, to get a complete set you will need to encourage friends to also collect them so you can swap with each other!

As well as being super cute, the creators also believe that Sonny Angels' will bring their owners happiness, luck and daily enjoyment. You're promised protection, smiles and comfort...all for a RRP of £13!

The official distributor of Sonny Angels in the UK is Asobi Toys

So who did I receive?

I've been incredibly lucky to receive the secret thirteenth Angel...

How cute does my Angel look?!! This little fellow is pretty rare so I'm feeling very lucky that he's found his way into our home...perhaps he will being me baking luck when I finally attempt to make macaroons. One thing's for sure, he'll be being kept very safe and out of the reach of small hands!!

I have also been offered another Angel to give away to a reader of Time to be an Adult. Unfortunately it's only open to UK residents and due to each angel being boxed there is no option to choose which Angel you would like - it's all luck of the draw!

There are 11 other bloggers, each holding a giveaway. Use #SonnyReveal on Twitter to find them and visit their blogs for more chances to win your very own Angel.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I received a complimentary Sonny Angel along with a second Sonny Angel to giveaway to my readers. All thoughts and opinions remain my own.

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Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Time to think about Christmas' Past...

When I heard that travel brand Transun were running a competition to win a trip to Lapland it got me feeling all festive and thinking about my favourite Christmas.

It wasn't the Christmas that I spent New Year in a snow blanketed hunting lodge in the Scottish Highlands with my boyfriend at the time. He was (and still is) a talented chef and had been invited up to cook a gourmet feast for 20 lucky guests. While he was busy in the kitchen, I was busy trying to keep the hyperactive children of the guests quietly amused in another room...for free...until 11.30pm. The warming whiskey we sipped out on the snow covered lawn as fireworks were set off around us, went some ways to thaw my grumpy mood, sadly not all the way and I retired to bed, leaving everyone to party into the small hours.

It certainly wasn't our first Christmas after Dad passed away. We did everything the same as the previous year, trying to hold on to memories and normality but every house we visited had the same gap where he should have been standing. We snapped and sniped at each other and "Carrot-gate" is still wryly re-told over a glass of red wine every now and then.

Last year we took Sion's mum & step-dad out for Christmas Day lunch, our festive secret ready to be told. A quiet word away with the waiter to change my previously ordered pate to something safer was forgotten when he returned to our table and loudly said "Your order's all changed, and can I just say congratulations!!" Yes, the waiter told the in-laws I was expecting before we'd even taken our coats off.

No, my favourite Christmas was in 1986 when I was eight years old. The week before Christmas my Grandad had brought home the tree, always a real one, always more ball shaped than triangle and with needles already shedding into the carpet. The box of decorations was carefully brought down from the loft. Decorations we had made in infants school were wrapped with the same love as blown glass decorations that my grandparents had brought in the 1940s. Glittery and gaudy decorations, all mis-matching were hung from every branch by my brother and I. The little robin decoration, so old both his wings had long fallen off would have had pride of place. Miniature Chinese lantern lights, older than my Auntie & Uncle were draped onto the tree and overseeing the operation, sat in her chair, in amongst boxes and tissue paper was my Gran. Each year she would take the Christmas fairy and make her a new skirt out of crepe paper, glitter and sequins. Her arms and legs were lose from years of being posed on every tree. If I was really good I would be allowed to help fashion her new dress, but placing her atop the tree would always be Grandad's job.

Christmas Eve, we walked to a beautiful old church where my great grandparents were buried. Like every year we left a homemade wreath and had a little tidy up before heading home. The evening was spent watching the special tv programmes before a bath and a sit in front of the fire, in new pyjamas, to let my hair dry. I was allowed a cup of tea - more milk than tea, in my Muppets mug, before being sent up to bed to fall asleep under my candlewick bedspread.

Christmas Day itself started way before it got light by Auntie Ros banging the banister shouting "I'm up, you're all up!" My brother and I quickly open our presents while drinking more tea and eating as many shortbread petticoat biscuits as we could fit in. I remember I got a brand new guitar that I couldn't wait to practice, as well as some Fisher Price roller skates. We spent the morning playing outside with our friends, swapping stories of what we got, before heading back home. The men wandered down to the pub, while my Gran and Auntie made a mountain of food, the kitchen windows steaming up until condensation started to roll down. At some point they must have been ahead of schedule. I remember them coming into the front room where I was happily playing with my new wax crayons, with a glass of Bailey's each. I was given a tiny little glass too - "Don't tell Daddy you've had it, he'll have my guts for garters!"

After our Christmas lunch, where EVERYONE wore their hats, we went into the front room, some snoozed away their painful bellies, some played a board game, probably scrabble. I read my Victoria Plum books and filled in some of my Blue Peter annual (a stocking staple for many years). As people started to come back to life we looked around, waiting for the first person to say "I feel a bit peckish, you know" Out came cold meat, cheese, homemade sausage rolls and plenty of homemade pickled onions and piccalilli. The Christmas cake was brought out in the evening too. I remember it was decorated with a little plastic house with a christmas tree and three plastic robins, each bigger than the plastic house. I remember not really liking Christmas cake, but loving the icing and marzipan. I fell asleep on the sofa (probably watching Morecambe & Wise!) and woke up to the twinkling lights of the tree, before being carried up to bed by my Dad.

Two years ago I watched my 3 year old niece stare in awe at the sparkling tree in the same place as it's always been, I watched her excitedly eating biscuits before she ate her breakfast sat in a big box. I saw what my Gran and Grandad must have seen all those years ago.

Sadly this year we lost our much longed for Christmas surprise and had to say goodbye to a much loved family member, but Christmas day will still be celebrated by us.

You see it's not about the presents, the designer decorations or the stunning location. It's about the people and the memories, its about setting up a home production line to make huge numbers of sausage rolls and mince pies, it's about buying a Christmas pudding even though no-one likes it, it's about being home...and despite never having a white Christmas, it will always be about opening the curtains in the early hours of the morning to check for snow.

If you would like to be in with a chance of winning a day trip to Lapland for four people, courtesy of Transun, write about your favourite Christmas experience. Make sure you tweet your entry to @Transun, using the hashtag #TransunXMAS. The deadline is 11.59pm on Tuesday 21st October 2014. Further details can be found here - Good Luck!