Independent Shop Christmas Gift Guide

Over the years I have tried more and more to shop from independent stores for a whole host of reasons.

One being I know from experience how hard it is to run your own buisness, and how much blood, sweat and tears goes into making it a success. Because of this you always get that personal touch when shopping small and I know that each and every sale that is made will be appreciated.

I have compiled a gift guide this year showcasing a few of my favourite gifts from my favourite independents.

Something For The Kids – I always try to limit the amount of plastic contraptions that go on the kids Christmas lists and steer them towards things that are going to last longer and mean more…this doesn’t always work, but I definitely give them lots of alternative ideas to the ones that they see on screen.

Kind Words – I love anything that inspires children and encourages them to think about their day to day actions. Curious Child have a gorgeous range of fun, colourful clothing that they will love just as much as you!

This Be Kind jumper is certainly one of my favourites!

Colour Popping – For anyone who follows me regularly, you will know how much I love colouful clothing for the kids – and this is exactly what you get with We Love Frugi. They have a huge range of colourful, organic clothing and accessories from babies to adults. This super snuggle fleece and bobble hat would make a wonderful christmas gift.

Scrub Up – Bathtime gifts aren’t just for adults. I know that mine all absolutely love gifts that can be used in the bathroom. Childs Farm have everything covered, from this beautiful washbag full of body wash and bubble bath, a money box full of goodies and this super cute cracker for the tiny ones in your life.

All of their products are dermatologist and paediatrician approved, which makes them sutiable for even the most sensitive of skin.

Something Personal – Frankie suffers terribly with anxiety, with a large part of this attached to separation . When I came across these hoodies from Olive & Pip I couldn’t think of anything more perfect for him. Each super soft hoodie has a secret message printed on the inside cuff that is hand written by you. I think it will be a comforting reminder that there is always a little part of me with him when he is wearing it.

Olive & Pip don’t just stop there, they have a huge range of gifts from clothing to picture frames, prints to hampers and lots more so be sure to check them out.

Subscription Boxes – A gift they keeps giving in the form of a monthly subscription is always a lovely gift, and I think you are going to like this one.

Cover Those Toes – Socks are always a good idea at Christmas and what makes this Socks In A Box gift even better is that each month you get a box of of one or two pairs of beautiful bamboo socks through the door every month. They are lots of different options to choose from, including one off gift boxes.

Something Pretty – Christmas is definitely a time for jewellery and I have a couple of beautiful pieces here you might like to take a look at.

Snowflake Loveliness – Snowflakes and Christmas go hand in hand and this beautiful enamel snowflake pendent from I Am Rachel Shop would make a stunning present. This handmade pendent comes in white or mint green and hang from a sterling silver chain. Rachel also has a gorgeous range of other pieces that are definitely worth checking out!

Personalised Jewels – If you are looking for delicate, beautiful, personalised jewellery then Bloom Boutique is the place to go. They have stunning pieces such as this secret message birthstone necklace and bracelet. That are gorgeous on their own, but made that little more special with the personalisation.

Something Smelly – Who doesn’t love a scented gift at this time of year! I for one have always loved to fill the house with christmas smells and these wax melt hampers from Scentsational Candle Co give you a whole range of different Christmas scents – the hardest thing is to pick which one I like best!

In The Kitchen – I love gifts for the kitchen as I spend so much time in there and here are a few pieces that have really caught my eye.

Eco Friendly Kitchen – Sustainability is at the forefront of most peoples minds these days and I have been trying to move away from plastic food covering and EdiBee have got the perfect solution to this. They have a stunning range of sandwich bags, snack packs and bowl coverings in a range of different sizes and designs.

They have even done a Christmas Gluhwein mix in a reusable snackpocket that brings you that delicious smell of Christmas the moment you open them.

On The Go – Last but by no means least is this gorgeous flask, designed by my very own Oscar! Dinky Artist has a massive range of different items that can be personalised with your little ones creations. Oscar went with Santa as he said we love hot chocolate at Christmas and this could go in our thermal flask.

I really am in love with how well made and thoughtful these pieces are and I think they would make for a wonderful Christmas gift.

*PR Products included.

Something For Everyone Christmas Gift Guide

Christmas is fast approaching and it’s time to start thinking about what we are going to be putting under our tree.

As always my guide is a one stop shop as I like to think we all have different likes and tastes and its hard to put these all into one box – so I’ve got sweet treats to naughty tipples, things to help you sleep and things to help your creativity. Take a look now and let me know what you think:

Doing It For The Kids – I have a little selection of some of the top toys this christmas, as well as some beautiful personalised pieces.

Count With Peppa: Who doesn’t love Peppa Pig. I know each and everyone of mine have been huge fans and you can now learn to count with the new Count With Peppa toy. Peppa comes with a purse full of coins that once promoted by Peppa you can slide them into her purse ,she will recognise it and then reply.

As well as being great fun, this toy helps will fine motor skills and colour and number recognition.

Barbie My Ice Cream Shop: Follow recipes, blend different colours and flavours and make delicious ice creams to share with your friends and family with the Barbie My Ice Cream Shop.

This set comes with everything you need to prepare, create and then serve to your family and friends.

Fuzzikins: These super cute characters have been popular for a while now and are avaliable in a whole array of different options. The Home Maker sets are great for stocking fillers and let you draw and decorate the house time and time again due to its easily wipeable surfaces. Another popular set is the Doll Set that comes with three gorgeous cats and the accessories you need to customise them.

Wonderbly Books: Now I have been a fan of Wonderbly books for a long time now. Wonderbly is an online personalised children’s book company with over 40+ personalised books. Their easy to use website allows you to create a perfectly unique book for that special little one in your life, and I have to say I have really fallen for their Christmas collection.

Something Pretty – We all love a little sparkle at Christmas and here are a few thing to help you shine!

Bloom Boutique Christmas Necklace: Bloom Boutique offer beautiful,delicate jewellery and gifts and I have enjoyed many pieces over the years. This Christmas they have a gorgeous range of christmas gifts, including this stunning Secret Star Birthstone Personalised Bracelet.

A Bit Of Beauty – Christmas is a time to receive treats to make us feel special and pampered, so here are a couple of gifts that fit the bill perectly.

Something Silky: Silk is well known for being a luxurious fabric and This Is Silk have some amazing gifts made from the softest silk. This silk pillowcase would make a wonderful present for anyone looking to tame their tresses and be kind to your skin during the night.

Shaving In Style: For those guys that like a traditional shave, this plant based shaving brush will allow for a good shave as well as being kind to the environment – so what’s not to love!

Night, Night: Help getting off to a good nights sleep is something I know I would love and I know that a few sprays of this Echor End Of Day Pillow Spray is a great way to drift of. The gorgeous combination of lavender, geranium, eucalyptus and sweet orange will have you counting sheep in next to no time.

Scrub Up: I love nothing more than getting rid of a days full of dirt and grime with a good facial exfoliator, and this one from Forever Living gently works its magic to reveail soft and healthy looking skin.

Kissable Lips: This time of year plays havoc with the skin, especially our delicate lips; so giving someone something to protect their lips with would be most welcomed. Lansinoh Linolin Lip Balm is 100% natural so as will as soothing the lips, many Mums use it to treat nappy rash or dry skin on their little ones.

Something For The Foodies – Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a foodie treat or two, and I have a few to check out now.

Choccies: You can’t go wrong with chocolates can you, and a classic such as these Guylian Belgian Chocolate Seashells are a luxurious treat for sure. The hazelnut praline covered with luxury Belgian chocolate makes for a winning combination.

Chin, Chin: Along with a lot of others, gin is my tipple of choice. This outstanding gin from The Secret Gin Distillery is made with a combination of different herbs that have been lovingly grown in the garden of a herbologist who is the brainchild behind the brand.

Their Christmas gin is a heady combination of christmassy herbs and spices and would make for a wonderful gift for any gin lover. And their miniatures give you the chance to sample a range or different flavours so you get the chance to pick your favourite!

Get Prepared: Christmas is definitely party season and with party after party this can put a lot of strain on our bodies, so the best thing we could do is give them a little prep before we put on our dancing shoes.

Inside Out drinks are a combination of water, hibiscus, cranberry, goji extract, stevia, milk thistle, potassium sorbate and gree tea extract that helps to support your liver and prevent the dreaded hangover!

Keeping Healthy: Swicily is a day to day natural sugar that melts easily into food, tastes great and is low in calories- making it a great substitute for sugar and a brilliant stocking filler for those looking to improve their health.

Experiences – Gifts don’t always have to be something physical, and I am actually a big fan of creating memories through gifted experiences, and here are a few for you to take a look at.

Racing Ready: Team Sport Karting have 35 indoor go karting tracks across the county and would make for a fantastic day out for any adrenaline junkie. They have a great range of gift vouchers that you can choose from to give someone a very special gift.

Tech Fans – This section is for all those tech fans out there.

I Love Music: Wireless headphones are a great fit for so many people. These TES1 pro true wireless stereo earbuds are noise cancelling, Bluetooth connectable and have a huge 42 hour playtime which is a fantastic feature.

Something For The Home – Something to enhance the home is always a welcome gift. From a simple vase to a beautiful throw, nobody would be disappointed with a gift for the home.

Beautiful Signs: A stunning number to identify your home makes a real difference to the exterior of your home and Village Green Signs are just the people for this. They create beautiful, traditional handpainted house signs as well as more modern acrylic and slate signs – so there is somthing to suit every taste.

Getting Crafty – This is one for all the crafty people out there!

Get Painting: This art palate from mouth and foot painting artists is designed so that people can get creative when they need to use either thier hands or mouth, but it can also be used by hand if wanted.

Looking After Yourself – Here are a few pieces for those people that are conscious of looking after their health.

Getting Organised: Thoses big clumpy pill boxes are now a thing of the past and slick elegant designs have taken their place with pill cases like this lovley tabuu case that is waterproof, durable and fits up to six tablets. Perfect for popping in your bag and taking anywhere you need.

Everyone Getting A Good Nights Sleep: In our house it is me that is the snorer! I get no sleep as my husband continually wakes me up and of course neither does he! Mute could be the answer to these problems with 78% of people breathing better, 75% snoring less and 73% of partners reporting a reduction in snoring.

A small device that sits inside the nose is a hastle free way of getting better sleep so it is definetly worth giving a try.

Mute is available from Boots, Amazon or www.mutesnoring.com starting at the trial pack to find the right size rrp £12.99.

School Night Dinner Sorted With Richmond

[AD] Who’s in for dinner tonight? What clubs am I picking up from? Who’s house do you need dropping to? These are all of the questions I am shouting as we are leaving the house in the morning. Once these problems are solved I then need to throw in the logistics of work and housework, and somewhere in the middle off all this I need to think about what I’m going to feed everybody for dinner.

Time is always limited during the week, but I always like to make sure the children have a wholesome, hot meal each evening, especially during the colder months which is sometimes easier said than done when you are pushed for time. So I was intrigued when I was asked to try the new Richmond Toad In The Hole Kit. With the promise of only 5mins prep and 40 mins cooking time I wanted to put this to the test as normally for me toad in the hole can be a little faffy and something I save for the weekend.

The compact box comes with 10 sausauges and a packet of batter that you simply put into a bowl and add 200ml of water to. Not an egg or milk in sight, so I was keen to see how this batter was going to turn out. The meal is meant to feed a family of 4, but we easily stretched it to 5.

Sauasages browned, batter mixed and poured on and sides all ready I was super impressed at how quick and mess free it had been to prepare.

Now for the taste test! Sadly my batter took a beating as the kids all gobbled it down, exclaiming it was so much lighter and fluffier than mine. So well done Richmonds, you have made a fuss free, mess free dinner that has pleased the whole family and we will certainly be going back for more.

Slow Cooking With Homepride

[AD] Cooking for a large family with varying ages can be a challenge to say the least. There are always likes and dislikes, someone is hungry when someone else isn’t or there is a last minute friend turning up that needs feeding.

All of these issues with the need of serving them something nutritious as well as tasty can be mind blowing at times, but this is where my slow cooker is my saviour.

I bought my first slow cooker back before I can even remember now, after getting fed up with serving up a plate of beige food when I was pushed for time after the kids swimming lessons. We would get in late, they would be ravenous and I just reached for nuggets and chips or pizza as they were the quickest and easiest option. 

The more children I had and the more after school clubs that were happening, the more I was reaching for freezer food and I knew this wasn’t good for any of us.

The slow cooker came on the scene and I marveled at how I could prepare a whole range of meals that were healthy and filling in the morning, and this would be ready to eat as soon as we got in at night.

My narrow minded thoughts of them only being used to cook stews were quashed and over the years the different meals I have prepared have been so vast. The only thing that sometimes holds me up is having a bare cupboard as some recipes require a fair few ingredients and this is why I have been so pleased to discover the Homepride Slow Cooker range.

Homepride slow cooker sauces are concentrated sauces that once added to a few simple ingredients creates a perfectly slow cooked meal packed with flavour in three simple steps.

For me the sauces are perfect for those times when you are in a real rush as all the flavour is packed into this handy little pouch for you which is so convenient when you are pushed for time…or inspiration.

Big families also come with big food bills and these Homepride sauces are extremely budget friendly as there is no need for a high list of ingredients which you can find with some recipes.

As I said earlier, another hurdle I face with my gang is needing to please everyone’s tastes which is no mean feat! The Homepride sauces offer chilli con carne, chicken curry, beef and ale and BBQ pulled pork. My mini critics are a hard bunch to please but I can honestly say each recipe was a winner.

The issue was choosing which sides to have, but because the recipes are so quick and easy to prepare I didn’t mind adding a few different side dishes to please everyone.

The beef and ale worked perfectly served with a creamy mash that I had made in advance, and for my potato fearing kids, chunks of fresh bread worked well. The pulled pork was the perfect after school meal as it could be piled inside floury baps with a big green salad.

The favourite for us though was the chilli con carne. I can never get the combination of spices right and the Homepride sauce gave me a rich sauce with just the right amount of spice.

Head over to my highlights on Instagram to see a step by step guide of how I made it and please let me know what you think if you give it a try.

Filling Those Walls With Poster Store

[GIFTED] When we moved into our home a few years ago now, one of the things that I fell in love with was the high ceilings. They make each and every room light and airy and create an illusion of lots more space. That being said this also brings with it vast expanses of walls that need filling to make it less clinical and really put our own stamp on it.

Art work as your know can be pricey so I always look for companies that offer good quality, different art at affordable prices; and this is where Poster Store really fits the bill.

Poster Store is an online company that supplies a huge range of Scandinavian inspired posters and frames to compliment your chosen work.

Their prints cover a whole range of interests from photography to modern art, fashion to maps and much more. The variety means that you can find anything to suit any taste or home design.

I was actually really surprised that their collections drew my eye towards black and white prints which is not something I would ordinarily go for…well I did sneak a bit of colour in too!

The coloured print was actually my favourite and it complimented the drinks tray perfectly as there has been a few evenings where I have felt like this after indulging!

My husband always says I don’t consider him when it comes to styling the home and I have to admit it is made up of pretty much all my tastes. So I the dining room I have selected some of his favourite things and made a gorgeous collection of black and white photos.

Lastly was the landing which is still definitely a work in progress. I wanted to keep it more calming as downstairs has a lot going on and anything to help the kids become more restful at bedtime is a bonus.

I absolutely love the simple lines and flowing designs of these pieces and now all I need to add is a few plants for a little bit of colour!

The black frames really make the designs stand out and the quality of them is outstanding.

I always opt for a black frame, but they offer a great range in black, white, silver and gold and also if you like a natural look with a wood finish there are also oak and walnut available. They all come in a range of different sizes to fit the prints perfectly.

The amount of different choices can be a little overwhelming if you don’t have a definite idea in your head, so Poster Store has given lots of hints and tips and inspiration pages that can help you towards picking pieces that are right for you.

So head over and take a look and let me know what you think. If something catches your eye you can save 30% on all posters (excluding Selection posters and frames) until 13th September using code thejoyoffive30

Top Quality Meat Straight To Your Door With Meatpac

Lockdown had seen a whole host of new changes to people’s lives and I would say that how we shop would definitely be one of them.

We saw panic buying with the supermarkets being ransacked, to people not wanting to leave their homes and frantically trying to book home delivery slots that were like gold dust. A lot of us also turned to local small businesses that really came to the help of so many in this time of need – one of these was Kenneth Bashford who formed Meatpac which is a home delivery service, providing quality meats at reasonable prices.

They supply a huge range of different packages from family to granny, breakfast to BBQ, roasting to steak and many more so there really is something for everyone.

The other week I received the family pack that was delivered straight to my door with a smile and before I had even looked in the bag I was hit with the gorgeous smell of herbs that had been added to the pack which was a lovely touch.

We are a larger than average family and I was thinking this pack would probably be on the small size for us but I was shocked at how much there was…definitely value for money and a great variety.

I took some meat and put it straight into the freezer for later in the week and then pondered over what to do with the rest.

I decided that due to the great quality of the meat I would keep it simple and just enjoy the flavour with a mixed grill which went down very well with my lot!

The meat was flavoursome and I got no shrinkage like you do with supermarket meats.

There no better time to support local businesses and when the quality and value for money is as good as this then what can you possibly lose!

Creating The Perfect Gallery Wall With Desenio

[AD] The past few months have seen us all spending a lot longer indoors than we ordinarily would and making changes to our home have come to the forefront of our mind.

Big renovations are out of the question at this present time, but filling our walls with beautiful things is something I love and instantly adds something different with minimal effort.

Staring at that vast expanse of plain wall can sometimes be a little daunting though and the kind of look you are thinking of and how you would position your art can be a little overwhelming.

This is where Desenio have come to the rescue – not only are they suppliers of a vast range of prints, posters and frames, they also offer a fantastic service that allows you to create your own gallery wall online before taking that big leap.

Desenio have an ever changing selection of different galley walls on display with a plethora of different styles, colours and materials to suit anybody’s needs and taste.

After browsing all that they have on offer you will hopefully have a clearer idea of the look you are going for in your own home and with the use of their online tool you can build a gallery wall with your own selection of prints.

These can be moved around, swapped in and out for different pictures until you have built your perfect gallery.

My husband and I often disagree on artwork…I usually win the battle; but this has been a great way for us to work together and blend both of our tastes to create something we are both really happy with.

We have a beautiful wall in our living room that we created using the gallery planner a while ago now and are now moving into the dining room so watch this space!

A Personalised Treat For Someone Special This Mother’s Day From Funky Pigeon

[AD] Mother’s Day is fast approaching and I’m sure lots of you are thinking what you want to get that special person in your life.

I know for me it is always something personal and sentimental that means so much more than the a huge amount of money being spent with little thought behind it.

I also love something useful, that isn’t going to get stuck at the back of the cupboard and forgotten about which can sometimes be a tricky combination…I don’t ask for much do I!

Well after taking a look through the vast range of cards and gifts that personalised tote bag and personalised notebook that caught my eye.

These days I’m never without my reusable shopping tote and being able to choose my own wording was even better.

The bag was made from a super thick fabric, was eye catching and would certainly be something I would get a lot of use from everyday, with a lovely reminder that it had come from someone I loved.

Next up was the note book. I am a sucker for a brand new note book and love jotting down ideas as they come into my head, and it’s makes it even more of a pleasure when you have something as beautiful and high quality as this to write them down in.

For me usability was key when looking for gifts and Funky Pigeon had got this just right for me. But as I said there is something for everyone and definitely with checking out this Mother’s Day.

The Best Christmas Markets In The UK

[AD] If you are looking for something fun to do in the run up to Christmas with the kids then you should certainly consider taking them to a Christmas market. It is hard not to get caught up in the excitement and magic at these events and it’s also a good way to stock up before the holidays, but a few presents and enjoy some time in the UK’s best cities.

You are spoilt for choice when it come to Christmas markets in the UK and here are some of the best:

Winchester – Winchester is one of the UK’s prettiest and most historic cities which makes it a superb place for a Christmas market. Taking place with the stunning Winchester Cathedral as it’s backdrop, the Christmas market here is always great fun with a magical atmosphere. There are over 100 chalets selling all kinds of festive goods. Simple walking around the town and seeing the sights is also a lovely experience and sure to get you in the mood for Christmas.

Bath – Another beautiful city, the Bath Christmas market has over 150 chalets selling all kinds of homeware, decorations, jewellery and much more so you are sure to find a few things for the holiday there. The market takes place in the postcard-esque streets surrounding the Roman Baths and Bath Abbey for another scenic setting.

Birmingham – The biggest Christmas market outside of Germany and Austria, the Birmingham Christmas market of the place to be of you like delicious treats such as schnitzel, bratwursts and gluhwein, and it’s easy to get into the mood of Christmas with love music and carol singing. There are 80+ stalls to pursue, selling all kinds kinds of traditional and personalised items too.

Edinburgh – The Edinburgh Christmas market is found in the heart of the picturesque Scottish city with something for everyone, including jewellery, delicious snacks, festive beverages and more. It can also be easily reached from neighbouring Glasgow with a train from Queen Street to Edinburgh.

These are just a few of the best Christmas markets to choose from, all of which have their own distinctive characteristics and highlights. These markets will certainly get the family in the mood for the holidays and give you the chance to get some supplies.

Prepping Your House For Winter

[AD] Winter is coming…

With the weather already offering more of a chill, the annual arguments over when to put the heating on have begun in millions of households nationwide, with the divide between warmth lovers and thrifty savers clear to see.

For a lot of people this period means prepping the house appropriately for the colder months. If you’re one of them here are a few ideas for getting your home ready for an enjoyable winter.

Boiler Check – If you’ve never experienced a boiler breakdown during winter, consider yourself lucky. It’s a real case of you don’t know what you’ve got until it gone with your boiler, which is why a regular service is advisable. Nothing too crazy – once a year should be fine, but it’ll make sure everything is in working order.

Think of it this way, you’d rather pay for a service than a whole new one. If your boiler ever breaks down you’ll need to have some financial backup funds ready to get one.

Lag The Pipes – You might not have heard of this term before but it’s actually a really simple process. Lagging is simply placing insulated foam tubes around your pipes, particularly by plastic ones in order to reduce heat loss.

A small investment that will get you some small savings in return, but more importantly it will help prevent your pipes from bursting in the cold – something that you’d definitely rather not pay for.

Draft Proofing – If you live in an old building without double glazing you might have already noticed a few shivery breezes rolling into the room on occasion. Poor draught – proofing is surprisingly common in UK homes, so it is worth checking to see if it needs doing.

It’s a good investment too – you’ll make savings in the long run and keep your home nice and snug.

Insulate The Loft – Bit is a bigger job this one, but if you have a loft then it’s highly worthwhile. Your loft may already have some insulation but it might be quite old. Today’s insulation is much thicker than that of yesteryear do see if y out can top it up.

Again this will be an investment here, but it will pay off once it starts to get really chilly.

Be Smart With The Thermostat – There are two ways to do this – be smart with your existing thermostat or get yourself a smart thermostat. If you have an old school DIY thermostat be sure to set practical timings in your day to day heating so you get a mix of comfort and economy.

Obviously you want the house warm for when you get in and wake up, but you need to be careful not to have it wakes up all day long and in turn get a big bill at the end of the month.

A smart thermostat meanwhile will handle all of that for you, but you do need to install it into your system at home. Either way using your heating wisely will keep your bills down over winter.

The weather might be getting colder but that doesn’t mean things have to be glum. Prep your house correctly and you can enjoy getting snug and cosy every night, all while daft in the knowledge that you won’t be spending to much money in the process.