Tag Archives: Christmas

Gifts for Your Gentlemen

We all have a demographic for whom Christmas shopping is most difficult. For me, it seems to change from year to year, depending on what the person has coming up, whether they have made requests, and how inspired I’m feeling. This year, I’ve been pretty well-organised, with most ideas gradually hitting me. My last sticking point is one of my Grandads, but everyone else is pretty well sorted, after lots of head scratching surrounding uncles, Dads, fiancés and so on. So when I finally got there, I thought it might be an idea to share some of my better ideas (sharing is caring).

 Christmas Blog 
1. A washbag. Is it just me, or do men seem to be becoming more and more concerned about their accessories, hair and skincare? Even the older generation seems to be going mad for beard oil. Every self-respecting man about town, therefore, should have a respectable washbag. This season, there seem to be lots of these on the market. Just hit a department store and you’ll find a range of options to meet a range of budgets. This one is by Jasper Conran, can be found in Debenhams, and will be under the tree for my Dad. If only they hadn’t left the security tag on….need to take a trip into the shop before I can wrap it.

 Jasper Conran Washbag 
2. Socks. Whether you have a stocking to fill or a little extra to pad your other presents up to your budget, lovely or wacky socks are a bit of a Christmas must-buy for boys and girls alike. My uncle likes to wear brightly coloured socks (really really), so gets them every year, but these ones are lovely thick, soft work socks for my future Father in-law. 

 Work socks  

3. A good jumper. Or any clothes, really. You have to know the person fairly well, though, or have a particular eye for style, as clothing can be a pretty personal thing. And then there’s the dilemma surrounding choosing the right size (please don’t offend someone – if in doubt, steer clear!) I found this jumper (reasonably priced but smart) quite by accident in the men’s section of Debenhams but later ordered it online as they only had it in medium. This is for my dad and is a sort of crisis cross knit with surfer shoulder panels. Cosy and smart and relatively stylish for a 50 plus. I also bought my grandad a £10 shirt and tie set from Tesco (who’s to know?!).

Men's Christmas Gifts 
4. Man chocolate. Unless your gifted has a particular favourite (my Dad’s used to be Toblerone), experience tells me that 9 out of 19 men prefer manly dark chocolate. These mint batons are a slightly classier After Eight, and are a great extra to throw in.  Chocolate Mint Batons 
5. The Amazon Fire TV Stick. This is my Dad’s main present. I bought him a Now TV box last Christmas but I had to throw this one in this year because Top Gear is coming back, and this little stick lets you access Amazon Instant Video and Netflix (provided you pay the subscriptions) without shelling out for a smart TV. 

 Christmas Gifts for Dads 

Super Drugstore Stocking Fillers for Ladies

If you’re anything like me, you’ll find it increasingly difficult to come up with ideas for stocking fillers as each year goes by. It’s really important to me that people don’t receive presents for the sake of just having a present; it should always be something people might want or like, or don’t even know they might want!  
My Mum, Nana and I contribute to a great big stocking for each other every year, so it can be hard to think of new ideas. Yesterday, I took a trip up to Superdrug for a bit of a stocking filler smash and grab (without the stealing) and I thought it might be helpful to share with you some items which make great stocking fillers but wouldn’t necessarily be traditionally considered for a Christmas present. 

  
This is something I’ll probably put in my own stocking: the B. Eye Shadow Brush, which looks lovely and soft, as well as big enough to blend out your shadow. It would probably be great for concealing too. At £3.99 and with good-sized packaging, it ticks the stocking stuffing box, whilst being a great present.

 

Imperial Leather; Stocking Filler Ideas
Imperial Leather Shower Gel
 
Shower gel is another great filler product. Most people use it, and they certainly know someone who would use it even if they themselves have a bath every day. It might be a bit of a boring present, but it will at least be useful (which, let’s face it, we start to appreciate as we get older) and if you can find an exciting scent or texture, even better. 

 

Superdrug Stocking Fillers
Superdrug staples
 
Beauty staples….I happen to know my Nana can’t be without this Vitamin E Intense Moisture Cream and my Mum keeps complaining about having dry elbows so I’ve picked a pot up for her as well. 

Nail polish remover pads are so handy for anyone who might ever wear nail polish, so a great, cheap little thing to throw in there. I always seem to be running out!
This GOSH Eyeliner was for me to replace one which has stopped sharpening, but you can’t really go wrong with a kohl liner as a little extra, and it’s always an intriguingly shaped present to open. And you currently get a free smoky eye palette when you spend £10 on GOSH in Superdrug (one present for you, one present for me….)!

Makeup Stocking Fillers
Makeup Revolution Palettes
 
I have to admit that eyeshadow palettes are a bit of a guilty pleasure for me just now – so many pretty pigments. However, I’m a big believer in sharing the love, so if you’ve bought something and loved it, why not buy one for someone else?  These are getting towards the pricier end of stocking filler territory but there’s still a 3 for 2 in Superdrug so it sort of evens out. The Makeup Revolution Beyond Flawless palette is one of my favourite things just now, but the Flawless palette has a slightly broader range of colours for people who might not be so comfortable with the concept of 50 shades of nude. 

I also picked up the Makeup Revolution Iconic Pro 1 palette for my Mum, as she tends to wear a lot of purple shades so I thought this might introduce her to the 21st century and no make-up make-up. Plus it comes with a brush, and it’s in that crucial £5 bracket. 

Other things I’ll probably pick-up at some point or which might be suitable for a sister or friend:

  • Hair bobbles 
  • Hand cream
  • Face masks
  • Hairspray or dry shampoo
  • Bath bombs/bath salts/bubble bath 
  • Body lotion 
  • Vaseline or lip balm
  • Nail polish
  • Lipstick or lipgloss
  • Blusher, bronzer or highlighter 
  • Your favourite primer or setting spray 

I wouldn’t recommend gifting a concealer or foundation (no matter how badly you want to share the wonder of Collection concealer) as you are very unlikely to be able to correctly match their skin tone!

Let me know if this has helped any of you out or if you have any ideas for me!

Cranberry Sauce

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Since it is the start of December, I thought it was time for something for Xmas. As someone who isn’t religious, I think it is a bit hypocritical to get too involved in the festivities but there are certain things you sort of get caught up in – it is rude not to buy people presents etc. The best thing about Christmas is the food, admittedly not the turkey though, that just provides a base for all of the excellent bits and pieces. Cranberry sauce makes Christmas!

Cranberry sauce is not just for the end of December, it is fantastic with almost all poultry and especially good in a sandwich with the cold meat the day after. I love the stuff from a pot and eat mountains of it but I try not to buy things now when I have a saucepan and a supermarket!

It was a bit of a brave new world when it came to melting sugar for the caramel but I kept the words of Gordon Ramsay in mind “You have to have the confidence to let the sugar brown”, on the basis that I also had to let it brown and get some suitably pretentious photographs before chucking in the cranberries, I think I almost took this to the point of excess and wouldn’t have wanted to wait too much longer. IMG_2071

Apart from the sugar, everything else was plain sailing and really pretty easy. Cleaning the pan and spoon was a bit of a pain though.

Notes

  • I put a splash of Cranberry juice in to calm the sugar down a bit too as my fresh cranberries were a touch on the dry side, using frozen might well be advisable.
  • The sauce seemed to be a black hole for liquid, don’t worry if it seems to be too wet at any point as it will get absorbed by the cranberries very quickly.
  • Once the cranberries have been in for about 5 minutes, it is worth going through the mixture to check they have all split, I found there were still a few hard little bullets that hadn’t broken down. I light press against the bottom of the pan seemed to do the trick.
  • I used Grand Marnier instead of the more frequently used port because I thought it would be a good way to keep the flavour more tart.

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Ingredients

100g of sugar (or a little more if you want it sweeter)

300g of cranberries (fresh or frozen (defrosted))

An optional splash of cranberry juice

The zest and juice of an orange

A cinnamon stick

A couple of scrunched up bay leaves

A couple of cloves, crushed

A star anise (optional)

4 or 5 cardamon pods lightly bashed

A glug of Grand Marnier or port

 

Method

  1. Pour the sugar into the pan of choice, I used a frying pan but a saucepan would be just as good. Heat at a moderate temperature, keeping an eye on it.
  2. The sugar will melt fairly quickly once it starts to change colour, let it start bubbling for 10-20 seconds, pour in the cranberries – this is less explosive than I was expecting! you want to stir well and keep everything moving. This is a good time to add the orange to cool the sugar a little and make it more manageable.
  3. Once the cranberries have started to break down and it is becoming a bit more manageable, add the spices and alcohol, this will deglaze the pan. turn the hob down to let it simmer to infuse all of the flavours.
  4. Add some more liquid (orange juice or cranberry) to get it to your desired consistency and sweetness, remembering that it will thicken as it cools.
  5. Be careful decanting it because it isn’t an easy pour!

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Happy December and Collab. Shout Out

Happy 1st December, one and all!

I won’t claim I jumped out of bed with any sort of vigour, never mind renewed vigour, because I was up at 6.30am to get a train to Edinburgh. And I hate public transport. Really really despise it. What is with sitting on the platform freezing your toes off for 20 minutes to get on first just to be beaten to it by people who’ve been sitting inside until the very last minute who either happen to stand exactly where the train doors stop, or barge their way in front of you as soon as the doors open?! Rude. 

  
I have a personal space issue, you see. I’m one of those horrid only children you hear about. I can’t stand it when people in a queue seat forward so they keep bumping into your back, or having to sit next so someone on the train. It’s not their presence I object to as such, it’s the lack of space and total lack of control as to when you can decide to get up and leave. You spend the journey with your handbag digging into your knees and you can’t get into it for anything without feeling as though you’re elbowing them multiple times. And then there’s the awkward “are you getting off, can I get out please” dance. Just no. That’s why I always buy advance first class tickets when I visit Mr Brooker. Individual seat, free wine, lots of leg room – bliss. 

  
Anyway I’m digressing! I did get to enjoy my first Starbucks Toffee Nut Latté of the season, and there were turkey, cranberry and stuffing sandwiches for lunch! Excellent. For me, there should be no Christmas before 1st December, apart from any mincemeat/Christmas Cake you might have to bake. So I can finally dig out some decorations and a cinnamon candle. 

My Mum bought me the Ciaté Mini Mani Month advent calendar in TKMaxx (which I suspect was last year’s model but who cares! It’s rather lovely and will hopefully help me not to buy any more nail polish this year. We shall see….

  
This morning came with this rather lovely little bottle of Miss Mistletoe glitter, which I’m very excited about layering over something red or gold. 

  
I wasn’t sure I’d get home at a reasonable time tonight so I’ve opted for a cheat’s supper of fish fingers and peas. I’m not sure why I’m telling you this except that I’m considering whether Blogmas is a realistic possibility for me, and if so, what I ate this evening ought to feature, so let’s not leave 1st December out! 

    
I’m off home now to tackle two rounds of Blogilates (one is to make up for not doing any tomorrow night) including a rather ridiculous 4xHIIT workout which has rather innocently been called the Snowbunny Blast…

Anyways, the initial point of this post was to ask of anyone fancies a bit of a Christmas food collaboration? As Mr Brooker would readily tell you, I love a bit of themed baking/cookery. So just putting it out there – give me a shout if you would consider sharing your favourite Christmas foods. You wouldn’t even need to provide recipes- just share your “Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without” traditions. 

Happy December!