Sunday, 21 December 2014
Friday, 19 December 2014
Wrapping presents, can be a chore, but sometimes getting creative with your gift wrap can do wonders to revolutionise your Christmas decor. Below are seven of my favourite luxury gift wraps from various stockists - decorate with tags, ribbons and pretty embellishments to brighten up the space beneath your tree!
A bit lost on how to give your wrapped presents a little extra Christmas sparkle? Try out some ideas from my favourite gift wrapping videos by Anne or Shine, M&S and Michelle Phan, or just try and think out of the box - try gluing colourful buttons onto the paper, or using natural resources like twigs and holly!
1. Paint the Town Red Reversible Wrap by Kate Spade - £12.95 for 30" x 5' roll
This cheery red has a shocking pink reversible side, so you can watch your Christmas go from merry to chic in one swift rip of the paper!
2. Wood Grain White on Craft by John Lewis - £3.00 for 3m roll
Okay, not entirely luxury, but it's such a pretty wrapping paper to use if you're hosting a 'woodland heritage' themed Christmas. This would work great with brightly-coloured ribbon and craft-style gift tags.
3. Sunshine Yellow Reversible Wrapping Paper by Sugar Paper - £7.50 for a 91 x 60cm sheet
This beautiful yellow tone will bring a smile to any humbug's face; plus, it has a pretty yellow and white striped side!
4. Chalkboard Wrapping Paper by Not on the High Street - £9.75 for 2 sheets
This nifty set includes a white chalkboard pen, so that you can write your own messages and not have to worry about gift tags!
5. Crackle Wrap in Neon Pink by Wrag Wrap - £5.45 for 70 x 70cm sheet
Considering an ethical Christmas? Wrag Wrap have an alternative to throwaway wrapping paper, with their reusable gift wraps. This green and neon pink speaks wonders for the eco-friendly present-giver!
6. Marble Speckled Wrapping Paper by NormansPrintery - £9.21 for 33 x 48cm sheet
Etsy is a great place to find everything from jewellery to art and, of course wrapping paper. This example is one of many available - but I picked this particular one for its pretty bird's egg style paint splatters.
7. Silver Neon Flock Paper by Paperchase - £4 for 2m roll
This pretty paper from Paperchase is great for adding just a touch of colour to a white-themed Christmas. Add white, silver or yellow ribbon for the perfect colour combo.
Thursday, 18 December 2014
It had just occurred to me that I'd bought a loaf of bread at the beginning of this week, and hadn't actually got round to using it. Not being one to throw usable food away, I decided to make the nation's favourite frugal dessert: bread and butter pudding, using Lurpak's Cooking Mist*.
This is a really easy recipe; all you'll need is:
Lurpak Cooking Mist
8-10 slices of bread
2 tsp cinnamon powder
350ml milk (use whole milk if you like it really creamy)
50ml double cream
30g granulated sugar
Spray the Lurpak Cooking Mist into an oven-proof dish to grease it. The blend of Lurpak butter and vegetable oil give an even coverage, so you're guaranteed fuss-free serving come dinner time!
This is a great ingredient for anything from glazing to basting; and it's really easy to use. I primarily use it for greasing dishes and pans, as it's so much quicker than using butter and a greasing utensil (plus, it calls for less washing up) - but if you're feeling creative, here are some adventurous and tasty recipes you could try... once you've finished this one, of course!
Next, butter the bread, then cut off the crusts and slice each piece diagonally. Line the triangular pieces, butter side up, onto the bottom of the dish, then sprinkle with half the sultanas and a teaspoon of cinnamon.
Repeat until the dish is filled, finishing with a layer of bread on top (if you finish with sultanas, they may burn in the oven and leave a bitter taste in your mouth).
Warm the milk and cream together in a saucepan. Do not let it boil.
Whisk the eggs in a bowl, add around three quarters of the sugar, and whisk again until the mixture is a pale cream-colour.
Add the warm milk and cream mixture to the bowl, and stir.
Pour the mixture over the bread, then sprinkle with the remaining sugar. At this point, I like to add a little grated nutmeg, but this is entirely up to your own tastes!
Leave to stand for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 180 C/335 F/Gas 4.
Place the dish into the oven and bake for around 30-40 minutes, or until the top is a delicious golden brown. Enjoy!
* Gifted in association with Lurpak
Monday, 15 December 2014
1. Black Jeans by Frame Denim - £225
2. Red Wool Jumper by Bella Freud - £270
3. Cut Out Boots by Alexander Wang - £515
4. Mini Satchel by 3.1 Phillip Lim - £585
5. Grey Oversized Top by Monki - £25
6. Leather Boots by Ash - £209
7. Light grey Leather Jacket by River Island - £65
8. Duster Jacket by Topshop - £89
9. Embroidered Blouse by Mango - £44.99
10. Silver Necklace by Alex Monroe - £108
11. Silver Watch by Skagen - £115
12. Heels by Supertrash - £215
Thursday, 11 December 2014
Tuesday, 9 December 2014
We all know the toll that Christmas takes on the old bank balance, and yes, it's difficult to find a happy medium between hosting a Christmas with all the trimmings, and saving some money for the New Year bash - but there is a way! In fact, there are multiple ways, and here are a few ideas on how to keep to your budget, and still have the Christmas you've been waiting for.
1. Set a budget (duh)
The whole point of sticking to a budget is to have one in the first place, so sit down and make a quick list (or spreadsheet, if you're persnickety, like me) of your incomes and outgoings, how much you're able to spend, and how much you need to save. List all the people you're buying gifts for and how much you're budget is for each person. This seems pretty Scrooge-like, but at least it gives you a rough idea of what you can and can't afford - do not shop on impulse!
2. Sift through a charity shop or two
I'm not saying, 'only buy from charity shops this season', but you can find some quirky one-offs if you're looking hard enough, for example, a set of books or an unopened makeup kit. Plus, it goes towards a good cause!
3. Compare prices
I really cannot stress this point enough. If you see something great in a shop, chances are it'll go for a cheaper amount elsewhere. Perfumes are a great example of this; I always check Boots and Debenhams first, and if the items aren't on offer I'll try fragrancedirect.co.uk or feelunique.com for better savings.
Beware the internet, however. Always make sure the site's legit before you hit 'purchase'!
4. Make your own
These presents can sometimes turn out a bit dubious-looking, but at least you've put thought into it! First, brainstorm the interests of your gift-ee, then put your inventiveness to the test! For example, you could make your partner a movie-night-in package complete with popcorn, a DVD and some glass-bottled Coca Cola.
For more homemade present ideas, check out my list here.
This also works for food. Think about how much you could save if you made your own mince pies, reindeer cookies and Christmas cake with what you've already got in the cupboards, rather than buying them from the shops at much higher prices!
5. Make a Christmas cupboard
It may be too late for this year's Christmas, but maybe think about trying this for 2015: designate a cupboard, box or draw specifically for Christmas goods. If you see something at a great price that you know a loved one would want, buy it and pop it in the draw. You'll get your Christmas gifting done before you can say ho ho ho!
6. Secret Santa
This old tradition is perfect for offices or friend groups - if you've only got one person to buy for, you can focus on getting them something special, rather than trying to spread the cost over five or six people.
7. Buy 'family gifts'
If you're buying for, say, your partner's family, why not buy a 'family gift' in place of separate ones? This could be something that all the family will enjoy using, like a boardgame. It saves money and encourages 'togetherness' at the same time!
Remember, shops have targets to meet, and they'll sometimes be willing to reduce prices or throw in extra items to make a good sale. This works mostly for stores that sell high-priced products such as appliances, electronics, jewellery, furniture, etc. This is where shopping instore, rather than the internet, comes in handy.
9. Avoid thoughtless gifts
Often, people tend to throw in thoughtless gifts (like a toiletries set, scarf or address book) just to bulk up present packages. However, that money could have been saved, or put towards a nicer main present, than one they may never use and end up throwing away (= wasted money). Also, 'joke' presents never seem to end up being useful to that person in the future and usually end up thrown away, too (= more wasted money).
10. Stay local
I know it can be a big temptation to flock to the capital (if you're not already from London) for its huge range of shops and Christmas activities, but this can really wrack up costs. Why not visit the local towns in your county for independent shops and fairs, and find yourself some unique gifts at affordable prices? Supporting your community and high street is so important at this time of year!
Monday, 8 December 2014
This decadent confit salmon is perfect for a starter at your Christmas dinner; it features a subtle combination of sweet and salty flavours, and satisfies those pre-roast dinner hunger pangs!
The recipe, put together by Michelin-starred chef, Tom Sellers, serves 2 portions; however, ingredients can be doubled, tripled or quadrupled depending on how big your Christmas gathering will be!
You will need:
2 tbsp Lurpak Clarified Butter
Sprig of thyme
1 bay leaf
1 clove garlic, crushed
25g dried cranberries
A pinch of flaked sea salt
4 slices of rye sourdough, toasted
Fresh watercress to garnish
Melt the Lurpak Clarified Butter* in a pan, and add the thyme, bay leaf, crushed garlic and cranberries.
The Clarified Butter is 100% pure concentrated Lurpak Butter - so it allows you to cook at high temperatures and really lock in flavours.
Lightly salt the salmon and leave on a tray for ten minutes to cure the flesh, then place the salmon into the hot melted butter skin-side down. Cook for 3-4 minutes, then flip over and cook for 2-3 minutes until the fish is opaque.
Chill the contents in a fridge for 30 minutes or until the butter solidifies. Toast the sourdough slices.
Spread the butter (with all the extras) onto the toasted sourdough. Break up the salmon with a fork and place on top of the layer of Clarified Butter. Garnish with fresh watercress and serve!
* (Gifted) In association with Lurpak