Christmas greetings to our friends

Image taken from "No Ordinary Child" children's book (©1971) by Peggy Blakeley with illustrations by Edith WittImage taken from “No Ordinary Child” children’s book (©1971) by Peggy Blakeley with illustrations by Edith Witt

Wishing all our readers and subscribers a very merry Christmas and happy & prosperous 2018.

Warm regards,

Justin and Adelle signatures

Check yourselves in for festive fun at Hotel Chocolat

Hotel Chocolat chocolate Christmas tree

We’ve been busy doing lots of Christmas-themed posts in the past couple of weeks. So much so that we need to give our own Christmas plans a little more attention maybe – especially on the Yuletide gift front.

Hotel Chocolat packaging | H is for Home

We’ve just been sent a beautiful chocolate parcel by Hotel Chocolat and it got us thinking… chocolate has to be the best foolproof Christmas present ever. We’re don’t know the exact percentages involved, but surely there aren’t many people who don’t like a bit of chocolate! In fact, in all my years, I’ve only ever met one person that doesn’t like chocolates… and I think they were just in denial! You can be pretty confident that a present involving chocolate will be a big hit with most people.

Christmas Hotel Chocolat

The standard newsagent bar of chocolate is fine for everyday consumption however, at Christmas you want something just a little bit special – whether it be superior quality, creative flavours or festive themes & packaging. Fortunately, Hotel Chocolat has built it’s reputation on fulfilling all three.

Hotel Chocolat Christmas stocking | H is for Home

Chocolate is the perfect gift idea for grown ups and for children. Kids especially like the fun shapes, novelty packaging, exciting flavours and quirky twists on a Christmas theme. The chocolate parcel stocking we received contains some lovely little treats including creamed caramel puddles, a sleigh team and Santa on a stick!

Children's chocolate from Hotel Chocolat | H is for Home

The kids’ section on the Hotel Chocolat website contains a myriad of chocolate-themed Santas, snowmen, robins, penguins, snowflakes, puddings and the like. We’re looking forward to trying our novelty reindeer/ we enjoyed sampling our novelty reindeer, but perhaps most grown ups will be looking towards more sophisticated options.

Hotel Chocolat & Prosecco gift box

The classic champagne & chocolate springs to mind. A variety of choices are available on this front. There are other boozy options too including gin, Prosecco or even beer & chocolate collections. Or how about incorporating the chocolate into the drink itself with delicious salted caramel cocoa vodka?

Hotel Chocolat wreath box

There are things for the whole family to share – such as Christmas crackers, advent calendars and tree decorations. There are hampers too with something for everyone to enjoy. Some of the hampers and boxed collections are so attractive that they’d make a wonderful centrepiece display for those festive get together meals and parties.

Hotel Chocolat subscription box

The Hotel Chocolat website is a joy to browse – full of tempting choices for all occasions. Chocolate is wonderful gift for Christmas, however – Valentine’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day and anniversaries provide plenty of other chocolatey opportunities too!

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Top 5 Christmas gadget gifts to get this holiday season

Gold paper wrapped Christmas presents

It’s that time again! The most wonderful time of the year. The season that brings families together in the spirit of giving and joy. Depending on how good you are with picking presents, there might just be a tinge of terror mixed in with all the merriment.

We’ve all been either the perpetrator or the recipient of what can honestly only be described as a less than stellar gift. Maybe even a terrible one. We’re looking at you, pair of socks and multi-coloured, comedy sweater!

As much as we know that gifts are not really what Christmas is all about, it certainly helps to feel confident about the presents you bought and to see sincere joy and amazement in your loved ones’ faces. If in the past you’ve stood in shops, helpless and surrounded by too much choice, this article’s for you.

We’ve decided to take on the role of Santa’s elves and help you come up with some fantastic gift ideas. We’ll focus on gadgets in this post. Gadgets always make great gifts because they tend to be functional and useful, new ones are launched each year, and there’s such a variety available today that it definitely isn’t solely the domain of dads or teenagers any longer.

So, without further ado, let’s see what great Christmas gadget gifts you can get to help spread some festive cheer this season.

XBOX ONE X

Xbox One X

Proudly dubbed the “World’s most powerful console” by its creators, you can rest assured that any console gamer in your family would be absolutely thrilled to receive this gift. Playing games in native 4K HDR has been the dream of gamers for a long time now. To make things even better, all pre-existing Xbox One games will be compatible on the X so it’s a great choice as an upgrade. Especially considering the recent release of some big game titles such as Assassin’s Creed: Origins and Shadow of War that can now be taken full advantage of.

Who’s it for?

Practically any console gamer you know would be ecstatic with this gift.

Alternatives

  • PlayStation 4 Pro: Very similar to the Xbox One X, this console was brought out as a more powerful version of the PS 4. Although not as powerful as the One X, PS is known for the most tantalising, exclusive games.

DJI Mavic Pro drone

DJI Mavic Pro drone

What might have seemed like just a fad a few years ago, they have proved to be anything but. Drones are still popular and more in demand than ever. We’ve only recently begun to realise the potential for these awesome gadgets, for even the average person. From shooting incredible holiday videos to drone racing with VR headsets, they’ve captured the imagination. The DJI Mavic Pro Drone is a higher-end drone and comes packed with capabilities that more than justify that price tag. It has a 12.35 megapixel stabilised camera that can shoot 4K video in up to 30fps and boasts a 27-minute flight time.

Alternatives

  • Parrot Bebop 2: This is a more affordable and slightly lower-end alternative. The biggest downsides being that it’s not as easy to pack up and go as the DJI and doesn’t feature the same build quality.
  • GDU O2 Plus drone: A more direct competitor for the DJI Mavic, this drone features almost all the same capabilities and has a very similar aesthetic.

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite e-reader

Amazon Kindle E-reader

What better gift can you give to the bookworm in your family than a Kindle e-reader? A device that lets you store hundreds… even thousands of books on a single, hand-held, lightweight, portable, tablet-like device? What’s even better, is that the E ink electronic screens are anti-glare so that they don’t strain your eyes and can be read in bright light with ease. Some newer models also come with built-in LEDs to self-illuminate in low light conditions. To top it off, these devices provide you with the widest access to books straight from Amazon itself. The Kindle Paperwhite and Oasis are variations that come enhanced features such as higher resolution screens and the Oasis is even waterproof.

Who’s it for?

Anyone who loves books and is constantly on the go.

Alternatives

  • Kobo Glo HD: The Kobo Glo HD is a like for like replacement for the Amazon Kindle. It’s definitely one of their staunchest competitors in a market dominated by Kindle. This specific model has a similar screen and most of the same features as the Paperwhite.

Sphero R2D2 droid

Sphero R2-D2 app-enabled droid action figure

Since the start of the Star Wars story all those years ago, our hearts & minds have been captured by the adorable and capable android, R2-D2. This unlikely looking droid managed to be both cute, yet completely indispensable with its emotive beeps and bleeps and multitude of tools. The newest in a line of in-phone, app-controlled droids, this one promises to be just as much fun and rekindle your love for Star Wars.

Who’s it for?

It’s suitable for all ages. As long as you can play games on an app you can handle this droid. A fantastic gift for any Star Wars fan in your family or one who has a love for novel gadgets.

Alternatives

  • Sphero BB-8 app-enabled droid: The BB-8 managed to do the seemingly impossible: become a worthy successor to R2-D2 and be just as adorable. It came out a few years ago and reviews have been mostly positive.
  • BB-9E app-enabled droid: This is the “evil twin” of the BB-8. Most users will prefer the BB-8 but this is a great addition if you want to complete the collection.

We hope you’ve found some fantastic and appropriate Christmas gift ideas on our list! Now, with your shopping list done you can finally sit back, relax, and take in all the merriment going around this festive season. If nothing else, maybe you’ve found an idea for a present you yourself want and can now go hint to your family members. And don’t forget to set up your workstation for the new year with a desk from Jason L!

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Luxury home-made mincemeat

Jars of home-made mincemeat | H is for Home #recipe #Christmas #ChristmasFood

Many people don’t like thinking about Christmas until the beginning of December – I know I don’t! However, there are a few things that need to be prepared well in advance for them to be at their peak for the big day. Christmas cake, sloe gin, piccalilli  and home-made mincemeat are just a few.

Home-made mincemeat mixture | H is for Home

I’m very fussy about my mincemeat; I don’t like it to be overly citrusy – so, very little orange or lemon zest & juice and no mixed candied peel. In addition, it needs to be veggie – so can only contain vegetarian suet. The only way to ensure it tastes the way I like it is to make it myself. A very easy job and well worthwhile. It works out much cheaper than the cost of ‘luxury’ jars of the stuff in supermarkets. Once made, potted up and put away correctly, it stores unopened for years!

Home-made mincemeat mixture being decanted into jars | H is for Home

Save my luxury home-made mincemeat recipe to Pinterest!

Luxury home-made mincemeat
Ingredients
  1. 200g/7oz currants
  2. 200g/7oz raisins
  3. 200g/7oz sultanas
  4. 100g/3½oz dried cranberries
  5. 100g/3½oz figs, roughly chopped
  6. 100g/3½oz prunes, roughly chopped
  7. 30g/1oz blanched almonds*, roughly chopped
  8. 1 medium cooking apple, peeled, cored & finely diced
  9. 300g/10½oz muscovado sugar
  10. 200g/7oz vegetable suet
  11. zest & juice of 1 lemon
  12. 3tsp mixed spice
  13. ½tsp cinnamon
  14. ¼tsp nutmeg
  15. 6tbsp rum or brandy
  16. 100g/3½oz butter, cubedHome-made mincemeat ingredients
Add ingredients to shopping list
If you don’t have Buy Me a Pie! app installed you’ll see the list with ingredients right after downloading it
Instructions
  1. Put all the ingredients except the alcohol into a large saucepan over a low heat
  2. Stir to ensure the contents are well combined and the suet and butter have melted (about 10 minutes)
  3. Allow to cool completely before stirring in the alcohol
  4. Decant into sterilised jam jars - gently bang the bottom of each jar to fit as much of the mincemeat in as possible.
  5. Seal the jars immediately and store for at least a month before use
Notes
  1. *To blanch almonds, put them in a heat-proof bowl and cover with boiling water. Allow to stand for 1-2 minutes before draining through a sieve. Pat them dry on some kitchen paper or clean tea towel. You can quickly get the skin off one by one by pinching the broader, rounded end of the nut
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Use your senses to get your home prepared for Christmas

Use your senses to get your home prepared for Christmas | H is for Home

September starts tomorrow, so there’s only three months to go before that holiday season rolls around again. We’ve prepared a guide which can help you use your five senses to get your home prepared for Christmas.

Sight

A string of fairy lights behind a jade plant in a white ceramic pot

Hang a wreath on your front door, it’s welcoming to holiday visitors and sets the Christmas mood before you even enter the house. Introduce fairy lights, tea lights and candles throughout your home – the magical twinkle lifts your mood every time you enter a room. And not forgetting a Yuletide centrepiece; it often takes the form of a traditional Christmas tree which everyone loves, but perhaps experiment with tree branches to hang those brightly coloured baubles. Silver birch is readily available and the white, textured bark works really well.

Smell

True Grace cinnamon & clove scented candle from House of Fraser

Certain fragrances just conjure up that Christmas feeling; pine, spiced oranges, frankincense and myrrh. Introduce smells into your rooms by using candles, room infusers, pot-pourri etc. Soap, bath oils and bubble bath for those long soaks and treasured moments of holiday relaxation. If you have a real fire, keep some nice logs or foraged pine cones beside it – throw one on the flames from time to time to fill the room with a gorgeous woody aroma.

Sound

Crossley portable record player

Dust off those vintage Christmas 45s! If you don’t have a record player, do what we did and get Spotify. There are thousands of Christmas tunes and ready-made Christmas play-lists. All you need is an online device – smart phone, tablet, computer, even your TV – that you can hook up to speakers.

Taste

Making Christmas gingerbread figures

What’s Christmas without food and drink? Gingerbread, mulled wine, minced pies, Christmas cake, eggnog and all the roast fayre. It’s a time for treating yourself – perhaps over indulging a little! Put a hamper on your pressie list… or buy yourself one. They’re often filled with seasonal items you don’t see during the rest of the year. Alternatively, find yourself a nice basket and add small luxury items that you see in the weeks & months leading up to Christmas. You can then dip into the basket of special treats over the holidays (providing you’ve not been cheating and raiding it beforehand!). There’s nothing better to make the day seem a bit special!

Touch

Pile of blankets

It’s always cold at Christmas – unless you live in the tropics or southern hemisphere. Stock up on woolly blankets, fluffy sheepskin rugs, and fleecy cushions. We love a crisp, chilly Christmas or Boxing Day walk with the dog, but nothing beats snuggling up indoors in front of the wood-burner with a mug of hot chocolate afterwards!

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