Price Points: Christmas cookie cutters

Selection of Christmas cookie cutters | H is for Home

Yesterday, I was talking about topping your home-made mince pies with Christmas-themed pastry lids. They’re so much prettier than plain old circular tops. There are lots of different shapes to choose from; fir trees, snowmen, gingerbread men, stars, holly leaves… Rather than fiddling around with making the shapes by hand, Christmas cookie cutters will give you quicker results and a more professional finish.

A set of cookie cutters is generally the more economical option than buying them singly. Here are three of the best.

  1. Mini Christmas cutters: £6.99, Lakeland
  2. Set of 3 Croft Collection copper cookie cutters: £10, John Lewis
  3. 12-piece Linzer cookie cutter set: £25.99 Wayfair

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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Price Points: Grown-up Advent calendars

Selection of grown-up Advent calendars | H is for Home

There aren’t any children in our household, however that doesn’t stop us getting excited about Christmas. Christmas proper for us generally begins on Advent – this year, the 3rd of December. On that day, the tree gets erected, decorations go up and, if we’ve managed a bit of forward planning, the first door of the Advent calendar gets opened.

There’s a growing number of grown-up Advent calendars on the market – and there’s something for everyone – glamour pusses, real ale drinkers, coffee connoisseurs as well as the sweet-toothed. Here are three of our favourites…

  1. Christmas coffee advent by Perkulatte: £40, Notonthehighstreet
  2. Beer advent calendar: £74.99, The Pip Stop
  3. 24-day beauty advent calendar: £120.00, Selfridges

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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Tasty treats from Webbox

Collection of treats from Webbox from their natural and Christmas ranges | H is for Home

When it comes to most things H is for Home, Fudge shows little or no interest in proceedings. However, the arrival of a box of tasty treats from Webbox, meant that he suddenly wanted to get involved!

Fudge enjoying some of his treats from Webbox | H is for Home

We started by asking for his feedback on their premium fresh chicken with garden vegetables. He was too busy eating to talk, but we got the distinct impression that he approved. It’s made from 100% natural ingredients  – easily digestible protein, vegetables, beneficial herbs, mineral rich seaweed and slow-release carbohydrate energy in the form of brown rice – a complete food that provides just about everything required for a well-balanced diet.

Fudge enjoying some of his treats from Webbox | H is for Home

A sample of the little snacks followed. The flavour combinations are very exciting – for example, the healthy treat bars – chicken with pea & blueberries and chicken with duck & cranberry. Something a bit out of the ordinary for our canine cousins. Delicious was the verdict again!

Collection of treats from Webbox from their Christmas range | H is for Home

We’ve held some of Fudge’s hamper back so he has something to enjoy on Christmas Day. He’s got a three bird roast turkey kibble, pork chipolatas and ‘pigs in blanket’ treats too. A glass of wine and he’ll be sorted!

It never ceases to amaze us the speed at which Fudge can demolish a bowl of food. You’d think we starve him, but we can guarantee that’s far from the case. We always get the, “is there any more please?” look. Thanks to Webbox there’ll indeed be more to follow in the coming days!

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Make your own soap

Win a Soap Kitchen Christmas melt & pour soap making kit with H is for Home

I was never very good at science subjects at school; I couldn’t get my head around physics and chemistry especially. I enjoyed doing the practical experiments – adding one substance to another to make a solution – it’s very much like baking. However, reading in a text book that combining H2O with NaOH causes a reaction that results in Na+ and OH- ions and lots of heat, was Greek to me.

Vanilla soap making kit from The Soap Kitchen | H is for Home

Fast-forward 30-something years and I’ll now always remember that particular little nugget of chemistry. H2O (water) and NaOH (caustic soda) are essential ingredients in soap making.

Tools needed for DIY soap making | H is for Home

Add them to vegetable oil with a dash of essential oil, whisk it all up… and magic happens!

Caustic soda and water solution Liquid soap | H is for Home

Pour the resulting custard-like liquid into your mould or moulds, allow it to cool slowly for 24 hours and you get your lovely bars or block of soap.

Soap hardening in a cardboard mould | H is for Home

The Christmas melt & pour soap making kit that we’re giving away contains moulds in the shapes of a Christmas tree, gingerbread person, reindeer, Santa Claus and an angel. As this kit doesn’t include caustic soda, it’s suitable for use by children with adult supervision.

Slab of home-made vanilla soap | H is for Home Sliced slab of home-made vanilla soap | H is for Home

I really enjoyed making my own soap for the very first time. Having the kit with all the ingredients pre-portioned meant that it was really easy and I was confident embarking upon the strange chemistry & alchemy! I now have the courage to buy all the ingredients in larger quantities and try out other oils and fragrances.

Wrapping hand-made vanilla soap | H is for Home

Some of the bars of vanilla soap I’ve made have now been wrapped up in tissue paper and tied with string ready to be stocking fillers for friends & family.

The Soap Kitchen melt & pour soap-making kit

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