A Christmas Gift Guide They’ll Actually Love

Tuesday, 19 December 2017


It’s SNOWING! Ok technically it’s stopped, but there is still snow on the ground, and that counts.There is something about a white Christmas that really drives home the Christmas spirit. Everyone playing outside, the frost on the windows making it feel warmer inside, and that gorgeous orange glow outside from the streetlamps.

It also drives home the fact that time is ticking to buy those last-minute presents. Buying gifts can be such a stressful time though. There’s always that one person who is so difficult to buy for, or that great aunty who hates anything you get her. Gumtree (I love Gumtree, I practically furnished my entire flat from Gumtree) polled 2,000 British adults and found that festive shoppers are feeling both anxious and pressured to buy the ‘perfect presents’ for loved-ones this Christmas. Oh, I can confirm! My other half is the most difficult person in the world to buy for. It’s such an expensive time, that I really don’t want to waste money on items that will never get used or worse, thrown away. The research found that we spend an average of £147 on our partners and £75 on our mothers, so it’s no small change!

So, instead of buying items for the sake of it, let’s try and give things that have a more personal touch. Viren Swami, gifting expert and Professor of Social Psychology at Anglia Ruskin, has teamed up with Gumtree to come up with some gifting guidelines – and I’ve added some of my own too, to help give those real gifts.

Gifting Guidelines

·       Gifts which reflect the personality and interests of the giver (giver-centric gifts) tend to be more appreciated than recipient-centric gifts, where we often second guess what the recipient might like. If you are close to the person, this  works especially well, as it shows you’d like to share things that mean something to you, with someone close to you.
·       Some of the guess-work can be removed by just asking what the recipient might like. While gift-givers assume people will like requested and unrequested gifts equally, recipients in fact show a clear preference for gifts they have asked for directly. I know here in Britain this seems alien to us, but just ask, they’ll end up with something they would actually like, and you don't waste your money.
·       Giving money in place of a Christmas gift is a bad idea as it fails to convey intimacy between the giver and the recipient. Giving gift vouchers can be a good idea instead as it shows some thought has gone into the type of present  they might like.
·       Joke presents might seem like a funny idea at the time, but unless it’s a longstanding inside joke, the joke usually falls flat and after the 10 seconds of laughter, the present is wasted. Spend your money elsewhere.

Gift guide ideas they’ll actually love

Boyfriend

1. Call of Duty http://bit.ly/2BwK7cN
2. VR headset http://bit.ly/2CDAMze
3. Crystal Head Shot Set http://bit.ly/2ByzCWw
4. HD1 Pink Floyd Headphones http://bit.ly/2CEjhi3
5. Personalised Wall Clock http://bit.ly/2CBC4uu
6. Gaming Chair http://bit.ly/2AYQ1lJ

Men are notoriously hard to buy for in my opinion. Whereas women are easier, I’m generalising a bit, but you can usually buy beauty, flowers or even chocolates and you’ll have something they’ll like, whereas men? It’s just not that easy. According to Gumtree’s research, 14% of Brits would like DVDs, computer games and books and 14% would like alcoholic drinks. So, here’s a few ideas to help you buy for that man in your life.


Girlfriend

1. Aesop Hydrating Cream http://bit.ly/2ByXfOo
2. Ted Baker Bag http://bit.ly/2CCNjTt
3. Dior Nude Highlight http://bit.ly/2ByRbFN
4. Kurt Geiger Heels http://bit.ly/2Byk314
5. Gin Filled Bauble http://bit.ly/2CByeS8
6. Moet Cracker http://bit.ly/2CClNFD
7. Canon Rebel Camera http://bit.ly/2kKeTab

I know I said women are easier to buy for, but we can still be tricky creatures! 22% of us would love beauty products and a huge 27% of us have asked for clothing, footwear and accessories. I for one fall into this category. *cough* jewellery *cough*.


Mother

1. Home is where... print http://bit.ly/2BxTFnV
2. Silk Scarf http://bit.ly/2CDPnuA
3. Taste of Britain Hamper http://bit.ly/2Bwk3P5
4. Gold Bangle http://bit.ly/2ByoZCW
5. White Company Reed Diffuser http://bit.ly/2BAArOF
6. Ombre Mason Jars http://bit.ly/2CF3tMc

Personally, I find buying for my mum relatively easy, however I know many people struggle. Food such as chocolates, cooking sauces and chutneys rank highly at 16%, which I think are always a great choice. Although, make sure you pick their favourite chocolates and not just yours, even if you are secretly hoping you get to share…


Father

2. Leather Wash Bag http://bit.ly/2ByrOE2
4. Nest smart home http://bit.ly/2BxMvQA
5. Philips Sonicare http://bit.ly/2CGpZEe
6. Garden Tools http://bit.ly/2BAm64o

Ah Fathers presents. I think this can be notoriously difficult, as, and again generalising, but they don't tend to want all the latest gadgets and gizmos. I’ve always found the larger household electricals are better, more practical items have always gone down well in my house.


Youngsters

1. Unicorn picture hangers http://bit.ly/2CEbCjQ
3. Personalised Bear Frame http://bit.ly/2BzyiCO
4. Percy Pig Hamper http://bit.ly/2CFpQBk
5. Unicorn Knitting Set http://bit.ly/2CE69cQ
6. Dragon Rucksack http://bit.ly/2BygSGw
7. Dinosaur Blanket http://bit.ly/2CDm8rJ

Don't forget the little ones! I actually love shopping for little ones. The tiniest of shoes, and cute clothes, and toys that even I’m jealous of. Err, hello, when is an adult version of a baby door bouncer being made?

But whatever you get this Christmas, don’t panic, I truly believe it is the thought that counts. Christmas should also be a time to enjoy yourself, and enjoy your time with friends and family, as that's something money can’t buy.


This post was sponsored by Gumtree. All words, ideas and images are my own. 

The Great Cheese Experiment

Tuesday, 12 December 2017


Cheese glorious cheese. The food of the God’s in my opinion. I’ve had an obsession with cheese for as long as I could remember. I have it every single day and often more than once. In a game of what would you take to a desert island, I once said cheese- yes practicality aside.

So when Castello contacted me about working with them, there really wasn’t any hesitation in my reply. Some bloggers want Dior and Gucci collabs, but I just want cheese. Although Dior if you’re reading this, I am available…

So let me tell you a little about Castello if you aren’t up to speed. Started in 1893 by master cheese maker Ramus Tholstrup who travelled the world trying different cheeses (my future career?). From this experience and what he learnt Castello was born.

Today, Castello has created individual cheeses that come from the original recipes, using quality ingredients and intriguing flavours, but with a more modern and innovative approach, making them creatively crafted.

Now they have just launched the new Castello Extra Creamy Brie. A new approach to the good old classic. Being extra creamy, Castello almost has a buttery like texture and even after being in the fridge is very spreadable. It’s lovely and creamy, but incredibly soft and coats the mouth. Its rich, but the flavour is mellow enough that it doesn’t overpower as cheese can often do. Brie for me has always been great spread across some crackers and maybe with a little chutney. Have you tried it with plum chutney by the way? It’s a winner.


But, how I ate it, and in what environment, never had any input. Yet the clever bods at Castello have teamed up with Creative Neuroscientist Katherine Templar Lewis, to delve into the world of creatively crafted Cheese and its effects on the senses.

The science goes that your senses will change the way you taste things. Ok I don’t mean changing cheese into to chocolate (now that would be a neat trick), but subtle changes in taste. Touch, sound and colour changes affect your brain signals and affect your taste sensations.

So in the name of science (and cheese) I gave it a go to see if science could be applied to an everyday girl. 

TOUCH

Science says that the weight, texture and colour of a spoon can affect taste. So I tried an equal cube sized amount of Castello eating from a white plastic spoon and a solid copper spoon.

It was an interesting experience actually. The plastic spoon reminded me of eating cheese at a picnic whilst the copper spoon reminded me for of a fancy meal out and having a cheese course. I feel like the perception came from my association to memories. Usually eating a picnic is quite a casual affair and usually in my house thrown together last minute. Whilst having eaten at some fine French restaurants in my time, the cheese felt more expensive because of that memory. By expensive, I mean, that it had a much richer taste. It was stronger, but not in an overpowering, more in a way that I could taste the cream more and the subtle flavours stood out more. 


VISUAL

Colours all have associations for us. Red usual makes us think of danger, pink as feminine and blue is tranquil etc. Little fact of the day for you. Hospitals tend to be painted or have accessories of pastel/ mint green as that colour is supposed to have a calming effect. For this experiment, I was to place equal cubes on a red plate, a white plate and a black plate and see what the perceived taste was like from these.

Again, my mind had memory associations with these colours; red for me means danger or anger. A meal from a red plate is usually something harsher, maybe more fiery, and so I felt like the cheese had more of a tang to it. I felt it was less creamy than when I had it before. Whereas the white tasted much more creamier than on the red plate. Again it reminded me of picnics as I spread it on my crackers, where the cheese being out of the fridge for a little while would always glide on easily. The black plate was strange. It almost seemed like it was firmer and it didn’t feel as rich an experience.

AUDITORY

Finally I was to play with my hearing sense. The science says that sounds at different tempo’s and tone affect our perception of creaminess.

Putting on some headphones and sinking into my sofa for some quality cheese time, I started by listening to Mozart’s Flute Quartet in D Major. Quite the difference to my usual Spotify playlist I can tell you…

Then the second track I listened to was Tchaikovsky’s String Quartet No 1 in D Major.

On their own it was quite hard to pinpoint taste details, unlike the previous experiment as having never listened to these tracks before; I had no memories to associate with. Comparing almost side by side, the first track, Mozart had a much higher pitch sound but has a more soft, romantic sound than Tchaikovsky’s. So by the association of soft, romantic sounds, the brie felt more smoother.

So what did I learn? I definitely think that sights and sounds definitely impact our tastes, but more to do with the memories that they are associated with. When I think back to romantic or fancy dinners, the brie tasted more smoother and creamier, whereas when associated with a rushed moment, it was less so. So with this in mind, we should be mindful of how we eat are food. Where we are eating it, how we feel, what our environment is, as food shouldn't just be a fuel source but for enjoyment and memory making. I’d encourage you to try the experiment to, and share to Castello’s social media to see what others are saying. Both on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, head to @CastelloUK

But also Castello extra Creamy Brie just tastes amazing. Cheese by a winter fire anyone?

Castello Extra Creamy Brie is available in store at ASDA and Sainsbury’s now for an RRP of £2. Find out more at www.castellocheese.com/en-gb/

This post was sponsored by Castello, but all views, words and images are my own.

Afternoon Tea at Four Seasons Ten Trinity Square

Tuesday, 5 December 2017


It's finally December, and my festive mood is in full swing. December is for eating, drinking and being merry. It's the time of year when I love meeting up with friends and indulging in lots of sweet treats. So on Saturday I kicked things off in style with Angie from Silverspoon London, to try the afternoon tea at Four Seasons Ten Trinity Square.

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