The Alternative Christmas Gift Guide

10 ideas for when you’re absolutely stumped.

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Am I really going to be the person who sucks all the fun out of Cyber Monday and suggests that instead of indulging in mass consumerism we reel ourselves back in a bit? No, because that would make me a massive hypocrite seeing as I spent most of the weekend (in between painting my hallway – see Instagram) trawling ASOS and Amazon for some bargain Christmas Presents.  I LOVE Christmas shopping – but only when I know that I’ve found the perfect present for every single one of my favourite people. I don’t like guessing, and you’ll never catch me wandering down the 3 for 2 gift aisle – even as a last resort. For me, that’s where I draw the line – that is mindless consumerism, in my opinion anyway.  The truth is that sometimes the best things and gifts in life are free, and a thoughtful gesture is often far better than throwing cash at expensive clutter or resorting to “stuff” bought down the gift aisle under pressure.

So if you’re struggling to find that perfect gift for someone, or just fancy thinking a little bit outside the box this year, then have I got the gift-guide for you. 🙂

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Experiences

I think the older I get the less interested I become in “stuff” – and in giving “stuff” at Christmas. These days when someone asks me what I want for my birthday or for Christmas, I’m more likely to say, “Let’s go somewhere” or “Let’s do something”. So why not book some tickets for a gig or for a show (if you’re Cardiff-based then the Millenium Centre’s got one hell of a line-up for 2020, including Six, The Lion King and Book of Mormon), or book a flight and head off on an adventure to somewhere new or somewhere special.

Membership

Memberships come in all shapes and forms and make for brilliant gifts. The best thing about them is that they usually tend to run for a whole 12 months, so if your SO, Mother-in-Law or Bestie end up enjoying it and getting the most out of it, you can make it a yearly gift! If you’ve got someone who loves getting out in the fresh air or exploring old properties and manor houses then you can’t go wrong with a National Trust Membership. My in-laws gift themselves a Cineworld Members Card every year which allows them to unlimited access to what’s on in their local cinema. You could also gift someone a Netflix or Amazon Prime Membership, or even a membership to their local Museum, Gallery or Golf Club. The possibilities are literally endless.

DIY Foodie Gifts

Here’s where I come into my own, because every year – without fail – I give every member in family a pot of my Homemade Chilli and Red Pepper Jam. I made it one year for my Mother-In-Law and she absolutely loved it, and so slowly over the years I’ve had added requests for a jar or two. I make a massive batch every Christmas now – and I love it! It’s an easy gift, and it’s personal. And of course, there are plenty of other foodie gifts, from easy Chocolate Truffles and Christmas Biscuits, to Brownies and Welshcakes. You could even create your own infused Gin or Vodka.

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Kick a Bad Habit

Maybe you’ve got a bad habit that’s been annoying your SO for a long time, so then why not give them the gift of the promise to kick it for good? It could be something huge like vowing to give up smoking or drinking, or something a lot smaller like promising not to dump your clothes in a pile at the end of the bed every night.  Just don’t make it an empty promise, you’ve got to make good on it no matter what! 😉

Make a Donation

Some people just don’t want or need gifts – so why not put the money you’d usually spend on them to good use? Make a donation to their favourite charity in their name, or donate an advent calendar or tub of celebrations to a local food bank, or even buy a gift for someone in need. If you’re local, then I can’t not mention Hope Rescue for all the absolutely incredible work they do for stray and abandoned dogs. Every year they ask for donations of shoe boxes full of treats, toys and blankets for the dogs they look after.

Favours and IOUs

Are there a few things around the house that you’ve been putting off?  Maybe there’s some DIY or decorating that needs doing? So, why not get off your bum and get them done as a gift to the person who’s been nagging you about them!  Or, why not take over someone’s chores while they put their feet up?

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Learn Something New

Do you have someone on your Christmas List who’d like to learn something new? Maybe they’ve always fancied trying out Pilates, or learning French, or fancy taking up a new hobby like Photography. So, why not sign them up for a class in the new year?

Make it a Weekly Thing

Sometimes, the best gift you can give someone is the gift of your time. I bet there are plenty of people on your list who’d love nothing more than to see more of you, or spend more quality time together. So, why not give it? Sign up for a class that you can both take together every week, or just make a plan to meet up once a week to go for coffee or brunch (…or gin?).

Magazine Subscription

This is such a fab gift if you’re stuck, especially for Mums, Sisters, BFFs. My in-laws got me a magazine subscription to Marie Claire a few years ago and it’s still one of the best presents I’ve ever had. I love reading magazines (even though Marie Claire’s retreated to the online world now *sigh*) and having one pop through my letter box every month is such a simple pleasure and a treat! Since then I’ve signed my Mum up for a subscription to Prima and she gets the same excitement seeing it on her doormat once a month. 🙂

Green Gifts

Personally, I love plants and flowers in all forms and I’d much rather get a bunch of hot pink roses than a shot in the dark gift every time. Plants are such easy gifts, as are seeds and grow your own kits. If you’re green fingered yourself, then why not give someone something you’ve grown yourself – or a cutting from your favourite plant?

Happy 2nd of December everyone! Have a lovely week! 🙂

Review: What Would Boudicca Do?

Do I really need yet another book on women’s history?  I’ve got a whole shelf sagging full of them at home; from Hypatia to Mary Queen of Scots, you name it, I’ve probably got it.  So do I really need yet another one?  Yes.  Yes I do.  Always.  Because just when I think I’ve read about every Warrior Queen and babein brainbox from the annals, I pick up another book and discover ten, twenty, thirty more inspiring women that I’ve never heard about.  Where the hell were these women when I was growing up?  How come school history lessons are still centered around great men and their great deeds?  How the hecky-pecky did I go thirty two years without knowing about Hedy Lamarr?

Thank God Women’s History is having a moment, and long may it reign – because as it turns out, no matter how clued up you think you are about it, there are still so many great women and their great deeds (and misdeeds 😉 ) to read about.  Which is why books like What Would Boudicca Do? are a great way of clueing yourself in on a whole handful of history’s most remarkable women rather than digesting one big brick of a biography at a time (which I’d totally recommend doing once you’ve found your historical soul sister 😉 ).

What’s unique about Foley and Coats‘ book is that you can flick through and pair up your modern day problems with a historical woman and be inspired by the way they overcame something similar.  Read how Mae West stayed body positive, how Akiko Yosano learned to love her boobs, how Catherine the Great dealt with the whole of Europe gossiping about her, and how Emily Dickinson defied FOMO.  Short and snappy chapters with beautiful illustrations, it’d make a great gift for someone who’s just got the Women’s History bug and wants to find out more.

Five other feminist books on my wishlist this Christmas…

1. Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The Rise and Reign of the Unruly Woman

“You know the type: the woman who won’t shut up, who flaunts it, who’s too brazen, too opinionated – too much. Sometimes, she’s the life of the party; others, she’s the focus of gossip. She’s the unruly woman, and she’s one of the most provocative, powerful forms of womanhood today.”

I really fancy this one!  Buzzfeed writer Anne Helen Petersen analyses eleven modern pop culture powerhouses like Serena Williams, Kim Kardashian and Hillary Clinton and looks at why we love to love them – or hate them for being too something.

2. What Would the Spice Girls Do?: How The Girl Power Generation Grew Up

“The Spice Girls gave a generation their first glimpse of the power of friendship, of staying true to yourself, of sheer bloody-mindedness. And the girl power generation went on to kick-start a new conversation around gender equality.”

If you grew up dancing to Wannabe on the playground like I did and still know the words to 2 become 1 (my husband shocked me the other night by repeating them word for word – proof positive that The Spice Girls really did rock a whole generation), then you’ll be just as eager to read this one as I am – especially ahead of their tour!  One of the reviewers over on Amazon calls it “a love story to the girls we were and the women we are” and I love that.

3. Bloody Brilliant Women: The Pioneers, Revolutionaries and Geniuses your History Teacher Forgot to Mention

“For hundreds of years we have heard about the great men of history, but what about herstory?  In this freewheeling history of modern Britain, Cathy Newman writes about the pioneering women who defied the odds to make careers for themselves and alter the course of modern history.”

Another collection of inspiring tales about badass babes from history, but this time a whole book of badass British babes like Marie Stopes, Beatrice Shilling and Anne McLaren.  Yes please!

4. Life Honestly: Strong Opinions from Smart Women

“Life Honestly is a complete guide to modern life from some of today’s most talented and insightful writers including Bryony Gordon, Dolly Alderton, Natasha Devon, Lauren Laverne and Yomi Adegoke.”

If trawling The Pool is part of your every day online routine then this is right up your street.  A book full of inspiring, smart articles with fresh points of view on every day issues from motherhood to relationships.

5. Becoming: Michelle Obama

“In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her – from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address.”

Yes!  Love her!  I was flicking through a magazine the other day and found an interview with Oprah that Michelle did to promote her book and after reading a little anecdote about her first night alone post-White House and how she made herself some cheese on toast and just enjoyed sitting on the porch with her dogs I knew I wanted to read it.

Happy weekend!  (…and happy Christmas shopping!)

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What I Did Last Weekend: Christmas Shopping and Country Walks

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Last weekend started off a little earlier than usual because Sunny’s little sister came to stay with us.  On Friday I took her into Cardiff for some Christmas Shopping, which started off with breakfast at my favourite cosy nook, Barker Tea House.  Tina had a massive bowl dog dish of porridge, and I went for their blueberry and bacon pancake stack. 🙂



Here’s one of the weirdest things I did last weekend; I had my face turned into chocolate!  I mean, I have chocolate on my face all the time, so when Candy Mechanics asked if I wanted to be temporarily immortalised as chocolate lollipop – it was just too weird an opportunity to pass up!  They’ve set up shop outside Debenhams in St David’s until the 23rd of December, and for £7 you can create a chocolate selfie!  A perfect stocking filler, don’t ya think?



You can also create your own Chocolate Christmas Cards to send to your favourite people… or you, know, just to scoff yourself 🙂

I think almost everyone put their decorations up last weekend, us included!  Sunny hates doing it (apparently I’m really fussy about it!  Pfft!), so he very kindly enlisted Tina to help out instead.  We got the tree and all the other bits up in record time; what took longest was convincing Bungle that the tinsel, fir and fairy light invaders weren’t scary.  He barked at the wreath on the door all afternoon and still won’t go near the tree.  What a wimp!


On Sunday, I took a couple of birthday presents out for a spin (The Oliver Bonas Jumper is hands down the cosiest, fluffiest jumper I’ve ever owned) and went out for a wintery walk.


We parked up in the tiny village of Michaelston-Le-Pit and picked up the Salmon Leap Trail, which follows Wrinstone Brook and is apparently full of Salmon in the spring.  It’s amazing how many lovely walks there are out in the Vale; now that Bungle’s able to walk a bit further it’ll fun to go exploring next year 🙂








Have a lovely week everyone! x

Chilli & Red Pepper Jam

If you’ve never tried Chilli Jam then you’re missing out, seriously.  I made it a couple of years ago as a DIY Christmas gift for my mother in-law and was surprised how well it went down.  Sweet and spicy, it’s not exactly made for your morning toast (although she eats it like that sometimes!), but it goes great with meat and cheese and I’ve even spread it over potato wedges before cooking them.  It’s easy to make and makes a great foodie gift for anyone who likes things on the spicy side 😉

Chilli and Red Pepper Jam (from Nigella)

Ingredients

  • 75g of chilli peppers (up to you which variety you use – I’ve used green chilli peppers in the past which worked out quite well)
  • 75g of chopped red peppers (You can use bell peppers, but I like using the sweet Romano variety)
  • 350 ml Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 500g Jam Sugar
  1. Fill your empty jam jars with boiling hot water to sterilise them.
  2. In a large pan dissolve the jam sugar with the Apple Cider Vinegar on a low heat – don’t be tempted to stir it!
  3. Roughly chop all the peppers and then blitz them in a food processor.  If you haven’t got one, then just chop them until they’re in as small pieces as possible, but for the love of God wear gloves!  Don’t do what I did the first time I tried this recipe and chopped all the chilli peppers with bare hands – they will burn for hours.  Trust me.
  4. Place a small plate in the freezer (this will make sense in a sec!)
  5. Once the sugar has dissolved add the chopped/blitzed peppers to the pan and turn up the heat and allow the jam to boil for ten minutes.  Watch the pan doesn’t boil over though as things can get sticky and messy very quickly!
  6. Grab the plate from the freezer – you’ll know the jam’s ready if a small blob of it sets quickly on the plate.
  7. Allow to cool in the pan and then ladle into your jars!
  8. If you’re giving them as gifts don’t forget to label and jazz them up!  I found the holly garland in Tiger for £1.

 

*Psst!  You can find full tutorial of the recipe on my Instagram Stories Highlights!