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Christmas Gift Guide: For Her

It may be less than a week until Christmas Day, but there’s still time to hunt down the perfect gift.  Wish on a shooting star with Zoe & Morgan, pucker up with Yves Saint Laurent or add some adorable arm candy with Longchamp.

Here are some gift ideas for her…

Yves Saint Laurent Kiss & Love Collection Palette, £59, Debenhams
Shooting Star Necklace, £290, Zoe & Morgan
Acqua di Parma Iris Nobile Sublime eau de parfum, £86, Space.N.K
Le Pliage Miaou, £83, Longchamp
Volcano multi-coloured reactive ceramic vase, £30, Habitat
Le Specs tortoiseshell luxe sunglasses, £55, Atterley
ghd Platinum styling gift set, £165, ghd
Fresh Rose Face Mask, £46, Fresh
Nail lacquer Come to Bed Red, £12, butter LONDON
Rifle Paper Co Garance Dore social stationery set, £18.50, Tea and Kate


Christmas Gift Guide: For Foodies

What to buy the foodie in your life for Christmas?  Just look out for something decadent and delicious and you’ll be on the right track.  Give them all of the tools to make kickass ramen, washed down with New Zealand’s finest bubbles and finished with bites of gourmet chocolate-covered honeycomb.

Here are some mouth-watering ideas for your favourite bon viveur…

Panettone au Chocolat, €27, Pierre Hermé
The Doughnut Destroyer Plate by James Ward, £25, m.a.d.e
Ivan Ramen – Ramen Making Kit, £39.50, Sous Chef
The Complete 2016 Collection, £75, Mast Brothers
Risotto Tin, £21.95, Carluccio’s
2011 Kalex Pinot Noir Rose Brut Otago, £26.50, The New Zealand Cellar
Peanut Butter Honeycomb Dips, £3.50, Mighty Fine Honeycomb
Arabica Levantine Larder Essentials, £65, Arabica
French Earl Grey Cotton Teabag, £12, T2
Brew Coffee Scoop by Tom Dixon, £35, Heal’s
San Pietro Black Truffle Extra Virgin Olive Oil, £10.99, Selfridges

Christmas, Shopping

Christmas Gift Guide: For Him

Buying for the man in your life may seem difficult, but really it’s quite simple.  With your Christmas gift, he will achieve a frangrant air of sophistication with Penhaligon’s No. 33 Eau de Cologne, stay warm under a cosy Ted Baker trapper hat and shake up some superior Christmas libations with the help of Mr Lyan and friends.

Here are some Christmas gifts for him that are sure to inspire this Christmas…

Berlin City Guide, £25, Louis Vuitton
No. 33 Eau de Cologne, £95, Penhaligon’s
Ted Baker Faux Fur Trapper Hat, £45, Selfridges
Slim Bifold Wallet, £170, Shinola
Vintage Weekender Bag, £34, Long Sands
Facial Fuel SPF15, £33, Kiehls
Ultimate Grooming Box, £155, Percy Nobleman
Talisker 10 Gift Set, £38.90, Alexander & James
Good Things to drink with Mr Lyan and Friends by Ryan Chetiyawardana, £16.59, Amazon


Christmas, Newcastle

Christmas in Newcastle

Every Christmas I head back to my hometown of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne to spend the festive season with my family.  Seeing the Tyne Bridge all lit up as my train pulls in to Newcastle Central Station, after a few hectic weeks of parties, crowds and tying up all those loose ends, always makes me excited to be home.

This year is a huge change, as I’m spending my first Christmas Day in London with Steven.  Following our recent engagement and new work commitments, it seemed like the right time to shake things up.  Of course, we’ll still be visiting Newcastle during the festive period to soak up some of the merriment and legendary North East crack (PG humour, if you didn’t already know).

Christmas is one of my favourite times to be back in Geordieland, as there’s always a buzz in the air and so much happening around town.  Here are some of my top picks for a canny Christmas in Newcastle…

Fenwick Christmas Window

The Fenwick Christmas window is a real institution in Newcastle and as soon as it’s unveiled, you know Christmas is here.  The first Fenwick department store was founded in 1882 by John James Fenwick in Newcastle and every year brings a new creative display.  Over the past decade, we’ve been treated to The Snowman, Gulliver’s Travels, Peter Rabbit and even aliens in Santa’s Workshop.

Christmas Markets

In the run up to Christmas, Newcastle’s elegant Grey Street becomes an outdoor marketplace with stalls offering artisan food and drink products.  Warm up with mulled wine and mince pies while picking up gifts made by local producers including microbrewery beer, home-made jams, cakes and hand-made chocolates. The Christmas Markets are perfect for finding unique treats that can’t be found on the high street.

Live music at Sage Gateshead

Concert venues don’t come much better than Sage Gateshead.  This striking part of the Quayside landscape is world renowned for its cutting-edge design and superior acoustics, as well as being a prestigious music education centre.  This Christmas, Sage Gateshead has really pushed the boat out with a programme of live music from St Etienne, he Overtones, Music of Motown and local heroes Smoove & Turrell, as well as The Snowman accompanied by a live orchestra.

Art on the Tyne

I always like to make time to see the latest exhibitions at BALTIC, another vital cultural institution on the Quayside.  Not only does it feature world-class exhibitions from international contemporary artists, but it’s a prime spot for dining, shopping and viewing the city from high above.  Brian Griffiths’ must-see exhibition Bill Murray: a story of distance, size and sincerity runs throughout the festive period until the end of February.

Christmas Flicks & Fizz 

One of my regular haunts in Newcastle is the Tyneside Cinema, a beautifully-restored theatre on Pilgrim Street where you can see the best of independent and world cinema.  I love its cosmopolitan Intermezzo Coffee Bar for a pre or post film cocktail or coffee and cake.  The cinema’s festive screenings of It’s a Wonderland Life are sure to make you feel all warm and fuzzy for Christmas!

Festive Feasting

Newcastle is a real treat for foodies, whether it’s fine dining at Jesmond Dene House and Six at BALTIC, creative cuisine at House of Tides and Peace & Loaf or high end pub grub at The Broad Chare and Pleased To Meet You.

My Christmas Eve ritual with my mum is to dash around Eldon Square to pick up last-minute Christmas gifts and then reward ourselves with the most delicious Eggs Benedict and Omelette with French fries at my favourite Cafe 21 by acclaimed chef and restaurateur Terry Laybourne.

Street food has really taken off in Newcastle, so be sure to look out for the best vendors including Riley’s Fish Bar, Papaganoush, The Fat Hippo, Patty Smith’s, Pizzette and Dabbawal.

If you’re visiting Newcastle for Christmas or New Year, send me a postcard and share your favourite spots to eat, drink and be merry!


Biscuiteers Advent Calendar Collection

One of my favourite rituals in the run up to Christmas is choosing my advent calendar.  Every year they get more and more luxurious and you generally need to get in there early before they’re all snapped up.

This year, the countdown to Christmas started a little earlier than usual with the arrival of my Biscuiteers advent calendar collection.  I’ve been trying to exercise some kind of restraint, but they’re so yummy that I can’t see them lasting until December!

Biscuiteers is a bijou London biscuit company founded by Harriet Hastings and her husband Stevie Congdon in 2007.  Since then, they’ve become a teatime favourite, particularly in the fashion with bespoke designs created for Anya Hindmarch, Mulberry and Burberry (all the top notch goodie bags contain a special Biscuiteers treat for the way home).

Biscuiteers now has a Biscuit Boutique and Icing Cafe in both Notting Hill and Battersea and all of the biscuits are hand-made by artisan bakers in London.

The Biscuiteers advent calendar collection is a real joy for foodies with a sweet tooth who love Christmas.  The beautifully-illustrated metal tin is filled with 24 festive iced gingerbread biscuits and it’s exciting to see which ones you’ll get.

Each of the four layers is a glorious winter scene with adorable animals of the season including a reindeer, owl, penguin husky and Britain’s favourite bird, the robin redbreast.  Also featured is a petite iced snowflake biscuit, perhaps as something lighter for those days of extra festive indulgence.

Not only do the biscuits look absolutely divine, but they’re a proper taste of Christmas – just sweet enough with a hint of spice.  Of course you can be virtuous and graze on one every day (as per the advent calendar rules), but it’s more than likely that your nearest and dearest will hint/request/demand a piece of the action – and who could blame them?

The Biscuiteers advent calendar collection is available now and is priced at £45. Shop the Christmas Collection now at Biscuiteers!

Beauty, Christmas, Shopping

Christmas Gift Guide: Stocking Fillers

For an extra Christmas gift, fill a stocking with small gifts that are sure to delight.  Tangerines and nuts and optional.

Bleach London Spin The Bleach Bottle Colour Kit, £12, Boots
Flowers of Liberty Betsy Liberty Print Disc Charm Bracelet, £14.95, Liberty
Kate Spade Set of 10 All Wrapped Up Correspondance Cards, £25.95, Selfridges
Diptyque Winter Scented Mini Candle, £26, Space NK
Wedgwood Original Tea Caddy, £8.95, Wedgwood
Benefit Sugarglam Fairies Gift Set, £44.50, Boots
Melvita Sparkling Oil L’Or Bio, £32, Melvita
Rococo Busy Bees, £5.95, Rococo Chocolates

Beauty, Christmas, Shopping

Christmas Gift Guide 2014: Beauty

Christmas is the time to splash out on friends and family with something they may not usually buy themselves.  What could be better than finding luxury beauty gift under the tree, whether it’s a Bobbi Brown limited edition eye palette, a gorgeous Bella Freud candle or an elegant Penhaligon’s Christmas fragrance set…


Bobbi Brown Warm Glow Eye Palette, £59, Bobbi Brown
Penhaligon’s Ellenisia Christmas Collection, £65, Penhaligon’s
Chloé Eau de Parfum 50ml Engraved Bottle, £60, Boots
Bodhi & Birch Rosa Rosa Skincare Set, £80, Bodhi & Birch
Bella Freud Je T’Aime Jane Candle, £38, Harvey Nichols
Rouge Louboutin Nail Lacquer, £39, Christian Louboutin

books, Christmas, Cookery

What To Bake & How To Bake It by Jane Hornby

Baking is one of those things that I love to do, but often leave it to the experts.  I get lured in by London’s exquisite cake shops, but it can be much more rewarding to make your own baked goods and share them with family and friends.

But, what if you lack baking confidence or have missed out on learning the basics of baking?  What to Bake & How to Bake It by Jane Hornby comes to rescue with a step-by-step guide that takes the guesswork out of baking.

Not only is it a hefty hardback with cool illustrations and beautifully-shot food images, it’s actually really useful and suited to both beginners and seasoned home bakers.

Author Jane Hornby is an acclaimed food writer, editor and teacher, who originally trained as a chef.  She went on to be a Cookery Writer and Food Editor at BBC GoodFood and has also written cookery books What to Cook and How to Cook It and Fresh & Easy.  Her ethos is to get people baking and make the recipes as easy to understand as possible.

The book includes 50 easy-to-follow recipes with aerial photos for almost every step.  It’s particularly helpful for gauging whether the mixture is at the right consistency before baking.

The recipes range from classic baked treats to more inventive sweets that are sure to impress.  They are categorised into different sections including Simple Family Baking, Morning Coffee & Afternoon Tea, Special Bakes and Desserts and After Dinner.

Easy items to get started with are a classic Victoria Sandwich, Buttermilk Pound Cake, Vanilla Fruit Scones and Iced Gingerbread Cookies.

I’m particularly tempted to try out the Jaffa Marble Loaf, Red Velvet Whoopie Pies, Cherry-Almond Streusel Slice and Seriously Chocolatey Cookies.

I’m looking forward to baking up a storm over Christmas and will be packing What To Bake & How To Bake It in my suitcase (to make a mess in my mum’s kitchen).  A Chocolate Hazelnut Log for Christmas Day dessert would go down quite nicely.

What to Bake & How to Bake It is priced at £19.95 and is published by Phaidon Press.  Buy it online here.


Christmas, Shopping, Stores

Christmas Gift Guide 2014: Foodie

What better time to indulge the foodie in your life than with some tasty treats at Christmas?

Spread the festive cheer with a posh cheese hamper, decadent yule log or a cheeky bottle of Sauternes…

Verden Cheese Hamper, £40, Verden
Pierre Hermé Bûche Infiniment Mandarine, €48, Pierre Hermé
Chateau Haut-Mayne Sauternes 2008, £22.90, Amathus
Choi Time Thousand Year Red Giant Flowering Tea Bulbs, £19.95, Harvey Nichols
Carluccio’s Festa Dei Limoni, £29,95, Carluccio’s
Pistachio Kitchenaid Artisan Stand Mixer, £379, Lakeland

Christmas, Shopping, Stores

Christmas Gift Guide 2014: Luxury

Christmas has a funny habit of making you splurge on decadent things.  If they’re too gorgeous to resist, or can be justified as ‘useful’, then why not?  Here are some ideas for gifts that are sure to impress…


Mulberry Blossom Tote in Hibiscus Calf Nappa, £495, Mulberry
Valentino: At The Emperor’s Table by André Leon Talley, €115 Assouline
Alexander & James Japanese Cocktail Set, £180, Alexander & James
Monica Vinader Baja Mini Bracelet, £495, Monica Vinader
Hermès Minuit au Faubourg Vintage Silk Twill Scarf, £235, Hermès
Shinola Detroit The Women’s Bixby Bicycle, £1,675, Shinola Detroit
Penelope Chilvers Dandy Slipper Velvet, £245, Penelope Chilvers
Heal’s Grey Herringbone Merino & Cashmere Throw, £128, Heal’s


Accessories, Christmas, Designers, Fashion, Shopping

Christmas Gift Guide 2013: Accessories

Accessories make perfect Christmas gifts, whether it’s a cosy faux fur snood, a piece of designer jewellery or a fabulous handbag.  Hermès bangles are collectible classics while this season’s KENZO bags are unbelievably cool and covetable.  Of course, no one can resist a butter-soft Mulberry leather purse and the new bright red colour is particularly festive.

Here are some more ideas for amazing accessories this Christmas…


KENZO Lightning Dix-Huit Leather Satchel, £540, Selfridges
Anton Heunis Spike Opulent Necklace, £239, Cadenzza
Lux Velvet Ear Muffs, £12, Topshop
Colliers de Chiens Enamel Bracelet, £310, Hermès
Shinola ‘The Birdy 34mm’ Watch, €525, Colette
Tree French Purse in Bright Red Shiny Goat, £275, Mulberry
Lily and Lionel for Mr & Mrs Smith See You In Santorini Scarf, £100, Mr & Mrs Smith
Faux Fur Snood, £25, Oliver Bonas
Quilted Gloves, £49 Hobbs

Christmas, Shopping, Tech

Christmas Gift Guide 2013: Tech

Impress the tech junkies among your friends and family with some cool gadgets that make life easier and more fun while on the move.

Google Chromecast is an affordable dongle that plugs into your TV’s HDMI port, allowing users to stream from tablets and smartphones, including apps like Netflix, YouTube, Hulu Plus and Chrome.

Logitech’s Bluetooth Illuminated Keyboard connects to Windows, Apple and Android devices and can easily switch between your tablet, PC or smartphone with a touch of a button.  It also comes with a motion sensor that detects your hands turning the backlight on or off to help you save power when you are not typing.

The Anker Astro E5 Portable Charger is perfect for flights, road trips or just when you can’t get to a power supply.  This portable charger can charge your iPhone almost seven times over.  It is also compatible with iPad, Samsung Note and Google Nexus.

Here are some more tech gift ideas that will win you some serious Brownie points this Christmas…

Google Chromecast, £38.69, Amazon
Belair X6-12 Trailblazer, £289.00, Lomography
Logitech Bluetooth Illuminated Keyboard K810, £89.99, Logitech
Toshiba STOR.E SLIM, £48.26, PC World
Sony SRS-BTM8 Portable wireless speaker, £79.00, Sony
Anker Astro E5 Portable Charger, £37.99, Amazon