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A Local Gift Guide For The Last Minute Panic Buyer

A Local Gift Guide For The Last Minute Panic Buyer

I have to confess a festive habit of mine: I’m a classic last-minute shopper. I do it every year! I think I’m way ahead of myself, practically giving myself a pat on the back only to realise when I’m wrapping that I’m actually I’m a few people short. Cue a shot of me, sweat lashing off me in a packed store swearing to myself I’ll do better next year.

And here we are, the week before Christmas and I’ve given myself two challenges:

  1. Be organised enough to avoid the Christmas Eve chaos
  2. Shop local

The local high street and small businesses enjoy their busiest time of year at Christmas however in most circumstances they are out-beaten by massive online retailers as convenience is highest on the consumer list. I get it, it’s super easy to just click and order everything on Amazon but it’s the smaller guys who suffer.

We’re spoiled for choice here in Belfast and NI and just in case you’re the last minute shopper like I am, I thought I’d share my favourite local businesses depending on the kind of person you’re shopping for. There’s one for everyone on this list!

FOR YOUR DAD WHO LIKES TO BRING HIS OUTDOORS INSIDE…

Bearded Candle Makers

Michael is a true artist and has cemented himself as one of the finest chandlers in Ireland. His scents tell a story that most of us will identify with (Turf Fire is a firm favourite which no doubt your Dad would love!) and he continues to try new combinations, challenging people to tap in to memories when they take a whiff of his gorgeous candles.

FOR YOUR HUSBAND WHO WEARS A BEANIE ALL WINTER…

Bramble Green

Bramble Green is a family-run business headed by Claire from her home on the North Coast. Their knitwear is handmade by local women and they have pieces for men, women and children – their bonnets are adorable! I’ve been wearing the Donegal Hipster beanie for a few winters now and it’s kept my head toasty on the coldest of days.

FOR YOUR SUPER COOL SISTER WHO YOU WILL ALWAYS IDOLISE…

Lines & Current

A local jewellery brand, Lines & Current was started by Rebekah, quite possibly the coolest woman in Belfast. Her jewellery is simple but stunning and can be worn every day.

FOR YOUR DISORGANISED WORK PAL…

Shared Threads

Shared Threads is a wonderful community of creatives who have been brought together by Kirsty, an incredible local woman who wanted to make a difference to the lives of vulnerable women. Her team make and distribute sanitary products using second hand cotton and towels to lower the environmental impact and to help aid their work, they’ve created a beautiful calendar that you can buy over on their website. This would be a beautiful gift that would help an incredible cause!

FOR YOUR BEST MATE WHO IS READY FOR A MAJOR SHIFT…

Mel Wiggins

Sometimes all it takes is gentle encouragement to make the change we’ve been longing for. Mel Wiggins is a super talented coach from Portadown who I feel blessed to have met through the Assembly community she created a few years ago. I have been a member now for a year and I’ve been able to tap in to ideas and dreams I didn’t realise I had permission to explore. You could buy your pal a membership or a voucher for a course of Mel’s – I guarantee you it would make a life-changing gift.

FOR YOUR ECO-CONSCIOUS COUSIN…

Do Your Bit

Teal has been a huge inspiration for me in trying to make my life as plastic-free as possible (it’s HARD!). Her shop is full of alternatives to plastic products and it would help anyone who is trying to make that change too.

The Homely Haven

Laura Jayne has been another inspiration this year as she’s started her journey in sustainable living. She runs workshops from her home in Co. Armagh that teach others who are trying to rid their home of toxins amongst other creative workshops too – a voucher to one of her workshops would delight anyone who’s keen to learn a new and more intentional way of  living.

FOR YOUR UNCLE THAT IS ALWAYS RECOMMENDING YOU OBSCURE BOOKS…

Books, Paper, Scissors

This is probably my favourite bookshop to explore on a rainy day in Belfast. Located just across the road from the Ulster Museum in Stranmillis, the shop is full of books to satisfy every age and taste including some beautiful stationery too.

Turf & Grain Magazine

Turf & Grain is a beautiful local publication that’s full of stories, poems and stunning photography all told by those from the island of Ireland. An issue would make a beautiful stocking filler and will no doubt be shared by the family.

FOR YOUR MUM WHO LOVES A HAMPER…

Pomegranate & Fig

OK, I know she’s my sister and I may be a bit bias but honestly, have you seen her grazing boards?! Shannon’s boards are a work of art and a voucher would delight anyone who wants to have a board for a family event or just for a cosy night in this winter.

Neary Nogs

Nestled along the Mourne Coast, Neary Nogs is the first bean to chocolate makers that have been cultivating a variety of flavours and combinations over the last few years. I’ve been buying my Granny their drinking chocolate for her midnight cocoa for months and it’s a huge hit!

Indie Füde

In the village of Comber lies a wonderland of local delicacies and treats. The folks at Indie Füde have worked hard to curate an amazing range of food products all sourced from the island of Ireland and that change with the seasons. A perfect spot to gather goods for a festive hamper!

FOR YOUR BROTHER WHO THINKS HE’S MASTERCHEF…

The Edible Flower

Erin & Jo have opened their Co. Down home to food lovers since 2016 and since then their supper clubs have been in huge demand. They also run a variety of workshops from their home too; veggie cooking classes, thai cooking classes and even a home-brewing workshop! A ticket to one of their events would be a perfect gift to for anyone looking to branch out on their culinary skills in 2020.

Enrich & Endure

Image from Enrich & Endure

Brother/sister duo Lorcan and Sarah started Enrich & Endure with the vision of reviving the local linen industry which had all but disappeared in recent years. Their aprons and tea towels are made right here in NI and are designed to last making them a gift that will be cherished for years to come.

FOR YOUR GRANNY WHO LOVES A GIFT SET…

The Natural Beauty Pot

Shauna started The Natural Beauty Pot when she struggled to find products that didn’t irritate her sensitive skin so she made the brave decision to make her own. As a trained beautician she was well qualified for the task and she now has her own studio in Co. Fermanagh where she creates products using gentle but effective ingredients suitable for everyone.

FOR YOUR GRANDA WHO’S FAVOURITE CHORE IS WATERING HIS PLANTS…

Wild Thing

This little jungle is a haven on the North Down coastline and each visit is such a treat. Karen sells a huge variety of plants as well as sourcing a range of candles, jewellery and homeware. A new plant would brighten up a corner of any home or a voucher would mean they would get to visit the jungle themselves.

FOR YOUR WIFE WHO SMUGGLES IN HOMEWARE LIKE IT’S CONTRABAND…

Studio Souk

This is the place I recommend to visitors to Belfast who want to find something special as a souvenir because all three floors are filled with local treasures. There’s not just tourist gifts sold here, there’s also beautiful art, design and crafts all locally made and each making the gift for anyone proud of their home.

Maven

This shop is a Scandi dream and it’s clear that a lot of thought has gone in to choosing a range that reflects design and purpose. Sisters Catherine and Patricia have sourced stunning pieces that would make perfect stocking fillers or, if you’re after something larger, then there’s gorgeous furniture upstairs too!

BTS Concept

Ah, I love this shop. I can’t help but call in when we’re up around the north coast and I always pick out a gift for an upcoming birthday or celebration (or just for me!). BTS offers a selection of interiors and giftware inspired by the muted tones and natural textures of the coast that draws folks that want to bring the outside in to their home.

FOR YOUR SUPER COOL AUNTIE WHO ALWAYS WEARS THE COOLEST CLOTHES…

Alf & Roe Vintage

Our local girl Cleo Parkinson modelling Alf & Roe and captured by Filly Campbell Photography

Who knew there would be such a treasure trove in the tiny village of Donaghmore?! This wee shop in rural Co. Tyrone has a gorgeous collection of vintage finds that would bring joy to anyone who loves to wear something a little different, a piece of clothing with history.

FOR THE LITTLE ONES IN YOUR LIFE WHO ARE GROWING LIKE WEEDS…

Wu Concept

Possibly the sweetest children’s boutique I’ve been to! Each item has been carefully thought of and encourages individuality and creativity. I always turn to this place when I’m buying for friend’s children and I know I’ll be back when I have my own one day.

Merry Christmas!!

A DIY Christmas Hamper

A DIY Christmas Hamper

There were a few days this past week where it felt that the sun had done a runner and left us in a perpetual state of dusk. Not seeing an inch of blue sky can definitely have its negative affects so I’m already feeling a little cheerier when I can see the low winter light streaming through the window, even if it’s just for half an hour!

 

Things have felt very busy this week and my bank account has taken such a battering in the last two months with trips away and now presents to buy that I’m afraid to even look at my statements! There is huge pressure to buy the most expensive gifts and not only that, pressure to have the house decorated, visit all our relatives and friends and drink our body weights in alcohol. Luckily there seems to be more and more people championing the simpler Christmas which I think helps to encourage less money spending and more thought.

 

In the spirit of this, I have decided against the usual mad rush of buying anything I think will do for my extended family in favour of making my own Christmas hampers filled with homemade products I think they will appreciate much more than a bottle of wine or another pair of gloves! I chose simple products that wouldn’t stress me out too much and I have staggered out the crafting process so I don’t feel overwhelmed and can actually enjoy it all.

 

I will list out a few of the things I’ve chosen to make however the gift of this is that you can be as flexible as you like and keep it minimal if it’s all you can manage.

 

ROSE PETAL BATH SALTS

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What You Need:

  • Petals from 4 roses
  • 20 drops of vanilla oil/essence
  • 3 cups of Epsom salts
  • Mini bags

These salts were embarrassingly easy to make and took all of about half an hour to make 18 small bags!

  1. The week before making them I bought a bunch of red roses when I was doing my groceries for £3 and enjoyed them until they were starting to wilt.
  2. When I knew their days were over, I took the heads off and sprinkled the petals in my Nutri Bullet. After a quick blitz the shredded petals were the most beautiful shade of crimson and the smell was A-MAZING.
  3. I added the petals to 3 cups of Epsom salts that were already in a bowl and added my vanilla drops.
  4. After thoroughly mixing through and feeling giddy with the pretty colours, I added them to the bags I had found on Amazon and they were good to go!

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CHRISTMAS SOAP

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What You Need:

  • ¾ Melt and Pour Soap Base Clear
  • Silicone Mould
  • 100 drops Orange Essential Oil
  • 50 drops Cinnamon Essential Oil
  • 20 drops Clove Bud Essential Oil
  • 3 teaspoons Ground Cinnamon
  • Pyrex Jug

This was a little trickier than the bath salts but well worth the smell it created in the kitchen I promise!

  1. First of all I cut the soap base in to cubes that would fit in to the moulds so I could guess how much I would need to melt.
  2. I then put the cubes in to the jug and placed in the microwave for 2-3 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds or so until the base was melted.
  3. Once fully melted I added my oils and ground cinnamon and mixed well.
  4. After this I poured the mix in to the moulds CAREFULLY because I wanted the top of the soap to be smooth and not pouring over the edges (not so pretty). I
  5. I placed the moulds on a tray to keep steady and then in the fridge to cool for 1-2 hours.
  6. Once they’re solid you can pop them out and then dress them up any way you please!

 

CHRISTMAS CANDLES

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What You Need:

  • 1kg soy wax flakes
  • 3 Jam Jars (or whatever you have – I keep Bonne Mamam jam jars for my candles)
  • 3 wicks – I got mine here
  • 20 drops of Orange Essential Oil per jar
  • 40 drops Cinnamon Essential Oil per jar
  • 15 drops Clove Bud Essential Oil per jar

I play it a bit fast and loose with making these so the guidelines are pretty rough but easy to follow I hope! What’s handy is that you have similar ingredients to your Christmas soap so you can make your candles while your soaps are setting in the fridge (I paint a very calm picture don’t I?!).

  1. I placed my jam jars in a big pan filled about to about 2 inches deep of boiling water and then scooped about 18 tablespoons in to the jars. Make sure and take time when adding the wax as it reduces down as it melts so you will have to add them gradually.
  2. Once all your wax has melted and your jars are almost full, take the jars out of the pan and then add your essential oils.
  3. The final step is to place one wick in the centre and make sure it sticks to the bottom of the jar by using sticks to hold it in place (I laid kebab sticks across the jar and placed the wick in between so it didn’t fall away from the centre). This is the trickiest part and might take some patience!
  4. Wait for the candles to set and then cut your wick down to an appropriate length et voila!

 

LAVENDER HAND WASH

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What You Need:

  • Soap dispensers
  • Jug
  • 2 cups of castile soap
  • 2 cups distilled water
  • 4 tbsp sweet almond oil
  • 4 tbsp vitamin E oil
  • 20 drops of Witch Hazel
  • 40 drops of lavender essential oil

This recipe allowed me to make 4 of these bad boys and it took all of about 10 minutes #winning

  1. Using your jug, pour in your water first and then castile soap (prevents lots of bubbles) and then your essential oils.
  2. Give it a good shake around and then you are done!

 

WHIPPED SHEA & OLIVE OIL BODY BUTTER

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What You Need:

  • 1 cup shea butter
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 30 – 40 drops of vanilla essential oil
  • 2 x 500ml glass jars

This is a fairly messy process so one tip I have is to wash your utensils straight away after using!

  1. Scoop your shea butter in to a pan and gently melt.
  2. Gradually add your olive oil
  3. Add essential oils and remove from heat
  4. Once cooled, place the pan in the fridge for at least 30 minutes until the mixture has almost solidified
  5. Using a hand held mixer, whip the mixture until you get a light, airy texture.
  6. Spoon the mixture in your containers and they are good to use for a few months.

 

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I hope this provides a little insight in to how easy homemade gifts can be to make. All it takes is a little preparation and motivation on these dark evenings but the outcome is so worth it! Make sure to add some little Christmas themed sweets or crackers to try and beef out the box a little otherwise you can use some more of my crafting recipes here and here to help inspire you a little more!

 

Happy crafting x

Pre-Wedding Care Package

Pre-Wedding Care Package

This weekend I will be flying over to England to watch my dear friend Rachel make the promise of a lifetime to the love of her life. Weddings are incredibly special and to be asked to be a part of someone’s day is always lovely since it means such a great deal to the people involved.

 

Rachel and I lived together along with two other girls throughout the four years of university in Edinburgh. These years were formative for me when I look back on them because I had so much to learn on my own and they watched me fail quite a lot. Failing at making it to any morning lecture, failing to be sober for more than a few days, failing at making any meal that didn’t involve spuds. Honestly it’s still a mystery how I managed to get through those years!

 

It’s so great to still have these friendships now that we’re a little older and not much wiser. Unfortunately we’re scattered across the UK and Ireland which means when these lovely weddings do take place, it’s not always kind on the pockets. I’ve written a blog post before on how to afford the difficult wedding season at an age where it seems your entire Facebook clan are getting hitched (see that post here) and unfortunately I had to make the decision not to attend Rach’s hen party because I couldn’t afford it and the wedding together.

 

The guilt when you have to let someone down is awful but a fair few of us have to make these tough choices. As a way of letting her know that I was thinking of her in the lead up to her special day, I decided to make a little care package for her. I’ve witnessed the stress some brides feel in the days before so I thought a wee parcel filled with some light-hearted gifts might make her smile.

 

This gift box was focused on thoughtfulness rather than a big budget and I wanted to include things that I could relate to her wedding. After some brainstorming, I came up with these treats…

 

  • Cosy socks – for the unlikely chance that she may get cold feet
  • Mini bottle of Prosecco – to calm the nerves over breakfast
  • Pretty tissues – to help dry her eyes and keep her make-up in tact
  • Homemade Lavender Pillow Spray – to make sure she gets a good night sleep
  • Homemade Lip Balm – to keep those peckers altar-ready (find out how to make your own here)
  • Homemade Lavender Soap – just because they’re pretty and they smell nice (and again, learn how to make them here)

 

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I really loved putting this together and it’s made me think that it would be a great idea for a different time of year that I’m not quite ready to talk about yet (it rhymes with Shishmas). Crafting your own little presents involves so much more thought than just buying a 2 for 1 out of the shop down the street and I reckon it makes the gift giving that wee bit more special.

 

Good luck to Rachel & Heather on their wedding day!!