8 Cost-Friendly, Stylish Gifts

Grab a drink (hot or cold) and settle down with some relaxing music or your favourite podcast.  Gather your ribbons, tags and gift paper and start wrapping early to avoid the last minute stress.  Here is a little selection of presents to set you on your way towards preparing for Christmas, which will hopefully give you plenty of ideas.  

From left to right: 

Tea Fishermen (in box).  Four delightful Chinese style fishermen who calmly sit on the edge your tea cup.  Based on the old tale of Jiang Taigong, who used straight fish hooks because he believed the fish would come to him when they were ready.  With these stylish, white little silicon men holding your hooks, you can also wait patiently while your tea steeps.  We enjoyed these in the office as you can individualise your mug and avoid tea cup mayhem.

On books: Neal's Yard Remedies beautifully scented candle in glass jar made from organic beeswax and plant-oils with a textile wick.  Choose from Balancing, Calming or Uplifting; they all smell amazing and contain no nasties with 100% essential oils. Comes boxed so very easy to wrap.

Holistic candle, Bergamot and Wild Flowers scented soy candle with 100% essential oils, with a cotton wick, hand poured in London.  Comes in a white, cotton, drawstring bag.  The 125ml burns for up to 25 hours.  Sublimely scented with a top note of crisp bergamot and fresh jasmine.

Ion8 Cafestor Leakproof Thermal insulated stainless steel bottle, suitable for hot or cold drinks, with Thermo Shield, double wall vacuum insulation to project the drink's temperature for hours.  I just love the colour of this one I was sent to review.  I've been using this every day for my tea or hot water and it really is leak proof with a fabulous flip-top, lockable lid.  BPA and toxin free.  Comes boxed.

Neal's Yard Remedies Refine Melissa Handcare Duo in a gorgeously innovative, recyclable flower pot container which you can keep or use to plant in.  Contains Melissa hand polish and hand cream.  Just gorgeous! To the left pictured is a free hand-crafted Alder Tree Bomb container which comes with the Melissa gift.  This is part of Neal's Yard's initiative to help plant more trees, protect our planet and take action on climate change.  If you're looking for an ethical gift start here.

The Fetch bottle opener by Kikkerland is made of beech wood and stainless steel.  With a magnet mouth this stylish little dog will turn your bottle top into a frisbee!  Also boxed and easy to wrap.  Our review sample caused a fun office distraction and is sure to impress at Christmas.

Book gift ideas: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying.  If you haven't had a chance to do this during the lockdowns then the new year is a good time to start afresh.  A guide to help transform your home into a permanently clutter-free, calm space with the popular KonMari method created by Japan's expert de-clutterer and professional cleaner Marie Kondo.  Widely available in bookshops and online.

Creative Flow, for those who wish to spark and nourish their creativity, by Jocelyn de Kwant Amsterdam-based, Dutch writer who specialises in writing about mindfulness, nature, creativity and simplifying life.

So there are eight gift ideas which won't cost the earth and hopefully edge you nearer to Christmas with a spring in your step.

Support your local independent restaurant

Amazing independent restaurants, such as Per Tutti, based in St Albans and also in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, have been serving delicious food and providing fantastic service for diners.  But the Covid-19 pandemic has brought chaos and uncertainty for establishments like these.  Not only is their Italian-inspired food delicious, but the spacious interiors are stylish and comfortable, designed by Bright Space Design.  Both venues are usually fully booked, but this is sadly not possible in the current climate, although measures have recently been put into place by the owners to help diners eat safely, such as the installation of special screens.  However, the restaurants have been offering a take-away service for those who don't want to miss out on their wonderful menu.  Do call and order and support these restaurants as we don't want to reach the end of the pandemic to find that unique and wonderful places like these are lost.  

The Berkhamsted branch (below) with 'David' wall art direct from Venice...

Hospitality at its best at Per Tutti...

Be sure to book a booth if you can to eat in style and comfort.  This is the first of the three dining rooms at Per Tutti, Berkhamsted.  The listed building was once a school and later, a bank.

Per Tutti, Berkhamsted
Interior design and space planning, by Bright Space Design


Time for a calm, Cornish break... with bubbles

A pandemic is not something I ever imagined I'd live through and it has been a difficult year, but I firmly believe there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  So maybe it's time to start looking at venturing out and taking a break somewhere beautiful to restore and soothe our souls. These timelessly stylish boutique-barns set in the heart of Cornwall, masterminded by Notting Hill-based House Nine Design, have a new world luxurious sophistication, blending architectural design and unique, bespoke interior styling.

Complete with burnt black larch wood and floor-to-ceiling glass frontages, some with rooftop hot tubs, the new boutique barns at The Meadows at Retallack Resort and Spa will provide an elevated level of holiday retreats on this waterside development.

After being cooped up with lockdowns, tiers and months of avoiding people or social distancing, here you can recharge your batteries, fling open doors, star gaze at night or breathe that fresh air with far reaching views. 

A balanced mix of contemporary and vintage style...

I'm starting to dream about taking a break which includes jacuzzi bubbles in my own hot tub, fine dining, a spa and fresh country air.  This might be just what we all need.

Food to Help you Love Yourself!

Working during a pandemic has been an interesting experience, bringing a whole new set of challenges.  Linving with lockdown has kept us confined indoors, zooming, designing, looking at screens far longer than we should. Along came a chance to try out some healthy, lovingly-prepared top chef food made using the freshest seasonal ingredients and have it delivered to our door, so we jumped at the chance to review.  

Love Yourself deliver a variety of calorie-controlled weekly diet packages which include five meals per day, for five days a week. You can even track your diet with each meal by syncing into the MyFitnessPal app to keep in track of nutritional goals and progress.  

Menus are changed on a weekly basis and there are numerous choices including gluten-free, vegetarian, ketogenic or muscle gain, with daily calorie intake options ranging from 1200-2500.  The freshly cooked meal sets are scientifically balanced throughout, guaranteeing your dietary requirements are met so you can achieve your goals.

The idea behind Love Yourself began after Head Chef Michal finished cookery school and started working with some of the most dedicated and passionate chefs. Michal began to experiment with new flavours and recipes and used his years of experience in the restaurant industry to reach out to those with busy personal and work lives, who don’t always have the time to spend in the kitchen, but want to eat healthy, quality food.

You can heat up your meals in the microwave (instructions are on the packaging) or simply enjoy cold.  

This Quinoa Baharat (below) with flavoursome broad beans had nice textures with a crunch of sunflower seeds, with original flavours, a delicious dressing and a spice mix.  It was refreshingly good as a summer's day meal. We added a squeeze of lemon to elevate the taste a bit more.

We heated up the Italian-style soup in the microwave for two minutes.  It was a warming and delicious blend of chunky vegetables with beans. 

Ingredients are locally sourced and seasonal.  To use with the My Fitness Pal app you simply scan the barcode on each meal label to add the nutritional value to your account. 

Love Yourself help you to maintain a balanced diet with the perfect amount of fresh meat, fish and vegetables, or without meat of course, if you select the veggie option. Meat substitutes such as tofu, seitan and Quorn ensure full flavour and nourishment and eliminate all animal produce from your diet, if that is what you wish for. 

Colourful food, packed with all the nutrients you require.



Simple Summer Pleasures

The best summer days are those where you can enjoy simple pleasures, be mindful and breathe in life. Eating outdoors has an earthy, uplifting feel which rejuvenates us. I would love to eat a Greek salad from this gorgeous Ariel bowl from the Swedish brand By On.  It bears a beautiful form with the shape of a seashell and its wavy surface exudes elegance to create a sea-inspired table setting.  

A curved end to the scallop shape makes it easy to hold.

The Ariel bowl is sculpturally beautiful too and can stand alone in a display.

Available from Nordic Nest. 

A Piece of Cake - with AnySharp Pro World's Best Knife Sharpener

If you are looking for a nifty little inexpensive gadget, look no further than the AnySharp Pro World’s Best Knife Sharpener, patented and designed with tungsten carbide technology for expertly sharpening almost any type of knife, even serrated blades.  

We tried the AnySharp Pro before slicing up our office baguettes and found its PowerGrip suction base gave it instant good stability on any smooth surface and with light pressure and a few deft strokes, our knives were as sharp as new.  At a celebration, serving up perfectly proportioned birthday treats proved to be a piece of cake.

We loved the AnySharp's ease of use and compact size (6 x 6 x 7 cm) which is so easy to store tidily in a kitchen drawer or tool box, ready to pop back out easily whenever needed.

Available from Lakeland, Wayfair and other retailers.

The box is a perfect size for easy gift wrapping.

The AnySharp is available in various colours.

Water, water everywhere, but is it safe to drink?

Drinking from beautiful glasses always makes the drink feel more special, even if it's purely water. Designer Tapio Wirkkala took inspiration from the melting ice in Lapland to create this beautiful Ultima Thule carafe for Iittala with coordinating drinking glasses.

The Ultima Thule's gorgeous bubble design base...

The trio is a perfect gift or a welcome addition to the home collection, available from Nordic Nest.

Following a more contemporary vibe the Acqua glass and matte stainless steel water carafe from Blomus is a classic glass decanter that holds a generous 1.5 litres. A smart, self-closing lid ensures that ice cubes stay in the carafe while pouring to keep its contents perfectly chilled. Using lemon or strawberries in the carafe is a brilliant way to add flavour to your beverage while also creating a colourful centrepiece on the dining table. The cleverly designed lid also makes the carafe highly versatile — if you're serving sweeter drinks, such as juice at a festive children's birthday party, the lid makes sure the drink is protected from wasps and other pests.

The Essence decanter (below) is part of Iittala's series designed by Alfredo Häberli.  With an elongated, tall design, the white and red wine series with accompanying champagne and drinking glasses gives an elegant touch to any occasion.

The tall and graceful Essence decanter

We've sneaked in this pretty Alveskog drinking glass from the Norwegian design studio Wik & Walsøe which will look gorgeous on seasonal, Christmas tables.

It's all very well having beautiful glassware, but what about the water we are drinking?  At the Bright Space Design studio, we had the pleasure to test the ZeroWater - from the only water filter brand that delivers the equivalent to purified bottled water into your home, and removes 99.6% of total dissolved solids (TDS). No other water filter producer comes close to the ZeroWater's five-stage ion exchange technology with its gravity-fed filtration system that matches the TDS levels found in purified bottle water. 

The Good Housekeeping Research Institute confirm that ZeroWater removes more total contaminants such as chromium, lead, hydrogen sulphide, aluminium, mercury and 99% of fluoride from water than conventional two-stage filters, such as Brita, which remove less than 50%.

We loved the laboratory-grade digital TDS meter which is included with the spacious 2.8 litre jug and can be used to test any water you want to drink.  The aim is to produce a “000” reading of your water quality and to change your filter when the reading displays 006.  Once the filter gets ‘old’, its performance drop off rapidly and the taste of the water changes back noticeably.

The 12-cup pitcher does need a large fridge, or you can leave it out on the counter and pour your  softened water from the tap dispenser direct, rather than lifting and pouring from the jug - very handy!

What about taste?  The ZeroWater removes virtually all chlorine, and you will notice the taste of the water transform to what is arguably the purest tasting drinking water. 

Watch Phillip Schofield on ITV's 'How To Spend it Well at Christmas' review the ZeroWater. 

The ZeroWater 12-cup pitcher costs £39.99.