Yes, it has reached that point again: the time when we wonder where the hell December has disappeared to and why we can’t be like those other people who plan their Christmas gift list in August and have it all bought and wrapped by mid-October. But if you’re like me (or like Mr AMR, who doesn’t even think about presents until the 22nd) then fear not: I have you covered with some easily-ordered beauty gifts for every budget.
I have been working with Beauty Pie for years yet still feel the same buzz of excitement when I see that one of their special pink boxes has arrived. Beauty Pie constantly launch new and innovative products – from super-serums to beautifully-perfumed candles – and unwrapping items from the pale pink tissue paper is always a joy.
It goes without saying that any beauty lover would be over the moon to receive a little something from Beauty Pie in their Christmas stocking and so I’ve picked out a few absolute crackers. Remember that Beauty Pie is a beauty members club so if you sign up you get all products at a massively lower price – Beauty Pie make their products at the world’s leading labs but because they sell direct to you, they cut out all of the middleman retailer costs. So you get more luxury beauty for your money.
Use the code RUTHSENTME if you’re signing up and you’ll get £10 off annual membership. If you’re not ready to sign up then know this rather splendid fact: at the moment you can get 50% off ALL NON-MEMBER prices (so that’s the full, equivalent retail price) by using the code BEAUTY50.
So to recap, you get members’ prices by signing up (use code RUTHSENTME)
you can get 50% off the website prices with no need to join, use BEAUTY50
This isn’t the usual deal and it means you can try products with no need to commit to memberships so if there was ever a time to take the plunge then this is it! You can sign up or shop with the code at Beauty Pie here.
OK, now that you’ve listened to my mini Ted talk on Beauty Pie shopping rules, here are my gift ideas:
The first is small and sweet and perfect: the Unlipstick trio in Nothing On. This little set contains the recycled aluminium “Keep This” lipstick case which can be used again and again with whichever Unlipstick shade you prefer; then the Unlipstick itself and a matching Wondergel lip liner. The Unlipstick gets its name because it feels like you’re not wearing anything at all – it’s so light and sheer – but it gives a chic, natural-looking stain to the lips. Like a blotted down lip colour. It’s gorgeous and this shade, Nothing On, is perhaps my favourite. Just infinitely wearable.
Shop Unlipstick in Nothing On – £27 with code BEAUTY50 or £22 with membership here.
If you want to really give someone an amazing intro to the Beauty Pie makeup offering then the new Patti Dubrof kits are great. A full “look in a (velvety) box” they have loads of different makeup items included and some of them you might not think to try or use otherwise, so it does mean that you discover new products and techniques. I like the Perfect Red Lip kit.
For the sister who’s already a red lip addict or the best friend who’s stuck in a makeup rut it’s an absolute delight. The eye palette included is also pleasingly neutral and not too shimmery so you can use it all year round and there’s a brightening eyeliner, a fantastic highlighter, a brown volumising mascara and a double-ended eye brush as well as the all-important red lip crayon.
That’s a lot of product for £150 but, of course, this is Beauty Pie so it doesn’t actually cost £150:
Shop the Patti Dubrof Perfect Red Lip Kit – £75 with code BEAUTY50 or £69 with membership here.
If makeup seems too personal and you’re nervous about choosing shades then there couldn’t be a better gift than a set of premium quality makeup brushes. So many people have no idea about makeup brushes and how they can transform the way you do your face. Does your Mum still apply eyeshadow with those little foam applicators? Does your cousin complain that her foundation is blotchy yet applies it using an old bit of sponge? Does your aunt (running out of relatives here) make her eyes look like the proverbial p*ssholes in the snow because she rings liner around and around her eyes without ever blending?
This is (admittedly) an investment. They’d need to be a very good aunt/cousin/Mum. But the Luxury Makeup Brush set is something of a problem-solver and I don’t think that anyone would be disappointed with ten finely-made brushes that blend, buff and finish to perfection. I particularly love the good selection of skin-finishing brushes – sometimes you just get a token flat-topped foundation brush and the rest are eye brushes – and the light, fan brush for applying whispers of setting powder. Glorious.
Buy Luxury Makeup Brush Set – £125 down from £250 with code BEAUTY50 or £90 with membership here.
Let’s move on to fragrance and the safest option for gifting, which is always home scent. Beauty Pie candles are great – long burn times, modern styling and fragrances that are sometimes quite quirky and unusual. Not your “Basic Fig” and “Ordinary Orange” here!
My favourite is Tobacco, Cedarwood and Vanilla. It smells like an old library or a reading room in one of those London clubs that have the wood-panelled walls and leather armchairs. Some Tobacco candles are heavy on things like Oud and I find them a bit overwhelming and aftershavey for the house, but this one: BINGO! It’s just very smokey and sexy and the vanilla gives it a sweet edge that stops it from smelling like an expensive man. Not that there’s anything wrong with “expensive man”, I just don’t want him silently loitering around the house when I can’t see him.
Buy Tobacco, Cedarwood & Vanilla Candle – £30 with code BEAUTY50 or £20 with membership here.
Scent for the skin now and there are so many beautiful options. Beauty Pie don’t do totally straightforward perfumes; there’s always a surprise kick of something here and a twist of something else there. The Orange Absolute, for example, has the light and fresh zest of a summer cologne but with a warm, woody base that keeps it sexy and earthy. Une Balade en Foret is a cashmere blanket of a scent with a powdery amber note set against the quite unusual backdrop of a wintery forest. Nothing straightforward about these fragrances!
Buy Fragrance – £50 with code BEAUTY50
There are plenty of other gift ideas over on the Beauty Pie site so do have a good browse – I also have blog posts with my favourite skincare picks if you need further inspiration – click here to read.
Watch the video below to hear me chat through my gift selection:
The post Christmas Gifting SOS with Beauty Pie | AD appeared first on Ruth Crilly.
Yes, it’s what you’ve all been waiting for: this year’s edition of Books and Chocolate, also known as The Ultimate Easy Christmas Gift. If you’re on a tight budget, if you’ve left everything until the last minute, if you’re struggling to think of present ideas but want to buy thoughtful, bespoke gifts: this post is for you.
The “ultimate book gifts” concept is simple and one you’ll be familiar with if you’re a loyal, longterm reader. (If you’re new here: welcome. Plenty of posts to catch up on – 3,645 of them to be precise.) The concept is that you take a very good book with a cover that is beautiful, graphic or otherwise noteworthy and you add to this a bar (or flat box) of chocolate with equally beautiful or graphic wrapping. The important thing here is looks; for this gift to work, for it to look like a little parcel of loveliness, we really must judge the book (and chocolate) by its cover.
(The fact that the contents of the books and chocolates are also very carefully chosen for exceptional quality should not be overlooked, but for the moment I’m just trying to drive home the whole premise of this gift idea which is that the bundle you put together should be pretty or arty or both.)
Let’s recap again – just to drill this home – before I go in with some suggestions.
Good-looking book + equally good-looking chocolate = relatively inexpensive, easy and thoughtful gift that is easy to wrap and post.
I use recycled, recyclable Kraft paper (I buy it here*) but you can also get very plain brown paper in huge rolls and use colourful ribbons or tags to spruce up. No specialist shopping required, you can order it all from your sofa. (I’ve linked to the easiest options, feel free to search around for stockists and alternative retailers.)
Here are this year’s picks. Remember that you can refer to previous years for more ideas; the 2021 Edition is here, the 2020 Edition is here and the 2019 Edition is here. I tend to trawl the big literary prize lists for my books and chocs contenders so that the suggestions are relatively new and the recipient will be less likely to have read the book, but there are obviously endless options. I’m just taking away the hard work!
One massive oversight I made this year: I didn’t have my usual bars of Tony’s Chocolonely to hand when I was shooting my images. Tony’s bars are chunky, colourful, delicious and relatively inexpensive: I cannot recommend them enough as a Book n Choc pairing. You can find most of the flavours online here*.
Tony’s Choc also brings the price-per-bundle down considerably – Tony’s and a paperback can come in at around a fiver if there are offers on, whereas a hardback and a beautiful Liberty print box of truffles might be nearer to twenty-five pounds. But all price points are covered and the majority come in around the £10-£15 bracket, which I think is pretty fair for such a good gift.
Here we go with the 2022 Edit:
Burntcoat + Hip Oat Milk Chocolate
The Book: Wow, what can I say about this little firecracker of a book? It’s perfect holiday reading, short enough to be done with in a day (though you’ll want to go back for a second read almost immediately) but so intense and thoughtful and so brilliantly executed. It may well be my book of the year. It’s like reading poetry, almost, except that it doesn’t make me want to fall asleep. It has love, it has death and it has a pandemic storyline that’s not quite what it seems…
The Chocolate: Hip Oat Milk chocolate. It’s surprisingly good, this chocolate, despite it being dairy-free and my benchmark formula being Cadbury’s Dairy Milk pre-recipe-change. It’s so creamy that you barely notice the lack of milk.
Trust + Luscious Orange
The Book: this, pleasingly, is a proper literary puzzle. Four versions of a person via four contrasting sources, all set in 1920s New York. Who isn’t going to love this as a rip-roaring fireside read over the holidays? It’s clever and it’s beautifully written – longlisted for the Booker Prize this year I think that it’s a book choice that will impress.
The Chocolate: Willie’s Cacao Luscious Orange should come with a warning. It’s so bitter. It turns my mouth inside out. Lots of people love the most bitter chocolates but if you don’t, I’m going to suggest swapping in a big bar of Tony’s Chocolonely – this red one here* to contrast with the book cover. Consider yourself saved.
Buy Willie’s Cacao Luscious Orange*
An American Marriage + Pana Fruit & Nut
The Book: read it as an examination of America’s unjustice system or read it, as I did, as a minute study into the idea of loyalty within a marriage that’s stretched to its limits. I found this a fascinating story with a surprising end; many of the characters’ principles seemed so at-odds with my own.
The Chocolate: Pana make organic, dairy-free gluten-free vegan chocolate that’s genuinely a brilliant alternative to the traditional options. I haven’t quite tried all of the flavours, but the Mylk, Fruit and Nut and Golden Comb are utterly delicious. Delicious.
Buy An American Marriage by Tayari Jones*
Buy Pana Organic online here*.
Circe + El Blanco
The Book: A riskier choice as this was published in 2018 and many will have read it, but equally a very safe choice because every single person I speak to about this book, from every age group and every walk of life, loves it unreservedly. It has history, it has magic and it has myth and whoever lands it won’t be able to put it down.
The Chocolate: good God it’s a hard job taste-testing all of these chocolate bars… El Blanco is a grown-up version of a Milky Bar – without the sickly sweet edge. Usually white chocolate is heavy on the vanilla so you have to get used to the aftertaste of real cacao here but after a few squares the Milky Bar Kid is a distant memory.
The Marriage Portrait + Rococo Rose
The Book: can you go wrong with a book by Maggie O’Farrell? I think not. This one is set in Renaissance Italy and follows the story of sixteen year-old Lucrezia de Medici as she tries to survive marriage and court and all of the associated dramas that I wouldn’t be able to handle at forty-one, so fair play to her and all that. Whenever I read these historical novels with the brutal births and family members being decapitated and so on it always amazes me that the women enduring these things were what we would now consider to be children. This is a rip-roaring read and I think we need to especially appreciate the amazing front cover… If ever a book was made for this feature!
The Chocolate: I get it. Rose-flavoured chocolate is a Marmite choice. (I dislike Marmite FYI.) Personally I love the slightly perfumed taste, as though you’re eating something that’s been sitting around in a flower shop. I love the contrast between dark chocolate and delicate rose – I’m also a fan of Turkish Delight, so there.
Buy The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O’Farrell*
Cleopatra & Frankenstein + Charbonnel & Walker
The Book: this is joint-favourite book of the year along with Burntcoat. If I had to choose one I’d go for this, mainly because there’s more of it and I related to the characters more and I also love modern-day New York as a book setting. Nothing makes me want to jump on a plane more than books set in New York. This is an unlikely marriage story (there seems to be lots of marriage going on in this year’s edit!) that is sweet and unsuitable and doomed and yet you can’t stop reading. It’s almost as though the charm is in the undoing. I loved everything about it – the dialogue, the setting, the brilliant humour – even if I found Cleo jaw-clenchingly annoying. I loved to hate her.
The Chocolate: Charbonnel & Walker Salted Caramel truffles are a classic and it’s impossible to just eat one. Obviously a lot more spendy than a singular bar of chocolate, but if you wanted to up the stakes and make your gift extra lovely then this ticks all the (round) boxes. The limited edition packaging makes them even more special and even more suited to Books n Chocs. Liberty print + Charbonnel, a combination made in heaven.
Buy Cleopatra and Frankenstein*
Buy Liberty Charbonnel & Walker*
Small Things Like These + El Blanco
The Book: Claire Keegan has written a perfectly formed short novel that leaves you feeling oddly satisfied, despite the grim foundations of the storyline. I read that it was supposed to be about the Madgalene Laundries in Ireland and the widespread, frightening control of the church but in fact it felt like a story of hope and heroism and simple right-and-wrong morals. It’s set at Christmas and it feels like Christmas, like a traditional, warm tale that you might read again and again, year after year. For fans of tenderly-written prose that delves into the lives of others and makes those lives feel real, there couldn’t be a more perfect festive treat. It’s like peering through a snowy window into someone’s candlelit living room.
The Chocolate: El Blanco again. I’ll just have to try it, again…yes it’s still good.
Lessons in Chemistry + Pana Fruit & Nut
The Book: well this is an absolute treat. Tackling sexual inequality in 60s America but in the boldest, wittiest, most colourful kind of way. The book cover couldn’t be more apt: it really does feel like a bright, primary-coloured romp and the writing seems to never stop smiling at you, even when it tackles very serious topics. And the narrative is easily as relevant to today’s world as the decade in which it’s set. It makes you furious but furious with a grin. I love this. Love it. A cheerful gift indeed.
Carnival of Snackery + Rose & Violet Creams
The Book: diehard David Sedaris fan here so it’s little wonder I enjoyed his latest book so much. Brimful with sharp observations about the world and with zero filter. Which is possibly inadvisable in today’s world but it’s a refreshing change to bear witness to someone’s unedited thoughts, even if they reveal the author’s biases and prejudices. It’s supposed to be a kind of brain dump, really, and I like the honesty. Sedaris makes me laugh like no other writer – his diary entries about his book tours and the people he meets along the way are comedy gold.
The Chocolate: oh hello. These are so good they’ve sold out everywhere. Which is unfortunate as the larger box costs the same as a small aeroplane. Again rose chocolate, which is one of life’s great dividers, but this is different: it’s rose cream. In half of them. And violet cream in the other. Before you make sick noises over your phone, I have converted at least half a dozen people to these and all have been pleasantly surprised. I can’t get enough of them, clearly, seeing as though my box is now empty.
Night Crawling + El Blanco
The Book: some will dislike this book, especially those who just like to get on with a story rather than stopping every other sentence to decipher a metaphor or untangle a bit of abstract wordplay. But it’s powerful and interesting and I’ll add a trigger warning: it’s dark and rife with sexual abuse and violence. Written by a teen, based on truth, it’s not a jolly pick for under the Christmas tree but it’s really not supposed to be.
The Chocolate: El Blanco. To be honest I’ve had enough of this now. Why did I feature this so many times? I never want to see this chocolate again.
Buy Night Crawling by Leila Mottley*
This Is Going To Hurt + Salted Caramel
The Book: so good, so easy to read, so incredibly funny and so incredibly engaging that I’ve read this book (possibly) more times than any other in the past decade. I love the style, so irreverent and funny – even when it’s dealing with life-destroying medical emergencies – absolutely putting you in the mind and in the place of the Junior Doctor it’s written by. This book throws open the doors on both medical practice and the inner workings of the NHS and it couldn’t have been done in a more brilliant way. It’s laugh out loud, it’s often horrendously gross and it’s possible a really inappropriate present for elderly relatives, but I say….go for it.
Buy This is Going To Hurt by Adam Kay*
Mrs Caliban + Liberty Charbonnel
The Book: courtesy of my friend Tine, who has all of the best book recommendations and spends half her life in Toppings of Bath, arguably the best book shop in the country. Anyway, she couldn’t believe I hadn’t read Mrs Caliban as the storyline is so up my street. Subverted suburban life. Frustrated, sad American housewife with a broken marriage and lost child meets large, amphibious, alien-like creature and begins sexual relations with it/him. I mean. Could a book be more suited to me? I love this barmy stuff. This is short and thought-provoking and there’s nothing else like it. A joyous, unique, off-beat gift that shows you know your literature. Cheers Tine for making me look more knowledgeable than I actually am…
Buy Mrs Caliban by Rachel Ingalls*
Buy Liberty print Charbonnel & Walker*
Cooking + Luscious Orange
The Book: could it be Books n Chocs without a cookbook? This year’s choice is simply called Cooking and it’s a wonderful scrapbook of essential recipes with small photos that you can imagine were originally stuck on with bits of tape, and then scatterings of lists throughout instructing on the types of leaves and herbs and what to do with them, or the essentials to keep in your pantry. This isn’t one of those books that relies on amazing photography and food styling – it’s almost all in the words. And it’s fabulous. One to keep out and peruse at every meal time and with every cup of tea. It’ll be dog-eared and stained within the year and this is exactly how it’s meant to be.
And there you have it my friends. Remember to take a look at the suggestions from previous years – there are some excellent combos! Any questions or further suggestions then please drop them into the comments box below.
The post Books and Chocolate: the 2022 Edition appeared first on Ruth Crilly.
OK readers, you know the drill with this one. For the ultimate Christmas (or birthday, or any occasion for that matter) gift, a gift that will surprise and delight and make the recipient think that you’re the most thoughtful person they know, you need two ingredients.
That’s it. Two things. But it’s very, very important that you get the right things. An airport novel with a bar of Galaxy will not suffice. We’re talking an entirely different gift language here; considered literary material paired with the sort of choc you’d expect to see in one of those posh little delis that you immediately have to back out of because the parma ham can only be bought by the whole leg, complete with board and knife, and you realise your pot of olives is going to cost twelve quid.
I’ve been doing this Christmas present “books ‘n choc” feature for a few years now and you can browse past posts here; the rules are very simple but surprisingly difficult to follow if you’re time-poor. Which is why I spend hours and hours picking out the best books, the nicest covers and the most Instagram-worthy chocolate so that you can click and buy in a few seconds.
Sounds too good to be true? Here’s the best bit: some book and chocolate combos can come in at around a tenner. That’s ten pounds to look like you’re a cultural trailblazer, a coveted tastemaker and above all, an absolute sorcerer of the gifting world.
(Full disclaimer: my friend Tee chose some of these books because she reads more voraciously than me and always has so many good, considered suggestions. Thank you Tee.)
Obviously you can mix and match any of the books and chocolates you like, but you have to admit that the following pairings look very pretty. Click the links for more info on the books, if I had to do a synopsis on each one I’d be here until…well, Christmas.
Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason, £11.50 online here*
Marc de Champagne Truffles from Willies Cacao, £4.50 online here*
Delectable duo: one of the best books I’ve read this year with some surprisingly affordable truffles in a cool little box.
Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro, £15.59 online here*
Dark Sea Salt Truffles from Charbonnel et Walker, £15 online here*
A book that’s on my to-read list but happens to have the most striking cover, paired with Charbonnel & Walker’s finest.
Mr Loverman by Bernadine Evaristo, £7.37 online here*
HiP Oat Milk Chocolate, £3.95 online here*
I loved Girl, Woman, Other and so snapped up Mr Loverman when I was last in town. The graphic, colourful cover goes brilliantly with HiP’s Oat Milk chocolate.
Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart, £11.05 online here* (or £5 for the paperback version, which also has a good cover if you’re keeping costs down!)
Willie’s Cacao Orange & Almond, £2.49 online here*
Shuggie isn’t the most joy-raising of reads, but it’s an absolute masterpiece and a great gift for any serious reader. Willie’s Cacao offers up a festive flash of colour, just to lighten the mood…
Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell, £14.99 online here*
Dark Sea Salt Truffles by Charbonnel & Walker, £15 online here* as before
I’m still attempting to wade into Hamnet; it made my sister cry a lot and so I’ve been uncharacteristically nervous. However it’s a solid option as a gift – it’s had rave reviews – even though it came out last year. Looks great with the truffles, too.
Paul by Daisy Lafarge, £10.94 online here*
Le Chocolat de Francais, La Bouche Chocolat, £6.95 online here*
This is a Tee recommendation and the chocolate is from Liberty. Can we all please stand back and appraise the absolute glory and joy of this particular book-n-choc duo? I don’t want to blow my own trumpet here but visually, I think I have actually outdone myself. It’s almost art.
Long Division by Kiese Laymon, £8.99 online here*
Coco Chocalatier, £4.95 online here*
Kiese Laymon’s Long Division is next on my reading list and the cover art is perfect for this Ultimate Gift quest. This duo comes in at less than £15 and would be a bright little package to find under the tree.
A Modern Way To Live, by Matt Gibberd. £17.99 online here*
Love Cocoa Salted Caramel Milk Bar, £4.50 online here*
A foray into non-fiction now. A new book from The Modern House (estate agents and style leaders extraordinaire) and a gorgeous slab of salted caramel chocolate. For the cool cats and the interiors aficionados.
How To Break Up With Your Phone by Catherine Price, £5.87 online here*
Montezuma Giant Chocolate Buttons, £3.39 online here*
This is very non-hipster with its primary colours but I couldn’t resist – the shades are almost identical! What a match! The book is very topical and the buttons are very moreish and the whole package comes in at just over £9.
Diddly Squat by Jeremy Clarkson, £7.37 online here*
Tony’s Chocolonely Sea Salt Milk Caramel, £3 online here*
OK, I deliberated over including Jeremy’s book but I have to say that I loved the farm series and so, apparently, did nearly the whole country. So here’s the book and a bright, unapologetic slab of chunky milk choc, which just seemed appropriate.
The Life Changing Magic of Tidying by Marie Kondo, £9.75 online here*
Hip Oat Milk Choc £3.95 online here*
I still haven’t read this Marie Kondo book, which is probably why my office is such a shit tip, but it makes for a lovely present along with some neat oat milk confectionary to eat whilst you’re reading…
Scary Smart by Mo Gawdat, £12.99 online here*
Tony Chocolonely, £3 online here* as before
I’m almost afraid to read Scary Smart, so it’s a good job I’m giving it as a present to one of my nearest and dearest. They will enjoy it greatly – it’s quite the eye-opener, I’ve heard – and I don’t think the Tony’s Chocolonely will be sniffed at either.
The Son by Philip Meyer, £7.79 online here* in paperback
Love Cocoa Salted Caramel Milk Bar, £4.50 online here*
It’s quite heavy-going, this book, a story of tragedy and conflict set in the early years of the newly-formed Texas. It’s incredibly violent but everyone (admittedly all men, go figure) I’ve bought it for or recommended it to has loved it.
The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich, £7.99 online here*
Wllie’s Cacao Orange £2.49 online here*
I haven’t read a Louise Erdrich novel in years and am really looking forward to this one – I’ve gone for a “flames” theme here to match the chocolate box to the book cover. That’s just how I roll.
No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood, £10.77 online here*
Charbonnel & Walker Dark Truffles, £15 online here*
If in doubt, trawl through the latest Booker shortlist. That’s what I’ve done here and what a corker of a cover to have found alongside a brilliant book! I love it when a plan comes together. Looks mighty smart with the box of truffles – a pricier gift, perhaps, but one that will be vastly appreciated. And what sort of toiletries set tat would you otherwise be giving them, that would come in at £25?
Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams, £7.25 online here*
Tony Chocolonely, £3 online here* as before
One of my must-reads of last year, Queenie is at once heartbreaking and one of the funniest books I’ve finished in ages. I’ve gone bold and bright with my colours in this match and I’m not displeased with the result. It’s also another “pairing for a tenner” – a great, considered Christmas present for those on a tighter budget.
Fing by David Walliams, £4.50 online here*
Wonka Bars £7.95 for 6 online here*
And so we move to the kids’ offerings. I only have one thing to say to you here and that is Wonka Bars. You could slide one of these Wonka bars into a parcel with pretty much any kids’ book and it would make the whole thing magical. Who wouldn’t want a Wonka Bar?
They also make brilliant stocking fillers without books, if you’re that way inclined – and with each bar coming in at around £1.30 it’s a touch of wonder that won’t break the bank.
Further up the page, behold the Wonka Bar with David Walliams’ Fing; below see it in action with The BFG. Ideally I’d have had a copy of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory but mine is from the eighties and the cover has fallen off from overuse and it didn’t photograph particularly well…
The BFG by Roald Dahl, £6.99 online here*
Wonka Bars, £7.95 for 6 online here*
So that’s fun and friendly covered, but for those wanting something pretty you can’t beat the Penguin Clothbound Classics – they tend to be around £10 to £15 each and look really special. (You can find a selection online here* but Google to see all of the choices – the Alice one below is here* and £10.99.)
The cloth covers with individual patterns make each book feel like an absolute treat – it’s kind of dull to gift a classic, because most people have drudged through them at school and would rather forget, but give a clothbound classic? Yes please.
Right, I’ve absolutely bloody exhausted myself. I don’t think I’ve ever put so many photos into a post before or looked up so many book prices online! So you’ll excuse me if I take a books-n-choc break until next year. Oh:
I forgot the wrapping. This Clairefontaine Kraft paper is absolutely brilliant and exactly the right width for wrapping books! I think it looks really understated and chic and they do a few different designs. You can find it online here* – it’s my discovery of the season! Each roll is 5 metres long and costs just under three quid. Not as cheap as actual brown paper, but it’s easier to handle and looks far nicer.
Now I’m really, really going! Leave your own book and choc suggestions in the comments below!
The post The Ultimate Books and Chocolate Gift: 2021 Version appeared first on Ruth Crilly.
My Christmas gift ideas 2021 for him is here. In all honestly, Mr AMR chose a lot of this but I think that’s probably a good thing. I tend to find oddities such as “coasters that cost £71” and he finds coffee machines that look like a Makita drill… Remember to pass this guide on to anyone who might need some gift-buying inspiration!
top left DIESEL LIVING WITH SELETTI ‘Culture Skulture’ – Bison Skull. For those who want the ultimate mountain ranch aesthetic but aren’t keen on having an actual dead head on their wall. Just add cedar cladding and an open fire… Buy for £281 from Amara*.
Top middle TOM FORD – Floral Print Boxers. Excellent prints, just don’t let the dog chew them… Buy for £90 from Selfridges & Co*.
Far right MONKEY – 47 Schwarzwald Dry Gin. If you’re going to gift booze then make it special. I have it on good authority that this is a nice one and I find it very aesthetically pleasing. Buy for £35.40 from Amazon.
Bottom middle NATIVE UNION – Heritage Airpod Pro Case – Forest Green. Jazz up the Airpod case. Not sure whether this will make Airpods any less easy to lose – someone should make a GPS tracker for airpods! Buy for £40 from Amara*.
Bottom left JONATHAN ADLER – Full Dose Coaster – Set of 4. Yes this was one of my brilliant suggestions. Cue eye roll from Mr AMR, but lots of people are house proud and want cool stuff and like to set out coasters when they have visitors and… Buy for £71 from Amara*.
POLS POTTEN – Plate with Gun. When is a plate not a plate? When there’s no room for any food? I don’t know. Obviously this is art, darling. Buy for £100*.
JONATHAN ADLER – Rocket Vodka Decanter. I’m sure I’ve included these decanters from Jonathan Adler before – I think they’re a lot of fun. More ornament than decanter, because you wouldn’t want to drop this, but it would look excellent on a retro bar cart. Buy for £163 from Amara*.
FRED PERRY – M12 Twin-Tipped Shirt. I’m very into forest green at the moment, it’s a very smart kind of colour. And you can’t go wrong with a bit of Fred Perry – old school classics at reasonable prices. Price reduced from £85.00 to £59.50 from Liberty*.
CASA BUGATTI – Diva Coffee Machine – Orange. Go big or go home – you can’t get bolder than this Bugatti coffee machine. If you were ever looking for a centrepiece for the kitchen… Buy for £799 from Amara*.
Featured above, gifts for men who are ‘foodies’:
top left KAMADO JOE – Portable Charcoal Grill, Blaze Red. ’tis a good one. Great for camping enthusiasts, beach-BBQ-lovers and those who like to do a bit of al fresco cooking at home. It’s small and convenient enough to make it the sort of gadget that will get loads of use. Buy for £336.99 from Amazon.
Top middle MAKITA – Cordless Coffee Maker. Ah, the coffee maker disguised as a Makita drill. And it’s cordless – one for the camper who thinks he has everything. Buy for £56.95 from Amazon.
Far right STANLEY 1L Stainless Steel Thermos Flask. Can a flask look more rugged? Asking for a friend. Buy for £36.14 from Amazon.
Bottom middle PERFECTLY SALTED PORK CRACKLING 300g. This stocking filler is pretty self-explanatory and I have nothing to add. Don’t crack a molar. Buy for £14.99 from Selfridges & Co.
Bottom left PSYCHO JUICE 70% – Ghost Pepper Hot Chilli Sauce. Now hot sauces are things I can get on board with: I love them! You can find some with brilliant names and labels but I liked Psycho Juice for its 90s slasher horror movie undertones. Buy for £7.45 from Amazon.
Featured above, gifts for men who are tech-lovers:
top left PHILIPS SONICARE – Advanced Whitening Toothbrush – Gum Pressure Sensor & Bluetooth. Sleek looks, amazing performance. It’s not the most glamorous sort of gift, but there’s a luxurious touch to this toothbrush. Buy for £89.99 from Amazon.
Top middle APPLE AIRPODS PRO – with MagSafe charging case (2021). I’ve waxed lyrical about these in the women’s gift guide: the noise cancelling element is just outstanding, especially if you’re trying to work from home and block out unwanted bustle. Buy for £189 from Amazon.
Far right DJI POCKET 2 CREATOR COMBO – 3 Axis Handheld Gimbal Stabilizer with 4K Camera. A tech pick from Mr AMR, this is one for enthusiastic film makers who’d like to produce smooth, professional content. Buy for £469 from Amazon.
Bottom middle TELESCOPIC LADDER. I said we needed a clever ladder in this guide. Something spacesaving that looked futuristic. Mr AMR was doubtful but then look: telescopic action and good looks. Buy for £78.99 from Amazon.
Bottom left LEDLENSER – Professional LED Torch, Black. Take it from a torch obsessive (Mr AMR, not me!): this is a nifty little number. Compact but with incredible range (apparently, I had started snoozing by this point) Lenser is a solid brand for, er, torches. Buy for £51.02 from Amazon.
MUCK BOOTS – Unisex Adults Derwent II Rain Boot. These boots mean business. Mr AMR has three different pairs and he is picky as you like when it comes to wellies. They keep your feet slightly warmer than other brands when it’s chilly and they’re incredibly durable. Oh and comfy! With bouncy soles and a good lining. Buy for £109.99 from Amazon.
Featured above, gifts for the home:
left KLEVERING Purfect Orange Mirror. I had no idea what this was when I looked back at the photo! A mirror. It’s a mirror. I think I chose it because the colour matched the coffee machine. Well, at least I’m honest… Buy for £28 from Liberty*.
Right PRICKLDN Stetsonia Coryne £10 for plant (pot sold separately). Prick is a great plant shop in London with a massive selection of cacti, some hilariously phallic. I almost think it’s the rule that you have to buy one that looks like a spiky penis when you’re shopping at a shop called Prick, but maybe that’s just me. Buy from Prickldn.
LIBERTY Thorpe Tana Lawn Cotton Pyjama Set. I know you’re thinking that this has crept in from the women’s guide but you’d be wrong. The cut is different. And I will not apologise for my Liberty print obsession… Price reduced from £225.00 to £180.00*.
ASSOULINE French Riviera Book. My “books and chocolate” guide will be out soon. Mostly smaller (far less expensive!) picks in that, but if you wanted to splash out on something more special for a posh coffee table then Assouline is your brand. Buy for £150 from Amara*.
Featured above, gifts for men who love their tools:
left TOOENJOY Car Door Step – Easy Access to Car Roof. This is genius! Take a look at the link to see how it works, but it will honestly intrigue and delight anyone who loves faffing with gadgets. It’s an instant step so that you can reach up high onto the car roof, maybe to pack a roof box or secure a surf board. It’s a practical person’s joy. Buy for £45.99 from Amazon.
Right GERBER DIME Mini Multi Tool – Black. Toolkit in your pocket, anyone? Buy for £39 from Amazon.
BOND – Photographed by Terry O’Neill – The Definitive Collection Hardcover. Again, book post coming soon but this is a cool (and relatively inexpensive) buy for Bond-lovers and photography fans. Buy for £35.45 from Amazon.
Read my Ultimate Christmas Gift Guide For Women | 2021
The post Christmas Gift Ideas for Him | 2021 appeared first on Ruth Crilly.
Christmas Gift Ideas For Her is here. Wow, that’s a mouthful of a sentence! I hope that the following bits and pieces spark your imagination
Top left GUCCI Bloom Nettare Di Fiori For Her – Eau de Parfum 100ml. Is this not just the coolest bottle? Instagram heaven. Buy for £114.00 from Feel Unique*.
Top middle PRINTWORKS ‘Snoozing’ Eye Mask. I feel as though this has popped up in a Movie recently, this sleep mask – if it hasn’t then it should. It’s very stylish and a change from the usual silky ones with your star sign on or ones monogrammed in a curly font. Buy for £32 from Amara*.
Top right PEARL LOWE – The Ava Gown. Well this is all sorts of glamorous and sexy – it’s almost too good to keep it for indoors. And a nice, substantial fabric that will actually keep you warm. No flimsy silk robes on this page! It’s winter for crying out loud! Buy for £395 from Pearl Lowe.
Bottom right CANOPY PLANTS – Cherry Aglaonema plant with ceramic pot. Chosen, admittedly, because it looks good with the other products in the guide, but canopy plants have loads of options and they are all potted and ready to go. Waiting for people like me to kill them. Buy for £38.00 from Selfridges & Co*.
Bottom middle ANGLEPOISE 90 Mini, Anodised brushed Aluminium finish, Berry Red. The classic – you can’t beat an anglepoise for timeless style. You can spend upwards of £500 for a desk lamp that’s a true design classic but this one is a small slice of cool for a palatable price. Buy for £87.20 from Amazon.
Bottom left BEAUTY PIE – Luxury Silk Hair Scrunchie, pack of six. I can’t be without my silk scrunchies now; yes they send me back to the nineties a little, but they are smooth and snag-free and the easiest way of securing my default twist-into-a-bun hairstyle. Buy for £35 (BECOME A MEMBER AND PAY £16.76) from Beauty Pie.
CHARBONNEL Et WALKER – Pink Champagne Truffles. I know that these divide people; Mr AMR thinks that they taste of soap. Other versions are available but I’m always drawn to the pretty box, year after year. Buy for £15 from Amazon.
SIMPLEHUMAN – Sensor Mirror Compact, Rose Gold Stainless Steel. The best makeup mirrors come from Simple Human – their wall- and desk-mounted ones are pricier but once you have one you’ll never look back. Because you’ll always be looking in the mirror, ha! This is a portable compact and no less handy – brilliant for hotel stays where the lighting is dire and for doing your makeup in the back of a cab. Buy for £89.95 from Amazon.
Top left LIBERTY Bubble Candle. So many candles, most of them in glass containers: I love this sculptural bubble candle for its simplicity and sense of fun. Buy for £13.60 from Liberty.
Top middle ASSOULINE Ibiza Bohemia Book. The coolest coffee table books in town – warning: flick through this and you will have the uncontrollable urge to travel. Buy for £70 from Amara*.
Top right JUICY COUTURE Gillian scoop-neck stretch-velour bralette. We did the tracksuits (come on, we all did, didn’t we?) and now there’s the bralette. Nostalgic, yes – but more importantly, comfy. Buy for £30.00 from Selfridges & Co.
Bottom right OH FLUFFITA SLIDE UGGs in pink. Another nostalgia-propelled choice: we did the boots (oh, how we did the boots) and now we will do the slides. If we want to look like something that’s crawled in from an all-night bender down Sesame Street. Buy for £100 from UGG*.
Bottom middle NATIVE UNION Drop Wireless Charger Pad – Rose. The practical present, but infinitely useful for bedside charging and it’s the best-looking charger pad around. No more searching for the cable that’s dropped down the back of the drawers. Buy for £40 from Amara.
Bottom left LIGNE BLANCHE Andy Warhol Scented Candle – Campbell’s Soup. Candles don’t get cooler than this. It’s a mini work of art and once you’ve finished burning the candle you can store your makeup brushes in the pot. Buy for £45 from Amara.
LIBERTY Capel Printed Stretch Leggings. You know I’m not a fan of leggings worn as outerwear (see post here) but I’ll make an exception for these. Or anything Liberty print, really… Buy for £76.
MULBERRY – Small Darley in Quilted Light Salmon. The classic shoulder bag with gold hardware and enough room for wallet, phone and keys. Oh so luxurious and beautifully made, it’s utterly timeless and the perfect special gift. Buy for £695.
ADIDAS – PRIMEBLUE TRACK TOP. I’m really into my Adidas again, perhaps inspired by Squid Game but maybe because I have been trying to up my leisurewear game and stop looking like someone who has been living in the woods with only cats for company. I like this soft pink version for lazy days and for when I start running, which will be never. Buy for £35.
Top left LIBERTY Twist and Twine Tana Lawn Cotton Short Pyjama Set. Liberty print again, I’m not going to apologise. It just makes excellent giftlist fodder because it feels inordinately special and looks the absolute business. I can’t get enough! Buy for £225.00.
Top middle SWAN Retro Pump Espresso Coffee Machine, Green. I don’t drink coffee but have been researching coffee machines for my holiday cottage business venture. (Don’t even ask how that’s going.) I thought that this one was very pleasing and not outrageously expensive if you didn’t want to go OTT. Buy for £79 from Amazon.
Top right NEWGATE – Charlie Bell Echo Alarm. You have to be a certain type of person to want to be awakened by two clanging metal cymbals going off right next to your head, but if you’re that person then this is your clock. Buy for £25 from Amazon.
Bottom right SELETTI Toiletpaper Mirror – Sea Girl. I love these Seletti mirrors – they do a few different versions and they are all like small pieces of art. Brilliant for spicing up the downstairs loo. Buy for £260 from Amara*.
Bottom middle DORA LARSEN – Dolly stretch-tulle underwired bra. When sexy lingerie gets colourful. I’ve never seen such a fun lingerie brand and there are plenty of different cuts and versions depending on whether you prefer soft bras or more structured items. Buy for £52 from Net-a-porter.
THE BRITISH LIBRARY: A Book of Nonsense Journal. If ever a book was up my street. Buy for £10.95 from Liberty*.
ELIZABETH SCARLETT – Jungle Leaf Travel Pouch. I’ve bought loads of Elizabeth Scarlett toiletries bags as gifts, they are so pretty. Just add a small bag of bath salts* inside if you want to give the gift some literal weight. Buy for £20 from Amara*.
BERGS POTTER – Copenhagen Glazed Plant Pot and Saucer. When plant pots go posh. I have two of these in different colours and they are supremely photogenic. Not that that’s the main requirement for a plant pot, but it helps… Buy for £65 from Amara.
Top left BODEN Cashmere Chunky Bed Socks. Always a treat and the Boden socks are amazing quality. I still have some from five years ago (the only ones the dog hasn’t chewed) and they’re surviving admirably. Think of them as slippers rather than socks, otherwise the cost is almost too hard to swallow. Buy for £50*.
Top middle LIBERTY Elderberry Large Weekly Diary 2022. Nothing can replace the feeling of writing actual lists with an actual pen – the annual diary-purchasing event is not dead, I tell you. Buy for £30*.
Right BURLEIGH Blue Calico Medium Tankard Jug 1pt. For those with a penchant for cottagecore, I give you Burleigh pottery. Their calico tankards are up there with my favourite household items. Buy for £37.00 .
Bottom middle APPLE AirPods Pro with MagSafe charging case (2021). It took me a while to get on board with these, as I like silence and don’t really listen to music when I’m on my own, but man are they helpful for blocking out unwanted noise! I use mine to edit video when I’m on the train to London and I now take most of my calls through them rather than holding the phone to my ear, which now seems so 1998. Buy for £189 from Amazon.
Bottom left DEXAM Wooden Magnetic Toast Tongs, Beech Wood. I know; what a weird thing to include in a gift guide. But if you haven’t yet experienced the joy of the toaster tong then you will thank me: it took me thirty-eight years not to burn my fingers every morning and for the past three I’ve been living in a state of domestic bliss. Buy for £5.97 from Amazon.
VIVARAISE – Fara Cushion – 45x45cm – Amber. Cushions with frills, tassels and trims are all the rage (and I’m on board with this trend – never dismiss the power of added interest and texture!) but many of the high-end versions are over a hundred pounds. This is a cheaper route to interiors nirvana and the quality is great. Buy for £31 from Amara*.
DERWENT II Muck Boots. I know they don’t look showstoppingly gorgeous but believe me when I tell you that Muck Boots are unrivalled in terms of comfort, durability and general practicality. They’re like the Nike Airs of the welly world – and come up true to size, in my experience. Buy for £68 from Amazon*.
SOHO HOUSE – Eat, Drink, Nap: Bringing the House Home – hardcover. Buy for 20.99 from Amazon. I’m going to be back shortly with my “books and chocolate” post so if you’re after easy, relatively cheap presents that will look stunning and seem incredibly thoughtful then hold your horses!
I hope that these Christmas Gift Ideas for Her has given you some useful ideas – let me know in the comments if you’ve had any good gifting brainwaves this year!
The post Christmas Gift Ideas for Her | 2021 appeared first on Ruth Crilly.
Looking for the ultimate easy, not-too-expensive, seemingly-thoughtful Christmas present? I have the answer! I had the answer last year too, so this is an updated 2020 version: it’s the books ‘n chocolate gift. Comes in unlimited combinations, is widely available and won’t break the bank.
You may be thinking (if you didn’t read last year’s explanation on this particular gift idea) that I’ve lost the plot a bit. Books and chocolate? Well duh! Next she’ll be suggesting I buy someone a bunch of flowers or something else ridiculously obvious!
But bear with me. There are rules and regulations with this particular type of present. It’s all about a) the quality of the two separate elements and b) how well they sit together visually. The book needs to be an amazing one (I have lots of suggestions) and the chocolate bar needs to not only be of an excellent calibre, it needs to have a wrapper that complements the cover of the book. When the chocolate is placed on top of the book cover to be wrapped up, it should be an absolute graphic designer’s delight of typography, pattern, texture and tone.
Not so easy as throwing together an airport novel and a bar of Dairy Milk, but you can easily – and quickly – get all sorts of brilliant books delivered and the artisan/luxury chocolates won’t be too much of a hard find.
Below I’ve listed some of my favourite book-n-choc combos for 2020, but the complete run-down is in the video at the bottom of the page. You can also refer back to 2019’s edit here and click here for a load of good reads to consider…
Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo (get it here*) and a bar of the chunkiest, heftiest Tony’s Chocolonely (£2.70 here*). Sorry but how good do these look together? I’m the most proud of this particular combo, not least because Evaristo’s novel is one of the best I’ve read in years.
The Handmaid’s Tale (online here*) and a bar of Pana Chocolate’s Coconut & Goji (find here*). Pana Chocolate are a brand worth noting down; their chocolates are vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free, soy-free and something else free that I can’t recall at this particular moment. All of that removed and it still manages to be incredibly tasty – dense, dark, rich and almost a little oily. It’s £4.95 a bar (pretty small bar, too) but it really is quite niche and they do loads of flavours each with a different pattern on the box. Which makes it perfect for my books-n-choc quest!
Hamnet by Maggie O’Farell (here*) and a little round box of the most delectable Charbonnel & Walker Sea Salt Caramel Truffles (here*). Slightly more hefty, this one, price-wise, but you’re getting more weight too – it feels a bit more impressive. Hamnet has been widely praised this year and I love Maggie O’Farell’s writing so it’ll be a sure-fire hit as a present for anyone who’s serious about their reading list.
My Sister The Serial Killer, online here* and Pana Chocolate’s Sour Cherry & Vanilla, online here*. Oyinkan Braithwaite’s debut novel is a punchy, vibrant portrayal of sisterhood with the unusual lean that it involves a female serial killer – I raced through it in no time and thoroughly enjoyed it. Not new, but new to me and a great books-n-chocs addition.
I haven’t yet managed to start Naoise Dolan’s Exciting Times and I’m not ashamed to say that I partly picked it for the graphic, bright and cheerful cover! Of course I’ve read the reviews so I know I’m onto a winner, but just for clarity, I’m planning on starting it next week. Disappointed in my chocolate paring here – with hindsight, I’d have gone for a Tony Chocolonely bar again! Anyway, the book is online here* and the chocolate is here*.
Oh I almost forgot: this is a new twist on my books-n-choc: books-n-food items! I did think that when it comes to giving cookbooks (I bloody love cookbooks, can’t have enough!) that having an accompanying chocolate bar just felt a bit wrong. And so how about some relevant, relatively lightweight and easy-to-flatten-and-package food items? Bags of spice are perfect – Natco do huge bags for around a pound and a few of these with Meera Sodha’s Fresh would make a great foodie gift. You can find Fresh online here* – I buy my spices at Sainsbury’s in the world foods aisle.
Right: all of the other combos are in the video, links below. Get shopping – let me know if you have any other excellent book or chocolate suggestions!
Rococo Rose Dark Chocolate £5.50* : https://bit.ly/3lcjU8y at Liberty
Q & A 5 Year Journal*: https://amzn.to/2Va0M0t
Big Sky by Kate Atkinson*: https://amzn.to/3lbdDKp
Liberty Heritage Milk Chocolate Bar £7.95* : https://bit.ly/2KLqE0R
Dear Joan & Jericha- Why He Turns Away by Joan Damry*: https://amzn.to/2Jfz5ke
The post My Ultimate Easy Christmas Gift: 2020 Edition appeared first on A Model Recommends.
We’re revisiting a post that I (kind of) did a few years ago, really, but it’s a good one and so it deserves another airing. Because this post may just save your Christmas Bacon, if you’ve left present-buying until the last minute and/or have no clue what to buy people and/or don’t want to spend a fortune on absolute tat that people will hate and/or re-gift.
It is – quite frankly – a genius idea, this one, but I’m sure I can’t take credit for it because it’s so simple that a million people probably posted about it before me. The fundamental equation behind this gift idea is:
Good Book + Excellent Chocolate = Ultimate Christmas Experience
Give someone a brilliant read and something to munch on whilst they read it and you’ve pretty much sorted their holiday. The bonus for you is that you can order books right up until the last minute (or get them at the supermarket) and the chocolate is reasonably widely available, depending on which of the fancy and niche brands you plump for.
Which is important. Because there are caveats to this genius solve-all gifting idea, after all. The first is that the chocolate must be fine, interesting, artisanal or unusual – to elevate it above the Dairy Milk level – and the second is that the book must have a good cover. Be it vintage Penguin or classic Puffin or whatever other bird you can think of. Luckily publishers put a lot of thought into covers and so your job here is quite easy.
Read: Beautiful Books that Won’t Break The Bank
And before you all shout in defence of Dairy Milk, I love Dairy Milk, but for this gift to work then it can’t be just any old normal chocolate bar thrown in to the shopping trolley – the bars in this feature are all exquisitely made with the finest ingredients and truly are, for want of a less cringe term, a taste sensation. (Liberty is a treasure trove of pretty and quirky chocolates – find them all here* – and they helped massively with sourcing good-looking bars for this feature, so thank you Liberty!)
The selection of books I’ve chosen should offer up something for everyone (apart from kids) and there are a few suggestions, such as The Bees, for example, that are relatively obscure and could be a safe bet for those who are hard to please.
I have listed a load of books ‘n’ chocolate combos below, with pictures so that you can admire my supreme books ‘n’ chocolate styling prowess. Hopefully it’ll give you some idea as to what the hell I’m on about. Wrapping these little delightful parcels needn’t be a stress either – get yourself a load of eco-friendly, plain brown paper and you’re sorted. Add nice ribbons that can be reused by the recipient and Bob’s your Uncle.
Read: Six Good-Looking Emergency Books
There’s (believe it or not) a video that goes with this post. Or perhaps this is the post that goes with the video – either way, I’ve managed to eke out an unbelievable amount of content from what it basically the world’s most simple gift idea. It’s a bit Pippa’s Tips (sure I said that last time) but sometimes you need to be reminded of the basic things in life…
Little Women (Puffin in Bloom edition) £9.99 here* + Pana Mint Chocolate (raw, vegan), £3.20 here. A beautiful chunk of a collector’s edition book with a raw and minty bar to chomp on. What a pretty pairing!
Wolf Hall £5.94 here* + Pana Coconut & Goji Chocolate (raw, vegan) £3.20 here. Particularly pleased with this combo, for some reason – and this is the book to buy a voracious reader who hasn’t yet unearthed the delights of Hilary Mantel.
My Sister, The Serial Killer, £6.20 here* + Sour Cherries Chocolate, £4.95 here – one of the books of the year all wrapped up with a bar of finest dark chocolate, studded with dried cherries.
Pretty Iconic, £11.89 here* + Chabonnel & Walker Dark Chocolate Bar, £6.95 here* – glorious, velvety dark chocolate and one of the best beauty books you’ll find.
Ooh, I’m starting to feel like Willy Wonka with all of these chocolate descriptions!
The Handmaid’s Tale, £6 here* + Pana Chocolate Rose, £4.95 here* – the brutal modern classic that’s worryingly astute and a rose-oil infused chocolate bar that should hopefully salve the soul somewhat…
Girl, Woman, Other, £10.64 here* + Chocolate Society Salted Caramel, £4.95 here – this year’s well-deserved Booker prize winner and a brightly-wrapped bar that contrasts with the cover. Two knockout gifts for just over fifteen pounds.
(Has my Book + Chocolate messaging sunk in yet?!)
Persuasion, £12.59 here*+Rococo Violet Dark Chocolate, £5.50 here* – the most delightful edition of Jane Austen’s classic and an equally classic chocolate to accompany it.
The Bees, £5.84 here* + Love Cocoa Honeycomb Chocolate, £4.50 here* – I won’t lie, I’m thrilled with this combo. Not only is the book really quite unique (a darkly thrilling novel from a bee’s narrative perspective, anyone?) I’ve carried the theme through into the accompanying sweet treat. Feel free to applaud.
Made In India, £12.71 here* + Creighton’s Imperial Chilli, £4.95 here* – Meera Sodha writes the best Indian cook books. The recipes are just so fresh and delicious, I highly recommend. The book covers are also giftworthy in themselves, like art posters!
Any Human Heart, £4.49 here* + Creighton’s Pink Gin Bar, £4.50 here – the cover of William Boyd’s wonderful novel is identical in colour to Creighton’s Pink Gin chocolate bar. I just couldn’t resist putting these together – in fact, I think this was one of the book-n-choc pairs that sparked off my need to revisit the whole idea!
My Thoughts Exactly, £5.64 here* + Creighton’s Maple Bacon, £3.95 here* – a slightly offbeat little hook-up here, but I thought that it was well suited. Lily Allen (author of the autobiography hidden behind the bar!) has never been known for towing the line or fading into the background, so I’ve chosen an appropriately unexpected chocolate flavour. Not for everyone, admittedly, but it would certainly be a conversation starter!
Testaments, £10 here* + Sour Cherries (as before) – another colour-block combo, but oh so pleasing. Don’t you think? Again, a striking cover that is almost a gift in itself and then the sour cherries rising up above the parapet once more. Under his eye!
The Hours, £5.99 here* + Pump Street Gingerbread Chocolate, £7.95 here*. One of the pricier chocolates, but at least I’ve popped it in with one of the cheaper paperback books! And this novel by Michael Cunningham is an absolute literary treat – a Pulitzer winner and a weave of stories that’ll stay with you for life.
I, Robot, £10 here* + Salted Caramel Chocolate (as before) – a book I never thought in a million years I’d be featuring, but I read a sample of it and thought that it was brilliant. Witty, self-deprecating but in all of the right amounts. I genuinely have this on my bedside table on my book pile! I don’t even like football. Plenty do, however, which makes this a bit of a no-brainer. The cover doesn’t quite meet my strict criteria but this is the wildcard…
For more book suggestions there’s a whole category here on the website – just click here and all book posts will come up as a listing!
The post My Ultimate (Thoughtful, Easy and Widely Available) Christmas Gift appeared first on A Model Recommends.
I was going to call this post Top Faux Christmas Garlands but when I looked at the pictures it was more like a fireplace catalogue, so I’ve kept the title real and relevant for you.
Fireplaces aren’t all they’re crack(l)ed up to be, in my opinion. It must have been more than a full time job, in the Georgian times, keeping the house fires going. A constant hassle. Finding your matches, using your old manuscripts as kindling, hoovering up the soot with Ye Olde Henry Hoovre.
And also quite hazardous, all those sizzling grates. Imagine always worrying about whether a spark had flown too far from the hearth and set fire to the edge of your wicker chair or piece of parchment or box of gunpowder or whatever.
No smoke detectors, either – the first you’d have known about a disaster was your horse winnying in the stable. And that’s not the most reliable method.
In these modern times, sticking the heating on is far simpler than going outside into the cold and selecting your firewood, chopping it, carrying it inside and then arranging it carefully so that the flames catch etc etc.
(I write that like I’ve actually done it – I haven’t lit a fire since I was in the Girl Guides, which was almost thirty years ago now. Mr AMR does it and has all of the equipment, like his special axe and his special gloves…I like to dress as Red Riding Hood and trot past the woodshed coquettishly.)
And that’s why none of the fireplaces in the house are working open ones (two have wood-burners). It’s a pain in the arse having proper fires. They look great in pictures, in reality they are probably the least efficient way of heating a house known to man. Apparently you lose about eighty per cent of the heat up the chimney. Or something. Don’t quote me – I’ve guessed at that statistic and can’t even be bothered to open a new internet tab to check it!
Anyway, welcome to my fireplace showcase. Or, if we’re being sensible about it, a roundup of some of the best faux garlands. Didn’t think you needed a garland in your life? Think again. I’m a convert. If you have a large, long feature in a room, such as a mantelpiece or a shelf or a console table, then a garland arranged along the length of it looks instantly quite plushly festive.
Why faux? Have you seen the price of fresh ones? Good God, you could buy the whole Christmas dinner thrice over. And they die! For some reason I don’t mind if the wreath dies (and I love the smell of the real ones as I come in the front door) but an indoor garland that’s only on show for a few weeks of the year: give me faux. Give me something I can box up and stick on the loft until next year.
Here are my favourites:
Frosted Red Berry Garland, Gisela Graham at Amara here*.
I think that this one might be my overall favourite (followed by the other red berries one, see below – I must have a thing about red this year!); there’s something a bit childlike and magical about the frosted apples and berries. It almost feels as though there should be toadstools and little silvery spiderwebs woven in too!
I think that because the apples and berries look so purposefully fake, the whole garland just seems incredibly well put-together and expensive. It’s properly kitsch and it’s not pretending to be something it’s not.
I bought my garland at Amara here* – it was £50.
Three Metre Pre-Lit Christmas Garland, Marks & Spencer In-store.
Wow, this went fast online! No wonder, it’s a beauty – really, really very long and generous on the faux-foliage. Fo-fo-foliage.
I hated the pre-lit thing, when I first switched the lights on, but they’ve grown on me. It’s cheery and festive.
Berry Garland from Sainsbury’s In-store and Argos here
This berry number is my second favourite garland. I think that it just looks quite elegant and striking and chic.
Sold out online, the one at Argos looks really very similar (and now that Argos are inside my local Sainsbury’s I do wonder whether it’s the same garland?) to the point where even the berries are in the same positions!
Golden Pinecone Garland, £18 at Amara here*
Another simple but rather elegant buy, this pinecone garland is lightweight and non-fussy but looks very cheerful draped along a shelf or mantelpiece.
This would possibly be my pick if I needed to use a garland on the Christmas table, too – all of the others are a bit too cumbersome. This one would bend and snake around things nicely! I paid £18 for mine at Amara here*.
The gorgeous wooden nutcrackers are extra large ones and you can find them at M&S here* and instore.
This frosted berry and faux-faux-foliage garland is also from Marks & Spencer, but you need to run to store to catch it. Again pre-lit, it’s slightly more muted because of the frosty effect and so would suit your interior decor if you prefer lighter, more neutral tones.
I quite like the sprigs of white berries and the snowy pine cones. This one isn’t so supersized as the other M&S garland – I think it’s about 180cm, which seems to be about standard…
Pom Pom Garland, £12 at Sainsbury’s here.
This fluffy garland is soft and cute and perfect for a kid’s room. Angelica was thrilled with this when she came home from school – she wasn’t expecting any decorations in her room (however minimal) so it was a bit of a bonus. Except that then Ted wanted decorations and so we had to cover his beams in tinsel and I nearly broke my neck standing on the footstool…
What have a started? Next year the decorations will have crept into the garden…in a few years it’ll be one of those mad houses that people queue up to see, with lights covering the whole exterior and a full-size Santa sticking out of the chimney. Order your tickets now….
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Now that we’ve got cracking with the gift guides, I can fully take stock of just how bloody late I am with them again. The sensible person would compile them in early November and have them ready and waiting for the last weeks of the month. Not I. Here I sit, binge-eating Haribo Starmix at some kind of Godforsaken hour (9.45pm), buying as many things as I write about because of these damn sales!
Anyway: women’s gift guide. Basically stuff I’d be thrilled with, so I should really rename it Ruth’s Fantasy Wishlist, though I already have some of the things and have probably featured them in the past. Creature of habit.
Let’s start with the warm and cosy – I don’t know many who wouldn’t want some soft cashmere to see them through the winter. I just bought this dreamboat of a jumper from Boden here*:
It was £150 but Boden currently have 30% off almost everything (see here*) so I’m off to buy a spare one. That’s how lovely it is!
I’d also highly recommend their cashmere socks, here*, which come in gorgeous colourways and last infinitely longer than some of the socks from other brands. They are £45.
That’s the feet sorted then, and for the hands we have these bright and cheery Johnstons of Elgin Fingerless Gloves*. Currently £36 at Liberty* because Liberty (at time of writing) have a huge Christmas event running with up to 30% off lots of stock. Well worth a check seeing as though they always have such beautiful and interesting gifts!
You can shop at Liberty here* – no code necessary.
You can now buy selected items from the wonderful Coco & Wolf at Liberty – they have 20% off here* – including the gorgeous Liberty Print Scalloped bedspreads. For the full range (their silk pillowcases would make the most indulgent homeware gift!) go to the website here.
Want some Liberty Print but short of cash? I’m inexplicably drawn to this little mouse pin cushion. I don’t even sew. It’s £8.76 here*.
Right, people: we’re moving onto the quickfire round because otherwise I won’t fit in all of the present ideas I’ve got lined up! It’s so tempting to explain all of my ideas, in case you think I’m bonkers, but I’m just going to have to take the risk.
Liberty Tana Lawn Wash Bag, £20 here*
Marc de Champagne Truffles, large box because anything else is just wrong; £23 here*.
Chloe Embellished Sunglasses, £436 here* – pretty special. Try not to sit on them.
Aquazzura Heels, £660 here* – pretty special. Try not to break your neck in them.
I wanted to post those iconic Christian Louboutin bow-back sandals but they’ve sold out – they’d almost be worth breaking your neck for! Instead here’s a totally extra lipstick from the same hallowed shoemaker – £70 here*. You could have someone’s eye out with that!
Whilst we’re on envy-inducing lipsticks; Pat McGrath Matt Trance lipstick, £35 here*. Brilliant, brilliant.
Fornasetti Gold Wall Plate – a piece of modern art and absolutely not for cutting up grapes on! £230 here*.
Seletti Love Edition Mouse Lamp, £68 here*. I have this in the original and it’s so cool – this one looks as though it’s had a Banksy makeover.
Made In India, £13 here* for the keen cook. Meera Sodha writes the most delectable cookbooks, Fresh is one of my most-used.
Palette: The Beauty Bible for Women of Colour, £17.49 here*. Packed full of amazing, insightful beauty knowledge. A book that needed to be written.
Shell Seat Pads, £107 here*. Turn any garden seat into a pre-Raphaelite resting place thanks to brilliant luxury brand Garden Glory.
Ultimate GBBO attire: a Nathalie Lete Helena apron. £30 here*.
Zoeva Rose Gold Brush Set, £70 here* – pretty much all of the brushes you’ll ever need. (Stay tuned for a best brush set post coming up soon!)
Farrow & Ball Colour Consultation, from £195 here. I did this a few weeks ago and it was just great. Very helpful and also a lot of fun. One for the indecisive or just those who love decorating!
If you can’t stretch to that then the F&B books are the next best thing – read my post here.
Chanel La Creme Main, £45 here*. This can’t fail to delight – the packaging alone is an absolute triumph. Although…
Bastide Figue d’Ete hand cream has some serious French Painter Oil Paint Tube vibes going on and the cream smells out of this world – £18 here*.
For the makeup junkie, how about Charlotte Tilbury’s Filmstar Bronze & Glow, Limited Edition with brush, £60 here*? This is the benchmark product when it comes to megawatt glow and contour…
Willowberry Mini Skincare Set, £39 here – I love this tiny, independent British brand. Here’s a chance to give it a try!
If it’s a total body treat you’re after then give the gift of ultimate relaxation – oils don’t really get any more effective than the ones from Aromatherapy Associates. The Deep Relax is a perennial favourite, just a capful into a warm bath is totally transforming. £49 here*.
Quirky but luxurious, something svelte and striking for the hair. The Silken Favours Silk Printed Headband is £70 here. Click onto the website and try not to fall in love with the incredible shirts…
Gucci Bloom fragrance, from £45 here*. A trusty crowd-pleaser, included here because the packaging is so spot on. A gift in itself.
Although if you really want to impress then things don’t get much more decadent than McQueen Pure Perfume, £285 here*. Deep, dark and sexy, it’s a riot of nighttime blooms that you won’t smell on many others. A Vampire’s Wife would wear this, surely?
Talking of Vampire’s Wife: it’s also the hot new(ish) brand that everyone wants to be wearing. So covetable. So darkly sexy. So incredibly expensive. One day, my friends, one day… You can find Vampire’s Wife here*. The dress pictured is $2.45m here*.
And on the subject of incredibly expensive things; if you’re after the ultimate cool leather jacket then Acne’s Velocite has been top pick of the bunch for a few years now. I’m hoping that it’s my birthday2019/Christmas2019/birthday2010/Christmas2020/birthday2012 combined present. Find it here* – it’s just £1.2 million plus postage. Goes with everything though, so that’s good.
Not so flush? See this coat at Hush*. Has all the feels but you won’t need to remortgage.
Yes I’ve featured these lovely Alex Monroe alphabet necklaces before, but I think that they make perfect gifts. They look luxurious but don’t cost quite the earth. £108 here* – also in silver.
And for a teeny bit of special beauty? MOR Soapette in a tin – £5.99 here*. Can’t get enough of these. Strictly speaking they should be in stocking fillers, but I might not get around to writing about those at this rate!
Ooph. Champagne Lurex heels, anyone? I’ve always been a fan of the Fern court shoes from LK Bennett but they’ve excelled themselves this year with these sparkly gems. Get 25% off here* with the code BLACK25.
And one last little naughty treat, in case someone is looking to spoil you completely. I had to include this Gucci Flora wallet, it’s just so lush. Don’t look at the price, just try and be very, very good from now until Christmas. It’s online here*.
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I’m going to start with the men’s gift guide, this year, so that it doesn’t come across as an afterthought. Don’t you think that a lot of the time men’s gift guides are just far less exciting and inspirational than the women’s ones? I find them so difficult to put together – but then I find buying things for Mr AMR quite complicated, so I suppose it’s not surprising. What I think he might like is always so far from the truth – in my mind, he wants a swanky new Tom Ford wallet, in reality he is in his element going around the garden with his battery-operated leaf-blower.
So here are some ideas for men’s Christmas presents. I’ve tried to cover all bases and price points but let it be known that it is hard not to be drawn into featuring the usual suspects. A shaving set. Novelty socks. Some funky-looking vodka. A soap that looks like a turd…
OK, the first thing I want to talk about is something called Masterclass. Have you seen this advertised? It’s so good. It’s basically a series of video masterclasses from leaders in their fields – so you can have, for example, a film-making masterclass with Jodie Foster, makeup lessons with Bobbi Brown, beat-making classes with Timbaland and high-powered, motivational business classes with some of the world’s highest achievers. It’s such an excellent gift idea and a full access pass, which gives you access to all of the lessons from violin-playing to haute cuisine-cooking, is £170. And it’s currently buy one get one free. One for them, one for you. What’s not to like?
I think that this is the perfect gift whether you’re happy in your career and just want to broaden your interests or dying for some inspiration to turn your life around. I’ve already joined and I think it’s absolutely genius – I’ll be reviewing soon, so watch this space!
Masterclass, £170 for 12 months here.
Mr AMR wouldn’t forgive me if I didn’t talk about his battery-powered leaf-blower, so here it is: the Ego Power Plus blower. Mr AMR would also like it to be known that all of the Ego garden tools are very good, including the lawnmower. You have a rechargeable battery pack that fits into all of them and is interchangeable, so you can go from mowing to blowing at the blink of an eye. He bought all of his many, many, many tools from Ego Power Plus here.
Note that the backpack blower makes whoever’s wearing it look like a character from Ghostbusters. Which is a comedy bonus.
Something else from Mr AMR’s list of favourites; the Samsung Frame TV. In all fairness, this would be on my own favourites list because it has completely changed the look of my living room. I think we have the older model now, but they look pretty much the same; it’s a TV with a wooden bezel (frame) that sits absolutely flush with the wall so that it looks like a gallery-hung picture. The screen displays a picture whenever the TV is off and it looks completely realistic. I can’t recommend this TV enough, especially if you – like me – absolutely detest the look of televisions on walls.
Find the Frame at John Lewis here* – from £999.
One last thing from Mr AMR before we move on to gifting pastures new: the Bed of Nails, which has been featured many times in the past. It’s one of his most prized possessions, this mat-with-spikes and he slides it out from its hiding place beneath the bed whenever he has a headache or can’t sleep properly. I have no idea whether it actually cures headaches or helps you to sleep properly but he swears by it for just about every ailment and sense of discomfort. He says that he enjoys the pain of the spikes – “it’s a nice pain”. Worrying.
Find the Bed of Nails online at Cult Beauty here* – it’s an unusual – but hopefully very useful – present.
Oh, OK, one more idea from Mr AMR because he did spend ages lying in the bath writing his list to help me out… Brace yourselves for this one people… Third on his list? The Bose Frames Audio Sunglasses*. Sunglasses that play your audio through the sunglasses. Sounds weird, doesn’t it? It is totally and utterly weird. But Mr AMR has tried them and can vouch that they do indeed play music via the material of the sunglasses and that it somehow magically ends up inside your ears. Who knows how? Who cares? Surely this is the future! Buy these and he can wear them when he’s riding his hoverboard to work…
Bose Frames are £199 at Amazon here*.
Whilst we’re Back to the Future, let’s take a look at the Apple Air Pods Pro, £249 from Apple here*. Currently with free engraving, which perhaps makes it a bit more of a thoughtful, personalised gift – tech always feels quite sterile to me! Anyway, these noise-cancelling, fully-immersive in-ear pods are the absolute bees knees – even if they do make it look as though you’re talking to yourself when you take a call on them…
If Apple’s enthusiastic pricing is a little too – er – steep, then plump for these noise-cancelling headphones from Sony. They’re comfy, effective and are a comparative snip at £79. Find them at Amazon here*.
And for those who would rather do some downstairs loo learning than look at glossy nudes, there’s I Used To Know That: Stuff You Forgot From School, £5.24 at Amazon here*. He’ll be boring you with academic facts for the entire holiday season…
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