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….
I made my first school-related Mum Error the other day when I sent Angelica wearing her uniform on something called a “mufti day”. What the hell is mufti day?
Granted, I should have probably Googled it instead of dismissing the mufti-themed email – thinking I have no clue what this means and then deleting it from my inbox – but I’ve never been very good at dealing with things that I don’t understand. I’d rather just ignore them and move on to the things that are easier to process. Ha!
Anyway, I can say that – categorically and one hundred percent truthfully – I had never even seen the word “mufti” before last week. It sounded to me like something to do with hand muffs or maybe a special type of bread roll or a kind of dense, difficult-to-digest cake and none of those things seemed relevant at the time of reading and so I basically just ignored the fact that it was “mufti day” the next day and got on with my John Lewis sales browsing.
Terrible, terrible parent.
Although obviously I couldn’t admit to myself that I was a terrible parent, so instead I became incensed with the school emailing system and the email wording in particular and questioned, at length, why they wouldn’t just use a phrase that everyone would know. Like, I don’t know, “non uniform day”. Because who the hell knows what “mufti day” is?
“You don’t know what mufti is?” said my nextdoor neighbour. “What’s the matter with you?”
“Erm, mufti, yeah,” said my (usually quite conspiratorial) school gate pal, “everyone knows what mufti is.”
I rang my mum. There was no way she would know what mufti was. I’d never heard her utter the word ever, and so really it was mostly her fault that I was so ignorant. She was a teacher for decades, too – if mufti was a commonly used phrased for non-uniform day then I’d have known about it.
“Musty?” she said. “Hold on, I can’t be long, Karl and Linda are here. You want to know about Musty Day? What’s that? I’m sorry, I have no idea.”
“Mufti!” I shouted.
“No, you know, it’s when you wear your own clothes to school.”
“Are you talking about mufti? Mufti day? Ha! It’s MUFTI with an F, for God’s sake. How have you not heard of mufti? I hope you didn’t send Angelica into school in her uniform, that would be so, so cruel.”
Christmas is creeping up on is, isn’t it? I’m planning on taking three weeks off – one to run around buying all of the things I’ve forgotten to plan for, another week to cook meals continuously for people visiting my house and load the dishwasher on repeat and a third week to try and get everything back to normal so that I can start work again.
As I wrote (almost) a year ago, Christmas is not a holiday. So I have set the bar low in terms of expectations this year. Although, I do now have two fully-functioning walking, talking children who can effectively communicate their wishes and also use a toilet, so it should be easier than Christmas 2018. Shouldn’t it?
I’m hoping that Angelica will provide the bulk of the festive entertainment, seeing as though she has transformed, seemingly overnight, into a kind of expressive dance amdram noise machine. She never tires, her ability to improvise nonsensical lyrics and put them to tuneless tunes knows no bounds, she must hold the world record for number of pirouettes achieved before fainting with dizziness. I’m looking forward to the Christmas Gala, which is to be held in our living room and has just one performer who must be applauded loudly as she emerges from behind the sofa to take her bow.
I suddenly have quite a clear vision of my future; I foresee many Saturday afternoons spent sitting on uncomfortable benches in leisure centres waiting for dance competitions to finish. I’ll be the woman in the fleece holding a tin of slightly stale cheese sandwiches wishing that she’d never started the bloody clubs in the first place…
With December comes Elf on a Shelf. Do any of you hide the elf every night? (Not a euphemism.) I honestly don’t know what possessed me to add another complication into our daily routine, but for almost the entire month of December we now have to get up early, ie earlier than Ted, ie 5.50am, to put the bloody elves somewhere imaginative. (LOL.)
Except that we never remember. So one of us has to creep about in our dressing gown as the little sproglings eat their breakfast, find the elves from the day before (we have two, they came in a cheapo two-pack on Amazon) and move them. It’s not a massive inconvenience, but when it’s a job just to remember your own name in the morning adding elf shenanigans into the mix is a recipe for disaster. This morning the children almost saw me move them because I’d shoved them down my pyjama top and one of the legs was sticking out at a jaunty angle.
Anyway, it’s all worth it for the look on their little faces. (Ted and Angelica’s faces, not the elves’. The elves’ faces always have the same look. Slightly evil, worryingly glee. Like they’ve just emerged from a pet shop carrying an axe.) They (Ted and Angelica) are still at the age (two and four) where they believe absolutely, wholeheartedly in whatever you tell them. Elves that watch you and record your behaviour, a man with a red suit and a white beard who watches you and records your behaviour… Actually that all sounds really creepy when you write it down, doesn’t it?
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*.
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…