Festive Season

Christmas Gift Guide for Women

Yesterday we published our ‘Christmas Gift Guide for Men’, so we thought it only fair to share a little gift giving wisdom for women too. Besides all of the beautiful candles, and festive food and drink available, we’ve created an overview of some of our favourite gifts for women, ranging from the affordable, to the more exclusive. With our help at The Amazing Blog, we hope that you’ll be able to find what she desires, creating the perfect Christmas gift (and giving you some last minute inspiration too!)

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Let’s get started with something that won’t make you dig too deep into your pockets. All That Jazz is a specialist (and certified vegan) nail care brand, providing professional manicure and pedicure products. Founded in 2013, the company has been our go-to when it comes to nail care, especially since we loved their Caribbean Collection (see the blog post here). With their core range consisting of 36 on-trend shimmer colours, they have created their own game-plan, with a long-lasting base coat and choices of super quick drying top coat, matte top coat and top coat, specifically designed to magnify and smoothen glitter colours. Used by countless celebrities and thousands of nail technicians, this is a brand you can trust.

Bringing out four seasonal collections each year, The Designer Collection is our absolute favourite! This is the perfect add-on for Christmas, as the colours are glittery and powerful, inspired by the works of iconic fashion designers. Combining elements of runway glamour, four unique colours are created, from the timelessly chic, shimmery blue of Vivienne, through to the metallic red Coco. The collection also contains a cool nude, Vera and our favourite, the sparkling silver Betsey. The best part? This professional nail lacquer won’t break the bank. Click here to purchase The Designer Collection for just £11.97.

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Another modest choice is from Heathcote & Ivory. Established in 2000, in London by Denis Aaronson, this brand is passionate about creating beautiful products with wonderful ingredients. Their colours, textures and patterns combine an eclectic mix of novelty, with British pedigree. Their forward-thinking design celebrates the role of women in ‘making Christmas happen’, where retro Christmas wrapping designs, sparkle and glamour greet the spirits of traditional British Christmas.

A perfect gift for her is their Vintage & Co. Baubles & Belles Festive Bath and Body TinThe packaging is a Christmas dream, elegantly designed with a festive pattern and finished with a beautiful pink hand-tied bow. Containing three bathing delights infused with orange-peel oil, this is the perfect company for the relaxing self-care holidays. The gentle cleansing shower gel has a silky texture that lathers well, and the scented crystal bathing salts with sweet orange essential oil fill the bathroom with a delicious (and festive) fragrance. Finally, the softening body lotion enriched with almond oil and shea butter locks in the skin’s natural moisture, perfect for any New Year party. All three products are scented with spiced rum, pomegranate, red berries and orange zest, and are guaranteed to give the fragrance of Christmas. Click here to purchase a Baubles and Belles Festive Bath and Body Tin for £15.

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One of the sweet delights of Christmas is that there is always a beautiful scent in the air. That said, it is sometimes difficult to know how to blend fragrances together, something that Aqua Oleum can help with. This brand’s knowledge of oils spans over three generations, with over 30 years of experience in providing top quality oils, at reasonable prices. Managing Director, Julia Lawless, well known as an author and expert in aromatherapy, personally ensures that every product is of top quality - so an Aqua Oleum gift is sure to be one that will not disappoint.

Their Blending Notebook (£28) is ideal for anyone passionate about creating their perfect scents, giving clear and concise introductions into the art of blending. Introducing theory guidance and formula ideas, it is a great way to track and develop your own aromatherapy elixirs at home. Containing all essential information, journal pages to write your own formulations, a glossary of key essential oils and a perfumery chart with notes on how to train your nose, this notebook is great to get you started. It is also beautifully designed, gold foiled and singer sewn bound. To get started right away, combine this with their Clear Head essential oil for just £5.22 (10ml). It helps with breathing (particularly if a Winter cold sets in) and works to penetrate and soothe your sinuses. Equally, their Festive Joy for £6.07 (10ml) is just as great, with a heart-warming, rich, and spicy scent that is comforting and uplifting, the perfect natural room fragrance for the festive period.

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If a new fragrance is what you’re looking for, then we introduce Ancienne Ambiance. Already lovers of their Goddess Waters, we were keen to try their new Mini Colonia Gift Set. Providing luxury gifts with paraben-free quality ingredients, Ancienne Ambiance products are free from animal testing and encased in recyclable packaging.

The Mini Colonia Gift Set contains five 15ml limited edition mini roll-on perfume gift bottles, the perfect scent selection to propel your spirits. Different scents for different days, complementing your clothing and making you feel good. Although we like all five scents, our favourite is Colonia IX (nine) - an exotic, woody and oriental fragrance, blending cedar and sandalwood with a hint of patchouli. It genuinely smells like Christmas! Staying true to the origins of niche perfume, all scents are hand-produced in limited quantities (in France), with the finest ingredients. Packaged in a handcrafted purple-golden gift box, this luxury gift delivers the perfect Christmas spirit (and the box can be reused at a later date). Purchase the Mini Colonia Gift Set here for £60.

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Last but not least we introduce April Aromatics. Since trying their Rose L’Orange Eau de Parfum in August - the perfect scent for that balmy summer - this organic scents and cosmetics company has been one of our favourite fragrance houses. Founded by Tanja Bochnig in New York, the brand delivers natural perfumes with pure extracts that create inner well-being. Their perfumes are also pure and natural, and no animal ingredients are used.

We were therefore excited to try their Tempted Muse scent, the ideal present for Christmas. Packed in a silver shimmery, elegant box, it immediately put us into the most festive mood. Inspired by the nectars of the gods, with sweet fruity golden extracts of frangipani and jasmine, this perfume is uplifting and aphrodisiac. Purchase your own Tempted Muse for a loved one for €169 (30ml) here.

There you have it, five brands that have hopefully given you some inspiration for the special someone you are struggling to buy for! Whether they love nail varnishes, home fragrances or perfumes, we’re sure she’ll be opening her presents with a big smile.

FOODHQ

Well, November has arrived and with it just eight Monday mornings remain until Christmas. Festive jingles sing loudly on the radio, shop shelves are awash with stocking fillers and supermarket isles are stocked high with tantalising treats, all promising to ensure that this very Christmas will be the best one yet. While a pleasant thought that may be, it also means that the social season is fast approaching, and with it is the age-old dilemma of hosting a fabulous festive feast.

And while cocktail sausages and sticks of cheddar and pineapple were all the rage many decades ago, the pressure is on these days to serve up a spread fit for a King. Thankfully, the gang at The Amazing Blog have been on the hunt for discerning foodies who want to add a bit of decadence to their do.

Recently launched, FOODHQ is a new online retailer specialising in restaurant-quality ingredients sourced from select artisan producers in Italy, France, Greece and Spain. The first of its kind, FOODHQ is on-hand to offer food-lovers nationwide gourmet products previously only available to restaurants and the high-end catering trade.

With a portfolio of over 300 specialist products including some of the World’s finest extra-virgin olive oils, balsamic vinegars, olives, risotto rice, pasta and other premium Mediterranean ingredients. The company are the sole importers for a number of exclusive boutique products, with over 30 being awarded ‘Great Taste’ award winning medals.

The products span a spectrum of different flavours and textures from the richly flavoured J Leblanc walnut, pistachio and pine nut oils to the punchy peppery, thick unfiltered Barbera olive oils to the bright zingy red pepper and mango vinegars from Belberry in Belgium and the ultra-premium (and stunningly packaged!) Il Borgo balsamic vinegars from the Emilia region in Italy... there’s a whole host of culinary delights that will get passionate foodies itching to stock up their larders and start drizzling, infusing, marinating and finishing dishes with these beautiful artisan products.

So, whether you want to add a touch of je ne sais quoi to a festive dinner party, or are searching for a special something to give the foodie in your life, be sure to check out the fabulous FOODHQ!

 

 

Deck The Halls

Here at the Amazing Blog, we're all guilty of one thing at Christmas (other than the standard over-indulging in food, cocktails and shopping), and that's leaving pretty much everything to the last minute. With things crazy in the office in the pre-Christmas rush and social drinks a-plenty, errands such as shopping for festive food and decking the halls, so to speak, have fallen short in the list of priorities. So here we find ourselves, a mere 7 days before Christmas with decorations to be put up, food to be prepared and party dresses to be found, to name but a choice few. And if, like us, you're an expert in procrastination and putting things off until the very last minute, fear not, because help is at hand. We've devised a fail safe five-day plan in the run up to Christmas with everything you need to have a fabulous festive season. And for Monday's feature we're looking  at the most decadent of decorations to spruce up your abode.

For anyone wanting to spoil their furry friend, Hair of the Dog London has the perfect solution to making sure that every member of your family has something to look forward to on Christmas morning.  Their tasteful but festive stockings for cats and dogs will look great in any living room and are a fun addition to the tradition of gift-giving.  Fill them with toys and treats from Hair of the Dog’s lovely boutique which offers natural, organic, and handmade products from all over the world, many of which are exclusive to Hair of the Dog. Stockings: from £20.84

And if you're after a something a bit different, fun and whimsical, the items from Found Home’s Christmas range are stylish and affordable.  We especially love the Icicle Ice Tray which gives your Christmas drinks an easily added charm, as well as the Totem Christmas Tree.  This lovely and colourful tree comes in 150 pieces of recycled cardboard and is a fun project to setup with the whole family.  It’s a festive accessory to any room or even outside to bring some Christmas spirit to your front garden. Totem Christmas Tree: £30.

If, like us, you're a bit of a candle-collecter come Christmas, with its unique concept of ‘pattern, texture, colour, and scent’, we think Parable is the ultimate candle to have this holiday season.  Along with bringing a strong sensuality to any room with their intoxicating scents, Parable candles also have an interesting design concept completely unique to the company.  Inspired by the designs of vintage wallpaper rollers, they spend a careful twenty-four hours in these moulds after which they are hand-painted to perfection.  Parable takes the art of candle-making (and enjoying) to a whole new level! Small candles: £120, large candles: £200.

Bored of standard table settings?  We've found the perfcet solution at India Jane. We love their jewelled napkin ring which adds a little extra dazzle to the dinner table on special occasions during the holiday season and is sure to capture the attention of family and friends over for dinner. Bringing elegance and electiveness to all of its designs, India Jane offers lovely additions to any home with their classic and timeless range of home interiors and crystal. Jewelled Napkin Ring: £15.

Finally, these Lovebird Paper Lanterns from Sew White are a lovely and unusual addition to any festive setting.  Placed in any corner or window they give off a warm glow and can be used with any battery-operated tea-lights to ensure they remain child-proof.  In addition to the charm of Sew Whites’ products which range from modern to vintage, owner Sisley White runs her company from home and aims to always offer unique and creative items that you're not likely to find elsewhere.  Some items are one-offs and many designs sell-out fast so it’s a good idea to keep your eye on this small but standout designer. Lovebird Paper Lantern: £12.

Now for that glass of mulled wine...

 

Fancy a tipple?

 

For anyone like me who is sick of the dirty hangovers that supermarket value vodka gives you, and who also thinks that no longer being a student means that it’s probably time to refine their taste in drink, help is at hand. I recently stumbled (excuse the pun!) upon Gold Russian Standard Vodka, which unlike many of its competitors, is actually produced in Russia - the spiritual and cultural homeland of premium vodka.

 

Coming from a brand who prides themselves on being exceptionally smooth tasting, and thus ideal for pairing with food, it is fitting that they recommend pairing their Russian Standard Vodka with Zakuski – Russian for ‘small bites’ or ‘bar snacks’. And while Zakuski, much like vodka, is a Russian tradition, it has certainly infiltrated into other cultures, with a fondness for canapés or bar-bites being very much commonplace in England.

 

And with the festive season drawing closer by the day, never has it been more appropriate to indulge in some Vodka and Zakuski. So whether you’re enjoying a couple of drinks at home with friends, or getting ready for a festive night out on the tiles and are after a tipple or two and some nibbles to pre-empt a night of banter and boogying, look no further than Russian Standard Vodka and Zakuski; the perfect fusion of food and drink. But remember folks, drink sensibly – with our student days nothing but a distant memory it’s no longer socially acceptable to wake up with a traffic cone in one’s room, nor in a stranger’s bed! And the lovely people at Russian Standard Vodka have given us a recipe suggestion for anyone wanting to try their hands at a Russian delicacy – enjoy!

 

Classic Russian Blini Recipe

 

Ingredients:

 

  • 175g plain flour
  • 50g buckwheat flour
  • 1 sachet dried yeast
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 eggs – separated
  • 150ml sour cream
  • 275ml milk

 

Sift flour and yeast in one bowl, combine egg yolks, sour cream and milk in another bowl and whisk. Add the egg mixture to the flour, cover and allow to double in size in a warm, dry place. Softly beat in egg whites and fry. Top with desired topping. We recommend smoked salmon or caviar if you’re feeling flush!