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  • Take it Sloe

    Take it Sloe

    Well that was a short summer. Pretty much straight onto scarves and boots without even a glimpse at lightweight jackets. Autumn is my second favourite season and I love the colourful landscape, the start of using the fire again and all the preparations for Christmas make me giddy.

    But for me the start of the season is always picking blackberries and sloe berries. I am no farmer but it seems that crops of late summer/Autumn fruits are particularly abundant and earlier than usual. Our kitchen is laden with fruits from kind friends and neighbours with groaning trees and the children had stained fingers from blackberries weeks ago. Sloes however require a little more effort.

    When making sloe gin usually we wait for the first frost but this year sloe berries seem, like so many fruits, to be earlier than usual. As there are only two wild blackthorn bushes close to us in London we didn’t want to risk not getting any so have picked early. To mimic the first frost we have stored them in the freezer for a couple of days.

    Making sloe gin

    bash the sloe berries

    To prep the frozen berries for the gin I used to spend ages pricking them, now I just give them a light bashing in a sealed bag – seems to do the job and far less effort. Controversially I don’t strictly follow a recipe as has found that some sloes can have more flavour than others as it depends a lot on when in the season you pick them. Instead I pick as many as I can get my prickled hands on (usually about a small bowl full) and pop them into a 1L jar.

     

     

     

    Then add normal granulated sugar limiting it to 2 tablespoons per 70cl of gin (more about this further on). Simply pour the gin in, shake a bit then leave in a dark cool place for about 2 months – turning, shaking lightly every week or so.

    Making Sloe Gin making Sloe Gin

    After about 2 months check for sweetness and for strength. If it is tasting strong take some of the mixture and fruit and start another jar – topping up with more gin. If it is still too bitter for you then add more sugar – the crystals do take time to dissolve so at this stage use caster sugar to taste as the finer texture incorporates better. Sweeten slightly less than you like to taste – it will get sweeter in time.

    Continue with light shakes and turning of the jar/s and by Christmas you should have something seriously delicious. We will try and get some Sloe Gin Cocktail recipes to you in time for the festive season

    NOTE ON GIN

    There is a lot of opinion of whether to use cheap gin or premium gin when making sloe gin. Personally I think that delicious artisan gins and premium gins are wasted in sloe gin. The sugar and the sloes change the taste considerably and mask some of the delicious subtle flavours you are paying for (and don’t forget the stylish bottles which you pay for that are instantly discarded). The really cheap £7-8 gins are largely just too unpleasant to even consider and you may get a nasty aftertaste. We tend to use Waitrose London Dry Gin at £12.25 or Aldi’s Oliver Cromwell London Dry Gin at £9.97 – both of which have won blind tasting awards.

    It used to be that if you didn’t make your own sloe gin or know somebody who did it was not a tipple you’d ever get to sup. However, fine gin producers Sipsmith have an excellent Sloe Gin priced around £25 for 50cl which I turn to once my limited supplies have run out.

    Sipsmith Sloe Gin

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  • Surviving the Summer Holidays

    Surviving the Summer Holidays

    If you don’t have young children this post is not for you. Please, continue - enjoy your Aperol Spritz surrounded by fun people wearing on trend clothes – revel in your Ibiza hangovers – plan your summer escapades unencumbered by a collection of trunkies.

    If you even know what a trunkie is then this post may be for you.

    I always start out with such good intentions in the summer holidays. Whilst the vast majority of the parents around me have booked holidays, summer camps and very sensibly have their summer scheduled down to the day, I always start out with an overly confident ‘winging’ it approach.

    This is obviously not a great idea as I have 2 children under 6 and a business to run, but the bohemian in me (or what’s left of it) luxuriates in the image of idle summer days swanning around in cornfields sipping ginger beer with my trusty friends. The facts that I live in London, have to work, don’t like ginger beer and all my friends are on holiday don’t seem to register.  

    Some days in summer are great. Fantastic. Memorable. These are usually based outdoors against a backdrop of blue skies and involve soggy sandwiches and sticky little hands. I will remember all of those moments forever. This is not a post about surviving those perfect days.

    This is also not a post for those parents who have a bundle of wonderful ways of entertaining their children. This post is for those of us who panic a little when the weather is non-compliant. On such days I have 2 tetchy energetic little boys desperate for entertainment and this year, for the first time, I’m prepared for it. So I have put forward some ideas you can keep in your back pocket for such days. Any of these suggestions can be done by you, your nanny, their granny or gramps – whoever it is trapped indoors with bored kids.

    Write a book (Free)

    Write a book with your childI know, I know. Sounds awful but bear with me. Write a book with the kids. It can be nonsensical and if you let them lead it probably will be – but I would urge you to let them lead. Let the story run away with them. Let them draw silly or amazing pictures. But most importantly take them seriously and hear their voice.

    I am planning on doing this with my 6 year old – he has already come up with an awesome title and lots of ideas. We have agreed that for at least 1 hour a day, wherever we are, we will work on it together until the magnus opus is complete. We have a stack of paper and pencils at the ready. When it is finished I will bind it or somehow have it printed up to be kept. It will almost certainly be dragged out for all to see at his 18th birthday and I will pretend the tears are of laughter and not desperate nostalgia for the early years.

    Bring out the board games (Under £25)

    In a previous post I suggested my other half had an interest in board games. In reality he is obsessed and secretly buys board games and smuggles them into the house hoping I won’t notice. I’m not talking about Monopoly and the kind you have heard of – I’m talking about really obscure ones he has discovered on Boardgamegeek.com or from watching YouTube videos when I’ve gone to bed.

    His obsession however has introduced our family to some wonderful games that the kids love. Even our 4 year old can follow most of them. There are always tears from the non-winners. The 6 year old throws the word loser around a LOT but we try to limit the negativity until the kids have gone to bed and we crack open the big boy games (not ‘adult’ – not like THAT) with like minded friends.

    Here are a few we have played as a family and really enjoyed – again be prepared for frustrated tears but learning to lose is something we could all work on and mine always want to play again soon after so it can’t have been that bad. Google search all of them for the cheapest prices, I have found Amazon not to be the cheapest for the more obscure board games. All of the below can be bought (today) for less than £25 on various websites.

    Survive: Escape from Atlantis. This is marketed as 8yrs+ but we play with our kids and they largely follow it. My boys seem to be particularly fond of sharks and sea monsters gobbling up the competition. It’s also pretty fun for grown-ups so a good one for the games shelf.

    Diamant. Again, marketed at 8yrs+ but we have played well as a family and more often than not the risk averse 4 year old wins. This is a risk-your-luck game of chance and not so big it can’t be squeezed in a suitcase (or trunkie…).

    Catan: Junior. 6yrs+. This is one we haven’t yet played and I would imagine may be a little advanced for our 4 year old. I have kept this in reserve for the summer hols as the grown up version is one of my favourites. However it comes highly recommended from some friends of ours with slightly older kids.

    Pick a pepper (Under £20)

    Finally, I took the boys to a pick your own farm last week (again, Google to find your nearest) and it was such a roaring success we will be doing it again, several times, in the holidays. As an activity it ticks so many boxes, they get to run around, it is relatively cheap and they learn about where food comes from. It may also encourage those slightly picky eaters to expand their repertoire – I got mine to eat hitherto rejected veggie risotto for the first time as they were excited to eat all the courgettes, broad beans and beetroot they had picked with their little hands.

    Boys picking strawberries

    Next time we go there will be a whole new range of food for them to pick including corn, blackberries and tomatoes which also teaches them about the seasonality of food.  Hopefully I will be better this time at reducing the amount of strawberries they snaffle before we get to checkout! Obviously it’s best if it’s not raining when you go but going on an overcast day will probably mean it is less busy.

    So, this is us this summer. You may know all of this already but just in case you don't hope at least some of it has been some help.

    Wish me luck. If you have any ideas for rainy days please share - these are pretty much ALL of my ideas - they may not stretch to 6 weeks... If it all gets too much, sit down with a 'Quiet Moment' box, make a brew, light a candle, eat some chocolate and leave good old Uncle CBeebies in charge for a bit. 

    Tina x 

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  • Floral Wonderland

    Floral Wonderland

    Our intention with this blog is to showcase our favourite brands, discuss our influences and influencers, give our followers some gifting tips from our gift stylists and generally celebrate the lifestyle things we love.

    My significant other informed me last night that I have the least interesting blog he has ever read (he only reads board game blogs so I’m up against some stiff competition it seems). As we are just starting the blog he got me thinking about how to add interest whilst also adding, hopefully, some value and so thought it would be good to start with a post on something gorgeous, bountiful and absolutely free.

    I love flowers. Really love them. I fill my house with them (as well as use beautiful dried flowers and foliage in our gorgeous boxes). Winter is usually insanely expensive for me but the reason I don’t subscribe to one of the plentiful and good value flower subscription services (lovely as they are) is that for half the year I don’t pay for flowers.

    We are fortunate enough to live in a country with an abundance of wild flowers.  Some of us have gardens - some of which are even well tended (mine isn’t but previous owners have put some half decent flowering shrubs in which largely look after themselves). My vast hydrangea at the front of the house seems to be a never ending source of resplendent blooms all summer long. Garden or no garden most of us have some form of access to some gorgeous plants that come alive in the warmer months.

     

    Whilst peonies, hydrangeas and eucalyptus hold a special place in my heart (largely down to the love affair social media has with them) the oft unloved wild flowers that decorate our fine country feature prominently in every corner of my home.

     

     

     

    Two absolute favourites are the cornflower (not always the easiest to track down) and humble cow parsley. Cornflower is divine and the intense blue purple colour of the smallish flowers livens up even the most scandi of interiors. As I live in London I seed them with a cheap as chips pack of wildflower mix but live in the bucolic country and they can be found in cornfields, roadsides and hedgerows.

     

     

    Cow parsley is usually widely available in any untended area (I always manage to find loads even in London). It is big, impressive and looks smashing in a glass vase. Take inspiration from insta or pinterest if you need more styling ideas. This image is from the lovely Insta feed of @walnut_farm

     

     

     

    If you really can’t face trudging around with a carrier bag and a furtive look then try out some wildflower art.

    Lucy Auge is a brilliant young artist and sells affordable original pieces which beautifully capture wild flowers. I have a few of these myself (ignore the wonky picture hanging…) and they work wonderfully displayed together in a group. 

     

     


     

    As a final note, our ‘Take Care’ box and our ‘A Quiet Moment’ box have Earls Delight tea which contains dried cornflowers – not sure what they add to the taste but they do make a mightily pretty tea bag.

     

     

     

    Tina x 

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  • Brand Spotlight - Nathalie Bond Organics

    Brand Spotlight - Nathalie Bond Organics

    There are many elements we consider when curating a gift box. We look for exceptional products that are best-in-class then balance that with the overall design aesthetic of our offering. 

    Sometimes we find individual products that we love and design a box to complement this stand out piece - our 'Fine & Dandy' and 'A Quiet Moment' boxes are prime examples of this. However, most of the time we select a brand that ticks the boxes of high quality thoughtful products balanced with beautiful packaging and use its products across several boxes.

              

    Nathalie Bond Organics is one of the brands we use across several of our offerings. From her workshop on the edge of the Peak District Nat Bond crafts small batches of beautiful skincare and candles with organic and natural ingredients. Each product is made entirely from raw plant ingredients; ensuring clients can rejuvenate, hydrate and soothe skin without unnecessary chemicals.

    The therapeutic and calming scents arrive straight from the natural world and include lavender, rose geranium, lemongrass, peppermint, orange and eucalyptus. Combining  ethical and natural products with subtle and stylish packaging makes Nathalie Bond Organics one of our go-to brands. 

    One of our favourite products from the range is the Rose Geranium & Patchouli Bath Salts. They make a bath such a fragrant and luxurious experience we have to admit to over-ordering this particular product so we can have some for ourselves. It is featured in our Bathtime Indulgence gift box.

    If you get a chance do check this lovely brand out at nathaliebond.com or follow their feed on Instagram @nathalie.bond

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