20 December 2015

Christmas Gifting with Williamson Tea

I know I'm cutting it a bit fine now for Christmas gift suggestions, but in a minute you'll see why I just had to squeeze in one last tea-lovers tip!
Tin cups and tea bags

I like tea. I think it can make a great gift - there are so many different exciting varieties, fresh flavours, new brands - but the Williamson Tea elephant tea caddies are just the most handsome tea containers I've ever come across!

williamson elephant tea

I was lucky enough to be sent one of these gorgeous Christmas gift sets containing this gorgeous seasonal caddy filled with silky loose leaf tea bags of a grand Kenya  Earth Tea (Williamson Tea's take on a classic English Breakfast), enamel mug (perfect as, unlike my most recent 'good' tea mug, this one can't be smashed by one of the clumsy office oafs!) and printed canvas bag.

tea for gifts

There are a few different sized gift sets available on the web page priced between £18.50 (for this sort of size - a great price for the quality of the items!) and £39.50. The clear gem of the gift set though is the wonderful elephant caddy (my pictures don't do justice to the beautiful designs and textured finish of the tin), and there's a huge range of these lovely things from just £12.50 each (with a number of different teas available) so you should be able to find something for your tea-loving friends and family members regardless of budget!

18 December 2015

Christmas Dinner at the Great Victoria Hotel, Bradford

There are many many things I love about Christmas. I love the cheesy Christmas songs and the soppy Christmas films. I love Christmas shopping and I love Christmas wrapping. And I LOVE a good Christmas dinner.
In fact, I think its fair to say that Christmas dinner is so darn good that it'd be a real shame to just limit yourself to just one a year.

With this thought in mind, I popped along to Bradford's Great Victoria Hotel to check out their festive menu offerings this year! I've only been to the hotel once before but that was for a very enjoyable Afternoon Tea, so I was pretty confident that the Christmas affair wouldn't be disappointing - plus the hotel is located conveniently close to Bradford's new Broadway shopping centre so it's easy to pop up for some well earned sustenance after a tiring shopping session!

Though there were a couple of tasty sounding starter options, I usually struggle to move after just the main course of Christmas dinner so I decided to forgo the unnecessaries and skip straight to the main event (mainly, I'll admit, to maximise my chance of being able to squeeze in a dessert!
There were four main courses to choose from, but really, this close to Christmas, there was only one real option - it had to be the Roast Turkey, with all the festive trimmings!

SO MUCH TURKEY! I don't know why but I never eat turkey during the rest of the year, so I think I forget just how good it is - but there was plenty on this plate to remind me! Add a meaty little pile of pigs in blankets on a bed of crisp roast potatoes and you just know that Santa is on his way!

 I was quite happy with my plate the way it was if I'm entirely honest, but I suppose the big man in red might have been a little unhappy with me if I skipped the veggies altogether. I didn't remember to photograph my healthy bowl until after I'd already swiped the 'good vegetables' (carrots and broccoli, oh yeah!), and I did feel bad about completely ignoring all the sprouts - but I'm sure I'm not alone in shunning these horrible things!

Other main menu options included salmon fishcakes, and a spinach and ricotta tortellini, but it was the slow roasted lamb shank that tickled the fancy of my dining partner. I'm not really into lamb, but I do love me some mashed potato so nicked a forkful (or two) of that and it was lovely! 

Then time for puddings, hurrah! T'other half ordered the Christmas pudding, served with brandy sauce and dried cranberries. I know I said I loved lots about Christmas, but that sadly doesn't extend to Christmas pudding (or even Christmas cake,.. or mince pies really.... nothing too dried-fruity!) so was happy to let him finish this one himself....

I was torn between the lemon tart (always a favourite!) and the toffee cheesecake but I took the advice of our waiter for the evening and went cheesecake - it was not a decision I regretted! The dessert was the standard cheesecakey stuff I expected, but with an extra bonus layer of sticky-toffee-puddingish-sponge that completely elevated this dessert from being 'pretty good' to being out of this world awesome! From about half way through I kept saying 'I'm not sure I can finish this....', but I managed in the end!

And we got to finish our meal in the way all meals should be finished - with a nice cup of tea and chocolate!
The Great Victoria is a fab Christmas Dinner stop off - it's location right in the town centre means it's perfect to end a day of shopping or start a night of drinking (if you can handle doing anything other than going home to sleep after a meal like that!), and they have a full menu full of non-Christmassy food too if you don't manage to get in over the next week or so!
* Big thanks to the Great Victoria Hotel for providing our festive merriment and meal!

16 December 2015

Winter Warmers from Ahmad Tea

Tea is the best drink in the world, no matter the weather. But there's something about a hot cup of the good stuff on a cold day that's just that bit special - soul-soothing, heart-warming, body-restoring hot tea. 

Top teas for winter

I've recently been trying out some great teabags from Ahmad Tea, and the worsening weather gave me the perfect excuse to try some of their more 'wintery' options (yes, teas, like coats, are seasonal, obviously!)

spiced winter teas

The obvious choice for a more warming brew was the evocatively named 'Winter Charm', a 'warming and comforting' blend of apple, cinnamon, cloves and orange peel. This one had me giddy before the kettle had even boiled, just based on the aroma of the dry teabag alone. 'What does it smell like?' I was asked in the office.. 'Christmas. It smells like Christmas'. It has that incredible festive blend of fruit and spices that all the best Christmas cakes and other seasonal delights have, with a resulting brew in the temptingly deep red shade of mulled wine - how festive!

If I were to have one tea-based Christmas wish, it would be to have this same blend but just with a touch of chilli to give an extra bit of wintery heat. But then I like chilli in most things, so imagine this would be spot on for most folk just as it is!

best tea for cold days

We all know that the best way to make anything more Christmassy is to throw cinnamon at it, so the Rooibos and cinnamon was the natural choice for my next winter tea. In my head the warm seasonal spice would be a perfect addition to the naturally sweet creamy tasting rooibos, and By Jove, I was right! Like the Winter Charm, the scent of this alone is enough to ease many ills. The drink itself manages to be both comforting and indulgent, like a hot bath or a sunday lie-in.

great winter tea

A classic English Breakfast tea isn't necessarily by itself particularly wintery. But I defy anyone to get a good look at that snowy scene on the gorgeous tin and not want to put a woolly hat on. Like many things, it would of course be better if it were Yorkshire rather than London but since Ahmad Tea are based down there, I'll let them off! Plus this is just one of many beautiful tins, caddies and gift boxes available that would make wonderful presents for tea-loves for any big upcoming gift-giving occasions!

London tea caddy gift

The English Breakfast blend is an incredibly drinkable blend of Assam, Ceylon and Kenyan teas. I'd describe this as an 'everyday' tea but that seems to lessen it somehow, make it seem ordinary when it's anything but. It just means that there's no bad time to drink this!

Ahamd tea tins

These lovely warming blends are just a few of the large and lovely sounding selection of teas (black, green, herbal and fruit!) available from Ahmad Tea, each one carefully selected to bring their customers the very best in tea-drinking experiences. You can find the full list of available options (along with more information about this family-run tea company!) on their web page, or get in touch with them on twitter if you need any help narrowing your choices down!

14 December 2015

Bras Galore!

If you listen to stereotypes, you could assume that, because I'm from Yorkshire, I don't like spending money on things. And to an extent, that's true. I certainly don't mind splashing out every now and then but in other areas I'm distinctly stingey. I have shelves full of DVD's picked up for £3 at supermarkets, buy all my clothes in the sales, and am loathe so spend more than Primark prices on underwear....
freya bra review

But, though there are many aspects of my Yorkshire heritage I'll never turn my back on, I should really start re-considering what I think 'appropriate' amounts to spend on certain items are! It's not uncommon for me to spend more on a nice pack of tea than I would on a bra - and then of course I wonder why my cheap bras are uncomfortable, ill-fitting, and fall apart in no time!
(My particular bug-bear is when I buy more than one from the same shop and they're all completely different sizes when you put them on - what even is that?!)

bra size calculator

In the aim of developing a more grown up approach to lingerie shopping, I finally, thanks to Bras Galore, have my first 'good' bra. A proper one, ordered in my size (using the website's 'Bra Size Calculator' as my guide) as opposed to finding the nearest one to the right size that they happen to have in store). One that not only has enough support for an ample boob area, but is pretty too.

pretty bras for big boobs

And the Freya Enchanted Plunge Balcony Bra in Anthracite IS pretty, so pretty! (Despite my sketchy photography not really doing it justice - this was my first time trying to photograph a bra and it's not as easy as I'd imagined!) The delicate embroidery and adorable polka-dot bows are such a striking contrast the charcoal body of the item, and (in a true testament to the aforementioned size-calculator), it fits like a dream - no longer do I fear being unceremoniously poked in the tit by an errant underwire!
I've long since suspected that cheap bras are a false economy, but it was hard to take the plunge (I think that's almost a joke?) to the grown up world of proper lingerie without knowing if the price point really made a difference - now, having had first hand (or whatever) experience with a better quality product I know that it really is about time I shifted my perspective on how much I should be spending on these things!
I still wouldn't pay more than £3 for most DVDs though...

10 December 2015

Degustabox November 2015 (The Festive One!)

I get my Degustabox delivered to work, and delivery days is an exciting time for us all. I'm usually pretty good with sharing so the eager beavers in the office are often as keen to see what's inside as I am, knowing that they have a good chance of getting to try some of the tasty delicacies within!

I was going to tell you a convoluted story about comments made during my monthly 'unboxing' routine, but the words wont go down right, so I'm just going to jump ahead to the main point, which is - we think this box is brilliant.

'Tis a time of year meant for eating, and this box is a great help in getting started early on all the Christmas munching! Take these first couple of items for example.... Cheese and crackers is a big part of Christmas in my family. Perfect for that post-Christmas dinner 'can't face a meal but want something to nibble while I watch Dr Who' Christmas evening snack, and now we have more exciting flavours to look forward to! I particularly like the sound on the Ryvita Chedder and Cracked Black Pepper flatbreads, though I'm sure the Green & Black Olive Crackers will go down a treat over the festive period too!

You know I'm more of a tea drinker than a coffee connoisseur, but I do occasionally dabble in coffee, and its drunk widely throughout the office. We all loved the idea of these flavoured coffee syrups from Teisseire! A few drops in my instant nescafe (I did say I wasn't a connoisseur!) isn't going to give you quite the same result as a big proper fancy coffee from a big proper fancy coffee machine, of course, but I do like the extra little kick they give to my morning drink!

The Belvita soft bakes fit right into my work 'box of snacks' for emergencies (missed lunch breaks, desperate cravings etc). These are a great source of fibre, vitamin B6, iron and magnesium so are probably a better bet than heading for the biscuit tin!

This may surprise anyone that knows of my fondness for anything sweet and chocolatey, but I don't actually go through that much chocolate spread! I'll use it in baking occasionally but otherwise don't really keep it in the house - I think it's partially because I know the kids will dive in and have it with three meals a day, leading to rotten teeth and mum guilt. The JimJams spread has taken a healthier approach though, with no added sugar, so don't have to feel so bad about keeping this in the cupboard (though it'll still go on a high shelf!)

Still thinking of the kids teeth, I decided it'd be best if the Butterkist popcorn didn't make it home and that I ate it all at work instead (shhh, that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it!) To be fair, the salted caramel popcorn was never going anywhere else after I had my first taste and I just could not stop eating it. This is seriously good stuff and I'll definitely be treating myself to more of this, as well as keeping me eyes peeled for the other 'discoveries' flavours, sweet chilli & lime and bbq pulled pork.

My dad is all about pickles and chutneys so these will be going to his house, where we all home to get fed on Boxing Day. I wonder if I can get away with wrapping them up as a Christmas present?

One of the items we were all most excited about was the Hartley's GLITTER jelly! I haven't made it yet as one of the young 'uns has a birthday coming up very soon so I want to save it for then, but this has potential to be seriously amazing! And worst case scenario, it's still jelly so you can't really lose!

Another couple of snacks to round out the edible goodies, one healthy and one .. not so much! I might save the fruit crisps for the inevitable new years health kick, whereas it's a surprise that there's any of the Divine chocolate left - but then this is chocolate to be slowly savoured!

Lastly, it wouldn't be Christmas without a wee tipple. Degustabox have kindly got us started on the booze-fest with a handsome bottle of Rekorderlig cider and an adorable mini bottle of Baileys!

I can't imagine the next couple of boxes being better than this one, but there's one really good way to find out! Each box is £12.99 including postage, but you can get a whopping £6 off your first box with the code BLDEG15 when you sign up - a great gift for any food lover!

7 December 2015

Festive Afternoon Tea at Ashmount Country House, Haworth

Afternoon Tea is always a special occasion, but like most other things, Afternoon Tea takes on a decisively festive twist once December hits, making this special occasion even more special!

We meandered over to Ashmount Country House for our festive treats after a lovely Christmassy day in Haworth - our windy walk on the moor left my a wee bit 'wuthered' and in need of a sit down and a brew!

Ashmount is only a few minutes walk from Haworth's main street (worth going at the minute for the beautiful window displays at Rose & Co alone!), with lovely views over the gorgeous surrounding countryside from the comfort of the tea room!

Before the arrival of the cake stand we were presented with a couple of slices of a brie and caramelised red onion quiche, served warm and delicious. I'll admit, I've never actually eaten quiche before! (Is that shocking? It feels like it is!) I don't really like eggs and I'm really wary of anything that might be too eggy (for want of a better word), but this was really nice actually - I might have to start being less of a food wimp!

Sandwiches were cheese with winter chutney triangles, a flatbread thingie with turkey and cranberry sauce (Christmassy!), and smoked salmon and cucumber finger sandwiches which were of course ignored - I'm not quite ready to give up being a food wimp yet it seems! The others were just grand though!

It didn't take us long to move up a tier on the cake stand though and get started on the cakes!

We were presented with a little iced ball of Christmas cake (the Mr was very excited, Christmas cake is his favourite ever cake!), an awesome Christmas parkin cupcake and a 'mulled pavlova' - meringue on top of cream on top of spiced fruit. A sure fire way to make things more festive is to throw in some spices and fruit!

So it just makes sense in that case that the best thing you can add to an afternoon tea to make it really festive is a nice hot glass of mulled wine...... oh, look what I found!

We saved the scones for last (unusual, as I'd usually have them after sandwiches and before cake but I think my dining partner wanted to dive in to his mini Christmas cake as soon as possible!) and these were plenty Christmassy too!

The scones themselves were cranberry and spiced orange, and served with clotted cream and a delicious orange and whiskey marmalade. I've never had marmalade with scones before and it worked a treat with the orange flavoured scones! These were so tasty and a great way to finish off a lovely afternoon tea - I couldn't think of a better way to get in the Christmas Spirit!

If you don't think you'll manage to get up to Ashmount House before Christmas, fear not - they do a 'traditional' afternoon tea the rest of the time and I'm sure that'll be just grand too (though of course I better head back in the new year just to be sure!)

6 December 2015

Christmas Shopping In The Bag

Less than three weeks to go now and I still haven't done any proper Christmas shopping, arrgghhh! But I have seen plenty of things I want, so I figured it's only fair to share some of my best finds for those still hoping for shopping inspiration!

Bags make great presents. I love to buy them for people (ask my sister-in-law!) and I LOVE to receive them, and no one is making better bags than Vendula London!
I might say this every time I get a new one, but this is my favourite yet! Like most of their ranges, The George comes in a variety of styles and sizes, but I fell in love with the box bag on first sight. Certain designs just seem to just suit certain styles, and I thought this little mini pub was just perfect!

I've spoken about my deep love for Vendula London unique bags before, I'm nuts about this company and adore their products. They look great from a distance (I've never taken one out of the house without receiving a stream of comments and questions on it!) and even better close up. The devil, as they say, is in the detail - and these bags are full of detail! I love the cosy bar scene with it's welcoming open fire and real fabric curtains, but my absolute favourite feature on this particular bag is the proper little pub sign that swings right out. This made me proper giddy when I first discovered it!

The classic Vendula London lining can be found inside, along with a couple of pockets and dividers for keeping things safe and organised (or you can just chuck everything I randomly and never be able to find what you are looking for, like I do - but at least the bag looks grand while you search through!)
Of course, the clever bag designers don't forget about the back of the bags either! As well as another handy pocket you get a subtle recommendation to drink more (at least that's how I'm choosing to interpret that!) and a reminder that sunny days and beer gardens are not too far away!
Until those sunnier days arrive though, I'm happy to take my favourite of autumn accessories on many a pub visit, trying to find one as warm and welcoming as my carryable beer house!

As well as this beauty, there's a whole range of gorgeous products on the Vendula site - from huge bags to tiny purses, with phone cases, ipad covers and other bits and pieces in between! There are so many unique designs to chose from it should be no problem to find just the thing for everyone on your gift list - I have it on good authority that one or two of my work colleagues have already picked out something special for their ladies this Christmas, and you know I'll always have a couple on my list for Santa!

* This one came from the Vendula fairy because I'm a lucky little sausage.