Reviewed by Nia Lock
Christmas shopping is a big event for most people, internet shopping has certainly taken the pressure off but there’s still the problem of what to actually buy for all the different people in your life. I like to get most of my shopping done early so I’ve been trying out a few products which might just fit the bill.
The first item to arrive was a lampshade from the Papershades Christmas collection in the ‘Little Town’ pattern (RRP: £25). After looking at the selection on www.papershades.co.uk I had trouble choosing which shade I liked best, but I settled on this one because I loved the lights in the windows of the houses. It arrived in an A4 card envelope, which I wasn’t expecting so it was a lovely surprise when I opened it. The lampshade is assembled by slotting the 5 card panels into grips on two wheels, it sounds complicated but it’s very straightforward and the instructions are concise and well-illustrated. There’s also an online instruction video to follow just in case you get stuck. The resulting lampshade fits simply onto a standard pendant light or onto a lamp base and a low heat, 40w energy saving or LED bulb is recommended. I went for an LED lamp because I really wanted it to shine bright. The colours are rich and deep and will look beautiful against the newly painted wall I’m planning to finish sometime before Christmas. Although this shade is from the Christmas collection I have no intention of putting it away afterwards! The bold artwork really is stunning, and I actually couldn’t wait for it to get dark so that I could see the light shining through it. To be honest it’s as beautiful in daylight as it is lit up at night. I think I’ll need a beautiful new table lamp to put it on because it seems a shame to keep it up on the ceiling out of my line of vision all the time. This would make a brilliant present for someone who appreciates something quirky and stylish and would also be ideal for someone you’re not going to see at Christmas because it’s so incredibly easy to post and there’s no way they’ll guess you’ve sent them a lampshade!
The next gift on my list is one for my mum, Lavendula Lavender Luxury Hand and Body Wash (RRP: £18 / 300ml) from Ancienne Ambiance. My mum has always loved lavender, as do I, but a lot of lavender scented shower gels and bath products smell more like furniture polish than actual lavender, I’m always smelling them but I’m rarely buying them for this reason. The Ambience Hand and Body Wash smells divine, not a hint of furniture polish! This gel can be used as a handwash or as a bodywash, and even as a facewash but I decided to use it in the shower so that I’d have time to fully enjoy the fabulous aroma. The beautiful rich and dark purple colour of the gel is suggestive of the fabulous scent that awaits you as soon as you dispense the gel onto your hand. Deeply fragranced with a very pure lavender smell it makes for a thoroughly relaxing and indulgent showering experience. It foams up quickly but gently and leaves your skin feeling soft and not at all dry. The clear plastic recyclable bottle has a pump dispenser which is very easy to use and doesn’t try to escape from you when your hands are wet. I reluctantly shared some with my young daughters who were delighted with the beautiful colour and instantly recognized the smell of lavender. I now have lavender scented toddlers which is as much a treat for me as it as it was for them.
The Ancienne Ambiance Hand and Body Wash is made using traditional French techniques with the finest French lavender from Provence and a base of coconut oil, it’s paraben free and not tested on animals.
I really enjoy using this wash and my mum’s going to be delighted with it as Christmas as it really does have the loveliest lavender fragrance and is attractively packaged for gifting.
Now I always find men incredibly difficult to buy for, they all seem to have hobbies which are expensive or complicated, like mountain biking. There’s no way I’d be able to choose the right mountain biking gift so I’m playing it safe and buying something useful.
The next item to arrive was a formal shirt from Dobells (RRP: £19.99). They have an extensive range of shirts on their website as well, so it was easy to find something my notoriously difficult to choose for husband would like.
The shirt I picked out for him is a navy blue check in 100% cotton. It arrived promptly, neatly packaged and nicely folded. I washed it at 30 degrees and without checking the label I threw it in the tumble drier with everything else (except tights, never tumble dry tights!). I hung it up ready to iron once it was dry but my husband mistook it for an already ironed shirt and wore it to work the following morning! He commented on what a nice shirt it is and I noticed how crease free he still looked at the end of the day. Before the next wash I had time to look at the care label and discovered that it wasn’t supposed to be tumble dried (oops) so this time I hung it to dry on the washing line, probably the last load dried outside this year. The shirt was very easy to iron. Tumble drying, although not recommended, left the shirt as creaseless as any of the ‘non-iron’ shirts that my husband already owns and so I may be tempted to do that again. The shirt is a tailored fit and looks very nice on, it’s soft and comfortable and its very resistant to wrinkling which means it still looks fresh at the end of the work day.
The next item to arrive was a bottle of Botonique (RRP: £7.99). The bottle says that Botonique is a botanical soft drink for wine lovers. Now I’m rather partial to a glass of wine of an evening and so is my husband but like many people we try to limit our intake because it doesn’t mix well with early mornings. According to the very informative mini leaflet which was attached to the neck of the bottle this is intended as a substitute for wine and is not a non-alcoholic wine drink. It’s something else entirely. Obviously, it went straight in the fridge and that evening as we set about preparing our dinner (a prawn curry incidentally) that we remembered this bottle which we didn’t have to save until it wasn’t a work night and it cheered us immensely! I really didn’t know what to expect when I opened the bottle, having read the list of ingredients I was imagining that it was going to taste like some sort of liquid vitamin supplement. The smell surprised me, at first, I thought pepper, and then star anise. To me it smells sweet but doesn’t taste sweet at all, my immediate reaction was that it tasted like branches, if you can imagine gnawing on a branch! The more I drank the more I liked it, but it really is like nothing I’ve ever drank before. My husband didn’t enjoy it at all, I suggested that he should be more open minded but he reminded me that he’d eaten jellyfish and frog last week and so I conclude that this is just like marmite. Anyway, I love it.
A bottle of Botonique is an ideal way of enjoying the wine drinking ritual without actually drinking any wine but instead consuming something which is refreshing and nutritious. It has only 17 calories a glass and no added sugar or artificial sweetener, colour, flavour, preservatives or sulphites. The serving suggestions provided are incredibly comprehensive including ideas for mocktails, cocktails, sweetening the taste or mellowing it out a little. This is the perfect gift for someone whose indulgences you feel bad about encouraging, it’s fun to try out something completely different so is ideal for the adventurer in your life, they won’t have tasted anything like it!
The Cocoon Air-Core Travel Pillow (RRP: £19.99) was the next item on my gift searching agenda. Sent to me by First Ascent. Having spent 3 months living exclusively in a tent whilst backpacking in a time before the internet, my experience of inflatable pillows was limited to a nasty slippery thing which either pinged out from under your head or deflated during the night, it was quickly abandoned in favour of a rolled-up fleece. This pillow is nothing like that, first of all it’s tiny. It only weighs 176g and it fits back into its mini stuffsac comfortably in the morning, with no stuffing and no hassle. When in use it’s a generous 33x43cm and the polyester microfiber filling which surrounds the inflatable air core makes it very comfortable to sleep on. It’s nylon on one side and a super soft microfibre on the other. Both sides of the pillow actually feel very pleasant on your skin. Obviously it’s not like the pillows you’d have on your bed at home but It doesn’t slip around on your sleeping bag or make many weird creaky noises. The twist valve is much easier to use than a traditional pop out one and the air doesn’t all leak out while you’re using it. The firmness of the pillow is entirely controlled by the level of inflation so it’s easy to adjust it to your particular comfort level and in the event of a pillow bursting accident the internal air core is replaceable.
The Cocoon Air-Core Travel Pillow is the perfect gift for anyone who likes camping or is planning an adventure. Now I have one I’ll use it on aeroplanes and trains as well whereas before I just would have made do with being uncomfortable. It’s also ideal for children due to its adjustable support as they often find pillows away from home to be far too high for their little heads. This pillow adds a little bit of luxury to any journey.
Another wonderful invention for outdoor fun is the Luci light by Mpowerd (RRP: £29.99).
This inflatable light is entirely solar powered and can therefore used anywhere which has daylight. It’s perfect for travel as it’s waterproof, collapsible to only 2.5cm thick and only weighs 125g. The Luci light has several variations including one which acts as a flashlight and emergency beacon, a flameless candle style and an outdoor camping version.
I received the Luci Color, which can be set to cycle through eight equally beautiful colours or to stay solidly on any one of them. It’s quick and easy to inflate and once inflated the shape and feel of the light is incredibly pleasing. It takes about 7 hours of direct sunlight to charge it fully which then provides 6 hours of light. One end of the cylindrical light is the solar cell and the other houses the inflation valve. The 50 lumens of light provided by the 10 LEDS is actually really bright and the light itself it incredibly tactile with its soft opaque plastic sides which sparkle gently. The colours are intense and very attractive, especially to my small children who think it’s incredibly exciting and a wonderful thing to have in the tent with them, or even in their bedroom. Whilst browsing on the Luci light website I discovered a scheme called Give Luci which allows you to buy a Luci light and have it sent directly to one of their non-profit partners who will distribute it to one of the three billion people who currently live without access to electricity or for disaster relief. This is a real and tangible way of giving and the website has many stories and photos of the impact that the Luci light has had on people’s lives in over 90 countries, the provision of light after sunset something we take for granted. I can’t think of a better gift you could give.