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November 17, 2012

Top Ten Christmas Gifts for 2012 – Personal Favourites

by Val Reynolds

Every year we put together a list of the products we have tried and loved over the year and include them in our Christmas List. 2012 has been a memorable year for visits, tastings and tests.

These are our favourites:

Orange_Bouquet

Orange_Bouquet

Chocolate bouquet – can’t think of anything more tempting than this astonishingly beautiful chocolate bouquet – we’re sending it as a family gift to five families who live far and wide who will be meeting up for Christmas in a country house in the Midlands. A smaller bouquet and individual flowers are also available. Utterly charming, seems a shame to eat them.

Last year we were impressed by and ordered several items from the Thompson & Morgan catalogue of bouquets and other floral gifts. This year they have added to the items on offer. All details on their website.

Booja Booja chocolate truffles are oh so yum! Organic and made by hand, we have to restrict ourselves to one each a day until the box is empty. Delicious flavours include raspberry – our absolute favourite is the Champagne Truffle … so irresistible they should be banned! Ingredients for chocolate aficionados: Dark chocolate (cocoa solids 55%, cane sugar, emulsifier, soya lecithin, vanilla, coconut oil, champagne 8%, Agave, Cocoa powder.

Organic Champagne Truffles

Organic Champagne Truffles

Cooking in someone else’s kitchen is always interesting and on our return from a two month stay in France we immediately bought a hand blender – there are lots on the market but we plumped for the Sainsbury 200K version. At the surprising price of £4.13 it does the job quite well and is good enough for soups, blending cooked fruit and vegetables. We love the flexibility of blending direct in the saucepan. Much less washing up. For slicing, chopping and making small quantities of sauce our Magimix is indispensable – it has considerably more power with well designed cutting discs.

We love our Russell Hobbs Brita Filter Kettle. Living in a hard water and limescale area, dark rings on cups and a film on coffee and tea is really noticeable and slightly unpleasant. All that disappears using this filter kettle and your tea and coffee tastes so much better too. Of course you have the ongoing expense of the filters, but we prefer that to the unpleasant effects of scale. We use the filtered water for cooking as well.

Spoon Rest

Spoon Rest

Another useful device in the French kitchen was a simple Spoon Rest. I could only search out one, in John Lewis, the Playnation Ceramic Rest costs £8. It’s big enough to hold more than one wooden spoon, it gives me less cleaning to do of food marks on the worktop. Just throw it in the dishwasher, well best not to throw … Definitely the most useful piece of kitchen kit I have come across in years.

Digital scales As I am on a calorie restricted food programme (called a diet by everyone else!) an accurate, easy to clean, set of scales is essential. Again John Lewis came up trumps and I was pleased the nicest one I found, Salter 1036 Electronic Disc Kitchen Scale, 5kg, Black only cost £12.80. It has a lot of positive reviews.

I was lucky enough to interview Stanley Kubrick’s widow, Christiane, a month or so ago to talk about her, painting, work methods and style. The feature will  appear in the New Year.

Christiane was kind enough to sign a copy of the Taschen Book: The Stanley Kubrick Archives for us to offer to In Balance readers. This giveaway will appear on this website early in 2013.

The book is the first to explore Kubrick’s archives and the most comprehensive study of the filmmaker to date. It would be a must for any film buff. Reviews on the Taschen website are enlightening.

Another book we came across is Uniquely British, A Year in the Life of The Household Cavalry, written by serving officers and soldiers. The book covers events that took place during 2011 and 2012 and gives a unique insight into the background activities of a 350 year old organisation. Published to fund the launch of the Household Cavalry Foundation, a new charity to support serving soldiers, operational casualties, veterans or even their horses. Uniquely British is available direct from the publishers Tricorn Books, who presumably pay their British taxes which is more than be said about that huge organisation that sends most of its UK profits home to the US whose name begins with a capital A and from whom we assume you wouldn’t order this book. Sorry, our prejudices are showing.

OTHER Favourites to Give you Inspiration

For those who find listening to book a lifeline when driving long distance, or doing any repetitive activity like gym work, talking books might be an appropriate gift. Our recent feature gives details

George Foreman Grill – Absolutely besotted with this easy to make sandwich grill that cooks steaks to a T! Our feature gives details

Rose Oil is our absolute favourite product for facial care. From Living Nature we would never be without it!

Belleville Rendezvous – If you haven’t seen this do have a look at our feature – it’s a cartoon which is so funny and whacky yet charming and engaging.

Insect House – This is a fascinating item to attracts insects that will stay in your garden to help pollinate your fruit and vegetables. Young children love it. Our recent feature gives details.

Relaxing by the pool

And FINALLY, we’ve left the best until last! We spent an overnight spa stay at Whittlebury Hall. We so enjoyed this. A world class hydrotherapy centre, offering a vast range of treatments, beautiful decor, spacious accommodation, wonderful food … seriously large swimming pool, golf course, beautiful grounds to explore … You might just like to book up one of the special deals on offer up to Christmas! I took my husband who loved it … now that’s a recommendation!

Phew, I hope you find something of interest to choose as a thoughtful gift.

Good luck and the compliments of the season!

Val Reynolds Brown, Editor

 

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