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Posts from the ‘Environmental Issues’ Category

21
Jul

Help with Hanging Baskets – video

We came across a most useful video on YouTube entitled How to Create Perfect Hanging Baskets throughout the seasons. Having put some hanging baskets together we came to realise there is more to success than meets the eye, this video has given us insights to hang on to.

Most gardens require some level of year-round maintenance, and whilst these fundamentals are key to keeping a garden looking neat and tidy, it’s the finishing touches that can make your garden a truly beautiful haven to enjoy every time you step in to it. Whatever season or sized garden you’re planting for, hanging baskets and planters offer you a really simple way to dress your garden with bursts of colour and fragrance the whole year through.

Whether you’re looking to dress-up a country estate, town garden, urban balcony or roof terrace, the Blacksmith range of wrought iron hanging baskets, wall mangers, troughs and planters come in a wide choice in sizes and styles, that once planted, will add whole new floral dimension to your outdoor space throughout the seasons.

Screen Shot 2014-07-21 at 17.46.31

 

 

 

In this short film  wellknown gardener and horticulturist Martin Fish shows you how to achieve seasonally beautiful hanging baskets.

Tips To Remember:

  1. Use a multi-purpose compost; this has a light texture and will encourage growth for a broad range of plants
  2. Use a slow release fertilizer to provide feed for the plants for several months
  3. To the compost add some water retaining gel to help keep the compost moist and plants watered
  4. Keep the soil about an inch below the rim of the basket to enable to you to water your basket well and to prevent compost spilling
  5. You must remember to keep your plants well fed so, feed monthly with a liquid feed to help promote a full and showy bloom throughout the season.

Screen Shot 2014-07-21 at 17.49.47Summer Basket Plants

  • Trailing Lobelia – Masses of frothy flowers that will go through the summer
  • Geranium – Gives the basket its height, with pink flowers
  • Helichrysum – Delicate silver/grey foliage plant
  • Scaevola – Delicate unusual flat shape flower foliage plant
  • Trailing Petunia – Bright pink flowers
  • Begonia – Pink flower, glossy foliage plant used for bedding to fill the spaces within the compost and give that fuller effect

Screen Shot 2014-07-21 at 17.50.29All Seasons Basket Plants

  • Selection of Evergreens – Coneflowers, Variegated, Grasses, Sages, Heathers
  • Trailing Plants – They will grow over the edge with their graceful habit
  • Ajuga – Grow blue flowers in the spring, these remain looking good 12 months of the year
  • Crocus and Daffodils – Bulb plants that will push up through spring
  • Edible Crop Baskets Herbs Basket – Marjoram, Thyme, Parsley, Chamomile
  • Fruit and Vegetable Baskets – You can grow lettuce, tomato or strawberries

Happy Gardening!

9
Jun

Fourteen Thoughtful gifts for Father’s day June 15th 2014

Screen Shot 2014-06-09 at 16.37.32We asked busy garden writer Amily Grossman, to give us some of her ideas for gifts for Fathers’ Day. With a little help from friends and relatives, here is her list.

Dads can sometimes feel a little left out in the early days with mum and baby sharing so much one on one time together. Water Babies, is a leading baby swimming school with classes all over the country. Water Babies lessons are a great way to get Dad involved as little ones are able to take lessons from birth, giving Dad and baby a fantastic opportunity to bond. Our favourite Father’s Day gift!

The weight of garden tools can become an issue if you frequently dig, hoe and rake. So your dad might welcome on of the new Light Gardening Tools from Fiskars. Screen Shot 2014-06-09 at 16.53.27The lawn rake looks especially useful, it efficiently clears grass with much less effort than usual. The patio knife on a long handle would save a lot of back ache. Screen Shot 2014-06-09 at 16.57.57Having just broken a wooden handled spade we’re now seriously considering the Light spade for our own gardening activities.

My dad really likes doorstep size slices of bread, toasted muffins, toasted crumpets and fast toast. The Magimix Vision Toaster comes top in all these requirements – the chance to watch the toast cooking a plus feature.

This toaster is great for the man who is of the opinion there is no point in heating up the grill in the cooker for a couple of slices of toast – a total waste of electricity. The side by side design means it fits on the work surface neatly, although we would have it on the table for easy access. Just so you know, this toaster is a Which Best Buy and although pricey at £145 it has good user reviews.Screen Shot 2014-06-09 at 17.00.31

OK, so a toaster is not appropriate for your dad. What about a book?

How about the Penguin series devoted to Simenon’s books – he may well enjoy the first Inspector Maigret novel Pietr the Latvian, if only for nostalgic reasons! Penguin are publishing the entire series of the Maigret novels, so this could cover your gifts for several years!

Confessions of The World’s Best Father – a tongue in cheek series of web entries that started an internet phenomenon. His bewilderment as to how to best raise a child makes Dave Engledow’s book an amusing read. The photographs are pretty good too!

If you’d prefer to give a more sober present, you could go for The Death of Money. James Rickards shows how we could avoid financial collapse.

James Lovelock’s A Rough Ride to the Future confirms his belief that the survival of the human race is one of the most important steps in the evolution of our planet. 

With Flowers Shows happening all over the country why not get tickets?

  1. For instance the Blenheim flower show 20-22 June. http://blenheimflowershow.co.uk/
  2. Hampton Court Flower Show is on from 8 to 13 July. Yes, it’s pricey but it’s big, a great time to talk to like minded gardeners, many exhibitors are readily accessible and it’s generally good weather! Link
  3. Harrogate Flower Show is 12-14 September. http://www.flowershow.org.uk/

If your dad is a keen veggie grower he might just like a copy of the Suttons Vegetable Garden Planner <suttons@growveg.com> An absolutely winner for us – it  takes out all the guesswork and is an easy to refer to record throughout the year.

Backdoor shoes – if your dad is constantly in and out of the garden, he might well like a pair of lightweight Backdoor Shoes to slip on and off. Might keep mum happy too with less mud to clear up. We love ‘em, ours has taken 4 years of hard wear and need replacing now. Which design to choose will be a challenge!

11182_1Does this portable USB iShaver razor appeal? Designed to easily slip in a pocket or washbag significant features include:

  • Recharge via USBi shave
  • Stylishly sleek compact design
  • Ultra-thin net foil with floating blades
  • Cleaning brush included
  • Easy on/off switch
  • Comes in a high gloss case and ultra-thin net foil with floating blades for a close, comfortable shave

Finally, some alcohol? Yes, it is a bit of a get out clause, here are some suggestions 

You could sign him up for Naked Wines. The company was started up by two former employees of Virgin Wines, with the added ethos of supporting the wine producers, all small scale but dedicated growers. You might like to make your dad a wine angel! Sounds fun? Here’s a link.

Taylor’s 10 year old Tawny Port is rather tasty, we keep some for special occasions and in the winter when we feel the need for something to keep us warm. http://taylor.pt/en/port-wine-ratings-awards/press-comments/

Screen Shot 2014-06-09 at 17.07.34Lastly, for the dad with a dog. The Forestry Commission England has created a one-stop-shop for owners and their dogs looking to take a break in and around forests and woodlands. The Ruff Guide to the Forest showcases 34 Forestry Commission locations across England, highlighting each site’s trails and facilities suitable for dogs, along with dog-friendly places to stay nearby.

Phew, will have to take a break now and go for a spot of weeding! The sun’s out and I’ll don my Backdoor Shoes, pick up the handy trowel with its graduated scale for planting seedlings, put on my Ethel gloves and make sure the waterproof jacket is by the backdoor in case of an unexpected show.

Good luck!

Amily Grossman, gardening expert and occasional contributor to In Balance Magazine

22
Mar

Gloves for Outdoor Activities

climatec-longWe found MacWet Climatic sports gloves to be suitable for many activities where a good grip is essential: including gardening, cycling, golfing, Nordic walking, even walking the dog!

They are well grippy, non-slip without being sticky, in wet or dry conditions and keep the cold at bay, though perhaps not as well as a fully lined glove. Again they are breathable, wicking moisture away, so you don’t get sweaty hands. A Velcro wrist strap provides a weatherproof closure.

I used them for the first time, sawing wood, an activity when you need a good firm grip. The day was fairly cold, but I didn’t feel it at all – though the exercise probably helped. I was using both a hand saw, then a circular saw. With a circular saw, it is crucial to have a good grip on both saw and wood, slips could be disastrous. But the results were fine with no problems. The wood was not thorny, so any anti-jab protection was not tested, but they did seem jab-proof. The only downside could be that they don’t stretch, hence sizing has to be accurate, easily solved by the sizing template given on the MacWet website.

The gloves did get dirty, with the fine sawdust, but they are washable – the Velcro wrist strap provided weatherproof closure and stopped debris getting in.

On a country walk on a very cold day they were ideal. Light, warm and comfortable when used with Nordic walking sticks. They are very popular with the shooting fraternity and golfers* too.

Highly recommended.

Prices vary from £24.99 to £29.99 (Amazon) Note the Amazon comments were generally supportive, but you do get the picky ones occasionally.

Christopher Johns, occasional contributor on topics related to sports activities

View of Coet Per from the lake

View of Coet Per from the lake

* If you are keen on practising your game while on holiday do have a look at Coet Per in Brittany. This 5 bedroom holiday chateau/country house, hidden away in beautiful countryside has its own four hole golf course.

Plan of the four hole course

Plan of the four hole course

1
Feb

Thompson & Morgan Daily Giveaway – February 2014

tne323-banner 1st February 2014

We have always liked Thompson & Morgan plants and seeds and we thought you might like to enter a competition to win a great gardening prize, once a day, every day in February.

Statistically you are in with a good chance of winning, so do go to the T&M website and enter NOW!

Good luck!

Val Reynolds, Editor

5
Dec

Twelve Thoughtful Gifts for Christmas

These gifts are good to give any time – they are our absolute favourites – they might just appeal. We make no apology for the gardening flavour … we dedicated gardeners just have to pass on details of products that work for us.

Plant theatre

Plant theatre

Plant Theatre  The Dobies catalogue is full of goodies for the gardener, and we really like the Plant Theatre they sell. We have put our new collection of streptocarpus cuttings in our Plant Theatre, although  traditionally used to show off auriculas.

Our plant theatre is on the floor of the conservatory at the moment but  will be erected on the wall as soon as possible to keep the plants away from draughts. Essentially woodland plants streptocarpus don’t like a lot of direct sunlight preferring to be kept lightly moist, bordering on dry. If you are interested have a look on the internet, there is a vast choice. You can buy cuttings on eBay as well. Some are absolutely beautiful and unusual.

Screen Shot 2013-12-03 at 16.51.53Hi Lo 

If you know someone with hanging baskets who gets weary with lifting heavy watering cans, getting water up their arms,  puddles of water on the ground, our feeling is they would welcome a HiLo device. It allows you to lower the basket to a workable level for pruning, deadheading and watering. Then pulled up – carefully – to the height you want it. An essential item for any dedicated hanging basket fan. At the moment Dobies have a 3 for the price of 2 offer you might like to take up.

Screen Shot 2013-12-03 at 18.18.17Know someone who is a keen ‘Grow your Own’ gardener? The Allotment Almanac provides a month by month entry to remind you, and look forward to, what could be done in your vegetable plot, big or small. A fascinating and infomative read written by Terry Walton,  gardening guru of BBC Radio 2’s Jeremy Vine Show. A pleasant read and good guide for both experienced and novice gardeners alike.

G&P 2014 coverKnow someone who is intrigued by the effect of the moon on plants and their development? Gardening and Planting by the Moon 2014: Higher Yields in Vegetables and Flowers is out now and a fascinating read written by Nick Kollerstrom. Here we learn  the rhythms of the moon affect both crops and livestock. The gardeners at RHS Wisley have proved the benefits of the lunar effect under controlled research conditions. Increased yields of 20% – 30% are routinely touted. You won’t have to get up in the middle of the night to sow your carrots! Country folk know that planning their work in harmony with the rhythms of the moon produces better crops. It’s that easy. They get higher yields and better flavour in vegetables. Flowers produce stronger displays and heightened colour. This guide computes everything you need to know about the daily influence of the moon and the planets in the garden. With its full 15-month daily calendar, it creates an essential timetable for the year ahMead and a fine means of self-discipline for keen gardeners. More information on http://www.plantingbythemoon.co.uk

Screen Shot 2013-12-03 at 15.22.53We absolutely love the aromas from AromaWorks. Can’t say enough good things about them, from the candles to  reed diffusers,  body oil to bath oil,  room mists and essential oils.

We find it difficult to say which is our favourite but must note the mix of May Change and Sandalwood of the Nurture Room Mist is fabulous, and the aroma mix of Serenity is out of this world. The scent lasts for ages, it is highly concentrated, 100% pure but not overpowering. Even when we put have them away for a week or so we can still detect a feint scent for days.

These scents are well worth the money and the only room scent products we give as gifts, they are that good. See more details on AromaWorks.

Know a fan of Tolkein books? Then a series of epic stories that inspired Tolkein to write the Lord of the Rings has been published by Penguin.

Screen Shot 2013-12-05 at 12.03.53

The five titles of the Legends from The Ancient North are:

  • Beowulf
  • The Elder Eddo
  • The Saga of the Volsungs
  • Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
  • The Wanderer: Elegies, Epics, Riddles

Each title is priced at £6.99. eBooks are £4.

Screen Shot 2013-12-03 at 16.46.22A pair of secateurs is very useful when pottering around the garden . However  we have found a very useful pair of multi purpose scissors designed by Fiskars with so many features that makes it an essential item to carry around as well with you as well,  indoors and out. They are brightly coloured so less chance of losing them. I always tie a long red ribbon on secateurs which works for me.

Here’s a list of what the Cuts+More it is designed to cope with:

  • High-quality blades for trimming, pruning, opening packages
  • Power notch to cut light rope
  • Wire cutter for cutting light wire without damaging the blades
  • Twine cutter to cut twine cleanly and quickly
  • Pointed awl tip for piercing small holes in cardboard, plastic, matting
  • Titanium-coated, take-apart knife for cutting sheets of polythene, cardboard and sheeting
  • Cover includes an integrated ceramic sharpener and tape cutter
  • Bottle opener for a well-earned drink in the shed at the end of the day!

We love ours! Why not treat yourself and/or give a pair to a dedicated garden potterer?  Available from B&Q and independent home and garden stores.

Screen Shot 2013-12-03 at 18.27.23Apple peeler/corer/slicer – its appearance does give the impression it is an instrument of torture! In fact it makes a job that can turn into torture into a breeze. And the results are so worthwhile and easy to produce I’m surprised it has taken us so long to find it!

When I lived in France Apple Flan was a regular and delicious treat. However that was in the days when we all had time to sit round a table to peel, core and slice apple ready for the tart to go in the oven and didn’t mind having brown stained fingers.

With this apple peeler everything is done in a trice.

Here are my Eleven Easy steps:

  • Wash cooking apples – it’s amazing how much dirt is removed in this one step.
  • Wipe dry, roughly.
  • Push onto the prongs
  • Turn handle
  • Watch the peel just fall down – straight into the compost bin!
  • Remove the peeled and cored apple
  • Cut in half
  • Lay straight onto pre-cooked pastry in the flan dish (some people put in a non stick cake tin liner to make sure the baking beans are all removed.
  • At this point some people put a layer of apple puree before adding the apple slices – this makes it all rather gorgeous!
  • Brush the apple slices with lemon juice – you could put them under the gril to brown them a little before brushing on a thin apricot jam syrup
  • Serve with beaten Light Philadelphia, or 0% fat greek yogurt. Yum!

Phew! That’s so easy! And quick! And looks so impressive!

Widely available on the web, where we bought ours.

We found several recipes on one website http://www.joyofbaking.com/FrenchAppleTart.html that you could adapt to suit.

One aspect of a kitchen sink is the space the draining board takes up, permanently, and the fact is we find it is not an easy space to use for anything else.

Screen Shot 2013-12-03 at 18.08.21When we had a kitchen installed recently we asked for just a sink bowl and bought a Joseph Joseph flip side draining board – available in grey or white. This can be put away once finished with, leaving a clean, flat surface to use for other work which looks so much nicer. Ideal for two, but not very practical for a family.

Know someone who is worried about draughts and high energy costs? This is just one item we have found that really made a difference to the temperature in our hallway. It’s the EcoFlap. Fitted on the inside of the letter box it stops the draughts getting to your radiator thermostat.

Screen Shot 2013-12-03 at 18.45.26We’ve just moved house and our new letterbox did leak air, seeped rain, rattled, snapped, and crumpled our mail! We quickly installed another Ecoflap – inexpensive, easy to install and effective. Can’t praise this enough!

Know someone who always has cold feet? We have tried three different products. The Carnation Silversocks made with pure silver fibre are said to relieve the pain of diabetes, chilblains, epidermolysis bullosa and circulation disorders, we like the idea of the anti bacteria element. They were rather too tight round the ankles for us, however would be fine for those with thinner legs.

Screen Shot 2013-12-03 at 18.56.47Workforce socks fit the bill for when we are in and out of the cold, it doesn’t matter whether we are using boots or shoes in cold weather, they are comfortable and warm with a really comfy sole – a hit with husband!

Screen Shot 2013-12-05 at 16.52.32Then we came across goats’ woollen socks – they are wonderful! By far the most popular in our house. The socks come in long, medium and short. Plus topless, ideal for anyone who doesn’t like a mark on their leg or who might have circulation problems. Available from Wiggly Wigglers whose reviews are excellent, so it’s not just us who love ’em! Here is one: “These socks are quite simply the warmest socks that I have ever worn. They wash and dry well, and do not shrink. They also make great bedsocks!!! The weather outside is doing its worst (this is eastern Scotland after all!)  but my feet are warm and toasty!” Grown by Goats … for Toasty Toes … See more reviews and full details here.

5091David Austin roses  Whoever you give a rose to will be reminded of you for years to come. We love David Austin roses and have given so many as gifts over the years and never fail to find an excuse to give another! Our favourites are the ramblers and this year we have planted Creme de la Creme, a beautifully scented climber on the pergola. We have planted a white wisteria to complement it and between these two plants we are anticipating pleasant rests in the sun.

Compiled by Val Reynolds, Christopher Johns, Liz Lovell, Rose Monro

We’ll write something about the most successful presents we have given and received this Christmas. You might like to contribute!

8
Sep

In Our Shopping Basket This Week

lady marmalade roseSometimes a plant comes on the market with a unique universal appeal, one many of us would love in our gardens. 

Lady Marmalade, a rose, falls into this category. Soft, sweet scent, beautiful colour, classic flower shape, with modern disease resistance and repeat flowering throughout the summer. What’s not to like! To cap it all it has just received the RHS award of Rose of the Year 2014.

We’re pretty sure it’s going to be a real winner and if you love the look of it as much as we do we really think you should order it straight away!

Here’s a link to the Thompson and Morgan web page giving full details

Just so you know, we do not receive any kind of remuneration for any of the products we recommend in our magazine. Every product reference is made purely based on what appeals to us and in almost all cases, from our own experience.

We are very attracted to this rose and thought our gardening readers would like to know about it as soon as possible and before supplies sell out!

lady-marmaladeWe notice The Telegraph is selling the same plant in a 4 litre pot for £17.99 whereas Thompson & Morgan are offering a bare root plant for £14.99. Full details for planting and aftercare are on their web page.

This beautiful floribunda rose would be an ideal plant as a gift … Especially to a rose lover – what a lovely surprise!

Elizabeth Gunn, Gardening journalist

17
Aug

Create a Mouthwatering Colour Combination in your garden

Alliums were all the rage a few years ago and they still haven’t lost their attraction. From time to time I’ve seen them dotted around gardens, in masses in borders, even marching along straight borders at Wimpole Hall – they looked exceptionally good.

I was reminded of them having just seen an offer on the Thompson & Morgan website – 100 allium bulbs for £5. The 100 bulbs is made up of different quantities of four different varieties: Screen Shot 2013-08-17 at 20.19.52 16 bulbs of Allium aflatuenese, 24 bulbs of Allium sphaerocephalon, 50 bulbs of Allium caeruleum and 10 bulbs of Allium Purple Sensation. All flower in early summer. See details on: http://www.thompson-morgan.com/taf147

We are planning on planting them in front of a lovely Cumbrian wall, interspersed with either creeping jenny and/or Alchemilla mollis.  

On the BBC plant finder page It suggests campanula portenschlagiana and geranium Philippe Vapelle would work well with them.  They comment that for all gardens, large or small, the campanula is an indispensable alpine. Hardy, vigorous and persistent, it’s easily grown on the rockery, on walls, in front of borders or even in pots, forming generous, dense mats of small ivy-like leaves which become hidden beneath the mass of small purple bells in summer.

So that’s sorted. I might even buy a David Austin rambling pink rose to give a beautiful contrast which has a strong scent too – Mary Rose fits the bill. I’d like to add in some lavender to give another purple burst in late summer, when the roses are still flowering.

Purple, pink and yellow … A great combination. Can’t wait for summer!

The Allium offer ends midnight on 20 August 2013 …

Yours in health

Val Reynolds, Editor

10
Aug

News Flash!!! Bargain Plug Plants for 24p

A quick note to all those who follow my Front Garden on the web http://ourfrontgarden.com/2012/02/15/2012-month-by-month/

Wedding Bells - Penstemons

Wedding Bells – Penstemons

We thought those readers who enjoy gardening, and there are many of you we know! would want to hear about the latest Thompson & Morgan bargain plug plant offer:

24 plug plants of the self same penstemons – Wedding Bells Mixed – that attracted so much attention from passersby at our front garden in Welwyn Garden City

T&M are adding 24 plugs for 24p that’s only 1p a plug! to any orders made between 9-15 August 2013

This really is value for money.

The blooms are striking, bloomed for ages, are perennial and came up well for more than 5 years and showed every sign of long term growth. They look really good in a border, or a pot.

I bet T&M run out of stock fairly quickly so if you want some, and we certainly do!, it would probably be best to order some asap.

OFFER ORDER CODE: TAF146ZURL: www.thompson-morgan.com/taf146zTerms: Limited to one pack per order.This offer cannot be used in conjunction with any other offer or with promotional vouchers.

Keep in touch!

Val Reynolds, Editor

18
Dec

Protect Skin from Winter Cold with Creams

verveine

Verveine (Lippia citriodora)

One of my most enduring memories of a year long stay in France, as an au pair, was a hot drink made from verveine, a plant we refer to as lemon verbena. It was wonderfully comforting, had a familiar lemony aroma and sugar really enhanced its flavour. So when I heard about a hand cream with that wonderful scent I just had to try it out.

Winter time is one when my cuticles have a tendency to crack, resulting in that really long period of pain. The lemon verbena hand cream has a 20% shea butter base. It’s creamy texture is easily absorbed, leaving hands soft and supple and I find especially effective when rubbed round the fingernail.

IMG_6709On my desk at the moment are the final contestants in my Strictly Skincare  hand cream choice. I started with about 20 different products. The five are, in no particular order of preference – they are all used regularly:

Energizing Verbena Hand Cream – Panier des Sens, en Provence that comes with very pretty packaging

Morrisons Unscented Hand Cream, Concentrated – a glycerine based cream it is useful when you don’t want to wear a second scent that might conflict. It is very creamy, softening  dry skin and useful to add before you start to work in the garden.

Q10 by Pharma Nord is another hand cream that conditions and protects at the same time. It contains ginkgo Biloba, Pycnogenol and Vitamin E. All ingredients considered highly beneficial by skincare aficionados.

Lotil Original is specifically designed for cold weather and I always check there is a small tube in my handbag at this time of year.

On a recent visit to The Dales I took my tube of English Weather Cream. I always use this in cold weather because my face dries out in cold windy weather and this cream works absolutely fantastically. However, it has been recently discontinued …  Made by Lotil it is no longer available – such a shame. I’m looking for a replacement product and will let you know if I find one.

Wearing silk lined gloves helps to keep my hands warm and in conjunction with any one of these handcreams I’m able to keep them in good condition, safe from damaging cold weather.

All are available online but of course in store is always a good place to try them out!

Kate Campbell, Health Editor

Kate has worked with editor Val Reynolds since 1996 and they are constantly looking for top quality, effective skincare products. Do you have a favourite? Do let us know and we will pass on your recommendations.

17
Nov

Top Ten Christmas Gifts for 2012 – Personal Favourites

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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