Christmas has arrived in Bath!

First, we had the Bath Christmas Lights switched on by Mary Berry.

Bath Christmas Lights Switch On

Then there was the Bath Lantern Parade, filled with a huge array of paper lanterns which danced its way down Pulteney Street to the beat of Samba Sulis.

Bath Lantern Parade 2013 1

Watching Bath Lantern Parade 2013

The Bath Christmas Market has been in full flow for the past couple of weeks. It’s been bigger and better than ever this year!

Bath Christmas Market 2013 2

The Lantern Parade and official opening of the Christmas Market were even more special for me, as my mum and her best friend came to visit for the night

Bath Christmas Market 2013 1

My favourite time to walk round the Christmas Market has been during the evenings, when the crowds have started to subside. It looks so pretty lit up, with beautiful Bath Abbey as its backdrop.

Bath Christmas Market 2013 3

And last weekend, Christmas came to our house too!  M and Lil’ L headed to Colerne to buy a tree. When they returned home, they decorated the tree and the living room as a surprise for me!

Christmas Tree 2013

After all this activity, the boys definitely deserved a cup of hot chocolate, which I made with the Elements for Life Spiced Raw Hot Chocolate, and topped with some vegetarian marshmallows from The Vegan Kind‘s latest subscription box.

Vegan Hot Chocolate with Marshmallows

And now it’s time for me to treat three of my lovely readers with an early Christmas pressie   The Raw Chocolate Making Kit giveaway ended at midnight last night and the three winners, chosen at random by Rafflecopter, are…

93 Tamzin

339 Poppy

522 Jane

Congratulations to you all!  I’ll be in touch to arrange delivery x

And I must say a big ‘thank you’ to Elements for Life for enabling me to host such a fabulous giveaway!

Elements for Life has a fantastic range of chocolate-making goodies and super foods available from their online store. They’ve kindly given me a discount code which entitles my readers to 10% off any products on their website. Just enter BOTGS10 at the checkout. This code has no expiry date!

Are you feeling ‘Christmassy’ yet? Now we have a tree, I’m definitely starting to feel more festive 😉

Have you finished your Christmas shopping yet? I only started mine yesterday!!!

Three ways to stay stress-free this Christmas

Today, I am delighted to share with you a guest post from a special friend of mine, Jemima. She’s a yoga teacher and neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) practitioner, who specialises in stress reduction. Like me, Jemima is also passionate about nutrition and meditation, recognising the positive effects they undoubtedly have on our physical and mental well-being.

In this post, Jemima is going to share some tips on how we can maintain a sense of calm in the busy weeks leading up to Christmas. You’ll also get to meet Jemima as she’s kindly made a short video tutorial for us on how to do a simple breathing meditation. It may be simple, but it’s extremely effective. If you haven’t tried meditating before, I hope you’re encouraged to give it a try!

With no further ado, let me pass you over to Jemima…

Boxing Day Shoppers

 

So, here we are…Christmas lights have been officially switched on in town, adverts are bombarding us at every opportunity and the great race to consume as much as possible before the 25th December has begun.  Many people would rather not be drawn into these manic and soul-less preparations but how do we resist?  How do we avoid the prickling panic sensation of not having bought enough for our families?  How do we banish the temptation to over-eat, over-drink and over-spend when that is the norm at this time of year for so many?

 

Whenever I face a tough question or emotion, I have found it useful to ask – what do you want instead?

 

What do you want instead?

It’s really easy to list all the things that we DON’T want and to become caught in a negative cycle of constantly trying to push things out of our way, creating more problems for ourselves as our brains don’t have the capacity to process a negative.  (Try this – don’t think of a red box, you can’t help it can you?)  So instead of thinking – “I don’t want to overspend this Christmas” or “I don’t want to put on weight this Christmas” – try stating what you DO want.

 

As if by magic your brain will then look for all the ways you can make those things possible, because the brain wants to find evidence to support what it believes to be true… So you could have “I’d like to give heartfelt gifts this year and stay within my planned budget” or “I’d like to eat food that nourishes and energizes me”.  You’ll be amazed at how many solutions seem to appear out of thin air.

 

Stay in the moment

There is a saying that goes “Anxiety is born of living in the future and depression is born of living in the past”.  While I think this is oversimplifying to some extent, I do believe very much in the benefits of tuning into the present moment.  An easy way to do this is to focus on the breath.  Take a quick look at the video below and I’ll show you exactly how to start right now…

 

 

Gratitude

This is one of my favourite ways to feel good when I am in need of a boost.  Take a pen and pad and find a comfy spot.  Make a list of everything in your life that you are grateful for.  No thing is to big or too small, get it all down.  From your house, food in the fridge to the smile your daughter gave you this morning, from indoor plumbing to the love you share with a special person.  Run with it, keep writing even if you get stuck.  This exercise can be very profound and may cause leakage from the eyeballs which is absolutely 100% OK.  After 5 minutes stop and read your list back to yourself.  Relish the feelings that come up, all the sensations, let the gratitude fill you up until it starts to overflow.  Tomorrow, make another list.

 

These 3 specific tips have helped me stay grounded and calm and you may find that they help you to tune into your true nature again and fill up on all the good stuff whenever you want (– not only at Christmas!) the stuff that we can never over-consume and that is truly nourishing, namely love, gratitude and peacefulness.

 

Wishing you all an amazing Christmas and with special thanks to Sharon for asking me to guest blog here.

Love

Jemima x

Jemima jpg

And thank you Jemima!

If you’d like to connect with Jemima, you’ll find her here: Sunshine Yoga Blog, Facebook, Twitter, and You Tube.

 

Do you find that your stress levels rise over the festive period? I know it’s the most testing time of the year for me. There always seems so much to do and the days fly past quicker than ever!

Do you have your own methods for avoiding stress at Christmas time? If so, please do share below.

Also, I’d love to hear whether you’ve tried meditation.

 

Christmas Food and Drink Gifts

At Christmas time, I love to create food and drink packages for friends, family and neighbours, filled with quality, hand-picked treats.

Today, I’ve been looking for fine teas, coffees and savoury foods that would make great additions to hampers, as well as some stand alone gifts.

Savoury Gifts
On the savoury front, it’s The Black Dog Delicatessen that’s caught my eye this year. It’s a premium product range, yet the pricing is very reasonable. I love the brand design and packaging, which were inspired by Bailey and Blue, two extremely cute rescue black Labradors! What’s more, proceeds from every product sold are donated to The Labrador Rescue Trust. Here are my top picks from their range:

1 Award Winning Sicilian and Spanish Extra Virgin Olive oils, perfect to use in dressings, marinades and as a dipping oil for Italian breads. £9.99 (500 ml)

2 Premium quality Penne Rigate, Linguina, Vermicelloni,and Orzo pastas made in Italy using traditional ingredients and techniques. £2.20 (500g)

3 My family and friends love marinaded olives! There are five in the range, and I especially love the sound of the Pitted Kalamata Olives with Thyme, Basil, Parsley and Chives £3.39 (250g)

Black Dog Deli Gift Ideas

4 This gorgeous hamper filled with goodies from the Black Dog Delicatessen would make a great gift to send to loved ones. It costs £45 (incl. delivery), with at least £5 from each sale donated to the Labrador Rescue Trust.

5 Four risotto mixes – Asparagus, Lemon, Porcini Mushroom and Tomato – prepared with the finest Carnaroli rice £2.49 (300g)

6 Balsamic Vinegar from Modena in Italy, aged in wooden barrels for ten years according to local traditions to give it a sweet, mellow taste. £9.99 (250ml)

7 And here’s one of the rescue black Labs that provided the inspiration for the company’s brand. Isn’t he gorgeous? This one is clearly priceless 😉

Gifts for Tea Lovers
Walter Whittard opened his first shop in Fleet Street, London in 1886, where he sold tea, coffee and cocoa, and created special blends for his customers. Today, Whittard of Chelsea are still the blending experts, and have an amazing array of quality teas and coffees on offer.

Here are my top picks for tea lovers this Christmas…

Whittard Tea Gift Ideas

1 This stylish Kilner tin is filled with Whittard’s signature English Breakfast Tea blend – Assam for strength, Ceylon for depth and Kenyan for its rich colour. £10.00 (net weight 150g)

2 This Teas of the World set would make a beautiful gift for any tea lover. It includes 50g each of English Breakfast, Earl Grey, Assam, Spice Imperial, Lapsang Souchong, Jasmine, Russian Caravan, Sencha and Ceylon Teas. £20.00

3 This Hexagonal Tea Gift Set contains eight of Whittard’s most popular black and green tea blends – English Breakfast, Earl Grey, Whittard Original, Afternoon Tea, Imperial Spice, Vanilla, Gunpowder and Jasmine. The set includes 60 tea bags, individually wrapped. £15 (net weight 360g)

4 Whittard has created a range of festive tea blends, including The Spice Imperial Tea, infused with the citrus and cloves flavour of mulled wine, and the Festive Chai, which captures the fruit and spice flavours of festive baking. £4.75 for 50 tea bags.

Gifts for Coffee lovers
1 These brushed stainless steel cafetieres are not only stylish, but they’re far more robust than glass cafetieres, making them perfect for both home and office use. They’re not always easy to find on the high street, but Amazon has a great selection. The one shown below is the Andrew James Double Walled Cafetiere, currently on offer at £14.99 (reduced from £32.99).

Coffee Gift Ideas

 

2 These Kilner tins have raised gold lettering and are beautiful to handle. This one’s filled with Whittard’s After Dinner Coffee, a delicious blend of South American Arabica beans. £10.00 (net weight 175g)

3 Whittard has created a range of scrumptious-sounding festive coffees, including Christmas Pudding, Warming Brandy and Luxurious Crème Brulee. These would make great additions to festive hampers or as stocking fillers. They would also be perfect for serving as an after-dinner treat. £4.75 (120g)

4 These beautiful tins would make a wonderful gift for coffee lovers. There’s a range of coffees to choose from. The one shown here is the strong roast “rich and chocolatey” Santos and Java coffee. £5 (net weight 100g)  

5 This Coffees of the World set is absolutely beautiful! It includes Whittard’s nine most popular ground coffees – Monsoon Malabar, Santos and Java, Sumatra, Guatemalan Elephant, Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, Pico Duarte, Colombian, Costa Rican and Mocha Djimmah. £20 (each box contains 66g)

Stylish Mugs for Coffee and Tea Lovers!
Have you heard of Whatever It Takes? It’s a charity artwork campaign where celebrities donate their original artwork, which is then sold on a range of products with the proceeds donated to projects supporting key global development causes, such as poverty alleviation, environmental conservation, and the protection of children. So far, the royalties raised from these celebrity-designed products has raised over $6 million!

The Whatever It Takes mugs are high quality, stylish and come in a beautiful presentation box or gift tin. As an added bonus, each purchase is helping to support worthwhile causes

These mugs are selling out quick, so I recommend getting your hands on one asap. Here are some of my favourites for 2013…

Whatever It Takes Mugs

 1 Large mug in gift box, with artwork by Susan Sarandon. Proceeds go to: 21st Century Leaders and Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen and Heifer £19.99

2 Mug in gift tin, with artwork by Ronnie Wood with the message “Look after our animals so our children can see them!!!Proceeds go to: 21st Century Leaders and Tusk £9.99

3 Mug in gift tin, with artwork by Pierce Brosnan with the message “Peace and love (man) always, peace and love what else?Proceeds go to: 21st Century Leaders £9.99

My next mission is to find yummy chocolates and sweet treats for the gift packages. I’m hoping to make them all myself!

Have you started your Christmas shopping yet? Do you ‘hit the shops’ or prefer to shop online? I much prefer to shop from the comfort of my arm chair and with a warm cuppa in hand 😉

Disclaimer: This post contains Amazon and Whittard affiliate links. If you click on a link and purchase something, I will receive a small commission which will go towards the development of Bit of the Good Stuff. Many thanks in advance!

 

 

Dairy-Free / Vegan Chocolate Advent Calendars and Stocking Fillers

I can’t believe it’s only a week until the start of December! When this realisation dawned upon me yesterday, I thought I’d better start looking for advent calendars. Since my family loves chocolate so much, I’ve sought out some great options that suit both the milk and dark chocolate lovers. Along the way, I also came across some cute chocolatey stocking fillers 😉

All the festive chocolates presented in this post happen to be dairy free and vegan, so they can be enjoyed by anyone, including those that are intolerant to dairy.

And I mean anyone! Who was the party pooper that decided that advent calendars and stockings were only for children? If there’s chocolate involved, I’m definitely joining in 😉

For Milk Chocolate Lovers ♥

Moo Free Organic Fairtrade Dairy Free Advent Calendar
Moo Free has replaced cows milk with rice milk to create a delicious dairy free and vegan confectionery that actually taste like milk chocolate! The award-winning Moo Free chocolate calendar is available in the UK from Waitrose and other high street and online retailers. It’s also available in Europe and the US.

Priced £4.75 – £4.99 (120g)

Moo Free Advent Calendar 250

Moo Free Organic Dairy Free Chocolate Santa
These milky chocolate santas would make a great stocking filler for vegans, or anyone with a dairy allergy or lactose intolerance.

Price: 99p (32g)

Moo Free Dairy Free Santa Chocolate

Plamil Organic Fairtrade Milky Dairy Free Advent Calendar
Here’s another scrumptious chocolate advent calendar that has all the taste of dairy milk but with no dairy!  It’s made in their own factory which never uses dairy, gluten or nuts.

Price: £4.95 (135g)

Plamil advent calendar 500

Plamil Dairy Free Chocolate Snowmen
Another scrummy stocking filler for kids of all ages!

Price: £4.95 (125g)

Plamil Dairy Free Chocolate Snowmen

Plamil chocolates are available to purchase from many UK health food shops or online, directly from Plamil or from other online stores. They’re also available to purchase in Europe.

For Dark Chocolate Lovers ♥

Hotel Chocolat Ultimate Dark Chocolate Advent Calendar
I checked this out yesterday in our local Hotel Chocolat, and it’s absolutely exquisite! It contains 24 fabulous Christmas sculptures cast in 70% dark chocolate.

Price £12.50 (125g)

Hotel Chocolat Dark Chocolate Advent Calendar

Hotel Chocolat Dark Tiddly Penguins
These penguins are so cute! They’re cast in 70% rick dark chocolate and would make a super addition to stockings or as an after dinner chocolate (for big and small kids alike 😉 )

Price: £5.50 (85g)

Hotel Chocolat Dark Tiddly Penguins

Hotel Chocolat Ho Ho Ho Dark Chocolate Pillow Pack
I think any dark chocolate lover would be happy to find these cute santas in their stocking!

Price: £2.50 (30g)

Hotel Chocolat Mini Dark Chocolate Santa

Hotel Chocolat confectionery is available to purchase online from their UK and US sites. They also have a number of high street stores. I found that the availability of dark chocolate festive treats was limited in the Hotel Chocolat in Bath, but I’m pleased to find that their website provides a ‘click and collect’ service, with free collection.

Montezuma’s Organic and Dark Chocolate Advent Calendar
This top quality calendar is filled with Montezuma’s wonderful house-blended organic dark chocolate. Perfect for all dark chocolate lovers, including vegans and those on dairy-free diets.

Price: £9.99 (240g)

Montezumas Vegan Dark Chocolate Advent Calendar

Montezuma’s Dark Chunky Snowmen
This set of eight cute little snowmen, made of organic 73% dark chocolate, would make the perfect stocking filler for dark chocolate lovers

Price: £4.99 (110g)

Montezumas Dark Chocolate Snowmen

Montezuma’s chocolates can be purchased directly from their website. It’s also available in high street health food shops and online stores.

Are you planning on having an advent calendar this year? I’ll definitely join in the fun (if one of Santa’s little helpers happens to treat me 😉 )

Festive Holiday Highlights 2012

Lil’ L returned to school today which means that the festive holidays are officially over in my house. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly these two weeks pass!

Before I fully immerse myself in the new year, I’d just like to share a few pics to show what we’ve been up to these past couple of weeks.

Christmas Tree 2012 - 500

We were really fortunate that M was able to take the full 2 weeks off work, so we had lots of quality family time together (which I absolutely treasured!)  I was also extremely grateful that we managed to avoid the flu and stomach bugs that so many people sadly suffered from this Christmas. I really felt for them. I wish  I could have waved a magic wand and made them all better. Oh to have such powers :/

Christmas Tree 2 2012 - 500

Our Christmas was very chilled out, which was wonderful after all the busyness of the preceding weeks.

Obviously there was lots of excitement on Christmas morning when Lil’ L discovered that Santa had delivered a sack of presents for him (Lego was a popular gift again this year 😉 )

Christmas 2012_7 500

Christmas 2012_1 500

Christmas 2012_4 500

As well as having lots of fun playing with new toys, we also enjoyed playing my Dad’s old board games, watching movies on the TV and trips to the cinema. Have you seen Life of Pi yet? It’s such a beautiful film!

Life of Pi - 500

There’s been a fair amount of eating going on over the holidays too 😉 I did eat a lot more calories than usual (who doesn’t at this time of year?) and most of the extra calories came from the vast quantity of Christmas pudding, mince pies and Christmas cake that I consumed. Thank goodness I only eat them for a couple of weeks of the year!

Christmas Cake 2012 - 500
I finally got round to decorating the Christmas Cake on Boxing Day!

To help burn off the extra calories, on Christmas Day and Boxing Day I went for morning jogs along the canal, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Since the weather was so mild (and fairly dry later in the day) the three of us also enjoyed taking evening strolls to Bath city centre.

Evening Stroll in Pultney Street Bath Jan 2013 - 500

These past few years, it’s become a tradition for us to welcome in the New Year with a visit to the coast and a stroll along the beach.

This year, we took a trip to Weymouth on the South Coast. Weymouth 1 - 500

This is where the sailing took place for the 2012 Olympic Games.

Weymouth - Lil' L & Wenlock 500

All that space on the beach…

Weymouth Beach 1 - 500

… and look where Lil’ L has to walk! As per usual, he seems determined to get his feet wet!

Weymouth Beach 3 - 500

We also took a trip to Chesil Beach. This really was invigorating!

Chesil Beach 1 - 500

I can’t imagine how many pebbles there are on this beach. There must be millions!

And where’s Lil’ L? Yep, you guessed right. Down at the water’s edge chancing his luck.

Chesil Beach 2 - 500

This time round he only just managed to escape getting soaked (which is an improvement on last year 😉 )

Chesil Beach 3 - 500

So that’s another year over! Time to move on!

I wish you all a wonderful 2013. I hope the year brings you everything you desire xx

p.s. What was the highlight of your festive holidays?
Have you set any New Year’s solutions? 
I haven’t set any yet… except for my wish to be a better human being… this has been my New Year’s resolution for as long as I can remember 🙂  However, I’m thinking that maybe it would be a good idea for me to set some short term goals and milestones for 2013. This might help me to focus a little more and stop wasting time 😉

It’s Light-Fantastic in Wiltshire!

Check out this Christmas light display on a 4-bed house in Longford Road, Melksham, Wiltshire.

Christmas Lights in Melksham 2012_1_500

Isn’t it incredible?

Now I’m from Essex, and the Essex folk do know a thing or two about putting on a Christmas light display 😉  However, without a shadow of a doubt, this is the most dazzling display of lights that I’ve seen in my life!

Look at the front driveway!

Christmas Lights in Melksham 2012_2_500

And while you’re standing at the gates, gawping at the lights, you suddenly realise that you’re covered in snow. Low and behold, you look up to discover that there’s a snow machine attached to the top of the garden gate.   It’s madness!

This incredible display, which has around 180,000 bulbs (!) is the handy work of 28 year old Alex Goodhind. He worked for six weeks to get the display up and running and, for the most of that time, I imagine he was working in the rain. (It’s been raining here in the South West for what seems like months now!)

As well as brightening up the town and bringing a smile to our faces, Alex is hoping that the display will raise lots of money for Dorothy House Hospice. You can read more about Alex’s story here.

The display is on until the end of December, so if you’re in the vicinity of Melksham, go check it out!

Did you make your house light-fantastic this Christmas?
We put a string of fairy lights on the steps leading up to the front door. Maybe we’ll go for a glowing reindeer or two on the front lawn next year 😉