Jessica, the girl who saved Christmas: a new (and true) Christmas story

Jessica, the girl who saved Christmas: A new Christmas story || raeritchie.com

This is a true story about the time my niece, Jessica, saved Christmas.  

Once upon a time, there was a girl called Jessica.

She lived with her dad, mum, brother Joseph and Lola the dog.  Jessica liked dancing and playing the flute, but most of all she loved curry.  Her whole family knew that her favourite breakfast was leftover curry from the night before.

Jessica was a funny girl who made everyone laugh.

She was also very kind and loving – so much so that in 2016 she managed to save Christmas all by herself.

One day in the week before the 25th, Jessica and Joseph went to stay with Auntie Rae while their mum was at work.  They were only going round for an hour but Auntie Rae wanted to think of something fun to do.

Her first idea was to go to Crave, the best coffee and desserts shop for miles around, but it wasn’t open that day.

She racked her brains until she remembered the large box of Christmas decorations sitting in the garage.  Although it was already 19th December, Auntie Rae and Uncle Mark had not put up a single decoration.

They didn’t even have a tree.

This was very unusual.  Auntie Rae had always loved Christmas and often did lots of festive things, from baking to decorating to writing cards.

This year was different.

This year there was no Christmas cake, no Christmas decorations nor had she written Christmas cards.

Auntie Rae was sad that there was no Christmas in her house this year but she couldn’t feel any December magic.  She’d had a difficult year and was poorly with a naughty brain that made her feel sad a lot.

One day recently she’d been so sad that she even missed going to eat turkey and Christmas pudding with her friends.

This showed how bad things had become as Auntie Rae never said no to Christmas pudding.

On the day that Jessica and Joseph were coming round, Auntie Rae decided that although she didn’t want to get the decorations out of the garage, she would retrieve the box because they might like to do something with what was inside.

She went outside and dragged the large plastic container back into the house and left it by the piano.

In the afternoon, Jessica and Joseph arrived with their tablets to play on.  Auntie Rae was pleased that they wouldn’t be bored but also felt a little bit sorry as she had begun to quite like the idea that they might put up some decorations.  So after they’d taken off their coats and had a glass of fizzy pop, Auntie Rae nervously asked if they’d like to have a look inside the box.

Joseph said no thank you, instead he would watch what they were doing.  He did watching very well, sitting in the big winged armchair, curled up with his game, for the next hour.

Jessica, however, did want to see what was inside.

Auntie Rae felt even more sad when she saw all the lovely things that she had collected over the years but hadn’t the energy to get out before now.

She also felt a glimmer of hope, knowing that having Jessica there would make a big difference.

She was right.

Jessica got to work straightaway, finding five matching silver candle holders and putting them on the coffee table.

This first step encouraged Auntie Rae to put the sprig of plastic mistletoe near the front door.  It cheered her up no end, and she smiled as she suddenly had an idea!

Auntie Rae wobbled on a chair as she reached a large glass jar down from the top of the fridge.

She and Jessica sat together on the floor, working like Santa and his top most elf. 

Auntie Rae unravelled the fairy lights and twisted them round the inside of the jar while Jessica sorted out the silver and glass baubles.  Once she had them all, she began to add them into the jar too.  Then Jessica also found a big red ribbon that she wrapped around the outside of the glass.

When they were finished, Auntie Rae carefully placed the almost full jar on the end of piano. With a bit of wiggling and pushing, she managed to get the fairy lights plugged in down the back.

Like the shepherds on the hillside when the throng of angels came down to tell them of Jesus’ birth, they stood filled with both excitement and trepidation as Auntie Rae pushed the button to turn on the three hundred bulbs.

Ta dah!   They worked first time, filling the space with a gentle golden glow.

The two workers stood back, satisfied with what they had created.

They high-fived before eating mini mince pies in celebration.  After that they chilled for five minutes, scrolling through the WAH Nails Instagram feed and discussing which manicure they liked the best.

Rested and revived, they moved on to another project.

This time Jessica hole-punched some Christmassy postcards and Auntie Rae threaded them on to string to make a garland.

After Jessica had gone, Auntie Rae again balanced precariously on a chair so that she could festoon their second creation across the bookshelves.

As she was doing this, Uncle Mark came home from work.

‘What’s been going on?’

he asked, surprised to see there were decorations scattered around their home when Auntie Rae had been uttering ‘Can’t we just skip to January?’ for weeks.

Auntie Rae explained what she and Jessica had been up to.

She gave Uncle Mark a big hug and a kiss under the mistletoe by the door then, with a lump in her throat, whispered ‘I’m actually feeling happy and festive now’

– all thanks to Jessica, the girl who saved Christmas.

 

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Trying to escape the shoulds: the self-imposed pressure of Christmas & New Year

Try to escape the shoulds: the self-imposed pressure of Christmas & New Year || raeritchie.com

Looking back at December last year, I clearly was going through some kind of jedi like phase of great wisdom because there are several blog posts from then that I’ve felt moved to share again this year.

(An alternative reading is that I’ve not been able to dedicate the same time and thought to the blog this year because I’ve been busy writing commissions).

This particular posts spoke to me today as I’m definitely feeling the pressure of the Christmas shoulds.  I should have done so many things for Christmas, from make a cake to put up decorations to craft my own wreath from pom-poms (okay, so the latter is somethin

g that I really *want* to do).

I haven’t done these things and more and while deep down I know this isn’t a problem,

I’m still getting stressed about it.

So here’s a reminder as much for myself as anyone else that use of the word ‘should’ is not a good sign.  If you enjoy the post or find it useful, please do let me know!  You can share it on social media using the buttons below too.

***

When this post is published, I shall be holed up with my partner is a cottage on the beach on the south coast.

Back in August, we decided to have a getaway from Christmas Day until New Year’s Eve.  We found the right accommodation on the same day and booked up immediately.

It’s only as Christmas has drawn closer that I’ve begun to question our decision.  I’ve never regretted our choice – on the contrary, I think it’s a brilliant idea, all the fun of the festive build up but none of the hassle and anti-climax – but it has raised big questions about my sense of obligation.

Should a good daughter not see her parents on at least one of these days?

Should a good auntie miss Christmas with the fast growing children?

Should a good daughter-in-law whisk her partner away from his family at this time of year?

Should I be allowed to do what I want rather than what others expect of me?

The cunning among you may have spotted that all these questions are united by that most dreaded of compulsions, ‘should’.

As any pop-psychology book will tell you, use of the word should (and its close cousin, ought) is a sure sign that you don’t actually want to do something but feel somehow compelled to by pressure, be it societal, familial or even internal.

Christmas is a classic time when should based decisions come to the fore.  

You may want to stop at home with your young children but feel obliged to drag them round all the grandparents instead.

You may want to cut down on your spending but feel it would cause uproar if you stopped buying gifts for all the extended family.

You may want to opt out of Secret Santa at work but fear you’ll look like killjoy if you do.

I could list fifty more examples off the top of my head.

Alas the Christmas shoulds are compounded by the New Year ones.  

It is a rare person who hasn’t at some point in their lives made a resolution at the end of December based on something they feel they should do.

The perennial favourite is weight; many of us know that feeling that we should lose a stone – or three.  

My personal bete noir has been growing my nails.  I’ve felt obliged to quit picking my nails since at least age six.  Every year I’d vow that was it with my disgusting habit.  For the start of 1999, I even vowed that I would ‘Grow my nails like Jenni’s’, Jenni being a friend at college whose hands I greatly admired.

It took me sixteen years, yes sixteen years, to fully acknowledge how ridiculous that particular variant of the resolution was.  My own sheer willpower is not enough to overcome genetics.

My own vision of ‘how things should be’ will not override the reality of how my nails look.

I finally realised this and accepted the truth of my hands when using the bathroom on a research trip to UC Davis in July 2015.

It was a very precise moment, like a thunderbolt.  This is how my hands are, I thought, and how much more mental energy do I want to expend fighting that?  Not a lot, it turns out, and I’ve had a more harmonious relationship with the bits on the ends of my arms since.

If only it were so easy with every other ‘should’ that crosses my mind!

That said, there is one useful lesson I have learnt from overcoming my belief that I should grow my nails like Jenni’s:

Naming the sense of obligation can help to dispel it.  

Externalising it, rather than keeping it in our heads and our hearts like a dirty secret that we are betraying, can seriously undermine its power.

I don’t just believe that this applies to me; I feel that anyone could benefit from talking about their most controlling sense of should with another person or even journalling about it.

Therefore ahead of this New Year’s Eve, I encourage you to make a list of the 12 Great Shoulds in your life – one for each month of the year.

What dozen shoulds or oughts make you feel obliged and trapped?  

As my example of ‘growing my nails like Jenni’s’ suggests, the more ludicrous the better!

Here are the 12 Great Shoulds that continue to taunt me:

  1. I should be 7.5 stone because that’s the weight I was at some point in 1997 (aged 15)
  2. I should always have a tidy basket of spare towels, perfectly folded and stacked
  3. My car footwells should always look like they’ve just been vacuumed
  4. I should never ever miss the birthday of a friend or family member because this makes me an evil and uncaring person (this has been an especially tough one in 2016 as my mental health struggles have made remembering birthdays and getting to send cards difficult)
  5. I should maintain every aspect of my house to an exacting standard of cleanliness and taste.  Every. Single. Thing.
  6. I should be better at yoga than I am.  In fact, I should be considering yogi training.
  7. I should always have a completely full tank of petrol.  Even when I’ve just returned from a long journey, I ought to have filled to the very top again en route.
  8. I should never ever need to use an ATM but ought to have a reasonable quantity of cash upon my at all times.
  9. I should always have six months of savings put to one side
  10. I should not display any pictures of myself or of me and my partner together anywhere in our home
  11. I should pack away all the garden furniture and plant tubs at the onset of autumn and not leave them out over winter (can you tell that’s a current nagging guilt?)
  12. I should not experience or display any sign of human nature but rather maintain an aura of complete perfection at all times and on every occasion.  To reveal even the slightest weakness or flaw amounts to total failure.

 

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Those unforgettable moments of communion with friends: why friendship is good for our soul

Those unforgettable moments of communion with friends: why friendship is good for our soul || raeritchie.com

For Heather, a friend who always speaks straight to my soul.

A reprise of one of my favourite blog post from last December.  It seems as timely as ever.

On Friday I showed up at a friend’s house for lunch.

I knew I was seeing her between meetings she had and was told we’d be eating soup.  I expected to rock up to a tin of Heinz and a few slice of brown bread, but on arrival I was greeted by a table fully decked out for a Christmas celebration, even though there were only two place settings.

We had a festive themed table cloth and party crackers as well as a table laden with homemade soup, crusty bread, croutons, a cheese board, salad and three different desserts.

Reader, I felt thoroughly spoiled.

Topped with paper hats, we had a merry time together, sharing a meal and heartfelt thoughts.

As I left, further blessed with a glass tree decoration that she had forged herself, I knew we had taken communion together.

You don’t need bread and wine to share communion with someone. 

I don’t think you need to view the act of communion necessarily in a religious way, although obviously it comes heavily laden with Christian associations.  At its heart, the act centred on Jesus and his closest mates sharing a meal between them.

Isn’t that something we all know can be a special occasion, one that seems to take on emotional significance beyond the actual act of eating and drinking?

 

Surely that is that purpose of communion, a transformative experience that changes us?

Friendships are important because they help to remind you of who you are, whether at your best, your worst or simply your core.

Unlike familial or romantic relationships, there aren’t rites of passage or dedicated days where we can honour and celebrate our platonic ties.  This seems a shame, an oversight somehow, as if they are not as important in our lives as relatives by blood or marriage.

Yet we are able to mark the significance of friendships over and over again if only we are mindful of what’s happening around us.

We can share communion, a treasured bond, a life-affirming moment with them whenever we sit down and talk, preferably with food and drink on the table between us too.

We can experience the most spectacular thread of connection even if we were only expecting to have half a tin of reheated soup.

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Three Ethical Christmas Companies

The Recycled Candle Company stall - Three Ethical Christmas Companies || raeritchie.com
Three Ethical Christmas Companies || raeritchie.com

Back in July, I visited the Home & Gift Buyers’ Festival in Harrogate.  It’s a huge trade event where producers display their wares to the retailers and buyers looking to add new lines to add to their websites and shops later in the year.  I wrote a series of posts featuring those makers that I met on the exhibition’s ‘Eco Trail’, including some fantastic festive themed firms.

Somehow it’s now December (how?!) and it seems like a great time to draw attention to those companies with a seasonal edge again.  Keep This Cracker, Nauseni and The Recycled Candle Company have great stocking fillers as well as everything you need for your Christmas centrepiece.

 

 

Let me know what purchases you make!

You can comment below or on social media.  And if you’ve enjoyed reading this post, then please do share – it really does make a huge difference!

Thank you for reading 🙂

Christmas (yes in July): Following the Eco Trail at Home & Gift Buyers' Festival 2017

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Keep this cracker

Upon realising the amount of waste generated each Christmas by single use crackers, Bea Thackeray came up with her own solution: reusable ones!

After some experimentation, she perfected her model.  You fill the gift box centre with whatever your choose, thread the snap through and pull as normal – except the whole thing slides apart rather than rips, so you can use them again!  All you have to replace are the snaps, which she also sells.  Genius!

There are also options for wedding favours and other occasions.

From £3.10 for the crackers; £1.10 for six replacement snaps.

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Christmas (yes in July): Following the Eco Trail at Home & Gift Buyers' Festival 2017

Nauseni

Founded in response to the 2015 Nepal earthquake, Nauseni (now-se-ni) strives to empower Nepalese women by offering skill development and income generating opportunities.  The firm works closely with teams of women artisans who they have trained to produce needle felted ornaments that reflect the centuries of wool making crafts in the Himalayas.

 

Candles: Following the Eco Trail at Home & Gift Buyers' Festival 201720170717_13183120170717_131842

The Recycled Candle Company

You know how there’s wax leftover whenever you’ve finished burning a candle?  Well the clever chaps at The Recycled Candle Company go round collecting this seeming waste product from London churches, pubs and hotels then they recycle all the bits into beautiful new ones.  Isn’t this the greatest recycling story that you’ve ever heard?!

All of their candles, votives and firelighters are beautiful but check out their miniature Christmas trees!

From £6.00.

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A week of second hand style: my Myton Fargo vintage fashion style challenge part III

A week of second hand style- my Myton Fargo vintage fashion style challenge part III

When Myton Hospices invited me to undertake a style challenge at their new vintage fashion focused Myton Fargo charity shop (so named because of its location on Far Gosford Street, the new creative quarter in Coventry), I got somewhat carried away in creating outfits from their amazing vintage, retro and second hand stock.

As well as my round up feature the other week, and the insight into my own haul when I returned to the shop recently (okay so I’ve been back several times, but only blogged about one of trip!), I included a week’s worth of second hand style courtesy of their racks on my Instagram.

Aside from putting together a few separates, these outfits required approximately zero styling on my part.

The garments speak for themselves. 

Covering a range of styles and eras, as well as different price points, they highlight the fantastic stock curated by store manager Angela at Myton Fargo.

They also show the huge possibilities that are available if you decide to shop and dress second hand.

To showcase this, I thought I’d bring all these outfits together side by side.

According to my research at the weekend (that’s the kind of dedication I’m willing to undertake for you, dear readers #mayhaveboughtadresswhileIwasthere), a few of these pieces are still available.

But rather than focusing on the specifics, however fab they are, I want to emphasise what you can do with second hand clothes – and some of this is definitely second hand, rather than it’s trendier sibling, vintage.

It may take a bit of effort and commitment to dress this way, but the rewards are huge.  Second hand clothes are cheaper, individual and arguably the best way to build an ethical wardrobe.

If you don’t already shop second hand, pop into your local charity shop when you have half an hour to spare and see what takes your fancy.

And please do share with me what you come away with!  I’d love to see the results.

Here’s the best of what I found at Myton Fargo.

#OOTD Number One

 

#OOTD Number 1 - A week of second hand style: my Myton Fargo vintage fashion style challenge part III || raeritchie.com

I fell in love with this blouse as soon as I saw it tucked on the rack. What I wanted to show with this combo is that wearing vintage doesn’t mean impracticality or looking outre – it’s totally possible to mix gorgeous old clothes into a wearable for work look.

At the same time, the unique older pieces stop officewear looking boring. Win win!

The cost?

£4 for the blouse

£9 for the skirt (complete with original tag saying £25 from Next)

£7 for the shoes

Total = £20.00

#OOTD Number Two

#OOTD Number 2 - A week of second hand style: my Myton Fargo vintage fashion style challenge part III || raeritchie.com

Don’t eye roll at me for mentioning Christmas in October!  As I mention in the original post about my Myton adventure, charity shops can be a great place to pick up some festive fashion without fast fashion.

Love this example of Christmas clothing  – check out the detail on the blouse for what makes it perfect for December!

The cost?

£4.00 for the bauble blouse

£7.00 for the skirt

#OOTD Number Three

#OOTD Number 3 - A week of second hand style: my Myton Fargo vintage fashion style challenge part III || raeritchie.com

I labelled ‘Visit to a country pub outfit’ when I was making notes on my choices – sometimes I really do think in fashionese!

Wherever you’d wear this, the two high end items are absolute gems. The Johnstons cape is made of the softest wool; it’s like wearing a blanket. The trousers are an archetypal example of Ralph Lauren – I can’t believe they showed up in the English midlands!

The cost?

£25.00 for the cape

£25.00 for the trousers

Total = £50.00

#OOTD Number Four

#OOTD Number 4 - A week of second hand style: my Myton Fargo vintage fashion style challenge part III || raeritchie.com

Another day, another insight into the fantasy scenarios I create in my head. I named this ensemble the ‘Someret House ice skating outfit’ (although it’s totally okay to switch that to the Rockerfeller Center ice skating outfit if you prefer!).

The presence of actual ice skating boots makes this slightly less strange, I guess – and they epitomise how diverse the @mytonfargoshop stock really is!

The cost?

£20.00 for the dress (brand new with labels)

£12.00 for the Topshop faux fur gilet

£10.00 for the ice skates

Total = £42.00

#OOTD Number Five

#OOTD Number 5 - A week of second hand style: my Myton Fargo vintage fashion style challenge part III || raeritchie.com

This Studio 54 esque look is perfect for injecting some disco glamour into your wardrobe at any time of the year – glitz *and* shiny patent flat shoes to dance the night away in.

This was one of the first dresses I spotted during my Myton Fargo adventure and I knew immediately it had to feature.  The dress ticks the sequins trend, which will be big this season and for SS18.  And of course they are fab for Christmas!

#OOTD Number 5, label details - A week of second hand style: my Myton Fargo vintage fashion style challenge part III || raeritchie.com
I always look out for original Next labels such as this (usually without the fraying). A sign of great quality & design!

This outfit also demonstrates what great buys high street vintage can be.  The dress has the original 1980s/90s Next silk label inside.  Anything with this is in a sign of quality. Their clothes were far pricier then than today and signalled a good investment.

This is something I always look out for.

The cost?

£10.00 for the dress

£12.00 for the shoes, which are Marks and Spencer Limited Collection and look barely worn.

Total = £22.00

#OOTD Number Six

#OOTD Number Six - A week of second hand style: my Myton Fargo vintage fashion style challenge part III || raeritchie.com

Of all the Myton Fargo outfits I’ve featured, this is one of my faves as each of the three elements is so effing awesome!

1) Vintage midi-dress with a winter floral pattern. The attention to detail is fantastic, and it has a concealed zip under a buttoned top section.

2) Levi jean jacket in a classic style. You’ll never wear this baby out!

3) Gorgeous tan boots. No other description needed.

The cost?

£6.00 for the dress

£25.00 for the wear-forever Levi jacket

£8.00 for the boots

Total = £39.00

#OOTD Number Seven

#OOTD Number Seven - A week of second hand style: my Myton Fargo vintage fashion style challenge part III || raeritchie.com

I love this combo but that’s true about every single item I’ve included!  The coat was amazing quality as well as just all round fabulous.  It ended up going home with a volunteer after her first shift at the store!

The cost?

£35.00 for the coat

£6.00 for the Marks and Spencer Autograph dress

£6.00 for the shoes

Total = £47.00

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The round-up: Following the Eco Trail at Home & Gift Buyers’ Festival 2017

After a week of posts featuring different categories, here is the final collected round-up.  All of the stalls that I visited on the eco trail at the Home & Gift Buyers’ Festival in Harrogate on 17th July: seventeen in total, although there were others that I didn’t get to in my one day visit!

I’ve been so glad to share these awesome eco, ethical and sustainable brands with you.

(I’ve previously done a round-up of the eco, ethical & sustainable firms at the Pulse show too).

Beauty & skincare, fashion accessories & jewellery, gifts, greetings cards & stationery, candles, Christmas: they’re all listed below.

I hope that you’ve found some new companies to consciously shop with.  Let me know what purchases you make from them!

You can comment below or on social media.  And if you’ve enjoyed reading this post, then please do share – it really does make a huge difference!

Thank you for reading 🙂

Beauty & skincare

 

Big Green Tree

Big Green Tree is a family owned business that designs and manufacturers its natural skincare products on the edge of the Peak District National Park in Derbyshire.  They offer a broad range of paraben and SLS free products, along with a diffusion line of men’s skincare items such as shaving soap and post-shave balm.  As well as the friendliness and knowledge of owner Helen, what impressed me was that when they do use plastic bottles, they are recyclable.  Good to know for certain!

Starting from around £12.00.

Sorry I didn’t get any pictures from this stall!  

Beauty & Skincare: Following the Eco Trail at Home & Gift Buyers' Festival 2017

MOA

The Magic Organic Apothecary was established in 2010, creating natural skincare products with close links to old folklore.  Their key ingredient is herb yarrow (Achillea millefolium), commonly found in English hedgerows.  MOA grow their own in Somerset, where they plant seeds by hand!  The products combine yarrow with other herbs and essential oils, such as tea tree and damask rose.  The original multi-purpose balm has now been joined by a cleanser, bath potion and facial oil.

Prices from £4.00.

 

Fashion accessories & jewellery

Earth Squared

Scarves, hats, gloves, bags, purses: Earth Squared offer them all under the slogan ‘fair trade and fabulous’.  They certainly are both!  A member of BAFTS (the British Association for Fair Trade Shops and Suppliers), they work with fair trade accredited producers.  Among their huge selection of products, there will be something for everyone but my personal favourites were the tweed purses, velvet scarves and knitted bobble hats – although I also have my eye on a navy wool sling bag 🙂

From £5.99.

EnviroTrend

EnviroTrend sell a variety of bags that are designed to eliminate the use of plastic bags.  They are all lightweight yet strong, and the SAKitToMe™ shopping bags fold up into a size that you can attach to your key-ring – so you never caught out at the checkout without a reusable bag again!

They have also created the INside OUT Umbrella™.  This looks like a regular umbrella and opens the same, but will stand up on its own when down.  It also turns inside out as it is closed, so that the water drains on the inside, meaning no more soaking the side of your leg when walking round with a used brolly!

RRP from £6.00 for the bags; the umbrella £25.00.

Mowgs

Mowgs founder Michal stumbled upon villagers making beautiful baskets while travelling around Myanmar.  Locals produce them when the rainy season prevents farming, using generations old weaving techniques but plastic strapping recycled from used materials around them – meaning each one is unique.  Michal now works closely with the same villagers, bringing a limited number to the retail market.  Unsurprisingly they sell out fast!

RRP from £19.99 to £45.99.

Accessories & Jewellery: Following the Eco Trail at Home & Gift Buyers' Festival 2017

Old Willow

Scottish jewellery firm Two Skies source old pieces of the iconic blue-and-white willow pattern china and porcelain then upcycle the pottery into hand crafted, one-of-a-kind pieces.  This includes rings, earrings and necklaces that feature either a bird, a bridge or another part of the classic scene.

Their publicity even tells the ancient love story behind the pattern:

Accessories & Jewellery: Following the Eco Trail at Home & Gift Buyers' Festival 2017

‘A peasant boy and a princess were in love but her father, the king, would not let them marry.  He built a large fence around the palace and arranged a suitable marriage with a duke.  Arriving by boat, the Duke found that the couple had already escaped to an island where the gods had taken pity on them and transformed them into immortal doves’.

Starting at £24.50.

 

Gifts, greetings cards & stationery

 

Gifts, greetings cards & stationery: Following the Eco Trail at Home & Gift Buyers' Festival 2017

Claire Vaughan Designs

Claire’s free-hand artwork is inspired by the garden, the countryside and coast.  These designs then appear cards, coasters, stationery, prints, bottles, homeware and ceramics.  The vast majority of goods are handmade or hand-finished and come from the finest independent UK sources.  I was immediately drawn to the mugs as I’d never seen such beautiful examples; I was unsurprised to learn that these are from The Potteries, Stoke.

From £1.95.

 

Hannah Longmuir

Hannah is a countryside artist whose mainly pencilled drawings record the beauty of hedgerows, woodlands and fields.  These images become cards and stationery that really are works of art.  I don’t need to describe them; the images speak for themselves.

From £2.00.

Gifts, greetings cards & stationery: Following the Eco Trail at Home & Gift Buyers' Festival 2017

Seasonal Soul

Inspired by owner Rhianydd’s own quest for more connection and wellbeing, Seasonal Soul offers small homeware products, stationery and greetings cards designed to help users to relish the season and rekindle their soul.  Designed and made in the UK, the prints, colours and slogans reflect different times of the year, from the ‘For Someone Who’s Just Blooming Fabulous’ summertime card in hot pink to the seasonal journal kit in autumnal greens and oranges.

From £2.00.

Totes Adore

The Adore-A-Bottle range showcases stylish upcycling by recrafting empty alcohol bottles into beautiful new products.  There are chopping boards, lights, candles, nibble bowls and drizzle bottles.  The bottle lights would look great on an outdoor table or nestled on a cocktail bar, while the bespoke option means that you can sentimental bottles (such as champagne from your wedding) converted into a candle with a matching scent.

From £15.00.

Wraptious

Wraptious regularly run competitions to find new artists to contribute to their animal and nature inspired lines of products.  They offer a broad range of designs on items such as greetings cards, notebooks, coasters, placemats, clocks, mugs, cushions and prints.  All are made in the UK.

Retail prices from £2.50.

Gifts, greetings cards & stationery: Following the Eco Trail at Home & Gift Buyers' Festival 2017

YooJoo Cards

YooJoo’s Monster Cards have a second life as a bookmark: you simply tear the perforations when you’ve finished displaying it.  If that weren’t ingenious enough, owner and illustrator Julie has now added the Plectrum range.  She collects used store cards from shops then makes plectrums from the plastic, adding them to her drawings of acoustic and electric guitars.  Again these can be kept when the card is recycled.

From £2.75

Candles

 

 

Candles: Following the Eco Trail at Home & Gift Buyers' Festival 2017

Light Me Bio-oil Candle

Did you know that 4.3 million people die every year from indoor air pollution?  It was this statistic which inspired the creators of the Light Me Bio-Oil Candle to create their product.  Their alternative maintains the ambience of regular candles but are clean burning, without the soot and melted wax.  They also self-extinguish if knocked over.

From £10.99.

 

Candles: Following the Eco Trail at Home & Gift Buyers' Festival 2017

Melt

For almost twenty years, Melt have been making hand-poured candles with scents that differ from the usual perfumed options.  From Angel and Aubergine to Verbena and Clary Sage, Violet and Black Pepper, there are many distinctive perfumes available in two jar sizes and three freestanding options.  Furthermore, more than 94% of their ingredients come from the county of Lancashire, where they are based – supporting local business while keeping their carbon footprint to a minimum.

From £8.95.

The Recycled Candle Company

You know how there’s wax leftover whenever you’ve finished burning a candle?  Well the clever chaps at The Recycled Candle Company go round collecting this seeming waste product from London churches, pubs and hotels then they recycle all the bits into beautiful new ones.  Isn’t this the greatest recycling story that you’ve ever heard?!

From £6.00.

Christmas

Keep this cracker

Upon realising the amount of waste generated each Christmas by single use crackers, Bea Thackeray came up with her own solution: reusable ones!  After some experimentation, she perfected her model.  You fill the gift box centre with whatever your choose, thread the snap through and pull as normal – except the whole thing slides apart rather than rips, so you can use them again!  All you have to replace are the snaps, which she also sells.  Genius!

There are also options for wedding favours and other occasions.

From £3.10 for the crackers; £1.10 for six replacement snaps.

20170717_131140

Christmas (yes in July): Following the Eco Trail at Home & Gift Buyers' Festival 2017

Nauseni

Founded in response to the 2015 Nepal earthquake, Nauseni (now-se-ni) strives to empower Nepalese women by offering skill development and income generating opportunities.  The firm works closely with teams of women artisans who they have trained to produce needle felted ornaments that reflect the centuries of wool making crafts in the Himalayas.

Prices unavailable at present.

For more from me straight to your inbox, sign up for my monthly mailing.  It includes exclusive offers and giveaways! Every single subscription makes a real difference to me and my work.

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Christmas (yes in July): Following the Eco Trail at Home & Gift Buyers’ Festival 2017

Christmas (yes in July): Following the Eco Trail at Home & Gift Buyers' Festival 2017

Last week, I attended the Home & Gift Buyers’ Festival in Harrogate.  It’s a huge event, made up of many producers and even more retailers looking to add new lines to their sites, stores and stalls in the autumn.

As with previous events trade events I’ve attended, my goal was to seek out those makers with an eco, ethical or sustainable tale to tell.  I thus set off on the organised ‘Eco Trail’ but I was defeated by the size of the show, covering only around two-thirds of it.

Even so, I met some awesome brands that I’m excited to tell you about!  

Having realised how mammoth my earlier ethical round-up was, I decided to break this summary up somewhat. There are five parts: beauty & skincare on Monday, accessories & jewellery on Tuesday, gifts, greetings cards & stationery on Wednesday and candles last night  There will also be a collated post on Saturday.  Phew!

I hope that you find some new companies to consciously shop with.  Let me know what purchases you make!

You can comment below or on social media.  And if you’ve enjoyed reading this post, then please do share – it really does make a huge difference!

Thank you for reading 🙂

 

Keep this cracker

Upon realising the amount of waste generated each Christmas by single use crackers, Bea Thackeray came up with her own solution: reusable ones!  After some experimentation, she perfected her model.  You fill the gift box centre with whatever your choose, thread the snap through and pull as normal – except the whole thing slides apart rather than rips, so you can use them again!  All you have to replace are the snaps, which she also sells.  Genius!

There are also options for wedding favours and other occasions.

From £3.10 for the crackers; £1.10 for six replacement snaps.

20170717_131140

Christmas (yes in July): Following the Eco Trail at Home & Gift Buyers' Festival 2017

Nauseni

Founded in response to the 2015 Nepal earthquake, Nauseni (now-se-ni) strives to empower Nepalese women by offering skill development and income generating opportunities.  The firm works closely with teams of women artisans who they have trained to produce needle felted ornaments that reflect the centuries of wool making crafts in the Himalayas.

Prices unavailable at present.

For more from me straight to your inbox, sign up for my monthly mailing.  It includes exclusive offers and giveaways! Every single subscription makes a real difference to me and my work.

You can also follow me and my freelancing adventures on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn.