Last Minute Presents

December 23, 2011 § Leave a comment

 

It’s Christmas Eve tomorrow, a time to relax with the family in front of It’s A Wonderful Life, preferably with a fire roaring in the grate, a glass of mulled wine in one hand and some gingerbread in the other.

But for most of us, there’ll be the mad crush of relatives arriving, cooking for a million people, shepherding children high on candy canes, and last minute gift-wrapping … or buying.

No judgement, of course: we’re all busy, and Cousin Julie’s really hard to buy for, or you might have been surprised by your nephew turning up with girlfriend in tow – either way, you’re down a present or two.

But a Christmas Eve mad dash around the shops is hugely time-consuming, and likely to make you go bat crazy. And you should really be enjoying that mulled wine. So, here is Lola’s link guide to easy last minute presents, budget-conscious and needing nothing you won’t find at your local corner shop.

1)      Vouchers. Maybe not so personal, but these are nevertheless always appreciated – and when the excitement of the other presents has faded, your teenage granddaughter will be able to pick herself out a nice pair of shoes. Many vouchers are the sort you can print out, or will be sent to the recipient’s email address, so you don’t even have to stray outside of the house.

The only con – they can see exactly how much you spent on them, so you might feel like you have to splash out more on a fairly distant family member.

Try these stores:

Agent Provocateur (lingerie)

Amazon

ASOS (for any fashion lover, girl or boy)

Dawanda (an Etsy-esque site with an especially good contingent of mainland European designers. So many fantastically original products from a Mongolian ger to colourful bowls, and I’ve had nothing but good experiences)

Firebox (fun gadgets et cetera)

Kiva (enables the recipient to make a micro-loan to someone in the developing world – a gift that really does give)

Lastminute.com (oh the irony)

LOVEFiLM (online film rental site)

Play (especially good for DVDs, CDs et cetera, but they also carry other products)

SpaFinder (can be redeemed at thousands of spas worldwide, including over 600 in the UK)

8ball (amusing t shirts, including Banksy designs for the edgy artists among you).

2) Okay, you’re probably spending enough time in the kitchen over the next couple of days as it is, but these little foodie gifts should take less than ten minutes:

  • The fabulous Design Mom linked to: this easy way to jazz up plain baubles (a great gift for someone hosting you on the big day); give a sweet little saucepan (do you know anyone just buying or renting their first property/moving away?); these labels would look beautiful on a jar of homemade spread, quickly whipped up cookie mix (keep refrigerated), or even just some repackaged, store-bought hot chocolate powder (they’ll never know! Give some marshmallows and a chocolate stirrer or lolly, and call it a set).
  • Aliesha over at Feathers in Our Nest shared the recipe for this hand scrub, and all you need is sugar, vanilla extract and some old jars!
  • Find a new mug, fill with chocolates – pricey ones, or even just Maltesers. Simple.
  • Fill a gift box with ziplock bags of measured out ingredients – flour, sugar, raisins, whatever – and a recipe card. Include everything they need, bar wet ingredients, eggs and butter. You could even include a cake tin!

3) Give them a subscription to their favourite magazine – this can usually be done online, and will of course last the whole year.

4) Remember that gifts don’t have to be material things. Isn’t the spirit of the season, after all, family togetherness? Make a sweet little faux-voucher offering your services as a babysitter to the friend with a new baby, or promise children to take them out to the cinema, a musical, the beach, a theme park, dinner, whatever you have in your neck of the woods, sometime later in the year, and the Christmas magic will continue that little bit longer.

And here are some simple, colourful gift tags for all these last minute pressies, courtesy of Dawanda.

Have a wonderful Christmas,

Lola x

Who needs jobs?

October 2, 2011 § Leave a comment

The wonderful Design Mom recently pointed her readers to this article by media theorist Douglas Rushkoff. In summary, it’s a response to the lack of jobs for humans created by the increase in jobs for machines; he challenges the assumption that we need traditional jobs at all, and proposes a selling of ideas, creativity, stories etc. to buy luxuries, with food and shelter provided free of charge (can you hear the ardent capitalists grinding their teeth in anger?).

I agree with him in that perhaps it’s time to re-think how we distribute basic necessities, and maybe let the government have more control over things like the food industry, so that this can be more effectively and fairly done. But while selling intellectual property is a good idea, why not put more people to work in the voluntary sector? How about all of these people who can no longer work for the Post Office – and are getting their basic needs provided for by the government – be asked to ‘work’ as a companion for an elderly person, or in hospitals so that our nurses are less stretched. We all need something we have to do, whether it be in an office or looking after our children, to make our downtime limited and therefore more precious – but perhaps more voluntary jobs in a more government-subsidised world would make our working hours that much more fulfilling, too.

Richard of York gave battle …

August 30, 2011 § Leave a comment

Bright colours are going to be hot again for Autumn/Winter, mark my words – a splash of orange or purple is exactly what we need as we slip into grey September. Dorothy Perkins have absolutely recognised this with their ‘Colourama’ range. The solid but subdued palette – think mustard and cerulean – is exactly what the new season calls for, and even better, there’s money to be saved – buy today and you’ll get free delivery on orders over £40, and you’ll also be sent a code for 10% off your next purchase.

Yellow Boyfriend Button Coat, £69, Dorothy Perkins

Purple Stitch Detail Tunic, £28, Dorothy Perkins

Bow Neck Swing Coat, £693, Moschino Cheap & Chic at my-wardrobe.com

Now brace yourselves – I’m going to wax lyrical again about stunning clothes I can’t afford. The above coat, for example, and the perfection that is the innocence of the cut and slight bow detail coupled with the glamour and sex appeal of the pillar box red. Personally, I’d really love it in a knee-length version, for an extra dose of innocence and warmth and child-at-Christmas. It’s Moschino Cheap and Chic, and from that you can deduce that although it’s unendingly chic, it isn’t all that cheap. For a quick red fix, head instead to lipstick – MAC’s Ruby Woo is the ultimate classic in this department, and equally flattering on pale and dark skin tones.

MAC's Ruby Woo

Marigold Yellow Skinny Cord Jeans, £204, Current/Elliott at my-wardrobe.com

Speaking of colour hits, Current/Elliott are a new favourite window shopping brand. These Marigold Yellow Skinny Jeans are bottled sunshine, and perfect with a nice dark grey marl (as shown) or a bit of colour blocking (how about this Dorothy Perkins top?).

Elfin Yellow The Ankle Skinny Jeans, £165, Current/Elliott at my-wardrobe.com

And take a look at this mellow pastel-y version! Not so flattering on those paler of us, but still absolutely scrumptious. Red? Too out-there. Blue? Too boring. Pink? Too girly. Yellow? My heart be still.

Coloured Skinny Jean, £25.99, New Look

New Look are currently running a version in a very similar colour.

Oasis Coloured Crop Jeans, £13 (originally £45), Oasis at ASOS.com

More cropped pastels, available in yellow or pink – and on sale!

Mustard Skinny Jeans, £35, ASOS

And a bit of mustard – I really want them with a good burgundy top. A very similar option is available at New Look.

Yellow Smiley Face Shorts, £70, Bitching & Junkfood at Urban Outfitters

While we’re having a yellow denim love-in, these trashier shorts are awesome (so long as, and sorry to rain on everyone’s parade, you’re approx. 15 to 25, still in possession of nice thighs and don’t need to look super-responsible. Or maybe so long as you want to really shock the other mothers doing the school run.)

Patchi Cylindrical Heel Platform High Shoe, £45, ASOS

The trend as shoes. These’d add a really nice kick to a sensible suit (pun totally intended).

Feel the rainbow, lovelies.

Money-Saving Monday – Back To School

August 30, 2011 § Leave a comment

Apologies to my non-UK readers – this series is British Isles-centric (despite the above all-American bus).

  • The summer holidays are drawing to an end. Do you want a last hurrah with the kids? There’s up to 30% off accommodation and park tickets at Disneyland Paris, and under 7s go free.
  • For something closer to home, here’s a voucher for 20% off at the Science Museum IMAX Cinema. Fly Me to the Moon 3D looks especially fun for children.
  • A back-to-school party is another fun idea. For yummy, quality nibbles delivered straight to your door, you can’t do better than Ocado, and right now get 15% off your first order when you spend £60 (so order a few nights’ worth of dinner, too). There’s even a special area of the site which lists all of the items on sale – so it’s even easier to save!
  • For a more adult get together, treat your guests to a little Hotel Chocolat in their party bags – there’s up to 50% off the summer range.
  • As for entertainment, a huge range of products are in the £5 sale at Play. Personally, I love this Dali-esque clock, but there’s also a ton of DVDs – girlie night in with Robert Pattinson (but no vampires), anyone?
  • Renting’s best for those who want to avoid clutter, and with LOVEFiLM the process is easy – and cheap! Currently they’re giving a free 30 day trial to new customers, and as if that wasn’t enough, you also get a £15 Amazon voucher when you sign up for the trial.

The new school year is also a brilliant excuse totally legit reason to invest in new wardrobes for everyone:

  • Reigning basics champions GAP are offering 25% off children’s back to school favourites.
  • As for back to work, Uniqlo are your adult equivalent – this simple shift is just £24.90, and there are stylish, well-made shirts for under £20.
  • As I’ve mentioned before, Jaeger are workwear heaven, and if you buy Grazia this week you can get 20% off their clothes.
  • My-Wardrobe are also offering discounts, so your splurge can be slightly more pocket-friendly. There’s free shipping on orders over £100 until Friday, and you can also get £50 off when you spend over £250 (that’s scarily easy to do).

And look out for another Dorothy Perkins bargain that I’ll be telling you about later today!

Window shopping

August 27, 2011 § 2 Comments

My new obsession infatuation is my-wardrobe.com. Yeah, I know, hardly revolutionary – the high end fashion boutique was launched way way back in the mists of time (2006). But I just recently signed up to their email newsletter, and boy are they good – each one has contained some totally delicious little gem that I want right now.

Whiskey Parley Chelsea Zip Ankle Boot, £168, Sam Edelman at My-Wardrobe.com

‘Coveting’ is the word I’d choose for how I feel about these boots. They’re the Whiskey Parley Chelsea Zip Ankle Boot by Sam Edelman, and I’m super-pleased because whiskey is also the word I chose to describe their colour before I even looked at the name. Woo, go me! Perhaps it’s a sign I should own them?

The catch is that they’re £168. The even bigger catch is that that’s a really reasonable price compared to most of the designer pieces of wearable art sold on the site. So yes, my addiction might pose a problem in the future.

I’m not going to get the boots; it’s unjustifiable, as I already own a pair of Chelsea boots. Actually, I already own an old pair of real riding boots because I’m a cheapskate, but still … I’m not going to get them. You should.

Olive Casual Parka, £338, YMC at My-Wardrobe.com

The company’s most recent email suggests YMC’s new season Olive Casual Parka as an accompaniment, and the colour combination is actually divine. £338 is a lot to drop on a coat to match your also-quite-expensive shoes, though, so how about an alternative? Campbell Cooper have one of those traditionally British wax jackets in olive green, and it’s only £35 – perfect. Believe me, you’ll get used to the smell; I find it quite endearing.

Friday Rubens Print Dress, £508, Vivienne Westwood at My-Wardrobe.com

I’d trade my gas and electricity for this dress, too. No seriously, I’m actually considering doing that. Slightly dishevelled, but with a Rubens print for intellectual appeal; it’d look great with her leather jacket. And it’s Vivienne Westwood, which is enough in itself, to be honest. Love her so much.

Go on – what are you drooling over this season that’s out of your price range? Let’s console each other.

Money-Saving Monday (on Thursday) – The Results Are In

August 18, 2011 § Leave a comment

(Apologies to non-UK readers, this series is British Isles-centric.)

A Level results are handed out today, and regardless of grades achieved a celebration is definitely in order. Take advantage of money off at these fantastic restaurants:

  • 40% off at Pizza Express if you sign up for their newsletter.
  • There’s a 2 for 1 Bella Italia voucher available here.
  • Every day bar Saturday, you can get 2 main courses for £10 at ASK, and if you order the Linguine del Porto (Dame Judi Dench’s choice) money goes to Great Ormond Street Hospital – delicious food for a good cause? Count me in.

Getting ready for university?

  • Enter the code MW4317 at the checkout and get 10% off when you spend £20 or more on books at Waterstones.
  • There are some fantastic offers on stationery at Staples, including up to 80% off and many things for under £1.
  • Buy an Apple Mac for college or university and get a free £65 voucher to spend on Mac apps.

Or take advantage of these offers to save on gap year travel:

  • Premier Inn have rooms all over the UK from £29.
  • Air France is offering £20 off when you spend £140; they run long-haul flights from 10 UK airports, so don’t think they’re just for crossing the Channel.
  • Forget losing your car in the parking lot or splashing out on a taxi – take a National Express coach to the airport. Children travel for just £1 this summer!

And finally, do you remember when I raved about BEAR? Well, get 20% off at their online store (and free delivery) if you enter the code SummerGrrr at the checkout.

Enjoy!

Lola Loves … BEAR Nibbles

August 3, 2011 § 1 Comment

BEAR sell really yummy snacks, conveniently packaged for lunch boxes, picnics and countryside rambles. At the moment, the range includes Fruit Yo Yos, Fruit Nibbles and Granola Nibbles, which are also fab with milk or yoghurt for breakfast.

My personal favourite is the Apple Crumble granola flavour, with a great cinnamon-apple taste, although Cocoa Cherry Pie is fab, too. While they might be a bit dry for some, they’re no more so than eating other granola ‘neat’. As long as you have a drink handy – or eat them with some nice liquid-y dairy, as I mentioned above – they’re great. So delicious, in fact, that their health credentials – less than 100 calories per Nibble packet, no added stuff, vegetarian, 100% whole grains and/or fruit (so nut and dairy free) – are just an added bonus.

You can bulk order 18 or so packets online, and I get mine from Waitrose. It’s also worth visiting their website to take a look at their recipe suggestions.

Side note: Design Mom, mother of six and authority on all things pretty and practical, answered my question about anti-ageing products on her blog, and is offering a connected giveaway. Head on over; she’s awesome.

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