10 of the best shopping websites

Finding a gift for that person who seemingly has everything is one of life’s unnecessary struggles. So that you don’t have to spend a day traipsing through town and then trawling through the internet, just to end up settling on the sofa with a bottle of vino, we take the stress out of gift shopping with our top ten gift shopping websites.  Make it look like you spent all day looking, even if all you did was read this blog!

  1. Buyagift - This website aims to give whoever you’re buying for a memorable experience. They have the perfect gifts for the people who have everything because they don’t just sell material things, but they also create experiences! From spa days to bungee jumping, there’s something for everyone.  www.buyagift.co.uk
  2. Uncommon goods - It says it all in the name. On this website you will find unique products which you can’t find anywhere else on the website. The site also splits their products up into extensive categories organised by the interests of the person you’re buying for, so it’s much easier to trawl through the huge list of products. Plus it guarantees landing costs – so no additional charges at delivery.  If you know the person you’re buying for loves their cooking and has nearly every gadget you can think of, try a Himalayan Salt Block.  Chances are they won’t have one or many of them!  Great for serving incredibly hot or super chilled if serving sushi.  An ingenious and original idea which will be well received by any foodie.  http://www.uncommongoods.com/product/himalayan-salt-bbq-plank
  3. Red5 - This website is full of gadgets and gismos which you may have thought you would never need. But once you’ve seen that it’s possible to buy a desktop LED clock fan or touch screen gloves, the world’s your oyster.  www.red5.co.uk
  4. Cottontails Baby - These well-made retro toys will be a blast from the past. These beautiful toys will keep you on your friend’s good side because there’s no annoying sounding, battery-guzzling toys. Just well made, vintage gifts. We love the adorable Gluckskafer felt toys.  www.cottontailsbaby.co.uk
  5. TraidCraft - This website covers gifts from tribal dinner candles to dressing gowns but unlike most places, all their products are fair trade. So you never have to feel guilty about where the product you’re buying has come from.   www.traidcraft.co.uk
  6. Bombus - An excellent website if you want to give someone a gift with a more personal touch. This website specialises in personalised gifts so it’s perfect if you want someone to know how much thought you’ve put into their gift! We love the personalised map location keep sake boxes.   www.bombus.co.uk
  7. Present & Correct - Stationary is always a safe choice for the person who has everything because it’s something that everyone uses! This website has unique designs and vintage gems including chalk boards and baby typewriters. Join us in becoming stationary obsessed again.   www.presentandcorrect.com
  8. Wolf and Badger - Have you ever walked into a jewellery shop and thought there is nothing unique? That won’t happen when you look through Wolf and Badger’s website. This online shop offers a range of truly unique pieces. There is definitely no risk that someone else bought the same gift as you when you’ve bought an origami crane gold necklace.   www.wolfandbadger.com/uk
  9. Make me something special – We think Ben Griffiths is a talented genius.  He has a plethora of wooden gifts of exceptional quality and of all sizes and prices which he personalizes to your every requirement as well as turning your own ideas into reality which is what he did with our idea for a Christening block for my godson William and is now one a great sales piece for Ben.  https://makemesomethingspecial.co.uk/shop/christening-baptism-blocks/.
  10. Caroline de Rothschild - makes beautiful handmade soaps via an old fashioned process. They are divine moisturizing soaps which are hugely beneficial to the skin and devoid of any horrid chemicals. What sets her gift boxes apart from many others is that they come in a lovely wooden box with bespoke labels so can be tailored to whoever, for whatever the purpose of your gift is. http://www.carolinederothschild.co.uk/

How to host the perfect dinner party

Everyone loves a good old fashioned dinner party, however successfully hosting one is not always as easy as it first seems. So what makes the perfect dinner party? Cardinal rule number one is if you're going to go to the trouble of inviting people over at least make sure there will be plenty to eat! If you can, prepare something to eat that your guests wouldn’t necessarily cook themselves.  That said, a tasty well-made dish is far more important that trying to do something exciting, different and what actually turns out to be inedible!  I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t rather a good old fashioned roast versus an undercooked chicken with a curdled cream sauce.  

Do go to the trouble of finding out if anyone has any allergies or fierce ‘dislikes’.  For those with allergies, intolerances or special dietary requirements that are not able to be included in the menu you have chosen, make them something special – they will really appreciate it.  Perhaps a Sri Lankan vegetarian curry?

Another crucial thing to remember is timing. Guests don't want to be hurried to the table; they can go to Pizza Express for that. On the other hand, they don’t want to wait until midnight to eat – unless you are living in Spain perhaps! Offer your guests a welcoming drink on arrival and start the dinner party as you mean to go on but don’t be put off by non-alcohol drinkers.  Make them a delicious mocktail like a non-alcoholic mojito or look for syrups such as early grey, lemongrass and ginger, and make a refreshing cordial drink with sparkling water and fresh mint.

Remember your guests want to see you, not have you hiding away slaving in the kitchen.  A cold and pre-prepared starter and pudding allows for less chaos in the kitchen and advance prep reduces the chances of things going wrong.  The quality of some foods is even enhanced from the opportunity the flavours have to combine – Pate de Campagne should be made three days in advance and salmon tartare is very quick to put together and can be made the day before.  Follow @mepickard for weekly recipes (Foodie Friday) which are great to do at home, easy to follow and don’t keep you chained to the kitchen when you have guests.

What about the end of the meal? If things are going well perhaps have something fun up your sleeve. Party games vary from the sublime to the ridiculous so know your audience.  Try something like a game such as picking up the peanuts with chopsticks, or do some dessert wine tasting with a small competition of who can guess the country, year and grape.

Finally remember it’s the people that make the party and not the food itself so relax, enjoy and don’t worry if something isn’t perfect.  Have fun.  You have invited these people to your home to enjoy their company, so, make sure you do just that!

5 Top Tips

  1. Make sure you don’t have too many canapés – you want people to enjoy your main meal and not be too full!  Try something different but keep it simple.  There are so many wonderful bite size food examples that make for a much better, healthier and entertaining option to crisps and nuts.  For example, break a quail’s egg into a croustade and add a teaspoon of seasoned cream, then pop in the oven for about 3 minutes you will have delicious baked eggs.  You can vary the eggs by putting chilli or tomato or pesto in the bottom of the croustade first.
  2. Make a playlist to set the mood and get the party going – Spotify offers millions of playlists so have a listen and pick one you like!

  3. Start with an empty dishwasher. This is a golden rule!  It might seem like a pain at the time, but it’s usually a good idea to wash pots and pans as you finish using them before guests arrive. That way, you won’t have a scary pile of dirty dishes at the end of the night and your house will look calm and clean when your guests arrive.

  4. If you don’t have to use it beforehand, set the table the night before.  It’s an easy thing to check off your list so you don’t feel so rushed!  Having your table all ready for a dinner party gets you in the spirit, rather than in a panic!

  5. If your food doesn’t go as smoothly as you expected – don’t try and hide it! If your vegetables are a little overdone so what?  Own it and then it won’t be an issue that people talk about behind your back the next day. Try to have a little laugh about any culinary disasters.


'Tis the season to be married

Apparently, over 50% of engagements take place between November and February with the majority in December and with most engagements being 6 months long, there is a lot to organise amongst the celebratory glasses of champagne that seem to flow un-ended as friends and relatives delight at your happiness and the life that given you’ve probably been living with your partner for some years now, will change very little!

According to Kabbalah, the reason people marry is that marriage ‘is an expression of the human soul’s deepest ambitions’.  When written on paper the cons to marrying far outweigh the pros but even the most pragmatic of us do not practice in our love life what we do in our work life.  There is no getting away from the fact that the attraction to the opposite sex actually stems from the soul’s innate desire to reunite with its soulmate.   Christians believe that the first ever marriage was that of Adam and Eve, initially created as a single two-faced body. The single being split in two – a man and a woman – and then reunited in matrimony.  Whereas bodily needs and tendencies are decidedly egocentric, the soul is totally selfless. Marriage offers the soul the opportunity to express its altruistic nature.  Marriage is about two souls who put their individual needs aside, and commit themselves 100% to the success of the relationship.

However, the success of that first day, when the marriage takes place can create a stress level hardly ever experienced before and can test a marriage before it has even begun.  So much to arrange, so much to think about, what if things don’t run smoothly, what if something is forgotten. Organising a wedding is no different to organising a party, only the emotions and the panic for perfection run much, much higher! 

With the average wedding costing a little over £30,000 (according to Brides Magazine) trying to manage your budget can be incredibly hard.  The same magazine also advises how to plan a wedding in 10 steps:-

1.       Call your VIPS
2.       Get a manicure
3.       Enjoy the moment
4.       Start dreaming
5.       Add it up
6.       Get out your calendar
7.       Hire a pro
8.       Find a site
9.       Stay organised
10.   Book in-demand suppliers

Personally, I disagree – I think you only need 5 steps, plus ideally you would have had a manicure before you were presented with your dazzling diamond!

1.       Call your VIPS – get the girls in and start planning
2.       Agree a budget – with those who hold the purse strings
3.       Get out your calendar
4.       Get help – Call ORGANISATION UNLIMITED!
5.       Enjoy the planning

The most important thing to remember is that a party is made by the people.  That said, it’s your wedding day – it really should be perfect and it will be. As your dedicated organiser, Organisation Unlimited can help you ensure your day is, just that, perfect.  Experts in planning events, parties and weddings, no stone is left unturned.  Some people enjoy the organisation, for some it brings out the worst in them.  Organisation Unlimited allows you to delegate as much or as little of the headache as you wish.  In your initial planning meeting they provide you with a comprehensive check-list to ensure that nothing is forgotten and work as a team with you and your family to ensure everything runs smoothly and you really do have the day that you dreamed of.

I had 99 problems ...

.... but now I have none!

Whether you are a fan of Ice-T or Jay-Z (or have no idea who they are!) there are times in your life when you really feel you have 99 problems.  You are drowning in your own to-do list.  Productivity is low.  Stress and guilt are high. You are struggling to meet business and personal obligations and feel like you are on a swift journey to chaos.  AHHHHHHH!

Bringing life back to a calm balance is easier than you feel.  Stop. I know you don’t feel you have time to but – STOP!  Sit, breathe, get a long piece of paper and write a list.  Prioritising is an art and a key to making your life more manageable.  There are two main approaches to prioritising and both start with a list!  So WRITE THAT LIST!

The list is long and you are anxious just looking at it.  Divide the list in two, the quick easy jobs and the ones that need total concentration, time, thought and energy.  You’re half way there.  When considering the importance of tasks, ask yourself the following 5 questions:

1.       How will this task benefit you?

2.       Will it enable you to get closer to your goals or objectives?

3.       Will completing this task help you build relationships?

4.       Who will you let down if don’t get the task done?

5.       How much money or free time will outsourcing this task give you?

Now delegate!  Often people don’t delegate because they consider it takes too long to explain to someone what needs to be done and by which time they could have done the job themselves.  No, no, no!  Whether it be your child, your partner, an outsourced individual, once they have learnt that task, they can do it again and again which removes the job from your list, your time and ultimately, your anxiety. 

Imagine having your own PA or concierge on tap to help you at the times when you require it.  Ensuring that you do not become overwhelmed by your workload, be more productive and stay relaxed and at ease with your life.  The great thing about outsourcing is that you get to do the things that you enjoy and want to be doing and give somebody else the ones you don’t want to do, that you don’t have the time to do and those you don’t have the inclination or want to do.

We are living in a different age, in an economy that is digital, global and intangible, we are all expected to do more, be more, create more in our lives.  More and more busy families are using the services of a PA / concierge to make their lives more manageable.  Adaptable, services tailored to your individual needs allows you to create value in your life becoming an irreplaceable life force which allows you to produce more, share more and feel calm and accomplished in your busy life. 

Give yourself more margin in your life without the need for a costly and timely recruitment process. Have your own concierge / PA without the overheads of salary and benefits and who you can adjust the contracted hours of according to your needs.

 Have you got 99 problems? … I haven’t got one!