The C&C Christmas Gift & Retailer Guide

I love Christmas and I enjoy gift buying. My gift guide features a number of different items from small to medium businesses both online and off, locally and further afield. I’ve chosen these because I have experience of them, I’d be proud to give gifts from any of these businesses to others and would be thrilled if anyone chose to buy something for me from any of these customer (and budget) friendly retailers.


I have been an Orchard Toy fan for years, first with Kieran enjoying their fabulous fun, educational and family orientated games and now Taylor has the same big. We have a wide range of OT games and puzzles (and I have it on good authority that Santa might be bringing more). Our current favourite is What a Performance although to be fair it could be renamed what a hoot! Let’s just say that this particular game is a mix of charades, a traditional turn based family board game and you get to make silly noises. There are also forfeits . It’s hilarious.

What a Performance

Rather than prettily staged photographs this shows us as a family enjoying this Orchard Toys game as we should, with lots of (slightly hysterical) laughter and excitement.

This is just one of the Orchard Toys games we love and there are many others. These make particularly good gifts as they are solidly made, easy to tidy up, feature a range of education benefits and above all are fun. These games and puzzles make great family gifts as well as gifts for individuals.

A Local Shop for Local People – KRISTINA’S

Anyone who frequents my social media will know that I am a big fan of  a local shop here in Thirsk, North Yorkshire (Kristina’s) which is part shop and part crafting room  area (for want of a better description). I’ll have to be careful what I write for this recommendation because quite a few of my family and friends will be getting gifts from here.

The shop is amazing, with fabulous Fair Trade items, other ethically sourced gifts, toys and home items and a great number of Yorkshire-produced pieces / items (the rest being from around the UK). My particular favourites at the moment are her repurposed bicycle chains (made into clocks and more), the Fair Trade rainbow stripe design mugs, cups, teapots and the like (my kitchen could be getting a makeover), her Oakwood Aromatics soaps and bath/shower products (made in Masham) and more.

Kristina also has a dedicated crafting area for children aged four plus who can pop in for a spot of decoupage, glass painting, mug decorating and more, all at very affordable prices. Long live this fab local shop. Please support it if you are local (although she will post items out if customers cover postage).



I’ve known Natalie from Precious Parcels for years and adore her handmade gifts and treats, many of which are personalised. To date we have enjoyed named plaques (from Nicki’s Office to Taylor’s Room), a clock, Christmas decorations and more. I’ve also given her items as new baby gifts, christening gifts and for birthday and as Christmas gifts.

Natalie built up Precious Parcels from home when her youngest child was a newborn, she now runs a busy home business which brings a lot of joy to many. Don’t leave ordering too late though as many of her items are handmade and her last order date so that people will be guaranteed their items for Christmas is the 5th December.

Precious Parcels Post



Known up until recently as Write at Home, The Stationery Emporium is the umbrella website which hosts two stationery collections, Quillers for the more unique, artisan items and Write at Home for your everyday fun, useful and more affordable pieces. Basically, visiting TSE opens a door to a wealth of fabulous stationery items from diaries (I have my eye on the Personal Malden Filofax in ochre), notebooks, a specialist children’s range designed by the owner Margaret’s own daughter, pens, journals and much more. I’m sure I spied a Minion USB drive while browsing……

This is another delightful small business whose owner works incredibly hard at ensuring that stationery tarts such as myself have everything that they need to write, stay organised and everything else. I’m pretty sure some of us buy and then just play / stroke some of the items to be fair.

One of her most popular items is her signature quill pen and ink set. I’ve never used a quill but would love to try at some point.

TSE blog

So there you have it, my small but significant collection of recommended gift suppliers for Christmas 2015 and beyond.

*This is not a Christmas guide made up of companies who have sent me dirty five pound notes, flattered me somehow or blackmailed me into  including them. They are included because I highly rate them. In the interests of disclosure the Orchard Toy’s game featured was send as a review item however if you search the blog, my social media accounts or ask anyone with children who have had a gift bought by me in the last five years they will tell you that I am a keen fan outside of the review opportunity.

Property: How the Other Half Live 

Thirsk in the sunshine, is there anywhere more lovely? We don't think so!

Thirsk in the sunshine, is there anywhere more lovely? We don’t think so!

There are two things that you may (or may not depending on how regularly you read the blog) know about me. Firstly, I live in Thirsk, North Yorkshire and secondly I am a properties tart. By properties tart I mean that I love to trawl through properties to buy and rent online, purely to nosy inside and see how the other half lives. This hobby or pastime if you can call it that started with looking at houses comparable to my own in size and location and now I like looking at the dream houses, the houses in different areas and the more unique properties. I know I’m not the only one who likes a good nosy on Rightmove!

My Pinterest boards also reflect the interior projects and designs I would enjoy if I owned one of the dream houses on my mental list (fairly modest ones) as well as those which I aim to do here at some point.

Living in rural-ish Thirsk (Think of James Herriot, the vet and Thirsk Races) we seem to have a fairly high property value compared to some areas. Rents and house prices appear to be at all all-time high and people are buying and selling fairly quickly. We’d always known in the past that if we moved areas that we could potentially get more for our money size and room-wise, although our house is far from shabby. The problem with that is that we don’t want to leave our lovely town and also, moving areas now wouldn’t necessarily offer the property upgrade it once would as the market seems to have evened out in many (but not all) areas.

Living near Harrogate and York, having excellent links with the North East and more Thirsk has always been fairly attractive for businesses and commuters yet retains its rural charm. What we didn’t realise but do now is that as expensive we feel our property prices are, they are nowhere near as high as some UK much sought after areas!

Realistically it depends on what you are looking for as state that the average (England and Wales) property prices stands at approximately £184,682. That’s ok if you want a two, maybe three bed semi up here (North) but what if you want to live how the other half live? I’m talking gated properties and key locations such as Chelsea or St John’s Wood (if I was to live in London it would be St John’s Wood).  Have a look to see what kind of price tag you could expect to pay for a swish pad in or around London for example. If you were to receive change from a million pounds (a million pounds!?) you would be fortunate it seems.

In real terms if I sold a property in one of those areas I could buy straight out four 3-4 bed really quite lovely  houses here. That’s a heck of a difference when put side by side. I think for now we’ll put off buying something in Kensington or Westminster as while many would pay the ultimate price for a three bed apartment there I am more than happy enjoying the rural, community feel of our lovely local area in my own three bed yet much cheaper house.

It makes you think though, doesn’t it? The grass may not necessarily be greener on the other side for us however it depends on who you are, what you want and how much you are willing to spend on a property to get exactly what you want. Thankfully we are very content for significantly less and are content to limit ourselves to browsing such properties online.

Would you like to live in one of those homes? Does the price make your eyes bulge like they do mine? I’d love to hear.



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