Independent Business Christmas Gift Guide

So, that time of the year has come around again and it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas! Some people hate it and some people love it, but if you’re looking to share a little love this Christmas then what better way to do it than with a gift purchased from an independent business. After the awful year we’ve had it’s now more important than ever to shop local and support your independent businesses, as you’re supporting your local economy and encouraging British entrepreneurship. So I’ve compiled a list containing some of my favourite independent businesses from Lichfield and the West Midlands, that produce some amazing products which would make the perfect gift this Christmas.

Staffordshire Distillery

@staffsdistil

Founded in 2018 and located near Lichfield, the Staffordshire Distillery produces craft batch hand bottled gin with a variety of flavours. Most famously, they produce their ‘Uisge Gin’, which is a premium blend of botanicals infused through copper and blended with mineral water from the Cairngorms. The Staffordshire Distillery also sell a boxed ‘miniatures’ selection, as well as a selection of gift hampers! Their 700ml bottles of gin are priced at £38.99, and the miniatures collection at only £15.99.

You can find out more about the Staffordshire Distillery and what they have to offer at www.staffordshiredistillery.com

Harriet’s Plants

@harriets.plants

Hailing from Lichfield, Harriet’s Plants is an indoor plant specialist business set up by Harriet herself, who made her dream a reality by starting up a business growing plants. Harriet’s Plants are the only peat free and plastic free grower of house plants within the whole UK.

You can purchase an array of beautiful indoor house plants, as well as botanical wares from www.harrietsplants.co.uk

The Cake Spa

@thecakespa

The Cake Spa is a delicious cake making business run by Laura, that not only offers bespoke cakes for all occasions , but also creates baking boxes which contain everything you need to create yummy treats! The baking boxes on offer always change and you can even purchase a yearly subscription to them! As well as baking boxing, Laura also runs ‘super Saturday’ where once a month, on a Saturday, you can bag yourself a variety of delicious cake slices for only £12 for 4 slices.

Head over to www.thecakespa.co.uk to check out what amazing goodies are on offer, as well as the new festive baking boxes.

Heaven Sent

@heavensentlichfield

Heaven Sent is a luxury salon spa located in a beautiful listed building on the scenic cobbled streets of Lichfield. Already having a branch in Sutton Coldfield, Heaven Sent opened the Lichfield branch in December 2019 offering an array of skin and beauty therapeutic treatments. They also offer an array of couples treatments, which is the perfect gift for anyone who needs some R&R. As well as gift vouchers Heaven Sent also boasts a selection high end skincare and beauty products, that can be packaged with a personalised note or tag if you wish.

To check out the treatments on offer with the price list and booking options, please visit Heaven Sent Treatments.

Or if you want to buy gift cards or products then head over to Heaven Sent Store.

The Staffordshire Craft Hamper Co

@the.staffs.craft.hamper.co


The Staffordshire Craft Hamper Co are producing limited edition hampers filled with artisan edibles from all around the Midlands. Offering a festive hamper and a breakfast hamper, both filled with a fantastic selection of products and with prices starting at just £37.00 this really is a hamper you can’t miss out on!

To find out more about The Staffordshire Craft Hamper Co and the local artisans featured in the hamper then head over to thestaffscrafthamper.co.uk.

Dine At Home With TCS

@dahlichfield

Dine At Home is a Lichfield based business, that brings together the best chefs in the country to create a fine dining experience, in the comfort of your own home. Renowned chef Tom Shephard, who was previously head chef at Michelin starred Birmingham restaurant Adam’s, each week creates an exquisite three course menu that he prepares. This is then ready for you reheat or bake at home, with clear and easy instructions for each course. Every menu consists of the highest quality local produce and there are even wine pairings that you can opt in to have with the meal also. Dine At Home will also deliver to the local area of Lichfield for free and can be delivered nationally for an extra charge.

More information about upcoming menus, wine pairings and gift vouchers can be found here www.saucesupperclub.co.uk

The Punky Bunny

@thepunkybunny

The Punky Bunny is an eco friendly vegan gifts and paper goods business originating from Birmingham. This small business, ran by Emma, offers a selection of prints, cards, mugs, key rings and much more! Emma makes sure to make everything about the business as eco friendly as possible, using fully recyclable materials and local suppliers where possible.

To see everything Emma has to offer then head over to www.etsy.com/shop/thepunkybunny.

Miss Macaroon

@iammissmacaroon

Miss Macaroon is a Birmingham social enterprise, with 100% of their profits being used to help young people gain skills that change their lives; they also make delicious macaroons too! They offer box sets macaroons which can be delivered straight to your door, as well as Christmas social enterprise hampers. The hampers contain premium award winning products from other social enterprises. With each hamper purchased your not only receiving a basket of amazing goodies but you are also helping make a difference!

You can find out more about the good work Miss Macaroon do and check out what they have on offer at missmacaroon.co.uk.

Brummie Honey

@brummiehoney

Brummie Honey are a Sutton Coldfield based family of beekeepers that sell ethically produced, raw, unpasteurised honey. As well as honey, Brummie Honey also sell wax wraps, furniture polish and infused honey.

Head over to their Instagram page to keep up with all that they’re doing and to see what they’re currently selling , or visit brummiehoney.com for more information.

Brockswood Animal Sanctuary

@brockswood.cotwallend

Brockswood, located in Sedgley, is an animal sanctuary that cares and rehabilitated sick, injured, abused and unwanted animals. This non-profit organisation dedicates its time to creating a safe haven and you can help them do this by sponsoring an animal. Sponsoring one of the animals costs £30 and in return you receive a certificate, two pictures of your animal, an adult season pass allowing you to visit the sanctuary whenever you want (usually £3.50 per visit), a fact sheet about your animal, and your name displayed on the closure of your animal.

Earlier this year I sponsored Malcom the Emu and have been able to visit him numerous times. Sponsoring an animal makes the perfect gift for children and adults alike! You can learn more about Brockswood and how to sponsor an animal at www.brockswood.org.uk.

Country Grazing Co.

@countrygrazingco

The Country Grazing Co is a small business located in Filongley in Coventry. Run by Danielle, the Country Grazing Co creates grazing boxes and boards for all occasions, as well as veggie, vegan and brunch boxes. If you have more of a sweet tooth they also do sweet boxes! With boxes to serve 2-4 people priced at just £35 and sweet boxes to serve 2-4 people priced at £30 they’re the perfect gift for the whole family!

For more information about grazing boxes, sizes and grazing for special occasions head over their Instagram page.

Rye and Co

@rye_and_co

Rye and Co are a Lichfield based cold process soap business. Not only are all the soaps handmade in small batches, but they’re also vegan, cruelty free, SLS free, palm free and sustainably packaged. The cold process is a centuries old process that takes up to 6 weeks and creates soap that is totally different. Rye Botanicals only include a nourishing blend of plant oils, essential oils and plant extracts, leaving out all the artificial additives.

To check out the full range of hand soaps, body soaps, aromatherapy blends and accessories visit www.ryesoap.com.

The Koalaty Bakery Co.

@thekoalatybakeryco

The Koalaty Bakery Co is a Lichfield based business that specialise in vegan baked goods. From cookies, to cakes, to traybakes, The Koalaty Bakery Co do it all! Also on offer are a selection of Christmas themed bakes, gift vouchers, subscription boxes and cake jars. I’m not vegan but have purchased some goods from The Koalaty Bakery Co in the past and can confirm that they’re delicious!

Head over to www.koalatybakery.co.uk to check out their full range.

Blossom by Kayleigh

@blossom_by_kayleigh

Blossoms by Kayleigh is an independent floristry business, based in Birmingham, creating floral designs for any occasion. Blossoms by Kayleigh has you covered no matter what your preference or colour scheme, and if you fancy something a little more hands on then you can book in for one of the interactive workshops, which run at different times throughout the year, allowing you to create your own floral creation to take home!

For more information on upcoming workshops or to purchase beautiful arrangements then visit blossombykayleigh.co.uk.

Bella’s Bakes

@bellas_bakesx

Now we can’t forget our four legged friends. Bella’s Bakes is a Tamworth based business that creates homemade personalised dog treats. From doggy advent calendars to doggy birthday treat boxes, Bella’s Bakes does it all!

To get your personalised Christmas dog treats head over to their Instagram page or visit Bella’s Bakes.

LARDER

@larderlichfield17

Larder is one of my favourite independent restaurants in Lichfield. It is an ingredient led fine dining restaurant, holding 2 AA rosettes. This family run business focuses on bold flavours and the quality of its ingredients. Using local ingredients where possible, Larder is passionate about creating fresh innovative dishes. Gift vouchers can be purchased from the website, which are the perfect present for anyone wanting to experience a taste sensation.

The menu’s, opening hours and information how to purchase gift voucher’s can all be found on their website larderlichfield.com.

Han-Drawn Designs

@handrawn.designs

I have to admit that this one isn’t a West Midlands business, but it is ran by Hannah, who used to live in the West Midlands and relocated to The Lake District. Han-Drawn Designs creates a range of Lake District inspired gifts such as mugs, coasters, keyrings and prints, using recyclable packaging products too.

To view their full range or to contact Hannah for custom designs then visit the website at han-drawn.square.site

So this concludes my independent business gift guide. Listed above are some of the very best that the West Midlands has to offer but there are still many more amazing independents that I didn’t include. With uncertain times ahead it’s now more important than ever to support our independents, so ditch the high street, support local and purchase unique gifts that will certainly be remembered!

Birmingham’s Newest Smokehouse

You don’t have to venture far within Birmingham to experience flavours from all over the world, and making its new debut into the up and coming Birmingham food scene is D.J. Quinn’s smokehouse. Located in Hall Green, just over 15 minutes away from the city centre, D.J. Quinn’s is a traditional Irish pub established in 2018, that hosts live music, sports and more recently a new authentic smokehouse.

Excited about the new opening I ventured to Hall Green to try out some of the amazing dishes D.J. Quinn’s had to offer! Their new menu consists of an array of smokehouse dishes, sharers, and small plates, as well as some pub classics and Sunday roasts. I opted for a selection of the small plates which included smoked wings, mac ‘n’ cheese and pulled pork nachos, with my partner opting for one of the mains which was Memphis style half rack of ribs & pulled pork. The food arrived and wow was I impressed! It all looked so delicious, we couldn’t wait to dive in and try it.

The smoked wings came in a delicious Cajun rub, served with a pineapple salsa and bbq sauce. They were crispy on the outside but deliciously succulent on the inside, the perfect chicken wings!

The mac ‘n’ cheese was a enticing combination of three different cheeses, combined truffle oil and Parmesan. I couldn’t get enough of this man ‘n’ cheese, it was creamy and more-ish, definitely not your standard boring mac ‘n’ cheese. My partner who hates mac ‘n’ cheese even said he liked it which is an impressive feat!

I’m a big fan of nachos, sampling them across many of Birmingham’s restaurants but the D.J. Quinn’s nachos surprised me. They were not your standard nachos to say the least! Full of flavour the homebaked nacho chips came with the same delicious pineapple salsa that accompanied the smoked wings, guacamole, sour cream, cheese and smoked pulled pork. The portion size was huge, it is fantastic value for money as they’re only £6.95 and we struggled to eat them between two of us! The pulled pork was the real winner here though, as it has to be the best pulled pork I’ve ever tasted, I could have honestly sat and ate a whole bowl of it to myself! The pineapple salsa went really well with the pulled pork and the flavours complimented each other. D.J. Quinn’s also offer a vegan version of the nachos with bbq jackfruit and vegan cheese sauce with salsa and guacamole.

My partners main meal which was the Memphis style half rack of ribs & pulled pork looked so good that I had to steal some for myself! The Memphis style ribs are smoked for 4 hours over a maple and applewood chip blend in a natural oil drum smoker, and are then finished with a homemade bbq sauce, served with seasoned fries and pickles. The pulled pork was the same smoked pulled pork that topped the homemade nachos, and was still as delicious as ever! The pictures don’t do this meal justice as the ribs were enormous! The were really meaty and had the most amazing flavour; all the meat at D.J. Quinn’s is supplied by local butcher Keith Emery and smoked in house.

Aside from all the meat, D.J. Quinn’s also offer a vegetarian and vegan selection, as well as some traditional pub classics and Sunday roasts. Their menu is served 7 days a week from 12pm-9pm. When you think of pub food you don’t think of anything inspiring but D.J. Quinn’s has really changed that! I’ve never been into a pub before and been so blown away by how fantastic the food is, every dish we had was spot on and I couldn’t fault anything. If you’re looking for a new place to try then get yourself down to D.J. Quinn’s, the short drive from the city centre is definitely worth it! You can find more information and their full menu here.

Disclaimer: I was gifted this meal, however all opinions are genuine and my own.

The Benefits of Rose Water

Since Ancient Egyptian times rose water has been used not only as a drink but for its skin benefits. It’s said that Cleopatra used to bathe in rose water, and still today you can see it’s benefits if regularly used. I’ve used many toners in the past that have rose water as an ingredient, famed for its rejuvenating, soothing and calming properties, but I had yet to use it on its own until I found Erbology Organic Rose Water.

The Erbology Organic Rose Water is made from only the best organic fertile Damask rose petals making it the perfect rose water to use on your skin. I suffer from oily skin that is prone to redness and have found in the past that a lot of toners aimed at my skin type tend to cause my skin to dry out too much. When switching to moisturising toners I found that they broke me out so I could never find a happy in-between! This is when I decided to switch to a more natural product like rose water, hoping that I would see some of the the famed benefits. It is claimed that rose water:

  • Reduces skin redness and puffiness due to its anti-inflammatory properties
  • Helps to sooth skin irritation such as eczema
  • Help prevent acne due to its antiseptic properties
  • Helps to prevent cell damage as it contains antioxidants which are found within rose petals

After using the Erbology Organic Rose Water for 3 weeks every morning and night I found that the redness in my skin reduced and I was able to go to work without feeling the need to wear foundation. My skin felt cleaner after using it, without feeling stripped (due to rose water having a neutral pH 7), and it was gentle enough to retain moisture in my skin without breaking me out in spots! Ditching harsher ingredients for pure rose water was the best switch I made for my skin and I’ve even had compliments on how glowing my skin looks! When you treat your skin correctly the results are bountiful.

Continuing with my use of rose water I’m sure that my skin can only get better, especially that after 3 weeks I’m already seeing fantastic benefits and I will also be experimenting with incorporating it into food, as it is a very popular ingredient in the Middle Eastern cooking. If you have sensitive, acne prone or skin redness then it’s definitely worth trying to incorporate rose water into your beauty regime! The Erbology Organic Rose Water can also be drank or mixed into smoothies; I found it very calming when I drank it before bed and it helped me to fall asleep.

You can purchase the Erbology Organic Rose Water from their website here – Erbology Organic Rose Water, along with a range of other fantastic health products!

Have you tried rose water before?

Laura 

Disclaimer: I was gifted this rose water, however all opinions are genuine and my own.

 

Ditching The Plastic – My Shampoo Bar Journey

I’m not one to stick to my New Years resolutions, but as the clock struck 12 on 1st January 2020 I vowed that this year I was going to make a conscious effort to reduce my plastic waste. This resolution seemed more achievable than my usual ‘eat less chocolate’ or ‘exercise more’ goals that I seemingly failed to do each year. I was easily able to ditch my makeup wipes and single use cotton pads for reusable hand stitched cotton pads, which if anything actually cleaned my skin better than the single use ones! Next I was able to switch my toothbrush for a bamboo toothbrush, my ear buds for bamboo ear buds and my plastic shopping bags for more durable fair trade cotton bags.

I made many switches but the last thing I was reluctant to ditch were my (plastic bottled) shampoo and conditioner. I’ve tried in the past to switch to a shampoo bar but it was disastrous. Many shampoo bars don’t contain SLS (SLS is round is most standard shampoo and stripes your hair of its natural oils) so you have to go through an adjustment period when you switch which can take up to two months. I really tried for months with other shampoo bars but was left with lank greasy hair, the transition phase seemed to never end. Due to this I was reluctant to try a shampoo bar again, however mid lockdown as I browsed the shelves of my local Waitrose for the ever scarce hand sanitiser or soap I spotted Beco Argan Oil Shampoo Bars for just £4 a bar, which I had only spotted due to someone placing it in the soap section of the store and not the haircare section! I mean what was the worst that was going to happen? If they gave me greasy hair like the others at least no one would see me due to lockdown!

After I got home and searched Beco I found out how much of an amazing company they are. Their products are vegan, cruelty free, 97% organic, hypoallergenic, pH balanced, biodegradable as well as being plastic, paraben and SLS free. But the most amazing thing about Beco is that they’re a social enterprise that help disabled people get job by actively encouraging other companies to employ disabled staff, with 80% of own workforce being disabled. Unfortunately the employments rates amongst disabled people are higher than the rates amongst people without disabilities, but Beco are campaigning to change this.

The product itself comes unwrapped in a FSC certified recyclable cardboard box. The first thing I noticed about this shampoo bar was how amazing it smelt, I could even smell it through the box! Surprisingly when I used the bar for the first time it lathered up really well compared to other bars I’ve used, which is thanks to the Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate it contains – a natural mild surfactant derived from coconut. After using it my hair felt lovely and clean, where as with other bars it felt heavy and greasy. I expected there to be a transition phase using the Beco Argan Oil Shampoo Bar but my hair was perfect from the start! Not only did my hair not get greasy as fast but it was left beautifully soft. I was really impressed with the results from this £4 bar! The best part about it was the bar lasted SO long, one bar lasted me around 2-3 months which is far longer than a standard bottle of shampoo would last me. It should also be noted that because this shampoo bar doesn’t contain natural oil stripping ingredients you can use it without conditioner and still have beautiful soft hair. I have bleached hair and use this bar without conditioner most days, or use a silicone free conditioner when I feel my hair needs a little nourishment. You may think using no conditioner would ruin your hair but my hair has become more healthy with less split ends!

The Beco Argan Oil Shampoo Bar comes in 3 different scents – honey blossom and spring meadow; I tried both and they both smell lovely. Beco also sell bars of hand soap and liquid soap and you can find their products in Waitrose, Sainsbury’s, Co-op, Boots and The Ethical Superstore. To find out more about Beco and the amazing work they do visit their website https://betterconsidered.org

What shampoo bar brands have you tried?

Laura 

10 Things You’re Doing That Are Causing Spots

Is your skin getting you down? You think you’ve tried everything but you’re still getting those stubborn spots? Well there may some things you’re doing that you don’t realise which is causing your skin to be this way! You might have the perfect skincare routine but there are many surprising causes of acne that you probably didn’t know about!

1. Not Washing Your Hands Before Touching Face

Your hands harbour loads of bacteria from everything you touch during the day, including propionibacterium acnes which is a bacterium that lives on the skin and is responsible for clogging pores which causes spots! Not only is there bacteria on your hands but also oils, which again can cause spots, so keep those hands away from your face! If you do need to touch your face remember to wash them before doing so or to use hand sanitiser.

2. Using a Dirty Towel to Dry Your Face

Every time you wash your face if you’re not using a clean towel to dry it then you will unfortunately be transferring bacteria onto your lovely clean face, which can result in spots and worsen existing skin conditions. A cute idea to help you with this is having a small basket in your bathroom with neatly rolled face cloths stacked up, ready for you to use a clean one every time you wash your face!

3. Not Washing Your Makeup Brushes Regularly

Makeup brushes are another location where bacteria can grow if you don’t clean them often. All that old makeup and bacteria, as well as oil buildup from your skin, makes dirty brushes a major cause of spots! You wouldn’t put dirty water on your face so why put dirty brushes on your face?! It’s important to clean your brushes at least once a week; you can even buy some gadgets to make your brush cleaning less of a chore, like the Stylpro Original that cleans and drys your brushes in seconds.

4. Transferring Bacteria Into Your Makeup

It’s strange that a lot of makeup brands don’t produce their foundations with a pump so you end up having to pour it out onto your hand if you can’t find a pump that fits. Not only is this annoying but it causes bacteria to be transferred into your foundation! This also applies to other products you have to dip into so it’s important to buy makeup pumps where you can and always use clean brushes when dipping into products to prevent your makeup from being contaminated! It should also be remembered that makeup actually has an expiry date, and it’s not recommended to use the products after this date because it’s safe to say they will definitely contain a good dose of acne causing bacteria!

5. Not Changing Your Pillow Case Regularly

For a long time I wondered why I was getting spots on the side on my face, in particular my cheeks. It wasn’t until I realised it was being caused from my pillow cases that I discovered a build up of oils from your hair can transfer to your pillow, which in turn transfers to your face and can cause spots. I made sure to change my pillow cases at least twice a week and like magic I started seeing an improvement in my skin! It’s particularly important to do this if like me you love putting argan or coconut oil in your hair, which can transfer onto your pillow cases.

6. Letting Your Hair Touch Your Face Constantly

Similarly to changing your pillow case, always allowing your hair to touch your face can cause spots. Your hair is coated in natural oils, along with any other products you may add which probably won’t agree with your skin. If your hair is always touching your face these products can transfer onto your skin and clog your pores. Wearing some cute clips to keep your hair off your face or using less products can help prevent them from forming!

7. Using Too Many Harsh Ingredients in Your Skincare Regime

When you have acne it’s can be very easy to think that throwing everything at it that you’ve got will make it disappear, but this can cause the acne to get worse or other skin conditions to appear. It’s important to remember to treat your skin kindly, it’s very easy to dry your skin out by overusing AHA/BHAs which can make your skin more sensitive, trigger more spots or lead to dermatitis. You may think that moisturising will make acne worse if you already have oily skin but trust me moisturiser is not your enemy! Investing in a good oil free moisturiser will make sure that you’re not over drying your skin and can actually help regulate sebum production. When you over dry your skin, it can respond by producing more sebum than before so it’s important to get the balance right.

8. Making Calls on Your Phone Frequently

If you’ve been changing your pillow cases frequency but are still getting spots on your cheeks then it might be because your making phone calls a lot. A recent study showed that your phones harboured more than 25,000 per inch and some even had more bacteria than a toilet seat! The issue is that your phone is rarely cleaned, if you’re someone who likes to sit on the toilet with your phone, you’ll most likely wash your hands after but not your phone. Additionally, all the bacteria from everything you touch during the day gets transferred to your phone, and this gets transferred to your face, in particular your cheek area when you make phone calls. It’s worth investing in some headphones with a microphone to make calls or carrying round alcohol wipes to give your phone the much deserved cleaning it needs!

9. Increased Stress Levels

We all get stressed at the best of times, but most people don’t realise that stress can have a negative effect on your skin. Stress doesn’t directly cause acne but it has been found that the stress hormone called ‘corticotrophin releasing hormone’ increases the production of oil on the skins surface which can cause more spots to form. Another important factor to remember is that when we are stressed we may forget to follow our usually skin routine!

10. Poor Diet

Many studies have shown that eating a healthy diet can improve your skin and help reduce the amount of spots you get. Diets high in sugar increase your insulin levels, which in turn caused your oil glands to produce more oil causing more spots. Sugar is not the only thing in your diet to do this, but also high glycemic carbohydrates, dairy, saturated fats and trans fats. If you want to help your skin it’s suggested you consume more:

    Fruit
    Vegetables (especially leafy greens)
    Legumes
    Whole grains
    Oily fish
    Nuts and seeds

Final Note

Recognising the underlying causes of your acne is the first step towards helping to treat it. If you follow these 10 easy steps then your on the way to getting your acne under control! Always remember that if you’ve tried all of these steps, as well as over the counter products, but your acne persists then its best to seek advice from a dermatologist.

What’s your best tips to fight acne?

Laura