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!

Flight Club Birmingham Review

Meet Flight Club – the trendy bar chain and worlds first interactive darts venue which opened its doors to the people of Birmingham back in July. The creative concept gives a fresh modern take on traditional darts, using state of the arts darts tracking technology combined with fun interactive games.

After having a blast on their opening night, I decided to return for the brunch social hosted every Saturday and Sunday, priced at a reasonable £25. Upon arriving, my partner and I were allocated our own table and oche (posh word for the dart line area) which was beautifully laid out with fresh orange juice, filtered water, bottles of prosecco and fun props to play with. Each guest receives a bottle of prosecco as well as unlimited fresh orange juice and filtered water. Can this get any better you may think? Yes, it can! You are also served unlimited pizza for the two hour duration you are there!

There was an impressive selection of ten different types of freshly baked pizza made using the finest ingredients, with choices for everyone…whether you’re vegetarian, vegan or an avid meat eater Flight Club have you covered!

Photo courtesy of Flight Club Birmingham

The pizzas were so delicious that I wish I could have stayed and tried them all as they were certainly some of the nicest pizzas I have ever tried in Birmingham. I’d even return again just for the pizza! A personal favourite was the ‘pork sausage pizza on a garlic cream base with braised leeks and smoked mozzarella’.

Photo courtesy of Flight Club Birmingham

If you’re not a fan of alcohol or if you just don’t like prosecco then the Flight Club team will happily make you some exciting mocktail alternatives instead. So no matter what your preferences are, Flight Club will make sure that everyone is having an amazing time! One thing which I didn’t realise before going to Flight Club is that they record snapshots and highlights from your entire night and send them to you via email, so you can look back at them any time you want. I love this concept because most of the time when I’m having fun I forget to take photographs to save the memories, so Flight Club have you covered on that aspect!

I applaud the new experience which Flight Club has brought to Birmingham, bringing a creative and contemporary concept which stands out against the array of typical traditional bars found within the city centre. So whether it’s your birthday, hen-do or you just fancy a day out with a difference, then I’d definitely recommend Flight Club to be your first choice to go to, you won’t regret it! More information about pricing, menus and what they offer can be found at Flight Club Birmingham.

Will this be your new brunch spot?

Laura 

 

Marmalade at The REP

Photo courtesy of Marmalade at The REP

A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to be invited to the re-opening of Marmalade at The REP theatre in Birmingham. Over the past couple of months Marmalade has been rejuvenated, with the addition of a new outdoor terrace, delicious new menu and a live events programme. Marmalade is situation near the newly redesigned Centenary Square making it the perfect location to pop in for a bite to eat or for your pre-show meal!

Their exciting new menu has been designed to utilise locally sourced ingredients and suppliers where possible, not only promoting local business’ but also reducing the environmental impact sourcing ingredients has!

Firstly, I tried some of their small plate options (which would make perfect starters). I opted for the fava bean patties with a tomatillo chutney and dukka spices as well as the chicken liver paté with onion jam and toasted bread. Both were full of flavour and really morish, I had to stop myself from eating more as to leave room for the mains!

For the main I opted for the battered catch of the day which was served with mushy peas (on the normal menu they are served with triple cooked chips). This dish was cooked to perfection, I couldn’t get enough and the mushy peas were the best I’ve ever tasted.

I also tried the chicken & chorizo jambonette, glazed baby carrots & gooseberry jam. The jam perfectly complimented the succulent chicken and really brought the dish alive!

For desserts I was spoilt for choice but eventually decided on the chocolate & coffee mousse with chantilly cream and pecan praline. The soft airy slice of chocolate deliciousness really hit the spot! My friend opted for the apple & rhubarb crumble with coconut ice cream – the perfect balance between sweet and tart.

After discovering that Marmalade also offer afternoon tea I couldn’t resist trying it. I was also surprised to learn that they do a vegan afternoon tea (which I was greedy enough to try as well). The selection of sandwiches and cakes was perfect- some establishments skimp on what they give you but Marmalade is definitely NOT one of those. I couldn’t decide which was nicer, the standard afternoon tea or the vegan option as they were equally as scrumptious!

To my delight, Marmalade have also revamped their drinks menu. They have set up a new relationship with local brewery company Purity Brewing co. from Warwickshire. The brewery supply their standard beers as well as a fantastic new Marmalade flavoured pale ale (crafted especially for the re-opening of marmalade!). Unfortunately the ‘Marmalade Pale’ was a one off brew, however you can continue to try their other offerings such as Helles lager, Longhorn IPA and Pure cider all year round. If beer isn’t your thing, Marmalade has a fantastic range of cocktails on offer, with an exciting new addition being the Martini Fiero (created through a partnership with Martini!). If you’re teetotal you can find an inviting selection of mocktails or award winning ethically sourced coffee, supplied by the local roasters Iron & Fire. Whatever your taste there’s something for you!

Photo courtesy of Marmalade at The REP

If your looking for somewhere to find fresh locally sourced food at a reasonable price, or to drink some handcrafted beverages whilst relaxing on a terrace, then Marmalade at The REP is the place your place! The full food and drinks menu can be found on their website here.

Disclaimer: The food and drink I received were complimentary, however I was not obligated to do a review, and all opinions in this post are my honest opinions.

Will you be visiting Marmalade at the REP?

Laura 

 

Staying Safe in Summer 

If your anywhere near as pale as me then you’ve probably had your fair share of sunburn. As I’ve grown older I’ve realised how important it is to look after you skin, and that ‘bright red lobster’ look is definitely not ok. Whether your a beach bum, or just enjoy soaking up the lovely British sun (on the rare days we get it), follow my tips to stay protected and keep your skin on top form!

 

Check Your Rays

Most people buy suncream only in regards to the level of SPF it contains, however it is important to also check if it protects against UVA and UVB rays. Not all suncreams protect against UVB rays, which can also cause skin cancer. So to make sure your protected get a suncream that covers both.

 

Don’t Get Star Struck

Only recently I discovered that two suncreams with the same SPF may not have the same protection level. All suncreams should have a UVA star rating on the back, however two suncreams of the same SPF level may have very different UVA star ratings. Some well known brands have been shown to have a lower UVA star rating than supermarket own brands so it’s important to check the back of the bottle before you buy!

 

Scorching Scalp

One problem I have always faced on holiday due to my fair skin is getting a sunburnt scalp. This issue is easily avoided by wearing a hat, but if you’re like me and prefer to show off your beachy waves then you may end up with a seriously sore head. I’ve always suffered with this issue on holiday, until recently when I discovered Malibu Clear Hair and Scalp Protector SPF50. At only £4.99 it’s an absolute steal, and I will no longer have to suffer from my sore scalp on holiday! A few sprays on your hair parting and your all set to go and enjoy the sun safely.

 

Acne Aggro

Most conventional sun creams don’t suit acne prone skin, and can cause breakouts which is the last thing you want when you’re on holiday! However suncreams are evolving from their thick, white, pore clogging past and there are now many ranges that offer lightweight non-comedogenic suncreams which will leave your skin feeling fab. One of my favourites is La Roche-Posay Anthelios Clear Skin Dry Touch Sunscreen SPF 60, which contains perlite silica to absorb oil throughout the day, keeping your skin fresh and matte; it also works brilliantly under foundation. In addition it is also important to use a good cleanser to remove all sunscreen residue every night regardless of whether they’re are non-comedogenic or not.

 

Moisturise, Moisturise, Moisturise. 

You can’t undo damage, but you can assist your skins repairing process by stepping up your after sun care. Being in the sun can dehydrate you, but products that contain Aloe Vera are perfect to help rehydrate your skin after sun exposure, and soothe any sun burn that may have occurred. It’s important to reapply products up to three times a day because not only does this help your skin retain its integrity and moisture, but also helps prevent the dreaded skin peeling. After-sun should be an essential part essential part of your sun care routine as it delivers antioxidants which help combat free radicals that are caused from UV exposure, and will also help your tan to last longer. Malibu Ultra Hydration Lotion is a moisturiser as well as an after-sun lotion so it’s well worth purchasing to keep your skin looking as good as ever after you’ve been in the sun!

Just because you want to be a bronzed goddess does not mean you should permanent damage your skin in the process. Sun exposure causes premature aging and many well known celebrities, such as Madonna, will not leave the house without slapping on the SPF. The best way to stop photoaging is prevention, and the best anti-aging cream is SPF moisturiser! So if you want to remain youthful, then be proactive with your sun care routine and reach for bottle of Fake Bake instead.

What’s your favourite tips to stay safe in the sun?

Laura