The eighth day of Christmas

Food. Christmas food. That’s quite important, right? And now is a good time to buy Christmas food, with not-very-many-at-all days left before the family V food contest. If you want to avoid pre-Christmas-supermarket hell (and who doesn’t, frankly,) you could do it the nice way and head off into town for some Christmas shopping. I still get traumatic flashbacks to an experience a few years ago in Tescos on Christmas Eve. People were shopping like it was the Apocalypse that was coming, rather than just ONE day where supermarkets would be closed. Never again, I sobbed into a bashed-up box of mince pies whilst pensioners ran over my toes with their laden trollies.

Castle Road is a great place to start Chrsitmas food shopping. The Italian Deli – Foods of Italy – on Bower Street has recently had a beautiful makeover and is bigger and better than ever. They serve the very best olives, salami, pizza dough, sandwiches, pasta dishes and stock loads of goodies like pannatone and Italian biscuits.

Further up Castle road there is Andaluz, which deserves a special mention for the incredible sherry range they have available. Harris Butchers – best steak EVER, but also great sausages, bacon, free range eggs and a nice range of chutneys, the Cheese Kitchen for, ah, cheese, obviously, but also bread, wine, jam, oatcakes, and lots of other lovely stuff.

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Sherry: not just for Grannies!

The Blue Glass on St Cuthbert’s Street can sort out all of your liquid refreshment-needs, and Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without Lingers Butchers.

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Just mentally add the Father Christmas costume.

As I’ve been typing this, I’ve just thought – someone should create a Bedford Christmas Hamper! That would be great! We’ll be making our own this year as we found a hamper in Bargain Alley in Castle Road earlier in the year – which is brilliant, and has room for three wine bottles for those very boozy picnic occasions. And after visiting all of these lovely places to fill it, I’ll be off to Lidl for my favourite chocolates, those seashell Belgium ones, but for a very Lidl price of £1.99.  *cheap Christmas present alert* !!

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Lidl Gifts

The seventh day of Christmas

I know it’s getting close to Christmas when I start wanting to punch anyone who utters the phrase ‘perfect Christmas’. This in not related in any way to the following blog, it is just an observation. But don’t worry. I am a very poor puncher. No one would ever get hurt.

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So anyway, I had a problem this year, about what to buy for my Dad. I’ve given him jumpers for the last, oh, ten years, and as my Dad is a very careful jumper-wearer, he still has all of these jumpers. To have an eleventh would be bordering on hoarding. (Which is a pleasing semi -rhyme in itself.)  So I needed something else to give him. Dad is not in any way demanding, present-wise, (luckily) and would be happy with a big bag of nails/screws/bolts from Goldings, but he is a nice Dad, so I like to at least make an effort, and anyway he has quite enough jars of nails/screws/bolts.  So this year, I came up with the masterful plan of buying Dad some local art. It didn’t have to be local, obviously, but  David Litchfield’s wonderful drawings were on display at the Calzone restaurant the other day, and I thought one of those would be perfect. David Litchfield is a local up-and-coming illustrator who has worked on various local projects, including The Bedford Clanger and the School of Us Cycle-powered Cinema. Most recently David has collaborated with No Loss  and Dumbstruck! Productions to create a brilliant adaptation of childrens’ classic Where the Wild Things Are at the Place Theatre, which is on until Christmas Eve. You can buy limited-edition prints of some of his work on his website here. All classics.

Guide to an Escape

For other local Art, visit Frescoes on Mill Street (who have work from local artists displayed around the coffee shop,) The Art Centre, or Eagle Gallery. The local and talented group of artists known as the Circus of Illustration have work for sale at The Place Theatre and Pensieri.

Buying local art means that you are directly supporting local talent, as well as the outlets you buy from. And you are getting something original and beautiful that will hopefully be hanging on your/their wall for a long time. Total win-win. I am going to have to buy a Litchfield just for me now though. Or maybe Dad’ll get a jumper this year after all…

The mysteriously absent fifth day of Christmas

In my hurry to catch up with my days of Christmas blogs, which essentially only amounts counting to 12, I seem to have forgotten the Fifth day of Christmas. Which is funny, because I always forget the other verses of the song, but 5 gold rings is the bit that everyone can always recall. It is also slightly worrying. I’d really like to think that I could reliably count to twelve.

Image Anyway, on with the blingiest day of Christmas.The arrival of three children in my life mysteriously co-incided with a sudden hit to my jewellery collection. First to go were the earrings after a particularly grabby eldest daughter had a go at some dangly Chrsitmas tree ones and gave me ear-slitting-paranoia. Then the boy who liked to put everything in his mouth chewed most of my necklaces to pieces, and the ones he didn’t chew, he pulled off whilst feeding. (!) Then the second daughter, who is essentially a magpie, arrived and snaffled the remaining bits of sparkle. 

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I’ve done quite a lot of jewellery shopping this year to make up for the past few years’ of losses. I’ve mentioned epanoiu on here before, but I should also mention that epanoiu jewellery is available in Pensieri, which I can also reliably inform you does the best hot chocolate possible. Marshmallows, cream, AND a chunk of rocky road. Not for the feint hearted (nor the diabetic,) but hardcore chocolate fans: do it. 

Pensieri has a great range of jewellery alongside the epanoui range, it’s well worth a browse. 

Other places in Bedford that are worth a nose about for jewellery include Accessorize, (obvs) Charisma in the (posh) Arcade, and Planet Clothing (also of the posh arcade.) Planet Clothing, as well as stocking a lovely range of chunky jewellery, White Stuff, Fly boots and a Superdry cardigan (which I am lusting after because of its likeness to the one Lund wears in The Killing) also is running a gift list system this year. So you can go in, browse, fall in love with something you’d like to find under the tree, and note it down on a little card – it’s a reassuringly analogue system – and then tell  whoever it is in your life who wants to buy something for you for Christmas but may lack, ah, direction to go in, and look for the card with your name on. Easy-peasy. Or maybe this is for people who are just very specific with their gift requirements. Whatevs. It’s genius. Blossom Lingerie, further down the arcade, runs the same scheme. Which is handy, as you can include your size: this is clearly massively helpful in the minefield that is lingerie shopping.

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White Stuff: available at Planet Clothing. Along with sparkly stuff.

There’s still time to order online though, and this year I have discovered the best folksy shop for jewellery ever: Kayleigh o’ Mara

Example of her brilliance:

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Beautiful, inexpensive and very, very cool. 

 

There we are. Confusingly, the actual seventh day of Christmas is up later (buying local art!) And then, fingers crossed, I can manage to count to 12. Good grief.

The SIXTH (though actually the 7th) day of Chrsitmas

So if by this stage of the Christmas run up you’re getting a bit jittery about ordering online, just in case it doesn’t actually make it to you in time, then shopping local might start to take on a whole new convenience. No need to rely on the postie, plus none of that ‘oh, it looked really nice/big/glittery in the picture on the website’  type disappointment. With that in mind, a great place to head to in Bedford is the stylish and excellently-soundtracked  (go in and listen for yourself – it’s true!)  design twenty.

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Selling beautiful original 20th Century design furniture, ceramics, lighting, and artwork, you can find design twenty in the glorious Castle Quay area, which is also home to arguably the best coffee in Bedford (Pensieri) and the best collection of places to eat/drink/buy great shirts/look at amazing photography (Rock City Art.) They’ll soon be joined by the re-vamped Higgins museum, completing Bedford’s cultural quarter.

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But back to design twenty. As I always say, trust a shop with fairy wall art in the window. Well, actually I had never said that until I walked past and saw the fairy wall art in the window of design twenty. It made me think that despite the fact that the shop looked intimidatingly stylish, it couldn’t be that scary. And it isn’t scary, it is just beautiful. It is definitely the place to head for to purchase an original Eames chair, or a classic anglepoise lamp, but also if you are heading into town to look for something little and a bit special, you should definitely think of design twenty.

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The journal (£12) and card set (£6.50 for eight cards) feature the beautiful artwork of Eric Ravilious, a 20th centuary artist and ceramics designer for Wedgewood. His iconic London-inspired designs make perfect gifts for Christmas 2012, which has, let’s face it, been rather a wonderful year for London.

If you want a bit of authentic Ravilious ceramic design, you can purchase that there too. Just how marvellous would your Christmas pudding look served up on one of these?

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Oh, and the other thing that is fab about design twenty is that it stocks the always-brilliant School of Craft kits, £15 each. These are probably going to be the must-have arty-kid gift for Christmas 2013, as they are currently being snapped up by top London stockists, including the uber-stylish Olive Loves Alfie in Stoke Newington. Why not get in there early and enjoy a spot of Mexican mask-making over the Christmas break?

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Not only can you sew your own Mexican mask, but the box folds out to contain more creative activity ideas and information, as well as full instructions.

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The other ‘project in a box’ is the Inspired by Art project, based on the work of Alexander Calder, which involved making your own bouquet of flowers sculpture. Both kits would make great holiday projects, and perfect as gifts for children aged 8 and over. The very talented Crafty Jo (Mrs School of Craft herself) also makes the beautiful cushions that are adorning some of the furniture in the shop. They’re for sale too.

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I should also mention that design twenty are offering a free Ravillious design postcard – various designs available – with every purchase at the moment. That’s right – a free postcard. Frame it. There’s another last-minute Christmas present right there!

The FOURTH day of Christmas….

Yes yes, I’ve got a bit behind. Over the weekend I managed to some down with some sort of non-specific coldy/fluey thing which rendered me insensible AND unable to blog. I did manage to go cash-mobbing and sherry-tasting before I gave up, so I shall stop complaining right now. On with the festive blogging! (I’ll attempt a catch up later. Prepare yourselves for a festive-blog assault.)

This is really just a link to something very cool. There really is very little one can say about these hats, other than just to advocate wearing one.

Beard Hat

Viking beard-hat

You should visit the awesome website beardhead.co.uk for more. I think these might be the answer for some of those tricky man-gifts that are required at this time of year, perhaps an alternative to a Christmas jumper (sacrilege  to suggest such a thing!)

Santa Beard Hat

Seeing as I was trying to make this a shop local blog – and although these hats are clearly an invention of notable genius, they are not available locally – I will use the next two catch-up blogs today to advocate more local shopping. But I couldn’t ignore a hat that comes with a built-in ‘tache. Just wouldn’t have been right.

The Third day of Christmas….

Hold the (word)press! I have just stumbled across something so unbelievably cool, it has almost blown my tiny mind. Luckily, it hasn’t quite managed, and so I am able to type the following sentence:

I have found some beautiful gift wrap and tags to make your Christmas presents look amazing, that you can download, and print, for free. That is really brilliant, right, or have I just exposed myself as having no life whatsoever? Can’t decide.

As mentioned before, I feel that gift wrapping is of tip-top importance at Christmas. And so, I give you the following links out of the kindness of my heart. And if you like the idea as much as I do (well, someone might!) please share my blog link; on your facebook page, via twitter, in your Christmas cards. It’s a very sharing time of year.

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You can download these beautiful ones from LovevsDesign

These bright and beautiful ones are from the gorgeous eat drink chic

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And these are from shimtokk

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You can download them, print them, and wrap your locally-bought lovely gift up to look really special. And then thank me by sharing my blog. (Other thank you gifts accepted include wine, chocolate and offers of childcare, just for your reference.)

Four calling birds tomorrow. Let’s hope they don’t start calling ridiculously early. I need my Saturday lie-in after all this gift-wrap excitement!

On the Second Day of Christmas

If anyone really does want to purchase two turtle doves – magicians, perhaps? – I am not sure where you can get them from, but you could head down to Willington Dove Cote and ask around. For many other non-turtle-dove needs, Bedford may well have the answer. On the back of the splendid postcard that I mentioned yesterday, there was a small but important fact. If we all spent just £5 in one of Bedford’s Independent Shops it would result in £375,000* going straight into the local economy. What a great Christmas present that would be for Bedford. (There really is a first time for everything, it seems, even including an entire town on your Christmas present list.) And there is no shortage of lovely places to shop.

*Based on an adult population of 75,000

Little a Lot

The wonderful Kayte Judge, who comes up with bright ideas with rather alarming frequency, has recently introduced the brilliant ‘cash-mobbing’ movement to Bedford. It is sort of like reverse armed robbery (ish) where a group of people meet with the sole intention of ‘mobbing’ a nominated independent shop in the town centre, spending a fiver in the shop and leaving a postcard with some feedback on for the owner. There are spin off events afterwards, with coffee-and-cake mobbing at independent coffee shops. And exclusive to Cash Mob Christmas Edition, which takes place on Saturday at 1.30pm – meet at the silver faces in Silver Street – there are offers for all cash mobbers for deals at The Lane and Baja, and a chance to win cineworld tickets! A fiver spent in town really does go a long way! More information on the Cash Mobbing event can be found on the facebook page here.  And if you want to read about the first ever Bedford Cash Mob, and how happy it made the staff at Rose Tinted Vintage, you can read about it on their blog.

RTV

If you don’t fancy the cash-mobbing malarky but still want to spend a fiver or more in one of Bedford’s beautiful independent shops, why not head to the beautiful arcade and have a nose around Kitchenalia, Charisma, Planet Clothing or the King of all sweet shops, Arcadia. I’m pretty sure that penny sweets offer the best return, quantity-wise at least, on spending £5 in town. I am reliably informed that it supplies Father Christmas with stocking-sweets, and you can’t beat that as a recommendation.

So tomorrow is the third day of Christmas, and the true love who just keeps on giving is rumoured to be turning up with three French hens. Useful. I just hope he managed to get them through customs. The French are notoriously tricksy about hen-exports.