Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Guest Blogger: Nicky Sherwood, Editor of FromBritainWithLove.com

If you’re about to embark on your Christmas food shopping, it’s likely that you’ll be paying close attention to the provenance of your ingredients... maybe you’ll choose organic, free range, locally reared, or you may even buy direct from the producer. But what about the rest of your Christmas shopping list...?

At FromBritainWithLove.com, the guide to buying British, we’re here to help you find an alternative to mass-produced generic high street offerings, and discover beautiful products made by Britain’s talented designers, makers, artisans and craftspeople. By shopping local you’re not only helping to support local businesses and the wider economy, but also cutting your carbon footprint, and best of all you’ll be giving an original and distinctive gift that has been created with love and is sure to be received with pleasure. Here I’ve selected a few of my festive favourites...


I love the idea of a Christmas decoration which is brought out year after year and becomes part of the family. This Nativity Tea & Egg Cosy Set by Cornish designer Poppy Treffry is handmade using a vintage 1930’s Singer sewing machine, and has heirloom written all over it.

If you’re buying for little ones, take a look at new children’s knitwear label Picaloulou. Made from British farmed Merino and Alpaca, each limited edition garment is made by a dedicated team of local knitters, and is sure to be passed on to future generations.

One of the advantages of buying locally made products is that you can often get your gifts personalised by the maker. At The Stylish Dog Company, which sources all of its products in Britain, even your pooch can have his bone and eat it with this appliquéd linen Dog Stocking.

When it comes to gift wrap I favour simple over bling, so this cheerful polka dot print on brown craft paper by Hampshire-based designer Sophia Victoria Joy gets my vote.

For the ultimate in eco-friendly seasonal greetings, why not send a personalised Christmas e-postcard by Bristol-based designer Rachel Goodchild? For an annual subscription of just £5 you can send an unlimited number of e-cards and choose from over 150 original designs.

Men are notoriously tricky to buy for, but I think any man worth his gadgets would be delighted with this jaunty red leather iPad sleeve from family-run leather company Tusting, who have been producing fine English leather goods since 1875.

One of my favourite gift companies, Biscuiteers are known for their stylish iced biscuits, but they’ve recently brought out a range of iced cakes which are just as pretty and would make a fabulous centrepiece to your festive dinner table.

These are just a handful of British made Christmas gift ideas from some of the talented businesses you’ll find on FromBritainWithLove.com. Discover hundreds more in our Directory and celebrate the wealth of talent that exists on your doorstep this Christmas!

Friday, 25 November 2011

Watch the video from our Website of the Year 2011 Awards Reception

The Good Web Guide's third Website of the Year Award 2011 was announced by Jo Malone MBE on 16th November. Aimed at small web-based businesses and organisations, the awards provide online enterprises the opportunity to gain recognition and support for their businesses. WeFund scooped the top prize and was awarded the accolade of Website of the Year 2011. Runners-up included The Rare Tea Company and designer dress rental service, Girl Meets Dress. Parcel Monkey was awarded the People's Choice Award.

The shortlist of twenty-four sites demonstrated innovation, passion and a commitment to harnessing the full power of the web, some that you will definitely want to bookmark.

The 2011 Awards Reception was held on 16th November at The Royal Institution of Great Britain in London. Find out more about the award here.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Guest Blogger: Olly Smith, Drinks Ambassador at The Ideal Home Show at Christmas

This week, I'm the Celebrity Drinks Ambassador for the Ideal Home Show at Christmas (16th-20th November) and, although I have yet to receive any formal attire - surely ambassadors wear red sashes and twinkly medals - I couldn't be more chuffed for the opportunity to share my Christmas drinks tips.

I passionately believe that you don't need to spend a fortune to enjoy great wine. Try Cuvée Chasseur 2010 from Waitrose for just £4.13 a bottle (you can get a case delivered from waitrosewine.com). It's a brilliant vibrant fruity red from the south of France that I'm delighted by. Great value, top flavour and the perfect wine for mulling - fruity, light and delicious! This year, I've created a brand new recipe especially for the Ideal Home Show at Christmas. It's simple to make and utterly delicious - you can find it at the end of this blog.

If you're hunting down drinks for Christmas parties, I've found a sensational white wine bargain at Majestic - Aspen Pinot Grigio 2011 from Australia, just £4.99 and, for a party tipple, it is light, refreshing and perfectly simple. As for fizz, Prosecco has been a big hit this year but if you hurry to Tesco.com, its bubbly Tesco Brut Cava is just £3.79 online at the moment - perfect party fizz. If you're after a beer, Thornbridge Brewery gets my vote - its Jaipur IPA is an intense citrus spanker and its Wild Swan is light, easy and refreshing - smashing beers from a leading brewery.

In my book Eat & Drink, I pair recipes with drinks to show how the combinations can unleash a hidden dimension, a playful sense of adventure and deliver extra enjoyment with a touch of ingenuity. Parkin with Mincemeat Ice Cream paired with my Chai Latte recipe is one of my favourite winter treats. And if you pop along to the Ideal Home Show at Christmas, I'd be delighted to sign you a copy of my book and share more tips with you!

For more info on the inaugural Ideal Home Show at Christmas visit
idealhomeshowatchristmas.co.uk. You can also ask Olly your drinks questions on Twitter, Facebook and through his website, ollysmith.com.

Olly's Mulled Wine Recipe

Red Wine 1 bottle Cuvée Chasseur 2010 from Waitrose.

Port 50ml

Orange Juice (no bits) 100ml

Half an orange studded with 4 cloves (Cloves are a powerful flavour so I prefer to keep it subtle. You can add more cloves if you wish to boost the Christmas flavour).

1 cinnamon stick

1 star anise
1 vanilla pod halved lengthways

Dark Muscovado sugar 100-120 grams depending on taste (I love it sweet!)

Olly's Mulled Wine: Method
Pour the orange juice into the pan and add the Dark Muscovado Sugar.
Dissolve to make an even syrup.
Add the orange studded with cloves.

Gently pour in the red wine.

Warm up gently but do not boil or you risk losing the booze.

Add the spices.

Gently warm for 8 minutes but do not boil.

After 8 minutes, add the Port - it boosts and enriches flavour and colour.

Gently stir and leave to warm for 2 more minutes.
Remove the orange and spices and serve warm in glass mugs with an orange twist for a garnish.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Guest Blogger: Tamie Adaya blogs from her desk in California

My only decision as I amble towards my kitchen each morning is whether to have a cup of PG Tips or one of my own homemade chai brews. My morning bliss formula is Tea + Walkers Shortbread + BBC World Service.

I created the Hotel Shangrila in Santa Monica, California, for young-minded sophisticates of any age, who, like me, wear many different hats. Shangrila exists, in part, as a cultural crucible where I expose my guests to whatever I'm inspired by at a particular time; in turn they inspire me. It's a cultural exchange of sorts.

In 2012, I'm launching a restorative lounge at the Shangrila partnered with ILA Spa products, which utilise wild-harvested natural plant and mineral ingredients and follow traditional, sustainable practices. Hotel Shangrila is a convergence of culture and sensuality at the ocean and my version of the 'hotel spa' seeks to complement that by capitalizing on Shangrila's streamline-modern architecture, lush green courtyard and zen-like ocean-front atmosphere - a modern-day Sybaris.

On the wall to the left of my office desk hangs a gift from rock 'n roll photographer Lawrence Watson: a framed large-scale print of Liam Gallagher draped in a vintage Union Jack. The window to my right frames Santa Monica's Pacific Ocean sunsets. I have old blighty to my left, world-class edible sherbet sunsets to my right, and rather too much work straight ahead on my desk.

Tamie Adaya is the owner of the Hotel Shangrila in Santa Monica and blogs on her cultural inspirations for The Huffington Post and Tamie Adaya.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

What's the Next Step for Crowdsourcing? Read our latest blog for The Huffington Post

Trawling through entries to The Good Web Guide's third Website of the Year Award recently, it was gratifying to see an overall improvement in the quality of website entering our award and intriguing to note an increased number of sites entered that are using crowdsourcing as their model.

Defined by Wikipedia - the crowdsourced encyclopaedia - as "sourcing tasks traditionally performed by specific individuals to an undefined large group of people or community (crowd) through an open call," crowdsourcing uses the web to invite small contributions from multiple people and, in doing so, fund projects, build content, create ideas, solve problems or perform tasks that traditionally would have been completed by one person or organisation, or, in some cases, may not have been achieved at all.

Driven by the rise in and uptake of Web 2.0, crowdsourcing embraces social media as a way of directing communication and encouraging collaboration that can be advantageous when applied to many different scenarios. This has been particularly true for the consumer, who - via sites such as Groupon and Crowdity - can now enjoy much larger discounts on events, products and services than they could before by simply spreading the word amongst their friends and using the power of the group or crowd to drive down prices.

In Australia, an interesting development of this idea is currently being applied to energy companies via a new crowdsourcing business, One Big Switch, which uses "the power of group switching" to help consumers get the best possible deals on their energy bills. As British energy companies continue to hike prices, despite increases in their profit margins and many people facing fuel poverty this winter, this is something that is clearly needed in the UK.

To read the full blog, visit The Huffington Post. And do feel free to share the article on your social media pages, or use the comments section to give your own views on the subject.