Advent Calendars Without Chocolate

Advent Calendars are a big part of Christmas for not only children but adults alike.  Most people like chocolate but sometimes it can get a bit boring, if you’re looking for an advent calendar but want something that’s a little bit different you need look no further.  I’ve researched some great products that are not only affordable but offer something other than chocolate (keep those ones for the kids).

More and more brands have realised that consumers are willing to pay upwards of £100 to have a little Christmas treat, certain calendars sell out within minutes of going on sale and others have waiting lists in early November, who would have thought that a simple advent calendar could cause mayhem and inflated ebay prices?

smiggle advernt

My first Advent calendar is perfect for both children and adult, maybe you could buy it and share it with your children so you each get something on alternative days.  This item isn’t available on the Smiggle website any more but you may still be able to find one in store, they were selling for £25.  I have one of these great calendars in my possession and will be showing the items on my Instagram page (madame gourmand) so don’t forget to follow.

yankee candle advent

I had a Yankee Candle advent calendar last year and loved lighting a different scented tealight each day.  This year you can get a choice of two calendars either a house or the traditional wreath calendar for £21.99

topshop 24 days of nails

Topshop are offering 24 days of nails for £50, each day you will receive a different nail polish from the topshop range.  This would be a great calendar for teenagers and I know my daughter would love it.

Topshop freedom advent calendar

Topshop are also offering a Jewellery advent calendar from the Freedom range.  This was selling for £25 but has been reduced to £17.50.  The calendar contains twelve pairs of stud earrings, four ditsy fine bracelets and eight ditsy charm short necklaces in both silver and gold look finishes.

elemis 12 days of beauty

Elemis are offering a 12 days of Christmas calendar for £59.50 which has a value of £113.00.  The products are suitable for all skin types and this is what you will get:Pro-Collagen Cleansing Balm 20g, Pro-Collagen Marine Cream 15ml, Pro- Collagen Oxygenating Night Cream 15ml, Pro-Radiance Illuminating Flash Balm 7ml, Papaya Enzyme Peel 15ml, Cellular Recovery Skin Bliss Capsules 14 caps, Revitalising Babassu Facial Wipes 4 sachets, Frangipani Monoi Shower Cream 50ml, Frangipani Monoi Body Oil 35ml, Skin Nourishing Shower Cream 50ml, Pro-Radiance Hand & Nail Cream 20ml, Treat Your Feet Foot Cream 20ml.

No7 beauty calendar

The No7 calendar is sold out online now but you may still be able to pick one up in store for £35.  This calendar has a value of £135 so is a bargain if you can get hold of one.

beer advent calendar

Beer lovers will be very grateful for this amazing calendar from Best British Beer, £95 will get you  24 different bottles of seasonal beers including several that are exclusive to Best of British Beer. It will be a real mix and will include 24 x 330ml craft beers and some festive ales.

Mini Mani Manor Ciate

Last year I had a Ciate advent calendar and they are back again with the Ciate Mini Mani Manor which is your for £49.  You will receive 15 Mini Paint Pots: Headliner, Sharp Tailoring, Members Only, Sloaney, Sweetie, Velvet Tuxedo, Big Yellow Taxi, Mineral Clarity, Strawberry Milkshake, Silhouette, Unrestricted Glam, Cupcake Queen, Amazing Gracie, Candy Cane, Sand Dune, Sherbet Fizz .  1 Full Size Paint Pot in Celestial and 8 effects: Girl With A Pearl, Runway Ribbon, Prima Ballerina, Let It Snow, Slumber Party, Tinsel Trail, Frozen Daydream, Fairisle Style.

Body Shop Days of Joy Advent Calendar

My daughter would love the Body Shop advent calendar as she is a huge fan of their products, for £50 you will get Almond Hand and Nail Cream 30ml, Almond Nail File, Frosted Cranberry Heart Soap 25g, Frosted Cranberry Shower Gel 60ml, Frosted Cranberry Shimmer Lotion 60ml, Eye Definer Black 1g, Strawberry Heart Soap 25g, Strawberry Lip Butter 10ml, Strawberry Hand Cream 30ml, Colour Crush™ Nail Colour 6.8ml (Relish the Moment), Glazed Apple Heart Soap 25g, Glazed Apple Body Lotion 60ml, Vitamin E Moisture Cream 15ml, Vitamin E Moisture Mask 6ml, Vitamin E Nourishing Night Cream 15ml, Moringa Shower Gel 60ml, Moringa Body Milk 60ml, Mini Crinkle Lily, Honeymania™ Lip Balm 10 ml, Wild Argan Oil Body Lotion 60ml, Eyeshadow Brush, Shea Shower Cream 60ml, Shea Body Butter 50ml, White Musk® Eau de Toilette 10ml.

tesco advent calendar

Tesco have a beauty advent calendar for £25 (was £50) which contains a whopping £125 worth of beauty products including brands like  Nip+Fab, Korres, Katy Perry, Dr. LeWinns and Tanya Burr.  I may have just purchased this for myself to collect at my local Tesco store!

tea forte advent calendar

For the tea lovers out there Tea Forte are offering a £33 calendar containing 24 festive steeping cups of good cheer. Includes Belgian Mint, Blood Orange (organic), Caramel Nougat (organic), Chamomile Citron (organic), Cherry Cosmo (organic), Cherry Marzipan (organic), Chocolate Rose (organic), Ginger Lemongrass (organic), Harvest Apple Spice, Lemon Sorbetti (organic), Moroccan Mint, Peach Brûlée (organic), Rum Raisin Biscotti, Sencha (organic), Spiced Ginger Plum, Sunrise Breakfast (organic), Sweet Orange Spice, White Cinnamon Sage (organic), Wild Apple Ginger (organic), Winter Chai Orange Pomegranate, Flora, Peach Jubilee, Winter Spice.

Barbie advent calendar

If you or your children are a fan of Barbie you might be interested in this calendar from John Lewis.  £17.99 seems like a lot of money to me for this but I’m sure fans will be happy to pay for it.  Gifts include a fabulous festive dress for Barbie, a gorgeous gem bracelet for you and lots of doll’s accessories including a Barbie-sized mobile phone and sunglasses. Jewellery, purses, clutches and pairs of shoes.

Biscuiteers advent tin

For £45 you could buy a beautiful Biscuiteers Advent Calendar. The gorgeous limited edition Advent Calendar Gift Tin contains 24 festive biscuits, including all the seasonal favourites like Christmas trees, crackers, Christmas puds, as well as some vintage (and not so vintage!) toys.

If you’re looking for the perfect present to buy me, I’d love the Masters of Malt advent calendar.  £149.95 will get you  Glen Garioch 1797 Founder’s Reserve, Glenfarclas 10 Year Old,  The Lost Distilleries Blend – Batch 6,  The Macallan Amber – 1824 Series, Tullamore D.E.W. 12 Year Old Special Reserve, Evan Williams Single Barrel, Auchentoshan Three Wood,  Arran – Batch 4 (That Boutique-y Whisky Company), Bowmore 12 Year Old, Teeling Small Batch Irish Whiskey, Glenfiddich 18 Year Old, Rock Town Arkansas Bourbon,  Haig Club, Mackinlay’s Shackleton Rare Old Highland Malt – The Journey, Isle of Jura 16 Year Old (Diurachs’ Own), Timorous Beastie, Mortlach Rare Old, Monkey Shoulder, The Girvan Patent Still No.4 Apps, Nikka Whisky From The Barrel, Dalmore 15 Year Old, Spirit of Hven Seven Stars No.2 Merak, Balvenie 12 Year Old Single Barrel – First Fill, Paul John Edited.

Imperial tea advent calendar

My final advent calendar is for the coffee lovers out there, Imperial Teas are offering an advent calendar of coffee for £31.95 which is a unique opportunity to try a selection of twenty five of their freshly roasted coffees including the rarest varieties presented in a luxurious gift box. Each coffee can be drunk in the order suggested or picked at random. The leaflet gives the precise brewing time and water temperature. Each packet holds enough coffee (approx 16g) to make a perfect 3 cup cafetiere (one mug!).

Do you have an advent calendar this year? if so what sort?





Teen Parcel

When the time came for me to give my daughter ‘The talk’ I was petrified, I’m not really sure why as I have a good relationship with my daughter and no topic is banned from the house, we talk about everything as a family and now that Lucie is older (14) I sometimes wish that some topics were taboo because when she talks about things her friends have said and even things they have told her they get up to would make any parents hair turn white but I digress.

We had the talk about changes in the body and a brief understanding about where babies come from when Lucie was around 6 and I think because it was mentioned early before she had real understanding about what happens it allowed me to expand on this as she became more aware.

Lucie is now 14 and has been fully aware of why women have a monthly period for quite a few years now however she’s now at that age where she’s happy to talk about things that go on with other people but not so much with herself as it’s all a bit ‘cringeworthy’ (her word not mine).

When it comes to that time of the month I always have a rough idea when it’s about to happen as hormones turn her into an argumentative nightmare which she won’t mind me saying as she agrees she changes for the worst, I can sympathise though as I was just the same and she would say I probably still am. I’m not though.

Each month I always leave a good supply of various items in the bathroom that she has access to but I always wonder if it’s enough, should I be asking how she is or will it annoy her? Should I ask if she needs a hot water bottle or will she tell me if she does? Should I bring her some extra treats or will she complain that I’m interfering ?

I was 11 when I started my periods and I remember going into complete denial about the whole thing, I was mortified that this was happening to me and don’t get me started on the cramps, I felt like I was dying they were so painful.  Back in 1991 the choice of sanitary protection available wasn’t as great as it is now, the pads given to me by a school nurse were so thick they scared me, no one want’s their child to be scared about something that’s going to happen to them so I’m relieved that sanitary products have improved massively since I was a teenager.

Lucie didn’t get her first period until she was 13, some of her friends had theirs at 9 so I think the earlier you approach the subject the better so that your daughter is aware of what could happen to her body.  To make things more pleasant for your teenager there is a new subscription box on the market called Teen Parcel which is a monthly subscription service to help make that time of the month a little bit nicer, you just need to let them know if you prefer towels or tampons, what size you prefer, pick a brand and then you will be asked to fill in some information specific to your cycle such as the date your period last started, how many days it lasted and they will calculate when your next parcel should be due.

Teen Parcel

teen parcel

When you open your Teen Parcel you will see three boxes and a pouch all packaged up.  The pouch is something for your bag, the two large boxes contain your sanitary protection and the smaller box contains some treats.

tampons in bag

The little pouch contains 5 tampons and if you have selected to receive towels your pouch will contain those.  The pouch is a great size for a handbag at the weekend or a school bag and your child won’t be embarrassed if this pouch falls out, they can scoop it up and pop it back in.  The larger boxes contain all of the sanitary protection your teen will need during their period and the slimline boxes can be easily stored in their bedroom or the bathroom without taking up too much space.

tampon box

Teen parcel contents

There were a lot of little extras in the box including a Teapigs chocolate flake teabag, packet of jelly haribo sweets, nail polish by Binky, pink bracelet and 3 beauty products by Clean & Clear to help combat spots.

Lucie’s thoughts on the Teen Parcel were very positive, she would like to see an option for a mixture of towels and tampons and she would also like to see the option to choose your skin type so that beauty products can be more tailored.  Lucie loved the teabag and packet of sweets and thought the nail polish was a great addition she also thought the little black pouch was a great idea and has popped it into her school bag.  She has already been telling her friends about Teen Parcel and we will definitely be subscribing once she decides which package she wants.

The retail value of this box if everything was purchased separately is over £22.92 so if you’re wondering if the box is good value for money then my answer is yes.

Your first teen parcel will cost you £5.95 (price correct at the time of writing) and subsequent boxes are £9.95 a month, you can sign up here


Gifts For Gardeners

Since taking on my allotment a couple of weeks ago I have spent a small fortune on beautiful seeds, planters and equipment to make my garden look the best that it possibly can.  Choosing beautiful things for a garden is not an easy task as there is so much choice available whether you are buying for yourself or for a gift.

I know a lot of my friends and family will be buying me garden related gifts for Christmas and Birthdays for the foreseeable future and I myself will be buying token gifts for some of my new gardening friends.  When you take on an allotment you also take on a whole new community of friends who are always eager to lend a helping hand or offer advice and it can be nice sometimes to say thank you for all of the help.

I’ve put together this little guide featuring some of my favourite items available at the time of writing which I hope will provide some inspiration when you need the perfect gift for a gardener not just at Christmas time but any time.


Backdoorshoes are a pretty awesome product and perfect for leaving at our back door as the name suggests or even leaving in your shed when you pop to the allotment.  The shoes are very lightweight at only 200g a pair, waterproof and machine washable which is great when you’re working in muddy conditions.  Ladies shoes are available in UK Sizes 3-8, Mens shoes available in UK Sizes 8-13.

Greenhouse Sensation

I bought a similar Bee and Bug house for my Aunts birthday in October, I love the idea of this house from Greenhouse Sensation as it attracts solitary bees which will pollinate plants, ladybirds and lacewings which will prey on garden pests like aphids and red spider mite.  As a gardener who grows flowers and vegetables and hopes to have chickens in the future I feel this would be a perfect gift for the allotment.

Orla Kiely

As the weather gets colder there is nothing better to improve a gardeners day than a nice hot flask of soup or coffee.  This Orla Kiely flask is perfect for a nice mid morning treat after a hard morning spent digging the garden.

Heathcote and Ivory

Hands are often the last thing that comes to mind when you think about a gardener but in reality hands are the most important tool a gardener has so it pays to look after the
This handy mug from Heathcote & Ivory contains a cleaning hand wash, hand cream
Enriched with Shea Butter, Vitamin E and Pathenol to nourish hands and help strengthen nails after a rewarding day spent digging and planting and nail brush to remove all traces of dirt from inside of the nails.

John Lewis Botanist Apron

Finally we have this hardwearing garden apron that’s full of pockets and pouches, perfect for carrying your tools and trowels while gardening. Available from John Lewis it’s a garden must have in my opinion.

I hope this post has showed you that gardening is not just all about spades and forks, gardening gifts can be quirky, fun, useful and pretty so don’t be afraid to buy an awesome gift for the gardener in your life. They will love it!

Disclaimer: I wasn’t asked to talk about any of the brands or products in this post, I did it because I love them.



My Little Box UK

Back in September I signed up for my very first My Little box which is a new subscription service to the UK market also available in France, Belgium and Japan. It’s more of a lifestyle box than a beauty box which is what really appealed to me as I’m a little bit bored of the poor quality beauty boxes that dominate the UK market.

For each month you subscribe to you will receive at least 2 full sized beauty products one of which will come from My Little Beauty, one travel-sized product along with fashion and lifestyle accessories, a magazine called My Little Word and goodies by My Little box illustrator Kanako.

Previous boxes for International customers have included My Little : Sunset box, Party box, Smile box, Geekette Box and Weekend Box, each one being as beautiful as the other.

My little box UK September

So what was in the September box?  September’s box was the My Little Parisienne Box and before I had even opened the lid I just knew I was going to love it.  Anyone who has ever visited Paris will have recognised the city from the picture on front of the box, the illustration shows a fashionable lady with a small dog reading her paper whilst sipping a cup of black coffee.

My little box UK contents

My box contained:

30ml Laura Mercier foundation primer worth £17.40 (£29 for 50ml)

Complexion brightening pen by My Little Beauty £11

Nuxe multi-purpose dry oil 10ml worth £3.40 (£17 for 50ml)

A set of stickers featuring Parissienne scenes

A notebook featuring the illustration on the box

and finally a netbook or ipad sleeve

I haven’t had the chance to try out any of the products yet but I’m very pleased with what I received.  The box is excellent value for money and I can’t wait to receive my next one.

You can see my initial thoughts below in my YouTube unboxing video.

Each box costs £11 per month and shipping to the UK is £3.95 which isn’t bad for international shipping.


To subscribe just visit

Lamaze Night Night Owl

lamaze night night owlArthur is 19 months old and hasn’t slept a full night in all of that time, some people might argue that because he slept from 11.30pm-5am when we were on holiday that it was a full night but I beg to differ.  Not only does he not sleep through but he doesn’t have a bedtime.  I follow gentle parenting practise so Arthur has never had to self soothe which means he doesn’t go to bed until he is asleep if that makes sense?

I’ve tried all sorts of tips and tricks to get him to sleep through without waking for milk, a cuddle, a dummy or to be tucked back into his blankets and nothing has worked so far.

We have been trying out the Lamaze Night Night Owl* for a couple of weeks now and although it doesn’t help Arthur to sleep all night, I’ve noticed when we sit together and read a book before bed the music and soothing lights do seem to have a calming effect.  The owl is soft enough to use as a cuddly toy and this is exactly how Arthur uses it.

I would love to go back to the days when Arthur was a small baby and he went to sleep at 6pm, most nights its between 8-9 before I can get him into bed which doesn’t leave much time to do anything for myself, I’ve noticed that when I dim the lights in the room and play the owl a couple of times it seems to make Arthur quite sleepy and chilled which can only be positive.

lamaze night night owl

The Night Night owl is not just a toy it’s a night light that projects coloured lights and plays a soothing lullaby.  The music and lightshow continues for 3 minutes after the last press which is just the right amount of time to hold Arthur’s attention.  I had originally thought that he was maybe a little too old for this toy but he has really taken to it and quite often turns it on himself during the day, for younger children the owl can be placed inside the cot as it’s easy for children to activate themselves.

I’ve bought Lamaze products for Arthur since birth and I’ve always been pleased about the high quality materials and bright engaging colours and this product does not disappoint.  I only wish we had bought it sooner as it’s such a great item.

You can see exactly how the toy works by watching the video below on my YouTube channel.

The Lamaze Night Night Owl can be purchased from Tomy UK for £19.99

*Press Sample