Supporting Local

My sister’s American fiancé Tyler pointed something out to me a few days ago that I was a bit surprised about: having a ‘bee in your bonnet’ isn’t a thing in America. He’d never heard of it. We had to explain it to him (he’s learning his Norn Iron speak, so he is).

In case anyone is wondering, it’s when something is of high enough importance to you that you blather about, or do it, again and again. You feel passionately about it. You have a bee in your bonnet.

I have a bit of a bee in my own bonnet at the minute, and that’s shopping local and supporting small businesses. I’ve been beating my ‘support handmade/ local/ small business’ drum for a while now, but I’ve turned it up a notch with Christmas coming and all the shopping that accompanies it. I didn’t include this in my ‘Savvy Shopper’ Christmas post because buying handmade or goods from a local shop can be a little more expensive. They aren’t mass produced, they are made or curated lovingly by a real person who loves the items they gather or make, and it’s not right to expect that person not to be paid properly for their hours of dedication, late nights and finger cramps.

I thought I’d share some of my favourite local makers and businesses for anyone in little old NI, and if you’re further afield, don’t worry, they’ll ship to you. (I think!! If they don’t, my bad, sorry for the fib.) If you’re struggling for a Christmas present (because there’s always ONE, isn’t there?) then these are the places to try.

White Chalk Studio (@whitechalkstudio)
www.whitechalkstudio.com

I first came across this beautiful lady’s work when I attended Country Blog Retreat NI (which you can read about here). She gave a foil print for each of the 140 goodie bags and I absolutely adore mine. So much so that I have ordered a custom print for a special Christmas present (I can’t say much more, you know… just in case a particular person decides to read this… but keep an eye on my Instagram). She has a beautiful selection of foil prints on her website that would make a truly unique gift.

 

The Natural Beauty Pot (@Thenaturalbeautypot)
www.naturalbeautyppot.co.uk

Another blog retreat find thanks to a near-edible sample of Calendula and Lemongrass bath salts, this lovely lady makes her own all-natural bath salts, make-up and skincare products, designed specifically for sensitive skin. The beautiful packaging has an old apothecary feel, and their products are vegan – no animal testing here! You’ll be chilled and smelling delicious.

The phrase ‘treat yo’ self’ comes to mind.

 

The Bottom Drawer (@thebottomdrawerportadown)
www.thebottomdrawerstore.co.uk

The Bottom Drawer is a gorgeous little shop located in the Portadown town centre, which is just bursting with clothes, gifts and homeware. Whilst sisters Frances and Rhonda don’t make any of their stock (that I know of?), they have selected a beautiful collection from well-known brands for their store with everything from Thomas Kent clocks to Charlie Bears to fascinators for a fancy Christmas party! Follow them on Instagram for ‘Friday Favourites’ and mini fashion shows. I’ve yet to see a blouse I didn’t like.

 

Words and Wildflowers (@wordsandwildflowers)

My cousin’s cousin – Jane. She was already gorgeous and intelligent, and then she unleashed a hidden talent for watercolour floral wreaths and hand-lettering. (Did not see that coming.) Verses, quotes, baby weights – she does it all, and adorns her custom words with eye-popping, colourful flowers to be framed and treasured. Send her a message for your custom requests!

 

Painted Earth  (@painted.earth)
www.paintedearthgifts.com

To my shame and embarrassment (given that I work about 3 minutes down the street) I’m not in this shop as often as I should be. This is the place you go if you want ‘something different’ – that unique gift that you know they absolutely, beyond a doubt don’t already have. They stock everything from Beard Shampoo (when did this become a thing?), to pieces from local ceramicists (like @rebeccakillenceramics_). They also design and make their own jewellery, which to me is the epitome of awesome jobs.

 

Shopping with big companies is a little easier on our bank accounts, but you won’t see the same workmanship, devotion or good, old-fashioned passion from them as you would from a small business. When you shop from them, you aren’t lining the pockets of fat-cats; you’re putting dinners on tables, clothes on backs and presents under the Christmas tree.

You’ll also be the best gift-giver. Go you!

What are your favourite local businesses?

Gillian x

P.S. Apologies for the severe lack of photos/anything pretty to look at. I thought about swiping a couple of their photos, but that’s not nice. Take a look at their Instagram accounts instead. 😉

The Savvy Shopper: Christmas

Remain calm.

We’re now using the C-word openly. With only 2 paydays left, it’s time to talk about everyone’s favourite task: Christmas Shopping.

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I always start my Christmas shopping early (I actually had my sisters’ Christmas presents bought and hidden by March one year- fluffy blankets are a whole lot cheaper when the weather’s getting warmer). If I’m honest, if I haven’t got at least the majority of it done by Hallowe’en I freak out a little. I love buying gifts for people and combining that with my favourite time of year and my love for a good bargain makes Christmas shopping something I actually really enjoy. Here are a few of my tips for keeping the cost down at the most expensive time of the year.

1.Make a list (checking twice optional) and set a budget.

It’s so easy to get completely and utterly carried away with it when it comes to Christmas shopping. Why do we think everyone’s going to be offended if we don’t buy them something? If anything, they’ll probably be relieved they don’t have to send money on a gift in return.
Make a list of who you need to buy a gift for, and be brutal if you have to – you probably don’t need to buy your neighbour’s granddaughter who visits once a month a perfume set. After you know who you’re shopping for set a budget for each person, and stick to it, otherwise it can still get out of hand.

2. Plan ahead.

Now that you know who you’re shopping for and how much you’d like to spend on them, think of what you’d like to buy them, and write it down before you even go near a shop. It’ll save you from wandering around (or internet browsing) aimlessly, before potentially overspending to buy something you think they might like out of desperation to get the job done.

3. Work the offers.

FYI: this isn’t an ad, and I’m not being paid to say this next bit (I wish!), I’m just a major fan!
One of my favourite shops, especially for Christmas gifts, is Boots. I collect advantage points throughout the year and hit Boots for their 3 for 2 offers on everything from Nando’s sets, to toys, to the Laura Ashley photo frames that they pull out of the woodwork for the season. If I have 3 £20 gifts to buy, I only have to pay for 2 of them, and if I’m paying with the points I’ve collected, they’re completely free.

Happy days!

I’m sure some other shops do the same, I just know of them..yet. (Give me a break, I live 5 miles from the nearest town, shopping is a great adventure from where we are.)

4. Outlets and discount sites.

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If you’re in N.I and remotely local, Kildare Shopping Village is only a couple of hours drive away, and filled with great outlet shops for designer items. Junction One and The Outlet are fairly handy too, although outlet stores can be hit and miss, but sometimes it’s nice to just have a Festive day out.
Your best bet for designer discounts is outlet websites – Secret Sales, Brandalley, Achica, etc. I’ve briefly mentioned them before, but they have surprisingly good discounts on massive brands and a huge variety… just be careful with their shipping times as sometimes it can take up to 6 weeks for an item to arrive.

There’s also old faithful TK Maxx (the Aladdin’s cave of shops- you just don’t know what you’ll find!), and of course bargain shops like Home Bargains and B&M Bargains, which are especially good for toys. Buying in a bargain or discount shop doesn’t mean you’re being cheap on someone’s gift, or that you didn’t put any thought into it, it just mean’s you’re being smart about it.

5. D.I.Y

Make something! Anything! Fudge, chutneys, shortbread, a scarf, a candle- even putting together a little hamper of goodies can make a beautiful gift. The possibilities are endless and if you’re stuck for ideas consult Pinterest, knower of all things arts and crafts! Handmade gifts are usually less expensive but will cost you more in time, and will mean so much more to the recipient because you made the effort to make something especially for them.

As per usual I could go on (I’m a bit of a blather, really), but I’ll stop. Christmas shopping doesn’t have to be a chore, and it doesn’t have to cost your savings either, you just have to know what you’re looking for and where. Happy shopping!

Gillian x