Caramelised Banana & Pecan

Do you ever have those days that you REALLY want a dessert that’s warm and gooey and sticky. A dessert that is pure comfort food. A dessert that is worth not eating dinner for. A dessert that the whole family likes. But then you realise you have no time, and very limited ingredients in the house.

Well I found one to ticks all the boxes. Well made it up as I went along actually. But it was good! Great for those days when you have some bananas that need using up too!

This fed 4 of us (but 2 were little)

Ingredients:

3 bananas cut diagonally into 1 inch thick strips

2 tsp Coconut oil

Couple of handfuls pecan halves

Dollop of double cream, whipped

Butterscotch or toffee sauce (I used the caramel that I put on top of my brownies, but any similar sauce will do the trick)

Pinch sea salt

How to make it amazing:

Heat the coconut oil in a frying pan over a med-high heat. Once it’s hot add the banana slices. When they are sizzling and browning then carefully turn them over and give the pan a little shake. Fry until soft and gooey and brown on this side too. You may have to do this is 2 batches depending on the size of your pan. Put the banana onto serving plates and add the pecans to the pan and give them a toss around in the remaining coconut, until they are just starting to toast. Serve with the banana, a dollop of cream as then Drizzle some toffee/caramel sauce over the top. Sprinkle a little sea salt on the top. Serve immediately while warm and Yummy!

Vicky’s Apple & Caramel Tart

Did you know I love creating puddings? That might not come as a surprise to anyone that has even seen our range of ‘Vicky’s Cakes’, or indeed come over for dinner!

So last weekend I tried a new one, Apple and Caramel Tart. I find the best creations come when I make it up as I go along, so that’s what I did! I’m not a big fan of things that are too sickly sweet so if a dish has a very sweet part, I try to compliment it with a not so sweet part! The salted caramel brownies that I make have a very sweet caramel so I make the brownie rich, nutty and dark, but not very sweet at all. So I thought I’d use the caramel that I use for the brownie (minus the salt) in the apple tart, and focus on making the rest of the tart quite, well erm…tart! So I used savoury short crust pastry and a sharp apple filling, to be complimented by all that gooey and sweet caramel and buttery pecans.

Ingredients:

For the pastry:

125g butter, softened

250g plain flour (plus a little extra for rolling out)

Drop of cold water

For the caramel:

75g caster sugar

1.5-2 tbsp water

25g butter

100ml double cream

1 tbsp golden syrup

You will also need:

2 medium-large bramley apples

2 tablespoons caster sugar

1.5 tsp cinnamon, ground

Pecan halves (as many as you like)

A large pie dish

How to make it tasty:

1. Pre heat your oven to 180oC. Begin with the pastry. In a large bowl rub the butter into the flour with your finger tips until it looks like fine breadcrumbs. Add a drop is water and mix to combine. Keep adding a drop of water more until it sticks into a ball, but isn’t too wet and sticky. Knead briefly, until well incorporated, on a floured surface and then roll out evenly until just a little larger than the size of the pie dish. Press into the bottom, and up the sides and then trip around the top leaving it a little longer than the tin, and press edges into a nice pattern with your fingertips. Line with baking paper and fill with baking beans/rice to press the bottom down and blind bake for 10 minutes.

2. Prepare the apples while the pastry blind bakes. Peel the apples and cut into slices. Mix the sugar and cinnamon together and tip over the apple slices. Give it a shake so the apple is evenly coated. Once the pastry case come out of the oven, remove the baking paper and rice/ beans and arrange the apple slices in a nice pattern inside the case. Return to the oven for approx 20-25 minutes.

3. Whilst it all bakes, make the caramel. Put the sugar and water into a large pan over a high heat. There’s a big ‘to stir or not to stir’ debate but I rightly or wrongly give it a stir. When it turns an amber colour, add the cream, butter and golden syrup and return to the heat. Stir until smooth and combined and then reduce the heat and simmer for a few minutes until it’s thickened slightly.

4. When the pie comes out of the oven after the 20-25 minutes, sprinkle pecans (as many as you like) over the top, and then spoon all the caramel over the top, making sure it’s all nicely coated on top. Return to the oven for 10 more minutes to finish off.

5. Leave to cool in the tin slightly, the caramel will thicken as it cools. Ideal temperature to serve this at (for me) is just warm, but not hot. So get it out of the oven when dinner is ready so that it’s the perfect temperature for when it’s pudding time! I served it with a drizzle of cream.

Do let me know if you try this recipe and what you think!

What I’d make out of a ‘Just Add Recipe’ Box

I’m so excited that we have launched the ‘Just Add Recipe’ boxes because this is exactly how we cook at home. We rarely shop for a specific recipe and we always eat different things. We even often start off cooking with one style of meal in mind, and it’s evolved into something entirely different by dinner time.

So we get a big box of random ingredients, with no real plan…and we ‘ready, steady, cook’ it. This is great for us, because it keeps our cooking fresh and our skills tested. So with launching our ‘Just Add Recipe’ boxes, we hope some other people enjoy our ‘make it up as you go along’ style.

So my challenge here is to tell you what I would make from one of our boxes.

So here’s how my mind would work. I will start by writing down what’s included in the one that’s pictured (I wouldn’t usually do this, I’d just have a nosey around the box that’s in front of me). But here goes!

2 packs of braising steak

1 whole chicken

1 pack of fish pie mix

2 packs of sausages

1 pack of Quinoa

1 pack of brown rice

4 large potatoes

1 bag of pasta

1 tin haricot beans

1 tin 6 bean mix

1 large jar passata

I tin chopped toms

1 bottle sauce shop spicy sauce

1 tin coconut milk

1 bag kale

1 large smoked garlic bulb

2 white onions

2 red onions

1 red, 1 yellow, 1 green pepper

2 turnips

2 courgettes

4 carrots

4 flat mushrooms

2 vines cherry tomatoes

1 bunch rosemary

1 cabbage

1 smoked cheddar

2 parsnips

1 fennel

1 lemon

1 broccoli

So here’s the meals I’d make.

1. Fish pie with coconut milk served with stir fried kale

So my main priority would be to use the fish first, so it’s fresh. Fish pie it is. This would use the fish pie mix, a white onion, a couple of cloves of smoked garlic, the coconut milk, 2 of the large potatoes, the lemon and the bag of kale

2. Slow cooked beef Chilli

I much prefer using braising streak for a Chilli in stead of minced beef, and cooking it all day. This meal would use the braising steak, a red onion, a couple of cloves of smoked garlic, the haricot beans, jar of passata, a red and green pepper, a courgette and some of the brown rice.

3. Spicy beef & bean pasta bake

As the beef Chilli would leave us with leftovers, I’d use the rest to mix with pasta, top with some of the smoked cheese and bake. An improvised pasta bake!

4. Roast Chicken with Mash, cabbage and roast veg

This meal would use the chicken, the remaining potatoes, the cabbage, the carrot, parsnip, turnip and half of the rosemary.

5. Chicken Quinoa Risotto

As we would have a fair amount of leftover chicken from the roast, I’d make it into something like this. This would use the rest of the chicken, some of the Quinoa, some of the sauce shop sauce, a couple of cloves of smoked garlic, an onion, half of the cherry tomatoes, the last courgette and some more of the smoked cheddar.

6. Oven baked sausages and roasted veg with tomato pasta

This would use the sausages,fennel, chopped tomatoes, some more of the smoked garlic, a yellow pepper and the rest of the rosemary, along with some more of the pasta.

7. So this is the day I love. The day where some truly remarkable creations are born. Or the day when you have something hideous! It’s the ‘what’s left?’ day!

In this instance I have the following things left:

Some Quinoa

some rice

6 bean mix

Some sauce shop sauce

Some smoked garlic

A red onion

Flat mushrooms

Broccoli

Some smoked cheese

Cherry tomatoes

So what I would do in this instance is put the rice in the cupboard and use all the rest to make a smoky, spicy Quinoa, bean and veg type Chilli. I’d probably have some sausages left over from yesterday that I’d cut up and throw in too. This meal does not have a name and will either be awesome of disgusting. But I love the lottery!

So what do you think to how I’d use this box? I’d love to hear your ideas. I love this type of cooking and couldn’t wait until I got a different box with different ingredients next week, how about you? Or do your family always have set meals on set days? I’d love to hear how you cook, please do get in touch!

Ben’s Slow Cooked Sriracha Osso Bucco Chilli

Ben was delighted to join Chris Mann on BBC radio Cambridgeshire this beautiful January Monday morning!

“What recipe shall I take to show Chris?” Ben thought aloud. And we both chorused “slow cooked Chilli”! Decision made. In our house we love the richness and intense flavour you get from using stewing steak and cooking your Chilli all day. Ben has really hit a winner with this one though, by using sauce shop Sriracha sauce instead of fresh Chilli, and Osso Bucco for the beef. Osso Bucco, or beef shin on the bone, is really gaining in popularity these days. Anything on the bone adds more flavour, especially if you are cooking it low and slow, and especially if it is grass fed, free range, pedigree Dexter beef, matured for 21 days. You’re in for a treat Chris!

Serves 4

Ingredients:

4 Osso Bucco chops

3 cloves Garlic

1 onion

1 shallot

1 sprig rosemary

Sauce shop Sriracha sauce

Sea salt

Pepper

Rapeseed oil

Splash red wine

Large jar passata

1 tin chopped tomatoes

1 tin red haricot beans (we use Hodmedods)

Method:

1. Marinade the beef! Season the beef well. Spread about half a jar of Sriracha sauce over both sides of the beef, along with the rosemary and top with the crushed garlic. Put it all in the fridge overnight.

2. Remove the beef from the marinating pot, and sear on both sides in a pan over a medium to high heat, with rapeseed oil. When nicely browned put into a large casserole dish.

3. In the same pan fry the sliced onion and shallot with any of the marinating sauce that’s left. You may need a splash more oil. Add this to the casserole dish.

4. Add in a splash of red wine to cover the bottom of the dish.

5. Add in the passata, chopped tomatoes and the beans and put in the oven on about 100 degrees all day, or at least 6 hours.

You may need to check periodically and add a little more water if it’s getting too think! This will also work brilliantly in a slow cooker. Don’t forget to remove the bones to serve, and I would devour with brown rice, but it could also be a good accompaniment to a baked sweet potato or creamy masked potato. I’m a little miffed because my house smells lovely yet the food has disappeared off to radio cambridge! Enjoy Ben and Chris!

Family baking: Banana & Oat cookies with peanut butter and dark chocolate

I love to involve my little ones in cooking. Well it’s more of a love/hate relationship to be honest! I love the result of what they learn from helping to cook, but the process itself can be a little stressful! For this reason they are not allowed in the bakery! So I try to make sure I do a bit of fun baking in our home kitchen with them, to keep them interested with a bit of indulgent cooking that isn’t just them helping to stir the dinner!

The only problem is sugar. It’s so easy for kids to eat tonnes of sugar, and mine are no exception. So if we are baking together I don’t want it to turn into another reason for them to overload on sugar. I want them to be able to tuck into what they have made!

Our quinoa bars are always a favourite, I’ve blogged the recipe for these before. But when looking for something else, a lovely customer in our Facebook recipe exchange group suggested banana & oat cookies. They are no added sugar, or very low sugar depending on what you add to them. So what else can you do on a snowy cold January weekend than give them a go.

The base of the cookies is literally banana and oats and then you can leave them plain or add whatever you fancy. We added meridian peanut butter (made with just peanuts, nothing else!) and a sprinkling of montezuma’s organic dark chocolate chips. I did add a splash of honey too. So they are not ‘no sugar’ but natural sugar.

The results? Both children happy! Daddy was happy to get home and try one. Mummy was happy that there was minimum cleaning up afterwards. And a cookie helped get that done!

So here’s what went into them…

3 small ripe bananas

2 cups of oats (I know, we are English, but it’s so much easier to measure in cups with children)

Half a tbsp honey

1.5-2 tbsp peanut butter

Half a cup of dark chocolate

How we made them delicious…

Mash the bananas. This created MUCH fun and they were more pulverised than mashed. Add the oats and stir in. It should have a quite firm consistency now, if not sprinkle a few more oats in. Mix the peanut butter with the honey in a separate bowl. I do this to loosen the peanut butter up a little so it blends in easier. Mix the peanut butter and honey and the chocolate into the banana and oats. Roll into cookie shapes on a tray topped with baking parchment. We made them into balls, assuming they would cook and go flatter like other cookies do, but they didn’t spread out hardly at all so next time I’d make the batter into flatter disks before baking. They were more like little cakes than cookies as I didn’t flatten them! Cake-ies!

Our mixture made 14. They were quite big, as it was easier for the children to do (and my patience)! We baked them at 180 for about 12 minutes. Everyone enjoyed. I’ve been told they freeze well. I wish I could say I tested this, but you guessed it, they didn’t make it that far. But maybe next time…there will definitely be a next time!

The ABC of Radmorefarmshop.co.uk

A is for Avocados, just one of the fruits on our list

B is for Bread; organic, fresh, not to be missed

C is for Customers, for whom we deliver a feast

D is for Doves farm, selling flour and cereal and yeast

E is for Eco friendly, like the cleaning products we sell

F is for Freshly roasted coffee beans, to stop early morning hell

G is for Granola, showing us what local really means

H is for Hodmedods, British grown grains, pulses and beans

I is for Italian; pastas, infusions and oils

J is for Jams & preserves, the enjoyment never spoils

K is for Ketchup, without it measures get drastic

L is for loose vegetables, because why do we need so much plastic?

M is for My Bakery, where I hear ‘more lemon drizzle please?’

N is for Neneview; from whom we source local and yummy goats cheese

O if for Olives, perfectly marinated by Silver & Green

P is for Peanut butter; so tasty pure and clean

Q is for Quickly delivered to your door, packed carefully for no harm

R HAS to be for Radmore, where it all started at our own lovely farm

S is for Snacks; crisps, bars, chocolates and nuts as well

T is for Tigernut, just one of the range of dairy free milks we sell

U is for Unbelievable…we’re about to start stocking fresh fish

V is for Vouchers codes which we send out so that you can spend how you wish

“Code ‘JAN18’ gets you 10% off in January when you shop online”

W is for Why not? Give us a go for you shopping or even an office treat day?

X is for X-tremely easy, choose a time slot and PayPal makes it easy to pay

Y Is for Your feedback, if we don’t hear from you, you will be missed

Z is for Zonked, how I feel after writing this list!

• An ode to the Indies •

When I was young I’d hear it said, time and time again,

‘Farmers are always complaining’, they’d say, without any hint of refrain,

‘The weathers wrong, no time off, it simply doesn’t pay’,

‘Does anything ever go right for you?’ They’d very often say

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As I grew up, I though it unfair, I loved the life outside,

But sometimes when the times were tough I found it better to hide,

‘Everyone complains about their job’ I’d think, when they had a really tough spell,

‘But if I speak up I’ll get tarred with the brush of moaning farmer hell’!

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So smile on face I’d carry on, everything was great,

Even on those long long days when 2am stopped feeling late!

‘We love the hard work, we live for it, I wouldn’t have it another way’,

When at home the washings mounting up, next to bills we cannot pay!

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Now I’m grown with kids of my own my view begins to alter,

Isn’t it better I tell the truth, and that my love for it still doesn’t falter?!

Through all the stress, and all the hours and the heartbreak along the way,

I wouldn’t ever do anything else, not for one single solitary day!

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Not just to the farmers, this goes out to all of those who try,

To make a living being their very own boss, even when cost is high,

Our heroes that run their own small businesses, through doubt and stress and pain,

Through solitary days, and worry without ever wanting to complain.

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For those whose kitchen table is an office, whose holidays disappear,

For all those kids that hear ‘not now darling, maybe tomorrow, or next year’,

I’d really like you to complain about it more, because it really shows you care,

That through it all, you love what you do MORE, and that’s why…you’re still there!!

From Vicky,

P.S Keep smiling all the individuals and small businesses that keep the rich tapestry of our local economy going! And it doesn’t hurt to speak up about times being tough, and it not always being a bed of roses, it makes us appreciate the job you do more! January is tough but you are tougher!!

Eat your greens!

A couple of things happened to me today that made me stop and think!

1. I saw that cadburys are launching a white chocolate creme egg and if you find one you win a prize

2. I really craved vegetables

Why did these 2 things make me think, and how are they related? Well when I was younger I loved creme eggs! I could have eaten loads! I’ve enjoyed them less and less as I’ve grown up to the point that I don’t eat them now. And when I saw that picture today I felt actually really adverse to it! As for vegetables, I didn’t really eat them and I definitely didn’t enjoy them as a child. I liked peas, and maybe carrots. And I tolerated other things because I knew I should eat them. Now I genuinely love vegetables, in all colours and varieties. I’ve not been eating my usual diet over Christmas, and today I needed some colour again.

So this got my thinking, well it confirmed something I knew anyway really. If my children don’t like their vegetables and if I get sick of hearing them ask for ANOTHER chocolate coin, they are not necessarily always going to want to eat like this. So I’ll carry on giving them the skills to know how to cook, and setting a good example, and I’m sure one day they will come round to it! So more important than getting my diet back to normal in January, I’m going to get the boys cooking with me again. It’s easy to skip over these things when it’s busy, but I need to remember how important it is! I’m not one for New Years resolutions, but this has to come close!

What a year?!

Isn’t it just a brilliant time to reflect and look forward at the same time?! Since I was pregnant with my first I have made myself a little ritual on New Years Eve. I take pen to paper and write myself a little summary of everything significant that’s happened within our family, month by month, over the past year. Trips we’ve been on, life changes that have happened, new lives within our family and friends, developments in the business, if it’s significant enough to remember at the end of the year I write it all down. I finish it off with a page or 2 with our plans and hopes for the next year. It always focuses around ‘I’d like a little more family time’, but yet we load ourselves up with more jobs to do!! Then I don’t look at the folder until next New Year’s Eve. And when that day gets here I read back over the last year, and what my hopes and dreams had been and assess how many of them became a reality. Then I write the next instalment.

So this year I decided I’d do a little version of this for our business to include upon my blog. I won’t go into the nitty gritty of month by month but more use it as a reflection of another crazy 12 months and then think forward to what we hope to achieve in 2018! So here goes…

We Moved!

It’s easy to forget that this happened in 2017 because it was back in January! The move from Chesterton Rd to Victoria Ave was not far in distance but a big step for our business. It gave us the chance to have a smarter, more purposefully designed premises that showed off what we do a lot more. We were very happy with the new store but we were more than a little nervous. We have been very happy in our old home, and being the sentimental so and so that I am I didn’t like to say goodbye. You never really know what a new store holds for you until you do it. Truth be told we were still nervous until we had done a Christmas there. We need so much storage space at Christmas, and space we do not have. However, with huge thanks to our lovely new neighbours at the Waterman, who lent us some space, it all went well and now we feel a little more at ease. (If you haven’t eaten at the Waterman yet, I advise you try it, it’s been a godsend for us for lunches with the boys over this busy spell)!

I broke my ankle

Yes, although I may not want to remember it, it was significant! At the end of June I fractured 2 bones in my ankle which had me on crutches, in a boot and unable to drive for 6 weeks! We always used to joke about ‘imaging if one of us broke our leg’, as a sort of ‘what the hell would we do with all our responsibilities with one of us out of the game’? Well then it happened. Ben was brilliant at stepping into the breach and picking up a lot of my responsibilities, as was Karen, the amazing baker that works with me in the bakery. And do you know what?! We got through it. Nothing fell apart. We’re all still here. So it’s quite empowering really. That thing we always joked about happened and we dealt with it. It also allowed my time to reflect and…

I Started a Blog

I really miss the interaction I have with a lot of our customers and friends now that I’m more home based. Breaking my ankle gave me some time to think, and I decided to have a go at writing a blog! I’ve really enjoyed it, and the connection it’s given me back from people I don’t see that often anymore. People keep telling me they are reading it, which I’m thrilled to bits about!

We Said a Final Farewell

In September we sadly said goodbye to our friend, Brian King. Brian was the man that taught Ben everything he knows about butchery and had been with us since the beginning. Brian used to run his own butchers shop business in the 70’s and was always there for us with a kind nod of encouragement or knowing words of condolence when things went wrong. Brian was 80 when he passed away, but had still been coming to work until 3 weeks before so it was a shock to us all.

Brian will never be forgotten for the things he’s taught us in the business and for the lovely man we all got know as a friend, and all the advice and wise words he passed on.

We Welcomed New Team Members

Our team is bigger than ever with now 12 people, not including me and Ben (who mostly just get in the way!). The business we are runs on the array of characters that make it a welcoming and positive place. We are lucky to have them all to look after our customers and make delicious food!

We have our mini Commercial Free Range Egg Unit set up

Yep, there’s now chickens clucking outside my front door. This project took a lot longer to set up than we thought and was about 8 months behind schedule when we got it started in August. But better later than never. We now have 250 commercial free rangers supplying the bakery and shop!

We got to the Finals

Yes we got voted by our customers into the top 3 in the farm shop and deli category of the Cambridge food and drink awards, for the 3rd year running! But we didn’t win, for the 3rd year running! It seems our customers love us but the judges don’t. That’s the way I’d prefer to have it! I like the sound of 2018 anyway!!

We got to your doorsteps even more

In November we launched our new and improved online store, and it helped us get out to more people’s doorsteps than ever before. We have been working really hard to get more and more of our offerings online and to offer the best and most convenient service out there! We’re really proud of the start we’ve made…but watch this space!

On to 2018…

So what’s on the cards for next year?

To make the online store the best and most convenient way to buy food! We want to host the products of all the local and independent businesses we find on our site, and deliver it out to people’s kitchens. There’s some great small food producers out there and we want to get all their offerings together in one place for the most awesome independent shopping experience. So we have lots of adding and improving to keep doing.

To start a recipe hub. We have this idea of making video recipes for YouTube that people can cook along with. We would also like to make videos with our producers showcasing the awesome stuff we sell and giving tips about how to use and cook with it. This will be housed on our website to make it an even more complete service.

We want to fill the shop with even more great products! We can still squeeze a bit in!

We want to deliver even more days a week!

To keep making the best food around!

So 2017, there’s been blood sweat and tears, and the odd broken bone. There’s also been laughter, pride, good friends, a great team and awesome customers. Our little family has grown up a bit more! But now 2018 we are ready for you!

My Independent Christmas: The Results

Firstly, an apology. I promised myself when I started the blog that I would post frequently. However, nothing happens that isn’t food making and order taking in December! So I’m sorry for the lack of posts during silly season! I’m back in the real world again now!

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Beautiful handmade tree decoration by Kplunkers https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/Kplunkers

So this year I made a little vow to myself that I would do all my shopping with independent businesses. We have the food well and truly taken care of, and I can hand on heart say that nothing on our Christmas dining table ever comes from a supermarket. It pleases me greatly to not ever have to battle the supermarket queues and panicking in the run up to Christmas. Plus we get to enjoy the experience that our customers get of a Radmore Christmas, and are bursting with pride at the food we produce. So this year I decided to carry this through to all my gift shopping and try to support only independent businesses, instead of giant multinationals. Here’s 10 things I learnt along the way.

1. You have to spend more time, not more money

Overall I have spent about the same in money on Christmas as in other years. The main reason I have used platforms like Amazon in the past is because it’s easy. You can sit down in one evening and get most of the Christmas shopping done in one hit and have it delivered to your door. It’s taken more thought and more leg work to use independent businesses, but as a result…

2. Everyone gets something with more thought

To use independents I have put a lot more thought into each persons present. You can’t just put 8 of the same item in your basket if you are getting hand made and personalised gifts made like you would from a major retailer. So everyone has had something with thought instead of just a token gift. And isn’t that what gift giving is all about?!

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Personalised sacks- the handmade Christmas co https://handmadechristmasco.com

3. There’s some great platforms for accessing small businesses these days

Sites like Etsy and Not On The High Street allow you to directly buy from small independent businesses without having to trawl around every craft fair in the midlands.

4. It takes longer to arrive

I will be prepared for this next Christmas. Because most things you order from an independent business are hand finished and made to order, they take longer to come. If you buy it on amazon it turns up in 24 hrs. Obviously it’s much nicer to have something hand made and sent out from a  business of real people, but I had left it later than I intended with some of my shopping and as a result was waiting for a few items till quite close to Christmas. And I couldn’t remember if I’d  missed anyone, or if siblings gifts were very mismatched in value until it arrived.  Not very organised of me, I know. Next year I will consider this before I start! Everything did turn up in time and was beautiful may I add!

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I can’t believe these are chocolate; the amazing chocolate workshop https://thechocolateworkshop.co.uk

5. You feel more virtuous

I really felt like my money was doing good and my custom was valued!

6. Everyone doesn’t get the same present

This is probably my favourite thing. Everybody got unique and individual presents. Some years I have worried that the same child might get the same toy 5 times over, but I didn’t even have to consider that this year.

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HandMade holly wreath by Bliss Lane Nurseries, Flore 

7. You have to decide what constitutes a small business

You have an image in your head of what a small business is and what a large corporation is. Some companies blur the lines though. If you see that they have 70,000 Facebook followers, they are not really ‘small’. But if they are making hand crafted goods in the U.K. Well that’s the sort of business I want to use. So I guess it comes down to personally how you decide to spend your money. I decided this. If I felt my custom would be appreciated. If I felt the owners of the business would wake up in the morning, look at the orders that had come in over night and be delighted. If I felt my custom would help the company of real people to grow. Then they made my list! Because that’s how WE feel. We appreciate our customers above all, we LOVE orders coming in and a good Christmas helps our business grow into the new year. So that’s how I set my bar!

8. You make friends along the way

Because you deal with real people you get a personal service and build great relationships along the way. This really has to be the best thing about using any small business. And you use each other’s businesses in return too.

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Hand stitched book pillow by Stitched By Em

9. It spreads to other areas

I found that I thought more about EVERYTHING I was buying. Instead of buying Christmas cards when I was at the supermarket (because it was easy and needed no thought) I went online and searched for cards that support charities. I’m a supporter of the air ambulance and found some lovely cards to raise money for their service. I’m ashamed to say I’ve never even thought to do this in the past. We also had some customers at the shop who were making hand made crackers to raise money for Mind and the DEC. Buying those made me feel good about Christmas crackers for the first time ever! And again, they were hand made so much more special than your supermarket waste of money ones!

10. You feel much more in control

I know this might sound a little crazy but when in a big multinational, either physically or online you know you get subliminal messages, positioning and a multi-billion-£ amount of research that influences you to buy more than you intended. I loved the feeling of being in control of my purchases through using small businesses. It felt much more considered and purposeful!

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Arthur beloved Peter Rabbit from a stall at his Christmas fair 

Overall, I loved the experience and have no reason to not carry it through to next Christmas and many other purchases in between! I did buy a couple of bits for my boys from a big company that wasn’t an independent business, but for many of the same reasons. This business was Toys R Us. A foundation of my childhood with a theme song that’s ingrained in my brain. I felt so sorry for them and their staff with the news that their future was uncertain, so I popped in to get a couple of bits on the run up to Christmas. I thought perhaps I could spread my money around a little more.

I have used so many great independent businesses and it’s been a lovely experience. I’ve put links to some of them in here, but this is just a few that I’ve used I couldn’t list everyone.

Hope everyone had a great Christmas!

Special thanks to my friend Catherine Tarbun who is an independent Usborne book trader who made Christmas a lot easier for me and all the book worms in the family.

Also deserving a special mention is Ben’s very talented Auntie Caroline who owns the Spa at Ely; fantastic for gorgeous high quality gifts, perfect for those who just need spoiling! https://spa-ely.co.uk