8 Decorations for a Non-Traditional Tree

If you are decorating the tree this weekend take a look at our 8 favourite non-traditional Christmas decorations perfect for a modern and stylish tree...

Copper Handpainted Christmas Baubles, £14.50 for 5, Owl & Otter
These beautiful beech wood decorations have been hand painted in stylish white and copper perfect for adding warmth to your tree.

Brass geometric shape decoration, £4.50 Each, House Doctor at Tate Online Shop
Gold geometric shapes are a great way to add a modern touch to your tree and these decorations by the Danish company House Doctor are available on the Tate online shop.

Hand Drawn Wooden Bauble, £20, Maria Allen Boutique
This personalised bauble allows you to use your child's own drawing on the etched wooden decoration. A wonderful way to store a sentimental memory, it is sure to be one to cherish for years to come.

Bristle Animal Christmas Decoration, From £4.50 each, SMUG
Sweet, fun, handmade bristle woodland animal Christmas decorations, whats not to love!?

Personalised Christmas Wishes Hanging Decorations, £19.95 for 8, Bread & Jam
A beautifully sleek way to personalise your Christmas tree, these glass vials have your own personal Christmas wishes neatly tucked inside.

Pastel colours are a great way to give your tree a modern appearance, these diamond decorations available in store at IKEA are beautiful and a great price.

Wooden Cross Stitch Tree Decorations, £12.95 each, Maria Allen Boutique Exclusively at HarrodsThese laser etched wooden Christmas decorations are just some of the decorations we made exclusively for Harrods this Christmas. Visit the full collection in the Knightsbridge store now!

Personalised Opening Glass Proposal Bauble, £25, Maria Allen Boutique
Got a special question to ask this Christmas? Why not do it with a beautiful personalised opening glass bauble. Unusual decoration + unusual proposal? That's got to get you a 'Yes'!

Christmas Gift Guide: For Him

For the second of our Christmas gift guides we turn our attention to the special man in your life. Husband, boyfriend, brother, dad or friend, our gift guide has something for everyone:

From top left: Personalised Wooden Watch, £110, Maria Allen Boutique // Moustache Print, £16 Old English Company // Mono Stripe & Spot Beanie Hat, £13, HYPE // Personalised Wooden Mix Tape Key Ring, £25, Maria Allen Boutique

From top left: Chocolate Cheese Board, £30, Chocolate on Chocolate // London Skyline Chess Set, £80, Skyline Chess // Friday Night Curry Subscription, From £19.95, The Spicery // Personalised Child's Drawing Travel Mug, £35, Maria Allen Boutique

From top left: Millook Crew Merino Wool Jumper, £95, Finisterre // Personalised Leather Wallet, £38.50, NV London Calcutta //  Cube Walnut Wood Clock, £27.99, Gingko // Personalised Wooden Christmas Jumper Cufflinks, £55, Maria Allen Boutique

For more gift ideas visit www.mariaallenboutique.com

Christmas recipes: Baileys Fudge

For this week's Christmas recipe Katie shares her very popular Baileys Fudge recipe:

'I definitely associate Baileys with Christmas and have made this recipe lots of times for friends, family and the team at Maria Allen Boutique. It's so easy and quick to make and people are always really impressed by it!'

500g white chocolate
200ml condensed milk
Baileys 50ml

1. Grease and line your baking tray. Melt the white chocolate over a Bain-marie and add to a sauce pan.

2. Add the Baileys and condensed milk and heat slowly until the mixture has combined.

3. Pour the mixture into the tin and leave to cool. Once the fudge has set cut and enjoy!

7 Ideas For Your Perfect Christmas Table

Decorating the table for Christmas dinner has always been an exciting occasion in my family, the anticipation for the grandest meal of the year never fails to make me feel like a small child again. I'm quite sure that Christmas dinner tastes even better when you are eating it at a beautifully decorated and thoughtful table. Here is my guide to the best table decorations on the market this Christmas:

It's not Christmas without a certain amount of glitz, this chevron table runner adds just the right amount of glam to your Christmas table. It looks great over a white table cloth or straight onto a wooden table for a more rustic look.

Chevron sequin table runner, The Sweet Hostess,  £18.00

Your guests will be so impressed by the personal touches you have added to the table that they will barely notice that the turkey unintentionally had an extra 30 minutes in the over. These calligraphy place name are laser cut from a choice of three suitably christmassy pearlescent shades of gold, silver and copper. 

Set of 10 Laser Cut Calligraphy Place Names, Maria Allen Boutique, £35

The trend of Scandinavian minimalism continues to grow and can be easily brought to your Christmas table with evergreen sprigs and light, untreated woods. These wine bottle holders are made from birch plywood and are a beautiful and unusual way to display your table wine!

Penguin & Reindeer Wine Racks, £23 each, Array Collection

Christmas Crackers
Surprise your guests with personalised crackers. These beautifully illustrated crackers are bought empty allowing you to add your own contents to each. You could add your own jokes or turn it in to a fun trivia quiz, whatever you decide to do your guests are sure to be delighted not to receive a plastic whistle or tiny padlock this year!

Fill your own cracker, The Cracker Boutique, £2.95 each

Keep it natural
Some of the best table decorations can be found in the garden. Rosemary, holly, fur sprigs, pine cones and ivy can all be found growing at this time of year and are great to use as table decorations, adding both colour and rusticity to your table.

Another great material to add to your Christmas table is wood, both natural and warm in colour small wooden decorations will add to the natural appearance of your table. These personalised drinks charms will also help your guests to hang on to their drink, perfect for larger dinner parties or for new years eve.

Set of 10 Personalised Wooden Wine Glass Charms, Maria Allen Boutique, £30

A great modern twist on your Christmas table, beautiful coloured crockery can be combined with subtle festive touches, such as white pillar candles, snowflake table confetti and sprigs of holly to create a modern and stylish Christmas table.

Hand decorated Grid Tableware, Lollipop Designs, from £45

For more Christmas table and home decoration inspiration follow us on pinterest now.

Christmas Gift Guide: For Her

With Christmas less than 3 weeks away it's time to get thinking about the special lady in your life. Whether it's your wife, girlfriend, sister, mum or friend, our gift guide has something for everyone:

From top left: Winter Garden Watch, Olivia Burton, £80 // Personalised Wooden Adventure Luggage Tag, Maria Allen Boutique, £20 // Personalised Sterling Silver Love Letter, Maria Allen Boutique, £75 // Brighton Gin, Harvey Nichols, £44

Personalised Zodiac Constellation Necklace, Maria Allen Boutique, £40 // Daisy Gravel Clutch Bag, Matt&Nat, £60 // Pineapple Iphone 6/6S Case, Thornback & Peel, £19.95 // Personalised Mini Glass Jewellery Box, Maria Allen Boutique, £25

Monthly Planner, Lollipop Designs, £12.50 // Gold Antler Brooch, Maria Allen Boutique, £18 // You Look Lovely Today Natural Wash Bag, Alphabet Bags, £24 // Women's Thick Flecked Socks, Hopscotch London, £12

For more great personalised and non-personalised gift ideas visit www.mariaallenboutique.com

Meet our Stockists: Mooch Etc

This month we talk to our stockists Ruth & David about their shop Mooch Etc in the beautiful Welsh town of Carmarthen:

How long has Mooch etc been open and how did the business come about?
After spending well over 20 years as a specialist nurse in oral surgery Ruth wanted a change from dressing up in scrubs everyday, plus she also wanted to do something which involved the artistic side of her personality.

Did you have a particular aim when opening your own boutique?
Our aim is to retail products where design and quality are all important. We also try to make sure that the products we sell are not found on the shelves of multiple retailers or any other shops in our area. This means that we're giving our customers genuine choice which many of them clearly appreciate as we're fortunate that many of them return time and time again.

You are based in Carmarthen, tell us about life in the oldest town in Wales.
The shop is on, what the historians tell us, the line of an old Roman road where shops have existed for over 1000 years. We're also told that King Street is the oldest continually used shopping street in Europe. It would not have had that history if retailers had not continually evolved and brought products that looked to the future. We see ourselves as the current generation responsible for continuing that role.

There are so many amazing designers out there, how do you choose who to stock in your shop?
Choosing stock is by far the most interesting aspect of our business. Fortunately there are a great number of exceptional designers in the UK as well as elsewhere in Europe.
We take a great deal of time to find designs that are both innovative and of a quality that stands out from the usual. Often, young designers, such as Maria Allen, are the ones who produce something with an edge and we are of course also lucky that many of them have trained here in the University in Carmarthen.

You must stock so many beautiful things that you want to keep for yourself, what's on the top of your Christmas list this year?

That's a hard one. Our problem is stopping ourselves filling the house with stock from the shop! For Christmas this year our dog Brenin will be even more handsome (not that that's possible!) in his new hand made collar from Ark in Cambridge. David's got his eye on the bespoke Welsh dragon cufflinks by Maria Allen. For Ruth it has to be a super soft stripy scarf from one of our local designer/ makers Sian O'Doherty. Most of all we're looking forward to a few days off, with plenty of walks on the beach & relaxing.

Mooch Etc is located at 13 King St, Carmarthen SA31 1BH and can be contacted on 01267 237359 or by email to info@moochetc.co.uk

Christmas recipe: Oreo Cupcakes

For this week's festive sweet treat, Maria shares her favourite Oreo cupcake recipe!

This is one of my favourite recipes to make at Christmas, the cakes are rich, creamy and very indulgent, pretty much everything that Christmas should be! The recipe is adapted from one that I found on the Good Food Channel website a few years ago:


For the cupcakes
6 Oreo biscuits
115 g unsalted butter, softened
115 g caster sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
100 g self-raising flour
20 g cocoa powder
2 large eggs, beaten
1 tsp milk

For the frosting
50 g butter, softened
80 g cream cheese, cold
175 g icing sugar
6 Oreo biscuits
12 Oreo biscuits to decorate

To make the cakes:

1. preheat oven to 180C/160 fan/gas 4. Line a muffin tin with 11 paper muffin cases. Separate the Oreos and place half into the bottom of each case, with any cream filling facing upwards.

2. Cream together the softened butter and caster sugar, along with the vanilla extract, until pale and fluffy.

3. Sift in the flour and cocoa powder. Add the two beaten eggs and mix well, taking care to stop once all of the dry ingredients are incorporated. Add the milk and beat briefly to combine.

4. Divide the mixture evenly between the cupcake cases. Bake for 22-25 minutes.

To make the frosting:

1. Place the six large Oreos into a food processor and whizz into crumbs. Alternatively, place the cookies into a plastic food bag and smash with a rolling pin. Set aside.

2. Rub the softened butter into the icing sugar using the back of a wooden spoon. Do the same with the cream cheese.

3. Once the icing sugar has been incorporated, whisk with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.

4. Gently fold the Oreo crumbs into the frosting, being careful not to over mix. If the frosting is a little runny at this stage, place in the fridge to chill for 15 minutes.

5. Cover each cupcake with the frosting and finish with an Oreo.

Meet the team: Cat

In today's meet the team we talk to our amazing studio assistant, Cat, as she embarks on her second Christmas in the team!:

When did you join the team?
I joined the team in 2014 as a Christmas staff member.. aka one of the MAB Christmas elves!

So this is your second christmas, how are you feeling about the busiest time of the year?
It's quite scary as there are so many orders and you want everyone to be 100% happy with their Christmas gifts. However it's also the funnest time of year because the closer we get to Christmas, the more fun we have in the studio. Everyone is jolly, there are Christmas songs on the radio and we eat tones of biscuits, it's a really nice atmosphere!

What did you study at uni?
I studied Graphic Design at Central Saint Martins, but within my course I did 1 year of Illustration and my final year in Creative Advertising which was really interesting.

What is your favourite Maria Allen Boutique product?
My favourite product is definitely all the Personalised Glass Boxes. I'm going to get one for my sister for Christmas.

What's your favourite thing about Brighton?
I really love Brighton, It's quirky, unique, fun and friendly. It's got lots of independent cafes and shops which I really like. I think Brighton is a great place to find something extra special that you might not find anywhere else, whether it's an amazing slice of cake or a beautiful gift for a friend!

Artists' Open Houses: What to see

Brighton is a great city at Christmas, the streets come alive with lights, markets, mulled wine, brass bands, ice skating in front of the infamous Royal Pavilion and the shopping possibilities are endless. Some of the best shopping can be done on Thursday evenings on the popular North Laine, where you can nip in and out of the cold into one of the hundreds of independent boutiques, cafes and pubs.

Our favourite Christmas shopping however is done during Weekends in November and December at the Artists' Open Houses. Artists across the city open up their homes and studios for 4 weekends from the 21st November - 13th December to showcase beautiful works on sale to the public perfect as Christmas gifts.

Here's what not to miss during the open house weekends in Brighton:

Albert Mews Studios
An incredibly festive array of products and designs on display at the Albert Mew Studios including, Brighton themed homeware, tights, hats, cards, calendars and chutneys! There really is something for everyone at their lovely central Hove studios!

Designers include:
Martha Mitchell Design Homeware and gifts
Lizzie Lock Millinery Headwear
Joanna Corney Printed homeware
hose. Hosiery
Patricia Holubowskj Knitwear
Maggie Whatford Leather accessories
Chhipa Unisex shirts
Corinne Taylor Organic aromatherapy products
Nick Sellek Prints and window cards
Kysam Silver jewellery
Hove Made Pickles and chutneys 

1 Albert Mews, Third Avenue, Hove BN3 2PP
The studios are open from 11am - 6pm 28th, 29th November 2014, 5th, 6th, 12th, 13th December 2015. Read more here

*   *   *

Baobab open their doors to the Artist’s Open Houses for two weekends in December, providing a unique creative space that complements the work of its exhibiting artists.

Artists include:
Elaine Bolt Ceramics
Christina Fedyk Monoprints
Rhoda Baker Paperscapes
Frances Doherty Ceramics

Baobab is a design-led company who are passionate about property and design, creating inspirational and positive environments. Baobab has worked with acclaimed architects and designers on this exquisite ultra modern construction, exploring the use of natural light, open space, functionality and aesthetics.

39-41 Withdean Road, Brighton BN1 5BP
The house is open to the public from 10am-5pm on the 5th, 6th, 12th, 13th December 2015. 
Read more here

* * *

11 Rugby Road
Once again the residents and friends of 11 Rugby road open their home to the public
, exhibiting jewellery, glass, greetings cards, textiles, ceramics, exclusive prints and much more. Join them for mulled wine in the kitchen which has been transformed into a candy wonderland!

11 Rugby Road, Brighton BN1 6EB
The house is open from 11am-5pm on the 28th, 29th November and the 5th, 6th, 12th, 13th December 2015. Read more here

* * *

8 Caryle Street
Featuring established designer/makers and work by textiles students at Glasgow School of Art, this exhibition includes a beautiful selection of work by:

Katie Lewis Upholstery design
Jackie Jones Silver sundials and jewellery
Hannah Wells Illustrated greetings cards
Jenny Pearce Crochet accessories
Kate Wand Laser-cut acrylic
Paula Leighton Felted decorations
Nancy Tulley Metal, leather and knitted work
Beth Furini Leather and knitted goods

8 Carlyle Street, Brighton BN2 9XW
The house is open 11am - 5pm on the 28th, 29th November, 5th, 6th, 12th, 13th December 2015. Read more here

For more information about the Artists' Open House project visit their website here.

Gifts for difficult to buy for Dads

We all know that Dads are notoriously difficult to buy for and as Christmas approaches we begin to experience what can only be described as festive-fear. Here is our concise guide to buying for Dad (or actually any man in your life...)

1. Start early (...or choose express)
There is nothing worse than leaving the most difficult until last, but with express shipping available right up until the 23rd December, last minute doesn't have to mean a box of wine gums and a multi pack of antifreeze from the petrol station.

2. Keep it personal
Personalised gifts are a great way to show that you have put thought and time into a present. You could choose to personalise a product with a special message or go one further and include yours or your children's handwriting or even design your own pair of cufflinks. Dad is bound to be impressed by the uniqueness of his gift.

3. Make it practical
Let's face it, Dads like practical. Whether that's a travel mug to carry his favourite coffee to the station in, cufflinks containing working compasses, or an etched USB keyring to keep his data safe, Dad is guaranteed to be thrilled.

4. Get a good deal
Dad will be even happier if he knows you got his stylish, practical and potentially last minute gift at a better price. That's why we are offering 10% off all men's gifts right up until Christmas! Use the code DAD10 at checkout to get your discount!

Now breathe a sigh of relief and get shopping! www.mariaallenboutique.com

Spiced Chocolate Lebkuchen Recipe

As the countdown to Christmas begins we've asked the team to each share one of their favourite festive recipes. Whether it's nostalgia, festivity or sugar content that makes these recipes popular, they are sure to go down well with family and friends over the Christmas period.

This week Sarah shares her Lebkuchen recipe:

This is a really easy recipe that I picked up whilst I was living in Germany. Christmas is a great time of year in Germany and these soft spiced gingerbreads remind me of Christmas markets and warm Gl├╝hwein!

Makes 30


250g plain flour
85g ground almonds
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1tsp baking powder
Ground cloves, grated nutmeg and black pepper (pinch of each)
85g butter
100ml clear honey
100ml maple syrup
1 lemon, finely grated zest

For the icing
100g icing sugar
1 egg white, beaten
75g of dark chocolate

1. Combine all of the dry ingredients into a large bowl and mix. Heat the honey, maple syrup and butter in a pan over a low heat until the butter melts, then pour into the flour mixture along with the lemon zest. Mix well until the dough is combined and becomes hard to stir. Cover and leave to cool (relax and make a cuppa!).

2. Heat the oven to 180C/fan160C/gas 4. Using your hands, roll the dough into balls, each around 3cm wide, then flatten each one slightly into a disk, you should be able to make around 30. Line two baking trays with parchment paper and divide the biscuits between the two. Make sure to leave enough room for them to expand as they bake. Bake for 15 mins until they begin to turn golden, then leave to cool on a wire rack.

3. Ice the biscuits by mixing together the icing sugar, egg white and 1 tbsp water to form a smooth, runny icing. Dip the top of each biscuit in the icing and leave to rest on a plate. You can build up the layers of icing if you want a thicker glaze. Once the icing has dried melt the chocolate over a bain-marie and dip the bottom of each lebkuchen into the chocolate. Leave to dry...enjoy!

Product round up - November

Over the past few weeks we have been hard at work developing new products and designs perfect for Christmas and new year gifting. Here are a selection of our favourite new products:

The Wanderlust Range:

Travel has been a strong theme during our last month and our wanderlust range combines fun and inspiring quotes with your own personalised messages, making them perfect gifts for a loved one or friend with big travel plans for 2016!

From top left: Personalised Wooden Coordinate Cufflinks, £55 // Personalised Time To Explore Compass keepsake, coming soon // Engraving on back of compass // Personalised working compass cufflinks, £40

Make it a Christmas they'll remember:
Our range of personalised Christmas decorations and festive gifts will ensure that it's not just a day but a season to remember. Our favourite design has to be the Our Year Bauble, a glass bauble which opens to reveal a beautiful cherry wood insert personalised with up to 5 memories or milestones from the past year!
From top left: Personalised Glass Proposal Bauble, £20 // Your Own Dog Bauble In Walnut Wood, £12 // Personalised Christmas Jumper Cufflinks, £55 // Personalised Glass Our Year Bauble, £20

From top left: Personalised Wine Glass Charms, £30 for set of 10 // Personalised Our Year Star Garland from £22 // Laser Cut Calligraphy Place Names, £35 for set of 10

Visit www.mariaallenboutique.com for more Christmas home and gift ideas!

Meet our stockists: Eleven

This month we talk to our Channel Island stockist Anna about her shop Eleven in the beautiful St Peter Port, Guernsey.

How long has Eleven been open and how did the business begin?
Eleven opened its doors in May 2013. We had three months to refurbish the retail space. We discovered that the building was actually built by an ancestor of my husbands in the late eighteen hundreds. It still features the original fireplace and safe.

You are based in the beautiful St Peter Port in Guernsey, tell us a little about island life!

We are a little town, charming, compact, with a beautiful harbour front, attractive restaurants, boutiques and shops that attract visitors from all over the world. We will have had over 100 cruise liners visit our shores.

Like us, the environment and sustainability are very important to your business, why is this?

I feel that as a society we have to look seriously at the precious few resources from which we produce our items and that we do our utmost to recycle, upcycle or find sustainable sources.

We make a lot of bespoke cufflink designs for you, do you have a favourite?
All the bespoke cufflinks are wonderful as they normally come from clients who have said “do you have?” and the idea blossoms from there.

Why do you think this bespoke service works so well for you and your customers?
The bespoke service provides my clients with something that is personal to them or to the person they are giving the gift to.

Once the shopping rush is over, how will you be spending your Christmas?
At home beside a long burning fireplace with my family and a large mug of some warmed wine punch.

Above are examples of the bespoke cufflink designs that we make for Eleven. For more information about our bespoke design service please visit our website here.

You can visit Eleven at 11 Commercial Arcade, Guernsey, Channel Islands. The shop can be contacted on 01481 714211 and more information can be found on their facebook page here.

Our Eco Wishlist

Our November wishlist is here and it's all things eco. Our impact on the environment is incredibly important to us here at Maria Allen Boutique and here are a selection of companies and products that share our passion for sustainability and style:

1. Sister & Co. - Glow Set, £44.95
Sister & Co create unique skin & body products using raw and active superfoods from around the world. The base to the products is extra-virgin organic coconut oil, cold-pressed at a small organic farm in Kerala, India.

2. Matt & Nat - CHANDA - GRAVEL - £95
Matt & Nat which stands for Material & Nature are a vegan brand committed to using no animal-based materials in their designs. Their huge collection of bags and purses are innovative in sustainability using recycled nylons, cardboard, rubber & cork. The linings of their bags are made from 100% recycled plastic bottles.

3. Maria Allen Boutique - Wooden Triangle Necklace - £30
Maria Allen Boutique is committed to using only reclaimed and sustainably sourced wood in their extensive collection of jewellery, accessories, gifts and homeware. Much of the wood is reclaimed from the local Sussex area, close to their studio in Brighton.

4. Kowtow Clothing (New Zealand) - Trace Dress - $195
Kowtow is a New Zealand clothing brand using only 100% organic fair trade certified cotton. Their simple and minimal designs certainly don't come at cost to their factory employees in Kolkata India, who receive a living wage, pension, free transport, medical insurance and free schooling for their children. The company also sponsors projects such as Girls Education, Cow Shed and Cow Donation programmes in local farming villages.

5. Cred Jewellery - Hex stacking bangle, £95
Cred Jewellery established the first transparent supply chain of Gold and Platinum from Oro Verde in Columbia, and were the first jewellery company to pay social premiums for Ecological Gold. They use 100% recycled silver and fair trade certified gold.

6. H&M CONSCIOUS - Satin maxi dress £29.99
As well as ensuring that every worker at their factories and supply chains earn a living wage, H&M introduced their Conscious line in 2012, bringing clothing made from conscious materials such as recycled wool, hemp and organic leather to the high street. 

7.  Elephant Branded - Laptop Case, £30

Elephant Branded have a clear mission, to make a positive, long term, sustainable change to the communities that produce their products and the children that receive their school kits. For every one of their ethically made bags sold the company gives one ergonomically designed school bag and kit to a child in Africa or Asia. The company is also committed to ensuring that their employees learn valuable skills that permit them to have a sustainable and effective way to get out of poverty.

8. Green People - Limited Edition Facial Care Gift Collection Owl, £15.95

With a promise to never use aggressive ingredients, synthetic chemicals or to test on animals, Green People's mission is to be Britain's favourite ethical skin care company. It's hard not to love their new woodland gift collections which donate 30p to the Woodland Trust with each sale.

9. The People Tree - Happy Cats Tee in Eco White - £30.00
People Tree is recognised as a pioneer in Fair Trade and environmentally sustainable fashion. For over twenty years, People Tree has partnered with Fair Trade artisans and farmers in the developing world to produce ethical and eco fashion collections.