We wanted to write a provenance all about the history of Ban-do. But then we went and found this on their website and it was way more fun and a whole lot more entertaining than waffling on about the Founder (who incidentally is Jen Gotch, who incidentally everyone at The Hambledon thinks is brilliant).
'Oh hey. We're Ban.do. Let's be BFFs. We can stay up late watching 80s rom coms and eating pizzas with everything on it (except anchovies, grooosss!). Cool. Now that it's settled we should probably tell you a bit more about us. We're a gift, tech, stationery and fashion accessories company designed by a pretty spectacular group of girls in sunny Los Angeles. We love bright colours, irreverent patterns, quirky sayings and kittens. OMG we love kittens so much. Forever inspired by Champagned soaked, all night dance parties, we are serious about fun and so thrilled you are here.'
Enough said. Get your Ban-do here.
This sure doesn't help our summer diet plans. The arrival of Creighton's - a seriously lovely little company from Bedfordshire who make the most irresistable chocolate.
The team is headed up by mother and daughter, Lucy and Andrea Huntington, who started out in 2010 with just the knowledge of an Italian confectioner, a marble slab and a handful of moustache-shaped chocolate moulds. Soon after they opened their first chocolaterie in the small town of Leighton Buzzard, named after their Great Granny Creighton. The moustache lollies flew off the shelves, they opened a second store and more quirky lollipops and edible gifts were added to the range.
And that's what we like the most - in the serious, artisan world of chocolate, Creighton's know how to have fun. So this summer we're scoffing chocolate ice lollies and fish and chips, pulling pranks with a set of Granny's gnahsers and gifting their beautiful bars flavoured with sea salt, peanuts and ginger - all made in the traditional way with the best Belgian chocolate.
Doing the rounds of the various shows over winter, Victoria and Lucy were feeling a bit of a French country vibe; a fine, un-fussy way of living, centered around the kitchen. Table linen and pudding moulds were taken care of, but then they came across Gien in Paris and the whole thing came together beautifully.
When it comes to fancy French china, Gien are the business. That said, the company was actually founded by an Englishman from Stoke-on-Trent called Thomas Hall. It was 1821 and Hall thought it was about time the French were introduced to fine English earthenware (they call it ‘faience’), so he set up shop in Gien, a small town on the banks of the River Loire.
Over the course of the 19th century, the company became best-known as the supplier of Europe’s finest bespoke dinner services. Thousands of aristocratic families across Europe ordered Gien sets adorned with family crests or monograms, and descendents continue to place orders today. While some of the processes have been brought up to speed, the company still manufactures 100% of its earthenware in Gien and honours traditional techniques such as paper printing and hand painting which gives slight variations between each piece.
Now we’re not so sure about fancy monogrammed china, but we do love a set of plates intricately decorated with curious French riddles. Especially when they come in orange, blue and pink, packaged beautifully in round wooden cheese boxes. We're stocking both dessert plate and biscuit plate sets, and the pink set is marriage themed (perfect gift alert!).
When Paul Lowe's Hambledon wish list appeared in our inbox we were super thrilled. We had always hoped he was as lovely and jolly as his book and blog make him out to be, and it turns out, he really is. Here is his pick of our festive treats, and guess what, they are just as jolly as he is.
1. Toy Shop Advent Calendar £5.95 | 2. Pop Star Decorations £5.95 | 3. Lump of Coal Cachette £24.95 | 4. Wrapped Up Multi Gift Tags £5.50 | 5. Pop Party Hats £7 | 6. Mulled Wine Syrup £5
The curtain of ultimate secrecy (well, it would have been if you weren't such a bunch of nosey parkers. Honestly, putting a partition up in the shop is the equivalent of a big red button saying 'do not push'!) is down, which can only mean one thing. Our 2014 Christmas Shop is open and ready for holly-jolly business!
Condiment lovers take note. We've expanded our Makers & Merchants range to include sauces, pickles and preserves. All handmade here in the UK by small, artisan producers, then given the full Makers & Merchants makeover. All bright red and bold type. Which we love. Not that we're swayed by the fancy packaging. They hapen to taste really, really good too. Especially on the side, next to a big wedge of pie.