I love this research commissioned by John Lewis last year which delves into the public's Christmas shopping habits. Apparently we spend on average £17 on a gift for our boss, 65% of us will buy a present for our pet and 52% of us will write a list before hitting the shops. 16% of us start our shopping before October with the majority of us starting in November or December. For me, and I suspect a lot of us in the North East, Christmas shopping begins with the Living North Christmas fair which is held at the beginning of November every year.
I am GUTTED I only had £50 to spend on the day this year as I could have bought so much. The prices this year didn't seem as expensive as previous years and there were gifts available for everyone ranging from food gifts, handmade jewellery, children's gifts and beautiful pieces of art. Although I didn't buy too much, I loved discovering lots of new local businesses and picked up lots of business cards and flyers with a promise to re-visit when some of my invoices are paid!
I would love to say a huge thank you to Michelle from Freja Lillie who gifted us with our tickets. If you aren't lucky enough to know an exhibitor, entry is £8 on the door. I attended with my lovely friend and Pencil Pet Portrait Artist Rebecca Vose. We arrived a little early and the atmosphere was electric as we waited at the bottom of the stairs for the rooms to open. I imagine this may be how people feel when they are waiting for the doors of Macy's sale to open!
Over 25,000 people are expected to visit the fair over the weekend and most of them will be females over the age of 35 and with 260 handpicked exhibitors, there are plenty of places to spend your money! I am going to show you around a few of my favourite stands however this is only a teeny tiny snapshot of our day.
First stop was Freya Lillie (A33) where I browsed the beautiful baby wear and children's handmade toys. I couldn't resist buying my friend a gorgeous pigeon bib as a treat.
I also loved these 'make your own candle kits' which at £15 would either make a great gift as they are or it would be nice if you could use them to make someone special their own candle.
I LOVED these wicker hearts with battery powered LED lights and can really see one sitting on my fireplace this winter. I can't find any literature about what they were called though and it has slipped my mind. If anyone knows what stand S36 is called (I think it was that one). PLEASE tweet me and let me know! @nefamilyfun.
There was so much lovely art to look enjoy and I couldn't resist purchasing a piece from the ladies below (again they are not in the programme so I don't know who they are! Annoying!!)
There are plenty of places to enjoy a spot of pampering and we sampled some handmade handcreams from Dovecote which were just fantastic - the scent lasted for the whole afternoon.
There were countless stands selling gifts for the home but Maison Royale really stood out for me - the Hogwarts themed gifts were fantastic and Rebecca couldn't resist a few purchases.
Some of my favourite hotels were exhibiting this year - The Malmaison were selling some very good value festive spa, dining and accommodation packages as were Linden Hall where we were given a buy one get one free voucher for festive afternoon tea! Yum!
When we needed a break from shopping, these fabulous tipi's provided a welcome break and we sat and enjoyed a few coffee's inside. This is also the new chef demo and book signing area (exact programme of demonstrations here) which this year includes Richard Burr from GBBO, Danny Parker from House of Tides and even The Fat Hippo! Oh man! So sad I will miss out on some top burger making tips from the experts!
The food hall and marquee is the absolute highlight of my trip every year. The list of exhibitors is IMMENSE. I loved chatting to the guys from the lakes distillery about their Christmas gifts, admiring the gorgeous gift hampers from Fentimans and sampling a huge selection of the treats on offer.
I was delighted to discover what I'm sure will be a new favourite - the Northumbrian Smokehouse. This family have their own smokehouse in their Wallsend home and produce a range of smoked goods from smoked chicken, pates, cheeses, nuts, relish, eggs, chutney.....Their prices are extremely reasonable too. You can catch them at local fairs around the North East and can order direct (with 10 days notice). Check out their facebook page for further information.
Another stand you simply MUST check out is Carwinley Preserves. This stand is always busy and I defy anyone to try their delicious lemon curd samples and not want to buy their own large jar! There are over 30 types of preserves to choose from and their are a few special offers too. I can't wait for a lemon curd sandwich on Saturday. What a treat!!
I will be completely honest when I say I did not have my blogging head on when I was walking around the food hall and marquees as I was too busy chatting with stallholders, shopping and sampling! Luckily for us, Emma from Canny Food has written a comprehensive guide featuring her top picks.
The Living North Christmas Fair continues at Gosforth Racecourse this weekend. On site parking is free but don't wear your best shoes as it's rather muddy in parts. Tickets are £8 on the door including a programme and mini goody bag.