Regal Pet Portraits Are Set To Be A Huge Gifting Trend This Christmas 2019. Get Clued In AND Get An Exclusive Discount Code For The Drowsy Chaperone.

Mrs Meow portrait by the drowsy chaperone

Mrs Meow portrait by the drowsy chaperone

The U.K. and Ireland are both well known nations of pet lovers. We adore our dogs, cats and other assorted beasties we share our home with. We spend silly money on their food, beds, toys and let them sleep on our sofas and beds often causing rows between husbands and wives, but the pets always win. What is it about our four legged friends that in a couple of hundred generations have gone from helping us hunt, to being totally and utterly pampered and in some cases totally ruling the roost?

Myself, I have Mrs Meow. She has bizarre origins, and came to us as a stray, explained here, and wormed her way in slowly, and now sleeps on my bed every night. She has a very kind nature, never ever scratches, even when she’s unhappy about getting her flea drops on, or collar adjusted, or a fur tatt snipped off, but she does have a very snooty, grumpy face. A face that makes her absolutely perfect for the new pet portraits that I am backing to be huge gifting trends for this Christmas for pet lovers.

The Drowsy Chaperone are a group of lifelong friends who started their pet portrait business together after making a print of one of their own dogs, loving it, and realising if they got so much enjoyment out of a design like this, other pet owners probably would too. Since then they haven’t looked back, and have been able to open fulfilment centres in both the US and Europe, so turnaround on prints can be pretty speedy. They say 1-2 weeks because they prefer to underpromise - my print came in a couple of days.

The process is simple. You take photos of your pet, and with The Drowsy Chaperone it can be more than just a cat or dog, they accept other animals too. These need to be good quality photos as they will be printed in a large format, but they will let you know if they aren’t suitable. You then choose from ‘Female Portraits’ or ‘Male Portraits’ to choose the ‘costume’ your pet will be wearing in the print. I choose Mrs Meow to wear ‘The Princess’ costume, I think she looks very fancy!

Mrs Meow as ‘the priNcess’ by the droWsy chaperone

Mrs Meow as ‘the priNcess’ by the droWsy chaperone

There are many other ‘olden days’ renaissance era outfits, but also police uniforms, an astronaut spacesuit, a butler’s garb, a Sheriff, and a Lieutenant. It’s up to your which persona fits your pet the best.

Then you choose the size of canvas you want to order. All prints are made with high quality inks that never fade, on 1.5 inch stretched canvas frames complete with hooks for hanging. There are four sizes to choose from. The print is very professional, and nice and clear. I am absolutely delighted with mine, it fits right in with my kitsch home and the colouring and likeness is just perfect.

I can see these being a fantastic Christmas gift idea for a loved one who dotes over their furry friend. It’s certainly something to buy the person who has everything too; no-one has a museum style portrait of their Schnauzer dressed as a 16th century courtier.

So if you want to get your shopping started, or better yet, transform your own pet into a masterpiece, The Drowsy Chaperone have been so kind to give me a discount code for World of Kitsch readers to get 10% off their order when they buy a print. Just enter the code worldofkitsch to get your 10% off and do share with me your print over on Instagram, I would love to see what you choose.

You can also follow The Drowsy Chaperone over on Instagram to see their pet portrait transformations, and keep an eye out for competitions.

Cats & Collectables, Some Late Additions to the Karen Mabon Summer 2019 Range

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Karen Mabon’s summer collection came out a couple of months back, but I happened to notice a few new pieces in her store, since I last blogged about it.

The first new design is the huge 90cm x 90cm pure silk Cat Amongst The Pigeons print. It’s a rich black with contrasting kitties and the familiar UK sight of a pack of pigeons. Only Karen could make pigeons chic.

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Then there’s The Collector, a pastel pink and mauve menagerie of kitsch. I adore this design and can spot a number of items I’ve either owned, or currently own.

Lastly there are some new silk trouser bottoms, some which match existing silk shirts, so you can pair them as pyjamas. The blue Breakfast at Tiffany’s shirt could definitely be worn as a daytime look.

Keep an eye on Karen’s Instagram, as she has some very cool, totally new products launching soon with her designs.

Say Goodbye To Boring Protein Bars & Hello To M&S’s Rainbow of a Range of High Protein Meals & Snacks - Including Salami Crisps!

£1.50 Each

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Okay, so there’s no fooling you guys into thinking I’m a protein-shake-swilling gym goddess, but I have drank that stuff in the past, and that stuff tastes like drinking moths. Worse still is my continued self-delusion that if I buy a protein chocolate bar, it’s not really eating ‘badly’, then tasting the thing and wishing I had just bought a big 100g Dairy Milk and got on with it.

Foods labelled with protein as their selling point are showing up more & more in our supermarkets, with new products, and revamped ‘extra protein’ versions of traditional snacks becoming the norm. But why should we care about ‘getting our protein in’ with our diet, especially if we aren’t gym bunnies- is there any advantage?

£5

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Research has shown that protein, rather than fat or carbs, has the ability to keep you feeling fuller longer, and reduce cravings, which can help you regulate your weight. It literally acts as the building block for new muscle, so it can help you increase your strength. Animal protein especially has been proven to help bone density, which can be really beneficial for women during menopause. It’s also been shown to reduce blood pressure, which can help with heart disease, strokes and kidney disease. There are several other medical and scientific reasons upping protein in your diet is a plus, but let’s get into the food, shall we?

My top item to seek out on this Marksies’ trip was their new charcuterie-style, air-dried snacking crisps (top image). You’ll find these curious canapés in the fridges, as they are made from salami, chorizo and Serrano ham. They aren’t fried, are surprisingly low calorie per pack (under 150 cals) and are, of course, high protein. Super for those on low carb diets like Keto, these unusual snacks are very crunchy and packed with flavour.

Plant kitchen nourish bowl £3.50 : Beets protein pot £2

Plant kitchen nourish bowl £3.50 : Beets protein pot £2

Next I took a nosy in the takeaway, sandwich aisle, and found some new products that really wowed me. The new Falafel & Chargrilled Vegetable salad (above) looks like something you would be presented with in a fancy little artisan vegan cafe. The veggie and ‘healthy’ options Marks and Spencer has to choose from are miles away from what, to me at least, used to feel like picking a salad was a ‘boring’ lunch. In fact to me the protein pots look more tempting than the sandwiches! If a sarnie is your thing though, they do have a special new range of protein rich sandwiches too.

Chicken £2 : Prawn £2.20

Chicken £2 : Prawn £2.20

M&S was one of the first places I ever saw mini ‘protein pots’ on sale, a few years ago, with their boiled egg and spinach pot. Their range has expanded now with high protein pots like the Beautiful Beets & Feta Cheese variety, Chargrilled Chicken and Edamame, and Chilli & Coriander King Prawn.

For vegans, the Plant Kitchen range also has nourish bowls to takeaway, like the Edamame & Black Rice Salad (above) which is another rainbow coloured dream.

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Another new high protein choice is the Free Range Egg & Avocado Salad. The colourful cabbage makes this one another tempting choice.

Lastly, some handy pots to stock the cupboard with for snacking (below). These quick and easy dinners can be whirled in the microwave, and again there’s a high protein option in the Balanced For You Smokey Pulled Pork option. There’s also a Chilli & Rice bowl, or Bolognese Pasta.

£3 each

£3 each

Vegans have several choices too, the Cauliflower, Coconut & Lentil Dahl pot, as well as Moroccan Lentil Stew a Mixed Bean Chipotle Chilli.

There is also traditional favourites like Shepherd’s Pie with Root Vegetable Mash. All these pots are £3 each and will be great lunch options as we head into autumn. I’m looking forward to all the new foods for that season too!

You can also check out some high protein recipes on the M&S website, if you fancy cooking something yourself from scratch.

Gemma Correll’s Quirky Illustrations Are So Relatable… It’s Like She’s Drawing My Life!

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Gemma Correll is a UK illustrator who’s simple, yet easily discernible style has seen her publish three books of her work, and won her comic-space in the prestigious Observer Sunday Magazine. Her relatable doodles have also been made into greetings cards, and you can buy pins, t-shirts and bags with her tongue-in-cheek artistic wit as the featured design.

I first saw one of her illustrations last year, the ‘Couchella’ greetings card, and my son and I immediately loved it because the little character on the card was wearing my daily uniform of a stripy top. They also had my glasses and ponytail (that’s me below).

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This year, I found Gemma’s cards on sale in Sainsbury’s, and couldn’t believe the accuracy of the particular drawing (very top, framed), it describes my cat lady-ness wonderfully. So I bought it and framed it.

Gemma’s Instagram is filled with these relatable cartoons, I’ve picked out the ones that most correspond with my feeling that she must be drawing my life. I joke of course, but why don’t you check out her Instagram page and see which illustrations make you think, “that’s so me”.

I Slept Under a Xalm Weighted Blanket For Seven Nights- Can A Weighted Blanket Help Chronic Fatigue, Anxiety, Restless Legs, and More?

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I had noticed some Youtubers talking about weighted blankets recently, a product that if you’ve never heard of before, you will be forgiven, as neither had I before 2019. So when Xalm reached out to me to ask would I like to test drive their weighted blanket, I was very keen to say yes!

Back in early 2018, brothers Eddy & David Barrett had seen how weighted blankets in the US were changing peoples’ lives for the better, and wanted to bring the UK’s first high-quality weighted blanket on the market, complete with removable cover, and so Xalm Blanket was born.

But hold on, you may still be asking yourself, and me, what the heck is a weighted blanket? Well, it’s just that, it’s a heavy blanket. They are carefully made with weighted pellets throughout, to equally distribute weight through the blanket, and it’s recommended that when picking a blanket you choose one that weighs 10% of your body weight, plus a little more (Xalm is available in three weight choices & uses micro-bead technology for its weight system).

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But… why the heck would you want a weighted blanket? Weighted blankets have actually been around for years in the therapeutic community, and are just now crossing over as more and more people find out the benefits of using them. Traditionally they were more commonly used for adults, and children with sensory issues, as being wrapped in a heavier blanket can be more calming for someone with ADHD or autism.

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Why would I want a weighted blanket though? When Xalm Blanket contacted me my initial excitement about receiving the product was just to feel what the experience was like. It’s very much one of those feelings you can’t understand until you’ve tried, because duvets and regular throws are traditionally made to be light and airy, and this is made to be the polar opposite. So I was curious just to feel what it would be like under a weighted blanket. (My brother even had a go when he came round to visit on my birthday, so be sure everyone will want a turn!) There are a wealth of issues a weighted blanket can help with, so I was happy to try it out.

The Xalm Blanket is available on Amazon, in one size 150cm x 200cm. This fits as a throw on a double bed, which is how I am using it currently. You will have to decide on which of the three weights of blanket will suit you, either 4.5kg, 6.8kg or 9kg. The Amazon page will tell you how to work out which one is right for you, by your body weight, as I said before. Your Xalm Blanket comes with a free ‘minky’ washable, removable cover, which is like a super soft, faux fur ‘duvet’ cover. Currently there is only the Xalm in one size and one colour, the stylish grey, but with the ability to change covers I hope they will expand the range as I will be using mine as my bed covering from here on in and would like to be able to change colours once in a while.

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The Minky cover which comes with your Xalm Blanket is probably more suited to winter, and is quite warm (I’ve been sleeping in vest & shorts pjs under it), however there is a summer cover you can purchase from them for a cooler night’s sleep. The covers fit more snugly to the blanket than a regular duvet, as they are secured with ties to the blanket on the inside. This stops the heavy blanket moving away from the light fabric cover, keeping it feeling like one whole piece. I hate when your duvet cover comes loose at the side and there is a tonne of empty fabric, so I’m sure this is probably also a choice to limit sensory problems like that for people who would find that irritating.

My initial thoughts. I received the blanket last Thursday on my birthday, and that very afternoon my son and I couldn’t wait to try it out (things get wild when you turn 39 and have chronic fatigue). I set it up in my bedroom on my double bed, and got under it to see what it felt like. It felt good. It’s going to be frustrating trying to explain to you as it’s really one of those things you have to experience, because heavy blankets are just so new, and the beneficial tactile advantages of the science behind them is what clicked for me.

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Weighted blankets for anxiety? I was a little sceptical about how advantageous it could be to one’s mental health to ‘just have a heavy blanket’, but that was me a week ago. Now I’m sneaking upstairs early to chill out under my Xalm Blanket, closing my eyes and listening to a podcast and just drifting away. Bliss.

How does it work? The science behind it makes sense once you read about why a weighted blanket makes you feel so good. Humans love hugs, we love being held and contact. The underlying science behind why your anxiety is lessened under a weighted blanket is down to deep touch pressure (DTP). The gentle pressure of the blanket over the body is like a full body hug. The DTP releases serotonin in the body, which promotes relaxation and makes you feel good. From using the Xalm Blanket for the past seven nights, I can concur, it works for me. When I get under the blanket I just feel calmer, and relaxed. 63% of people who used Xalm Blankets reported feeling calmer too.

How does a weighted blanket really feel? The best way I can describe the evenly distributed pressure of the blanket, and how being under a weighted blanket feels like is by likening it to an almost nostalgic feeling, and maybe that’s the calming aspect coming into play too giving me that ‘all is well’ sensation. When I get into bed and underneath my Xalm Blanket, the weightiness all over gives me the throwback feeling you had as a kid, when you had been out in the garden all day long playing and you were going to bed absolutely dog-tired, but content. That’s probably why weighted blankets can help with insomnia and getting you to doze off my quickly. Whilst I’m struggling to pin down a good way to relate the experience of the Xalm Blanket to you, don’t mistake my report of the tired-feeling as a negative, you don’t actually feel more tired, just more ready to rest. I suffer from chronic fatigue and the last thing I want is something making me more exhausted, but actually a weighted blanket could help those with fibromyalgia and similar issues.

Weighted blankets for chronic fatigue? My main health issue concerns chronic fatigue and pain, so I already have to sleep year round with a maternity pillow for my hip pain. The Xalm Blanket can help people with fibromyalgia as it helps you fall asleep quicker, and the DTP encourages a more restful sleep with less tossing and turning. So you may benefit from a better night’s sleep and more energy in the long run. I can’t tell that from just a week’s trial, but I am so pleased with the reduced anxiety that I am a weighted blanket convert already. I was concerned about the weight of the blanket maybe hurting my joints, as I’ve a cat who tries to perch on me when I’m asleep and if she ever manages it, I wake up in pain from her sitting on me. I’m pleased to report however due to the micro-bead technology and how evenly the weight is spread through the Xalm Blanket, there is no pocket of weight that would cause such an issue.

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Do weighted blankets work for restless leg syndrome? I’ve suffered from RLS since my early twenties, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. It presents as an irresistible urge to have to move your legs, or arms, and shake out what feels like electricity inside the muscles. It’s not as many people assume, your legs just moving by themselves, however some people with RLS can have disturbed sleep as their body will continue to keep trying to fidget when they are asleep. My RLS comes and goes, and I have medication which I take when I have a bout of it to stop it happening. I currently am not experiencing RLS, so I can’t test out the weighted blanket for this medical issue, but apparently the DTP can help prevent it happening, so I’d be interested to see if it could stop my crazy arms when they get started. The weight can also stop your body moving when you are asleep and suffer from it then.

So would I recommend a Xalm Blanket? Yes, yes, yes. It’s been a game changer for me and I’ve only had it a week. It works best for my anxiety issues, but I love the DTP effect so much that I am using it as my bedspread from here on in. One thing to think about though that I wasn’t dealing with, was if you were using it as a bedspread how it would work if two people were sharing the bed. I’d also love to see a smaller size Xalm that I could use on my sofa, maybe a half size, although most people can use the large size for on the sofa too, it’s not just for bedtime. Also when it comes to any weighted blankets and very young kids, they don’t recommend using them for all night sleeping. Maybe use them for falling asleep, then swap out for a lighter duvet that the child can easily remove if they get tangled in it.

The Xalm Blanket has a 100 day risk free trial if you buy on Amazon now. They are pretty confident you’ll love your Xalm (I am too) but any returned blankets they donate to charity, which is very cool. The blanket costs £99, and comes with the free, machine washable cover. Expect to pay between this and £200 for genuine, quality weighted blankets. Those who know me well know I am queen of a bargain, but when it comes to weighted blankets there are several reasons you won’t want to risk a purchase from a unverified seller. The product itself is quite specific in nature and the weight of the micro-beads must be evenly distributed for the blanket to work, so the craftsmanship of the interior piece must be appropriate. Also unofficial weighted blankets may not even weigh the correct amount to have a benefit! You’ll also want to make sure your blanket is made from a fully breathable fabric. If you are under a 6.8kg blanket with a cover and it’s made from nylon you’ll be waking up in a pool of sweat! You just can’t cut corners when it comes to weighted blankets, if you want the full rewards of the product for your medical issues, but the Xalm 100 day risk free trial is an ideal way to find out if, like me, weighted blankets could work for you. If you go ahead and start your new Xalm sleep journey, let me know on Instagram how you get on.

A Peek Inside The Pages of the Spring/Summer 1980 Argos Catalogue

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This week it’s my birthday, I’m almost, but not quite forty, as I was born in August 1980. I was trying to think of a cool birthday themed post, and thought to myself, “I wonder if I could find some pages of the 1980 Summer Argos Catalogue online somewhere?”. You know, the catalogue that was current when I was born.

I know the traditional thing is to find the copy of the newspaper that was printed the day you were born, but I do tend to do things a bit differently here at The World of Kitsch. Well, I Googled it, and someone called Retro Mash has scanned in the entire Spring/Summer 1980 Argos Book, in excellent quality too.

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There aren’t very many toy pages to peruse, which is disappointing, I guess for full hits of major nostalgia you’d have to hunt down catalogues from 1985 onwards, but there are toys I do remember from being a toddler. So many memories… it really doesn’t seem like almost four decades ago…

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Marks & Spencer Little Shop - Miniature Collectable Versions of Their Classic Food Hall Products: And They Are Free! (One With Every £20 Spent)

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M&S Little Shop quite possibly has to be my favourite thing they’ve launched all 2019 so far, and it’s not even edible. My secondary school aged son and I are both older than the intended age bracket for this fantastic educational, fun venture, but both of us got a little carried away when we came across all the Little Shop products in our local M&S a week or so ago.

In fact he bought himself a tiny M&S replica trolley, and I bought myself a miniature shopping basket, as they were £3 each and we both thought they were too cool to pass up. Our local store had the full Little Shop display that day, with the accessories which go along with the blind bags which are given out, one free with every £20 you spend in the Food Hall.

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Little Shop is a fun and educational event for kids (& big kids alike) where you can collect 25 different miniatures of classic Food Hall products. There’s Percy Pig, Cauliflower Popcorn, and the famous favourite Prawn Cocktail Sandwich. Each little miniature comes with a collector’s card with information about the product. For example if it’s fresh produce it could tell you where in the U.K. or Ireland Marks and Spencer sources it.

There is also a dedicated Little Shop corner of the M&S website, with more for kids to learn about sustainability or print out and play games related to the Little Shop theme.

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The 25 products are blind bag items, so you will maybe have doubles, but there have been Swap Shops set up for this very occasion! M&S are having in store Little Shop Swap Meets where you can finally gets your hands on that tin of tuna, or bottle of freshly squeezed orange juice, and they are listed in every region of the country- including Northern Ireland! Full listing here.

The Little Shop world plans to be around until about mid-September, but I did spy on the FAQs section that they say if you have an idea for a product that would make a good miniature version, to let them know… so some how I don’t think this will be the final set of tiny takeaways for my trolley.

In the meantime, I still need the Little Shop loaf, the curry, the pizza……

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Lobster Lights, She-Ra Crystals & Twee Tea For All - My Picks of the Hurn & Hurn Summer Sale

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Hurn & Hurn is a quirky little homeware online store I stumbled upon this year and bought myself a faux taxidermy ram’s head for a ridiculously decent price. Their 2019 summer sale is on now so I’ve taken a look and picked out some of the items I think are pretty cool.

String lights have been a trend for a while now, and we’ve seen everything from flamingoes to lollipops, but I’ve never seen light up lobsters. For £14.40 you can have your very own Lobster menagerie for the kitchen, dining room, or to decorate outdoors during summer BBQs. I love them.

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Hurn & Hurn are stockists of a brand I’ve known of for at least ten years now, as I had one of their handbags around the time my son was a baby. Pip Studio have sweet pastel design teapots, cups and platters in the sale here, with prices starting at £9.00.

The duck egg blue serving tray is reduced to £16.50. Dare I say it, but you could even stock up on some Christmas presents in this sale.

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The sale also is packed with amazing natural crystal agate stones, like the bright tea light holders, the second image in from the left. They are tea light holders which were £50 and are now £25. I love the bright pink colour. All the crystals make me think of She-Ra for some reason! I’m not a crystal type of person, but these are tempting me! The furthest right image is also a set of tea light holders, in purple for £25.

The first image on the left, is a huge purple geode ornament for £22.78. The central image is a set of pink crystal coasters, for £17.39, and the last image are bookends for £19.46.

My last pick is the Curious Cat & Bird Bookend Set which is £31.49. I encourage you to go visit the sale as there are dozens more products that may take your fancy.