The countdown to Christmas can now begin! Buttermilk launches a new advent calendar!



Buttermilk Christmas advent calendarWhether you’re looking for a unique advent calendar or a memorable stocking filler, Buttermilk has an array of brand new products to make your Christmas merry and bright!

New for 2018, the Cornish confectioner has launched a beautiful advent calendar that has a serving of delicious fudge behind every door. Each one of the 25 helpings comes in a home-compostable wrapper – not plastic – and will get you into the festive spirit with a Christmas song title printed on the door that you can act out as a charade. There’s even a bonus serving for Christmas morning itself!

The Buttermilk advent calendar is priced at £14.99 and is available from Waitrose, National Trust shops, Amazon, Moonpig, Debenhams plus selected independent retailers.


If you’re looking to make Christmas go with a bang, then Buttermilk has a Cracker presentation box in two sizes.  The larger of the two (300g) is priced at £9.99 and contains Mince Pie, Gingerbread and Rum Hot Chocolate all in compostable wrappers.  These are available from Waitrose, Amazon and selected independent retailers.

A smaller version (150g) is priced at £5.99. These are available at Co-op, Amazon, Debenhams and selected independent retailers.

Additionally, Buttermilk has put together a selection of five Yuletide flavours in one exclusive Christmas Collection (500g), RRP £15 which contains all of the confectioner’s boxes of festive fudge together for the first time. The collection includes 100g of Mince Pie, Bellini, Cranberry & Orange, Gingerbread and Rum Hot Chocolate.

Last year’s selection of Christmas goodies proved so popular that they are also available again for 2018. These include seasonal flavours: Mince Pie, Bellini, Irish Cream, Cranberry & Orange, Gingerbread plus the beautiful best-selling Christmas bauble which is a gorgeous Christmas tree decoration filled with 50g of Buttermilk’s ever-popular Caramel Sea Salt fudge.

The entire Christmas collection is available at



Eating healthily is now a piece of cake thanks to a new book by a West Berkshire author!

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You can now have your cake and eat it too thanks to the launch of an innovative recipe book by inspirational baker Kate Saunders.

She has launched – Cakes with Secret Ingredients from Aubergine to Zucchini. The book draws on her unique expertise and the thousands of cakes she has made through her award-winning business, Blackberry Cottage.

While many people wouldn’t hesitate to put carrot in a cake, Kate’s recipes include incredible combinations such as savoy cabbage and mocha torte to Jerusalem artichoke, mango and lime cake.  There are festive options for Christmas such as sweet potato mince pies and a turnip Yule log plus a Halloween themed turnip and pineapple cake.

There are recipes for everyone – including gluten-free, dairy-free, refined sugar free, egg-free and vegan options.

Cakes with Secret Ingredients from Aubergine to Zucchini is priced at £24.99 including postage and packaging.

Kate adds: “It would make a lovely Christmas present or stocking filler for the foodie in your life, or a parent who wants to get more veg into their children’s diet!”



Networking for Newbury businesswomen in November



The Athena Network has its final meetings of 2018 scheduled for November before coming back with a bang next year.

The Thatcham group meets on Tuesday, 20th November at the Regency Park Hotel where Nicola Lyle of Fired up Careers will be offering tips on how to work more efficiently and effectively while Athena regional director. Debbie Miles will be encouraging the group to practise their listening skills.

The Newbury Central group meets on Wednesday, 21st November at the Arigato restaurant in Newbury where Tamsin Regnes a MBTI® Certified Practitioner will be demonstrating how differences in people’s preferences for information and decision making can present challenges when working with others.

Attendees will have a better appreciation of the behavioural cues of others, enabling them to adapt and reduce any frustration. In the Networking Training Debbie Miles will discussing the qualities of ‘leading ladies’ .

Debbie Miles said: “With themes concerning effective communication with our colleagues and effective use of time, we aim to help our members develop essential skills for running a successful business.”

Visitors are always welcome to the meetings which meet at midday. Please contact Debbie for an invitation:






Studio 12 Designs brews up a storm with refurbishment of new HQ for LE International

One of Theale’s most prominent and well-loved buildings is enjoying a new lease of life after being bought by an international firm as its new headquarters.

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The Grade II listed Old Brewery building on the town’s high street has sat unoccupied for nearly three years but is now in new hands after being purchased by LE International, who specialise in the distribution of industrial lubricants across the globe.

Claire Tull from Studio 12 Designs was approached by LE International who saw the potential in the building and who wanted to transform it into its international headquarters.  The 2,000 sq ft building was once part-owned by Sir Tom Jones, and also, as its name suggests, spent many decades as Blatch’s brewery. A 14-week refurbishment overseen by Claire in partnership with Frasers Office Interiors has transformed the drab Georgian building into a luxurious head office for the company.

Jackie Clark, general manager at LE International, found Claire through recommendation and invited her to come and see the empty building. Together, they worked on creating a plan to restore the building’s character and accentuate its Georgian architectural features whilst making it a modern hub for a busy, international company.

Jackie said: “We wanted to give the building back its beauty while still remembering that it is an office and not a residential property.  Claire listened to what we wanted to achieve and then provided us with ideas on lighting, furnishings and colour schemes which incorporated our company colours.”

Claire added: “It was a little unloved after all this time, but we could see that it had the potential to be a fantastic head office thanks to its location and room for the team of six, with more space for new staff when required. The building wasn’t in bad condition all things considered and retained its stunning entrance hall and staircase, but it needed to be brought up to the standards required by an international company. The finish and decor were very basic, not in keeping with the Georgian heritage and not up to the standards required in terms of lighting and data cabling provision.”

Claire began by working on the colour scheme to reflect the company’s ethos and branding, plus listing all the work that needed to be carried out. The first job was to install the CAT6e cabling as arranged by Frasers and strip out the kitchen and toilets. The Painting Partnership team replaced the lighting, upgraded electrics and plumbing installed the new kitchen and toilets and thoroughly redecorated inside and out. Fine Design Flooring replaced all of the carpets to the offices and public areas and walnut Karndean to the toilet accommodation. After gaining Listed Building Consent the front and back doors could be painted a different colour, the ugly shutters removed and the secondary glazing replaced.

Claire added: “While we wanted to retain the Georgian heritage, it was also important that it was modern, not a museum piece so we combined contemporary with traditional. You’ll see that while the magnolia walls are out, the original coving, plasterwork and woodwork are very much in. Key also to the look was to replace the dreadful strip lighting with energy efficient LED down lights that can be dimmed. More traditional light fittings sourced from Elstead Lighting and Vaughan Lighting were used for the public areas and the chief executive’s office.

The sash windows also needed to be refurbished as many had been painted shut, now they can be opened to allow natural ventilation which is very important. The original secondary glazing was flimsy and totally impractical. Working with Selectaglaze, and the Windsor Box Window Company, the windows are now the stand-out feature of the bright façade.

Once the building was ready, Claire worked closely with Nick Clark, director at Frasers Office Innovation who provide a one-stop shop for business needs. His company’s role was to provide the Verco furniture and to assist staff with the move.

He said: “I like to visit to get a real understanding of each company’s bespoke requirements and it was immediately apparent that moving to this magnificent building was not your ordinary office move. There was no budget mentioned and the choice of the interiors needed to be of a quality to match the building.

“We arranged for the networking of the telecommunications first and organised a relocation of the existing business at a time to suit the client. We ordered the office furniture from Verco with a six-week lead time.”

Finally, the finishing touch was the splendid Thai Sapphire blue front door with polished brassware which has been attracting comments since it was painted.

Jackie was delighted with the results and the move into the new office has fitted smoothly around work commitments.  She added: “Claire has achieved a stunningly beautiful office, she has highlighted the original features of the building and the building now has a calm, relaxing feel about it making it a pleasure to work in.”

Claire added: “The building now has a sense of calm as well as splendour. It’s supremely well-designed and built; the interior is cool during summer and warm in winter. The last thing we did was to power wash the inner courtyard which was very much neglected but has now been restored to its former glory, making a lovely place for LE International staff to enjoy a well-earned quiet moment.

“The whole project has been a real team effort and we’d also like to thank Blind Fashion, Adby Interiors, Whitehead Designs and Infinity Blinds for their fabulous contribution to the new jewel in Theale’s crown.”

For more information, click onto www. and


Athena news for Oct/Nov


The power of collaboration is the theme of the next month of meetings for West Berkshire’s Athena Network.

The Thatcham group meets on Tuesday, 16th October at the Regency Park Hotel. Gina Balarin of Verballistics and author of The Secret Army is the speaker, plus Athena regional director Debbie Miles will be encouraging visitors to think about how they can increase their ‘social capital’ with all the people they work with.

The Newbury Central group meets on Wednesday, 17th October at Arigato in Newbury where Cristina Barton of Cristina Barton Photography will be discussing how to create visual content for social media, on a budget. Debbie Miles will be talking about how to realise the potential of ‘who knows who’ in a networking event.

The Newbury West group meets on Thursday, 8th November at The Red House in Marsh Benham where Simone Bonnett of the Social Managers will be demonstrating ways to improve LinkedIn profiles and Debbie Miles will be discussing The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R Covey.

The Hungerford group meets Friday, 9th November at Audley Inglewood Kintbury where Charlotte Riley of Being Truly Me will be explaining why businesses need a blog.

Debbie Miles said: “The focus this month is very much on the collaborative nature of our women’s networking events and also how we can get the most from our social media presence”.

All meetings take place from 12pm to 2pm and visitors are always welcome but must book in advance by contacting Debbie via


Make your own bespoke perfume with Uncommon Scents!


When it comes to bespoke fragrances, it doesn’t need to be just the likes of Kylie Minogue and Beyoncé who have all the fun.

While it can cost literally thousands of pounds to create a personalised bottle of perfume, Berkshire-based beauty therapistJanette Hammond from Uncommon Scents can help those who would like to create something special on a more modest budget. She is launching regular flagship scent events in association with the Perfume Studio, which will be held at Malmaison Hotel in Reading, starting on Saturday, 6th October.

Janette will guide you through the world of bespoke perfume and the 21 fragrance blends designed by the Perfume Studio’s Master Perfumier.  Guests will learn about the different ingredients, top notes, middle notes and base notes and how to structure a lasting fragrance.  Not only do you get the chance to make your own perfume – which you can take home in a presentation bottle or atomiser – but you’ll also have the fun of naming it too!

Since setting up her own business, Janette has helped hundreds of people to make their own scent, whether it’s a bride creating a signature scent for their wedding day, a bride-to-be wanting a fun and unusual hen party activity, or a mother and daughter making something special for a birthday. When her sons presented her with a birthday voucher for a perfume-making workshop back in 2008, she realised very quickly that this was her vocation. She trained with the Perfume Studio almost immediately after her workshop and now is one of only a handful of perfume stylists covering the south east.

Janette said: “Our workshops are fun, interactive and informative. You’ll learn a little about the fascinating history of perfume, our sense of smell and how important it was to our survival, how perfume became the massive business it is today and also hear some of the stories behind some of the current perfumes we know and love.

“You’ll find out about the way smells are extracted from fruits, roots, petals, plants and bark, but also why synthetics have an important part to play.”

The workshop takes place at 10.30 on Saturday 6th October at Malmaison Hotel, Reading and costs from £39 per person. For 2019, workshops start at 11am and take place on Saturday 19th January and 27th April.

Cheers! Buttermilk and Pinkster Gin launch Pink Gin Fudge!

Buttermilk and Pinkster pink gin launchFudge fans will be in the pink to hear about the launch of an exciting new flavour from Cornish confectioner Buttermilk.

The family-run firm has joined forces with Pinkster Gin to create a sharing box of crumbly fudge, flavoured with gin-soaked raspberries.

Pinkster founder Stephen Marsh has long been a Buttermilk fan having visited the well-known Padstow shop as a child in the 1970s while on holiday. Years later, by happy coincidence, Buttermilk approached the Cambridge-based gin connoisseur, suggesting that their inebriated British raspberries, known as Boozy Berries, would be a fabulous addition to the range.

Tracy McDonnell Goad, director of Buttermilk, said: “Fudge and gin is a match made in heaven, making it two treats in one, so we are delighted to collaborate with another craft producer to create this scrumptious indulgence.

“The famous Pinkster raspberries have given the fudge a beautiful fruity flavour and everyone who has tasted the fudge so far, agrees with Stephen that it evokes lazy summer days on holiday on the Cornish coast!”

The 150g sharing box retails at £3.99 and is exclusively available at Waitrose.

Reading, watching, listening to – August

Does this school drop off thing get easier?  Two years ago, I dropped the little (and he was little then) one off at school, got into the car and cried. Yesterday, I pretty much did the same.

But anyway, what I’m trying to say in a “back-to-school” shorthand type way is that August is over. Hopefully the rain-free days aren’t finished though, as it seemed to mean that it was acceptable to laze about reading and listening to live music.

In August I read “Have his Carcase” by Dorothy L Sayers. I’m not sure why, but her Lord Peter Wimsey books seem to languish in the LARGE PRINT section of the library. His infamous monocle aside, these books (written in the 1930s), are in some ways, very modern.  This book reads like a modern police procedural with incredible detail of every aspect of the case and a seemingly impossible murder to solve; finding out who dunnit meant quickly learning about how quickly blood clots in a dead body and about the Russian royal family. Just got to venture into the large print section now for the next one.



We came across MrB the Gentleman Rhymer at the bandstand stage at a festival and were almost immediately rolling around the field in stitches listening to him playing Outer Space by the Prodigy on a ukelele in a plummy Surrey accent. His version of “No Dignity” (read: ‘Yo Diggity’ by Dr Dre) is worth checking out too!



Well, like the rest of the population, we are watching Bodyguard!  We are big fans of Jed Mercurio in our house and I even went to a Royal Television Society event to hear him speak on how they conceived, wrote and filmed Line of Duty. Bodyguard is true to form and has meant three sleepless Sunday nights in a row trying to make sense of what we’ve just watched, which I wouldn’t recommend – you can’t second guess Mr Mercurio!


Other stuff:

Newbury Lido is closing on 16th September, so I’ll be basically moving there to get as much swimming in before the end of the season and don’t forget a new weekly Twitter chat for West Berkshire businesses starting TOMORROW from 7-8pm using #wberkshour


A day in the life – Jo Cooke from Hoarding Disorders UK and Tapioca Tidy

One of the many joys of my job is that I get to speak to interesting people all the time and they answer my questions about their working life.  I’ve been working with Jo Cooke for a while  – she is based near Newbury and is a professional declutterer. This work has also led her to co-found a charity for hoarders and their families who need her help and she is the author of a comprehensive book on the subject.

She is great to work with, always has interesting stories and makes such a difference to the lives of her clients. I thought it would be interesting to see what one of her typical days looks like…..



“First thing in the morning after the gym or a swim, I check online for any articles on hoarding and clutter to share on social media. I also have a look to see how my new book “Understanding Hoarding” is doing in the rankings.

“I then check my emails whilst eating breakfast and I usually have a few emails from people who would like advice so they can help someone they know who shows signs of hoarding. On average I also receive a referral from social services or a housing association.

“Each day is completely different but my daily routine always requires bin bags, rubble bags, recycling bags, my tip pass, a permanent marker pen, labels, plastic wallets, luggage tags and post-it notes in my decluttering bag. I also have a reminder to take plenty of water. I am helping folk with their decision making and it can be thirsty work.
Part of the services I offer as part of my organising and decluttering business Tapioca Tidy is to offer a ‘PA at home’ service.

“Sometimes I help clients with admin such as assistance with ensuring their bills are paid or helping people to label sheets and duvets in their linen cupboard so they can see at a glance what size the sheets are; single, double, fitted or king-size.

“I work with many families whose houses are cluttered and can therefore be a fire hazard. Many have problems such as Parkinsons and so progress can be slow so we need to be very gentle and patient. A sense of humour helps too!

“I am Director of Hoarding Disorders UK – a social enterprise that I co-founded after finding hoarding issues are fairly commonplace and very different to clutter issues.
I make regular trips to the recycling unit to drop off glass, paper and plastic and also to the charity shops in Thatcham to take in the clothes that I have decluttered that day. Part of my job is to take items away for either recycling or to donate to charity. It is a part of the service that I know my clients really value as many still have their bags for charity loitering in their hallways and car boots and many people are happier to let things go if they know they’re going to a good home.

“My next job is to think of a speaker for our support groups. We run a hoarding support group – one in Bracknell and one in Newbury. The Newbury group is free to attend and is supported by Greenham Trust; it takes place once a month on a Thursday evening from 7pm to 9pm at Broadway House in Newbury. The group offers support and advice, as well as a relevant speaker. I am thinking perhaps of asking another mindfulness coach to come and talk to the group.

“Many people ask me if my home is tidy and minimalist – to be honest it is not but I do know where everything is. One thing I am proud of is the empty shelf in the kitchen. Now the children have left home I don’t need as much food so actually enjoy looking at the empty shelf.

“I’m not sure if other declutterers feel the same.”


Does your business mean that you have an interesting routine  – I’d love to hear about it!

Neve’s Bees buzzing after launching new lip balm and hand salve ranges

  • Neve’s Bees launches premium beeswax lip balms and hand salves using 100% natural and organic ingredients
  • Eynsham-based company wins contract to supply Blenheim Palace shops


An Oxfordshire beekeeper’s newly-launched skincare product range has received a welcome boost after winning a contract to supply Blenheim Palace’s retail shops.

Neve’s Bees was launched in April by ‘deputy Queen Bee’ Julie Macken, aged 48, who has created a range of high-quality lip balms and hand salves. The company is named after Julie’s daughter Neve who, at the age of nine, asked if the family could keep bees.


With a degree in chemistry and a 20-year career in pharmaceutical marketing, Julie had long been pondering a need for more products made from pure, natural ingredients. She began to make products for presents for her friends and family and they proved so popular that in April, she made the business her full-time job.

From her garden and kitchen table, Julie has created a lip balm range and a hand salve range with further products in the pipeline.

She said: “Neve’s Bees products are 100% natural with no paraffin, no parabens or other artificial preservatives or emulsifiers, just pure beeswax from our bees here in West Oxfordshire, natural plant and seed oils and precious essential oils which make our products smell great!”

The lip balms are in slider tins and cost £4.50 (including postage from ) with flavours including the best-selling Sweet Grapefruit plus Honey Vanilla, Rosey, Chocolate Orange, Lemon & Lime, Buttermint and Original. Each flavour is made with natural ingredients including organic shea butter; organic jojoba oil, organic coconut oil and organic essential oil of vanilla. Each one, of course, includes 100% natural beeswax which helps to naturally seal moisture into the skin. All have a natural SPF of 15.

The hand salves cost £8.50 (including postage) and flavours include Grapefruit & Bergamot, Lemon & Lavender, May Chang, Ylang Ylang & Patchouli, Vanilla Musk and Rosey and are available in 30ml screw-top tins

Julie adds: “The oils we eventually selected for our hand salve are not only very effective skin moisturisers but they absorb quickly – this is why your skin feels nourished and soft but not greasy. Many beeswax hand salves contain mostly olive oil which, whilst a good moisturiser, stays greasy on your skin for a much longer time. We also use organic Jojoba oil, almost identical molecularly to skin’s natural sebum, and Natural Vitamin E, all of which combine to create a super soft, rich hand balm that absorbs quickly to leave your skin feeling supple and nourished but not greasy.”
Neve’s Bees beat more than 100 other local firms to be selected as the winner of Blenheim’s ‘dragons-den’ style competition and the process has proved to be the catalyst to make Neve’s Bees a favourite among consumers who really want something a bit different.

“We pride ourselves on being just a bit different to the norm – using cute (but not plastic!) packaging, bright cheerful designs and amazing natural fragrances,” continued Julie. “We’re now working on building relationships with more retailers to stock our skincare range.”

All products are made under EU licence and are available at a selection of shops across Oxfordshire as well as online at and