Embroidery kit by stitch with Susie that says “let’s have a cuppa”

7 little luxuries from independent businesses to bring joy this January

January is often a long and difficult month. There are many articles on how to feel better in winter, and how to beat the January blues. Short, wet, dark, cold days with Christmas long gone and the sparkly lights put back away for another year. Spring and it’s warmth and light are still a way away and those 31 first days of a new year can feel depressing. Blue Monday is the third Monday of January, and has been named the most depressing day of the year.

So how do you actually beat the January blues? There are many things that help, like going outside (in spite of the cold and often wet) and meeting up with friends, getting in to a routine, doing things you love, learning to cook a new recipe… with this article, I’m here to give you a little bit of sparkle and some ideas of little luxuries you could treat yourself to, to make Blue Monday a little less blue.

Hopefully these beautiful things will spark some new ideas, give you a new hobby, inspire a catch up with a friend (you could start a book club or cross stitch while chatting) and help you feel better this winter, and specifically beat the January blues. What’s more, by shopping with these independent businesses, you’ll be making January a little less blue for them, as well. 

1. A subscription to The Simple Things.

The Simple Things is a magazine that absolutely makes my day every time it drops through my letterbox. That thud and catching something that has been put through my letterbox that isn’t a charity update or a spar catalogue is a simple joy in and of itself. But reading through all the inspiring pages, looking at gorgeous photography and reading about wonderful things to make, buy or cook is a little luxury I enjoy each month and I find inspiration and joy on each page.

The simple things magazine

It is available to buy as individual copies in many shops like Tesco and WH Smith and if you’re not sure you want to commit to a whole year on my recommendation alone, why not try January’s edition by getting it with your supermarket weekly shop.

2. A rhubarb and mint soy wax candle.

Burning a candle is something I try to do each day, especially in the colder months to help being some cheer and stop myself feeling too down in winter. This rhubarb candle is still my favourite. The smell is intoxicating and I can’t help but close my eyes and say “Mmmmmmm” every time I smell it. In the process of making this and my other two candles, I tried a lot of different fragrances. But when I found the rhubarb and fresh mint, it was an immediate “this is it!”.

The fragrance of this candle brings back fond childhood memories of rhubarb and custard sweets but has a light freshness to it that just sets it off. What is more, this is about as sustainable a candle you can get - I hand pour this candle in my kitchen in Belfast, and my supplies come from the uk making it as local as possible!

Still soy wax hand poured in Belfast amber glass jar candle that has a rhubarb and fresh mint scent.
I use gorgeous amber glass jars which have lids so the jar can be reused when the candle is fully burned (it burns for 55+ hours though, so it’ll last a good long while). All you do is clean it out with hot water (which melts any remaining wax and helps the label to peel off without residue) and use it again for something else - a tea light or fill it with your face cream, seeds to plant in your garden or anything else you can think of!

I chose soy wax for my candles as it is the most sustainable wax, and is also non toxic so you can burn the candle without worry for yourself, you children or pets. The wick is cotton and the label is paper. All you’ll be left with is a tiny disk of metal which is used to keep the wick in place. Everything is recyclable or reusable. A guilt free pleasure!

£16.50, Rhubarb and Fresh Mint Soy Wax Candle, And Hope Designs

3. An ocean trinket dish made with resin.

Resin and ceramic ocean trinket dish

Remind yourself of warmer days and feel the lap of waves over your feet with one of these gorgeous resin ocean trinket dishes by Deer & Sparrow. Judith makes these in her studio in Switzerland using coloured layers of resin to create a stunning beach impression. As well as a unique piece of art, this practical ceramic and resin dish will almost make you hear the waves crashing as you feel the heat of the sun on your skin.

Place it somewhere you’ll see it often for maximum joy giving effect throughout the winter - some options include great to discard your used teabags or to rest a spoon, it is also lovely to have beside your bed to place earrings in before you go to sleep.

£25(-ish, depending on exchange rate!) Epoxy Resin Ocean Trinket Dish, Deer & Sparrow

4. Relax with a simple and fun cross stitch project.

Susie has a great selection of simple and fun cross stitch kits she has designed herself, and is very accommodating if you’d like something slightly altered. My daughter managed one of her patterns (with a little help from me) and is so proud of her work which is now hung in her room.

Sitting with a thread and needle on a dark, cold evening is a lovely way to pass a couple of hours and you’ll have something to show for it at the end, too. You can choose from lots of lovely designs, my current favourite is this Let’s Have a Cuppa design which would be lovely hung in your kitchen, living room or dining room once finished - or you could give it to a friend to invite them round for a cuppa and a chin wag - nothing lifts the spirit like a friendly catch up over a warm brew.

Let’s have a cuppa cross stitch kit by stitch with Susie

£20, Let’s have a cuppa cross stitch kit, Stitch With Susie

5. A beautifully floral handmade scrunchie

Olivia has been repurposing old embroidered table cloths and giving them a new lease of life as scrunchies. Available in a lovely variety of sizes, and each one unique, you can have some lovely signs of spring in your hair, your daughter's hair, or you can even wear it around your wrist. As well as plain lacy white ones, reminiscent of Santorini in the summer, there are lots of floral options in many colours - these change with time as what is available is entirely dependent on what old table cloths are found.

£8-10, Vintage Embroidery Scrunchies by Milk + Joy

6. A good book from an independent bookstore

It is my husband and my dream to open a second hand bookshop alongside a cute coffee shop and gift shop somewhere in the Scottish highlands when our kids are all grown up… we’ll see if that ever happens, but in the meantime, one of my favourite things to do is to go to a real life in person bookshop and peruse the shelves, reading the blurbs of books that catch my eye and choosing one to take home. When we lived in Newcastle, it was a December tradition of ours to go to Cogito in Hexham and each choose a book.

Golden hare books in Edinburgh

There are so many lovely bookshops all over the country I’m sure you can find one near you. Amazon is selling books at a loss, meaning independent bookshops have no chance of staying open unless we make a concerted effort to use them.

I’ll list some of my favourite in places I’ve lived or spent some time, and please add your favourite bookshops in the comments. If you can’t get to a local bookshop, the website uk.bookshop.org sells books online with funds going to your chosen bookshop with each sale.

Beautiful bookshop to peruse books in

Spending a cold afternoon or evening under a blanket with a hot water bottle, a cuppa and a good book you have chosen carefully from a huge collection is a wonderfully cosy and rewarding thing to do. Escaping the world for a bit and being transported in to a really good story is just what is needed in January!

Great bookstores include:

Books Paper Scissors in South Belfast
The Book Well in East Belfast (independent Christian bookshop)
• Cogito Books in Hexham (Northumberland)
Barter Books in Alnwick (located in an old train station)
The Edinburgh Bookshop in, well, Edinburgh
Imagined Things in Harrogate.

Please add any recommendations near you on the comments - I’d love to discover more as I travel the country!

7. A bouquet of flowers

Why not pop to your local florist and choose a beautiful bouquet of flowers to cheer up your dining table or bedside table? Another option is to plan to meet a friend and bring a bouquet of flowers for them. They are always so well received. I once met up with a uni friend and having discovered we both find winter difficult, she then sent me a bouquet of flowers in the post to cheer me up throughout January, and it worked. I felt loved, and the yellow blooms brought cheer in and of themselves.

Yellow flower bouquet

Again, I have recommendations local to me but I’m sure there are some wonderful florists near you. Many go to farmers markets which is another great place to shop locally and support the gorgeous things local people produce and grow.

If you’re in or near Belfast, I recommend:

Penelope Flowers
Sow Grateful
Season Floral Company who i got some gorgeous peony and ranunculus from in 2020 - the year we all needed a pick me up!!

Peony bouquet

I also love getting flowers through the post every so often and I use Bloom & Wild to do that (this makes a great birthday present for someone far away as well).

I hope these seven ideas of things to get from a local small business to boost your mood this winter and make January much nicer. I also hope I have inspired you to find something beautiful to look at or do or make, that will help January feel less blue this year.

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