First off, I'm closing online sales of my Christmas cards today because it's cutting it a bit fine to receive the orders in time to post to loved ones. Thanks a million for your orders and continued support. Less than two weeks to go and I haven't bought a single present. Fear not, I'll be again shopping locally, sustainably and picking up the slack with edible gifts.
I'm happy to share my intended gift ideas with you. Here's some of the presents I've given and received over the years, maybe even a few will make it on to this year's list. Spoiler alert for family and friends.
I never hit the shops without a plan. The paradox of choice leaves me reeling. Instead, I start any gift shopping trip with a visit to my favourite café in town (Partridge's) to brainstorm and make a list. Here's a taste of what's to come on Christmas Day:
Experiences: in line with my Christmas Presence card, sometimes a promise of an experience can be the best present. Theatre tickets, gigs, museum and gallery visits (with lunch/dinner) are favourites and even better, you get the added bonus of going somewhere too. Vouchers for venues is also an option and don't restrict your vouchers to nights out, consider experiences such as sporting events like Gaelforce for friends and family that like outdoor adventures.
Ephemera: presents don't have to last forever. I absolutely adore fresh flowers particularly wild and local. I've been lucky enough to work with two local growers (in my other job) and their bouquets and seasonal wreaths are worth every penny for the joy they bring me for a week or two. Likewise with food goodies.
Online subscriptions: for music (Deezer, Spotify), print (The New Yorker, Dublin Review, Granta), and online entertainment (any number).
Pre-loved: with my sons, nieces and nephews being so right-on these days (and rightly so), they'd baulk at fast fashion "merch" so luckily for me, our town has some excellent vintage/charity shops so it's about time for some nifty thrifting.
Eco-friendly stocking fillers: gone are the days of plastic tat and gizmos instead hit up your local eco-store for shaving kits, shower bars, deodorants, toothpaste, bamboo toothbrushes, reusable drinking vessels and lunchbox alternatives.
Creativity: one of my favourite shops is Different Strokes, an art shop in Gorey which sadly is closing its doors after Christmas. I've bought many birthday and Christmas presents here over the years including stencilling sets, print-making kits / books, rock and porcelain paints, water colour sets and most recently a tin of postcards waiting to be water-coloured. Adults and kids love them.
Treatments/Sport: local vouchers for treatments (hair, beauty salon) and occasional gym/pool membership, spa day passes etc. However, after the year iI've had, I'd almost prefer a voucher for a physiotherapy session!
Books: this is a given as I come from a very bookish family. We like to shop at Kenny's, the world's first online book store. It's a solid family run business, not at all concerned with the space race. Highlights in my own reading this year have been The Colony by Audrey Magee, We are not in the world by Conor O'Callaghan and I'm really enjoying Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr as we speak. I've also been dabbling in non-fiction which really isn't very like me and have read a few books by Gabor Maté, certainly food for thought.
The Main Event: Edible Christmas presents
My edible homemade gifts always hit the spot:
Gingerbread house - I use a fab gingerbread recipe from the Irish Times' magazine many years ago. The mould was a present from Germany but I did buy one locally for a gift a few year's back.
Sauces and Condiments: Cumberland Sauce (Darina Allen's Simply Delicious Christmas), Cranberry Relish (local caterer Margaret Corcoran who did a Christmas cooking demo in our local library), Red Onion Marmalade and Sweet Chilli Jam (Dunbrody House Cookery School day course).
Non-comformist Christmas Pudding (Nigella Lawson's Feast), the most amazing Christmas pudding you'll ever taste with figs, blueberries, cocoa and Kahlua among other ingredients. Every year I tweak the recipe on the fly during the Christmas pudding night I host in my house where we chop, blend and stir our wishes for the new year.
Last year, my sister added homemade pâté to our repertoire but I can't take any of the credit for it, only the washing up.
Anyway, I hope you've got some inspiration from my rambling list. Please feel free to get in touch for any recipes.
Wishing you all a wonderful, safe and fun Christmas,