Am being super organised this year as I realise I often start these guides in December (which feels right) when it’s too late to get hold of some of the stuff (which is wrong) so this year I thought I would start now and you can ignore me if you can’t face it yet (come back in a week) or you too, can be organised. I have traditionally arranged my gift lists by room as I find I don’t fit into the usual foodie fashionista, pet loving parent or tech-obsessed teen. I love all those things and yet the gift guides don’t ever seem to relate to me. Last week one of the weekend papers promised 327 ideas for Christmas presents.
“You won’t find a single thing in there,” said The Mad Husband peering over the top of a different section.
“Yes I will, of course I will,” I retorted. “I always want everything.”
But I didn’t. So I revert to rooms. Because we all have those. And because present-buying should be, in theory, quite simple. Buy something for the person that they would like or need and wouldn’t buy themselves. If you can also base this around the activity that takes place in a certain room then that gives you something to bounce off. And remember these are suggestions to get you started. A sort of lateral thinking exercise if you like.
We are starting in the kitchen. Because, you know, as a foodie fashionista with a pet and a love of tech (and the owner of two teenage boys) I do spend quite a lot of time in here. There will be ten suggestions but remember, if these aren’t right use them as jumping off points for your own ideas. I have included a coffee idea because I drink a lot of coffee. I haven’t had a cup of tea for 30 years but you can think around that. And never forget the classic – fabulous mug, pretty tea towel, milk jug, pack of fancy biscuits and a magazine subscription. That is, in essence, the gift of time and who doesn’t want that? You are telling someone to take time out of their day and have a few moments to themselves. Works with tea, wine, brandy – whatever their poison.
Talking of which, the first gift involves my personal poison. Sparkling water. I am addicted. I drink it all the time. Coffee all morning, water all afternoon and wine and water all evening. I’m very boring when it comes to my drinks and if I only drink tap water that too becomes very boring. And so I have a fizzy water habit but the bottles are an endless concern. Now I could buy a soda stream. But this is about pretty and practical things that you wouldn’t buy yourself. So, this:
RRP £179 (but shop around)
It’s a gorgeous piece of design and one I would happily keep on the worktop all the time – which is the point of a kitchen gadget because if you stick them in the cupboard they never come out again. Hello juicer at the back there…. It comes in black, white, gold, copper and silver and you have to buy the gas canister separately but it’s compatible with a number of different ones. You can buy spare bottles as well, but I would suggest decanting into glass bottles you already have if you wanted to have several in the fridge at once. This is the gift I want The Mad Husband to see. If he doesn’t, well he has a birthday in January so either way….
If I’m going to have my own fresh fizzy water then I might need these fun glasses to drink it out of. I do seem to love a fish motif (we have a lobster shaped clock in the kitchen and the Paola Navone fish carafe, so it was probably inevitable that these were added to the list. I can’t explain it. I love it. And, while they come in different colours, this smoked grey goes so well with the carbonator. There are lots of stockists so it might be easier to google the item and see what comes up.
from £23.95 or £80 for the set
Talking of stacking, and reducing plastic, this is another good idea. These stacking ceramic bowls will store leftovers in the fridge and also work in the oven and microwave. And they look pretty enough to serve the food in too. Now the biggest one would be tight for a stew or fish pie for two but generous for one. But then you could just stick the leftover in the fridge overnight and reheat it the next with an extra helping of vegetables to bulk it up a bit the next day.
I have bought those stretchy lids that are meant to fit over your bowls for leftovers but out of the set of 12 only two fitted my crockery without popping off and I’ve lost all the tupperware lids and even if cling film stuck to them, it’s a Bad Thing, whereas this is a Good Thing. Particularly the fridge to oven to table to dishwasher scenario. One pot for all those uses has to be a good idea. Also Nigella LOVES them apparently.
around £60 (but UK customers watch out for customs)
Now this is something I spotted on Instagram and instantly thought it was a good idea. Mine hasn’t arrived yet as I had to pay customs duty so US readers – go for it – Europeans need to allow extra time. It’s billed as a cheese knife but those tiny holes are there so you can de-leaf your fresh herbs. And fresh thyme is such a bore but pulling it through here is such a clever idea. I know someone who will like this and I’m pretty sure he won’t have read this far down either….Add cheese for extra giftiness.
from around €8.95
Time for something pretty for the table. I’m a self-avowed catastrophist and am always worried about freak gusts of wind blowing candles over but I can just about deal with them on the table. These are so pretty and if you arranged a central group of them in different shades, or different shapes of the same colour with toning candles it would look so pretty. Use instead of flowers maybe?
Now this is a classic example of the thing that is beautiful but you probably wouldn’t buy for yourself because it’s expensive for a pepper mill. Although it will get used every day and give pleasure while you are doing so – which is pretty much the definition of the perfect Christmas present. I’ve wanted one of these for years but we have a very nice wooden one which The Mad Husband loves and he won’t countenance another so…. If you were worried this present was a little too practical and lacking in funds then (apart from can we actually still be friends) you could always present it with a voucher for a dinner at his/her favourite restaurant, which could be anything from the local Italian to the fanciest place in town. Also, the voucher can be a good idea as it’s delayed payment – think of that people at this time of year.
£30 for four
These probably fit with the candlesticks and is a more formal version of the tea towel and mug present mentioned at the beginning. You can buy linen napkins everywhere but I always think it’s a real treat to add them to a meal and makes even a humble plate of pasta feel a bit more special. Again, think laterally as to how you can make this more exciting, if you are worried that these alone won’t cut it. More table accessories, a fabulous cake – maybe homemade which would work well as a present from you and small children to a grandparent for example. The aforementioned candlesticks and a promise of dinner out. Hell, just buy two and stick an engagement ring in one of them. Or, the other thing that is all the rage is monogramming. People love seeing their initials on things.
I have noticed a definite sustainable leaning in these presents for the kitchen which I didn’t deliberately set out to achieve. However, I think this perhaps is a reflection of how this conversation is at the forefront of our minds at the moment and rightly so. This set of five glass straws is pretty and will jazz up a glass of teatotal January water a treat. I find the metal ones set my teeth on edge so these are better for me. There is free UK delivery (they are coming from the US) but, as always, if you like the idea but want a different version then you can hunt for one. Here is a set of plain glass straws (UK stockist) that includes a brush to clean them with. Again, add a couple of cocktail bottles or a recipe book and away you go.
£30 per person
Nothing like pretty plates to make every meal more enjoyable and these are lovely. The other point to make is that these days it doesn’t all have to match. So you could buy a complete set like this – or perhaps three sets to mix in with your existing plain white or ivory crockery, or, if you felt that it wouldn’t mix as well as you would like, then buy just a set of bowls for pasta, or pudding. Or just the side plates. It’s up to you. You’ve got the gist by now.
As I mentioned earlier, sometimes the best Christmas present is the one of time, or the recognition that the person who receiving the gift should take time for themselves so for that reason I have included this beautiful slow coffee dripper. But, as a dedicated coffee drinker, I also wanted to include another idea. We have a Nespresso machine and the pod wastage is something that massively concerns me. I have been looking into re-usable pods and there are very mixed reviews. Some are to do with technique – how much you tamp the coffee down so that it still flows but isn’t too weak, and others to do with compatibility with various machines. I haven’t used any yet so I don’t feel qualified to suggest which are the best ones but they are on my wish list. I think, perhaps these ones, although the issue seems to be that in order to get a good layer of crema the top must be foil – so not sustainable but less waste than the original pods. It’s a dilemma. If anyone has used them let me know and if not I shall carry on researching and will, inevitably, buy some so I will let you know how I get on.
The point being that if you live with a tea or coffee addict there are countless idea for presents starting with the choice of method, the drinking vessel, the book/magazine to go with it, via biscuits, tea spoons and trays to put it all on. I’d take any of the above.
I hope that has been helpful. And, as a final, final idea if you are thinking of buying a recipe book I have both by Alison Roman although this one Dining In is brilliant. You will never just steam a green vegetable again as she has so many more interesting ways to cook them.
I hope that has given you some thoughts. The sitting room is up next….