We can go back to the shops next week, here, in Tier Two London. Hopefully some businesses will be saved. This year has been a cruel one for anybody running any shop other than a food shop. The high street was dying anyway and Covid is just an acceleration of a recent trend.
Last year I did all my Christmas shopping online I’m afraid, even before the pandemic. I can’t justify it, but is there any point in bucking the trend? This year much of the UK will shop online, swelling the coffers of Amazon, and I’m one of them. What do I do if I want to buy something? I look on Amazon, Etsy, eBay, Facebook marketplace or Google shopping.
Here are a few gift ideas.
Enamel butter dish
I love anything enamel, and this blue and white enamel butter dish with a cute but useful beech cutting board (buttering board?) cover is attractive, unbreakable, cool and vintage. Fits a classic 250g block of butter.
I’m really into Scandi style wooden butter knives too (as seen above). They don’t tear the bread and are a pleasure to use.
I have quite a collection of glasses because of my supper club. I’m looking for wine and water glasses that don’t break easily and have a vintage vibe. These highball style glasses from Bormioli Rocco (6 for £27) are strong and pretty. They have a wine version too (*puts into basket*). I have, in the past, driven all the way to the Vosges in France, to La Rochere glass works to buy vintage style glasses. They had a section for seconds which were a lot cheaper. See also these pressed glass tumblers are great for Portuguese style ‘galao’ milky coffee. I collect Babycham glasses and antique glasses whenever I spot some that are reasonably priced.
I love the eye of By Alice. We are both slightly obsessed with scalloped edges, shown here on this lust-worthy ceramic plate (from £35). I also adore this splattered pink Italian plate. Check out her site, it’s swoon-worthy (and pricey).
A Dymo labeller
I’ve always loved labelling things and have had hours of fun re-labelling my spice jars and marking up leftovers for the fridge. Get this Dymo (£20 for the machine) with either plastic or paper tape. I’ve recently discovered you can change the font and add borders by going into the menu.
Food and Drink
I’ve got a whole collection of chilli sauces. One of my favourites is this green Jalapeño chilli sauce El Yucateco from Mexgrocer. Tasty, fruity but not ridiculously hot. If you want more heat try the habanero version.
I also like the Tabasco green chilli sauce, which is sold here in a larger bottle than usual.
This is my favourite herbal tea, Les Saveurs Du Soir, liquorice and mint. It’s naturally sweet (liquorice is the sweetest natural substance on the planet). When I visit France I always bring back a few. Having run out (this is the longest period I haven’t travelled for), I ordered some online. Very expensive. Any French residents that want to send me a couple of packets?
Adopt an olive tree. I’ve been getting these quarterly deliveries from Pomora, (3 tins, 4 times a year for £36 a quarter)for a few years now. With olive oil, the fresher the better, and the extra virgin is sublime as a dressing (too good to be used in cooking). I like the flavoured oils too, except for the peperoncino one which is too spicy for me. I used the lemon flavour on pasta and the rosemary on home-made focaccia. I went to visit their Sicilian grower Carmelo Scalia a few years ago.
Souschef.co.uk is an incredible resource for buying ingredients and kitchen equipment online. They’ve just started a monthly subscription box, the Chef’s selection (£27.50 a month) in which you get products chosen by them. I think it’s a brilliant idea and I might get a 3 month one for my parents for Christmas (I’d get the yearly one if I could afford it- £330).
I did this a month ago and it was really fun. I was sent a cheese tasting pack(£9.50), along with dozens of other participants, from an artisanal British cheese maker and we could talk to them and ask questions over zoom. This is all part of Francis Gimblett’s Campaign for Artisan British Cheese, a worthy and tasty cause. Farmers and cheesemakers of all kinds have also suffered this year with the downtown in hospitality and travel. This is a great interactive opportunity to find out more about cheese and support the industry.
I borrowed my gardener friend’s silky gomboy, a small sharp pruning saw that folds. It was sweet, making a day in the garden, hacking down thick ivy stems from the walls, a pleasure rather than a chore.
Once again, a Japanese blade is the best- Niwaki Sentei Secateurs, approximately £40.
Copper Tags for plants
Copper repels slugs, is ruled by Venus, is antibacterial, and is beautiful. I like to use copper plant tags in the garden. On the left are simple tie-on tags (60 for a tenner) and on the right some slightly more designery copper markers (25 for £15)
Garden cloches for plants
I found these bamboo cloches (5 for £44) on amazon. The squirrels are out of control this year, possibly because their normal sources of food-restaurants-have been closed. The little bastards have eaten my squash, my figs, ALL my nuts despite me sprinkling the entire tree with chilli powder, and now my pansies. These cloches might help. I do love a Victorian style cloche.
These parasols in William Morris fabric from the East London Parasol Company are to die for. But SOOO expensive. Ah well, I can dream. They do have smaller Balinese style parasols which are lovely too and a bit cheaper.
For the home
I love my crockery but every so often I break a beloved dish. I haven’t had a go yet but I’m going to try repairing them with this Kintsugi repair kit. It’s a Japanese art, in which you repair the cracks with gold, celebrating the beauty of imperfection. I’ll keep you updated on how it works out. Hey, this lockdown is going to carry on until at least Spring 2021, you might as well take up a few hobbies.
During my lockdown home makeover this summer, I discovered Andy Thornton’s website, a business located in North Yorkshire, which provides lighting and antiques for the restaurant industry. I like this recycled metal pendant (£38) and this glass jar with a metal ‘ajoure’ trim (£19). They have a sale on right now. When the pandemic is over, I’m going to drive up to visit their warehouse.
These are beautiful hand-blown recycled coloured glass vases. £23 each. Nice to get more than one, but in different colours. From Etsy.
For travellers and nature lovers
Britain’s Pilgrim Places. Last year I did part of the Camino to Santiago de Compostella. Now the UK is dusting off our ancient pilgrim routes. It’s going to take a few years for the British Pilgrimage Trust to develop the tourism around it such as signage, accommodation from budget to posh, and pilgrim menus, but I can’t wait to discover more about my own country. This is a fantastic and detailed illustrated guide to some of our tracks.
During my lockdown walks, I’ve fallen ever deeper in love with trees. Tree geek Paul Wood (great name eh?) has published a map ‘Great Trees of London’ with Blue Crow Publishing. A nice little stocking filler.
My links to amazon are affiliate. So I might earn a few pennies if you click on them. Which would be nice for me to be honest. This year has been a killer.