My father has two hobbies in life – golf and jigsaws. He is especially happy if he can watch the golf while doing a jigsaw. Over the years, these two great hobbies have guided us on many birthday and Christmas presents and this year I got him a birthday present that brought him great delight – the IsoKing puzzle board and stand from Irish company, the Flying Elephant (€74.95).
It’s a non-slip sloped surface that can rest on a table or it also comes with a stand so you can do your puzzles anywhere in the house and because it’s sloped my Dad isn’t leaning over the puzzle anymore. It disassembles in a few minutes and in our house, the puzzle board just slots under the couch. I’m not sure who is happier with it my dad or my mom, who doesn’t have to be looking at puzzles on the coffee table anymore.
A beautiful gift that I received myself this year is a Ground gift box. The brand was developed by Corkwoman Peigín Crowley. Peigín worked in the spa business for years and in lockdown developed her own range of products to help people ‘ground’ themselves in the pandemic. It’s a 100% natural range and I first started using her Sleep Ritual which has an organic lavender and bergamot body oil.
Lavender is brilliant to help you sleep and after a long day, I have a hot shower and lather myself generously with it and it always just helps me relax into a good slumber. But she also does a range for mothers and babies and the Cúram Comfort Balm has organic lavender and sweet orange and it’s a gentle, modern day rescue balm for times of emotional unrest.
One night when my little one was having a very unrestful night, I massaged a little bit onto her pulse points and behind her ears and within a few minutes, she started to ease. Then I massaged some onto my face and it helped me calm, definitely a great gift for new mums. Their gift boxes start from €35, www.groundwellbeing.com
Finally, since my baby was born two years ago, we have been gifted quite a few wooden toys and I have to say they have stood the test of time far better than their plastic friends.
The Little Dutch range is beautiful and some of our favourites include the activity cube and the railway set as well as the doll’s pram. The little scooter may be one for when she is a little older. The range (which is Dutch) is available in Irish independent shops such as ByggeBo in Navan and Little Ones in Ennis. And we have also bought some of the Aldi wooden toys range, which are also very good-quality.
The kids are asking what Mammy wants in her stocking. “Easy,” says Mammy, “she wants socks”. Socks have been the traditionally underappreciated Dad present for years. So kids, stop right there and buy these for Mum instead.
Sock Co-op, which only launched in 2020, added 11 new sock designs to its Irish landmark collection this year. You can take huge strides in the Giant’s Causeway sock or treat(y) your feet in the Limerick Sock [see what we did right there?].
And if Dad gets unmercifully jealous, don’t worry, they are unisex. There are gift boxes or sock subscriptions if you can’t decide on which design, or parent, to choose. Available now are Xmas gift boxes which include four pairs of socks, Irish chocolate, fudge and a Christmas card with shipping for €50. www.sockcoop.com
On a side note for dads, what goes really well with these socks is a pair of leather Mary Janes. Brown Thomas stocks a particularly nice range.
Pony-mad Raine McKeever, while awaiting the purchase of what she really wants (a pony), got an almost as fast present for her birthday this year. All the rage with kids and teenagers, this gift comes with a serious health warning. The Marsboard hoverboard with LED lights and Bluetooth sound system arrived into our house this year. The website says the quality is “top notch” and I have to agree, this is a really solid hoverboard. Although it comes with all the safety criteria you would want for an electrical product, the “surprise” to go with this one is definitely wrist guards and a helmet. And don’t be tempted to give it a go after a few drinks. Leave it to the kids. 6.5in Classic Segway Hoverboard €179.99 www.hoverboard-ireland.com
I like to climb mountains but I also do not like to smell like I have climbed a mountain. If you have a similar preference, Nuasan stock an extensive range of post-exercise care kits for every type of sport. A personal favourite of mine is the Active Body Wipes which are 100% biodegradable. They smell amazing and the pop of peppermint, bamboo and aloe soothe will wake you right up while freshening your skin. I am currently trialling their new product, a CBD Muscle Gel which contains a natural blend of Cannabidiol, hemp oil and pure plant extracts. The gel promises to warm and focus relief on sore, aching muscles and post mountain climb that sounds pretty good to me. Almost as good as a hot tub!
For Christmas 2021, Nuasan has a range of gift bundles which range in price from the Commuter Bundle €34.95 to the Gym Bunny Bundle €119.95 www.nuasan.com
Speaking of skin. If you are looking to buy a skin care gift, look no further than Modern Botany. A few short years ago Maria Moynihan featured this west Cork natural skin health brand startup. They were on a mission to source locally grown crops for their products. Now, with a small farm holding to test crops grown using a variety of sustainable techniques, it is mission accomplished. As for the product, it smells like a meadow in summer with deep moisture recovery for winter skin.
Modern Botany Recovery Cream 50ml €40 www.modernbotany.com
I am a homewares and textile lover and these pillows are right up my street. Developed by organic sheep farmer Michael Burke, who is based in Co Galway, Woolow is an eco-friendly, naturally hypoallergenic pillow made with wool fibres. At €60 each, these pillows are made to last. I haven’t gotten one yet, but I am dropping major hints to my other half in the hopes that I find one under the tree! woolow.com
If you have a budding chef in your life, a knife is never a bad idea for a gift and – I can attest – there is no such thing as “too many knives” if the knives are well-made. Bonus points if they’re Irish made. These Dunn Bladeworks knives are veritable works of art. My friend recently got one and to say I’m jealous is an understatement! Each knife costs between €300-400. As they are handmade, there are only ever limited stocks available and they are sold first come first served (usually on a weekly basis).
Bumblebee Flower Farm Dahlias
Mags at Bumblebee Farm (in west Cork) specialises in pollinator-friendly cut flower bouquets and I love buying these for good friends (she delivers nationwide). This year, I’m even more excited about her new home-grown Dahlia Collection. These are a selection of dahlia tubers which are being sold for €40 and will be delivered in March 2022; ready to be planted in April. Mags will be providing how-to videos on her Instagram feed for those who have never planted dahlias before (like myself!). Bumblebeeflowerfarm.ie
Killahora Rare Apple Ice Wine
I love having a good ice wine on hand at Christmas and also enjoy giving it as a gift to friends, because it’s a real “Canadian”-type thing! In Canada, it is made when grapes are allowed to freeze on the vine. They are then picked in the dark, before they defrost in the sun. The result is a thick, syrupy and deliciously sweet dessert wine perfect for the holidays. In Ireland, Killahora makes delicious apple ice wine from their own harvest of rare apples. It makes the perfect end-of-dinner digestif and a great host or hostess gift. The ice wine is €25.95 on its own or €59.95 in a gift box with their (equally delicious) Pom ‘O.
I’m probably not the most qualified person to give advice on gifts. In fact, it could be fair to say that I am the least qualified person. On occasion in the past I may or may not have done my Christmas shopping in its entirety on Christmas Eve.
To give myself some credit, I was a student doing exams during the majority of these last-minute dashes. One such year everyone got a book. I’m still of the opinion this wasn’t that bad of an idea, but maybe I’m fooling myself! Now, I mostly manage to get the Christmas shopping done in the first and second weekends of December.
All of this is a very long way of alluding to the fact that I may not be the best present buyer ever. So, with that said, I’m going to steal the ideas of others and share with you what I view to be the best presents bought in our family Secret Santa over the years. Credit where credit is due, the hurling rebounder was a stroke of genius by my father. He bought it for my younger brother years ago and it really stood the test of time. It’s still on the go today.
Also, it pretty much eliminated our broken window situation and greatly helped with the upkeep of the paint on the gable end. Win-win.
Last Christmas, my older bought me a pair of Samsung earbuds. They’re probably the thing I’ve been bought that I use the most. Prior to actually having them, in truth, I thought people going around with wireless headphones was a bit OTT. But I have to say I love them and I’m a total convert. Now I can’t go without.
That’s just two quick ideas. I genuinely believe, as naff as it may sound, even if you can be a bit unorganised like myself, it really is the thought that counts and spending time with family is what matters.
For the photo lover
Google Pixel 6
Hey Google! is also working at its optimum. There is a button at the side to ask Google a question and it also has Google Translate, handy if you’re travelling. If you’re asking someone for directions, you just ask them to talk into the phone and google will translate for you. Practically, the battery lasts over 24 hours and it learns your favourite apps so it doesn’t waste power on the ones you don’t use. At 128GB, you’ve got good storage space and with IP68 protection, it can take a little water and dust, not that we tested this one out! It’s also got gorilla glass, making it one of the most durable screens on the market. This sleek and stylish phone deserves the hype.
For seniors or people with reduced mobility
Sometimes practicality triumphs it all and for years,
The ‘best of both’ SMART.5 will appeal to both touchscreen converts and feature phone advocates. This is because of its smart cover. When closed, the smart cover allows easy access to the most-used functions through a unique set of responsive ‘windows’ – instantly altering the way the smartphone looks and works. It’s so simple: simply close the smart cover and the phone behaves more like an old-style ‘feature phone’.
On the rear is Emporia’s tried-and-tested emergency button, for extra peace of mind. If pressed, up to five emergency contacts will receive a text message with the device’s location and be dialled automatically in sequence. Also it uses face recognition instead of fingerprint recognition as fingerprint is unreliable for people with reduced circulation and drier skin. The phone is compatible with hearing aids, has extra loud and clear sound, and a handy magnifier for reading small print, such as instructions and restaurant menus.
Available in post offices of at anpost.com/mobile. From €199.95. There is also a free screen protector worth €25 with every Emporia phone.
Redmi Note 10 5G
When connected to a 5G network, the Redmi Note 10 5G allows you to enjoy a smooth real-time gaming, and seamless video calls without delay as well as streaming content or browsing online. It has got a 48MP triple rear camera which means good quality for posting pictures and that all-important selfie camera. And with a long-lasting and fast-charging battery, the phone shoudn’t go dead when out and about.
Available from Vodafone, €169.99.