Christmas gift guide


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Dear readers, it's been quite a week with a rotten cold, a trip to the dentist, an impending tax bill, a pile of admin and injuring myself with the bread knife. I really lost it yesterday morning and hurled a few things in frustration but am happy to say everything seems brighter today and that I'm on the mend. At least there were some good things; handing out the first Weihnachsplätzchen (Christmas cookies) to friends and going to see Polanski's brilliant Carnage in spite of a running nose.
I still haven't told you about my trip to the Finnish bazaar, Julia's Scandinavian spice cake or shared my selection of seasonal recipes but I'm somehow more in the mood for sharing my Christmas gift ideas. Besides, I'd prefer to do it before the brilliant Cup of Jo guide makes any further lists unnecessary. So here goes...

1. Cookbooks

I'm ashamed to say it but I rarely buy cookbooks because I'm too mean to spend €20-€30 on one thing, although somehow that never stops me from leaving Dussman with a couple of paperbacks and a DVD for more money. My collection stretches to about 10 which is why I often ask for them for Christmas. This year I've got my eye on Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's River Cottage Veg after testing several recipes from it, all of them absolutely wonderful, especially this butternut squash curry. If we're discussing favourite cooks, Nigel Slater claims first place with me for his wonderful writing and recipes. Both volumes of Tender are now out in paperback, either individually or in a lovely set. Dan Lepard's new book, Short and Sweet, also sounds wonderful.

If you speak French, all of the Editions de Épure are beautifully designed and great value at just €6.50; my friend Julia's little booklet on cardamom would make a perfect gift for anyone, as would the one on marrons glacés, written by Pauline of Beau À la Louche which I'm dying to get.

2. For the home

I have a terrible addiction to Iittala for their moomin collection and classic kitchenware. This year they have the prettiest limited edition cups and bowls in the Kulku set which I couldn't resist, even though I was only able to afford a couple. They also do double packs of their lovely candleholders which make any room or windowsill so pretty. I covet the red which is sadly the most expensive.

If you're looking for something cheaper, how about this delightful owl mug with a lid to keep your drink warm which can also be used as a coaster so your desk stays free of tea stains.

Patoumi keeps taking photos of cakes on her pretty Marimekko plates which would look good on any dinner table but right now, these retro bowls (below) are a more afforable addition and available from Pomeranza Design Ranch in Prenzlauer Berg.

If you're as useless as I am at rolling out pastry to the correct thickness, this adjustable rolling pin should change that

Let's not forget out four legged friends! I'm really excited about seeing Oscar, Mungo, Jasper, Mingus and Jacob in a couple of weeks and have ordered them these new bowls from Debenhams to make breakfast time even better:
If you have a garden, you can help the birds with this chaming Silvester birdbox

3. Comfort

The patterned jumper from Gudrun and Gudrun, as worn by Sarah Lund in the Killing is the essential winter warmer but if you can't afford the original, H&M has a nice copy in either black or white.

Or if you just want to add some Scandinavian touches to your outfit, this pretty fairisle snowflake scarf from Accessorise would be prefect:

I wouldn't be without my electric blanket on these cold nights but a little added warmth is always welcome, like with this Moomins hot water bottle cover

In the Guardian today, Sali Hughes has a great gift guide for beauty products with the idea that less is more. As someone who has always dreaded receiving one of those bumper hampers full of products which gather dust in the bathroom, I couldn't agree more that it's much nicer to get just one high quality thing instead. I definitely won't be spending 35 quid on a lipbalm but the peppermint one from Crème de la Mer really does sound like heaven.

For smaller budgets, the large scented candles from National Trust would be lovely for bathtime and all the money goes to the worthy cause of looking after Britain's great houses and gardens.

Or if you've just got a few quid to spare, this Body Shop spiced vanilla soap is so lovely, looks expensive and only costs 2 pounds.
4. Books

Not surprisingly, books form the main part of my Christmas wishlist, although every year I tell myself it will be different after trying to cram them all into an overstuffed suitcase, worrying that it will exceed the airport weight limit and hauling it up four flights of stairs. But I never learn...Edmund de Waal's exquisite Hare With the Amber Eyes is now available in an illustrated version to give you a better idea of the netsuke and places he's describing. On a student's recommendation, I recently bought Tom Rob Smith's Child 44 and was unable to put it down for 2 days. Its follow-up, The Secret Speech, is on my list but there's also Agent 6 out now in hardback to complete the trilogy. Tove Jansson's The Winter Book always makes a wonderful gift, as does Murakami's What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. I'm also intrigued by Diego Marani's New Finnish Grammar about a mysteriously wounded man sent to Helsinki. In Provence, I regretted not buying a copy of Le Club des Incorrigibles Optimistes, set in Paris in the 60s, and hope to get around to it in 2012.

If biography is more your thing, what about Lives Like Loaded Guns about Emily Dickenson and her family. As a huge Diane Keaton fan, I'm also dying to get my hands on a copy of her new book, Then Again.

Art lovers would be thrilled with the catalogue of the Leonardo da Vinci exhibition at the National Gallery if you can't get in or if you're feeling really generous (or have generous friends), the stunning Art Museum from Phaidon puts all other books to shame.

5. Music and film

If bittersweet, whistful and charming films in crisp black and white or vibrant colours are your thing, then the wonderful Complete Jacques Demy Collection is for you. All the famous ones like Les Demoiselles de Rochefort, les Parapluies de Cherbourg and Bay of Angels are there, along with lesser known gems.

Or you might prefer the Eric Rohmer Moral Tales set instead which I love. Three of the best films I saw this year, Of Gods and Men, Pina and the Illusionist are now out on DVD and Tamara Drewe will remind you just how peaceful the English countryside can be. French film fans shouldn't miss Two in the Wave, a documentary about the friendship between Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut. I'm also finally hoping to get around to watching Matthieu Amalric's On Tour. And who could forget the Killing?

I love music but am unfortunately, hopelessly out of touch with the latest things. However, Jeff Bridges' new album is on my list as is the cd of music from Woody Allen's films.


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