Now that my children are back at school time seems to have hit fast forward mode and I can see December starting to hurtle towards me. This year especially I feel that I need to get organised early and start my Christmas present buying. Each year I try to buy just a little bit less and a little bit more ethically. Normally I’ll spend time looking round the shops in Reading or Oxford as well as my local town but with Covid-19 I really don’t fancy a trip into a big shopping centre so I’ll be having a look online too.
My children absolutely don’t need any more toys (although I’m sure they’d tell you otherwise) but as they’re still quite young they do still get a stocking. I try to fill it with plenty of things they need like socks, pants and pads of colouring paper as well as some sweets and books. We get through craft supplies quickly and they are very depleted after months of homeschooling so I was really pleased to discover Cotton Twist. There are lots of lovely little craft sets and supplies and it’s pretty much all plastic free. I ordered for the first time the other day and the parcel arrived quickly and everything looks to be good quality. cottontwist.co.uk
Since it looks very possible that Covid will mean we can’t easily meet up with friends and family over Christmas I’m trying to think of things I can post to them. Magazine subscriptions are a great gift and it’s nice to receive something throughout the year. Our local bookshop (which is amazing) offer a book subscription which is my idea of a perfect present. wallingfordbookshop.co.uk In a similar vein both my children have ‘adopted’ animals through the WWF. You can choose how much to your monthly donation is and you receive regular updates about how your adopted animals are doing. wwf.org.uk
I’m very keen to avoid Amazon and shop online from more ethical companies. I’ve got my eye on some things from Ian Snow – they use plastic free and recycled packaging and all their items have a profile of the maker so that you know who is making your product and where it’s made. I’m also planning to buy some things from Babipur (especially the Christmas flavours of Tony’s chocolate) they have a great range of environmentally friendly home and beauty products and lots of lovely children’s things. iansnow.com babipur.co.uk
As well as buying things I’m trying to make at least some of the gifts I give. Over lockdown, during one of my few motivated moments, I had a go at making a dress for my daughter and it was surprisingly successful so I’m thinking about hand sewing a few gifts this year. I also made a head start at the end of the summer with some bramble jelly and damson jam, and once I’ve saved a few more jars I’m going to make some chutney. One of my favourites is this simple slow cooker red onion chutney:
8 red onions, sliced
100g/4oz caster sugar
100ml/3 1/2 fl oz red wine vinegar
100ml/3 1/2fl oz red wine
Dash grenadine syrup or cranberry juice
Heat the slow cooker if needed. Mix the onions and sugar in the slow cooker pot and cover and cook on high for 2-3 hours until soft and caramelised. Stir occasionally.
Add the red wine vinegar and red wine and cook, uncovered, for another 2-3 hours on high until sticky. Stir in the juice or syrup. Leave to cool slightly and then ladle into sterilised jars.