Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

Irish_book_pile“Just… six…. weeks” Sinead whispered. Her horrified expression told of santa letters requesting all sorts of elusive items, festivity mania and the pressure to conform to the popular ideal of Christmas time. I nodded sympathetically. My hairdresser told me two days ago that she had secured her little boy’s Christmas present in June, such was the demand for the particular item. We have no santa believers in our immediate household. I’m grateful to be excused from the mad rush to hunt down the latest new-fangled, must-have, super-sonic gadget, for which the marketing industry has worked offspring into a frenzy. Our extended family has gone so far as to impose a no-present policy for the last few festive seasons. We do however break the rules a little for smaller family members that still hold faith in the industrious elves that churn out toys in the north pole.

I’m not going to go all humbug and push for pressie abstinence. I’m all for the spirit of giving but choosing items that are locally-sourced, sustainably produced and send little or no waste to landfill seems like the most sensible way to approach it. Difficult I know when little Tommy has his heart set on that plastic ride-on tractor economically produced in Asia. I always think there’s nothing like receiving or giving a good book. Even if not produced locally, a book has a long lifespan (sometimes generations) and can be passed on until it becomes tatty to the point of illegibility. At that stage it should decompose nicely. Some folk disagree with the felling of trees for the production of paper but I would argue that the paper industry has long since pulled up its socks. Forests grown for paper production are now sustainable managed. In fact the whole industry relies on continual planting and growing of trees, offsetting considerable amounts of carbon.

I love reference books. Any that cover nature, cooking, gardening, herbal remedies, foraging, design and illustration will always capture my attention. There are that many great books in my collection I would be waxing lyrical ’til the cows come home to cover all my favourites. So I have narrowed my selection here to themes covered in the blog and to books whose authors I have personally met in recent times. Here we go:


The Wildflowers of Ireland is a conveniently sized field guide to wild flowers of the Irish countryside. Written and photographed by the lovely Zoe Devlin, it’s a terrific accessory for an outdoor stroll. It’s my go-to reference for identifying unfamiliar species or confirming the lineage of those that I’m unsure about. I met Zoe on one of her amazing and informative wildflower walks.

Trevor’s Kitchen Garden is the work of multi-talented, friend and neighbour, Trevor Sargent. This detailed growing guide draws on his 30 years of organic gardening. As well as practical growing instruction Trevor shares fascinating facts and words of wisdom making it an invaluable companion for anyone who grows, or aspires to grow, their own food.

While on the subject of growing your own, I have to include Grow, Cook, Eat to my list of recommended reading. I recently had the pleasure of meeting the dynamic and inspiring Michael Kelly. Michael, founder of GIY  (Grow it yourself) has compiled oodles of seasonal recipes and interspersed them with useful tips on how to grow your own ingredients. A very attractive volume and a useful reference for tending your veg patch through out the year.


And last but not least, I’d like to give my recently acquired The Extra Virgin Kitchen a mention. Written by the effervescent Susan Jane White this book is for anyone keen to avoid wheat, dairy or refined sugar. It’s packed with super-healthy recipes that are easy to prepare and taste great. I met Susan at my local healthfood store where a delicious high-octane banana flapjack and her infectious enthusiasm for all things wholesome, won me over. Behind her entertaining, up-beat writing style are nuggets of well-researched, nutritional wisdom- invaluable for anyone who has ever struggled with food intolerances.

If you are already on the hunt for great gifts this festive season you’ll find all of the above and thousands more excellent reads at your local bookstore. It’s as good place as any to start!




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A little project to get you in the festive spirit. This is a perfect use for any leftover little pieces of felt you may have stashed away. And if you’re anything like me you will. I have boxes of scrappy bits of material hoarded over the years because you just never know what crafty antics might take my fancy. For this cute little heart shaped Christmas ornament you’ll need :

  • a scrap of paper about 120mm square,
  • a mineral bottle top or round object of similar size (about 30mm in diameter)
  • pencil, scissors and sewing needles
  • 2 pieces of felt roughly 100mm square
  • A length of ribbon, about 160mm
  • embroidery thread, 2 colours
  • sewing thread, same colour as your felt
  • small sequins, shiny beads or buttons
  • some stuffing or padding

And here are the instructions. Best made with carols blasting on the radio and egg nog to hand. Enjoy!


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LED lights ChristmasChristmas festivities are fast approaching. Time to dust off the decorations and to jolly up your environs with tinsel and flashing lights. If your Christmas lights have been with you since that time in your life when Santa was as real as the tooth fairy then it may be time to replace them. Older lights are likely to be incandescent bulbs and, although reasonably cheap to buy, they use far more electricity than the newer LED versions. So if you are replacing or adding to your Christmas light collection consider the benefits of LEDs.

Benefits of LED lights
But LED lights are not just for Christmas! Recently we replaced some of our spot lights with Panasonic LED bulbs. We were pleasantly surprised at how much LED technology has improved. The light is soft and atmospheric in comparison to the glaring cold light of the first generation spots we installed a few years ago. The cone of light is 36 degrees – suitable for most applications. The LED spot uses a mere 4 watts compared to its halogen equivalent of 35 watts, giving us an impressive energy saving of 89%. Brilliant!

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