Christmas Gifts: Top tips for festive shopping

Rhiannon Batten says don't buy the usual rubbish, classy presents; can come with small price tags
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The Independent Culture

FOR MOST of the year mothers are in practical mode. If they can find a decent body lotion for pounds 2.99, they would not dream of paying more for one that comes in a snazzier bottle. The trouble is that when it comes to Christmas the family tends to forget this is just one side of their character, and so they often end up opening things like food mixers and vacuum cleaners, which are about as exciting to unwrap as a plate of leftover sprouts.

If you want to get your mother something she'll really appreciate, take your lead from the things she usually buys, but go for the luxury version. A bottle of Eau Florale would be an excellent stocking filler. A flower- infused facial freshener, it costs pounds 9.95 and comes in wonderful blue bottles. Buy it in orange blossom, cornflower or rose, from L'Occitane (0171 290 1420). For something more extravagant, Bill Amberg's classically simple overnight bags come in black or brown leather and cost from pounds 220 - 270 from Graham & Green (0171 727 4594).

The same company also makes pale embroidered pillow covers in fine Kashmir wool for pounds 32.50 and sets of three gilded Moroccan tea glasses in red, blue and green for pounds 14.85.

If, however, you can't resist the associations of mother and kitchen, The General Trading Company (0171 730 0411) does elegant salad servers with quirky asparagus handles for pounds 9.95, or show you care with a handmade heart-shaped chopping board, pounds 41.95 for a set of three, from Shaker (0171 724 7672). Made from solid sycamore and finished in Danish oil, they are perfectly functional as well as good-looking.


UNLESS THEY have a particular hobby, fathers must be the most difficult people to buy for. They just don't seem to have any preferences - or if they do they won't tell you. For those who like to potter around the kitchen, Christmas is a good time to get them their own tools. If you have the funds, the Chef's Apprentice costs from pounds 328 for the oak version from Taylor & Parr (0171 499 7101) and contains everything an aspiring cook could desire, from a peppermill and scissors to four sabbatier knives and a good old wooden spoon.

For fathers who like a tipple, Rosendahl's Grand Cru set, the wine aficionado's kit, costs pounds 119 from Harrods (0171 730 1234) and includes a corkscrew, foil cutter, wine pourer and bottle stopper. Like mothers with their body lotions, fathers often head towards the bargain bottles of plonk rather than the quality, so find out what they really like and get down to Oddbins.

In terms of storage, the Wine-O metal rack costs pounds 44 from Ocean (0870 8484840) and, although it looks like a giant slab of Emmental, it will hold up to 12 of his favourite bottles.

A subscription to a magazine can be the perfect gift if you are having trouble choosing. Phone the Royal Mail Magazine subscription line on 0800 114114. They have a range of suitable titles, from Golf World, Classic and Sports Car to The Country Man.


TAKE IT from someone who knows; girlfriends do not appreciate gadgets. When it comes to buying presents, you're going to have to get in touch with your girly side and this year that means the shinier and sparklier the better.

Nibbling a lunchtime box of sushi will be all the more easy - and all the more appetising - with a pair of silver plated chopsticks (pounds 18.95 a pair from Saville-Edells, 0171 351 1221) or you could get her a sexily smooth pewter bowl by designer Keith Tyssen (from pounds 110 at Alannah Moore, 0181 767 8497). These are the bowls that decorate the sophisticated rooms at The Hempel but they're made on a small scale so they are also extremely collectable.

If all else fails, get her something to dance around - preferably a disco ball from The Art Room (01993 770444). For pounds 59.95 she can play out all her - and your - disco bunny fantasies. Those with more traditional tastes will appreciate a chic cherrywood magazine rack (pounds 24.95 from Ocean). Or, take inspiration from the East with The General Trading Company's pretty chinese silk cushion covers, pounds 9.50 each, and The Pier's (0171 637 7001) bamboo-style photo frames (pounds 16.95).


GADGETS, GADGETS, gadgets...the one to get this year seems to be the Leatherman Micra Tool (pounds 29.95 from Divertimenti, 0181 246 4333). A key ring that includes scissors, a knife, three screwdrivers, a nail cleaner and file, a bottle opener and a pair of tweezers, it's guaranteed for 25 years. Travelling musicians will appreciate a Sharp MDMS701 Recordable Mini Disc Player. For pounds 249 from Dixons (0541 545570) this nifty little machine includes various editing functions, a 10-second anti-shock memory, remote control, rechargeable battery, bass boost and up to 13 hours playback. When he's not on the go, a sleek Cecchi CD rack or two (pounds 7.50 each from Habitat, 0645 334433 for nearest store) will come in very handy.

Alternatively, buy him Delia's How To Cook (pounds 9.99 from ASDA, 0113 2435435 for nearest store) and if he doesn't take the hint, get hime somewhere to sling all his stuff - a Boundary rucksack, pounds 39.99 from Timberland (0800 317466).


WHEN IT comes to brothers, electronic is the way to play it. Follow Robbie Williams' lead and get the new Game Boy Colour for pounds 69.99 from Nintendo (01703 653377 for stockists). A South Park video (pounds 10.99 from HMV) would be an equally appreciated choice or you could go down the track of electronics accessories.

A Squeezy Mousemat costs pounds 12.95 from The Art Room (01993 770444). Filled with swirling green and blue liquid it should make using a mouse a much more appealing prospect - unless he's overdone it on the cider when a wall-mounted lizard-shaped CD rack might be a better choice. It holds up to 40 CDs and costs pounds 99.95 from The General Trading Company (0171 730 0411). Those with an artistic streak might appreciate a Campbell's Desk Set - six desk-sized cans which come with paperclips, crayons, markers and highlighter pens, costing pounds 6.95 from The Art Room (01993 770444).


SISTERS ARE possibly the easiest person to buy for - pretty much anything quirky, sparkly or funky will do. Mobile phone covers, for pounds 14 from Red or Dead (0171 379 7571) are a bit different (an important point when you're choosing a present for any temperamental types) as are ZPM goldfish washbags, from pounds 26.50 at Graham & Green (0171 727 4594).

Glamour girls will be thanking you for a piece of Agatha (0171 495 2779) jewellery. As well as plenty of silver, its Christmas range is all petrol jet beading and glistening rubies and earrings start at a very affordable pounds 12, bracelets from pounds 7 and necklaces from pounds 10.

Cosmetic bags are always useful and Ocean does blue or black neoprene - waterproof and easy to clean - and cost pounds 14.95. For real brownie points, start off its contents with Smooch lip balm, pounds 13 from BeneFit (0901 1130001 for stockists). Its a blessing for any saucy sibling when it comes to stepping under the mistletoe.