Good thing

Boots Fine Foods, from pounds 2.30

In the packaging fest that is Christmas, Boots have done a brave thing. They have wrapped their fine foods - mulled wine set (pounds 2.50), 1lb Christmas pudding with brandy (pounds 4.30) etc - in nothing more than reusable tins and a lick of silver paper or cellophane. In doing so, it has saved 6,000 tonnes of packaging. OK, so their Batman bubble bath is a triumph of plastic over content, but at least they have made an effort. I may even go out and buy a jar of their peach conserve with peach schnapps (pounds 2.30). Purely in the interests of the planet, you understand.

Checkout The Christmas Chapter

The Christmas Chapter, 162 Sloane Street, London SW1

What is it? An off-shoot of Breeds, the upmarket cutlery and china shop in Tunbridge Wells, The Christmas Chapter is a shrine to Christmas. Well, to Christmas decorations. For the past five years, Breeds has turned over its basement to Christmas decorations. The idea has worked so well that this year it opened three other outlets: Sloane Street, Kingston-upon- Thames and the Lakeside Shopping Centre, Thurrock. They stay open until the end of January.

Atmosphere: Slightly weird. It's like walking into a large picture book in which a forest has invaded a house. The shop is filled with themed and decorated trees, and in one corner, a table is set for a casual Christmas lunch (who doesn't have gold baubles delicately placed among their gold rimmed plates and glasses?). Beware the low-flying decorative objects.

Customers: A mixture of well-heeled locals, awe-struck tourists, and the simply curious. Interestingly, there are no children; wise parents leave them elsewhere as one look at all the loot would send them into a frenzy. According to staff, most customers are overwhelmed by the stock. However, they will help gaping customers to create a theme at home and to make up perfect bows with which to dress presents or decorate your tree.

What to buy: The giant golden papier mache angels are a must, if you have money to burn, at pounds 200. Birds with wire feet which twist around the branches of the tree cost pounds l.95-pounds 4.99 (the white dove is a current best- seller). Bags of glossy red stars or apples pounds 2.95; small teddy bears, rag dolls and soldiers are pounds 3.95 and part of a folk art theme. Patchwork and applique Christmas stockings are pounds 24.95.

Do not buy: Terrifyingly ugly Father Christmas heads which look like they have been pickled - guaranteed to give children nightmares (pounds 1.95).

Mad thing

Christmas tree pasta shapes, pounds 1.66 per packet

You've read everything you can lay your hands on about how to stage- manage the Christmas meal. You've stuffed the turkey or you're boiling a ham; the bread sauce, red cabbage and God only knows what else are on the go, but you've forgotten something: you haven't planned a meal for Christmas Eve. Don't panic. The Funfood Pasta Company has the answer - Christmas tree pasta shapes. Perfect for that last-minute tuna surprise or macaroni cheese. If nothing else, they should amuse fractious, over- excited children.

Stockists: Gill Wing Gift Shop, 194 Upper Street, Islington, London N1 IRQ. Selected branches of Tesco (call 01992-632 222 for nearest branch).

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