Lizzie Gore-Grimes suggests 12 gifts to spoil a grandparent (or anyone in your life) – and support a series of superb small Irish businesses into the bargain.
I’ve found myself a pen pal at the ripe old age of 45 and I’m loving our random communication. I sent a text to my (very independent) elderly neighbour to check in on him a few weeks ago, and we’ve been dipping in and out of sporadic emails and texts ever since. He tells me about his evening walks and I fill him in on what the kids are up to, but mostly we talk about dogs and food! It’s lovely. Reminding us all that the most precious gift for anyone at home alone at the moment is communication, but if you can add in a little thoughtful gift into the mix why not?
Taste of the west
Said elderly neighbour would usually be fishing in the west of Ireland if he wasn’t stuck at home so I sent him one of these Burren Baskets and it went down a bomb. It’s the perfect choice, as the amounts are not too big for someone on their own or a couple cocooning, and the smoked fish, cheese and chutney all last well. The hampers, which come in two sizes, are a clever collaboration between various Burren Food Trail producers – innovating in light of the current decline in sales and non-existent tourism industry. Producer Birgitta Hedin Curtin of Burren Smokehouse says, “As people can’t travel to us right now we wanted to create a unique Burren food experience to be enjoyed in the comfort of your home."
The Burren Basket, €50 for regular or €58 for large, is available to order from burrensmokehouse.com with deliveries nationwide.
“I remember the warm smell of my nana's freshly made soda bread and the sight of it leaning up against her countertop. She would slice it with the same bread knife she received as a wedding present some fifty years previously. It was hard work! If she was alive today, I would love to gift her a really good German bread knife and watch her reaction as she sliced open a loaf with such ease!” says Bob Toal, owner of Triggerfish Cookshop in Dublin. It’s also the only cookery shop in Ireland that doubles as a cookery school with its own state-of-the-art demo kitchen in the basement. Bob prides himself on the fact that “We don't sell anything with a plug in the store” so most grandparents will appreciate that.
Visit triggerfishcookshop.ie to browse over 1600 products or email them with any specific cooking equipment requests. Triggerfish delivers nationwide.
Beauty sleep… by post
Irishwoman Eva Power launched The Ethical Silk Company in a bid to produce and sell silk pieces that were both elegant and ethical. The Ethical Silk Company range of luxury mulberry silk sleepwear, loungewear and homeware is Irish designed, using a unique eco-friendly mulberry silk. “My mother inspired me to start the company in 2009, she used to sleep with a silk scarf on her pillow – as my grandmother had done – because it’s so good for your skin and hair but she found it hard to find silk pillowcases, so I started making them.” Eva goes on to explain that silk doesn’t conduct static electricity so using a silk pillowcase really helps to reduce ‘bed head’ – silk also doesn’t absorb moisture away from skin and hair, as cotton does, so your skin and hair maintain their natural moisture balance. Beautiful.
Mulberry silk pillowcase in natural ivory, €50, available from theethicalsilkco.com with deliveries nationwide.
The perfect note
For the last five years product designer Seán O’Sullivan has been producing (very beautiful) books in Cork City under the brand name Badly Made Books (Are Rubbish). Specialising in high-quality, low-impact books, print and design, nothing he makes is ordinary or boring. So if you are looking for the perfect notebook this might just be the place. “For my grandmother I’d have to choose the ‘maybe. I can’t remember’ notebook, as she’s 95 years old and as sharp as ever. I know she’ll see the fun side,” grins Sean. “This is the time to be committing memories to paper.” Badly Made Books are all handmade from recycled paper and produced with a minimum of 70% post-consumer waste.
Handmade ‘maybe. I can’t remember’ notebook, A5, €15, to order from badlymadebooks.com with deliveries nationwide.
Irish cashmere brand KableCo was established 18 months ago by Dubliner Karen Jackson, to offer quality cashmere sourced from Mongolia (home to the softest cashmere yarn from the Gobi Desert) at an affordable price. “I gave the Nicole in pink, pictured above, to my mother-in-law for Christmas and she adores it,” says Karen. “She says she loves the way it makes her feel dressed up with so little effort.” At the moment KableCo are offering free postage and a free cashmere care kit with every order. “I’d also love to say a big thank you to An Post,” continues Karen, “who are doing a fantastic job keeping small businesses operating during these difficult times.”
Prices start from €75 to order from kableco.com with deliveries nationwide.
Seeds of hope and calm
Their garden centres and shops may be closed but garden aficionados Howbert & Mays are still offering a full online service. Herbs, edible plants, grasses, climbers, shrubs… you name it. They have it. “Never have seeds sold as well as during the last few weeks. This crisis is really making people think about growing their own food," posted owners Tig Mays and Anthea Howbert recently on Instagram. Gardening is such a tonic at this time and you'll find everything including grass, topsoils and mulches all available here, 100% contactless from order to delivery.
howbertandmays.ie with deliveries nationwide.
Birds to stay
Co-founder of the Irish Design Shop Laura Caffrey picks this beautifully crafted willow bird feeder made by Tipperary based basket maker and sculptor, Hanna Van Aelst. “So they can enjoy watching the birds come visit them in their garden while no one else can. Another equally lovely gift would be a John Hanly throw (€120) to wrap themselves up in on a chilly spring evening for a session of The Durrells Season 3 on Netflix.” From a set of Caroline Dolan mugs (€23 each) and super-cosy Fisherman out of Ireland hot water bottles (€46), you’ll be spoilt for options here.
Willow bird feeder, €35, from irishdesignshop.com/ with deliveries nationwide.
A bespoke portrait in silk
KDK, an Irish brand renowned for its beautiful range of scarves, silk headbands and luxury silk eye-masks has just launched a vibrantly coloured new spring/summer collection. Founders and sisters Keira and Dairine Kennedy use their own photography to capture images of favourite places such as Bray Head, Howth and Westport and rework the images to create evocative and abstract prints for their silk and modal scarves. They also offer a bespoke service, where you can send them a treasured photograph and they will create a unique scarf for you. What a gorgeous gift. “Our own mother loves her Dreamer eye-mask, she’s found the quality of her sleep is not great at the moment and finds the mask a great help,” says Keira.
Prices range from €35 for a silk eye-mask, €65 for a scarf and €100 for a bespoke scarf. Available to order on kdk.ie with deliveries nationwide.
For the love of linen
Any grandparent worth their salt will appreciate the exemplary quality of Irish linen – a traditional textile that is laborious to manufacture but worth every bit of effort for its lightweight strength, excellent drying capacity and natural anti-bacterial qualities. There is nothing quite as luxurious as a soft linen bath towel, particularly now as the weather is getting a little warmer. Donegal company McNutt have been producing some of the world's finest weaves for over 60 years and their new 2020 linen collection is one of the nicest around. “My father was always getting into trouble with my mum,” remembers William McNutt. “He always wore a linen shirt, long before they were cool, but insisted that they didn’t need to be ironed, much to my mother’s exasperation!”
Dove grey and smoky pink Irish linen bath towel, pictured above, €69.95, to order from mcnuttofdonegal.com with deliveries nationwide.
Scent of home
Lisa Barnett’s studio in Co Clare is nestled between the epic landscapes of the Burren and the Cliffs of Moher, where the inspiration for their signature range of scented candles has evolved from. Lisa began making candles from her kitchen table in 2017, using plant based soy wax, quality fragrance oils and cotton core wicks and even though her business has grown impressively since, Lisa still lovingly hand pours each candle into apothecary style glass jars and packages everything herself. “A lot of my older customers love the Limerick Lace candle, which is delicately scented with a lily and white rose blend,” says Lisa. “For a more earthy scent The Burren candle stands out with the wild orchid and fern notes.” It’s quite magical how Lisa has manages to capture the essence of the Irish landscape in her candles – who wouldn’t want to be transported to the Bog Road, Fields and Cliffs of Ireland at this time.
Lisa is currently offering a 15% discount on all products until lockdown is lifted. Prices start from €10, available in small, medium and large, to order from theirishchandler.com with deliveries nationwide.
Balm for the skin, and soul
“My mother died at 87 this year, and it was only in the last decade that I was able to really appreciate the depth and richness of her lived experience. I learned so much from her,” says Sadie Chowen, founder of The Burren Perfumery. “Both my mother and my grandmother each had a particular fragrance that they wore, it was their signature, and the scent of either perfume today will instantly evoke the whole person for me. Our organic Wild Rose Restorative Day cream is dedicated to my grandmother.” Sadie and her team hand-make the most exquisite natural perfumes and cosmetics in their atelier in Co Clare. Their 100% organic Borage Herbal Balm is an elixir for older skin – soothing hard working hands and bald spots like nothing else, not to mention their divine handmade soaps, rose day cream and beautiful bath bits.
Burren Perfumery Organic Borage Herbal Balm, 100gm, being hand-poured above, €18, to order from burrenperfumery.com with deliveries nationwide.
Books, glorious books
Obviously you can order any book under the sun from a variety of global giant online services but instead why not email your local bookshop and put in an order to be posted out. Even if the owner has been compelled to close the shop door, chances are they are still on email and can access their own stock and post out orders (the same goes for most local beauty salons and other small retail businesses). We did this with our local Books On The Green in Sandymount village. I contacted the owner Brian, gave him an idea of my mum’s reading preferences and Granny Juju was thrilled with the lucky dip of five novels that arrived in the post. Brian also recommends, “Voices of History by Simon Sebag Montefiore, it’s about speeches that changed the world, old and nostalgic and a wonderful read. Through Her Eyes by Clodagh Finn is also an excellent account of 21 Irish women who changed history.”
Books, endless amounts of great ones, available from your local independent bookstore.
Featured image by Annie Pratt via Unsplash.com
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