Some people love Valentine’s Day – it’s an excuse to up the ante on the romantic stakes and forces people to focus on their relationship, even if it’s just for one day. Other people – like cynical old me – think it’s a load of makey up rubbish that’s about over priced set menus in restaurants and wilted supermarket flowers. Whichever side of the fence you’re on, I think we’d all agree that it’s really nice to give and receive gifts, whatever the occasion. So I’ve put together this guide as a bit of inspiration for anyone who’d like to give or get something for Valentine’s Day, or any other occasion (or not) that’s coming up.
This year was a bit of an odd one for me. We had to pack up and leave our rented house and move in with a family member because our new home still isn’t ready. The mortgage payments became higher than our rent so in the summer we came to the realisation that we just couldn’t keep it up. We gave notice to our landlord and started the mammoth task of packing up our belongings. We ordered a skip and finally dumped all the broken toys we’d been needlessly holding on to, along with other useless tat that had accumulated. We donated other items – toys the kids no longer played with or had grown out of, clothes, bric-a-brac, small appliances that had been gathering dust and more. The enormous pile had diminished to a smaller pile, but a pile nonetheless. We packed it all away and moved into a house where we all sleep in one room and live in another and our belongings are stacked up in boxes.
This whole set up has made me realise something: we don’t need a lot. I haven’t missed one thing that’s been boxed away. The kids have a few toys out but they lie idly in the corner in favour of colouring and drawing and reading. We spend way more time outside – playing football, or us all going for walks to the site with Henry and letting him run riot along the fields. We didn’t have a TV for the first 6 weeks of living here. The only internet we had was via my phone and the reception was poor. We survived. Hell, we thrived. Less screen time, bed early and a sense of productivity and togetherness.
So this has given me a different perspective on gift guides – I really think we should stick to items (for myself and for others!) that aren’t wasteful or just purchased for the sake of it. I want to reduce the amount of pointless plastic tat coming into the house and focus on gifts we’ll use and appreciate often. Practical everyday gifts, gorgeous beauty items, experiences and stuff that we’ll be able to enjoy for years to come.
Here are some nice ideas for the loves in your life – for Valentine’s Day or any other special occasion, or just because.
Many of you are busy parents and if you’re anything like me, you rarely spend money on nice things for yourself. So I think a really lovely treat is a nice skincare set such as one from a brand like Dublin Herbalists. I’ve been using these products for over a year now. They’re Irish made and don’t contain any nasties and they just seem to really suit my skin. They’re so nourishing and they smell divine. I particularly love the serum and the moisturiser. There’s a gorgeous body scrub as well. You can’t really go wrong with this as a gift as it should be suitable for all skin types. Stockists include Meadows and Byrne – my go-to place in Clonakilty. But there’s also a list of stockists on www.dublinherbalists.ie
White & Green products
This is another Irish company and they do bed clothes, throws, towels, scarves, dressing gowns and now candles. I just love this brand – I’ve spent a fortune on their stuff this year because I really want to have nice bedding when we move into our forever home. I got money as a gift for my birthday and for Christmas a couple of years running and I was warned I had to spend it on something nice for myself as opposed to using it for something mundane like groceries or bills. It took me a while to figure out what I wanted but then I discovered White & Green stuff after seeing it at a friend’s place. The sheets felt glorious and I knew I had to have them. Their products are ethically produced, organic and Fair Trade. They’re definitely pricey but I keep an eye out as they often have sales and discount codes. They also wash really well and get better with each wash so they’re the type of product that I’ll be passing onto the kids in years to come, so in my opinion a good investment. Plus, I don’t drink or smoke and rarely go out, so I’m not going to begrudge myself something nice to sleep on. Check them out at www.whiteandgreenhome.com
I just think you can never have too many scented candles. They’re something that will always get used and they add so much to a room visually. I have a few favourites that I adore and I’m always happy to see any type of scented candle. I’ve read something lately that some scented candles aren’t very good for your health so I need to research that more and find out what to look for in candles. But in the mean time, the ones I use are Landon Tyler ones, which are really reasonably priced and smell gorgeous. I get them from Woodie’s. I love Aldi scented candles and I also once received a gift of a Beefayre kitchen candle which I adore and want to save for when we move into our new house. I love that a percentage of the profits go towards bee conservation and how they’re hand made. I have the kitchen candle so the glass jar that it comes in will be reused for something else when it’s burned. It smells gorgeous! I have the Honey Lily one. Another brand I love is Scentered. The Destress candle is glorious and again I’ve avoided burning it too much because I want to save it for our new home. But it’s really pretty and smells so good – it’s got essential oils and all natural ingredients, so it’s really high quality.
Frames are underrated. We have so many prints and pieces of kids’ art now that I’m going to have to get loads of frames for. A voucher for a framing shop or a selection of frames from the likes of TK Maxx, Homesense or The Range would go down really well. We live in a digital age and there’s nothing quite like having something beautiful on the wall to admire, be it a photograph or a pretty print. I have really bright prints for Reign and Hail for our new house that I can’t wait to hang.
A Hotel Break
They can be expensive but a weekend break away somewhere fab is such a gorgeous treat every now and again. For parents, it’s even more of a luxury if you can get away for a night or two without the kids. A spa break is heavenly. You don’t have to go away on Valentine’s weekend in particular – you could organise it for any time of the year as I find Valentine’s is always more expensive, really busy and sometimes the quality of meals out and relaxation suffers because of it. If you’re lucky enough to get away any time soon, places we’ve been to and loved over the years include: The Merrion Hotel in Dublin for a 5* city break and amazing food, Liss Ard Estate just outside Skibbereen for gorgeous walks, the sky garden, brilliant food and a fab boutique getaway, Castle Leslie in Monaghan for all round fabulousness and Dunowen House in Ardfield just outside Clonakilty is local to me but somewhere I’ve been to for events and occasions and it’s stunning. The food is amazing too.
It seems random but this is the gift that keeps on giving, in my opinion. We caught the camping bug last summer as we couldn’t afford a foreign holiday. The weather was amazing so we had night in the back garden, weekends with friends, stays at campsites within an hour or two from home and also further afield. So whether you choose this as a gift for yourself or a loved one, there are loads of items you could get that would be suitable – everything from tents to sleeping bags, lanterns, picnic baskets and blankets. There are loads of things you need for camping and I got lots of my gear on Sports Direct for a very reasonable price. I got an 8-person tent, sleeping bags and camping chairs from them. Other must-haves for camping include air mattresses – we got these ones and they’re super comfy and easy to inflate. I also love this lantern which we use all the time – reading at night since we’re all sleeping in the same room, site visits after dark etc. It’s super handy. Another really handy thing we got last summer was this picnic backpack, which I found so useful rather than the old picnic bag we used to have. It’s so brilliant being able to put it on your back because I’ve usually got the dog on a lead and a couple of kids holding onto me when we’re going for forest walks. Being able to fit all our bits and snacks into this and carry it hands free is fab.
An Audible Subscription
I discovered Audible last year and it has been so brilliant. I’d highly recommend it to anyone. I’ve discovered amazing audiobooks and podcasts that I can listen to while driving or wrapping books, I can listen to them at night in bed on my headphones as all five of us share a room (and bed) with the kids so it’s hard to get comfortable with a book or have the light on once they’re asleep. It also makes long journeys from Cork to Donegal more bearable for us all as we’ve listened to things like Harry Potter and the kids have been engrossed. You get one free credit per month with your subscription and there are loads of free shows and titles to enjoy as well. I’m currently listening to John Boyne’s The Heart’s Invisible Furies – it’s an amazing story and the narrator is fabulous as well. I also really enjoyed the West Cork podcast.
The Gift of Good Food
This gift guide wouldn’t be complete without a mention of one of our fab cookbooks or booklets. We have two books now and six recipe booklets – if you don’t have them in your cookbook collection, you’re really missing out. Check out our store on www.biamaith.ie/store
Whatever you decide to get, we wish you a lovely Valentine’s Day – and every day.