THE SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS PRESENT

 

£1

MULLED wine, hot Irish whiskey and apple and cider cup sachets: We've had lavender bags and tea bags; now there are booze bags, selling in Bewleys in seasonal red, green and white cloth bags with 10 sachets inside. Admittedly you have to supply the alcohol yourself but there's all the cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, all spice, clove and lemon you could want in each appropriate bag. Whoever said that infusions were for wimps? £1.75 each from Bewleys branches.

Pack of 32 clothes pegs: Does this seem too prosaic a present? Just remember all the times you've desperately searched the house for pegs to hang out the clothes and none can be found. In brightly coloured plastic these are so lurid they'll never be lost. From Poundwise, Mary Street, Dublin at £1 a pack.

Pair of gloves in loo per cent acrylic: Now that man made fibres have become so fashionable, these are a real bargain, especially since they're available in a range of different colours. Ideal as a stocking filler, from all branches of Penneys at £1.

Writing paper: Thank you notes have got to be written - think of all those gorgeous presents someone's going to get - so why not make it easier for yourself or any reluctant letter writers in the family by laying up a stock of brightly coloured writing paper? Available in a rainbow of shades including red, blue, lemon, turquoise. Five sheets with five matching envelopes: £1. Extra sheets and envelopes 10p each. Available at Tenko, Paul Street, Cork.

Wooden bookmark: For bookworms this is an unusual version of an obvious present. A painted wooden bookmark, personalised with an initial on top. From Wooden Heart, Quay Street, Galway at £1.99.

Football club key rings: With any name engraved, these sell for £1 from Jimmy Kavanagh at that mother of all markets, Mother Redcaps, near Dublin's Christ Church. All manner of gifts available, Fridays to Sundays, 10.30 a.m.-5.30 p.m.

Glitter pen: Let a friend go wild on Christmas cards with an instant glitter pen in gold and five other great colours, 95p at SWALK card and stationery stores which also have a range of funky little Santas made from painted tin with dangly, hairpin legs, pointy caps and cheerful smiles, £2.50. Hang them from the Christmas tree, the mantelpiece or the car rear view mirror if you must. This is a gift that will be enjoyed each Christmas time for years. SWALK branches in Dublin and Kilkenny.

£5

SIMONIZ Iceclear: Forget those frosty mornings which necessitate running into the road in pyjamas and slippers, brandishing a jug of water. Introduce dignity to the life of a friend with this concentrated de-icer that dissolves ice on contact in conditions as low as 20C. The little gift pack also contains a bottle of screenwash, a chamois de mister pad for soaking up condensation and an ice scraper. From the Automobile Association at £4.95.

Pack of 50 daffodil bulbs: Baby it's cold outside but spring, will be coming along soon enough. Here's an opportunity to anticipate the warmer weather that lies ahead and give a present which will act as an annual reminder of its giver. From C.P. Hackett & Co, Capel Street, Dublin at £3.75.

Multiple spectacles holder: "Where are my glasses?" The perennial catch cry of the myopic can be stilled forever with this minute but inspired device which keeps the old specs clean and safe when not on the go. It can be stuck to the dashboard to keep sunglasses in place or to the top of the computer. From branches of Donal McNally opticians in the Dublin area at £6.

Silk handkerchief: Everybody runs low on hankies, especially the sort that can be produced in public without shame. Here's a smart square which will look equally well tucked into a blazer pocket or slipped discreetly into a handbag. Comes in a variety of colours with timeless Paisley patterns. From branches of Tie Rack nationwide at £4.99.

Coasters: You know those ring marks on the dining table you were always going to get rid of but couldn't find time to go on that French polishing course? Save a friend the same heartache - this is, after all, the season of good cheer and spilt drinks - by giving a set of Four coasters made from slate and screen printed in Cork to show pictures of dormice and badgers, the lines so fine and delicate you'd almost wish they'd come alive.

Backed with green felt; £5 for four. Additional ones £1.25. Available in Crafts of Ireland, 11 Winthrop Street, Cork.

Gold coffee cup: Notch up a trip to Dublin's latest big store and start someone's collection of dinky coffee cups at the same time with a gift of a very festive gold cup and saucer for £6 from Debenhams, Jervis Centre, Dublin and also Belfast.

Face paining kit: It seems that no small fry's party is complete without someone to daub paint on an impatient child. Give them an easy to use DIY face painting kit with the added bonus that it should buy exhausted adults a couple of hours peace on Christmas Day. From Marks & Spencer, Dublin Cork, Belfast at £5.

Wick and oil for wine bottle: Anyone who has ever tried to push a candle into an empty wine bottle to get that French restaurant effect will love this clever gadget. A metal piece with a wick going through it which will fit into any wine or spirit bottle. Simply fill the bottle with oil, pop in the wick and light. All the effect with none of the mess. From The Greene Shop, Kirwans Lane, Galway at £4.99.

Ink stamp: Join the vogue for personalising cards and thank you notes by giving a decorative ink stamp. The Art and Hobby Shop has a variety of elegantly made wooden stamps from £4.95 in a range of designs. The Victorian angels are particularly nice, especially when used with gold stamp ink. Art and Hobby Shop, Dun Laoghaire.

£10

FATHER Ted T-shirt: Made from 100 per cent cotton by Fruit of the Loom, the lettering is in suitable ecclesiastical yellow on black with a full frontal face of who else but Dermot Morgan. The only trouble is that there doesn't seem to be a Father Jack or Dougal version nor even Mrs Doyle. Presumably they're next in the range. From Virgin Megnstores at £41.99.

Traveling make up case: Coming in a variety of tartan climbinations, this smart looking case, with Paisley silk lining and mirror, has another secret inside - a baby, replica, make up case. Perfect if you're just off for an overnight. Also enclosed is a shoulder strap but you can carry it by its handle too. Perfect for carrying medicines, make up or even a small hairdryer when travelling. It would give any holidaymaker a distinctly stylish look at the airport. Very good value at £11.99 from branches of HCR, the chemists whose own product it is.

Cigarette lighters: There are still a lewd smokers left in the world and anyway, this is the time to light up a cigar so why not do it with a flourish? Bin those nasty plastic devices and give someone - or indeed yourself, even - a small, stylish lighter which lies snugly in the palm of the hand and whose wood casing gives off a discreet glow. Made from the root of the thuya tree, the wood is a bit like the lovely facia boards on old cars - the ones with running boards and indicator arms. Remember? Even if you don't, go for this gift. It's got class. Available for £9.75 from Town and Country, 47b MacCurtain Street, Cork.

Teenage nail polish: Trying to buy a hip and trendy gift for a teenage girl is fraught with danger - at best she'll sneeringly call you "sad" and at worst get in a moody huff. Older teenagers will love Hard Candy nail polish - it's one of the cult beauty items of 1996 (even Vogue says so, so you're on safe ground). Buy the metallic gold or bronze colour, £9.95, Brown Thomas, Dublin and Cashs, Cork.

Toothbrush holder: A handmade pottery, toothbrush holder, in an earthy and green colour with Celtic designs and individual holes for toothbrushes and toothpaste. From Sliding Rock Pottery, Spiddal Craft Centre, Galway at £9.95.

Boots No 7 Gift Compact: Newly arrived in Dublin, Boots is thronged with teenagers, thrilled to try the company's make up. This compact offers every young girl her own complete make up kit, containing lip colour, blusher, eight different eye shadows, face powder, lip pencil, kohl pencil, brush and applicators. All in a neat little set of trays. From Boots at £10, at Jervis Shopping Centre and branches throughout the North.

The Butcher Boy by Patrick McCabe: Right now, everyone's talking about Michael Collins the movie. To be ahead of the posse, give this book: not only is it a terrific read but it's also the basis for director Neil Jordan's next film (so sooner or later, everyone else will want to buy it too). Published by Picador at £6.99 and available at bookshops nationwide.

Smart soap: If the 1970s revival had: spilled over from fashion to toiletries, we'd all be giving soap on a rope this Christmas. But the cool 1990s version is soap on a hook. You buy the plastic hook for £1 then add the soaps which come in lovely fragrances and colours and are circular so they hang on the hook. Buy three soaps and a hook for each for £9.70 from Foko, Stephens Street, Dublin.

Antique garden tools: This year's ultimate designer accessories are antique garden tools, their metal forks and wooden handles worn to silky perfection by somebody else's hard labour. The Dalkey Design Company has a selection culled from markets in France and the UK, priced from £10. Proprietor Cathy White will even make up a truck of antique garden tools for you, with other fragrant treats like hyacinths bulbs in bloom (£10) and Pulbrook & Gould's Gardener's Remedy hand scrub or pumice soap (£5). Gardeners will need to keep those hands silky for the other treasures at this shop which is like something out of Lady Chatterly's Lover, with the dening paraphernalia displayed alongside old fashioned linen nightdresses hanging in a French decoupage wardrobe and treasures from French markets scattered everywhere. Dalkey Design Company, Dalkey village, Co Dublin.

Canvas bag: Shopaholics can tote their presents home in this bag emblazoned with Emptrix Nata Sum (I am a born shopper). It costs £9.95 at Past Times, which features 1,500 unusual reproduction items to suit the tastes whoever suspected that they had a past life: in almost any era, including Celtic, Medieval, Anglo Saxon & Viking, Tudor & Stuart, 18th century and Victorian. In all branches of Past Times nationwide.

£15

BABYLISS Hollywood Lights: Perfect for a teenage girl discovering the dreaded make up, this little make up mirror has mini spotlights on either side, theatre dressing room style. Battery operated, it's in a foldaway design and has a dual sided mirror, magnifying on one side, normal scale on the other. £16.99 from the electrical department in the basement at Clery's of Dublin.

Hand painted wooden mobile: Adorable, charming and simple, this is the kind of gift any parent would welcome for young offspring. Choose from frogs dangling from a lily pad, a set of bobbing octopi, an assortment of farm animals or glorious exotic fish. They are all painted in the same bright colours and look sturdy enough to withstand intense inspection from young hands. £12.99 from Banana Tree, St Stephen's Green Shopping Centre, Dublin.

101 Dalmatians hot water bottle: Everyone will be seeing spots this Christmas thanks to the arrival of all those loveable. Dalmatians. One of the most practical and cuddly spin offs around, it's guaranteed to keep little toes toasty warm without burning them - it's a hot water bottle covered in a furry, super cute spotty dog. £17.99 from Boots branches.

Wind chimes: Mobile and musical these sell for £15 at the Crafts Council of Ireland Christmas Exhibition which opens today; and runs until the 24th at the Powerscourt Townhouse Centre. Another Dublin fair to, watch for is the National Crafts one which, starts at the RDS on the 11th.

Poffedplant holder: Plants will brighten up any room but when they are placed in an old boot they will also catch people's eyes. Doc Marten boots, in large sizes, dipped in acrylic to harden them and then hand painted in bright colours serve as wonderful plant holders. £15 from the Galway market, open all day Saturday.

Pizza making stone: Pizza is the most popular fast food in the world and many say that only Italians can make it properly. Create your own authentic Italian pizza at home with this new gadget. Pop the stone in the oven to heat and then place the pizza on it. Ideal for cooking or heating up pizza.

£14.95 from Naughtons, Shop Street, Galway.

Silver contact lens container: The perfect little set for any woman who wears lenses and needs something smart and small enough to fit into a handbag. Inside the little container are separate holders for each lens, plus miniature solution fluid bottles and a tiny pair of plastic tweezers. All snugly held within a slim, square shaped silver box. £14.99 from all branches of Oasis stores nationwide.

Salt and pepper shakers: The grandma and grandpa salt and pepper shakers are guaranteed to give everyone around the turkey a good laugh. Shake grandpa to get at the pepper and he sneezes and shake grandma for the salt and she says "bless you". Corny, yes, but great fun and definitely in the Christmas cracker spirit. £17.95 including batteries from BHS branches.

Tie tack: Keep his tie from flying in the face of fashion. Pin it down with a tie tack from the National Museum Gift Shop. The range of designs exclusive to the museum are inspired by ancient Celtic artifacts and are priced from £14.95 for silver, dearer for gold. Think Michael Flatley's Lord of the Dance tattoos and you have an idea of the designs.

Cockle bowl: A pottery cockle bowl inspired by the richly decorated food vessels of the Early Bronze Age, 2000-1600 BC comes with something that will really impress the in laws, a sheet on the pot's "cultural context". The perfect coffee table item (although not quite right for crisps), this striking piece also comes from the National Museum and costs £13.95 though there are bigger, dearer sizes. You couldn't dig it up yourself for less.

£20

JEWELLERY: Those were the days, my friends ... Remember the hare, the red setter and the regal hen - all found on pre decimal coins? Craftsman Ger O'Regan has taken the old coins, polished and lacquered them til they gleam and glow, cut away at them til only the outline of the creature remains, still carefully poised within the circular edge of the coin. Worn round the neck, dangling from the ears or holding a tie in place, any of these would make a great gift, especially if you found a date that had some significance for the recipient. Available for £22.50 at Love Knot, in Cork's Savoy shopping mall.

Velvet evening bags: Party going women of any age will love Lulu Guinness handbags in rich jewel coloured velvets. It's a diffusion range that the normally high priced designer does especially for Debenhams and at £25 they're a snip. From Debenhnms at the Jervis Centre, Dublin.

Real leather gloves: Quality costs but these are great value and, in smart navy, will see years of service at weddings and other social gatherings. Fully lined, they have three crisp lines of stitching down the back. Made by Aira, they cost £22.99 and can be found in Arnotts of Dublin.

Dinner service for two: College students, or indeed anyone starting out in a new home, will appreciate some crockery that is functional and not over decorated. The great advantage of these pieces - aside from price - is that they are plain white and therefore easy to replace or supplement. Side plates cost £1.50 each, large plates £2.99, bowls £2.50 and cups and saucers £1.50, bringing the total to £16.98 for a service for two. From the Reject Store, Exchequer Street, Dublin and Lwr George's Street, Dun Laoghaire.

Glass fountain pen: Anyone who enjoyed writing with the old pens and ink wells will love this pen made from recycled glass, complete with ink pot and stand. Simply dip the pen into the ink and write, each dip will last approximately half a page. Perfect for all those post Christmas thank you letters. £22 for the set in a presentation box from The Greene Shop, Kirwans Lane, Galway.

Peach trees: With gardening becoming one of the most fashionable past times, a rummage around your local garden centre will produce fairly inspired gift ideas. Go for something unusual like a dwarf peach tree. It can be planted out or kept indoors and should flower in the spring and produce fruit in the summer. £23 from the Phoenix Park Garden Centre, Dublin.

Black and Decker Dustbuster: Instead of resenting the fastidious housecleaner who is determined to make your Christmas hell by going around cleaning up after you, indulge him or her with instant, hand held battery powered cleaning with the Black and Decker Dustbuster. Americans dustbust between courses so it would be great for a visiting Yank. Also great for getting the crumbs out of the bed, not to mention those nasty little hairs that gather on the upholstery. £19.95 from Roches Stores nationwide.

Devor velvet scarf: The kind of simple item that fashion editors are always recommending will give a lift to any outfit over the party season. In this case, the devore comes in a pretty oak leaf pattern and there's a wide range of colours to choose from, including current favourite chocolate brown. Stylish and sufficiently long to be warm as well. £20 from Debenhams, Jervis Shopping Centre, Dublin.

Dr Taub's self healing pack: If you are tired of listening to a friend or partner moan about how he/she is trying to lose weight, trying to quit smoking, trying to be healthy or simply trying to be happy, then give them the Dr Edward Taub's Seven Steps to SelfHealing Pack (Dorling Kindersley, £19.95). It contains a fold up cardboard pyramid outlining the secret of a healthy life (love, forgiveness, self esteem, de addiction, meditation, enjoyable exercise and the Einstein Energy Diet) and four self healing tapes with brain sync music that make the listener's brain waves most susceptible as Dr Taub ("the Wellness Doctor") guides you through the meditative process. The accompanying 160 page book outlines Dr Taub's "strategy for optimum wellness". Available from bookshops nationwide.

£30

SLIPPERS: Far too banal a word really, for these crafted feet warmers. (Actually, I'd call them pampooties but I could be wrong.)

The uppers are hand felted from Jacob's sheep fleece and the soles are suede. Covered in tweed - they look warm and snug and just the job for a lazy evening by the fire. Worn without socks, the lanolin in the wool will ease tired feet. Available from Crafts of Ireland, 11, Winthrop Street, Cork - as well as Craft Council of Ireland in Dublin's Powerscourt Centre the slippers are suitable for babies and giants (size 12). Price: £31.

Manchester United curtains: The club may keep changing its strip, but at least the curtains are likely to last more than one season. Measuring 66 by 72 inches, the curtains are printed with the names of all Manchester United's players, along with the club crest and should make any supporter completely happy. £25 from the Manchester United Superstore, Henry Street, Dublin 1.

Juice extractor: Determined New Year's detoxers (and after the excesses of Christmas who isn't!) will thank you for a Philips Juice extractor - it promises to extract all - that healthy juice from a huge variety of fruit and vegetables. For post Yuletide cocktails that are more exotic and far healthier than your festive tipples - they'll never look at a plain old orange juice again. £39.95 from Roches Stores, nationwide.

Hooded towelling bathrobe: Enormous, all enveloping and wonderfully comforting on cold winter mornings when you step out of the bath or shower. Looks equally fine on men and women, comes in a natural ecru colour and, because it's towelling, is terribly easy to maintain. The deep hood is a bonus, particularly if you like to pretend you're a prize fighter of the Mike Tyson kind. £29 from Habitat, St Stephen's Green, Dublin.

Wicker log basket: On those cold winter nights there is nothing nicer than sitting beside a blazing fire. This large log basket is the perfect accessory. £38.50 from branches of Meadows and Byrne.

Collectable teddy bears: For those who secretly hoard all their old dolls and teddy bears this is a perfect excuse to bring them out. Steiff bears are collectable teddy bears made in Germany which are auctioned at Sothebey's for thousands of pounds. Start somebody's collection with a small Steiff bear for £42 from Cobwebs, Quay Lane, Galway.

Recycled video rack: get someone's video collection in order with this cheap, and unusual rack. Made from recycled paper, this is an environmentally friendly present. £27.95 from The Greene Shop, Kirwans Lane, Galway where everything is made from recycled material.

Children's jackets: for the clothes conscious under fives, look for the Wild Child label at Avoca Handweavers. Their cotton jersey swing jackets in bold stripes with a pixie hood is guaranteed to make any child look simply adorable. For toddler size up to age five, £33.50 from Avoca Handweavers, Co Wicklow.

Photo frames: Tell your spouse how you really feel with a wedding photo frame inscribed with home truths such as "Ball and Chain" and "For Better or Worse". For the unmarried couple, there's "Living in Sin" and for individual portraits of one's significant other, there are frames saying "My Better Half" and "Sugar Bear". Made in painted wood in sizes 5x7 inches and 8x12 inches (both £27.50), they're American, of course and come from Crate and Barrel, 57 Upr George's Street, Dun Laoghaire.

Belinda Brayshaw designs: Help someone start a collection of Co Wicklow potter Belinda Brayshaw's latest designs. The lovely cup and saucer (£26) are butter yellow inside and blue and green outside with pinkish flowers, from a range of tea and dinnerware designed exclusively by Belinda for Avoca Handweavers, Kilmacanogue, Bray, Co Wicklow.

£100

MICHAEL COLLINS in cold cast bronze: Perfect for Collins groupies, this miniature by Jim Connolly is seven and a half inches tall, including wooden plinth. It's one of a series that includes Pearse, de Valera and Parnell available from The Irish Times Collection shop, D'Olier St, Dublin, where Reggie Dwyer says the Collins bust seems to have taken wings since the movie. £85.

A Gucci belt: This year there's only one label to be seen wearing and that's Gucci. The clothes may be outside your league (suits can run to over £1,000) so think accessories instead. The great advantage of the belts is that they carry the all important Gucci logo, so everyone will know just how hip and cool the wearer really is. A thick black leather belt with unmissable double-G buckle costs £90 from Brown Thomas, Dublin.

Vitamaster Power Bench 770: For the exercise freak, a home based gym unit that comes complete with work bench, assorted weights and bars and is compact enough to fit into a spare bedroom or large bathroom. Work out (and work off those extra Christmas pounds) in the privacy of your own home. £99.99 from all branches of the Champion Sports chain nationwide.

Potblack snooker table: For all aspiring Jimmy Whites and Stephen Hendrys in your life this is an ideal family snooker table. At six feet by three feet, they're the right size for children and, unless it's a family of giants you're talking about, adults can handle it too. Coming complete with balls, cues and playing instructions it's £129 sterling from Leisureworld, Queen Street, Belfast.

Chess set: Something not of our world, but of the Orient, Pinocchio's Chinese set demands to be displayed, whether or not you actually play chess. The board is set in wood, decorated with a dragon. The white squares are chinoiserie tiles showing weeping willows, misty mountain tops and birds in flight. All the pieces are carved in soap stone, the "white" a translucent green, the "black" a deep burgundy and the King of both a lordly mandarin. Definitely worth learning just to get to handle the pieces a £108 at Pinocchio's, Paul Street, Cork.

Swatch Minicall: Being out of touch for even a minute is social death for most teenagers so a great gift for clubbers of all types - from ravers to rugby players - is a Swatch Minicall. This smart Swiss gizmo is a watch and a pager all in one and is worn on the wrist. It receives messages so the owner always knows if anyone is looking for them and once you own the unit that's all you pay for. Available in funky colours and designs at £100 from Harry Moore electrical shops throughout Dublin and anyone who sells the Swatch range.

Jerpoint jugs: This year Jerpoint, the Kilkenny based glass company, brought in a young designer to give its range a more contemporary feel. She came up with some beautiful designs including a stunningly simple two handled jug in sandblasted glass that would look equally good standing empty on a shelf or full of water on a dinner table. A great gift for new home owners. £87.50 from DesignYard, Essex Street, Dublin.

Telephone/whiskey decanter: For the person who has everything, this one in a million present is sure to impress. An old style telephone, complete with detatchable ear piece, makes a lovely ornament. However, when you can screw off the mouthpiece and have a functional whiskey decanter it has an added bonus. £145 from Cobwebs, Quay Lane, Galway.

The blender: For anyone who's just done up their kitchen or is a fan of classic American design, a Waring Blender makes a great gift. It's so tough that it can reduce ice to smithereens so it produces fantastic milkshakes. It comes in most primary colours but go for the chrome option, £154 from Minima, St Stephens Green, Dublin.

Loves Me Clock: The perfect gift for the 1990s woman is the witty and elegant, stainless steel, daisy petal Loves Me, Loves Me Not Clock by Crate and Barrel, Upper Georges Street, Dun Laoghaire, £95. As the fragile petals of time tick by, so do her fickle feelings.

Mont Blanc fountain pen: So he never writes. Doesn't mean he doesn't love you. Make him feel guiltier than ever with the gift of a Mont Blanc fountain pen with gold and platinum nib from the Meisterstuck range (tell him all his letters don't have to be masterpieces). They start from £155, although the plum of the range is the Traveller pack at £250 which includes a £210 Mont Blanc fountain pen plus pocket size leather case and six brass cartridges (ink, not bullets). From The Pen Place, Dun Laoghaire Shopping Centre.

£50

NUTCRACKER: Anyone can crack a nut - given a heel, a hammer or a strong jaw - but only those who have the sense to drop into Mimo's of Cork will do it with panache. The German made nussknacker is a perfect sphere with part of the centre cut away. Handcrafted in beech and brass, smooth to the touch, snug in the palm, it doesn't look a bit like a nutcracker. However, by turning the two halves of the sphere against each other, the walnut is cracked with precision. Mimos is run by Michael Haberbosch and Monika Hary from Germany and their shop is full of similarly intriguing ideas from lights to waste paper bins. The nussknacker, however, is the one you'll never want to put down. £49.50 from Mimo's, MacCurtain Street, Cork.

Sharp ZQ-1250A Electronic Organiser: If you know someone who wants to move on from the diary/address book stage, or even finds a Filofax no longer adequate, then an electronic organiser is the answer. This one is more than good enough for meeting the combined demands of business and private life; among its features is the ability to hold up to 700 addresses - and how many of us know more people than that? £39.95 from Executek, Grafton Arcade, Dublin.

Machine washable electric underblanket: Sometimes the best presents are the most sensible. The Dreamland Premier Plus double underblanket has masses of special features, such as no less than nine heat levels, both pre heat and all night settings and the ability to provide extra foot warmth. It is machine washable and can be tumble dried. £52.99 from ESB shops nationwide.

Christmas tree: This one will never shed its needles, mainly because it never had any. Made of iron wrought into the shape of a Christmas tree, this matt black and gold confection stands three feet tall, on a base three feet wide. No problems here with space and it can be neatly packed away. Perfect for anyone preferring a non traditional tree. The trad bit comes with the addition of seven frosted glass party lights which sit on the end of each branch, the beeswax candles inside gleaming prettily. Tree (£39.95) and candles (£1.75 each) can be bought separately. Available from Meadows and Byrne, Academy Street, Cork and Castle Street, Galway.

House names and numbers: A personalised present is always appreciated. For anyone setting up home, these limestone house names and numbers, made to order and using old Irish script, are a perfect present. From £10 to £50, depending on the number of characters, they are available from sculptor Michael Wilkins, Spiddal Craft Centre, Galway. Telephone orders are accepted and the items will be posted out.

Designer clock/radio: Philipe Starck has designed just about everything from a toothbrush to a house and as soon as he's done it they've immediately become covetable items among the design conscious. His latest object is a clocklradio produced by Alessi. It's fun and funky and costs £64.50 from Minima, St Stephen's Green, Dublin.

Prada make up bag: Fashion victims will think you're an absolutely fabulous friend and you'll be air kissed to bits once you hand over this black nylon Prada makeup bag. Admittedly it's one of the less expensive items produced by this hyper trendy label but it does have that all important gold and black triangle. £50 from the Prada shop, Brown Thomas, Dublin.

Decoupage water jugs: These are original antique tin jugs which have been refurbished locally in those wonderful old pastel mints, pinks, lavenders and dirty golds that evoke the kind of expensive Provencal simplicity that you sometimes see in the pages of Architectural Digest. One jug will inspire the redecoration of an entire room. A dangerous gift. £55 at the Dalkey Design Company, Co Dublin.

The Weider Abshaper: You've seen all those Americans on TV doing sit ups with the Weider Abshaper and swearing that it works. Now they're flying out of Irish sports shops, too. Our intelligence says that they certainly do encourage you to do situps - for the first week or two. After that, it's back to the old self discipline. Too bad that doesn't come in a box. £49.95 including video at Elvery's, Suffolk Street, Dublin.

£500

MAHOGANY side table: Do you know someone who likes to kick off Christmas Day with Bucks Fizz smoked salmon, kippers, scrambled egg and freshly baked croissants? If so, surprise them with this three drawered, six foot long side table. Only 20 foot deep, its narrowness makes it especially attractive in the space saving department. Newly made in old mahogany, it will look great with the family silver on it. Better throw in a tin of beeswax polish when you're wrapping it up. It'll look great with a warm light shining on it. Available from Town and Country, MacCurtain Street, Cork. £475.

Cashmere twin set: Nothing, but nothing feels like cashmere, the most sensual - and most expensive - of all fibres. Glenmac of Scotland produces delicious, irresistible twin sets in seven different colours. Seemingly the most popular is lilac blue. The sweater has a round neckline and half sleeves, while the matching cardigan buttons up high to a round neck also. Although they can be bought separately, together the cost is £300. And if you want to buy a cashmere sweater for a man, prices run from £119 to £175. From Monaghans, Grafton Arcade, Dublin.

Rugs: Pause as you go into the rug shop on Cork's MacCurtain Street, and admire the gloriously tiled Victorian pillars. Brendan Holland and his Breton wife Dominique will be celebrating the 100th birthday of the building next year. Inside the building there are carpets and rugs enough to transport you to the eastern country of your choice. Prize among them is the Indian Gabeh rug: eight feet by five feet. Hand woven in India, from New Zealand wool, gabehs (the word means freedom) gave rein to the weavers to break free of the traditional patterns and depict anything they liked, from cows and birds to neighbours. The pile is so thick - almost an inch - that you'll spend all your time in your bare feet. Available from Wood Floors and Rugs Ltd., MacCurtain St, Cork. £500 including delivery.

A gold torc: No, you don't have to be elected a Saoi of Aosdana. Emma Stewart Liberty is one of the best known and most respected jewellers working in this country at the moment. Her simple, pure designs work excellently with contemporary clothing and make a statement without overwhelming the wearer. This torc in ninecarat gold is unmistakably Irish but free of any dubious Celtic associations. The designer is happy to accept individual commissions, so if you want to personalise the piece that can be done. £495 from Emma Stewart Liberty, Powerscourt Townhouse Centre, Dublin.

Health farm breaks: Okay, so giving someone a diet sheet and hamper of low fat food would be just that teeny bit insensitive - and no stressed out person likes to be told to relax. Help two friends start the year off as they mean to continue - being pampered, doing some exercise and eating properly by presenting them with a gift voucher for the Powerscourt Springs Health Farm in Wicklow. A weekend break for two which includes massage and facials costs £498, tel: 01 2761000.

Handmade beech chair and coffee table: These items of furniture are made from spalted beech. When the wood gets this virus it causes an unusual stained effect. Paul Moore bought a whole consignment of this type of beech and makes wonderful furniture from it. No two pieces are the same, so you are assured of getting an original. The high back chair and low, roundish coffee table are £250 and £290 respectively and are available from the Design Concourse, Kirwans Lane, Galway.

Mountain bike: No, not one for the kids, for the adult in your life who constantly moans about traffic jams and gridlocks and has taken to mumbling monologues which include the words "road rage". Go for a super deluxe model such as the Raleigh Mtrax. It's 21 speed, has a lightweight frame and Shimano stx components. £549 from Hardings Bicycles, 30 Bachelors Walk, Dublin.

electric guitar: Strange how often the 40-ish male in the throes of the mid life crisis; turns to the electric guitar for solace. When he's not blasting it out on the CD player, he's attempting to play it himself. Eugene Kavanagh of the Musician says he's used to seeing "middle age men indulging themselves" with little beauties like the USA; stratocaster (£599) or the SG Special Retro; Gibson (£549). Pamper your mate by all; means, but you could save yourself some aural trauma over Christmas by forgetting to purchase the amplifier (£249-£599 for a good one). From branches of the Musician in Drury St, Dublin and Lr Georges St, Dun Laoghaire.

The treadmill: This year's most popular piece of home sports equipment is the treadmill, because a lot of people are hooked on walking to keep fit, but are afraid of walking in the dark after work. Guaranteed to be mugging proof, the manual treadmill by Tunturi (£495 at Elvery's, Suffolk Street, Dublin 2) is one of the best selfpropelled treadmills on the market. If you really want to go for luxury, top of the range walking, there's the £2,200 Tunturi motorised model with a soft track and 45 different programmes.