With postal strikes, train strikes, ‘you name it’ strikes, happening – or being threatened this Christmas, I think it makes sound sense to plan well ahead this year.  If you were planning to post a gift, it might be a good idea to buy online gifts that will be sent directly to the recipient,  ideally along with a personal message from the sender.  This avoids those mega queues at the post office too. I’m still a great believer in supporting independent businesses and shopping locally where possible and with this in mind, I’ve checked out a few of the more interesting sites.

If, like me, you’re a fan of Dragon’s Den, you might have seen Russell & Atwell…they produce the most wonderful fresh chocolates.  Of the fresh cream truffle variety, they are seriously good, and you can either buy their glass jars (for  refilling when you reorder… trust me, you will reorder!) or just buy the pouches.

They suggest taking the chocs out of the fridge for a while before eating, but they are damned good eaten straight from the fridge too!  Hazelnut, or salted caramel truffles, and  Seville orange (new this year) all so delicious! Their festive range here includes free delivery and they’ll ship from early December in time for Christmas, and will keep till twelfth night and beyond, if anyone can resist them that long! From just under £20 for a pack of three pouches. They also have gift subscriptions from £50 for a three months of pure indulgence!

There are so many hampers to choose from that we’re spoilt for choice!  For a really indulgent special gift I’d head straight to Kings Fine Food, where you can buy the finest ethically farmed caviar and luxurious fine food & drink from around the world.  Hampers start from £115 with this beauty containing: four different 10g packs of caviar, chocolate caviar balls, horn bowl and spoon sets in a dinky wicker picnic basket complete with ice blocks to keep things cool. Further information here

Less hedonistic perhaps, but equally delicious and welcome, will be a Tracklements Festive Goodies Box.  The company has curated a selection of festive favourites: caramelised onion marmalade; Christmas spice chutney; spiced honey mustard; cranberry, port & orange sauce and sticky fig relish – perfect for those seasonal feasts, £20.70.  Further information and stockist info if you want to build your own hamper here

It’s rather lovely, I think, that we Brits have now fully embraced the Christmas traditions from other countries – like  panettone and stollen.  Personally I prefer them to our traditional Christmas cake and a panettone makes a lovely gift.  Companies like Seggiano have a good selection – including vegan, chestnut, chocolate and limoncello, as well as the classic.  Mini Vin Santo ones too are great as stocking fillers. Prices from £16 for a 500g size.  More info and the great range of hampers too that Seggiano produces  here

While we are thinking Italian, I’d urge you to have a look at Orange Moon.  These fabulous artisan products include hand cut Sicilian candied oranges coated with the finest dark/white chocolate, (so moreish!) mouth-watering almond pastries and a selection of delicious Panettoni.  Slightly more expensive than some, perhaps, but these sensational panettoni are a generous 1kg in weight!  From £32 they are beautifully gift wrapped already too.  Orangemoon.uk

Still looking at unusual gifts for a sweet-toothed recipient? Family owned luxury confectionery brand, Farhi, is known for its gourmet nuts, indulgent truffles and stuffed dates is a great choice.   Gifts range in price from £7.50 – £100 and include fruit and nut gifts, beautiful filled jars, hand painted bonbonnieres and hampers.  Sold in Selfridges and Harrods, as well as online, there are Cocoa Dusted Milk Chocolate Caramelised Pecans with a Hint of Gianduja, or delicious chocolate covered Pecans in a gourmet jar.  Hand-painted Bonbonnieres,  filled with a variety of treats including dark chocolate covered coffee beans, chocolate covered almonds & chocolate covered gingerwww.farhi.co.uk

How about this sustainable present with a personalised label? Elephant Gin offers attractively packaged, personal gift options. Each of the 500ml gins (classic London Dry, warming Sloe, full-bodied Navy Strength, and aromatic Orange Cocoa Gin) are available in an illustrated natural cardboard box(from £34.50) or this unusual linen box, that can be personalised with a special message, handwritten by Elephant Gin’s in-house calligrapher (from £36.90). What’s more, 15% of bottle profits are donated to elephant conservation projects!

The Thinking Drinkers Tasting Club is a present that lasts all year. After another sell-out run at the Fringe in Edinburgh, Tom Sandham and Ben McFarland are bringing the live show experience into homes via the members club. Three premium, thought-provoking spirits arrive through subscribers’ letterbox monthly, and subscribers also receive a signed copy of The Thinking Drinkers Almanac – Drinks Book of the Year 2021 The Sunday Times.  60ml servings, packaged in premium pouches are enjoyed in an educational, entertaining (but unpretentious) online tasting hosted by the Thinking Drinkers, featuring special guests. £120 for the yea

And of course, a bottle of good champagne is always a very acceptable present (especially in our house!). I was introduced to a new champagne recently (and by new I mean the company has only been producing champagne since 2005).  Champagne Frerejean Frères is producing superb cuvées that are sold in many top restaurants and fine wine shops.  The champagnes are produced on a small-scale, traditional method, but with contemporary craftsmanship and they are excellent. They produce only Premier and Grand Cru wines with fruit selected from the best parcelles.  I loved the Extra Brut Premier Cru:  Available for around £40-45 a bottle from Mr Wheeler and the Whisky Exchange