The Italian job

First published in Shoptalk

Do your bit for the environment this Christmas with a stylish cardboard tree.

IF you are a die-hard traditionalist, who would never consider an artificial Christmas tree, this is probably not for you. But if you are open to the idea, read on.

Italian cardboard manufacturer Reno De Medici has come up with a novel tree – one made from 100 per cent recycled cardboard.

The trees come flat packed, so you can start the family fun early, when assembling your new tree. With its long detachable pieces, which look like a puzzle, assembling the Christmas tree becomes child’s play and once Christmas is over, it can be stored easily. It’s available in a number of designs, including white, and offers a beautiful canvas for children and adults to use their imagination in decorating and customising the tree to their taste.

For the traditionalist, a green tree is available, while design aficionados will love the trendy printed version with its resolutely modern look.

With prices between £19 and £30 (depending on size), the robust trees can be re-used year after year, and for those looking to do their bit for sustainability, the trees can end their lives in the same way they began – just stick them in the paper recycling bin.

And after Christmas, the company’s online store will be selling a range of other novelty products, such as a cardboard children’s playhouse, which is already available.

■ collectionreno.renodemedici.it

Happy Christmas shopping

A FESTIVE dish with Celtic roots will be back on the menu this Christmas Eve after a North Yorkshire food store managed to secure supplies of a hard-to-find ingredient.

Frumenty (also known as furmity, fromity or frumentee) is a sweet, porridge-like dish based on cracked wheat. Its name comes from the Latin for grain, “frumentum”.

The recipe has changed little for centuries: wheat is pounded and de-hulled, then boiled in water or cows milk, almond milk or meat broth until it forms a jelly-like mixture. In medieval times, it was served unsweetened with venison and even – on non-meat days – with porpoise or beaver tail (even though they were both mammals, porpoises and the tails of beavers were classed as fish).

The dish requires a very particular sort of wheat – cracked wheat is commonly confused with the very different bulgar wheat, which will not produce the right results. Northallerton gourmet haven Lewis & Cooper was a stockist for years, until supplies dried up a few years ago. Now, a fresh source has been secured from within the region and it is due to go back on sale in its Northallerton and Yarm stores this weekend.

■ See lewisandcooper.co.uk for a recipe.

WITH two weeks to go before Christmas, secure online shopping directory, shopsafe.co.uk, has released a list of the top ten mistakes consumers should avoid when shopping online.

The Ten Commandments of Online Shopping is a warning to other shoppers not to make the mistakes so many others before them have made.

1 Buying from a site that doesn’t have a secure server to encrypt your credit card details.

Make sure you look for the padlock.

2 Buying from a website that doesn’t have any contact details, or only has a PO box. Don’t buy from a website you can’t get in touch with.

3 Buying from a website that you haven’t heard of or that doesn’t display an accredited logo, such as the shopsafe.co.uk seal.

4 Buying from a website that sent you an unsolicited email. Don’t pay these any attention.

5 Buying from the first website you found without shopping around. There are thousands of websites, some with great Christmas deals.

Make sure you find them.

6 Not checking the delivery prices and times.

Don’t buy something for Christmas if the small print says it won’t be sent until the New Year.

7 Entering the wrong address or card details when you’re paying. Make sure that special present does turn up by giving your correct details.

8 Not using a credit card. Credit cards offer more protection than other cards.

9 Not printing out your order confirmation.

You’ll need your order details in case it doesn’t arrive in time.

10 Going over budget. Shopping online can be so easy, but try to be a bit of a Scrooge.

SADIE The Bra Lady has been awarded Lingerie Retailer of the Year at the Drapers Awards 2010, the Oscars of the fashion industry.

Sadie first started her business as a unisex fashion boutique in 1970, with the introduction of fit ’n’ flare dresses. She noticed that busts were swinging too low and decided to sell and fit bras. Each of Sadie’s stores stocks more than 120 sizes and more than 4,000 bras. She has three stores in Ashington, Consett, Sunderland and Darlington, stocking brands such as Fantasie, Fauve, Freya, Gossard, Panache and Wonderbra.

SHOPPERS in Durham City will be in for a sweet-smelling treat today when The Fragrance Shop throws open the doors to its new store.

In the middle of a credit crunch, everybody loves a bargain and the new store offers shoppers a wide range of gift sets at great prices and monthly special offers on top designer fragrances.

And to make Christmas shopping that much easier, six new employees will be on hand on the day to help customers pick not only their own favourite scents, but perfumes and aftershave for their loved ones too.

■ The Fragrance Shop, Unit 12, Prince Bishop Shopping Centre, Durham, DH1 3UJ.

Readers of Weekend can get a further ten per cent off their purchase on production of this article.

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