Last day of 2014, and a time for reflection. This year has been a corker: I got my law degree from USyd, moved to Oxford, and have spent the last 3 months throwing myself into BCL and college life. I’ve tried rowing and survived regattas, adjusted to a pretty competitive environment, done some amazing travelling, and still have all my natural teeth (no fillings here!)
After some mild panic, whimpering and foetal rocking in the corners of various stores in Oxford and London, here’s what I ended up getting some of my family & friends for Christmas:
My Dad once attended a conference in the US where a beverage station was laid out every morning, including a coffee machine, tea bags, sugar…and an industrial-sized vat of Skippy Peanut Butter. For the first few mornings he thought it was mislaid, and would helpfully cart it back over to the toast table. On the 3rd morning, he was halted in his tracks. “Here in the States,” the beefy-necked hotel chef drawled, “we stir a couple tablespoons of PB into our cawfee. Makes it bulletproof.” If your friends are similarly barbaric (eg. my old housemate refused to drink ‘leaf liquid’ and insisted on triple-shot espressos with a dollop of coconut butter), they probably won’t appreciate Williamson’s ‘well-balanced and aromatic’ and ‘unusually delicate’ tea blends. But for everyone else, tea is a pretty failsafe gift.
I chose the elephant caddies because they’re whimsical, super pretty AND useful. After you’re done with the tea, you could use the jar to store cookies, pushpins, slips of paper with your hopes and dreams…endless possibilities! Personally, I’d be happy to have my cremated ashes stored in one (at least until my heartbroken next of kin could throw my desiccated remains into the wind across a Nordic fjord).
When it comes to gift-giving, they say it’s the thought that counts. My thought is usually, “Oh crap…not this time of the year again. What the hell do I get this person??”
I find Gifting to be enjoyable about 15% of the time; when I’ve got a clear idea of what the Giftee likes and needs, it’s within my budget, and I don’t need to have ordered it online 3 weeks prior. Otherwise, the whole process is just nerve-frayingly Stressful. My gift-giving tends to involve me a) freaking out and spending $200 on shearling mittens or a beaded minaudière or some other vaguely-cool-but-ultimately-pretty-useless tchotchke, or b) giving nothing but making a card and hoping that my artistic effort is proof enough of my love (it never is; there’s only so much that glitter glue can say beyond “I’m juvenile and desperate”).
My friend Tori is the Princess of Presents. When we were younger she gave me the best books (Odo Hirsch and Terry Pratchett) and movies (Sliding Doors, which made John Hannah one of my earliest crushes and forever cemented my love of the Scottish accent), and enabled my obnoxiously-branded clothing addiction. This year she got me an awesome Zara scarf which I’d been eyeing off for months.
Please excuse my creepy expression. I battle to coordinate selfie-taking and not-blinking,
so tend to overcompensate with hypnotist eyes.
This year was my first Christmas away from my family. As Oxford clears out over the break (undergrads unceremoniously evicted from their rooms, postgrads fleeing for home or warmer climes), I’d feared a lonely, tumbleweed-filled day.
‘I do feel sorry’, said Draco Malfoy one Potions class, ‘for all those people who have to stay at Hogwarts for Christmas because they’re not wanted at home.’
But there were actually quite a few who stayed on (particularly the scientists on mice-monitoring duty), and I’d dragged my friends down from Edinburgh, so we had a fun ragtag bunch to celebrate with.
After a whirlwind 4 days in Edinburgh (which pips Paris as the Most Romantic city I’ve ever visited, though of a slightly more rain-slicked, gritty ‘there’s a high chance you’ll have your throat slit by a Demon Barber-esque’ vibe) I’m heading back to Oxford with my friends for Christmas.
A bit over-excited at the prospect of a Real British Christmas (ie. not one spent sweltering in 40 degree heat, baulking at the prospect of hot pudding or roast anything) we somehow agreed to cook turkey for 20-odd people. Well, it started out as volunteering to host for a few friends. Then, like a rotting salmon tossed willy-nilly into a dumpster, (and I say this lovingly), we somehow attracted all the Oxford strays. Everyone generously agreed to bring food, but patently ignored our ‘Perhaps a ham/other protein?’ suggestion in favour of the cheese and Bûche de Noël options.
I’m really looking forward to a big Christmas, just a bit apprehensive about being on poultry duty. Every TV holiday episode I’ve ever watched has involved a broken oven, attempts to cook the bird in the washing machine, or someone making an awkward declaration of love with a turkey on their head. And if there’s one Christmas gift that keeps on giving, it’s salmonella.
That said, Tori successfully manned the mocktail stall at our high school fete for 3 years, doling out winsome combinations of coconut cream, pineapple juice and Cottee’s cordial. I was self-declared Vice Chancellor of Barbeque. Freya comes from the school of cooking thought that anything can be improved by the addition of avocado or bacon. We’re pretty much 3 culinary geniuses.
One thing I love about the holidays (besides absolutely everything) is festive attire. In the UK, people take their Christmas jumpers very seriously – every second person is rugged up like an elf, knitted pudding, or Mark Darcy at a Turkey Curry Buffet. Dressing for Christmas parties and New Year’s Eve is so much fun – it’s the one time of year when sequins, velvet and taffeta are not only encouraged, they’re mandatory. You know that show My Super Sweet 16? Where bratty American teens fritter thousands on golf ball-sized jewels and blindingly bedazzled dresses so that they can spend one night prancing around, cutting a cake that’s a life-sized sculpture of themselves, and then be gifted a mini Jeep by their simpering Toaster Strudel-inventing parents? Well, the giant bow which tops off the brat’s car should serve as outfit inspiration for your holiday dressing.
When it comes to bows, Marchesa, Chloe and Valentino can do no wrong. Except, like, price point wise. If you are not an Azerbaijani oil heiress, you could look to the High Street for a watered-down version of these. Or you can do what I do and re-appropriate parts of Sailor Moon costumes from eBay.
…in the meantime, Exciting News!
An article I wrote is featuring on the one and only ManRepeller. I feel like an ensemble of whimsical socks + D&G sandals + Stetson hat + coveralls…ie. I have Leandra and the MR girls’ tick of approval!
I’ve been following this hilarious blog since its inception, so am stoked to make an appearance on it!
Read about my delusions of New York/Jay-Z grandeur in my piece ‘In That Empire State of Mind’.