Cobbling Christmas Gifts

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:

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Williamson elephant tea caddies and Urban Outfitters socks

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).

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A Gift for Gift-Giving

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.

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Please excuse my creepy expression. I battle to coordinate selfie-taking and not-blinking,
so tend to overcompensate with hypnotist eyes.

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Christmas in Oxford

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.

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‘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.

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Salesgirl Lessons and Christmas Tree Expectations

Working at the biggest department store in Canberra for 3 Christmases in a row as a brace-faced adolescent, I learned a number of Life Skills:

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1. How to cope with intense boredom

I was in Ladies Accessories which had none of the bitchy drama of Menswear, discounted only-slightly-chalky expired Godiva chocolates of the Food Hall, or fierce Commission Competition of Electronics. I spent hours re-arranging sparkly tchotchkes, cascading party clutches by colour or PVC content, and trying to convince the befuddled Dads to buy their daughters cute MBMJ accessories for Christmas (to all my classmates, you’re welcome!) Continue reading