Ten Interesting Christmas Gifts

Christmas shouldn’t be a time for getting things you need. Where’s the magic in that? (Though, Mum and Dad, if you’re reading this, I really do need  that new camera. And… a pony?) Christmas presents should be treats. They should be special; unique. I thought I’d pick out a few traditionally boring gift categories, and show you how to make them a bit more exciting.

Claret Really Wild Socks1) Socks

Socks are sort of a joke present these days aren’t they, but actually I think Grandads are onto something here. I’m a big fan of these woollen lovelies from Really Wild. Warm and sturdy, they’re perfect for popping under gumboots for long muddy walks, or if you live in a real country house that’s always bloody cold in winter.

£35. You can buy them here.

2) Paperweights

Another dull necessity, but something designed to be displayed on your desk, to be weighed in the hand and stared into for inspiration, should be worthy of its place. These are:

hh0004(2)

£30 for the small size, £40 for the large. You can buy them here.

3) Ornaments

Some people like porcelain kittens but, er, not me. I recently discovered the work of the wonderful Mister Finch stocked in York’s Imaginarium. He sews together the most beautiful animals, toadstools and insects, inspired by British folklore. His creations are magical, and I’d be delighted to find one of his giant bumble bees or delicate toadstools under the Christmas tree.

mister-finch-small

toadstoools-33

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Finch-and-large-moth

Stockists here.

4) Book Vouchers

These are always boring. Even for a bookworm like me! (Well, actually, I do find them pretty exciting, but most people are normal.) Gifts should be memorable, even if they don’t last, so go to the effort of finding out what sort of book they’d like and buying it for them. If you are adamant that you’d prefer vouchers though, why not go for something different, like a voucher from the Royal Opera House? Your lucky recipient can still make their choice from the different ballets and operas being staged, so you’re leaving them an element of control, but it’ll be far more memorable than a trip to Waterstones for them. Go on, surprise someone – it won’t be what they expected!

Parsifal

Royal Opera House 2

Royal Opera House

Spend as much or as little as you want to! You can buy them here.

5) Chocolates

Chocolates in any form and shape are always welcome, but some are more welcome than others. William Curley was awarded the prestigious ‘Britain’s Best Chocolatier’ accolade four times by The Academy of Chocolate (doesn’t that sound like a great place to work?) You can of course just purchase the chocolates, but if you’re keen on vouchers and have deep pockets, then they also offer a three month membership voucher. For £75, you receive a box each month full of their best sellers and new products. For £155, you will be contacted directly by one of their team to establish your likes, dislikes and favourites, then receive a bespoke selection of new products, seasonal lines, best sellers, award winners and your own personal favourites.

William Curley ChocolatesWilliam Curley Chocolates 2

You can buy them (for me) here.

6) Jewellery

It’s very difficult to find affordable jewellery that is still personal and interesting. Etsy is always a useful place to start online, but antique stores and markets are the best place to turn up something unique. One particular antique dealer in Tenterden knows  that I collect black wedgewood, so last time I popped in he showed me a mid-nineteenth century, black wedgewood ring set in gold (that he’d just happened to get his hands on). It was the most expensive piece of jewellery I’d ever bought for myself, but I couldn’t resist it because it was so unusual.

I’m particularly enamoured of these sea urchin rings at the moment. I used to spend hours beach-combing when I lived on Nauru, and found hundreds of sea urchin needles, but an intact skeleton was always an especially great prize. I think it’s important to hold onto our childhoods, where we came from and what made us who we are, and the jewellery we wear is often an expression of this.

Alexis Dove Urchin Ring

I’m also a big fan of the small dog-rose rings by the same designer, however… it would be difficult to decide!

Alexis Dove Wild Rose rings

£65-£160. Buy them here.

7) Pencils

Don’t get me wrong, I like pencils, especially ones in tins with names like ‘Graphite MASTER‘ and ‘Uber Skizze‘, but… exciting? No. For the creative person in your life (or the creatively deficient who frankly, needs the practice) why not go crazy and invent a new hobby for them so they can actually play with stuff at Christmas. A block of clay and weirdly invasive-looking tools? Yes please! Maybe try gilding, with sheets of actual gold. You could gild your children – they’ll love it, I promise. I sometimes give my female students gift-card-making paraphernalia: blank cards and envelopes, ribbons, charms, stamps and ink pads, which always goes down well.

Clay tools

Buy art materials here.

P1080277

Head here for ribbons, but do go in person, because it’s a wonderful, wonderful place.

8) Alcohol

No, it isn’t boring – of course not! However, if you are trying to find something a little bit different, perhaps try an accompanying toy:

cocktail shaker

Elegant cocktail shaker and matching ice bucket? Yes please!

cocktail glasses

Go on, throw in the glasses as well. John Lewis will sort you out here.

I also found these completely pointless but strangely tantalising moulds for making round ice cubes. Perfect for whiskey apparently, as the ice chills without diluting.

Ice sphere

£15 for two. You can buy them here.

9) Kitchenware

There is something wonderful about a practical object being also beautiful, especially if it’s also a bit strange. I told you about Ibride’s stunning trays before, but they’re too good to forget (and, like, nobody’s bought me one yet? Hello?!)

Pondichery Cornelius Monkey Tray

Au Grand Theatre Ambrose Hummingbird Tray

Ibride wall

£44-£166. You can buy them here.

10) Something You Made Yourself

Right, so I know this is sort of breaking the ‘shopping theme’ of this post, but having heard someone recently bemoaning being given home-made gifts, I thought I’d clarify the issue. Home-made gifts are of no value at all at Christmas if they’re any good. The BEST home-made gifts, are absolutely bloody awful. Stay with me. If you’re terrible at drawing, draw caricatures of all your friends and frame them (the frame is the clincher, as it means they’ll have to display it, at least when you visit). They’ll laugh at a portrait your cat could have drawn better, and you’ll laugh for years to come when they have to look at it on the wall every day. See, Christmas should be a time of frivolity and laughter. Zero culinary skills? Make the worst cake/ biscuits/ liqueur you can, and its consumption can be used as a forfeit when the drinking games begin! Tom used to eat a lot of pickled eggs (I don’t know why, I think it’s a Northern thing. Or maybe he’s just disgusting.) so I gave him a jar of pickled quail eggs one year. He and his brothers had a great time forcing each-other to eat them. I think someone vomited. Now THAT’S what you want out of Christmas.

Quail eggs

You might also like:

IMG-20130324-00038   DSCF0568   P1070402

Advertisements

The Liebster Award, and The Versatile Blogger

I’ve been nominated for two more blogging awards over the last month, so thought it about time I got my act together and responded.

Liebster Blog Award The lovely Laurelandlily has nominated me for the Liebster award. (Thanks!)  For this you have to answer the ten questions given to you by your nominator, and then nominate ten other bloggers to answer the ten questions you want to ask. There’s no mention of a logo, but I like blog-award logos (it feels like being given a sticker, and we all know that is a prize to be treasured above all others) so I found one.

The London Scrapbook has nominated me for the Versatile Blogger award, and I got another nomination for this a few days ago from The Infinite Abyss(es). Thank you to both of you! To claim my award (no actual award apparently. Money in the post welcome as always though) I have to:

The Versatile Blogger

  • Thank the person who gave it to you, and include a link to their blog (links above).
  • Tell the person who nominated you seven things about yourself.
  • Then select fifteen blogs that you’ve recently discovered or regularly follow, and nominate them for the award.

another sticker logo, yay!

I thought I’d answer Laurelandlily’s ten questions first, so here goes:

1. What is your earliest memory?

I remember pootling around outside our house on Mount Macedon, looking for garden snails to stomp on like Dad had taught me, and hearing some hikers next to our property exclaiming over a koala. That koala kept us awake all night barking, so I remember deciding to waddle over there to lay claim to the git. I couldn’t talk properly (I must have been two or three), but I went and stood underneath the gum tree it was squatting in until they got uncomfortable and left. My house, my koala.

2. Is there a film, book, object, person or place that makes you cry every time you are confronted with it?

I can’t even look at a copy of My Friend Flicka without feeling a deep well of distress awaken, and I have to leave the area or hide it from view. I don’t even remember what happens, but the horror and misery I felt when I first read it has stuck with me.

3. Who is your favourite architect or artist and why?

Impossible to choose! One of my favourite artists though is Sir John Everett Millais, as his paintings are so vibrant and detailed.

4. If you had to be a different person for a day, who would that person be and why?

I’d like to live in the neolithic period for a day, so I could see what the hell was actually going on at that time, and ask everyone WHY they were doing whatever they were doing.

5. Have you read a book that’s changed your life? How come?

I read Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy for my undergrad English degree, and my own writing suddenly improved hugely. It may have been circumstantial, the result of a  year and a half under my belt of reading all the books in the world, but I carried that book around for weeks like a talisman.

6. Do you have a favourite song? Which one, why?

Beethoven’s 6th Symphony. I first heard it on an audiotape I had of Wind in the Willows, and whenever I hear it again as an adult I am instantly transported to a little rowing boat making its way down a twisting stream, overhung with weeping willows. A flurry of bubbles like pearls cascades over gentle rapids, and spring flowers are just starting to poke their delicate heads through the soil on the river bank.

7. Dr Seuss or Roald Dahl? (If you have no idea what I’m talking about, get thee to Google IMMEDIATELY.)

Dr. Seuss. The only Roald Dahl book I encountered as a child was James and the Giant Peach, which I remember being quite perturbed by. 

8. Do you have siblings? What’s your relationship with them like?

I’m an only child, and very happy to be (sharing?! Ha!) but am always fascinated by sibling relationships.

9. Where did you grow up? Did you like it there?

I lived in Australia until I was four, then on a tropical island called Nauru until I was eight. We then moved to Cornwall, then West Sussex, and finally settled in East Sussex when I was eleven. Most of my formative memories are from my time on Nauru. I’d go to the beach nearly every day, snorkelling in rock pools on the reef, or play in the jungle near our house. There weren’t many expat children and I was home-schooled, so I suppose it was quite lonely compared to most people’s childhoods. In every other way though it was paradise, and I spent nearly all my time exploring.

10. Favourite film? Why?

Robin Hood Prince of Thieves. No explanation needed surely?!

Right, my turn! The ten questions I put to my nominees are (nothing serious, don’t worry):

1) What are your five favourite novels?

2) What’s the best lie/ tall tale your parents ever told you as a child?

3) What one object would you save from your house in a fire? (Nothing alive – presume that even the tropical fish can get themselves safely out without your help).

4) Do you remember the first ever fancy-dress party you went to? What did you go as and why?

5) What would plan B have been, career-wise?

6) What one garment or item of clothing that you own could you not live without?

7) What’s the best mistake you’ve ever made?

8) Do you have any phobias, and what do you think caused them?

9) What is your most common typo? (Mine is Englihs . Yes, I know. ‘I am an Englihs teacher’. Sigh.)

10) Why did you first start your blog, and is it the same thing that keeps you writing it now?

Now, my nominees:

Last time I was nominated for blogging awards I put them all into one post, which I’m sure was annoying. So… I thought I’d do it again. Sorry! I really want to hear my nominees’ answers to my Liebster questions, but if you’d rather not then please feel free to accept the Versatile Blogger award, and share seven things about yourself instead. The weirder the better.

http://onetrackmuse.com/

http://flamingodancer.net/

http://maisonbentleystyle.com/

http://jackiemallon.com/

http://bulanlifestyle.wordpress.com

http://charactersfromthekitchen.wordpress.com/

http://valeriedavies.com/

http://sequinsandcherryblossom.com/

http://missismoss.com/

http://thecircusdiaries.com/

http://londonunveiled.com/

http://pianolearner.wordpress.com/

http://thelondonscrapbook.com/

http://thinaby.com/

http://laurelandlily.wordpress.com/

You might also like:

336452_10150444491729638_762982491_o