Author: About Ilona

Madrid: Where to go and what to bring back

It’s been a while since I had a destination review here. The last one was about Amsterdam (find it here) which many of you found useful (there are also gift guides about Paris, Marrakesh and Bali, if you have a bit of time). Today, I’m going to introduce Madrid with all its stunning architecture, culture and, of course, gifts to bring home. Places to visit Mercado de San Miguel (website) It’s featured in every recommendation/city guide I’ve read about Madrid, and it really is worth it. Head there for an early dinner – the typical dinner is after 9pm, but things do sell out fast there, especially sea food, so 7pm is better. The choice is limitless, so simply indulge. The portions are small enough to try quite a few things (well, we still ended up going there twice). My personal top recommendation would be oysters and champagne. Just opposite the oyster bar is a tiny stall where they serve vodka and caviar (insider tip: if you are Russian, they give you an extra shot). Real Jardín …

Origami bow: Having fun with gift wrapping

Most people dread gift wrapping. I get it – it’s much more fun selecting a gift than figuring out how to wrap it.  Took me a while to make my first decently-looking bow out of a silky ribbon that’s just not meant to stay in place (use two knots, not one), or to cut wrapping paper straight (there’s still no magic solution there!). But, it can be fun! If you have a bit of time (and if you like YouTube tutorials) – read on. This was my first attempt to create an origami paper bow. For that, I found some double sided wrapping paper (from Waterstones on Piccadilly, sadly they don’t sell it online) in funky summery colours, bright green and raspberry pink. You can happily use standard one-sided paper too, but having both sides gives you a bit more wiggle room to be creative. I didn’t take pictures of my progress (I was concentrating too hard on the task itself), but here’s the video that shows it perfectly step by step. For the extra …

Meet Mike, the cutest night light

“This is Mike, and he’s going to be your new friend, especially in the dark”, – this is how I introduced this uber-cute night lamp to a 2-year old son of my good friends. Not only entertaining, it’s also useful – it’s designed to teach kids to be comfortable in the dark. As a small child myself, I remember being afraid to walk around my room in the dark when I couldn’t sleep. And the worst thing ever was to have a nightmare, wake up and then be afraid to open my eyes, in case “the monsters” were still nearby! I wish I had something like this back then –  it would have saved my mum a lot of sleepless nights, like when I would force her to come in to my room (after shouting pretty loudly “M-o-o-o-o-m”) and wait patiently till I fall asleep again. This lamp is portable and made from soft plastic, which is durable enough to withstand years of “abuse” (dragging it around, bashing against the hard floors…you get the idea), …

V&A Museum Shop: Treats for your jewellery box

I have a peculiar relationship with my jewellery boxes. There is a small leather box on my bedside table for things I wear daily, like diamond studs and a few pendants. But then I own a “secret” (and rather large!) brightly-coloured wooden box, hidden in my wardrobe, dedicated to different pieces I purchased during my travels or while out and about in London. I open it from time to time to simply relive those happy moments. And despite not wearing these “secret” jewels very often, I like looking at them and knowing they belong to me 🙂 My girlfriends also have similar hidden treasure boxes, so I’m not alone – I remember spending entire evenings dressing up together and sharing stories about our possessions during our teenage years (well, back then those were mostly plastic bracelets and an occasional silver necklace from grandparents). The one place I come back over and over again to get inspired and buy something new for my collection and as gifts for my girls is Victoria & Albert Museum. Known …

How I got my gift wrapped by Jane Means

Last week Paperchase organised a gifting event at their flagship store in London – free Valentine’s Day gift wrapping by Jane Means. In case you don’t know, she’s one of the most prominent trend setters in the gifting world, and has wrapped presents for the Royal family and countless celebrities. Her journey in gifting began 20 years ago, designing cards and wedding stationery. Fast-forward two decades of hard work,  and she now manages her own line of wrapping accessories (think luxurious ribbons, tissue paper and boxes), regularly presents on television, travels around the world for masterclasses and has even written a book titled “Giftwrapped”. Here are a few things I learnt from her that day: 1. Get a decent pair of scissors Cutting paper and especially silk ribbons is an unrewarding experience if you don’t own a decent pair of scissors. Now that I wrap my gifts more regularly – and most importantly share it with you – I think it’s time for an upgrade. Jane recommended these Scotch titanium scissors which apparently are up …

Valentine’s gift ideas: Classics with a twist

I will probably surprise you here a bit – I don’t actually mind Valentine’s. Yes, it’s overly commercial (like every other holiday), a bit pretentious and sometimes awkward, as brilliantly summarised by Debrett’s. But hey, it’s there, and it’s big, so avoiding it all together seems as much of a statement as embracing it, and I’m always an advocate of embracing everything that makes people happier. With us girls, it’s such simple things as flowers and chocolates (which we’d take any day, if given the opportunity!) that have the power to make us feel wonderful. What I am going to advocate here is to approach this celebration with a small dose of creativity – it’s silly to deny that something can beat flowers and sweets. What you can do, however, is to go for gifts beyond red roses and chocolate truffles. Flowers I like roses. I really do. But red roses won’t impress your woman (unless it’s a 1,000 of them, but that’s more of a shock, really). Instead, go for trendy ombré roses, like …

Underwear for Valentine’s: Your man deserves an upgrade too

I see this post as my humble attempt to bring equality to gifting. It’s very common to see all sorts of promotions for female underwear around Valentine’s Day. Men spend hundreds of pounds on bras, babydolls and stockings, inspiring their women to embrace this overhyped romantic holiday. I think it’s about time we treat our men too. You can get fantastic male underwear from such established designers as Versace and Hugo Boss for a fraction of what women’s items from the same brands would cost. That’s because this market is not as developed as luxury lingerie – after all, very few sane men would splash out £40 on a pair of boxers. It’s simply not fair we get to look and feel fabulous every year without allowing our boyfriends and husbands to parade in front of the mirror in shiny new trunks. Let’s change that! Head to Mr Porter or Harvey Nichols for a selection of premium quality underwear that will make your man feel desired too. Obviously there are other websites that sell fancy …