Author: About Ilona

Giving money for Christmas: When and how to do it right

I do a similar post every Christmas, as this question keeps coming up in conversations I have with my friends and readers. First of all, let me demystify something: it’s perfectly normal to have people in your life you simply struggle to select a gift for. So don’t panic 🙂 With the rise of individual wish lists on websites like Amazon and Pinterest, it’s no wonder that many of us would actually prefer to get cash and spend it on something we truly want, instead of receiving an item we would bury at the bottom of our storage cupboard (or for more entrepreneurial spirits out there – sell of on Ebay). Even Martha Stewart agrees in an interview on Bloomberg (the full article is here) that it’s better to give cash than a bad gift. Here is my very quick guide to giving cash for Christmas: Wife/ Girlfriend – Not a good idea. She’ll be upset that you didn’t listen to her hints about “those shoes I showed you on my iPad a few weeks …

Charm bracelets: Your perfect Christmas gift for years to come

For many of us, every Christmas is like having to start all over again – making the list of people we want to give gifts to, debating how much to spend and, most importantly, what to get. Well, luckily, there are gifts that you can draw inspiration from for years to come. My example today is charm bracelets. A good few years ago, I gave my mum a Chamilia bracelet for her birthday. Back then they were seriously competing with Pandora,  but this rivalry has quieted down a bit (at least in the UK Pandora is much bigger now), but I still prefer Chamilia’s charms (so no regrets there!). What makes it so genius is that every year I give her at least two-three charms to top up her collection. So no headache whatsoever, you just go online and pick something from the new additions. This year’s theme for me was all about peace, as she’s been upset about the instability across the world. This little globe and a dove, both symbols of peace and …

Treat your little sister to some Chanel

Scream queens are the latest obsession for young girls this winter. I used to binge watch Gossip Girl back in my college days, but this year’s school talk is all about the “Chanels”. I admit, a combination of high fashion and serial killings is a stretch, but it seems to be working! Anyways, the entire reason I’m mentioning these TV series in the first place is because they’ve started a trend of Chanelification (is it a word?) of teens. Most of us will never own a  haute couture Chanel gown, but that’s where French luxury houses excel  – offering an alternative brand experience through affordable items like make up and skincare. Their make up collections are still more expensive than the high-street equivalents (so you still covet them), but not so pricey that you can’t imagine buying a lipstick or an eye shadow. Young girls typically survive on make up “dupes” from brands like Rimmel and Seventeen, which work a bit like Zara – successfully copying the most fashionable styles and colours at a fraction …

Gifts for men: Kiehl’s skincare

This title image is a bit deceiving, as I didn’t end up using this wonderful packaging by Peter Max, but let me not get ahead of myself and start from the gift itself. This duo of tried and tested skincare products is an absolute saviour when you genuinely struggle to choose something for a man. Firstly, it’s actually very useful, particularly in winter when everyone’s skin (including the manliest of men) goes a bit try. I’ve praises this zero shine Kiehl’s lip balm in one of previous posts, as it really is the most non-girly lip moisturiser on the market. But for a more substantial gift, I’ve added the Ultra Moisturising Facial Cream, which can protect his skin from the harsh winter weather. Rumour has it, this cream was used by the heroic team who did Greenland’s First Ascent, so if it’s good for them in the most extreme parts of the world, it must be OK for our mild UK winters 🙂 Now, back to gift wrapping. I’m generalising of course, but men and women …

How to ace your Secret Santa gift

I always dread Secret Santa gifts…They tend to belong to two categories: “attempting humour” (all sorts of pranks) and “last minute” aka “bought on the way to work” (generally Cadbury chocolates, novelty games and books). “Funny” gifts are rarely that good, unless the person knows you well. And in worst cases you spend the rest of your office Christmas party trying to figure out who’s given you a tasteless sex toy (happened to me, for real!), so you can openly hate them for the rest of year 🙂 OK, I’m overdramatasing, no one really cares that much. But hey, nothing is stopping you from actually acing it and becoming known as the most thoughtful person in the department. So, where do you begin? Research is key! At work we use drawnames.co.uk,  a website which almost does the job for you – all names are entered onto the system, and everyone is randomly assigned one person to get a gift for. The best part is that it’s linked to Amazon, so you can pre-select a few things …

Vanity Fair on Gifts: Uninspiring but Caroline Issa might have just saved it…

I always look forward to my December delivery of Vanity Fair magazine, as it comes with a chunky supplement titled Vanity Fair on Gifts. Now, don’t get me wrong, most of the stuff featured is totally out of reach, but articles tend to be inspirational (rather than preachy) and the photography is first-class. Well, not this year. I planned an article on it, since it’s a lovely tradition of mine (see last year’s verdict here), but I’m struggling to write anything positive. It feels very “tired” with predictable edit of Valentino shoes and Sisley skincare, plus pages of advertorials on GHD hair straighteners that look really out of place. But what topped it off for me was a very bizarre article on gifting experiences, with highlights including… and I’m not kidding.. a session with a “spiritual counsellor” at Hotel Café Royal for £360 (a 2-hour consultation) or… *drumroll*…the naming rights to a species of micro orchids, costing up to £20,000. I guess a botanist would know what a “micro orchid” is, but frankly, I didn’t even bother …

Cards Against Humanity or “How to organise a perfect pre-Christmas house party”

I know, the name of this post is way too long, but if you can’t be bothered to read any further, it pretty much summarises why Cards Against Humanity should make it to your Amazon Christmas wishlist this year. In short, for those not in the know, this card game must be the highest rated adult game EVER, with an incredible Amazon 3,200 reviews out of which my personal favourite is “Completely disgusting. This game is an abomination that left me and my friends unable to look each other in the eye. Five stars.” Contradictory, right? 🙂 So what is all this fuss about? Well, rules can get quite complex and players are encouraged to create more ridiculous rules themselves.  But essentially it’s a game for around 6-10 people with two sets of cards: black for questions and white for answers. Each player gets a set of 10 random white cards, one person picks a black card and asks a question – as an example – “Next book by J.K. Rowling – Harry Potter and …

A a science book for Christmas? Yes!

I vividly remember the excitement of finding carefully wrapped books under my Christmas tree when I was a kid. Don’t get me wrong, I was also expecting Barbi houses and pretty dresses, but my parents did make sure I was hooked on books early on. It’s a tough task for any parent to engage children in reading, especially if it’s related to science. It’s much easier to get distracted than to focus on the words you don’t know about things you’ve never heard of before. The trick that worked well for me was illustrated encyclopaedias, where serious subjects like General Theory of Relativity were explained using images as much as words, with helpful pointers and highlighted boxes to keep me entertained. I could spend hours browsing History, Geography and Biology tomes, fascinated by the richness of imagery. I didn’t fully understand everything, of course, but it trained my brain into being constantly curious about the world around me. The one book that I would recommend as a universal all-rounder with amazing quality of illustrations is …

My favourite beauty stocking filler

This little invention under £5 is my top 2015 beauty discovery. Every year there’s this one beauty stocking filler that becomes a hit (last year I got three Beauty Blenders for Christmas!). I think this year it’s going to be Invisibobble. These little transparent spirals may not look like something useful or sturdy, but the difference they’ve made to my hair routine is unbelievable. My beauty-savvy colleague told me that I’ve been breaking my hair with conventional elastic hair bands. These little spiral bands apply even pressure to minimise breakage and are surprisingly good at holding my heavy straight hair in a pony tail even during exercise. Ideal for those hair days when you just want it up, I’ve just bought ten of these in different colours to give to my girlfriends as little add-on Christmas gifts, and I cannot wait to hear their thoughts about it. If you’re even thinking whether you need it or not, it’s currently £3.75 with free delivery on Amazon, so I’d say simply buy it and see how you get on. …

How to much should I spend on gifts?

Christmas is a budgeting nightmare. To help us figure out how much to spend and on who, even MS Excel offers a ‘Holiday Gifts’ template. But ultimately it’s up to us to decide, and it’s a bloody hard task. There is no gifting etiquette which would clearly establish how much you should spend on a gift for someone. Our society has come up with all sorts of precise instructions for various social interactions, leaving gifting completely out of the equation. Gifting for me is as much a creative process, as it is a pragmatic calculation of your current resources, so it’s really important to know what you can afford. A favourite designer of mine, Artemy Lebedev, argues that his best creative ideas never come out from the “outside the box” thinking. Instead, having clear boundaries and goals can help you streamline your thinking. It allows you to focus on the problem at hand – so you are essentially “inside the box”. In the context of gifting, think of “the box” as your pot of money, …