All posts filed under: Curiosity Section

Becoming a gift card convert… Well, almost!

Gift cards… We all buy them often enough to justify their existence, but I have to admit, it rarely feels like you’ve done a good job: a baby shower in the office, a birthday party of a distant cousin, or when the closest shopping centre closes in ten minutes and you just “have to get something”. Convenient – absolutely,  satisfying – not quite. I doubt I could put it any better than my favourite “freakonomists” Dubner and Levitt: “For the giver, a gift card could hardly be easier. But most economists would argue that if a gift card is so transparently good for the giver, it is necessarily bad for the recipient: the fact that it can be bought so easily signals to the recipient that the giver didn’t put much effort into the gift.” In short: something that screams “lazy” will always be perceived as having less value. However, thinking about it again, I’ve pinpointed where this dissatisfaction lies and, in the process, discovered how gift cards can regain their value again. It’s simple, really …

“Synchronised gifting”, Cuban-style

This weekend was a birthday party of a good friend of mine. He was turning 30 and his girlfriend organised a surprise Cuban-themed party in his honour, inviting close friends from all over the world to come and celebrate together. Months of planning and a ridiculous amount of secrecy (try “flying” his brother all the way from his home country without giving anything away) culminated in a great celebration…with quite a bit of mojitos and some late-night salsa dancing. But let me not bore you with all the details but focus on an interesting gifting concept that’s gaining popularity at the moment. I call it “synchronised gifting”. It’s a bit like synchronised swimming in essence, where all participants create one beautiful experience with everyone working in tandem to enhance the overall effect. The idea is pretty simple – it’s obviously great to get one amazing gift, but if there are other gifts that complement each other, the overall “amazingness” is far greater. But back to our Cuban party. His main gift was a once-in-a-lifetime adventure in Cuba …

Valentine’s Gift Ideas: When passion becomes a dance…

Hello, my dear readers! I always encourage to celebrate all kinds of love as often as we can possibly fit into our busy schedules, but there is one day a year when romance fully takes over. Yes, you guessed it – Valentine’s! Over the years, I’ve gone through the Valentine’s classics and how to elevate them (see my post on flowers and chocolates here),  suggested unexpected romantic dinner solutions (here) and even offered some fashion advice for men’s underwear gifts (yep, I really have). This year, I’ve gone for something quite unusual. I’m gifting a skill that can only be mastered as a couple – tango. Anyone who has ever experienced tango, either as a dancer or as a lucky observer, will tell you that it’s not about skill, complexity of steps or experience. It’s about the connection between two people sharing a powerful, almost primal emotion. The teacher I know has given me further interesting insight into tango that makes it even more relevant to modern day relationships: the 80/20 rule. 80% of your focus in a tango …

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 …

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 …

Avoid: The most obscure gifts out there

I try to keep my blog a source of joy and inspiration, encouraging people to embrace gifting in all its shapes and forms, from budget presents under a fiver to high-end designer items. But I just have to share the other side of gifting with you – the greedy merchants from gift shops who want to flog horrendous stuff. My local shopping centre has just rented an empty spot to a store called Petals: For Gift Lovers – promising, right? I walked straight in, curious and a bit excited to see what’s inside. This truly was the first time I saw so much tacky stuff together in one space! Just take a look at these 🙂 Duo of drinking glasses: one for beer and one for wine. I suppose it’s meant to be a Valentine’s gift. Even as a prank this is seriously cringeworthy. Take the cheapest glasses you can find, put a rude sticker on top (don’t bother to make it straight) and voilà – ready to be sold to someone with obvious humour issues. “Grumpy old …

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 …

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, …

COMPETITION (UK only): Win a Christmas party beauty kit

  UPDATE: The winner is Emily Hearts. In association with Ravishing Roses. Hurrah! It’s Christmas party time, and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the beginning of the festive season than by giving one of my female readers a beauty gift! If you are anything like me, getting ready for a Christmas party is a long process of dress/shoe browsing weeks in advance, but on the actual day I have about 20 minutes to get ready (we’re all busy ladies, right?). So to make it a bit easier for you, Ana and I have prepared a little emergency beauty kit that will help you sparkle at that special evening event. The top colours for this Christmas are metallics (think golden and silvery tones) and black, so we’ve used this palette to guide our choices. What’s in the bag?  My all-time favourite and an absolute beauty cult classic – compact tangle teezer in gold. I have a full-size one in pink, but I have to admit this one is way prettier. Fits into a …