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Christmas Top Five

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Last Tuesday, my siblings and I sat down with ginger nuts and green teas (in envy of the British Christmas) for the first screening of Elf. If one thing is promised in our household, it’s that many more screenings are to come. Failure to attend movie nights in December is like skipping granola on an all-day breakfast menu: you just don’t do it. 5 minutes late, and you can expect to be criticised by the masses for having poor Christmas spirit.

The truth is, nothing starts the silly season on a more joyful note than the escapades of Will Ferrell in this movie. Not only do the same jokes make me laugh every damn year, but Elf does well to remind us what Christmas is all about. Showing care for the people we love, and furthermore, believing in something bigger than ourselves.

A task that can appear just that? Christmas shopping.

I’ll have y’all know I’m totally on top of it this year. In fact, I was so worried I might get caught up in the last-minute trap of half-hearted presents (that guilt is forever), that I whole-heartedly began my search on the first of the month. You see, this time of year I’m either overly organised, or just insanely lost in it all. There is no in between.

Fortunately for you, I’ve pleasantly avoided the latter this time round. It’s given me time to reflect, and develop sound advice for budding newcomers. Ha, no, honestly, this guide is simply genuine. If I could call it “what I would want in the case someone is unsure what to get me, but still wants to show they care”, I would.

Thanks to a recent epiphany, I’ve realised it’s not those close to us who prove hard to shop for. Unintentional and also not very fair, we wind up spending longer on the people we’re not close to. Unsure as to whether they’ll understand our humour, we fumble with fundies just to walk away. All the same, we aim to avoid that I-put-no-effort-into-this-gift “nice” body cream. As I often voice, if something or someone can be described as “nice” and little more, it or they are no doubt very average. “Nice” should be a basis. People, like restaurants and movie experiences, are expected to build from here. “Nice” is the given, the free mint at the end of a meal, the comment everyone gets on a like-for-like status. And when you hand someone a “nice” gift, no, they’re not going to complain; it’s nice, ha. But it also screams I don’t care enough to buy you anything unconventional nor to look further than the closest gift shop.

1. Istoria Flowers and Gifts

The issue of gift-buying: it’s one we never truly solve. Our coping method is to deal with an occasion as it hits us. 

It’s the same old dilemmas we deal with too. “I can’t remember if they said they hate or love Crunchies.” On walking out of New World with a Crunchie gift pack, we’ll remember they said hate. It’s a cruel cycle, innit?

Fortunately, this TOP 5 is about to get you out of this season’s stresses. Perhaps if you recall it in the coming months, it might do something then too.

First thing’s first, let’s talk about Istoria, a new gift box company, and basically the only one of it’s kind in Auckland. They just started up a couple of weeks ago, and not only are the owners absolutely lovely and authentic, but so is their idea. They’re wrapping up all our favourites: flowers, sweets and of course, a bottle of bubbly! They know all too well the season calls for nothing less. Indulging in a combination of life’s wee pleasures is for now, mandatory. This pressie says treat yourself. It scoffs at soaps and creams. It’s creative, and completely universal. If ever there was a gender-neutral present, this would be up there with the best of them. Whether it’s one to share between partners, families or simply to indulge in alone, these gift boxes are set to satisfy. Better yet, if you have some extra special plans this Christmas (*wink wink*), customised boxes are available. Take this as a hint to insert a plane ticket in the middle of mine if you may.

Number 2 on my Christmas Top 5 is centred around brunch (like most things these days). If you’re not sure what to get someone close to you this Christmas, get them a date! Not the ones that look like oversized sultanas and taste a bit like leather that’s been left out in the sun. It’s time to secure a date at one of your loved ones’ favourite cafés or restaurants. Not sure where they enjoy a smoothie? One of my go-to’s is Geeks on Sainsbury’s in Morningside. Worth the drive out, it’s an absolute sun-spot. Here you can enjoy one of the best waffle dishes in the city. Banana, granola and peanut butter (from someone who doesn’t even like the spread) have never tasted so good. Otherwise, Cornwall Park Cafe in One Tree Hill is another goodie. What to order: the granola, of course. This is an utterly colourful and vibrant dish – in both aesthetics and flavour. The complimenting of pear, honeycomb and vanilla bean yoghurt always goes down a treat. It’s a meal my friend and I struggle to resist every time we visit. If I want to branch out from my muesli diet, I love the corn-fed chicken. Again, the flavours come together perfectly, making this anything but your ordinary chicken dish. I can’t even begin to describe it, but I’m never left unsatisfied.

3. Modern Manners

Third on the list is one of my favourite up-and-coming brands in Auckland right now: Modern Manners. Their casual and nostalgic designs are nothing short of essential for long Summer days. Evoking memories of sunsets and early mornings, this is clothing which invites us to be nothing but ourselves, despite a pressure to conform. The selection is fresh, simple and sleek. Better yet, Modern Manners is gender neutral – something we don’t see a lot of in the clothing industry. Honestly, you can’t really go wrong. Not only do I seriously encourage investment in young Auckland-based brands, but I feel like you’ll regret not getting ahold of this stuff soon. As owner, Liam Sharma says “From little things, bigger things grow.” I swear, the way Liam’s talking, this one’s only about to get bigger. Get your family and friends wearing Modern Manners this Christmas (more on the brand to come soon to Currently Loving).

If you’re still a bit lost for ideas, a seriously good read is a timeless gift. Books, if chosen effortlessly, are thrown in the shelf to gather dust almost immediately. However, one that perhaps you’ve read or enjoyed yourself, or otherwise, that hones in on an individual’s interests, can be truly appreciated. A couple of reads that I ought to note: According to Yes by Dawn French and Wildflower by Drew Barrymore. Both hilariously witty and genuine, they act as perfect light reads for the hotter season. According to Yes is French’s third novel, and it’s seriously as great as her previous’. Her comedic nature continues to shines through, as does her joyous outlook on life. Wildflower is as it sounds: sweet, thoughtful and up-lifting. Barrymore’s stories are a laugh, much like the author herself. Embarking across the childhood of an otherwise private actress is enthralling. Better yet, the cover is so pleasingly pretty that it doubles as a great coffee table book. I tell you, it’s more than just a good read, it’s an aesthetic investment.

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Finally, an idea that seems obvious, but can lead you to the best of gifts: anything (essentially) that promotes the pursuit or display of someone’s passion. Gift someone a blog url if they’re interested in writing. How about a photo album if they love to record memories? If they’ve always wanted to dance, purchase them a few classes. Give them an opportunity to do something for themselves which perhaps they otherwise wouldn’t. Not only is such a gift incredibly personal, it also shows that you value whatever they’re good at. It assures the gift-receiver of the thought you put into the present, the extent you appreciate their hobbies, their growth and their happiness.

Whatever you gift your family and friends this Christmas, make sure it’s accompanied by your time, forgiveness, and positive nature. After a long year, we’re all deserving of such wonderful things.

McKenzie xx

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