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A Christmas Gift Guide | Bec Brown Says
Bec Brown Says - What do you say?

A Christmas Gift Guide

For the first time ever, I’m starting my Christmas shopping early this year.

Through mutual agreement, my huge family (parents, three siblings, plus partners and several children each) decided that we would Kris Kringle. To ensure good gifts, Ma Brown strategically organises the draw so that like-minded people get to shop for each other. I have a feeling that we also all tell Ma Brown what we want and she “puts it out to the Universe” (aka phones the corresponding Kris Kringle buyer and tells them). Children under 16 also get gifts but there’s only four of them and, so far, they seem to be happy little folk who are excited to get anything.

So in theory, I’m makin’ a list and checkin’ it twice for five people.

Oh, and my Mr.

And my Mr’s very lovely parents, sister, brother-in-law and adorable nephew. That’s 10. Maybe even eight if couples share a gift.

Oh, and a few best friends. Approx 15 gifts – this is all very manageable.

But now I allow myself to stray too deeply into the holly and the ivy and the garden of gift-buying starts to become a little overgrown…

My personal trainer who’s been kicking my ass for nearly three years, for example. I see him more than I see my best friends… he should certainly get a gift. Keeping in mind his need for protein, I gave him a voucher for a butcher last year which he seemed to really like. I can’t not feed the man meat again can I?

And my workies? I’ve given my immediate team booze, chocolates or scratchies previously. Do I do the same again? And what happens if they actually win $75,000 a year for 10 years? Do I get in trouble with HR for accidentally bestowing such a huge Christmas bonus? And more importantly, do you think they might share it with me if they win?

What about my beauty therapist? What about my dance teachers? What about my next-door neighbours who have just had a baby? And the guys at the coffee shop where I buy my beans and they always give me a free coffee when I do? And what about my business contacts whose love I really want again next year?

By now a forest of tinsel has grown thick towards my neck, competing with several sets of tangled Christmas lights. I’m finding it hard to breath. Who invented this crazy present buying bonanza anyway??

The solution?

Grab a coffee (or a martini) and make a big, fat list.

Study list and decide who won’t get you anything and will be embarrassed (or annoyed) when you give them one. Cross them off.

Set a dollar limit for each person.

Add up the dollars and take a big gulp of your martini.

Check out my gift suggestions below or peruse through the December issue of your favourite magazines – they all have gift guides in them.

Most of all, don’t worry, if you’re reading this article not long after I’ve posted it, it’s early days and there’s plenty of shopping time ahead. If you’re reading this late on Christmas Eve, perhaps best to go raid the boxed chocolate section at your nearest service station.

Gift suggestions for all occasions

** The worldly Sophisticat – Ah, a person of taste and style. Someone who enjoys the finer things of life. The only problem with this discerning group is that they can also be quite picky and often already have everything they want anyway.

Brother and sister duo Rosario and Anna La Spina have joined forces to create one of the best albums I’ve ever heard. Using their last name LA SPINA as their title, their debut ‘Always You’ is a collection of nine originals and three covers.

Despite a small three-and-a-half year difference in age, the siblings, who were born and bred in a Sicilian-Australian household in the suburbs of Brisbane, have embarked on starkly different musical journeys. Anna’s strong pop vocals led her to sing with stars like Meatloaf, Slash and Ozzy Osbourne and performing at Madison Square Garden with Savage Garden while Rosario, the operatic tenor affectionately referred to as ‘The Australian Pavarotti’, has performed all over the world including appearing at La Scala in Milan alongside Placido Domingo. Throw in the 65 piece Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and the rhythm section from pop band Savage Garden and you have a very original, anthemic, inspiring, cinematic and emotional sound. The term ‘Orchestral Pop’ has been coined to describe it which fits somewhere between a blockbuster film soundtrack and classical crossover music.

LA SPINA’s ‘Always You’ went straight to #1 on the ARIA classical chart and has remained in the top 5 since it’s release. They also received plenty of media attention for this album, including this great feature in The Australian which delves into the background story behind their magnetic debut.

Not just for Sophisticats by the way, this one is perfect for Mums, Aunts, Sisters, fine-music loving Dads and cool Grandparents. It’s ideal for anyone who’s a fan of Andrea Bocelli or Il Divo but mixed with the edginess of rock-band Evernescence. Or if you know someone who loved the soundtrack to any Baz Luhrmann film, they’ll dig this album. Basically, it’s two incredible voices singing beautiful melodies – music really doesn’t get much better than this.

So, moving on to…

** Mums, Aunts, Sisters and GirlfriendsSue Liu is the “Chiefette” of Zulu Communications. Besides running a thriving marketing, communications and public relations business, Sue’s top priority is philanthropic. She believes that “we all have a moral and social duty to help those who have a tougher road to travel through circumstance of birth. In particular, children and the vulnerable, the sick and the impoverished deserve our attention, love, support and care”. And she’s hands-on about it.

One of her initiatives is Zulu’s Candles for Community. Sue and her friends actually make these 100% soy candles by hand and the price includes a donation of $1 – $3 that will directly support women and children in Cambodia.

Choose from unscented or delicious fragrances including spiced orange, sweet lemongrass, pink grapefruit or yummy vanilla and they arrive beautifully packaged and ready for giving. (I had mine delivered to work late last week and my office smells heavenly. Giving them away may prove difficult…) Get in quick, Sue’s taking orders until December 10 and your candles will be delivered to your door by December 15. Just complete this order form and either email or fax it back to get the ball rolling.

And want proof that your money will actually help those in need? Sue’s off to Cambodia in January to personally oversee where this money is spent.

** Dads, Uncles and other Older Blokes – I don’t try to be music-centric all the time but this book is too good to pass up. Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones has just come out with his autobiography ‘Life’, and it’s a cracker. If the gentleman in your life is a Stones fan, then this tell-all tome will make his Christmas.

With more honesty than you’d expect, Keith reveals all the highs and lows of his rock n roll journey including his relationships with Anita Pallenberg, Patti Hansen and, of course, Mick Jagger. Openly discussing the drugs, the gigs and, most importantly, how he became one of the world’s most notorious guitarists, this is a definitive rock autobiography.

Papa not a Rolling Stone? How about some new sneakers to get him out and about? Asics and New Balance have some excellent bargains at the moment.

Or if he’s more of a culinary type, ‘Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals’ is the latest Jamie Oliver cookbook and is all about “being organised, working fast and using shortcuts and clever tricks to put insanely delicious plates of food on the table in no time. Each of the 50 meals has been carefully written so there’s no faffing about – just good, fast cooking.”

** The host (when crashing someone else’s Christmas) – Orphans of the world unite – with no family around for the day, you’re borrowing someone else’s. While a good bottle of vino or box of chocolates is always appreciated, why not help them create a soundtrack to their special day with the latest Christmas music?

International superstars Annie Lennox and Mariah Carey, our very own Kate Ceberano, operatic bass-baritone Bryn Terfel and Masterchef winner Julie Goodwin all have new Christmas albums out this year.

Annie’s is a stately, serious, almost medieval affair and Mariah’s is a fun, pop follow up to her first Christmas album.

Bryn’s lush, rich voice is like a warm caress and he even joins forces on the album with the King of Christmas music, Mr Bing Crosby.

Meanwhile, Kate is celebrating Christmas with a 50′s Mad Men / Jazz style (this is one of the best seasonal albums I’ve ever heard) and the biggest surprise is the very talented Julie who can cook AND sing.

Team one (or more) or these with a bunch of flowers and you can dig into your host’s turkey and trimmings knowing you’re the perfect guest.

** The person you don’t really know but they’ve given you something and you need to reciprocate - I’d suggest any of the above Christmas albums, or some of Zulu’s gorgeous candles.

Or clean drinking water, a goat, a bag of seeds, a pig, a repellent-treated mosquito net or even a toilet for the world’s needy from the World Vision Christmas catalogue. Or re-gift a bottle of wine you’ve undoubtedly received – as if you really need more booze.

** Kids – Do little kids really need any more “things”?

I read a statistic the other day that said small children only play with something like five of their toys, no matter how many they have. So if they have ten toys, they only play with 50% of them. If they have 100 toys, they’ve only playing with 5%. What a waste. Improve their education – buy them books or music or give them vouchers saying you’ll teach them how to do something fun (and sneakily useful) instead.

Or not. What about a Creepy Crawlers Bug Smasher and Grinder? Or if you don’t particularly like their parents, a drum kit.

If all else fails, go hang out with the little tackers and stick a big glossy toy catalogue under their noses and get them to circle all the things they like and then go and buy a few for them. Life’s short and they’re kids after all – spoil ‘em rotten.

And finally, if you really don’t know what to get someone, ask yourself “what would Maria do?”

“Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens, brown paper packages tied up with string,
These are a few of my favourite things!”

Stay with me here.

Maria would have a good hard think about what the other person’s favourite things were and find a gift that perfectly suits them. NOT buy something that YOU like.

Or she’d just whip up some new designer fashion using curtain fabric, so there’s your final option.

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