Can you believe we’ve almost seen the end of 2021? And what a year it has been. From plant styling and Swedish death cleaning to #FreeBritney and a whole lot of television – it’s been a lot and we’ve had a hoot documenting it all through this column. To mark the festive season, we’ve decided to end the year with a special Christmas edition of The Monthly Mint. Think of it as an unofficial gift guide and a chance for you to join in the usual Peppermint office chat about all the things we’re loving and living for as we head into the holidays.
We were told by our digital editor Lauren that we weren’t allowed to put world peace on our wish lists for this article, so my initial ideas got scrapped. Next on my list is sleep, followed closely by the desire for COVID-19 to end, everyone to stop bickering and for the community to come together (aka world peace in a bad disguise). Unfortunately it seems that the chances of Santa granting these wishes are slim, so I digress. While Christmas shouldn’t just be about presents and consumerism, yada yada, here’s a few things I’d be happy to see under the sustainably produced tree. Firstly, chocolate. Anything containing cocoa always makes me happy but if anyone needs any ideas I’d gratefully receive (and consume immediately) anything from B Corp-certified Tony’s Chocolonely, the dairy-free, organic, raw bonbons from Loving Earth, and I’m super keen to try this oddly very real-looking chocolate ‘salami’ from Indigenous brand Chocolate On Purpose. As we have just moved house and downsized significantly, house gifts are forevermore banned, as we continue to Jenga our way through the unpacking process and make some hard decisions about what will actually survive the Tribal Council. We do need a new coffee table though and I have been crushing on this lovely one from B Corp-certified, ethically made Koala (although this will no doubt be a self-gifted present). For my mum in NZ (who I am relying on being internet-averse enough to not read this!), I had a custom ceramic version of her beloved pooch Danny made by the incredibly talented, Tasmanian artist Penny Ruthberg. I usually send my cousins-slash-sisters a Lush gift box, and this year the new personalised custom boxes made for a nice touch. For the team at work, I can’t quite disclose that just yet (the chances of them reading this are 100%) but part of their present is a pot-based mini garden workshop for our Christmas party at the gorgeous green wonderland that is The Plant Bunker. I’m all for experiences and vouchers that help to minimise unwanted gifts (especially given I have just downsized and plenty of presents in the back of the cupboard did not make it over the line).
Above all though, I’m going back to my original idea (sorry Lauren) – the ‘things’ are nice, but I’m really holding out hope for some peace and health (mentally and physically) for everyone this season. It’s been a loooong 12 months (24 actually) and we all just need a break from this relentless virus and the resulting suffering. But I know personally I’m still in a privileged position and would like to give to others who aren’t so lucky. In particular I’d love to find a way to support healthcare workers who are still shouldering most of the weight of humanity right now. There’s a Facebook group called Adopt A Healthcare Worker where people rally together to support local healthcare workers in small but meaningful ways. Started by Chris Nicholas from Perth, there’s a group for every state and also other countries – just search for your local area on FB. You can also help protect vulnerable communities who are less privileged than ourselves by donating to provide 24 COVID-19 vaccines to lower-income countries where doses are scarce through UNICEF. Maybe a hamper delivered for staff at a hospital that is overwhelmed would be a simple gesture, or a donation to the Sikh Volunteers Australia in Melbourne who have been providing free food to disadvantaged families in the community throughout the pandemic. Just being kind goes a long way too, as twee as it might sound. As I’m sure we all know, restrictions and mandates are increasingly creating divides and many hospitality workers are unfairly bearing the brunt of frustrations. Just be nice, not naughty. No-one wants a lump of coal this Christmas.
Well this Monthly Mint’s theme of ‘gifting’ follows on quite nicely from my previous Mint entry and provides yet another platform from which to proselytise about my anti-consumerist Christmas gifting viewpoint. And, once again, my anti-gifting stance comes from an aversion to articulating my own ideas around what gifts I want. How can I put together a wish list from all of the things in the world that I may want at any given moment? They are almost innumerable. The flow-on from this is that I’ve become inherently lazy and don’t want to partake in any gift giving (or receiving) at all. It doesn’t help that my husband and I don’t even really do the gifting thing for our birthdays either. Now, before you come at me about how sad and joyless that sounds, please note that we have been together for 17 years… there are only so many wallets and whisky glasses you can buy one person before it becomes a hella boring pattern. Our policy generally is to buy what we want, when we want it and maybe we’re missing out on the joy of gifting to each other but, at least now, we get that from giving things to our child. And that alone is something that we’re having to put our collective mind power to do without just relenting and buying his entire, constantly evolving, ever-expanding Santa list. After a brief search for a specific remote-controlled plastic toy (future trash), we’ve scaled back our approach and committed to board games (Kids on Stage has been recommended by numerous friends), books, some outdoor/pool toys and perhaps some edible treaties and a new spesh outfit. And I’m just going to have to suck it up and have a hard chat with my child about why Santa lists aren’t always received by Santa.
I’ve been thinking of buying this for my three sisters for maybe two Christmases, but considering I’ve yet to buy them, I think it’s fair to still consider them… Love Gammin Threads and everything they are about, plus, I can never go past a good logo or statement tee. Aside from buying for my sisters, most of my ideas are – surprise, surprise – for me! I’ve wanted this bumbag for ages but alas, it is sold out… More wants on my list: a nice pendant necklace to add to my still growing layering situation; some kind of large-scale art print or wall-hanging to put above our bed (the problem here is I’m far to indecisive to decide the look I want to go with); a dress from Innika Choo; a relaxing pool lounging apparatus. See, this is a floodgate situation and I’m going to stop now.
Quite a few Christmases ago, we donated money to local charities instead of buying stuff, and it’s a practice that I’d like to get back in the habit of. I know that most people love the idea of giving an actual gift to someone that they know, and seeing the joy of the receipt of said gift, but I think it’s equally powerful to give to strangers and remember that the spirit of Christmas comes in so many different forms – I’m lucky to be in a position where, right now in my life, it’s hard to imagine what living on the margins of an increasingly challenging world would be like and the act of sharing some of what my family has reminds me that often it’s luck and a cycle of circumstance that creates those unfortunate, insecure situations for a lot of people. That particular year the donation was to Micah Projects, which is an amazing charity in South Brisbane (where we were living at the time) committed to breaking social isolation by helping people access housing, employment, healthcare and build community connections. All of the nuance and details of what Christmas means and to who aside, I think helping other humans feel part of a community is what Christmas (and life) is and should be about. *Steps off soapbox.*
DIGITAL AND ASSISTANT EDITOR
I’m one of those people whose birthday is right around Christmastime (29 December for those playing along at home) so I often get hit with the ol’ one-for-two joint present. As a result, I’ve developed a tiny, totally-under-control habit of buying myself presents from my dog Winston. What can I say? His love language is gift giving… And before you start, yes I know it’s privileged and ridiculous but sometimes you’ve gotta put yourself first. Especially at this time of year. And besides, he always knows exactly what I want.
Top of the list? In the spirit of watching a television show only to immediately adopt all of a character’s traits, I’ve had my eye on a Will & Bear hat after binging Yellowstone. You know what they say, “Country roads, take me home.”
Speaking of going home, this Christmas will be relatively quiet once again for the Baxter-Taylor clan – my partner’s family is overseas so it’ll mark almost two years since we’ve seen them. As Kelley mentioned, I forbid anyone in the team from putting world peace on their list but a Love Actually-esque airport reunion in the (hopefully) near feature wouldn’t go amiss. After the year that was, I’m also as tired and exhausted as I assume you are tired and exhausted so let’s just hope Santa brings a whole lot of rest (all seven types) and time to recharge.
COMMUNITY AND PARTNERSHIPS MANAGER
When it comes to gifting, this time of year reminds me loudly of how lucky I am: lucky to have people around me to buy gifts for, lucky to have the disposable income to buy those gifts and lucky to be close enough to most of our family to give them in person. ‘Tis the season to count the reasons to be grateful!
To prevent the surprise being ruined, I’m sharing the gifts I am getting for the two people who are least likely to read this blog: my internet-averse parents!
My mum has to be one of the hardest people in the world to buy for, the kind of person to whom you hand over both the present AND the receipt, just in case. But, in an effort to give her something she’ll enjoy and feel really awkward to return, I’ve turned to Peppermint friend and florist Lucy Reid from Foraged and Fleurs (whose work you may have seen floating around on our Issue 52 cover). Lucy’s Frequent Fleurs subscription gives the lucky recipient five or 10 sustainably sourced bouquet deliveries throughout the year. Multiple bunches of gorgeous native flowers!! Who can say no? Not my mum (hopefully).
For my “Just get me a t-shirt, I don’t need anything else” minimalist dad, I’m getting… a t-shirt. This is actually my standard gift for him every year, usually chosen from a local shop, charity or music venue with no reflection of his own musical taste, altruistic tendencies or shopping habits but rather my own. This year’s tee comes from the ASRC in collaboration with Ethiopian-born, Melbourne based artist Olana Janfa and stitching by the wonderful social enterprise Second Stitch. The range of merchandise (think puzzles, totes, scarves and even dog bandanas!) is the first refugee artist collection for the ASRC but I hope it won’t be the last, for the sake of my dad’s Christmas presents.
SEWING CONTENT COORDINATOR
I’m a romantic about gifts, both giving and receiving. I dream of “the perfect present” even though I know it’s unrealistic and causes a lot of unnecessary stress. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with making sure you get people exactly what they want by asking them what they want exactly. But I love the idea of getting people the thing they didn’t even know they wanted. I know it’s possible because my mum does it all the time. She’s so good at gifts. Recently she slyly suggested that Santa may be delivering me a tiny bottle of McHenry’s Distillery Christmas Gin – a special artisanal gin made with Frankincense, Myrrh and ‘Gold’ (punctuation from the brand’s website). I’d seen this gin around the Salamanca Markets and was always tickled by the concept but never thought of buying it for myself, as soon as she mentioned it however I realised it’s exactly what I didn’t know I wanted! It also assuages my homesickness for my beloved Tasmania which is an arcadia of artisanal and experimental spirits. You can get Sloe Gin, Bush Honey Gin, Sheep’s Whey Gin, or Gin made with Antarctic Ice Water. We’ve only had the legal right to distill liquor since the early ’90s, we’re still a little giddy with it.
On the subject of homesickness, most families have their designated Christmas media, the particular festive film or entertainment that they return to year after year as a matter of tradition, formalised or otherwise. My brother has for many years attempted to make viewing the 2006 two-part television-movie adaptation of Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather a yearly event. This has not quite caught on, perhaps because it is over three hours long and a little wobbly in its attempts to capture Pratchett’s singular wit and whimsy. But I do understand his drive to share the Hogfather experience with his loved ones. Which is why I bought my papa a gorgeous hardcover copy of the book for Christmas, in a rather blatant attempt to trick him into reading Terry Pratchett instead of just enjoying the voice work of Ian Richardson. People are often intimidated by Terry Pratchett’s extensive oeuvre and unsure how to begin reading his books. The real trick is to pull one off the shelf in your high school library at random and base your entire developing personality off it, but an acceptable alternative is being gifted one for Christmas and it changing your life (*cough cough* Dad). Terry Pratchett is a writer of great significance to me and was a huge influence on me as a writer and as a human being. His humour, intelligence and philosophical brilliance are all on display in Hogather, a lighthearted romp where Santa Claus is kidnapped by a conglomerate of accountants and assassins and the Grim Reaper is forced to step in and save Christmas and the existence of a just and moral universe. After all, as DEATH so rightfully says, “Humans need fantasy to be human. To be the place where the falling angel meets the rising ape.” GNU PTerry