[Image Via: Paper n Stitch]
With Christmas just around the corner (and maybe some office Secret Santa’s or Gift Swaps to start shopping for) I thought I’d share some tips that I have learnt for buying the perfect gift. Now, I don’t like to blow my own horn, but I’m pretty awesome at buying gifts. I would even go so far as to say that its kind of ‘my thing’. This certainly isn’t due to any hidden gift giving talents. I’m no more insightful than the next person, but I have some clever tricks to ensure you’re always buying your loved ones something they’ll really enjoy and not just candles or socks this Christmas.

So, this sounds pretty basic, but I know so many people who don’t do this. Listen to the people you care about; what do they like? What are their interests? And I don’t mean just around Christmas or birthdays, I mean all year round. If a loved one mentions that book they’ve been wanting to read or that hobby they’ve been wanting to get into, I open up the notebook app (or even a draft message) make a quick note in my phone. Something like “Tom - Carl Sagan book” and save it for later. The best thing about doing this is that it just looks like you are sending a text message so your target is none the wiser and you have a handy reminder for later.

Speaking of which…

2. Set Up Reminders
In your phone, on your computer, in your calendar. Put a reminder in for the most important people’s birthdays. Not just for the day itself, but a few weeks in advance. This way you will know that birthday is coming up and have ample time to plan what you want to buy for that special someone. Especially if you are like me and you do a lot of your shopping online, you will appreciate the extra time when there is a 2 week wait on shipping!

3. Use Online Searches
And I don’t mean Google; sites like Ebay and Amazon are a veritable treasure chest of items you’ve never even thought of! Whenever I am stuck for gift ideas I head over to Ebay and start searching topics that my recipient might enjoy. Try names of television programs, hobbies, favourite actors or even general items like ‘leather bag’ and see what comes up! I can’t count how many times this has saved me when I was out of inspiration!

4. Bookmark it!
So you come across the perfect art print for your mum on Society6 and you think, ‘oh I should buy this for her birthday!’ But her birthday is months away and you’re a bit poor until payday, so you decide you’ll come back later, closer to the date and get it then.

No, you wont. You’ll forget and then when it comes time to buy her a gift you’ll be sitting there thinking ‘now what was that thing I saw back in June…?’ Bookmark that shit! And don’t let your bookmarks get lost in between links to funny pictures of cats… I have a ‘Buy’ Folder set up, with sub-folders for each of my family members/housemates/close friends. I save anything cool I see in these folders over the year, so when it approaches Christmas or Birthdays I can just open up the relevant folder and browse a ready made list of gift ideas. Just remember to name your bookmarks as what they actually are, (ie: ‘Owl Measuring cups from Anthropology’) instead of the default name so that if you come across a broken link when you come back, you can Google the item and try to find it elsewhere.

5. The Final Test
Many people may disagree with this last tip but it’s my number one rule: Buy something that you would like to receive. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you should buy something to your own taste, but if when you put yourself in the recipients shoes, would you be happy to receive this gift? This is my final test when deciding on gift purchases. Even though tastes may differ, when someone can see the thought and care that has gone into a present, even if it’s not something they would have bought for themselves, chances are they are going to enjoy it regardless. Some of the best gifts I have ever received were items that I would have never in a million years picked out for myself, but I could see the love and thought that went into the purchase and that made me cherish the gift all the more.

So there you have it. Nothing ground breaking or crazy, just some simple ideas that will hopefully help you get through this festive season.

I’d like to preface this with the fact that I am not a hairdresser. I am no expert on these things, these are just tips that I have picked up over time since I started dying my hair.

As you can probably tell from my dark roots, I am not a natural blonde. Naturally, my hair is actually very dark brown. When I was about 20 I decided I wanted to try go a little blonder for a while and ended up being SUPER blonde for 2 years. I loved it. However being a bottle blonde is about commitment, patience and above all – you need to be able to afford it. Being blonde costs money.

When I moved interstate I had no job for the first couple of months and getting my roots touched up just wasn’t a priority. It got to the point where I had to dye my hair back to its original colour. More recently I have dyed my hair blonde again, and this time it has been a much easier process, so I thought I’d share some of the things I wish I had known the first time around…
Dying your hair blonde is a slow process. Don’t think you can go in and your stylist will just bleach your whole head on the spot (I’ve found a lot of stylists will even refuse to do so). I didn’t realize this when I first went in and asked my hairdresser to dye my hair blonde, I left with this kind of golden brown colour and was bitterly disappointed. Foils are the best way to dye your hair lighter from dark. It helps to break up your regrowth colour and is lighter on your hair. This time around, I have opted  to get half a head of foils so the bottom layers of my hair are still quite dark but when my hair is down you can’t tell all that much. I have found it keeps my hair a lot healthier than when I used to get my whole head done in foils. As I said, it can be a slow process. It took me about 6 months and around 4 or 5 trips to the hair dresser to get my hair to the colour I wanted. I had to endure some weird in between colours, but ultimately, for me, it was the most gentle and practical way to colour my hair.

Now that you’re blonde, there are three main things you will need to keep your hair silky and golden:

1. A good toner – This is essential to maintain a lovely shiny colour. When I first went blonde I had no idea about toners or why they are used and couldn’t understand why a couple of weeks after colouring my hair would start going this nasty brassy yellow colour. Toners keep your hair the shade it should be and help to stop this from happening. You can get toners as standalone products or in the form of Blonde Shampoos and conditioners. When my hairstylist first recommended a blonde shampoo to me, I thought it was a bit of a con – but they do make a huge difference to your colour. (Make sure you get a ‘purple’ toner/shampoo) I used to use Movietone Hues Shampoo which were fairly affordable at around $11 a bottle and would put a toner through my hair once every week or so. However I haven’t been able to find it here so what I do is mix a small amount in with my regular shampoo and Hey-Presto! Homemade blonde shampoo! (I’ve been using Nordic Blonde Toner by Schwarzkopf)

2. Nourishing Conditioner – Your hair is going to be a little damaged so you need to put some nutrients back into it. I have been using Dove’s Intense Damage Therapy conditioner in my hair in conjunction with a blonde shampoo (or in my case the Dove Shampoo mixed in with toner). I have found this is the best way to keep your hair soft on a daily basis.

There are obviously better conditioners out there, and I will once in a while splurge on a bottle of the salon quality repair conditioners, but for regular use I have found the Dove to work just as well on my hair. Experiment with a few brands until you find one that you like.

3. Treatments treatments treatments – I cannot stress this enough! I NEVER used treatments on my hair and it would get so dry and horrible over time. Your hair is going to get dried out and damaged. Especially if you’re like me and you use a straightening iron on it a few times a week. You need to try to repair it as much as you can. Ask your stylist what kind of treatments you should be using.

Getting the wrong kind of treatment can actually make your hair worse – for example if you get an unneeded protein treatment your hair can get brittle and break from too much protein. Once you know what you need you should aim to put a treatment through your hair at least once a week. I have also found leave in products like Moroccan oil are good to use on a regular basis.

I hope these little tips are helpful. Like I said, I’m no expert but these are some of the things I have learned. Happy Colouring ;)