Furnishing your Home in Malta

Finding the perfect home to buy or rent in Malta is not a piece of cake, yet it is only the first part of the hurdle. After one’s accommodation is chosen, the next step is to furnish the place to one’s own liking (if it isn’t furnished already of course). In this respect, one’s own personal tastes and preferences obviously take precedence, however there are also a number of general guidelines which hold true for every new home-owner.

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CUSTOM-MADE VS OFF-THE-SHELF

The first thing to decide when thinking about which furniture to purchase, is whether you prefer custom-made furnishings to ready-made ones. A bedroom which is made specifically to your own tastes will obviously be more to your liking, not to mention fit in perfectly with the size and measurements of the room itself, however one must keep in mind that carpenters usually already have other work in tow, which therefore means that they could take a long time to start, not to mention finish, working on your order. On the other hand, purchasing off-the-shelf furnishings still does not mean that these will be available at the flick of a finger, especially if, as is the case with many furniture retailers in Malta, they have to be ordered and imported from Italy or Sicily. Think carefully before you decide and ask the carpenters/stores/retailers you talk to for some timelines.

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BUDGET VS DEADLINES

This is, of course, one of the main cruxes of the matter. If you have the luxury of waiting until you move into your new place, you have the time to peruse different stores and choices at your leisure, in order to be sure you actually do purchase value for money furnishings. If on the other hand, you cannot wait for the sales, and need to move in as soon as possible, choices become much more limited, as you end up either settling for temporary and cheap alternatives (if on a tight budget) or splashing money around just as long as you get what you want quickly (if money is not a problem). It is always better to take some time when tackling a big decision such as buying furniture, since it is much better to buy a good solid dresser or sofa at the first try, rather than a ramshackle one which you know will have to be changed at a later date.

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PRIORITIZE. PRIORITIZE. PRIORITIZE.

A home is not made in a day. Be it the budget, the carpenter, the retailer’s deadlines, or even trouble in getting some time-off from work to let the joiners in, it will be impossible to complete furnishing the whole house/apartment all at the same time. Probably only two or three rooms will actually be fully furnished when you do move in (that is, if you haven’t bought/rented the place already fully furnished of course, in which case this article is null and void). The important thing is to make sure that those appliances and furnishings which actually make somewhere liveable are obviously there. I am referring to the bathroom of course, not to mention a bed, and maybe some sort of kitchen. This could even be a make-shift kitchenette to be used until you are waiting for your custom-made masterpiece. The same is true for your bedroom. As long as you have a mattress, you can put it on the floor if you want to move in immediately without waiting for your finely-finished bedroom furniture to arrive from Italy.

Be sure however to have the basics ready. Electricity, water, tiles, and painted walls. Don’t make the mistake of trucking in your pristine new furniture before having finished painting the walls, attaching the kitchen tiles or fixing the parquet flooring, because believe me, speaking from personal experience, you will regret it.

 

This article was written by me and published on the website LivinginMalta.com – to access the original, please click here.

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Minimalism and why it doesn’t work

I’ve been seeing a lot of blog posts about ‘Minimalism’ lately, and they’ve been jarring my nerves for a while. Ever since I was a little girl, I was taught to only buy what I indeed needed, and to recycle or give away things which I did not need any more. This, after all, is mere common sense. Yet these days, plain common sense is so rare, that people seem to need to gird it in newer fancy words, and make a fuss over it, in order to distinguish themselves.

Minimalism is a trend which has been slowly infecting our Maltese shores, among others, during the last few years. The precepts of Minimalism embrace the aim of achieving freedom through the voiding of materialistic trappings which are accumulated in relation to a capitalistic-minded society. Originally, the onset of Minimalist per se originated as a term describing visual arts in the post-war Western world of the 1960s and 1070s.

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Personally, as I said, I understand the concept in moderation, however putting an unneeded emphasis on it, not to mention trying to adhere to its more extremist tenets, only ends in showing up that the Minimalist agenda is not only unpractical, but actually going against its own targets. While, of course there’s nothing inherently wrong with owning material possessions, equating one’s own personal value with how much money is in one’s bank account, what car one drives, or what mobile phone one uses, is obviously self-deceiving. This however, is not the issue which is actually tackled by Minimalists, whose main tenet endorses having no more than 100 possessions in total. One could for example, still own and brag about only a few costly items, while having less than 100 ‘things’. So, in actuality, having a few items does not necessarily mean disassociation from the idea of material gratification. Attaching meaning solely to ‘things’ rather than people, personal experiences, or emotions, is the seeming crux of the Minimalist credo, and yet, having chucked all but a few of one’s possessions in the bin, does one really end up forsaking the company of his/her pc, or the fascination of an XBOX (if one keeps one of course), for human contact? Not likely.

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Others maintain that Minimalism targets excess, that it leads to better prioritisation, and that it ultimately leads one to spend less. It advocates discipline and de-cluttering, yet its oppressive regime and illusion of control sees one stressfully trying to get by without certain commodities, which, instead of leading to some kind of transcendental ‘freedom’, actually ends, in many cases, by causing an even bigger backlash of ‘materialism’. Minimalism is anxiety-inducing in that one ends up feeling a failure if one cannot conform to it. Optimising the use of minimal products can lead one to over-technologize one’s lifestyle in a bid to use tools or IT systems which do more with less, leading to the conclusion that Minimalism is a movement targeted towards those who are well-off, and not towards the majority, since it also actually results in more money being spent. Once you chuck something you are keeping in case you might needed it in the bin, you cannot get it back – meaning that you’d have to re-buy the item when you actually do need it. Again, this goes against the aim of ‘spending less’ targeted by Minimalism.

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Yes ultra-capitalism is a sickness. We are not our things. Yet, if the other end of the spectrum offers only extreme austerity promoting a Spartan repressive lifestyle, this is just as detrimental. In the end, human beings need to express themselves, they need to optimize their own style, and feel free to overindulge in moments of tension, in order to be fully at peace with themselves. 

Minimalistic decor can have a therapeutic effect, especially if one suffers from OCD-related problems, however there is an invigorating liberation in a spontaneous carefree use of space. Feeling comfortable and at home in one’s own personal space definitely leads not only to creativity and freedom of expression, but also to a more inspiring and eclectic outlook. Wealth is not how many things you have, or how expensive they were, it is the ability to have options and to be able to fulfill them.

If you want to give more worth to important things, try creating certain tools instead of using mass-marketed ones. Try to jazz up or individualize your space instead of latching onto an easy conformity. Re-use and re-cycle instead of chucking out ‘outdated’ stuff you haven’t looked at in a while. Don’t limit yourself or your options. Instead, embrace a more positive and DIY attitude.

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Clutter and chaos is not something to strive for. On the other hand, living in a wasteland is not conductive to an energetic outlook either. In the end, extremes are not beneficial to anyone. There is nothing as healthy as balance.

A slightly different version of my article was published in the online magazine LivingInMalta.

Antwerp – Visiting Ruben’s House

The first place we visited while in Antwerp was the Rubenshuis or ‘Ruben’s House’. I am, of course, referring to the well-known Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens, who is considered to be the most influential artist of the Flemish Baroque tradition. Rubens lived in this house during the early 17th century. He actually designed the house himself, in the Italian Renaissance style.

The layout of the Rubenshuis consists of the house proper, the artist’s studio, an interior courtyard, and a baroque garden (personally, this was my favorite part of the house).

The house today is a museum containing many of Rubens original works (even his famous self-portrait, which is astounding), as well as many artworks done by his contemporaries. 

I do not draw – I wish I had this talent, but I really don’t. However I love art and I appreciate the great talent and dedication owned by the truly great artists. In this respect, Ruben’s House left me in a truly awe-induced state. The paintings, the sculpture, the beautiful period furniture – they transported me back to another time, when artists, philosophers and people of all types met in this amazing place to talk, debate and to create works which would continue to amaze and inspire us long after they were gone.

Truly Rubens, I salute you!!

Maltese Door Knockers

One cannot visit Malta without noticing the typical Maltese architecture prevalent in most cities and villages around the islands. When it comes to the embellishment of their traditional houses and monuments, the Maltese are one of the most colourful and creative country in Europe, decorating their facades with picturesque balconies, sculptured windows and shutters, and whimsical door-knockers.

History tells us that in pre-medieval and early medieval times, people did not knock on doors, but in fact used to scratch at them in order to announce their presence. Today, this may sound very strange and unpractical, yet one must remember that few if any Maltese used to actually lock their doors at the time, and that bashing at one’s facade was considered quite rude.

With the passage of time, the practice of scratching at doors was replaced with knocking, and this is how the “ħabbata” or door knocker, entered the picture. These door-knockers, which were available in numerous motifs, shapes and sizes, were to be found on every town house and dwelling, and helped the residents to either open or close their doors more easily. Door knockers could be made of ceramic, metal, or even brass, and each door usually had two of them – one on each side, or wing, of the main door, which was thus given a more stately and elegant look.

At the time, these door knockers were very important in that they served as a symbol of the status of the family who lived within the walls of the particular house. Knockers consisting merely of a plain ring denoted a simple family, whereas more elaborate rich knockers were a sign of affluence and power. The door knockers also reflected the personality and even the work or history of the family, in that they could portray the family crest or an allusion to it.

There are different types of door knockers in Malta.The traditional type consists of a ball or boss with holes at the side, from which a heavy semi-circular ring hangs. Usually in the middle of this ring, there is a small ball which hits against a round boss fixed to the door at a lower level. These types of knockers, which were often coloured black, could be found on all types of urban or rural buildings, even farmhouses. With time, more elaborate door knockers started to be crafted or imported. Sometimes the knocker ball was transformed into the head of a slave, an animal, a gargoyle, or a family crest. These would have holes in their faces or main part, from which a semi-circular ring hung. The sea-faring nature of the island was reflected in many of the most recurrent motifs like dolphins, seahorses, and sirens.

The upper classes and the members of the aristocracy had large baroque brass door knockers fixed to their main doors, in order to impress any visitor who might come to call. Door knockers also advertised the level of cleanliness of the house, as their shine would show the visitor that the family could employ maids who took care to polish and wax such decorations regularly.

As time passed, mechanical doorbells and intercoms started to take the place of door knockers, in that these were actually cheaper and produced a louder sound. Nonetheless, many people not only maintain the traditional knockers, but also continue to commission new designs, in a bid to conserve and highlight the unique identity of Malta, and preserve its heritage.

Just take a relaxed stroll down the idyllic cobbled streets of Valletta, Mdina or Cittadella, not to mention other typical villages like Qormi or Birkirkara, and you will certainly have the opportunity to admire many of these authentic works of art.

This article of mine was published on http://livinginmalta.com/miscellaneuos/maltese-door-knocker/

Confession! Sorry dear bloggers!

FINALLY a moment of peace! Been so busy these past few weeks! In a good way though! Lol actually in a VERY good way.

And here I must admit to something. Something which actually I am not ashamed of, since it makes me reflect about how amazing my life really is. The confession is this – unfortunately this blog is not a priority in my life. Shocked? Well it’s the pure truth. Yes I adore venting and communicating random feelings and thoughts here. I love making friends and i’m flattered by the numbers in the stats section which show the popularity of my little random tit-bits of writing. Yet these past few weeks have made me realize how much is actually going on in my life and cherish the fact that I have so many vibrant priorities to continue fostering.

What have I been doing? Well apart from finally travelling extensively within the Scottish Highlands, the Hebrides and Scotland itself and enriching myself in the process, I have been writing like mad, taking amazing photos in order to hold such memories forever, updating my home and abode and also getting more and more writing commissions… which apart from being fun to research and write, are also starting to bring in some concrete cash (more than the usual tiny sums I mean).

You may notice that I referred to writing twice. This is because mentally, i tend to divide my writing into 2 different categories. Creative writing and commissioned writings. I enjoy them both but in truth it is creative writing which lets me give vent to my imagination and inspiration. After all, this is what writing is all about! And as another writer once said ‘A writer HAS to write’ (referring to Lucy Maud Montgomery) – it is not something one does to follow some agenda, have followers, or appear in the lime light. A writer cannot NOT write if you get my drift. About everything. Every day. Which is why i feel that this blog is not a priority. I never publish any of my pieces here – not the original real writings which reflect my heart and soul. That’s because there is no real copyright on publicly hosted blogs. I also actually rarely put on articles which i have written under commission, and when i do i always paste the original newspaper or magazine link too. So, after all my creative writing + commissioned writing (more and more such jobs are cropping up lately), I admit that I hardly have time to dedicate to this blog. Though sometimes, like today, i actually glance in here a bit 😜

Going back to my latest travelling adventure – each thing learned, historical place visited and experience made, only served to further inflame me, birth new ideas and inspire more writing. All is stored up in my head and heart for now, but will come out soon enough! P.S all the photos interspersed throughout this post are ones I took in Scotland.

And of course, all this emotion, passion, curiosity and fascination with life, is all wrapped up together with my love for my soulmate. That all pervading, mysterious, funny, ever-growing love, which makes all the days and nights so much richer. In the end, what can be better than seeing and travelling the world? Doing that with the one you love of course! And what can be better than writing? Writing while knowing that the one you love is there, in the next room, waiting to cradle you in his arms and kiss your lips when you are done. 

So, confessions apart, if you are reading my blog – this is what you will get. The wild meandering crazy thoughts of a girl who’s too busy and mashed up for comfort, but who nonetheless is prepared to offer an honest and clear-cut opinion and perspective. Not in an effort to attract attention or appear as something she’s not, but in the pure desire of being herself and reaching out to like-minded creatures.

P.S For those who were wondering, though I did sail on Loch Ness, unfortunately, Nessie was not to be seen 😛

Love Letter – HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!!

Can the worst four years of your life also be the best four years of your life?

I would have said NO… if I hadn’t lived MY life. If I hadn’t been me. And if you hadn’t been you.

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These past four years have been a dream and a nightmare. They have been both heaven and hell, a hell-ride and a joy-ride.

So many things have happened, to both of us. I moved three times in three years, which was very stressful to say the least. I cut all ties with people who had abused me, injured me, manipulated me and betrayed me all my life. I left my old life behind, and became someone I didn’t know I could be – someone free, someone happy, someone healthy. That was very difficult. I had to leave behind all my comfort zones and become an adult.

And you were there.

Through it all, through the fear, and the tears, and the uncertainty, you were there. My one ray of light. My hope. My love. My strength.

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You were there for me every step of the way. Just as I was there for you when your dad died, and then again when your mum died, just six months later. Just as I will always be there, no matter what.

4 difficult years, but also 4 years of discovering what being in love really meant. 4 years of enjoying your company, 4 years of loving you and having fun with you. 4 years of experiencing new things with you. 4 years of living daily with you and knowing you as no one else does. 4 years of you knowing me, the new me, the real me.

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Oh and there were also 2 work-related promotions, and a myriad of writing commissions  – PAID commissions ofc (started earning money as a freelance 3 yrs ago). Not to mention the orgasmic joy when we purchased our house, decorated it, and settled in it, to name but a few. And what about all the fabulous holidays, experiences and adventures together? So much to mention… too much for it to fit in here. Hehe…

4 years – it seems like so much time has passed, and yet, the feeling of looking forward to seeing you, the fluttery excited charge in my heart each time you smile that sweet naughty smile at me, the way my heart bursts whenever I look into your eyes… are still the same as the feelings I felt 4 years ago.

And they will never change.

New House – New Rituals!

The amount of work to be lavished onto a new house is amazing. Apart from all those painting jobs, plastering and moving about of furniture, which still go on and on long after you have restructured the place to your tastes. After all the workers have gone, and you have purchased as many soft furnishings as you can to make the place comfortable and homey. After you have finally gotten rid of all the package boxes, put your clothes in the wardrobe and your millions of stockings in drawers. After having finally put all your many many books on their shelves, and then re-arranged them again and again, in order for them to make some sort of sense – according to author, subject and reachability…

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Yes, after all this – there is still work to be done, especially by someone like me, who sensitive, emphatic, and naturally aware of negative energies, cannot rest until she feels that the house is REALLY free of any previous occupants – be they physical, spiritual, emotional or even just psychic residues.

So, I spent the last three weeks carefully writing quite a long ritual to banish, cleanse, bless and protect my new home from all the negative thoughts and feelings, all the pain and suffering, all the stress and anxiety, and in other words, anything at all, left over by the previous couple – who were selling the house due to their divorce after 16 years of marriage. Ouch! Yes, I’m pretty sure there must have been a lot of bad feelings flying around this house. I could actually feel them sometimes too.

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I took my time with this ritual because not only was it the first one I was doing in the house, but also because, in a way, it was also the most important one, since it would not only have an unconscious impact on me, but also one on my partner and on our relationship. My boyfriend is not a Wiccan or a Pagan, he is an atheist, and yet I’m sure he’s been unconsciously feeling the tension and negativity in the house too. It has been becoming more and more apparent this past month, and I could’nt ignore it any longer.

A further issue was that our neighbours, the ones with the maisonette directly below us, are always fighting in a really bad way. The wife is always crying, and they are always swearing and saying awful things to each other. We get to hear everything because our bedroom window is directly above their internal yard, which they always leave open. They fight almost every day, and their fighting is the first thing we hear each morning when we wake up, and sometimes the last thing we hear before going to sleep at night too. This does not help the general atmosphere, no matter how many times my boyfriend says that seeing the difference between their relationship and ours (which is very loving, happy and balanced) makes him feel kind of aloof in a sniggering kind of way. So, my ritual also incorporated putting on layers of protection on each window facing their place, in order to keep their negativity out of our lives.

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I performed the ritual succesfully last weekend. Finally. And I must say, I really physically felt the actual difference immediately afterwards. The house needed to breathe and so did I. And even though I had known this would have an effect, I never actually knew the amount of bad energies coursing through my poor home, before I actually got rid of them, and could appreciate the change in atmosphere.

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Immediately after that, I bought our first plant! I am so happy and excited about it! I plan to slowly construct a roof garden in future, and though this is a house plant, it is still the start of that venture. I had two other plants before this one, one in my old apartment and one at work. Both died. Let’s hope this one doesn’t. It’s a dieffenbachia, which, I am told, are quite hardy. So, fingers crossed.

Next up is Imbolc! I must still declare and bless my sacred space and altar, not to mention re-purify all my tools, so I must try and incorporate that into the Imbolc ritual as well. Another lengthy one! Ah well, quite worth it considering the effects of the last one!

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Have my Friends Forgotten Me?

Lately, it feels as if I have forgotten how to talk to people.

2015 was an enormously hectic and stressful year (though joyful too). I focused most of my time on my relationship with my boyfriend, on buying property and then later on refurbishing and moving into said property.

Now, in 2016, I suddenly realize that while my life was evolving and going forward in leaps and bounds, in a certain way, I also lost another part of it – the social part.

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As happens to many people when in a stable relationship, slowly but inexorably, most of my friends seem to have faded away from my life, becoming mere shady beings in the corner of my memory. I admit, yes, there were many invitations I turned down. Many girls nights out which I couldn’t go to. Many rain checks on my part. Many tired evenings when I simply did not have the will or the energy to dress up, put on make up and heels, and go dancing and drinking for some 5 or 6 hours. Which is the reason, perhaps, why so many people slowly disappeared from my life.

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These were mostly the fun-buddies – those many friends and acquaintances you have fun with during weekends. The drinking-buddies, dance-partners, funny friends I got drunk with in the small hours of the morning after having written fire and thunder all over the dance-floor.

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I missed out on all of this in 2015, simply because my energy, my time and my money were invested into something else. Which is why, at this moment in time, when I am finally taking a deep breath and looking around me, I am realizing that I am (almost) alone friends-wise.

Not all my friends have disappeared, but those with whom I am daily (or weekly) in contact, are mainly those who are in my same situation in life – that is, couples, people who are shacking up and buying a house together, or young parents.

Is this good, or is this bad? I miss those fun times, however at this point I think that to a certain extent they will never come again.
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Why? Because I’d rather not spend 50 euros (to say the least) on alcohol each evening and invest that money on my house, or save it up for travelling instead. Also because, I freely admit, many of these ‘friends’ I used to have so many good times with were either opportunists, hypocrites, people who wanted to get in my pants, or simply people who were there when everything was nice and happy, but disappeared whenever there was a problem – which I can well do without.

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So, part of me wants to go back and find those ‘friends’ I used to have. Go back to drinking and carousing with no limits. And another part of me wants to just go forward and find new friends who, instead of wasting money getting drunk and partying, would be content to enjoy my company during a DVD night or a picnic, and then later on, have enough money saved up to go on an extended holiday to Scotland or Hong Kong.

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What do you think? Am I getting old before my time, or is this just common sense?

Dear Neighbours, I would really like to report you to the Police because…

Dear neighbours,

I appreciate that you are passing through a rough patch, which is why you find it necessary to fight, scream and swear obscenely at 5.30am each morning as soon as you wake up and see each others’ faces. I also appreciate the fact that you on the other hand don’t like to hear our T.V, which is why you reported us to the police some time ago. I can also understand that all this fighting while at the same time having one’s nose in other people’s business can take up a lot of one’s time, which is perhaps why you ignore your sick daughter who has been coughing her head off for two weeks, while you bicker and screech at each other. So, can you please give me a tip? I’ve got the police station on the line – should I report you for disturbance of the peace, domestic abuse, or child neglect?

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You’ve been fighting ever since we moved here (and were here to hear you), which is since last September. Personally, I’m not being nosy. I don’t need to be to hear you, since my bedroom is right over your internal yard and your door is always open. You make no effort NOT to be heard, if you know what I mean lol. Which is why I know a lot about what is going on with you, since the shouting matches take place every day.

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You reported us coz our TV irritated you (and this at only 9.30pm when most ppl watch TV), instead of keeping your issues behind closed doors and shrieking them at everyone at 5.30 in the morning. The police were laughing their heads off when they came. They themselves had not heard anything because the TV was NOT loud.

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Truly, you dont need us to create more problems for you, since you obviously have enough hatred and anger pent up inside you for a million people. If you hadn’t been such hypocritical assholes, I’d have thought nothing of it, even though I have to hear your bull everyday as soon as I wake up in bed, but seriously, I cant understand how you can complain about us, while creating this racket all the time.

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And what about your older son and his friends, who create another racket every weekend at 2am when he comes home after having been out drinking and carousing? They stay outside your door in the street for half an hour shouting and having ‘mock’ fights. I could report that too if I wanted to as could anyone in this street. How can you not hear them but be all over our TV?

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Anyways thanks again for waking me up this morning, and for the free entertainment. Makes me feel so much better knowing that I don’t have to face either of you in my bed as soon as I open my eyes! In a way you really make me feel better about myself and my life. Anything is better than having yours lol.

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P.S I didn’t actually report them… YET!!

 

 

What to buy a Bookworm for Xmas

DEFINITELY NOT BOOKS!

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People who are not bibliophiles (or those who think they are and enjoy telling everyone how much they read, when in reality they just read ‘chick-trash’) will tell you that buying Xmas gifts for bookworms is easy. You just go to the local bookshop and purchase something from the ‘Top Ten’ shelf, right?

WRONG

TOTALLY WRONG

WRONG A MILLION TIMES OVER

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First of all, how on earth do you know which kind of books your friend/partner/family-member likes? Secondly, if you DO know them that well, how on earth do you know whether they already have that particular book in their collection or not? Or whether they have already read it (and maybe hated it) or not? If you ask them which books they want, that might be ok – however that depends on whether you want the pressie to be a surprise or whether you just want to ease your conscience from the start, and just set out to take the easy way out, by asking about it.

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Personally, if a gift is not a surprise, I don’t see the point of it, so there you have it. You just can’t ask someone what they want for Xmas right? It’s downright rude. Like asking a new date whether they love you or not during the first hour of making out for the first time. Rude or kinda angsty teenager drama behavior anyways.

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I remember once someone I was dating tried to be clever by giving me a set of books for my birthday. BIG MISTAKE. That was actually the first indication that I needed to give the guy the sack, right there and then (my big mistake was that I waited a couple of months after that first signal). The guy actually showed he did not know me at all. Imagine giving ME ‘Supernatural teenage romance’ – you know that kind of romantic triangle mush which actually makes ‘Twilight’ look like just vomit, instead of 100-year old drainage. Yes, that bad.

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So, no, if your partner, your friend, your mother, your neighbor or your teacher is a book-maniac, DO NOT take the easy way out and gift him/her with the first book you ‘might think’ is their style or which you ‘might think’ they have not read yet.

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Give them a cute owl-patterned blanket, give them fluffy house slippers, give them an Alice in Wonderland gothic tea-set, give them panda ear-muffs or a new Gorjuss diary.

Or to be on the safe side, and make them 100% happy, just give them a voucher from Book Depository, and let them decide what to buy for themselves.

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Thank you very much!! ;0p