Get ready to get giving

INTRO: Is that the sound of Christmas bells already? Ok, take a deep breath and do not panic. Two Constantia mums, Gerda Munnik and Karen Botten, tell Dawn Kennedy how to put the pleasure back into Christmas shopping.
COPY. Let’s face it, we’ve all been there. Suddenly it’s the last day of school and once again you’ve forgotten to buy a gift worthy of the saint who has devoted hours, days and months to your child’s education. Gerda Munnik and Karen Botten, who have five children between them, know that the first round of Christmas shopping kicks off when schools break up. Gerda says, “As experienced mums we know how frenetic everything gets towards the 25th. We host the Groot Constantia Christmas Gift Fair at the end of October to help stave off some chaos and allow people to shop for high quality handmade gifts in a wonderful environment.”
For several years, Gerda ran the Christmas Gift Fair at Kirstenbosch Stone Cottages. When she collaborated with Karen, the partnership proved so fruitful that they had to relocate the fair to a bigger venue. Groot Constantia provided the ideal space and ambience.
Gerda and Karen have disproved the notion that friendship and business don’t mix. Karen says, “We make a great team. We’ve been friends for years, since our kids were small. We just gel well together. ” Karen says, “Gerda’s the creative one. She gives outstanding gifts that are presented with flair. I’m more of an organizer.”
Karen’s home is immaculate. She admits that she’s a neatness fanatic and a disciple of a book called “Clear the Clutter” by Karen Kingston which claims that you can make psychological shifts simply by clearing out old cupboards. Gerda, the more chaotic and creative side of the union, says this book, given to her by Karen as a subtle hint, was the best gift that she’s ever received.
There’s an easygoing banter between Gerda and Karen that only time and a trust can build. Both Gerda and Karen spend eight months of the year preparing for the fair and scouring the country in search of the exquisite, the unique and the utterly desirable. Karen promises, “The goods at the fair are not what you find at the usual market fairs or in shops. Every year our designs get copied and so we have to keep coming up with fresh ideas.”
All this hard work ensures an inspirational event that is a treat for the senses and very different from busy shopping malls. For four days, six tills ring non-stop, cashing up sales from goods made by the 150 people that Gerda and Karen have personally selected. Karen says, “It’s an up market event and the quality is excellent. We know what the Southern suburbs shopper likes and what will sell. Pretty rules – hearts and flowers are best-sellers. The vintage look is always popular.”
Both women are devoted mothers. Gerda says, “Children are the centre of our universe. I love spending time with, and spoiling, my children.” Like all mothers, they run an unprofitable sideline as a taxi service and spend most afternoons ferrying children to and from various after school activities.
Karen is a real Southern suburbs belle who works full-time with her husband running a Liberty Life franchise. Apart from a brief period of exile in Johannesburg, she’s spent her entire life in the leafy suburbs. “It’s absolutely beautiful. I love the quietness.” She jogs every day with a group of women from Virgin active gym and manages to clock up 40 kilometres a week. “On my morning run I count my blessings that I live in such a beautiful part of the world.” On the weekends, the whole family enjoys Mountain biking in Tokai arboretum.
Gerda is more of a water baby. She trains in the pool three times a week at the Sports Science Institute and spends most weekends at the family beach home in Simonstown.
Karen suggests that readers use the fair as an opportunity to stock up on wonderful gifts for the entire year. She says, “I buy a box of gifts for myself. Think how many gifts a person is required to give in a year! I no longer have to panic when I get a last minute dinner invitation. Throughout the year, I’m forever pulling gifts out of that box. Make a list before you come to the fair. Otherwise, inevitably what happens is that the moment you leave you remember a favourite aunt who you forgot to buy for.”
What do two women, who spend so much time thinking about what to give to others, want to receive in their Christmas stocking?
Without hesitation, both declare, “A bottle of La Mer!” Karen says, “We had a wonderful demonstration of this amazing face cream recently in Stuttafords. We didn’t buy it then and now it’s top of our Christmas wish lists.”
Husbands, you have been informed.
It’s all in the giving
Karen says, Gifts don’t need to be expensive. Give a gift that appeals to the sense of touch, taste or feel. Buy a beautifully packaged edible gift. Wrap it in brown schoolbook paper and dress it up with a wildly extravagant ribbon. Attach a fresh flower from your garden or a smelly sachet.
Browse for gifts Gerda and Karen shop mostly in Cavendish Square at The Space, 021- 674- 6643, Browns,021- 683- 3273, Accessorize, 021-674 -0053, Exclusive Books , 021- 674- 3030 and @Home, 021- 670-3987.
For last minute gifts, Gerda sys the only place to go is Woolworths in Cavendish
Tie me up Stock up on ribbons at Cardies in Constantia, 021- 794 -7580.
It’s a wrap Karen often finds stunning wrapping paper at Mr Price in Blue Route mall 021- 712-7295
Take a break After a busy day shopping, Karen and Gerda like to enjoy tea and scones at Orchids café in Wynberg 021-761 1000

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