Northern Mummy

General thoughts and wittering about all sorts of things

Doing it differently

on January 4, 2013

Happy New Year!

I hope your festivities have gone well and you are now feeling rested and invigorated to face the year ahead.  We have just returned from a few days away, which we spent mainly with Southern Daddy’s sister and her family in the South West of England.  It was a lot of fun as we haven’t spent much time in that part of the world (not because we don’t like them, but because it’s such a long journey that it’s often easier to meet them somewhere in between) and there are still plenty of New Things To Do.  This time we visited At-Bristol, a science centre.  I felt it was rather expensive at £35.50 for a family of 4, plus 50p per person if you want to go to the Planetarium, but I have to admit that there was far more to do there than we could fit in one day, and we did get a discount thanks to my sister-in-law’s voucher-app savvy, which introduced me to Vouchercloud.   I managed to get it installed on my phone just in time to score us £1.50 each off our admission, and I’ve already spotted some more local benefits I’ll be able to make use of.  Highlights of the day for us included the hydraulic experiments which allowed you to turn levers, pull handles and pull strings to enable water to flow into different chambers or shoot up tubes, and watch the cause and effect; the light projected creepy crawlies which “splatted” when you bashed them with your hand (!); and the science show in which the expert set fire to various substances including icing sugar, Christmas puddings (using alcohol less readily available than the conventional brandy, creating different coloured flames) and – believe it or not – ice.

We also had a lovely day out in Bath, eating a sumptuous Moroccan meal at Café du Globe – you really have to visit if you’re anywhere nearby – and a good walk in the fresh air on the first fine day for quite a while.

On our way home we detoured via Herefordshire, new home to the Boy and Baby and their parents, and overnighted with my sister and her family, so we have been able to drop off and pick up the last of our Christmas presents for another year.

This Christmas I’ve discussed present-buying with a lot of people.  Some of them hate it and want to get it over as quickly as possible.  Some, like myself, enjoy it and love to spend time thinking of something that would most delight the recipient.  Most people seem to be agreed that we all have far too much Stuff and often feel unappreciative of the efforts our family and friends make to find us something we love, because however pleased we are to receive the gift, our thoughts quickly run to “where on earth am I going to keep this?”

With our nuclear family – and here I’m mainly referring to those who inhabit the same house, although if you spend enough time in someone else’s house you might be well enough acquainted with their arrangements to apply this to them too – we can do the thinking on their behalf and follow the gift-opening with “I thought you could put it in the cupboard under the microwave”, as I did with Southern Daddy’s pasta machine this Christmas (and before you ask, yes, it was a gift for him and not one of those things you give to someone because you secretly want it yourself – he loves that sort of thing and is much better at it than I am, and I’ve been treated to home-made pasta on no fewer than 4 occasions since Christmas Day!).  With those we know less well, a present much bigger than an average book is always a bit of a risk.  But I have a solution which I plan to make use of from now on!

Shortly before Christmas, when I had only a handful of presents left to buy, I read an article about present-choosing wisdom.  It talked about the endless accumulation of Stuff in our homes, and how it creates difficulties for both giver and recipient, and suggested we consider giving more consumable gifts.  By this I don’t really mean edible ones, although I suppose they are sometimes welcome and won’t take up space for very long!  I also think that giving cash or a store gift card can often come across as demonstrating lack of thought, unless you know that the recipient is in particular need, or would love the permission to go mad in John Lewis!  What I really mean by a consumable gift is an experience, such as a meal, an evening/day out, or just something the recipient would really enjoy.  For my dad’s birthday this year (22nd December, so finding two things can be a bit of a challenge) I contacted an old school friend who lives in my home town and asked for advice on restaurants.  She gave me her recommendations and then went on to get hold a restaurant voucher and a menu for me to put into my dad’s birthday card.  He really appreciated it and he and my stepmother are looking forward to going for their meal.  Similarly, I am eagerly planning a trip to the theatre with the theatre tokens I received (I already have about 4 things I want to see!): the anticipation is part of the gift.

One of the biggest treats with this kind of gift, especially for an adult, is that it’s what my sister calls “ring-fenced money”.  When you’re given cash, it’s all too easy for it to be absorbed into your bank account (especially this time of year when finances can be looking a little thin).  Sometimes that’s nice, if someone’s especially hard up, but it’s lovely for the recipient to have a specific treat in the offing, and great for the giver to see the pleasure that’s taken from it.  My sister tells me that one of her favourite gifts this year is a Costa gift card and another friend has been delighted with her Good Housekeeping subscription, anticipating the little treats that will be afforded throughout the year.  So I propose that we all try consumable giving, especially for those we’ve consigned to that mental category labelled “difficult to buy for”.

The beauty of this is that it can suit your budget entirely.  If you can afford to buy everyone something from one of those Experience websites, go ahead.  If you can only afford a small amount, a voucher for a restaurant would still provide someone with a nice meal out, even if it doesn’t cover the whole cost.  If you’re really stuck, make your own vouchers for people that they can redeem with you personally, depending on your skills and their needs.  You might be able to give someone a mani/pedi or decorate a room of their house, take them on a picnic somewhere nice or offer them babysitting while they take some time to themselves.

The other way in which I’m going to do it differently this year is in terms of my attitude.  My tendency is to be a bit of an Eeyore, and look on the negative side, and I’d like to work on that a little bit, both in my outlook on life and also in the way I relate to other people.  A while ago I read this post by Alice which talks about the twitter hashtag #3goodthings, for which participants think of three things they’re thankful for that day.  I think this is a great way to take a more positive approach and promote gratitude, so I intend to try something similar.  From now on, every blogpost (hopefully at least once a week, wherever possible) will have my Thankful for… s at the bottom.  It’s a sort of not-quite-resolution, and you can ask me for them if ever I forget… and feel free to share your own with me too!

I want to finish by linking to Fiona’s latest post and echoing everything she has said about Is It Just Me?  The audio version, read by Miranda herself, helped me through a mild bout of flu before Christmas when I was unable to do anything but lie in bed, and comes heartily recommended.  And I’ve just remembered there’s a new episode of Miranda that I haven’t seen yet, so I’ll be off to watch that now!

Thankful for…

Freedom from illness over the school holidays

Time with family and friends over the last week

A chance to rest

Being able to give people gifts and see them enjoying them

More fun to look forward to over the next few weeks

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One response to “Doing it differently

  1. Fiona says:

    Fab post and great idea – thank you! And thank you for the link too! xxx

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