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Dear Santa

Posted by Nanny Knows Best
Nanny Knows Best
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on Monday, 24 November 2014
As I write this I am terrifyingly aware of how quickly Christmas is looming and then how to offer constructive options for what to put in a Christmas stocking and under the tree.

No matter what your religion there is no use trying to hide the expectation for presents as, dare I say, we live in a society utterly focused on “things” and “stuff” and “belongings”. I’m not saying it’s a totally negative concept; however, sometimes it seems the delight is more in the quantity and largesse rather than the expression of love and gratitude.

So have a think about the following as an alternative to the latest fad toy and brand name blingy thingy…

A regular date with your children where everyone gets to choose a fun activity (bowling, arts & crafts, a picnic, bike riding, mini-golf) or maybe just a regular movie night at home with popcorn and all the trimmings.

Sign them up for a magazine subscription, library card, to tap into your child’s curiosity or membership at the zoo, science museum or gym. Maybe you could find an adults and kids yoga or swim class to enjoy together.

Similarly, find a drawing or singing class, chess club, dance, riding, drama, skateboarding, indoor climbing, to give them a challenge for something new they might not have considered. Even if it doesn’t work out it’s not a failure but a learning experience and an adventure into the unknown.

Family coupons like an extra half hour before bed, my favourite dinner, sit and read with me, Anything Goes (give 3 options), cupcake baking & decoration, or something unique to your family. Children love personalised and thoughtful activities and usually the messier the more opportunity to giggle and be creative.

Outdoor supplies to get stuck into the garden together; board games, puzzles or cards for a rainy day or the evening; or you could visit a charity shop together to pick out dress up clothes for your afternoon tea date back at home.

Dear Santa, this year I’d like to give my children my imagination and time. I’d like to create new memories. I’d like my children to feel the joy of family and love. (Oh and if you have any magic sleeping dust for sprinkling on my children at night for an occasional morning lie-in, I’d like a box full please, to share with all my sleep deprived friends of course).

Embracing life, not style

Posted by Tania Kindersley
Tania Kindersley
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on Tuesday, 08 January 2013
Usually, at this moment in January, I say something like: well, we got through Christmas. In my family, the tradition is that someone goes into meltdown. The cliff-hanger is that each year no-one knows who it will be. (Quite often, me.) But in this dreich festive season, as the rains fell and the gales blew, the entire clan generated collective internal sunshine. Everyone was wreathed in smiles, excellent and useful presents were exchanged, the lunch went without a hitch. I even gave a little party.

I was thinking about quite why it was so delightful this year, and I came to slightly odd conclusion. From my own point of view, it was because I read no magazines.

I do not mean interesting generalist publications, like the dear old Lady. I mean what are horribly called Lifestyle Magazines. I object, on about eight different principles, to the very term lifestyle. I think one has a life, not a lifestyle. The very use of the word suggests something superficial, competitive, meretricious and commercial. It’s all about keeping up with the Armstrong-Joneses. In my darker moments, I think it as part of the great conspiracy to make the women sad.

I used to think that the lifestyle mags were very helpful, especially coming up to the yuletide season. Here would be another cunning recipe for stuffing, there would be a charming way of decorating the house. I would buy them all, and try to copy them, in my small, paltry way.
tania january9
The problem with this is that failure is built in. Life will never, ever look as seamless and shining and lovely as a picture on a glossy page. Your own ham will never be quite as gleaming and glazed (mostly because it is not covered in brown shoe polish); your own house will never be quite as inviting and box-fresh. The rational brain knows quite well that the photographs are as alluring as they are thanks to lighting and stylists and tricks of the trade. The sane brain knows none of it is real. But the irrational brain wails: why, why, why is my life not like that?

I’m not on a jeremiad against the mags. They can entertain and divert. I just think it’s really important to remember that they exist to sell things. In order to be put into a buying mood, people need to be riled into a mild state of discontent. There must be the sense of something missing. Then – le voilà! – there is the solution. This frock, that standard lamp, this pair of shoes is the ultimate solution to every existential ill that ails you.

This year, I had no time for discontent. I was worn out from work, coming up on a tight deadline, and fragile from mourning my beloved dog, who had to be put down in November. I needed a really happy Christmas. So, for once in my life, I did not give a bugger about what Nigella was going to do, or which stuffing Jamie was going to use. I had no use for the faintly smug decorating tips of the famous. I was not going to compete against the impossible standards of the magazine version of life or style.

After a frenzied moment of Christmas panic about three weeks out, I calmed myself,  went to the village flower shop, and with the happy feeling of supporting a local business, bought armfuls of eucalyptus and holly and ivy. I flung it all about and felt amazingly happy at the cheering vista of green. No one would come and photograph it, but it was real and it was mine and I loved it. I was not doing the ideal Christmas, I just did the authentic, slightly muddly human version.

And now, in the same novel tradition, I am not looking at the January features about detoxification, and cleansing diets, and losing those festive pounds. I have invented my own new year health plan, which involves stomping round a muddy field in pursuit of a very determined little Welsh pony. I am free-schooling her, and it is the best and funniest exercise either of us ever had. We are both going to be fit as a butcher’s dog by the end of it. Then I come in from the weather and eat some chicken soup. It is the Pony-and-Chicken-Soup Plan. It doesn’t really trip off the tongue, and you will not find it in any lifestyle section. I shall not be able to spin it into a best-selling book and retire on the proceeds. But it is, without a doubt, the best January regime I ever found.


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