Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Action for Happiness

I came across Action for Happiness the other day. The site is launching in full force at the start of next year as a movement for social change to help create a happier society. They think we need a shift in priorities to address the gap between rising affluence and levels of happiness:
As our society has become richer, our happiness has not risen in step. Despite ever greater affluence, our lives are increasingly stressful.

There's an interesting piece on their current site about why happiness matters, briefly discussing matters such as material wealth not bringing people increased happiness, selfishness and indivualism, bringing about more positive living, the part that our schools and workplaces should play and more. One point that I liked was the suggestion of The New Economics Foundation to get our 'spiritual equivalent of the 5 fruit and veg a day needed for physical health' by incorporating 'GREAT into our daily lives':

  • Giving

  • Relating to other people

  • Exercising the body

  • Attending to the world around

  • Teaching yourself something new

This advice is nothing new and we all know that these things are good for our wellbeing but it's a good way to remember each one by thinking of getting our '5 a day'.

As we approach the time of year when we start considering new year's resolutions, I think I might use 'GREAT' as a sort of lifestyle mantra for myself in 2011. It incorporates several of my aims for this past year, that truth be told, never really got going. If I feel like I need to do a bit of each every day, it may make the tasks seem more achievable. We'll see.....

In any case, I'm interested to see what Action for Happiness brings us in the new year. If you'd like to be involved and support the movement, you can join and register your interest here.


Tomorrow my husband, son and I will be fighting the snow-fuelled travel disruption to try to get to France for Christmas with my parents so this will be my last post for 2010. I wish you all a HAPPY Christmas and new year!


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Monday, 13 December 2010

Finding the calm around Christmas time

Christmas, Christmas, Christmas!! On Saturday we went to a local Christmas party for families in the neighbourhood, on Sunday we got our tree and decorated it, today my son had a Christmas party at one of his classes. If we don't see Santa again tomorrow, it's going to feel very strange! Time is ticking on and the last-minute rush that comes with Christmas is almost upon us. Even though we've been very organised in our family this year with our preparations (present buying, posting packages to family abroad, writing and sending cards etc), there are still the last few ends to tie up.

Fun as this time of the year is for families, I think parents also face a bit of added pressure and emphasis on Christmas that is hard to escape. You want everything to be perfect for your children, you want them to enjoy the excitement and surprise that Christmas brings but sometimes you just want to think about something else. Of course you can and you should! It's important to have a break from the frantic festivities and take a moment to yourself.

Schedule in something you find relaxing over the next couple of weeks. Maybe it's going to get your hair cut, have a manicure or a massage or maybe something closer to home like a long soak in the bath with music, candles and essential oils or having a couple of hours to yourself one morning while your spouse or a friend looks after your children to just lounge around in your pyjamas, put your feet up and read a magazine.

Making yourself step back from the Christmas rush, the things to do, the shopping, the food, the people, the Christmas-themed everything around you and to focus on something for yourself and something you enjoy will do you the world of good. Even just an hour off duty will recharge, reinvigorate and revitalise you! You'll feel ready to get back to the magic of Christmas, feeling calmer about everything. Do it now, plan something, arrange childcare with your spouse/family/friends, write it in your diary and look forward to it!
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Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Giving Christmas presents a personal touch

After last Christmas I told myself I would try to do mostly homemade presents for people next year. There are so many lovely things you can make to give people and presented in the right way, they can look great, as well as being all the more special for the time and thought that has gone into creating them. Here we are around Christmas time again and I completely forgot about that plan and have mostly done all my Christmas shopping!

For those of you looking for homemade gift ideas, I thought I would share a few of my own and also some links to suggestions I've seen and liked online:

FOOD: We made a couple of our favourite Italian nibbles and sent to family this year. One is the savoury taralli and the other is the twice-baked biscotti or cantuccini (almond biscuits). Both are quick to make and keep well for a few days in an airtight container.

Christmas cookies are a nice food item to make with chidren. If you have Christmas themed cookie cutters and some writing icing tubes, it's easy for them to help cut out and decorate the cookies.

Have a look at Stonesoup's 9 Christmas gifts to make at home for some original food gift ideas.

TREE ORNAMENTS: These are fun for children to make and the sort of thing that grandparents would really appreciate. For younger children, you could get some green felt and cut out Christmas tree shapes. With some glue, mini pompoms, glitter, sequins etc, your child can decorate it to their heart's content! Punch a hole in the top and tie some ribbon so they can be hung on the tree.

Paper plate angels are another decorative tree ornament that can be created simply with a bit of adult assistance.

These tree ornaments on The Simple Dollar are another good option and look pretty sturdy and long-lasting.

I love this cute pompom robin over at Nurture Store.

BEAUTY PRODUCTS: I bought some pretty glass bottles earlier this year that I planned to fill with homemade bath or massage oil and give as gifts. You can find simple recipes very easily, such as these.

Lip balm is another great beauty gift that you could make at home. Try this recipe from FIMBY.

STATIONERY: Photo printing websites offer easy ways to create personalised stationary which can be a lovely present for family members. Calendars with a different photo of your children each month, a notebook with a meaningful image on the front cover and diaries with various photos throughout can all easily put together. I use Photobox but everywhere seems to offer these same products.

For more hands-on creativity that gets your children involved too, this calendar using their drawings is a really nice idea, posted last year at Fab Mums.

Have you got any plans to make any Christmas presents for people this year? Are there things you have made in previous years that have been particularly successful? Do share any other ideas in the comments too.

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Friday, 3 December 2010

7 Delights of December

I was speaking to a friend yesterday and she was telling me how much she loves December. She likes getting cosy in winter clothes, the Christmas decorations, the gift buying, the parties and socialising, the mulled wine and other festive food and drink and it's also her birthday later in the month.

For our family, I think we share her sentiments. My son and my husband both have December birthdays so we have to be careful not to let those get overshadowed by Christmas and to enjoy separate celebrations for those. So far, this December has been a little extra fun than usual due to the snow we've had!

December is early enough that the winter hasn't yet started to feel never-ending and we're not yet tired of getting bundled up in our heavy coats and all the layers to keep warm outside. With holiday and Christmas on the horizon, people start to be more relaxed and tend to be in good spirits. There's lots to keep us occupied during the cold days and dark evenings too.

For those of you at home with your children I've come up with a list of 7 delights of December, simple things you can enjoy together this month:

1) The snow. It's early for us to get snow here but get out there! Make some snowballs, snowmen, snow angels, patterns in the snow with your footprints....Wrap up warm and you'll find it invigorating as well as fun.

2) Gift wrapping. Wrap as you go along rather than saving all the wrapping for Christmas Eve. My son loves to help wrap presents too and sometimes he's quite happy to have his own piece of wrapping paper and amuses himself wrapping random objects in our living room.

3) Boxes. We've been getting parcels of some sort almost every day this week but that's partly because of the December birthdays. However, you'll probably get a few too and the play possibilities with those are endless! Putting things in them, using them to make a pretend cupboard/cooker/robot or whatever, making a tower of boxes if you have several are just some suggestions.

4) Decorations. Let your little ones help with the decorations, putting ornaments on the tree for example. I know someone who used to let their children decorate the tree and then once they'd gone to bed she'd rearrange it all so it all looked evenly decorated and of course the children knew nothing of it :-). They love to help and it's a nice task to do together to get into the Christmas mood!

5) Cooking. Make some Christmas cookies, cupcakes, mince pies or whatever takes your fancy. My son loves to mix, he doesn't care what we're making as long as he gets to tip some ingredients into a bowl and mix them all together. Cooking can be a great indoor activity to do with your children. Older children can do more sophisticated tasks like decorating cookies with coloured icing.

6) Arts and crafts. Find some festive art ideas to do with your children and display them at home. Older ones could make Christmas cards. Even little ones can make their mark by decorating brown paper with potato printing to use as wrapping paper.

7) Christmas events & activities. Make the most of what's on offer for the festive season and take your children to see a show, make a visit to Santa's grotto, take older children ice-skating or to a Christmas market.

What other things would you suggest doing with your children this month?


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