Tuesday, October 25, 2011

In Defence Of Housework

Yesterday was Monday. It was raining like I haven't seen in a long time, the house was in a mess and there was a backlog of laundry after the weekend slack. As I started my trudge around the rooms beginning to get the place back in order, toddler in tow, I was wondering to myself whether we had children living in our home, or rats?

I was seriously thinking maybe we'd be better off with rats as they'd probably be tidier.

I have an iPhone which is a bit of a mixed blessing, which I'll go into in another post, but for today, suffice to say I have it. One of my (many) techniques of efficient housekeeping is to set the timer on the phone for a certain number of minutes and try to see how much I can get done in that room in the designated time. Then I turn on TuneinRadio app on which you can get any radio station worldwide. Today I chose a love-song station to accompany my efforts. Honestly I was not in the mood for housework...I'd rather be blogging :-)

Then this song came on:

Everything changed...my mood lifted, I moved with speed and efficiency, whisking up bundles of dirty laundry, whipping beds back into shape, spraying cleaner fluid and polish with aplomb while singing and swaying as though it was me on that Motown stage!!

As I was going along I was interiorly composing an upbeat blog post about favourite housework music and how it can have a positive effect on how much we can get done. Oh yes, this would be a nice cheerful one which would help all my readers (lol) to compose their own song-lists and let loose on their homes. 11am and over my second cup of coffee I browsed online for a nice positive housework quote to use...

...I looked..

...and looked...

but all I could find were quotes praising not doing housework, stereotypical scathing attitudes of women who actually keep house along with enough sarcastic references to men to fill a book.

'Housework is a treadmill from futility to oblivion with stop-offs at tedium and counter productivity'
Erma Bombeck

'Few tasks are more like the torture of Sisyphus than housework, with it's endless repetition, the clean becomes soiled, the soiled is made clean, over and over, day after day..'
Simone de Beauvoir

'A clean house is a sign of a dull woman'


A few months ago I gave a presentation at a seminar called The Organised Home. The seminar was booked out mainly by young mothers who all freely admitted to feeling that they were drowning in their own homes because of housework and admitted that they didn't even know where to start. None of these young Moms said they were happy to rock their babies because babies don't keep in the midst of clutter, dust, breakfast dishes sitting in the sink and with no plan of what the family was going to have for dinner that evening. Instead if being able to delight in their rapidly growing babies, they each felt stressed, unable to cope and guilty that both the babies and themselves were losing out because of their lack of home skills. They were crying out for direction and some advice as to, believe it or not, how to do housework so that they could be freed up to cuddle their baby, enjoy their spouse or engage in abandoned past-times.

The generation almost all these young women came from was one which saw huge changes in parenting styles. Previously children had been expected to participate in household chores before they enjoyed recreation. Free-range children became a mantra which quite often wasn't thought out as to the far reaching repercussions and this was the first generation to be utterly over-scheduled with extra-curricular activities to the point that lying on a bed reading a comic was quite simply something there was no time for.

About two or three years ago, the findings of a study which had been undertaken in University College Dublin were published in the national newspapers. The study was about how the third level students in that college were able to perform ordinary human tasks. The results were shocking. A huge percentage of these students, who clearly had a modicum of intelligence displayed by the fact that they had secured a university place, were unable to do simple tasks such as cook a healthy meal, iron an item of clothing, operate a washing machine or shop for groceries. Unfortunately I cannot just now put my hand on the figures but it struck me that while a third level education may well prepare young people very well for the work place, the students had been failed somewhere along the line by being left ignorant of how to look after even themselves, let alone future children, homes and so on.

The more I mulled this over in y mind, the more I saw that work which takes place in a home is probably one of the most openly demeaned of all forms of work. For example, stay at home Moms are quite regularly prefixed with the word only. So much as mention on Facebook that you are ironing or that you have baked a cake, you can fully expect comments like 'you need to get a life' and an attitude that you have let down the 'Sisterhood' by being so subservient and 'wifey'.

But think about this:

Where are you happy to return to after a stressful day at work or tramping around shops?

Where does the heart of every member of a diaspora long for on days like Christmas or Thanksgiving?

Where would you rather be than anywhere else in the world when you are in hospital with your very sick baby?


So if home is so important, why then is the effort involved in making it a happy, restful and harmonious place to be so disdained? I really would love to study this.
Ideally a home is where the members go to recharge in order to head back into the world but if the home is where you find disorder, disharmony, bickering over tasks and constantly running late searching for mislaid 'stuff', how on earth can the family members bring peace and refreshment out into the world with them? I really can't see how rearing children to be helpless adults, ill equipped for caring for themselves is giving them any advantage in life. Most extra curricular activities are dropped like a ton of bricks at the first opportunity anyway and an attitude that somebody else, be it a mother, father, home help, school, city council, spouse, judicial system are going to sort out your cluttered life breeds anything but happiness.

Housework aiming, not as an end in itself, but as a tool to help the home become a launching pad of great adults is not demeaning, is not undignified and is certainly something that is worth learning how to be good at in order that time is made for the important things in life, like cuddling my baby because babies don't keep.

Over the last 17 years, out of necessity in order to save myself from drowning in my home, I have gleaned lots of ideas and techniques of efficient and speed homemaking through reading, study, trying out and fine tuning methods. I am most certainly not a domestic goddess which is regularly illustrated by my superhuman leap across my kitchen if I see someone unexpectedly about to open one of my cupboards or my fridge!! But I have learned a lot and I will be passing on lots of it in future posts so you can take what suits you and laugh your head off at the rest, I don't mind either way :-)

Now back to my laundry pile...
...and let the 'Sisterhood' make of that whatever it likes...Sister.

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Saturday, October 22, 2011

The World's Worst Gift Buyer?

I willingly admit that I was never really the world's most successful gift buyer, or necessarily the most thoughtful. When I was about 17 years old I was known one Christmas to spend all my babysitting money buying great LP records for all my siblings.
The fact that the albums were not necessarily the bands or music the recipients actually liked seemed to miss my observation in the midst of my excitement that every album released that year that I really loved was coming into the house that Christmas!

It didn't miss my siblings' observation though and I am still to this day being reminded of my less than altruistic motives that year.

When I started working I had a little more funds available but my buying strategies didn't improve much. In fact not at all. I'll give an example:

My sister who is a year older than me, knowing my lack of shopping prowess, informed me when I was heading out on my shopping trip that she would really like a book by the American novelist and Catholic writer, Flannery O Connor.

I was delighted so armed with this tip-off I headed to the largest book-shop in the city. Without any ado I went to the shelf where I might find Flannery O Connor books.

There were none there.

Not to be put off, I peered and peered at the shelf where the book should be and in the end decided to buy the book that was occupying the spot where the desired book would have been had it been in stock.

This is what I gave my sister for Christmas that year:

Poems from the Australian outback.

I will never forget the blank look on her face when she opened the present!

Actually in retrospect, it was probably the best present I ever bought anybody as never has a present provided such merriment so many years later. The entire family still laugh at my thought process, or lack thereof, back then. To be honest, I'm not too sure whether I've changed that much :-)

Recently my sister who got this great present came across it on her bookshelf and started reading it. She told me later that she really enjoyed the poetry and though it was still a mystery to her how I thought that she wouldn't notice that the book wasn't by Flannery O'Connor but rather John O Brien, she's glad to have it all the same.

All's well that ends well.

For your pleasure, here's a little sample of the poetry of John O Brien
(Patrick Joseph Hartigan 1878-1952):

“We’ll all be rooned,” said Hanrahan
In accents most forlorn
Outside the church ere Mass began
One frosty Sunday morn.
The congregation stood about,
Coat-collars to the ears,
And talked of stock and crops and drought
As it had done for years.
“It’s lookin’ crook,” said Daniel Croke;
“Bedad, it’s cruke, me lad
For never since the banks went broke
Has seasons been so bad.
“It’s dry, all right,” said young O’Neil,
With which astute remark
He squatted down upon his heel
And chewed a piece of bark.
And so around the chorus ran
“It’s keepin’ dry, no doubt.”
“We’ll all be rooned,” said Hanrahan,
“Before the year is out.
“The crops are done; ye’ll have your work
To save one bag of grain;
From here way out to Back-O’-Bourke
They’re singin’ out for rain.
“They’re singin’ out for rain,” he said,
“And all the tanks are dry.”
The congregation scratched its head,
And gazed around the sky.
“There won’t be grass, in any case,
Enough to feed an ass;
There’s not a blade on Casey’s place
As I came down to Mass.”
“If rain don’t come this month,” said Dan,
And cleared his throat to speak –
“We’ll all be rooned,” said Hanrahan, “
If rain don’t come this week.”
A heavy silence seemed to steal
On all at this remark;
And each man squatted on his heel,
And chewed a piece of bark.
“We want an inch of rain, we do,”
O’Neil observed at last;
But Croke “maintained” we wanted two
To put the danger past.
“If we don’t get three inches, man,
Or four to break this drought,
We’ll all be rooned,” said Hanrahan,
“Before the year is out.”
In God’s good time down came the rain;
And all the afternoon
On iron roof and window-pane
It drummed a homely tune.
And through the night it pattered still,
And lightsome, gladsome elves
On dripping spout and window-sill
Kept talking to themselves.
It pelted, pelted all day long,
A-singing at its work,
Till every heart took up the song
Way out to Back-O’-Bourke.
And every creek a banker ran,
And dams filled overtop;
“We’ll all be rooned,” said Hanrahan,
“If this rain doesn’t stop.”
And stop it did, in God’s good time:
And spring came in to fold
A mantle o’er the hills sublime
Of green and pink and gold.
And days went by on dancing feet,
With harvest-hopes immense,
And laughing eyes beheld the wheat
Nid-nodding o’er the fence.
And, oh, the smiles on every face,
As happy lad and lass
Through grass knee-deep on Casey’s place
Went riding down to Mass.
While round the church in clothes genteel
Discoursed the men of mark,
And each man squatted on his heel,
And chewed his piece of bark.
“There’ll be bush-fires for sure, me man,
There will, without a doubt;
We’ll all be rooned,” said Hanrahan,
“Before the year is out.”
John O’Brien

I think I'll buy her a Flannery O'Connor book this year.


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Friday, October 21, 2011

Things For Teens Attempt No 2

Teenagers can be a little difficult to buy gifts for as you can sometimes feel so confused as to which thing has 'street cred' and which thing is old hat. I think you can't go too far wrong with giving something which shows your affection and that you have put a little thought in. When my eldest hit 15 this year it came at a difficult time as I was taking a sad flight that day to attend a very dear relative's funeral. The week afterwards we were going on our family holiday so the birthday sort of fell between the stools...I promise, next year...Sweet 16, I'll do something special.

Well anyway, I promised my 15 year old birthday girl she could choose something. She searched and searched online and then came and asked could she show me what she'd like. It turned out to be something I'd never even have imagined or ever thought of but I got it for her and she just loves it. Here it is:


Guitar Pick Necklace

These funky necklaces are easily available on lots of websites and cost very little. Remember teenagers are moving on from brand names (though hopefully with a little guidance they might skip that part, that's a blog post for another day) and moving on to cool and alternative.

The necklaces are available featuring every band you could possibly think of and I think are equally suitable for boys or girls.

For teenagers who play the guitar or like to fiddle about on one you can get lovely tinned sets of guitar picks featuring their favourite band.

My teen bought this exact one for her friend's birthday and she struggled bravely with the temptation to keep them herself and buy some bubble bath for the friend instead. Thankfully, with a little parental nudge, the friend got the intended present but it demonstrated to me that this small gift is probably something that would appeal to lots of teenagers or even older age groups.



I have a little bag lady. Bring her into a bag shop and watch her eyes dilate. She has a small collection of very pretty bags that she regularly uses. I generally allow her to admire and leave it at that as for some reason, it seems to me that bags and shoes are typical entry points into the world of materialism, so it's an area where the virtue of temperance can be encouraged. However, I can see no harm when a birthday or Christmas comes around in allowing a little addition to her collection.

I have a rule that if a bag is there, it has to be used or somebody else allowed to use it. There is something about closets full of shoes and bags that are never used that reminds me of a miser and his stash of gold coins.

So restraint being factored in, Santa Claus managed to to discover this super-pretty range of bags and accessories. I think they are gorgeous and in fact that's what they are called..Gorjuss..

And some lovely stationery to match:


Pro Markers

I know lots of older children and teenagers love to try their hand at drawing and graphic art. I've always thought a ream of A4 paper and a ready supply of crayons and coloured pencils is one of the best toys you can provide for any child. If your child (or niece or nephew or young friend..) is any way arty, Pro-Markers are a very thoughtful gift which will definitely be appreciated. These professional artist quality markers are sold individually and not many teenagers have the funds to build up much of a collection as they are quite expensive for them to buy for themselves.

However, for gift-giving these double-ended markers are perfect as you can spend as little or as much as your budget allows. I would think a few in skin-tones along with some other colours would be a very thoughtful gift. A pad of art paper designed for markers would nicely complete the gift and you could even add an animation, anime or graphic art book if you really want to go to town!

I know for a fact arty teens really appreciate these as gifts.

I have to emphasise...these markers ARE NOT suitable gifts for children, they are professional quality and far too expensive for small children.

Well I hope these ideas are helpful for you. If you have enjoyed any of posts, maybe you would like to subscribe to my blog by clicking on the SUBSCRIBE button at the side. Leave a comment and I actually would love if anyone has any suggestions for me as all of the things I'm featuring are already tried and tested by me so I'll be looking for some new ideas for myself.

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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

To Love Our Teens

Teenagers! What can anybody say about them? So many books, so many theories about them, their developing minds, their massive all-round changes, discipline, limits, apron strings which no longer provide everything they need.

I have a very clear memory of myself aged about 11 in the sitting room of my home with a fire crackling and my father having a mug of tea. My mother was warming herself at the fire and I was giving her a hug. I could smell her Max Factor No 53 face powder-Tempting Touch. Those details are branded in my mind as along with a dab of pink lipstick, that was all the make up my mother ever wore. It was all she needed as her personality lit up everywhere she was.

I was in my father's house by myself recently and rummaged to find some of her old stuff and found a Max Factor No 53 in one of her handbags. Smells and songs, how they take us back as though we'd never even been away.
Back to that moment in the golden sitting room and I clearly remember the overwhelming thought I had at that time.

Everything I ever need or want is in this room just now.

Oh My.

If only we could all stay 11 forever. The world would be such a lovely place.

But then...

...we wouldn't have teenagers.

We wouldn't be able to share in the adventure, turbulent or calm, whichever one it is, it's still an adventure and though they might not be thinking everything I need is my Mammy and my Daddy, in their hearts, that's what they still want and wish to (sort of) keep hold of, even if from an ever increasing distance.
I am no expert in teenagers. In fact, every trap going I fall into again and again and again. But this evening I was at a short evening of recollection, like a mini-retreat and I spent some time thinking (and praying) about the whole 'thing' of teenagers as I knew I wanted to write this post and it struck me that there's something that happens ever so slowly as our children grow...we stop touching them.

Think of it...

...remember your sweet, milky newborn? How every minute of every day you kissed, smelled, caressed and gazed at that little person?

Jump forward 15 years...

...listen to yourself..

Nag, nag, nag, nag.

When did we stop delighting in that same person?

I read once that teen boys (and I have none) really need that touch. Not necessarily bear hugs and especially not in public, but just your hand on their arm when you're talking to him, or a fluff of the hair and so on. Girls the same, though they might not invite it. Chats are lovely (and delightful sometimes). But an actual touch from a parent can mean the world to them. You may feel like you're lost at sea and sinking fast but did you ever stop to think that maybe that's exactly how the teenager feels too and that maybe all they'd like is a little back scratch?

So with that in mind, when I came home this evening I sat on the bed of one of my teens as she was looking at homework and exam-papers and I gave her a back-scratch as I was chatting to her.

I know she liked it..

..because she said..

.."lower....left a bit..and up a bit..aaahh..yes there.."

I really love my teenagers.

Sometimes we just need to remember that.

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Friday, October 14, 2011

Some Enchanted Things

Well after my little detour into the magical world of rocking horses, here I am back on track with my Christmas gift ideas. After a while you might begin to notice a certain style to the things I put up. I have this little theory that if children are exposed to simplicity and beauty at an early age it will help them as they go along in life to be able to discern what is real and authentic. I have noticed a definite, if subtle, coarsening of children's 'culture' since my eldest was born in that for example, children's TV presenters have become less gentle, less likely to talk in turn, more likely to shout over people, more brashly dressed. I don't really think it's just me as I have some old VCR tapes of 'stuff' I recorded about 15 years ago and I can see that difference.

Anyhooo...my thinking is that if there is exposure to beautiful and gentle music, simple images and toys that are not an assault to every sense, children will have the chance to process things more clearly. Beauty is attractive. Now I'm not talking here about a beautiful face, through what is more beautiful than the human face and body...which is why art students spend so much time and study in mastering their ability to capture the human form.

On the subject of human beauty, my father always considered himself very lucky as there have always been small children in his life. Firstly he was the eldest of a large family and clearly remembers his youngest siblings as babies. Then he had his own large family and no sooner were they half reared than grandchildren began to arrive and now he's dipping into generation number four with the arrival of his first great-grandchild this time last year. He said once that babies are a glimpse of Heaven and he's right you know. You never really get fed up of studying and loving the minutiae of a baby's face, from the tiny downy hairs to the little veins under the perfect skin and just gaze at the wonder of the child, whether he or she has been born with amazing 'perfection' or whether that extra (special) chromosome has inadvertently slipped in there, or whether there's maybe half a heart...each one their own little perfection.

So simplicity and beauty...quite often my criteria in choosing for children (or myself), though I fully admit to my children being exposed many's the time to the shouting ambiance of Saturday morning TV while I either catch up on sleep or nurse that first blissful cup of coffee in the kitchen away from them all.

With that in mind, here are today's offerings:


When I decided to begin getting puppets for our children, I searched high and low trying to track down some that weren't either downright ugly or scary. This was before the days of internet shopping and I have to tell you I never found any which I actually wanted to buy apart from some simple animal ones. Finally after years of looking and with the help of Google, I can tell you the nicest puppets in the world, in my opinion are the Folkmani Puppets.

These award winning puppets come in all types of animals and fantasy characters. They are not overpriced and come as finger, glove and larger sizes for stage or classroom. This advert gives just a tiny taste.

Check out their website http://www.folkmanis.com/ to see them all but here's a few photos to start you off...

In my experience, money spent on puppets is never wasted and I don't think I have ever thrown one out unless it's head fell off and was beyond repair. The Folkmanis ones are the sort I can imagine I will be keeping for my grandchildren.


For the right child or adult who is interested in the whole world of dollhouses or book collectors, this series of books would be the perfect gift. Santa Claus brought these two books on consecutive years and our daughter who was the recipient treasures them and takes them out from time to time to enter into the imaginary world of a time gone by. Just beautiful. The covers are made of a sort of embossed velvet which just feels luxurious and special before you even open the book and you can also purchase paper dolls to go with the books to make them even more complete.

I'll leave it at that for today so you can enjoy the Folkmanis website...

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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Husbands, Presents And The Silent Treatment

Before I continue with my list of Christmas gift ideas, I just want to interject with a little...well..interjection. When I announced to my Facebook friends I was starting a new blog, one of the enticements I used was a promised little tip that might make your marriage a little better. Of course, I should have known that would lead to some hilarity, along with something of a lowering of tone, if you get my drift, in the following comments surmising as to what that tip might be...

So not to disappoint, this post is all about that marriage tip, which concerns the contentious issue of husbands, birthdays, anniversaries and the silent treatment.

When my husband and I began dating, he was in Pre-Med. That is, year one of his six year medical course, so our dates were mostly based on things that cost little or no money. Meals out generally involved us sharing a £2 tub of noodles while sitting on a wall chatting. We didn't mind in the slightest as we had a lot to talk about, having made the decision to marry after only six weeks.
It was our secret for a long time as you can imagine-I personally wouldn't have fancied the task of having to inform my parents at the age of 20 with six years of college ahead of me that I was getting married!

Anyway that's a by the way, the fact was we had no money for wasting but I was never short of receiving gifts that meant the world to me. Every morning we took the same early bus..me to work and him to college. It was lovely. In the winter when it was still dark the driver would have the bus so cosy with the lights dimmed and Lyric FM playing soft music. Nobody ever spoke much on the early bus and John and I were no different and usually just dozed off side by side. I have kept the jumper he often wore on those mornings and it still has that cosy, snoozy smell.

One freezing morning in the middle of winter we got onto the bus as usual and as I snuggled down for my morning snooze John handed me something tiny and beautiful...

No, No, No!! NOT an engagement ring!! (that was still being saved up for in fivers!!)

It was a tiny posy of the first snowdrops of the year bound with a little piece of string and wrapped in foil with a drop of water to keep them fresh. He had spotted them the evening before and gotten up a little earlier to get them for me.

It touched my heart.

I'm sure I probably have that little posy pressed in a book somewhere and will stumble upon it sometime when I least expect it. That'll be nice.

Well a few years later we married and played house for a year and then we played Mammies and Daddies for a few years until inevitably John finally began earning an income and I gave up work to be at home all the time with the babies. And so began the eggshell walking for my poor husband. While a pretty hand picked posy wins brownie points when money is non-existent. Does it strike quite the same note when presented at Christmas, or Wedding Anniversary, or Birthday?? Like lots of (if not most) women, and I daresay probably FAR more common in the first ten years of marriage, I presumed that because my husband loved me he should automatically know that I wanted him to buy me flowers because it was Wednesday, and it was February, and rainy, and because someone blew their horn at me...and HE would KNOW that if he really, really loved me!!

How can any guy win?

I guess it takes years and years to learn that love and mind-reading are not a package deal. When a man marries he thinks that his wife thinks like him. The big error here is that she thinks he thinks like her. I have heard this difference many many times and still all of us women fall into the same trap time and again-that of thinking that our husband, or boyfriend should have infused knowledge as to what we would like them to give us. My husband was a great present giver when we had nothing at all. He was even a very good present giver when we had very little. But then you 'grow up' and hit 30 something and he starts to think maybe I'd like this, or that and that price should be factored in.

Now I am not much of a diamonds gal. I love, love, love my little pink sapphire and diamond engagement ring which was paid for in fivers. ( and the man felt sorry for him and rounded down the price) Just as well I like it as I can't see it ever coming off!!

And I love the fact that God has given us the ultimate diamond...a whole PLANET made of diamond. Here's my post about it on Louise's blog;

But those two diamonds apart, diamonds aren't really my thing. I do have a friend who told me that diamonds are the most important thing in life, which is a bit strange since she has three children. Me? I'd honestly feel a tiny bit disappointed if I opened a package and found a diamond. That makes me sound spoilt and ungrateful but I'd be thinking how much did that cost?? What can you do with it only nothing? Or show it off and everyone would be jealous...no thanks...I'd rather have a Rocking Horse.

A Rocking Horse?? Why??

Here's why...

One day when we lived abroad I had dropped my eldest to school and just had my three year old and one year old with me. It was a lovely sunny day and as I was driving through the picturesque rolling hills I spotted a small hand painted sign. 'Rocking-Horse Maker'. That's all it said. It took me a few weeks to pluck up the nerve to follow the sign down a lane and back in time and knock on the old wooden door of a very pretty stone cottage. The door was answered by a rotund oldish, but not too old man with a huge white beard and long white hair resting on his shoulders. I have a funny feeling it really was you-know-who. Honestly..this really happened, I'm not losing the run of myself!

Well I lied to you-know-who and told him I was planning on investing in a rocking horse and did he have a catalogue? I was delighted when he told me he had a little showroom/workshop and that he had a horse almost finished, would I like to see it? When he opened the shed door there was this vision of a horse...I couldn't take my dilated eyes off her, she was just perfect. The man lifted my three year old up onto it and I honestly believed the horse was going to toss her silky mane and come alive. I even think she blinked...Ok Ok, that's an exaggeration, but I thought she might.

That evening when I informed my husband that I was going to save up every penny and when I had enough I was going to get a rocking horse. He replied with the simple question which popped that bubble and brought me back down to earth..

'And where are we going to put it?'

Well I know we'll never get a rocking horse, they're huge and expensive but how could my husband ever guess that I would prefer a rocking horse to a diamond ring? He couldn't, that's how. Unless I told him.

Poor man. I still had the idea that I was easy to buy for because I liked so many things. The problem is they weren't your usual common or garden wifey presents. I still thought he should know what I like since he's supposed to be the knight in shining armour. And I still never told him what I would like because I thought that would take the good out of it, that I'm not impressed by price, or brand and he still got the silent treatment. Not that day..I'd hold my fire for a few days or a week until some imagined slight and then I could hold my tongue no longer...

'Why did you think I'd like such and such?'

Not a very virtuous wife I think!

Here comes the marriage tip. So many couples live out this same scenario and it's always the man who comes out worst. So your birthday is coming up...for goodness sake girl...tell him!! It's your anniversary? Tell him the day before so he has a chance to do something. In reality it really is very babyish for an adult woman to go into a huff because she deliberately didn't remind her husband of a special day coming up. A husband's love should be measured more by the day he went out in the rain to change your tyre, that you destroyed because you continued to drive on the puncture, (even though there was a smell of burning rubber polluting the whole area and sparks were flying out of my wheels and everybody was staring at me) and didn't complain about it than by the forgotten date.

Some time ago I had the great idea of ordering myself something lovely and then not open the package and give it to John to give me. It wasn't that romantic so he always ended up adding to it.

So here's what I do now...it's a win/win situation..

I have discovered the Amazon Universal Wish-List Button.

This is a very simple to install button you download to your toolbar. Thereafter whenever you spot something you like anywhere on the internet you just click the button and there it is on your amazon wishlist, showing what website you found it on, price and a space for notes like

'If you don't buy this for me your life will not be worth living'

and suchlike.
Or you can write..for Grandma, for X, for Y etc.
If you do this all year after a while you will forget what you have put on it and there will be a large selection of ideas to guide your man (or anyone else who wants to buy you a present)

All you have to do is TELL HIM IT'S THERE!!!!!

Last year I did that. I had a great selection of things on my wishlist and I remembered to tell him. I got a present which I loved, but nothing from my list. When later I enquired why he didn't use the list he said he looked at it but he didn't think I'd like anything on it.

I rest my case.

So this year I told him that no, really, if I've put it on my wishlist, I think I'll probably like it.

But if I get a Lift-The-Flap book I've forgotten to label for Louise...there just might be a silent treatment.

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Sunday, October 2, 2011

I Don't Like To Say It, But Christmas Is Approaching.

One day last year around the end of November or the beginning of December I posted a little link on Facebook to something I thought would be a nice Christmas gift for someone to give. It got such a good reaction that I decided thereafter to post a gift idea every day of something I thought was either a good buy, something I, or one of the children, had received and loved or indeed, something I had bought for myself and loved. A lot of my facebook friends loved the ideas but said it was a bit too late for them as they (like me) had already completed all their shopping.

Personally I'd like to have most things organised, bought, baked or cleaned by the start of Advent.

I said I'd LIKE to, not I DO!! :-)

The thinking behind this is so that by advent all toy catalogues, talk of get ,get, get and I want, I want, I want can be banished from the house and the children, and us, can actually spend Advent properly preparing for Christmas. Some year, that's what I hope will happen, though it almost happened a few years ago and it was the most relaxed Christmas we ever had.

So over the next few posts I'll be rehashing the ideas I posted last year and then after that I'll post some of the lovely things I have come across since then. I am fully aware of how tight budgets are and so most things will be either inexpensive or else worth the investment. I hope John reads this as I'm going to post at the end the pressie I want him to buy for ME!! :-)

So here's the first few items, I hope you can grab some ideas from them or at least set you off on the exciting path of finding the right pressie for the right person..

Oh and by the way, one thing you won't be seeing here is Christmas being called 'Holiday'.


One of our girls is the world's greatest worrier, she has spent many's the hour pacing the floor in anticipation of the most bizarre things that MIGHT (though HIGHLY unlikely to) happen. The same girl is one of the best at kicking in and taking charge with efficiency when a real crisis occurs so her worries are generally all hypothetical. She got this little gift a few years ago of a beautifully boxed set of worry dolls. The dolls originate from Guatemala and are still made there as a cottage craft industry. The legend is that you tell each of the dolls one of your worries at night before sleeping and place her under your pillow...she takes your worry and that's the end of it. Now the placebo effect of this is pretty effective for a little child and even if it doesn't cure irrational fears, at least the child feels they've passed it on.
The little set is very pretty and though my little worrier has moved on, she still loves her little dolls and an odd time I find one or two under her pillow.

Her set was purchased at a craft fair but you can get them online (from Amazon and others) for prices from €2-€3 to about €12 depending on the quality and packaging. I can think of a few of my friends who would love these.


The Book of Virtues is an 800+ page collection of stories, poems, speeches and so on, each of which illustrates a moral virtue such as courage, compassion, loyalty, fortitude. They range from short pieces to quite long stories.

I bought this book as a gift to put away for all our children when we had about three tinies and in the dedication to them I wrote on the inside cover I always left a comma after the youngest child's name...just in case.
I had just about given up hope of adding another name after Peter's (our one and only boy) when dear Louise came along.

It really is a lovely book which would be a perfect present for a godchild, recently turned teenager, a student heading off to college or newlyweds...or anybody in fact.
I still dip into it from time to time and my favourite story is the tale of The Husband Who Was To Mind The House...every husband should be made to read it :-)

The Book of Virtues is aimed at older children and adults but for the little ones there is also a series of some of the stories adapted for 4-8 year olds beautifully illustrated by Michael Hague.

In fact any book illustrated by Michael Hague is worth buying...I have worked with books and children in a past life and he is in my opinion one of the nicest children's illustrators. He has illustrated such books as collectible versions of Tolkien, Aesop's Fables and The Velveteen Rabbit.

Check out www.michaelhague.com for a visual treat.


A very good friend of mine gave me this gift a few years ago. Even though it is marketed as an apple peeler for home brewers and preservers, it works equally well on potatoes. With eight in our family there are a lot of potatoes to peel and this reduces the time it takes to a fraction if that it takes to do it by hand. It has a lovely vintage look to it and looks well on display, also meaning that it is more likely to be actually used than many much more expensive kitchen gadgets and impulse buys.
(Which we can all immediately visualise and which are taking up huge amounts of our precious kitchen storage space...but that's a post for another day.)

Also, because it is so much fun it's much easier to convince the small plebs (or...even teenagers!!) to do it for you!! They (the teens) have even had the innovative idea of deep frying the lengthy skins afterwards as a yummy snack and reward for their exertion.

A word of warning- if you go to a specialist kitchen shop you will pay much more than if you shop around.
I have priced them from €12-€15 right up to €30-€40.
Have a look online for the best deal.

Well those are the first few of the many ideas I'll be posting over the next while. I hope they're helpful.

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