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Janey Lee Grace: Pressies and memories

PUBLISHED: 14:12 24 July 2010 | UPDATED: 14:56 20 February 2013

Give the gift of promise

Give the gift of promise

As Christmas creeps that little bit closer, Hertfordshire Life columnist Janey Lee Grace implores readers to opt for a natural festive season

I MUST confess there's a bit of me that wants to run screaming for the hills at this time of year. I hate the over commercialisation (is that a word?) of it all, I hate the 'excess' and the waste it generates and I wish I could just 'hole up' with a few sprigs of holly and sing some carols. Sadly (or gladly depending on how I'm feeling) I have four kids who are almost in orbit with excitement so I can't do the 'bah humbug' thing. Chances are you can't either, so let's just make it as 'imperfectly natural' as we can.
With gifts, often an 'experience' is far better than a tangible item (try telling that to my four-year-old!) but a trip to the panto or even the park is what memories are made of. One lovely memory for me was when I was a backing singer with Wham, and fake snow fell as we sang 'Last Christmas' at Wembley Arena on Christmas Eve - I'll never forget it. Talking of Panto, isn't the gorgeous David Essex playing Captain Hook somewhere near us this year? - are you listening Santa?

Christmas promise
Imperfect is the word of course, so like me you probably won't be able to avoid trawling the shops with the kids to try and find the perfect pressie for Grandma.
A really simple idea I put into practice last year that works brilliantly for kids and adults alike is to get an old cheque book with some cheques left in it or buy a voucher style book with counterfoils from a stationers. Write your Christmas Promise in each one. For example.

Payee: 'Darling Husband'
Christmas Promise: 'I will drive on New Year's Eve and pay the babysitter' (if you're feeling really flush) ... and wear stockings instead of tights ... (oh how we suffer...!)
Please redeem this voucher to claim your gift by giving as much notice as possible for the requested date. Signed...
Ideas for children's gifts are endless from promising to 'Bake their favourite cake', 'Take them to the park/zoo/museum'... 'Give them extra time on the computer'...'Promise to invite their best friends for a sleepover including a midnight feast'...
It's also great to encourage children to give Promises as they don't have to incur any actual money, only their time. Young children can promise
'Lots of hugs and kisses'...'I will tidy my own bedroom'...'Clean out the rabbit'...Whatever is age appropriate.

Go natural
For a natural eco-friendly Christmas think local. Get as much food as you can from local farm/health shops and farmers markets. If possible 'know' your turkey and at least make sure you buy organic and free range. Less is more too, most of us go mad at Christmas time and buy far more than we need but if you get high quality fair trade 70 per cent cocoa solid chocolate you need to eat less to feel satisfied (honest!).

Reduce, reuse, recycle
Approximately three million tonnes of waste is dumped during Christmas. Avoid regular wrapping paper and get the kids to do a colour wash over some newsprint (cheery news please!) and secure with a big bow. Use a sprig of holly for decoration and old Christmas cards for gift tags.
Go 'green' with as many evergreen branches as you can find to decorate your home. You can get a natural Christmassy fragrance just by sticking cloves into a large orange. Tie a red ribbon round it and hang it in the room for a really lovely cosy smell. There are some lovely natural candles and Christmas 'crafts' too at
Unless you know that only a 'real' Christmas card will do - send an 'e-card'. Once people take the plunge of not sending out hundreds of Christmas cards to people they haven't been in contact with for 20 years they realise life actually doesn't end and the true friends still stay in touch.

The best sustainable gifts
When all that seems just too 'worthy' and you damn well want to buy gadgets, gifts and spanking new toys for the kids at least make them gorgeous sustainable eco-friendly ones! Avoid adding to the battery mountain and avoid plastics and toxic dyes. Remember kids will probably have more fun with the box anyway.

Article taken from December issue of Hertfordshire Life


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