Life

WOMAN ON THE VERGE: I’m all for practical gifts I can vouch for

November 29th, 2022 3:30 PM

By Emma Connolly

This is the face you need to make when I give you your gift voucher this Christmas – equal parts stunned and delighted! Just like I was when I got my husband’s early Christmas gift of a kettle the other day. (Photos: Shutterstock)

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• HEADING into what’s usually the busiest month of the year, I’m taking some comfort from the fact that it’s probably too late at this stage to take on a homemade Christmas cake or pudding. The fruit would need to have been soaking and stewing away for at least a few weeks now, right? The only thing stewing round here these days is my good self, as I look at my ‘to do’ list which is getting longer by the day. For the sake of my sanity, I feel I don’t need to add ‘make cake’ to it. I’m not even sure why we bother with a cake at all in our house except for the fact that it looks lovely in all its frosted glory on the table. No one in our house actually eats it … except the cows in mid-January when it’s as dried out as my post-festive season skin. I’m a fan of the almond paste alright, so maybe I’ll just make a big bowl of that? Is it easy? Now, a slice of pudding I do enjoy, especially on St Stephen’s Day, with a nice dollop of custard (I never quite understood the concept of brandy butter). I might put that on the ‘great if I get to, but not strictly essential’ section of the list. Yes, I’ve sub-categories. Things are that serious.

• I’ve also decided that it’s probably a bit too late to get anyone the type of gifts that are deep and meaningful, you know the ones that say: ‘I get you, I totally understand you, I love you and here’s something I’ve given a lot of thought to, and done a lot of research on … and let’s also take a moment to appreciate how fricking fabulous I am!’  That rules out anything personalised, engraved, framed or especially ‘sourced.’ I just haven’t got the time, or the head space. I could probably manage a bespoke Limerick (at a push), but what I’m mainly looking at this year are gift vouchers. I know they have a bad rep as being the lazy girl’s gift, but I beg to differ. I used to think they were a major cop-out especially one Christmas in my 20s when I got a prize bond as a gift from one of my nearest and dearest. I was appalled and threw a strop that lasted until at least the 28th. Time is a great healer, though, and even though I’ve never won anything with it, the possibility is always there, making it the ultimate gift that keeps on giving. Sustainability at its best.

• Crucially, my approach to gifting vouchers is to keep it simple. Very simple. Forget your spa days, weekends away in fancy hotels, and the like. I’ve been there and done that – both on the receiving and giving end and to be honest most of the time, vouchers like that are more hassle than they’re worth, unless you’re young, free and single and can take off on a whim. Twenty years ago if someone gave me a voucher for a weekend in an exclusive treehouse resort in Donegal, I’d have started packing on the spot. Now my heart would sink, as I think of the five million WhatsApp messages needed to arrange kids’ activities, figure out who will remember to give the dog her medication, wonder when I’ll fit in the weekly shop, and if I’ll get the school uniforms dry in time for Monday morning. I’m a killjoy I know, but that’s just me. Once we had a voucher for a fancy restaurant that was a bit of a palaver to get to, and every time I thought of it, it totally stressed me out, which I’m pretty sure wasn’t the intention of the gift giver. Between the jigs and the reels (including the pandemic) we had it for so long, I didn’t have the nerve to even use it in the end. I hope that doesn’t make me sound ungrateful, but that’s why I prefer gift vouchers that are more straightforward, things that the person might be getting anyway. Not quite groceries (although there’s an idea, especially the way the weekly bills are going – who wouldn’t like to get a donation towards that painful payout?), but things like the hairdresser, the gardener, window cleaner, car valet, and the like. Less about bling and more about the bobs. What can I say, I’m a basic b****. Personally I wouldn’t turn my nose up at some freezer dinners. Just if anyone was wondering, like.

• Speaking of basic. Our kettle had been leaking pretty badly for the past while. Every time I plugged it in for my hot water bottle (austerity measures) I wondered if I was going to come a cropper. Thankfully, my husband adulted up and redeemed a voucher (hah!) and got us a very nice one in a Black Friday sale. It even gives a fancy little ‘ring’ when it’s done and all. It was going great until the six-year-old chimed: ‘Do you like the Christmas present daddy got you?’ Maybe I’ve been banging on about being basic a bit too much?

• Finally, I was intrigued  to hear  an interview Brendan O’Connor did on his show last weekend with one of the co-authors of a new book from the RCSI Centre for Positive Psychology and Health which provides over 100 evidence-based activities for people to improve their health and well-being and decrease their risk of illness. Isn’t that what we’re all striving for at the end of the day? Called Positive Health, Dr Trudy Meehan shared some of the activities with Brendan, including how you should think about the worst obituary that could be written about you, not in a morbid way, but to help turn your mood or attitude around. For example it might be ‘She was always so cranky,’ or ‘she never had time for her family,’ that sort of thing. I thought it was a very useful technique, even if mine might include: ‘She was an awful terror for the vouchers.’ Sure, how bad! I think I might buy myself the book this Christmas and I’ll share some learnings along the way!

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