On the tenth day of Christmas my true love made for me…some presents for my family

Had the weekend from Hell here, with each of the family coming down with the Winter vomiting bug in turn. Sleep has been scarce. Bodily fluids have been plentiful. My laundry mountain is now so large it appears on an ordinance survey map.

Hey ho, enough moaning. I managed to finish off a couple of projects, the lure of the glue gun raising me from my bed. I have been panicking as this weekend has been a write off, and I have many projects that need finishing. I feel better having a few completely done rather than lots in a state of near completion.

These flowers are for my MIL, who loves anything I make her! The flowers are made using this Attic 24 tutorial, crocheting with DMC floss.

The hearts are for a family friend and were crocheted using this pattern. The box frames for both of these came from the Sainsbury’s website. They are cheap and cheerful, not brilliantly well made (in fact I have to send one back as it arrived broken) but for the money they are nice little frames. Both have the glass removed to get the benefit of the crochet.

And this sewing jar is for my niece. It’s made using one of the kilner jars I mentioned in a previous post. The pin cushion was a simple circle of fabric, with running stitch all around, stuffed, and gathered over the inner circle of the kilner jar. I’ve added a Cath Kidston tape measure, some buttons, some rubbon, pearl headed pins and some needles. I’m very pleased with this, and am loath to give it away! Fortunately I have another kilner jar left so I can make one for myself.

A post about not very much

So, I’m having a bit of bloggers’ block. Well, not in the way that I have nothing to say. I ALWAYS have something to say. But none of it is particularly interesting. This blog has been great at helping me focus, but the more I get into the blogosphere the more pressure I feel to say something insightful, entertaining or useful.

Sometime I get caught up thinking about all of the crap accumulating on the internet. Terabytes and terabytes, petabytes even of information (a petabyte is 1000 terabytes. Now don’t say I’m not educational!) being sent out into the ether. Where does it go? Will we one day be subsumed by digital information? Swallowed by web pages such as The Pylon Appreciation Society, Scarf Collecting and Paris Hilton. Can you recycle bytes? You can save over stuff I suppose. But where does the stuff that you’ve saved go? It doesn’t just disintegrate. Surely it stays etched in microchips forever. In case someone does actually press delete on a massive server somewhere the Wayback Machine has been archiving the internet since 1996.

I bemoaned my bloggers’ block on the Mumsnet Bloggers Network earlier, and one of my fellow bloggers pointed out that blogs are a reflection of ourselves, and I promised when I started this blog that I would be honest, non-smuggy, and try not to portray an unrealistic lifestyle. So, I am going to stop comparing my blog to some of the other picture perfect blogs out there and just be myself. Well, a version of myself anyway…

I’m one of those people who if you ask “How are you?” I’ll really tell you! So, thanks for asking, I’m ok. Had a tough day with the kids. Iris is slowly gaining two molars and has a cold so is clingy and grumpy. Betty has an asthmatic cough with is keeping her awake at night, so between the two of them we are not getting much sleep. DH was a at work today, so I was grumpy and the kids watched TV.

We did have a brief sojourn to the newly opened Hobbycraft in town. I both love and loathe Hobbycraft, it’s easy and covers many crafts, but I find it expensive and the staff inexperienced. It promotes crafting by numbers. There was a DIY gingerbread house kit with the gingerbread already made! However, I decided stop stop being so snobby and appreciate that many people are embracing crafting in a variety of ways.

I was gunning for a goody bag, but despite getting there 5 minutes after it opened, it was packed already and I missed out. DH had taken the stroller in his car and left me with the pushchair with a flat tyre. So not a great start. Plus it is hard to concentrate with a whining 1 year old and a 4 year old who wants everything. So all in all not very successful. I did see a couple if friends in there which was nice though. I am still making stuff, but it’s pretty slow going at the moment. I think that is contributing to the bloggers’ block.

My Sainsbury’s shopping delivery came, with a nice treat of some Hagan Daaz which I am going to enjoy tonight. Belgian Chocolate is the flavour for me. An early night to follow, and no, not in a fun way. To compensate for the night wakings. It’s a bit miserable though, as it means very little time between the kids going to bed and me going to bed.

Still, it won’t last. And nor will this bloggers’ block hopefully.

World Kindness Day: Be kind, just not randomly

Today is World Kindness Day. It started in 1998 with the World Kindness Movement. The purpose of World Kindness Day is, according the the World Kindness Movement website, is: to look beyond ourselves, beyond the boundaries of our country, beyond our culture, our race, our religion; and realise we are citizens of the world. As world citizens we have a commonality, and must realise that if progress is to be made in human relations and endeavours, if we are to achieve the goal of peaceful coexistence, we must focus on what we have in common.

According to Dr David Hamilton, author of Why Kindness is Good For You, kindness can have physical benefits, as well as emotional benefits. When a purpose performs an act of kindness, the brain produces various chemicals which act as nature’s morphine, hence the term ‘helper’s high’. It’s not just these feel good effects that take place. The nervous system and cardio vascular system both relax, blood pressure reduces. Being kind is actually good for your health.

Aside from the benefits to you, the obvious benefit to being kind is the help you have given someone else. Acts of kindness, small and large, can make a difference to someone’s life, acts that may be remembered for ever.

But unasked acts of kindness may not always have the desired effect on the people they are aimed at. Oliver Burkeman, in his book Help, discusses the idea of RAKs, or Random Acts of Kindness. Such acts that are encouraged by the RAK movement are paying the tab of the person behind you in a shop or restaurant, or leaving a bag of groceries on a neighbour’s doorstep. But Burkeman suggests that while the giver may be suffused with warmth at their act of generosity, the receiver is often left with feelings of hostility. Studies suggest that receivers of random acts of kindness feel a sense of indebtedness which troubles them. This is keenly exploited by companies offering free gifts. Some companies offer gifts with a purchase, because it sweetens the deal. Some companies give you a free gift before you even make a purchase, stands at trade shows, charities sending pens and address labels through the post, because once you have that ‘gift’ in your hands you feel a sense of debt towards the company, nudging you into making an order or a donation.

Talking of charities, another controversial act of kindness is Operation Christmas Child, a charity which collects and distributes boxes filled with goodies for ‘deprived’ children for Christmas, lovingly donated by schools, Brownie packs and church groups. However, the gifts come with an added extra, a Christian evangelical booklet and an invitation to a 12 lesson discipleship programme, which I am sure they really appreciate in countries where the main religion is Hinduism or Islam. One Mumsnetter was bemused when her daughter in a middle class Private Day Nursery in Bosnia received an OCC box one Christmas. That’s not to mention the cost, both financial and environmental, of shipping shoeboxes full of plastic goods, made in China and India, from the UK, back to China and India, probably to the children making such goods in the first place. There is a reason why the large charities such as Red Cross and Save the Children don’t operate similar schemes. They know that the money is better targeted into local community projects with lasting benefits. But such altruism isn’t quite as fun, and doesn’t make parents and school children feel quite so warm and cosy inside does it? Nor does it give Samaritan’s Purse, the charity behind Operation Christmas Child, the opportunity to feel good about itself for spreading the word of God.

Don’t get me wrong, my point isn’t not to do acts of kindness. And I think true altruism, where there is absolutely nothing to be gained for the giver, is very rare, and that’s ok. It doesn’t matter if you feel good about being good. But think about where you target your kindness. The randomness some acts of kindness that unsettles people, and if they think there is an agenda behind it they will be left with a feeling of discomfort. I also think kindness involving money or goods is often ill advised, especially in relationships that aren’t that close. It creates a power imbalance, can feel patronising, and may make the receiver feel in a debt that they can’t repay. On the other hand, there are acts of kindness that cost nothing but time, or a little emotional energy. You can’t put a price on them, and that is probably a good thing.

It’s those acts of kindness that really make a difference, that stay with you. For me, it’s the countless people who have helped me up and down stairs with the pushchair. The shop assistant in Lush who gave my daughter a bath bomb. My friend’s husband taking my eldest daughter out for a few hours when I had a newborn and I was struggling. My husband bringing me home a book from the library that he thought I’d like. My mum insisting that I take all my washing for her to do when I visit, despite the fact that I am 30 and own my own washing machine and tumble drier. The cars that let me out of the junction in the morning so I am not waiting forever to get to work. The man working in the Sainsbury’s car park who replaced the pot of yoghurt that fell out of my overloaded trolley. The pharmacy assistant in Boots, who refused to sell me any sleeping tablets when I was heavily pregnant and suffering from insomnia, but hugged and comforted me as I sobbed on her shoulder.

Perform your own act of kindness on World Kindness Day. But when you do, make sure it is mostly about the receiver and what is right for them. It may not always be what is right for you, but you’ll still have the health benefits!

Let me know if any acts of kindness have stayed with you, or your good ideas for simple, free and useful acts of kindness.

I couldn't find any pictures to show kindness that weren't completely cliched, so here is a picture of a cinnamon bun my husband kindly brought me back from Ikea