Sparking Joy (what I got for my birthday)

I am now in the latest of my late twenties and I just really don’t even want to talk about it. But I have realised:

1. You only start saying ‘age is just a number’ or ‘you’re only as old as you feel' when you turn 29.

2. When you see anyone younger, you feel like this:

Inspired by Marie Kondo, I spent the day tidying. I used to identify as a minimalist and I suppose I do have less stuff than the average person, but after reading Kondo's The Life-changing Magic of Tidying up', I realised I had a long way to go.

Calling myself a minimalist was really just an aspirational claim - like when I was 16 and used to buy bras in the size I wanted to be, not the size I was. A roomy bra, just like having too much stuff, is a lie and enhances nothing.

So I got rid of a lot of stuff and was happy to find that the gifts I got this year allowed me to only let in what I found useful or sparked joy. 

Behold

JOHN LEWIS GIFT CARD 

My in-laws gave me a John Lewis gift card and with it I bought A DYSON. I'm so excited. Finger cyclone technology, I am ready for you.

HARRODS GIFT CARD

From my husband. He did actually buy me a necklace but it was so so so delicate that I knew it would break when caught up in my hair (which happens all the time, I need a sturdy chain). So we transferred it into a gift card, I haven't spent it yet, still deciding. Here are my thoughts so far...

MARA HOFFMAN SWIMSUIT

I love this designer so much. So this was a birthday treat to myself. I actually bought it after my birthday and after our last hot holiday but I will treasure it until next year for its debut. 

M&S gift card

My mum always gets me something M&S related. I haven't spent it yet, but here are  my ideas

My Graham & Green Desk

This desk was a wedding gift from my parents.

After getting married, we left my husband's bachelor pad (hallelujah) and moved into an unfurnished flat. 

Getting to pick out exactly what we wanted to go in our home was a dream.  

My parents wanted to give us a 'home' gift, and I had my eye on this desk from Graham and Green. My dad is really into the idea of heirlooms and I think he thought it would be a nice thing to pass down to future generations.  

Made in India, it is inlaid with mother of pearl. The three drawers contain my correspondence cards, stationery and letters.

I just discovered bar of soap in there. So it’s apparently also where my bar of soap lives too. 

I finally understand why my mum went crazy when I put down mugs directly on the piano.

Strange coincidence, but my old piano teacher Liane, gave me some lovely marble coasters. 

I never get tired of looking at this desk. The pictures I've taken don't really capture just how beautiful it looks in the sunshine.  

Did you ever feel like you’d be a better student with a  new pencil case? Or sleep better in new sheets? Or run faster with new trainers? I feel like I’ll be a better writer at this desk.

It's more of a console table than a desk, so it's not very deep but I haven't found this to be a problem. 

It has a matching stool (you have to buy that separately) but I like a chair with a back so I bought a Kartell ghost chair instead which is serving me well. The only downside is that you can't lean back two-legs-high-school-style on it.

Ordering was straightforward, delivery was free and the guy who delivered it took it upstairs for me. It was packaged really well, which sounds like a weird thing to say but it felt like the packing people also believed that this desk was a queen of a desk and should be handled with care. 

Buy the desk chair.

There are a few Graham and Green stores in London. I've only ever been to the one in Notting Hill.

It's definitely the most interesting shop in the neighbourhood and would recommend a visit there, followed by a pizza from The Grocer next door. 

GRAHAM AND GREEN Notting Hill

4 Elgin Crescent,
London,
W11 2HX

www.grahamandgreen.co.uk

Gift cards: pros and pros

Gift cards divide opinion.

voucher

People say they are a last resort. No! a last resort is a crumpled £10 note in a windowed business envelope or flowers stolen from a graveyard.

People say that they are thoughtless. No! If your friend has been wanting to try out new make up but hasn't been able to justify the spend, then a voucher for MAC is thoughtful.

People say that money is better than a voucher because a voucher limits you to spend it in a specific store. I argue that it can be a liberating experience. Only ever shop in Zara? Well here's a voucher for Liberty. Here's your permission slip to try something new.

I love gift cards and to prove the success of this gift medium, let me tell you a story.

My niece, Imogen, is thirteen and lives in America. We had no idea what to get her for her birthday. She's smart but she's also cool. She can tell you the difference between the Chalcolithic era and the Neolithic but she also dresses better than I do. Yes, it seems you can have it all.

For Christmas we gave her a $50 Amazon gift card.

We thought she might spend it on the One Direction tour DVD or replica Hunger Games jewellery but it was the best $50 we ever spent. Here is her thank you email:

Thank you for the Amazon gift card!  I'll be using it to invest in Amazon stock, and become Gulfstream jet rich, like Warren Buffet. Starting my career as a multi-billionaire at the mere age of 13!

Amazon stock is currently low, so I can buy them at a lower price and come out high.  I predict that they will fly high, as I will in my Gulfstream.

We played monopoly, where I reigned supreme, leading me to believe that this will happen again when I invest. 

Next time you see me I'll let you fly in my Gulfstream, and ride in my Lamborghini.

I haven't altered a word of her email. I was so impressed with her and not just because she's young and hilarious.

There was something impressive about the way she thought: I remember thinking whacky, big, limitless thoughts about my future like Imogen.

I liked being reminded.

Gift card etiquette:

  • Never give a voucher which requires the receiver to spend a certain amount before the voucher takes effect. ‘Get £20 off when you spend £180’
  • Explain why you’ve given a voucher If you’re worried about being accused of thoughtlessness. For example, if you know that they’ve been struggling with money, writing simply ‘This week’s grocery shopping is on me’ or, the even simpler: ‘Treat yo self’.
  • Check when the voucher expires before you buy. Some times a voucher has no expiry date. Others expire after a year.

Gift Card inspiration