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  • Happy Relationships

    Thu, 28 Feb 2013 10:06

    Why do some relationships give us great joy and others become toxic? What role do we play in our relationships? Are our relationship skills weakening in the age of social media?

    There are undoubtedly some people who seem to be more skilled at interpersonal relationships than others. But Lucy Beresford, Psychologies agony aunt, psychotherapist and author of Happy Relationships, at Home, Work & Play, believes that this isn't just down to lucky gifts from the gods or even down to a particular type of temperament, but because such people deploy particular ways of interacting with others which are successful.

    blog imageHappy Relationships aims to share this wisdom, to help us understand how relationships in all areas of our lives can be a joy and not a chore.

    Lucy speaks from her great experience not only in advising Psychologies readers on their dilemmas as their resident agony aunt, but from working in private practice in London, as well as in New Delhi, India.

    Whether it's with our partner, our kids, our boss or our mother-in-law, all our relationships require - at some stage in our lives - a little bit of tender loving care. Happy Relationships includes chapters on our relationships with ourselves, parents, close friends, partners, siblings, in-laws, children, colleagues and social media.

    "One of the key things that this book will try to show", says Lucy, "is that our difficulties in relationships will always say as much about us as they do about others. Unwittingly, we sabotage our relationships because of our own fears and hang-ups." So when relationships flounder or cause us distress, and especially when we find ourselves complaining endlessly about someone, we need to take a step back and see our own part in that relationship.

    She can't turn frogs into princes, bosses into brown spaniels (not overnight...), or stop teenage hormones going awry, but in Happy Relationships Lucy aims to provide a helpful toolkit that can boost self-confidence, encourage understanding and empower us to be the best we can be in all our relationships. Lucy Beresford is the Agony Aunt for the women's glossy Psychologies magazine and works as a psychotherapist in private practice and at The London Psychiatry Centre and Priory Hospital. She has also had three clinical sabbaticals in New Delhi, India. Lucy regularly reviews fiction for the Sunday Telegraph, New Statesman, The Spectator and Literary Review. Based in London, Lucy spent 10 years in Investment Banking in the City before leaving to write fiction and to retrain as a psychotherapist.

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    Secret venues. Inspired themes. Fabulous cakes. Across the UK and beyond, thousands of home bakers have been meeting covertly in hidden locations with the same simple mission: bake, eat and gossip about cake. These are the members of the phenomenally popular Clandestine Cake Club - and now, for the first time, they share their baking secrets with you. The rules are quite clear: no cupcakes, no muffins, no brownies, pies or tarts. It's all about cake! With each event organised around a creative theme, the results are some of the most loved and inventive baked delights you'll ever eat. From classic teatime treats and chocolatey indulgences to global bakes and spectacular cake extravaganzas, you'll find inspiring recipes such as: Scrumptious Sticky Toffee Cake; Smoked Chilli Chocolate Cake; Blood Orange and Rosemary Loaf; Raspberry Cakewell; Rose, Rhubarb & Cardamom Cake; Chai-soaked Vanilla Sponge; a giant Lemon Fondant Fancy; and the unmissable five-tier Rainbow Cake; plus stunning photography and sneak-peek snaps from club events. At last, the secret is out and everyone is invited to join the Club.

    We tried one of the recipes ourselves, Elderflower Cordial Cake with White Chocolate Ganache and it caused Book Depository employees to drop everything and run to the kitchen...

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    We've got an exclusive extract to download with heaps of delicious recipes, including Mocha Marble Cake, Curious Victoria Sponge and Caramel Cake. Get baking!

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  • Calmer Easier Happier Homework

    Thu, 14 Feb 2013 10:29

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    Worried about how to get your child to do their homework? Then you might need the help of parenting expert Noel Janis-Norton whose new book Calmer, Easier, Happier Homework has just been published. With 40 years of experience working with children and families, Noel finds that she's asked the same questions by anxious parents time and time again. These are three of the most frequently asked questions....

    Q: My daughter says her maths homework is too hard, and she wants me to tell her the answers. How can I help her without doing it for her?

    A: When a child wants to be told the answer, it is probably because the parents have done too much for her in the past. We must not fall into the trap of doing our children's thinking for them. Homework is meant to be done by the child! So whenever you feel the urge to reteach what your child should have learned at school, do the following instead:

    • - Ask leading questions rather than telling your child. Only when her brain has to come up with a sensible answer is she really learning.
    • - Draw pictures and diagrams, using a minimum of words. If you are talking, it is too easy for children to nod wisely while their attention is drifting away.
    • - Reflectively Listen * to her frustration and confusion. This will help her to feel heard and is likely to defuse her upset.
    • - Descriptively Praise * her whenever she is brave and takes a sensible guess. Over time this will lead to increased confidence and motivation.
    • - Talk your child through several examples. These should all be different from the sums she has to do for homework. That way, once she understands the principle or procedure from your explanation, she will still have to use her own brain to work out the sums she was given for homework.
    • - Give examples that use much easier numbers so that your child can concentrate solely on the principles and procedures.

    * Descriptive Praise & Reflective Listening are two of the strategies that I explain in detail in my new book, "Calmer, Easier, Happier Homework".

    Q: It's always a battle getting homework done before bedtime. How can I persuade my son to get started earlier?

    A: Parents want to know how to motivate children and teens to take homework seriously. One aspect of this is starting early enough in the evening that their brains are still alert so that they can do their best. One thing parents can do is to make, and then to enforce, a new rule, that homework and revision need to be completed to the parents' satisfaction before leisure activities can begin, eg:

    • - Screens of any kind - television, computer, phoning or texting friends
    • - Playing music
    • - Going out.

    This rule, sometimes called "Worst first", helps ease children into the habit of earning the goodies in life, rather than expecting instant gratification.

    At first, your child may complain bitterly, "But when I come home from school I need to relax. YouTube (or Facebook or computer games) is how I relax!" Certainly children do need to unwind before they plunge into their homework, and it is understandable that they would prefer to do their relaxing in front of a screen. However, this option does not refresh or motivate; in fact, screen time saps enthusiasm for any other activity. So remember that people managed to relax without the help of screens from the dawn of time until only a generation ago!

    A healthy snack and an active break is what will relax and refresh your children and teens, increasing the chances of their doing a good job on their homework. An active break could be a short bike ride, a quick game of catch, trampolining, star jumps, etc. This will help to prepare them to do their best on their homework.

    Q: My children often complain that homework is "soooo boring". How can I get them motivated?

    A: My book, "Calmer, Easier, Happier Homework" explains how parents can guide children into more enjoyable and productive homework habits. Until that happens you are likely to hear the word 'boring' quite a lot at homework time! Often 'boring' means that the homework is not entertaining, not particularly interesting, not what children would choose to do if they had a choice.

    That is a legitimate feeling, but calling homework 'boring' is misleading. When your child says, for example, that maths is boring, the implication is that it is a fact that maths is boring. But it's simply not true. Some people find maths boring, and some people find maths fascinating. That is true of every school subject.

    The word 'boring' in relation to homework can mean that it looks confusing or difficult. 'Boring' often means that your child has been sitting and listening and writing for hours, and his body is now itching to move and play. So when children say homework is 'boring', let's think about how they may be feeling:

    "Maybe it feels like there are too many sums on this page."

    "Probably you'd rather be outside on your skateboard."

    "It's been a while since you had fractions, so maybe you're worried you've forgotten how to do them."

    I am not suggesting that we correct our children when they use the word 'boring'. What I am recommending is that we do not use the word ourselves, ever. Let's set a good example. And let's remember to listen to the uncomfortable feelings that are often lurking below the surface.

  • The Pepperpot Club

    Wed, 13 Feb 2013 10:44

    blog imageJonathan Phang grew up in a hectic Chinese/Caribbean household in London that was always packed with waifs and strays as well as the wonderful, rich smells of the next delicious meal. The Pepperpot Club is a stunning collection of Carribbean recipes and Jonathan recounts his childhood which was defined by tales from the homeland, loud music, booming laughter, and his mother's spicy aromatic cooking. Jonathan's Nanny Phang had a theory: if you cook food people love to eat, you will gain all you want from life. In this book he shares recipes from family and friends from all six races of the Caribbean - East Indian, Chinese, Mixed European, African, North American and indigenous Amerindian - are celebrated and include Meatball and glass noodle soup, Chinese ribs, Jerk Chicken, Coconut cream pie and a kicker of a Rum punch. Peppered throughout are Jonathan's family photographs as well as stunning shots of the Caribbean.

    Here's a little video of Jonathan introducing the book.

  • Books of the Year 2012

    Fri, 28 Dec 2012 11:10

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    So, time to look back over the year that's been and every year we take our top 1000 bestsellers and arrange them by colour and tone to see if we can spot any trends...

    This year, if anything, we'd say that there's a good bit more lightness than current economic trends would indicate! Or does this just mean that in time of hardship, a good book with a nice bright cover is just the ticket.

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