Saturday, 21 December 2013

It's Christmas Time! And all our Christmas Traditions

It’s Christmas Time!

Another year goes by, and it’s the familiar run up to Christmas again. And this year I am EXCITED. To use an apt analogy, like-a-kid-at-Christmas excited. This is going to be a special Christmas for me, as it will be the first Christmas with my first child. I feel like Christmas is very much a children’s holiday, but I think adults can obviously celebrate it as well, and get more enjoyment out of it by seeing the little ones experiencing it all. Albert is already getting in the spirit! And so am I with my own hats! (check out my Christmas pudding one HERE)

I do consider myself a big kid Man-Child but I do have to admit that Christmas hasn’t quite been the same for me for so far as an adult as it was as a child. When I was little I always thought it was the most magical time, and the build up seemed to last for months and months and I was always bursting with excitement by the time Christmas came around! As I grew older and moved into adulthood, there wasn’t really any children in the close family about, and the build up lasted less and less. Christmas always just seemed to happen without me ever getting as excited by it all as I once used to. My mum has always made the most amazing effort at Christmas, so I have always enjoyed it, but it hasn't had that magical 'sparkle' that it once used to when I was 10.

Christmas is a time for families, and I love my family very much. Sadly my Dad passed away when I was a teenager, and looking back I think it has never quite been the same for me since. Christmas obviously brings back memories and not being able to share it with loved ones hurts. Going into my early twenties, I think it’s generally the case that men at that age drift away from their families a little and are more concerned with other things, so Christmas just isn’t as big a deal at that time.

The past few years have been different for me though, and I have slowly been getting back into the spirit of things. I am approaching 30 and am realising how much my family means to me and wanting to spend a lot more time with them all. I met my wife (who is a Christmas addict) and that’s definitely been a Christmas festive injection. I so now really look forward to spending the day with her, my Mum and my Step-Dad (who is like a great father figure to me), my Brother and his girlfriend, my Nan, my Aunts and Uncles and of course all my Wife’s family, who I now think of as my family as well! I get on with all my family so there’s no Christmas tension for me!

This year is like a massive step up for me again, as now I have my own boy! It’s like the whole excitement cycle of Christmas has begun again! Having my own son is bringing back memories of me with my Dad at Christmas, and I’ve been reflecting on the relationship we had and viewing it and understanding it in different ways, and this obviously affects my relationship (in a good way) with my own son.

All in all it’s making me extremely excited again to be spending Christmas with Albert and the rest of my family! I can’t wait to see it all again through his eyes in the years to come, and although he will only be 4 months old on Christmas Day and not really knowing what the hell is going on, it will still make me feel really festive and happy to be spending it with him for the first time. Merry Christmas Albert! We took this photo recently, we decided that we would do the same photo every year with him holding the sign to see how Albert changes each year. New tradition!!

Every family has Christmas traditions, and Lucy and I have been discussing what else we will do with Albert. When 2 families merge, you will get new traditions and a mix of both of the old ones. We have decided that each year as a family, we will give a few gifts on Christmas Eve. New Pyjamas to wear, a new Christmas book, and a new Christmas DVD, which we will all sit down to watch together. As it’s Albert’s first Christmas, we have some red check Pyjamas, and the first Christmas film we have is National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. This is my favourite Christmas film, and one of my own Christmas traditions is to watch this film every year. I have probably watched it every year for the past 20! I can’t wait to watch it with Albert each year to come and laughing my head off. One of my favourite Christmas memories is watching this with my mum when I was little and remembering her in tears of laughter EVERY YEAR at all the same funny scenes! (e.g. the bit with the squirrel if you have seen it)

Obviously food is a big part of my life, and food is never better than at Christmas! We have Buck’s Fizz with breakfast, and will be having bacon sandwiches which is one of my wife’s traditions. Then chowing down on Cadbury’s chocs, cheesey nibbles, a chocolate orange, mince pies, basically until you are sick. Then what is more traditional than a Christmas Dinner? We always have Turkey, and I’ll have dark meat if there is any going! Then mounds of Sprouts (which I LOVE), pigs in blanket, roast potatoes, gravy. The works! Then we always had Vienetta when I was younger and I still think of that as PURE Christmas. More After Eights, mince pies, chocs, alcohol, and then cold buffet for dinner. 2 years ago we were with my wife’s family and there was a Turkey Broth which they always have every year. I’ll be gulping down that! At the end of the day I’ve probably had more calories in one day than I would do normally in 10. That’s Christmas food!

And then Albert will be on milk. Just milk. Poor little chap doesn’t know what he is missing!

Some of my favourite memories as a little one were presents. Christmas is way more than just presents but to be honest, when you’re 8 years old, it doesn’t seem like it. I have such fond memories of being so excited the night before, putting out mince pies and milk for Santa. Staying up for hours but finally nodding off. Then waking up all excited, MUM HAS SANTA BEEN??!! We would all creep down the stairs quietly and pause by the door, then slowly open it and peek through, and see all the presents wrapped up and I would go mad with excitement and scream my head off. Magical! I won’t ever forget the years when I got Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle toys, and when there was a Sega Mega-Drive. I went beserk! I posted recently about my Ultimate Wishlist of Toys (I am still a Man-Child after all), I am really excited about seeing Albert’s face when he wakes up on Christmas morning and we sneak downstairs and he opens his presents and sees what Santa has brought him!

This year we know he won’t have any memory of his gifts, so we have got some practical things for him, a travel mattress, how exciting! And a few clothes and things like that. I couldn’t resist getting this however from Wilkinsons. It’s a fold out soft dragon cushion! I can see it being a tradition that Albert will get something dragon related every year. And even though he won't be using it for another 2-3 years I couldnt help but get the castle from my Ultimate Wishlist as well, it's brill!

We have decorated our ‘tree’, we did it on December 1st! This year we have a little tree as the cat destroyed the big one we have had previous years. Even our decorations all have special meanings and I have a favourite one. When my mum got married to my Step-Dad a few years ago, it was on Christmas Eve, and we were all bought our own decorations and my one was a blue crystal thing. I’m not bothered about colour schemes. This will always be on our tree! This year we have also gone a bit further in our decorations, and made paper chains and snowflakes and stars out of paper. This will definitely be another tradition we carry on as well. All the family together decorating the house and crafting snowflakes to put up!

I think that is about it for my leading up to Christmas post. It’s been a bit emotional looking back at past Christmases and thinking about all the ones to come. I am really excited to carry on with my own traditions, my wife’s traditions and to make our own traditions going forward. Christmas has taken on a whole new meaning as a dad for me this year, and I can only see myself getting more and more excited as Albert grows up in years to come! I can’t wait to spend this year’s Christmas with him.

I hope you all have a Merry Christmas! I’ll probably be talking Christmas for the next few months and there will definitely be some Christmas aftermath posts!


Wednesday, 4 December 2013

12 Days of Christmas Ultimate Wishlist

Hi all,

This has probably been one of the most fun posts I’ve ever had to write! As you should hopefully be aware, we are now in December so that means IT’S TIME TO GET CHRISTMASSY! And to celebrate, here is me with my Christmas hat on.

I am going to do a longer post on my thoughts about Christmas (deep and emotional and all that), but for the moment I am cutting to the chase. Imagine this:

It’s the 12 days of Christmas. You suddenly won the lottery but realise you are a child again (or a Man-Child), and can buy 12 gifts for you (and/or your children). What would you get?

This excites me. I love window shopping online. Bert will be a bit young to fully understand Christmas and present opening this year, but I am mega excited for when he is a bit older and he has a wrapped up box bigger than he is, I can’t wait to see his face! I know there is a lot more to Christmas than presents, but for now I am going to let my imagination run away with itself!

So here we go, if money was no object and I could choose 12 gifts for myself, ahem sorry I meant for Bert, what would I choose? What’s on my 12 days of Christmas Ultimate Wish List?

DISCLAIMER! I haven’t had any contact with any companies who make these gifts below, I have picked them purely because I think they are awesome, and nobody has sent me a ‘review’ copy to say so. Neither have I had any contact with Amazon, I just do all my shopping there!

1. Scalextric Digital C1276 Platinum 1:32 Scale Race Set

Scalextric is amazing. No doubt about that, I have loads of memories of when I was a little one whizzing the cars around, it flying off the corner at high speed and shattering on the wall. And as money is no object I have opted for this set directly from Scalextric at £549.99. I had a set when I was little that was basically a figure of eight that we brought a few extra pieces for and I was more than happy with that. I think that’s where my love of motor-racing started really! I am hoping Bert will be just as into it as I am.

This set is like the King of Scalextric sets, as there are so many types these days. It has 6 cars on the track AT ONCE, a timing screen for all your laps, and 8.5 metres of track including a bridge and changeover pieces. It basically looks flipping amazing.

We have an old Scalextric set in our loft when we moved in to our house that I haven’t got around to getting down and checking out yet. When I do I am sure Bert and I will have just as much fun as I did when I was a boy.

2. IGGI Space Rail Perpetual Rollercoaster Glow in The Dark Level 4

I was always interested in toys I could build and use my imagination with when I was young, and so mix that with another boyhood staple, marbles, and you get a marble run. I am not sure whether I had a whole set when I was young, but I feel like I’ve always wanted one.

This set is currently priced at £28.99 from Amazon, which I think is a mega-bargain. It’s absolutely massive and glows in the dark! Most marble runs are bright simple colours, so I like the stealth look this one brings, not to mention all the loops and twists. To make it better it has a battery operated lift for the balls. This is for intermediate users but I wouldn’t worry about that having never put one up, I wouldn’t need the instruction manual. That’s half the fun experimenting! How hard could it be?

3. Melissa & Doug - Folding Medieval Castle

Back to using imagination, I am a huge fan of everything fantasy, so stuff like dragons, castles, knights and magic tick all the boxes for me. I am super excited about playing knights and dragons with Bert when he is older, and so this wooden castle set looks ideal and I really like the look of all Melissa & Doug wooden stuff. I would have to buy all the separate toys to go in it, but there are loads around. It’s currently priced at £50.39 from Amazon.

I remember having a wooden fort and playing cowboys and Indians with it when I was little, and it was fantastic fun. This castle folds out so you can play in the middle, includes towers, balconies, a trap door and a working drawbridge. It even has a dungeon! It is wooden though, so I wouldn’t play with it with a real dragon, laying siege etc, it is likely to burn down.

4. Star Wars Anakin to Vader Color Change Lightsaber

Got to have a Star Wars toy at Christmas! I always wanted a lightsaber (preferably a real one but this will do). The ones around when I were little were just plastic extendable ones. Now they light up! It’s priced at £29.99 from Amazon. Ideally I’d want two so I could have lightsaber battles with Bert. I’ll be Dad Vader and he can be Albie-Wan Kenobi.

5. Revellutions 1:18 Mantis RC Buggy (Blue)

I always wanted a really awesome remote control car as a boy. Now I have a real car the urge isn’t quite the same, but it’s still there. There was a real craze when I was growing up of increasingly elaborate remote control cars, they all had their own gimmicks. Ones that went upside down, jumping ones, even one that had a snake’s head that popped up and squirted water! There doesn’t seem to be AS much of a choice these days, but this one by Revell looks ace. The car on Amazon is priced at £39.99.

I don’t think I want gimmicks when I can just have a fast one that steers well. Set up a race track in the garden?

6. Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 Power Edition Quadricopter

While we are on the subject of remote control vehicles, flying ones are new to me. There were only kites and petrol helicopters when I was little. This quadricopter looks fantastic from Parrot. It's priced at £319.99 from Amazon and looks great fun, like something from Call of Duty. What does it do? What doesn’t it do is more the question.

You can fly it outside or inside, and it’s controlled by Wi-Fi, has an autopilot to take off and land for you, is controlled by a phone or tablet, and it even has 4 different colours of propeller. By far my most favourite bit is that it has a hi-def camera in it you can stream to your phone to take videos and photos on! Excellent for surveillance on the cat.

7. LEGO Mindstorms 31313: EV3

I’ve always loved Lego, and have so many memories of building all sorts of things with my family, not just at Christmas, but all year round. Bert is going to be a Lego veteran before long! As much as I love the Lego sets, and there are so many of them around now, I always just liked getting all the bits and seeing what I could build. I used it with all my other toys as well, bridges for Scalextrix, chairs for action man, all sorts.

Lego has evolved quite a bit in the last 20 years. This is a Lego Mindstorm set, priced currently at £224.99 from Amazon. It is totally badass, and so far removed from Lego as I remember it, it almost seems a different product. That doesn’t stop me wanting to get my hands on it though!

You can build all sorts of robots and control them using your phone. It comes with a built in computer and motors and all sorts of awesomeness that you can program into it. The cat will love this one, Bert even more. Again, ideally I’d like two so they could battle together, but it looks super awesome.

8. LEGO Technic 42000: Grand Prix Racer

More grown up Lego, from the Technic range. I remember my brother having Technic when we were little (he was older than me). It seemed like Lego but with more intricate pieces. And it's the same here, a Formula 1 Car priced at £62.99 from Amazon.

Combining 2 of my favourite things, Lego and Formula 1. If it could make sandwiches it would be the perfect toy. It has all sorts of detailed parts with moving pistons and adjustable flaps. You can even motorise it if you buy the extra parts. I think I would need the instructions for this, it would keep me busy for a fair few hours. zoooooOOOOOOOOOOooooommmmm!

9. Toy Story Talking Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger, Pixar Toy Story Collection

Wow. I always wanted a Buzz Lightyear. And this is the Buzz Lightyear toy all the other toys want to be. Toy Story is one of my favourite films, so this Buzz makes that come alive for me. It’s the priciest model at £67 from Amazon, but easily the best. I hope Bert loves Toy Story when he is old enough to watch it, I’m sure he will. I want to get him versions of all the toys so he can recreate all the scenes from the films and more!

It has 65 Buzz sayings. It does all the things Buzz does, retractable helmet, wings with WHOOSH sounds, fully posable. It HAS LASERS (not really, it’s a little flashing light that blinks). It has all sorts of interactive modes where it talks back to you and moves it’s head. It’s basically like Buzz is real and in your house. WARNING. He doesn’t fly, he falls with style.

10. Hasbro NERF - N-Strike Vulcan 25264, Havok Fire EBF-25

I’ve been getting into NERF recently. I have a few little ones, but this is like the Daddy of all Nerf guns. Priced at around £70 at the moment, it’s mostly automatic with a bullet belt that means you shoot all the darts pretty quickly and a tripod so you don’t have to carry it (it’s pretty big). With this and the quadricopter, me and Albert will have a fort under the table sorted out in no time.

11. K'nex Sonic Blizzard Roller Coaster Model Building Set With Speakers Over 1,100 Pieces

Time for Knex! I used to have a little yellow box with a Knex set in that I used to play with ALL the time. I made so many things out of it, it was like Lego but bigger. I played with it with all my other toys, it was brilliant. Last year my Mother-in-Law brought an old Knex rollercoaster from a car boot to take to her school for the children. Obviously I jumped at the chance of putting it together first (to make sure it was working of course) and spent a few very happy hours building it, it’s just as much fun as I remember.

The classic Knex set was always the Ferris Wheel, but now they have a new rollercoaster, the Sonic Blizzard currently priced at around £58.99 from Amazon and it has over 1100 pieces. It looks huge and has loads of twists and turns. Definitely in need of instructions, I would love to put this together with Bert. It’s educational as well, as you learn about structures and architecture and weight loads and all sorts. What I really like about this is that it has battery powered speakers you can plug your iPod into. Why? I don’t know, but I like it!

12. Sony Playstation 4

Oh yeah! The big one. I think this is the one thing I may actually be getting soon (for Bert obviously), hopefully it will be reduced from its current £350 (again from Amazon) price tag soon as I don’t have £350 lying about unfortunately. I grew up with video games, and have loads of memories playing them with my dad, so it’s always been a big part of my life and was a bonding process between us. I would dearly love to spend the same time playing with Bert together and teaching him how to play. I’ve always had a console all the way back to the Spectrum, and always preferred Playstations. I can’t wait to get the new one as it looks amazing!

And that’s it for my 12 days of Christmas gifts! Or is it?... As it’s Christmas, there is always time for a surprise present!


A bargain at £2,649, it’s a wooden garden Pirate ship for Bert! It could go in our garden. It does everything but actually sail in the water!

Sold by All Garden Fun, it’s 12 foot long. It has a picnic table and benches with it, climbing ramp, rock face climbing wall, pirate flag, steering wheel and slide. It even has a telescope. LAND AHOY!!

That’s definitely it for my 12 Days of Christmas Ultimate Wishlist. If you could have 12 gifts, money no object, what would you have? What were your favourite toys growing up?

Not long to go now, woohoo!