Sunday, 10 August 2014

David Jones and Myer Not Yet Christmas Ready

Well not exactly. But now that I have your attention let me explain. I was in both David Jones and Myer (Chadstone, Australia) today (Sunday) and there was a distinct lack of any presence to do with Christmas. Other than in David Jones where there were signs of the coming of Christmas. A cleared area with what looked like a few left overs from last Christmas. Why mention this?

Bestsellers are expected to be British designs featuring London themes and the Union flag
Selfridges Christmas Shop 2014 - With its British Christmas theme.
Well a couple of weeks ago I did mention in my article which of the department stores around the globe I thought which would be the first to open up their Christmas store. The money was on Selfridges. I knew that we were close to new Christmas stock coming because our local Christmas store, Santas Place did have a 30% discount advertised outside the store but suddenly it disappeared. This I usually take as a sign that the new Christmas stock is now in and ready to sell.

So if I had gone down the bookies and placed money on Selfridges, being the first to open, would I have won the bet. Yep. I am pretty confident that I would have. As I tweeted on the 5th August, Okay looks like have gone early again this year. But wait is this really the case. So I have turned to Mr. Google to find out. 

Macy's and Bloomingdales in the US don't appear to have any store open yet but do have some Christmas decorations online. So I turned to the UK to find that Selfridges great rivals, John Lewis have not yet set up store. They do have an announcement on their website, that Christmas 2014 is on its way. Harrods on the other hand put up a cheeky tweet on Twitter on 25th July stating, 'There are some items including decorations and food available at The Harrods Christmas Shop (2nd Floor) and in the Food Halls.' So Harrods have gone half cocked with Christmas, but will have something ready at the end of August. Liberty the other department store in London have an announcement on their website stating that their Christmas Shop is now open on the 4th floor.

So who won this years race. Well again I think it has to go to Selfridges. Want to be a part of it, other than visiting, here is a video on this years Christmas store.

What do I need this year? Now let me have a think about that. Just hope David Jones and Myer get going soon.

Image Source: Daily Mail

Monday, 4 August 2014

Why an Aussie Christmas seems, well, just strange

As a family we emigrated to Australia 6 years ago this month and have loved almost every minute. The one thing though that I still can not get my head around is that Christmas is in the middle of summer and it is December. Having a roast when it is frequently in the mid to high 20s (high 60s F), seems well, just strange.
How I like to remember Christmas in the UK. But it really just kept raining
Let’s take a step back in time. My first Christmas memory was getting a bike from Father Christmas, when I was four and not being able to use it on Boxing Day. Why, because the whole of the Gower Peninsula in South Wales was under a blanket of thick snow. So instead of using a bike, I was using the neighbour’s old wooden sledge, down the middle of the street we lived on.

So from a young age I have associated Christmas with snow and cold weather. Or more like the lyrics of Greg Lake’s song, ‘They said there'll be snow at Christmas…But instead, it just kept on raining.’ So with Christmas in July out of the way last month, it was a shock to the system when I got a call from my wife saying it was snowing, last week. Now that is no surprise in itself. But it just doesn’t snow on the Mornington Peninsula (about one hour south of Melbourne, Australia), not at sea level anyway. And in August, that just sent my internal senses slightly into a spin. To add to this, we had a really heavy frost, to the delight of my son. The next best thing for him than snow is walking on the crunch that is frost on grass. Was a joy to behold.

To get around the feeling of everything being upside down, at Christmas, from the first year we arrived, we created a ‘new traditional’ Christmas. So each Christmas we make a day of it in the City (Melbourne). We visit Father Christmas at Myer’s and then the Melbourne must have, the Myer Christmas windows, which are just amazing. And you have to queue. And I mean you have to queue. If you don’t get there early on a Saturday, you are looking at queuing the length of one block. We used to visit the free show at the Crown, but they changed it a few years ago and the new show is very disappointing. On the way home, we then visit the Christmas Bazaar at the Swedish Church in the leafy and wealthy suburb of Toorak. It is set in the lovely grounds of the old British Governors’ house and the sound of Scandinavian languages and smell of delicious food fill the air.

So what do we miss other than family and a good panto. Well bizarrely the wet and cold in the run up to Christmas, one of the things that made us leave the UK in the first place. But that is all forgotten, because there isn’t anything much better than spending Boxing Day on the beach, instead of a drafty British home watching television.

Image Source: Bert Kaufmann via Compfight cc

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Bye bye Christmas in July - Bring on the Christmas department in stores

So the 27th July is 150 days to Christmas. Now there is a usual fact to know when you are playing Christmas Trivia Pursuits. And today my son called me 'bah humbug' because I wouldn't let him do something. Which got me to think how common the use of Dickens is in everyday language, even at the end of July.

Selfridges Christmas department 2013
Selfridges, London - Christmas department 2013

So this year Christmas in July comes to a deflated end as apparently, I am now Scrooge. Not a bad effort. But this year I have found it really interesting to see how many people have entered into the Spirit of Christmas in July. I know someone who was having their first Christmas in July this year in Sydney, and was really looking forward to it. Particularly as she was in-charge of the mulled wine. Damn, I know that there was something missing this year. That said I even walked passed someone this week roasting chestnuts or was that a dream. Which ever, Christmas has been on the mind the last few weeks.

There has been so much talk about Christmas, it is quite outstanding. Even at work we have been discussing our campaigns for the festive season. I even attended a webinar about planning for Christmas. And the pièce de résistance was I even had someone email me a poll this last week asking if I have already started my Christmas campaign. Crickey and I thought that I was smart and planning early.

As everyone keeps saying, Christmas comes earlier each year. And this year it does appear to. Lets face it it is August next month and lets bet that one of the major department stores around the world will have their Christmas decoration department open. Who will it be Bloomingdales, David Jones, John Lewis, Liberty, Myer, Macy or Selfridges. Lets wait and see. Selfridges went early last year and opened their Christmas department early August. So in theory it should now be less than a week. Phew, that is so early. Anyway now that July is almost out of the way bring on the next main event. The Department store, Christmas department.

Image Source: Daily Mail

Sunday, 20 July 2014

The Rise of Christmas in July

To be honest I don't think I had ever noticed Christmas in July until I emigrated to Australia. The first July we arrived I was staggered by how many shops really went to town with Christmas decorations in the middle of July.

White Company - Christmas in July at Rosewood London

Now it is kind of understandable, why Christmas in July is so big in Australia, particularly in the southern state of Victoria. It is cold. Not as cold as say a Northern European or American winter, but when it can hits the 45c in the middle of summer, 5c feels damn cold. Now the origins of Christmas in July in Australia, are unclear. Some think it is likely to be from Irish immigrants in the 19th century. I was surprised though, to read the other day that in the US, Christmas in July dates back to July 1884 as celebrated by an Ohio fraternity. Why, I am not sure. Christmas in July, in the heat, kind of doesn't make sense. In Australia where it is winter, yep sure. And it is fun to get together with a bunch of Poms to listen to Slade and have some turkey.

Then I thought about it. When was the first time I really came across Christmas in July. Well in fact it is quiet a famous date. I was at an iab event. The event was about getting your website ready for promotion at Christmas. There was Slade playing in the background and they were serving mince pies. The day was 6 July 2005. The day it was announced that London won the Olympics, they stopped the conference to make the announcement. Looking back this was really my first exposure to Christmas in July.

I noticed last year that there was a sudden up lift with Christmas in July, particularly in the US and this year the UK. What I have noticed. Over the last few weeks, and even in June some of the major UK retailers, shops and online brands have been really gunning for it. The supermarkets like Tesco seem to have lead the way. Then there was the department stores, Debenhams, John Lewis, Mark and Spencer with their brussels sprout juice. SK-11 the cosmetic company wheeled out their Christmas gift sets last week. Even Poundland had a Christmas in July event. The White Company (a brand we love) held a luxurious event at the Rosewood in London. There have been many others, but the one that really caught our eye was Argos and their online Christmas presentation, for toys. 

It has had us thinking, is Christmas in July now becoming not just a time for friends to get together and remember the old country, but in the northern hemisphere, in particular, a fantastic opportunity for marketing exploitation. Personally yes, it probably is. It will be interesting to see what next year brings.

For the record, Slade and turkey in the middle of a winter in July, may seem almost alien but it is a great excuse to get together with friends and have a great time.

Image source: The White Company

Sunday, 13 July 2014

How to avoid a Christmas in July drama.

Sometimes, you should listen to your own advice. Last week in my article about 10 things to help plan Christmas in July, I should have listened to point 9. Planning. My advice was to not leave it until the last minute. Well, hmm guess what. Yep, we have left it to the last minute. Each year we have the party in someone's house, but this year we have booked a room for the event. But haven't, until this week discussed the food. Whoops.

Thank goodness the planning for Christmas in July is but once a year.

So here are my two Christmas in July dramas from this week.

On Thursday, my wife was not to well, so I went to meet up with all the other wives to organise the Christmas in July party for next week, for over 50 people. That is correct, next week. Nothing like planning well in advance. As a male I took the direct route. Everyone chip into a kitty, then allocate out who does what. Nah, didn't quiet work out like that. We went around in circles.

Firstly it was ah lets get in some caterers. Not a bad idea, but this soon to the party, and calling at 8 o'clock at night. Not sure that was ever going to work. At about this time one of the husbands, came in and suggested exactly the same as I had. A kitty. There was silence for a moment and then beautifully the women ignored the comment.  And this is the part that made me chuckle. The caterers who were offering a Christmas lunch, included the turkey but instead of roast spuds, baked potatoes. Baked potatoes for a Christmas lunch, even in July, this was a stretch to far. At this stage it became apparant that Turkey, as flavourless as it is with roast potatoes, was a must have. So that was that. If we could not have roast potatoes with Turkey we would have to do it ourselves. So after a couple of calls, it was decided that caterers where not required.

Wonderful indecision. I felt that one family should not shell out for the meat, hence the suggestion of the kitty. So instead the meat this time around was divided between four families but using smaller birds and one joint of beef. Tick that seemed to work. Then we just allocated out the rest of the food for the party. So after two hours, it just took us twenty minutes to allocate all the requirements for the party.

Secondly. Ensure before the venue is booked, the food is organised that your wife is happy in what she will be wearing. Oh not a great place to be, if not. Not even H&M can come to the rescue on this one. I now have a whole week's drama ahead of me before the outfit is decided upon. Believe me, organising the food with a bunch of wives is a damn sight easier.

Tip to be added to next years tips for Christmas in July will be, just book a restaurant and buy the wives outfit in the January sales.

Image Source:

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

10 Things to help plan for Christmas in July

Popular in Australia, Christmas in July is a winter social event. It has no official date and it is even unclear where it has its origins. It is likely to have been created by expats from Northern Europe, probably from Britain and Ireland. The emphasis is on recreating the cold Christmases of the old country and celebrating with traditional festive fayre. For those living in Australia or Christmas enthusiasts here are the top 10 things to do with Christmas in July.

Christmas in July. For the cooler Aussie months.

10. Set a date – as Christmas in July traditionally doesn't have a set date, you will need to set one. If there is an unofficial date it is likely to be the weekend following the 16th July. Families and restaurants in particular make their bookings around these dates. Even ski resorts like Mount Buller (a major ski resort in Victoria, Australia) have a Christmas in July event, where Father Christmas can be seen skiing.

9. Planning – like the real event, Christmas in July requires a deal of planning, particularly if the day’s event is being organised at home. Not just who to invite but the gathering of all the festive trimmings. It is advisable to start this in May or June and not leave it to the last minute.

8. Christmas Crackers – not the easiest item to purchase in the middle of an Australian winter but here are some pointers. If you are organising a gathering with a group of friends, see who has some left over from the previous Christmas, then mix and match the selection. The ‘one dollar’ shop sometimes have some left on the shelf or in the stockroom, check for availability. Use the internet or specialist stores, but plan this in advance to allow for delivery.

7. Mince Pies – generally these have to be home made. Food stores don’t stock these out of season, unless you are very lucky. Fruit mincemeat is not too difficult to purchase. But if you require gluten free mix, this is. The best work around for this is to buy extra at Christmas and store away. Even specialist shops don’t stock gluten free mix.

6. Christmas Cake or Christmas Pudding – unless you are a Christmas ‘die hard’, these two Christmas favourites are not a necessity for Christmas in July. Not just time consuming to make but you will also find not much demand. Christmas in July is usually just a one evening event. So you don’t have the usual days or weeks to consume these.

5. Make it an evening event – Christmas in July is very popular particularly amongst the British expat community. To make the event feel more like a traditional Northern European Christmas, the event generally starts late in the afternoon, just before dark. The additional coolness of the night, makes it feel more traditional.

4. Christmas Music – no event is complete without some festive music. So it is time to dig out the Christmas CD or the section of the mp3 that only gets looked at once a year. The sounds of Slade’s ‘Merry Christmas Everybody’, really gets the event moving.

3. Turkey – plan in advance for this. If you require a large turkey, your butcher may well have to pre-order one for you. The other option is to buy a couple of small frozen turkeys from the supermarket. Cranberry sauce to accompany the turkey is generally stocked in supermarkets.

2. Christmas Tree – like the Christmas cake, unless you are a ‘die hard’ traditionalist and you can find a Christmas tree farm to cut down a tree for you, don’t bother with a real tree. The best option is to use an artificial tree. If you don’t have one, borrow one from a guest, if they own one.

1. Presents – no Christmas in July event is complete without presents. No need to go over board. Set a budget amongst those attending and have a ‘secret Santa’. Organise this in advance, particularly if children are involved. Ensure that the numbers balance.

There you have it, planning for Christmas in July. A Christmas tradition, that is out of season.

Image Source: Gibraltar Hotel Bowral

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Top 10 Toys for Christmas 2014 vs the 70's

Hamleys, 'the toy shop' released earlier in the week, this year's top 10 toys for this Christmas. And the list was, well dominated by hi-tech toys. Toys I have never heard of, and I have a nine year old. Who at the moment is just interested in the World Cup, Hiccup and Toothless, Vikings and Lego. So the list below is possibly alien to him. And to be honest there has been no mention of his Father Christmas list, yet this year. Anyway this is the Hamleys list for Christmas 2014:

1. My Friend Cayla (£75)
2. Doh Vinci Style and Store Vanity design kit (£25)
3. Kidizoom Smart Watch (£50)
4. Barbie Colour Change Bag (£40)
5. Teksta T-Rex (£59.99)
6. Leapfrog LeapTV (£135)
7. Transformers Chomp & Stomp robot (£115)
8. BoomCo Rapid Madness blaster (£65)
9. Ice Skating Anna & Elsa from Frozen (£30)
10. Xeno toy (£100)

Hamleys toy shop

The first thing that struck me is that the Tranformers robot is £115, that is $210 Australian dollars. You can get a bike for that. A bike. Now that got me thinking what did I want when I was 9'ish in the 70's, for Christmas. Well a bike was top of the list along with a Hornby railway set, with the Flying Scotsman engine. And I was really lucky to get both, on separate Christmases. The bike wasn't new, but I loved it and I am sure my father was more excited about the railway set than I was.

But what else was top of the list of toys, for a boy in the 70's. I have no idea what was top of my sister's list but I do remember that an Action Man with as much military equipment was essential. Lego, as now with our son was always on the list and I think I was happy with that. 

I am sure though at some stage some of the following toys would have been somewhere in the mix and between myself and my sister, I do remember them being in the house. The Etch A Sketch, which was real hi-tech then. The sketch was a sketching toy, that basically draw straight lines and right angles. But if you were really cool, you could put a curve or bend on a corner. 

For slightly older children, there was the brainy kids toy. Mastermind. A game of colour pegs. Guess the correct peg colour in order. Yep that was one toy that frequently flew across the room. 

I didn't have the next toy but my best mate did (and we have it now). Mousetrap. A crazy board game of building plastic pieces together to catch a plastic mouse. I loved this game possibly because I didn't have it. I do remember it being more fun then than now as an adult.

Then there was Tonka. Oh how I loved my Tonka toys. Before the health and safety brigade got hold of toys, this was the toy for digging up your mum's prized rose bush and for getting cut to ribbons. And it wasn't from the roses. Tonka toys were sharp as anything but I loved them to death. I still have them, well mum does at least. I wouldn't let my son near them. The Cotton Wool generation and all.

As already mentioned, Lego. The KING of all toys. At any age since the 40's this has to be the best toy in the world. It is creative and building is only limited by your imagination. Unlike hi-tech toys. Now where did I put my smartphone?

Image Source: The Guardian

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Father Christmas KPI

That term, key performance indicators (KPIs) raised its ugly head at work this week. So this got me thinking, if Father Christmas / Santa was employed by a company what would be his KPIs.

Most KPI’s I have ever had, tend to be based around 3 main measurements. So what would be Father Christmas’s 3 main responsibilities at Christmas.

So after serious consideration these would have to be the 3 KPI’s. The ones that almost got on the list were the management of the toy factory and the elves, but the three selected I believe are the essential measurements.

1. Replying to Christmas Letters

Now this is a difficult one to measure. So he would have to have a strict criterion to keep to. It would be unreasonable for him to reply to all letters he receives. Clearly he would have to consult the naughty and nice list. Anyone on the naughty list would not be entitled to a letter. Anyone who was over demanding, such as wanting a Pony or Ferrari (whether this is an adult or kid) or a list that is excessively long, would not get a letter. Those though who are polite, not over demanding and on the nice list should get a letter.

2. Eating the food left out

Considering the effort that children and even adults put into ensuring that he gets a great selection of food and drink for, himself and the reindeer needs to be measured. If like our nine year old son, you or your child asks what he would like to eat or drink whilst on a visit to see him before Christmas, then he should eat what is on the plate, come Christmas Eve. The measurement is clearly, he needs to ensure that the reindeer have drunk most if not all milk left out and most, at least eat half a carrot. As for himself, now this is the difficult one. Poor Father Christmas seems to be like us all at Christmas, responsible when it comes to drinking and driving. Not sure though who would pull him over for speeding though. So any indication of drinking sherry, beer or whiskey is fine, even a sip. But apple juice, the glass needs to be dry. Plus a good bite out of a mince pie.

3. 100% Delivery success and punctuality

Ever seen the movie, Arthur Christmas, when Father Christmas / Santa accidentally forgets to deliver a present? Well this is not acceptable. Now the main measurement here is to ensure that all stocking presents are filled. Now this is a difficult one to measure in terms of number of presents, but the KPI measurement is simple. It needs to be; stocking at the end of the bed and not to wake anyone up. Now if he decides to deliver the unexpected, like I got last Christmas, an electric nose picker, the Philips Nosetrimmer. That is fine, as long as it does not offend or upset. In addition, delivery under the Christmas tree needs to be neat and tidy and not scattered across the room. Now in my experience the delivery has always been neat and tidy.

If all the above are carried out, I think we would all be in for a great Christmas Day.

Image Source: Just Love Christmas Pinterest Account and

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Christmas World Cup XI

To get into the spirit of the current World Cup, in Brazil, we thought it would be fun to put together a Christmas World Cup XI. The team is made up of traditional Christmas characters and from the movies.

Of course we will have to go for a Christmas formation of, one, four, three, two, one

In goal, well it has to be the Big Man himself. Father Christmas / Santa. Think about it, how many Christmases has he saved? You are in safe hands with him between the posts.

The defence needs speed on the flanks from steady and reliable personalities and a central defence with mean individuals.  So the central defence picks itself, with Scrooge and The Grinch. One mean defence. For left and right backs you need spend on the flanks, so we I have selected Comet and Blixen for blitz defence.

In the midfield you always need a hard man, the one who gets things done and that would have to be John McClane. And with him you need a flare or creative player. So who would that be…maybe a wiser older player and that would have to go to Melchior, The King of Light (the other wise men would be on the bench). Then you need that midfielder, who is not either hard or creative but who will run all day to ensure the job is done. And I would select Arthur Christmas to get the job sorted.

Then there are the two wingers who have to provide speed, width and great crosses. The Snowman (as in Raymond Briggs), is always walking in the air. Likewise the same with the Ghost of Christmas Past. Plus he already has good understanding of Scrooge. Both of these wingers are real flyers.

Up front you have to have Rudolf, with his red nose. You can play the long ball into his hooves all day. Really has a got marker to aim at.

And as with all teams, you need a Manager. Someone who is cool under pressure and that would have to be Jack Frost.

So the starting XI would be

1. Father Christmas/Santa
2. Blixen
3. Comet
4. Scrooge
5. The Grinch
6. John McClane
7. The Snowman
8. Arthur Christmas
9. Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer
10. Melchior
11. Ghost of Christmas Past

Manager. Jack Frost

Image Source: Farnborough FC

Monday, 9 June 2014

6 Kids Christmas Movies that blow me away

Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

I vaguely remember when I first saw the original Miracle on 34th Street. I was about 9 maybe 10. On an old black and white tv that my parents had. I was blown away. I couldn’t wait until the following Christmas to watch it again. In those days we didn’t have videos or dvds and the internet would have been something in a sci-fi movie. So if you missed it, you missed it. To be honest I think the next time I saw it, was about 10 years later. And it hadn’t changed. The magic of the movie was still there. It is the first Christmas movie I remember watching. (Not to be confused with John Hughes’ later version.)

Check out the original trailer. They sure know how to make them back then.


The Snowman (1982) 

This was released whilst I was in my mid teens and I first remember it being on Saturday Superstore. I must have fallen out of bed, mid morning, just switched on the tely and watched that song. Walking in the Air, the song always associated with Aled Jones. But in the movie it was actually performed by a Peter Auty. The film has a strange haunting start to it. And then falls into an amazing animated movie with the most memorable song. The scene of the snowman getting off the motorbike, is still magical to this day.

We couldn’t really find the trailer to this movie, but here is that song.

A Christmas Story (1983) 

Similar to The Snowman, I saw this in my late teens, blimey, it may have even been in my first year at Uni. Not sure. But I laughed from the start to the end. I haven’t seen it that often since but that scene, the one with the pole, still has me in fits of laughter. Plus the one with the wrapped bowling ball, dropped on the… well…lap on the old man, just golden scenes. Many would say this is the best Christmas movie of all time (even more than It’s a Wonderful Life. Not included on this list as technically not a kids movie). And to be honest it would be difficult to disagree.

Here is the movie trailer

Home Alone (1990)

John Hughes who wrote Home Alone, has a special space in my heart. Before he wrote this movie, I had written my Uni thesis on his teenage movies. Putting that to one side, this is a great slap stick movie. My 9 year old son can not get enough of it. It is full on schoolboy humour maybe that's why he loves it. But it is also a great family movie. It does take sometime to get going but once the ‘invasion’ scenes start, it is a laugh a second. It is one of those Christmas movies you can watch anytime of the year.

Here is the movie trailer

The Polar Express (2004) 

Second to the Snowman, this is the first Christmas movie I watched with my son, so has a special memory for me. That said I thought that the animation in this movie is just amazing. You really see Tom Hanks in this as the Inspector and it has you guessing. Does the bell still sound in all our hearts? I never read the book, so can not compare it to that. I just enjoyed the move and the characters are almost to real.

Jump onboard the trailer.

Elf (2003) 

What can you say about Elf, other than Will Farrell is just hysterical in this movie. There are so many unrealistic but funny scenes, you just get swept away in the enjoyment of the story. Cotton balls and coke will never be the same again. It is what Christmas movies should be all about. Fun, fun and even more fun.

Movie trailer.

Arthur Christmas (2011) 

This could just possibly become a Christmas classic in the next, hmm 10 years. It has a great alternative Father Christmas storyline and how he delivers all those presents. It is also slightly more edgy than a Disney or Pixar movie. It is almost not political correct in places, yet has a warm heart. And our 9 year was glued to it. Any film with Hugh Laurie and Bill Nighy in it, just can not go wrong. A must have to the DVD collection (if you still have one).

Movie trailer. 

As a final note, we have to leave you with that scene from A Christmas Story.

With the line, "It really works". Golden.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

5 Christmas Images With A Difference

What I like about the internet (there are many things that I don't) is the way people share things. Particularly information. Back in the day it was the internet forum. Many are still a fountain of knowledge. Want to know how to change a washer. There are stacks of videos on You Tube that will show you how, in easy steps.

Then in 2010, Pinterest came along. I admit that my initial view was that it was a female domain, and to some extent it is. But I am hooked. I got in touch with my feminine side and started pinning about on my favourite subject, Christmas, of course. I love wasting time on the net searching for some cool Christmas images. Then thinking of new boards that I can create. I am not sure how much time I have wasted...I mean enjoyed spending on Pinterest, I do not know. But I have enjoyed every moment. There are so many talented people out there and admire their imagination and creativity.

So I thought I would share with you my favourite Christmas images, not your usual Christmas tree or Christmas lights but a Christmas image with a twist or difference.

In no particular order these are my favourite images from my Pinterest account:

I don't like this for religious reasons, it is just a very clever play on words.

Not sure if this is a sign to switch the headlights on or not. Be cool to see this on Christmas Eve.

Caution - Watch out for gnomes and Santa Claus - just love this. So cool, yet so tacky.

This image seems to capture everyones imagination. Keep calm at Christmas, that would be a dream like having a white Christmas in London.

Doesn't this just make you smile. So cool. It sums it all up without really having to say anything. Brilliant. Possibly my favourite Christmas image with a difference.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

The end of DVDs, well almost

Sunday afternoon. To tired to be bothered to do anything other than kicking a soccer ball in the back yard with my son. So what to do. Yep nip down the local video shop. Strange isn't it. Videos died out years ago, yet we still call it a video shop.

I remember the old video shops of the 80's. Bulky selves with two formats of video, VHS and Beta. So we all went to the video shop to see what kiddie movies we may have missed out on recently.

Upon our arrival we found that the video shop is closing down. And everything, was up for sale even the latest releases. Apparently the shop announced this over three weeks ago. The place looked like the hordes of hell had been through the place. Back to the 80's, it looked like the image of Russian food shops which were shown in the news. It was almost pitiful. 

Not surprisingly people were buying loads of DVDs, 10 to 20 at a time. I found this all slightly sad. Shelves half stripped of the shops goods. But why should I be? I can not remember the last time I paid a visit. Over a month again. I was talking to one of the guys in the queue whilst I waited to pay for a DVD and he said that this was the last video shop in the local area. WOW! No more video shops. What to do?

Looks like we are going to have to go online via Telstra (Australian telecoms company) or get an Apple TV. So what did we do today. Buy a DVD, and of course it was a Christmas movie, yep a Christmas Carol and go home and watch, a different Christmas movie, Arthur Christmas on DVD. 

Bye bye DVDs, well not quiet now but it can not be long now. Oh what to ask Father Christmas for now in this years stocking. iTunes gift voucher?

Image Source: Sony Pictures

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Amazing Birthday Cake. What now for Christmas

It was the youngest member of the Just Love Christmas team, birthday yesterday. As with all nine year olds, he is really into something. This year it is Vikings. Absolutely Viking mad at the moment. So I was up early Saturday morning to go and get the birthday cake. Unfortunately my son is not just gluten intolerant like myself but also dairy intolerant. So we searched high and low for a local company who could do both a gluten and dairy free cake. And bang.

Amazing Viking Helmet Birthday cake. What now for Christmas.

We found a company in Moorabbin, South Melbourne (Australia). The most amazing and unbelievable birthday cake I have ever seen. We would like to thank Gluten Free 4 U with the perfect birthday cake for a 9 young old, his friends and friend’s parents. As one of the parents said, ‘It looks like you could just pick it up and wear it.’

We will be keeping a close eye on what they will be doing for Christmas this year. We may not be making our own Christmas cake this year, particularly if the Gluten Free 4 U cakes are as yummy as their birthday ones.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Seven Months of Snow and counting

For those of you who have been following us since we started Just Love Christmas and now the blog, will realise we made a trip to Lapland back in Christmas 2011. Periodically I view the Facebook page of the company, Canterbury Travel who helped us organise our evening with Father Christmas.

Back in October, well October the 14th to be exact they posted up an image of the first fall of snow for the winter, above. That is now seven months of snow on the ground. SEVEN MONTHS, boy that is a lot of snow and cold days.

And today:

webcam Sodankyl

Now I do like snow, well at least if I have the option to go to the snow, as opposed to it visiting me. 

So it made me think what does Father Christmas really do with seven months of snow. Clearly there is the option of training the reindeer and practising drops down chimneys. But my bet is he is in the Tropics for most of the winter.

For those who live there all winter, they must love the white stuff. That said I would like to try one full winter in the snow and see how long I would last. No wonder the Fins have saunas.

Image Source: Canterbury Travel/ and

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Happy Mother's Day

Is it me or is Mother's Day only second to Christmas. Even more than birthdays for Mums. We used to live in the UK where Mother's Day was, well just Mother's Day.

We migrated to Australia some 6 years ago and ever since Mother's Day has never been the same. Now whether it is because we have a child now in school, but where ever you go everyone was going up to my wife, yesterday wishing her happy Mother's Day. Admittedly it was the other mums.

Mother's Day is huge here. Much more than I ever remember in the UK. It is present time here. Meal planning. Cooking. More Cooking and even more cooking. Don't get me wrong here, I like to cook and love to cook for my wife. I share a good portion of the cook work load. But I felt pressurised this year to get it right. I am not sure what match report my wife will give me when she speaks to her friends next.

Get the gift. Nah, couldn't find the right thing. My son did get some interesting gifts from the schools Mother's Day gift stall though. So in a few weeks we are going to have a luxury weekend in the local city and we will spoil her then, when it comes to the present. Father Christmas doesn't get this stressed.  

So food was really important today. So I was up semi-early this morning and went to get food for breakfast. Well planned out...And it really made me laugh. The local supermarket was packed with men, dads mostly as many of them were with young children. Milk seemed very popular as did up market jams, for some reason.

So I had my menu planned:

Breakfast - French toast with bacon and blueberries with deluxe hot chocolate with cinnamon and freshly made fruit juice
Lunch - Home-made pea soup with toast
Dinner - Oven baked chicken in lemon grass, chilli and lime with asparagus.

Cool. Sorted. Then get this. My wife didn't feel well all day. Oh well one of those days. To all Mums though, Happy Mother's Day. 

Thursday, 1 May 2014

What would happen if Father Christmas was unwell.

So this week I was as sick as a Husky Dog. So I left my sleigh on the driveway for the day and spent the day in my cabin. Now I am not one for taking days off work. So for me this was a rare event. Whilst I was lying in bed not thinking about work, my mind turned to the Just Love Christmas blog. And I thought, hmm what would happen if Father Christmas / Santa was unwell on Christmas Eve. Disaster.

Then I got thinking even more. Has he been unwell in the past. And get this. I think he has. Why? Because when I was about 8 or 9 years old I didn't get one of those Cadbury's stockings in my stocking and he never forgot that. 

So who delivered my presents that year. Now it could have been Mrs Claus. Having met her, in her house on a trip to Lapland. It is possible. She would seem to be a well organised type of person. But she looked just nice and snug in her room. The elves, the senior ones particularly Rusty the Elf would be up to the job. But would be needed at HQ to ensure that the stockings were all full and correct.

So could it be a case of an Arthur Christmas scenario? Is there a younger Father Christmas in the waiting? Or was Rusty the Elf sick?

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Going to Church at Christmas

Do you go to 'church'? Well if you do, according to Google Trends, you are most likely going to search for it, online, in the the run up to Easter and Christmas. An interesting article by the Pew Research Center shows that there is a distinct increase in the search term 'church' in the run up to Easter and Christmas in the US.

Google searches for "church" spike during Easter and Christmas seasons
The search for the term 'church' is highest during the run up to Easter and not at Christmas. Not exactly sure why this would be. A theory could be something to do with the 40 days of Lent. Easter unlike Christmas in the US, has a clear run in without any interruptions. Unlike Christmas, which has Thanksgiving as a major public holiday just before it.

The Google trends complied by Pew Research Center also show that Thanksgiving is the lowest time of the year when the term 'church' is searched for. Which is no surprise. As this is a major public holiday in the US that isn't a Christian festival.

To be honest I can not remember, the last time I went to church. So I for one will not be adding to the statistics this coming Christmas.

Image Source: Pew Research Center

Friday, 18 April 2014

A Christmas Carol Sequel - Bah Humbug

Now some things should just be left alone. Particularly when it is associated with something so fundamentally Christmasy. Now do not get us wrong. We love everything to do with Christmas. But sometimes, just sometimes things should be left alone.

Lee Woodard, a US attorney has written a sequel to 'the' Christmas classic a Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Now we are fans of a Christmas Carol. So much of it is associated with Christmas. In the run up to Christmas and even during the year, we use terms like bah humbug or you Scrooge. It is probably only second to the Bible, when we think of books related to Christmas. 

Credit to Mr Woodard, who in his press release is quoted to saying:

I love Dickens. A Christmas Carol and have always wondered what happened to its characters after the original story ended.

Really, didn't Dickens make that clear.

"...but lived upon the Total Abstinence Principle, ever afterwards; and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well..."

But should we on this occasion have left any sequel to Dickens himself.

That said if Mr Woodard would like to send us a copy we would be happy to have a read...

Image Source: Mr Woodard

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

What happened to my Christmas Tree

So ever wondered what happened to the real Christmas tree that you choice in a muddy field in December? We always get our tree from the same farm and return the tree to them to recycle. Well they don't exactly recycle the tree, more like mulch it and use it as compost for the trees, we will cut down in the future.

Christmas tree buried at Porthtowan

Some enterprising councils around the world put Christmas trees to good use. The most common that we have read about, is using them to help prevent erosion. In Louisiana they have been using Christmas trees to help protect the coastal wetlands because Christmas trees take a long time to decay. In other parts of the US such as Galveston in Texas, Gulf Shores in Alabama and best known Long Island, New York, the trees are used to help stablise and encourage sand dune formation at beaches. Placing the trees on the beach, the limbs of the trees help stop blowing sand and the idea is that after time the trees will be come covered with the sand.

The other advantage of using Christmas trees in this manner, is the invisible environmental impact. As proven in Louisiana, most of the trees, land up in landfill. The project there has proven to be also cost effect, due to the cost of disposing trees in landfill being more expensive than reusing them in the coast wetlands.

So it would be in the UK the use of Christmas Trees would be an issue. When in other parts of the world there has been glowing praise for the success of similar projects. But in Cornwall there is a clash of interests between the environment and it been an eye sore.

Surely it is better to have an eye sore of a beach than no beach or dunes.

Image Source: BBC

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

UEFA to Remember the Christmas Truce of 1914

This year is the 100th anniversary of the spontaneously game of football played between British and German soliders in Flanders. UEFA are planning to mark the anniversary of the game played during the First World War.

Commemoration of 1914 Christmas truce
UEFA is planning to celebrate one of the most famous events of the First World War. Head of States have been invited of the nations involved to commemorate the Christmas Truce of 1914 on 17 December. The projected venues are the neighbouring Belgian towns of Ypres and Comines-Warneton – where the informal football game was played.
The remembrance ceremony is planned to be held in Ypres. The great French footballer, Michel Platini, now UEFA President said on the the UEFA website:
"This remembrance ceremony, pays homage to the soldiers who, a century ago, expressed their humanity by coming together to play football, thereby opening an important chapter in the construction of European unity and serving as an example for today's young people to follow." 

Image Source: UEFA

Monday, 31 March 2014

It's A Raquet

Ever wondered what the top tennis players spend their money on. Fast cars, yachts and possibly the odd pied-à-terre in London, Paris or New York. Well instead add maybe, a hotel. Yep hotel.

Scotland, Andy Murray, Christmas, Hogmanay, Cromlix House, Dunblane, Perthshire 

Andy Murray, the Scottish tennis player. Or British depending how he is going in the UK press. Owns a hotel near his home town Dunblane.

The good news for Mr Murray is his hotel is now already booked for both Christmas and Hogmanay. That is some going, considering that it is only March.

Travel expert Greg Kain, in an interview with the Scottish Express said, "I would say it is pretty unusual for a hotel to be fully booked for Christmas this early on in the year".

Image Credit: Scottish Express

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Now it is Christmas Album time

Well yesterday was the oldies concerts. Today it is the turn of the young'ish ones. Well only one so far.

Jennifer Lopez in 'Same Girl' music video

Jo Lo or Jennifer Lopez, depending on your preference, is the first out of the blocks this year, to throw in her hat for a 2014 Christmas album. According to DigitalSpy, she has been writing songs with David Foster. Not sure who he is but sounds interesting. (A quick look on Google tells me he is a Canadian record producer.)

It will be interesting to see who else has a Christmas album in the pipeline this year.

Photo Credit: DigitalSpy

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Christmas Concert Time for the Oldies

Now Christmas memories really start in your childhood. Well they did for me. Alas my childhood now seems a long time ago. To my son the 70's, well seem like the 40's to me.

That said the 70's was the decade of the Christmas song. Songs by Slade, Wizard, Greg Lake, the list goes on. But you know when it is getting close to Christmas for some old bands. March seems to be the time of year to announce a get together and a concert tour.

Now whether these old bands have more time on their hands to plan this far in advance, I do not know. But retirement must be great. So over the last couple of days both Lindisfarne and Status Quo (who will be touring with Chas and Dave, of all people) have announced their tour dates for the UK.

It won't be a case of deck the halls but more rock the halls.

Photo Credit: Birmingham Mail