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.