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Sunday, 22 December 2013

Kirstie's Homemade Christmas on Channel 4. How the other half live.

What a barbaric programme for the upper middle class.

Channel 4 is screening a three part mini-series featuring Kirstie Allsopp showing us how we can all supposedly enjoy an idyllic Christmas and make our own decorations to spruce up our homes.

Now normally I love Kirstie, and her constant innuendoes with Phil on Location, Location, Location are the stuff of legend. But this was too much as it turned all it did was give us loads of lovely (pukeworthy) insights into how the other half live.

The programme implied that posh people shouldn't buy their own tree decorations, they should in fact go to a glass blower and make them by hand, elaborately rolling them in different colours. 

Later, she jumped into her 4x4 (of course) and paid a visit to her 'favourite local forester'. Yes, she actually said that, as if to say we all have a forester don't we? He helped her to pick a perfect Christmas tree. It looked like an 8 footer to me, and was a lot prettier than the typical tree you get down at B&Q, as you push all the ugly bastards out of the way to find something that looks vaguely half decent.

If that wasn't enough, she showed us how to screen print our Christmas cards rather than buying some in a shop or making simple ones by hand. No no, screen-printing is much more classy. Anyway, don't quibble over the cost, as once you've bought all the kit you can re-use it next year!

Kirstie has a really nice home called Meadowgate in Devon, but I was disappointed by how naff this mural is. It is like a slap in the face. Why, why, why?

Then she met up with two Barbour toting ladies who lunch, who have apparently been making Christmas wreaths for the last three years, mainly using foraged greenery from their land. Yes dear viewer, in all those acres you have, surely you must have some holly and moss? Anyway, the trick to start off with is to create a firm base of moss, it adds moisture to the rest of the wreath, keeping it fresh, and creates the structure of the wreath.

Finally, if you're struggling for time to make all your decorations, simply visit a local primary school and employ child labour to create gaudy ornaments out of salt dough! It works for Kirstie Allsopp!

Don't worry as there are two more episodes to come. We will be shown how to make amazing soap and procure ourselves some 'thrifty buys' from a London street market! No doubt while scoffing canapés. I just hope we won't be expected to barter for the goods with our lovely glass blown baubles! One was rather hoping to hang them on one's crimbo tree.

Silent Sunday 22.12.13

Friday, 20 December 2013

These must be selling like hot cakes

Surely this must be the only shop in the world to stock six different varieties of a 100th birthday card!
Sadly, if you're 101 years old you are out of luck. No card for you I'm afraid.

The Christmas present I always wanted, but never received

I do love childrens' Christmas lists, and mine was no different.

I would feverishly go through the Argos catalogue, pen in hand, and very carefully write down the product numbers of the things I wanted. I would make the list as big as possible, hoping that I would get spoiled rotten but deep down knowing that the budget was £50.

I think this list was from when I was about 11 years old, so it was made in 1993. I was really happy and surprised when my mum gave it to me recently, as I didn't know she had kept it. It was typed up on an old Brother word processor, I remember it well.

That year, I got the juggling diablo, the Redwall books and the Discman. I'm sure I got clothes too, so I don't think my death threat carried much weight.

The present I really wanted was the air rifle. It would go on the list every year but I never got one. It was probably for the best!

Now tell me, what was the present you always wanted but never received?

This blog was originally posted on Tealady Mumbles as part of her Christmas presents from the past series

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

The Top 5 Traditional Wooden Toys This Christmas

I am normally a purist when it comes to toys. I like them to be sturdy, wooden, and built to last. Timeless toys that can be handed down from brother to sister and last for decades.

So I have been researching toys to buy my 8 month old son for Christmas.

Here are my top five.


Pull Along Giraffe 
by BRIO.


London Bus by BAJO 
(exclusive to The White Company)


Noah's Ark by Jammtoys
(via NotontheHighStreet.com)


Janod Caramel Rocking Horse
(at John Lewis)


Wobbly Goblin by BAJO
(at Green Owl Toys)

He will be eight months old at Christmas and I know some of these are for a slightly older child but I'm not a dad who freaks out and breaks into a sweat about the recommended ages for toys. Back in the day, these guidelines didn't even exist!

I'd say they are more than suitable for an infant or toddler who is one or two years old. Just make sure you keep an eye on your little one when they are playing!

Happy hunting, and I will be adding other ideas to my Pinterest page.

Please follow me and share your own ideas, I'd love to see them!

Monday, 9 December 2013

Matalan Winter Wardrobe Essentials for Baby Boys

I'm a big fan of Matalan and so is our 7 month old son.

I've picked out some little gems from their winter collection that you can't miss out on if you have a baby boy.

Amazing! I want one! It's a fisherman's jumper supreme.
This red crew neck knit is lovely and tactile and is such good quality too.
100% cotton.

£8 or £9.

Green and navy knitted jumper with Aztec detailing across the chest.

It's über cool.

£8 or £9

Can't go wrong with a navy blue and grey striped jumper.
It will go with practically anything and has subtle, colourful detailing.

£8 or £9

 With a handy velcro fastening at the back, these give me peace of mind.
I want to make sure his feet stay warm and that he can't keep pulling his shoes off.
These fit the bill nicely and look great with one of the jumpers above (and jeans).

One Direction eat your heart out!


Simple and classic without too much detailing.
Perfect to show off one of the jumpers above, or boots.
£8 or £9

Great for layering and lovely, soft 100% cotton.

£5 or £6

Matalan have just won a gold award for innovation, in the Mumsnet Family Friendly Awards. More info here.

With clothes like this, that don't cost an arm and a leg, it's not hard to see why mums and dads love shopping there.

Please note: this post was sponsored by Matalan.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

My Son, The Entertainer!

We had a magic moment yesterday.

He was sat in his highchair, playing with a muslin after enjoying a leisurely lunch (i.e. throwing food all over the cafe at Dyrham Park near Bath).

All of a sudden he held the muslin at both ends and covered his face for a few seconds and then pulled it down in an unexpected game of peek-a-boo!

We cheered in delight, as he began doing it again and again. I don't think it was a fluke either, he was very purposefully covering his face for 1, 2, 3 seconds and then revealing it. Our cheers got louder. Here was our 7 month old baby, deliberately entertaining us and making us laugh!

It was really nice. Secretly I hoped these are signs of him being a child genius. I pictured him collecting his Nobel Peace Prize as I watch him, nudging the stranger in the seat next to me, tearfully whispering: "that's my boy!"

But we will see. Next time he plays the peek-a-boo game I will try to get a video.

Here's one from today (he wasn't quite getting it right like yesterday, but you can still see the intent in his eyes!)

Thursday, 5 December 2013

The A to Z of Me

I was tagged to give an A-Z by Make me an Earth Mother.
Challenge accepted!

A is for animals. I really love animals, especially my cat. I always thought I was a dog man and I didn't like cats, until I lived with one.

B is for Bristol, where I live now. My wife brought me here after we met at university and I haven't looked back, the city is my home now. It's bursting with culture and things to do, and it never feels too big. You can be out in the countryside in no time, and it's not too far away from...

C is for Cornwall, where I was born and raised. I'll always be a Cornishman, and I like nothing more than a long weekend down there. My mum still lives in the house I grew up in, so it has many happy childhood memories for me and I'll be sad if she ever sells the place. Also C is for cricket, I'm a huge fan of the game and play for a local team during the summer. C also stands for chess.

D is for Dumas. One of my favourite books is The Count of Monte Cristo, I still count it as one of my greatest achievements getting through that book. It was written in 1844 and 1200 pages long. Hard work!

E is for Eric Cantona. My childhood hero.

F is for fantasy football, which I've played for many years now. Also F is for fags, sadly I am still addicted to these. Tobacco, I mean. That's what we call cigarettes in the UK (in case you are reading this from America!)

G is for geography. I studied it at university, but it bored me.

H is for history. It's a subject I'm very interested in - more on that later. I originally went to uni to study this, and I should have stuck to it.

I is for Israel. I visited it once when I was very young and I can still count from one to ten in Hebrew.  Normally I have a very bad memory so it's weird that I can still remember how to do this.

J is for jumpers. I love my knitwear. I don't buy masses of clothes like I used to, but I invest in quality knitwear to last me through the year.

K is for knights. When I was a kid, I used to be obsessed with them, whether it was doodling and sketching or re-enacting battles with toys, or reading the stories of King Arthur.

L is for Lego. I can't wait til my son is older, when we can start building stuff. Also L is for laughing. I love to laugh.

M is for Mongols. A fascinating period of history, and if you want to read the amazing and unbelievable story of Genghis Khan then I recommend these books by Conn Iggulden. If you don't know anything about the Mongols, it will blow your mind.

N is for numbers. Everyone in my family failed their GCSE maths exam first time, and so they were all telling me I was fated to fail as well. But it made me determined not to, so I got a B instead.

O is for Ocean Colour Scene, the first band I ever saw live.

P is for Poldark. I was once an extra in a TV adaptation of it! I was only young, and I was playing an angry miner boy. I had mud rubbed all over my face and an over-sized wig, and stood outside a mine on a freezing cold cliff-top. I shook my fist and shouted at the owners of the mine because we hadn't been paid. It was fun, and as I was only a kid at the time, the £50 I was paid for the day's work was like a fortune to me.

Q is for Quorn. I can't stand the stuff, and I can't understand how anyone can eat it!

R is for random things tend to make me chuckle. Like some toilet graffiti I once discovered: "look right to play toilet tennis." "Now look left."

S is for siblings. I have three sisters and one brother and they're all a lot older than me, so I'm the baby of the family! Also skiing. I haven't been in years, and my wife insists that her one and only trip to a Bulgarian resort with me has put her off skiing for life. I do love it though, I hope to go again sometime!

T is for Table Tennis. Forehand smash and backhand slice, these are a few of my favourite things.

U is for Uncle. I have four nephews and four nieces. The eldest is only 5 years younger than me, so that' can be a bit weird sometimes! Meanwhile, one niece is exactly the same age as our son. Quite a coincidence, but my brother and I became fathers on the same day!

V is for Vikings. This is my favourite period of history, when the Danes conquered half of Britain and robbed us blind while monks prayed to god hoping they would just go away. While losing all their gold. Meanwhile the Vikings had their amazing pagan gods and buried their gold in the ground. Some of my favourite books are these ones by Bernard Cornwell.

W is for wife, my best friend and soul mate.

X is for Xbox One. That was easy.

Y is for yurt. I would like to have one in my garden one day, with a log burner!

Z is for zany sense of humour. I think I have one of these!


Sunday, 1 December 2013

Choosing The Right Baby Changing Bag - The Dad's Survival Guide

Changing bags tend to make me vom. I've seen loads of male friends succumb to colourful, flowery ones and walk around seemingly oblivious that they are letting the side down by having that bag slung over their shoulders.

So it's time for a rant. Here is how to choose the right baby changing bag for any self respecting fathers out there. I'll talk you through my journey all the way from research to purchase.

First of all, I wanted something that didn't de-masculinise me as a dad. It is ultimately a glorified handbag, and I cringe whenever my wife hands me her bag in public and says "just hold this a minute" while I skulk outside a ladies' changing room in a shop, trying to not appear like I am a pervert despite the fact that right in front of me I can practically see a random stranger's bum cheek through a crack in the curtain. Oh yes and I'm holding a handbag, just to give me extra voyeur points.

So I started searching online and was delighted to find this little number.

An ammunition box. Brilliant, I'll just add an army surplus strap to it and that will do the job. However for some reason entirely unknown to me, my wife didn't like it.

So I begrudgingly did some more research, went on Amazon and immediately I was slapped in the face with red patent leather options, large yellow tote, french stripe, purple quilted fabric, messenger, stroller bags, you name it they had it. Ugh, everywhere I looked there was danger. It was a case of man down, get me out of here, this is no place for a dad. My eyes were spinning and I was in full blown panic mode. I really had to scrape the shelves looking for something acceptable to the eyes.


Babymoov Free Hand Maternity Changing Nappy Bag - Almond / Taupe

Babymel Big Slouchy Twisted Red Changing Bag

Kalencom Fashion Diaper Bag

Bebemon Urban XL Baby Changing Bag - Tangerine


Already knowing I didn't want to do the boring thing of getting a blue one just because we were having a boy, and pink being obviously off the menu for 101 reasons, I started scouting the black ones. Ok, blend in, camouflage. Find something innocuous and discreet. Don't spend a fortune, seek and ye shall find.

And then bingo. Hallelujah. I will forgive thee for thy furry sides because here was the Wallaboo changing bag. Boasting faux suede with fleece trim, five pockets and two large inner compartments, and a wipeable, foldable plastic change mat. It wasn't big but it was definitely clever and an added bonus that we had already bought the matching Wallaboo footmuff to line the Britax car seat in case he got cold.

Ok, ok, so it had fur sides but I reasoned I could get away with it as we had already bought the footmuff. The two would blend in, and I could hang it off the back of the buggy. The two items go very well together as you will see here:

The Wallaboo brand is an Australian one that I hadn't heard of, so I figured I was also being slightly edgy and cool to go for it. But then maybe that is probably me just over-thinking it in my usual style. Plenty of strangers have commented on the bag though and C-Dawg has always loved the footmuff and slept well and felt cosy in it, so I'm pleased with the purchase.

Overall review
I would give the bag four stars out of five. The reviews on Amazon are fair. Everything about the bag is good except for the space, sometimes you do feel as though you are having to cram things in like you're going away on holiday. But on the positive side at least you don't have an intrusively clunky bag like some of the others on the market, so you take the rough with the smooth.

This is an astute purchase for dads who don't want to draw attention to themselves while carrying their delightful soiled nappies around, and mums will be happy with it too as it is made of good quality materials and looks fashionable. You should be able to pick it up cheaply on eBay, or brand new for around £39 if you have your wits about you.

I also got the footmuff for £15 on eBay.

Good luck with finding a man friendly bag. It's a jungle out there.

And now, I've written an updated guide for 2016 with what I know now VS what I knew when I wrote this in 2013! Be careful, this may actually blow your mind. It's a gamechanger.

Silent Sunday 1.12.13

A Christmas Photoshoot

I was walking through Cabot Circus in Bristol on Friday and I noticed a stall offering free Christmas themed photoshoots. Well this is one devoted dad who doesn't need to be sold to when the words 'free' and 'photoshoot' are used in the same sentence.

They sat him down on a little red table among some presents and tinsel and away we went.

 Hmm... what's this shiny stuff?

 Ahh... it makes a pleasing noise when I lift it up and down...


 I like this box too. Why don't I bash it on the table to see if it opens...

 My preccciioooooussss! (Gollum)

 Huh? You're taking pictures of me?!

 Can't you see I'm busy?

 See? I'm showing you the pleasing noise this stuff makes when I lift it..

 And it smells so good too.. wow.

OK. You can take my picture now. 
But I'm not going to smile for you. 
I'm far too busy for that..

 Alright. Since you've asked 100 times..
 One smile. But not at the camera. 
P.S. Check out my bottom chompers!

As you can see, it was a lot of fun. I was proud of the way he sat up so nicely during the photoshoot and he has really found his balance now. It's a shame he couldn't engage more with the camera though! He's normally such a smiley baby but as he was so interested in the presents and the tinsel he was completely preoccupied and treating his sensory play like a very serious business indeed!