The 12 Days of (Competitive Christmas)

New to parenting at Christmas Time?

Want to know what is required of you in order to give the children their BEST Christmas ever?

Read on for my top 12 tips for a competitive Christmas.  These are the latest MUST HAVES for all parents at Christmas.


Advent calendar

Ideally the purchase should be accompanied by a fanfare and should be talked about ad infinitum.  You must protest loudly about having to buy a chocolate advent. You are supposed to instill the spirit of Christmas and chocolate doesn’t say Christmas. (or does it?)

Letter to Father Christmas

Decision is whether this should be via NSPCC, Royal Mail or some other random company.  Or will you just pretend to post one because really you desperately need to rip it open to read the contents.  Bear in mind that  if you do the latter, you’d better find a good place to hide them before they discover the truth.


Oh yes you must!

Portable North Pole

Let’s not IMAGINE Father Christmas. Let’s actually see him, in the North Pole addressing us personally and showing us photos of ourselves for authenticity.  It will take you about an hour to make and be watched for approximately a minute and a half.

Elf on a Shelf

He’s keeping an eye on you (to feedback to Father Christmas or to murder you – no one can tell)

Buying the tree and decorating with colour matching decorations

If you are the families that do the full kit and kaboodle and buy a real tree, this has to be ceremoniously done AS A FAMILY.  Drag everyone, including the baby down to the ASDA carpark on a cold, wet evening and discuss the merits of the tree that is tall and has thicker branches at the top versus the small one that will actually fit in your house.

Woe betide you if you if you put it up too soon as well. Which is November for most and the first week in December for some.  Get that date right, folks.  For every day it’s put up too soon an elf gets drowned in a little frozen lake at the North Pole.

Father Christmas’ Wrapping Paper

This might be COMPLETELY different to any other wrapping paper you have otherwise small ones will cotton on that you had a hand in it.  This bit isn’t so difficult – it’s the hiding of the damn 1 metre high roll for the other 364 days of the year that’ll kill you.

Christmas eve night 1 Present rule

Family tradition or a case of just not having the patience anymore?  It’s literally 10 hours away people!

Christmas Eve pyjamas

By my calculations that means you’ll have 40 pairs by the time you are ….errr…40!

Milk, mince pies and a carrot

Keep the magic alive by instilling the concept of over feeding in your children. Father Christmas didn’t get to the hefty weight he’s at without re-fueling at EVERY house on his journey.

Reindeer Food

Your going to make it near impossible for Dasher, Prancer, Thingy and so and so to land unless you sprinkle a hefty amount of reindeer food* out on the front or back garden. You’ll need to ignore the fact that this directly contravenes any other rules, pictures or stories you may have led them to believe about Father Christmas and the reindeers landing on the roof.

*porridge oats and glitter

Footprints on the hearth

So apparently you can buy feet shaped stencils to shake icing sugar/talc over. Better still have it run the entire length of the house from the door to the bedroom. Nothing quite as exciting on Christmas morning than having to get the hoover out.

So you got all that?  Written it down?  You should be Christmassed out by about 10pm on Christmas Eve by my reckoning.

Merry Christmas!

Disclaimer:  I can neither confirm nor deny whether I do all, some or none of the above.

Biff, Chip and Kipper – Where are they now?

This was the question posed to me  a week or so ago by an enquiring follower.

She got a few sensible responses (they are still about; my daughter still reads them) and a few not so sensible.  I think I suggested Biff had become a scientist (know it all), Chip is a drug addict and Kipper was dead…..

It’s ok…nothing of the sort has happened. They are still the same and haven’t aged a bit!  I was being mischievous.

However I did get the opportunity to try out the new apps for Biff, Chip and Kipper which was perfect timing as I had just had a little panic attack about the fact The Monster still can’t say his name properly and he’s starting school in September.

First of all we tried out Level 3, 4 & 6 for my (not quite) 7-year-old.  She read her little brother one of the books and seemed to enjoy it.  She especially liked that some pages were different and zoomed in and out whilst the text stayed the same.  She then complained they were too easy, but I think she’s now used to more words on the page, I have no doubt she’ll be back reading them again.

Next we tried Level 1-3 for The Monster (TM).  We started on the Level 1: Getting Ready to Read books.  I read one story but Pickle started fidgeting so I decided to keep those for another day and we headed down to the lower bookshelf on the app and selected Kipper’s Alphabet I Spy.  Now, this was right up TM’s street.  Actually Pickle thoroughly enjoyed doing this as well.  He not only had a go at writing the letter (following the dotted lines) but he got to choose which objects on the right hand side started with the letter.  We all had great fun working our way through this and it was a great opportunity (I don’t get many) to get TM to try saying words and listen to the start of them.

Biff and Chip app

We then tried Chip’s Letter Sounds which worked some more on tracing the letters but, most importantly, spend a lot of time saying the sound.  They then got to find objects in a picture starting with that sound.  Both of them loved this.  TM started by finding the 5 easiest ones (with help) and then Pickle would find the other 5 (or not — a few tricky ones were in there).

Needless to say the books have gone down a storm in our house.  TM gets excited at the prospect of using the iPad and then happily sits down to practice “my words” and I get (vaguely) excited that I’m actually putting some effort into trying to get my son (and second born) into some sort of acceptable state for school in September.

I would thoroughly recommend them (especially for younger children) as a good introduction to phonics and reading.  They have been a very welcome addition to our iPad.


This is NOT a sponsored post.  I was offered a free version of these book apps with no obligation to write a post (honestly – happy to drag the email out for you if you want).  I have written this post by choice as I liked them.

The apps are available for £4.99 each




Freefalling into…. the patio steps

I had a fall on Saturday.

Yes, I’m aware that it has made me sound like I’m in my 80’s, because I used to say “I fell over”, but somehow this fall felt like “a fall”.  Not very nice.

I have very very good balance, always have had. I do yoga at home once a week as well. I consider myself someone who can handle herself on a wobbly path or a slippery path.

Sadly on Saturday evening I dashed up the narrow patio steps to our raised garden to shut the chickens in their coop and something went wrong. I don’t exactly know what, but before I knew it I was falling in slow motion and trying desperately to stop my face from making contact with the gravelly patio ground.

It was one of those falls that has lots of different parts to it, A move here, then a move there to counteract the first move, then another. I must have looked pretty pathetic trying to stop the inevitable. Trying to prevent some pain.

I finally came to rest having got my hands down at some point, but my centre of gravity was very low, my cheek was almost grazing the ground and my knee (an area that I have disease in) came down pretty hard on the steps.

I was in considerable pain. Walked around the lower patio area for 5 minutes swearing and pacing and clutching my hands together.  Eventually I went and shut the chickens in before it got completely dark.

I felt like such a numpty.

I felt so old.

The patio steps in question

The patio steps in question

I’ve done a bit of research and can’t find anything on HOW older people fall, just lots about WHY they fall.  I do know I’ve read research in recent years that the more old people fear falling, the more they fall.  Makes sense. Confidence is essential for preventing falls, as is exercise and balance.

I likened my fall to that of a small child.  Like a prolonged Frank Spencer fall.  Sometime, when you are in your teens and 20’s, you just come down when you fall.  Or perhaps it just feels like you do.  Maybe it’s just because you’re usually drunk. I don’t know.

My bruised hand

My bruised hand

All I know is that it was bloody scary and a little knock to my confidence. I think part of the trouble was my lack of arm strength and I’m going to go back and do some more exercises on my arms again. See if I can get some strength back.

So for the time being, I will rub my still sore hands and arms (yes, still hurt), be kind to my sore knee and try to pass this off as just one of those things, because I’m not 80. I’m 40 and this sort of thing should not be happening.


The Great Balsamic Glaze Argument of 2014

FFF (me): So this is what Balsamic Glaze is” *Shows Mr40 the balsamic glaze I bought in Tesco that’s in the fridge door*

Mr40: I know what Balsamic Glaze is. I’m not stupid.

FFF: I didn’t realise because you bought this *picks up balsamic dressing*

Mr40: Yes I know *getting angry* but Sainsbury’s don’t sell Balsamic Glaze.

FFF: Well they do…Tesco have about 5 different sorts so I imagine Sainsbury’s have a big selection too.

Mr40: Look I looked for Balsamic Glaze. They don’t sell it. I got you the next best thing.

FFF: Yes, and it’s lovely and I’ve used it, but I just thought I’d show you what it looked like so you know next time…..

Mr40: I KNOW WHAT BALSAMIC GLAZE IS.  *starts looking more in the fridge* I think I did actually buy some.

FFF: The old Balsamic glaze was 3 years old I’ve chucked it.

Mr40: NO I BOUGHT SOME. I THOUGHT I DID. Anyway, I couldn’t find any (!) so I got that one.

FFF: (backing off).Ok.  *Sits down to eat half a pizza and some salad. With Balsamic Glaze*

Mr40: Well, What do you think I do at the supermarket.  Eh? Eh?

FFF: *Sits in silence*.

We did discuss it again.  He came back from his storming upstairs to ask why I thought he was stupid.  I got the dressing out the fridge again and started talking and he cut me off (again).  I did eventually say:

FFF: When you bought this dressing, you didn’t say anything about it *Mr40 attempts to interuppt again* so there was a chance you either just couldn’t find it OR that you didn’t know what Balsamic Glaze was.  I just thought I’d show you.

Mr40: *silence*

FFF: I wasn’t expecting the bloody great balsamic Glaze argument of 2014.

The offending bottle of Balsamic Glaze

The offending bottle of Balsamic Glaze

The Makeup Bag of a 40 Year Old

I quite like makeup.  I always have.  Unfortunately I was so expert (!) at putting it on that throughout my life people didn’t think I wore any.  Except, obviously, when I went out and layered on the eyeliner and eyeshadow.  I now think it’s quite a skill to manage to wear makeup, but not look like you are wearing any, so I’m curious to what other people do now.

I though I’d share with you what is in my makeup bag.  This is it, sitting inside a much bigger makeup bag (which contains aforementioned “going out” paraphernalia) and this smaller bag contains my everyday makeup (give or take the odd item).

my make up bagI keep it in the top drawer of a tallboy in my dressing room (yes, I have one of them, not for much longer sadly).  I use a lit up Revlon mirror set to “daylight” to apply it in the morning.

my makeup bagSo what is inside the makeup bag, I hear you cry, well here is was THIS 42 year old is currently wearing on her face.

After applying my Clarins Blue Orchid oil and then a moisturiser (currently Boots Protect and Perfect Day cream) I then apply the following:

Clarins BB Cream – this is an absolute gem. The amount of people who mention how well I am or comment on photos of how dewy or illuminated I am in it are huge.  It creates a gorgeous glow.

Laura Mercier camouflage secret camouflage concealer.  I have had this for ages (yes, I know they are supposed to have a shelf life, but I tend to ignore that) and I only dragged it out again last year after the pfaff of the Bobby Brown concealer.  I now love this product. You can mix it as you see fit but I generally use the lighter shade under my eyes and the darker shade to hide the broken veins (lovely) around my nose and the odd chin spot. I use the little brush which is an eco brush from Boots.

I then apply mascara. I’ve been through all sorts in my lifetime but I find Maybelline are consistently brilliant and although it’s now tricky to find their original mascara, I use their Masterpiece one in Black.

My blusher is currently the Bobby Brown one I got last February, but as you can see I’m scraping the bottom of the barrel with it.  I use the big brush to apply it that I’ve had for about 15 years.  The one underneath is my new Clarins blush in a very similar Coral colour.  I’ve only swapped allegiance because my new town doesn’t have a Bobby Brown, but I do really rate this creme blusher. I never used a creme (or cream?) one before but once I just got on and did it, I think it’s a much nicer finish.  As you get older, anything that looks moisturised and not matte is a good thing.

Just to the right of that is my Bobby Brown creme eyeshadow in Lavender.  I’d never have chosen it myself (too old lady?) but it was picked during my makeover in February and it’s actually really nice on and provides the tiniest shade of colour. I don’t wear this to work, but a trip to visit my dad or a bbq it’s a nice understated added extra.

An eyeliner has snuck in there.  I can’t remember the brand, but they are usually a pen eyeliner of some sort, in black and I only ever put it on when I’m out for the evening at a party or big get together.  I can’t believe I used to use liquid eyeliner EVERY day through out my teens and twenties.  As I’ve got older I find it’s a bit too heavy during the day.

The tweezers?  Well I love these ones as they have flattened, ridged ends and never fail to grab.  I use these beauties on my eyebrows and sadly, my chin hair.  I’d have a full beard by now if it wasn’t for them.

So there you have it.  Anything there you fancy?  Anything you would add?  What’s in your makeup bag?