Friday, 15 December 2017

The top 20 things I love about this time of year...

The panic that tends to come at this time of year can sometimes obscure the little moments of pleasure that the season brings - not on Christmas Day itself, but the few days before and after...

Here are my top 20 that I love:

  1. Hoping for snow (or at the very least, a really heavy frost!) - opening the curtains in the morning or glancing out of the window and seeing everything coated in white.
  2. The smell of the decorations box - OK, I know that’s weird, but the box always has a certain type of smell (loft smell perhaps?!) that instantly takes me back to childhood Christmas’s and gives me a little flutter of excitement.
  3. Putting the presents under the tree on Christmas Eve
  4. Having a house full of food and family.
  5. Trying to get the dog and cat to accept they’re going to get dressed up - albeit very briefly!
  6. Cold turkey and chips for Boxing Day lunch!
  7. Mulled Wine
  8. Watching Christmas movies  - I can never decide which one’s my favourite, but I’d say my top 3 are “It’s a Wonderful Life”, “Elf”, “Muppets Christmas Carol”, and “Arthur Christmas”. Oh, sorry, that’s 4. Oh well!
  9. The sparkle of the lights on the Christmas tree
  10. Seeing Freddy dog in his winter coat - technically he doesn’t need it, but he looks so handsome in it…
  11. Enjoying the small squeaks of excitement that my daughter emits every now and then during the couple of days before Christmas Day.
  12. Going off the ‘Wish List’ and surprising someone with a really special present you know they’re going to love even though they didn’t know they wanted it until now!
  13. Going for chilly walks with the dog (bonus if it snows of course!)
  14. Playing ‘Spot the Lights’ to see who’s the first person to spot a house with their decorations up in the run up to Christmas. (I won this year, the neighbours put them up at the end of November.)
  15. Not having to think twice about what to eat - and it being OK to have chocolate or marzipan before lunch (or breakfast).
  16. Candles 
  17. Playing board games over the holiday
  18. Mulled Wine…. Did I say that already?
  19. Taking time off work and knowing that people accept you’re away - it’s the time of year when pretty much everyone is taking a holiday.
  20. That lovely relaxed feeling after Christmas Day when you can sit back and know that all the hoo-har is over and now it’s time to put your feet up.

What little festive pleasures do you have at this time of year? 

Sarah x

Saturday, 9 December 2017

My supremely traditional Christmas, totally under control…

This year I am going to approach Christmas being serene, calm, and so organised I’ll have time to make handmade decorations for the tree.

My traditional Christmas daydream is as follows...

I will organise relaxed yet elegant little soirees where I will invite nearest and dearest to my home (tastefully decorated and impeccably gleaming of course, with a hint of wax polish and cinnamon in the air). I will wear a brand new outfit and serve mulled wine in twinkling crystal glasses (all matching, and enough to go round) and the table will groan with homemade food that would give Jamie or Nigella a run for their money in the style and taste stakes.

The weather will be crisp and fresh - just enough snow to look festive of course, and the kind of snow they have in the movies (ie, the non-melting, non-slippery, never grey - or yellow! - kind). I will line the path leading to my door with those little bags filled with twinkly nightlights.

Christmas shopping will, of course, have been completed many weeks before. I will have spent an amusing couple of hours with a glass of wine sitting in comfort and placing online orders for exquisitely appropriate gifts for each and every loved one. They will be tasteful (of course), unique and in many cases handmade and bespoke. The wrapping will be crisply executed (all presents will be square or rectangular), and the paper will be of beautiful quality (with matching gift tags). There will be enough paper to wrap all gifts (no bare cardboard roll panic for me - no trying to wrap things diagonally in the hope it makes the paper go further - no adding lots of bows to cover the gaps). Talking of gift tags, I will write everyone’s names in a beautiful calligraphic style.

No gifts will feature the description “novelty” - there will be no “bog books*”, no “funny” socks or ties. No ironically bad jumpers featuring reindeers.

All cooking for the Christmas season will be planned with military control thanks to the supermarket delivering everything to my door (everything being in stock of course, no substitutions or items close to their sell by date).

Mind you, having said all that, those Christmas decorations that we put on the tree year after year are a bit of a tradition. And being a bit too broke thanks to Christmas shopping to buy any new clothes - that’s a kind of tradition too. And there’s not much point in twinkly nightlights leading to the front door when they are overshadowed by the neighbours inflatable 6’ snowman.

And it wouldn’t be Christmas if I wasn’t sat hunched over the computer wrestling with the “can I get this cheaper/faster/delivered free/with a discount/with free gift wrapping somewhere else” anxiety and generally prevaricating for so long that inevitably “out of stock” becomes the phrase of the season. And wrapping paper with an identity crisis - coupled with homemade gift tags cut from last years’ Christmas cards - that’s definitely traditional. And having a houseful of guests or planning a party can be pretty stressful - and besides, Pirates of the Caribbean might be on that night - and isn’t it so much nicer to be able to put your PJ’s on hours before bed and nick the chocolates off the tree? And I’m sure Tesco will keep up their end of the traditional bargain and try their hardest to run out of a few essential items (turkey’s, Christmas puddings, bread, milk) so that we can all laugh and embrace the fact that year after year Christmas at PhotoFairytales Towers is always traditional.

And you can’t mess with tradition at Christmas.

Sarah x

* ‘Bog Book’ - a book, usually novelty, that is only ever read on the loo. Often contains “amusing” pictures of old cars, bad haircuts, interesting facts and figures that are instantly uninteresting and forgettable, etc.

Friday, 8 December 2017

Christmas: Last orders and opening times

Here's a round up of all the last order dates for delivery in time for Christmas - please note that I am now unable to accept overseas orders in time for Christmas I'm afraid. The following dates may change over the next few days, so please visit the Christmas Opening Times page on the website for the latest information - just click on the image below:

Opening Times over the Christmas period: I will be closed for a Christmas holiday from midday December 19th and will reopen on January 8th 2017. The website will remain open and you are very welcome to place orders or contact me while I'm closed, but please be aware that I won't be able to process your order or acknowledge your message until my return.

Last Orders by Date:

December 3rd:
Wooden Gifts 
Birth Announcement/Invitations 
Fantasy Portraits with Greeting Cards 

December 7th:
Mixing Bowls 
Fantasy Portraits with Canvas Prints
Gift Plates 

December 10th:
Memory Card Game 
Photo Albums
Board Books
Bunny Rabbit Family Prints
On Our Wedding Day Prints
On This Day Birthday Prints

December 11th:
Love Gift Boxes
Rocket Photo Holder
Christmas Eve Boxes

December 12th:
Family Tree prints, A3 size
Fantasy Portraits with Unframed or Mounted Prints

December 14th:
Canvas Prints
Blue Heritage Plaques
Round Wall Plaques/House Signs  
Hoop Prints
Fork & Trowel Garden Sets
Personalised Gift Sacks
Family Tree print 8x10" size
Metal Street Signs
Fantasy Portraits artwork only   
All Personalised Prints in A3 size  

December 15th:
Official FC Gifts 
All Personalised Prints in 8x10" size

December 17th:
Santa Letters - UK orders 
Santa Telegrams - UK orders  
Standard Greeting Cards (fast dispatch cards)  
Tooth Fairy Letters 

December 18th:
Gift vouchers 

December 19th: closed from noon

If you have any questions please don't hesitate to contact me!

Sarah x

Thursday, 16 November 2017

How to keep the magic of Santa alive - the definitive guide and top tips when your child has questions...

Children seem to grow up so fast these days… and at this Christmas time of year a casualty of this is their belief in Santa. Sometimes it can be their own natural suspicions creeping up on them, or it can be the result of a conversation with a school friend - so here’s what to do when your inquisitive child starts asking some tricky questions!

Is your child starting to ask difficult questions about whether Santa exists? Here's a definitive guide to answering those questions, and some top tips to keep the magic alive this Christmas!

Some typical questions you might face:

Q: How can Father Christmas visit every house in the world all on one night? And how can he know who’s been nice and who’s been naughty?
A: Santa uses special cosmic short-cuts provided through wormhole technology - he carefully plans where he’s going before Christmas Eve so that he knows his route off by heart, and he travels at such high speeds that he can travel on special space-time continuum pathways that only he can use. It’s all very complicated, and something that even grown up scientists have never truly understood. He also uses the International Date Line and follows the earth’s rotation which helps him to gain many extra hours of time as he travels. This two things combined make it possible for him to travel around the world leaving presents all on one night. As far as knowing who’s been naughty or nice, Santa uses various techniques throughout the year such as helicopters and low flying planes, Santa helpers in shops, teachers, and CCTV in grottos. Crucially, he also just knows...

Q: How can Father Christmas get into our house because we don’t have a chimney? How can Santa fit through our chimney?
A: Santa knows that lots of houses these days don’t have chimneys which is why he’s learnt lots of other ways to get in. Sometimes he uses a magic key, other times he sprinkles himself with his special magic dust - you can find Santa’s full explanation right on this blog by clicking here.

Q: I’ve seen reindeer in real life and they don’t fly!
A: No, well, that’s because the reindeer you’ve seen are either normal reindeer or it isn’t Christmas Eve. Not all reindeer can fly, and besides, even Santa’s reindeer don’t fly every day of the year you know, that would be crazy!

Q: How does Santa fit everything into his sleigh?
A: Santa Claus is a very intelligent man with a vast knowledge who has spent many, many years perfecting this. Quite simply, in the same way that he manages to travel around the world all on one night, he uses science - or to be precise, nanotechnology (which is nothing to do with your nan). He has developed a way of reversing the irreversible thermo-dynamic properties of presents - essentially,  this means that all the presents are shrunk to a microscopic size and they don’t take on their full proper size until he takes them out of his sack. I know this may sound confusing, and that's because its meant to be - Santa keeps all the details a close secret.

Q: How can Santa eat and drink all the food that’s left out for him?
A: Well, firstly because he’s quite fat and likes his food, secondly because he uses a lot of energy on Christmas Eve and so burns it off meaning he gets very hungry, thirdly because his Christmas Eve night is longer than yours (see Question 1 above), and fourthly because he has the reindeer and elves to help him (they like eating too).

Q: Why doesn’t Santa leave presents for grown ups? Why don’t teenagers and grown ups believe in him?
A: Sometimes of course he does leave presents for grown ups, but not always. Santa’s main priority is to leave special presents for children (if they’ve been good of course). Some grown ups (and older children and teenagers) might say they don’t believe in Santa, but no matter how hard they try his spirit still lives in them. That excited magical feeling that everyone gets on Christmas Eve, the little fluttery excited feeling in their tummy, is what’s left over from when they were your age. Santa doesn’t mind if you stop believing, he knows that it’s a sign you’re growing up and that’s just how it should be.

Q: I’ve seen lots of Santa’s in the shops and I know they’re not real…
A: No, they’re not (always) the real Santa - but, they are his official fully authorised helpers. He uses them to help him and if you meet one and he asks you what you’d like for Christmas he will always pass what you say back to the real Santa.

Q: The presents you get from Santa you can buy in the shops, so I know he hasn’t made them…
A: Well, that’s an easy one - there are simply so many children in the world nowadays that Santa’s workshop simply doesn’t have the time to make everything from scratch. That means he has to ask some shops to sometimes help him, and he also knows that sometimes children ask for something very specific that he can’t make - so that’s where the shops step in to help, and that’s why you might find things that he’s given you are also in shops.

With a bit of luck those answers will help you out of most situations - now, read on for some easy practical tips and tricks you can start planning and thinking about!

A few rules you need to remember to help Santa this year…

  • Remember that Santa has special handwriting and uses different wrapping paper.
  • Santa is a messy eater - mainly because he has to eat and dash in a hurry! So there’ll always be a few crumbs left behind from the snack you leave out for him.
  • Hiding presents before the big day is vital (as is hiding your online browsing history if you’re using the family laptop)!
  • Santa can sometimes forget to wipe his feet - a few muddy or snowy (flour/icing sugar) footprints on the carpet proves that he was really here.
  • Equally, sometimes Santa brings his little elf helpers with him on Christmas Eve and they can be a bit cheeeky and messy. Don’t be surprised if they leave a little bit of glitter sprinkled around the room here and there, or move things about! If you find a cushion in the fruit bowl, a banana on the Christmas tree, or a picture turned upside down, it’s sure to be those pesky Elves! Maybe mention to your child in the days and weeks leading up to Christmas Eve that you’ve heard that can happen...
  • The reindeer don’t have to eat carrots - they also like raisins, oats, breakfast cereal (any kind), most other vegetables, or even just a bowl of water. The reindeer may (or may not) come into your house, but if they are left outside Santa will take whatever you leave out to them so that they can have some food and/or drink. Sometimes you’ll find hoof prints and traces of magic dust on your front path or in the back garden, along with a few spills or leftovers from their food.
  • Track Santa on Christmas Eve - now, this is a good one! The North American Aerospace Defence Command are a proper military organisation who protect the air space over North America. For many years they’ve picked up Santa on his travels around the world on their special tracking equipment. You can find out where he is all day long on Christmas Eve, so log on to during the day and you can follow his travels and watch him getting closer and closer. 
  • Children all over the world write to Father Christmas every year, but only a very few special children get an answer. If your child has been extra good this year and you think they’d love to hear from Santa, why not reserve a Santa Letter or Telegram? The PhotoFairytales personalised Letters & Telegrams are packed with information and detail that will make your child know for sure that Santa is real - how else could he know so much about them?! Definitive proof when you need it:

PhotoFairytales personalised Santa Letters & Telegrams help keep the magic alive - each one is individually prepared and signed in ink by Santa himself. They're packed with detail and are superb quality. Visit the PhotoFairytales site for full details. Limited number available!

One final piece of advice: just because their friends don’t think Santa exists anymore doesn’t mean your children have to stop believing too. But it’s OK for them to pretend he doesn’t exist when they’re in front of their friends - because when they’re at home with you they know they can still talk about him because you still believe he’s real.

Banish your child’s scepticism this Christmas, help them keep the magic of Santa alive just a little bit longer! And if you’d like even more great advice, read Santa’s own top tips that he kindly wrote for everyone on this very blog - just click here to read.

Ho, ho, ho,
Sarah x

Monday, 6 November 2017

Christmas Eve Boxes - the 'must have' item this Christmas!

It is odd how a trend arrives with such certainty that it's hard to imagine how and why it's only just arrived... and one case in point is the Christmas Eve Box. These have become huge - and I mean, HUGE this year.

Everyone wants one this Christmas...
well, who wouldn't, they're a gorgeous idea?!

'Festive' design personalised wooden Christmas Eve Box - from PhotoFairytales

The personalised Christmas Eve Boxes you can find at PhotoFairytales are truly lovely - available in a range of designs and styles there's something for everyone: whether you're just looking for something to pop a couple of little trinkets in, or something bigger you can fill to the brim!
Visit PhotoFairytales now to see the full range of personalised boxes available

All the Christmas Eve Boxes are personalised to order and made from solid wood. They have attractive catches, and are lovely robust boxes that you'll be able to use year after year. A new family tradition!

There are designs for children, couples, families - even ones for your pet (because they love Christmas too)!

'Mistletoe Wreath' wooden Christmas Eve chest, available in two sizes - order now at PhotoFairytales 

What to put in your Christmas Eve Box? Here's some ideas:

  • Children will love little treats such as a DVD, a book, chocolate coins, reindeer food, stickers, Christmas crafty bits, a colouring book and pencils or crayons, a special decoration to hang on the tree, a little game, some new pyjamas or slippers, a little storybook, a small toy, jewellery or hair accessories.
  • Teenagers will also love receiving chocolates and sweets, popcorn, pyjamas and slippers, hot chocolate (with a sachet of marshmallows perhaps), a CD or DVD, smellies, new undies or fun socks.
  • Adults are usually ready for a little tipple by the time they sit down on Christmas eve, so perhaps a bottle of wine or beer, pyjamas, some cosy bed socks, candles, chocolates or liquors, smellies, new undies or silly socks, a microwaveable hottie or hot water bottle, perfume/aftershave, jewellery. Something romantic, something saucy, or just something to to enjoy together and toast one another as another year draws to an end...
  • Pets are easy - food (of course): think yummy treats, chews, tasty bites and munchies, a new toy, perhaps a little cuddly to take to bed, a new collar or ID tag, perhaps even a new bowl or an outfit to wear for the big day?!

So, with Christmas fast creeping up on us, and now that Bonfire Night has been and gone, we can get down to some serious Christmas shopping. Don't leave it too late to order these massively popular Christmas Eve Boxes - visit the PhotoFairytales site today.

Sarah x
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