24 December 2010

24th December 2010

So this is Christmas, and what have we done? Another year over, and wasn't it fun?
Hope you enjoyed all of the pictures, videos, contributions from friends and weblinks.
Don't forget to enter the competition on 20th December, and do leave comments or post to @adamcreen.

You may already have seen this, but if not, hope you enjoy it. I know our year wouldn't have been half as good without all of the friends we've made on all of these networking sites:


And so this is Christmas, I hope you had fun - both the near and the far ones, the old and the young.

Merry Christmas everybody
love Adam & Sarah

23 December 2010

23rd December 2010

Something truly beautiful on the calendar today - a range of wallpaper that takes its inspiration from the 1951 Festival of Britain, including the RFH and the Skylon.



But that's not all ... a group of scientists in 1951 designed the wallpapers for many of the buildings based on chemical or crystalline structures, and these are now available again. This is insulin, designed by Robert Sevant, on the V&A website.

22 December 2010

22nd December 2010

Kids getting under your feet? Want to keep them busy making a beautiful, practical and mathematical object? Then get them to make a dodecahedral 2011 calendar!


Simply visit http://www.ii.uib.no/~arntzen/kalender/ and you can even customise the language. Bingo! A multi-cultural activity as well!

21 December 2010

21st December 2010

Fans of the London 2012 Olympics may already have seen these pin badges, which take their lead from the execrable logo and manage to totally deface and deform five Christmas icons - the tree, the snowflake, the snowman, the present and the wreath. If you didn't realise what a money-making opportunity the Olympics are, I defy you to look at the website http://www.londonpins.co.uk where you will see over 300 pins, including one for each London borough!





19 December 2010

20th December 2010


Competition time:
If you watch the video of Band Aid (the 1984 original above) around the 2:30 mark, two babies shake hands! You could win a gift selection, including party props and a Carluccio cracker, if you can name them both!
If no one gets that right, then anyone who can correctly name one baby goes into the draw.
Don't put you answers in the comments, instead email them to adamcreen@hotmail.com before 31st December. The winner will be drawn from the set of correct answers.

Good luck!

19th December 2010

Today in your calendar is a round-up of some of the best (and worst - you decide) Christmas trees that we've seen. First up is the tree at Tate Britain, which this year was 'designed' by Giorgio Sadotti, by which we mean he left it undecorated with a bullwhip at its base.


Here are some much jollier trees instead, with contributions from @siansparkles, @Biltawulf and @Bramblymouse - see if you can guess which one is which. And why not add links to pictures of your own Christmas tree in the comments?



18 December 2010

18th December 2010

If you were looking for a cushion this Christmas, you couldn't do better than this one from John Lewis:


If you like pictures of owls in scarfs, you couldn't do better than to follow @wowser on Twitter:


If you like owl cushions, the top seller this Christmas is by Donna Wilson, also from JLP:


And since today seems to be an animal theme, here's our favourite Marks & Spencers character (no, not Caroline Quentin):



17 December 2010

17th December 2010

Our very talented friend @timidheathen not only produces THE best mix CDs, but does fantastic artwork for them as well. This is her Christmas 2010 CD:


If you're on Spotify, you can hear the CD as well: Spotify link

If not, here's the playlist:



Other recommended Christmas music: A Charlie Brown Christmas

Not recommended: 10 Most Annoying Christmas Songs

UPDATE: this will all become a bit Paul Morley, as he enjoys writing books containing long lists of songs that you have never heard of or can't track down. But I had to add two playlists posted on Twitter by @rhodri from his friend Will, a series of classic mix CDs from Christmas past.



and here's two articles from today's Guardian, one by Bob Stanley, who WROTE St Etienne's 'I was born on Christmas Day':

Writing the perfect Christmas hit

The music that makes Christmas

AND here's the video for St Etienne. Like the Ambassador, I am really spoiling you!

16 December 2010

16th December 2010

Today, why the squirrel is the animal of the season!

First, here's a couple of great illustrations by Twitterer @Saeirol who has lots more of these on her blog:



But squirrels have gone mainstream, and now you can't do Christmas shopping without seeing them everywhere! Here are squirrels in Primark, Dwell and Habitat!






15 December 2010

15th December 2010


All the posts this week are guest-contributed by Twitter friends. Today, @Phaygee gives us a sneak preview of her daughter's letter to Santa:


to Santa
thankyou for all the presents you have given to me. I have injoyed almost all of them and I hope you will put a smile on my face this Christmas. I have tried to be a good girl this yere and I hope I have.
From Esme
PS this is a Present
PPS I just want to say MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

14 December 2010

14th December 2010

All the posts this week are guest-contributed by Twitter friends. Today, @maxnugget shares a Belgian family tradition:





I'm making speculoos in celebration of Sinterklaas.
(I'm 6 days late though)

from Wikipedia:

Speculoos is a type of shortcrust biscuit, traditionally baked in Belgium for consumption on St Nicholas' Eve (December 6). They are thin, very crunchy, slightly browned and, most significantly, have some image or figure (often from the traditional stories about St. Nicholas) stamped on the front side before baking; the back is flat. They are baked with light brown sugar and baking powder, but Belgians make them with little or no spice.
There are several interpretations for the origins of the name Speculaas. It may derive from Latin speculum, which means mirror, and refer to the fact that the images are cut as a mirrored bas-relief into a wooden stamp which is then used to decorate the Speculaas. Another explanation of the name refers to the Latin word speculator which, among other meanings, could also refer to a bishop or St Nicholas' epithet "he who sees everything".

13 December 2010

13th December 2010

All the posts this week are guest-contributed by Twitter friends. First up, @mistertumnus talks about Christmas cards:


On the whole I agree with this article by David Mitchell about the commercialisation of Christmas, and the tradition of sending Christmas cards in particular. It is too commercial and it is pointless to send cards and presents just for the sake of it, because you feel you have to. But the older I get the more I appreciate the excuse that the commercialisation creates for actual goodwill.

I know, I know, you don't need an excuse, you could just send a card when you felt like it, to anyone. But, woolly lefty that I am, I know that I can't escape capitalism. We're not going to get to turn the clock back on this one. People are busy because of work and the busyness directly impacts how we socialise and for many people it's just a thought too weird to contemplate that you should send a card at a time outside that prescribed by Hallmark. You could get sad about that, or you could do something radically subversive and start writing letters or sending cards at other times of the year for no other reason than you want to, because you like the person you're thinking of (they'll not think it's weird, they'll be really happy). But if you don't feel confident enough to do that then Christmas is your big opportunity.

This year I have (so far!) received two cards that have meant a lot to me, both from people taking the opportunity to say something more. My daughter who is 6 is learning to read and write, and thrilling herself to bits by sounding out words and trying to spell them without asking me for help. She has written about 100 cards to everyone she can think of and as far as I can tell she has loved every minute of it. But my card was the only one she wrote without any spelling help. It has a reindeer with a missing eye and the message says, 'SHIrLey Mircrsms Love Ana xxx'.



The other card was from an elderly friend of Ian's parents. Billy used to live near them before they moved house when Ian was 18. I met him earlier this year at Ian's granny's funeral, but for the past 6 years or so he has been sending us a card at Christmas, a handwritten letter and a cheque for Ana. This is the kind of thing that makes me adore Christmas. It is an annual act of kindness and connection between people who might not even recognise one another in the street. He's just doing it because he wants to, and Christmas is the excuse.

That's why I like Christmas. Like the rest of the year there are things you have to do because you just have to do them, but those things can also create the opportunity to do the things you want to do, and I think it's those things that mean the most to people. Happy Christmas! 

11 December 2010

11th December 2010

It's arrived at last! And it's bigger than ever! And on the cover AGAIN for another Christmas, it's ... Wallace and Gromit on the Radio Times!


And there's so much to highlight with marker pen ... that's our weekend gone.

One Christmas show we are looking forward to is the Miranda special. We're big fans of @mermhart and because our friend Sarah requested it, here's a picture:


This isn't some fan art, like we usually mock, but by Claire Murray, a really cool illustrator who does celebrities, maps, pirates, and Russian dolls:

10 December 2010

10th December 2010

9.2%

That's the headline figure in this year's Christmas Price Index. Yes, once again those wacky economists at PNC have worked out how expensive all the presents in the 12 Days of Christmas would be, and prices are up! It's the highest increase since 2003, and we can blame it on ... turtle doves, up from $56 to $100, and french hens, up over 200%. Musicians and the gentry are not at fault.

Check out the site, as it has gone all musical and interactive this year, and is great for children!

9 December 2010

9th December 2010

Do you have a book that you always read at Christmas?

A discussion on the Guardian blog threw up two old favourites, The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper, and The Box Of Delights by John Masefield. Anyone who was around in the 80s will recognise this TV sequence:



Although Adam wasn't a big fan of the book, the music is fantastic, and is based on Victor Hely-Hutchinson's Carol Symphony, an arrangement of O Come All Ye Faithful, God Rest Ye Merry, and as we hear in the clip, The First Nowell.

8 December 2010

8th December 2010

We've had 7 Christmas cards so far, including handmade ones (thanks Heidi, Tom, Alice and Michelle!) and one from Germany (Frohe Weihnachten, Jenny!). Don't forget your last posting dates - USA on Friday, Monday for Europe, and next Wednesday for parcels - better hurry!

The first Christmas card we designed and sent to friends was this classic from 2001 1998:


which some people were quite offended by and thought we really had boughht them cheap cards!
Now we send out 24 limited edition cards each year, you can see them all in the design archive. And what's this year's? You'll have to wait and see!

One card we'd love to receive is the annual Pentagram Christmas Card. The design company sends out a little book to its clients and friends each year which is always beautifully inventive and interesting. One example is a letter-by-letter review of the alphabet from 2006.


You can see more of these at the Wallpaper website.

What's the best card you've received so far?

7 December 2010

7th December 2010

Here's the best nativity scene that we've seen all year - click on it to see an even larger version. This is by Greg Chow.


If this has 'whetted your appetite (ha ha ha) then you may want to check out The Top 20 Worst Nativity Sets by Mark O. Enjoy!

6 December 2010

6th December 2010

We love getting presents! Already under our tree is a big bag of gifts that (mainly female) friends have already given us ready for Christmas Day. And visiting some friends yesterday, we saw the children have already started empire-building by collecting together their presents in discrete piles.

How many of you have got to give a 'Secret Santa' present this year? Also known as 'Kris Kringle', this is the anonymous present swapping that's really taken off in the West. This year we both have two to do, one at work and one at church. We like to think we're quite good at it, because we enjoy shopping!

What if you're rubbish at shopping? Look no further!


Yes, Tesco will solve your Secret Santa woes by giving you 3 for 2 on almost-useless tat that's been designated ideal for giving someone you vaguely know a cheap gift! But let's not get negative about it - you can always re-gift it next year!

Watch out - here comes the science bit: Derangement.

5 December 2010

5th December 2010

After a lovely London lunch in Carluccio's yesterday, we were very tempted by the feast of Christmas goodies on offer in the shop. We gave in to temptation and bought these lovely crackers, called La Sorpresa.


Each one contains a hat, a chocolate Santa, and an Italian trivia question (no idea how hard that will be, we haven't pulled them yet). We'd also recommend the panettone, which comes in 2 sizes and 3 flavours, and is our new favourite Christmas cake (stollen is SO last decade). Wishing you a Bianco Natale!


4 December 2010

4th December 2010

It's the first Saturday in December, and so it's time for the Creens to put up their Christmas tree. This year we had been keeping him in the back garden in preparation, so now he's covered in snow and we'll have to  dry him off a bit before decorating him. Yesterday we went to London and saw the Norwegian tree in Trafalgar Square:




The 20-metre tree was selected from a forest near Oslo in November and was then shipped across the North Sea. It has been decorated in a traditional Norwegian style with 500 white lights using halogen bulbs. They will be lit each day until Tuesday 5 January 2011, after which the tree will be recycled.


So that Sweden doesn't feel left out of the Scandinavian round-up, we'll tell you about a concert at the Wigmore Hall later this month:




It sounds just that bit nicer than the usual tat concerts at the Royal Albert Hall that we normally end up mentioning here. And free gingerbread? We'll get booking now!


The Tate Britain tree isn't up yet, so we'll blog that on a later day. But we do want to show you the Conran Shop window. There are 300 wooden trees hand made from recycled wooden pallets by the Hastings and Bexhill Wood Recycling Project. They vary in size but many are for sale, costing between £15 to £200 – with 50% of money raised going back to the Sussex based recycling project which looks to recycle unwanted wood, and offer training and job opportunities to long-term unemployed.



3 December 2010

3rd December 2010

One of our favourite things in the run up to Christmas is visiting a really good Christmas Fayre (as Victoria Wood said, you get a better class of people if you spell it with a 'y'!) In previous years we've just supported our local school Kingfield Primary at their fair, but this year we took a trip up to Finchley Road in North London to visit the Danish Festive Fair.


Held at the Danish YWCA, it's a fantastically busy building full of blond Scandinavians and the well-heeled of London, buying food, flowers, decorations, cards, crafts and of course enjoying the cafe, bistro and hot dog van.

In London there are fairs organised by the Danes, the Swedes, the Norwegians, the Finns AND the Swiss. They all happen on the last two weekends in November and are well worth a visit! Find out more by doing searches on "Swedish Church London" etc and maybe we'll see you there next year!

2 December 2010

2nd December 2010

As a child, my gran insisted on eating cheese with Christmas cake, or indeed any fruit cake. My Twitter friends @oye_billy and @jennylemac are currently declaring their love of cheese, and want an Advent Calendar filled with it. Well, I can only offer them one tasty morsel on this calendar, but what a feast of Christmas-related cheese there is!

a cheddar tree:


a cheese truffle wreath:


a Krafty cheesy tree:


Raymond Briggs-inspired cheese truckles:


And just for my gran!


thanks to MonikaDesign, Elysia, and TheNibble for the photos

UPDATE: Here's a fantastic wedding cake made entirely of cheese! ta to Adrian for the tip, and Dave&Amanda for the idea, and thecheeseshed.com for making it!