29 December 2013

Competition Winners

Thanks to everyone who entered our Advent Calendar Fan Art competition.

You had to identify which film Sean Connery (for it was he) was starring in for each picture. Adam assumed that you would find out the answers in the same way he had found the pictures: do a Google Image Search for "Sean Connery fan art", find the pictures in the listings, then visit the pages to check the film.

No one did this. Instead, a complicated game of Mastermind (the peg version) ensued, with multiple entries trying to cover all possible combinations.

The answers:

DR NO by DixieKong86 (source: http://dixiekong86.deviantart.com/art/Sean-Connery-368845216)

ROBIN AND MARIAN by PresterJohn1 (source: http://presterjohn1.deviantart.com/art/Sean-Connery-151246637)

THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN by DrakenaDestroyer (source: http://drakenadestroyer.deviantart.com/art/Sean-Connery-13312850)

So to the winners:

Ross Saunders got 1 and 3 right but not 2
Peter Tisi was the only person to get 2 right, but hedged his bets on the others!

Discretion precludes me from saying what you win, as the people who gave us those unwanted gifts may read the blog.
Presentation will take place in the New Year at a specially convened dining event.
Happy New Year!

28 December 2013

Best-selling books of the year 2013

And so we find ourselves at the rear-end of the year, being forced to consume the half-digested summaries of news, culture, sport and trivia from 2013, where editors hope the next 72 hours don't bring anything horrific like the Boxing Day tsunami to mess up our feel-good somnambulance into 2014.

The Guardian is as guilty of this as any of the lesser newspapers, with the Weekend magazine featuring "Lists of the Year" including a list of lists, and features on viral videos, beards and cheese. The Review section holds a special kind of hell, and an opportunity for me to feel smug(ger than usual) in the form of the Best-selling Books Of The Year.

This year I have read precisely one of them, which is one more than usual, and yet I am not disheartened as the one book is Tolkien's The Hobbit, which I first read 35 years ago at the tender age of 8, little imagining that it would be made into a 40-hour epic series of films by a man who looks almost but not entirely like Stephen Poliakoff.

Of the other 99, I am only planning to read Morrissey's Autobiography, mainly because of his chutzpah in getting Penguin to issue it under their Classics imprint. Gone Girl I am aware of because I read the ending in the bookshop to see if it made sense (it didn't), and the new Bridget Jones would have been interesting if I was still the 25-year-old Independent reader in which I first encountered Helen Fielding's columns (I'm not).

My numerical analysis: there are 31 books for children (3 by David Walliams), encouraging in that it shows some children still read books. There are 8 cookery books and 4 diet books, a pair of genres that nowadays overlap in a worrying way (Hairy Dieters, anyone?). There are 25 novels, 20 thrillers, and 2 sex books by Sylvia Day that show that copycat publishing really works (hang your head in shame, Penguin Books). 5 autobiographies, and only 2 other non-fiction books: one about a cat and one self-help book on thinking. Unclassifiable, but definitely bottom of my list, is Mrs Brown's Family Handbook.

So roll on 2014 - may I never be troubled by the detritus piled high on the "3 for 2" tables, and I thank the stars for my friends and followers who recommend books that may not be bought by 640,000 people, but enrich our lives and those of future generations.

24 December 2013

25th December 2013

Happy Christmas
from Sarah & Adam
Thanks for your encouragement and support
Wishing you all the best for 2014

24th December 2013

Our thoughts are with everyone travelling today, including us! Here are all of the rest of this year's pictures, in one big Advent Calendar Bundle Bonus!!

Mary and Joseph played by Deanna Troi and Will Riker from ST:TNG

White Stuff have a whole sprout thing going on with their catalogue & shop displays

This GIANT sprout is in America. Well, everything's bigger over there!

A lovely Christmas card I found at evamae.com

And two viral pics that you've probably seen but deserve to see again!

23 December 2013

23rd December 2013

Every year we seem to get bigger and better names in our local Panto in Woking. Once it would be ex-Eastenders star Steve McFadden, then last year we had a girl and her dog off Britain's Got Talent, but this year we have got superstar potential:

Yes, Mr Tumble, a woman off Blue Peter and another bloke are in "Cinderella". Justin Fletcher seems a genuinely nice guy (I once saw him switch on the Christmas lights at Bluewater where he led us in a rendition of "Heads, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes") and having 2 children's stars seems to make it a lot more family-friendly.
Hal Cruttenden as Dandini (on the left) seems to have been chosen so he looks confusing like Justin. He's a comedian with the same chin and hairstyle, but they don't seem to mention this in the pantomime. Zoe Salmon as Cinders doesn't need to do much other than not be a plump bloke in his 30s.

One thing I do like about pantos is that because you only see adverts for your local one, you don't find out that THEY ARE ALL THE SAME really! Don't believe me? Look at the posters on this page: http://www.its-behind-you.com/diary.html Spooky!

22 December 2013

22nd December 2013

So what have we got left? At this stage in the Calendar, I feel like Waitrose selling off all of their Heston At Christmas items half-price. There's so many things still to put on and only 3 days left. Time to clear the decks...

Nativity scenes! Always a stalwart of the calendar, here's one very much representing 2013:

Here is a Moldovan nativity, a photo taken by our friends the Skirtons who are working with churches over there:

And here's a photo from closer to home, the Crib Service at Ottershaw, which is always Adam's last service to play for before having a Christmas break!

By the way, yesterday's poll stands (at the time of writing) at Royal Holloway University of London 14, Lady Margaret Hall University of Oxford 10. So Sarah says thank you very much. I say bah humbug.

21 December 2013

21st December 2013

Thanks to the 3 people (THREE!!) who have entered the Advent Calendar competiton from 15th December, no one's got it right yet so keep trying!

Today's also a competition, but more of a private one between Sarah and me. She was sent an e-card from her university, Royal Holloway in Egham, showing a snowy scene.

Very pretty, but not as good as the gardens in my college, Lady Margaret Hall at Oxford.

So we thought we'd have a vote as to which is really best. Please do join in, and betray your educational or class allegiances as you wish:

Which college has the nicest winter gardens?
pollcode.com free polls 

20 December 2013

20th December 2013

Wow, we can't believe it's already the 20th! Hasn't this month fFlown by? It's been so busy, we're at least a week behind on catching up our favourite TV (The Mentalist, Person of Interest and Homeland, since you ask). No spoilers, please!

For those of you who haven't had the chance to visit a school Christmas assembly or carol service, here are two little video clips of choirs from Adam's school rehearsing for their Festival of Carols:

Today's pictures are all of Christmas cards by artists we like. Michael Craig-Martin started his career by presenting "An Oak Tree", a sculpture of an oak tree that looked exactly like a glass of water on a shelf. His main work now is outlines of objects coloured in, and he did one of the 12 Olympic posters in 2012. This is his card:

Grayson Perry has been in the news this year, presenting on TV and delivering the BBC Reith lectures, contoversially in a chatty style rather than in academic pomp. As well as his pottery, he likes to play with preconceptions about his appearance. His family also join in on his Christmas cards!

Photo from Martin Parr’s Portrait Project Day at Rocket Gallery 16/12/12:

What's the most interesting Christmas card you've received? Send us a picture!

19 December 2013

19th December 2013

One of our treats of the year was a holiday in Berlin, a city Adam has visited many times before, and that we went together to in 2006. It's got amazing architecture, on both sides of the city, and has a wealth of things to visit.
We were very excited to hear that our dear friend Heidi was visiting Berlin for the first time on a school trip, though we knew that it would no doubt include worthy but depressing sights such as Checkpoint Charlie, the Jewish Memorial, and the Stasi Museum. We hoped she woud have a great time. And she did! Here are two of her great photos:

A genuine German market, not one of those fake ones selling gluhwein and wooden ties.

This is a model of a church in western Berlin, which was bombed in the war, and now has a modern addition and carillon next to it. Made of chocolate!

Thanks for the photos, Heidi!

18 December 2013

18th December 2013

A guest post from our friend @maxnugget:

This year I had intended for my entry to the Advent calendar to be a glowing tribute to the handcrafted Christmas card I would inevitably receive from my friends Helen and Matt who live in London.  Helen and Matt are both incredibly gifted artists and each year I get the most amazing card, usually with a painting of some magical winter landscape on the front done by Helen, and Matt’s interpretation of the same theme on the inside.  I relish getting their card and it always takes pride of place on the mantlepiece beside cards from other treasured friends.

Knowing I was going to showcase their card, and anxious that I might for some reason be overlooked, I sent MY card to Helen & Matt early, and then waited patiently for something to pop through the letterbox.  I felt like I’d made a bit more of an effort with my cards this year,  not getting them from Asda or Tesco, but I’d actually bought them from NEXT!  OK ok, so I bought them in the sale last Christmas, but they were slightly thicker card stock than I usually send and they were almost guaranteed not to curl on the sideboard until Boxing Day.

A few days later buoyed by the familiar rattle of the letterbox I was suddenly distracted by a ping on my phone and a message from Helen which read “Hey lovely, just a quick note to say thank you for the Christmas card. Sadly we are not sending any this year but we ARE sending you lots of love and best wishes.”


So my plan to boast about how brilliant my friends are has been scuppered.  You’ll just have to take my word for it.

What I’d also overlooked is, much like Adam and Sarah’s Advent Calendar, Helen and Matt as a couple are 10 years old this year, celebrating their anniversary on 31st December.  Helen and Matt have endured more than most to be together and I guess I can forsake my Christmas Card this year so they can focus on their 10 years together instead.  All of my love and a happy 10 years to two of my favourite people.

(But I’d better get a bloomin’ big card next year!!)

17 December 2013

17th December 2013

Like many people, we feel that Christmas hasn't really begun until a few things have happened. Having a Black Forest Hot Chocolate from Costa, hearing Stop the Cavalry by Jona Lewie, and of course watching The Muppet Christmas Carol!

If you're in London this weekend you couldn't do better than to go to a sing-along performace of the film at the Prince Charles Cinema. With 3 screenings on Saturday and 2 on Sunday, there's sure to be a time to suit you.

Of couse if you can't get there, you can always watch it on TV. Christmas Day on Channel 4 from 4.35pm to 6.15pm, perfect while parents are sleeping off the pud! Here's the trailer to get you in the mood:

16 December 2013

16th December 2013

Two things by people called Dave today:

Our friend Dave Walker draws cartoons, but has so many things on the go - CartoonChurch.com, CyclingCartoons.com, not to mention his own site.

And as well as doing his own Advent Calendar of Cartoons (web link, Facebook link) he has drawn a Christmas cartoon for Greenpeace's Save The Arctic campaign:

Dave Hopwood is a Christian writer and speaker, particularly focusing on faith and film. His website is at http://davehopwood.com/

Here is his poem, "The First Day Of Christmas":

On the first day of Christmas all this was sent to me:
Twelve hours of travelling, 
Eleven room refusals, 
Ten smelly stables, 
Nine months pregnant. 
Eight hours of labour - 
Seven animals watching, 
Six o’clock birth 
Five minutes peace. 
Four shepherds, 
Three wise men, 
Two startled doves, 
And a baby to set the world free.

15 December 2013

15th December 2013

Guest Post: Shirley McMillan

"Tis the season for Die Hard I suppose lol. I was about 11 when I drew this. I think 9/10 was quite harsh for my lovingly sketched efforts!"

Thanks, Shirley! It's always great to have a Brucey Bonus!
Shirley's blog is at www.shirleyannemcmillan.com and she tweets as @shirleyannemcm

Which brings us to this year's competition:

Here are three pictures of a well known actor. Your challenge is not to name him, but rather identify WHICH FILM he is starring in for each picture. Email your answers to adamcreen@hotmail.com and you could win a mystery prize (which in previous years has been an unwanted Christmas gift of high quality!)

14 December 2013

14th December 2013


We have neglected of late our theme of sprouts. So hold onto your parping pants, here's the latest sprout news!

~ . ~ . ~

On the South Bank in London, a Christmas tree lights are being powered by a Brussels sprout battery, as an energy-saving gimmick.

Electrodes are inserted into the 1000 sprouts in the manner of a potato clock.
Chief boffin Sean Miles said, "'Sprouts are probably the worst vegetables to use, which makes the feat even more amazing."
When the Daily Mail reported this story (you knew they would, of course) the following comment was garnered:

~ . ~ . ~

Next up, sprout entertainment news, and Elizabeth Henstridge, the Keira-Knightly-lite star of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. revealed on her Twitter feed about a giant sprout she had found.

~ . ~ . ~

More sprout science now, and as well as Advent Calendar sponsor Syngenta inventing red sprouts, Waitrose have turned food technology on its head and created a sweeter "kid friendly" sprout in time for Christmas. As sprouts contain twice as much vitamin C per 100g than an orange, it's great to get children hooked on the sprout habit.

Waitrose described the new sprouts as "a real crowd-pleaser and one that is bound to get a unanimous thumbs up from kids this Christmas". Amy Lance, chief sprout taster at Waitrose, said: "The humble Brussels sprout is a wonderful bundle of deliciousness"
The new version, clearly labelled with a red "kid friendly" sticker, is available at £2.50 for 330g.

~ . ~ . ~

And finally, to Chalfont in Buckinghamshire, where the 1st Chalfont St Peter Sprout, sorry, Scout Group had a competition to make the best sprout dish. James O’Brien, 14, won the competition with his enticing Spicy Brussels and Rice Curry. To try out his recipe, visit the Get Bucks website.

13 December 2013

13th December 2013

Fridays on the Advent Calendar have always been about music! We fondly hope that someone will be sneaking a peek at work and suddenly B*Witched or Little Drummer Boy will come bursting out of their speakers. (Did this ever happen to you?) But we haven't had any videos yet so today we'll do a round up of some of our favourite adverts.

Today is Christmas Jumper Day for Save The Children. You might be all jumper-ed out by now, but perhaps this video of The Killing's Sarah Lund complaining about non-jumper wearers might change your mind:

Then the two best musical adverts this year, both from IKEA. Adam liked the 'Gnomes' one so much, he bought the music on iTunes!

And for just get-down-funkiness, the 'Playin' With My Friends' advert can't be beat:

Finally, our favourite advert of the year. Perfect casting, the seated girl's reactions are a joy to behold!

12 December 2013

12th December 2013

Anniversary Flashback: 2012

Our trawl through the last 10 years is now almost up to date, with last year's top post being:

These are "Knit The Droids" you are looking for!

To download all of 2012's pictures, click here.

Bonus beats: a cool trend this year is to make your own Star Wars snowflakes. Get a load of these:

and there are loads more - not necessarily easy to make, but with patience and a craft knife...

Try these links here:

And for fans of Game of Thrones:

11 December 2013

11th December 2013

Anniversary Flashback: 2011

On the Advent Calendar, we always try and stay ahead of the trends, which is why in 2011 we led with the Olympics, featuring knitted athletes, mascots of yesteryear, and this lovely picture of Vancouver 2010's mascots who we were introduced to in Toronto that year.

Quatchi, Mukmuk, Miga and Sumi

We're already looking forward to Rio 2016 (ignore the knocking news stories) even though we can't be there for the opening day like we were at London 2012. But we're also sad about Sochi 2014, for more information read here.

To download all of 2011's pictures, click here.

10 December 2013

10th December 2013

Anniversary Flashback: 2010

Our trawl through the last 10 years brings us to 2010, and quite possibly our most visited page of all time, still getting hits 3 years on ... it's the SAUSAGE NATIVITY

And as a bonus, our favourite ever snowman - who gets rebuilt on a wall near our home every year that it snows, by persons unknown

To download all the pictures from 2010, visit this link

9 December 2013

9th December 2013

Anniversary Flashback: 2009

This was the most popular picture in 2009:

To download all the photos from 2009, click this link.

And to bring you up to speed with 2013:

Time to get out the highlighter pen!

8 December 2013

8th December 2013

Anniversary Flashback: 2008

2008 was the year it all changed. The Advent Calendar moved to Blogger.

This was a photo sent in by Isobel of the Angel Gabriel visiting Mary made with Playmobil. You can see all of 2008's Calendar posts here.

But since you've probably come here looking for something new, so here are photos I took today and tonight, out in Woking. As you can tell, it's the most seasonal of towns!

7 December 2013

7th December 2013

Anniversary Flashback: 2007

Looking around it's hard to believe how much fashion has changed. Back in 2007 we posted this...

Novelty Christmas jumpers were just that, a novelty, and yet in 2013 you can buy them in Sainsburys' Texco, everywhere! Sarah's work party even had a Christmas jumper theme, and 4 women turned up in the same Primark jumper!

I don't know if it's anything to do with Sarah Lund's jumper from The Killing (previously featured in the Advent Calendar as a teacosy design) but the patterns are now appearing everywhere:

To see all of the pictures from 2007, download the file: 2007pictures.zip

Bonus beats: from @jennyleppard's Twitter feed - coffee cups at our favourite London cafĂ©, Scandinavian Kitchen @scanditwitchen:

6 December 2013

6th December 2013

Anniversary Flashback: 2006

Every year we'd keep coming back to the same themes - nativity scenes, tacky gifts, other Advent Calendars ...

Adam still feels aggrieved by this one. And can you guess what annoyed him about something he spotted in Sainsbury's this year?

Yes! There's only 2 small packets of Maltesers in there - that's 25% of the whole thing. In no way can that be labelled Maltesers selection pack!

To see all of the pictures from 2006, download the file: 2006pictures.zip

5 December 2013

5th December 2013

Anniversary Flashback: 2005

Psychoanalysts would have a field day with some of the things we chose back then:

Sarah still hates Maplin, and Adam still has an eye out for tacky gadget gifts. Have you seen any dreadful potential presents? Send us your sightings!

To see all of the pictures from 2005, download the file: 2005pictures.zip

4 December 2013

4th December 2013

Anniversary Flashback: 2004

By 2004 we had established a fanbase, many complete strangers to us, who would enter our Christmas competition and make requests. For example,

But who was Tania? And does she still love David Hasselhoff? Tune in tomorrow for another Advent pic from the archive.

To see all of the pictures from 2004, download the file: 2004pictures.zip

3 December 2013

3rd December 2013

Anniversary Flashback: 2003

Here is the first ever entry in the first ever Creen Advent Calendar - 1st December 2003:

Our Christmas card that year was a hand-drawn Spirograph picture for 24 chosen friends. Were you one of them? Do you still have that limited edition card? Ahhh, a more innocent time.

To see all of the pictures from 2003, download the file: 2003pictures.zip