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Santa must be in cahoots with Superman

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Despite having had a few drinks and the distinct lack of a chimney at Nana and Grubby's house, Santa delivered Elliot's pressies. He got a Superman outfit which meant he got to play his favourite game all morning, flying with Daddy.

As this was Elliot and Will's first christmas, the amount of presents under the tree had doubled since last year. It took us three days to get to them all. It took even longer to get through all the food! Elliot has now caught up to Will in size even though he is half his age. Will is still the cleverer of the two though having mastered crawling and eating which meant everything had to be raised above grab height, including the tree!

Present highlights include: a jar of Fluff, a gun shaped fried egg fryer and a Wondercube which is a toy that was designed for babies after watching their delight in removing tissues from a tissue box. Ah, simple pleasures.

On the 12th day of christmas...

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We released our new Christmas single, 'The Circle of Life'. Merry Christmas everyone!

On the 11th day of christmas...

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Santa's little orange helper hit the M23 and drove down to Hassocks

On the 10th day of christmas...

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...Elliot danced a jig!!!

On the 9th day of christmas...

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...it was the shortest day of the year...

It was dark at 3.30pm! Luckily we have some little monster lights to light up our window thanks to Kate and Jesse. They protect us from rude boys with snowballs.

On the 8th day of christmas...

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Crackers from shops these days are awful. They are usually all foily and garish, the gifts are crappy and the jokes are so boring they must be written by school careers advisers ...so this year I've decided to make my own.

1 packet of the cheapest crackers you can find (to dismantle)
Cardboard toilet roll tubes
Tissue paper
Plain or coloured A4 paper
Jokes (ours are compiled by Tom and thus too rude to publish)

Step 1:
Dismantle the bought crackers and keep the long 'cracker' strip from inside as well as the paper hat. Throw the rest away! Print out or write your jokes onto long strips of paper and make sure your gifts fit in the tube.

Step 2:
Write the person's name or 'Merry Christmas' or 'Happy Birthday Jesus' or whatever in the centre of the A4 paper. I used stamps to print each name.

Step 3:
Roll the A4 paper up into a long tube then squash it flat, just on the end

Step 4:
Cut a scalloped edge on the folded end, when you unravel it it will create a repeat pattern, like making a strip of paper dollies.

Step 5:
thread the cracker strip through the tube and fasten it with tape at either end of the back side of the A4 paper (the side that will end up inside of the cracker).

Step 6:
Place the tissue paper on top and roll the whole thing up like a burrito. Mmm burritos.....

Step 7:
Tie one end with string and stuff the presents, hats and jokes into the other end then tie the second end as well.

Step 8:
Cover the sting with some coloured ribbon, wool or braiding. It works well if it matched the colour of the tissue paper. I've used a more manly colour scheme for the boys...

Voila! Home made crackers.

On the 7th day of christmas...

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...the gift wrapping began...
I'm one of those weirdos who LOVES gift wrapping but ribbon and fancy paper can be really pricey. Stylish gift wrap doesn't need to be expensive if you keep it simple. I did this with plain white office paper and some red wool. To jazz it up I used an age old kindergarten method and made pretty snowflakes by folding up a square and cutting a pattern.

On the 6th day of christmas...

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...we decorated the tree...
Every year I am going to buy one really nice bauble so one day we'll have a whole collection  (I'm pretty sure over time some will fall victim to toddlers and cats) but seeing as I have only done that last year and this year I've spruced the tree up with some el cheapo baubles for now and a Munny for a fairy on top.

Fancy Bauble 2009
This year's fancy bauble is decorated by little tootsies

On the 5th day of christmas...

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...we tested the aerodynamic qualities of an Ikea baby change mat...
(and Tom got distracted half way through filming)

On the 4th day of christmas...

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We went for a swim! In winter! Here I was thinking I have another 6 months to come to terms with wearing a bikini in public, plus, everyone knows if you go outside with wet hair in winter you'll die of pneumonia so it took all the strength I had to go to a swimming lesson in December... but against all odds we came back alive.

With all this snow, fondue and Ikea, we've had a very Swedish week. So it's no surprise that the swimming teacher is a lovely Swede. She says things like, "And now we are going to do a gorgeous exercise with babies" You're doing a sing-song-Swedish accent in your head aren't you? I hope so.

I think Elliot likes it, he didn't cry and he seems very relaxed in the water... almost too relaxed. At times I wonder if he noticed he was in a swimming pool at all.

All I want for christmas is...

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According to some of our non-parent friends Tom and I have become experts on what to buy people with new babies. I know that before I had Elliot I was buying very lovely but quite unhelpful gifts for babies, it's amazing how many things are on the market that are completely useless but kept in production by an army of clueless new aunties and uncles. So here is my list of "Very Useful Baby Gifts" for new parents...

1. The Pram Buddy 
This thing changed my life! You can attach your shopping to your pram leaving your hands free to do useful things like answer the phone, use keys and wipe away spew. It's so simple, I'm amazed prams don't come with one already. Don't get the plastic sort, they're rubbish, get the metal carabina style one. You may be thinking, 'Why don't you just get a carabina, it's cheaper?'. Well, the padded bit on it stops it from sliding along the pram bars. This product is making someone very rich.

2. Burt's Bees Baby Bee Skin Cream
Another delightful surprise that no one tells you about babies is that they get really nasty skin in the folds of their necks which collects lint and builds up a sort of spewey neck cheese. It's gross and their skin gets really sore so this stuff is great. I was lucky enough to get the whole Burt's Bees set as a baby shower gift and it's all fantastic, but this is the stand out product. It's also perfect for winter on little cheeks and noses in the cold wind or on nappy rash. You can see it taking the redness out as soon as you put it on.

3. Melobaby change mat/bag
Most nappy change bags are really bulky and have hideous cartoon characters all over them. This one is fantastic because it pops in a normal handbag bag and doesn't look like you've brought a dead clown along with you. It's also got a change mat that is fleecy on one side so it's comfy for changing or a plastic side for more toxic situations where wiping clean is a necessity. There's also a little sealable pencil case thingy that you can put wet wipes in and they don't dry out so you don't need to take a whole packet with you.

4. Sophie the Giraffe
Sophie is quite famous, she has been on sale since 1961 and she's French, so you know she's stylish. She's been seen with Nicole Richie, Isla Fisher and Sofia Copploa and has starred in movies like Sex and The City and Three Men and a Baby. There's a fair bit of hype surrounding her and at £12.99 she's quite expensive for what she is but it's got to be said, babies love her. Why? Because she's chewy, easy to hold because of her skinny little legs and her face is shaped like a nipple. That's all there is to it. New parents have got more important things to spend £12.99 on and probably wouldn't buy what is essentially a dog toy in a fancy box, but she makes an excellent gift. Elliot loves to snog her.

5. Baby's First Skills by Miriam Stoppard
There are moments in the first few months of parenting when your fatigue addled brain makes you forget how to be fun. You're sitting on the floor with a small person who screams and you think, "I don't know what you're into and you're far too young to be into things that I like, like impulse buying and binge drinking, so what the hell are we going to do for the next hour?" The answer is in this book. It gives you really simple educational exercises to do like counting fingers and toes, peek-a-boo and baby sit-ups. It also tells you what babies of a certain age should be doing and how each exercise stimulates their development ...which in turn alleviates the middle class guilt that comes with plonking them down in front of a Rihanna video on MTV. (For the record, Rihanna and Katy Perry videos are high on Elliot's list of favourite things. Must be the boobies).

6. Insulated Milk Bag
I wouldn't have even thought of this unless I'd received it as a gift but it's so useful and super cheap! It's great for carrying a bottle of boob milk with an ice pack to a dinner party. That way your milk doesn't gross out the single male guests by appearing in the fridge next to the beer (although grossing out single males is quite fun and easy too! Just use 'breast pump' in a sentence and the job's done).

7. Socks
Sounds very boring but socks are a great gift and they come in cute little sets like these. When Elliot was born we had teeny tiny socks coming out our ears in every colour of the rainbow, everyone gave us some, there were hundreds and I thought we would never use them all. Now we have only a few left. I don't know where the hell they go. Maybe to some sort of sock commune behind our furniture, or perhaps there's a wormhole in our washing machine which leads to a really crap alternate universe which is filled with baby socks, Oyster cards and pen lids. So if all else fails, you can't go wrong with socks.

On the 3rd day of christmas...

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This little reindeer went to a Chismakkuh party!

Our friends Libby and Jez hosted a Chismakkah party so obviously the little man needed a cross cultural hat. Alas, I have lost my red lipstick, a dab on the nose would complete the look. We celebrated in style with cheese fondue and shared some traditional songs from our cultures. Like this and this. (People of a delicate disposition should probably steer clear of the second link because there is some rather fruity language.)

On the 2nd day of christmas...

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We went to Ikea! As usual we went there to get one thing and came back with 700 things. Libby and I ended up with so much stuff that it took about half an hour to jam it all into the car.

I tested out one of the nursery set ups by breastfeeding in the rocking chair, I think we added to the homely aesthetic like all those weird swedish books. Ikea should have paid me to be a live installation. Later I changed Elliot's nappy on the floor of the warehouse section. Boy was that fun.

On the 1st day of christmas...

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My true love gave to me a great big christmas tree!
Tom came home today with a big old tree slung over his shoulder... how romantic.

Now playing: Willie Nelson's Rainbow Connection

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We're currently listening to this album over and over again, thanks to Alex, Renae and little Frieda (another of Elliot's potential wives, she may stand to inherit a Canadian cottage. Watch this space!). I've been a big fan of Willie since his collaboraton with Julio Iglesias back in 1983 with a cover of Albert Hammond Snr's "To all the girls I've loved before" so I was thrilled to hear this Willie album for the first time. My favourite tracks would have to be "I am My Own Grandpa" and "Rock Me To Sleep" a pretty lullaby sung by Willie's daughter Amy. The chorus goes like this...

"'Cause tonight I'd like you to rock me to sleep
I'd like you to sing me a song
I'm tired of trying to figure things out
And I'm tired of being so strong"

It's quite apt for a tiny person. It must be nice to be rocked to sleep after a day of trying to understand everything around them.

Tom working some Bowie magic

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Elliot Neish - boy genius

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Elliot has already started saying real words because he's terribly clever. He's bypassing the usual first words and moving on to some of the more obscure. I keep trying to capture them on video but he's very smart and he stays quiet as soon as I get my phone out.

So far his lexicon consists of;

See? He's clearly a genius.

Dance baby dance!

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Elliot goes 'oop nerf'

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Last weekend we went up to Sheffield to introduce Elliot to his rugged northern friends. The whole of last week we saw news reports 'Live from Sheffield' knee deep in snow so the trains were a bit of a nightmare. We had to sit on the floor between the carriages for most of the journey, we couldn't even get into the seated section to glare at people until they gave us a seat. At one point I had to change Elliot's nappy on the floor by the door. The most remarkable thing about that was that he'd pooed all the way up his back and down his legs but miraculously none of it was in his nappy... not a single bit! I still have no idea how he did it. Anyway, enough poo stories...

Sheffield looked amazing, like a christmas card and although the Bugaboo got completely bogged, the snow wasn't a problem at all. When we finally got Elliot out into the snow in his fancy new snow suit, he was mighty unimpressed so our dreams of a snow angel christmas card photo were dashed.

We were entertained by the antics of the adorable twins Albert and Eliza who tired us both out and left us in awe of Toby and Jemma. I have no idea how anyone manages with twins. The hour before bedtime was like a parental assault course with the toddlers repeating the following circuit;
Run across the room
Pick up object
Put in mouth
Make for the door
Fall over

The adults had a similar circuit:
Guard furniture edges
Stop toddlers colliding
Remove object from mouth
Distract toddler from door
Pick up toddler from floor

...and to think, Elliot will be doing all that in less than a year. Aaah!

Thanks Chris, Lucia, Vinnie, Dan, Cathy, Toby, Jemma, Albert and Eliza for a fabulous weekend!