Never fear, help is at hand. As usual, I've compiled an annual Christmas Gift Guide based on emails, news releases, product launches and purchases I've made during the year. In some cases I've been fortunate enough to sample certain items gratis, which is always nice. All I can say is that the ones that make the list are those we genuinely enjoy and can recommend. As usual, there's something for everyone...
Why not burn a real yule log this Christmas?
Nowadays, most people think of a Yule Log as a chocolate cake made to look like the branch of a tree. But for centuries burning a Yule Log over the 12 Days of Christmas was an important part of the Festive celebrations. It was meant to ensure good fortune, wealth and happiness for the coming year.
Herefordshire-based www.certainlywood.co.uk are reviving this ancient tradition by supplying beautifully gift-wrapped Yule Logs along with handmade "Flamers" and natural firelighters, along with kiln-dried kindling to make lighting your fire simple and straightforward. There's also an accompanying scroll, which tells the age-old story of the Yule Log, plus instructions on how to light it in keeping with tradition.
Certainly Wood's Yule Log costs £25 including P&P and can be ordered online between 1st and 19th December from www.certainlywood.co.uk.
Something for the smallest Christmas stocking...
Toys seem to get bigger every year. If you despair of storage (to say nothing of
And that's not all. They don't use batteries. I repeat: they DO NOT need batteries.
Mind you, you will undoubtedly need some this Christmas. Duracell have even brought out special 'Stars Wars' packs in keeping with what promises to be the season's must-see movie. And talking of Star Wars, CROCS have brought out a new range of Star wars themed Crocs Lights!
They're what all the best-dressed (or best-shod) children will be wearing on Christmas morning.
Eat, drink and be merry...
The gift that needs no (permanent) storage (other than a bit of cupboard space beforehand) is always welcome in our house. And if luxury comestibles are your gift of choice the Spicers Christmas hampers and gift baskets are filled with luxury produce to delight the most discerning gourmand. From mouth-watering chocolates, award winning marmalades and puddings, divine wines, cheese, chocolate fudge to champagne and truffles, there is something for everyone. All their Christmas hampers are all beautifully presented and make perfect presents.
And if you hurry (you've got until December 4th) you could send someone one for free. Spicers are calling on the public to nominate their local heroes who they feel deserve a luxury bespoke hamper.
To enter all you need to do is visit the Spicers Superstar web page and explain in no more than 150 words stating why your local heroes deserves a gorgeous bespoke hamper. The winner will be announced on the Monday 7th December and the hamper will be delivered by women’s rugby World Cup winner, Vicky Fleetwood!
And talking of presents...
It might not be a gift, but you're going to have to have a tree to put 'em under. For years we've put up (with) a rather good artificial Christmas tree - no mess, no needles - and it's been ok. To be honest, I never gave a thought to a real tree until - last year - Pines and Needles sent us a magnificent 6' Norman Fir.
A pretty impressive tree, you'll agree. Even more impressive was - thanks both to the variety and the special watering stand that keeps the tree moist in even the driest, centrally-heated household, it didn't drop a needle. Well, maybe the odd one. But hardly any. It looked as good (almost) when we reluctantly took it down on twelfth night as it did when we had put it up. At the beginning of December!
And... as an early Christmas present just for you, Bringing up Charlie readers can get a £10 discount on online orders over £50 by entering the code DOT15 at the checkout.
Extra guests at Christmas coupled with copious amounts of alcohol inevitably leads to a queue for the loo. But if thats' destined to be your lot this Christmas, help is at hand. You now you can have an extra WC for just £29.99 with this Toilet Tree - new from British outdoor leisure manufacturer, OLPRO,
Standing 2 metres tall and made from polyester, this pop-up tent erects in minutes and features a festive fir tree design. With just a modicum of creativity, it turns into a Christmas tree. It's so discrete no-one will ever know it conceals an extra loo, so it can be used in any room. Alternatively, it can be used for storage to hide all that Christmas clutter.
The OLPRO Pop Up Toilet Tree tent comes in a 60cm circular bag for portability. You just unzip it, pull out the tent and it will pop up immediately. The toilet tent comes with a sewn-in groundsheet and fitted internal poles together with pegs and yellow guy lines. Find out more at www.olpro.co.uk
If that's a conversation stopper...
Then The Art of Conversation - a stocking filler sized game to get you talking - is for you. Cards with funny, thought-provoking and sometime embarrassing questions are designed to get everyone talking, laughing, debating! It's available in seven different versions which offers something for everyone. More than just a game, the cards make people think, reminisce and enjoy equally the company of lifelong friends as well as people they have only just met.
All titles in The Art of Conversation range are available now from all good bookshops and online retailers, priced £9.98
But for those times when the conversation gets too much, there's nothing better than to retreat into the world of radio. Telly's no good - you can't close your eyes and watch the telly. Anyway, as everyone knows the pictures are better on the radio. And there are few better sets than two recent additions to the View Quest range I've been lucky enough to try out.
The VQ Blighty is a portable DAB/DAB+/FM radio. Available in red or grey, the Blighty has comprehensive digital/analogue radio reception, a10-hour battery life, a soft-touch responsive control button for easy navigation and a vivid 1.6 LCD screen. It costs £49.99 and is available from www.MyVQ.co.uk.
But for looks and performance, and a rich, room-filling sound (imagine listening to the Nine Lessons and Carols on this in the kitchen while making your mince pies!) then you cannot better the VQ Christie Veneer. This beautifully designed DAB+ radio and NFC/Bluetooth speaker is has an array of impressive features, including USB charging for external devices, a genuine enamel front panel, a rotating 2.4” LCD display that enables the radio to sit either in landscape or portrait orientation and an ultra-wide full range 10 watt speaker driver.
And on the subject of hi-tech toys, here's something to keep your budding computer engineer happy on Christmas Day and beyond... a Kano computer kit.
Kano is a computer kit that kids can make themselves from scratch in under 5 minutes! No prior knowledge required. Designed for 6-14 year olds, it's as simple and fun as LEGO and comes with the step-by-step Kano Book to guide you. Great for curious kids with big imaginations looking for new and creative ways to make, learn and play. What's more it can be bought direct from Kano for just £89.99 plus postage (rrp. £119.99) as a special seasonal deal until December 31st
Of course, Christmas isn't Christmas without the odd tipple. But too much of a good thing spoils the fun. So if you fancy bubble but without the booze I leave you with this, final, recommendation - Echo Falls’ sophisticated and delicious Zero Alcohol Sparkling Infusion.
Echo Falls’ Sparkling Infusion is a zero percent alcohol drink, made from a delicate combination of fermented grape juice and premium green tea infusion, known as “Tisane”. Perfect for Christmas parties or New Year’s Eve celebrations, Sparkling Tisane is a delicious twist to ordinary soft drinks. Whether you’re the designated driver, catering for pregnant guests or simply prefer an alternative to alcohol, this alcohol-free fizz will deliver delicious bubbles throughout the festive season.
Which, let me remind you, STARTS in Christmas Day!