*What’s in my Christmas Stocking?

Everyone does Christmas differently, and one of the toughest things about being married is choosing which family traditions to keep, and which ones to toss.  When I found out that Sunny and his family never had Christmas Stockings I was stunned and a little gutted as it’s probably my favourite part of Christmas!  As kids, my brother and I shared a bedroom wall so whoever woke up first on Christmas morning would knock (/hammer down) the wall to wake the other and then we’d head straight to my Mum and Dad’s bedroom with our stockings.  We’d take it in turns dunking for gifts until there was a pile of wrapping paper in the middle of the bed and four empty stockings.

So if you’ve never done the whole Christmas Stocking thing (or have a nagging wife like me who’s insisting on keeping the tradition…!), here are a few tips on what to put inside🙂

My brother always used to pick the biggest stocking from our family pile because, naturally, he thought big stocking = more gifts.  Well, I’ve taken a tip from my brother this year; this 100% wool fairisle stocking from Woolovers is huge!  And I called it – see, it’s got my initials just so there’s no confusion.

Something to Drink

Tea, Coffee and miniatures make ideal stocking fillers – especially if you can find a festive blend for that first Christmas cup.  I’m already a big fan of Teapigs’ Darjeeling Earl Grey blend, so I’m looking forward to trying this Spiced Winter Red Tea on Christmas morning.

Lavender & Geranium Shower Gel & Bath Foam (£5.60 Faith in Nature), Pure English Lavender Bubble Bath (C/O Little Soap Company) and Daisy Chain Bath Ball (£3.90 Miss Patisserie)

Something to Relax

For me there’s no gift better than the promise of peace and quiet for a good ole pamper-sesh, so I always tend to get a couple of toiletries and beauty products in my stocking; ones you can smell before you’ve even unwrapped them.  They fuel me through those dark and gloomy January nights.

7th Heaven Face Masks are only usually around £1 each are great to keep handy in the bathroom cupboard.

Something Warm

Socks, scarves, hats, hand warmers are just the right size to wrap and stuff in a stocking.  I’m always losing my gloves (if you see one waving at you from a park railing then it’s probably one of mine) so I’ll never say no to a new pair!  These Grey Cashmere ones are from Woolovers; they’re soft and also nice and long on the wrist so there’ll be no up-the-sleeve draughts!

Something to Scoff

Chocolate coins, chocolate snowmen, tubes of smarties… The first thing I eat on Christmas day has usually come from my stocking and that usually means that it’s chocolate.  This Green & Blacks Miniature Collection could be shared around several stockings – but, then you could keep them all for yourself…

The Simple Things Magazine

Something to Read

You wouldn’t think it, but magazines make great stocking fillers; they’re cheap and easily rolled (usually!) and wrapped.  Perfect for flicking through while you enjoy your Christmas breakfast or wait for the turkey to cook.

Something Silly!

My Mum is the Queen of silly gifts.  We’ve had lottery tickets and scratch cards wrapped up in our stockings in the past, and a stocking wouldn’t be a stocking in our family if it didn’t have a satsuma rolling around in the toe!

What little gifts do you always love finding in your stocking?🙂

*A great big thank you to Woolovers for sending me such a lovely early Christmas surprise!

Nacional v Sporting Lisbon

I don’t think we went to a restaurant in Madeira where football wasn’t playing on a TV in the corner.  Not a massive surprise; this is the country that gave the world Cristiano Ronaldo after all.  Anyway, while we were staying in Funchal we got the chance to go and see his home team – Nacional – play Sporting Lisbon.  It involved driving up some very steep, narrow and winding roads in the dark to a stadium perched on the side of a mountain and shrouded in clouds.  In all honesty, it was more Sunny’s thing than mine – it has to be said, I’m not a huge fan of football – but I was lured there with the promise of street food.  :-)

There weren’t any pie and mash shops, no burger stalls or newsagents – just one option.   Bolo do Caco com Chourico.  I had no idea about it at the time, but apparently it’s a traditional Madeiran bread that’s cooked on a stone and filled with garlic butter and other fillings – in this case, Chorizo.  It was warm, it was soft, it was lush.  If they served these at games back in the UK then I’d probably go along more often!🙂

The game itself wasn’t exactly the most exciting of games.  Not a single goal in the whole 90 minutes!  But the Nacional fans sitting around us seemed pleased with a draw anyway, and it was interesting watching the clouds passing over the roof of the stand (the views from the stadium during the day must be amazing!).  The most exciting part for me (other than the food) was when Sunny accidentally dropped one of the peanuts he was eating into the hood of the man sitting in the row in front of him.

Cardiff Christmas Shopping Guide

I LOVE Cardiff at Christmas.  It’s hands down my favourite time of year to potter around the centre (even if you’ve got to be up at the crack of dawn to have any hope of getting a parking space… pfft!).  The lights go on, the arcades suddenly look like something out of Harry Potter and the smell of bratwurst burning can only ever be a wonderful thing.  I popped in last week for my first bit of festive shopping and now I’m all excited for Christmas – bring on the Mince Pies, Queen’s Speech and Brussell Sprouts please!  So – now that I’m feeling all festive – I’ve put together a little Shopping Guide full of my favourite places in Cardiff (other than the main haunts) to prowl for gifts  :-)

Bodlon (Yr Hen Lyfrgell, The Hayes)

Perfect for: Welsh-themed gifts.  Beautiful homeware, welsh language books, prints and stationary by welsh artists, toys and locally produced chocolates and alcohol.  They’ve also got some beautiful tree ornaments and decorations at the moment.

Flying Tiger (St Davids Centre)

Perfect for: Quirky homeware, stationary and stocking fillers.  Tiger is one of my favourite places to hit if I’m having people over because they’ve always got the best (and cheapest!) party supplies.  When it comes to banners, cake decorations, candles, napkins and nick nacks Tiger is the place to go, and at the moment they’ve got some great Christmas themed decorations and party bits and bobs.

Miss Patisserie (7, High Street Arcade)

Perfect for: Handmade Cosmetics, Bath Bombs, Candles. Tucked away in one of the Victorian Arcades (just off St John Street) Miss Patisserie is my go-to if I’ve got a pamper session planned – their bath balls are the bomb-diggity (much slower to fizzle out than, y’know, that *other* highstreet handmade cosmetics brand, and they create beautiful tie-dye swirls in the tub).  All their products are handmade, vegan and cruelty free and downright gorgeous.

The Joke Shop (24, High Street Arcade)

Perfect for: Fancy Dress Costumes and practical jokes.  My brother and I used to love hitting up the joke shop when we were kids – it’s perfect if you’re planning a fancy dress night out at Christmas, or you’ve got pranks planned around the Christmas dinner table, or for fun stocking fillers.

Home byKirsty (16, Castle Arcade)

Perfect for: Scandi-style homeware and stationary.  Awarded best new business in the 2015 Cardiff Life Awards, Home byKirsty showcases statement pieces like lights, cushions, mugs and other accessories for the home.  Definitely worth a look if you’re looking to buy a present for someone who’s just moved house!

Cardiff Outdoor Christmas Market (The Hayes)

Perfect for: Unique handmade gifts, artwork and food.  If there’s someone on your gift list that’s impossible to buy for and you’re tearing your hair out over them then a stroll around the stalls should do the trick.  I took my friend Missy there the other day and she bought a lovely clock made from a melted down bottle of Bombay Sapphire (GiftGlass), and then Sunny and I treated ourselves to a few prints we liked for the house from Illustrate.  You can find a directory of all this year’s stalls here.

Cardiff Indoor (Central) Market (St Mary Street)

Perfect for: Foodie gifts (welshcakes!) and vegetables for Christmas dinner, homeware, sewing and crafty gifts, vinyl records.

Rossiters (Morgan Arcade)

Perfect for: Stocking fillers, Christmas Ornaments and Decorations, Secret Santa Gifts.  Hands-down one of my favourite shops in Cardiff and the place to shop for gifts all year round.  They’ve got stunning tree ornaments, homeware, jewellery, books and stationary.

Wally’s (Morgan Arcade)

Perfect for: Foodie gifts.  Wally’s has its own unique aroma, you’ll smell the spices and cured meat long before you step inside.  It’s definitely the place to go if you’re looking for things to go into a Christmas hamper as well as hot sauces, biscuits, chocolates, cheeses, pannettone and Christmas pudding.

Spillers (Morgan Arcade)

Perfect for: CDs and Vinyl.  The world’s oldest record shop and a Cardiff institution.  ‘Nuff said.

The Pen & Paper (Morgan Arcade)

Perfect for: Pens and Paper!  The best place to go for ink, card, pens, notebooks and diaries.

Kitchens Cookshop (High Street – castle end of St Mary Street)

Perfect for: Everything kitchen, cooking and baking related.  Guaranteed if I get a strange utensil or quirky cooking-related item from my Mum at Christmas time (and I always do!) then this is the shop it’s most likely come from.

Castle Welsh Crafts (Castle Street – opposite Cardiff Castle)

Perfect for: Welsh themed gifts, love spoons, slate and souvenirs.  Castle Crafts has been around for donkey’s years and it’s no wonder because it’s the best place to go for all things Wales – especially love spoons.

Forbidden Planet (Duke Street)

Perfect for: Comic books, cult action figures and collectibles.  If you’ve got a Sheldon Cooper to buy for then you’ll already know about Forbidden Planet and are probably a frequent visitor.🙂

Cranes (High Street – castle end of St Mary Street)

Perfect for: Gifts for musicians.  Cranes is the Mecca for Cardiff Musicians and the place to go to buy instruments and accessories.

If you’ve got any Cardiff Christmas Shopping suggestions then I’d love to hear them – I’m always discovering new favourites!🙂

Go Karting with Teamsport

I’m a little bit embarrassed about the number of hours I’ve clocked on Mario Kart.  There’s nothing more satisfying than whizzing past my brother while he skids off the road on a banana peel, or slamming Sunny with a perfectly timed green shell (…and nothing quite as frustrating as when I get bumped right on the finish line when they both enact their revenge).  We  all love it, and we’re pretty good at it.  I mean, okay, we still career off the edge on Rainbow Road (damn it!), but sometimes – and especially around Christmas time – we’ve played it for so long that we end up seeing red shells in our sleep.

With that in mind, for Sunny’s birthday this year I booked us in to give the real deal a go (…minus the red shells) at Teamsport’s Go-Karting track on Newport Road.  On Sunday nights they offer Unlimited Karting – 50 minutes of track time split into five, ten minute sessions.  So around the same time that the Brazillian Grand Prix was struggling with crashes and restarts, we were taking to the track ourselves.

All those hours spent on Mario Kart counted for nothing (…who could have guessed?).  It was tough!  In our group there were guys who came down to race every week and so our first round on the track was a punishing one.  Sunny got black flagged and pulled into the pits (for breaking the rules…), and I was more Maureen than Massa.  We got overtaken a lot.  We sucked.  We came last.  Well… I came last.  Not only that, but my hands were hurting from gripping the steering wheel so hard.

But by the third lap we got into it.  We stopped using the break as much and flew into the corners (…Literally, in my case.  Twice.  Ouch.) – screeching and skidding around each bend.  Our times got a little better.  We didn’t come last.  By the final round I actually managed to beat Sunny and clock my fastest time (which was still four seconds behind the leader, but still…!).  :-)

…I also clocked my slowest time in that round because I went spinning around one corner, slammed into the barrier and got stuck…  :-(

Go Karting is even more fun than it looks, and also a lot harder and more physical than it looks – we were both surprised how much we were aching by the time we got home.  But we’ve already decided to go back and try and beat our times.  Also, apparently at the Bristol branch they do a Mario Kart themed night for members – which sounds amazing!🙂