advent calendar

Christmas movies – angels and calendars!

Santa in Christmas movie on a TVI went away with a friend and our children over the long weekend. Once the kids were all settled in bed, we watched a Christmas movie each night which was fun.

 

Angels in the snow

A 2015 movie from George Erschbamer, Angels in the snow is classed as a children and family movie and a drama, and goes for about one and a half hours. It stars Kirsty Swanson, Chris Potter and Colin Lawrence.

The story is based on a book by Rexanne Becnal, also called Angels in the Snow, although the names are different and the book blurb doesn’t hint at the same twist as seen in the movie.

Rich businessman Charles has built a ‘cabin’ in the woods to surprise his wife and children. Their first trip to the cabin is for a Christmas holiday together, but a blizzard quickly turns things cold. A knock at the door overnight, welcomes the stranded Tucker family into the ‘cabin’ (actually a luxurious two story house) and thus the two families spend Christmas together.

Charles continues to work during their holiday – alienating his teens by insisting they go tech free when he can’t manage it himself – and his wife is obviously unhappy with the state of things. On the other hand, the Tuckers are a loving family and set a very different example for impressionable (and precocious) eight year old Emily. Slowly, the Tuckers influence the Montgomerys and both families make a tight bond – but there are some strange comments and looks from the Tuckers that hint not all is as expected.

The movie has the message of communicating and spending time with the people you love, which is a valid message, although it was perhaps a bit heavy handed in this case.

collage of children making Christmas crafts

Kids making Christmas crafts is a highlight of this movie

Some of the scenery is this movie was spectacular, and there are some nice scenes like where the kids all work together to make decorations for the Christmas tree. And there is certainly a feel good element of the Montgomery family finding their way back to each other.

But… the ending is not fun. The twist, although we saw it coming, was unbelievable and shallow, and the follow up scenes to explain it were painful to watch. I can’t say I liked most of the Montgomery family (mum was self absorbed and weepy, the son was arrogant, Emily too Pollyanna-ish to fit her family and the teen daughter was superficial) although Charles was somewhat redeemed by his connection to Bella, and the Tuckers were all lovely.

And it was a bit harsh to send the Tuckers out after the blizzard, without blankets, on a two hour walk back to their damaged car! Charles perhaps didn’t learn as much as we thought we had!

It is rated ‘family’ but kids will be bored by all the talking and may be upset or challenged by the twist at the end, so I’d leave it as an adult movie. Then again, I think I’d just leave it altogether as there are just too many weaknesses in it.

If you have seen it, what did you think? Would you recommend it to anyone?

 

The holiday calendar

Released on 2 November (the day before we watched it so this is a very new movie!), The Holiday Calendar is a Netflix movie starring Kat Graham, Ethan Peck, Quincy Brown and Ron Cephas Jones.

Abby (played by Kat Graham) lives in a small town and works for Mr Singh as a photographer rather than as the artistic photographer she wishes to be. Her best friend, Josh, is also a photographer and just returned from far places as a successful travel blogger.

Abby receives an antique advent calendar from her Gramps. The calendar is beautiful and doors only open as each new day starts, showing a little toy. Along with Abby, we learn that the calendar is magical and perhaps predicts the future with the toy produced each day.

Wooden Santa advent calendar

A simpler advent calendar than in the movie, but I like it!

The movie has Christmas, romance, magic, family and self-realisations about dreams. It has some pretty scenes and the advent calendar itself is lovely. I do like that there was a diverse range of people and that some characters were more than stereotypes (for example, Mr Singh is a bit of the grumpy old boss out for a buck but also actually cares about the kids enjoying a visit with Santa).

I would have liked to have seen more of the advent calendar items – the first few days are shown but after that we only saw a couple of them. Sure, doing a day by day recap may get a bit boring in a movie, but a few shots with all the toys in front of the calendar or something would have been a nice touch.

The outcome was somewhat predictable but what do you expect in a feel-good Christmas movie, lol! It is comfortable and cosy, with no fake threat to Christmas, the town or Abby’s family, so it adds up to a nice movie – unlikely I’d watch it again but we had fun watching it.

Christmas movies…

So there are Christmas movies for families and romantic Christmas movies.

Generally speaking, you don’t expect a Christmas movie to be up amongst the great movies – and these two are certainly not amongst the best movies I’ve ever seen.  They are not even amongst the best Christmas movies I have seen, unfortunately.

I guess I will just have to watch some other Christmas movies to find better ones I can enjoy!

Lego advent calendar review continues…

Part three of our Lego advent calendar reviews… We finished off after day five hoping for the Lego Friends calendar to produce some exciting items, so let’s see what we found behind the next three flaps.

Day six

The Lego City calendar for day six was a plane for my son to build. He initially followed the instructions and built the plane as shown, but then realised he had enough spare bits that he could change the design a little, which made him happy.

Lego plane for day 6 of advent calndar

My daughter found a ski ramp and snow board, which she was happy enough to put together.

Lego ski ramp from Friends 2017 calendar

Day seven

I was very surprised that another pet shelter/stand was behind the flap for day seven in the Friends calendar. But both my children and their friend thought it was perfectly reasonable to have one for the rabbit and this new one for the dog so fair enough!

Lego stand for the dog

This shelter has a bone attached under the wreath

My son was very excited to build a sleigh (more of a sled I’d call it, but he’s happy with a sleigh) from his City calendar for day seven. He was a little unsure about who was meant to ride on the sleigh so I offered but found it did move too well when I put my foot on it…

Lego sled from the City advent calendar

Day eight

And tonight the Friends calendar produced the dog’s sled to attach behind Stephanie’s snow mobile. While the dog alone disappointed her, my daughter is now quite happy to have the stand and sled for the dog.

Lego girl on snowmobile pulling a dog sled

Meanwhile, the City calendar gave my son a grandmother figure with a tray of biscuits (presumably ready to give Santa!) She now sits proudly on the chair!

Lego Grandma holding a tray of biscuits

Fresh biscuits anyone?

Choosing a building block advent calendar?

Wanting something of more value and fewer calories than a chocolate advent calendar for your kids this year?

There are many options, but a popular choice is an advent calendar where the daily surprise is a toy, namely some construction pieces like Lego. Compared to a chocolate calendar, Lego advent calendars are very expensive and harder to justify although I think the value is there.

So maybe you’ve thought of getting a non Lego building block calendar instead…

A Block Tech Christmas advent calendar

I wasn’t really planning to try something different, but the Block Tech calendar cost me $10 at Kmart, and I’ve taken a sneak peek (for days 1, 2 and 3) to see how it compares to the Lego advent calendars.

box for the Block Tech Advent Calendar (decorations)

It wasn’t quite as I expected, but the key points I noted were:

  • Block Tech has no fold out scene to lay pieces on – but to be fair, it is not meant to be a set to create a story but decorations for a Christmas tree (not that I read that on the box before I started opening flaps, oops!) It does however include some string within the box to help you hang the created pieces as decorations
  • it was harder to open the flaps then for the Lego boxes, and more likely to end up with torn flaps.
  • day one flap open on teh Block Tech advent calendar

  • unlike Lego’s advent calendars, there were no instructions on the flaps – but I eventually figured out that if you open the box, there are instructions on a separate sheet of paper (handy to keep and use to make decorations again next year)
  • The instruction sheet is colourful, organised and easy to follow.
  • there were fewer pieces each day (compared to the average number of Lego advent calendar pieces)
  • PIeces from days one and two of teh Block Tech Advent Calendar

  • once made, the pieces don’t look as solid or rigid as Lego nor as tightly fitted
  • Block Tech advent calendar decorations for days one to three

  • it is completely compatible with Lego – I have seen some nasty plastic blocks sets that claim to be compatible but really weren’t – these truly click in place with Lego so can be part of the general Lego collection after Christmas
  • Block Tech Christmas pieces on a Lego plate

    Three Block Tech decorations on a pink Lego plate

 
Of course, my children haven’t seen this advent calendar yet so I can’t give you their opinions…

So which one to get this Christmas?

I don’t think there is a simple answer to that question, sorry!

Lego is definitely better quality and a higher price.

Block Tech is a little different as it provides Christmas decorations so each day something new can be added to the Christmas tree (whether the main tree or a special tree just for these decorations).

There is only one Block Tech version, whereas Lego has three versions (City, Friends and Star Wars) so depending on how many sets you want for your children this could be a deciding factor.

Lego has a greater resale value – that is, Lego stays good for a long time and can be sold down the track if you want to reduce the toys in the house.

Personally, I have to say that the Lego advent calendars are the better value but the novelty of making decorations is where Block Tech stands out for me.

And then there’s the Graifx Block Tech advent calendar that is based on a story set – it is nearly twice the price of a Lego advent calendar!

Which one better suits your needs?

 

Types of advent calendars

In the past, my kids have had those commercial cardboard advent calendars with cheap and nasty chocolate inside. I’ve always wanted to do something better but it gets to 1 December and I haven’t set anything up so back we go to the easy but meaningless commercial stuff.

Advent calendar graphic

twenty-four surprises is the fun of an advent calendar!

There’s still a good chance I won’t do better this year but at least I’m thinking about it ahead of usual…

I know you can put chocolates in envelopes (one for each day) or stick little bags on a page instead, but I want a little more exciting than that. I’ve heard of good ideas in the past but nothing is coming back when I need it to. So what advent calendar ideas do you have? Which ones have worked well?

 

 *Image courtesy of iguanasbear, 123rf 

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