Pines And Needles:The Only Way To Pick Your Christmas Tree

I have always had an artificial tree until last year when Pines And Needles changed my way of thinking and now I am real trees all the way.

The colour, the smell and the chance to make the whole process a real family tradition has me hooked and Pines And Needles make this such a fun and easy experience that I would challenge anyone to go back to an artificial tree once they have bought from them.

They offer a huge range of services from going along to one of their pop up stores that cover many areas of London and taking it home yourself to the complete package of having your tree selected for you, delivered to your door and even decorated for you.

We are off to one of their Treetorial events in Wimbledon next week that are taking place all over London where we can spend the afternoon getting into the festive spirit and choosing our perfect tree.

If this sounds like something that would interest you then take a look at their dates ‘here’.

I also have a special code that will give you 5% off any tree purchase when you mention JOYOF5.

Little Lambs Softplay – New Location And Better Than Ever

Setting up a business whilst being a busy Mum is something that is no mean feat and something many of us would shy away from for many reasons.

It takes drive, determination and passion to keep going and I am in awe of anybody that bites the bullet and makes their hopes and dreams a reality.

This is exactly what Sophie the owner of Little Lambs Softplay in Coulson has done and I have absolutely loved watching her journey and how far she has come in a few short years.

From a small area in a cricket clubhouse Sophie then moved her business onto a bigger and better premise inside a very popular shopping centre in Sutton that was a huge success, so much so that she then had the opportunity to grow even more allowing her to open the new premise she is in today in Coulsdon town centre.

I went along with Oscar to check out everything that is now on offer and we were both more than pleasantly surprised.

The softplay area is extremely spacious with slides, ball pits, ride-ons and lots more to keep little ones up to the age of 6 occupied.

On the same level there is plentiful seating from tabled areas to a cosy corner away from the noise that would be perfect to fed babies or simply pick up a book a relax if it all gets a little to much.

One thing that has always drawn me to Little Lambs is the food. Softplay areas are not usually renowned for the best food but they have really got this down to a tee here.

From indulgent waffles covered with cream and all sorts of goodies to at the healthier options of jacket potatoes that follow Slimming World guidelines, there is something for everyone.

I settled down with a warm croissant and a creamy coffee while Oscar opted for the fully loaded hot chocolate.

My head was turned more than a few time though with the scrummy looking Oreo milkshake and festive late complete with a mini mince pie.

Full up and worn out from all the running around we made our way upstairs to the role play area that I absolutely fell in love with.

The children can get dressed up in a huge variety of different costumes, take to the stage and become a mini popstar, get cooking in the kitchen area or do a spot of shopping in the supermarket or finally become a builder in the construction area complete with a cement mixer, bricks and safety equipment.

Little Lambs really do have everything you could want and more from a Softplay and more.The usual equipment to allow the children to build confidence, agility and let of some steam; good food to keep you all fuelled and an interactive area to allow you to really engage with your little ones whilst growing their imaginations.

This has certainly gone on our list of favourite places to visit and we will definitely be regulars from here on in.

*collaborated post

Home Of Black Friday Pop-Up Experience With Amazon

Christmas is well on the way now and for many of us the worry of being able to get everyone their much longed for gifts is something that is hard to deal with.

Christmas is a truly magical time of year but the pressures of financing everything can make this happy time dampened by the pressure.

There are however ways around this with Black Friday being one of the best ways to save a fortune in the run up to Christmas.

Amazon are streets ahead when it comes to Black Friday and have taken things a step further this year with a super quirky pop-up experience in the heart of Soho Square to celebrate.

I was lucky enough to be invited along to the launch last night where we got the chance to see what is going to be on offer and listen to the thoughts behind Black Friday from retail expert – Clare Bailey.

Claire was explaining that for most of us over the years we have realised that giving money is a better option of gifting as the January sales start the minute Christmas finishes and all those gifts we have spend our hard earned money on are dramatically reduced.

However there is no thought or love behind gifting people with cash so being able to make huge savings before christmas is a great way to allow people to enjoy giving an actual gift.

The pop-up shop is a way of showcasing over 100 curated Black Friday deals with the addition of being able to try out games in their super cool games room, take part in games for your chance to win some great prizes and partake in workshops from Amazon Handmade Artisans, YouTube stars and TV chefs.

I had a wonderful evening meeting talented sellers from Amazon Marketplace such as the lovely Lavinia the owner of Lavolio who makes delicious and beautifully packaged handmade chocolates. And the guys behind Cozy Glow candles that would certainly give that well know candle male a run for their money!

They have such passion for their brand which makes their products so much more appealing.

One room in the shop was set up like a beauty salon where I was treated to a hair makeover from GHD and tried out some fabulously vibrant Max Factor lipstick that lasts for an amazing 24 hours.

The shop is open from 12.30-7.30 from Tuesday 21st November until Friday 24th November and is certainly worth a trip for a fantastically interactive shopping experience and some fantastic bargains.

We All Deserve A Body That Works:MUTU Embrace Workshop

“We all deserve a body that works” these are the wise words from the creator of MuTu System Wendy Powell who has put together a complete body makeover program to help Mums fell better about themselves.

I was lucky enough to be invited along to meet Wendy and spend the morning taking with a group of lovely mummy bloggers about body confidence and trying out a few components from the MuTu System.

The morning kicked off with a screening of the documents movie – Embrace. The movie was made off the back of two before and after photos that were posted by Taryn Brumfitt an Australian mother of three that took social media by storm.

The buzz around these photos was so great due to the fact that Taryn flipped the usual before and after images on their head by showing her honed, bikini competition ready body as the before picture and her softer, heavier picture as here after photo.

The huge media attention from this created such an impact on Taryn that she took off on a round the world expedition to see how woman from of all different ages, cultures and backgrounds feel about their bodies and the results were pretty amazing.

It was a moving, heartfelt and thought provoking movie that really made me think about the way the over 90% with me falling into this category are in fact ‘highly dissatisfied’ with their bodies.

Thinking about the way I perceive my own body I would certainly say that I have a huge amount of hangups and these actually go back to well before my child bearing years.

After childbirth I have gained and lost a lot of weight and really lead a very yo-yo style of dieting and exercising for the past 20 years and have forged a very unhealthy relationship with both of them that I have battled with for a long time.

I am a very all or nothing person and really want to find a balance of healthy, not restrictive eating that can go hand in hand with an exercise plan that is flexible and sustainable.

This is where I was pleasantly surprised what MuTu has to offer as it fits this criteria perfectly.

Simple exercises and easy to follow diet guidelines to fix your body from the inside as well as the outside.

This is where Wendy’s phrase ‘we all deserve a body that works’ really comes into play.

So much emphasis is put on looking good that we tend to neglect the issues that can appear after childbirth such and rather than take the time to fix this we just put up with it.

Carrying and naturally giving birth to five children has certainly taken its toll on my body and after a few pretty unsuccessful trips to my GP who simply handed me a pelvic floor exercise sheet and told me to get on with it, it is by far one of the most important things for me to rectify but I have never made it a priority.

Pantyliners are now just an everyday habit when in reality I shouldn’t have to go day to day with these worries when there are resources out there to help us women to live worry free lives and enjoy time with our family without worrying about any embarrassing leakage.

During our workshop Wendy showed us some simple moves that can be carried out pretty much anywhere with the use of very little equipment and time but could have a huge impact on your day to day life.

Armed with all this information, my MuTu kitbag and bundles of inspiration I headed home to embark on the 12 week program that aims to help you lose your Mum Tum, heal your core and pelvic floor and give you confidence from the inside and out.

The course is easily accessed online where there are simple to follow videos, week by week plans and a food ideas to help you along the way.

I am currently four days in and have already been feeling the benefits.

I’ve not been hungry or felt the exercises were a hinderance to fit in around daily life, in fact I have a new found energy and am hungry to see what each new week will bring.

I will keep you up to date with my progress and will report back here after my 12 weeks are up so wish me luck!

*collaborated post

Creating A Sleep Haven

A chair covered in clothes from rushing around in the morning, crumpled bedsheets from the kids using the bed as a trampoline, a dressing table that resembles more of a children’s play area than a place to beatify yourself.

Does this sound familiar to you? This is indeed how my bedroom looks 90% of the time and is a far cry from the peaceful haven I have always wanted to create.

I have now finally…well most of the time managed to reclaim my bed from the night time bed invaders and really want to have a place I can retire to where I can relax and collect my thoughts after a long day.

There are a few things that I am going to change to make it a place I want to spend time in rather than avoid.

Declutter: Clutter is one of the biggest causes of restlessness and I can fully understand how lying in bed worrying about the piles of clothes and dirty washing can contribute to a restless night.

Organising the wardrobe, getting unwanted items listed on EBay and banishing the washing to another room are all great ways to make it a tidier and more restful area.

Calming Colours: It is a well known fact that the brain reacts to different colours in different ways so choosing relaxing and tranquil colours such as green or blue are the perfect way to keep stimulation to a minimum.

Lighting: The harsh light that is created from the main bedroom light isn’t condusive to staying relaxed. Use subtle lighting from bedside lamps and dimmers to create a calm environment.

Also keep out the harsh morning sun with good quality blinds such a those from Roof Windows to allow those much needed lay-ins, if the children allow!

Smells: Allow the use of all your scences to come into play and fill the room with beautiful,relaxing scents.

Lavender is a perfect scent to add relaxation and this can come in the form of scented candles, air fresheners and dried lavender itself.

Bedrooms Are For Sleep: This is probably the thing I find the hardest to obide by.

Switching off from screen time, banning exercising or any other stimulating activity in the bedroom is a must…well within reason!

Get Cosy: Finally add as much cosiness as you can with scatter cushions, throws, comfortable bedding. Really anything that is going to make you feel cosy.

I’m going to put all of these tips into practice and hope that my little haven can be created and create a more restful nights sleep.

Great Christmas Days Out In And Around Surrey

For those of you that know me you will know my huge love for Christmas, but it’s not actually the day itself that gives me the most pleasure but more the weeks leading up to the main festivities.

It can be a little overwhelming with so many things to see and do so I have compiled a list of my favourites, plus a few that are on my wishlist.

Lapland UK: This to me has to be the ultimate christmas experience and one that we are lucky enough to be experiencing this year.

Lapland UK is based in Ascot and is a complete snow covered village that allows you to spend time with the elves baking, writing letters to Father Christmas, ice skating and of course meeting the big man himself.

Chessington World Of Adventure: With a trip to Chessington World Of Adventure Winters Tale not only will you get the chance to visit Santa his magical grotto you can also have fun with the Grufflo on his fabulous river ride, decorate festive treats in the Gruffalo Kitchen and enjoy a wintery tale with The Gruffalo’s Child.

There will also be selected family friendly rides open and of course the Zoo and Sea Life Centre to explore while you are there.

Painshill Park: This is one of our favourite place to visit Father Christmas and due to its popularity gets booked up extremely quickly.

At Painshill Park children get to meet Father Christmas in his magical crystal grotto to receive a gift whilst the parents can eat a warm minced pie and sip a glass of mulled wine.

National Trust Properties: Our favourite National Trust properties to visit are Polsden Lacey, Chartwell and Morden Hall over the christmas period.

They offer Father Christmas visits, crafts, trails and christmas markets all at really reasonable prices and incorporate the great outdoors which is always a bonus.

Kew Gardens: The after dark festive trail at Kew is absolutely magical. Thousands of lights cover the grounds and buildings and put on a truly magical show.

There is the chance to visit Santa, have a ride on some of the vintage fairground rides and sample some amazing street eats.

Hever Castle: I have only heard great things about Hever’s Christmas event and we are going along to visit in a few weeks time.

The castle comes alive with beautiful decoration, there is a trail to follow, Father Christmas drop-ins, craft workshops, hug a husky, and a vintage fairground.

Disney On Ice: This is one that I am really looking forward to this year. With all the magic that comes with Disney brought together in a combination of all your favourites on ice.

Winter Wonderland: From 1-100 there is something for the whole family at Winter Wonderland. Ice skating, christmas markets, Santa Land, Cinderella On Ice, a giant big wheel, the Sooty christmas show and Zippos Circus are just a few of the attractions on offer at Hyde Park this year and it is well worth a visit.

Bocketts Farm: Bocketts is my favourite farm at any time of year and Christmas makes it all that more special.

With a visit to Father Christmas in a traditional hay barn workshop this is a really lovely experience.

RHS Garden Wisley: Wisley has been on my radar for a long time now as it sounds like they do Christmas pretty well.

Their ‘Christmas Glow’ illuminated trail brings the gardens to life with illuminated trees and dramatic installations.

There is also the chance to visit Santa, sing with Mrs Claus and decorate gingerbread.

The Snowman: This wonderful adaptation of the famous Raymond Briggs classic The Snowman brought a tear to my eye and was the absolute epitome of Christmas to me.

The stage comes to life with story telling, dancing and the most wonderful sets and the two hour show managed to keep even my wriggly bottomed little ones captivated.

Winterville: Winterville is an event new to Clapham this year and is billed as London’s alternative festive experience.

They are bringing all the fun to South London with activities such as plonk golf, ice skating, roller disco, Backyard Cinema and much, much more.

Southbank: Warm spiced cider, festive bites and gifts galore will all be on offer at Southbank this year.

Its a lovely way to spend a few hours walking along the river and taking in all the sights that London has to offer.

Knights Garden Centre, Woldingham: Breakfast with Santa at Knights is always one of the highlights of my little ones Christmas and something my husband and I love too as it allows us to sit and have a delicious cooked breakfast whilst Santa comes round and greets the children with a special gift. There is also a sneaky visit from his reindeers too!

Tulleys Farm:Tulleys know how to put on an event and Christmas is by no means an exemption.

Reindeer food making, an elves magical forest, build a bear, sleigh rides, puppet shows are just a few of the activities they have on offer.

Hobbledown: Hobbledown has brought us back year after year for their toddler lunch with Santa.

The children get a chance to let of some steam in the soft play area before decorating biscuits, eating lunch and meeting the big man himself in a super cute barn that is just the perfect location.

I hope this list has given you a little inspiration for this years celebrations and I would love to know if you have any other places that would be good for me to add.

PlayStation Family Showcase

Gaming is something that has never really grabbed my attention for any length of time and aside from playing Packman and Tetris when I was younger I have never really given it a lot of thought.

This however is the complete opposite for my eldest son who is an avid gamer and in fact has been trying to convince me for the last two years that gaming is a viable career and a path that he really wants to follow.

With this in mind when I got the invitation to Playstation’s Family Showcase I was hoping that they would open my eyes to something I know very little about.

Walking into the event at the cool and quirky Perseverance Works in East London the boys eyes lit up and neither of them new where to start first.

The whole area was set out into different sections with a huge variety of games to try your hand at, plenty of refreshments to keep you refulled and if you fancied a bit of a break from the screen time then there were lots of crafts to keep you busy and some yummy cupcakes to decorate with lovely Cookie Girl.

The boys quickly found the NBA 2K17 basketball game and sat together playing whist I grabbed a coffee and chatted to the hilarious Ellie from ‘Scummy Mummies’ who was there to host the event.

Archie seemed to quickly find his favourite games FIFA17 and the super cool Gran Truismo and settled down to challenge the experts that were walking round to help out with any tech questions…there were more than a few from me!

Frankie however was overwhelmed with the choice and flitted backwards and forwards between games such a the fabulous new Lego Ninago Movie game that really bought one of his favourite movies alive in front of his eyes, Marvel Superheroes that went down a treat as he got to play some of his favourite superheroes and Crash Bandicoot which was in fact one of the first games I ever bought Archie.

There were even two fantastic games – That’s You and Knowledge Of Powergames that allow the whole family play together with the use your smart phones or tablets to answer questions and really interact together that would make the perfect alternative to the usual board games this christmas!

Watching the boys play together and make new friends by joining up and using the two player option on the games really made me see gaming in a different light. I had always seen it as a solitary pastime that kept them very isolated when in fact games can help team building skills, make healthy competition and create social skills. All of these things I had never really considered before.

I think the boys christmas lists have certainly grown since this event and I would definitely advise any of you to check out some of the games I’ve mentioned as they would make super gifts for any gamers out there.