Alice In Wonderland At Hever Castle

[PRESS EVENT] If I was ever asked to depict a traditional Christmas then Hever Castle would be it for me. We have just had our fourth Christmas visit and it is still as spellbinding and breathtaking as our first trip.

Fairy lights covering the pathways, lights illuminating the vast lake and snow dipped trees tucked away made for an amazing start to our visit.

Already full of the spirit of Christmas we headed towards the castle where we got to sip hot chocolates and mulled wine, feast on mince pies and cookies whilst taking in the splendour of the beautifully decorated rooms.

Warm and toasty we headed back out into the grounds and had some fun on the carousel and the magic hall of mirrors. The children and adults alike where all smiles throughout.

Next up we headed to see the main man himself. We were a little early so the friendly elves set the boys down to writing their wish lists to Father Christmas that they could then seal and place in the letter box which was a lovely touch.

Before we knew it we were being guided through the snowy paths by more friendly elves who chatted about all the things they had been up to before passing us over to Father Christmas who was nestled away in his cute wooden cabin.

He chatted away to the children for some time and was extremely warm and welcoming. After a little pep talk on being good…which was most welcome they all received a lovely gift and we headed out to finish the evening with the Alice In Wonderland trail.

This is always one of my favourite parts of the evening and this year was one of my favourite themes. The actors were as elaborate and engaging as ever and the decorations were a wonder to see, although Oscar found a few a little spooky this year.

The beauty of Hever’s Christmas attraction is that tickets are not needed to be booked in advance for everything so there is the opportunity to enjoy this right up until Christmas Eve.

The Best Christmas Markets In The UK

[AD] If you are looking for something fun to do in the run up to Christmas with the kids then you should certainly consider taking them to a Christmas market. It is hard not to get caught up in the excitement and magic at these events and it’s also a good way to stock up before the holidays, but a few presents and enjoy some time in the UK’s best cities.

You are spoilt for choice when it come to Christmas markets in the UK and here are some of the best:

Winchester – Winchester is one of the UK’s prettiest and most historic cities which makes it a superb place for a Christmas market. Taking place with the stunning Winchester Cathedral as it’s backdrop, the Christmas market here is always great fun with a magical atmosphere. There are over 100 chalets selling all kinds of festive goods. Simple walking around the town and seeing the sights is also a lovely experience and sure to get you in the mood for Christmas.

Bath – Another beautiful city, the Bath Christmas market has over 150 chalets selling all kinds of homeware, decorations, jewellery and much more so you are sure to find a few things for the holiday there. The market takes place in the postcard-esque streets surrounding the Roman Baths and Bath Abbey for another scenic setting.

Birmingham – The biggest Christmas market outside of Germany and Austria, the Birmingham Christmas market of the place to be of you like delicious treats such as schnitzel, bratwursts and gluhwein, and it’s easy to get into the mood of Christmas with love music and carol singing. There are 80+ stalls to pursue, selling all kinds kinds of traditional and personalised items too.

Edinburgh – The Edinburgh Christmas market is found in the heart of the picturesque Scottish city with something for everyone, including jewellery, delicious snacks, festive beverages and more. It can also be easily reached from neighbouring Glasgow with a train from Queen Street to Edinburgh.

These are just a few of the best Christmas markets to choose from, all of which have their own distinctive characteristics and highlights. These markets will certainly get the family in the mood for the holidays and give you the chance to get some supplies.

Get Ready For Christmas With These Handy Tips

[AD] Christmas is creeping up on us quickly and before we know it we’ll be pulling crackers and tucking into our dinner.

But before that comes a lot of planning. Have you started to prepare yet?

As we approach the festive season we often overstretch ourselves and tend to start feeling stressed – especially if we know we are welcoming guests.

However by getting organised early you can ensure that you and your family have a magical, memorable Christmas to be enjoyed by all! So what can be done to ensure you feel ready and excited this Christmas?

Budget In The Months Leading Up To Christmas – Although it would be amazing to have a no expense spared Christmas, unfortunately that’s unrealistic for a lot of us, especially when your family had five children! Minimise the risk of of falling behind money wise or getting into debt in the run up to Christmas by budgeting for it early on.

Whilst not many of us want to think about Christmas Day in October, by beginning to purchase some presents this early on you will be able to spread costs nicely throughout the months.

Enjoy Family Activities Together – As the temperatures begin to drop there is nothing better than getting snug with the kids and watching Christmas films.

Before watching Elf for the tenth time research some recipes for gingerbread houses and once you are ready pop the film on and get decorating with your children. It’s a great way to spend some family time.

Decorate The House – If you have got guests coming over for Christmas dinner this year you may want to make home feel even more Christmassy than usual. Ensure that your house is picture perfect ready by picking some gorgeous Christmas lighting and cute decorations – they’ll not only make you feel more festive, but your guests will appreciate all the effort you’ve gone too.

Put Time In Your Calendar To Visit Family And Friends Further Afield – With family often spread across the country it can sometimes prove difficult having everyone in one place over the Christmas period. If you have presents that you need to drop off make sure you schedule your visits early on so that you have time to see everyone.

By following these handy tips you will be ready for Christmas without the unnecessary stress.

A New Adventure At Hever Castle

[GIFTED] Hever Castle has been one of our favourite places to go over the Christmas period, but for some reason until the other week we had never visited during the summer so I was very excited to see what it would hold at this time of year.

We arrived in the blistering heat with some friends and I was amazed at how stunning the gardens were in full bloom and as always the boys loved running off through each and every pathway that connects them.

We had a pretty swift walk as the children were eager to get to the new adventure playground that was a new addition to us.

As we arrived the mixture of wood and sand immediately appealed to me and the children took off within seconds to explore.

There was a huge sandpit with areas to climb and hide and in and as we walked through we discovered rope bridges, slides and a huge castle at the top which the boys absolutely loved.

Mine tend to get itchy feet pretty much anywhere we go and I was asked we spent a whole three hours there without a moan or groan…well aside from a couple of sand throwing incidents!

There is a coffee hut inside the play area which allowed me to have a natter over a drink whilst the children played.

We filled up on ice cream at the main cafe before heading into the maze which is always a big hit.

Next up was the water maze which again isn’t something we have had the pleasure of enjoying before.

It was so much prettier than I was expecting and was formed of a huge rock formation covered in foliage with pathways running around the outside with water squirting out at different times to surprise the children.

I wasn’t prepared so my lot went in fully clothed but I think that was half the fun!

Our last port of call of the day was to take a look out over the lake and to make some wishes in the fountain.

I love the serenity of this area and a row in one of the boats in on our list for our next visit.

Hever really does cater for all ages and because of this it is one of my favourite places for a day out with the whole family. There is action and adventure for the kids whist the chance for the adults to take in the beauty and the amazing history the whole place is steeped in.

There is always something new to see and experience and a whole activities that run throughout the year such as the Knights And Princesses School that is running right now.

A trip here would make the perfect treat to end the summer with.

Our January…

Last year I started a series called “Celebrating The Small Things” were every week I would do a round up of all the little things I had to be thankful for such as one of the children learning to tie there shoes or the excitement of seeing the first flowers of spring.

Being the unorganised and scatty person that I am, committing to getting this done every week all got to much but I still wanted to keep something going this year so I’ve switched things up about with a round up style post of our month and I hope you like what you see.

We kicked the year off in a pretty amazing way with a visit to Center Parcs. This is by far one of our favourite places to get away too but the price isn’t always to attractive. We managed to get a great deal and had a few days to relax, try out some new activities, swim to our hearts content and eat our body weight in pancakes.

After a pretty hectic Christmas and a trip away we decided the rest of the holiday should be dedicated to relaxing, recouping and enjoying our new home. I am always on the look out for the next thing to do and after a discussion with the kids we decided this year would be the year to take things at a slower pace and enjoy things like movies nights and playing board games instead of always being out chasing a new adventure.

I’m truth if was Frankie that really made me feel terrible about the amount of time we spend out as he informed me he never gets a chance to just go to the park and ride his bike as I’ve always planned something. I know you mum guilt hits you all the time but I really felt terrible at the fact I must have been putting so much pressure on them.

It was Frankie’s birthday at the beginning of the month and we celebrated him turning seven with a his first day back a school which didn’t go down to well and a steak dinner. Next year it’s my mission to not let the December and January birthdays go so unnoticed.

I jumped on the keep fit bandwagon with the majority of people and got myself back into David Lloyd more regularly again. The weight had certainly piled on again over Christmas and I was eager to hit those goals again this year.

After a bit of a nightmare with going backwards and forwards to hospital and orthodontist visits, both Izzy and Archie are finally on their way to getting perfect teeth after having their braces fitted.

I’m sure most of you feel the same and get pretty bored of the same old meals everyday. I was as bored of cooking them as the kids were of eating them so I dusted off the cookbooks and tried some things I’ve never had before. All I can say is move over Wagamama as I can now cook a pretty mean katsu curry!

I’ve been adding a few pieces to the house to put our own stamp on it, but with things being a little tight I have been trying to my good friends EBay and the bargain corner at IKEA and found some great pieces. It always makes me feel happier to know I’ve got a bargain.

We rounded the month off with our first event of the year and it was a good one to say the least. We headed to Islington for the release of How To Train Your Dragon. Not only was it an amazing movie they you all need to see but the interactive event was amazing and the boys literally felt like they had been transporting the Isle Of Berk.

Lapland UK – Creating Traditions

The moment the boys clapped eyes on the familiar little box from the end of the hallway they immediately knew that it was a gift from Father Christmas inviting them to Lapland UK. The mere sight of it had filled them with joy and they hurriedly opened the box that had been pre chilled by me as it had come from the cold climbs of Lapland UK. The pretty wax seals were delicately opened and I was over the moon that Frankie could read his invite this year which really added to the magic.

For me when it comes to Christmas there is nothing as special as having traditions that you can create year after year and through the familiarity bring something a little bit special to this magical time of year. For instance a trip to the farm with a pit stop at the pub has been something we have done on Christmas Eve for many years and making our own mince pies to leave for Father Christmas is a lovely thing to do each and every year and I hope that these little things will be passed down to my grandchildren.

I’m sure that a visit to Father Christmas is always on the list for most people and after speaking to friends this can also be the point in which a lot of children begin to question the authenticity of Father Christmas.

‘Why did he have blue eyes this year Mummy?’, ‘Why does his house look different this year?’. These are all little questions that come into inquisitive little minds and if  like me you want to keep the magic alive for as long as possible then visit that brings you the same wonder, with familiar surroundings and of course the most authentic Father Christmas you are ever going to see then Lapland UK will never be topped.

After last years visit where I was brought to tears and Frankie left exclaiming he had seen ‘the real’ Father Christmas I knew that this was an experience that would never be topped and one that would keep the magic alive for years to come.

Last year we visited in the daytime and I thought it would be good to see Lapland UK in all its glory when it was dark and the christmas lights were at their best. We pulled into the carpark and there were squeals of delight from the back of the car – even from Izzy who is a non believer now.

We headed towards the entrance and picked up our passports and Jingles (Lapland UK currency). Its these little touches that really make you feel you have been transported to somewhere else.

It wasn’t long before we were greeted by the friendly elves and their special ‘elf wave’ that the children had remembered from last year and before we new it we had started out journey. We all loved listening to the story of Lapland UK and hearing what was going to be expected from us all on our adventure.

We then headed off in our teams which are either team reindeer or team husky through the huge wooden doors that unveiled a snowy winer wonderland that really is something to behold.

The children hurried onto the Toy Factory while I took it at a slower pace to enjoy the amazing detail that goes into everything. No stone is left unturned when it come to detail here, they really do get everything just right. When we arrived at the Toy Factory the small folk, as the children are referred to at Lapland UK head in through the super cute little door and take to their seats, whilst the big folk later around the sides leaving the children to feel extra special by stating the task on their own. Ordinarily in situations like this Frankie is terrible and clinging to me and nine times out of ten will refuse to join in. It is however a completely different story here and he is more than happy to get stuck in and they all throughly enjoyed stuffing their toy penguin that is then left at the factory to give to little girls and boys on Christmas Eve.

From here we headed to Mother Christmas’s Kitchen where we were treated to a story from Mother Christmas who is as warm and loving as you would imagine and then they set to decoding their gingerbread men that Oscar and Izzy demolished in seconds, whilst Frankie packed his away to give to Father Christmas on Christmas Eve.

The small folks work was now done and we were given some time to explore the village which was even more spectacular in the dark. The snow cover trees and colourful lights set the most amazing atmosphere for us to take to the ice, grab a bite to eat and dose shopping.

I am not a fan of ice skating at all and the fact that they offer special attachments for the little ones shoes makes me so happy. The can then skate with ease so I can concentrate on keeping myself up right! All of that skating calls for something to warm you up and I have it from my little babychinno expect that Lapland UK offer the best babychinno he has ever had.

The bauble shop is always one of my favourite places and somewhere you can get a lovely momento of your trip. The children adore the toy shop which had changed around slightly this year and to me offered some amazing toys that were very reminiscent of Santa Claus The Movie and brought back some lovely memories for me.

The children love to select some goodies from the sweet shop where there is just to much to choose from and again a lovely place to pick up a little treat…or two!

It was now time to see the main attraction – Father Christmas, so we made our way along the snow cover path looking at the little eves homes and stopping to greet the reindeer on our way. One of the highlights for the boys last year was definitely making some reindeer food to take home and they were very excited to do this again whilst also keeping an eye out for all their favourite reindeers.

Our last stop was nearly upon us and after a very short wait we were taken by a very excitable elf to see Father Christmas. The children sat on the little bench outside full of excitement and anticipation and butterflies filled my tummy at the thought of seeing their little faces one we were inside.

Father Christmas was exactly as we had remembered him, the children were grinning from ear to ear and yet again aa tear came to my eye as he spoke about thing the children had been up to and wether or not they had made it onto the good list this year.

All as pleased as punch they had made it onto the list they received a gorgeous golden bell and cuddly husky, but I think above anything that little bit of time spent with the ‘real’ Father Christmas again is what made our trip.

Yet again Lapland UK gave us an afternoon of magic and winer that we will never forget and something that doesn’t easily get forgotten about once you get back home. The love they have for their huskies is there all year and they come on many a day out with us and being able to scatter the reindeer food and putting the gingerbread man out for Father Christmas on Christmas Eve means that a trip to Lapland UK really is a gift that keeps on giving and one we will never forget.

* We were invited along to Lapland UK for the purpose of this review and they are all my own honest opinions.

Back On Track With David Lloyd Purley

Today hurt, it pushed me to my limits, it made me want to just give up but I didn’t. Today was my first day back in to David Lloyd – Purley since before Christmas and although each and every minute in that spin class pushed me to breaking point I got through it, enjoyed it and it has given me that much needed motivation to keep going.

I know at the moment their is a huge buzz around accepting our bodies for the way they are but this is something that doesn’t sit well with me. I have always been taught to strive to be the best I can when it comes to things such as work and parenting so why shouldn’t this be the same for the way my body looks and feels. Yes my body has carried five babies and age is no longer on my side but that is no excuse to neglect the body that has done so much for me and why shouldn’t I strive to get it looking and feeling the best way it possibly can. I know its not going to be easy and since I first started back on my fitness journey last year I have both good and bad moments but I have learnt from both.

Over the last few months I was utillising the gyms fantastic kids clubs and cafe area to catch up on work rather than for looking after myself and my own well being and although it was fantastic for allowing me to hit targets with work it meant that my fitness and weightloss were suffering. Im using this New Year to get things back on track, manage my time better and smash those goals and I hope you will join me on my journey!

  • We have been given a family membership for the purpose of these posts.

Pines And Needles – A Family Tradition

When it comes to Christmas I’m sure that for many of you traditions are something that come hand in hand with this special time of year. From preparing the mince pie and milk for Santa to visiting the big man himself our family have a whole host of traditions that we added to with Pines and Needles a couple of years ago now.

Just before Christmas I told you all about the benefits of getting a tree from this amazing company from being able to select your tree from the comfort of your own home, the ease of it being delivered straight to your front door and even the option to have it completely set up and decorated for you.

For us though the decorating part is one of our traditions and as soon as the children came in and saw our grand tree in situ they wanted to get their hands on it and begin the decorating.

The 7ft beauty smelt as good as it looked and we all had such fun adorning each branch with our favourite decorations, even if getting the angel on top was a bit of a struggle!

One worry with real trees is that they won’t last the distance but ours is still going strong and will defiantly still be a focal point for our New Years Eve celebrations.

We really couldn’t recommend the Pines and Needles trees enough and I assure you if you get you order in for next year you won’t be disappointed.

* We were gifted this tree in return for this review and they are all my own, honest opinions.

Get Ready To Sparkle With JD Williams This Christmas

For anyone the knows me I need no excuse to get the sparkles out and at this time of year  it is of course completely acceptable to wear sequins from head to toe all day long…isn’t it?

However if you are a little more subdued than me Christmas really is the perfect time to sparkle. There are more ways then you may think to wear sequins, with party dresses coming top of my list. I have a few ways in wish to wear then below so check them out as I can guarantee there will be something to suit everyone.

Shirt Dresses – For me this is a really versatile way to wear a lot of sparkle. You can go all out and wear the dress along with a pair of killer heels or wear over a pair of jeans and pumps to dress it down a little. Either way would give you that real wow factor.

Sequin Collars – For those of you that still want a touch of glitz then accessories are the way forward. Anything from a clutch bag to a pair of shoes would give you a little sparkle or even better some sequin detail to the collar of a plain blouse would make an outfit.

All Over Sequin Tops – Dressing up a pair of jeans or some tailored trousers is always a good option for a night out and a colour popping sequin is the perfect way to jazz up what could ordinary be a bit of a bland outfit.

Sparkly Kimono – I love the fluidity of a kimono style dress. This is certainly a dress that speaks for itself and vert little else is needed to make it a standout outfit.

Sparkly Skirts – This season you can’t of helped but notice the hot trend for sequins and chunky knits and this is by far my favourtie way to wear them at the moment. A sequinned midi skirt teamed with pretty much any chunky knit can be worn with traders during the day for a dressy brunch outfit or the heels can be cracked out to give it a head turing evening feel.

I hope this has given you some food for thought for the festive season ahead and I would love to know your favourite take on these outfits.

*collaborated post

Tots To Teens Gift Guide

This year I have decided to bundle all the kids gifts into one as lets face it no one child likes something just because it is aimed at their age or gender so here are a few of my top pics for this christmas from tots to teens and everyone in between.

Matchstick Monkey – These super cute teethers are made of super soft material that has been made into an ergonomically designed teether suitable for each and every teething stage. Matchstick Monkey are the perfect size for little hands to grip and can easily be taken anywhere you wish.

Johnson’s Baby Bedtime Giftset – The gift of sleep is as enjoyable for us as it is the babies and this gorgeous set from Johnson’s comprising of a baby bath, baby wash, baby lotion and baby oil makes for a lovely gift.

Jo Jo Maman Bebe Christmas Dinner Set – This gorgeous set first caught my eye at an event in the summer and I real in love. The wooden set is a complete christmas dinner with a full turkey, pigs in blankets, roast potatoes, broccoli, brussel sprouts, carrots and a delicious looking christmas pudding. I can’t wait for the boys to serve me my own christmas this year!

Robo Chameleon – I think this is going to be my favourite toy this year never mind the kids! This cute portable robot has an illuminated, colour changing body and a tongue that shoots out to catch its food. The remote control allows the chameleon to move in four different directions as well as moves his tail and eyes. He moves around with ease collecting his food and storing in his mouth ready for the next game.

Dash – Coding is a big thing for kids at the moment and Dash the robot is a great way to get kids interested in a super fun way.  This interactive, educational and customisable robot who is able to sense his environment, moves, glows, makes sounds and can even interact with other robots. All of these activities are easy to program for children aged 6+.

Ready2Robot – Ready2Robot is an brilliant battle set offering 10 hidden chambers, 40 battle weapons and 100’s of ways to customise your battles. This is going to keep my boys busy for more than a while this Christmas.

The Original Den Kit – I love being outdoors with the kids and anything that makes them want to explore the great outdoors is a big hit in my book. This brilliant Den Kit from Muddy Puddles provides them with everything they need for a brilliant outdoor adventure.

Inside the green haversack there is everything you need to build the perfect den anywhere you like including a camouflage tarpaulin, waterproof groundsheet, wooden mallet, a mug, a tube of super cool faceprint, a rope, 8 tent pegs and institutions to help you along the way. This really is a present that will keep on giving!

Kids Kanteen Sippy Bottle – If you have children like mine then being asked for a drink is continuous. Having a super cool bottle for themselves is a great way to get them to take charge of their own drink. The Kid Kanteen is designed for children from 6 months and the the stainless steel and sippy lid is the perfect way to get your little ones to start thinking about reusable drinks bottles.

Bundle Beds – In my eyes Bundle Beds are one of the best inventions I have come across for a long time! Instead of pulling out your old sleeping bag and trying to get comfy on the hard floor a Bundle Bed offers a fully self-contained bed complete with a self inflating mattress, built in luxury duvet and pillow in a slimline and easy to store design.

Never before have I had such a good nights sleep in a ‘put up’ bed and it makes for the perfect extra sleeping space for sleepovers, camping or just cosying up in front of the TV.

A Few Minutes Of Design – I love something a little different to the norm and this pack of colourful cards is sure to get those creative juices flowing , allowing you to grow skills in creativity, invention and design.

On each card you will find an activity that lasts for around 15 mins and can be anything from how to name a project to how to say it without words. It is a very different gift that will certainly challenge the little ones and keep the away from the screen this Christmas.

Venom Mini BMX  – Going with our love of the outdoors, this mini BMX from Skates.co.uk is just the thing to get them out and about and exploring. This Venom bike to only looks super cool but also offers high pressure tyres, tappered treadless forks, upgraded CNC dropouts an  brand new colour-way.

It the perfect BMX to get there passion for riding flowing.

Knitty Critters – Crochet is something that has certainly come back into the spotlight over the past few years and I love anything that opens up ways for the children to learn new skills. Geoffrey The Giraffe is perfect for those with intermediate skills and will give your child a real sense of accomplishment once they have finished.

LushLush products have made it into my kid and adult guide this year as I think they span absolute every age. I know they each and everyone of us in this house loves there products and Izzy especially loves to receive one of their gorgeous gift boxes at this time of year.

MiPac Rucksack – A new bag always goes down well in our house for Christmas and you can’t go wrong with one from MiPac. A favourite of mine this year has to be the Tatty Devine collaboration and I know they there are a lot of teens out there that would love to receive this.

Crate Creature Basher Figures And Moj Moj – Two little stocking fillers that come top of my list this year are the Moj Moj cute and squishy collectibles and the mini crate creatures basher figures that come in a little box that can be used as a target.

* I was gifted this products for the purpose of this guide.