The Best Christmas Markets In The UK

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.

*collaborated post

FUNharmonics Family Concert – ZOG

[GIFTED] I think I must have walked past, taken pictures outside and wondered about the Southbank Centre more than a hundred times over the the years but have never ventured inside.

So I was over the moon when we were asked along to a the FUNharmonics family concert of ZOG that was being held there.

The Julia Donaldson, Alex Scheffler classic has been a favourite in our house for many years now and I was intrigued how the London Philharmonic Orchestra were going to execute it.

We arrived to collect our tickets and after getting our bearing we headed to a great area that had been set up with lots of ZOG inspired crafts to keep the little ones busy before the show. this was all included in the price of a ticket and was the perfect way to get them thinking about the story before the main event kicked off.

We took to our seats in the beautiful auditorium and listened to the huge orchestra warming up. The boys loved looking at a whole host of different instruments and had fun trying to guess what each one was called.

It wasn’t long before the performance was underway and I was hugely impressed with how interactive it was. The children got to answer questions to find gold stars that appeared on the big screen, there was singing, dancing and lots of information given on the orchestra in a super fun way that was perfect for the age range of the audience.

For the second part it was time to settle down and watch the super cute Dragon – ZOG.

As the animation was running we were treated to an amazing performance from the London Philharmonic Orchestra that complemented the story perfectly.

The whole concert was far more interactive and educational than I was imagining and adults and children alike throughly enjoyed it, if all of the woops and cheers from the audience were anything to go by.

It really did bring a children’s classic to life and it is something that will remain firmly in our memory banks for many years to come.

The orchestra is turning to Beethoven in February for its next concert – Why Beethoven Threw The Stew and I’m sure it’s going to be as fabulous as ZOG so keep an eye out.

Get Ready For Christmas With These Handy Tips

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.

*collaborated post

Glass Partitioning In The Home

[AD] For a long time now open plan living has been a big thing. The elimination of doors and walls creates an light and airy feel by making all living areas as one.

I love the look of this kind of design but for me the need to escape to a room on my own is far to great, and this is where something such as glass partitioning would make for a happy medium.

Glass partitioning in the past has been something used more readily in shops and office spaces, but it is making its way into the home and I for one am loving what it has to offer. Here are some of the reasons I am so taken with it.

Creates Privacy – One of the problems with open plan living is that there is nowhere to escape to get five minutes to yourself. By using glass partitioning you can section off areas of the house to get that privacy whilst still keeping the light and airy feel.

Making A Statement – I find glass a beautiful feature and when combined with stunning framing it can be a real piece of art and make a big statement in the home.

Letting In The Light – The ability to let in light is probably what I love most about glass partitioning. Doors and wall obviously create this barrier whilst glass allows light to flood through.

Reduces Noise – Having a large family equates to a lot of noise which sometimes is nice to get away from. With glass partitioning you can have these separate areas that allow you to shut out the hustle of bustle without feeling like you are penned in.

Controls Odour – We all know the feeling of going out after you have just cooked and having the small lingering around on your clothes. Well with open plan living this is heightened as there is no way to stop the odours from your food travelling around the whole house. With the glass partitioning this can act as a brilliant barrier to keep all the smells just in the kitchen.

Clearing The Jungle With Fantastic Services

[GIFTED] For those of you that have been following me for a while you may remember when we moved house last year we had a super team of cleaners from Fantastic Services that came in and did a fantastic(this is where they get there name from) job just after we moved in which got us off to a really good start.

Fast forward a year and the inside is nearly complete but the front garden was in need more than a little TLC.

It was becoming overrun with weeds and I had no idea where to start. After slogging away for hours and hours and not reaping any rewards I enlisted the help of Fantastic Services once again.

Many people that I have spoken to aren’t actually aware of everything they have to offer and they really are an all round service covering cleaning, gardening, tradesmen jobs, building, removals, storage, waste removal and even pest control.

Two friendly gardeners turned up to the house and asked specifically what I was looking for and as soon as I had given them an insight into what I wanted they set to work. Digging, cutting back and generally clearing the whole front garden which would enable me to see past the mess and get some inspiration for how it was going to eventually look.

They were only there for two hours and I would never in a million years think they would be able to complete the job, but they tirelessly powered through and complete cleared the area for me as well as getting rid of the rubbish which I know many companies don’t do.

I was just as impressed with the gardening service as I was with the cleaning and I would highly recommend trying out either..or why not both!

If this had appealed to you which I’m sure it will I have a code HERE and using the code joyoffive which will enable you to get £10 off of your first service so what have you got to lose,give them a try.

Learning The Importance Of Friendship With – The Way Home For Wolf

[AD] Being five may seem to us adults a bit of a breeze. I mean you are fed, clothed, watered and the most challenging part of your day is which cereal to have in the morning.

But in reality those first few years are pretty tough as there are all sorts of hurdles to overcome, lots of boundaries you need to work out how and if you should push and just knowing how to fit in with your peers is all pretty tough going when you are so small.

I know for Oscar who has reached the grand old age of five, the determination to do things for himself and his self belief is pretty strong…not sure where he gets that from! So it’s good to try and explain to him that sometimes it takes a team to get through life and it is important to learn to accept help from others, and also be there for other people in your team; and this is the message the lovely new book – The Way Home For Wolf by Rachel Bright and Jim Field is trying to get across.

Rachel and Jim, who are also the creators of The Lion Inside, The Koala Who Could and The Squirrels Who Squabbled, have created a fantastically fun and easy to read picture book that tells the story of the uber confident wolf cub. Wilf is determined to take the lead when his wolf pack move on one cold and dark evening. Despite being told by his elders this wasn’t a good plan he finds himself lost, alone and not knowing what to do until he is found by a whole host of strangers that reach out a helping hand to him and help him find his way back to the safety of his family.

I love to encourage my children to be forthright and fearless, but in reality we all need a hand sometimes and should also always be there to keep an eye out for others needing that little bit of help too.

This is a lovely book that would actually make a fantastic gift for those of you with little ones starting school this year and it had come out just in time for this so go and take a look.

*Disclosure: This review is based on a free sample.

Simple Pleasures At Croyde Bay Holiday Resort

[PRESS TRIP] Holidaying with children of varying ages can be somewhat of a task to say the least. Some want to be building sandcastles and hunting for seashells whilst others want to be hitting the shops exploring theme parks.

It isn’t always easy to cover all these bases and at times it can be a real headache, so I had high hopes that on our visit to Croyde Bay Resort I would be able to keep them all happy!

After a slightly nerve wracking but equally beautiful drive along the coastline of North Devon we arrived at what was going to be our home for the next few days and we couldn’t have been happier with what we found.

After collecting our keys and a little information from the super helpful and very friendly receptionist we were shown to our amazing lodge. We have stayed in similar accommodation to this lots of times before but have never found anything so beautifully designed and as well equipped as this.

The children were overjoyed to see a smart TV and quickly settled down to watch a bit of Netflix whilst I put a load of washing on from our last trip. It really was a home from home and we settled in the minute we arrived.

The whole lodge was extremely spacious with a good sized, open plan living area which had real sofas rather than the usual build in style you often find in this kind of lodge along with a great sized dining table.

Our lodge had three really good sized bedrooms with the main one having an en-suite too alongside the main bathroom which again unusually had a bath rather than just a shower room which is a very welcome addition when you have little ones.

All settled in we went of to explore and our first port of call of course was the beach which was literally a stones throw away from the resort.

We elongated the walk slightly by climbing to the top of the sand dunes and the I sat back and watched the children playfully roll down and run up over and over again. It’s little opportunities like this that allows them to really just be kids that is so important to me.

Croyde Bay was absolutely stunning and it’s rugged coastline lends itself perfectly to rock pooling, surfing and body boarding. We spent a good few hours exploring the bay and were so happy that we had this so close to the resort.

Bellies were rumbling by now so we headed back to freshen up and make our way over to the main hotel where we would be having our evening meal.

I’m not a big fan of on site clubhouses usually but Croyde Bay Resort has a lovely calm, laid back atmosphere with a main restaurant area along with a smaller bar area where we chose to have our evening meal.

The menu offered covered a good variety of dishes for both for adults and children alike with lots of locally sourced products and allergy friendly alternatives which is always so important to us.

I threw thing back to the 80’s with a prawn cocktail which was delicious and followed this with a juicy Exmoor streak and super crispy chips both cooked to perfection.

The children enjoyed a classic with sausage and chips and we all followed this up with super tasty desserts that were a feat for the eyes as well and the mouth.

Unusually I felt super relaxed at the table with the children and we finished off our evening with a couple of board games of which there are a whole host to choose from.

Ordinary I would be rushing through my dinner and hoping that we could get through a meal without them all creating, so it was lovely to be able to kick back, relax and really interact with each other as a family with these games.

We all slept soundly and decided we were going to get out and explore a little before the forecast rain hit, but before that we hit the buffet breakfast which was pretty immense. Again this is an addition to a self catering style holiday that I haven’t experienced before and it was great to have the option to eat out on site if you don’t fancy cooking for yourselves.

There was everything from a full English breakfast to pancakes with syrup, cereals and pastries, fresh fruit and yogurt and so much more.

All of this was easy for the children to access themselves which they loved and again it was a really informal set up which made it a lot more relaxing for me.

Izzy was itching to spend some of her holiday money so we took a trip into the town of Barnstable which had a good range of shops and restaurants, but I was looking for someone a little prettier to get a cream tea as it would be terrible to visit the West Country and not sample one wouldn’t it!

As I child I remember visiting and falling in love with Clovelly and I really wanted the children to experience what a gorgeous place it is. We headed down the super steep cobbled hill passing and petting the donkeys on the way, sampling some old fashioned sweets and of course getting my much wanted cream tea before getting down to the water front.

Devon really does home some amazing places to visit and this is one I’m definitely pleased I ticked of the list for the kids.

We headed back to the resort and whilst the boys played outside with the table football I prepared dinner. There is such a safe feel about this place I was more than happy for the boys to just outside the lodge enjoying their evening and having a little bit of freedom.

The predicted storm hit that evening so we stayed in and struggled up whilst listening to the howling winds and rain outside which I always strangely enjoy.

For our last full day we decided to stay local and make the most of what the resort and surrounding area had to offer so we hit the beach and then made use of the lovely on site swimming pool.

The pool had both a large and smaller pool which was perfect for us as Oscar still isn’t a great swimmer so I could keep an eye on him whilst still enjoying time in the pool with the older two. Throughout our stay the pool always stayed relatively quiet and uncrowned which is always good when you are trying to keep your eye on little ones that have more confidence than skill when it come to the water.

That evening we took a short walk into Croyde itself which I actually wish I had done when we first got there as for such a tiny village it had so much to offer. There was a great selection of independent shops and we struck lucky as there was a pop up event happening and we got to sample some amazing battered trout and chips before having some of the best ice cream I have ever tasted from the ice cream parlour.

Full up but not yet ready for bed we tried out hand at table tennis in the games room before hitting the sack.

We really did have a fantastic few days at Croyde Bay Resort enjoying simple activities and each other’s company in the comfort of the best equipped and homey lodge I have ever stayed in.

The location, the accommodation, the food and the general set up of this resort could not be faulted and it would make the perfect getaway for families of all ages.

We hope to be back very soon!

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.

A Candy Making Masterclass With Spun Candy

[GIFTED] As usual today my sense of direction failed me and we ended up crashing and bashing our way into Spun Candy in East London.

Luckily we were greeted by the lovely Hannah who got us all set and ready to join the rest of the group who were all there to take part in a candy making masterclass.

All set to go and a little more relaxed after a glass of Prosecco was placed in my hand the two bubbly confectioners talked us through the art of making handmade hard and soft rock confectionery.

We were guided through the process of the heating of the sugar, the addition of the colours and flavours and finally the mixing of it all until we finally got to see the final product.

I have watched bits and pieces on the TV before but nothing is like seeing how much thought, care, attention and elbow grease goes into this process.

A huge sticky horn of goodness was created and now it was our turn to get hands on and make our very own lollies.

We were shown a couple of examples to try and were also encouraged to use or own ideas and imaginations to make something that was very much our own labour of love.

There was help every step of the way and I relished in watching the children just go for it and try their best to come up with some amazing creations.

The boys ran back and forth grabby pieces of candy and eagerly asking for help to come up with new ideas and I was super impressed with how well they both did; but I have to say I was pretty taken back by how engrossed the class kept Izzy.

This holiday the teen has certainly been unleashed and I can count on one hand the amount of actives that haven’t caused an eye roll or a deep breath at every moment. Instead she took in all the information, exclaiming it was like a fun science lesson and then really let her creative side out which meant so much to me and was lovely to see.

At the end of the class we all gathered in the shop at the front of the store where there were the most amazing lollies on display…Donald Trump seemed to go down a treat with the boys!

We were all awarded a certificate for our hard work and it was lovely to listen to everyone congratulating each other.

Spun Candy offer a whole host of different masterclass and parties to suit a range of different tastes and after such a great experience today I urge you to take a look as there was so much fun had by all!

A Child Friendly Escape With The Esplanade Hotel

[PRESS TRIP] For me the words ‘hotel’ and ‘child friendly’ are not something that go hand in hand and I almost always opt for self catering with the family as I find it easier to keep the children happy and I don’t have to worry about them all annoying other guests!

However when The Esplanade Hotel asked me to come and stay for a few days I was eager to see how we would all get on.

I haven’t been to Cornwall since I was a child and for a long time I have wanted to return with the children as I knew it was going to be somewhere we would love and I wasn’t wrong.

As soon as we arrived at Fistral Beach the view took my breath away and the children were itching to dip their toes into the inviting sea and as we were a little to early to check in we did just that.

The children ran on ahead with Frankie exclaiming ‘this is the best day of my life’ and it was then I knew that seven hour car journey had been worth it.

Sopping wet, caked in sand and ready to see where we would be staying we took the short walk back to the hotel and this is when my anxiety kicked in.

We were more than a little windswept and I was panicking about walking into the beautiful hotel reception in such a state of disarray, but all those worries were lifted when we were greeted by a warm smile and not a judgmental look in sight; In fact while the receptionist was getting everything sorted my gaze was drawn to a huge trunk with a sign above encouraging the children to borrow buckets and spades and enjoy the beach as well as a board full of children’s activities from pizza making to arts and crafts, doughnut decorating to bingo and a whole host of other things to keep the children entertained.

From this alone I could tell that the hotel was more than child friendly and certainly settled my nerves.

We headed up our room to clean up and I was really surprised at how spacious the room was. There was a huge double bed, a set of bunk beds and a sofa bed in a little anex off of the main room which was perfect to create an area that the older children could use to get a bit of time away from the little ones. This also lead onto a decked area that I enjoyed sitting on in peace watching the sunrise before the children got up!

The room had everything you could need for your stay and included a lovely personal touch of buckets and colouring books with the children’s names embellished on them. My preconceived ideas of a hotel stay being stressful were being quashed at every turn.

All settled in the children were eager to take part in the ‘build a bear’ session which was a really relaxed activity where they got the chance to make a bear of their own whilst making some new friends.

We were all ravenous by now and headed to the restaurant for dinner. We were seated by the window and the view alone was worth eating at The Esplanade. The friendly waitress went through the menu with us and although there was a separate menu for the children they also gave you the option to select anything from the main menu and they would make up a smaller portion which is always something I love to see.

I can honestly say that each and every dish was absolutely outstanding. From my soft and flavoursome breaded Brie to the creamy seafood linguine my meal couldn’t be faulted in any way.

The children made their way through all three courses and enjoyed every mouthful and it was lovely to see them have something that wasn’t based on the usual ‘beige’ offerings a lot of restaurants offer.

After a good nights sleep it was more food on the menu and on the proclamation of Izzy (an extremely opinionated teen) it was the best breakfast she had ever had, with top marks going to the buttery, flaky croissants.

The buffet style breakfast offered a huge range from a full English to fresh fruit and yoghurt, a great selection of pastries and all kinds of cereals.

I think it was definitely the pancake station that won Oscar over though!

The children were certainly in need of running some of the sugar off so we headed to the soft play area that was perfect to keep them entertained and let off some steam before we made our way for a dip in the pool.

The pool was perfect for the children and they were over the moon that they were allowed in the jacuzzi as this is so often of limits for little ones.

Whilst we were enjoying a bit of water play we stayed with the theme and headed to the Quicksilver Surf school that is attached to the hotel for our surf lesson.

Fistral beach is famous for its surfing and it would be a crime to not have a go whilst staying at the hotel.

We meet our instructor JJ who was young, bubbly, full of fun and hugely passionate about surfing which really helped to keep the children engaged.

After our pep talk we hit the sea and put what we had learnt into practice. Izzy was annoyingly a natural and took to it straight away whilst it took me a good few attempts to even get to my knees.

Oscar in hindsight was a little young and even though he gave it a good go it wasn’t really for him, but Frankie relished in every moment and hasn’t stopped talking about JJ since!

Fistral Beach really does have so much to offer and aside from the surfing we spent plenty of time swimming, rock pooling and strolling along in the evening watching the sunset.

We came away from our stay with a new found love of Cornwall, a new set of skills by the way of surfing and a realisation that a hotel stay with children needed been something to worry about when a hotel like The Esplanade has got it so right.

It was the perfect combination of somewhere for the children to explore and enjoy freely with a touch of something special for the adults too.

We have been missing those sea views in the morning and will certainly be back to visit very soon.