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.

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.

The Snowman Experience:Review

We are huge fans of the Backyard Cinema and the themed cinematic experiences they offer.

Over the past few year we have swung through the jungle to see the jungle book and walked through a winter night garden to watch Elf, but this year when we were asked to come go along to Winter Wonderland to The Snowman Experience it was even more amazing than I had imagined and they have certainly built in their fantastic idea and gone all out to create the mot spectacular experience.

Inside the hustle and bustle of Winter Wonderland is a huge cinema offering much more than just a screening.

This year the iconic book – The Snowman by Raymond Briggs is celebrating it’s 40th with this extra special showing.

As I’m sure you will all agree, The Snowman is the epitome of Christmas. The charming tale of a small boy and his adventures with his snowman friend fill my heart with the joy of Christmas and I will never tire of this story. However I didn’t expect it to be transformed as it was for us this weekend.

We stepped inside a wooded area and weaved our away into the cinema, stopping for a photo first. As we took to our seats we saw the screen surrounded by brilliant props that made the illusion we were inside the story. As the film began we were treated to a few surprises from the stage that the kids were amazed by.

After a short while we were unexpectedly whisked through to another room where the huge curved screen allowed us to feel that we had taken flight with the snowman himself.

The last room was set up ready for the grand finale where everyone was ready to party. With flashing lights and familiar tunes the boys loved dancing along whilst watching the big screen. But the biggest surprise of all was The Snowman himself making an appearance to a crowd of excited children all eager to meet him.

The Backyard Cinema really have excelled themselves this time and have given us a experience to remember for many years to come.

The experience is running from 10am – 10pm up until 6th January 2019 and it’s not to be missed!

* We were given tickets for the purpose of this review and they are all my own, honest opinions.

Investing More In Creating New Memories

Memories are wonderful things. They can transport us back to precious times and amazing places as well as allowing us to remember moments that may not have been so pleasant. Regardless of how the memories make us feel they can aid us in the future decisions we make which is oh so important.

I was very fortunate to have a wonderful childhood and my parents have built some amazing memories for me that I love to think back on. Many of which I probably bore my children with time and time again and lots that I use to recreate those happy time with my own children.

At this time of year especially I think back to all of those wonderful christmas traditionans my parents created and have probably been passed down through the generations. One that my Mum will certainly agree with is letting the children decorate the tree and then as soon as they are tucked up in bed completely rearranging it again!

My blog was first set up to capture all of these memories we make and as a digital tool to look back on in years to come, an online diary that can be accessed as an when we need to see all the amazing adventures we have shared as a family over the years. But last year I realised that it was all of the big things that were being documented and those little moments that are just as important were getting lost and probably forgotten about in the fast passed, hectic lives we live today.

This is what got my “celebrating the small things’ section of my blog started so that each week I can record all those precious little moments such as losing a tooth or getting an award at school – simple little things that actually mean a lot!

Due to the nature of my work I find it pretty easy to get out with the younger children and create precious memories but as a family on a whole with my husband working long hours and the older children having their own social lives or being drawn to the online world rather than getting out and about; making these memories can sometimes be pretty challenging.

This is why in the new year I am setting a challenge that at least twice a month we will all get together and do something as a whole family so that we have precious moments to look back on and hopefully this will help to shape a good memory bank of things to look back on in their adult life a give them experiences to relate back to when they start to stand on their own two feet.

How do find ways to create precious memories with your families? Do you agree with me that events and memories from your past shape your decisions in the future? I would love to hear your thoughts on this and hopefully I can pick up some tips and ideas for my New Year challenge.

*collaborated post

A Laid Back Trip To Santa At The London Transport Museum

A trip to the London Transport Museum always goes down well with my lot, especially at Christmas. I mean being in the heart of Covent Garden which is always brimming with festive cheer has to be one of the most perfect settings; and last weekend as we caught sight of the beautiful red and blue christmas tree standing proud outside the museum we were filled with excitement and anticipation of what the day would hold.

We made our way inside where the boys immediately jumped on board the buses letting their imaginations run wild, asking where we wanted to travel to and recalling all the London landmarks they could think of.

When they had finished we made our way to the magical forest to see if we could find Santa. Unlike last year where you went inside a cabin to meet Santa as a family things have been changed around a little and the whole experience is less formal and has a lovely laid back feel to it.

We sat on cosy cushions whilst the boys played with wooden toys and read books until the big man himself arrived. He sat amongst and chatted to us all, asking how far we had come and what the childrens wishes were for christmas. He gave each child a special badge and was more than happy for you to take photos with him.

There were lots of tiny tots there which for me seemed like the perfect introduction to meeting Santa without the long queues and hefty price tags. Santa will be there until the 23rd December from eleven to three so keep an eye out for him throughout the museum.

The festive fun doesn’t stop there as there is the opportunity to sit amongst the magical forest for the story time sessions that run everyday at 11.30 and 1.30 and use an array of different props and instruments.

The boys also took a chance to get crafty by making glittery, sparkly christmas decoration with all manner of glitter glues and pretty pom poms.

All the sessions are completely free of charge and come in with the entry price which at £17.50 per adult and children going free is amazing value. This entry price also gives you admittion for 12 months so you can enjoy the museum time and time again.

We headed around the rest of the museum where the boys got to play at being train drivers, took me for a ride in a taxi and played for ages in the play area which is always a big hit.

One area of the museum which seems to have eluded us until now is the Upper Deck cafe where we had an amazing lunch. On previous visits we had eaten inside the hub of the museum which was a great way to grab a quick bite whilst the kids play, but the Upper Deck gave us a much vaster menu and an amazing view of Covent Garden whilst we ate.

We were all super hungry and we filled our bellies with delicious juicy sausages, oozing burgers and crispy chips. There was a great choice from salads and sandwiches to coffees and cakes and the cake were certainly the piece de resistance for us with a super cool London underground icing top.

To finish our day we headed back down to the museum shop which is probably within the minority of attraction shops I don’t wizz the kids through.  They have a gorgorgous range of eclectic gifts, stunning christmas decorations and pocket money toys that are a far cry from the usual brittle plastic rubbish you usually come across.

I really can’t stop singing praises for the London Transport Museum and it really is a brilliant place to visit at this time of year.

* We were gifted this day out plus gifts for the purpose of this review and they are all my own honest opinions.

Celebrating The Small Things:Week Forty Six

This week on ‘celebrating the small things’ we’re talking Christmas books, Wagamama and Sunday roasts.

Christmas Books – We love bedtime stories in this house and at this time of year we dust off the Christmas books every evening to get into the Christmas spirit! I think I actually love this more than the kids!

Wagamama Trip – Frankie spends a lot of time at different hospitals for all his ailments bless him. A hospital he doesn’t seem to mind visiting though is St Thomas’s in Westminster.

We visit for his allergies a few times a year and he always get treated to a trip to Wagamama as it’s one of the best allergy friendly restaurants you can visit.

Sunday Roasts – Dinner times in our house are pretty erratic and during the week we never get to sit together and enjoy an evening meal. Now the colder weather has set in we try to make sure we sit down to a roast every Sunday and spent some quotient together…even if it is more like a chimpanzee tea party!

A Dickens Inspired Christmas At Hever Castle

Last year was our first visit to Hever Castle at Christmas time and I was completely taken in with the traditional feeling they had created, and on our return trip to the press evening last week those same feeling came flooding back the minute we drove into the car park.

The entrance was filed with light covered trees and and as we walked down to the main hub the sky was filled with laser beams that were being projected across the lake.

The whole walk down to the castle was in fact a visual delight with disco balls sparking in archways and pretty lights everywhere we looked.

On of the highlights for me last year was the little area tucked behind the entrance to the toilets….yes it doesn’t sound to glamorous, but it was full of snow covers trees and peopled huddled around an open fire and it got our visit off to the perfect start.

The children didn’t know what to look at or were to go first so we had a few goes on the beautiful carousel and a run through the hall of mirrors to let off some steam!

After this we were all eager to get inside the castle and see how it had been decorated. We were greeted with hot mulled mine, sausage rolls and mince pies which made for an amazing experience but my nerves wear more than a little on edge at the though of sticky fingers and all the beautiful furniture!

We went in and out of every room or which each one was breathtaking. A castle steeped in history and full of Christmas spirit had got to be a pretty amazing sight to see.

Before we knew it it was our turn to go and visit Father Christmas. The boys exciting skipped along the candy caned lined walkway until we reached the grotto and were welcomed by Father Christmas’s friendly elves.

They lead us threw a snow covered pathway until we reached his little house that was tucked away behind the trees.

He greeted the children in such a warm manner and the children’s faces lit up as soon as he started speaking to them…even Izzy’s.

They were each given a lovely gift and we headed out to giant our evening with the ‘Christmas Carol’ trail.

The trail was themed around the Dickens classic and saw us meeting characters from the classic tail along the way. It is an interactive experience that kept us wondering what we were going to come across next!

We left the castle full of Christmas spirit and wanting to visit again before Christmas is out!

*We were asked along to the press evening for the purpose of this review and they are all my own honest opinions.

Learning More About Sustainable Food

Here in the UK we all love to eat, in fact over the year we consume tons of food that probably most of us don’t really think to much about.

We all want something that tastes good, is easy to get our hands on and quick to prepare but the back story behind how our favourite foods get to us is a pretty complex one and also something that we all need to give a little more thought and consideration.

Sustainable food is something that starts at the very beginning and over the past few years a lot of work has gone into getting the farmers, fishermen etc to change their way of working to make the detrimental impact on the environment far less.

The ethos behind sustainable food is taking into account the environment, health, social and environmental concerns.

Farmers are moving on from using conventional fertilisers and swapping over to an organic way of farming. This is one way in which this can help the environment, the animals and the workers.

There is still a lot of work to do in this area but with time and knowledge I am hopeful we will continue to see changes.

Back to use now as there are plenty of thing we can do to help in the home by following these guidelines and I have listed below:

Shop Local And Seasonally – Our high streets are sadly becoming a thing of the past with large supermarkets and internet shopping bringing us such competitive prices the pull is pretty great but taking things back to basics is what we need to do.

I also find that shopping locally and getting more hands on with your approach food is great for the children and gives them a far greater knowledge of where food comes from.

We managed to get some delicious apples from our local green grocer the other day and created some delicious deconstructed toffee apples that we all loved!

Shopping locally from the butchers and green grocers allows us to support small business and buy local and seasonal products that have a huge impact on the way we eat.

Buy Organic – Buying organic can put people off as the price tag is generally a lot heftier then ordinary produce. The benefits of the quality of the food and the impact on the environment are certainly worth those extra pennies though.

Promote Heath And Wellbeing – We are fast becoming a glutinous nation and steps need to be put into place now to educate ourselves and our children on healthy eating, balance and food waste.

Choose Fair Trade – Wherever possible try to keep an eye out for the fair trade symbol on packages. They go to great efforts to insure their producers get a good deal and put so much back into social and economic opportunities for people.

Cutting Back On Animal Origin Foods – My sister turned vegan a fair while ago now and a lot of her decisions were based on the impact on the environment eating meat and it’s byproducts have.

I don’t think this could ever be a move for me but I am certainly putting in place wats to cut down on meat a few timed a week and switch over to milk alternatives such as soya and oat milk.

We are also big fish fans in our house but we are opting to cut back on spies such as cod that are facing danger of being wiped out due to over fishing.

I hope this has given you all a little food for though…excuse the pun! I would love to know if sustainable food is something you already do something about and if you have anymore tips I could try out.

*collaborated post

David Lloyd Know How To Party

As I’m sure most of you know by now that I only have praise for the amazing health club that is – David Lloyd.

It helped my find my mojo again and was the catalyst for my weight loss, it’s a great way to spend quality time as a family as well as keeps you fit and it has even pulled my gaming mad son away from his Xbox which is no mean feat and I will be talking more about this soon.

As well as everything I have mentioned above one of the big pulls for me is the sense of community that David Lloyd encourages. There was is always something going on from quiz nights to BBQs and the other evening we went along to experience this at the kids Halloween party.

The three hour long party was full of fun from beginning to end. The children got the chance to make slime, try their luck with the slimy lucky dip, bob for apples, get their faces painted and so much more!

The staff all got into the spirit of the event and were dressed up and full of life. They boogied away with the kids and seemed to be enjoying themselves as much as the children.

All parties need some good food and there was plenty on offer…even cheeseburgers in the shape of pumpkins!

It was the perfect way to kick off our Halloween half term and has only instilled in me more why David Lloyd is the only health club we would choose.

*We have been given a family membership for the purpose of these posts and they are all my own, honest opinions.

Celebrating The Small Things:Forty Three

This week I’m talking about our fun packed half term and some of the moments that I have loved the most.

Sunday Funday – My husband works long and erratic hours and family time is always very limited. We usually manange to spend a Sunday together, although sometimes this doesn’t even come to fruition.

We were invited along to an absolutely amazing event at Legoland by Warner Bros last weekend that was something the boys could only have dreamed of, but for me a big part of the fun was to simply spend some time together.

Pumpkin Picking – Yes I am that stereotypical blogger that loves nothing more than taking hundreds of photos in the middle of a pumpkin patch each and every October; but aside from being the perfect backdrop for some insta worthy photos I love the kids running free, getting excited by their finds and enjoying all that open space.

Baking – I used to bake a lot with the children and for some reason this had dwindled and it’s something the children have really missed, so we cooked up a batch of allergy friendly banana muffins.

Frankie loves it when we bake something that he can enjoy and to be honest I was pretty grateful that he enjoyed the making as the end results were pretty dreadful!