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.

Nativity Rocks:Review

The Nativity movies have been a big hit in our house for many years now. The light hearted, feel good factor they give you is a huge attraction and always fill you with the spirt of Christmas.

A couple of weeks ago we were invited along to a screening of the fourth Nativity movie – Nativity Rocks in Leicester Square.

Kitted out in my sparkly jumper…much to the embarrassment of the kids we started the morning with some fun in the foyer making snow globes, getting glitter tattoos and eating out first mince pies of the year.

This movie had a very different feel to it then the others as the main bulk of the story was based around a young Syrian refugee called Doru and his Father who get separated in there quest to seek refuge in the UK.

Doru finds himself in the middle of Coventry in the midst of their Christmas preparations where he is found and taken to safety by the warm and friendly social worker Shelly(Helen George) who in-lists the help of the super foster mum(Merry Syal).

We were a little concerned about the absence of our favourite character, Mr Poppy bit we needed had worried as he had been replaced by his long lost brother who made an equally loveable Mr Poppy mark two!

Whilst Mr Poppy(Simon Lipkin) searching for his long lost family at St Bernadettes he bumps into Doru who has enrolled in the school and they form a bond over their similarities.

Of course there has to be some kind of musical theme to the movie and this comes in the form of the whole of Coventry competing to represent their town in The Christmas Town Of The Year.

Emmanuel Cavendish(Craig Revel Horwood) is brought in as the superstar set to put Coventry on the map with his expert knowledge of everything showbiz but the evil villain has the opposite effect and the community come together to go it alone.

Along the way there are all kinds of adventure from Doru and Mr Poppy, an unlikely friendship is but between a little boy from the rival private school.

I won’t spoil any more of the story for you and I will leave you safe in the knowledge that this thought provoking, heart warming story with have you laughing and crying in equal measure and will fill your heart with everything that Christmas should represent!

Brightening Up Your Workspace With Flowers Of Colombia

Who doesn’t love the sight and smell off beautiful fresh flowers. As humans we are automatically drawn towards their beauty and their sheer presence immediately gives us a lift.

This is not the only thing that we need to be grateful to them for though; they can in fact be a huge benefit to people when they are housed in the work place. Believe it or not they can increase work productivity, improve memory, help concentration, reduce anxiety, relieve depression and improve negative thoughts.

My workplace being the home means that I love to have a vase of beautiful flowers on the side to look beautiful and aid my motivation.

Some of the best flowers come from the beautiful city of Bogotá in Colombia where Flowers Of Colombia produce gorgeous and hardy chrysanthemums and carnations that can last for up to four weeks if kept watered. Making it a very affordable way to create a beautiful and motivating display.

It’s not often that I think about the back story behind how these flowers make the their way into my home but it has been great to find out that the trade association Ascolflores that look after the production of all the flowers of Colombia and who do a fantastic job of taking on and making the workforce up of 65% woman who use this job to escape poverty and better themselves.

What could be better than brightening your day with a burst of colour that has somehow gone towards bringing some colour and happiness into other people’s lives.

Flowers Of Colombia actually wanted to spread their love further back in June and mixed the beauty of flowers and music to create the London Flower Tribute right here in London.

Take a look HERE at what they created by merging these two wonders.

*collaborated post

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!

A Spooky Morning With Goosebumps 2

Over the years my love for all things spooky has grown and grown. As I child I never really got into the whole Halloween thing, but as I’ve had my own children and Halloween has become more popular in the UK it’s one of the things I love about autumn.

We spend the weeks in the lead up picking pumpkins and decorating the house but spooky movies are something I’ve never got into – mainly due to the fear of scaring the life out of the children and me getting no sleep for months!

So when we were asked along to the screening of Goosbumps 2 I was a little apprehensive about who to take.

Izzy had already seen and loved the first film and after watching the trailer the boys begged me to come along ensuring me they were brave enough to go along!

We arrived to the cinema foyer decked out in with all things spooky. There were magic acts, photo booths, face paint stands and food galore. The children really were spoilt for choice.

Full of sugar and eager to see what the film had to offer we made our way to our seats.

Minutes into the film came out first jumpy moment and I questioned wether I should have taken the boys or not, but the didn’t seem fazed and continued to sit with their eyes glued to the screen.

The film sees mum Kathy the heart of the Quinn family trying to juggle raising two children alongside working in a nursing home which is not for the faint hearted.

Some of the child care duties are passed down to her eldest daughter Sarah who’s eyes and heart are taken away from her duties by her love interest which leaves plenty of time for her brother Sammy and his friend to get up to lots of mischief whilst trying to make a few pennies with their house clearance business.

Whilst out on one of their collections they unearth some seemingly harmless treasure in the form of a locked book and a ventriloquist dummy, but they had no idea what problems these finds were going to bring.

The unfinished work of R.L Stine(Jack Black) and ‘Snappy’ the ventriloquist dummy in fact bring a whole host of problems to the Quinn family and give the entire town of Wardenclyffe a Halloween to remember!

Goosebumps 2 gave us the perfect introduction to horror and although it had plenty of heart in mouth moments, ghosts, ghouls and monsters galore and the fear factor of not knowing what was going to come next; it was perfect viewing for the younger ones whilst still giving the teens a movie to enjoy.

The film also had a great comedy element to it in the form of the mad neighbour Mr Chu who helps the kids on the mission to save their mother from the grips of Snappy with his huge knowledge of all things Goodebumps related and his quick eye for fashion!

Goosebumps is definitely one to watch and for me I will never look at a gummy bear in the same light again!

Having A Spooktacular Time At Chessington World Of Adventures

Chessington World Of Adventures don’t do things by halves and this years Howl ‘O’ Ween celebrations were as fantastic as always when we visited yesterday.

As soon as you hit the entrance the park is festooned with all kinds of pumpkins and skeletons to get you into the spooky mood.

We usually head to Chessington for the fast rides and thrill and spills they have to offer, but this time we decided on a calmer day where we would just go to enjoy the smaller rides, the animals, the shoes and of course everything they had to offer for Halloween.

Trick Or Treat Wood is always a favourite with all the family as it allows for the element of surprise and is jumpy without being too scary.

We weaved our way through the woods where we were confronted with all kinds of creepy, cute and funny creatures that took us on an adventure to make it through the woods and claim our special treat at the end.

From here Izzy braved the Creepy Caves that saw her escorted through a creepy quarantined area which was extra scary as due to nobody knowing the whereabouts of the missing zoo keeper!

More scares were to come with the Curse Of The Tomb where you need to find your way through the scary maze in search of Genghis Khan’s lost tomb.

This one certainly wasn’t for the faint hearted and I got the wits scare out of me by one of the actors simply popping his head out of the caves!

It was an absolutely freezing day and we were very grateful to be able to warm up for a while in the Sealife Centre that the children all love.

We then made our way to some of the smaller rides such as the flying jumbos, the carousel, adventure tree, tiny truckers and of course Hocus Pocus Hall has to be done at this time of year!

We took a little bit of time out to watch the brilliant Room On A Broom story time they brings the much loved book by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler to life which the children were captivated by and then loved getting the opportunity to meet the witch herself.

Another place we love to visit is the Dragon’s Placehouse where the boys have a whale of a time jumping through the soft play while I get the chance to have five minutes peace and a cheeky muffin in the cafe next door.

We were a little pushed for time and gutted we didn’t get the chance to see the brand new Haunted Howl ‘O’ Ween show which looked like great fun.

There was also a competition running for the best dressed Halloween adventurer.

All the fun is going on until 4th November so don’t miss out!

‘I am a Chessington Blogger Ambassador, I was given a Chessington Annual Pass to do this review with my family and I was not paid to do this post. If anyone would like to confirm any details in the post, please email press.office@chessington.co.uk’

Celebrating The Small Things:Week Forty Two

This weeks ‘celebrating the small things’ I am talking about new neighbours, Oscar and his alphabet and autumn leaves.

New Neighbours – Over the years it has been sad to see how much the whole community togetherness has diminished. Busy lives and people being so preoccupied with there own things has lead to families keeping themselves to themselves and neighbours can all to often be complete strangers.

Since moving I have been lucky enough to meet some wonderful, friendly and warm neighbours who even bought cake to welcome us the other day. It’s these little things that mean so much and have cemented the happiness we have felt about our move even more.

Oscar’s Alphabet – Oscar has always had a thirst for knowledge and since starting school this has been feed every day and it’s been an absolute you to listen to him recite his muddled version of the alphabet and get excited about his phonics rhymes.

I was so sad to see him start school but I’m certainly loving to watch him grow.

Autumn Leaves – I’m often asked what my favourite season is and to be honest I really don’t know. I love different things about each one and love that we get such stark differences in the UK, but one of my favourite things about this time of year is definitely the changing colours of the trees.

They may be an absolute pain in the backside to clean up but they are so beautiful while they last.

Pumpkin Picking At Secretts Of Milford

I had a mini meltdown the other day as I had missed our annual day out pumpkin picking at Priory Farm. It is one of our favourite things to do at this time of year and so I went on the hunt for somewhere else we could visit.

I stumbled across Secretts Of Milford and thought that it would make the perfect place to explore this half term.

After a short drive we arrived at the garden centre to a pretty packed carpark which I was a little apprehensive about but I needn’t have worried as after a short while queuing we made our way into the event field that was full of things to do from face painting to fairground rides, tractor rides and a favourite for mine – corn blasting!

We headed straight to the tractor ride that lead us into the jam packed pumpkin fields, full of pumpkins of all different shapes, sizes and colours. The children didn’t know where to look first and spent ages racing through the fields and selecting their perfect pumpkin.

We hopped back on the tractor and grabbed a bite to eat which was very fitting with the theme with hot dogs, pumpkin soup, pumpkin curry and pumpkin cake. There was plenty on indoor and outdoor space to sit and relax while the children enjoy the freedom of the open space and even a hay fight or two!

Secretts made for an amazing day out and we will certainly be back to visit next year!

The Tree, The Key And Me:Personalised Book Review

Personalised books have always been a huge favourite with all of my children. They love the ability it gives them to transport themselves into the heart of the story and really connect with the tale.

Personalised books are a great way to get reluctant readers to engage in a story and open up their minds to the potential rewards they can reap from reading. In turn this passion can help greatly with their speech and vocabulary and who knows might even help them to become a little book worm.

For me though I think it takes a special type of personalised book with a good story and beautiful illustrations that keeps you wanting to turn the pages and discover more, allowing them to get excited about finding themselves at the heart of the narrative.

All my children have been reluctant readers and it takes a lot to get them engaged in reading. My biggest challenge however has been Frankie who resists reading for different reasons to the other others. He has in fact struggled with his reading and is currently being kept an eye on as he is showing signs of dyslexia.

For him the written world is a scary place and so anything to make his reading journey easier is a bonus for us. So when we were asked by Librio to review their personalised book – The Tree, The Key and Me I had high hope this would be something Frankie could fall in love with.

I am sometimes overwhelmed by creating personalised items online and can often be disheartened that the character I am creating doesn’t look as I want. Libro however have created a configurator with over 8000 possible combinations so you can get an incredible likeness – glasses and wavy hair included for Frankie. They have everything covered so your character can be created using their own gender, skin tone, eye colour, hair colour and even hairstyle.

Something that I have also never come across before to is the ability to have the book written in 18 different languages and dialects, including UK and US English, French, German, Swiss, Italian, Spanish an Welsh.

As well as creating your own little person there is also the opportunity to add a special message at the beginning of the book which is yet another fantastic personal touch.

The personalisation took very little time and our book arrived in a matter of days. We went for the paperback version that is made from high quality, 100% recycled paper from the award winning printers Pureprint Group. This offers a top quality finish to the beautiful book which came with stunning illustrations and a story of a little boy who finds a key whilst digging for treasure which opens up a door to a very special forest which is home to all kinds of adorable animals that need help to save their home from losing its colour.

Frankie’s eyes lit up the moment he saw the picture on the front cover and realised before even opening the first page that this was him. It was an absolute pleasure to see him try and read this story and find out with each turn of the page where his was going to be off to next and what kind of adventures he would be getting up to.

If you are looking for a story to is going to be a keep sake for many years to come then this is the book for you. Librio also give back a huge amount by planting a tree with Trees For The Future for every book sold and on top of that for each book sold they donate £1 to literacy charities who do some amazing work to encourage children to find a love of books.

I now have to create one for Oscar who is keen to be part of the magic trees adventures too and if you order two or more books you can get a 15% discount by entering the code YAY15 which is perfect for the run up to Christmas.

*collaborated post

Getting Christmas Ready With Pines And Needles

For the past two years now I have been lucky enough to celebrate Christmas round one of Pines and Needles beautiful Nordmann Fir Christmas trees.

Pines and Needles offer a completely unique service that allows you to choose your tree from the comfort of your own home or go along to one of those many stores and select your own which they can then deliver to you or you can take home with you there and then.

If you want a little more than just a tree they also offer decoration service ranging from a fully decorated tree or simply threading of the lights which I know is a job that I always hate doing!

Something else that is always a pain is the disposal of the tree after Christmas but Pines and Needles have this covered too. They can simply pick up and dispose of your tree after you have stored away all your precious decorations or even come into your home to remove and carefully wrap your decorations as well as removing the tree and tidying up all the mess.

We have been over the moon with our tree each year and can’t wait for this year and if this sounds something that you would be interested in in then there is a summer offer that is still running until the end of this month which gives you 10% off your order. Just add the code SUMMER10 when placing your order and enjoy all that Pines and Needles have to offer.