Days Out With The Kids This Christmas

Yes I know we have only just put our sandals and summer dress aways but before you know it Christmas will be upon us and if you want to get those special days booked in then you really do have to start thinking about it now!

Christmas is by far my favourite time of year and I have compiled a list of a few of our favourites that I hope you might enjoy:

Lapland UK – This one just had to be top of my list as I have experienced nothing like it before. We were lucky enough to have our first trip there last year and we were absolutely blown away.

From helping the elves in Father Christmas’s toy factory, icing biscuits with Mother Christmas, taking to the ice in the most beautifully setting and finally meeting the main man himself who Frankie has named ‘the real’ Father Christmas it was sheer magic.

It brought a tear to my eye and I don’t think that day will ever be topped!

Hever Castle – For me Hever brings you everything you would imagine when you think of an English christmas celebration. The traditional fairground rides and beautiful christmas trail are perfect for the little ones, whilst the stunningly decorated castle is a sight that everyone will enjoy.

We are off there at the end of November so keep an eye out for what they have in store this year.

Chessington World Of Adventure – The Winter’s Tail event at Chessington World Of Adventure is always a fantastic day out. There is the chance to visit Santa in his grotto, ride on a few selected rides that are specially opened including our favourite – The Gruffly River Ride Adventure, decorate festive treats in the Gruffly kitchen and something new this year will be The Gruffalo Christmas Groove.

alongside all of this they are also offering sleepover packages and we can highly recommend a stay in their fantastic hotel.

Painshill Park – This one for us has the ultimate wow factor when it comes to the grotto. After a walk along a pretty lit walkway you find your way to the crystal grotto where Father Christmas is waiting to hand out his gifts.

It is certainly different from the norm and gets booked up extremely quickly so don’t leave it until the last minute.

Southbank – If you are looking for a day out with festive foods, quirky gifts and the perfect London backdrop then the christmas market at Southbank if definitey one for the list.

Hobbledown – I am so sad that I won’t be going along to the toddlers lunch with Father Christmas this year.

I have visited for many years now and it is the perfect trip for preschoolers where they decorate a biscuit, have some lunch and meet Santa in the cutest little wooden hut.

Winerville – We had our first trip here last year and it really exceeded our expectations. It is an uber cool experience in the heart of Clapham common offering a bit of everything from great food and drink to ice skating, roller skating, fairground rides, crazy golf and a whole lot more.

Disney On Ice – This has become somewhat of a tradition for us to visit a few days before christmas. The culmination of all our favourite Disney characters, the chill of the ice and the excitement of Christmas makes for a great day out.

National Trust – We have visited a fair few properties over the festive period and each one has its on unique and wonderful christmas feel. They offer visits to Father Christmas, crafts galore christmas markets and brilliant trails to wear the kids out which is always a bonus!

CBeebies Christmas Show:Thumbelina – Getting cosy in the cinema is perfect at this time of year and when its to watch a classic such as Thumbelina put on by some of your favourite Cbeebies characters then its always going to be a hit.

We are off to see this later in the year so keep an eye out for what we think!

RHS Wisley – Now the illuminated trail at Wisley is something I’ve heard so many good things about but haven’t actually got there yet. I think it will have to go on my list for this year.

Winter Wonderland – If you want Christmas on a grand scale then this is the place for you. Winter Wonderland is a huge area in Hyde Park full of fairground rides, food stalls, gifts, ice skating, shows and bucket loads more. We had our first trip there last year and had an amazing time!

Bocketts Farm – I love a farm visit over the christmas period and Bocketts offers an amazingly festive day out complete with a trip to santa in his hay barn.

The Snowman – My children laugh at how much I love The Snowman in any form. My first love was of course the illustrated character and I have loved watching how he has evolved over the years. We watched the stage show a few years ago which was absolutly spell binding and keep the attention of my younger two for over two hours which is no mean feat. This year there is also a magical exhibition at the Brighton Museum and Art Gallery, an immersive experience at The Backyard Cinema, a special story telling session at Bath Pavilions by the talented author Michael Morpurgo and a the most magical showing of the animated film at the Royal Albert Hall accompanied by the Royal Philamonic Orchestra.

Priory Farm – This has been our Christmas Eve tradition for a few years now. We stop off in the cafe for a mince pie and a warm drink, get the last of our foodie bits at the fab farm shop and a trek round the discovery walk to wear out the over excited little one.

Celebrating The Small Things:Week Thirty One

This week on ‘Celebrating The Small Things’ I am talking about my love of kickboxing, travelling into town and candles!

Kickboxing – My love of kickboxing started many years ago now and was actually one of the reasons me and Darren got together. It was a shared passion and something we always enjoyed together. Over the years teaching the skill became a job for me and in between having the kids I have always loved getting back to it.

Since having Oscar though I had really stepped away from it and its only been the past few months that I have fallen back in love with it and have enjoyed every moment of it…well maybe not at the time!

Candles – I’ve had a thing for scented candles for years now, one that unfortunately my husband doesn’t share. I would fill every room with a different scent if I could but he would be one step behind me blowing them all out.

My passion was filled for a day however when I went along to the Yankee Candle Christmas event where I walked into a room filled with beautiful scents and gorgeous christmas displays. I have so many new candles on my wishlist now and the only thing I have to do is encourage Darren to like them too.

I Love London – One of the many things that blogging has brought me is the opportunity to visit central London so much more than I ever have done before. Pre blogging I would probably only venture in a couple of times a year and usually to the same old places.

I am now in time several times a month exploring new areas, seeing new things and loving every moment of it.

LaplandUK Early Bird Booking

I know you all probably think I’ve gone completely mad by talking about Christmas 2018 when if you are anything like me you are still trying to find places to home all the presents and loose all the weight from the Christmas just gone!

I can however confirm though that my marbles are all still firmly intact and I just wanted to give you a heads up the our favourite christmas experience EVER – LaplandUK is running an early bird offer from 29th January-2nd February 2018 that isn’t to be missed.

LaplandUK sold out completely last year and as someone that has visited countless Father Christmas’s over my twenty years of parenting I can confirm that this was the most amazing experience I have ever been to and something I don’t think could ever be topped.

LaplandUK offers a completely immersive experience that is completely spellbinding for the adults as well as the children.

If this is something you would be interested in then I really urge you to take a look HERE and get in quickly and take up this offer which is to good to miss!

Celebrating The Small Things:Week One

When I first started blogging it was a subject I knew very little about, and to say that I went into it blindly would be an understatement; but through the encouragement of family and friends I began my blogging journey and haven’t looked back since.

Over the past few years my blog has gone from strength to strength, it has now become my full time job and has bought me and my family some of the most amazing opportunities and allowed us to meet some wonderful people…some of which I would now class as good friends.

My blog is a place that I come to when I want people to find out about a great day out we have been on, somewhere I can give advice on great new products I have tried out or to celebrate big milestones in our lives; but as the New Year sets in and we naturally evaluate the different parts of our lives I have realised there is one area I have really overlooked when it comes to writing…The Small Things.

There are so many small moments in our lives that we take for granted or miss all together, moments that although may seem small and insignificant they give us great pleasure and we should learn to cherish and show our gratitude for them all.

I have decided to now do a weekly post highlighting all those little moments that would normally pass me by as a document to look back on in years to come and remember fondly.

Brotherly love: When it comes to the youngest two its always been a bit of a love hate relationship, with the latter certainly being more predominant, so when a special moment such as Frankie requesting to take his little brother out to share his birthday treat is an occasion that should be marked.

Lego: This may seem like a strange one, but the wonderful world of Lego has bought us all so much joy since Christmas in many ways. It dominated the youngest two’s christmas lists this year but has brought the whole family such pleasure and brought us together for some much needed quality time as we all muck in trying to make the next creation.

Storytime: Its been more than a few years since Izzy has requested a bedtime story, and to be truthful its not very often she willingly picks up a book! So after buying her the fantastic Goodnight Stories For Rebel Girls it has been an absolute pleasure to see her engrossed in reading and sharing what she has learnt about a whole host of ‘kick arse’ women.

Being Present This Christmas

How many of you spend too much gazing at a screen, running backwards and forwards trying to get a million and one things done or getting bogged down with a huge workload.

This all sounds to familiar to my everyday life and it is something that I think about continually. I tell myself I am going to change so many of these things but life gets in the way and I never do.

I know that my phone and my camera are like a third hand to me and I spend way much time using both of them more than I should. Doing the job I do makes it hard to switch off as so much of my day to day life is in fact my work and I always end up using this as an excuse when I know that this isn’t healthy for any of us.

The children also spend more time than I like using devices so this Christmas we have all taken a step back and spent our Christmas how it should be…making conversation and playing games with family and friends.

I would usually be filming and photographing every minute of the day from the minute we wake up, right through the day, but instead I took a few snaps and a few Instastories that I couldn’t resist and spent the rest of the past few days being in the moment rather than trying to capture it.

I also made a conscious effort this year to buy the children games that allow them to use their imagination and interact with each other and that is exactly what has happened.

We have all been coming together to build Lego creations and the boys have been playing relatively argument free with their Playmobil models which has been so lovely to see.

It has also come to my attention that simple things such as board games are a real novelty to my children when really I should be making time much more often to sit down and play games like this with them as they bring so much joy to us all.

Emails have been ignored and any impending work has been put to the back of my mind so that I can concentrate on the people that are most important to me.

The world hasn’t stopped spinning because I haven’t opened posted to Instagram, the children haven’t missed out because they haven’t spent endless hours playing games on their Kindles, but what we have had is a few days of enjoying each others company that happens all to rarely and is certainly the best gift I have received this year.

Hot Chocolate Stirrers

With only a few days left until christmas I sure that most of you are all prepared and have gifts all bought and wrapped ready to go…however if you are anything like me then there are always those last few presents that you completely forget about!

My recipe for hot chocolate stirrers will make a lovely gift and is something super easy to make.

I use wooden spoons as the handle for mine but you can easily use lolly sticks or even something like cardboard straws.

The stirrers can be wrapped individually or like we did for the teachers gifts you can add a few homemade biscuits together with the stirrers and package them up in a nice Christmas mug.

If this sounds good to you then the recipe is below for you to try:

Makes 24 sticks

  • 800g mixture of dark and milk chocolate
  • 8 tbsp cocoa powder
  • hundreds and thousands, marshmallows or fudge pieces to decorate
  1. Break up the chocolate into a bowl and heat over a Bain Marie until completely melted.
  2. Slowly add the cocoa and mix thoroughly.
  3. Pour the mixture into a silicone mould(we used a round ice cube tray) and into each section place the spoon/stick into the centre.
  4. Decorate with your toppings of choice and then place in the fridge to harden for about an hour.
  5. When they are ready pop them out and gift wrap however you fancy!

Milestone Myths With Baby Annabell Learns To Walk

The arrival of a new baby is one of the most precious and wonderful moments of a parents life, they bring such overwhelming joy and love but also a whole host of worries and anxieties that get to us on a daily basis.

From how much they are eating to how much they are sleeping is a constant worry and also as they begin to grow and milestones are being reached the worries also turn into something a little more competitive. We begin to compare what off springs of families and friends are doing and goals they are reaching.

Toddler groups turn into a mine field of parents either bragging that their little ones have sat up for the first time or the poor parent at the other end of the scale that is still waiting for their child who is of the same age to even roll over.

As the years have past and the more children I have I’ve come to the realisation that hours or staring at developmental charts and comparing my babies with others is a negative waste of time and the focus should be on getting through those milestones when they are good and ready and not when a chart tells you they should.

As adults we are all still learning new skills which will be easier and done quicker for some than other and this is no different to when we a little. We all have strengths and weaknesses and this is what makes us all so wonderfully individual.

Being a Mum of five I can tell you that all of mine have taken their first steps at times rating from 9-14 months, some have crawled from as early a 6 months when others never crawled at all but ultimatly they have all reached those goals when they are good and ready.

With babies milestones in mind Baby Annabell have come up with the fabulous Baby Annabell Learns To Walk.

Doll mad Oscar was very excited to have a new friend to go with his favourite Little Brother doll and was in sheer amazement who he saw all the amazing things that this new doll could do.

Baby Annabel makes her way through those all important milestones from sitting to crawling and walking.

As with all children she has a few hiccups and when she is crawling will drop to her tummy and cry. This is not a problem as she will be happily picked up and sits on your knee whist wriggling and fidgeting around.

When it comes to walking she will happily take her first steps whist holding onto your hand a bubbling away with each move.

This doll has made a very welcome addition to our household and Oscar has been amazed with everything she’s does. The interation they can get from this doll is amazing and I’m sure this would be a welcome present under any tree this year.

*collaborated post

Keeping The Magic Of Christmas Alive At Lapland UK

Do you remember the wonder that each sparkling light on the christmas tree would behold, how the smell of the fresh pine needles used to fill the house and your heart with such excitement, how every sip of warm hot chocolate and each bite of your delicious mince pie would fill your tummy not only with good food but with butterflies from the anticipation of the arrival of Father Christmas each and every year.

As we get older sadly these feelings dwindle and our hopes and expectations of christmas change and the magic slowly fades away.

However once we are blessed with the gift of children this magic fills our hearts once more as we see the wonder through our children’s eyes.

I have soaked up every moment of my children’s twitchy fingers as they try to adoren the tree with the delicate decorations, looked on in wonder at each and every nativity play as the stand their fumbling through the words of those heart warming christmas carols and for me one of the most magical moments is clinging onto their wriggly bodies as they stand in line to see meet the big man himself…Father Christmas.

All these moments are precious yet sadly as fleeting as our own and each and every year I try my upmost to keep the magic alive for as long as possible.

Familiar traditions such as baking the Christmas cake and writing letters to Father Christmas all help with this but as with anything as children grow and their knowledge widens the belief in Father Christmas begins to be questioned and I can honestly say that the reality of having a non-believer has always been way harder on me than it has been for them.

If there was a place you could visit that was as magical and as mysterious as the thought of Father Christmas himself then surly this would help keep the magic alive for that little bit longer would it not?

This is what I has high hope of when we were asked along to Lapland UK last weekend. In its tenth year now I have never heard a negative comment about anyones trip and after meeting the charming husband and wife team Alison and Mike at an event last month I knew that the love and passion that came across as they spoke so fondly of their creation was going to shine trough on our trip.

I decided for my sanity to leave telling the children about our trip until the day before we left. I am completely at fault when it comes to making the children little balls of excitement as this time of year but even I couldn’t take how excited they were going to be on hearing they would be going on the trip.

The invitations get sent through the post in a beautiful presentation box with each child having a personal invitation, complete with a gorgeous wax seal.

The box itself can be placed in the freezer to make for a gust of cold air when they open it up which Frankie was absolute amazed with and went rushing over to the window to see if he could see the tail end of Father Christmas’s reindeers that must have just delivered them.

That night was like putting the children to bed on Christmas Eve, the excitment was immense and after reading The Untold Story Of Father Christmas which is written by the founders and is the perfect way to get them familiar with the lovable charters they would be meeting the next day, they finally settled.

We couldn’t believe our luck when we woke to snow the next morning and as we came off the motorway and drove a short way through snow covered woods it really couldn’t have been a more magical build up to or visit.

A short walk from the carpark we arrived at a beautiful snow covered building where we checked in with the friendly elf and enjoyed a quick snack before our tour started.

It wasn’t long before it was our turn to be guided through the huge bookcase into a magical enchanted forest where we were told the story of how each tiny pinecone turns into a elf that then helps out with making all the toys for Father Christmas to deliver.

This is also what our children had been enrolled to do and as we were about to set off to take up the challenge the huge set of doors was slowly opens to reveal a cascade of snow and a stunning snow covered walkway.

Once inside the workshop the children were all settled at work benches where they has the job of stuffing super cute polar bears ready for delivery on Christmas Eve. This could have lead to many tears and tantrums as the toys were not for them to keep, however the story had been told so well and their role for the day described perfectly so there was not one tear or moan from any of the children in the room.

After all their hard work we then made our way to meet Mother Christmas in her kitchen; the kitchen was snug and cosy and the warmth from Mother Christmas was infectious. The children carefully decorated their gingerbread trees and packed them away to hang from their own trees once they got home and then settled down to a story read by Mother Christmas herself whist the parents got the chance to snack on a delicious biscuit themselves.

When all the work was over we had free reign of the village where you could grab something good to eat and drink or like us get tempted by a few to many sweets in the sweet shop. We picked up a small gift in the shop that really was a child’s dream with a huge selection of gifts and of course not to be missed a trip to the ice rink.

Skating is really not my forte and although I braved it I stayed pretty much in one spot while the children fearlessly skated off with their Dad. Oscar was over the moon as ice skating is normally of the agenda for him as he is only three, but with the help of some super cool strap on skates and the aid of a penguin he was well away.

It was now time for the most anticipated part of the day…our trip to Father Christmas. The walk to the grotto held yet more beautifully snow covered pathways, the cutest of little elf homes and of course a stop off to visit the reindeers where we also got the chance to help out with preparing their food.

We had a very short wait until the children names were called and we were lead to his Grotto, the doors opened and the beaming smile from the big, jolly man filled the beautifully decorated room.

The children sat next to him, hanging on his every word in complete awe. The heart melting moment for me though was the look on the children’s faces when he spoke bout each one individually, letting out little snippets of their lives that they never imagined he would ever know.

Mouths aghast at what they had just experienced and me with tears in my eyes I know that there is no way that this visit could ever be topped and will certainly never be forgotten.

The attention to detail at every point is unbelievable, there wasn’t a queue in sight and the whole day ran seamlessly. But I think what stood out most for me was I didn’t hear a moan, a cross word or a cry from any child all day which is certainly a first for us and just shows that the whole experience is put together with the childs enjoyment being the top priority.

I experienced this day with children aged from fifteen to three and each and everyone felt and shared the magic of this wonderful place. Archie integrated with his younger siblings and loved every minute of watching their delight as we did and although he is way past the age of believing it was still an amazing experience for him.

The one that I most wanted to see the reaction of was Izzy though as the start of High School has already had an effect on her and her belief has been waining since last year, yet the sparkle in her eye and the smile on the face after this trip has given me at least one more year of magic with her and for that I will be forever grateful.

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

Gifts For Teens From Prezzybox.com

Teens and pre-teens are notoriously the hardest group of people to buy for, and for me it’s especially hard when it comes to little stocking fillers for Christmas morning.

Mine always have a stocking until well into their teens so that nobody is left out from that exciting treat of dipping into the long sock filled with goodies.

This year I have got together with prezzybox.com and managed to find some fun, affordable and quirky gifts for Izzy and Archie that I know they are going to absolutely love.

Izzy who is twelve loves anything pink, glittery or social media related and they had gifts aplenty to fit this.

The Iris The Unicorn Travel Mug which will be perfect for keeping warm in this freezing weather, a Neon Magic Hairbrush that is a super vibrant colour that fits perfectly inside her schoolbag and the one that I think is going to be a favourite is a Selfie Light that attaches to the back of your phone to create that perfect selfie.

Archie the moody teen who has just turned fifteen is now and has always been so hard to buy for. I love the fact that he rarely asks for gifts, but this is not much help when trying to get ready for Christmas.

However it only took a few minutes to find some gifts that were just perfect for him.

What teen doesnt love sweets! well mine certainly do and the tub of Personalised Retro Sweets is going to go down a storm I’m sure. Next up was a set of six Emoji Golf Balls that come in three different colours with a cool emoji on each ball. Lastly he was a real fan of the fidget spinner when the craze hit a few moths ago so I went one better with the Baffle Puzzle that is a little like a Rubik cube in a cylindrical shape.

Prezzybox.com not only caters for teens but for all different ages, genders and occasions and can be easily ordered from the comfort of your home to avoid that manic high street shopping. It’s the perfect site to stock up on different gifts at this time of year and there really is something for everyone.

* I was gifted these products for the purpose of this review and they are all my own, honest opinions.

Pines And Needles:A Family Affair

Last year the lovely people at Pines And Needles introduced me to the world of real tress and since then I would never look back.

From the excitement of going along to select the perfect tree to the the anticipation of it being delivered to the front door the thrill of buying real is pretty special.

The other evening we went along to Pines And Needles wimbeldon branch to take part in their Treetorial event and select our very own tree.

During the event a member of staff who are always kitted out beautifully in their Santa hats and kilts(the trees come from Scotland!) showed the children and gave them a few facts about the trees, let them pick out some decorations to decorate a tree whilst we were there and the highlight for Izzy was getting a ride through the tree wrapping machine!

Filled with their new found knowledge the children picked out a stunning 7ft Norway Spruce that they have named ‘Piney’ who they egarly awaited the delivery of the next evening.

Unfortunately ‘Bruce’ arrived after the little ones bed time but it actually made for a more magical morning as they all rushed down the stairs to see it first thing in the morning. Izzy has already said she knew it was here as the smell has waffted into her bedroom and Oscar immediately dived in for a cuddle proclaiming he loved him!

For the next few hours I had pulling, poking and prodding until it was time to decorate our stunning tree.

After a few fraught moments of twisted lights and broken baubles the tree was complete and had once again become the most beautiful focal point of the front room and the whole story of the chosing, naming and decorating will be a found memory for the whole family to remember for many years to come.

If you are yet to get your tree and think that Pines and Needles is the way to go for you then you can use the code JOYOF5 and this will get you 5% off of your tree of choice.

There are plenty of venues to find across London or you can also purchase online.

I would love to see you trees in all their glory and if you fancy naming yours like us then don’t forget to use the hashtag #brucethespruce on all your social media posts.

*collaborated post