Bringing picture books to life

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Most of you will know by now that my 4 year old, Harley would rather run around outdoors (even in the rain) than sit down quietly with a book. He loves a story or 2 at bedtime and really enjoys talking about the characters or guessing what will happen next but I can’t for the life of me, get him to choose to sit with a book, during the day.

He will openly say that he doesn’t like it when they have to sit in the reading corner at pre-school, “It’s boring” is always his reply. In truth, this really upsets me. I want him to grow up getting lost in a story; I want him to swallow a wealth of vocabulary; I simply want him to enjoy reading.

I firmly believe that this is the age where we need to instill a love of reading, or perhaps a love of sitting with a book and following the pictures, if we want children to relish a good book when they are older.

I have to say that I have found a secret weapon, which I think will encourage Harley to run up to his bookshelf and readily pick a book for me to read to him!

Well, ok, maybe not me… but my favourite online shop Not On The High Street have come up with a nifty little app which truly does bring picture books to life.

Available for free download on the itunes app store, the team from notonthehighstreet say, “​Back in the Summer we launched an app ​for the iPhone ​called ‘Storytime Sounds’. The app is​ free to download from the app store and is designed to bring an extra element of fun to story​ ​time ​for families with kids aged 3-7​.”

The app consists of 6 different soundboards for different themes:

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The sounds are extremely clear and effective. In each soundboard the sounds are:

Fairytales

* magic spell  *galloping horse  * clap of thunder  * swords clashing  * witch’s cackle  * trumpet fanfare  * kissing a frog  * fire breathing dragon  * ‘Ta Dah’

Lost World

*  Elephant’s trumpet  * rattle snake  * monkey  * beating of a drum  * blow dart  * erupting volcano  * dinosaur roar  * dinosaur stamping  * dinosaur squawk

Monsters

* roar  * hiccups  * burp  * laugh  * bang  * stamp  * snap  *confused  * cry

Pirates 

* ‘Argghh’  * canon  * waves  * whale blowing water  * cutlass clashing  * parrot squawk  * treasure coins  * crab’s claws snipping  * rowing a boat

Space

* 3,2,1 lift off  * laser beam  * spaceship beam  * martian  * shooting star  * alien  * jetpack takeoff  * airlock  * ‘Roger that’

and the latest soundboard to be added is for

Halloween

* ‘Mwahaha’ Dracula  * creaking door  * ‘Oooh’ ghost  * bubbling cauldron  *rattling skeleton  * cat screeching  * flapping bats  * wolf howling  *Dracula’s organ

I deliberately didn’t tell Harley about the app before we used it. As it is nearly Halloween, we used this soundboard first for when we read a super Halloween picture book:

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Before using the soundboard, I quickly looked through the sound effects available and chose the ones that I thought would fit our story well. As we read the story together, I pressed the buttons to create the sound effects at aptly timed points throughout the story. Wow, I wish I could have captured every time his eyes lit up in sheer delight, as he heard the bats flapping around him, the skeleton bones rattling in the story and the ghostly noises coming from the book. It was magic.

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Once we had read the story, Harley inevitably wanted to press the buttons and have a go himself. He loved the creaking door and mimicked Dracula’s evil laugh for hours after!

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When he flicked through the other soundboards, he suddenly rushed upstairs to his room, totally unprompted and brought down another book that he wanted to read:

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‘The Pirate-Cruncher’, perfect for the pirate sound effects.

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The Storytime Sounds app is so easy to use and the sounds are extremely effective. Absolutely perfect for helping to bring a story to life.

As a teacher myself, I can really see the added benefits of an app such as this. My class are perhaps a little too old for this but if I was a teacher in a Preschool, Reception or a Key Stage 1 teacher, I would most certainly attach it to the speakers of an interactive whiteboard during storytime. That would be brilliant. You could also use the soundboards for role play to add sound effects to imaginative play.

The app is designed for iPhone or iPad and can be downloaded from iTunes if you click here.

What a fab little app, perfect for a range of story genres and catering for both genders.

I think we’ll read a fairytale tomorrow.

Disclaimer: I was asked by the team at Mumsnet to review this app, all words and opinions are my own.

UPDATE ALERT….. I’m so thrilled to just be sent a gorgeous video of a friend’s daughter who felt that in her words, she was ‘rubbish at writing’ and who used the storytime app as inspiration. She wrote her own short story and whilst reading her story aloud, she used the sound effects on the fairytale soundboard. It was lovely to see her beaming smile at the end, proud of the story she had written. Yet another great use for this fab app.

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Family Fever
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Alphabet Photography ~ Y

Y is for … Yawn

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Lola was only 14 days old in this photo. A perfect, squishy baby yawn. Baby’s are such time wasters, aren’t they? I could sit and watch her all day, whether she’s playing, sleeping, yawning, giggling, eating, I love every inch of her.

Linking up with Charly’s Alphabet Project over at podcastdove

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Halloween’s a comin’

Once the clocks have gone back and it’s pitch black at 6pm at night, it feels all cosy indoors. I’ve just bought some lovely twig lights from Dunelm Mill and the soft glow is just enough to light the room.

I can’t believe it’s nearly the end of October already. Halloween is in a few days, then sure enough it will Bonfire Night followed closely by Christmas, my highlight of the year, then New Year’s Eve, then hello 2015! Then we do it all over again! Time really is flying by but the next few weeks bring excitement for everyone.

As we have Luke’s boys for the start of Half Term we decided to have Halloween early. Last night, we carved our pumpkins. Connor wanted a starry faced pumpkin with big gnarly teeth and Harley wanted a skeleton. I managed to find some really large pumpkins but they took forever to scoop out. The skeleton design needed a large pumpkin to draw the skeleton on, otherwise it would have been even more fiddly. I’m not a fan of pumpkin so I saved all the insides for my mum to make some soup.

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If you look closely, my poor skeleton lost a rib! For something a little bit different we also put some glow sticks inside the pumpkins. They looked good all lit up in red and blue but didn’t look so effective in a photo so these ones just have tea lights in them.

I saw a super way of decorating a pumpkin, using a drill to make holes, which you can then arrange to make flower patterns. You can see an example of this in my Pinterest board, below.

I also found this cute little plastic pumpkin in Asda. It was only £1 and takes a battery to make it flash:

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I also made some Pinterest inspired treats for the boys. They went down really well:

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The spiders are simply Oreo cookies (I used the packets of mini Oreos but in hindsight I would have used the standard sized cookie so that you can fit all 8 legs on!) I used mint Matchmakers for the legs, a blob of icing and then used a chocolate crispy ball to make the eyes. You could also use strands of black liquorice for even more creepy looking spider legs.

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The Skeletons are simply icing drawn onto gingerbread men with crispy chocolate balls for eyes.

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And the ghosts which were the outright winners, were marshmallows on top of a chocolate fudge brownie, covered in icing. I made the icing a bit too runny but they still tasted good once the icing had set. I use a ready made icing tube for the skeletons and after I was instructed to make more ghosts, I use the tube to place a blob of icing under the marshmallow so that it stuck to the brownie and put a small blob of icing to stick the chocolate balls on to make the face. Again in hindsight, I would have simply done this first time round as it was easier than mixing up icing that I still didn’t make thick enough!

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Blimey, what a difference 4 years make …

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Take a look at my Halloween Pinterest Board if you click here. You’ll find some fab ideas for some kiddie crafts, alternative Halloween treats and take a peak at the Halloween nail art idea, I love it. There is an adorable idea of using children’s footprints to make ghost pictures and a fab Halloween wreath for the door.

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Do you celebrate Halloween or do you turn all the lights off and hide from the Trick or Treaters? I remember a few years ago, we lived in the catchment area for the school where we both worked. We had so many children we knew knock on the door for Trick or Treat and all were really lovely but I distinctly remember one child, dressed up as Frankenstein saying “Mwahaha, trick to treat? …. oh, by the way, is our homework due in tomorrow, Mr. Simpson?” It still makes me chuckle now.

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If I could turn back time…

So tonight, the clocks go back.

A whole extra hour in bed… Bliss… If only someone could explain that to a child!

Somehow, I don’t think we will be benefitting from that extra long, lazy Sunday morning.

So instead of dragging my tired body out of bed at an unearthly hour in the morning and rubbing my sore eyes, I will embrace the fact that I get a whole extra hour to enjoy my children. An extra hour of morning cuddles and playing games.

I have to be honest and say this clock go backwards and forwards malarky seems all rather daft to me. Goodbye British Summertime and hello darker evenings. Oh the joy!

It got me thinking, that if I could put the clocks back, what would I do or do differently if I could turn back time?

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Without a question of a doubt, I wish I had met my husband sooner and had my beautiful children sooner. I love being a wife and a mummy. I’m not sure that there is a role more suited to me. I love it.

If I could turn back time, I would have gone travelling when I had the chance. I went straight from school to University and then straight into teaching. I don’t feel like I have seen much of the world and there is a tiny part of me that regrets that.

If I could turn back time I would have spent longer in the gym and worked harder at saving money!

I would relive a night out at Jumping Jaks with my gorgeous friend, Becky. Saturday nights were spent dancing to cheesy 80’s and 90’s music and oh, how our feet ached from the dancing in heels at the end of the night. But, it was so much fun and is my favourite memory from my younger days.

If I could turn back time, I would film our wedding. My biggest regret of the most amazing day.

I would have chosen one darker shade of cream when we chose our new carpet (mums are regretfully always right!)

I would have without doubt, spoken sooner to my beautiful friend, Sarah. I feel like I have known her all my life yet in reality, it’s only been for a couple of years. She knows every part of me. She knows how I think. I can’t imagine not having her in my life; I only wish it had been for longer.

I would have photographed Harley on the same day, every month to really capture his little face changing. I am currently doing that with Lola and I love seeing her face develop as she grows. I wish I had thought to do that with Harley when he was born.

I would turn the clocks back to when my sister and I were little and we used to play ‘Shops’ with my lovely Gran, where we used buttons for coins. We used to have toasted cheese sandwiches and drink blackcurrant with lemonade. My childhood was an extremely happy one and is one I look back on with the fondest of memories. I completely thank my mum and dad for that.

I don’t like to dwell on the past, there’s not much that I regret or would change. But there are, without doubt, things that I wish I would do differently.

So with the clocks going back tonight, is there anything that you would do if you could turn back time?

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Mami 2 Five

 

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6 Month Blog Celebratory Giveaway

I was looking back at my blog the other day and suddenly realised that my blog is now over 6 months old. I started blogging in April when my little Lola was only 3 months old, when I was on Maternity Leave and I had all the time in the world to write…well as much time as I could in between feeding, nappy changes, pre-school runs, tidying the house and being a wife and a stepmum! But I enjoyed it; I still enjoy it now, even though I don’t have as much time as I used to, now that I’m back at work.

Ultimately, this a space that I can share with my children as they get older, to hopefully look back on with fond memories.

But I also enjoy sharing aspects of our family life with you. The comments I get from people who follow and read my blog posts, have been so positive and I’m so unbelievably thankful for every single person who enjoys reading what I have to say. It has also given me opportunities to review new, innovative products and to write guest posts for one of our favourite family theme parks.

So as a little thank you for all of your support, I wanted to do a giveaway.

For my birthday, my sister introduced me to the gorgeous store Joules. She bought me a lovely oversized, stripey, Summer bag. Even the bag that the bag came in was gorgeous! Since then, I’ve been hooked and have purchased many items from them online from children’s clothes to accessories for me and I’ve currently got my eye on a gorgeous floral duvet cover.

I spotted one of their cute little cosmetic purses and thought that it would make a perfect make-up bag.

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As a bonus, there are goodies inside:

3 pots of lip balm: Elderflower, Honey and Blackberry fragrance

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A 50ml pot of deliciously scented hand cream

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4 mini emery boards and a £10 off voucher to spend at any Joules store or online.

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Wouldn’t this Joules purse make a lovely make-up bag?

My make-up bag essential has to be… well, I have 2… my L’oreal mascara. It opens up my eyes and in all honesty, I wouldn’t leave the house without applying some and definitely my Nivea lip balm. I have one on my bedside table, one in my make-up bag, one in my handbag and one on my desk at school! What’s your make-up bag essential?

Giveaway details

To win this lovely little item from Joules for yourself or to giveaway as a Christmas pressie, there are multiple ways to enter but you must complete number 1.

1. Simply leave a comment below telling me your make-up bag essential.

Optional:

2. Follow @aliandlucky on Twitter

3. Share this post on Twitter

4. ‘Like’ MylifeMyLove on Facebook

5. Share this post on Instagram

Please let me know if you have done any of these options by leaving a comment below as each option will be an entry.

One winner will be identified using random.org on Sunday 8th November, 2014 at 8pm.

Good Luck!

UPDATE: The lucky winner picked at Random was Mamavsteacher. Congrats! xx

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Alphabet Photography ~ X

X is for … Xmas

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Ok, so technically Christmas starts with a C but can you think of many photos that begin with an X?!

This was a gorgeous moment, captured beautifully. Harley’s first Christmas. We made this photo into some Christmas Cards for friends and family. I smile every time I see the photo. I love it.

I know there are still a few more weeks to go until the Christmas tree can go up and it be considered acceptable, but I’m already starting to get excited. I’ve started a bit of my shopping and have volunteered to have all the family to ours this year for Christmas dinner.

It will be Lola’s first Christmas this year. I can’t wait to see their little faces. Simply magic.

 

I just had to share!

I just had to share!

Linking up with Charly’s Alphabet Project over at Podcastdove.

 

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Lola ~ 9 months

I saw this on Instagram recently and, blimey, isn’t it so true!

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Everyone says, ‘time flies’ but 9 months ago when I was in hospital waiting to go into theatre to have Lola, only seems like yesterday. I remember every single minute of that day, that it can’t really be 9 months ago… except it is. And I now have a beautiful daughter who lights up my world.

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I feel like she is growing so quickly that I need to pause everyday to savour every little moment of her. Every single day is met with utter heartbreak when I kiss her goodbye to go to work. It is then contrasted with sheer overwhelming delight, when I pick her up afterwards.

Sometimes I catch myself just staring at her, wondering how long I’ve been captivated by her.

She is simply beautiful, to me.

Every night before I go to bed, I look into her cot. I breathe deeply to inhale her scent and listen to her breathing, softly. I desperately want to pick her up and cuddle her.

I miss her when she is sleeping.

I get excited when I hear her waking in the morning. I can hold her.

In 9 months, she has made my life complete. To hear her giggle and say ‘Mama’ is all I need to hear. It makes my heart dance. She crawls around so quickly and always manages to find something to chew on. She loves to stand and push herself around on her walker. She’s eating new foods and every now and again, we wake up and realise that she has slept through the night!

Luke and I have set up an email address for her and from the moment she was born, we have been sending her photos and videos for her to watch and probably laugh at, when she is older. I hope she likes it.

In only a few more weeks, we will be sharing our first Christmas together and then 3 weeks after that, her first birthday. Exciting and busy times ahead.

When she is old enough to understand, I will make sure she knows how completely lucky she is to have a brother who adores every inch of her. The care, attentiveness and adoration that Harley shows towards her, overwhelms us. At only 4 years old, he displays love for her which we never thought possible. I love how close they are, long may it continue.

I will make sure she knows how incredibly beautiful she is, so that she grows up with confidence, self-belief and integrity. I will make sure she knows that we have and will do everything we can to protect her, to make her happy and to be independent.

Lola Mae, we love you, so very much.

xxx

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What’s inside my Sassy Bloom Box ?

I was so excited and down right chuffed, to be chosen to receive a Sassy Bloom Box. Sassy Bloom are a multi-award winning company who send personalised boxes of goodies for mum and baby, straight to your door. The boxes can be ordered as a monthly subscription or be given as a gift. The boxes are best suited for mums-to-be in the third trimester of pregnancy to toddlers of up to 2 years of age. The content of the boxes are carefully packaged and selected especially for you or your child, according to age and gender. I had no idea what was going to be inside my box when it arrived beautifully wrapped and packaged.

Here is my first ever Vlog of me finding out what is inside the box, so you find out the same time as I do!

 

Let’s go through each of the gorgeous items in more detail:

 1. Dribble Bib

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A really thick and lined dribble bib with a double popper at the back to adjust the size. In a cute flower print. We can never have enough of these. Lola is at the age now, where she is constantly dribbling. I love the design and style of the triangular dribble bib, as opposed to the traditional square bib. They look much nicer and complement any outfit. This one sits nice and high under Lola’s chin so that it keeps the neckline of her clothing nice and dry. She is yet to try and pull it off, so it must be lovely and comfortable for her.

2. Rattle

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This one is super for developing multi sensory skills as not only can the rattle be held and shook by little hands, but the rattle rotates within the handles. Because the rattle is transprent, you can see the brightly coloured 3D shapes move around, inside the rattle.  Lola also enjoys rolling it on the ground too.

3. Picture Book

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This adorable picture book called ‘Peter’s Pebbles’ is loved by Lola’s brother also. A lovely story about a little boy who paints pebbles into animals, which then come to life. The story is captivating and the illustrations really make the story come to life. My heart melted when I caught Harley ‘reading’ the story to Lola, using the pictures as clues.

4. Food Catching Bib

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These bibs are such a brilliant design; worth their weight in gold for helping to keep my carpet the lovely cream colour that it should be! This fun design is rubbery, soft and flexible so that it is comfortable for baby to wear around the neck. It has 3 adjustments on the back to alter the size to fit. Lola also likes to chew on the bib as she is teething at the moment. It’s the perfect material for this as some bibs of this design can be rather stiff.

5. Bath Time Tea Party Set

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This is such a sweet toy which can either be played with in or out of the bath. The teapot pours water and the cute sugar pot has little cubes of sugar inside which float around when the pot is filled with water. It was so sweet to watch Harley pouring Lola a cup of tea in the bath and handing her the cup!

6. Personalised Blanket

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And finally, my favourite item in the box, a gorgeous pink fleecy blanket, with Lola’s name embroidered onto it. The blanket is a great size which is big enough to be doubled over to make it twice as thick, if needed. It’s so soft and warm, perfect for the cot or out and about in the buggy.

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I really was impressed with the contents of the box. I love the idea of a box arriving every month and having the surprise of not knowing what’s inside. Sassy Bloom is also enjoyed and recommend by many a celeb. You can read what the celebrity mums and dads are saying if you head over to the website by clicking here.  You check out the prices by clicking here. If you fancy giving Sassy Bloom a try to see what goodies you will receive, click here and enter the unique referral code ALISIMPS for £10 off.

Thank you, Sassy Bloom. You have created an innovative idea and developed a product that’s personal, practical and completely fun.

Have you ever tried or received a Sassy Bloom Box? What goodies were inside yours?

Disclaimer: I was sent a complimentary Sassy Bloom Box however all words and opinions are my own.

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Alphabet Photography ~ W

W is for … Wavy

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I’ve really enjoyed this Alphabet Photography Project. It’s been such fun finding a photo to fit each letter of the alphabet (some have inevitably been easier than others) but I have really enjoyed sharing some of my favourite photos with you.

This is another of my favs. It was taken at Harley’s first ever Bonfire night. We didn’t know how he would cope with the loud bangs of the fireworks, or the late night for that matter, but it was truly magical. He was totally enthralled by all the lights and colours in the night sky.

I love the waves that the fireworks have created and the colour of the sky, captured in this photo. It almost looks as though Harley and I have been stuck onto the photo!

I can’t believe it’s nearly that time of year again. We love Bonfire night; I hope you all have a good one, this year.

Linking up with Charly, over at podcastdove.com

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Alphabet photography ~ V

V is for… Vows.

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V was an easy letter for me this week. I immediately knew that I would use this photo that my lovely friend took of Luke and I saying our wedding vows.
I love how you can see my grandma’s pearl bracelet which was my ‘something old’. We got married in a beautiful outdoor chapel with Roman pillars surrounded by flowers and candles. I remember this moment captured in the photo, so clearly. It simply was, the best day of my life.

Linking up with Charly, over at podcastdove.com

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Christmas Wonderland at Paultons Park

Friends and family know that I’m a sucker for Christmas. Who isn’t? The sheer thought and perhaps realisation that December is really not that far away, fills me so much warmth and excitement. I won’t dwell on the fact that, yes, another year seems to have flown by! I’ve already started a bit of my Christmas shopping but I do like to visit the shops when full Christmas atmosphere is upon us. Getting wrapped up in a warm coat and browsing the local Christmas outdoor market whilst stopping for a warm glass of mulled wine, is my idea of shopping heaven. I love driving home from work and seeing the huge Christmas tree on the roundabout, beautifully lit up. I love decorating our home; letting the kids decorate the tree then secretly moving a few baubles that I can’t just bring myself to leave!  Seeing the cosy lights, the holly, the wreath on the door and then of course, the Christmas movies.

Christmas to me is all about the children. There is nothing more magical than leaving out a plate of mince pie and wine for Father Christmas and a carrot for Rudolph on Christmas Eve. Their little faces, Christmas morning when they first set eyes on their stocking filled with goodies, I would freeze that moment in time, if I could.

This Christmas is going to be made even more magical because we are going to be taking Harley and Lola to the Christmas Wonderland at Paultons Park. Excited doesn’t seem to do justice to how we all feel at the thought of meeting Santa in his Winter Wonderland.

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The park and Peppa Pig World are transformed at Christmas and take you on a magical festive journey with animated characters, singing reindeer, giant Christmas trees and illuminations.

The Christmas Wonderland will run from Saturday 15th November until Tuesday 23rd December 2014. Tickets must be pre-booked in advance and include entry to the Wonderland; the rides at Paultons Park and Peppa Pig World; the 4d film at the Show Street Cinema and of course, all good boys and girls, get to receive a present from Santa. The Wildwood’s restaurant will be open with a delicious festive menu if you need a pit stop to refuel.

You can pre-book your tickets by clicking here.

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We are beyond excited to visit the Christmas Wonderland this year. You can find out more about this spectacular event if you head over to the Paultons Park website by clicking here.

Take a little peak at the trailer for the 4d film below, it will be sure to get you feeling all warm and Christmassy:

What gets you all excited about Christmas? Have you ever been to the Christmas Wonderland at Paultons Park? I’m so excited, we are counting down the days!

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Alphabet Photography ~ U

U is for … Us.

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Now that I have gone back to work following my maternity leave, time with my children seems even more precious. Wednesdays are without question, my favourite day of the working week!

I get to spend the whole day with Harley and Lola … just us.

No school, no pre-school, no drop offs, no lunchbox prep and no saying goodbye.

Just fun, play and cuddles. Us.

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I love these 2 photos. I took them last Wednesday and have not stopped smiling every time I look back at them.

It’s Wednesday today, so what’s on the menu? Jigsaws? Football? Hide and Seek? Swimming? Toy cars? the park?

I’m happy just staring at them. That’s when my heart is completely full.

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Linking up with Charly over at Podcastdove.

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