‘Make The World Better With a Sweater’ Day

photo (8)

Hands up if you love Christmas…
In true over enthusiastic child fashion, with an arm stretched high into the air and my hand flapping eagerly… Me, me, me!

Hands up if you love all things beautiful and festive… Me, me, me!

Hands up if you love an excuse to decorate yourself, Christmas stylee as well as your house… Me, me, me!

So, hands up if you would love to wear a festive Christmas jumper to work… Me, me, me!

But… hands up if a cheesy Christmas jumper is not part of your uniform or the professional attire that your boss expects… Me, me, me!

So (for the last time) hands up if you can’t think of a better excuse to wear your Christmas jumper because it helps to raise money for Save the ChildrenMe, me, definitely me!

The charity runs it’s annual Christmas Jumper Day which this year falls on Friday 12 December. So whether it’s a seasonal knit, a cheesy light up sweater or one you’ve knitted yourself or adapted with tinsel, wear your Christmas Jumper on the 12th and donate £2. Every pound donated will be matched by the UK Government.

Find out more about how to get involved in Christmas Jumper Day here or text Festive to 88600 for your free Christmas Jumper Day kit.

Here’s me and mine rocking our festive woolies:

PicMonkey 1

Mine is so warm and snuggly from Next, Luke’s and Harley’s were from Primark and Lola’s was from Next, complete with a flashing nose.

PicMonkey 4

PicMonkey 3

So, embrace the Christmas cheese, ‘make the World better with a sweater’, donate to charity, ’tis the season to be jolly, after all.

photo (8)

Me add three
Please follow and like us:

How to mark Baby’s First Christmas?

And with what feels like a blink of an eye, my teeny tiny baby will soon be 11 months and celebrating her first Christmas. Christmas – that magical festive season of love, twinkly lights, over indulgence and beyond excited children. This year is made all the more special that we now have a gorgeous little girl to share it with. A baby’s first Christmas is always a moment to be cherished so I decided to come up with my must-haves for every baby’s first Christmas.

1. Take a special Christmas photo.

photo (5)

We managed to capture a lovely photo of Harley when he was 3 months old, for his first Christmas. We loved this photo so much that we made it into some Christmas cards for friends and family that year. Despite the seasonal touch that unfortunately prevents me from having this photo on my wall, all year round, it is still one of my absolute favourites; a very special moment captured. You can click on my Pinterest Board below for some inspiration for that special photo opportunity.

2. Choose an ornament to mark the occasion

I love the idea of a special tree hanging ornament or decoration. I adore this personalised robin bauble from Hope and Willow on NotontheHighstreet, £19.

original_personalised-1st-christmas-robin-bauble

and this gorgeously understated acrylic star by EdgeInspired on NotontheHighstreet, £3.75

original_personalised-baby-s-first-christmas-star-decoration

3. Christmas outfit

It has to be done, doesn’t it? With so many cute baby outfits out there, a baby’s first Christmas has to be the best excuse. We are yet to buy Lola’s Christmas outfit, my mind is a whirl as to what we shall dress her as… an angel, a reindeer maybe even a Christmas pudding. This was Harley’s Christmas outfit, we were so lucky to have it coincide with a couple of days of snow. It was truly magical:

76779_469233453029_6265126_n

I love the delicate flakes of snow on his little face in this photo:

155704_469234653029_3098981_n

4. Christmas PJs

Whether it’s a sleepsuit or a pair of pyjamas, I think there is something so lovely and cosy about a festive pair of pjs. For some reason, I think they are memorable too and Christmas time is definitely worthy of a special pair. I love these Gingerbread ones for Lola by George at Asda, £6.

download

and this cute unisex twin pack from Mothercare, £14.

lc6153_1

5. Special keepsake gift

I always think that as they won’t remember what gifts they got for Christmas, it’s not worth forking out on lots of expensive gifts. We will make Lola a stocking which I know she will have so much fun unwrapping and perhaps one main toy from us. But I do like to mark the occasion with a special gift; perhaps it’s more for when they are older and they rummage through their memory box. I’m so lucky to have a very talented jeweller as a sister and  I know that she has made Lola a very special personalised gift for Christmas day. It’s so beautiful that I have to share it with you as it epitomises that special keepsake gift that is one of my must-haves.

il_570xN.654955792_3oyr

Tinysilver, £42.

6. Make a crafty memory

Cherish their tiny hand or footprints by crafting a piece of Christmas art. Press their handprint onto a plain bauble to hang on the tree; make and decorate footprint Christmas trees; make salt dough ornaments to hang on the tree or even use special paints to decorate a Christmas plate and use baby’s footprint to make the snowman’s nose. All of these craft ideas can be found on my Pinterest Board on the link below.

7. Snap, Snap, Snap

And perhaps inevitably, the most important one is to capture every precious moment on camera and video. We never feel like we film events enough, so this year we will be draining the battery of the video camera, continually. I love this cute little photo album, to store baby’s first Christmas photos, from MamasandPapas, £9.

7570R5100

So these are my favourite ways to mark a baby’s first Christmas and we intend to do these with Lola. Take a look at my Pinterest Board here for some more extra lovely craft ideas, such as making Footprint Reindeers, keepsake hospital tag baubles and some inspiration for that all important photo opportunity.

photo (3)

If you have a little one celebrating their first Christmas, I hope you have a truly wonderful time. What will you be doing to mark the occasion?

photo (39)

Me add three
Please follow and like us:

Our visit to Paultons Park Christmas Wonderland

For me, the most special time of year is nearly upon us so my family and I were so excited to visit the Christmas Wonderland at Paultons Park. Our favourite family theme park, coupled with Father Christmas… it exceeded all of our expectations.

Christmas wonderland logo plus silhouette (1)

Our tickets were for 11am and we were told to be at the entrance quarter of an hour before. Santa’s elves greeted us and had a little chat with Harley and Lola before we went in. There is space to leave the buggy at the beginning, if you wanted to but we chose to keep Lola in hers before she started getting fidgety. As you enter the Wonderland, there is immediately a gorgeous bedroom scene, all set up for Christmas Eve. There is even a sleeping child in the bed, where the covers respond to the child’s breathing; it was very realistic. You then walk through a tunnel of glittery stars overhead and into the most magical set up of Christmas scenes.

PicMonkey Collage1111111111

At every point along the path, there is something beautiful to look at and enjoy, whilst eagerly waiting to meet Santa. All of the animals and creatures are part of some spectacular scenes; most of which have moving parts and even sing along to the Christmas songs. The penguins, polar bears, snowmen and baby seals to name but a few, all create a snowy spectacle as you follow the signs towards the North Pole.

PicMonkey Collage22222222

As you edge ever closer, you see Rudolph and the animated reindeers in their stables. Then you enter Santa’s Toy Workshop. A whole host of busy elves are making and wrapping the toys and collecting the children’s letters for Santa. Harley loved watching the teddy bears move along the conveyor belt and stood in awe, gazing at the large pile of wrapped presents at the end.

PicMonkey Collageaaaaa

As we had a buggy with us, we saw Santa in the larger room (there are 2 rooms for children to meet Santa, which I thought was a brilliant idea as it helped the queue to move quicker.) The elf on the door was really good with the children as we waited our turn to enter the room. She chatted to them about what they wanted for Christmas and asked about whether they were excited to meet Santa.

I didn’t know how Lola would react to seeing Father Christmas. At only 9 months, I thought there might be some tears. But I was so wrong, she loved him and he was brilliant with her. After a quick chat, Santa gave Harley and Lola a present, each labelled with their age bracket and girl or boy, which you state when purchasing your tickets.

PicMonkey Collage111

DSC_1489

We unwrapped the presents at home and were unbelievably impressed with the high quality gifts both children received. Harley was given a Monster truck set and Lola, a snuggly comforter and toy. Both gifts were perfect for their age and very well received.

photo 1 (96)

After the Christmas Wonderland we went into the 4d cinema to watch the Christmas film, Sleigh Ride. This was such fun. The chairs move in time with Santa’s sleigh and there is even a hair raising moment when it feels like there are spider legs around your feet as you see the animated spider appear on screen.

Harley kept yelping in joy and saying he was getting wet! I wondered what on earth he was talking about until the 3rd time of him saying it, I realised that it always coincided with a water scene in the film and sure enough a quick spray of water really did take you into the film. (I think my lucky seat must have missed the water spray!) The film ends with a snow scene and foam is sprayed out from the side of the cinema. It made me laugh so much as I thought it was just the 3d effect in the film until the lights went up and I saw foam snow everywhere.

As if all of this excitement wasn’t enough for one day, the entry ticket into the Christmas Wonderland also gives you entry into the whole of Paultons Park and the fantastic Peppa Pig World. Some of the rides are closed for Winter maintenance but it was super to see the spectacular Christmas tree and magical illuminations throughout the park, which all year round, is a firm family favourite of ours. Peppa and George are dressed up in their winter gear which is a lovely touch and we enjoyed the park for the rest of the day.

???????????????????????????????

Theme Park rides; Peppa Pig; meeting Father Christmas; a beautiful, magical Wonderland and Christmas trees a plenty…. I’m not sure if you can get anything better than that for a family day out at Christmas time.

Click here to book tickets for Paultons Park Christmas Wonderland.

photo 2 (88)

Disclaimer: My family and I were lucky enough to receive complimentary tickets from Paultons Park for their Christmas Wonderland event, however all words and opinions are very much my own.

photo (39)

Family Fever
Me add three
Please follow and like us:

Mindful Monday ~Wk 1

photo (4)

I love a good quote.

My home has them on its walls. My classroom has them on its doors. My phone has them stored away for inspiration. So I thought I would share my favourites, in a new weekly project, Mindful Monday.

Monday, the start of the working week, the one day I perhaps need the most inspiration to get me through the next 5 days until the weekend!

I hope you enjoy them. I hope they inspire you or perhaps let you take a moment to pause in this whirlwind of a journey. So let’s kick the project off with this one.

How unbelievably true …

photo

photo (39)

Please follow and like us:

The Best Christmas Advert?

Yes, I hold my hands up …. I’m guilty of loving TV adverts. Forget R.Whites “I’m a secret Lemonade drinker” it’s more like A.Simpson “I’m a secret TV ad lover.”

I would like to say that adverts are my guilty pleasure, apart from the fact that I make no bones about being a lover of the 4 minute commercial break. I chuckle to myself when the presenter always says “So go and grab yourself a cuppa, we’ll see you in 4.” I never move an inch! I have a deep resentment when hubby says “Let’s Sky Plus The X-Factor so we can fast forward the ads!” Grrrr!

I’ve got my favourite ads, in fact my absolute fav is the Specsavers, ‘Shake what your mumma gave you’ advert. It never fails to make me laugh out loud when the fitness instructor starts gyrating and the old folk waiting for the Bingo, join in! I’ve got my most annoying ads and the ones that persuade me to buy a product. But it’s nearly December and the Christmas adverts have been in full flow for a few weeks now. It got me thinking about the best Christmas advert of all time.

Seeing the annual Boots adverts advertising their 3 for 2 offers always make me head down to the store. The teacher in me loves this year’s Waitrose advert where a reluctant pupil is encouraged to take part in the Christmas Gingerbread Stall.

Last year, Sainsbury’s Homecoming advert, struck an emotional chord with me. It showed real time video footage of families sending Christmas messages to their daddies and husbands, when they unexpectedly walk through the door. And in Sainsburys’ words, that’s definitely a moment that ‘makes Christmas special.’

But this year’s Sainsbury’s advert is without question, the most poignant and moving 3 and a half minutes I have seen. The advert was first screened tonight on ITV. It shows soldiers of both nations singing the same Christmas Carol; holding a truce to share a game of football, even exchanging gifts. Perhaps some may question why Sainsbury is using World War 1 to market themselves, however the advert is in conjunction with the Royal British Legion. In fact the chocolate bar seen in the advert is apparently going to be sold for £1 with all profits going to the charity. The advert marks the 100 anniversary of the start of WW1 and is a heartwarming tribute. I had goosebumps and a definite tear in my eye.

When hunting for the best Christmas advert, John Lewis is probably the leader of the pack. Their much awaited annual advert is always a talking point. Monty the Penguin featured in this year’s ad, has sold out. Remember the Bear and the Hare from last year, where the Bear had never seen Christmas, accompanied by that beautiful cover of Keane’s ‘Somewhere Only We Know’ by Lily Allen? Or the year before when the Snowman disappears to find love, alongside that haunting cover of Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s ‘Power of Love’?

But without question, my favourite Christmas advert of all time, is the John Lewis advert from 2011. It shows a little boy, getting frustrated with the long wait for Christmas Day. It is only in the final scene when he wakes up on Christmas morning, running straight past his stocking to collect a messily wrapped present which he eagerly gives to his parents, that viewers realise why he was so desperate for Christmas morning. When the advert was first aired on TV, I got a text straight away from my sister asking if I was crying!! She knows me too well; I had tears streaming down my face.

So Sainsburys, hats off to you. You gave John Lewis a good run for their money. You moved me and instilled such pride in our country. You’ve definitely won the best Christmas ad for 2014. But John Lewis, the parent in me passes you the trophy for the best Christmas Ad of all time.

What’s you favourite Christmas advert?

photo (39)

Me add three
Please follow and like us:

Christmas Child Shoebox Appeal ~ Harley’s Shoebox

All of us are proud of our children but I burst with pride at how thoughtful and considerate Harley is, at only 4 years old. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves that he is still only 4. I always ensure that Harley appreciates his lifestyle and the toys that he has. Only a couple of weeks ago, we went for a walk down the beach and we talked about how lucky we were to live in such a beautiful part of the UK. He couldn’t believe that some children had never been to a beach. I don’t want him to grow up taking things for granted; or to accept without question the number of toys in the playroom, for example.

Despite still being very young, I felt that he should understand that there are other children in other parts of the world who aren’t as fortunate as he is, especially with Christmas approaching. So I told him all about the Operation Christmas Child Appeal. He was so excited to create a shoebox full of small gifts that would be sent overseas to a child less fortunate. He loved the idea of his shoebox going on an aeroplane.

photo 1 (94)

Harley decided that he wanted to make his shoebox for a little boy aged between 2- 4 years old. I was so touched that he wanted to give away some of his beloved toys but I did explain that the items needed to be new! We popped to a few local shops to buy some gifts to pack our shoebox. Here are the contents of our box:

PicMonkey Collagezz

Once we had collected all of our gifts (and checked that they would all fit in the box!) we wrapped the shoebox and its lid in Christmas wrapping paper.

photo 2 (86)

We then filled the box and included a donation of £3 which is asked to cover the cost of shipping.

photo 2 (87)

Harley wanted to include a short letter which I thought was a lovely idea.

PicMonkey Collageaaa

One of our local drop off points is the School where I work so Harley came in to drop off his box with the others.

photo (3)

If you’re thinking of joining in and creating a Christmas Shoebox, you must first decide whether your box is going to be for a girl or a boy and for which age range, 2-4, 5-9 or 10-14 years old.

A few ideas for the contents are:

Toys: Dolls, toy trucks, balls, yo-yos, skipping ropes, puzzles

School equipment: Pens, pencils, crayons, felt tips, stamps, notepads, calculators, colouring books, pictures books

Hygiene items: Toothbrush, toothpaste, flannel, comb, hairbrush, wrapped soap

Other: Hat, cap, gloves, scarf, sunglasses, wrapped sweets, hair accessories, jewellery set

You should not include: used/damaged items, war related items, food, liquids, medicine, bubbles, marbles, sharp objects, glass, mirrors, handmade or knitted stuffed toys, clothing other than listed above.

You should stick the label on the box lid to indicate who your box is for. You can download copies of the label or for more information, click here.

You can find out your nearest Drop Off Point on the link above and note the deadline for the collection date.

So to the little boy who receives our box, we hope you enjoy the gifts inside and that they make you smile. We hope you have a really lovely Christmas.

Love from Harley and his Mummy. xx

photo (39)

Please follow and like us:

Can you really have a child friendly, luxury Spa hotel? Yes you can!

Long before my beautiful children came along, I used to frequent many a top class hotel where luxury and quality were at the forefront of its name. As much as I love my children dearly, it is with regret that that part of my life has somewhat diminished.

I only have to cringe at the thought of taking them into a posh restaurant, let alone a hotel!

It’s such a shame that many top hotels out there, do not cater for families, in fact, I have felt somewhat uncomfortable being in these places with my children. I get that people don’t want screaming children running around whilst they are eating their 7 course menu of griddled red mullet, red wine jus, seared foie gras with turnip and prune (see, I can be posh!) but families can have well behaved children and like to enjoy a bit of luxury too, amidst the sandwich picnics on the floor, chicken nuggets and fish fingers to which we have become accustomed.

So imagine my delight when my family and I arrived at the Cottons Hotel and Spa, in Knutsford, Cheshire.

The sheer fact that I want to share this fantastic hotel with you all, speaks volumes.

PicMonkey Collageb

I’ll be honest though … we arrived in the evening and as we drove into the carpark, the fountain and stunning sparkly trees which front the hotel where lit up to create an idyllic entrance. Although this fairytale welcome, met all of my ideal, that inner anxiety that we were arriving with an 11 year old, a 4 year old and heaven forbid a 9 month old baby, started to rear it’s ugly head. I remember my words “…behave you lot… you have to be on your best behaviour… don’t touch anything.. etc etc”

From the minute we met the night porter and checked in, I was blown away by this gorgeous hotel. Our bags were carried to our room for us, on the 3rd floor and the sight of a 4 poster bed was more than a welcome surprise.

photo 1 (91)

The room was extremely spacious, even for all of us. There was a lounge area with a double sofa bed and I was delighted to see that the hotel had put up a travel cot for Lola. The 2 Tvs made the boys very excited. Teas, coffees, Horlicks and delicious biscuits were provided. There was also a fridge with complimentary chilled water and milk. I thought it was lovely that the boys were each provided with a bottle of juice and a packet of raisins, on arrival. And this photo, well, it speaks for itself ….

photo 2 (83)

… what a brilliant idea: a dish for your ghds!

We were staying 2 nights at the Cottons Hotel, so made the most of the huge breakfast they had on offer, each morning. Guests can enjoy a cooked breakfast buffet, croissants, cereal, toast, yogurt and fresh fruit. All of us were full to the brim.

PicMonkey Collagea

The staff were so attentive. It was during the morning of our first breakfast that I realised how unbelievably family friendly this hotel is. We were given a comfy high chair for Lola, child cutlery and the staff were so good at clearing up the odd bits of toast that she kept flinging onto the floor!

We also made the most of the gorgeous spa that the hotel has to offer, visiting both days.

Again, this photo speaks for itself. How adorable that the children are provided with their own ‘VI little P’ white fluffy robes. What a brilliant touch:

photo 3 (63)

The spa houses a great size pool with a shallow baby pool attached. It was perfect for us as we could all be together.

photo 3 (61)

photo 5 (29)

The spa also had a relaxing Turkish Steam Room giving off a deliciously inhalant Eucalyptus scent (one of my most favourite smells) with ambient red spotlights on the ceiling and also a Sauna. There is a large jacuzzi pool which Ethan loved as he was old enough to use it.

photo 4 (42)

Outdoors, there is another jacuzzi overlooking the tennis courts. How about this to wake up to in the morning or relax in at the end of the day?

photo 1 (92)

photo 2 (84)

Saturday evening we popped into Knutsford. What a gorgeous, quaint, little town. I wish we had visited in the day so that we could have made the most of all of the wonderful little shops. I have to say that I found my ultimate dream kitchen in the kitchen shop there!

This beautiful hotel had already done more than enough to sell itself to me but it totally outdid itself when room service knocked on the door. We were a little confused at first as we hadn’t ordered anything but to the children’s sheer delight, the hotel had sent them up a cookie and a glass of milk before bed, with their names written in chocolate.

My goodness, how many hotels do that? Not many, I’m pretty sure.

photo 5 (28)

From the minute we arrived, to the minute we checked out, we felt truly spoilt and well looked after. From the hotel itself, to its staff, to the food, to the spa, even the complimentary toiletries in the bathroom, all exceeded our expectations.

For a short break in idyllic countryside, yet only a short distance from the M6 and M56, I can’t recommend this Shire hotel enough. The Cotton’s Hotel and Spa, is a haven of class and relaxation. It took me back to those days when I could enjoy a top notch hotel, only this time, my children were able to be with me and I’m not sure there’s anything better than that.

Disclaimer: I received a 2 nights stay at the hotel with breakfast thanks to Baby “N” Mums Best, a super website that offers advice and support for all things mums and babies. However all words and opinions are my own; I was not expected to write a review of the hotel but felt compelled to do so, as I was so impressed. Baby “N” Mums Best are currently running a competition to win a 2 nights stay at the Cottons Hotel and Spa if you click here. So be quick and good luck! I’m certain you’ll love it as much as I did.

photo (39)

Please follow and like us:

Alphabet Photography ~ Z

And so we come to the end of the Alphabet Photography Project. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed choosing some of my favourite photos to fit each letter of the alphabet. In the first instance, I thought Z would be pretty difficult however after the hair raising weekend we had at GoApe, Z could be for no other word!

Z is for… Zip Wire

DSC_0965

For Ethan’s birthday, he chose to go to Go Ape for his birthday present, a Treetop Adventure Trail. He went up with his Daddy and I was more than happy to stay on the ground, taking the photos. On the course there are a few zip wires but this one is the longest. I love how you can see the full length of the zip line in this photo. Perhaps, I shouldn’t mention that Luke’s clip attaching him to the zip wire broke during this run in the photo! It was his safety harness that fortunately kept him attached! It didn’t seem to phase him, but my heart was in my mouth!

On one of the zip wires, the instructor gave Harley and Connor a speedometer to capture the speed that Luke and Ethan travelled down the zip wire. Ethan won with 17mph.

DSC_0988

Ethan thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

PicMonkey Collage

If I’m totally honest, I thought I had got away with it, until Connor asked me to do the Junior Treetop Trail with him for his birthday, a couple of weeks later! I was absolutely petrified. Before I had children, I was so brave and adventurous, I was always the first one in the queue for the biggest roller coasters and fastest rides; now I’m truly a wimp!

But I did my step mother duties and kept to my word that I would indeed take Connor on the Junior course thinking that it would be much tamer than the one I had just watched the others do. All I can say is that at 8 years old, he was much braver than me. I completed it but my goodness, I was terrified the whole way through. It made it all worthwhile when Connor told me he was proud of me, isn’t it supposed to be the other way round?!

Thank you so much for following my alphabet photo journey. It’s hard to choose a favourite: J is for Joy, has to be up there and T is for tide has been my screensaver since I took the photo.

Linking up with Charly over at Podcastdove

photo (39)

Please follow and like us:

Monthly Monday Melfie

We all went away this weekend and when we got home, I was flicking through the photos on my phone and it was really apparent that there were no photos of me! I would much rather take photos of my lovely children and hubby. So I’m really thankful for this new monthly linky hosted by Calfornian Mum as it will encourage me to take more photos of myself with my little lovelies. (‘Melfie’… a Mum Selfie, in case you were wondering!) I was really sad that I couldn’t find any photo that I had taken of myself with either of my children last month, so for the first in this new series, I’m using a photo that I took of myself with Lola from a little while ago. With the sheer speed that they grow, I want to be able to look back at photos of them and us, together, so I think I’m going to enjoy this.

photo (2)

photo (39)

Californian Mum in London
Please follow and like us: