Thursday, 11 December 2014

A Festive Flashback Friday

So I've missed Thursday so instead of a throwback Thursday it's a flashback Friday instead!

These photo's are from the Christmas Party at playgroup last year. It was a lovely time even though I was actually incredibly unwell. St. Matthews have always been a lovely welcoming place to go. G has grown out of the playgroup mostly and most of the parents going have changed. That along side trying not to push myself as much after getting hospitalised last Christmas meant we haven't been much since but I miss it!

If I ever have another baby and the group is still running I'd definitely go back.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Our festive fun during Advent

I'm one of those, maybe boring people, who is against putting up decorations until December the 1st, however this year I caved in and they started going up on the 23rd of November. We'd had a crappy day and G didn't remember the decorations from the years before so it was like a bag full of magic and excitement. Plus she's been bugging me for a few days about putting the trees up!

When it reached December and the Advent Calenders came out I felt at peace with the tree being up ha.
I love all the festivities that come with Christmas and although funds are tight yet again this year we are still having some festive fun.

Here is what we have been doing/will be doing/would like to be doing in the lead up to Christmas!

23rd: A Winter Fair: Handforth paddock fair to be exact, it was supposedly a Christmas fair although the Christmas music was barely audible and there was no sign of Santa but still a good time to be had!

28th: St. Georges Christmas Tree Festival - Ok so this was in November, the very end mind, but it helped get in the festive mood. A local church to us is filled full of lovely twinkling trees decorated by local organisations. It was £2 for an adult and free entry for G. She enjoyed a nice christmassy biscuit for just 20p (a big one too) and had a photo with a cuddly version of Santa and high fived an elf. I wish I had some photo's of it all!

29th: Nurserys Christmas Craft Session. Nana and Grandad had arrived for the weekend that morning so it made it more Christmassy. A lovely hour an a half at G's nursery doing christmassy crafts such as snowman making out of marshmallows, decoration making, reindeer food making and more along with a nice tea or coffee (and squash for the children) and a piece of Christmas cake or a mince pie. (photo)

29th: Santa's Grotto: I decided to fit this in when Nana and granddad were visiting so they could come too!
I chose the Arndale's Grotto as adults didn't have to pay. 
 I also liked the look of Tatton Park Grotto & farm, The Trafford Center Grotto and the local garden centers grotto's and breakfasts with Santa. The only problem with those though is that they limit accompanying adults to 2 per child. I need another child!
G enjoyed her visit and I thought the Santa was great. She got given a little chocolate reindeer lolly, as did mummy (woohoo!) and a reindeer soft toy.

29th: Watching Frozen with nana and grandad - Now my lg is a big frozen fan like so many other children right now but we don't actually watch the film over and over like others do. Nana and grandad had also never seen it before so it was nice for G to snuggle up on the sofa with them and watch it.

Christmas desert - After visiting the pet shop, some other shopping and an active trip to a local park G's nana and grandad took us out for tea to Pizza express. Their mince pie clotted cream cheesecake is SO nice. It was a tough choice between that and their snowball doughballs but I definately made the right one.

1st: Advent Calenders - Ok so this year we just have the not so imaginative chocolate ones from the shop but these are still exciting for a 3 year old and if you have the money there are an exciting variety of alternative calenders out there. Next year I hope to be making our own. Here's some wonderful homemade options I like the look of.

Decorating the tree/trees - I know a lot of people prefer to do this when the kids are in bed but it's so much nicer for them to join in even if the tree does look a bit unusual after. I love classic beautiful trees, beautifully lit and those with colour themes but I grew up with one that was bright and colourful full of meaningful decorations so that is what we have with our main tree now.

Making Salt Dough decorations  We had a go at some this year too however after a bit of shape cutting and the girls getting covered in flour (G may as well have been a snowman) my sister and I ended up doing the shapes whilst the girls played (read trashed the front room) happily. Salt Dough ornaments can make a great personal gift. G was happy doing anything that afternoon as she loved having someone round to play with.

Dance to a Christmas CD - I would love one with Mariah's classic, Slade, East 17 on etc but last year I just brought the cheapest one available with has the older classics on ....Bing Crosby etc. G has enjoyed dancing around to it and becoming familiar with the songs.

A Christmas Fair - St Matthews, another local church, with lovely friendly people, held a Christmas fair the sat just gone that we popped along to for a bit. I would have liked to have tried Marples Christmas Cracker too, mainly because of the reindeer (as G has been asking to see some) but we couldn't get there. Maybe next year!
Taken by Pam
Go on a Christmas lights walk - This costs nothing but your time and a normal walk is jazzed up by the presence of Christmas lights. We go spotting them on our walk home from nursery but I'm going to take her out on a walk to spot some in the rest of the neighbourhood.

7th: Blogger Christmas craft event I was very lucky and excited to have been invited to my first Blogger event last weekend. It was held at the Ministry of craft venue Fred Aldous in Manchester on behalf of GUMI - Growing Up Milk Info. A Christmas craft event of decorating stockings with guidance from some wonderful tutors accompanied by tea and cake. It was lovely to meet other bloggers and I will be posting about it once I've finished my stocking as popping out to get some fabric glue to make some final adjustments as I ran out of time on the day.

Courtesy of Frank PR/GUMI
Photo courtsey of Frank PR/GUMI

Local Christmas events: Cale Green park was holding one on 7th unfortunately at same time as the blogging event but I'm sure was lovely for all who went with bell ringing and carol singing.

9th: A Nativity Play: G is doing her first Nativity in nursery this year. Today I got to see her and the rest of the red room in action. They all did really well and it was so cute and funny. I just don't have a photo of her in her costume to ass yet.

Christmas Cards: G is actually quite enjoying doing Christmas cards this year although I'm a bit stressed myself as I usually don't leave them so late and the price of stamps makes me want to cry. G got one today from her best friend at nursery which was nice.
Visit/go on a Christmas experience If you're thinking of planning one a bit last minute check out the Christmas Adventure at Stockeld Park. We visited in 2012 and it was wonderful. I can't afford a Christmas experience this year but I'd love to go back another year. I also like the look of Lapland UK, the Santa steam specials and Winter wonderland in Event City to name a few.  

Ice-skating: G really wants to go ice-skating soon. I took her once about 9 months ago and it was like Bambi on ice! Thank goodness for Sammy the Seals. Both Spinningfields and The Trafford Center have ice rinks near me. If you are lucky enough to be able to go during the week, I'd suggest going then as it's a lot quieter from the looks of things.

 21st Christmas Carol Service: Last year i wanted to take G to her first Christmas carol service but I ended up incredibly ill in hospital with my Crohn's and it's complications. This year, touch wood, I hope we will make it. I'm not religious myself (spiritual though) but the services remind me of my childhood. I remember my mother taking us to a christingle one year when we were young and then in secondary school we had a carol service at the local church every year.
My mum kindly brought her a little carols books from a charity shop and G is loving singing them at night times with me before she goes to bed.

Christmas eve box - This year I am doing one for G for the first time after hearing all about them the past two years. I was too unwell/broke last year and also this year I think she is now old enough to appreciate it. also her great Nana very kindly gave some Christmas money for her so that has helped!

Here is what I'll be putting in it: 

  •  New Christmas Pyjamas
  • A Christmas DVD - possibly Aurthur Christmas
  • A mug with hot chocolate sachet and mini marshmallows
  • A Christmas Book - The Night Before Christmas
  • A Santa Key

What have you been getting up to during Advent?

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Young children's book recommendation of the fortnight - Little One's Bedtime

'It was late at night and time for bed.
 The clock was ticking when somebody said.... '

This fortnights book is Little One's Bedtime by Suzi Moore and Rosie Reeve.

G was excited to see this book feature in the bedtime hour on CBeebies a couple of weeks ago, "Look it's my book mummy".

I picked this up about a year ago I think, a bargain in the book offer of 4 books for £5 at The Works. I think it's a lovely book and it's one of my favourites of G's expanding book collection.

This is a book parents will relate to when your little one finds ways to stall bedtime. Or like G does, after getting her second wind, decides it's playtime again. The little girl in this book uses her imagination for her reasons for not going to bed.

It has lovely illustrations and a lovely rhythm with the story being written in rhyme. Both boys and girls can relate to it with the child just being named little one and doing a variety of activities in her imaginations before bed such as being a dancer, being a knight fighting a dragon, being a monster and being a wizard.

 I find there can be a lot of picture books these days that have beautiful illustration but to be frank a pretty poor accompanying story. This is not one of them. A lovely story and enjoyable read.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Christmas at Stockeld Park

This time of year a lot of people have booked some sort of magical Christmas experience for their family.
Now G is no longer a baby, not even classed as a toddler in fact, I fancied the Santa special steam railway experience. They run from various locations up and down the country, the nearest to me being with Lancashire rail departing from Bury. They look wonderful and it reminds me of the Polar express. Unfortunately funds are short this year so it's not an option but fingers crossed next year we'll be jumping on board!
Winter Wonderland in Event City looks worth a visit too and further from home LapLand UK looks amazing!

There is one magical Christmas experience we are lucky to have had, which was at Stockeld Park. We went when G was just 16 months old and I would love to go again now she is a bit older.
Stockeld Park is a magical place in Wetherby, West Yorkshire and conveniently this is where G's grandparents live. It was they who very generously took us in 2012.

There is so much to do whatever time of year you go but Christmas at Stockeld Park is particularly special. We went in the evening to experience the Enchanted forest.

Stockeld's Christmas Adventure is a magical experience and I know G would be so amazed to see it again now. The forest is illuminated by beautiful lit sculptures along the walk, more twinkling lights, a talking tree, little doors with doorbells to ring and a lit up troll bridge. There are lovely musical instruments along the way to make the experience more interactive and a small open play areas with toadstool houses which G enjoyed investigating.

Since our first visit they have added some wonderful adventure play areas which we took full advantage of on our Easter Visit this year. They are open until dusk but I'd suggest to get the best out of the enchanted forest this time of year to go when it's dark to experience the forest lit up.

If walking through the forest is too ordinary for you and you've got no young children with you, you can always take the Nordic Ski option!
Along side the wonderful enchanted forest there is the Giant maze to explore, Santa's Grotto to visit or the ice rink to try out.

There is also the fabulous gift shop to peruse which is magical in itself. There are endless beautiful, original or quirky decorations, baubles and ornaments. Wonderful Christmas gifts and so many other pieces of Christmas magic in material form. It's probably the best gift shop I've ever been to! The site also grows it's own Christmas trees which can be brought from the emporium and for food and drink you can visit the lovely woodland cafe.

With G being so young we obviously didn't try out the Nordic ski option, or the ice skating, the latter of which Stockeld suggest an age limit of 4 year plus for. There are penguin aids available for children but only for 30 minute slots due to limited availability. I've taken G ice skating in the past year and it was like Bambi on ice! Luckily they had Sammy Seals (and penguins for older children) so I know we'd be fine trying out the rink if we return next year for Christmas when she'll be 4.

We also didn't try the Maze due to having a 16 month old with us but it is suitable for all ages supervised, I just wouldn't keep her out for too long late at night and in the cold obviously and if she had needed something at the time, being stuck in a maze isn't the best place to be. We have however since tried it out when we visited in Easter this year and it was great fun! At night for the Christmas season it is beautifully lit up for you to find your way round after dusk.

One thing we were hoping to try was Santa's Grotto, however at the time of visiting (December 2012) it was a queuing system and the queue was ridiculous. Again with a 16 month old or even now a 3 year old, in the cold and dark, it's not the best idea!
However Stockeld have now changed the system to a ticketed one which I think is brilliant! No more queuing up for ages in the cold wasting time. Instead you can 'enjoy all the park has to offer and wait for your allocated number to be called on screens that are dotted around the site'. Once it has you make your way to the Grotto and are given 'magic gold coin to give to Santa' which 'lets him know if you have been naughty or nice'. 
Obviously Father Christmas is a very popular man so tickets will go quickly 'particularly in peak season' so you need to book your tickets as soon as you get there.

If that's not enough the park also has new 4D sleigh experience open this year.......

All in all it's a fabulous place to visit anytime of year but Christmas is particularly magical. Good times to go if you don't want it to be very busy are November (if planning for next year) or weekdays in December. You'll have more of a chance of grabbing that special meeting with Santa for your little ones.

Price wise I think it's very agreeable and it gives you different options to suit different budgets. You can purchase tickets for just one or two activities or you can buy day passes that give you entry into everything except the grotto and new 4D sleigh experience. You need to buy a separate ticket for these. You can also buy family tickets and get discounted prices for big group bookings.
For a full list of prices follow this link.

Here are a few photo's from our trip through the Enchanted Forest:

I would definitely recommend a visit to Stockeld Park for Christmas and would definitely go again ourselves. There's no doubting it provides a magical festive experience for the whole family.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Wicked Wednesdays - A Festive Throwback

As usual time is hurtling past at am alarming rate and December is now here! So I thought I'd share a Christmas photo for this week's Wicked Wednesdays Link Up.

One from G's first year of festivities that my friend took at our Christmas meet up.

Before my poor monkey had learnt to blink when there's a flash....

If you'd like to join in with the Wicked Wednesdays link up just click on the pic below and it will take you too Emma's brilliant blog.


Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Our Weekend Box - what was inside

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to get a code for a free Weekend Box!

 Weekend Box is a new fortnightly creative activity box for young children aged 4 - 6 years old. My little girl is only 3 but she still had fun doing the various activities with mummy's help.

There are 4 weekend box club characters, which you can see in the photo above - Wooster, Hattie, Oswald and Sammy. Each of them have different themed activities.

Here's what was inside our free weekend box:

It was an exciting thing for G to receive through the post and upon opening it there were exciting little parcels to be unwrapped. A different colour for each themed activity/character.

  • Green for Hattie 
  • Red for Wooster 
  • Yellow for Oswald 
  • Blue for Sammy
 Underneath the parcels there was a piece of A4 red card, a kite template, a board game board drawn out on a piece of A5 card, four instruction cards, colour coded to go with the little parcels, a small envelope with a strip of 4 small stickers and one larger sticker and a poster.

There was also a brochure in the weekend box advertising natural clothing.

There are four activities for your child to do and you can obviously spread these out during the weekend or do over a couple of weekends, or during the holidays.

Here are the activities we received:

Kite Project 

This was the green packet, Hattie the Hedgehogs activity, containing the thread, a wooden peg and 2 straws.
The Kite Template obviously was also for this activity!

All you needed to provide yourself for this was a plastic bag and sellotape. A brightly coloured one is a preferable choice to make it look nicer.

G was able to help cut out the template, help draw round it and help cut out the kite. She also helped position and stick on the straws (one of which i had to replace as she cut one of them up into pieces :) ) and then mummy had to take over and do the fiddly bit with the thread.
 Once finished G loved playing with this and spent ages running round with it just inside the house!

Popcorn 'Cupcakes'

This was the red packet, Wooster the rabbits activity. It contained a little bag of spice mix and a bag of popcorn kernels. We needed to provide a little bit of icing sugar and honey and optional dried fruit.

G doesn't like popcorn herself but really enjoyed seeing the popcorn pop. It's something she's never witnessed before and she found it funny and exciting.

Besides needing an adults help with the popcorn because of the danger of a cooker, this activity was straight forward.

Peg Butterflies

This was the blue packet and Sammy the Squirrels activity. It contained 2 wooden pegs, 2 sparkly pipe cleaners and some sticky tabs. The red card was to use in this activity.

You had to draw out the shape of two butterflies on the card, cut them out, decorate and stick on & decorate the pegs for bodies and attach the pipe cleaners for antennae.

This is another simple activity and good to do mostly by themselves if older than G. She did really well with cutting and was able to stick the pegs by herself. She did all the decorating and had a go at trying to attach the pipe cleaners herself. She curled them up by herself on one of the butterflies.


This was the yellow parcel, Oswalds activity and contained a tiny dice and 4 tiny buttons for counters.
 I thought this was ok for just 2 children or a parent and child to play but considering the small piece of card and tiny dice and tiny buttons it would have been much too fiddly in my opinion for 4 people, especially children to play.

There was the option to flip the paper board over and add your own board game options to the board on the other side which left blank spaces to be written in.
Although I though this wasn't the best out of the four parcels I thought it was great for inspiration to think up and create your own board game. It reminded me of when I was younger and made and amazing rain forest game with my best friend at the time.

The poster included in the box was to collect your stickers from each weekend box. There is one included in each box you receive and after collecting 5 you send in your poster and get a special surprise in your next weekend box.
The strip of smaller stickers included were to place on the instruction cards after completing each activity which was a nice touch, especially as all young children love stickers. Well I know mine does! Your child can also colour in the back of the box when they've finished all their activities, to keep as a certificate.

Weekend boxes come at a usual price of £7.50 a fortnight and there is an option to pause your boxes for one or two months. If you'd like to try one out for FREE you can use my code: ADELE17286
Or you can use my link hereYou can then invite your friends and get 50% off your next box!

I think weekend box is a brilliant idea if you are on a comfortable income and need some inspiration on what to do with your children in your spare time together. I think they would be particularly useful during wet weather or long holidays. If you don't get stuck for ideas they could also just be a helping hand with some fun activities and saving you time sending the materials you need straight to your door.
It's also great to give your child a surprise through the post every now and then!

Let me know what you think if you try them out and what activities you receive!

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Wicked Wednesdays - "Photo girls"

A couple of weeks ago we went on yet another visit to lovely Bramhall Park. We went with G's auntie and her younger two cousins. My sister got some nice autumnal photo's of the E and G amongst all the yellow, orange and red leaves ....eventually.

She asked them to come and have a photo on the tree stump......

'Come and have a photo girl's '

Not sure who they thought was going to take their photo from over there.....

A few photo's later they figured it out.....


What's on a 3 Year old's Christmas List Free prinatble

So just in case Father Christmas is keeping up with the times I thought I'd publish G's list on the internet.

I'm pretty sure a huge amount of girls are asking for Frozen merchandise for the majority of their Christmas list, but a stand out important item G seems to be asking for is a long black felt tip pen.

A long black felt tip pen.

That is funny enough on it's own besides the fact she owns a million of the evil house ruining creations that are felt tip pens. People, very generous people at that, have brought her a large amount of colouring books and felt tips over the past year or two and she really needs no more for now and probably ever again.

She's also asked for a purple version of this tacky plastic supposed frog thing on a spring (kind of thing that comes out of a cracker that parents hate and young children love, see this post by brummymummyof2 for further examples) that her dad gave her a while back. I told her 'I don't know where they come from' and 'I don't think they have the in the shops'.

G tells me 'Father Christmas will be able to get it, don't worry mummy'.

That's not the only important job/problem mummy Mr Christmas will be having this year. G wants probably the most in demand Christmas present of the year.

Elsa snow glow 

This is probably mummy's fault by watching a video of it (which G saw) thinking it was amazing before

1. checking the price and
2. seeing that it was out of stock everywhere as it's this years Buzz Lightyear of Christmas toys.

I am having frightening visions of having somehow grabbed hold of one in the shop (not sure where the money will have come from) and then someone trying to grab it out my hands. Fighting over a doll as a grown woman.
I'm sure it won't come to that. I am thinking possibly G's very kind nana and grandad may be taking that problem out of my hands.

So here is G's list, typed up as I don't have a scanner and I wrote the original anyway (in crayon though) as unsurprisingly at 3 she can't write full on letters yet. A page scrawled full of o's, e's and scribble is more her thing.

Dear Father Christmas,

I'd really like 'some toys' for Christmas 'and toys for your children too'.

  • An Elsa costume
  • An Elsa doll (Elsa snow glow)
  • An Anna Doll
  • A big long black felt tip pen (now changed to a novelty christmas gingerbread pen spotted in the coop this evening that's surely going to be broken by my not overly gentle 3 year old within the first half hour of use).
  • A Fuzzy felt set (ok this is mummy's input, she's enjoyed playing with bits I've cut out before and I know she'd love one).
  • Frozen bedding (mummy's input again as she needs an extra bedding set but I know she loves Frozen ....2 birds ....)
  • A Hobby horse
  • A new make up set to use on her hairstyling/make up doll
  • Bubble Machine
  • Purple tacky springing frog thing.
  • A cot to put her dolly's in
  • Big version of snakes and ladders 
  • Room on the Broom Sound book

 Love from G....

We put G's list in an envelope and sent it off to the man himself*....

I've seen that lots of companies now who have set up their own personalised letter from Santa service at a price. It's a lovely idea but for those of you who'd rather not pay for the man in red to respond, if you send your child's Christmas list to the address pictured below....

....with your address details inside obviously, by December the 6th, Royal Mail Father Christmas will send your child a letter back for free.**

Or you can of course create your own.....

        ....that wouldn't even cost you a stamp, unless you go the extra mile to post it to your own house for your child to see it come through the letterbox.....

I didn't opt for that. It can arrive by magic just like Santa himself.

The List

What have your children asked for this Christmas? Anything out of the ordinary?

* Read as to Royal Mail
**Well for the price of a 2nd class stamp

Saturday, 15 November 2014

COMPETITION: The Owl and the Pussycat & The Further adventures of the owl and the pussycat GIVEAWAY.

So here it is! My first competition!

I'm so exited to be running it and having a lovely prize to give away.

Yesterday I posted my review of The Owl and The Pussycat by Edward Lear and The Further Adventures of The Owl and The pussycat by Julia Donaldson, published by Puffin and both illustrated by the very talented Charlotte Voake.
They would make a lovely Christmas gift and if you want to know why please check out my reviews of each book. 

Thanks to Penguin I have a set of these wonderful books up for grabs and all you have to do is enter below!

The blog comment and following on twitter are mandatory** but the other entries are optional. The more you have, the more likely you are to win :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*This giveaway is open to UK entrants only, sorry.
** Anyone who hasn't done both the mandatory entries will not be counted in the competition,