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.