Wednesday, 31 December 2014

2014 - How was it for you?

So how was 2014 for you? For me, I think overall - it was a bloody good one.

I got to travel and see some of the world, stepping out of my comfort zone and making some amazing new friends on the beautiful Greek island of Rhodes. I took my children to Paris & showed them the sights (and saw them for the first time myself, too!) and we had a lovely week away in a villa in the south of France. We also managed to sneak off and enjoy a long family weekend in Cornwall during the October half term as well as a couple of odd days in Weston-super-Mare and Weymouth, and we are VERY excited about our upcoming adventure in 2015 with Mark Warner.

There were lots of changes, with E starting primary schoolL moving up to secondary and A starting the Sixth Form. We've dealt with our fair share of ups & downs, it hasn't been an easy ride and the transition for L has been a particularly difficult one due to his additional needs. But - we're getting there, and all of the children are making good progress, both in school & in their extra curricular activities. E, H & L have all made excellent headway in their swimming, L earned his first belt in Tae Kwon-Do, & E's shown a great deal of promise in her gymnastics while H has been enjoying the new challenges of U9s contact rugby (a change from tag last season!).

The year has been a big one for the two teenagers of the household. A had the opportunity to travel to Poland with the school & visited Auschwitz, and the time came for J to buckle down and choose his GCSE options. With J just starting his GCSE studies, A finally came to the end of hers & celebrated by getting dolled up for her Year 11 Prom after sitting her exams in the Summer, the results of which she received at the end of August.

As with any other year there were of course parenting highs and lows. I wrote an open letter to my children about the housework, and I also took time out to reflect on the Toy Story effect. Although I try not to think about it, thoughts of the time that I won't be here for my children also played on my mind, and this subject is also relevant to my post about sticking two fingers up to the 'Christmas police' (and for that matter, those who get all bent out of shape about what other people put in their kids lunchboxes. Have a word...). I rejoiced at the end of the Christmas term (because I was utterly knackered) and also admitted that sometimes I don't really know what I'm doing - but I'm doing my best, and that's okay.

I'm not making resolutions because as I said last year, I think they're a bit pointless and a date on a calendar doesn't have magical powers to make things happen. I however do have the ability to make things happen for myself, and so positive changes to make a better (not a "new") me are on the cards for 2015, and I hope to share them with you in the coming weeks.

I really love my little blog, and I'm grateful to everyone who comes here and reads, and takes the time to leave a comment. I am not the biggest or best or most popular, but this is my space on the 'net and it is what it is. I write for the enjoyment I get from it, and the love I have for it and I appreciate you visiting & spending your valuable time reading whatever it is I've had to say.

I wish you and yours the happiest of new years, with lots of love, peace, good health, happiness and prosperity. May 2015 be everything you wish it to be, and more. Thank you for reading, and see you next year!

Monday, 29 December 2014

Tidings of Comfort & Joy

Christmas 2014 is in the bag, and it was just as perfectly imperfect as we had hoped. I couldn't unlock the neighbour's door to get the gifts we had hidden in there (with their consent, of course) and we nearly missed the ISS Father Christmas as a result. The Mister almost forgot to put the veg on for Christmas Dinner so we had to try and slow everything down for 15 minutes to get it caught up. The kids bickered. We all ate too much. The playing of board games descended into chaos when the four year old wasn't winning, or indeed tall enough to reach across the table to move her pawn. I can sit here now and chuckle to myself at the memory, when at the time I was taking a deep breath and rolling my eyes heavenwards wondering why on Earth I do it to myself every year, why we don't wait until she's in bed.

Simple answer is, it's not a family game night if we're not all there and if someone isn't being a sore loser.

Christmas Eve was spent at home, making the final preparations for the big day after a breakfast of home-made waffles and pancakes. We tidied up the house - cleaning bedrooms and stocking up the cupboards and fridges with the last few things. We had hot chocolate and watched Father Christmas fly over at 5:22pm, the Elves brought the kids new PJs each and a DVD for us all to watch together, and we had chicken enchiladas for dinner. The stockings were hung up and 4/5 kids headed off to bed, and the Mister and A assembled E's main present - Barbie's utterly bloody enormous bright pink Malibu house - so it was ready for her in the morning, while I sneaked around filling the aforementioned stockings.

Christmas morning, the three boys gathered at the end of our bed and stood there watching us sleep until they made themselves obvious enough to disturb us (not at all creepy). They had apparently already been through their stockings and waited for an hour and they were bored. The girls were then woken and got to briefly inspect the contents of their stockings before we all trundled downstairs to see what was under the tree.

Gift unwrapping doesn't generally take long in our house, and it's usually done in turns however this year J only had three gifts to open from us due to the cost of the one & only thing he actually wanted and although they all have the same budget, the amount of gifts that can be bought for E as opposed to A for that amount is very different. So we simply took turns until the older ones ran out of gifts to open, and then E went to town on the rest of hers. My living room is currently waist high in packaging & my recycling bin is full.

I think everything got what they wanted, and we all spent time enjoying our new things while the Mister went to take the in-laws to visit his Aunt, Uncle & Grandmother before bringing MIL & FIL home to have lunch with us. A traditional roast turkey dinner followed, with pigs in blankets and cranberry sauce aplenty. Oh, and a pizza for L. The post-Christmas dinner lazing on the sofa ensued, with the soaps on TV for MIL and the kids scattered about the house enjoying their spoils. It was just a lovely slow, relaxing day.

Boxing Day was welcomed with a breakfast of eggs & bacon and freshly brewed coffee and was spent endeavouring to reassemble the house in to some sort of order. We failed miserably, gave up and spent the afternoon lounging around in our PJs before attempting a game of Disney Monopoly. A string of guests arrived at this point and so the game was abandoned (not before we'd enjoyed a couple of tantrums and I was wrongly accused of cheating) and we fully intend to have another go over the next few days.

We made our own mince pies for Father Christmas. We made gingerbread. We pottered about in our nightwear for several days, eating too many goodies and being somewhat on the lazy side. We loved and loathed being in each others company in equal measure. We laughed. We had fun. We argued. We slept. We watched entirely too much rubbish on TV and the house looks like the aftermath of a nasty industrial accident.

It was fantastic. Let's do it all again next year.

You Baby Me Mummy

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

That's it for another year. The tinsel seems to hang limply, rather than be draped merrily, after Boxing Day, doesn't it? The tree with all it's garlands & trinkets has lost its sparkle. Being knee deep in discarded wrapping paper in a perpetual Christmas Day, where you find yourselves still in your PJs three days later eating Celebrations for breakfast having lost track of the days.

Is it Saturday? Friday? No it's Saturday - isn't it?

We put all of our decorations up on December 1st. We wanted to make the most of the lead up to the event, to turn all of the planning & preparation into part of the celebration and not treat it like a chore, so that's what we have done every year since the children were small. We've enjoyed so many wonderful Christmases together. Making the decs, wrapping gifts for family, playing board games together with the inevitable tantrums from the youngest when it doesn't go her way and meltdowns from L when it all gets a bit overwhelming for him. Even the shit bits are what makes our Christmases perfect for us. The little idiosyncrasies that make us who we are.

New PJs & hot chocolate on Christmas Eve - a tradition from my own childhood. Opening stockings on Christmas morning with the hope it will buy us an extra half hour's snooze. L having his pizza instead of a turkey roast with the rest of us. Taking it in turns to open presents, forgetting whose turn it was and then two kids opening gifts at the same time and bickering about it. Eating chocolate for breakfast. The festive idyll that makes it what it is for us as a family, the same one enjoyed in homes the world over. It is what you make it, your traditions and your memories are your own to make and enjoy.

Yesterday I read that the talented and inspirational Kate Gross - the head of the African Governance Initiative - sadly passed away early on Christmas morning, aged 36. She didn't have the last Christmas she talked about in 'May your days be merry and bright', didn't see her twin sons opening their stockings one last time. She talks about enjoying all of it, not just the main event. Understanding that the crap comes hand in hand with the wonderful, and embracing all of it as one. I read her beautiful article through tears as I imagined the desperately sad loss her family were experiencing while the rest of us were either sleeping soundly, or watching small children ripping into gifts through bleary eyes whilst nursing a cup of strong coffee.

Kate's words struck a chord with me, and really validate what I have always believed in. None of us know what is around the corner, just how many Christmases we have left with those we love. I hold an unwavering belief that we should all celebrate our festive traditions in whatever way we see fit, delight in every precious moment and pay no mind to those who pour scorn on the magic of Christmas in whatever form it takes in your home. Create your memories, make the most of your time together, have your fun.

None of us know what is in store, and if by some devastating twist of fate this Christmas turned out to be my last, I am content in the knowledge that my family will all have lasting, happy memories of it - making gingerbread and mince pies, living with endless metres of tinsel festooning the living room for a month, standing outside on Christmas Eve under a crisp night sky gazing at the stars waiting for Father Christmas (aka the ISS) to pass over from the West, poking fun at A's gift wrapping that was so good nobody could actually open the gift, staying in our jimjams a little too long, and eating just a bit too much chocolate - and I wish the same to be true for all of you.

I hope that you all had the happiest Christmas, however you spent it and whoever you spent it with. I know that I did, and that I will continue to revel in the enchantment and despair at the disharmony of our Christmases for as many years as I am gifted with. Rest in peace, Kate.


Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Time for the Nativity? Oh yes it is!

It's not Christmas without a pantomime or nativity, & this year I was treated to both courtesy of my youngest two children at the end of Christmas term.

H is in year 4, so he will be "the choir" until year 6 when they give out all the speaking parts, but he still enjoyed being a part of this year's school production which was Cinderella. Our primary always puts on a great panto, adding their own twist by coming up with their own songs put to music by artists like Elvis, the Beatles, or from musicals such as Grease. This year, Cinderella was set to the Grease soundtrack (accompanied by the headmaster on his guitar and belted out with gusto by the choir as well as the cast), and we were treated to musical gems such as 'Greased Pumpkin' and 'Oh, Cindy'. It was very funny and a joy to watch. Everyone puts in so much time and effort to make it a fun event and the kids all really enjoy taking part. It's definitely one of my favourite Christmas traditions and one I'll miss when they've all left primary school (doesn't bear thinking about!).

E, being in reception class, was part of the nativity - called the "Wriggly Nativity" - and played a star. She is of course my little star (badoom-tish) and she loved her first 'big school' production. Last year she was a wise man for her nursery school nativity but this year it was a much bigger affair, with lots more people there to watch! She had a couple of moments during the show in which her star fell off her head and she got a bit overwhelmed, but the teachers soon settled her and she carried on with the songs and accompanying actions, and a beautiful job she did too. The Mister and I were very proud of all of their hard work and loved watching the show.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

I'm a 2015 #MarkWarnerMum!

I still can't quite believe it - but my family have won a place as 2015 sun ambassadors for award-winning British tour operator, Mark Warner.

The children and I created our own Lego stop-motion animation video of us going on our perfect family holiday for our entry, and out of all the amazing entries that were submitted (do check out the #MarkWarnerMum & #MarkWarnerDad hashtags on Twitter to see for yourself) - we were chosen! We are still in shock, but SO delighted.

The other four ski & sun ambassadors for 2015 are Mini Travellers, Mammasaurus, The Ordinary Lovely, and Capture By Lucy, & we'll be learning all about our upcoming adventure to the sunshine in the new year.

I was lucky enough to win a place on the bloggers trip to the Levante Beach Resort in Rhodes in September, and sample what Mark Warner had to offer on one of their holidays - so I am very much looking forward to ticking off all the things on our ideal holiday check list and seeing if Mark Warner fit the bill, we could not be more excited about this amazing opportunity - thank you so much to the 2014 ambassadors & everyone at MW who chose us.

The best things in life are the people you love, the places you've seen, and the memories you've made along the way.

Monday, 22 December 2014

Meal Plan 221214 - Merry Christmas!

It's here! It's here! It's finally Christmas week! Whatever you're doing, wherever you are, whoever you're spending it with - I hope you have a wonderful time.

Eat, drink, and be merry!

Mon 22nd Dec & Tues 23rd Dec - Freezer diving! Using up what we have to make space

Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day - See our Christmas Meal Plan for details of our delicious festive fare

Sat 27th Dec & Sun 28th Dec - Eating whatever is left!

I've joined in with Mrs M's #mealplanningmonday linky with this post
*Brinner = Breakfast for dinner

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Florence's Letter to Santa

Florence has been a part of our family for almost two years now. We brought her home in January 2013 after a chance sighting of some gorgeous puppies on Facebook, on a whim we decided to go and see them - and we ended up bringing one home.

This in part is due to the Mister's decision to wait in the car...

I've never really been an animal person. I like them and all, but the furthest I would stretch to on the pet front was a hamster, of which we have had four over the past few years, Sparky & Cannonbolt (RIP) and now Alan & Victor. Florence arrived with us by chance, she was the runt of the litter and quite the little furry scamp and wouldn't leave me alone when we met her, and so here we are now.

Florence really is the most beautiful and loving companion. She is sweet, and protective, and loves to have fun and play. She loves nothing more than snuggling up for a nap but is equally game for racing around with the kids and being a clown. I never anticipated exactly how much I would love a dog, but I absolutely adore her & can't imagine her not being a part of our family.

Pets at Home invited Florence to write a letter to Santa last month, they have a huge range of fantastic gifts not only for dogs but a wide variety of pets of all shapes & sizes. We knew the one thing that she wanted, they don't sell, but as her mummy & daddy only the Mister and I could find her that...

We made the decision earlier in the year to get another dog, as a playmate for Flo and to keep her company. After watching her flinging her teddy around and chasing it, we thought she would probably like someone to play with, and as it happened a friend of A's from school told her that her dad's miniature dachshund was expecting a litter in September if we were interested. A couple of weeks after the pups arrived we went to visit them, and we were by chosen by Joseph (Joey). We put down a deposit that day, and then we picked him up & brought him home in November.

Joey, our naughty little sausage, is amazing. He has fit right in to our family, and after a couple of weeks of getting used to each other, he and Flo are the best of friends (as well as the worst of enemies at times - like any 'siblings'!). They are as thick as thieves and love to play together, and snuggle up to sleep at bedtime together. We all love him so much, especially Florence.

So Flo got her early Christmas present, her "Joey", and was also spoiled by Pets at Home who sent a hamper of all the things she had asked for for herself & her new brother, including their very own doggy advent calendar & selection box, candy canes for them to chew on, sock monkeys for them to play tug o' war with and lots of yummy treats & goodies for them to share.

And it just isn't Christmas without a fun festive jumper. If you have dogs and aren't dressing them up, you're missing an opportunity. Don't forget your furry family members this Christmas, treat them to something special.

What would be on your pet's letter to Santa?

Saturday, 20 December 2014

The End of Term - at last!

I think we all breathed a collective sigh of relief on Friday. The Christmas term really takes it out of you and those last two weeks are meltdown mode.

With five in school, there is so much I have to remember that most days I don't even know where to start. A couple of weeks ago for example we had L's parents evening the same night as H & E's Christmas discos at school, as well as E's usual gymnastics lesson. So - I went on the school run and picked up H & E, took them to gym where E had her lesson, the Mister picked us up and we went to the IL's house so that I could change E and we could pick up L (who had walked there after school with A, J had gone on home).

We took E, H, & L to the primary school and dropped off E for her school disco, which was 5pm-6pm. We then drove back across town (with H & L) to the senior school for L's parents evening, seeing three teachers between 5:15 & 5:45, before rushing out to the car and driving back across town to the primary school to drop off H and pick up E for 6pm/6:15. The Mister then drove us home, before heading back to pick up A from the IL's and then collect H at 7:30pm. Add in the usual swimming, football, tae kwon-do, rugby and after-school clubs, homework, housework, work, as well as parties, nativities, plays, concerts, Christmas shopping, wrapping, preparations.

Lather, rinse, repeat for a month. That has been our life.

I'm exhausted. The kids are exhausted. The Mister is exhausted. The bloody DOGS are exhausted. It's time to wind down & enjoy a well earned rest.

I have just about finished the Christmas shopping, and even most of the wrapping is done. We have decked the halls and made our annual batches of white chocolate and cranberry fudge and Christmas rocky road for the teachers at school, as well as some gingerbread.

L has managed a very difficult end of term change to his routine and handled it well with only a few hiccups. Not perfect, but getting there. We bought a couple of boxes of Krispy Kreme doughnuts for A & L's tutor group to thank them for welcoming him into their group and looking out for him around school, showing him patience and understanding.
E has coped so well with her first Christmas at school, with only one or two 'moments' of refusing to join in with things, & becoming a bit overwhelmed and tearful. She did GREAT.

Term has finished, and I could not be more relieved. A two week break is exactly what we all need, to retreat into our bubble and relax. In two weeks I will probably be counting down the hours until they return to school so I can put my house back together again, but right now it's time to kick back.

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Minnie Mouse Polka Dot House

review post.

Hot diggity dog! Have you seen the fantastic Minnie Mouse Bowtique range from Fisher-Price? E was lucky enough to try out Minnie's Polka Dot House (recommended from age 2 years +) with its 4 floors & 5 rooms of play.

Minnie's Polka Dot House comes with 2 figures - Minnie, and her cat Figaro - and 16 accessories including a sofa and television, and an oven for Minnie to bake her delicious cookies. The house was assembled by 4-year-old E, with some help from big brother H who is 9. It took less than half an hour for the 2 of them to put it together & then place all the stickers. It was quick & simple for them to do, they worked together well to get it ready for E to play with.

The house feels quite robust and the accessories are all good & sturdy. E has really enjoyed this playset and is a big fan of Minnie Mouse, so the Bowtique range - which also includes bath toys and fashion figurines - has featured highly on E's Christmas list. The Minnie Mouse Bowtique range is available from many high street retailers incuding Argos, Toys R Us and Tesco Direct.

This set is great for encouraging imaginative play whilst enabling E to bring her favourite characters to life in her own living room, she has had hours of fun with the Polka Dot House & we'll definitely be adding to our collection!

E received a complimentary Minnie Mouse Polka Dot House for review purposes. The views shared are my own personal & honest opinions and written in my own words. All links are no-follow.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Meal Plan Monday 151214

Mon 15th Dec - Toad in the hole

Tues 16th Dec - Home-made curry, with pilau rice & sundries

Weds 17th Dec - Brinner*

Thurs 18th Dec - Slow cooker lasagne, and garlic baguette

Fri 19th Dec - We'll have a takeaway tonight, to celebrate the end of term - probably Pizza!

Sat 20th Dec - Tomato, goats cheese & herb pasta bake

Sun 21st Dec - Roast

I've joined in with Mrs M's #mealplanningmonday linky with this post
*Brinner = Breakfast for dinner

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Big changes, small steps #LoudnProud

Starting school has been a pretty big adjustment for both L and E.

For L, moving up to senior school was a massive transition for him. Lots of different teachers, moving classrooms every lesson which involves new people in each class, the sheer volume of extra students he has to encounter on a daily basis, homework, new subjects, a different routine... Secondary school is a monumental change for an 11 year old, never mind one with autism. It has been intense. It has been exhausting. It has been frustrating.

I find myself having the same conversations over and over with him, trying to help him get his head around the changes. Other people haven't made it easy for him. Some students who know his difficulties have used them against him, provoking him until he reacts which he is then (rightfully) punished for, distressing and upsetting him and not allowing him to just BE. The school has been understanding and supportive as well as firm, which is exactly what I would hope and expect. They know he is provoked and if such incidents occur, then both parties are punished regardless of who says what. They have offered extra help with his school work, & I am in regular contact with his head of house & pastoral support as well as an educational psychologist, and his support worker from primary school has been with us every step of the way even now, months after he left. His new tutor is fab & the group are a wonderful group of kids who have taken him under their wing and all look out for him around school. It's tough going, for me, but especially for him.

Last week we went to his very first year seven parents evening, and I'm relieved & happy to say that the teachers I met speak very highly of L, they appreciate his humour and seem to 'get' him, there were of course negatives but we discussed how to help him make progress and do well, and the positives far outweigh any of the things that need a bit of work. The Mister & I are so proud of the effort he is making - it is difficult for him but he really is trying so hard, it is going to be a long road but he is doing so well.
And E, she has been a little champ at school. Starting primary school was a big step for her, after spending almost all of her time solely with me (minus the mornings at nursery) she found "big school" quite scary and intimidating - she is still only four after all. Mornings were difficult as she experienced some separation anxiety and leaving her often resulted in a few wobbly lips and tears. She was fine as soon as we were gone, but these initial couple of months at school have been hard for my little missy moo.

But - last Friday she was named 'celebration learner' in the school assembly for overcoming her anxiety and coming to school with a smile on her face and settling quickly, she has done so well and we are very proud. She also moved up to stage three in her reading a couple of weeks ago, and is delighted to be able to bring home the more challenging books, she has made excellent progress in both her reading and writing and her learning journey at school documents some of the work she has done and what she has learned.

These are only small steps, but for L & E they are massive leaps - and we are so very proud of them both.

I'm this week's #LoudnProud host, and we would love to hear all about your special moments and achievements - I am sure that lots of you have watched school plays, nativities and festive concerts recently, so please do share your posts below. Feel free to grab the badge and we would love it if you could visit others and share the linky love - thank you! The linky closes at Midnight on Sunday, and next week will be hosted over at NotMyYearOff.

Mama Owl

Monday, 8 December 2014

Meal Plan Monday 081214

Mon 8th Dec - Spaghetti & home-made meatballs in tomato & garlic sauce, served with garlic baguette

Tues 9th Dec - Barbecue chicken wings with mashed potatoes and corn on the cob (because we didn't end up having it last week)

Weds 10th Dec - Macaroni cheese with bacon & broccoli

Thurs 11th Dec - Home-made burgers (as requested by E) served with chips & salad

Fri 12th Dec - Fajitas, with tortilla chips & dips

Sat 13th Dec - Sausage casserole

Sun 14th Dec - Roast Gammon

I've joined in with Mrs M's #mealplanningmonday linky with this post
*Brinner = Breakfast for dinner

Saturday, 6 December 2014

{Christmas Bucket List} Deck the Halls

Decking the halls isn't just about trimming the tree, & in our home we like to try and give the whole house that festive feel with little Christmassy touches here & there. I almost couldn't wait until Dec 1st to decorate, but I managed to rein myself in because before that is just a bit too early for me.

The living room is of course the "main stage" and the majority of our Christmas decs are here. We bought a new tree this year as sadly our old one decided to snap into a million pieces when we got it down from the loft to check it over. I insisted on a 7ft one without really considering the space in our living room - it's massive. I swear it's bigger than the display one in the shop! It looks beautiful though and I am really pleased with it, it was reduced from £80 down to £40 so hopefully that will last us a good few years now.

As we have a bigger tree, we also treated ourselves to some new baubles and lights, and Wilko kindly sent us a few new trinkets to add to our collection - including a chalkboard style bauble on which we have written #Shepsmas14 (our IG hashtag for anyone wishing to follow our celebrations), stylish black/white 9mm baubles, and a statement glossy black glass bauble featuring a bold pattern of pink & white glitter, all from the Humbug range.

We also received a black flocked Reindeer decoration which we have used to decorate our DVD shelves (and have given him some bauble antler ornaments!), and the adorable retro "I saw Mummy kissing Santa Claus" metal heart decoration which is just £2 from their Pixie range.

Our colour scheme is teal and brown mainly, with some silver and gold. Our new baubles are a 50pk mixed size box of silver, teal, blue and purple from Wilko's Odyssey range and only cost us £5, and we decided on warm white multi-function LED lights for the tree and picked up a box of 80 for £12.50.

We've had to decorate a little higher up than the very bottom of the tree thanks to an inquisitive puppy named Joey who likes to steal the baubles, and race around the living room with the tree skirt in his mouth but overall he has really been immaculately behaved with it, considering - though I often find him just sat underneath it like some very naughty little Christmas elf!

Christmas is slowly creeping up the stairs and we have black and white decs to match our black, red, and white colour scheme throughout the hall, stairs and landing area - I really love the black and white star ceiling garland.

As well as a beautiful tree and spangly ceiling garlands, we have added a few trinkets to the sideboard in the living room, filling a wooden bowl with old baubles, and stringing lights around the front window to show off our gorgeous glittery teal rattan star decorations. I also plan to spread the Christmas cheer further throughout the house and decorate the children's bedrooms with miniature trees during the next week.

Are your Christmas decorations up yet? Do you decorate just one area or do you go all out and turn your house into a grotto?!

We received a selection of complimentary decorations from Wilko. The views shared are my own personal & honest opinions and written in my own words. All links are no-follow.

Friday, 5 December 2014

The Ultimate Frozen Christmas List

review post.

We took our children to see Disney Frozen at the cinema on New Year's Eve 2013, & its popularity shows no sign of waning. In fact, Frozen merchandise is probably on top of most kids Christmas lists this year, and with that in mind I have put together a list of my favourite items for your Frozen fans.

Snow Glow Elsa is a massive hit this Christmas and I think a lot of retailers are running out of stock fast so if you want it, grab it quick! Featuring her signature song ("Let it go", because you all needed reminding) and 15 sounds and phrases. The plush Tickle Time Olaf is simply adorable and perfect for little ones to cuddle up to (he loves warm hugs!), it even wiggles, spins, and talks. And your child's Frozen doll set would not be complete without the Kristoff Sparkle Doll, the beloved and unlikely hero from the movie.

The Princess Anna Coronation Costume is ideal if you have a little one that likes to play dress up, E loves to get dressed up in her Disney Princess costumes and when she has a friend over, the two of them transform into Anna & Elsa for the afternoon and have a great time using their imaginations to transport them to the kingdom of Arendelle. In stock & available at Fancy Dress Queen for just £18.99, it will be a surefire favourite this Christmas.

If you have a gamer, they might enjoy playing Disney Frozen Olaf's Quest, suitable for ages 3+ for the Nintendo DS they can battle Elsa's guardians and Hans' thugs as well as practice their snow & ice magic. If your child is anything like E, then they will adore the Frozen Deluxe Character Set, perfect for encouraging imagination and creativity. Finally, if you're pushing the boat out on the Christmas budget this year then the Disney Frozen Ice Palace is the thing to get, this play set will encourage them to recreate Anna & Elsa's adventures & no doubt provide hours of fun.

Does Frozen feature on your children's Christmas lists this year?

E received a complimentary Anna Coronation Costume for review purposes. The views shared are my own personal & honest opinions and written in my own words. All links are no-follow.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

What E Wore - The Christmas Party

E is very excited about her first school disco tonight, she has chosen her outfit and is looking forward to having a good time with her school friends this evening. She's had this dress for quite a while now (over a year) and has had plenty of wear out of it, it is the perfect Christmas party outfit with its beautiful red lace material and bow. It is age 4 years, and from Tu at Sainsbury's. We will team it with her Next red polka dot t-bar shoes that she was given when she was a bridesmaid for her Uncle back in the Summer.


Are your little ones off to any festive celebrations this year? What will they be wearing?

 Badge for TTT, Badge

Sweetbee Living Room from Big Game Hunters

review post.

When she was small, A was lucky enough to be given an absolutely beautiful hand-made wooden dolls house by an old friend, and she has passed it on to her younger sister now she's all grown up (or thinks she is at least - we'll discuss it further when she starts tidying her bedroom when I ask her to, and putting her own clothes away... Not holding my breath for that to be soon).

Big Game Hunters sent E this gorgeous Sweetbee Living Room set for her doll's house, which comprises two chairs and a sofa complete with cushions, a rug, table, a tray with cups and a tea pot, a fireplace, floor lamp and even a potted plant. Made of chunky wood and colour co-ordinated with the other sets in the Sweetbee range, this cosy living room is the perfect addition to your little one's doll house and will encourage hours of imaginative play.

E has had great fun creating her own games and stories with the set, using all of her mini characters - even Elsa & Anna have both spent time enjoying this comfortable living room. Now for the technical bit - all of the high quality wooden pieces come fully assembled and are EN71+ safety certified, and are suitable for children aged 3 years + and right now it is priced at just £14.99.

Take a look at the Big Game Hunters website for their latest offers on dolls houses & furniture sets as well as lots of inspiration for Christmas gifts!

E received a complimentary Sweetbee living room for review purposes. The views shared are my own personal & honest opinions and written in my own words.
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Wednesday, 3 December 2014

I want to be a #MarkWarnerMum

Our time away together as a family is precious, and those times will become fewer very soon as the children get older and fly the nest, & go off on their own adventures. There are things we have never done together that I want us to experience - like travel on a plane, enjoy a beach holiday abroad, swim in the sea, sailing, kayaking, windsurfing, watching a sunset over the water.
Finding the perfect holiday - with something to offer everyone in our family - was never going to be easy, but Mark Warner appear to have it covered with kids clubs, childcare, water sports, fantastic pools, and other activities so we could be as busy or as laid-back as we want. The kids are all keen swimmers & getting out into the sea to learn some new skills would be an amazing experience, as well as trying new food and learning about a new culture.

Having activities to suit teenagers (A & J who are 16 & nearly 14), as well as tweens (L aged 11, who also has autism, & 9 year old H) and fun and exciting things for E (aged 4) would be the ultimate holiday experience for our family, especially with the opportunity to leave the children in the capable hands of childcare and enjoy some 'us' time - a rare occurrence these days.
But - more than anything else - it's the time together making memories that is important to us. They're young for such a short time, we want to make the most of it. The Mister is self-employed and works very hard to support us, and the kids are all so busy with school, clubs, and sports that there never seems to be enough hours in the day any more. Some time away in the sunshine would do us all the world of good, & help us reconnect as a family. We always enjoy our holidays in the UK, but we would love a new adventure.

The children made a video (with a little help from me) of us going on our perfect holiday. (I must state that none of us are pirates, farmers, doctors or motorcycle riders - they were just the Lego people we had to hand...). Enjoy!

Monday, 1 December 2014

Let the Christmas Countdown begin!

December 1st is a big day for us - the opening of the Advent calendars, the decking of the halls, and the day the Christmas tree goes up. We love our festive family traditions and even as the children are getting older, finding new PJs and a family movie DVD left by the elves under the tree on Christmas Eve is still fun and exciting for them and it makes our celebrations special. Those are the things that the children will remember when they've grown up, so it is important to me to keep them going every year.

Memories are worth far more than any gift, so let me share with you our Christmas Bucket List for 2014.

Making edible gifts for teachers is good fun for the kids, cost effective for me, and a little bit more personal than just handing over wine or chocolates. We make up big batches of our favourite recipes (like Christmas Rocky Road, and white chocolate & cranberry fudge) and take them to school during the last week of term for all of the teachers & other staff to enjoy.

Do kind things for people who are less fortunate or have found themselves in difficulty, and remind your children to do the same. We will be donating to a food bank again this Christmas (as has The Boy and Me) as well as some toys to our local Salvation Army. It is so important to teach our kids kindness, and the joy of giving as well as receiving. We are not well off, but we can still find a little extra to make someone else's Christmas a happy one.

Watching Christmas movies is one of our favourite things, after we have decorated the house the kids argue between them as to which one we will watch first, & we grab our duvets and pile on the sofas. We can't get enough of festive films throughout December, they really help get us into the spirit.

Baking & decorating Gingerbread houses is another yearly tradition. Getting the kids involved in the kitchen is a top priority for me, and baking for Christmas is the perfect opportunity to teach them vital skills as well as let them be creative. Our houses are never the prettiest but the kids have so much fun making them that, well, who cares what they look like!

The children (er, and the grown ups) all look forward to eating our freshly baked Christmas candy cane cookies with their Snowman soup on Christmas Eve before we watch a film. Their triple chocolate gooeyness with a hint of mint is just the thing to enjoy with a steaming cup of hot chocolate!

During bathtime on Christmas Eve, the Elves sneak in and leave a DVD, & a gift each for the children to open, which is of course their new pyjamas. The year before last they all had Christmas onesies which was very cute (& funny) but generally we just pick something nice and that we know they will like.

We leave out a mince pie and a carrot for Father Christmas and Rudolph, and hang up the stockings ready for them to be filled with goodies. I am a little sad that it is only E who believes now, but on the other hand the older kids play along and make it special for her which is lovely, it still keeps that magic and I really do hope that we can hang on to that for a few years to come.

How do you celebrate the festive season in your home? I'd love to hear all about your traditions and plans for Christmas!