christmas

3 Comments

Winter in London, On A Budget

London has so much on offer, especially at Christmas time. But since many of us are spending all of our money on gifts, food and travel, we might need to penny-pinch when it comes to activities during the Christmas holidays. So I have put together a guide of some free/low cost activities/attractions the whole family can enjoy this winter.

Winter in London, On A Budget

Covent Garden Piazza - the Piazza is lovely anytime of year, but it becomes magical at Christmas. The Market building is adorned with more than 40 mistletoe chandeliers and about 100,000 pealights suspended all around. There is also a Lego Express train, made with 500,000 Lego bricks and comes complete with such special effects as lights, sounds and even smoke. Get to the Piazza by the 29th December 2015 to see its complete glory.

Winter in London, On A Budget

St. Paul's Cathedral - yes there are Christmas services at your local church. But St. Paul's Cathedral is the daddy of churches. It is divinely beautiful, and this week there will be plenty of carol services to make you fill you with the Christmas spirit.

Winter in London, On A Budget

Tower of London Ice Rink - okay, it's not cheap but I had to sneak this one in. A family ticket will set you back £38, but look at your surroundings - beautiful, historic views while you skate under the stars.

Winter in London, On A Budget

Winter Festival at the Southbank Centre - a host of entertainment, shopping, food and activities, with many of the latter for free. You could stroll through the Christmas market, people watch and enjoy some free face painting and workshops in the NatWest Family Fun Zone.

Winter in London, On A Budget

Winter in London, On A BudgetWinter Wonderland - Hyde Park's Christmas extravaganza has it all. Not only is it free to enter, but there is free live music, markets, food stalls and rides and attractions. There's a Magic Ice Kingdom, Ice Rink, Circus and Giant Wheel (not cheap, and most need to be pre-booked as it gets really busy). The Ice Kingdom looks especially cool, but at £32 for a family ticket, you might need to skip the other paid attractions.

Winter in London, On A Budget

Soho Hotel Children's Film Club - you can't go through the holiday season without watching at least one Christmas movie (or 54, if you're me). But for some reason, it is tough finding a cinema that shows Christmas films at this time of year. Luckily the Soho Hotel are on the case. If you're not familiar with the Soho Hotel, they are a gorgeous hotel in London, not too far from Oxford Street. They show kids movies in their cool screening room for families at the weekend. For £20 each, you can get a buffet lunch, which includes popcorn, ice cream and Prosecco (just for mums and dads) with your movie. Or it's just £10 for the movie. On Christmas Eve, they'll be playing Miracle on 34th Street, and on Sunday the 27th they will be showing Paddington.

 

So, those are some ideas for visiting London this Christmas break, without breaking the bank. Hope you make it to some of these attractions. Merry Christmas!

 

4 Comments

Winter Fun at the Southbank Centre

I love the Southbank. Besides the wonderful views, there is a lot of fun and culture to be had there. This week there are free activities at the NatWest Family Fun Zone, including story telling, face painting, magic shows and various workshops. We went yesterday and Moozles and Dubz had loads of fun. They had their faces painted, went on a Pigby Trail and made Pigby pigs in the Aardman Animation workshop.

There are also blank cards which can be decorated and you can write messages for the kids at Evelina London Children's Hospital. Pop into the dome, located on the Riverside Terrace, from the 17-24 December 2015, but please try and leave a donation for the hospital. It is the season of giving, after all.

While at the Southbank, there is lots to see and do. You can mooch around the lovely Christmas market, enjoy the street performers, take a ride on the vintage carousel or have lunch at one of the many family-friendly restaurants. If you're a NatWest customer, you can get 20% off at Strada until the 24th December (just show your bank card), as well as a few other restaurants at Royal Festival Hall. You can also get 10% off at Foyles bookshop (great if you haven't finished your Christmas shopping) and a discount on the BUMP Roller Disco.

We had lunch at Strada, one of our favourite Italian restaurants. I love their pasta, but I had a pizza craving so had the Parma Pizza while Husband had the Pumpkin Caramelle. Both were beyond yummy. The kids' menu is such a great deal. The kids get a starter, main, dessert and drink for only £6.50. And they are nice and full afterwards.

So if you're thinking about coming into London this Christmas break, why not pop into Winter at Southbank Centre with NatWest for a festive fun time?! Just set aside 45-60 minutes for the Natwest Family Fun Zone and time for a family lunch.

Winter Fun at the Southbank Centre
Winter Fun at the Southbank CentreWinter Fun at the Southbank CentreWinter Fun at the Southbank Centre Winter Fun at the Southbank Centre Winter Fun at the Southbank Centre Winter Fun at the Southbank Centre Winter Fun at the Southbank Centre Winter Fun at the Southbank Centre Winter Fun at the Southbank Centre Winter Fun at the Southbank Centre Winter Fun at the Southbank Centre Winter Fun at the Southbank Centre Winter Fun at the Southbank Centre Winter Fun at the Southbank Centre Winter Fun at the Southbank Centre Winter Fun at the Southbank Centre Winter Fun at the Southbank Centre Winter Fun at the Southbank CentreWinter Fun at the Southbank Centre

 

We were invited to visit Winter at Southbank Centre with NatWest and have lunch at Strada for the purpose of this review. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.

 

 

2 Comments

All I Want For Christmas Is You, And A Few Other BitsMariah was right, there is just one thing I need. But I already have a wonderful husband, so I wouldn't mind a few other bits. So, I thought I would put together a gift list that any lady would love, with items that you wouldn't find on the high street. Yes, I love the Great British High Street. But small independent shops are pretty great too.
All I Want For Christmas Is You, And A Few Other Bits

I have been following Black and Sigi on Instagram for a few weeks and just love their handmade jewellery. The company is run by two sisters (Clio and Athena), born in Italy but who live in the UK. Their jewellery is contemporary yet timeless. There are so many pieces that I love but my favourites are the No. 5 Darling ring (shown, £25) and the Gold Juno Necklace (£37.50).

I love a handbag. I mean, I really love them. So I had to share another Instagram find. Vevian started making unique shoes for her daughter, but they received so much attention that she started a business making shoes for children. We're talking beautiful, and cool, leather shoes. But she has started making handbags. And they are so gorgeous. And I desperately want one. They are only sold in Carry My Home, in London. But soon, they will be on the Vevian website. Soon. Oh, the gold one. *swoons*

All I Want For Christmas Is You, And A Few Other Bits

All I Want For Christmas Is You, And A Few Other BitsEtsy used to be a major addiction for me. These days I hop on sporadically looking for something special, though usually nothing in particular. I came across Loully Makes recently, which is based out of Edinburgh. I wouldn't normally consider paying £40 for a scarf, but this one is so unique. Scottish tartan on one side, Liberty print on the reverse. Just beautiful.
All I Want For Christmas Is You, And A Few Other BitsYou know how some gift baskets are filled with lots of crap? Well, Steph from Don't Buy Her Flowers is all about the thoughtful when it comes to presents for the lovely ladies in your life. I am currently eyeing up the Some Like It Hot package (£21.50). Steph has some other gifts that are more luxurious (think cocoa butter, cashmere socks and gin, yes gin!). But I'm a simple gal. I dream of hot tea and yummy biscuits. Hmm, tea. Gotta go, I need a cup right now.

 

 

Finishing My Christmas Shopping

A minute ago I was complaining about Christmas decorations out in October. But now, it is only two and a half weeks until Christmas. Eek! If you're anything like me, you haven't even bought half of your Christmas gifts yet. But worry not, because we will not be shopping on Christmas Eve in a blind panic (again!). This week we're going to buy the remaining gifts and then we can spend next week eating baking cookies. Are you with me?!

Here's a Christmas guide that will help with the rest of your Christmas shopping too.

Finishing My Christmas ShoppingMinions Domino Run (£7) - Perfect for any Minion lovers out there. If you have a child between the ages of 5-12 in your family, then this would make a fab gift. But let's face it, many of the adults will be dying to 'help' the kids set up the domino run. Not only is it a fun activity, but it is one the whole family can get involved in.

 

Finishing My Christmas ShoppingMy Fairy Musical Box (£7) - Not only does every little child love a box in which to put in their treasures, but a musical box is always a winner. My seven-year old daughter has a similar box and my three-year old son is so jealous of it. This fairy musical box would make his day (if only they made Darth Vader music boxes!!).

 

Finishing My Christmas ShoppingStar Wars 2016 Calendar (£6) - Have I mentioned that my son adores the Star Wars films? Although he is too young for a calendar, this would make a great gift for an older fan of the franchise. The newest film, The Force Awakens, is out on the 17th December, so this would make a timely present.

 

Finishing My Christmas ShoppingDeluxe Board Game Set (£14.99) - A lovely wooden set for chess, draughts and backgammon. Perfect for your games-loving cousin or uncle//a. And it could add to your Christmas party if it gets a bit dull. Who doesn't love a lively game of backgammon?!

 

Finishing My Christmas ShoppingFather Christmas Comes Up Trumps! (£1.99) - We already have Father Christmas Needs A Wee by Nicholas Allan, and my children love it. This book follows Father Christmas as he tries to deliver presents but his tummy is rumbling and he's trying not to do any trumps. I will definitely be getting this for my son's Christmas Eve box. It will make him giggle.

 

Finishing My Christmas ShoppingStacking Tower Wooden Toy (£5) - If there are any toddlers that you need to buy for, then this would make a lovely gift. It's great for hand-eye coordination and problem solving, plus it's fun. And it's a bargain.

 

Finishing My Christmas ShoppingGame of Thrones Colouring Book (£7) - Adult colouring books are all the rage these days. And while it is relaxing to colour in some doodles and flowers, how about colouring in battles and fights (as well as flowers and some pretty dresses)? This would make any fan of Game of Thrones very happy.

 

Finishing My Christmas ShoppingOriental Storage Suitcases (£7) - A pretty, and practical, gift for a little or big lady in your life. It would look nice on a desk to tidy away papers and receipts, but I think these would work well in my daughter's room. She could use one for Shopkins, one for hair things and another for bits and bobs. The suitcases would also be a lovely way to package a gift instead of traditional wrapping paper or a gift bag.

 

Finishing My Christmas ShoppingCaptain Underpants box set (£12) - You get 10 of these fantastically funny books for a great price. Moozles has been reading these books from her school library and absolutely loves them. Great books to encourage children to read independently but to also enjoy reading.

 

So, there you go. I have, hopefully, helped you find the last few bits of your Christmas shopping. Now bring on those cookies! Merry Christmas!

 

 

FEATURED POST

 

 

2 Comments

Photos in Santa's Grotto (& Eddie Catz Giveaway)

A couple of weeks ago we visited Santa's Grotto at Eddie Catz Wimbledon. Father Christmas wasn't there (he was quite busy with Christmas preparations), but my family and I got the chance to have some family photos taken by a professional photographer. I was worried that my son would be shy for the camera but the Christmassy surroundings made him feel comfortable right away. After our photo shoot, Husband and I got to relax while the kids ran around Eddie Catz.

If you're not familiar with Eddie Catz Wimbledon, it is a soft play centre near Collier's Wood. But they also have a photographic studio tucked away inside. Memory Gate Photography offers family photos throughout the year. But at Christmas time, the studio becomes a bit more special. It becomes Santa's Grotto.

From 12th-23rd December 2015, families are invited to visit the grotto. Children can write a letter to Father Christmas, with the help of an elf, and make some reindeer food that they can take home. And of course no visit would be complete without seeing Father Christmas and getting a professional photo taken (which will be given mounted, but you could also get a digital copy). Plus each child receives a plush toy.

Tickets are £15 per child on the weekdays and £20 per child on the weekends. The ticket also includes a two-hour play at Eddie Catz Wimbledon. It's a fun outing for the kids, and mum and dad even get some time to rest from all that Christmas shopping.

Photos in Santa's Grotto (& Eddie Catz Giveaway) Photos in Santa's Grotto (& Eddie Catz Giveaway)Photos in Santa's Grotto (& Eddie Catz Giveaway)

 

Photo credit: Memory Gate Photography

 

We were invited to have our family photos taken for the purpose of this review. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.

 

 

7 Comments

A Lovely Day at Lapland UK

This past weekend, something wonderful happened. We met Father Christmas. Not one of his helpers, but the real Father Christmas. At least, that is what my seven-year old daughter thinks. Husband and I were a bit worried that Moozles was about to stop believing in Santa. But then we went to LaplandUK, and that all changed. There she is, in the top photo, seeing her name on Santa's list of nice boys and girls. *heart melts*

Our visit began with an elf showing us how to door that would lead us to LaplandUK. Once inside the snowy wonderland, we queued to get into the elves' workshop. The children 'helped' the elves by making stuffed animals and wooden horses. For each activity the kids engaged in, they received a stamp in their Elf Passport. We then moved on to Mother Christmas' kitchen. The children decorated a gingerbread biscuit and then listened to a story. Dubz really enjoyed this as it meant he got to wear a chef's hat (that boy loves a hat). The biscuits were then put away for the car ride home, minus some smarties that seem to disappear.

After lunch and a mooch about, we finally got to meet the main man. Your own personal elf takes you through a maze of trees into the cabin where Father Christmas resides. When we walked in, he welcomed my children by their names (pronounced correctly).

I think when children are young, it doesn't make a huge difference if the Father Christmas seems authentic. But once they are about four, they start noticing things. At seven, Moozles doesn't miss a thing. She notices the fake beards, false tummies and the lack of knowledge on the parts of the Santas. He told them tidbits about their lives and their friends. Moozles was wide-eyed and kept looking at me asking 'how did he know that?' - it was so sweet.

Practicalities:

Location - LaplandUK is located in Berkshire, just barely out of Surrey. From our home in South West London (near the A3), it took us 40 minutes to drive there. As we went in the morning, there was no traffic. Please note, if you're using Google Maps, it might try and take you to The Berkshire Golf Club when you're almost there - just keep driving for a few minutes until you see the yellow signs for LaplandUK.

Timings - You're advised to arrive up to 30 minutes early. Due to utter sleepiness, we arrived at 10.29am. This gave us just enough time to check in. It takes about 90 minutes for the initial show, making toys with the elves and then decorating biscuits and listening to a story with Mother Christmas. You will then have 90 minutes of free time. As we booked for 10.30am, our free time began at 12pm. We spent half an hour at lunch and then visited the gift shop, wrote and 'posted' our letters to Santa, explored the sweet shop and milled about. There is ice skating but we felt that our son was too young. We went into the trail to see Father Christmas at 1.30pm and we were finished and back at our car at 2.15pm.

Cost - This will not be a cheap day. Yes, you could go to your local garden centre and see Father Christmas for less than £20 per child (some are free and just ask for a donation). We've been to a couple of lovely garden centre grottos, but LaplandUK is on another level. Prices for Lapland UK range from £45.00-£89.50 per person (weekdays are cheaper). The price covers an invitation from Father Christmas before the big day, all activities on the day including ice skating, a visit with Father Christmas and a cuddly toy. We paid for lunch (£35 for the four of us and it was surprisingly tasty), coffee and cake, sweets and photos of our visit with Santa (£15 for one or £30 for three). We couldn't afford to visit more than once, but this would make a special Christmas treat. And if you do have the money, it is more than a Santa's grotto. It is a Christmas day out.

A Lovely Day at Lapland UK A Lovely Day at Lapland UK A Lovely Day at Lapland UK A Lovely Day at Lapland UK A Lovely Day at Lapland UK A Lovely Day at Lapland UKA Lovely Day at Lapland UKIMG_1578A Lovely Day at Lapland UKA Lovely Day at Lapland UKA Lovely Day at Lapland UK A Lovely Day at Lapland UK

 

 

We were invited to visit LaplandUK for the purpose of this review. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.

 

 

2 Comments

Not Everyone Receives A Gift At Christmas

I have been writing a lot about Christmas this past week. It's hard not to. I love Christmas. I enjoy the time sent with my family. It is so much fun finding amazing presents that will make my children shout with excitement. And then there's decorating the house and the Christmas tree whilst listening to festive tunes. And of course we will be filling our tummies with prosecco and turkey. It all makes me feel so happy and so very grateful.

But there are so many people who will be struggling to feed their families this Christmas. There will be many children in the UK, and across the world, who won't have any gifts waiting for them on Christmas morning. No, we can't help everyone. But Christmas is about giving. So for the past two years my family and I have been donating toys to children in the UK.

Our kids do not receive extravagant gifts from Father Christmas. They each get one gift and the money saved goes to one or two gifts for children who otherwise wouldn't receive anything. So, while you are doing your Christmas shopping, pick up something extra to donate. Or maybe you have a box of spare birthday gifts, grab one of those and donate. It won't make a difference to you, but it could make a big difference to someone else.

If you would like to donate a gift to a child in need this Christmas, the Salvation Army is running a Christmas Present Appeal until the 14th December. Bring in a new, unwrapped toy to your nearest Salvation Army drop-off centre.

Suggested Gifts

  • 0-3 years:  dolls, teddy bears, cot mobiles, baby clothes, bath toys, CDs of suitable music and nursery rhymes, puzzles
  • 3-5: dolls and action figures, cars, lorries, DVDs and CDs (music and nursery rhymes), colouring sets, pencils, crayons, books, puzzles
  • 5-9: educational games & toys, stationery (colouring sets, pencils, crayons, school sets), CDs & family friendly DVDs, books, puzzles, wordsearch, crosswords
  • 9-12: games and toys, stationery, CDs, DVDs, books, T-Shirts, hair accessories, gloves, scarves, hats
  • 13-16: CDs, DVDs, books, make-up and toiletries (please try to ensure non-allergic ingredients if possible), gloves, scarves, hats, T-Shirts, hair accessories

Here are some South London drop-off points, if you'd like to donate. But please check the Salvation Army's website for details of drop-off points all over the UK and Ireland.

Raynes Park Corps
496 Kingston Road
Raynes Park
SW20 8DX

Wimbledon Corps
109 Kingston Road
Merton Park
SW19 1LT
Wimbledon

Wandsworth Corps
9 Ram Street Wandsworth
SW18 1TJ

Camberwell Corps
105 Lomond Grove
SE5 7HG  Camberwell

Upper Norwood
58 Westow Street
Upper Norwood
SE19 3AF

Bromley Temple Corps
Ethelbert Road
BR1 1HU
Bromley

Croydon Temple Corps
Booth Road Lower Church Street
CR0 1XY Croydon

 

Merry Christmas! xx

 

6 Comments

Christmas - November Checklist

Don't worry, this won't be one of those posts where the writer/blogger boasts how they are all ready for Christmas one month before the big day. I am not one of those people who start shopping for Christmas in July, or even September. For me, Christmas preparations begin in November. That's part of getting in the holiday spirit. I shop, I decorate, I watch crappy movies on the Christmas24 channel (by the way, I am totally addicted to the latter, don't judge me). Then in December we get and decorate the tree, and attend lots of fun Christmas parties/events. So, I thought I would share some of the things I do in November so that December doesn't feel too hectic.

Father Christmas

Christmas - November Checklist

I find that if you visit Santa too close to Christmas Day, there's a chance that your child will change their mind by then and it will be too late to get that gift. This weekend we'll be visiting Lapland UK. We've never been before, but it looks amazing, especially with the huge amount of fake snow they've brought in (top photo). First of all, the children receive a personalised letter from Father Christmas, inviting them to Lapland UK. Once there, there's a toy factory, ice-skating, biscuit-making with Mrs Claus and of course a meeting with the big guy. And Santa looks nice and fat. Last year we had two visits to Father Christmas (not counting one at pre-school and one at regular school). Both Santas were young and skinny, and I think one might have been a bit drunk. 🙁

Shopping
Christmas - November Checklist
I try and do at least half of my Christmas shopping in November (though many shops have great sales on the week before Christmas, which is when I buy any clothing gifts). But I try and get all the kids' presents in November. Not only does it spread out the cost, but it makes you feel happy buying gifts for your loved ones, which is great for getting in the Christmas spirit. We also try and buy festive treats like mince pies, Christmas cakes and biscuits, panettone and alcohol in November to further cut down the costs in December. The only issue is that you must hide these things away or you will eat/drink everything before you get the chance to shared them with your loved ones. November is also a good time to order your Christmas grocery delivery, if you shop online. We once went grocery shopping on Christmas Eve as I heard you could find great deals. There were no deals, just a lot of frantic people. Lesson learned.

Family Photos

Christmas - November Checklist

If you're thinking of getting photo Christmas cards, or if you want to have photos to send to family with your Christmas cards, take the photos now. Either with a professional or on your own. Even if you don't do anything with the photos, take them. Christmas Day always ends up being so busy that often we forget to take a family photo. *Photo credit: Memory Gate Photography

Christmas Outfits

Christmas - November Checklist

Yes, it would be good to sort out your Christmas party outfit ahead of time. But I'm thinking about the kids. Last year I really wanted to get the kids matching Christmas pyjamas. This is not easy when you have children of the opposite gender, four years apart. Anyway, the cute pjs were out of stock last December, so I had to take whatever I could find in their sizes. Same goes for Christmas jumpers. Buy them NOW.

 

That's it for my November Christmas Checklist. Anything you'd add? Are you all ready for Christmas? Or maybe you haven't started? Or else you're almost halfway done like me?

 

Quick & Easy Christmas CardsI used to send out Christmas cards, but the past two years have been too hectic with a house move and renovations. But this year I want to send cards out to our family and friends. But I don't have a lot of time to do it. So I have gotten a plethora of Christmas stamps to make it all go quickly and easily.

Fun Christmas Stamp (£15) - I love the Scandinavian look of reindeer, so it was only fitting to get a reindeer stamp wishing my friends and family 'Happy Holidays' (top photo). These can be customised as you wish, but being American, I wanted a PC message for friends of varying faiths. You could even use this stamp for gift tags.

Large Christmas Greeting Stamp (£30) - this will make writing Christmas cards extremely quick. This contains your message and your sign-off, and there's a space to write the recipient's name. Yes, it's a bit of a cheat. But that's the point. Especially if you're making homemade cards. Again, this could be used for gift tags, if the tag was big enough.

Quick & Easy Christmas Cards

Quick & Easy Christmas CardsAddress Stamp (£15) - it saves so much time not having to write your address on every letter and card that you send out. Not only will this make Christmas cards go quicker, but you will be able to use the stamp throughout the year.

I've had our address stamp printed with our surname and address, and will let my daughter use it when she does thank you cards for her birthday and Christmas (now that she's seven, she can do the cards on her own).

Of course you will need the Stamptastic inkpads. They come in several colours and will make the stamps look bright and festive. So your Christmas cards will look special, but will take you no time at all!

Quick & Easy Christmas Cards Quick & Easy Christmas Cards

I was sent the above as part of my role as Stamptastic Ambassador. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.

 

Frozen Gifts For Your Frozen Fans

Frozen is still as popular as ever, and this Christmas there are more products than ever to choose from for your little ones. I thought I would share some items that would make lovely stocking stuffers for those Frozen-lovers out there.

Frozen Gifts For Your Frozen Fans

Frozen Bath & Beauty Wash Bag (£10) - besides the cute wash bag, you get bath/shower gel, shimmer lotion, bath fizzers, body spritz and hair spritz. This would be ideal for an older child rather than a toddler (perfect for my daughter who is seven years old). Moozles is excited to take her wash bag to her grandparents' house at Christmas (there's also room in there for her toothbrush and toothpaste), which makes her feel really grown-up.

Frozen Gifts For Your Frozen Fans

Frozen Shimmer Bubble Bath (£5) - who doesn't love bubble bath?! Besides the bubbles, this has a shimmering effect. Both my daughter and my three year old son love bubble baths, so this gift would be great for either a boy or a girl. It comes with one sparkly heart bracelet, which Dubz has taken as he loves accessories.

Frozen Gifts For Your Frozen Fans

Frozen Lip Balm Trio (£6) - these sparkly lip balms will make any little girl feel like a princess. Moozles is always trying to trick me into letting her wear make-up. These lip balms have such a subtle colour that your little one would have sparkly lips but not look like they are in training to be a beauty queen.

 

So would any of your little ones like some Frozen gifts? You can buy the above at Boots.com, where there is currently a 3 for 2 offer on thousands of toys and gifts. You could get all three products above for £16 (saving you £5). And if your little one(s) don't need all three stocking stuffers, then you'll have gifts for other children in your life.

 

 

We were sent the above items for the purpose of this review. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.