My 12 Most Favourite Things About Christmas

Center Parcs have issued another challenge. This time it is to blog about 12 things we love about the festive season. Center Parcs’ Winter Wonderland expert, Nick Oot, inspired me with his description of the amazing decorations used at Center Parcs. I mean, 27,000 kg of artificial snow, 1,500 metres of fairy lights–amazing! I’m American, so you know I love a good decoration.

I also love a good countdown, so these are my 12 most favourite things about Christmas, working its way to the top dog, number one, most favourite thing about the holidays.

12. Elf on the Shelf. This year we had Elfy visit and it was fun as my daughter looked for the elf every morning then giggle when she found him.

11. Parties. The holidays are a great time to meet up with friends and have a night out, especially when you are a Stay-at-Home Mum and you don’t get out very often.

10. Family time. It’s lovely catching up with our extended families, who we don’t see that often.

9. Chocolates, biscuits and cakes. There is no better excuse for eating yummy, naughty things than during the holidays.

8. No school run for two weeks. My daughter needs the rest, and we get to mooch about a bit in the mornings. Plus I don’t have to wake my son up from his afternoon nap to go pick up his big sister.

7. Christmas films. I get to watch new ones, plus share beloved films with my children. 

6. Visiting Father Christmas. My five-year old was more thrilled than before to meet Santa this year.

5. Christmas crackers. We don’t do them in the U.S.A. and I don’t know why because it is so much fun. This year, since we had Christmas in our own house and we pulled crackers at every meal.

4. Twinkly lights. ‘Nuff said.

3. Decorating the house and Christmas tree.

2. Christmas Songs. I love listening and singing along to Christmas songs and now singing the songs with my children.

And drumroll…

1. Watching my children open up their gifts on Christmas morning. Oh, the joy!

This is my entry to the Center Parcs and Tots 100 December challenge. If I’m chosen, I would like to visit Woburn Forest (opens in Spring 2014).

Army of Angels

My five year-old loves doing arts and crafts. She said she wanted to make an angel, so my trusty friend Google helped me find an angel we could make with what we had at home. We don’t have any paper plates, and those seem to be the most popular item to use to make angels. But we do have loo rolls, lots and lots of loo rolls. So if you want an easy Christmassy craft, this is how you make a Christmas Angel.

1. You need one or more clean loo (or paper towel) rolls.
2. Paint the loo roll outside, and inside if you feel like it. Leave to dry on the side.
3. Fold paper in half. Draw and cut out the shape for the angel’s wings. No worries if a bit wonky.
4. Colour, draw or put stickers on the front and back of wings. Alternately, you could glue some feathers or tissue paper on the wings.
5. Draw and cut a round shape for the head. Your child will probably need help with this, as it’s a bit tougher drawing a circle.
6. Draw in a face and hair onto the circle.
7. Draw and cut a halo if you want (we didn’t).

My daughter is very pleased with the angels and we have decorated our hallway cabinet with them. Happy Christmas!

Cali Christmas

I love living in the UK. But there are certain holidays that make me miss California. 
christmas lights sd hot limos
Like Christmas. And the crazy Christmas lights you find in certain areas of San Diego, like Christmas Circle. People go over the top. But in a fun and festive way. You don’t care about being classy or worry about being tacky. You just want to enjoy the twinkly Christmassy atmosphere.

If we ever see a house in London or Surrey that has some lights or Christmas decorations, my five year-old oohs in wonder and admiration. I can’t imagine what she would think of the light displays that you find in American cities and towns. I know some people in the UK have over-the-top light displays at their homes, but there is nothing like having an entire neighbourhood of what appears to be Christmas on crack.

So spare a thought for me this Christmas, in your tastefully decorated homes. I will be a bit homesick for lights so bright they could blind you.

Above photo taken from this website (no photo credit given):

Trying Not to be Down about Being Round

2004. On my honeymoon in Kenya. Before kids.
It’s not like I used to be skinny. I would often fluctuate with kinda slim and kinda chunky. But now, I’m actually fat. My body hasn’t recovered from having my second child. My daughter is five and my son is 19 months old. I gained three stones  (42 pounds) when I was pregnant with my boy. I lost a stone after he was born, leaving me two blasted stones overweight. And with the fatigue and the demands of breastfeeding, the weight never shifted. And when Walker started sleeping through the night at 10 months, I thought it would happen. But it didn’t.

Out a few months ago
My pre-pregnancy clothes are still too tight. I don’t have any dressy things for my current size so I did some online shopping last week, trying to get a new outfit for some Christmas outings. But nothing looks nice. 

I know my weight doesn’t define who I am. But it does affect the way I feel. I am not looking to be a size zero. I know that’s not how I’m made. But I just want to be able to dress without agonising over my lumps and bumps. 

I got into Pilates equipment(Reformer, Cadillac) before my second pregnancy and it really toned me up. There is a great studio in Clapham but we moved last year and there isn’t a proper Pilates studio nearby.  
How did you tackle your pregnancy weight? Or are you still dealing with it? It is so tough finding the time and energy to exercise. If I ever have time while my son is napping, I just want to rest on the sofa. How can I put down the cake and pick up the weights? Any advice would be gratefully received.

Oh Jesus

Yesterday was my daughter’s school Christmas concert. They did the Nutcracker plus a nativity at the end. It was very sweet. My daughter was a humbug. Like I said, sweet.

Humbug in the middle
I wonder if state schools in the USA are allowed to have nativity plays at Christmas. The thing that I am still getting used to, being American, is that state schools discuss religious subjects. And besides the nativity and Christmas, they sing songs about God and Jesus. Husband and I are not religious. So we find it strange when talking about December birthdays (as we did this past Saturday) and Moozles announces that Jesus’ birthday is in December.  A couple of months ago she told me that God made the sky and the clouds. I tried to explain the Big Bang to my 5-year old but she did not quite grasp what I was saying.

I don’t have any problems with my kids talking about the religious reasons behind Christmas and Easter at school. But what if you do? What if you are a fervent atheist? Or if you’re from a different religion. How do you deal with your child talking about Jesus?

Oh Christmas Tree


It was my daughter’s Christmas concert today, so Husband took a day off. We really needed this extra time to do a few Christmas-related things. Husband bought the Christmas tree, then got all the decorations and lights from the outbuilding. After the concert and after school, we all decorated the tree. I say all, but my 19-month old’s contribution was poking the tree then licking his hand. I let my daughter decorate most of the tree despite my obsessive compulsive tendencies. If it was up to me, there would be colour coordination and even spacing between ornaments. But, I am a mother. And I have a five-year old who could spend all day decorating, so I must chill out.  

For those of you who don’t know much about Americans and Christmas. Americans are not big into tinsel. For those of you not familiar with British people, they seem to love tinsel. Both statements are a bit sweeping, so please be aware that there are exceptions. Anyway, Husband loves tinsel as does all his family. I do not. I think it looks tacky. But I am such a sweet, wonderful wife (what? I am!), that I allow tinsel in my home. And. On. My. Tree.

But even though the house and tree aren’t decorated exactly to my taste, the house feels Christmassy and I wouldn’t change a thing. Okay, fine, I took some of the tinsel off the tree after the kids went to bed. Sue me.


The Snow Gorilla

 Snow Gorilla
JugglersHuman Cannon Ball
Today I went to see The Snow Gorilla at the Rose Theatre in Kingston Upon Thames. I did not go alone. I was with my five-year old daughter and about 15 of her school friends and their mums. It was magical.
I didn’t know what the story was about before seeing the show, apart from the big clue in the title. And what a nice surprise to find that it was part story and part circus. The show centred around a circus, and the story took breaks to show the rehearsals. There was flamenco dancing, aerial acrobatics and juggling. There was also a clown, a contortionist and African acrobats. And of course there was a lovely talking gorilla, voiced by Brian Blessed. Brian has had quite a distinguished career but I know him as the voice of Grampy Rabbit.
In case you have never been to The Rose Theatre before, it’s a lovely little theatre. Fab for family shows (we have previously seen ‘Room on the Broom’ and ‘What the Ladybird Heard’ there). There are normal seats, but in the front there is a floor sitting section, so you can bring cushions and sit/stretch out (which we did this time). I prefer normal seats, but it’s nice to be on the floor when you’re in a big group. There is often audience interaction at the Rose, which is nice. My daughter was so thrilled that the clown had come and sat next to us and rubbed our heads. 
If you’re in or not far from Kingston, try to see The Snow Gorilla. It’s a fun and entertaining show. The children oohed and aahed. They enjoyed the tricks and silliness. There was a baddie and a love story. What more could you ask for? 
The Snow Gorilla runs until the 5th January 2014. The show lasts for two hours (flew by), with a 20-minute intermission. Book tickets if you can.
Photos by Helen Maybanks

Elfy the Elf

Elfy. Yes, this is what my five-year old has named our Elf on the Shelf. I never claimed to have the most creative kid. 

Last week I was lucky enough to win an Elf on the Shelf from Life With Munchers. Elf on the Shelf is gaining in popularity in the UK but it is extremely popular in the USA. For years I have seen pictures on Facebook of these Christmas elves since most of my FB friends are American. I didn’t quite understand what the fuss is about. But now that Moozles is five, she is obsessed with all things Christmas. And she is obsessed with Elfy. How magical is must be to wake up and wonder what Elfy has said to Father Christmas the night before. And to wake up and wonder where you might find Elfy. 


Moozles has found Elfy on various shelves, the radiator, our mini Christmas tree and tomorrow she will find Elfy enjoying a hearty bowl of Cheerios. Elf on the Shelf is a bit more work for me, but it’s worth it to see my daughter’s reaction to him.



Christmas Pressies

I see Christmas as a magical time for spending with one’s family. Presents come into it, but is not a main part. With less than five weeks until Christmas, I am about to begin my Christmas shopping. I love buying gifts for others, but am not overly fussed with receiving gifts. And I want to instill that love of giving, rather than getting, to my children. I asked my daughter if she would mind only getting one gift from Mummy and Daddy so that we could buy some gifts for children whose families do not have much money. Being the dear that she is, she said it was a good idea.

I have just been researching giving to underprivileged children in the UK. For some reason, it is not something I have ever seen advertised. In the States, the Marines have a Toys for Tots program that arranges for gifts to be distributed to children from low income families in time for Christmas. This is a well publicized event. In the UK, I couldn’t really tell you what charities are targeted specifically for Christmas. I understand that charities might not want to ‘waste’ money on advertising, but surely they would get more from people if the general public knew about their programs. I would love to know how much charities pay chuggers to (often) obnoxiously harass people on the street.  

I finally discovered that The Salvation Army accepts toys at various Superdrug locations. So as you all start, or continue, to buy Christmas presents, if you have a little spare cash please order/buy something for a child who won’t have much this Christmas. 

More information can be found on the Salvation Army’s website: