Category Archives: Gifts

Blogmas Day 9: Our Annual Visit To Harrod’s Christmas Grotto

Yesterday we drove into London to visit Father Christmas on our annual grotto visit to Harrods. It has become a tradition for us to go to the Harrods Grotto and we have been going since 2012. I booked our slot back in September. You have to have a Harrods reward card and depending on what you spend in store throughout the year you are then given a tier and the higher your tier, the earlier the email you get to book your slot. This year I had to pay £20 per child to book and every year previously it had been £10 per child and then you got the money back on your Harrods reward card to spend in store. We would usually let the Oscar and Archie pick a decoration each. This year though I asked when we arrived about the £40 going back on the card and I was told they had changed it and you didn’t get it back anymore. This surprised me but I thought maybe the gift would be different and maybe that is why you now have to pay double the amount per child and not get it back to spend in store anymore.

When we arrived we checked in and waited and then we were greeted by Robin the Elf who did a few magic tricks and jokes and then we went into the Fairy and Elf airport. The Elf’s taught the children some sign language which was nice, asked them what they wanted for Christmas and then all the children had to hunt for envelopes around the room and post them for them. Then we walked into a room with three giant swans in them. Each family sat in a swan and we watched a video on the walls of the room and time travelled to Christmas day and then back to December the 8th. The boys were then given a Fantastica grotto time pilot licence.

We then went in to see Father Christmas. The room didn’t look as Christmassy as usual but the boys didn’t notice. Father Christmas was really nice and chatty, asking the boys what they would like for Christmas and congratulating Oscar on learning to ride his bike this year and asked Archie about starting nursery. He then gave them a Harrods grotto gift bag with a 2018 teddy bear inside and a giant chocolate coin. We then had our photo taken with him. We went outside and chose our photo which cost £14.50 for a large photo and you get a download code so you can have it on your phone too.

To be honest I am not to sure why they decided to charge more as the gift was the same size as last year and the grotto itself was a lot smaller. Afterwards we headed to the toy department to have a look around then went for lunch at our favourite, Honest Burger. Overall Oscar and Archie had a lovely day and really enjoyed it. I thought it wasn’t as good as last year and over priced really. Would we go again, of course its a tradition for us now and I will book again next year so we can get our annual photo.

Blogmas Day 6: Deck The Halls

As you will have seen on my Instagram our beautiful Nordmann Fir Christmas Tree arrived last Thursday from Pines and Needles and kicked off Christmas in our house. Traditionally for us the cheeky Elf On a Shelf’s Eddie and Ernie arrive on the 1st of December and bring the boys advent calendars and at the same time the Christmas fairies bring the rest of the decorations for the boys to wake up to.

We always have a artificial tree in the lounge, we’ve had this 7ft one for a few years now and it is so easy and quick to put up. I just need to get a new star as our usual one broke. On this tree as well as normal baubles are the ones the boys have chosen over the years from the Disney store as well as my collection of Harrods Bears. I have every bear from the year Greg and I met in 2006. I also had a decoration made of their joint school photo on Snapfish.

Under the tree we have our new light up presents which we brought a couple of weeks ago at the Ideal Home Show at Christmas. We also brought the light up snowman which is by the fireplace as well.

Our plush Father Christmas we brought in 2007 for our first Christmas at our last house. We got him from Ayletts nursery. They also have a lovely Christmas display each year and we used to visit there when I was a child with my parents and grandparents and always got to choose a new decoration for the tree.

Last Christmas I brought the NOEL nice and the Father Christmas Christmas countdown. The little silver candle holders and the berry candles were from a Christmas market in Prague that Greg brought me a few years ago.

Last Christmas I also brought the garland over the fireplace from John Lewis, four pine cone stocking holders from Amazon and our personalised stockings from Mr Mole Blankets. I absolutely love our fireplace!

In the hallway along with our Pines and Needles tree is my Santa in his rocking chair that I got from Van Hage last year and our giant snowman that lights up and sings from Costco. (Oscar and Archie chose this!!)

I always decorate the boys rooms and they wake up on the 1st with their Christmas sheets on, snow globes on the side and their stockings ready for Christmas Eve. I also have a selection of Christmas books in Archie’s room that we can read at bedtime.

Downstairs in the dining room where we will eat Christmas lunch I have a few decorations on the sideboard from Tilly B Handmade and am having a centrepiece made by Love Flowers like I did last year. At the moment my ball of pine cones is in the middle of the table that I brought last week. The wooden stars I brought back from Canada a few years ago.

I always love looking for new decorations or bits to add to the tree. If you have any websites you use let me know. And last but not least we have the Elves door that stays there until they go home with Father Christmas on Christmas Eve.

Outside the front door I have little light up trees that we brought from Waitrose.

My Top 5 Places to Visit At Christmas With Kids In The UK

I love Christmas and over the last couple of years we have been to some fantastic places with the boys over the Christmas period. Some are our family Christmas traditions and others places we just love to go to as they are so magical. Here are my top 5 places we have been to so far….

1. Lapland UK

Lapland UK is so amazing! We went two Christmases ago and I was blown away. It is magical from start to finish and other then real snow I imagine it’s just as magical as Lapland itself. It’s quite pricey but in my opinion I would pay it time and time again. We had the most magical family day out and the boys, especially Oscar as he was 7 couldn’t believe it. You come away full of Christmas spirit!

2. Harrod’s Christmas Grotto.

We have been visiting Harrod’s Christmas Grotto since Oscar’s first Christmas. I eagerly await my booking email every year and book up straight away. It’s a Christmas tradition in our house as it’s the same Grotto I visited as a child too. Each year is so different with a different theme and decorations and the boys love it! We always buy the Harrod’s Christmas bear for our tree afterwards then have dinner together. It’s nice to have a special Christmas tradition as a family. You have to pay a deposit (this year was £20 a child) when booking the Grotto but get it straight back on your Harrod’s reward card afterwards to spend in store, we use it to buy more Christmas decorations. I booked our slot last month and can’t wait to go!

3. Santa Spectacular – Willow’s Activity Farm, London Colney, St Albans

Willows Activity Farm is such a great day out in general with so much to see and do. But at Christmas it’s amazing! The Grotto is fantastic and when you visit Father Christmas you get a key to his toy shop where you can choose whatever toy you like. There is also ice skating and you can meet their husky dog. Here’s my post from our visit to the farm last Christmas. It runs from 21st November – 24th December 2018 and costs from £30 a child, £19.50 Under 2s, £14 an Adult, £13.15 Seniors, £25 Disabled child & free carer and £12.50 Disabled adult + free carer. It really is a fantastic day out for everyone!

4. Santa’s Sleepover At Alton Towers

We love Alton Tower’s and had a weekend away there staying in the enchanted village back in April. At Christmas Alton Tower’s put on their Santa’s Sleepover. Within the package you get an overnight stay in our amazing accommodation, a unique visit to Santa (experience dependent on accommodation), their fun-filled Pantomime, Alice in Wonderland , A festive evening meal, a delicious buffet breakfast, One day Waterpark tickets, One day Theme Park tickets with selected rides and attractions including CBeebies Land, evening entertainment including character meet & greets, shows, a Christmas cinema and a farewell from Santa Claus! Plus 9 holes of crazy Extraordinary Golf.

5. Warner Bros Studio Tour, Hogwarts In The Snow

I love the Warner Bros Studio Tour and luckily for us its only ten minutes down the road from us. We have been four or five times now but no time is as magical as Hogwarts In The Snow. The Great Hall is set up for a Christmas Feast, snow falls as you walk outside and we usually go in November and it really gets you into the Christmas spirit. This year it is running from the 17th of November through to the 27th of January 2019. For any Harry Potter fan this is not to be missed! It is beyond magical!

Another fun event to go to with the kids is visiting the #holidaysarecoming Coca Cola Christmas Truck. Every year they realise tour dates and we went and saw it at a local supermarket. The staff make it a really fun event for the kids and we got a free downloadable photo.

My Top Christmas Advent Calendars For Kids 2018

With less than one hundred days until Christmas (95 to be precise) and the shops filling up with all their Christmas decorations, I have already started my planning for the festive season. Next week I can book our annual trip to Harrod’s Christmas Grotto and slots are already open with Pines and Needles to book your Christmas Tree delivery, so the planning starts now!

I have been looking at Advent Calendars for both Oscar and Archie. They both get a chocolate calendar and a toy advent calendar. Last year they had a Playmobil one and a Lego one, which they loved!

This year there are so many great advent calendars on the market to choose from but here are my favourites;

This one we will be getting for Oscar as he is Smiggle obsessed. It is £25 and has £40+ worth of goodies inside. If you find one of the 25 lucky tickets hidden inside the Calendars you can win a £500 Smiggle shopping spree! These flew off the shelves last year so your best to buy it now and hide it away.

For Archie this Christmas we have got the Schleich 97702 – Wild Life Advent Calendar 2018. He loves animals and whenever we go to the toy shop he always chooses another Schleich animal to add to his growing collection. It is £24.99 And features 24 compartments containing gifts of Schleich Wildlife toys and accessories. He will love it!

LEGO 60155 City Advent Calendar 2017 Construction Toy. Lego sell a variety of different advent calendars all with 24 gifts inside. We had a Lego one last Christmas and Oscar loved it! They start at around £20.

For the creative children Play-Doh and Crayola have a fantastic advent calendar this year. The Crayola 04-6808-U-000 Christmas Advent Calendar Kit is Packed with craft projects, homemade gifts, finger puppets, and colouring activities, this set helps kids get into the spirit of Christmas. It is £19.99. The  Play-Doh Advent Calendar is £15 and features 24 hidden surprises. The calendar comes with several small pots of Play-Doh including two glittering colours for a festive touch, with a new addition/accessory to discover every day.

Playmobil Advent Calendar Santas Workshop. Playmobil also sell a variety of advent calendars.Oscar has had this one before and over the 24 days you build up a Santa’s workshop play scene. It’s a really lovely calendar! It is £19.99 and has 106 pieces inside.

This advent calendar would have been my dream as a child! The Barbie advent calendar is £35.00. In the Barbie Advent Calendar as well as Barbie herself over the 24 days it includes everything she needs to be a ballerina, baker, ice skater, pet vet and professional skier. It helps kids to understand different careers while living the magic of opening a present each day! I love this one!

This is the perfect advent calendar for your little car lover! It is around £19.99 and Contains 8 different Hot Wheels vehicles, plus stickers and surprise accessories.  Hot Wheels Advent Calendar with Mini Cars Toy Mattel

The Happyland advent calendar is perfect for the younger children from 18 months. It is £25 and as you can see comes with lots of toys inside to make up the Christmas play set. It’s very cute!

So these are my advent favourites for Christmas 2018! I hope you enjoyed the post and maybe have got some inspiration for your little one’s calendar this year. Expect lot’s of Christmas posts coming your way soon!

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Oscar’s 8th Birthday

Last week Oscar was 8! I don’t know how it is possible, the years have just flown by, its so scary. We had such a fun jam packed week and I always love to make such a big deal out of the boys birthdays! After all they are only little for short amount of time.

Last Wednesday we kicked off his birthday with a surprise trip to the theatre to see the Lion King. he was so excited when we arrived outside as he has wanted to see it for ages. the show was absolutely amazing, the best I have ever been too. The costumes were out of this World. We were also really lucky to book amazing isle seats, five rows back from the stage. Our view was amazing.

Thursday morning Oscar ran into our room so excited for his birthday! We went downstairs for breakfast and so that he could open his presents and cards. This year he asked for a hover board with the go kart extension kit which is absolutely amazing and I love going on it too. He also got Minecraft Lego and some Nintendo Switch games.

After school we went to Prezzo for dinner as it’s Oscar’s favourite restaurant with my Brother and our friends.

On Saturday we had his party with his friends at Hollywood Bowl in Watford. We’ve never had a bowling party before and as it’s something both the boys love, so we thought it would be a good idea. I was actually quite surprised at how reasonably priced it is compared to some of the other parties we’ve had over the years. 23 children to bowl and eat it was about £260. He had great fun and he was so lucky to get so many lovely gifts.

We did tell Oscar last year that that was the last ‘big’ party he would have and we would take a few friends out and then do something special like go to the theatre but somehow he’s managed to wangle a party and the Lion King!

On Sunday afternoon we then had all the family over for tea and cake. We had a lovely Minecraft cake from Wenzels which tasted amazing! Oscar loved getting everyone on the hover board!

Oscar has had an amazing birthday! The countdown is on until mine now next week, where I will turn 30!

#Blogmas Day 4: Our Pines & Needles Christmas Tree & Decoration Service

Yesterday was a very exciting day! One I had been counting down too since my Pines and Needles Christmas Tree delivery and tailored decorating service had been booked in. Pines and Needles are the Christmas Tree Specialists and offer a huge range of services to suit everyone.

You can go to one of their stores and pick your perfect tree and they will deliver it straight to you, or you can have them place the tree and add the lights and decorations for you and then they can come and collect and dispose of the tree after Christmas too.

As it is our first Christmas in our new house I really wanted a show stopper of a Christmas Tree for our hallway. When I saw that Pines and Needles would bring me the perfect tree and decorate it all for me, I knew this would be perfect. You also get to keep all of the decorations that the tree is decorated with choosing from three different level packages; Festive, Classic and Deluxe. We chose the Deluxe package in Gold and Silver and 360 lights for our 7ft Nordmann Fir Tree and the stand. I love that I now have decorations for our hallway tree for years to come!

Anyone who knows me well knows that Christmas is my favourite time of the year. I love to decorate the boys rooms with their Christmas books and duvet covers and make the whole of the lead up to Christmas Day as magical and as special for them as possible! On Christmas Day we always have the whole family over for lunch and I love hosting and having everyone we love around us enjoying themselves!

Getting back to yesterday….. I received an email confirming my chosen time slot which was between 8 and 1 and then at about 7.45am our personal driver text me to let me know a more specific time. I also got an automated text when they were on their way from their last appointment to mine, telling me that my tree was on its way. You can also use an online tracker, the link was sent to me via email.

The van pulled up outside at 11am and I watched at the window as the two Pines and Needles men, dressed in their Christmas hats and kilts brought my tree and decorations to the front door. Wearing the kilts is a great touch, showing that Pines and Needles are a British brand with Scottish Heritage.

Firstly they set up the stand and placed the tree, then the lights and decorating began. They were total perfectionists and kept taking a back step and checking, then rejigging until they were happy. They took so much time and attention to get it perfect. The two men were super friendly and in full Christmas spirit. They did a fantastic job! After they were finished they even packed up all the rubbish and cleaned up the mess too!

I am absolutely over the moon with our tree and when Oscar got home from school he was so excited and the boys absolutely love it! Its a proper traditional Christmas Tree and it is so much better than what I visualised that it would look like. I have my show stopper tree!

Pines and Needles offer a fantastic service with a smile. They couldn’t have done anymore to make it any better, it really is a 5* service! We are so happy with our Christmas Tree and I will pack our Christmas decorations away neatly after Christmas so that next year they can come back with a new tree and decorate it for me again! I think next year I might even go for a 9 or 10ft! Thank you Pines and Needles!

Disclaimer: We were gifted the Christmas Tree for the purpose of this post. However all opinions are honest and my own and we absolutely love our tree and would use them again and again!

Personalised Photo Gifts From Snapfish & £50 Competition

I have used Snapfish for years now and always use their app on my phone to upload my photos into albums ready to use on any of my projects. I have made everything from huge acrylics to photo books. I just love making personalised photo gifts from Snapfish! Every Christmas I make Oscar & Archie calendars for the grandparents so the app is a great way of storing my favourite photos ready to use in the December.

When I was asked to review some of the photo gifts for Greg for Father’s Day I knew straight away what I wanted to order for him. The Snapfish team have also kindly given me a £50 gift card for one of my lucky readers too.

The website is easy to use and I designed Greg a personalised photo mousemat which is new to the Snapfish range, for the office with one of my favourite pictures of the boys on it that was professionally taken a few months ago. Greg loved it and it now has pride of place on his desk. You can choose all sorts of designs, photo configurations and add text to make it as personal as you like. At only £7.99 they are a bargain!


I also made Greg a personalised Father’s Day Card to go with his presents and as always you can pick from tons of different designs, colours, themes, sizes and pick your photo configuration. He loved receiving a card that was personal to him instead of the normal generic cards your can pick up in the shops. It is a card he will keep forever!


Oscar also wanted to pick a couple of pictures to make into acrylic blocks. I love the acrylic blocks as I prefer these to having photos in frames. You can pick between A5 and A6 acrylic blocks. Last Father’s Day I made three of these blocks that Greg has on his desk at work so we knew he would like them. The A6 size is £29.99 and the A5 size is £34.99.


You can also make huge acrylic panels which I ordered a couple of months ago and absolutely love it!


Head over to the Snapfish website and see for yourself how fantastic their  range of personalised photo gifts are and all at amazing prices. Don’t forget to enter below to be in with a chance of winning a £50 Snapfish voucher to use too! Good Luck!

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: This post is in collaboration with Snapfish UK.