Category Archives: Home and Lifestyle

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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#Blogmas Day 10: A Snowy Sunday & Our Top Family Christmas Movies

Today we woke up to lots of snow! The boys were so excited, especially Archie as he has never played in snow before as the last time it snowed he was so young! As they were so eager to get outside they ate all of their breakfast up as quick as possible and then got wrapped up warm to go outside.

Today was meant to be our God Daughters christening but it had to be postponed due to the snow and the road conditions. So we spent the day playing in the garden, sledging and building a snowman.

As we couldn’t go anywhere we decided to get cosy in the lounge by the fire and watch a Christmas Film. We have watched a few over the last week or so and today watched Jingle All The Way which we loved. There are so many great Christmas classics here are a few of our favourites:

Jingle All The Way

Home Alone (1 & 2)

Santa Claus The Movie – My all time favourite!

Miracle on 34th Street

The Grinch (although Oscar hates it!)

The Snowman

Elf

Arthur Christmas

Frozen

The Muppet Christmas Carol

Oscar has gone to bed pretty excited as we had an email from his school and tomorrow he has a snow day which means more fun in the garden, hot chocolate and movies! If you have any other top Christmas movies let me know as we love a Christmas film!

Merry Christmas!

#Blogmas Day 8: The Stick Man Live Review

Yesterday we went into London with a few of Archie’s friends and their Mummy’s to see The Stick Man Live at Leicester Square Theatre. We took the train as we thought the boys would enjoy it, but I wish now that we had driven. Getting around on the London Underground with pushchair’s is a mission, one that I will never do again! Also on the way home we were evacuated off of our train as there was an issue with a vulnerable lady trying to jump off the platform at the next station and we ended up having to get a cab the rest of the way home!

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Anyway rant about trains over we arrived at the theatre and were given our tickets which were front row seats. My friend kindly brought Archie a stick man cuddly toy which he absolutely loves and they sell them for £10 each. We then brought some popcorn, grabbed a booster seat and sat in our seats ready for the show.

What starts off as a morning jog becomes quite the misadventure for Stick Man: a dog wants to play fetch with him, a swan builds a nest with him, and he even ends up on a fire! How will Stick Man ever get back to the family tree?

We booked the 11am show which was a good time rather than lunch time when the kids would have been hungry. We also got an absolute bargain with tickets only costing £23 in total for Archie and I.

From the minute the show started Archie was completely engrossed, dancing along to all of the songs and having so much fun. There are only three people in the show and its amazing how they can pull off such a fantastic show between the three of them and not that many props. It really was an amazing show!

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The actors also interacted with the children, throwing a beach ball into the crowd, which Archie caught and threw back to them. It was really good.

The show runs for 55 minutes, which is perfect and not to long that the children get fidgety. Afterwards the cast kindly had a photo with Archie and his friends.

The show was absolutely fantastic and if your little one is a fan of The Stick Man then this stage show is a must!

The next shows are:

  • 18 – 24 DEC MILTON KEYNES The Stables
  • 26 DEC – 12 JAN BIRMINGHAM Town Hall

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Merry Christmas!

#Blogmas Day 7: Santa Spectacular At Willow’s Activity Farm Review

Yesterday we went with our friends to the Santa Spectacular At Willow’s Activity Farm. Willow’s Farm is a fantastic farm and full day out situated in London Colney, Hertfordshire which is near St Albans. We absolutely love Willow’s and visit on a monthly basis as there is always so much to do and they run fun programmes throughout the year, so there is something new to do on every visit. We have visited the Santa Spectacular for the last three years and it has always been a fantastic day out!

We arrived at Willow’s and each child was given their Elf Passport to stamp on the way around, a Create-A-Cuddle workshop token and a token to visit Santa.

Firstly we went and watched the 3D Film; Christmas Adventure. The boys were engrossed in it as they haven’t ever seen anything in 3D before. Luckily as we walked out the Nativity Story was starting where the story is told with real animals and the children can dress up.

We then went to the Create-A-Cuddle workshop and swapped our token for a reindeer, stuffing and a coloured heart. Archie loved stuffing his reindeer and chose a blue heart to go inside. You also get given a birth certificate for your reindeer and a lovely gift box for him to live in.

After we walked to the farmyard and saw all of our favourite animals, including new baby piglets and Santa’s Reindeers.

As we were walking around the farm we looked out for the 9 reindeer pictures to write in the Elf Passport to complete the reindeer hunt so we could collect our magic Reindeer food from the gift shop on the way out. As we also completed the Elf Tasks 1-7 in the Elf Passports and collected the stamps Archie became a fully fledged Willow’s Elf!

One of Archie’s favourite things about Willow’s is taking a ride on Tristan the Tractor and even he had had a Christmas make over. On board there were bells for everyone to shake and he played Christmas songs the whole way around. The festive wood ride had been decorated with Christmas decorations and snow and the kids loved it!

We then walked back up to the Grotto to meet Santa himself. The grotto was decorated beautifully with lots of twinkling lights and a lovely place to take a beautiful photo. We waited in line chatting to Holly the Elf and then went off to meet Santa. He was really nice, asking the children what they would like for Christmas and chatted away to them. He then gave each of the children a golden key which allowed them to pick absolutely anything from his Toy Shop. There were so many toys to choose from and finally Archie chose a Doctor’s kit which he hasn’t put down since and even took to bed with him.

We had a lovely day at Willow’s Farm and the Santa Spectacular is amazing with so many fun things to do. You can save money by buying your tickets online instead of on the day. Tickets are £18 per adult and £34 per child (2-15), under 2’s are £19.50 when booking online. The all inclusive price includes:

  • Meeting Santa and receiving a golden key to his Toy Shop where children can choose one of the hundreds of gifts piled from floor to ceiling to take home
  • Create-a-Cuddle workshop runs all day and children can make their own reindeer cuddly toy to take home along with a naming certificate and special gift box
  • Attend Elf Academy and learn some of the basics on becoming one of Santa’s elves including how to tiptoe like an Elf and the important letters of the Elf-a-bet
  • Pop your glasses on and take off on a 3D adventure with Santa in a 3D film
  • Join in the fun at the Christmas shows including Christmas Storytime, our Elf Sing-a-Long and special Nativity performances featuring some of the farmyard animals
  • Write a letter to Santa and pop it in the post box to receive a free reply delivered to your home and make other Christmas crafts
  • Glide around the synthetic ice rink with ice skates available to fit all sizes
  • Hop on Tristan the Runaway Tractor for a ride around the festive wood
  • Meet Mischka, Santa’s reindeer and all of the other Farmyard animals

Obviously all the usual Willow’s things are included to; Festive Funfair Rides, Cotton Tail Village, Woolly Jumpers indoor play barn with spectacular slides and soft play and the Peter Rabbit playground.

It really is a spectacular day out for all over the family to enjoy this Christmas!

 

Merry Christmas!

#Blogmas Day 6: The Perfect Christmas Lunch

Since Oscar was born I have always hosted Christmas Day. I love having all of the family over and we always have a house of around 14 people. I am super organised and start planning Christmas Day in November and start buying drinks and things on my weekly shop to spread the cost a bit. Up until now we have always rotated each side of the family for actual lunch and then the rest of the family would join us in the afternoon. This year as we are in the new house we have space to have everyone for lunch, 12 of us and I can’t wait!

I always order my Turkey from Waitrose and pick it up on Christmas Eve. This year as there are twelve of us for lunch I have ordered two turkeys; one large and one medium. Luckily I have two ovens now to cook them in in our new house. Any leftover goes into my Mother in laws Turkey soup for Boxing Day anyway. I make sure my Turkey is ordered and I have my desired collection slot in November as soon as I get the email from Waitrose saying the slots are available.

A couple of days before Christmas I go to Marks and Spencer and buy all of the vegetables, a couple of ready made carrot and suede mashes, yorkshire puddings, ready prepped parsnips, pigs in blankets and the sausage meat.

I have already booked my Tesco delivery slot for the 23rd. Having it delivered this day means if there is something out of stock I have time still to grab what I need from the shops. From Tesco I get all the drinks, bread sauce, cranberry sauce, goose fat, maris piper potatoes plus all the other essentials I need to get us through the Christmas period.

I always bake a chocolate cake and my Mother in law brings the Christmas pud. I also do mince pies and brandy butter and Christmas cake for desserts.

On Christmas morning I get up early and prep the Turkey. On my first time cooking at Christmas I googled ‘best way to cook a Turkey’ and followed a Jamie Oliver step by step guide. I have done the same with my Turkey every year since and it always tastes amazing. I remove the giblets, place a large cooking apple and a large orange inside the Turkey, carefully without tearing the skin put a fine layer of butter between the bird and the skin, the lay strips of bacon on top of the bird and cook for the amount of time calculated by the weight of your turkey.

I then write out on a piece of paper all of the timings, when things need to be cooked and how long for so everything is ready at the same time. It’s actually really easy if your organised.

I cook everything in disposable bacofoil trays so afterwards it can all go in the bin and then its only plates, knives and forks in the dishwasher. I also clear up/wash up as I go along so there is minimal mess.

Our finished Christmas Dinner always consists of; Turkey, pigs in blankets, sausage meat, roast potatoes, roast parsnips, yorkshire pudding, brussel sprouts, peas, carrots, white cabbage, carrot and suede mash and bread sauce and gravy. Its a good job we have big plates! As Oscar isn’t keen on Turkey yet I also cook a piece of gammon in a honey glaze for him.

Merry Christmas!

#Blogmas Day 5: Our Annual Trip To Harrod’s Christmas Grotto 2017

Yesterday we picked up Oscar from school and drove into London to go to the Harrod’s Christmas Grotto 2017. Every year in September I eagerly await the email to let me know when I can book our visit. This year the bookings opened in October and at 9am I got my email and by 9.05 our slot was booked! When booking you pay a £10 deposit per child over 3 years old, under 2’s are free. On the day of your visit to the grotto you get your deposit back to spend on your Harrods reward card. The boys then get to choose a new decoration for the Christmas tree with it.

So we picked Oscar up from school and drove into town and parked in our usual spot. When we got to Harrods we walked around the outside and looked at all of the decorated Dolce & Gabbana windows. They were really good, and had a photo by the huge Christmas Tree. We were a bit early so we then looked around the Toy Kingdom on the third floor which is every child’s idea of heaven.

When we arrived at the grotto which is located right by the Toy Kingdom Oscar presented our ticket and then we went into a roped off area that had Christmas colouring, mini golf and other games and lots of friendly elves to play with. The boys were given green bells to look after and then when the green bells group were called we went through a red curtain into a beautiful room with a huge Christmas tree and two of Santa’s elves.

They told the children all about the magic of Christmas and every child got an ‘Official Elf’ badge and a Harrods gold chocolate coin. The elves were really friendly interacting with the boys asking them what they would like for Christmas. We were then called through to meet the big man himself and Oscar and Archie knocked on the door and Father Christmas greeted them.

He was really nice, congratulating Oscar on learning to ride his bike since he had last seen him and asked him about school and his friends. Archie wasn’t so sure to start with but within minutes was giving Father Christmas a high five and telling him he would like a blue car for Christmas. We then had our annual Christmas photo taken with him (this is our eight year at Harrods).

Oscar and Archie were then given lovely red gift bags with a Harrods teddy inside as their gift. They were over the moon. We said our goodbyes and went to view our photo, which we brought to go with all the others which was £14.50.  The boys also posted their letters to Father Christmas in the special postbox outside.

We then went and brought our Harrods 2017 bear decoration (we buy one every year) and Oscar also chose another bauble. We had a great time and its just so magical and we love it! We always then walk around to Pizza Express for some dinner then drove home. Needless to say the boys were shattered by the time we got home and went straight to bed!

Merry Christmas!

#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!

Willow’s Activity Farm Santa Spectacular 2017 Competition

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I can’t believe were nearly in November. Anyone that knows me knows that I LOVE Christmas. After all it is the most magical time of year and I do my best to make it as magical as possible for Oscar and Archie.

Last Christmas we visited Willow’s Activity Farm and met Father Christmas during their Santa Spectacular event. The boys had an amazing day and their were so many activities to do as well as meeting the big man himself! Every child will have a chance to meet Santa in his spectacular grotto and receive a golden key to Santa’s Toy Shop, they can then choose from hundreds of toys. The excitement on the kids faces when you go into Santa’s toy shop is amazing.


Willow’s is somewhere we visit a lot as its only 10 miles from where we live. In fact we went last week with our toddler group.

This festive season, Santa Spectacular at Willows Activity Farm is the only event for families looking for a truly magical day out. Starting from 22 November – 24 December, you can enjoy the ultimate festive experience in St. Albans, Hertfordshire.

You can join in at the Elf Academy, learning the basics of how to be an elf from Santa’s elves all the way from the North Pole – including the Elf-a-bet! The Create-a-Cuddle workshop will also be open daily, allowing little ones to make their very own reindeer cuddly toy to take home, all included in the entrance price.


The popular 3D film is back, with children able to take off into the skies on an adventure with Santa, this was super impressive last year! Then try a real life magical ride in the Willows festive wood on Tristan the Runaway Tractor. Tristan the tractor is Archie’s favourite! Indoors there is the synthetic ice rink, Christmas shows including an Elf Sing-a-Long and Nativity performances featuring farm animals. Plus, meet Mischka, the Alaskan Malamute and Santa’s reindeer. It is a seriously jam packed fun filled day out for the whole family to enjoy!


As well as all of the above the usual activities are open as well; The Farmyard, Peter Rabbit Adventure Playground™,  the indoor soft play areas, the funfair rides, bouncing haystacks, Peter Rabbit woodland play trail, the big dig, trampolines, cotton-tail village and so much more! As well as plenty of places to grab something to eat or drink.


The lovely team at Willow’s Activity Farm have kindly given me a family ticket to be used during their Santa Spectacular (22 November – 24 December) and have a magical day out! So enter below and good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Putting Your Families Health First At One Stop Doctor

As a parent your children are always your main priority and when they fall ill or hurt themselves you always want the best care for them. I know from previous experience I have sometimes had to wait a day or two for a GP appointment and getting a dentist appointment is like gold dust, our last NHS appointment was delayed two times because of funding. Luckily for us there is a pioneering new healthcare clinic ‘The One Stop Doctor’ that has recently launched in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire that is putting the needs of families at the heart of their quick and friendly services. The clinic is stunning, more like a five star hotel and the staff are all so welcoming and friendly.

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One Stop Doctors in Hemel Hempstead is open 365 days a year from early morning to late evening with a full complement of paediatric services all under one roof. This includes same-day appointments with GPs and dentists who will be able to offer immediate relief for worrying mums and dads whose children are unwell, perhaps with persistent fevers, colds, chesty coughs or toothache. There’s also a private pharmacy that can provide commonly needed drugs straight away.

Only a couple of weeks ago Archie had a high temperature and his little heart was beating quite fast, which is a common symptom of a fever. Greg thought we should take him to A & E but I called the One Stop Doctor for a late night appointment which was available with no problem at all.

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The team of multi-disciplinary health professionals at the clinic are highly experienced in treating common childhood conditions from feeding difficulties in babies and toddlers through to providing allergy testing and advice, alongside treatment for asthma and access to the full range of childhood vaccinations and immunisations. This is fantastic as in our area we were not offered the BCG and I paid privately for both Oscar and Archie to be immunised but had to travel into London. Now having a clinic so local to us is a god send!

One Stop Doctors is one of a number of outlets nationwide that offers the Mummy MOT, a one-hour assessment which gives a thorough examination of mum’s pelvic floor strength and tummy gap – to assess any physical problems that have arisen from pregnancy and birth. The Mummy MOT can also help mums years after childbirth with their pelvic floor strength. The clinic is also putting together special Mother and Baby packages for both expectant mothers and mothers of young children. No more travelling all the way into London for Mother and Baby services!

The specialist dental team are also experts in orthodontics and oral health with a variety of teeth-straightening options for young ones and appointments at convenient times for parents.

The clinic has invested heavily in the latest diagnostic imaging machinery including advanced MRI scanning equipment, CT, ultrasound and digital X-ray, which means that One Stop Doctors is able to offer an on-site urgent care and fracture clinic. We were at a birthday party about six weeks ago and Oscar’s friend fell off a swing and her parents on a Friday night at 7pm got an X-Ray appointment straight away instead of waiting for hours in a busy Friday night A & E department. She was then plastered straight away.

One Stop Doctors is fully accredited by all major regulators and private medical insurance companies, such as Bupa, Aviva and Cigna so it’s easy to pay, and is approved by the Care Quality Commission. However, what makes this pioneering clinic truly unique is its one-of-a-kind membership plan. This allows families to join for only £65 a month and gives them the ability to spread the cost of treatment in a payment plan, with no interest or credit agreement and provides guaranteed same-day GP appointments for any number of children aged 21 and under. This means that parents can spread the cost of healthcare for their children, making the very best private healthcare accessible and affordable.

Keep Your Family Happy & Healthy!

With the ability for parents to book appointments directly, and the large amount of free parking available to patients right outside the clinic, many of the usual stresses of visiting a medical establishment with children are taken away.

For more information and to book an appointment visit www.onestopdoctors.co.uk or call 0800 852 1234.

Hitchin Lavender Farm

I have wanted to go to Hitchin Lavender Farm for a few weeks since I saw lots of beautiful family photos amongst the lavender rows on Instagram but as the weather has been so awful we hand’t got to go. So on Sunday as the Sun was shining we decided to make the 30 minute journey. I packed my new Olympus Pen 8 and tripod and off we went.


Hitchin Lavender is a lavender farm attraction close to both London and Cambridge and they have 25 miles of lavender rows which you can walk through and pick your own fresh flowers from. When we arrived we parked up and paid only £11 for the four of us to get in and we got given a bag and scissors to pick and collect our own Lavender. Adults are £5.00 (picking included), Under 14’s are £1 and Under 5’s are free. You can buy additional bags to fill for £4.


The farm is open from 10am until 5pm every day throughout the season which runs from mid June until early September.


As soon as we got to the field, the smell was amazing! I love the smell of Lavender. The boys enjoyed picking their lavender and filling up their brown bags and we took so many great photos. You can also pay £50 for a professional photo shoot but if you have a good camera and a tripod you can get some great pictures.


We had a great morning, captured lots of great photos and it was a really cheap and fun family day out. We will be going back next Summer and making our family photo in the lavender rows an annual thing!