Seasonal

Christmas Traditions

So its nearly time for the tree to come down from the attic, the lights to be detangled and the spirit of Christmas to take over the house.  I really do love this time of year and one thing in particular is all the traditions that come with it.  As a child you often don’t realise just how special some of these things, that seems a little silly at the time, actually are!  Before I had the children I used to attend Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve however with little ones in tow that isn’t so practical anymore.  We do however strive to keep up as many traditions as we can and also create some new ones!

So I’m going to share with you some of our Christmas Traditions and maybe it will inspire you to start some new ones too!

  • Decorating the Tree – This is definitely my most selfish tradition…. only Mummy is allowed to dress the main trees.   You see the problem is I appear to suffer with the seasonal “illness” of so called “Perfect Ornament Placement Disorder” meaning that I deem no one else capable of decorating the main trees to the perfect standards I expect and love. No little mittens shall be getting involved with the precious glass ornaments here! Now YES this is SELFISH and YES Christmas is meant to be all about the children and in every other way it is but please don’t despair at me yet! I have solved the unfairness of the “P.O.P.D” issue by providing each child with their very own 2ft tree that they can decorate in any way they see fit and Mummy won’t get involved (promise!) unless they ask for help of course! 
    This tree dressing tradition has been ongoing ever since I got my own home and it’s one that sadly for anyone else is not going change anytime soon! #sorrynotsorry !
One of my “P.O.P.D” Christmas Trees
  • Miniature Village  – This tradition was started by my Auntie Ann who adored Christmas just as much if not more so than I do.  Her house was always filled to the brim with Christmas decorations and her Christmas Village scene was always amazing!  I began my collection when I got my own home and now have amassed rather a large amount of Lilliput lane cottages.  I love creating my Christmas Village and I try to make it different each year. This is also a very important tradition I would like in time to pass on to my children.
Christmas Village scene
  • A New Bauble/Decoration – This is a Tradition that started between my Mother and I when I got my own house.  We buy each other a new tree/Christmas decoration every year, the challenge is generally trying to find something to fit our strict colour schemes! (I do believe Mother has the same “P.O.P.D” as me but she just isn’t as reactive as I am!) 
    I really love this tradition because I just love bauble/decoration shopping, and this gives me the perfect excuse to usually find some more for us too!  Over the past few years I have started buying my eldest a decoration each year for his tree too and I hope in time he will also continue on this tradition.  Georges 1st Christmas will see him receive his own special tree and 1st Christmas Bauble which I had handmade especially for us by Dudley & Roo.
George’s 1st Christmas Decoration – Picture Credit Dudley & Roo
  • Chocolate Tubs/Tins – So this is a special and very dear tradition to me, one I remember as a child and one I am making sure my children will always continue.  My Grandad George started this tradition and it is now impossible for me to not do it!  Roses or Quality Street it doesn’t matter which but it has to be the big round/hexagonal tubs. 
    So the tradition goes that you take the tub of sweets and before anyone is allowed to eat a single chocolate you have to tip the entire contents out onto a table or better still the floor and sort them into their different varieties.  Once you’ve sorted them only then can you select only 3 chocolates you would like to eat.  Once you’ve made your choices you then have to mix all the other chocolates back up and put them back in the tub ready for next time. 
    Now I’m almost certain Grandad made this up just so I wouldn’t sit there eating all the sweeties but I’m so very pleased he did.  It is one of my fondest memories of him and of family Christmases when I was young.  It is so important to me hat this is done each time you open the sweets tub in our house and regardless of if you’re guest or not you’ll be obliged to join in too!
Roses Chocolates – Picture Credit Amazon
  • Chocolate Gold Coins – This is another Grandad tradition, when I was little he used to hide chocolate gold coins all about my Mum & Dads house when he came to visit so I could go off and find them! Such a nice little treat to do when visiting friends or family with young children around Christmas time (just be careful if they have dogs that they are shut out or that the chocolate is safely out of their reach and of course ask Mum & Dads permission first!)
Gold Chocolate Coins – Picture Credit Amazon
  • Films – Ok so this is a bit more of a vague tradition but over the Christmas period I will always watch all the Harry Potter films and The Polar Express even if the kids aren’t interested!
Harry Potter DVD Boxset – Picture Credit Amazon
The Polar Express DVD – Picture Credit Amazon
  • Christmas Eve – So far we’ve stuck to the fairly traditional plate with a Carrot for the Reindeer with a Mince Pie and Schooner of Port for Santa (as rumour has it Santa prefers Port to Whiskey if you know what I mean, wink wink). We also hang up Santa’s special key and some years ago we also left Sparkly Reindeer food outside too (although at the time we didn’t realise just how harmful those glittery mixes were so we’ll definitely be searching for an Eco wildlife friendly version in future!).  Now unfortunately Santa was a bit heavy handed a few years ago and broke his special key to our house so this year we had Dudley& Roo make us a lovely new one that we hope Santa will look after a bit better!
    This year we are looking into doing Christmas Eve Boxes as this seems to be a really sweet idea that’s very on trend at the moment.  I love the idea of the kiddies having a surprise little token pre-present and lovely new Christmas themed bedtime story with a mug of Hot Chocolate and maybe even some Lebkuchen, who knows the possibilities are endless! I found these lovely ones from Seth & Noah.
Seth & Noah Christmas Eve Boxes – Picture Credit Seth & Noah
  • Present Opening – Tradition for us is this is done first thing in the morning but not before 6:30am! I have two rules after that the first being; I get a coffee before we even start and the second; that before you move onto opening the next present you let me make a note of who bought you it otherwise the thank you cards can go VERY wrong!
Coffee 1st – Polar Bear Mug
  • Crackers – In our house you simply can’t have Christmas dinner without pulling a cracker first!  We try and go for ones with useful things inside rather than cheap plasticcy things that are of no use nor ornament! I’ll be on the look out for more Eco-friendly ones this year, maybe even some Charity ones. I found these Mistletoe ones at Graham & Green!
Set of 6 Mistletoe Eco Christmas Crackers – Photo Credit Graham & Green
  • The Food – Again we’ve always kept things very traditional and cooked either Turkey or Goose, my personal favourite being the Goose.  I always make sure we buy local meat and last year ordered a fantastic Christmas Meat Hamper from Simpsons.   No Christmas day meal is complete without a Christmas Pud despite no one else in the house liking it! I have to have one and I love the whole tradition of setting the Pud on fire and making a wish before the flame dies out. Granted this can go wrong in so many ways (and on the odd occasion it has, setting light to not only myself but the kitchen too!) but it simply wouldn’t be Christmas any other way!
Goose Christmas Dinner – Picture credit ukgamefair.wordpress.com
  • The Queens Speech – Now I am a Royalist and I am extremely proud of our English Heritage. For me the Queens Speech is the calm amongst the crazy of Christmas day and I love the tradition of everyone gathering together after dinner with a coffee or sherry and watching the Queen address the nation. Very humbling.
The Queens Speech – Picture credit the Express
  • Christmas Supper – Traditional Turkey and Mayonasie sandwiches! Nothing else will do!
Turkey & Mayonnaise sandwich – Picture credit Allsandwiches.com

So those are just a few of our families traditions, if you’ve got an interesting family Christmas tradition please let me know!

Just for Grownups

Grown Up Getaway: London, UK

Well we’ve just returned from a Grown Up mini break in London and my goodness what a great time we’ve had! This trip was the very first time my partner and I had ever left our little one and, after the initial flood of tears from me when we departed, it was actually lovely to just be a couple again and for me to be me and not Mum for a few days.

We stayed at the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge Hotel which is a really great central location, perfectly suited to our weekend of exploration. The Hotel itself was lovely and check in was fast and simple. We made our way to our room (258) and were pleasantly surprised to find we had a small suit complete with a living room too! The décor was modern but cosy and the double bed I found really comfy. Despite the hotel being lovely and the staff all incredibly helpful I have to say breakfast was sadly a total let-down. The cooked breakfast buffet was tepid at best matching the coffee which along with being tepid smelled like cigarettes, YUCK!

Moving on, I am a HUGE Harry Potter fan and as the premier of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald was on only a day prior to us visiting London, Wizarding Magic was obviously filling our minds. Whilst trawling over Facebook the day before our trip my partner had discovered a Magical Cocktail Experience Pop Up Bar called ‘The Cauldron’ not far from our hotel and after reading reviews decided to book us a place!

When it was time we opted to walk to the bar as I’m super nervous of the Tube and as we got closer and closer, I begun to seriously regret that decision. It looked like we were heading into a much ‘less salubrious’ part of town and every inch of my being was telling me to get the hell out of there. I stuck it out though and when the Sat Nav on my phone cheerfully stated ‘You have arrived at your destination’ my heart literally sank, it was a Shipping container with a tent roughly shoved on top! I was absolutely horrified!

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It goes to show though you should NEVER judge a book (or in this case a bar) by it’s cover!

Upon entering it really is like what I imagine walking into ‘The Leaky Cauldron’ would be like, it was amazing! Every ounce of doubt I’d had instantly disappeared and we became fully fledged Witches and Wizards for the afternoon! Capes and Wand included! It was EPIC! Cocktail making was just the best fun and I simply can’t recommend this place highly enough! It’s an absolute MUST if you’re into Harry Potter and Cocktails! We made the ‘Blood Boiling Curse’ and ‘Time Transfixed’ which was my favourite.

We were very lucky to catch up with family whilst in London and we arranged to meet up and go for an evening meal. Our venue choice was Madison, as we had wanted a London Skyline style meal with great views over the city! Madison filled that brief and proposed to serve a menu selection which was more suitable for us country bumpkins than some other restaurants we had considered as they did Burgers, Venison and other food we had actually heard of!
Madison is located on top of a shopping centre and, after the trauma of catching the tube, it is safe to say on arrival we felt more than a little lost! Thankfully our family spotted us and directed us to where we needed to be! The venue itself was what I can only describe as ‘Vibrant’, the views from the terrace were absolutely stunning, and from our table we had a lovely view of St. Pauls Cathedral all lit up in the London Skyline. Now as I said the ambience of the place was ‘vibrant’ which for us Country Bumpkins basically means you could barely hear yourself think over the ‘music’ if that’s what you can call it. Thankfully the ‘vibrancy’ could not cast a shadow over the deliciousness of the meal! I chose the Venison and I was definitely not disappointed, it was cooked beautifully and with the accompaniments was a real treat. My partner opted for the Burger which also looked fantastic, a real nice thick patty in a toasted cob with all the trimmings. The service was also excellent and despite struggling to hear the staff they were more than happy to recommend a nice Rosé wine for us which again was delicious! After our meal we opted to try and find somewhere a little less ‘vibrant’ so we could regain our hearing and maybe hold a conversation without having to shout!
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As the family we met live and work in central London and know the area far better than we could ever Sat Nav our way around we followed their lead and walked around taking in the sights, sounds and smells of the Big Smoke. It was a lovely evening and both myself and my partner thoroughly enjoyed it.

Our next London adventure was breakfast in the Sky Garden! Now this was very special and something I would highly recommend doing if you ever get the opportunity! The Sky Garden is located at the top of the Walkie Talkie building and boasts outstanding views over the city! Luckily the weather had begun to clear from the foggy day that we had arrived to the previous day. After the airport style security check in when made our way to the 35th floor and the sun was burning through glistening on the Thames and allowing us to see more and more the longer we were there. We had Croissants and Pan au Chocolat with Lattes which came to a very reasonable £14. Not bad for breakfast with a stunning view (although if like me you feel the cold you’ll need your big coat as it is a bit chilly that high up!) Now my partner is immensely terrified of heights and having gone a ghastly shade of green going up the Guinness Tower in Dublin I had my reservations about this being a good idea. He did however cope remarkably well and even mustered walking up to the top 37th Floor and with a little encouragement, stood looking over the highest balcony! A fantastic experience and one I would happily do again, I imagine an evening meal here is epic!

Hamleys was our next port of call, a firm favourite for both of us and we enjoyed looking around immensely, we obviously bought George a present, a Hamleys Marching bear and when we gave it to him when we got home his little face was an absolute picture!

For the rest of the morning we walked about London taking in the sights; Leicester Square, Picadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square etc etc and stopped at Pret a Manger for a bite to eat for lunch. I had a Hoisin duck salad wrap and a Latté and they were so good, the wrap really was delicious and the coffee far better than the hotels at about quarter of the price! It was here that my partner, having now ‘conquered’ his fear of heights suggested we go on the London Eye! (Now I’m not sure if he was delirious from the earlier trauma of the Sky Garden but nevertheless, I wasn’t going to say no!)
The London Eye is something I’ve always wanted to go on ever since it was built! My parents took my eldest on it and my Grandma and they both really enjoyed it but knowing how poorly heights usually make my partner it was something I thought we just wouldn’t do together. This time though he’d packed his bravery pants and we we’re going! EEEEEKKKKK I was so excited!!!!

We had booked our tickets online whilst sat in Pret and Fast Tracked them and thank god we did, when we arrived it was heaving with people, but we managed to get aboard the Pod within about 10-15 mins. I would certainly recommend Fast Track if you ever want to ride the Eye, worth every penny if you’re limited on time like we were. The experience was amazing, the views breath-taking and as we’d timed it the sun was just setting making the city transform beneath us as we gracefully glided round. I loved it and would highly recommend it, even with the little ones in tow!

All in all London was a fantastic grown up getaway, even for Country Bumpkins. It’ll certainly be somewhere I will go back to as there is just so much we’ve yet to discover and do. My next wish list will be to go up the Shard and Tower Bridge as friends have told us both these are very good!

Seasonal

HALLOWEEN

Ok so I promised a Halloween blog post and here it is, in all its glorious ghoulishness!
halloween lettering copy
Halloween at our house is as big an occasion as Christmas, it is HUGE! We love the fact that we can do something special for all the neighbourhood children and scare a few of the grown-ups along the way!

We spend at least a day dressing the outside of the house with all manner or scary props and then on Hallows eve the floodgates open and the entire neighbourhood is filled with ghosts, ghouls, zombies, werewolves, spiders and everything equally scary!

Our exterior decorations have grown over the years, we started out with just a few bits like cobwebs and do not enter tape we bought at the likes of Wilkinsons etc but our first significant purchase was “Bones”.  He is our static life sized ghoul who holds a steaming goblet which changes colour. My partner bought an outfit to match and so the pair of them stand at the front of the house. One obviously isn’t going to move but the other will and my goodness he’s made some people jump over the years! We’ve added to Bones by way of a few floating ghosts which come to life when they hear a sound so again, when Bones and my partner are stood still they are silent but when the Trick or Treaters knock on the door they come to life and are quite terrifying! We have bubbling cauldrons, skeleton dogs and cats, bats and gravestones.   Another thing we tend to do is open the door VERY loudly and quickly, again this is something most people don’t expect, and even those returning year upon year don’t seem to remember and they jump!

Vampire Costume
Inflatable wings Vampire costume

My eldest has been a number of different devilish things for Halloween; A werewolf, the scream character, but my favourite was a vampire with inflatable wings! Super cute!  Now he’s nearly a teenager he’s gone off the idea of going out trick or treating (apparently it’s not cool!) so no doubt this year he’ll just be joining in the sweet eating at home!

My outfit is custom made by my fair hands! I created a corpse bride outfit made from a second hand wedding dress purchased from ebay! I absolutely LOVE it and have roamed the streets with my son on many a hallows eve! Face and body painted the lot!  I adore Tim Burtons the Corpse bride and I can’t wait till George is big enough so I can wear my outfit and do it all over again!!!

Our pumpkin carving is also a huge event in our house and generally involves the entire kitchen being taken over with carving tools, buckets and drills etc. My partner favours a more mechanical technique, a Dremel, for carving intricate designs, I prefer the more traditional approach but I must admit I was tempted last year to give the Dremel a try! We’ve done some lovely designs over the years, granted none of us will win a turner prize but I think they’re great.

We hand pick our Pumpkins from Maxeys Farm Shop Pumpkins, their pumpkin field is phenomenal! They make complete event of it with Pumpkin Bouncy castles, a BBQ, even a Halloween Shop.  Their Pumpkins are great, very reasonably priced and the fun really is in the picking!

All our carved pumpkins stand pride of place outside the front of the house cordoned off so no one can get burned by the candles. I also like to make a mean Pumpkin soup with the leftover carvings too!

Halloween is such a great night! Living on such a large estate I love that it starts off slowly with the really little ones who are just adorable in their cute Halloween outfits (We’ve already got George a few outfits including a Pumpkin, Ghostbuster and my favourite Harry Potter even though he won’t be going out this year!) We always try to be as friendly and inviting as we can with the little ones as we don’t want to absolutely terrify them BUT as the night goes on the mood generally gets scarier and scarier until all that’s left are the teenagers and in the end they usually poop their pants too!

We’ve hosted neighbourhood parties on Halloween which included apple bobbing contests and other games but after the marauding masses subside it’s our Halloween tradition that as a family we always have Hotdogs, cake and sweeties! It’s a tradition that I love and will continue to do with my children (and in lots of time hopefully grandchildren) as long as I am able!

When it comes to the Trick or Treats we always opt for treats and usually end up spending a small fortune on Sweet shop favourites such as Drumstick Lollies, Refreshers etc etc.

So when it comes to Halloween get your best scary outfit on, and have a great time!

Be safe, take a grown up and our main rule is ONLY knock on the houses with Pumpkins – Those are the ones who want to join in the fun!

Home Decor, Nursery

Nursery Style: Woodland Theme

Planning how you would like your nursery is one of the best things an expectant mum can do! Daydreaming of curtains, bedding, paint colours and furnishings is such a wonderful way to pass the time! I must confess (and others who know me would most definitely agree) I’m a little OCD about how I like things to look and I go into every minute detail right down to the handles on the drawers and hooks on the wall.

This is why I TOTALLY LOVE our nursery! I knew as soon as I found out we were expecting that wanted a woodland theme nursery. Trouble was I just can’t stand all those tacky cartoon character designs that seem to be loved everywhere! I wanted something more sophisticated and elegant than that, something classy but still exciting for baby. So this is where my OCD planning kicked in!

The very first thing we bought for the nursery was something I would NEVER normally have considered! A mural, a huge vinyl sticker that covers and entire wall, not normally something I would associate with sophistication or elegance! I found it in the Lake District in a little shop on the shore of Lake Winderemere and knew instantly we had to have it! It was a Silver birch forest scene and I just knew it would be perfect for a feature wall in the nursery. We had to take an educated guess on which size to buy and luckily we got it right!

Used Oak Furniture land Cot and Woodland wall Vinyl
Used Oak Furniture land Cot and Woodland wall Vinyl

Georges Nursery was our larger spare bedroom and was painted by previous occupants in a very bland lemon yellow. Now although it was a neutral colour and was in good nick it simply had to go! The colour I had my heart set on was a light olive green but every range of paint we looked at the colour just wasn’t right! It was either too minty or too limey and it drove me quite bonkers searching for the perfect colour. There were so many samples all over the wall eventually I thought ‘sod this’ and mixed two together to see how it would look! That was the EUREKA moment! I’d done it, I’d finally found the perfect colour, all I needed to do now was get it mixed up. Off we went to Homebase where they mixed up my perfect green! We opted for the Dulux wipeable base so we can give the walls a good clean up if an explosive Poonami should occur!

So that was the walls sorted! Next were the curtains.

Now it’s been said that I have expensive tastes, and despite me trying really hard not to pick THE most expensive things it seems it’s inevitable! When looking at fabric for curtains I came across the most amazing Voyage Enchanted Forest Fabric! I’d never heard of it before and had no idea at the time that it is SUPER expensive and sadly I let myself fall in love with it! Needless to say once I figured out the curtains for both windows would cost nearly £400 I had to change my mind PDQ (Pretty Dam Quick)! I’ll admit I was absolutely gutted as I really did LOVE that fabric but happily I did find something else which actually suited better. We took a trip to Dunelm and I came across these gorgeous oak leaf patterned curtains. They were ready made and a perfect fit for our window sizes and the colours couldn’t have been more perfect, it’s as if I’d picked them personally to match! Decision made, they were the ones! Black out blinds were my next must have as they really are invaluable in the summer months when you’re trying to get little one to go down for a nap! We found some lovely ones at Dunelm in a muted brown Bee pattern and again they were ready made and a perfect fit!

The cot was our next big thing; I was after a Solid Oak cot to fit in with the woodland theme. We looked everywhere but they were either too expensive or poor quality and that simply wouldn’t do. So we started looking on the second-hand market and found my dream cot Oak and cream (that new was WAY out of our price range) for an absolute bargain price only there was a small catch… it was over 150 miles away! Being pregnant really does have its perks and one wide eyed “please” look later and my partner was soon driving to fetch it for our baby! (Yes he’s THAT amazing!)

Customised 12 year old IKEA Changing table
Customised 12 year old IKEA Changing table

So with the cot bought and only a few items left we were getting on brilliantly. The wardrobe was actually a no brainer, we had a pine one that was already in situe and would be perfect with loads of drawers for storage too. The changing table was the next obstacle, I really liked my old Ikea changing table but it was 12 years old, the drawers weren’t great and needed attention and it was totally the wrong look for our new nursery.   No matter how many others I looked at, they just weren’t as good as my old one. So this turned into my partners nursery project, he decided to re-vamp my old cherished one, painting it the same colour cream as the cot and changing all the drawer handles for oak ones that matched perfectly! It’s fantastic!

Nursing Chair from Smyths Toy Superstore
Nursing Chair from Smyths Toy Superstore

A nursing chair was something I always wanted with my eldest but sadly my tiny old house didn’t have room for one. Now was my chance to get one and having tried out several I went for the Glider nursing chair and footstool from, believe it or not, Smyths Toy Superstore! It was by far the comfiest and much more reasonably priced than others we’d looked at.  I absolutely love it!

Used Pine Toy Chest, Gro egg Owl & Artificial Flower display
Used Pine Toy Chest, Gro egg Owl & Artificial Flower display

A toy chest for me is an essential piece for a nursey and I found a second hand pine one on Facebook Marketplace only a few minutes down the road from us. It needed a little TLC which I tasked my Dad with and he did an amazing job, it really is beautiful. Because it’s old it has a stunning patina and such character, we finished it off by waxing it and getting a wooden name plaque made up with George’s name on.

When it comes to cot bedding I’d already had my eye on the Welcome to the world Mamas & Papas set. It was gender neutral in white and grey and is super cute! Our set included a duvet, cot bumper, mobile, sleeping bag, cellular blanket and fitted sheet. The other extra bedding I got were some fabulous The Little Green Sheep Wild Cotton Cot/Cotbed Fitted Sheet (Woodland) which have a beautiful acorn pattern on, I simply couldn’t resist!



Accessories which finish off the look are;

Welcome to the world wall vinyl from Mamas & Papas
Large brown Sheepskin rug from TK MAXX
Gilt Squirrel and rabbit coat hooks, set of 4 from NEXT (Last year)
Wrendale Designs tall Calendar for keeping track of all those appointments and activities
Wooden storage boxes from TK MAXX for nappies and lotions on the changing table
Cushions from Dunelm and Mole Country Stores
Artificial flower display, hand selected stems from various garden centres and put together myself. The Gro Company Gro-Egg Room Thermometer with Oona the Owl Shellroom thermostat
Hedwig the owl, Dumbledores Wand and Harry Potters Glasses all from the Warner Bros Studio Tour
Rabbit light from George at ASDA, Toadstools from a garden centre
Acorn Door Stop was an ornament from TK MAXX which we’ve customised by adding sand to make it heavy enough.
Fairy wishes from the truly amazing Fantasy Wire
Antique Brass Curtain hold backs from E-bay