What is a perfect Christmas?
Is it a perfectly cooked Christmas dinner?
Lots of family time? no family time?
Surrounded by kids? No kids?
Is it getting the perfect present? giving the perfect present?
We all have good and bad memories about Christmas, soggy brussel sprouts, burnt roast potatoes, dry turkey, the most amazing cranberry sauce and the best pigs in blankets. The present that made you cringe, the one that makes them grin, the gasps of amazement and the looks of shock.
The last four years we have been somewhere different every year. My mums, my in laws, a curry house and Butlins. Everywhere we went we made memories, some good, some bad, some fantastic and some dreadful. Christmas is never perfect but as long as I surround myself with family or friends and have a camera handy then I can capture and share some of the best bits of Christmas past and present, even if it is the moment that you realise you have burnt the turkey or when you drop the Christmas cake.
Christmas time is a great time to make memories and here are some of my memories that I want to share with you.
I apologise for my singing. I tried to convince some other family members to join in too but none of them were brave enough to put their singing onto YouTube.
I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas!
This post is my entry into the Tots100/Argos 12 Days of Christmas competition.
Today we have a guest post from Helen Neale. She is a slightly crazed mum to two small people. A freelance writer, she blogs at both www.kiddycharts.com and www.stickersstarsandsmiles.com She is very professional on one site, and leaves pants lying about on the other one. KiddyCharts offers parenting advice, and personalised charts, with Stickers, Stars and Smiles a lot more personal. Which one do you think is messier?
I am flying in to Tired Mummy of Two's blog to share something with her readers, something that I hope that you will be as excited about as I am.
And no, Harry Styles isn't in my house...
My KiddyCharts blog provides a few charts for people, like me, who struggled a wee bit with keeping their deranged toddlers under control. We offer different types of photo charts for kids, anything from potty training
to other sticker-based charts for toddlers
. Our track-based reward charts
are dead popular, so because I am a creative type, I have put together a rather spiffing version for Christmas as an advent calendar
Behind each window is a new giveaway, every....single....day. We have already had some uber prizes including personalised Micro Scooters
and vouchers to spend on websites such as Experience Days
, and Truprint.
Don't worry though, the first giveaway won't close until Sunday 8th December, so you still have time to enter.
We have so many different brands participating, I can't write them all here, otherwise Tired Mummy of Two would get a bit cross with me. Prize value is over £1,800; and might just rise a little more as we do have the odd day left. *prays for over £2,000*
Clearly, I would like some of TMOT's readers to have a chance to win too, so why not sign up to our mailing list on the Kiddy Charts website
, so you know when new the new giveaways go live. Visit the site now and see what you have missed out on. Last one there smells of old socks *or something like that.*
Its not often I write about reviewing somewhere before I have even left but after the horrible day I have had seeing that Novotel sign blinking at me from across the road was amazing.
Yes they didn't realise I was here on the Christmas break
Yes they had to bring my survival pack and vouchers to my room but did I care? Not one bit.
After taking over 8 hours to leave Manchester and finally arrive in London on the public transport trip from hell the room at the Novotel was an amazing discovery. Do you realise that the toilet is separate from the bathroom? I mean how weird is that? and actually awesome if I was spending it with my husband who takes ages in the bathroom in the morning when I need a wee!
The bed looks comfy with extra pillows in the wardrobe and the sofa/sofabed is great for relaxing in the evening but what I love best is the free wifi and the desk. Here I am in the hotel looking through all the Mark Warner Mum entries that I will be judging in the morning in a comfy chair on a desk with Wifi. It may have taken a long time to get here but it was certainly worth it.
The Christmas survival pack provided really does think of the stresses involved in Chrstmas shopping and I look forward to seeing what my VIP pass at westfield entitles me too but for now the lure of the bath, the tv and the bed is calling me and after such a long and stressful day of cancelled trains, long taxi journeys and generous first class staff I am looking forward to laying down my head and drifting off to sleep.
Thank you Novotel. I needed something like you after this long stressful day.
My Gift guides are made up of some products that we have only just received to review, some that we reviewed throughout the year and some that I think would make perfect gifts from all of the press releases I received in the run up to Christmas. I had started to include some of the Lego items in the other gift guides but I really think they deserve their own guide.
Lego Duplo range
Lego Duplo make some fabulous ranges and we have been very lucky to have reviewed the Lego Duplo Planes Ripslingers air race. There are lots of other Duplo ranges which would appeal to young children.
Lego Star Wars Advent Calendar
The Lego Advent calendars are always fantastic and last years Star wars one was fantastic. This year we have a Lego star wars and a Lego friends one which we will be writing about soon.
Lego Galaxy Squad
We fell in love with the Galaxy squad at the Space Centre and we have loved playing with the sets and the different creatures.
The Split sets are brilliant as the machines can come apart into two separate vehicles which gives added playability.
We have review lots of different Lego sets
including Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Lego Chima, Lord of the rings and Marvel Super heroes.
With sets of varying prices there really is something for everyone. I love the fact that you can pick up a small set from as little as £2.99 up until the biggest amount you can budget for!
The medium sized Lego friend sets are fantastic too with the attention to detail and accessories that come with the sets
The Heartlake Pet Salon pictured features lots of hair bows for the pets and everything a child would need to play with this set. All of the Lego sets have fantastic attention to detail and the Lego friends sets in particular are brilliant for introducing different careers and hobbies to the children.
Lego is not just about the sets though and the Lego Accessories are just as popular. The girls loved their Lego Lunchbox
and drinks bottle and we even have pens, photo frames and watches.
The Lego accessories are fantastic but nothing compares to the Lego sets themselves and there will be lots of happy faces this year when Santa stuffs the stockings and fills his sack from all the fabulous ranges. There certainly is something for everyone including some of the Mums and Dads who wouldn't be upset to find a bit of Lego in their stocking this year.
This time last year we were watching Elizabeth struggle to move around the house with her walking frame. Watching her tiny ankles slowly put on weight and seeing the strength come back into her legs. She had a large Maclaren pushchair that she used to get around and we had started to venture forth from our house.
Earlier this year Elizabeth's pushchair was swapped for a small wheelchair as her legs were getting too long. She was becoming uncomfortable in the pushchair but still needed some form of transport.
The wheelchair changed everything. Yes she could sit comfortably but it is horrible to push and we keep catching our feet on it. It takes up too much room in the car and house and it doesn't fold very small. The problem though is that the wheelchair didn't just change our comfort levels.
The wheelchair changed peoples perceptions. From a few casual glances at her short hair to full blown staring. The comments and whispers behind our back about what is wrong with our child.
She had a great time in it at Disneyland Paris
meeting all the characters but I suppose there was enough there to distract her from the looks we were getting.
The looks at her hair never really bothered her but the looks at her wheelchair seem too. Rather than take it out she will struggle to walk further ending up with us carrying her because she doesn't want to be seen in her wheelchair. She doesn't want the looks, the whispers and the pity.
I have asked the hospital about any other options but unfortunately they do not provide larger chairs that do not look like wheelchairs. This means that our only other option would be to buy one ourselves. I found the special tomato eio pushchair from UKS Mobility
but it is just so expensive. I would love to be able to give her a large pushchair that can take her weight, look like a normal pushchair and recline for when she is tired.
I would love to have her feel comfortable and happy using a mobility aid without the stigma that comes with a wheelchair. In fact I would just love for people to mind their own business and let my beautiful daughter live her life in any way that she needs too. She has had a hard enough time putting up with all this without some judgmental people making her feel bad about herself.
What would I like to be doing on a Thursday evening?
Would I be interested in going along to a chocolate course at my favourite cooking venue. My third time at Cheshire Cookery school and each time I have been had the pleasure of cooking with a tasty chef and with some tasty ingredients.
Oliver Dunn runs Chocolate parties (and Naked Chocolate Parties) for adults and children. He is a skilled chocolatier and we had great fun as he showed us how to temper chocolate and create some delicious models whilst continuing to stuff our faces full of chocolate. I really enjoyed it and had no idea that I was so creative (not!) I even managed to pipe different coloured chocolate and it didn't look like that much of a mess.
Tempering and eating chocolate really was fun but I enjoyed making the truffles more. I suppose it is because it is dark chocolate, my favourite. The truffles were lovely and I snuck in some tabasco to cut through the chocolate and it worked really well.
I really enjoyed making my special gift to take away and I have made this for a friend of mine who is having a christmas dinner with us in 10 days. He loves frogs so after looking at the selection of molds it was the one thing that I thought would be perfect.
We all did a great job on the chocolate that we made and I now feel confident in making and shaping other chocolate gifts and will once again be attempting chocolate truffles for the teachers this year.
I had great fun and I am really looking forward to visiting Cheshire Cookery school again soon and I am even considering some Naked chocolate party for my 30th. What do you reckon girls?
I am really looking forward to tomorrow. A day of luxury, a day to myself.
Tomorrow daytime I am traveling first class on the train down to London to attend an afternoon PR event before heading to a gorgeous Novotel hotel near Waterloo. A night in a posh hotel including a glass of bubbly on arrival, a hearty breakfast and a VIP voucher to use at Westfield plus a Christmas survival bag and all before spending an afternoon in the Mark Warner offices helping to choose the bloggers who will become Mark Warner Mums with me.
I love traveling first class on the train, the leg room, the free refreshments and the wifi make using the train a pleasant experience and having access to the first class lounge before hand makes it even better. The thing i am looking forward to most though is having a gorgeous hotel bedroom to myself. Stretching out on the Queen sized bed, enjoying a lovely hotel shower in peace and quiet and maybe even watching a bit of telly without Hubby tutting at my choice of reality tv.
I do have a problem though. Unfortunately it is one I have come across a few times in the last few months and one that I have still not successfully solved. When traveling to London for a short amount of time and without the children I don't want to drag a big suitcase behind me. I have currently borrowed a small suitcase from my Mum but I could really do with one of my own. It is only when I think about going places like this that I think how nice it would be to be able to have a lovely four wheeled medium sized case. That way I could fit all my goody bag loot inside too. Direct Luggage do some discount luggage for big brands and I even managed to find a gorgeous purple hardshell case for just £80. I wonder if I can drop some hints for Hubby?
I am not sure what my VIP voucher is for at Westfield but I hope that I can spend it on myself. I have already bought Hubby far too many presents and the kids have loads too although I cant seem to go shopping without buying them something. As I have still not managed to find a single present in this house that belongs to me
I think I will have to start taking matters into my own hands and buy some for myself.
For now I am packing my borrowed suitcase for my night of luxury and wondered what you would do if you had an evening to yourself in a nice hotel?
Read a book?
Get some work done in peace and quiet?
Run down the corridor in a onesie?
Or maybe just a nice bath and an early nice?
What would you do?
Please see my Disclosure page
for more information about this post.
Yes I know my Twitter avatar was wearing a Santa hat in the middle of October but that doesn't stop me feeling like the Grinch. Christmas comes into our lives earlier and earlier but it doesn't make me feel more Christmassy, in fact even after a week of twinkly lights and Christmas decorations in my house I was still feeling decidedly unchristmassy.
The twinkling lights, the shops full of gifts, the sale signs and the dreadful Christmas music, none of it seems to help. When placing my online shopping for our early Christmas dinner I realised that Christmas to me starts in my mouth or my nose. The smell of mulled wine, the taste of cranberry or spices. The pate, the hot roasts, the cheeses all things that I treat myself to only around Christmas.
With Christmas tastes and smells meaning so much I just knew that the Radisson Blu Edwardian Manchester Hotels Festive themed afternoon tea was just what I needed to get my taste buds into the spirit of Christmas.
After a busy weekend Hubby and I made our way into Manchester whilst the children were at school to enjoy a relaxed afternoon tea. It was a first for us as this is something we have never done before but it was a fantastic experience that we will have to repeat.
There were two afternoon teas on offer, the lovely festive tea that I enjoyed and the gentlemens tea that Hubby devoured. It was great to see the difference between the two varieties.
The bottom layer featured our sandwiches the four varieties on my plate were crustless fingers which used three slices of bread. Each one was delicious and the added christmas aspect of the Turkey, cranberry and stuffing sandwich was just enough to remind me we were in the festive season without being over the top. Hubbys sandwiches were more rustic looking with the crusts still on and cut into wedge shapes. They were still made with three slices of bread and featured big manly flavoured like beef and mustard. I felt the bread quality was fantastic and I really enjoyed the simplicity of a cream cheese and cucumber sandwich which is something I would never make for myself. One more festive flavour wouldnt go a miss but I personally enjoyed each sandwich as it was.
Hubby's top layer included a yorkshire pudding with beef and gravy, a pot of mushy peas with chips and a bit of fish and a pork pie topped with what I think was cranberry sauce (I don't know as I didn't eat it). My top layer included a mini chocolate fudge cake, a mixed berry jelly, a cream cone and a piece of fruit cake. I loved the fruit cake as it is a great alternative to Christmas cake which I don't eat due to the marzipan, icing and strong alcohol taste.
The middle layers on both towers were the same with a fabulously festive cranberry and orange scone, a traditional scone, some jam and some clotted cream. This layer almost caused a domestic as we had a discussion on the right way to eat a Clotted Cream Scone. With Hubby declaring Cream then Jam and me adamantly stating it should be Jam then Cream we did the only thing that a social media loving couple would do and we took to twitter. May responses later including one from a well known Clotted Cream company and the hotel itself and it seems that Hubby is alone in his weird ways and that this is definitely the right way to eat a scone.
You can enjoy a festive afternoon tea for £18.95 pp and if you go on 10th to 12th or 17th to 19th December for the 12:30 or 3pm sitting then you can enjoy your afternoon tea with the ambient sound of Christmas Carols.
I have been hunting in the cupboards, looking under the beds and checking all the drawers but I can not find any presents in my house that I have not bought. Now this could mean two things either he is better at hiding them than I thought or he hasn't bought me any yet. If the latter is the case then maybe he just needs a few hints.
What would I buy myself? Some chocolates, some bath products, dressing gown and clothes, new converse trainers
(Can't choose which ones they are all so pretty) as mine are getting a bit old. Some jewellery and perfume, a new calendar too, so many bits that I just know he cant have them hidden in any of the usual places. They won't be on top of the kitchen cupboards or under the stairs, they won't be in with the towels or in the bedding box and they are not in the toy boxes so where are they?
Normally I am the only one with the good hiding places but all those are now full. I always hide the presents for Hubby in the top of my wardrobe and tend to fill the airing cupboard and the bottom of my wardrobe with all the other presents. This year the presents have been too big to store in my wardrobe and as my shower is still out of order I have been using the ensuite as a storage room.
Luckily for me the ensuite has a lock on the door and although the children are interested in the presents that are wrapped that they have peaked they have not yet tried to have a look to see what we have got for them.
Having only a four and a five year old most people would hide the fact that there are presents in the house but although I love a bit of mystery and magic I also love a bit of realism so they know that Mummy and Daddy have been working hard to make them or buy them the perfect gifts but they still know that Santa will be bringing the one very special gift that they have asked for.
We have been working hard on our Christmas presents this year trying to be as creative as possible. With snowmen kits, den building kits and our special box of balloons and bubbles but this does mean lots of fairly large boxes that require some creative wrapping and take up lots of space. Thankfully we are spending Christmas day with my family so when we were visiting this weekend we took a boot load of presents to my Mums house so they are now taking up the spare room ready for Christmas Day.
This is our ensuite filled with boxes. The rest of the presents are at my Mums house.
This post is an entry into the Hudl Christmas cheer competition