Wednesday, 31 December 2014

December's been and gone

I just can't believe we're at the end of another year... this one has absolutely flown by.  December's always a busy month; here are some of our highlights.
  • Toddler girl's vocabulary growing every day - to almost sentences by the end of the month
  • Birmingham Christmas market, sausages and fried potatoes.  So festive!
  • Our son's Christmas play, he did so well with 'The Night Before Christmas' that so many other parents commented how great he was.  I was desperately proud of him.
  • A busy month at work for me, an important event and still not being able to switch off.
  • A visit to The Fort, a picture and a win.  Wow!
  • A great trip to Hatton Adventure World and a visit to see Father Christmas

  • School Christmas fayre, Christmas jars and raffle prizes
  • Toddler girl counting to 10 and knowing colours.  Second child syndrome or what?
  • A busy but lovely Christmas with family here.  Handmade gift bags, table presents and mountains of food.  Our kids had so many lovely gifts.

  • Fleetingly realising that this is all so fragile.....

I'd love to hear how December was for you, please leave a comment.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Christmas Day memories

Festive footprints next to our kids' table, where we left a mince pie, glass of milk and carrot for Rudolph.... our son wasn't sure about them though and wouldn't go in the kitchen until I'd gone in first.

 


And after breakfast, our son was first in the living room.  Mum, mum, he's left presents, wow!


And then the present opening began, and the day descended into new toys, chaos, happiness and a massive dinner, much like most of the country!

How was your day?

Monday, 29 December 2014

Music exploration - December

I love the idea of Bubba Blue and Me's music exploration linky.  Music is such an important part of our lives, and our kids both love to sing and dance.  This month we've had a very definite Christmas theme!

What we're listening to

I had Sam Smith's album In the Lonely Hour for Christmas, and have managed to listen to a few tracks on it and already it's one of my favourites.  I especially love track one 'Money on my Mind' and of course, track three 'Stay With Me'.



Our son also had a CD player for Christmas and the One Direction album, which he's enjoying hearing.  He's not a big fan though and loves listening to any music so I'm sure the radio will be used lots.


What we're singing

With our son's nativity play in school came lots of Christmas songs - Little Donkey, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and When Santa Got Stuck Up the Chimney amongst others.  But the one that's stuck is 'Let it Go' from Frozen.  We have never even seen the film but because this song was sung in the play we have listened to it loads!




What we're dancing to

Toddler girl had a keyboard for Christmas, and is already enjoying 'playing' the keys and switching the many buttons to play demo music.  She loves bopping along to the 'rock and roll' demo track!  She also made us all laugh on Christmas Day by dancing and singing her own version of Jingle Bells - very quickly!


Linking up with Bubba Blue and Me, I'd love to know how music features in your lives at the moment.

Bubbablue and me music linky



Sunday, 28 December 2014

My Sunday Photo



We had a lovely Christmas. Did you?

There are so many memories we have made in the last few days, and so many pictures on my phone.  I love this one though - our two kids looking at their new toys on Christmas morning.  They both must've been on the very good list this year, they were so very lucky to receive wonderful gifts from Father Christmas.

OneDad3Girls

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Have a wonderful Christmas



 

I hope you have a wonderful Christmas.  It's such a special time of year, that so many people get to spend with family and friends taking much needed time out.

I consider us so hugely fortunate to be spending the day with loved ones, enjoying our gifts, food and most of all our time together.

Christmas for some can be tough though.  If you need it, and I really hope you don't, you can find the Samaritans online.

I really hope you have a wonderful day and would love to hear about it.

Monday, 22 December 2014

Enchanted Christmas Kingdom at Hatton Adventure World review

Yesterday we spent such an enjoyable day at Hatton Adventure World in Warwickshire.  We've been a few times now, and always have a great day, but this time the whole place was Christmas themed and was wonderful!

There was so much to do all day at the Christmas Kingdom, but we started with the most important - meeting Father Christmas!  There was a wonderful grotto to walk through on the way to meet Santa, and it really got us in the spirit.  Father Christmas' reindeer were even waiting for him outside.


With lights, real snow, trees and wonderful displays, there were things to look at from every angle.




And our son loved meeting the main man himself.  He was a very good Father Christmas, and had a good conversation with our son.  He was more than happy to pose for photos too, and it's great that you can use your own camera for these.


Santa magically made a key appear for our son and daughter, which unlocked a wonderful gift in the toy shop.  This was a really nice touch, and both our kids got to choose their own really good quality gift from loads that were available.

All this activity took an hour or two (time passed really quickly!), so we headed off down to the outside park and trampolines for a bit of a walk and look round.  As it was pretty cold and damp, most of the outside fairground rides and bouncy castles, but all the games and trampolines were tested out thoroughly by our two.


To get warm, we headed to the indoor family theatre where the funny Zoobee children's entertainer put on a great magic show.  The kids all sat at the front, and our son really enjoyed it.  Zoobee got it just the right level to keep parents and kids watching and laughing along with him.  It was nice to be indoors for a while too.


After a spot of lunch and play in the soft play area, we headed out to drive the tractors and visit the guinea pigs.  The sheltered farm area had been decorated and looked really festive, and I rather took a shine to Bubbles the donkey, who was unbelievably cute and patient with lots of visitors stroking him.


We always visit the wonderful sweet shop on the way home, and our son chose some lovely homemade fudge for the journey. I did too!


An added bonus of the Enchanted Kingdom was the Christmas market near the entrance and exit.  There were some lovely stalls and it was great to be able to shop for some handmade and unique Christmas gifts. I spent a really enjoyable half hour or so looking round and talking to some of the stall holders. THe market, like the shops was free to get to and you didn't need a ticket to Hatton Adventure World. All the shops are lovely and perfect for gift shopping.


We had another great day at Hatton, and still feel like we haven't done it all despite being a few times.  I can really see how family membership at around £23 a month is great value.  All year round there's so much to see and do.

Tickets to the Enchanted Kingdom cost from around £41 for a family of four when booked online (they do cost more if you buy at the door).  Please check the Hatton World website for full opening times and a compete run down of all the many Christmas activities.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Me add three

Disclaimer: we were sent four tickets to Hatton Adventure World for the purposes of this review, but all thoughts, as ever, are my own.


Thursday, 18 December 2014

Christmas Countdown - one week to go!

Welcome along to the last week of Christmas Countdown - your final chance to join in and link up any Christmas themed posts, competitions, tweets or Instagram pics. This week's link up closes at 7.30pm on Christmas Eve, when I'm sure we'll all be relaxing with a glass of mulled wine, having completed all our Christmas Countdown jobs :-).

Thank you so much if you've joined in with Christmas Countdown, read, commented or just stopped by.  I've loved hosting such a festive and fun linky.


Can you believe Christmas Day is just one week away?  Our shopping is now complete, and almost all wrapped.  Our Christmas dinner and Boxing Day menu is planned, so it's just the 'big' Christmas shop over the weekend to do... hooray.

Last week I loved reading My Life, My Love's parent's 12 days of Christmas.  I definitely agree that a large glass of Rosé should be in every verse!

And well done to Northumberland Mam, who won last week's £10 Amazon voucher giveaway.  Random.org selected number one, and her corresponding link up won.  Congratulations!



What festive things are you up to this week?  I'd love to know.  Please grab the badge if you'd like to, and don't forget to comment on another post or two while you're here.  As this is the final week, I will use random.org once again to choose a number and the corresponding link up will win a £20 Amazon voucher to spend in the sales (UK only).

Have a wonderful Christmas!

Me add three





Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Favourite toys from Chicco - rattles, cars and musical bear

My recent visit to Chicco's new HQ in the UK showed me just how great Chicco's entire toy range is.  Lots of things are newly released, or refreshed.  So many things caught my eye, these are just a few..

The range of baby toys is fantastic, and I love all the first toys available in the range.  These toys are great clipped on a buggy, car seat or in a changing bag and are brilliant for keeping little hands occupied, helpful to be chewed on for teething gums, and are such lovely colours and textures to stimulate senses.  With a starting price of just £4.99, a few of these handy everywhere would be brilliant for any young child.


Next in line for my favourite toys are Chicco's radio control cars.  Being an Italian company, it really makes sense for Chicco to have linked up with Fiat with this radio control Fiat 500 Sport.  It's suitable from around two years, and the steering wheel actually works as the control.  This is brilliant for encouraging co-ordination development.  It's a perfect toy for all budding drivers (our son would still love this now!).  It retails for around £30 which I think is brilliant value for a branded, top quality toy.


One of my absolute favourite toys is Danny Drift - a drifting remote control car.  I have never seen a drifting remote control car before and I know our son would absolutely LOVE this.  Danny's spoiler and great looks make him a really sporty remote control car, and as with the Fiat 500, the steering wheel works as it should to control the car.  Steer it left, and the car turns left.  It drifts brilliantly, and I know loads of kids (and big kids) will love it.  Again, this is great value at around £30.


And finally, Chicco Musical Tales Singing Bear is a wonderfully soft, interactive, teddy bear that's bilingual and shares stories in both English and French.  He comes with five story cards in his backpack, to help kids learn the alphabet, numbers, parts of the body, shapes, colours, animals and all about travelling in both languages.  He's a bit taller than most teddy bears, and stands up by himself; he's still cuddly though!  For around £40 this is a great way of getting littles ones used to different languages and encouraging independent play.


Have you got any Chicco toys?  I'd love to know what you think of them.

Disclaimer: toddler girl and I are very proud to have been Chicco Happiness Testers, but we haven't received anything for this post.  All views, are of course my own.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Christmas traditions

Reading about other people's family traditions is so lovely and inspiring.  We have a few of our own too, which I thought I'd record here.  I'd love to know if you do any of these too.

Lebkuchen starts our countdown

Aldi does simply the best lebkuchen ever and our son, toddler girl and I all love it.  We always kick off on the 1st December by opening our first packet of lebkuchen and savouring every bite.

Definitely uncoordinated Christmas decorations

Our house wouldn't win any coordinated at Christmas awards!  I love that our house and tree is decorated with an array of colours and syles - all of which have been made for us, given to us or collected on our days out over the 10 years husband and I have been together.  Our tree houses a Bloomingdales bauble from what feel like centuries ago when we went to New York at Christmas time (pre-kids, obviously!), alongside a Padstow crab decoration from a campervan holiday in 2012, so many of my Nan's lovely hand made baskets, stockings and trees and so so many others... I love it.

Swimming on Christmas Eve

I got in the wrong queue when I was pregnant, and ended up with kids who get so hyper on Christmas Eve that snuggling on the sofa with hot chocolate and a film would be an ordeal for all of us.  So we go swimming instead.  The pool is completely empty, and we have a very enjoyable hour splashing around.  It's a total bonus that the kids go to sleep so much easier in the evening as a result too!

Scratchcard for starters

Our Christmas dinner always starts with a scratchcard for everyone at the table.  For a total of around 30 place settings over the last few years, we've won a grand total of £3, but maybe this will be the year someone wins big (and please let it be me!).

Table presents

Along with our scratchcards, everyone at the dinner table gets a table present.  It's a bit like secret Santa - I don't spend a lot, usually £10 or so maximum, but I do try and get something meaningful for the individual.  A hand made gift for grandparents from the kids always goes down well.

Love, laughter, cuddles

It's such a busy time of year with so much to do that it's easy to get caught up in all the jobs, making everything perfect, trying to fill every second with memories etc.  So I try and make sure we do stop (briefly, because my kids never stop) and try and appreciate just how fortunate, happy and content we are.  I hope this is what the kids will really remember as the magic of Christmas for many, many years to come.





Saturday, 13 December 2014

Really easy cranberry sauce

Once you've tasted homemade cranberry sauce, you'll never buy shop bought again.  I love to make this sauce on Christmas eve - it makes the kitchen smell really Christmassy.  It's so easy to make too.

Easy cranberry sauce
Makes enough for 8-10 servings

300g ish of cranberries, I always use frozen
100g golden caster sugar (normal caster sugar will also work fine)
100ml orange juice

Put all the ingredients in a pan and bring to the boil.


Once boiling, reduce to a simmer and cook for 10-12 minutes or until the cranberries are mostly burst and soft when pressed with a fork.  Leave to cool in the pan for 20 minutes or so, and it will thicken.

Put the sauce into a dish or sterilised jar; it will keep in the fridge for a couple of days if you like to get ahead.


I'd love to know if you make your own cranberry sauce at Christmas time.  Don't be shy and please leave a comment.

Me add three

Friday, 12 December 2014

Competition to win Chicco Baby Star Guitar toy worth £25 [now closed]

Chicco toys are wonderful, and toddler girl and I especially love the musical toys.  This Chicco Baby Star Guitar looks brilliant and I an sure will be in loads of stockings this Christmas.  How would you like one?


Chicco Baby Star Guitar is a great toy for any budding musician.  With three music styles, three mixer functions, a special orchestra function and over 30 tunes, your little rockstar can dance and groove to their own music.



This toy will help develop fine motor skills, hand to eye co-ordination and will let your little one's musical creativity run wild. Suitable from around 12 months, Baby Star Guitar is available from major retailers at £24.99.  I think this is really great value - but even better, you can win one in my competition!

Don't forget to check out Chicco's Facebook competition where you can win £50 of toys every week in the run up to Christmas, and one lucky winner will receive a whole bundle of toys plus a Merlin annual family pass at the end of the competition on 14th December.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

TERMS AND CONDITIONS
  • You must be resident in the UK to enter. Prize will be shipped to a UK address.
  • Competition runs from 12th December 2014 until 23:59 on 15th December 2014.
  • Entry is via one and/or more of the methods in Rafflecopter widget.
  • Winner(s) will be chosen at random by Rafflecopter.  Winning entries will be checked and must be current at time of checking.
  • There is one prize.  The prize is three Chicco Turbo Touch Crash toys (one in each colour).  Chicco may substitute for product of equal or greater value in the very unlikely event the prize is unavailable.  There is no cash alternative.
  • The winner(s) will be contacted by email or on Twitter (if appropriate) by 17th December 2014 and asked to confirm their delivery address within 48 hours.  If no reply is received, a new winner may be chosen.
  • Winner's details will be passed to Chicco's marketing and PR team, so the prize can be shipped.
  • We'll do our utmost to get the prize to the winner before Christmas, but can’t guarantee it.
  • The winner's name, as registered when logged into Rafflecopter will be displayed after the end of the competition.
  • Me add three’s decision is final.
Win competitions at ThePrizeFinder.com.  Also listed on Loquax.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Christmas Countdown - just two weeks to go!

Welcome along to Christmas Countdown, it's the place to link up any Christmas themed posts, competitions, tweets or Instagram pics. The link up opens every Thursday evening, and closes again the following Wednesday. Please join in - any old or new posts are very welcome.


Can you believe there are only two weeks until Christmas Day?  Most of our shopping is now done, I'm planning our Christmas food and will definitely be joining in with Christmas jumper day.  What about you?

Last week I loved reading about Multicraftymummy's five golden rings crafty make.  I think they would look great as a centre piece on a Christmas table!

And well done to Ojo's World, who won last week's £10 Amazon voucher giveaway.  Random.org selected number eight, and her corresponding link up won.  Congratulations!


What festive things are you up to this week?  I'd love to know.  Please grab the badge if you'd like to, and don't forget to comment on another post or two while you're here.  Just like last week, I'll use random.org to choose a winning number next Thursday, and the corresponding link up number will win a £10 Amazon voucher (UK only).  Merry Christmas!

Me add three





Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Elf on the shelf mischief

We're having great fun with Effy, our elf on the shelf.  It's the first year we've been visited by an elf, and both our son and toddler girl love him!


He's been getting up to all sorts of mischief, including:

Mixing up and swapping advent calendars.  He got it a bit wrong swapping our Mr Men advent calendar though, because our son loves Mr Men and got a bit upset.  Effy managed to put it right during the school day though.

Hanging from the kitchen cupboards with rudolph ears.  Who knows how he got himself in this tricky position.


Getting ready for school.  This morning he was wearing our son's school shoes and holding his school bag, already for the school run.  Silly Effy, he doesn't go to school!

Reading Christmas books with our son's beloved Ted.  I think they both missed our son when he was at school a few days ago, and went in his room to keep each other company.


Colouring in a picture in one of our colouring in books.  The sheep was the same colours and stripey like Effy.  Effy!

Have you got an elf on the shelf?  What's s/he up to?


Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Win three Chicco Turbo Touch Crash toy cars worth £45

Toddler girl and I love Chicco toys, and I have a great giveaway for you.  How would you like to win all three of these fab Chicco Turbo Touch Crash cars?



The Turbo Touch Crash crew are perfect for burning some rubber inside or out.  Press the rear of each vehicle and the car will speed away, but when it comes to an exciting crash, the doors and bonnet fling open, with great sounds effects!

These are perfect to help develop your child’s cognitive skills and cause and effect.  They're also great for encouraging imagination and creativity as they fit the car back together.  All whilst having loads of fun.



These brilliant Chicco toys are suitable for motor-mad toddlers from 24 months.  They're available from major retailers and independent stores and come in red, blue and black. With an RRP of £14.99 each, I think they're great value - but you can win all three (one of each colour) in this great competition.

And don't forget to check out Chicco's Facebook competition where you can win £50 of toys every week in the run up to Christmas, and one lucky winner will receive a whole bundle of toys plus a Merlin annual family pass at the end of the competition on 14th December.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

TERMS AND CONDITIONS
  • You must be resident in the UK to enter. Prize will be shipped to a UK address.
  • Competition runs from 9th December 2014 until 23:59 on 12th December 2014.
  • Entry is via one and/or more of the methods in Rafflecopter widget.
  • Winner(s) will be chosen at random by Rafflecopter.  Winning entries will be checked and must be current at time of checking.
  • There is one prize.  The prize is three Chicco Turbo Touch Crash toys (one in each colour).  Chicco may substitute for product of equal or greater value in the very unlikely event the prize is unavailable.  There is no cash alternative.
  • The winner(s) will be contacted by email or on Twitter (if appropriate) by 14th December 2014 and asked to confirm their delivery address within 48 hours.  If no reply is received, a new winner may be chosen.
  • Winner's details will be passed to Chicco's marketing and PR team, so the prize can be shipped.
  • We'll do our utmost to get the prize to the winner before Christmas, but can’t guarantee it.
  • The winner's name, as registered when logged into Rafflecopter will be displayed after the end of the competition.
  • Me add three’s decision is final.
Win competitions at ThePrizeFinder.com.  Also listed on Loquax.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Family life is...






Having a pre-Christmas clearout and not being able to part with a single book.  This is not sustainable!


Sunday, 7 December 2014

My Sunday Photo


Meet 'Effy' our mischievous elf, who's visiting for Christmas.  Toddler girl can't say Elfy, so he became Effy.  I think it suits him.

So far, he's swapped advent calendars round, delivered a yummy chocolate lolly and gone for a ride in a favourite toy car.  He's also quite helpful reporting good and bad behaviour to Father Christmas.

We all love him!  Have you got an elf on the shelf this year?



Friday, 5 December 2014

Alcohol free, vegetarian slow cooker mincemeat

A slow cooker is a great way to make Christmas mincemeat, it gives all the flavours time to develop while you get on with other things.  This version is alcohol free so our kids can eat it, and I prefer to use vegetarian suet too.
 
My quantities always vary depending on what I have in, so please don't be bound by the weights I use.  I use my large slow cooker for this recipe, and you may need to half it if you only have a small one.  Fit it to your cupboard and the tastes you like most.  Merry Christmas!
 
Slow cooker alcohol free, vegetarian Christmas mincemeat
 
Makes about 2kg, or enough for three or four large jars
 
Ingredients
 
Zest of one orange
Zest of one lemon
225g soft dark brown sugar
200ml orange and cranberry juice
150g seedless raisins
150g currants
150g sultanas
125g glace/candied cherries, roughly chopped
125g glace/candied peel, roughly chopped
125g chopped dried apricots, roughly chopped
125g blanched almonds, roughly chopped
125g dried cranberries
 
 
 
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp nutmeg
200g vegetarian suet

 
Four bramley cooking apples, peeled and chopped

 
Method
 
Put all of the ingredients apart from the ground spices, sugar, suet and orange and cranberry juice in a large bowl, then add it to your slow cooker.  You could add it all directly to the slow cooker, but I like to check it will fit first!

 
Once it's in the slow cooker, add the ground spices, sugar, suet and orange and cranberry juice and give it a really good stir.

 
Cook on low for three or four hours, stirring every now and again.  Once it's thickened, the apples have reduced in size and it all feels sticky, switch off the slow cooker and let it cool for another three or four hours still stirring every now and again.  Cooling and stirring slowly like this stops the suet lumping together.

 
Once it's cooled right down, add it in to sterilised jars.  To sterilise the jars, I wash them on a hot dishwasher cycle and allow to air dry.

 
Sealed tightly, these should last longer than you'll need before you eat them (a few months I'd say but mine have never lasted that long).  They're probably best left in a cool dark cupboard for a week or two for the flavours to develop, but it's not necessary.  Yum!


Me add three

Link up your recipe of the week