Portable North Pole – making a magical Christmas

imageI love Christmas and as soon as I had children I became even more of a Christmas crazy! It’s all about the magical moments, the times you look into their eyes and know they truly believe. I know it won’t last forever so I’m making the most of it.

This year I’ve used the Portable North Pole (PNP) website to create some magical moments for my five year old. It’s so easy to use, you can create a fantastic video customised for your child in a few minutes. You  just need a photo, a few details and the website does the rest.

I created two videos, one to show Arthur now and one for Christmas Eve. The quality is fantastic with Santa’s workshop, elves, snow covered chalets and a sense that Christmas really is something magical.

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Santa talks directly to your child, sharing details, telling them whether they’ve made it on the good list and interacting with them to create something truly special. Arthur was mesmerised and you can now use the reaction recorder to capture those moments for ever. If he ever had any doubts about the big man, this video hepled him believe for just a little longer.

There are also Santa calls so your little ones can speak directly to th big man in the lead up to Christmas – a great one to have in the back pocket if their behaviour is less than angelic!. I made sure Santa asked Arthur to make sure he listened to his mummy and daddy, he he!

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There are so many options from the personalised calls to a new video each week throughout December. You can also get a Santa-approved certificate for each of your videos. It’s great value and you can use it as much or as little as you like throughout December.

It’s definitely become part of our Christmas tradition and I can’t wait to show Arthur his Christmas Eve video while snuggled up on the sofa drinking hot chocolate.

Christmas family bingo!

The Christmas countdown has begun. It is the most joyful and also the most stressful time of the year. Families UK-wide will be preparing turkey, singing carols and wearing paper hats. As well as the traditional board games why not play a game of bingo. Below is a bingo card, you can download and play with friends and family all day. It shows all the typical things we see in a British Christmas from Eastenders to bad cracker prizes. The first to cross off a full line wins! You can play again and again.

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Christmas traditions across the globe

Fancy hiding a pickle in your Christmas tree? Or maybe roller skating to church for some festive cheer? I love Christmas, I’m that annoying person humming Jingle Bells in November and being incredibly ‘festive’ at every available chance.

I think we do Christmas pretty well in the UK but there are some stonkingly good traditions that happen all around the world at this time of year. So if you’d like to learn how to say Merry Christmas in another language, or just want to see what happens across the globe, take a look at the infographic below created by Bright Horizon’s Nursery Highbury- maybe there’s something you can add to your Christmas fun.

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saving money on family fun with Groupon.

*This is a sponsored post and all opinions expressed are my own.*

There’s nothing better than spending time with your family. Days out build memories which last long after the adventures end, but the truth is days out for families are often hugely expensive.

That’s why I love Groupon because it has some amazing deals to make family life just that little bit easier. We’ve visited stately homes, we’ve been to theme parks, bowling and we’ve been looking at some great mini breaks to give us all more time together.

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Groupon offers have made possible some things we would never have afforded, or would have had to wait and save for a long time for. I know spending money is not the most important thing and as a family we spend hours walking, talking, playing games and other cheap and cheerful activities. But to be able to do something a bit special with some great money saving offers is the cherry on the cake.

it also means we’ve been able to enjoy some lovely meals out as a family. I think it’s really important children get used to eating out in restaurants and learn how to behave in social situations.  But again eating out is expensive and through Groupon we’ve saved loads.

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Groupon has something for everyone and I love that with a click of a button we can find so much, even things like car servicing – I’ve had some great manicures too!

It saves us money as a family, is really easy to use and totally free. What’s not to like! I’m looking forward to lots more family fun through Groupon and maybe the odd mummy pamper day too.

 

dangerous roads

When I thought about writing a post on dangerous drives- one journey was front of mind immediately.

Six years ago, no children, just me and the big boy off for a romantic break to the Lake District. It was beautiful and we were having a lovely time until he decided to take me along Knotts Pass. Now, don’t get me wrong, I gathered there would be hills and winding roads and all sort of mountainous shenanigans. But nothing prepared me and it was half way across that I realised – yes I am bloody scared of heights.

The one thing I was glad we did was get the car serviced before we went and that I double- checked my car insurance!   ”When you’re halfway up a mountain pass you know you need insurance that will get you down in one piece and sometimes the cheapest car insurance are just as dependable as the more expensive – what matters is that it will get you down in one piece So it’s always worth shopping around.

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i was petrified we’d start going backwards and by the time we were over the top  I was an attractive shade of red through hyperventilating! The part that really did it for me was when another car came towards us! it was like a scene from Robot Wars as we tried to move round each other while desperately keeping all four tyres on the road.

I’ve driven through the Alps and across many sheer drops in Southern France but Knotts Pass is still my number one dangerous drive. That fear of falling backwards will the car struggles forward is clearly my Achilles Heel and not one I want to repeat again soon! Still, six years and two children later we’re still together. Maybe we’ll visit the Lake District again as a family next time -’I'll just make sure I have a map and a good detour planned should the idea of Knotts Pass come up again!

New babies and fitting everyone in!

I’m currently 35 weeks pregnant and having  slight hormonal breakdown about where on earth I’m going to fit a new born baby! Realistically I know they don’t take up much space, in fact they are pretty portable for those first few months.

They do, however, require more space as these little creatures begin to move about and, quite selfishly, outgrow things like Moses baskets and require real actual rooms and beds! This is why we’ve decided to create a new bedroom in our loft.

It’s already partly converted so a lot of the heavy building work is complete. We just need to change the staircase, put a safety rail up and sort  the abundance of horrendous artex the previous owner thought was a wonderfully timeless style statement.

It already has a window and just needs brightening up with a new blind, VELUX has some lovely ones and I know they will fit. We’ll also attempt some funky paintwork and a few bright textiles and I think,it will be a fantastic bedroom for boy number one.image

I suspect I might be spending a lot of late night feeds on Pinterest looking for inspiration! Arthur is really excited about the possibility of being in the loft and it means baby will have a little room all to themselves when the time comes.

So, panic over for now…just have to organise it, pay for it and actually have this baby! Wish me luck.

*This is a sponsored post*

Working from home

I’m lucky. At least I think I am.

I work four days a week but my company are really flexible so working from home a day or two a week is never a problem. I was asked to contribute to a new Workplace ebook  by Furniture at Work, to talk about my experience of working from home and it made me think about what makes it work for me.

Now in theory working from home is brilliant. I can get up, get my son ready, get him to school and be at my ‘desk’ by 9.15 without worrying about battling traffic and wearing appropriate clothing. To be fair I have been known to work from home and never change out of my pajamas!

Working from home has revolutionised work for many of us. Giving more of a work life balance but the truth is, there are a few must dos before you can really get into the groove.

My must dos for a happy working from home day:

  • Make sure you have somewhere away from the washing and dirty dishes. It doesn’t have to be massive. Mine’s a space at the dining table with my back to the kitchen and no access to television!
  • Leading in from the space, make sure you have a comfortable chair. At work I have a specialist chair for my bad back. Yet when I first began working from home I thought a wooden dining chair was fine. It wasn’t!  Investing in a decent chair was such a godsend and means I can sit in comfort. I don’t use the chair any other time so sitting in it makes me feel like I’m ready for work
  • Set yourself times. No point getting side tracked by washing or tidying. Give yourself an hour for lunch and if you need to do a couple of jobs do them then.
  • Don’t let people make you feel guilty. For some people working from home doesn’t work and they think we spend our time watching Homes Under the Hammer. Truth is I probably do as much if not more because I’m not distracted by office banter, canteens and coffee breaks!
  • Along the same theme, don’t apologise for your choices. If it works for you then be strong and make it clear when you’re working from home. Cultures, particularly corporate culture needs to change to embrace changing working patterns and we can do our bit by working from home with our heads held high!

Working from home has given me a freedom to continue enjoying work while feeling I’m giving my best to my family as well. I’m currently pregnant and sometimes I just can’t face the fight to get to the office so knowing I can contribute as well while at home is hugely important. It’s given me balance and will hopefully show my children that work doesn’t have to mean sitting in an office eight hours a day.

 

Easter at Be WILDerwood

A school holiday would not be complete without a visit to our favourite Norfolk hangout – the wonderful and magical BeWILDerwood.

I’ve written many times about the mesmerising Boggles and teriffic Twiggles. But we’ve never actually been along at Easter. In true BeWILDerwood style it was an adventure to remember.

As always we took the boat across the spooky lake and waited for Mildred the croc to blast us with her watery welcome, always great fun! The staff are brilliant and give you a wonderful introduction while your on the boat. You hear about the Boggles in the bogs and the Twiggles who live in the trees And you can peer across the lake into their tiny tree top homes complete with little front doors, tiny brooms and a little rowing boat.

We made bunny headdresses in the craft tent, we wandered in the sunshine ( yes even the sun came out) and crossed the rickety bridge, slide down the slides and lost ourselves while feeding our imagination in the Sky Maze.

There are lots of places to sit and eat, you can pack up a picnic anod sit at one of the many tables, or buy something from one of the food shacks – they try to keep things local and you can pick up some hot options or a quick sandwich.

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What made the trip this time was the wonderful Cedric the Easter bunny. Set in his own Easter garden the children were able to walk through a little Easter magic before meeting lovely Cedric for a chat. Then off to the Easter garden for a few chocolate eggs – prefect!

It’s the story telling that BeWILDerwood does so well. From the birth of this magical place in Tom Blofeld’s books, to the wonderful story times they run all day with characters from across BeWILDerwood.

It’s the perfect place for children to run free and explore their world. We built dens, slide down slides, climbed amazing tree houses and basically had, as always, a totally brilliant time.

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if you haven’t been then you’re missing one of the best days out for families – give it a go. You won’t be disappointed.

A hamper for mum

A few weeks ago I was asked to review a lovely Mother’s Day hamper.

Fast forward a few weeks and the reason the review is so late is because, I found out I was pregnant! What followed was a whole load of sickness, days ending at 6pm when I could no longer stay awake and more than enough visits to the hospital. But all is well, baby #2 is doing well and I’ve finally got round to using some lovely  products.

i particularly loved the Lavender bath and shower gel, beautiful scented with natural oils, no parabens and foamed up a treat?

The chocolate one was rather delicious too, although Arthur seemed to nab that one off me – he loved the idea of being washed in chocolate. I was quite happy for him to use it as it was full of natural stuff and  had no nasty chemicals or additives.

The other thing I find difficult during pregnancy is cutting down on my heavy caffeine habit – I’m a 5 cups a day girl normally. So the Relaxing tea from Yogi, which came in the hamper, was a welcome change from the tasteless de-caff options. Full of camomile, it tasted natural and really helped my relax.

Finally there was a lovely vitamin A cream – I’ve not used it yet as I’m pretty sure you have to go easy on vict A during pregnancy but Jonathan has been smothering it on after a shower and said his skin feels soft.

It was a lovely treat packed with natural goodness and while I didn’t get to use it on Mother’s Day, I was so pleased to be able to indulge once I’d got through those horrendous few weeks. Everyone deserves a Mother’s Day hamper – whatever the time of year.

Easter films to snuggle up for

It’s the Easter Bank holiday and with that comes four glorious days stretching out before me. My personal favourite moment is Sunday evening when I sit snuggled on the sofa knowing I won’t be a slave to the alarm and there’s no work on Monday morning – bliss.

After the obligatory Easter egg hunt and some roast lamb, Easter Sunday will be all about eating far too much chocolate and watching some of our favourite family films. There’s nothing like watching on a big screen with great sound, something like a Panasonic Viera – like a mini cinema at home.

So let me share some of the films we love to watch – there’s definitely a theme! We love an animal film and what better time to enjoy them than during the season of bunnies, chicks and lambs!

Arthur absolutely loves Happy Feet – ok so it’s not a bunny or a lamb but it’s a bird and I’m sure the babies are still called chicks! It’s one of the first films he sat all the way through and it helps that I love it to. The animation is wonderful and who doesn’t love a singing penguin. The message is one of overcoming adversity and being loved for who you are and I for one will be looking forward to a couple of hours losing myself in a chocolate egg and some dancing penguins.

Next up it has to be a comedy favourite Free Birds – an American animation about two turkeys coming together to help save their flock from becoming Thanksgiving dinner. I think it’s hilarious and full of enough ‘in’ jokes to keep adults amused. These flightless wonders change the course of history and get turkey off the menu for good. Arthur thinks it’s funny too – it’s not just me!

Finally, and probably running into Easter Monday, it’s time for a classic. Now I’ve not introduced Arthur to this yet but as a child I remember watching this over and over with my mum will sharing a bag of mini eggs. It’s Watership Down, I know it’s not the most Easter-friendly film, what with the Easter bunnies coming off worse. But I love it. Their adventure to find a new home and all the challenges along the way. Oh and the music – it makes me cry every time.

I checked the weather forecast today and it looks like rain over the Bank holiday so my cosy sofa and some films sounds like the perfect way to spend Easter with my boy – as long as there’s plenty of chocolate in stock too!