It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

I am just bursting with excitement about Christmas this year. Maybe you can tell by the fact this is my third Christmassy post and it’s only mid-November. In fact, being the soppy wreck I seem to have turned into since childbearing I could almost well up at the fact this is our first Christmas as a proper family. I have been dreaming of this moment so long and I cannot wait to see Violets face on Christmas day as we sit by the tree opening our presents – the reflection of twinkly lights in our eyes. In the background Christmas tunes jingle away as the smell of the roast drifts through the air. Could we just skip December and make it tomorrow!?

So, being the ball of irritating festive enthusiasm I am (verging on Buddy the Elf standards here), I’ve been planning ways to start some of our very own Christmas Eve family traditions. Quite honestly before now, we didn’t really have any and our previous Christmases have been most un-festive! Last year we didn’t even have a tree up, V was working long shifts and I was a heavily pregnant beached whale who was too busy stuffing mince pies to put the tree up. I’d only knock the baubles off with my giant belly every time I walked past, so why bother?! The Christmas before that, we were on a Nile Cruise and didn’t even notice Christmas slip by – so traditional, we are not – but this year all of that will change now we are a family.

Christmas Eve to me as a little girl was when the magic started. I know Violet only be 10 months old and won’t totally understand it, but it’s never to early to enjoy the magic of Christmas. Waiting to go to sleep, knowing that in the night, Father Christmas will come down the chimney leaving presents at the end of my bed. I remember waking up and wiggling my toes to hear the crackle of wrapping paper, feeling the weight of my stocking pressing into my quilt before I had even opened my eyes. I think Christmas eve was the only time I ever wanted to go to bed early! This year we’ll be getting ready for bed nice and early – turning our phones off for the next few days, cosying up for the evening in front of the open fire in with Violet, snuggling up in our warm Christmas pyjamas, only the best from Marks & Spencer, of course. I might even crack open the Quality Street tin, we shall see.

Violet loves books and I’ve already started to read her Christmas stories, both about Father Christmas and The Nativity Story. I enjoyed both as a child and I want to pass onto her the meaning behind Christmas and that it’s not all about the twinkly lights and presents. We also have a Nativity Set that we bought on our trip a couple of years ago to Bethlehem, which I can’t wait to set up with Violet –  I think she’ll be really intrigued by the animals in the stable the most this year. We bought it as a family decoration we could use every year – it’s beautiful and means so much to us that we bought it on one of our trips too. One day I’m sure she’ll want to set it up and arrange it all herself, I’m sure!

A newer tradition to me is the Christmas Eve box, I’m not sure this was ‘a thing‘ when I was growing up as I certainly didn’t open any presents until Christmas Day, but embracing both new traditions and old – I am going to make Violet a little Christmas eve box to open. As she’s only little it’ll just have a few little toys in there for her to enjoy as well as some keepsakes like this little Violet’s First Christmas Mug, a first christmas bauble for the tree and a Santa plate for her first Christmas meal too.

My final tradition is once we are all off to bed, I will make sure we all put a mince pie and a carrot down for Father Christmas. I used to always leave him a small glass of sherry too, but seeing as that’s not something we have in our house, maybe he’d like a gin and tonic instead? That we can do. We’ll have to leave it up high though, as I’m sure Robbie will think his luck is in with all those tasty treats being left out overnight!

How do you like to spend Christmas Eve as a family? I’d love to hear your Christmassy tales in the comments below! 

Christmas: Beauty Stocking Fillers

I don’t know whats wrong with me this year – usually I have a ban on talking about Christmas until after my birthday (next week, don’t worry – still time to pop your presents in the post!) but this year I just can’t help myself. I think it’s because this Christmas is the first as a family I’m getting in the festive spirit SUPER early. But – surely this is good as it means I can post about all my present ideas with plenty of time, before the mad dash of Christmas shopping in December!

In the last couple of weeks, my family have been asking what I want for Christmas and I think this year I’m a bit blinded by the baby-bubble I’ve been in for the whole of 2017. Apparently ‘baby grows‘ are not a valid thing for me to put on my Christmas list, so I’ve had to go back to the drawing board about what I’d like santa to bring me this year. Me-time is the thing I’m lacking the most at the moment, I do miss the long bubble baths and pampering sessions I used to enjoy pre-baby -so I think a few beauty treats will be going at the top of my list.

So, I’ve been scouring the Internet for inspiration (hint hint santa) – so here are a few of the top Christmas Gift Sets I’ve found that will be going on my list this year:

What beauty treats are your Christmas list this year? 

A Family Day Out at Drusillas Park

Drusillas always reminds me of happy memories of my childhood – I’m not sure I could count the amount of times I’ve been there when I was very small, so going back as a Mum with my own little girl was definitely a special day for me.  I’m sure it’s changed a LOT since my last visit (maybe 20 years ago?) as I didn’t seem to remember as much as I thought I would, but that was good as it felt like a brand new place to explore all over again and hopefully Violet will hold the same magical memories of family days out too, just like I do.

So, we decided to head to Drusillas Park on Monday this week. It was the perfect day for a family day out as it was gorgeously sunny but cold and crisp too. We wrapped up warm and headed out – meeting Violet’s bestie Liv and her Mummy too as we thought it would be lovely for the babies to hang out and do something fun together with not just boring adults for company!

As you arrive at Drusillas, you are greeted by the sound of monkeys in the enclosure right by the carpark, Violet was already looking all around to see what the strange noise was, I couldn’t wait to show her!

We headed through the entrance to the first section – The Zoo. It’s clearly marked and signposted all the way around, plus we had a map and guidebook as there is just so much to see we didn’t want to miss anything along the way. There is a large array of animals to see at Drusillas. They are known as the UK’s best small zoo and I can see why as the variety of species is extensive! There is something to surprise you around every corner, with every inclosure immaculately clean (even the stinking bats, they are so smelly!) and creatively constructed to keep animals entertained, protected and comfortable, yet allowing a good view too. It’s not just like a zoo where you walk around each animal and look at them befhind the glass either – some enclosures have ‘secret viewing areas’, little bubbles where you can pop-up and view the animals from eye-level and see-through tunnels for the animals to run through before your very eyes. I imagine for children this must be so much fun and I’m sure Violet will love exploring all the different tunnels when she’s a bit more mobile!

Another thing that really struck me was how many activities, animal facts and interesting displays there were as we went round to accompany the animal enclosures. Violet is a little small for animal facts, but when she’s bigger I can see her being facinated and the trip being far more educational than your standard zoo trip. There are also activities like the Animal Spotters book with little stamps to collect as you walk round and Zoolympics, where you can try and match yourself to each animal in speed, sound, ability to climb etc. Hours of fun!  After a good mooch through the entire zoo section, the Mummies all needed a well-earned coffee break whilst the bubbas both had their mid-morning nap. They were so good and both had at least 30 mins sleep, we couldn’t believe it – must have been all that fresh-air and excitement looking at all the different animals. The Explorers Cafe also serves Starbucks coffee too, so that was a nice touch and much needed!

We then entered the play & rides section of Drusillas. As it was an off-peak day the rides were on a rotation basis so we just had to check the timings and make sure we were in the right place at the right time to hop on, I believe the rides are on constantly in the busier times though! They have a couple of massive play areas that the little ones were a bit too small for yet, like the Go Bananas Adventure Playground and I’m sure by next summer they’ll love the Get Wet! Splash pad too – but we skipped these bits for now but I’m sure on visits to come we’ll get lots of enjoyment out of them! We headed down to the Hello Kitty Secret Garden. Ok, I’ll tell you a secret – I’ve been wanting to come here for YEARS but it felt a bit silly coming without a child – so my inner 15 year old Hello Kitty/Sanrio fanatic was screaming with excitement inside. The Hello Kitty area is suitable for all ages as the little ones loved the bright colours and characters, plus there are two rides you can take babies of any age onto as long as you hold onto them on your lap. So, of course we had to go on them – multiple times so everyone got a go! (Luckily Violet!). You can also visit Hello Kitty’s house and on certain days meet the lady herself, but on the day we went she must have had another commitment! 🙂

The last ride of the day for us was the Safari Express. Running only once on the hour in off-peak season, make sure you check the timings of this one before your trip as you don’t want to miss out! Luckily, we were standing right by the station as boarding began so we hopped on. The babies absolutely loved this bit – maybe more than the other rides, the music and scenery captivated their attention, plus they are able to sit together and even held hands on the way round – so sweet!

We thoroughly enjoyed our trip to Drusillas, there was way more to do than I’d realised – for all ages. I’m sure it’s a place we will return to over and over again as Violet grows up, especially as we are only 20 minutes away.

There are lots of exciting Christmas activities at Drusillas too if you fancy a visit, we saw them all being set up and they look magical! A Winter Wonderland, Santas Cottage, Meet the Reindeer and a Husky Cave, just to name a few of the activities over the Christmas season – we will certainly be taking Violet back for a festive visit – I can’t wait!

Christmas Gift Guide for the frazzled Mum

Yes, I’ve said it – the C-word! CHRISTMAS! This year I’m more excited than EVER for the big day as it’s our first ever one as a family, so I thought I’d get in there nice and early with some Christmas planning and gift suggestions – mainly as I’m just too excited this year as I want to make it a really good one!  So, kicking off my Christmas posts this year, has got to be the classic – a gift guide for the frazzled Mum in your life, as I know there are quite a few of you out there (including me!)  Sadly, you can’t buy magic sleep potion for babies, so here are a few suggestions of gifts that if the baby doesn’t sleep –  at least the frazzled Mum in your life might feel slightly less frazzled….. maybe even relaxed, for two seconds! I can’t promise though, but give them a go!

STYLE

Style for wearing in the house and out! I spend a huge amount of time in my PJ’s at home, so I always want something that looks nice to feel special in, after all it’s what you are in a lot of the time! I loved this Floral Kimono, the colours are gorgeous and I bet it’s silky soft too. My second suggestion is this Smartphone Charging Reversible Tote, as every busy Mum on the go needs firstly, a giant bag and secondly – extra phone battery to keep connected to the world and most importantly to take today’s 100 photos of your baby on the run – Well, I do at least!

JEWELLERY

 

I think sentimental pieces of jewellery make the perfect presents – I especially loved this cute Mama Bear Necklace, how adorable! I wonder if you can keep adding little bears every time you have a baby, surely thats motivation enough to get pregnant again, right? On a more serious note, I also love this ‘Quiet Courage‘ design as I feel like this perfectly describes motherhood and sometimes we need a reminder of our own strength.

WINE!

I’m sure most Mama’s will be enjoying a glass of wine over the Christmas season, so these Spiro Stemless Wine Glasses are perfect – pretty and less likely to spill without a stem, thats my logic anyway!

 

PAMPERING

 

Of course, the classic present for a frazzled mum has got to be something to pamper her and make her feel really special – the Spa to go Set has everything you need in a gorgeous gift set and the Cold Weather Comfort Tea Set sounds like it has everything you need to get you through the winter in good health, from Cold comfort tea to Throat Soothe, I think I need this in the back of my cupboard as I’m sure I’m going to pick up all the colds going to baby groups this winter!

 

Hope you enjoyed the first of my Christmas Gift Guides this year and you find something for the frazzled Mum in your life!

The Perfect Christmas Hamper

For me, a festive hamper encapsulates Christmas spirit perfectly – festive food and treats, handmade gifts and a personal touch make a hamper ideal present for your family and friends this year. A homemade hamper is one of the most thoughtful, generous gifts you can give as you can tailor it to your friends tastes and dietary requirements, without it costing too much either!

So, when Ryvita got in touch to ask me to create a special festive hamper for a friend including their delicious Ryvita Thins, I couldn’t wait to get to get started, thinking of all the gorgeous festive treats to put together. Also, following on my on my quest to teach myself to cook this year, this was the perfect opportunity to cook my first ever chutney – something I’d never attempted before and quite honestly, could possibly have been quite a festive disaster! (See below for how I got on…..)

When putting together a hamper, my advice is to think of two things – firstly, luxury treats you wouldn’t eat every day and food that is ideal for sharing. You want the recipient to feel spoiled and surprised by the treats inside and be able to share the contents with family and friends over Christmas time too.

I started putting my hamper together by adding my Ryvita Thin’s – these are quite different from the classic ryvita we know and love, with five different flavours they are a fab party snack and the perfect ‘implement‘ for dipping in your homemade festive chutnies. I bought some for myself (well, I had to do a trial run of the chutney!) and they are SO moreish, once I had one I literally couldn’t stop. Before I knew it, I’d watched a Christmas movie and managed to eat nearly a whole box, oops!

Other treats to include were things to share on Christmas Day – Luxury Juices, Spirits or Wine, Festive Hot Chocolate, Fruit and Nut Mix, Truffles and of course, it wouldn’t be Christmas without a traditional Christmas Pudding. I bought few of my treats from M&S this year – their products are just classic at Christmas time, they never dissapoint! I especially loved their Sparkling Peach and Proscecco Conserve! How amazing would that be as breakfast on Christmas Morning?

I also created some cute handmade crackers, these are packed with cute little surprises, jokes and of course a gold shimmery crown for Christmas Day too.

So, going back to my Chutney… Well, I’m so pleased to say my recipe and first attempts at cooking a chutney went really well! I decided to make a Caramelised Onion Chutney, inspired by the Caramelised Onion Ryvita Thin’s – having a dip of the same flavour was perfect and amplifies such a festive flavour.

SIMPLE CARAMELISED ONION RECIPE

Makes 4-6 jars

8 red onions
1 red chilli
2 bay leaves
25ml olive oil
150ml red wine vinegar
200g brown sugar
150ml balsamic vinegar
150ml red wine vinegar

  1. Cut your onions and chilli into thin slices and put them into a pan with the bay leaves and oil. Cook gently over a low heat for about 20 minutes.
  2. Once the onions are dark and sticky, add the sugar and the vinegars and simmer for 30 minutes or so, until the chutney is thick and dark in colour.
  3. Pour the chutney into your glass jar, it’s best to sterilise your jar and pour in whilst the jar is still warm, to ensure your dip will be kept super fresh.
  4. The longer you leave the Chutney, the more the flavour will develop, so try and make it a little way before Christmas, although don’t worry if you are making a last minute gift, I think it tasted fab straight away!

 

So, when it comes to creating a Christmas Hamper, let your imagination run wild, spoil your friends and family this Christmas and give them a perfectly thoughtful homemade gift!

Post written in collaboration with Ryvita – All words, opinions and photographs are my own