Sunday, 30 November 2014

Afternoon Tea at the Ritz and a Theatre trip!

Wednesday saw the final part of my 30th Birthday celebrations! Yes, I know, its been going on for months, but you are only 30 once!

So along with my Mum, Sister and Auntie I set off to London. But not before a cheeky coffee stop!

I have had plenty of Afternoon Tea's, most of them delicious, but I have never been to The Ritz for Afternoon Tea! My Mum, Sister and Auntie are all Ritz pros, they have been there lots!

We arrived to the sight of a huge Christmas tree in the Lobby! It was lovely, as were all the Christmas decorations throughout.

The Afternoon Tea was great, we had a lovely time chatting away and catching up, whilst stuffing ourselves with posh cucumber sandwich fingers and lots of cakes. My favourite was the Macaroon, but everything I tasted was delicious!

After eating all that food, we needed a walk! So we took a stroll round to Fortnum and Mason and got some Christmas present ideas!

Next, we did something I have been wanting to do for years! We went to the Theatre to see Wicked.

It was totally amazing, I loved the story and how it connected so well to the Wizard of Oz story that I loved so much as a child. The actors and actresses did an amazing job, the singing just took my breath away. Lots of talent was on that stage! I would even go as far as saying that it is the best Musical I have seen in this country!

We ended the day by popping over to Oxford Street to see the Christmas Lights, nothing like seeing the London Christmas lights to get you in the Christmas spirit is there?!

So a massive thank you to my Mum, Sister and Auntie for such an amazing day, and perfect finale to my 30th Birthday celebrations!

Friday, 28 November 2014

Family Christmas Gift Guide 2014

Christmas is coming!! I am so excited about Christmas this year, much more than last year. I love getting wrapped up in all of the festive excitement and magic that Christmas brings.

I start thinking about my Christmas and Christmas gifts in the middle of the year. I like to be prepared! So below are my suggestions for great Christmas gifts this year...

Lets start with the Adults, who lets face it, are just as excited about Christmas as the children, if not more!

Something that is really big this year is Christmas Jumpers, having admitted previously that I have never had a Christmas Jumper (as an adult) before, I was looking for something a bit different. I came across a website called Tipsy Elves, who do an amazing selection of Winter wear including Jumpers. They are a funny twist on the traditional Christmas jumper, some of them are a bit risque but you wouldn't even notice at first glance! I can think of many people to buy these jumpers for, they certainly are a conversation starter!

My second idea for Adults is one I have spoken about before, and they get lots of attention when people walk into my kitchen. Its the PicStick photo magnets.

I just think they are a really great personal gift idea for all generations of the family, at a reasonable price!

For the Children, lets start with the girls.

Millie has a really lovely Bonikka Rag Doll by Imajo.

Her name is Katy, and she is well and truly attached. At 42cm high, she is the perfect size for little girls. She is really well made, and is dressed in a lovely dress with bunches in her hair. I think the reason that Millie has become so attached to her is that she is so soft. So Millie tends to use her a comforter at night, or when Millie was poorly she was a great at giving cuddles! There are lots of Bonikka dolls to choose from, all with different names, features, and clothes, I really would recommend them as a great Christmas gift for any little girl!

A toy that is sure to be high on the wanted toys list this Christmas is The Barbie Glam Bag.

Millie has had hers since September, and takes it almost everywhere with her. As I mentioned in my review, I do not particularly agree with the small size of the interior of the bag, but from a childs point of view, certainly Millie's, its just the best bag ever! Millie really loved the fact that she can change the colour of her bag to match her outfit, so its nearly almost pink! I can really see it lasting a long time!

On to the boys, Skylanders are still very big with Children aged 6 and up. With so many different figures, traptaniums and toys to collect they are sure to make it onto many a Christmas list!

Another toy set to be big this year are the Battrobourgs!

Set on an arena, you control the robots using battery operated wireless controllers. The robots battle it out until one falls to the ground! There are lots of secret moves to master so that you can defeat your opponent, we have had lots of fun playing with them!

Lastly, I just wanted to mention the Wooden Toy range from George at Asda.

Suitable for both Boys and Girls, we reviewed some items from this range a little while ago, its no secret that I love wooden toys, and this range really impressed me. Its sturdy, well made, good value and great for the childrens imaginations! Take a look at my review here, the children both have more of the range on their Christmas lists!

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Campbell Christmas book giveaway!

As you will know, if you have been reading my recent posts, over the last week we have been counting down and reviewing 5 of Campbell books Childrens Christmas books. There has been lots of buzz and excitement around this, and my two children are really in the Christmas spirit now.

Campbell books have been kind enough to offer two of the books up for a giveaway (two winners, one per winner) here on my blog! So if you would like to enter you will need to answer the mandatory question (along with any other non mandatory entry options if you wish to) on the rafflecopter below.

For the question, you will need to remind yourselves of the 5 books, if you click on the book pictures below, they will take you through to our reviews!

Good Luck!

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Campbell Christmas book countdown number 1. The Christmas Treasure Hunt

We are at number 1! Now, I know I said it was in no particular order, but I have to admit that actually I have fallen in love with this book over the last couple of weeks. So I think it is my personal number 1!

The Christmas Treasure Hunt is a hands on book, its a story about some woodland animals who go on a treasure hunt to find their Christmas Presents, and you have to help them. There are lots of places to look, you have to lift the flaps on each page to discover where some of the woodland animals are hiding (or hibernating in some cases) and even what presents each animal has found and unwrapped!

The illustrations by Ag Jatkowska are beautiful.

Chester and Millie, as you know, really respond well to this type of book. They can spend hours looking over all of the details, with each turn of the page bringing lots of new discoveries.

The best has certainly been saved until last where this book is concerned, when you turn the book to the last pages it reveals a giant pop up tree!

My picture simply does not do that page justice!

The Christmas Treasure Hunt really is a magical Christmas story, with an RRP of £9.99 I think its a very good Christmas investment!

Now, do you remember me telling you that I may well have a special treat for you at the end of the book countdown?!

Well, look out for my next blog post and all will be revealed!

Monday, 24 November 2014

Campbell Christmas countdown number 2! Santa's Noisy House

Today on Campbell Christmas countdown I am going to talk to you about a noisy book!

Yes I know, some noisy books can be a bit, well, noisy! But this one is lots of fun and perfect for this time of year!

Santa's Noisy House is a really fun big board book. It has 6 sounds to press, and lots of prompts throughout the book for your child to press the sound. From waking Santa up by pressing the alarm clock sound to ringing the jingle bells on Christmas Eve! Chester and especially Millie respond really well to books where you have to participate, so as you can imagine, despite the occasional argument over who was pressing the sound, this book went down a treat!

The illustrations in this book (By Sebastien Braun) are really detailed. The children loved exploring the 12 pages and seeing what they could spot! They loved having a nose around Santa's house, I think it is exactly how they expected it to be, full of fun and mischief! Their favourite thing to spot was Santa's elves!

The book has an RRP of £12.99, I can see it lasting many Christmases to come here! 

Dickies outdoor wear Review

We really love the outdoors. Chester and Millie are always asking if we can go outside. Whether its to go in the garden on the trampoline (yes, even in Winter), riding the bikes and scooters to the park or to explore country parks and beaches we always seem to have something fun to do outdoors!

Dickies recently asked us if we would like to review some of their outdoor wear. Of course we were only to happy to help! 

I decided that as it is getting so cold, that Craig could really do with a new coat, so we chose to review the Dickies Two Tone Soft Shell Jacket

The Jacket is available in lots of colour combinations, but we chose black, as lets face it, it goes with everything! 

There is piping detail on the arms and waist area which are reflective so great for visibility on wintery days/evenings. 

Lets face it, the weather has been pretty bad over the last few weeks, so Craig has had lots of opportunity to wear the jacket. He tells me that the fit is true to size, its waterproof and its very comfortable. It has  adjustable straps on the cuffs, as well as internal hem adjusters. Another plus from Craig is the pockets! He loves a pocket! This jacket has 3! One on the chest and two on the pockets, perfect for storing phones or keys.

The jacket is priced at £46.20 including VAT. Both Craig and I agree that is a good price for a jacket of such good quality.

Overall Craig really liked the jacket, he said he would give it a 9 out of 10. It would of been a 10 out of 10 but he felt that the Jacket, at times, kept him a little too warm! Honestly, no pleasing some people. Heehee.

Dickies have a wide range of Jackets, for all weathers, which you can view here .

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Campbell Christmas book countdown number 3. Hello! Christmas

We are on to number 3 already in the Campbell Christmas book countdown!

Today I wanted to tell you about a book which helps with the excitement of Christmas.

Hello! Christmas is a board book all about 2 children who are preparing for Christmas day. From the School nativity to building snowmen and riding on sledges, to Chester's favourite part, decorating the Christmas tree. This book has a lot of excitement!

What I love about this board book is that it is very sturdy. Sometimes push and pull books can be a bit flimsy and it doesn't take very much for the bits to break or tear. But this one is great, both children found it easy to push and pull and neither one of them has managed to break it!

The illustrations are by Angie Rozelaar, they are a joy to look at. The excitement of the children almost pops out of the page!

The book is recommended for ages 2 and up. I have to say I would be happy to give this to a younger child, simply because it is chunky and sturdy. The text is rhyming, which makes it easier for me to read and easy for the Children to follow.

Chester and Millie both enjoyed this story, they both had their favourite pages, Millie's was the snow scene, being only 2 she is very intrigued by snow. Chester's, as I mentioned above is the Christmas tree scene. He loves that he can make the lights move and change colour by spinning the wheel!

The story is basically a build up to see if Santa thinks they have been good enough for him to visit? Does he stop at their house on Christmas Eve? Well, I will leave that for you to find out....

Hello! Christmas has an RRP of £9.99.

A happy ending to a Christmas story...

The excitement of Christmas has well and truly his this household! The Children are talking about it daily and I am immersed in preparation! Its a fantastic time of year, I love all of the buzz around it. This Christmas, House of Fraser have written a really lovely Christmas story.

The story, Fraser Bears Snow Story, is about Fraser Bear and his baby Brother, you can read the story here. As you can see the story does not have an ending, so Chester and Millie have been challenged to come up with a suitable ending through a drawing.

Chester and Millie loved the story, they totally related to the Christmas crafts that the bears were busy doing, as we spend so much time crafting here!

Millie thought it was sad that baby bear did not know what snow was, I had to explain to her that it was because he was only a baby, so it was his first Christmas, and as snow usually only comes at Winter time that is why he hadn't seen it!

I then explained that they needed make up an ending to the story. They thought for a very long time about what would be the best way for Fraser Bear to show baby bear what snow was like. They had lots of ideas, including wishing on a star for it to snow, asking the fairy godmother for some snow, and even making snow cones with a slushie cup! But in the end they decided, as it was Christmas Eve, it would be best if the bears asked Father Christmas if they could take a ride on his sleigh to fly to a country where it was snowing!

I totally loved the whole thought process, and the fact that they discussed it together!

Then the discussion turned into how they were going to put that ending into a picture. Chester (age 6) took the lead on this, as with Millie being 2 (very almost 3 as she keeps reminding everyone) she was, in Chester's words, not the best person for the job!

So Millie was left to draw in pink on her piece of paper, as she had decided Father Christmas really likes the colour pink!

Chester wanted to create a night scene, after all, it was Christmas Eve! So he got out our coloured paper and found the black. He then found a problem, the pens were not showing up very well on the black paper! So he decided to use white paper to draw Father Christmas and the bears riding on the sleigh, which was being pulled along by 3 reindeer!

He put some white paper at the bottom of the black paper to make a snowy blanket for the ground, then used star and snowflake felt shapes for the sky.

Lastly he decided that the snow on the ground needed to have some trees on it and then to finish the scene off he drew a house!

Here is Chester with the finished ending....

I think he did an amazing job, they both did. Apparently baby bear loved the snow!

Pandora has arrived at Hempstead Valley!

A little while ago whilst shopping at Hempstead Valley Shopping Centre I noticed something VERY exciting!

Pandora were opening up a shop, in Hempstead Valley, which is not far from me at all, and really good news for people in the Medway area!

As you all know, I really love Pandora, I blame two of my friends who introduced me to the bracelets, beads and charms. Then as soon as I found out they had a gingerbread man charm I was sold! You may also remember that my friends brought me the Pandora Essence bracelet for my Birthday this year, which I really love!

Yesterday I was lucky enough to go to the official ribbon cutting of the store, I had to take Chester and Millie with me, and in fairness they were well behaved. We arrived early so that I could have a chance to chat to the store manager, Alison, who is lovely. You can hear the enthusiasm and excitement she has for the store in her voice! She is thrilled at how well the new store has been received. I quizzed Alison on the new Pandora Disney range, which are currently only available in North America, and the Disney Parks, unfortunately there is still no word as to if and when they will be available over here. I chatted about my favourite charms and Alison told me her favourites are mostly from the new Starry night collection and she also loves her Essence bracelet as each of the charms mean something special to her.

I was also very pleased to be able to have a chat with the franchise owner Trevor Fitzgerald. He explained the reasons why they decided to open in Medway, specifically Hempstead Valley. This was because the shopping centre is easily accessible, it offers free parking and the store itself is situated in a great position. The Store was actually opened on Tuesday evening (ahead of schedule) and as mentioned above it has been really well recieved, it has been very busy!

Hempstead Valley is having a bit of a revamp at the moment, they are currently building some big name chain restaurants. So having a Pandora shop there too is really just another excuse to shop local!

So the ribbon cutting took place, and everyone was very excited, there was champagne and cupcakes on offer upon entry, and the store filled up pretty quickly with lots of customers! Its a lovely bright and spacious store, so even when busy, you were able to browse the cabinets easily.

Anne from Sittingbourne, was the first Customer of the day and she was only to happy to tell me that she has already visited a few times since they opened just a few days ago! Today she purchased some lovely earrings. She went on to say that she was really happy that Pandora had come to Hempstead Valley, its the perfect location for her to just pop in whenever she wanted to.

The new Christmas range really caught my eye, especially the Snowman! I also really liked the new Starry Night range, its still christmassy but is subtle enough to be wearable all year round! Chatting to the staff its clear that they have lots of enthusiasm about the Pandora products, they were only to happy to give me recommendations and advice. I was made aware of the Star stacking ring, and I just love it. I actually hadn't paid much attention to the rings in the past, but after trying a few on today I can certainly see a purchase coming up soon!

So if Pandora Hempstead Valley is your new local Pandora, I totally recommend you pay them a visit!

Do you have a favourite Pandora item? Mine is my Giraffe Charm as it reminds me of our Honeymoon in Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge, where our room overlooked the Giraffe's!

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Turkey Mac & Cheese

Do you remember me telling you about the Bernard Matthews event I attended last week? I may of mentioned that I ate the most amazing Turkey Mac & Cheese?!

Well the other day I decided to make the Turkey Mac & Cheese for my family, and let me tell you, it was just as yummy as I remembered and super easy to make!

So I thought I would share the recipe with you, it easily serves 6...


420g (3 packs) Bernard Matthews  Roast Turkey Chunks
400g Dried Macaroni, or Spirally Pasta
45g Butter
45g Flour
568ml Milk
50ml Double Cream
200g Grated Cheddar
50g Parmesan
1 teaspoon Smoked Paprika
1 big squeeze American Yellow Mustard
4 tablespoons Breadcrumbs
3 tsp Cajun Seasoning
18 Cherry Tomatoes


Before we start with the method, I will just mention that when I made it, I omitted the Cajun Seasoning and the Parmesan. This was purely because I did not have them in my cupboard at the time! I still loved how it turned out!

Pre-heat the oven to 180c

Cook the pasta according to the back of the pack directions, then cool under running water. Drain well and set to one side.

In a large pan, gently heat the butter, then stir in 2 tsp of the Cajun seasoning. Stir continuously and add in the flour. Stir until it makes a sandy colour.

Slowly add the milk a little at a time, whilst whisking to prevent it sticking.

When the milk is all mixed in, reduce the heat and add the mustard, cheddar cheese, smoked paprika and cream.

When the cheese has melted and the sauce is glossy, take off heat and add the drained pasta, cherry tomatoes (I cut mine in half) and the Bernard Matthews Turkey Chunks.

Meanwhile, mix together the breadcrumbs, grated Parmesan and the last tsp of Cajun seasoning.

Transfer pasta into an oven proof dish, and cover with the breadcrumb mix.

Bake at 180 degrees for 20 minutes.

We didn't serve ours with anything else as it was such a filling dish! It went down a treat with my family, and really reminded me of the amazing Mac & Cheese that they serve in America. It is certainly something that I will be cooking more often. It was much easier than I thought it would be to make!

Does your family have any firm favourites that are always on your cooking list?

Campbell Christmas book countdown number 4. Lets Play... Ice Skating

So the second book in our Campbell Christmas book countdown is Lets Play... Ice Skating.

I don't know about you, but when I think of Christmas, I think of Snow. I don't know why because it has only ever snowed once at Christmas in my lifetime and I was about 7 or 8 at the time! I also associate Ice Skating with snow, so this book is the perfect wintery story for me, er... I mean the children!

Lets Play... Ice Skating is a really fun and interactive book. Set against a city backdrop, 3 little children learn to skate on an outdoor rink in a park. I think as adults we can all associate with that first time on the ice, I love that this story teaches Children that practice makes perfect. You get to see the 3 Children turn from slippery beginners to gliding stars of an ice show.

There are plenty of pull tabs and spin wheels for Chester and Millie to use. Its a big chunky board book so easy to use. Chester is 6 and as you can see in comparison to him, it is a fairly big book!

 The story is rhyming, which my children always respond well to. It has a fun and upbeat feel to it, and will certainly make you and your children want to have a go at Ice Skating by the end of the story! The illustrations by Yu-hsuan Huang are lovely, they are bright and lots of fun, filling the whole page with lots of details!

Lets Play... Ice Skating is currently on Amazon for £9.98 for a board book of its size I would say that is a fair price.

So what do you think of this wintery book?