Saturday, 20 December 2014

A cheeky Chester update!

Just look at that face, like butter wouldn't melt.... yeah right!

Its been a while since I gave you an update on the antics of Cheeky Chester and to be honest I am going to focus this post on School as, lets face it, that is where most of his antics happen! The last month or so has seen a big turnaround in Chester's behaviour at School and his attitude towards learning.

I think its fair to say that his behaviour at School so far seems to go in phases. Some weeks he is good and others, well, he is a pickle, to put it politely. But ever since we had parents evening, and I praised Chester for all of his positives, then pointed out how his negatives could also become positives, he seems to have changed his attitude towards both his behaviour and his learning.

For the last 3 weeks at pick up time I have been told that 'Chester has had a really good day'. It has been such a relief to hear, and Chester has loved the praise he has been getting for being so good at School.

One of the things that frustrates me with Chester is his stubbornness to learn. He had got into the habit of playing up with his reading and writing. I think in part it was laziness, but I also think it was because he does not like repetitiveness. He enjoys a challenge. But since I spoke to him about how improving and thinking positive about learning to read and write would really impress his teachers (and us) he seems to have become a different child!

He went from not wanting to write at all to happily writing and practising his spelling at all times of day! Even in his plan and do time at School he apparently writes rather than plays!

His reading has also come on loads. He seems to read better when he is given books that challenge him.

Chester came home from School last Friday beaming from ear to ear. Then when I looked in his contact book I found this....

He had been awarded a merit for good behaviour and hard work! This is the first time he has ever received this and I could not be more proud of him! It seems to of had another positive effect on him, he is working even harder to prove he is improving!

Don't get me wrong, I don't chain chester to a desk and tell him to read or write. He does it off his own back and he seems to really be enjoying it!

I think this positive praise seems to be working really well with Chester and its a great feeling to end the term on a high note!

Some fun Christmas facts from Portable North Pole!

If you read my Portable North Pole post earlier this week, you will see that we are big fans. Anything that makes Christmas even more magical is always of interest to me! So now I have this really fun infographic to share with you. I think it would be great to show the children, as these facts are very interesting! Enjoy....

Friday, 19 December 2014

Millie loves Nursery!

Its been just over six weeks since I was sat drinking my Costa Coffee typing this post about Millie's morning at Nursery School .

It seems so long ago now, it seems to have slotted right into our routine and its as if it has always been this way!

Millie started off on just 1 session a week, but I soon realised that she would much prefer to go for 2! So she now does 2 sessions a week, and I am totally lost without her on those 2 days.

She has settled in so well, she had a little wobble in the middle and cried when I left her a couple of times, but she has gone back to her normal happy self. A couple of weeks ago she made the staff laugh when she walked in the door, and no sooner had she taken her coat off she was asking for a drink, she sat herself down at a table watching everyone else play whilst she sipped her beaker of water! She is so cheeky!

She has come home almost every session with something that she has made. These are just a few of the things...

They seem to do so much with the children, I am being updated on what she has been getting up to in the form of a contact book. Her teachers will often write a little note about what she has enjoyed doing that day or what funny things she has said! I really like that communication is so good, as it puts my mind at rest. She is in safe hands and I could not be happier.

She always come home full of chatter about her day, she has made some little friends, and formed closer bonds with some children that she already knew. She often tells me what she has had for snack and then points out that she hasn't saved any for me! Cheeky! She sings songs to me that she has learnt and shows me little dances that Millie and her friends have made up!

Sending Millie to Nursery was the best decision I have made this year, I can see how happy she is surrounded by other people her age. She may have only been going for 6 weeks but I can already see big changes in Millie. The only thing I dislike is that my youngest baby is no longer home with me on those days!

Kurio Tab - Our first thoughts!

If you follow me on social media, you will have probably seen our really big exciting announcement last week! We have been chosen to be a Kurio Family Blogger! We are very excited about this new blogging adventure, as you know Chester is a real Tech kid, and Millie is following fast in his footsteps!

I am amazed at how much Children seem to know nowadays when it comes to technology, and as I have mentioned before, it does sometimes bother me, the amount of things they understand how to access is alarming!  This is where Kurio get a big thumbs up from me, as they say they are the safest tablet for children.

We have been sent the Kurio Tab, the 7 inch version, so perfect for Chester aged 6 and Millie who is almost 3. We will be testing it extensively, as we want to give you all a very detailed review. But for now I just wanted to tell you about set up, and my initial thoughts on the safety aspect.

Ok so lets get the 'boring bit' out of the way this is the spec:

• Display: 7 inch capacitive touch screen
• Resolution: 1024 x 600 pixels
• Chipset: Intel Atom Z2520
• Operating System: Android 4.4
• Storage Memory: 8GB
• Camera: Front: 0.3Mpx, Rear: 2.1Mpx
• Connectivity: Wi-Fi, 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth v4.0
• Speakers: 2 x 1W
• USB Connection: Micro USB 2.0 - OTG support
• Micro SDHC Card Slot: Up to 32GB

According to Craig, this is a really good spec list, the RAM being 1GB is one of the highest he has found when comparing tablets in the same price bracket. He also thinks the fact it has a camera on the front and rear to be a big plus.

Inside the box you get the tablet, a case, a stand, a charger, instructions and a code for a free game.

Now onto set up. It was very easy to follow the on screen instructions to set up. Once I had got through the usual time, date and email address bits, it was on to setting up each profile. You can have upto 8 profiles on the Kurio, the main Parent one and then one for each Child. Everything was explained step by step on the screen, so very easy to follow.

Firstly I needed to setup a password for the parent profile, there are a variety of password option including a number password or even a pattern password. I have set this up, but will probably change it regularly as I know how observant Chester is!

I then set up the childrens profiles, this was again easy to do, I picked a picture so that each child would recognise their own area and also the background theme. I then needed to go back into the parent area to authorise apps and games onto the childrens profiles. In that area, I could also chose a limit on the time they spend on the tablet too. Which I think is a great idea.

The Kurio comes packed with games and apps so if this tablet was purely for Millie she would be good to go from the start (and she was). Chester however, has already got a check list of apps that he apparently needs! So I downloaded those from the google play store with no problems and added them to his profile. The games he has chosen are ones that ask if you would like to connect to Facebook. But of course, I do not want him to connect to facebook, and as it happenes the Kurio blocks this in the childrens profiles. So I can happily let him play the games knowing that there is no way he can access social media!  

I am not used to Android systems, but I have to say that I found it very easy to navigate around. Craig is used to Android and he is very happy with the layout, and especially pleased at how easy it is for us as parents to pick and choose what our children can see and do both on the tablet and on the internet. In our opinion it certainly seems to live up to the safest tablet for Children claim!

Now we have got lots of playing to do, so do look out for more posts about the Kurio Tab from us in the New Year!

Thursday, 18 December 2014

A lovely family day out!

Last weekend my Parents came to stay. That in itself was a major excitement for the Children! They love it when Nannie and Grandad come to stay, and as they live so far away it isn't very often! But to add to that excitement it was Nannie's Birthday and we also went for a day out at Leeds Castle!

We really love Leeds Castle, and my parents hadn't been for years so were all really looking forward to it. With it being only 20 minutes from us and a buy once come all year attraction, its the perfect day out!

At this time of year they have the Castle decorated beautifully with Christmas Tree's and decorations. This years theme was Gingerbread and the children also got to take part in a King Henry the 8th Gingerbread man hunt, and we got to see the castle made out of Gingerbread! It was amazing!

We also got to look around the Christmas market. It was lovely to wander around and see what interesting things were on offer. We got to sample (and purchase) lots of food, and chat to some lovely stall holders. We even got to see two of Santa's Reindeer!

The children loved the little fairground, of course Millie wanted to go on the Pony and Chester, who has no fear, went on the fast ferris wheel!

Chester really wanted to be the photographer for the day, so I (reluctantly) let him use my camera. I really love that he has an interest in photography, he clearly takes after me and his Grandad!

We were very lucky that we were able to get tickets to see Father Christmas, last year we didn't manage to and this year I spent all day on the phone trying to book tickets! It was well worth it though. Father Christmas spent a long time chatting away to Chester and Millie about what they love at Christmas time, and then he told them what he likes and what treat they should leave out for him and the Reindeer! Then they had a conversation about snow and snowball fights, where Chester told Father Christmas that he really wanted it to snow so that he could have a snowball fight with his beloved Uncle Luke! It was so cute to see the children so excited! They loved their presents too! Chester got a Labyrinth game and Millie got an Orchard Toys Gingerbread house puzzle!

We finished off the day with a lovely stroll around the grounds. It was such a lovely family day, the children have not stopped talking about it!

Our thoughts on the Tesco Finest Party Food Range!

Christmas time to me means buffets and lots of them! Its the time of year when we get lots of visitors, so the easiest thing to do is to have lots of little nibbles on the table so everyone can eat when and what they like.

Of course I have to make sure I cater for everyone, from kids, to adults and then my Sister who is a vegetarian. I like to have a stock of party food in my fridge and freezer too, for unexpected guests or for when, quite frankly I can't be bothered to cook a full meal!

Tesco's Finest party range looks pretty impressive this year they have added some new dimensions to traditional favourites such as edible glitter, popping candy and Jewel like jelly pearls!

I really wanted to try out the Bang Bang Chicken Skewers with popping candy, but sadly our two nearest Tesco's did not stock that product. But luckily they had lots of other party foods in the range to tempt me!

This is just a very small selection, you can see just how much there is to choose from on their grocery website. 

What I like about the Tesco Finest party range is that it all cooks at 190 degrees, and can be frozen (and most of it cooked from frozen)! So when I was preparing all of this food for my Mum's Birthday buffet on Sunday I didn't need to worry about different cooking temperatures, and most things cooked at the same time or just a few minutes more. So everything was served piping hot at the same time!

We had a fantastic day celebrating my Mum's Birthday, and the buffet using the Tesco Finest party food just topped it off. Everyone really enjoyed the food, no one disliked anything. Everything was well flavoured and portion sizes we perfect. I loved that the Souflettes and the Macaroni Cheese balls were in individual paper 'cups', this makes them easy to hand around at a party!

Two clear favourites came out of the selection we had, and that was the Sticky Maple Glazed Chicken Wings, which were very moist and tender, but above all sweet! Plus the Scotch Steak and Cornish Real Ale Mini Pies, utterly delicious!

The Finest range is between £4-£5 and until the new year it is on 3 for 2. The 6 things we chose cost  just £16 and served all 6 of us (4 adults and 2 children). I think that is an absolute bargain! It will certainly be making its way onto my shopping list for Christmas and New Year thats for sure!

Do you like a buffet over the festive season?!

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

IKEA soft toys for education campaign.

I was recently made aware of a campaign that IKEA are running in partnership with UNICEF and Save the Children. Here is a little bit about the campaign...

At IKEA, we believe all children deserve a quality education – because we know nothing has a more direct impact on wellbeing, from better health to increased wealth, than education. Education represents an opportunity, and it empowers children with the knowledge, skills and confidence they need to shape a better future for themselves. That’s where the Soft Toys for Education campaign comes in. The campaign is a partnership between IKEA Foundation, UNICEF and Save the Children, and the idea is simple: for every soft toy or children’s book sold, IKEA Foundation donates 1 euro to children’s education projects so more children can get the education they deserve.

The IKEA Soft Toys for Education Campaign is very simple: for every soft toy, children’s book and children’s card game sold between 26 October 2014 and 3 January 2015, IKEA Foundation will donate €1 to children’s education through UNICEF and Save the Children.

With 64 toys to choose from and prices starting from 80p, it couldn't be easier to help a child this winter. These magical toys really are the gifts that keep on giving.

Claudia Winkleman lends her voice for this video...

To me this seems like a very worthwhile cause. I truly believe education is a very important part of childhood. Since Chester has started School I can see such a change in him, his education has helped his understanding of the world around him, and given him some of the basic skill he needs to set himself up in life. So this campaign has got the thumbs up from me!

The Children were sent these adorable soft toys (both of which are part of the range where €1 is being donated from their sale).

Of course with Millie's love for Pandas she was thrilled with her new addition! Chester absolutely adores his wolf, this term at School they have been focusing on storytelling and fairy tales so the wolf from Red Riding Hood was very fitting for him. He can't stop laughing about the fact the wolf can gobble up Grandma and then he opens up the Tummy to find Grandma in once piece! He has also used the Wolf in a game about the Three Little Pigs that he and Millie were playing the other day (Millie was a little pig of course!)

The Panda costs just £3 and absolute bargain!! It is so soft and fluffy and so worth the money, especially knowing that part of that will be going to a worth cause.

The Wolf with Grandma costs just £8 the quality and detail on this wolf justifies the price, which I think is great value for money! Using toys as props for our imaginative play is something we do often, to have them from our favourite fairy tales is just fantastic!

Do your children have a favourite Fairytale?

Some lovely ideas for Stocking fillers!

I have noticed in recent years that the price expectations of so called 'stocking fillers' is on the increase. Now, I don't know about you, but I am not happy about this. I believe a stocking filler should be exactly that. A stocking filler. Not a £20 gift card or some jewelry. Just good old fashioned small token gifts. My Mother in Law used to do stockings and they were the best part of Christmas around her house.

I was pleased to find out that there is indeed a website called Stocking Fillers. I was even more pleased to see that they did the kind of stocking fillers that I love!

Take this small selection (which we were sent for the purposes of this review). For the children it is a great selection of gifts that they will love.

Chester will be made up that he has a portable dinosaur game to play, Millie will adore the finger puppet Fairy, and both children will love the Christmas themed balls and the magic snow. These kind of gifts will keep my two entertained for hours!

Browsing through the website I can see they do a really wide range of stocking fillers (and gifts). Starting at just 25p it is a very cost effective way to purchase those small gifts that most children really look forward to opening!

They don't just cater for children, there are products on there that would be suitable for adults too, and they even do pre filled stockings! Perfect if you are a little short on time, which lets face it, most of us are at this time of year!

I know that a lot of people do Christmas Eve parcels, and again, with things like Christmas crafts and Christmas themed gifts such as the bouncy balls and magic snow that Chester and Millie received, these kind of products would be great for filling that parcel.

Do you normally do Christmas Stockings or Christmas Eve parcels? What type of things do you like to  pop in them?

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Beautiful Festive scents to fill your home this Christmas!

I love the smell of Christmas, gingerbread, cookies, spices. I love it. Basically what I mean is, I love the smell of Christmas baking! This year, Sadly, I am yet to find the time to bake my gingerbread house or even a Christmas cake.

Febreze kindly sent me this wonderful hamper the other day, pack full of lovely Christmas scented products! So I needn't be sad anymore!

The scents have been filling my home for a few days and I am so impressed that I thought I ought to tell you about them too! Afterall, I wouldn't want you to miss out, especially when you find out what a bargain they are!

I was sent products with the Apple and Spice fragrance. Now, I am sure you all know by now what that kind of fragrance reminds me of. All together now.... DISNEY WORLD!! Actually it reminds me of Disney World and Christmas! But thats because when we went to Disney last year it was at Christmas time! So as you can imagine I was very happy with the fragrance choice!

The first product I pulled out of the hamper was a Febreze Set and Refresh. Its an air freshener that uses Febreze odour eliminating technology to remove odours and leave behind a light fresh scent without using batteries or electricity. It lasts upto 60 days and you can choose when to turn the scent up by simply pulling the bottom of the device down! I have been using it in my hallway, placing it on a shelf, it doesn't look out of place, in fact, it looks quite stylish! Its lovely to come home to walk into that scent, what I love is that it is not too overpowering, but its enough to make you notice.

Now, most people like a candle, especially at Christmas time. But they can be so costly. The Febreze Apple Spice Candle is just £2 in most supermarkets at the moment, and after using it I am wondering why we fork out for such expensive candles, when this one is so cost effective and smells amazing?! Its designed to burn evenly and diffuse a subtle scent across the whole room. It does a great job of doing that and on Christmas eve, that is what will be lit in our house!

To compliment these products Febreze also do a Apple Spice aerosol. Which works in a different way to other air fresheners in that it captures the bad smells and neutralises them, rather than masking them.

I am really glad that I discovered this range from Febreze, its a lovely scent addition to my home and at a fraction  of the cost I thought it would be (the range I was sent is priced between £2-£4 in most supermarkets at the moment).  So all that is left for me to do is kick back and relax with a cup of Mulled Wine Tea whilst the Children colour in their stocking! Perfect!

What's your favourite scent at Christmas time?!

Make Christmas even more magical with Portable North Pole this Christmas!

Have you heard of Portable North Pole? Its a really cool app, which we have used for the last couple of years. If you haven't hear of it, here is a bit more information....

'Portable North Pole is a magical console used by Santa and his elves to send personalized video messages to the folks you care most about. In just a few simple clicks, you can provide Santa with all the information he needs to create a unique, tailor-made video message that would even bring a smile to Scrooge’s face!

This season an exciting milestone will be reached. More than 100 million video messages from the PNP console will have been viewed by kids and young-at-heart adults from around the world, since PNP launched in 2008. To spread even more holiday cheer, PNP distributes 5% of all online store sales among 40-plus Children’s Hospitals around the world.

PNP – Portable North Pole is now available on mobile phones and tablets via a free downloadable mobile application. This app is compatible with Apple’s iPhone and iPad devices as well as most Android phones and tablets. The PNP mobile app features a free basic video message tailor-made for mobile, exclusive mobile content, synchronized messages from the web via your own unique PNP account and much more.

PNP also offers the only Santa-approved mobile game on the market: PNP Santa Sprint. Free and fun for the whole family, players have to help Santa deliver gifts and battle snow storms across multiple levels. You can also unlock exclusive content and add more game levels through in-app purchases later on.'

We are big Portable North Pole fans here. Last year we even got Santa to send Grandad a video message, Chester and Millie thought this was hilarious!

The videos are really easy to arrange and they really do add an extra element of magic to our family's favourite time of year! Surprisingly, this year both Children  received good list messages!

The reaction from the Children could not have gone any better. I actually cried when Millie was watching her's! She just kept saying 'oh Santa I love you' and 'he knows, he really knows'. She loved that he knew she wanted Pom Pom baby Panda!

Chester thought that the elves in his video were very funny and he was made up when he spotted Grandad Guy's book on the bookshelf next to his!

I have got a really fun infographic to share with you too, so keep an eye on my blog and I will share it with you later on in the week!

Monday, 15 December 2014

Millie the mischief!

Everyone knows that Millie takes after her brother! She is a mischief, just like him, in fact most of the time the pair up and cause mischief between them!

Its very hard not to laugh at her sometimes. Take yesterday for instance. She asked if I would like a biscuit, I said yes please, she then went to hand it to me and quickly pulled it away whilst saying 'haha too slow'! Then rather than just letting me have it, she quickly gobbled it up! Cheeky monkey!

Then there was the time, not so long ago, when Millie went quiet. I went to see what she was up to and the whole of my dining area looked like a glitter bomb had gone off! I spent a week hoovering it up, it was everywhere!

Time4Sleep are searching to find the UK's most mischievous toddler (you can find out how you can enter your toddler here), personally I think Millie is very much a contender for this title! The problem is that she is very clever with it, and she knows how to wrap us round her finger! Quite often when she has done something mischievous, she gives such a great story, or answers our question in such a funny way, that we can't help but laugh, distracting ourselves from what happened! She is very clever like that!

Millie has got a very active imagination (just like her brother) I find that I must keep her occupied at all times. As you know, she loves her Disney Princess Castle and still plays with it daily, even after nearly 2 years! But if she decides she has had enough of that for the day, I need to have a back up plan!

Millie really enjoys arts and crafts at the moment. So I often get out our wipe clean tablecloth out and put it on the living room floor so that she can get messy with the pens and paints and I can happily keep an eye on her whilst she does it!

My big tip to keep children out of mischief, whilst you are cooking dinner or trying to do the housework. Is to simply put on their favourite DVD. One of the things Millie happens to love at the moment is Peppa Pig, So that normally keeps her occupied whilst I am cooking the dinner! It's not that I am encouraging lots of TV time, its that sometimes, every parent needs that bit of distraction time, to help them get something done. I can normally cook the dinner with the assurance that Millie is sat in the same seat I placed her in and not distracting me when I have hot pots and pans around me!

Do you have any tips to keep toddlers out of mischief?! I would love to hear them!

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

My funny little Christmas dancer!

Millie is going through a really cheeky stage at the moment. Its really hard not to laugh at her if she says or does something she shouldn't.

But today she did something so typically Millie! I really tried my hardest not to laugh, but as you will see from the video, I couldn't help myself!

Like butter wouldn't melt?!

I really love it when she is in this kind of mood. She may be hard work, but it worth it for these moments!

Funky Giraffe Giveaway!

When Chester was a toddler I stumbled across a really lovely stand at The Baby Show. It was Funky Giraffe. They were selling bandana style bibs. They had really funky designs, felt lovely and soft and were made really well. So I bought some, and from then on they were the bibs of choice! When Millie came along, I was delighted to be able to choose her some girly ones, and she loved them just as much as Chester had!

You can find out more about Funky Giraffe on their website here. They really do have a fantastic range, and with so many funky designs, its well worth a look. You can even have a look at their French site too, if you fancy it!

The lovely people at Funky Giraffe have agreed to let me run a giveaway here on my blog, for you, my lovely readers!

So if a set of 10 bibs sounds good to you, then please fill out the rafflecopter form below! The Giveaway will end at midnight on 30th December 2014. Terms and Conditions can be found on the rafflecopter form.

Good Luck!

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What to do with your Christmas Turkey leftovers!

Yes, I know, I am getting ahead of myself. Talking about after Christmas before its even happened! But you know me, I like to be organised!

Bernard Matthews recently sent me a super yummy Golden Norfolk Turkey and asked me, what I would make with the leftovers. Its inevitable that you will have some left overs from your turkey this year. No matter how hard I try to just buy what I need, our Christmas Turkey is always bigger than I thought!

I dont know about you, but our Christmas is normally pretty busy. On the days surrounding Christmas and New Year we normally have Family popping in and out or we visit family. So I don't really have time to slave away in the kitchen. I would rather be joining in the fun with everyone else. So I try to make our meals as quick and easy as possible. This often results in lots of buffets! But we don't mind that, and the kids love it!

So I have come up with two recipes for inspiration on different ways to use up your leftover turkey. Both could be part of a buffet or even snacks to have whilst watching a movie!

Turkey Pizza Pinwheels. 

I love my slow cooker, and it certainly comes in handy at this time of year. These Turkey Pizza Pinwheels are really quick and easy to make, you could even get the kids involved!

100g butter
350g self raising flour
Teaspoon of salt
250ml milk
2-3 tablespoons of tomato puree
a big handful of turkey cut into chunks
150g grated cheddar cheese


Rub together the flour, butter and salt. Then gradually add the milk and stir. Once you have a smooth dough roll out into a rectangle.

Spread your tomato puree onto the dough, sprinkle on the cheese and then the turkey.

Roll the dough up from the widest side (like you would a swiss roll).

Grease your slow cooker bowl, or place a sheet of baking paper inside.

Cut into slices around 1 inch thick and place into the slow cooker. Remembering that the dough will expand so it is ok to leave gaps.

Put the lid on your slow cooker and cook on high for around 1 and 1/2 hours.

Depending on the size of your slow cooker you may have some left over. We did, so I wrapped in clingfilm and used the next day! Perfect if you get unexpected guests!

Turkey Spring Rolls.

When I made these, they were so popular that I had to make some more pretty quickly! They are the perfect finger food and would be lovely served with a sweet chilli dipping sauce.

6 Filo pastry sheets
1/2 a bag of stir fry vegetables with bean sprouts
1 tsp Chinese five spice
Dark soy sauce
2 tbsp vegetable oil
a big handful of leftover turkey (the brown meat is perfect for this)

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees.

In a bowl, put your turkey and a big splash of soy sauce and the Chinese five spice. Leave to marinade for a bit.

Heat a wok or deep frying pan, add 1 tbsp of the oil, then add the turkey. Cook for a couple of minutes then add the vegetables. Add a bit more soy sauce and continue to stir for 2 or 3 more minutes. Take off of the heat.

Lay out your Filo sheets onto a lightly floured surface, I halved my sheets.

In a small bowl or ramekin add the remaining oil.

Place 1 tablespoon full of your stir fry mix to the middle of the top of your filo sheet. You will know need to move quickly to roll your spring roll up!

Fold both of your sides into the middle, then roll towards you. Brush a little oil onto the end to seal it. Then lightly brush some oil over the outside of your spring roll.

Repeat this for the remainder of your filo, you should be able to make around 8-10 spring rolls from this depending on how much filling you put in.

Place on a lined baking tray and cook on the middle shelf for around 20 minutes or until golden.

So there you go, two easy and delicious ways to use up your leftover turkey! What do you do with your leftover Turkey? I would love to know.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Our thoughts on Father Christmas World!

*UPDATE* Since writing this post Father Christmas World Customer Service have been really helpful, so please do read through it again as I have added something very important to the ice skating write up. 

At the weekend, Craig, Chester, Millie, my Sister, my Brother in Law and I visited Father Christmas World. We were all very excited, as you can imagine! We all really love Christmas time so to go somewhere that claims to offer families a magical and enchanting world sounded perfect for us!

Father Christmas World is at Salomons Estate near Tunbridge Wells, it was very easy to get to and was sign posted as we got nearer. I expected the traffic to be worse than it was, so that was a pleasant surprise.

The car park was well organised and we had no trouble at all getting a parking space. You can only visit Father Christmas World if you have pre booked, you can not book on that day. So we took our confirmation to the one of the huts and they handed over everything we needed for the day. Which included tokens for the Carousel, the Snowball challenge and also the childrens workshop. We were also given a time slot for the Ice Skating. Our Father Christmas time had already been pre booked so it was just a case at turning up 10 minutes before our time.

Next we excitedly waited for the Tinsel Train. The que was not really that long, but as they chose not to stagger the trains and bring all three down in succession we ended up waiting 45 minutes for the train! As you can imagine, some of the excitement had gone by that point! The train was lovely, an elf helper was sitting in front of us, and he spent the journey telling us about the elf village that we were passing, and about how Father Christmas is getting prepared for the big day. It certainly was a magical train ride for the children!

We had some spare time before our Father Christmas visit so we decided to head to the Childrens workshop. Where we had been told that they could either decorate a gingerbread man or decorate a bauble. When we got to the door, we were disappointed to find out that in fact there was no choice at all. It was gingerbread or nothing. Nethertheless the Children got stuck in and in the end they really enjoyed decorating (and eating) their gingerbread snowman!

We spotted some elves carrying big sacks of presents, Millie loved that they spoke to her and commented on her panda hat!

We tried to wander around the shops but they were the size of a postage stamp, you could fit no more than 3 people in them! The children were just getting stressed so we gave up!

It was then our turn to visit Father Christmas! So we went and signed in. We had to wait a little while, but mince pies were handed out and the children could draw on chalk board to keep them occupied if they wanted too. So all was fine!

When it was the Childrens turn and elf lead us to Father Christmas. It was a lovely area, Chester and Millie were mesmerised and little bit star struck! They were both amazed that Father Christmas knew their ages and that Millie was obsessed with Pandas! He also knew that Chester has been a bit of a pickle lately and looked in the good list book to confirm that Chester was only just in it! It was a really magical time, the children were given a polar bear each which they have not put down since, Chester has even taken his into School today! They were more than happy for us to take pictures and we were happy for them to take pictures too. We had the option of purchasing the photos at the end of the day, and I was happy with the no pressure approach.

Next we headed down the Snow Ball Challenge. In our heads, possibly because we had the snow globe in mind too, we had visions of a big area where we could throw snowballs at each other! The reality was that we were given a bucket of 5 snow balls that we had to aim at elf targets! I don't even think Chester was impressed with this!

Right next to the snowball area was an inflatable snow globe, where you could go in and have fake snow fall down on you. Chester and Millie had a go and really loved it. There was not enough snow in there for it to pump round as much as it should of, but they were more than happy with throwing it at each other!

The Victorian Carousel was next on the childrens to do list. It was a lovely Carousel, we handed over our tokens and went round to find a horse. To our surprise the Carousel started moving before I had got Millie onto a horse! Other people were not on their horses either as soon as the lady realised she stopped the carousel and THEN went round to make sure we were all on! Aside from that, we had a really lovely carousel ride.

A wander around to the Ice Garden was essential, it was beautiful. We all really enjoyed it. The perfect setting for a family photo as well!

Our Ice Skating time was approaching so we headed back up to that area. It was an indoor rink, and again, not very big. There were only 4 orange seals for the children to use (to help keep them up), which was understandable given the size of the rink. However, the way they were given out was a total shambles. The staff were not confident enough in telling the really older children they couldn't have them, this resulted in lots of the younger ones not having one. Millie was lucky enough to get one at the beginning, and after a short go, we let someone else use hers. But no one else was as considerate, meaning that we were just left at the side of the rink until the time was up! The member on the staff could see what was happening (it was not just happening to us) yet chose to do nothing about it, even when parents complained.

*UPDATE* Since writing this post I have had confirmation from Father Christmas World that they have ordered some more orange seals to try and prevent this problem. This, in my eyes, can only be a good thing. With more seals, more children will get the most out of their time on the ice.

We had a separate issue with Chester, which resulted in him hurting himself quite badly. But it all came down to not enough seals for the children. I think that the Ice Skating could've been a big success, if it was bigger. When you are catering for an event aimed at Children, I think they really need to be at the top of the consideration list. The ice rink was too small, so why not have a limit to the amount of children on the ice at any one time? Rather than overcrowd it with small Children, most of whom were stuck on the sidelines for most of their time slot!

We really did want to see the Polar Bears, however, after seeking first aid for Chester, it was just too late in the day and we had all had enough.

Finally I should mention the food. You are not allowed to take your own in, it states that on the website. However, the choice when you are there is very limited. There was nothing that my children would of eaten and the prices were very over the top. A pulled pork burger was £6 for example.

It saddens me to have to write such a negative review, but I am sure you will appreciate I will always give an honest review. We all agreed that the visit to Father Christmas was excellent, that really was a magical experience and certainly the highlight of our day. The Train ride was lovely on the way and the Ice Garden was beautiful. However, due to the small size of the rest of the 'attraction' we feel really let down. We didn't feel like we got the magical experience that is advertised. At a cost of £35 per person (anyone over the age of 2) we had really high expectations, and sadly those expectations were not met. However, due to the customer service we have since received, I am confident that my comments have been taken on board.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Clarks Childrens Shoes!

I remember a saying being drummed into me since I was quite small.

'Look after your feet, you will use them daily for the rest of your life'

For me, looking after them doesn't necessarily mean apply moisturising cream and paint my toe nails! It means make sure you are wearing comfortable and correctly fitted shoes. My feet are quite wide, and I really struggle to find comfy shoes that do not hurt my feet, so 95% of the time I just wear trainers. I always wore correctly fitted shoes as a child and of course I wanted to make sure that I carried that on with my Children.

We have a Clarks Shoe Shop not far from us, they are always really friendly and helpful, even if we just pop in to get measured and not necessarily to buy anything, it's clear that their main concern is making sure the shoes are correctly fitted onto my Childrens feet. That is why we always go back, I feel as though I trust them with my Childrens feet! I also love that I can visit Clarks online, they have the full range online, so if I am looking for a particular shoe I can order online knowing that the childrens feet have been correctly measured in store! 

So on Saturday, we headed to Clarks. Chester was in need of some casual shoes for the weekends and Millie, well she is a girl, she always needs a pair of shoes! 

I let Chester explore the boys section, and decide what style he wanted. I think he likes the grown up responsibility of this, it keeps his attention span for longer! Clarks have a Dinosaur range, so it was no surprise that he chose some styles that included Dinosaurs on the actual shoe!

He was happy that his feet were big enough to be measured on the ipad, apparently that was 'awesome'.

In the end he went for the Pass Stomp from the Stomposaurus range. The deal breaker here for Chester was that, not only was there a Dinosaur skeleton on the side, they also had flashing lights! Chester is on the go at all times, I can see these trainer like shoes lasting a long time, they are really good quality and well made. At £32 for correctly fitted, comfy shoes, you can't go wrong!

Now on to Millie. Well, what can I say. The girl likes her shoes! Luckily the sales assistant who served us had lots of patience!

I love that Clarks have got such a big range of shoe styles. I had brought Millie some Clarks Winter boots a few weeks back, so really what she needed was some pretty shoes that would be suitable for wearing with dresses (does that girl ever wear anything else?) for parties etc. Millie normally has to go for a t bar shoe because her feet are like mine. She has a high instep and wide feet. But Millie had her heart set on some of the shoes in what I would call the 'party range'.

The sales assistant was very helpful, he advised me that childrens feet are always growing and changing so it would be worth trying on the pump style shoes as her feet may have thinned out since the last time we tried them. He was right and Millie was so happy! At first she decided on a cream pair with a pink bow. But I gently discouraged her as I wanted the shoes to go with all colours, she wears red a lot in the winter.

In the end she went for the Dance Glam pumps. Apparently they are Ballerina inspired. Well Millie heard that and she was sold! As much as I had my reservations for this type of shoe for Millie, I have to say I am really pleased with them. Because they were fitted so well, they have not rubbed or caused any discomfort and she was more than happy to dance the afternoon away at a Christmas Party whilst wearing them! I was shocked to find out that they were just £20, what a bargain! I would of expected them to be more, and the pleasant surprise means that having a girl who loves shoes is not as costly as I first thought!

Both Children are really happy with their new shoes, they are finding them really comfortable. I am happy knowing that the shoes fit them perfectly, therefore their little growing feet are wearing the best possible shoes. Clarks really do get the thumbs up from us, I really trust them with my Childrens feet and I love that they have such a wide range to choose from!