Shit! The Elf!

Thursday, 27 November 2014

So I'm sat here while the baby is napping writing myself a list of ideas for our annual game of 'hide the elf' and it occurred to me that it might be nice to share the ideas. You never know, it might be useful to other people too.

If you're not familiar with the Elf on the Shelf it's basically a stuffed elf that arrives from the North Pole on 1st December and reports back to Santa every night on who's been naughty or nice. A festive spy! The fun bit is that he arrives back at your home each day in a different place and the kids have to find him.

We jumped firmly on board the Elf on the Shelf train last year. I couldn't believe I hadn't heard of it before and loved the idea so Figgy, as named by Dylan and Meryn, arrived with a bang and we had great fun. For the first few days. Then my lack of planning came back to bite me and I spent most evenings panicking and trying to come up with a funny/clever/festive hiding place for the bloody elf.

Fast forward 12 months and I'm going in prepared! Figgy, I'm coming at you with an arsenal of ideas, you little imp you.  

So here you go. You don't have to necessarily follow them in this order, but there's one for each day of December up until Christmas Eve. You're welcome ;)

1. Elf arrives with a token gift for the children and a letter from Santa. Last year the gift was their advent calendars, but the elf could also bring a new Christmas decoration for the tree, some festive PJs, or a Christmas book or DVD.

2. Elf makes friends with the other toys. Maybe he plays cards with Woody, or Monopoly with Barbie… 

3. Some of the toys are not so sure about the new addition. Elf finds himself gagged, taped to the wall and surrounded by a semicircle of toy soldiers. 

4. Elf makes himself spaghetti with maple syrup and sweets - a la Buddy the Elf.

5. Elf takes a shower.

6. Elf has a mini-marshmallow snowball fight with the other toys

7. Reuse those mini-marshmallows and Elf can take a toy bubble bath in them the following day.

8. Elf photocopies his bum. 

9. Elf gets locked out and is found peering in the window.

10. Elf turns up in a toy car with some passengers

11. Elf helps himself to the biscuit tin. Smear crumbs over his face and clothes for added authenticity.

12. Elf zip wires from the top of the Christmas tree to a light fitting/door knob/fixture in the room of your choice.  

13. Elf is caught helping himself to milkshake in the fridge (stripy straw optional).

14. Elf makes snow angels out of flour.

15. Elf spells out the number of sleeps until Christmas with Cheerios.

16. Elf tapes streamers or wrapping paper across the kids' bedroom doorways.

17. Elf does 'Frozen' and makes an Olaf from marshmallows. Insert optional note 'Do you wanna build a snowman?'. I predict this one goes down well!

18. Elf plays the games console or watches TV with another toy.

19. Elf brings a treat for the family pet.

20. Elf catches a cold travelling back and forth from the North Pole - find him in his sick bed surrounded by tissues and calpol sachets.

21. Elf draws Rudolph noses on family photos and is caught sharpie in hand.

22. Elf makes pancakes for breakfast (with mini ones for him).

23. Elf takes pictures of a toy Christmas party he has hosted and is found looking through the photos.

24. Elf writes 'I'll miss you' on a noticeboard / mirror / note and leaves a small parting gift.

Sparkle little stars

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Warning. I've got all the feels today. And it's not even that time of the month. So if you're not in the mood for sentimental warblings you might want to give this post a wide berth.

Where does the bloody time go?

In what seems like half a breath my tiny baby is a beautiful little boy. Wobbling around the house, doing his own thing and demanding stuff. I don't remember telling him it was ok to leave babyhood behind so quickly. How dare he move on without me!? I'm not ready. 

Don't get me wrong, I love this stage too. He says the cutest, funniest things now. His personality develops that little bit more every single day. In the middle of his busy little world, he stops for a few seconds and comes to me for a cuddle. The best cuddles.

And don't even get me started on Dylan and Meryn. Wow. They're proper humans. With opinions and tempers, strengths and struggles, preferences, personalities and amazing senses of humour. They're awesome. But this all happened overnight surely? How did it not unfold slowly in front of my eyes? I didn't wake up one morning with a six and an eight year old. It feels like that sometimes though.

Almost every day I tell myself to slow down and notice the little things. Stop to chat to them more and remember them just as they are. For the most part, I do. But not as much as I intend to. 

I'm terrified of turning around in a few years and feeling like I missed something. Or that they've missed something. Or, worst of all, that it's too late to take notice.

So, this is my promise to myself. 

To listen to Dylan's Minecraft soliloquies. I have no clue what he's going on about, who L for Leeee is, what redstone and skins are, but he loves it and he knows, and that's all that matters. And I'll stroke his back for longer every night. Instead of just a few minutes and then rushing off to tidy the kitchen, I'll spend an extra five minutes. It means the world to him.

I'll listen to Meryn's real-time accounts of every, single, minute detail of her break time at school. And when she wants me to paint with her or play that bloody awful Barbie board game (that I'm pretty sure we're playing wrong, cos surely no board game can be that utterly tedious), I will sit and enjoy that time with her, because I'm pretty sure she won't want to do those things in a few years from now. 

I spend most of my time with Ayden at the moment and it's easy to get distracted. Jobs to do, places to go, things to sort out. I want to enjoy and wallow in every second of his toddler…ness. When I look around next he'll be seven and playing Minecraft with his big brother!

My little stars light up my life and I want to remember every single sparkle. 

Image - Pinterest

♡ Little bits #10 ♡

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

I've noticed my Instagram pics looking a little more seasonal of late. Wintery walks and way more food. Or, I should say, way more carbs. 

1. Avocado toast - my most favourite brunch. Mashed avocado on brown soda bread, with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Amazing. I don't know about you, but when I get into a particular meal I completely obsess over it and have to eat it every single day until I'm sick of it. I'm not sick of avocado toast yet.
2. We had a lovely Sunday evening playing with guitars. Dylan has just started learning and is very proud of his new red guitar. Although he'd prefer to be learning a cool electric one like daddy! (Daddy can't play yet either… I predict Dylan will be the first to play a whole song!)
3. First eggnog latte of the season. 
4. Loving the layers for chilly winter walks. Cosy coat and a huge scarf. Snug as a bug :)

1. I wrote a post on my current Netflix picks for cosy evenings in. Check it out here. Ru Paul's Drag Race is rarely off my laptop at the moment.
2. My tiny sleeping boy.
3. This is what happens when daddy is left in charge of the baby for an hour!
4. I found this recipe for jalapeno and bacon macaroni cheese and it is heavenly. You'll never want plain old mac and cheese again.

♡ ♡ ♡

Ohana means family | our trip to Disneyland Paris

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

A couple of weeks ago we spent a wonderful few days in Disneyland Paris. Four days of magic, make believe, pixie dust and queues. I'd be fibbing if I said queues didn't make up a significant proportion of our time there. But the good bits definitely made up for it. We had the best time. 

We were fortunate to stay in the Disneyland Hotel this time. With an 18-month old, and the possibility of rain at this time of year, we thought it was worth the extra cost to be so close to the parks. We were right. Not only that, we had a great deal that gave us half board passes as part of the cost - this meant we could do character meals, the princess lunch and Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show for no extra cost. 

After our first day in the parks we celebrated the start of our trip with dinner at the Inventions buffet at the Disneyland Hotel. Wow! The food was out of this world and there were so many  characters wandering around. 

The hotel itself was just perfect. The lobby is beautiful and smells of vanilla and sandalwood (I googled it). I found myself walking through there a few times a day just to get a good sniff. Breakfast every morning was lovely - a great selection and served until 11am which meant we could cram in a couple of hours in the park before going back to the hotel for pancakes.

We visited Disneyland Paris a couple of years ago, but this time Dylan and Meryn were definitely a better age for it. The could go on most of the rides this time - both went on Space Mountain and the Tower of Terror, which I thought was very brave of them. The Tower of Terror is bloody horrible! Great, but horrible.

Being there at Halloween was great. The whole park is decorated with pumpkins and ghosts and there are plenty of Disney villains wandering around. We got to meet Jack Skellington. Life goal accomplished right there.

People say the food in Disneyland Paris is rubbish, but we had some lovely meals this time. Yes, the prices are extortionate, there's no escaping that. On the first day we shelled out over £30 for three hotdogs and two soft drinks! But we had really lovely meals at Blue Lagoon, Inventions, Buffalo Bill's and the princess lunch at Auberge de Cendrillon. We also tried out the new Ratatouile restaurant, Bistrot Chez Remy (after going on the new ride, which was fantastic!) and found the food very good. Again very expensive but, by this point, euros felt more like monopoly money!

There were so many highlights. Far too many to list them all, but here are a few:

♡ Sitting in the Disneyland Hotel after watching the fireworks and light show, with my wonderful family, talking about our day and enjoying a cocktail or two before bedtime. 
♡ Dylan and Meryn's faces when we told them we were staying in the 'Pink Hotel'
♡ Dinner on the first night at Inventions. They couldn't believe their luck when the characters kept coming to the table. I'll never forget Ayden's face when he saw Mickey for the first time.
♡ Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show was great - I was concerned taking an 18-month old as there are no highchairs or room for a pram (!) but he sat on my lap, wide-eyed and just enjoyed the whole thing. Dylan and Meryn got so into it, waving their stetsons in the air and banging their forks on the bench along with everyone else. Loved it!
♡ Ratatouille the ride - so worth the long queue, this new attraction was spectacular. One for the whole family too. All three children were mesmerised.
♡ Running as fast as we could to cram in as many night-time rides on Thunder Mountain Railroad as possible. This was Dylan and Meryn's favourite ride by far and I loved hanging on to them as they screamed and giggled through the whole thing.
♡ Taking Meryn on the Tower of Terror - we were both terrified and clung on to each other for dear life. She was so brave and went straight back on with her daddy.
♡ Ayden's face on Buzz's Laser Blast. "Ook mama… Bizz". He loves Bizz 

Is it bad that I'm already desperate to go back!? 

Oh good grief, it's Christmas! | my five festive faves

Monday, 17 November 2014

Feeling pretty festive today. Maybe it's the John Lewis ad. Maybe it's the excuse to spend hundreds of pounds on toys and pretty things. Maybe it's because I had cheese and crackers last night. Who can say. But I'm feeling it.

There are so many things I love about Christmas. It's pretty tough to narrow it down to five things I like the most, but I'm going to give it a good go.

Here they are. My five festive faves:

1. Christmas movies - ok, I've gone in with an obvious one, but nothing sets the mood quite like the opening titles of Home Alone. From November on it's the law that at least three Christmas movies must be watched per week. The frequency of this increases as the big day gets closer of course, but we don't want to peak too soon. I'm not even going to attempt to list my favourites, but let's just say the following are on heavy rotation through the month of December: Elf, Home Alone, Scrooged, Miracle on 34th Street, Prep & Landing and Bernard and the Genie (if you haven't seen it, google it. You're in for a treat!).

2. The sparkle - everything looks better when you chuck a bit of glitter at it, don't you think? Even the pile of paper and toys that seems to accumulate at the end of my kitchen table of its own accord. This time in two weeks the decorations will be up, the Elf on the Shelf will have arrived to remind the kids to behave themselves on a daily basis (blackmail is ok at Christmas, right?) and I couldn't be more excited about it.

3. The festive feels - there's no doubt about it, everyone's in a considerably better mood at this time of year. Maybe not in the run up - there's nothing merry and bright about elbowing your way through a vicious throng of Christmas panic buyers - but from Christmas Eve on, generally, everyone is pretty cheery and I love that. 

4. The food - oh god, the food. Cheese, chutneys, gingerbread, ham… sprouts. Yes, I'm on team sprout. They're bloody awesome. I've got to reign it in a bit though. We got the cheese out last night and even I'm well aware that was a tad premature. Don't judge. 

5. Make believe - it's all about the little people. Their excitement and joy is simply magical. How wonderful is it to have a chance to encourage their imaginations, fuel their belief in the spectacular and make believe along with them. It's like Disneyland on steroids. Pure joy. 

What are your five festive faves? 

What we're watching | our Netflix picks

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

It's no secret. I love a night in. I have three kids, who am I kidding, I have no choice but to love a night in! 

But in all seriousness, there's something good for the soul about snuggling on the sofa with a blanket in front of the log burner. 

Some of these you will have seen before, some might be new to you, but these are my Netflix picks for those chilly evenings in.

The funny one: Ru Paul's Drag Race
This won't be to everyone's taste, but I'm completely fascinated by this show. Brutally funny, colourful and oh so camp, it's pure entertainment and definitely worth a watch.

The family choice: The Muppet Movie
We're big muppet fans in this house and this is the original Muppet Movie made in 1979. A good old road-trip comedy, the movie follows Kermit as he tries to make it big in Hollywood, meeting his muppet buddies along the way. Pure entertainment for the whole family and a classic to boot. What's not to love? 

The indie pick: Whip it!
Man I loved this movie. It's basically a film about girls - love stories, friendships, camaraderie and rivalry. Just the right combination of funny and gritty, I think all girls should watch this. Chances are, boys will enjoy it too. Mine did.

The box set: Orange is the New Black
We were a bit late to the party with this one. I had to convince my husband that this was something he'd enjoy. Essentially it's a drama about a group of inmates in a female prison. Filled with fascinating characters and moving story lines, there was so much more to this series than I expected and we thoroughly enjoyed it.

The must-see: House of Cards
If you only watch one thing from this list, please give this a go. Hands down, the best series I have watched in a long time. I've recommended it to so many people who've all thought it was great too. Kevin Spacey plays congressman Francis Underwood, a ruthless man who gets up to all manner of inappropriate shenanigans on his journey to the top in Washington DC. If you like your shows slick, sharp and gripping, you'll love this.

I'm always on the lookout for new things to add to my watch list, so please leave your recommendations below. Now where's that blanket?

Style dupe | baby pom-pom hat

Thursday, 6 November 2014

For the past couple of weeks I've been trying to track down this hat for Ayden. I'd fallen in love with it and no other would do. Frustratingly it sold out everywhere in his size. And I mean everywhere. 

The Mini Rodini black ear hat is just adorable, but not cheap at £25. So I was excited to see that good old Gap has a very similar version available for a fraction of the cost.

This chunky knit version is just £9.95. Coupled with a cheeky discount code that conveniently landed in my inbox this morning, I managed to pick up this little beauty for just shy of £7. With free shipping thrown in to boot. 

Everyone's a winner. 

Slightly upset that I didn't think to check for an adult version...

♡ Little bits #9 ♡

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

It's been a while since I've posted 'little bits', but there's been plenty going on. Most recently we've been getting our spook on for Halloween and enjoying some quality time as a family over half term.

1. Reese's Peanut Butter Pumpkin you say? Well it would be rude not to. Seriously, the whole family is obsessed with anything Reese's related. It's an illness.
2. This year we tried something a little different for Halloween and went for some Instagram-inspired white painted pumpkins. This was great fun to do and suitably messy to keep the little people interested. 
3. We also tried making a glitter pumpkin, which was considerably messier, but just as much fun to do. I love how it looks displayed on the glass cake stand.
4. Ayden is really into his books at the moment and we've enjoyed reading this BabyLit book for Halloween. See more of our spooky book choices here.

1. My handsome, sleepy boy turned 18 months old recently and I swear he gets more beautiful by the day ♡
2. We enjoyed a lovely lunch last weekend at Bill's. One of my favourite places to go (halloumi burger, hello!), the kids were on their best behaviour and it was a pleasure to take them. Don't you love it when that happens?
3. Now the nights are darker, and colder, I have very little desire to go out. Anywhere. Sofa, blanket, fire, wine, netflix and my favourite candle burning away. Read about more of my winter must-haves here.
4. Aah Disneyland. I miss you. We've been back a week and I still haven't finished sorting through the many (many) photos on my camera roll. Look out for a very photo-heavy blogpost coming your way soon.

Mama needs | the 'brrr' edit

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Wow, it's chilly.

Only in the last few days have I admitted to myself that, yes, summer is gone. No, I can't wear flip flops on the school run anymore. And yes, I probably do need a coat.

It's not that I don't like the colder months. I really do. It just means digging out a whole new set of clothes (for me and three little people). What's that? An excuse to buy new jumpers and coats you say? Oh, go on then. 

It also means I need to ramp things up a bit in the skincare department. The colder winds and skin sapping central heating means I need some serious moisture. Oh and does anyone else notice the skin on their hands takes on an almost reptile-like appearance post-Halloween. Nope, just me?

So anyway, long story short, I find myself compiling all manner of wish lists - from coats and scarves, to serums and candles. 

Ok, you probably don't need these things, but it would be very nice to have them.

First up in the skincare category, this serum has had rave reviews from most of the beauty bloggers I follow. The Sarah Chapman Skinesis Overnight Facial promises to regenerate your skin while you sleep. Full of antioxidants and essential oils, it's a serum, moisturiser and face oil all in one, which saves you time and money surely? Sounds good to me.

Now this cleanser is one I can personally vouch for. The Oskia Renaissance Cleansing Gel is a rose coloured balm / gel that glides on to your skin, feels luxurious and smells a-mazing. It removes makeup effortlessly, leaves your skin feeling perfectly clean and nourished, but not stripped. Did I mention it smells amazing?

Hands down my favourite scent of all time. Diptyque's Feu de Bois is my perfect autumn/winter candle. Woody, warm and smokey, this scent just screams cosy nights in. Chuck in a chunky throw and a bottle of Rioja and I'm happy.

Topshop Joni skinny jeans and a slouchy knit, with converse or boots. You'll find me in a variation of this every day. So, you know, I need to update the selection every once in a while and the items I'm lusting after at the moment would do this perfectly.

Leopard anything gets a big thumbs up from me. I'm still rocking my £7 bargain flat leopard print boots from Primark that I adore (and my husband hates). I picked them up almost three years ago now and have worn them to death, but I fear they're on their last legs. Bad times. But this sweatshirt from Topshop should help to cushion the blow.

Yes, they're an 'investment' at over £150 (eek), but I really would live in these boots. Somewhere my husband is rolling his eyes, but it's true. The Ash jalouse boots are that perfect mix of casual and dressy, meaning you could easily wear them for most occasions over the winter. Quite the contrast price wise to my Primark cheapies though! Dear Santa….

So, there you have it, the things I probably don't need but will nonetheless covet obsessively until I cave, or somebody in a red suit brings them for me.

What we're reading | the Halloween edition

Friday, 31 October 2014

I love to switch the books we're reading according to the season. Obviously the Christmas selection is going to be the biggest (it's ok to start reading them in November, right?), but we've collected a few real gems for other holidays throughout the year.

I'm a big fan of a creepy family movie and a bag of trick or treat goodies to help you get into the Halloween spirit, but you can't beat curling up at bedtime with a blanket, lights dimmed and a spooky book. Even better, turn the lights out and read by torch light.

We have a couple of great Halloween books already but I picked up a few new ones to add to the collection this year. 

Ayden is really getting into books now and will come up to me with one of his stories and climb onto my lap to read it. He was excited to see this new addition to his collection.

We're big fans of the BabyLit series - we have a few and Ayden loves them all. Dracula is a 'counting primer', introducing little ones to numbers using the basis of the Dracula story. 

This one is not really a typical Halloween book, but it is a bit icky and odd so that qualifies it for me.

Great for little ones that like to ask 'why?', 'The Holes in Your Nose' is all about… well, the holes in your nose! And what's up them to be more precise. Cue much giggling when we got to the bogey page!

A true Halloween classic and one I remember from my childhood. This pop-up book was first published 25 years ago and is still as spooky and appealing as ever. Reading it for the first time with my children, it was exactly as I had remembered it - the octopus in the sink and the ghost under the stairs. It brought the memories flooding back. Brilliant.

What are you reading to your little ones this Halloween?

Happy birthday Spiderboy ♡

Monday, 20 October 2014

My first baby turned eight this weekend. And what a wonderful eight year old he is. We had the best weekend celebrating. Birthday morning waffles, presents, hot dogs for tea, birthday cake, a trip to see TMNT at the cinema (which was awesome!) and an "epic" birthday party. I think its safe to say my little man had a great weekend :)

I got the idea to start birthday interviews from a lovely mama I follow on Instagram. She used to write a blog which I loved to read and I thought her idea of interviewing each child on their birthday was lovely. So I've totally pinched it! It'll be great to look back on and see how they've changed each year. 

So here's Dylan's first birthday interview, at age 8:

How old are you? I'm eight. Does that mean I'm nearly a teenager? (No!)
What is your favourite colour? Red. Like Spiderman
What is your favourite animal? A shark 
What is your favourite book? My Minecraft handbook
What is your favourite TV show? The Amazing World of Gumball
What is your favourite movie? Amazing Spiderman 2
What is your favourite song? Anything by the Foo Fighters
What is your favourite food? Spaghetti Bolognese
What is your favourite drink? Apple juice
What is your favourite breakfast food? Pancakes and makle syrup (he means maple ;) )
What is your favourite snack? Cake
What is your favourite outfit? My new black Spiderman costume. It's awesome!
What is your favourite game? Amazing Spiderman 2 on PS3 (I'm sensing a theme…)
What is your favourite toy? My baby monkey
Who is your best friend? Jonah
What is your favourite thing to do? Ride my bike and play on my PS3
What was your favourite holiday? Holiday Village in Majorca
What do you take to bed with you at night? Baby monkey
Where is your favourite place to go? Disneyland Paris
What is your favourite restaurant? Frankie and Bennie's
What makes you happy? Having time with you guys (♡)
What makes you sad? When people say I'm not good at something (cue in depth questioning from me as to who has dared tell him he isn't good at something!)
What do you want to be when you grow up? A superhero
What did you do on your birthday? We went to see the Turtles movie, which was awesome! Then its my party tomorrow - we're going climbing and to Pizza Hut after, to smash pizza like the Hulk!

Happy birthday little man! You're my whole world.

Disney dreaming

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Image - Pinterest
It's fair to say I'm a big kid. If I could live in Disneyland (any one, I'm not fussy) I absolutely would. Failing that, the Disney Store would do…

With a trip to Disneyland Paris coming up in two weeks (two weeks people!), the beanies and I have been excitedly planning, researching and just generally winding ourselves up into a Disney stupor. 

We went to Disneyland Paris two years ago so have a fair idea of what we particularly liked and want to make sure we do again; but we've never been at Halloween so there are a few extra things we don't want to miss. 

Also, we've been a bit naughty and booked to stay at the Disneyland Hotel. We took advantage of a great discount and half board offer so it would have been rude not to. Honestly it would have ;)

The beanies don't know this bit. I plan to tell them when we arrive. I know they'll be very excited to stay in the 'Pink Hotel'.

So here it is. Our list of Disney mouseke-dos:

✩ Go Disney villain hunting - we're excited to see the park decorated for Halloween and it'll be great to spot some of the villains. Maleficent is high on the list of must-sees for my beasties.

✩ I have a seven year old little man who will be ridiculously excited to meet Spiderman at Walt Disney Studios. He wasn't there when we visited last time, so this is a major bonus for him.

✩ Ratatouille: The Adventure is another new addition that we're excited to explore. The ride looks great and my husband is looking forward to sampling the steak at Bistro Chez Remy.

✩ My naughty husband cruelly tricked me into going on the Tower of Terror on my own (!) on our last visit. "You'll love it", he said. "It's really good fun. You won't be scared I promise." Evil, evil man. I was bloody petrified. And had nobody with me to cling on to. This time, the kids are bigger and both are feeling brave enough to give it a go. I'm not convinced they should, even though there were lots of little ones on it last time. They are determined though and have been watching videos of it on Youtube. Bloody hell, I'm terrified just thinking about it.

✩ We're huge Nightmare Before Christmas fans and it'll be great to meet Jack Skellington and Sally. Better get watching the DVD before we go I think.

✩ With two brothers, Meryn spends a lot of her time surrounded by Marvel characters, Minecraft and cars. She's a huge princess fan though and I know she'll love having dinner with them at Auberge de Cendrillon. Not sure how her big brother will feel about it… hopefully dinner at the Buffallo Bill show the following night will make up for it.

✩ We were lucky enough to see the Disney Dreams show a few times and its was truly magical. One of my favourite memories of our trip was standing back a bit and watching Dylan and Meryn (dressed as Buzz Lightyear and Rapunzel) get completely lost in the magic of it all. Disney Dreams is still running and I can't wait to see it again.

What are your Disney must-sees?