Elf on the Shelf gone bad?

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Your Elf on the Shelf has been around for a few days now. He's settled in. He's feeling at home. But is he too comfortable...? It all starts off well. He brings gifts, makes cookies, plays with the other toys. Next thing you know, he's TP'ing the christmas tree and defacing the family photos!

Sounds like it might be time to elf-proof your house. But don't worry, we've got your back.

With a couple of years' experience dealing with our cheeky North Pole elf Figgy, we decided to share our top ten tips in a video for Channel Mum.

How's your elf getting on? Not too naughty I hope.

Dear Santa.... a kitchen gadget wishlist

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

As well as being the room I spend the most time in, I also happen to love my kitchen more than any other space in the house. It's where we all gather every morning and evening to chat about our days and spend time together. I'm pretty satisfied with the kitchen equipment I already have, but I also happen to have a penchant for wishlists. Of course, most of these will probably never make it to my house, but that's what wishlists are for isn't it?
I'll start with a practical choice. After all, if I won't use it on a daily basis, it can't take up valuable space on my worktop. I have a pretty basic microwave at the moment, which is fine but a model which can grill and doubles as an oven would definitely make my life that little bit easier. I like the sleek, black finish of this Panasonic combination microwave oven too.

From practical to utterly frivolous. Top of my wishlist is one of these bad boys. A Thermomix. At just under £1000 this is never going to happen, but in cloud cuckoo land a girl can dream. This amazing gadget can chop, it can cook, it can emulsify (whatever that is!), it can weigh, it can freeze, it can pour your wine. Ok, so it doesn't do that bit, but I'd pour my own bloody wine for the next 50 years if I could just have a Thermomix. Please Santa!

I feel a bit naughty adding this as I already have one in a different colour. However, in my defence, mine is ten years old, so one day it'll need upgrading. Right? This stunning copper Kitchenaid mixer is pure baking perfection and I would love it very, very much. 

With three kids, you can't get any more practical than an espresso machine; so it's safe to say this Sage by Heston Blumenthal one would get used on the daily. And it's so pretty!

What gadgets would be on your kitchen wishlist?

* This is a sponsored post. All words and opinions are my own.

We met Father Christmas at Hamleys

Thursday, 3 December 2015

If you could have picked any one person to read you a bedtime story as a child, I'm guessing Santa would have been pretty high on the list. My three children were lucky enough to have that opportunity when we were invited to meet Father Christmas at Hamleys toy store in Cardiff. 

With three children to consider, when I decide where to visit over the Christmas period, cost per head is obviously a factor. I also want to be sure that the experience is as magical and authentic as possible. 

I had high hopes for Hamleys. After all, meeting Father Christmas in one of the country's finest toy stores... what could be better?

We arrived at the store, excited and feeling festive, and were met by a group of elves who had us all singing Christmas songs and taking 'elfies' in no time. 

They led us through the store to Santa's grotto, singing all the way. The doors opened and we were shown into a beautifully decorated room, filled with toys, a cosy fireplace and a party table. The children were seated for food and there was plenty to go around, so everyone had chance to fill their tummies before meeting the man himself.

The elves spent a while chatting to the children, building their excitement and asking them what they would like for Christmas. Then, after an enthusiastic rendition of Jingle Bells, we were all delighted to see Santa himself appear at the door.

After saying hello to everyone, Santa took his seat by the fireplace to read the children a story. They all sat in awe and it was lovely to see.

This was followed by a few games and songs, before the moment everyone was waiting for - their chance to meet and have their photo taken with Santa. 

While the children waited to meet Santa, they were able to make their own Christmas crackers and cards, which was a nice touch and prevented having to wait in line for their turn. 

Finally, they were each given a wonderful goodie bag containing a Hamleys Christmas teddy bear, a reindeer tree ornament, a large bar of chocolate, a full packet of crayons and a colouring book. 

Although not the cheapest option for meeting Santa this Christmas (at £25 per child), I think you get a lovely experience for your money. Plenty of time with Santa himself, a great goodie bag for each child to take away and an overall feeling of the festive warm and fuzzies. 

You can meet Father Christmas at Hamleys throughout December  Full details can be found on the Hamleys website.

Loving loungewear

Monday, 30 November 2015

We're a family of homebodies, for sure. We love going out for walks, days out and nice food, but there's nothing better than coming home, popping on our comfy clothes and cuddling up to watch a movie.

So it's no surprise that loungewear is one of my most favourite types of.... well, wear. Especially at this time of year. But I want something that's not only comfortable, but looks good too. Something I won't feel too ashamed in if I have to open the door to the postman.

I've been scouring the internet for Christmas list contenders and found a few gems, so I thought I'd share the loungewear love with you.

The White Company just nails loungewear. Every time. The perfect balance of comfort, quality and simple style. This charcoal grey hoodie has got my name all over it. I wouldn't say no to these black brushed drawstring trousers either. So comfy!

Marble print leggings anyone? I may not even risk waiting until Christmas in case these beauties sell out! Oysho loungewear / gymwear is such great quality, always a bit different and reasonably priced too. In fact, I'm wearing my Oysho mermaid print leggings as I type :)

I also love this bonne nuit t-shirt. Although it's technically a pyjama top, I would absolutely wear it to lounge around with leggings.

If you've been reading my blog for a while, you will be familiar with my love of all things leopard. As soon as I spotted these Esprit leopard tracksuit bottoms, I knew they had to be mine. Pop these on with a slouchy black knit and no-one will ever guess how lazy you're being! 

What's your favourite thing to wear for a lazy day at home?

Afternoon tea with a festive twist at The Celtic Manor

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Afternoon tea and Christmas. Two of my most favourite things. So as you can imagine, excitement levels were pretty high when I was invited to attend a festive afternoon tea at The Celtic Manor resort.

As if going to The Celtic Manor wasn't exciting enough, there was going to be cake. And mulled wine. And Christmas!

Expectation was sky high. And it didn't disappoint. 

From the moment I arrived, the atmosphere was inviting, festive and I felt immediately relaxed.

Our afternoon began with a demonstration of how to prepare the perfect glass of warming, spicy mulled wine, by head bartender Scott. If I could only put into words how good it smelt. Christmas in a glass.

This was followed by an explanation of each item on the menu from executive pastry chef Karl, before the food was brought out for us to try.

I was very impressed with the savoury selection. The chicken, sage and onion brioche was especially tasty and there was a good balance of sweet and savoury items.

The cakes were just outstanding. A selection of festive favourites, with a little Celtic Manor magic; there's something to satisfy even the sweetest tooth.

My personal favourites were the pistachio and marzipan cone and the mince pie, which had a delightful shortbread topping. Just perfect.

I couldn't finish all of the cakes on offer, but was able to bring them home to share with my family devour myself later that evening. 

As if we hadn't been treated enough, we were given a basket of warm, freshly baked scones to enjoy with jam and clotted cream. The vanilla and chestnut scone was quite simply delicious. And despite my waistband feeling ever so slightly snug, I still managed to fit in a scone. Or two. Well, it would have been rude not to.

Feeling spoilt, full and decidedly festive, it was the perfect end to a wonderful afternoon at The Celtic Manor. From the warm and welcoming staff, to the outstanding food and idyllic setting, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this as a special treat over the festive season.

Festive Afternoon Tea at The Celtic Manor is available from 1 December until 4 January. You can find more information here.

Did you know The Celtic Manor also hosts a Christmas Kingdom throughout December? With an ice rink, Santa's grotto and gingerbread decorating, my children would absolutely love to go. It sounds like the perfect festive family day out.

Share your Precious Moments | a Sunday cwtch

Monday, 23 November 2015

Ty Hafan Precious Moments

We're all so busy at this time of year. Especially when you have children and want their Christmas to be as perfect and magical as possible. Making plans, looking forward and counting down the hours until that special day.

Imagine not having that luxury. Of time. Time to plan and look forward. Time to spare.

I can't even begin to imagine it. But for some families, that's the devastating reality.

When I was asked to become a blog ambassador for Tŷ Hafan, I couldn't have been more happy to help.

Tŷ Hafan works with life-limited children and their families to ensure they make the most of every precious moment. To help spread awareness of the amazing work they do, the charity is asking us all to share and celebrate our precious moments this ChristmasEach week they will launch a new word on social media and ask people to share their own precious moment linked to that word. It can be anything from a person, a memory, a personal achievement or a place that is special to you. 

The campaign is already underway and this week Tŷ Hafan is asking us to share a 'cwtch'. One of my favourite welsh words (for those who haven't heard it, it means cuddle) and one of my favourite things to do.

The photo I've shared is of a typical Sunday afternoon in our house. Snuggled on the sofa, after a slightly too large dinner, watching a Christmas movie with the people I love the most.

I try to remind myself that every single moment I have with my children is precious. Easier said than done when real life takes over. But nevertheless, it's important to me to try and appreciate the small things and remember the simple moments.

I hope you'll join us and share your precious moments on social media. Don't forget to use the hashtag #preciousmoments.

To find out more, please visit the Tŷ Hafan Precious Moments campaign page.

The nightwear before Christmas

Friday, 20 November 2015

Just like every man and his dog, I love to kit out the fam in new Christmas pyjamas every time the festive season rolls around. Even the husband has a Christmas tree onesie that he dons with aplomb every evening, once December hits.

The shops are full to the brim with reindeer and snowman nightwear and it can be hard to see the wood for the Christmas trees. So, I've done the hard work for you and found a selection of great seasonal PJs sure to please all members of the family.

I've got my eye firmly on these adorable seal print PJ bottoms. I tend not to buy a pyjama set - I just opt for the bottom half and wear a plain vest top with them. And yes, I admit these aren't 100% 'Christmas'.... but seals live in the cold don't they? And look how cute!

If I absolutely had to go for a more festive option, it would have to be these grinch PJs. Love them!

Dylan has a thing for dinosaurs. This set of M&S pyjamas have dinosaurs with actual Santa hats on them. Win.

Meryn must have had a growth spurt, because all of her onesies are half way up her legs! She could definitely do with a new one and she'll love this grey polar bear jersey onesie from Next.

Finally, these penguin PJs by Popupshop are unisex, in a range of sizes (from 12 months to 8 years) and on sale. What's not to love?

Happy lounging :)

Bloglovin  ✚  Twitter  ✚  Instagram  ✚  Facebook  ✚  Pinterest  ✚  YouTube

♡ Little bits #32 ♡

Monday, 16 November 2015

I've been a bit quiet on the blog front for the last week or so, so I thought I'd do a quick catch up with some photos from the past month.

1. My most favourite kind of day, in one of my favourite places. Warm enough to enjoy a walk on the beach, but with a little autumn chill in the air. Bright blue skies and miles of sand to run on. 
2. The king of all the s'mores. Yum.
3. One of my favourite videos for Channel Mum so far - capturing our perfect autumn day.
4. Boo.

5. My clever husband made Dylan a Freddy Fazbear mask for his halloween costume. I don't think I've ever seen Dylan so happy. Not so sure about it myself.... but apparently it's "epic".
6. My beautiful little Marceline.
7. Rainy day desperation crafting. We made a 'scrumple pumpkin' from tissue paper and a paper plate :)
8. How has Halloween been and gone already? I feel like I blinked and it was over. Waaaaah.

9. Filming a little christmas video for Channel Mum with this adorable little elf and feeling ridiculously festive. Ho ho ho. Watch this space.
10. More sunny autumn days on the beach. I hope we can fit in a few more before winter really sets in.
11. I got to watch my babies perform at the Wales Millennium Centre with their local youth theatre. So proud.
12. Teaming up with women around the world to #bringcolourback as part of the Chime for Change campaign. You can find out more here.

A perfect autumn day

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

What sums up autumn for you? For me, as long as there's pumpkin cake, chilly walks on the beach, candles and evenings in front of the fire, I'm happy.

One of our favourite places to visit at this time of year is a local fruit picking farm, which fully embraces the Halloween season with pumpkin picking and carving, broomstick making and a maize maze. We go every year and it's a great way to get into the spirit.

This year we went to choose our pumpkins and spend the day playing outside on the hay bales and in the maze. We also managed to squeeze in a early morning walk on the beach with the dog. 

Days like that are the ones I remember. Nothing too complicated, just time with my lovely family. 

A very Jurassic birthday

Friday, 23 October 2015

I find birthdays so emotional. Every year I can hardly believe that my little ones are the age they are. 

Dylan has just turned nine. Nine! That's one year from ten. Double figures. I can't cope.

Needless to say, the days of hiring a local hall and bringing in a puppet show are well and truly over for Dylan. This year he wanted a sleepover. Sigh.

Despite myself, I went ahead and arranged said sleepover. It all went surprisingly well. There were no arguments, everyone had a great time and nothing was broken. Except my sleep.

Dylan is just a little enamoured with Jurassic World, so we had a dino-themed tea party for the birthday boy, before settling down to a movie (which they hardly watched anything of, preferring to chase each other around the house pretending to be Indominus Rex).

The kids all loved the dinosaur theme, accessorised by some of Dylan's birthday gifts and a homemade dinosaur fossil cake. The dinosaur party pack was a godsend. As well as looking great, it meant I didn't have to wash any plates and cups. There was definitely enough going on without washing up after six kids too! 

Once the dust had settled on the sleepover, Dylan and I sat down for a birthday interview. Each year I ask each of my children the same set of questions - I like the idea of looking back on their answers in years to come to see how they've changed.

So here's Dylan's 9th birthday interview:

How old are you? I'm nine. Hooray!
What is your favourite colour? Blue. 
What is your favourite animal? A fox, because they're stealthy and quiet. Like me. (eh!?)
What is your favourite book? All the Tom Gates books.
What is your favourite TV show? Planet Dinosaur.
What is your favourite movie? Jurassic World.
What is your favourite song? the Five Nights at Freddy's theme tune.
What is your favourite food? Pizza.
What is your favourite drink? Coca Cola.
What is your favourite breakfast food? Nesquik cereal.
What is your favourite snack? Cookies and milkshake.
What is your favourite outfit? My new Five Nights at Freddy's t-shirt.
What is your favourite game? Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare.
What is your favourite toy? Peashooter plush.
Who is your best friend? Jonah and Olivia.
What is your favourite thing to do? Draw, play video games and play with my toys.
What was your favourite holiday? Disneyland Paris.
What do you take to bed with you at night? Peashooter.
What is your favourite restaurant? Bill's, for ribs.
What makes you happy? Being with my friends and family.
What makes you sad? Being left out of games.
What do you want to be when you grow up? A palaeontologist. 
What did you do on your birthday? I had a sleepover party with all my best friends. We watched a movie, ate pizza and sweets and played. Then we went to the cinema to see Hotel Transylvania 2. Best birthday ever!

So there you have it. Nine years old and just as wonderful as ever. Happy birthday Dylan ♡

*We were kindly sent the Jurassic World party kit from Party Bags and Supplies to review.

Easy Oreo Mummy Pops

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Looking for the perfect Halloween treat to make with the kids? I've got just the thing. These Oreo Mummy Pops are so simple, no baking involved and look great with minimal effort.

As much as I enjoy baking with the kids, I must admit it takes a lot to suppress my inner control freak (!) when it comes to decorating things 'neatly'. The great thing with these mummy pops is that you don't have to be very neat at all. In fact, the more untidy the better. Kind of.

My three children loved making them. Especially eating the candy eyeballs when I wasn't looking.

To see how we made them, check out our video for Channel Mum (below) and stay tuned for some serious cuteness in the last 20 seconds (I know, I'm biased!) ♡

A sandy playground | The Ordinary Moments

Monday, 19 October 2015

Even though we have a whole year until this little one starts pre-school part time, it's days like this that I'm so aware of the time whizzing by.

There are days when I have a list of things to do as long as my arm and all Ayden wants to do is grab my hand and take me to different rooms of the house to play. Lego in Dylan's room, stories in Meryn's room, colouring in the kitchen. I'm learning to remind myself that, usually, 'things' can wait and Ayden won't always want to play with me in this way.

Then there are days the list doesn't exist and we just enjoy our time together.

This particular day was perfect. My very favourite kind of day. An autumn chill, but not cold enough to need a coat, bright sunshine and clear blue skies. After a morning at playgroup we headed to the beach. Just for an hour. But the most lovely hour.

We had brand new wellies to test drive in the rock pools and, with the tide right out, a huge sandy playground to explore.

These are the little moments I will always remember.

New adventures

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

When I started this blog a couple of years ago, I had no idea how long I'd write it for, who would read it (if anyone!), or even if I'd still enjoy doing it a few months down the line.

I didn't really tell anyone about it. I just enjoyed typing away and taking photos, documenting my family and our everyday lives. Fast forward a year or so and blogging has become a really important part of my life. It's a hobby that I enjoy and has opened up a few doors that I never imagined it could.

Last week my first video for Channel Mum went live. And I still can't quite get over it. 

Channel Mum is the UK's first YouTube network for mums. I've followed the ladies over at Channel Mum for a while now and absolutely loved the videos. So to be a part of the channel myself is beyond exciting!

I've spoken about my YouTube addiction before. I could lose hours... days!... watching my favourite channels. Although I've thought about making regular videos before, I've never taken the plunge. Then I spotted the opportunity to apply to vlog for Channel Mum and decided to go for it. I had nothing to lose.

I'm so happy I did.

Vlogging is a new thing for me. And, just like blogging, I'm learning so much already and really enjoying the process of filming and editing.

If you'd like to watch my first video for Channel Mum, please click here. It would mean the absolute world if you'd check it out and let me know what you think :)

p.s. if you subscribe to Channel Mum this month, they're giving away £250 every Wednesday!

♡ Little bits #31 ♡

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Does anyone else think that time is being sped up? It's like someone is sneakily winding the clocks forward by a day or two while I'm asleep. It's bloody ridiculous. It was only Christmas a few weeks ago surely!

This sneaky time winding behaviour means I haven't posted one of these updates for a while. Not that we've been up to much really. I'm still reeling from the whole 'back to school' horror.

Anyway here's a few photos of the last few weeks in our lives.

1. This little lady could spend hours collecting pebbles and looking for 'crystals' at the beach.
2. Loving Matcha green tea right now. Tastes like leaf, but has so many amazing benefits, I'm willing to overlook it ;)
3. I've managed to break at least half of my back to school resolutions so far. Best laid intentions and all that...
4. This little man makes me so happy.

5. Check me out. I made peanut butter fudgsicles!
6. That smile! 
7. Currently trying to convince my husband that we need to go to DisneyWorld next year. Wish me luck!
8. Opting for slump-free snacking at the moment. Well, I'm trying to at least. I notice such a difference when I ditch the junk.

9. A view like this makes a morning run that little bit more enjoyable.
10. To, me. Love, me x.
11. Mix and match trail mix. Perfect for easy after-school snacking.
12. Photobomb!

           Bloglovin  ✚  Twitter  ✚  Instagram  ✚  Facebook  ✚  YouTube  ✚  Pinterest

5 apps my kids love

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

It's fair to say the iPad is pretty popular in this house. Of course I try to keep the usage to a minimum, but there's no denying it's a pretty useful tool to whip out when you just need to get things done.

Between the three of my children, we have quite the collection of apps to appeal to their varying interests. But I'd say these five are the most universally loved of them all. All of my children have enjoyed playing these at one time or another.

✚  Pou. Remember those little tamagotchi pets that everyone went nuts for in the 90s? Well, this is the iPad generation's version of that. It's a baby poo. Yes, a poo. Bear with me... He's a cute, kawaii-esque poo, that makes little squeaking noises and wears a bow tie. Still not convinced? You may have to try it for yourself to get the full effect; but all three of my kids love him!
✚  Bluebear food games. It never ceases to amaze me how entertained my children are by these games. I think my daughter has downloaded the majority of the range (they're free, but full of ads so make sure those in-app purchases are disabled!). From ice-creams and cupcakes, to corn dogs and pizza, you basically 'make' the food, decorate it and then tap to eat it. Personally, I find it a tad depressing to spend all that time making and decorating a sandwich and not being able to actually eat it... but who am I to judge?
✚  Clumsy Ninja. I totally get this app. It's adorable. A bit tamagotchi-esque again, but this time you get to train and play games with a little ninja. Simple, cute and so much fun.
✚  Toca Boca Pet Doctor. This is our latest Toca Boca download and it's a big hit. Ayden adores it. You work your way through a Pet Doctor's waiting room, helping all the little creatures with their various ailments. I was amazed at how quickly Ayden could solve some of the puzzles and he was so pleased with himself each time he completed one. I would recommend any of the Toca Boca apps. We've downloaded most of them over the years and my seven year old daughter still plays with them.
✚  YouTube. An obvious one, yes, but hands down the most used app we have. Even Ayden can navigate through it to find his favourite Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Playdoh egg video (I still don't get the appeal with those). All three of my children would happily watch YouTube videos from their favourite channels for hours if I'd let them. My daughter and I have a weekly tradition of watching the latest Nerdy Nummies videos together in her bed on a Sunday evening. We both really look forward to it. In fact, keep your eyes peeled for a round up of our favourite family YouTube channels on the blog next week.

Are any of these apps popular in your house? What are your family's favourites? I'd love to know :)

Bloglovin  ✚  Twitter  ✚  Instagram  ✚  Facebook  ✚  YouTube  ✚  Pinterest

Easy after-school snacking | trail mix recipe

Friday, 2 October 2015

Browsing through my numerous YouTube subscriptions last week, I came across a real gem. This video from What's Up Moms with three trail mix recipes. Turns out, it's the perfect after-school snack for my hungry little monkeys.

I'd heard of trail mix before, but was never sure what it actually was. I thought it probably involved dried fruit and nuts, but hadn't thought of adding things like dry cereal and chocolate chips into the mix.

My kids are always ravenous after school. So to keep them quiet until tea time, I've started giving them a small bowl of this (decanted from a large pre-mixed jar) and it definitely does the trick.

It only takes a few minutes to throw together and if you make it in a large quantity then store in an airtight jar, it'll last ages. Unless, like me, you discover a new favourite snack for yourself.... then you may need to make a double batch.

There are five basic ingredient groups - cereal, nuts, dried fruit, seeds and something sweet. The beauty of this is you can mix and match to suit your family's taste. Just stick to the basic groups and it'll turn out fine. Also, you want to add more of the cereal, followed by equal parts nuts and fruit (you could always leave out the nuts, if you prefer), a scattering of seeds and a small amount of sweet stuff. Here's what I used.

✚ Cheerios and Wheetos
✚ Blanched hazelnuts and pistachios
✚ Raisins, cranberries and banana chips
✚ Pumpkin and sunflower seeds
✚ Milk chocolate chips

I also found some peanut butter stuffed pretzels in one of my cupboards so added a handful of these. You know me and peanut butter. This was a good move!

Let me know if you've tried trail mix and what combination you've enjoyed the most.