Christmas Bucket List 2016

I have decided to do a short Christmas Bucket List which is separate from our Winter list, and try and complete as much as possible throughout December. It’s such a special time, I thought it deserves a list all of its own! ūüôā

  1. Book Advent Calendar ‚ąö View
  2. See the Christmas lights switch on. ‚ąö View
  3. Visit Santa in his Grotto ‚ąö View
  4. Do some Christmas Crafts ‚ąö View
  5. Do some Christmas Baking ‚ąö View
  6. Party like it’s 1999!
  7. Visit the European Christmas Market
  8. Decorate the tree
  9. Banana’s Christmas Performance ‚ąö View
  10. Eat, Drink and Be Merry
  11. Spend some quality time with family.

I hope you all have a fantastically festive December, check back to see us ticking things off our list!


We’re going on a conker hunt, we’re going to find a big one!¬†

There is something about going out and hunting for natural treasures that really appeals to kids. Despite the simplicity of the activity, children seem to get so excited about searching through the carpet of fallen, crunchy leaves to find that spiky green shell, and ultimately the shiny, regal nut within. Or getting a big stick and attempting to throw, hit or shake the treasure directly from the tree. A pastime that our ancestors before us enjoyed as children, still as relevant as ever (more so, in fact!) in this age of technology, progress and instant gratification. 

This is the reason that every year, it has become a family tradition to add this to our Autumn Bucket list and dedicate an entire morning or afternoon to conker hunting. There is no instant gratification, that 21st century children have become accustomed to. You have to find the tree, search for the shells, work to prise out the conker, compare with siblings and cousins  for shininess, size and strength… and at the end you have this oversized brown seed that will inevitably shrivel and need to be thrown away…or at least that’s how the adult sees it, through a child’s eyes, you work hard and are rewarded with a beautiful mahogany coloured gem, with endless possibilities for play. Serious business actually… of course, all play is! 

These sorts of activitys are so important to children, especially when repeated year on year. It teaches them about life cycles and seasonal changes. It gives them a chance to get down and dirty in the earth, creating a relationship with nature that will serve them well into their adult life. Loose materials such as conkers are amazing for open ended play and amazing creative thinking opportunities. Being outdoors amongst beautiful things helps to develop a mature and varied vocabulary which is based on real life experiences and therefore relevant and meaningful. Above all, it’s fun, it’s free, it’s quality family time and those things are invaluable!

Do you still take your kids conker hunting? 

Playing in the Autumn Rain 

Ok, so anyone who knows me, or reads my blog, knows that I am a huge advocate of playing outdoors, whatever the weather. I very much believe that as long as you and your children are wearing suitable clothing and protection, then there is no need to stay cooped up inside. There is a whole other world to enjoy on those days when the sun just refuses to shine (and let’s face it, in the UK those days are common!) 

Last weekend it rained, A LOT! So instead of being miserable or facing the dreaded soft play with all the other soggy kids and agitated parents, we decided that this was the perfect time to tick another thing off our Autumn bucket list: ‘Go Out And Play in The Rain.’ 

So, we popped on our waterproofs and boots and headed over to a fairly local beauty spot called Wenlock Edge. It poured with rain the whole way there and I just knew there was fun to be had! 

We weren’t disappointed! Although the rain had slowed by the time we arrived, it was still falling and we had an amazing time walking through the woodland, which has amazing natural play structures such as balance beams, climbing frames and seesaws. Of course, the girls had to be careful not to slip, with it being so wet, but such risk assessment is an extremely important part of childhood learning, so we try and allow them to make the judgement for themselves.

The views from the Edge, overlooking the rolling Shropshire countryside are spectacular and well worth a visit if you’re in the area. There is also a fantastic old Lime Kiln and a quarry which are brilliantly preserved. This allowed for a short history lesson from me and engineering lesson from dad (poor kids!) but the girls enjoyed running up and down a slate pile and exploring the old kiln. 

I think Banana’s favourite part of the day was spending time in the bird hide, watching the birds coming to feed, identifying them from the posters on the wall and then writing down what she’d spotted on the whiteboard within the hide. This unexpected activity kept her occupied for ages and she didn’t want to move on, when it was time. I only wish we’d taken her binoculars to make the activity even more enjoyable and relevant. 

Duckling’s favourite part was, naturally, jumping in huge puddles, having the freedom to get as soaked as she liked, being encouraged to do big, run up splashes… it’s what being two is all about after all! 

The best part for me, was after the rain had stopped, and in typical September fashion, the sun came out, as bright as if it had never been away. The woods, already beautiful, transformed into this enchanted and magical forest, where the sunbeams seeped through the canopy in graceful celestial rays. The rain drops glistened on the leaves with fairy-like endearment, and the water evaporated from the ground in a hazy mist, which just enveloped the glorious majesty. 

Every now and again, we are lucky enough to catch Nature ‘do her thing’ and when you do… well, it’s indescribable really; just truly, utterly, beautifully amazing! Being stuck indoors starves you of this intrinsic, natural gorgeousness that is all around us, it really is worth it! 

Let’s go Apple Picking – Tick.

Hi all, 

As it’s now September, and despite all those protests of people desperately clinging onto the last remnants of a summer that never really materialised, I have decided we’d begin on our Autumn activities. 

Isn’t it just the most beautiful time of year? The golden hues, the low sparkling light, the crunching and cracking sounds that you hear whenever you walk outdoors, the smell and taste of pumpkin spice everything! Ah bliss! A real carcophony for the senses. It’s like the firworks at the end of Mother Nature’s ‘big annual show.’ The spectacular ending, the part that everyone waits for with baited breath. I think this year is going to be glorious, and the signs are already beginning to show. 

So, to kick off the new season, and because the fruit harvest has been so tremendous this year, we decided to begin with a day at the orchard picking apples and pears. 
So we donned our little baskets, and off we went. It was a glorious early autumn/ late summer day with the perfect balance of warm sunshine and cool breeze.  Honestly, if I could live in this sort of climate forever I’d be more than happy. 

Well, to say the trees were dripping with fruit would be an understatement, it was incredible! Every tree held hundreds of beautiful, fresh, ripe apples just waiting to be picked and we soon filled our baskets. 

After we’d picked enough fruit, trying to encourage my girls to be mindful of waste, and only picking what we could use. The girls happily played in the orchard itself, running through a small hedge maze and enjoying the sensory path and frog pond. 

I’d really recommend this as an autumn activity for kids. It provides ample opportunities for learning, both explicit lessons; Plant biology, food education and decomposition. But also implicit; natural harmony, appreciating natural beauty, treating the world with love and respect, not taking more than we need and community values.

We had a really enjoyable day out and finished the day with some delicious homemade apple crumble. 

Have you been apple picking this year? Or do you intend to go? 

A Letter to my daughter after her first school Nativity.

Dear A,

I have just been reflecting on your first term and school and how far you’ve come. How much you’ve grown and developed as a person. (How cheeky you are getting at times!) but mostly how amazingly well you are doing as a fully fledged school child.

Your school Nativity was one of the things that showed just how far you’ve come in four short months.

We’re proud of your maturity, while the other kids were wriggling and pulling silly faces, you sat beautifully straight, waiting patiently for your turn to perform.

We’re proud of your beautiful, wholehearted singing. With your head held high you sang each word beautifully and clearly, you moved your arms gracefully, as an angel moves its wings, no silly flapping. I secretly loved hearing you practice your singing, already a perfectionist, wanting to make sure you knew each line for the day. And although you thought I wasn’t listening… And forbade me from ruining the surprise, I just couldn’t help it!

Most of all we’re proud of your bravery and determination. I know you felt apprehensive about performing in front of all the mums and dads, but you did it anyway, and you were so proud of yourself afterwards.

Well done darling!

Forever your proud and affectionate,

Mummy xxx

Christmas Baking -Tick!


Who doesn’t love a good old Christmas bake off? I know we do. All those lovely smells of cloves and ginger filling the house and making it feel all festive.

Each year I make sure we squeeze in a couple of baking sessions. Not only does it put us in the festive mood, it also means we have plenty of yummy Christmas treats to keep us going until Christmas Eve when we allow ourselves to open the ‘Christmas pantry’.

This year Banana decided to bake mince pies for the adults, which we made more child friendly and fun by using Christmas cookie cutters for the lid. We cheated and used Aldi Specially Selected mincemeat which was delicious (and a little boozy!) As an extra bonus, we always leave one of Banana’s homemade mince pies out for Father Christmas when he visits, so she really takes extra care when making them.

She also decided to bake gingerbread men for the children and she did this as a joint activity with her cousins. They loved creating the gingerbread, with all its sweet and sticky ingredients, as well as cutting them out, territorially marking their initials to show which one belonged to which and then decorating them with some colourful icing. My lovely, sensitive Banana took so much care decorating her little people and loved them so much that she couldn’t bring herself to eat them! Unlike her sister who tore her’s limb from limb and gobbled with relish! I love seeing their different personalities, haha!

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Did you do any Christmas baking with kids this year? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Click to see the rest of our Christmas Bucket List 2016

Do Christmas Crafts -Tick!

Merry Christmas everyone! I hope it was fantastic for you. As you may have noticed, I decided to take a break from blogging over the Christmas period. It’s such a special time, probably the only time that all your family and friends are all off work and school together. So I really wanted to make the most of it and appreciate it, which I did, it was utterly wonderful! Now that the festivities are beginning to wind down, I thought I’d head back to my blog and update you all on how we got on with our Christmas Bucket List.

Every year I spend hours traipsing the Internet for fantastic Christmas crafts that are suitable for a four year old (3,2,1 year old in past years) and this year was no different. I wanted something easy enough for Banana to do independently and effectively, but also something special and something that would keep her occupied for more than 5 minutes. I was actually really struggling to find the perfect craft activity when she strolled back from my in laws last weekend with CBeebies magazine. The freebie was some festive clay modelling! Bingo! Funny how things turn up in the most unlikely places… I usually think magazine freebies are a bit naff, but this was just perfect!


The kit consisted of three separate packets of clay in red, brown and white as well as cardboard and plastic accessories to make the perfect Santa, Reindeer and Snowman. The clay was the strangest consistency, which made sense later, as when the models had dried, the clay had turned into a sort of hardened foam material, it’s like nothing I’ve ever used before. (Please leave me a comment if you know what I’m describing!)


We really enjoyed this craft activity. It kept Banana occupied for about 45 mins. She was able to do most of it independently, only needing help with the reindeer’s antlers and it was wonderfully festive. At the end, we had some lovely little festive characters to display on the shelf in our playroom.


Well done CBeebies mag! I definitely need to get some of this stuff for my craft box!

Click to see the rest of our Christmas Bucket List 2016

Do a Book Advent Calendar – Tick!

As Banana is now four (and because I am slightly addicted to buying children’s books) I decided this year, that I’d create a book advent calendar. This basically involves wrapping 24 Christmas themed books, numbering them and then opening a new one each evening for our bedtime story. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for years, but never really felt that my kids were old enough to appreciate it fully. However, this year Banana has really proven herself to be quite the little bookworm, so I thought it was time to try it out.

Unfortunately, Thankfully, we already had 13 Christmas themed books from previous years put away in the Christmas box, so I didn’t have to fork out for 24 brand new books, only 11. This really doesn’t have to cost the earth. The Works are offering 10 books for ¬£10 online, and they had plenty of Festive Titles available, so that was us pretty much sorted. You could also scour charity shops for lovely books that need a new home. 15094236_10153911068507001_4946174093773965804_n15094244_10153908662027001_4306973449604669282_n15241773_10153922767217001_2191184854052148540_n

I must admit that it was a bit tedious wrapping and numbering them all, but my girls were so happy when I revealed this to them on December 1st and Banana has really looked forward to opening a book each evening, so that makes it all worthwhile. Silly me forgot to write a list of books and authors before I wrapped them, but you can probably make out most of the books we have chosen from the pictures above. We are now on December 8th and I can see this becoming a Christmas tradition, although in future years I will probably just replace one or two books when my girls grow out of them. Definitely worth doing, especially if you, like us are a book loving family!

You can check out the rest of our Christmas Bucket List HERE


Visit Santa – Tick!


This Christmas, rather than spending all of our budget on toys that my girls simply don’t need, we decided that we’d spend a bit extra on doing something extra special. So I decided to scour the internet for special Christmas events that we could attend and enjoy. One event that really stuck out was the Santa Safari at West Midlands Safari Park, which promised lots of festive treats including a visit to the big man himself. So we booked up for 4th December and prepared to set our festivities off with something magical. We kept the trip a surprise for the girls until the day itself, to add that extra christmas sparkle.


So on the morning, we got up and sorted nice and early and set off. WMSP is just 40 minutes from where we live, so a nice easy journey. We were pleased that the sun was shining, although it was freezing cold and frosty. The scene was like a Christmas card driving through the Shropshire countryside, which helped to build the festive anticipation. We arrived just as the gates were opening and went straight though without queuing. We parked right at the front with no problems and made our way into the park itself, deciding to leave the Wildlife Safari until the end. We were pleased to find that there weren’t many people around at this time of the morning, and as we had a bit of time until our Santa slot, we decided to explore the Land of The Living¬†Dinosaurs. Well, having not been to WMSP for about 18 years I didn’t really know much about it, and didn’t realise how much it had expanded since my last visit. The Dinosaurs were fabulous and my girls were so in awe of these life sized animatronic beasts, complete with sound effects, smoking volcanoes and bubbling swamps, it took their minds off the still freezing temperature for a good while.

Next, we headed off to enjoy the park and its festive set up, complete with snow. It really did feel extremely Christmassy and really got us in the mood to visit Santa.

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Finally, it was time to see Santa, so we made our way to the grotto.¬†I was¬†very impressed again that we didn’t have to queue for more than 5 minutes, and were entertained by a friendly elf for the short time that we were queuing. Soon enough an elf came out and lead us onto the magical sleigh ride that would take us to the North Pole to see Santa. This was a trick of the mind with moving walls and scenery, but was quite effective and my two young girls enjoyed it.


Once we arrived¬†in the North Pole, we stepped off into a magical, festive wonderland of sparkling lights and ‘snow’. The children were encouraged to push buttons on the interactive displays as we made our way through the North Pole to Santa’s Grotto.

A short while later, and another minute or two queuing and again being entertained by a friendly elf, we were summoned! The elf that took us through to the Grotto, told Banana that she had to knock on the Grotto door, and we heard a voice telling us to “come in” from inside. And there he was, in a wonderful, traditional looking set up with real fire and a snowy window. Santa was very good, he remembered the girls’ names, helpfully explained to Banana¬†that the Hatchimal workshop was currently out of order (phew!) and we didn’t feel at all rushed. He told the girls that they could go though to his gift shop and pick their own gifts, which the girls loved!¬†and we had a family photo, all included in the price.



Terrible quality, because its a photo of the print, but you get the idea.


After visiting Santa, we decided that it was time for a quick lunch break, and then we were free to wander around the remaining attractions.

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I didn’t manage to get pictures because my phone had ran out of charge by now, (testament to just how much there was to do!) but Banana really enjoyed the Sea Lion show, with Bauble the Sea Lion. And we also had drinks and mince pies as part of the admission price.

The last thing to do, was the wildlife safari, which again, I didn’t get any pictures of, but it really is fantastic, with Lions, tigers, rhinos, giraffes, elephants, zebra, camels, cheetahs and buffalo, amongst others. The only negative thing about the whole day was how smelly the wild dog enclosure was, in fact I left with a headache from holding my breath for so long, it really was vile!

Overall, however, we really did have the best of days and I would highly recommend it to anyone with young children. Well worth the cost in my opinion and memories we’ll hold dear for a long time!

You can see the rest of our Christmas bucket list  HERE

Watch the Christmas Light Switch On – Tick!

Every year for us, Christmas kicks off when we go and watch the Christmas lights get switched on. I hate that some places do this as early as October! But thankfully, we have found that Ironbridge Gorge, our local World Heritage Site, don’t switch on their Christmas lights until the last week in November/ first in December, which is a perfectly acceptable time to begin the festivities in my mind!

Ironbridge is a beautiful place to visit anyway, with its little shops and boutiques and the bridge in the centre of the town overlooking the gorge, you can read more about it HERE. At night, when the bridge is lit up and a brass band are playing Christmas songs, whilst you are surrounded by Victorian buildings and shop fronts it really is a Dickensian delight and right up my street as a lover of ‘traditional’ Christmas.


At first, we had a walk around taking in the festive atmosphere and listening to the brass band and choir. Then it was time for Santa to make an appearance. Banana was so excited that we agreed to join the end of a very long queue so that she could meet him face to face. After a very long wait, she finally reached Santa, only to find herself too awestruck and shy to talk to him! So after finally agreeing to at least give the Big Man a high five, she walked away pleased as punch with a chocolate coin in hand… !


We had a lovely time just being together as a family, walking around, watching all the goings on. We even got to meet a friendly elf.

I previously hadn’t felt overly festive, but this was just what I needed to get me in the mood for all things Christmas!


We had chance to warm ourselves up with a hot sausage roll and drink before the lights were switched on.


Next we found a great spot by the river and waited patiently for the light count down to begin. The girls loved counting down and cheered merrily when the lights were switched on, followed by a fantastic fireworks display, which for me, signifies that it really is Christmas!!

Click here to see the rest of our Christmas Bucket List 2016

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