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!

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!

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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!

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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!)

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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… !

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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!

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

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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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Spend time at the lake – Tick!

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The weekend just gone was, in my book, the last weekend of Autumn. The last weekend in November before December drowns us in glitter and tinsel. I was determined, therefore, to make sure that we ticked the final item off our Autumn Bucket List 2016. So, we grabbed my mum and nephew, and my girls and I went off to explore a lake that we had discovered through a friend.

You could tell that Winter is upon us, I don’t know what it’s been like in¬† the rest of the country but here in the Midlands it has been F-R-E-E-Z-I-N-G-!!! I mean properly ice cold. For this reason, and the fact that the kids are all still very little, we decided that we wouldn’t stay out for long. So off we went, we had a lovely walk around the village that surrounds the lake, with a¬† beautiful park area, covered in fallen leaves. (Captain America came too!)

When we came to the lake we had a lovely time watching the ducks (discussing the gender of Mallards with a 4 year old Banana who just wouldn’t accept that the ‘pretty’ ones are the males!- gender profiling already! ūüė¶ ), skimming stones and just enjoying the pale sunlight glistening on the water.

We finished the afternoon playing on a little playground that we found before the cold got the better of us and we headed home to warm up!

We had a really lovely afternoon enjoying the lake. Despite the cold, the children were happy to be outside and would have stayed longer had we let them. I am really happy to have completed our Autumn Bucket List 2016, we really have had the most wonderful of seasons! Bring on the next!

Is it freezing where you are? Do you try to get out and about anyway, or do you prefer to stay indoors?

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Muddy Monday #9 – Play in The Autumn Leaves – Tick!

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Ah autumn! The most visually stunning time of the year in Britain. Everywhere turns golden, the low sun casts beautiful light, the sky is a deep shade of blue, the air is crisp. Just beautiful! And no British Autumn would be complete without the obligatory time spent enjoying and playing in the crisp Autumn leaves. This is one of the things from our Autumn Bucket List 2016 that we have done over and over again, pretty much everytime we go out.

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Something about the fallen leaves that is just irresistible to kids (and 28 year olds!) I think it’s a combination of the bright vibrant colours and the crispy, crunchy texture.

Or maybe it’s the way they flutter like orange and red butterflies when you throw them in the air?

Probably a combination of all of those things, but no childhood autumn is complete without jumping, crunching, kicking, throwing those leaves. Little sheets of autumn loveliness!

As Emily Bronte famously mused: “Every leaf speaks bliss to me, fluttering from the Autumn tree.” As we come to the end of Autumn 2016, I am really pleased that my girls and I have had so many lovely opportunities to explore the world around us, to see, smell, hear and touch the beautiful fallen leaves and really appreciate what Autumn represents.

Check out some of our Autumn Leaf activities HERE and HERE

Do you love playing in the leaves in Autumn? Any ideas for fun things to do with beautiful leaves? I’d love to hear from you.

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Make seasonal food – Tick!

I just love to cook and eat at this time of year. After a cold day out and about, there is nothing nicer than coming home to the smell of a casserole or stew bubbling away in the slow cooker. We love good old fashioned, simple food, with seasonal British ingredients where we can, so I have been including a lot of apples, squash and pumpkin in my cooking. I don’t claim to be a terribly good cook, but I thought I’d share some of the typical things we eat in the Autumn and Winter, just very simple family comfort food.

  1. Slow Cooked Sausage Casserole.

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2. Apple Crumble (Freshly picked from the orchard) and custard (from a tin haha!)

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3.Slow Cooked Chicken Casserole.

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4. Halloween Witch’s Brew Brownies

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5.Chunky Beef Stew with Herby Dumplings

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6. Bonfire Night Chocolate Apples

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In short. not massively good for the waistline but perfect for warming up after a day in the cold!

You can view the rest of our Autumn Bucket List HERE

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