The time is nearly here and this weekend, if you haven’t got one already, I would advise you make your final choice of Advent Calendar for the run-up to Christmas 2017.

It might not be an easy choice as there are so many different types to choose from.

beer bottle advent calendarwine bottle advent calendar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You may have noticed the market has become flooded with advent ideas this year. What started as a joke on Facebook, a tired parent drawing fake windows to open on the exterior of a case of 24 bottles of beer, or adding pretty tags to 24 bottles on the wine rack, has sparked a lot of marketing minds and today we have, wine calendars, gin calendars, beer calendars, candle calendars, cosmetic calendars…you get the picture. Everyone has put a beautiful calendar out there for you to choose from.

I love all of them but…I’m not a huge fan of cosmetics, so I quickly ruled that one out. I was tempted by the alcohol but seriously? I’m heading towards the most indulgent time of the year and I want to lose weight on the run-up rather than put weight on. That thought quickly ruled out all alcoholic versions!

I really enjoyed the candles last year but I already have some candles on the go which I am enjoying so I didn’t need any extra this year. So….

I went back to basics – aka chocolate! I fell in love with Hotel Chocolat’s calendar for two. A unique idea which allows grown-ups to share a small delight of an evening (at least that’s when I plan to open our window). A special chocolate as each day is a new truffle to taste.

best advent calendars for two

I know it’s indulgent but the chocolate is small and it will prevent me from tucking into the big boxes that are invitingly stacked up sky-high in all supermarkets right now, tempting me as I walk past. ‘Buy me! Buy me!”

Just take a look at it and tell me you’re not impressed.

Whilst you’re in Hotel Chocolat, you may wish to select something special for the children too. We went for this version. I think they’re going to really enjoy it.

best advent calendars

I have decided that this year, Christmas is all about keeping it small and simple and this is how I propose enjoying advent. What will you go for this year?

Disclaimer: Hotel Chocolate kindly agreed to send me a calendar of each featured for the purpose of this post.

Oh the excitement in the house with the release of the new Paddington 2 movie, we have yet to see it but have pencilled in next weekend – maybe Friday night if I can work it out. Paddington has been part of my life for as long as I can remember, I have read his books, watched the cartoons and passed on the joy this little bear brings to all of my children. I am especially loving reliving it all over again with the twins.

We loved the first Paddington film and have recently been sent the Paddington Pop Up special edition book for Movie 2, (if you happen to spot one in the shops – buy it as they are quickly running out). It’s one of those books that will be a collector’s item and always a joy to look through.

Harper Collins have very kindly given us a bundle of 5 Paddington books to give away to one lucky reader, take a look at what is included…

Paddington 2: The Story of the Movie – £5.99

Paddington 2 story book

Alice is currently reading this book and says she is really enjoying it, she has only a chapter or two to go and said it was ‘un-put-downable’.

Paddington Little Library – £4.99

paddington books -  movie 2 books mini set

This would make the perfect gift for younger Paddington fans.

Paddington 2: The Movie Storybook – £6.99

Paddington books - movie story book

This is the perfect version for early readers as each page is accompanied with lots of lovely pictures taken from the film.

Paddington 2: Sticker Activity Book – £7.99

Paddington books - movie sticker activity book

For interactive kids who love stickers and playing games, quizzes and all sorts of fun that is included in this book.

Paddington: Sticker Scene Book – £4.99

Paddington books - sticker scene book

This book is the perfect follow up after seeing the film as each page or double spread has an image taken from the film and stickers to add in acting as a great reminder of the film. A great stocking filler or gift under the tree!

If you are as big a Paddington fan as I am then you might like to visit his website which is full of fun activities and information. He even has his own Facebook page!

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cool grandparents

Throughout my childhood, I had cool grandparents. They held a very special place in my heart. They were the foundation of our family and even if we had our ups and downs, they were the unmovable rocks that we could turn to. If one of my grandparents pulled me up on something, it was worse than being told off by mum or dad. These were the people at the top of my pyramid of love and those I never wanted to upset.

Each grandparent offered something different. Nana lived in Waterloo, an Irish immigrant who had been widowed way too early with four young sons to look after. A staunch Catholic, she would grill me every weekend asking if I had been to mass or not. Nana liked to make cupcakes, she measured everything with a cup and always allowed us to lick out the bowl afterwards.

My mother’s parents lived closer to us, grandad was Hungarian with a fascinating history I learned later in life. My grandmother came from a line of teachers, her own father a headmaster at a grammar school and her mother a primary school teacher… maybe moving to education wasn’t so far off of my life journey after all!

These special people, who stood at the sidelines of my childhood and encouraged me at every step, have been fundamental in my life and are a presence I am very keen to encourage in the twin’s life. In fact, I was overjoyed (and a little bit jealous) of them shooting off to County Durham over the summer holidays for a fortnight with Nonna and Grandad.

There was already an incredibly strong connection between the twins and the gramps but spending this special time with them and getting up to so many fabulous activities (Harry Potter castles, Hadrian’s Wall and making pottery) strengthened the bond even more. Reinforcing the idea that grandparents are enormously important in a growing child’s life.

The girls still talk today about their summer holiday antics and are plotting to return next year too. I’m not sure the grandparents know about it yet though!

They think of their grandparents as cool people to be with, they take them to nice places, let them stay up ‘late’, allow them into the kitchen to cook and bake. Their grandparents are full of knowledge – they encourage them to read, to listen, to ask questions and to try new things.

I can honestly say that the girls thrive in their company and it’s so good for them to be with other inspiring adults rather than all the time with us.

How to be cool grandparents

If you are about to become a grandparent I wish you a lifetime of happiness ahead, it’s one very special relationship that keeps on giving. If you’re looking for some top tips on how to be a cool grandparent, I found this fun infographic on Shepherds Friendly that gives some really good ideas to keep in mind as you develop your relationships.

Shepherds Friendly also have an efficient plan for saving for your grandchildren’s future that is worth a read. Take a look at their Young Savers Plan for more information to see if it’s for you.

Following on from my recent post of Things to do in Suffolk, after our recent visit to the Airstream Glamping park. I thought I’d turn my attention to places closer to home. The autumn and winter are the perfect time to get out and about locally. We have Pocahontas on our doorstep, along with Shorne Country Park which is a huge family favourite, Jeskyns Park and of course, our beloved Thanet where we have our caravan.

Even with all of these opportunities, I still have an enormous bucket list of where I’d like to take the girls on day trips close to home.

Things to do in Kent

Leeds Castle

Leeds castle

We have been to visit Leeds Castle on a number of occasions and we shall certainly be returning soon as there is always something exciting to see. This is also where we find our local Go Ape centre which the twins adore and want to return to soon.

Dover

Dover is high on my list as I took Thomas and Megan there when they were children and we visited Dover Castle, the Tunnels in the cliffs with a fascinating wartime history and of course, the notorious White Cliffs of Dover. I suggest taking a picnic along and making a day of it.

Canterbury

I adore Canterbury and now my niece has moved there to study at the university I shall hopefully be going down more often. Canterbury city is a marvellous place to wander, it has a powerful history to take in, hundreds of shops, pubs and restaurants to choose from, a cathedral to visit and plenty more to keep you amused and the children too. One of my favourite bars is the old Pound which sits outside the town wall. You can sit and drink in one of the cells!

Margate

shell grotto margate

How can I not mention Margate? If you are still thinking of a run-down, dilapidated seaside town you are very wrong and I strongly suggest you visit to see just how far Margate has come over the past few years. With the rebirth of Dreamland and the addition of the Turner Contemporary, Margate has become the place to be both in summer and winter. Walk the streets of the Old Town, visit the Shell Grotto, eat some delicious fish and chips and visit one of the many trendy bars and pubs that are popping up all over the place.

Hever Castle

The perfect example of an item on my bucket list! I remember visiting Hever Castle with the school when I was in junior school and it is a place I would love to take the twins. A romantic 13th century moated castle that was Anne Boleyn’s childhood home, it has magnificent interiors to walk through and wonder about the time Anne herself lived there plus, award-winning gardens. Of course, the Maze is a definite visit!

If you are looking for somewhere special to stay, take a look at Kent and Sussex Cottages as they have a wonderful selection of all budgets and preferences.

Things to do in Sussex

Royal Pavillion

My great grandma used to live in Hove, just along from Brighton and we would visit her in the summer. One summer we visited the Royal Pavilion and I was smitten with the beautiful rooms and decor of the palace. I want to take the twins there so they too can experience this historical landmark.

South Downs and the Seven Sisters

Friends of mine recently posted some fabulous pictures on social media after a day trip to the Seven Sisters. I think it would be a perfect day trip with a picnic in tow. Hopefully, the sun would shine and I could grab some great photos!

Rye Harbour and nature reserve

Rye beach hut

We visited Rye a long time ago when the twins were still sharing a cot! We had a wonderful few days there and visited the town plus the local beach where I took the photo of this gorgeous beach hut. I would love to return and thoroughly recommend it to friends and family.

There are plenty of places to stay in all of the above areas but if you are looking for a cottage, that offers that little bit more, then take a look at Suffolk Secrets.

This is a collaborative post – all opinions are my own.

sorry you're leaving

Just over two years ago I stepped into James Villas HQ as a social media executive and set to work on helping to develop the brand’s social channels. I was so excited to have been given the opportunity and I embraced it with open arms ready to get stuck into any task that was thrown my way.

It has been the most incredible journey where I have learnt so much!

Working as part of a team and having my copy proofed and checked has been a good wake up call, who knew I was so keen on long sentences? I have learnt to slow down, take my time and re-read my work. I hope you are starting to see these small changes coming through.

I have learnt to think more closely about images – do they reflect what I am saying?

I have learnt that social channels are fickle, we don’t own them ‘they’ do. Facebook might only show a tiny percentage of your followers your hard work, it’s incredibly frustrating and I can often be found ranting about Facebook…

I have also learnt that working full time alongside running a home, family and life outside of the office doors is a real struggle. My main challenge came with trying to cover the school holidays. The girls get 13 weeks off and I had 21 days. It was this, that led me to hand in my notice – something I never believed I would do. I had imagined working until my retirement at James.

When I was reflecting on my life and how to make it better I started to search for jobs that would compliment being a mum.

I needed a job that fits in with school holidays and school hours. That would allow me to take the girls to after school clubs without skidding out of one door and screeching into the next, red-faced and often having forgotten something or even worse – arriving at the wrong time.

I had always pushed teaching to one side as I didn’t think I’d be good at it but as I started to look more closely at the opportunities in local schools, I saw our local primary was looking for a TA. The more I thought about the job, read the role description, the more it became a very exciting prospect.

I applied for the job and was successful – I start work on Monday morning!

I am swapping the weekly business meetings for a classroom of 8 year olds.

I am exchanging my snatched half hour lunch to who knows? Playground duty, lunchtime clubs or getting to know the teachers in the staff room?

I shall be helping out with reading and maths, chatting about geography and science. I shall be doing all manner of tasks to assist the teacher and doing my bit to help these young fresh minds find their way.

I shall also be grabbing back a bit of time for me. I want to pick up my blogging, tidy my house, read a book, help Alice learn to sew, help Bessie learn to play the piano. I want to get back into cooking again, not just quickly pulling a meal together to feed the family.

I am also going to start the 0 – 5k challenge as I have managed to put a stone since working full time.

So many things to do but my heart is lighter and I think I’m on to something good here … what do you think?