christmas jumper family shot

We are well on the run up to Christmas in our house, I baked my Christmas cake at the weekend and I’m pleased to say, for the first year – I didn’t singe the top. It is now relaxing in an airtight box having been fed it’s first dose of Vecchia Romagna, a delicious brandy from Italy that was in my Ciao Gusto hamper.

At the office we are already talking about the Christmas party, who is wearing what and of course getting plans in place for Christmas Jumper day on the 16th December.

The children will also be allowed to wear their Christmas jumpers into school and take along a donation for the Save the Children fund too.

christmas jumper collage

Matalan have a fabulous selection of Christmas jumpers this year and we were invited to browse them and kit out the whole family for a Christmas Card photo, oh what fun!

Oana and I chose some lovely jumpers with fun images on them, hers a Christmas tree and mine a sequinned dog with a crown. For the children they have some great jumpers with flashing lights on, like the penguin one Bessie is wearing and the Santa stuck in the chimney jumper that Evan has on.

christmas jumper

Sophie has a very cute red jumper with a couple of owls having fun and Alice has a lovely reindeer upside down shot which has ‘Oh deer!’ written on the back.

We decided to have a family shot taken together, putting the camera on countdown so Oana could run into the shot on time. We had a lot of fun but the lighting in the room was very poor – storm Angus is to blame this time.

However, Oana is going to play around with photoshop and brighten it up so we can make a family Christmas Card to send our love ones this year. Here’s a lovely family photo of the four of them celebrating their first ever Christmas Jumper event.

christmas jumpers family shot

For dad we decided on a retro number with ‘Let it snow’ running through it.

Look even Baxter joined in, mind you he wanted to play with his ‘jumper’ rather than wear it. In case you are worrying, it attaches very easily with velcro around the neck and waist, only someone’s waist was a bit too thick and we had to let it dangle. A diet on the cards for Baxter this year.

christmas jumpers for dogs

Disclosure: Matalan kindly invited us to choose some Christmas jumpers from their extensive range and have some fun with them in return for this post, all opinions are our own.

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Image credit: John Stratford

Christmas dinner is probably the most important part of the day – as soon as everyone is done opening their presents, they’ll be looking forward to the food! Whether you’re cooking for a few family members or you are having a whole bunch of guests over, there’s no doubt that you’ll want to impress. Here are some tips to inspire you to make the ultimate Christmas feast!

Set a beautiful table

It’s important to make sure that the table is just as beautiful as the food you’ll be serving onto it. You can start off by choosing a colour scheme: do you want the classic red and white or maybe a stylish green and gold? Tablecloths are a great away to keep your table from getting messy while also offering a great design – you might want to add a table runner to spruce it up even more. Try to make sure that your plates and glasses are all matching if you can, unless it’s part of your overall theme! A pretty centrepiece, such as a candle arrangement, can add a lot to the table – John Lewis have a great range of tableware available. And, most importantly, don’t forget the crackers!

Delicious food


After you’ve got your table set up, you’re going to need to fill it with a delicious Christmas dinner. The possibilities are endless: will you have turkey, beef or lamb? And what sort of vegetables do you want to accompany the meat? Whether you are cooking for a few or many, there are lots of great cooking tips floating around on how to make your food taste better than ever. Once you’ve decided what you’re putting on the menu, you can have a look around to find them. Try pushing stuffing between the turkey’s skin and breast so it takes the same time to cook as the legs. And when you’re cooking roast potatoes, squash each potato with a masher to increase the surface area for added crispiness!

Drinks

Now you’re going to need some tasty festive drinks to go with your food. A good wine will always go down well. Perhaps something a bit special for the occasion! These 12 wines are sure to see you through the season in good spirits. And in the realm of pre and post-dinner coffees – if you have a pod coffee machine, this cute disc holder is a great way to display all the options your guests can choose for a hot drink.

Entertainment


One of the most important parts of your Christmas feast is making sure that your guests are entertained. Christmas is all about coming together and spending time with family and friends, so after all the food is eaten, make sure you have some great entertainment planned. Bust out a classic board game, great for all ages are around the table! And it wouldn’t be Christmas without a cracker joke, so make sure you pick up some for the table.

Dessert

You might be stuffed after your amazing meal, but there’s no doubt you’ll find room for desert! If you’ve planned ahead with your own homemade Christmas cake you won’t have to worry, but if not there’s still plenty of options. Yule logs and Christmas puddings are a classic choice, but if you’re feeling adventures there’s many more recipes to try. This chocolate orange & cranberry red velvet bombe is a mouth-watering alternative to a normal Christmas pudding that will leave your guests very impressed.

Disclosure: This is a collaborative post.

 

Christmas family traditions

Christmas. I can’t believe it’s almost upon us, only a matter of days now and it will all be over, however it is and always will be one of my favourite times of year and one where I enjoy our Christmas family traditions most. I guess each of us have different ways of celebrating but for me it evolves around family, food and fun.

Christmas has always been special family time for me, when I get together with my mum, my brothers and the people I love most. Christmas is an occasion that I start planning in advance.

Hang on a minute, when I say advance I don’t mean January. I won’t even think about it in September. For me the planning will not commence until the Halloween decorations come down and I will admit to getting annoyed when I see Christmas decorations in the supermarket in September.

Christmas family traditions

First I have to think of my family in Italy who work over the Christmas season and can never join me. I buy their gifts and cards and post them well in advance to be sure they arrive in good time.

I ask the twins to write a Christmas list but this isn’t set in stone as they continue to add and subtract items through the course of November, however by the end of the month I have a good idea of the ‘big’ present they are after.

I start to keep an eye out for gift ideas in magazines, online ads, supermarkets and my favourite stores, I have learnt that if you see something and like it buy it because when you return it won’t be there.

By mid December I have most of my gifts and I start to wrap them up in the evenings when the girls go to bed.

I prepare Christmas Eve parcels for the girls.

I prepare Christmas stockings for them.

I organise a visit to Santa. This year we met him at Dreamland and the girls took their autograph books with them.

Next my thoughts turn towards the kitchen and everything I will need to see me through the four days of festive fun. In fact that is exactly where I am now, writing lists and menus and jotting down ideas. What’s on the menu?

Well this year I want to  start with a vintage prawn cocktail, it’s been deconstructed on Masterchef but I’m going for a classic but adding my favourite – avocado into the mix and possibly some finely chopped chilli for a kick to the proceedings. Next it’s traditional roast turkey with all, and I mean all, of the trimmings.

And of course I finish with a Christmas pudding served with brandy butter, custard and cream.

christmas pudding

I have my own home made Christmas cake to enjoy in the afternoon, the girls will help with some home made mince pies and I always treat us to a box of chocolates, this year Hotel Chocolat has caught my eye.

Finally it’s Christmas Day night, everyone is full to the brim, champagne has been drunk, special bottles of wine and liqueurs too, the odd cup of tea to balance out the digestive system and at a certain point it’s time to get out some ‘bits and pieces’, some snacks. A cheeseboard with our favourite cheeses, a pork pie from Melton Mowbray, pate and crisps with dips.

It certainly is a time to celebrate in our house at Christmas.

Homeserve have launched a video “A Very Homeserve Christmas” which you can see below and they asked me to tell you how we spend our Christmas, is it similar to yours?

 

Disclosure: This post is in collaboration with Homeserve

Bluewater winter Wonderland

‘It’s the most wonderful time of the year’  I heard Andy Williams sing as I wobbled around the Bluewater Winter Wonderland ice rink on my blue hire skates. I seriously thought I’d be better than this BUT I didn’t fall over. I wobbled, I reeled and I waved my arms madly at one point but I did not go down.

That was how we spent Sunday morning this week, at Bluewater Winter Wonderland, the annual fun event situated in Bluewater shopping centre just off the A2. We had been invited along to test run the fun and we put our heart and soul into the job.

Bluewater Winter Wonderland opening times

Winter Wonderland opens at 10am and we had our ice skating booked for that time but as traffic can be very heavy getting into Bluewater on the run up to Christmas, we left early and sailed into the car park with bags of time to spare. This is not a problem as there are plenty of coffee shops open, of course lots of other families have the same idea so a queue starts to form at the shutters into the Grand Hall.

At 9.55 the shutters went up and everyone made their way to their first attraction. If you have a 10 am appointment to see Santa in his grotto you are ushered in through a side door from 9.45 onwards so as to be able to meet Santa at 10am.

Opening times can vary as can closing times so please do check the link above for exact timings on different dates.

Bluewater Winter Wonderland ice skating rink


Our first activity of the day was ice skating and the twins were very excited as we haven’t been before. Everyone queues at the entrance to the rink, tickets are checked and you make your way over to the boot hire desk leaving your shoes in the place of the hired boots included in your ticket.

Penguins are available for hire at £5 and we got one each for the girls. Each child is given a wristband with the penguin’s number on it. This avoids confusion on the rink as to whose penguin is whose. It worked a treat as it gave them confidence to move slowly around the ice, gaining speed and improving their skating too. By half way through the hour both had let go of the penguins but after a fall they gladly used them again. By the end of the hour the penguins were no longer needed and we gave them back to the hire shop. Both girls are saying they won’t need them next time but my feeling is they will.

The ice skating proved to be an enormous hit and I am sure they will want to go again. Family tickets are around £35 – 40 depending on the time and day.

Snow Slide

The snow slide is a 40 foot white slide. You take a large blown up tyre/donut with you to sit in, younger children can come down with an adult. The ride costs 3 tokens for 2 rides. Tokens can be bought on site (one token costs £1). The girls (and dad) loved it and we went back for a second go before leaving.

Giant bungee trampoline

A huge favourite with the twins and costs 5 tokens. The girls loved jumping and learnt to do back flips and front flips. I must admit it seemed they’d only been on minutes when their turn had finished and I couldn’t see anywhere how much time you got for your tokens.

Bluewater winter wonderland

Ski Jump

A huge blow up construction with stairs to one side and a sheer drop slide followed by a couple of bumps. The girls loved it but Bessie did get scared when she was a bit too eager and ‘flew’ rather than slid the first part.

Santa’s Dodgems

Classic dodgem cars, the girls were allowed to ride their own dodgem and enjoyed the bumps however, Alice at one point got hit two or three times in succession and came off in tears as she’d bumped her head with all the bumping around. It can get a bit rowdy.

Carousel

This is what I would call a preschooler’s carousel however my two wanted to have a go and we let them.

Overall impression

It is a lot of fun, I would have a plan of action and fixed tokens per child before you go in, it’s all so exciting they will want to go on everything. There is a bar and toilets on site and plenty of other amusements to try out.

Keep in mind that an hour’s ice skating is hard work, the girls were getting very hot and sweaty, fortunately I had dressed them in layers which were easy to take off to keep them cool. Also worth noting, no phones are allowed on the ice in case you drop them as of course the glass shatters and will need clearing up. I was also asked to leave my bag in the cloakroom for the cost of £1 as it was considered too big.

We had a great time and after a couple of hours had had enough. The girls were tired and we took them to eat in Bluewater where there are lots of different restaurants for all tastes and budgets.

Disclosure: We were given a family ticket for the ice rink and VIP wristbands for the purpose of this post.

christmas presents

Since Christmas is just around the corner, we need to start talking about the big holiday shopping and all the expenses that come with that. Naturally, the most significant money “eater” in this case is gift shopping. I bet you have a lot of people around you that you wish to pamper with excellent gifts, but all that sums up to big spendings after the holiday.

To help you out a bit, and, in fact, reduce spendings radically, I gathered a few very handy tips you are welcome to use! They do work if done right, and so – that guarantees big savings, discounts, and smaller spendings for sure. Don’t believe me? Then read the article bellow and learn it all by yourself!

Shop now

Why wait the last minute before the Christmas Eve if you can shop right now calmly and a lot cheaper too! It might be hard to notice, but some retailers tend to make prices get bigger before the big holidays, rather than lower it. And so you can avoid being robbed by simply shopping now – just about the month before the Christmas. Furthermore, you will be able to enjoy smaller masses of people and get in touch with the salesperson a lot better if you need some help of pieces of advice. 

Shop online

You might be surprised how much you can save if you just simply shop for gifts online. Especially if those gifts don’t need to be checked or touched before being bought – you will inevitably save tons of money because of that! Moreover, online you can use many great services that will help you find the cheapest price on every item there is. Also, there are tons of coupons as well. Just check special coupons websites. With various online coupons, you will save for sure! Combine it with shopping a month before the big holiday and you will save even more! Simple and efficient! 

Get a budget

Of course, every time you wish not to overspend (and I bet that is all the time) you need to have a pretty strict budget! Try to count down how much you are going to spend on every person’s gift and then do everything that it takes to fit into a budget. Coupons, which I mentioned before, might be very handy. Also – plain self-control. But be honest and include everything that you are going to need for presents – even holiday cards, bows, and wrapping paper. This is the only way how you can work effectively with your budget. 

Maybe DIY?

If you are crafty, are a good cook or just like to make things by yourself, consider embracing your hobbies while looking for gifts too. Handmade gifts will be excellent for sure. It will show how much you thought that gift through and how much time you spend doing that as well. If you are not very crafty yet, but wish to be one someday – online is just full of various DIY manual you can watch or read and learn super fast.

Priorities first

And finally, just make some priorities first and then head to a store. Better buy gifts first for those people you care the most about – family members, husband or wife, kids, and just then think if you wish to buy something for the whole office. On the other hand, you can also try to ask people to throw in some money and purchase a group gift for someone. For example, your whole family can buy one great gift for your parents-in-law or cousin’s family. Just get a little bit creative, think outside the box and make priorities. Maybe you won’t need to pamper so many people with small value gifts then you can pamper your closest ones with great presents instead.  

 This post is written in collaboration with Chameleon John.