Thursday, 27 November 2014

Shit! The Elf!

So I'm sat here while the baby is napping writing myself a list of ideas for our annual game of 'hide the elf' and it occurred to me that it might be nice to share the ideas. You never know, it might be useful to other people too.

If you're not familiar with the Elf on the Shelf it's basically a stuffed elf that arrives from the North Pole on 1st December and reports back to Santa every night on who's been naughty or nice. A festive spy! The fun bit is that he arrives back at your home each day in a different place and the kids have to find him.

We jumped firmly on board the Elf on the Shelf train last year. I couldn't believe I hadn't heard of it before and loved the idea so Figgy, as named by Dylan and Meryn, arrived with a bang and we had great fun. For the first few days. Then my lack of planning came back to bite me and I spent most evenings panicking and trying to come up with a funny/clever/festive hiding place for the bloody elf.

Fast forward 12 months and I'm going in prepared! Figgy, I'm coming at you with an arsenal of ideas, you little imp you.  

So here you go. You don't have to necessarily follow them in this order, but there's one for each day of December up until Christmas Eve. You're welcome ;)

1. Elf arrives with a token gift for the children and a letter from Santa. Last year the gift was their advent calendars, but the elf could also bring a new Christmas decoration for the tree, some festive PJs, or a Christmas book or DVD.

2. Elf makes friends with the other toys. Maybe he plays cards with Woody, or Monopoly with Barbie… 

3. Some of the toys are not so sure about the new addition. Elf finds himself gagged, taped to the wall and surrounded by a semicircle of toy soldiers. 

4. Elf makes himself spaghetti with maple syrup and sweets - a la Buddy the Elf.

5. Elf takes a shower.

6. Elf has a mini-marshmallow snowball fight with the other toys

7. Reuse those mini-marshmallows and Elf can take a toy bubble bath in them the following day.

8. Elf photocopies his bum. 

9. Elf gets locked out and is found peering in the window.

10. Elf turns up in a toy car with some passengers

11. Elf helps himself to the biscuit tin. Smear crumbs over his face and clothes for added authenticity.

12. Elf zip wires from the top of the Christmas tree to a light fitting/door knob/fixture in the room of your choice.  

13. Elf is caught helping himself to milkshake in the fridge (stripy straw optional).

14. Elf makes snow angels out of flour.

15. Elf spells out the number of sleeps until Christmas with Cheerios.

16. Elf tapes streamers or wrapping paper across the kids' bedroom doorways.

17. Elf does 'Frozen' and makes an Olaf from marshmallows. Insert optional note 'Do you wanna build a snowman?'. I predict this one goes down well!

18. Elf plays the games console or watches TV with another toy.

19. Elf brings a treat for the family pet.

20. Elf catches a cold travelling back and forth from the North Pole - find him in his sick bed surrounded by tissues and calpol sachets.

21. Elf draws Rudolph noses on family photos and is caught sharpie in hand.

22. Elf makes pancakes for breakfast (with mini ones for him).

23. Elf takes pictures of a toy Christmas party he has hosted and is found looking through the photos.

24. Elf writes 'I'll miss you' on a noticeboard / mirror / note and leaves a small parting gift.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Sparkle little stars

Warning. I've got all the feels today. And it's not even that time of the month. So if you're not in the mood for sentimental warblings you might want to give this post a wide berth.

Where does the bloody time go?

In what seems like half a breath my tiny baby is a beautiful little boy. Wobbling around the house, doing his own thing and demanding stuff. I don't remember telling him it was ok to leave babyhood behind so quickly. How dare he move on without me!? I'm not ready. 

Don't get me wrong, I love this stage too. He says the cutest, funniest things now. His personality develops that little bit more every single day. In the middle of his busy little world, he stops for a few seconds and comes to me for a cuddle. The best cuddles.

And don't even get me started on Dylan and Meryn. Wow. They're proper humans. With opinions and tempers, strengths and struggles, preferences, personalities and amazing senses of humour. They're awesome. But this all happened overnight surely? How did it not unfold slowly in front of my eyes? I didn't wake up one morning with a six and an eight year old. It feels like that sometimes though.

Almost every day I tell myself to slow down and notice the little things. Stop to chat to them more and remember them just as they are. For the most part, I do. But not as much as I intend to. 

I'm terrified of turning around in a few years and feeling like I missed something. Or that they've missed something. Or, worst of all, that it's too late to take notice.

So, this is my promise to myself. 

To listen to Dylan's Minecraft soliloquies. I have no clue what he's going on about, who L for Leeee is, what redstone and skins are, but he loves it and he knows, and that's all that matters. And I'll stroke his back for longer every night. Instead of just a few minutes and then rushing off to tidy the kitchen, I'll spend an extra five minutes. It means the world to him.

I'll listen to Meryn's real-time accounts of every, single, minute detail of her break time at school. And when she wants me to paint with her or play that bloody awful Barbie board game (that I'm pretty sure we're playing wrong, cos surely no board game can be that utterly tedious), I will sit and enjoy that time with her, because I'm pretty sure she won't want to do those things in a few years from now. 

I spend most of my time with Ayden at the moment and it's easy to get distracted. Jobs to do, places to go, things to sort out. I want to enjoy and wallow in every second of his toddler…ness. When I look around next he'll be seven and playing Minecraft with his big brother!

My little stars light up my life and I want to remember every single sparkle. 

Image - Pinterest

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

♡ Little bits #10 ♡

I've noticed my Instagram pics looking a little more seasonal of late. Wintery walks and way more food. Or, I should say, way more carbs. 

1. Avocado toast - my most favourite brunch. Mashed avocado on brown soda bread, with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Amazing. I don't know about you, but when I get into a particular meal I completely obsess over it and have to eat it every single day until I'm sick of it. I'm not sick of avocado toast yet.
2. We had a lovely Sunday evening playing with guitars. Dylan has just started learning and is very proud of his new red guitar. Although he'd prefer to be learning a cool electric one like daddy! (Daddy can't play yet either… I predict Dylan will be the first to play a whole song!)
3. First eggnog latte of the season. 
4. Loving the layers for chilly winter walks. Cosy coat and a huge scarf. Snug as a bug :)

1. I wrote a post on my current Netflix picks for cosy evenings in. Check it out here. Ru Paul's Drag Race is rarely off my laptop at the moment.
2. My tiny sleeping boy.
3. This is what happens when daddy is left in charge of the baby for an hour!
4. I found this recipe for jalapeno and bacon macaroni cheese and it is heavenly. You'll never want plain old mac and cheese again.

♡ ♡ ♡

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Ohana means family | our trip to Disneyland Paris

A couple of weeks ago we spent a wonderful few days in Disneyland Paris. Four days of magic, make believe, pixie dust and queues. I'd be fibbing if I said queues didn't make up a significant proportion of our time there. But the good bits definitely made up for it. We had the best time. 

We were fortunate to stay in the Disneyland Hotel this time. With an 18-month old, and the possibility of rain at this time of year, we thought it was worth the extra cost to be so close to the parks. We were right. Not only that, we had a great deal that gave us half board passes as part of the cost - this meant we could do character meals, the princess lunch and Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show for no extra cost. 

After our first day in the parks we celebrated the start of our trip with dinner at the Inventions buffet at the Disneyland Hotel. Wow! The food was out of this world and there were so many  characters wandering around. 

The hotel itself was just perfect. The lobby is beautiful and smells of vanilla and sandalwood (I googled it). I found myself walking through there a few times a day just to get a good sniff. Breakfast every morning was lovely - a great selection and served until 11am which meant we could cram in a couple of hours in the park before going back to the hotel for pancakes.

We visited Disneyland Paris a couple of years ago, but this time Dylan and Meryn were definitely a better age for it. The could go on most of the rides this time - both went on Space Mountain and the Tower of Terror, which I thought was very brave of them. The Tower of Terror is bloody horrible! Great, but horrible.

Being there at Halloween was great. The whole park is decorated with pumpkins and ghosts and there are plenty of Disney villains wandering around. We got to meet Jack Skellington. Life goal accomplished right there.

People say the food in Disneyland Paris is rubbish, but we had some lovely meals this time. Yes, the prices are extortionate, there's no escaping that. On the first day we shelled out over £30 for three hotdogs and two soft drinks! But we had really lovely meals at Blue Lagoon, Inventions, Buffalo Bill's and the princess lunch at Auberge de Cendrillon. We also tried out the new Ratatouile restaurant, Bistrot Chez Remy (after going on the new ride, which was fantastic!) and found the food very good. Again very expensive but, by this point, euros felt more like monopoly money!

There were so many highlights. Far too many to list them all, but here are a few:

♡ Sitting in the Disneyland Hotel after watching the fireworks and light show, with my wonderful family, talking about our day and enjoying a cocktail or two before bedtime. 
♡ Dylan and Meryn's faces when we told them we were staying in the 'Pink Hotel'
♡ Dinner on the first night at Inventions. They couldn't believe their luck when the characters kept coming to the table. I'll never forget Ayden's face when he saw Mickey for the first time.
♡ Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show was great - I was concerned taking an 18-month old as there are no highchairs or room for a pram (!) but he sat on my lap, wide-eyed and just enjoyed the whole thing. Dylan and Meryn got so into it, waving their stetsons in the air and banging their forks on the bench along with everyone else. Loved it!
♡ Ratatouille the ride - so worth the long queue, this new attraction was spectacular. One for the whole family too. All three children were mesmerised.
♡ Running as fast as we could to cram in as many night-time rides on Thunder Mountain Railroad as possible. This was Dylan and Meryn's favourite ride by far and I loved hanging on to them as they screamed and giggled through the whole thing.
♡ Taking Meryn on the Tower of Terror - we were both terrified and clung on to each other for dear life. She was so brave and went straight back on with her daddy.
♡ Ayden's face on Buzz's Laser Blast. "Ook mama… Bizz". He loves Bizz 

Is it bad that I'm already desperate to go back!? 

Monday, 17 November 2014

Oh good grief, it's Christmas! | my five festive faves

Feeling pretty festive today. Maybe it's the John Lewis ad. Maybe it's the excuse to spend hundreds of pounds on toys and pretty things. Maybe it's because I had cheese and crackers last night. Who can say. But I'm feeling it.

There are so many things I love about Christmas. It's pretty tough to narrow it down to five things I like the most, but I'm going to give it a good go.

Here they are. My five festive faves:

1. Christmas movies - ok, I've gone in with an obvious one, but nothing sets the mood quite like the opening titles of Home Alone. From November on it's the law that at least three Christmas movies must be watched per week. The frequency of this increases as the big day gets closer of course, but we don't want to peak too soon. I'm not even going to attempt to list my favourites, but let's just say the following are on heavy rotation through the month of December: Elf, Home Alone, Scrooged, Miracle on 34th Street, Prep & Landing and Bernard and the Genie (if you haven't seen it, google it. You're in for a treat!).

2. The sparkle - everything looks better when you chuck a bit of glitter at it, don't you think? Even the pile of paper and toys that seems to accumulate at the end of my kitchen table of its own accord. This time in two weeks the decorations will be up, the Elf on the Shelf will have arrived to remind the kids to behave themselves on a daily basis (blackmail is ok at Christmas, right?) and I couldn't be more excited about it.

3. The festive feels - there's no doubt about it, everyone's in a considerably better mood at this time of year. Maybe not in the run up - there's nothing merry and bright about elbowing your way through a vicious throng of Christmas panic buyers - but from Christmas Eve on, generally, everyone is pretty cheery and I love that. 

4. The food - oh god, the food. Cheese, chutneys, gingerbread, ham… sprouts. Yes, I'm on team sprout. They're bloody awesome. I've got to reign it in a bit though. We got the cheese out last night and even I'm well aware that was a tad premature. Don't judge. 

5. Make believe - it's all about the little people. Their excitement and joy is simply magical. How wonderful is it to have a chance to encourage their imaginations, fuel their belief in the spectacular and make believe along with them. It's like Disneyland on steroids. Pure joy. 

What are your five festive faves? 

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

What we're watching | our Netflix picks

It's no secret. I love a night in. I have three kids, who am I kidding, I have no choice but to love a night in! 

But in all seriousness, there's something good for the soul about snuggling on the sofa with a blanket in front of the log burner. 

Some of these you will have seen before, some might be new to you, but these are my Netflix picks for those chilly evenings in.

The funny one: Ru Paul's Drag Race
This won't be to everyone's taste, but I'm completely fascinated by this show. Brutally funny, colourful and oh so camp, it's pure entertainment and definitely worth a watch.

The family choice: The Muppet Movie
We're big muppet fans in this house and this is the original Muppet Movie made in 1979. A good old road-trip comedy, the movie follows Kermit as he tries to make it big in Hollywood, meeting his muppet buddies along the way. Pure entertainment for the whole family and a classic to boot. What's not to love? 

The indie pick: Whip it!
Man I loved this movie. It's basically a film about girls - love stories, friendships, camaraderie and rivalry. Just the right combination of funny and gritty, I think all girls should watch this. Chances are, boys will enjoy it too. Mine did.

The box set: Orange is the New Black
We were a bit late to the party with this one. I had to convince my husband that this was something he'd enjoy. Essentially it's a drama about a group of inmates in a female prison. Filled with fascinating characters and moving story lines, there was so much more to this series than I expected and we thoroughly enjoyed it.

The must-see: House of Cards
If you only watch one thing from this list, please give this a go. Hands down, the best series I have watched in a long time. I've recommended it to so many people who've all thought it was great too. Kevin Spacey plays congressman Francis Underwood, a ruthless man who gets up to all manner of inappropriate shenanigans on his journey to the top in Washington DC. If you like your shows slick, sharp and gripping, you'll love this.

I'm always on the lookout for new things to add to my watch list, so please leave your recommendations below. Now where's that blanket?

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Style dupe | baby pom-pom hat

For the past couple of weeks I've been trying to track down this hat for Ayden. I'd fallen in love with it and no other would do. Frustratingly it sold out everywhere in his size. And I mean everywhere. 

The Mini Rodini black ear hat is just adorable, but not cheap at £25. So I was excited to see that good old Gap has a very similar version available for a fraction of the cost.

This chunky knit version is just £9.95. Coupled with a cheeky discount code that conveniently landed in my inbox this morning, I managed to pick up this little beauty for just shy of £7. With free shipping thrown in to boot. 

Everyone's a winner. 

Slightly upset that I didn't think to check for an adult version...