Monday, 11 December 2017

Things that I love about Christmas

Things that I love about Christmas

I love this time of year, especially these last few days when the children have finished school, I've finished the shopping, presents and cards have been delivered, and most of the other preparation is done. So I thought I'd write a nice festive post with all the things that I love about Christmas!

Decorations - I love having the decorations up in the house. We have a gorgeous artificial tree, and the corner where it sits always looks so empty and bare the rest of the year. The mantlepiece looks much prettier with our homemade decorations on, and the banisters are the perfect place to display Christmas cards.

Fairy lights - It's so much nicer to sit and watch television in the evening bathed in a soft twinkly glow.

The Elf on the Shelf - I know, I know, he's not for everyone, but my children absolutely love getting up in the morning to see what the elves have been up to - even if all they've done is moved from one side of the room to the other. However I don't make a big thing about the children being spied on, and I don't share any photos to social media - it's just a bit of fun for the children!

New traditions - Although most people celebrate Christmas all families have their own way of doing things, and it can take a few years to work out your own traditions. For example - presents before or after breakfast? Does everyone sedately open present at a time, or do you go for a massive paper flinging frenzy? All food cooked from scratch or pre-prepared? It's nice when you've developed familiar routines that work for your family and you can start your own traditions.

The Gingerbread House - I'm not sure what inspired me to make my first gingerbread house (I suspect Pinterest) but since 2012 we've made them every year. We started off with one large house, then more recently I make two smaller houses for the children to decorate. I've found a recipe that works well and all sticks together nicely (you can read about how I make our gingerbread houses here) so they are easy to make and the children have a lot of fun with them.

Christmas music - Christmas has definitely begun when you hear Fairytale of New York on the radio! We always have our Spotify Christmas playlist on when we decorate the tree, when we open the presents, when we eat our Christmas dinner and whenever we are doing anything festive. I also love singing Christmas carols at the school carol service and on the village green on Christmas Eve.

The Nativity play - This year was probably our last traditional Nativity play, as the school have a carol service instead from Year 3. I've loved watching them over the years.

Christmas food - I must admit that we've already made an excellent start on the Christmas chocolates (there's generally a box open throughout December) and I do love a mince pie or two. We don't have a massive traditional Christmas dinner, but we do buy special food like cheeses and crackers and I love roasted vegetables with different sauces.

Finally, I think that my favourite thing about Christmas is all the memories from past Christmases. I have had so many happy times at Christmas in my life and it's lovely to have the memories triggered, whether by a particular song or carol, going to a certain place or eating a particular food.

What are your favourite things about Christmas?

Photo credit Annie Spratt via Unsplash

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Free printable Christmas resources from Mrs Mactivity

If you are looking for some festive activities to keep the children entertained in the run up to Christmas, I have some lovely free Christmas printables to share with you from Mrs Mactivity. 

This gorgeous printable Christmas bunting looks so bright and colourful and makes a lovely, simple Christmas decoration for the home or classroom.

Mrs Mactivity printable coloured Christmas bunting

I have it hanging above the fireplace in our living room and it looks so cheery and festive. You can also print the bunting out in black and white so that children can colour it in themselves, and it would look fab embellished with glitter or sequins.

Mrs Mactivity printable coloured Christmas bunting

Mia really loved the selection of fun Christmas colouring sheets with tracing words. Her favourite was the angel, and you can choose from lots more like a wreath and an elf. They are a lovely quiet activity for young children to keep them busy while you are getting on with the Christmas preparations.

Mrs Mactivity free Christmas worksheet with word tracing

Finally I really love this Advent Calendar printable. The pictures are very sweet and I can imagine using this resource in lots of ways - whether to make your own Advent Calendar or as a daily colouring activity. You could also cut out all the individual pictures and use them to make decorations or Christmas cards.

Mrs Mactivity free printable Christmas resources

To get your hands on these free resources, just visit the Mrs Mactivity Facebook page and leave a comment on the ones that you fancy, there are lots to see, and more are being added all the time. Have fun!

Friday, 8 December 2017

Visiting Hong Kong with the family

Best attractions in Hong Kong for families

Hong Kong may not be the first place that springs to mind when you are contemplating a family holiday, but having just return from a fab holiday to Asia with a week in Hong Kong and a week in Singapore, I thought I'd share some of the great attractions in Hong Kong that we enjoyed with our children. I've made a little video of our travels to Hong Kong too, which you can see at the bottom of the post!

Disneyland Hong Kong


I must admit that Disneyland Hong Kong was one of the main reasons that we chose to visit Hong Kong. We are big Disney fans and so we were confident that we would enjoy a visit, we are also quite proficient when it comes to visiting Disney parks, and we were interested to see the similarities and differences. Hong Kong Disneyland didn't disappoint. It's the smallest Disney park and there's only the one park on site. We spent two days there and rode all our favourite rides several times, as well as seeing the parades, shows and fireworks. It is easy to get to on the MTR, and the last stop is a dedicated MTR train to Disneyland which is really fun, it has Mickey Mouse shaped windows, Mickey Mouse shaped straps to hang on to, and little Disney statues as decorations.

We visited in late October, half-term holiday for us but term time in Hong Kong, so the park was fairly quiet, and we were also able to enjoy the Halloween decorations and festivities. One thing to note was that only a couple of the rides use fast track and the opening hours were quite short. It was open from 10am until 8pm, but many of the rides were only open from 11am until 7pm. This wasn't a problem for us but might be worth considering if you are planning a visit at a busy time.

For me it was the perfect Disney park - lovely warm sunny weather but not too hot, small in scale so not too much walking, a good mix of rides and attractions, and not too busy. All the cast members were super friendly and had free stickers to hand out to the children, there were a couple of excellent rides that were new to us like the Iron Man Experience and Mystic Manor, and lots of familiarity too.

Hong Kong Disneyland castle

Ngong Ping 360


The Ngong Ping 360 is a cable car that takes you to Ngong Ping village, situated on Lantau Island. There are other ways of reaching the village but we loved going up in the cable car. We found an offer on the main website and also on Klook where you can travel in one direction on a Crystal glass bottomed cabin which was fantastic. Once you are at the village there are lots of fun attractions. We climbed up to the Big Buddha statue, looked around the monastery, and went for a short walk out to the Wisdom Path. There were also lots of little shops to look around, it was a really lovely place to visit.

Hong Kong Ngong Ping 360 cable car

Victoria Peak and The Peak Tram


On our first day in Hong Kong we took the Peak Tram up to Victoria Peak for amazing views across Hong Kong. It was a Sunday and because it was our first day we didn't rush to get going in the morning, with hindsight we should have arrived first thing as it was quite busy and we did have to queue for quite a while. It's a lovely trip up to the peak and then you can take a walk to various viewing points or do a circular walk around the peak. There's a shopping centre at the top with several things to do as well as shops and restaurants.

Hong Kong view from The Peak

Hong Kong Park


Hong Kong Park is located at the bottom station of the Peak Tram, so it's easy to combine a visit. It's free to enter and there are some lovely playgrounds for children. We also spent quite a bit of time in the Aviary which is beautifully set out with lots of interesting birds and other wildlife to look for.

Hong Kong Science Museum


We always visit a science museum if there's one available, and the Hong Kong Science Museum didn't disappoint. The centerpiece is the Energy Machine which is like a giant marble run, the largest machine of its kind in the world. It runs every couple of hours during the day and is fascinating to watch. We visited on a Wednesday when entry was free and it was very quiet.

Hong Kong Science Museum

Hong Kong Museum of History


The Hong Kong Museum of History is located next to the Science Museum and was also free on Wednesday when we visited. It's a museum which takes you through the history of Hong Kong right up until the present day and was very informative. It was a good mix of information and interesting displays for the children, and we all learned a great deal.

Hong Kong History Museum

The Star Ferry


A ride on the Star Ferry is a great way to see the harbour from another angle as you travel from Hong Kong Island to Kowloon and back. It's quite a short ride but definitely a more interesting way to get around.

A Symphony of Lights Harbour Show


The Symphony of Lights harbour show takes place each night, it takes place at 8pm and the narration is in English on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. We watched from just outside the Hong Kong Cultural Centre and there was plenty of room to sit and enjoy.

Shopping in the markets


We spent quite a bit of time wandering around the markets, we always felt safe even in the evening. We found the prices very reasonable and it was quite easy to haggle. I bought sets of lovely embroidered purses, the children bought souvenirs like magnets, fans, keyrings and fidget spinners. The photograph below was taken in Ngong Ping village, which again was very reasonably priced for souvenirs.

Hong Kong shopping at Ngong Ping village

I hope I've inspired you to think about a holiday to Hong Kong with the family, we had such a great time and I'd really recommend it! 

I made a little video which includes all of these attractions here:

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Christmas gifts for children who love to travel

As a family we love to travel, and I'd like to think that we manage travelling with children fairly successfully! With Christmas coming up I thought I'd put together a little gift guide of bits and pieces that would be brilliant gifts for any adventurous children that are on your shopping list. They are all things that I've chosen myself, and in most cases they are things that we already own and I can recommend personally. Happy browsing!

Christmas gifts for children who love to travel

Please note that this blog post contains Amazon affiliate links, if you purchase something after clicking on the link then I'll receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.


For children that want to carry their own essentials


Trunki ride on suitcase - Our children love their Trunkis, and while I don't find them very practical for travelling on a plane (although they are fab for the airport) they are great for when travelling by car and the children love the responsibility of doing their own packing.

Pull along suitcase - A small pull along suitcase is very practical for older children, and I love this one that has a little seat belt on the front for a favourite teddy or doll.

Small rucksack - A small rucksack is perfect for hand luggage on the plane. Choose one with a zip so that you can keep everything safely inside, and small pockets on the outside are handy for frequently required items.

Bum Bag - Maybe not as fashionable as they once were, but a bum bag is brilliant for children to carry a few essentials out with them on a day trip - like some money, a phone or a snack - without having to worry about carrying a larger rucksack. Especially great for theme parks where you don't want to leave a bag in a locker.



Keeping children entertained while on the move


Kids Headphones - If your children will be using tablets or other electronic devices in a public place then you need some headphones. We've been using these ones for a few years now and they work brilliantly.

Pencil and Paper Games book - There are lots of different pen and paper books out there but I particularly love this one as it's a really good mixture of the classics and some new games. The games are played on tear out sheets, and there are plenty of pages. The games are also easy to replicate yourself on some blank paper.

Dobble - Card games are great for travel, and Dobble is particularly good as it appeals to both children and adults.

Travel 4 in a Row - Travel board games can be tricky as they sometimes have lots of small parts which can be difficult to keep track of, especially if you are trying to play in a car or airplane. It's worth looking for magnetic versions, or one like this 4 in a Row game where all the pieces can be kept reasonably contained.



Comfort for children on the go


Travel Pillow - We bought travel pillows for the first time on our most recent holiday and they made a big difference to how well the children slept on the flight. They've also used them in the car and they find them very comfortable. They are a little bulky to carry around, and so we use a carabiner to attach them to a rucksack to make them a little easier to transport.

Snack pots - When travelling with children you definitely need to take lots of snacks, and these screw top snack pots that fit together are perfect for snacks of all sizes.

Eye Mask - Not all children will find an eye mask comfortable, but for an older child who is used to sleeping in the dark this could be a lovely gift to help them sleep while on the move.

Foot Rest Pillow - I came across this while I was browsing and I'll admit that unlike most things on this list it's not something we own or have tried. But it looks like a brilliant way to keep a child comfortable on a flight as it allows them to stretch out their legs, and a small child would probably be able to sleep lying down.

 


Stocking fillers for travelling children - small yet useful


Small carabiners - These are brilliant for attaching things together so that they don't get lost. I recently used some for attaching neck pillows to rucksacks, they are also great for attaching teddies if they have a label loop, or holding some types of water bottle.

Luggage Tags - Choose something large and colourful, and if you are travelling with more than one child go for ones that can help you to easily identify the different bags.

Zippable plastic wallets - I give each child a small zippable folder to collect leaflets, postcards and other souvenirs. I also use them to corral pens, crayons and scrap paper.

Water Bottle -  If you get a bottle with a hanging loop then they are easy to attach to a rucksack or belt loop with a carabiner. Just make sure that you empty them before going through security at the airport, and then you can refill them on the other side. Great for on a plane so that children can sip during take off and landing, and to keep by the side of the bed to avoid spillage from knocking over a glass.



Books to inspire a love of travel


These books are too bulky to take along with you, but they are brilliant reference books to keep at home and browse when you are planning your travels!



Home decor for travellers


Large World Map - We have a large map poster up on the wall and it's great for helping the children to understand where we are in relation to the rest of the world and to see where we will be travelling.

Scratch World Map - There are various ways that you can track your travels, you could stick a pin in a map or you could try a scratch off world map to mark where you have been.

Illuminated Globe - A globe makes a lovely gift for a child who wants to learn about the world, it's a much better visual reference than a flat map and there are all sorts of different types available to suit the age of your child.

My Little Adventure bedding set - I love this bedding set which is decorated with the countries of the world.

 

Amazon links are affiliate. Photo credit Annie Spratt via Unsplash

Monday, 4 December 2017

December - Lately I've been...

The year is drawing to a close, and it's such a busy time of year. This first full week of December always seems to be when everything collides, both at home and at school, and I spend most of my time out and about in the cold ferrying children about and making sure that everyone is where they need to be. I can't wait until the end of term when we can all hunker down at home for a couple of weeks! So here's what I've been up to lately:

Thinking about

I'm enjoying remembering our wonderful holiday last month, and I've been busy putting together some themed videos about the places that we visited. Although I've been putting them up on YouTube to share, they are really just for us to look back on in years to come.


I'm also planning some projects for the new year. Two years ago I worked on my daily crochet Sky Blanket, then this year I've been taking video each day so that I can compile a 'year in seconds' video. This has been quite stressful to be honest as it has involved remembering to take the video every day - at least with the Sky Blanket I could catch up when I missed a day! So I'm trying to come up with a yearly project for next year that is quite flexible. I put together some ideas for a long term craft project last year, or I might try and work on one different craft project each month, I have a few kits ready to work on.

Crafting

I seem to have been very busy this month, but I've found the time to make a start on my Cross Stitch Map (affiliate link). I decided to start with Australia as that's my favourite country and it's a nice big one. The kit only came with just enough green to fill in Australia, so I've decided that I'm going to use green for all the countries that I've visited, but using different shades for each one. Luckily I have quite a big stash of embroidery silks, so I should have enough to keep me going! I used yellow to make stars on the cities that we've visited, and I left Tasmania blank as we've not been there yet. I'm not sure where to work on next, I might make a start on Europe.

Cross stitch map with Australia completed

I've also been making a start on the Christmas crafting with these Christmas paper craft printables from Twinkl, and I've brought down the box of Christmas crafting bits and pieces so that we can all make some festive decorations together.

Watching

It's been a busy month for watching! At the cinema we went to watch Thor: Ragnarok which I enjoyed very much. At home I'm working my way through the latest season of Outlander which I much prefer to the last season. Then last week we went to watch The Killers at the O2 which was awesome, a really great show.

Eating

Oh, far too many biscuits as usual! And the Christmas chocolate boxes are already being worked through. My intentions to try and cut down a bit before Christmas haven't really worked, so I guess that's something to save until January now. One thing that I've not had yet is a mince pie, I'm the only one that likes them so if I buy a box I have to eat them all...I'm trying to hold back!

Travelling to

Since our big holiday last month we've been enjoying some time at home and not moving very far at all! We will be travelling up to Warwick to visit family before Christmas and we'll be going along to the Carols at Warwick Castle event with friends, so that should be lovely and festive.

Reading

I really enjoyed reading The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell all about her experiences of moving to Denmark, lots of humour, and interesting snippets about Danish daily life. I've also just finished The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k which was quite a refreshing read, and as well as helping me to think about the things that don't matter it's also encouraged me to spend my time doing and thinking about the things that do matter. I have a couple more books from my birthday stash to get to, next up will be The Book of Dust - as soon as Harry has finished it!

Books I received for my birthday

Planning

At the moment I'm trying to get as much blog and social media stuff out of the way as I can so that I can have a break over Christmas. I love having my editorial calendar all filled up, even if the posts aren't quite written yet at least I know what I need to do! (If you are working on a Christmas blog schedule you might like this list of Christmas blog post ideas!)

Luckily I don't have to get too stressed about buying for Christmas as our family is quite small and easy to sort out, it's just a case of remembering everything and getting it all wrapped. I've not started the Christmas cards yet so that's something that I need to get on with, and I still need a few little bits but I'm almost there.

Looking forward to

I'm very much looking forward to the end of term, even though it comes quite early for us on the 15th December. I love those days around Christmas when there is nothing to do apart from sit around and eat nice food, especially now that the children are that bit older and don't require quite as much entertaining and supervision.

What have you been up to lately?

Amazon links are affiliate.

Friday, 1 December 2017

Simple lanterns for Chinese New Year

This month the theme for my Bostik craft box is Chinese New Year - which in 2018 will be celebrated on the 16th January, and the year beginning in 2018 will be the year of the Dog. I decided to make some simple Chinese lanterns which we decorated together.

How to make simple Chinese Lanterns

To make your lanterns you need:

Some coloured or glittery card - I used an A5 sheet for my lanterns but you can use a larger piece to make a bigger lantern
Pipecleaners for the handle
Washi tape
Sequins
Bostik White Glu
Bostik Foam Pads

Crafting with Bostik products

Instructions:

Take the piece of card and fold in half. Use scissors to make a series of cuts about 1cm apart, starting at the folded edge and finishing about 1-2cm before the open edge. Unfold the cardboard, bend into a circle and staple in place at the top and the bottom.

How to make cardboard Chinese lanterns

Tape the ends of a pipecleaner on the inside of the lantern to form a handle. You may want to secure it firmly in place with a couple of extra staples. Then wrap some washi tape around the top and bottom of the lantern to cover the staples.

Crafting Chinese lanterns with Bostik products

Decorate the lantern using coloured sequins. I used a mixture of White Glu and Foam Pads. The White Glu holds the decorations firmly in place and the Foam Pads make the embellishments stand out from the lantern for a bit of extra interest.

Using Bostik white glu for crafting

When the glue is dry you can display your lanterns! They look great hanging and it would be lovely to make a range of lanterns in different sizes for decorations - perhaps stringing them up as bunting!

Lantern craft for Chinese New Year

If you enjoyed this craft, you might like my other Chinese New Year crafts:

Chinese New Year - Cardboard tube dragon puppet
Chinese New Year - Paper plate dragon mask
Chinese New Year - Paper cup lanterns

The box of craft materials was provided to me free of charge by Bostik as part of the Tots100/Bostik Craft Bloggers Club.

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Books that have inspired my travels

I've always been a reader, and I've always been interested in travel - and I've found that many times something that I've read has inspired me to visit a place. I wanted to share how some of my favourite books have inspired me to visit different cities and countries, and while I was putting the list together I realised that there are many more places that I've not yet managed to visit inspired by my reading!

So here's my list, both of places that I've visited and places that I haven't. Do you have a reading inspired travel wishlist?

Please note that this post contains Amazon affiliate links, this just means that if you purchase something after clicking on one of these links then I'll receive a small commission, there is no extra cost to you.

Australia

I had always been desperate to visit Australia, and after our visit back in 2007 it's definitely my favourite place that I've been, I'd love to go back! I first read On the Beach by Nevil Shute many years ago, and although it's not the most cheerful of stories (it's a post-apocalyptic novel following the last survivors of a nuclear world war, as they wait in Melbourne for the deadly radiation to reach them). I was fascinated reading about a country that seemed so similar to the UK and was yet so different. Further reading, in particular A Town Like Alice, further sparked my interest, I found it amazing to learn that to get to Australia in the 50's you used to have to take something like fifteen different flights hopping about the globe, and even now it's still quite a mission. Especially I would imagine with small children, but I really hope we can take them one day!

I was also further inspired by Bill Bryson and Down Under, where he takes a three day train ride across Australia. We investigated when were planning our trip but it was so expensive to get a decent cabin - maybe one day!



Iceland

I went through a phase of reading Jules Verne, and of all his novels it was Journey to the Centre of the Earth that really captured my imagination. The protagonists find the entrance to the centre of the earth on Snæfellsjökull, a glacier capped mountain in Iceland. When we visited Reykjavik a few years back we hired a car and drove a little way around the coast. Unfortunately we didn't get as close to the mountain as I would have liked as we were turned back by snow, but we did catch a glimpse!



Cornwall

I've always loved the novels of Daphne du Maurier and I've read most of them several times. I enjoyed the classics Rebecca and Jamaica Inn but my favourite is her first novel, The Loving Spirit. It tells the story of a family over four generations and the changes that they experience over time and it fascinates me, I've read it over and over. I've visited Cornwall several times



And here are some of the books I've read that have inspired my future travel wishlist!

Denmark

I recently finished The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell and I really enjoyed it. I will be paying a brief visit to Copenhagen next year as part of a cruise and I'm really looking forward to it, but reading this book has made me want to settle down for a bit longer and indulge in some Danish hygge!



Hammerfest and the Appalachian Trail

I mentioned Bill Bryson above, he is absolutely my favourite travel author and has written about so many places that I'd still like to visit. Hammerfest in Norway is the first place that he visits in Neither Here nor There, a book about his travels around Europe, and for some reason it has really stuck out to me as somewhere that I want to go! He begins in Hammerfest because it is the northernmost town in Europe, and at the time he wrote the book he had to take a thirty hour bus ride from Oslo. I think that it's a little more accessible these days (the book was published in 1991) and my parents were actually lucky enough to visit on a cruise last year, but it is so remote that it requires a special trip and I can't see me making it there any time soon!

I'm also inspired to hike the Appalachian Trail after reading A Walk in the Woods, I'm not sure it's a realistic goal and you do need to set aside a good amount of time, not to mention equipment, but maybe I could try part of it one day!



Mount Everest

This is one that I think is very unlikely to happen, but after reading Above All Things by Tanis Rideout I developed a sudden interested in Mount Everest, and even started researching how one goes about climbing it. I quickly realised that it wasn't something I was going to manage. Especially after I followed up my reading with Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer, which is a personal account of the 1996 Mount Everest disaster when a major storm claimed the lives of eight climbers. So I've accepted that I'm not going to climb it, but wouldn't it be amazing to at least visit Base Camp?!



I'd love to hear what books have inspired your travels, I'm always looking for some new reading!

Amazon links are affiliate.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...