Thursday, 13 December 2018

Why I love the Elf on the Shelf at Christmas

The Elf on the Shelf has been an important part of our Christmas traditions for a few years now. We were quite an early adopter, beginning a few years ago with a single elf and expanding to two elves when Mia was old enough to understand. At this time of year I hear so many people saying that they wouldn't have the elf in their house and explaining why, so I thought I'd write about why we love having the Elf on the Shelf to visit us in the run up to Christmas.

Why I love the Elf on the Shelf

It's doesn't need to cause extra work

Some people do go mad with the activities that their elves get up to, but that's because they feel they have to, it's because they want to! It's really fun to get creative and do something fun for your children to make them smile. But I've generally always kept it low key. Our children are just as thrilled to find that they've moved to a different place overnight.

It's not expensive

When we bought our elves they were quite new to the UK and only the official ones were available, and they weren't cheap. But now you can find them everywhere for just a pound or two, and you can use the same elf every year. You don't need to buy accessories or props (although my Mum does sell patterns for some fantastic little knitted jumpers!), you can easily make do with things you have around the house.

He doesn't need to make the children paranoid about their behaviour

Although we've told the children that the elves go back to see Father Christmas every night, they don't think they are here to check up on them. We never use them as a threat, or warn the children that they need to be good as an elf is watching. If I do bring up the elf, I'll say that he's sitting in a good place because he wants to watch them play and have fun doing Christmassy things.

Elf on the Shelf playing with Hama beads

It's another way of keeping the magic alive

At 9 and 7 I'm well aware that we don't have long left with our children both believing. In fact I think we are on borrowed time already, or else they are very good at pretending!

It doesn't need to be a competition

I love seeing photos of the things that other people organise for their elves. But I rarely share pictures myself. Firstly because I know not everyone wants to see them, and secondly because I just don't feel the need to. Young children won't see pictures on social media unless you show them, and although their friends may talk about what their elves have got up to, I'm pretty sure they wouldn't compare.

It doesn't need to go on forever

A point will come when the children no longer believe in the elf. But even when they both realise that the elves aren't really moving about the house by themselves I think they'll still enjoy playing along with me, and maybe some years we can delegate the elf responsibility to the children! Even when the children are older I'm sure we'll still have the elves as part of our traditions.

Elf on the Shelf in marshmallow bath

Does an elf visit your home in the run up to Christmas?

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Review - Aladdin at the Pavilion Theatre, Worthing 2018

This Christmas we were delighted to be invited back to the Pavilion Theatre, Worthing to see this year's Pantomime - Aladdin.

The original story of Aladdin and the Magic Lamp is a middle Eastern folk tale, one of the stories from One Thousand and One Nights which dates back to the 18th century. There's an interesting connection with Worthing - it was originally translated by Edward William Lane at Union Place in Worthing, and so the story returns to the town after 180 years.

Aladdin pantomime at Worthing Pavilion theatre

The story of Aladdin and his magical lamp needs little introduction, and most people are familiar with the story thanks to various film and stage adaptations. We follow Aladdin, tricked by an evil sorcerer and trapped in a cave, where he discovers the magical Genie and is able to turn his fortunes around and marry the beautiful princess.

Aladdin is played by Lee Latchford-Evans, famous from Steps, and the princess by CBeebies presenter Rebecca Keatley. Brian Blessed provides the distinctive voice of the Genie, with comedian Vikki Stone as Abanazer, Mark Jones as Wishee Washee and Dave Lynn as Widow Twankey.

Aladdin at the Worthing Pavilion

Once again, the children and I enjoyed a magical pantomime. There were plenty of catchy songs (with of course some Steps classics), great sets and all the traditional pantomime elements. My children are often a bit hesitant when it comes to audience participation, but with a bit of encouragement they were soon joining in with gusto. The performances were brilliant, and Vikki Stone in particular as the baddie Abenazar was a genius casting, you could really tell how much she was enjoying the role! There were plenty of jokes, lots of slapstick comedy, and we all loved joining in with the singalong sequence.

We had a great night out and I'd definitely recommend getting tickets!

Aladdin at Worthing Pavilion theatre

Aladdin will be running at the Pavilion Theatre, Worthing from Friday 30th November 2018 to Tuesday 1st January 2019. Tickets are on sale now via Worthing Theatres or at the Box Office on 01903 206 206. Check out the official trailer below:


We received complimentary tickets to the pantomime in exchange for sharing on my blog and social media.

Monday, 10 December 2018

The Christmas Library jigsaw puzzle from Ravensburger

I do love a Christmas jigsaw. I tend to acquire a new one almost every year, and I try make the time to complete each one in the weeks leading up to Christmas. The final one needs to be finished before Christmas day, because I like to spread my jigsaw board out on the dining room table and so I need it out of the way before we eat Christmas dinner! This year I've been lucky enough to receive a couple of new Christmas jigsaws to review from Ravensburger, and today I'm sharing with you the gorgeous The Christmas Library (affiliate link), a 1000 piece puzzle depicting a bookshelf stuffed with classic Christmas books.

The Christmas library jigsaw puzzle from Ravensburger

I just love all the bright colours in this jigsaw, and because each book cover is generously sized it wasn't difficult to pick out some of the more obvious titles and get started. It wasn't too easy though, there are lots of similar looking sections and some areas were quite challenging. For example, I normally start a jigsaw with the edges, but I hadn't even found all the edge pieces until I was well into completing it! 

Christmas jigsaw puzzle review from Ravensburger

Like all Ravensburger puzzles the pieces are sturdy and slot together nicely. They also have a lovely smooth finish which doesn't produce too much glare underneath an overhead light - important as at this time of year you don't get much daylight.

The Christmas Library puzzle from Ravensburger

I loved all the festive images, not just on the book covers but also little Christmas decorations and trinkets scattered across the shelves that were fun to spot and piece together. It's definitely a Christmas jigsaw that will put you in the mood for the season, and there's a good chance that it will also inspire you to dig out some classic Christmas reads!

I received this jigsaw in exchange for a review. This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Friday, 7 December 2018

Christmas gifts that children can make with Twinkl



I love encouraging the children to make homemade gifts for friends and family, and today I'm sharing some fab resources from Twinkl to help your children do just that. There's a huge range of printables that can be customised by children to make a gift by themselves, as well as instruction sheets that children can use to put together the perfect gift.

These resources are all available as part of a Twinkl subscription - visit the Twinkl website to find out more and to see the latest subscription packages.

For parents

I love this Christmas Voucher Gift Book. It contains individual vouchers which can be printed and stapled together to form a book of coupons which parents can exchange for various things like a foot massage, a hug or an hour of uninterrupted 'you time'. You can also print customised vouchers with your own ideas, I'd love to see what my children came up with as treats for me!

I would also like to receive this Christmas Cookie Mix in a Jar which contains the dry ingredients for making a batch of cookies along with a printable recipe card with full instructions. With a bit of help children can practice their measuring skills by filling the jars, and then the jar can be decorated using stickers or chalk pens and tied with ribbon.

Lots of chocolate chip cookies
Image credit Erol Ahmed via Unsplash 

For Grandparents

These Woven Paper Hearts take a bit of practice to make, but once you have the knack they don't take long at all and you can experiment with your own designs and colour combinations. Start by printing the simple template to practice, then use it to cut out your own coloured or patterned paper. Once assembled the hearts can either be used to hold sweets, or hung up as reusable decorations for the Christmas tree. Making smaller ones is a great way to use up colourful scraps of paper, or you could reuse old wrapping paper or coloured envelopes from Christmas cards.


Woven paper hearts using a template from Twinkl

These simple Christmas Candle Holders make a lovely gift and could be personalised with the name of the child and the year. As an extra gift you could buy a pack of seasonally scented tea lights to go inside.

And another jam jar craft - these Christmas Plants in Jars are very sweet and should be easy to look after indoors.

Plant in a jar gift from Twinkl
Image credit Twinkl

For siblings

Slightly older children might enjoy sewing and decorating some Felt Stocking Christmas Craft which can be filled with sweets or a small toy. They can be personalised with the recipients name, and are reusable too.

Felt stocking craft from Twinkl
Image credit Twinkl

These Santa Gift Box Christmas Decoration can be printed in full colour and just need to be assembled with a little bit of parental help. They would make a lovely gift filled with sweets, and are a lovely Christmas decoration too. You can also print penguin and gingerbread man themed boxes.

For a friend

The slime craze shows no sign of dwindling, and I think most children would be delighted with a batch of Christmas Tree Slime. In fact the giver will probably have just as much fun making up the slime for a friend, using just a few basic ingredients.

Another lovely gift for a friend is a Christmas Basket which you can print out, colour in and fill with sweets.

Twinkl printable gift basket to colour

For a teacher

Teachers definitely deserve a gift at Christmas, and Twinkl has plenty of ideas. I love this Flower Pot Teacher Gift with a label that you can print to thank your teacher for all their hard work.

Or else you could help children put together a simple Teacher Relaxation Kit which comes with a list of ideas for things to include, and a label that you can print to remind your teacher to relax over the school holiday.

Box of chocolates
Image credit Monique Carrati via Unsplash

Finally, a lovely way to present any gift is with some Christmas Gift Tags that can be coloured in and personalised.

Twinkl also have lots of great Christmas decorations that you can print. I shared some last year in this post - Decorating your home for Christmas with Twinkl.

I have been provided with a Twinkl Platinum membership in exchange for sharing the resources on my blog and social media.

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Review - Disney Christmas jigsaw puzzle from Ravensburger

One of my favourite Christmas traditions is the Christmas jigsaw. I have very fond memories of working on a jigsaw during the school holidays, and while they don't always need to have a festive theme it's definitely much more fun if they do!

Regular readers will know that in this family we are big Disney fans, so we were all delighted to receive a lovely Disney Christmas (affiliate link) 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle to review from Ravensburger.

Disney Christmas jigsaw from Ravensburger

This Disney Christmas jigsaw depicts over sixty Disney and Disney Pixar characters gathered at a beautifully decorated railway station. The train is decorated with a Mickey garland, and the classic Disney characters are positioned in prime position in their festive costumes. There are plenty of different characters to spot, including princesses, princes, fairies and villains, from Disney films old and new.

Disney Christmas jigsaw from Ravensburger

It's a great jigsaw puzzle to work on as a family because the characters are easy to find and pick out, and appeal to all ages. Like all Ravensburger puzzles this jigsaw is very high quality, with sturdy pieces that slot together beautifully.

Disney Christmas jigsaw puzzle from Ravensburger

If you are looking for a fun Christmas jigsaw to add to your collection then I'd definitely recommend this one.

I received a copy of this jigsaw puzzle in exchange for a review. Amazon link is affiliate.

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Infographic - How to avoid a car hire horror story abroad

We often hire a car when travelling abroad. It makes a lot of sense if you want to have the freedom to travel around by yourself,and it can work out a lot cheaper than paying for taxis or public transport. However there are definitely things that you need to look out for and be aware of, and this infographic has some great tips and advice to make sure that you don't get caught out.

Infographic - how to avoid a car hire horror story abroad

Infographic source - Motoring Offence Lawyer

This is a collaborative post

Monday, 3 December 2018

Making a Christmas fireplace garland

This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

I've always felt that our fireplace feels a bit plain at Christmas, so I decided that this was the year that I would make a small investment and create something a bit more special to help give our living room a real festive feel. So here's how I put together this simple fireplace garland.

How to make a simple fireplace garland tutorial

You need:
Green decorative foliage - I used this Christmas Garland 
Christmas baubles in a variety of sizes
Fake poinsettias - mine were taken from this gorgeous Poinsettia Garland but you can also buy separate artificial poinsettias like these
Blu Tack glitter pens
Battery powered fairy lights (or if your fireplace is situated near a socket you can use mains powered ones)
Bostik Glu Dots
Any other embellishments, for example ribbon, pine cones, small decorations

Instructions:

First prepare the embellishments that you would like to use. I used some Blu Tack glitter pens to add a bit of sparkle to my plain decorations.

BluTack Bostik glitter pens for crafting

I squeezed the glitter glue out onto a margarine tub lid, then used a paintbrush to apply the red glitter to the leaves of the poinsettias and the gold glitter to the plain baubles.

Adding glitter to Christmas decorations

This glitter glue is a great way to apply glitter to a surface without needing to use glue and glitter separately - meaning that there is no glitter related mess at all! You might need to add a couple of coats to the baubles, depending on how sparkly you want them to be. As I already had shop bought thickly covered glitter baubles in my selection I just added a single coat to give a light sprinkling.

Painting baubles with gold glitter

It's such a simple thing to do and it really makes a big difference!

Glittery decorations for fireplace ornament

Next take your garland and lay it out over the fireplace. Make sure that it is the same length on both sides and fluff it out so that it looks full and even. 

Plain green garland over a fireplace

Take your fairy lights and wind them around the garland. It's easiest to do this when they are switched on so that you can check the lights are neatly spaced. If they are battery powered, make sure that the battery box is tucked away somewhere accessible. You might want to use a couple of sets to make sure that you have plenty of lights.

Adding fairy lights to a fireplace garland

Now it's time to decorate the garland with the poinsettias and baubles. First I laid them out in place so that I could make sure they were spaced evenly and I was happy with their positions. Then I stuck them in place using Bostik Glu Dots. These Glu Dots are very sticky and will adhere to almost any surface. Despite this they are also fairly easy to remove and won't leave any residue, so they are perfect for Christmas decorations which will only be in place temporarily and that they can be removed and reused the following year.


Bostik Glu Dots for Christmas crafting

The glittered decorations really stand out in the glow of the fairy lights!

Christmas garland with poinsettias tutorial

I'm really pleased with our fireplace garland, I love the red and the gold which is a theme that I'm going to carry on in the rest of my Christmas decorating. Closer to Christmas I'll buy a real poinsettia to stand in the fireplace!

Christmas fire place garland and Christmas tree

This is a collaborative post with Bostik. Contains Amazon affiliate links.
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