Lapland here in the UK!

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I think we are now at the stage of my daughter no longer believing in Father Christmas or really close, she hasn’t said anything directly but I have a sneaking suspicion she may no longer believe.  She’s a rather bright kid, but also very honest so I think she may be a bit torn and has worked out that if she doesn’t believe that means one less present.

Earlier in the year, as I know time was against us I had a look around the net for trips to Lapland as I felt it would be our last time to experience the magic with her.  Unfortunately, it was simply too expensive for us so I shelved the idea.

So when, we were offered the opportunity to visit Lapland UK, apparently the next best thing but here in the UK, I jumped at the chance.  However, the first thing I did was have a look to make sure it wasn’t one of the Crap-lands, Blunder-lands or Rip-Off Lands that were in the news last year; with brawling Elves, Fag Smoking Santa and poorly treated Reindeer and Huskies.

The Real McCoy

I can assure you this is the real one.  All in all it was very well organised.  We travelled down to Whitmoor Forest, near Bracknell Forest from St Albans, Herts and it took less than an hour and only made one wrong turn, it could have been better sign posted from the M3.  There was ample parking and we arrived in plenty of time.

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After grabbing a much needed coffee, we signed in and got ready for our tour.  The Elves were great and kept in character throughout.  The overall decoration and ‘sets’ were beautiful and did transport you to a magical place.   The snowy tree lined paths really did make you feel like you were in a Winter Wonderland.

What to Expect

The whole experience takes approx 3.5 hours, to be honest I thought it was going to be less.  The tour starts in the Enchanted Forest where you meet a rather old Elf and Ekko and learn that Elves come from Pine Cones.

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You are then ushered into the Elves Toy Workshop where the children help out Father Christmas as he wasn’t anticipating so many good girls and boys and is short gifts this year.  Children set to stuffing bears and putting together wooden horses.  Then it’s off to Mother Christmas’ kitchen to make a Gingerbread houses and listen to a story.  You can probably guess which story it was….. ‘you can’t catch me, no one can’……

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At this point you get an opportunity to break away from the group and had about 90 minutes to ourselves before making our way to the big guy in a red suit, we grabbed some food in the restaurant and for this type of venue, it was decent and reasonably priced.  Did a spot of ice-skating, some of us were more wobbly than others, visited the Sweet Shop, stroked the huskies, visited the iron-mongers and posted a letter to Father Christmas.

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An Private Audience with Father Christmas

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The visit with Father Christmas at the end was very special, the fact he knew the children’s names, their interests and a recent event, may have persuaded these two 8 year olds to believe for one more year.  I may have taken a sneaky photo before being told off for doing so.

Things we liked:

  • Personalised invites from Santa prior to the event
  • Location and organisation
  • Beautiful scenery
  • Cheeky Elves
  • Insider knowledge from Santa
  • Good quality toy from Father Christmas albeit another soft toy.
  • Thank you cards from Father Christmas

Things that could be improved:

  •  I appreciate they have to get a huge number of people through each day and have to coordinate timings to keep the flow going, but did feel a bit like cattle at times and there was a fair amount of time spent waiting.
  • The skit by the older Elf and Ekko in the beginning could be improved as it seemed to go on for a bit and felt like it was purely to fill time.
  • As my mate said ‘Mother Christmas was a bit cr*p’.  This will secure her a place on the naughty list.
  • Allowing families to take their own photos with Santa, instead of being pressured to buy one of the commercially taken ones on the way out.
  • Like many other people who have commented on trip advisor, it’s expensive.  For the four of us to have gone it would have cost us approx £280 (£70 each) and in the run up to Christmas this is out of reach for most families.  Yes, it is cheap in comparison to the real Lapland, but does shut out a lot of families.
  • Introduction of a reduced family ticket.
  • For that price, a mince pie and glass of mulled wine for parents on arrival would be a nice touch.

However, overall we had a lovely day but probably wouldn’t pay that kind of money ourselves.

Thanks to Lapland UK for the once in a lifetime opportunity.





Zuccotto Panettone and Ricotta Cake

Festive Food Swap

Baking is not my strong point and for anyone who knows me baking with kids stresses me out; flour everywhere, egg shells in the batter and sugar on the floor.


So, when we were asked to take part in Tesco’s Festive Food Swap, which encourages people to try different tastes from around the world, I was secretly pleased the Italian recipe I received, from Giulia Mulè,  was more of an assembly job rather than a full on baking experience, no need to even preheat the oven.

The Festive Food Swap  was also a great opportunity to introduce my daughter about different Christmas Traditions from around the World.  She was intrigued by ‘Befana’, a friendly witch who delivers sweets and toys on the 5th of January instead of Father Christmas.

We were asked to make a Zuccotto Panettone and Ricotto Cake, which is a traditional dessert from Florence, Italy.  It seems that, it’s a good way to use up all of the left over Panettone after the Festive Season.  I have to admit, it felt rather strange cutting up a perfectly good cake to make another one.


We had a lot of fun putting it together and narrowly avoided using the wrong size bowl, no idea why I was thinking in inches, a 16 inch layered Panettone Cake would have been massive.


I’ve had a look on Google and ours seems to look like it should so we were happy.  However, I have to be honest, I’ve never been a lover of dried fruit and don’t tend to eat a lot of chocolate or puddings in general,  so it wasn’t to my liking, but you could definitely taste all the different flavours and can see the a ‘peel’.


I think my daughter was put off by the Marsala wine (Fortified Italian Wine) even though it took Google, a Tesco Employee and myself to find it, she obviously doesn’t take after her mother who would never turn her nose up at wine.

It’s starting to look a lot like Christmas!


Thanks to Giulia and Tesco for the opportunity.

Personalized Gifts for Kids from TinyMe

 Win a £40 Voucher to Spend at TinyMe

Personalized Blocks

I do love the personalized gifts for kids on  They have everything from bags to stationery to clothing to name labels.  We got one of their duffle bags a couple of years ago and it’s still going strong, my daughter uses it for her PE kit, the amount of stuff they need in primary school is nuts; including indoor and outdoor kit plus two pairs of shoes. Goodness knows how we remember everything each week. We also often use it for weekends away, squashes nicely in the boot of the car

Personalised Gifts for Kids.

The lovely folks at Tinyme are offering my readers a chance to win a £40 voucher to spend on some of their goodies.

Sandwich Bags

Whilst I was writing this post, instead of doing my work, I had a really good look through their site and am loving the reusable sandwich bags, no more fighting with plastic bags or the roll of clingfilm in the morning.  I guess you just turn them inside out and give them a good wipe.

Personalised Journal


My daughter is a bit of a magpie when it comes to Stationery, which I think is true about a lot of girls here age.  Apparently, you can never have enough diaries/journals.  One of her favourite things to do when her friends come around is to do a bit of diary writing, goodness knows what they write in them, but I do here a lot of giggling going on.  Tempted to get her a personalised journal for Christmas.

Free Christmas Printables

I also noticed that they have an entire section of FREE printables including some for Christmas, the activities are rather swish unlike a lot of the naff printables you get on line.  I love FREE!  I’m definitely going to do a few of them with my daughter in the build up to Christmas.  However, I have a sneaking suspicion mine won’t look like theirs.

Enter to Win!

To enter the competition simply use the rafflecopter form below.  Competition Ends on the 1st of Dec, UK residents 18+ only.  The full Terms and Conditions can be found on the bottom of the form.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I should probably get back to work!  Good luck and thanks for joining in.

This competition is listed on Loquax, Prize Finder and Competition Hunter.

Ski Lessons for Kids in the UK

Things to do during the school holidays near St Albans

During October Half-Term we had the opportunity to go to The Snow Centre in Hemel Hempstead, we’ve been skiing there before and we had a sledging party for my daughter’s 6th Birthday a couple of years ago.  As a Canadian I was impressed with the quality of snow, pretty close to the real stuff.

As we live in St Albans, the Snow Centre is normally less than 20 minutes  away by car.  Unfortunately, on this occasion, the main road in was closed due to an ‘incident’.  Luckily,  we were able to find our way around the incident and weren’t too late.  We were actually on time but left us with less time to get kitted up – skis, boots, poles and helmets were included in the lesson.  You can also hire clothing if you don’t have any of your own.

Ski Lessons in Hemel

This made it a bit stressful as I hate being late.  However, the staff were excellent helping us get organised and calmed me down, it took 3 trips to the ‘clothing department’ to get the correct size snow trousers and two to the ‘equipment section’ to get the right size boots, which was not a fault of the Snow Centre and my daughter did wait till she had her boots on to tell us the trousers were too big.  Grrr!

Being half-term it was rather busy but it was all very well organised and flowed, after check-in you were guided to an area to meet your instructor and get ready.  It did look chaotic but it really wasn’t.

Fun for all ages

We had an adults lift pass and a private lesson for our daughter.  My 67-year old mother was visiting from Canada at the time, so we had to decide which one of us got the lift pass.  Coincidently she taught me to ski as a child, my first skis were 110cm and we did toy with the idea of sending her.  However, in the end, as she was only going to be with us for a week and we hadn’t seen her in 15 months, we didn’t think we should risk an injury, so we sent my hubby in the end.

Ski Practice in the UK

It’s like riding a bike…….

The ski hill is split into two sections, those who are proficient can whizz up and down on the left and the group and individual lessons happen on the right.  So hubby went off to the left, while our daughter went off to the right for her lesson and we went upstairs to watch from the viewing platform.  It’s been awhile since my husband has been skiing and he said it didn’t dawn on him till he got to the top of the drag lift that he may not remember how.  Secretly, I was hoping for him to bail so I could get some good photos, sadly he didn’t.

Skiing Lessons for Kids near London

My daughter’s instructor was lovely and patient.  She had our daughter going up the learner slope in minutes, she used great analogies like pizza slices to introduce her to turning and the snow plough.  She did spend a lot of time on her bum but had a brilliant time and as soon as she came off the slope, she asked if we could come again.

How to teach kids to ski

Après Ski

We finished of our visit with a bit of Après Ski in the Lodge Bar, where you are transported to Austria with a great selection of authentic Austrian dishes or a few of your favourites.  The prices were reasonable, great view of the slopes and fantastic atmosphere.

Apres Ski at Hemel Snow Centre

Food at the Lodge, Hemel Snow Centre

I think if anyone is considering a ski holiday or looking for something to do during school holidays, I would definitely recommend a trip to the Hemel Snow Centre.  You can book lift passes and lessons online or follow them on Facebook for deals and news.

Now your chance to win!

Hemel Snow Centre Family Lift Pass

The lovely folks at the Hemel Snow Centre are offering my readers a chance to win A family lift pass, 2 adults and 2 children, any time in the next 12 months.

To enter simply use the Rafflecopter form below.  The full Terms and Conditions are at the bottom of the form, but in short it’s open to UK residents 18 years and older.  The winners would have to be at recreational standard, or the value can be put towards a lesson.  Competition closes on the 1st Dec 2015.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This competition is listed on Loquax, Prize Finder and Competition Hunter.


Win a £40 Bouquet of Flowers from Debenhams

Gynaecological  Cancer Awareness Month

Sept 2015 was Gynaecological  Cancer Awareness Month and there was some excellent campaigns running.  If you have an Instagram account you may have come across the hashtag #ladygardencampaign, which was a partnership between Top Shop and the Gynaecological Cancer Fund, a new charity with monies going to support research at the Royal Marsden.

The Campaign received a lot of celebrity backing with the likes of Ellie Goulding and Elisabeth Hurley donning jumpers with ‘Lady Garden’ boldly emblazoned on the front.  And the Duchess of York, Fergie lending her support at a Lady Garden Luncheon.

Cancer Awareness Sept 205

The main aim of the campaign hopes to encourage woman to talk more about their bits and become aware of what the symptoms of  Gynaecological Cancer are.  Unlike Breast Cancer and Skin cancer, where physical changes can be detected;  lumps, dimples, discharge, change in moles etc, many of us are not aware of what to watch out for when it comes to the Big 5 Gynaecological Cancers.  Click on the image for more information.

Gynaecological Cancer Awareness
Picture Courtesy of CDC

I thought I would take the opportunity via this Flower Competition to remind my lady friends how important it is to attend regular Cervical Screenings.  It’s not the most pleasant thing in the world, and I can think of a zillion other things I’d rather do,  but early detection is the key to successful treatment.  Most woman don’t get screened before it’s too late and are not diagnosed till stage 4.  With cancer there is no stage 5.  50 Woman a day in the UK are diagnosed with some form of Gynaecological Cancer.

‘too busy to attend her screening and now admits that not going for her smear test is one of her biggest regrets.’  Jenny Croston a 38 year old mother of two

Hopefully this prompts at least one of you to book your screening today.


It’s Give-away Time!

Now it’s your turn enter for a chance to Win £40 to spend on any bouquet from Debenhams Flowers.

Next Day Flower Delivery

Whether you want to send flowers to a loved one, treat yourself or simply cover up the fact you’ve forgotten a special occasion at the last minute, Debenhams Flowers is definitely the destination of choice.  I recently used their Flowers Delivery service and can highly recommend, I wasn’t sure what I wanted, left it up to them and they put together a gorgeous bouquet for me, and if you’re also short on time they do a Next Day Flowers delivery service as well.

Debenhams Flowers are kindly offering one lucky winner to win a £40 voucher to spend on a bouquet of your choice.

If you want to be in with a chance of winning, simply enter the competition via the Rafflecopter Form below.  Full terms and conditions can be found at the bottom of the form.  In short, open to UK residents 18 and over. Closes on the 1st Nov 2015.

Good luck.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This is a sponsored post on behalf of Debenhams Flowers, 

This competition is listed on Loquax, Prize Finder and Competition Hunter.