Christmas Eve Box! A new tradition???

Love it or hate it?

About a month ago I saw someone post a photo for a Christmas Eve Box and I was taken with it and had never heard of it.  It’s basically a present that the kid’s can open on Christmas Eve, to get them into the spirit, typically with PJ’s, Hot chocolate, Books and DVD’s.  I’m not sure why I was taken with it but it may link back to when I was a child we were allowed to open one present on Christmas Eve.  I can’t help thinking it was my mum’s way of getting us to stop bugging her!

There are really mixed feeling about it as we all know kids are spoiled rotten and have no idea of the real meaning of Christmas, just the sheer number of presents.

I don’t know where it originated, I’ve heard murmurs that’s it’s from across the pond, which would fit as I’m Canadian.

Anyhow, we have decided to do it this year and I may regret it as I will now have to carry it on for years to come.

Christmas Eve Box

  • Hot Chocolate
  • Jiffy Pop (popcorn)
  • Reindeer Food
  • Books
  • DVD
  • PJS
  • Reindeer Food

Do you love it or hate it?

My Top 7 Tips for a Successful Birthday Party!

How to organise a stress-free birthday party

I’ve always been adamant that I wasn’t going to get caught up in the whole Birthday party thing; inviting the entire class and spending a fortune.  However, I don’t mind paying a bit more for a small group to do something special.

Last year we didn’t have a party when our daughter turned 5.  It was her first year at the school, her birthday is in September and we didn’t know enough people to invite.  So, we had a quiet family party and spent the day with one of her closest friends.  However, after attending a plethora of parties this year there was no way we were going to get away with it this year.

I’ve had a party at the house once and if I’m honest it cost nearly as much, was stressful and I was left to clear up the mess at  the end.  Plus our house is tiny.

Kids Party - Sledging - Hemel Snow Centre

1.) Find the right venue!

This year we decided to go sledging at the Hemel Snow Centre near St Albans.  It’s not cheap at £19.95 per child, but after I booked I had a nosy at other venues, mostly soft play and it was only about £3 cheaper a head and you didn’t get a warm buffet.

However, the sledging party included:

  • 45 minutes sledging
  • 2 party hosts
  • Hot Buffet
  • Visit from the Snow Cat
  • Party room for an hour
  • Invitations
  • 4 Adults can join in

Plus, for an additional £30 you can have waterproof clothing for all the kids, which I think the parents appreciated.  All we really needed was a pair of wellies or snow boots.

Children's Wellies - Snow boots

2.) Get down and boogie

I was a bit nervous about what we were going to do in the party room with 10 hyper kids for an hour. However, the time flew by, by the time they ate we only had about 30 minutes to fill. You can bring your own music as they have a docking station but do bare in mind the new Iphone 5s don’t work.

Prior to the party I put a little birthday party playlist together of songs that I thought would get them dancing.  I did check out a few kids party albums, but they really did make my ears bleed.

Top 10 songs for Children’s Party

  1. Get the Party Started – Spacer
  2. Firework – Katy Perry
  3. Dancing Queen – Abba
  4. What Makes you Beautiful – One Direction
  5. I like to Move It – Madagascar
  6. Dance With Me Tonight – Olly Murs
  7. Gangnam Style – PSY
  8. Mama Mia – Abba
  9. Call My Name – Cheryl
  10. YMCA – Village People

3.) Kids Musical Party Games

As an ex-teacher the thought of children running riot with no structure terrified me.  However, I didn’t want to go down the road of bringing loads of equipment to play games, wanting to keep it as simple as possible.  As I had the Ipod with us I decided on musical games.  As soon as I thought they were going a bit ‘doolally’ we gathered them together and played a quick game of Musical Bumps.

However, I’d also planned:

  • Musical Chairs
  • Musical Statues
  • Limbo

Don’t forget to bring prizes for the winner.  I opted for little bags of gold coins that cost .45p each.

4.)  Don’t forget the cake!

I know some parents are hell bent on baking their own cakes for their kid’s birthday parties, I applaud them and I’m sure the look on their faces is worth it.  However, as I’m domestically challenged, if I baked a cake for my daughter I’d definitely remember the look of sheer disappointment on her face.  I’m a strong believer of paying the professionals and knowing ones limitations.

In St Albans, we are blessed as we have the lovely Lucy from Heavens a Cupcake who is incredibly talented.  All I said to her was that it was a sledging party and I needed 12 cupcakes.  Aren’t they gorgeous!  She makes all the toppings by hand and they not only look amazing they taste amazing as well.

Heavens a Cupcake - Sledging

5.)  Say no to Party Bags!

As I’ve mentioned before I’m not a huge fan of party bags.  I hate seeing parents waste money on bags full of plastic tat that ends up in the recycling bin when the kids aren’t looking.  I originally was going to just give out books.  I bought a 10 pack of Horrid Henry Books for Early Readers from the Book People for £9.99 but then had a wobble as I thought the kids may be disappointed as they would be expecting a party bag.

So, I popped to the Mr. Simms Olde Sweet Shoppe in St Albans and bought little bags of traditional sweets (£1 each) for the kids.  In the end each party bag cost just under £2 which I think is reasonable.  Do consider buying an extra one just in case.

6.)  Phone a friend

I was absolutely blessed that the parents that came to help out, were not only friends but they’re also the type of people to jump in and help at any point.  They could tell I was a little befuddled so jumped right in setting up the room whilst the rest of us were traipsing up and down the hill.  Thanks ladies!

7.)  Thank you cards

I’m a big stickler for thank you cards, but we all know that it can be incredibly stressful and frustrating to get an early writer to write 10 thank you cards.  I tend to cheat, I use services like Photobox, where I can upload my own photo and create our own thank you card using the post card option.  Each child then ends up with a photo to remember the day by.


Did I miss anything?  If so, please do leave a comment below.

Disclosure:  The Wellies were courtesy of Start Rite Shoes for review purposes but aren’t they gorgeous.  I want a pair for myself.



Short Breaks for Families near St Albans, Herts

Bracknell Forest  – Lookout Discovery Centre

In my quest to find things near St Albans, Herts to do with my daughter this summer we found ourselves at the Lookout Discovery Centre in Bracknell Forest, which just over an hour away.  It has over 90 interactive science exhibits to explore with your kids.  There is also a café, which is a bit average but a fabulous Adventure Playground right outside.  It’s fairly reasonable at £6.95 for Adults and £4.75.

Science Discover Centre Bracknell Forest

Parking was a bit of a challenge as it was a beautiful day in the park.  However, you can claim the £2 for parking back at the Discovery centre if you take your parking stub in with you.  I couldn’t be bothered walking back to the car to get it.

However, I had no idea that the Science Centre was in such a beautiful setting, 1000 hectares of woodland.  If I went again on a nice day I’d just take a picnic and our bikes and explore the woodlands.  There are approximately 55 miles of off-road cycle paths.  For more information check out Cycling in Bracknell Forest.

Budget Places to Stay near Windsor

We stayed at the Millennium Copthorne Hotel Slough Windsor.  For some reason I thought we were staying in Windsor and was a bit surprised to find ourselves in Slough just off the M4.  However, the hotel was perfectly adequate and reasonably priced.  We stayed in an Executive Suite (£145 a night), which was two adjoining rooms, with a double bed and sofa bed,  it also included breakfast, access to the leisure centre (pool, sauna, steam room, jacuzzi and gym) and free parking.

The staff were very friendly and helpful.  However, the hotel, even though it is decorated nicely did seem a bit ‘tired’.  The pool area could use some updating and was a bit grotty, but my daughter enjoyed a swim before dinner and I enjoyed the Jacuzzi.  Do bear in mind that if you want to use the pool during busy times (e.g. school holidays) you will have to book a time slot.

The hotel staff recommended dining in the Bugis Street Oriental Brasserie in the hotel, which we did.  I personally found it a bit overpriced and lacked a children’s menu so made choosing dinner for my daughter and I challenging.  But she did have fun trying to eat with her chopsticks.

Children's Chopstick Cheat

The hotel is conveniently located and just a stone’s throw from Windsor Castle, Legoland, Thorpe Park and Heathrow Airport so would make a good stopping place for a night or two.

Places to stay near Windsor Castle

Unfortunately, the hotel is not currently offering packages that include accommodation and entrance into the local attractions.

Disclosure:  Our stay in the hotel was complimentary for review purposes.



How to beat the heat!

Summer Activity Camps for Kids Near St Albans

Even though we love to moan about the weather in the UK we have to admit that we’ve had a pretty good summer so far.

When we had the mini heat wave a few weeks ago, it was challenging trying to think of things to keep my daughter cool during the first part of the school holidays.  You couldn’t pay me enough to go to the local Splash Park as it’s always heaving and I’d end up having an altercation with another parent!  We’re lucky as we have access to the local Dive Club Swimming pool.

But what about ice-skating or sledging?

Bet you didn’t think of that.

Two weeks ago we were invited to the SnoZone in Milton Keyes which is an indoor ski slope,  which always intrigues me being Canadian.  The Snozone is less than an hour from St Albans.  This is the first time that the SnoZone is offering  Summer Fun Activities, to keep kids active and entertained.   There is a great balance of on and off the slopes activities (e.g wacky races, dodgeball, sledging, ultimate Frisbee, dance classes, junk music, arts & crafts)  for kids aged 5+.

As you can see our daughter had a great time and so did her pal.

Summer Activity Camps Near St Albans

Children can do either a half day (£24.99) or full day (£34.99) which includes snacks and refreshments.  Parents can drop kids off, sit in the cafe and watch or possibly hit the slopes themselves.  All you’ll need is some warm clothing and water proof gloves.

My daughters pink padded jacket with reflective piping was courtesy of Aldi’s Back to School Range

Who needs Marriage Counselling?

How to survive summer holidays

Not suggesting we do, but I haven’t laughed so hard in ages.  We both work from home and it does get fractious at times.  Being school holidays, I’ve done as predicted and chucked money at it, not because I have a surplus of cash but with an only-child and a tiny garden, I’m always looking for things to entertain my five year old during the school holidays.

I don’t want to give the impression that it’s expensive.  It cost me £20 and worth every penny.

Growing up I never played Swing Ball, I have no idea of its origins but guessing it didn’t make it across the Atlantic, but I could be wrong.  We played a similar game called Tetherball but it didn’t have paddles, players used their hands and it was a hard plastic ball, more football sized.

After a few goes with our daughter, we decided to play each other…. is it just me or does it look like he’s trying to kill me?


So, if you’re looking for something to save your marriage or to have a right laugh with your kids this summer in limited space then this is the answer.  Great family fun!

Gotta love traditional games!

Hubby reckons we should try it after a few beers.  Can someone warn A & E?

I bought mine from Cuthberts Toys.