Creating a Cozy Home This Christmas

Christmas is fast approaching. You might already be shopping for gifts or planning your home decoration. The streets are lined with lights and other displays, Christmas music is playing in stores and festive markets are thriving. If you’ve got kids, you might be planning fun events like visiting Santa or going ice skating, and letters to Santa might already be written. 

One of the best things about Christmas is getting cosy at home. Nothing beats cuddling up on the sofa in our PJs with a Christmas movie on Netflix. Sipping hot chocolate and indulging in our favourite festive treats. It’s warm and comfortable, and part of the season that most of us love. 

But, sometimes, getting cosy at home is harder than we’d like it to be. If your home is cold and sparse, or your rooms are particularly large, you might struggle to feel warm and cosy. You might even have a hard time filling it with Christmas cheer. So, let’s take a look at some of the things that you can do to create a cosy home this holiday. 

Add Some Texture

Texture is a crucial ingredient when it comes to creating a cosy home. Add texture with cushions, heavy curtains, throws and blankets, and rugs on engineered wood flooring. Try to use different materials, such as velvet, wool, and cotton, and include some reflective surfaces to maximise the effect. Colour can also add the appearance of more texture. Use multiple shades of the same key colours in your decor, layering them to add depth and texture to your rooms. 

Keep it Warm

It’s almost impossible to feel cosy and comfortable when you’re cold, and there’s very little worse than being cold when you are at home. Be sure to get your boiler serviced, bleed radiators if they need it, and invest in, or make draught excluders. Add throws and blankets to your sofa, and don’t underestimate the power of a hot water bottle and slippers. 

Use Festive Shades

Christmas and cosy go together like peas in a pod. So, make the most of the connection even before you decorate for the holidays. Add accessories and soft furnishings in festive shades such as red and dark green. 

Add Lighting Options

Lighting can have a massive effect on the atmosphere in our rooms. Bright overhead lights can make even smaller rooms feel open and spacious. Dimmer, soft lighting can have the opposite effect. They can make a room feel smaller and more romantic. If you want a truly cosy atmosphere, nothing beats candles and fairy lights. 

Bring the Outside In

What’s the first Christmas decoration that you think about? For many of us, it’s the tree. So, why not bring more of the outdoors in to create a more festive atmosphere? Bring natural elements in with wreaths and other displays. 

Make the Most of Festive Scents

Most of us have scents that we associate with Christmas, as well as colours and decorations. These scents can help your home to feel more festive, as well as cosier. Think mulled wine and cinnamon, winter spices, vanilla, Nordic pine, and other Christmas favourites. 

The Most Beneficial Children’s Toys

The Most Beneficial Children’s Toys

Children can learn through play without even realising it. As far as they are concerned they are just having fun, but you may be surprised just how much some toys and games can help with their development.

Up To 12 Months

For their first year, bright colours and toys that make noises, such as rattles, will best amuse your child. Toys that promote using their senses and encourage interaction are the best things at this age, Unbreakable mirrors, floor gyms, activity boards and soft colourful stuffed animals are a good start for babies first playthings.

Age 1 to 2

As they get a bit older they like toys where a cause has an effect. Sets where they can hammer pegs or balls through holes are good and stacking toys will help develop their motor skills. Shape sorters and puzzles with just four or five pieces are a great way for them to start solving problems.

Age 2 to 4

At this age, children need toys that are more purposeful. Their motor skills will have improved and they will be stacking blocks and doing simple puzzles by themselves. They will like toys that make sounds, such as a pretend telephone or toys that talk. It is at this age that they first start to play with different things. Usually, it is dolls for girls and trucks for boys. There is nothing wrong with this at 3 years of age, just as it is fine if boys want to play with dolls, or vice versa.

The Most Beneficial Children’s Toys

Age 4 To 5

Their learning ability by the time they reach 4 has grown a great deal. It is a good time to start to introduce toys that really are educational, such as art and crafts supplies, electronic phonic toys, harder puzzles, action figures and a Melody Jane dolls house, as they are brilliant for encouraging imaginative play. Most 4/5 year olds love things such as dressing up, starting to play sports and simple board games.

Age 5 To 7

Now they will start to develop interests of their own. This could be a particular sport, cooking or playing with a favourite toy. A lot of them will become interested in digital devices and the games they can play on those. It’s also the age when they start wanting to have friends round to play some of their games with them. Some of the best toys for this age group include strategy games such as chess or draughts, computer and video games, basic science kits, building sets such as Lego, and bikes as they are good for their balance.

Over 7

Your child will continue to develop past 7 years old, but now they will probably know what toys they want. There will always be one they will tell you everyone has except them. You will hear then chat to their friends about the highest score they achieved on their latest computer game, and they will carry on trying to beat that.

Their interests will become more adult-like and they may well take up a hobby. If they are going to be a collector of something, it is not unusual for the collection to be started at this sort of age.

Win a Family Ticket to Christmas at Willows Farm

Visiting The Santa Spectacular at Willows Farm at Christmas time has become a bit of a tradition in our household! We absolutely love it. It’s so Christmassy and just so lovely!

The effort they put in really pays off… there’s so much to do and it’s like a whole Christmas World for the kids and adults alike to become immersed in!

Highlights last year were the 3D Cinema where they showed a cute Christmas film about Santa and his Elves; the Create a Cuddle workshop where kids can stuff a soft toy to take home; the Elf Academy show; the ice skating and meeting the Reindeer!

willows farm christmas

willows farm santa spectacular christmas

willows farm ice skating christmas

We absolutely love the indoor soft play area where we can thaw out if it’s cold, grab some of the great food on offer and relax for a while! Well, us parents can anyway… the kids usually run riot!

The Peter Rabbit Adventure Playground which is absolutely brilliant, is open every day during Santa Spectacular and is not to be missed! Kids can also meet and greet Peter Rabbit at selected times throughout the day.

A trip to Willows isn’t complete either without a ride on Tristan the Tractor, which takes us on a magical musical journey through the festive woods!

Of course, the main event is meeting Father Christmas himself! The Santa’s Grotto at Willows Farm is the best we’ve been to. It’s visually stunning as you walk through a Winter Wonderland before arriving in Santa’s big log cabin. Once the kids have met him and told him their Christmas wishes, they’re given a golden key to access his toy shop where they get to CHOOSE any gift they want from hundreds of amazing toys!

willows father christmas

For the last few years we’ve arranged to meet my very lovely friend Ruth from Rocknrollerbaby and her brood, to spend the day together! We plan to do the same this year and honestly now, I don’t think it would be the same without them! Love this photo of all our kiddies with Father Christmas last year…. all looking very happy indeed!

There’s lots more to see too and it’s all included in the entry price… even the cuddly toys to take home!

This festive season, Santa Spectacular at Willows Activity Farm is the only event for families looking for a truly magical day out. Starting from 22 November – 24 December, visitors can enjoy the ultimate festive experience in St. Albans, Hertfordshire.

For your chance to WIN a family ticket for up to four people, simply fill out the widget below and enter as many options as you can to be in with more chances!

Best of luck!

Mummy Endeavours – Win a Family Ticket to Santa’s Spectacular at Willows Farm

Our Christmas 2015

Things have been a little quiet over here at Mummy Endeavours HQ recently.

I decided to step away from my blog for a couple of weeks to get myself organised for Christmas. I was working a fair bit in my ‘normal’ job and in between shopping trips and school winding down for end of term, I just needed one less thing to think about.

Present buying for four children is a bit of a mammoth task, especially when two of them have no clue what they really want and another changes his mind every day (Teenagers!). I thought I’d leave Teen till the very last minute in the hope that he would come up with a present worth having…. I’m not really into forking out for gifts that he’ll get fed up with after a few weeks. Plus it was his 17th birthday last month and he’s having driving lessons which aren’t cheap and he will no doubt be looking for some kind of hand out when it comes to car buying and insurance etc etc….. so I’ve told him I’m not spending a lot this Christmas on him.

Most of our gift buying was done in the last week leading up to Christmas. As usual. Every year I say I’ll start early but I don’t.

Next year I will. 😉

We also started a new tradition on Christmas Eve, as suggested by my Girl, of wearing new pyjamas to bed. It’s a tradition that many families do already and in actual fact, I’d been thinking of starting this anyway. The kids always get new pyjamas for Christmas so it makes sense to wear these on Christmas Eve to bed, all ready for present opening and photo taking the following morning.

pyjamas on christmas eve

new christmas pj'sNew Superhero pj’s for the twins and a cute rabbit onesie for my girl.

The Christmas Eve ‘gift’ of pyjamas was completed with some glowsticks for a bit of fun and chocolate straws to make a yummy bedtime drink. I was hoping this would settle their off the stratosphere excitement levels… which seemed to work!

This is the first year that my twins have truly been mega excited! You know that type of excitement where you’e literally bursting at the seams and running around like crazy, squealing nutcases? I have memories of being like that myself as a child on Christmas Eve and it’s lovely seeing my own children experience it. Witnessing this made me sentimental, and their belief in the magic of Christmas was overwhelmingly emotional for me. I know there won’t be many Christmasses where they’ll be like this…. If only I could bottle that beautiful innocence and keep it forever.

Christmas Day morning was amazing, as usual. Seeing the kids faces light up when they see that Santa has been is the highlight for me.

Christmas Day 2015The twins had Star Wars stuff, as well as new pieces for their Disney Infinity. Skylanders and Ninja Turtles featured quite heavily too! My Girl meanwhile went crazy for this Mermaid Tail.. she got an iPad mini too! 

My daughter actually had so much this year. I’d been picking up bits and bobs as I went along and realised that she probably had too much once I started wrapping everything! But hey, she deserves it.. she’s such a good girl and my only Princess 🙂 Teen ended up having some clothes which he was pleased with! I also bought tickets for him and his girlfriend to go out on NYE … hope I don’t regret THAT decision though – more on that in a later post!

We spent Christmas day at the OH’s Mum’s house. It was lovely because his three sisters were there too with their children, we haven’t spent Christmas there all together for a couple of years now and the cousins love to play together so they had a great time. I also didn’t have to think about Christmas dinner – bonus.

We had a lot of laughs and were suitably exhausted when we got home!

Boxing Day was a day of doing nothing much at all…. giving the kids time to really check out and play with their new toys, then on Monday I drove up North to stay with my Dad for a week with the kiddies! That’s where I am right now…. enjoying some relaxation and catching up with other family members and friends.

Hope you all had a super wonderful Christmas x

Five ways to budget at Christmas

I’m not very good with money. I love to spend what I’ve got (which isn’t lots) on anything and everything! If I have it I will spend it!

christmas budgeting

We all know that the festive season can be a time of excess, and Christmas is a difficult time to budget for. Before you know it, Christmas Day has arrived and you’re all spent up. There are, however, some simple ways to budget for the big day and save a few pounds here and there.

Book travel arrangements early

Whether you’re visiting your parents after finishing a term at university, taking the children to see their grandparents or even heading abroad to see family, one thing is for sure: travelling around the Christmas period will set you back! I know this because I usually drive to my Dad’s at some point over the holidays but in the past I’ve looked into travelling by train last minute and it’s ridiculous how much tickets cost when booking that way. The easiest way to ensure you get the best price on travel is to book early. The earlier the better in terms of savings…. Try to set your plans in concrete before the end of October for the biggest money saving deals on travel.

Start saving in January

The average family is expected to spend around £800 this year at Christmas. That can really tug on the purse strings when you factor in other events during the year which incur expenses, such as children’s birthday parties and school trips. Get a head start on the following Christmas by saving from January. If you set up a standing order to a savings account you can put away a set amount each month this year, instead of having to scrape some money together November and January to cover the month around Christmas! I’ve planned on doing this for as long as I remember, 2016 is the year I try and accomplish this!

Look online and in shops for the best deals

One way to save a quid here or there is to look for a bargain! Christmas is like any other competitive season in that shops both on and offline are serious competition for your business. By doing your research and looking around you’ll be able to find good deals during the Christmas period. Supermarkets like Tesco offer a range of elegant, affordably priced Christmas cards as well as everything else you can imagine. While online you can take advantage of events like Cyber Monday to bag yourself fantastic deals on tech items.

Have a DIY Christmas

Christmas is about spending time with family and enjoying the rare occasions to relax away from work and the other stresses of life. Make this year extra special (and save a quid or two) by making personalised gifts for your loved ones. It’s also important to remember younger children very rarely care what they actually get past opening the box, so don’t go blowing your budget on expensive items they won’t get much use out of.

christmas budgeting

Hunt through the attic

Sell unwanted items and old gifts as a way to generate some cash this year. Into the bargain, you’ll unclutter your house and make sure things you don’t want or need get some use. You can set up a stall at your local car boot or use online auction sites to sell your stuff. This is something I’ve done a bit of myself, I literally have so much stuff to get rid of and it’s much more satisfying to get something in return that you can then spend again… rather than just giving it away. Yes it takes a bit more effort but definitely worth it!

I hope these tips will help you to save some money for the Christmas period, allowing you to enjoy your day without the stress of budgeting. And remember to start early in the year to have the biggest effect next holiday season!

Images by tsmall and kevin dooley, used under Creative Commons license

Santa Spectacular at Willows Farm

As days out with the kids go, Willows Farm in St.Albans, Hertfordshire is truly hard to beat.

I know I write about it all the time (I think I’m their biggest fan), but at the moment they have a great Christmas event running that you simply can’t afford to miss!

It’s their annual Santa Spectacular and we went along last week to see what was on offer in terms of festivities and fun for the kids!

My little H wasn’t feeling too well so he stayed home and I took my Girl with me and the other twin, O.

The first area we were taken to was Santa’s Grotto 🙂

willows farm christmas

Now, having four children, it’s fair to see I’ve been in a few Santa’s Grotto’s in my time and some are very obviously better than others, but this was in a whole other league.

The excitement started to build as soon as we turned the corner and into the ‘land’ of Father Christmas. There were cute little Elf houses and shops that led into the queuing area which grew darker, more mysterious and magical as we went along. Each time we moved down the queue there was another Christmas scene to see. Each one so sweet and beautiful. My children (and me) loved this. There was a distinct Christmassy smell in here too and Elves came along intermittently to keep the kids entertained.

My Girl with my friend Ruth’s lovely children waiting in line! 

Santa’s living room itself was very spacious which was another plus point. Quite often, whole families are squeezed into the tiniest rooms where you couldn’t even swing a cat and usually everyone gets hot and bothered. Nice and relaxed here.

For the first time ever too, O actually went quite close to Father Christmas. Usually he hides behind me while his sister sits next to Father Christmas and gets the present for him! This time, O ACTUALLY shook Santa’s hand! Yes, he got THAT close to him! This was a real milestone!

willows farm chtistmas

Beforehand, the children were given a special token to take to Father Christmas and give to him in exchange for a golden key. O was ever so excited about this and really did give the whole experience that extra bit of magic. The golden key was to grant them entry into Santa’s very special toy shop where they could CHOOSE ANY GIFT they wanted! The look on their little faces when we entered the shop and they saw the hundreds of toys was priceless!

Just look at all those toys!

They took a while, but they were happy with their choices. My Girl picked this little monkey and O choose a fab art set. 

From here we went to the bear workshop where the children handed another special bear token in exchange for a bear. Similar in concept to the actual Build a Bear shops, they had to stuff it, chose a little heart to go inside and make a wish! Very cute. We all thought this was a lovely addition to the Christmas event, the children absolutely loved it and the bears are great quality, super soft and cuddly.

willows farm

Ice skating was next on the agenda. For smaller children the skates fitted on over their actual shoes/boots and had two blades, making it much easier for them to stay upright on the slippery surface, which isn’t real ice by the way, but feels real! O took to it straight away, he actually found it much easier than real ice so he was very happy…. able to go off on his own skating around. However, it gave me a false sense of security thinking I too would find it easier. Not so, I found this fake ice surface to be much trickier to stay upright on! Sliding all over the place…. Ruth was the same! We had to stick to the polar bear skating aids! 😉

Hunger got the better of us at this point, so after a quick go on the ride on Diggers that are a favourite at Willows all year round, the kids wanted to go into the soft play area and eat!

The soft play is a welcome retreat from the cold, we grabbed a seat and plonked ourselves down while the kids (who never seem to tire) ran off to do some climbing! The food is lovely in here with choices from jacket potatoes, paninis, pasta, salads etc… so we ordered as much as we could eat! The is another cafe that sells hot food like chips, nuggets etc which we ordered too and brought over here!

Ruth had her Mum with her who is very lovely and the three of us chatted happily for ages while the kids played. We could’ve spent the rest of the day nattering away but there was still lots to fit in so we decided to head outside again to the FarmYard area to see some animals!

willows farmThe kids love this bit, holding the tiny animals, feeding the bigger ones and getting to meet a real reindeer!

Riding on the Tristan the Tractor is a highlight of a trip to Willows Farm…..

The kids played outside for a while, well, as long as we could take the howling cold wind, then we headed back inside for some cream teas and more nattering!

Of course, we stayed all day long and had a marvelous time as usual but we did miss the little Christmas panto and nativity show which was a shame! The Christmas daily schedule is jam packed with must see’s and must do’s so make sure you plan your day if you visit!

Such great value for a whole day out, with everything included once inside… the grotto, the choose-your-own present, bear making, soft play, animals, little fairground rides….. there’s not many places to go with kids these days that offer that!

Willows Farm’s Santa Spectacular is open daily until 24th December!

Oh Christmas Tree Oh Christmas Tree!

Our tree is UP!

It’s a big one!

And it’s gorgeous!

Mega DIY superstore B&Q got in touch with me recently and offered me a very generous voucher to spend in one of their stores…. inviting us to create our perfect Christmas tree!

Excited just isn’t the word! Me that is, not just the kids 😉

When I look back at my own childhood, the Christmas tree decorating was definitely the highlight of the festive period for me. I absolutely loved it. We always had a real tree and I remember my Dad used to have a huge special pot that he would fill with soil and plonk the tree into! The smell was divine, especially in the mornings when we opened the living room door where the tree was. I remember the boxes of decorations coming down from the loft… and me peering inside to glimpse the wondrous treasures within! I had my favourites that I would immediately look for. Even at a young age I felt I needed to put them on the tree in just the right place… it was important to me to do a good job! My Mum was very particular and I’m sure she must’ve juggled a few about but I always felt so proud of our tree, and I thought, without a doubt, that it was the most beautiful one around!

I think that’s why, as a family here, we’ve always bought a real tree. Until recent years that is. So fed up were we of droopy branches by the time Christmas Day came, we decided to go out and buy a fake tree. We’ve used this one for the last couple of years and although gorgeous, I have missed that real tree smell that fills the home at this time of year.

Coincidentally, our fake tree was also bought from B&Q, as were these gorgeous red berry lights and many of the decorations! Here it is, last years tree:

We used to buy our real trees from a local garden centre so this year, with our voucher, we knew we had to try our luck with a real tree once again, but from B&Q instead!

We usually go big… I love Christmas trees and a 6ft tree is the norm here but this year I wanted the biggest, most stunning tree I’ve ever had! When we arrived at our local B&Q on Wednesday evening, the kids made a beeline for the real trees outside… there were so many to choose from!

Christmas B&Q treeChoosing a tree, having it wrapped by a friendly member of staff and getting it on a trolley ready for the till! Oh and two little reindeer head bands were also purchased for my twins!

We spent some time studying all the trees, so determined was I to pick the perfect one. B&Q are offering a couple of varieties but the one that stood out for me was a large Norway Spruce! As soon as I clapped eyes on it I knew it was The One! It was tall and full with a perfect shape.

Tree picked, we headed inside to the decorations isles and spent what felt like hours admiring all of the sparkly baubles and fun festive delights! Trying to find some kind of method in our choosing of products, with three young kids in tow picking up and grabbing random bits that caught their eye, I gave up and let them pile whatever they wanted into the trolley!

I DID have to have these fantastic light up presents though for under the tree. I had my eye on them last year but didn’t buy them so I definitely wasn’t going to let them slip this year!

My twins also wouldn’t put down this singing Christmas tree no matter what. He was also purchased.

It was late when we got home, too late to start decorating. My OH brought the tree in and stood it up in our new stand and left us to do the decorating the next day after school.

xmas tree B&QTeen and my Girl unwrapping the tree (Teen is standing on a box here!)

We unpacked all the baubles. We tried to pick something from all the ranges as there really are some beautiful pieces in each.

xmas decorations B&Q

Christmass tree decorations B&Q Here are some of our favourites hanging on our tree….

I decided not to add our decorations from previous years to this year’s tree. Instead, going for a more minimal look, with just the new items we bought… which we did have a lot of anyway!

We made a change to the lights this year too. Buying the multi-coloured ones that seem to be back in fashion! We always had these as kids – you know the ones that if one bulb went, the whole lot would go and then parents would have to spend ages working out which one it was! Not so nowadays with these LED types.. which seem to last forever!

I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about these lights but I absolutely love them!

I think our tree looks amazing! It’s big, it’s taking up a lot of space but I love it! It looks so pretty in the room and it smells divine.

B&Q Christmas Tree

It’s absolutely perfect! AND it looks as though the shape is going to stay. The branches are so upright that I don’t foresee droopyness any time soon! Yay.

I will however, report back nearer to the big day itself to confirm if this is still the case!

Do you go for a real tree?

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