Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Breakfast with Father Christmas at Wyevale Garden Centre

One of the highlights of my calendar is having breakfast or tea with Father Christmas at Wyevale Garden Centre. It marks the start of the festive season and gives Freddy his first taste of Christmas festivities with the family. We were invited to breakfast on November 28th, starting at nine in the morning, and so myself, Ian, Freddy and Kezia headed off bright and early to the garden centre at Bridgemere.

A section of the restaurant is reserved for the breakfast and tea experiences and is decorated beautifully, complete with Santa's grotto surrounded by hundreds of quality gifts for the children to pick from. It looks really inviting!

We arrived to see the long tables laid with activity placemats, name stickers, crackers and a bag of chocolate coins for the children. We were able to help ourselves to hot drinks or juice, before having hot toast brought to the table. A counter allowed us to collect our cooked breakfasts, freshly served up by friendly staff wearing Christmas hats and jumpers. Other members of staff dressed as elves were on hand to help children back to their seats and to assist in any way they could. Christmas songs played and the atmosphere in the room was great!

Santa, Christmas

We tucked into our veggie breakfasts: scrambled egg, hash browns and beans for the kids and fried egg, fried bread, mushrooms, tomatoes and beans for the adults. The food was good, hot and filling. The helpful elves were on hand to collect rubbish and dirty plates, keeping everything tidy on the tables.

After the food was eaten, the children were greeted by Dorothy, the green witch and Scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz who mingled with the guests. Children were given a Christmas tree gingerbread biscuit, a bag of icing and three little pots containing marshmallows, hundreds and thousands and chocolate buttons. Freddy had loads of fun decorating his biscuit and even more fun eating it! 

Santa, Christmas, cracker

Before Santa's arrival, the staff got everyone singing a host of Christmas carols together, which was really nice. Then the children had to shout for Santa, who burst into the room much to everyone's delight.

Children were taken up to Santa one family at a time and given the opportunity to have a chat and pose for photographs. He was a kindly, traditional Santa who put the children at ease and was very accommodating posing for numerous photos. He encouraged Kezia to come for a chat, which she secretly loved! After reminding the children to leave out a mince pie and carrot on Christmas Eve, the children were invited to pick a gift. Getting to choose what they want is a really nice touch. Freddy had his eye on a geology set, where you get to dig crystal gems from a lump of 'rock'. Kezia picked a cuddly toy cow, who she named Larry. 

Christmas, Wyevale

The experience lasts for around an hour and a quarter and is priced at £7.99 for adults and £9.99 for children. This includes the hot breakfasts, drinks, gifts for the kids plus the gingerbread decorating. An adult lighter option of  a baked pastry with coffee is £3.99. The constant attention and entertainment from the staff was really enthusiastic and kept a party atmosphere going. The organisation was excellent.

I really recommend this as a festive family treat. Afterwards you can explore the garden centre, which at this time of year is resplendent in wonderful Christmasness!

In addition to the Breakfast with Santa experience, there is a tea with Santa option. Children can have a hot tea with squash or a cold 'My Picnic' tea for £9.99, while adults have a festive sandwich, a mince pie and a sweet treat with tea or coffee for £7.99 or a slice of cake and a hot drink for £3.99.

Breakfast and Tea with Father Christmas is available until Christmas Eve.

Visit the website for dates and availability and book tickets for your nearest Wyevale Garden Centre. Book before December 6th and get £1 off all kids' tickets.

Christmas gift ideas from Fenjal, Branston and Kopparberg

Give the gift of  pampering with the Fenjal Spa skincare range

Treat your loved ones to the rejuvenating qualities of a spa day in their own home with the luxurious Swiss bodycare brand Fenjal. With a range of indulgent products including the nourishing Fenjal Classic Creme Bath Oil to the hydrating Fenjal Classic Hand Creme to the moisturising Fenjal Sensuous Body Spray, the products evoke the decadence of a Swiss spa, transforming the bathroom into a pampering haven. The perfect antidote to the stresses of the season.

Christmas gifts, home spa

For a luxury gift, you could create a bespoke pamper hamper, including Fenjal products, presented in a pretty basket. Or they'll make nice little stocking fillers. They look lovely with their classic branding and the relaxing aqua colour scheme.

Prices start at £3.52 RRP for the body spray to £11.42 RRP for the 200ml creme bath oil. Other products in the range include body wash, body lotion, body powder and shower oil.

A cheeky stocking filler from Branston and Haywards

For some foodie fun stocking fillers, or to use as part of a festive food hamper for a loved one, Branston and Haywards have some seasonal must-haves This Christmas.

Christmas Day often sees a teatime meal of leftovers, cheese and crackers being served up to the family. Boxing Day lunch often sees a repeat performance! Adding some tasty pickles can definitely bring out the taste and add to the enjoyment. Pickled Onions are one of those foods I only ever eat at Christmas, so when I do get my fancy on for pickled onions, I want them to be good with just the right amount of tang and perfectly crunchy! I love the specially branded 'Boxing Day' Branston Pickle, giving our favourite pickle a festive feel.

Christmas, condiments

Other pickles, sauces and pickled vegetables are available from Branston and Haywards. Find them in supermarkets nationwide.

Keep Cosy this winter with a Kopparberg Spiced Apple Gift Set

Available at Boots for £12, the Kopparberg Spiced Apple Gift Set consists of a 500ml bottle of cinnamon Spiced Apple Cider, which can be served hot or cold, along with a lovely limited edition mug and a pack of cinnamon sticks for garnish.

This is definitely the ultimate Christmas tipple with its spicy festive fragrance and warming, woody sweetness. Perfect for a winter's evening, served warm in its own special festive mug.

Christmas, Boots

The Kopparberg Spiced Apple is also available in individual bottles from Tesco, Morrisons and Asda, (RRP £2.29) and can also be found at some UK pubs.

* I've received these products for this purpose of this review*

Monday, 30 November 2015

Santa's Secret Workshop Grotto at the Intu Trafford Centre #review

One of the most magical parts of the Christmas celebrations is taking your little ones to see Santa. Freddy is six and is so caught up in all the excitement of the season. He is old enough to question the whole Santa Claus thing, asking why there are so many grottos with Father Christmases in them all at the same time, but totally accepts my explanation that Old St Nick has a cloning machine and makes replicas of himself to keep on top of everything. So visiting numerous Santas throughout December does not detract from his unswerving belief in the wonders of Christmas and the knowledge that on Christmas Eve it will be the original one that pops down our chimney.

We were really excited to be invited along to the Santa's Secret Workshop Grotto at the Trafford Centre in Manchester at the weekend. The specially built attraction is located in Barton Square, right near to SeaLife and the Legoland Discovery Centre and next to a mini Christmas market with food and gift stalls. So you can really make a whole festive family day of it.

Manchester, Christmas

The experience lets families discover the secrets of Santa's workshop, inviting in children to help Santa prepare for the big day.  Santa's special helpers get to take part in a range of activities, each one earning them a stamp in their special Christmas passport. Once they have all the stamps, it's time to meet Santa himself in his special cosy room, for a friendly chat and to receive a present.

Christmas grotto, Trafford Centre

On entering the experience, you walk through a mirrored maze to discover the secret entrance to Santa's workshop. Here, you are greeted by an elf and let loose inside an area where you can make Christmas cards, do crayon rubbings of Santa and make paper lanterns. Other activities include helping Santa to sort out and weigh the huge pile of presents in the sorting office; making buckets of food for Santa's reindeer by finding the right combination of healthy food and treats and preparing a special portion of magic reindeer food to take home and leave out for Rudolph on Christmas Eve. Stamps are collected in the passport for each activity.

Christmas, Santa experience

Each passport is numbered and when your number is called by the head elf, it's time to go through to visit Santa. Santa was awesome!  He was engaging, funny and convincing. He was lovely to Freddy taking the time to chat to him, but was equally lovely to my two older girls. He spoke to them about being the generation who can make a difference in the world to make it a better place. We never felt rushed and he took his time to make sure the experience was a memorable one. In one magical moment, Santa even said that he recognised Ian from when he was a child and remembered that he had wanted a guitar as a present when he was thirteen...spookily accurate! This Santa was the real deal.

We had our photos taken with Santa, one serious and one silly, pulling funny faces!  I was impressed that Santa didn't take himself too seriously and the resulting photo is a great memento of a lovely visit.


The experience lasts about half an hour and you have a timed slot for your visit. Children's tickets are £6 each and adults cost £3 each. Kids get a small gift from Santa (Freddy got a stationery set and Kezia got a puzzle book) plus they can take home the reindeer food and the arts and crafts bits they make. You can book in advance online (£2.50 transaction fee applies) or pay on the day (but if it's busy it may get fully booked).

Photos cost extra, but there is no hard sell to purchase them. We bought a snow globe frame for £10, which we thought was a reasonable price. Photos cost £6, fridge magnets and Christmas tree decorations cost £5 each. There is a 25% discount if you buy three items.

The grotto is open everyday until December 24th.

Visit for more details and to book tickets.

The Gift - Film Review

"Not Every Gift Is Welcome" - but this DVD will be!

This Christmas, any film fans will be glad to get The Gift on DVD or Blu-ray to add to their collection. The hit chilling thriller from the producer of The Purge was loved by cinema goers and critics, who gave it 93% on Rotten Tomatoes!

The film stars Jason Bateman as Simon, a successful businessman, who is making a fresh start with his wife Robyn in a new house in the Californian hills. With a job promotion on the cards, everything is going well. That is until a chance meeting with an old high school friend Gordo, played by Joel Edgerton, (who also wrote and directed the movie) sets into motion a series of events that sends their world into a harrowing tailspin.

Uninvited visits, mysterious gifts left outside the door and strange encounters prove unsettling, but when a dark secret from the past is uncovered, the situation escalates and unravels the lives of everyone involved. As Robyn learns the shocking truth about Simon and Gordo's shared past, she begins to question just how well she knows those closest to her.

The plot of The Gift is full of suspense with a few proper jumpy moments to keep the tension high. The film doesn't rely on big special effects or gimmicks to tell the story, instead it relies on great acting, a compelling script and quality storytelling. It keeps you fully immersed and guessing until the end, as you share Robyn's confusion and doubts as she searches for the truth. Is Gordo a dangerous creep and a threat to the couple or is he a misunderstood loner looking for closure?

DVD, film review

Special Features:

·         Karma For Bullies
·         The Darker Side of Jason Bateman
·         Deleted Scenes
·         Alternate Ending (Blu-ray exclusive)

Certificate 15

Run time 105 minutes

Lionsgate UK Releases The Gift on Digital HD November 30th and Blu-ray & DVD December 7th, 2015.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Win some great prizes with Sudocrem and Infacol

I have news of two exciting Facebook competitions, with some excellent prizes, from the well known baby brands Infacol and Sudocrem!  

To play, simply visit and like the Infacol and Sudocrem Facebook pages and log into the game apps for a free daily play. You can earn extra turns too to increase your chances of getting lucky and winning a prize!

The Infacol Challenge Game asks players to navigate their way through two infant colic related games. The first game is the dropper challenge, where you have to squeeze the dropper to hit 9 targets in the allotted time. The second game is a bubble bursting challenge where you have to pop 40 bubbles in the baby's tummy before time runs out. It's fun to play as you try to complete each challenge and beat the clock.

If you complete both games successfully, you have the chance to win an instant prize. The overall main prize is an ultimate Phil & Ted's baby package worth over £700! Other prize include Venture vouchers and experiences.

The Infacol Challenge runs until December 14th 2015. You can enter each day for free and earn extra turns by Tweeting, inviting friends to play and following Infacol on Twitter.

competition, win
Click this image to take the challenge

You can help Save Christmas with Sudocrem, and get the chance to win instant prizes, by stopping the nappy rash gremlins!  The gremlins are parachuting out of the sky and infiltrating chimneys in an effort to ruin the big day.  Players have to knock as many gremlins out of the sky as they can in 60 seconds, while avoiding hitting the Christmas presents. Score over 40 hits for the chance to win some great instant prizes. Amazon Kindle Fire tablets and vouchers as well as prizes from Aquabead, Miffy, Sylvanian Families and Milton plus thousands of Sudocrem discount vouchers are up for grabs. 

Players can play for free everyday with additional plays gained from Tweeting, following Sudocrem on Pinterest or Twitter and sharing the #SaveChristmas app.

You can play right up to December 31st 2015 for your chance to win BIG!

win, competition
Click the image to play

Cutting the Cost of Christmas with Poundland

We all know how expensive Christmas can be, so it's always good to find ways to keep down costs. Using discount stores is always a good way to find a few bargains, especially as they often sell branded goods at reduced prices. So to test this, Poundland armed me with vouchers and challenged me to 'do' Christmas for just £30 - to include enough decorations, gifts, cards and food to stretch my festive budget. 

In Poundland, £30 equates to thirty items which equates to a whole lot of goodies purchased for Christmas!  I was very impressed with my haul, getting a great range of festive items at just £1 each! It's so easy to keep track of your spending in Poundland, making keeping within your budget a breeze!

budget, money saving

Branded Confectionery

Christmas isn't Christmas without sweets and chocolates and if you are looking for confectionery from Cadbury, Thornton's, Haribo or Nestle, Poundland sells loads at just £1. This can make your money go much further. Take for example the Smarties Santa and Friends 3 pack which is on sale today in one of the big supermarkets for £2. Butterfinger Bites are also £2 for a box, again making Poundland's price a real bargain buy.


American Hamper

American candy hampers are a great gift to give to a loved one, but they can be very expensive to buy online costing upwards of around £20. With Poundland you can create your own hamper using some of the range of US branded goodies alongside some other American style goodies. Just package them up in a pretty basket or even a box covered in gift wrap and you have a great gift for a fraction of the price of ordering a hamper online. Kellogg's Pop Tarts can cost up to £3.50 a box, so buying them for £1 is a great saving. Reese's and Butterfinger products are excellent additions to an American food hamper and cost half of what they do in supermarkets. Bubblegum Bottles from Haribo, dry roasted peanuts and bbq pretzels complete the contents. This is such a good present idea allowing you to buy favourite products at just £1 each and creating a bespoke hamper without going over budget. Poundland also stock Nerds, Hershey's, jelly beans, Reese's Cups, Chupa Chups and Maom - all great for a cut price US style hamper.



Christmas books are a lovely way to build excitement and count down the days to Christmas by sharing a story with the kids every night at bedtime. Poundland has a range of both reading books and activity books with a festive theme to keep kids happy until the big day. I love the Disney Christmas books (RRP £3.99) featuring favourite characters in seasonal stories and The Christmas Surprise is a colourful, pop-up board book with a reassuring story about Santa being able to find you wherever you are on Christmas Eve. They are great if you are making a book advent this year (where you wrap up 24 Christmas books and unwrap one each day of December until Christmas Day).

reading, book advent

Gift Wrap and Cards

With rolls of wrap and assorted sizes of gift bags, Poundland have a wrapping solution for every present. From giant sized gift bags and sacks to bottle bags to multipacks of assorted bags, I love the ease of packing up presents this way. The Poundland ones are a fraction of some found in stationery shops. 

Individual cards for the special people in your life are available in an assortment of designs, alongside bumper boxes of 40 cards.  This makes it easy and cheap to spread good wishes this Christmas.


Christmas Decorations

From dressing the tree to decorating the house, Poundland have a real variety of decorations in a range of styles. From traditional to funky, however you want to express yourself this Christmas, Poundland can help. The cheery inflatable characters will be a hit with little ones, while the wooden pieces add a rustic charm to homes. The packs of baubles are so reasonable when compared to garden centres.

budget Christmas


These ceramic star shaped bowls are an absolute steal at £1 each. Perfect for holding sweets or snacks, they will look great on the table at Christmas. They'd also make lovely gifts if filled with sweets and wrapped in cellophane.

The drink cup I got for Freddy's stocking comes in a fun design and has a curly straw. Perfect for cold drinks on Christmas Day.



For tea on Christmas Day, I like to use paper plates to make cleaning up easier and to create a fun, party atmosphere after the formality of Christmas dinner. Poundland has two partyware ranges: Frosty Friends and Red Snowflake, both consisting of packs of 20 plates, cups and napkins plus a tablecover. So for just £4 you have all the tableware you need to host a party for up to twenty people. Most party stuff comes in packs of 8 so getting 20 for £1 is a huge bargain. The quality is good and the design is festive. You can't go wrong.



The cost of stocking fillers can add up to a lot of money. For just £1 each, Poundland has a range of toys and games that will bulk out the kids' pressie pile. Disney's Frozen merchandise is bound to be popular and there is a lot of it to choose from in store. Poundland also have Block Tech toys, which are compatible with Lego but cost a fraction of the price. There are lots of other bits to choose from including craft sets, puzzles, games and cuddly toys. Poundland is a good place to buy presents for children's friends without spending too much money.

Christmas, stocking fillers

My top 3 favourite pieces from Poundland this Christmas

I love this Merry Christmas sign made of wood and rope, with love, hope and joy written on hearts suspended from it. It's very cute and pretty with a rustic, vintage feel. Something similar could cost in excess of ten times the £1 price tag in a specialist vintage shop or online.


This moose ornament is another rustic piece that looks like it should cost a lot more than the £1 I paid for it. It is crafted from wood and has a string bow around its neck with bronze coloured bells attached. The distressed paint finish makes it look vintage. I love its simplicity and quirkiness.

Christmas, Poundland

My last item that has been picked out as a favourite is the coir Merry Christmas door mat. It has three Christmas trees and the Christmas greeting on it in black rubber. It makes a great novelty gift idea or will look great outside your front door throughout December. I was gobsmacked to find one that looks identical to this on Etsy for £12.50! For something that I will be using over Christmas and then disposing of, I know how much I'd rather pay.

Poundland, Christmas

As you can see from my Poundland haul, there are lots of genuine bargains to be found in store or online including branded goods. Many of the decorative items are similar to things that can be found in other stores or online that cost so much more!  It's great to be able to make your money go further by shopping in Poundland for some of your Christmas needs.

You can find all these items in store at Poundland or on Poundland online where you can also check out the latest promotions and offers including some Black Friday deals. 

I used for price comparisons with supermarkets on branded confectionery.

Monday, 23 November 2015

The Launch of YouTube Kids - a safer place for kids to watch online videos #YouTubeKids

Yesterday, we spent the day at London Zoo to celebrate the recent UK and Ireland launch of the new YouTube Kids app. We had been trying out the YouTube Kids app for a few days beforehand with 6 year old Freddy, and were excited to spend the day with the YouTube team along with some favourite TV characters and some real life animals from the zoo.

The YouTube Kids app is a bright and colourful, kid-friendly version of YouTube for tablets and smart phones, available for free from Google Play or the App Store. With access to videos featuring nursery rhymes and songs, educational videos on topics such as maths, science and space as well as TV favourites such as Peppa Pig, Morph, Talking Tom, Postman Pat, Thomas and the Octonauts, there are countless hours of quality videos available. With large images and bold icons it is easy for little ones to navigate, allowing them to safely search and explore exciting content to entertain and educate them. An impressive voice search feature allows children to search for their favourite characters and shows, allowing independence and giving them access to a world of possibilities.

Content is listed in four categories: Shows, Music, Learning and Explore, bringing a host of family-friendly entertainment into an easy to browse format. Children can browse channels and playlists or search for something of particular interest to them.

YouTube Kids

Freddy loves being able to access his favourite videos and search for things that interest him such as Minecraft, Annoying Orange and Battle for Dream Island! He even did a search on London Zoo, the night before we attended the event, so he knew what to expect. As a parent, I am confident that he won't accidentally stumble across anything inappropriate (such as the 18 rated, expletive ridden, dubbed episode of Dora the Explorer we found him watching at age 3!) The platform is safe, age appropriate and, as it doesn't need the child to have an account, allows them to have a logged out experience free from the dangers of interacting with strangers online.

The YouTube Kids app has built in parental controls allowing the grown-ups to take charge of their child's experience by controlling broader search settings or using a built in timer to limit a child's screen time. As no platform can be guaranteed 100% perfect, there is an option to flag up anything that may concern you, making YouTube Kids safer for everyone. YouTube Kids can also be viewed on the TV using a Chromecast, Apple TV, games console or a smart TV, so the whole family can watch together.

The event at London Zoo was every bit as bright, bold, colourful, interactive and entertaining as the app itself!  Ian and I, along with Freddy, Megan and Kezia arrived at the zoo early and spent a lovely hour wandering around the Bug House and the Penguins before checking in to the event itself. The venue had been transformed into a child-friendly wonderland with a wild animal theme, which was so inviting and exciting for the little ones. We were spoiled with some delicious food, given marvelous animal make-up and kept well and truly entertained.

facepaint, Youtube kids app

Freddy absolutely loved taking part in all the activities. He met reindeer, a llama, meerkats, an armadillo and an owl in up close animal encounters. He met and hugged Postman Pat, Talking Tom & Ginger and Captain Barnacles. He had his face painted with an incredible tiger design and dressed up in a tiger costume. He played in an Octanauts themed ball pond, challenged his dad to a game of Hungry Hippos, played with some great cuddly toy animals, sat in the musical singing bus, enjoyed some really fabulous food and of course played on the YouTube Kids app on the special iPads. It was a brilliant family friendly event!

YouTube Kids app

The YouTube Kids app is designed for children between 3 and 8 years old, providing a safe online experience with rich content especially for younger viewers. It is fun to use and easy to navigate. I am really impressed with the app and love that Freddy can explore video content independently online, discovering new shows, learning new things and accessing videos on topics that interest him safely. It is great for when we are out and about, visiting grandparents or away for the night, guaranteeing that he has something fun to watch to keep him entertained whenever needed. I applaud YouTube for creating such an exciting and interactive app that kids will not only love using, but will also help keep them safer online, protecting them from viewing inappropriate content.

YouTube Kids


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