The B&W Photography Project Week 24 with PODCast, and I’d like to introduce you to Berry. We had our first visit from Berry the Elf this year and to say he has been a big hit with monkey would be an understatement. Total belief that Berry works for Father Christmas. Total belief that Berry gets up to mischief every night all by himself!
Elf on the Shelf was a totally new concept to me last year, and I’d left it too late to join in. This year I was organised and when I spotted this little cutie on sale in Sainsburys with a book for £5, I knew he’d be coming home with me.
I’m not a fan of the official Elf, he creeps me out! I like our Elf much better. The name Berry, well it has to be related to fruit and veg doesn’t it! Pip came very close, but as Monkey loves berries of every kind I thought Berry would be a hit.
We’ve had all sorts of fun and games with Berry since he arrived on 1st December and I’m pretty sure there might be tears when he leaves. But I have a feeling Berry will be leaving Monkey with a little present to help with the separation! Along with a bag of reindeer food.
I love this photo in black and white, considering how much colour there is in the various baubles, bells and Berry himself, it works. Well, I think so anyway!
We are on the final countdown to the big day – have a good one everyone
Joining in with TheBoyAndMe and her linky 365 Project A Photo A Day, Every Day, For A Year! Project 365 – Week 51 Days 348-354. How much harder is it to do this with a school boy!!
Sunday 14th December – Day 348
In the morning we had our annual NCT Secret Santa get together. We met in the soft play area at our local garden centre and shock horror, Monkey went in without me!! The first time ever. It was a revelation. He had a great time with all of his lifelong friends. We then took over an area of the restaurant so the kids could have lunch together and open their Secret Santa gifts. Then it was home and time to put the tree up. Monkey loved helping me decorate the tree. We went to Brewers Fayre for dinner to review their Festive Menu.
Monday 15th December – Day 349
The Lego obsession has begun, he did get quite a lot of it last week for his birthday. We are going to have so much fun! I finished my sewing machine class for the year and really hope my friend likes what I’ve made for the twins when I see her next week. Eek!
Father Christmas came round on his sleigh – I still love it now. Monkey was a bit braver than last year, but was happiest watching him from our bedroom window. But he was waving like mad the whole time. He believes
Tuesday 16th December – Day 350
Whilst Monkey was at school I assembled the gingerbread house. Yes I cheated and bought a kit. I’m going for stress free options at the moment and although this is far from brilliant Monkey loves it and that’s all that matters to me. Looks like Berry the Elf likes it too. One very tired Monkey had a meltdown before swimming but loved it once he was there. How many day til the end of term????
Wednesday 17th December – Day 351
I had my hair cut and coloured in the morning and we had a Skype session with Granny and Gramps. It’s a nightmare, we just can’t get the video call to work properly on the laptop or my mobile so always end up turning that option off. Wish I could figure out what the problem is. Daddy P was around to have dinner with us along with Teddy and half the school’s junk modelling!
Thursday 18th December – Day 352
We’d been asked to go into school early this afternoon so the children could sing us some Christmas songs. Monkey’s been practicing all week and he was so pleased to see me. He sang his little heart out and kept moving to make sure I could see him. It was just lovely. When we got home it was time for silly Santa hats. Every year I’ve tried getting a photo of him in this hat for our Christmas cards, it’s taken so long. The one year I’ve already done something different and he decides to pose. Children!
Friday 19th December – Day 353
Schools out for Christmas! Can you tell?? We’ve both been counting down the hours until this afternoon. Whilst Monkey was at school I did some baking, and got the Turkey for the big day. Now Bicester Village can bring the town to a standstill again, oh wait, they’ll have decent traffic measures in place this year …… we will see.
Saturday 20th December – Day 354
We had a lie in this morning – bliss. Then headed over to our Special Sheba’s house for the day. Monkey got busy turning her house into Santa’s Grotto. We had lunch out at our favourite haunt and then headed back for more Christmas mayhem. Home for tea and a veg in front of CBeebies on the TV. This boy is still worn out after his first term at school. A quiet day at home tomorrow beckons.
You may remember earlier in the year that Monkey and I made a Chocolate Balloon picture for Granny for her 70th Birthday. The company has been rebranded as Chocolate Picture Maker and Monkey and I have been busy with our latest creation.
We received a 2 bar pack of Chocolate Picture Maker which is aimed at children aged 4 years and over. I’ve been dealing with a very tired Monkey lately so he needed a bit of assistance with our first project.
Our pack contained 2 picture frames, a template guide, instruction leaflet and 2 sets of white, milk and dark chocolate sachets. We looked through the templates (you can download more options from the website) and decided to make a butterfly. There are easy, medium and hard templates to follow.
Once our chocolate had melted it was time to begin, you draw the outline in dark chocolate.
In fill with white chocolate being careful as you go over some outlined details.
Before covering your Chocolate Picture Maker picture with milk chocolate.
Then pop your finished artwork in the fridge for half an hour to let it set. Once set you can turn the mould out onto a plate to see your finished creation.
I did think we were making our butterfly to give to Daddy P, but before I knew it this was happening!
Just as well we have another set to make up over the Christmas holidays Monkey!
Chocolate Picture Maker is available in a number of different set sizes and there are some new versions available too. All are available from Amazon and Asda.
The 100% Belgian chocolate used in these sets is gluten free and suitable for vegetarians and Monkey thinks it’s very good indeed.
We’ve had great fun with this set and we’ll be making up the second picture over the holidays when Monkey is less tired and his creativity returns to full strength!
disclaimer: we were sent this item in exchange for an honest review
Last year we took Monkey to Didcot Railway Centre on a Days Out with Thomas event. Having his birthday so close to Christmas meant we could turn it into a birthday treat. He loved every minute of it. What to do for his birthday this year? He still loves Thomas, he definitely still loves trains so I checked the dates for this year. Bingo, the weekend before his birthday. Tickets booked – for Monkey’s 5th birthday treat he would be meeting Thomas and Father Christmas at Didcot again.
I didn’t tell him anything about it. The night before we went I asked him, if he could go anywhere for a treat where would he like to go? Without getting on a plane that is (to avoid the no I’m sorry we can’t go to Granny’s disappointment). I’d like to go to Didcot Mummy. Really? Yes Mummy, phew! Bless him, when I showed him the tickets he didn’t believe me. Honestly Monkey, that’s where we’re going in the morning.
So off we went with our very excited soon to be 5 year old son.
We’d booked a morning time slot this time and I was surprised that the massive car park was as empty as it was. It’s pay and display which is a bit of a pain, but once we’d sorted our ticket, Monkey was off. He knew we had to go over a big bridge to cross the mainline railway and right on cue a train went zooming past.
We had a bit of time before our timed Thomas ride so we had a ride on the Steam Railmotor to start the day off.
Then the boys were off in search of the engine sheds.
But who should we spot along the way!
We walked through the engine shed and saw some carriages being renovated – it was quite fascinating.
Monkey was hungry so we decided a quick trip to the cafe was in order before our train ride. It was quite early so Daddy P and I opted for a mince-pie and hot drink, whilst Monkey had a cheese sandwich. Apparently it was heaving by lunchtime proper so I’m glad we went early.
Then it was time to queue for our Thomas train ride. We were at the front with another family and the children were all very excited.
I love the fact that Monkey was just as excited this year as he was last year, even though he knew what to expect. Just lovely.
We got in our carriage and off we went, we were heading for a meeting with the big man himself! Father Christmas and the Fat Controller were waiting for us.
I wondered how Monkey would react to meeting Father Christmas a year on. Last year he wouldn’t go near him or talk to him, let alone have his photo taken with him by himself.
This year Monkey was so excited as we waited for our turn to meet Father Christmas. Is he in there Daddy?
Before we knew it, it was our turn. What a difference a year makes. Monkey was very quietly spoken, but there were high fives exchanged and a little chatter.
Then this happened and I nearly cried. For my little, shy Monkey to sit with Father Christmas by himself – wow and SMILE! That’s a big step forward. It was magic, just magic.
The Father Christmas was wonderful, I was really impressed and when I bumped into Emma and N from Bubbablueandme, she said the same thing.
It marked the start of a magical birthday week for my Monkey son, and that picture will stay with me for a very long time.
After our visit with Father Christmas it was time for some more train action obviously.
We’d had an action packed day, another great visit to Didcot Railway Centre and a fab time meeting Thomas and Father Christmas. It’s not the cheapest day out, but I figure you see Thomas, Father Christmas and there are lots of trains and activities, so for us it’s a bargain. Monkey loved every minute.
As you might have guessed I do love a good pudding and Gü Puds are up there with my favourite take home desserts from the supermarket. They make some amazing puddings and have recently branched out with a new Hot Chocolate line.
To celebrate this, they asked me to create a cup, not just any cup. No! I’ve been making edible teacups with a Christmas twist!
One of my favourite bakes at this time of year is our Christmas Muffins using a recipe from The Big Book of Baking. It’s a cook book I use a lot and I make these muffins every year. I’ve been really organised for Christmas with everything except baking. Still not made any mince pies – I’d normally be on our second batch by now.
So when I was asked to come up with an edible teacup I thought I could kill two birds with one muffin. I used some ice cream cones for the cups, filled them with Christmas Muffin mixture (recipe below) and baked in the oven for 20 minutes. Once they’d cooled down I added some icing to the sides and stuck a chocolate covered pretzel to make a handle. A little bit of icing sugar sprinkled on top and voilà – Edible teacups with a Christmas twist!
Really easy to make, although the handles did try to defy me for a while!
One things for sure – they won’t last long in this house!
Preheat the oven to 200 deg C/400 deg F/Gas Mark 6
Grease muffin tins or line with 12 muffin cases
Sift flour, baking powder and allspice together in a bowl. Stir in the brown sugar.
Lightly beat the eggs in a large jug then beat in the milk and oil. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in the beaten liquid ingredients and mincemeat. Stir gently until combined. Do not over mix.
Spoon the mixture into the prepared muffin tin. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes, until well risen and golden brown.
Leave the muffins in the tin for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool. When cool sprinkle with icing sugar
Recipe based on the Christmas Snowflake Muffins in The Big Book of Baking
You may remember that we’ve recently planned our Christmas Day dinner. Well we’ll also be toasting Christmas with Waitrose Cellar as we recently received the pre-mixed Christmas Favourites wine case.
A case packed with our Buyer’s festive favourites – the wines that they love to drink at Christmas. The perfect gift idea for close friends and family members. You can guarantee that this is some of our best wines in our range and designed to impress.
I love Prosecco so this Villa Vincenta Prosecco will definitely be chilling in the fridge in preparation for our Christmas Day lunch. I love the idea of a pre-selected mix of wines. I don’t pretend to have a great knowledge when it comes to wine, so it’s great to go with a recommendation.
We’ve tried a couple of the wines already and I have to say that the Malvirà Barbera d’Alba San Michel is wonderful; really smooth and exactly how I like a red wine to be.
The Christmas Favourites case of 6 mixed wines is on special offer until the end of December 2014 for £50.00 with a saving of £16.00. Sounds like a bargain to me.
There are a number of pre-mixed cases of wine available from Waitrose Cellar, but it’s just as easy to buy a preferred selection ranging from Champagne to Port. Every palate is catered for and we’ll certainly be making use of this service in future.
disclaimer: we were sent this selection in exchange for an honest review
Monkey normally loves helping me out in the kitchen, whether it’s making pizza or baking cakes or biscuits. I’d hoped that he would help me with our latest challenge, but he really is worn out at the moment. This first full term at school has been really hard on him, the last couple of weeks especially. Throw is a nativity play, school party, his birthday and his bowling party all on the same day, and you can imagine the grump I bring home every day! Even the lure of chocolate hasn’t spurred my little chef into action. So, I’ve been Feeling festive with Jules Destrooper biscuits by myself!
I received a selection of Jules Destrooper biscuits – Almond Thins and Butter Crisps, along with some accessories to help me get in the festive spirit. Having been deserted by my little assistant is was down to me to try to be artistic – I’m not great at that!
So here we go. Now, unfortunately the Almond Thins had suffered an injury in transit and fragmented into lots of little pieces – they taste good though.
I have to say that the Buttery Crisps are totally devine and coating them in chocolate with various sprinkles is a big hit here. These biscuits are not going to last long! Just as well I can get more supplies from the supermarket!
What festive delights have you decorated in the run up to Christmas?
disclaimer: we were sent the items mentioned in exchange for an honest review.
With family in Spain, France and Switzerland and with love of travel, I’ve been keen for Monkey to learn about the world we live in and wider world geography. Our special friend Sheba bought Monkey a brilliant pop up World Atlas for his birthday last week. But I knew that there was something else that would also really help Monkey to understand the world a little better. We’ve been searching the globe with Find me a Gift.
Find me a Gift are an online retailer offering a fantastic range of gift options – from ‘My 1st Christmas’ ideas to all sorts of gadgets for the men in your life. They really do have every member of the family covered.
I’ve wanted to get a Globe for Monkey for a while and had it on my list of ideas for his birthday. When I spotted this 2 in 1 Globe from Brainstorm Toys on the Find me a Gift website I knew it would be perfect. Monkey will be searching the Globe with Find me a Gift.
Our new globe help to teach Monkey all about our planet, where countries are and how large the oceans are. But not only that, with the help of a couple of batteries, draw the curtains, turn out the lights, flick a switch and a whole different world emerges! Now I need to brush up on my constellation knowledge, but I am so impressed with this Globe. Monkey has the whole world before him now and we are going to have so much fun learning! It’s currently on special offer at Find me a Gift, and is cheaper than on other online retailers I’ve checked.
The website is easy to navigate and I’ve already spotted a couple of ideas for birthdays and Mothers Day next year.
Now, if you have some last minute presents to buy, don’t panic. Find me a Gift have a few delivery options open to you which will still ensure Christmas delivery. Check out their website for more information.
disclaimer: we were sent this item in exchange for an honest review of this website.
We’ve been having a few issues with Monkey at school this term in the toilet department. I know it’s a phase a lot of children go through, but it’s such a shame as he is so good at home and when we’re off on our adventures. I thought a little encouragement might be in order to try to focus him on using the toilet facilities and saving my washing machine! I wanted something fun, so we’ve been rewarding Monkey with School Stickers.
School Stickers provide a whole host of reward charts for homes and school. Having a dinosaur mad Monkey I thought this dinosaur themed chart might be just what was needed to spur him on.
The chart is available in A4 and A3 size and has space to add your child’s name. I opted for the A3 size at £2.99, which includes stickers.
Then for the fun part – personalised stickers! I just added Monkey’s name, but you could add other personalisation.
So what does Monkey think? Every day that he manages to stay dry at school, he gets a sticker. When he gets to the top of the volcano I’ve promised him that he can have a new tractor. It’s certainly helping and rewarding Monkey with School Stickers is a fun way to help him remember to use the toilet!
Whether you have a football mad youngest or a little princess School Stickers has a Reward Chart and sticker set for you. They are colourful and a little different from others we’ve seen. I like them.
disclaimer: we were sent this item in exchange for an honest review
I’m pleased to be able to offer one lucky reader the chance to win a Reward Chart and sticker set of their choice – just complete the Gleam form below for your chance to win. Good luck!
Terms and conditions:
(Please note that all entries will be checked against comments for validation).
Only the first step of this form is mandatory, all other steps are optional. Only one entry per person is allowed.
This giveaway is for UK residents only.
Once a winner is randomly picked, I will check if the winner has done what was requested and I will contact them, if they do not reply within one week, the prize will be allocated to another person.
The giveaway will close on 19th January 2015 at midnight.