Mutterings of a Fool

Man, Dad, Runner, Chief dog walker

Tag: Christmas (page 1 of 2)

Breakfast with Father Christmas at Wyevale

I can remember the first time we visited Father Christmas with the children, it was Matilda’s 2nd Christmas and we thought it would be one of those perfect parenting moments. She’d be enchanted by all the pretty lights and Christmas activities and then sit with Father Christmas and chat about what she wanted for Christmas. The reality was a child who cried when they saw Father Christmas and refused to go anywhere near him or his grotto so we took our free present and left. Since then things have got a better and I think we’re reaching peak excitement about Father Christmas before she gets a little older and starts to hear rumblings about whether he’s real or not. So when Wyevale invited us to meet Father Christmas over breakfast at our local Wyevale garden centre (he was stopping by to buy some carrot seeds) I jumped at the chance.

As we all know Father Christmas gets around the country and you can meet him in many places these days from the classic school fayre to a restored steam train and who knows what else in between. But I really quite enjoyed meeting him over breakfast; it’s quite a relaxed and civilised environment that doesn’t involve queuing or crowds and with the garden centre not open for business it was lovely and quiet. Plus of course it meant I could eat a cooked breakfast and drink coffee while the children met Father Christmas, perfect!

colouring at wyevale christmas

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Toddler Christmas withdrawal symptoms

Chopping up the Christmas treeMatilda has loved Christmas this year, she really got it, but what she loved perhaps most of all was the tree. In fact all trees, if there was a competition for who could spot a Christmas tree first as you drive around she would win it hands down.

As a parent this was awesome, experiencing the magic through the eyes of your children is just fabulous. That is until you have to be the one to break the news to her that it’s time for the tree to leave its cosy corner in the dining room and head off to Christmas tree heaven.

The conversation went a something like this:

Me: Matilda, it’s time for us to get rid of the tree now that Christmas has finished. 

Matilda: but I don’t want to, I like having a tree.

Me: I know, but it’s not Christmas any more so we need to take it down and we’ll get another one next Christmas.

Matilda; *pauses to think* ok, that’s fine, we’ll get another one later?

Me: yes we’ll get another one later

Matilda: maybe this afternoon?

Matilda with a Christmas tree branch

Now you can’t really fault that logic can you? But what do you do? There is no way we’re keeping the tree for a year. Well dear reader, I came up with a perfect plan. The next day I got Matilda to help me move the tree out of the house and then we cut it up and put it on the compost heap. I figured this way she’d know exactly what had happened to it and where it had gone.

Then came the clever bit, we have a small Christmas tree in a pot in the garden that Matilda was given on her first Christmas. So I grabbed that pot and put it on the decking just outside the house, then I decorated it with some outside lights. Now we have pretty Christmassy lights just outside the window, which with the dark evenings and mornings can be on everyday for Matilda to see.

Garden lights

From fork to fork

There has been one too many articles about how to cut corners with your Christmas dinner and take short cuts so you can spend more time watching your children play with their toys and I’ve had enough. There is one very simple solution here dear reader so that you can spend more time with your children on Christmas day. Are you ready?

Veg box

COOK DINNER WITH YOUR CHILDREN

On the one day of the year when you don’t have to be anywhere, where nothing is open even if you did want to be somewhere why rush things? Why not on this one day take the time to involve your children in what you’re doing when you aren’t trying to fit it around your working day and other commitments?

Use it as an opportunity to teach your children some cooking skills, show them how food is prepared and what you do to get the meals on the table every day of the year. Get them peeling carrots or stirring the bread sauce, heck if they’re old enough they could carve the meat for you. Make it a family event and not only will you teach them something you’ll also get to spend time with them.

Matilda checking the meat boxI love showing Matilda and Henry where food comes from, they help me dig potatoes from the garden and then take them into the house to cook and eat them. When we visit it the chickens down the road we talk about where their eggs come from and what a roast chicken is.

Get them excited and interested by food and I think you have a much better chance that they will develop a good diet. It gives you a very relaxed and easy way to get them to try new things, if they see you preparing food let them taste it as you go along so in small amounts they experience new flavours without it being on a plate in front of them.

I know not everyone finds cooking a big Christmas dinner easy, but the pressure is really in getting it on the table. Start your prep work in the morning hours before you start cooking even and then you have time to let them help you. It may also  be the one day of the year you can offer them a mince pie or chocolate to eat in the morning as a treat while they help you.

So why not make this Christmas the one where you show your children how food travels from fork to fork?

If you go down to the woods tonight

If you go down to the woods tonight you may find them full of lights:

Tree lit up at Westonbirt

 We’re really lucky that my work give us tickets each year to go to the Enchanted Christmas at Westonbirt. We go on the opening day which is always right at the end of November and it feels like the moment that Christmas begins.There is something quite magical about walking through a dark forest with some of the trees lit up with different colour lights.

We get all wrapped up in wellies, coats and wooly hats and set off for our adventure before rewarding ourselves with a pig roast roll (with apple sauce and crackling of course) and a big cup of hot chocolate. It’s a simple thing and the kids are definitely ready for bed towards the end but it’s the perfect way to kick off the festive season.

My very favourite bit this year was a long avenue of trees which had been lit up with orange lights and then they’d put red lights in the grass at the base of the trees. As you walked along the lights gradually lit up brighter and brighter before almost turning off completely. Just beautiful and a completely different perspective to visiting in the day time.

At the end of the trail you also get a chance to meet and feed some reindeer which is lovely and there is a small fair with stalls, food and carol singers. What more can you want?

I took an awful lot of photos but it turns out that trying to take photos in the dark with a  wriggling toddler in the Ergo on your back is not easy. My DSLR may have some anti vibration technology but no way near enough to combat that! I did manage a couple of passable shots but would love to go back with a tripod to take some more when I don’t have kids with me.

If you leave even remotely close to Westonbirt I’d recommend making a trip down, they have the display on every Friday, Saturday and Sunday night until Christmas I believe.

P.S. We also saw the Countryfile presenters there doing interviews, so look out on Sunday and you may see us!

Stirring away the gloom

The past week in our house has been a bleak, one of those weeks where illness descends on the house and as a parent all you can do is try to survive. Patience has been tested as has the washing machine and the ability to do the daily chores while being stuck under a child that will only settle on you.

But slowly this weekend we have emerged from this fog, the children have whined a little less and amazingly actually managed to eat something AND not be sick. To celebrate we have embarked on a little festive baking spree, inspired of course by Sunday being stir up Sunday.

I have fond memories of standing on a chair as a child holding a wooden spoon and looking down into one of my mums big blue china mixing bowls full of dried fruit. It’s one of those great traditions where everyone can get involved and you can start showing your children how magical this time of year can be.

We also made the first batch of mince pies, I know it’s not even December yet, but I do love a mince pie and as the first batch are inevitably the worst as you’re out of practice it makes perfect sense to get them out of the way early don’t you think? Plus it turns out that a mince pie is the perfect accompaniment to a single malt, I can see myself partaking in that combo more than once in the coming weeks.

The pastry was a bit thick if I’m honest but it still tasted good and I quite liked my experiment with the mini muffin tin and star shaped lids. Matilda and Henry are becoming little pro’s at using the cutters now and as long as you get to the pastry before they can shove the freshly cut piece into their mouths they’re very helpful.

Incidentally Matilda is VERY excited about Christmas, she asked me at least 5 times on Sunday if we could go and buy a Christmas tree. Not entirely sure how she has become so interested in Christmas because we haven’t mentioned it at all but it’s going to make for a lovely experience this year. Particularly as she’s excited about the tree (which is having chocolate on apparently, again never done that or mentioned it so no idea where it comes from) and baking things but no mention or awareness at all about presents.

A breakeven Christmas – the results

As you know in the Fool’s household we’re attempting to make the Christmas a breakeven Christmas, that is only spend what we earn from selling things on eBay etc. Well we’re now a month on from that post and like many people starting to think about what presents we need to buy this year.

So far we’ve raised just over £150 from selling things on eBay, it would have been closer to £200 if it hadn’t been for an issue with an item (long story). But a pretty good total given that we just pulled a bunch of things out of cupboards and drawers that we no longer use or need. In addition I hope to raise a little through some sponsored posts and reviews.

All together it should give us enough to buy most of the presents we need with a little careful shopping. We don’t generally buy presents for all and sundry anyway but we’re being even stricter this year. For my pretty large immediate family (I’m one of 5 children) we do secret santa so only 1 present to buy. For the nephews we’ll buy just something little as they all have plenty of toys already.

All those people who in ideal world where money grows on trees we’d buy presents for are getting homemade gifts, or to be more precise homemade edible gifts. Pointless buying some token gift just for the sake of it, but who doesn’t like receiving some Christmas biscuits?

That leaves a much smaller list of people to buy for and where some good use of the internet comes in handy. For the males I would suggest taking a look at Men’s gifts from ASOSIf you’ve never checked out ASOS before you’re missing out, some great deals on branded clothes which for someone who loathes going clothes shopping is perfect.

I particularly like these Paul Smith socks because who doesn’t like getting socks at Christmas and especially bright stripy ones? Also worth a look is The Moustache Growers Guide Book for all those people who take part in Movember or aspire to have some stylish face furniture. A perfect stocking filler, I may buy one for my little brother whose moustache in November could be best described as non existent.

This post is sponsored by ASOS.com, they asked me to write about their service in return for a fee, however all views and opinions here are my own and breakeven Christmas is most definitely a real idea, just ask the Lady of the Manor! Images are courtesy of ASOS.com and remain their property.

A breakeven Christmas?

Yes I said the C word but it’s November so I think that’s ok right? Now I’m sure we aren’t the only people who get to a couple of months before Christmas and realise that despite best intentions we haven’t been saving money or spreading the present buying. Meaning we do actually need to buy everything that Christmas entails in using the next 2 pay packets. Sure we could use credit but we’re sticking to our new years resolution of no debt and are determined to keep it that way.

Combined with the fact that the lady of the manor’s maternity pay is about to finish (perfect timing) it was time to think of a more imaginative way to fund Christmas.

So the lady of the manor and I have set ourselves a challenge; we want to have a breakeven Christmas. That is we need to sell stuff we own today in order to pay for new presents and food. Given that we are about to sell the house it actually works well and is an ideal way to get rid of all the clutter and things we don’t use.

Plus we really aren’t that extravagant at Christmas, we don’t go crazy buying presents and do secret santa with my big set of siblings. We buy a few things for Matilda and Henry plus a couple of small things for ourselves.

Last weekend we spent a few hours tidying the house and gathering a pile of things to put on ebay, it was free listing weekend so saved us some money even if it did take a few hours. We’ve already sold our first item, my old smartphone, on a buy it now price. £50 is a pretty good start to the fund and hopefully the start of lots more to come.

Can it be done? Can we really sell enough stuff to pay for Christmas? It’s a good challenge and might help focus our minds when it comes to spending too, watch this space for the results!

What about you? Do you save all year to buy presents or hit the final few months and panic like us?

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