Tag Archives: Christmas

18 ideas for filling your Christmas Eve Box

A Christmas Eve box is a relatively new tradition for us. I’m not even really sure where it came from. We’ve always done the Elf on a Shelf thing and for the last few years the Elf has delivered a Christmas Eve box to our house from Father Christmas.

I think the idea of the Christmas Eve box is to give little ones something to tide them over until Christmas Day. Something that will help to calm their excitement and enthusiasm for not going to sleep or for waking up incredibly early. We’ve usually been quite lucky with the early morning wake ups, but the going to sleep on Christmas Eve is always a bit tricky.

To us, our Christmas Eve box should be filled with nice things we can do together as a family, things that’ll keep us cosy and things we will just enjoy. We have a small personalised sack we use for ours, but in previous years we’ve used boxes we’ve decorated. You can buy special boxes, but if you have the time and inclination, it’s nice to decorate your own.

18 ideas for filling your Christmas Eve Box

Your Christmas Eve box can be as simple or as complicated as you want. If you’re struggling to think of what to put in yours, here are some of my suggestions.

18 ideas for filling your Christmas Eve Box

  1. New Christmas pyjamas
  2. New Christmas slippers
  3. A Christmas book to read at bedtime
  4. A DVD to watch together on Christmas Eve
  5. A Christmas mug, hot chocolate and marshmallows
  6. Family snacks – popcorn, chocolate, candy canes, whatever you like!
  7. A special Christmas decoration to hang on the tree
  8. The Santa plate to leave a snack out for Santa
  9. Reindeer food
  10. Christmas crafts to make together
  11. A magic key if you need one
  12. Christmas cookie baking kit
  13. Christmas colouring or activity books
  14. Cuddly toy
  15. Letter from Santa
  16. Novelty Christmas socks
  17. Christmas bubbly bath, for Christmas Eve bath-time
  18. Christmas stockings to hang up for Santa

Obviously you don’t need all 18 of these ideas, pick and choose what works for you and create a box which suits your family. What will be in your Christmas Eve box this year?

18 ideas for filling your Christmas Eve Box

 

Are we stuck in a rut with our Christmas Decorations?

I love decking the halls at Christmastime. One of my favourite things is spending the day unpacking boxes of Christmas decorations and with mulled wine warming and carols playing, decorating the house with my family.

We always get our tree from the local community farm. It’s always is slightly too big and sits in the corner of our living room. We decorate it with white lights, then it gets covered in red and gold baubles and other decorations. There’s no tinsel, but we use gold lametta to give the tree some extra twinkle and shine. We’ve got a wonky gold star which sits on the top of our tree. My son always gets lifted up to put the star, and the final flourish to our tree.

Christmas magic Christmas Decorations

There’s always a wreath on the door. Usually bought from the community farm, but failing that I’ve got a couple of spare wreaths I can use if I can’t find a good quality fresh one.

Although we don’t put the tree up until the weekend before Christmas, we do have some lovely lights which go up at the start of December. They’re very pretty coloured lights which hang in our window and we get lots of lovely comments on them every year.

We have a large kitchen diner which we don’t tend to decorate, other than with some lights. I’m very tempted to try to find a small thin tree to stand in the corner. It’s the room we spend most of Christmas Day in, so it would be nice it if was a bit more festive.

I feel like we’ve had this style of Christmas decorations for a long time. I wonder if this will be the year I finally decide that next year we do something different. Our style is very traditional, is it time to ring the changes?

I’ve no idea what kind of theme I might go for in the future. We’ve had 20 or more years of having a traditional Christmas style in our home. Whatever style we choose in the future would still need to feel warm and festive.

Are we stuck in a Christmas Decorations rut?

For all kinds of Christmas inspo, the Ultimate Christmas DIY Decorating Bible is a pretty good place to start. There are decorating tips as well as loads of brilliant Christmas craft ideas. Maybe a handmade Christmas is the way to go next year?

What’s your Christmas style? Is it time for me to make the change?

This is a collaborative post.

Days Out: Christmas at Dunham Massey, Cheshire

Our nearest National Trust property is Dunham Massey. We are regular visitors to Dunham, we love the long (but flat and well-paved) walks they have. The gardens are lovely whatever time of year you visit and the house is full of upstairs-downstairs history. On 1st December we went along to the launch of ‘Christmas at Dunham Massey’ a magical, after-dark, illuminated trail which was jam-packed with Christmas magic.

Days Out: Christmas at Dunham Massey, Cheshire

This year, for the first time ever, Dunham Massey has transformed into a winter wonderland. It’s taken six months of planning and hard work (and probably millions of light-bulbs) to create a wonderful Christmas experience for families to enjoy.

The walk from the visitors centre to the courtyard gives you a little taste of what’s to come, but as soon as you walk into the courtyard you know you’re in for a real treat. The courtyard is filled with Christmas market style sheds selling hog roast, mulled wine, roasted chestnuts and those big sausages you only really see at Christmas markets. There’s also a colourful vintage carousel to enjoy.

Days Out: Christmas at Dunham Massey, Cheshire

We picked up some snacks and some cups of hot mulled wine and headed off towards the lights, pausing to watch an Elf and Father Christmas welcome us to Christmas at Dunham Massey. Then on to the winter wonderland of the garden.

Days Out: Christmas at Dunham Massey, Cheshire

The trail is a one mile sparkling path through the gardens. It winds through the historic woodland and has surprises around almost every corner. From a giant (and I mean giant) reindeer, to huge baubles lit in flickering flames in the scented fire garden; not to mention twinkling tunnels, stunning reflections of light on the water and the wonder of Pealight Heaven (named for the 100,000 pealights it’s made from.

Days Out: Christmas at Dunham Massey, Cheshire

There are lights, there’s beautiful music and there are mulled wine stands at very regular intervals (try the mulled cider, it kept me warm on a cold night). Stop by Pealight Heaven and buy a marshmallow to toast over the fire – an absolute must!

Days Out: Christmas at Dunham Massey, Cheshire

Days Out: Christmas at Dunham Massey, Cheshire

It’s such a beautiful, magical way to spend an evening with your family. It’s well thought out and incredibly well stewarded. There are helpful, smiley faces around every corner. Even though the paths are flat and well-made, you can never be too careful walking in the darkness. It felt reassuring to know there were helpful people around if you got stuck.

Days Out: Christmas at Dunham Massey, Cheshire

It’s an after-dark event, so if you do go, make sure you’re well wrapped up against the cold and you’re wearing good, sensible footwear. You might also want to slip a torch into your pocket just in case. We took a torch but didn’t use it, everywhere was so well lit.

Christmas as Dunham Massey is utterly gorgeous. Our highlights were the giant reindeer, the huge lawn absolutely covered in lights and the scented fire garden. The small Christmas market was excellent too and the food and drink were really good quality. I hope they run this again next year. I can see a visit to Christmas at Dunham Massey turning into a festive tradition!

Days Out: Christmas at Dunham Massey, Cheshire

Christmas at Dunham Massey runs until 30th December 2017, 4.45pm – 10pm with 9 timeslots each night. You will need to pre-book tickets on the website here.

We were invited guests of Christmas at Dunham Massey. All images and opinions are our own.

Christmas Book Review: The Christmas Snowflake

One of our family traditions is a Christmas Eve box. We pack up a box full of lovely things for Christmas Eve, new pyjamas, some nice treats to nibble on and a Christmassy book to read together at bedtime. This year we’ve chosen The Christmas Snowflake from Wonderbly, a wonderful personalised Christmas story.

Christmas Book Review: The Christmas Snowflake

The Christmas Snowflake tells the tale of a lonely snowflake who is looking for a place to call home this Christmas – but only you and your family can help! Like with other personalised books from Wonderbly, The Christmas Snowflake is beautifully illustrated and full of wonderfully festive images.

Christmas Book Review: The Christmas Snowflake

This heartwarming story includes personalisation for up to 9 family members, friends or loved ones and as the final page is turned, you’ll find a charming pull-out-and-keep ornament – something that you can hang on your Christmas tree!

The Christmas Snowflake is written in a lovely rhythmic style, which reads well. The personalisation within the book is very smoothly done and children will enjoy spotting familiar names throughout the story.

Christmas Book Review: The Christmas Snowflake

The book comes in a hardback format and contains 34 colourfully illustrated pages. The style of the illustrations is almost vintage, and of course it’s wonderfully festive. The pull out snowflake on the last page is inspired and a lovely surprise at the end of the story.

Christmas Book Review: The Christmas Snowflake

The Christmas Snowflake is a wonderful keepsake book which you can bring out and read year after year. I can’t wait to read this special story with my son, personalised stories are such a treat.

Personalising your book with Wonderbly is really easy, just visit their website, choose your story and add the names of up to 9 of your child’s favourite people. You can also add a personalised dedication to be printed on the first page.

The Christmas Snowflake costs £19.99 and makes a wonderful gift for any child or family this Christmas; or you could put it in your Christmas Eve box like me.

We were sent The Christmas Snowflake from Wonderbly for review purposes. All images and opinions are our own.

Elf the Musical – a sack-load of family fun at The Lowry

Each Christmas, regular as clockwork we dig out our Elf DVD, snuggle up on the sofa and really get in the mood for Christmas. It is my favourite Christmas film by far and one we all love to watch together as a family. But would the Elf the Musical version live up to our expectations?

Based on the 2003 hit film starring Will Ferrell; Elf is the hilarious tale of Buddy, a young orphan child who mistakenly crawls into Santa’s bag of gifts and is transported back to the North Pole. Unaware that he is actually human, Buddy’s enormous size and poor toy-making abilities cause him to face the truth. With Santa’s permission, Buddy embarks on a journey to New York City to find his birth father, discover his true identity, and help New York remember the true meaning of Christmas.

Elf the Musical - a sack-load of family fun at The Lowry

Elf The Musical stars TV and West End star Ben Forster as Buddy and former Atomic Kitten Liz McClarnon as Jovie. Joe McGann stars as Walter and Jessica Martin as Emily Hobbs, not forgetting Louis Emerick as Santa. There are a trio of local boys playing the role of Michael too.

Ben Forster as Buddy fills the stage with energy, managing to channel some of the personality of Buddy the Elf from the film, whilst putting his own spin on the character. Atomic Kitten star Liz McClarnon as Jovie is in excellent voice throughout, with a spot on accent and flawless performance.

From the start the stage is busy with the ensemble, first as a group of little-legged toy making elves, then crowds of New York shoppers, to the staff of Walter Hobbs office. They’re all fantastic and help to bring warmth, rhythm and humour to the production. Deb played by Lori Haley Fox especially stands out, putting in a performance full of humour.

Elf the Musical - a sack-load of family fun at The Lowry

The set is lavish, beautifully festive and almost constantly changing in this fast paced production. The musical set pieces are well done, though I was expecting the musical to end with the crowd singing Santa Claus Is Coming to Town like it does in the film, which is a bit of a shame. However, it does end with a happy ever after; a snowstorm and Santa’s sleigh floating off across the streets of Salford.

We loved it, my 7 year old was transfixed throughout and has talked of virtually nothing else since. It’s like the film, but quite different in many ways. Some aspects of the film I missed; but the singing, dancing and the warmth of the performances made up for everything. It’s a firm thumbs up from us, we loved it and would happily go again and again.

What better way to get into the Christmas spirit than to see Elf The Musical at The Lowry! Get your tickets now, it’s bound to be incredibly popular!

Elf The Musical is on at The Lowry from Friday 24 November 2017 until Sunday 14 January 2018. For more information and tickets visit The Lowry website.

Christmas Recipe: Non-alcoholic Vimto Mulled Wine

I love mulled wine at Christmas. From around mid-November I start getting excited for the day I can officially treat myself to a warming glass of spiced mulled wine. It’s a treat I do want to share with my family, but with it being quite boozy it’s not that suitable for 7 year old boys. My solution is to make Vimto Mulled Wine instead, something which also speaks loudly to my proud Mancunian patriotism.

Mulled wine, or Glühwein, Glögg if you’re feeling continental is usually made from red wine infused with spices and served hot. Red wine is warmed and then steeped in a combination of spices usually including cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger and coriander. In Europe, mulled wine has been drunk for centuries during the cold winter months and is a lovely warming festive drink.

Christmas Recipe: Non-alcoholic Vimto Mulled Wine

This non-alcoholic Vimto Mulled Wine is such a delicious treat. If you use one of those mulled wine sachets you can buy, this is a really simple and lovely recipe. It’s really quick to make and it’s a lovely non-alcoholic festive treat for all the family.

Non-alcoholic Vimto Mulled Wine

Ingredients
Vimto cordial, sugar-free is fine
1 sachet of Steenbergs Organic Mulled Wine Spices
Water
Sugar (optional)

Method
Boil a kettle of water and pour enough boiling water for however many cups of mulled Vimto you’ll need into a jug. Add a sachet of Steenbergs Organic Mulled Wine Spices and leave to steep for 5 – 10 minutes or so.

Remove the sachet and add Vimto cordial to taste, stir to make sure it’s all combined. Taste and add sugar if you think it needs it (depending on how sweet your sweet tooth is).

Pour into nice heat-proof glasses and serve. If you’re feeling fancy you could float a slice of orange on the top, or serve it with a cinnamon stick.

Christmas Recipe: Non-alcoholic Vimto Mulled Wine

There you have it, lovely warming spiced mulled wine that’s suitable for all the family.

PS. You don’t have to use Steenbergs; but it’s what I had in the cupboard and they’re my go-to brand of mulled wine spices.

Christmas Recipe: Non-alcoholic Vimto Mulled Wine

Crafts: How to make Button Christmas Decorations

If you’re looking for a simple but quite beautiful Christmas craft, then by Jove I think I’ve got it! These lovely button Christmas decorations are really simple to do and look great hanging on a tree.

I belong to a craft group and we are always on the lookout for interesting things to make and do on our craft evenings. We spotted a picture of some button Christmas decorations and thought we would give them a try. All we needed were a huge box of buttons, some craft wire and a bit of patience to experiment.

Crafts: How to make Button Christmas Decorations

How to make a button Christmas Tree

You will need – 
A selection of buttons, mostly green in different shapes and sizes
Fine jewellery or craft wire

Method –
Sort a selection of buttons to make your tree. You’ll need something to be the tree trunk at the bottom, I used two wooden buttons. You will also need green buttons in decreasing sizes and in a variety of shades of green.

I found it best to find the right buttons and lay them out in order before threading them onto the fine wire.

Take a length of fine jewellery or craft wire, approximately 8 inches in length. Double up the wire and thread one end through one hole on your base button and the other end through the opposite hole. Do the same with all the buttons in your Christmas tree stack until your Christmas tree is complete.

Top your tree with a brightly coloured button, or a star-shaped button if you have one. If you’re happy with your tree, tie a knot on the last button and another knot in the ends of the jewellery or craft wire to create a hanging loop.

Crafts: How to make Button Christmas Decorations

How to make a button Bauble

You will need – 
A selection of buttons, in various colours, shapes and sizes
Fine jewellery or craft wire

Method –
Sort a selection of buttons to make your bauble. You’ll need to play about with your buttons a little to find a selection of matching buttons. You’ll need one fairly big central button, then some matching ones in various sizes and colours.

I found it best to find the right buttons and lay them out in order before threading them onto the fine wire.

Take a length of fine jewellery or craft wire, approximately 8 inches in length. Double up the wire and thread one end through one hole on your base button and the other end through the opposite hole. Do the same with all the buttons in your Christmas bauble stack until your bauble is complete.

If you’re happy with your bauble, tie a knot on the last button and another knot in the ends of the jewellery or craft wire to create a hanging loop. Easy.

These are a lovely, easy craft to make. One of my craft group friends also make a button Santa and a button snowman, but I’m all out of buttons ad I need to go and buy some more so I can make some more button Christmas decorations.

Check out my other craft tutorials here!

Crafts: How to make Button Christmas Decorations

Christmas Crafts: Make your own Glitter Tape Baubles

Christmas crafts are my favourite kinds of crafts. There’s something really lovely about sitting down with my son and making decorations for the tree, or little gifts for people. I’m always on the look out for new products to craft with and when I saw the Sellotape Glitter Tape I knew straight away they would be perfect to make some Glitter Tape baubles with.

Sellotape are currently celebrating their 80th anniversary and they very kindly sent me some craft goodies to have a little play with. I love this vintage style Limited Edition Sellotape tin too. Perfect for holding some little crafty bits and bobs once I’ve used all the tape!

Sellotape began life in 1937 and has been used in a wide variety of applications since then. It became a regular at the crafting table in the 1970s when it was used fairly extensively on Blue Peter. This iconic sticky tape is a year round essential, not only for wrapping presents, but for all manner of crafting and DIY jobs around the home.

Christmas Crafts: Make your own Glitter Tape Baubles

In my hamper of Sellotape goodies was an assorted pack of glitter tape. I really liked the different designs and it seemed a waste of something so glamorous to use the tape for just wrapping presents.

The glitter tape tears really easily, so you don’t need scissors or a dispenser to use it. It was beautiful and shimmery, so I thought I’d see how it worked on a bauble.

The tape sticks really well to the styrofoam ball, but slightly raises at the edges, which creates an effect I actually really quite like. But if the cracked ice on a frozen lake look isn’t your thing, then you could paint it all over with PVA glue to seal it all down.

Christmas Crafts: Make your own Glitter Tape Baubles

What I especially liked about this glitter tape was that the glitter stays on the tape. Not a speck of the sparkly stuff came off on my fingers, clothes or ended up shimmering on my face for three days. This sellotape glitter tape is really good stuff!

Make your own Glitter Tape Baubles

You will need:
A roll of sparkly glitter tape
One styrofoam ball
Ribbon
Brass paper fastener

How to make your Glitter Tape Baubles
The Sellotape glitter tape is easy to tear by hand. Tear small pieces of tape and stick in random places all over the styrofoam ball. Make sure the ball is completely covered in the tape; cup the ball in your hand and squeeze it to make sure the tape is in place.

Using the brass paper fastener; pierce the ribbon and create a hanging loop with your ribbon and press the fastener into the top of our bauble. Hang on your Christmas tree and enjoy.

Remember the tape does curl a little on the edges, but it doesn’t come off. I’ve had my bauble hung up for a couple of days and it looks the same.

Christmas Crafts: Make your own Glitter Tape Baubles

I really like my Glitter Tape Baubles, they’re a bit different and look quite stunning when the light catches them. I enjoyed working with the glitter tape, which does not shed and tears really easily. Watch this space for more Christmas craft ideas!

Christmas Crafts: Make your own Glitter Tape Baubles

We were sent a small hamper from Sellotape in return for this blog post. All images and opinions are our own.

See ELF – The Musical, this Christmas at The Lowry

I know it is still September, but Christmas will be upon us before we know it. Over the weekend my boys took themselves off to Hamleys at the intu Trafford Centre for the press launch of ELF – The Musical. What happened at the event was lovely. My boys came home full to the brim of Christmas spirit and keen as mustard to get tickets for the show!

The press launch was by all accounts really lovely. Benjamin and his Dad watched Ben Forster who plays Elf perform a song from the show. Then they got to meet Ben and Liz McClarnon (who plays Jovie). I think Liz was as charmed by my Benjamin as he was by her.

Preview: ELF - The Musical at The Lowry

Liz McClarnon and Benjamin share a cuddle at the Elf Lowry Musical launch event.

Elf  – The Musical is coming to The Lowry, Salford Quays on Friday 24 November 2017 until Sunday 14 January 2018. Elf is my favourite Christmas film and this award winning musical version looks like essential viewing for Elf fans. I cannot wait to go and see it!

Elf – The Musical stars TV and West End star Ben Forster as Buddy, former Atomic Kitten Liz McClarnon as Jovie, plus Joe McGann as Walter and Jessica Martin as Emily Hobbs. There are a trio of local boys playing the role of Michael too.

Preview: ELF - The Musical at The Lowry

Ben Forster meets Benjamin at the Elf Lowry Musical launch event in Manchester.

Based on the 2003 hit film starring Will Ferrell; Elf is the hilarious tale of Buddy, a young orphan child who mistakenly crawls into Santa’s bag of gifts and is transported back to the North Pole. Unaware that he is actually human, Buddy’s enormous size and poor toy-making abilities cause him to face the truth. With Santa’s permission, Buddy embarks on a journey to New York City to find his birth father, discover his true identity, and help New York remember the true meaning of Christmas.

Preview: ELF - The Musical at The Lowry

What better way to get into the Christmas spirit than to see Elf – The Musical at The Lowry! Get your tickets now, it’s bound to be incredibly popular!

Elf: The Musical is on at The Lowry from Friday 24 November 2017 until Sunday 14 January 2018.

Are you feeling lonely this Christmas?

It’s Christmas Eve. The presents are under the tree, the small boy is tucked up in bed waiting for Father Christmas and I’ve been crying on and off all day.

This time last year I was sat watching TV with my Dad, probably a Morecambe and Wise Christmas Special or something, I forget. I know we were sat watching telly with a brew in quiet companionship. My Dad lived alone and for some reason last year I hated the thought of him waking up in an empty house on Christmas morning, so I invited him to stay.

It was one of the best decisions I’d made in a long time. We had a lovely evening and topped it off a little glass of something at midnight to celebrate. After he was asleep we hung a little Christmas stocking on his door and went to bed. Christmas morning was wonderful. I think he’d forgotten how special and magical being in the house with a child on Christmas Day was. It was a day I will treasure forever. Six months later he was dead.

I hate the thought of someone being lonely or being alone when they want company and companionship. I’m northern so I always nod hello to strangers in the street. I’ll sometimes chat to people at the bus stop and I’m happy to make small talk with people in cafes, pubs or wherever. I try to judge it so I don’t come off as a weirdo. But I know that to some people, a little interaction and a chat at a bus stop might be the only conversation they might get that day.

I am lonely too. I miss my Dad so much because he was bloody good company, we’d talk and laugh, or exchange jokes. I’d show him funny things I’d found on Facebook (I’m still saving things to show him, forgetting that I’ll never be able to share a funny video with him again). Some days I hardly speak to a soul, bar the usual “put your shoes on…eat your tea…don’t pick your nose” parenting chatter.

I’ve bought a puppy for company, we’ve had her for ten days now and she’s part menace, part wonderful creature. She sits on my knee and nuzzles me when I cry. I hope she will help with my loneliness at any rate, and she is a comfort at least.

I was sat this afternoon, the house was quiet, the boys off doing things and I reflected on our Christmas so far. It struck me what a lonely time of year it is and how alone I am feeling right now. If I feel alone, then thousands of others must feel the same.

I’m not sure what the cure for that is, other than people extending the hand of friendship and being there. Recognising that someone might be lonely or alone when they might not want to be is probably the first step. It’s not all about parties and enthusiastic socialising. Just popping round for a brew, joining someone for a walk or just picking up the phone for a chat could make all the difference to someone.

Who do you know who might be feeling lonely this Christmas? It might not necessarily be the people you think might be lonesome either. Sending hugs to all those who need one. Merry Christmas xx

Are you feeling lonely this Christmas?