Father Christmas, the festive inquisition

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We might still be in November but my little boy has already seen Father Christmas and got his order in early for the big day. He waited patiently in the queue, anticipation building, and he may have even sneaked a peek inside Santa’s grotto before it was his turn.

He was softly spoken and polite when he went in, even sitting on his knee to talk to him, despite being almost taller than the man himself. As soon as he left though, gift in hand, he turned to me and said: “Mum, that wasn’t the real Father Christmas.”

“Oh I think it was!” I replied. “Why do you say that?”

“Because he took off his beard and I just saw him holding it in his hand!”

Oh. Ok then. “Well maybe love, the real Father Christmas doesn’t have a real beard and he sometimes takes it off when he gets hot,” I replied, trying to bluff my way out of it. But it wasn’t to be.

This exchange came just a few days after the bombshell: “Mum, I don’t believe in Father Christmas.”

My heart sank, I was stricken with panic and also I must admit mild amusement. But you’re only five! I thought. Surely this can’t be true.

“What?!” I asked. “But why on earth not? Of course there is Father Christmas.”

I could tell he’d been mulling something over. “Well because mum,” he said. “How does he really know what you want? Because by the time the letters get to the North Pole they will be all icy.”

“Aha,” I said. “The thing is, the postman has a special bag, which keeps the letters free of ice until they arrive.” He seemed to buy it. “Ok, I DO believe in Father Christmas!”, he said. Thank heaven for that.

Each year, as the Christmas lights switch on, the trees start going up and excitement mounts, I find myself stressing slightly over whether or not I’ve got my story straight about Santa. Does he bring all the presents, or just the ones in the stocking and under the tree?

Are some gifts from St Nick, and others from mum and dad, or does the bearded one just bring them all?

Do we buy some of the presents and send them to Santa, or does he just know?

So many questions, which are bound to be asked when you’re stressed, multi-tasking and off guard. People, prepare for the Spanish Inquisition, festive style.

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Shopping local at the Fab Frost Fair

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When it comes to Christmas shopping, I find it’s really handy if those I’m buying for give me a few hints as to what they want to find in their stocking. Having said that, sticking to the list is also a bit boring and can turn looking for the perfect gift for your family and friends into a bit of a tick list of things you feel you need to buy. It’s always nice to stumble upon something that you think would be a perfect pressie, or just browse the things that you’d like to receive yourself, if you had a gift giver with a sixth sense (or they were near enough for you to bat your eyelids and give them a nudge in the right direction).

It’s also nice to be able to support your local businesses, find out what’s on offer right on your doorstep and get to know these sellers a little bit more. We managed to do all of this at the Fabulous Frost Fair at the weekend, a Christmas event set up by my blogger friend Tanya aka Muma Leary, at the Hillbark Hotel in Wirral. Along with her sister and a friend, she designed the fair to raise money for the Clatterbridge Cancer Charity, and by all accounts it was a great success. We went, mooched, tried and tasted and came away armed with some beautiful cards designed by local artists Jenny Dunlop and Almathea Rose; scrumptious salted caramel biscuits (these did not make it past the door) from Squidges; Elderflower gin (I LOVE gin) and cheese from Silcocks; and a gorgeous personalised and hand painted name picture for my daughter from Made by Nell. We were lucky enough to see our baby gal’s name already made, and fell for it straight away. Each letter is formed by an animal, which starts with the letter itself. So for instance, in this case with Florence, Nell has painted a flamingo, lilac-breasted roller (I know, but it’s so cute!), octopus, rat, eel, newt, clown fish and elephant. Beautiful!

There were so many more things that caught my eye, namely jewellery from LW Silver and Suite Hazen, but with two excitable children in tow – one of them itching to go and see Father Christmas – I didn’t manage to linger as long as I would have liked at those stalls. I’m certainly going to check them out online though.

When we did pop outside to see the man in red, he was in the most cool, tasteful hideaway I think I’ve ever seen! Santa was chilling with his chief elf in a tent compete with decking and red bunting! It was courtesy of Katie at the Celebration Tent, and even better news, she hires them out for parties. Hmmm, I wonder if my garden would be big enough for its own grotto next year?

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Just so you know, I didn’t receive payment or free entry for this review, I just had a lovely day out!

X Julia

Photos: Name sign, Made by Nell. Christmas cards, Almathea Rose. Stall, Jenny Dunlop. Gin, Silcocks.

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My week in pictures #4

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So again, it’s not strictly a week, but this is a snapshot of what we’ve been up to lately. Things are getting a little more sparkly and festive!

What have you been up to this week? Are you on Instagram? If I don’t follow you already, let me know your details and I’ll give you a great big like.

Top row – The cute lit-up reindeer at the Fabulous Frost Fair. More illuminations, this time a bunny. A festive Christmas tree hat from M&S, which I have yet to get on baby gal’s head long enough for a photo!

Middle row – T-shirt, Zara Kids. My son at a bowling party, his first time. the My Little Pony stocking filler that I’m more excited about than my girl!

Bottom row – Pom-Pom garlands at Utility, Liverpool. Baby gal’s bracelet. Me and my lovely sis at her birthday party.

X Julia

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First boots and Little Bird love

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It was a bit of a milestone yesterday. I bought my little girl her very first pair of boots. Ankle boots in soft greyish-purple leather with a little bit of feisty sparkle round the top. In fact, seeing as she expressed her love for shoes and shopping so much (she cried and said “No!” when I tried to remove a pair of new red leather Mary Janes from her feet), I ended up buying her a pair of shoes too.

The shoes she’s been wearing were about three months old, and it suddenly dawned on me that although they still went on easily, her feet are bound to have grown a fair bit since we bought them. I was right, when we got her measured she’d gone up a size from a 4 to a 5. Big feet like her mum and bro!

We bought these Flora boots from Clarks, as they looked so cute with her thick grey tights and bright purple dress. I think boots are a bit warmer and sturdier for winter, but it’s always handy to have shoes too so I went for these navy ones from Little Bird at Mothercare.

It’s the first time I’ve bought something from Jools Oliver’s range but the quality seems really good and at £15 the price isn’t bad either. The clothes and shoes have a retro feel – think Peter Pan collars for girls and braces for boys – are all in bright, cheery rainbow colours.

Both pairs are pictured – the boots are slightly scuffed, as she had to wear them out of the shop. Of course she did!

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Things I didn’t do before I had children

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Let me say first of all, this is by no means an exhaustive list and I am absolutely not an expert in motherhood. This post started a few weeks ago, after a quick poll round my office on the things we do now as parents that we would never have considered ok to do BK, or Before Kids. I could go on and on with this, but thought I’d put my first thoughts out there to see how many of you agreed with them.

Feel free to add your own in the comments! X Julia

So here are the things I didn’t do… Before kids!

Let my children play on the iPad so early in the morning. This applies more to first born, as baby gal is still a bit young to really get much out of it. I don’t think I can explain it better than Michael McIntyre did in his stand up show that always makes me laugh out loud. I’ve just been searching for it and can’t find it, but basically he’s saying before you have kids, it’s so easy to be idealistic about how you want to raise them. For example, they won’t be allowed to play computer games, watch too much TV, etc, then when they come into your bedroom in the early hours of a weekend morning, you’re like, “Here, take the iPad! It’s on the side. Just watch what you like!” Anything to get that extra hour of precious sleep.

Buy fruit shoots. Or even know what they were, probably. It’s not that I mind the odd one, it’s just that I think they have a tendency to look a little bit on the chav side when guzzled by the under twos. This is something which can be avoided with child number one, but with any subsequent cubs, you can forget it. They see what their sibling has and want it all the more. You can see in this photo, I’m staying classy with my baby gal swigging away on the bottle!

Clean my house at rate of one chore a day, so that covering the whole house takes approximately one week. This is a tactic learnt from my late grandma, who when she was in her 80s, slowed her housework down to doing one job a day, spreading the load across the whole week. This is me now – only 50 years younger!

Involve pasta in about half of my meals. Where once my husband and I were both vegetarians, now we all generally want to eat differently and finding a meal that we all like is pretty difficult. Our go-to emergency meal? Pasta and pesto, with a bit of broccoli on the side if you’re lucky.

Walk past baby wipes in a shop and don’t buy any. Stockpiling wipes is an absolute must for me now, as I work on the theory that you can never have too many and it’s a nightmare if you run out mid nappy change. Despite this rule, I’ll also never pay more than £1 a pack, so living in close range to both Aldi and Home Bargains helps a lot. Don’t forget, wipes can be used for everything from cleaning little hands and faces to freshening up shoes, car interiors and even clothing!

Set my alarm for 5.40am, just so I can get a shower before the kids get up. When first born was a few months old and I was a total novice at this mum thing, a friend said to me if I don’t blow dry my hair before the kids get up, my day is ruined! I don’t go as far as to brave a hair wash so early, but I now know exactly where she’s coming from.

On the subject of hair, I didn’t know then that I would happily leave my locks for up to three to four days between washes. Where I used to be a shampoo everyday kind of girl, now I see washing my hair as a laborious chore best left to the professionals. Fortunately two pregnancies have left it fairly dry, so washing it any more than once every couple of days makes it massively frizzy. There is method in this madness.

Pre-kids, I wouldn’t have to worry about loading up my handbag with snacks, drinks and spare clothes. Whereas in my 20s I’d rummage around in the bottom of my bag for a packet of fags and a lighter, now I’m scrabbling for raisins, tissues and toys.

Choose clothes according to how easy they are to wash and how quickly I can make them form any semblance of an outfit in the few minutes I have every morning to get dressed. Top of my list are leggings or skinny jeans with jumpers and ankle boots. Quick shoulder check for snot or pasta sauce stains, and I’m done,

Think going out twice in one week is excessive. I caught myself yesterday telling a mum friend that I’d “already got three nights out booked in for December”. THREE nights out! Call the police! There was a time when I used to think staying in three nights in a month was a travesty.

Be so emotional. Why is it, that now I’m a mum I only have to glance at a John Lewis Christmas ad and be in floods of tears? The worst one (or best, depending on how you look at it), is the one where the little boy is waiting for Christmas Day to come just so he can give a present to his mum. Pass the Kleenex quick! Any sort of vague tugging at the heartstrings has me welling up. Having kids has definitely softened me up a bit.

Mami 2 Five
Mums' Days
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Win Tickets to The Fabulous Frost Fair

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It’s only a few weeks until the Fabulous Frost Fair, a luxurious Christmas event being held over three days from 21-23 November at the Hillbark Hotel in Wirral.

It’s the brainchild of fellow blogger Tanya Leary, who set up the fair with her sister Soraya and friend Ali. They had been going to similar events in the south of the country and wondered why there was nothing similar on Merseyside. The fair offers visitors the chance to buy special Christmas gifts from local businesses, as well as peruse food stalls, have spa treatments, watch demonstrations and take part in workshops.

On the Sunday, the fair will have more of a family feel where there will be crafts for children, carols, and even a few appearances from Father Christmas himself!

For more information you can visit their website or check them out on Facebook and Twitter.

Even better, I have a pair of tickets to give away for the fair on Sunday 23rd November, and you can enter below. Good luck! If you don’t win, tickets cost £5 each and under 7s are free.

X Julia

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Happy Birthday Big Sis!

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We spent this weekend in Yorkshire, staying with my parents and partying with my sister, who turns 40 today. For me, this milestone birthday doesn’t actually feel that far away from the last one, or even the one before that. But when I think about what we’ve both done in that time, it’s quite some achievement.

My sister at 40 is happily married to a wonderful and successful man, has three gorgeous healthy children, a job – or should I say several jobs – she loves and a beautiful home. In many ways, it seems the anxieties a lot of us feel in our 20s and maybe 30s have eased, the sleep deprived haze of having really young children has lessened (most of the time) and things seem really positive and exciting in her life right now. Let’s say a big yay for being 40!

I can say this as my own big birthday is two years away, and I still feel a bit like I’ve just turned 30. I often find myself saying someone is about the same age as me when actually they are five or sometimes even ten years younger. I think I’m suffering some kind of crisis where the age in my head doesn’t match up to the age on my birth certificate! I even had to stop and work out recently how old I actually was, as I couldn’t remember if it was 37 or 38! (It’s 37, for the record.)

Not that I’m dreading 40. I’m pretty indifferent to be honest, apart from the excuse to throw a bit of a party and the fact that my husband will be celebrating his own (even bigger) birthday just the following week. When I look at my female friends who are already there or fast approaching, I see a group of women who are happier than ever in their own skin, age and experience giving them the confidence to not worry about what others think of them and to focus on the things that really matter. Many of them have become parents, experiencing the shift in priorities that comes when you become a small person’s whole world. Personally, I’ve gone through more in the past two years than I thought I would ever have to, after my husband fell ill and our whole world was turned on it’s head. Although things are much better now, I never take for granted the days where there is no real drama to contend with.

Despite all this, I still look at photos of myself as a child and wonder where the time went. This is one of my favourites, of my sister and I walking through Bluebell Woods in Ilkley where we grew up. The photograph has faded but those sundresses were white, pink and blue and the cutest thing ever. Looking at this now I can see a lot of my baby girl in my two-year-old self. She’ll be nearly four when I turn 40, my little boy nearly eight. Like most things in life it seems, they just keep getting better as the years roll by.

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Everything Mummy
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My Sunday Photo #4 – Poppy

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We’ve spent a bit of time this morning making this poppy for my son’s school assembly on Armistice Day.

Today we will be remembering our grandfathers and my father-in-law, who took part in the first and second world wars, as well as all the men and women of the armed forces past and present. Who are you remembering today?

X Julia

OneDad3Girls
You Baby Me Mummy
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My week in pictures #3

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Here’s a snapshot of what I’ve been up to lately. My pictures are dominated by Halloween, owing to my first born’s obsession with it and the fact that we had a little Halloween party over half term.

Top row – Halloween sweets; me and my gal; Lego Liver Building at the Lego Discovery Centre.
Middle row – Piñata; mummy lanterns; my not-so-spooky kitchen window.
Bottom row – Browsing fabric for the caravan makeover; work; Halloween dress, rejected by my daughter due to scratchiness of fabric!

How’s your week been?

X Julia

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